Portal:United States Air Force

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The United States Air Force Portal

Seal of the US Air Force

The United States Air Force (USAF) is the aerial warfare branch of the armed forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. Initially part of the United States Army as the Army Air Corps, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947. It was the last branch of the US military to be formed.

The USAF is one of the largest and most technologically advanced air forces in the world, with about 5,573 manned aircraft in service (3,990 USAF; 1,213 Air National Guard; and 370 Air Force Reserve); approximately 180 Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles, 2130 Air-Launched Cruise Missiles, and 450 Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles; and has 330,159 personnel on active duty, 68,872 in the Selected and Individual Ready Reserves, and 94,753 in the Air National Guard. In addition, the Air Force employs 151,360 civilian personnel.

The Department of the Air Force is headed by the civilian Secretary of the Air Force who heads administrative affairs. The Department of the Air Force is a division of the Department of Defense, headed by the Secretary of Defense. The highest ranking military officer in the Department of the Air Force is the Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

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Picture spotlight

Airman in the field.jpg

Photo credit: Staff Sergeant Jocelyn Rich, 3 August 2009. USAF photo.
Airmen in the field

A Tactical Air Control Party during an exercise in Germany.

photo source: USAF Public Affairs

Article spotlight

CAP Gippsland GA8 Airvan at West Houston Airport.jpg

The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) is the official civilian auxiliary of the United States Air Force (USAF). It was created on 1 December 1941 by Administrative Order 9, with Major General John F. Curry as the first CAP national commander. Civil Air Patrol is credited with sinking at least two German U-boats during World War II. Today, CAP is no longer called on to destroy submarines, but is instead is dedicated to education and national service. It is a volunteer organization with a strongly aviation-minded membership. It performs four key missions: emergency services (including search and rescue), aerospace education for youth and the general public, cadet programs, and homeland security.

USAF news

Service considering retrofitting late-model C-130's with new engines

Summary: The U.S. Air Force is interested in procuring commercial off-the-shelf engines to replace antiquated propulsion systems on C-130 aircraft. At a technology summit in Arlington, Virginia, General Philip Breedlove told of the service's efforts to follow up on the successes of the C-130J upgrade with commercially available fuel efficient engines. Breedlove says the prioritization of use of C-130J's in inter-theater operations for cost savings has tied up logistics. The C-130 also suffers from performance and maintenance issues that have led to the cancellation of the FCS Manned Ground Vehicles program that was unable to fall within weight parameters while maintaining protection requirements. While enhancing the current generation of aircraft, the Air Force is also heading an initiative to develop fuel efficient technologies for the next generation of propulsion systems. the ADaptive Versatile ENgine Technology program seeks to develop an engine that is 30% more efficient than the F119 or F135 engines that power the F-35 Lightning II and F-22 Raptor fifth-generation stealth fighter aircraft. The Versatile, Affordable, Advanced Turbine Engines and Highly Efficient Embedded Turbine Engine programs are also being pursued to develop propulsion technologies for sub-sonic military aircraft.

News Archive

Aerospace vehicle spotlight

F-105G at the National Museum of the USAF.jpg

The Republic F-105 Thunderchief, commonly known as the "Thud" by its crews, was a single-seat supersonic fighter-bomber used by the United States Air Force. The Mach 2 capable F-105 bore the brunt of strike bombing over North Vietnam early during the Vietnam War. It was later used in the specialized SEAD role suppressing missile sites.

As a follow-on to Mach 1 class F-100 Super Sabre, the F-105 was also armed with missiles and a cannon. But its design was tailored to high-speed low-altitude penetration carrying a single nuclear bomb internally. First flown in 1955, the Thunderchief entered service in 1958. As the largest single-engined fighter ever employed by the USAF, the single-seat F-105 would be adapted to deliver a greater iron bomb load than the four-engined ten-man strategic bombers of World War II. The F-105 would be best remembered as the primary strike bomber over North Vietnam in the early stages of the Vietnam War. After flying over 20,000 missions, 382 F-105s were lost, of which 62 were operational casualties. Although not designed for air combat, F-105s were also credited with 27.5 enemy aircraft by the USAF.

During the war, the two-seat F-105F and F-105G Wild Weasel variants became the first dedicated Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) platforms fighting against the Soviet-built S-75 Dvina (SA-2 Guideline) surface-to-air missiles. Two Wild Weasel pilots earned the Medal of Honor attacking missile sites, with one shooting down two MiG-17s the same day. The dangerous missions often required them to be the "first in, last out" in order to suppress the threat of air defenses prior to strike aircraft arriving and keeping them suppressed until the strike aircraft left the area.

Although the F-105 weighed 50,000 pounds (22,680 kg), the aircraft could exceed the speed of sound at sea level and Mach 2 at high altitude. It could carry up to 14,000 pounds (6,700 kg) of bombs and missiles. The Thunderchief was later replaced as a strike aircraft over North Vietnam by both the F-4 Phantom II and the swing-wing F-111. However, the "Wild Weasel" variants remained in service until 1984, when they were replaced by a specialized F-4G "Wild Weasel V".

Biography spotlight

Richard Bong photo portrait head and shoulders.jpg

Major Richard Bong (1920-1945) is the highest scoring American ace. He was raised on a farm in Poplar, Wisconsin. After he completed high school he enrolled at Superior State Teachers College. While there he also began joined the Civilian Pilot Training Program. In 1941 Bong enlisted in the Army Air Corps where he excelled in flight training. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in January 1942.

Bong was sent into action with the 9th Fighter Squadron in the Pacific Theater of Operations. Flying a P-38 Lightning, that he had named 'Marge' after his girlfriend, Bong scored a total of 40 aerial victories. For his achievements he was awarded the Medal of Honor, a Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, seven Distinguished Flying Crosses, and fifteen Air Medals.

In January 1945 Bong was transferred to the U.S. to help sell war bonds. He later became a test pilot, flying the P-80 Shooting Star. In one of his test flights the aircraft's fuel pump malfunctioned causing the plane to crash. Bong ejected but was too low for his parachute to open leading to his death. He is buried in the Poplar, Wisconsin cemetery.

Did you know...?

Flutters Kicks at Pararescue Indoctrination Training Center, Lackland AFB, 2006.JPG

... that to become a United States Air Force Pararescueman a candidate must complete 75 weeks of training at nine different schools? The training, known as 'The Pipeline,' has a dropout rate of 90%.


Our citizenship in the United States is our national character. Our citizenship in any particular state is only our local distinction. By the latter we are known at home, by the former to the world. Our great title is AMERICANS…

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