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

X-2 After Drop from B-50 Mothership - GPN-2000-000396.jpg
Test Flight

X-2 rocket plane dropped from mothership B-50 Superfortress.

photo source: U.S. Air Force photos

Article spotlight


MiG Alley was the name of an air corridor over the northwest part of North Korea. During the Korean War MiG Alley saw the first large scale jet combat mostly between F-86 Sabre and Soviet-built MiG-15 Fagot aircraft. The area became known for fierce aerial combat after Chinese and Soviet pilots began flying against United Nations forces. The jet-on-jet combat continued from November 1950 until the armistice on 27 July 1953. The actual number of aircraft shot down by both sides over MiG Alley has never been fully confirmed with both sides claiming more kills than the opposing side acknowledged losses. Regardless of the actual numbers, however, the aerial combat claimed many lives through the course of the war.

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.

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Aerospace vehicle spotlight

Eight Peacekeeper re-entry vehicles passing through clouds while approaching an open-ocean impact zone during a flight test.

The LGM-118 Peacekeeper was a land-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). It entered active service with the Air Force with the 90th Strategic Missile Wing at F. E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming in 1986. The missile was capable of carrying 10 independent 300-kiloton W87 nuclear warheads. It served as part of the US nuclear triad with the role of deterring a nuclear attack on the United States or its allies. The missiles were deployed into retrofitted Minuteman III silos in Wyoming. Congressional security concerns, budget constraints, and a changing geopolitical environment limited production and deployment of the weapons, and ultimately 114 were built with only 50 of them being deployed to the field. When the START II treaty was signed in 1993 limiting the number of warheads on any ICBM the need for the Peacekeeper was greatly diminished. The Air Force began decommissioning its arsenal in 2003 and the last Peacekeeper was retired from active service two years later in 2005. Most of the rocket bodies are being converted into Minotaur IV rockets to be used to put satellites into earth orbit.

Biography spotlight

John Levitow.jpg

Sergeant John Levitow (1945 - 2000) was an Air Force loadmaster who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Vietnam War. Levitow was born in Hartford, Connecticut and initially enlisted into the Air Force as a civil engineer. He later cross-trained to become a loadmaster and was assigned to the 3d Special Operations Squadron.

While flying a patrol mission on 24 February 1969 Levitow's aircraft, an AC-47 Spooky, Long Binh came under attack and the aircraft responded. As the aircraft began to engage it was hit by an 82-millimeter mortar shell throwing shrapnel through the plane. The explosion also caused a burning Mark 24 magnesium flare to be thrown into the fuselage of the aircraft, near 19,000 rounds of ammunition. Despite being wounded by shrapnel Levitow picked up the flare, crawled to the open cargo door, and threw the flare out of the plane. His actions were credited for saving the aircraft and its eight-man crew.

Levitow died of cancer in 2000 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Did you know...?

F-16C New Jersey ANG over Atlantic City 2001.JPEG

... that the First Air Force is responsible for air defense of the continental United States? As the Air Forces Northern component to United States Northern Command it utilizes Air National Guard units to fulfill North American Aerospace Defense Command missions.


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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