The United States Air Force (USAF) is the aerial and space warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. It is primarily responsible for aerial warfare, space warfare and cyber warfare warfare. Initially part of the United States Army as the Army Air Forces, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military, equal to the Army and Navy, on September 18, 1947. It the youngest service branch in the U.S. Armed Forces.
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.
Aerospace vehicle spotlight
The P-80 Shooting Star was the first jet fighter used operationally by the United States Army Air Forces. It was introduced into active service in July 1945, during the closing weeks of World War II, however, the aircraft did not see combat during the war. The Army Air Forces, and later the Air Force, acquired more than 1,700 of the aircraft before the end of the production run in 1950. The aircraft saw extensive action during the opening phases of the Korean War. However, as the more nimble F-86 Sabre came into service the P-80s were primarily assigned to ground attack and photo reconnaissance roles.
The P-80 design was the basis of the T-33 Shooting Star trainer aircraft. The Shooting Star airframe became the primary jet trainer as the Air Force migrated to more advanced fighters.
Captain Lance Sijan (1942–1968) received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Vietnam War. Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin Sijan entered the United States Air Force Academy in 1961. He graduated in 1965 and received a commission as a Second Lieutenant before going into flight training to become a F-4 Phantom II pilot. After training Sijan was assigned to the 366th Fighter Wing at Da Nang Air Base.
During a combat mission on 9 November 1967 Sijan's aircraft suffered catastrophic damage forcing him to eject. Several aircraft were damaged, and one was shot down, during an attempt to rescue him from North Vietnam leading him to wave off further rescue attempts because of the risk to friendly aircraft. Despite severe injuries Sijan evaded capture for 46 days before the North Vietnamese found him. He was sent to the Hoa Lo Prison (better known as the Hanoi Hilton) where he died on 22 January 1968.
Sijan was posthumously promoted to captain and awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. His remains were repatriated in 1974 and are interred at the Arlington Park Cemetery, Milwaukee.
"Our warriors are no longer limited to the people who fly the airplanes...Our entire force is a warrior force. Being a warrior is not an AFSC (Air Force specialty code),...it's a condition of the heart."
- — Air Force Chief of Staff, General John P. Jumper
McBride, Sharon (ed.), "Air Force Leadership", The Challenges of Leadership and Command, Air University, p. 1