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. 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 O-2 Skymaster was the military version of the Cessna Skymaster. The aircraft was ordered in 1966 to replace the O-1 Bird Dog as the primary observation aircraft for forward air control (FAC) missions. The first aircraft was delivered in January 1967. A total of 532 aircraft were built in two variants. The A model included hard points on the wings to allow for weapons while the B model removed the weapon hard points in favor of loudspeakers and a leaflet dispenser.
The O-2 was used extensively during the Vietnam War for Forward Air Control missions and psychological operations (PSYOPS). 178 of the aircraft were lost through the course of the war. The USAF continued to fly the O-2 into the late 1980's when it was replaced by OV-10 Bronco and the A-37 Dragonfly.