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.
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The JB-2 "Loon" was the US copy of the German V-1 flying bomb. American engineers at Wright Field reverse engineered a V-1 in June 1944 and then began building an American version of the missile with slight differences from the original German model and the first test launch was done at Eglin Army Air Field in October 1944. The initial production order was for 1,000 JB-2s with an additional 1,000 JB-2s per month. The envisioned end-state was an inventory of 75,000 rockets. Additionally, sea-based and air-based versions of the weapon were also being developed.
US planners had intended to use the JB-2 as part of Operation Downfall, however, the use of atomic weapons and the Japanese surrender rendered the use of JB-2 rockets unnecessary. A total of 1,391 JB-2s were produced. Testing with the rockets continued in the post-war years in air-, ground-, and sea-based capacities. The rocket was used for testing against ground targets as well as a potential anti-aircraft weapon. While the JB-2 was never operationally deployed it served as the foundation for future US ballistic missile systems including the MGM-1 Matador and the MGM-13 Mace.
Captain Eddie Rickenbacker (1890–1973) is the highest scoring American ace of World War I. He was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1890 and at an early age began undertaking high-risk activities. His formal schooling ended when his father died in 1902. However, Rickenbacker had an aptitude for engineering leading him into the automotive field. He became a race car driver and participated in four Indianapolis 500 races.
Rickenbacker was in England when the United States joined World War I. He enlisted in the army and fought to get into flight training. After training he was assigned to the 94th Aero Squadron. Rickenbacker claimed his first aerial victory on 29 April 1918. A month later, on 28 May he claimed his fifth, making him an ace. In all Rickenbacker achieved 26 aerial victories and was awarded a Medal of Honor, seven Distinguished Service Crosses, a French Legion of Honor, and a French Croix de Guerre.
After the war Rickenbacker briefly ran his own car company, ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Eastern Air Lines. During World War II he supported the war effort by touring military facilities in the United States and abroad and even traveled to the Soviet Union to help improve their aerial capabilities. Rickenbacker died in 1973 at the age of 82 in Zürich, Switzerland. He is buried at the Green Lawn Cemetery in his home town of Columbus.