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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.

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Picture spotlight

F-15C Eagle from the 67th Fighter Squadron at Kadena AB is refueled by a KC-135R Stratotanker from the 909th Air Refueling Squadron .jpg

Photo credit: Tech Sergeant Angelique Perez25 August 2009. USAF photo.
Airmen in the field

photo source: USAF Public Affairs

Article spotlight


RAF Mildenhall is a Royal Air Force station currently utilized by the 100th Air Refueling Wing and the 352d Special Operations Group. The base was initially opened in 1934. Through World War II it hosted RAF bombers. With the ensuing Cold War RAF Mildenhall was used as a staging base for Strategic Air Command and hosted USAF bombers on a rotating basis. Beginning in the 1970s the bomber role was replaced by a reconnaissance as Mildenhall began hosting U-2 and SR-71 aircraft. As the Cold War ended so too did the reconnaissance mission at RAF Mildenhall. Beginning in the 1990s the base began primarily serving a mobility role with KC-135 Stratotankers.

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

375th Fighter Squadron North American P-51D-5-NA Mustang 44-13926.jpg

The P-51 Mustang is one of the most celebrated aircraft in U.S. history. Development of the aircraft first began shortly after World War II broke out in late 1939. The initial design was marked by poor performance at high altitudes. However, after being outfitted with Rolls-Royce Merlin engine the aircraft saw a marked improvement. The aircraft went into service with the U.S. Army Air Forces beginning in 1942.

The Mustang saw extensive service during World War II. Its capabilities made it ideal for bomber escort in the European Theater of Operations. As the war progressed P-51s added a ground attack role. Despite the employment of newer jet aircraft, Mustangs were also employed during the Korean War serving primarily in ground attack and reconnaissance roles.

The last Mustang to serve in the Air Force was retired from the West Virginia Air National Guard in 1957. A total of 15,875 Mustangs were built through its production history. Mustangs were flown by several foreign air forces, with active operations continuing to 1984. Additionally, civilian operators continue to fly Mustangs today.

Biography spotlight

Curtis LeMay (USAF).jpg

General Curtis Emerson LeMay (1906–1990) was an aviation pioneer serving in the United States Air Force.

He is credited with designing and implementing an effective systematic strategic bombing campaign in the Pacific Theatre of World War II. After the war, he headed the Berlin airlift, then reorganized the Strategic Air Command into an effective means of conducting nuclear war.

Curtis Emerson LeMay was born in Columbus, Ohio on 15 November 1906. On 9 June 1964 he married Helen E. Maitland, and had one child with her (Patricia Jane LeMay Lodge). LeMay died on 1 October 1990.

General LeMay's positions included: Commander, 305th Bomb Group; Commander, 4th Bombardment Wing; Commander, 3d Bomb Division; Commander, XX Bomber Command; Commander, XXI Bomber Command; Deputy Chief of Air Staff for Research and Development; Commander, United States Air Forces in Europe; Commander, Strategic Air Command; Vice-Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force; Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force; and American Independent Party Vice-Presidential Candidate.

Did you know...?

North American B-25B Mitchell USAF.jpg

...that the National Museum of the United States Air Force is the world's largest and oldest military aviation museum? Located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio the museum includes more than 400 aircraft and missiles and attracts more than 1.3 million visitors annually.


The academy’s long-range mission will be to train generals, not second lieutenants.

-- LtGen Hubert R. Harmon, Superintendent, Air Force Academy (Newsweek, 6 June 1955)

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