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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 born as the United States 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 the largest, most technologically advanced air force 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 327,452 personnel on active duty, 115,299 in the Selected and Individual Ready Reserves, and 106,700 in the Air National Guard. In addition, the Air Force employs 171,313 civilian personnel including indirect hire of foreign nationals.

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

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Light show!

photo source: Air Force Link

Article Spotlight

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The 37th Training Wing is the host unit of Lackland Air Force Base. It was initially activated in 1940 and served in the Panama Canal Zone during World War II. The wing saw extensive action during the Vietnam War as host unit of Phu Cat Air Base, South Vietnam. In the 1980s the wing trained Wild Weasel pilots in the F-4 Phantom II before taking over F-117 Nighthawk operations in 1989 and participating in Operation Just Cause and Operation Desert Storm. The wing took over Air Force basic military training in 1993.

Did You Know...

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... that Operation Northern Delay was an airborne operation that tied down six Iraqi divisions in northern Iraq? The operation was conducted by C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from the 62d and 446th Airlift Wings dropping members of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. The crew of the lead aircraft was award the Mackay Trophy for "most meritorious flight of the year."

Aerospace Vehicle Spotlight

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The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird was an advanced, long-range, Mach 3+ strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed YF-12A and A-12 aircraft by the Lockheed Skunk Works. The SR-71 was unofficially named the Blackbird; its crews often called it the Sled, or the Habu ("snake"). The SR-71 line was in service from 1964, through 1998 for the USAF, through 1999 for NASA. Clarence "Kelly" Johnson was the man behind many of the design's advanced concepts. The SR-71 was one of the first aircraft to be shaped to reduce radar cross section. However, the aircraft was not stealthy and still had a large enough radar signature to be tracked by contemporary systems. The aircraft's defense was its high speed and operating altitude; if a surface-to-air missile launch was detected, the standard evasive action was to simply accelerate. Twelve of the aircraft have been destroyed, though none lost to enemy action.

The SR-71 holds the record for flying from New York to London: 1 hour 54 minutes and 56.4 seconds, set on 1 September 1974. On 28 July 1976, an SR-71 broke the world record for its class: an absolute speed record of 2,193.1669 mph (3,529.56 km/h), and a US "absolute altitude record" of 85,068.997 feet (25,929 m). In 1990, a retirement flight of the SR-71 set a coast-to-coast speed record at an average 2,124 mph (3,418 km/h). The entire trip was reported as 68 minutes and 17 seconds. Three additional records were set within segments of the flight, including a new absolute top speed of 2,242 mph measured between the radar gates set up in St. Louis and Cincinnati.

Biography Spotlight

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General Carl Andrew Spaatz (June 28, 1891July 14, 1974) was an American general in World War II, and the first Chief of Staff of the US Air Force. Carl Andrew Spaatz was born on June 28, 1891, in Boyertown, Pennsylvania. He attended West Point, where he graduated in 1914. He served briefly in the infantry but was assigned to military aviation in October 1915.

Spaatz was appointed to the assistant to the Chief of Air Corps in October 1940 with the temporary rank of brigadier general. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor and America's entry into the war, he was named commander of Air Forces Combat Command in January 1942 and promoted to the temporary rank of major general (he was subsequently promoted to the permanent rank of colonel in September 1942). Spaatz received a temporary promotion to lieutenant general in March 1943; and a temporary promotion to General in March 1945.

In July 1945, President Truman nominated Spaatz for promotion to the permanent rank of major general. Spaatz was appointed commanding general of the Army Air Forces in February 1946 following the retirement of his friend General Henry H. Arnold. After the creation of the independent Air Force by the National Security Act of 1947 and Truman's Executive Order No. 9877, Spaatz was appointed as the first Chief of Staff of the new United States Air Force in September 1947.

Spaatz retired from the military at the rank of general in June 1948. He also served on the Committee of Senior Advisors to the Air Force Chief of Staff, from 1952 until his death. From 1948 until 1959, he served as National Commander of the Civil Air Patrol. In 1954, Spaatz was appointed to the congressional advisory board set up to determine the site for the new United States Air Force Academy. Spaatz died on July 14, 1974 and is buried at the Academy's cemetery in Colorado Springs, Colorado.


Global Hawk photo of the Haitian National Cathedral.

Air Force provides support to Haitian relief effort
Original articles by Air Force Public Affairs

Summary: The USAF began support relief efforts immediately following the earthquake that took place in Haiti on 12 January. The 1st Special Operations Wing was the first USAF unit to respond, dispatching personnel and equipment to restore operations at the Toussaint L'Ouverture International Airport. The Air Force has also provided airlift services for relief supplies and personnel from across the US. Photos taken by RQ-4 Global Hawk from the 12th Reconnaissance Squadron have aided international relief efforts by mapping damage for relief efforts to respond to.

News Archive


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"Since the Nation's birth, it has been the constitutional duty of our military to ensure national survival, defend lives and property, and promote vital interests at home and abroad. The enduring responsibility of the United States Air Force is to provide strategic deterrence for the Nation and fly, fight and win as an integral part of the Joint Team. Together with our brothers and sisters in arms, we underwrite the national strategy of defending the Homeland and assuring allies, while dissuading, deterring and defeating enemies."

Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton A. Schwartz, 3 Sept 2008

Schwartz, General Norton A. (September 3, 2008). "Fly, Fight and Win!". CSAF's Vector. United States Air Force. Retrieved February 19, 2009.  

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