|United States Air Force|
United States Air Force portal
|Active||18 September 1947 - Present|
|Country||United States of America|
|Role||"To fly, fight and win ... in air, space and cyberspace."|
|Size||327,452 active personnel
5,573 aircraft, of which 2,132 are fighters
|Part of||Department of Defense
Department of the Air Force
|Motto||"Above All" (as of 19 Feb. 2008)|
|Colors||Ultramarine Blue & Air Force Yellow|
|March||The U.S. Air Force|
NATO bombing of Yugoslavia
|Chief of Staff||Gen Norton A. Schwartz|
|Vice Chief of Staff||Gen Carrol H. Chandler|
|Chief Master Sergeant||CMSAF James A. Roy|
|United States Air Force Symbol|
|Bomber||B-52H, B-1B, B-2|
|E-3, E-8, EC-130, EC-135|
|Fighter||F-15C, F-15E, F-16, F-22|
|Reconnaissance||U-2, RC-135, RQ-4, RQ-1|
|Trainer||T-6, T-38, T-43, T-1, TG-10|
|Transport||C-130, C-135, KC-135, C-5, C-9, KC-10, C-17, VC-25, C-32, CV-22, C-37, C-21, C-12, C-40,|
The United States Air Force (USAF) is the aerial warfare, space warfare, and cyberwarfare branch of the U.S. armed forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on 18 September 1947 under the National Security Act of 1947. It is the most recent branch of the U.S. military to be formed. In its 2009 Posture Statement the USAF articulates its primary goals as "Global Vigilance, Global Reach, and Global Power".
As of 2009 the USAF operates 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, 2,130 air-launched cruise missiles, and 450 intercontinental ballistic missiles. The USAF has 327,452 personnel on active duty, 115,299 in the Selected and Individual Ready Reserves, and 106,700 in the Air National Guard as of September 2008. In addition, the USAF employs 171,313 civilian personnel, and has 57,000 auxiliary members in the Civil Air Patrol.
The Department of the Air Force is headed by the civilian Secretary of the Air Force who oversees all administrative and policy 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.
According to the National Security Act of 1947 (61 Stat. 502), which created the USAF:
- In general the United States Air Force shall include aviation forces both combat and service not otherwise assigned. It shall be organized, trained, and equipped primarily for prompt and sustained offensive and defensive air operations. The Air Force shall be responsible for the preparation of the air forces necessary for the effective prosecution of war except as otherwise assigned and, in accordance with integrated joint mobilization plans, for the expansion of the peacetime components of the Air Force to meet the needs of war.
§8062 of Title 10 US Code defines the purpose of the USAF as:
The stated mission of the USAF today is to "fly, fight, and win in air, space, and cyberspace".
The National Search and Rescue Plan designates the United States Coast Guard as the federal agency responsible for maritime search-and-rescue (SAR) operations, and the USAF as responsible for aeronautical SAR in the continental U.S. with the exception of Alaska. Both agencies maintain Joint Rescue Coordination Centers to coordinate this effort. To help the USAF with the vast number of search and rescue operations, the USAF tasks the Civil Air Patrol—the official United States Air Force Auxiliary—in over 80% of inland search and rescue missions.
The USAF, through the Air National Guard, is the lead agency to maintain control of America's airspace.
On 30 July 2009, Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt, director of the Air National Guard said that "Technologies needed for the mission include an active, electronically scanned array radar (which can be used to detect small and stealthy air threats including cruise missiles), infrared search and track systems and beyond-line-of-sight communications".
On 14 September 2009, Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, chief of staff of the USAF, said that he hopes "to bring a combination of F-22, F-35, legacy aircraft, including upgraded F-15 and F-16 fighters, and unmanned aircraft to the [air sovereignty alert] ASA mission."
Even so, the USAF plans to retire up to 80% of their total force air sovereignty mission aircraft, which would leave no viable aircraft at 18 current air sovereignty sites after 2015. The GAO found that 17 of the 20 commanders of the ASA units "stated that the Air Force treats ASA operations as a temporary mission and has not provided sufficient resources."
In response to the conflicts in which the United States has been engaged since the end of the Cold War, on 1 August 2007, Air Force Doctrine Document 2-3 was released showing how air power could be used to support or defeat an insurgency.
In order to help support these missions the USAF is considering outfitting a counter-insurgency wing with small, ground attack aircraft that can also be used for training USAF and allied pilots in addition to counterinsurgency operations.
The USAF provides both strategic and tactical airlift in support of wartime, peacetime, and humanitarian efforts of the Department of Defense.
The GAO found that Air Force plans should cover strategic airlift, but that it may fall short in providing tactical airlift in support of the United States Army.
The Army created the first antecedent of the USAF in 1907, which through a succession of changes of organization, titles, and missions advanced toward eventual separation 40 years later. The USAF became a separate military service on 18 September 1947, with the implementation of the National Security Act of 1947. The Act created the United States Department of Defense, which was composed of three subordinate departments, namely the Department of the Army, the Department of the Navy and a newly-created Department of the Air Force. Prior to 1947, the responsibility for military aviation was shared between the Army (for land-based operations), the Navy (for sea-based operations from aircraft carriers and amphibious aircraft), and the Marine Corps (for close air support of infantry operations).
The predecessor organizations of today's USAF are:
In 2007, the USAF undertook a reduction-in-force. Because of budget constraints, the USAF planned to reduce the service's size from 360,000 active duty personnel to 316,000. The size of the active-duty force in 2007 was roughly 64% of that of the USAF at the end of the Gulf War in 1991. However, the reduction was ended at approximately 330,000 personnel in 2008 to meet mission requirements. These same constraints have seen a sharp reduction in flight hours for crew training since 2005 and the Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower and Personnel directing Airmen's Time Assessments.
On 5 June 2008, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, accepted the resignations of both the Secretary of the Air Force, Michael W. Wynne, and the Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, Gen. T. Michael Moseley. Gates in effect fired both men for "systemic issues associated with declining Air Force nuclear mission focus and performance". This followed an investigation into two embarrassing incidents involving mishandling of nuclear weapons, and were also the culmination of disputes between the Air Force leadership and Gates. To put more emphasis on nuclear assets, the USAF established the nuclear-focused Air Force Global Strike Command on 24 October 2008.
On 26 June 2009, the USAF released a force structure plan that cuts fighter aircraft and shifts resources to better support nuclear, irregular and information warfare. On 23 July 2009, The USAF released their Unmanned Aerial System Flight Plan, detailing UAV plans through 2047. One third of the planes that the USAF plans to buy in the future are to be unmanned.
The United States has been involved in many wars, conflicts and operations using military air operations. Air combat operations before, and since the official conception of the USAF include:
The USAF has also taken part in numerous humanitarian operations. Some of the more major ones include the following:
The USAF is one of three service departments, and is managed by the civilian Department of the Air Force. Guidance is provided by the Secretary of the Air Force (SECAF) and the Secretary's staff and advisors. The military leadership is the Air Staff, led by the Chief of Staff.
The Major Command (MAJCOM) is the superior hierarchical level of command. Including the Air Force Reserve Command, as of 30 September 2006, USAF has nine major commands. The Numbered Air Force (NAF) is a level of command directly under the MAJCOM, followed by Operational Command (now unused), Air Division (also now unused), Wing, Group, Squadron, and Flight.
The permanent establishment of the USAF, as of 30 September 2006, consisted of:
The USAF, including its air reserve components, field a total of 302 flying squadrons.
The above organizational structure is responsible for the peacetime organization, equipping, and training of aerospace units for operational missions. When required to support operational missions, the National Command Authority directs a Change in Operational Control (CHOP) of these units from their peacetime alignment to a Regional Combatant Commander (CCDR). In the case of AFSPC, AFSOC, PACAF, and USAFE units, forces are normally employed in-place under their existing CCDR. Likewise, AMC forces operating in support roles retain their componency to USTRANSCOM unless chopped to a Regional CCDR.
"Chopped" units are referred to as forces. The top-level structure of these forces is the Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force (AETF). The AETF is the Air Force presentation of forces to a CCDR for the employment of Air Power. Each CCDR is supported by a standing Component Numbered Air Force (C-NAF) to provide planning and execution of aerospace forces in support of CCDR requirements. Each C-NAF consists of a Commander, Air Force Forces (COMAFFOR) and AFFOR/A-staff, and an Air Operations Center (AOC). As needed to support multiple Joint Force Commanders (JFC) in the COCOM's Area of Responsibility (AOR), the C-NAF may deploy Air Component Coordinate Elements (ACCE) to liaise with the JFC. If the Air Force possesses the preponderance of air forces in a JFC's area of operations, the COMAFFOR will also serve as the Joint Forces Air Component Commander (JFACC).
The Commander, Air Force Forces (COMAFFOR) is the senior USAF officer responsible for the employment of air power in support of JFC objectives. The COMAFFOR has a special staff and an A-Staff to ensure assigned or attached forces are properly organized, equipped, and trained to support the operational mission.
The AETF generates air power to support COCOM objectives from Air Expeditionary Wings (AEW) or Air Expeditionary Groups (AEG). These units are responsible for receiving combat forces from Air Force MAJCOMs, preparing these forces for operational missions, launching and recovering these forces, and eventually returning forces to the MAJCOMs. Theater Air Control Systems control employment of forces during these missions.
The classification of any USAF job is the Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC). They range from flight combat operations such as a gunner, to working in a dining facility to ensure that members are properly fed. There are many different jobs in fields such as computer specialties, mechanic specialties, enlisted aircrew, communication systems, avionics technicians, medical specialties, civil engineering, public affairs, hospitality, law, drug counseling, mail operations, security forces, and search and rescue specialties.
Perhaps the most dangerous USAF jobs are Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), Combat rescue officer, Pararescue, Security Forces, Combat Control, Combat Weather and Tactical Air Control Party, who deploy with infantry and special operations units who disarm bombs, rescue downed or isolated personnel, call in air strikes and set up landing zones in forward locations. Most of these are enlisted positions. Other jobs have seen increasing combat, including engineers, vehicle operators, and OSI.
Nearly all enlisted jobs are "entry level," meaning that the USAF provides all training. Some enlistees are able to choose a particular job, or at least a field before actually joining, while others are assigned an AFSC at Basic Military Training (BMT). After BMT, new airmen attend a technical training school where they learn their particular AFSC. Second Air Force, a part of Air Education and Training Command, is responsible for nearly all technical training.
Training programs vary in length; for example, 3M0X1 (Services) has 31 days of tech school training, while 3E8X1 (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) is one year of training with a preliminary school and a main school consisting of over 10 separate divisions, sometimes taking students close to two years to complete.
USAF rank is divided between enlisted airmen, non-commissioned officers, and commissioned officers, and ranges from the enlisted Airman Basic (E-1) to the commissioned rank of General (O-10). Enlisted promotions are granted based on a combination of test scores, years of experience, and selection board approval while officer promotions are based on time-in-grade and a promotion board. Promotions among enlisted personnel and non-commissioned officers are generally designated by increasing numbers of insignia chevrons. Commissioned officer rank is designated by bars, oak leaves, a silver eagle, and anywhere from one to four stars (one to five stars in war-time).
The commissioned officer ranks of the USAF are divided into three sections: company grade, field grade, and general officers. Company grade officers are those officers in pay grades O-1 to O-3, while field grade officers are those in pay grades O-4 to O-6, and general officers are those in pay grades of O-7 and above.
Currently, promotion from Second Lieutenant to First Lieutenant is virtually guaranteed after two years of satisfactory service. The promotion from First Lieutenant to Captain is competitive after successfully completing another two years of service. Promotion to Major and above is through a board process. An officer's record is reviewed by a selection board at the Air Force Personnel Center at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. This process occurs approximately between the seven- and ten-year mark, where a certain percentage of Captains will be selected for Major. This process will repeat at the 11-14 year mark for promotion to Lieutenant Colonel, and then around the eighteen-year mark for promotion to Colonel.
of the Air Force
|Abbreviation2||2d Lt||1st Lt||Capt||Maj||Lt Col||Col||Brig Gen||Maj Gen||Lt Gen||Gen||GOAF|
1 Awarded as an honorary rank or during periods of a declared war.
Although provision is made in regulations for them, the USAF does not use Warrant Officer grades (the only US service to not do so). The last Air Force Warrant Officer, CWO4 James H. Long, retired in 1980, and the last Air Force Reserve Warrant Officer, CWO4 Bob Barrow, in 1992.
Enlisted members of the USAF have pay grades from E-1 (entry level) to E-9 (senior enlisted). While all USAF military personnel are referred to as Airmen, the term also refers to the pay grades of E-1 through E-4, which are below the level of non-commissioned officers (NCOs). Above the pay grade of E-4 (i.e., pay grades E-5 through E-9) all ranks fall into the category of NCO and are further subdivided into NCOs (pay grades E-5 and E-6) and Senior NCOs (pay grades E-7 through E-9); the term Junior NCO is sometimes used to refer to staff sergeants and technical sergeants (pay grades E-5 and E-6).
The USAF is the only of the five branches of the United States military where NCO status is not achieved until an airman reaches the pay grade of E-5. In all other branches, NCO status is generally achieved at the pay grade of E-4 (e.g., a Corporal in the Army and Marine Corps, Petty Officer Third Class in the Navy and Coast Guard). However, E-4s in the Army with the rank of Specialist are not considered NCOs. The Air Force mirrored the Army from 1976 to 1991 with an E-4 being either a Senior Airman wearing three stripes without a star or a Sergeant (referred to as "Buck Sergeant"), which was noted by the presence of the central star and considered an NCO. Despite not being an NCO, a Senior Airman who has completed Airman Leadership School can be a supervisor.
|US DoD Pay grade||E-1||E-2||E-3||E-4||E-5||E-6||E-7||E-8||E-9|
|Chief Master Sergeant
of the Air Force
¹ The USAF does not have a separate First Sergeant rank; it is instead a duty denoted by a diamond within the upper field.
USAF personnel wear uniforms that are distinct from those of the other branches of the United States armed forces. The first USAF dress uniform, in 1947, was dubbed and patented "Uxbridge Blue" after "Uxbridge 1683 Blue", developed at the former Bachman-Uxbridge Worsted Company. The current Service Dress Uniform, which was adopted in 1993 and standardized in 1995, consists of a three-button, pocketless coat, similar to that of a men's "sport jacket" (with silver "U.S." pins on the lapels), matching trousers, and either a service cap or flight cap, all in Shade 1620, "Air Force Blue" (a darker purplish-blue). This is worn with a light blue shirt (Shade 1550) and Shade 1620 herringbone patterned necktie. Enlisted members wear sleeve insignia on both the jacket and shirt, while officers wear metal rank insignia pinned onto the coat, and Air Force Blue slide-on epaulet loops on the shirt. USAF personnel assigned to Base Honor Guard duties wear, for certain occasions, a modified version of the standard service dress uniform, but with silver trim on the sleeves and trousers, with the addition of a ceremonial belt (if necessary), wheel cap with silver trim and Hap Arnold Device, and a silver aiguillete placed on the left shoulder seam and all devices and accouterment.
The current utility uniform is called the Airman Battle Uniform (ABU). The previous utility uniform called the Battle Dress Uniform (BDU) is still authorized for wear but is becoming less common. The ABU is scheduled to completely replace the BDU by 1 October 2011 (Fiscal Year 2012).
In addition to basic uniform clothing, various badges are used by the USAF to indicate a job assignment or qualification-level for a given assignment. Badges can also be used as merit-based or service-based awards. Over time, various badges have been discontinued and are no longer distributed. Authorized badges include the Shields of USAF Fire Protection, and Security Forces, and the Missile badge, which is given after working on a missile system for over a year.
All non-prior service enlisted Airmen must undergo basic military training (BMT), which takes place at Lackland AFB, Texas. All officers are commissioned through the United States Air Force Academy, Officer Training School, Academy of Military Science, or the AFROTC program.
The US Air Force Fitness Test (AFFT) is designed to test the body composition, muscular strength/endurance and cardiovascular respiratory fitness of airmen in the USAF. As part of the Fit to Fight program, the USAF adopted a more stringent physical fitness assessment; the new fitness program was established on 1 January 2004, and replaces the annual ergo-cycle test that the USAF had used for several years. In the AFFT, airmen are given a score based on performance consisting of four components: waist circumference, the crunch, the push-up, and a 1.5-mile (2.4 km) run. Airmen can potentially earn a score of 100; while a passing score is 75 points.
The US Air Force has over 5,778 aircraft commissioned as of 2004. Until 1962, the Army and Air Force maintained one system of aircraft naming, while the U.S. Navy maintained a separate system. In 1962, these were unified into a single system heavily reflecting the Army/Air Force method. For more complete information on the workings of this system, refer to United States Department of Defense aerospace vehicle designation. The various aircraft of the Air Force include:
The ground-attack aircraft of the USAF are designed to attack targets on the ground and are often deployed as close air support for, and in proximity to, U.S. ground forces. The proximity to friendly forces require precision strikes from these aircraft that are not possible with bomber aircraft listed below. They are typically deployed as close air support to ground forces, their role is tactical rather than strategic, operating at the front of the battle rather than against targets deeper in the enemy's rear.
In the US Air Force, the distinction between bombers, fighter-bombers, and attack aircraft has become blurred. Many attack aircraft, even ones that look like fighters, are optimized to drop bombs, with very little ability to engage in aerial combat. Many fighter aircraft, such as the F-16, are often used as 'bomb trucks,' despite being designed for aerial combat. Perhaps the one meaningful distinction at present is the question of range: a bomber is generally a long-range aircraft capable of striking targets deep within enemy territory, whereas fighter bombers and attack aircraft are limited to 'theater' missions in and around the immediate area of battlefield combat. Even that distinction is muddied by the availability of aerial refueling, which greatly increases the potential radius of combat operations. The US is the only country, besides Russia, that operates strategic bombers.
The majority of the USAF's dedicated bombers are rapidly aging. The B-52 Stratofortress airframe is over 50 years old, and are scheduled to remain in service for another 30 years, which would keep the airframe in service for over 90 years, an unprecedented length of service for any aircraft. Plans for successors to the current strategic bomber force remain only paper projects, and political and funding pressures suggest that they are likely to remain paper-bound for the foreseeable future.
The Air Force can provide rapid global mobility, which lies at the heart of U.S. strategy in this environment—without the capability to project forces, there is no conventional deterrent. As U.S. forces stationed overseas continue to decline, global interests remain, making the unique mobility capabilities of the USAF even more in demand. Air mobility is a national asset of growing importance for responding to emergencies and protecting American interests around the globe.
Cargo and transport aircraft are typically used to deliver troops, weapons and other military equipment by a variety of methods to any area of military operations around the world, usually outside of the commercial flight routes in uncontrolled airspace. The workhorses of the USAF Air Mobility Command are the C-130 Hercules, C-17 Globemaster III, and C-5 Galaxy. These aircraft are largely defined in terms of their range capability as strategic airlift (C-5), strategic/tactical (C-17), and tactical (C-130) airlift to reflect the needs of the land forces which they most often support. The CV-22 is used by the Air Force for the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). It conducts long-range, special operations missions, and is equipped with extra fuel tanks and terrain-following radar.
The purpose of electronic warfare is to deny the opponent an advantage in the EMS and ensure friendly, unimpeded access to the EM spectrum portion of the information environment. Electronic warfare aircraft are used to keep airspaces friendly, and send critical information to anyone who needs it. They are often called "The Eye in the Sky."
The fighter aircraft of the USAF are small, fast, and maneuverable military aircraft primarily used for air-to-air combat. Many of these fighters have secondary ground-attack capabilities, and some are dual-roled as fighter-bombers (e.g., the F-16 Fighting Falcon); the term "fighter" is also sometimes used colloquially for dedicated ground-attack aircraft. Other missions include interception of bombers and other fighters, reconnaissance, and patrol. Out of the 5,778 manned aircraft in service, 2,402 are fighters, and 1,245 of those are variants of the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
From 2006 to 2025 the USAF plans to reduce its inventory of tactical aircraft by 28%.
These craft are used for search and rescue on land.
The USAF's aerial refueling aircraft are derivatives of civilian jets. Usually, the aircraft providing the fuel is specially designed for the task, although refueling pods can be fitted to existing aircraft designs if the "probe and drogue" system is to be used. There is no known regular civilian in-flight refueling activity. In large-scale operations (and even daily air operations), air-to-air refueling is extensively used; fighters, bombers, and cargo aircraft rely heavily on the lesser-known "tanker" aircraft. This makes these aircraft an essential part of the Air Force's global mobility and the U.S. force projection.
Airborne Laser (ABL) weapons system with a megawatt-class chemical oxygen iodine laser (COIL) mounted inside a modified Boeing 747-400F. It is primarily designed as a missile defense system to destroy tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs) in boost phase.
Specialized mutli-mission aircraft provide support for global special operations missions. These aircraft conduct infiltration, exfiltration, resupply, and refueling for SOF teams from improvised or otherwise short runways.
Initial generations of UAVs were primarily surveillance aircraft, but some were fitted with weaponry (such as the MQ-1 Predator, which utilized AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles). An armed UAV is known as an unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV).
These aircraft are modified to observe (through visual or other means) and report tactical information concerning composition and disposition of forces.
The reconnaissance aircraft of the USAF are used for monitoring enemy activity, originally carrying no armament. Several unmanned remotely-controlled reconnaissance aircraft (UAVs) have been developed and deployed. Recently, the UAVs have been seen to offer the possibility of cheaper, more capable fighting machines that can be used without risk to aircrews.
Note: Although the U-2 is designated as a 'utility' aircraft, it is indeed a reconnaissance platform.
The Air Force's trainer aircraft are used to train pilots, navigators, and other aircrew in their duties.
Utility aircraft are used basically for what they are needed for at the time. For example, a Huey may be used to transport personnel around a large base or launch site, while it can also be used for evacuation. These aircraft are all around use aircraft.
These aircraft are used for the transportation of Very Important Persons. Notable people include the President, Vice President, secretaries, government officials (e.g., senators and representatives), the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other key personel.
These aircraft are used to study meteorological events such as hurricanes and typhoons.
The culture of the United States Air Force is primarily driven by pilots and so the pilots of various aircraft types have driven its priorities over the years. At first there was a focus on bombers (driven originally by the Bomber mafia), followed by a focus on fighters (Fighter Mafia and following).
In response to the 2007 United States Air Force nuclear weapons incident the leadership of the USAF was changed, and for the first time a Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force was chosen who did not have a background as a fighter or bomber pilot. Schwartz has begun to dismantle the rigid class system of the USAF.
Daniel L. Magruder, Jr defines USAF culture as a combination of the rigorous application of advanced technology, individualism and progressive airpower theory. Major General Charles J. Dunlap, Jr. adds that Air Force culture includes an egalitarianism bred from officers as warriors who work with small groups of enlisted airmen either as the service crew or onboard crew of their aircraft.
The United States Air Force has had numerous recruiting slogans including "No One Comes Close" and "Uno Ab Alto". For many years, the U.S. Air Force used "Aim High" as its recruiting slogan; more recently, they have used "Cross into the Blue", "We've been waiting for you" and "Do Something Amazing", and the newest one, "Above All". Each wing, group, or squadron usually has its own slogan(s). Information and logos can usually be found on the wing, group, or squadron websites.
The Air Force Core Values are: "Integrity first", "Service before self", "Excellence in all we do". The Airman's Creed is a statement introduced in the spring of 2007 to summarize the culture of the Air Force.
To help further knowledge of their mission and functions, the Air Force has also produced videos, such as "Setting the Conditions for Victory" and "How We Fight", to outline the Air Force role in the war on terrorism and how the service succeeds in its domains of air, space, and cyberspace. The Above All campaign continues to support the message of "air, space and cyberspace" dominance.
References to U.S. Army predecessors of today's U.S. Air Force are cited under their respective articles.