United States Air Force
Air warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces
Top 10 United States Air Force related articles
- 1 Mission, vision, and functions
- 2 History
- 3 Culture
- 4 Organization
- 5 Personnel
- 6 Aircraft inventory
- 6.1 A – Attack
- 6.2 B – Bomber
- 6.3 C – Transport
- 6.4 E – Special Electronic
- 6.5 F – Fighter
- 6.6 H – Search and rescue
- 6.7 K – Tanker
- 6.8 M – Multi-mission
- 6.9 O – Observation
- 6.10 R – Reconnaissance
- 6.11 T – Trainer
- 6.12 TG – Trainer gliders
- 6.13 U – Utility
- 6.14 V – VIP staff transport
- 6.15 W – Weather reconnaissance
- 6.16 Undesignated foreign aircraft
- 6.17 LGM – Ballistic missile
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 External links
|Military service branches|
|Unified combatant commands|
The United States Air Force (USAF) is the air service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the eight U.S. uniformed services. Initially formed as a part of the United States Army on 1 August 1907, the USAF was established as a separate branch of the U.S. Armed Forces on 18 September 1947 with the passing of the National Security Act of 1947. It is the second youngest branch of the U.S. Armed Forces[a] and the fourth in order of precedence. The U.S. Air Force articulates its core missions as air superiority, global integrated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, rapid global mobility, global strike, and command and control.
The U.S. Air Force is a military service branch organized within the Department of the Air Force, one of the three military departments of the Department of Defense. The Air Force through the Department of the Air Force is headed by the civilian Secretary of the Air Force, who reports to the Secretary of Defense and is appointed by the President with Senate confirmation. The highest-ranking military officer in the Air Force is the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, who exercises supervision over Air Force units and serves as one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As directed by the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Air Force, certain Air Force components are assigned to unified combatant commands. Combatant commanders are delegated operational authority of the forces assigned to them, while the Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force retain administrative authority over their members.
Along with conducting independent air operations, the U.S. Air Force provides air support for land and naval forces and aids in the recovery of troops in the field. As of 2017[update], the service operates more than 5,369 military aircraft  and 406 ICBMs. It has a $156.3 billion budget and is the second largest service branch, with 329,614 active duty airmen, 172,857 civilian personnel, 69,056 reserve airmen, and 107,414 Air National Guard airmen.
United States Air Force Intro articles: 144
Mission, vision, and functions
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.
Section 9062 of Title 10 US Code defines the purpose of the USAF as:
- to preserve the peace and security, and provide for the defense, of the United States, the Territories, Commonwealths, and possessions, and any areas occupied by the United States;
- to support national policy;
- to implement national objectives;
- to overcome any nations responsible for aggressive acts that imperil the peace and security of the United States.
The five core missions of the Air Force have not changed dramatically since the Air Force became independent in 1947, but they have evolved and are now articulated as air superiority, global integrated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, rapid global mobility, global strike, and command and control. The purpose of all of these core missions is to provide what the Air Force states as global vigilance, global reach, and global power.
Air superiority is "that degree of dominance in the air battle of one force over another which permits the conduct of operations by the former and its related land, sea, air, and special operations forces at a given time and place without prohibitive interference by the opposing force" (JP 1-02).
Offensive Counter-Air (OCA) is defined as "offensive operations to destroy, disrupt, or neutralize enemy aircraft, missiles, launch platforms, and their supporting structures and systems both before and after launch, but as close to their source as possible" (JP 1-02). OCA is the preferred method of countering air and missile threats since it attempts to defeat the enemy closer to its source and typically enjoys the initiative. OCA comprises attack operations, sweep, escort, and suppression/destruction of enemy air defense.
Defensive Counter-Air (DCA) is defined as "all the defensive measures designed to detect, identify, intercept, and destroy or negate enemy forces attempting to penetrate or attack through friendly airspace" (JP 1-02). In concert with OCA operations, a major goal of DCA operations is to provide an area from which forces can operate, secure from air and missile threats. The DCA mission comprises both active and passive defense measures. Active defense is "the employment of limited offensive action and counterattacks to deny a contested area or position to the enemy" (JP 1-02). It includes both ballistic missile defense and airborne threat defense and encompasses point defense, area defense, and high-value airborne asset defense. Passive defense is "measures taken to reduce the probability of and to minimize the effects of damage caused by hostile action without the intention of taking the initiative" (JP 1-02). It includes detection and warning; chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense; camouflage, concealment, and deception; hardening; reconstitution; dispersion; redundancy; and mobility, counter-measures, and stealth.
Airspace control is "a process used to increase operational effectiveness by promoting the safe, efficient, and flexible use of airspace" (JP 1-02). It promotes the safe, efficient, and flexible use of airspace, mitigates the risk of fratricide, enhances both offensive and defensive operations, and permits greater agility of air operations as a whole. It both deconflicts and facilitates the integration of joint air operations.
Global integrated ISR
Global integrated intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) is the synchronization and integration of the planning and operation of sensors, assets, and processing, exploitation, dissemination systems across the globe to conduct current and future operations.
Planning and directing is "the determination of intelligence requirements, development of appropriate intelligence architecture, preparation of a collection plan, and issuance of orders and requests to information collection agencies" (JP 2-01, Joint and National Intelligence Support to Military Operations). These activities enable the synchronization and integration of collection, processing, exploitation, analysis, and dissemination activities/resources to meet information requirements of national and military decision-makers.
Collection is "the acquisition of information and the provision of this information to processing elements" (JP 2-01). It provides the ability to obtain required information to satisfy intelligence needs (via use of sources and methods in all domains). Collection activities span the Range of Military Operations (ROMO).
Processing and exploitation is "the conversion of collected information into forms suitable to the production of intelligence" (JP 2-01). It provides the ability to transform, extract, and make available collected information suitable for further analysis or action across the ROMO.
Analysis and production is "the conversion of processed information into intelligence through the integration, evaluation, analysis, and interpretation of all source data and the preparation of intelligence products in support of known or anticipated user requirements" (JP 2-01). It provides the ability to integrate, evaluate, and interpret information from available sources to create a finished intelligence product for presentation or dissemination to enable increased situational awareness.
Dissemination and integration is "the delivery of intelligence to users in a suitable form and the application of the intelligence to appropriate missions, tasks, and functions" (JP 2-01). It provides the ability to present information and intelligence products across the ROMO enabling understanding of the operational environment to military and national decision-makers.
Rapid global mobility
Rapid global mobility is the timely deployment, employment, sustainment, augmentation, and redeployment of military forces and capabilities across the ROMO. It provides joint military forces the capability to move from place to place while retaining the ability to fulfill their primary mission. Rapid Global Mobility is essential to virtually every military operation, allowing forces to reach foreign or domestic destinations quickly, thus seizing the initiative through speed and surprise.
Airlift is "operations to transport and deliver forces and materiel through the air in support of strategic, operational, or tactical objectives" (Annex 3–17, Air Mobility Operations). The rapid and flexible options afforded by airlift allow military forces and national leaders the ability to respond and operate in a variety of situations and time frames. The global reach capability of airlift provides the ability to apply US power worldwide by delivering forces to crisis locations. It serves as a US presence that demonstrates resolve and compassion in humanitarian crisis.
Air refueling is "the refueling of an aircraft in flight by another aircraft" (JP 1-02). Air refueling extends presence, increases range, and serves as a force multiplier. It allows air assets to more rapidly reach any trouble spot around the world with less dependence on forward staging bases or overflight/landing clearances. Air refueling significantly expands the options available to a commander by increasing the range, payload, persistence, and flexibility of receiver aircraft.
Aeromedical evacuation is "the movement of patients under medical supervision to and between medical treatment facilities by air transportation" (JP 1-02). JP 4-02, Health Service Support, further defines it as "the fixed wing movement of regulated casualties to and between medical treatment facilities, using organic and/or contracted mobility airframes, with aircrew trained explicitly for this mission." Aeromedical evacuation forces can operate as far forward as fixed-wing aircraft are able to conduct airland operations.
Global precision attack is the ability to hold at risk or strike rapidly and persistently, with a wide range of munitions, any target and to create swift, decisive, and precise effects across multiple domains.
Strategic attack is defined as "offensive action specifically selected to achieve national strategic objectives. These attacks seek to weaken the adversary's ability or will to engage in conflict, and may achieve strategic objectives without necessarily having to achieve operational objectives as a precondition" (Annex 3–70, Strategic Attack).
Air Interdiction is defined as "air operations conducted to divert, disrupt, delay, or destroy the enemy's military potential before it can be brought to bear effectively against friendly forces, or to otherwise achieve JFC objectives. Air Interdiction is conducted at such distance from friendly forces that detailed integration of each air mission with the fire and movement of friendly forces is not required" (Annex 3-03, Counterland Operations).
Close Air Support is defined as "air action by fixed- and rotary-winged aircraft against hostile targets that are in close proximity to friendly forces and which require detailed integration of each air mission with the fire and movement of those forces" (JP 1-02). This can be as a pre-planned event or on demand from an alert posture (ground or airborne). It can be conducted across the ROMO.
The purpose of nuclear deterrence operations (NDO) is to operate, maintain, and secure nuclear forces to achieve an assured capability to deter an adversary from taking action against vital US interests. In the event deterrence fails, the US should be able to appropriately respond with nuclear options. The sub-elements of this function are:
Assure/Dissuade/Deter is a mission set derived from the Air Force's readiness to carry out the nuclear strike operations mission as well as from specific actions taken to assure allies as a part of extended deterrence. Dissuading others from acquiring or proliferating WMD and delivering them contributes to promoting security and is also an integral part of this mission. Moreover, different deterrence strategies are required to deter various adversaries, whether they are a nation state, or non-state/transnational actor. The Air Force maintains and presents credible deterrent capabilities through successful visible demonstrations and exercises that assure allies, dissuade proliferation, deter potential adversaries from actions that threaten US national security or the populations, and deploy military forces of the US, its allies, and friends.
Nuclear strike is the ability of nuclear forces to rapidly and accurately strike targets which the enemy holds dear in a devastating manner. If a crisis occurs, rapid generation and, if necessary, deployment of nuclear strike capabilities will demonstrate US resolve and may prompt an adversary to alter the course of action deemed threatening to our national interest. Should deterrence fail, the President may authorize a precise, tailored response to terminate the conflict at the lowest possible level and lead to a rapid cessation of hostilities. Post-conflict, regeneration of a credible nuclear deterrent capability will deter further aggression. The Air Force may present a credible force posture in either the Continental United States, within a theater of operations, or both to effectively deter the range of potential adversaries envisioned in the 21st century. This requires the ability to engage targets globally using a variety of methods; therefore, the Air Force should possess the ability to induct, train, assign, educate and exercise individuals and units to rapidly and effectively execute missions that support US NDO objectives. Finally, the Air Force regularly exercises and evaluates all aspects of nuclear operations to ensure high levels of performance.
Nuclear surety ensures the safety, security and effectiveness of nuclear operations. Because of their political and military importance, destructive power, and the potential consequences of an accident or unauthorized act, nuclear weapons and nuclear weapon systems require special consideration and protection against risks and threats inherent in their peacetime and wartime environments. In conjunction with other entities within the Departments of Defense or Energy, the Air Force achieves a high standard of protection through a stringent nuclear surety program. This program applies to materiel, personnel, and procedures that contribute to the safety, security, and control of nuclear weapons, thus assuring no nuclear accidents, incidents, loss, or unauthorized or accidental use (a Broken Arrow incident). The Air Force continues to pursue safe, secure and effective nuclear weapons consistent with operational requirements. Adversaries, allies, and the American people must be highly confident of the Air Force's ability to secure nuclear weapons from accidents, theft, loss, and accidental or unauthorized use. This day-to-day commitment to precise and reliable nuclear operations is the cornerstone of the credibility of the NDO mission. Positive nuclear command, control, communications; effective nuclear weapons security; and robust combat support are essential to the overall NDO function.
Command and control
Command and control is "the exercise of authority and direction by a properly designated commander over assigned and attached forces in the accomplishment of the mission. Command and control functions are performed through an arrangement of personnel, equipment, communications, facilities, and procedures employed by a commander in planning, directing, coordinating, and controlling forces and operations in the accomplishment of the mission" (JP 1-02). This core function includes all of the C2-related capabilities and activities associated with air, cyberspace, nuclear, and agile combat support operations to achieve strategic, operational, and tactical objectives.
At the strategic level command and control, the US determines national or multinational security objectives and guidance, and develops and uses national resources to accomplish these objectives. These national objectives in turn provide the direction for developing overall military objectives, which are used to develop the objectives and strategy for each theater.
At the operational level command and control, campaigns and major operations are planned, conducted, sustained, and assessed to accomplish strategic goals within theaters or areas of operations. These activities imply a broader dimension of time or space than do tactics; they provide the means by which tactical successes are exploited to achieve strategic and operational objectives.
Tactical Level Command and Control is where individual battles and engagements are fought. The tactical level of war deals with how forces are employed, and the specifics of how engagements are conducted and targets attacked. The goal of tactical level C2 is to achieve commander's intent and desired effects by gaining and keeping offensive initiative.
United States Air Force Mission, vision, and functions articles: 17
The U.S. War Department created the first antecedent of the U.S. Air Force, as a part of the U.S. Army, on 1 August 1907, which through a succession of changes of organization, titles, and missions advanced toward eventual independence 40 years later. In World War II, almost 68,000 U.S. airmen died helping to win the war, with only the infantry suffering more casualties. In practice, the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) was virtually independent of the Army during World War II, and in virtually all ways functioned as an independent service branch, but airmen still pressed for formal independence. The National Security Act of 1947 was signed on 26 July 1947 by President Harry S. Truman, which established the Department of the Air Force, but it was not until 18 September 1947, when the first secretary of the Air Force, W. Stuart Symington, was sworn into office that the Air Force was officially formed as an independent service branch.
The act created the National Military Establishment (renamed Department of Defense in 1949), which was composed of three subordinate Military Departments, namely the Department of the Army, the Department of the Navy, and the newly created Department of the Air Force. Prior to 1947, the responsibility for military aviation was shared between the Army Air Forces and its predecessor organizations (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 Marine Corps operations). The 1940s proved to be important for military aviation in other ways as well. In 1947, Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in his X-1 rocket-powered aircraft, beginning a new era of aeronautics in America.
The predecessor organizations in the Army of today's Air Force are:
- Aeronautical Division, Signal Corps (1 August 1907 – 18 July 1914)
- Aviation Section, Signal Corps (18 July 1914 – 20 May 1918)
- Division of Military Aeronautics (20 May 1918 to 24 May 1918)
- U.S. Army Air Service (24 May 1918 to 2 July 1926)
- U.S. Army Air Corps (2 July 1926 to 20 June 1941) and
- U.S. Army Air Forces (20 June 1941 to 18 September 1947)
Since 2005, the USAF has placed a strong focus on the improvement of Basic Military Training (BMT) for enlisted personnel. While the intense training has become longer, it also has shifted to include a deployment phase. This deployment phase, now called the BEAST, places the trainees in a simulated combat environment that they may experience once they deploy. While the trainees do tackle the massive obstacle courses along with the BEAST, the other portions include defending and protecting their base of operations, forming a structure of leadership, directing search and recovery, and basic self aid buddy care. During this event, the Military Training Instructors (MTI) act as mentors and opposing forces in a deployment exercise.
In 2007, the USAF undertook a Reduction-in-Force (RIF). 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 what the USAF was at the end of the first Gulf War in 1991. However, the reduction was ended at approximately 330,000 personnel in 2008 in order to meet the demand signal of combatant commanders and associated 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 Gates accepted the resignations of both the Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Wynne, and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General T. Michael Moseley. In his decision to fire both men Gates cited "systemic issues associated with... declining Air Force nuclear mission focus and performance". Left unmentioned by Gates was that he had repeatedly clashed with Wynne and Moseley over other important non-nuclear related issues to the service. This followed an investigation into two incidents involving mishandling of nuclear weapons: specifically a nuclear weapons incident aboard a B-52 flight between Minot AFB and Barksdale AFB, and an accidental shipment of nuclear weapons components to Taiwan. To put more emphasis on nuclear assets, the USAF established the nuclear-focused Air Force Global Strike Command on 24 October 2008, which later assumed control of all USAF bomber aircraft.
On 26 June 2009, the USAF released a force structure plan that cut fighter aircraft and shifted resources to better support nuclear, irregular and information warfare. On 23 July 2009, The USAF released their Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Flight Plan, detailing Air Force UAS plans through 2047. One third of the planes that the USAF planned to buy in the future were to be unmanned. According to Air Force Chief Scientist, Dr. Greg Zacharias, the USAF anticipates having hypersonic weapons by the 2020s, hypersonic RPAs by the 2030s and recoverable hypersonic RPAs aircraft by the 2040s. Air Force intends to deploy a Sixth-generation jet fighter by the mid–2030s.
The United States Air Force has been involved in many wars, conflicts and operations using military air operations. The USAF possesses the lineage and heritage of its predecessor organizations, which played a pivotal role in U.S. military operations since 1907:
- Mexican Expedition as Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps
- World War I as Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps and United States Army Air Service
- World War II as United States Army Air Forces
- Cold War
- Korean War
- Vietnam War
- Operation Eagle Claw (1980 Iranian hostage rescue)
- Operation Urgent Fury (1983 US invasion of Grenada)
- Operation El Dorado Canyon (1986 US Bombing of Libya)
- Operation Just Cause (1989–1990 US invasion of Panama)
- Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm (1990–1991 Persian Gulf War)
- Operation Southern Watch (1992–2003 Iraq no-fly zone)
- Operation Deliberate Force (1995 NATO bombing in Bosnia and Herzegovina)
- Operation Northern Watch (1997–2003 Iraq no-fly zone)
- Operation Desert Fox (1998 bombing of Iraq)
- Operation Allied Force (1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia)
- Operation Enduring Freedom (2001–2014 Afghanistan War)
- Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003–2010 Iraq War)
- Operation New Dawn (2010–2011 Iraq War)
- Operation Odyssey Dawn (2011 Libyan no-fly zone)
- Operation Inherent Resolve (2014–present: intervention against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant)
- Operation Freedom's Sentinel (2015–present Afghanistan War)
In addition since the USAF dwarfs all other U.S. and allied air components, it often provides support for allied forces in conflicts to which the United States is otherwise not involved, such as the 2013 French campaign in Mali.
The USAF has also taken part in numerous humanitarian operations. Some of the more major ones include the following:
- Berlin Airlift (Operation Vittles), 1948–1949
- Operation Safe Haven, 1956–1957
- Operations Babylift, New Life, Frequent Wind, and New Arrivals, 1975
- Operation Provide Comfort, 1991
- Operation Sea Angel, 1991
- Operation Provide Hope, 1992–1993
- Operation Provide Promise, 1992–1996
- Operation Unified Assistance, December 2004 – April 2005
- Operation Unified Response, 14 January 2010–present
- Operation Tomodachi, 12 March 2011 – 1 May 2011