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The United States Air Force (USAF) is the
air File:Atmosphere gas proportions.svg, Composition of Earth's atmosphere by volume, excluding water vapor. Lower pie represents trace gases that together compose about 0.043391% of the atmosphere (0.04402961% at April 2019 concentration ). Number ...
service branch Military branch (also service branch or armed service) is according to common standard the subdivision of the national armed forces of a sovereign nation or state. Types of branches Unified forces The Canadian Armed Forces is the unified arm ...
of the
United States Armed Forces The United States Armed Forces are the of the . The armed forces consists of six : the , , , , , and . The is the of the armed forces and forms military policy with the (DoD) and (DHS), both , acting as the principal organs by which mil ...

United States Armed Forces
, and is one of the eight U.S. uniformed services. Initially formed as a part of the
United States Army The United States Army (USA) is the land Land is the solid surface of Earth that is not permanently submerged in water. Most but not all land is situated at elevations above sea level (variable over geologic time frames) and consists ma ...
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 The National Security Act of 1947 (Act of Congress, Pub.L.]80-253 61 United States Statutes at Large, Stat.]495 enacted July 26, 1947) was a law enacting major restructuring of the Federal government of the United States, United States government' ...
. It is the second youngest branch of the U.S. Armed Forces and the fourth in
order of precedence An order of precedence is a sequential hierarchy of nominal importance and can be applied to individuals, groups, or organizations. Most often it is used in the context of people by many organizations and governments, for very formal and state oc ...
. The U.S. Air Force articulates its core missions as
air supremacy Air supremacy is a degree of air superiority where a side holds complete control of air power Airpower or air power consists of the application of military aviation, military strategy and strategic theory to the realm of aerial warfare and ...
, global integrated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance,
rapid global mobility
rapid global mobility
, global strike, and
command and control Command and control is a "set of organizational and technical attributes and processes ...
hat A collection of 18th and 19th century men's beaver felt hats A hat is a head covering which is worn for various reasons, including protection against weather conditions, ceremonial reasons such as university graduation, religious reasons, safet ...

hat
employs human, physical, and information resources to solve problems and accomplish missions" to achieve the goals of an organization or enterpris ...
. The U.S. Air Force is a military service branch organized within the
Department of the Air Force The United States Department of the Air Force (DAF) is one of the three military departments within the Department of Defense of the United States of America. The Department of the Air Force was formed on September 18, 1947, per the National Se ...
, one of the three military departments of the
Department of DefenseDepartment of Defence or Department of Defense may refer to: Current departments of defence * Department of Defence (Australia) The Department of Defence (DoD) is a Government department, department of the Government of Australia charged with ...
. The Air Force through the Department of the Air Force is headed by the civilian
Secretary of the Air Force The secretary of the Air Force, sometimes referred to as the secretary of the Department of the Air Force, (SecAF, or SAF/OS) is the head of the United States Department of the Air Force, Department of the Air Force and the service secretary fo ...
, who reports to the
Secretary of Defense A defence minister or minister of defence is a cabinet official position in charge of a ministry of defense, which regulates the armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force ...
and is appointed by the President with
Senate The Curia Julia in the Roman Forum ">Roman_Forum.html" ;"title="Curia Julia in the Roman Forum">Curia Julia in the Roman Forum A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house or Debating chamber, chamber of a bicameral legislatu ...
confirmation In Christian denominations that practice infant baptism Infant baptism is the practice of baptising infants or young child Biologically, a child (plural children) is a human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and wi ...
. 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 The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) is the body of the most senior uniformed leaders within the , that advises the , the , the and the on military matters. The composition of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is defined by and consists of a (CJCS), a ...
. As directed by the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Air Force, certain Air Force components are assigned to
unified combatant command A unified combatant command (CCMD), also referred to as a combatant command, is a joint military command A command in military terminology Military terminology refers to the terms and language of military A military, also known collect ...
s. 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 In military tactics, close air support (CAS) is defined as air action such as Airstrike, air strikes by Fixed-wing aircraft, fixed or rotorcraft, rotary-winged aircraft against hostile targets near friendly forces and require detailed integration ...

air support
for land and naval forces and aids in the recovery of troops in the field. , the service operates more than 5,369
military aircraft A military aircraft is any Fixed-wing aircraft, fixed-wing or rotorcraft, rotary-wing aircraft that is operated by a legal or insurrectionary armed service of any type. Military aircraft can be either combat or non-combat: * Combat aircraft are ...
and 406
ICBM An intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) is a missile In military terminology, a missile is a guided airborne ranged weapon . English longbowmen figure prominently in the foreground at right where they drive away the French crossbow ...
s. 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
reserve
airmen, and 107,414
Air National Guard The Air National Guard (ANG), also known as the Air Guard, is a federal military reserve force of the United States Air Force The United States Air Force (USAF) is the air File:Atmosphere gas proportions.svg, Composition of Earth's ...

Air National Guard
airmen.


Mission, vision, and functions


Missions

According to the
National Security Act of 1947 The National Security Act of 1947 (Act of Congress, Pub.L.]80-253 61 United States Statutes at Large, Stat.]495 enacted July 26, 1947) was a law enacting major restructuring of the Federal government of the United States, United States government' ...
(61 ''Stat''. 502), which created the USAF:
:''In general, the United States Air Force shall include aviation forces both
combat Combat (French language, French for ''fight'') is a purposeful violence, violent conflict meant to physically harm or kill the opposition. Combat may be armed (using weapons) or unarmed (Hand-to-hand combat, not using weapons). Combat is sometim ...

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.


Core missions

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

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).Air Force Basic Doctrine, Organization, and Command
(PDF), 14 October 2011
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 A fixed-wing aircraft is a heavier-than-air flying machine Early flying machines include all forms of aircraft studied or constructed before the development of the modern aeroplane by 1910. The story of modern flight begins more than a cen ...
are able to conduct airland operations.


Global strike

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 The contiguous United States or officially the conterminous United States consists of the 48 adjoining U.S. state In the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or Americ ...
, 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.


History

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 World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
, 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 The United States Army Air Forces (USAAF or AAF) was the major land-based aerial warfare Aerial warfare is the use of military aircraft and other flying machines in warfare. Aerial warfare includes bombers attacking enemy installations o ...

USAAF
) was virtually independent of the
Army An army (from Latin ''arma'' "arms, weapons" via Old French ''armée'', "armed" eminine, ground force or land force is a fighting force that fights primarily on land. In the broadest sense, it is the land-based military branch, service branc ...
during World War II, and in virtually every way functioned as an independent service branch, but airmen still pressed for formal independence. The
National Security Act of 1947 The National Security Act of 1947 (Act of Congress, Pub.L.]80-253 61 United States Statutes at Large, Stat.]495 enacted July 26, 1947) was a law enacting major restructuring of the Federal government of the United States, United States government' ...
was signed on 26 July 1947 by President
Harry S. Truman Harry S. Truman (May 8, 1884December 26, 1972) was the 33rd president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the United States of America. The president directs the ...

Harry S. Truman
, which established the
Department of the Air Force The United States Department of the Air Force (DAF) is one of the three military departments within the Department of Defense of the United States of America. The Department of the Air Force was formed on September 18, 1947, per the National Se ...
, 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 DefenseDepartment of Defence or Department of Defense may refer to: Current departments of defence * Department of Defence (Australia) The Department of Defence (DoD) is a Government department, department of the Government of Australia charged with ...
in 1949), which was composed of three subordinate Military Departments, namely the
Department of the Army The United States Department of the Army (DA) is one of the three military departments within the Department of Defense of the U.S.. The Department of the Army is the federal government A federation (also known as a federal state) is a ...
, 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 A navy, naval force, or maritime force is the branch of a nation's armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is typically authorized a ...
(for sea-based operations from
aircraft carrier An aircraft carrier is a that serves as a seagoing , equipped with a full-length and facilities for . Typically, it is the of a fleet, as it allows a naval force to worldwide without depending on . Carriers have evolved since their incepti ...
s and
amphibious Amphibious means able to use either land or water. In particular it may refer to: * ''Amphibious'' (film), a 2010 film * Amphibious aircraft An amphibious aircraft or amphibian is an aircraft An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fl ...
aircraft), and the
Marine Corps Marines, or naval infantry, are typically a military force trained to operate in in support of naval operations. Historically, tasks undertaken by marines have included helping maintain discipline and order aboard the ship (reflecting the natu ...
(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 Charles Elwood Yeager ( , February 13, 1923December 7, 2020) was a United States Air Force The United States Air Force (USAF) is the Atmosphere of Earth, air military branch, service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of ...

Chuck Yeager
broke the sound barrier in his X-1 rocket-powered aircraft, beginning a new era of aeronautics in America.


Antecedents

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 The Division of Military Aeronautics was the name of the aviation organization of the United States Army The United States Army (USA) is the land military branch, service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the eight Uniform ...
(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)


21st century

During the early 2000s, two USAF aircraft procurement projects took longer than expected, the
KC-X KC-X is the (USAF) program to its next-generation tanker aircraft to replace some of the older s. The contest was for a production contract for 179 new tankers with estimated value of US$35 billion. The two contenders to replace the KC-135 a ...
and
F-35 The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is an American family of single-seat, single-engine, all-weather stealth multirole combat aircraft A multirole combat aircraft (MRCA) is a combat aircraft intended to perform different roles in comba ...
programs. As a result, the USAF was setting new records for average aircraft age. Since 2005, the USAF has placed a strong focus on the improvement of
Basic Military Training Recruit training, more commonly known as basic training or regularly boot camp, refers to the initial instruction of new military personnel. Recruit training is a physically and psychologically intensive process, which Resocialization, resocializ ...
(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.Needed: 200 New Aircraft a Year
, ''Air Force Magazine'', October 2008.
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 The Gulf War was a war waged by coalition forces The term "coalition" is the denotation for a group formed when two or more people, factions, states, political parties, militaries etc. agree to work together temporarily in a partnership t ...
in 1991. 1991: 510,000; 2007: 328,600 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 A defence minister or minister of defence is a cabinet official position in charge of a ministry of defense, which regulates the armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force ...
Robert Gates Robert Michael Gates (born September 25, 1943) is an American intelligence analyst and university president who served as the 22nd United States secretary of defense from 2006 to 2011. He was originally appointed by president George W. Bush and ...

Robert Gates
accepted the resignations of both the
Secretary of the Air Force The secretary of the Air Force, sometimes referred to as the secretary of the Department of the Air Force, (SecAF, or SAF/OS) is the head of the United States Department of the Air Force, Department of the Air Force and the service secretary fo ...
,
Michael Wynne Michael Walter Wynne (born September 4, 1944) is an American politician and business executive and was the 21st United States Secretary of the Air Force The secretary of the Air Force, sometimes referred to as the secretary of the Department ...

Michael Wynne
, and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force,
General A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, or marines Marines or naval infantry, are typically a military force trained to operate on Littoral Zone, littoral zone in suppo ...
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 A nuclear weapon (also known as an atom bomb, atomic bomb, nuclear bomb or nuclear warhead, and colloquially as an A-bomb or nuke) is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reaction In nuclear physics and nucl ...

nuclear weapons
: specifically a nuclear weapons incident aboard a B-52 flight between
Minot AFB Minot Air Force Base is a U.S. Air Force installation in Ward County, North Dakota, north of the city of Minot via U.S. 83. In the 2010 census, the base was counted as a CDP with a total population of 5,521, down from 7,599 in 2000. Min ...
and
Barksdale AFB Barksdale Air Force Base (Barksdale AFB) is a United States Air Force The United States Air Force (USAF) is the Atmosphere of Earth, air military branch, service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the eight uniformed ser ...
, 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 Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) is a List of Major Commands of the United States Air Force, Major Command (MAJCOM) of the United States Air Force, headquartered at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. AFGSC provides combat-ready forces ...

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 A sixth-generation fighter is a conceptualized class of jet fighter aircraft Fighter aircraft are fixed-wing aircraft, fixed-wing military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat. In military conflict, the role of fighter aircraf ...
by the mid–2030s.


Conflicts

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 The Pancho Villa Expedition—now known officially in the United States as the Mexican Expedition, but originally referred to as the "Punitive Expedition, U.S. Army"—was a military operation conducted by the United States Army against the pa ...
as
Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps The Aviation Section, Signal Corps, was the aerial warfare Aerial warfare is the use of military aircraft and other flying machines in warfare. Aerial warfare includes bombers attacking enemy installations or a concentration of enemy troops ...
*
World War I World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war A world war is "a war engaged in by all or most of the principal nations of the world". The term is usually reserved for ...

World War I
"Air Force Pamphlet 36-2241"
USAF, 1 July 2007.
as
Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps The Aviation Section, Signal Corps, was the aerial warfare Aerial warfare is the use of military aircraft and other flying machines in warfare. Aerial warfare includes bombers attacking enemy installations or a concentration of enemy troops ...
and
United States Army Air Service The United States Army Air Service (USAAS)Craven and Cate Vol. 1, p. 9 (also known as the ''"Air Service"'', ''"U.S. Air Service"'' and before its legislative establishment in 1920, the ''"Air Service, United States Army"'') was the service co ...
*
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
as
United States Army Air Forces The United States Army Air Forces (USAAF or AAF) was the major land-based aerial warfare Aerial warfare is the use of military aircraft A military aircraft is any fixed-wing A fixed-wing aircraft is a heavier-than-air flying machi ...
*
Cold War The Cold War was a period of tension between the and the and their respective allies, the and the , which began following . Historians do not fully agree on its starting and ending points, but the period is generally considered to span ...
*
Korean War The Korean War (see § Names) was a war fought between North Korea North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), is a country in East Asia, constituting the northern part of the Korean Peninsula. It b ...

Korean War
*
Vietnam War {{Infobox military conflict , conflict = Vietnam War , partof = the Indochina Wars The Indochina Wars ( vi, Chiến tranh Đông Dương) were a series of wars fought in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled ...
*
Operation Eagle Claw Operation Eagle Claw, known as Operation Tabas ( fa, عملیات طبس) in Iran, was a United States Armed Forces The United States Armed Forces are the Military, military forces of the United States of America. The armed forces co ...
(1980 Iranian hostage rescue) *
Operation Urgent Fury The United States invasion of Grenada began at dawn on 25 October 1983. The U.S. and a coalition of six Caribbean nations invaded the island nation of Grenada Grenada ( ; Grenadian Creole French: ''Gwenad'') is an island country in the ...
(1983 US invasion of Grenada) *
Operation El Dorado Canyon The 1986 United States bombing of Libya, code-named Operation El Dorado Canyon, comprised air strikes by the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Cont ...
(1986 US Bombing of Libya) *
Operation Just Cause Operation or Operations may refer to: Science and technology * Surgical operation or surgery, in medicine * Operation (mathematics), a calculation from zero or more input values (called operands) to an output value ** Arity, number of arguments or ...
(1989–1990 US invasion of Panama) *
Gulf War The Gulf War was a war waged by coalition forces The term "coalition" is the denotation for a group formed when two or more people, factions, states, political parties, militaries etc. agree to work together temporarily in a partnership t ...
(1990–1991) **Operation Desert Shield (1990-1991) **Operation Desert Storm (1991) *
Operation Southern Watch Operation Southern Watch was an air-centric military operation conducted by the United States Department of Defense from Summer 1992 to Spring 2003. United States Central Command's Joint Task Force Southwest Asia (JTF-SWA) had the mission of monit ...
(1992–2003 Iraq no-fly zone) *
Operation Deliberate Force Operation Deliberate Force was a sustained air campaign conducted by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), in concert with the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) ground operations, to undermine the military capability of the A ...
(1995 NATO bombing in Bosnia and Herzegovina) *
Operation Northern Watch Operation Northern Watch (ONW), the successor to Operation Provide Comfort, was a Combined Task Force (CTF) charged with enforcing its own Iraqi no-fly zones, no-fly zone above the 36th parallel north, 36th parallel in Iraq. Its mission began on 1 ...
(1997–2003 Iraq no-fly zone) *
Operation Desert Fox The 1998 bombing of Iraq (code-named Operation Desert Fox) was a major four-day bombing campaign on Iraqi targets from 16 to 19 December 1998, by the United States and the United Kingdom. The contemporaneous justification for the strikes was Ira ...
(1998 bombing of Iraq) *
Operation Allied Force The NATO bombing of Yugoslavia was the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's (NATO) military operation against the Serbia and Montenegro, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War. The air strikes lasted from March 24, 1999 to June 10 ...
(1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia) *
Afghanistan War War in Afghanistan, Afghan war, or Afghan civil war may refer to: * Conquest of Afghanistan by Alexander the Great (330 BC – 327 BC) *Muslim conquests of Afghanistan The Muslim conquests of Afghanistan Afghanistan (; Pashto/Dari languag ...
(2001-2021) **
Operation Enduring Freedom Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) was the official name used by the U.S. government The federal government of the United States (U.S. federal government) is the national government of the United States The United States of Amer ...
(2001–2014) **
Operation Freedom's Sentinel Operation Freedom's Sentinel (OFS) was the official name used by the Federal government of the United States, U.S. government for the mission succeeding Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in continuation of the War in Afghanistan (2001–2021), War ...

Operation Freedom's Sentinel
(2015–2021) *
Iraq War The Iraq WarThe conflict is also known as the Second Gulf War or the Third Gulf War by those who consider the Iran–Iraq War the first Gulf War. The war was also called the Second Iraq War referring to the Gulf War as the first Iraq war. The p ...
(2003–2011) **
Operation Iraqi Freedom The Iraq WarThe conflict is also known as the Second Gulf War or the Third Gulf War by those who consider the Iran–Iraq War , commander1 = Ruhollah Khomeini , commander2 = , units1 = see Order of battle duri ...
(2003–2010) ** Operation New Dawn (2010-2011) *
Operation Odyssey Dawn Operation Odyssey Dawn was the U.S. code name for the American role in the 2011 military intervention in Libya, international military operation in Libya to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 during the initial period of 19 ...
(2011 Libyan no-fly zone) *
Operation Inherent Resolve Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) is the U.S. military's operational name for the International military intervention against ISIL In response to rapid territorial gains made by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) during th ...
(2014–present: intervention against the
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant {{Infobox war faction , name = Islamic State , anthem = '' Dawlat al-Islam Qamat'' {{small, ("My Ummah ' ( ar, أمة ) is an Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are ...
) 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.


Humanitarian operations

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, 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, December 2004 – April 2005 * Operation Unified Response, 14 January 2010 – 22 March 2010 * Operation Tomodachi, 12 March 2011 – 1 May 2011


Culture

The culture of the United States Air Force is primarily driven by pilots, at first those piloting bombers (driven originally by the Bomber Mafia), followed by fighters (Fighter Mafia). In response to a 2007 United States Air Force nuclear weapons incident, Secretary of Defense
Robert Gates Robert Michael Gates (born September 25, 1943) is an American intelligence analyst and university president who served as the 22nd United States secretary of defense from 2006 to 2011. He was originally appointed by president George W. Bush and ...

Robert Gates
accepted in June 2009 the resignations of
Secretary of the Air Force The secretary of the Air Force, sometimes referred to as the secretary of the Department of the Air Force, (SecAF, or SAF/OS) is the head of the United States Department of the Air Force, Department of the Air Force and the service secretary fo ...
Michael Wynne Michael Walter Wynne (born September 4, 1944) is an American politician and business executive and was the 21st United States Secretary of the Air Force The secretary of the Air Force, sometimes referred to as the secretary of the Department ...

Michael Wynne
and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force
General A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, or marines Marines or naval infantry, are typically a military force trained to operate on Littoral Zone, littoral zone in suppo ...
T. Michael Moseley. Moseley's successor, General Norton A. Schwartz, a former airlift and special operations pilot was the first officer appointed to that position who did not have a background as a fighter or bomber pilot. The Washington Post reported in 2010 that General Schwartz began to dismantle the rigid class system of the USAF, particularly in the officer corps. In 2014, following morale and testing/cheating scandals in the Air Force's Missile combat crew, missile launch officer community, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James admitted that there remained a "systemic problem" in the USAF's management of the nuclear mission. 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 the U.S. Air Force's culture also includes an egalitarianism bred from officers perceiving themselves as their service's principal "warriors" working with small groups of enlisted airmen either as the service crew or the onboard crew of their aircraft. Air Force officers have never felt they needed the formal social "distance" from their enlisted force that is common in the other U.S. armed services. Although the paradigm is changing, for most of its history, the Air Force, completely unlike its sister services, has been an organization in which mostly its officers fought, not its enlisted force, the latter being primarily a rear echelon support force. When the enlisted force did go into harm's way, such as crew members of multi-crewed aircraft, the close comradeship of shared risk in tight quarters created traditions that shaped a somewhat different kind of officer/enlisted relationship than exists elsewhere in the military. Cultural and career issues in the U.S. Air Force have been cited as one of the reasons for the shortfall in needed Unmanned combat aerial vehicle, UAV operators. In spite of demand for UAVs or drones to provide round the clock coverage for American troops during the Iraq War, the USAF did not establish a new career field for piloting them until the last year of that war and in 2014 changed its RPA training syllabus again, in the face of large aircraft losses in training, and in response to a GAO report critical of handling of drone programs. Paul Scharre has reported that the cultural divide between the USAF and US Army has kept both services from adopting each other's drone handing innovations. Many of the U.S. Air Force's formal and informal traditions are an amalgamation of those taken from the Royal Air Force (e.g., dining-ins/mess nights) or the experiences of its predecessor organizations such as the U.S. Army Air Service, U.S. Army Air Corps and the U.S. Army Air Forces. Some of these traditions range from "Friday Name Tags" in flying units to an annual "Mustache Month". The use of Challenge coin, "challenge coins" dates back to World War I when a member of one of the aero squadrons bought his entire unit medallions with their emblem, while another cultural tradition unique to the Air Force is the "roof stomp", practiced by Airmen to welcome a new commander or to commemorate another event, such as a retirement.


Organization


Administrative organization

The
Department of the Air Force The United States Department of the Air Force (DAF) is one of the three military departments within the Department of Defense of the United States of America. The Department of the Air Force was formed on September 18, 1947, per the National Se ...
is one of three military departments within the
Department of DefenseDepartment of Defence or Department of Defense may refer to: Current departments of defence * Department of Defence (Australia) The Department of Defence (DoD) is a Government department, department of the Government of Australia charged with ...
, and is managed by the civilian
Secretary of the Air Force The secretary of the Air Force, sometimes referred to as the secretary of the Department of the Air Force, (SecAF, or SAF/OS) is the head of the United States Department of the Air Force, Department of the Air Force and the service secretary fo ...
, under the authority, direction, and control of the
Secretary of Defense A defence minister or minister of defence is a cabinet official position in charge of a ministry of defense, which regulates the armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force ...
. The senior officials in the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, Office of the Secretary are the United States Under Secretary of the Air Force, Under Secretary of the Air Force, four Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, Assistant Secretaries of the Air Force and the General Counsel of the Department of the Air Force, General Counsel, all of whom are appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the
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. The senior uniformed leadership in the Air Staff (United States), Air Staff is made up of the Chief of Staff of the Air Force and the Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force. The directly subordinate commands and units are named List of United States Air Force Field Operating Agencies, Field Operating Agency (FOA), Direct Reporting Unit (DRU), and the currently unused Separate Operating Agency. The List of Major Commands of the United States Air Force, Major Command (MAJCOM) is the superior hierarchical level of command. Including the Air Force Reserve Command, as of 30 September 2006, USAF has ten major commands. The List of Numbered Air Forces of the United States Air Force, Numbered Air Force (NAF) is a level of command directly under the MAJCOM, followed by Operational Command (now unused), USAF Air Division, Air Division (also now unused), List of Wings of the United States Air Force, Wing, List of United States Air Force Groups, Group, List of United States Air Force squadrons, Squadron, and Flight.


Air Force structure and organization

United States Department of the Air Force, Headquarters, United States Air Force (HQ USAF): The major components of the U.S. Air Force, as of 28 August 2015, are the following: * Active duty forces ** 57 flying wings and 55 non-flying wings ** nine flying groups, eight non-flying groups *** 134 flying squadrons * Air Force Reserve Command ** 35 flying wings ** four flying groups *** 67 flying squadrons * Air National Guard ** 87 flying wings *** 101 flying squadrons The USAF, including its Air Reserve Component (e.g., Air Force Reserve + Air National Guard), possesses a total of 302 flying squadrons.


Operational organization

The organizational structure as shown above is responsible for the peacetime organization, equipping, and training of air units for operational missions. When required to support operational missions, the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) directs the
Secretary of the Air Force The secretary of the Air Force, sometimes referred to as the secretary of the Department of the Air Force, (SecAF, or SAF/OS) is the head of the United States Department of the Air Force, Department of the Air Force and the service secretary fo ...
(SECAF) to execute a Change in Operational Control (CHOP) of these units from their administrative alignment to the operational command of a Unified Combatant Command, 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.


Air Expeditionary Task Force

"Chopped" units are referred to as ''forces''. The top-level structure of these forces is the Air 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 air 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 Unified Combatant Command, CCMD'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).


Commander, Air Force Forces

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.


Air Operations Center

The Air Operations Center (AOC) is the JFACC's Command and Control (Military), Command and Control (C2) center. Several AOCs have been established throughout the Air Force worldwide. These centers are responsible for planning and executing air power missions in support of JFC objectives.


Air Expeditionary Wings/Groups/Squadrons

The AETF generates air power to support CCMD 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.


Personnel

The classification of any USAF job for officers or enlisted airmen is the Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC). AFSCs range from officer specialties such as pilot, combat systems officer, United States Air Force Special Tactics Officer, special tactics, nuclear and missile operations, intelligence, cyberspace operations, judge advocate general (JAG), medical doctor, nurse or other fields, to various enlisted specialties. The latter range from flight combat operations such as loadmaster, to working in a dining facility to ensure that Airmen are properly fed. There are additional occupational fields such as computer specialties, mechanic specialties, Aircrew Badge#Air Force, enlisted aircrew, communication systems, cyberspace operations, avionics technicians, medical specialties, civil engineering, public affairs, hospitality, law, drug counseling, mail operations, Air Force Security Forces, security forces, and search and rescue specialties. Beyond combat flight crew personnel, other combat USAF AFSCs are Special Tactics Officer, Bomb disposal, Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), Combat Rescue Officer, United States Air Force Pararescue, Pararescue, Air Force Security Forces, Security Forces, Combat Control Team, Combat Control, Air Force Special Operations Weather Technician, Combat Weather, Tactical Air Control Party, Special Operations Weather Technician, and AFOSI agents. Nearly all enlisted career fields are "entry level", meaning that the USAF provides all training. Some enlistees are able to choose a particular field, or at least a field before actually joining, while others are assigned an AFSC at Basic Military Training (BMT). After BMT, new enlisted 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 enlisted 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. Officer technical training conducted by Second Air Force can also vary by AFSC, while flight training for aeronautically-rated officers conducted by AETC's Nineteenth Air Force can last well in excess of one year. USAF rank is divided between Enlisted rank, enlisted airmen, non-commissioned officers, and commissioned officers, and ranges from the enlisted Airman Basic (E-1) to the commissioned officer rank of General (O-10), however in times of war officers may be appointed to the higher grade of General of the Air Force. 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 selection 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 five stars. General of the Air Force Henry H. Arnold, Henry "Hap" Arnold is the only individual in the history of the US Air Force to attain the rank of five-star general. 71% of the Air Force is White and 15% Black. The average age is 35 and 21% female.


Commissioned officers

The commissioned officer ranks of the USAF are divided into three categories: junior officer, company grade officers, field grade officers, 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. Air Force officer promotions are governed by the Defense Officer Personnel Management Act of 1980 and its companion Reserve Officer Personnel Management Act (ROPMA) for officers in the Air Force Reserve and the Air National Guard. DOPMA also establishes limits on the number of officers that can serve at any given time in the Air Force. 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, with a selection rate varying between 99% and 100%. Promotion to major through major general is through a formal selection board process, while promotions to lieutenant general and general are contingent upon nomination to specific general officer positions and subject to U.S. Senate approval. During the 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. At the 10 to 11-year mark, captains will take part in a selection board to major. If not selected, they will meet a follow-on board to determine if they will be allowed to remain in the Air Force. Promotion from major to lieutenant colonel is similar and occurs approximately between the thirteen year (for officers who were promoted to major early "below the zone") and the fifteen year mark, where a certain percentage of majors will be selected below zone (i.e., "early"), in zone (i.e., "on time") or above zone (i.e., "late") for promotion to lieutenant colonel. This process will repeat at the 16-year mark (for officers previously promoted early to major and lieutenant colonel) to the 21-year mark for promotion to full colonel. The Air Force has the largest ratio of general officers to total strength of all of the U.S. Armed Forces and this ratio has continued to increase even as the force has shrunk from its Cold War highs.


Warrant officers

Although provision is made in Title 10 of the United States Code for the
Secretary of the Air Force The secretary of the Air Force, sometimes referred to as the secretary of the Department of the Air Force, (SecAF, or SAF/OS) is the head of the United States Department of the Air Force, Department of the Air Force and the service secretary fo ...
to appoint warrant officers, the Air Force does not currently use warrant officer grades, and, along with the Space Force, are the only U.S. Armed Services not to do so. The Air Force inherited warrant officer ranks from the
Army An army (from Latin ''arma'' "arms, weapons" via Old French ''armée'', "armed" eminine, ground force or land force is a fighting force that fights primarily on land. In the broadest sense, it is the land-based military branch, service branc ...
at its inception in 1947. The Air Force stopped appointing warrant officers in 1959, the same year the first promotions were made to the new top enlisted grade, Chief Master Sergeant. Most of the existing Air Force warrant officers entered the commissioned officer ranks during the 1960s, but small numbers continued to exist in the warrant officer grades for the next 21 years. The last active duty Air Force warrant officer, CWO4 James H. Long, retired in 1980 and the last Air Force Reserve warrant officer, CWO4 Bob Barrow, retired in 1992. Upon his retirement, he was honorarily promoted to CWO5, the only person in the Air Force ever to hold this grade. Since Barrow's retirement, the Air Force warrant officer ranks, while still authorized by law, are not used.


Enlisted airmen

Enlisted airmen have pay grades from E-1 (entry level) to E-9 (senior enlisted). While all USAF personnel, enlisted and officer, are referred to as ''airmen'', in the same manner that all
Army An army (from Latin ''arma'' "arms, weapons" via Old French ''armée'', "armed" eminine, ground force or land force is a fighting force that fights primarily on land. In the broadest sense, it is the land-based military branch, service branc ...
personnel, enlisted and officer, are referred to as ''soldiers'', 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 branch of the U.S. military where NCO status is achieved when an enlisted person 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
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, Petty Officer Third Class in the
Navy A navy, naval force, or maritime force is the branch of a nation's armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is typically authorized a ...
and United States Coast Guard, Coast Guard). 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 according to the AFI 36–2618.


Uniforms

The first USAF dress uniform, in 1947, was dubbed and patented "Uxbridge, MA, Uxbridge blue" after "Uxbridge 1683 blue", developed at the former Bachman-Uxbridge Worsted Company. The current service dress uniform, which was adopted in 1994, consists of a three-button coat with decorative pockets, 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. Silver "U.S." pins are worn on the collar of the coat, with a surrounding silver ring for enlisted airmen. Enlisted airmen wear sleeve rank on both the jacket and shirt, while officers wear metal rank insignia pinned onto the epaulet loops on 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 that includes silver trim on the sleeves and trousers, with the addition of a ceremonial belt (if necessary), service cap with silver trim and Hap Arnold Device (instead of the seal of the United States worn on the regular cap), and a silver aiguillette placed on the left shoulder seam and all devices and accoutrements. The Airman Combat Uniform (ACU) in the Operational Camouflage Pattern (OCP) replaced the previous Airman Battle Uniform (ABU) on 1 October 2018.


Awards and badges

In addition to basic uniform clothing, Badges of the United States Air Force, various badges are used by the USAF to indicate a billet assignment or qualification-level for a given assignment. Badges can also be used as merit-based or service-based Awards and decorations of the United States Air Force, awards. Over time, Obsolete badges of the United States military, various badges have been discontinued and are no longer distributed.


Training

All enlisted Airmen attend
Basic Military Training Recruit training, more commonly known as basic training or regularly boot camp, refers to the initial instruction of new military personnel. Recruit training is a physically and psychologically intensive process, which Resocialization, resocializ ...
(BMT) at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas for weeks. Individuals who have prior service of over 24 months of active duty in the other service branches who seek to enlist in the Air Force must go through a 10-day Air Force familiarization course rather than enlisted BMT, however prior service opportunities are severely limited. Officers may be commissioned upon graduation from the United States Air Force Academy, upon graduation from another college or university through the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) program, or through the Air Force Officer Training School (OTS). OTS, located at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama since 1993, in turn encompasses two separate commissioning programs: Basic Officer Training (BOT), which is for officer candidates for the Regular Air Force and the Air Force Reserve; and the Academy of Military Science (United States), Academy of Military Science (AMS), which is for officer candidates of the Air National Guard. The Air Force also provides Commissioned Officer Training (COT) for officers of all three components who are direct-commissioned into medicine, law, religion, biological sciences, or healthcare administration. COT is fully integrated into the OTS program and today encompasses extensive coursework as well as field exercises in leadership, confidence, fitness, and deployed-environment operations.


Air Force Fitness Test

The US Air Force Fitness Test (AFFT) is designed to test the abdominal circumference, 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 put into effect on 1 June 2010. The annual ergo-cycle test which the USAF had used for several years had been replaced in 2004. In the AFFT, Airmen are given a score based on performance consisting of four components: waist circumference, the sit-up, the push-up, and a run. Airmen can potentially earn a score of 100, with the run counting as 60%, waist circumference as 20%, and both strength test counting as 10% each. A passing score is 75 points. Effective 1 July 2010, the AFFT is administered by the base Fitness Assessment Cell (FAC), and is required twice a year. Personnel may test once a year if he or she earns a score above a 90%. Additionally, only meeting the minimum standards on each one of these tests will not get you a passing score of 75%, and failing any one component will result in a failure for the entire test.


Aircraft inventory

The U.S. Air Force had over 5,638 aircraft in service as of September 2012. 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 and 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:


A – Attack

The 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 always possible with bomber aircraft. Their role is tactical rather than strategic, operating at the front of the battle rather than against targets deeper in the enemy's rear. The Air Force is currently running the OA-X experiment, with the intent to procure an off-the-shelf light attack aircraft. Current USAF attack aircraft are operated by Air Combat Command, Pacific Air Forces, and Air Force Special Operations Command. * Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II, A-10C Thunderbolt II * Lockheed AC-130, AC-130J Ghostrider * Lockheed AC-130, AC-130U Spooky * Lockheed AC-130, AC-130W Stinger II


B – Bomber

US Air Force bombers are strategic weapons, primarily used for long range strike missions with either conventional or nuclear ordnance. Traditionally used for attacking strategic targets, today many bombers are also used in the tactical mission, such as providing close air support for ground forces and tactical interdiction missions. All Air Force bombers are under Global Strike Command. The service's B-2A aircraft entered service in the 1990s, its B-1B aircraft in the 1980s and its current B-52H aircraft in the early 1960s. The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, B-52 Stratofortress airframe design is over 60 years old and the B-52H aircraft currently in the active inventory were all built between 1960 and 1962. The B-52H is scheduled to remain in service for another 30 years, which would keep the airframe in service for nearly 90 years, an unprecedented length of service for any aircraft. The Northrop Grumman B-21, B-21 is projected to replace the B-52 and parts of the B-1B force by the mid-2020s. * Rockwell B-1 Lancer, B-1B Lancer * Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit, B-2A Spirit * Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, B-52H Stratofortress


C – Transport

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 airlift forces are the Lockheed C-130 Hercules, C-130 Hercules, Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, C-17 Globemaster III, and Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, C-5 Galaxy. The CV-22 is used by the Air Force for special operations. It conducts long-range, special operations missions, and is equipped with extra fuel tanks and terrain-following radar. Some aircraft serve specialized transportation roles such as executive or embassy support (C-12), Antarctic support (LC-130H), and AFSOC support (C-27J, C-145A, and C-146A). Although most of the US Air Force's cargo aircraft were specially designed with the Air Force in mind, some aircraft such as the C-12 Huron (Beechcraft Super King Air) and C-146 (Dornier 328) are militarized conversions of existing civilian aircraft. Transport aircraft are operated by Air Mobility Command, Air Force Special Operations Command, and United States Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa. * Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, C-5M Galaxy * Beechcraft C-12 Huron, C-12C, C-12D, C-12F and C-12J Huron * Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, C-17A Globemaster III * Lockheed C-130 Hercules, C-130H, LC-130H, and WC-130H Hercules * Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules, C-130J and C-130J-30 Super Hercules * Boeing C-135 Stratolifter, C-135 Stratolifter * PZL M28 Skytruck, C-145A Skytruck * Dornier 328, C-146A Wolfhound * Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey, CV-22B Osprey


E – Special Electronic

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 roles of the aircraft vary greatly among the different variants to include electronic warfare and jamming (EC-130H), psychological operations and communications (EC-130J), airborne early warning and control (E-3), airborne command post (E-4B), ground targeting radar (E-8C), range control (E-9A), and communications relay (E-11A, EQ-4B). * Boeing E-3 Sentry, E-3B, E-3C and E-3G Sentry * Boeing E-4, E-4B "Nightwatch" * Northrop Grumman E-8 Joint STARS, E-8C JSTARS * E-9A, E-9A Widget * Bombardier Global Express, E-11A * Lockheed EC-130, EC-130H Compass Call * Lockheed EC-130, EC-130J Commando Solo * Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk, EQ-4B Global Hawk


F – Fighter

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 General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-16 Fighting Falcon); the term "fighter" is also sometimes used colloquially for dedicated ground-attack aircraft, such as the F-117 Nighthawk. Other missions include interception of bombers and other fighters, reconnaissance, and patrol. The F-16 is currently used by the USAF Air Demonstration squadron, the United States Air Force Thunderbirds, Thunderbirds, while a small number of both man-rated and non-man-rated F-4 Phantom II are retained as QF-4 aircraft for use as full-scale aerial targets (FSATs) or as part of the USAF Heritage Flight program. These extant QF-4 aircraft are being replaced in the FSAT role by early model F-16 aircraft converted to QF-16 configuration. The USAF had 2,025 fighters in service as of September 2012. * McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, F-15C and F-15D Eagle * McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle, F-15E Strike Eagle * McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle#F-15X/EX, F-15EX Eagle II * General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-16C and F-16D Fighting Falcon * Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, F-22A Raptor * Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, F-35A Lightning II


H – Search and rescue

These aircraft are used for search and rescue and combat search and rescue on land or sea. The HC-130N/P aircraft are being replaced by newer HC-130J models. HH-60U are replacement aircraft for "G" models that have been lost in combat operations or accidents. New HH-60W helicopters are under development to replace both the "G" and "U" model Pave Hawks. * Lockheed HC-130, HC-130N and HC-130P Combat King * Lockheed HC-130, HC-130J Combat King II * Sikorsky HH-60 Pave Hawk, HH-60G and HH-60U Pave Hawk


K – Tanker

The USAF's KC-135 and KC-10 aerial refueling aircraft are based on civilian jets. The USAF aircraft are equipped primarily for providing the fuel via a tail-mounted refueling boom, and can be equipped with "probe and drogue" refueling systems. Air-to-air refueling is extensively used in large-scale operations and also used in normal operations; 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. The Boeing KC-46 Pegasus, KC-46A Pegasus began to be delivered to USAF units starting in 2019. * McDonnell Douglas KC-10 Extender, KC-10A Extender * Boeing KC-46A Pegasus, KC-46A Pegasus * Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, KC-135R and KC-135T Stratotanker


M – Multi-mission

Specialized multi-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. The MC-130J is currently being fielded to replace "H" and "P" models used by U.S. Special Operations Command. The MC-12W is used in the "intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance" (ISR) role. Initial generations of RPAs were primarily surveillance aircraft, but some were fitted with weaponry (such as the MQ-1 Predator, which used AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles). An armed RPA is known as an "unmanned combat aerial vehicle" (UCAV). * Beechcraft MC-12W Liberty, MC-12W Liberty * Lockheed MC-130, MC-130H Combat Talon II * Lockheed MC-130, MC-130J Commando II * General Atomics MQ-1 Predator, MQ-1B Predator * General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper, MQ-9B Reaper


O – Observation

These aircraft are modified to observe (through visual or other means) and report tactical information concerning composition and disposition of forces. The OC-135 is specifically designed to support the Treaty on Open Skies by observing bases and operations of party members under the 2002-signed treaty. * Boeing OC-135B Open Skies, OC-135B Open Skies


R – Reconnaissance

The reconnaissance aircraft of the USAF are used for monitoring enemy activity, originally carrying no armament. Although the U-2 is designated as a "utility" aircraft, it is a reconnaissance platform. The roles of the aircraft vary greatly among the different variants to include general monitoring (RC-26B), ballistic missile monitoring (RC-135S), electronic intelligence gathering (RC-135U), signal intelligence gathering (RC-135V/W), and high altitude surveillance (U-2) Several unmanned remotely controlled reconnaissance aircraft (RPAs), have been developed and deployed. Recently, the RPAs have been seen to offer the possibility of cheaper, more capable fighting machines that can be used without risk to aircrews. * Fairchild C-26 Metroliner, RC-26B Condor * Boeing RC-135, RC-135S Cobra Ball * Boeing RC-135, RC-135U Combat Sent * Boeing RC-135, RC-135V and RC-135W Rivet Joint * Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk, RQ-4B Global Hawk * AeroVironment RQ-11 Raven, RQ-11 Raven * Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel, RQ-170 Sentinel * Lockheed U-2, U-2S "Dragon Lady"


T – Trainer

The Air Force's trainer aircraft are used to train pilots, combat systems officers, and other aircrew in their duties. * Raytheon T-1 Jayhawk, T-1A Jayhawk * Beechcraft T-6 Texan II, T-6A Texan II * Northrop T-38 Talon, T-38A, (A)T-38B and T-38C Talon * Cessna T-41 Mescalero, T-41D Mescalero * Cessna 150#Military, T-51A Cessna * Cirrus SR20#Military, T-53A Kadet II * Boeing RC-135#TC-135, TC-135W * Northrop Grumman E-8 Joint STARS#Variants, TE-8A JSTARS * Bell UH-1 Iroquois variants#UH-1H, TH-1H Iroquois * Lockheed U-2#Variants, TU-2S Dragon Lady


TG – Trainer gliders

Several gliders are used by the USAF, primarily used for cadet flying training at the U.S. Air Force Academy. * Schempp-Hirth Duo Discus, TG-15A * Schempp-Hirth Discus-2, TG-15B * DG Flugzeugbau, TG-16


U – Utility

Utility aircraft are used basically for what they are needed for at the time. For example, a Bell Huey family, 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. * Pilatus PC-12, U-28A Draco * Bell UH-1N Twin Huey, UH-1N Iroquois * de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter, UV-18B Twin Otter


V – VIP staff transport

These aircraft are used for the transportation of Very Important Persons (VIPs). Notable people include the president, vice president, cabinet secretaries, government officials (e.g., senators and representatives), the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other key personnel. * Boeing VC-25, VC-25A (two used as Air Force One) * Gulfstream III, C20B Gulfstream III, Gulfstream IV, C20H Gulfstream IV * Learjet 35, C-21A Learjet * Boeing C-32, C-32A and C-32B (used as Air Force Two) * Gulfstream V, C-37A Gulfstream V and Gulfstream G550, C-37B Gulfstream G550 * Boeing C-40 Clipper, C-40B and C-40C


W – Weather reconnaissance

These aircraft are used to study meteorological events such as hurricanes and typhoons. * Lockheed WC-130, WC-130J Hurricane Hunter * Boeing WC-135 Constant Phoenix, WC-135C and WC-135W Constant Phoenix


Undesignated foreign aircraft

* CASA/IPTN CN-235, CN-235-100 (427th Special Operations Squadron)


LGM – Ballistic missile

* LGM-30, LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile


See also

* Air Force Association * Air Force Combat Ammunition Center * Air Force Knowledge Now * Airman's Creed * Civil Air Patrol * Company Grade Officers' Council * Department of the Air Force Police * Future military aircraft of the United States * List of military aircraft of the United States * List of military aircraft of the United States (1909–1919) * List of United States Air Force installations * List of United States Airmen * List of U.S. Air Force acronyms and expressions * National Museum of the United States Air Force * Structure of the United States Air Force * United States Air Force Band * United States Air Force Chaplain Corps * United States Air Force Combat Control Team * United States Air Force Medical Service * United States Air Force Thunderbirds * Women in the United States Air Force


Notes


References


External links


Official


Official USAF site

Air Force Blue Tube page on youtube.com


Other


Searchable database of Air Force historical reports

USAF emblems

USAF Communications Troops

Members of the US Air Force on RallyPoint

Aircraft Investment Plan, Fiscal Years (FY) 2011–2040, Submitted with the FY 2011 Budget

National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force: Report to the President and the Congress of the United States
* {{Authority control United States Air Force, Military units and formations established in 1947 The Pentagon Uniformed services of the United States, Air Force United States Department of Defense 1947 establishments in the United States Collier Trophy recipients United States Armed Forces service branches