1903, the Wright brothers laid the ground work for the future formation of the
Air Force when they flew their first airplane. It carried two men and flew at
about 40 miles per hour.
The first flight for the Signal Corps, US Army
was in 1909.
The Air Force is the youngest of all U.S. military services.
Its birth date is September 18, 1947. On that day, the National Security Act became
law. Signed by President Harry Truman, it set up the National Military Establishment,
which was renamed the Department of Defense (DOD) in 1949.
The DOD was divided
into three equal branches. The former War Department became the Department of
the Army. The Navy Department became the Department of the Navy, which included
the Marine Corps. And a brand-new branch was created; the Department of the Air
The head of the Department of Defense is a civilian, the secretary
of defense. Each of the three branches is also headed by a civilian secretary.
The first secretary of the Air Force was Stuart Symington, who had been an assistant
secretary of war and who later became a U.S. senator from Missouri. The highest-ranking
military officer in the Air Force is the chief of staff. The first chief of staff
was General Carl "Tooey" Spaatz, a World War II veteran.
military forces are commanded by the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). This group meets
weekly in Washington, D.C. It includes a chairman and vice chairman, the Chiefs
of Naval Operations, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and the Chiefs of Staff
of the Army and Air Force. These six people advise the president in decisions
about the military. The president is commander in chief of all the military forces.
job of the United States Air Force (USAF) is to protect the United States from
any threat by air and to defeat aggressors. Along with the Army, Navy, and Marine
Corps, the Air Force is pledged to preserve the peace and security of the United
States and to defend it if necessary.
Air Force Headquarters is located
in the Pentagon building in Washington, D.C., as are the headquarters for all
the military services. Headquarters sets policy, reviews programs, plans and budgets,
and distributes resources to all Air Force units. It is the center of all Air
The Air Force includes more than 500,000 servicemen and
women on active duty. In addition, there are more than 250,000 men and women in
the Air Force Reserve and the Air National Guard. The Air Force Reserve has its
headquarters at Robins Air Force Base (AFB) in Georgia and has units all around
the country. Its members are not on active duty, but they stay in training and
can be called into service in an emergency. Some reserve units of the Air Force,
as well as the Army and Navy, were activated during the war in the Persian Gulf
AIR FORCE COMMANDS:
For years, one of the main jobs of the
Air Force and other services was to counter the threat of nuclear war with the
Soviet Union. But in 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed. At that time, the Air Force
began a streamlining project.
Changes in technology have also changed the
way the Air Force will operate in the future. "Global reach---global power"
might be thought of as its new slogan.
In this new "leaner, meaner"
Air Force, these are the major commands:
AIR COMBAT COMMAND, Langley AFB,
Virginia, is in charge of fighters and bombers.
AIR MOBILITY COMMAND, Scott
AFB, Illinois, controls most of the tanker force and airlift planes.
FORCE INTELLIGENCE COMMAND, Kelly AFB, San Antonio, Texas, combines intelligence
operations, once scattered among other commands.
AIR FORCE MATERIAL COMMAND,
Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, makes sure that Air Force units everywhere have the
supplies they need. It buys, stores, supplies, and transports anything the Air
Force needs anywhere, including about 890,000 airplane parts.
SPACE COMMAND, Peterson AFB, Colorado, is in charge of Air Force space programs.
It was created in 1982. The Space Command works with NASA on U.S. space projects,
including the operation of the space shuttle. And it is responsible for early
warning of an enemy air attack. It also keeps track of weather and communications
satellites as well as "space junk," pieces of rockets or satellites
left in orbit. The ICBM missles are under the Space Command.
AIR FORCE SPECIAL
OPERATIONS COMMAND, Hurlburt Field, Florida, has as its motto "Air Commandos--Quiet
Professionals." Its mission is to organize, train, equip, and educate special
operations units of the Air Force. This would such unconventional warfare as dealing
AIR TRAINING COMMAND, Randolph AFB, Texas, recruits and
trains airmen and officers for the Air Force. Since it was created in 1943 during
World War II, it has trained more than ten million people! Anyone who joins the
Air Force will at some time be trained by this command. It provides, among other
things, basic military and officer training (at Lackland AFB, Texas), reserve
officer training, (headquarters Maxwell AFB, Alabama), and technical training
in nearly 350 different fields at six centers in Colorado, Illinois, Mississippi,
and Texas. This command also runs a fifty-two-week pilot training program at five
bases in Arizona, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas; navigator school at Mather
AFB, California; and space training for specialists at Lowrt AFB, Colorado.
UNIVERSITY, Maxwell AFB, Alabama, sees to the higher education of Air Force officers
at various locations around the country. It may be thought of as the Air Force
officers at various locations around the country. It may be thought of as the
Air Force Academy's graduate school.
PACIFIC AIR FORCE, Hickam AFB, Hawaii,
provides the U.S. Pacific Command with everything it needs for air combat.
STATES AIR FORCES IN EUROPE, Ramstein AFB, Germany, provides the U.S. European
Command with what it needs for air combat.
The thirty-four Field Operating
Agencies include such units as the Air Weather Service, the Civilian Personnel
Management Center, and the Air Force Reserve. The three Direct Reporting Units
are the Air Force District of Washington, the Air Force District of Washington,
the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center, and the United States Air
The basic fighting unit of the Air Force has always been
and continues to be, the "wing". A wing is stationed at one base and
has one commander. Some wings operate only one kind of aircraft, such as fighters
or bombers. Others are composite wings. They might have, for example, fighters,
tankers, and special-mission craft. They are designed to get to trouble spots
in a hurry anywhere in the world, which is another example of "global reach--global
Modern planes of the Air Force can be divided
into bombers, fighters, attack and observation planes, reconnaissance and special-duty
craft, transports and tankers, trainers, and helicopters.
Bombers are the
"big guns" of the Air Force. They are generally the most visible and
the largest of the USAF planes. Their function is to drop explosives on enemy
targets. First, radar helps direct the plane to the target; then the navigator
releases the bombs.
A fighter plane shoots down enemy aircraft and attacks
ground targets. The Air Force has approximately 2,500 fighters, more than any
other type of plane. The needle-nose F-15 Eagle, for example, is a single seater
that flies at more than twice the speed of sound. The F-16 Fighting Falcon has
one and two-seat models. The pilot sits in a bubble canopy for greater vision.
and observation planes aid ground troops with air support, and keep an eye on
enemy troops and movements. The A-10 Thunderbolt II is a single-seat twin jet
that can land and take off on short runways, allowing it to operate near enemy
Reconnaissance and special-duty aircraft observe and photograph enemy
bases and positions, and survey weather conditions, among other duties. The E-3
Sentry (called AWACS-for airborne warning and control system) is a rather strange-looking,
Boeing 707 commercial plane with a huge rotating radar dome on top.
and tankers keep the Air Force moving with personnel and supplies. The Air Force
has more than 1,500 of them. Many are used to refuel bombers and fighters in midair.
Air Force has about 1,500 trainers that are used to instruct future pilots and
navigators. The Air Force also operates about 200 helicopters, such as the general
purpose, twin-engine UH-1N Iroquois. Helicopters are especially valuable for transporting
troops into combat areas or behind enemy lines, rescuing downed pilots at sea,
and other special missions.