The United States Air Force (USAF) was established as an independent branch of service on 18 September 1947 has a shorter history as compared to the other branches of service. Its separation from the US Army was made official when the National Security Act of 1947 was passed. The Air Force would focus on air superiority, global mobility and strike combined with surveillance and recon along with offensive missiles, missile defense, global satellites and support of other branches of the service. It would not take long following WW2 for the jet age to be born into US services and it would not be long before they found them in a conflict.
Conflicts: The USAF has participated in a number of conflicts, from full blown wars to operations. They have employed all types of aircraft in the execution of their mission during these conflicts.
- Cold War
- Korean War
- Vietnam War
- Operation Eagle Claw (1980 Iranian hostage rescue)
- Operation Urgent Fury (1983 US invasion of Grenada)
- Operation El Dorado Canyon (1986 US Bombing of Libya)
- Operation Just Cause (1989–1990 US invasion of Panama)
- Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm (1990–1991 Persian Gulf War)
- Operation Southern Watch (1992–2003 Iraq no-fly zone)
- Operation Deliberate Force (1995 NATO bombing in Bosnia and Herzegovina)
- Operation Northern Watch (1997–2003 Iraq no-fly zone)
- Operation Desert Fox (1998 bombing of Iraq)
- Operation Allied Force (1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia)
- Operation Enduring Freedom (2001–2014 Afghanistan War)
- Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003–2010 Iraq War)
- Operation New Dawn (2010–2011 Iraq War)
- Operation Odyssey Dawn (2011 Libyan no-fly zone)
- Operation Inherent Resolve (2014–present: intervention against ISIL/ISIS)
- Operation Freedom's Sentinel (2015–present Afghanistan War)
Aircraft: The Air Force has used a prefix designation for their aircraft models that would describe their primary mission. Following represents some of the aircraft employed by the USAF.
"A" (Attack). Attack aircraft are utilized for close air support of ground forces and serve a tactical role on the battlefield.
- A-10C Thunderbolt II
- AC-130J Ghostrider
- AC-130U Spooky II
- AC-130W Stinger II
"B" (Bombers). The bomber is primary used in a strategic role. They perform long range strike missions. They may carry conventional or nuclear ordinance.
- B-25 Superfortress
- B-36 Peacekeeper
- B-47 Stratojet
- B-58 Hustler
- B-1B Lancer
- B-2A Spirit Stealth Bomber
- B-52H Stratofortress
"C" (Transports). Transport aircraft carry weapons, equipment and troops.
- C-55 Commando
- C-47 Skytrain
- C-74 Globemaster
- C-118 Liftmaster
- C-5B, C-5C and C-5M Galaxy
- C-12C, C-12D, C-12F and C-12J Huron
- C-17A Globemaster III
- C-27J Spartan
- C-130H, LC-130H, and WC-130H Hercules
- C-130J and C-130J-30 Super Hercules
- C-145A Skytruck
- C-146A Wolfhound
- CV-22B Osprey
"E" (Special Electronic). Electronic warfare aircraft keep watch, gather data, provide electronic strike, psyops communications, targeting command and control as well as operate as airborne command posts.
- E-3B, E-3C and E-3G Sentry
- E-4B "Nightwatch"
- E-8C JSTARS
- E-9A Widget
- EC-130H Compass Call
- EC-130J Commando Solo
- EQ-4B Global Hawk
"F" (Fighter). Fighters provide air t0 air combat as well as a fighter-bomber role to deliver short haul weapons to various targets.
- P-51 Mustang
- F-80 Shooting Star
- F-84 Thunderjet
- F-86 Sabre
- F-88 Voodoo
- F-97 Starfire
- F-104 Starfighter
- F-105 Thunderchief
- F-111 Aardvark
- F-15C and F-15D Eagle
- F-15E Strike Eagle
- F-16C and F-16D Fighting Falcon
- F-22A Raptor
- F-35A Lightning II
"H" (Search and Rescue). Search and rescue aircraft for operations both on land and sea.
- HC-130N and HC-130P Combat King
- HC-130J Combat King II
- HH-60G and HH-60U Pave Hawk
"K" (Tanker). The tankers are the aerial refueling aircraft for fighters, bombers and cargo aircraft. Extending the range and time over the battlefield for the strike aircraft.
- KC-97 Stratofreighter
- KC-10A Extender
- Boeing KC-46A Pegasus
- KC-135R and KC-135T Stratotanker
"M" (Multi-mission). Some aircraft and indeed many are multi-mission capable but some are designated for specialized missions such as with Special Operations Command.
- MC-12W Liberty
- MC-130H Combat Talon II
- MC-130J Commando II
- MC-130P Combat Shadow
- MQ-1B Predator
- MQ-9B Reaper
"R" (Reconnaissance). Used to monitor enemy activity some of which have a specific type of snooping role. Drones, unmanned aircraft, have greatly expanded the role of recon activities.
- RC-135S Cobra Ball
- RC-135U Combat Sent
- RC-135V and RC-135W Rivet Joint
- RQ-4B Global Hawk
- RQ-11 Raven
- RQ-170 Sentinel
- 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. The T designation goes back pre-World War.
- T-33 Shooting Star
- T-1A Jayhawk
- T-6A Texan II
- T-38A, T-38B, T-38C, and AT-38B Talon
While many AF notables served in WW2 it is their contributions following 1947 that are noted. Hap Arnold and Curtis LeMay the leaders of the new USAF. Chuck Yeager, fighter pilot, breaking the sound barrier. Robin Olds, Ace fighter pilot and 3 war veteran. Daniel 'Chappie' James, fighter pilot in Korea and Vietnam. William 'Pits' Pitsenbarger USAF Pararescue Jumper, KIA in Vietnam. Bud Day, veteran of WW2, Korea and Vietnam; aviator, POW in Vietnam, MOH recipient.
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