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United States Air Force (USAF) History:

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The United States Air Force became a separate military service on September 18, 1947, with the implementation of the National Security Act of 1947. The Act created the United States Department of Defense, which was composed of three branches, the Army, Navy and a newly created Air Force. Prior to 1947, the responsibility for military aviation was divided between the Army (for land-based operations) and the Navy, for sea-based operations from aircraft carrier and amphibious aircraft.

The predecessor organizations leading up to today's U.S. Air Force are:
Aeronautical Division, Signal Corps August 1, 1907–July 18, 1914
Aviation Section, Signal Corps July 18, 1914–May 20, 1918
Division of Military Aeronautics (May 20, 1918 to May 24, 1918)
Air Service, U.S. Army (May 24, 1918 to July 2, 1926)
U.S. Army Air Corps (July 2, 1926 to June 20, 1941)
U.S. Army Air Forces (June 20, 1941 to September 17, 1947)

Service History

World War I as Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps
World War II as United States Army Air Forces
Cold War
Korean War
Vietnam War
Operation Eagle Claw (1980 Iranian Hostage Rescue)
Operation Urgent Fury (1983 US Invasion of Grenada)
Operation El Dorado Canyon (1986 US Bombing of Libya)
Operation Just Cause (1989–1990 US Invasion of Panama)
Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm (1990–1991 Persian Gulf War)
Operation Southern Watch (1992–2003 Iraq No-Fly Zone)
Operation Deliberate Force (1995 NATO bombing in Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Operation Northern Watch (1997–2003 Iraq No-Fly Zone)
Operation Allied Force (1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia)
Operation Enduring Freedom (2001–present Afghanistan War)
Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn (2003–2011)
Operation Odyssey Dawn (2011 Libyan No-Fly Zone)

Humanitarian Aid:

Operation Vittles, 1948–1949 (Berlin Airlift)
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 Unified Assistance, December 2004 – April 2005
Operation Unified Response, 14 January 2010–present
Operation Tomodachi, 12 March 2011 – 1 May 2011

The current mission of the Air Force is to fly, fight, and win in air, space, and cyberspace. This comprises 12 core functions:

Nuclear Deterrence Operations - 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.
Air Superiority - 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.
Space Superiority -
the degree of dominance in space of one force over another that permits the conduct of operations by the former and its related land, sea, air, space, and special operations forces at a given time and place without prohibitive interference by the opposing force.
Cyberspace Superiority -
the operational advantage in, through, and from cyberspace to conduct operations at a given time and in a given domain without prohibitive interference.
Command and Control -
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.
Global Integrated ISR -
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.
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.
Special Operations -
operations conducted in hostile, denied, or politically sensitive environments to achieve military, diplomatic, informational, and/or economic objectives employing military capabilities for which there is no broad conventional force requirement. These operations may require covert, clandestine, or low-visibility capabilities. They can be conducted independently or in conjunction with operations of conventional forces or other government agencies and may include operations through, with, or by indigenous or surrogate forces.
Rapid Global Mobility -
the timely deployment, employment, sustainment, augmentation, and redeployment of military forces and capabilities across the range of military operations. 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.
Personnel Recovery -
the sum of military, diplomatic, and civil efforts to prepare for and execute the recovery and reintegration of isolated personnel.
Agile Combat Support -
is the ability to field, protect, and sustain Air Force forces across the range of military operations to achieve joint effects.
Building Partnerships -
Airmen interacting with international airmen and other relevant actors to develop, guide, and sustain relationships for mutual benefit and security.

As of 2009 the USAF operates 5,573 manned aircraft in service (3,990 USAF; 1,213 Air National Guard; and 370 Air Force Reserve); approximately 180 unmanned combat air vehicles, 2,130 air-launched cruise missiles, and 450 intercontinental ballistic missiles. This consists mainly of:

A – Ground attack (A-10 Thunderbolt II, AC-130 Spectre II/ Spooky II)
B – Bombers (B-1B Lancer, B-2A Spirit, B-52H Stratofortress),
C – Cargo transport (C-130 Hercules, C-17 Globemaster III, C-5 Galaxy),
E – Special electronic missions (E-3 Sentry, E-8 Joint STARS, EC-130 Compass Call/Commando Solo III),
F – Fighters (F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-22A Raptor, F-35A Lightning II)
H – Search and rescue (HC-130 Hercules, HH-60 Pave Hawk)
K – Tanker (KC-10A Extender, KC-135 Stratotanker)
M – Multi-mission (MC-130 Combat Talon I&II/Combat Shadow/Combat Spear)
Q – Multi-mission RPAs (MQ-1 Predator, MQ-9 Reaper)
O – Observation (OC-135 Open Skies)
R – Reconnaissance (RQ-4/MQ-4 Global Hawk, RQ-11 Raven, RQ-170 Sentinel, U-2)
T – Trainer (T-6 Texan II, T-38 Talon)
U – Utility (U-28A, UH-1N Iroquois, UV-18A/B Twin Otter)
V – VIP staff transport (VC-25 Air Force One, C-32A/B Air Force Two)
W – Weather reconnaissance (WC-130J Super Hercules, WC-135C/W Constant Phoenix)

The USAF has 330,159 personnel on active duty, 68,872 in the Selected and Individual Ready Reserves, and 94,753 in the Air National Guard as of September 2008. In addition, the USAF employs 151,360 civilian personnel, and has over 60,000 auxiliary members in the Civil Air Patrol, making it the largest air force in the world.

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