The United States Air Force (USAF) is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on 18 September 1947 under the National Security Act of 1947. It is the most recent branch of the U.S. military to be formed, and is the most technologically advanced air force in the world. The USAF articulates its core functions in its 2010 Posture Statement as Nuclear Deterrence Operations, Special Operations, Air Superiority, Global Integrated ISR, Space Superiority, Command and Control, Cyberspace Superiority, Personnel Recovery, Global Precision Attack, Rapid Global Mobility and Agile Combat Support.
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. 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 Civil Air Patrol, making it the largest air force in the world.
The Department of the Air Force is headed by the civilian Secretary of the Air Force, who is appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, and has the authority to conduct all of its affairs, subject to the authority, direction and control of the Secretary of Defense. The Department of the Air Force is a Military Department within the Department of Defense, and it includes all elements of the United States Air Force, i.e. the technical designation of the U.S. Air Force organization. The highest ranking military officer in the Department of the Air Force is the Chief of Staff of the Air Force who exercises supervision over Air Force units, and serves as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Air Force combat forces are assigned, as directed by the Secretary of Defense, to the Combatant Commanders, and neither the Secretary of the Air Force nor the Chief of Staff have operational command authority over them.Mission
According to the National Security Act of 1947 (61 Stat. 502), which created the USAF:In general the United States Air Force shall include aviation forces both combat and service not otherwise assigned. It shall be organized, trained, and equipped primarily for prompt and sustained offensive and defensive air operations. The Air Force shall be responsible for the preparation of the air forces necessary for the effective prosecution of war except as otherwise assigned and, in accordance with integrated joint mobilization plans, for the expansion of the peacetime components of the Air Force to meet the needs of war.
§8062 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, or groups responsible for aggressive acts that imperil the peace and security of the United States.
The stated mission of the USAF today is to “fly, fight, and win in air, space, and cyberspace”.