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 largest and one of the world's most technologically advanced air forces. The USAF articulates its core functions as Nuclear Deterrence Operations, Special Operations, Air Superiority, Global Integrated ISR, Space Superiority, Command and Control, Cyberspace Superiority, Personnel Recovery, Global Precision Attack, Building Partnerships, Rapid Global Mobility and Agile Combat Support.
The U.S. Air Force is a military service within the Department of the Air Force, one of the three military departments of the Department of Defense. The USAF is headed by the civilian Secretary of the Air Force, who is appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. 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 and mobility 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.
The U.S. Air Force provides air support for surface forces and aids in the recovery of troops in the field. As of 2012, the service operates more than 5,638 aircraft, 450 ICBMs and 63 satellites. It has a $140 billion budget with 332,854 active duty personnel, 185,522 civilian personnel, 71,400 Air Force Reserve personnel, and 106,700 Air National Guard personnel.
Mission, vision, and functions
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 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".
"The United States Air Force will be a trusted and reliable joint partner with our sister services known for integrity in all of our activities, including supporting the joint mission first and foremost. We will provide compelling air, space, and cyber capabilities for use by the combatant commanders. We will excel as stewards of all Air Force resources in service to the American people, while providing precise and reliable Global Vigilance, Reach and Power for the nation".
Recently, the Air Force refined its understanding of the core duties and responsibilities it performs as a Military Service Branch, streamlining what previously were six distinctive capabilities and seventeen operational functions into twelve core functions to be used across the doctrine, organization, training, equipment, leadership, and education, personnel, and facilities spectrum. These core functions express the ways in which the Air Force is particularly and appropriately suited to contribute to national security, but they do not necessarily express every aspect of what the Air Force contributes to the nation. It should be emphasized that the core functions, by themselves, are not doctrinal constructs.
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).
First F-35 Lightning II of the 33rd Fighter Wing arrives at Eglin AFB
Offensive Counterair (OCA) is defined as "offensive operations to destroy, disrupt, or neutralize enemy aircraft, missiles,