Emblem of the United States Air Force
The United States Air Force (USAF) is the aerial and space warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the five branches of the United States Armed Forces, and one of the seven American uniformed services. Initially established as a part of the United States Army on 1 August 1907, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the U.S. Armed Forces on 18 September 1947 with the passing of the National Security Act of 1947. It is the youngest branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the fourth in order of precedence. The USAF is the largest and most technologically advanced air force in the world. The Air Force articulates its core missions as air and space superiority, global integrated ISR, rapid global mobility, global strike, and command and control.
The U.S. Air Force is a military service branch organized within the Department of the Air Force, one of the three military departments of the Department of Defense. The Air Force, through the Department of the Air Force, is headed by the civilian Secretary of the Air Force, who reports to the Secretary of Defense, and is appointed by the President with Senate confirmation. The highest-ranking military officer in the Air Force is the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, who exercises supervision over Air Force units and serves as one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Air Force 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 of the Air Force have operational command authority over them.
Along with conducting independent air and space operations, the U.S. Air Force provides air support for land and naval forces and aids in the recovery of troops in the field. , the service operates more than 5,369 military aircraft, 406 ICBMs and 170 military satellites. It has a $161 billion budget and is the second largest service branch, with 318,415 active duty personnel, 140,169 civilian personnel, 69,200 Air Force Reserve personnel, and 105,700 Air National Guard personnel.
Aerospace vehicle spotlight
Eight Peacekeeper re-entry vehicles passing through clouds while approaching an open-ocean impact zone during a flight test.
The LGM-118 Peacekeeper was a land-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). It entered active service with the Air Force with the 90th Strategic Missile Wing at F. E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming in 1986. The missile was capable of carrying 10 independent 300-kiloton W87 nuclear warheads. It served as part of the US nuclear triad with the role of deterring a nuclear attack on the United States or its allies. The missiles were deployed into retrofitted Minuteman III silos in Wyoming. Congressional security concerns, budget constraints, and a changing geopolitical environment limited production and deployment of the weapons, and ultimately 114 were built with only 50 of them being deployed to the field. When the START II treaty was signed in 1993 limiting the number of warheads on any ICBM the need for the Peacekeeper was greatly diminished. The Air Force began decommissioning its arsenal in 2003 and the last Peacekeeper was retired from active service two years later in 2005. Most of the rocket bodies are being converted into Minotaur IV rockets to be used to put satellites into earth orbit.
General George Lee Butler was commander in chief, U.S. Strategic Command, and the last commander of Strategic Air Command.
General Butler was born in 1939 at Fort Benning, Georgia, and graduated in 1957 from Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia. He earned a bachelor of science degree from the United States Air Force Academy in 1961 and a master's degree in international affairs from the University of Paris in 1967. He completed Squadron Officer School in 1964, Air Command and Staff College in 1970, and Armed Forces Staff College in 1974.
The general was commissioned in June 1961 and received undergraduate pilot training at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona, followed by basic instructor school at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas. He then flew as an instructor pilot in T-33s and also served as an academic instructor at Craig Air Force Base, Alabama, from March 1963 to December 1964.