Mission of the Air Force

The Air Force is the youngest military service. The Air Force was created in 1947 under the National Security Act of 1947. Prior to 1947, the Air Force was a separate Corps of the Army. The primary mission of the Army Air Corps was to support Army ground forces. However World War II showed that air power had much more potential than simply supporting ground troops, so the Air Force was established as a separate service. The primary mission of the Air Force is to defend the United States (and its interests) through exploitation of air and space. To accomplish this mission, the Air Force operates fighter aircraft, tanker aircraft, light and heavy bomber aircraft, transport aircraft, and helicopters (which are used mainly for rescue of downed-aircrew, and special operations missions). The Air Force is also responsible for all military satellites, and controls all of our Nation's strategic nuclear ballistic missiles. There are about 69,000 commissioned officers on active duty in the Air Force, and about 288,000 enlisted members. Like the Army, the active duty Air Force is supplemented by the Air Force Reserves, and the Air National Guard.
Fast Facts:

• The U.S. Air Force is composed in its entirety of the regular Air Force, the Air National Guards and the Air Force Reserve. The Air Force currently includes eight major commands.
• The Air Force boasts an enlisted force of 288,720 under the command of 69,466 officers.


Secretary of the Air Force: The civilian head of the Air Force is appointed by the president with Senate approval. The secretary is responsible for the formulation and implementation of Air Force policies consistent with the national security plan. The secretary reports to the Secretary of Defense, but has no command authority.
Chief of Staff of the Air Force: The top uniformed position in the Air Force, the chief of staff is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and is responsible for the general readiness of the US Air Force. The chief of staff has no direct command authority.

Air Force Organization

Major Command: The top level and largest combat organization of the Air Force is the command, which is usually made up of three or more numbered air forces.
Numbered Air Forces:  These formations include two or more wings and are usually grouped with auxiliary units. Numbered air forces conduct operations with assigned and attached forces under a command
Wings: The basic unit for generating and employing combat capability. Wings normally operate the same type of aircraft, although composite wings do exist. This formation is the prime war-fighting instrument.
Group: This formation usually consists of two to four squadrons and a group headquarters.  All squadrons in a particular group fly the same type of plane, and they are referred to by type of plane (heavy bomber group, fighter group, etc.).
Squadron: Squadrons are not designed to conduct independent operations; they work in coordination with other units to conduct operations. A squadron usually consists of two or more flights.
Flights: A flight consists of two or more airplanes. In combat, this formation usually consists of four or more planes that fly in pairs, trios, or fours. One plane, the flight leader, contains the flight commander who directs flight operations.