United States Air Force
By Dennis Peteri
Many things have happened since the first flights of Wright brothers from that small grass strip In Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in December 1903. The military very soon expressed their interest in these heavier-than-air vehicles and the forerunner of the current USAF was founded on 1 August 1907 as the Aeronautical Division of the US Army Signal Corps. The first aircraft, a Wright Military Flyer, was accepted on 2 August 1909 and at the end of the month the Signal Corps leases some land at College Park (MD) for their first airfield.
At first only used as reconnaissance aircraft soon the aircraft are equipped with small guns and bombs to do some more damage to possible enemies. Only a few years later these aircraft see their first wars. In March 1916 the 1st Aero Squadron goes south for punitive actions against Mexico and Pancho Villa. In the same month the Escadrille Americaine, later renamed Lafayette Escadrille, was formed by American volunteers in France to help out in World War I. Soon after being renamed US Army Air Forces on 20 June 1941 their biggest challenge yet started in December 1941 when the United States declared war on Japan and joined World War II. Thousands and thousands of airmen flew even more missions over Europe, Africa and Asia and successfully beat the suppressors. The War ended by dropping two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki leading to Japans surrender on 2 September 1945.
The development of new aircraft leaped in WWII. The German engineers developed a lot of sophisticated equipment and the US, and other forces had a good look at them. This all helped to get the first North American XP-86 Sabre jet aircraft in the air on 1 October 1947 from Muroc Dry Lake, California.
The relationship with the Soviet Union worsened at the end of the forties. Thousands and thousands of aircraft, like F-80s, F-84s, F-86s, F100s, B-47s and B-52s, were manufactured to deter the Russians. The US had a strong presence in Europe with many airbases in France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and the United Kingdom. It did not take al long time before the Korean war stood at the doorstep which lasted from June 1950 to July 1953.
Next was Vietnam. Many words have been spoken about this war which was a very bad experience for the US military. Politics did not allow the military to do their job and the American population questioned why their sons had to fight in a strange country so far away. More than 8500 aircraft were lost by all US services and many servicemen were killed or captured.
The eighties saw the introduction of a lot of new hardware. President Reagan reinstated the B-1 program and hundreds of F-15's and F-16's were delivered. During that decade another "sneaky" aircraft was developed, the F-117 stealth fighter. A few years later its big brother, the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber followed.
It took the American military a long time to get over the political Vietnam "conflict". They were given the chance in 1990 when the "Mother of all Dictators" invaded Kuwait in August 1990. Within days dozens of US planes were flown to Saudi Arabia which started an air campaign to bomb the Iraqi invaders. This time no political intervention and General Norman Schwarzkopf was given a free hand during 'Desert Storm'. Because of that and the Coalition Forces outclassed Iraq by state-of-the-art equipment and far better training this resulted in a quick liberation of Kuwait.
After the Cold War
In the same period there was a small revolution in the Soviet Union. The communist party had to step down and more liberal people came to power. The relationship with the US improved eventually leading to a large reduction of the US forces and closure of many US bases in Europe. The USAF had to rethink their strategy as a large tank fighting battle over central Europe was no longer a current scenario. Now they have to prepare for fighting simultaneously at two locations anywhere on the globe. This was evident at the end of the nineties when the US still had a strong presence in the Middle East and President Milosovic of Yugoslavia ordered the slaughtering of the Albanian population in the province of Kosovo. The UN ordered intervention and the biggest deployment since "Desert Storm" went to the Balkan.
A devastating blow hit the US on 11th September 2001 when fanatics destroyed the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon by using commercial airliners as cruise missiles. Many people were killed and a worldwide hunt for the attackers began. It was soon clear that Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda organisation were behinds this and the US started to hunt them down by starting a large air campaign over Afghanistan. After approximately two months most terrorists were killed, captured or had fled the country so a new government could take their place.
Because of all the deployments the moral among the troops became low. Many servicemen were away from home for more than 120 days a year, which is not good for family life! That is why the Expeditional Air Force (EAF) was introduced. Now everybody knows in advance when the have to deploy and for how long. Also the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command are involved in the EAF to release the regular forces.
Modernization of the fleet is underway, although because of skyrocketing prices of new military hardware not everything desired can be bought. The last C-141 Starlifter was retired in 2006 and the final C-17A Globemaster IIIs have been seen on the productionline. More and More C-5A Galaxies are sent to the Boneyard, while a total of 52 C-5A/B/Cs will be converted to C-5M Super Galaxy.
All the MH-53Js are retired as well and awill be replaced by the CV-22B, of which the first thirty are currently delivered. AFSOC C-130J's are delivered (MC-130J, HC-130J) to replace the older MC-130P and HC-130Ns. The first AC-130J have been noted as well and will be operational in 2014.
All the T-6A Texan II have been delivered to the Air Education and training Command marking the end for the T-37B Tweety Bird.
The tanker problem has finally been solved. An initial order of 193 KC-767, a militarizd B767was awardded to Boeing, to rpelacing the aging KC-135R fleet. The final F-22As have been delivered in 2012 and the frist F-35 Joint Strike Fighters are delivered to Eglin AFB 33rd FW and Edwards AFB 31st TES. Nellis AFB will receive the first F-35As in 2013 as well. C-130J delivery continues replacing the C-130E and oldest C-130Hs, at the moment only a few C-130Es are still operational.
In 2012 the largest USAF budget cuts in history were announced cancelling the C-130 Avianics Modernization Program, a program that intended to update the remaining C-130H fleet. Also retiring the newly acquired C-27Js is forseen and no less than five A-10 Squadrons will be deactivated and there A-10Cs retired.