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An air force, also known in some countries as an aerospace force or air army, is in the broadest sense, the national military branch that primarily conducts aerial warfare. More specifically, it is the branch of a nation's armed services that is responsible for aerial warfare as distinct from an army, navy, or a marine corps. Typically, air forces are responsible for gaining control of the air, carrying out strategic and tactical bombing missions, and providing support to land and naval forces. The term "air force" may also refer to a tactical air force or numbered air force, which is an operational formation either within a national air force or comprising several air components from allied nations. Air forces typically consist of a combination of fighters, bombers, helicopters, transport planes and other aircraft. Many air forces are also responsible for operations of the military space, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), and communications equipment. Some air forces may command and control other air defence assets such as anti-aircraft artillery, surface-to-air missiles, or anti-ballistic missile warning networks and defensive systems. Some nations, principally Russia, the former Soviet Union
Soviet Union
and countries who modelled their militaries along Soviet lines, have or had an air defence force which is organizationally separate from their air force. Peace-time/non-wartime activities of air forces may include Air Policing and air-sea rescue. Air forces are not just composed of pilots, but also rely on a significant amount of support from other personnel to operate. Logistics, security, intelligence, special operations, cyber space support, maintenance, weapons loaders, and many other specialties are required by all air forces.

Contents

1 History

1.1 Heavier-than-air
Heavier-than-air
military aircraft 1.2 Independent air forces 1.3 The world wars

1.3.1 World War I 1.3.2 World War II

1.4 Strategic bombing 1.5 Post World War II

2 Organization 3 Infantry 4 Special
Special
Forces 5 See also 6 Notes 7 References

History[edit] Main article: Aerial warfare Heavier-than-air
Heavier-than-air
military aircraft[edit] Balloon
Balloon
or flying corps are not generally regarded as examples of an air force.[citation needed] However, with the invention of heavier-than-air craft in the early 20th century, armies and navies began to take interest in this new form of aviation as a means to wage war. The first aviation force in the world was the Aviation
Aviation
Militaire of the French Army
Army
formed in 1910, which eventually became L'Armée de l'Air. In 1911, during the Italo-Turkish War, Italy
Italy
employed aircraft for the first time ever in the world for reconnaissance and bombing missions against Turkish positions on Libyan Territory. The Italian–Turkish war of 1911–1912 was the first in history that featured air attacks by airplanes and dirigible airships.[1] During World War I
World War I
France, Germany, Italy, the British Empire and the Ottoman Empire all possessed significant forces of bombers and fighters. World War I also saw the appearance of senior commanders who directed aerial warfare and numerous flying aces. Independent air forces[edit] An independent air force is one which is a separate branch of a nation's armed forces and is, at least nominally, treated as a military service on par with that of older services like navies or armies. The British Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
was the first independent air force in the world.[2] The RAF was founded on 1 April 1918 by amalgamation the British Army's Royal Flying Corps
Royal Flying Corps
and the Royal Naval Air Service. On establishment the RAF comprised over 20,000 aircraft, was commanded by a Chief of the Air Staff who held the rank of major-general and was governed by its own government ministry (the Air Ministry). Arguably, the Finnish Air Force
Finnish Air Force
were the first independent air Force in the world, formed on 6 March 1918, when th Swedish count, Eric von Rosen gave Finland the second aircraft, a Thulin Typ D.[3] Some considered that the Finnish Air Force
Finnish Air Force
did not officially exist during the Finnish Civil War, and the Red Guards had its own air force. [4] Over the following decades most countries with any substantial military capability established their own independent air forces. The South African Air Force
South African Air Force
was formed on 1 February 1920 and the Royal Australian Air Force
Air Force
was formed shortly afterwards on 31 March 1921, although it was not until 1922 that the head of the Service was titled as Chief of the Air Staff, placing him on a par with his Australian Army
Army
and Navy
Navy
counterparts. The Canadian Air Force
Air Force
was formed at the end of World War I, and was abolished and reorganized several times between 1918 and 1924. It became the permanent Royal Canadian Air Force when it received the "Royal" title by royal proclamation on 1 April 1924. It did not however become independent of the Canadian Army until 1938 when its head was also designated as Chief of the Air Staff. Similarly, the Royal New Zealand Air Force
Royal New Zealand Air Force
was established in 1923 as the New Zealand Permanent Air Force
Air Force
but did not become independent of the New Zealand Army
Army
until 1937. Other British-influenced countries also established their own independent air forces. For example, the Royal Egyptian Air Force
Royal Egyptian Air Force
was created in 1937 when Egyptian military aviation was separated from Army
Army
command. Outside of the British Empire, the Finnish Air Force
Finnish Air Force
was established as a separate service on 4 May 1928[5] and the Brazilian Air Force
Brazilian Air Force
was created in 1941. Both the United States Air Force[6] and the Philippine Air Force
Philippine Air Force
were formed as a separate branches of their respective armed forces in 1947. The Israeli Air Force
Israeli Air Force
came into being with the State of Israel
State of Israel
on 18 May 1948, but evolved from the pre-existing Sherut Avir
Sherut Avir
(Air Service) of the Haganah
Haganah
paramilitary. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force
Japan Air Self-Defense Force
was not established until 1954;[7] in World War II
World War II
Japanese military aviation had been carried out by the Army
Army
and Navy. Unlike all these countries, the Mexican Air Force remains an integral part of the Mexican Army.[citation needed] The world wars[edit]

RAF Supermarine Spitfire
Supermarine Spitfire
played a vital role in British victory during the Battle of Britain.

World War I[edit] See also: Aviation
Aviation
in World War I Germany was the first country to organize regular air attacks on enemy infrastructure with the Luftstreitkräfte. In World War I, it used its zeppelins (airships) to drop bombs on British cities. At that time, Britain did have aircraft, though her airships were less advanced than the zeppelins and were very rarely used for attacking; instead they were usually used to spy on German U-boats (submarines). Fixed-wing aircraft at the time were quite primitive, being able to achieve velocities comparable to that of modern automobiles and mounting minimal weaponry and equipment. Aerial services were still largely a new venture, and relatively unreliable machines and limited training resulted in stupendously low life expectancies for early military aviators.[citation needed] World War II[edit] See also: Air warfare of World War II By the time World War II
World War II
began, planes had become much safer, faster, and more reliable. They were adopted as standard for bombing raids and taking out other aircraft because they were much faster than airships. The world's largest military Air Force
Air Force
by the start of the Second World War in 1939 was the Soviet Red Air Force, and although much depleted, it would stage the largest air operations of WWII over the four years of combat with the German Luftwaffe.

Heinkel He 111 during the Battle of Britain

Arguably the war's most important air operation, known as the Battle of Britain, took place during 1940 over Britain and the English Channel between Britain's Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
and Germany's Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
over a period of several months. In the end Britain emerged victorious, and this caused Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
to give up his plan to invade Britain. Other prominent air force operations during the Second World War include the Allied bombing of Germany during 1942–1944, and the Red Air Force operations in support of strategic ground offensives on the Eastern Front. The aerial warfare in Pacific Ocean theatre was of a comparable strategic significance to the Battle of Britain
Battle of Britain
but was largely conducted by the US and Japanese naval aviation services and not by air forces. Strategic bombing[edit]

USAF
USAF
B-29 in flight

The air force's role of strategic bombing against enemy infrastructure was developed during the 1930s by the Japanese in China and by the Germans during the Spanish Civil War. This role for the bomber was perfected during World War II, during Allied "Thousand Bomber
Bomber
Raid" operations. The need to intercept these bombers, both during the day and at night, accelerated fighter aircraft developments. The war ended when United States Army
Army
Air Forces Boeing B-29 Superfortress
Boeing B-29 Superfortress
bombers dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima
Hiroshima
and Nagasaki
Nagasaki
in Japan in August 1945. Post World War II[edit] The United States Air Force
United States Air Force
became an independent service in 1947. As the Cold War
Cold War
began, both the USAF
USAF
and the Soviet Air Force
Soviet Air Force
built up their nuclear-capable strategic bomber forces. Several technological advances were widely introduced during this time: the jet engine; the missile; the helicopter; and inflight refueling. In 1954 the Japan Air Self-Defense Force
Japan Air Self-Defense Force
was founded as a separate service. Previously Japan had delivered its service aviation from within its Army
Army
and Navy. During the 1960s, Canada
Canada
merged the Royal Canadian Air Force
Royal Canadian Air Force
with the army and the navy to form the unified Canadian Forces, with air assets divided between several commands and a green uniform for everyone. This proved very unpopular[citation needed], and in 1975 Canadian aviation units were reorganized under a single organization (Air Command) with a single commander. In 2011 the Canadian Forces
Canadian Forces
Air Command reverted to its pre-1960s name, the Royal Canadian Air Force. Organization[edit]

v t e

Air force
Air force
units and formations

Section / Element Flight Squadron Group / Wing / Aviation
Aviation
Regiment / Aviation
Aviation
Division Tactical air force / Air Army Command (USAF) Numbered air force Command (RAF) Air force

See also: Military organization The organizational structures of air forces vary between nations: some air forces (such as the United States Air Force, the Royal Air Force) are divided into commands, groups and squadrons; others (such as the Soviet Air Force) have an Army-style organizational structure. The modern Royal Canadian Air Force
Royal Canadian Air Force
uses Air Division as the formation between wings and the entire air command. Like the RAF, Canadian wings consist of squadrons. In the case of China the Air Force
Air Force
headquarters consists of four departments: Command, Political, Logistic, and Equipment, which mirrors the four general departments of the People's Liberation Army. Below the headquarters, Military Region Air Forces (MRAF) direct divisions (Fighter, Attack, Bomber), which in turn direct regiments and squadrons.[8]

Symbol Unit Name (USAF/RAF/Other air forces) No. of personnel No. of aircraft No. of subordinate units (USAF/RAF) Officer in command (USAF/RAF)

XXXXXX + Air Force/ Russian Air army Entire air force Entire air force All Major Commands / Commands GAF / Gen or MRAF / Air Chf Mshl

XXXXX Major Command / Command or Tactical Air Force
Air Force
/ Russian aviation corps Varies Varies By Region or Duty (subordinate units varies) Gen / Air Chf Mshl or Lt Gen / Air Mshl

XX Numbered Air Force
Numbered Air Force
/ No RAF Equivalent / Aviation
Aviation
Division /Air Division / Air Brigade By Region (subordinate units varies) Varies 2+ Wing / Groups Lt Gen / Maj Gen

X Wing / Group / Russian aviation regiments 1,000–5000 48–100 2+ Groups / Wings AVM or Brig Gen / Air Cdre or Col

III Group / Wing or Station 300–1,000 17–48 3–10 Squadrons / 3–4 Squadrons Col / Gp Capt or Wg Cdr

II Squadron 100–300 7–16 3–4 Flights Col or Lt Col / Wg Cdr or Maj / Sqn Ldr

••• Flight 20–100 4–6 2 Sections plus maintenance and support crew Sqn Ldr or Capt / Flt Lt

•• Element or Section 5–20 n/a

Junior Officer or Senior NCO

• Detail 2–4 n/a

Junior NCO

Infantry[edit]

Members of the Fusiliers Commandos de l'Air, the infantry unit of the French Air Force

Air Force
Air Force
Infantry, such as the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
Regiment, Royal Australian Air Force
Air Force
Airfield Defense Guards, RNZAF Security Forces, and the US Air Force
Air Force
Security Forces, are used primarily for ground-based defence of air bases and other air force facilities. They also have a number of other specialist roles, including Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) defense, offensive operations in defense of air force assets, and training other air force personnel in basic ground defence tactics. Special
Special
Forces[edit]

U.S. Air Force
Air Force
Special
Special
Tactics Commandos training in Jordan

Air Force
Air Force
Special
Special
Forces, such as US Air Force
Air Force
Special
Special
Tactics, Brazilian Para-SAR, and Pakistani Special
Special
Service Wing, are used in a variety of roles including combat search and rescue, special reconnaissance, direct action, counter-insurgency, intelligence operations, and serving as joint terminal attack controllers attached to ground and special operations forces. See also[edit]

Aerial warfare List of air forces Military aircraft Space force Cyber force

Notes[edit]

^ Biddle, Rhetoric and Reality in Air Warfare, pg.19 ^ Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
90th Anniversary Archived 16 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine. History of the RAF ^ A photograph of this plane can be found in the book by Shores 1969, p. 4. ^ Keskinen, Partonen, Stenman 2005. ^ "FINNISH AIR FORCE AIRCRAFT HISTORY TIMELINE". Pentti Perttula. 8 April 2008. Retrieved 29 August 2009. [permanent dead link] ^ 80 P.L. 253, 61 Stat. 495 (1947); Air Force
Air Force
Link, (2006) "Factsheets: The U.S. Air Force". U.S. Air Force, December 2008. Retrieved on 9 May 2009. ^ "Orbats - Scramble".  ^ IISS Military Balance 2012, 233, 237

References[edit]

"AFPC – Air Force
Air Force
Personnel Center", Air Force
Air Force
Personnel Center, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, 2013, webpage: www.afpc.af.mil. "United States Air Force", U.S. Air Force, 2009, webpage (large): Airforce.com ( Air Force
Air Force
recruiting site). "United States Air Force", U.S. Air Force, 2013, webpage (large): Official Site of the US Air Force
Air Force
(has subpages about the Air Force). " United States Air Force
United States Air Force
Fact Sheet", U.S. Air Force, 2013, webpage (large): US Air Force
Air Force
Fact Sheet. " United States Air Force
United States Air Force
Facebook Official External Presence", U.S. Air Force, 2013, webpage (large): Official US Air Force
Air Force
Facebook page. " United States Air Force
United States Air Force
blog", U.S. Air Force, 2013, webpage (large): Official US Air Force
Air Force
blog.

v t e

List of air forces

Abkhazia Afghanistan Albania Algeria Angola Argentina Armenia Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bolivia Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Brazil Brunei Bulgaria Burkina Faso Cambodia Cameroon Canada Central African Republic Chad Chile China Colombia Comoros Congo Congo DR Croatia Cuba Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Finland France Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Greece Guatemala Guinea-Bissau Haiti Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran Iraq Ireland Israel Italy Ivory Coast Japan Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Laos Latvia Lebanon Liberia Libya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macedonia Madagascar Malaysia Malta Mauritania Mexico Moldova Monaco Montenegro Morocco Myanmar Namibia Netherlands New Zealand Nicaragua Nigeria North Korea Norway Oman Pakistan Paraguay Peru Philippines Poland Portugal Qatar Romania Russia Rwanda San Marino Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Singapore Slovakia Slovenia Somalia South Africa South Korea South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Sweden Switzerland Syria Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania Thailand Togo Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Venezuela Vietnam Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe

v t e

Military branches

Army Air force Navy

Airborne forces Air defense force Coast guard Cyber force Gendarmerie Marine corps Medical corps Space force Special
Special
forces

Authority control

GND: 41259

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