Many people don’t know how extensive the history of the U.S. Air Force really is. It’s official founding was on September 18, 1947, but it started long before. This year, we’re giving you a brief history lesson on this band of aviators to say Happy Birthday Air Force!
How It All Began
In 1907, the U.S. Army Signal Corps formed the Aeronautical Division which eventually became known as the U.S. Army Air Force. This group was established to lead anything related to air machines, military ballooning and other similar projects only four years after the first flight.
We all know that the invention of flight has changed the course of history. Who knew that a pair of brothers from North Carolina would successfully achieve this feat in 1903. After a few years of perfecting flight, the U.S. Army purchased its first aircraft which also happened to be the world’s first military airplane known as the Wright military flyer of 1909. This aircraft could travel with one pilot and one passenger at the speed of 40 mph for just over one hour. By the 1940’s, most fighter planes could travel at speeds up to 400 mph.
Today, fighter jets can reach speeds upwards of 2,000 mph. In fact, the U.S. Air Force has been experimenting with the X-51 which is an unmanned craft that can travel at speeds above Mach 5. The fastest jet ever recorded is the X-43 actually designed by NASA and in an unmanned flight broke the March 9.6 barrier.
After 32 years, President Truman established the creation of the U.S. Air Force as an independent branch of the U.S. military on September 18th, 1947. At this time, the branch had 305,827 active duty personnel down from their peak of 2,372,292 active duty members in 1944.
Today’s U.S. Air Force
Over the years, the U.S. Air Force has grown significantly and is now the second largest branch. As of 2019, they report the following personnel:
- 327,215 Active Duty
- 64,053 Officers
- 263,162 Enlisted
Part of this growth included the acceptance of women into the ranks with pilot training in 1976 followed by navigator training in 1977. Finally in 1993, women were allowed to enter the fighter pilot training program. To date, the U.S. Air Force has 775 female pilots, 338 navigators and 236 air battle managers.
Did You Know…
Aside from being a military branch, there are quite a few things you might not know about the Air Force:
- Since 1955, the U.S. Air Force has tracked Santa’s location in over 200 countries
- The U.S. Air Force Research Lab actually built the 33rd most powerful computer in the world by using 1760 Playstation 3’s
- Two Presidents served in the U.S. Air Force as airmen – Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush
- Many people refer to Air Force One as the actual plane, but it’s not a plane – it’s simply the radio call name for any U.S. Air Force plane that carries the President
- U.S. Air Force has an official band – check them out on YouTube
- The F-117 was actually inspired by bumblebee flight aerodynamics
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