The US has the largest and most powerful Air Force in the world.
The US Air Force operates more than 5,000 total aircraft, and the air service flies more than just fighters and bombers. The Air Force also runs missions ranging from surveillance to aerial refuelling to supply airlift, each of which requires a specialised aircraft.
This first graphic depicts combat-related and combat support aircraft divided into squadrons. For instance, there are seven F-22 squadrons — even though the plane only saw combat for the first time in September 2014 in operations against ISIS and al Qaeda in Syria.
In addition, there are 12 A-10 squadrons for close-air support, although the fact that the Air Force wants to retire the ageing aircraft. The Air Force argues that the A-10’s role can be carried out by a range of other aircraft, including the new fifth-generation F-35. So far, the Air Force has two F-35 squadrons.
This second graphic shows the aerial refuelling, bomber, and flight training squadrons. The Air Force has over 30 squadrons of aerial refuelling vehicles. These planes function like in-air gas stations, allowing a plane to refill its fuel tanks without having to land. Aerial tankers are critical for extending a mission’s area of operations.
The Air Force also has 11 dedicated bomb squadrons comprised of three different aircraft — the B-1B Lancer, the B-2A Spirit stealth bomber, and the massive B-52H Stratofortress, which was introduced in 1955 and is still in service.
The third chart details aircraft used for airlift operations. Airlift squadrons run a wide range of missions from carrying the president in the Presidential Aircraft Group to delivering humanitarian relief and supplies to airlifting tanks and Humvees across the globe.
Airlift squadrons carry out the majority of US Air Force missions and activities, with various US airbases around the world functioning as staging locations.
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