It's the US Air Force's 72nd birthday — here are 33 photos of it doing what it does best

  • The US Air Force turns 72 on Wednesday.
  • US air forces have served under a number of different designations, but the Air Force itself was officially founded September 18, 1947.
  • The US AIr Force now operates all over the world, performing combat, special operations, and search-and-rescue operations.
  • Visit Business Insider’s home page for more stories.

The US Air Force turns 72 years old on Wednesday. Between the US military’s first aircraft purchase in 1909 and the Air Force’s official founding on September 18, 1947, the service existed under a number of different designations.

But in the 72 years since since its formation, the Air Force has expanded and perfected its ability to take off, land, lift, transport, strike, and observe from the skies over any part of the world.

Below, you can see some photos of the Air Force and its personnel in action.


Senior Airman Taylor Lancaster, a 5th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aircraft crew chief, guides a B-52H Stratofortress on Minot Air Force Base, January 9, 2015.


An F-22 pilot from the 95th Fighter Squadron gets situated in his aircraft prior to taking off from Amari Air Base in Estonia, September 4, 2015.

US Air Force

A C-130 Hercules flies over Izu Peninsula, Japan, October 14, 2015.


Lt. Col. Mark Sletten, an F-35 Lightning II program-integration officer, lowers the canopy on an F-16 Fighting Falcon before taxiing to take off, December 7, 2015.


A B-1 Lancer flies over the Norma Brown building during the 75th Diamond Anniversary ceremony on Goodfellow Air Force Base, January 26, 2016.


A B-2 Spirit bomber sits on the flight line prior to takeoff at Whiteman Air Force Base, February 2, 2016.


Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Jonas, the 374th Operations Support Squadron’s survival, evasion, resistance, and escape operations NCO in charge, jumps out of a C-130 Hercules while flying over Yokota Air Base, March 2, 2016.


Capt. Jonathan Bonilla and 1st Lt. Vicente Vasquez, 459th Airlift Squadron UH-1N Huey pilots, fly over Tokyo after completing night training, April 25, 2016.

US Air Force/Yasuo Osakabe

An F-15E Strike Eagle soars above Grand Bay Bombing and Gunnery Range at Moody Air Force Base, May 20, 2016.


A US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress leads a formation of aircraft including two Polish air force F-16 Fighting Falcons, four US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons, two German Eurofighter Typhoons, and four Swedish Gripens over the Baltic Sea, June 9, 2016.


An F-16 Fighting Falcon from Joint Base Langley-Eustis receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker while taking part in exercise Red Flag 16-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, July 18, 2016.


A C-130J Super Hercules from the 41st Airlift Squadron flies past Denali, the highest peak in North America, July 19, 2016.


An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 79th Fighter Squadron at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, waves at the boom operator after a mid-air refuelling during Red Flag 16-3 over the Nevada Test and Training Range, July 27, 2016.


A B-52H Stratofortress flies over Minot Air Force Base, August 13, 2016.


Emergency medical technicians exit a CV-22 Osprey at Melrose Air Force Range on August 25, 2016.


Ohio Air National Guard’s 121st Air Refuelling Wing welcomes an A-10C Thunderbolt II from Moody Air Force Base on September 1, 2016.


An air crew aboard a C-130H assigned to the 36th Airlift Squadron circle a Micronesian Island, December 5, 2016. The crew were practicing air drop procedures during Operation Christmas Drop.

Elizabeth Baker/US Air Force

Tech. Sgt. Jason Caswell, 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron C-130 Hercules debrief NCO-in-charge, prepares to lift weights, January 4, 2017, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.


Senior Airman Austin Boyd, of the 138th Fighter Wing, attaches a hose containing liquid oxygen to an F-16 Fighting Falcon, February 1, 2017.


Pararescuemen from the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron prepare for a night jump from a C-130 Hercules over Grand Bara, Djibouti, March 20, 2017.


Senior Airman Jacqueline D’urso, a boom operator with the 91st Air Refuelling Squadron, prepares to make contact with a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft during a refuel mission over the southeast US, April 4, 2017.


Air Force load crew members from Misawa Air Base, Japan, carry a bomb to an F-16 Fighting Falcon while an evaluator observes during the 2017 annual weapons load crew competition at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, May 13, 2017.


Airmen from the 41st Helicopter Maintenance Unit push an HH-60G Pave Hawk into a C-17 Globemaster III, May 15, 2017, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.

US Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan

Instructors assigned to the 1st Special Operations Support Squadron, Operational Support Joint Office, jump from a 15th Special Operations Squadron MC-130H Combat Talon II above northwest Florida, June 28, 2017.

(US Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Joseph Pick)

Two combat controllers with the 321st Special Tactics Squadron observe an A-10 Thunderbolt II landing on Jägala-Käravete Highway in Jägala, Estonia, August 10, 2017.


Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Silvers, left, an 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron C-17 Globemaster III loadmaster, and Capt. Travis Delzer, an 816th EAS C-17 pilot, prepare for takeoff before a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, August 23, 2017, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.


An air commando from the 7th Special Operations Squadron fires a .50-calibre machine gun aboard a CV-22 Osprey during a flight around southern England, September 11, 2017. The Osprey flew to a range where the crew sighted, loaded, and ran through technical and tactical procedures to requalify on the .50-calibre weapons system.


US Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bombers from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Base in Missouri fly with Royal Air Force F-35s in the UK for the first time, August 29, 2019.

US Air Force/UK Ministry of Defence

A CV-22 Osprey from the US Air Force 21st Special Operations Squadron on the flight deck of the USS Ronald Reagan in Yokota, Japan, August 22, 2019.

Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rufus Hucks / US Air Force / DVIDS

A US Air Force F-22 Raptor prepares to refuel from a KC-10 Extender from the 908th Expeditionary Air Refuelling Squadron stationed at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, September 4, 2019.

Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski / US Air Force / DVIDS

Airmen from the 22nd Airlift Squadron at Travis Air Force Base in California prepare a C-5C Galaxy to be loaded with an Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite, which allows for jam resistant-communication, April 19, 2019.

Airman 1st Class Jonathon Carnell / US Air Force / DVIDS

US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle on a mission over Iraq, September 10, 2019.

Master Sgt. Russ Scalf / U.S. Air Force / DVIDSU

The 334th Air Expeditionary Group prepares to perform rescue operations at Joint Base Charleston after Hurricane Florence, September 15, 2018.

Technical Sgt. Chris Hibben / US Air Force/ DVIDS

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