The US Air Force is the world's premier aerial power.
With 39 distinct types of aircraft, and many more sub varieties of each airframe, it is easy to understand why the US Air Force has no peers. Each airframe is custom made to carry out a select mission effectively, and each pilot knows their aircraft perfectly.
Mission: The A-10 is specifically designed to carry out close-air support at low altitude and low speed. The A-10 is built to be highly survivable and can takeoff and land in locations near to the front lines.
Mission: The B-1B Lancer is the Air Force's bomber backbone. It has the largest payload capacity of any aircraft in the fleet, is multi-mission capable, and can carry and deliver huge quantities of both precision and nonprecision weaponry.
Mission: The B-52 is a long-range heavy bomber that is able to participate in and complete a wide range of mission sets. During conflicts, the B-52 can provide close air support, strategic attacks, surveillance, and counter-air and maritime operations.
Mission: The C-130 Hercules is primarily used for airlift missions and transporting equipment and troops. It can land on rough dirt strips, move oversized loads, and the airframe can be modified into a range of aircraft such as the AC-130U and the WC-130 Hercules.
Mission: The C-17 is the newest cargo aircraft to enter the Air Force's airlift fleet. The plane is capable of strategic delivery of cargo and people, can complete airdrop missions, and can move patients during aeromedical evacuations.
Mission: The C-5 is the largest airlifter in the US Air Force fleet. The craft can carry a combat-ready military unit anywhere in the world, as well as deliver the necessary supplies to support the unit.
(Photo by SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Mission: The F-22 is the Air Force's most recently deployed new fighter aircraft. The only combat ready fifth-generation fighter, the F-22 combines stealth, maneuverability, the ability to supercruise, and advanced avionics to be able to seize aerial dominance and carry out strikes against ground targets.
(Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Variants: HC-130J Combat King II, HC-130P/N King
Mission: The HC-130 and its variants are personnel recovery platforms. The aircraft can be used for disaster response and evacuations. The aircraft are able to land and operate in a range of airfields.
Mission: The HH-60G is used to personnel-recovery operations from hostile territory. The helicopter is also used in search and rescue operations, disaster response, and humanitarian assistance in civil situations.
(Photo by Lance Cheung/U.S. Air Force via Gety Images)
Mission: The Stratotanker provides the backbone of the US Air Force's aerial-refueling operations. It provides support to the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and allied nations. The KC-135 can also be used for aeromedical evacuations.
Variants: MC-130H Combat Talon II, MC-130J Commando II
Mission: The MC-130 aircraft is intended to provide support, resupply, refueling, infiltration, and exfiltration for special-operations forces. The aircraft also carry out secondary psychological operations, such as dropping leaflets over enemy territory.
(Photo by Anna Hayman/U.S. Air Force/Getty Images)
OC-135B Open Skies
Mission: The OC-135B is the US's contribution to the Open Skies Treaty. The plane flies unarmed flights over nations that have signed to the treaty to ensure that signatories are honoring their pledges.
Missions: The RC-135 aircraft variants are all intelligence-collecting aircraft. The Cobra Ball collects information on ballistic targets, which it reports to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Rivet Joint provides real-time on-scene intelligence collection, and the Combat Sent relays electronic-reconnaissance information to the president, secretary of defense, and Department of Defense leaders.
Mission: The U-2 is a high-altitude surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft that can operate in all conditions. The plane can capture both signals intelligence and can take high detailed photographic imagery.
(Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
Mission: A light-lift utility helicopter, the Huey is used in a variety of support missions. The helicopter's functions include emergency security airlift, surveillance of off-base nuclear weapons, disaster response, search and rescue missions, and visitor airlift.