What future for the US Air Force?


In recent years, the service has seen unprecedented change – from the end of combat operations in Afghanistan after 20 years, to forward deployments in Eastern Europe following the invasion of Ukraine by the Russia; from the rise of unmanned aerial vehicles to hypersonic missile testing; and from the introduction of the F-35 Lightning II to the imminent deployment of the B-21 Raider bomber.

The US Air Force F-22 Raptor arrived at 32nd Tactical Air Base, Lask, Poland to support NATO Air Armor. The aircraft are from the 90th Fighter Squadron, 3rd Wing, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, and will support Air Shielding as the 90th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron. (Air Force photograph by Staff Sergeant Danielle Sukhlall)

As a sign of looking back and moving forward, new hypersonic missiles are tested using the B-52 Stratofortress bomber; an aircraft which made its first flight on April 15, 1952, and entered service in 1955!

So what does the future hold for the world’s largest air force?

The service is currently testing Skyborg Vanguard – a system that allows unmanned aerial vehicles to operate in tandem; the Air Force is also testing the F-15EX Eagle II, bringing next-generation combat technology to a high-performance fighter airframe capable of projecting power in multiple areas for the Joint Force; and the service explores the future of artificial intelligence in aircraft and weapons systems.

“I truly believe we have the greatest Airmen and the best defense and technology industry in the world,” said Gen. CQ Brown Jr., Air Force Chief of Staff. “Together, we must work to accomplish what seems impossible. We must meet the challenges of today to prepare for tomorrow.

A B-52H Stratofortress undergoes pre-flight procedures at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., before performing an AGM-183A flight test. (Air Force photograph by Giancarlo Casem)
An MQ-9 Reaper flies a training mission over the Nevada Test and Training Range, July 15, 2019. The MQ-9 crew provides dominant and persistent attack and reconnaissance for the combatant commanders and coalition partners around the world. (US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class William Rio Rosado)
Artist’s rendering of a B-21 Raider concept in a hangar at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, one of the future bases to house the new airframe. (Courtesy of Northrop Grumman)

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