The Heritage Foundation is proud to wish the United States Air Force a happy 64th birthday. Sixty-four may not sound old in the context of American history, considering that some of the founding members of the Army Air Corps are still living. Yet the history of these men and women goes back to early aviation itself.
The U.S. Air Force (USAF) has much to boast. It developed aerial combat and produced the nation’s first Ace. From World War I and the plains of western Europe, it conquered the skies. In June of 1942, it accomplished the inconceivable by flying land-based bombers off a 700-foot aircraft carrier—one-fourth the required take-off distance—and did it 16 times.
In 1991, the world saw the awesome capabilities of the Air Force. They saw intrepid pilots fly hundreds of feet over Baghdad, one of the most heavily defended skies, to deliver precision-guided munitions within an arm’s length of a target. There are countless stories of daring flyers who constantly push the envelope. The U.S. Air Force is second-to-none.
This service is entrusted to transport and protect the President in Air Force One. The Air Force has had an important role in America’s space program since the first U.S. manned space flight in 1961 and continues to lead the way in space technology. Never afraid of new domains, it also provides critical cyber and intelligence capabilities to the warfighter. Those who have seen them can never forget the thrill of watching the Thunderbirds overhead.
The USAF boasts four pillars of helping to provide for the nation’s security: gaining control in air, space and cyberspace; holding targets at risk anywhere in the world; providing responsive intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance; and rapidly transporting people and equipment around the world. Without it, the U.S. would not be able to move troops and equipment to war zones, send relief to countries devastated by natural disasters, provide air support to troops on the ground, or gather crucial intelligence through electronic warfare and stealth technology. If the past 64 years are any indication of their future, we can look ahead with confidence as these fighting men and women continue to accomplish what was thought impossible. Aim high!