The United States Air Force serves as America’s aerial and orbital warfare branch. Born as a component of the U.S. Army, the Air Force diverged into its own branch on 18 September, 1947. Since then, it has gone on to become the largest, most technological advanced air force boasted by any nation on the planet.
The U.S. Air Force provides air support for America’s land and naval forces, as well as aiding in the recovery of military personnel in the field. Outside the scope of air support for troops in the fight, the Air Force also serves as the nation’s primary nuclear deterrent, overseeing two components of the nation’s nuclear triad in the form of nuclear capable bombers the B-2 and B-52, and more than 406 nuclear tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Aside from providing air support in combat operations around the globe, the Air Force has also played an active role in show of force missions over the Korean peninsula and the contested South China Sea, and has seen a recent increase in emphasis on orbital operations. Here are the best pictures they took along the way this year: