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:

#5 – Night Jump Training

Pararescuemen from the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron prepare for a night jump from a C-130 Hercules over Grand Bara, Djibouti March 20, 2017. The training allowed the pararescuemen to maintain their qualifications on night jumps. The 82nd ERQS conducts full spectrum personnel recovery, casualty evacuation, medical evacuation, and sensitive item recovery in support of Defense Department personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Joshua J. Garcia)

#4 – .50 Cal in Flight

An Air Commando from the 7th Special Operations Squadron, 352d Special Operations Wing fires a .50 caliber machine gun aboard a CV-22 Osprey during a flight around southern England, Sept. 11, 2017. The Osprey flew out to a range where the crew sighted, loaded and ran through technical and tactical procedures to re-qualify on the .50 Caliber weapons system.

#3 – Fighting Fires at Home

A C-130J Hercules assigned to the 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands Air National Guard Base, Port Hueneme, Calif., drops fire-retardant chemicals onto a ridge line above Santa Barbara, Calif., Dec. 13, 2017, in an effort to contain the Thomas wildfire. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

#2 – An A-10 Soars

A 75th Fighter Squadron A-10 Thunderbolt II soars away after zooming in to target boats along Choctawatchee Bay during a Combat Hammer evaluation at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Nov. 3, 2017. The boats swarm around the water creating a realistic environment to provide pilots an opportunity to train against maritime targets. The 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron’s Combat Hammer is a weapons system evaluation program for air-to-ground munitions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

#1 – Joining forces with SpaceX

The 45th Space Wing assisted SpaceX in the successful launch of a Falcon 9 rocket carrying the KoreaSat-5A satellite, Oct. 30, 2017, from the NASA Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Fla. (Courtesy photo by SpaceX)


Images courtesy of the U.S. Air Force