With more than 300,000 active service personnel, more than 5,000 planes currently in service, and a budget of $161 billion, the US Air Force is the largest military force of its kind in the world.
And it's one of the most impressive too -- the USAF has planes capable of flying at speeds of 1,875 miles per hour. Which is the fastest? Take a look through this gallery and find out for yourself.
Caption byFox Van Allen / Photo by Danny Myers, U.S. Air Force photo
This is it: The absolute fastest plane in the US Air Force fleet.
First taking flight in 1986, the F-15E Strike Eagle is a dual-role fighter designed for air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. Piloted by a crew of two, the planes have racked up an impressive streak of more than 100 aerial combat victories without a single air-to-air loss.
The QF-4E Phantom remote-controlled target drone, built from older F-4 Phantom II planes, has a very special role in the US fleet: It's used as a decoy and as target practice for US air-to-air missiles, radars and surface-to-air missiles.
The plane will be in service through mid-2017, when it will be replaced by the QF-16 target drone.
The twin-engine F-22 Raptor is designed, the USAF says, "to project air dominance, rapidly and at great distances." It's designed to provide first-kill opportunities, meaning the plane can "shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected."
Caption byFox Van Allen / Photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Larkin Sr./USAF
The single-seat F-22A Raptor is armed with a M61A2 20-millimeter cannon (480 rounds) and two AIM-9 heat-seeking air-to-air missiles. Its internal main weapons bay can hold six AIM-120 radar-guided air-to-air missiles, or two AIM-120s along with two 1,000-pound GBU-32 smart bombs.
Think of the F-16 Fighting Falcon as a more cost-effective version of its cousin, the F-15 Strike Eagle. The single-engine plane, made by General Dynamics, has an internal M61 Vulcan cannon and can carry 11 missiles.
The F-35 Lightning II is a next-generation stealth multirole fighter jet designed for ground attacks and air defense missions. It's the first U.S. Air Force plane designed with voice recognition, allowing pilots to keep their focus on the battle, rather than on an instrument panel.
Here, an F-35 Lightning II is flanked over California with a pair of F-16 Fighting Falcons.
Caption byFox Van Allen / Photo by MCC Eric A. Clement, U.S. Navy
Originally envisioned in the 1960s as a supersonic bomber with long range and the ability to deliver massive payloads (75,000 pounds), the Air Force calls the B1-B Lancer "the backbone of America's long-range bomber force."
The B-52 Stratofortress long-range strategic bomber has been a mainstay of the US Air Force since 1952. The massive planes have undergone numerous upgrades since; some B-52s can launch smart weapons such as Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles.
The Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit, colloquially known as the Stealth Bomber, was built with a specially designed airframe that absorbs and deflects radar signals. This allows it to fly through the skies virtually undetected.
Back in the Carter and Reagan eras, it was thought the B-2 would be used to deliver nuclear payloads. Instead, the bomber was used to deliver conventional payloads as the lead of the "shock and awe" bombing campaign against Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
Commonly known as the "warthog" and easily distinguished by its nose art, the A-10C Thunderbolt II is a single-seater jet designed for close air support, forward air control and combat search and rescue.
The A-10C Thunderbolt II's primary 30mm cannon fires 3,900 rounds per minute. It is also armed with air-to-surface and air-to-air missiles, cluster bombs (such as the MK-82 bombs being dropped here), laser-guided bombs and other weaponry.
The A-10C Thunderbolt II is currently in active service against Islamic State forces in the Middle East.
The new AC-130J Ghost Rider won't enter service until 2017. But when these next-generation, ground-attack gunships do take flight, they will be armed with a 105-millimeter cannon, along with a payload of smartbombs. The planes will also have directed energy weapons (lasers) installed by 2020 to defeat incoming missiles and disrupt enemy communications systems.
Caption byFox Van Allen / Photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel King Jr./USAF
Called a "weapon of mass persuasion" by the Los Angeles Times, the Commando Solo is the United States' key Psychological Operations communication ship. It is equipped to broadcast messages to the enemy over FM radio, analog color TV and military communication bands.
During Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1990-91, the Commando Solo broadcast the "Voice of the Gulf" radio network, encouraging the peaceful surrender of Iraqi combatants.
Rather than drop conventional bombs, the massive EC-130H Compass Call instead engages in electronic warfare. Its crew of 13 works to disrupt enemy communications, limiting their ability to launch coordinated attacks against our troops.
The Compass Call is currently deployed in Afghanistan and in the fight against ISIS.
Caption byFox Van Allen / Photo by Senior Airman Eboni Reece/USAF
The key feature of the massive AC-130W Stinger II gunship is its Precision Strike Package. It can unleash a suite of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and GBU-39 small-diameter smart bombs. The Stinger II is meant for close air support and air interdiction (preventative attacks).
AC-130W planes recently saw action in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Inherent Resolve.
Caption byFox Van Allen / Photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka Engblom
The MC-130H is a special mission aircraft that provides infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of special operations forces in hostile territory. It can also perform psychological operations and air refueling missions.
In this photo, the Combat Talon is deploying flares as a defense against heat-seeking (infrared) missiles.