The United States' position as the sole remaining superpower on Earth is in large part thanks to its air force. That organization—the United States Air Force, or USAF—turns 70 years old today, and since we know there are plenty of plane spotters and aviation geeks here at Ars, we thought we'd assemble a gallery of some of our favorite USAF planes to celebrate.
Of course, the US military had access to air power before September 18, 1947. The Army started playing around with planes a few short years after the Wright brothers took to the skies and proved heavier-than-air flight was possible, getting its first airplane—a Wright Flyer, naturally—in 1909. Around the same time, the US Navy also started getting into the flying business, but since today isn't the Navy's birthday, that's the last we'll say about naval aviation here.
By World War II, the US Army had its Army Air Forces, which flew combat missions in the European and Pacific theaters. The USAAF even brought the war to a close when a pair of B-29s dropped atom bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. In the aftermath of WWII, Congress decided that the country required a dedicated air force and created a new branch of the military with the National Security Act of 1947. The United States Air Force was born.