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Types of US Military Aircraft

Types of US Military Aircraft

Military superiority is an important criterion for a nation's sovereignty and the strength of the nation's air power is a pivotal aspect of military superiority. Here is a list of the US military aircraft along with their types.
Historyplex Staff
Last Updated: May 12, 2018
The United States Armed Forces (USAF) has always prided itself in its personnel and armaments and the recent events (the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria and Libya) have showcased the military strength of the United States. As far as air power is concerned, the USAF has around 18,234 aircraft and 6,417 helicopters.

The US military engages a naming system and a particular designation to all the types of US military aircraft for identification purposes. Below is the list of its various types.
List of US Military Aircraft
Sentry
Sentry
P-3 Orion
Orion
Hornet
Hornet
Lancer
Lancer
Strike Eagle
Strike Eagle
Hercules
Hercules
Super Hornet
Super Hornet
Black Hawk
Black Hawk
Stratotanker
Stratotanker
Talon
Talon
Global Hawk
Global Hawk
The images given above are in the Public Domain but are credited as works of the Federal Government.
Airborne Early Warning and Control Aircraft
Hawkeye E-2, E2C, E2D They are patrol planes that detect air threats and command battle engagements during war times, much like the normal Air Traffic Control. So, they are also known as Airborne Command and Control Aircraft. They also provide strategic support to both the air and ground forces in combat. These aircraft (depending on their versions) are capable of detecting long-range missiles with the help of powerful radars and generally function as airborne monitoring systems. They also provide strategic support to both the air and ground forces in combat.
Sentry E-3, E-3A, E-3C, E-3G
Mercury E-6, E-6A, E-6B
Air anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Aircraft
Orion P-3C The ASW type of aircraft not only detects underwater threats but also responds to surface threats and is a kind of patrol plane. These aircraft make use of various modern techniques to detect the presence of hostile forces. Visual sensors (make use of electro-optical devices) and military models of binoculars are commonly used for this purpose. Infrared sensors (or heat sensors), electromagnetic sensors (scan radio and electronic transmissions), magnetic anomaly detection sensors (detect changes in the earth's magnetic field) and radar sensors (detect snorkeling or surfaced submarines) are some of the other sensors frequently used in ASW aircraft.
Seahawk SH-60B, MH-60R, HH-60
Viking S-3, S-3B
Attack Aircraft
AV-8B Harrier II, Harrier II Plus These are the aircraft that are used to strike targets in an air-to-ground military attack. They are deployed as close to the ground forces as possible for close air support and/or cover. They are sometimes used to control hostile forces during strategic warfare. One of the major uses of attack aircraft is 'Battlefield Air Interdiction', i.e., controlling offshore hostile forces, where friendly forces are not present. SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defense) and OCA (Offensive Counter-air Attack) are two other important roles of attack aircraft.
Hornet FA-18, FA-18A, FA-18C, FA-18D
Thunderbolt II A-10
Bomber Aircraft
Lancer B-1, B-1B Bombers are known for their "massive destructive capabilities" and have the capability to incur heavy damage on the target. For this reason, bombers are used only in war times and for decimating the enemy grounds during air raids. However, bombers are expensive to make and require regular maintenance. Also, it is difficult to target an exact location using bombers. Besides, bombers are highly susceptible to interceptors and cause indiscriminate carnage.
Spirit B-2, B-2A
Stratofortress B-52, B-52H
Electronic Warfare Aircraft
Electronic Warfare Aircraft
Commando Solo EC-130J Electronic warfare refers to the use of electromagnetic spectrum (directed energy) to control spectrum and respond to hostile forces via the spectrum. The aircraft used in electronic warfare carry anti-radiation missiles and jammer transmitters to intercept and disable enemy radars. The technology used in these aircraft are capable of crippling the air defense mechanism and communication depots of the enemy. The major benefit of using an electronic warfare aircraft is that it clears the way for direct attack on hostile camps by other defense personnel.
Gray Wolves EA-6B
Compass Call EC-130H
Fighter Aircraft
Fighter Aircraft
Mirage F-1, 50, 2000, III, V More commonly known as fighter planes, they are known for their speed and are employed to have 'air superiority'. This superiority can be defensive (when fighter planes are used in defensive counter-air attacks), or it can be offensive (when fighter planes are used in offensive counter-air attack). They are of great support to on-ground friendly forces engaged in a battle. That's why fighter planes usually accompany the surface army during wars rather than engaging in air raids like the attack aircraft.
Chengdu F-7, J-7, J-10, J-20
Strike Eagle F-15E
Gunship Aircraft
AC-130H, AC-130U These are a lethal type of combat weapons with immense firepower. They make use of guns (25/44/105 mm), cannons and howitzers to shoot at ground targets from the air. Gunships are efficient, with the ability of long-range attacks from higher altitudes. Unlike the fighter or attack aircraft, gunships can circle the target numerous times before passing over it. The use of gunships has increased in the recent times due to the vital close air support that the gunships are capable of providing to the ground forces.
AC-119 AC-119G, AC-119K
U-Boat AC-130U+4
Military Transport Aircraft
Grumman C-2, C-2A(R) Also known as Cargo Aircraft, the services of these aircraft are very essential for the army. In war times, they are used to deploy forces into designated areas along with their equipment, supply the previously stationed personnel with equipment and other necessities, evacuate the wounded, drop paratroops, and provide strategic or operational airlifts. Cargo aircraft are also used to drop supplies and assist humanitarian missions, especially during or after natural disasters.
Starlifter C-141, C-141A,C-141B
Hercules C-130, C-130E, C-130H
Multi-role Combat Aircraft
Multi-role Combat Aircraft
Growler EA-18G These are the aircraft that perform combined functions of the other types of military aircraft. Depending on the military operational needs, these aircraft can be required to perform reconnaissance function or engage in air-to-air and/or air-to-surface combat. They can also be used for intercepting hostile forces or jamming the enemy radars (i.e., engage in electronic warfare) and some of these multi-role combat aircraft are capable of aerial refueling.
Super Hornet F/A-18E/F
Combat Shadow HC/MC-130P, HC-130N
Observation Aircraft
Observation Aircraft
Falcon O-1, O-12, O-16 An observation aircraft is also known as 'patrol' or 'surveillance' aircraft due to the fact that it is used to keep a check on aerial and surface activities of the target areas. The reason for this patrol could be the terms of a treaty, border/sea patrol or for strategic requirements of the military. These types of aircraft are capable of flying for a sustained period of time and are fitted with high quality sensors. Due to the nature of their functions, observation aircraft are used at all times but more extensively during war.
Thunderbolt II OA-10A
Open Skies OC-135B
Reconnaissance Aircraft
Reconnaissance Aircraft
Crazy Hawk RC-7B, EO-5B One step ahead of surveillance aircraft, reconnaissance or recon aircraft is a high-tech intelligence gatherer. It is best known for providing SIGNIT (Signals Intelligence), COMINT (Communication Intelligence) and ELINT (Electronic Intelligence). It flies at very high altitudes and is capable of sending confidential data of target areas in the form of cryptic messages and/or snapshots. The role of this aircraft is greatly valued as it has the potential of stripping the target of its secrets, allowing the military personnel to know their enemy before an actual face-off, in order to make effective strategies for a successful combat.
Dragon Lady U/R-2, U-2E, U-2F, U-2H
Rivet Joint RC-135V, RC-135W
Rotary Aircraft
Rotary Aircraft
Black Hawk UH-60, UH-60A, UH-60L Commonly known as 'helicopters', the rotary wing aircraft is an integral part of the US army. It is used for a variety of purposes (observation, utility, cargo and transport, combat, utility, reconnaissance, etc). Some of the military helicopters function as multi-role aircraft and are a great asset. The search and rescue operation of these helicopters, like that of the famous Hercules HC-130, play a very important role in personnel recovery.
Apache AH-64, AH-4A, AH-64D
Chinook CH-47, CH-47D, CH-47F
SAM Aircraft
VC-137, VC-25A Special Air Mission or SAM aircraft are transport aircraft used by the President, the First Lady, Vice President, members of the Cabinet and the Congress, important national leaders and high-ranking foreign dignitaries. Any SAM aircraft carrying the President is called the Air Force One. These aircraft must meet stringent quality checks and flight protocols. They can be required to provide airlifts at a very short notice, especially during emergencies or war times.
Standby C-5, C-17, C-130
Gulfstream C-20, C-37
Tanker Aircraft
Tanker Aircraft
Boeing KC-46, KC-767 Tankers are the "air bridges" for any aircraft in an ongoing military operation of the US air force, navy and if required, other friendly forces. They provide aerial refueling to the other types of aircraft during a mission. They are capable of locating friendly aircraft and detecting threats directed towards them. They are used in operations that are extended for a long period of time or are on a long-range mission, and their services become all the more essential in a global engagement.
Stratotanker KC-135Q, KC-135R(RT), KC-135Y
Extender KC-10, KC-10A

Trainer Aircraft
Trainer Aircraft
Jayhawk T-1, T-1A These are the aircraft that are used to give in-flight training for the army, air force, navy and marine officers. The trainer aircraft are fitted with additional safety features and enhancements. Almost all the military trainers have a seating capacity of two, especially those used for training the new recruits. The training of air crews takes place at three levels: basic, primary and advanced. The primary training is given in a standard T-37 trainer aircraft and the specialized trainers are used only in the advanced level.
Talon T-38, T-38A, T-38C
Cessna T-51, T-51A
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
Global Hawk RQ-4, RQ-4A, MC-4C, EQ-4B Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), also known as drones, are remotely controlled vehicles. These aircraft have the capacity of being airborne for around 20 hours at a time. The best feature of these vehicles is that they keep the pilot out of harm's way while effectively performing their functions. They are used in reconnaissance, target acquisition, aerial communication (especially with friendly forces involved in an operation) and combat. Though they are very expensive, increased investments are being made by the Federal government in procuring more UAVs in the recent times.
Predator RQ-1A, RQ-1B, MQ-1
Hunter RQ-5A, MQ-5B, MQ5C
X Planes
Martin Marietta X-23A, X-24A, X-24B They are also known as 'experimental aircraft' or 'developmental aircraft'. As their name denotes, X Planes are those which are being modified or are being newly produced on the basis of research. These 'experiments' provide a scope for discovery, invention and improvement of military aircraft. Some of these experimental aircraft have proved to be fatal (like the X-2), but there have been many phenomenal and groundbreaking successes too.
Boeing (USAF) X-20, X-32, X-45, X-51
Bell X-1, X-9, X-22
The list of military aircraft is exhaustive but just having top-class military aircraft is not enough to have 'superior global air power'. Like in any other field, new technology is regularly developed all over the world to improve air power and so, the existing military aircraft have to be either updated or replaced from time to time. For this reason, the Department of Defense (DOD) makes special provision for tactical aircraft investment from the total military budget.
"If we maintain our faith in God, love of freedom, and superior global air power, the future [of the US] looks good."
~ General Curtis LeMay