USAF Support Aircraft 1971 to date

    The primary purpose of an air force is to project air power.  This is largely accomplished by the combat aircraft - the fighter and the bombers.  But an air force requires far more than that.  It must have training, cargo and reconnaissance aircraft too.  Traditionally, these have been the support aircraft.
     Today's modern air force has added airborne command posts to the list.  During World War II, wing commanders briefed their crews, then sent them on their mission.  During the late 1950s, the Strategic Air Command introduced the "Looking Glass," a specially modified KC-135 that always remained airborne to act as a backup command and control in the event ground based ones were destroyed by nuclear attack.  The concept was picked up by the fighter jocks and soon they introduced airborne command posts to the Vietnam war.  The Gulf War really saw their widespread use.  Attacks on enemy targets were directed and redirected from the air.  This real time capability was an enormous improvement over the pre-flight briefing of early days.  These planes included the various "E" models and the RC-135s. 
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