The United States Air Force became a separate military service branch in 1947 after being part of the United States Army since 1907. Since its inception, America’s Air Force has always been the most powerful air power in the world, with a total of 4,211 active aircraft as of Sept. 30, 2021 – among them are some older aircraft. (These are the largest air forces in the world.)
While the Air Force is working to replace planes such as the B-2 Spirit with the Northrop Grumman-developed B-21 Raider, there are still plenty of aircraft that are defying time and remain in service.
To determine the U.S. Air Force’s oldest aircraft, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed 2022 USAF & USSF Almanac: Equipment, published in Air and Space Forces Magazine. We excluded aircraft used as trainers. All information is from the almanac.
All of the aircraft on this list are at least 34 years old. Seven of the 10 oldest planes are intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance/battle management/command, control, and communications aircraft and all are at least 57 years old. Those types of planes account for about half of the 30 oldest Air Force planes in service. (Also see, most expensive planes in the U.S. air force.)
Other categories represented among the oldest aircraft in the Air Force inventory are transport planes and fighter/attack jets. The latter category includes the A-10C Thunderbolt II, with 141 planes in active service, the most on the list. Second-most on the list is the KC-135R Stratotanker with 138 aircraft.
The venerable B-52H Stratofortress is the second-oldest plane on the list at 59.80 years. There are 58 B-52Hs in active service for the Air Force.
Click here to see the U.S. Air Force’s oldest aircraft.
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