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Military Legends: 5 Most Powerful Weapons Of The US Air Force (Pictures)

A 1st Fighter Wing's F-22 Raptor from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., pulls away and flies beside a KC-135 Stratotanker with the 756th Air Refueling Squadron, Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility, Md., while his wingman refuels off the east coast, July 10, 2012. The first Raptor assigned to the Wing arrived, Jan. 7, 2005. This aircraft was allocated as a trainer, and was docked in a hanger for maintenance personnel to familiarize themselves with its complex systems. The second Raptor, designated for flying operations, arrived, Jan. 18, 2005. On Dec. 15, 2005, Air Combat Command commander, along with the 1st FW commander, announced the 27th Fighter Squadron as fully operational capable to fly, fight and win with the F-22.

5 Most Powerful Weapons Of The US Air Force: The Air Force gets a vote in this exercise to see who has the deadliest conventional (non-nuclear) weapons in the U.S. military. The Air Force does not disappoint. First up is the “Mother of All Bombs.” Then the latest and greatest from the B-52, the B-2, the F-35, and the F-22.

Most Powerful Weapons Of The US Air Force: The Mother of All Bombs

The Mother of All Bombs is a nickname for the GBU-43/B MOAB – or the Massive Ordnance Air Blast. This thing weighs almost 22,000 pounds and yields 11-tons of TNT. This is an airburst bomb not a penetrator, but it is intended to blast the heck out of anyone or anything or that is hiding in caves and canyons.

The Air Force first tested it in 2003 and it was first used in 2017 against an ISIS-K cave complex in Nangarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan. The Pentagon did not provide details on the strike, but President Trump called it a very successful mission. The Afghan Army later said that it killed 94 terrorists.

There are believed to be about 15 MOABs in the U.S. arsenal. It is carried by an MC-130E Combat Talon.

Most Powerful Weapons Of The US Air Force: The B-52 Stratofortress

Can you believe that the B-52 is still flying and dropping bombs? It’s first flight was in 1952 and it was introduced in 1955. It can carry everything from nuclear to conventional bombs, cruise missiles, and hypersonic missiles. It mainly carries guided bombs such as the Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs).

The airplane has been upgraded numerous times and it is now the B-52H variant.

Nicknamed the “BUFF” (for big-ugly fat fellow), the B-52H weighs almost 500,000 pounds with fuel and ordnance. A total of 744 were built and it is the longest-serving combat aircraft in the world.


A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress assigned to Barksdale Air Force Base, La., is prepared for a Mark-82 munitions load, in support of a Bomber Task Force deployment, Feb. 1, 2020, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. The bomber deployment underscores the U.S. military’s commitment to regional security and demonstrates a unique ability to rapidly deploy on short notice. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jacob M. Thompson)

A B-52 Stratofortress bomber aircraft assigned to the 340th Weapons Squadron at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, taxis to take off during a U.S. Air Force Weapons School Integration exercise at Nellis AFB, Nevada, Nov. 30, 2021. The U.S. Air Force Weapons School teaches graduate-level instructor courses that provide advanced training in weapons and tactics employment to officers and enlisted specialists of the combat and mobility air forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by William Lewis)


B-52 Bomber. Image Credit: US Air Force.

Most Powerful Weapons Of The US Air Force: B-2 Stealth Bomber

Northrop Grumman claims it built all the components for the B-2 from scratch.

In most U.S. conflicts, the B-2 goes in first. It can fly from the United States and get re-fueled, drop its bombs on other continents, and then return home. That means it can fly 10,000 nautical miles on one re-fueling. It’s also stealthy.

The B-2 holds the record for the longest air combat mission in history. It did an early Afghanistan mission in 2001 that lasted 44 hours.

Its wingspan is half the length of a football field. It has a ceiling of more than 50,000 feet and a payload of 20 tons.


The B-2 Spirit, Spirit of Oklahoma, is silhouetted against the sky during the Thunder Over The Boardwalk Air Show, Atlantic City, N.J., Aug. 23, 2006. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/Released) (This image was cropped to focus on the subject of the image)

B-2 Stealth Bomber

A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit “Stealth” bomber, 393rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, 509th Bomb Wing, Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., flies over the Pacific Ocean after a recent aerial refueling mission, May 2, 2005. The Bombers are deployed to Anderson Air Force Base, Guam, as part of a rotation that has provided the U.S. Pacific Command a continous bomber presence in the Asian Pacific region since February 2004, enhancing regional security and the U.S. commitment to the Western Pacific. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo) (Released)

Most Powerful Weapons Of The US Air Force: The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter

The F-35 is a fifth-generation multi-role stealth fighter plane. It also has variations for the Marine Corps and Navy. That U.S. military plans to order over 1,700 of them.

The F-35 can carry 18,000 pounds of ordnance.

It can go MACH 1.6 with its Pratt & Whitney F135 engine.

It has advanced electronic warfare capabilities to jam enemy radar and disrupt enemy fighter attacks or missile defenses.

The F-35 can carry JDAMs, the joint stand-off weapon, Paveway IV guided bombs, and various air-to-air, air-to-ground missiles, and even Storm Shadow cruise missiles.


F-35C. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin.


F-35A. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Most Powerful Weapons Of The US Air Force: The F-22 Raptor

The F-22 has been profiled in 1945 here, but allow me to take a deeper dive into the weapons it has. The F-22 can carry two 1,000-pound GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) internally. It also boasts two Sidewinders, six medium-range air-to-air missiles (AMRAAMs), and a 20mm Gatling gun. Six launchers mounted in the main weapon bays carry and launch the AMRAAMs.

The F-22 can change weapons distribution depending on whether it is in air-to-ground mode or air-to-air mode. This is all carried inside the airplane in internal bays for better stealth radar evasion.

Missiles are launched out of the bay at 25 feet per second, with a force of 40Gs. The entire launch sequence lasts seconds.

U.S. Air Force F-22

Image: Creative Commons.


A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor assigned to Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., takes off from the Tyndall flightline as part of an asset evacuation due to Hurricane Irma Sep. 8, 2017. Tyndall evacuated its F-22s, QF-16 Aerial Targets, T-38 Talons, E-9A Widgets and other aerial assets in preparation for Hurricane Irma. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sergio A. Gamboa/Released)

Who’s the winner? I’ll take the B-52. No other airplane has been around longer. It has the biggest payload and has proved itself in almost every war the United States has fought in since its inception.

1945’s new Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.