The US Military Aviation Quiz


By: Robin Tyler

7 Min Quiz

Image: CT757fan / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Military aviation in the United States has a history spanning more than 100 years. What we know as the United States Air Force today is very different from how it all began all those years ago. 

In fact, the United States Air Force is not yet 100 years old! But it comes from a long line of military branches that all contribute richly to its overall history. Without a doubt, military aviation is just as crucial today as it was during the WW I, WW II, the Korean, Vietnam or Gulf wars. Superior air power wins wars. Of that, there is no doubt.

And the United States does not hold back in that regard. It has always been at the forefront of aircraft design and over the years, some legendary aircraft have formed part of U.S. military aviation history. Think here of the Mustang, the Flying Fortress, the Sabre and many more. All of these proved their worth in theatres of conflict around the world.

But just how much do you know about U.S. military aviation? This quiz spans a range of questions that will put your knowledge to the test. Do you think you can score right up there in the blue yonder?

Good luck!

The United States Air Force as it now stands was formed in what year?

The United States Air Force as we know it today was formed on September 18, 1947. Before that, it had many organizations that preceded it, such as Air Service, U.S .Army and U.S. Army Air Forces.


Which organization is then considered to be the forerunner to the United States Air Force and was formed in 1907?

The forerunner to the United States Air Force as we know it today was the Aeronautical Division, Signal Corps. This was formed in 1907 and remained in service until 1914. This division acquired its first aircraft in 1909 and implemented a program to train pilots, which resulted in the 1st Aero Squadron entering service in 1913.


True or false: Although the United States only entered World War I in 1917, American pilots flew against the Germans before this.

A number of American pilots flew against the Germans over the Western Front before the United States had joined World War I. How? Well, they flew for the Lafayette Escadrille which formed in 1916. All these pilots were volunteers. They claimed 199 German aircraft shot down before the unit was disbanded in 1918.


Can you name the top scoring American fighter pilot of World War I?

Eddie Rickenbacker was the top-scoring American fighter pilot during World War I. During his brief time on the Western Front, Rickenbacker claimed 26 victories. These came in just six months from April to October 1918.


Which of the pilots below was the first to break the speed of sound?

Although aircraft had broken the speed of sound in a dive before, the quest was on to break it in level flight. Chuck Yeager became the first man to do so. He did it on October 14, 1947. Yeager was flying the Bell X-1 at the time.


In 1960, a U.S. spy plane was shot down by a​ Soviet anti-aircraft missile over Kosulino in the Ural Region. Can you name the pilot captured by the Russians?

Francis Gary Powers was the pilot of the spy plane shot down over Soviet territory in 1960. Powers was caught and spent nearly two years in Soviet custody before he was part of a swap deal between U.S. and Soviet authorities.


If you were declared an "ace" in the U.S. Air Force, how many enemy aircraft did you shoot down?

The term "ace" is used by the United States Air Force, amongst others. It actually originated in World War I and was used to describe a pilot who had shot down five or more enemy aircraft.


The United States Air Force aircraft carrying the United States President is commonly called which of the options below?

The President of the United States flies all over the world in a jet provided by the United States Air Force. This is called Air Force One. This designation is not assigned to one particular plane. It is assigned to any plane in which the U.S. president flies. In other words, it is a call sign, not an aircraft.


A famous Hollywood actor served with the United States Air Force during World War II. Can you name him?

James Stewart was one of the first Hollywood actors to sign up to a branch of the United States military during World War II. Stewart, a pilot before the war, went on to fly combat missions over Germany on many occasions.


True or false: The Memphis Belle was not the first aircraft to be credited with flying a tour of 25 missions during World War II.

Perhaps the most famous aircraft of World War II, the Memphis Belle was NOT the first aircraft to fly 25 combat missions during the war. In fact, two aircraft managed the feat before the 'Belle. They were Hot Stuff, a B24 Liberator, and Hell's Angels, a B17 Flying Fortress. The Memphis Belle was the first aircraft to do so without losing any crew.


What type of aircraft was Francis Gary Powers flying when he was shot down over Soviet territory in 1960?

The Lockheed U2 was an exceptional aircraft. It was capable of flying at over 70,000 feet (21 kilometers) high which put it out of reach out of many military aircraft hoping to intercept it. It still remains in service today.


From the list below, can you name the aircraft that dropped the first-ever nuclear weapon?

On August 6, 1945, a Boeing B29 Superfortress named the Enola Gay delivered the first atomic bomb ever used. It was dropped on the city of Hiroshima in Japan. The bomb, nicknamed "Little Man," killed 80,000 people instantly and many more over the coming days.


Which Act passed by the U.S. government saw the U.S. Army Air Forces become the U.S. Air Force?

The National Security Act of 1947 brought about the formation of National Military Establishment. This later had a name change to the National Department of Defense. Before that, all squadrons serving the United States fell under the U.S. Army.


Can you name the famous American fighter plane that changed the air war over Europe thanks to its ability to escort bombers right into Germany?

The original North American P51 Mustang was not much to shout home about. It's Allison engine left it underpowered. When fitted with a Rolls Royce Merlin engine, the Mustang was transformed into one of the greatest fighter aircraft of World War II.


Which war, in which the United States Air Force played a crucial role, saw jet-on-jet combat for the first time?

Although jet aircraft saw action toward the end of World War II, it was the Korean War that saw the first major dogfights between jet-powered machines. This was still dogfighting in the true sense of the word, with machineguns and canons the only weapons available to these aircraft.


American presidents have a rich history of having served with the military. How many served with the U.S. Air Force?

Two recent U.S. presidents spent time in the U.S. Air Force. They were George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. George H. Bush flew during World War II but was a U.S. Navy pilot.


The U.S. Air Force's main fighter plane during the Korean War was which of these listed below?

The North American F86 Sabre first entered service in 1949. During the Korean War, the Sabre proved its metal and was a far better plane than those flown by North Korean, Chinese and Russian pilots. Incredibly, the Sabre served right up until 1994 when it was finally pulled from squadrons belonging to Bolivia.


What is the name of the U.S. Air Force display team?

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds were established as a display squadron in 1953. Based in Nevada at the Nellis Air Force Base, the Thunderbirds are the third-oldest military display team in the world.


Can you name the legendary U.S. Army Air Forces bomber that carried out daylight bombing raids during World War II?

The B17 Flying Fortress is one of the most famous aircraft of World War II. Designed as a bomber, it was primarily used in the West, flying daylight missions against Nazi Germany. The B17 could hold 9,600 pounds of bombs and had 11 to 13 machine guns as defensive armament. It first flew in 1935 and entered service in 1938.


American pilots met Japanese adversaries in China early in World War II. Flying with the Chinese Air Force, what was their unit called?

Nicknamed the "Flying Tigers," the First American Volunteer Group flew with the Chinese Air Force against Japan from April 1941.


True or false: Writer Hunter S. Thompson served in the U.S. Air Force.

Hunter S. Thompson wanted to be a pilot and joined the U.S. Air Force in the 1950s. It was while serving at Eglin Air Force Base that he took classes at Florida State University and even became the sports editor of the Command Courier. Thompson was discharged from the Air Force due to his rebel attitude.


How many active duty personnel form part of the United States Air Force?

The United States Air Force is the second-largest service branch in the U.S. military. It employs more than 300,000 people, including 140,000 civilians, about 70,000 reservists and more than 100,000 in its Air National Guard division.


After debris was found on a farm in Roswell, New Mexico, on June 14, 1947, which many believe was a crashed UFO, what did the U.S. Air Force claim caused it?

The Roswell incident received much attention years after it happened, with many UFOlogists claiming that a saucer as well as bodies were recovered at the crash site. The U.S. AIr Force, however, has always maintained it was a high-altitude balloon that came down.


Of the options below, how many pilots serve around the globe in the U.S. Air Force?

As the largest air force in the world, it is to be expected that the U.S. Air Force would have a large number of pilots. In fact, they number more than 12,000! So thats almost a two-and-a-half aircraft for each pilot!


In what year did the U.S. Air Force appoint its first female fighter pilot in a combat role?

The first female fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force was Jeannie Leavitt. Leavitt entered service in 1993 and flew more than 300 combat missions in a McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle.


The U.S. Air Force is the most powerful air force in the world. How many aircraft can it call upon?

In 2017, the U.S. Air Force could call upon 5,369 active aircraft. These are not only stationed in the United States but in bases around the world. By comparison, Russia has a little more than 2,000 aircraft in service.


Can you name the squadron of African-American airmen that served during World War II?

Tuskegee Airmen is a popular name given to a group of African American pilots that served during World War II. They served in the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group. 332nd Fighter Group saw action in both Africa and Italy. They were commonly known as the 'Red Tails' as many painted the tails of their aircraft red.


The North American F86 Sabre was the crucial U.S. Air Force fighter of the Korean War. What was its main adversary?

Introduced into Soviet service in 1949, the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 was more than a match for the North American F86 Sabre during World War II. In fact, in some regards, it was superior. What the American did have, however, was many World War II veterans with combat experience. and that led to a kill ratio of 5.6 to 1.


Since their inception in 1953, the U.S. Air Force demonstration team, the Thunderbirds, has flown many planes Which is their current display aircraft?

The go-to aircraft for the Thunderbirds, the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon is a multirole jet serving with the U.S. Air Force. It entered service with the Thunderbirds in 1983. In the 30 years previous to that, they flew six other aircraft types.


As with all U.S. armed services, the U.S. Air Force has a motto. What is it?

"Aim High … Fly-Fight-Win" is the motto of the U.S. Air Force. Others have been used over time, including "Integrity first, Service before self, Excellence in all we do."


Can you name the strategic U.S. bomber that has been in service for more than 60 years?

The Boeing B52 Stratofortress first entered service with the U.S. Air Force in 1955. With a range of over 8,000 miles, B52s can reach almost any target in the world and deliver more 70,000 pounds of weapons. It remains in service today.


Who led the first raid on Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor?

The "Doolittle Raid," also known as the raid on Tokyo, took place in April 1942 and although it didn't inflict heavy damage, it was a major morale booster for the United States. It was led by Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle with the squadron of North American B25 Mitchells taking off from U.S. Navy carriers (a feat in itself).


Which of these was a stealth attack aircraft in service with the U.S. Air Force from 1983 to 2008?

The first stealth aircraft to see operation, the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk first entered service in 1983. This strange-looking aircraft took part in the Gulf War and flew operations during the Kosovo conflict.


Can you name the 5th generation stealth fighter that will soon enter service with the U.S. Air Force?

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II program is somewhat controversial due to its cost. To date, the program has cost more than $1.5 trillion. The aircraft itself is a multirole platform and even includes a carrier-based variant.


Who was the top scoring U.S. fighter ace of World War II?

Richard Bong shot down 40 Japanese aircraft during World War II, all while flying the Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter. He died testing a new jet aircraft in 1945.


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!