An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

This week in AFLCMC history - June 20 - 26, 2022

  • Published
  • By Air Force Life Cycle Management Center History Office
20 Jun 1941 (AFLCMC)  

The Army created the US Army Air Forces (USAAF) to subsume and replace the Army Air Corps (USAAC) that had existed since 1926. Elements within the Army’s air arm had lobbied for full independence for the past 20 years, but the creation of the AAF was both a step toward and an obstacle to that goal. With World War II raging in Europe, Air Corps chief Gen Hap Arnold coordinated with Army Chief of Staff Gen George C. Marshall in 1940 to outline the steps toward this new organizational structure. Given President Roosevelt’s consent, Arnold obtained independence of operations and command from ground forces for the AAF and functional co-equal status with the Army chief of staff for himself, with the understanding that he would not pursue separation from the Army during the war. 

21 Jun 1917 (WPAFB) 

Local newspapers reported on the progress of construction of Wilbur Wright Field, the first military aviation facility in Dayton. The Army’s Aviation Section was rapidly expanding its facilities across the country after the US entered World War I in April 1917. They chose a section of land (now WPAFB Area A) owned primarily by the Miami Conservancy District, a government entity established for regional flood control, for the location of a new school for pilots, armorers, and aircraft mechanics, then for an air depot. Only Building 1 still exists from that era of construction. 

22 Jun 1990 (Fighters Directorate) 

Northrop rolled out the YF-23 Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) for its public debut at Edwards AFB. The ATF program originated in the 1970s but coalesced into a formal program in the early 1980s to develop a next-generation air superiority fighter after the F-15. Out of seven competitors, the Air Force awarded demonstration-validation contracts in 1986 to a team of Northrop and McDonnell-Douglas for the YF-23 and to Lockheed for its YF-22. Each company built two Prototype Air Vehicles (PAVs) for the fly-off. One of each was paired with competing engines from General Electric (YF120) and Pratt & Whitney (YF119). In 1991, the Air Force announced that Lockheed and P&W had won the competition. (See photo above).

23 Jun 1955 (ISR & SOF Dir.—Big Safari/Armament Dir.) 

A Douglas C-54D Skymaster belonging to the BIG SAFARI office went into General Dynamics’ Fort Worth facility for modification as LULU BELLE. WWII-era cruise and ballistic missiles had shown the shortcomings of inertial guidance systems that relied on gyroscopes and compasses. Radio signals for course correction could improve accuracy, but were limited in signal range and subject to jamming. Instead, the Martin Mace used Goodyear’s new Automatic Terrain Recognition & Navi-gation (ATRAN) system. ATRAN continuously compared a pre-made radar map recorded on a film strip with real-time radar data from the missile to check and correct its course. Obviously it was predicated on having stored maps, which had to be obtained first. LULU BELLE was surreptitiously equipped with the radar and ATRAN equipment to do just that. During 1956, it travelled missile flight paths in Europe to record the radar data films. 

24 Jun 1922 (AFLCMC) 

It was a bad day of flying for the AFLCMC predecessors at the McCook Field Engineering Division in Dayton. Around 4:00 PM, Louis Meister was the first victim when his plane ran out of fuel near Yellow Springs and he landed safely in rough terrain, though the aircraft was damaged. Meister was an experienced test pilot at McCook, first as an officer, and now as a civilian and was one of the first graduates of what’s now the Air Force Institute of Technology. Fellow McCook test pilot Harold Harris flew in to the rescue, only to have his undercarriage torn off during landing. Both crews and planes were hauled away by truck back to McCook. Meanwhile, Lt Karl de Fastenau was test flying out of Wilbur Wright Field (WPAFB Area A) when his engine crankshaft broke, flinging itself, parts of two cylinders, and his propeller from the plane. He managed a safe dead-stick landing back at WWF. Officials politely requested that anyone finding the missing parts return them to McCook Field. 

26 Jun 1950 (Digital Directorate—Hanscom) 

General Don Putt signed a staff summary sheet resolving the question of consolidating the Air Force’s burgeoning electronics work that had emerged during World War II. That work had been split among Rome, NY; Wright Field; Cambridge Research Lab at Hanscom; and the former Signal Corps Watson Labs in New Jersey. A 1947 plan to close Watson and Cambridge and move their work to Griffiss AFB in Rome was met with fervent opposition, forcing reconsideration. This 26 Jun 1950 memo stated that Watson Labs would move, but Cambridge would not, in order to maintain the close connection to the academic and corporate ties to Boston that had created that organization in the first place. That connection was reinforced when Hanscom subsequently became responsible for the national air defense system development and overall electronics acquisition for the Air Force. 

100 Years Ago This Week in AFLCMC History: 25 June 1951 

Headquarters Air Research & Development Command (ARDC) opened in Baltimore, Maryland. 

At the conclusion of World War II, the leadership of the newly-independent US Air Force spent considerable time and effort evaluating the lessons they could take away from war and how those could be applied to their present predicament. The First World War proved that a lack of peacetime investment in research and development (R&D) and production capacity couldn’t entirely be made up quickly in time of crisis, no matter how much money was thrown at those. General Henry “Hap” Arnold applied that experience during the run-up to WWII, increasing Army Air Corps R&D investment and expanding aircraft production and logistics footprint in the late 1930s, in part catalyzed by selling aircraft to Allied nations already involved in the war. 

However, wartime developments in long-range missiles like the German V-2, intercontinental-range bombers, and the atomic bomb altered the previous presumption that the US would have a year or more to prepare for a war before conflict reached our shores. As a result, America would have to forgo its traditional posture of having only a small standing military between wars by now maintaining a large Air Force as a global deterrent. 

Within the Air Force, a number of internal conflicts required resolution to meet this role. The most significant was how to balance funding between R&D and production. Organizationally, the Air Force predecessors had joined and separated these functions several times, but most recently combined in the existing Air Materiel Command (AMC). 

A series of studies during the late 1940s from the perspectives of the outside scientific community (including a retired Jimmy Doolittle), internal technical-minded officers, the operational community, and Air Force planners all came to the same conclusion: a independent R&D command was the necessary solution. General Don Putt, the Director of Research and Development for the Deputy Chief of Staff—Materiel, put it simply: “The only way we could see to do this was to have an organization whereby equal consideration would be given to quality [R&D] and quantity [production] aspects, and that the quality could not be overruled by the man who was being charged with a production schedule.” 

Executing that proved more problematic, as AMC was reluctant to lose those functions and the dividing line of “production engineering” was an unresolved grey area. 

When ARDC stood up in April 1951 its provisional Headquarters and HQ AMC were both located at Wright-Patterson AFB. The proximity of their commanders exacerbated the disagreements. While WPAFB’s Wright Air Development Center (WADC) had a significant portion of ARDC work, leadership felt distancing itself from the overwhelming influence of the logistics-oriented AMC was necessary. It searched for an area close to HQ USAF in Washington, as well as to a scientific and technical community. Baltimore met both criteria, as it was already home to what is now the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. 

In addition to WADC, ARDC consisted of: Armament Test Center at Eglin, Cambridge Research Center at Hanscom, Flight Test Center at Edwards, Arnold Air Development Center in Tennessee, and Rome (NY) Air Development Center.