This Week In AFLCMC History - August 1 - 5, 2022

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  • By Air Force Life Cycle Management Center History Office
01 Aug 1907 (USAF) 

Brigadier Gen James Allen, the Chief Signal Officer (CSO) of the Army, issued Office Memorandum No. 6, stating: “An Aeronautical Division of this office is hereby established...This division will have charge of all matters pertaining to military ballooning, air machines, and all kindred subjects. All data on hand will be carefully classified and plans perfected for future tests and experiments. The operations of this division are strictly confidential….” He appointed Capt Charles DeForest Chandler as its head, with Corporal Edward Ward and PFC Joseph Barrett as the other two constituents. From this point forward, the Army maintained a continuously-operating organization for aviation. At the time, the Army had only one balloon and no airplanes. 

02 Aug 1991 (Fighters & Advanced Aircraft Dir.) 

August 1-2, 1991, marked the start of the F-22 Raptor formal acquisition program. The Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) originated in the late 1970s and culminated in the 1990 fly-off between the Lockheed YF-22 and the Northrop-McDonnell Douglas YF-23 prototypes, as well as between GE and Pratt & Whitney engines. The Air Force Secretary announced on 23 April 1991 that Lockheed and Pratt won the contracts. On 1 August, the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition) signed the program’s Acquisition Decision Memorandum that started the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase, calling for seven F-22As and two 2-seat F-22Bs (later cancelled) for testing. The System Program Office changed names from the “ATF SPO” to “F-22 SPO” the same day. On 2 August, the Air Force formally awarded the EMD contracts to Lockheed and Pratt & Whitney. (Photo: NMUSAF) 

03 Aug 1964 (Armament Directorate) 

A ground launch test program for the Douglas AIR-2A Genie air-to-air rocket with an improved propellant began at Holloman AFB, NM. The Genie was a nuclear-armed, unguided rocket intended to be launched from interceptor aircraft against strategic bombers. It was just one of several such missiles and surface-to-air (SAM) counterparts leveraging compact nuclear warheads for this role. Their nuclear blast radius required little accuracy and could knock out entire formations, with the obvious disadvantages of multiple atmospheric nuclear detonations. Genie’s solid rocket motor burned for just 12 seconds, giving the launching pilot only a short time to escape. Its development began in 1954 and they were operational into the 1980s. 

04 Aug 1975 (Presidential & Executive Airlift Dir.) 

The Air Force Plant Representative Officer (AFPRO) in Seattle accepted a Boeing 747 aircraft to be used as an advanced command, control, and communications (C3) testbed for the Advanced Airborne Command Post (AABNCP) E-4 program. This plane was the first part of AABNCP Phase 1B: ”development/test of advanced C3,” or the E-4B. The initial E-4A was the “interim capability” and was being delivered to operational units this same year, while the E-4B was intended to have a full suite of C3 equipment to provide continuous command and control in the event of a nuclear attack. It also added an in-flight re-fueling capability. The E-4B program was already suffering from schedule and cost issues with the C3 equipment development, forcing several high-level reviews, contract re-negotiations, and an estimated (at the time) 2-year delay. Boeing delivered a single E-4B in 1980, and subsequently converted the three E-4As to –B specifications. They are still operational as the National Airborne Operations Centers. 

06 Aug 1968 (Mobility & Training Aircraft Dir.) 

Project PACER FIN started to repair the vertical stabilizers on the entire KC-135 fleet. In 1966, a Boeing 707 crashed when its vertical stabilizer tore off over Japan due to turbulence. The Air Force noted the incident because of the structural similarities between the 707 and –135, but it was a 30 July 1968 crash of a KC-135 in California from a broken stabilizer while conducting emergency descent training exercises that instigated this program. The program office at Tinker AFB’s Oklahoma City Air Materiel Area quickly devised and implemented the reinforcement fix. The fleet was repaired over the next 7 weeks at Tinker and Kadena airbases. The repairs cost nearly $1.5 million per plane, using less than $200,000 in parts. 

07 Aug 1941 (Hill AFB) 

Construction of a complex of 17 temporary buildings, including hospital facilities, began on this date. Work at the new Ogden Air Depot at Hill Field, named for test pilot Ployer P. Hill, started in January 1940, primarily using Works Progress Administration manpower. The initial phase concentrated on permanent infrastructure and technical facilities, such as engine test and repair shops. This latest project supported the growing workforce at Hill and included: an infirmary, 25-bed ward, administration facilities, barracks, a 250-man mess, nurse quarters, central steam plant, recreation, and storeroom buildings. These were completed on 13 November 1941 at a cost of $233,439. 

This Week in AFLCMC History Highlight: 05 August 1918 

Colonel Henry H. Arnold sent a memo to Army Chief of Staff Gen Peyton March outlining an agreement “as to the manner of handling technical and engineering problems” within the various Air Service organizations. 

The unparalleled expansion of military aviation in response to the US entry in World War I in April 1917 produced a haphazard organizational structure that resulted in various degrees from traditional Army bureaucratic constructs, the imposition of civilian oversight inexperienced in military matters, and organic responses to evolving problems and needs. In less than a year, it was clear from the very few deliveries of American air-craft to the Front in France that the initial $640,000,000 allocated for that production was not achieving the expected results of “darkening the skies of Europe” with US-made airplanes. While organizational shake-ups and physical moves occurred up and down the chain of command and around the country, Col Arnold’s memo focused on the elements most directly analogous to the functions of AFLCMC. 

In May 1918, a new consolidated Bureau of Aircraft Production (BAP) assumed control of the program and its head sought to bring in auto executive C.W. Nash to manage all of engineering, but after evaluating the situation, Nash refused until given permission to reorganize things. 

The “engineering department” referred to the experimental activities of McCook Field in Dayton under Col Jesse Vincent. They were charged with developing new technologies, as well as the evaluation, testing, and improvement of airplanes and engines intended for production. The “production department” which started in downtown Dayton, moved to Washington, DC, and then moved back to Dayton under Nash’s orders, handled actual production and resolving sustainment concerns and upgrades. Both of those were under the BAP. 

The “military department” was the new Technical Section of the Department of Military Aeronautics (DMA), headed by Col Thurman Bane, first in Washington, then moved to Wilbur Wright Field (WPAFB Area A) in Dayton. Arnold was the assistant chief of the DMA and Col Bane’s boss. While the BAP handled acquisition, the DMA in essence comprised the operational aspect of Army aviation and together they formed the Air Service. The DMA’s Technical Section was the liaison between the warfighter and acquisition workforce, translating operational needs and actual experience with equipment to the BAP and sending production data back to the operational forces. 

The blurry line between the two instigated Col Arnold’s memo in August. By all reports, Colonels Bane and Vincent negotiated their clarified responsibilities with aplomb. When the war ended, the two technical organizations combined at McCook Field as the Engineering Division, with Col Bane as its head.