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This Week In AFLCMC History - September 26 - 2 October, 2022

  • Published
  • By Air Force Life Cycle Management Center History Office
 26 Sep 1987 (AFSAC/Mobility & Training Aircraft Dir/Digital Dir/Tinker AFB) 

Tinker AFB delivered the last of thirteen Boeing E-3 and KE-3 aircraft to Saudi Arabia as part of the PEACE SENTINEL program. The Air Force Security Assistance Center handled the arrangements, while the Electronic Systems Division managed the preparation of the aircraft. The five E-3s were the Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) aircraft tailored for export to the Saudis. The eight KE-3s were cargo/tankers based on the Boeing 707 airframe, as was the AWACS. The politically-controversial program began in 1980, the order placed in 1981, and the first aircraft was delivered in 1986. 

27 Sep 1960 (Armament Dir/AFSAC/Hill AFB) 

The United States signed an agreement to sell the Douglas GAM-87 Skybolt air-launched ballistic missile (ALBM) to Great Britain. The Skybolt was effectively an interim program between the early Cold War strategic bomber force that relied on crossing Soviet territory to drop nuclear-armed gravity bombs on targets and the first generation of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs). The Skybolt was a stand-off nuclear air-to-ground missile that bombers could launch from outside enemy airspace, which increased their likelihood of successfully hitting a target. It also provided the Air Force with a credible alternative to the Navy’s Polaris sublaunched ballistic missile. The British were interested in a similar capability and based their own nuclear forces, called the V-Bomber fleet, around the Skybolt. As a result, the US cancellation of the prorgam in 1962 created a significant political problem between the two countries. 
 
28 Sep 1978 (Presidential & Executive Airlift Dir./Hanscom) 
 
Under the management of the Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom AFB, contractors completed the instrument phase of the Boeing E-4B Advanced Airborne Command Post’s (AABNCP) Development, Test, & Evaluation phase. The program was meant to provide the President and National Command Authority, as well as Strategic Air Command (SAC) with a survivable command and control platform in the event of a nuclear war. Three of the initial E- 4As had already been delivered, while this testing occurred on the lone, more advanced, E-4B. At the same time, negotiations were going on between the USAF, DoD and the President regarding further procurement. The fleet was eventually limited to these four aircraft, rather than the planned six. 

29 Sep 2004 (AFLCMC) 

Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) submitted its plan to the Air Force for Phase II of the Program Executive Officer (PEO) realignment. In August 2003, the Air Force announced a major reorganization of its acquisition management structure: moving the Program Executive Officer (PEO) function from the Pentagon to the commanders of each of its three product centers (Aeronautical Systems, Electronic Systems and Air Armament). For example, the ASC commander became both center commander and PEO for Aircraft. The previous system dated back to reforms nearly two decades earlier that had established a more “corporate” approach to acquisition, with nearly all authority consolidated in the Pentagon and not with the functional programs at the Centers. Phase I involved the transfer of PEO authority, while Phase II focused on the realignment of approximately 50 ongoing programs from the acquisition organizations to sustainment under the Air Logistics Centers. A formal transition process was codified for future programs. 

30 Sep 2012 (AFLCMC) 

The final day of operations for the Air Force Aeronautical Systems Center (ASC) at WPAFB, the Air Armament Center (AAC) at Eglin AFB, the Electronic Systems Center (ESC) at Hanscom AFB, and the Air Force Security Assistance Center (AFSAC) at WPAFB. These were deactivated the next day and their functions and facilities transferred to the new Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC). Beginning in 2010, the Department of Defense budgets limited future growth, leading the Air Force to plan a strategic rebalancing of its manpower and funding. Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) responded with a proposal to combine its 12 centers into 5—the “Five Center Construct.” The intent was to preserve core competencies and improve efficiency through standardized practices, while reducing overhead. The initial activation date of the new combined AFLCMC was to be 1 July, but administrative complexities pushed the date to 1 October. In the meantime, HQ AFLCMC was activated on 20 July 2012 with the existing centers attached to the new organization for the remaining three months. Lieutenant General Clyde D. Moore II was AFLCMC’s first commander. 

1 Oct 1917 (AFLCMC/WPAFB) 

The US Army Signal Corps signed a lease for 254 acres of land, just across the Great Miami River from downtown Dayton, for its new airplane experimental engineering station. The War Department renamed it “McCook Field” to honor Ohio’s “Fighting McCook” family that had sent 15 of its men—6 became generals—to fight for the Union during the Civil War. One of the members later owned part of this property. The land had recently been purchased by the Dayton Metal Prod-ucts Company, led by Edward Deeds and Charles Kettering, for a planned flight school that never materialized. The initial rent was $9,493.25 from this date to June 30, 1918, with options for 1-year renewals. Rather than being temporary, McCook Field stood for 10 years as the Engineering Division predecessor for AFLCMC, AFRL, and AFIT before moving to the modern WPAFB area. (Photo: AFLCMC/HO) 

80 Years Ago This Week in AFLCMC History : 2 October 1942 

America entered the “Jet Age.” 

From 1922-1940, US studies repeatedly determined that turbojet engines were too heavy and used too much fuel at plausible speeds to be viable for aircraft. As a result, there was no formal support for their development from the military, nor any commercial interest, which left domestic aviation engine makers focused on improving conventional piston engines. 

In Germany and Britain, two inventors independently developed aircraft turbine engines. Germany’s Hans von Ohain in Germany was the first fly in 1939, but his English counterpart Frank Whittle was close behind. Whittle was still testing his engine in April 1941 when US Army Air Corps Chief Gen Hap Arnold visited the UK. The Brits revealed Whittle’s “Most Secret” jet engine program to him, even offering to supply an actual engine and technical staff support so the Americans could copy it. Arnold jumped at the opportunity and contacted Wright Field to make the arrangements for “Project MX-397” under the utmost secrecy. 

Program management was done by AFLCMC’s predecessors at Wright Field. Maj Don Keirn of the Power Plant Lab oversaw the engine contract with General Electric, which Gen Arnold selected for the job because of their experience with Wright and McCook Fields on similar turbocharger technologies. GE copied and then improved the Whittle engine, which they then called the “Type I-A super-charger" in a bit of subterfuge. For the airframe, the Wright Field Experimental Aircraft Projects Section’s Maj Ralph Swofford oversaw the contract with Bell Aircraft, which had a reputation for novel designs, but weren’t yet overwhelmed with wartime production orders. 

In just over a year, Bell had the XP-59 (a reuse of a defunct designation in yet another attempt at misdirection) Airacomet, powered by two GE I-A engines, readied for flight. The extreme secrecy meant they couldn’t flight test the aircraft at Bell’s facilities or Wright Field. Instead they moved out to a remote bombing range called Muroc Army Air Field, later known as Edwards AFB. During ground preparations, crews fitted the XP-59’s nose with a fake propeller to further deflect suspicion. 

Bell test pilot Bob Stanley took the XP-59 for high-speed taxi tests on 30 September and 1 October, actually lifting off multiple times and hitting 100 feet in altitude. Without Army witnesses, these flights never officially happened. The formal party witnessed the “first” flights of an American jet on 2 October. Wright Field’s Col Laurence C. Craigie was the first Army pilot to fly the XP-59, this same day. 

The XP-59’s performance was underwhelming and the production versions were limited to mostly training. No American jets were used in combat during World War II.