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This Week In AFLCMC History - December 5 - 11, 2022

  • Published
  • By Air Force Life Cycle Management Center History Office
5 Dec 1907 (AFLCMC/Contracting Dir.)

115 years ago, Wilbur Wright appeared before the Army Board of Ordnance and Fortification and offered the U.S. Government a military airplane capable of carrying two people for $25,000. An earlier offer of an airplane to the military in 1905 had gone nowhere; but by 1907, the Wrights had patented their key ideas and were more widely-known to have developed flight-capable aircraft. The military was thus interested, but had to first bid it out for other contractors, leading to Signal Corps Specification No. 486 on 23 Dec 1907. Of the dozens of bids submitted, only the Wrights could meet the specifications, leading to the eventual purchase of the first military airplane, the 1909 Wright Military Flyer, delivered 2 Aug 1909.

7 Dec 1953 (Armament Directorate)

At Edwards AFB, California, the USAF made the first successful recovery of the X-10, a prototype of the SM-64 Navaho missile, using a fully automatic approach and landing system. The North American SM-64 Navaho missile was state-of-the-art for its time, representing many firsts in technology. It was a 5,500-mile range supersonic surface-to-surface missile that utilized both rocket and ramjet engines and was capable of carrying a nuclear payload. And while the Navaho was short-lived (with the program being cancelled in July 1957) and failed many of its test launches (including its first), the rocket booster technology that was developed for it helped in the development of the Atlas Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) and the Thor Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBMs). Its inertial guidance system would ultimately be adopted for use with the Polaris, Hound Dog, and Minuteman missiles.

8 Dec 1970 (Digital Dir./Hanscom AFB)

The Electronic Systems Division (ESD) at Hanscom Field was assigned overall management responsibility for Program 616A, Air Force support of the Minimum Essential Emergency Communications Network (MEECN). Part of the overall Worldwide Military Command and Control System (WWMCCS). MEECN was designed to provide jam-resistant, high-confidence, uninterrupted communications between U.S. nuclear forces in the lead up to, during, and after nuclear attacks. Highly reliable, the MEECN continues to provide survivable communications for America’s nuclear forces today.

9 Dec 1963 (Mobility and Training Aircraft Directorate)

The Aeronautical Systems Division established a Systems Program Office (SPO) for a new cargo aircraft - which became the C‑5A Galaxy, the world’s largest car-go airplane. At the C-5’s rollout ceremony on 2 Mar 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson observed that the new plane was the biggest aircraft in the world at the time (“its cargo floor alone is longer than the first flight made by the Wright Brothers”), that its jet engine was twice as powerful as any then existing, that it could do three times the work of the U.S. largest cargo carriers of the day, and that it could span the Pacific from California to Japan in a single jump.

10 Dec 1936 (Wright-Patterson AFB)

Captain F. G. Irvin and Captain J. S. Griffith were awarded Distinguished Flying Crosses for heroism displayed in saving crew and Army aircraft at Wright Field from a fire in flight on July 22, 1936. The fire was in their large transport aircraft’s left motor, disabling it (and leaving them flying with only one motor). While Irvin and Griffith fought the fire with fire extinguishers, through the billowing smoke they ordered the five civilian observers who were with them (and who were all wearing parachutes) to jump from the plane. All five parachutes deployed and all five civilians landed safely in some fields below. The two pilots then managed to get the fire put out, and shakily flew the injured plane home. Though the aircraft slipped badly and threatened to crash several times, they were able to safely land it back at Wright Field where it could be repaired.

11 Dec 1986 (Fighters & Advanced Aircraft Dir.)

The F-15E Strike Eagle dual-role fighter made its first flight in St. Louis. The F-15 Eagle made its first flight fifty years ago, in July 1972, but F-15s prior to the “E”-class Strike Eagles were all de-signed only for air-to-air combat. In anticipation of Air Force requirements, McDonnell Douglas developed a multi-role version of the already outstanding F-15 air superiority platform that added the avionics and weaponry necessary for all-weather strike. Like the 2-seat trainer version from which it was derived, the F-15E is manned by two crew members - a pilot in the front seat, and a Weapon Systems Officer (WSO, pronounced “wizzo”) targeting weapons in the back.

The Dayton Peace Accords and Operation Joint Endeavor : 6 December 1995

Today in 1995, USAF transports began airlifting American troops and equipment into Bosnia in support of the NATO peacekeeping operation called Joint Endeavor. This complex international operation was undertaken to implement a peace agreement ending the three-and-a-half-year-long Bosnian War—a brutal war in Bosnia and Herzegovina that had seen genocide, war crimes, and at least 100,000 killed or missing be-tween 1992 and 1995. The peace agreement ending this war was initialed by the presidents of Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia at Wright-Patterson AFB in November 1995, and signed later on 14 December 1995 in Paris. The agreement hashed out at Wright-Patterson AFB was called the “General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” but is more frequently referred to as the Dayton Peace Accords or the Dayton Agreement.

From 1 to 21 November 1995, the “Balkan Proximity Peace Talks” took place at Wright-Patterson AFB to try and find common ground to end the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Interestingly, the base only became aware of the fact that it would be hosting the leaders of three nations—Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman - and numerous dignitaries on 17 October 1995, giving personnel on base and the local community fewer than two weeks to prepare. Nonetheless, the base owned the requirement and successfully mobilized its resources to establish an environment conducive to diplomacy. 

Wright-Patterson AFB was specifically chosen for hosting the talks by Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, who was then assistant secretary of state for Canadian and European affairs. Holbrooke selected Wright-Patt due to its convenient location, security, privacy, and logistical support capabilities (with the meeting requiring efforts from everyone from base security and civil engineering to pubic affairs and protocol) - but also due to the fact that he liked the layout of the Hope Hotel (today named the Hope Hotel and Richard C. Holbrooke Conference Center in his honor). The reason Holbrooke liked the hotel layout was because the dormitory-like placement of rooms and common areas meant that participants would have to see each other every day, which, it was hoped, would help with the negotiations.

As luck would have it, it worked. The various sides were able to agree on areas of control and borders, as well as numerous other details, for bringing an end to the war. For their role in helping to bring about this peace, approximately 2,000 members of the Wright-Patt team supporting the peace talks were recognized with awards and recognition.