This Week In AFLCMC History - January 9 - 15, 2023

  • Published
  • By Air Force Life Cycle Management Center History Office
9 Jan 1976 (Fighters & Adv. Aircraft Dir.)

The first operational (i.e., combat-ready, not training-focused) F-15 Eagle, a then-brand-new air-superiority fighter aircraft, arrived at the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing, Langley AFB, Virginia. The F-15 was the first fighter able to generate thrust greater than its weight, allowing it to accelerate while going straight up. The F-15 first flew in July 1972. The Air Force has recently begun acquisition of the F-15EX Eagle II that incorporates numerous upgrades, from avionics to engines, many of which debuted on Foreign Military Sales versions. (Photos of F-15s above).

10 Jan 1971 (Tinker AFB)

Tinker AFB assisted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in running “Project Bull Shipper.” The USDA was interested in seeing whether an airborne feeder calf export program was viable or not, and relied on the Air Force to help run the tests. So it was that on this day, 312 test calves were herded off of trucks and into 18 pens on a Douglas DC-8 at Tinker, before flying from Tinker to California. The success of the January test allowed for a larger test flight to South Korea in October.

11 Jan 1981 (Armament Directorate)

The Boeing Company delivered the first of its AGM-86 air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs) to the 416th Bombardment Wing at Griffiss Air Force Base, New York. Capable of delivering a nuclear weapon to a target 1,500 miles away, the new missiles contained a terrain-contour-matching system that allowed them to fly complicated routes at extremely low altitude to avoid detection by enemy radar. While the AGM-86A model did not go into production, the nearly 21-foot-long AGM-86B model continues to see use even after the retirement of the later AGM-86C/D models - though the AGM-86B is itself slated for replacement by Raytheon’s new Long Range Standoff (LRSO) missile in the not-too-distant future.

12 Jan 1978 (Hanscom AFB/C3I & Networks Dir.)

An Air Force Systems Acquisition Review Council (AFSARC) approved the Strategic Air Command Digital Network (SACDIN) program. This program would replace existing data infrastructure within the Strategic Air Command (SAC) while connecting various independent communication systems, such as satellite and radio communications, in an effort to significantly upgrade communications from SAC headquarters (pictured is the SAC Command Post in 1975) to its forces in the field. The program was made to be modular, so that while it would meet SAC’s data infrastructure needs at launch, it would also have the capacity to expand as SAC’s requirements grew over time.

14 Jan 1964 (Hill AFB)

Aboard a Douglas C-133B Cargomaster, Whiteman AF-B’s first Minuteman missile left Hill AFB for Missouri. Whiteman AFB’s 351st Strategic Missile Wing was activated on 1 Feb 1963, as the United States began initiating its Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) program at sites like Whiteman AFB. After the first Minuteman arrived to Whiteman, others soon followed, with the last arriving on 29 Jun 1964 - at which point the missile wing was fully operational. The 351st was inactivated in 1995 as the Minuteman II missile program was being phased out, but the wing was notable for several reasons, including having the first control center where all-female, mixed-gender, and all African-American crews served alerts.

15 Jan 1923 (Agile Combat Support Dir.)

On this day 100 years ago, the Air Service directed all pilots and passengers in Army aircraft to wear parachutes. As discussed in the 17 Oct 2022 edition of Heritage Hangar, this decision was partly inspired by the experiences of McCook Field test pilot Lt Harold R. Harris who became the first person saved by a freefall/ripcord parachute during an aircraft accident. Harris was wearing one thanks to McCook Field commander Maj Thurman Bane’s 29 Mar 1922 edict that required parachutes for all his fliers. Air Service Chief Gen Mason Patrick attributed the delay in making that requirement universal to the lack of parachutes in the inventory that hindered most flyers from using them. The photo shows McCook’s parachute shop, where many of these technologies were developed and tested.

75 Years Ago This Week in AFLCMC History: 13 Jan 1948

Seventy-five years ago today, the Air Force Technical Base underwent its final, and ultimately lasting, name change to “Wright-Patterson Air Force Base” (WPAFB).
Wright-Patt’s connection to aviation began with Huffman Prairie, which the Wright Brothers used for flight testing starting 1904. That area was later subsumed by the Miami Conservancy District regional flood control organization, which leased it to the US Army in 1917 for the establishment of a training flying field dubbed “Wilbur Wright Field.” The Army purchased an adjacent 40 acres for a new aviation supply depot. Both continued to operate at reduced levels after WWI.

In 1922 the people of Dayton began a 4-year process to purchase and then donate to the government some 4500 acres incorporating Wilbur Wright Field and areas to the southwest for the establishment of a permanent Army Air Service facility, including the research, development, and acquisition functions that previously resided at nearby McCook Field. Dedicated in 1927 as “Wright Field” in honor of both brothers, this new facility constituted the bulk of the future WPAFB’s footprint.

By 1931, the functions of Wright Field had grown and bifurcated enough to be split in half. The northeastern portion (the Former Wilbur Wright Field and the Air Depot; now Area A) primarily dedicated to logistics became “Patterson Field,” named for Lt Frank Stuart Patterson, an Army test pilot who perished there and was a member of the prominent local family that spear-headed the land donation. The remainder (now Area B) retained the “Wright Field” moniker and the missions inherited from McCook Field as the Materiel Division.

The size and responsibility for both fields increased dramatically through the Second World War. As the war came to a close, massive demobilization consolidated organizations and administrations across the military. The Army Air Forces rolled Wright and Patterson Fields, along with the Dayton Army Air Field in Vandalia (site of Dayton’s current primary airport) and Clinton County Army Air Field into a singular (but uninspiringly named) “Army Air Forces Technical Base” on 15 December 1945. The two smaller Air Fields were divested a few months later and, following the 1947 establishment of the independent United States Air Force, the complex became the “Air Force Technical Base.” On 13 January, a General Order directed the change to “Wright-Patterson AFB,” though the event went entirely unremarked. A week later, base commander Brig Gen Joseph T. Morris publicly announced the new name. The separate flying fields continued to operate under their original names for some time and colloquial use of “Wright Field” and “Patterson Field” continued for decades.