This Week In AFLCMC History - April 24 - 30, 2023

  • Published
  • By Air Force Life Cycle Management Center History Office
24 Apr 1943 (USAF History)

On this date, 80 years ago, the very first cohort of Women Air-force Service Pilots (WASPs) - Class 43-1 - graduated after four months of training. In all, 23 of the original 38 students successfully graduated, going on to test and ferry aircraft around the world, and to fly transport missions. At time of graduation, the graduates of Class 43-1 weren’t yet known as WASPs - that name would come about after the merging of the Women’s Flying Training Detachment and the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) a few months later, on August 5, 1943. By the end of WWII, there were 1,074 WASPs. 

25 Apr 2003 (Propulsion Dir.) 
20 years ago today, the General Electric F110-GE-132 turbofan engine, with 32,500 lbs of thrust in full after-burner, flew for the first time at Edwards AFB on a modified F-16C. The engine would be fitted in the Block 60 F- 16. It was the highest-thrust fighter engine ever developed for that aircraft, and replaced the older F110-GE-129, which had only 29,500 lbs of thrust in full afterburner. The main reason for the difference in thrust between the –129 and –132 engines was that the more powerful version replaced its engine fan blades in the three-stage modular fan section with enhanced bladed disks called “blisks.” These maximized airflow more efficiently for better performance. The upgraded engine also included an enhanced afterburner and exhaust nozzle, and enhanced conditions control software. 

26 Apr 1943 (Robins AFB) 
Augustine Warner Robins bio photoToday, 80 years ago, Robins AFB received its name in honor of Brig Gen Augustine Warner Robins, a former commander of the Fairfield Air Intermediate Depot, and a former deputy commander and commander of the Materiel Division at Wright Field, Ohio, who is sometimes called the father of Air Force Logistics. The dedication ceremony began at 0900, and was led by Maj Gen Walter H. Frank. Frank, who had been mentored by Warner Robins, remarked that: “[This field is dedicated today] in memory of my very dear friend, General Warner Robins. He was unrestrictedly a gentleman. This city and this state should feel proud in the legacy of his name for this station. Not only was he an efficient, outstanding man, a devoted husband and father, but with it all he was a leader of men. I hope this depot, as a monument to him, will be as outstanding as was his stature.” 

27 Apr 1972 (Armament Dir.)

Today, as part of the Vietnam War, the Thanh Hóa (or “Dragon’s Jaw”) Bridge was struck by a sortie of twelve USAF F-4 Phantoms using Rockwell International GBU-8 Electro-Optical Guided Bombs. The attack rendered the bridge unusable to vehicular traffic, which was an important victory in the war, as the Thanh Hóa Bridge - with the Paul Doumer Bridge - was a major supply line out of Hanoi. In the scope of broader military history, the development of electro-optical guided weapons like the GBU- 8, in addition to the development of laser-guided weapons, was one of the major developments of war technology during the Vietnam era, greatly increasing the accuracy of bombing attacks. Prior to this knock-down punch (so-called for although the bridge was rendered unusable to vehicles in this strike, it would take two more attacks in May and October to destroy it completely), the Thanh Hóa Bridge had withstood 871 conventional bombing missions. 

29 Apr 1994 (Fighters and Advanced Aircraft Dir.)

The Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTIRN) System Program Office (SPO), in response to an HQ Air Combat Command message, issued a stop work order to Martin Marietta on the Obstacle Warning Limit Expansion (OWLEX) program. This was an F-16 Engineering Use Only (EUO) software that
was supposed to expand the navigation pod Terrain Following Radar (TFR) Obstacle Warning (OW) limits. Essentially, it was to provide a ground collision warning beyond then-current limits, and was designed specifically to protect LANTIRN aircrews from ground collision during the performance of loft weapon deliveries. Work on the software began in April 1993, and was scheduled for completion in June 1994, before the stop work order. It had been planned to be incorporated into the 1995 Navigation Pod Software Update (NPSU) for both F-16 and F-15E aircraft. 

30 Apr 1959 (Bombers Dir.)

On this day, the last Convair B‑36 Peacemaker intercontinental bomber flight of record was made when a B‑36J flew from Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, to Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, where the enormous bomber was placed on permanent display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force (NMUSAF). The B-36J first flew in 1946, and became operational in 1948. It was flown about a decade, with a unique configuration of 6 radial piston engines and 4 jet engines, before it was replaced by the fully jet-powered B-52 between 1958 and 1959. 

30 Years Ago This Week in USAF History: 28 April 1993

On April 28, 1993, Secretary of Defense Les Aspin announced an end to the Combat Exclusion Policy that prohibited women from serving in aviation-based com-bat roles. With this change in policy, women could now enter into fighter, bomber, and attack helicopter career fields for the first time. 

The “Combat Exclusion Policy” prohibiting women from serving in aerial combat roles originated nearly 75 years ago in the June 12, 1948 Women’s Armed Services Integration Act. This landmark law enabled women to serve as permanent and regular members of the U.S. military - but restricted their roles in certain capacities. For the then newly-formed Air Force, for example, Section 307 of the law indicated that: “The Secretary of the Air Force shall prescribe the military authority which female persons of the Air Force may exercise, and the kind of military duty to which they may be assigned: Provided, That they shall not be assigned to duty in aircraft while such aircraft are engaged in combat missions.” This section of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act was repealed by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 1992 and 1993, Pub. L. No. 102-190, 105 Stat. 1317 (Dec. 5, 1991), but not put into policy action by the Secretary of Defense until Les Aspin’s tenure in 1993. 

A whole new cohort of Air Force (and Navy and Army) trailblazers were born of the removal of this section of the Combat Exclusion Policy. These included Gen Jeannie Leavitt (Flynn), the Air Force’s first female fighter pilot (flying an F-15E Strike Eagle) in 1994; Kelly Flinn, the Air Force’s first B-52 pilot; Lt Kara S. Hultgreen, a Navy pilot who was the first female carrier-based fighter pilot, and also the first U.S. female fighter pilot to die in a crash (on Oct 25, 1994); Lt Col Martha McSally, the first female pilot in the DoD to fly in combat, and the first female Air Force commander to command a combat aviation squadron; among others. Their efforts helped pave the way for continued female Air Force combat firsts in the decades ahead.