This Week In AFLCMC History - August 14 - 20, 2023

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  • By Air Force Life Cycle Management Center History Office
14 Aug 2003 (Hill AFB/Armament Directorate)

Twenty years ago today, a B-2 Spirit dropped two newly-upgraded GBU-28 B/B series weapons during a live weapons test at the Utah Testing and Training Range, Hill AFB. This test marked the first successful deployment of live versions of the upgraded bombs. The 5,000-pound GBU-28 “bunker busters” are guided bombs deployable in all weather conditions that use Global Positioning System- and laser-guidance to accurately fly to their targets. They are then able to penetrate heavily fortified/underground locations. Major Todd Copeland said of the new upgrades that “this enhanced weapon can be employed by both fighter and bomber aircraft to strike hardened targets with a common frame of reference.” In the photo, SrA Christopher Orsi preps a GBU-28 B/B for loading at a quarterly weapons load competition at Whiteman AFB.

16 Aug 1970 (Mobility & Training Aircraft Directorate)

On today’s date, the C-5A Galaxy (pictured here at its 1968 rollout) flew 20.5 hours, nonstop and unrefueled, during its longest endurance mission to that date. It traveled more than 7,000 miles, visiting all four corners of the continental U.S.—with flyovers of Seattle, Bangor, Atlanta, and Edwards AFB (where the flight also began). The C-5 was and re-mains the largest aircraft in the Air Force inventory, with a wingspan of over 222 feet, a length of over 247 feet, and a height of over 65 feet. Since this 1970 endurance flight, the C-5s four General Electric TF-39 engines have been upgraded to GE CF6-80C2-L1F (F-138) commercial engines, resulting in the C-5M Super Galaxy, and allowing it travel even longer and farther with more cargo.

17 Aug 1993 (Bombers Directorate)

Thirty years ago on this date, the Air Force began dismantling 365 B-52 Stratofortress aircraft at the Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC), Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona (pictured). The B-52 was regarded as the backbone of America’s nuclear arsenal, and it was for this reason so many of them were being destroyed: the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties, signed with the Soviet Union in 1991 and 1993 under President George H. W. Bush, limited each nation’s nuclear weapon systems. The B-52s were stripped of parts and then chopped into five pieces by a 13,000-pound steel “guillotine” dropped from a 120-foot tall crane—removing the wings and cut-ting the fuselage in thirds. The scrapped planes were then left outside in the sun for 90 days so that Russian satellites could confirm that the deed had been done—after which time they were then sold for scrap.

18 Aug 1910 (Engineering Directorate)

On 8 Aug 1910, Cpl. Glen Madole and Oliver G. Simmons - the military’s very first civilian air-craft mechanic—put wheels on the Army’s first and, at that point, only airplane, Signal Corps No. 1. It then sat for ten days, receiving additional work, before, on 18 Aug 1910, it finally took to the air. The success of the tricycle landing gear  would eventually allow aviators to eliminate the launching rails and catapults the Wright Brothers started off with. We’ve used mostly wheels ever since.

19 Aug 1940 (Wright-Patterson AFB)

Today in 1940, Wright Memorial on Wright Brothers Hill was dedicated in a formal ceremony attended by Orville Wright (whose birthday was that day) and other notable aviation personalities, including some of the Wright Brothers’ early aviation students like Gen Henry “Hap” Arnold. The obelisk at the center of the memorial is 17 feet tall and made of pink North Carolina granite, while the hill around the obelisk is a 27-acre designed landscape. Construction of the memorial took place between 1938 and 1940, with much of the work carried out by an African American camp of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

20 Aug 1975 (Mobility & Training Aircraft Directorate)

On today’s date, Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger (pictured) told the Air Force (via an amended Program Decision Memorandum, or PDM) that it was to begin providing air refueling support to the Department of the Navy for Navy and Marine Corps’ tactical aircraft that were involved in training missions or transoceanic movements. The Air Force was also to support general refueling during periods of heightened global tension. This move towards improved joint operations first showed itself in a July 1976 Memorandum of Agreement between the Air Force and Navy, which the services operated under until findings of the Air Refueling Systems Advisory Group (ARSAG) in 1981 suggested that joint operability could be further enhanced, resulting in a 1981 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)—with subsequent MOUs throughout much of the ’80s refining the partnership between both Departments. Secretary Schlesinger, for his part, would become the nation’s first Secretary of Energy in 1977, after the Department of Energy was established in August of that year under President Jimmy Carter. 

This Week in AFLCMC History: The Bolling Commission Report (15 Aug 1917)

Major Raynal C. Bolling issued the official report of his eponymous Aeronautical Commission. This Commission had been sent to Europe two months earlier to evaluate Allied aircraft and recommend which the US should buy, adopt, and build for its own use during World War I.

When the US entered the First World War on 6 April 1917, it was utterly unprepared for the air war that had become an integral part of combat in Europe. The Army Signal Aviation Section had just 131 officers (most non-flyers) and 1087 enlisted men. The Army had purchased only 314 airplanes since 1909, many of which were no longer operational, most of which were obsolete, and none of which were combat worthy.

The War Department charged the newly-formed Aircraft Production Board (APB), composed of industrialists and businessmen, with rectifying this dire situation. They outlined a 3-stage plan to build up an air force from scratch. First, the US would buy aircraft directly from our Allies. Next, we would import proven foreign designs to build in American factories. Finally, once US industry had learned from Allied expertise, we would design and build entirely American aircraft to “darken the skies of Europe.”
The general sense was that the US aircraft industry knew little about fighting aircraft design and mass production, though that industry begged to differ. As a result, the APB commissioned a team of engineers, mechanics, lawyers, and more to evaluate European aeronautics, recommend the aircraft types to use for the first two stages of the production plan, open negotiations with Allies for that transfer, and to gather “lessons learned” for industry in the third stage.

The Board chose Maj Raynal Bolling to head this Mission. He was an experienced aviator, having founded the first Air National Guard unit, in New York; but, more importantly, he was also an experienced corporate lawyer for the US Steel Corporation. Bolling took charge of the delicate and intertwined problems of rights, royalties, and politics. The British proved open and amenable; the French government and industry were disjointed and insisted on excessive royalties; and the Italians were agreeable, but refused to license their designs.

The Bolling Commission’s recommendations, and the subsequent production program reflected those impressions. The only European-designed, but American-made aircraft to see combat in WWI was the British DH-4, built by the thousands in Dayton. The Italians brought bombers to the US to be manufactured under their oversight, but negotiations dragged on so long that the war ended before any were built. No French aircraft were adopted for American production, though the US did purchase their front-line fighters like Nieuports and Spads directly off existing assembly lines.

Bolling himself remained in France and was killed the following March while driving near the front. As a colonel, he was the highest-ranking American aviation officer to die in the war to that point. Bolling Field (now part of Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling) in Washington DC was named in his honor in July 1918.

The technical portion - which aircraft and engines to build back home - was led by Lt Col Virginius Clark, the only qualified aeronautical engineer in the Aviation Section at the time. He returned to the United States to become the first head of the Engineering Division at the new McCook Field - AFLCMC’s first predecessor - in Dayton, which was established to execute all of these plans.