This Week In AFLCMC History - September 25 - October 1, 2023

  • Published
  • By Air Force Life Cycle Management Center History Office
25 Sep 1997 (WPAFB/LCMC)

An OCB-135B flew over Edwards AFB during an “Open Skies” Joint Trial Flight. It held Turkish and American observers, and represented Turkey’s first observation of the U.S. under “The Treaty on Open Skies”—an agreement signed by 27 nations in 1992 that allowed signatories to perform aerial observations over one another’s territory in specially-designated aircraft with crews from both countries. The treaty was designed to encourage trust be-tween nations following the Cold War. The special planes used by the U.S. were WC-135B airplanes modified by the Aeronautical Systems Center’s Developmental Manufacturing and Modification Facility (DMMF), located at Wright-Patterson AFB (WPAFB).  At this time, WPAFB was one of only three “Open Skies Airfields” in the U.S. from where these missions could start or end. U.S. participation in the treaty ended in 2020. 

26 Sep 1991 (Mobility & Training Aircraft Directorate)

Today in 1991, the Air Force accepted its first operational C-27A Spartan. The Spartan was a Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) aircraft originally developed by Italian manufacturer Fiat Aviazione, and modified for U.S. use by Chrysler. Ten C-27As were purchased in 1991 under the Rapid-Response Intra-Theater Airlifter (RRITA) program, with the idea being that they would support counter-drug and peacekeeping missions in South and Central America (the pictured C-27A is delivering humanitarian aid to Honduras after 1998’s Hurricane Mitch). The USAF’s C-27As were, consequently, based out of Howard AFB, Panama. Nicknamed “Chuck” by its crews, it was like the C-130 in its ability to land in remote areas on grass or dirt. After Howard AFB closed in 1999, the C-27A was retired from the USAF inventory, though some remained in use by the State Department. In 2007, an improved version, the C-27J, was purchased by the U.S., though the Air Force decided to retire it shortly after (in 2012), with the remaining aircraft going to other agencies and organizations.

27 Sep 1917 (AFLCMC)

After delays in constructing a permanent experimental engineering station at Langley Field, Col Virginius Clark and a team of Army officers from the Airplane Engineering Department (AED) recommended building interim facilities at a site just north of downtown Dayton. Moving with wartime efficiency, the Aircraft Production Board confirmed the choice that same day and appropriated $375,000 for its construction. A lease for “McCook Field,” named for Ohio’s notable family of Civil War officers, was signed a week later. Construction quickly followed, and the field opened in just 60 days. McCook Field operated for ten years and was the predecessor for both AFLCMC and AFRL.

28 Sep 1983 (Fighters & Advanced Aircraft Directorate)

Forty years ago today, the USAF gave the new EF-111A tactical electronic jamming aircraft the designation “Raven.” Operators, however, tended to call them “Fat Tails” and “Spark Varks.” The latter name came from the fact that they were modified F-111 Aardvark fighter-bombers. Serving operationally from 1983 to 1998, the main mission of the Raven was to jam the radar and weapon systems of adversaries while escorting other aircraft. Powered by two Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-109 turbofan engines, each with over 20,000 pounds of thrust, the EF-111 had a range of more than 2400 miles and a top speed exceeding 1450 miles per hour. A pod on top of its vertical stabilizer and a 16-foot-long radome under the fuselage gave it a distinct profile compared to the F-111 from which it was derived. Grumman and General Dynamics modified 42 F-111As into EF-111As. 

29 Sep 1971 (Bombers Directorate/Tinker AFB)

On this day in 1971, Tinker AFB donated a B-47 Stratojet to the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds. Major General George Johnson, Jr., pictured at the podium, dedicated the plane and presented it with remarks on behalf of the Air Force. Edward L. Gaylord, then the president of the State Fair board, indicated that it was a symbol of the friendship between Tinker and Oklahoma City, and further stated “I don’t believe that better relations can be found between an Air Force base and a city”—a sentiment frequently reflected by cities with an Air Force base presence, thanks to the positive community partnerships of many Air Force and local communities. The B-47, in particular, was donated because Tinker played a large role in the aircraft’s maintenance and logistics support, and it remained at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds for 35 years before it was removed for renovations in 2006, and then moved to Palmdale, California.

1 Oct 1947 (Fighters & Advanced Aircraft Directorate)

F-86 SabreToday in 1947, the prototype XF-86 first flew at Muroc (Edwards) AFB. This aircraft became the F-86 Sabre, which played a key role in the Korean War and became one of the USAF’s most successful air superiority fighters, with an estimated 7:1 kill ratio during that conflict. North American Aviation drew up the F-86 as a traditional straight-wing aircraft, but that design couldn’t meet the Air Force’s 600mph top speed requirement. However, the exploitation of German aeronautical data after WWII revealed the advantages of swept wings for near-supersonic flight. North American found that retrofitting those to the XF-86 increased its top speed by about 70 mph, which made the F-86 the Air Force’s first swept-wing jet fighter.

50 Years Ago in AFLCMC History: Hanscom Ends Flying Ops (30 Sep 1973)

Fifty years ago—on Sep 30, 1973—flying operations ended at Hanscom Field, Massachusetts. While people tend to associate Hanscom with its technology-driven mission, the base was actually host to a number of flying missions from 1942 until 1973.

It all started on July 2, 1942—the day after the state of Massachusetts leased the Boston auxiliary airport at Bedford to the War Department—when the 79th Fighter Group arrived. Others soon followed, and the base would spend the rest of 1942 and 1943 training fighter squadrons on the P-40 Warhawk. The 318th Fighter Squadron and the 85th Fighter Squadron in particular would spend a good deal of time at the field learning how to fly and maintain their Warhawks. The P-40 was the U.S. Army Air Force’s best and most numerous fighter aircraft at the start of World War II. It was these, and the P-36, that American pilots flew when they fought the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, for example. Most of the P-40 pilots trained at Hanscom would later end up in the Mediterranean Theater fighting over North Africa. Today, a model P-40 can be found at Hanscom on the corner of Vandenberg and Marrett, commemorating this first aircraft.

After the end of WWII, the Strategic Air Command (SAC) left its footprints and tread marks at Hanscom. SAC assigned B-25 Mitchell and B-29 Superfortress bombers there with the rationale that northeastern bases were closer to key targets in the Soviet Union.

Other aircraft flown from Hanscom Field during the 1940s and 1950s included the P-47 Thunderbolt, the P-51 Mustang, the P-80 Shooting Star, the T-6 Texan, and the T-33 Shooting Star.

After the Korean War, from 1956 to 1960, the main flying mission at Hanscom switched to interceptors, with two squadrons of F-86 Sabres assigned there. In 1960, these aircraft left, and with it, the Active Duty flying mission departed as well.

From 1960 to 1972, flying continued at Hanscom in-stead with the Air Force Reserve, which operated cargo aircraft there, including the C-46 Commando and the C-124 Globemaster II. In 1972, these Reserve aircraft were relocated to Dobbins AFB, Georgia.

Then in 1973—fifty years ago today—the Air Force formally terminated flying operations at Hanscom Field. The next year, the service terminated its lease to air-field portion of Hanscom, which reverted back to state control and became “Laurence G. Hanscom Field.” The remaining Air Force-controlled portion of the complex, or the base largely as it is today, was renamed “Laurence G. Hanscom AFB” under special order GA-34. In 1977, the name was shortened to just “Hanscom AFB.”