This Week In AFLCMC History - October 30 - November 5, 2023

  • Published
  • By Air Force Life Cycle Management Center History Office
30 Oct 1980 (Mobility & Training Aircraft Directorate)

Today in 1980, McDonnell Douglas’s new KC-10 Extender passed its first aerial refueling test near Edwards AFB, California. It hooked up to a C-5 Galaxy 48 times over the course of a flight that lasted nearly 5 hours, during which time it passed 3,600 pounds of fuel to the C-5. The flight was at 25,000 feet, flying at speeds of 433 mph, and it was the first in a program of refueling tests to ensure that the new tanker could refuel a variety of aircraft—including F-4s, F-15s, F-16s, A-10s, and more, in addition to C-5s. The KC-10, the military derivative of the DC-10 Series 30CF intercontinental-range airliner, entered USAF service a few months later in 1981, and continues to fly today.

31 Oct 1973 (Wright-Patterson AFB/Halloween)

On this date, fifty years ago, Wright-Patterson AFB celebrated Halloween. Wright- Patt’s security forces—the 2750th Security Police Squadron—hosted a “trick-or-treat” event for families living in base housing, raising about $150 to purchase apples and candy for the base’s littlest “ghouls and goblins.” Additionally, the squadron ensured that 12 volunteer security police (in addition to normal motor patrols) would be on hand for Halloween to ensure a safe evening. Security forces distributed their $150 worth of treats from Security Police vehicles, while playing spooky tunes over their public address systems. The firefighters at the Page Manor Fire Station were also giving away treats. 
2 Nov 1950 (Bombers Directorate)

Today in 1950, the North American RB-45 Tornado flew its first reconnaissance mission over Korea, having arrived in Japan two months earlier. The B-45 Tornado was America’s first production jet bomber, with four GE turbojets in two under-wing pods, and was also the first capable of aerial refueling. Its payload capacity and speed made it a good candidate for conversion to a tactical and strategic photo reconnaissance platform. Over 30 RB-45Cs were built to carry an array of cameras and additional fuel tanks. These played an important role during the Korean War—carrying out, among other things, risky night reconnaissance missions over North Korea. 

3 Nov 1967 (Digital Directorate/Hanscom AFB)

Today in 1967, the Electronic Systems Division (ESD) at Hanscom Field announced the award of a $2.6 million contract to the Bunker-Ramo Corporation for expanding the Air Force Integrated Command and Control System (AFICCS). AFICCS, formerly 473L, was a general-purpose data management system, comprised of modified “off-the-shelf” equipment, used by Air Force HQ staff to man-age its worldwide resources, such as forces, materiel, bases, specialized personnel, and communications. It did this by maintaining files on contingency plans, force status, airfield facilities, exercise schedules, and more. The 1967 expansion called for five new AFICCS to be installed at Headquarters USAF, and the headquarters of Tactical Air Command, Military Airlift Command, Seventh Air Force, and ESD, which would interface with existing sites at US Air Forces, Europe (USAFE), Pacific Air Forces, and Air Defense Command. 

4 Nov 1955 (Tinker AFB)

On this date in 1955, Tinker AFB opened its newly reconstructed $2,764,000 north-south runway. At 12,100 feet long and 200 feet wide, the new runway was designed—in part—to be able to land Boeing B-52s, the nation’s impressive new jet bomber with a wingspan of 185 feet. Tinker’s personnel had been working on these planes for around three years by that point, as Tinker was its prime depot, but the landing of a B-52 at Tinker AFB just six days later on 10 Nov 1955 was the first time a Stratofortress had set wheels to runway at the base—or anywhere in that part of the country. Around 3,500 Tinker AFB employees were on hand to watch it fly in. (A modern Stratofortress is pictured above). 

5 Nov 2005 (ISR&SOF Directorate)

Today in 2005, the Air Force rolled out the TH-1H Iroquois helicopter at Randolph AFB. An upgraded version of the iconic Vietnam-era UH-1H “Huey” (first flight in 1956), this new Iroquois model had a more powerful engine, a new nose and tailboom, a glass cockpit, a modern avionics suite, upgraded components, crashworthy seats, and a complete rewiring. Lockheed Martin built the first TH-1H in 2005 as the platform for training the next generation of Air Force helicopter pilots out of Fort Rucker, Alabama. This modernized trainer offered student pilots a more seamless transition to the type of helicopters that the Air Force uses operation-ally. By modifying and upgrading the UH-1H into the TH-1H, these helos could also be produced much more cheaply than a brand-new design. 

50 Years Ago in AFLCMC History: WPAFB’s “Pacer Energy” Program (1 Nov 1973)

On October 6, 1973, a coalition of Arab nations at-tacked Israel, igniting what became known in the West as the “Yom Kippur War.” It was the fourth Arab-Israeli conflict since Israel’s establishment in 1948. The Arab militaries were mostly equipped by the Soviet Union, which prompted Israel to solicit similar aid from its ally, the United States. The U.S. agreed to the request, and began airlifting in supplies on C-5s and C-141s, with the first USAF aircraft landing on October 14 under Operation “Nickel Grass.” Over the course of the operation, the U.S. delivered nearly twice as many supplies (22,325 tons) as the Soviets did to its partners, despite the USSR having had a head start of several days and not having to cross an ocean to get there. The war would ultimately end with a ceasefire on Oct 25, 1973, with USAF airlift operations continuing until Nov 14.

Unfortunately, that American support for Israel angered the nations that comprised the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which subsequently limited petroleum exports to the U.S. in retaliation, causing the 1973-1974 “Oil Crisis.” This embargo of OPEC oil exports to the U.S. wouldn’t end until Mar 1974, and resulted in national emergency measures to reduce fuel consumption, such as the Emergency Petroleum Allocation Act; Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen George S. Brown’s announcing a 30% reduction in Air Force flying time; and numerous local policy changes.

Wright-Patterson AFB responded to the energy crisis early, rolling out its “Pacer Energy” program and task force fifty years ago to-day on Nov 1, 1973. The role of this group, hand-selected by the Air Base Wing commander, was to “plan, organize, and control the implementation of a comprehensive energy conservation program at WPAFB” in accordance with higher-level guidance. The task force's chairman was Col Henry H. Stick, the wing's comptroller. 

This group focused on three main areas of energy conservation: aviation fuels, with the base cutting flying by almost 35%; automotive fuels; and utilities. Motor fuels was the program’s least successful area. Even with heavy encouragement to car pool, only about 4,800 of the base’s roughly 22,000 employees were carpooling to work by March 1974. Commercial transportation alternatives and the limitation of service station hours on base were only partly successful. The base’s ground transportation fuel use actually increased slightly after the embargo. On the other hand, utilities conservation efforts provided the most measurable wins for the base, saving around $1.3 million dollars (about $8 million today) on utilities in FY 74 compared to FY 73, as residents and employees limited their use of lights and electricity. In all, despite some shortcomings, the “Pacer Energy” program was considered successful, ensuring that the Wright-Patt mission continued even in the midst of a national energy crisis.