This Week In AFLCMC History – February 5 - 11, 2024

  • Published
  • By Air Force Life Cycle Management Center History Office
5 Feb 1954 (Maxwell-Gunter AFB/Business and Enterprise Systems Dir.)
70 years ago today, construction began on Air University’s Academic Circle—which was renamed “Chennault Circle” in 1975 to honor WWII Flying Tigers-leader Maj Gen Claire Lee Chennault—at Maxwell-Gunter AFB, the present-day headquarters of AFLCMC’s Business and Enterprise Systems (BES) Directorate. At the time, then base-commander Col James G. Pratt noted that “[official] recognition of our growing importance on the defense team [comes with the authorization of] nearly six million dollars for the construction of a nucleus of an academic center[.] As the Air University expands, Montgomery’s reputation as an Air Force center grows in proportion.” Construction concluded in 1958.
6 Feb 1991 (Fighters & Advanced Aircraft Directorate)
On today’s date, Capt Robert Swain Jr. of the Air Force Reserve’s 706th Tactical Fighter Squadron made the first air-to-air kill in an A-10 Thunderbolt II during Operation DESERT STORM. The event began after Swain was attacking Iraqi tanks on the ground and noticed two distant objects flying further afield. After one of his wingmen marked these two Iraqi Bo-105c helicopters with smoke rounds, Swain flew in to try and take them down with missile fire. When he realized the helos were too small to lock onto with his Maverick missiles, he switched to the A-10’s 30mm nose-mounted cannon, the GAU-8/A Avenger, and successfully took one of the helicopters down that way. At retirement—as the 439th Airlift Wing commander—Swain had flown more than 3,500 hours and 51 combat missions.

7 Feb 1923 (Air Force History)
When a young man on Beaver Island, Michigan, suffered a severe lumber accident in the middle of winter, he found himself in a dire situation: No ships could reach him, and there were neither doctors nor a hospital on the island. Learning of the teenager’s plight, Maj Carl Spaatz—then the commander of the First Pursuit Group at Selfridge Field, MI, and later the first Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force—approved a military flight to assist with the emergency. After the first plane sent was grounded by bad weather, 1st Lt Russell “Luff” Meredith was selected to fly a second rescue attempt, taking off from Selfridge Field in his De Havilland DH-4 and picking up Dr. Robert Armstrong in Charlevoix. The pair then flew to Beaver Island and Dr. Armstrong saw to the injured youth, Jesse Cole, who would eventually recover from his injuries. Meredith would win the Distinguished Flying Cross for this flight.

8 Feb 1958 (Hanscom AFB/Digital Directorate)
On this day in 1958, the Air Force awarded a contract to Radio Corporation of America (RCA) for the systems management and implementation of the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS). Utilizing existing systems such as the DEW Line to a maximum, and operating in conjunction with the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE), the goal of the system was to provide advanced notice of incoming enemy missiles.

9 Feb 2002 (Mobility & Training Aircraft Directorate)

Today in 2002, Lt Col Michael Sizoo successfully completed the first two sorties in a reconditioned T-3A Firefly as part of a study meant to find the aircraft a new mission. The Air Force had first selected the Slingsby T-3A in 1992 to replace the T-41 Mescalero in Air Education and Training Command’s Enhanced Flight Screening Program. The idea behind this now-cancelled program was that early exposure to acrobatic flight in cheaper aircraft would reduce student pilot eliminations at later, more expensive stages in the pilot training process: But, unfortunately, the Air Force bought the T-3A as a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) product, and did not conduct an Operational Test & Evaluation (OT&E) on it—with resulting, unpredicted system failures that cost six pilots their lives in three accidents in 1995, 1996, and 1997, and grounded the fleet of 113 aircraft in 1997. The 2002 study could not recommend a follow-on mission for the plane, and the whole fleet was scrapped in 2006.
10 Feb 1983 (Tinker AFB/Armament Directorate)
On this date, Tinker AFB’s Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex (OL-ALC) became the system manager for the AGM-84A/D Harpoon anti-ship missile. Originally designed for the Navy, and meant to be fired from land, ship, or submarine, it was later adapted to the Navy’s P-3 Orion anti-submarine and surveillance plane. Upon seeing its success as an air-to-surface (or “air-to-ship”) missile, the Air Force adopted it as well, in 1983, for the B-52G/H Stratofortress—which can carry from 8 to 12 Harpoon missiles. An upgraded version of the missile has since been adapted for land attack use, as well as for carriage by some international versions of the F-16.
11 Feb 1977 (Presidential & Executive Airlift Dir./Robins AFB)
Today in 1977, President Jimmy Carter took an orientation flight from Andrews AFB, MD, to Robins AFB, GA, aboard the E-4A Advanced Airborne Command Post. This was the first time a president had flown on an E-4. The new aircraft was intended to replace EC-135s for survivable command and control of nuclear and armed forces for the National Command Authority and Strategic Air Command. By 1977, it was still in the midst of development, test, and evaluation, with three -A models representing an “interim capability.” After the flight, which the President described as “very sobering,” Carter unexpectedly halted the acquisition of additional E-4s, paring the fleet from 6 to 4 aircraft.
AFLCMC Black History Month Highlight:
First Black Female Fighter Pilot Shawna Rochelle Kimbrell
As we celebrate 50 years of F-16 flight this year, the Heritage Hangar begins our annual Black History Month highlights with a feature on the first African American female fighter pilot, Shawna Rochelle Kimbrell, who began her combat career in the F-16 Fighting Falcon (Viper).
Born in Lafeyette, Indiana, to parents who’d immigrated to the United States from Guyana, Kimbrell (whose maiden name was Ng-A-Qui) knew from as early as the fourth grade that she wanted to be a fighter pilot. Although born in Indiana, Kimbrell actually grew up in Parker, Colorado, where her father moved the family after earning his doctorate from Purdue University. It was in Colorado that she formed her dream to fly, joined the Colorado Wing of the Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program in the early 1990s, volunteered at air shows, and acquired a private flying license before she’d even gotten her driver’s license. Finally, it was in Colorado that she was accepted to and graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy.
After graduation, Kimbrell started undergraduate pilot training (UPT) in August 1998 at Laughlin AFB near Del Rio, Texas, completing training a year later with a fighter assignment. She then completed her Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals (IFF) course at Randolph AFB, before finishing up F-16 training at Luke AFB in 2000. She accomplished all of this despite being told repeatedly through childhood that she needed a “backup” plan, as there were no women fighter pilots at the time (women were only permitted to fly in combat after an April 28, 1993 order by Secretary of Defense Les Aspin; with the Air Force’s first female fighter pilot, Jeannie M. Leavitt, stepping into an F-15E Strike Eagle later that year). The “backup” plan suggestion was advice that simply made Kimbrell redouble her efforts. As she told the Air Force News in a 2012 article highlighting her career to that point, “I think sometimes you lull yourself into thinking, 'OK, I have that plan, and if it gets hard I'll go to the back-up plan.' If you don't have , you push through.”
After training, 1st Lt Kimbrell received her first operational assignment to Misawa Air Base, Japan, where she flew with the 13th Fighter Squadron and deployed between 2001 and 2003 to participate in Operations NORTHERN WATCH and SOUTHERN WATCH. These operations—started on January 1, 1997, following the end of Operation PROVIDE COMFORT, and officially concluded on May 1, 2003—were meant to enforce a no-fly zone over northern and southern Iraq to curtail potential Iraqi aggression after the Gulf War. Kimbrell flew 170 combat hours in F-16s for NORTHERN WATCH, and noted that, “[the] sorties [for Northern Watch] were actually anticlimactic until I recognized that people were actually shooting at us.” In her work on that operation, she became the first black woman to employ ordnance in combat.
Kimbrell also served at Kunsan (Korea), Aviano (Italy), Fort Stewart (Georgia), and Nellis AFB (Nevada)—which is where she separated from Active Duty and transitioned to the Air Force Reserve. There, now-Lt Col Kimbrell flew and commanded MQ-9s for the 78th Attack Squadron until her retirement in 2020, following almost 22 years of service.