This Week In AFLCMC History – April 1 - 7, 2024

  • Published
  • By Air Force Life Cycle Management Center History Office
1 Apr 1974 (Hill AFB/Robins AFB/Tinker AFB)
Fifty years ago today, all five Air Materiel Areas (AMAs)—including the ones at Hill AFB, Robins AFB, and Tinker AFB—were renamed, becoming Air Logistics Centers (ALCs). Hill’s became Ogden ALC; Robins’ became the Warner-Robins ALC; and Tinker became the Oklahoma City ALC. The commander of Air Force Logistics Command, Gen Jack J. Catton, explained the reason for the name change: “The new name will more accurately reflect the greatly increased responsibilities carried out by the Centers since their original designation as AMAs in 1946.” In 1946, their roles were regional, providing support to a limited geographic area; whereas they developed in time to support a worldwide mission. In 2012, as part of AFMC’s 5-Center Construct plan (which created AFLCMC), the “Center” in the “ALC” came to stand for “Complex.”
2 Apr 1962 (Eglin AFB/Digital Directorate)
Today in 1962, the Air Force selected Eglin AFB’s site C-6 (35 miles east of Eglin’s main basing area) as the location for developing and testing a new phased array radar. Construction of this radar (AN/FPS-85) began later that year in October, but a catastrophic fire occurred just a few months prior to its completion in 1965, entirely destroying the structure and all of its technical equipment. Construction began anew in March 1965, with the radar eventually going online in 1969. Initially, its mission was to track satellites, but after 1975 it also began tracking potential submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). Today, the 20th Space Surveillance Squadron operates Eglin’s AN/FPS‐85, with the AN‐FSY‐3 Space Fence Phased Array Radar—the both of which, combined, can track more than 26,000 objects in space.
4 Apr 1974 (Fighters and Advanced Aircraft Directorate)
On this day, 50 years ago, Northrop’s YF-17 Cobra was unveiled to the public in a rollout ceremony at Northrop’s Hawthorne, California plant. The Cobra was Northrop’s entry for the Air Force’s Light Weight Fighter (LWF) competition, which was the result of advocacy from a cadre of internal advocates for an inexpensive air-to-air day fighter as a complement to the more powerful and sophisticated F-15 in an envisioned “high-low” mix of its fighter fleet. The YF-17 was one of two competitors for the LWF, with General Dynamics offering the single-engine YF-16. Though Northrop lost the contract, the company reworked and reimagined the YF-17 for the Navy, resulting in the F/A-18 Hornet that continues to serve as a mainstay of the carrier fleet.
5 Apr 1949 (Mobility & Training Aircraft Directorate)
Today, 75 years ago, the first two production models of the C-119 Flying Boxcar were completed by the Fairchild Aircraft company. The Air Force received its first production model later that month. First flying in 1947, the C-119 was developed from the WW2-era C-82 Packet. Its distinctive twin-engine, twin-boom, and twin-tail shape, with high “shoulder wings” and a low fuselage, was to make the loading and unloading of cargo and troops easier, as well as to combat some of the complaints pilots had made about the C-82—such as their inability to see the drop zone on approach due to the Packet’s nose-high attitude. The C-119 saw extensive use during the Korean War, perhaps most famously in supporting U.N. forces during the fighting retreat after the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, where C-119s notably dropped an M-2 Treadway Bridge (in parts) so that withdrawing U.N. ground forces could escape the enemy over a mountain chasm near Kotori. The U.N. forces eventually made it to safety.
6 Apr 1924 (Air Force History)
100 years ago today, the first aerial circumnavigation of the globe began out of Seattle, Washington. The journey was conducted in four single-engine biplanes by eight U.S. Army Air Service members—four pilots and four mechanics, two to a plane. The four aircraft were called the Douglas World Cruisers (DWC), and they were modified from Douglas DT torpedo bombers. Part of their modifications were completed at the Fairfield Air Depot in Dayton (WPAFB Area A), and they were tested at nearby McCook Field. The round-the-world journey covering more than 27,000 miles was completed in 175 days, with crews landing in 22 different countries. Only two of the planes made it all the way back to Seattle—the Chicago and the New Orleans. Look forward to a more detailed account of this adventure in September, where it’ll be featured in the Sep 23rd edition of the Heritage Hangar.
7 Apr 1999 (Mobility & Training Aircraft Directorate/Tinker AFB)
Today, 25 years ago, a KC-135R (tail number 57-1418) belonging to the Air National Guard’s 186th Air Refueling Wing (Meridian, Mississippi) sustained major damage to its fuselage during pressurization testing at Tinker AFB. The incident occurred around 17:00, when technicians accidentally over-pressurized the cabin, resulting in a rupture of the aft fuselage and the collapse of the plane’s tail section. The KC-135 Stratotanker (with its first flight in 1956) is the backbone of the U.S. Air Force’s aerial refueling mission, capable of offloading around 6,500 gallons of fuel per minute through its flying boom.


50 Years Ago Today:
The 1974 Xenia Tornado

Fifty years ago, between the 3rd and 4th of April 1974, a devastating outbreak of tornadoes occurred across the country, impacting 13 states. Sometimes called the “Day of the 100 Tornadoes,” this “super outbreak” weather system actually produced 148 known twisters, resulting in more than $1 billion in damages, around 6,000 injuries, and 335 deaths. The deadliest single tornado—an EF-5 on the Enhanced Fujita scale of tornado intensity (the highest level, representing winds of over 200 mph)—struck just ten miles southeast of Wright-Patterson AFB, tearing through the nearby city of Xenia.
Xenia’s tornado struck the city at 4:40 p.m. on the 3rd of April. By 5 o’clock, the Wright-Patterson AFB commander—Brig Gen Irby B. Jarvis, Jr.—had activated the base’s Disaster Preparedness Control Center, and began mobilizing the base to help. In addition to being a community neighbor, Xenia’s population at the time included 1,297 Wright-Patt employees (1,064 civilians and 233 military). With winds of over 250 mph, the tornado caused millions of dollars worth of damages across a path four miles long and one-half mile wide. More than a thousand homes were destroyed by the tornado, including 293 houses belonging to base employees. Around a thousand people were injured (including six base employees), and 34 people were killed.
In remembering the event about twenty years later, Mike Burdo—who at the time of the tornado was a technical sergeant, and the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) of the Wright-Patterson Disaster Preparedness Office—noted that he remembered Gen Jarvis “saying that there was  absolutely no restriction on what we’d do for Xenia and its people. […] General Jarvis spent a lot of time in Xenia helping out.” Aside from the base commander’s direct support, WPAFB assistance to Xenia took many forms. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, supplies and equipment were collected and sent to aid in the city’s disaster response, and a convoy of 4 ambulances and 4 buses carrying 7 doctors and 44 corpsmen were sent into Xenia. By the end of the night 37 of the injured had been admitted to the USAF Medical Center at WPAFB. An estimated 34 others were treated and released. A RED HORSE (Rapid Engineer Deployable, Heavy Operations Repair Squadron Engineer) team happened to be on base at the time, helping to demolish obsolete buildings; and they were sent into Xenia with 23 pieces of heavy machinery to help clear a derailed train on Main Street, which was blocking emergency vehicles, as well as other wreckage.
Throughout the night, water trucks brought both potable and non-potable water from the base to the city for use, and base food services facilities delivered food to volunteers and workers helping with the cleanup (supplying hundreds of box lunches and 30 gallons of coffee). Security police, communication, chaplain, operations and training, SAC personnel, and others joined in the rescue operation. Blood was collected on base from 500 donors. These and other efforts continued all week, with the base even supporting President Richard Nixon’s visit to Xenia, after he landed at WPAFB in Air Force One on April 9th. The base inactivated its emergency response on 11 Apr 1974, having supplied approximately $100,000 (and untold hours of volunteer labor) in assistance.