This Week In AFLCMC History – April 8 - 14, 2024

  • Published
  • By Air Force Life Cycle Management Center History Office
8 Apr 1924 (Wright-Patterson AFB)
One hundred years ago today, McCook Field test pilot Lt Theodore S. Van Veghten was conducting low-level ignition tests when his Vought VE-9 abruptly went into a tailspin, leaving him just seconds to react before impacting the ground within the confines of McCook Field. He succumbed to his injuries while en route to the hospital. He was buried in his hometown of Mechanicsville, New York, a few days later, with fellow McCook pilots dropping flowers from a plane over the funeral service. Lieutenant Van Veghten was one of seventeen military and civilian test pilots from McCook Field’s Flight Test Section to lose their lives testing early aircraft between January 1919 and August 1926.
9 Apr 1971 (Hill AFB/Bombers Directorate)
Today in 1971, it was announced that Strategic Air Command had selected Hill AFB as the site of one of its six planned satellite “alert” bases. The idea was that Hill and the other five bases would host B-52s (and KC-135s to refuel them) to—in the words of Utah Senator Wallace F. Bennett—”increase the survivability of the SAC fleet.” That is, in the event that the Cold War heated up, the Soviets couldn’t target America’s entire nuclear bomber fleet in one or two locations. In the end, of the six announced locations, only Hill AFB’s site was completed, at a cost of $2 million dollars. Construction was finished in late 1972, with Detachment 1 of the 456th Bombardment Wing (Heavy) activating at Hill AFB in Jan 1973. The detachment was only operational a couple of years, however, inactivating in the summer of 1975.
10 Apr 1953 (Hanscom AFB/Digital Directorate)
On this date, the U.S. Air Force ended its support for the development of the Air Defense Integrated System (ADIS). This project—adapted by the University of Michigan Willow Run Research Center from the Royal Navy’s Comprehensive Display System (CDS)—was a program competing with the Semi-Autonomous Ground Environment (SAGE) program that was developed by MIT’s Lincoln Labs and managed at Hanscom AFB. Both SAGE and CDS used multiple networked radar sites to detect enemy aircraft off their respective coasts, while using early computers to integrate and display tracking data so that the Air Force could deploy missiles and interceptors against the threats. The USAF selected the SAGE system, which eventually cost billions of dollars, and was operated into the 1980s.
11 Apr 1974 (Mobility & Training Aircraft Directorate)
Task Force 65, a joint task force organized to help clear the Suez Canal of mines, began operating 50 years ago today when C-5 aircraft landed in Cairo, Egypt, with Airborne Mine Countermeasures (AMCM) Unit Alpha and accompanying equipment. The Suez Canal—an important international shipping lane connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea—had been closed to normal ship traffic since 1967 as a result of the “Six-Day War” between a coalition of Arab nations (including Egypt, where the Suez Canal is located) and Israel. The conclusion of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, between largely the same nations, brought with it a bilateral agreement between Egypt and the U.S., whereby the U.S. agreed to help clear the mines in the canal (as well as ten designated shipwrecks, which had been intentionally sunk to block the canal). The Air Force’s role in supporting the mission was providing airlift with C-5s and C-130s; as well as providing comms support, particularly via the 2nd Mobile Communications Group.
12 Apr 1960 (Eglin AFB/Bombers Dir./Armament Dir.)
From 11-12 April 1960, a B-52G from Eglin AFB’s 4135th Strategic Wing flew from Eglin to the North Pole and back again on a 20-hour, 30-minute flight. At the end of the journey, termed “Operation BLUE NOSE,” the crew successfully fired one of their two equipped AGM-28 Hound Dog missiles. The purpose of the exercise was to ensure that both the bombers and their Hound Dog nuclear missiles could operate in low temperature, real-world environments. In commemorating the event, Strategic Air Command made an approximately half-hour long documentary about it, which can be found online with a search of “Operation Blue Nose documentary.”
14 Apr 1999 (Presidential and Executive Airlift Directorate)
Today, 25 years ago, the Boeing C-40A Clipper made its first flight. This was the initial militarized version of the commercial 737-700 airliner intended for medium range/lift transportation. The Navy was its initial customer, but the Air Force selected the C-40B under its Medium Lift program in August 2000 for the transport of senior military and government officials, replacing the C-9A and C-22B. Following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the Air Force ordered additional C-40s to meet its DV transport needs, which resulted in the C-40C model. A total of four -B models and seven -C models were acquired, and both types were still active as of 2024.
25 Years Ago on April 13, 1999:
Increasing Airpower for Operation ALLIED FORCE
Twenty-five years ago, Operation ALLIED FORCE demonstrated to the world that air– and missile-power alone could be the deciding factors in ending conflicts—even without “boots on the ground.” Beginning on March 24, and ending 11 weeks later on June 9, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)’s Operation ALLIED FORCE was enacted after repeated diplomatic efforts had failed to convince Federal Republic of Yugoslavia President Slobodan Milosevic to end a decade-long campaign of ethnic cleansing against Kosovo Albanians, which by that point had affected hundreds of thousands of lives in the region.
Starting with 112 U.S. and 102 Allied aircraft (from 13 of the 19 nations then in NATO), Operation ALLIED FORCE was initially planned to be a quick, punitive strike after Yugoslavia refused to accept a peace plan brokered during talks in France. The hope was that, in the face of NATO airstrikes, Milosevic would back down and accept peace, withdrawing his Serbian troops from Kosovo. Instead, the initial attacks (focusing on military targets, and specifically on Yugotslavian/Serbian air defense systems) spurred Milosevic to accelerate his plans for Kosovo, moving forces forward and creating a massive refugee crisis, which in turn required greater NATO intervention. On April 13—25 years ago today—the operation’s scope had grown so much that its director, Supreme Allied Commander of NATO and U.S. Army General Wesley K. Clark, officially requested 300 more U.S. aircraft. This was on top of an additional 82 aircraft he’d requested on April 9th, and would bring U.S. aircraft involvement from the initial 112 aircraft to around 800. NATO’s master target list also grew over time as the campaign was gradually escalated, from an initial 169 targets to more than 970 at the campaign’s end in June, with sorties peaking in late May/early June.
On June 2, 1999, in the face of overwhelming NATO airpower, and with attacks now striking Milosevic’s capital in Belgrade, Milosevic agreed to end the conflict; with the agreement ratified on the 10th. Yugoslav forces withdrew and were replaced by international civil and security forces as peace was gradually returned to the region. Milosevic was ousted from power the year after, in 2000, and was locally arrested and then extradited to stand trial for war crimes in 2001. Milosevic died of a heart attack in 2006, before his trial was over.