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This Week In AFLCMC History - January 8 - 14, 2024

  • Published
  • By Air Force Life Cycle Management Center History Office

8 Jan 1951 (Fighters and Advanced Aircraft Directorate/WPAFB)

Today in 1951, the 97th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron arrived at Wright-Patterson AFB. A component of the Eastern Air Defense Force headquartered at Stewart AFB, New York, the 97th was charged with helping to protect the greater Miami Valley, including parts of Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The squadron was on 24/7 alert, and could scramble four combat-ready aircraft—originally F86D Sabres, and later, after it was redesignated the 56th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, F-104 Starfighters—within five minutes. The readied planes were based out of the alert hangars (Bldg 153) on the north end of then-Area C (now Area A). The squadron was inactivated on 1 Mar 1960. At the time it had 25 F-104s.
9 Jan 1963 (Business and Enterprise Systems Directorate/Tinker AFB)

On today’s date, the third in a planned series of five automatic electronic data switching centers was officially declared up and running at Tinker AFB when it tied into the wider Air Force Data Communications network (AF DATACOM) during a brief ceremony at 10:42 a.m. Operated by the 1984th Communications Squadron, the multimillion-dollar center was intended to help with aircraft maintenance data, flight control data, finance, medical, and personnel reports, and related information analysis, reporting, and tracking.
10 Jan 1991 (AFMC History)

Secretary of the Air Force Donald Rice announced on this date that in a little more than a year’s time—on 1 Jul 1992—the Air Force Logistics Command (AFLC) and the Air Force Systems Command (AFSC) would be merged as “Air Force Materiel Command.” The new command would be based out of Wright-Patterson AFB, where AFLC was already located. AFSC was headquartered at Andrews AFB, Maryland, but would begin moving its personnel to Ohio on 1 Oct 1991 as part of a “phased integration” period. In describing the reasons for the change, in this Cold War-ending year (the Soviet Union would fully dissolve in Dec 1991), Secretary Rice explained: “The time is right. The world is changing rapidly. […] This will be another major step toward a leaner, meaner Air Force.”
11 Jan 1937 (Bombers Directorate)

On this day in 1937, a crew of seven flew Boeing’s first service test YB-17 from the company’s plant in Seattle to Wright Field, Ohio, for several weeks of further testing before delivery to an operational unit at Langley Field in March. The YB-17 went on to become the iconic B-17 Flying Fortress that was the key American piece of Allied strategic bombing campaigns in the European theater of WWII. But the B-17 was not without its developmental hurdles: the first prototype, the Boeing Model 299, crashed at Wright Field in Oct 1935, killing pilot Maj Ployer P. Hill (for whom Hill AFB is named), as well as Boeing Chief Test Pilot Leslie R. Tower. On 7 Dec 1936, a month before the delivery to Wright Field, an Army pilot concluded an otherwise successful test flight of this same YB-17 in Seattle by nosing the bomber over during landing, thanks to locked brakes, necessitating repairs before being sent to Dayton.
12 Jan 1999 (Mobility & Training Aircraft Directorate)

Twenty-five years ago today, on 12 Jan 1999, the last three C-27A Spartans departed Howard Air Base in Panama City, Panama, for Davis-Monthan AFB, where they were slated for retirement. The base itself would close later that year, in accordance with the Torrijos-Carter Treaties (ratified in 1978), which were established to eventually turn control of the Panama Canal over to Panama on 31 Dec 1999. Ten C-27As had been purchased by the Air Force in 1990. Derived from the Italian G.222, these planes were medium size short-takeoff-and-landing (STOL) aircraft, each of which was capable of landing on dirt runways as short as 1,500 feet while carrying 15,000 pounds of cargo. The USAF flew them on humanitarian assistance, counterdrug, and peacekeeping missions in Central and South America, where rugged aircraft were required for high altitude and rough terrain use. A later variant, the Alenia C-27J—sometimes called the “Baby Herc” due to its similarities with the C-130J Super Hercules—is still used by the U.S. Coast Guard and by Army Special Operations Aviation Command.
14 Jan 1943 (USAF History)

On 14 Jan 1943, the ten-day Casablanca Conference began in Casablanca, Morocco. There, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill worked to coordinate the U.S.-British military strategy against the Axis powers in Europe. A major result of the conference for the Air Force was that the British accepted America’s intent to execute its precision daylight formation bombing strategy, while the Royal Air Force continued their night area bombing raids of German cities. Churchill had tried to convince FDR to have American bombers also bomb at night, but Gen Ira C. Eaker vehemently objected to his boss, USAAF chief Gen Henry “Hap” Arnold and was given the opportunity to argue for daylight bombing, resulting in the split day/night “Combined Bomber Offensive” plan that summer. However, after much attrition, the failure to demonstrate the anticipated accuracy, the dispersal of industry, and the lack of discrete targets, American forces eventually resorted to area bombing, as well.
USAF History Highlight: Lt Gen Susan Helms—1st US Military Woman in Space (13 Jan 1993)

On October 7, 1975, President Gerald Ford signed into law HR 6674, the Defense Appropriations bill that included the historic provision that “permits women to be eligible for appointment and admission to the service academies for classes entering in calendar year 1976” for the first time. That inspired Susan Helms, the daughter of an Air Force pilot in Oregon, to apply. With a desire to be an engineer, she used her aptitude for math and music to earn admission to the US Air Force Academy (USAFA) as part of its initial class with female cadets—the “First Ladies of ‘80,” 97 of whom graduated in 1980, including Helms.
The now 2Lt Helms took her degree in aeronautical engineering to the Air Force Armament Lab (now AFRL Munitions Directorate), which was a component of the Air Force Armament and Development Test Center, as was the predecessor for AFLCMC’s Armament Directorate. She spent the next four years there researching and testing weapons separation from aircraft, first for the new F-16, and then as the lead engineer for the F-15. She followed that with grad school at Stanford, a professorship back at the USAFA, and then joined a class at the Test Pilot School, Edwards AFB, where she was named the Outstanding Flight Test Engineer.
While at Edwards, then-Capt Helms caught the attention of some space-minded officers who encouraged her to apply to NASA as an astronaut. The space agency had opened its astronaut ranks to women in 1978, with the first, Sally Ride, going into space in 1983. Excited by the prospect, Helms made it through the rigorous application process and joined the astronaut corps in 1990. She received her first assignment to a space shuttle flight in remarkably short time as the only woman on the 5-person crew of STS-54. Launched on this date, January 13, 1993, its primary missions were a satellite deployment, science experiments, and demonstrating spacewalking techniques for the planned space station. But its most historic achievement was making Maj Helms the first American military woman in space. She flew three more shuttle missions before spending five months on the International Space Station as part of its second crew. There, she set what is still the world’s record for the longest spacewalk: nearly 9 hours.
In 2002, then-Col Helms returned to the Air Force, spending much of the rest of her career in what is now the US Space Force, where she rose through the ranks before retiring as a lieutenant general in 2014.

Reflecting on her career and her pioneering achievements, Lt Gen Helms was thankful for having grown up in a home and school environment that did not limit her possibilities based on her gender. She credited outstanding leadership at the Air Force Academy for setting and enforcing an inclusive tone that facilitated the incorporation of her class (especially in comparison to the other services), a lesson she carried throughout her career. She has also emphasized the values of character and competency, as well as a willingness to ask questions, as key leadership lessons from her career.