Chronology: 1970-1979


Feb. 2, 1970. Over Montana, a Convair F-106 Delta Dart enters an uncontrollable flat spin and the pilot ejects. After the pilot and seat depart the aircraft, the aircraft recovers on its own (apparently due to balance and configuration changes), circles, and miraculously makes a gentle belly landing in a snow covered field near the town of Big Sandy. The aircraft is repaired and later returned to service.

Feb. 17, 1970. Crews flying Boeing B-52s bomb targets in northern Laos for the first time.

March 15, 1970. The overseas portion of the Automatic Voice Network (AUTOVON) is completed, making it possible to call any US military installation in the world without leaving one’s desk.

March 19, 1970. Air Force Maj. Jerauld Gentry makes the first successful powered flight of the Martin Marietta X-24A lifting-body research aircraft over Edwards AFB, Calif.

April 11–17, 1970. An explosion in the Apollo 13 service module cripples the spaceship and forces the crew to use the lunar module as a lifeboat to get back to Earth. After a tense four days, the Apollo 13 crew safely splashes down in the Pacific.

May 5, 1970. The Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps admits women after test programs at Ohio State, Auburn University, Drake University, and East Carolina University prove successful.

June 6, 1970. The Air Force receives the first operational Lockheed C-5A Galaxy transport, delivered to the 437th Military Airlift Wing at Charleston AFB, S.C. The debut, made before Rep. L. Mendel Rivers (D– S.C.) and most of the House Armed Services Committee, is less than auspicious: The giant aircraft loses a wheel and the tire next to that one blew out.

June 19, 1970. The first Minuteman III missile unit becomes operational at Minot AFB, N.D.

Aug. 21, 1970. Defense Secretary Melvin Laird announces the “Total Force” policy, leading to much greater reliance by the services on Guard and Reserve units.

Origins of the Total Force

Aug. 24, 1970. Two Air Force crews complete the first nonstop trans-Pacific helicopter flight as they land their Sikorsky HH-53Cs at Da Nang AB, South Vietnam, after a 9,000-mile flight from Eglin AFB, Fla. The helicopters were refueled in flight.

Nov. 21, 1970. A special task force of Air Force and Army volunteers makes a daring attempt to rescue American servicemen from the Son Tay POW camp about 20 miles west of Hanoi.

The Son Tay Raid

Dec. 21, 1970. The Grumman F-14A Tomcat fleet air defense fighter makes its first flight at Long Island, N.Y


Jan. 27, 1971. Navy Cmdr. D.H. Lilienthal sets a recognized class record for speed over a 15 to 25- kilometer course (turboprop aircraft) of 501.44 mph in a Lockheed P-3C Orion at NAS Patuxent River, Md.

Feb. 26, 1971. Army Capt. Jon E. Swanson, flying a Hughes OH-6 Cayuse helicopter, is called in to provide close air support to South Vietnamese ground troops in Cambodia. Flying at treetop level, he repeatedly exposes himself to enemy gunfire, firing grenades at targets and marking others with smoke rounds for other helicopter gunships in the area. His helicopter damaged, Swanson flies to safety, rearms, and reenters the fight to mark additional targets. Over the battle, his OH-6 is hit by ground fire and explodes. Swanson’s remains and those of his observer, SSgt. Larry Harrison, are not recovered until 1999. Swanson is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on May 2, 2002, the day before he and Harrison are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

March 2, 1971. A policy is announced, which allows Air Force women who become pregnant to request a waiver to remain on active duty or to be discharged and return to duty within 12 months of discharge.

March 8, 1971. Capt. Marcelite C. Jordan becomes the first female aircraft maintenance officer after completion of the Aircraft Maintenance Officer’s School. She was previously an administrative officer.

March 17, 1971. Jane Leslie Holley, Auburn University, Alabama, becomes the first woman commissioned through Air Force ROTC.

April 17, 1971. Federal express begins air freight operations from Memphis, Tenn., guaranteeing overnight delivery anywhere in the United States. The first night, Fed Ex carries only 18 packages.

May 25, 1971. Army Maj. William Adams and his Bell UH-1H Huey medevac crew, along with a Huey gunship escort, to attempt to rescue three wounded soldiers from a firebase in Kontum Province, South Vietnam. The helicopters come under withering fire near the landing zone, but manage to get down. With the wounded secured, Adams lifts off, but the Huey is severely damaged by ground fire, hit again by a rocket-propelled grenade, rolls inverted, and crashes. All aboard are killed. Adams posthumously receives the Medal of Honor.

July 16, 1971. USAF promotes Jeanne M. Holm to brigadier general, making her the first female general officer in the Air Force.

July 26, 1971. Apollo 15 blasts off with an all-Air Force crew: Col. David R. Scott, Lt. Col. James B. Irwin, and Maj. Alfred M. Worden. The mission is described as the most scientifically important and, potentially, the most perilous lunar trip since the first landing. Millions of viewers throughout the world watch as color- TV cameras cover Scott and Irwin exploring the lunar surface using a moon rover vehicle for the first time.

July 29, 1971. The Air Force completes its flight tests of the experimental X-24A lifting body. Data from these tests would contribute to development of NASA’s space shuttle.

Sept. 3, 1971. President Richard M. Nixon dedicates the new US Air Force Museum building at Wright- Patterson AFB, in Dayton, Ohio. A drive to raise private funds for the new museum building had begun in 1960.

The Heritage of the Force

Oct. 1, 1971. CMSgt. Richard D. Kisling becomes the third Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.

Oct. 26–Nov. 4, 1971. Army CWO James K. Church sets a recognized turbine engine helicopter class record for altitude in horizontal flight (36,122 feet), Capt. B.P. Blackwell sets a record for altitude (31,165 feet) with a 2,200-pound payload, CWO Eugene E. Price sets two records for altitude (31,480 feet and 25,518 feet) with 4,400-pound and 11,000-pound payloads, and CWO Delbert V. Hunt sets a record for time-to-climb to 29,700 feet (five minutes, 58 seconds) all in the same Sikorsky CH-54B at Stratford, Conn.


Feb. 20, 1972. Lt. Col. Edgar Allison sets a recognized class record for great circle distance without landing (turboprop aircraft) of 8,732.09 miles, flying from Ching Chuan Kang AB, Taiwan, to Scott AFB, Ill., in a Lockheed HC-130.

March 1972. The North Vietnamese spring invasion is stopped and then turned back by US airpower.

The Easter Halt

April 1, 1972. The Community College of the Air Force is established.

April 6, 1972. American aircraft and warships begin heavy, sustained attacks on North Vietnam for the first time since the cessation of bombing in October 1968.

April 12, 1972. Army Maj. John C. Henderson sets recognized turbine engine helicopter class time-to- climb records to 9,900 feet and 19,800 feet (one minute, 22 seconds and two minutes, 59 seconds) in a Sikorsky CH-54B at Stratford, Conn.

April 27, 1972. Four Air Force fighter crews, releasing Paveway I “smart” bombs, knock down the Thanh Hoa Bridge in North Vietnam. Previously, 871 conventional sorties resulted in only superficial damage to the bridge.

Bridge Busting

Breaking the Dragon’s Jaw

May 5, 1972. USAF’s sea-launched ballistic-missile detection and warning system, dubbed Pave Phased- Array Warning System (Pave PAWS), reaches initial operational capability.

May 8, 1972. President Richard M. Nixon announces at 8 p.m. EST (May 9, 8 a.m., in Saigon) that Operation Linebacker I, the bombing of Hanoi and mining of ports, will begin on May 10.

May 10, 1972. USAF commences Operation Linebacker I. It would end Oct. 15, 1972. (Linebacker II would begin in December 1972.)

Linebacker I

May 10, 1972. First flight of the Fairchild Republic YA-10A, marking the start of competitive flight evaluation in the A-X close air support program. Northrop’s YA-9A would fly on May 20, 1972.

May 10, 1972. Navy Lt. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (pilot) and Lt. (j.g.) Willie Driscoll (radar intercept officer), flying McDonnell Douglas F-4J Phantom IIs from the USS Constellation, shoot down three MiG- 17s, This, combined with their aerial victories on Jan. 19 and May 8, make Cunningham and Driscoll the first US aces of the Vietnam War.

May 10, 1972. Capt. Charles B. DeBellevue (WSO), flying with Capt. Richard S. Ritchie (pilot), in a McDonnell Douglas F-4D, records his first aerial victory. DeBellevue, who would go on to be the leading American ace of the Vietnam War, recorded four of his victories with Ritchie. Both airmen flew with the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron.

May 10–11, 1972. F-4 Phantoms from the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing drop smart bombs on the Paul Doumer Bridge, causing enough damage to keep this mile-long highway and rail crossing at Hanoi out of use. It will not be rebuilt until air attacks on North Vietnam cease in 1973.

June 29, 1972. Capt. Steven L. Bennett attempts to assist a friendly ground unit being overrun near Quang Tri, South Vietnam. Bennett strafes the North Vietnamese regulars with his Rockwell OV-10 Bronco but is hit by a SAM. Unable to eject because the parachute of his backseater, a Marine artillery spotter, had been shredded by shrapnel, Bennett ditches the aircraft in the Gulf of Tonkin. The observer escapes, but Bennett is trapped and sinks with the wreckage. Bennett is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Valor: A Gift of Life

Impossible Odds in SAM 7 Alley

July 27, 1972. One month ahead of schedule, company pilot Irv Burrows makes the first flight of the McDonnell Douglas F-15A Eagle air superiority fighter at Edwards AFB, Calif. The F-15 is the first USAF fighter to have a thrust-to-weight ratio greater than one-to-one, which means it can accelerate going straight up.

Aug. 28, 1972. Capt. Richard S. Ritchie, flying with Capt. Charles B. DeBellevue (weapons system officer), shoots down his fifth MiG-21 near Hanoi, becoming the Air Force’s first ace since the Korean War.

Sept. 9, 1972. Capt. Charles B. DeBellevue (WSO), flying with Capt. John A. Madden Jr. (pilot), in an F- 4D, shoots down two MiG-19s near Hanoi. These were his fifth and sixth victories, making him the leading American ace of the war. All of DeBellevue’s victories came in a four-month period.

Oct. 13, 1972. Capt. Jeffrey S. Feinstein, a WSO in the backseat of an F-4, achieved ace status by shooting down his fifth MiG-21, becoming the third and final USAF ace of the Vietnam War.

Nov. 4, 1972. Navy Cmdr. Philip R. Hite sets a recognized class record for distance in a closed circuit (turboprop aircraft) of 6,278.05 miles at NAS Patuxent River, Md., in a Lockheed RP-3D Orion.

Dec. 7–19, 1972. The Apollo 17 mission is the last of the moon landings. It is also the first US manned launch to be conducted at night. Mission commander Navy Cmdr. Eugene A. Cernan and lunar module pilot/geologist Harrison H. Schmitt spend a record 75 hours on the lunar surface.

Dec. 18, 1972. President Richard M. Nixon directs the resumption of full-scale bombing and mining in North Vietnam under Operation Linebacker II, the 11-day bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong. Massive air strikes help persuade North Vietnam to conclude Paris peace negotiations, which will be finalized Jan. 27, 1973.

Linebacker II (1997 article)

Linebacker II (2012 article)

Dec. 18, 1972. SSgt. Samuel O. Turner, the tail gunner on a Boeing B-52D bomber, downs a trailing MiG- 21 with a blast of .50-caliber machine guns while flying near Hanoi. Six days later, A1C Albert E. Moore, also a B-52 gunner, shoots down a second MiG-21 after a strike on the Thai Nguyen rail yard. These were the only aerial gunner victories of the war.

The B-52 Gunners


Jan. 8, 1973. Capt. Paul D. Howman (pilot) and 1st Lt. Lawrence W. Kullman (WSO), flying in a McDonnell Douglas F-4D, record the last USAF victory in the Vietnam War as they shoot down a MiG-21 near Hanoi. It was the duo’s only aerial victory.

Jan. 15, 1973. The Air Force suspends all mining, bombing, and other offensive operations against North Vietnam.

Jan. 17, 1973. USAF selects the Fairchild Republic YA-10A as winner in the A-X competition.

Jan. 27, 1973. On the day cease-fire agreements ending the war in Vietnam are signed in Paris, crews flying Boeing B-52 Stratofortresses bomb logistics targets such as truck parks and storage areas south of the 20th Parallel. At 4:10 p.m. local time, the last USAF aircraft to fly over Hanoi, a Ryan AQM-34L drone, photographs results of the Operation Linebacker II raids for bomb damage assessment. The cease-fire takes effect at 7 p.m. EDT, which makes the cease-fire date effective Jan. 28 in Vietnam.

Feb. 12, 1973. Operation Homecoming, the return of 591 American POWs from North Vietnam, begins. All of the ex-POWs, which come from all military services, are processed through Clark AB, Philippines, to military hospitals in the United States and from there they are quickly reunited with their families.

Valor: Valor en Masse

Weighing the Evidence on POWs

Honor Bound

April 10, 1973. First flight of the Boeing T-43A navigation trainer occurs. The T-43 is developed from the 737-200 civil transport.

April 17, 1973. Taking off from Guam, Air Force crews flying Boeing B-52 Stratofortresses make the last bombing missions over Laos, attacking targets south of the Plain of Jars because of Communist cease- fire violations.

The Plain of Jars

May 25–June 22, 1973. An all-Navy crew of Capt. Charles “Pete” Conrad Jr. and Cmdrs. Joseph P. Kerwin and Paul J. Weitz salvage the Skylab program, as they repair the space station (which had been damaged on launch) in orbit. Their 28-day, 404-orbit mission is the longest in history to this point.

July 1, 1973. Authorization for the military draft ends.

July 4, 1973. Lt. Col. Charles H. Manning sets a recognized class altitude record of 32,883 feet for piston-engine amphibian aircraft in a Grumman HU-16B Albatross at Homestead AFB, Fla.

July 18, 1973. John L. McLucas becomes Secretary of the Air Force.

July 28–Sept. 25, 1973. The Skylab 3 crew of Navy Capt. Alan L. Bean, Marine Maj. Jack R. Lousma, and scientist Owen K. Garriott Jr. perform valuable science experiments and Earth observations during their 59-day, 892-orbit stay on the space station.

Aug. 1, 1973. Gen. George S. Brown becomes Air Force Chief of Staff.

Aug. 15, 1973. US bombing of targets in Cambodia cease. In the eight years and two months that Operation Arc Light was carried out, Strategic Air Command crews, flying Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bombers from Andersen AFB, Guam, released 2.9 million tons of bombs on 124,532 sorties (of the 126,615 sorties launched). Some 55 percent of the sorties were flown against targets in South Vietnam, 27 percent in Laos, 12 percent in Cambodia, and six percent in North Vietnam. During the Arc Light missions, the Air Force lost 31 B-52s—18 to hostile fire over North Vietnam and 13 to “other operational causes.” However, Maj. John J. Hoskins and Capt. Lonnie O. Ratley, flying LTV A-7D Corsair IIs, make the last raids of war in Southeast Asia when they attack targets near Phnom Penh late in the afternoon. A Lockheed EC-121 crew out of Korat RTAB, Thailand, that lands after the A-7 pilots earns the distinction of making the last mission of the war.

Oct. 1, 1973. CMSgt. Thomas N. Barnes becomes Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.

Nov. 10, 1973. At New Orleans, the USAF Thunderbirds fly their 518th and last show in the McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II. The team would convert to the Northrop T-38A Talon for the 1974 show season.

Nov. 14, 1973. The US ends its major airlift to Israel. In a 32-day operation during the Yom Kippur War, Military Airlift Command airlifts 22,318 tons of supplies.

Nickel Grass

Nov. 14, 1973. The first production McDonnell Douglas F-15A Eagle is delivered to the Air Force at Luke AFB, Ariz.

Nov. 16, 1973–Feb. 8, 1974. A crew of space rookies, Marine Lt. Col. Gerald Carr; Air Force Lt. Col. William Pogue, a former Thunderbird pilot; and Edward Gibson form the third and final Skylab crew. At 84 days, this crew, which observes the Comet Kohoutek during the mission, will hold the American space mission duration record until 1995.


Jan. 21, 1974. The General Dynamics YF-16 prototype makes a first, unplanned flight at Edwards AFB, Calif. As company test pilot Phil Oestricher conducts high-speed taxi tests, the aircraft lifts off the runway, and rather than risk damage to the aircraft, Oestricher elects to lift off and go around, making a normal landing.

Feb. 2, 1974. The first “official” flight of the YF-16 takes place with General Dynamics test pilot Phil Oestricher at the controls.

June 9, 1974. Company pilot Henry E. Chouteau makes the first flight of the Northrop YF-17 at Edwards AFB, Calif. Although the YF-17 would not be selected as the winner of the Air Force’s Lightweight Fighter Technology evaluation program, it would become the progenitor of the Navy’s F/A-18 Hornet.

July 1, 1974. Gen. David C. Jones becomes Air Force Chief of Staff.

July 29, 1974. The Department of Defense consolidates all military airlift aircraft under the Air Force as single manager for all of the armed forces.

Sept. 1, 1974. Maj. James V. Sullivan and Maj. Noel Widdifield set a New York to London speed record of 1,806.964 mph in a Lockheed SR-71A. The trip takes one hour, 54 minutes, 55 seconds.

Oct. 24, 1974. The Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Organization carries out a midair launch of a Boeing LGM-30A Minuteman I from the hold of a Lockheed C-5A.

Dec. 23, 1974. Company pilot Charles Bock Jr., USAF Col. Emil Sturmthal, and flight test engineer Richard Abrams make the first flight of the Rockwell B-1A variable-geometry bomber from Palmdale, Calif.


Jan. 13, 1975. USAF announces that the General Dynamics YF-16 is the winner of the Air Force’s Lightweight Fighter Technology evaluation program. The F-16 is also the leading candidate to become the Air Force’s new air combat fighter.

Jan. 16–Feb. 1, 1975. Three USAF pilots set eight recognized class records for time to climb (jet aircraft) in a modified McDonnell Douglas F-15A, nicknamed Streak Eagle, over a period of two weeks at Grand Forks AFB, N.D.

Jan. 26, 1975. The Force Modernization program, a nine-year effort to replace all Boeing LGM-30B Minuteman Is with either Minuteman IIs (LGM-30F) or Minuteman IIIs (LGM-30G), is completed, as the last 10 LGM-30Gs are turned over to SAC at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo.

Feb. 1, 1975. Maj. Roger J. Smith sets a world time-to-climb record to 98,425 feet in three minutes, 27.8 seconds in the McDonnell Douglas F-15A Streak Eagle.

April 30, 1975. North Vietnamese troops accept the surrender of Saigon.

The Fall of Saigon

May 15, 1975. Carrying 175 Marines, Air Force special operations helicopters land on Kho Tang Island, off the Cambodian coast, to begin rescue of the crew of the US merchant ship Mayaguez, which had been seized in international waters by the Cambodian Navy three days earlier.

Valor: The Mayaguez Incident

The Mayaguez Rescue

June 30, 1975. The last Douglas C-47A Skytrain in routine Air Force use is retired to the US Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.

July 15–24, 1975. US astronauts Brig. Gen. Thomas P. Stafford, USAF, Vance D. Brand, and Donald K. Slayton rendezvous, dock, and shake hands with Soviet cosmonauts Alexei A. Leonov and Valeri N. Kubasov in orbit during the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.

Aug. 5, 1975. NASA pilot John Manke makes the first landing of a lifting body aircraft on a conventional concrete runway (versus one of packed sand) when he brings the Martin Marietta X-24B in on the main runway at Edwards AFB, Calif. Lt. Col. Mike Love repeats this feat on Aug. 20.

Aug. 20, 1975. The Viking 1 mission to Mars is launched from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., on a Titan III booster. The spacecraft enters Mars orbit on June 19, 1976, and the lander, which takes soil samples and performs rudimentary analysis on them, soft-lands on July 20, 1976.

Sept. 1, 1975. Gen. Daniel “Chappie” James Jr., USAF, becomes the first black officer to achieve four- star rank in the US military.

Oct. 21, 1975. Fairchild Republic’s A-10A Thunderbolt II makes its first flight. The first combat-ready A- 10A wing will be the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing at Myrtle Beach, S.C., which will begin taking delivery of the fighters in March 1977.

Nov. 26, 1975. NASA pilot Thomas McMurtry makes the last flight of the Martin Marietta X-24 lifting body program at Edwards AFB, Calif. The aircraft, which underwent a significant external shape change midway through the flight test program, was flown a total of 54 times.

Nov. 29, 1975. The first Red Flag exercise at Nellis AFB, Nev., begins a new era of highly realistic training for combat aircrews.

Red Flag


Jan. 2, 1976. Thomas C. Reed becomes Secretary of the Air Force.

Jan. 9, 1976. USAF’s first operational F-15 Eagle arrives at the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing, Langley AFB, Va.

March 22, 1976. The first A-10 Thunderbolt arrives at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., for test and evaluation. The heavily armored jet attack aircraft, armed with a heavy Gatling gun in the nose and equipped with straight wings able to carry a variety of air-to-ground munitions, was designed for close air support missions.

May 8, 1976. At Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, the Thunderbirds fly the 2,000th show in their 23-year history. The team’s Northrop T-38A Talons sport a special paint scheme for America’s bicentennial celebration.

June 28, 1976. The Air Force Academy becomes the first of the big three service academies to admit women cadets when it admits Joan Olsen.

July 3-4, 1976. Israeli commandos, transported by C-130s, stage a surprise raid on Entebbe airport in the dead of night, fight a pitched battle with terrorists and Ugandan soldiers, and rescue more than 100 hostages who had been passengers aboard a hijacked Air France airliner.


July 27–28, 1976. Three SR-71 pilots (Maj. Adolphus H. Bledsoe Jr., Capt. Robert C. Helt, and Capt. Eldon W. Joersz) set three absolute world flight records over Beale AFB, Calif.: altitude in horizontal flight (85,068.997 feet), speed over a straight course (2,193.16 mph), and speed over a closed circuit (2,092.294 mph).

Sept. 6, 1976. Soviet pilot Lt. Victor Belenko, taking off from Sakharovka AB near Vladivostok, lands his MiG-25 (NATO reporting name “Foxbat”) interceptor at the Hakodate Airport in northern Japan and asks for political asylum. He is flown to the US two days later. The defection provides an intelligence bonanza, as this gives the West its first detailed inspection of the Mach 3-capable fighter and a chance to debrief a front-line pilot. The aircraft is partially disassembled, flown to a Japanese Air Self Defense Force base near Tokyo on a US Air Force C-5 Galaxy, where it is then fully disassembled and inspected in detail. On Nov. 12, the MiG-25, in crates, is loaded on a Soviet freighter and returned.

Sept. 29, 1976. The first of two groups of 10 women pilot candidates enter undergraduate pilot training at Williams AFB, Ariz.

The Quiet Pioneers


Jan. 8, 1977. The first YC-141B (stretched C-141 Starlifter) rolls out of the Lockheed’s Marietta, Ga., plant. Equipped with in-flight refueling capability, it was 23.3 feet longer than the original C-141A.

March 10, 1977. The prototype Grumman EF-111A airborne tactical jamming platform for the Air Force is flown for the first time at the company’s Calverton, Long Island, N.Y., factory.

March 23, 1977. Boeing delivers the first basic production version of the E-3A Sentry AWACS (No. 75- 0557) to Tinker AFB, Okla. (The base would hold an official arrival ceremony on March 24.)

A Quarter Century of AWACS

April 6, 1977. John C. Stetson becomes Secretary of the Air Force.

May 20, 1977. The Sukoi T-10, the prototype of the Su-27 (NATO reporting name “Flanker”) makes its first flight. The Su-27 is the first of a new generation of Soviet fighters (along with the MiG-29 ‘Fulcrum’) to compete with, respectively, the US F-15 and F-16. Production numbers are in the low hundreds, and the type is flown by several other countries. Several successive aircraft, including the Su-30, -32, and -33 have been built around the basic Su-27 design.

June 30, 1977. President Jimmy Carter, citing the continued ability of the B-52 fleet and the development of cruise missiles, announces he is canceling the B-1A variable-geometry bomber program. Testing of the four B-1A prototypes will continue, however.

A Tale of Two Bombers

Aug. 1, 1977. CMSgt. Robert D. Gaylor becomes Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.

Aug. 31, 1977. Alexander Fedotov, flying in the MiG E-266M, a modified MiG-25 “Foxbat,” sets the recognized absolute record for altitude, reaching 123,523.58 feet at Podmoskovnoye, USSR. The record is the only recognized absolute record not held by a pilot from the United States.

Oct. 1, 1977. Volant Oak, the quarterly rotation of six Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve transports to Howard AFB, Panama, for in-place tactical airlift in Central and South America, begins.

Oct. 6, 1977. The MiG-29 prototype (NATO reporting name “Fulcrum”) makes its first flight. The MiG-29 is the second of a new generation of Soviet fighters (along with the Su-27) to compete with, respectively, the US F-16 and F-15. More than 800 aircraft have been built, and as of 2003, the aircraft is still in limited production and the more than 20 countries flying the MiG-29 are in the process of updating their fleets. MiG-29s are now flown by the air arms of two NATO members, Germany and Poland.

Dec. 1, 1977. In total secrecy, company test pilot Bill Park makes the first flight of the Lockheed XST Have Blue demonstrator at Groom Lake, Nev. Developed in only 20 months, Have Blue is designed as a test bed for stealth technology.

How the Skunk Works Fielded Stealth


Jan. 24, 1978. Tactical Air Command deploys eight F-15 Eagles from Langley AFB, Va., to Osan AB, South Korea, in the first operational-training deployment of F-15s to the Western Pacific.

Feb. 8-17, 1978. In Operation Snow Blow II, USAF C-5s, C-141s, and C-130s airlifts 2,339 tons of snow- removal equipment, generators, communications gear, and more than 1,000 passengers after a severe snowstorm in southern New England.

Feb. 9, 1978. An Atlas-Centaur booster hoists into orbit from Cape Canaveral, Fla., the first Fleet Satellite Communications System satellite.

Feb. 22, 1978. The first test satellite in the Air Force’s Navstar Global Positioning System is successfully launched into orbit on board an Atlas booster.

The Sensational Signal

March 23, 1978. Capt. Sandra M. Scott becomes the first female aircrew member to pull alert duty in SAC.

May 16-27, 1978. In Operation Zaire I, Military Airlift Command employs 43 C-141 and C-5 missions to transport 931 tons of cargo and 124 passengers to Zaire to aid Belgian and French troops who had intervened to rescue European workers threatened by a Katangan rebel invasion from Angola. For this operation, Lt. Col. Robert F. Schultz and Capt. Todd H. Hohberger and their C-5 crews earned the Mackay Trophy for overcoming fatigue, limited en route support, crippling mechanical problems, and adverse operational conditions in a hostile area.

May 31-June 16, 1978. In Operation Zaire II, USAF C-141s and C-5s airlift Belgian and French troops from Zaire, replacing them with African peacekeeping troops. In 72 missions, they transport 1,225 passengers and 1,619 tons of cargo.

July 1, 1978. Gen. Lew Allen Jr. becomes Air Force Chief of Staff.

Nov. 22-29, 1978. Three HH-53 Jolly Green Giant helicopters of the 55th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron airlift 911 bodies from a mass suicide in Jonestown to Georgetown, Guyana. HC- 130s refuel the helicopters as they shuttle between the sites. At Georgetown the bodies are transferred to C-141 Starlifter aircraft for transport to the United States.

Nov. 30, 1978. The last Boeing LGM-30G Minuteman III ICBM is delivered to the Air Force at Hill AFB, Utah.


Dec. 8-9, 1978. Military Airlift Command airlifts some 900 evacuees from Tehran to bases in the US and Germany following political disturbances in Iran. The airlift includes 11 C-141 and C-5 missions. Some 5,700 US and third-country nationals leave Iran on regularly scheduled Military Airlift Command flights until Iran’s revolutionary government closes the airport in February 1979.

Jan. 6, 1979. The 388th Tactical Fighter Wing at Hill AFB, Utah, receives the first operational General Dynamics F-16A fighters.

March 9, 1979. Two E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft deploy to Saudi Arabia under Operation Flying Star in response to a threat on the country’s southern border.

March 31, 1979. Maj. James E. McArdle Jr. and his four-man crew in an HH-3 helicopter from the 33rd Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron at Osan, South Korea, rescue 28 Taiwanese seamen from a sinking ship in the Yellow Sea during a nighttime mission that earns McArdle the Mackay Trophy.

July 9, 1979. The Voyager 2 space probe, launched in 1977, flies within 399,560 miles of Jupiter’s cloud tops. Voyager 2 will pass Neptune in 1989.

July 26, 1979. Hans Mark becomes Secretary of the Air Force.

Aug. 1, 1979. CMSgt. James M. McCoy becomes Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.

Sept. 15-22, 1979. Eight C-130s from the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units in California and Wyoming fly 254 sorties to drop 732,000 gallons of fire-suppressant liquid over fires in southern California—one of the largest aerial fire-fighting operations then on record.

Oct. 1, 1979. All atmospheric defense assets and missions of Aerospace Defense Command are transferred to Tactical Air Command (TAC). Also on this date, the Aerospace Audiovisual Service becomes the single manager for Air Force combat audiovisual documentation.