Chronology: 1980-1989


March 12-14, 1980. Two B-52 crews fly nonstop around the world in 43.5 hours, covering 21,256 statute miles, averaging 488 mph, and carrying out sea surveillance/reconnaissance missions.

April 24, 1980. In the middle of an attempt to rescue US citizens held hostage in Iran, mechanical difficulties force several Navy RH-53 helicopter crews to turn back. Later, one of the RH-53s collides with an Air Force HC-130 in a sandstorm at the Desert One refueling site. Eight US servicemen are killed.

Desert One

May 18-June 5, 1980. Following the eruption of Mount Saint Helens in northwest Washington State, the Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service, Military Airlift Command, and the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing conduct humanitarian-relief efforts: Helicopter crews lift 61 people to safety, while SR–71 airplanes conduct aerial photographic reconnaissance.

May 28, 1980. The Air Force Academy graduates its first female cadets. Ninety-seven women are commissioned as second lieutenants. Lt. Kathleen Conly graduates eighth in her class.

Aug. 22, 1980. The Department of Defense reveals existence of stealth technology that “enables the United States to build manned and unmanned aircraft that cannot be successfully intercepted with existing air defense systems.”

Sept. 18, 1980. An explosion destroys the 308th Strategic Missile Wing’s Titan II launch complex 374-7 in Little Rock, Ark., killing one person.

Oct. 1, 1980. Operation Elf begins with deployment of four USAF E–3A AWACS aircraft to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to protect Saudi airspace during the Iran-Iraq War. Three KC–135s also deploy.

Oct. 3, 1980. Piloting a USAF HH–3 Jolly Green Giant helicopter, Capt. John J. Walters and his crew rescue 61 passengers and crewmen from the burning Dutch luxury liner Prinsendam in the Pacific Ocean, hoisting and airlifting them from lifeboats to a supertanker. Walters receives the Mackay Trophy.


January-June, 1981. Operating from Corpus Christi, Tex., and Little Rock, Ark., USAF C-130s deliver 500 tons of arms, ammunition, helicopters, and other war materiel to El Salvador to help the government combat leftist guerrillas.

Jan. 11, 1981. The Boeing Company delivers USAF’s first Air Launched Cruise Missiles (ALCMs) to the 416th Bombardment Wing at Griffiss AFB, N.Y.

Jan. 18-25, 1981. Two USAF C-9 Nightingales transport 52 Americans held hostage by Iran for 444 days from Tehran to Rhein-Main AB, Germany.

The Carter Doctrine

Feb. 9, 1981. Verne Orr becomes Secretary of the Air Force.

March 17, 1981. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Company delivers the first KC-10A Extender tanker/cargo aircraft to Strategic Air Command.

April 12, 1981. The space shuttle Columbia, the world’s first reusable manned space vehicle, makes its first flight. It is flown by astronauts John W. Young and Navy Capt. Robert L. Crippen.

April 14, 1981. The space shuttle Columbia lands on Rogers Dry Lake, Edwards AFB, Calif., after its first orbital mission. This was the first time in history that an orbital vehicle left earth under rocket power and returned via its aircraft-style wings.

May 2, 1981. An airborne laser destroys an aerial target for the first time when the Airborne Laser Laboratory (ALL), a modified KC-135 aircraft armed with a carbon dioxide laser, shot down a drone over White Sands Missile Range, N.M. Two years later, the ALL successfully shoots down five Sidewinder air- to-air missiles, proving its utility as an antimissile system.

June 7, 1981. A surprise attack by the Israeli Air Force destroys the Osirak nuclear reactor near Baghdad, setting back Iraq’s attempt to develop nuclear weapons.

Osirak and Beyond

Air Strike at Osirak

June 18, 1981. In total secrecy, company pilot Hal Farley makes the first flight of the Lockheed F-117A stealth fighter at Tonopah Test Range, Nev. The existence of this aircraft would not be publicly revealed until 1988.

Two Decades of Stealth

June 26, 1981. The first production Grumman/General Dynamics EF-111A, a specially developed ECM tactical jamming aircraft, makes its first flight.

Aug. 1, 1981. CMSgt. Arthur L. Andrews becomes Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.

Aug. 3, 1981. USAF air traffic controllers begin manning US airport facilities to allow commercial airlines to continue service during an illegal strike by federal civilian controllers.

Sept. 15, 1981. Strategic Air Command receives its first TR-1A reconnaissance aircraft, the Lockheed- built aircraft is an improved and enlarged version of the U-2 reconnaissance airplane.

Sept. 26, 1981. The Boeing 767 twin-engine, twin-aisle jetliner makes its first flight at Everett, Wash. Flight decks of the 767 and its stablemate, the single-aisle Boeing 757 are nearly identical, so pilots can easily qualify to fly both.

Oct. 2, 1981. President Ronald Reagan reinstitutes the B-1 bomber program canceled by the Carter Administration in 1977.

A Tale of Two Bombers

Nov. 10, 1981. For the first time, US Air Forces in Europe and the German Air Force test a section of the autobahn for emergency landings.

Nov. 23, 1981. During Bright Star ’82, eight B–52 bombers assigned to the strategic-projection force establish a record for the longest nonstop B–52 bombing mission. Flying a distance of 15,000 miles with three midair refuelings in 31 hours from air bases in North Dakota, the bombers deliver their conventional munitions on a simulated runway in Egypt.


Feb. 4, 1982. First flight of Tacit Blue “Whale,” which demonstrated that curvilinear surfaces were valuable in foiling radar. It leads to advances that live on in the B-2 and the F/A-22.

The (Tacit) Blue Whale

Feb. 24, 1982. NATO receives the first of 18 E-3A AWACS aircraft at Geilenkirchen AB, Germany.

April 2, 1982. With the help of airpower, Argentina invades and captures the Falkland Islands, a British crown colony. On May 4, an Argentine airplane sinks the British destroyer HMS Sheffield with an Exocet missile. Argentine aircraft sink three more British ships, including two frigates and a destroyer, before British forces prevail, aided by land and carrier-based aircraft. On June 14, the last Argentine forces surrender to British troops in the Falklands.

The Wars of Eighty-Two

June 6-11, 1982. In the Bekka Valley of Lebanon, the Israeli Air Force overcomes the long-standing combat advantage of surface-to-air missiles, destroying 19 SAMs with no losses. In the follow-up action, the Israelis shoot down 82 Syrian MiGs without losing any of their own fighters.

The Bekaa Valley War

June 10, 1982. Strategic Air Command’s first all-woman KC-135 crew, assigned to the 924th Air Refueling Squadron, Castle AFB, Calif., performs a five-hour training mission that includes a midair refueling of a B-52 bomber.

July 1, 1982. US Air Force activates its first Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM) wing, the 501st Tactical Missile Wing, at RAF Greenham Common in England.

The Short, Happy Life of the Glick-Em

July 1, 1982. Gen. Charles A. Gabriel becomes Air Force Chief of Staff.

Sept. 1, 1982. USAF establishes Space Command, with headquarters at Peterson AFB, Colo. (USAF redesignates it Air Force Space Command on Nov. 15, 1985, following establishment of US Space Command on Sept. 23, 1985.)

Space Command: Setting the Course for the Future

Sept. 16, 1982. Capt. Ronald L. Cavendish and his crew successfully land their B-52 Stratofortress after the aircraft lost both of its rudder-elevator hydraulic systems. The crew earns the Mackay Trophy for this feat, which had never been accomplished without significant damage to or complete destruction of the aircraft. (The crew of E-21 from the 19th Bombardment Wing at Robins AFB, Ga.: Cavendish, 2nd Lt. Frank A. Boyle, 1st Lt. Michael J. Connor, 1st Lt. James D. Gray, Capt. Ronald D. Nass, 1st Lt Gerald E. Valentini, and TSgt. Ronald B. Wright.)

Sept. 21, 1981. A B-52 Stratofortress of the 416th Bombardment Wing, Griffiss AFB, N.Y., conducts the first operational test of an ALCM.

Nov. 11, 1982. Vance D. Brand, Robert F. Overmyer, Joseph P. Allen IV, and William B. Lenoir lift off in the space shuttle Columbia. STS-5 is the first mission to send four astronauts aloft at one time and is the first fully operational flight of a space shuttle.


Feb. 9, 1983. The first rewinged C-5A makes its first flight at Marietta, Ga. It will be delivered to the Air Force at the end of the month.

Feb. 10, 1983. The Cruise Pact is signed by the US and Canada, allowing testing of US cruise missiles in northern Canada.

March 23, 1983. Flight testing of the Rockwell B-1A resumes at Edwards AFB, Calif. This aircraft is modified for the B-1B development effort.

Here Comes the B-1B

April 1-May 1, 1983. The Air Force transfers 31 units and four installations from Strategic Air Command to Space Command, which took over missile warning and space surveillance systems.

May 9, 1983. A C-141 crew from the 18th Military Airlift Squadron, McGuire AFB, N.J., becomes USAF’s first all-female crew to fly a round-trip mission across the Atlantic.

June 17, 1983. The first LGM-118A Peacekeeper (originally MX) ICBM is test-launched from Vandenberg AFB, Calif.

June 18, 1983. The first American woman to go into space, Sally K. Ride, is aboard Challenger on the seventh space shuttle mission (STS-7).

July 1, 1983. As war rages between Iran and Iraq, posing a threat to the oil-rich nations of the Persian Gulf, the US Air Force activates a unit in Saudi Arabia—a provisional support squadron at Riyadh Air Base—its first in that country.

July 4, 1983. Flying in their new General Dynamics F-16A Fighting Falcons, the USAF Thunderbirds perform before an estimated crowd of two million people at Coney Island, N.Y.

Aug. 1, 1983. CMSgt. Sam E. Parish becomes Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.

Aug. 30, 1983. Two milestones are recorded on the STS-8 space shuttle mission: The oldest astronaut, William E. Thornton, 54, and the first black American astronaut, USAF Lt. Col. Guion S. Bluford Jr., are sent aloft on the space shuttle Challenger with three others.

Sept. 1, 1983. A Soviet Su-15 interceptor shoots down a Boeing 747 Korean airliner with 269 people aboard near Sakhalin Island, north of Japan. Three USAF HC-130 aircraft from the 33rd Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron at Kadena AB, Japan, participate in the subsequent search but found no survivors.

Sept. 3-25, 1983. As part of Operation Rubber Wall, Military Airlift Command flies 85 C-141, 24 C-5, and four C-130 missions to transport about 4,000 tons of supplies from the US to American marines in Lebanon.

Sept. 5, 1983. A KC-135 crew led by Capt. Robert J. Goodman saves an F–4E Phantom and its crew over the Pacific, refueling the F–4E four times and towing it with a refueling boom. The KC-135 crew received the 1983 Mackay Trophy for the most meritorious flight of the year.

Oct. 23-Dec. 9, 1983. After a terrorist bomb explodes at a Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, Military Airlift Command and Air Force Reserve cargo and aeromedical evacuation aircraft transport 239 dead and 95 wounded Americans to the US and Europe for burial and medical treatment.

Oct. 24-Nov. 3, 1983. In Operation Urgent Fury, American military forces raid the Caribbean island of Grenada to evacuate US citizens, restore democracy, and eliminate a hostile Cuban/Soviet base. Military Airlift Command and Air Force Reserve C-5, C-141, and C-130 aircraft fly 496 missions to transport 11,389 passengers and 7,709 tons of cargo to Grenada. Strategic Air Command tankers and Tactical Air Command fighters, as well as Air National Guard EC-130Es, support the operation, which accomplished its triple mission. USAF Lt. Col. James L. Hobson Jr., who leads a flight of MC-130Es to successfully complete an airborne assault on Point Salinas, dropping paratroopers at the exact planned time over target in a hail of antiaircraft fire, receives the 1984 Mackay Trophy.

Oct. 25–Nov. 2, 1983. US forces conduct Operation Urgent Fury, the rescue of American medical students on the Caribbean island of Grenada.

“Blue Christmas Coming Up,” Air Force Magazine, January 1984 (not yet online)

Nov. 28, 1983. The ninth space shuttle mission (STS-9) is launched. Mission Commander John W. Young becomes the first person to make six spaceflights, and Columbia is the first spacecraft to be launched with a crew of six. The flight is also the first to use the European Spacelab module.


Feb. 3–11, 1984. Navy Capt. Bruce McCandless II becomes the first human satellite as he takes the self- contained Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) out for a spin on Feb. 8 while in Earth orbit on space shuttle mission 41-B.

March 19–April 9, 1984. The US Air Force flies 28 C-5 and 17 C-141 missions and deployed an E–3A Sentry to support Egypt and Sudan against threats from Libya.

April 6–13, 1984. The 11th US space shuttle mission (41-C) is a spectacular success as the defective Solar Maximum Mission satellite (Solar Max) is repaired in orbit. After mission specialist George D. Nelson fails to capture the satellite on his spacewalk, Terry J. Hart uses Challenger’s remote manipulator arm to catch Solar Max on the fly. Nelson and James D.A. van Hoften repair the satellite in the shuttle’s payload bay before it is released.

May 16, 1984. USAF C-141s deliver 22 tons of medical supplies to Afghan refugees at Peshawar, Pakistan. The refugees had fled their country because of war.

May 22, 1984. The Chiefs of Staff of the Army and the Air Force sign a memorandum of agreement titled “Joint Force Development Process,” also known as “The 31 Initiatives.”

Aug. 7–Oct. 2, 1984. In Operation Intense Look—the deployment of US minesweeping assets to the Red Sea—Military Airlift Command flies 44 missions to transport 983 passengers and 1,324 tons of cargo. Egypt and Saudi Arabia had requested the minesweeping after mysterious shipping explosions.

Aug. 27, 1984. The first Grumman X-29A forward swept wing research aircraft rolls out at the company’s Calverton, Long Island, facility in New York.

Sept. 4, 1984. The first production Rockwell B-1B bomber is rolled out at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif.

“The Magnificent B-1B,” Air Force Magazine, November 1984 (not yet online)

Here Comes the B-1B

Sept. 18, 1984. Col. Joe Kittinger Jr., USAF (Ret.), completes the first successful solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in a balloon, traveling from Caribou, Maine, to Savona, Italy, in 84 hours and setting a new balloon distance record of 3,550 miles.

Oct. 5–13, 1984. On the 13th space shuttle mission, Challenger lifts off for the first time with a crew of seven. Mission 41-G is the first to have two female astronauts (Sally K. Ride and Kathryn D. Sullivan, who will become the first American woman to make a spacewalk) and the first to have a Canadian astronaut aboard (Marc Garneau). Commander Robert L. Crippen becomes the first to fly on the shuttle four times. Aloft, the crew refuels a satellite in orbit for the first time.

Oct. 18, 1984. Company pilot M.L. Evenson and USAF Lt. Col. L.B. Schroeder make the first flight of the Rockwell B-1B variable-geometry bomber at Palmdale, Calif., and land at Edwards AFB, Calif. This is the first of 100 aircraft to be built in the revitalized B-1 bomber program.

Dec. 14, 1984. At Edwards AFB, Calif., Grumman pilot Chuck Sewell makes the first flight of the X-29A forward-swept wing demonstrator. The X-29s, two of the most unusual aircraft ever built, are designed to prove the aerodynamic benefits of wings that appear to have been put on backwards.


Jan. 1, 1985. Lt. Col. David E. Faught, a 97th Bombardment Wing instructor pilot, saves the lives of seven fellow crewmen and a KC-135, landing the aircraft despite the fact that its nose gear would not extend. He receives the Mackay Trophy.

Jan. 24–27, 1985. The 15th space shuttle mission (51-C) is the first all-military flight. The Discovery crew of Navy Capt. Thomas K. Mattingly (mission commander), Air Force Lt. Col. Loren J. Shriver (pilot), and Air Force mission specialists Lt. Col. Ellison S. Onizuka and Maj. Gary E. Payton, along with Marine Lt. Col. James F. Buchli, deploy a classified payload, believed to be a signals intelligence satellite.

July 1, 1985. A US Air Force C-141 from the 438th Military Airlift Wing transports 39 passengers released from Trans World Airlines flight 847, which was hijacked on June 30 by two Shiite Muslims. At Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany, Vice President George H.W. Bush greets the survivors upon their arrival from Damascus, Syria.

July 7, 1985. Strategic Air Command accepts its first operational B-1B Lancer, a long-range bomber with variable swept wings. It goes to the 96th Bombardment Wing at Dyess AFB, Tex.

Aug. 23, 1985. Air Force Systems Command successfully conducts its first “cold launch” from an underground silo, a modified Minuteman launch facility at Vandenberg AFB, Calif. The cold-launch technique ejects the missile from the silo by gas pressure, and the propellant ignites after it becomes airborne. This technique causes less damage to the silo and reduces the time needed for another launch.

Sept. 13, 1985. The first test of the LTV-Boeing ASM-135A air-launched anti-satellite weapon against a target is successfully carried out over the Western Test Range, Vandenberg AFB, Calif. Launched from an F-15, the missile destroys a satellite orbiting at a speed of 17,500 mph approximately 290 miles above Earth.

The Flying Tomato Can

Sept. 21–30, 1985. USAF airlift units fly more than 360 tons of relief cargo to Mexico City following massive earthquakes there. On Sept. 23, the 89th Military Airlift Wing transports First Lady Nancy Reagan to Mexico City to express the nation’s concern and to deliver a check for $1 million.

Oct. 7, 1985. Navy F-14 Tomcats intercept and surround an Egypt Air Boeing 737 in international airspace over the Mediterranean. The 737, which is carrying the Palestinian terrorists who had hijacked the Italian luxury liner Achille Lauro, is forced to land in Sigonella AB, Sicily, where the terrorists are taken into custody.

Oct. 10, 1985. The LGM-118 Peacekeeper ICBM reaches initial operational capability. The 10-warhead missiles are based at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo.

In Focus: Peacekeeper and the Protestors

Readiness Counts, Too

The Future of the ICBM

Nov. 15, 1985. USAF redesignates Space Command as Air Force Space Command.

Dec. 9, 1985. Russell A. Rourke becomes Secretary of the Air Force.

Dec. 16, 1985. After 20 years of operation, the Pioneer 6 satellite becomes the longest-running spacecraft in history. When launched in 1965, the solar-orbiting satellite had a life expectancy of six months.


Jan. 8, 1986. Military Airlift Command accepts delivery of its first C-5B Galaxy, an improved version of the C-5A, at Altus AFB, Okla.

Jan. 28, 1986. The space shuttle Challenger explodes 73 seconds after liftoff, killing all seven astronauts, including schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe. Others on Mission 51-L are Francis R. Scobee, Navy Cmdr. Michael J. Smith, Judith A. Resnik, Ronald E. McNair, Air Force Lt. Col. Ellison S. Onizuka, and Gregory B. Jarvis. The manned space program will be halted for two years while vehicular and management flaws are corrected.

Coming Back in Space

Feb. 18–22, 1986. The 129th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Group and the 41st Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron employ four HH-3 Jolly Green Giant helicopters, two HH-53 helicopters, and three C-130 Hercules aircraft to assist flood victims of the Russian and Yuba Rivers of northern California. The airmen evacuate 520 flood victims, save 33 lives, and supply more than 3,000 sandbags to Army troops at the disaster site.

March 4, 1986. During Exercise Bright Star, a combined US-Egyptian training operation, USAF tankers refuel foreign aircraft for the first time.

March 5, 1986. During a Coronet East deployment, Capt. Marc C. Felman and his KC-10 Extender crew perform an emergency refueling of Marine A-4M aircraft in the middle of the Atlantic, an action for which they receive the Mackay Trophy.

March 25, 1986. For the first time, an all-woman Minuteman missile crew serves on alert duty; the crew is assigned to the 351st Strategic Missile Wing, Whiteman AFB, Mo.

April 14-15, 1986. In Operation El Dorado Canyon, US Air Force F-111s launch from RAF Lakenheath in England, are refueled in the air six times by KC-10 tankers, maintain complete radio silence, and are joined by Navy A-6s in a retaliatory raid against Libya in response to state-sponsored terrorism.

El Dorado Canyon

April 24–May 7, 1986. Veterans of three wars attend the Air Force Association’s “Gathering of Eagles” in Las Vegas.

April 28–May 7, 1986. Air Weather Service units support US efforts to track the movement of radioactive contamination from the Chernobyl nuclear-reactor accident in the Soviet Union. WC–130 Hercules aircraft fly air-sampling missions.

June 5, 1986. The Air Force orders two specially modified and equipped Boeing 747-200s to be the new Presidential transports. The new Air Force One aircraft, to be assigned to Andrews AFB, Md., will be designated VC-25A.

June 9, 1986. Edward C. Aldridge Jr. becomes Secretary of the Air Force.

July 1, 1986. Gen. Larry D. Welch becomes Air Force Chief of Staff.

July 1, 1986. CMSgt. James C. Binnicker becomes Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.

July 19–28, 1986. Twenty-four C–141s and eight C–130s fly 32 missions during Operation Southern Haylift, supplying some 536 tons of donated hay (more than 19,000 bales) to drought-stricken farmers in several southeastern states. The operation saves hundreds of cattle as well as the livelihoods of a great many Southern livestock farmers.

Oct. 1, 1986. The Goldwater-Nichols Act gives theater commanders increased control of forces from all services.

Oct. 10, 1986. The Air Force formally places the LGM–118A Peacekeeper (also known as MX missile) on alert duty.

Dec. 11, 1986. The McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle, the two-seat, dual role air-to-air and air-to- ground variant of the F-15 family, flies for the first time.

Dec. 23, 1986. Dick Rutan and Jeanna Yeager land at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., after nine-day flight in experimental aircraft Voyager, the first-ever non-stop, unrefueled flight around the world.


May 5, 1987. The last Martin Marietta LGM-25C Titan II ICBM is taken off strategic alert at Little Rock AFB, Ark. The Titan II had stood nuclear alert since 1963.

May 17, 1987. Forty-four years to the day its crew became the first to complete 25 bombing missions over Europe, the Memphis Belle, arguably the most famous Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress ever built, is placed in its permanent home, a covered pavilion in a park on Mud Island, in Memphis, Tenn., in gala ceremonies. The dedication includes a flyby of seven privately owned B-17s.

The Making of an Iconic Bomber

July 4, 1987. Lt. Col. Robert Chamberlain and crew set a dozen recognized class records for speed with payload (jet aircraft) in a Rockwell B-1B out of Palmdale, Calif. The brand-new aircraft is on an acceptance flight and flies a 500-mile closed course near Vandenberg AFB, Calif. This flight and one on Sept. 17 (see below) are instrumental in award of the 1987 Mackay Trophy to Det. 15, Air Force Plant Representative Office and B-1B System Program Office, Air Force Systems Command.

July 24, 1987. In Operation Earnest Will, the US begins providing protection to reflagged Kuwaiti oil tankers in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq War. USAF E-3 AWACS warn of aerial threats, C-5 and C- 141 aircraft airlift minesweeping personnel and equipment to the theater, and KC-10 and KC-135 tankers refuel escorting Navy fighters. The operation continues until Nov. 17, 1988.

Sept. 17, 1987. Maj. Brent A. Hedgpeth and crew set nine recognized class records for 3,100 miles with and without payload (jet aircraft) of 655.09 mph in a Rockwell B-1B out of Palmdale, Calif. This flight and one on July 4 (see above) are instrumental in award of the 1987 Mackay Trophy to Det. 15, Air Force Plant Representative Office and B-1B System Program Office, Air Force Systems Command.

Sept. 24, 1987. The Air Force’s Thunderbirds fly for a crowd of 5,000 in Beijing. It has been nearly 40 years since a US combat aircraft flew over and landed on Chinese soil.

Oct. 1, 1987. Air Force Systems Command relinquishes Onizuka AFS, Calif., and the Air Force Satellite Control Network—a set of worldwide remote-tracking stations—to Air Force Space Command.

Dec. 8, 1987. The US and the Soviet Union sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, agreeing to remove all intermediate-range (620 miles to 3,415 miles) missiles from Europe. The agreement results in the inactivation of six USAF tactical missile wings equipped with Ground-Launched Cruise Missiles (GLCM).

Restoring NATO’s Flexible Response

The Short, Happy Life of the Glick-Em


Jan. 1, 1988. SAC changes its missile crew assignment policy to permit mixed male/female crews in Minuteman and Peacekeeper ICBM launch facilities.

Jan. 20, 1988. The 100th and final B-1B bomber rolls off the line at Rockwell’s plant in Palmdale.

A Tale of Two Bombers

Feb. 10, 1988. The 2,000th F-16 fighter built is accepted by Singapore.

March 3, 1988. The Pioneer 8 solar orbiter, which was launched Nov. 8, 1968, with a six-month life expectancy, is finally declared defunct.

March 17–18, 1988. USAF transport aircraft carry some 3,200 US soldiers to Honduras for Exercise Golden Pheasant, responding to a Honduran government request after Honduras experiences an incursion of Sandinista forces from Nicaragua.

April 5–8, 1988. Eight C-5s and 22 C-141s of Military Airlift Command transport 1,300 security specialists from the US to Panama to counteract political instability that threatens the safety of several thousand US citizens in the Canal Zone.

April 17–July 23, 1988. Capt. Michael Eastman and his C-5 transport crew are the first US airmen to land at Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan, in the Soviet Union. They deliver sensitive verification equipment for monitoring nuclear tests under existing international agreements. Eastman and crew receive the 1988 Mackay Trophy.

May 23, 1988. The Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey, the world’s first production tilt-rotor aircraft, is rolled out at Bell Helicopter Textron’s plant in Arlington, Tex.

Finally, the Osprey

June 8, 1988. The Grumman X-29 breaks the record for most flights by an X-series aircraft, as NASA pilot Rogers Smith flies the No. 1 aircraft for the 200th time, breaking the record of 199 flights set by the three North American X-15s.

Coming On and Coming Up

Aug. 2, 1988. As evidence of thawing superpower relations, US Secretary of Defense Frank C. Carlucci is given the opportunity to inspect the Soviet Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bomber during a visit to Kubinka Air Base, near Moscow.

Aug. 15–28, 1988. USAF C-5s airlift a 500-member United Nations peacekeeping force from Canada to Turkey and Iraq to monitor a cease-fire agreement between the two countries.

Sept. 29, 1988. Launch of the space shuttle Discovery ends the long stand-down of the US manned space program in the wake of the Challenger disaster.

Nov. 6, 1988. The Air Force launches its last Martin Marietta Titan 34D booster from Vandenberg AFB, Calif. It carries a classified payload.

Nov. 7, 1988. The US Postal Service issues a 65-cent commemorative stamp bearing the likeness of Gen. H.H. “Hap” Arnold in ceremonies at the Arnold Engineering and Development Center at Arnold AFB, Tenn.

Nov. 10, 1988. The Air Force reveals the existence of the Lockheed F-117A Stealth fighter, operational since 1983.

The Secret Doings at Tonopah

How the Skunk Works Fielded Stealth

The Black Jet

Nov. 12, 1988. Soviet cosmonauts Vladimir G. Titov and Musa K. Manarov break the world space endurance record as they remain on board the space station Mir for their 326th day in orbit.

Nov. 19, 1988. Boeing KC-135R tanker crews from the 19th Air Refueling Wing (Robins AFB, Ga.), 340th ARW (Altus AFB, Okla.), 319th Bomb Wing (Grand Forks AFB, N.D.), and 384th BW (McConnell AFB, Kan.) set 16 class time-to-climb records in flights from Robins.

Nov. 22, 1988. Northrop and the Air Force roll out the B-2 stealth bomber at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif.

The Spirit of Missouri

With the First B-2 Squadron

Nov. 30, 1988. The Soviets roll out the An-225 transport, the world’s largest airplane.

Dec. 9, 1988. The first Sierra Research-de Havilland Canada E-9A airborne telemetry data relay aircraft is delivered to the Air Force’s 475th Weapons Evaluation Group at Tyndall AFB, Fla.

Dec. 9, 1988. For the first time, the US flies airplanes directly to the Soviet Union without Soviet personnel on board as observers. The flights are part of the first humanitarian airlift to the Communist country, which earlier had refused such assistance. Over the course of eight weeks, Military Airlift Command aircraft and crews deliver more than 311 tons of relief cargo to victims of an earthquake in Yerevan, Armenia.

Dec. 29, 1988. The first operational dual-role (air superiority and deep interdiction) McDonnell Douglas F- 15E fighter is delivered to the Air Force.

In Focus: The Dual-Role Eagle


Jan. 4, 1989. Two Libyan MiG-23 Flogger fighters, displaying hostile intentions, are shot down over international waters by an element of US Navy F-14 Tomcats operating from the carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-67).

Feb. 14, 1989. The first McDonnell Douglas Delta II space booster is launched from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla. The 128-foot-tall rocket boosts the first operational NS-7 Block II Global Positioning System satellite into orbit.

Feb. 16, 1989. Northrop completes the 3,806th and final aircraft in the F-5/T-38 series. The milestone aircraft, an F-5E, will later be delivered to Singapore.

March 1, 1989. The first General Dynamics F-16A modified under the Air Force’s air defense fighter program is delivered to the Air National Guard’s 114th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron at Kingsley Field, Ore.

March 19, 1989. Bell pilot Dorman Canon and Boeing pilot Dick Balzer make the first flight of the Bell- Boeing V-22 Osprey at Bell Helicopter Textron’s Flight Research Center in Arlington, Tex.

The Amazing Osprey

The Osprey Factor

Finally, the Osprey

March 21, 1989. NASA completes the flight test of the Mission Adaptive Wing, a modification to the advanced fighter technology integration (AFTI) F-111 that allows the curvature of the aircraft’s leading and trailing edges to be varied in flight. The MAW completes 144.9 hours on 59 flights.

March 30, 1989. Fairchild delivers the first of 10 C-26A operational support aircraft to the Air National Guard’s 147th Fighter-Interceptor Group at Ellington ANGB, Tex. The C-26 is the military version of the Metro III commuter aircraft.

April 17, 1989. Lockheed delivers the 50th and last C-5B Galaxy transport to the Air Force in ceremonies at Marietta, Ga.

April 17–18, 1989. Lockheed pilots Jerry Hoyt and Ron Williams set 16 class time-to-climb and altitude records in separate flights in a NASA U-2C at the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB, Calif. The 32-year-old aircraft, which was loaned to NASA in 1971, is retired to a museum after the flights.

May 4, 1989. Air Force Maj. Mark C. Lee releases the Magellan probe from the payload bay of the space shuttle orbiter Atlantis during the first day of the four-day STS-30 space mission. The 21-foot-tall, 7,604- pound Magellan probe is designed to map Venus with its synthetic aperture radar.

May 13–18, 1989. In Operation Nimrod Dancer, US troops deploy with USAF airlift support to the Canal Zone because of an increasing threat to US personnel in Panama.

A Small War in Panama

May 22, 1989. Donald B. Rice becomes Secretary of the Air Force.

June 10, 1989. Capt. Jacquelyn S. Parker becomes the first female pilot to graduate from the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB, Calif.

June 14, 1989. The first Martin Marietta Titan IV heavy-lift space booster is successfully launched from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla. The booster, nearly 20 stories tall, carries a classified military payload.

July 6, 1989. Retired Air Force Gen. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle receives the nation’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in White House ceremonies.

“Jimmy Doolittle’s Greatest Contributions,” Air Force Magazine, September 1985 (not yet online)

An American Hero

July 6, 1989. The 169th and last MGM-31 Pershing 1A intermediate-range ballistic missile is destroyed at the Longhorn Army Ammunition Plant near Karnack, Tex., under the terms of the intermediate nuclear forces (INF) treaty.

July 17, 1989. Northrop Chief Test Pilot Bruce Hinds and Air Force Col. Richard Couch, director of the B- 2 Combined Test Force, make the first flight of the Northrop B-2A advanced technology bomber, flying from Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif., to the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB, Calif.

Aug. 2, 1989. The Navy successfully carries out the first undersea launch of the Lockheed UGM-133A Trident II (D5) sea-launched ballistic missile. The missile is launched from USS Tennessee (SSBN-734) while cruising off Florida.

Aug. 6, 1989. As further evidence of the thaw in US-Soviet relations, two MiG-29 fighters and the giant An-225 transport land and refuel at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, on their way to an air show in Canada.

Aug. 8–13, 1989. The 30th mission in the US space shuttle program is carried out, as the crew of five service astronauts launches a classified payload from the orbiter Columbia. It is the longest military shuttle flight to date.

Aug. 24, 1989. The Voyager 2 space probe completes its grand tour of the solar system as the 1,787- pound vehicle passes within 3,000 miles of Neptune. Voyager 2 was launched in August 1977.

Sept. 14, 1989. The Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft achieves its first conversion from helicopter mode to airplane mode while in flight.

Sept. 15, 1989. McDonnell Douglas delivers the 500th AH-64 Apache helicopter to the US Army at the company’s plant in Mesa, Ariz.

Sept. 21–Nov. 15, 1989. USAF aircraft transport 4,330 tons of relief equipment and supplies to the victims of Hurricane Hugo in the Caribbean Sea and South Carolina and airlift some 2,000 passengers, including evacuees and medical and engineering personnel.

Oct. 1, 1989. Air Force Gen. Hansford T. Johnson, pinning on his fourth star and assuming command of US Transportation Command and MAC, becomes the first Air Force Academy graduate to attain the rank of full general. He is a member of the Academy’s first graduating class of 1959.

Oct. 3, 1989. USAF receives the last of 37 Lockheed U-2R/TR-1A/B high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft.

Oct. 4, 1989. A crew from the 60th Military Airlift Wing, Travis AFB, Calif., lands a Lockheed C-5B transport at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. This is the first time an aircraft so large has landed on the ice continent. The C-5B, carrying 72 passengers and 168,000 pounds of cargo (including two fully assembled Bell UH-1N helicopters), lands without skis.

Oct. 4, 1989. A B-1B crew from the 96th Bombardment Wing at Dyess AFB, Tex., land successfully despite a retracted landing gear in the nose, a first for the B-1B. There were no injuries and only minimal damage to the bomber. The crew receives the 1989 Mackay Trophy.

Dec. 3, 1989. Solar Max, the first satellite to be repaired in orbit, is destroyed as it re-enters the atmosphere over Sri Lanka.

Dec. 14, 1989. MAC approves a policy change that allows female aircrew members to serve on C-130 and C-141 combat airdrop missions.

Dec. 19, 1989. Airlift begins for Operation Just Cause, in which USAF plays a major role, including air strikes, airlift, airdrops, and aerial refueling. The F-117A stealth fighter is used operationally for the first time. In the largest night-combat airdrop since World War II, USAF aircraft transport 9,500 airborne troops from various locations to Panama in fewer than 36 hours. An AC-130H crew (mission #1J1600GA354) of the 16th Special Operations Squadron receives the 1990 Mackay Trophy. Active, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve Command special operations crews participate in Just Cause.

A Small War in Panama

The Black Jet

Dec. 29–31, 1989. Two C-130s of the 435th Tactical Airlift Wing and the 37th Tactical Airlift Squadron transport 31 tons of medical supplies to Bucharest, Rumania, for treatment of civilians wounded in a violent but successful anticommunist revolution.