Chronology: 1990-1999


Jan. 25, 1990. The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird high-altitude, high-speed reconnaissance aircraft is retired from SAC service in ceremonies at Beale AFB, Calif. SR-71 crews flew more than 65 million miles, half at speeds above Mach 3.

Cold War From on High (pictorial)

Going Nowhere Fast

Jan. 31, 1990. Coronet Cove, the Air National Guard’s rotational deployments to defend the Panama Canal, ends after more than 11 years. More than 13,000 sorties, totaling 16,959 hours, had been flown since the operation began.

Feb. 21, 1990. The Air Force returns to dual-track pilot training. The team of McDonnell Douglas, Beech, and Quintron is selected over two other teams to provide the Tanker/Transport Training System. This turnkey operation will train pilots going on to fly “heavies” using the T-1A Jayhawk.

March 1, 1990. The Rockwell/MBB X-31A Enhanced Fighter Maneuverability (EFM) demonstrator rolls out at Rockwell’s facility at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif. A joint venture between the US and West Germany, the X-31 is designed to prove technologies that will allow close-in aerial combat beyond normal flying parameters.

March 6, 1990. Lt. Col. Ed Yielding (pilot) and Lt. Col. J.T. Vida (reconnaissance systems officer) set four speed records, including a transcontinental mark of 2,112.52 mph (one hour, eight minutes, 17 seconds elapsed time) over the 2,404.05-mile course from Oxnard, Calif., to Salisbury, Md., on, what was at the time, the last Air Force flight of the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird (see Jan. 25 entry).

March 26, 1990. Grumman rolls out the first production-standard version of the improved F-14D Tomcat for the US Navy at its plant in Calverton, N.Y.

April 2, 1990. Air Force pilot Maj. Erwin “Bud” Jenschke demonstrates in-flight thrust reversing for the first time while flying the McDonnell Douglas NF-15B S/MTD (STOL/Maneuvering Technology Demonstrator) aircraft over Edwards AFB, Calif.

April 4, 1990. McDonnell Douglas turns over the last of 60 KC-10A Extender tanker/cargo aircraft to the Air Force at its plant in Long Beach, Calif.

April 5, 1990. The first launch of the Orbital Sciences/Hercules Aerospace Pegasus air-launched space booster, the first all-new booster in two decades, is successfully carried out off the California coast.

April 24, 1990. The space shuttle Discovery, with a crew of five, lifts off on the 35th mission in the shuttle program. The next day, astronaut Steven A. Hawley releases the Hubble Space Telescope, an on-orbit observatory with great scientific promise. Although the telescope gathers unprecedented images, it proves to be somewhat myopic (exhibiting a two-micron-wide spherical aberration, something less than the width of a human hair) and will have to be repaired on a 1993 shuttle flight.

April 25, 1990. Boeing delivers the 200th re-engined and upgraded KC-135R tanker to the Air Force. It is delivered to the 340th Air Refueling Group at Altus AFB, Okla.

April 30, 1990. USAF announces that Air Force Special Operations Command, the first new command since 1982, will be established by early summer, as a component of US Special Operations Command. (See May 22 entry.)

May 4, 1990. The Hughes/Raytheon AIM-120A Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) passes its “final exam”—demonstration of its ability to achieve multiple victories against multiple targets. There are three direct hits and a lethal near miss in the four missiles vs. four targets test near Eglin AFB, Fla.

May 17, 1990. An Air Force crew from McGuire AFB, N.J., lands a C-141B transport at Moscow’s Sheremetievo Airport to deliver an inoperative MGM-31 Pershing II missile that will go into a museum in Moscow. The crew then picks up an inoperative Soviet SS-20 for display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

May 22, 1990. USAF redesignates 23rd Air Force as Air Force Special Operations Command.

May 22, 1990. Company pilot Larry Walker and Air Force pilot Maj. Erwin “Bud” Jenschke land the McDonnell Douglas NF-15B S/MTD test bed in a mere 1,650 feet at the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB, Calif. Pratt & Whitney two-dimensional, thrust-reversing engine nozzles are the main method of stopping the aircraft.

June 1990. The Air Force publishes its vision statement, Global Reach–Global Power.

June 1, 1990. SAC turns over the first pair of FB-111As to TAC. With one internal modification, the aircraft will be redesignated F-111G.

June 22, 1990. The Northrop/McDonnell Douglas YF-23A Advanced Tactical Fighter prototype is rolled out in ceremonies at the ATF Combined Test Force Facility at Edwards AFB, Calif. It is powered by two Pratt & Whitney YF119-PW-100 engines.

July 1, 1990. Gen. Michael J. Dugan becomes Air Force Chief of Staff.

July 11, 1990. Four Air National Guard F-16 pilots from the 177th Fighter-Interceptor Group at Atlantic City IAP, N.J., escort two Soviet MiG-29 fighters and an Il-76 transport in US airspace, flying from Kalamazoo, Mich., to Rockford, Ill., as part of the Soviet Union’s first US air show tour.

July 12, 1990. The last of 59 F-117A stealth fighters is delivered to the Air Force in ceremonies at Lockheed’s Palmdale, Calif., facility.

July 24, 1990. SAC ends Looking Glass, more than 29 years of continuous airborne alert, as an EC- 135C Airborne Command Post aircraft lands at Offutt AFB, Neb.

Aug. 1, 1990. CMSgt. Gary R. Pfingston becomes Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.

Aug. 2, 1990. In a major policy speech, President George H.W. Bush declares a new defense strategy, emphasizing regional conflict rather than the fading Soviet threat. He says it will be possible to reduce the armed forces by about 25 percent, a level that will become known as the “Base Force.” The speech receives minimal notice, overshadowed by events in Kuwait and the impending War in the Gulf.

The Base Force

Aug. 2, 1990. Iraq invades Kuwait. Iraq completes its occupation the next day and stands poised to cross the Saudi Arabian border.

Aug. 7, 1990. The US begins Operation Desert Shield, the large-scale movement of US forces to the Middle East in response to Iraq’s Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait and threat to Saudi Arabia.

Desert Shield

Aug. 8, 1990. A C-141 carrying Airlift Control Element lands in Dhahran, the first USAF aircraft into the crisis zone. F-15s from 1st Tactical Fighter Wing, Langley AFB, Va., and elements of the 82nd Airborne Division, Ft. Bragg, N.C., arrive in Saudi Arabia. US AWACS aircraft augment Saudi AWACS orbiting over Saudi Arabia.

Aug. 9, 1990. USAF redesignates Alaskan Air Command as 11th Air Force; it is made part of Pacific Air Forces.

Aug. 17, 1990. For the first time since it was authorized in 1952, the Civil Reserve Air Fleet is activated to increase the availability of airlift to the Middle East.

Aug. 21, 1990. By this date, one billion pounds of materiel have arrived in or are en route to Saudi Arabia. Six fighter wings are deployed, and SAC steps up refueling efforts and RC-135 reconnaissance flights in the area. By late Aug., more than 40,000 reserve members of all services have been called up.

Aug. 23, 1990. The first of two VC-25A Presidential transport aircraft is delivered to the 89th Military Airlift Wing at Andrews AFB, Md. The new aircraft, a modified Boeing 747-200B commercial transport, will replace the VC-137C aircraft currently used as “Air Force One.”

Aug. 27, 1990. Northrop pilot Paul Metz makes the first flight of the Northrop/McDonnell Douglas YF-23A Advanced Tactical Fighter prototype.

Aug. 29, 1990. The Lockheed/Boeing/General Dynamics YF-22A ATF prototype is unveiled in ceremonies at Lockheed Plant 10 in Palmdale, Calif. This aircraft is powered by two General Electric YF120-GE-100 turbofan engines.

Sept. 6, 1990. The US Postal Service issues a 40-cent postage stamp honoring Lt. Gen. Claire L. Chennault.

Sept. 8, 1990. Marcelite Jordan Harris becomes the first black woman to hold the grade of brigadier general in the Air Force.

Sept. 18–28, 1990. The 436th and 438th Military Airlift Wings transports 107 pallets of tents, cots, and blankets to Jordan for the relief of some 100,000 foreign workers who had fled from Kuwait because of the Iraqi invasion.

Sept. 18, 1990. Gen. John Michael Loh becomes acting Air Force Chief of Staff. (Defense Secretary Dick Cheney fires Gen. Michael J. Dugan on Sept. 17.)

Sept. 29, 1990. Lockheed pilot Dave Ferguson makes the first flight of the Lockheed/Boeing/General Dynamics YF-22A ATF prototype.

Oct. 1, 1990. Air Force Systems Command relinquishes Patrick AFB, Fla., and the space-launch mission to Air Force Space Command.

Oct. 11, 1990. Rockwell pilot Ken Dyson makes the first flight of the Rockwell/MBB X-31A Enhanced Fighter Maneuverability (EFM) demonstrator at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif. The flight lasts 38 minutes.

Oct. 30, 1990. Gen. Merrill A. McPeak becomes Air Force Chief of Staff.

Nov. 9, 1990. Col. Thomas C. Cook, believed to be the Air Force’s last World War II combat veteran still serving, retires. He saw action as a B-24 navigator in Europe and transferred to reserve status in 1948. He returned to active duty in 1976.

Dec. 17, 1990. The Lockheed/Boeing/General Dynamics YF-22 prototype is flown to an unprecedented 60-degree angle-of-attack (AOA) attitude and remains in full control in a test flight over Edwards AFB, Calif.

Dec. 29, 1990. The 169th Tactical Fighter Group is the first Air National Guard unit to deploy to the Persian Gulf region for Operation Desert Shield.


Jan. 7, 1991. Saying that “nobody could tell him how much it would cost to keep the program going,” Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney announces that he is canceling the McDonnell Douglas/General Dynamics A-12 Avenger attack aircraft program for default. The A-12 would have been the Navy’s first stealth aircraft.

How the A-12 Went Down

Jan. 15, 1991. Strategic Air Command relinquishes Vandenberg AFB, Calif., and its launch facilities to Air Force Space Command.

Jan. 16, 1991. At 6:35 a.m. local time, B-52G crews from the 2nd Bomb Wing, Barksdale AFB, La., take off to begin what will become the longest bombing mission in history. Carrying 39 AGM-86C Air Launched Cruise Missiles (a conventional version of the nuclear-armed General Dynamics AGM-86B ALCM), the bomber crews fly to the Middle East and launch their missiles against high-priority targets in Iraq.

Washington Watch: Airpower Opens the Fight

Fifty Years of the B-52

Jan. 17, 1991. War begins in the Persian Gulf. Operation Desert Shield becomes Operation Desert Storm. More than 1,200 combat sorties are flown, and 106 cruise missiles are launched against targets in Iraq and Kuwait during the first 14 hours of the operation.

The Strategy of Desert Storm

Desert Storm

What We Should Have Learned in Desert Storm, but Didn’t

Total Storm

Jan. 17, 1991. Constituting less than 2.5 percent of all coalition aircraft, stealthy F-117A fighter-bombers attack more than 31 percent of Iraqi strategic targets on the first day of the war.

Jan. 21, 1991. USAF Capt. Paul T. Johnson, in his A-10 Thunderbolt II, locates a Navy F-14 fighter pilot who has ejected in Iraqi territory. Johnson destroys a threatening Iraqi truck to allow a USAF MH–53J Pave Low helicopter to rescue the pilot. Johnson receives the Air Force Cross. The Pave Low helicopter crew earned the 1991 Mackay Trophy.

Hog Heaven

Jan. 25, 1991. In one of the fastest program to develop and field a weapon in modern history, Air Force Systems Command’s Armament Division asks the Army to machine eight-inch cannon barrels to the shape of a bomb. On Feb. 24, the first of these Lockheed/Texas Instruments GBU-28/B bombs is tested at Tonopah Test Range, Nev., and penetrates so deeply, the weapon is never found. Within five hours of delivery to Saudi Arabia, two of the 4,700-pound weapons are dropped from an F-111 on Feb. 27.

Jan. 27, 1991. Two F-111Fs deliver precision bombs on the refinery at Al Ahmadi, Kuwait, closing oil manifolds opened by Iraqi forces and stopping the flow of crude oil into the Persian Gulf.

Jan. 27, 1991. Coalition aircraft attain air supremacy after 10 days of aerial combat.

Jan. 29, 1991. Iraq launches its only offensive of the Gulf War and gets promptly clobbered by airpower.

The Epic Little Battle of Khafji

Feb. 6, 1991. Capt. Robert Swain of the 706th Tactical Fighter Group (AFRES), NAS New Orleans, La., shoots down an Iraqi helicopter in the first air-to-air victory for the A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft. He uses the airplane’s internal GAU-8/A 30 mm cannon.

Feb. 15, 1991. In one of the most unusual air-to-air victories ever, Capt. Tim Bennett and Capt. Dan Bakke of the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., shoot down an Iraqi helicopter (probably an Mi-24 Hind) with a GBU-10 2,000-pound Laser-Guided Bomb dropped from their F-15E.

Tim Bennett’s War

Feb. 22, 1991. Soviet cosmonaut Musa K. Manarov sets a record for accumulated time in space, amassing his 447th day in orbit. Cosmonaut Manarov is on the 83rd day of his Soyuz TM-11 mission, working aboard the space station Mir, when he breaks the record.

Feb. 24, 1991. With Iraqis reeling—casualties, desertions, and other effects of the air campaign—the coalition launches its ground campaign, which (supported heavily by airpower) is concluded in just 100 hours.

Feb. 28, 1991. Iraq surrenders to the US-led coalition. In the 42-day, round-the-clock war, the Air Force flew 57 percent of all sorties with less than 58 percent of the assets, flew more than 38,000 combat sorties, offloaded more than 800 million pounds of fuel, and transported 96,465 passengers and 333 million pounds of cargo.

What We Should Have Learned in Desert Storm, But Didn’t

March 8, 1991. The first Martin Marietta Titan IV heavy-lift space booster to be launched from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., lifts off. The booster carries a classified payload.

April 5, 1991. Operation Provide Comfort begins. It was a humanitarian air operation to protect and supply Kurds in northern Iraq threatened by Saddam Hussein after the Gulf War. By July 15, USAF C-5, C-141, and C-130 aircraft airlift more than 7,000 tons of relief supplies. Subsequent increments of the operation include the deny flight mission over northern Iraq to ensure the Kurds could safely return home. The operation ends finally on Dec. 31, 1996, when it is replaced by Operation Northern Watch (see Jan. 1, 1997.)

April 11, 1991. Iraq accepts all terms of the UN cease fire. Gulf War officially ends.

April 18, 1991. USAF carries out the first successful flight test of the Martin Marietta/Boeing MGM-134A small ICBM. The missile flies 4,000 miles from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., to its assigned target area in the Army’s Kwajalein Missile Range in the Pacific Ocean.

In Focus: SAC Backs Small ICBM

April 23, 1991. Air Force Secretary Donald B. Rice announces that the Lockheed/Boeing/General Dynamics F-22 and the Pratt & Whitney F119 engine are the winners in the Advanced Tactical Fighter competition.

May 6, 1991. The US destroys the last of 846 MGM-31 Pershing II missiles prohibited by the INF Treaty. On May 12, the Soviet Union destroys the last of 1,846 SS-20 missiles.

May 10–June 13, 1991. In Operation Sea Angel, USAF transport aircraft airlift more than 3,000 tons of relief equipment and supplies to Bangladesh after a typhoon and tidal wave. C-5s and C-141s carry most of the cargo, including five Army Black Hawk helicopters and their crews, to the city of Dacca. From there, C-130s and the helicopters transport relief supplies to the flooded area.

June 6, 1991. The Air Force reveals the existence of the Northrop AGM-137A Tri-Service Standoff Attack Missile (TSSAM), a stealthy ground attack weapon with a range of less than 600 kilometers.

June 8–July 2, 1991. The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines buries Clark Air Base and two other US military installations with volcanic ash, forcing the Air Force to evacuate some 15,000 people to Guam and the United States. Operation Fiery Vigil becomes the largest evacuation operation since the fall of South Vietnam in 1975. Clark Air Base in the Philippines, the oldest and largest USAF overseas base, closes permanently.

Clark Digs Out of the Ashes

July 1, 1991. The Warsaw Pact, the military coalition of Soviet Bloc countries, formally disbands.

July 2, 1991. McDonnell Douglas announces the first flight of the first production helicopter built without a tail rotor. The MD520N uses a blown air system for anti-torque and directional control.

Sept. 15, 1991. The McDonnell Douglas C-17A transport makes its first flight. The crew of four takes off from the company’s plant in Long Beach, Calif., and lands two hours, 23 minutes later at the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB, Calif.

Sept. 27, 1991. Strategic Air Command nuclear alert crews stand down from their decades-long, round- the-clock readiness for nuclear war. SAC alerts began in October 1957.

Nov. 26, 1991. Clark AB, Philippines, is officially turned over to the Philippine government, ending nearly 90 years of US occupancy. It was the largest overseas USAF base.

Dec. 17–19, 1991. Four Naval aviators set 16 recognized class records for altitude, speed, and time-to- climb with and without payload (turboprop aircraft) in a Grumman E-2C Hawkeye at NAS Patuxent River, Md.

Dec. 19, 1991. Lt. Cmdr. Eric Hinger and Lt. Cmdr. Matt Klunder set a recognized class record for altitude with a 1,000-kilogram payload (turboprop aircraft) of 41,253.6 feet in an E-2C Hawkeye.

Dec. 21, 1991. The first Rockwell new-generation AC-130U gunship is flown for the first time.

Dec. 25, 1991. The Soviet Union ceases to exist.


Jan. 18, 1992. Air Training Command receives its first T-1A Jayhawk trainer aircraft at Reese AFB, Tex. With the T-1A, ATC will implement its new Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training program.

Jan. 31, 1992. The Navy takes delivery of the last production Grumman A-6 Intruder attack aircraft, closing out 31 years of Intruder production.

Feb. 10, 1992. Operation Provide Hope, the delivery of food and medical supplies to the former Soviet Union, begins.

Feb. 28–29, 1992. Four Air Force crews set recognized class time-to-climb records (jet aircraft) in a B-1B flying from Grand Forks AFB, N.D.

March 24, 1992. Rep. Les Aspin, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee—and soon to be Secretary of Defense in the Clinton Administration—introduces a portfolio of alternatives to the defense program, prosing cuts deeper than the 25 percent “Base Force” reduction already planned.

The Base Force Meets Option C

March 24, 1992. The US joins 24 other nations in signing the Open Skies Treaty, which allows any one of them to fly unarmed aerial reconnaissance missions over any other signatory nation.

April 1, 1992. The Community College of the Air Force graduates its 100,000th student, TSgt. Gordon J. Wiese.

April 9, 1992. The Air Force’s new Variable Stability In-Flight Simulator Test Aircraft (VISTA), a modified F-16, designated NF-16, is flown for the first time at the General Dynamics facility in Fort Worth, Tex. The flight lasts 53 minutes. The NF-16 will replace the 40-plus-year-old NT-33.

April 24, 1992. Two Peruvian fighters attack and heavily damage an unarmed USAF C-130 flying in international airspace off Peru. For making a safe emergency landing, the C-130 crew receives the 1992 Mackay Trophy.

May 12, 1992. Lockheed delivers the 2,000th C-130 Hercules in ceremonies at Marietta, Ga. The milestone aircraft, a C-130H, is later delivered to ANG’s 123rd Airlift Wing at Standiford Field, Ky.

June 1, 1992. USAF inactivates SAC, TAC, and MAC and activates Air Combat Command (taking control of bomber, fighter, attack, reconnaissance, and electronic combat/electronic warfare aircraft and ICBMs) and Air Mobility Command (taking control of airlift and tanker aircraft).

No More SAC, TAC, and MAC

June 1, 1992. DOD establishes US Strategic Command, with responsibility for planning, targeting, and command of US strategic forces.

July 1, 1992. USAF inactivates Air Force Systems Command and Air Force Logistics Command and activates Air Force Materiel Command, to provide “cradle to grave” weapon systems management.

July 2, 1992. Air Force begins flying humanitarian relief missions into Croatia and Bosnia under Operation Provide Promise, which officially ends Feb. 15, 1996. (Loading would begin July 1 in the US.)

Aug. 14, 1992. To save victims of drought and civil war in Somalia from starvation, the US launches Operation Provide Relief. By the time it ends on Feb. 28, 1993, 46 USAF transport aircraft airlift more than 23,000 tons of food, water, medical supplies, and other relief cargo to Somalia and to Somali refugees in Kenya.

Aug. 25, 1992. A day after Hurricane Andrew smashed into southern Florida, Air Mobility Command, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard transports, augmented by airliners under contract, deliver more than 21,000 tons of relief supplies and transport more than 13,500 passengers.

Aug. 27, 1992. Operation Southern Watch begins as Persian Gulf coalition members (primarily the US Air Force and Navy) begin to enforce the ban (announced 24 hours earlier) on Iraqi airplanes from flying south of the 32nd parallel. Any Iraqi aircraft flying south of the parallel will be shot down. This action is precipitated by Iraq’s failure to comply with United Nations Resolution 688, which demands that the Iraqi government stop the repression of its Shiite population in southern Iraq. It ends March 17, 2003.

Sept. 12–Oct. 18, 1992. Following Typhoon Iniki, which devastated Kauai in the Hawaiian archipelago, Air Mobility Command, Pacific Air Forces, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard aircraft airlift 6,888 tons of relief equipment and supplies to Hawaii and airlifts more than 12,000 passengers—evacuees and military and civilian relief workers.

Sept. 13–29, 1992. During Operation Impressive Lift, Air Mobility Command aircraft move 974 United Nations peacekeeping troops from Pakistan to Somalia and 1,168 tons of equipment and supplies—a total of 94 missions. The troops attempt to ensure a fair distribution of food being delivered in Operation Provide Relief.

Oct. 15, 1992. The Pentagon’s budget-driven “Bottom Up Review” makes wholesale reductions to the armed forces. Air Force fighter wing equivalents, for example—cut previously from 34 to 26 in the “Base Force” plan—are cut yet again to 20.

The Bottom-Down Review

The High-Risk Military Strategy

The Legacy of the Bottom-up Review

Dec. 5, 1992. Operation Restore Hope, an international humanitarian operation in Somalia, begins. Commercial airliners transport more than 30,000 troops, who safeguard food, supplies, and aid workers, from armed factions trying to seize power. USAF airlifts 32,000 tons of equipment and supplies before it ends May 4, 1993.

Dec. 16–18, 1992. Capt. Pamela A. Melroy and Capt. John B. Norton, along with McDonnell Douglas pilots William R. Casey and Charles N. Walls, set a number of recognized altitude records with payload (for two different subclasses of jet aircraft) in a C-17A at Edwards AFB, Calif. A class record for greatest load (133,422 pounds) carried to 6,600 feet is also set on the flight.

Dec. 16, 1992. A B-52 bomber from the 668th Bombardment Squadron loses two of its eight engines when one explodes and damages its neighbor. At about the same time, two more engines on the same side of the aircraft flame out. The crew is able to restart the two flamed-out engines and land safely. They receive the 1993 Mackay Trophy.

Dec. 19, 1992. Capt. Jeff Kennedy and crew set a recognized class record for great circle distance without landing (jet aircraft) of 10,083.11 miles in a KC-135R flying non-stop and unrefueled from Kadena AB, Japan, to McGuire AFB, N.J.

Dec. 27, 1992. While flying combat air patrol in Operation Southern Watch, two F-16 pilots from the 363rd Fighter Wing, Shaw AFB, S.C., intercept a pair of Iraqi MiG-25s flying in the UN-imposed no-fly zone over southern Iraq. One of the pilots, flying an F-16D, fires an AIM-120A AMRAAM and downs one of the MiGs, marking the first use of the AIM-120A in combat and the first USAF F-16 air-to-air victory.


Jan. 1, 1993. The first Air Force Reserve space unit, the 7th Space Operations Squadron, is activated at Falcon AFB, Colo.

Jan. 3, 1993. US President George H.W. Bush and Russian President Boris Yeltsin sign the second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START II), the most far-reaching nuclear-arms reduction pact in history. The agreement commits the US and Russia to the elimination of all ICBMs carrying multiple, independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs) and the reduction of the number of nuclear weapons carried by bombers.

Jan. 13, 1993. President George H.W. Bush orders punitive air strikes against 32 Iraqi missile sites and air-defense command centers after the US discovers an Iraqi troop foray across the newly demarcated border with Kuwait and active Iraqi surface-to-air missile sites in the no-fly zone.

Jan. 13, 1993. USAF Maj. Susan Helms, flying aboard Endeavour, becomes the first US military woman in space.

March 1, 1993. Lockheed completes acquisition of General Dynamics Fort Worth Division. The $1.5 billion purchase gives Lockheed control of the F-16 fighter line and increases the corporation’s share of the F-22 program to 67.5 percent.

March 9, 1993. An SR-71A Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft comes out of retirement to fly its first scientific flight for NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB, Calif. The aircraft, fitted with an ultraviolet video camera in the nose bay, is flown to an altitude of approximately 83,000 feet and collects more than 140,000 images of stars and comets.

Going Nowhere Fast

April 12, 1993. NATO Operation Deny Flight begins, enforcing a ban ordered by the UN Security Council on aircraft operations in the no-fly zone of Bosnia. The operation ends Dec. 20, 1995.

April 28, 1993. Secretary of Defense Les Aspin lifts the long-standing ban on female pilots flying US combat aircraft, including Army and Marine Corps attack helicopters.

April 29, 1993. German test pilot Karl Lang makes the first demonstration of a high-angle-of-attack, post- stall, 180-degree turn known as a Herbst Maneuver while flying the Rockwell/MBB X-31A EFM demonstrator. The turn is completed in a 475-foot radius.

May 22, 1993. Lt. Cmdr. Kathryn P. Hire, the first woman in the Navy to be assigned to a combat unit, flies her first mission as a tactical crew member on a P-3C Update III maritime patrol aircraft during a bombing exercise. Hire flies with VP-62, a Reserve unit based at NAS Jacksonville, Fla. The first Air Force female combat pilot will be 1st Lt. Jeannie Flynn, who will take her place in an F-15E cockpit later in 1993.

May 25–Aug. 3, 1993. The first successful demonstration of aerobraking (using atmospheric drag to slow a spacecraft) puts the Magellan Venus probe in a lower orbit. The probe suffers no ill effects.

June 11, 1993. AC-130 Spectre gunships participate in a United Nations raid on Somali warlord forces in retaliation for a June 5 attack on UN forces in Mogadishu, Somalia.

June 14, 1993. The first operational McDonnell Douglas C-17A Globemaster III transport is delivered to the 437th Airlift Wing at Charleston AFB, S.C.

June 17, 1993. Lt. Col. Patricia Fornes becomes the first woman to lead an Air Force ICBM unit. She assumes command of the 740th Missile Squadron at Minot AFB, N.D., a squadron once commanded by her father.

June 29, 1993. The Air Force rolls out the first Boeing OC-135B Open Skies Treaty observation aircraft at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. It is the first of three that will be used by the US to verify foreign compliance with arms treaties.

July 1, 1993. USAF redesignates Air Training Command as Air Education and Training Command.

July 1, 1993. AETC assumes responsibility for F-15 and F-16 format training from Air Combat Command and takes ownership of the 58th Fighter Wing (F-16) and Luke AFB, Ariz., and the 325th FW (F-15) and Tyndall AFB, Fla.

July 1, 1993. Air Force Space Command assumes responsibility for ICBMs from ACC and takes control of 20th Air Force and F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo.

July 8, 1993. Slingsby Aviation Ltd. rolls out the first T-3A Enhanced Flight Screener for the Air Force at its plant in York, England.

July 30, 1993. The multi-axis thrust-vectoring system installed on the VISTA NF-16 is employed for the first time in a test at the Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards AFB, Calif. By September 1993, the aircraft will achieve a transient angle of attack of 110 degrees and a sustained AOA of 80 degrees.

Aug. 5, 1993. The Advanced Flight Test Integration (AFTI) F-16 completes its 600th mission at the Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards AFB, Calif. The flight collects data for the AFTI/F-16 Ground Collision Avoidance System test effort.

Aug. 6, 1993. Sheila E. Widnall, associate provost and professor of aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, becomes Secretary of the Air Force. Widnall is the first female Secretary for any of the armed services.

Aug. 11–14, 1993. Global Enterprise, an ACC exercise to train aircrews for long-distance power projection missions, is carried out from Ellsworth AFB, S.D. Two B-1B Lancers are flown to Europe, across the Mediterranean and Red Seas around the Arabian Peninsula, and land at a staging base in Southwest Asia. After exchanging crews, the B-1s are flown from Southwest Asia, via Japan, over the Aleutians, and then back to South Dakota. Total flight time is 37.3 hours, and the 24-hour first leg is the longest flight ever made by a B-1B crew.

Aug. 17, 1993. The first of 350 early model B-52 bombers is cut into five pieces with a 13,000-pound steel guillotine at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz. The bombers are destroyed under the terms of START II.

Aug. 18, 1993. McDonnell Douglas’s Delta Clipper Experimental (DC-X) subscale single-stage-to-orbit prototype makes a 60-second first flight at the White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The 42-foot-tall vehicle takes off vertically, hovers at about 150 feet, moves laterally approximately 350 feet, and lands tail down.

Aug. 24 and 26, 1993. Two mixed Air Force and contractor crews set recognized class time-to-climb and altitude records (jet aircraft) in a C-17A Globemaster III at Long Beach, Calif.

Sept. 15, 1993. Boeing announces that work on the first B-52H bomber to be adapted for conventional warfare missions has been completed at its facility in Wichita, Kan.

Oct. 1, 1993. Air Combat Command takes control of all stateside C-130s from Air Mobility Command, while most ACC KC-135s transfer to AMC control. The KC-135 exceptions are those at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, and two at Offutt AFB, Neb.

Oct. 1, 1993. USAF’s Officer Training School moves from Lackland AFB, Tex., to Maxwell AFB, Ala.

Oct. 3–4, 1993. At Mogadishu, Somalia, where 18 American Rangers were killed and 80 wounded, Air Force Special Operations air commandos play a major role in helping the wounded and beating back the attack. USAF pararescueman TSgt. Timothy A. Wilkinson will be awarded the Air Force Cross for his actions. MSgt. Scott Fales and Sgt. Jeffrey Bray will be awarded the Silver Star.

Heroes at Mogadishu

Oct. 5–13, 1993. In Operation Restore Hope II, C-5 and C-141 aircraft transport 1,300 troops, 18 M–1 Abrams tanks, and 44 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles from the US to Somalia in nine days. Some flights went nonstop in 18 hours with four aerial refuelings.

Oct. 8, 1993. Capt. Pamela A. Melroy and McDonnell Douglas pilot Richard M. Cooper set two recognized jet aircraft class records for altitude with a 70,000-kilogram payload (32,169 feet) and greatest mass carried to a height of 2,000 meters (161,023 pounds) in a C-17A at Edwards AFB, Calif.

Dec. 1, 1993. Allison Engine Company separates from General Motors and becomes an independent company. Allison had been a part of GM since 1929.

Dec. 2–13, 1993. Astronauts on space shuttle Endeavour, piloted by USAF Col. Richard O. Covey, perform a record five spacewalks to repair the Hubble Space Telescope.

Dec. 7, 1993. Air Force Reserve acquires its first B–52 bombers, which go to the 917th Wing at Barksdale AFB, La.

Dec. 17, 1993. On the 90th anniversary of the Wright brothers’ first sustained flight, the first operational Northrop B-2 stealth bomber, Spirit of Missouri, is delivered to the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB, Mo.

The Spirit of Missouri

With Stealth in the Balkans


Jan. 10, 1994. Two HH-60G Pave Hawk crews from the 56th Rescue Squadron at NAS Keflavik, Iceland, receive the 1994 Mackay Trophy for their rescue of six sailors from a damaged ship off the coast of Iceland.

Jan. 13, 1994. The final F-15 of the 32nd Fighter Group departs Soesterberg Air Base, ending 40 years of USAF operations in the Netherlands.

Jan. 15, 1994. Hungary, Rumania, and Bulgaria grant overflight rights for F-16s deploying from Germany to Turkey, saving them two hours and marking the first flight of USAF fighters on an operational mission over these countries since World War II.

Jan. 25, 1994. A Titan II booster launches the unmanned space probe Clementine I toward the Moon— part of the first US lunar mission since Apollo 17 in 1972.

Feb. 3, 1994. Air Education and Training Command receives its first T-3A enhanced flight screener aircraft at Hondo Field, Tex.

Feb. 7, 1994. The first Titan IV Centaur rocket boosts the first Milstar communications satellite into orbit.

Feb. 10, 1994. Lt. Jeannie Flynn completes F-15E training, becoming the first female fighter pilot in the US Air force.

The Quiet Pioneers

Feb. 18, 1994. USAF aircraft deployed to France for the first time in more than 20 years. The five KC-135 tankers fly from French bases to refuel aircraft patrolling airspace over Bosnia-Herzegovina in Operation Deny Flight.

Feb. 28, 1994. Two USAF F-16 pilots of the 526th Fighter Squadron, operating under NATO’s Deny Flight, shoot down four Serb Super Galeb attack aircraft after twice warning the Serb jets to leave Bosnian airspace. It is NATO’s first combat in its 45-year history.

March 15, 1994. Reports by Air Force Magazine and the Air Force Association reveal the plans of the National Air and Space Museum to exhibit Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, as a prop in a political horror show. A great controversy ensues, and under pressure from Congress, the news media, and public opinion, the exhibit is canceled and the museum director is fired. Read a chronology, AFA special reports and analyses, and Air Force Magazine articles and editorials in this special collection: The Enola Gay Controversy

April 7, 1994. Capt. Michael S. Menser and crew set a recognized class record for 6,200-mile speed without payload (jet aircraft) of 599.59 mph flying from Grand Forks AFB, N.D., to Monroeville, Ala., to Mullan, Idaho, in a B-1B Lancer. At the same time, Capt. R.F. Lewandowski and crew set the recognized record for a different class for 6,200-mile speed without payload (jet aircraft) of 594.61 mph over the same course, also in a B-1B.

April 10, 1994. In NATO’s first air attacks on ground positions since the Alliance was founded 45 years previously, two USAF F-16C fighters destroy a Bosnian Serb Army command post with Mk 82 500-pound bombs after Bosnian Serbs attack UN personnel.

April 14, 1994. Two USAF F-15 Eagles, flying a UN no-fly zone mission over northern Iraq, mistakenly shoot down two Army UH–60 Black Hawk helicopters, killing 26 people.

Legacy of the Air Blockades

May 3, 1994. Col. Silas Johnson Jr., 93rd Bomb Wing commander, flies the last B-52G to the “Boneyard” at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., thus removing this series from the active inventory.

May 6, 1994. 1st Lt. Leslie DeAnn Crosby becomes the first Air Force Reserve woman fighter pilot after she graduates from an F-16 training course in Tucson, Ariz.

May 18, 1994. Northrop acquires Grumman to form Northrop Grumman Corporation.

June 3, 1994. Maj. Andre A. Gerner and McDonnell Douglas pilot John D. Burns set a recognized record for STOL aircraft for greatest mass carried to a height of 6,600 feet (44,088 pounds) in a C-17A at Edwards AFB, Calif.

June 12, 1994. The Boeing 777 makes its first flight. It is the first jetliner to be 100 percent digitally designed using three-dimensional computer graphics. It enters service in June 1995 with United Airlines.

June 24, 1994. USAF officially names the F-117 stealth aircraft the Nighthawk.

June 29, 1994. A US space shuttle makes first visit to a space station, the Russian Mir.

June 30, 1994. US Air Forces in Europe ended its presence in Berlin, Germany, after 46 years.

July 1, 1994. The 184th Bomb Group, Kansas Air National Guard, becomes the first Guard unit to be equipped with the B-1B.

Bombers in the Guard

July 22, 1994. For Operation Support Hope, a humanitarian-relief operation for refugees from the Rwandan civil war, USAF C-5s and C-141s begin airlifting equipment and supplies from Germany to Uganda and Kenya. C-130s transport the cargo from there to refugee camps in Zaire. By Aug. 7, they had delivered 3,660 tons of relief cargo.

Aug. 2, 1994. During a global power mission to Kuwait, two B-52s from the 2nd Bomb Wing, Barksdale AFB, La., set a world record while circumnavigating the Earth. Flying 47.2 hours, the bombers set a world record not only for the longest B-52 flight but also for the longest jet aircraft flight in history. Dropping 54 bombs over a range located 25 miles from the Iraqi border, the aircraft demonstrate their global reach and power on the fourth anniversary of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Aug. 4, 1994. Two B-1Bs (one from the 384th Bomb Group and one from the 184th Bomb Group of the Kansas Air National Guard) complete a 19-hour nonstop global power mission to Hawaii. This is the first time the 184th, the first ANG unit to receive the B-1B, flies a global power mission.

Sept. 19, 1994. Operation Uphold Democracy begins. USAF airlifters transport US military forces to Haiti to restore the country’s democratically elected president and stem the flow of Haitian refugees to the US.

Sept. 26, 1994. A B-52 and B-1B bombers, accompanied by a KC-10 tanker, land at Poltava AB, Ukraine, marking the first time since World War II that US bombers have landed in that country. B-17 bombers had flown there 50 years earlier on shuttle bombing missions against Nazi targets in eastern Europe.

Oct. 4, 1994. F-16s replace the last F-4 Wild Weasel aircraft in the suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) mission.

Oct. 10, 1994. Responding to massing of Iraqi troops near the Kuwait border, USAF airlifters begin transporting additional US forces to the Persian Gulf region under Operation Vigilant Warrior. During October, USAF will deploy 193 additional combat aircraft to augment the 77 already in place. Four bombers fly nonstop from bases in the US to deliver 55,000 pounds of bombs on target, on time, within audible range of Saddam’s forces. The Iraqis withdraw northward. Secretary of Defense William J. Perry later says, “The Air Force really has deterred a war.”

Oct. 14, 1994. The first operational C-17 mission flies from Langley AFB, Va., to Saudi Arabia, delivering a five-ton “rolling command post,” five vehicles, and assorted supplies for the US Army.

Oct. 26, 1994. Gen. Ronald R. Fogleman becomes Air Force Chief of Staff.

Oct. 26, 1994. CMSgt. David J. Campanale becomes Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.

Nov. 21–23, 1994. In Project Sapphire, Air Mobility Command C-5s transport more than 1,300 pounds of highly enriched uranium from the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan to Dover AFB, Del., to protect this large supply of nuclear materials from terrorists, smugglers, and unfriendly governments. From Dover, the uranium is taken to Oak Ridge, Tenn., to await conversion to commercial nuclear fuel.

Project Sapphire


Jan. 1, 1995. The first Air Force Reserve KC-135 associate unit, the 931st Air Refueling Group, is activated.

Feb. 3-11, 1995. USAF Lt. Col. Eileen M. Collins is the first woman to pilot a space shuttle, STS-63 Discovery.

Feb. 7, 1995. A crew from Whiteman AFB, Mo., makes the first drop of live bombs from the B-2 bomber. The two Mk 84 bombs are dropped as part of the B-2’s first Red Flag exercise at Nellis AFB, Nev.

March 15, 1995. Lockheed and Martin Marietta merge to form Lockheed Martin.

March 24, 1995. In a trans-Atlantic purchase, Allison Engine Company is acquired by Rolls Royce plc. Allison now operates as a standalone member of the Rolls Royce Aerospace Group.

March 31, 1995. 2nd Lt. Kelly Flinn, the first woman selected for bomber crew training, begins B-52 pilot training with the 11th Bomb Squadron, 2nd Bomb Wing, Barksdale AFB, La.

April 8, 1995. A USAF C-130 is hit 12 times by small-arms fire during takeoff but returns safely to Italy after delivering flour to Sarajevo, Bosnia, as part of Operation Provide Promise.

April 27, 1995. Air Force Space Command declares the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite constellation has achieved full operational capability.

June 1, 1995. Lockheed Martin and Boeing roll out the stealthy DarkStar Tier III Minus high-altitude Unmanned Aerial Vehicle in ceremonies at Palmdale, Calif.

June 2, 1995. USAF F-16 pilot Capt. Scott F. O’Grady is shot down over northwest Bosnia on an Operation Deny Flight mission. Rescued after an eight-day ordeal during which he subsisted on bugs and rainwater, O’Grady returns home to a hero’s welcome.

June 2–3, 1995. Two Dyess AFB, Tex.–based B-1B crews complete a 36 hour, 13 minute, 36 second, 20,100-mile nonstop round the world flight. This global power mission, called Coronet Bat, requires six air refuelings and incorporates bombing runs over the Pachino Range, Italy; the Torishima Range near Kadena AB, Japan; and the Utah Test and Training Range. The crews receive the 1995 Mackay Trophy. One of the crews, commanded by Lt. Col. Douglas Raaberg, sets a recognized speed record for average eastbound speed around the world (with air refueling) of 631.16 mph on the flight.

June 6, 1995. Astronaut Norman E. Thagard, flying on the Russian Mir space station, sets the US record for spaceflight endurance, passing 84 days, one hour, and 17 minutes in space. The previous US record- holders were the three astronauts on the third Skylab mission in 1974.

June 22, 1995. Secretary of the Air Force Sheila E. Widnall announces that Beech Aircraft has been selected to develop and deliver the Joint Primary Aircraft Training System (JPATS) for the Air Force and Navy. The new trainer, a modified version of the Swiss Pilatus PC-9 turboprop trainer, will replace USAF’s Cessna T-37Bs and the Navy’s Beech T-34Cs.

June 28, 1995. The National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution puts the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan, on display. The exhibition program is straightforward and factual. Earlier, amid major controversy, the museum canceled plans to show the Enola Gay as a prop in a politicized horror show after Congress and the public—alerted by reports from the Air Force Association— strongly objected.

June 30–Aug. 10, 1995. Under Operation Quick Lift, USAF C-5s and C-141s airlift British and Dutch forces, comprising a United Nations rapid-reaction force, to Croatia.

July 7–Aug. 5, 1995. The C-17 airlifter, earlier beset by troubles so severe that program cancellation was a possibility, produces outstanding results in a month-long wartime surge test. In Nov., DOD says the C- 17 has bounced back from its problems and authorizes the Air Force to buy up to 120 of these aircraft.

July 8, 1995. The Minuteman III ICBM achieves 100 million hours of operational duty.

July 29, 1995. Air Combat Command activates the 11th Reconnaissance Squadron, an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) unit, and assigns it to the 57th Operations Group at Nellis AFB, Nev.

Aug. 25, 1995. Capt. Russell F. Mathers and crew set three recognized class closed course speed records at Edwards AFB, Calif. The Barksdale AFB, La.–based crew flies their B-52H to a speed of 549.45 mph over the 6,200-mile course. The flight lasts 11 hours, 23 minutes.

Aug. 30, 1995. US Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps aircraft lead Operation Deliberate Force, a NATO bombing campaign responding to Bosnian Serb mortar attacks that killed 38 civilians at an outdoor market in Sarajevo. The operation ends Sept. 14, 1995. It is the first operational use of the Predator RPA, at that time an Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) program led by the Army (USAF takes over in 1996).

Deliberate Force

Sept. 1, 1995. Air Combat Command declares the SR-71 operationally capable, although still in mothball status (see Jan. 1, 1997).

Sept. 10, 1995. First Lady, the first production C-130 Hercules, is retired in ceremonies at Duke Field, Fla. This aircraft, which was first flown on April 7, 1955, had a distinguished career, including more than 4,500 combat hours in Southeast Asia after it was converted into a gunship. First Lady was later retired to the USAF Armament Museum at Eglin AFB, Fla.

Sept. 14–30, 1995. USAF airlifts more than 30 tons of medical supplies from Charleston AFB, S.C., to Hanoi, Vietnam, marking the first USAF humanitarian-airlift mission to Vietnam since 1975.

Sept. 15–21, 1995. The C-17 makes its operational debut, helping to deliver cargo after Hurricane Marilyn devastated islands in the eastern Caribbean Sea. In all, Air Mobility Command, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard cargo aircraft airlift nearly 1,000 tons of relief cargo to the Virgin Islands.

Sept. 22, 1995. An E-3B Sentry AWACS aircraft crashes on takeoff at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, after several Canadian geese flew into the aircraft’s two left wing engines. The crew of 24 US and Canadian airmen are killed. This is the first catastrophic AWACS accident in more than 18 years of operation.

Oct. 1, 1995. Air Combat Command activates the 609th Information Warfare Sq. at Shaw AFB, S.C.

Oct. 28–Dec. 18, 1995. USAF first tests its new air expeditionary force concept, deploying F-16s of the 20th Fighter Wing and the 347th Wing to Bahrain, under Operation Vigilant Sentinel.

Nov. 2, 1995. Lt. Col. Greg Feest becomes the first operational Air Force pilot to log 1,000 hours of flight time in the F-117A Nighthawk.

Nov. 29, 1995. Company test pilot Fred Madenwald makes the first flight of the McDonnell Douglas F/A- 18E Super Hornet carrier-based fighter attack aircraft at the company’s plant in St. Louis, Mo.

Dec. 6, 1995. A C-130E from the 37th Airlift Squadron at Ramstein AB, Germany, begins the airlift of troops and equipment into Tuzla, Bosnia, for Operation Joint Endeavor, NATO’s first peacekeeping effort (Dec. 20, 1995 – Dec. 20, 1996).

Dec. 7, 1995. Literally going out in a blaze of glory, the Galileo spacecraft’s atmospheric probe separates from the orbiter and plunges into Jupiter’s atmosphere. The probe sends a stream of data back to the orbiter and manages to survive 58.5 minutes before it is crushed by the intense pressure. Galileo was launched from the space shuttle in 1989.

Dec. 19, 1995. A federal judge rules in favor of General Dynamics and McDonnell Douglas, establishingthat the Navy’s A-12 Avenger stealth attack aircraft was canceled for the convenience of the government, rather than default. The A-12 was canceled in 1991.

Dec. 20, 1995. NATO air operation Decisive Endeavor (part of Joint Endeavor) begins to monitor and enforce peace implementation in Bosnia.

Dec. 20, 1995. The Air Force announces that its personnel strength has dipped below 400,000 for the first time since 1948. USAF’s postwar strength peaked at 977,593.


Jan. 4, 1996. Sikorsky test pilot Rus Stiles and Boeing test pilot Bob Gradle make the first flight of the Army’s YRAH-66 Comanche helicopter prototype at West Palm Beach, Fla. The RAH-66, designed for armed reconnaissance/light attack missions, is the first helicopter to employ stealth technologies.

Feb. 14, 1996. The E-8A Joint STARS surveillance platform flies the 50th Joint STARS mission for Operation Joint Endeavor, breaking a sortie record set in Operation Desert Storm in 1991. Despite the E- 8’s successes in these two operations, Joint STARS is still officially in development.

Feb. 15, 1996. Operation Provide Promise officially ends. During this international operation, USAF flew more than 4,500 sorties to deliver 62,802 metric tons of cargo to Sarajevo and other parts of Bosnia- Herzegovina.

March 15, 1996. After 77 years of aircraft manufacture in The Netherlands, Fokker Aircraft declares bankruptcy.

April 3, 1996. Secretary of Commerce Ronald Brown is among the people killed when the 76th Airlift Squadron CT–43 transport airplane in which he is a passenger crashes into a hillside near Dubrovnik, Croatia. Secretary Brown had been on an economic-development mission to Serbia.

April 9–25, 1996. USAF aircraft, including MH-53 Pave Lows, KC-135s, C-130s, MC-130 Combat Talons, and AC-130 Spectres, fly 94 missions during Operation Assured Response, in which US forces evacuate more than 2,000 noncombatants from Liberia during civil unrest in that country.

May 5, 1996. Col. Betty L. Mullis takes command of the Air Force Reserve’s 940th Air Refueling Wing, becoming the first woman to command a USAF flying wing.

June 11, 1996. Air Combat Command officially receives its first E-8 Joint STARS aircraft. USAF operated E-8 development aircraft during Operations Desert Storm and Joint Endeavor.

June 25, 1996. Terrorist truck bomb explodes at Khobar Towers, a military billeting complex in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 19 airmen and injuring hundreds of others. The Department of Defense sets aside the factual findings of two Air Force inquiries and puts the blame on the wing commander.

Fallout From Khobar Towers

Khobar Towers

Desert Stronghold

From Khobar to the Cole

The Second Sacking of Terryl Schwalier

Death in the Desert

Vindication + Vengeance

Schwalier Case Takes Another Downturn

The Empire Strikes Back—at Schwalier

July 27, 1996. On the day it is retired from service, the Air Force officially bestows the nickname Aardvark on the General Dynamics F-111 in ceremonies at the Lockheed Martin plant in Fort Worth, Tex., where the aircraft was built. The new official name formalizes what crews had been unofficially calling the aircraft for years.

Sept. 2–3, 1996. USAF flies B-52 bombers to the Middle East to launch 13 cruise missiles against military targets in Iraq under Operation Desert Strike, which is in response to Iraqi troops’ seizure of the city of Irbil, located in a zone protected by the US for Kurds in northern Iraq.

The Long Deployment

Sept. 3, 1996. The 11th Reconnaissance Squadron is the first Air Force unit to operate the RQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, flying over Bosnia to help the US ensure a peace agreement there.

The Little Predator That Could

The Robotic Air Force

Sept. 15, 1996. Operation Pacific Haven begins. USAF airlifts thousands of refugees driven from their homes in northern Iraq to Andersen AFB, Guam, where they are processed for settlement in the US.

October 1996. After the terrorist bombing at Khobar Towers in June, the Air Force moves to a more secure hub for Southern Watch operations, relocating to Prince Sultan Air Base in the Saudi Arabian desert.

Miracle in the Desert

Oct. 8, 1996. Three Air Force crews flying B-2A Spirit bombers, hit 16 out of 16 targets with live GPS- Aided Targeting System/ GPS-Aided Munition (GATS/GAM) weapons during a test at the Nellis AFB, Nev., range. The Whiteman AFB, Mo.-based crews drop the 2,000-lb. weapons from 41,000 feet and record 13 direct hits; three bombs record heavy damage and one is functionally damaged. The Northrop- developed GAM will serve as an interim weapon until USAF fields the new Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM).

Oct. 21, 1996. The Air Force successfully conducts the first guided launch of the GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition. JDAM, built by Boeing, is a guidance kit that converts “dumb” bombs into precision- guided munitions using Global Positioning System update information. During this test, the 2,000-pound weapon was released from a Lockheed Martin F-16C Fighting Falcon flying at 20,000 feet at Mach 0.8 over the test range at Eglin AFB, Fla. The weapon received satellite data prior to release, but primarily used inertial navigation system data on this test.

Nov. 5, 1996. CMSgt. Eric W. Benken becomes Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.

Chief Benken

Nov. 26, 1996. The Air Force carries out the first successful test of a full-up GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM). During this test, the 2,000-pound weapon was released from an F-16C Fighting Falcon flying at 20,000 feet at Mach 0.8 over the test range at Eglin AFB, Fla. The range had a cloud cover at 10,000 feet and the pilot could not see the target when he released the weapon. The JDAM tail kit received satellite updates during its flight and missed the bull’s-eye by only 9.2 meters, well within the required 13 meters.

Dec. 4, 1996. Air Force Capt. Kurt Gallegos from the 388th Fighter Wing’s 4th Fighter Squadron at Hill AFB, Utah, flies the five millionth flight hour recorded by the U.S. Air Force’s fleet of in F-16 Fighting Falcons.

Dec. 4, 1996. The Mars Pathfinder, the first spacecraft designed to land and explore Mars in nearly 21 years, is launched from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., aboard a McDonnell Douglas Delta II rocket. It is expected to arrive on Mars on July 4, 1997.


Jan. 1, 1997. Operation Northern Watch replaces Provide Comfort, as US aircrews continue enforcing the no-fly zone over northern Iraq. It ends March 17, 2003.

Northern Watch

The Highs and Lows of Northern Watch

Jan. 1, 1997. The SR-71 Blackbird strategic reconnaissance aircraft is brought out of retirement, as the Air Force announces that two aircraft and crews are mission ready. Mothballed in 1990, the Blackbird was revived in 1994, but was never made operational. In December 1996, Congress appropriated $39 million to get the aircraft back in action, and the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Beale AFB, Calif., began flying training sorties.

Feb. 17, 1997. USAF establishes Air Force Reserve Command (previously the Air Force Reserve field operating agency) as its ninth major command.

Feb. 18, 1997. USAF C-130s airlift 1,160 African peacekeeping troops to Liberia to restore order after a civil war there and 452 tons of cargo, under Operation Assured Lift. Operation ends on March 3.

Feb. 20, 1997. The Global Hawk long-range reconnaissance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle rolls out at the Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical plant in San Diego.

March 17, 1997. Under Operation Guardian Retrieval, US Special Operations Command and Air Mobility Command evacuate US citizens and other foreigners from Zaire, where civil unrest threatened them. SOCOM provides personnel and aircraft, including Air Force Special Operations Command MC-130s and MH-53s. AMC provides C-5s, C-17s, C-141s, and KC-135s. By the end of March, the operation flies 57 missions and transports 532 passengers.

March 21, 1997. USAF Lt. Col. Marcelyn A. Atwood, at NAS Pensacola, Fla., becomes the first woman to command a training squadron and the first USAF officer to command a Navy squadron. The squadron trains both Air Force and Navy pilots.

April 1, 1997. The B-2A Spirit stealth bomber reaches initial operational capability (IOC) with the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB, Mo.

April 1, 1997. Operational control of stateside C-130s and their units switches back from Air Combat Command to Air Mobility Command. The shift also includes C-21 Learjets. The C-130s and C-21s in the Pacific and Europe remain under control of PACAF and USAFE.

April 4, 1997. A Titan IIG booster launches a Defense Meteorological Satellite Program satellite into polar orbit from Vandenberg AFB, Calif. This is the first time a satellite has been launched aboard a converted ICBM.

April 9, 1997. The first F-22 fighter, “Spirit of America,” rolls out at the Lockheed plant at Marietta, Ga.

Raptor 01

The Indispensable Fighter

April 22–25, 1997. The Air Force Association hosts Air Force Fifty, a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the US Air Force in Las Vegas, Nev. The event, which features a meeting of the Global Air Chiefs, is capped off by the Golden Air Tattoo, a spectacular air show at nearby Nellis AFB.

May 12, 1997. A contingent of students from the US Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB, Calif., visit the Russian Air Force Flight Test Facility at the Gromov Flight Research Institute at Zhukosvsky, Russia, for the first time in an unparalleled opportunity for American test pilots to interact and share experiences and techniques with their Russian counterparts. Each of the US students received an orientation flight in a MiG-29 fighter.

May 16, 1997. 2nd Lt. Kazue Takeuchi, 25, becomes the first woman pilot in Japan Air Self Defense Force history to earn her wings.

May 17, 1997. The NASA-McDonnell Douglas X-36, the 28 percent scale, remotely piloted research aircraft designed to demonstrate tailless, high angle of attack fighter agility utilizing stealth technologies, is flown for the first time at the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB, Calif., under the control of company pilot Larry Walker.

June 10, 1997. An Air Force Special Operations Command MC-130 crew inserts a European survey and assessment team into Congo and extracts 56 people, including 30 US citizens, from Brazzaville, Congo— in 23 minutes—in the midst of violent civil strike. Led by Lt. Col. Frank J. Kisner, the crew flew more than 13 hours over 3,656 miles and thwarted hostile gunfire. They received the 1997 Mackay Trophy.

June 24, 1997. The Air Force issues its second report on the “Roswell Incident,” the alleged crash and recovery of an extraterrestrial vehicle and its alien occupants near Roswell, N.M., in July 1947. The report, entitled “The Roswell Report: Case Closed,” concludes that Air Force activities that occurred over a period of many years are now represented to have occurred in two or three days in 1947; “aliens” were actually anthropomorphic test dummies; “unusual military activities” were actually high altitude balloon.

USAF and the UFOs

June 30, 1997. The Defense Information Systems Agency and the Joint Chiefs of Staff disconnect the Worldwide Military Command and Control System’s (WWMCCS) Top Secret Support System, the last remnant of an information network developed in the 1970s. The Global Command and Control System (GSSC), which debuted in August 1996, is now the primary national system for planning and conducting military operations around the world.

July 4, 1997. NASA’s Pathfinder spacecraft lands on Mars in the space agency’s first “smaller, faster, cheaper” series of scientific probes. Pathfinder, built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., entered the Martian atmosphere directly, parachuted down, inflated a protective cocoon of airbags, bounced several times and then righted itself. The airbags deflated and then the spaceship’s three petals opened up to expose the ship’s scientific instruments and cameras. The Sojourner rover, a six-wheeled robot attached to one of the petals, begins operation several days later, rolling down a ramp on the spacecraft, exploring rocks on the Martian surface and sending back readings and photographs. Once the first photos from Mars are posted on JPL’s Internet Web site, nearly 40 million “hits” are recorded within the first few days. The spacecraft are renamed as a memorial to noted astronomer Carl Sagan, who had passed away several months earlier. The entire mission cost less than $275 million, including the booster.

July 28–Aug. 1, 1997. A Russian delegation led by Col. Mikhail Botvinko, flying an Antonov An 30 turboprop, conducts the first Open Skies Treaty surveillance operation over the US. This was only a practice mission, as the Open Skies Treaty has yet to be formally ratified by all participating countries.

Aug. 1, 1997. Boeing and McDonnell Douglas merge to become The Boeing Company.

Sept. 1, 1997. Gen. Ronald R. Fogleman retires prior to the end of his full term as Air Force Chief of Staff.

Aerospace World: The Chief Steps Down

Fogleman’s Farewell

Sept. 7, 1997. Lockheed Martin test pilot Paul Metz makes the first flight of the F-22 Raptor, flying out of Dobbins ARB, Ga.

Sept. 12, 1997. Air University begins the Air and Space Basic Course School at Maxwell AFB, Ala. It would later be known as the Aerospace and Basic Course under the Squadron Officer College.

Sept. 14-15, 1997. Air Force C-17 airlifters fly nonstop from Pope AFB, N.C., to Kazakhstan to airdrop 500 US troops from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division as well as 40 Asian troops during an exercise named Centrazbat ’97. Two aircraft airdrop cargo and vehicles. The C-17s are refueled three times en route during the 19-hour flight.

Sept. 25, 1997. Russia’s Sukhoi S-32 stealth fighter makes its maiden flight at Shukovsky air base outside of Moscow.

Sept. 26, 1997. The Senate confirms Gen. Michael E. Ryan as the Air Force’s 16th Chief of Staff. Ryan is the first son to follow in his father’s footsteps in the Air Force’s top job. (Gen. John D. Ryan served from Aug. 1, 1969, to July 31, 1973.)

Oct. 12, 1997. Three Wyoming Air National Guard C-130s, equipped with the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System, drop 685,000 gallons of water and fire retardant on fires in Java and Sumatra; each airplane drops up to 3,000 gallons at a time. The Wyoming airmen fly some 194 sorties before the operation ends in early December.

Dec. 18, 1997. USAF C-5, C-141, C-130, and KC-135 participate in airlift of relief supplies to Andersen AFB, Guam, delivering more than 2.5 million pounds of cargo by Jan. 4, after Typhoon Paka strikes with winds up to 236 miles per hour.

Nov. 1, 1997. F. Whitten Peters becomes acting Secretary of the Air Force. He is named Secretary in full capacity July 30, 1999.

Dec. 18, 1997. E-8 Joint STARS officially achieves initial operational capability, seven years after the aircraft, in its development phase, was employed in the Persian Gulf War and played a pivotal role.


Feb. 28, 1998. The first flight—some 56 minutes—of the RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV takes place from Edwards AFB, Calif.

March 23-April 3, 1998. The B-2 bomber makes its first sustained overseas deployment, to Guam, demonstrating the capability to deploy and operate from locations around the world.

The B-2 Proves a Point

May 29, 1998. First transfer of an operational space system to a civilian agency occurred when USAF handed over primary control of the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program on-orbit assets to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Aug. 4, 1998. The Air Force announces plans to reorganize its operational capabilities into an “Expeditionary Aerospace Force” with 10 standing Air Expeditionary Forces, or “buckets of capability” available to theater commanders. One objective is to give Air Force people more predictability and stability about deployments overseas.

The EAF in Peace and War

Sept. 22, 1998. Following Hurricane Georges, Air Mobility Command, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard transport crews deliver water, generators, construction supplies, plastic sheeting, and ice from all over the US to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and southern Mississippi, flying at least 150 missions.

Oct. 29, 1998. Former Senator John H. Glenn, Jr., the first US astronaut to orbit Earth (1962), returns to space in the space shuttle Discovery to test the effects of microgravity on the elderly. He is 76, the oldest person to enter space.

Nov. 6, 1998. Following Hurricane Mitch, which claimed more than 10,000 lives, USAF airlifters deliver7.4 million pounds of relief cargo to Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador. The airlift ends on March 19, 1999, after more than 200 missions.

Dec. 4–15, 1998. The crew of the space shuttle Endeavour completes the first International Space Station assembly mission, which involves delivery and attachment of Unity, the first US module, to Russia’s previously launched Zarya module. The crew members also launch USAF’s MightySat I, designed to evaluate composite materials, advanced solar cells, and other technology.

Dec. 9, 1998. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., retired World War II Air Force hero and leader of the all-black Tuskegee Airmen, receives a fourth star.

Aerospace World: Benjamin O. Davis Gets Fourth Star

Benjamin O. Davis, American

Dec. 16, 1998. In Operation Desert Fox, a limited four-day operation, American and British aircraft and US air- and sea-launched cruise missiles strike some 100 targets in Iraq. It would be the first combat use of the B-1B bomber.

Lessons in Limited Force

The Long Deployment


Feb. 17, 1999. The first C-130J, a new Lockheed Martin Hercules variant with six-bladed propellers, advanced avionics, and shorter takeoff and landing capability, arrives at Keesler AFB, Miss., to serve with the Air Force Reserve’s 403rd Wing.

March 16, 1999. Three former members of the Warsaw Pact—Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic—join NATO.

March 24, 1999. Combat operations begin in Operation Allied Force, the NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia. US aircraft fly about two-thirds of the 45,000 sorties, pressuring Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw his forces from Kosovo.

Airpower Made It Work

March 24, 1999. The B-2 bomber makes its combat debut, flying less than one percent of total sorties in Operation Allied Force, but accounting for 11 percent of the bombing.

With Stealth in the Balkans

March 27, 1999. An F-117 stealth fighter was shot down in combat. Enemy ground fire brought down the Nighthawk over Yugoslavia. Capt. John A. Cherrey, an A–10 pilot, earned the Silver Star for locating the downed pilot, who was rescued by helicopter the same day.

The Night They Saved Vega 31

March 28, 1999. The Allied Force air campaign escalates to Phase 2, as the target list expands to include industrial targets throughout Serbia.

April 6, 1999. Two weeks into the air campaign, 24-hour strike operations finally begin. However, gradualism still marks NATO’s approach to the conflict. It will be another month before sortie rates and the number of aircraft in action reach the level required.

The NATO Way of War

April 4, 1999. A USAF C-17 begins airlifting relief supplies from Dover AFB, Del., to Tirana, Albania, for refugees from Kosovo at the start of Operation Sustain/Shining Hope, humanitarian counterpart to Allied Force. In the first month, allied transports, including USAF C-5s, C-17s, and C-130s, airlift more than 3,000 tons of food, medicine, tents, supplies, cots, blankets, sleeping bags, and other relief cargo.

April 17, 1999. For the first time, USAF sends the RQ-1 Predator RPA on flights in a combat zone, flying reconnaissance over Serbia during Allied Force. (The Army employed the ACTD Predator over Bosnia for Deliberate Force in 1995.)

The Little Predator That Could

May 1, 1999. The Allied Force air campaign intensifies as the target list is expanded again. The combat sortie rate for US aircraft reaches 150 per day.

May 2, 1999. Serbian ground forces shoot down a USAF F-16 over Yugoslavia, the second and last USAF aircraft lost to enemy fire in Allied Force. An MH-60 helicopter crew rescues the pilot, Lt. Col. David Goldfein.

May 7, 1999. A B-2 bomber—provided the wrong target coordinates by headquarters—accidentally hits the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.

May 23, 1999. NATO begins bombing the Yugoslav electricity grid, disrupting power and affecting many military related activities.

June 10, 1999. Operations against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia are suspended and end formally on June 20.

Victory in Kosovo

June 23-27, 1999. USAF Lt. Col. Eileen M. Collins is the first woman to command a space shuttle mission, STS-93 Columbia.

July 30, 1999. CMSgt. Frederick J. Finch becomes Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.

Sept. 20, 1999. USAF C-130s begin airlifting peacekeeping troops from Australia to Dili in East Timor under UN Operation Stabilise, following East Timor’s declaration of independence from Indonesia and subsequent war. In all, USAF C-130s, C-17s, C-141, and KC-135s participate.

Oct. 1, 1999. Air Education and Training Command initiates “Warrior Week” at Lackland AFB, Tex., to give basic military trainees a taste of the Expeditionary Aerospace Force concept. It marks the biggest change in basic military training in more than 50 years.

Warrior Week

Oct. 1, 1999. First regular Aerospace Expeditionary Force rotational cycle begins. The full cycle is 15 months, divided into five three-month periods. During each of these, two of the 10 Aerospace Expeditionary Forces will be vulnerable to deployment.

The EAF Turns One

Oct. 6, 1999. Destruction of 150 Minuteman III silos, in accordance with START agreement, begins near Langdon, N.D.

Nov. 2, 1999. USAF announces the official transfer of Howard Air Base to Panama, following terms of the Panama Canal Treaty of 1977. The US had operated the base in the Canal Zone for 82 years.

Dec. 20–28, 1999. Several USAF C-130s, a C-5, and two MH-60 aircraft participate in a humanitarian operation to Venezuela where a flood left some 200,000 people homeless.