Chronology: 2000-2009


March 2, 2000. Operation Atlas Response begins to aid flood victims—an estimated one million people left homeless—in Mozambique. USAF C-5s and C-17s fly supplies 4,600 miles from a base in Germany to southern Africa, where C-130s and MH-53 and HH-60 helicopters distribute the food, water, medicine, and tents.

May 3, 2000. Gen. Joseph W. Ralston becomes Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, the first Air Force officer to lead NATO in almost 40 years.

May 23, 2000. Air Education and Training Command receives its first production T-6A Texan II for training pilots at Randolph AFB, Tex.

July 25, 2000. The Air Force CV-22, a special operations-modified version of the V-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft, rolls out at Bell Helicopter Textron’s plant in Fort Worth, Tex.

Sept. 18, 2000. The first CV-22 Osprey arrives at Edwards AFB, Calif., where it will undergo testing.

Sept 27, 2000. Boeing unveils the first X-45A Unmanned Air Combat Vehicle at its facilities in St. Louis.

Heavyweight Contender

Sept. 27, 2000. USAF changes the standard uniform for space and missile operators from the blue, one- piece flight suit to the green flight suit worn by aircrews.

Oct. 13-14, 2000. USAF crews from the 75th Airlift Squadron and the 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron launch two C-9 Nightingales within one hour of alert to provide aeromedical evacuation for survivors of the Oct. 12 terrorist attack on the USS Cole docked at Aden, Yemen. The crews, including Critical Care Air Transport Teams (CCATT), receive the 2000 Mackay Trophy.

Oct. 24, 2000. Lockheed Martin’s X-35A Joint Strike Fighter demonstrator makes its first flight, from Lockheed’s Palmdale, Calif., facility to Edwards AFB, Calif.

Oct. 27, 2000. Gen. Charles R. Holland becomes commander of US Special Operations Command, the first Air Force officer ever to command all US special operations forces.

Oct. 31, 2000. Two Russian cosmonauts and one US astronaut launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to become the first residents of the International Space Station.


Jan. 11, 2001. The Congressionally mandated Space Commission issues report recommending significant organizational realignments and increased responsibilities for the Air Force.

The Space Commission Reports

Jan. 20, 2001. Lawrence J. Delaney named acting Secretary of the Air Force.

Jan. 22–26, 2001. Air Force Space Command’s Space Warfare Center conducts “Schriever 2001,” the first war game to explore requirements for space control, counters to enemy space capabilities, and the ability of an enemy to deny the US and its allies the use of space assets.

Feb. 3, 2001. USAF C-17s airlift relief equipment and supplies from Guam to India after a devastating Jan. 26 earthquake that killed some 20,000, injured nearly 170,000, and left nearly 600,000 homeless. USAF C-5s delivered the cargo to Guam from California.

Feb. 21, 2001. A Predator unmanned aerial vehicle—up to then strictly a surveillance platform—hits a stationary Army tank with a live Hellfire-C missile at Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field, Nev.

How the Predator Grew Teeth

Feb. 24, 2001. Lt. Col. Stayce D. Harris takes command of the Air Force Reserve Command’s 729th Airlift Squadron at March ARB, Calif., becoming the first black woman to command a USAF flying squadron.

March 23, 2001. After more than 15 years in orbit, Russia’s Mir space station re-entered the atmosphere, falling into the South Pacific.

April 1, 2001. Over international waters 80 miles off the Chinese coast, two Chinese fighters intercept a US Navy EP-3 surveillance aircraft. One of the fighters collides with the EP-3 and the fighter pilot is lost at sea. The EP-3 is forced to land on Hainan, where its 24 member crew, including one USAF airmen, is held for 12 days.

The Last Flight of Wang Wei

April 22-23, 2001. A development version of USAF’s Global Hawk UAV takes off from Edwards AFB, Calif., flies 22-hour, 8,600-mile mission, nonstop and unrefueled, to a precision landing near Adelaide, Australia.

May 8, 2001. The Department of Defense designates the Air Force as DOD executive agent for space.

May 24, 2001. Maj. Gen. James E. Sherrard III, commander of the Air Force Reserve Command, receives a third star, a first for the Air Force Reserve.

June 1, 2001. James G. Roche is named Secretary of the Air Force.

Aug. 24, 2001. The Air Force implodes the last Minuteman III missile silo under START reductions at Grand Forks AFB, N.D. It is also the last silo at Grand Forks.

Sept. 6, 2001. Gen. John P. Jumper becomes Air Force Chief of Staff.

Sept. 11, 2001. Airliners hijacked by terrorists deliberately crash into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Operation Noble Eagle—combat air patrols above American cities—begins.

The Return of NORAD

Black September 11

Sept. 27, 2001. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announces that President George W. Bush has given authority to certain military commanders to order the destruction of hijacked civilian airliners.

Sept. 29, 2001. The US launches satellites from Alaska for the first time, using the Kodiak Launch Complex.

Sept. 30, 2001. The Quadrennial Defense Review replaces the official force-sizing standard—in effect since 1993—that said the armed forces should be prepared to fight two Major Theater Wars almost simultaneously. (In reality, the forces were never sized or funded to meet that standard.) The new standard is called “4-2-1”: The force should be sized to deter aggression in four critical theaters (Europe, Northeast Asia, the East Asia littoral, Middle East/Southwest Asia), defeat aggression in any two theaters at the same time, and preserve the option for one major counteroffensive. The new standard is more demanding, especially of air and space power, than the old one was.

The Evolution of the Bush Doctrine

October 2001. USAF deploys the RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle to participate in Southwest Asia operations. By Feb. 10, 2010, the UAV had flown 1,500 combat sorties.

Oct. 1, 2001. The Space and Missile Systems Center transfers from Air Force Materiel Command to Air Force Space Command, thereby placing cradle-to-grave oversight of acquisition and operation of space systems under a single command.

Oct. 1, 2001. USAF Gen. Richard B. Myers assumes command as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, becoming the first USAF general to hold the highest military office in 19 years.

Oct. 7, 2001. Operation Enduring Freedom begins with air strikes against terrorist targets in Afghanistan.

An Air War Like No Other

Oct. 8, 2001. NATO announces that five of its AWACS aircraft will patrol off the east coast of the United States, marking the first time NATO forces have deployed to the US for a real contingency operation.

Oct. 17, 2001. Pentagon announces that it is employing armed Predator drones, equipped with Hellfire missiles, in Afghanistan.

The Little Predator That Could

How the Predator Grew Teeth

Oct. 26, 2001. The Air Force awards the Joint Strike Fighter contract to Lockheed Martin, which had competed with Boeing for it.

A Strike Fighter for the Future

Nov. 2, 2001. An MH-53 Pave Low helicopter crew (Knife 04) from the 20th Special Operations Squadron rescues another 20th SOS MH-53 crew whose helicopter had gone down while the two were on a rescue mission in extremely hazardous weather conditions in the mountains of Afghanistan. Knife 04 received the 2001 Mackay Trophy.

Nov. 9, 2001. With Taliban forces in retreat from air attacks, Northern Alliance allies capture the strategically important northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, surge across Northern Afghanistan, and sweep south.

Nov. 13, 2001. Taliban forces, hammered hard by airpower, abandon the Afghan capital of Kabul.

Nov. 25, 2001. Operations in Afghanistan enter new phase as US Marines deploy in country, setting up at an expeditionary base dubbed Camp Rhino. (Navy SEALs first secured Rhino on Nov. 21.)

Nov. 28, 2001. USAF C-17s land in Afghanistan on an airstrip about 80 miles south of Kandahar to deliver Navy Seabees as part of Operation Swift Freedom.

Dec. 9, 2001. Taliban rule in Afghanistan officially ends as the final province slips from its control.

Dec. 12, 2001. A B-1B on a bombing mission to Afghanistan crashes in the Indian Ocean about 10 miles north of its island base, Diego Garcia, but the crew survived. It was the first USAF aircraft lost in the war in Afghanistan and the first B-1B lost in combat.

Dec. 13, 2001. President George W. Bush informs Russia that the US will withdraw from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty of 1972, which prevented the US from developing and implementing a missile defense system.

Dec. 17, 2001. USAF C-17s began airlifting French troops from Istres AB, France, to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Dec. 26, 2001. DOD announces Pentagon approval of low-rate initial production of the one-ton Joint Air- to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM), which can penetrate enemy air defenses at ranges beyond 200 miles and destroy enemy targets with precision.


March 1, 2002. US and coalition partners launch Operation Anaconda, part of Operation Enduring Freedom, in eastern Afghanistan. USAF A-10s, AC-130s, B-1Bs, B-52s, and F-15s support Anaconda to stop Taliban and al Qaeda forces regrouping south of Gardez. USAF aircraft drop laser-guided thermo- baric bombs, designed to suck out all the air from cave complexes and kill the enemy inside.

March 1, 2002. USAF Brig. Gen. Teresa M. Peterson takes command of the 305th Air Mobility Wing at McGuire AFB, N.J., becoming the first active duty woman to command an operational flying wing.

March 4, 2002. During Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, TSgt John Chapman, an Air Force Special Operations Command combat controller, charged a frontal gun emplacement, killing several of the enemy, in an effort to rescue a fallen comrade. His actions save the lives of his entire team. Chapman will receive the Air Force Cross posthumously. (See Jan. 10, 2003.) (Also see Sept. 13, 2002, noting award of posthumous Air Force Cross to SrA. Jason D. Cunningham, a pararescue jumper (PJ), for his actions during Anaconda.)

To the Top of Takur Gar

April 18, 2002. The Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom AFB, Mass., conducts the first flight of the experimental MC2A–X, designed to provide electronic communications and command and control over a combat area. It is dubbed “Paul Revere.”

April 19, 2002. Air Force Space Command becomes a four-star Air Force command in its own right. Previously, the four-star commander of US Space Command and NORAD also commanded Air Force Space Command

April 22, 2002. USAF announces a new standard wing structure that would include four groups: operations, maintenance, mission support, and medical.

May 22, 2002. On its first flight, Boeing’s X-45A Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle prototype takes off, flies for 14 minutes, and lands at Edwards AFB, Calif., controlled by an on-board computer preprogrammed with flight instructions.

May 24, 2002. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin sign the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), known as the Moscow Treaty that will reduce strategic nuclear weapons by about two-thirds to between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads by Dec. 31, 2012. (The treaty entered into force June 1, 2003.)

July 1, 2002. CMSgt. Gerald R. Murray becomes Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.

Top Chief

July 22, 2002. The YAL–1A Airborne Laser aircraft completes its first flight. The modified Boeing 747 is being designed to employ a chemical laser to destroy enemy missiles in their boost phases.

Aug. 21, 2002. The first Lockheed Martin Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) lifts off from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla.

Sept. 13, 2002. The Air Force awards the Air Force Cross posthumously to SrA. Jason D. Cunningham, a pararescue jumper (PJ), for his heroic actions March 4, 2002, during Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan.

Air Force Posthumously Honors Pararescueman

Sept. 17, 2002. The F-22 fighter is re-designated the F/A-22 to emphasize its multiple roles, including attack.

Oct. 1, 2002. USAF forms its first “blended” wing arrangement, uniting active duty and Air National Guard airmen in a single wing, the 116th Air Control Wing, to operate and maintain the E-8C JSTARS surveillance aircraft fleet.

The Blended Wing Goes to War

Oct. 1, 2002. DOD activates US Northern Command, a new unified command to be led by USAF Gen. Ralph Eberhart, who also remains commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command. NORTHCOM includes elements of all the US armed services and assumes responsibility for the military protection of North America.

Oct. 1, 2002. Gen. John Jumper, Air Force Chief of Staff, authorizes deactivation of the Peacekeeper ICBM, originally designed to carry 10 independently targeted warheads.

Oct. 7, 2002. Operation Noble Eagle, combat air patrols above American cities, marks the end of its first year, with 25,100 total sorties flown. Of these, 17,600 were fighter sorties. Most of the missions were flown by the Air National Guard: 74 percent of the fighter sorties, 62 percent of the tanker sorties, and 37 percent of the airlift sorties.

Nov. 20, 2002. Boeing launches its first Delta IV EELV, boosting a commercial satellite into orbit from Cape Canaveral, Fla. (This is medium variant; first launch of Delta IV Heavy is Dec. 21, 2004.)


Jan. 10, 2003. The Air Force awards the Air Force Cross posthumously to TSgt. John Chapman. During Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, TSgt John Chapman, a combat controller, charged a frontal gun emplacement, killing several of the enemy, in an effort to rescue a fallen comrade. Ultimately, his actions on March 4, 2002, saved the lives of his entire special operations team.

To the Top of Takur Gar

The Ground Warriors of Airpower

Jan. 10, 2003. DOD assigns US Strategic Command (STRATCOM) responsibility for four new missions: global strike; integrated missile defense; integrated information operations; and global command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR). The new incarnation of STRATCOM, headquartered at Offutt AFB, Neb., is combination of the “old” STRATCOM, whose responsibility was primarily nuclear strike, and US Space Command (SPACECOM).

Feb. 1, 2003. Seven astronauts are lost as the space shuttle Columbia breaks up on re-entry, 200,000 feet above East Texas, on its return from a 16-day mission in space. This was the 113th shuttle flight, and the 28th for Columbia. Crew members were Air Force Col. Rick D. Husband, Columbia’s commander, Navy Capt. David M. Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Navy Cmdr. William C. McCool, Israeli Air Force Col. Ilan Ramon, Air Force Lt. Col. Michael P. Anderson, and Navy Cmdr. Laurel Blair Salton Clark.

March 11, 2003. USAF drops a precision-guided Massive Ordnance Air Blast weapon from a C-130 aircraft in a test at Eglin AFB, Fla. At 21,500 pounds, it is the largest non-nuclear weapon in existence.

March 17, 2003. Operation Northern Watch flies its last mission over Iraq. (Formal end comes on May 1.)

March 19, 2003. Operation Southern Watch flies its last mission over Iraq.

March 19, 2003. Operation Iraqi Freedom begins (9:35 p.m. EST) as battlefield preparation air strikes take out air defense threats, radar communication sites, and artillery. Two Air Force F-117 fighters and cruise missiles from six US warships strike “leadership targets of opportunity” in Iraq at (5:35 a.m., March 20, Baghdad time). At 10:16 p.m. EST, President George W. Bush announces to the American people that operations in Iraq have commenced. Coalition ground forces move from Kuwait into Iraq (8 a.m., March 20, Baghdad time), marking the start of G-Day, the ground campaign.

Aerospace World Special: Desert Triumph

The Baghdad Strikes

March 21, 2003. Coalition air forces launch nearly 1,000 strike sorties as A-Day, the air campaign, begins at 9 p.m. (Baghdad time).

Aerospace World Special: The Road to Victory

April 8, 2003. The last Milstar II communications satellite in a five-satellite constellation reaches space aboard a Titan IVB rocket.

April 9, 2003. Baghdad falls to coalition ground troops, the strength of Iraq’s Republican Guard and other forces having been negated or destroyed by airpower south of Baghdad.

The US Air Force at War

April 12, 2003. A new world’s speed record on land is set as a Missile Defense Agency payload reaches 6,416 mph at the high speed test track at Holloman AFB, N.M.

April 16, 2003. US Central Command officials declare the end of major combat action in Iraq.

April 30, 2003. The Air Force announces plans to transfer the combat search and rescue forces from Air Combat Command to Air Force Special Operations Command, effective Oct. 1, 2003.

May 1, 2003. US and coalition officials formally end Operation Northern Watch, the US-Turkey-UK operation to enforce UN resolutions by patrolling the northern no-fly zone in Iraq. It began as Operation Provide Comfort shortly after the end of Gulf War I in 1991. ONW flew its last combat mission on March 17, 2003.

July 7, 2003. President George W. Bush formally nominates Air Force Secretary James G. Roche to become the Secretary of the Army. (Roche withdraws his name from consideration in March 2004.)

July 31, 2003. The Senate confirms Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers for a second two-year term as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Aug. 1, 2003. The first production version of the RQ-4A Global Hawk UAV rolls out at the Northrop Grumman facility at Palmdale, Calif. (Development versions were used in combat operations in Southwest Asia.)

Aug. 26, 2003. USAF officially ends its presence at Prince Sultan Air Base near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where it had operated for the past 13 years since Gulf War I.

Aug. 29, 2003. USAF launches last Defense Satellite Communications System III satellite into orbit aboard a Delta IV EELV from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla.

Oct. 1, 2003. Air Mobility Command undergoes a major restructuring, creating a single numbered air force—18th Air Force, headquartered at Scott AFB, Ill.—and transforming 15th AF at Travis AFB, Calif., and 21st AF at McGuire AFB, N.J., into expeditionary mobility task forces reporting to 18th AF.

Oct. 18, 2003. USAF launches its final Titan II booster from Vandenberg AFB, Calif. It was the 13th of 14 Titan II ICBMs refurbished for launch duty.

Nov. 11, 2003. The first C-5 Galaxy to be retired arrives at the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (the Boneyard) at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.

December 2003. USAF declares full operational capability for the B-2 bomber force.


March 10, 2004. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announces that Air Force Secretary James Roche has withdrawn his name from contention for the Secretary of the Army position. (Also see July 7, 2003.)

March 19, 2004. The first new C-130J tactical airlifter destined for an active duty unit arrives at Little Rock AFB, Ark., home to the 314th Airlift Wing.

July 19, 2004. Lt. Col. Martha McSally, an Air Force Academy graduate and A-10 pilot, becomes the first active duty woman to lead an Air Force combat flying squadron when she takes command of the 354th Fighter Squadron at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.

Aug. 31, 2004. The 63rd and last Atlas II booster launches from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla. Lockheed Martin notes a sustained perfect launch record since 1991.

The Day of the Atlas

Sept. 16, 2004. USAF retires the last two C-141 Starlifters in active duty service. The C-141 first flew on Dec. 17, 1963. Air Force Reserve Command expects to continue to fly its 20 remaining C-141Cs, which have upgraded avionics, through 2006.

Oct. 1, 2004. The Air Force formally assumes control of the Naval Space Surveillance System, commonly called the Navy Fence, with operations based at Dahlgren, Va. Now the Air Force Fence, it is a series of nine antenna sites across the southern US that help provide space situational awareness.

Oct. 1, 2004. The Air National Guard takes over operation of NORAD’s region air operations center at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, from the active duty Air Force.

Oct. 1, 2004. Air Force Space Command establishes the National Security Space Institute in Colorado Springs, Colo., to serve as DOD’s focal point for space education and training.

Oct. 14, 2004. The Air Force changes the name of its lead official museum from the US Air Force Museum to the National Museum of the US Air Force. It is located at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.

Big Plans for the Air Force Museum

Oct. 28, 2004. The first production Global Hawk UAV arrives at its home with the 12th Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale AFB, Calif. The squadron has been operating developmental versions to support combat operations in Southwest Asia.

Nov. 5, 2004. Adm. Timothy J. Keating takes command of NORAD and US Northern Command, becoming the first Navy officer to hold the NORAD position, which traditionally went to the Air Force.

Nov. 16, 2004. Air Force Secretary James G. Roche announces his resignation. He has served in the top USAF civilian post since June 1, 2001 and will officially leave on Jan. 20, 2005.

Nov. 16, 2004. NASA’s experimental X-43A Hyper X hypersonic research vehicle shatters the speed record for an air-breathing vehicle when it flies to nearly 10 times the speed of sound. Flying from Edwards AFB, Calif., NASA’s B-52B mothership transports the X-43A to a launch location off the Pacific coast.

In Search of Spaceplanes

Mission to Mach 5

Dec. 1, 2004. USAF announces plans to reactive the Air Force District of Washington to provide support to US Northern Command’s new Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region.

Dec. 7, 2004. USAF deactivates the first of five Peacekeeper ICBM launch control centers (LCCs), part of the deactivation of all 50 Peacekeepers begun in October 2002.

Dec. 10, 2004. The first missile defense interceptor at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., is installed, joining six interceptors already in the ground at Ft. Greeley, Alaska, as the initial units in the Missile Defense Agency’s ground-based system for protection against ballistic missile attack.

Dec. 13, 2004. The Small Diameter Bomb, a satellite-guided, 250-pound class munition, passes its first live weapons tests. Carried aboard an F-15E Strike Eagle at 15,000 feet, the SDB successfully strikes a scoring board at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. Two days later, in its second test, the SDB destroys a Russian rocket launcher.

Smaller Bombs for Stealthy Aircraft

Building Better Razor Blades

Dec. 17, 2004. The last major USAF presence in France ceases operations more than a decade after USAF’s 774th Expeditionary Air Base Group set up shop at Istres Air Base on the French Riviera to support NATO military operations in the Balkans.

Dec. 17, 2004. An Air Force Reserve Command officer, Lt. Col. John Breeden, takes command of the 11th Reconnaissance Squadron at Indian Springs AFAF, Nev., marking the first time a Reservist has led a permanent active duty operational Air Force unit. The 11th trains Predator UAV crews.

Dec. 20, 2004. The Air Force inactivates the 20th Fighter Squadron, the service’s last operational F-4 Phantom unit, at Holloman AFB, N.M., where it had trained German Luftwaffe crews for 33 years. (The Luftwaffe continues training at Holloman, employing Tornado aircraft.)

F-110: USAF’s New Tactical Fighter

Dec. 30, 2004. USAF airlifters, part of a joint task force, begin delivering relief supplies and equipment, including helicopters, to South Asia region nations hard hit by a devastating Dec. 26 earthquake and subsequent tsunamis. C-5s and C-17s deliver cargo to airports, from which C-130s and helicopters provide tactical transport.


Feb. 3, 2005. The last Atlas III successfully boosts a National Reconnaissance Office payload into orbit from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Feb. 9, 2005. Air Force Materiel Command formally reorganizes its largest product center, the Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, into wings, groups, and squadrons. AFMC will move its other entities, including Air Logistics Centers, into wing structures later in the year. (The command will start reversing these changes in 2010.)

Operational Acquisition

March 1, 2005. The MQ-1 Predator UAV achieves initial operational capability.

March 16, 2005. Maj. Gen. Stephen Goldfein, commander of the Air Warfare Center at Nellis AFB, Nev., announces plans for USAF to create a UAV Center of Excellence at Indian Springs AFAF, Nev.

Smashing the UAV Stovepipe

March 25, 2005. Peter B. Teets, acting Secretary of the Air Force, resigns. He has served as undersecretary of the Air Force, director of the National Reconnaissance Office, and DOD executive agent for space since late 2001 and, in addition, assumed the role of acting Secretary on Jan. 20, 2005.

March 25, 2005. Michael L. Dominguez becomes acting Secretary of the Air Force. He became the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs in August 2001 and continued in that role, following his stint as acting SECAF, until July 2006.

April 8, 2005. The Navy names a 670-foot-long ship after Air Force TSgt. John A. Chapman, the combat controller who was killed in 2002 in Afghanistan. The pre-positioning ship, used to forward deploy Air Force munitions and other supplies, is one of 35 of its type that the Navy’s Military Sealift Command operates.

April 12, 2005. Two C-17s airdrop fuel to National Science Foundation scientists at the North Pole. It is the first polar airdrop mission for the C-17.

April 16, 2004. Two USAF HH-60G crews from the 38th and 41st Rescue Squadrons at Moody AFB, Ga., rescue five soldiers from the crash of a US Army CH-47 helicopter in Iraq despite battling a blinding sandstorm and being attacked by surface-to-air missiles and small arms fire. The USAF airmen receive the 2004 Mackay Trophy.

April 26, 2005. USAF consolidates Air Force Space Command’s Space Warfare Center at Schriever AFB, Colo., and Air Combat Command’s Air Warfare Center at Nellis AFB, Nev., into the Air Force Warfare Center, located at Nellis.

May 2, 2005. Pacific Air Forces moves 13th Air Force from Guam to Hickam AFB, Hawaii.

May 12, 2005. Langley AFB, Va., receives its first combat-ready F/A-22 Raptor.

The F/A-22, in Fire and Flak

May 18, 2005. USAF announces plans to create a Global Strike Task Force at Andersen AFB, Guam. The proposal would place KC-135R tankers and RQ-4 Global Hawk UAVs at the base with a rotating force of fighter and bomber strike aircraft.

Presence, Not Permanence

June 20, 2005. USAF redesignates Indian Springs AFAF, Nev., as Creech Air Force Base.

June 29, 2005. The B-52 bomber reaches 50 years of operational service.

SAC’s Newest Recruit—the Stratofort

June 29, 2005. The B-1B bomber reaches 20 years of operational service.

July 7, 2005. USAF formally reactivates the Air Force District of Washington, headquartered at Bolling AFB, D.C., as a direct reporting unit.

July 8, 2005. DOD announces it will create a Joint UAV Center of Excellence at Creech AFB, Nev. Three days later, USAF announces it will stand down its UAV COE at Creech. DOD plans initial operational capability for the Joint UAV COE on Oct. 1, 2005.

The Clash of the UAV Tribes

July 29, 2005. Preston M. Geren, special assistant to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, becomes acting Secretary of the Air Force. Geren returns to his former post in March 2005, and then becomes Undersecretary of the Army, and, in 2007, Army Secretary.

Aug. 4, 2005. The U-2 Dragon Lady high-flying reconnaissance aircraft marks 50 years since its first flight.

Aug. 9, 2005. USAF’s RC-135 Rivet Joint team marks 15 years of continuous operations supporting missions in Southwest Asia.

Aug. 29, 2005. Hurricane Katrina strikes the US Gulf Coast, devastating New Orleans and surrounding area. USAF and other services begin massive relief operations, including aeromedical evacuation, command and control, and airlifting supplies and rescue forces.

USAF and Katrina Relief

Sept. 2, 2005. Gen. T. Michael Moseley becomes Air Force Chief of Staff.

Sept. 19, 2005. The last Peacekeeper ICBM ends its operational status.

Bush’s Nuclear Blueprint

Sept. 19, 2005. USAF accepts the first production CV-22 Osprey at the Bell Helicopter facility in Amarillo, Tex.

Sept. 20, 2005. The last active duty C-9 Nightingale ends its service.

Sept. 26, 2005. An Air Force Reserve Command C-141, from the 445th Airlift Wing, flies the last C-141 combat mission, transporting wounded from Southwest Asia to Germany. AFRC will continue to operate its C-141s stateside until their retirement in 2006.

Sept. 29, 2005. A USAF C-17 airdrops a dummy rocket to simulate the DARPA-USAF “QuickReach”—a proposed new small satellite booster—demonstrating that the booster would not impact the cargo bay on the way out.

Sept. 30, 2005. USAF ends operations at Rhein-Main AB, Germany, which served as the primary hub for the Berlin Airlift. The formal departure takes place Oct. 10.

Oct. 3, 2005. The director of the National Reconnaissance Office takes on an additional title— Assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force for Intelligence Space Technology. For more than 40 years, the Air Force Undersecretary also served as NRO chief, but DOD severed that tie earlier in the year in revamping its intelligence structure.

Oct. 7, 2005. USAF announces that Brig. Gen. (select) Susan Y. Desjardins, a 1980 Air Force Academy graduate, will become the Commandant of Cadets, the first woman to hold that post.

Oct. 10, 2005. USAF C-17 and C-130 transports airlift relief aid to Pakistan following a devastating Oct. 8 earthquake. USAF C-5s transport Army helicopters as part of a joint task force that soon had international assistance. As of Oct. 21, USAF had airlifted more than 1,200 tons.

Oct. 15-28, 2005. The 1st Fighter Wing, Langley AFB, Va., makes the first deployment—to Hill AFB, Utah—with the new F/A-22 Raptors.

Oct. 19, 2005. The last Titan IVB launches. It boosts a National Reconnaissance Office payload into orbit from Vandenberg AFB, Calif.

Nov. 1, 2005. Management of the Joint Unmanned Combat Air System (J-UCAS) transfers from DARPA to joint Air Force-Navy leadership. (The Quadrennial Defense Review issued in 2006 would cede the program to the Navy alone.)

Toward an Unmanned Bomber

Nov. 3, 2005. Michael W. Wynne becomes Secretary of the Air Force.

Nov. 4, 2005. USAF turns the lights out at Satellite Operations Center-52 at Onizuka AFS, Calif. SOC- 52—also called the “blue cube”—had operated for 36 years, supporting both USAF and civil space operations. Its functions transferred to Schriever AFB, Colo., in 2004.

Nov. 5, 2005. USAF receives its first TH-1H helicopter, a modified UH-1H to be used for training.

Dec. 7, 2005. A new Air Force mission statement adds cyberspace to the current combat domains of air and space: to fly and fight in air, space, and cyberspace.

Dec. 13, 2005. USAF announces that it is changing the F/A-22 Raptor designation back to F-22.

Dec. 15, 2005. F-22 fighter achieves initial operational capability. The first combat-ready unit is the 27th Fighter Squadron, part of the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley AFB, Va.


Jan. 25, 2006. A ceremony at Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, takes note of the airworthiness certification FAA has awarded to the RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 10 unmanned aerial vehicle. It is the first UAV to receive approval to fly within the entire US national airspace.

Feb. 27, 2006. USAF announces it plans to switch its Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) forces from Air Force Special Operations Command back to Air Combat Command. The service moved CSAR from ACC to AFSOC in October 2003.

Giving CSAR a Whiplash

March 1, 2006. Air Force accepts the first combat-configured CV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft at the Bell facility in Amarillo, Tex.

The Osprey Factor

Dark and Deep

Finally, the Osprey

March 6, 2006. The Missouri Congressional delegation announce that USAF has selected the Air National Guard’s 131st Fighter Wing to become the first B-2 bomber associate unit. After BRAC 2005 strips the wing of its F-15 fighters, it will become the 131st Bomb Wing and help operate and maintain the B-2s of the 509th BW at Whiteman AFB, Mo.

March 17, 2006. USAF and Army officials announce that they will jointly work the new Joint Cargo Aircraft program, merging their individual programs—the Air Force’s Light Cargo Aircraft and the Army’s Future Cargo Aircraft.

March 20, 2006. The 58th Special Operations Wing at Kirtland AFB, N.M., receives its first operational CV-22 Osprey. The wing provides special operator training.

March 31, 2006. USAF activates the Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland AFB, N.M., to oversee nuclear weapon sustainment. It is an Air Force Materiel Command direct reporting unit. (It is redesignated Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center on Feb. 29, 2008.)

April 3, 2006. Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) forces shift from Air Force Special Operations Command to Air Combat Command. (See Feb. 27, 2006 entry.)

Which CSAR Go Back to ACC

April 13, 2006. DOD approves USAF’s acquisition plan for its next generation tanker aircraft.

May 6, 2006. C-141 “Hanoi Taxi” retires to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright- Patterson AFB, Ohio. The aircraft, famed for its role in Operation Homecoming in the return of American POWs from Vietnam, was the last C-141 on active duty.

May 18, 2006. FAA approves use of Predator UAVs to support domestic disaster relief operations.

May 28, 2006. USAF begins support to Indonesia following the May 27 earthquake, which reportedly killed more than 5,000, seriously injured 6,500, and left some 100,000 homeless. USAF sends a contingency response team from Guam, followed by airlift and medical support.

June 1, 2006. USAF’s 56th Rescue Squadron at NAS Keflavik in Iceland officially transfers to RAF Lakenheath in the United Kingdom.

June 7, 2006. USAF and NRO leaders sign a statement of intent to improve cooperation. Among the new terms, the Air Force will assign a two-star general officer to serve as NRO’s principal military advisor and third in command, and the NRO will assign a civilian to work with Air Force Space Command as its deputy director of operations.

June 28, 2006. USAF inactivates the 85th Group at NAS Keflavik, Iceland, where it had supported USAF fighter rotations. NAS Keflavik closes Sept. 8, 2006.

June 30, 2006. CMSgt. Rodney J. McKinley becomes the 15th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.

Chief McKinley

July 7, 2006. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley announces that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will be called the Lightning II at a ceremony unveiling the first flight-test model at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth, Tex., facility.

July 8, 2006. A ceremony at the Cheyenne Municipal Airport in Wyoming marks the stand up of the Air Force’s first active duty associate unit, the 30th Airlift Squadron, which will work with Air National Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing in Cheyenne. USAF officially activated the 30th AS on July 1.

Aug. 10, 2006. USAF announces plans to host the international-joint schoolhouse for F-35 pilot training at Eglin AFB, Fla.

Aug. 31, 2006. The KC-135 tanker marks 50 years since its first flight. USAF receives the first production KC-135 in June 1957.

Aug. 31, 2006. An Air National Guard C-130 crew deployed from the 144th Airlift Squadron in Alaska to Afghanistan makes the first combat air drop employing the Joint Precision Air Drop System (JPADS), which has been under develop by the Air Force and Army since 1993.

Sept. 8, 2006. NAS Keflavik closes in Iceland. USAF fighters had provided defense support there since 1951.

Sept. 11, 2006. USAF announces plans to scrap its remaining 110 T-3A Firefly training aircraft, which had been grounded formally since Oct. 9, 1999 following failed attempts to ensure airworthiness. The service had suspended T-3A operations in July 1997 after three fatal accidents. USAF planned to replace its T-41 pre-pilot flight screening aircraft with the British-made trainer and had received 113 aircraft from 1993-1995.

Oct. 2, 2006. Air Combat Command declares initial operational capability for the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb.

Oct. 10, 2006. USAF begins flight tests of a C-130H employing the Advanced Tactical Laser concept, which it believes could lead to a new laser gunship.

Oct. 14, 2006. USAF dedicates the new Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Va.

A Memorial on the High Ground

Oct. 16, 2006. Air Mobility Command declares initial operational capability for the C-130J.The Maryland Air National Guard’s 135th Airlift Group deployed the first two J-model Hercules to Southwest Asia in December 2004.

Nov. 9, 2006. USAF selects Boeing for the CSAR-X combat search and rescue replacement aircraft program. Boeing offered the HH-47, a variant of the CH-47 Chinook. (Protests upheld by the Government Accountability Office would force USAF to re-do the competition with the original three competitors— Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Sikorsky. On April 6, 2009, known as “Black Monday,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates ended the CSAR-X program, among numerous weapons cuts.)

The Struggle Over CSAR-X

Nov. 16, 2006. First CV-22 Osprey arrives for duty at Hurlburt Field, Fla., where it is assigned to the 8th Special Operations Squadron.

Nov. 28, 2006. The Air National Guard formally stands up its first UAV unit, redesignating the 163rd Air Refueling Wing to the 163rd Reconnaissance Wing, at March ARB, Calif. The 163rd initially will operate MQ-1 Predators.

Dec. 1, 2006. US Air Forces in Europe activates 3rd Air Force again at Ramstein AB, Germany, and redesignates 16th Air Force as 16th Air Expeditionary Task Force, with headquarters at Izmir, Turkey. The Air Force had inactivated 3rd AF in November 2005.

Dec. 15, 2006. The first flight of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter takes place. The conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) version, piloted by company test pilot Jon Beesley, flew for 30 minutes from the company facility at Fort Worth, Tex.

Dec. 18, 2006. Robert Gates becomes the new Secretary of Defense, replacing Donald H. Rumsfeld, who had served since January 2001. (It was Rumsfeld’s second tour in the post; he first served under President Gerald Ford from November 1975 to January 1977.)


Jan. 7, 2007. Air Force Special Operations Command AC-130 gunships attack al Qaeda-led terrorist base in Somalia (Jan. 8 local time).

Feb. 3, 2007. F-22 Raptors participate in a Red Flag exercise at Nellis AFB, Nev., for the first time. The 94th Fighter Squadron at Langley AFB, Va., deployed 14 Raptors and 197 airmen for the exercise.

Feb. 6, 2007. President George W. Bush announces the creation of the new unified command US Africa Command (AFRICOM). It will perform some missions previously shared among US Central Command, US European Command, and US Pacific Command.

March 13, 2007. Air Combat Command’s Creech AFB, Nev., receives its first MQ-9 Reaper RPA.

March 29, 2007. Tuskegee Airmen awarded Congressional Gold Medal.

Gold for Tuskegee Airmen

Tuskegee Airmen

Benjamin Davis, American

May 24, 2007. USAF employs the Joint Precision Airdrop System with a screamer steerable GPS feature for the first time in combat on a C-17 Globemaster III.

Aug. 1, 2007. This date marks the centennial of the founding of the Aeronautical Division of the US Army Signal Corps, the genesis of the US Air Force.

Aug. 21, 2007. Air Combat Command declares initial operational capability for the A-10C—Warthogs with new glass cockpits, precision-engagement capability, and more. The Maryland Air National Guard’s 175th Wing operates the first of these “new” A-10s.

Aug. 31, 2007. The Air Force notifies Defense Secretary Robert Gates about the mistaken transport of six nuclear-equipped cruise missiles from Minot AFB, N.D., to Barksdale AFB, La., aboard a Barksdale B-52 bomber. The Air Force began immediate investigations and, at an unprecedented news briefing on Oct. 19, acknowledged publicly that the Incident Involved nuclear weapons, terming it a Bent Spear.

No More Bent Spears

Sept. 19, 2007. An A-10C of the 104th Fighter Squadron flies the first combat sortie for the newly modified Warthog in action over Iraq. The 104th FS is part of the Maryland Air National Guard’s 175th Wing.

Sept. 24, 2007. Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne tells reporters that USAF would limit the new bidding war over the CSAR-X combat search and rescue aircraft replacement program to the original three contractors. Boeing won the program last year (see Nov. 9, 2006), but the Government Accountability Office upheld two successive protests by losing bidders—Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky. (On April 6, 2009, Defense Secretary Robert Gates ended the CSAR-X program.)

Sept. 25, 2007. The MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted vehicle, operating in Afghanistan, flies its first combat sortie.

Rise of the Reaper

Oct. 1, 2007. Air Force Special Operations Command takes control of Cannon AFB, N.M., from Air Combat Command and stands up the 27th Special Operations Wing, preserving the 27th Fighter Wing’s heritage.

Oct. 1, 2007. DOD activates US Africa Command, with its initial headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany.

Oct. 5, 2007. The CV-22 participates in its first search and rescue mission. The aircraft and its crew, assigned to the 58th Special Operations Wing at Kirtland AFB, N.M., was in the air within 1.5 hours of notification.

Nov. 2, 2007. An F-15C of the Missouri Air National Guard’s 131st Fighter Wing on a training sortie breaks apart in mid-air, prompting USAF to ground the entire F-15 fleet. (The pilot ejected, sustaining injuries.) Air Combat Command officials would call the incident a “catastrophic structural failure.” ACC lifted the grounding in December, but days later reinstated it for A-D models when a continuing review of the fleet showed more aircraft with longeron cracks. Younger F-15Es continued operations. ACC discovered nine F-15s it considered beyond saving. The command gradually returned the F-15A-D models to operational service, releasing the final 150 or so on Feb. 15, 2008.

Dec. 12, 2007. The F-22 reaches full operational capability. The first two FOC F-22 units, with a total of 40 aircraft, are the 27th Fighter Squadron and 94th FS, part of the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley AFB, Va.


Jan. 28, 2008. Airmen at several bases began a wear test of a new dress uniform, dubbed the Heritage Coat.

Feb. 29, 2008. USAF selects Northrop Grumman-EADS North America team in the KC-X tanker competition. Competitor Boeing protests.

March 7, 2008. Air Force Reserve Command activates its first space wing, the 310th Space Wing at Schriever AFB, Colo.

March 24, 2008. Senior defense and Air Force officials announce they learned the week before about a mistaken shipment in 2006 of ICBM-related parts to Taiwan instead of the helicopter batteries that country had expected to receive. The Taiwan government reported the error at the time, but it took service and DOD officials more than a year to actually realize what had been shipped. It is the second (or first, by date) nuclear enterprise problem involving the Air Force within a year (see Aug. 31, 2008).

March 25, 2008. DOD and Intelligence Community cancel the Space Radar program as too costly.

April 21, 2008. USAF retires the F-117 Nighthawk, the service’s first stealth combat aircraft, ending a 27- year career that included critical action during Operation Desert Storm.

June 5, 2008. Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley resign from their posts.

Air Force Leadership Resigns

June 9, 2008. President Bush announces intention to nominate Michael B. Donley for Secretary of the Air Force and name him as Acting Secretary, pending Senate confirmation.

June 18, 2008. The Missouri Air National Guard’s 131st Bomb Wing (formerly the 131st Fighter Wing) flies the wing’s first solo B-2 bomber sortie since taking on the new mission. The Air Force decided in 2006 to pair the ANG unit with the active duty 509th BW at Whiteman AFB, Mo., after BRAC 2005 stripped the wing of its F-15 fighters. The 131st BW is the first ANG unit to fly bombers since 2001, when USAF reorganized its B-1B bomber, eliminating two ANG wings.

June 18, 2008. The Government Accountability Office upholds the Boeing protest over the KC-X award to Northrop Grumman-EADS North America.

June 21, 2008. President Bush formally names Michael B. Donley as Acting Air Force Secretary.

July 10, 2008. President Bush formally nominates Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, head of US Transportation Command, to become Air Force Chief of Staff.

Aug. 12, 2008. Gen. Norton A. Schwartz formally takes the reins as the 19th Air Force Chief of Staff.

Sept. 10, 2008. Defense Secretary Robert Gates terminates the newly restarted KC-X tanker competition, explaining he didn’t believe the process could yield a new winner by January and preferred to leave it for the new Administration.

Sept. 30, 2008. Air Force Special Operations Command ends operational use of the MH-53 Pave Low helicopter. The last six in service completed combat operations in Southwest Asia on Sept. 27 and were being transported back to the states for retirement. The Pave Lows had served for 40 years, including combat in the Vietnam War.

Oct. 1, 2008. The first F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter test aircraft—dubbed AA-1—in the Air Force’s conventional takeoff and landing configuration arrives at Edwards AFB, Calif., for three weeks of testing. AA-1 is not a production-equivalent version. (See the Dec. 19, 2008 entry on AF-1.)

Oct. 1, 2008. USAF activates 17th Air Force as the air component for US Africa Command. It is headquartered at Ramstein AB, Germany.

Oct. 2, 2008. The Senate confirms the promotion of Lt. Gen. Craig R. McKinley, director of the Air National Guard, to four-star rank and to head the National Guard Bureau, making him the first officer to hold that post as a four-star general. McKinley is the first Air Force officer to lead the National Guard since 2002.

Oct. 17, 2008. Acting Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley formally takes the oath of office as the 22nd Secretary of the Air Force.

Nov. 3, 2008. The first group of recruits to undergo USAF’s new 8.5-week basic training regimen arrives at Lackland AFB, Tex. USAF leaders decided in 2006 to change the basic military training course from 6.5 weeks—in being since the 1960s—to 8.5 weeks to incorporate war skills training.

The Harder Line in Training

Preparing for a New Way of War

Nov. 13, 2008. AA-1, the test aircraft for the conventional takeoff and landing version of the F-35, flies supersonic for the first time during testing over northern Texas, flying out of the Lockheed Martin Fort Worth, Tex., facility. It reached Mach 1.05 at 30,000 feet, carrying weight to simulate a full weapons load.

Nov. 17, 2008. Gen. Craig R. McKinley receives his fourth star from Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and takes charge of the National Guard Bureau. He is the first four-star general to head the NGB and the first Air Force officer since 2002.

Dec. 15, 2008. The first recruits enter the newly constructed Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training (BEAST) course at Lackland AFB, Tex., for a week-long series of increasingly difficult activities in a simulated combat environment.

The Harder Line in Training

Dec. 16, 2008. Northrop Grumman rolls out the Navy’s X-47B—the first aircraft under the former J-UCAS (Joint Unmanned Combat Air System) program that had been a joint Air Force-Navy project until the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review.

Dec. 19, 2008. Lockheed Martin rolls out AF-1, the first weight-optimized F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in the Air Force’s conventional takeoff and landing configuration. This test aircraft is structurally equivalent to a production F-35A CTOL.


March 10, 2009. The Air Force awards the Air Force Cross to TSgt. Zachary J. Rhyner, a combat controller, for his heroic actions during a combat mission in Afghanistan’s Shok Valley on April 6, 2008.


March 19, 2009. The Air Force accepts the first MC-12W Liberty Project Aircraft at Hawker Beechcraft’s Wichita, Kan., facility. It’s the first of 37 modified King Air aircraft USAF plans to acquire to quickly bolster intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance coverage in Southwest Asia.

April 4, 2009. The Predator C remotely piloted aircraft flies for the first time. The Avenger is the latest in the Predator family, including USAF’s MQ-1 Predator (Predator A) and MQ-9 Reaper (Predator B), offered by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. The Avenger is slightly larger than the Reaper and is designed to be more survivable in higher threat environments.

April 6, 2009. Defense Secretary Robert Gates announces sweeping cuts to acquisition programs, including ending the buy of the Air Force’s new F-22 air superiority fighter at 187 aircraft and new C-17 airlifters at 205, postponement of the Next Generation Bomber, and termination of the Combat Search and Rescue helicopter replacement program (CSAR-X), the Transformational Satellite, and the second Airborne Laser aircraft. The announcement also notes USAF’s plan to retire early some 250 legacy fighters. (Day becomes known as “Black Monday.”)

May 20, 2009. The Senate passes legislation to bestow a Congressional Gold Medal upon the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), the group of women who served as instructor, transport, and ferrying pilots during World War II. The House would pass a companion bill on June 16, 2009. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) sponsored the respective Senate and House measures.


June 10, 2009. USAF flies its first combat sortie with the new twin-engine turboprop MC-12W intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance aircraft during a mission out of Joint Base Balad, Iraq. The first of the so-called Liberty Project Aircraft arrived in Iraq on June 8, 2009, following an accelerated acquisition effort. USAF plans to deploy six MC-12s to Iraq.

June 18, 2009. USAF announces its selection of Barksdale AFB, La., as the permanent location for the new Air Force Global Strike Command.

June 23, 2009. US Strategic Command gets green light from Defense Secretary Robert Gates to “immediately” establish a subordinate US Cyber Command. The new subunified command will be located at Ft. Meade, Md., the site of the National Security Agency.

June 30, 2009. CMSgt. James A. Roy becomes the 16th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.

Chief Roy

July 2, 2009. US Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, new commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and US forces in Afghanistan, issues a “Tactical Directive” that calls for greater restraint in employing air strikes against and engaging in firefights with Taliban insurgents as a means to limit civilian casualties.

Aug. 7, 2009. The Air Force activates Air Force Global Strike Command, a new nuclear-centric major command, at Barksdale AFB, La. The new command, headed by a three-star general, will take responsibility for USAF’s nuclear-capable bombers and ICBM force. It also will inherit the lineage for Strategic Air Command, inactivated in June 1992. The first commander of AFGSC is Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz.

Aug. 18, 2009. Air Force Space Command activates 24th Air Force, the new numbered air force that will oversee USAF cyber operations from its headquarters at Lackland AFB, Tex.

July 31, 2009. USAF formally retires the T-37 Tweet training aircraft during a ceremony at Sheppard AFB, Tex. The T-6A has replaced the T-37, which served for more than 50 years as part of the Air Force’s undergraduate pilot training force.

Sept. 3, 2009. Air Force Global Strike Command activates the 69th Bomb Squadron at Minot AFB, N.D., where it will serve as USAF’s fourth operational B-52H squadron.

Sept. 13, 2009. A C-5M Super Galaxy, a C-5 refurbished with new engines and avionics among other upgrades, sets 41 US and world records on a flight during its operational test and evaluation phase.

Sept. 24, 2009. USAF releases a draft request for proposals in its revitalized KC-X tanker replacement program.

Nov. 12, 2009. Six CV-22 Ospreys and their operators, maintainers, and support airmen from the 1st Special Operations Wing return to their home base at Hurlburt Field, Fla., from a previously undisclosed three-month deployment in Southwest Asia supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. It was the first combat employment for Air Force Special Operations Command’s new CV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft.

Nov. 14, 2009. The first production-equivalent F-35A conventional takeoff and landing Joint Strike Fighter (designated AF-1) takes its first flight—an 89-minute stroll during which Lockheed Martin test pilot Doc Nelson flew it from the company’s Fort Worth plant to 20,000 feet, reached 0.6 Mach, and conducted some 360-degree rolls.

Nov. 16, 2009. The Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 40 unmanned aerial vehicle (designated AF-18) makes its first flight, flying for about two hours from Northrop Grumman’s production facility in Palmdale, Calif., to Edwards AFB, Calif. The Block 40 version will carry the MP-RTIP (multi-platform radar technology insertion program) all-weather radar sensor that Northrop and Raytheon are developing for enhanced detection and tracking of moving ground targets.

Dec. 1, 2009. The Air Force formally transfers its Minuteman III ICBM force from Air Force Space Command to the new Air Force Global Strike Command.

Dec. 4, 2009. USAF reveals existence of new stealth reconnaissance remotely piloted aircraft, the RQ- 170 Sentinel, built by Lockheed Martin and operated by the 30th Reconnaissance Squadron, Tonopah Test Range, Nev. (USAF statement) On Dec. 7, 2009, the Air Force confirms to Air Force Magazine’s Daily Report that the RQ-170 Sentinel is the same mystery aircraft that has been photographed near Kandahar AB, Afghanistan.

Why Now?

Dec. 27, 2009. The first of 24 MC-12W Liberty Project Aircraft destined for operations in Afghanistan arrives at Bagram Airfield.