Chronology: 2010-2013


Jan. 27, 2010. USAF flies its MQ-1 Predator RPA in its first humanitarian mission, assisting in post- earthquake operations in Haiti.

Strike Command Steps Up

Feb. 11, 2010. The Airborne Laser successfully destroys a boosting ballistic missile, culminating a long- awaited proof-of-concept demonstration for directed energy technology.

Feb. 24, 2010. USAF releases its final request for proposals in its revitalized KC-X tanker replacement program.

March 8, 2010. Northrop Grumman announces its decision not to pursue the KC-X tanker program.

March 10, 2010. Congress awards a Congressional Gold Medal to the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots), recognizing them for their trailblazing contributions during World War II when they flew military aircraft in non-combat roles to free up male pilots for combat. More than 200 surviving members attended the Capitol Hill ceremony.


March 16, 2010. The Pentagon releases an unclassified version of the executive summary of the Mobility Capabilities and Requirements Study 2016, recently sent to Congress. Contrary to previous mobility reviews, the MCRS-2016 finds the US has more than enough strategic airlift capability, certifying Pentagon plans to end C-17 production and eliminate some older C-5s.

The Double Life of Air Mobility

March 31, 2010. The Pentagon announces it is willing to extend the KC-X tanker program proposal filing deadline from May 10 to July 9, providing EADS North America formally commits to bidding before the original May 10 deadline. (EADS NA did so on April 20.)

April 7, 2010. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sign the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in Prague, Czech Republic. Upon entry into force of the “New START Treaty,” each side would slash its deployed nuclear warhead levels to 1,550 and reduce to 800 its total number of ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and nuclear-capable bombers. Officials say the US will reduce the nuclear warheads on each of its Minuteman III ICBMs to a single payload. Plans also called for reducing the number of MMIIIs from the current 450 to about 420.

Arms Control, On a Schedule

April 20, 2010. EADS North America formally announces it plans to pursue the KC-X tanker program without former partner Northrop Grumman (Northrop opted out in March). DOD had agreed to a proposal extension, moving the filing date from May 10 to July 9.

April 22, 2010. An Air Force-industry team launches the Boeing-built X-37B orbital test vehicle, the first of a new unmanned, reusable space test platform, into space at 7:52 p.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., via a United Launch Alliance Atlas V expendable booster.

May 26, 2010. USAF’s X-51A unmanned hypersonic air vehicle makes first flight, flying further on its own power than any other scramjet in history. A B-52 mothership carried aloft the Boeing-built X-51, which flew at Mach 5 for about 200 seconds before program officials terminated the flight. Pratt & Whitney- Rocketdyne developed the vehicle’s revolutionary SJY61 engine. USAF officials later revealed that testers had to prematurely terminate the flight because of a breached seal in the interface between the air vehicle and its engine.

May 27, 2010. The Air Force and its industry partners successfully launch the first Global Positioning System Block IIF satellite into space aboard a Delta IV rocket from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla. The Boeing-built spacecraft features a more robust and higher power military signal—first included on GPS Block IIR-M satellites—and a new L5 civil signal for aviation safety of flight.

June 6, 2010. The first Navy F-35C test aircraft (designated CF-1) makes its inaugural flight from NAS- JRB Fort Worth, Tex., with Lockheed Martin test pilot Jeff Knowles at the controls for the 57-minute flight.

June 10, 2010. The F-35B, USMC’s short takeoff and vertical landing variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, reaches supersonic speeds for the first time, flying out of NAS Patuxent River, Md., and reaching Mach 1.07.

June 12, 2010. Air Force Space Command assumes control of TacSat-3 from the Air Force Research Lab’s Space Vehicles Directorate, following nearly 13 months of drills since its launch in May 2009. In that time, its primary payload an imaging spectrometer (dubbed ARTEMIS) responded to combatant commander taskings, including providing overhead imagery of earthquake relief efforts in Chile and Haiti.

July 9, 2010. The Air Force announces it recently completed deployment of all 30 MC-12W Liberty intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance aircraft to Southwest Asia, thus completing the initial deployment of the entire operational fleet in only 13 months.

July 14, 2010. Air Force Chief Scientist Werner Dahm rolls out Technology Horizons report, which lays out the service’s science and technology priorities for the next decade and beyond. It is the culmination of a year-long, comprehensive review. (USAF made public release of the 150-page report on July 21, 2010.)

July 14, 2010. The first RQ-4 Global Hawk outfitted with the battlefield airborne command node (BACN) to serve as an aerial communications relay platform makes its maiden flight, flying from Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale, Calif., facility to Edwards AFB, Calif.

July 29, 2010. The first USAF HC-130J model combat rescue tanker makes its maiden flight, operating from Lockheed Martin’s Marietta, Ga., facility.

Aug. 9, 2010. The RC-135 Rivet Joint force of the 55th Wing, based at Offutt AFB, Neb., surpasses 20 years of continuous support to operations in Southwest Asia, beginning with Operation Desert Shield (August 1990) and continuing through Operation Deny Flight and post-9/11 operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

21st Century Rivet Joint

Aug. 9, 2010. The Air Force announces its selection of Raytheon to supply the Small Diameter Bomb Increment II.

Aug. 14, 2010. The Air Force and industry partners successfully launch the first Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite (AEHF-1) aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket operating from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla. AEHF is replacing Milstar communications satellites.

Aug. 26, 2010. Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley issues a memo to initiate reorganization of the service’s top space apparatus, moving space acquisition under the assistant secretary for acquisition and other space matters under the undersecretary of the Air Force. SECAF also establishes an Air Force Space Board to coordinate acquisition, plans, requirements, operations, training, and international affairs related to space.

Aug. 30, 2010. Boeing announces that USAF has declared the first GPS IIF satellite is operational.

Aug. 31, 2010. President Barack Obama declares an end to Operation Iraqi Freedom and the start of Operation New Dawn in Iraq, marking an end to formal combat operations that began on March 19, 2003.

Sept. 1, 2010. The first of three RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles planned for Andersen AFB, Guam, arrives at its new home.

Sept. 14, 2010. DARPA signs an agreement with Boeing to develop and fly the company’s SolarEagle under DARPA’s Vulture II demonstration program, designed to produce an unmanned aircraft that can operate continuously on-station in the stratosphere for at least five years. Boeing expects first flight in 2014.

Sept. 17, 2010. The Air Force retires the last of its T-43A training aircraft during a ceremony at Randolph AFB, Tex. The service flew the T-43 from 1973 as a flying classroom for navigators. Training in T-1 Jayhawks and T-6A Texan IIs replaced that in the T-43.

Sept. 19, 2010. The first production C-5M Super Galaxy makes its maiden flight from Lockheed Martin’s Marietta, Ga., facility. It will join three pre-production aircraft already in operational service at Dover AFB, Del.

The Super Galaxy

Sept. 21, 2010. SMSgt. Richard L. Etchberger posthumously receives the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama during a White House ceremony that recognized Etchberger’s heroism during combat March 11, 1968 at Lima Site 85, a top-secret Air Force radar facility in the mountains of Laos during the Vietnam War. At the time, the Air Force declined to award the MOH to preserve the secrecy of the operation in a supposedly neutral country, but it allowed posthumous presentation of an Air Force Cross in a non-public ceremony.

Etchberger, Medal of Honor

The Fall of Lima Site 85

Sept. 25, 2010. The first Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) satellite reaches orbit, launched aboard an Orbital Sciences Corp. Minotaur IV booster from Vandenberg AFB, Calif.

Sept. 30, 2010. Air Force Global Strike Command reaches full operational capability, less than 14 months after its initial activation to oversee USAF’s nuclear-capable bomber force and ICBMs.

Oct. 7, 2010. The Air Force announces its new motto: Aim High … Fly-Fight-Win. The service selected the new motto based on inputs from airmen gathered over an eight-month period.

Oct. 25, 2010. Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, begins seeking industry input for technologies leading to a next-generation tactical airlifter, dubbed the Joint Future Theater Lift (JFTL) capability. USAF could field this notional replacement to the C-130 in the mid-2020s.

Nov. 3, 2010. Aeronautical Systems Center begins industry research toward a replacement for the F-22, dubbing the aircraft the Next Generation Tactical Aircraft (NGTA), which USAF might field around 2030.

The Sixth Generation Fighter

Nov. 3, 2010. DOD announces that US Cyber Command, headquartered at Fort Meade, Md., has reached full operational capability. Defense Secretary Robert Gates directed US Strategic Command on June 23, 2009, to immediately establish the new command, which celebrated initial operational capability on May 21, 2010.

Dec. 3, 2010. The X-37B, USAF’s first unmanned re-entry space vehicle, returns to Earth, following its maiden voyage of 220 days, during which time it conducted risk reductions and reusable space vehicle technology concept development experiments.

Dec. 7, 2010. Air Force Space Command’s 24th Air Force changes from Air Forces Strategic to Air Forces Cyber (AFCYBER) to better reflect its mission in support of the newly formed US Cyber Command, a subunified command under US Strategic Command.

Dec. 22, 2010. President Barack Obama signs the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 into law, overturning the policy crafted in the Clinton Administration that prevented homosexuals from openly serving in the US military. However, before the law can take effect, DOD has to craft new policies and regulations that the President, Secretary of Defense, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff must certify.

Dec. 22, 2010. The Senate ratifies the New START arms reduction treaty with Russia by a margin of 71 to 26, delivering President Barack Obama a key foreign policy victory. The Russian Duma still needs to ratify the accord for it to enter into force. Under it, both the United States and Russia would reduce their strategic nuclear arsenals to 1,550 deployed warheads, 700 deployed launchers, and 800 launchers overall. President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed New START on April 8, 2010.

Late December 2010. Images begin appearing on the Web showing China’s new stealth fighter, the J-20, in high-speed taxi tests.

China Joins the Stealth Club

Maybe Not a Fighter

Dec. 26, 2010. Geraldine Hoff Doyle, the iconic face of “Rosie the Riveter” depicted on a World War II “We Can Do It!” poster, dies at age 86. In 1942, she was 17 and working at a metal-pressing plant in Michigan when a United Press photographer snapped her photo, which an artist later used—unknown to Doyle at the time—as the inspiration for the now-classic support-the-war-effort poster.


Jan. 6, 2011. Defense Secretary Robert Gates announces the service shares of a $100 billion cut planned over the next five years. The Air Force share is about $34 billion. To reach that amount, USAF planned to implement new efficiencies. There were no additional major program cuts planned.

Jan. 6, 2011. Defense Secretary Robert Gates announces that the command billet for US Air Forces in Europe would be reduced from a four-star to a three-star post with the next command change. He announces the same rank reduction for the US Army and Navy components for US European Command.

Jan. 7, 2011. USAF announces it has removed the rated requirement for becoming an Air Liaison Officer in an effort to more rapidly increase the number of ALOs.

Jan. 11, 2011. Photos begin appearing on the Internet of the Chinese J-20 stealth fighter in its first flight.

Jan. 20, 2011. A United Launch Alliance Delta IV heavy lift evolved expendable launch vehicle launches for the first time from the Vandenberg AFB, Calif. West Coast launch range.

Jan. 20, 2011. Gen. Donald Hoffman, commander of Air Force Materiel Command, declares full operational capability for the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland AFB, N.M. AFNWC was March 31, 2006.

Jan. 31, 2011. Air Force Space Command takes operational control of the Space Tracking and Surveillance System Advanced Risk Reduction Technology satellite from the Missile Defense Agency. The ARRT will aid AFSPC’s space situation awareness mission to monitor on-orbit spacecraft.

Feb. 4, 2011. Northrop Grumman’s X-47B naval unmanned combat demonstrator aircraft flies for the first time, completing a 29-minute mission at Edwards AFB, Calif. The UCAS-D program is designed to demonstrate that a tailless, fighter-sized aircraft can safely takeoff and land on a carrier deck.

Feb. 4, 2011. Air Force Space Command opens its new Standard Space Trainer Integrated Space Center at Schriever AFB, Colo., where it has been under development since 2006. The SST offers common training architecture for satellite operators.

Feb. 5, 2011. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov exchange the instruments of ratification for the New START nuclear arms control agreement during the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany.

Feb. 14, 2011. The Air Force rolls out a new acquisition strategy, dubbed EASE—evolutionary acquisition for space efficiency—with release of the Fiscal 2012 budget. Air Force Space Command expects EASE, which requires Congressional approval, to provide an incremental funding approach, utilizing block buys and fixed-price contracting to help prevent requirements creep and escalating cost for space systems.

Feb. 24, 2011. USAF announces Boeing has won the KC-X tanker replacement program with the company’s 767-based NewGen Tanker beating the A330-based aircraft offered by EADS North America. USAF expects Boeing to deliver 18 new tankers by 2017 as part of the 179-aircraft buy in the KC-X contract. USAF plans to follow with KC-Y and KC-Z programs to replace its entire KC-135 fleet and KC- 10 tankers. USAF designates the KC-X tanker, KC-46A.

Feb. 25, 2011. The first production version F-35A, dubbed AF-6, makes its first flight. AF-6 flew for one hour out of Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth, Tex., production facility.

Feb. 25, 2011. USAF announces that 1st Lt. Candice Killian is the service’s first female to qualify as a CV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft pilot. She is Osprey pilot No. 97.

March 2011. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz tells Air Force Magazine USAF will no longer use traditional force-sizing metrics—tactical fighter wings, fighter wing equivalents, or combat wings—but will instead use the number of platforms by category, such as high-performance or strike aircraft, to fit DOD’s current operational scenarios.

March 3, 2011. USAF accepts its final Predator remotely piloted aircraft, tail No. 268. The General Atomics Aeronautical Systems medium-altitude RPA, originally dubbed RQ-1, progressed from first flight in July 1994 as an intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance-only asset to an MQ-1 version armed with Hellfire missiles. The Air Force continues to buy its successor, the larger, more-capable MQ-9 Reaper.

March 11, 2011. Massive 9.0 earthquake strikes Japan; major tsunami follows. US military aid efforts include assistance to Japanese forces, delivery of more than two million gallons of water, 189 tons of food, 11,960 gallons of fuel, and 100 tons of other relief supplies via air and sea under the Japan Self- Defense Force-led Operation Tomodachi. US military assistance includes some 140 aircraft, more than 20 ships, and about 20,000 personnel—above those already stationed in Japan.

March 14, 2011. Defense Secretary Robert Gates issues a memorandum outlining his latest efficiency decisions, including eliminating 22 general officers positions from the Air Force. The Army and Navy (not including USMC) will each lose 11. (Also see Jan. 6, 2011, entry.) In all, Gates’ memo outlines: 102 eliminations (44 service billets, 58 joint), 23 reductions in grade, 10 reallocations (within Joint pool), and five reductions in rank for health profession (requires legislation).

March 14, 2011. Lockheed Martin announces USAF’s new HC-130J rescue tanker has completed developmental testing.

March 15, 2011. Senior Air Force officials tell Congress the projected initial operational capability date for the F-35A likely could slip up to two years, from 2016 to 2018, under the Pentagon’s latest restructure of the Joint Strike Fighter program. (On April 7, 2011, Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, USAF Chief of Staff, would tell Congress the projected IOC is now at least late 2017.)

March 19, 2011. Coalition forces launch US-led Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1973 to protect the Libyan people from the country’s ruler, including enforcing a no-fly zone. Three B-2 bombers, flying from Whiteman AFB, Mo., and four F-15Es and eight F-16CJs are among the first wave of strike forces, following US and British cruise missile attacks on Libyan air defense sites. USAF Maj. Gen. Margaret Woodward, commander of 17th Air Force, serves as joint force air component commander. In all US forces would fly more than 600 strike missions out of a total of some 1,600 sorties overall, including aerial refueling and airlift sorties.

March 24, 2011. NATO assumes responsibility for enforcement of the no-fly zone over Libya under UN Security Council Resolution 1973.

March 24, 2011. DOD issues a 90-day stop work order against the General Electric-Rolls Royce F136 engine, effective March 31 when its government funding runs out. The Pentagon has repeatedly tried to kill the alternate F-35 engine program, but Congress in the past continued funding it.

March 29, 2011. Lockheed Martin rolls out USAF’s first new-build MC-130J Combat Shadow II. The company is under contract to provide 15 aircraft to Air Force Special Operations Command.

March 31, 2011. NATO assumes command of coalition operations in Libya with the transition from the US-led Operation Odyssey Dawn to NATO-led Operation Unified Protector.

April 6, 2011. President Obama approves changes to the Unified Command Plan that place Alaska and the Arctic region under US Northern Command’s responsibility. Previously, NORTHCOM and US Pacific Command shared responsibility for Alaska.

April 8, 2011. The Air Force announces plans to base its MC-12W Liberty intelligence-surveillance- reconnaissance aircraft at Beale AFB, Calif. (The base will receive the first of its planned seven training aircraft June 10, 2011; the bulk of the 37-aircraft fleet are expected to be deployed overseas.)

April 13, 2011. President Obama announces plans to cut about $400 billion from the defense budget by 2023 as part of an effort to reduce the overall federal deficit by $4 trillion. This comes on top of the $400 million defense reduction identified over the past two years in current and future defense spending.

April 20, 2011. Lockheed Martin announces the first flight of USAF’s MC-130J Combat Shadow II aircraft. The flight takes place from the company’s Marietta, Ga., production facility.

April 25, 2011. The Pentagon notifies the General Electric-Rolls Royce F136 team that is has terminated the contract for the engine’s development. The two companies announce May 5 their intention to continue funding the F-35 strike fighter alternate engine development program through Fiscal 2012 out of pocket.

April 27, 2011. Boeing’s Phantom Ray unmanned airborne system flies for the first time under its own power. The 17-minute flight at a speed of 178 knots and altitude of 7,500 feet takes place under the auspices of NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB, Calif., and demonstrates the vehicles airworthiness.

May 5, 2011. USAF accepts its first production F-35A strike fighter, AF-7, the second production version off the Lockheed Martin assembly line, but the first to complete acceptance testing.

May 7, 2011. Air Force Space Command announces launch of GEO-1, the first Space Based Infrared System geosynchronous satellite. A United Launch Alliance Atlas V booster launched from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., carrying the Lockheed Martin satellite into orbit. GEO-1 joins SBIRS sensors already operating on host satellites. The Air Force expects SBIRS to complement and eventually replace its Defense Support Program missile warning satellites. (Lockheed Martin announces May 24 that GEO-1 has reached its operational orbit.)

May 9, 2011. Northrop Grumman unveils the Firebird, a new intelligence- gathering aircraft capable of operating in manned or unmanned configurations and employing multiple sensors at the same time. Northrop provided the universal payload interface and missions systems for Firebird, which Scaled Composites designed, built, and tested

May 9, 2011. USAF’s B-52H bomber fleet surpasses 50 years of operations. On May 9, 1961, Boeing delivered the first B-52H, dubbed State of Michigan, to Strategic Air Command 379th Bomb Wing at Wurtsmith AFB, Mich.

June 5-6, 2011. On a mission from Dover AFB, Del., to Bagram AB, Afghanistan, a combined active duty and Air Force Reserve crew flies a C-5M Super Galaxy on a direct, non-stop 15-hour, flight—with one aerial refueling—over the Arctic, marking the first time a USAF aircraft has flown this northern route. Use of the route by military aircraft was made possible by an agreement reached with Russia in 2009.

June 6, 2011. Maj. Gen. John R. “Johnny” Alison, USAF (Ret.), a highly decorated World War II combat ace, Korean War veteran, and lifetime airpower advocate, dies at age 98. Born in Micanopy, Fla., on Nov. 21, 1912, Alison entered the Army Air Corps after graduating from the University of Florida in 1936. He served on active duty and later in the Air Force Reserve until his retirement in 1972. Alison was an outstanding pilot, whose World War II achievements include six official kills while flying with and later commanding the 75th Fighter Squadron, part of the famed “Flying Tigers,” in the China-Burma-India theater. He later became co-commander, with Col. Phil Cochran, of the newly formed 1st Air Commando Group that fought behind Japanese lines in Burma, flying one of the first gliders in. He is credited with being the father of Air Force special operations. After the war, he served as the assistant secretary of commerce for aeronautics in the Truman Administration before returning to service during the Korean War. He served as the Air Force Association’s President from 1954 to 1955 and as AFA’s Chairman of the Board from 1955 to 1956. He remained engaged in AFA as director emeritus thereafter. In 2005, he was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame. He was a founding Member of the Air Force Memorial Foundation.

Valor: They Said It Couldn’t Be Done

The All-American Airman


June 14, 2011. Mississippi’s Congressional delegation announces that Key Field Air National Guard Base in Meridian, Miss., home to the 186th Air Refueling Wing, will become USAF’s C-27J schoolhouse. The schoolhouse, expected to be fully operational in 2015, will train pilots, loadmasters, and maintainers.

June 14, 2011. The Civil Air Patrol receives a World Peace Prize from the World Peace Corps Mission, honoring CAP as its Roving Ambassador for Peach in 2010, during a ceremony at the US Capitol.

The Citizen Air Fleet

Valor: A CAP for the Sub Threat

June 16, 2011. An Electronic Systems Center spokesman at Hanscom AFB, Mass., confirms that USAF plans to purchase a Bombardier BD-700 aircraft to serve in Southwest Asia as an overhead communications-relay platform, dubbing it E-11A. USAF has been leasing the aircraft, to which it added Northrop Grumman’s Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) to enable disparate battlefield communications systems to share data.

June 29, 2011. A Minotaur I rocket successfully boosts the Operationally Responsive Space-1 (ORS-1) satellite into space from NASA’s Wallops Island launch facility on Virginia’s eastern shore. ORS-1 is designed to provide additional overhead imagery to commanders in Southwest Asia.

July 1, 2011. Leon Panetta replaces Robert Gates at Secretary of Defense. Gates had led the Defense Department since December 2006, serving both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. Panetta previously was Director of Central Intelligence.

July 8, 2011. Space Shuttle Atlantis blasts off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on the space shuttle program’s final space mission, the 135th flight over a span of 30 years.

July 12, 2011. Rockwell Collins delivers the final C/KC-135 upgraded with the Global Air Traffic Management (GATM) system during a ceremony at Kelly Field in San Antonio. GATM-equipped aircraft are certified to international communication, navigation, surveillance/air traffic management standards.

July 21, 2011. Atlantis touches down at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., after its final flight, signaling the end to 30 years of space shuttle flights.

July 22, 2011. President Obama signs the document certifying the Department of Defense has met the requirements for repeal of the 1993 law known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, starting the 60-day countdown toward the Sept. 20 end to the ban on homosexuals serving openly in the US military.

July 25, 2011. Retired Col. Arthur W. “Kit” Murray, the USAF test pilot who flew the X-1A to a record- setting 90,440 feet on Aug. 26, 1954, dies at age 92.

Aug. 4, 2011. DOD officially disestablishes US Joint Forces Command, which stood up in 1999, a casualty of Pentagon cost-cutting measures.

Aug. 4, 2011. The C-27J Spartan flies first combat mission on deployment to Afghanistan. Several C- 27Js from the Ohio Air National Guard’s 179th Airlift Wing at Mansfield are being operated by ANG and Army aircrews to support ground operations.

Aug. 10, 2011. Air Combat Command declares initial operational capability with the RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 unmanned aerial vehicle. (A Northrop Grumman official on Aug. 16 announces that a Block 30 Global Hawk led the opening air strikes during Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya.)

Sept. 21, 2011. An Ariane V rocket lifting off from Kourou, French Guiana, boosts into orbit the SES-2 communications satellite, which hosts USAF’s first payload on a commercial satellite. The experimental Air Force payload, dubbed Commercially Hosted Infrared Payload (CHIRP), also is the first wide-field-of- view infrared staring payload in space.

Sept. 22, 2011. Boeing announces the company and the Air Force Research Lab successfully completed the first flight test of a new high-powered microwave weapon at the Utah Test and Training Range earlier in the year (no specific data given). The Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) began in April 2009 with award of a three-year contract to demonstrate the ability to neutralize electronic targets while minimizing collateral damage.

Sept. 23, 2011. The 50th Space Wing at Schriever AFB, Colo., accepted control authority for ORS-1, which went into orbit June 29 and is designed to provide ISR support for troops in Southwest Asia.

Sept. 24, 2011. USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz pilots the first HC-130J Combat King II personnel recovery aircraft to its home at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.

Sept. 25-26, 2011. A USAF C-5M Super Galaxy from the 436th Airlift Wing, Dover AFB, Del., flies for the first time a new non-stop route from the US to Afghanistan, proving the ability to airlift troops and supplies more quickly and efficiently.

Sept. 27, 2011. The Navy-led TacSat-4 experimental communications satellite program, under the Operationally Responsive Space joint office at Kirtland AFB, N.M., launches aboard a Minotaur IV+ booster from Kodiak, Alaska. TacSat-4’s planned one-year mission is to enable ground troops to remain in contact via legacy hand-held radios even when they are operating in difficult mountainous and urban terrain in Southwest Asia.

Sept. 29, 2011. USAF receives the first new-build MC-130J Combat Shadow II (renamed Commando II on March 9, 2012), now part of the 27th SOW at Cannon AFB, N.M.

Sept. 30, 2011. USAF activates the 461st Air Control Wing at Robins AFB, Ga., changing the nine-year- old 116th ACW “blended” wing operation with the Air National Guard to an active associate arrangement between the two wings. ANG takes sole control of the 116th and ownership of the E-8C JSTARS aircraft, which the 461st helps operate and maintain.

The Blended Wing Goes to War

Oct. 7, 2011. This day marks the 10th anniversary since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

Oct. 24, 2011. The first Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-1) military communications satellite reaches its intended operational orbit, after a 14-month delay. A thruster malfunction forced USAF and industry to devise an alternate orbit-raising plan, which employed different thrusters but did not impact the satellite’s planned 14-year service life.

Oct. 27, 2011. SSgt. Robert Gutierrez Jr., an Air Force Special Operations Command combat controller, receives the Air Force Cross for his actions Oct. 5, 2009, in Afghanistan. During a lengthy firefight, Gutierrez accurately guided close air support at a “danger-close” range helping to decimate the enemy and allow his team to escape the kill zone without additional casualties. Even though wounded, losing more than five pints of blood, and having a burst eardrum (following close-in strafing by A-10s he directed), he continued to direct aircraft overhead, called in his own medevac, and walked himself to the landing zone.

Once More Unto the Breach

Oct. 31, 2011. The UN Security Council approves a resolution ending Operation Unified Protector, NATO’s seven-month military intervention in Libya.

Nov. 1, 2011. Administration officials celebrate the dismantlement of the final B53 nuclear bomb in the US inventory. Retired in 1997, the Cold War-era bomb, which was about the size of a mini-van and weighed some 10,000 pounds, was carried by B-47, B-52, and B-58 bombers.

Nov. 7, 2011. Lt. Col. Donald Cornwell, Lt. Col. Dylan Wells, Capt. Leigh Larkin, and Capt. Nicholas Tsougas receive the 2010 Mackay Trophy for the most meritorious flight in 2010, marking their heroic actions on a combat mission over Afghanistan April 6, 2010. Flying F-15E Strike Eagles with call signs Dude-01 and Dude-02, the four performed show-of-force passes and released six Joint Direct Attack Munitions to protect a task force of some 30 coalition troops under attack by approximately 100 Taliban fighters in Bala Morgab. The F-15E strikes killed more than 80 Taliban, saving the task force members’ lives.

Nov. 8, 2011. The US relinquishes control of Joint Base Balad in Iraq with departure of the last members of USAF’s 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing.

Nov. 14, 2011. Air University awards its first doctorate degree from an AU school at Maxwell AFB, Ala.

Dec. 2, 2011. Officials speaking for the F136 Fighter Engine Team of General Electric and Rolls Royce announce they will cease self-funding the F136, ending a long-running battle between the makers of the F-35 strike fighter alternate engine and DOD, which wanted to continue with only the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine for the F-35.

Dec. 8, 2011. Pentagon officials confirm that the US lost a remotely piloted aircraft during a mission over Afghanistan, but they do not confirm that it is an RQ-170, a new stealthy RPA first publicly revealed Dec. 4, 2009. However, unnamed US defense and intelligence officials tell news media that the RPA went down due to a malfunction in eastern Iran. Iran has claimed it shot down an RQ-170.

Lost and Found?

Dec. 13, 2011. The final F-22 Raptor rolls off the assembly line at Lockheed Martin’s Marietta, Ga., facility. It is tail #4195 and completes the 187 production aircraft USAF ultimately orders. Lockheed built a total of 195 F-22s, including eight test aircraft. Two production aircraft have crashed.

The Last Raptor

Raptors for the Long Haul

Dec. 15, 2011. Pentagon leaders officially end the US military mission in Iraq. Nearly 4,500 US military personnel were killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom (March 19, 2003 – Aug. 31, 2010) and the follow-on Operation New Dawn (Aug. 31, 2010 – Dec. 15, 2011) and more than 32,000 were wounded. (The last US troops left Iraq Dec. 18, 2011.)

Iraq War Comes to an End The Last Days in Iraq

Dec. 31, 2011. President Obama signs the Fiscal 2012 defense authorization act into law and with it provides a permanent seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the Chief of the National Guard Bureau.


Jan. 3, 2012. Air Force Space Command declares the Operationally Responsive Satellite-1 satellite has reached final operational capability. Reaching orbit in June 2011, ORS-1 has provided additional situational awareness for troops in Afghanistan, employing a modified electro-optical/infrared imagery sensor similar to that on the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft.

Jan. 5, 2012. President Obama unveils a new defense strategy, which places greater emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region. (Sustaining US Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense)

Jan. 26, 2012. Pentagon leaders outline budget cuts stemming from the new defense strategy and planned reduction of $487 billion over the next 10 years; USAF cuts include eliminating six tactical air squadrons and one training squadron, retiring a number of aircraft (including 102 A-10s, 21 f-16s, all A model C-5s, and 65 of the oldest C-130s), divesting the 38 C-27J transport fleet, and reducing end strength in the Total Force (some 3,900 Active; 5,100 ANG; 900 AFRC over five years).

Feb. 3, 2012. USAF releases a white paper outlining its planned force structure changes. Gen. Norton Schwartz, Chief of Staff, tells reporters USAF will accept a slightly higher than moderate risk under these changes.

Feb. 9, 2012. The Air Force releases its Energy Horizons science and technology vision paper.

Feb. 15, 2012. Boeing and the Air Force celebrate roll-out of the first re-winged A-10 Warthog. Boeing is under contract to produce 233 wing sets to re-wing the so-called thin-skin wings on some A-10s, making them prone to cracking.

Feb. 16, 2012. The Air Force F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant flies for the first time with wing-mounted weapons, two AIM-9X Sidewinders.

Feb. 16, 2012. Boeing and USAF roll out the first re-winged A-10 Warthog in a ceremony at Hill AFB, Utah. Officials expect the new wings to ensure service into 2040.

Feb. 28, 2012. Aeronautical Systems Center officials at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, issue the military flight release signaling the F-35A strike fighter is cleared to begin initial operations at Eglin AFB, Fla.

Feb. 29, 2012. Lockheed Martin announces it has concluded on-orbit testing for the Air Force’s first Advanced Extremely High Frequency military communications satellite, now designated SV-1, paving the way for transfer of control to Air Force Space Command’s 50th Space Wing.

March 12, 2012. Air Mobility Command’s 9th Airlift Squadron at Dover AFB, Del., becomes the first all-C- 5M Super Galaxy squadron in the Air Force.

March 14, 2012. The Air Force’s final F-22 Raptor—tail No. 4195—conducts its first test flight in Marietta, Ga., flown by company test pilot Bret Luedke. No. 4195 is the last of 187 production F-22s. Lockheed will deliver 4195 to USAF on May 2, 2012.

March 15, 2012. Air Force Special Operations Command announces a name change for its new MC- 130J aircraft, from Combat Shadow II to Commando II.

April 12, 2012. Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz awards Capt. Barry Crawford the Air Force Cross—the second highest honor for valor in combat—during a Pentagon ceremony. An Air Force Special Operations Command special tactics officer, Crawford was assigned to an Army SOF unit in Afghanistan on May 4, 2010, when he “placed himself at grave risk on four occasions while controlling over 33 aircraft and more than 40 airstrikes on a well-trained and well-prepared enemy force” during an intense 10- hour-plus firefight, according to his citation.

Caught in the Crossfire

April 20, 2012. USAF inactivates 17th Air Force (Air Forces Africa), US Africa Command’s air component since October 2008, during a ceremony at Ramstein AB, Germany. At the same time, US Air Forces in Europe assumes the air component role, becoming US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa.

April 25, 2012. T-1, the Air Force’s prototype C-17 transport, arrives at the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, from Edwards AFB, Calif., where it endured a 21-year test career.

June 1, 2012. Col. Jeannie Leavitt becomes the Air Force’s first female fighter wing commander when she takes command of the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson AFB, S.C. She is an F-15E Strike Eagle pilot with more than 2,500 hours, including 300 combat hours.

June 1, 2012. Boeing’s Phantom Eye liquid-hydrogen-powered remotely piloted aircraft completes its first autonomous flight, reaching an altitude of more than 4,000 feet and a cruising speed of 62 knots during its 28-minute flight at Edwards AFB, Calif. Boeing expects the RPA to deliver intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance coverage for up to four days in unrefueled, autonomous flight.

June 4, 2012. USAF merges three San Antonio-based Field Operating Agencies into one, consolidating the Air Force Manpower Agency, Air Force Personnel Center, and Air Force Services Agency into the new Air Force Personnel Center.

June 5, 2012. Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger—the Air Force’s first female four-star general—assumes command of Air Force Materiel Command, headquartered at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.

June 12, 2012. Air Force Special Operations Command activates the 24th Special Operations Wing in a ceremony at Hurlburt Field, Fla. The mission of the new wing, AFSOC’s third, is to provide Air Force special tactics forces for rapid global employment.

July 12, 2012. Air Education and Training Command inactivates 19th Air Force, the NAF which oversaw AETC’s flying mission for nearly two decades, as part of an Air Force efficiency move to reduce overhead spending.

June 15, 2012. Capt. Francis Gary Powers posthumously receives the Silver Star medal during a Pentagon ceremony, more than 50 years after the Soviets shot down the U-2 pilot. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz presented the decoration to Powers’ grandson Francis Gary Powers III and granddaughter Lindsey Berry. Powers, who died in 1977, received the medal for the gallantry and sustained courage he displayed while in Soviet captivity from May 1960 to February 1962 after the Soviets shot down his U-2 reconnaissance aircraft during a top-secret overflight of Soviet military installations. Despite harsh interrogation, Powers refused all attempts to give sensitive information or be exploited for propaganda purposes.

Silver Star for Francis Gary Powers When the U-2 Fell to Earth

June 16, 2012. OTV-2, the Air Force’s second unmanned X-37B reusable spaceplane, returns to Earth after 469 days in orbit during its maiden mission.

June 20, 2012. The Air Force and its industry partners successfully launch a National Reconnaissance Office payload into space aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, marking the Air Force’s 50th successful launch of a national security payload aboard an evolved expendable launch vehicle.

June 22, 2012. During a ceremony at Cannon AFB, N.M., Air Force Special Operations Command retires the MC-130E Combat Talon I aircraft (tail No. 64-0523) that led the Son Tay Raid to free US prisoners of war from North Vietnam in August 1970. The aircraft, which had served in recent years with Air Force Reserve Command’s 919th Special Operations Wing at Duke Field, Fla., was to undergo several months of demilitarization before being placed on permanent display at Cannon’s airpark

The Son Tay Raid

July 26, 2012. Air Combat Command declares the Raytheon-built Miniature Air Launched Decoy has achieved initial operational capability and is available for real-world use.

July 30, 2012. Lt. Gen. James Jackson becomes Chief of the Air Force Reserve and Commander of Air Force Reserve Command. He succeeded Lt. Gen. Charles E. Stenner Jr., who held those titles since June 2008.

Aug. 1, 2012. USAF announces that Luke AFB, Ariz., will be the site for its F-35A pilot training center.

Aug. 6, 2012. USAF officials announce the service has created a new enlisted aviator field—1A9X1 Special Missions Aircraft—that will encompass aerial gunners and flight engineers who serve aboard the HH-60G Pave Hawk and CV-22 Osprey and loadmasters who serve on AC-130 gunships and special operations non-standard aircraft.

Aug. 10, 2012. Gen. Mark A. Welsh III succeeds Gen. Norton A. Schwartz as USAF Chief of Staff.

Aug. 17, 2012. Air Force Space Command declares the Boeing-Ball Aerospace Space Based Surveillance Satellite (SBSS) has reached initial operational capability and is ready to provide space situational awareness data.

Aug. 25, 2012. Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the moon, dies at age 82. He made his famous walk July 20, 1969, during NASA’s Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, saying as he stepped onto the moon: “That is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Sept. 7, 2012. Army Gen. Frank J. Grass replaces Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley as Chief of the National Guard Bureau. McKinley, who had served as NGB Chief since November 2008, formally retired Nov. 1, 2012.

Sept. 28, 2012. USAF inactivates 13th Air Force, transferring its mission directly to Pacific Air Forces, as part of the service’s overhead streamlining efforts. PACAF still has 5th Air Force (Japan), 7th Air Force (South Korea), and 11th Air Force (Alaska).

Oct. 1, 2012. Air Force Materiel Command announces its new five-center organizational construct has reached initial operational capability. AFMC’s new structure comprises the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (including the former Aeronautical Systems Center, Armament Systems Center, and Electronic Systems Center) based at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio; Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland AFB, N.M.; Air Force Research Lab; Air Force Sustainment Center (including the three former Air Logistics Centers—Ogden, Oklahoma City, and Warner Robins—now called Air Logistics Complexes), based at Tinker AFB, Okla.; and Air Force Test Center, based at Edwards AFB, Calif.

Oct. 1, 2012. USAF transfers responsibility for Tyndall AFB, Fla., from Air Education and Training Command to Air Combat Command as part of its F-22 fleet reorganization. Tyndall, home to F-22 training, is to receive a combat-coded F-22 squadron from Holloman AFB, N.M.

Oct. 1, 2012. The Air Force activates a new Field Operating Agency, the Air Force Civil Engineer Center at JBSA-Lackland, Tex., to oversee the service’s civil engineering functions worldwide, merging the San Antonio-based Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment and Air Force Real Property Agency with the Tyndall AFB, Fla.-based Air Force Civil Engineer Support Agency.

Oct. 15, 2012. USAF announces it had upgraded the award of a Bronze Star with Valor to a Silver Star for MSgt. James Calfee, who was killed in combat during a firefight March 11, 1968, at Lima Site 85, a top secret radar facility in Laos. Calfee was seriously injured when North Vietnamese troops stormed the site, but he continued firing to enable five of his fellow airmen to reach a rescue helicopter. He died at the site. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) presented the new medal to Calfee’s sisters during a private ceremony in his office Aug. 16, 2012. The Air Force on Oct. 15 formally recognized Calfee’s Silver Star during a memorial ceremony at Barksdale AFB, La., for the Lima Site airmen.

The Fall of Lima Site 85

Oct. 26, 2012. Boeing announces the youngest B-52H (serial No. 61-040) delivered to USAF has reached 50 years of operational service. It is still in service at Minot AFB, N.D.

Nov. 14, 2012. The multi-national Strategic Airlift Capability Heavy Airlift Wing declares full operational capability with its C-17s at Pápa AB, Hungary.

Dec. 7, 2012. Korean War double ace retired Col. Ralph S. Parr dies in New Braunfels, Tex., at age 88. He received a Distinguished Service Cross in the Korean War and an Air Force Cross in the Vietnam War.

Valor: The Pinnacle of Professionalism


Jan. 7, 2013. The first class of legacy aircraft pilots transitioning to the F-35 begins training at Eglin AFB, Fla.

Jan. 24, 2013. CMSgt. James A. Cody becomes the 17th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.

Chief Cody

Jan. 24, 2013. Pentagon officials announce plans to open more combat roles to women in the military. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey sign an official memorandum rescinding the 1994 direct ground combat exclusion rule for women.

Pentagon Expanding Roles for Women in Combat

Feb. 27, 2013. USAF awards the Light Air Support contract for 20 aircraft to Sierra Nevada Corp. and Embraer Defense and Security, selecting the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano, which is to be built in Jacksonville, Fla.

Feb. 27, 2013. Chuck Hagel becomes Secretary of Defense. He is the first enlisted combat veteran to lead DOD; he served with the Army in Vietnam as an infantry squad leader in 1968. He was also a Senator from Nebraska from 1996 to 2009.

March 22, 2013. Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Clarke III becomes Director of the Air National Guard, succeeding Lt. Gen. Harry M. “Bud” Wyatt III, who retired after some 40 years in service.

March 28, 2013. Two B-2 bombers fly more than 6,500 miles nonstop to drop inert bombs on a South Korean training range on March 28 as part of the ongoing bilateral Foal Eagle exercise. The nuclear- capable bombers flew from their home station at Whiteman AFB, Mo., released their dummy munitions, and returned to Whiteman—part of a US Strategic Command demonstration of US extended deterrence capability to support Asia-Pacific allies.

April 4, 2013. Air Force Special Operations Command announces it has inactivated 23rd Air Force as one of USAF’s overhead efficiency efforts.

April 14, 2013. The Air Force Reserve turns 65. President Harry Truman signed legislation to establish the Air Force Reserve on April 14, 1948.

April 29, 2013. Eric Fanning takes office as Undersecretary of the Air Force, a position that had been vacant since June 2012. The previous USECAF, Erin Conaton, had already taken a new post as Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.

April 25, 2013. Airmen gather to mark the retirement of the last five MC-130E Combat Talon I aircraft during a ceremony at Duke Field, Fla. The Combat Talon I flew its first combat mission in 1966 and participated in all major US conflicts since then.

May 1, 2013. The fourth and final mission of the Boeing X-51A WaveRider unmanned hypersonic vehicle sets the record for the longest ever air-breathing hypersonic flight. The X-51A traveled more than 230 nautical miles in slightly more than six minutes off the coast of southern California. A B-52 starting from Edwards AFB, Calif., carried the WaveRider aloft, releasing it at approximately 50,000 feet in altitude. The X-51’s rocket booster accelerated the vehicle to Mach 4.8, when the X-51 separated and ignited its supersonic combustion ramjet engine to propel itself to Mach 5.1 at 60,000 feet.

May 14, 2013. The Navy and prime contractor Northrop Grumman successfully catapult the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator from the deck of the USS George H.W. Bush. It flew for 65 minutes and then landed at NAS Patuxent River, Md.

May 17, 2013. Air Force Space Command declares the first Space Based Infrared Systems geosynchronous satellite (GEO-1) fully operational. The SBIRS constellation eventually will replace the legacy Defense Support Program satellites.

May 22, 2013. The Navy’s MQ-4C Triton remotely piloted aircraft, a variant of USAF’s RQ-4 Global Hawk, completes its first flight, flying for 1.5 hours over Palmdale, Calif. Northrop Grumman develops both RPAs.

June 3, 2013. USAF names its first female Chief Scientist—Mica R. Endsley.

June 4, 2013. The congressionally mandated National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force holds its first public hearing. Retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Dennis McCarthy is chairman of the eight- member panel, and former Air Force Undersecretary Erin Conaton is the vice chair. Lawmakers created the panel to address concerns over USAF’s force structure plans for its reserve components. Congress directed the commission to provide a report with its recommendations by Feb. 1, 2014.

June 26, 2013. Boeing begins production of the first KC-46A aerial refueler at its facility in Everett, Wash. The company is slated to begin installing military-unique systems onto the aircraft in June 2014. First flight of a fully provisioned KC-46A is scheduled for early 2015 with first delivery in 2016.

June 27, 2013. A new Air Force policy takes effect that requires commanders who have made a sexual assault disciplinary decision to refer that decision to the commander’s servicing general court-martial convening authority for review. (Also see July 2, 2013.)

July 2, 2013. A new Air Force policy takes effect that requires immediate discharge of any airman, officer or enlisted, found to have committed a sexual assault. (Also see June 27, 2013.)

July 2, 2013. USAF releases Global Horizons, a science and technology study designed to articulate projected changes through 2050 that may influence global stability and identifies necessary investments to ensure freedom of maneuver in global domains. It is the last report by former Air Force Chief Scientist Mark Maybury, succeeded by Mica Endsley in June.

July 10, 2013. The Northrop Grumman-built X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator aircraft, a tailless remotely piloted aircraft, completes its first carrier-based arrested landing, landing on the USS George H.W. Bush off the coast of Virginia. (Also see May 14, 2013.)

Feb. 1, 2010. The Air Force formally transfers its B-2 and B-52 bomber forces from Air Combat Command to the new Air Force Global Strike Command.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The History of the US Air Force and the Chronology of Air Power continues to develop. This history will be updated over the course of 2020 and beyond.