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Air Force celebrates milestone birthday

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Michael Washburn
  • 27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
Throughout the world, no other military has dominated the skies like the U.S. Air Force. On September 18, 2017, it continues that legacy of air superiority by celebrating its 70th birthday.

Since its formation in 1947, each decade has brought significant advancements and innovation to the force. Along with our capabilities, each decade has seen noteworthy Airmen achieve greatness.

• In 1947, a young 24-year-old pilot, Capt. Chuck Yeager, piloted an experimental aircraft, the Bell XS-1, through the sound barrier.

• In 1948, President Harry Truman signed executive order 9981, abolishing segregation in the armed forces. The Air Force was the first military branch to plan for this, even before Truman signed the order.

• The Secretary of Defense, Charles Wilson, assign responsibility for developing intercontinental ballistic missiles to the Air Force in 1956.

• The 60’s saw the Air Force play a pivotal role in the Vietnam War, specifically with Operation Rolling Thunder, a sustained bombardment campaign, utilizing the F-4 Phantom II, F-100 Super Sabre, A-1 Skyraider and B-52 Stratofortress.

• The 60’s was also the inauguration of the SR-71 Blackbird aircraft. This aircraft was a strategic reconnaissance aircraft capable of speeds greater than 2,000 miles per hour and altitudes of more than 85,000 feet or 16 miles above the ground.

• In 1971, Jeanne Holm, the director of Women of the Air Force was promoted to brigadier general, becoming the first woman general in the Air Force.

• In 1975, Daniel James Jr., nicknamed “Chappie”, became the first African-American four-star general.

• A new era of air supremacy first started in 1972 with the first flight of the F-15 Eagle. It entered service in ’76.

• Air Force Space Command was activated in 1982 as well as U.S. Central Command in ’83 and U.S. Special Operations Command in ’87.

• In 1984, the first produced B-1 Lancer flew.

• In ’89 Capt. Jacquelyn Parker became the first female test pilot to graduate from the Air Force Flight Test Pilot School, located in Edwards Air Force Base, California.

• The beginning of the 1990’s saw our involvement in Operation Desert Storm. The Air Force assisted in the liberation of Kuwait with a massive volley of missile strikes. During the operation, a reservist also scored the first-ever A-10 Thunderbolt II air-to-air kill.

• In 1993, Maj. Susan Helms, who later went on to obtain the rank of lieutenant general, became the first U.S. military woman in space, aboard the space shuttle Endeavour.

• A major milestone happened in 1998 with the first flight of the RQ-4 Global Hawk, a high-altitude and long-range reconnaissance remotely piloted aircraft.

• The 2000’s forever changed our way of life and the Air Force with the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. This attack fueled the global war on terrorism and the first mission, Operation Enduring Freedom. Later, the Air Force participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom, which was renamed to Operation New Dawn in 2010.

• In 2002, an MQ-1 Predator fired a Hellfire missile on a group of al Qaeda members, scoring the first time an RPA destroyed an enemy target.

• In 2010, Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro, a Tactical Air Control Party operator, became the first Airman with a 100 percent disability rating to be allowed to re-enlist. In 2005, his Humvee rolled over an improvised explosive device. He sustained burns to over 80 percent of his body.

In the 70 years since the Air Force’s foundation, a surplus of accomplishments have been made. There is no sign of slowing down now and accolades will continue to happen for decades to come. The sky is no longer the limit.