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On This Date

May 29, 1956: The Chance Vought Regulus II (XSSM-N-9) made its first flight after a 2.3 mile takeoff run from the lakebed at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. This test version of the Navy jet-propelled cruise missile was fitted with a tricycle landing gear and, according to the Edwards history office it had a tendency to outrun its chase and airborne control aircraft.
 
 
 
 
 

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May 30, 1958: The Douglas DC-8 four-engine passenger liner was flown for the first time, at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., piloted by A.G. Heimerdinaer.
 
 
 
 
 
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May 30, 1972: The Northrop YA-9A Cobra specialized ground attack aircraft made its first flight, flown by company test pilot Lew Nelson. The aircraft subsequently lost the A-X competitive prototype flyoff against the A-10, and never went into production. Criticism that the U.S. Air Force did not take close air support seriously prompted service senior leadership to seek a specialized attack aircraft. During the Vietnam War, large numbers of ground-attack aircraft were shot down by small arms, surface-to-air missiles, and low-level anti-aircraft gunfire, prompting the development of an aircraft better able to survive such weapons. Fast jets such as the North American F-100 Super Sabre, Republic F-105 Thunderchief and McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II proved, for the most part, to be ineffective for the close air support combat mission. Members of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) took responsibility for the two Cobra prototypes and continued flight testing before retiring the airframes. During retirement, the YA-9As’ custom-built engines were removed and later mated to a C-8 Buffalo aircraft as part of the NASA-Boeing joint Quiet Short-haul Research Aircraft study into the development of a quiet short-haul commercial aircraft.
 
 
 
 
 
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May 31, 1993: The 410th Test Squadron was assigned to Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif., and assumed responsibility for the F-117 test program. The aircraft and personnel of Detachment 1, 412th Test Wing, were transferred to the 410th.
 
 
 
 
 
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June 1, 1951: Air Force aeromedical research Maj. John P. Stapp was strapped into a rocket sled which was poised on a 2,000-foot deceleration track at North Base, Edwards AFB, Calif. Moments later, 4,000 pounds of rocket thrust blasted him down the track and into the braking system (from 88.6 mph to a full stop in 18 feet). For a brief instant, he endured 48 G’s, with a rate of onset of about 500 G’s per second. In other words, his body had absorbed an impact of more than four tons. Prior to Stapp’s sled experiments, conventional medical wisdom had maintained that the human body could probably survive no more than 17-18 instantaneous Gs.
 
 
 
 
 
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June 2, 1989: The B-1B Lancer Combined Test Force completed the bomber’s development, testing and evaluation program after 592 test flights totaling 3,015 flying hours, utilizing a total of nine different aircraft. The DT&E program began in March 1983. The Rockwell B-1 Lancer is a supersonic variable-sweep wing, heavy bomber used by the United States Air Force (USAF). It is commonly nicknamed the “Bone” (from “B-One”). It is one of three strategic bombers in the USAF fleet as of 2021, the other two being the B-2 Spirit and the B-52 Stratofortress. Air Force officials envisioned the bomber in the 1960s as a platform that would combine the Mach 2 speed of the B-58 Hustler with the range and payload of the B-52. The bomber was meant to replace both bombers. After a long series of studies, Rockwell International (now part of Boeing) won the design contest for what emerged as the B-1A. This version had a top speed of Mach 2.2 at high altitude and the capability of flying for long distances at Mach 0.85 at very low altitudes. The combination of the high cost of the aircraft, the introduction of the AGM-86 cruise missile and early work on the stealth bomber all significantly affected the need for the Lancer. The program was restarted in 1981, largely as an interim measure due to delays in the B-2 stealth bomber program, with the B-2 eventually reaching initial operational capability in 1997. This led to a redesign as the B-1B, which differed from the B-1A by having a lower top speed at high altitude of Mach 1.25, but improved low-altitude performance of Mach 0.96. The electronics were also extensively improved during the redesign, and the airframe was improved to allow takeoff with the maximum possible fuel and weapons load.
 
 
 
 
 
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June 3, 1949: The XF-90 made its first flight, flown by Lockheed test pilot Tony LeVier. The XF-90 was Lockheed’s entry into the Air Force’s Penetration Fighter competition but never went into production due to being underpowered.
 
 
 
 
 
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June 3, 1969: A test team flew the first sortie in a series to certify the F-4E Phantom II with a Target Identification System, Electro-Optical system for Tactical Air Command. Beginning in 1973, Phantom II aircraft possessed target-identification systems for long-range visual identification of both airborne and ground targets. Each system acted like a television camera with a zoom lens to aid in positive identification, and a system called Pave Tack, which provided day and night all-weather capability to acquire, track and designate ground targets for laser, infrared and electro-optically guided weapons. The final 10 production Phantom II Aircraft introduced a Northrup AN/ASX-1 Target Identification System, Electro-Optical system attached to the left wing. The system identified aircraft out of range of the pilot’s naked eye. This equipment contained two distinct zoom settings that were linked to the aircraft’s scope.
 
 
 
 
 
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June 4, 1784: Eight months after first manned balloon flight by Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier and Francois Laurent d’Arlandes, Elisabeth Thible became the first female balloonist to fly in a hot air balloon, accompanying Monsiuer Fleurant. She boarded the air balloon ‘La Gustave’ which was named in honor of the Swedish King, Gustav III.
 
 
 
 
 
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June 4, 1940: The Allied forces’ evacuation of soldiers from Dunkirk, France, to England was declared complete. The operation that started on May 26 successfully saved more than 338,000 men. Code-named Operation Dynamo, the rescue mission famously used every seaworthy vessel available, military and civilian, including fishing boats, private yachts and lifeboats.
 
 
 
 
 
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June 4, 1942: The Battle of Midway, one of the most decisive U.S. victories against Japan during World War II, began on this day. During the four-day sea-and-air battle, the outnumbered U.S. Pacific Fleet succeeded in destroying four Japanese aircraft carriers while losing only one of its own, the Yorktown, to the previously invincible Japanese navy.
 
 
 
 
 
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June 4, 1969: Lockheed’s C-5A Galaxy Number Two, the world’s largest transport aircraft, arrived at the Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., for joint Air Force-contractor Category I and II testing.
 
 
 
 
 
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June 4, 1971: The Martin Marietta X-24A prototype aircraft made its last flight on this day. After 28 flights, Air Force engineers redesigned and heavily modified the blunt-shaped X-24A and renamed it the X-24B. The “B” model possessed a longer fuselage, increased width, and sharply changed platform. The X-24B proved to have three times the maneuverability of the original design. The United States Air Force and NASA jointly developed the aircraft, within a program named PILOT. This program ran from 1963 through 1975. The program’s primary purpose involved testing of lifting body concepts, experimenting with the concept of unpowered reentry and landing. The Space Shuttle later utilized these same concepts. During testing, the X-24 would detach from a modified B-52 Stratofortress at high altitudes before igniting its rocket engine and after expending its fuel load, the pilot would glide the X-24 to an unpowered landing.
 
 
 

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