24 July 1950: The first rocket launch at Cape Canaveral, Fla., took place. Bumper 8 was a two-stage rocket consisting of a captured German V-2 ballistic missile as the first stage and a WAC Corporal sounding rocket as the upper, second, stage. The rocket lifted off from Launch Complex 3 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and followed a ballistic trajectory over the Joint Long Range Proving Ground. This was a low-angle atmospheric flight. The WAC Corporal reached an altitude of 10 miles and traveled 200 miles downrange. The Bumper Project was a U.S. Army Ordnance Corps program, with overall responsibility contracted to the General Electric Corporation. The V-2s used in the Bumper Project were modified to accept the WAC Corporal second stage. Compressed air was used to separate the stages after the V-2 engine was cut off. The V2, or Vergeltungswaffen 2 (also known as the A4, Aggregat 4) was a ballistic missile weighing 28,000 pounds when fully loaded. It carried a 2,200 pound explosive warhead of amatol, a mixture of TNT and ammonium nitrate. Propellant was a 75/25 mixture of of ethanol and water with liquid oxygen as oxidizer. When launched, the rocket engine burned for 65 seconds, accelerating the rocket to 3,580 miles per hour (5,761 kilometers per hour) on a ballistic trajectory. The maximum range of the rocket was 200 miles (322 kilometers) with a peak altitude between 88 and 128 miles, depending on the desired range. On impact, the rocket was falling at 1,790 miles per hour.
July 24, 1951: The Bell X-1D made the first flight of its career when it was air-dropped from an EB-50A mother ship to make an unpowered glide to the Rogers Dry Lakebed at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Jean Ziegler was the pilot. The X-1D was the first of the “second generation” X-1 rocket research planes to be completed; it was intended for heat transfer research.
July 24, 1985: The Strategic Systems Combined Test Force conducted the first captive-carry sortie in the AGM-129A Advanced Cruise Missile program.
July 25, 2000: The F-22 CTF’s Raptor 02 successfully fired an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile over the China Lake test range. The test confirmed the F-22sw ability to launch an air-to-air missile from an internal weapons bay.
July 26, 1958: Capt. Iven C. Kincheloe Jr. was killed following an unsuccessful ejection when his F-104 suffered an engine failure on takeoff. A Korean War fighter pilot, Kincheloe had been assigned to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., in the mid-1950s as a test pilot, where he flew many of the new “Century” series fighters, such as the F-101, F-102, F-104 and F-105, and had been chosen as the Air Force’s lead test pilot for the X-15.
July 26, 1998: The Burt Rutan designed, Scaled Composites Proteus aircraft made its first flight at the Mojave Air and Space Port. Proteus is a twin-turbofan, high-altitude, multi-mission aircraft powered by Williams International FJ44-2E engines. It is designed to carry payloads in the 2,000-pound class to altitudes above 50,000 feet and remain on station up to 14 hours. Heavier payloads can be carried for shorter missions. It is intended for both piloted and UAV missions. Missions for Proteus include telecommunications, reconnaissance, atmospheric research, commercial imaging and space launch. The Proteus is designed with long wings and a low wing loading needed for efficient high altitude loiter. It excels in stability and low noise.
Proteus was conceived as an “optionally piloted” aircraft flown by a two-person crew for takeoff, climb to mission altitude, descent and landing, and then operated either by a single pilot, remotely from the ground, or autonomously when on station at mission altitude.
To that end, NASA’s Dryden (now Armstrong) Flight Research Center, under the Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology project, assisted Scaled Composites in development of a sophisticated station-keeping autopilot system that gave the Proteus a fully functional autonomous capability when on station. In addition, the ERAST project helped fund a satellite communications-based uplink/downlink data system for aircraft and payload data. The SATCOM system has full over-the-horizon capability, allowing the aircraft to be controlled remotely from a distant ground-based control station via the SATCOM uplink/downlink.
July 27, 1948: The Air Materiel Command X-1 test team, arrived at Muroc to commence preparations for the accelerated flight test program. Pictured left to right are Lt. Edward Swindell, Lt. Robert “Bob” Hoover (back row), Maj. Robert “Bob” Cardenas, Capt. Chuck Yeager, Dick Frost (back row) and Capt. Jack Ridley.
July 27, 1951: With company test pilot Jean “Skip” Ziegler at the controls, the Bell X-5 became the first variable-geometry aircraft in history to “swing” — or sweep forward or back — its wings while in flight.
July 27, 1972: The McDonnell Douglas YF-15A MC Eagle, with company test pilot Irving L. Burrows at the controls, made its first flight at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. There were 12 pre-production F-15 aircraft, serial numbers 71-0280–71-0291. Three-hundred eighty four F-15A fighters were built from 1972 to 1979, before production switched to the improved F-15C. The last F-15A Eagle in U.S. Air Force service, F-15A-19-MC 77-0098, was retired from the Oregon Air National Guard, on Sept. 16, 2009.
July 27, 1976: Majors Adolphus H. Bledsoe, Jr. and John T. Fuller flew an SR-71 over a 1,000 kilometer course in the vicinity of Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., setting three closed-circuit records: world absolute speed, world jet speed with 1,000 kg payload; and world jet speed without payload. The aircraft reached a speed of 2,092 mph.
July 28, 1935: At Boeing Field, Seattle, Chief Test Pilot Leslie Ralph “Les” Tower and Louis Waite took off on the maiden flight of the Boeing Model 299, NX13372, a prototype four-engine long range heavy bomber. For approximately one-and-a-half hours, Tower flew back and forth between Tacoma and Fort Lewis. When he landed, he said, “It handles just like a little ship — a little bigger, of course.” The Boeing Model 299 was a four-engine bomber operated by a crew of eight. It was designed to meet a U.S. Army Air Corps proposal for a multi-engine bomber that could carry a 2,000 pound bomb load a distance of 2,000 miles at a speed greater than 200 miles per hour. Design of the prototype began in June 1934 and construction was started Aug. 16, 1934. The Air Corps designated it B-299, and later, XB-17. It did not carry a military serial number, being marked with civil registration NX13372.
July 28, 1973: Boeing’s YQM-94A Compass Cope-B – Gull remotely piloted vehicle made its first fight. This was a twin-tailed unmanned vehicle with a single jet engine mounted on a dorsal pod.
July 28, 1976: Capt. Eldon W. Joersz and Maj. George T. Morgan flew an SR-71 at 2,193.64 mph to set two records: world absolute and jet speed over a 15/25 kilometer straight course. Also on this day – Capt. Robert C. Helt and Maj. Lang A. Elliot flew their SR-71 over the test range at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., to a height of 85,069 feet, establishing both world absolute and jet records for altitude in horizontal flight.
July 28, 1983: An F-16 flew the first sortie of the Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared System for Night (LANTIRN) evaluation program at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
July 28, 1987: A B-1B released Mk82 weapons shapes over Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., during the first conventional weapons separation tests of the B-1B program.
July 29, 1971: The Martin Marietta X-24A lifting body completed its flight test program. It was then converted to a different shape with the X-24B designation. The X-24 was one of a group of lifting bodies flown by the National Aeronautics Space Administration Flight Research Center, in a joint program with the U.S. Air Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California from 1963 to 1975. The lifting bodies were used to demonstrate the ability of pilots to maneuver and safely land wingless vehicles, designed to fly back to Earth from space and be landed like an airplane at a predetermined site. Lifting bodies’ aerodynamic lift, essential to flight in the atmosphere, was obtained from their shape. The addition of fins and control surfaces allowed the pilots to stabilize and control the vehicles and regulate their flight paths. The X-24 was built by Martin Marietta and flown from Edwards AFB, Calif. The X-24A was the fourth lifting body design to fly; it followed the NASA M2-F1 in 1964, the Northrop HL-10, the Northrop M2-F2 in 1966 and preceded the Northrop M2-F3.
The X-24A was a fat, short teardrop shape with vertical fins for control. It made its first, unpowered, glide flight on April 17, 1969. with Air Force Maj. Jerauld R. Gentry at the controls. Gentry also piloted its first powered flight on March 19, 1970. The craft was taken to around 45,000 feet (13.7 km) by a modified B-52 and then drop launched, then either glided down or used its rocket engine to ascend to higher altitudes before gliding down. The X-24A was flown 28 times at speeds up to 1,036 mph (1,667 km/h) and altitudes up to 71,400 feet (21.8 km). The X-24B’s design evolved from a family of potential reentry shapes, each with higher lift-to-drag ratios, proposed by the Air Force Flight Dynamics Laboratory. To reduce the costs of constructing a research vehicle, the Air Force returned the X-24A to the Martin Marietta Corporation (as Martin Aircraft Company became after a merger) for modifications that converted its bulbous shape into one resembling a “flying flatiron” — rounded top, flat bottom, and a double delta platform that ended in a pointed nose. First to fly the X-24B was John Manke, a glide flight on Aug. 1, 1973. He was also the pilot on the first powered mission Nov. 15, 1973.
July 29, 1983: The F-15 Combined Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., passed 10,000 hours of accident-free flight time. This was the first time in the history of U.S. fighter development that such a milestone had been reached.
July 30, 1954: The Grumman F-11 Tiger made its first flight. The aircraft was a supersonic, single-seat carrier-based U.S. Navy fighter aircraft in operation during the 1950s and 1960s. Originally designated the F11F Tiger in April 1955 under the pre-1962 Navy designation system, it was redesignated as F-11 Tiger under the 1962 United States Tri-Service aircraft designation system. The F-11 was used by the Blue Angels flight team from 1957-1969. Grumman Aircraft Corporation made 200 Tigers, with the last aircraft being delivered to the U.S. Navy on Jan. 23, 1959.
July 30, 1959: The Northrop F-5A made its first flight. The Northrop F-5 is a family of supersonic light fighter aircraft initially designed as a privately funded project in the late 1950s by Northrop Corporation. There are two main models, the original F-5A and F-5B Freedom Fighter variants and the extensively updated F-5E and F-5F Tiger II variants. The design team wrapped a small, highly aerodynamic fighter around two compact and high-thrust General Electric J85 engines, focusing on performance and a low cost of maintenance. Smaller and simpler than contemporaries such as the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, the F-5 cost less to procure and operate, making it a popular export aircraft. Though primarily designed for a day air superiority role, the aircraft is also a capable ground-attack platform. The F-5A entered service in the early 1960s. During the Cold War, over 800 were produced through 1972 for U.S. allies. Though at the time the U.S. Air Force did not have a need for a light fighter, it did procure approximately 1,200 Northrop T-38 Talon trainer aircraft, which was based on Northrop’s N-156 fighter design. The first Air Force F-5A unit was the 4441st Combat Crew Training Squadron at the former Williams Air Force Base, near Phoenix, Ariz. The F-5 was also adopted as an opposing forces “aggressor” aircraft for dissimilar training role, because of its small size and performance similarities to the Soviet MiG-21. In this role, the aircraft saw service with the 64th Aggressor Squadron and the 65th Aggressor Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
July 30, 1959: The third and last X-15 rocket research plane (s/n 56-6672) arrived at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.