1948 USAF Chronology
January: Goodfellow AAF, Texas is renamed Goodfellow AFB.
January 13: The former Maxwell Field is redesignated as an Air Force Base.
January 13: The former Alamagordo AAF, New Mexico is renamed Holloman AFB in honor of Colonel George Holloman.
March 1: Curtiss-Wright's first and only jet fighter, the XP-87 Blackhawk, begins testing at Muroc. A heavy night fighter/interceptor, the Blackhawk will not to go into series production.
March 11: First flight of the P-82F prototype. Started as a long range B-29 escort late in World War II, North American's Twin Mustang design is being adapted for use an an interim night fighter, bridging the gap between the wartime P-61 Black Widow and the first jet interceptors. Adapting the type to the new role involves replacing the second pilot with a radar operator, and installing a podded radar between the two fuselages.
March 22: First flight of the Lockheed TP-80C. A "cleaned up" two seat version of the Shooting Star fighter, the TP-80C (later T-33) will be the USAF's first jet trainer, a role it will fill into the 1960s. Even after this, the "T-bird" will remain in service as a utility aircraft for many years.
April: The Army's Camp Beale, California, the future Beale AFB, comes under Air Force control.
April 9: A long-duration 30-hour mission by a B-36 is successfully concluded.
May 20: First flight of the production F-86A. Operational Sabres have six .50-caliber M3 machine guns in the nose, revised airbrakes, and the ability to carry drop tanks or bombs under the wings.
April 26: An XP-86 with the definitive J47 engine becomes the first fighter aircraft to fly faster than sound. Although not true supersonic fighters, most Sabres will be able to break Mach 1 in a dive.
June 1: MATS is formed. The unified Military Air Transport Service is established from long-range transport units of both the USAF's Air Transport Command and the Navy's Air Transport Service. MATS is under USAF control, and Lieutenant General Laurence Kuter is the organization's first leader. Primarily tasked with intercontinental airlift tasks such as rushing men and material to Europe in times of crisis, MATS will also fly many humanitarian missions to disaster areas bringing in food and medicine.
June 5: Captain Glenn Edwards is killed at Muroc AFB while test flying a YB-49. Muroc is subsequently renamed Edwards AFB after him.
June 10: The USAF aircraft designation system is changed. The "Cargo" and "Bomber" prefixes remain, but "Pursuit" is replaced by "Fighter", and the "Attack" category is done away with, although it will later be resurrected. Additionally, "Reconnaissance" replaces the "Photo" prefix for recce aircraft.
June 22: Berlin Blockade. Seeking to drive its wartime partners entirely out of Communist-dominated East Germany, the USSR cuts off the sectors of Berlin controlled by the US, UK, and France from all road and rail lines leading to West Germany.
June 26: Berlin Airlift/Operation Vittles. Unwilling to cede Berlin to the Soviets uncontested, but wishing to avoid a military showdown, the West mounts a major airlift of supplies through three air corridors to the city, which remain open. USAF transports begin the enormous task of resupplying the now-isolated Berlin with all necessary foodstuffs, medical supplies, and fuel necessary to support a city of over two million people. The airlift will need to deliver more than a thousand tons daily at a minimum, and although the first day's shipment is only a fraction of this amount, tonnage soon begins to rise as aircrew, ground controllers and logistics planners gain experience. C-47s are used initially, but these are soon replaced by the much more capable C-54, three hundred of which are eventually deployed. C-82s, a C-74, and C-97s are also to play a part in the airlift, alongside British aircraft.
July 8: Consolidated's B-36B Peacemaker flies. The largest operational bomber ever to be flown by SAC, the B-36 is the epitome of wartime strategic bomber design, with a range of well over five thousand miles at almost four hundred mph, achieved by the use of six large Wasp Major radial engines turning pusher propellers. The first service model to follow the XB-36 prototype and B-36A service-test aircraft, the B-36B is easily able to haul any type of gravity bomb (including the bulky first-generation thermonuclear weapons such as the TX-14) over intercontinental distances unrefueled, something that jet bombers will not be able to accomplish until Boeing's Stratofortress comes into service. Able to operate well above the combat ceiling of early jet fighters, the Peacemaker will be the last US bomber to carry a large number of defensive gun turrets.
July 21: First flight of the second Stratojet prototype.
July 22: Three Superfortresses take off from Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona on the first leg of an eight-stop globe-circling flight. One aircraft will be lost in the Arabian Sea, killing all but one aboard. The surviving two aircraft will arrive back at Davis-Monthan on August 6.
August 1: The Air Force Office of Special Investigations is established, tasked with protecting against and investigating breaches of USAF internal security.
August 1: The 22nd BW(M) is activated at Smokey Hill AFB, Kansas to operate the B-29, although the unit will not be operational until 1949.
August 6: A B-29 lands at Marshall Field, Kansas with its fuel tanks going dry after a flight that started at a West German airfield almost twenty-four hours previously. Two other Superfortresses attempting to make the flight have been forced to land short of Kansas due to fuel starvation.
August 14: First flight across the Atlantic by the Douglas C-74 Globemaster, a larger successor to the C-54 Skymaster. Only fifteen C-74s will be built, as the expected civilian market does not open up, and the surviving USAF aircraft are sold secondhand to commercial concerns by the end of the 1950s.
August 16: Testing of the XF-89 Scorpion, a twin-engined, two-seat, all-weather interceptor from Northrop, begin. Powered by two J35s, later model production Scorpions are to have radar and avionics allowing semi-automated attacks on incoming bombers, with later variants substituting rocket pods, Douglas MB-l/AIR-2 Genies or Hughes AIM-4 Falcon missiles for the original 20-mm cannon armament. The over one thousand Scorpions of various models will serve as stepping stones between the F-86D and F-94 designs and the purpose-designed, supersonic interceptors of the Century Series.
August 16: SAC discloses that a B-29 of the 509th BG has flown a long-distance mission from MacDill AFB, Florida to the West Coast and back nonstop, covering almost 5,800 miles.
August 23: First flight of the McDonnell XF-85 Goblin. A purpose-designed parasite fighter, intended for employment from the B-36, the Goblin is a diminuitive design, consisting of little more than an egg-shaped fuselage containing a turbojet engine and cockpit, and small wing and tail surfaces. The mothership for this initial flight is a B-29 equipped with the trapeze mechanism that lowers and raises the fighter into and out of the bomb bay.
September: Fairchild turns out the last C-82 Packet tactical transport. The C-82 uses a "flying boxcar" configuration of a central fuselage and twin tail booms, and will see much use over Korea parachuting airborne personnel and equipment.
September 1: A Republic XR-12 Rainbow makes a transcontinental flight across the US at above forty thousand feet, the first time the crossing has been made at such an altitude.
September 18: Consolidated flies the XF-92, a testbed for the German-inspired delta wing. The forerunner of the successful F-102, F-106, and B-58, the XF-92 is not intended for service use, as the aircraft basically consists of wings and a vertical tail surface mated to a J33 engine and cockpit. It will however serve as the preliminary aerodynamic prototype for the F-102 and F-106 interceptors.
October: A B-49 makes a 3,458-mile long-range test flight from Muroc.
October: Boeing gets a contract to build a pair of XB-52 jet-powered heavy bomber prototypes. Started as a series of turboprop design studies to replace the B-36, the XB-52 that will finally see the light of day is essentially be a larger B-47 powered by no less than eight of Pratt & Whitney's powerful new J57 turbo jets. Like the Stratojet, the new bomber (later named Stratofortress) will rely on high subsonic speed and a single tail turret for protection, although the larger B-52 will have a true intercontinental range thanks to greater fuel capacity and more efficient engines.
At this time, SAC at this time anticipates operating production B-52s no later than the mid-1960s, the search for a successor will be a long and tortured one, resulting in late-model B-52s being almost completely rebuilt for service into 2000s. During its first years of service, the Stratofortress will be optimized for carrying high-yield thermonuclear weapons such as the Mk 53 into Soviet airspace at high altitude, but this mission will eventually be phased out in favor of low-level penetration strikes and standoff attacks using missiles.
October 16: General Curtis LeMay starts a nine-year tenure as leader of Strategic Air Command, the longest in the command's history. During this time, LeMay, who spearheaded the development of US strategic bombing in both the European and Pacific theaters during World War II, will establish SAC as the nation's primary deterrent against a nuclear attack by the Soviets. LeMay will push the development of a fleet of intercontinental-range jet bombers and supporting tankers, as well as accelerating the development of ballistic missiles.
October 20: The first McDonnell XF-88 Voodoo makes its maiden flight. Powered by twin J34s, the swept -wing Voodoo is intended to serve SAC as an escort fighter. This role will be phased out of the postwar Air Force as bomber tactics change, but a number of prototype escort designs will be flown, and the Voodoo will form the basis for the later F-101.
November: The North American B-45A Tornado is now operational. Designed as a B-47 competitor, the Tornado is really a tactical bomber, with straight wings and four J47 engines. TAC will use the Tornado until the B-57 and B-66 become available in the late 1950s. B-45s will be utilized for live-fire drop tests of the first tactical nuclear gravity bombs, and several will be "bailed" to engine manufacturers for use as testbeds carrying new powerplants in their weapons bays.
December 1: The 11th BG (Heavy) is activated at Carswell AFB, Texas.
December 6: A Dayton, Ohio to Charleston, West Virginia of seventeen minutes is set by Captain Yeager, flying an F-80.