Air Force Bases

Air Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson AFB

Air Materiel Command/Air Force Logistics Command

This installation hosted several organizations that contributed in various ways to the advancement of missile development and support.

In March 1946, the Air Technical Service Command at Wright-Patterson was redesignated as the Air Materiel Command (AMC). Besides handling the burden of disposing of tons of surplus equipment, such as war-weary aircraft, and maintaining logistical support for the newly forming United States Air Force, AMC became a major research and development organization during the post-war era. By 1947, AMC supported more than 2,000 research projects including several surface-to-surface, air-to-surface, surface-to-air, and air-to-air missiles. Among the missiles developed at Wright Patterson were the SM- 62 Snark, and XMS-64 Navaho. One program, Convair's MX-774B ICBM, showed much promise. However, in 1948, funding constraints forced the Air Force to cancel the program.

Many of the other missile programs met a similar fate and this caused concern. Because AMC had the primary mission of supporting aircraft and weapons already in the inventory, much of the research and development dollars went towards applied research to improve already existing systems. Basic research to develop technologies for new weapons took a back seat. In 1949, a special committee of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, under the chairmanship of Dr. Louis N. Ridenour, recommended that research and development activities be separated within a new command. This proposal became reality with the establishment of the Air Research and Development Command (ARDC) in 1951. Although ARDC would be headquartered in Maryland, it would maintain a significant presence at Wright-Patterson.

Although AMC shed its research and development mission, it remained active in the ICBM program. The increased sophistication of missiles and aircraft forced AMC to reevaluate how it procured and supported weapon systems. Previous weapons development, acquisition, and maintenance had been separate activities with little coordination between the functional areas. That approach proved to be cumbersome for the ICBM. Instead ARDC used a weapon systems management approach, in which a project office guided a program through development, procurement, production, and logistics support. When a weapon system was under development, ARDC was designated the executive agency and AMC played a supporting role. For example, to support the Atlas ICBM project, AMC established a project office collocated with ARDC's Ballistic Missile Division in Inglewood, California. After completing development and placing the system into pro- duction, AMC became the executive agent for the weapon system.

The effectiveness of this teamwork arrangement came under question in the late 1950s as the Air Force hastened to develop and deploy ICBMs. As a result of several conferences addressing the overall organizational efficiency, changes were made. In 1961, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara approved a plan to redesignate AMC as the Air Force Logistics Command (AFLC) and the ARDC as the Air Force Systems Command (AFSC). The significance of the change involved placing weapons system management in the hands of the Maryland-based AFSC.

The Ohio-based AFLC continued to play an important role in providing logistical support for missiles as they entered the inventory. In 1992, AFLC and AFSC were rejoined to form the Air Force Materiel Command. Headquartered at Wright-Patterson, this new command held responsibility for developing, maintaining, and modifying Air Force systems from "cradle to grave."

Research Activities at Wright-Patterson

In 1944, engineers from the Air Technical Services (ATS) Power Plant Laboratory reproduced a German V-1 pulse jet engine from salvaged parts. Within 89 days of arrival of the parts, these engineers launched a V-1 from Eglin Field in Florida. Soon ATS engineers built and tested 13 copies of the German missile that was designated the "JB-2."

In 1946, the laboratories at Wright-Patterson were transferred to the Air Materiel Command. In 1951, they were transferred again, this time to the newly established Air Research and Development Command.

The ARDC organization at Wright-Patterson was designated the Wright Air Development Center (WADC). WADC assumed control of all Air Force research and development, and conducted laboratory research in materials, aerodynamics, propulsion, and airborne guidance and navigation systems. During this time, WADC engineers worked on such missile programs as the Martin B-61A Matador, Boeing XF-99 BOMARC, Hughes XF-98 Falcon, and North American XMS-64 Navaho.

Throughout the 1950s the role of WADC evolved. In 1959, the organization was redesignated as the Wright Air Development Division (WADD). With the 1961 Air Force reorganization, WADD obtained procurement functions and subsequently became the Aeronautical Systems Division (ASD) of the newly established Air Force Systems Command. Management functions would shift over the next three decades; however, Wright-Patterson's laboratories would continue to provide invaluable support in the development of more advanced weapons systems.

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