JANUARY 1 In northern Iraq, Operation

northern watch supersedes Operation pro­vide comfort to enforce no-fly zone condi­tions north of the 36th north latitude line.

At Beale Air Force Base, California, two SR-71 Blackbirds are declared operational by the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing.

The top secret machines had recently been brought out of retirement.

JANUARY 6 Abdullah Hamza Al – Mubarak is the first Muslim chaplain commissioned by the U. S. Air Force.

JANUARY 31 The Air Force activates the 31st Air Expeditionary Wing (AEW) as the first operational unit of its kind. This formation can be deployed or rotated any­where around the world with little delay.

FEBRUARY 17 The Air Force Reserve is upgraded to the status of a major command within the Air Force and receives the new designation Air Force Reserve Command.

February 18-March 3 In Liberia, Operation assured lift commences as five C-130s of the 37th Airlift Squadron land 1,160 soldiers and 450 tons of cargo from several neighboring African nations to assist peacekeeping operations.

FEBRUARY 20 In San Diego, California, the Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical plant rolls out its first Global Hawk long-range reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

March 17 In Zaire, Operation guardian retrieval commences as aircraft of the Spe­cial Operations Command (SOC) and Air Mobility Command (AMC) evacuate 532 individuals threatened by civil unrest. The mission requires 57 sorties and employs a variety of aircraft and helicopters.

April 1 At Whiteman Air Force Base,

Missouri, the 509th Bomb Wing is the first operational B-2 Spirit unit; they cur­rently deploy six bombers.

All C-130 transports deployed in the continental united States with the Air Com­bat Command (ACC) are hereafter assigned to the Air Mobility Command (AMC).

April 4 At Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, a Titan IIG rocket lifts a Defense Meteorological Satellite Program satellite into a polar orbit. This also consti­tutes the first time that a converted ICBM has been used as a launch vehicle.

April 9 At Marietta, Georgia, the first production Lockheed Martin/Boeing F – 22 Raptor, Spirit of America, rolls out of the factory in front of 3,000 attendees. This aircraft reflects doctrinal changes in Air Force thinking, from air superiority to air dominance.

April 22-25 In Las Vegas, Nevada, Air Force Fifty, the 50th Anniversary of the U. S. Air Force’s founding, un­folds with a meeting of all Global Air Chiefs; the event is capped off by an impressive air show at nearby Nellis Air Force Base.

May 12 At Zhukovsky, Russia, a group of U. S. Air Force test pilots from Edwards Air Force Base, California, visit the Rus­sian Air Force Flight Test Facility at the Gromov Flight Research Institute for the first time. The Americans each get an orientation flight in a MiG-29 fighter.

May 17 Over Edwards Air Force Base, California, the Douglas X-36 remotely piloted research aircraft is successfully tested for the first time. This is a tailless, high angle of attack fighter drone.

June 10 In England, the Air Force Special Operations Command directs an MC – 130H Combat Talon II from the 352nd Special Operations Squadron to convey a European political survey crew into Brazzaville, Republic ofCongo, then in the throes of political instability. They depart RAF Mildenhall, Great Britain, and ensuing flight lasts 13 hours, involves

three aerial refuelings, and covers 3,179 nautical miles. Braving ground fire from rebels, the team lands, deposits their charge, and extracts 56 people from dan­ger. Lieutenant Colonel Frank J. Kisner and his crew receive a Mackay Trophy.

June 24 The Air Force issues a report entitled “The Roswell Report: Case Closed” to refute assertions that it is involved in a cover-up related to a 1947 UFO crash. However comprehensive, it fails to silence critics, who continue accusing the Air Force and government of a cover up.

July 28-AuGUST 1 Over the United States, a Russian Antonov An-30 trans­port conducts a practice overflight from the Open Skies Treaty to monitor infor­mation about military forces. Twenty- seven countries are signatories, but Rus­sia, Belarus, and the Ukraine have yet to ratify the treaty.

September 1 In Washington, D. C., General Ralph Eberhart gains appoint­ment as temporary Air Force chief of staff to replace the retiring General Ronald R. Fogleman.

September 7 At Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia, the F-22 Raptor flies for the first time. This aircraft is intended to gradually replace F-15 Eagles after a four-year test program.

SEPTEMBER 12 At Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, Air University introduces the Air and Space Basic Course.

September 14—15 Over Kazakhstan, C – 17 Globemasters arrive nonstop from Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina, and airdrop 500 men from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division to participate in an exercise dubbed centrazbat ’97. The 19-hour flight required three in-flight refuelings.

OCTOBER 6 In Washington, D. C., General Michael E. Ryan gains appoint­ment as the 16th chief of staff, U. S. Air Force.

OCTOBER 12 In Indonesia, three C-130s of the 153rd Airlift Wing, Wyoming Air National Guard, arrive to help fight fires. They convey the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System, capable of dropping

3,0 gallons of water or flame retardant per aerial sortie.

November 1 In Washington, D. C., F. Whitten Peters gains appointment as act­ing secretary of the Air Force.

December 18 After a seven-year gesta­tion, the Joint Stars airborne communica­tion and monitoring system is declared operational.

December 27-January 4 At Ander­sen Air Force Base, Guam, the Air Mobility Command (AMC) dispatches C-5s, C-141s, C-130s, and KC-135s with 2.5 million pounds of relief supplies in the wake of Typhoon Paka.

February 11 At China Lake, California, dropped by a B-1B Lancer for the first

aJoint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) is time. This is a 2,000-pound conventional

bomb fitted with a highly accurate satel­lite guidance system.

FEBRUARY 28 At Edwards Air Force Base, California, the Teledyne Ryan Company RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flies for the first time. This jet-propelled device is a reconnaissance platform capable of reaching 65,000 feet and photographing an area as large as Kentucky in under 24 hours.

March 23-April 3 On Guam, the B – 2A Spirit stealth bomber makes its first overseas deployment from the United States, proving its capacity for global operations.

May 27 Over Mount Torbert, Alaska, the 210th Rescue Squadron Alaska (ANG) dispatches a Guard HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter to save six surveyors trapped in an airplane that had crashed on a glacier. The crew, braving extreme wind and temperature, safely extracts the passengers, winning a Mackay Trophy.

May 29 The Air Force transfers primary control of the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program to the National

Oceanic and Atmospheric Institute. This constitutes the first transfer of an opera­tional space system to a civilian agency.

September 22 Destructive Hurricane George induces Air Force transports to deliver food and medical supplies to vic­tims on Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and along coastal Mississippi.

November 6 After powerful Hurricane Mitch cuts a swath of destruction through Central America, Air Force transports convey 3,500 tons of relief supplies in 200 sorties that last until March 1999.

December 9 In Washington, D. C., Benjamin O. Davis attends ceremonies commemorating receipt of his honorary fourth star on the retired list. During World War II, he commanded the legen­dary Tuskegee Airmen.

DECEMBER 16—20 Over Iraq, Operation desert fox commences in retaliation for Iraqi obstruction and deceit in connec­tion with a UN arms inspection mission. Consequently, the Air Combat Com­mand (ACC) contributes several B-1B Lancers, this being their combat debut in the Persian Gulf.