R&D: “Gateway to Spacepower” 1963 US Air Force Systems Command Technology Development

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“Research and technology in Air Force Systems Command.”

USAF film report FR-353

Public domain film from the US Air Force, slightly cropped to remove uneven edges, with the aspect ratio corrected, and one-pass brightness-contrast-color correction & mild video noise reduction applied.
The soundtrack was also processed with volume normalization, noise reduction, clipping reduction, and/or equalization (the resulting sound, though not perfect, is far less noisy than the original).


The Air Force Systems Command (AFSC) is an inactive United States Air Force Major Command. It was established in April 1951, being split off from Air Materiel Command. The mission of AFSC was Research and Development for new weapons systems…


AFSC took on engineering functions which formerly resided in the Air Materiel Command (AMC), the Army Air Forces Technical Service Command (TSC), and the Air Technical Service Command (ATSC) as a separate research and development command in 1950. It incorporated Air Proving Ground Command in 1957. On 1 July 1992, AFSC and Air Force Logistics Command were merged to form the Air Force Materiel Command, located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

In the reorganization of 1961, Air Force Systems Command acquired the materiel procurement function from Air Force Logistics Command. It was re-integrated with Air Force Logistics Command in 1992.


The origins of Air Force Systems Command date at least to the establishment of the Airplane Engineering Department by the Chief Signal Officer, U.S. Army, on 13 October 1917 at McCook Field, Ohio. Re-designated the Engineering Division of the U.S. Army Air Service in March 1919, this organization carried out the research, development and testing of military aircraft, engines, airships and accessories. Renamed the Materiel Division of the newly established Army Air Corps in October 1926, it undertook the procurement, supply and maintenance activities of Army aviation…

However, the Army Air Forces needed to achieve independence, which it did on 18 September 1947, with its transition into an independent United States Air Force. Also, the role of the Air Force in the postwar world had to be defined. The 1948 Finletter Commission published its report, Survival in the Air Age, in January 1948. It set forth a new concept of airpower, i.e., a powerful peacetime force able to counter any enemy air attack. The Finletter Report inspired a group of senior USAF officers with backgrounds in engineering and related fields to analyze the existing R&D organization. Their findings, and the salesmanship of Generals Jimmy Doolittle and Donald Putt, convinced Air Force Chief of Staff General Hoyt S. Vandenberg to put the R&D mission on a more equal footing with the operational Air Force. Accordingly, and in the face of intense Air Staff opposition, on 23 January 1950, the Research and Development Command (RDC) came into being. Eight months later it was re-designated the Air Research and Development Command (ARDC) as a separate organization devoted strictly to research and development…

In the reorganization and re-designation actions of 1961, Air Materiel Command was re-designated Air Force Logistics Command (AFLC) while Air Research and Development Command, gaining responsibility for weapon system acquisition, was re-designated Air Force Systems Command (AFSC).

Under the Kennedy Administration, Secretary McNamara instituted powerful centralization tools in acquisition such as the total package procurement concept (TPP). This system shifted many major program management functions to the Pentagon. Stressing computer modeling, concurrency, and paper competitions among the contractors, TPP sharply curtailed the flexibility of Systems Command program managers. Cost overruns and serious technical difficulties in such TPP programs as the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy and General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark lead to drastic changes in DoD acquisition practices. In 1970, Deputy Secretary of Defense David Packard revised many McNamara policies. He decentralized the acquisition system and reemphasized prototyping in weapons development…

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