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.
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.
American aviation development fell behind its European rivals after the mid-1930s when Germany started a continental arms race. The threat of war at the decade's end began to change the situation. During the late 1930s American industry spent over $100 million annually on aviation research. University grants grew and military personnel enrollment in science courses increased. Leaders of the Army Air Forces (AAF) were alarmed by many of the new weapons that would revolutionize air warfare which had emerged from foreign laboratories. Radar, jet aircraft (Messerschmitt Me 262, Fieseler Fi 103 (V-1 flying bomb)) and ballistic missiles (V-2 rocket) had all either originated or been perfected outside the United States. Congress greatly increased funds for R&D. Subsequently, the engineering function resided in the Materiel Command, the AAF Technical Service Command, the Air Technical Service Command, and the Air Materiel Command.
The war had shown the destructiveness of aerial attack and made Arnold an aggressive advocate for aeronautical research. On 7 November 1944, General Henry H. "Hap" Arnold, Commanding General of the Army Air Forces, directed the AAF Scientific Advisory Group (SAG) to study the technological achievements of America's wartime allies and provide a blueprint for large-scale research and development of science and advanced technology for the Air Force.
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.
Lineage Established as Research and Development Command on 23 January 1950 Organized as a major command on 1 February 1950 Re-designated: Air Research and Development Command on 16 September 1950 Re-designated: Air Force Systems Command on 1 April 1961 Inactivated on 1 July 1992.
Assignments Air Materiel Command, 23 January 1950 United States Air Force, 1 February 1950 1 July 1992
Stations Baltimore, Maryland, 23 January 1950 Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, 24 January 1958 1 July 1992.
Command bases and major units Brooks AFB, Texas, 1 November 1961 1 July 1992 USAF Aerospace Medical Center Museum of Flight Medicine USAF Human Resources Laboratory USAF Medical Service Center Edwards AFB, California, 2 April 1951 1 July 1992 USAF Flight Test Center USAF Test Pilot School USAF Rocket Propulsion Laboratory 412th Test Wing Eglin AFB, Florida, 1 December 1957 1 July 1992 USAF Armament Development Test Center 3246th Test Wing Griffiss AFB, New York, 2 April 1951 1 July 1954 Rome Air Development Center Vandenberg AFB, California, 21 June 1957 1 January 1958 1st Strategic Aerospace Division Hickam AFB, Hawaii 6594th Test Group - satellite photo recovery Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts, 1 August 1951 1 July 1992 USAF Cambridge Research Center USAF Command and Control Development Division USAF Geophysics Laboratory Electronic Systems Division USAF Computer Acquisition Center Holloman AFB, New Mexico, 2 April 1951 1 January 1971 USAF Missile Development Center Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, 1 April 1952 1 July 1977 USAF Special Weapons Center USAF Research Laboratory 4900th Air Base Wing 4925th Test Group Patrick AFB, Florida, 14 May 1951 1 October 1991 Includes Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida Air Force Eastern Test Range 6555th Aerospace Test Group Eastern Space and Missile Center