Base namesake father of RPAs

  • Published
  • By Arlan Ponder
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs
On Sept. 17, 1902, George V. Holloman - the namesake of Holloman Air Force Base, was born.

For many Airmen, the namesake of their base isn't important to their military career or their knowledge of Air Force history.

However, the impact of Col. George V. Holloman is just as important today as it was more than 65 years ago.

Today's remotely piloted aircraft and the Airmen that support them are in existence because of research and development done by Holloman in the late 1930s. The MQ-9 Predator, which is a long endurance, medium altitude RPA used for surveillance and reconnaissance missions, as well as the MQ-1 Reaper, far exceed the modified Fokker C-14B Holloman and two colleagues used on Aug. 23, 1937.

At that time, Capt. Holloman received tremendous notoriety for flight testing the world's first full-scale airplane with an automatic landing device. The C-14B with Capt. Carl Crane, Raymond Stout and Holloman aboard took off from Wright Field and landed using a ground radio system consisting of five transmitting beacons at Patterson Field several miles away.

By comparison, on April 24, 2001, a Global Hawk flew non-stop from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., to a Royal Australian Air Force base making history by being the first pilotless aircraft to cross the Pacific Ocean.

Holloman's RPA project was conducted on an extremely tight budget and only succeeded because of his persistence in adapting old equipment no longer needed for other projects. When older parts and equipment from other projects weren't available, the captain even used his own money to purchase needed equipment.

On Aug. 2, 1939, the 37-year-old Rich Square, N.C. native, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross from the future, and only, General of the Air Force, H.H. "Hap" Arnold.

Holloman and his two colleagues were also awarded the Mackay Trophy for 1937 for the "most meritorious flight of the year."

In the latter years of World War II, the work of Holloman was put to a test during Operation Aphrodite - a secret program initiated by the U. S. Army Air Forces which used explosives laden B-17 bombers.

The ultimate goal of this operation was to fly these bombers by remote control, after a two-man crew took off and bailed out, into bomb-resistant German fortifications. H

However, the overall success of the operation was hampered by numerous failures such as poor weather conditions, mechanical failures and equipment that couldn't accomplish the task at hand.

In Sept. 1947, the army air field, which would later bear the Holloman name, conducted one of the first tests of the OQ-19 - a radio-controlled, propeller driven aircraft. The aircraft was an early generation RPA - the forerunner to the MQ-1 and MQ-9 -- that was built by a division of Northrop Aircraft Company and allowed the newly formed Air Force to evaluate test piloting, radar pods and video.

Holloman was killed in March 1946 when the B-17 he was flying from Shanghai to Nichols Field, Manila crashed on Formosa (Taiwan). Alamogordo Army Air Field was re-named Holloman Air Force Base by General Order No. 2, Jan. 13, 1948, in his honor.

Though he didn't live to see his dream of RPAs used successfully in combat, Holloman's visions for remotely piloted flight are the reasons programs like the Predator and the Reaper are in existence today.

And, his vision for the future of the Air Force continues to expand as more than 800 RPA pilots and sensor operators are slated to be trained in the upcoming year.