Rushworth’s orders to Vietnam were waylaid but he still wanted to find his own way there. He managed to wrangle an airplane seat to Hawaii. A general officer shook his head and said, “God, I don’t understand it. Here’s a guy hitchhiking to Vietnam.” From Hawaii he hopped another plane to Clark Air Force Base and went through survival training before finally reaching Cam Ranh Bay.
- In 1956 he received orders to Edwards AFB to become a test pilot, flying F-101 Voodoos, F-104 Starfighters, F-105 Thunderchiefs and other jets as well as the X-15 rocket research aircraft.
- Flew the X-15 a record of 34 times and was the second Air Force X-15 pilot to attain the astronaut rating for flights 50 miles high or higher.
- In 1968 he flew 189 combat missions in Vietnam in F-4 A/Cs.
- Became commander of the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB, responsible for major test programs including the F-5, A-10, F-15, YF-16, YF-17, and B-1.
Robert A. Rushworth was born in 1924 in Madison, Maine, and graduated from Madison Memorial High School in 1942. After graduating from Hebron Academy in 1943, he received degrees from the University of Maine and the Air Force Institute of Technology. In 1967 he graduated from the National War College in Washington D.C.
In 1944 Rushworth earned his pilot wings. His first assignment was with the 12th Combat Cargo Squadron where he flew C-47 and C-46 missions. After five years with the Reserve and Air National Guard, General Rushworth was recalled to active duty in February 1951 during the Korean War. His assignment was to be F-80C Shooting Star pilot with the 49th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at Dow Air Force Base.
Following graduation from the Air Force Institute of Technology, Rushworth stayed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. He served at the Directorate of Flight and All-Weather Testing, where he specialized in the development and flight testing of experimental automatic flight control systems.
In 1956, General Rushworth began his next tour, at Edwards Air Force Base to attend the then Air Force Experimental Flight Test Pilot School. His assignment was to the Air Force Flight Test Center in 1957, first as an experimental flight test officer and eventually as assistant director, flight test operations. During this period, Bob Rushworth test-flew F-101 Voodoos, F-104 Starfighters, F-105 Thunderchiefs and other jet fighters, as well as the X-15 rocket research aircraft. He flew the X-15, the world’s fastest and highest-flying winged aircraft, a record 34 times. General Rushworth was the second Air Force X-15 pilot to attain the astronaut rating, which was then awarded only to military pilots for flights of 50 or more miles high.
In March 1968, Rushworth went to Cam Ranh Bay Air Base, in Vietnam, for duty as Assistant Deputy Commander of Operations. There, with the 12th Tactical Fighter Wing, Rushworth flew 189 combat missions in F-4 A/Cs. General Rushworth served as program director of the AGM-65 Maverick program for almost two years. In February 1971 he became commander of the newly organized 4950th Test Wing, Aeronautical Systems Division at Wright-Patterson.
After serving as inspector general, Air Force Systems Command, Rushworth was named commander Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base. In this capacity, his responsibilities included the major test programs, including the F-5, A-10, F-15, YF-16, YF-17 and B-1. Later in 1975, as commander of the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Agency, General Rushworth was responsible for the worldwide operational evaluation of all new, major weapon systems designed for the U.S. Air Force.
From October 1976 until his retirement in June 1981, Rushworth served as vice commander of the Aeronautical Systems Division, Air Force Systems Command. He dealt directly with senior deputies and managers and assisted the management of major acquisition programs such as the F-5, A-10, F-15, F-16 and B-1 as well as numerous modernization programs like the B-52 and C-5.
Major General Robert Rushworth was rated a command pilot astronaut and flew over 6,900 flying hours in more than 50 different aircraft. His military decorations and awards included the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with one oak leaf cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal with 10 oak leaf clusters and the Air Force Commendation Medal. He also received the National Aeronautical and Space Administration’s Exceptional Service Medal. He died at the age of 68 on March 18th, 1993 in California.
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