Retired Sep. 1, 1980.
Brigadier General Tommy I. Bell is director of development and production in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Research, Development and Acquisition, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.
General Bell was born in Jacksonville, Texas, in 1930, and graduated from high school at the School of the Ozarks, Hollister, Mo. He received a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana in 1959; a master of science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, in 1966, and a master of science degree in management from The George Washington University, Washington, D.C., in 1972. He graduated from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C., in 1972, and the Experimental Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., in 1960.
General Bell enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in March 1952 as an aviation cadet. He received his pilot wings and commission as a second lieutenant in March 1953 at Laredo Air Force Base, Texas. For the next four years he served as a fighter pilot with the 71st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at the Greater Pittsburgh Airport.
In June 1957 General Bell was assigned to the Air Force Institute of Technology and returned to the University of Illinois to complete his engineering degree. Immediately following graduation in May 1959 he was selected to attend the Experimental Test Pilot School at the Air Force Flight Test Center. After graduation General Bell was assigned to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, first as an experimental test pilot and later as chief of the Aero-Mechanical Branch of flight test engineering.
General Bell returned to the Experimental Test Pilot School in May 1963 as an instructor in the Aircraft Stability and Control Division. During June 1966 he was transferred to MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., for combat crew training in the F-4 and subsequently was assigned to Cam Ranh Bay Air Base, Republic of Vietnam. He flew 243 combat missions in the F-4C fighter from November 1966 to September 1967. During the latter half of his combat tour of duty General Bell served as operations officer for the 391st Tactical Fighter Squadron.
In October 1967 he was assigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force in the Directorate of Development and Acquisition. General Bell attended the Industrial College of the Armed Forces and then was assigned to the Aeronautical Systems Division at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base where he served for two years as system program director of the F-4/RF-4 aircraft. In August 1974 he was reassigned within the Aeronautical Systems Division as commander of the 4950th Test Wing where he remained until June 1977 when he moved to Headquarters U.S. Air Force, to become assistant director, tactical systems test and evaluation, in the Office of the Director of Defense Research and Engineering.
General Bell became special assistant for the F-16 in November 1977. He assumed his current position in October 1979.
He is a command pilot. His military decorations and awards include the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal with 14 oak leaf clusters and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Distinguished Service Medal.
He was promoted to brigadier general Aug. 1, 1977, with date of rank July 17, 1977.