Look up there! It’s those amazing young men in their flying machines. The thing is, those early biplane pioneers needed a little bit of insurance and Uncle Sam had just the thing: a chopped down Springfield rifle.
Until 1947, the armed force we know today as the US Air Force did not exist. From the time of the Wright brothers until then, the US Army had reign over most land-based military aircraft with the exception of those operated by the Navy/Marines and Coast Guard. Flying, then as now, is a dangerous activity. It was possible for pilots and aircrews to crash land in remote areas, unreachable by anything else except another flying machine. For military aviators you could add the prospect of being shot down behind enemy lines.
The first US Army aviators to fly in a warzone were those of General Pershing’s 1st Aero Squadron of the U.S. Army Signal Corps Air Service. These hardy flyboys were shipped 19 Winchester Model 1907 rifles and 9000 cartridges of .351SL ammunition to use in arming their craft if they got lost over the Chihuahua desert while looking for Pancho Villa in 1916. The Winny ’07 thought to be lighter than the current issue Springfield rifle. Well when Pershing left with the American Expeditionary Force for France in 1917 to take on the Kaiser, he realized his much larger corps of flyers there would need a new rifle.
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“May they rest in peace,” said 98-year-old Lt. Col. Richard Cole as he and fellow Raiders 93-year-old Lt. Col. Edward Saylor and 92-year-old Staff Sgt. David Thatcher raised their specially engraved silver goblets and sipped on the cognac saved for just this occasion. At over a hundred years old, the 1896 cognac (the year of Doolittle’s birth) was passed down from Doolittle to mark the final chapter of the ceremony. The three are the last of the surviving Doolittle Raiders able to make the yearly meeting and have agreed to split the bottle of Hennessy left to the group by General Doolittle. They did so this weekend to a toast of themselves and 77 upside down goblets.
In the background are 80 silver goblets that were presented to the surviving “Thirty Seconds over Tokyo” Raiders in 1959 by the city of Tucson, Arizona and have each respective Raiders’ names engraved twice, once right-side up and once upside-down. The goblets belonging to the deceased were placed upside-down.
You can almost hear the B-25s.
The picture above shows soldiers of the 64th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division of the US Army Expeditionary Force in France celebrate at the stroke of the 11th Hour, of the 11th Day of November 1918. This is when the ceasefire armistice went into effect between all of the Allies and the Germans in what was then known as the Great War. They are happy because the survived. For them, the war, with its mustard gas, machine-guns, artillery, and trench warfare was over and it did not claim their mortal vessel.
Today we think of this day as Veterans Day but in 1918 it was Armistice Day. In no less than 70 countries around the world, this day is remembered with somber introspection. Over 37-million lost their lives in that war, including no less than 117,465 Americans.
In fact, the war was so bitter, so ghastly, so abominable, that it led to the Kellogg-Briand Pact ten years later in which in effect, bans all wars. This led, in turn, to the Great War being then known as the “War to End all Wars”.
Although we have lost our last Great War veteran of what we call now World War One, we will still have to mourn new warriors lost in war every year for a foreseeable future.
To them, those hardy Doughboys in 1918, and all those who have fallen and served before and since, we remember.
To the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Coastguardsmen, and Marines of today, we toast.
In 1956 the US Air Force needed a shit hot interceptor to be able to tackle incoming waves of Soviet intercontinental bombers sneaking in over the Arctic Circle to turn the homeland to glass. You see 1956 was a simpler time. Most of the Soviet bombers were still prop driven, most fighter jets were armed with cannons and machine-guns.
Well, the Dart was given a nuke of its own.
Since ‘close enough’ only counts in horseshoes and atomic weapons, the Dart was equipped with the radical new ATR-2 Genie nuclear rocket. Carrying a 1.5 kilo-ton nuclear warhead, the rocket could zip out to ranges of six miles or so away and then detonate in mid-air. With one of these, the Delta Dart could hustle to a formation of incoming Russkis bombers, rub the Genie’s lamp, then turn away and high tail it out of there before it went off– leaving the slower Soviet bombers to disappear in a cloud of radioactive dust as if by magic somewhere 20,000 feet over North Dakota (sorry North Dakota).
To outrun its own weapon’s explosion, the Dart was fast. So fast that in 1959 one set a world speed record of 1,525.96 mph (2,455.79 km/h) in a Delta Dart at 40,500 ft. One of the reasons it was so fast was that it had a streamlined weapons storage bay (like the F-22 today). The French Dassault Mirage III, which looks viably similar, never came within 200mphs flight speed of the Dart. The Soviets didn’t beat it until the MIG-25 came out in the mid-1960s.
Over 340 Darts came off the line and served, primarily as the principal air defense interceptor of NORAD in the continental USA, Alaska, and Iceland, as well as brief periods in Germany, Thailand (during Vietnam) and South Korea. Besides the Genie, ‘the Six’ could carry the AIM-26 Super Falcon and other air-to-air missiles.
The most famous Six was known as the Cornfield Bomber (although it was an interceptor and landed in a wheat field) after its pilot ejected over Montana and it continued on its ghost flight until it ran out of fuel, landing remarkably well on its own in a wheat field.
When the Cold War ended in 1988, the Delta Dart was pulled from the front line, a relic, and some 32 examples are still around. The figure would have been more but some 190 Darts, proven good at ghostriding after the Cornfield Bomber incident, were converted to unmanned drones in the 1990s and shot up over the Gulf of Mexico.
Genies, ghosts, darts, and sixes. Gone but not forgotten.
As a 12-year-old kid, I spent every waking hour for a good part of 1986 reading, re-reading, and underlining Red Storm Rising. It was a book that covered the all-out conventional warfare of a Soviet strike on NATO at the height of the Cold War. I followed the USAF met officer running around Iceland hiding from Red Airborne troops. I felt the pain of the young commander who lost his Knox class frigate and went back out in a Perry. The triumph of a plucky Norwegian SSK skipper sinking a giant Red Banner Fleet battle cruiser. I could go on, but I wouldn’t want to ruin the book.
The author of that book went on to write Patriot Games, The Hunt for Red October, Clear and Present Danger, Without Remorse (my personal favorite), and The Sum of All Fears among others.
Thomas Leo “Tom” Clancy, Jr. died Wednesday at age 66.
I would like to think he is just doing research for his next book.
As a pilotless F-16 roared into the sky last week at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., members of Boeing’s QF-16 team and the U.S. Air Force celebrated.
The flight represented the first unmanned QF-16 Full Scale Aerial Target flight. Put another way, fighter pilots now have an adversary for which to train against that prepares them like never before.
Two U.S. Air Force test pilots in a ground control station at Tydall remotely flew the QF-16, which is a retired F-16 jet modified to be an aerial target. While in the air, the QF-16 mission included a series of simulated maneuvers, reaching supersonic speeds, returning to base and landing, all without a pilot in the cockpit.
“It was a little different to see it without anyone in it, but it was a great flight all the way around,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Ryan Inman, Commander, 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron. “It’s a replication of current, real world situations and aircraft platforms they can shoot as a target. Now we have a 9G capable, highly sustainable aerial target.”
Prior to the QF-16, the military used a QF-4 aircraft, which was a modification of the F-4 Phantom, a Vietnam-era fighter The modified QF-16 provides pilots a target that performs closer to many jets flying today.
The QF-16s were all retired aircraft. Boeing retrieved them from Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona and restored them for flight.
Next up, live fire testing moves to Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. The military will ultimately use QF-16s for weapons testing and other aerial training.
So far, Boeing has modified six F-16s into the QF-16 configuration.
For the past fifty years, if you wanted a well-made competition grade .22-pistol right out of the box, one of the guns on your short list was Smith and Wesson 41.
After World War 2, S&W was looking to move boldly forward into a new age. The company had been stuck on revolvers for most of their 100-year reign. During the war, they tried to produce an interesting, but failed submachine gun for the military but, true to their past, primarily cranked out .38 and .45ACP caliber wheelguns.
New Smith president, Carl “Swede” Hellstrom, pushed a number of innovative semi-auto handgun designs including the Model 39, which became the first US-made 9mm and was the grandfather of the ‘wonder nine’. Among these new designs was the 1957-vintage Model 41, destined to compete for the 22-rimfire trade.
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When an Atlanta high school finished their construction project this summer, one of the additions that caused some media heartburn was the addition of an indoor shooting range. But the thing is, there are thousands of these ranges already in schools around the county and has been for years…
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The ISW posted a very interesting study on the Required Sorties and Weapons to Degrade Syrian Air Force Excluding
Integrated Air Defense System (IADS). Includes number of TLAM sorties (150), JSOW/JDAM sorties, targets, etc.
In short, it says a single CVBG supported by a squadron of F15E’s out of Incerlick could take the Syrians fixed-winged assets apart overnight without a manned aircraft entering thier airspace or even coming in range of thier SAM network.
Your plane makes an emergency crash landing that leaves you a battered but marooned survivor. It’s just you alone in the elements. The only good thing is that your M6 will get you through the night and hopefully a speedy rescue tomorrow.
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