Category Archives: cold war

Slow That Fury Down

A U.S. Navy Douglas AD-6 Skyraider (BuNo 134538) from Attack Squadron VA-105 “Mad Dogs” refueling a North American FJ-3M Fury (BuNo 139232) of Fighter Squadron VF-62 “Boomerangs,” overwater, circa 1958.

U.S. Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation photo No. 1996.253.7228.002

Note the early AIM-9B Sidewinder missile on the Fury– essentially a navalized F-86 Sabre with folding wings, a J65 engine, and 20mm cannons– and the extended landing gear, to be able to fly as slow as the Spad. While capable of high subsonic level flight, the Fury/Sabre had a low stall speed for a jet, down to the 120-knot range, which was well inside the AD-6’s envelope. The propeller of the refueling pack is also clearly visible.

Both the Mad Dogs and the Boomerangs were assigned to the short-lived Air Task Group 201 (ATG-201) for a nine-month Med to West Pac deployment aboard the converted WWII flattop USS Essex (CVA-9) from 2 February to 17 November 1958. The cruise ran so long due to the Lebanon Crisis which saw 1,700 Marines supported by not only Essex but also her sistership USS Wasp (CVA-18) and the new Forrestal-class supercarrier USS Saratoga (CVA-60).

Canuck Voodoo

A quartet of Royal Canadian Air Force McDonnell CF-101B/EF-101B Voodoo aircraft in their circa 1984 retirement schemes:

Credit: Library and Archives Canada

From the bottom is the ECM “Electric Voodoo” blackbird SN#101067 from 414 EW Sqn, “Alouette Un” (Lark One)” 101014 from 425 AW (F) Sqn, “Lynx One” 101043 from 416 AW (F), and “Hawk One” 101057 from 409 AW (F) Sqn.

Amazingly, three of the four are preserved, with Lynx One outside the Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum in Halifax, Nova Scotia; Hawk One as a gate guard at CFB Comox, BC; and the Electric Voodoo, the world’s last operational “One-oh-Wonder,” at the Minnesota Air National Guard Museum in U.S. livery.

First flown in 1954, the Century-series tactical strike fighter first entered Canadian service in 1961, the type’s only official foreign customer (although Taiwan later flew eight ex-U.S. RF-101A variants). Using the F-101 on NORAD missions longer than either the USAF or the Air National Guard, Ottawa retired their Voodoos to make way for early F-18 (CF-188) Hornets, with the farewell flight of 101067 in April 1987.

More on RCAF Voodoos can be found at the New Brunswick Aviation Museum.

Hairy Legs and FALs

Well, technically inch-pattern L1A1s with early knife-style bayonets rather than true FN FALs, but still…

Note the “JAG3” rack markings on the stock of the rifle on the right, and the Soviet Red Naval banner shown on the passing destroyer. Crown copyright. IWM (A 35389) IWM. Original Source:

Official caption:

HMS Jaguar (F37) at Ethiopian Navy Days, February 1972, Masawwa Ethiopia. The frigate HMS Jaguar represented the Royal Navy at the annual event, in which the navies from Ethiopia, Britain, American, Russia, France, and Sudan took part. As the ships gathered at Massawa this shot taken from HMS JAGUAR shows her White Ensign and the Soviet Red Star of the Kashin-class (Project 61) destroyer Stroggi [sic].

Jaguar was a 2,500-ton Leopard-class (Type 41) frigate commissioned in 1959. A globetrotter, she completed a world cruise in 1969 and repeatedly went toe-to-toe with the Icelandic Coast Guard in the “Cod Wars” during which she was fitted with add-on lumber armor to absorb the impact from ramming ICG gunboats. Jaguar decommissioned in 1978 and transferred to Bangladesh as BNS Ali Haider (F17), serving until 2014.

As for the shorts, and FALs, they just historically go together.

No longer Fearless

Here we see the Project 956 (Sovremenny-class) destroyer Bezboyaznennyy (Fearless) arriving at the breakers to be turned into shveynyye igly, or sewing needles in the Russian naval parlance.

Laid down 8 January 1987 at built by Severnaya Verf 190 St. Petersburg, Bezboyaznennyy served with the Soviet/Russian Pacific Fleet from 1990 until 2002 when she was decommissioned. It had been thought that she would be refurbished and returned to service, after all, she had only served on active duty for about a decade, but it looks like she is in very poor shape indeed, and that will not be the case.

A big, almost cruiser-sized tin can, the 8,500-ton Sovremennys were Moscow’s answer to the Spruance-class with the bonus of toting big carrier-killing SS-N-22 Sunburn AShMs.

Some 21 were completed.

The Russians still have at least six Sovremennys on active service, one (Bespokoynyy) as a floating museum in St. Petersberg, and two others– Nastoychivyy and Burnyy— formerly in mothballs, being refitted to rejoin the fleet.

The Chinese also have four variants on their own.

Hawk sighting

A top-secret product of the Lockheed Skunk Works, the F-117 Nighthawk, better known as the original “stealth fighter,” first flew in 1981. After gaining IOC in 1988, they became public knowledge during the Gulf War after they helped take down some of the key strategic nodes of Saddam’s air defense and C4I network.

Officially retired in April 2008, just 59 production models were delivered. Of those, one, #82-0806 “Something Wicked”, was lost to Yugoslav SAMs over the Balkans in 1998, just one was scrapped, leaving the other 57ish Nighthawks (most of those on public display are early YF-117A “Scorpion” prototypes) to be put in what the Air Force described as “Type 1000” climate-controlled hangar storage.

Last year, 82-0803 “Unexpected Guest” went on permanent display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

However, at least two still have their wings attached and are in flyable condition. Withness this footage of two F-117As leaving Miramar MCAS last week:

Fallschirmjäger Ost und West

As part of the so-called Black Reichswehr, the off-the-books shadow military effort during the Weimar Republic, the Germans frequently sat in on Soviet military operations in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Great War fighter ace Hermann Goring observed Russian paratrooper demonstrations several times in that period– the first in the world.

Headed back to Germany, he formed a platoon-sized group of budding paratroops from among Prussian police in the Berlin-based Polizeiabteilung Wecke and by October 1936 was arranging his own demonstration jumps to encourage enough volunteers to form an airborne Fallschirmschützen (Parachute rifle) company and later a Fallschirmjaeger battalion, which went on to be 1. Fallschirmjäger Regiment (I/FJR 1). Within two years, he had two official battalions of Fallschirmtruppen in his Luftwaffe.

While the Russkis were the first to make combat jumps– dropping small teams into Finland as early as November 1939 during the Winter War, the Germans soon caught up and 1/FJR 1 jumped into Dombas, Norway to cut a road the following April while 3/FJR 1 would simultaneously capture the key Royal Norwegian Air Force field at Stavanger and 4/FJR 1 went on at the same time to key targets in Denmark.

Bundesarchiv Bild 141-0864, Kreta, Landung von Fallschirmjägern

Then of course came Belgium. Holland, Greece, Crete, etc at al. ending the war with a full-fledged albeit not fully capable “paratrooper army.” (1. Fallschirm-Armee).

Once the Western Allies reformed the West German military in 1955 and the Warsaw Pact did the same for the East Germans, the respective Bundeswehr and Nationale Volksarmee christened new airborne units– on opposite sides of the Iron Curtain.

For the NVA, this meant 40. Fallschirmjägerbataillon (later Luftsturmregiment) Willi Sänger, formed in 1962, as opposed to Luftlandejägerbataillon 9 (later Fallschirmjägerbataillon 261) which predated it going back to 1956.

This great Cold War period video compares the two units: 

Steel City Corsairs

Here we see a right side view of two Ling-Temco-Vought A-7D-11-CV Corsair II strike aircraft taking off during exercise Sentry Castle ’81. The Corsair to the right is carrying a blue AIM-9 Sidewinder exercise missile. Both of the aircraft are assigned to the 112th Tactical Fighter Group, Pennsylvania Air National Guard, based out of the Pittsburgh IAP Air Reserve Station. The photo was taken on July 9, 1981, by SSGT Marvin Lynchard, USAF.



Lynchard caught a great passing photo of 112th Corsairs lifting off, especially remarkable for early 1980s camera equipment.


Note the Sidewinder, the “flash white” underbelly, full-color markings complete with PA ANG shield, and forest top camo, standard for their intended mission of flying tactical ground support in Western Europe on a real-life REFORGER ala Red Storm Rising. DF-ST-82-07991

He also caught this guy…

2LT Robert S. Roth, the pilot aboard an A-7 Corsair II aircraft, prepares for take-off on a flight mission during exercise Sentry Castle ’81. The pilot is assigned to the 112th Tactical Fighter Group, Pennsylvania Air National Guard. DF-ST-82-07989

Note Roth’s squadron insignia, a Steeler’s flash with an A-7 worked in

As for the history, the 112th TFG was formed in 1942 as the 350th Fighter Group flying P-39 Airacobras with the Twelfth Air Force in North Africa, eventually upgrading to P-47 Jugs and taking the fight to Italy. Reformed as the 112th postwar and allotted to the PA-ANG, they were one of the last units to fly F-51D Mustangs before switching to jets (Sabers/Thunderstreaks) in 1954.

Upgrading to the F-102 in 1960, they performed NORAD air defense missions on 24-hour alert until 1975 when they switched to the less sexy but more modern A-7. The 112th would take the Corsair to war in 1989 during the Panamanian excursion but sit out Desert Storm. They were inactivated in 1992.

If you like these pictures, NARA has over 100 of Lynchard’s photos digitized, covering a wealth of DOD subjects through the early 1980s into the early 1990s. A great time machine. 


Sisters from another mister, ADM De Grasse edition

Here we see a starboard beam view of the Spruance-class destroyer USS Comte De Grasse (DD-974) and the French Tourville-class fregate De Grasse (D-612) underway near Cape Henry on their way to Norfolk, October 1981. The ships at the time were participating in the U.S./French bicentennial celebration to mark the joint American Colonial-French operation that concluded the 1781 siege at Yorktown.

A starboard beam view of the destroyer USS COMTE DE GRASSE (DD-974) and the French destroyer De GRASSE (D-612) underway near Cape Henry on their way to Norfolk. The ships participated in the joint U.S./French bicentennial celebration at Yorktown, Va.

Photo 330-CFD-DN-SC-82-02122 in the National Archives

Note De Grasse‘s Lynx Mk.2(FN) helicopter on her stern, her Crotale EDIR short-range SAM looking aft, a battery of MM38 Exocet anti-ship missiles amidships, and her twin GIAT 100mm/55 cal M68 guns forward. The whopping missile-like object loaded just aft of the Exocets is a Malafon ASW rocket-assisted glider-delivered torpedo. The first two ships of the class commissioned with three 100mm mounts, including one over the stern, while De Grasse completed with two to make way for the newly introduced Crotale. The 4,500-ton frigate commissioned in 1975 and served the Marine Nationale until for almost 40 years. Decommissioned in 2013, she’s awaiting her fate at the French ship graveyard at Landévennec but RUMINT is that she may go to the Philipines as part of a package deal on Scorpène-class submarines.

The larger USS Comte De Grasse in the background was commissioned at Pascagoula in 1978 and returned their several times during her career– I once toured her as a kid. She is shown above in her “pre-Tomahawk ” layout that included a stand-alone ASROC launcher forward. After 1984, she was fitted with two 4-cell Mk 143 armored box launchers for said cruise missiles. Just short of her 20th year with the fleet and still young, DD-974 was decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 5 June 1998 then sunk as a target in 2006.

The two De Grasses, named of course for French ADM Franҫois-Joseph-Paul de Grasse, who commanded the French fleet at Yorktown, would meet on at least one other occasion in honor of their shared namesake.

In March 1997, a year before she was decommissioned, USS Comte de Grasse got underway for France to participate in Spontex 97, a multinational ASW exercise sponsored by the French Navy. After the exercise wrapped up, she joined her old friend, the French fregate De Grasse, at Brest during a period that coincidentally corresponded with the 216th anniversary of the date Adm. de Grasse sailed for America with the fleet that became victorious at the Battle of the Virginia Capes in 1781.

60 Years Ago Today: Welcome Aboard, Big E

View of the christening of the world’s largest warship at the time as well as the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise (CVAN-65) at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, Newport News, Virginia on Saturday, 24 September 1960. Enterprise was sponsored by Mrs. William B. Franke, wife of the U.S. Secretary of the Navy.

Note the brand-new George Washington-class fleet ballistic missile (FBM) submarine, USS Robert E. Lee (SSBN-601) to the left– a name that would bring a tremendous amount of pearl-clutching today– which had been commissioned the week prior and the cutting-edge Douglas A4D-2 Skyhawk borrowed from Carrier Air Group 8 on the deck of the Big E.

Enterprise was deactivated on 1 December 2012 at Norfolk after a 51-year career and she is still there, although far from the same material condition that she is seen above. She far outlived Lee who was decommissioned in 1983 and recycled by 1991.

Here’s MIRV: 50th Anniversary of Minuteman

The LGM-30G Minuteman III, the first deployed ICBM with multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRV), is the land leg of the storied U.S. nuclear triad. The platform is also 50 years old this year, first fielded in 1970– akin to the era of the Apollo moon missions.

Keep in mind there are currently 45 underground launch control centers manned by USAF missile officers ready to deliver these terrifying birds anywhere worldwide within 30 minutes.

With the ability to carry up to three W62 or W78 warheads on Mk12 delivery vehicles, the 450 remaining Minutemen missiles have been downgraded to accept recycled W87 warheads from the MX missile program. However, with a circular error of probability of fewer than 800 feet after a 6,000+nm trip, that is, like horseshoes, close enough.

The Air Force plans to keep the Minuteman around until 2030ish, at which point the planned Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent will be online.

With that, let us gather around Brig. Gen. Jimmy Stewart and hear about the Air Force Missile Mission and consider visiting one of the decommissioned early ICBM sites currently open as museums. 

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