Category Archives: USAF

Silk Good Luck Charm

U.S. Army Air Force Staff Sergeant George W. Parks was an engineer and top turret gunner on a B-17 in the European Theater across eight months of some of the worst aerial combat over the continent in World War II.

Parks, left, and shown with his crew.

Assigned to the crew of B-17G-25-BO Serial #42-31678 (“Little Patches”) of the 401st Bomb Squadron of the 91st Bombardment Group (Heavy) and for a time with #42-32076 (“Shoo Shoo Baby”) of the same Squadron, he completed 37 combat missions on his tour.

“Little Patches” got her name because of a flak hole, that, when repaired, featured a lass in nose art painted by Tony Starcer sitting on the repair patch.

As noted by the American Air Museum, the 91st BG, known more informally as “the Ragged Irregulars,” logged 9,591 sorties dropping 22,142 tons of bombs. The Group lost 197 aircraft MIA– the highest losses of any of 8th Air Force Bomb Group. Before D-Day, these were predominantly strategic bombing missions, hitting targets like aircraft factories, airfields, and oil facilities. After the Allies had gained a foothold on the Continent, the Group carried out more missions in support of ground troops, such as bombing railway yards and tracks. They led the famous Schweinfurt mission and Parks was part of the January 1944 raid that bombed the Focke-Wulf 190 factory in Oschersleben, Germany, of that mission he recalled:

“Enemy fighters buzzed around us like a swarm of angry bees. I’ve never seen so many enemy planes in the air at one time…The sky was filled with falling and burning planes, both enemy and our own.”

As detailed by the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force:

Just three months later his B-17 was attacked over Beauvoir, France and three of the four engines were damaged and stopped functioning. The pilot decided to try and make it back to England, but Parks thought:

“I didn’t see how we were going to get back. We squeaked and coughed across the water on one engine, and the book says you can’t fly on one engine. We made it alright, and landed at an RAF aerodrome near the coast.”

What did Parks attribute his good luck to? A black silk nightgown that belonged to his wife, Marian. She gave it to him as a good luck token, and he wore it as a neck scarf underneath his A-2 jacket on every single one of his 37 combat missions. “I wouldn’t go without it,” Parks declared.

Parks is listed as passing in Palmetto, Georgia on 29 April 2000, aged 76. One of his planes, Shoo-Shoo-Baby is slated to join the Smithsonian’s Collection although SSG Parks long outlived Little Patches, which also survived the war but was sold for scrap metal in 1945. 

Mrs. Parks’ battle-worn black silk is, however, preserved in the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

Guns of the Air Force at 75

While Ben Franklin theorized using airships to deliver troops to battle behind enemy lines as early as 1783 and the Union Army fielded a balloon service in the Civil War, today’s Air Force traces its origin to the heavier-than-air machines of the U.S. Army’s Aeronautical Division, founded in 1907– just four years after the Wright brothers first flew. After service in Army green during both World Wars, the Air Force became an independent branch of the military in 1947 with the first Secretary of the Air Force named on Sept. 18 and its first Chief of Staff named on Sept. 26. 

To salute the 75th birthday of the USAF this week, I took a deep dive into the small arms of the organization over the years, including some rares.

Cold War-era Colt survival gun prototype
A Cold War-era Colt survival gun prototype on display at the USAF Armament Museum (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)
Remington XP-100 survival gun
The Remington XP-100 survival gun concept. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)
Bushmaster Arm Pistol in 5.56mm
The Bushmaster Arm Pistol in 5.56mm was another planned Air Force survival gun that made it about as high as a lead balloon. Bushmaster did, however, put it in limited commercial production. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

More in my column at Guns.com.

 

Shilling’s photo ‘Hawk

What a great original 80-year-old color photo of the American Volunteer Group “Flying Tigers” posing on one very special aircraft.

A group of AVG pilots poses for the camera. Erik Shilling is on the nose, William Bartling is next, with Frank Adkins is in the cockpit. Charles Bond and Robert Little are standing on the ground, Joe Rosbert and George Paxton are on the wing. The photograph was taken at Kunming on 11 APR 1942 by LIFE photographer Clare B. Luce. Luce was elected to Congress later that year and the photo would appear in the magazine in July, after the Tigers had been disbanded.

The “Blue Lipped” KMT Chinese-marked Tigers’ P-40 Warhawk above is Eriksen Emerson Shilling’s unarmed photo recon aircraft. It had been stripped of its guns and extra weight, then fitted with a 20-inch Fairchild camera in the baggage compartment behind the cockpit. Among other vital missions, Shilling had documented over 90 Japanese military aircraft on airfields around Bangkok at a time when Thailand was considered neutral.

While it took stones to fly against the much more numerous Japanese air forces in 1942 China-Burma, to do it sans armament was even more so.

The Flying Tiger pilots posing are the blonde Shilling (age 26 at the time), ace Bill Barthing, ace and future USAF MGen. Charles Bond, ace Frank Adkins, double ace Robert Laing “Bob” Little, ace Joe Rosbert, and the downright “elderly” paymaster George “Pappy” Paxton.

The same group was shown with Shilling (in a brown jacket and the same blue shirt) along with a uniformed Bartling, Paxton, Rosbert, and Adkins in a photo listed as being taken the next month but could have been the same day.

A group of “Hell’s Angels” pose for the camera in front of Charles Older’s #68 P-40 at Yunnan-yi on 28 MAY 1942. They are (sitting) Robert Smith, Ken Jernstedt, Bob Prescot, Link Laughlin, and Bill Reed. Standing are Erik Shilling and Arvid Olsen.

The photos were taken shortly before the AVG became the new, by-the-book, 23rd Fighter Group, which may account for Shilling wearing a blue shirt and no uniform.

Rather than join the 23rd FG, Shilling– who had served in the USAAF from 1938-41 and helped pioneer aerial recon at the time– opted instead to remain a pseudo-civilian and, along with several other Tigers, signed up with the China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC), the Pan Am-KMT operation moving supplies from India to Free China over the Himalayas.

Of note, just five of Chennault’s pilots (and 19 ground crewmen) went to the 23rd FS in July 1942 while at least 16 pilots, Shilling included, elected to go CNAC instead. The Regular Army life did not appeal to men who had already had it and went for something more exotic. 

Other volunteers went back to the states to see what they could find there, with the nation now officially in the war. These included a hard-drinking Marine first lieutenant by the name of Gregory Boyington who had resigned his regular commission in August 1941 as he was leaving for China with an unrealized understanding “that I would be reinstated without loss of precedence when I returned to United States Service.”

As for Shilling, he would go on to make no less than 350 dangerous trips over “The Hump” in WWII and go on to fly post-war for Chennault’s (paid for by the CIA) Civil Air Transport (CAT) line, delivering agents and supplies to places off the record throughout the Korean War and into Dien Bien Phu. CAT would, of course, go on to become Air America.

Meanwhile, Shilling would return to the U.S. in the 1960s and turn to a quieter, less-spooky life, passing in his mid-80s. 

More on Boyington later.

80 Years Ago: The Fighting Cocks Clock In

Formed in January 1941 as the USAAF’s first 67th Pursuit (Interceptor) Squadron, the “Fighting Cocks” trained on laughably obsolete Seversky P-35s at Harding Army Airfield in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Six weeks after Pearl Harbor, as part of the newly forming Fifth Air Force, the ‘Cocks left their P-35s at home and caught the Army transport steamer, Thomas A. Barry, out of Brooklyn for the unheard-of destination of New Caledonia.

A trailing freighter carried 47 new disassembled and crated Bell Aircobras, almost all P-400 Caribou variants– named for the “advertised” top speed of 400 mph when a better name would have been the P350ish. The joke soon became that a P-400 was a “P-40 with a Zero on its tail.” The P-400 had initially been ordered by the British RAF but quickly requisitioned by Uncle Sam. They carried a less powerful 20mm cannon in the nose rather than the Cobra’s more typical 37mm cannon augmenting two synchronized .50 cals in the nose and two .30 cals in the wings. Also on the same boat were just two crated Model 15B/P-39F Aircobras.

While the 67th got a feel for their new aircraft and changed from a “Pursuit” to a “Fighter” squadron, Operation Watchtower kicked off in Guadalcanal, and the Marines and Navy recast a captured Japanese airstrip there as Henderson Field, home to the embattled Cactus Air Force, a force of Wildcats and Dauntless dive bombers.

On 22 August 1942, 80 years ago today, five P-39/P-400s of the 67th FS winged into Henderson after a three-day overwater hop, stopping first at Efate, then Espiritu Santo along the way to refuel while a B-17 filled with liferafts flew alongside the short-legged fighters in case they had to ditch. The pilots were welcomed to sniper fire as they slept in tents that night. After just four days, only three of the original P-400s remained.

Nine more P-400s of the 67th arrived on the 27th.

US Army Air Force 67th Fighter Squadron P-400s probably on arrival at Guadalcanal on 27 August 1942. “Shark-nosed Army fighters such as theses have combined with Navy and Marine planes to take a heavy toll of Japanese aircraft in the continuing Battle of the Solomon Islands.” The plane in front, BW-167 #6, was wrecked in a take-off accident on 8 September 1942, with 2LT Vernon Head piloting (survived with minor injuries). One of the other two shark-mouth planes was shot down on 30 August 1942, with pilot 2LT Keith Wythes lost. USMC photo 50467. NARA 127-GR-4-50467

The squadron would call Guadalcanal home for the next seven hellish months, much of it flying daily missions from the new Fighter One strip, AKA “The Cow Field.”

67th Fighter Squadron at Henderson Field in 1942, likely in The Cow Field of Fighter One. Note the ZZ tail flash

While the P-400s’ performance against incoming Japanese aircraft was poor– the aircraft lacked an oxygen system, limiting the fighters to operations at lower altitudes– it proved its worth in making “bloody X” attacks on transports of the “Tokoyo Express” steaming down “The Slot” and in performing low-altitude close air support for the Marines of the 1st MARDIV. In this role, they dubbed themselves “The Jagstafel.”

It was in the September fight for Bloody Ridge that three members of the 67th– Captain J.A. Thompson and his two wingmen, Lt. B.E. Davis and Lt. Bryan Brown– would, as Marine Maj. Gen. Alexander Vandergrift would say– become the “Saviors of Guadalcanal.”

As noted by the old Cactus Air Force Page:

Blue flames licked from the burbling exhaust stacks of the three fighters as they waited at the end of the runway called Fighter One. Over-heating was a real problem for the Allison V-1710 V-12s and when the engine temp began to rise so did the anxiety of the pilots. Adding to their discomfort, the pilots were already sweating from the musty heat and humidity of the nearby jungle. With first light, the three Bell Airacobras were flashing down the runway – heading into the rising sun to attack minions of the Empire of the Rising Sun. The fighters would be participating in one of the bloodiest engagements of the battle for Bloody Ridge. It was 14 September 1942.

Not long before their takeoff roll, Capt. John A. Thompson had reported to the “Pagoda” for his briefing – Col. Merrit Edson’s Raider Battalion was barely hanging on to an elevated perimeter ridge that defended the southern approach to Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. The Marines had survived two nights of vicious attacks by Maj. Gen. Kiyotake Kawaguchi’s brigade and bombardment from sea and air. The leathernecks had only about 300 men left in their ranks, all of them prepared to fight to the end or blend into the forest to continue with a guerrilla war.

Captain Thompson and his two wingmen, Lt. B.E. Davis and Lt. Bryan Brown, had barely cleared the palms at the end of the runway, banking to the right when they had the bloody battleground in sight. At the briefing, a Marine officer, caked with the grime and dried blood of two days of almost continuous combat, had given the captain the relative positions of the American and Japanese troops on a crude map. Edson’s 800+ men were fighting approximately the 1700 to 2000 Japanese troops that remained from a force of 2500 that actually made it to the ridge. The exhausted Japanese troops were preparing for another attack – trying to break through the defensive line and capture the airfield. Without warning, the three P-400s swept in at tree top level! Thompson knew that to achieve maximum effect with his cannons and machine guns, the three would have to get as low to the ground as possible. The shark-toothed pursuits roared over the Japanese, guns blazing. Each plane was firing one 20mm cannon, two .50-caliber, and four .30-caliber Browning machine guns. Even with their different trajectories, considering the altitude and attitude at which the P-400s were flying, the withering fire decimated the regrouping enemy troops. Like a scythe, the Airacobras mowed down the Japanese soldiers with a wide swath all along the ridge.

The first pass was a surprise to Maj. Gen. Kawaguchi’s men, but they had time to prepare for the next. As Thompson, Davis, and Brown swept around for another attack, every pistol, rifle, and machine gun available was pointed skyward. Again, the P-400s came in just a few feet above their victims, spraying the entire southern ridge with a barrage of bullets – this time, however, they were met with an equally intensive amount of small arms fire. Some of the Japanese soldiers, puddled into limp pieces of flesh, ended as mounds of congealed tissue on the ground. Others flew through the air as the larger bores tore at their bodies and mixed their blood with the volcanic mud of the island they would never leave.

In their dying efforts, however, they too drew blood from the enemy – this time in the form of glycol bleeding from the radiator of Brown’s craft. The young lieutenant had no other choice but to break off the attack and try to make it back to Henderson – these three P-400s were the only ones the Cactus Air Force had left.

Dank air mixed with the pungent smell of cordite left a coarse, bitter taste in Thompson’s and Davis’s nostrils and mouths as the remaining two aircraft swung around for another pass. Both planes had absorbed ground fire with no noticeable effect but the nerves of the pilots must have been jumping with electricity. As knots formed in their stomachs they continued their merry-go-round attack, but there was nothing merry about it. On the third run, the two remaining Airacobras came in so low it seemed they could have cut down the enemy with their propeller blades alone. The staccato of the machine gun fire counterpointed by the hesitating booms of the cannons had the same horrible effect as before. Some bodies exploded with the impact while others withered to the ground from the rifle-caliber machine guns. With no other option, the hapless Japanese returned fire, again with effect. This time Thompson had a stream of vapor trailing his aircraft as he too used the momentum of his attack to make it back to Fighter One.

Being in the only airworthy P-400 left on this Godforsaken island and the only plane that would withstand the entire fusillade of the enemy’s wrath during another strafing run, one would forgive Lt. Davis if he gave up the attack and returned to base. But Davis knew that the Japanese had to he stopped. If not, Henderson would he lost and if Henderson was lost, Guadalcanal would be lost and if Guadalcanal was lost, the supply lines from the United States to Australia would he lost – he went in for another lonely pass.

The lieutenant continued his attacks and with each pass, there was less and less returning small arms fire. Finally, he exhausted the ammunition, and in his wake and the wake of the previous P-400s before him lay the now lifeless bodies of reportedly over 600 of Kawaguchi’s finest. In this final action, the back of the Japanese advance was broken and the demoralized enemy retreated. For all intent and purposes, Guadalcanal was lost to the Empire and in essence, the Japanese had marched up to the line in the sand and were stopped dead in their tracks – they would never advance further east of Guadalcanal again. They would continue the struggle for this southern Solomon island, landing hundreds of men and tons of materials, the campaign was realistically lost and inexperienced American fighting men who only months before had been working in Montgomery Wards or pumping gas had won America’s first amphibious operation against a seasoned enemy, hitherto thought to have been invincible.

The 67th FS is still around, flying F-15Cs out of Kadena, Japan.

A few years back, they carried a camo scheme and the old “ZZ” and 5th AF tail flashes to salute their Guadalcanal P-400s.

You have to admit, the F-15C is, with the possible exception of the F-14, one of the sexiest air superiority fighters of the past 40 years.

They have a memorial installed at the National Museum of the Pacific War (the Nimitz museum) in Texas and came away from Guadalcanal with a Presidential Unit Citation (Navy).  

Army Gets in the Game against Goering

While Pacific-based U.S. Army Air Forces fighter pilots, running P-39s and P-40s, had already taken a few bites out of the assorted Japanese air forces at Pearl Harbor, the CBI, and over Guadalcanal, it wasn’t until eight months after the U.S. entered the war against the Germans that the Army could claim its first “kill” against the Luftwaffe.

Eighty years ago, the USAAF achieved its first Army Air Forces aerial victory in the European theater on 14 August 1942.

Via U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa:

In August, the 27th Fighter Squadron began ferrying P-38 Lightnings to England as part of Operation BOLERO. While en route the squadron stopped in Iceland to refuel, rest, and prepare. During a mock dogfight between two 27 FS P-38s and a P-40 assigned to Iceland Base Command, an RAF Nomad tracked a German FW- 200 C-4 Condor, as the Luftwaffe aircrew flew around the perimeter of Iceland and near Reykjavik collecting information on weather and allied shipping.

P-40 pilot, 2d Lieutenant Joseph D.R. Shaffer, 33 FS assigned to Iceland, performing air defense of the island, first attacked the Condor, damaging one of the bomber’s engines. Soon after 2d Lieutenant Elza E. Shahan, 27 FS P-38 pilot, followed Lt Shaffer’s attack, hitting the bomb bay, causing the aircraft to explode and crash into the sea. For their actions that day, Lts Shaffer and Shahan earned the Silver Star and achieved the first active-duty shoot down of German aircraft in World War II.

Summer 1942: U.S. Army Air Forces Lockheed P-38F-1-LO Lightning fighters (identifiable are s/n: 41-7540, 41-7594, 41-7598) of the 1st Fighter Group during a refueling stop in Iceland on their way to England. 41-7540 was flown by Lt. Elza E. Shahan (27th Fighter Squadron) on 14 August 1942. He shot down a Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor over the Atlantic, together with 2nd Lieutenant Joseph Shaffer of the 33rd FS Squadron, 8th FG, (flying a Curtiss P-40C). This was the first USAAF victory over a German aircraft in World War II. (National Museum of the U.S. Air Force photo 050524-F-1234P-002)

As noted by Lockheed:

Within six months, as the P-38 showed its versatility in North Africa, a lone hysterical German pilot surrendered to soldiers at an Allied camp near Tunisia, pointing up to the sky and repeating one phrase—“der Gableschwanz Teufel”—over and over. Once the phrase was translated, U.S. officials realized the focus of the pilot’s madness. The P-38 had been given a new nickname: the “fork-tailed devil.”

Last ‘Ace in a Day’

On this day in 1945, LT Oscar Francis Perdomo, USAAF, became the last American Ace of WWII, bagging four Ki-84 “Frank” fighters and one Yokosuka “Willow” trainer. (While the 507th Fighter Group mission reports confirm his kills as “Oscars”, they were actually Franks from the 22nd and 85th Hiko-Sentais.)

Via the Commemorative Air Force, Perdomo in front of Republic Lil Meatie’s Meat Chopper, his P-47N-2-RE Thunderbolt (serial number 44-88211), based on Ie Shima in 1945. The baby is an ode to the young officer’s boy who at the time, Kris Mitchell Perdomo, was still in diapers.

The combat took place over Seoul, Korea when Perdomo’s formation of 38 P-47 Thunderbolts, from the 507th Fighter Group of US 20th Air Force, encountered approximately 50 enemy aircraft. It was Perdomo’s last combat mission, and the five confirmed victories made him an “Ace in a Day” for which he received the Distinguished Service Cross and the Air Medal with one leaf cluster.

An El Paso Texas native whose daddy rode with Pancho Villa, Perdomo received his wings on January 7, 1944, and only flew his first combat mission on July 2, while escorting a B-29 to Kyushu. Six weeks later, he was the last American ace.

Perdomo remained in the Air Force after the war, serving in Korea, then left the military in 1958 as a major. Sadly, he succumbed to self-destruction after the loss of Kris, who died when his Huey exploded in Vietnam, and died in 1976, aged 56.

Meanwhile, the CAF has flown a P-47N made up to salute Perdomo’s Meat Chopper since 2017. 

Contract tea leaves

Last Friday had a bunch of interesting contract announcements including $450M from the Army to General Atomics for a kind of undetailed drone award (Predator, Gray Eagle, or something better?), while the Navy dropped over $70 million split between Ingalls, Lockheed, Martin-Marietta, Bollinger, Austal, Gibbs, and Hadal to keep working on drone boats. Interesting, the latter of these is specifically for “using spiral winding technology to lower the cost of high-quality carbon fiber composite unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) hulls.”

This comes after at least four large unmanned surface vessels were used in the latest RIMPAC exercises this summer and the Royal Navy just welcomed a similar vessel– XV Patrick Blackett— into their fleet.

USV Sea Hunter at RIMPAC 2022

The announcements, should you be curious:

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., Poway, California, was awarded a $456,246,389 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for engineering and technical services required to accomplish research, development, integration, test, sustainment and operation for unmanned aircraft systems. Bids were solicited via the internet with one received. Work locations and funding will be determined with each order, with an estimated completion date of July 27, 2027. U.S. Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the contracting activity (W31P4Q-22-D-0025).

Huntington Ingalls Inc., Pascagoula, Mississippi, is awarded a $13,071,106 firm-fixed-price modification to previously awarded contract N00024-20-C-6319 for continued studies of a large unmanned surface vessel. This contract modification includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract modification to $ 15,071,106. Work will be performed in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and is expected to be completed by September 2024. If all options are exercised, work will continue through September 2024. Fiscal 2022 research, development, test and evaluation (Navy) funds in the amount of $149,998 will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity.

Lockheed Martin Corp., Baltimore, Maryland, is awarded an $11,320,904 firm-fixed-price modification to previously awarded contract N00024-20-C-6320 for continued studies of a large unmanned surface vessel. This contract modification includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract modification to $15,070,904. Work will be performed in Moorestown New Jersey, and is expected to be completed by September 2024. If all options are exercised, work will continue through September 2024. Fiscal 2022 research, development, test and evaluation (Navy) funds in the amount of $149,941 will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity.

Marinette Marine Corp., Marinette, Wisconsin, is awarded a $10,212,620 firm-fixed-price modification to previously awarded contract N00024-20-C-6317 for continued studies of a large unmanned surface vessel. Work will be performed in Marinette, Wisconsin, and is expected to be completed by September 2024. Fiscal 2022 research, development, test and evaluation (Navy) funds in the amount of $149,841 will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity.

Bollinger Shipyards Lockport LLC, Lockport, Louisiana, is awarded a $9,428,770 firm-fixed-price modification to previously awarded contract N00024-20-C-6316 for continued studies of a large unmanned surface vessel. This contract modification includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract modification to $13,958,770. Work will be performed in Lockport, Louisiana, and is expected to be completed by September 2024. If all options are exercised, work will continue through September 2024. Fiscal 2022 research, development, test and evaluation (Navy) funds in the amount of $149,933 will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity.

Austal USA LLC, Mobile, Alabama, is awarded a $9,115,310 firm-fixed-price modification to previously awarded contract N00024-20-C-6315 for continued studies of a large unmanned surface vessel. This contract modification includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract modification to $13,285,309. Work will be performed in Mobile, Alabama, and is expected to be completed by September 2024. If all options are exercised, work will continue through September, 2024. Fiscal 2022 research, development, test and evaluation (Navy) funds in the amount of $149,878 will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity.

Gibbs & Cox Inc., Arlington, Virginia, is awarded an $8,981,231 firm-fixed-price modification to previously awarded contract N00024-20-C-6318 for continued studies of a large unmanned surface vessel. This contract modification includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract modification to $15,071,231. Work will be performed in Arlington, Virginia, and is expected to be completed by September 2024. If all options are exercised, work will continue through September 2024. Fiscal 2022 research, development, test and evaluation (Navy) funds in the amount of $149,899 will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity.

Hadal Inc.,* Oakland, California, is awarded an $8,222,536 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the Low Cost Spiral Wound Hull that supports multiple payloads. This contract provides for using spiral winding technology to lower the cost of high-quality carbon fiber composite unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) hulls. The contractor shall develop UUV hull designs and components suitable for spiral winding. In the base effort, the contractor shall develop and prototype the first generation spiral wound hulls, associated internal housings and payload deployment systems to assess the technology maturity. The contract also contains three unexercised options, which if exercised would increase cumulative contract value to $23,604,065. Work will be performed in Oakland, California, and is expected to be completed by July 28, 2026. Fiscal 2022 research, development, test and evaluation (Navy) funds in the amount of $8,222,536 are obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured under N00014-22-S-B001 long range broad agency announcement (BAA) for Navy and Marine Corps Science and Technology dated Oct. 1, 2021. Since proposals are received throughout the year under the long range BAA, the number of proposals received in response to the solicitation is unknown. The Office of Naval Research, Arlington, Virginia, is the contracting activity (N00014-22-C-2023).

Outfitting the Angels

Also, with the 11th “Arctic Angels” Airborne Division being stood up in Alaska, there is lots of cold weather kit being ordered, which would seem to point to the U.S. Army getting serious about fighting in polar regions. This included $10M for CTAPS suits and another $9M for canteens that won’t freeze. Of note, the completion date on both is in next year rather than the more traditional five years. Take what you will from that:

SourceAmerica, Vienna, Virginia, was awarded a $10,622,966 firm-fixed-price contract for Cold Temperature and Arctic Protection System extreme cold weather suits. Bids were solicited via the internet with one received. Work will be performed in Vienna, Virginia, with an estimated completion date of April 28, 2023. Fiscal 2022 operation and maintenance, Army funds in the amount of $10,622,966 were obligated at the time of the award. U.S. Army Contracting Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, is the contracting activity (W911QY-22-C-0038).

SourceAmerica, Vienna, Virginia, was awarded a $9,099,930 firm-fixed-price contract for cold weather canteens. Bids were solicited via the internet with one received. Work will be performed in Vienna, Virginia, with an estimated completion date of Nov. 30, 2023. Fiscal 2022 operation and maintenance, Army funds in the amount of $9,099,930 were obligated at the time of the award. U.S. Army Contracting Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, is the contracting activity (W911QY-22-C-0036).

Michigan Hwy 28 becomes Hawk LZ

Last week, Michigan National Guard A-10 Thunderbolt IIs from the 127th Wing made history by conducting landing, taking off, and performing Integrated Combat Turns on a closed 9,000-foot section of a Michigan highway.

It was the first time that ICTs, which enable the quick rearming and refueling of a running jet, was conducted on a public highway in the U.S. (Photo by Master Sgt. David Kujawa)

Via the USAF and the Michigan Air Guard:

Air National Guard A-10 Thunderbolt IIAir Force Special Operations Command MC-12W LibertyC-145A Combat Coyote and U-28A Draco, and a C-146A Wolfhound from the Air Force Reserves landed, took off, and performed integrated combat turns on a closed 9,000-foot section of Michigan highway M-28.

It was the first time integrated combat turns, which enable the quick rearming and refueling of a running jet, have been conducted on a public highway in the United States. The temporary landing zone is one of several progressive training scenarios held this week during the Michigan Air National Guard’s exercise Northern Agility 22-1 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. 

Northern Agility 22-1 demonstrates the Air Force’s Agile Combat Employment doctrine — ready to execute missions quickly in unpredictable ways. The landing zone was named “Hawk LZ” in honor of F-16 pilot Maj. Durwood “Hawk” Jones from the Wisconsin ANG’s 115th Fighter Wing, who lost his life in a training accident in Michigan in 2020.

Michigan National Guard A-10 Thunderbolt IIs from the 127th Wing Combat Turns Highway July 2022 (Photo by Master Sgt. David Kujawa)

More here.

50 Years of F-15s

On 26 June 1972, the first of 12 pre-production demonstrator prototype YF-15A Eagles, Airframe # 10280 (later 71-0280), rolled out of the McDonnell Douglas hangar in St. Louis.

In USAF “Air Superiority Blue,” 10280 carries Sparrow AIM7 mockups and full-color markings

Just over a month later, on 27 July 27, 1972, decked out in high-viz orange test markings and under the control of McDonnell Douglas chief test pilot Irving L. Burrows, 10280 took to the California skies over Edwards AFB, the type’s first test flight.

The first pre-production prototype McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, YF-15A-1-MC 72-0280, on its first flight near Edwards Air Force Base, California. Note the with McDonnell Douglas RF-4C Phantom II chase plane. (U.S. Air Force)

Six months after that, the Air Force ordered the type into full production and the rest, as they say, is history.

To date, F-15s have shot down 104+ enemy aircraft, mostly assorted MiGs, for zero air-to-air losses, leaving them with a serious claim of being the current, “World’s largest distributor of MiG parts.”

For those curious, 0280 is on display today at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

50 Years Ago: Supersonic ‘Guns’ Kill

2 June 1972: USAF Major Philip W. “Hands” Handley, 32nd TFS “Wolfhounds,” grabbed the record for the highest speed air-to-air gun kill in the history of aerial combat, smoking an enemy (NVAF) MiG-19 over Hanoi using the internal 20mm Vulcan of Brenda 01 (AF 68210), his F-4E Phantom, while in the midst of a Mach 1.2 pass.

The final run, at just 500 feet off the deck over rice paddy, was also credited as the only MiG-19 shot down by air-to-air guns during the course of the Vietnam war– as well as the world’s only documented supersonic gun kill.

The following is from the Gathering of Eagles Foundation

On 2 June 1972, while leading a 4-ship of F-4Es in a combat air patrol northeast of Hanoi, his element was attacked by two MiG-19s. With his wingman critically low on fuel and unable to engage, he fought the MiGs in a dogfight ranging in altitude from 15,000 feet to 500 feet above the ground. During the engagement, he expended all four of his air-to-air missiles, however, none of them guided.

With only 20mm cannon ordnance remaining, he closed at a rate of almost four and one-half football fields per second for a high deflection shot (high angle guns snap) on the trailing MiG. Seconds later, while 500 feet above the ground, at a heading-crossing angle of 90 degrees, and a speed of 1.2 mach, he fired a 300 round burst from his M-61 Gatling gun and destroyed the MiG-19.

Ret. Col. Handley, the holder of the Silver Star and three DFCs, passed away in 2019, aged 83, and is buried in Texas, the land of his birth.

He penned an excellent work, Nickel on the Grass, reflecting on his 26-year career, almost all of it spent in the cockpit. The cover includes the MiG-19 “guns” kill. 

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