Category Archives: USAF

How you Know you are Getting older

I saw this great image today, taken at the  Van Nuys Airport circa 1957, and the first thing I thought was, “Man, that F-86 Sabre is sweet.”

Whomp Whomp

For reference, in 1955, a gently modded California Air National Guard Sabre (F-86A-5-NA 49-1046) piloted by 1LT John M. (“Jack”) Conroy, dubbed the California Boomerang, pulled off a high-speed run from Van Nuys Airport to New York and back in record-setting time.

North American Aviation F-86A-5-NA Sabre 49-1046, “California Boomerang.” (California State Military Museum)

“John Conroy’s Coast-to-Coast-to-Coast dawn to dusk flight covered 5,058 miles (8,140.1 kilometers). The total elapsed time was 11 hours, 26 minutes, 33 seconds. His average speed was 445 miles per hour (716.2 kilometers per hour).”

200,000th M17/M18 Delivered to DOD

Sig Sauer has been trucking right along with deliveries of the Modular Handgun System pistols– the full-sized M17 and more compact M18– since 2017 and just announced they have delivered the 200,000th such 9mm sidearm to Uncle.

Of note, the M17 and M18 are in use by all four Pentagon-reporting service branches and some 451,586 are on the schedule.

The MHS system is a P320-based platform, featuring coyote-tan PVD coated stainless steel slides with black controls, utilizes both 17-round and 21-round magazines, and are equipped with SIGLITE front night sights, removable night sight rear plates, and manual safeties. The M18 is shown in the foreground while the M17 is in the back. (Photo: TACOM)

More in my column at Guns.com.

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:

Have you seen what they are doing with Reapers lately?

No, not the guys in black shrouds that go around picking up souls, I’m talking about the very real drone series from General Atomics. Introduced in 2007 as a sort of super-sized version of the Predator, variations of the series have clocked six million flight hours and completed 430,495 total missions as of late 2019 while flying 11 percent of total Air Force flying hours, at only 2.6 percent of the USAF’s total flying hour cost– and maintaining a 90 percent availability rate.

The Air Force has quietly pulled off a couple of key mission enhancements in the past couple of months when it comes to Reaper.

In September, a Creech AFB-operated MQ-9 successfully went air-to-air, using an AIM-9X Block 2 Sidewinder missile against a target BQM-167 drone that was simulating an incoming cruise missile.

An MQ-9 Reaper, assigned to the 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron, armed with an AIM-9X missile sits on the flight line, Sept. 3, 2020, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Haley Stevens)

This month, they doubled the number of Hellfires that could be mission-carried by a Reaper, growing from four to eight.

A 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron MQ-9A Reaper carrying eight Hellfire missiles sits on the ramp at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., Sept. 10, 2020. This was the first flight test of the MQ-9 carrying this munition load. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Haley Stevens)

This new capability is part of the MQ-9 Operational Flight Program 2409, a software upgrade set to field by the end of calendar year 2020. Previous to this software, the MQ-9 was limited to four AGM-114s across two stations. The new software allows flexibility to load the Hellfire on stations that previously were reserved for 500-pound class bombs or fuel tanks.

“The hardware/launcher is the same that we use on the outboard stations,” said Master Sgt. Melvin French, test system configuration manager. “Aside from the extra hardware required to be on hand, no other changes are required to support this new capability and added lethality. The Reaper retains its flexibility to fly 500-pound bombs on any of these stations, instead of the AGM‑114s, when mission requirements dictate.”

Reaper, with about 200 airframes in USAF service, also has a maritime variant that readers of this page should find very interesting– the MQ-9B SeaGuardian which can be utilized for mine countermeasures, ASW, SAR, and general sea patrol with a 25 hour all-weather loiter time that is cheaper and less crew-intensive than a manned aircraft and could really free up a limited number of P-8s, P-3s, and HC-130Js for more dynamic taskings.

SeaGuardian

The SeaGuardian variants can carry a 360-degree patrol radar and two 10-tube sonobuoy pods, while still being able to clock in with Hellfires and 500-pound bombs if needed. If you told me they could find a way to mount an anti-ship missile and some Mk. 50 torps, perhaps on a paired aircraft operating in teams, I wouldn’t doubt it.

SeaGuardian is not science fiction. Last month the platform concluded a set of maritime test flights over the sea-lanes off the coast of Southern California and last week kicked off a series of validation flights on Oct. 15 for the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) in Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture, Japan. 

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.

DF-ST-82-07990

DF-ST-82-07990

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

v

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. 

Enjoy!

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. 

Thunderbolt!

Via the National Archives: This 1944 original color film captures footage of the air war over Italy during World War II, focusing on the life and death struggle of a train-busting P-47 Thunderbolt squadron operating out of Corsica.

In addition to showing how the pilots’ activities seriously crippled the Nazi fighting ability, hastening the sweep of Allied forces into Rome, the footage also shows the suffering of non-combatants on the ground. The film was directed by William Wyler and John Sturges, with an introduction by Jimmy Stewart (who flew B-17s during the war) and is narrated by Lloyd Bridges and Eugene Kern.

There are far worst ways to spend 42 minutes.

The film was compiled at Alto Air Base, call sign “Break Neck” which was home to 27-year-old Lt. Col Archie Knight’s 57th Fighter Group which consisted of the 64th, “Black Scorpion,” 65th “Fighting cocks,” and 66th “Exterminators” FS.

“The long and bitter struggle…”

Official caption: “Victory Carving-First Division Marines on Okinawa gather around Corporal John Dulin as he wields a Japanese samurai sword to cut a VJ cake that he baked for the celebration. That isn’t sugar cake though, the icing is made of starch.” From the Marion Fischer Collection (COLL/858), Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections

“On board all naval vessels at sea and in port, and at our many island bases in the Pacific, there is rejoicing and thanksgiving. The long and bitter struggle, which Japan started so treacherously on the seventh of December, 1941, is at an end,” began Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz’s address to the combined Pacific Fleet on Sept. 2, 1945, as World War II officially ended, some 75 years ago today.

While today is ostensibly a Warship Wednesday, and logically I should do the USS Missouri, I like to dedicate WW to covering little-known ships and, on this day, Mighty Mo will have her story told far and wide by more mainstream sources than I. This includes a live stream of the anniversary celebration on her decks today.

With that being said, let us take to the sky with a great video on the 75th Anniversary Warbird overflights in Hawaii.

No more posts today, Happy Surrender Day +75. Reflect on those lost. Salute those left.

Operation Allied Sky

A Minot-marked 5th BW B-52H and vintage Belgian Air Force F-16As last Friday, as part of the Buff’s 30-nations-in-one-day tour. 

Even while about half of the USAF’s meager Stratofortress pool was greatly disrupted by the temporary relocation of B-52s from Barksdale AFB in Louisiana to escape Hurricane Laura, a flight of six B-52Hs– forward-deployed 5th Bomb Wing Bomber Task Force (BTF) ships operating from RAF Fairford after flying cross-continental from Minot on 22 August — overflew every single one of the 30 NATO member states last Friday while being escorted in turn by a rotating force of 80 fighters belonging to 19 European air forces and Canada.

Most importantly, they did it all in a single day.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said:

“Today’s training event demonstrates the United States’ powerful commitment to NATO, and Allied solidarity in action. As US bombers overfly all 30 NATO Allies in a single day, they are being accompanied by fighter jets from across the Alliance, boosting our ability to respond together to any challenge. Training events like this help ensure that we fulfill our core mission: to deter aggression, prevent conflict, and preserve peace.”

Of course, the Russians also buzzed the B-52s as they operated over the Black Sea, popping by with Su-27s. The below Russian Ministry of Defense video shows that briefly, ending with a clip of a different series of intercepts buzzing a Danish Challenger, a Swedish Gulf Stream, and an RC-135 over international air space in the Baltic.

Here is the B-52 intercept from the view of the U.S. side of things, showing the Russian antics.

 

« Older Entries