Wednesday, February 24, 2010

An American Hero Passes

A genuine American hero will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetary today. Col. Robert L. Howard (USA-Ret) passed away at the age of 70.

Col. Howard was thought to be the most decorated living American soldier. A member of the Army's Special Forces (Green Berets) during the Vietnam war, he was wounded 13 times during his five tours (54 months) in SEA. He was nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor 3 times during a 13 month period. President Nixon awarded him the medal in 1971.

His awards include the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, and 8 Purple Hearts.

Col. Howard retired from the Army in 1992.

Godspeed, Colonel ...

Information courtesy Michael Yon On-Line

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Gratuitous Thud Video Footage

For no particular reason, some YouTube videos of the Republic F-105 Thunderchief.

The Thud was designed in mid-'50s as a low level nuclear strike fighter-bomber. In it's primary mission it was intended to carry a nuclear weapon in its internal bomb bay on low level high speed attacks against Soviet and Warsaw Pact targets. While it did perform that mission for a short time, it's primary use ended up being in Vietnam, where the single seat version was used as the primary USAF bomb truck against Vietnam.

Hundreds of F-105s were lost during the Vietnam war. A lot of pilots, both junior and senior, were shot down - some rescued, some made prisoner, some killed. This wasn't the fault of the airplane. It was flawed tactics, ROEs imposed by lunatics in Washington, ferocious defenses, and the use of the airplane in a role it was never designed for.

The few F-105 single seaters that survived the war soldiered on through the early 1980s in AFRES and ANG units.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

498FIS Sabre Dogs

Some neat footage of 498FIS Geiger Tiger F-86Ds deploying to Yuma for a gunnery meet. Way cool nostalgia, gotta love those sharkmouths!

Old Strategic Air Command Movies

Fail Safe ... Dr. Strangelove ... these two early '60s films made the public very nervous about the Strategic Air Command and its function - at least SAC thought so.

SAC produced a series of movies explaining their mission. The intention was for them to be shown to the public, but for some reason they never were.

Here is a link to those movies, archived by the NSA and made available over the internet by George Washington University. Corny, yes ... but there is some great footage in them. B-52s, B-58s, short tailed KC-135s, Hound Dogs, clouds of black smoke as plane after plane scramble into the air in alert drills.

Thanks to some posters over at WIX for digging up these links ...

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Day Mother Nature Crippled Strategic Air Command

On Monday (Labor Day) Sep. 1, 1952, at 6:42pm, a tornado ripped across Carswell AFB. In a few minutes, Mother Nature did what the Soviet Union never could - brought the Strategic Air Command to its knees.

The 7th and 11th Bomb Wing's fleet of B-36s were decimated, as was Convair's production flightline at their facility on the west side of the runway. 2/3 of SAC's fleet of B-36s was damaged that evening. 71 aircraft suffered damage.

A frantic effort was undertaken by the Air Force and Convair to repair the aircraft. Five weeks after the storm, 51 of the aircraft were back in service. The remaining airframes sustained enough damage that Convair's efforts to repair them took longer. Only one aircraft was damaged beyond repair - a testimony to the value of the B-36 at that time, the aircraft were so important that every effort was made to repair even the most seriously damages airframes.

All photos official USAF

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Strategic Air Command

A clip from the movie 'Strategic Air Command'. Jimmy Stewart starred in this 1955 movie about the USAF's strategic bomber force. The movie was an unabashed advertisement for the Air Force. The real stars were B-36s and B-47s, and it is a great look back at state of the art Air Force technology of that era.

In this clip, a B-36 is seen taking off from Carswell AFB in Ft. Worth. I've spent many hours on the ramp there photographing aircraft, though from an age not so long ago. As the aircraft runs up on the north hammerhead, I am reminded of the many times I've stood in the same spot as the cameraman, shooting F-4s, F-16s, F-14s, and F-18s. As the aircraft takes off, you can see the Convair (then General Dynamics, now Lockheed-Martin) factory in the background, where dozens fo B-36s are seen in various phases of construction. White Settlement sure has changed over the years, but I bet some of those same houses are still standing there.

The movie appears now and then on nostalgia TV channels - it really shines on the big screen in HD. The DVD is available on

Friday, February 5, 2010

Remembering Two Heroes - Forwarded

Here is a Feb. 2 post from threedonia by Outlaw13, remembering two friends who gave their lives in defense of their country ...

"Three years ago, two members of my unit were lost while flying a combat mission in Iraq. Caught in an ADA ambush with an aircraft so damaged that by 'the book', they should have landed right there, they chose to fight their attackers. Ultimately Keith and Jason's aircraft finally succumbed to its damage and fell to earth taking our friends with it. We will never forget CW4 Keith Yoakum and CW2 jason DeFrinn.

When we finally meet them at Fiddler's Green, I'm sure they will have a cold one and some stories for us. Till then, Garryowen!

For an Army Times story about that day go HERE."

Two brave Americans gave their lives in defense of their country that day. They could have saved themselves, but chose to continue to fight to defend their comrades. True heroes ... Go to the link, and honor them by reading about their sacrifice.

Monday, February 1, 2010

F-35 Program Chief Fired

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates fired USMC Gen. David Heinz from his post as the Pentagon's F-35 Program Manager today. Gates also announced that he is withholding $614 million in performance bonuses from Lockheed-Martin as punishment for delays in testing and cost overruns that have put the entire program behind it's often revised schedule by over a year.

There are only 3 test aircraft flying at this time, although Lockheed Martin reports that 9 aircraft have been completed. Those 3 completed only 10% of the test flights scheduled for 2009.

So, even if everything from this point forward proceeds perfectly (which is impossible!), our armed forces will have to wait an additional year without new aircraft to replace ones that have already been retired. The 'Fighter Gap' gets wider and wider ... (This to say nothing about the additional money that will have to come from the taxpayers...)

Now, do I blame Lockheed-Martin for this? Not really... I blame the Pentagon and those in Washington, who took the best case scenario laid out for the F-35 program, and built everything around it(budgets, aircraft retirements, aircraft procurement, manning). They should have known better. No one who has seen a major weapons system program in the past 30 years should have gone 'all in' on a perfect schedule laid out by a contractor.

Gates was right to fire this guy. There should be some firings at Lockheed-Martin. Gates should be gone as well - he should have known better, and it's been happening under his watch.

For those of you insteresed in the F-35, try
Image courtesy Lockheed-Martin