Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Strike Fighter Ball 2011

Very cool video commemorating the Atlantic Fleet's Strike Fighter Ball 2011. Has a very nice Centennial of Naval Aviation flavor to it, paying homage to the lineage of the participating squadrons. It's a shame that there are dozens of attack and fighter squadrons that have been previously disestablished because of budget cuts, and their heritage doesn't appear here. Oh well, that's for another video ...

The good humored stab at the Reservists of VFC-12 is pretty funny, even if they are considered some of the most professional and best trained aviators in the Fleet.

Thanks to Outlaw13 for the heads up ...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

We Remember

This is the song that plays during each and every USAF Heritage Flight.

F-35A First Flight - Fifth Anniversary

Five years ago today, the first F-35A Lightning II, designated AA-1, took to the air for the first time.

Photos credit Lockheed-Martin.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Navy Colors IX - Bugs and Superbugs

Navy did beat Army, by the way ...

VFA-113 Stinger's 164656, launching and then recovering on the USS John Stennis.

VFA-151 Vigilantes' NE-300, catching the wire on the USS Abraham Lincoln.

VFA-147 Argonauts CAG bird trapping on the USS Ronald Reagan.

VFA-27 Royal Maces' F-18E.

VFA-2 F-18F coming aboard.

VFA-115 F-18C celebrating 100 years of Naval Aviation.

VAQ-141 Shadowhawks' CAG EA-18G Growler.

VFA-195's latest 'Chippey Ho' CAG bird.

All photos credit US Navy.

Navy Colors VIII - More CAGs and such

MH-60S, HSC-8, USS John Stennis.

MH-60R 166536, HSM-70.

EA-6B 164402, VAQ-136, trapping aboard the USS George Washington.

EA-6B, VAQ-131.

E-2C 165649, VAW-116, USS Abraham Lincoln.

EA-6B 161245, VAQ-139. Preparing to launch from the USS Ronald Reagan.

All Photos Credit US Navy.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

70 Years Ago

70 years ago today, World War II started for the United States.

My family visited Pearl Harbor several years ago. It was a moving event, and I highly suggest it for anyone who has not been. I was surprised by the large number of Japanese tourists who were there. Turns out the majority of people who visit the Visitor Center and the Arizona Memorial are Japanese. We were there on a weekday, and there were hundreds of them. When we visited the Missouri, not a single one was to be seen. We asked one of the Park personnel about it, and he said it was normal - while the Japanese will pay their respects to where they started the war, they will not acknowledge or honor the place where the war ended. I guess that's to be expected.

I saw a 'Dan Rather Remembers' program last night about Pearl Harbor. He interviewed some members of a Japanese high school group who were touring. The leader of the group said that he was shocked by the story and photos of the attack. Their history textbooks devote one line to the attack. ONE LINE. That's all the youth of Japan are being taught about how their country started the war - and its been that way for decades. (I wish they had provided a translation of that one line, would like to know what it says.) Shamefully, our own school children aren't taught much more than that - take a look at a high school or junior high history text, and you'd think the war never happened.

On the starboard weatherdeck of the USS Missouri, looking forward. The commemorative plate in the deck is the exact spot where the surrender agreement ending WWII was signed.

The Pearl Harbor Survivors Group is disbanding at the end of this year. The few remaining vets who survived the attack are for the most part too frail to make the yearly trip, and in a few years they will all be gone.

Take a moment today to remember what our nation went through on that day and the four years that followed.

Looking forward from the Missouri's bridge, over the twin 16" main turrets, towards the Arizona Memorial.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Iran Scores With Stealth UAV

Drones strike again!

The USAF lost what is reported to be a RQ-170 stealth recon drone over Iran. There is debate as to whether it just went rogue, or was shot down. In any case, US officials confirm that it is in Iran's hands. Us officials have also stated that the drone may have went 'out of contact' while operating over Afghanistan last week, and wandered over the Iranian border. While I have no way of knowing for certain, I'd call Bullshit on that one - the Taliban has no radar that would require the stealth qualities of the RQ-170, while Iran does. Iran says the drone went down 120 miles inside of Iraq, and appeared to be monitoring one of their nuclear facilities.

Controlled by the 30th Reconnaissance Squadron based at Tonopah Test Range in Nevada, the drone is thought to have been operated out of Kandahar, Afghanistan, where it has been glimpsed occasionally over the past couple of years.

You can bet that the Chinese and Russians are lining up access to the robot right now, and they will have comparable ones in about 6 months. Hooray for drones!!!!

Lockheed-Martin builds the aircraft, which is intended to replace the manned U-2 spy plane. Quoted costs are around $6,000,000 per plane, but that seems awfully low to me.

UPDATE - Iran released a video, now on youtube, supposedly showing the captured drone. US officials have been quoted as confirming it. I have looked at this video several times, along with photos of the aircraft, and I think it is a fake. There is no damage visible at all, which is impossible, given that this thing's operating altitude is in the neighborhood of 50,000 feet., You can't seen under the drone. The lines of the drone look wrong - they are close to the pictures, but don't seem to be exact to me, and there are features that are certainly not stealthy. Also look at the droop of the wings outboard of what looks like an external seam - there are no such seams visible on any photo I've seen.

To me, this looks like a fabrication. I could be, and am probably, wrong - but too many things just don't look right about this. This think looks like a fiberglass copy. Why would Iran do this? Propaganda - showing off something intact is a lot more impressive for them than a pile of wreckage.

They might indeed have an RQ-170 - but I just don't think this video shows it.

Update II - I saw some recent photos of this particular drone operating recently out of Kandahar, Afghanistan. Based on those shots, I revise my opinion on the above video. It appears the wings either broke off, or have been removed in order to move it - resulting in the droop, and the apparent tape job to cover it up. The color of the drone is actually a flat neutral grey - the yellowish tint in this video has got to be because of the light it is seen in.

News reports are indicating that the military knew when and exactly where it went down, and had contingency plans to either retrieve it or destroy it in place. It was in a remote area, and it took the Iranians quite some time to get to it. President Obama vetoed those plans, and decided to let the Iranians take possession of one of the most sensitive pieces of intelligence gear we currently have, and by default hand that technology not only to the Iranians but to China and Russia as well. Way to go, Appeaser-in-Chief!!!

You know, what would happen to anyone else in America who willfully handed over top secret technology to our enemies? They'd be rung up on espionage and treason charges. If you're Barack Obama, or Bill Clinton for that matter, you get to explain it away as diplomacy, and you're put on a pedestal for the left wing kooks to look up to.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Hero Passes

The last surviving original crew member of 'Thunderbird', B-17G 42-38050 assigned to the 303rd BG, passed away on Dec. 1.

S/SGT Walter E. Hein was the ball turret gunner on the aircraft's original crew during 24 missions over Europe.

'Thunderbird' is the subject of Keith Ferris' huge mural painting in the Smithsonian, and the namesake for Lone Star Flight Museum's B-17.

Thunderbird went on to fly 112 total missions over Europe with multiple crews, survivng the war only to be scrapped.

Godspeed SGT Hein ...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Flight of the LIghtnings

The P-38 Lightning was one of the most unique appearing aircraft of WWII. The Forktailed Devil is a very cool bird, and a very rare one these days. Not many of them survived the scrapper at the end of the war. Seeing one these days at an airshow is a rare treat.

This video has been around for about a year. It is way cool! 5 Lightnings in the air at one time - I never thought it could happen. I've seen P-38s before, but never more than one at a time. Glacier Girl, the early model -38 dug out from under 200+ feet of ice on Greenland and then painstakingly restored, is one of these magnificent birds.

Enjoy ...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Aussie Aardvark Preservation Effort

The RAAF recently retired the last of its F-111 Aardvarks from service. Almost all of the surviving airframes were tagged for scrapping, very little effort/thought was given to preserving any of them in museums by the Australian government. In fact, the government tried to implement regulations that would have made it almost impossible for any of the aircraft to be displayed anywhere except the RAAF's official museum.

A group was formed in 2002 to lobby for preservation of some of the aircraft. Their efforts have been successful so far, resulting in several aircraft being earmarked for preservation.

If you are a fan of the 'Vark, this is worth a look:

Title Photo - RF-111C A8-146, seen at Recon Air Meet 88, Bergstrom AFB. Photo by yours truly.

Update - If you are a fan of aviation, this will make you sick. Granted, they have to dispose of the aircraft in some way, and this isn't much different than chopping them up and recycling the bits (like is done out in Tucson), but this is hard to watch ...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Hero Passes ...

Colonel Cecil Rigsby, USAF (Ret), passed away in San Antonio on November 7.

Col. Rigsby served in the Air Force for 33 years. He flew P-38 Lightning fighters in New Guinea with the 8th Photo Recon Squadron during WWII. In Korea, he flew recon missions in the RF-80 and RF-86. As a Cold Warrior, he flew F-100 Super Sabres on recon missions out of Bitburg AB, sometimes over Soviet territory. In Vietnam, he flew the RF-101C and RF-4C tactical recon aircraft. At the time of his retirement, he had logged 339 combat missions during 3 wars, with over 7000 flight hours in unarmed recon aircraft.

Col. Rigsby was awarded five Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Legion of Merits, the Silver Star, and twelve Air Medals.

Godspeed, Colonel ...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Gal and Hal do the Heritage Flight

Lone Star Flight Museum's Galveston Gal and Tarheel Hal both flew Heritage Flights at Randolph AFB during their show on the last weekend of October. Gumby flew the P-51 and the P-47 (not at the same time, obviously) with Rider, in his Shaw AFB based F-16.

Beautiful weekend, great weather, very large crowd, the only negative points were lots of engine oil and antifreeze to deal with. Most excellent fun!

Photo Credits - yours truly

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bye, Bye, B-53

No, its not a typo, I'm not talking about the B-52 bomber.

The last B-53 nuclear bomb in the US arsenal is being dismantled at the Pantex facility in Amarillo, TX, today.

The 10,000 pound weapon was the big stick nuclear deterrent for the bomber portion of US's nuclear triad during the Cold War. Its one and only purpose was to put a big hurt on the Soviet Union. It's yield of 9 megatons (roughly 600 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb) was intended to destroy underground control complexes. First entering service with the USAF in 1962, approximately 50 of the weapons remained in the active arsenal in 1997, when they were officially retired from service.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

USAF Heritage Flight Foundation

Those of you who have seen a USAF Heritage flight at an airshow know how moving and impressive it is. What you may not know is that the USAF is not funding this program anymore - they dropped official funding before this year's show season started. Although the Air Force does still participate in the program in the form of aircraft and pilots for demonstration flights, funding for the warbirds comes from the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation, a non-profit established solely to keep this program going. I encourage you to visit their website and see what they are doing, and how you can help.

Without private and corporate sponsorship, the future of this program beyond this year is not assured.

Here is their intro video. Cousin Gumby makes an appearance, sitting on Galveston Gal. What you can't see is me and Outlaw13 just off camera doing our best to make him bust out laughing. Very professional of Gumby to keep a straight face, I must say!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tarheel Hal Visits Sheppard AFB

Cousin Gumby brought Tarheel Hal to Sheppard AFB for their airshow a couple of weekends ago. The massive Thunderbolt is one of a handful of this WWII veteran fighter in the world that are still flying. This airshow found Gumby horsing it around in the company of Rider, flying a 20th Fighter Wing F-16C from Shaw AFB, performing the USAF Heritage Flight.

I had the priviledge of spending a lot of time underneath the P-47 over the weekend, cleaning oil from the massive radial engine off the belly.

Thanks to aztec01 and Outlaw13 for use of the photos...

Monday, October 10, 2011

So, Drones are Cheap, huh?

Holloman AFB is home to the USAF's 29th Attack Squadron, the drone pilot training unit for the Air Force. The unit 'flies' MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft. The 29th counts 13 Predators and 28 Reapers on strength.

A Reaper crashed on Oct. 7, while coming in for landing. Preliminary reports say it hit some power lines. This is the 5th or 6th drone crash (depending on which list you look at) for the unit since it became operational in September 2009. The piles of wreckage include 3 of each aircraft type.

Cost figures for these aircraft are difficult to pin down, because they are parts of 'systems'. However, figures hover around $10 million for a Predator and $14 million for a Reaper.

Drone crashes don't make the news like manned aircraft when they go down. With them in constant operation, a lot of them are being lost. They are here to stay, they provide valuable resources for our troops. They are not, however, a super cheap way of providing air power. These flying lawn mowers are costing the taxpayer a bunch of money!

Update - The USAF announced that the computer virus that had hit parts of its drone fleet was not one that was aimed at the aircraft or their controllers, but was instead one dropped onto the network by an online computer gaming program. Apparenlty, the 'pilots' at Creech AFB in Nevada, a central location for drone controllers, attached a portable hard drive infected with the virus to their workstations, probably in order to relieve some of the boredom associated playing an unexciting video game all day long.

A couple of thoughts. First, the IT security shown by this is pathetic. Another example of how the Pentagon's understanding of computer security is pretty lame. Second, the stupidity shown by the personnel involved. Why in the world would you plug a flash drive from home, where you've been gambling on-line and surfing porn, into a 'secure' defense computer system? I really don't want someone that stupid controlling multi-million dollar hardware (and I don't think the people on the ground counting on that hardware being in place on time would be too happy about it either).

Photo credit USAF

The Future of COIN?

The future of Counter-Insurgency air support? Air Tractor would have you think so. I'm not so sure. Seen here at Sheppard AFB's Open House recently, the company's demonstrator aircraft was on display. This converted crop duster is intended to be a cheap, easy to fly and maintain attack aircraft for small countries that have problems with rebel movements (Africa comes to mind).

The two seat aircraft has MFDs (I don't know if they were operational), and carried mock up bombs, rocket pods, and machine gun pods.

I'm not a pilot, much less flown in combat ... but I don't think I'd want to fly against someone who can shoot back in a very slow crop duster.

photos by yours truly ...

Nice TOT - For a Plane Full of Aggies!

LSFM's B-25 performing a flyover of Kyle Field in College Station, before the A&M/SMU game back in Septamber. Cousin Gumby and btother Larry are flying, with Cousin Me and a few others on board. All are Aggies (they actually found the field, and on time - a feat that had to be an accident, I assure you!).

First shot is from the stands, second is from inside the nose. (Sorry for the noise level in the second one, and the vibration - it really is that loud and shaky inside of the airplane!)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Lone Star Flight Museum On The Move

The folks at Lone Star Flight Museum and the City of Houston have announced that LSFM is moving. The devastation the museum suffered at the hands of Hurricane Ike convinced the museum's staff and directors that it needed to be moved to a location that was on ground higher than sea level. So, beginning in about 18 months, construction on a new facility at Ellington Field will begin.

The museum is currently located in Galveston, right on the coast. Ellington Field, a former Air Force base, is about 45 miles north on the south side of Houston. The move is estimated to take 3 years.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Neptune's Inferno - Worth A Read

I've just finished "Neptune's Inferno", by James Hornfischer. It is a narrative of the naval battles off Guadalcanal in 1942, during World War II. 7 major battles and almost nightly skirmishes between US and Japanese ships from August through November resulted in thousands of lives and dozens of ships lost on both sides.

US forces lost 2 aircraft carriers, 5 heavy cruisers, 2 light cruisers, and 9 destroyers sunk during these battles. 2 battleships, 2 carriers, 8 heavy cruisers, 2 light cruisers, and 9 destroyers were damaged, many of them so badly that they were out of action for repair for over a year.

Japanese losses were 2 battleships, 2 heavy cruisers, 3 carriers, and 7 destroyers. 5 heavy cruisers, 1 light cruiser, and 7 destroyers were damaged.

Almost all of the surface combat was at night. It was violent, savage, and it took just minutes for majestic ships to be reduced to burning hulks. The early days of radar, combined with poor intelligence, and in many cases inept leadership caused horrendous losses. US cruisers, in particular, were decimated - beautiful, heavily armed ships like San Francisco, Minneapolis, Portland, Chicago, Astoria, New Orleans, Pensacola were simply ground up like hamburger by Japanese torpedoes and American stupidity.

The narrative of the afterbattle washdown, where surviving crew members used fire hoses to clean blood and body parts off the decks of their ships is chilling.

Hornfischer (a great name for a naval author!) has written two other great books on WWII naval engagements:

Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors - a narrative of US destroyers during the Battle of Samar in October of 1944. A tale of incredible sacrifice, in what many consider the US Navy's finest hour.

Ship of Ghosts - the story of the USS Houston, a US heavy cruiser fighting in the Far East in the early days of WWII.

If you have an interest in the subject matter, I highly recommend these books. They are very well researched and written.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Hero Passes

Col. Arthur K. Murray passed away July 25th, at the age of 92, in the town of West, Texas.

Col. Murray joined the Army in 1939. He flew P-40s in North Africa, where he was awarded the Air Medal with 8 Oak Leaf Clusters. Later, he served as a P-47 flight instructor, prior to being trained as a test pilot and transferring to Muroc AAF (to become Edwards AFB).

During his time at Muroc, he flew many aircraft, including the XF-92, XP-59, P-80, P-51, B-43, B-45, B-25, P-82, F-84, X-1A, X-1B, X-4, and the X-5.

"Kit" flew the X-1A, setting an altitude record of 90,000 feet in 1954. He was awarded the Distinguised Flying Cross for saving the aircraft during that same flight when it departed controlled flight. He served as the Air Force's Program Manager for the X-15, before retiring in 1961.

He worked for Boeing and Bell Helicopter before settling in Dallas and working for the city.

Godspeed, Colonel ...

Friday, July 29, 2011

F-16 Lawn Mower

How not to land a F-16 ...

F-16C 87-0296 of the 160FS, 187FW, Alabama Air Guard had a small problem on the morning of July 28, while landing at the annual EAA airshow in Oshkosh. The aircraft ran off the runway, and did its best earth mover imitation. No word on the cause, but examination of the photos leads me to believe he had brake failure, and swerved off the pavement to keep from hitting his fellow AL aviators, who had landed ahead of him.

The pilot was uninjured, except for his pride.

Photos credit Brian Leach, who was in the right place at the right time!