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!)