Thursday, December 6, 2012

Missing Persons Report

Maverick and Goose are missing!

The Navy is rapidly moving forward in its testing of the Boeing X-47B stealth fighter/attack demonstrator aircraft.  This next generation machine is destined to operate from our carriers in the future, alongside the current F-18s and (maybe) future F-35s.

Catapult tests have recently started at NAS Pax River.  Landing tests have been underway for some time.  One example of the jet was just placed aboard the USS Harry Truman for deck handling tests.  I have not seen a schedule for actual launch and recovery tests on the carrier yet.

OK ... its a new airplane.  So what, you might ask.

There's nobody in it.

It's a UCAS ... Unmanned Combat Air System ... drone ...

Yes, the United States Navy is planning on operating unmanned jet attack aircraft from our carriers.  This is not a surveillance aircraft that is supposed to putt-putt around in circles way up high using its cameras to spy on bad guys.  This thing is intended to carry weapons and attack the bad guys, much the same way our manned fighters do.

You know, drones have come a long way.  The technology needed to operate one of these from the deck of a ship is way beyond that needed for land base operations.  If I'm a Deck Boss, Air Boss, Captain, or anyone stationed anywhere near the flight deck of a carrier that has these things on it, I'm going to be more concerned with keeping myself alive than doing my actual job.

Accidents in carrier operations are more frequent than most folks know about.  Lots of airplanes get damaged or destroyed, lots of folks get hurt, and a few die.  That's normal for the beast.  I just am concerned about how those accident rates my go way up in the days of mixed drone/manned aircraft operations.  I wouldn't want to be on deck for that first cruise!

Photos credit US Navy.

Friday, November 16, 2012

How Many More?

Will we see thousands, as planned, or only a handful more?

Obama's win may very well spell the end of this aircraft.  The sequestration budget cuts, scheduled to happen on Jan. 2 by law, IF Obama and Republicans in Congress can't figure out how to cut $1.2 trillion out of the budget before the end of the year, will hit the Pentagon hardest of all.  Procurement funds are likely to dry up to nothing.  The F-35 is a very high dollar program that is in the early stages of production, and so would make a choice, juicy target for Obama to slash.

Even if the unthinkable happens and an agreement is reached to avert the sequestration cuts, the F-35 is still a prime target for Obama.  Democrats have the Defense Department in their sights, and want to castrate our ability to defend ourselves.  The huge amount of money that will need to be invested in procurement of this aircraft for service in the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps in numbers great enough to replace the F-16, legacy F-18, and Harrier aircraft that are reaching the end of their service lives make the program a prime target.  At around $100 million apiece, Democrats are salivating at the money they can take from this program and spend elsewhere.

Cancellation of the program would cause tens of thousands of defense workers to lose their jobs.  In a twist of irony, many of those workers are unionized, and voted for Obama.  It would hit Texas very hard, since large portions of the aircraft are built here, and it is assembled and tested here.  Unfortunately for Texas, our clout in Washington is very small these days, so we don't have a lot of political capital to fight with.

The photos are of F-35A 10-5011, on a test flight out of the Lockheed-Martin factory in Ft. Worth.  It is destined for delivery to the 53WG, 422TES, for operational test and evaluation use ('OT' tail code).  Photos by yours truly.

Update, Dec. 7 - Yesterday, the Canadian Government decided to cancel its partcipation in the F-35 program.  The reason cited was that misleading cost figures were used when the Canadians originally decided to procure the aircraft for their Air Forces.  The Canadians will now look at existing fighter aircraft to fill the requirement to replace their fleet of aging F-18A/B Hornets. 

This decision, along with the apparent cancellation from the Dutch government (also due to cost) will drive the per aircraft cost for the remaining countries up significantly. 

The F-35 just became an even bigger cancellation target for the Obama Administration.

This photo is of F-35C CF-05, the fifth Navy carrier based version of the Lightning II.  I shot this as it was landing after its first flight, November 30, 2012, at the L-M factory at NAS Ft. Worth.
F-35B 168721, VMFA-121, on a pre-delivery test flight at NAS Ft. Worth on 1/11/13.  This aircraft will the the third delivered to the first operational Marine Lightning squadron, based at MCAS Yuma, AZ.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Oh, this was fun!

A couple of weekends ago, I was down in Galveston/Houston for the Wings over Houston airshow.  During preparation, I got the opportunity to fly in Lone Star's P-51.  The pilot was Cousin Gumby.  The flight was some formation work with the museum's P-47, flown by Tuna, out over the beach in preparation for their performance in the USAF Heritage Flight.  Way cool.

(Actually, it was way hot!  It is very warm with the sun beating down through that canopy, and this thing doesn't have an air conditioner!)


The Heritage Flight during the show, with Gumby in the P-51, Tuna driving the P-47, Ichi in the QF-4E, and Shadow sticking the F-22A.  Beautiful job, guys!

All photos by yours truly, except the top one, graciously provided by Outlaw13.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sabre Rattling

A few shots of a couple of restored F-86 Sabre Jets, seen at the recent Alliance Airshow.  There were actually 3 of them in attendance, and all three flew together on the show days, but the weather was lousy.  I took these during Friday's practice show.  It was a rare treat to see these awesome pieces of history beating up the field!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Spitfire Heaven

The aircraft shown above is a British Spitfire, one of the premier World War II fighter aircraft.  It was used in every major theater during that war, and for several years afterwards by many allied air forces.

David Cundall spent 16 years pursuing a legend, that a number of these aircraft were delivered to Burma during the early days of the conflict for use by the British Far East Forces.  As the Japanese approached, the Brits buried the aircraft, still in their shipping crates unassembled, to keep them out of the enemy's hands.  After the Japanese were run out, the aircraft were deemed obsolete, and not worth retrieving - and they were forgotten except for a very few people who were aware of the initial burial. 

12 trips to Burma (or Myanmar,  or whatever it calls itself now) and a couple of hundred thousands of dollars in expenses finally yielded success when Mr. Cundall located the site.  Then the fun started.

A Spitfire on the open market these days will fetch in excess of a million dollars.  How much in excess relies on how good a condition the aircraft is in, and how rare the actual model is.  Warbird operators/enthusiasts will spend well in excess of that figure taking pieces and parts and restoring one to flyable condition.  That equates to a whole lot of money buried under Burmese soil ...

Once Mr. Cundall located the aircraft and word of his discovery leaked out, a cat fight broke out, mainly between Cundall, the English Government, and the Burmese Government.  Each claimed the aircraft.  Mr. Cundall thought they were his by right of salvage.  The English thought they belonged to their government, stating that even though they were abandoned and forgotten, they were still English property.  The Burmese felt that since they were buried in Burma and forgotten, it was their land and anything left behind had become theirs (as had been the case with enormous amounts of war material left in place all over the world after the end of the war).

Anyway, a battle ensued over about two years, with a lot of negotiation between all parties, the installation of a new more pro-Western government in Burma, and the British Prime Minister getting personally involved.  An agreement was reached between Mr. Cameron and the new President of Burma, Mr. Sein, during a meeting between the two earlier this year.  I don't have a lot of detail on the agreement, except the announcement that Mr. Cundall, his company, and their Burmese partners will be allowed to excavate the aircraft and take them back to England.

Excavation is to begin in late October.

This is a double edged sword for the Warbird movement.  If you are looking to procure a Spitfire for your collection, chances just went way up that you will be able to get a zero time, essentially brand new one sometime in the next few years.  If you currently have a Spitfire and are looking to get rid of it, the resale value on it just fell through the floor.

As an aviation enthusiast, I am thrilled by this.  The Spitfire is an awesome aircraft.  It is probably second to the Mustang in WWII aircraft (non-trainer) in the number that are on display or flying today.  To see a huge infusion of new ones into the warbird movement will ensure the Spitfire will grace the skies for many, many years to come.

Now, if only someone can find a bunch of brand new buried Mustangs ... or Thunderbolts ... or Warhawks ... or Lightnings ...

Photo - Lone Star Flight Museum's Spiftire LXFVIe, registered as N97RW - shot by yours truly at its home field in Galveston.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Your Tax Dollars At Work

I shot this rather nice view of an F-16D on a pre-delivery acceptance test flight at Lockheed-Martin, over in Ft. Worth, a couple of weeks ago.  This aircraft, s/n 9822, is destined for the Egyptian Air Force, and is one of 20 new build F-16Cs and Ds that are currently being manufactured/delivered.

Guess what?  You're paying for them.

You've probably heard about that 3 billion or so in annual military aid that the US is supplying Egypt?  Well, these highly advanced aircraft are part of that aid package.  Your tax dollars, not the Egyptian government, are paying for them.

The contract for these aicraft was made in 2009, under the previous, pro-US, regime.  When the unrest hit that country, our government and the Pentagon fought to keep the military aid package intact and on schedule, in order to keep the Egyptian Generals friendly to us.  Well, guess what?  The Generals' power has pretty much been neutered.  We are delivering state of the art aircraft and other weapons systems to a nation whose government is now controlled by radicals of the Mulsim Brotherhood.  Doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me ...

I think it would have been prudent to put a HOLD on deliveries of this type of equipment, to see how things ultimately shake out in Egypt.  As it is, we probably are giving a shit pile of military goodies to folks who don't think very highly of us (or our ally Israel).  One more VERY questionable decision by the Obama Administration ...

Update, Dec. 11 - the mainstream media has finally gotten wind of this, and public outrage is building.  Problem is that almost all of the 20 planes in the order have already been delivered!

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Flight of Heroes Comes Home

On December 24, 1965, an AC-47D gunship took off from Da Nang for a daylight mission over southern Laos.  45-1120, assigned to the 4th ACS, 6250th CSG didn't have a specific target, it was searching for 'targets of opportunity'.  A mayday was heard from the aircraft after it arrived over Laos, and then nothing more.  The aircraft was lost, with no trace of it or the crew.

In 2010, a USAF MIA search team located the wreckage, and recovered remains from the 6 crewmen on board.  These heroes will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetary on July 9:

Major Derell Jeffords
1Lt Dennis Eilers
Major Joseph Christiano
MSgt Larry Thornton
TSgt William Colwell
Ssgt Arden Hassenger

God speed, gentlemen ... Welcome Home

As a side note, this was the second 4ACS AC-47D lost  in December of 1965.  The unit had deployed to SVN on November 14, equipped with 20 'new' AC-47s.  These were gunship conversions of the venerable Gooney Bird, sporting 3 7.62mm mini-guns firing through windows on the left side of the aircraft.  43-49492 was shot down on December 17, while on a cargo run between Tan San Nhut and Phan Rang.  All aboard were lost:

Major Robert Abbot
Major Robert Abernathy
1Lt Francis Buckley
MSgt Joseph Cestaric
TSgt John Chappell
TSgt Thomas Sloan
SSgt Ralph Hinson
A1C Claude Matthews
A1C Johnson Meade

The AC-47s were known as Dragon Ships, Puff the Magic Dragon, or simply by the 4th ACS squadron call sign : 'Spooky'.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Hero Comes Home

Capt. Clyde William Campbell will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetary on June 21.

Campbell was shot down on March 1, 1969, while flying A-1J 52-142023, assigned to the 602nd Special Operations Squadron, 56th Special Operations Wing.  He was based at Nakhon Phanom AB, Thailand.  He was on an armed recon mission near Na Khang, in central Laos.  He was attacking enemy forces in support of a US radar installation at the time.  His aircraft was seen to crash, and he did not get out of it.

Campbell was born in Longview, TX, and graduated from Texas A&M in 1967. 

His remains were found by a USAF search team in in 1997, and recovered by another team in 2009.

Welcome Home, Capt. Campbell ...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Navy Colors X - CONA and More

A few more colored up birds, some of them from the Centennial of Naval Aviation, others just plain good looking aircraft ...

VT-21 Redhawks' CAG T-45C 167099.  Specially painted for CONA.  Seen at the Dyess AFB open house in April.

VT-22's CAG T-45C 167100, seen taxiing at Luke AFB.  This scheme was applied for CONA.

P-3C 158206, representing PATWING 10, stationed at NAS Whidbey Island.  This CONA scheme represents the one carried by Navy Patrol Planes in the early Vietnam era.

VAQ-141's CAG Growler, trapping aboard the USS George Washington.

This wildly painted E-2C Hawkeye belongs to VAW-125.

VFA-2's CAG Super Hornet launching from a waist catapult.

All photos credit US Navy, except for 167099, which was taken by yours truly.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The USS Flag Burner - Coming To A Navy Near You

Ray Mabus, Obama's Navy Secretary, has taken it upon himself to use his time in office to leave a mark on the Navy forever - kind of like a permanent underwear skid mark.

First, Mabus directed the naming of the San Antonio class amphibious support ship LPD-26 the 'USS John Murtha', after the corrupt Democratic Congressman, the same one that called our Marines in Iraq 'murderers'.

Second, Mabus had a  Lews and Clark class dry cargo ship named the USS Cesar Chavez, after the migrant rights leader - the same leader who called his time in the military the worst period of his life.  The USS Chavez was christened on Cinco de Mayo this year in San Diego.

Third, Mabus directed that a new Littoral Combat Ship, LCS-10, will be named the USS Gabrielle Giffords, after the Congressperson who was tragically shot and has retired from Congress.  I have nothing against Ms. Giffords, but she has nothing to do with the military whatsoever (except for the man she is married to), and her claim to being a 'heroic figure' was that she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Now, out of San Francisco comes an effort to name a new ship after Harvey Milk, the gay rights rabble rouser who was gunned down in San Francisco in 1978.  Milk had been a Navy diver during the '50s, receiving an honorable discharge after an undistinguished service period.  Milk's fervent anti-war and anti-military stance during Vietnam made it clear to everyone what his feelings towards the military were.

It is amazing to me the arrogance of Obama and his minions.  With these namings, they are making a mockery of the military.  With all the historic ships names that are currently not used, and heroic combat veterans who deserve recognition, why are these controversial military 'haters' being honored?  We don't have a USS Lexington, a Yorktown, a Saratoga afloat.  The Enterprise is about to be retired and cut up, yet there are no plans to move the name to another ship.

Just another reason to get Obama and these jerks out of power.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hawg Slaughter

Part of Obama's Pentagon leadership's attempt to cut an incredible amount out of the defense budget has resulted in a horrendous decision to retire a third of our A-10 force.

Tha A-10 has been, arguably, our most important and effective fixed wing weapon since 9/11.  It has been indispensible during Iraq and Afghanistan, providing Close Air Support for troops on the ground.  In fact, there has been an A-10 squadron based (on a rotational basis) in Afghanistan constantly since the Taliban was originally defeated.

The A-10 is perfectly suited to such mission, its tremendous weaponry, ability to loiter over the battlefield, and redundant systems that allow it to survive battle damage that would bring down other aircraft have meant it has been a constant presence for our forces in conflict.

There are currently 348 operational A-10s, about half of those that were originally produced back in the 70s and early 80s.  Almost all of the survivors have recently been upgraded to the latest standard, the A-10C.  That, combined with a re-wing project that has just started, was projected to keep the force combat effective until 2040.

Obama's puppets in the Pentagon have decided that five squadrons currently flying the A-10 will be dissolved, and their 102 A-10Cs will be retired to the boneyard.  This will leave 246 A-10s operational.  Work to take down these squadrons has already begun, and all five are to be gone by the end of this year.  The victims are:

47th Fighter Squadron, Air Force Reserve, Barksdale AFB LA
81st Fighter Squadron, USAF, Spangdahlem AB, Germany
107th Fighter Squadron, MI ANG, Selfridge ANGB MI
184th Fighter Squadron, AR ANG, Ft. Smith AR
163rd Fighter Squadron, IN ANG, Ft. Wayne IN

The Arkansas Guard A-10s are currently deployed to Afghanistan.  When they get back, they shut down, aircraft are sent to the boneyard, and people are fired.

This represents a huge loss for the Air Force in terms of capability and experienced personnel.  It is, to be blunt, a stupid decision.

Supposedly, this action is being taken to help preserve funds for the golden goose, the F-35.  There is no replacement for the A-10 on the books, or even being considered.  F-35 proponents will try to tell you that it will replace the Hawg, but that is bullshit.  The F-35, if it is ever built in sufficient numbers, will not be capable to performing the A-10's mission.

Hopefully, a change in the US administration will lead to at least a partial reversal of this action.  It will have to take place quickly, for once the units are shut down and the aircraft are processed into desert storage, it will be too late.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Hero Passes ...

George Vujnovich passed away on April 24, at the age of 96.

Mr. Vujnovich was an OSS intelligence agent during WWII.  (The OSS was the father of today's CIA.)

In 1944, he organized Operation Halyard, a behind enemy lines mission that rescued over 500 downed US airmen who were hiding at various locations in Serbia.  The fact the mission happened, along with the details, were lost in classified history for many years, until uncovered and documented in Gregory Freeman's 2007 book, The Forgotten 500.

Although I consider myself knowledgable about WWII, I had never heard about this mission until I read Mr. Freeman's book.  If you have an interest in the subject, I highly recommend reading the book - it is an incredible story, one that reads like fiction.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Dyess AFB Heritage Flight

I participated in the Heritage Flight at Dyess AFB this past weekend, again with Tarheel Hal.  The P-47 flew with an A-10C Thunderbolt II from Davis-Monthan AFB.  It was very cool, seeing the two generations of Thunderbolts flying in front of the crowd together.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Barksdale AFB Heritage

Had a blast this past weekend supporting the USAF Heritage Flight at Barksdale AFB.  Tuna in the P-47, coupled with Bluto and Holy in the QF-4s from Tyndall, put on a wonderful show for the crowd.  Weather was great, for the most part.

Thunderbird came up from Galveston and put on a spirited show for the crowd.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Hero Passes ...

Col. Van Barfoot (US Army - Ret.) passed away on March 2nd, at the age of 92.

As a Sergeant fighting in Italy during WWII, Barfoot was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on May 23, 1944. Here is the writeup:

More recently, Col. Barfoot waged another heroic campaign, when he flew our nation's flag from a flagpole in front of his house. His neighborhood HOA threatened to sue him for the display, until outcry from the public and local lawmakers shamed them into submission.

Col. Barfoot flew that flag in his front yard until just a few days before his passing.

Godspeed, Colonel ...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Hero Passes ...

Howard Pardue, a legend in the Warbird community, has passed away. His F8F Bearcat fighter crashed on takeoff at his home field of Breckenridge, TX this afternoon. Howard did not survive.

I knew Howard, though not well. I had spent some time over dinner with him and my cousin, and at various airshows over the years. Though I was not a member of the 'pilot clique', he always treated me well.

I am stunned. This man was larger than life, one of those characters you think will live forever.

Godspeed Howard ... you will be missed.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Phantom Eye - Dayum ... That's Ugly!

Boeing rolled out its Phantom Eye unmanned aircraft for a high speed taxi test at Edwards AFB on March 10. No problems were reported.

Except, that is, it's so damn ugly.

I admit to not knowing much about this aircraft except that it is supposed to be a hydrogen powered, high altitude, long endurance test bed, and the guppy shaped mid section contains about a ton of hydrogen fuel.

I was trying to think of other aircraft or combinations of aircraft that would approximate what this thing looks like, and I failed. It's just yuck ...

Photo credit NASA.

Here's a link to a Boeing produced video of the taxi test ...

Monday, March 12, 2012

Nice Day At The Local Airpatch

A nice sunny day out at NAS Ft. Worth recently produced some very nice aircraft. Pretty busy day, lots of traffic.

Lockheed-Martin flew two F-35As on test flights. 09-5001 and 09-5002 were already carrying the markings of their soon to be owners, the 58th Fighter Squadron, 33rd Fighter Wing, at Eglin AFB.

One of L-M's chase Vipers, F-16D 90-0848, provided escort duties during the test flights.

L-M is in the midst of a production run of F-16s for the Morroccan Air Force. 08-8015 was beating up the field on pre-acceptance test flights.

The home based US Army C-12 outfit was conducting normal training flights, with three different models of the C-12 being airborne.

A pair of 64AS, 57Wg aggressor F-16s were present. The Nellis AFB based aircraft were in helping the home based 457th Fighter Squadron during an ORI. 86-273, above, is carrying a beautiful arctic camoflage scheme, applied while the jet was based up in Alaska for aggressor duties. 84-1301, below, is an old friend. I have photographed this aircraft now with 3 different units - the 64th AS (current owner), the Ft. Worth based 457th FS, and the Houston based 111th Fighter Squadron.

A grey on grey camoflage scheme cupled with a Red Star on the tail on this VFA-204 F-18A+ Hornet denotes its main mission as an aggressor. The jet is based at NAS New Orleans, was apparently in to do some local missions out of Ft. Worth.

A nice surprise was this Dyess AFB based B-1B, which dropped by for a touch-and-go approach.