Warbirds – A-6 Intruder

Today I’m feeling the love for the ugliest plane in the U.S. Navy, the A-6 Intruder.  This all-weather carrier based ground-attack aircraft has been lovingly nicknamed “Double Ugly”, “Drumstick”, and even “Iron Tadpole”.  The unique side-by-side crew configuration led to the rounded and big-nosed aspect of this hard-working plane.

Developed to not only to replace the aging propeller-driven AD- 6/7 Skyraider, she was designed for “over-the-shoulder” launching of nuclear weapons.  Never used for the latter role, variants of the Intruder have served the Navy and Marine Corps from 1963 to the present day.

The sturdy airframe and advanced suite of electronics allowed the Intruder to provide close air support for ground troops in Vietnam even through the blinding cloud cover and torrential rains of the monsoon season.  The first loss of an A-6 to combat occurred in 1965 with both crew surviving.  Of the 84 lost during the war, only 2 were shot down in air-to-air combat.  Intruders saw combat later in Lebanon, Desert Storm, Somalia, and Bosnia before they were retired.

In 1991 Congress cancelled the planned A-12 Avenger II replacement for the aging Intruders.  Avionics and electronics upgrades allowed them to remain operational through 1997 until sufficient LANTIRN-equiped F-14 Tomcats and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets came into service.  The specialized EA-6B, known as the Prowler, still remains in service however.  With it’s stretched airframe, fully integrated electronic warfare systems, and four-man crew, the EA-6B Prowler proudly honored its Intruder heritage with service in Iraq and ongoing roles in Afghanistan.

Feel free to learn more by visiting the Intruder Association website for more history, technical information, and trivia.

P.S. – Don’t forget the Stephen Coonts novel Flight of the Intruder or the film of the same name starring Danny Glover and Willem DaFoe.  Both are available at Amazon.com .

It’s Never Too Late To Stand Up For What You Believe In

Some will say it’s too hard or that they have no time.  Others will claim they have done their time or given enough.  A brave few – a tiny remnant of those among us – will still do what they know needs to be done.

Here is to Samuel Whittemore, aged 80.  Alone, he attacked a British relief column and killed three British soldiers on April 19, 1775 near Arlington, Massachusetts.  In the process he was shot in the face, bayoneted 13 times, and left for dead.  When found, he lay in a pool of his own blood; trying to reload his musket.  Out of what I would imagine is a pure stubborn refusal to allow the Redcoats the pleasure of his death, he recovered and lived to the ripe old age of 98.  He is rightly honored as the Official State Hero of Massachusetts.

samuel whittemore

Here we have the longest serving aircraft in the American air arsenal – the iconic B-52 Stratofortress.

Design for this leviathan began way back in 1946.  Developed to carry nuclear and conventional munitions for cold war deterrence, the BUFF (Big Ugly Flying Fellow) made its maiden flight on April 15, 1952.  Activily serving since 1955, 744 B-52’s have been built.  The last one constructed left the factory on October 26, 1962 yet there are no plans to replace it.  The combination of durability, affordability, and flexibility have led the Air Force to plan for the use of the B-52 through 2040.

B-52s have seen service during the Cold War, Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm,  Operation Allied Force in Yugoslavia, and Operation Enduring Freedom.

Footage of the modern B-52 in action.

Ever wonder what carpet bombing looks like?

BUFF has never dropped a nuclear device in combat but she did drop the first hydrogen bomb.

B-52 is number 1 of the worrld’s Top Ten Bombers of all time!

Just because she’s old that doesn’t mean she’s broke.  If you want to scare the crap out of some tinpot dictator, you can leave the cruise missiles at home.  Just tell him that the B-52s are in the air!

(FYI – BUFF also stands for Big Ugly Fat F#cker.)

UPDATE:  January 4th, 2017 – An unarmed B-52 on a training mission over Minot AFB lost an engine mid-flight – literally.  Due to a “catastrophic engine failure”, the assembly “shelled itself” according to Air Force officials.  Massive damage could have caused the engine housing or cowling to crumble and fail allowing the engine to plummet into a riverbed about 25 miles from the base.  The bomber landed safely and none of the 5 crew were reported injured. The aircraft in this incident was reported to have been built in 1961.

10 Commandments Of Logic

Pretty self-explanatory.  Perhaps someone should print these onto a card that will fit in your wallet.

10 commandments of logic

 

(Found on Facebook.  Thanks for sharing WB)

Warbirds – AV-8A Harrier

In honor of the Hawker Siddley Harrier’s first flight on April 1, 1969 , I present you with the latest edition of our ongoing “Warbirds” series.

The Harrier, as most people consider it, is actually a family of aircraft.  The first and only operational family of jump jets ever developed.  The main versions of the family in order of development are the Hawker Siddeley Harrier, British Aerospace Sea Harrier, Boeing/BAE Systems AV-8B Harrier II, and BAE Systems/Boeing Harrier II.  Initial work began on the series as early as 1957 in cooperation between airframe maker Hawker Aircraft and engine manufacturer Bristol Engine Company on the project P.1127.

What came from this project was a fixed-wing aircraft that absolutely embodies the spirit of aviation innovation.  First operational jump jet.  First capable of hovering.  First to fly backwards (WHAT!).

When you think of the Harrier, the first thing that comes to mind is often the Falklands War between Britain and Argentina in 1982.  Deep in the South Pacific and over 8,000 moles from home, the Harrier saw her first combat in some of the world’s worst flying conditions.  While deployed, Harriers flew over 2000 sorties – over six per aircraft per day.  though 10 Harriers of various types were lost to ground fire or mechanical failure, none were lost in air-to-air combat.

After the war, the first generation of Harriers saw continued Cold War tasking, but declining service with British and American forces.

Most of the continuing production was earmarked for export to NATO and allied countries.  But, this wasn’t because of any failings.  Rapid advances in avionics, navigation, and propulsion would give birth to a next generation of jump jet.  A new partnership between McDonnell Douglas and British Aerospace would soon bring the world the Harrier II.  These aircraft serve still today and have seen combat during the Gulf War, Yugoslavia, the Iraq War and Afghanistan.  Though slated to be replaced by the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II, the Harrier II still serves the USMC, British armed forces (G-5/7/9 series), Spanish Navy, and Italian Navy.

UPDATE:  2012  America suffers greatest aircraft loss since Vietnam when Afghan terrorists breach security at Camp Bastion; destroying 6 USMC Harriers and damaging 2 more.  In addition, 2 Marines and 9 Nato personnel lost their lives.

Warbirds – B-45 Tornado

Welcome to the latest edition of Warbirds here at The Clockwork Conservative.  Today we’ll be showcasing (and celebrating the first flight of) America’s first strategic jet bomber – the B-45 Tornado.

Development on this sleek aircraft began when the War Department grew increasingly concerned over long-range, high-speed German bombers like the Arado Ar 234.  The ability to outrun conventional fighter aircraft could give an enemy to strike with impunity within the jet’s range.

The design proposal put forward by North American Aviation won in mid-1944.  In September of that year, construction began on the first 3 prototypes.  To fulfill the imagined bombing, reconnaissance, and nuclear weapon delivery roles, the Tornado featured a pilot, co-pilot, bombardier/navigator, and tail gunner crew configuration.  Four jet engines (sometimes augmented with rocket assisted launch equipment) allowed for a payload of 22,000 lbs.  Her initial 1000 mile range was augmented by the inclusion of in-flight refueling capacity.  The B-45 was the world’s first operational jet bomber to perform an inflight refueling.

The B-45’s development proceeded rapidly and the U.S. Army Air Force issued a preliminary contract with an eye towards fielding 5 light bomb groups and another 3 reconnaissance groups.  With the heating up of the Cold War, pressure to aviation technology was tremendous.  By the time that the initial Tornados were delivered, plans for its use were already being scaled back in favor of even more advanced jets.  Only 143 B-45 variants were ever produced.

With the opening of the Korean War, the B-45 finally got the opportunity to prove her value.  In both bombing and reconnaissance roles, the Tornado performed yeoman’s work.  Daylight bombing runs at altitude were the rule until an RB-45 was nearly lost to MiG-15 fighter jet in 1952.  After that, the remaining deployed aircraft were converted for nighttime operations.

In 1952, with Cold War tensions rising, many of the other B-45’s were forward positioned at bases in the United Kingdom.  However, before the transatlantic flight to Sculthorpe, the Tornados were upgraded to be capable of deploying the new compact generation of nuclear weapon.  The threat of their payloads and proximity to the Soviet bloc countries added a significant deterrent.  Several of the RB-45C reconnaissance variant were seconded to the Royal Air Force so that they could perform clandestine intelligence gathering flights over communist territory when such missions by American forces were prohibited by the President.  This value of this type of successful intelligence gathering mission would lead to the development of the U-2 and later the SR-71 Blackbird.

Unfortunately, with advent of bigger, faster, and more capable jet bombers, the days of the B-45 were numbered.  By 1958, the last U.S.A.F. B-45’s were withdrawn from service and R.A.F. aircraft were soon to follow.  The last few Tornados served as trainers and later test platforms through the early 1970’s.

Warbirds – P-38 Lightning

To honor the anniversary of the first flight of the P-38 Lightning on January 27, 1939 we present to you some great footage in this new edition of Warbirds. This iconic aircraft emerged from United States Army Air Corps specifications drawn up in 1937. It was designated an “interceptor” to bypass the bureaucratic restriction of less than 500lbs of armament in pursuit aircraft. USAAF ordered an initial 55 aircraft in 1939 with the initial lightnings deployed with the 1st Fighter Group’s 27th Pursuit Squadron in July 1941. The first Lightnings to see service in WWII were unarmed F-4 photo reconnaissance version with the 8th Photographic Squadron in Australia. Armed P-38’s began operating in the Aleutian Islands in Alaska in May 1942. At the end of a 1000 mile patrol in August, a pair of Lightnings of the 343rd Fighter Group, 11th Air Force encountered and downed a pair of Japanese H6K “Mavis” flying boats. These were the 1st kills recorded for the aircraft nicknamed by the Japanese “two planes, one pilot”. In the European theater, P-38 Lightnings earned a fearsome reputation among Axis aircrews.  After 26 P-38’s destroyed 31 aircraft near Tunis in April 1943, it earned the nickname “fork-tailed devil” from German aircrews.

Over the course of its operational life, over 10,000 P-38’s were built.  It was the only American aircraft to serve continuously from start to finish of World War II.  Over 100 pilots became aces piloting this plane with several earning the Medal of Honor.  Her most famous mission is considered to be the interception of the transport and escorts of Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto; resulting in his death.  Over a dozen working examples of this famous Warbird remain airworthy today and can often be seen at air shows.  If you get the chance to see one in action, you wont be disappointed.

Without further ado, here is some great video.

Lost and Found – January 22nd Edition

What to remember about January 22nd…

  • 1740  Patriot General and spy Noah Phelps is born in Simsbury, Connecticut; infiltrated Ft. Ticonderoga alone to help plan its capture
  • 1840  1st British settlers arrive in New Zealand near Auckland
  • 1879  Battle of Rorke’s Drift; 139 British troops hold off over 4000 Zulu warriors
  • 1890  United Mine Workers of America is founded in Ohio
  • 1901  Queen Victoria of Great Britain dies ending her 63-year reign
  • 1917  In his address to the U.S. Senate, President Woodrow Wilson proposes “peace without victory” in effort to end World War I
  • 1957  George P. “Mad Bomber” Metesky arrested in Connecticut; planted more than 30 bombs in New York area over 16 years
  • 1970  Boeing 747 “jumbo jet” makes 1st scheduled commercial flight
  • 1973  Supreme Court rules to decriminalize abortion with their decision in Roe v. Wade; over 50 million abortions since this decision
  • 1973  Former President Lyndon B. Johnson dies at home in Texas (b. 1908)
  • 1998  Murderer and serial bomber Theodore “Ted” J. Kaczynski pleads guilty to 17 years of Unabomber attacks; sentenced to life in prison
  • 2008  Australian-born, Oscar-nominated actor Heath Ledger dies abusing prescription medications
  • 2009  President Barack Hussein Obama II announces he will sign an order to close Guantanamo Bay detention center for terrorist suspects within the year UPDATE At the end of Obama’s 8 years in office, Guantanamo Bay facility remains in operation.

Lost and Found – January 21st Edition

What to remember about January 21st…

  • 1738  American patriot, Revolutionary War hero, and founder of Vermont, Ethan Allen is born in Litchfield, Connecticut (d. 1789)
  • 1855  (21st or 23rd) American firearms designer and inventor John Moses Browning is born in Ogden, Utah (d. 1926); known as father of modern firearms
  • 1861  Jefferson Davis delivers farewell speech and then resigns from the senate; will become president of the Confederate States of America
  • 1924  Architect of the Bolshevik Revolution and 1st leader of the Soviet Union Vladimir Lenin dies (b. 1870); replaced by Joseph Stalin
  • 1950  Former State Department official and Soviet spy Algier Hiss is convicted of perjury
  • 1954  USS Nautilus is launched; worlds 1st operational nuclear powered submarine
  • 1968  Initial engagements of the 66-day long Battle for Khe Sanh
  • 1976  Concorde SST aircraft carries its 1st commercial passengers with simultaneous departures from London and Paris
  • 1977  President Carter unconditionally pardons thousands who dodged the draft during the Vietnam War
  • 1985  Ronald Reagan inaugurated to second term as president; ceremony delayed as the 20th fell on a Sunday
  • 2003  U.S. Census bureau announces that Hispanic population outnumbers African-American population in U.S. for the 1st time
  • 2010  Supreme Court rules in Citizens United v. FEC that portions of McCain-Feingold Act are unconstitutional; 1st Amendment prohibits limits on campaign spending by corporations and unions

From beginning in this humble shop in the old West, J.M. Browning went on to bring the world such important weapons as the M1911 pistol, the Browning M2 .50 caliber machine gun, the Browning Hi-Power pistol, the Browning Automatic Rifle, and the Browning Auto-5, and the Ithaca Model 37 semi-automatic shotgun.

Warbirds – F-16 Fighting Falcon

Our latest edition of Warbirds brings us to the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon.  This storied Cold War veteran took its first flight on January 20, 1974.

f-16 fighting falcon thunderbird

Requests for proposals in the 1972 Lightweight Fighter (LWF)  initiative brought five companies into competition.  General Dynamics and Northrop were eventually awarded contracts for prototype production.  During a near disastrous taxi test the XF-16 was forced into an unscheduled first flight to avoid destroying the aircraft.  Despite this, the Falcon went on to win the joint U.S. and NATO Air Combat Fighter competition – outperforming the Saab 37E “Eurofighter”, the Dassault-Breguet Mirage F1M-53, the SEPECAT Jaguar, and the Northrop P-530 Cobra (similar to the XF-17).  Citing better maneuverability, greater range, and lower operating costs, the Secretary of the Air Force announced in 1975 its intent to order the first 650 F-16’s.

f-16 fighting falcon line drawing

The first delivery of an F-16A to the USAF occurred on January 6, 1979.  Operational deployment began on October 1, 1980 with the 34th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Hill AFB in Utah.  Since then, over 4500 units of a variety of models have been built.  Air forces of 25 nations have had the F-16 in their service.

f-16 fighting falcon weapons load display

The first combat experiences of the Falcon took place during the 1981 Lebanese Civil War.  F-16s of the Israeli Air Force (IAF) successfully downed in air-to-air combat a Syrian Mi-8 helicopter and a MiG-21.  Later that year, a combined flight of IAF F-16s and F-15s destroyed the nearly completed Iraqi nuclear plant at Osirak.

In the 1980s, NATO and US deployment of the F-16 provided an effective counter to the massive deployments of Warsaw Pact aircraft in Eastern Europe.  Innumerable aerial challenges occurred through the end of the Cold War, but no real combat.  The first action seen by US and NATO F-16s occurred during the 1991 Gulf War – Operation Desert Storm.  From January 16 to February 28, F-16s flew over 13,000 sorties with seven aircraft lost.  Of these losses, only three were due to enemy fire.  Despite their heavy operational tempo, it would be 1992 before the first USAF F-16 would get an air-to-air kill.  During enforcement of the US/UK no-fly zones over Iraq, an F-16D shot down a Mig-25 with an AIM-120 AMRAAM.  This event also marked the first kill by an AMRAAM missile.

f-16 fighting falcon burning iraqi oil wells

F-16s continued to provide vital service throughout the next two decades.  Action was seen in the Balkans in ’93,’94, and ’99 as well as Pakistan from ’86 to ’88 against  Afghan Air Forces.  Later, the Falcons saw combat in Operation Iraqi Freedom (’03-’10) and during operations of the IAF in Lebanon in ’06 as well as from ’08 to ’09.  Today, Japanese and South Korean F-16s routinely deal with aerial challenges from Russian, North Korean, and even Chinese threats.

f-16 fighting falcon show of force

With the ongoing upgrade scheme, the USAF plans to keep the F-16 in service through 2025.  However, with the delayed acquisitions of the F-35 Lightning II, the Fighting Falcon may see its US service extended well beyond that date.  You should expect to see them in the air forces of other nations quite a bit longer.

This is a great documentary on the USAF Thunderbirds, their history, and the F-16. Enjoy!