Warbirds – F-117A Night Hawk

Today’s Warbirds article is on a decidedly ugly aircraft – the Lockheed Martin F-117A Night Hawk.  Pilots and aviation enthusiasts know the aircraft as “Nighthawk”, “woblin’ goblin”, or just plain “goblin”.  Arab troops nicknamed the aircraft “Shabah” (ghost) during the Gulf War.

Developed at the infamous Skunk Works, the F-117 ushered in a new era in “stealth” aviation with her first flight on June 18, 1981.  The goal was to create a single-seat, ground-attack aircraft with the ability to evade radar through use of innovative shapes and materials versus active jamming.  Rapid delivery beginning in 1982 led to operational capability by October 1983.  The Air Force denied the existence of the aircraft until a grainy photo surfaced in 1988.  The public debut finally occurred in 1990 when 2 were flown to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada and placed on display for a crowd of tens of thousands.

The combat history of the F-117A begins in December 1989 with strikes by two Nighthawks against targets in Panama during Operation Just Cause.  The true test of its capabilities really began during Desert Storm.  Comprising only 2% of the aircraft deployed for operations against Iraqi forces, the F-117A accounted for more than a third of all bombing runs on the first day.  And though they were the only aircraft allowed to strike inside the limits of Baghdad, none of the 36 deployed for the conflict were touched by hostile fire.  After the end of the Gulf War, the Nighthawk continued to operate in the region to enforce compliance with U.N. programs designed to deny weapons of mass destruction to Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Only one F-117A has been lost to enemy action.  On March 27, 1999 during Operation Allied Force, an Army of Yugoslavia SA-3 detonated near an F-117A piloted by Lt. Col. Dale Zelko.  The aircraft had been targeted using ground observation beginning from take-off in Italy and long-wave radar that detected the plane when the bomb bay doors were open.  The pilot ejected safely and was quickly recovered by Marine Corps combat search and rescue.  the wreckage was not bombed because of the proximity of civilians.  This allowed  Russian personnel to inspect and examine the remains.  Technology from this wreck has proved useful to both China and Russia in the development of their own stealth aircraft.

Though they were supposed to remain operational through 2011, early deployment of the F-22 Raptor led to early retirement of the F-117A in 2008.  Because of the sensitivity of the technology, Nighthawks were deemed inappropriate for export sales.  However, the fleet of F-117A’s has not been scrapped.  Instead, they remain in climate controlled hangars at the Tenopah Test Range in “mothballed” condition – possibly awaiting later reactivation or sale.  F-117A’s have been sighted in flight as recently as 2010.

If you want to see more great photos of the Nighthawk, check out the archives at AviationSpectator.com .  Details on specifications and capabilities can be found on the Federation of American Scientists website.

Ferris Beuller’s Day Off – Tea Party Wisdom

REPOST from previous year but still just as important:

*****

In honor of the anniversary of the opening of Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, I’d like to present Cameron Frye’s words of wisdom for America today…

“I am not going to sit on my ass as the events that affect me unfold to determine the course of my life. I’m going to take a stand. I’m going to defend it. Right or wrong, I’m going to defend it.”

After more than two centuries of this great American experiment, we find ourselves facing immense obstacles; most of which are of our own making.  We have watered-down, reinterpreted, or flat-out abandoned many of the principles that this nation was founded upon.  We have made a wreck our founding fathers pride and joy.  But unlike the infamous 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California, this nation is not dead.  She lies wounded at our feet in need of our ultimate efforts.  Sit idly by no longer.  Take a stand.  Defend it.

(Note – No actual Ferraris were injured in the making of this film)

D-day Photo Montage

Just a few quick photos of the preparations for, execution of, and aftermath of the D-Day invasion (Operation Overlord) June 6, 1944.  Thank you for your sacrifice.

D-Day – 73 years ago today

U.S. paratroopers fix static lines for thier before dawn jump over Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

AP File Photo

“The finest example of a ballplayer, sportsman, and citizen…”

These are the words spoken by New York Yankees manager Joe McCarthy on July 4, 1939.

New York Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig had announced his retirement from baseball on June 21st.  After almost 17 years in of play, increasing fatigue and lack of coordination had led his wife Eleanor to call the famed Mayo Clinic.  Six days of extensive testing led to the devastating diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).  His rapidly increasing paralysis and difficulties with breathing and swallowing meant that the prognosis was dire.  Life expectancy was estimated at about three years.

The Yankees decided to honor the retiring player by declaring July 4, 1939 “Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day”.  Between the games of their double-header against the Washington Senators, speeches, ceremonies, and awards extolled the virtues of one of baseball’s legendary players.  After all the presentations, remarks by dignitaries, and a speech by  teammate Babe Ruth, Gehrig addressed the crowd:

Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I’m lucky.

When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift — that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies — that’s something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter — that’s something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so that you can have an education and build your body — it’s a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed — that’s the finest I know.

So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for. Thank you.

— Lou Gehrig at Yankee Stadium, July 4, 1939  After his remarks, the crowd gave a standing ovation and chanted “We love you, Lou” to the visibly emotional Gehrig.  He left his beloved game and took a public service post; declining more lucrative speaking and appearance jobs.  On June 2, 1941, less than 2 years after his diagnosis, Henry Louis “Lou” Gehrig died at his home in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, New York.  Gehrig’s number 4 was retired by the Yankees.  It was the first time that honor had ever been bestowed on a player.

How many of us could face the devastation of a life-changing diagnosis with such aplomb?  How many of us could look past our own struggles to see where we can touch the lives of others?  We could all be a little better if we were a little more like Lou.

lou-gehrig

Warbirds – F4U Corsair

Considered by many to be the best carrier based fighter-bomber of World War II, today we honor the May 29, 1940  first flight of the F4U Corsair on Warbirds.

Despite early issues with getting Corsair squadrons qualified for carrier landings, the Marine Corps had no reservations about using her as a land-based fighter beginning in 1942.  The navy restricted the planes from carrier landings until early 1944.  Despite the Corsair’s superior performance in almost all categories, veteran Navy pilots preferred the F-6 Hellcat as it was easier to land having less tendency to bounce.  Many naval aviators disparagingly called the F4U “hog”, hognose”, or even “bent-wing widow maker”.

The F-4 Corsair’s combat debut in 1943  was as part of the fiasco near Kahili known as the “Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre”.  4 P-38s, 2 P-40s, 2 B-24s, and 2 F4Us were lost with no more than 4 Zeros downed.  Despite this rocky first encounter, Marine pilots soon learned to take advantage of the Corsair’s superior capabilities and six .50 caliber machineguns versus Japanese fighters.  These ground based squadrons would operate in some of the Pacific theater’s hottest zones like Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, Philippines, Marshall Islands, Palaus, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.

The F4U has had a star-studded cast of pilots.  Charles Lindbergh served as a test pilot and evaluator while Hall of Fame baseball player Ted Williams was a flight instructor for the F4U at Pensacola.  Among Marine Corps Corsair pilots there were 15 confirmed aces and 4 Medal of Honor recipients.  The first Corsair Ace was Second Lieutenant Kenneth A. Walsh while the most famous was probably Major Gregory “Pappy” Boyington f the Blacksheep Squadron (VMF-214).

Having seen service with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, Royal New Zealand Airforce, and the U.K. Royal Navy Fleet Arm, the end of WWII did not spell the end of the Corsair’s career.  The F4U would serve with Argentinian, El Salvadoran, French, and Honduran militaries.  Combat roles would include the First Indochina War, the Suez Crisis, the Algerian War, and War of Tunisian Independence.  But, the Corsair would truly shine as close support aircraft and night fighter during the Korean War.  Ensign Jesse L. Brown, the U.S. Navy’s 1st African-American naval aviator, flew Corsairs on combat missions from the USS Leyte (CV-32). He was shot down on December 4, 1950 and became the first U.S. Navy officer killed during the Korean War.

F4U Corsairs feature prominently in media.  John Wayne starred in a film about Marine Corps aviators called Flying Leathernecks.  The made for television movie and follow-up series Baa Baa Black Sheep fictionally portrays the actions of Greg “Pappy” Boyington and the Black Sheep Squadron (VMF-214)

You can view a very thorough history of the Vought F4U Corsair on YouTube in this 5-part series.

(If you have suggestions of other aircraft to cover in upcoming Warbirds posts, please put them in the comments.  Thanks.)

Presidential Trivia – Ulysses S. Grant

Think you know a lot about the President of the United States?  Let us dig down into the dustbin of history and see what we can find.

Our candidate today is:  Ulysses S. Grant (born. Hiram Ulysses Grant), 18th President of the United States

  • Born April 27, 1822 in Point Pleasant, Ohio
  • Died July 23, 1885, Mount McGregor, Saratoga Springs, New York
  • Height: 5’8″
  • Childhood and school activities:  Fishing; riding and breaking horses; worked in his fathers tannery
  • Education:  United States Military Academy at West Point (Nominated by Congressman Thomas L. Hamer, the application mistakenly listed the name “Ulysses S. Grant of Ohio”. Grant opted to let the mistake go and accepted the moniker “U.S. Grant”.)
  • Military Service:  United States Navy 1839-1854, 1861-1869, final rank General of the Army
  • Civilian profession: Soldier, author
  • Married to Julia Boggs Dent (January 26, 1826 – December 14, 1902) at White Haven plantation west of St. Louis, Missouri
  • Children: Frederick Dent Grant, Ulysses S. Grant, Jr., Ellen Wrenshall Grant, Jesse Root Grant
  • Political Party – Republican
  • Term of office:  August 9, 1974 – January 20, 1977
  • At 46 years old, he was the youngest man to that time elected to the presidency.
  • Early in life his political leanings were Democrat.  However, during the Civil War, Grant became and voted Republican.
  • Having received a slave from his father-in-law, Grant freed William Jones in 1859 despite being in need of money.
  • Though rumors of drunkenness dogged his career, Grant actually suffered from debilitating migraines that often left him “hung over” and irritable.
  • Grant’s offer to return to military service after the attack on Ft. Sumter was lost by the War Department until after the Civil War had ended.  He joined the Union army as Colonel of the unruly 21st Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment.
  • Eschewing pomp and finery, Grant often wore a privates uniform with stars of rank as the only adornment.
  • He accepted the surrender of Confederate forces under General Robert E. Lee (whom he had served with in the Mexican-American War) at Appomattox Courthouse.  He allowed Confederate soldiers to retain their personal weapons and horses if they would return home in peace.
  • Grant oversaw ratification of the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
  • Grant signed legislation establishing the Department of Justice, the Weather Bureau (now the National Weather Service) and Yellowstone National Park, America’s first national park.
  • During his terms of office, Grant strove to improve the living conditions of Native Americans, repair foreign relations with Great Britain, reconcile differences among the North and South, secure civil rights for all Americans, and annex (unsuccessfully) the Dominican Republic into the United States.
  • Grant is the first of only three Presidents to have graduated from the military academy – Grant (USMA – 1843), Eisenhower (USMA – 1915), Carter (USNA – 1947, accelerated to 1946)
  • Assassination attempts:  Grant had been invited to the performance at Ford’s Theatre with President Lincoln.  However, he declined so that he and his wife could visit their children in New Jersey.  John Wilkes Booth had previously stalked Julia Grant.
  • Grant is the first of only three Presidents to have graduated from the military academy – Grant (USMA – 1843), Eisenhower (USMA – 1915), Carter (USNA – 1947, accelerated to 1946)
  • He is buried beside his wife Julia in the General Grant National Memorial in Riverside Park, New York, New York; the largest mausoleum in North America. There is no “Grant’s Tomb”.
  • Hobbies:  horseback riding – he once received a speeding ticket from a Washington, D.C. police officer that didn’t recognize him
  • Famous quote: “The right of revolution is an inherent one. When people are oppressed by their government, it is a natural right they enjoy to relieve themselves of oppression, if they are strong enough, whether by withdrawal from it, or by overthrowing it and substituting a government more acceptable.” Personal Memoirs, 1885

President Ulysses S. Grant circa 1876

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.