Monthly Archives: April 2015

Warbirds – AH-1 Cobra ,Super Cobra, and Viper

Today’s installment of Warbirds brings us to the venerable AH-1 Cobra / Super Cobra / Viper.  This iconic helicopter saw its debut in Vietnam and still serves to this day.  The AH-1’s first flight took place on September 7th, 1965.

AH-1W wireframe

In the late 1950’s Bell Helicopter was committed to the US Army’s air cavalry concept.  With  the realization that the UH-1 “Hueys” were more vulnerable to North Vietnamese and even Viet Cong ground fire that first envisioned, it was decided that an armed escort was needed.  To fill this role some UH-1s were upgraded to carry multiple machine guns and rockets.  However, their light armor, slow speed, and open architecture meant that they were ill suited to close support and a would provide no permanent solution.

During the development of the “Huey”, Bell had begun work on designs for an attack helicopter.  The D-255 “Iroquois Warrior” was their concept mockup that led to the building of the “Sioux Scout” built on the Model 47 airframe.  It included many of the modern attack helicopter elements such as a tandem cockpit, weapons mounts on stub wings, and a chin mounted weapons system.  However, the underpowered and undersized nature of the scout was deemed to be unsuitable.  The Army decided to go with the Advanced Aerial Fire Support System (AAFSS).  10 years and millions later, the spawn of the AAFSS, the Lockheed AH-56 Cheyenne was cancelled.

AH-1 Super Cobra weapons loadout

Despite not being chosen to compete for AAFSS, Bell went ahead with their development of a new attack helicopter based on many of the tried and true components in the UH-1.  With AAFSS development proving costly and slow, the Army announced that they were looking for quick development of an interim gunship.  Presented to the Army in 1965 as the Model 209, Bell’s prototype rolled out on September 3rd and was in the air just 4 days later.  Only 7 months later the AH-1G was selected over the other competitors – the  Boeing-Vertol ACH-47A, Kaman HH-2C Tomahawk, Piasecki 16H Pathfinder, and Sikorsky S-61.

With its own increasing use of helicopters, the Marine Corps was highly interested in adding a dedicated gunship to its growing fleet of support aircraft.  The Corps, however, determined that they needed increased reliability and firepower.  Out of these requirements Bell developed a twin-engine version designated the AH-1J.  Further upgrades were ordered for future Army models that would include better avionics, more powerful engines, and integration of the TOW weapons system for greater anti-tank capability.  These would lead to upgrades and designations of AH-1F, Q, and S.

Cobra Cap

Cobras of all sorts saw over a million operational hours during Vietnam.  They would also be used in the Invasion of Grenada, Operation Just Hope, and the Invasion of Panama.  By the 90’s, the Army began its transition from the Cobra to the newer AH-64 Apache.  Though being phased out, Cobras still played a vital role in the Gulf War, Somalia, and even some humanitarian operations.  the last Army AH-1 left service in March of 1999.

AH-1 Cobra from Marine Medium Tilitorotor Squadron (VMM) 161 on flight deck of San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Anchorage (LPD 23)

The Marine Corps was also interested in acquiring the Apache, but the request was denied by Congress.  It was felt that the cost of creating a ship-based version would be too costly and that the Marine Corps would be the only customer for such a specialized craft.  In response, a new wave of upgrades was applied to the fleet of Marine SeaCobras; turning them into SuperCobras.  models AH-1T, T+, and W would result in greater reliability, more power, integration of more advance avionics, and the capability to utilize AIM-9 Sidewinder and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles

israeli cobras over masada

By the end of the 1990’s, another denial by Congress of the Marine Corps acquisition of Apaches led to a new development wave.  Today’s AH-1Z Viper is the result.  It features a new four-blade, composite rotor system for better battle damage tolerance, reduced noise, and increased flight characteristics.  Additionally, the Viper has longer stub wings with an increased payload capacity.  And, to fully take advantage of increased force integration and communication, a fully modernized suite of avionics and electronics was included.  With these upgrades, the venerable AH-1 has continued to fill a critical vital role in both Iraq and Afghanistan during the Global War on Terror.

ah-1z viper

Over 2500 AH-1 aircraft of various models have been built since 1965.  They have seen service on battlefields around the world and with the armed forces of the US, Iran, Israel, Japan, Pakistan, Taiwan, and Turkey.  Today you will even find retired Army Cobras working in the US Forest Service and the Florida Division of Forestry for fire monitoring and suppression.

Below you can enjoy a clip of Cobras and Vipers in action.

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

Lost and Found – April 24th Edition

What to remember about April 24th…

  • 1781  British General Benedict Arnold leads attack on Virginia militia near Petersburg; traitor Arnold was once an American General
  • 1800  President John Adams signs legislation to appropriate $5,000 for books to establish Library of Congress
  • 1863  Union Army issues 1st code of battlefield conduct in the modern era; later used as basis for Geneva Convention
  • 1918  British Mark IV and German A7V tanks clash at Villers-Bretonneux, France; 1st armor battle in history
  • 1945  President Truman is briefed on the Manhattan Project and details of projects to develop an atomic bomb
  • 1955  Afro-Asian Conference held in Bandung, Indonesia; 29 non-aligned nations including China and India declare they will take no side in cold war; refuse to take a stand against communism and totalitarianism
  • 1967  Soviet Soyuz 1 crashes when parachute fails to open; Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov is 1st human to die during a space mission
  • 1980  Operation Eagle Claw ends in disaster and deaths of 8 servicemen; hostages remain in hands of Iranian captors
  • 1990  On mission STS-31, Space Shuttle Discovery launches Hubble Space Telescope into orbit; initial flaws later repaired during other shuttle missions
  • 2005  Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany is inaugurated as Pope Benedict XVI; 265th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church

Lost and Found – April 23rd Edition

What to remember about April 23rd…

  • 1564  English poet and dramatist William Shakespeare is born in Stratford-on-Avon (traditional); dies on same date in 1616
  • 1778  John Paul Jones leads 30 volunteers from USS Ranger on raid of British port of Whitehaven, England; fire consumes the town in only American raid on British soil during the revolution
  • 1791  Future 15th President James Buchanan is born in Cove Gap near Mercersburg, Pennsylvania (d. 1868)
  • 1872  In Washington, D.C., Charlotte E. Ray becomes 1st African-American female lawyer admitted to the Bar
  • 1969  Palestinian immigrant Sirhan Sirhan is sentenced to death after conviction in the assassination of politician Robert F. Kennedy
  • 1985  Coca-Cola changes formula and releases New Coke; product changed back less than 3 months later after overwhelming negative response
  • 1998  Convicted assassin of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. dies in prison; James Earl Ray had confessed to the crime and then recanted
  • 2005  “Me at the zoo” is 1st video ever uploaded to YouTube

Lost and Found – April 22nd Edition

What to remember about April 22nd…

Earth Day Celebrated (United States)

  • 1861  Robert E. Lee is named commander of Confederate forces in Virginia
  • 1863  Union cavalry led by Colonel Benjamin Grierson begin daring two-week raid through central Mississippi
  • 1890  At high noon the Great Land Rush begins in Oklahoma with nearly 50,000 people hoping to grab their own parcel of land
  • 1915  German forces launch unprecedented chemical artillery attack near Ypres, France; chlorine gas devastates allied forces
  • 1948  Jewish Haganah forces win Battle of Haifa; 30-hour battle gives them control of port city and vital supply line to the West
  • 1954  Senator Joseph McCarthy begins hearings investigating the United States Army and their supposed “soft” stance on communism
  • 1970  Earth Day celebrated for 1st time in United States
  • 1978  Blues Brothers make their television debut on Saturday Night Live; Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi bring blues back into style
  • 1994  Former 37th President of the United States Richard Nixon dies after suffering a stroke (b. 1913)
  • 2000  Six-year-old Elián González is seized from his relatives’ home in Miami, Florida by federal agents; boy is sent to Cuba to live with his father
  • 2008  U.S. Air Force retires its fleet of F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighters; replaced by F-22 Raptor and upcoming F-35 Lightning II

Lost and Found – April 21st Edition

What to remember about April 21st…

  • 753 B.C.  Twin brothers Romulus and Remus found Rome (traditional)
  • 1836  Sam Houston leads Texas militia in surprise attack on Mexican troops along San Jacinto River capturing General Santa Anna himself
  • 1838  Scottish naturalist and conservationist John Muir is born (d. 1914); co-founder of the Sierra Club
  • 1865  Funeral train bearing Abraham Lincoln departs Washington, D.C.
  • 1910  American author and humorist Samuel “Mark Twain” Clemens dies as predicted at the departure of Halley’s Comet (b. 1835)
  • 1918  Notorious German flying ace Manfred von Richthofen is shot down and killed; 25-year-old “Red Baron” had shot down 80 enemy aircraft
  • 1975  Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu resigns as communist forces approach the capital; he then flees the country
  • 1986  Journalist Geraldo Rivera opens vault belonging to notorious mobster Al Capone; after much build up and self promotion, nothing is found
  • 1989  100,000 Chinese students gather in Tiananmen Square to protest oppressive communist government
  • 1996  Dzhokhar Musayevich Dudaev, 1st President of newly independent Chechen Republic, is assassinated by 2 Russian laser-guided missiles when recon aircraft triangulate his phone call (b. 1944)
  • 2004  Grand jury indicts pop singer Michael Jackson on charges of child molestation

Lost and Found – April 20th Edition

What to remember about April 20th…

  • 1775  Following battles at Lexington and Concord, British troops begin siege of Boston, Massachusetts
  • 1861  Colonel Robert E. Lee resigns from the U.S. army after his home state of Virginia secedes; refuses offer of command of the Union army
  • 1871  Congress authorizes President Ulysses S. Grant to declare martial law and use military force to suppress the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and other terrorist groups with passage of the Third Force Act
  • 1889  Murderous, national-socialist dictator Adolf Hitler is born in Austria (d. 1945)
  • 1898  President William McKinley asks Congress for declaration of war against Spain; U.S. to aid rebels in Cuba and Puerto Rico
  • 1916  Chicago Cubs defeat Cincinnati Reds 7-6 in 1st game played at Weeghman Park; renamed Wrigley Field in 1918
  • 1980  Castro announces that Cubans who wish to emigrate to America are free to find passage; Mariel Boatlift will carry 125,000 refugees
  • 1999  Teenage gunmen Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris kill 13 people in a shooting spree at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado
  • 2008  26-year-old Danica Patrick becomes 1st woman to win an Indy race with victory at Japan 300
  • 2010  British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon oil platform explodes in Gulf of Mexico causing oil spill that lasts 6-months

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 .

Lost and Found – April 19th Edition

What to remember about April 19th…

  • 1721 Patriot Roger Sherman is born (d. 1793); only person to sign all four great state papers of the U.S.: Continental Association, Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and Constitution
  • 1775  American Revolution begins when British troops engage armed minutemen at Lexington, Massachusetts; “shot heard around the world”
  • 1861  Confederate sympathizers in Baltimore hurl rocks and trash at Union troops moving to reinforce Washington, D.C.; 16 killed in clashes
  • 1897  On Patriots’ Day, Boston Marathon is held for 1st time; 15 runners start but only 10 finnish;  best time 2:55:10
  • 1943  2000 SS troops assault Warsaw Ghetto to end Jewish resistance of forced deportations to death camps; by May 56,000 Jews dead
  • 1971  Vietnam Veterans Against the War begin 5 days of demonstrations in Washington, D.C.
  • 1971  Soviet Union launches Salyut 1, worlds 1st space station
  • 1989  Jogger is beaten and raped in New York’s Central Park; 5 black youths falsely charged and imprisoned; convicted murderer confesses in 2002
  • 1993  51-day standoff with Branch Davidian cult near Waco, Texas ends in fire and 80 deaths when federal agents attack with tear gas
  • 1995  Massive truck bomb set off outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma by Timothy McVeigh; 168 killed
  • 2011  Cuban dictator Fidel Castro resigns as head of Communist Party central committee; his brother Raul selected as successor
  • UPDATE:  2013  Manhunt for second Boston Marathon Bombing suspect is cornered hiding in a boat. When captured, Miranda withheld for “public safety”.

Lost and Found – April 18th Edition

What to remember about April 18th…

  • 1521  Martin Luther defies Holy Roman Emperor Charles V by refusing to recant his writings during his trial for heresy
  • 1775  British troops march out of Boston to confiscate the American arsenal at Concord and to capture Patriot leaders at Lexington; Patriots Paul Revere and William Dawes set out on horseback from the city to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock
  • 1864  Confederate troops overwhelm Union supply train guarded by all black 1st Kansas Infantry; no black soldier left alive by rebel troops
  • 1906  At 5:13 a.m., an 8.0 earthquake strikes San Francisco, California; 3000 will die in from subsequent fires and 30,000 buildings lost
  • 1912  705 survivors of lost RMS Titanic arrive back in New York
  • 1923  Yankee Stadium opens in New York City; the “house that Ruth built” will be home to the team until 2008
  • 1942  Lieutenant Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle leads raid 1st ever raid of Japanese mainland; 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers launched secretly from aircraft carrier USS Hornet; all bombers lost afterwards and 3 crew killed
  • 1945  Pulitzer Prize winning American war correspondent Ernie Pyle is killed by Japanese machine gun fire on Le Shima, Okinawa in the Pacific (b. 1900)
  • 1955  While preparing speech to celebrate 7th anniversary of State of Israel, German-American physicist Albert Einstein dies (b. 1879)
  • 1961  President Kennedy denies U.S. involvement in failed Bay of Pigs invasion of communist Cuba
  • 1983  Muslim homicide bomber kills 63 in attack on U.S. embassy in Beirut, Lebanon; pro-Iranian Islamic Jihad branch of Hezbollah responsible
  • 1988  In response to Iranian mining of Persian Gulf and damage to USS Roberts, U.S. Navy begins Operation Praying Mantis as retaliation
  • 2007  Supreme Court of the United States upholds Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 in Gonzales v. Carhart