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 .
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.
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.
Pretty self-explanatory. Perhaps someone should print these onto a card that will fit in your wallet.
(Found on Facebook. Thanks for sharing WB)
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.