Tag Archives: Aviation

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!

Lost and Found – January 19th Edition

What to remember about January 19th…

  • 1807  Confederate commanding general Robert E. Lee born in Virginia (d. 1870); formerly superintendent of  U.S. Military Academy
  • 1809  American poet and author Edgar Allen Poe is born in Boston, Massachusetts (d. 1849)
  • 1861  Georgia joins other Southern states in seceding from the Union
  • 1915  German zeppelins bomb Britain; 1st major bombing of civilian targets kill 20 people
  • 1920  Despite President Wilson’s efforts, United States Senate votes against America joining the League of Nations
  • 1978  Last Volkswagen Beetle made in Germany rolls off production line; some minor production continues at South American facilities until 2003
  • 1981  Agreement is signed securing release of 52 hostages taken from American Embassy in Teheran, Iran
  • 1983  Klaus Barbie, “butcher of Lyon”and Former Nazi Gestapo chief, is arrested in Bolivia for crimes against humanity
  • 2006  NASA launches New Horizons probe; 1st mission destined to examine Pluto

herbie the love bug volkwagen beetle

Lost and Found – January 18th Edition

What to remember about January 18th…

  • 1776  Council of Safety in Savannah, Georgia issues arrest warrant for royal governor James Wright; Patriots place him under house arrest
  • 1778  English explorer Captain James Cook is 1st European to discover Hawaiian Islands; landfall is in 2 days
  • 1803  President Jefferson sends secret message to Congress requesting $2500 to fund exploratory mission of Lewis and Clark
  • 1862  Former 10th President and Confederate congressman-elect from Virginia John Tyler dies (b. 1790)
  • 1911  Pilot Eugee B. Ely is 1st to land an aircraft on a ship when he flew onto the deck of USS Pennsylvania in San Francisco Harbor
  • 1944  Soviet forces liberate Leningrad (modern Day St. Petersburg) from nearly three-year Nazi siege
  • 1964  Plans are unveiled for the World Trade Center to be built in New York City
  • 1990  Mayor of Washington, D.C. Marion Barry arrested for drug possession in FBI sting; after completing prison term, Barry returns to politics
  • 1993  Martin Luther King holiday is celebrated in all 50 states for the 1st time

world trade center concept plan drawing

Lost and Found – January 16th Edition

What to remember about January 16th…

  • 1861  Crittenden Compromise amendments to the Constitution are defeated in the U.S. Senate ending last effort to prevent the Civil War
  • 1919  Ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution is certified; era of Prohibition begins in the United States
  • 1945  Adolf Hitler moves into bunker for 105 days; Hitler will marry Eva Braun and commit suicide while underground
  • 1970  American inventor and designer Buckminster Fuller is awarded Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects for developing the geodesic dome
  • 1979  Violent demonstrations by Islamic radicals and a possible military mutiny force Shah of Iran flees the country; eventually arrives in America
  • 1991  After U.N. deadline passes, U.S. and coalition forces launch 1st air attacks of the Persian Gulf War; ground offensive will begin February 24th
  • 2003  Space Shuttle Columbia launches on what will be her last voyage; craft will disintegrate on re-entry February 1st
  • UPDATE:2017  Eugene Cernan, US Navy pilot and NASA Astronaut, dies in Houston, TX (b. 1934); he was the last man to have walked on the Moon

Lost and Found – January 15th Edition

What to remember about January 15th…

  • 1777  New Connecticut (Vermont) declares independence from Britain and the colony of New York
  • 1815  USS President is captured by British squadron during War of 1812
  • 1919  Storage tank holding 2.5 million gallons of boiling molasses ruptures in Boston killing 21 and injuring scores with 8-foot high molten wave
  • 1929  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is born in Atlanta, Georgia (d. 1968)
  • 1943  Dedication of the United States Department of Defense headquarters in Arlington, Virginia; building popularly called “the Pentagon”
  • 1947  “Black Dahlia” investigation  begins with discovery of body of Elizabeth Short in Los Angeles, California; mystery remains unsolved today
  • 1951  Ilse Koch known as “Witch of Buchenwald”, wife of commandant of Buchenwald concentration camp is sentenced to life in prison
  • 1973  President Nixon suspends offensive military action in Vietnam to give peace process a better chance of success
  • 2009  Commercial airline pilot Captain “Sully” Sullenberger performs his Miracle on the Hudson; lands powerless Airbus 320 safely on the water; walks the flooding aircraft twice to ensure all 150 passengers escape safely

Lost and Found – January 14th Edition

What to remember about January 14th…

  • 1639  Fundamental Orders are adopted in Connecticut; 1st written constitution in the colonies
  • 1741  American General turned traitor Benedict Arnold is born in Norwich, Connecticut (d. 1801)
  • 1784  War for Independence ends officially as Continental Congress ratifies second Treaty of Paris; Britain acknowledges colonies now as United States; known in U.S. as Ratification Day
  • 1875  Nobel Prize-winning physician, theologian, and musician Dr. Albert Schweitzer is born (d. 1965)
  • 1942  President Franklin D. Roosevelt issues Presidential Proclamation No. 2537, persons from Axis nations of Italy, Germany and Japan required to register with Department of Justice; opened door to full-scale internment
  • 1950  1st flight of the Soviet Union’s MiG-17 jet fighter
  • 1963  George Wallace is inaugurated as Democrat governor of Alabama; ran on platform of  “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!”
  • 1969  Accidental explosion aboard the USS Enterprise kills 27 and injures over 300; serious safety flaws revealed aboard the 1st nuclear aircraft carrier
  • 2005  World Health Organization reports that worldwide polio cases have doubled since Islamic boycott on vaccines began; Muslims claim an American plot
  • 2008  Bobby Jindal is sworn in as the 56th Governor of Louisiana; 1st Indian-American governor elected in the U.S.

USS Enterprise fire 14 January 1969