Tag Archives: Aviation

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!

Advertisements

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

Lost and Found – January 11th Edition

What to remember about January 11th…

  • 630  Muhammad leads army of 10,000 to conquer city of Mecca
  • 1755  Founding Father, soldier, and 1st United States Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton is born (d. 1804)
  • 1861  Alabama secedes from the Union ahead of the Civil War
  • 1863  Union forces capture crucial fortifications at confluence of Mississippi and Arkansas Rivers; secures supply lines for coming offensive at Vicksburg
  • 1908  President Theodore Roosevelt bypasses Congress’ power to designate national parks by declaring Grand Canyon a national monument
  • 1935  American aviator Emilia Earhart becomes 1st to fly solo from Hawaii to North America; 18 hour flight wins her $10,000
  • 1949  Cornerstone is laid for the 1st major mosque in the United States; 160-foot minaret rises above Connecticut Avenue in Washington, D.C.
  • 1973  Baseball’s American League adopts the designated hitter rule
  • 1989  President Reagan delivers his farewell address as his second term comes to a close; declares America “respected again in the world”
  • 2003  Illinois Governor George Ryan commutes sentences of 167 death row inmates as a result of investigation into illegal police interrogations

alexander hamilton on guns

Lost and Found – January 7th Edition

What to remember about January 7th…

  • 1718  Revolutionary War general and member of Rogers’ Rangers Israel Putnam is born in Salem village, Massachusetts (d. 1790)
  • 1785  American John Jeffries and Frenchman Jean-Pierre Blanchard are 1st to cross the English Channel by air; do it in a balloon
  • 1789  1st presidential election under the newly ratified U.S. Constitution is held; George Washington wins as expected
  • 1800  Future 13th President Millard Fillmore is born in New York (d. 1874)
  • 1953  President Truman announces in State of the Union address that the U.S. has successfully developed a hydrogen bomb
  • 1980  President Carter signs bill authorizing $1.5 billion in bail out loans for Chrysler Corporation
  • 1999  President Clinton’s impeachment trial begins in the Senate for lying under oath and obstructing justice
  • 2010  Muslim gunmen open fire on Christians leaving midnight Christmas mass in Egypt; 9 killed and 11 wounded
  • 2015  Muslim terrorists storm offices of French Satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris killing 12 and wounding 11 for the “blasphemy” of making fun of Islam and Muhammad; rampage continues for 2-more days until another 5 killed an 11 wounded in associated attacks

rogers rangers standing orders

Spirit of WWII Would Serve Us Well Today

A friend on Facebook (thanks J.R.) shares a great quote from a book by WWII B-24 bomber pilot Ralph Welsh.  We should start each day with this in our heads and hearts.

“I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon if I can. I seek opportunity, not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me. I want to take the calculated risk, to dream and to build, fail and succeed. I refuse to barter incentive for a dole. I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence, the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia. I will not trade freedom for beneficence, nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any master nor bend to any threat. It is my heritage to stand erect, proud and unafraid. To think and act for myself, enjoy the benefits of my creations, and to face the world boldly and say, ” This I have done..””

 

The book is WOW!: An anthology with 149 World War II stories of bombing missions, personalities, diverse life experiences by Ralph Welsh.  Check it out at Amazon.com.

WOW! by Ralph Welsh

 

Warbirds – B-24 Liberator Heavy Bomber

December 29th marks the anniversary of the first-flight of the Consolidated B-24 Liberator.  Designed by Consolidated under the name Model 32, in 1939 the proposal was offered to the War Department as the highest flying, fastest, and most advanced heavy bomber that American forces would have at their disposal.  Though having a shorter hull and less wing area, the innovative design features of the B-24 resulted in a lighter aircraft with substantially greater carrying capacity.  Only nine months after the awarding of the contract, the first prototype took flight.

b-24 liberator line drawing

Often forgotten alongside the more famous B-17 Flying Fortress, the Liberator is still the most produced American military aircraft of all time.  More than 18,400 units were delivered by war’s end; over half coming produced at the Ford Motor Company Willow Run plant at Belleville, Michigan.  At peak, this purpose-built production plant rolled out B-24s at a rate of one per hour.  Over 1000 crewmen slept in cots at the facility just to accommodate testing and delivery of the bombers.

b-24 liberator willow run assembly line

b-24 liberator willow run assembly line final assembly

The B-24 entered service in 1941 with the British as transports and anti-submarine coastal patrols.  The first American B-24 to see action was the lone Liberator stationed at Pearl Harbor and it was destroyed on the ground during the Japanese attack December 7th, 1941.  Despite this less than heroic debut, the legacy of this aircraft is one of the most storied of WWII.  During the war, crews of the Liberators would earn every honor available to our aviators; including the awarding of several Medals of Honor.

http://youtu.be/YWOk2–CY6E

Notable crewmen on B-24s included:

  • George McGovern – pilot (Senator and Presidential candidate)
  • Jim Wright – bombardier (Congressman and Speaker of the House)
  • Stewart Udall – waist gunner (Congressman, Secretary of the Interior, author, and conservationist)
  • Jimmy Stewart – pilot, squadron commander (actor)
  • Robert Altman – co-pilot (film director)
  • Don Herbert – pilot (actor, host of TV show Ask Mr. Wizard)
  • Louis Zamperini – bombardier (Olympic runner and POW)

B-24 Liberator with Jimmy Stewart as pilot

By the end of its service life, dozens of B-24 variants flew with a whole host of nations, including:

Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Czechoslovakia, Germany (as Beuteflugzeug, captured aircraft, India, Italy, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Romania (At least three B-24Ds and one B-24J were rebuild from wrecks around Ploiesti in 1943–44.), Poland, Portugal, Soviet Union, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States

In its time, the B-24 was one of the most advanced and effective heavy bombers in the world.  Though crews (and history) seem to prefer the B-17, the lessons learned during the creation, evolution, and service of the B-24 would lead to the development of the B-32 and B-36.  These Warbirds would carry the Liberator’s legacy forward through Korea, to Vietnam, and into the height of the Cold War.  Today, only 3 of these historic bombers remain airworthy.

B-24 Liberators over Ploiesti Oil Fields 1943 low level run

B-24 Liberators over Ploiesti Oil Fields 1943