Tag Archives: Cold War

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 .

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Warbirds – AV-8A Harrier

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.

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 – 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!

Warbirds – B-1B Lancer

Today’s installment of Warbirds brings us to the supersonic, swingwing marvel the B-1B Lancer.  Unofficially known as the “Bone” (from B-one), the development and deployment of this strategic bomber increased pressure on the Soviets and helped shorten the Cold War.  The B-1’s first flight took place on December 23, 1974.

b-1b lancer wireframe

Envisioned in the 60’s as a Mach 2 replacement for the B-52, it was hoped that the Lancer would have the range and payload capacity to meet or exceed her predecessor.  Actual development of the aircraft didn’t start until the 1970’s and the design changed many times as political views of what her mission would be were revised.  President Carter actually cancelled the B-1A program after 4 aircraft were built in another misguided attempt to placate the Soviet Union.  But, the Reagan administration resurrected the project in 1981 to counter mounting worldwide Soviet adventurism.  Subsequently, Rockwell received a contract in 1982 and B-1B became operational with the U.S. Air Force October 1st, 1986.

b-1b munitions layout

It was known early on that the Lancer would not be able to take the place of the Venerable B-52.  What was envisioned was a strategic bomber that had the ability to elude Soviet radar and strike without warning deep within enemy territory.  Many viewed this capability as destabilizing in a Nuclear world.  However, the necessity of countering the perceived threat of the B-1B forced the Soviets into ever more unsustainable research, development, and defense spending.   Without ever delivering a nuclear weapon, the Lancer helped shorten the war.

020419-F-6655M-021

In the 90’s, further development proceeded on the “Advanced Technology Bomber” (which became the B-2 Spirit), leading to a role change for the B-1B.  Part of the fleet was converted over to a fledgling conventional munitions capability.  However, engine issues prevented the Lancer’s participation in the Gulf War.  It would be 1998 before B-1Bs would take part in Operation Desert Fox and undertake conventional combat operations.  That successful mission against Saddam Hussein’s regime would presage deployments in Kosovo, the invasion of Iraq, Operation Enduring Freedom, and they continue to perform “armed overwatch” in support of ground forces in Afghanistan today.

B-1B Lancer bombing run

Of the original 100 built, only 93 remain in the inventory and a good portion of those are in reserve storage.  Without the refits and upgrades that the Obama administration has placed on hold, the aging B-1Bs are looking ahead to retirement in the 2030s.  Debate continues over the true effectiveness of the Lancer as further deployment of the B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber continues.

Further information on “Bone” can be found on the U.S. Air Force website on the B-1B Lancer Fact Sheet or in the Air Force documentary below.

 

b-1b bomber takes off over vegas at night

Lost and Found – December 20th Edition

What to remember about December 20th…

  • 1783  Virginia cedes western territory reaching as far as Mississippi River
  • 1803  French peacefully surrender New Orleans to America as part of Louisiana Purchase
  • 1946  Classic Christmas film It’s a Wonderful Life is released in New York; Frank Capra movie stars James Stewart and Donna Reed
  • 1957  Elvis Presley receives his draft notice during the Korean War; he served in West Germany in a tank battalion
  • 1963 For the 1st time in 2 years East Germany allows westerners to enter on one-day passes through the Berlin Wall
  • 1989  After the murder of a U.S. Marine by Panamanian police December 16th, American forces invade in Operation Just Cause
  • 2005  US District Court rules against mandating teaching of “intelligent design” in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.

Lost and Found – November 9th Edition

What to remember about November 9th…

    • 1620  Pilgrims aboard Mayflower sight land at Cape Cod, Massachusetts far from their intended destination
    • 1780  British ambush of General Sumpter’s forces fails leading to capture of hated British commander Major James Wemyss
    • 1872  Fire destroys hundreds of buildings in Boston, Massachusetts
    • 1901  President Teddy Roosevelt establishes Subic Naval Base on Phillipine Islands after victory in Spanish-American War
    • 1938  Kristalnacht terror campaign by Nazis in Germany presages the Holocaust; businesses vandalized and Jews beaten
    • 1967  NASA launches 1st Saturn V rocket; carries unmanned Apollo 4 test module
    • 1989  East Germany opens Berlin wall allowing free travel from East to West
    • 1990  IRS seizes assets of country music star Willie Nelson
    • 2005  Islamic al Qaeda suicide bombers attack 3 hotels in Aman, Jordan killing 60 and wounding ove 100

Lost and Found – October 25th Edition

What to remember about October 25th…

  • 1415  On St. Crispin’s Day, small force led by Henry V defeats numerically superior French army at Battle of Agincourt in Hundred Years’ War; English longbows prove highly effective
  • 1764  Future President John Adams and Abigail Smith marry in Massachusetts
  • 1774  Continental Congress petitions king of England to address the Intolerable Acts
  • 1854  Confusion leads to Charge of the Light Brigade during Crimean War; inspires Tennyson’s famous poem
  • 1861  Keel is lain for the 1st Union ironclad USS Monitor
  • 1962  U.S. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson presents photographic evidence to U.N. of Soviet missile bases in Cuba
  • 1971  United Nations votes to admit Peoples Republic of China and expel Republic of China (Taiwan)
  • 1983  President Reagan orders Marines to invade island of Grenada to protect American students and tourists; now celebrated as Thanksgiving Day
  • 1994  Susan Smith reports her car was hijacked with her 2 children in the back; this lie is to cover her murder of the kids

Lost and Found – October 5th Edition

What to remember about October 5th…

    • 1829  President Chester A. Arthur is born in North Fairfield, Vermont
    • 1864  Confederate forces under General hood fail to sever Union supply lines at Battle of Allatoona
    • 1902  American restaurant entrepreneur Ray Kroc is born; bought out McDonald brothers and took the company global
    • 1945  After 6-months on strike, workers outside Warner Brother’s Studios begin a week of violent clashes with police and non-union employees
    • 1969  Cuban MiG-17 fighter eludes radar to land undetected at Homestead AFB in Florida; pilot defects
    • 1974  American David Kunst completes the 1st around-the-world journey on foot; takes 4 years and 21 pairs of shoes
    • 1982  Johnson & Johnson initiate nationwide recall of Tylenol because of cyanide deaths due to product tampering
    • 1986  American Eugene Hasenfus is captured by Sandinistas after his plane is shot down delivering supplies to Contra rebels; his capture exposes the Iran-Contra affair
    • 2001  Robert Stevens becomes 1st fatality in the 2001 anthrax attacks
    • 2011  American businessman, technological innovator, and co-founder of Apple, Inc. Steven Paul “Steve” Jobs dies of cancer

Lost and Found – October 4th Edition

What to remember about October 4th…

  • 1535  Coverdale Bible is published; the 1st complete and modern English-language translation of the Bible
  • 1777  Though Continental forces lost, Battle of Germantown demonstrates American strategic abilities to potential allies
  • 1822  President Rutherford B. Hayes is born in Delaware, Ohio (d. 1893)
  • 1876  Classes begin at Texas A&M University; 1st public institution of higher education in Texas
  • 1918  Germany sends telegraph a message to President Wilson requesting an armistice with the Allied powers
  • 1927  Sculpting begins on the face of Mount Rushmore
  • 1957  Soviet Union surprises the world by launching the world’s 1st artificial satellite – Sputnik; the “Space Race” begins
  • 1970  Rock-and-roll icon Janis Joplin dies of heroin overdose
  • 1997  Hundreds of thousands of Christian men gather as Promise Keepers hold their Stand in the Gap assembly in Washington, D.C.
  • 2003  Palestinian Islamic Jihad suicide bombing of Maxim restaurant in Haifa, Israel kills 21 and injures 51 more
  • 2004  SpaceShipOne wins the $10 million Ansari X Prise by reaching 100km in altitude twice in a two-week period