Tag Archives: Gulf 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 .

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 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 12th Edition

What to remember about January 12th…

  • 1876  American author and journalist Jack London is born (d. 1916)
  • 1932  Democrat Ophelia “Hattie” Wyatt Caraway of Arkansas becomes the first woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate
  • 1942  President Franklin D. Roosevelt re-establishes National War Labor Board to regulate business-labor relations
  • 1943  Soviet forces penetrate the year-and-a-half long German siege of Leningrad
  • 1951  American talk show personality and political commentator Rush Hudson Limbaugh III is born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri
  • 1986  Bill Nelson (D-FL) is second sitting Congressman (now Senator) legislator to take flight aboard Space Shuttle as a mission specialist
  • 1991  U.S. House of Representatives and Senate both approve a resolution authorizing use of force against Iraq to liberate Kuwait
  • 2010  7.0 magnitude earthquake strikes the island of Haiti; estimates of 200,000 dead and over 800,000 homeless

Lost and Found – January 9th Edition

What to remember about January 9th…

  • 1776 Patriot Thomas Paine 1st publishes his pamphlet on independence from Britain “Common Sense”
  • 1788  Connecticut becomes 5th state admitted to the Union
  • 1861  Confederate forces in Charleston fire on the Union supply ship Star of the West when it tries to reach Fort Sumter
  • 1913  Future 37th president of the United States Richard Milhous Nixon is born on this day in Yorba Linda, California
  • 1916  Ottoman Empire defeats Allied forces at Battle of Gallipoli leading to evacuation by sea
  • 1945  U.S. forces led by General MacArthur land at Luzon to continue recapture of the Philippine Islands
  • 1964  One of the Hillside Stranglers, Angelo Buono, is sentenced to life in prison; his accomplice Kenneth Bianchi testifies
  • 1991  Talks between representatives of the U.S. and Iraq fail to resolve growing crisis over the invasion of Kuwait
  • 2007  Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveils the first iPhone

MacArthur returns to the Phillipines

Lost and Found – November 29th Edition

What to remember about November 29th…

    • 1775  Continental Congress establishes Committee of Secret Correspondence to elicit aid from European nations
    • 1864  Aspiring Colorado politician John Chivington leads militia band in massacre of Native Americans at Sand Creek
    • 1929  American explorer Admiral Richard Byrd and 3 companions make 1st flight over the South Pole
    • 1947  United Nations approves the partition of Palestine and creation of Israel, an independent Jewish State
    • 1963  President Johnson appoints Warren Commission to investigate the assassination of President Kennedy
    • 1972  Atari Corporation announces the release of Pong; 1st commercially successful video game
    • 1981  Actress Natalie Wood drowns in controversial boating accident off Catalina Island, California (b. 1938)
    • 1990  United Nations passes resolution requiring Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait by January 15, 1991 or face “all means necessary” for their removal by allied nations
    • 2004  Godzilla receives star on Hollywood Walk of Fame

Lost and Found – November 22nd Edition

What to remember about November 22nd…

    • 1718  Infamous English pirate Edward “Blackbeard” Teach is killed by battle with British Navy off North Carolina coast
    • 1783  President of Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation John Hanson dies (b. 1721)
    • 1864  Confederate forces under General Hood invade Tennessee to try to draw Sherman away from his March to the Sea
    • 1942  Soviet counter-offensive at Stalingrad encircles and traps a quarter million German troops
    • 1954  Humane Society of the United States is founded
    • 1963  President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas (b. 1917), Texas by communist Lee Harvey Oswald
    • 1977  Supersonic transcontinental passenger service begins with British Airways Concorde
    • 1988  B-2 “stealth” bomber is revealed to the public
    • 1990  President and Mrs. George H.W. Bush have Thanksgiving dinner with U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia
    • 1994  Murder suspect Bennie Lee Lawson opens fire in Washington, D.C. police station; 3 police and the gunman die
    • 1998  60 Minutes airs videotape of Dr. Jack Kevorkian euthanizing patient Thomas Youk; he will serve 8 years in prison for murder

Lost and Found – November 5th Edition

What to remember about November 5th…

    • 1605  Guy Fawkes is arrested for planting bomb under British Parliament in hopes of replacing government  with  Catholic leadership
    • 1775  George Washington condemns Guy Fawkes Night
    • 1872  Susan B. Anthony defies the law and votes for the 1st time; she is later fined $100
    • 1938  “Adagio for Strings” by American composer Samuel Barber makes world premier on radio from New York City
    • 1977  George W. Bush marries Laura Welch in Midland, Texas
    • 1994  Former President Ronald Reagan announces that he has Alzheimer’s disease
    • 2006  Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is sentenced to death in Baghdad for crimes against humanity
    • 2009  13 killed and 32 wounded when Muslim U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan goes on shooting spree while shouting “Alahu Akbar”
    • UPDATE:  2011  American radio and television personality Andrew Aitken “Andy” Rooney dies (b. 1919)

Lost and Found – October 16th Edition

What to remember about October 16th…

    • 1773  Public sentiment against the Tea Act is voiced when Philadelphia Resolutions are published; leads to tea party
    • 1781  Cornwallis attempts to evacuate his troops from Yorktown but bad weather ends his hope of escape
    • 1859  Abolitionist John Brown leads a raid against a federal armory in an attempt to spark a slave revolt
    • 1916  Eugenicist and Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger opens the 1st family planning clinic in America
    • 1946  10 convicted Nazi war criminals are hanged after the main trials conclude at Nuremberg
    • 1964  China detonates an atomic bomb; becomes the worlds 5th nuclear power
    • 1995  Million Man March is held in Washington, D.C.
    • 2004  Department of Veterans Affairs committee concludes “a substantial proportion of Gulf War veterans are ill with multi-symptom conditions”

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.