Tag Archives: Iraq

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 – 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 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 – December 17th Edition

What to remember about December 17th…

  • 1777  France formally recognizes the United States as an independent nation; victory at Saratoga convinces them we have a chance
  • 1862  Enraged by black market profiteering and speculation, General U.S. Grant orders all Jews to leave Military district under his authority; later he admits decision rash and criticism justified
  • 1903  Orville and Wilbur Wright make the 1st powered flight of a heavier-than-air craft in history near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
  • 1935  Douglas DC-3 (military C-47) makes its 1st flight; many of these aviation workhorses are still in service today
  • 1941  Rear Admiral Husband E. Kimmel is relieved of command of U.S. Pacific Fleet following Pearl Harbor attack; no more at fault than many others,FDR makes him a scapegoat
  • 1944  Public Proclamation 21 declares that internment of Japanese Americans is ending and that evacuees can return to their homes
  • 1944  1st of Malmedy massacres is committed by SS Kampfgruppe Peiper; hundreds of U.S. POWs and Belgians executed
  • 1969  USAF closes Project Blue Book; study of purported UFO sightings concludes there is no evidence of extraterrestrial activity
  • 1975  Charles Manson devotee Lynette Alice “Squeaky” Fromme is sentenced to life for attempted assassination of President Ford
  • 1997  Firearms Act of 1997 goes into effect in Great Britain; extends gun ban to include all but antique and show weapons; through 2008 firearms crimes and deaths have doubled in the UK
  • 2003  Privately owned and developed SpaceShipOne makes 1st supersonic flight; piloted by Brian Binnie
  • 2011  U.S. announces that the last troops have left Iraq; War is over?

Lost and Found – December 16th Edition

What to remember about December 16th…

  • 1773  Outraged at British tax policy, Samuel Adams and 60 members of the Sons of Liberty dump tea cargoes of 3 ships into harbor; 1st Boston Tea Party
  • 1811  Estimated 8.6 magnitude earthquake rocks New Madrid fault in Missouri; landscape dramatically altered and Mississippi River flows backwards in places
  • 1944  Massive German counter-attack surprises Allied troops in Belgium; Battle of the Bulge begins
  • 1950  President Truman declares state of emergency following Chinese entry into Korean War with hundreds of thousands of troops
  • 1989  1st of 4 pipe bombs sent by Walter LeRoy Moody arrives; Federal Judge Robert Vance killed instantly
  • 1998  President Clinton orders airstrikes against Iraq for failing to cooperate with UN weapons inspectors; political observers see attacks as an attempt to distract public from ongoing impeachment proceedings; see movie Wag the Dog

Lost and Found – October 19th Edition

What to remember about October 19th…

    • 1781  Formal British surrender at Yorktown; Cornwallis sends his second-in-command to surrender his sword
    • 1789  John Jay is sworn in as the 1st Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
    • 1864  Union forces avert disaster after surprise Confederate attack at Battle of Cedar Creek in Virginia
    • 1935  Fascist Italy invades Ethiopia; League of Nations votes for ineffective sanctions while hoping for peace
    • 1950  Chinese Peoples Liberation Army invades Tibet to capture city of Chamdo and annex the nation
    • 1965  Thousands of North Vietnamese troops attack Camp Plei Me; a dozen Green Berets and 400 Montagnards repel attacks for almost a week
    • 1982  Automaker John DeLorean is arrested in $24 million cocaine deal
    • 1987  Black Monday; stock market loses 22% in one day
    • 2005  Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein goes on trial for crimes against humanity

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.

Lost and Found – July 22nd Edition

What to remember about July 22nd…

  • 1864  Union General James McPherson killed by Confederate raiders during the Battle of Atlanta
  • 1916  Anti-war protestors bomb parade in San Francisco
  • 1933  American aviator Wiley Post completes first solo flight around the world
  • 1934  John Dillinger shot and killed leaving the Biograph Theater in Chicago by FBI agents
  • 1937  Senate rejects Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s plan to add six more justices to the Supreme Court
  • 1991  Cannibal and serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer arrested
  • 2003  Sons of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, Qusay and Uday, are killed in firefight with U.S. forces
  • 2011  Anders Behring Breivik sets off bomb and goes on shooting spree in Norway killing 76

(Click the photo to get an enlarged view)