The North American F-86 Sabre Jet was America’s first swept wing fighter and used in combat during the Korean War (1949-1953). The F-86-E was pitted against the high performing USSR MIG 15.
Initially it was said that at outbreak of the war, the pilots were Soviets due to the inexperience of the North Korean and Chinese pilots. Before long however, the MiGs were piloted with Chinese and North Koreans.
Much of the dog fighting took place in what was called “MiG Alley” over the Yalu River near the North Korean and Chinese border.
Early estimates (right after the war) showed the Sabre held a 10:1 kill ratio. In later years the ratio was said to be closer to 2:1.
However the numbers seem to favor the first ratio as 792 MiGs were counted as shot down and U.S. losses of Sabres were 78.
There were 41 American pilots that were honored as “ACE” status (5 shoot downs).
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The Grumman F-4 Wildcat was an carrier based fighter first used by the Royal Navy (called the Martlet) and the United States Navy in 1940.
The Wildcat was the only effective fighter in the Pacific Theater used by USN and USMC (United Marine Corp) in 1941 and 1942. It replaced the Brewster Buffalo which was considered obsolete.
Although the F-4F was outperformed by the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, in speed (318 F-4F vs 331 kts – Zero) and maneuverability , the Wildcat pilots developed superior tactics such as the “Thatch Weave”.
The F-4F had a kill ratio of 5.9 to 1 in the early stage of the war (1941-42) and an overall kill ratio of 6.9 to 1 for the remainder of the war.
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The Martin 404 was designed and built by the Glen L. Martin Aircraft company in the early fifties. The first flight was 21 October 1951, the first of 103 aircraft produced by Martin Aircraft.
It was a pressurized, 2 engined, short range aircraft that was purchased (not always new) by 13 U.S. Carriers and several foreign airlines.
The United States Coast Guard (USCG) and United States Navy (USN) also purchased the Martin 404 and was called in the USCG/USN as the VC-3A.
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The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom is a two seat, twin engine supersonic interceptor/fighter/bomber that was adapted by USN, USMC and USAF. The F-4 is a large fighter type aircraft with maximum speed of Mach 2.2 that can carry 18,000 lbs of bombs (World War II/Korea B-29, the biggest of it’s day, could carry 20,000 lbs.)
The aircraft crew had a single pilot who sat in the front seat and the RIO (Radio Intercept Officer) sat in the rear seat. There were 5,195 F-4 Phantoms of all models built at a cost of $2.4 million (1965 $$).
The first flight of an F-4 was 27 May 1958. The last active U.S. military F-4 was retired in 1996.
The F-4, in 1959 set 13 different performance records including an absolute speed record and an absolute altitude record.
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The Lockheed Constellation nicknamed the “Connie” first came off the assembly line in 1943 and the final Connie was completed in 1958. The Constellation was considered one of the best propeller driven aircraft of it’s time. There were 856 total aircraft with several variants both military and civilian built. The C-69 was the military version ordered by Army (USAAF) in 1942.
The Lockheed Connie was featured in many old movies of the 40’s and 50’s. The younger generation will never believe that you could walk out to the boarding ramp of your flight without having to go through any kind of security or screening. The only reason a chain link fence was present was for safety. Even well-wishers seeing you off could go right out with you to the boarding ramp.
Airline flying was a rich experience as food and beverage was superb, seating space was generous. However flying from New York to Los Angeles took 8-10 hours compared today’s 5 hours or less. But it was a much more enjoyable experience in the 1950s and early 1960s then it is today.
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KC-135 Refueling B-52 Stratofortress
The Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker is an aerial refueling tanker used by USAF. It was the first jet powered aerial refueling tanker, replacing the propeller driven KC-97.
The KC-97 was a derivative of the B-29 Superfortress also built and designed by Boeing. The KC-135 went into service in 1957 and has been in service now 59 years and is estimated to be used until 2040
The KC-135 was born around the 1952-1953 time period. The military wanted an jet-powered tanker and Boeing had built a Boeing 367-80 prototype that eventually became the forerunner for the B-707 series.
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The Lockheed C-141 Starlifter joined MATS (Military Air Transport Service) in April 1965 and was the replacement for the slower propeller driven C-124 also known as “Old Shaky”. Through the years, the organization that the C-141 was in, changed from MATS to MAC (Military Airlift Command) and finally AMC (Air Mobility Command). The names of the organization may have changed, but the mission remained the same that is provide the U.S. military with strategic airlift.
There were 285 C-141s built from 1965 until 2006 when all of the Starlifters had been retired. The C-17 Globemaster replaced the aging C-141s in the early 2000s.
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B-52 STRATOFORTRESS BOMBER
The B-52 is nicknamed “Stratofortress” is a long ranged, jet powered (8/Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-3/103 turbofans) subsonic bomber. It was developed The B-52 design started in 1946 through a contract from the USAAF to the Boeing Company.
The maiden flight was in April 1952. Unlike the ill-fated Titanic, the B-52 was a success on it’s first flight. The B-52 went into service with the USAF in February 1955 and is still in service today
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The Boeing B-47 Stratojet was USAF’s first all jet bomber built in Dec 1947 to fill the gap between the B-29 and B-36 (which were propeller driven aircraft) until the brand new B-52 Stratofortress came along in 1955.
The B-47’s primary mission was to drop nuclear bombs on the USSR. While the B-47 was on alert until the early 1960’s, it never was used in combat. It had a long life of service with USAF starting in 1951 and finally as a test bed until 1977.
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The Convair B-36 Peacemaker first flew in August 1946. Convair produced 384 of the aircraft. The B-36 was intended to be a stopgap between the B-29 Superfortress and until the all jet B-47 came into service in 1951 and in 1955 the Boeing B-52.
The design plans began as early as 1941, prior to the Pearl Harbor attack in Hawaii. There was serious thought that England might fall to the Nazi “Blitz” and the U.S. military felt that it would be imperative to have a long range bomber to hit Germany from the United States should Britain fall.
Due to so many higher priorities during the war amongst the services, that the B-36 was not ordered until 23 July 1943. Then 100 aircraft were purchased at $4.1 million. Continue reading “Convair B-36 Peacemaker”