Top Bomber of All Time – Boeing B-52 Stratofortress

  The top bomber of all time was the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress which was first introduced in February of 1955.  The B-52 is a long-range, strategic bomber with eight jet-powered engines and is capable of carrying up to 70,000 lbs. of weapons.   Sky power looms at the center of the Armed Forces History Museum’s parking lot.   The commanding MiG-21 supersonic jet with its engine and afterburner cannot be ignored.  You can almost hear the radio transmissions as the pilot calls for instructions or to report his successful downing of an enemy aircraft.  Before stepping inside the museum, take a look inside the cockpit.   United States Air Force The USAF has been flying the B-52 Stratofortress since 1955.  Out of the original 13 ordered, only three were actually built.  These three were turned back over to Boeing and used in their test program.  New specifications emerged and the new order of 10 aircraft rolled out in a formal ceremony on March 18, 1954.   Additional Variants Additional variants continued to emerge, offering improvements to this already well planned aircraft.  Some of the designs took into account the need for the B52 to respond to updated combat strategies that included the continual changing of the warfare environment, the need to fly under any weather situation and to be able to maintain a low-altitude to fly under radar in prohibited fly zones.   Cold War and Vietnam War Cold War - Throughout the Cold War, the B52s were sent out on airborne alert missions.  The aircraft would remain at high altitudes over designated areas just outside the Soviet Union, remaining...

F-117 Blackjet – Nighthawk

The F-117 Nighthawk, previously used by the United States Air Force (USAF), was the first operational aircraft whose original design was based on stealth technology.  This single-seat, twin-engine aircraft had its debut flight in 1981, received its initial operating capability status in October of 1983, but was not revealed to the world until November of 1988.  A ground-attack aircraft, the F-117A received quite a bit of exposure during the Persian Gulf War of 1991, often being referred to as the “Stealth Fighter”.   The idea of the B-117 first came after combat experience during the Vietnam War.  During this war, the Soviet’s refined surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) downed Allied heavy bombers.  This top secret program was first started in 1975 and remained secret until the late 1980’s.  The first model was known as the “Hopeless Diamond”, a name given after the Hope Diamond due to its appearance.  Then in 1976, the Lockheed Skunk Works received the contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.   Under this contract, two stealth fighters were to be built and tested using the code name “Have Blue”.   Initial Test Flight Using existing technology and components, the two test aircrafts were built by Lockheed and came in under budget and in record time.  Despite losing both aircraft during their initial flight demonstration in December, 1977, test data still came back positive.  As a result, the government increased its funding for the stealth technology and by November, 1978 the contract was awarded to Lockheed Skunk Works with much of the funding being dedicated to the production of an operation stealth aircraft, the Lockheed F-117A, using the...

USAF B2 Spirit Stealth Bomber

The B2 Spirit is primarily used by the United States Air Force and is often recognized as Stealth Bomber. This multi-role bomber – which seats two – is capable of carrying not only conventional weapons, but nuclear munitions as well. The B2 has the capacity to drop an estimated total of up to 80 – 500 lb. GPS-guided bombs or 16 – 2,400 lb. nuclear bombs. The airframe on the Stealth was designed to make it capable of both deflecting and absorbing radar signals, which meant too little was reflected back to the radar unit, making the B2 Spirit vulnerable only to attacks by those weapons and systems that did not depend on radar. This unique capability of the Stealth allowed the aircraft to penetrate the most advanced enemy defense systems, making it difficult to detect, track and engage this aircraft.   At the start of the Advanced Technology Bomber project, overall performance of the aircraft was the major reason the Carter administration gave for cancelling the B-1 Lancer program. Later on, under President Reagan, delays in the introduction of the B2 led to the B-1 program being re-instated in addition to the B-2 program.   Though designed and built by Northrop Grumman, some assistance was received from Boeing. The total cost of each individual aircraft reached a staggering average of $737 million in 1997, with an overall averaged procurement cost of $929 million for each aircraft. In the end, the program cost resulted in an average of $2.1 billion for each aircraft, making this a controversial project not only with U.S. Congress but Joint Chiefs of Staff as...

United States Air Force F-16 Thunderbirds

INTRODUCTION The infamous United States Air Force (USAF) Thunderbirds have been performing incredible aerial formations since May of 1953.  Their initial aerobatic performance flight was in June of that same year.   By August of 1953, the team had already performed in 26 shows; and the following year, the team did their first overseas air show, adding a solo demonstration at that time.   ABOUT THE F-16 THUNDERBIRD AIRCRAFT The initial aircraft used by the Thunderbirds was the F-84G Thunderjet – a straight wing – and by the spring of 1955, the team switched over to another straight wing aircraft, the F-84F Thunderstreak.  Several other changes in aircraft would continue throughout the team’s history until 1983, when they transitioned to the F-16, the aircraft which they continue to use for their present day performances. The F-16 used by the USAF is specially marked – red, white and blue - and is very similar (with only a few insignificant differences) to the F-16 operational aircraft.  The Thunderbirds spent 1982 training on the F-16 so there were no aerial performances that year.  Several variations of the F-16 aircraft have been used - the most recent being the F-16C/D, which the Thunderbirds first used in their 2009 season. THE DEMONSTRATION TEAM The Demonstration team is made of the diamond performers and the soloists.  The diamond’s air performance consists of extremely tight maneuvers in close proximity to each other.  The soloists generally will perform their maneuvers travelling just below the speed of sound.  Until the FAA banned supersonic flying over the U.S., the pilots would deliberately cause a sonic boom during the performance. Officers...

F-16 Fighting Falcon

INTRODUCTION The F-16, also known as the Fighting Falcon, made its debut flight in February of 1974.  The design emerged from the NATO fighter design competition in the early 1970s, with production of the F-16 beginning in 1976.  Known for its multirole as a jet fighter, the F-16 Fighting Falcon was first developed as a day fighter for the United States Air Force.   Also referred to as a dogfighter, the design of this aircraft incorporated a number of newly advanced designs that allowed better visibility, easier control of the aircraft when maneuvering and a 30-degree reclining seat that reduced the effect the g-forces experienced by the pilots.   ABOUT THE F-16 FIGHTING FALCON AIRCRAFT The Fighting Falcon was also built so it could be flown in any weather condition.  The F-16 Falcon could reach a maximum speed in excess of 1,300 miles per hour, which equates into Mach 2.05.  The use of advanced aerodynamics, along with advanced avionics, enhanced the new flight control system incorporated into this aircraft which greatly improved its ability to perform tight maneuvers.  The actual aircraft housed only the pilot, but training aircraft are equipped to hold two individuals, both the pilot in training and the instructor, whose seat is located behind the pilot. The Falcon, designed to be a computerized attack bomber, houses computerized flight controls and carries a video-gun that records every moment of every aerial engagement.  This aircraft is also capable of being refueled while in flight.  Each jet aircraft is loaded with side-winder missiles on the wingtips, a pair of extra fuel tanks inboard, and practice bomb racks on the...

MiG-15 Jet

INTRODUCTION The MiG-15 was one of the initial swept wing jet fighters that achieved fame over Korea as it out performed other straight winged jet fighters.  The plane was developed by Artem Mikoyan and also Mikhail Gurevich for the USSR.  The MiG-15 design eventually evolved into the more advanced version – the MiG-17 – becoming a threat to American planes in the skies above North Vietnam during the 1960’s. HISTORY With over 12,000 built, it is believed the MiG-15 was the most extensively manufactured jet aircraft ever and was listed as one of the best fighter planes during the Korean War, along with the F-86 Sabre plane.  The reporting name NATO assigned the MiG-15 was Fagot and the US Air Force reporting name was Type XIV.  In 1947, the USSR Council of Ministers gave the okay to proceed with the building of two prototypes of jet fighters.  With this okay, they went back to the MiG-9 design, which was unreliable and had control problems, which would eventually be solved with the newer Klimov engine.  The resulting swept wing (both in the wings and the tail) fighter prototype was designated the I-310 and was capable of reaching speeds in excess of 650 miles per hour.  The main contender was the LA 168; however, the MiG-15 was selected for production. The very first model flew on December 31, 1948 and became part of the Soviet Air Force in 1949.  In 1950, the MiG-15 fighter aircraft was extensively exported to the Republic of China.  In fact, it was the Chinese MiG-15 that was the first to partake in the jet-vs-jet dogfights that...