It was the B-52 G model (1959) I used to see as a child.
Memory serving correctly, several times a day, flights of them at near treetop level, passed directly over my house (!) on their long approach for landing. Many just beginning to lower their landing gear; close enough I could clearly see the pilot and co-pilot in the cockpit. I’d wave at them. On one occasion, a pilot waggled the giant plane’s wings in response. Strategic Air Command logo painted on their side, the mailed fist clutching lightning bolts, the roar of their eight engines reverberating in my ears. I occasionally heard the unmistakable “whine” of a U-2, but seldom saw them.
The video states “The tail unit is large…” – what they don’t tell you is- it was something over 40 ft tall at the top. These variants predated the use of later developed rockets and other weapons such as the Hound Dog. I am not sure, but these may have been the ones to use JATO units when taking off; their engines alone not powerful enough to lift their massive weight off the runway. Also, no mention of their great wings flexing as much as six feet.
The video makes no mention whatsoever of their SAC base nearby during this time period.
I saw both the USAF Thunderbirds, who were flying the North American F-100 Super Sabres, and the Navy Blue Angels, who flew the Grumman F-11 Tiger jets at that base, before the October ’62 Cuban missile crisis. Much later, it became a TAC (Tactical Air Command) base during ‘Nam, and the only planes one would see were the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantoms. I also saw -perhaps the first- A-10 Thunderbolt ground support fighters before they were deployed.
As with so many military aircraft designs, the A-6 Intruder, known originally as the YA2F-1, had some pretty ambitious features that never really panned out. The jet’s swiveling exhausts were one of them.
The mid to late 1950’s were an incredible time for aerospace engineering as the world came to grips with the vast possibilities that jet power provided. The A-6 Intruder came out of a requirement for a deep penetrating all-weather precision attack platform. As part of this requirement, the Navy wanted the aircraft to be capable of short takeoffs and landings (STOL), even though it would mainly be hurtled from the decks of aircraft carriers via steam catapults and “trapped” back on deck via the use of a hook and arresting cable. Nonetheless, Grumman moved forward with the design requirements and came up with the Intruder’s unique silhouette that some describe as “a flying tadpole.”
The YA2F-1’s centrally mounted engine nacelles housed a pair of non-afterburner J-52 turbojets that produced a combined 18,600 lbs of thrust. The jet already had a large and relatively thick ring, but the STOL requirement would require more innovation than just a wing design. With this in mind, Grumman engineers designed the aircraft with a motor placement that could accommodate exhaust nozzles that would swivel up to 23 degrees downward. The idea was for the YA2F-1 to vector its thrust dynamically during its takeoff roll by rerouting the aircraft’s thrust downward, along the airframe’s vertical axis, thus shortening the aircraft’s takeoff distance. This same configuration, along with a unique trim setting, could also slow the stout aircraft’s approach speed, thus shortening its required landing distance.
The concept was innovative, and was certainly a forerunner of things to come with the famous Harrier Jump Jet years later, an aircraft that used rotating nozzles with fantastic results. This includes the Harrier’s “viffing” ability, where a pilot toggles its rotatable nozzles during air combat to decelerate quickly. One can only wonder what the Intruder could have been able to do when it comes to evading enemy fighters with its variable geometry nozzles.
In testing, the YA2F-1’s swiveling nozzles only significantly helped the aircraft get off the ground faster when it was lightly loaded, and only reduced the aircraft’s approach speed a few knots. Considering the added complexity, cost and training requirements that were involved with the unique exhausts, the idea was dropped on production models. Still, you can see this unique design element’s lasting mark on A-6s in museums and EA-6B Prowlers, the A-6 Intruder’s electronic attack sibling that is still flying, via the design’s low mounted engine nacelles and serpentine exhaust that is still canted slightly down and outward to avoid the aircraft’s long tailboom and tailplane.
In retrospect, the YA2F-1’s swiveling exhausts made a lot of sense, just not for the Intruder, an aircraft that would spend its decades long career often loaded down with thousands upon thousands of pounds of gas and dozens of 500lb bombs and other munitions. A light attack aircraft, or light fighter would have benefited better from the swiveling exhaust technology than the beast of burden, bomb truck of a jet that was to become the Intruder. Although I am sure that there are some Marine Corps A-6 pilots who would swear to you that every foot less of runway needed to get their max-loaded A-6 off the ground on a hot day in South Vietnam was worth the complexity and the cost of the swiveling nozzles!
Fast forward to today, and STOL is still a very important requirement for some air arms, and the ultra complex and super-expensive F-35B, that also features a downward swiveling exhaust, is proof of this.
Regardless of Grumman’s failed attempt at fitting this unique thrust vectoring concept to their prototype Intruders, the aircraft would go on to set the bar when it comes to range and payload capabilities for the US Navy. A bar which has never been raised since its retirement in 1997.
Some would say that the Intruder’s long legs, massive weapons carrying ability, highly efficient side by side cockpit arrangement and incredible tanking ability (in the form of the KA-6D) would have proven to be more valuable in the wars of the last decade than the pointy nosed, fuel hungry fighters that remained in Marine Corps and Navy inventory long after its demise, but this is another story, one that I will save for next week…
Photo Credit: USN, USMC, NAVAIR, Grumman
Have Gun, Will Dogfight
“The Last of the Gunfighters” sounds like a Gary Cooper movie or a Zane Grey novel. But the top result in a Google search for that phrase is the Wikipedia page for a six-decade-old jet fighter, the Vought F-8 Crusader. Adopted by the U.S. Navy in 1957, this single-engine, 1,000-mph dogfighter downed 19 MiGs during the Vietnam War and was an accurate, deadly strafer. Yet despite its service record, speed, and recognition for excellence—it won the 1956 Collier Trophy—the Crusader has fallen into obscurity.
Why? In a word that isn’t even a word: F-4.
Retired Marine Corps General Jack Dailey, the director of the National Air and Space Museum, flew the F-8 in the mid-1960s. “Everybody who flew that airplane loved it,” he says. “It was a single-seater, the way fighter pilots thought a fighter was supposed to be.” But upon Dailey’s arrival in Vietnam, he was assigned to an RF-4. He says the Crusader missed its war: It was too late for Korea, and by the time the Vietnam conflict got going, U.S. naval aviation was already well into its transition to the twin-engine, multi-role F-4 Phantom (see “Any Mission at Mach 2,” Feb./Mar. 2015).
With a top speed of Mach 2.2, the F-4 could intercept airborne threats to the fleet faster and farther from the ships than the Crusader could, and it had the ability to fire at an enemy head on. Also, that second engine gave the F-4 better survivability—critical for pilots flying in combat and over wide stretches of ocean.
Of course, the F-8 still had something F-4 pilots desperately wanted but didn’t get for several years: guns. Four of them, firing 20mm rounds.
“There was this strange idea in the Department of Defense that the gun was passé,” says military aviation historian Richard P. Hallion. “And the gun has never been passé.” Compared to the missiles of today, he says, the air-to-air missiles arming F-4s and F-8s during Vietnam were primitive and unreliable.
Peter Mersky, the author of F-8 Crusader Units of the Vietnam War, says that even though only two of the Crusader’s 19 MiG kills in Vietnam were made solely with guns, the F-8’s cannon were more than just a confidence booster for pilots. “The two official F-8 gun kills have since been augmented by other unofficially credited kills that used a combination of 20mm fire and a well-placed Sidewinder hit,” Mersky says.
The single-engine, single-seat F-8—originally the F8U-1 under the old Navy numbering system—was one of several aircraft born of the lessons of Korea, according to Hallion.
Former Senator John Glenn flew the F-8 as a U.S. Marine Corps major and test pilot at the naval air base at Patuxent River, Maryland, in the mid-1950s, and was an immediate fan. “I’d like to think what I could have done had I had it in Korea when we were flying against the MiGs, compared to the F-86s,” he says. “With four 20mm cannons, it would have been better armed than the MiG. In dogfights I don’t know that it would have been much better in ability to turn, but it would have been better at controlling the battle because it could go higher and faster.”
The higher, faster F-8 was the Navy’s answer to the Air Force’s supersonic air superiority stud, the F-100 Super Sabre. You could almost hear Vought lead engineer Russell Clark and the rest of the design team say “Oh yeah?” on March 25, 1955, when test pilot John Konrad took the prototype, XF8-U, supersonic on its first flight. The following year, Navy test pilot R.W. “Duke” Windsor took the Crusader to 1,015 mph, a national speed record and an achievement that took the postwar Thompson Trophy away from the F-100.
Glenn, who was in charge of F-8 armament testing, recalls early problems with the cannons mounted on the side of the engine duct at the front of the aircraft. “When we fired the gun on the ground at a target it did okay, but when we did a two-second burst-fire with all four guns, the duct would flex and you had a big circular random pattern.” Vought beefed up the duct for later aircraft, but the initial solution was to send a cross-eyed airplane to the fleet. Glenn says, “To make up for that flexing we [made it] so when you looked down the boresight on the ground it was cross-eyed to the other side. We [adjusted the boresight by taking] the average of how far they were off-target when we did the two-second burst-fire.”
In 1957, Glenn famously completed Project Bullet, briefly stealing the transcontinental speed record back from the Air Force by flying an F-8 nonstop coast to coast in afterburner the entire trip, except during the three aerial refuelings required.
Read more HERE
“F8E Launch-VF33-CVAN65-1964” by Casey17 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:F8E_Launch-VF33-CVAN65-1964.jpg#/media/File:F8E_Launch-VF33-CVAN65-1964.jpg
Source – A4D/A-4 Skyhawk Light Attack Bomber
Douglas built 2,960 Skyhawks between 1954 and 1979. Built small to be cost effective and so that more of them could be accommodated on a carrier, the lightweight, high-speed bombers were affectionately nicknamed “Heinemann’s Hot Rod” (after Douglas designer Ed Heinemann), the Bantam Bomber, Mighty Mite and Scooter. Skyhawks provided the U.S. Navy and Marines and friendly nations with maneuverable, yet powerful, attack bombers that had great altitude and range capabilities, plus an unusual flexibility in armament capacity.
The Skyhawk A4D was roughly half the empty weight of its contemporaries and could fly at 677 mph (1090 kph) at sea level. After 1956, it had provisions for in-flight refueling. After 1966, it included a hump-like avionics pod. Upgraded models had improved engines and a drogue parachute, new avionics displays, larger cockpit canopies and more ammunition for the two cannons. Two-seat trainer versions included the TA-4F, TA-4J and the TA-4K series.
Its combat career began with the first American carrier-launched raids on North Vietnam, Aug. 4, 1964. Later, during Israel’s Yom Kippur war in 1973, Israeli Air Force Skyhawks provided much of the short-range striking power on the Sinai and Golan Heights fronts.
The Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron flew the A-4 Skyhawk II from 1974 to 1986. Skyhawks were also used by the armed forces of Argentina, Australia, Israel, Kuwait, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and New Zealand, and they remained active with several air services into the 2000s.
The North American Aviation F-100 Super Sabre was a sleek, swept-back-wing fighter that gave the United States a supersonic Air Force. Although the first version was produced prior to 1950, various improved versions served as trainers and as active military craft at many U.S. and foreign bases. Since May 1953, when the first prototype model, the YF-100, bettered the speed of sound on its first flight, the versatile fighter set numerous records for speed, endurance, range and maintenance.
Late production models of the F-100D and F-100F had the capability of being launched from remote areas in the manner of manned missiles. An F-100D Super Sabre became the first supersonic aircraft to be “boosted” airborne without use of a runway in successful Zero Length Launch (ZEL) tests at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., in 1958.
In addition to its nuclear bomb armament and four 20 mm cannons, the Super Sabre could be equipped to fire rockets and missiles, including the heat-seeking GAR-8 Sidewinder.
While the later models of the F-100 had a speed in excess of 1,000 mph, two earlier models of the “A” and “C” established the world’s first supersonic speed records. Colonel F.K. (Pete) Everest reached 755.149 mph in October 1953, and Colonel Horace Hanes topped 822 mph in August 1955.
To demonstrate the ability of its pilot and aircraft, the Air Force chose F-100 Super Sabres to perform throughout the world in aerial precision demonstration flights. The famed “Thunderbirds,” a four-man aircraft team, were viewed by over 19 million people as the storied pilots performed intricate precision maneuvers at low altitude. In Europe the “Skyblazers” flew similar demonstrations.
The jet fighter was originally powered by a Pratt & Whitney J57-P-7 axial-flow engine. Later models of the F-100 were powered by a Pratt & Whitney J57-P-21A engine. Both were two-stage turbojet engines with afterburner, rated in the 10,000-pound thrust class.
The F-100 had a service ceiling above 50,000 feet and a range of more than 1,000 statute miles.
In addition to the thin, highly swept wing and tail, the F-100 design incorporated other features that reflect an answer to the problem of supersonic flight. Heat-resisting titanium was used extensively throughout the plane. A low-drag, ultra-streamlined fuselage and canopy with but one thin-lipped air intake duct helped make supersonic speed possible. The canopy line matched the rear fuselage in a smoothly curving line so that from the side, the Super Sabre appeared to be slightly arched. Other features included automatic leading-edge slats and a low-positioned one-piece horizontal stabilizer. The F-100 was the first USAF airplane to utilize the low tail.
The plane had an automatically regulated air conditioning and pressurizing system and automatic fuel system.
Particular attention was given to placement of all controls, equipment and instruments in the cockpit for ease of operation.
Courtesy of Steve Kauzlarich‘s YouTube Channel
Boeing B-52D is refueled by Boeing KC-135A-BN
- Public Domain
- File:Boeing B-52D-70-BO (SN 56-0582) is refueled by Boeing KC-135A-BN (SN 55-3127) 061127-F-1234S-009.jpg
- Uploaded by Hohum
- Uploaded: 19 April 2014
Boeing KC-135A Stratotanker
- CC BY-SA 4.0
- File:Barksdale Global Power Museum September 2015 51 (Boeing KC-135A Stratotanker).jpg
- Uploaded by Michael Barera
- Created: 19 September 2015
Published on Mar 14, 2014
CAF-1402, February 27, 2014 http://www.goldengatewing.org
00:00 GIL FERREY – Introduction
02:21 BILL YENNE – Author “B-52 Stratofortress”
14:08 Lt Col WILLIAM “Bill” Van CLEVE USAF (ret)
Lt Col (Retired) William “Bill” Van Cleve, US Air Force and Bill Yenne, Author
Bill Van Cleve was born in Osceola, Arkansas in 1928, the elder of two brothers. His father, William Van Cleve, was a pharmacist; his mother, the former Katherine Segars, was a homemaker. Bill graduated from Little Rock Senior High School in 1946.
During two years at Louisiana State University, Bill was in the U. S, Navy V5 program as an aviation student. When the program ended, he transferred to Air Force Aviation Cadet training at Randolph Air Force Base (AFB), near San Antonio, Texas. In August 1949, Bill graduated as a Second Lieutenant pilot. After completion of bomber training at Vance AFB, Oklahoma, he was assigned to B-25 courier duty.
When the Korean conflict began in June 1950, Bill entered B-29 training at Roswell, New Mexico. Upon graduation, he was assigned to Kadena Air Base on Okinawa. He flew 12 combat missions until North Korea’s introduction of Soviet-built Mig-15 jet fighters caused unsustainable losses of B-29s.
From Okinawa, Bill transitioned into B-50s, then entered B-47 training at McConnell AFB near Wichita, Kansas. Following service in two other B-47 wings, he joined the Strategic Air Command’s 301st Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana.
As an aircraft commander, he completed the AOB cross-training program at James Connally AFB near Waco, Texas. This course required additional qualification as both a navigator and a radar bombardier in B-47s.
After transition to B-52s (he eventually flew four models of this aircraft), Bill served as an Airborne Commander overseeing B-52 raids into both South and North Vietnam.
From 1969 — 1971, Bill commanded the 744th Bomb Squadron at Beale AFB near Marysville, California. After 20 years of Cold War service, he retired in the grade of Lieutenant Colonel in 1971.
Bill married Nancy Henry in 1950 at Little Rock, Arkansas. They had two boys and one girl. His second wife, the former Diana Sutton, is an attorney. Bill and Diana reside in Redwood City. During his military service, he completed a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering through the United States Air Force Institute of Technology. Bill is a registered Professional Engineer, still does some consulting, and volunteers as a docent at the Hiller Aviation Museum adjacent to the San Carlos Airport.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Bill Yenne is the author of more than three dozen non-fiction books, especially on aviation and military history. These have included profiles of the B-52 Stratofortress, Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles and secret weapons of the Cold War, as well as histories of the Strategic Air Command, the US Air Force, and his recently-updated The Story of the Boeing Company.
His dual biography of Dick Bong and Tommy McGuire, Aces High: The Heroic Story of the Two Top-Scoring American Aces of World War II, was described by pilot and best-selling author Dan Roam as “The greatest flying story of all time.”
Mr. Yenne has contributed to encyclopedias of both world wars and had appeared in television documentaries on the History Channel, the National Geographic Channel and ARD German Television. He is a member of the American Aviation Historical Society.
Copyright STEVE KAUZLARICH 2013