Posts Tagged ‘United States Air Force Museum


Messerschmitt Me-163 Komet


The Luftwaffe tried many experimental designs throughout World War II.  The Me-163 rocket plane, with a top speed of around six hundred miles an hour, was one such plane.  To make it lightweight, the landing gear would be jettisoned on take-off and the plane would land on a wooden ski.  Powered by a rocket engine with limited fuel capacity it had a very limited flight duration and would glide in for an unpowered landing.  The plane’s purpose was to streak into American bomber formations, do as much damage as possible and then return to base.  Dangerous to fly and dangerous to fuel, it suffered more casualties from accidents than it did from combat.


SR-71 Blackbird





The SR-71, unofficially known as the “Blackbird,” is a long-range, advanced, strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft. The first flight of an SR-71 took place on Dec. 22, 1964, and the first SR-71 to enter service was delivered to the 4200th (later 9th) Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., in January 1966. The U.S. Air Force retired its fleet of SR-71s on Jan. 26, 1990, because of a decreasing defense budget and high costs of operation.


American Fighters: F-15 Strike Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon

F-15 Eagle

The F-15 Strike Eagle first entered service in January 1976 and is the primary United States Air Force (USAF) air-superiority fighter.  The F-15 mission is “an all-weather, extremely maneuverable, tactical fighter designed to permit the Air Force to gain and maintain air supremacy over the battlefield.”  The USAF has 522 of these fighters in it’s arsenal at a cost of 29.9 million each.  Aerodynamically sound the air craft has flown with one wing completely blown off, delivering pilot and plane safely back to base.


This is why “Heavy Metal” on The History Channel is one of my favorite shows.

F-16 Thunderbird

The F-16 Fighting Falcon pictured here painted with Thunderbird colors “is a compact, multi-role fighter aircraft. It is highly maneuverable and has proven itself in air-to-air combat and air-to-surface attack. It provides a relatively low-cost, high-performance weapon system for the United States and allied nations.”  Entering service in January 1979 the USAF maintains 1280 F-16s in its arsenal.


B-52 Stratofortress: B.U.F.F.

The B-52 bomber entered service in 1955 and is still active today.  Dubbed “BUFF” for “Big ugly fat [um] fellow” it has seen extensive action in Southeast Asia, and been present in every conflict America has participated in since.  This particular Stratofortress is the B-52D variant used in Vietnam, painted camouflage with black bellies to defeat search lights. Capable of delivering 43,000 pounds of bombs, a flight of B-52s dropping conventional bombs can best be described as raining bombs.  This aircraft is also capable of delivering nuclear payloads, making it a strong weapon of deterrence during the Cold War.  For more on this plane see:


Credence Clearwater Revival:  Have You Ever Seen the Rain

For a complete history of the B-52 Stratofortress follow this link:


Unconventional Thinking: McDonnell XF-85 Goblin


The concept behind the XF-85 Goblin was to design an aircraft that could protect massed formations of B-36 bombers beyond the fuel range of ordinary fighter support.  The “Goblin” would travel with the bombers stowed away in the bomb bay of a B-36.  When enemy fighters attempted to attack the B-36 bombers, a pilot would climb into the Goblin and be released from inside the airplane to attack the enemy fighters.  When the Goblin accomplished its mission it would then fly back to the host B-36 and be retrieved using the hook-like device on the nose of the aircraft.  This particular XF-85 Goblin is pictured beneath the wing of a B-36.  For more on this airplane see:

This plane can be found at the United States Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.


World War II American Bombers: B-24 and B-17

B24 Liberator – The “Strawberry Bitch” – Served with the 512nd Bomb Squadron, 376th Bomb Group of the 15th Air Force based in Libya and Italy. It had interesting nose art. Some say that the red-headed babe painted on the side had not a stitch of clothing on, when the plane was serving in action. 

The B-24 Liberator was produced in greater numbers than the B-17 Flying Fortress, with over 18,000 B-24s built.  It had a bomb load of 8,000 pounds and was equipped with six .50-caliber machine guns in the nose, top and sides, and four .303-caliber machine guns in the tail.  It had great range of 2,200 miles and could fly at 28,000 feet at 290 miles per hour.  The plane had many variants serving in many roles from bombing to maritime patrol to transport to fueling.  The plane is most noted for raiding deep into Nazi territory and destroying the oil fields at Ploesti.  While the mission succeeded in stopping oil production at Ploesti for a time, the Liberators paid a heavy price, with only 33 of 177 planes returning to their base in condition to fly again.  Liberators were prone to catch fire and their lightweight construction couldn’t take the battle damage dished out by experienced Luftwaffe pilots and anti-aircraft batteries.




B-17 Flying Fortress:  Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby

While not produced in as great of numbers as the B-24, the B-17 Flying Fortress has a superior reputation because of its rugged design and ability to absorb battle damage.  This high level bomber repeatedly carried the war to the Nazi homeland with devastating consequences on Nazi cities and industry.  Capable of delivering up to 17,000 pounds of bombs at a range of 2,000 miles it flew at high levels above thirty thousand feet at speeds of around 200 miles per hour.  The plane carried an immense amount of fire power with thirteen .50-caliber machines guns strategically placed over the entire plane.


Because of damage the Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby ended up interred in Sweden.  The following is an account of how the plane ended up in Swedish hands.

“Soon after we crossed the German border, we lost number three engine, I believe because of losing oil pressure. Bob could not get the prop feathered (rotated 90° to put the blade edge perpendicular to the airflow). It continued to windmill (turn without power in the airflow) the entire trip with no vibration. We attempted to stay in formation with three engines but found this impossible and had to drop out. We continued on course to the best of my ability. We were losing altitude but continued to the target and dropped our bombs.

Flying alone toward the Baltic Sea, we saw many German fighters attacking formations of B-17s and could not understand why they didn’t pick us out as a straggler. Before we reached the Baltic Sea, we lost the second engine, and the decision had to be made to go to Sweden because we could not make it back to England. Bob asked for a course to Sweden, and I charted one to a little town called Ystad in the very southernmost part of Sweden.

All loose equipment, including machine guns, radio equipment, and clothing, was thrown overboard in order to lighten the ship. An attempt was made to drop the ball turret, but it wouldn’t move.

As we approached the coastline, Bob was interested in knowing whether or not it was Sweden. I confidently stated that it was, but after the flak started coming up as we got over land, I wasn’t so sure. All of it was low, and I believe the Swedes were just telling us ‘Don’t try anything.’ Just before we reached land we lost the third engine, and we were losing altitude fast. A Swedish (J-9) fighter came up and led us to Malmö, Sweden, where a B-24, also in trouble, landed just ahead of us. Actually, we had to swing wide to keep from colliding.”


The Strawberry Bitch and the Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby can be found at


94th Pursuit Squadron: Hat in the Ring


The Spad XIII was a French biplane used by the United States 94th “Hat in the Ring” Squadron during World War I.  The 94th was the first American squadron to shoot down an enemy aircraft, scored the most kills during World War I of any American squadron, and had Eddie Rickenbacker, America’s leading ace with 26 kills, as its preeminent member.  This airplane and others can be seen at the United States Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.  For more of my photos of World War I aircraft click the link in the photos tab at the top of the page.

Like many World War I aircraft this airplane featured a pair of machine guns that shot through the propeller.  The first aircraft to try this didn’t have a way to stop the machine guns from hitting the propeller and the hapless first pilots to fly planes with machine guns firing through the propeller found they were just shooting their own propellers.  Anthony Fokker developed an interrupter gear that prevented the machine gun from firing when the propeller was directly in front of the machine gun, making machine guns mounted in front of the pilot and firing through the propeller possible.

February 2020
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