Category Archives: Aircraft

B-17 Flying Fortress

The B-17 was a four engine heavy bomber designed by Boeing who won the Army Air Corps contract over Douglas and Martin. Heavy bombers are designated as those that carry the heaviest loads of armaments and deliver them to enemy targets abroad with the maximum amount of air-to-ground explosives.

B-17 Flying Fortress
Boeing B-17E. (U.S. Air Force photo) Public Domain, Creative Commons

Initially developed in the 1930s, The B-17 is known for its heavy nighttime bombing of German industrial complexes during World War II. Besides bombs, the plane carried .50 caliber M2 Browning machine guns for defense.

Although attacking German industries was their direct mission, the overall strategic plan was in preparation for the Normandy invasion in 1944.  In addition, the aircraft frequently complimented the British Air Force in German bombing raids throughout the war. One of the most daring and successful set of bombing raids was against the German oil fields. In one incursion alone, over 27,000 tons of explosives were dropped on these oil fields, knocking out a large percentage of the German army’s fuel reserves; thereby, leaving the German war machinery virtually grounded. This was also part of the strategic planning for the D-Day invasion. But these raids were not without heavy losses for the allies. Over 900 B-17s and over 10,000 American airmen were lost during these runs over Germany’s oil fields.

In the big picture however, the B-17 leads all other bombers in dropping the most amount of bombs to this day.

The aircraft became notable as an icon for famous warplanes, being able to succeed in its mission by putting up a formidable defense and returning to base even after sustaining heavy damage.

During these year and due to its success, there were a variety of these planes built. Specifically, over 11 variants of this plane were constructed.

B-17G Variant
B-17G Variant. Public Domain, Creative Commons

The specifications for the B-17 are as follows:

·         Crew: 10: Pilot, co-pilot, navigator, bombardier/nose gunner, flight engineer/top
turret gunner, radio operator, 2 waist gunners, ball turret gunner, tail gunner
·         Length: 74 ft 4 in
·         Wingspan: 103 ft 9 in
·         Height: 19 ft 1 in
·         Wing area: 1,420 sq
·         Weight: 36,135

This formidable aircraft’s role during World War II
is depicted well in this video.

C-47 Skytrain

The C-47 was a cargo carrying aircraft. Specifically, it would carry anything from military and food supplies, troops and paratroopers or jeeps or a 37 mm canon. If troops were deployed, it was capable of carrying 38 men.

When it was used as a medical supply plane, it would carry 14 patients and three nurses.

Initially designed by Donald Douglas in the 1930s as civilian airliner, called the DC-3.

In 1941, the plane was retrofitted for the Army Air Forces (Previously called the Air Corps) and a reinforced fuselage floor was added, as well as a large cargo door.

All branches of the US military used the C-47 and seven versions of the plane were built, with some notable names as the AC-47D gunship, the EC-47 electronic reconnaissance aircraft, the EC-47Q antiaircraft systems evaluation aircraft and the C-53 Skytrooper.

Over 100,000 C-47s of the various versions had been built and was used thought  World War II, most known for dropping British paratroopers during Operation Garden in September, 1944.

Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, said “It one of the most vital pieces of military equipment used in winning the war”.

The C-47 continued on to battle in the Koran War and the Vietnam War.

F-15 Strike Eagle

The F-15 was the first jet fighter built in the U.S. with enough power and thrust to accelerate vertically. It is a twin-engine, all weather, high-performance air superiority fighter jet, known for having amazing acceleration and maneuverability. The F-15 has a top speed of more than 1,600 mph, which exceeds Mach 2.5 (2.5 times the speed of sound).

F-15 Strike Eagle Jet Fighter
F-15 Strike Eagle Jet Fighter By Gerry Metzler (IMG_214) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

The F-15 has room to carry a variety of armaments, which include AIM-7 Sparrow missiles, AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, the Small Diameter Bomb I, built by Boeing, the Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) and the Laser JDAM weapons, plus an internal Gatling Gun (20 mm), all critical for modern air engagements.

An F-15A, called the Streak Eagle initially flew out of North Dakota’s Grand Forks Air Force Base and broke the time-to-climb world record more than once. From January 16, 1975 to February 1, 1975, the Streak Eagle literally broke 8 time-to-climb world records. In just 3 minutes it flew to an altitude of 98,425 feet, coasting to almost 103,000 feet into the sky before descending.

F-15 Eagles, being flown by Israel’s Air Force were the very first fighters to go against a real adversary in the air. They were able to down more than 50 Syrian fighters without any losses of their own. F-15C, D and E variant models were major players in the 1991 Operation Desert Storm war, with the planes claiming 32 of 36 U.S. Air Force air-to-air victories as well as striking Iraqi ground targets. Fighting on behalf of the U.S. Air Force, the F-15 Eagle came up against MIG fighters in the Balkan war and successfully downed all of them.

The F-15E Strike Eagle had to be developed to meet the requirements set by the U.S. Air Force for air-to-ground missions. With its 23,000 pounds of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons and its built-in advanced navigation including an infrared targeting system, the F-15 is a formidable fighter that can go against any of today’s fighter aircraft anywhere in the world. These innovations enable the Strike Eagle to maintain a low altitude while flying at top speeds, even at night and in bad weather.

The F-15 remains undefeated in air-to-air combat missions, having achieved 101 aerial victories with 0 defeats.

B-29 Superfortress

From the lessons learned of the potent B-17 came the Boeing B-29 Superfortress and it is no coincidence that it got its name from its predecessor, the Flying Fortress. The B-29 was a four engine propeller-driven, first fully pressurized heavy bomber that saw combat near the end of World War II and during the Korean War.

B-29 Superfortress
Boeing-Whichata B-29 Assembly Line – 1944″ by United States Army Air Forces – United States Air Force Historical Research Agency – Maxwell AFB, Alabama from “History and Units of the United States Air Force”, G H J Sharrings, European Aviation Historical Society, 2004. Photo credit given as from USAFHRA.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Boeing-Whichata_B-29_Assembly_Line_-_1944.jpg#/media/File:Boeing-Whichata_B-29_Assembly_Line_-_1944.jpg

It surpassed the B-17 in a number of ways, which included a pressurized cabin, an electronic fire-control system and remote controlled machine gun turrets. Specifically, the aircraft carried eight .50-cal. machine guns, two .50-cal. machine guns and one 20mm cannon in a tail turret, and up to 20,000 pounds of bombs. The machine guns were imperative, as they were the only defense against enemy fighters (howerver, many times, the bombers were escorted by allied fighter aircraft as well). Larger than the Flying Fortress, the Superfortress was one of the largest aircrafts to have seen service during World War II.

Designed in 1940, the B-29 made its maiden flight on Sept. 21, 1942. The bomber saw much activity in the Asian theater in 1944 and 1945, where it made many bombing runs over Japan and its islands – Saipan, Guam and Tinian, after lifting off from (what was then) US Army Air Force bases in China.

The Superfortress was the aircraft that dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945 and on Aug. 6th on Hiroshima. The explosive force was equivalent to about It 15 kilotons of TNT. ‘Little Boy’ was the code name for the type of atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima by the Boeing B-29 Superfortress named ‘Enola Gay’, piloted by Colonel Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., commander of the 509th Composite Group of the United States Army Air Forces. These planes were assigned to the 393d Bombardment Squadron, 509th Composite Group at Wendover Army Air Field, Utah.

The decision to drop the atomic bombs was made after allied forces agreed that the alternative – to land and overtake the Japanese islands could have run into casulaties of over 200,000. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were also well know for thier industrial military complexes.

After World War II, the B-29s continued their successful missions in the Korean War thearter of operations.

B-29 Superfortress Specifications

Armament: Eight .50-cal. machine guns in remote controlled turrets, plus two .50-cal. machine guns and one 20mm cannon in the tail; 20,000 lbs. of bombs. It carries four Wright R-3350s engines at 2,200 hp each.

B-29 Engine
B-29 Wright R-3350 Engine

Additional Specs
Maximum speed: 357 mph
Cruising speed: 220 mph
Range: 3,700 miles
Span: 141 ft. 3 in.
Length: 99 ft.
Height: 27 ft. 9 in.
Weight: 133,500 lbs.

Boeing B-47 Bomber

The Boeing B-47 Stratojet was a subsonic long range, six-engine, jet-powered strategic bomber. It was developed as per specs for a jet bomber by the US Air force in 1945. Its initial design was based on a scaled down version of the piston-engined B-29 Superfortress, but this model was equipped with four jet engines. In addition to the incorporation of jet engines for the new bomber, this plane was the was the first  to incorporate the swept wing design concept.

Previous to its predecessors, the wings were perpendicular to the body of the aircraft. Swept wing brought the wings back at a specific angle which helped decrease aerodynamic drag. Typical angles ranged from 0 for a straight-wing aircraft, to 45 degrees or more for fighters and other high-speed planes. The B-47 flew at high altitude, which helped to avoid interception by air to ground missiles and fighter aircraft. It carried between 20,000 – 25,000 lbs. of bombs, as well as 2 – .20mm cannons in the remote tail turret.

Boeing B-47 Bomber
Boeing B-47E-65-BW (S/N 51-5257, the last Boeing-built block 65 -E model) during rocket-assisted take off test, with a Lockheed F-80 as a chase plane.

The swept wing design was the result of the accelerated research and development of military aircraft during World War II and helped provide the next generation of bombers. Additional changes was to have the B-47’s engines carried in nacelles (a housing unit that holds engines, separate from the fuselage) placed under the swept wing area. This new design contributed to modern jet aircraft of today.

The B-47 entered service in 1951, but never fought in battle. Never the less, as a bomber, its primary mission was to bomb the Soviet Union with nuclear weapons, which was the defensive strategy of the Strategic Air Command. Subsequently, the B-47 had played a significant role in nuclear deterrence,. This was part of SAC’s bomber initiative between the Cold War years of the 1950s and 1960s.

The aircraft carried a crew of three, the Pilot, Copilot and Navigator and had additional missions, such as photographic reconnaissance, electronic intelligence and weather reconnaissance.

Although the B-47 was successful as an intimidating deterrent against potential Soviet aggression, it did have physical limitations, such as the amount of munitions it could carry and consequently, the development for a newer, more powerful jet bomber mineralized in the 1950s.

F-14 Tomcat

Before stealth and more sophisticated aircraft technology now present in the 21st century, there was the F-14 Tomcat. This beauty was a replacement for the popular F-4 Phantom fighter and entered service with the US Navy in 1972. Since then, it performed continuous operations on U.S. aircraft carriers up to 2006. The F-14 played significant roles during this time in battles and wars throughout its existence.

F-14 Tomcat

The plane is a supersonic, twin engine, variable sweep wing, two seater aircraft, designed to attack enemy aircraft 24×7, in all weather conditions.

The F-14 has the tracking capability to monitor up to 24 targets at once. Armament includes a General Electric Vulcan M61A-1 20mm, electrically fired Gatling-style rotary machine gun, which fires 20 mm rounds at a rate of 6,000 per minute. The gun is mounted in the forward section of the fuselage, on its port side. Additionally, it can carry AIM-9, AIM-7 and AIM-54 missiles, air-to-ground Rockeye bombs, CBU cluster bombs, the Raytheon AIM-7 Sparrow radar-guided air-to-air missile, Lockheed Martin / Raytheon AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile and the Raytheon AIM-54 Phoenix missile.

F-14 missions were employed over a wide range of operations. Below is a list most of them:

·         American withdrawal from Saigon (1975)

·         Cold War intercepts (1976–1991)

·         Operations during the Lebanese Civil War (1976 and 1982–1986)

·         Attempted rescue of American hostages in Iran (1980)

·         Military operations directed at Libya (1980–1989)

·         Somali anti-aircraft fire incident (1983)

·         Invasion of Grenada (1983)

·         MS Achille Lauro incident (1985)

·         Intervention in the “Tanker War” (1987–1988)

·         The Persian Gulf War (1990–1991)

·         Interwar air operations over Iraq (1991–2003)

·         Balkans (1994–1995 and 1999)

·         Operation Enduring Freedom (2001–2003)

·         Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003–2006

Unfortunately, this aircraft was sold to the republic of Iran in the earlier years when Iran was still considered a ‘friendly’ nation. Although we have much pride in the F-14, we’re sure this plane cannot stand up to the newer F-22 Viper and the F-35 lightning, should aggressive actions accelerate between these two nations.

Just as disconcerting and more imminent is the possibility of a war between Israel and Iran, we’re we may see dogfights between Israeli F-16s and the Iranian F-14s (and other Iranian aircraft).  We’re sure military aircraft experts would be watching with a keen eye should an event like this would occur, but odds are the F-14s would again not be a match to the technically upgraded F-16s  and the more advanced Israeli Air Force.

With that said, we have seen a proud history of the F-14 throughout its successful lifetime.

B-52 Stratofortress

One of the most formidable bombers ever built is the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress. Originally developed in the 1940s, it is in its fifth decade of service and has been classified as the country’s first long-range, swept-wing heavy bomber.

B-52H Bomber             B-52H of the 2d Bomb Wing with weapons at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana

Upon presentation to the army in 1946, there was dissatisfaction with the overall design of what was then a proposal for a propeller driven aircraft. The Boeing staff returned to their hotel and redrew the design for it to become a jet bomber. After the next presentation, the army approved the design.

At the start of the Korean War, production began for 13 B-52s. Production continued throughout the decades, advancing from the B-52A to the much higher tech model B-52H. A total of 744 B-52s were produced between 1952 and 1962.

The B-52s were used extensively under authority of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) during the Cold War. They flew 24 hours per day, with refuling in mid-air and were used in a ‘defensive’ posture to make clear to the Soviets that the United States can immediately respond to any aggressive movements that the Russians would take.

Boeing B-52
Boeing B-52

This approach helped coin the phrase ‘The best defense is a good offense’, and the tatic was used most successfully to deter an attack from the Soviet Union. Many attribute the B-52 bombers to be one of the contributing factors towards keeping the United States and the Soviet Union from going into an all out war.

The Viewnam war saw significant escalations of B-52 bombings, almost on a daily basis. Earelier in the war, there were miscalculations and tragic accidents, resulting in two B-52s coliding and eight airman who persihed. One of the most intense bombing raids was near the end of the war, where major targeted facilities in Hanoi and Haiphon were continously bombed. It was labeled Linebacker II and was the largest heavy bomber strikes launched by the US Air Force since the end of World War II.

During Operation Desert Storm in 1991, B-52s flew about 1,620 sorties and was credited for the reason why Iraqi troops were continously giving up without a fight.

Aerial top/side view of gray B-52 overflying barren land
B-52 lower deck by user: Desertsky85450 – source. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Of course, the aircraft has since been modified to carry more sophisticated weapons, such as guided Cruise and Harpoon missiles, as well as internal modifications and the need for it to adapt to the ever changing dynamics of the political and military theater, but the general specifications remain:

The bomber weighs about 390,000 lbs., with four powerful jet engine on each side and is capable of carrying the following armaments:

General Purpose Bombs 
Non guided bombs dropped from aircraft. Classified by their weight, called nominal weight or caliber.
MK82: Low-drag general-purpose bomb (500 lb.)
MK84 – Largest of the MK80 series (2000 lb.)
MK117 – General Purpose Bomb (750 lb.)
BDU-48 – Labeled the ‘dumb bomb’, it is a ten pound ordinance that simulates 500 and 1000 pound bombs, but does nothing more than releases a cloud of smoke upon impact.

CBU (Cluster Bomb Unit)
Cluster bombs are designed to send smaller bomblets across a designated area upon impact.
CBU-87 – 40 Noted as Combined Effects Munition, it can be outfitted to become a precision guided bomb.
CBU-89 – 42 Called the GATOR mine system, it is a system of  anti-tank and anti-personnel bombs designed in conjunction with   cluster dispensers

Laser Guided Bombs
GBU-10 (Guided Bomb Unit-10) A 2,000 pound general purpose laser guided bomb or penetrating warhead
GBU-12 Same as the GBU-10, but with the addition of a nose-mounted laser seeker
GBU-28  laser-guided “bunker busting” bomb, AKA “Deep Throat”-

JDAM Joint Direct Attack Munition –  JSOW

Missiles
Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missiles (CALCM)
Harpoon (Anti-Ship Missile)
AGM-142 (Television guided missile) 

Mines
MK56 
MK62 
MK63 
MK65 

NUCLEAR
Advanced Cruise Missiles (ACM)
Air Launched Cruise Missiles (ALCM)

Learn some interesting trivia facts about the B-52.

The successor to the B-52 is the supersonic stealth B-2 bomber. Capable of penetrating enemy terrority without detection.

American Military Aircraft

It wasn’t much after the Wright Brother’s invention of the airplane that aerial bombing materialized. The first recorded ‘bombing’, from airplanes was during the Italo-Turkish War, where the Italian Army Air Corps bombed a Turkish camp. Men would actually pick up the bomb and drop it at the desired target once the airplane reached its designation.

But it was not until World War I were aircraft was used extensively for bombing raids. Initially, the ‘flying machines’ were used for reconnaissance and proved worthy by successfully discovering enemy positions and providing better logistics for ground attacks. Each side considered these flying observational aircraft to be nothing more than just an annoyance, but after they realized that there was a strategic (and costly) advantage to this approach, they began to send their airplanes after them. Antiquated compared to today’s standards, the pilots would through bricks and sometimes hand grenades at the reconnaissance aircraft. In addition, small guns and pistols were used to shoot at the reconnaissance airplanes.

Air to air fighting, otherwise known as dog fights had begun.

The first official dog fight occurred occurred near the Cer Mountain in Serbia during World War I in 1914. A Serbian pilot was running a reconnaissance mission and encountered an Austro-Hungarian plane. The two began shooting at each other. This led to all Serbian and Austro-Hungarian planes being fitted with machine-guns.

World War I saw a significant increase of aerial warfare. Biplanes (planes with wings on the top and bottom) were the standard flying aircraft in late 1917 onward until the 1930s and dog fighting was commonplace. Biplanes were built with wooden frame construction, canvas skins and contained air-cooled engines.

Biplanes                                                       Biplanes were popular in the early 20th century

The Banana Wars, (a reference to the wars by United States in Central America); such as the Spanish American War saw much aerial combat. Mostly by the Marines who used air to ground tactics to support the American troops on the ground.

Between this time period, biplanes gave way to monoplanes (single winged aircraft), which were all metal skin aircraft with enclosed cockpits and carried increased weaponry over their predecessor biplanes.

It wasn’t until World War II where the most popular dog fights came about. The Battle of Britain involved the British Royal Air Force against the German Luftwaffe fighter planes in the summer and fall of 1940.

Aerial fighting with monoplanes were also common between the US Navy and Japanese and US Air Force against Germany. Of course, the most notable and tragic attacks on the US Navy during World War II was the use of the Japanese Kamikaze Zeros who flew directly into Navy warships.

The Cold War led to more accelerated advancements in the aircraft industry.

Enter the jet. Faster, stronger and could carry more armaments than any of the former airplanes.

It was also during this time that there began a significant distinction between fighter jets and jets designed for one thing – bombing.

Some of the earlier fighters were the US F-102 Delta Dart, F-106, F-86 Sabre and the Phantom fighters, which saw much combat in the Vietnam War. Also, dog fights between the Arab MIG-21s and the Israeli Mirage IIICJ fighters were closely watched by military agencies across the world during the 1967 Arab Israeli War to see which one of the fighter jets were superior. It was determined that the Mirage fighters were clearly more successful than their Arab counterparts.

As the R&R technology of fighter jets continued, new formidable bombing aircraft technology was also emerging. The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress was the pride of the Air Force and was used extensively by the now defunct Strategic Air Command (SAC). These planes were capable of carrying up to 70,000 pounds of bombs, including nuclear weapons. They would fly 24 hours a day around the world, making them very hard to track and take down. Refueling was done by the KC-135 Stratotankers.

B-52s are still in existence and operable today. They were used during the post 9/11 Afghan War and were able to completely wipe out Taliban positions in one sweep.

The successor to the B-52 is the stealth B-2 bomber, which is currently being used in Iraq to fight off ISIS terrorists.

Fighter aircraft also have advanced significantly, with the production of the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 lightning stealth fighters, the United States remains the technological military superpower of the world.

New, even more formidable stealth aircraft are in research and we look forward to see what the next generation of fighters and bombers will be.

The B-2 Spirit

Built by Northrop Grumman, the B-2 Spirit is an all altitude attack stealth bomber, capable of flying missions from 50,000 feet, with a range of more than 6,000 miles. Using technology from the earlier and most successful SR-71 super sonic reconnaissance “Black Bird of the Skies”, the B-2 emerged. Developed in top secrecy in the 1980s, stealth technology took aircraft design to a new level of sophistication.  The top secret B-2 was made public on November 22, 1988, when it was rolled out of its hangar at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, Calif.

Watch as this bird of beauty takes over the skies at the McChord Air Show

In partner with its sister, the B-17 Nighthawk stealth fighter, these two sophisticated flying machines were partially responsible for the downfall of Communism. When development of these top secret projects were revealed to the public, it raised fear in the Soviet Union, as Mikhail Gorbachev felt there was no way for the Soviet military to be able to catch up to this type of technology. This, in conjunction with the failing Soviet economy, Gorbachev was preparing for a democratic republic; hence, in 1961, under then President Ronald Regan, the Berlin Wall fell and along with it Soviet Communism.

Though the B-2 was originally designed primarily as a nuclear bomber, but it was first used in combat, dropping conventional bombs during the Kosovo War and later in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is designated as ‘stealth’ due to its black covering, its dynamic shape and technology to reduce radar signatures, or more precisely, the Radar cross-section (RCS). RCS represents the measure of how detectable radar equipment can sense an object. The aircraft is designed to penetrate anti-aircraft defenses and is able to deploy both conventional and thermonuclear weapons.

The B-2 maintains a crew of two people and can drop up to eighty 500 lb class JDAM Global Positioning System guided bombs or sixteen 2,400 lb  B83 nuclear bombs. The B-2 is the only aircraft that can carry such large loads under the stealth designation.
There is talk of new stealth aircraft on the way. It only remains to be seen what new stealth technology is coming our way!