This Date in Aviation History: June 15 - June 17
Photo: US Air Force
June 15, 1945 – The first flight of the North American F-82 Twin Mustang. When the airwar against the Japanese Empire began in the early stages of WWII, the only way for the Allies to attack targets on the Japanese mainland was by flying over the Himalayas from Burma and India. But as the war progressed, the Allies carried out their island hopping campaign to seize Japanese-held islands in the Pacific Ocean, building airfields closer and closer to the Japanese homeland, and making it easier for long-range bombers to reach their targets. However, the US still did not have a fighter that was capable of escorting bombers on long over-water missions, some of which could last up to eight hours. Even fighters that proved to be excellent long-range escorts in Europe, such as the Lockheed P-38 Lightning and North American P-51 Mustang, were unable to accompany the bombers on these long flights. And, even if the fighters were able to make the flight, such long missions put an enormous strain on a single pilot. What the US Army Air Forces in the Pacific needed was a fighter with extreme range, but also one with excellent maneuverability, and a second pilot to help with navigation over vast expanses of open ocean.
Front view of North American XF-82 fitted with 445-gallon centerline drop tank, ten 5-inch rockets, a 110-gallon drop tank and a chemical tank. Note the six .50 caliber machine guns in the center wing section. | Photo: US Air Force
Using the remarkable P-51 Mustang as the starting point, North American began work in 1943 on a fighter with an unrefueled range of 2,000 miles. Design Chief Edgar Schmued began with two P-51H fuselages that had been lengthened behind the cockpit to allow for the installation of additional fuel and other equipment. The fuselages were then connected by a central wing section that housed six .50 caliber machine guns for heavy concentrated fire, while the outer wings were strengthened to carry additional ordnance. The vertical stabilizer was also enlarged to improve single-engine handling. Both cockpits were outfitted with full controls, an arrangement that allowed the two pilots to take turns flying on long missions. A night fighter variant, the F-82F, was fitted with a large radome under the center wing section, and the right cockpit became the radar operator’s station.
The F-82 Betty Jo departs from Hickam Field, Hawai’i on a record-breaking flight to New York | Photo: US Air Force
The F-82 was originally powered by two Rolls-Royce Merlin V-12 engines, but the Air Force wanted the Twin Mustang to be powered by American engines. So the Merlins were replaced by less powerful Allison V-1710 engines for full production, and the earlier Merlin-powered aircraft were converted to trainers, creating the unique situation where the trainer aircraft were actually faster than the production fighters. The F-82 was finally adopted by the Air Force in the summer of 1945, but WWII ended soon after and orders were cut drastically. With no immediate wartime mission, the true long-range capability of the Twin Mustang was dramatically demonstrated in February 1947 when an F-82B named Betty Jo flew from Hawaii to New York without refueling, covering 5,051 miles and setting a record for piston-engined fighters that still stands.
North American F-82F Twin Mustang night fighter. Note the radome mounted under the center wing section. | Photo: US Air Force
Though the F-82 was too late to service in WWII, there was still work for the unique aircraft to do. It’s long range made it well-suited to escort early Cold War bombers of the Strategic Air Command. Had the Cold War turned hot, Twin Mustangs would have been capable of taking off from London for an escort mission to Moscow, with enough fuel for 30 minutes of loiter time over the target, then a return flight to England. The F-82 was also one of the first American fighters to see action in the skies over Korea, and was responsible for downing the first three enemy aircraft of the war. The Twin Mustang was retired in 1953 after production of 272 aircraft. Only five F-82s survived scrap yard, and all but one of those are on display in museums or undergoing restoration. After a 10-year restoration, one Twin Mustang, an exceedingly rare pre-production XP-82 prototype, took its first post-restoration flight on January 28, 2019.
The P-51D vs. the P-51H
P-51D top, P-51H bottom. The D model was the definitive variant, while the H model was perhaps the best. | Photo: US Air Force
With most military aircraft, there is a significant amount of development and evolution that takes place over the life of a wartime fighter. Those changes can either be entirely internal, and not affect the outward appearance of the aircraft, or they can be external, with modifications to the overall shape of the aircraft, while the general layout remains the same. The North American P-51 Mustang was one of the best piston-engined fighters to emerge from WWII. And it underwent a host of tweaks and changes that made what many consider the best fighter even better.
North American NA-73X, the prototype P-51 | Photo: US Air Force
When the British approached North American Aviation and asked them to build the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk for them, NAA President James “Dutch” Kindelberger said they could design and build a better fighter in the same amount of time it would take to tool up for the Warhak. Led by chief designer Edgar Schmued, North American did just that in only 102 days. The result was the North American P-51 Mustang. Powered by the remarkable Packard Merlin V-12 engine, the Mustang was arguably one of the greatest piston-powered fighters to come out of WWII, and maybe even the best ever.
The tenth production P-51B was modified and served as the prototype for the P-51D. Note the teardrop canopy with armored windscreen, and angled wing root. The production D model would receive the extended vertical stabilizer, or fin fillet. | Photo: US Government
The Mustang underwent many changes as it matured throughout the war. But the most notable structural changes came with the P-51D variant, which eliminated the dangerous blind spot behind the pilot by replacing the original canopy with a plexiglass teardrop canopy. With the loss of the dorsal area behind the cockpit, the Mustang experienced yaw instability in a dive, so the vertical stabilizer was extended, though this change was not included in the initial D models. Other outward changes that came with the Mustang D included wing root fillets to accommodate redesigned landing gear which gave the Mustang its characteristic angled leading edge. The P-51D would become the definitive version and serve in the highest numbers.
A California Air National Guard P-51H in flight | Photo: US Air Force
Though the Mustang D proved to be an exceptional fighter with remarkable range and maneuverability, there was still room for improvement. Beginning with the XP-51F and G, North American made the aircraft several hundred pounds lighter while extending the fuselage. The vertical stabilizer was made taller to improve yaw performance, while the ventral air intake was reshaped and lengthened. The result was a slightly taller, more slab-sided fuselage. A new Packard V-1650-9 Merlin with water injection and new automatic supercharger boost control provided up to 2,270 hp at full tilt, and a new, uncuffed propeller with rounded tips got the most power from the engine (this prop also appeared on later D production models). With less weight and more power, the H was now capable of speeds up to 472 mph, about 30 mph faster than the D.
P-51D, top, compared to P-51H | Photo: Bill Larkins
The P-51H, along with the improved Republic P-47N Thunderbolt, were planned as the main fighter force for the anticipated invasion of Japan. And while some H model Mustangs did make it to fighting units, none saw action in WWII. With the end of the war, most of the 555 that were built served stateside in Air National Guard units, while the abundant and battle-tested D model fought in Korea. North American also used the H model, or two of them, to create the F-82 Twin Mustang.
The F-82 Twin Mustang was created by joining two P-51H Mustangs | Photo: US Air Force
P-51D Mustangs of the California Air National Guard | Photo: US Air Force
P-51H Mustangs of the Maryland Air National Guard | Photo: US Air Force
Author’s musings: Though performance was improved in the H model, I can’t help but think that the Mustang lost something in the looks department. Of course, looks don’t win dogfights, but there was a balance to the lines and shape of the classic Mustang D. Somehow, at least to me, the H seems a bit more ungainly, though its performance says otherwise. Maybe it’s also the taller tail, or the extended ventral intake. But somehow, the proportions just seem...off. However, if you like the taller tail with the classic fuselage profile, there’s always the Cavalier Mustang.
The sole surviving Ar 234 on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia | Photo: Tim Shaffer
June 15, 1943 – The first flight of the Arado Ar 234. In many ways, German military technology was far ahead that of the Allied powers, particularly in the area of jet-powered aircraft. The British eventually gained a measure of parity when they deployed the turbojet-powered Gloster Meteor, but it was the Germans who fielded the world’s first operational jet fighter in the Messerschmitt Me 262, and also the world’s first operational jet-powered bomber, the Arado Ar 234 Blitz.
Photo: Author unknown
The history of the Blitz (Lightning) began in 1940, when the German Ministry of Aviation (Reichsluftfahrtministerium, or RLM) requested designs for a high-speed, jet-powered reconnaissance aircraft with a range of 1,340 miles. Arado Flugzeugwerke was the only company to respond, and they offered their E.370 project. Though the range was less than what the RLM requested, the Ministry was still impressed with the design and ordered two prototypes. The Blitz featured a high, straight wing with one engine suspended underneath each wing. Similar to the Heinkel He 111, the cockpit was placed directly at the front end of the fuselage, providing a sleek nose but also offering the pilot no rearward visibility. Initial designs had rearward-firing defensive machine guns that were aimed by a periscope in the cockpit, but the system was considered useless in practice and the guns were omitted from production aircraft. The periscope, however, was retained.
An early Ar 234 taking off from a rolling sled. Production aircraft used a tricycle landing gear. | Photo: Author unknown
Original plans also called for the Ar 234 to take off from a three-wheeled trolley which was jettisoned after take off. After returning to base, the aircraft would land on retractable skids. This allowed the entire fuselage to be filled with fuel, but it also meant that returning bombers would be strewn around the airfield with no easy way to move them. Therefore, production aircraft were fitted with a traditional tricycle landing gear at the sacrifice of fuel capacity. With the fuselage crammed with fuel and landing gear, the Blitz had enough room left over for one bomb recessed under the fuselage, or one smaller bomb under each wing. Though the airframe was ready by the end of 1941, problems in development of the Junkers Jumo 004 engines delayed the first flight until July of 1943. Later models replaced the Jumo, which was needed for the Me 262 jet fighter, with four BMW 003 engines. This increased the power and speed, but only a handful were built before the war ended.
An Arado Ar 234 V8, with four BMW turbojets in place of the two Jumo engines | Photo: Author unknown
The Blitz finally entered service in 1944 as the world’s first operational jet bomber and, with a maximum speed of 459 mph, the Blitz outpaced all Allied piston-powered fighters of the time. It’s first combat mission was a reconnaissance flight over the Normandy beachheads in August of 1944, where it flew unmolested over the Allied positions and gained valuable intelligence on the landings. The Ar 234 also participated in attacks on the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen, where the Allies had secured a crossing of the Rhine. However, the attacks were ineffective, and a number of bombers were lost to antiaircraft fire. Though the Ar 234 was used sparingly, it proved nearly impossible to intercept, and it was the last Luftwaffe aircraft to fly over England during the war. Fortunately for the Allies, only 210 aircraft were produced and, like the Me 262, the Ar 234 came too late to have a significant impact on the outcome of the war.
A MiG-21R of the former Czechoslovak Air Force in 1991 | Photo: Chris Lofting
June 16, 1955 – The first flight of the MiG-21. While the jet-powered fighter first came onto the scene in the latter stages of WWII, it was the Korean War where early jet fighters first started duking it out in earnest in the skies over the battlefield. American pilots were surprised by the arrival of the Soviet-built swept-wing MiG-15, which proved faster and more maneuverable than the straight-wing US fighters. Though quickly countered by the American swept-wing F-86 Sabre, it was clear that a fundamental changed had taken place in fighter design. Based on lessons learned during the war, a new fighter race began, one which emphasized speed perhaps above all else. The MiG-15 evolved into the larger but still subsonic MiG-17, which was then followed by the twin-engine MiG-19, the Soviet’s first supersonic fighter and the world’s first to be produced in large quantities. Following the standard Soviet doctrine, the MiG-19 was primarily an interceptor, led to the target by ground controllers and fitted with missiles. The emphasis was on speed and power, at the expense of maneuverability.
MiG Ye-4, showing the tailed delta configuration that was used for the MiG-21. Note the wing fences added to control the flow of air across the wing. | Photo: India’s Defence
By the early 1950s, the Soviet Union was looking for a fighter/interceptor that could challenge the jet-powered American B-47 Stratojet and B-52 Stratofortress and be capable of flying twice the speed of sound at an altitude of 66,000 feet. Again, the Mikoyan design bureau returned to the tried and true designs of their earlier fighters. After all, the Soviet design ethos stated that fighters should be simple, easy to maintain, and be capable of mass production in very large numbers. While quantity may have been more desirable than quality, the new fighter would be no means be an incapable design. The biggest question facing the Soviets was the basic planform of the new fighter. The Americans had opted for the extremely thin straight-winged Lockheed F-104, while the French had gone with a tailless delta for the Dassault Mirage. Both concepts had benefits and drawbacks. Mikoyan spent three years testing various wing designs, but eventually settled on short, thin delta wings with a traditional tailplane, a configuration known as a tailed delta. The prototype tailed delta Ye-4 first flew on June 16, 1955. The MiG-21 was born.
A MiG-21F on display at the Barksdale Global Power Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. As the MiG-21 was developed, the dorsal ridge behind the cockpit was enlarge, practically eliminating rearward visibility for the pilot. | Photo: Michael Barera
Known as the “balalaika” due to its resemblance to the traditional Russian musical instrument, the MiG-21's tailed delta configuration was a compromise that resulted in reduced drag and high speed, greater than Mach 2, while also providing reasonably good maneuverability. However, the delta wing also meant that new fighter was more difficult to fly at lower speeds. By 1958, the MiG-21F, with “F” meaning upgraded, was put into production and entered service with the first Soviet defense units. The initial production variants featured a larger fuel tank, dual cannons, and early radar rangefinder, but it was still strictly a daytime, clear weather fighter. It was followed by the MiG-21F-13, with the suffix denoting the addition of the K-13 missile system to augment its original cannon armament. Concurrent with the initial production run, work was done on a version with a larger adjustable intake cone to house a more powerful radar, and the MiG-21 gained its enlarged dorsal ridge to house improved avionics and fuel. This version, the MiG-21P, followed the trend of adopting a pure missile armament by removing the cannon, while ground attack capabilities were added to make the MiG-21 into a truly multi-role aircraft. Over the life of the fighter, continuous improvements to engine, avionics, the addition of nuclear weapons carrying capability, and more powerful radars led to a dizzying alphabet soup of variants.
A pair of Croat Air Force MiG-21s fly in formation with a US Navy F-14B Tomcat in 2002 | Photo: US Navy
Known to NATO as the Fishbed, the MiG-21 was built and exported in such great numbers that the term “MiG Diplomacy” came into being, with the Soviets practically giving the fighters away to Cold War allies and non-allies alike, all in the hope of gaining influence over world events. As a result, MiG-21s featured heavily in the wars and conflicts of the Cold War era. Fishbeds were in limited use by India by 1965, and appeared in the skies over Vietnam in the same year, usually in the hands of North Korean pilots, though it’s likely that some were flown by Soviet pilots. Following the Soviet doctrine of ground-controlled interception (GCI), MiG-21 pilots became adept at ambushing American fighter bombers such as the Republic F-105 Thunderchief, and their hit and run tactics proved effective at either bringing the larger American aircraft down or causing them to jettison their bombs and make a run for home. Thirteen North Vietnamese pilots became aces flying the MiG-21. Even the vaunted F-4 Phantom II suffered significant losses to MiG-21 pilots, so much so that the US created the Navy Fighter Weapons School, better known as TOPGUN, to retrain pilots in the art of aerial dogfighting, skills that had become blunted in an age of radar-guided and heat-seeking missiles. It also led the US to initiate the Lightweight Fighter program, or LWF, which resulted in the General Dynamics F-16. MiG-21s were flown by India in the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971, and figured prominently in air battles over the Middle East from the 1960s to the 1980s. And while many were lost to more modern Iranian fighters such as the Grumman F-14 Tomcat in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, Iraqi MiG-21 pilots claimed 43 victories over Iranian pilots.
A modernized Romanian MiG-21 Lancer C firing S-5 rockets during a training exercise | Photo: Mihai Zamfirescu
Production of the MiG-21 in all its variants and internationally eventually lasted from 1959-1985, longer than any other fighter of its era, a run that was only recently topped by the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon. The Soviet Union alone produced 10,645 copies of all variants, with more than 1,000 more built by India and Czechoslovakia. China also manufactured a license-built version of the MiG-21 known as the Chengdu J-7, NATO reporting name Fishcan, until 2013, with more than 2,400 produced.
Your eyes are not deceiving you. This photo does in fact show a Russian built MiG-21F-13 (Fishbed-E) in American colors. In 1967, the USAF acquired this MiG-21 from Israel after an Iraqi pilot defected to Israel during a training flight. The MiG-21 was transferred to the US, where the Defense Intelligence Agency carried out Project Have Doughnut (the project’s name came from the “doughnut” sight on the F-4 Phantom used to target opposing aircraft) to evaluate the MiG-21 against American fighters of the time.
Designated YF-110 to mask its true identity, the Fishbed was flown against F-4, F-105, F-111, F-100, F-104, B-66, RF-101, RF-4 and F-5 aircraft over Groom Lake, Nevada, better known as Area 51. The testing discovered that the Fishbed “has an excellent operational capability in all flight regimes. However, performance is limited below 15,000 feet due to severe airframe buffeting....” Other limitations of the Fishbed were poor forward and rearward visibility, poor gun capacity, high longitudinal control forces, excessive airspeed bleed off at high G loads, and extremely poor engine response at throttle inputs.
Despite those limitations, the Fishbed was, overall, a very effective fighter that could not be discounted. The testing led to specific tactics for each aircraft that might face the MiG-21. For example, the F-104 “should employ high-speed, hit-and-run tactics during offensive action and avoid prolonged maneuvering engagements. If the offensive situation deteriorates, the F-104 should separate by accelerate to above Mach .98 below 15,000 feet.” Versus with the F-4, the MiG-21 had more instantaneous G available than the Phantom at any given airspeed up to the limit load factor of the aircraft. The F-111, F-105 and F-100 were suggested to avoid maneuvering against the MiG-21 entire, as it was far more agile that those U.S. planes.
The complete Have Doughnut file has been declassified, and is available for download.
Photo: Mike Freer
June 17, 1959 – The first flight of the Dassault Mirage IV. The world entered the atomic age in 1945 when the United States dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the hopes that it would hasten the end of WWII. For a time, the US had a monopoly on nuclear weapons, but it wasn’t long before the Russians fielded an operational bomb of their own in 1949. The Soviets were quickly followed by England. But in the days before the first intercontinental ballistic missile, the only way to deliver a nuclear bomb to an enemy target was with a deep penetration bomber, one that could fly high and fast into enemy territory in the hopes of evading enemy interceptors and antiaircraft fire.
A Mirage IV P, modified to carry the Air-Sol Moyenne Portée (medium-range air to surface missile, or ASMP), photographed in 1999 | Photo: Rob Schleiffert
In 1954, French Prime Minister Pierre Mendès France decided that his country needed its own nuclear arsenal to put it on par with the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain. France initiated development of a three-pronged nuclear deterrence (Force de frappe, later called Force de dissuasion) that would include land, sea, and air assets each capable of carrying out nuclear attacks. In 1957, work began on a supersonic bomber capable of carrying a nuclear weapon, and Dassault offered the Mirage IV, which was a substantially enlarged version of their single-engine Mirage IIIA fighter. Where the Mirage III was powered by a single engine, the Mirage IV was powered by two SNECMA Atar afterburning turbojets capable of pushing the bomber to a top speed of Mach 2.2. The wing surface was doubled over that of the fighter, and the wing was also made much thinner than the Mirage III for high-speed performance. It could be armed with either a single free-fall nuclear bomb, a single nuclear missile, or 16 conventional bombs. Though the Mirage IV carried three times more fuel than its predecessor, its armed range of 670 miles was still less than the Mirage III, and would have required multiple refuelings in the event that it had to reach deep inside the Soviet Union. And, if the nuclear mission had to be carried out, it would have been a one-way trip. The aircraft would not have had sufficient fuel to return, and even if it could, its home bases would likely have been annihilated.
A Mirage IV carries out a reconnaissance mission over Kuwait during the Gulf War of 1991 | Photo: US Air Force
The Mirage IV entered service in October 1964 as the first element of France’s nuclear triad, with 36 aircraft forming nine squadrons of four aircraft each. To carry out their missions, the Mirages worked in pairs, with one aircraft carrying a nuclear weapon while the other served as a tanker to refuel the attack aircraft. At the height of operations, there were always at least 12 aircraft in the air, with 12 more on the ground ready to deploy in four minutes should the need arise. The other twelve could be readied within 45 minutes. For seven years, the Mirage IV was France’s only means of delivering a nuclear weapon, as the land and sea compoents of the Force de dissuassion were not available until 1971. Dassault produced a total of 62 aircraft, and the Mirage IV served in the nuclear deterrence role until it was superseded by strategic nuclear missiles. The bomber variants were retired in 1996, though the reconnaissance versions served until 2005.
Photo: UK Ministry of Defence
June 15, 1936 – The first flight of the Vickers Wellington, a twin-engine long-range strategic medium bomber designed in the 1930s to provide the RAF with a modern high-performance bomber. The Wellington was designed using the geodetic construction developed by Barnes Wallis that consisted of duralumin beams formed into a lattice then covered with fabric and dope. The construction technique gave the Wellington remarkable strength, and maintained integrity even when entire sections of the lattice were destroyed. Wellingtons carried out the first RAF bombing missions of WWII, and the bomber was eventually converted to a night bomber and maritime patrol aircraft. The Wellington was the only British bomber to be produced continuously throughout the war, and Vickers built 11,461 Wellingtons before production ended in 1945. The Wellington was retired in 1953.
Photo: Tim Felce
June 15, 1936 – The first flight of the Westland Lysander, a high-wing single-engine aircraft originally designed for the roles of liaison and co-operation (delivering messages and spotting for artillery) for the British army. Though soon rendered obsolete in the co-operation role, the Lysander’s excellent short takeoff and landing capabilities made it particularly well-suited for clandestine operations behind enemy lines, and it was often used to insert or extract Allied agents and to support the French Resistance during the German occupation of France. The Lysander also served as a target tug, and was widely exported to British allies around the world. Nearly 1,800 were produced before the type was retired by the British in 1946.
Photo: Author unknown
June 15, 1916 – The first flight of the Boeing Model 1, a single-engine biplane seaplane and the first aircraft designed by William Boeing. Known also as the B&W Seaplane in recognition of its co-designer Lt. Conrad Westervelt, the Model 1 was of traditional wood frame construction braced by wire, and it resembled the Martin trainer owned by Boeing, though Boeing’s airplane had improved pontoons and a more powerful engine. Two aircraft were built and offered to the US Navy, and when the Navy chose not to adopt them, they were sold to the New Zealand Flying School, where they set a New Zealand altitude record of 6,500 feet. The aircraft, named Bluebill and Mallard, also became the first airmail planes in New Zealand.
Photo: Frontier News
June 16, 1984 – The flight of the first all-female commercial airline flight crew. When Emily Warner was hired by Frontier Airlines in 1973, she was the only woman working as a pilot for a major US airline and. In 1976, she was the first female pilot to be promoted to captain. In the five years following her hire, the number of female pilots rose to 300. By chance, Warner’s name appeared on the pilot rotation paired with first officer Barbara Cookfor Flight 244, Boeing 737 service from Denver, Colorado to Lexington, Kentucky. The flight marked the first time that an airliner cockpit was crewed by two women.
Photo: Author unknown
June 16, 1963 – Valentina Tereshkova becomes the first woman to fly in space. The Soviet Union scored a significant propaganda victory when it put Yuri Gagarin into space in 1961, just three weeks ahead of American Alan Shepherd. To follow that feat, the Soviets thought they could score another victory by being the first to put a woman into space. Valentina Tereshkova, one of five female cosmonauts, launched onboard Vostok 6 and spent nearly three days in space, completing 48 orbits of the Earth. It would be 20 years before Sally Ride became the first American woman in space (and third woman overall) when she launched onboard the Space Shuttle Challenger, just two days after the 20th anniversary of Tereshkova’s launch.
Photo: US Navy
June 16, 1954 – The first flight of the Lockheed XFV, an experimental aircraft developed by Lockheed in an attempt to provide a fighter aircraft that could operate from the afterdecks of conventional warships. The XFV was designed to take off from a vertical position, transition to horizontal flight, then transition back to vertical and land on its tail. For testing, the XFV was fitted with long landing gear for a traditional horizontal take off, and while some transitions from level to vertical flight and hovering were undertaken, the XFV never took off vertically, due in large part to its underpowered engine. Only one XFV was completed before the project was canceled in 1955.
Photo: US Air Force
June 17, 1986 – The final flight of the Boeing B-47 Stratojet. When the final Boeing B-47 Stratojet (52-0166) was restored to flying status for a one-time ferry flight from Naval Weapons Center China Lake to Castle Air Force Base in California for museum display, it marked the end of one of the most influential designs of the early jet era. Following a 1944 US Air Force request for a new jet-powered bomber, the B-47 entered service with the Strategic Air Command in 1951. By 1956, there were 28 wings of B-47 bombers and five wings of RB-47 reconnaissance variants, with many staged at forward bases as part of America’s nuclear deterrence policy. Though the Stratojet never saw combat, it remained the mainstay of SAC’s bomber force into the 1960s. Over 2,000 were produced, and the EB-47E electronic countermeasures variant served until 1977.
Photo: Author unknown
June 17, 1961 – The first flight of the HAL HF-24 Marut (Spirit of the Tempest), a twin-engine fighter bomber designed by former Focke-Wulf designer Kurt Tank and the first jet aircraft developed and built in India. Though designed for Mach 2 flight, the lack of a sufficiently powerful engine meant that the Marut could barely reach Mach 1, and following the successful detonation of India’s first nuclear bomb, import restrictions prevented more powerful engines from being fitted. The Marut did see some action as a ground attack aircraft, and during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971, an Indian pilot flying an HF-24 claimed a victory over a Pakistani North American F-86 Sabre. A total of 147 Maruts were built, and the type was retired in 1985.
Photo: Michael Gilliand
June 17, 1955 – The first flight of the Tupolev Tu-104, (NATO reporting name Camel), the world’s first successful jet-powered airliner. Though the de Havilland Comet had flown first, the Comet was withdrawn from service in 1954 due to a series of fatal crashes and did not return to service until 1958. Tupolev based the Tu-1o4 on the Tu-16 bomber, and when the Tu-104 arrived in London in 1956 it caused much consternation in the West because nobody believed that the Soviets had the technology to produce a modern airliner. The Tu-104 entered service with Czechoslovak Airlines in 1957, and while it had a safety record comparable to other airliners of the time, a series of crashes led to its retirement on commercial routes in 1979, and it was removed from military service the following year.
Photo: Author unknown
June 17, 1928 – Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean in an airplane. Though best known for her disappearance while attempting a circumnavigation of the globe in 1937, Earhart made headlines in 1928 as the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean in an airplane, though she did so as a passenger. In response to Charles Lindbergh’s famous crossing the previous year, Earhart accompanied pilot Wilmer Stutz and copilot/mechanic Louis Gordon on a 22-hour flight from Newfoundland eastward to Wales flying a Fokker F.VII trimotor. Since the flight was made on instruments, Earhart never did any flying during the trip, though on landing, she did tell an interviewer, “...maybe someday I’ll try it alone.” Earhart made her own solo Atlantic crossing in 1932.
drVanTraveler last edited by
@ttyymmnn The only thing better than a Merlin,
іди на хуй Влад - formerly known as Distraxi last edited by
@drVanTraveler the only thing better than two Merlins:
іди на хуй Влад - formerly known as Distraxi last edited by
Actually, I tell a lie, there’s also sixteen Merlins
benn454 last edited by
@ttyymmnn It's a damn shame that Tereshkova is nowhere near as well known as Gagarin, Shepherd, and Ride.
Huzer last edited by
@ttyymmnn I loved B17s because my dad flew on one. My dad loved P51s.
CB last edited by
BicycleBuck last edited by
Did you ever make it down to Lackland Parade Field to see the twin mustang on display there?
facw last edited by
@CB It's not really a fair comparison. Modern aircraft are of course much better, but also more complex. The fact that aircraft were simple and cheap made it easy to just get something in the air and see how it was, but taking that approach today would almost certainly result in something worse than existing airliners. It's much harder to improve on aircraft because they are much better, in no small part because of the significant development time applied to previous planes. Also note that while the P-51 was a great success, the first P-51D which was the "good" version didn't fly until 1943, 3 years after the P-51 took flight so better to think of it as 1,200 days rather than 100. Additionally consider all the failed aircraft designs of WWII that were similarly quick, but not good. Even the P-38 and P-47, which were widely produced and successful fighters weren't really good at what they were designed for. Modern aircraft design is simply too complex and expensive to throw dozens of even quick inexpensive designs against the wall and see what sticks, so we have to work harder to get it right in just a few tries.
facw last edited by facw
@ttyymmnn Shame the military hides its cool stuff on base. The airfield near me has these guys:
I'm actually a bit surprised to see the P-40 is roughly the same size as the F-86, even having seen both in person in museums, I would have assumed the F-86 was significantly bigger.