Legacies of the Cold War

The older I get the more dots my memory connects. The legacies of the Cold War have

(Image Source: Chase Bickel). film noir bathroom. Film Noir Look. (Image Source: Uday Kadkade)

(Image Source: Chase Bickel). film noir bathroom. Film Noir Look. (Image Source: Uday Kadkade)

come into sharp relief on this little planet filled with strife, political egos and good people just trying to make it through. Like any good film noir, the bequests of that time present themselves in black and white with deep, menacing shadow. Like a movie scene each legacy a large, slowly rotating ventilation fan blade, one behind the other each timed slightly differently, the viewer sees only the shadow and feels the challenge as the simple swoosh, swoosh as the blades relentlessly and ominously turn. The good guys or bad guys make their jumps through the fans’ portal to the other side; some make it, some don’t. It’s the same footage used for different stories where a dramatic transition is required.

BUFF On a bombing run

BUFF On a bombing run

Delivered to the U.S. military for use in 1953, the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bomber in all its incarnations has been a workhorse of Cold War infrastructure that survived the fan blades of transition from one well-defined enemy to the shadow world of many enemies defined in vague terms like terrorism. Sitting in my office in the Quonset hut on Hickam, I was quietly tackling the piles of paper in the early 1990s. I was quite unprepared for the normally calm Kimo’s bursting through my office door yelling that a BUFF was on the runway. I had no idea what a BUFF was, other than a neutral shade of brown. The sheer size of the airplane that met my eyes that day was impressive. It was a B-52 and I quickly learned that BUFF stood for Big Ugly Fat Fellow (or F….r). I definitely wanted to know more about that old dog. I drank in books extolling tales of daring-do by phenomenal pilots as they flew B-52s on long-range missions over Russia or retrofitted B-52’s taking care of business in Viet Na or patrolling our borders like long-range snipers, and, now, the war on terrorism with precision guided missiles and mind numbing payloads of bombs. Continue reading

When Puff Ruled The Night: The Birth Of Gunships

Author: Mike Perry; Pictures: Cherries Blog site

Using side-firing weapons on aircraft can be traced back to 1927, when a concept was demonstrated by fixing a .30 caliber machine gun to the side of a biplane and flying a simple

Reproduction of a Sopwith Camel biplane flown by Lt. George A. Vaughn Jr., 17th Aero Squadron

Reproduction of a Sopwith Camel biplane flown by Lt. George A. Vaughn Jr., 17th Aero Squadron

maneuver known as a pylon turn.  Named after the air racing term, it involved positioning an aircraft in a gentle bank and orbiting it around a fixed point as the gun fired continuously.  Yet, when Army brass watched the demonstration, which showed promise, they dismissed it as strange and useless, ordering the idea shelved as they moved on to more familiar things.  Another effort was made to garner interest in 1939, just as war clouds loomed, but it too fell by the wayside.  Ultimately, it would take an American commander in Queensland, Australia to force the Air Corps to realize the potential of the idea.

In 1943, with the U.S. deep in World War II, Army Air Corps Major Paul “Pappy” Gunn

A-20 Havoc light Bomber

A-20 Havoc light Bomber

unknowingly laid the seeds of what would become the gunship, when he added four .50 caliber machine guns to the nose of his squadron’s A-20 Havoc light bombers.  Using them as strafers, he soon realized that, though additional firepower helped, it remained barely adequate to achieve what he really needed them to do: sink Japanese shipping.  Therefore, he sought out a more suitable airframe in B-25D Mitchell medium bombers, and mounted four .50s in the nose, two on either side of the fuselage and three behind the front nose wheel bay.  As this arrangement was never part of the original design, all modifications had to be made in the field.  Nevertheless, the improvements worked, and Gunn’s A-20s and B-25s soon flew into action in a big way. Continue reading