Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Want to see a 60’s era spy sat?

Agena Upper Stage by rob-the-org
Agena Upper Stage, a photo by rob-the-org on Flickr.

This weekend (Sat, 9/17), the NRO will be showing off its newly declassified HEXAGON (KH-9) for one day only at the National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center in Dulles, VA.

After it is shown at UHC, it will be taken to the US Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH to go on permanent display there.

Related links;

– NASM Press release –

– Space review article on the upcoming declassification of this and another spy sat (useful for the scale drawing of different sat’s) –

Update – 9/19….

Here is a link to the SpaceflightNow story of the Hexagon display.  Includes a picture of a Hexagon being prepared for flight testing.


Checkpoint: 2011 May

Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the President. -Theodore Roosevelt


We are talking about citizenship. If one claims to support the president no matter what, then that person must support what Mr. Roosevelt said, right? Okay, that was cheap. Try this one: If one claims to support the president no matter what, then they must vote to re-elect whoever the preseident currently is, right?   Of course not!  Again, we are talking about citizenship. If and when we stop thinking for ourselves, if and when we start blindly supporting the individual serving as President, if and when we start making “no matter what” assertions as citizens, then we fail as a citizenship and a country.  As we already are.


America is not equal to the American President. America is all of us. The people, the land, the policies, the way we as humans treat others not like us. Thinking that America is equal to the American President is mindless ignorance that makes it easy for us to be led around by the media, the politicians, and to ignore the atrocities committed by them. We have become comfortably numb.


The problem is that we all find it far too easy to just blindly follow along with whatever the politicians are doing, and whatever the media tells us, and absolve ourselves of responsibility. Again, as citizens. We as citizens find it easy to ignore the atrocities committed by our politicians in our names. And then we wonder why the world hates us? As citizens, we are responsible for our country and its actions.


We all clearly know how to complain… but what can we do as a people, to change all this?


People love to complain about TSA.  The TSA is not the enemy here, any more than a “well-regulated (military)” is. They are just tools. Rudness to TSA, hatred towards our military is just cruelty to our fellow citizens. They’re just trying to do a job and survive, like the rest of us. The enemy here MIGHT BE our elected politicians, who are clearly more interested in themselves and their power than those they were called to serve. And I certainly detest many of those politicians, and what they are doing. But I believe the real enemy here is our own ignorance and apathy. Quote: “Which is worse, ignorance, or apathy? Who knows? Who cares?” Funny, but true. I believe most of us who can still think for ourselves are trying to fight THAT enemy, and none other, and trying to make our once-great country truly great again. Before it becomes too late.



Mig-17 Fresco blasting off


Originally uploaded by rob-the-org

As fewer and fewer World War 2 era airplanes are still flying – it is good to see that some ‘newer’ planes are being restored and flown on a regular basis (more than just at airshows).

This Mig is owned by a pilot in the Tucson (AZ) area and was leaving an area airport (where the Collings Foundation was visiting w/ their B-17, B-24 and P-51) under full afterburner.

(to see the other pictures of its departure – click here)


Quick Pima update

When I went down to Tucson last month to see the Heritage Flight rehearsal – I got down there before any flying started. So I headed over to the Pima Air & Space Museum to see what was new in the last year.

I quickly walked through the hangers and around the grounds, keeping half an eye on the air over Davis-Monthan across the street (so I wouldn’t miss too much of the Heritage flights.

If it was something that had changed since January 2009, the new picture appears on the left – and the old picture on the right. If it was something brand new, there will only be a single picture on the left. Click on any picture to go to my Flickr account for more detail on these and other pictures of these aircraft.

Convair B-36 Peacemaker (head on) B-36 Peacemaker - stripped of paint
Read the rest of this entry »

Air Show Rehearsal

Last year I blogged about going to an US Air Force air show. This year – as Air Show season is about to start – I was able to spend a day watching the US Air Force demo teams practice not only their routines, but also for the Heritage Flights.

Early each Spring – the US Air Force demo teams gather at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, AZ to plan out how the flights will be flown, then rehearsal their routines and to actually practice the Heritage Flight formations. Heritage Flights are where front line Air Force fighters (F-15, F-16, F-22 and A-10’s) will fly formation with historic aircraft (P-51 Mustangs, P-40 Warhawk, A-1 Skyraider, F-4 Phantom).

The advantage to being at this event – is you get to see more than just one Heritage Flight formation.  I saw a P-51 Mustang, flying with two F-4 Phantom’s, and a F-16 Viper.  And then later on – it was a P-51, a F-4, a F-16 and a F-22 Raptor.

All of the pictures are available through the link to the Slideshow below.


Name this missile


Originally uploaded by rob-the-org

I love wandering the aircraft museum’s to see where some curator has stashed a hidden gem. Walking along the rows of fighters on Saturday morning – I came across this one sitting on its trailer – already to be mounted to an aircraft.

Can you tell me;

a) Name/Designation?
b) What was it used for?
c) What was its payload/warhead?


The SR-71 Blackbird


Originally uploaded by Lockheed Martin

I have been trying for it seems weeks to write a post to do this picture (and the Blackbird) justice, but I just haven’t had the time.

The picture dates from 1990 just after the Air Force had decided to retire the Blackbird from active service.

The current Air & Space/Smithsonian magazine included this same picture in their article about Lockheed’s famed designer Kelly Johnson where they also discussed the development of the Blackbird (but if you are a fan of the Blackbird, then you know that lots of books have already been written about its development and past glories).


Pearl Harbor

Sixty-eight years ago today the US Naval Base at Pearl Harbor (Hawaii) was attacked and brought America into the Second World War.

Since then countless politicians have attempted to use the attack when warning against another suprise attack in other areas.

A ‘bolt from the blue’ attack – that Pearl Harbor has come to symbolize – could be seen more as a bookmark in history when warface has dramatically changed. Look at the Pearl Harbor attack. It basically signalled the end of the battleship as the dominant player in naval warfare, and heralded the rise of the aircraft carrier.

Taken in this context – the terrorist attacks on 9/11 (2001) could be seen as another ‘Pearl Harbor’ – and with it, announced the rise of ‘asymmetric’ warfare.

What happens next? Only time will tell.


Soviet Juliett – ready to be scrapped

Sitting tied to a pier in Providence Rhode Island – is a ex-Soviet “Juliett” class cruise missile submarine – waiting to either be restored or stripped in preparation to be scrapped.

This sub has had a interesting post-Cold War history. It was originally acquired by a Finish businessman in 1993 to be used as a off-beat restaurant/bar and tourist attraction in Helsinki. This attempt did not generate the $$$ that the promoter had hoped for – so in 1998 the boat was leased to a Canadian promoter who wanted to set the boat up as a tourist attraction in Tampa Bay Florida. The intended location did not have the depth needed to moor the Juliett – so it was moved to a more remote location. Lack of business caused the Canadian promoter to declare bankruptcy and the ownership of the sub reverted to the original Finnish owner.

But he didn’t want the submarine back and tried to sell it on Ebay for $1 million dollars. No takers. The submarine ended up being chartered for use in the filming of the Harrison Ford movie “K-19: The Widowmaker” and was towed to Nova Scotia, Canada.

In 2002 – the submarine was purchased by the USS Saratoga Museum Foundation and towed from Nova Scotia to Providence Rhode Island, and was on display there from August 2002 until April 2007 when it sunk in a storm (while tied to the pier).

Read the rest of this entry »


SR-71 Blackbird – sn/17951

This was the original reason that I was going to go down to Pima on the photo trip.  I hadn’t been to the museum since the new ‘Spirit of Freedom’ (Hanger 1 South) had opened up.  And it was the new home to the museum’s SR-71 Blackbird.

The pictures in this slideshow documents the progression of the Blackbird’s display at Pima.  From being tucked under a temporary sun shade/car port, to being out in the middle of the Arizona sun, to finally being inside and showcased in the new hanger.

This is the last set of pictures from the January photo-safari.  If you would like to explore more of my pictures from different trips to Pima – please click HERE.  If you are interested in learning more about the Pima Air & Space museum – click HERE.

If you would like to see all of my posts about Pima – click HERE.


Pima – Convair B-36 Restoration

This was the reason that most of us had come on the trip. A chance to photograph the Convair B-36 Peacemaker that the Museum staff had been working on reassembling for over three years now.

[This slideshow/picture set is of ALL of my B-36 pictures from Pima.  Not only my trip in January 2009, but from trips in 2006 and 2007.  So you can see the visible progress.  For a more current and up close status of the restoration of the Peacemaker, take a look at the project page on the Pima website]

Read the rest of this entry »


Boeing E-4B – National Airborne Operations Center

With the change of Administration last month, the National Geographic Channel ran a special on Air Force One, calling it America’s Airborne Command Post.

Unfortunately – that statement was just PR. As the documentary showed (in a recap of the flight during 9/11), Air Force One is not a ‘command post’ per se. It is a VIP transport, with a very secure communications system.

[For more commentary about the NatGeo documentary – check out “In From the Cold”]

The ‘real’ Airborne Command Post is currently a set of four Boeing 747-200 aircraft that were modified/enhanced, and are currently designated by the US Air Force as E-4B’s.

The history of this program;

  • ordered – Feb 1973
  • first delivered – Dec 1974
  • fleet upgraded to E-4B standard – 1985
  • Expected to continue in service to 2015

The E-4B modification consisted of EMP hardening of the aircraft electronics and systems, and replacing the original engine’s.

The four airplanes are based at Offut AFB in Nebraska, and will rotate through Andrews AFB (outside of Washington DC) and Wright Patterson AFB (Dayton, OH). Since the US no longer keeps the bomber force on alert – the E-4’s are one of the few aircraft that are maintained on a 24-hour alert status.

During the attacks on 9/11 – people had reported seeing a large, 4 engine plane overflying Washington, DC and this turned out to be an E-4B, even though the DOD never admitted it was theirs. According to later reports – there was an E-4B at Andrews AFB, participating in Exercise “Global Guardian” that was cancelled when the first plane hit the World Trade Center (and the E-4B was sent airborne).


Pima – Restoration hangar and grounds

Behind a sign that says ‘Museum Staff only’ rests the Restoration Hangar and storage yard.  This is where planes are prepped to go on display, and others sit either waiting for their turn, or waiting to used as parts for another exhibit.

Being allowed into the Restoration was the whipped cream on this photo trip (the cherry will be another post).  It was due to the diligence of the organizer of the photo trip.

The Restoration shop is where aircraft are taken apart, cleaned, holes patched, put back together again, and repainted.

Read the rest of this entry »


Pima – P-51 Mustang being built

In the middle of the museum field of planes – there is a non-descript building which houses a special project.  This building is referred to as ‘Area 51’ – and is where the museum’s craftsmen are building their own P-51 Mustang.

Now – they don’t ever expect this plane to fly, so the strength of the wings and the fuselage are one of the areas that they are cutting back on.  But otherwise – they are working from original blueprints and where possible (budget & availability) using original parts.

Read the rest of this entry »


Pima – Avro Shackleton AEW.Mk2 ‘Mr Henry’

Back at the edge of the restoration area – was an Avro Shackleton AEW.Mk2 named ‘Mr McHenry’ – that was donated by Air Atlantique Classic Flight.

The Shackleton was a post World War 2 design for a RAF Maritime Patrol Aircraft.  This particular airframe, WL790, was converted to be a AEW (Airborne Early Warning) platform.

Read the rest of this entry »


[UPDATE] Pima – Mig 29 Fulcrum

The first new exhibit – was a Mig-29 Fulcrum on the fence line (along Valencia Road).

Even though the Mig is in Russian Air Force markings, one of the other photographers on the trip seemed to think that this is one of the former Moldovan Mig-29’s that the US bought back in 1997 (because this version of the Mig-29 – ‘S’ had a built in jammer on the spine, and was capable of being equipped with nuclear stand-off weapons).

Read the rest of this entry »


Pima Air & Space Museum, Tucson AZ

Soaring over the mountains

Originally uploaded by rob-the-org

I took a road trip this past weekend down to the Pima Air & Space Museum on the east side of Tucson, AZ this past Saturday. It was my first visit in almost two years, and my first trip with my current camera.

Each time I have gone, I have found something new and surprising, and this trip was no exception. Expect to see the highlights from this trip over the coming days.


History – Remember Pearl Harbor

I think the quote is perfect. As recent events in the US have shown, if you don’t pay understand history – and mistakes others made before hand – you will quickly become history.


The last soliders to die in WW1

The BBC has posted an excellent article here about the last soliders to die in World War 1.  These individuals died within moments of the ceasefire and armistice declared that would bring an end to the war, in innocent, non-combat, yet still all-too-fatal situations.  This amazing article is well worth the read and the time to review.


There is much we can learn from history, which is why the work of our historians is so valuable.  In this case, I am struck by the tragic lack of safety experienced by these men who thought that now, certainly, finally, they were safe.  I am also struck by the magnitude of loss that can occur as a result of the decisions made by individuals, whether out of aggression, fear, communications delays or failure, or just plain fatigue.


As we approach the 90th anniversary of the end of World War I, let us remember all those who gave their lives, in combat or perceived safety, for the freedom we enjoy now, and the peace we may yet experience in our lifetimes.  And let us remember those who still fight, with the hope that they may achieve that peace we all seek.  Our hearts and gratitude go with you all.