Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Naval Aircraft on Display – Patriot’s Point SC

The variety of military exhibits at Patriot’s Point South Carolina is wide ranging.  The focus is mid-20th century American history and besides the USS Yorktown, the USS Laffey and the USS Clamagore, there are 4 other primary exhibits or attractions.  There is an Apollo 8 Mission Exhibit, the Vietnam Experience and the impressive Medal of Honor Exhibit. (Those stories and our hero’s accomplishments are a bit mind-blowing)

In addition there are the historic Naval Aircraft…

There are 9 different aircraft on display on the huge hangar deck of the USS Yorktown.  Other displays include the Apollo 8 Exhibit, anti-aircraft weapons, battle photos, etc.

The Grumman F9F–6 “Cougar” began flying from aircraft carriers in 1952.  It was an updated version of the earlier F9F “Panther”.  The “Cougar” replaced the “Panther's” straight wing with a more modern swept wing.  There were several variants to this aircraft.  This model is a F9F–8T.

A total of 1,392 of these aircraft were built.  They were introduced into service too late for the Korean War and the only combat they ever saw was when 4 “Cougars” served as fast-Forward Air Control aircraft during the Viet Nam War.  Their top speed was 704 miles per hour.  More than 20 variations of the “Cougar” are on display across the USA…with one additional aircraft on display in Argentina.

On to some real combat work horses!  The Douglas A -1/AD “Skyraider” first joined the US Navy and Marines in 1946, too late for service in World War II.  A total of 3,180 “Skyraiders” were built before production ceased in 1957.  This attack aircraft served the Navy and Marines in the Korean War, with 101 of them being shot down.  In Vietnam, the US Air Force also flew these planes.  Between the 3 military services, the US lost 266 “Skyraiders” during this war.

·       Although the “Skyraider” isn’t a fighter plane, during the Vietnam War, they did manage to shoot down 2 MiG-17 fighter jets despite the fact that their top speed was only 322 miles per hour.

·       Vietnam inherited most of these planes as the USA phased them out of service to be replaced by jet aircraft.  Great Britain, Sweden and Great Britain also purchased a number of these planes.

·       Some “Skyraiders” eventually found homes with 3rd world air forces.  The last of these aircraft was retired in 1985 by the Gabonese Air Force.

The Grumman F6F “Hellcat” was the primary fighter plane for the US Navy during World War II.  This aircraft was best known for its role as a rugged, well-designed carrier fighter which was able to help secure air superiority over the Pacific Theater.  The quality of the “Hellcat’s” basic simple, straightforward design was proven by the fact that the “Hellcat” was the least modified fighter of the war.  A total of 12,200 of these planes were built in just over two years!


·       The “Hellcat” was credited with destroying 5,223 enemy aircraft during World War II, more than any other naval aircraft.  They had a top speed of 291 miles per hour…

·       The US Navy’s all time ‘ace’, Captain David McCampbell, flew the “Hellcat”, shooting down a total of 34 Japanese aircraft.

To me as a non-pilot, the Vought F4U “Corsair” has always been one of my favorite aircraft.  It just looks sleek and ready to go…like a fine race car!  I never had enough patience to build very many model airplanes but I did have a model “Corsair” for several years…

From delivery of the first prototype to the U.S. Navy in 1940, to final delivery in 1953 to the French military, 12,571 F4U “Corsairs” were manufactured by Vought in 16 separate models.  This was the longest production run of any piston-engine fighter in U.S. history.

·       Due to some issues with carrier landings, most of the “Corsairs” in the USA were flown by land based Marine pilots.  However, British, French, and New Zealand air forces also used this aircraft.  The Royal Navy actually solved the carrier landing issue. 

·       The “Corsair” continued on to significantly contribute to our efforts in the Korean War.  It had a top speed of 417 miles per hour.

The Grumman TBF/TBM “Avenger” was a torpedo bomber developed initially for the United States Navy and Marine Corps.  Eventually it was used by several air and naval aviation services around the world.

The “Avenger” entered U.S. service in 1942, and first saw action during the Battle of Midway. Despite the loss of 5 of the 6 “Avengers” on its combat debut, it survived to become one of the outstanding torpedo bombers of World War II.  Greatly modified after the war, it remained in use until the 1960s.


·       A total of 9,839 “Avengers” were built.  In addition to the USA, they served in the Royal Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

·       In June 1943, George H. W. Bush was commissioned as the youngest naval aviator at the time.  While flying his “Avenger” from a carrier in the Pacific, he was shot down on September 2, 1944 over the island of Chichi Jima.  He managed to release his payload and hit the radio tower target before being forced to bail out over water.  Both of his crew mates died.  He later received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

·       Actor Paul Newman was a rear gunner on an “Avenger” during World War II.

I didn’t know much about this aircraft although I had heard of it… The Douglas SBD “Dauntless” was a naval scout plane and dive bomber that was manufactured by Douglas Aircraft from 1940 through 1944.  The SBD ("Scout Bomber Douglas") was the United States Navy's main carrier-borne scout plane and dive bomber from mid-1940 through mid-1944.  The “Dauntless” was also flown by the United States Marine Corp, both from land air bases and aircraft carriers.  5,936 of these aircraft were built.


·       The “Dauntless” is best remembered as the bomber that delivered the fatal blows to the Japanese aircraft carriers at the Battle of Midway in June 1942.

·       This aircraft had relatively heavy armament—with two forward-firing .50 in M2 Browning machine guns and either one or two rear flexible-mount .30 cal. AN/M2 machine guns.  Because of this, they were effective against the lightly-built Japanese fighters, and many pilots and gunners took aggressive attitudes when they were attacked.  One pilot—Stanley "Swede" Vejtasa—was attacked by 3 A6M2 Zero fighters.  He shot 2 of them down and cut off the wing of the third in a head-on pass with his wingtip!  Yikes!

I should note that the Hanger Deck also features a B-25B “Mitchell” Bomber.  However, it was very hard to photograph as it’s mounted up in the air against the ceiling … You may remember that the B-25 first gained fame as the bomber used in the 18 April 1942 ‘Doolittle Raid’.  Taking off from the carrier USS Hornet, 16 B-25Bs led by Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle attacked mainland Japan, only 4 months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

From the Hanger Deck, we moved up onto the Fight Deck… That’s where relatively ‘newer’ naval aircraft are displayed.  While these more modern planes are amazing, I really do prefer the piston driven variety. 

The Grumman E-1B “Tracer” was the first purpose built airborne early warning aircraft used by the United States Navy.  They were introduced in 1958 and they were retired in 1977.  Only 88 were built.  Four others are preserved in museums across the United States.

The McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F/A-18 “Hornet” is a twin-engine supersonic, all-weather carrier-capable multi-role combat jet, designed as both a fighter and attack aircraft.  It was first introduced in 1984 and variations of this aircraft are still in service with the US Navy and Marine Corps as well as the Air Forces of Australia, Canada, Finland, Kuwait, Malaysia, Spain and Switzerland. 


·       Over 1,500 F/A-18 “Hornets” have been built to date.  They have a top speed of Mach 1.8 or 1,190 miles per hour.

·       The US Navy's Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron switched to the F/A-18 “Hornet” in 1986.  To qualify as a Blue Angels pilot, aviators must have 1,400 hours of flight time as well as an aircraft carrier certification.

The SH-3 “Sea King” (S-61) is a twin-engined anti-submarine warfare helicopter designed and built by Sikorsky Aircraft.  It was the world's first amphibious helicopter.  The US Navy began using the “Sea King” in 1961 and they finally retired them from service in 2006. 

The “Sea King” has also been popular in civil service and with foreign military customers.  As of 2015, many remain in service in nations around the world.  The “Sea King” has been built under license by Agusta in Italy, Mitsubishi in Japan, and by Westland in the United Kingdom. 


·       Several “Sea Kings”, operated by the United States Marine Corps's HMX-1 unit, are used as the official helicopters of the President of the United States.  In this role, the call sign 'Marine One' is used by the helicopter that is occupied by the President.

The Ling-Temco-Vought A-7 “Corsair II” was a carrier-capable subsonic light attack aircraft that was introduced to replace the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk.  This plane entered service with the US Navy during the Vietnam War.  It was later adopted by the US Air Force, including the Air National Guard, to replace the Douglas A-1 “Skyraider”, North American F-100 “Super Sabre” and Republic F-105 “Thunderchief”.

A total of 1,569 “Corsair II’s” were built with the first aircraft being introduced into the navy in 1967.  The last active aircraft was retired from the Air National Guard in 1993.  This attack aircraft served in both the Portuguese and Grecian Air Forces…

This is one ‘older’ plane that had grabbed my attention when I was younger…maybe because it was ‘different’.   The Douglas A-3 “Skywarrior” was designed as a strategic bomber for the US Navy.  It also was among the longest serving carrier-based aircraft in history.  It entered service in the mid-1950s and wasn’t retired until 1991.  

Throughout its service, the “Skywarrior” was the heaviest operational aircraft to operate from aircraft carriers, earning its nickname "The Whale."  This planes primary function for much of its later service life was as an electronic warfare platform, tactical air reconnaissance platform, and as a high capacity aerial refueling tanker.


·       A total of 282 “Skywarriors” were built.  Fully loaded, one of these aircraft could weight over 40 tons at takeoff.
·       “Skywarriors” remained in service long enough to participate in the first Gulf War in 1991.

The Vought F-8U “Crusader” was a single-engine, supersonic, carrier-based air superiority jet aircraft built by Vought for the US Navy and Marine Corps, as well as for the French Navy.  The first F-8 prototype was ready for flight in February 1955.  The F-8 served principally in the Vietnam War.

Introduced into active service in 1957, the last “Crusader” was retired by the United States in 1987 although France didn’t retire theirs until 2000.  1,219 of these planes were built and they could reach speeds of 1,225 miles per hour.


·       The “Crusader” was the last American fighter with guns as the primary weapon.  This earned it the title "The Last of the Gunfighters".

·       The RF-8 “Crusader” was a photo-reconnaissance development of the original aircraft and it operated longer in U.S. service than any of the fighter versions.  RF-8s played a crucial role in the Cuban Missile Crisis, providing essential low-level photographs impossible to acquire by other means at that time…

The Grumman S-2 “Tracker” was the first purpose-built, single airframe anti-submarine warfare aircraft to enter service with the U.S. Navy.  It was introduced in 1952 and was in service until the mid-1970s.  The “Tracker is closely related to the “Tracer” as previously shown… 1,185 “Trackers” were built by Grumman.  Many other countries operated this aircraft as part of their naval program and at least 3 navies still have them in service.


·       You may have seen 1 of these aircraft on television during California’s firefighting season.  By 2005 all of CAL FIRE’s air tanker fleet of “Trackers” had been converted to S-2T air tankers with turbo-prop engines.

The good news is that if you’re still with me, you may be happy to know that this is the next to last photo that I included in this posting.  I only have solid photos of 9 of the 12 aircraft that are exhibited on the flight deck…

This is the Grumman F-14 “Tomcat”.  It is a supersonic, twin-engine, two-seat, variable-sweep wing fighter aircraft.  The F-14 was the first of the American teen-series fighters, which were designed based on the experience of air combat against MiG fighters during the Vietnam War.  The “Tomcat” first deployment in 1974 with the U.S. Navy aboard USS Enterprise, serving as the navy’s primary maritime air superiority fighter, fleet defense interceptor and tactical aerial reconnaissance platform. 

A total of 712 “Tomcats” were built between 1969 and 1991.  This aircraft could reach speeds of 1,544 miles per hour or Mach 2.34!  The F-14s were retired from the U.S. Navy’s active fleet in 2006.


·       One of the foreign purchasers of these aircraft was the Shah of Iran.  As of November 2015, Iranian F-14's were known to be flying escort for Russian Tu-95 bombers on airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. (ISIS)

I’ll end this posting with this work horse for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corp. The Douglas A-4 “Skyhawk” is a single seat carrier-capable attack aircraft developed for the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps.  It was introduced into service in 1956 and it wasn’t retired by the navy until 2003.  The A-4's were well loved by their crews for being tough and agile. These attributes, along with their low purchase and operating cost as well as easy maintenance certainly contributed to their popularity and length of service.

·       In addition to the United States, at least 3 other nations have used A-4 “Skyhawks” in combat…Argentina, Israel and Kuwait.  Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brazil also purchased this aircraft.

·       A total of 2,960 A-4 “Skyhawks” were built.  Argentina and Brazil both still fly modified A-4's…60 years after this aircraft was first introduced!

That’s about it for now… But think about all of the brave aviators who have flown these historic aircraft in battle…and all of those who died on our behalf!  This display of aircraft on the USS Yorktown is really designed to honor them… I can’t even imagine the bravery it took to fly an “Avenger” Torpedo Bomber low above the Pacific Ocean, attacking a Japanese aircraft carrier or battleship, with the enemy blazing away at you…mind boggling!

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by to view the aircraft!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. My husband would have gone crazy here with all of the cool planes. He got to fly in an old WWII war bird last year when it was at our local airport. What an experience! and it made you appreciate what it takes to fly these wonderful old birds.


  2. Thanks for this post. During our two visits to the area I've looked at the Yorktown from the outside but due to the walking never made it aboard. The WWII planes compared to todays jets are like a soapbox derby car compared to a formula one racer.