with part 2 of our visit to the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum near
so much to see at this museum…and these rockets/missiles on display outside the
front of the museum are just another example of the variety available for
visitors. It was too cold and windy for
me to explore the outdoor exhibits, and I am much more interested in the
aircraft, so I just took this one photo of the missiles.
on exhibit outdoors include: Northrup SM-62 Snark; Convair SM-65 Atlas; Douglas
PGN-17A Thor, and; the Chance Vought SLV-1 Blue Scout. While the first 3 missiles list above were
designed to deliver nuclear warheads, the Blue SCOUT wasn’t…
the Scout (Solid Controlled Orbital Utility Test system) was a 4-stage
solid-fuel rocket capable of launching a 385 lb. satellite into a 500 mile
orbit. It was the USA’s first solid-fuel
launch vehicle that was capable of orbiting a satellite.
Boeing B-17 “Flying Fortress” is a 4-engine heavy bomber that was developed in
the 1930s for the US Army Air Corps. It
eventually became the third most produced bomber in history with 12,731 being
built between 1936 and 1945. The USAAC,
later the US Army Air Force, promoted the B-17 as a strategic weapon. It was fairly fast for its time, it flew high
and it had long-range capabilities…and it was equipped with a lot of heavy
defensive weapons and armor. It had a
reputation for being tough…with many stories and photos showing evidence of
badly damaged Flying Fortresses safely returning to base.
dropped more bombs than any other USAAF aircraft during World War II. Over 640,000 tons (1,280,000,000 pounds) of
bombs were dropped on Nazi Germany and its occupied territories. In addition, the B-17 also saw quite a bit of
service in the Pacific theater during the war.
countries operated B-17’s as part of their air force following the end of
WWII. A number of these planes were also
sold for civilian use…with some even being converted to passenger aircraft. Most of the remaining Flying Fortresses
however, were flown back to the USA and then scrapped. As of October of last year, only 9 B-17s
remain airworthy…although none of these were actually flown in combat. Many more of these airplanes are either in
storage or on display…
Douglas C-54 Skymaster is a 4-engine transport aircraft used by the US Army Air
Forces in WWII and in the Korean War. It
was derived from its popular civilian version, the Douglas DC-4. Dozens of variants of this aircraft were
built…totaling 1,170 planes before production ceased. This aircraft were one of the primary types
of planes that participated in the Berlin Airlift during the Cold War.
of 380 of the C-54D variants were built.
At one time or another, C-54s served in 34 country’s air forces as well
as the USAs. Today, 11 C-54s still in
the inventory of Buffalo Airways, which is located in Hay River, in Canada’s
Northwest Territory. Buffalo operates
out of the Yellowknife Airport. Website:
https://www.buffaloairways.com/. From looking at the company’s website, it
appears that the C-54s have been retired, with some of them being offered for
sale… FYI, Buffalo Airways still utilizes the last commercially flying DC-3 or
C-47 that participated in the D-Day Invasions.
operational C-54 in the USA is owned by the Berlin Airlift Historical
Foundation. To learn more about this organization,
their goals and their aircraft, go to http://www.spiritoffreedom.org/.
Convair F-102 “Delta Dagger”, aka the “Deuce”, was an interceptor aircraft that
was a key part of the USAF’s air defenses in the late 1950s. Its primary mission was to intercept Soviet
strategic bombers during the Cold War. A
total of 1,000 of these planes were built with the F-102A being the primary
example although there were a number of versions developed.
was the USAF’s first operational supersonic interceptor and delta-wing
fighter. It was retired from service in
1976. During the Vietnam War, these
planes served as escorts for our B-52 bombers over North Vietnam. President to be, George W. Bush flew an
F-102A during his service with the Texas Air National Guard. At one point, both Greece and Turkey, not
exactly friends politically, both had these aircraft in their inventory.
will see below, the SAC Museum isn’t all about aircraft per se. This flight jacket is an example of the
varied items offered to enhance visitor’s viewing experience.
particular WW II pilot’s jacket belonged to a B-29 Super Fortress waist gunner
named Max Malone. The plane was based in
India and it carried out long range bombing missions on Japanese
positions. Malone flew 20 such
missions. The jacket was donated to the
museum by his brother.
dioramas show the inside of the Glenn L. Martin Bomber Plant, aka Air Force
Plant 1 while it was producing B-29 Super Fortresses during World War II. The plant was built by Martin on government
land adjacent to US Army Air Corps’ Offutt Field near Bellevue Nebraska. The location was chosen because it was far
from the threat of enemy attack and it was close to a good labor market with a
big railroad hub. For once, the
government was ahead of the game.
Construction of 7 buildings for the plant was virtually complete when
the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and America entered the war.
began producing B-26 Marauder medium bombers in January of 1942...building a
total of 1,585 B-26 aircraft in total.
They were coming off the line at a rate of 50 per month! In 1944, production was switched to the B-29
Super Fortress very heavy bombers. A
total of 531 Super Fortress bombers were produced before the end of WWII.
well-known B-29s were built here. They
were the ‘Enola Gay’ and ‘Bockscar’, the planes that dropped the
first atomic bombs (and hopefully the last) in a military action, destroying
the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan. The pilot of the ‘Enola Gay’, Paul Tibbets personally selected the aircraft from the
Martin assembly line.
posters near the dioramas further explain and depict the construction and
aircraft assembly efforts at the Glen L. Martin Bomber Plants/Offutt Air
Base. Construction not only included the
1,700,000 sq. ft. aircraft-assembly building but also 6 big hangars and a 2
mile long concrete runway. The workforce
at the plant would top 14,000 with about 40% of them being women. In April of 1943, President Franklin D.
Roosevelt, plant owner Glenn L. Martin and Nebraska’s governor Dwight Griswold
toured this amazing part of America’s war effort.
that that huge assembly building is still standing although I noted an article
in 2016 that stated that it is slated to be demolished. It’s located too close to Offutt Air Base’s
main runway so it’s considered a safety hazard.
It does seem to be a sad fate for a building that has been described as
“one of the most important works of engineering and architecture in Nebraska
and one of the most historically significant World War II era buildings in the
Offutt Air Force Base is home to the 55th Wing, the largest wing of
the US Air Force’s Air Combat Command, as well as several other significant
course is a C-47 “Skytrain” or “Dakota”, which was referred to as the “Gooney
Bird” in the European theater of operations.
This military transport aircraft was developed from the civilian Douglas
DC-3 airliner. It was used extensively
by our Allies during WWII for the transportation of troops (including
parachutists), cargo and the wounded. It
even was used to pull troop carrying gliders…
More than 10,000 C-47s were
produced in Long Beach and Santa Monica California plus Oklahoma City Oklahoma. The plant in Oklahoma built 5,354 C-47s in
just 30 months! That’s about 178
aircraft per month… Note: Another 607 DC-3 civilian airliners were also built
over the years.
that the first C-47 rolled off the assembly line in December of 1941, it’s
remarkable to note that the US Air Force’s Strategic Air Command had them in
service through 1966 and the Air Force’s Sixth Special Operations Squadron flew
them until 2008! At least 100 countries
have included C-47’s in their Air Force inventories over the years. El Salvador, Colombia and South Africa still
have them in service. Many DC-3/C-47
aircraft are still in civilian use around the world…
That black aircraft hanging from the ceiling is is a
Lockheed U-2, a single-engine jet aircraft designed to operate as an ultra-high
altitude reconnaissance plane. Nicknamed
“Dragon Lady” it provides day and night all-weather intelligence
gathering. This aircraft is only 63 feet
long with a 102 foot wingspan. It has a
range of over 7,000 miles and it can fly as high as 80,000 feet above sea
level. It isn’t speedy, with a top speed
of only 410 mph…but it can loiter over a reconnaissance target of interest for
a bit…having a stall-out speed of only 75 mph. (In the second photo, the U-2 is 'flying' over the B-17)
first flew in 1955. The idea was that
this plane could fly too high for interceptor aircraft to shoot it down. During the Cold War, it was flown over the
Soviet Union, China, Vietnam and Cuba.
Famously, Gary Powers was shot down in 1960 by a surface to air missile,
(he was subsequently captured), while flying a CIA U-2A over the Soviet Union. Another U-2 was shot down over Cuba during
the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
of variants of the U-2 have been built over the years with the U-2S being
upgraded in 2012. About 104 U-2 “Dragon
Lady” aircraft have been built. Although
it was supposed to be phased out several years ago, the U-2 remains in
service. Its replacements have either
been too costly, delayed in development and or deployment or they just haven’t
achieved their operational goals. One
big advantage of the U-2 is that it can change surveillance objectives on short
notice…something that surveillance satellites can’t do.
information about the U-2 and the Gary Powers shoot-down over Russia, go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_U-2. FYI...there is a special exhibit at the Museum regarding Gary Powers and the U-2 'shoot down'.
McDonnell F-101 “Voodoo” is a supersonic jet fighter that was utilized by both
the USAF and the Royal Canadian Air Force.
At its inception, the Voodoo was designed to serve as a long-range
bomber escort for SAC, but in the end it was developed as a nuclear-armed
fighter-bomber for the Air Force’s Tactical Air Command (TAC) as well as a
photo reconnaissance aircraft.
version of the Voodoo set several world speed records for jet powered aircraft
including the fastest airspeed in 1957.
The F-101B variant of the Voodoo, (a two-seater vs. a single seat in the
F-101A), entered service with the US Air Defense Command in 1959 and with the
RCAF in 1961. The “B” model not only had
a second crew member on board but it also had a large radar unit in its nose as
well as a new weapons bay that used a rotating door that kept its 4 AIM-4
Falcon missiles or 2 AIR-2 Genie rockets hidden within the airframe until they
needed to be fired.
of 807 F-101 Voodoos were built with 479 of them being F-101Bs. The F-101A Voodoos served in their
reconnaissance role until 1979, the USAF F-101B’s served with the US Air
National Guard until 1982 and the Canadian version was retired in 1984.
photo above shows the B-36 “Peacemaker” from the front while the second photo
provides a glimpse of what this aircraft looks like from the rear. Built by Convair in 1948 and operated by the
USAF until 1959, the B-36 is the largest mass-produced piston-engine airplane
ever built. With a wingspan of 230 feet
and 6 radial propeller engines, measuring 162 feet in length and with a maximum
take-off weight of 205 tons, (including fuel, weapons and a crew of as many as
15), this is a huge aircraft. I included
a photo of a B-36 from one of the museum’s dioramas just to show the
configuration of the airplane. There is
no way I could capture it with my camera in the crowded hangar.
for this bomber began in 1941 when it appeared that Great Britain might succumb
to the German war machine. We knew that
the German Air Force was working on plans for a bomber that could reach the USA
from Europe. Later in WWII, further need
for a long range bomber became obvious in our effort to win the war against Japan. The Cold War and the Soviet Union’s
development of nuclear weapons made a long-range bomber an absolute
necessity…minimally as a deterrent.
range of 10,000 miles without refueling, the “Peacemaker” was our interim
answer to the Soviet threat. The B-36
made its first flight in August of 1946.
A total of 384 were built. The
“Peacemaker” was probably obsolete when it was first produced. It was piston-powered while our potential
enemies had already introduced their first-generation jet fighters. In an effort to maintain this aircraft as a
credible deterrent, 4 GE jet engines were added near the end of each
wing…giving the B-36D a total of 10 engines!
The added jet engines greatly improved takeoff and dash speed over the
target but in normal cruising flight, they were shut down to conserve fuel.
“Peacemaker” was the primary nuclear weapons delivery aircraft of the Strategic
Air Command (SAC) until it was replaced by the Boeing B-52 “Stratofortress”
beginning in 1955. Only 4 complete B-35
aircraft remain, all of them on exhibit in museums.
took this photo of David II and me as we perused the collection at the
Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum…
thought that this giant 3-story Nextel Partners “American Art Flag” was just
beautiful! This flag was unveiled in February
of 2002. Participants in the unveiling/dedication
of this creative US Flag included the mayors of Omaha and Lincoln Nebraska, SAC
officials, the Omaha Children’s Museum, the Millard Public Schools and 4 area
learn that the flag is made up of drawings by elementary students
after the attacks on 9/11/2001. I’m
guessing that they were stitched together by the residents of the senior
centers. The resulting flag is both patriotic
great American flag shown above hangs on the wall in one of the SAC Museums hangars. It is right behind this “Tie Towers”
sculpture. This ‘soft’ sculpture which
hangs from a steel wire frame, was created in 2002 by Omaha artist Greg
Laakso. It consists of 1,452 neckties,
each tie representing a life lost when the north tower of the World Trade
Building collapsed after being attacked by terrorists in 2001. Laakso is a University of Nebraska graduate
and soldier who completed 2 tours of duty in Iraq.
another week or so, I will post one more series of photos and information about
the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum…
click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
for stopping by to help us explore this expansive museum!
Care, Big Daddy Dave