Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Museum of Naval Aviation, Part 1

 On my recent 1738 mile road trip, I made a special point to swing by Pensacola, Florida so that I could see the Museum of Naval Aviation, located on the Pensacola Naval Air Station. It did not disappoint. This is quite simply one of the greatest aviation museums in
the entire world. Even though I am going to split this into a couple of parts, I will only be showing a small part of their collection. I highly recommend you visit.  (and it is FREE!)

A rare find- the Vought Vindicator SBU2. In fact, the only only one in existence. This aircraft crashed into Lake Michigan in 1943 while operating off the training aircraft carrier Wolverine (IX 64). It was recovered in 1990. The SBU2 was intended as a scout/bomber aircraft, functioning as the eyes, ears and sword of the Navy, hunting down enemy surface warships. It was fairly well set for that mission when it was first produced, boastinga maximum speed of 251 mph (404km/h) and a range of 630 miles( 1,014km). But due to the vast and fast technological advances of the era, the Vindicator was technically obsolete at the start of WWII. It was too lightly armed with a single forward firing machine gun and a flexible mount for the tailgunner's machine gun for defense. It could carry up to 1,500lbs (680kg) of bombs, including a 1000 pounder (450kg)  mounted on a swinging trapeze below the fuselage so that it wouldn't hit the propeller when in a steep dive. It also was partially fabric covered with aluminum plates covering the fuselage forward of the cockpit. The Vindicator served aboard four US Navy carriers until 1942 and in the USMC until 1943. It then served as a training aircraft in both the US Navy and the Royal Navy for the duration of the war. 

This one might not look particularly impressive, but it is an AIM-26A. It was the first air-to-air guided missile with a nuclear warhead. It was a variant of the Falcon missile series and designed with the idea of firing it at long range into a approaching formation of supersonic bombers. It mounted a sub kiloton W54 warhead, which was rated at 250 tons of TNT. The W54 warhead shared its design with the Mk-54 projectile developed for the "Davy Crockett" nuclear recoilless rifle. The W54 warhead weighed about 50lbs (23kg) The missile was guided by radar to give it longer range and all-weather capability. It had a range of about 6 miles (9.7km) . The Nuclear Falcon was brought into service in 1960 and retired in 1972. Its nuclear warheads were then rebuilt for the AGM-62 "Walleye" glide bomb. How's that for Federal Government efficiency?

Here we have the F7U "Cutlass". As you can see, this aircraft does not have a conventional tail and instead uses what is known as semi-tailless design. It used surfaces now called elevons to control pitch and roll. The basic idea for this was amongst data captured from the German aeronautical firm Arado as the end of WWII. The aircraft was designed by Rex Beisel, who also designed the first aircraft specifically made for the US Navy. While a really neat and advanced design, the Cutlass was plagued with engines that did not have enough power and had a tendency to flame out.  Unfortunately, 4 test pilots and 21 other Naval Aviators were killed in F7U crashes. Ultimately, more than 25% of the production run of the F7U were destroyed in crashes. As such, the aircraft was not well liked by pilots and began to acquire some rather unflattering nicknames. The first was the "Gutless Cutlass:, a play on the performance of the underpowered Westinghouse J46-WE-8B engines. The second, more grim name was the "Ensign Eliminator", so named because of its difficult flying characteristics, especially for junior pilots.

 Here we have a A-4 Skyhawk, A lightweight ground attack aircraft that saw service with the Navy during the Vietnam War. It was used in bombing raids over North Vietnam and as close air support aircraft for troops in contact. Ultimately, 362 Skyhawks were lost to all causes during Vietnam. A nimble aircraft, it was used for many years in Dissimilar Air Combat Training, standing in for the MiG-17. It served in that role until 2003.

The amazing F-14 Tomcat. This is the aircraft that made the last combat flight of the US Navy Tomcats. The flight was made supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom on February 8, 2006.

1 comment:

  1. Nice pics that place looks huge. I need to go there.