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Pima Air and Space Museum, Part 8

Continuing our tour, I was pleasantly surprised to see a B-58A Hustler, another one of the model aircraft I constructed as a child. The B-58 is distinguished as the world's first supersonic bomber, able to reach a speed of Mach 2. It featured a delta wing with four General Electric J79 engines and was capable of carrying five nuclear weapons.

It was designed to fly at high altitudes and supersonic speeds to avoid Soviet fighters. However, the Soviet Union developed advanced surface-to-air missiles which forced the U.S. Air Force to change its strategy so that the B-58A became a low-level penetration bomber. And since it was never outfitted with conventional bombs, its operational life came to an end after only ten years of service — 1960 to 1970.

Here we see a Lockheed F-94C Starfire, a first-generation jet fighter introduced in 1950. It was the first USAF fighter with an afterburner.

The F-94C version was the result of further modification of the F-94 design and featured a new wing and armament consisting entirely of unguided 2.75-inch rockets housed in the nose and in two wing mounted pods. The C varient cost the taxpayers $534,073 a copy. It was retired in 1959.


Next up is a Douglas WB-66D Destroyer, a weather reconnaissance version of the B-66 bomber. Initially, I was confused by the idea of a weather reconnaissance aircraft nicknamed "Destroyer" since it is not equipped to destroy anything. However, the explanation of its lineage made more sense.

The WB-66 was intended to gather weather data over battlefields and had the bomb bay replaced by a pressurized compartment for two weather-equipment operators and their equipment. It was the last version of the Destroyer built, with 36 constructed between June 1957 and June 1958. It was retired in 1973.

Sitting next to the WB-66D was a jet engine without a sign indicating the maker or which aircraft it came from. I find it interesting nonetheless because the principles of a jet engine are fairly simple — yet look at all the tubes and wires and other gadgets hung on this engine. I guess we software engineers were not intended to know all the details of jet engine design.

The next aircraft is a Grumman EA-6B Prowler, a twin-engine, four-seat, mid-wing electronic warfare aircraft derived from the A-6 Intruder airframe. The crew consists of one pilot and three Electronic Countermeasures Officers, though it is not uncommon for only two ECMOs to be used on missions. It is capable of carrying and firing anti-radiation missiles (ARM), such as the AGM-88 HARM missile.

The Prowler has been in service with the U.S. Armed Forces since 1971. It has carried out numerous missions to jam enemy radar systems, and to gather radio intelligence on those and other enemy air defense systems. From the 1998 retirement of the United States Air Force EF-111 Raven electronic warfare aircraft, the EA-6B was the only dedicated electronic warfare plane available for missions by the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps, and the U.S. Air Force until the fielding of the Navy's EA-18G Growler in 2009.

Following its last deployment in late 2014, the EA-6B was withdrawn from U.S. Navy service in June 2015. The USMC plans to operate the Prowler until 2019.

Surprise — this is a Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29, a twin-engine jet fighter aircraft designed in the former Soviet Union as an air-superiority fighter. It began service in 1982 and continues to be employed to this day.

Like its predecessor the MiG-21, the Fulcrum was widely exported by the Soviet Union with nearly thirty countries using the export version of the MiG-29. The exported aircraft were not as capable as the ones built for Soviet use. They have a less capable radar and lack the ability to drop nuclear weapons.

Here is an interesting aircraft — the Hawker Siddeley FGA.1/XV-6A Kestrel experimental/development vertical take-off and landing aircraft.

Development began in 1957 using the new Pegasus vectored-thrust engine. Testing began in July 1960 and by the end of the year the aircraft had achieved both vertical take-off and horizontal flight.

Here you can see a closer shot of the projected fan jet which used rotatable cold jets which were positioned on either side of the compressor along with a "hot" jet which was directed via a conventional central tailpipe. This allowed the aircraft to take off vertically without the need of an airstrip as required for a convention airplane.

This experimental aircraft lead to the production Harrier VTOL aircraft which was introduced in 1969. It primarily served in the British Air Force and Navy where it is now retired but continues in service with the U.S. Marine Corps.


Not only does the Pima Air and Space Museum exhibit airplanes, it also had a number of helicopters. This is a Sikorsky MH-53M Pave Low IV model which is is the last version of the H-53 Super Jolly Green Giant that was developed during the Vietnam War. The base model MH-53 was designed as a long-range Combat Search and Rescue helicopter.

The Air Force was very happy with the performance of the helicopter both in the search and rescue role and as a transport for Special Forces troops. The only drawback of the helicopter was a lack of all-weather and night capability. To address this the H-53s were modified under a program called "Pave Low" with night vision equipment and other sensors. The upgraded helicopters were re-designated as MH-53H. The final upgrade came with the MH-53M Pave Low IV which gave the helicopters even more capabilities with on-board mission planning computers and satellite communications allowing re-planning of routes and missions while airborne.

It was in service from the late 1960s until 2008.

The next helicopter is a Soviet Mil Mi-24 Hind, a large helicopter gunship, attack helicopter and low-capacity troop transport with room for eight passengers.

The Soviet armed forces had a major internal disagreement with respect to the need for an aircraft with such a capability. However, the development and use of gunships and attack helicopters by the US Army during the Vietnam War convinced the Soviets of the advantages of armed helicopter ground support and fostered support for the development of the Mi-24.

It was introduced in 1972 and continues in service today.

Last for today is a Sikorsky CH-54 Tarhe heavy-lift cargo helicopter or, as it is popularly known, the "Skycrane". The United States Army eventually purchased 105, designating them CH-54. Used in Vietnam for transport and downed-aircraft retrieval, it was highly successful, thanks to the "adaptable" nature of the module system. The Skycrane can not only hold its cargo up and tight against its center spine to lessen drag and eliminate the pendulum effect when flying forward, it can also winch vehicles up and down from a hovering position, so the helicopter does not need to land. The CH-54 entered service in the early 1960s and was retired in the 1990s.

Today, Erickson Air-Crane of Central Point, Oregon operates the largest fleet of S-64 helicopters in the world under the name Erickson S-64 Aircrane. These can be equipped with water-dropping equipment (some also have foam/gel capability) for firefighting duties worldwide. After obtaining the type certificate and manufacturing rights in 1992, Erickson remains the manufacturer.

A personal observation: when I look at this helicopter, it looks like it is taking off even though the rotors are not moving. Probably some kind of optical illusion because there is no central fuselage.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com