Sunday, May 8, 2011

Air Force History -1950

January 6:  Nine airmen are plucked from the waters off Florida after their B-50 crashes just after departing Eglin AFB.
 
January 11:  An unofficial world speed record is claimed by a trio of F-86 pilots who fly between Tucson, Arizona and Albuquerque, New Mexico at an estimated average speed of 711 mph.

January 19:  Lockheed attempts to garner more of the interceptor market by flying the private-venture F-94C, a much-altered Starfire with a J48 engine and new wing structure. Also added is the capability to fire up to four dozen 2.75" rockets carried in the nose and in wing pods.
February 15:  Searchers locate all the crewmen from the lost B-36. Unfortunately, the news is not entirely good, as a B-29 taking part in the search crashes shortly after takeoff from Great Falls AFB, Montana. Of the fifteen men aboard the Superfortress, eight are killed.

February 24:   A B-45 operating from Wright-Patterson AFB explodes in flight, killing an Air Force sergeant and an RAF exchange officer. Another American member of the crew bails out and survives.

April:  The first of thirty-three RB-45Cs takes to the air. Derived from the tactical B-45C, the strategic recon RB is fitted for carrying cameras rather than bombs. Often seen in Royal Air Force markings, RB-45Cs will be deployed to bases in England for flights around the Soviet border.

April:  Republic's development of the advanced XF-103 interceptor begins. Planning ahead for a time when even Mach 1 speeds will be insufficient for the interception of Soviet bombers, the -103 is to have the astounding top speed of Mach 3+, achieved by the use of a dual rocket/ramjet propulsion system. Although it will never fly, the -103 program will contribute much to the area of high-performance aircraft design.

April 1:  The 28th BW (Medium) is redesignated as the 28th SRW, reflecting the shift from B-29s and B-36s to reconnaissance models of these aircraft. The RB-36 complement will shortly change the unit's designation to 28th SRW (Heavy).

April 11:   Shortly after taking off from Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, a B-29 of the 509th Bomb Wing crashes in the Manzano Mountains near the base. All thirteen men aboard perish, and the conventional explosives in the nuclear bomb being carried detonate in the crash. The nuclear capsule for the weapon was aboard the aircraft, but not installed in the bomb.

May 4:  Jack Northrop's final Flying Wing, the YRB-49A, takes to the air. A recon version of the basic B-49, this model adds two additional J35s in underwing pods for greater performance. No further aircraft of this type are built, as production orders have already been cancelled by this time.

June 3:  Attempting to develop a swept-wing fighter competitive with the F-86, Republic begins testing of the XF-96. The fact that this type is soon redesignated YF-84F reveals that the "new" fighter is really a Thunderjet retrofitted with swept surfaces. Like the Thunderjet, the F-84F, given the name Thunderstreak, will primarily serve as a fighter-bomber, although SAC will use it for a short time as an escort. The Thunderstreak will be fitted with a Boom refueling receptacle, and in the nuclear strike role will be able to carry a single Mk 7 gravity bomb. Technical delays and Republic's labor problems will keep the F-84F from being in service in time for Korea, and an adequate powerplant to match the airframe's potential is never supplied. The Thunderstreak will basically be a transonic transition type between earlier aircraft and the Century Series. Many will be sold to NATO nations, and the ANG will use F-84Fs until the early 1970s. 

June 20: The Fairchild XC-120 Pack Plane is unveiled. A C-119 derivative with a lower fuselage that can be detached and parachuted in flight, the XC-120 will remain a one-off prototype. 

June 25: Korean War Begins. North Korean forces, backed by Soviet and Red Chinese support, blitz across the 38th Parallel into South Korea, which is supported by the US, setting the stage for the first large-scale shooting conflict involving the postwar superpowers.
   At the time of the invasion itself, there are no US combat units in South Korea, but USAF units in Japan are soon engaged, as the United Nations intervenes militarily to (initially) restore the pre-invasion situation. The Fifth Air Force in Japan, the closest of all the Far Eastern Air Forces, is the first to be involved in the fighting. Most numerous and modern of the Fifth's tactical types are five units of F-80Cs, the latest version of the Shooting Star. Three units of propeller-driven F-82s, and two B-26 squadrons are also available. In contrast to the large US bomber fleet in the Pacific during the later stages of WWII, FEAF can only call on twenty-odd B-29s based on Guam, although this force will be augmented early on in the war. FEAF also has RB-29 and RF-80A reconnaissance aircraft, WB-29s for weather recon, and SB-17s, SB-29s, and SA-16s for rescue work. 

June 26:  F-82s drive off North Korean La-7s that are attempting to interfere with the evacuation of civilians from Korea. 

June 27: The first aerial victories of the war fall to the USAF, as F-82Gs down three Yak-7s near the South Korean capitol of Seoul. Additionally, four Il-10 Sturmoviks later fall to F-80s. 

June 27: FEAF begins offensive operations against North Korean Army units in South Korea. 

June 28:  B-29s flying from Okinawa bomb North Korean supply lines. 

June 29:  First air strikes against North Korea. 

June 30:  Regular combat operations begin above the 38th Parallel. The first deployments of ground troops to Korea start. 

July 7:  In order to meet manpower needs for the fighting in Korea, some USAF Reserve personnel begin returning to active duty. 

July 8:  FEAF Bomber Command is established prior to the start of strategic attacks against North Korea. 

July 12:  The first Superfortress to be lost during the Korean fighting is downed by North Korean Yaks. 

July 13:  First B-29 raids over North Korea. Superfortresses hit Wonsan, additional aircraft having been deployed from the US. Already being phased out of the nuclear strike role, the B-29 will be the only US strategic bomber to be used over Korea, as B-36s and B-50s are retained stateside and in Europe to maintain SAC's strike capability against the USSR. 

July 13:   A B-50 from the 342nd Bomb Squadron is lost on a training flight over Ohio, crashing into a field near the town of Lebanon, not far from Wright-Patterson AFB. The nuclear bomb being carried by the Superfortress apparently does not have the capsule installed, but the crash is quite destructive nevertheless, blasting a huge crater and killing all twelve crewmen. 
   Another B-50 is lost on this date, in this case over mountains northeast of Tucson, Arizona, after an engine explosion tears a wing off the Superfortress. Six of the crew managed to bail out and survive, but another is known to be dead in the wreck and three others are missing. 

July 23:  FEAF begins receiving F-51s reacquired from the Air Guard. The need for these older piston-engined fighters is critical, as F-80s are hard-pressed to use the minimal airstrips in South Korea. Indeed, even the fields in Japan are not ideal for jet operations. Able to hold their own against North Korean Yaks and Lavochkins, Mustangs can provide timely air support from Korean bases, and have better battlefield endurance than the F-80s. However, the Mustang's liquid-cooled Merlin engine is susceptible to damage to ground fire, and many F-51s will be lost to AAA. 

July 23:  A Florida ANG C-46 crashes shortly after takeoff from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, killing the four-man crew and thirty members of Tennessee Air Guard aboard. 

July 30:  B-29s begin attacks on North Korean explosive and chemical plants.
August 5:  At Fairfield-Suisun AFB, California a B-29 attempting a night takeoff experiences engine and landing gear problems, and crashes into a trailer court a mile from the base. Residents of the park are able to flee before the 500lb bombs carried by the Superfort detonate, but seven base firefighters are known to have been killed, as well as ten of the B-29's crew. Among the fatalities on the aircraft is the base commander, Brigadier General Robert F. Travis. Two others from the crew are known to be missing. 

August 13:  A C-74 makes a flight across the Pacific carrying over seventy medical evacuees back to the US, a new record for such missions. The derived C-124 will prove even more valuable in this role, being able to carry nearly twice as many patients as the earlier Globemaster. 

August 13:  The B-50A Lucky Lady II crashes near Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona while attempting to land. There are no serious injuries among the crew, and the aircraft itself is not utterly destroyed, but the Lady will never be repaired, with the fuselage becoming a recruitment tool.

September 4:  In a portent of things to come, a USAF Sikorsky H-5 helicopter makes the first ever combat rescue of a downed airman by an Air Force rotary-winged machine. 

September 15:  Invasion of Inchon/Operation Chromite. USAF aircraft support the daring UN amphibious landing at Inchon on the western coast of Korea. This operation splits North Korean supply lines and allows the UN forces in the south to break out from the area around Pusan. Within two weeks, Seoul has been recaptured and UN armies are advancing swiftly into North Korea.

September 22:  Colonel David Schilling flies the first nonstop air-refueled fighter deployment across the Atlantic. This capability will prove important, as it will be far faster than making the journey in steps or sending aircraft overseas aboard ship. Schilling and his wingman make the flight, staged from RAF Manston, UK, in F-84s fitted with wing-mounted refueling probes. Tanking from KB-29 and Avro Lincoln tankers, Schilling lands at Limestone AFB, Maine. His wingman, Lt. Colonel William Ritchie is not as fortunate, being rescued by a helicopter after having had to bail out near Goose Bay, Labrador. 

September 23:  First flight of the F-86E, the first air superiority Sabre variant since the original A-model. The E introduces an all-moving or "flying" horizontal tailplane, pioneered by the X-l as a means of retaining elevator control in the transonic regime. A total of 336 F-86Es are eventually produced domestically, with the USAF additionally taking charge of some Canadian-built export versions to meet Korean needs. 

October 19:  The North Korean capitol of Pyongyang is taken by UN forces. With the advance into the North, the UN is able to establish toward air bases on former Communist territory.

November:  Spokane AFB is renamed Fairchild AFB in honor of the late General Muir Fairchild, who held the position of USAF Vice Chief of Staff. The renaming is effective on this date, although a formal dedication will take place in July 1951. 

November 1:  Soviet-built Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 Fagot jet fighters of the Chinese Air Force enter the war, attacking F-51s. A contemporary and close equal of the Sabre, the MiG-15 also uses German-derived swept-wing technology, and is powered by the Soviet RD-15 copy of the Rolls-Royce Nene turbojet. From this point on, UN air superiority over Korea is no longer a given and propeller-driven types and even straight-winged jets are vulnerable. All MiGs operations during the war are staged from across the Yalu River in Manchuria, politically safe from UN air strikes. "MiG Alley" is soon established over northwest Korea, where attempts are made to build more southerly airstrips. 

November 1:  A B-26 scores the first air-to-air kill by an Invader over Korea, shooting down a Yak.

November 8:  Superfortresses drop firebombs on targets around Sinuiju, North Korea. This is the beginning of a campaign to cut off the bridges leading across the Yalu River dividing North Korea and Manchuria, aiming to stop Chinese armies from passing into Korea. MiGs are active in the area, and Lt. Russell Brown, flying escort in an F-80, scores over a MiG in the first jet-vs-jet dogfight.

November 9: The MiG threat is becoming increasingly evident, as a recon Superfortress is almost destroyed during an encounter with the far faster jets.

November 10: First loss of a Superfortress to MiGs.

November 26: The Chinese mount a massive ground assault in Korea, and are soon pushing UN forces back below the 38th Parallel.

December: TAC once again becomes an independent command of the USAF.

December 1: An F-80 flies unrefuelled and nonstop from Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, to Edmonton, Canada. This 1,560-mile trip constitutes a distance record for the type.

December 6: The F-84E begins combat service in Korea. Gradually replacing the Shooting Star, F-84s will fly over 84,000 sorties during the war, dropping more tons of bombs than any other FEAF tactical type.

December 17:  First Sabre Victory. Lieutenant Colonel Bruce Hinton, at the controls of an F-86A over North Korea, downs a MiG-15. This is the first action seen by the Sabre, which has been deployed to Korea to combat the MiG-15, as the Shooting Star and Thunderjet are at least technologically outclassed by the Soviet design. For the next three years, the two swept-wing jets will vie for air superiority over North Korea. Having slightly better performance than early Sabres and heavier armament, the MiG is a definite threat, although this is countered by the superior training of Sabre pilots.

December 22:  First combat loss of a Sabre over Korea.
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