Posts Tagged ‘Cold War’

  • The B-1B Lancer … it’s the cat’s meow

    By Matt Dean The Rockwell B-1B Lancer is a prime example of U.S. Cold War-era ingenuity, initiative, and engineering competency. The initial vision for the heavy bomber was to replace the lumbering B-52 with a high-flying supersonic nuclear deterrent. The B-1B, like many high-dollar military aircraft investments, evolved over multiple decades to suit the ever-changing perceived need of the defense department. The B-1B or “B-ONE” employs stealthy characteristics and — unless you live near Dyess Air Force Base in Texas or Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota the aircraft — is likely to avoid your detection. The only functioning one I’ve ever seen is from afar on the tarmac at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson. I spied a non-functioning B-ONE at the Boneyard also at Davis-Monthan wrapped up for storage, too. The main distinguishing feature of a B-1B is its ability to alter its wings from a 15-degree angle to a delta-shaped 67.5-degree angle. The wings move for speed when the plane is in the swept delta configuration and for control when in the typical, forward position. The original B-1 was meant to be a super-fast mach 2.2 nuclear bomb delivery system in the age where a “recallable” nuclear deterrent was preferred. As the manned nuclear delivery system fell out of favor, so, too, did the B-1. But, at a cost of roughly $280 million apiece, gargantuan investments

  • BIG plan(e)s

    By Matt Dean In the early post-World War II years, humanity was reeling from the most destructive conflict ever. As Europe and Japan picked up the rubble the Soviets and Americans were escalating militarization to the point of possible annihilation. One of the early weapons leading down the harrowing path of mutually assured destruction was America’s Convair B-36 Peacemaker. Truly the original BUFF: Big Ugly Fat Fellow (or however you like your acronym Fs), the B-36 was nearly as long as a 15-story building and had a wingspan the height of 21-story building. The square footage of the wings was twice the size of two modern average single family homes. There were six aft facing propeller driven engines turning and four jet engines burning. The bomber weighed move than 166,000 pounds sans bombs. Essentially, the B-36 was a 162-foot-long tube with giant fins sticking out of it. The Ugly comes from the ungainly cockpit canopy hump that bulges like a boil out of the smooth fuselage near the nose of the plane. The purpose of the Peacemaker’s size and power was to achieve a nautical range of 10,000 miles so that it could drop atomic bombs on the Soviet Union if need be. The original proposal for the B-36 came out of U.S fears early in World War II that Great Britain would fall to Germany and subsequently an intercontinental

  • Bird Watching (No, The Other Kind): From wartime to pastime

    By Matt Dean On a late winter morning in 1951, a woman makes her way to the edge of a small North Dakota town to a lookout station codenamed Zulu-Papa-Papa-3-3. She briefly speaks to the pair of graveyard shift observers she’s relieving and checks the telephone connection to the filter center. The stove is still hot but needs to be stoked as a freezing northern-plains wind kicks up and finds its way through the cracks of the hastily built post. For the next 12 hours she’ll look and listen to the skies for signs of Soviet planes trying to slip across the unguarded Canadian arctic to drop atomic bombs on America. ***** As a hobby, aircraft spotting is relaxed and relaxing. For decades, though, it was a matter of life and death. The military was already organizing a civil aircraft spotting branch before December 7, 1941. After Pearl Harbor, the War Department redoubled its efforts and established that program. Officials developed extensive training procedures to help civilian volunteers properly identify aircraft as friend or foe. They used spotting manuals, models, and even playing cards. While fairly novel stateside, the Aircraft Warning Service was based on a long-running, pre-World War I program in Britain: the Royal Observation Corps. During World War II, as mainland Europe fell to the Nazis, the British military reorganized civilians to supplement the daytime radar that monitored

Celebrating art and science in Greater Prescott.

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