Saturday, December 29, 2012

The US Air Force Museum - The Cold War

The next post covers the Cold War Era and as such has some overlap over the last two posts.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to do it that way, but that's how the museum is arranged, so here goes.

There is some discussion about when the Cold War actually began.  Some people could make the argument that it began in Feburary 1945 when the Yalta Conference was held.  It was decided that Europe would be split into two parts.  One part under the influence of the Soviet Union, the other under the influence of the Western allies.  Stalin was intensely distrustful of the United States and Britain (and vice versa I would imagine) and thought that the western invasion of Europe was delayed to weaken his forces.  The decision to split Europe led to the Communist Eastern Europe and the non-Communist Western Europe.

Other people may make the argument that it began at the Potsdam Conference which was held later in the year.  This was held after the death of Roosevelt, so it was Truman, Stalin and Churchill at first.  Churchill was ousted and he was replaced by Atlee.  Since Stalin were the more experienced leader, it is said that many concessions were made by the inexperienced western leaders.  The Potsdam conference solidified the Soviet hold on Eastern Europe.

Some people may even make the conclusion that the Cold War didn't start until 1949, when the Soviets detonated their first atomic bomb.  This sort of restored a balance between the two powers.
 However to me, the most logical place would be the Berlin Blockade and subsequent airlift.  Berlin was well into the Soviet Zone of Occupation in Germany but it was decided that it would still be occupied by all four allies (yes yes, even the French).  In 1948, the Soviets decided they didn't like an island of western powers in the midst of their zone, so they decided to blockade the land routes into Germany.  The Western Powers of course decided they didn't like this but not enough to go to war over, so they started an airlift.  The airlift was successful and the Soviets lifted the blockade in May of 1949.  During the airlift, Templehoff Airport in Berlin became one of the busier airports in the world..but I don't remember the details of how many flights per hour.  Probably one of the major reasons why this didn't lead to a larger war was because we had the Bomb and the Soviets didn't.
 I think this is a F-94 Starfire but I'm not sure.
 The B-36 Peacemaker actually has its origins before the US entry into World War II.  In 1940, things were looking pretty grim for the British and it was starting to look like we may have to fight the Germans on our own.  So the idea was put forward to develop a bomber that could operate from the United States to attack Germany.  The B-36 was the result but it didn't see service until after the War.  It was the first bomber to be used as a deterrent to the Soviet Union because it could carry nuclear weapons there.
 The F-84 Sabre which I talked about in the Korean War post.
 One of the fastest bombers that actually saw service was the B-57 Hustler.  It could reach a speed of Mach 2 and was the recepient of a Bendix trophy.  Because of its slender design, all weapons had to be carried in the pod strapped to the bottom of the aircraft.  This plane was made famous in the movie "Failsafe" because it was the plane that was used to attack Minsk.
 The Space Program is as much a product of the Cold War as the planes, therefore I put this in here.  This module is the Apollo 15 capsule.  It was crewed by an all Air Force crew.  They also all had degrees from the University of Michigan (One crewmember actually attended Michigan, the other two were given honorary degrees).
 The F-102 Delta Dagger.  This is the plane that was used by President George W. Bush.  It was used in an interceptor role and was meant to intercept Soviet bombers should they decide to attack the United States.
 The B-2 Stealth Bomber.  This is a plane that was in development for at least 20 years.  It first saw service over the skies of Bosnia.  The plane was designed to pentetrate Soviet air space and take out missile launching sites before they could be used on us.  It is based on an earlier flying wing design developed by Jack Northrup.  The plane saw heavy use in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
 The F-106 Delta Dart.  This plane was equipped with a nuclear air to air missile and again was meant to intercept Soviet bombers attacking the United States.  This particular plane has a unique story.  Its pilot was flying and got into trouble.  The plane entered a flat spin and the pilot took the wisest course of action by ejecting.  The ejection must have corrected something in the plane because it then righted itself and landed safely in a field.
 The F-4 Phantom in a wild weasel configuration.  It saw action in Desert Storm in this configuration.
 The Panavia Tornado which was a plane used by the British, Italians and Germans.  This particular plane was used during Desert Storm.
 The A-10 Thunderbolt II.  I honestly can not say enough about this plane.  It was originally designed as a tank buster and does that role very effectively.  Because of its endurance, it has been used in the search and rescue role...namely in protecting the aircraft used in that.
 The AC-130 Spectre.  This is a C-130 Hercules that was converted to be used as a gunship.  It is mounted with a couple of gatlin guns and a cannon.  It is very effective in that role.  It also has a 20,000 pound bomb that was occasionally used.
 The F-117 which was the main symbol of Desert Storm.  It's development began in the 1970's as at attempt to create an aircraft that was nearly invisible to radar.  It's shape is because the computers at the time couldn't handle the calculations for curved surfaces.  It first saw use during the Panama invasion in 1989.  It was retired in 2006 (or so).
 The B-1 Lancer Bomber.  This plane was originally developed in the 1970's, cancelled by Carter and reinstated by Reagan.  When it was reinstated, a number of improvements were made to improve its stealth characteristics.  It was supposed to replace the B-52 but never saw enough numbers to actually do that.
 The MiG-29.  This plane represented the Soviet attempt to catch up with our designs of the 70's.  It's not a bad plane.
 The Phantom in a reconaissance configuration.
 The F-15 Eagle.  This is probably my favorite current Air Force plane.  For this picture, I tried an odd angle.  What do you think?
 The SR-71.  This is another plane I really can't say enough about.  It holds most of the speed records out there.  But it was replaced with unmanned drones.
 I think this is a Mercury Capsule.  This was our first manned attempt into space.
 A satellite of some sort.
 These are dummy warheads for the Peacekeeper (M-X) missile.  Each of these would have a yield of 300 kilotons (which would be the equivalent of 20 Hiroshimas).  This means that one missile could inflict the firepower of 200 Hiroshimas.  It's kind of hard to wrap my head around that.
 The Minuteman III missile on the right and the Peacekeeper on the left.  The Minuteman III missile was equipped with three of those warheads.  I can't imagine what it would have been like had we actually used these.
 The Gemini capusle.
 A simulator of a Minuteman launch control center.  It's a good thing that the scene never really carried out.
 This is the Jupiter missile which was produced by Chrysler.  I'm pretty sure these were produced in Michigan.  Some of these missiles were deployed in Turkey and were later pulled out in response to the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
 The Missile on the left is the Titan III.  I'm not sure what the missile on the right is.  Both of these represent our missile deterrent of the 60's.  The Titan stayed in service until the 80's.
 The B-47 Stratojet.  This was one of our first jet bombers and is the direct ancestor to the B-52.
 The KH-11 Satellite.  It is rumored that this could read the print of a newspaper from orbit (but I'm not sure of that because diffraction would be an issue).
 Another view of the B-2 Stealth Bomber.
 The F-22 represents the last fighter design of the Cold War.  It has some stealth characteristics and is finally getting in service after 20 years of development.
 It's a cool looking plane but I have mixed emotions about it.  (Don't really want to get into the politics).
 The Global Hawk represents a future of aviation...Namely the unmanned aircraft.  As manned planes started out with reconaissance and moved into combat, I think it's only a matter of time before drones are attacking other drones.
 And the famous Predator drone.  This was the first drone to be equipped with missiles and used in an attack.
 The Cold War began to end in 1989 with the collapse of the Berlin War.  It finally ended in 1992 with the end of the Soviet Union.  I hate to think of what would have happened had it become a hot war.
I leave you with another chunk of the Berlin Wall.

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