Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Please enjoy my pictures that I took during a visit to Michigan's Selfridge Air National Guard Base museum and air park in April, 2011.
Information about any of the aircraft depicted can be found here. If you have any experience with or first-hand stories about these aircraft, I welcome your comments.

Walk the field, but tread respectfully, for there are legends and giants asleep on their hardstands.

The early jets

American jet fighter aviation really got rolling with the Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star. This two-seat trainer version, the T-33, was what many fighter pilots learned to fly in.

Here's the guardian at the gate--an RF-84F Thunderflash, made by Republic. This reconnaissance fighter flew with the Michigan Air Guard from 1958 until 1971, both from Selfridge and from Detroit Metro Airport.

And this F-84F Thunderstreak also flew out of Detroit Metro from 1958-1960. It's hard to envision nuclear-capable jet fighters like these flying out of that place today, but it was a different world back then.

Finally, we have the North American F-86A Sabre Jet, a personal favorite of mine. This is the jet that dominated the skies over Korea and helped keep a lid on much of Europe.

Century Series

North American 's F-100 Super Sabre was the first jet fighter capable of breaking the sound barrier in level flight. Though a bit long in the tooth by the time they were deployed, the F-100 fulfilled many roles in the skies over Vietnam, from fighter to bomber to fast-FAC. Here's Selfridge's F-100D, #56-025.

Selfridge also has a two-seat F-100F, a two-seat version of the D-model that was used primarily as a trainer but also as a Misty FAC (Forward Air Controller) and a Wild Weasel (Anti-Aircraft Suppression) aircaft in Vietnam.242 of these aircraft were lost in Vietnam, including 14 from Air Guard units.

McDonnell Douglas RF-101C Voodoo, the first supersonic photo recon jet. It was this type that gave us looks into Cuba during the 1961 Cuban Missile Crisis.
Back end of the Voodoo, with the F-100D in the background.

Convair TF-102A. This is the two-seat version of the Delta Dagger, a bomber interceptor. This one was built as a trainer, and in fact, this one, ##041351, was the very first one so built.

The F-102 was the first jet fighter to be built without guns, relying on missiles alone for aerial combat. Yeah, that worked out well. Guns were eventually put back again in the F-4 Phantoms after it became clear that this had been a really dumb idea.Over 1,000 F-102s were built, and these also flew in Vietnam as fighters and bomber escorts and Forward Air Controllers. 15 were lost there. George W. Bush flew one of these with the Texas Air Guard. He did not get sent to Vietnam, but he could have, and for assuming the risk and doing his part for our country, he earned my respect.

And here's Convair's F-106 Delta Dart. This interceptor, a redesign of the F-102, was the last dedicated interceptor built and they sat on alert, ready to intercept Russian bombers, until they were replaced in 1981 by the F-15C. They served with Air Guard units until 1988, and then the remaining aircraft were converted to target drones, the last of which was destroyed in 1998. It could hit Mach 2 and was also the first aircraft designed with a guidance system that would automatically fly the aircraft to the target, line it up and fire the weapons, then return the aircraft to it's base, in theory only requiring the pilot for take-offs and landings. Pilots reportedly loved this aircraft for the way it flew, and that despite the fact that it was initially delivered with an ejection seat so dangerous that it killed the first twelve pilots to eject from these aircraft.
For some reason I only have one picture of this aircraft, despite it being a favorite of mine. Not sure how that happened. I guess I'll have to go back later and take more.

Classic Attack Aircraft

How do you not love this World War Two-era fighter-bomber? If you're a student of history, a fan of military aviation, or just grew up withing Black Sheep Squadron on TV, you can't fail to appreciate this powerful, rugged and extremely versatile warbird. Most were made by Chance-Vought and designated F4U but this particular model is an FG-1D built by the Goodyear people.The Corsair was retained well into the 1960's because it could carry so much ordnance and deliver it precisely on target, something that jets of that era could not quite do.

And then there's the Douglas A-26.First accepted and flown in World War Two, these incredible bombers were still fighting in Vietnam, retained for the same reason that the Corsair was.They were also flown by the CIA in Africa and over Cuba during the bay of Pigs invasion in the 1960s. This was one attack bird that was just too handy to ever retire and there are still a few flying as forest fire water bombers in Canada even today.Pilots said that the A-26 was a bomber that you flew like a fighter. I'd love to have one of these in my hangar.

Modern Fighter/Attack

When I first visited Selfridge with my father, they flew these F-4 "Phantom" jets on week-ends. We'd sit outside the north perimeter fence as they took off and they'd go right over the top of us, so close that we could have hit them with rocks had we not been deafened by the noise and choking on kerosene fumes. It was fantastic.
Air superiority, ground attack, from land or from carriers, the McDonnell Douglas Phantom could do it all.
The Navy Reserve flew these little A-4B "Skyhawks" in the late 1960's and early 1970's. It was the smallest jet capable of carrying a nuclear weapon. John McCain flew one of these when he was a pilot.
The Blue Angels used to fly the hell out of these. I think that they were better back then than they are now, because they could do more close-in stuff with these than they can with the larger F-18s that tey currently fly.

The Grumman F-14 "Tomcat" was intended to replace the Phantom as an all-weather carrier-based interceptor. OK, maybe it did, and maybe it was fast and agile and powerful like the Phantom, but could it deliver bombs in a close air support role? Nope. And that's why there will always be but one Phantom jet.
The F-14 was a great plane itself though. It was a sad day when the Navy retired the last ones in 2006.The F-14 may have been replaced in inventory by the F/A 18, but like the Phantom jet, it'll always be remembered as having been in a class by itself. It breaks my heart to think that the retired aircraft were all deliberately destroyed to keep Iran from somehow getting any of their components.

The Selfridge Phantoms weren't replaced by the F-14. They were replaced by the General Dynamics F-16 "Falcon" and the LTV A-7 "Corsair II". Here's the F-16:

I've watched these fly from Selfridge and other fields. They're sharp, but they just lack that authoritative Phantom roar. Still, the Thunderbirds make good use of them.
And this is the LTV A-7, an all-weather attack aircraft. The A-7 flew in Vietnam, and continued on in service until it was removed from the fleet in 1981. By 1988, even the ones flown by the Guard were retired.

Here's the F16 and A-7 together. They make a great pair, don't they?
This is what the 127th Wing flies now--the A-10 "Warthog"Originally designed to combat Eastern Bloc armor, it's found many new uses as a close air support aircraft in Iraq and Afghanistan and older models are still being rebuilt and redeployed.

The subchasers

The Lockheed P-3 Orion, a long-range subhunter. This one kept tabs on the Russians for 18 years. It detected submarines by using a Magnetic Anomaly Detector in it's tailboom. This was able to discern the difference between the earth's natural magnietic field and those produced by artificial submarines.

The following comments on the pictures come from Old NFO, a former P-3 guy and a pretty good shooter. I defer to his expertise so he can narrate this part of the tour.

This is a P-3B (Mod) formerly flown by VP-93 a reserve squadron out of Glenview, Il.This is a picture of the sono-package, with a buoy sticking in a load position. The package actually lowered through the bottom of the airplane to drop buoys. Airplane carried 84 buoys, 8 torps/mines/bombs in the Bombay, and had 6 wing stations for various things, including a 2.5M watt searchlight!

Sensor Stations 1 and 2 (know as Jezebel or Jez) SS2 is on the left, has an original AQA-7 in it. SS1 on the right is an AQA-7 (3V) with an original set of plasma panels (I actually wrote the NATOPS for that system). Above each station is a small green screen for ALI presentation and active display. Above that are the black rectangles which are the sonobuoy receivers (31 channels) for monitoring the buoys dropped.
You have part of the TACCO (Tactical Coordinator Station) and NAV (Navigator) stations in this one. The left side is the TACCO station, with the round scope. That is his display. Above that are the weapons panel, the sono launcher panel (on the right), and next to it, under the helmets, is the NAV Station DRT (Dead Reckoning Tracer), next to that is a Bubble Sextant, Above that is a recorder for the IRDS system/ You can just see the corner of the old Doppler Nav system.
This is the SS3 or Radar/MAD/ECM position. In the lower left are the ALD-2 and ULA-2 ESM pair, above that is the IRDS screen, the paper trace is the MAD system (with one hellva MAD showing), to the right of that is the radar scope, above the scope are the radar controls.
This is the COMM station, with a very nice comm suite for the Teletype, we had a plain old TTY unit that usually broke at least once a flight… The right panel is the ICS control and crypto line up and two HF radio heads.
And, the cockhouse… With steam gauges J The “scope” is, in fact, a flight director for buoys and other things, there is no radar display in the cockpit.

Before there was the P-3, the Grumman US-2A Tracker performed the role of sub hunter/killer. Selfridge has one, S/N #144721.
Unlike the P-3, the S-2 coulf fly off of aircraft carriers. This shot shows the arresting hook needed to land aboard a carrier.
Here they are together. Don't they make a formidable pair? Now you know why the Canadian sub force stays out of Lake St. Clair.

"We see you."

The RB-57A "Canberra" was a British design built here for use as an all-weather attack aircraft over Korea. By the time the bugs were worked out, that war was over, but the B-57 flew on as both an attack aircraft and a reconnaissance aircraft ("spy plane")

This aircraft flew with the Michigan Air Guard out of Kellogg Field in Battle Creek until 1971, when the type was replaced by the Cessna )-2A below.

This militarized version of the Cessna 337 was known as the O-2a. It may look funny, but the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong came to hate and fear it because it was the Forward Air Control (FAC) for the attack aircraft that were on the way.The pilot of this little aircraft was a busy man, often looking for targets and dodging ground fire all while he was in simultaneous radio communication with ground troops, fast-moving jet fighters, and air traffic control. Oh--and he still had to find time to fly the plane!Two engines, one in the front pulling, and one in the rear pushing, made the little O-2 stand out, but it also brought a lot of them home when one engine was shot out.