Friday pictures: Tornado vapor

I know it’s been too long since I did this. I regret that. So many great shots to post, so many Fridays gone to waste. Yet life is full, and this can slide with no harm to anything, and so it has. Mea culpa.

Today we look at a Royal Air Force Panavia Tornado GR4 pitching up at high speed, reheat engaged on both of its RB199 engines. Such power! This image was captured by Flickr user F6MAN, to whom I extend my thanks.


This aircraft grew out of the same 1960’s fascination with variable-geometry wings that spawned the General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark, the Grumman F-14 Tomcat, the Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-23 Flogger, and the Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer, among others. Dassault tinkered around with swing wings on its Mirage G, G4, and G8 series of prototypes, which partially led to the Tornado. Wikipedia gives a useful timeline of the various studies that led to the Tornado – the AFVG, the MRA, the MRCA, etc. It is amazing to me to see how long it takes to move from desired capability to requirement to design to prototype to service introduction. The Tornado first flew in 1974, after almost a decade of development, and the last one rolled off of the line in 1998. It is operated by Britain, Germany, Italy, and Saudi Arabia, who together bought 992 airframes. At one point early in the effort, Canada, Belgium, and the Netherlands all showed interest as well – Canada went on the operate the Boeing (McDonnell Douglas/Northrop F-18 Hornet), and the others adopted the Lockheed (General Dynamics) F-16 Fighting Falcon.

To see previous appearances of the Tornado in this series, please click here, here, or here.

If you like this, I encourage you to check out this summary of all of the aviation photography I have featured here.


Friday pictures: Eurofighter Typhoon

Taken last Saturday at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT), this Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon image by Flickr user Andy in Oxford is simply tremendous. I must admit that the Typhoon leaves me cold most of the time – I do not know why. Yet the combination of vapor and afterburner and sunlight on the dark sky here makes for a powerful, dynamic representation of this formidable fighter. My thanks to Andy for the many, many terrific images found in his Flickr photostream.

If you like this, I encourage you to check out this summary of all of the aviation photography I have featured here.

Apollo 11, forty years later

A close-up view of astronaut Buzz Aldrin's bootprint in the lunar soil.
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin's bootprint in the lunar soil.

Today the world marks the fortieth anniversary of one of mankind’s most amazing feats ever – the 1969 moon landing of Apollo 11. For the bare bones on the mission, I suggest Wikipedia and NASA as great places to start, and there are quite a few terrific books about the moon program – including the science, engineering, and politics of the space race.

I grew up steeped in the lore of these brave pioneers, and I am amazed how little thought is given today to their accomplishments and bravery. I will not try to put into words my sadness and frustration over the fact that people have not been on the moon since Apollo 17’s departure, but perhaps my children will see the day when such flights resume and become, hopefully, routine.

F-22 export update

An interesting article from Japan Times, especially in light of my earlier post on prospects for the export of the Lockheed Martin F-22, and another subsequent update.

Hat tip: The DEW Line

Friday pictures: Folland Gnat

Continued apologies for how erratic these have become. I resume the series today for the simple reason that I came across a terrific shot of a wonderful plane that is hardly seen anymore, making it a perfect candidate for the series. I try hard to favor airplanes here that follow the “middle school study hall rule” (examples here, here, and here), and for whatever reason I do seem to keep returning to Britain’s early jets. I suspect my early exposure to my father’s Dinky Supermarine Swift, Hawker Hunter, and Gloster Javelin explain that.

With no further ado, then, here is this week’s wonderful shot by Flick photographer andys1616.


For more information on the Gnat, please start here.

If you like this, I encourage you to check out this summary of all of the aviation photography I have featured here.

Friday pictures: F-86 Sabre

I seem to come back to the Sabre again and again – but how can I not? Its classic design, its stirling combat record, its place in a truly impressive lineage (P-51, F-86, F-100, F-107), and the fact that it flew in an era when planes wore flashy markings all combine to great effect.

The above shot, taken by Flickr user gunfighter157, shows one of the 655 Canadair-built North American F-86 Sabre VI . Curiously, although it wears USAF serial number 47-1461, that serial number was in fact assigned to a Republic F-84C Thunderjet. Web research turns up some information on its heritage, including:

Mk VI [CL-13B] (1956) 352 SAAF, N38301 (1983/3), stored dismantled and uncovered (by 1982-1990), to Michael Dorn (1996/1/30), to Frank Borman (1999/11), delivered to Chino CA for restoration (1999/11), N186FS (2000/1/3), to Edward H. Shipley (2001). This Sabre was previously owned by actor Michael Dorn and later former astronaut Frank Borman.  It is marked with the tail number “71461” but this does not match any USAF F-86 serial numbers.

Also this:

The paint scheme of this F-86 is a combination of two F-86 liveries which Frank Borman flew at the 3595th Combat Crew Training Wing and the USAF Fighter Weapons School.

From design in Ohio, to construction in Montreal, to service in South Africa, to California – this plane has seen a lot of the world over its 53 years, but it looks as vital as ever. As always, my thanks to those who maintain these aircraft and to those who photograph them so well.

If you like this, I encourage you to check out this summary of all of the aviation photography I have featured here.

Friday pictures: RAAF F-111 Aardvark

Four months ago, I wrote about the Australian F-111 fleet in a Friday pictures post here. While I do seek to feature a range of aircraft here, I nonetheless am drawn to the RAAF Aardvarks as they are both visually arresting and retired from the USAF, so moderately rare sightings.

For background on the plane and its service in Australia, see the above link. For now, my thanks to hanging pixels for this handsome shot.

As a bonus, I will include a brand new shot from Joe Stremph, whose work simply gets better and better. I think the red revealed under the extended slats is very sharp in this shot taken during the current Red Flag exercises. Click on the picture to see it much larger.

If you like this, I encourage you to check out this summary of all of the aviation photography I have featured here.