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.

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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.

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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.

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.

Friday pictures: World War II archive

I apologize for skipping a few installments of Friday pictures – work and Thanksgiving derailed me a bit, but I am back with a longer entry today, in part to make up for those missed posts. With no further ado…

As I say nearly every time I write these, Flickr offers an amazing chance to look through others’ eyes all around the world, and I have tried to show works here from across the country and from a few overseas photographers, too. The other dimension that photography permits us to travel easily is time, and I recently stumbled across a growing collection of pictures being assembled by Flickr user dougshely. A Missouri resident, Doug has gathered (as of this moment) 312 World War II images that are exceptionally well curated. They come from all over, although I think many of them are from Army and Navy historical archives. More recently, he has incorporated things from the Life collection recently released by Google. There are images of naval and land operations, but the majority of the pictures depict aerial actions and contain dozens of iconic, timeless images. Many of them were burned into my brain as I leafed through endless illustrated American heritage histories of World War II.

Of particular note is the effort Doug has taken to annotate the images – often deciphering plane names and associating them with units, serial numbers, and dates. It is a vivid reminder that these are not just striking pictures, but a record of the bravery and sacrifice put forth by thousands of young men in the service of their country and freedom. 

Choosing just a few of these pictures was hard, but here is a starting glimpse. You will want to look at the collection for yourself. My thanks for the work and dedication involved.

Some of them are beautiful.

Douglas A-20 Havoc medium bombers of the 9th Air Force over France
Douglas A-20 Havoc medium bombers of the 9th Air Force over France

Some are even in color. 

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 8th Air Force in formation
Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 8th Air Force in formation

Some are saddening.

Douglas A-20 Havoc hit by flak over Germany
Douglas A-20 Havoc hit by flak over Germany

And some can never be forgotten.

Consolidated B-24 Liberator, severed by flak, falls from the sky
Consolidated B-24 Liberator, severed by flak, falls from the sky

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

In keeping with some recent installments that focus on the pure form of a plane, today’s update captures a very clean Royal Australian Air Force/General Dynamics F-111C Aardvark. The Aardvark dates to the TFX competition of 1961. Kennedy’s Defense Secretary Robert McNamara sought to replace a variety of Air Force and Navy jets with one versatile design. This is the same illusion America and her allies appear to be chasing today with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, although the TFX sought to encompass an even broader set of roles than the F-35 aims for today. The resulting Air Force variants entered service in 1968 as a part of a deployment called Combat Lancer. After severe teething problems with many systems, chief among them the Pratt & Whitney TF30 engine, the F-111 ultimately emerged as a very capable bomber, serving in the role of deep-penetration interdiction. Its substantial payload combined with very high speed to make it a formidable weapon, and it next saw action against Libya in 1986 (as part of El Dorado Canyon) and Iraq (in Desert Storm). The USAF retired the type in 1998. As a naval fighter, the F-111B was a disappointment, although portions of the F-111B program were repackaged as part of the far more successful Grumman F-14 Tomcat.

Australia ordered two-dozen F-111C bombers in 1963, took delivery in 1968, and had to wait until 1973 to see them in service due to unanticipated structural issues. Since 1973, the Australian F-111 force has seen an additional four airframes delivered in 1982, while 18 further F-111G aircraft were delivered in 1994. In that time, the F-111 has never seen combat in Australian service. Wing cracks in the fleet have triggered its planned retirement in 2010, although there is a great deal of politics surrounding this decision (including the RAAF decision to purchase the F-18 as a stopgap until the F-35 is ready).

Operational histories aside, the swing-wing F-111 has always looked like a fast jet – with the lines I associate with a middle schooler’s study hall doodles. In this picture by flickr user obLiterated, to whom I extend my thanks for this handsome shot, we see an Aardvark banking hard during a tight left turn, afterburners engaged. Note the long-span wings. Just about perfection.

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

Friday pictures: Hurricane overhead

I apologize for this being late – Halloween and an awful cold both clobbered my day yesterday.

Twice in the last few months, I have turned to the Supermarine Spitfire as a subject for these posts (here and here). Today I am picking the Spitfire’s comrade in the Battle of Britain, the Hawker Hurricane. For more on both the 14,000 Hurricanes and on the Battle of Britain, I will send you to Wikipedia. For this week, I am simply going to thank rob 68 for this wonderful, timeless shot of a Hurricane flying overhead.

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