31 May 2009

The Northrop Gamma started out in 1933 as a private venture involving the latest advances in structural techniques that influenced later generations of aircraft. Later to be designated the A-17, the last military version to bear the name Gamma was the Gamma 5. Only three were built before Northrop switched over production the A-17.

The first Gamma 5 was sold with US government approval to Japan in October 1935. Shipped to Japan the following month, it was evaluated by both Mitsubishi and Nakajima on behalf of the Imperial Japanese Navy and designated the BXN1.

The third Gamma 5 was shipped (again with US government approval) to the Imperial Japanese Navy and designated by the IJN as the BXN2. It was then turned over to Nakajima for further evaluation and is believe to have influenced the design of the Nakajima B5N "Kate" torpedo bomber.

Source: Aerospace Modeler Magazine, No. 7/Summer 2007. "The Northrop Military Gamma Family: Part 1" by Geoff Hays, p36.

29 May 2009

The Air Force Space Command was formed in September 1982 initially responsible for space monitoring and space-related activities connected with the defense of the United States and Canada. In 1993 the ICBM force passed from the Air Combat Command to the Space Command and since then AFSPC has been responsible for the ICBM nuclear deterrent force, the early warning of ballistic missile launches, the launch and operation of military satellites (including the GPS constellation) and worldwide space surveillance.

But the only manned aircraft assigned to the Air Force Space Command are approximately 26 Bell UH-1Ns assigned to three Flights to fly launch crews to ICBM missile silos and transport security teams to ICBM sites. The three Flights are based at three Air Force bases of the 20th Air Force, the operating AF for the ICBM force- Francis E. Warren AFB, Wyoming (tail code "FE"), Minot AFB, North Dakota ("MT"), and Malmstrom AFB, Montana ("MT"). A fourth Flight of UH-1s is based at Vandenberg AFB ("HV") to support missile and space launch activities.

Source: US Air Force: The New Century by Bob Archer. Midland Publishing, 2000, p29.

07 May 2009

In terms of revenue, the current helicopter industry leader is Eurocopter with over $6 billion in revenue in 2008. The number two spot is surprising given their past labor and financial problems- Sikorsky with over $5 billion in revenue. The remaining three spots in descending order based on revenue for 2008:

#3: AgustaWestland (previously the #2 leader until passed by Sikorsky in 2006)- over $4 billion.

#4: Boeing - over $3 billion in revenue.

#5: Bell Helicopter - just under $3 billion.

Since 2003 all of the above companies have experienced a growth in revenue. The companies' rankings in 2003 in descending order were Eurocopter, AgustaWestland, Boeing, Sikorsky, and Bell.

Source: Aviation Week and Space Technology, May 4, 2009. "Worst to First" by Joseph Anselmo, p49.

03 May 2009

One of the more unusual operators of the Convair F-102 Delta Dagger interceptor was the Federal Aviation Administration. From June to December of 1970, the USAF loaned an F-102 to the FAA who operated it with the registration number N300. It was assigned to provide data that would be used to develop takeoff airworthiness standards for the planned American SST as well as US certification of the Concorde. Equipped with a tail skid to limit takeoff rotation to angles and runway lengths more appropriate to the supersonic transports, N300 was flown by FAA pilot Robert LeSuer from Edwards AFB.

The data collected by N300 would be used to define the operating rules for Concorde operations in the United States. Upon completion of its program, the aircraft was retired to Davis-Monthan AFB's boneyard.

Source: Warpaint Series No. 64: Convair F-102 Delta Dagger by Terry Panopalis. Warpaint Books, p39.

02 May 2009

The first generation of UAVs had their start with Leigh Dugmore Denny, a Hollywood actor with Paramount Studios. Denny had a passion for radio-controlled aircraft and even opened a hobby shop on Hollywood Boulevard. In 1934 he founded Denny Industries to build RC model planes and quickly realized that there would be military potential for his models. The following year he founded Radioplane Company and would later secure a large contract to build aerial targets during the Second World War.

In 1952 Radioplane was acquired by Northrop and became the Radioplane Division and by the 1960s, it would be renamed the Ventura Division of Northrop, still engaged in the manufacture of UAV aircraft. In 1968, the year after Denny passed away, the Ventura Division delivered the first MQM-74/BQM-74 Chukar to the US Navy. By the time of Operation Iraqi Freedom, over 5000 Chukar UAVs had been built. Some were even used in Desert Storm as well as Iraqi Freedom to lay chaff corridors for inbound strike aircraft.

Source: Attack of the Drones: A History of Unmanned Aerial Combat by Bill Yenne. Zenith Press, 2004, p15-31.