Posts Tagged ‘1972’

When the British approached North American Aviation about building Curtiss P-40 Warhawks for them, James Kindelberger (North American’s president) told the British he could design and build something better than a Warhawk in less than 120 days…less time, it turns out, time than it took to re-tool his factory.  And Kindelberger was true to his word.  I believe the first plane was ready to fly in 117 days, though delays in getting the engines from Allison would hold things up just a bit.

Still, that’s pretty remarkable in light of how long the procurement process for weapons systems takes now.  But that’s to be expected when one compares the complexity of a P-51 Mustang with, say, an F-15 Eagle (to say nothing of government red tape, bureacracy, and gobs of paper-shuffling).  McDonnell Douglas was awarded the contract for the “Project F-X” (which became the F-15) the last week of 1969, but rather than 117 days to first example, it was two-and-a-half years…June 26, 1972.

And these days, we often hear of project delays and cost overruns in government projects.  But McDonnell had done a really good job.  In his book on the fighter, Dennis Jenkins writes, “At that point, the program was essentially on schedule, with costs cited as below target, in contrast to the significant overruns and schedule slips so obvious on the F-111 and C-5A programs.”  And like the Mustang, it was those pesky engines holding things up.  Jenkins continues, “Although the airframe and avionics efforts were on schedule, Pratt & Whitney was still running behind on both deliveries and testing.”

It was true that costs were greater than expected in some areas, but McDonnell had pared back where it could on the “luxury” items.  Conventional instrumentation was used rather than more sophisticated electronic systems.  The multi-sensor display were held off for a future phase, as were helmet-mounted sighting (which has really only become prominent in our latest-generation fighters anyways) and the electro-optical sighting system.

While it can be said that the elimination of some of these systems would limit the aircraft a little bit in its initial configuration, the first F-15 that rolled off the assembly on this day in 1972 was still a formidable platform.  For sure, it was the first pure air-superiority dogfighter the inventory had seen in 20 years.

Recommended Reading:  McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle

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Well, the trip to the doctor for my back malady seems to have paid big dividends.  By noon yesterday, I was feeling much, much better.  I could get out of a chair, walk around, sit down, drink a soda, eat pizza, and watch the Packers find their way to the Super Bowl.  Some of you football fans may remember last year’s meeting between the Packers and Steelers, when the two teams racked up nearly 1,000 yards of combined offense.  It was one of the most entertaining games I’ve ever watched, despite a Steelers win.  I hope for a repeat, except with the Packers carrying the day.

There’s a song that goes something like, “This is the song that never ends…“.  I don’t know any of the rest of the words and, who knows, maybe it’s not even a real song, but it came to mind this evening, and somehow seems appropriate for the subject…sort of.

For Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi, the Second World War didn’t end before Japan signed the Instrument of Surrender on September 2, 1945.  The same cannot be said for most of brothers-in-arms, who either gave up the fight or gave up their lives in the fight.  For Yokoi, the fight had come to him on Guam in 1944 as a member of the 38th Regiment.  He managed to remain alive throughout the battle and ended up hiding in a cave with a few fellow infantry as the Pacific War passed him by and headed to the next island.

And for Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi, the Second World War didn’t end after Japan signed the Instrument of Surrender on September 2, 1945, either.  Yokoi was still in hiding (more than a year later), waiting for the Japanese to return and give him his next orders.  But of course, those didn’t come.

For thirty years, they didn’t come, even though Yokoi waited.

Over the years, the ten men became eight, then five, then just three.  Eventually (at some point in the mid-1960s), the final three separated, remaining hidden but in contact with each other.  And pretty soon, there was just Shoichi, as the other two men died.  He hunted at night, and made his own tools and clothes.  And while the pay wasn’t very good, he stayed alive, ready to fight again should duty call.

On January 24, 1972, Shoichi Yokoi’s war finally came to an end, when he was captured by fishermen checking their traps.  He was one of the very last (if not the last) Japanese soldiers captured.  As we have seen many times in our discussions, for a Japanese soldier to be taken alive was a shameful thing.  But Yokoi returned to Japan as something of a hero.

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It’s nice to be back home after an exhausting “vacation”.  A missed flight, lost luggage, and some doofus who dinged up our rental car (thank God for the $40 we spent on insurance) made the down time more stressful, but our time in Seattle was still pretty good.

As I get back into the swing of writing, I want to take to the skies again.  Today’s History Lesson actually has, as its roots, a topic I covered back in June: North American’s XB-70 Valkyrie.  The Valkyrie, designed as a super-fast, high-flying bomber, succeeded at both.  But its cost, as well as Soviet advances in missile technology, put paid to the B-70’s chances of entering production.

From the Soviet perspective, however, the B-70 was a huge threat to their security.  Yeah, they had missile technology, but with massed high-altitude bombers attacking at Mach 3, there was a sizeable risk that the bombers would reach their targets.  Their response?  The MiG-25 Foxbat.  The Foxbat was the ultimate expression of the Cold War concept of the Interceptor – a concept which emphasized raw speed and standoff air-to-air missile attack rather than maneuverability.  The U.S. built an entire series of interceptors in the late 50’s and 60’s culminating in the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, though none could match the straight-line speed of the Soviet mark.

The U.S. saw the Foxbat, mistook it for a fighter of awesome performance, and went to the drawing board.  What came out of the fire was also from McDonnell Douglas (today part of Boeing) and was christened the F-15 Eagle.  You can see some of the Foxbat in the Eagle, but similarities end there.  The Foxbat was an interceptor and the Eagle was designed from the outset as a dogfighter.  So it was given a gun (the first fighter since the F-100 to have one)…the M61A1 cannon.  Standoff capability was added with an advanced Hughes radar suite and short- and medium-range missiles.  Finally, because air superiority was crucial, an emphasis was placed on low wing loading and powerful engines.

The Eagle, first flown on July 27, 1972, would be extensively tested, delivered in 1974, and enter front-line service in 1976 as the premier fighter of its day.  It could continue its front-line duties for another 15 years.  My love for aircraft in general, and the ’15 in particular, means we’re 100% sure to discuss this plane again as its various milestones show up on the calendar.

As a side note, our son commissioned into the Army as a 2nd Lieutenant at Fort Lewis on Friday morning (hence our trip out West).  It’s been wonderful to watch him grow and mature into a leader.  We’re so proud of you!!

Recommended Reading: Storm Over Iraq – Air Power and the Gulf War – The F-15, like so many of our weapon systems, was untested until this conflict.  The F-15, like so many of our weapon systems, passed with flying colors.

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Today we celebrate the life of Ferde Grofe.  Born in New York City in the late 1800’s, he passed away on April 3, 1972.  Both his parents were musically-gifted, and Ferde first gained acclaim for his orchestral arrangement of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

But it was his own creation, The Grand Canyon Suite, that really made him famous, and it’s one of my favorite pieces.  If you’ve been to the Grand Canyon (I have, one time), listening to this piece of music with your eyes closed can transport you there.  The arid landscape, the beauty of the North Rim, the serenity of Bright Angel Trail…it’s all there.

Grofe’s passing brings to my mind the question as to whether classical music is fading away as well.  I’ve had people tell me on many occasions that classical music is boring and that nobody listens to it anymore.  But I believe we’ve been conditioned to 4-minute songs, 8-minute TV segments broken by commercials, and the ever-changing images of the video game.  It now takes patience, planning, and even strength of will to sit back, shut off the world for 30-45 minutes, and lose oneself in a single piece of music.

Is it too late?  I think not.  Believe it or not, most people my age have been listening to classical music all their lives…they just may not have known it.  Old MGM (here and here), Looney Tunes, and Merry Melodies cartoons were often created with classical works supporting them.  Some television commercials have used classical music (Beef: It’s What’s For Dinner ads from the 90s used music from Aaron Copland’s Rodeo).  And there are many more examples.

So, why not give classical music a try?  The Grand Canyon Suite is a great place to start.  Aaron Copland is probably the most famous American composer, and his works have a distinct American flavor.  I have this in my collection and recommend it.  I like tone poems as well, so I recommend Ottorino Resphigi’s The Pines of Rome…my favorite work of all time.  The trumpet solo in the second movement gives me shivers every time I hear it.

I think there’s a little Grofe in all of us…maybe there’s a lot in you.

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