06 July, 2011

Profile 49 - "01010" as flown by the SDANG

NOTE:  I'm taking a short break from WW2 planes to focus on a special Commission to do the aircraft of the South Dakota Air National Guard.  I hope you enjoy this diversion.

Aside from being a rather ugly airplane, the F-94C "Starfire" represents - at least to me - the raging optimism that pervaded the 1950s.

The idea behind the F-94C was that radar would guide the jet behind the marauding Commie bombers and fire off a batch (24 or 48) of smallish* missiles into the attacking bomber stream.   These are unguided missiles, by the way.  Spray, and pray.  Like a kid with a mouthful of watermelon seeds.

In reality, the concept was never tried in combat.  Thankfully so because the airplane was obviously designed to fight World War Three.  But in practice, the flash from the launch blinded the pilot and the instant plume of smoke had a tendency to cause the jet engine to flame out.

Today, the idea of a fighter plane getting close enough to spew supersonic baseball-bats into a formation of Ruskis is kind of ridiculous. However, AT THE TIME, the decision wasn't so silly.  The Red Threat was real - Russia was franchising Communism at a furious rate and post-WW2 economies were willing to try anything that seemed to make cents.  If you're bored, look up Curtis LeMay - he's a fascinating leader that seemed to have been minted for the moment.

From the vantage point of today - in 21st Century America - I take-away the confidence, courage and hubris of a nation unafraid to try and champion new ideas to meet perceived threats.  I imagine the pilots of the South Dakota Air National Guard, scrambling into their cockpits, spooling up their ancient engines, taking way-to-much runway to take off and climbing to the deep blue.

There's something about that vision that stirs the emotion of patriotism and power.  Had I been alive back then, and the Nuke sirens wailing, I know I would have stood up from my Duck & Cover and watched the silver birds climb into the sky...  "Hell yeah!"

And therein lies the wisdom of studying history - it forces us to think as we were not as we are.  And of course, Today will become the Past soon enough.

*They were called "Mighty Mouse" missiles.  Cool name, eh?  Here's a photo of 01010 in flight.