Tag Archives: Fly Navy

The History In An Image: US Navy’s Legacy Flight – The Strike-Fighter

The image above is the US Navy’s Legacy Flight from the 2017 Cleveland National Air Show. CAF Dixie Wing’s FG-1D Corsair leads a F/A-18F Super Hornet from VFA-106 Gladiators. Traditionally, this is always a highlight of an airshow for me when a warbird flies formation with a current military aircraft. I was exhilarated at the time since the combination of a Corsair and Super Hornet was something I rarely witnessed – along with the fact that two of my favorite aircraft were together. What I failed to recognize when I took this image is the history it captures. At the time, this photo represented the US Navy’s first strike-fighter, the Corsair, and their current strike-fighter, the Super Hornet.

The photo pass of the 2017 USN Legacy Flight

What is a strike-fighter? Some official definition may exist, but the general idea is that a strike-fighter is an aircraft primarily designed for fighting other aircraft in air-to-air combat but also has the ability to deliver air-to-ground ordinance such as bombs, rockets or other munitions when needed.

The genesis of the strike-fighter idea was born out of boredom and necessity. The VF-17 “Jolly Rogers” were a land based F4U Corsair unit deployed to the Solomon Islands. The Jolly Rogers led by Lt. Commander Tom Blackburn along with sister USMC F4U squadrons, RNZAF P-40s and USAAF P-38s eliminated the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy aircraft. The Japanese realized the Solomon Islands were lost and pulled what remained of the air fleet back to defend mainland Japan. With no aerial opposition, the fighter sweeps became hours of boredom for the fighter pilots. However, the ground battle still was long from over. Since a fighter plane escort of bomber aircraft was no longer required, Blackburn along with other members of VF-17 came up with a plan…carry a bomb and help the guys on the ground.

At the time, this was a radical idea. Aircraft were designed for a specific purpose – fighter, dive-bomber, torpedo and bomber. The aircraft did not have wiring for wing or fuselage mounted ordinance. Work was initiated and a rough bomb rack and cockpit wiring were installed. After a few modifications, a bomb rack that could safely carry and deliver a bomb was complete. Blackburn sold the idea to his superiors and the idea was tested out operationally.

This innovation and idea was eventually approved for all Corsair units. Engineering from the original VF-17 design was modified and incorporated into manufacturing at Chance-Vought and Goodyear. These modifications included permanent wing and fuselage wiring to allow external ordinance.

Ultimately, that decision to allow a fighter to carry bombs has permanently changed Naval Aviation. In the immediate future, F6F Hellcats were modified to carry bombs and rockets similar to the F4U-1/FG-1 Corsairs. Nearly every Navy/USMC fighter aircraft since has the ability to deliver air-to-ground ordinance.

A feature unique to carrier based aircraft is foldable wings. Here the FG-1 Corsair and F/A-18F Super Hornet show their similarities.

The fleet is now beginning to deploy the F-35C along with the USMC F-35B, the next generation of strike-fighters. The F/A-18 and F-35 will continue the strike-fighter duties for the next several decades.

F/A-18 Super Hornets from VFA-151 Vigilantes and VFA-2 Bounty Hunters and a F-35C Lightning II from VFA-147 Argonauts (The first active F-35C unit)

Only about 45 years separate the Corsair and Super Hornet.

VAQ-130 Zappers 2020 Cruise Video

Enjoy the 2020 cruise video from VAQ-130 Zappers. The squadron is part of Air Wing 3, based at NAS Whidbey Island and fly the EA-18 Growler. In August 2020, the squadron returned from its 206-day deployment aboard the USS Dwight D Eisenhower. The deployment broke the record for longest deployment without hitting a port.

VAQ-130 is currently the oldest electronic warfare squadron in the US Navy, with a history dating back to 1968.

Feature photo by USN MC3 Hillary Becke (released)

2018 Battle Creek Field Of Flight Airshow

Below are photo highlights of the military themed airshow the weekend of June 30 – July 1, 2018. The event technically hosted a traditional airshow as well several days later, with some variation of the performers. This was my favorite show at Battle Creek in several years with a large variety of aircraft and performers.

The Class of ’45

The Class of ’45 is composed of two performers, Scott Yoak performing in the black and chromed P-51D Mustang, and Jim Tobul performing in his F4U Corsair. Both pilots perform solo aerobatics, showing off the impressive handling of these two WWII/Korean War era aircraft. Then the two join up for several impressive formation flying passes.

The stories related to the restoration of these two aircraft are very interesting, as are the biographies of the pilots.

Class of ’45 – Scott Yoak in the P-51 Mustang leads Jim Tobul in the F4U Corsair

USAF A-10 Warthog Demo Team and Heritage Flight

Battle Creek was home to A-10s for a number of years and it was good to see a Hog in the sky again. Capt. Cody Wilton demonstrated just why the A-10 is still the premier close-air-support aircraft in the world.

Tom Friedkin led the USAF Heritage Flight in P-51 Mustang “Bum Steer”

P-51 Mustang “Bum Steer” leads the A-10 Warthog Demo Team during the USAF Heritage Flight

CAF’s Prowlers of the Pacific

Prowlers of the Pacific was a new act by the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) and is a tribute to the American air war in the Pacific Theatre. The act is a tribute to US Navy and Marine Aviators as well as airmen on the other side.

CAF’s “Prowlers of the Pacific” – A tribute to the Naval and Marine Aviators of World War II. American aircraft include the SB2C Helldiver, SBD Dauntless and an F4U Corsair
This is a replica Nakajima B5N “Kate”. The aircraft was used in the movie Tora Tora Tora

Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team

The Hamilton, Ontario based Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team returned to the Battle Creek skies after a several year absence. The Harvard is a challenging aircraft to fly, let alone in formation aerobatics. The rule of thumb in WWII was that if a cadet could master the SNJ then he/she could handle any of the high performance fighter aircraft of the era.

The Canadian Harvard Team perform a comedic salute to the British Commonwealth Air Training Cadets that learned on the demanding Harvard/T-6/SNJ.

USN F/A-18 Super Hornet (East Coast Demo Team) and Legacy Flight

The East Coast F/A-18 Super Hornet Demo Team from VFA-106 “Gladiators” showed off the US Navy’s front line strike fighter. The Gladiators serve as the East Coast fleet replacement squadron, and are based at NAS Oceana in Virginia Beach.

One of the traits of the Super Hornet is the amount of vapor that the aircraft creates at high speeds. Below is an example of the upper wing vapes during the photo pass.

After the solo demo, Jim Tobul joined up to lead the Super Hornet in the Legacy Flight.

The US Navy Legacy Flight returned to the skies. Here Jim Tobul in his F4U Corsair leads an F/A-18F Hornet from VFA-106 Gladiators.

Solo Civilian Performances

Michigan native Bill Stein in his color changing Edge 540
Team Red Line in RV-8s

Jerry Conley Early Jet History in “Vampy”

Jerry Conley performed in his de Havilland DH.115 Vampire. The Vampire was designed for the British and was the first single engine jet fighter aircraft. The design was a success and served in the air arm of many nations. The jet is fully acrobatic and has high performance for an aircraft of that era.

Jerry Conley down low and fast in his Vampire jet “Vampy”
The photo pass DH-115 Vampire “Vampy”

USMC MV-22 Osprey

The headliner of the 2018 event was the USMC MV-22 Osprey. The hybrid aircraft takes off like a helicopter and then tilts the engines and rotors to fly like a traditional fixed-wing aircraft. The benefit to this tilt-wing technology is the ability to use the aircraft like a helicopter, with increased performance and economy of a fixed-wing aircraft.

The Marines do not perform a high number of demonstrations, and Battle Creek was selected as one of only a handful of locations for 2018. The demo was flown by a crew from VMM-261 “Raging Bulls” based at MCAS North River, North Carolina. The unit is part of Marine Aircraft Group 26 and the Marine 2nd Aircraft Wing.

Its a wrap…

The 2018 concept of two different style airshows in just a handful of days apart was a real interesting concept and a welcome change of pace. The variety of aircraft and performers over the four airshow days was exhilarating and exceeded expectations. Although the event was unable to draw a jet team in for 2018, the blend of military, warbird and civilian performers made the absence of a jet team go unnoticed.

F/A-18F Super Hornet from VFA-106 takes to the skies to begin the Super Hornet demo.

VFA-41 Black Aces 2018-2019 Cruise Video

Enjoy the 2018-2019 cruise video from VFA-41 Black Aces. The Black Aces currently fly the F/A-18F Super Hornet out of NAS Lemoore, and are one of the more iconic squadrons in the US Navy.

VFA-41 CAG Jet

I was able to see the VFA-41 CAG jet while attending the 2019 NAS Lemoore airshow. It was impossible to get a quality photo of the jet due to the placement, but I was able to capture both sides of the tails, which was the only deviation from the standard USN gray paint scheme.

Unlike some squadrons who keep the CAG jet painted similarly for several years, the VFA-41 CAG jet paint scheme has already been redone for 2020. I am eager to see it in person or at least in their next cruise video.

VFA-14 Tophatters 2018-2019 Centennial Cruise Video

Enjoy the 2019 cruise video footage from the oldest squadron in the US Navy, the VFA-14 Tophatters. This video also celebrates the squadron’s 100th anniversary. The “Lids” are based out of NAS Lemoore.

My interaction with the Lids Centennial Jet

I was fortunate to see the Centennial CAG and XO jets while at NAS Lemoore open house/airshow. Both of the “color” jets have some great footage in the video. The squadron also had some great geedunk for sale!

The awesome VFA-14 Tophatters CAG jet tail!

Centennial Geedunk…Money went QUICK!

VFA-14 Tophatters XO jet on the ramp at NAS Lemoore