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Looking Back at Some Early 1990s MCAS El Toro Air Shows.

 

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Here’s a look back in time… about thirty years, to a series of MCAS El Toro air shows during the early 1990s. Operation Desert Storm-era military aircraft, including active Marine RF-4Bs, OV-10s and CH-46s were displayed on the ground and in the air.

One of the last flyable (in the U. S. anyway) F-8 Crusaders of Thunderbird Aviation, and James Gregory’s Canadair Sabre Mk. 6 Sabre (Gallery photo taken on the day prior to his unfortunate fatal crash at El Toro) were just a pair of jet fighters that flew during the shows.

Add to that civilian performers like the Red Baron Team, and California-based warbirds like the F4U and FG-1 Corsairs that graced the California skies (sometimes hazy and sometimes clear) and some fine air shows were presented to people during warm and inviting Southern California.

 

Spectators from around the world were attracted by the mix of current Marine Corps aviation and past military hardware. How many of these aircraft can you ID? 

Our C-135, C-137 and Military Boeing B-707 Scrapbook

 

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As the Boeing 707 and 717 models of the 1950s matured, the shorter 717 was renamed as the C-135 for the U.S. Air Force. Numerous versions of the C-135 were used as aerial tankers, reconnaissance platforms, test beds for engine, equipment and weapons tests, and transports for cargo and personnel. Let’s take a look at many of the different variants of the original C-135 in military use… and include larger versions of the B-707 adapted for use by the world’s military air arms too.

Aerial Refueling Tankers

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KC-135A assigned to the 509th ARW at Pease AFB. The longer runways of Strategic Air Command bases required by its bombers, suited the KC-135As well; they needed water injection for added thrust for takeoffs at high gross weight

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KC-135D at an International Air Tattoo in the U.K. The -D versions were four C-135s that had air refueling equipment added after use in a non-tanker aircraft. All four served together in Numerous Air National Guard units.

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KC-135E of the New Jersey Air National Guard. The -E was an original -A reengined with TF-33 engines and fitted with replacement tail surfaces to prolong service life. Almost all KC-135Es were operated by the Air national Guard.

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KC-135R assigned to the 916 ARW based at Seymour-Johnson AFB, North Carolina. The KC-135Rs are modified -A aircraft equipped with more efficient CFM-56 (F108 engines in USAF use) turbofan jet engines. Eight KC-135Rs have added air refuel receptacles, and thus are able to take on fuel as well as offload it in flight. These are sometimes identified as KC-135R(RT) or KC-135R(ARR) versions.

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The KC-135Q was essentially a KC-135A that could carry special fuel needed by SR-71A supersonic recon jets, and associated electronic equipment for communications and air refueling join-ups.

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The 54 KC-135Ts are re-engined KC-135Qs, which were initially used to refuel the SR-71A Blackbird fleet. The -Q version differed from the -A tanker with the ability to carry the different fuel needed buy initial SR-71 use, and communications and electronic rendezvous equipment.

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KC-135FR: The French Air Force purchased fifteen KC-135F variants, similar to the KC-135A, to be used with French nuclear bombers, akin to the USAF’s own needs. These jets were also re-engined with CFM-56 turbofans, and renamed the “KC-135FR”. The forces of Singapore, Turkey and Chile have or are still using former USAF KC-135s too.

More KC-135 aerial refueling aircraft:

Transports, Command and Control, and Testbeds

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C-135C was known for its test program name “Speckled Trout”. Based at Edwards AFB to be used on test programs, it also served as the personal transport for the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force.

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The EC-135E ARIA (Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft) served during the NASA Apollo spacecraft launches, as well as other rocket launches. The “droop snoot” held telemetry tracking equipment inside of it.

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This EC-18B was a larger aircraft than the EC-135E ARIA, based on the B-707-320/C-137 airframe. A number of these jets were produced; some were used for tracking purposed during cruise missile test flights.

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The Boeing E-6B Mercury is a command and control flying platform for control of land, air and sea based nuclear weapons of the United States. Operated by U.S. Navy crews, the aircraft has a Very Low Frequency aerial antenna that is used to communicate with submarines.

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This EC-135A was a national emergency command post originally assigned to the 99th AREFS at Westover AFB as a SAC asset.

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EC-135C: Part of the continuous Looking Glass airborne command post mission that saw an aircraft in the air 24 hours a day for all seven days of the week. This jet served almost thirty years as a command and control jet before being retired in 1994.

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This EC-135G aircraft was part of the large airborne radio relay operation that the U.S. Air Force once flew.

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This NKC-135A was used as a testbed for numerous Air Force test programs and was also used as a water sprayer for testing the abilities of aircraft in known icing conditions.

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This NKC-135A was used in airborne laser development and testing.

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This NKC-135E is outfitted with many camera ports, and with older TF-33 engines. It was operated from Edwards AFB by the 412th Test Wing.

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This TC-135S is a crew training aircraft, based at Offutt AFB, Nebraska.

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This TC-135W is a former weather research aircraft… also known for air sampling for nuclear fall out after foreign nuclear tests.

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VC-137B was an executive transport for senior government and military officials. It was based at Andrews AFB, near Washington D.C.

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The C-135B was the first C-135 version to use the TF-33 turbofan engine. It could carry cargo or personnel. This aircraft is in the 89 Airlift Wing’s VIP color scheme, taken at Andrews AFB

Reconnaissance and Observation

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This is one of three OC-135B aircraft used in the Open Skies mission… which allows any country that is part of the agreement the right to overfly any part of each other’s lands.

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The RC-135S Cobra Ball has modifications to its airframe to assist it with tracking ballistic and other classes of missiles.

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The RC-135U Combat Sent has a radio emissions reconnaissance mission. Three airframes have been modified for this program.

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RC-135V Rivet Joint is part of a group of C-135 airframes which eavesdrop on communications around the world.

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RC-135W Rivet Joint aircraft originally had different engines than the RC-135V sister aircraft. With the upgrade to F108 turbofans, both airframes are very similar now.

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The U.K’s Royal Air Force recently began operating RC-135W Rivet Joint aircraft with their own equipment which differs from the U.S. Air Force’s equipment. The RAF’s RC-135s were chosen after the Nimrod R.1 jets were retired in 2011.

Some International Users:

Our LTV A-7 Corsair II Scrapbook

A-7E

U.S. Navy A-7E at the NSA Patuxent River Naval Air Test Center.

The LTV A-7 Corsair II was a single engine, subsonic attack jet that was operational in U.S. service between the Vietnam War and the Desert Storm war.

Virginia ANG A-7D.

The Ling-Temco-Vought (LTV) company won a 1964 contract to build a replacement for the Douglas A-4 Skyhawks in U.S. navy use. Just two years later, the initial A-7A Corsair II bombers were entering naval service.

Myrtle Beach AFB was home to U.S. Air Force A-7Ds for almost eight years.

The U.S. Air Force soon purchased another version of the Corsair II, and their A-7D would replace the Douglas A-1 Skyraider and North American F-100s in Air Force and Air National Guard use.

Greek and Portuguese A-7 Corsair IIs at a Royal International Air Tattoo.

The type was exported to Greece, Thailand and Portugal too, and it was Greece who finally retired their last A-7s in 2014, giving the Corsair II design just shy of 50 years of service if you count the short two-year testing and developmental years before initial service. Almost 1,000 airframes of various models were built for the Navy alone. 

U. S. Navy EA-7L of VAQ-34.

Navy versions began with the single seat A-7A, and then the improved A-7B and A-7C variants, with  more powerful engines. Navigational, attack and terrain-following radar was part of each version’s avionics. The A-7E was the final Navy attack version. Two-seat trainer aircraft included the TA-7C which were modified from A-7B/C versions. Eight EA-7L ECM aggressor jets were also produced, and operated by VAQ-34.

Ohio ANG A-7D at Westover AFB.

Air Force/Air National Guard jets were known as the A-7D, and thirty twin-seat Air National Guard trainers were known as the A-7K. 559 jets, both -D and -K versions were built.

An oft-used A-7P.

Portugal operated some 50 A-7P and twin seat TA-7P jets.

Greek version of the TA-7C was the TA-7H.

Greece operated 62 A-7H and TA-7H (trainers).

Thailand operated approximately 22 A-7E and TA-7Cs

What wasn’t meant to be… one of two prototypes of the A-7F (this is a YA-7F) at Edwards Air Force Flight Test Center.

A proposed version at the end of its U.S. Air Force use, the A-7F, would have had an afterburning engine and improved avionics as well as a supersonic capability. That strike/interdiction version of the Corsair II was never built, except for a pair of prototypes. A total of 1545 airframes were produced.

Edwards AFB-based A-7K trainer, all bombed up.

Here is a look at the different versions of the A-7 from our archives…

Photos by Bob Finch, Mike Colaner, Corey Bietler and Ken Kula.

199th Fighter Squadron / Hawaii Air National Guard F-22 Raptors Joint Base Pearl Harbor – Hickham / Honolulu International Airport Honolulu

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On 24 May 1946, the 463rd Fighter Squadron was renamed the 199th Fighter Squadron, and allotted to the Hawaii Air National Guard. It was extended federal recognition on 4 November 1946 by the National Guard Bureau while at Bellows Field, Hawaii. On 28 October 1947, the unit moved to Hickham Air Force Base, which is now called Joint Base Pearl Harbor – Hickham.

Over the years, the unit has operated the following aircraft:

P-47N Thunderbolt, 1944–1945

F-47N Thunderbolt, 1947–1954

F-86E Sabre, 1954–1958

F-86L Sabre Interceptor, 1958–1961

F-102A Delta Dagger, 1960–1976

F-4C Phantom II, 1976–1987

F-15A/B Eagle, 1987–2009

F-15C Eagle, 1991–2010

F-22A Raptor, 2010 – present

The F-22s are part of a unique arrangement, where the USAF active-duty 19th Fighter Squadron also flies the same aircraft, with the Hawaii Air National Guard being the lead unit for flying and maintenance. In other active duty and reserve/guard arrangements, the active duty is the lead unit. The 199th FS is one of two Air National Guard units that fly the F-22 – the other is the Virginia ANG 149th FS based at Langley AFB.

Since its inception, the 199th FS has had the responsibility of defending the Hawaiian Islands.

On 14 December 2020 I took photos, outside airport grounds, of the 2 morning launches – the first with 10 aircraft and the second with 6 aircraft. I have included a sampling from that morning, as well as some static aircraft photos I took on 13 November 2019. The static aircraft are on the grounds of the base and are not accessible by the public.

Special thanks to Maak, Darcy and Chewy for their help and information!