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A-4F Gate Guard at Accomack Airport, Virginia.

The next time you are heading south on US-13 on the DelMarVa Peninsula on your way to the air shows at Ocean City, Langley, Oceana or even Cherry Point, make a quick Pit Stop at the Accomack County Airport in Melfa, Virginia, a mile west of US Route 13, for a pleasant surprise; a special Cold War Warrior Gate Guard. Accomack Airport (KMFV) is a small county-owned public use airport located one mile west of the central business district of Melfa, Virginia, right off of US-13.


Top to bottom: Visitors at Accomack Airport include Navy E-2 Hawkeyes, C-2 CODs and MH-60 Knighthawks.

It has one asphalt runway, 03/21, at 5,000 x 100 feet, has 25 based aircraft, has 14,000 air ops per year and 38 per day... of which yearly 84% are GA, 8% are air taxi and 9% are military. The occasional military operations include scheduled MH-53E Sea Dragons and MH-60S Knighthawk helos out of NAS Chambers Field in Norfolk and E-2C Hawkeye and C-2A COD Greyhound practice flights also out of Chambers. Usually most of the fixed wing Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLP) for Carrier Qualification (CQ) training is conducted at the nearby NASA Wallops Island Flight Facility (WFF) where Landing Signal Officers (LSO) and a painted practice carrier deck are available for graded scheduled practice "Traps". However, if you hit it right at Accomack, you might get to see occasional fixed wing "Touch and Go's" besides occasional heavy helo practice operations. Accomack Airport was built by the United States Army Air Force in 1942 and was then known as the "Melfa Flight Strip". It was an emergency landing airfield for military aircraft on training flights. It was closed after WW2 and was turned over for local government use by the War Asset Administration. KMFV has a new asphalt runway in excellent condition and a brand new well-designed high-ceilinged terminal building resembling the shingled USCG Life Boat Stations that were so prevalent along the Eastern Shore in the early 1900's.

Tucked away, far from public view, sitting on the grass next to the new Terminal Building, sits an old Navy Warrior; a McDonnell Douglas A-4F Skyhawk, BuNo 155036, in its original low-viz tactical grey camo paint scheme. This A-4F is from VFC-12 "Fighting Omar's" based down the street at NAS Oceana. Its Construction Number MSN is 13852, its Code Number is AF-00, it has an "AF" on the tail, "00" on the nose, a "VFC-12" Squadron Ident on the rear fuselage, an "Omars" logo on the tail and now basks in its original dull gray war paint on the Airport grass. Surprisingly, some of the A-4 Aggressors with VFC-12 down in Oceana in the late 80's, when this same bird resided down in Virginia Beach, were not all done up in Soviet camo to look like Mig-17's or Mig-21's. Some retained their original low-viz gray camo like this one on display at Accomack. The A-4 Skyhawk was developed in the early 1950"s by the Douglas Aircraft Corporation as a light weight, single seat, single engine, attack fighter. Outstanding low speed control and stability during both take-off and landing made the Skyhawk ideal for carrier operations. Pound for pound, she is easily one of the most effective and versatile light attack planes ever produced. A single-seat high performance design with a 33 degree swept back wings with a dry weight of only 10,465 pounds earned her the nickname of "Heinemann's Hot Rod" named after the Douglas chief design engineer Ed Heinemann. Between 1953 and 2003, McDonnell Douglas produced 2,960 units of various A-4 models. All of the models had two internally mounted Mk 12 20mm cannons and were capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear weapons both day and night with a maximum ordinance load of 9,900 pounds.

Aggressor VFC-12 Skyhawk in the late 1980s.

Its maximum speed of 673 mph, tight turning radius, high rate of climb, high-G performance and small airframe profile made the A-4 ideal to imitate Soviet adversary aircraft with high performance ACM fighter tactics. The A-4 was retired from the USMC in 1998, from the USN in 2003 and from the Israeli Air Force as recently as 2015. But this old bird does not want to totally retire.


Top to Bottom: Draken TA-4K and A-4L Skyhawks.

Currently there are some private Aggressor Contractors that use their privately owned Skyhawks to this day for Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT) with the US Military. Such private Aggressors that are currently flying A-4F Skyhawks (similar to the Accomack A-4F) include: a) "Draken International" - owns and operates eight former New Zealand A-4K Skyhawks and three A-4L Skyhawks as an Adversary Squadron; b) "AeroGroup"- a private commercial company that recently owned A-4 Aggressor aircraft; c) "A-4L, LLC" - Owns seven A-4's and currently operates three A-4L's (A4D-2N) Skyhawks based at KGYI North Texas Regional Airport / Perrin Field in Denison Texas (the old Perrin Air Force Base, an F-102 and F-106 training base, that closed in 1971). This particular A-4F Skyhawk (155036) on display here on the grass at Accomack Airport in DelMarVa Virginia had a colorful history with the US Navy and even the US Marine Corps. It started with its very first assignment in 1968 with VA-125 "Rough Riders" out of Lemoore, CA; then later in 1968 with VA-55 "War Horses" also at Lemoore; then in 1973 with Marine Squadron VMA-223 "Bull Dogs" working out of MCAS El Toro; then later in 1973 with a Marine Attack Squadron VMAT out of MCAS Yuma AZ; then 1975 to 1978 with VC-7 "Tallyhoers", an early aggressor squadron working out of Miramar with target towing and early dog fight training; then 1976 with VF-126 "Bandits" working out of Miramar as a Fleet Replacement Squadron and later becoming a West Coast Aggressor Squadron with the Soviet gray and blue camo with a big red number on the nose; then 1979 to 1984 with VC-7 again; then 1984 to 1992 with VF-126 at Miramar in a Top Gun Aggressor Squadron.

VFC-12 Aggressor F/A-18 Hornet

Finally 155036 ended its illustrious career by heading East to NAS Oceana to become part of their Aggressor Squadron VFC-12 "Fighting Omars" call sign "Ambush" from 1992 to 1994 when Accomack Airport acquired this Skyhawk as its famous Gate Guard. When 155036 was assigned to VF-126 "Bandits", it was part of the official "Pacific Fleet Adversary Squadron" working out of Miramar with the Top Gun Schoolhouse from 1984 to 1992 as a Top Gun "Mongoose" at Miramar. The "Mongoose" Skyhawks were special because they lost their dorsal hump behind the canopy, the 20mm gun and the internal ammo store, and also lost the external wing hard-point stores, all for the sake of greater maneuverability in DACT dogfights. This weight and drag loss contributed to giving the F-14's a run for their money when picking a fight with 155036. Also, this same Skyhawk was at Miramar about the same time that the movie "TOP GUN" was being made at Miramar in 1985 and it is conceivable that this same A-4F just might have appeared in some of those ramp shots in the movie.

The newest Aggressor color scheme in VFC-12

Fighter Squadron Composite 12 (VFC-12) was and still is a United States Navy Reserve Fighter Squadron now based at NAS Oceana in Virginia Beach, VA. It continues to provide Adversary Training to East Coast air wings with their "Aggressor" aircraft with tactical paint schemes resembling potential enemy adversary aircraft. The "Fighting Omars" is manned by selected reservists, full time reservists (FTS) and active duty personnel. The Squadron's current call sign is "Ambush" and their tail code is still "AF" like the A-4F here at Accomack. Their current Aggressor aircraft are F/A-18+ Hornets upgraded in 2012 with black, gray and white Prototype 2 Arctic Splinter camouflage (designed by USN veteran Darrall W. Taylor Jr.) to resemble the Russian SU-35 Flanker aircraft.

Fighting Omar's F/A-18 Hornet at rest.

The Squadron's primary mission continues to be to support the "Strike Fighter Advanced Readiness Program" (SFARP) which trains operational fleet F/A-18 squadrons. SFARP is an intense three-week training exercise conducted by the Strike Fighter Weapons School Atlantic that allows fleet "Strike Fighter" aircrews to hone their war fighting skills against a credible adversary prior to deploying. Yes, it is very similar to "Top Gun" previously held at NAS Miramar in San Diego (go see the movie TOP GUN one more time!) but now headquartered in NAS Fallon, Nevada. VFC-12 also supports the F/A-18 Fleet Replenishment Squadrons at NAS Oceana and also maintains an Aggressor Detachment working out of NAS Key West Florida. VFC-12 often averages more than 200 days a year on Det. Services. The VFC-12 A-4F Aggressor Skyhawk Gate Guard (155036) on display near the terminal here at Accomack Airport Virginia, came to the Eastern Shore in three sections in 1995 from her last duty station at NAS Oceana in nearby Virginia Beach, VA. She is officially "On Loan" from the National Museum of Naval Aviation located in Pensacola Florida. In September of 1993, Mr. Dan Williams of Altair Aviation, previously located here at the Accomack Airport, presented a proposal to the Airport Commission to obtain a surplus military aircraft which they would maintain for display purposes at the Melfa Airport. In 1993, Williams had made the contact and arrangements for a surplus A-4F Skyhawk, but a formal request was needed from Accomack County. In June 1994, the Airport Commission passed a motion requesting permission to acquire the A-4 for display at Accomack County Airport with the proviso that Altair would assume the maintenance and hanger the aircraft "between showings".

There never was a formal "Memorandum of Understanding" (MOU) with Altair and the County regarding responsibility for the aircraft's upkeep and storage. In March of 1995, Altair transported the aircraft in three sections from NAS Oceana to their original company hanger located in Melfa, VA, where it was re-assembled and stored. Piedmont Aviation acquired Altair in September of 1995. In November of 1995, the old Airport Commission made a formal request to the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) to display the A-4F at the entrance the Industrial Park near the Airport. Piedmont Aviation offered to build a concrete pedestal and walkway for public viewing of the aircraft. The IDA lost no time in approving the offer. However, Piedmont Aviation left the County shortly thereafter and that plan never materialized. At this point in 1996 a location for display near the new Terminal Building was chosen and the A-4F still sits to this day on the grass for over 20 years (!) patiently waiting for someone to build a pedestal over by Route 13 for her final resting place! The Airport's promotional literature notes that to complete this proposed "A-4 Mission", they need to accomplish three goals: (1) They must upgrade the physical condition of the aircraft. This is the first priority and is required by their contract with the US Navy. They should be able to do all the work required at the plane's current location near the Terminal. Plus, the Airport Commission has suggested that some active duty aircraft maintenance personnel from the Navy at Oceana could come out and actually help restore this aircraft while the Airport could provide volunteers to work alongside. (2) After this restoration, the aircraft needs to be moved to a site at the main entrance to the Industrial Park and the Airport near the corner at US-13. The Airport feels that a new location just 1/2 mile from where she now sits "will allow the thousands of travelers on US Route 13 a chance to get a view of our hidden gem". "What better indication that there is a real airport here than seeing an eye-catching restored military fighter jet come out of the shadows and now be on proud public display" as noted in the Airport promotional brochure. (3) Build the "Final Display" for the aircraft. The Airport said the concept was to mount the A-4 on a concrete pedestal and locate the display at the entrance to the Industrial Park at the intersection of US-13, not far from the Airport. The land is available and at no cost. The most difficult part for the Airport Commission is the need to properly engineer the concrete support for the mounting of the plane. I personally feel that the A-4 should NOT be on a high pedestal but rather should be on ground level as you would see the plane on a concrete ramp. Also, great care should be taken in the repainting of the plane. We are all aware of a few restorations that incorrectly restore the aircraft. I for one appreciate the original low-viz gray color scheme that the aircraft arrived with as a true indication of actual operational tactical colors. Another option is the blue and gray camo scheme that other A-4F Aggressors were painted in at Oceana in the late 1980's We certainly wish the Accomack Airport Commission good luck in achieving their goal of properly displaying this A-4F Skyhawk out on the corner of US Route 13 so that all of us can one day see it as we go truck'n on down 13 to get to the Air Shows at Langley AFB or NAS Oceana!!!  



Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar hosted their 2017 edition of their annual airshow from Sep 29th-Oct 2. Home to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (3d MAW), Miramar boasts one of the largest and most popular airshows on the West Coast.


Famous for their Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) demo, and the always impressive United States Navy Demonstration Team, the Blue Angels. The show also included several civilian aerobatic acts, as well as a race between John Colver in his AT-6 'War Dog' and Chris Darnell in the 'Shockwave' jet truck. The Marines also conducted separate capabilities demonstrations of their MV-22 Osprey, AV-8B Harrier, and F-35B Lightning II.

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The theme this year was 'A Salute to Vietnam Veterans'. I for one am very happy that Miramar chose this theme for their show this year. Being a more recent Combat Veteran, I know the feeling of coming home from a deployment to a generally thankful and appreciative civilian populace. Unfortunately, Vietnam Vets did not come home to that same appreciation. Many were ridiculed or insulted, and in many cases, the treatment was much, much worse. A substantial number of these Veterans didn't choose to go either, they were drafted, and therefore forced, but they served, and they sacrificed, and many did not return at all. I have always made it a point to thank Vietnam Veterans for their service and their sacrifice, and encouraged my children to do the same. With that I salute all Vietnam Veterans out there, and here at Photorecon, we THANK YOU!


I want to thank 1stLt Littesy and the entire 3d MAW Public Affairs Office at MCAS Miramar for their hospitality once again this year. I look forward to seeing what they have in store for 2018.

The Adventures of an Airplane Nut

Ron bookcover 1 If you have even a casual interest in aviation history, you’d be envious of Ron Pagano’s aviation experiences. Interested in aviation well before he enlisted in the Air Force in 1953, his life became an interesting series of adventures. Ron even has written a book about some of them, aptly entitled “The Adventures of an Airplane Nut”. In his self-written preface to this book, he explains it all: “I have always wanted to put into writing all of my aviation adventures and experiences, and my passion for anything aviation related. It is in my DNA. Many well-written stories and books have been written about flying aces, and many other interesting flying heroes. This book is different. This book is about an average guy born with a great passion for airplanes and aviation. It is about the true-life adventures of an “airplane nut”… Ron was born at the end of one of aviation’s golden ages, just before World War II broke out. He grew up during the war, and began to take flying lessons at age 16. He never did finish his pilot’s license before he enlisted in the Air Force (before he graduated high school in Massachusetts). Although he didn’t get his choice of trades in the military, he did get sent to aircraft control and warning school; “Well, we thought, the title still had ‘aircraft’ in it”. Well, Ron left the Air Force after his tour, and got his FAA Airframe and Powerplant license, along with an Associate Degree in A/C Maintenance Management while attending Boston University under the GI Bill. Soon he went to work with Hamilton Standard, in the Instrumentation Group, helping to test Hamilton Standard equipment, especially propellers. From there, his story takes many twists and turns. Not only did he work for an aviation powerhouse, but he was lucky to work on some cutting edge programs in aviation – with an industrial point of view.

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Ron got involved in programs like stress testing Royal Air Force C-130s with Hamilton Standard propellers, and took a side tour of the airfield used for filming the Memphis Belle movie just before production began. He seemed to have a nose for interesting aviation situations, and combined business with pleasure during many of his work-related journeys. Armed with a steady supply of Hamilton Standard propeller stickers, he made friends and left his mark in museums and on restored aircraft on multiple continents! Let’s see, what are some of the adventures he reminisces about in his book… he worked on Pratt and Whitney’s five-engined B-17, the Chance Vought XC-142, and the Bell V-22. He did some work with the contrarotating propellers on the Red Baron P-51 racer during qualification races at Reno, Nevada. He was involved with the testing of the CRP – Contrarotating Propfan design that was installed on an MD-80. And, keeping with double-propellered airplane theme, he has done acoustic testing on a Fairey Gannett too! He’s attended events such as the 1959 Bradley Field Jet Age Air Fair, helped plan the 1986 Hamilton Standard Family Day, and attended a few Gee Bee air racing commemorative events in the Connecticut River Valley – at one of which he met Rudy Opitz, the German test pilot. While his recollections aren’t full of dry details and minute observations, rather they portray events and situations in a historical context, with a broader sense of aviation history. Other rarities/oddities he got involved with that are mentioned in his book include the TV show Monster Garage’s attempt to make a flying machine, and attending the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ first flight at Kill Devil Hills North Carolina.

Ron SteveAn2

Ron has flown in more than one hundred different types of airplanes. Civilian, military, retired military (otherwise known as warbirds), experimentals, and the list goes on. He mentions the air-to-air photo flight during a Space Shuttle launch in Florida, before flying in the AN-2 biplane photo ship to the Sun N Fun fly-in. B-25s, B-17, a Yak fighter, Stearman trainers, and T-28s are just a few of the others Ron talks about in his book. More “adventures” that merit longer stories in the book are his involvement with the Airdales, an air show ground control and marshalling organization, and attending warbird air shows such as the Valiant Air Command’s TICO show. There are quite a number of anecdotes about those shows, and as I met Ron at a TICO show almost three decades ago, I can vouch for the authenticity of many of these stories. He also got involved in World War II reenactment, equipping himself with an officer’s uniform from World War II, and looking exactly like what I’d expect a veteran would look like. “The Adventures of an Airplane Nut” contains more than two hundred pages of words and pictures that take an interesting look at different sides of aviation history, those of personal background stories and not of the headlines of the day. Some of the stories are funny, others are deadly serious and a few are about close calls that you never knew happened. This is a great book for a historian who wants to see another point of view about an exciting time to be involved in the aviation industry, and an interesting read for anyone who has an interest, or better yet, a passion for aviation.

This makes a great holiday or birthday present, if you’re looking for an interesting read!

Published by Mountain Arbor Press of Alpharetta, GA, you can order your copy at or




Lockheed Martin C-5 Galaxy

Dover Air Force Base In Maryland had its first Air Show in eight years - "Thunder Over Dover; Celebrating Our Heritage" - on August 26th - 27th, 2017. It was no small event with over 70 airplanes on the Hot Ramp and the Static Ramp and drawing over 150,000 plane-crazed spectators each day. (see 10/23/17) There was enough to please everyone,not only with the Thunderbirds, but also with 6 hours of flying in the air, and ramps packed with heavy metal haulers, current fighters, a "Bone", helos, a "Reaper", little "Noisemakers", white "VIP'ers", light Cessnas, Gliders and a collection of great Warbirds. We go to these air shows and we are awed by the great planes on the ground and in the air, but these airports and bases we visit hold some interesting secrets and that is not only what goes on there now but also the history of these airports, many of which have a long story going back to the early days of Flight. Dover AFB is no exception. Let's leave the ramp and take a little trip backwards and see what goes on here now and also have a quick look at the early days of Dover.

McDonnell Douglas/Boeing C-17 Globemaster III

A) The Base: Dover Air Force Base is a big Air Mobility Command (AMC) base off of Delaware Route 1 in Dover Delaware. As you come in, it looks like a brand new base with many new buildings, hangers, housing, support facilities, rebuilt runways and a new double-tiered 10-story high control tower near a new Fire and Crash. It all looks brand new but Dover got its start in December of 1941 as a P-41 Thunderbolt pilot training base and anti-submarine patrol base in World War 2. Dover AFB has grown to become the largest Aerial Port complex on the East Coast providing "Wings Over Dover - Providing Excellence Since 1941" as stated by Col. Ethan Griffin, Commander of the prime tenant, the 436th Airlift Wing, here at Dover. It supports nearly 10,000 active duty, reserve, civilian and dependent personnel, executing the diverse mission sets of 18 major on base units, including the 436th Airlift Wing (AMC), the 512th Airlift Wing, AF Reserve Command (AFRC), the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Command, the Joint Personnel Effects Depot, the Armed Forces Medical Examiners System, the various Support Commands and facilities, and the Air Mobility Command Museum with over 35 historic aircraft on public ramp display at the south end of the field off of Route 9.

Lockheed Martin C-5M Super Galaxy

Dover is home to about twenty-five C-17A Globemaster III and C-5M Super Galaxy heavy lift cargo aircraft and their accompanying cargo warehouses and support facilities and special cargo equipment. The C-5 Galaxy is one of the largest aircraft in the world and the largest airlifter in the Air Force inventory. The aircraft can carry a fully equipped combat-ready unit to any point in the world on short notice and then provide the supplies required to help sustain the fighting force. The C-17 Globemaster III, the newest and most flexible aircraft to enter the airlift force, is capable of rapid strategic airlift delivery of troops or cargo to main bases or austere forward bases as well as providing airdrop missions and world-wide MedEvac missions. Dover operates the largest and busiest Air Freight Terminal in the Department of Defense. It is a jumping off base not only for their own aircraft but also other transient AMC aircraft and DOD Air Freight Charters heading to Europe, the Middle East, Southwest Asia and other worldwide destinations. The 436AW is an active AIr Force unit. The 512AW, commanded by Col. Craig C. Peters, is an AF Reserve "Associate Unit" called the "Liberty Wing" with 1,600 reservists attached, and is a support unit of the 4th Air Force headquartered at March Air Reserve Base, Calif. The 512th AW uses active duty host aircraft and equipment for training and works side-by-side with the active duty 436th "Eagle Wing" crews. The 436AW has two active duty flying squadrons - the 3rd AS operating only the C-17 and the 9th AS operating the C-5 - and the 512AW has two AFRC flying squadrons - the 325th AS and the 709th AS. B) A Tough Special Mission: Dover AFB also has a very somber mission associated with America's current combat roles around the world. The Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs located at Dover AFB, is the DOD's largest joint service mortuary facility and the only one located in the continental United States. It is the AFMAO's mission "to fulfill the nation's sacred commitment of ensuring dignity, honor and respect to the fallen [in combat] and care for, service and and support the families". A solemn dignified transfer of remains is conducted upon arrival at Dover AFB from the arriving USAF aircraft to a transfer vehicle to honor those who have died in combat. That vehicle then goes to the AFMAO'S facility for positive identification, dignified storage, autopsy if required, reunion with family members and then later transported to their final destination as determined by the family. There are facilities for family members in the Carson Center Building. At least two Kalitta Air Falcon Jet charter aircraft for family and transfer use remain on stand-by at all times at the south ramp near the AMC Museum to fulfill the above combat mortuary mission. The Carson Center also has the capability to handle mass body arrivals at one time such as the Johnstown mass murder and military air crashes.

Lockheed C-141 Starlifter

C) The History: Dover Air Force Base comes with an interesting history. Construction of the "Municipal Airport - Dover Airdrome" began off of Bay Road, the future DE-1, in March of 1941 and the airport opened on December 17th 1941. It was converted to a US Army Air Corps airfield just weeks after the December 7th 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the start of WW2. Dover was actually a sub-base of Camp Springs AAF, Maryland (Andrews AFB) from 1943 to 1945. The first military unit arrived at Dover AAF on December 20th 1941 - The 112th Observation Squadron of the Ohio National Guard flying anti-submarine patrols equipped with Stinson L-1 / O-49 Vigilant and the North American O-47 observation aircraft. They performed coastal patrols over the Atlantic for German U-Boats and over Delaware Bay and the approaches to Philadelphia. In early 1942, three B-25 Mitchell Bomber squadrons arrived with the 45th Bombardment Group, again with the local anti-submarine patrol mission. Runways were lengthened to 7,000 feet in April of of 1943 and in September of 1943 Dover gave up its ant-sub patrol mission and Dover AAF became a Republic P-47 Thunderbolt training base with the arrival of the 83rd Fighter Group replacement training unit (RTU). In 1944 the Air Technical Service Command chose Dover as the site to engineer, develop and test certain classified air-launched rockets. After a period of post-war inactive care-taker status, Dover was re-activated in August of 1950 for the Korean War. On February 1, 1951, the 148th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard arrived at Dover with their P-51D Mustangs after relocating from the Reading, Penn. Municipal Airport. It was assigned to the 113th Fighter-Interceptor Group as part of the Air Defense Command (ADC) with an air defense mission for Southeastern Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, South New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.

Lockheed F-94 Starfire

In September the squadron upgraded to the jet propelled and air-intercept-radar equipped Lockheed F-94 Starfire aircraft. However, ADC was experiencing difficulty under the existing wing base organizational structure in deploying its fighter squadrons to best advantage. Accordingly, in February 1952, it inactivated the 113th Wing and its elements and reassigned the 148th FIS to the 4710th Defense Wing which was organized on a regional basis. On 1 November 1952, the 148th was returned to the control of State of Pennsylvania and its personnel, equipment and mission were transferred to the new 46th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron which was simultaneously activated at Dover AFB. Later, in 1956, as the ADC prepared for the implementation of the Semi-Automated Ground Environment (SAGE) Radar command and control system, the 4710th was moved to Illinois and the 46th FIS squadron at Dover was reassigned to the New York Air Defense Sector incorporating and under the direction of the SAGE Radar Control Center located at Stewart AFB in Newburgh, NY (the blockhouse for which still exists Stewart Airport!). In April of 1952, the primary mission of Dover AFB was transferred to the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) and became home to the 1607th Air Transport Wing (Heavy) from 1953 to 1966. On 1 February 1952, the 80th Air Base Squadron was activated at Dover to provide housekeeping duties for the four tenant units that had arrived on base by that date. They were the 148th FIS, the 1737th Ferry Squadron, Detachment 1909-6 Airways and Communications Services and the 9th Weather Group.

Douglas C-54 Skymaster

On 1 April 1952, the 80th ABW primary responsibility was supporting MATS at Dover and Dover became under the jurisdiction of "Atlantic Division" (MATS) headquartered at Westover AFB, Mass., later assigned in 1958 to the "Eastern Transport Air Force" (EASTAF) working out of McGuire AFB. In 1953, Congress appropriated $25M to upgrade runways and facilities to transform Dover AFB into a supplemental East Coast Port of Embarkation for MATS and as a Foreign Clearing Base for ferrying flights headed to Europe, the Caribbean and countries to the North. The 1607th ATW was composed of the 1st Air Transport Squadron (ATS) Heavy flying the C-124A Globemaster II and the 21st ATS Medium flying the C-54G Skymaster airlift aircraft.

Douglas C-124 Globemaster II

On 1 May 1954, the first Douglas C-124 Globemaster II aircraft arrived at Dover and they were assigned to the new separate 40th ATS(H) at Dover. In 1955, C-124 units such as the 15th, the 20th and the 31st ATS squadrons were relocated from Westover AFB, Mass. when MATS closed its facilities there. When the Douglas C-133A Cargomaster arrived at Dover in 1957, the 39th ATS was re-designated a C-133 unit along with the 1st ATS. The later 1950's saw many ATS squadron number changes with Dover absorbing many C-133 and C-124 units and aircraft. Dover became a major hub for C-54G medium lift and C-133 and C-124 heavy lift aircraft until 1966. These aircraft examples are currently on public view at the AMC Museum at the south end of the Base. The 1607th ATW(H) flew many critical world-wide military and humanitarian missions out of Dover with their C-133 and C-124 aircraft, the most critical of which was in support of the build up for the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of 1962, when history now proved that the US and the Soviet Union were within 36 hours of a nuclear confrontation before a stand down was finally negotiated.

Lockheed C-141 Starlifter

On February 1, 1965, MATS announced that Dover AFB was selected as one of four bases where the Lockheed C-141A Starlifter would be tested under a program called "Lead the Force". The first C-141A arrived at Dover AFB on 18 August 1965 and was assigned to the 20th ATS. On 8 January 1966, the 1607th ATW(H) was discontinued and the current 436th Military Airlift Wing (MAW) / 512th AW (AFRC) was activated when the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) was replaced by the Military Airlift Command ( MAC). The various Air Transport Squadrons and Troop Carrier Squadrons at Dover were all re-designated as Military Airlift Squadrons. As of 8 January 1966, there were 70 heavy transport aircraft assigned to Dover AFB, with over 8,000 military and civilian personnel on base. Its C-124 Globemasters, C-133 Cargomasters and new C-141 Starlifters maintained a D-Day state of readiness to airlift men and material for the United States and allied military forces whenever and wherever needed.

Top to Bottom: Curtiss C-46 Commando, Kaman HH-43 Huskie, Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar

The airlift aircraft lineage at Dover included: C-45 Expeditor ('49, '55 to '57); C-47 Skytrain ('49 to '51); C-46 Commando ('55 to '57); C-119 Flying Boxcar ('57); C-54 Skymaster ('53 to '57); C-124 ('66 to '69); C-133 ('66 to '71); C-141 ('66 to '73); the HH-43B Huskie rescue helicopter ('65 to '71); C-5 Galaxy ('71 to present) and the C-17A Globemaster III (2007 to Present). In 1971 the 436th AW started replacing the C-141 Starlifter and the C-133 Cargomaster with the new C-5A Galaxy, the largest heavy lift aircraft in the free-world. In 1973 Dover became the first all C-5A equipped Wing in the USAF, trading in its last C-141's to Charleston AFB for their C-5's. In the years since Desert Storm in 1990 the Military Airlift Command morphed into the current Air Mobility Command (AMC) and now serves as the only combat ready C-5 Galaxy airlift wing capable of performing both air drop and special operations procedures in support of tactical forces and national objectives. The Wing's 436th Operations Group is the Air Mobility Command's main active-duty heavy-lift organization, flying missions world-wide and currently supporting active major combat operations in both Southwest Asia and in Afghanistan as well as the Africa Theatre. In 2007, the Wing and its Associate 512th Airlift Wing supplemented their all C-5 Galaxy fleet with the new C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. Also in 2007 Dover started receiving the up-graded C-5M Super Galaxy heavy lift aircraft. Now Dover has about 15 of each aircraft type assigned to the 435th / 512th fleet.

Top: Northrop F-89 Scorpion, Bottom: McDonnell F-101 Voodoo

Dover was not just a home for "Heavy Metal". Dover AFB also had a rich heritage of assigned fighter squadrons up to and including the Cold War including: the 365th Fighter Group and the 83rd FG in 1941 with Republic P-47 Thunderbolts; the 336th Fighter Interceptor Squadron in 1950, flying the P-51D and the F-86F Sabre; the 46th FIS, 1952 to 1958, flying the Lockheed F-94 Starfire at Dover for the ADC and responsible for the defense of Southeast Pennsylvania, South New Jersey and Delaware and Maryland and tied into the New York Air Defense Sector "SAGE" C-3 system at Stewart AFB; the 98th FIS, 1956 to 1963, flying the F-89D Scorpion and Mcdonnell F-101 Voodoo interceptors protecting again the Philly / DE / MD / NJ local Air Defense Sectors; and finally the 95th FIS, 1963 to 1973, flying the Convair F-106A Delta Dart maintaining 24/7 5-Minute Alerts both at Dover AFB and at Atlantic City Airport, with all aircraft armed at the time with Genie air-to-air nuclear-tipped missiles.

Convair F-106  Delta Dart

The F-106 was the last interceptor fighter based at Dover AFB. Until 2015, Dover AFB still had the 8 Alert Barns that housed the F-106 Alert aircraft still intact at the south end of the airport right by the parking lot for the AMC Museum. They were torn down in late 2015. The Museum has many of the historical heavy-lift transports and two of the assigned FIS fighters on public display on its ramp. The Museum is on Route 9, about one mile east of the DE Route 1 Exit. The are about 35 planes on view at the Museum including a C-5A repainted in its grey and white 1975 original colors. That C-5 has the distinction of not only being based here at Dover AFB but also being the only USAF aircraft that ever launched a Minute Man missile out its rear ramp doors while at 20,000 feet as a test of that launch system capability. A Minute Man Missile is on display right next to that grey and white C-5A Galaxy. The Museum is located right between Dover's two active runways - 1/19 at 9,600 feet and 14/32 at 12,900 feet. The Museum parking lot provides great viewing of flight operations up close at Dover. Take a ride down to Dover and walk around the Big Planes -- it's a lot of fun!!!