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North American B-25 Bomber – Airborne Scrapbook

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This is part 1 of a two part look at the B-25 Mitchell bomber, operating as warbirds and located in museums. The second part will run on these pages later this week, don’t miss it!

The North American B-25 Mitchell medium bomber was an important weapon during the Second World War, and later as a trainer and liaison aircraft until 1960 with the U.S. Air Force. Exported to countries in Europe, Asia, and South America, it was a well used aircraft by Russia and the British Commonwealth countries like Great Britain and Australia.

A great number of variants were produced, with the B-25H (1,000 produced) and the B-25J (4,318 manufactured) being the most delivered models.

Some B-25Hs had a 75mm cannon mounted in their noses, and some Navy/Marine PBJs could fire wing-mounted rockets, to go along with standard bombs and machine guns. Radar was often fitted to Navy and Marine PBJs for antisubmarine tasks too.

Here are some photos from part of our team… contributors are: Scott Jankowski, Mike Colaner, Shawn Byers, Scott Zeno, Corey Beitler, and Ken Kula.

Mojave Warbirds From Three Decades Ago

QF-100F

QF-100Fs

Mojave, California can boast of having one of the most interesting airports in the world. While it is a civilian-owned and operated airport, it sees more than a normal share of warbird operations too… 

I was fortunate to be able to take three trips to the airport in the 1990s during some “aviation-overload” weekends in California’s High Desert region, which is home to Edwards AFB as well as Mojave. 

Now known as the Mojave Air and Space Port, the facility has many interesting features… an airliner boneyard, storage space for other transport aircraft, businesses that are in the forefront of aviation research and development, and in the 1990s, an air museum too. Over a few decades, the airport has hosted dozens of first flights for many cutting-edge aircraft, and is the site of numerous record-setting flights too. The National Test Pilot School is based here, as is Scaled Composites, the visionary aircraft design and development company. The Virgin galactic civilian space flight company has tested their early aircraft (spaceships?) there, and General Electric jet engine testing was also prevalent.

QF-4Gs

When I visited the airport, Tracor Flight Systems ran a major military drone conversion factory on the field. During my three visits, I saw QF-86s, QF-100s and QF-4s readied for delivery to military squadrons in the United States.

Douglas C-133

More rather modern warbirds, while not readied as drones, included A-3 Skywarriors, Saab 32 Lansens, and F-104s. There were a few MiG-17 and MiG-21s being restored, and at least one DeHavilland Venom jet fighter. There were a pair of Douglas C-133s, a few T-33s around the field too.

Convair 880

On the civilian side, NASA Convair 880 and 990 jets were parked… and more ex-TWA Convair 880s were parked across the airport from the main industrial area; some work was accomplished towards making the -880s into fast jet freighters, but it seems the idea never came to fruition. Nearby the red and white Convairs were a group of early Delta Airlines L-1011 Tristars that were gradually broken up over the decade I made my visits. More rare Convair airliners in the -990 version were parked at the airport too. A former Hughes Boeing 720B testbed was parked near the Convairs, a large in-flight door was added on the left side of the fuselage.

NASA Convair 990 Coronado

Here is a group of photos from my trips… three different years in total. Enjoy!

Our T-33 Scrapbook

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Photos from the ClassicWarbird.net and Photorecon.net team.

The first Lockheed T-33 first flew 73 years ago!

I heard a story once, a few decades ago, which seems to be apropos here. A few military aircraft enthusiasts were talking with an F-15 Eagle pilot. The question was posed as to how long the Eagle’s career as a useful fighter would be, as F-22 Raptor and Sukhoi SU-30s were coming on line. A few opinions about the uncommonly long longevity of the Eagle design (two decades at the time) were voiced, until the F-15 pilot said (in a shout out to the unit’s trainer aircraft) that when the final F-15 would be delivered to the MASDC bone yard, a T-33 would be dispatched to fly that pilot back to their unit!

Lockheed’s Clarance “Kelly” Johnson has a remarkable legacy of aircraft designs, which include the P-38 Lightning, the F-104 Starfighter and the SR-71 Blackbird. Additionally, he was the driving force behind the U.S. Army Air force’s first widely-used jet fighter – the P-80 Shooting Star. A subsequent version of this was the TF-80C, which was designed as a twin-seat trainer version of the Shooting Star, and later renamed the T-33A after the U.S. Air Force was formed in the late 1940s.

Final active T-33 in U.S. service, on display at the 50th Anniversary if the USAF air show at Nellis AFB.

Although the P-80 used a General Electric jet engine, the T-33 utilized the Allison J-33 engine. This design had an extremely long useful life, with almost seven full decades of active military service. The U.S.A.F.’s T-33A first flew in March, 1948, and the last of the U.S. military’s active T-33s was an Air Force NT-33A test aircraft which was finally retied in April, 1997. Worldwide, the “T-bird” was finally retired from Bolivian military service at the end of July, 2017.

 

Lockheed TV-2 used by the FAA for research after its training days were over.

Numerous specialized versions were produced by Lockheed, many were later used as remote piloted targets and as drone directors for these drones too. The U.S. Navy and Marines received over 600 T-33s as trainers under the designations TO-1/TV-1/TO-2/TV-2 and T-33B (plus more different versions after the 1962 Tri-Service re-designation system). The Air Force made some into AT-33A lead-in fighter trainers, with limited armament capabilities. A RT-33 reconnaissance version even carried cameras in its nose. Still others acted as simulated “bogies” for interceptors to practice their missions on. The T-33 was a successful early military jet, and accomplished many missions besides its primary duty as one of the world’s first jet trainers.

So successful was the T-33 that it was exported to some 30 countries, and produced under license by Japan and Canada. Canadair produced 656 Silver Star trainers; the Canadian jets were powered with Rolls Royce Nene engines and exported them to many European countries. Lockheed produced 5,691 airframes for the U.S., and ended their production in 1959.

One particularly useful design was Canada’s Silver Star, which performed duties as targets for NORAD interceptors and posed as aircraft and anti-ship missiles during NATO Naval exercises. Some of their CT-133s were modified into CE-133s electronic training aircraft, fitted with internal and external emitters and transmitters to act as foreign aircraft. They also were modified to carry towed targets, for gunnery training.

A true Canadian warbird, this CT-133 Silver Star showed off its lines at Air Show London a few years ago.

After retirement, the twin-seat trainer became a popular warbird jet, with a good supply of retired parts and engines available worldwide. The two seats made it a good fit for air to air photography, and a few retired jets became chase aircraft for new aircraft manufacturers. Boeing used a pair of T-33s as chase planes up to the end of 2020, including chase and photo duties during their B-787 and newest B-777 version programs. In fact, Boeing offered the T-33 Skyfox as an updated trainer in the mid-1980s, although there were no contracts signed. The Skyfox and Boeing design used much of the original T-33’s airframe, but substituted the Allison jet engine with a pair of smaller Garrett TFE731 jets.

Here are a pair of photo collections by some of the Photorecon.net and ClassicWarbirds.net team, enjoy!

T-33s in active military service:

Warbird T-33s:

Our Military Reconnaissance and Photo Aircraft Scrapbook

SR-71A

Here’s a large group of military aircraft whose main duty was to gather information… photographic and/or electronic, or gather information about other military assets in the area. You can either hover over the photo to see their type ID, or click on it for a larger photo. Enjoy!