Air Combat U

At the USAF Fighter Weapons School in 1957, the instructors were mean, but the aircraft were meaner.

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After training, I arrived at the 31st Tactical Fighter Wing at Turner Air Force Base in Georgia a couple of days before Thanksgiving, ready, or at least willing, to fly the F-100D. The first thing I learned was that three friends of mine, in the training class just ahead of me, had already been killed in F-100 accidents at their assigned units. It was not a forgiving airplane.

The Fighter Weapons School continued to develop, and it turned out the best fighter pilots in the world. In 1968, a cadre from the school went to Naval Air Station Miramar in California and helped the Navy establish its Top Gun School. Today, the school has dropped "Fighter" from its name. The New Weapons School offers instructor courses in many combat aircraft, including the B-1, the B-52, and even HH-60 helicopter. I imagine it's still a pretty exciting place.


North American F-100A

A 45-degree wing sweep allowed the Super Sabre to slip through Mach 1 with ease. The F-100, with its four M-29 20-mm cannon, was initially designed as a day gunfighter, but it flew in the attack role throughout its operational history. Hundreds were sold overseas to NATO allies and to the Nationalist Chinese air force. Some aircraft were equipped with systems for toss-bombing nuclear weapons. Leading edge slats were operated aerodynamically, extending and retracting as airflow and angle of attack dictated in order to enhance maneuverability and reduce landing speeds. The Pratt & Whitney J57-P-21 generated about 16,000 pounds of thrust with its afterburner lighted. A two-position exhaust nozzle was operated pneumatically and opened when the afterburner was operating. The Hun got its first exposure to combat in Vietnam and had a long service life, finally retiring from the Air Force in 1979.


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