Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Maybe Just Another Static Display To Most...

On returning from my Barksdale extravaganza for the Air Force Art Program in 2010, I passed through what used to be the home of the 23rd Tactical Fighter Command ( Flying Tigers) at England, AFB just outside of Alexandria, LA. Though he was born in Texas of French descent, Claire Chennault was the pride of Louisiana, an LSU graduate and leader of the original and volunteer force called the Flying Tigers, which is why this display stands at the entrance to what is now known as the England AirPark.
Included in the display, are jet aircraft used to protect air space around the south and most especially the SAC facility at Barksdale in Shreveport, LA especially in the sixties. The display is comprised of a F-7U Corsair II, an A-10 Warthog, and F-86 Sabre, which is painted in the colors of the namesake's aircraft, Major John England, an Vietnam era F-105 Thunderchief and this F-84F Thunderstreak.

The Thunderstreak originally caught my eye because I have never seen a static display with the undercarriage half retracted. I found it intriguing. At that time though, I couldn't take any pictures having used up my entire digicard at Barksdale. But, just this weekend, while visiting our son, I returned to shoot the entire static display.

The other reason this display caught my eye was because of an illustration I donated to the Air Force highlighting the "E" model of the fighter/bomber. Although the experimental XF-85 Goblin proved to be a failure, USAF believed that the bomber-borne fighter concept was still a good idea. But instead of escorting the big bomber, the focus shifted to a strike role with a Convair B-36 Peacemaker carrying a Republic F-84 Thunderjet. The plan was for the heavy bomber with superior range to arrive in the vicinity of the target and deploy a faster, more maneuverable F-84 to deliver the tactical nuclear bomb. The F-84 would then return to the ‘mother ship’ and be carried home.

Though quite primitive by today's technology, in the late fifties, it seemed a realistic possibility. A B-36 Peacemaker, designated GRB-36F carried a mechanism in its bomb bay, that would hold a production F-84E Thunderstreak (serial number 49-2115) fitted with a retractable hook in the nose in front of the cockpit. The hook would link the fighter to the trapeze mechanism which would hold the aircraft in the bomb bay during flight, lower it for deployment, and raise it back in after the mission. Due to the size of the fighter, only the cockpit, the fuselage spine, and the tail fin actually fit inside the bomber.

The illustration I painted of the  F-84E Thunderstreak (serial number 49-2115) can be seen at:

Copyright 2011/Ben Bensen III

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