This is today’s Aviation History Speed Round, getting you caught up on milestones and important historical events in aviation from June 27 through June 30.
June 28, 1988 – The first flight of the Sukhoi Su-35 (Su-27M). The Su-35 (NATO reporting name Flanker) began its life as the Su-27, a fourth generation, twin-engine, multi-role air superiority fighter that was designed to counter the American McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle and the Grumman F-14 Tomcat. Similar in size and mission, the Su-27 first flew in May of 1977 and entered service with the Russian air force in 1985. While the Flanker proved to be a formidable fighter, it also provided a basis for further refinement and development. The Su-27 has been developed into a confusing myriad of versions and variants for the Russian military and for export to friendly nations. The first development of the Su-27 came in the 1980s, with improved aerodynamics, enhanced avionics, more powerful engines and a longer range. This aircraft was initially designated the Su-27M, but was redesignated Su-35. Early modifications included the addition of canards just aft of the cockpit to further increase maneuverability and solve problems with buffeting. These canards were subsequently removed from later variants. Ultimately, the Su-35 is intended to bridge the gap from what Sukhoi calls its 4+++ generation fighter to the stealthy, fifth-generation Sukhoi PAK FA which is scheduled to be introduced at the end of 2016. Fifteen Su-27Ms have been produced, along with thirty-four Su-35s. (Photo by Dmitriy Pichugin via Wikimedia Commons)
June 28, 1978 – The Dassault Super Étendard enters service with the French Navy. The Super Étendard, as the name implies, is an upgraded version of the Dassault Étendard IV strike fighter that first flew in 1958. When the French Navy was looking to replace the older fighter, they first looked to use a carrier-capable version of the SEPECAT Jaguar, but that program was canceled due to cost and politics, and after evaluating the McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawk and LTV A-7 Corsair II, the French opted instead to develop their own replacement. The new fighter was essentially the same size as its predecessor, but a new engine gave it more power, a new wing made it more efficient and increased range, and the fighter was also given the ability to carry nuclear weapons. The French Navy operated three squadrons of Super Étendards from the carriers Clemenceau and Foch, and the type saw its first action in 1983 during the peacekeeping mission in Lebanon. They also took part in the NATO mission Allied Force over Serbia in 1999, and during operations in Afghanistan from 2001-2008. The French Navy plans to retire all of their Super Étendards by 2016, to be replaced by the Dassault Rafale M. In addition to use by the French, the Super Étendard was also exported to Iraq and Argentina, and the Argentine Navy used the aircraft successfully against British forces in the Falklands War of 1982, firing French-made Exocet missiles which struck both the HMS Sheffield and the merchant ship Atlantic Conveyor.
June 28, 1957 – The Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker enters service with the USAF. Refueling of planes in the air goes back to the 1920s, but as the US Air Force entered the jet age it quickly became apparent that the current generation of propeller-powered aerial tankers were not fast enough to keep up with the new jet fighters and bombers. In 1954, the Air Force announced its intention to procure a jet-powered tanker/transport aircraft based on the Boeing 367-80, the prototype of what would become the 707. The initial intention for the KC-135 was to provide refueling for long-range SAC bombers, but by the Vietnam War the Air Force learned that having tankers on station near the battlefield could dramatically extend the loiter time of fighters and attack aircraft. Planes that could once only spend minutes over a target could now loiter for hours with advanced refueling. The KC-135 was originally fitted with the “flying boom” refueling probe, but the necessity of refueling Navy and Marine Corps aircraft, which used a probe-and-drogue system, led to the addition of that capability to the Stratotanker. The KC-135 has been continually upgraded throughout its service life, particularly receiving more powerful and efficient engines. The Stratotanker has provided refueling services the world over, and is one of only a small handful of aircraft to log over 50 years of service. The KC-135 will eventually be replaced by the KC-46, which is based on the Boeing 767.
June 30, 1968 – The first flight of the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy. While the US Air Force had entered the age of strategic jet transport with the Lockheed C-141 Starlifter in 1963, no sooner had that aircraft made its first flight than the Air Force began looking for something even bigger to transport military assets across the globe. They began by looking for an aircraft that would have a maximum takeoff weight (MOT) of 600,000 pounds but could take off from the same runways used by the Starlifter. That requirement was then amended to an aircraft that could deliver a payload of 125,000 pounds a distance of 8000 miles, essentially double the payload for half the distance of the original requirement. Boeing, Douglas and Lockheed all submitted proposals, while GE developed an engine that was capable of moving a plane with a 700,000 pound MOT. Lockheed won the contract. The maiden flight took place in 1968, with the first production aircraft delivered in December 1969, and 81 C-5As were delivered by the end of 1973. The new heavy lifter immediately showed its mettle by carrying men and material to Europe and Southeast Asia, and its range was expanded by the addition of in-flight refueling capabilities. It’s low cargo deck, with doors in both front and back allowing drive-through loading, and its wide girth, allowed the Military Airlift Command to transport any vehicle in the US inventory, and twice as much payload as the C-141. Continuing upgrades and new variants mean that the extremely capable C-5 will be serving for many years to come.
Short Take Off
June 27, 1952 – A USAF F-82 Twin Mustang shoots down a North Korean Air Force Yak-9, the first air-to-air kill of the Korean War.
June 27, 1923 – The first successful in-flight aerial refueling is completed between two Airco DH-4 biplanes from the US Army Air Service.
June 29, 1963 – The first flight of the Saab 105, a two-seat jet trainer developed for the Swedish Air Force to replace the de Havilland Vampire. (Photo by Wikifantexter via Wikimedia Commons)
June 29, 1962 – The first flight of the Vickers VC10, a four-engined jet transport that flew for the British Overseas Airways Corporation, and also was used as a strategic air lifter and refueling aircraft for the Royal Air Force. (Photo by Steve Fitzgerald via Wikimedia Commons)
June 29, 1900 – The birth of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, pionering aviator, author and poet who is best known for his novella Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince).
June 30, 1977 – US president Jimmy Carter cancels the Rockwell B-1 Lancer program. The program would be resurrected during the Reagan Administration in 1981.
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All photos are Public Domain or taken by the author unless otherwise credited.