Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Howard Hughes' mad monstrosity of a boat plane--the world's largest. Flown only once, it's made almost entirely of wood.

Having grown up as an Air Force brat around the giants of the Military Airlift Command, I suppose that it's not surprising that I ended up with an almost religious awe of such flying behemoths. Some of my earliest memories are of Star Lifters above central California, so slow and ponderous that they seemed more like hovering zeppelins than jet-powered aircraft.

The cavernous interior

Mr. Bruns: Smithers, I've designed a new plane. I call it the Spruce Moose, and it will carry 200 passengers from the New York’s Idle-Wild airport to the Belgium Congo in 17 minutes!

Smithers: That’s quite a nice model, sir.

Mr. Burns: Model? ... Now, to the plant! We'll take the Spruce Moose! Hop in.

Smithers: But sir…

Mr. Burns: (Pulls a revolver and cocks it) I said get in!

This little guy looked as though he belonged in the kitchen drawer of a 1950s Scandinavian cutlery designer.

The museum has a large collection of classic war birds

There are also some odd birds of the Cold War

...as well as combat veterans

"Because Suicide is Painless"

An icon of the era that I grew up in. The floor beneath it has been reinforced to support the weight of a space shuttle. The museum is hoping to obtain one of the orbiters when they are retired in 2011.

A collection of Soviet armor! That was a surprise. During my years as a Cavalry Scout I spent dozens of hours studying these vehicles; memorizing profiles, wheel spacings, and external equipment on flash cards, photos, and in the forms of plastic models. We were expected to be able to identify vehicle types with nothing more than a picture of tracks and road wheels, portions of a turret, or a rear deck.

A Soviet T-34. Quite probably the best overall tank of the Second World War. A number of these saw combat in Africa during the 1980s, and the North Koreans still maintain a squadron of these for their capital guards division.

A BRDM-2. The Soviet opposite of our scout HMMWVs. This is a platform that I would have spent a lot of time evading or trying to find and destroy in the event of war on the Korean peninsula.

An amphibious, river-crossing PT-76. These were of particular importance to those of us in 4-7 Cavalry, as our opponents across the Imjin River in North Korea were equipped with dozens of such vehicles.

So, attend to the following class: Below is a Soviet T-55 series tank, designed during the late 40s and mass produced through the 60s in the tens of thousands. These tracks can be found in the arsenals of nations around the world, as well as in the hands of warlords and other non-state combatants. The T-55 also serves as as the automotive chassis for several types air-defense platforms. Others have been modified into heavy armored personal carriers for military operations in urban terrain after the Russian's disastrous experiences on the streets of Grozny during the 1990s.

A common feature of Soviet armor are the large, distinctive mud flaps at the tank's front, just above its tracks. A rounded turret is another commonality to Soviet tanks. In this case the low symmetrical form is an identifier of the T-54/55 series. The shape of the handrails on the turret's sides also serves as an obvious means of separating the T-54/55 from other Soviet and Russian tank types. The T-62 has a higher, more rounded turret with distinctly arched handrails. The T-64s and later models dispense with handrails in favor external packs for machine gun ammunition storage.

The presence of spotlights on the turret is generally indicative of vehicles developed before the advent or wide-spread usage of night vision technologies. Additionally there are slits on either side of the main gun mount, through which the gunner peered while laying his iron sights on targets or enemy contacts down range. Most of these vehicles lacked integral optical magnification systems, relying instead on the tank commanders' binos for target acquisition.

Another key characteristic is the absence of Christie type suspension, which would hold the vehicle's tracks taut. Rather the tracks on this vehicle sag. Such WWII era sagging suspensions leave armored vehicles more vulnerable to the possibility of throwing track while maneuvering cross country, particularly during muddy conditions. Also of importance in identifying the T-54/55 series is the gap between the first and second road wheels. In the T-62 the gaps were present between the third, fourth, and fifth road wheels. In the T-64s gaps were present between every second road wheel, while in the T-72s there was a slight gap between the first and second wheels. Also take note of the distinctive, Soviet-style externally mounted extra fuel tank at the rear of the vehicle.

Finally, note that the bore evacuator is located at the end of the gun tube. Bore evacutors came into use towards the end of the Second World War, and were commonly situated on the tube's end. A better understanding of the physics underlying the escape of propellant exhaust and the resultant stability of projectiles in flight led to the situation of bore evacuators around the middle or rear-third of tank gun barrels from the 1960s onwards.

Yet another odd bird

1 comment:

Ridgetop said...

On the way! I think I need to take Louis to Dixie Valley to let him play on the armor out there.