Warner Robins, GA – This morning, I took a trip up to the Robins AFB Museum of Aviation to see what changes there have been since my visit in November of last year. There have been quite a few it seems. They don’t seem to have as many aircraft as they used to; during my last visit one of the volunteers mentioned that they were reducing their inventory in order to be able better maintain their best aircraft. That definitely seem to be doing that because several of the outside aircraft had new paint, including the AC-130 (the last time I visited it wasn’t looking too good). Unfortunately, the EC-135 that was the former CENTCOM commander’s aircraft has been moved behind the museum and has part of its wings removed. I hope this isn’t a permanent move by the museum; it was General Norman Schwarzkopf’s aircraft during the Gulf War, so it’s an historic aircraft. The SR-71 is up on its new pedestals and looks great that way; it looks just like it’s coming in for a landing. Behind one of the hangars, I saw a Soviet/Russian SAM that appears to be a SA-5 (I’m no expert on Soviet bloc weapons so if I have my ID wrong on it, please correct me). Finally, I saw an RQ-4 Global Hawk hiding in the maintenance/restoration area behind the hangars, I’m hoping this becomes a display at some point in the not too distant future!
Particularly in the wake of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, special operations troops are seen as heroes. If aircraft that support those special forces warriors could be considered heroes then this next aircraft would be deserving of the term. Some may look at it as ungainly and maybe even ugly, but I see it as beautiful. MH-53M 70-1626 served the United States for 38 years through numerous modifications and updates in three wars: Vietnam, Desert Storm, and Iraqi Freedom before being retired to the museum in 2008. When you think about it, it’s impressive what 70-1626 was probably involved in and saw during its career as a special operations aircraft. It’s certainly an historic aircraft and I’m glad to see it being preserved inside and out of the elements at the Museum of Aviation.
I almost didn’t see this next aircraft. After taking some photos of the AC-130A, I was walking back to the hangars when I saw the tips of the vertical stabilizers and the top of the engine cover over a conex box in the museum’s maintenance/restoration area. I quickly recognized it as an RQ-4 and went over to get a better look; the area is off limits to non-employees but I was able to get these photos through the fence. Web research indicates that the museum received it in 2011 and that they plan on displaying it elevated in their Century of Flight hangar. It is a block 10 RQ-4A, serial number 02-2011; according to Scramble it served with the 12th RS at Beale AFB. The musuem’s press release indicates that it flew 357 combat sorties/7,074.4 combat hours (which at the time was more combat sorties and hours than any other Global Hawk).
I also did some radio monitoring during the trip, if you’re interested in the monitoring report, it can be found here in a separate post.