Warner Robins – Although some of the aircraft in this post saw service during the Cold War and some of the aircraft in the Cold War post saw service afterwards, this post concentrates on aircraft from the post Cold War era on display at the Robins AFB Museum of Aviation, essentially from Desert Shield/Storm onward. This is the last of five blog posts on a recent trip to the Musem of Aviation, others in the series include New Additions, Vietnam Era Aircraft, World War II/Korean War Era Aircraft, and Cold War Era Aircraft.
The A-10 Thunderbolt II, better known as the “Warthog” is another of my favorite aircraft. An old school low, slow, and tough attack aircraft built around a massive 30mm gun, the A-10 has been in service with the US Air Force since 1975. Initially designed to be an anti-tank aircraft during the Cold War, the A-10 didn’t see combat until Desert Shield/Storm in 1991 as close air support specialist, after which it served in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq again, and Libya. It continues to see service in our Middle Eastern wars to this day. The museum’s example, A-10A 73-0305 was delivered in July 1977 and saw service with the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing at Myrtle Beach AFB, SC and the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing at Davis Monthan AFB, AZ. Retired from active flying in 1992, it was used a maintenance instruction trainer at Eielson AFB, AK (hence the AK markings) until it was acquired by the museum in 2007. While this aircraft never served at Moody AFB, A-10s are based at Moody AFB in south Georgia and can be heard flying training missions throughout the area, including Townsend Range south of Savannah.
Perhaps one of the most versatile aircraft ever produced: the C-130 Hercules. The first C-130 flew in 1954 and 60 years later the type is still in service not only with the United States armed services but service throughout the world! The C-130 normally fulfills assault/transport/cargo roles, but in the AC-130 gunship version it provides gunfire support by providing close air support at night with a variety of weapons systems and highly sophisticated sensor systems. The musem’s example, AC-130A Spectre 55-0014 was delivered as a standard C-130 in 1956 and converted to an AC-130A in 1970. It served in multiple conflicts including Southeast Asia from 1971 to 1975 and in Desert Shield/Storm in 1991. In 1995 it was retired and flown to Robins AFB for display at the museum. The Robins AFB ALC is responsible for service and support of US Air Force C-130s. More modern versions of the AC-130 can be heard and seen in Georgia from time to time as they train around the state.
Originally designed as a swept wing supersonic strategic bomber and cancelled by the Carter administration in the 1970s and resurrected by the Reagan administration in the 1980s, the B-1B finally entered service in 1986 as a strategic nuclear bomber with the US Air Force Strategic Air Command (SAC). In the 1990s, however, SAC was disestablished and the B-1B transitioned to a conventional role. In its conventional role, it has seen service in Iraq and Kosovo in the 1990s and in Afghanistan and Iraq in our more recent wars. The museum’s example, 83-0069 was acquired by the museum and painted as 86-0098, a B-1B that served with the Georgia Air National Guard in the 116th Bomb Wing (now the 116th Air Control Wing flying the E-8 JSTARS). Many times I enjoyed listening to the B-1Bs from the 116th BW prior to the wing’s transition to the JSTARS mission in the early 2000s as they flew training missions around the area including at Townsend Range south of Savannah in southeast Georgia.
The C-141 Starlifter was the predecessor of the C-17 Globemaster III as the workhorse of US Air Force airlift operations, serving from 1965 to 2006. The museum’s example, C-141C 65-0248 was delivered in 1966 and served with the 60th Military Airlift Wing at Travis AFB, CA, the 62nd Military Airlift Wing at McChord AFB, WA, the 63rd Military Airlift Wing at Norton AFB, CA and the 729th Airlift Squadron at March AFB, CA before it was retired in 2005 and transferred to the Museum of Aviation. The C-141s connection to Robins AFB is that the Robins ALC was responsible for servicing and supporting the C-141, in fact 65-0248 was the final C-141 to undergo Programmed Depot Maintenance at the ALC in 2003. Before they were replaced by the C-17 at Charleston AFB, SC I listened to C-141s on a regular basis and watched many a Starlifter come and go from Hunter AAF in Savannah.
EC-135N Stratotanker (61-0327) is an aircraft that I have written about on this blog before. 61-0327 saw service at McGuire AFB as a cargo aircraft, at Patrick AFB as a Test Range aircraft, as a test aircraft at Wright Patterson AFB, as an airborne command post at Robins AFB, and finally as a command aircraft at MacDill AFB. During its service at MacDill AFB, it was the command aircraft for the CENTCOM commander, including for Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf during Desert Storm. In 2003 it was retired from service and delivered to Robins AFB for display at the Museum of Aviation. 10 years later, it was moved from its location toward the front of the museum property to the rear of the property and half of its wings removed. Due to budget and funding issues, it is likely destined for the scrapyard unless funding can be found to move it elsewhere. It would truly be a shame for this historical airframe to be lost; it has seen so much history.
The F-15 Eagle is an air superiority fighter that has formed the backbone of US Air Force air defense and escort operations since it was introduced in the mid 1970s. While the museum’s example is an F-15A, the F-15 continues to serve in the air defense/interceptor/escort role with the F-15C and in the strike mission as the F-15E Strike Eagle. The museum’s F-15A (73-0085) was delivered in 1974 and served with 56th Fighter Weapons Wing at Luke AFB, AZ and the 159th Tactical Fighter Group at NAS New Orleans, LA before being retired in 1988 and transferred to the museum. It is prominently displayed in the atrium of the Museum of Aviation’s main building. The Robins AFB Air Logistics Center (ALC) is responsible for the service and support of the F-15 Eagle. Although there are no F-15s based in Georgia, Florida Air National Guard F-15s can be heard almost daily operating off of the Georgia coast from their base in Jacksonville.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a single engine fighter that was originally designed as a daytime air superiority fighter but instead became an all weather multirole fighter, seeing use as a fighter, attack aircraft, and in the suppression of enemy air defenses role. The Museum of Aviation’s F-16A (81-0676) was delivered in 1982 and was one of the Thunderbirds (the USAF Demonstration Team) first F-16s as they transitioned from the T-38. In 1992, 81-0676 was transferred to the 425th Fighter Squadron at Luke AFB, AZ as an operational aircraft before transferring to Sheppard AFB, TX a ground instruction trainer in 1993. It was acquired by the museum in 2008, returned to its Thunderbirds livery and is on display in the Century of Flight Hangar. There are no F-16s based in Georgia, but there are several squadrons of F-16s based at Shaw AFB and McEntire JNGB in South Carolina; they can be heard almost daily flying training missions in central Georgia, southeast Georgia, and off of the Georgia coast.
Just as with the U-2 and SR-71 in the Cold War post, I didn’t take any photos of these last two aircraft on my recent visit, but I wanted to include them in this post on post Cold War aircraft, so I’m including photos from a previous visit. The museum’s MH-53M Pave Low IV and RQ-4A are on display in the Century of Flight Hangar.
The MH-53 Pave Low was another of my favorite aircraft. I loved to watch those huge helicopters fly low and fast around the Savannah area when they visited Hunter AAF on training exercises. You don’t expect some that large to fly like that! The museum’s example, MH-53M 70-1626 served the United States for 38 years through numerous modifications and updates in three wars: Vietnam, Desert Shield/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 a historic aircraft and I’m glad to see it being preserved inside and out of the elements at the Museum of Aviation.
Another recent acquisition (although not as recent as the B-17G and P-51H, the Museum of Aviation’s RQ-4A Global Hawk (02-2011) reconnaissance UAV is displayed in the Century of Flight museum alongside its manned predecessors, the U-2 Dragon Lady and SR-71 Blackbird. 02-2011 is a block 10 RQ-4A; according to Scramble it served with the 12th RS at Beale AFB. The musuem’s press release when it was acquired indicated 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).