Home Is Where We Park It: Blackwater River State Park
Date: May 4, 2019
Air Force Armament Museum At Eglin Air Force Base – Outside Air Park
Decisions, decisions, decisions. I’m retired so it should not be this hard. Do we go? Or hunker down? Do we venture out and hope for the best? Or plan for another day? The issue was the weather report for the day. They were predicting severe storms beginning some time in the afternoon. In the end we decided to boldly go where have not been before. And we’d keep our fingers crossed when it came to the weather. More about how that worked out later.
We had a quick breakfast, scrambled eggs, fried spam, a glass of juice and a couple cups of coffee and tummies were full. Time to get on the road since we had a 45 minute ride ahead of us. It was all highway so it went quick. Soon enough we were there, with there being the Air Force Armament Museum at Eglin Air Force Base.
The facility features a series of indoor exhibits and displays, and an outdoor airpark of 25 restored, historic airplanes, rockets, missiles, and related equipment. It was conceived in 1974, and in 1976 an old Enlisted Club facility became available and the Armament Museum opened. By mid-1985, $1.2 million in private and corporate donations had been raised and construction of a new permanent 28,000 square foot building was underway. The new facility was deeded to the United States Air Force and opened to the public in 1985. Over two million people have now visited and enjoyed this Museum. Numerous significant, military-related ceremonies such as promotions, reenlistments, retirements and meetings occur within the Museum each month.
The Air Force Armament Museum is the only museum in the world dedicated to the collection, preservation and exhibition of artifacts and memorabilia associated with Air Force Armament and its platforms of delivery. There are over 29 different aircraft that have found a home at the Air Force Armament Museum from the WWII era to the present. There are also several hundred pieces of armament to include a gun collection, bombs, bomblets and missiles. A 32-minute film on the history of Eglin Air Force Base and its role in the development of armament is shown continuously throughout the day.
Let’s go view some of the many aircraft and other items on display. Let me say right up front, I can only present but a small fraction of what is here. There is just so much to see that it cannot be contained in one blog. Hopefully, what you see will peak your curiosity enough to motivate you to go and see for yourself. It will be well worth your time.
Here we go. Up front is an aircraft I thought I would never see again. It is the O-2A Skymaster. In Vietnam I spent many long hours in the seat of of one of these doing aerial reconnaissance for the Air Force. The plane has twin tail booms and a push pull engine configuration with an engine in the front and the rear. At times the engines would get out of sync and both would have to be shut down and then restarted. Did I mention this was done while in the air over hostile enemy territory!
Under each wing is a Submunition Dispenser. They were usually loaded with rockets that were fired to mark the location of an enemy location. Fighter pilots would do the rest.
Here’s another aircraft near and dear to all of us in Vietnam. This is the Huey that was used to move us in and out of field locations. It never had doors but would have a 50 mm machine gun on either side. It was one like this that I owe my life to today.
Here’s another aircraft used in Vietnam. This is the F-11C SuperSabre. This aircraft was the first Air Force aircraft capable of flying faster than the speed of sound. This aircraft on display was capable of mid air refueling.
Ok, enough of a trip down memory lane. Let’s have a look at some other special aircraft. Let’s begin with an overall look at the outside air park. There are a total of 25 aircraft on display outside.
This is a rather small but very important aircraft, the T-33A T-Bird. It is one of the world’s best known aircraft having served with the air forces of over 20 different countries. It was primarily used as a trainer, transitioning pilots from prop planes to jets.
This is the A-10 Thunderbolt known as the Warthog. It was the first aircraft designed specifically for close air support of ground troops. They are still part of the Air Force’s active aircraft fleet.
Here is one of the most famous aircraft ever built – the B-17 flying Fortress. They entered combat in December of 1941 against the Japanese fleet but would eventually serve in every theater of combat during WWII. In Europe it gained a reputation for being able to sustain heavy damage yet still be able to return to base.
Here is certain death from the sky. The C-130 Gunship. It had guns located beneath the wings and because of its large capacity it could carry a hugh amount of ammunition. It could lay down a wide arc of fire or hit a target with surgical precision.
We come now to the SR-71A Blackbird. The SR-71 Blackbird is still the fastest plane that has ever flown and served an important role in history as a spy plane. Its first test flight was on December 22, 1964 and it was capable of flying at speeds over Mach 3.2 at an altitude of 85,000 feet.
During its 34 years of service, the SR-71 gathered intelligence in some of the world’s most hostile environments. The Blackbird evaded all 4,000 missiles fired at it and, to this day, remains the only Air Force aircraft to never lose a crewmember associated with it; whether in the air or on the ground.The Blackbird was designed to operate at extreme velocities, altitudes and temperatures. It was the first aircraft constructed with titanium, as the friction caused by air molecules passing over its surface at Mach 2.6 would melt a conventional aluminum frame. Its engineering was so cutting edge that even the tools to build the SR-71 needed to be designed from scratch.
Next up is the B-52G Stratofortress. This was a long range bomber capable of carrying a 10,000 pound payload over 300 miles at 300 mph. It is the only aircraft in the world using eight jet engines. It was eventually modified to carry four 50 caliber machine guns in a rear turret and a 50,000 pound of mixed ordinance – bombs, mines and missiles.
Finally, lets end tonight with this the Mother Of All Bombs. This is the largest ever satellite guided, air delivered weapon in history. It carries 18,700 pounds of an explosive which is 1.35 times more powerful than TNT.
Ok, we’ll call it a night now and plan on moving to the inside exhibits tomorrow.
About that weather I mentioned earlier, we no more than got home, in the door, and the heavens opened up, and the thunder boomed, and the lightening flashed. We could not have planned it any better.
That was our day on The Road of Retirement. We can now cross another item off our bucket list. Stay tuned and tomorrow we’ll finish up with the displays inside. Until then, have a good night and thanks again for joining us today.
These are the voyages of Graybeard and it’s occupants, four paws and two humans. Our continuing mission: to explore as many new states as possible, to seek out new acquaintances and make new friends, to boldly go where we have not been before
See you on down the road