Airborne Awesomosity

Mirage IV

Mirage IV

The Cold War era was often terrifying for those of us who lived through it. But today, from the comfort of a world gone berserk in a somewhat less M.A.D. way, we can sit back and cogitate over the functional beauty of some of the weapons systems designed to rain fiery death on civilian populations. Continue reading Mirage IV

Airborne Awesomosity

Hercules Goes For a Swim

C130 Seaplane 4

C130 Seaplane 4

A good while back, 38 weeks ago, according to Intense Debate, I did a post on a particular variant of the C-130 that was developed for a mission to try and pull the Iranian hostages out by landing the plane inside the national soccer stadium in an operation called Credible Sport. If you’ll permit me to go off on a bit of a tangent, I’ll tell you how that story is related to what you see here today. Perhaps some of you have noticed the Featured Posts ticker that has recently come to adorn the top portion of the right side bar. This is a way for us to pick out some articles that we thought were cool, and that you might enjoy if you happen to have missed them the first time around (and, if you happen to have a favorite from the way back files that you don’t see over there, mention it in an email to the tips line, and I bet we can get it on the list!). Like any narcissistic self-evaluating writer would do, all of your contributors have taken a gander through their old stuff to pull out the good ones. I have been slow in getting around to this (and I probably made up for it by picking too many out), but yesterday I finally got around to it. In the process, I also went back and read some comments to see what I might have missed. On the post about Credible Sport (which was a subset of a program named Honey Badger, by the way), Plecostomus* happened to answer in the form of a question:

“I think it’s bloody BRILLIANT.

Except I like giant seaplanes.

Is there a flying-boat variant of the C-130, I wonder?”

Continue reading Hercules Goes For a Swim


Shutdown: Rocket Truck!

Soviet truck rocket launch

In Soviet Russia, Truck Rockets You!


Image via

Atomic Awesome

Good Use of Government Resources

You may remember the SAGE network from such posts as Expand Your Radar Horizons (Parts 1 and Duex), and possibly some other I am forgetting regarding missile defense during the Cold War years. SAGE stands for Semi-Automatic Ground Environment, and essentially was a network of radar installations coupled with what passed for serious computing power at the time, creating a system that combined live radar input with pre-established flight information from commercial airliners that would give operators a live picture of the air traffic in the airspace of the US and Canada. Anything that was out of place could quickly be isolated and intercepted. At the heart of all this was of course the computer, the AN/FSQ-7 (2 computers per SAGE center, 21 such centers around the US), “the largest computer system ever built, each of the 24 installed machines[7]:9 weighed 250 tons and had two computers.[8] The AN/FSQ-7 used a total of 60,000 vacuum tubes[8] (49,000 in the computers)[7]:9 and up to 3 megawatts of electricity, performing about 75,000 instructions per second for networking regional radars.” (Wikipedia)

So what do you do with such a powerful computer system, which also happens to be the second ever real-time computer with an electronic graphical display? Why you use the situation display console, a 19-inch cathode ray tube (CRT) display (which drew vector-based lines or alphanumeric characters on any portion of the screen) to display a more, say, entertaining image!

Continue reading Good Use of Government Resources

Airborne Awesomosity

Бериев Бе-200

Be-200 1

You may remember the Beriev Be-200 from such Atomic Toasters posts as ‘s Meanwhile, in the Ukraine, where it made a brief appearance. This plane is a multipurpose amphibious aircraft and was designed by Beriev Aircraft and is assembled at the Irkutsk Aviation Plant of the Russian-based Irkut company. The first test aircraft flew in September of 1998, and the first production aircraft was delivered in 2003.

The Be-200 mission variants include fire-fighting, search and rescue, freighter, passenger aircraft and ambulance. The fire-fighting variant has a crew of two members, and is fitted with fire extinguishing fluid and water tanks. The aircraft can drop 270t of water on the fire area without refuelling. Water capacity is 12,000 kg (26,450 lb).

The search and rescue (SAR) variant can perform operations within an area of 200 miles for 6.5 hours. The aircraft is equipped with an inflatable rubber dinghy, thermal-imaging and optical search aids and first-aid kit. The SAR variant can be configured to carry 45 passengers.

The transport variant is fitted with floor-mounted cargo-handling equipment to transport loose cargoes, as well as cargoes loaded in standard containers and pallets. The aircraft has the capacity to carry 6.5t payload.

The passenger variant, designated as Be-210, can carry 72 passengers. It has the maximum range of 1,850km.

The BE-200 ambulance version can accommodate ten medical staff as well as 30 injured persons on stretchers. The aircraft feature emergency diagnostics and intensive care facilities. (

The firefighting system was developed specifically for this aircraft, and is capable of scooping water while skimming the water surface at 90-95% of takeoff speed.  The engines are two D-346TP high-bypass ratio engines. These turbofan engines deliver a higher performance at hot-and-high conditions compared with turboprop engines installed on similar types of fire-fighting aircraft (according to Beriev’s promo material anyhow).

Now that we all know a little about this big flying boat, let’s get to the good stuff–video! And since the only thing better than video of one interesting post-Soviet Russian amphibious aircraft is video of two interesting post-Soviet Russian amphibious aircraft, check out the sweet two ship formation flying!

Continue reading Бериев Бе-200

Atomic Awesome

One is the Loneliest Number

In 1961, GE proposed using a mildly modified B-52 as a test bed for the the XNJ140E-1 nuclear turbojet. In a wild tribute to asymmetry, the large atomic engine would have been mounted along the left aft portion of the fuselage. The initial plans were for the test aircraft to retain all eight of its conventional turbojet engines, yet be capable of being powered by the reactor for sustained nuclear flight. This testing would wring out the nuclear turbojet before its use in the NX-2 nuclear bomber. There were even alternate configurations of the B-52 test bed that utilized a second atomic engine, and only four conventional turbines. In this configuration, the Stratofortress would have been capable of pure nuclear flight for the entirety of the mission, including take-off and landing.

Continue reading One is the Loneliest Number

Atomic Awesome

Man Made Lightning

Nuclear explosions are known to have some occasional side effects, not all of which could exactly be classified as advantageous. Some of the effects however, don’t really have all that much bearing on the final outcome, and we only know about them thanks to high speed photography. Lightning bolts out of nuclear clouds is just one such effect.

Continue reading Man Made Lightning

Moments in History

The Difference of a Year

Berlin Wall TIME Magazine 1962

This year passed a quite milestone, for it always seems that 51 is never quite the event that 50 makes. A single year can make quite a difference in the ways of the world though. Our very own  gave us this retrospective last year on the statement that the simple technology of concrete could give to the world in a look at 50 years since the first Berlin Wall. Just recently I came across this newsreel from the one year anniversary of that wall, and since it is the 50th anniversary of that particular milestone, it seems appropriate to get a feel for how the Western World viewed it one year in.

Continue reading The Difference of a Year

Atomic Hangovers

One World or None

one world or none

At a place called Atomic Toasters, we can’t help but be intrigued by the various propaganda films from the atomic age of the Cold War, both for and against this source of power and weaponry. This film, produced by the National Committee on Atomic Information in 1946 attempts to portray both the horrors of atomic war, and the multi-cultural nature of the discovery of the particles and principles that make up atomic theory. According to the Internet Archive, this film, “made only one year after the end of the Second World War, it is thought to be the first “atomic scare movie”, a genre which would flourish in the U.S. throughout the next decade.”

Continue reading One World or None

Military-Grade Awesome

Expand Your Radar Horizons (Part Deux)


In order to expand the radar early warning picket line out into the Atlantic, the US Air Force undertook a project to mount shore based radar systems on offshore platforms. Because of their similarity to the oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, they were known as the Texas Towers. A week-ish (or so) ago we took a look at the development and systems of these towers in Part 1. By summer of 1955 the first platform, TT-2, was ready for installation, and was towed out to be placed on temporary legs. Once it was jacked up into place, the permanent caisson legs could be installed.

The caissons were at least 160 feet long, with approx 48 feet embedded into the shoal, leaving 55 feet in the water, and the other 60 feet or so lifting the platform high out of the water. In addition to supporting the tower, each leg contained a 140 foot internal fluid storage tube, one filled with sea water to supply the drinking water distillation equipment. The Air Force assumed occupancy of the tower in early December of 1955, and began operation if the radars. They were able to detect targets similar to a B-47 at 50,000 feet, up to 200 nauntical miles away.¹

Continue reading Expand Your Radar Horizons (Part Deux)