See Cold War bombers at the Strategic Air Command Museum

1 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

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2 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

The B-1 which greets visitors at the entrance to the museum is one of the few -A variants, which was capable of Mach 2.2.

The only other surviving B-1A is at the Wings Over the Rockies Museum, that I also visited.

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3 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

Here is an Atlas ICBM, or intercontinental ballistic missile. While they were phased out of military use once Minuteman have been brought online, they have been used for decades to launch satellites.

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4 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

Nearby is a Thor IRBM, or intermediate-range ballistic missile.

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The museum’s SR-71 is perched above the escalators.

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7 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

There is a whole collection of important ones, and big, airplane.

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8 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

One would think that the jet-powered U-2 spy plane flying at very high altitudes dates from an era decades after the B-17. Still, the museum’s B-17 flew to the museum on its own in 1959, a year after being removed from the USAF inventory and four years after the U-2’s first flight.

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9 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

The U-2, with its slim frame and large wingspan, is practically a motorized glider. Slow, but capable of reaching over 70,000 feet, it flew twice as high as a commercial airliner. They are still used with the USAF.

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10 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

The museum’s U-2 was built in 1956 and served with several different reconnaissance wings and the CIA. Nearby is an exhibit of Gary Powers, the U-2 pilot who was shot down in 1960 while on a reconnaissance mission over Soviet Union airspace.

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11 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

The F-101B was a long-range escort bomber from the early 1950s. One of the bombers it was designed to escort was the B-36, which you can see behind and to the right.

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12 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

The B-36 is a massive aircraft and still has an impressive range of 10,000 miles.

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13 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

Each B-36 had six, 28-cylinder, 3,800-horsepower engines with huge three-bladed propellers. They also had four jet engines, typically used only for takeoff or if a boost of speed was needed in flight.

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14 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

A peek inside the rear compartment shows the rear gunner console, which had a 20mm twin barrel cannon in case an enemy aircraft attempted a sneak attack. In the middle are bunks for the crew to rest during extended missions.

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15 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

The B-36 had four huge bomb compartments. The tube to the right shows how the crew moved between the forward and aft compartments during the flight.

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16 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

Although designed for war, the B-36 was used for various experiences, including nuclear powered aircraft, and as a launch pad for “parasitic fighters” such as the XF-85.

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17 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

One of only two remaining XF-85s, which were designed to be transported in a B-36 bomb bay and detached to deal with incoming enemy fighters. The project was unsuccessful.

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18 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

Here’s a look inside the lower main deck, where the navigator, bomber, and radio operator sat.

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19 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

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One of the few other WWII planes in the museum, this B-25 has spent most of its working life as a training aircraft.

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21 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

Considering their age and rarity, you can’t fit in most of the B-25s that survive. But with most of its side panels removed, you can at least see inside of it.

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22 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

The B-25s generally had a crew of five.

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23 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

A view of the rear bomb bay aft.

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24 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

The B-45 was the Air Force’s first jet bomber. SAC flew them both and this one, the RB-45 reconnaissance variant. This specific example was the last RB-45 in service, retired in 1971.

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25 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

The A-26 looks like the B-25 but fulfills a different role, as evidenced by the guns spiky in its nose.

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26 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

It is difficult to have a museum specializing in bombers without one of them, the B-52. It is the Air Force’s oldest bomber and one of the oldest aircraft of all types. This is the first B-52 assigned to the SAC.

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This trainer is what a B-52 cockpit looked like at the time.

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The B-52 can carry up to 70,000 prescription pounds.

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29 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

The fully jet-powered B-47 first flew just a year after the B-36, and like that bomber, it was replaced by the larger B-52. Reconnaissance versions were in service until the late 1960s.

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30 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

The B-58 cries out at the start of the cold war. He just screams too. Capable of Mach 2, it was the first bomber capable of anything close to this speed. It was only in service for 10 years, but set many speed records during this time.

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31 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

Note the three separate hatches for each crew member. On the left is a GE J79 engine, four of which powered the B-58. Versions also powered the F-4, F-104 and even the Convair 880 and 990 airliners.

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32 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

Although pre-SAC, the B-17 is certainly one of the most iconic bombers and it fits in here. It’s interesting how tiny it looks compared to more modern airplanes.

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33 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

The HU-16B Albatross is an amphibious search and rescue flying boat. They have saved hundreds of lives during their decades of service with various services and countries.

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34 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

This is the unarmed RF-4C, the reconnaissance version of the F-4.

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35 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

This example flew during the Vietnam War.

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37 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

This is the FB variant of the F-111. It was the SAC mid-range bomber, and it had different engines and longer wings than the fighter variant. It replaced the B-58.

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38 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

The B-1B ultimately replaced the FB-111.

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39 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

Pushed back due to an event during my visit, the British Avro Vulcan delta wing is even more beautiful under a clear blue sky. His last flight was from the UK to the museum. I had the chance to explore the interior of a Vulcan at Northeast Earth Sea and Air Museum.

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40 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

In the museum’s other main hangar, you are greeted by the twin arrows of a C-119 Flying Boxcar. Above is an H-19B helicopter.

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41 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

The Boxcar could carry 67 soldiers or 34 stretchers.

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42 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

The large Wasp Major star engines produced 3,500 horsepower. It is the same type of engine that powered the B-36 and many other aircraft designed at the end of World War II and soon after.

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43 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

This is one of the few examples of the plane that SAC was trying to defend against, a Soviet-built MiG-21.

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44 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

If you thought the KC-97 looks like a chubby B-29, you’re not far off. It is based on the bomber and shares many components including the wings and engines. It was only in service nine years before being replaced by the KC-135. Above is an H-21.

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45 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

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46 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

The museum’s EC-135 looks sad without its wings.

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47 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

When SAC was created, it flew exclusively B-29s.

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48 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

The museum’s B-29 has never seen a fight, spending most of its lifespan in California helping calibrate radars.

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49 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

Here is a look inside the rear compartment of the B-29.

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50 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

Although the museum hosted an event during my visit, this is the hangar where museum staff restore airplanes to their original appearance.

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51 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET

This F-117, being restored, made its first flight in 1987. It spent its life in a test squadron in Palmdale, California.

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52 of 52 Geoffrey Morrison / CNET


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