|A Brief History of LRAFB - from B-47 STRATOJET to C-130
|A RELIC OF THE COLD WAR, THIS OLD DEFENDER OF FREEDOM NOW SERVES AS A
GATE GUARD AT THE LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE- (LRAFB). IN THE LATE 1950s THIS B-47 WAS
ON ACTIVE SERVICE AT THE BASE WHEN IT WAS PART OF THE STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND- (SAC).
SURVIVING BASE CLOSINGS OVER THE YEARS, LRAFB IS NOW HOST TO THE C-130 HERCULES
AND IS THE LARGEST HERC BASE IN THE WORLD.
Gosh, I still think the B-47 is the most beautiful plane ever made.(16) In the late fifties the B-47 Stratojet bomber was the backbone of
SAC. This proud old warrior, above, once crisscrossed the skies over my boyhood home. It is now relegated to duty as a gate guard
at the Little Rock Air Force Base (LRAFB) where it was stationed. The B-47 was the first swept wing all jet bomber. Its wings had a
lot of built-in flex making it agile for its size and allowing pilots to fly it much like a jet fighter. It even had a jet fighter canopy and in
the early years of service it could out fly anything in the sky. Capable of performing an Immelman turn, a classic WW1 fighter
maneuver, gave the B-47 a bomb tossing capability. This bomb release technique, called "Pop-Up" bombing, was executed some
fifty miles from the target as the speeding B-47 was pulling out of a shallow dive, tossing the bomb from afar gave the plane a space
cushion from the atomic blast and made for a faster get away from the area. "The bomb tossing technique required the B-47 to
approach the target at low level to avoid radar and at high speed. However, the B-47 wasn't designed for low level high speed flying.
It is much rougher flying at low level due to heavier air and up and down air currents. In effect, it was using the B-47 for a mission it
was not designed for. Each wing was bolted to the fuselage with a huge bolt, looking in size and shape almost like a quart milk
bottle. The constant flapping up and down of the wings at high speed caused cracks to appear around and in the bolts. All of the
fleet was grounded at one time to check these bolts and most of the fleet had to be modified. The modification was called of all
things "The Milk Bottle" modification." - email reply to me- This information is courtesy of Mr Jim Diamond, a B-47 flier.
SAC honed air crew effectiveness by firing off alerts where they were expected to be airborne within a predetermined time. On alert
B-47s were heavily loaded and required the additional thrust of strap on JATO (small solid rocket) bottles in order to lift off the
ground. JATO assist takeoffs must have been a real kick in the pants for the crew. Usually at LRAFB, they took off from runway 250
into the prevailing wind and dumped the burnt out JATO bottles in a wilderness area called Camp Robinson. I know of one family who
had their farm bombed by JATO bottles when they were accidentally released too early. There were a number of B-47 crashes
during this time. March 31, 1960- I was awakened early that morning by rattling windows. Out my bedroom window to the southwest
was a black puff of smoke suspended over Little Rock. A B-47 had broken up at 15,000 feet and all but one of the four man crew was
killed. The B-47 (Tail # 52-1414) had just taken off and was on a heading toward Houston. The command pilot was off station
temporarily as the B-47 drifted into a shallow dive and slowly banked to one side. During this time the copilot was distracted by the
radio as he jotted down an incoming Noah's Arc^ - Emergency Action Message-(EAM). Suddenly aware of the roll, he corrected, the
wings were heavy with fuel and one broke off.(15) - NOTE- I wonder if the root cause of this crash was a weaken wing due to cracks
in and around the milk bottle bolt ? Another crash occurred on takeoff when a burning JATO bottle came loose from one of its attach
points and the miss aligned flame was then directed on a vital part of the plane. The birth of LRAFB came about in the early fifties as
a group of central Arkansas businessmen came up with a plan to stimulate economic growth by purchasing a large tract of land
west of Jacksonville and donating it to the Air Force. Living near a SAC base was bitter sweet existence due to the Cold War climate
of the time. Rumors spread about Little Rock being a top priority target, number five on the Russian's hit list. Some citizens took it
seriously enough to dig in by building concrete blast and fallout shelters. The sounds of freedom, sonic booms, were frequently
heard during the late fifties and they always seemed to occur while one was enjoying a moment of calm. I never got completely
desensitized to the booms. The Air Force got blamed for, nerve disorders due to loss of sleep, cracked windows, and chickens that
refused to lay eggs. In the mid 1960s LRAFB was responsible for a number of Titan-2 ICBM silos which were scattered throughout
the rolling hills of the Ozarks, in north central Arkansas. The mission of LRAFB changed from SAC to MAC and for many years now it
has been a C-130 base. It has survived all the base closings and is currently the largest C-130 base in the world. It also has the most
advanced C-130 simulator and trains aviators from all over the world. The LRAFB mission hardware has been the, B-47, B-58, Titan-2
ICBM, and now the C-130.
Immelman turn - A WW1 dog fighting maneuver developed by German Ace- Max Immelman
JATO - stands for Jet Assist Take Off which is actually a small solid rocket motor in a bottle like steel casing (see JATO bottles (inert
training units) close-up image on a C-130)
LRAFB - Little Rock Air Force Base came into service in the mid fifties and is located approximately 12 miles north of the Capital city
of Little Rock, Arkansas
MAC - an old Air Force designation meaning Military Airlift Command
SAC - an old Air Force designation meaning Strategic Air Command- (See above the old SAC logo as it appeared on the B-47)
^ "Noah's Arc" Radio Traffic info - click and scroll down to and read - "REFERENCE" in red
|ABOVE- Another Gate Guard at LRAFB- During the fall of Saigon, while receiving small arms fire from the
enemy, this C-130 was the last to leave, packed full and still taking on extra refugees as it started its takeoff roll.
|LRAFB Air Show 2002 - watching fly ins from the approach end of Runway 25. Above a B-52 with flaps out and gear down.
|Aerodynamically dirty with Landing Gear and Tailhook down, a restored F-4 Phantom slowly passes through Air Show center at
LRAFB. Loud engines and a smoky trail, were the signature of this great Air Show performer. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)
COURTESY OF C-130 LOADMASTER SAM