As the Korean War was winding down the Air Force tried
some new technology in its battle with the trains.
Bell Telephone Labs of New Jersey handled the project to use new
Infrared technology to find trains on the blackest of night using a one of a kind piece of equipment. The on-the-scene project
officer, whose name is lost to history, gave his name to the only aircraft to have a two letter tail identifier, "Mc".
the moon was full the B-26s could get down low and find trains in the moonlight. When the moon was down the trains could run
at night with impunity.
"Mc" was equipped with an infrared detection device in the nose that could find the train in
the dark from its engines heat emission. Packing the sensor with frozen CO-2 -- dry ice -- cooled down the infrared equipment
immediately before each mission. The equipment operator in the nose observed a 3-inch scope to indicate the presence of a
high heat source.
The tactics were to fly a two-ship mission; with airplane "Mc" flying low along the railroad and
the other plane armed and prepared to attack the train when located. As "Mc" passed over a locomotive the equipment operator
would see his scope become "spindly", i.e., the scope would flash like the spokes on a wheel. Immediately upon recognizing
the high heat source "Mc" would toggle off a firebomb to mark the spot. The train, having been marked by "Mc", would then
be attacked by the accompanying killer B-26
The project appears to have not been well managed. Mac, the project officer,
completed his missions and rotated in the midst of the project, leaving no paperwork in regard to the success of the tests
except a two-page checklist. There were no tech reps from the manufacturer on the scene and apparently no debriefings in regard
to determining the success of the mission or tactics.
It is appropriate to remember that this device was new technology.
Finding a train was only the first step in the mission. Although the device could find the train, it couldn't determine in
which direction the train was moving. The firebomb would mark the spot where the train was when located but in a matter of
minutes the train would be someplace else. It would then require re-locating, and the killer plane must still contend with
his inability to see and attack the train while avoiding the surrounding hills and obstacles.
"Mc" was highly secret and
photos were prohibited. That restriction was sure to guarantee that someone would photograph it. Sigmund Alexander was a navigator
that flew many of the plane's test missions and the photos on this page are from "Alex".
The a/c in the photo below was equipped with an experimental
infrared detector for night attack, AN/AAS-1, 'Project Redbird', photo taken March 1953 in Korea. It belonged to 13th BS/3rd
BW. 41-39401 was among those a/c contracted as A-26B but delivered as A-26C. By the time of the photo, it was referred to
Serial #: 41-39401
Construction #: 7114
Last info: 2002
Accepted December 1944, Markings 51C
Redesignated B-26B in 1947, markings BC401
Modified with A-26C radar pathfinder nose, 1953 Assigned: 3rd BW
/ 13th BS (Kunsan AB) Markings: "Mc" The
a/c was equipped with an experimental infrared detector for night attack, AN/AAS-1, 'Project Redbird'
John R. Moore, Los Angeles, CA, 1959-1969
- Registered as N3457G.
Flew as Whistler's Mother.
- Withdrawn from use and stored, Van Nuys, CA, 1959-1982.
Challenge Publications Inc., Canoga
Park, CA, Nov. 1982
- Registered as N39401, May 1983.
- Rebuilt Van Nuys, Ca, First Flight Aug. 18, 1983
Aeronautical Foundation, Van Nuys, Jan. 1985-1987
Weeks Air Museum, Tamiami, FL, July 21, 1987-2002
- Flown as
- Damaged in Hurrican Andrew, Aug. 24, 1992.
- Trucked to Chino, CA, 1997.
- Under restoration,