above photo shows one of the B-26's used to tow aerial targets at Nellis AFB, Las Vegas Nevada, during
the time period that I was associated with them, 1950 - 1952.
aircraft did not have any of the guards installed on the horizontal tail surfaces that are seen in the
photos you sent but as I recall, some of the tow aircraft in other squadrons did have very small guard attached to the
horizontal tail surfaces.
can see the air deflector on the bottom of the aircraft which was just forward of the open hole out of which we launched the
targets. We used mostly banner targets made of woven plastic line (similar to the type used in fishing, but much larger).
The targets were attached to a steel pipe, which had a 16 lb. weight attached at the bottom end. The targets were 30
ft. long and 6 ft. high.
our squadron started using F-51 Mustangs when it was formed after the Korean War started, I didn't get any pictures of them
on air to air missions, but we quickly converted to F-80's, and I did get a few pictures of them on an air-air mission.
This was at a 20000 ft mission, and the F-80's took position above and left to the rear of the target, which was about
600 ft. to the rear of the tow aircraft, and then then made a diving run at the target and ended up to the rear of the tow
aircraft and to the right. the Left and Right we according to my left and right looking toward the tail of the aircraft.
If you can get on to any of the map sources available, you can get on the the area north of Las Vegas,
NV, and find this dry lake (Dogbone Lake) which is between two mountain ranges. Our gunnery missions were flown from
more or less east to west with the lake off the left wing to the tow aircraft, east to beyond the end of the lake, make a
left turn, and then fly back with the lake off our left wing again as we flew west. This photo shows us making our final
left turn and heading back to Nellis AFB to drop the target.
usually lasted about an hour, that meant the F-80's were able to have plenty of time to complete the missions without running
out of gas. As the NCO in charge of our tow-target section I had an opportunity to fly in a T-33 with an instructor and have a different view of a air to air mission.
the arrow points to the launching hole in aircraft.
the operator was lying belly down at the cable exit point, it wasn't the nicest place to be when
flying at 20,000 ft, especially when it was not a heated and pressure controlled cabin.
Above, as the title indicates this target
was landed after a gunnery mission, the landing was a little rough, since the target could not be dropped as
were the banner targets, it was necessary for the tow aircraft to come in for a low level run over the runway, and allow the
towed target to land on the runway while it was still attached to the tow cable, and then when the target hit the runway an automatic release mechanism in the nose of the target released the cable. Of course the pilot could
not see the target, so as the tow target operator it was necessary for the operator, who could see the target,
to hang out the launching hole in the aircraft, an tell the pilot over the intercom when the target hit the runway.
In most cases the landing were at shown above.
That is myself, and another
tow operator in the picture, with other interested armament NCO's looking at the target.
towed metal target which our squadron tested in order to determine if they could be used with success when our squadron converted
to F-86 aircraft.
aircraft had a radar ranging gunsight so it was critical that a metal target was available. We had some success a few
of these targets but only with our F-80 aircraft shooting at them. The gunsights of the F-86 were more interested on locating
the largest metal aircraft in the vicinity, and since that was the B-26 tow ship, the system was not tested with an F-86 shooting
at the target.
while I was involved in the testing, I was discharged in March 1952.
an aircraft armament technician loading cal 50 rounds into the ammo cans to be installed in the F-80. Each of the guns was supplied with enough ammunition for about 15 seconds of fire, at about 500
rounds per minute for the M-2 cal 50 mg, 12 to 15 seconds.
air to air mission that worked out to be about four firing runs during the time the tow aircraft and target
were flying over the gunnery range.
white and blue stripes on the tail were the colors of our squadron, 3596th Combat Crew Training squadron.
this squadron was next to my new squadron when a was reassigned to Nellis AFB in July 1950, to become
involved in training pilots for air combat in Korea.
time at Nellis during all daylite hours in 1951. If you look closely you might see T-33, F-80, F-86,
F-84, and even two Navy
F-9F's waiting for takeoff.
had to stop before takeoff and have their machine guns charged, that is a live round put into the chamber.
The aircraft armament technician had to run out, open the gun hatch, and charge the guns just before takeoff. A safety
procedure to prevent unwanted live rounds being fired at head height while the aircraft was on the ground, some pilots had
a tendency to press the wrong button on the joystick, the trim tab control as right next to the gun trigger. The F-84's
gun were high enough to reduce the danger, and the F-86 pilot was able to charge his guns from the cockpit.
note of the mountain in the background.
early in 1950, when I was an Instructor at the Armament Technicians School, located at Lowry Field in
Denver Colorado, I was sent on a TDY short assignment
to Nellis AFB, and was attached to this Squadron for duty as an armament technician during the Air Force
Gunnery meet in April of 1980.
I was assigned to this F-80 as an armament technician to get some on line training to prepare for our job
as sort of instructors and technical supervisors for the armament personnel that we assigned to all of
the squadron which were assigned to the Gunnery Meet.
If you ever read any history of Nellis AFB and
the cost of training in terms of people and aircraft you might be aware of the loss of life and aircraft.
During one of the air to ground gunnery missions
this particular aircraft and pilot flew into the ground, with loss of both pilot and plane.
You can notice the checkerboard tail, and the gunnery squadron insignia on the nose of the aircraft.
You don't know how great this is to be able to share some of my old photos and memories.
often that an 82 year old man is able to relive some of his great times of 60 years ago.
truly, and one of the T-33's in our squadron, there were 4, caliber 50's in the nose for the instructors
to fire at the targets.
Our squadron was responsible for gunnery and
rocket firing training for pilots on their way to Korea and the air combat going on there. In the
air to air gunnery the student pilots had to achieve a minimum score in order to graduate, and be sent to Korea.
The 50 cal bullets were dipped in different colors so that when the bullets passed through the targets a small
smear of the color would be left on the target. The armorer assigned to each aircraft would list
on the flight log the color of the bullets that were loaded in the six cal 50 aircraft in each of the
F-80's. After the targets were flown, and then dropped out in a special dropping area the tow target
operators who were not flying would pick up the targets and return them to the squadron area when the bullet holes could be
examined, and each of the pilots scored.
Some of the student pilots were
either bad shots or intentionally missed the target, didn't relish the idea of going to Korea, so a solution was found so
that everyone graduated with good scores.
If a student was having difficulty reaching the
minimum score, the solution was that the instructors aircraft, either another F-80 or a T-33 were loading with at least one
of the cal 50's with the same color as the students load. And usually the results were good enough for the student to
Looking toward Area 51 - 51
A photo from the gunner;s compartment on a B-26 while on the
eastward leg of a tow target air to air mission.