Mar 20



By Mike Wheeler



Jet Junkies Live was live at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, UK for a press conference about the B-52s currently on operations at the base. There were three speakers, these were Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian (Deputy Commander U.S. Air Forces in Europe - Air Forces in Africa), Col. Ron Cheatham (Vice Commander 501st Combat Support Wing) and Lt.Col. Mike Esposito (Director of Operations for the 340th Weapons Squadron).




Here is a brief summary of what they had to say.


The first speaker, Lt.Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, opened saying thank you to the host and how appreciative they are to RAF Fairford for the services they deliver, this appreciation was also extended to the 501st and the 2nd bomb wing. He then spoke about how the six B-52’s and 200 Staff give a potent and unique air power capability to Europe as well as NATO and Allied Nations. Following that he spoke about how the B-52s will operate from the Arctic to the Sahara Desert to show how the USAF and their allies can amass to deter and defend against possible aggressors. Lastly he spoke about how this operation is the biggest since Operation Iraqi Freedom where they had 17 B-52’s stationed at RAF Fairford in 2003.



Our Second speaker was Lt.Col. Mike Esposito who also expressed his thanks to RAF Fairford as well as the 501st, 420th base Squadron as well as the town of Fairford and the surrounding area. He added what an honour it is to lead a U.S bomber task force where so many iconic air power innovators served before.



Lt.Col. Esposito then spoke about this deployment which will validate their readiness and capability with allies, so that their airmen can become familiar with European airspace procedures and to enhance their skills to operate within Europe. Our Final speaker was Col. Ron Cheatham who said that RAF Fairford is the premier Forward Operating Base (FOB) and hoping to keep that standard moving forward by meeting US and NATO Objectives.




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  • Robert J. “Bob” Gilliland, former Lockheed test pilot and the first man to fly the iconic SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, the world’s fastest aircraft, died on Thursday, Jul. 4, 2019 at the Rancho Mirage, California retirement facility where he had been living for several years. He was 93. The death was announced by his son, Robert Gilliland, Jr. A native of Memphis, Tennessee, Gilliland graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1949 and immediately joined the newly independent Air Force, serving as an F-84 fighter pilot in post-war Germany and during the Korean War . He was then selected after the war for the elite Air Force Research and Development team where he flew virtually every aircraft in the USAF inventory including “expanding the envelope” in the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter. As a Lockheed F-104 instructor pilot , Bob taught some of the world’s leading pilots how to fly the Starfighter. Some of his students included WW2 Luftwaffe fighter aces Gunther Rall, and Johannes Steinhoff as well as Canada’s Wing Commander Kenneth Lett and USAF General John Dunning. Remarkably, Bob has made 5 successful “dead stick” landings in the F-104 – an amazing accomplishment given that the F-104 glides like a “toolbox” and is extremely unforgiving of pilot errors. Bob was also involved with fellow Lockheed test pilot Darryl Greenamyer in breaking the FAI world restricted altitude speed record of 988.26 mph in a highly modified F-104 on October 24, 1978. Gilliland was recruited to the Skunk Works in 1961, where he became a protégé of legendary aircraft designer Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson . Working out of super-secret Area 51 in the Nevada desert, he began testing a revolutionary airplane capable of attaining speeds in excess of Mach 3.2 and climbing to 85,000 feet. This became the first plane in the Blackbird family, the A-12 , designed for use by the Central Intelligence Agency under its covert Oxcart program. When Johnson began designing the similar but more advanced SR-71 for the Air Force, he appointed Gilliland chief test pilot. Gilliland made the historic first flight on Dec. 22, 1964. Recognized for his pioneering work in developing an aircraft that emerged as a potent intelligence-gathering weapon during the last quarter-century of the Cold War, Gilliland was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2017. Bob Gilliland has logged more test flight hours at Mach 3 than any other pilot in the world. He has been recognized and honored for his work many times.
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