Aviation Historian 24
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C.Habermehl, R.Hopkins III - Stratojets in Blighty
The B-47Bs of the 306th BW initially carried ‘‘Square P” fin markings below their serials and a squadron colour band, in this case 51-2212 and the red band of the 367th BS respectively, from mid-1952. By the time the Wing deployed to the UK in June 1953, however, the Square P had been removed, although the squadron colour band remained.
The early B-47 visits to the UK paved the way for B-47 Reflex Action deployments during 1958-65. This B-47E, with revised “horse-collar” ATO equipment, was photographed while on a UK Reflex deployment in 1964.
A 306th BW B-47B at Fairford on a rare sunny day during the Wing’s 1953 UK deployment. Fairford opened as an RAF base in early 1944, but in 1950 was placed under the control of the USAF’s Seventh Air Division, which set about lengthening the runway and enlarging the airfield.
The new world meets the old country - B-47Bs of the 367th BS face a typically dilapidated building beside the ramp at Fairford in the summer of 1953. The 306th’s operations were frequently curtailed by wet weather, which turned the ground into mud, while the low overcast hindered approaches and landing.
Wearing SAC’s distinctive blue star-spangled band and badge on its forward fuselage, 51-2094 was one of the 369th BS, 306th BW B-47Bs that deployed to the UK in June 1953. Note also the assisted take-off (ATO) panel forward of the star-and-bars; these were removed for the 1953-54 UK deployments.
Stratojet 51-2206 of the 367th BS awaits its next sortie at Fairford in the summer of 1953. Interestingly, the outer wings of this B-47B have been painted red, although the majority of 306th BW Stratojets were not so marked. The SAC blue band was not adopted until after the 306th’s return.
From left to right: Maj J.W. Cotton, Lt Gilbert E. Bigdon and Capt Gayle C. Miller of the 22nd BW pose for a photograph at Sidi Slimane in Morocco while on detachment from Upper Heyford in 1954.
As a prelude to the type’s first deployment to Europe, the B-47Bs of the 367th BS, 306th BW - including 51-2206 seen here - took part in Project Sky Try, an evaluation of the aircraft’s operational bombing capabilities, in the USA. Note the 306th BW’s badge on the forward fuselage, bearing the unit’s motto: "Abundance in Strength".
Trailing its braking parachute, B-47B serial 51-2271 of the 367th BS lands at RAF Fairford to join other Stratojets of the 306th BW in the first week of June 1953. Individual aircraft names were uncommon, as were special markings, although some of the B-47s sported arrow insignia on their engine nacelles.
Brig Gen Henry K. Mooney (left) welcomes Col Michael McCoy to Limestone AFB on April 6, 1953, during the latter’s route-proving B-47 flight to the UK. Mooney was the Commander of Strategic Air Command’s Sixth Air Division and had deployed to Limestone ahead of McCoy’s two-aircraft formation.
Three B-47 pilots of the 368th BS walk in at Fairford after a sortie in B-47B 51-2277 during the 306th BW’s UK visit in the summer of 1953, Strategic Air Command’s first operational deployment of the type to Europe.
The Stratojets’ empty ATO compartments found good use as baggage stowage areas - as seen here.
After Col McCoy’s two-aircraft proving flight to the UK and back in April 1953, the 367th, 368th and 369th BSs prepared their aircraft and flew from their base at MacDill, Florida, to Limestone AFB in Maine, where one tranche of the B-47Bs is seen here refuelling before setting off across Fairford during June 2-4 the same year
COLONEL MICHAEL Norman Wright McCoy (born October 9, 1905) was a distinguished pilot and highly respected commander. He served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during 1939-42 before transferring to the USAAF. McCoy led SAC’s first B-47 Wing and the first B-47 overseas operational deployment. The first B-47B delivered to the 306th BW, serial 50-0008, was named The Real McCoy! (pictured here with McCoy in the cockpit).