The 1950’s—A Golden Age for Military Aviation

B-58 Hustler Super Sonic Bomber – First flight 1956
Sections: Introduction, The Classic Match-up, The Century Series (USA), The Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau (Soviet Union), Helicopters, A Would-be Heyday for Bombers, Advances in Missilery, In Flight Refueling, Lovable Losers, Conclusion

 [NOTE: page still under construction as of Jul 24, 2017]


I was recently inspired by an article online where they analyzed the design of the SR-71 Blackbird with a computer based design program in which would not make any changes- the design was that good. The SR-71 program was the result of many interesting developments in aviation during the 1950’s.

The main objective of this post is to share my enjoyment of this historically important decade. Below are some of the highlights of that era that would eventually lead to that development to replace the famous U-2 Spy plane in 1966. Gary Power’s U-2 being shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960 required a more capable aircraft.

U2 Spy plane in service since 1955

With a world exhausted from WWII, the powers that came out on top sought to create the next advance in aviation technology. While there were no computers at the time, there were piles of data from flight tests leading up to, and during WWII, plus the ever-present slide rule that could give a savvy user the solution he was looking for in short order.

While most is credited to German technology, other nations contributed innovations as well. By the 1950’s, a watershed of wartime discoveries in aviation were slowly working their way into current defense efforts.

Swept wing design was famously adapted by Willy Messerschmidt in WWII with his innovative ME-262, (first operational jet fighter to see combat). As with most inventions though, necessity was truly the mother of invention.  Early versions of the ‘262’ were straight winged taildraggers— instead of having the familiar nosewheel, the plane had a tailwheel, much like most of the aircraft up to that time. The problem with the earlier versions of the 262 is that the jet blast from the engines burned and dug pits in the tarmac. This created issues for ground handling of aircraft. With the addition of the nosewheel to the 262, the centre of gravity was changed, throwing off the handling characteristics. By moving the wing root (point at which the wing joins the fuselage) forward, and sweeping the end of the wings back, the centre of gravity issue was remedied and handling restored. Also the tarmac was left in better shape as a result.

Fast forward to a few years later, and you have the victors of WWII hungrily mining what data they could from the Nazi and Japanese aviation industries. Straight wing fighters of the UK, US and France gave way to swept wing designs. Eventually so did bombers. Piston engines gave way to jets although the reliability of the newer engines was in question for some time. Flying an early jet one could more easily experience something called a ‘flame out’ if the pilot was too abrupt with his throttle settings. The engine would simply cut out if the ambient pressures were too different to sustain its function. Later improved jet engine designs were more forgiving.

The Classic Match-up: MiG 15 vs. F-86 Sabre

Nothing could be more emblematic of the air war in the Korean Conflict than the two great super powers squaring off with these flying machines that achieved some degree of parity. While both aircraft had their strengths, in the hands of a competent pilot, either could be very lethal. While the F-86 could dive a little faster than the MiG-15 due to the MiG’s having auto air breaks that would deploy once a certain speed was surpassed, the MiG could climb faster, and had higher altitude capability. This I discovered from flying each in the computer flight simulator IL-2 1946 modified, and also supports what I have read elsewhere.

There were countless other aircraft of various types also involved in Korea then, but they weren’t as glamorous as flying into MiG Alley near the Chinese boarder to hunt or be hunted. The North Korean and Chinese pilots were not nearly as well trained as the US pilots, many of whom were veterans of WWII. To help even the odds, the Soviets loaned the North Koreans some WWII veterans of their own. The story goes that the Soviet pilots were prohibited from speaking Russian on the radio. Only Chinese or Korean, which I can’t imagine would have been easy to communicate in the heat of an air battle. Soviet pilots were never allowed to fly over Allied territory, lest they get shot down and exposed for helping the North Koreans.

The Century Series (USA)

Beginning with the F-100 (thus, the Century Series), these planes began a legacy of aircraft that served in active duty through the 1970’s, and in some cases, beyond. All post-Korean Conflict designs, they helped raise the bar of technology in the 1950’s.

  • F-100 Super Saber (First flight in 1953)
    A step forward from the successful F-86 Saber project, this was designed to incorporate lessons learned from the Korean Conflict. It was the first US fighter capable of supersonic speed in level flight. During the Vietnam War, it served tactical strike duties until later specialized attack aircraft like the capable A-7s of the US Navy superseded it.
  • F-101 VooDoo (First flight in 1954)
    First designed as a long-range bomber escort, it was then developed as a nuclear-armed fighter-bomber, then later a tactical conventional bomber or as photo reconnaissance (recon). It set a number of world speed records for jet powered aircraft, including fastest airspeed, attaining 1,207.6 miles (1,943.4 km) per hour in 1957. They operated in the recon role until 1979. (Citation: Wikipedia)
  • F-102 Delta Dagger (First flight in 1953) 
    Also known as The Deuce (for ‘102’), this was first designed as a pure strategic interceptor of incoming enemy bombers, but later found life as a straight tactical interceptor with the Air National Guard until the 1970’s.
  • F-103 (never flew)
    From the Wikipedia website: The Republic XF-103 was an American project created to develop a powerful missile-armed interceptor aircraft capable of destroying Soviet bombers while flying at speeds as high as Mach 3 (2,300 mph; 3,700 km/h). Despite a prolonged development, it never progressed past the mockup stage. In short, it never quite measured up to expectations, but was turned into a testbed project aiding other aircraft, like the B-58 Hustler Super Sonic Bomber.
  • F-104 Star Fighter (First flight in 1956)
    This was designed first and foremost for the interception of high altitude enemy bombers of the 1950’s.  When first deployed, it won the 1958 Collier Trophy. The F-104 was designed by Kelly Johnson who was already famous for his work with the legendary P-38, F-80 Shooting Star, and other projects. With the advent of ballistic missiles and ICBMs, the original role was superseded by events. Later versions of the Star Fighter would carry more fuel and avionics and provide fighter cover in the Vietnam War.
  • F-105 Thunderchief (First flight in 1955)
    The F-105 was originally designed to be a nuclear-capable Mach 2 strike aircraft. Its most likely opponent at the time was the Soviet Union. When the possibility of the F-105 carrying nukes into combat was diminished due to ICBM development, it was to be later re-purposed in the Vietnam War as a conventional strike fighter- obviously to not-so-good effect. A quote from Wikipedia:  “The Mach 2 capable F-105 conducted the majority of strike bombing missions during the early years of the Vietnam War; it was the only U.S. aircraft to have been removed from combat due to high loss rates.” Perhaps that’s why it was given the nickname ‘The Thud’
  • F-106 Delta Dart (First flight in 1956) 
    Designed as an all weather interceptor, it saw service until the 1980’s when the remaining examples ended their careers ingloriously as target drones for practice. Most of its duty was spent on the front lines of the cold war in Alaska, West Germany, and South Korea awaiting the bombers that never came.

The Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau (Soviet Union)

Founded by Russians Artem Mikoyan and Mikhail Gurevich in 1939, the bureau assigned the prefix “MiG” to all aircraft that they produced. This began with the MiG-1 in 1940. The MiG-15 (first flight 1947) is the first prominent jet of the family, with successive designs such as the MiG-17 (first flight 1950), MiG-19 (first flight 1952), and later MiG-21 (first flight 1956).

The MiG-21 (NATO name: ‘Fishbed,’) still actively serves in a number of airforces around the world today.


Although helicopters had been produced since WWII, the implementation of them in any numbers to be effective in the field did not come until the 1950’s. The US certainly used them to great effect in the Korean Conflict for evacuating wounded, search and rescue missions, and inserting small forces in difficult terrain. Lessons learned in Korea would help to shape US strategic thinking in the Vietnam War, and beyond.

A Would-be Heyday for Bombers

From the B-29 late in WWII, the scale and power of aircraft expanded in both size and capability, like with the B-36 Peacemaker  (first flight 1946).

B-29 Stratofortress (left,) compared to the B-36 peacemaker (right)

Of those designs still around to this day, the Soviet’s TU-95 Bear bomber (first flight 1952) and the US B-52 Stratofortress (first flight also in 1952) continue to log flight hours with updated avionics and weapons.

The days of massed bombers carrying nuclear warheads were eclipsed with the advent of Ballistic Missiles. It is a lot harder to knock a missile out of the air than a big bomber, and actually more probable with surface to air missile technology advancing by leaps and bounds in the 1950’s.

Typically if aircraft could not be repurposed (like the TU-95 or the B-52) for conventional bombing, their days were numbered.

Advances in Missilery

All manner of missiles saw breathtaking advances in the 1950’s. Missiles we have today can trace their technological legacy back to these heady days.

  • Air to Air
    The US started deploying their AIM-9 Sidewinder Heat Seeking Missile in 1956. The Sidewinder was engineered so as to be easily modified for upgrades. Later versions would introduce radar-seeking warheads. The Soviets happened to get a hold of one during an unsuccessful air to air conflict, and produced their own version named the ‘K-13.’ Later versions of both missiles are still in service today.
  • Ground to Air
    The US’s NIKE AJAX SAM (surface to air missile) was the most effective use of radar technology to date for that type of weapon. Originally introduced in 1954, the AJAX remained in service until 1970. How many native Chicagoans remember Montrose Point and other locations on Lake Michigan in the 1960’s with these all set, and ready to fire into the sky? The Russians, never to be outdone, came up with their own system SA-2 Guideline introduced in 1957 to counteract the US advantage. Reports from pilots trying to evade these missiles  describe them as like “seeing telephone poles take off from the ground to come up and try and knock you out of the sky”. Some variant of these radar guided missiles serve in both inventories to this day.
  • Air to Surface
    The AGM-Bullpup introduced by the United States in 1959 was among the most effective guided air to surface missiles up to that time. It was used in the Vietnam War and up to the 1970’s. Subsequent development of that technology lead to the later more advanced Maverick air to surface missile. The Soviets followed on nearly ten years later (1968) with their version, the KH-23 Grom.  Up until that time the only alternative was exotic TV guided bombs from WWII which were rare.
  • Ground to Ground, and ICBMs
    Thanks in large part to the defection of many German scientists at the end of the war who clearly had a good start on rocket technology, the global talent pool was dispersed among the victors of WWII. Here I will not go into detail beyond reiterating that the advent of the ICBM negated any advantage that a strategic bomber force would have, conventional or otherwise.

In Flight Refueling

While this seemingly improbable technology had been around since the 1930’s, its most practical application to date was with the KC-97 Stratofreighter in 1951. Incorporation of a solid mast-like boom hanging off the back of the plane made in flight refueling more practical, vs. the drogue hoses used before which were not very efficient. The boom concept was adopted at the encouragement of US General Curtis LeMay who saw this as a way to keep aircraft aloft for extended periods of time otherwise not possible. Using smaller aircraft for in-flight refueling were also used with drogue hoses like the A-1 Skyraider, but this larger plane really paved the way for the in flight tankers we know today.

Reworking of many existing aircraft to make them capable of in flight refueling became a priority at the time.

Boeing KC-97L
KC-97 Stratofreighter with boom refueling probe

I was once acquainted with a guy from my old neighborhood who was a boom operator on a later KC-135 tanker. He relayed that it could be a nerve racking experience, as one wrong move and you with any plane around you would “end up in the next zip code.”

Lovable Losers

With so many ideas being tried out, quite a few concepts were produced only to have been found wanting in some aspects. Among my favorite failures are these two- while not very successful, they had interesting designs for their time.

The Vought F7U Cutlass (left above from 1948,) was designed as a ship born carrier aircraft with capabilities for fighter or attack duties. Reported to be from a famous German aircraft manufacturer’s notes, the theories did not translate well into practice. While the airframe was certainly innovative, the engines were reported to be underpowered. It earned such nicknames from its pilots as The Ensign Killer, and The Gutless Cutlass.

The Douglas F4D (right above from 1951,) was another story. It stayed in service with the US Navy until 1964 after a 8 year career that started with its designer, Ed Heinemann, winning the prestigious Collier Trophy for his work.


While there were many other interesting aircraft designed during this time period, the article is merely to wet one’s appetite by connecting some dots for you, in hopes that it may inspire further reading on such a rich subject.

Naval aviation also had many advances during this time as well. The F-4 Phantom II first flew in 1958, and went on to become a legend in its own right, but was not introduced to service until 1960- certainly worth reading more about.

There were some beautiful aircraft produced during the 1950’s, as well as some ugly ones too. Most have been forgotten, but all can be traced in some lineage to current designs incorporating what to do, as well as what not to do.

The iconic SR-71 Blackbird (first flight 1964,) not ironically was designed by Kelly Johnson, same designer of the F-104 Star Fighter mentioned above.


SR-71 Blackbird was very much a product of the 1950’s
Golden Age of Military Aviation development

Written by Thomas Gorman, Edited by Lisa Markwart.
All photos credit Wikipedia and Wikicommons, unless otherwise specified.

Summer Salsas 2017, No. 1


There seems to be a number of recipes vying for supremacy this season, mostly from availability of stocks. They vary from fresh to cooked, though all here follow similar themes of using alternates to traditional ingredients like tomato or sugars.

Follow me as we see what materializes.

Jalapeno Mango Avocado Summer Salsa
Primavera Fresca – Medium hot as made

  • 1 LG Diced Cucumber, peeled and chopped fine
  • 2 LG Diced Mango, diced
  • 1 MED Avocado, diced
  • 3 Fine chopped green onion
  • Healthy Handful of Cilantro
  • 2 Chopped Jalapenos, 1 Ancho Pepper chopped
  • 4 Minced, Peeled Garlic
  • TBSP Honey
  • TSP Fishsauce
  • 1/2 Lime Juiced
  • 1/2 TSP Soy Sauce
  • Sprinkle of Sesame seeds to finish
  • Dash Salt, Cumin
  • Stir well together
  • Let rest covered in refrigerator overnight for best flavor

The flavors are subtle, but I was not out to burn the house down with this anyway yet. With just 2 Jalapenos I thought it was a nice flavor enough.

My experience was much improved by letting it sit overnight. The hotness evened out, and the avocado dissolved largely. While the mixture did get a bit more watery, just remember to keep it stirred periodically and serve with spoon (or fork).

Enjoy as a condiment on chips, tacos, burritos or whatever.

Pictured above: Finished salsa with decorative strips of cucumber
Photo by Tom Gorman 2017

Tom’s Taco Ensembles

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Here we find not just one, but a collection of recipes from meat, to condiments for a healthy made-from-scratch meal to satisfy all.

Look at the options below and select your favorite meat, toppings, and have a great time!


This can vary in selection due to audience or preference. Choose the meat you’d like to start with here, then move on to the guacamole and salsa sections for best results. Each result should open up in a new window or browser tab.


Try out a relatively low fat yet rich topping for not only tacos, but burritos, nachos and more here. Not spicy by design, but you can always of course add more salsa!


Salsas add life to any dish, and certainly as much ‘fireworks’ as you can stand. Join in exploring the ‘threshold of excitement‘ with one of these recipes.

Enjoy any of these combinations in taco or burrito tortillas,
corn or flour, and LOTS of guac to counter-act that heat!

What ever your preference. Who says ‘food can’t be exciting?’ 

Have fun!

Tom’s Salsa Fresca


I had thought that I already had written a recipe like this, being that my fascination with hot chilis started over 25 years ago, but oh well. When I first started making salsas, I made some toooo hot, but found adding sour cream made them edible. Here I have laid out a basic recipe that is a base for other concoctions. I have made more cooked salsas, but for something ready to go I’ve found this general formula very useful.


  • 3 cups coarsely chopped med. Roma tomatoes (this variety better for flavour)
  • 1 large diced white onion
  • 2 minced large jalapeno (or 4, if you like it hot)
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 TBSP fresh lime juice, or orange juice (not from concentrate!)
  • 1/2 TSP salt
  • 1 TSP ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro


  • Add all ingredients to glass or ceramic bowl
  • Cover with plastic wrap or other item, like a plate
  • Let sit in refrigerator for 4-6 hours for fullest flavour

Then serve on tacos, burritos, with chips or eggs. An epic fool-proof topping.

Enjoy!   Thomas Gorman – April 2017

Part of ‘Tom’s Turkey Taco Ensemble’

Tom’s Jalapeno Salsa


I like the pre-marinated flavour of cooked salsas often resulting from cooking forcing things to meld.

If this turns out too hot, you can always cool it down with sour cream or plain yogurt as I’ve found.


  • 4 minced large jalapeno diced
  • 8 chopped Roma tomatos
  • 1/2 green or red bell pepper finely diced
  • 4 minced garlic cloves minced
  • 1 LG diced white onion diced
  • 1 TSP Paprika
  • 1 TSP chili powder
  • 1/2 TSP salt
  • 1 TSP ground cumin
  • 1 TBSP fresh lime juice, or orange juice (not from concentrate!)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 TBSP olive oil


  • Add TBSP olive oil to preheated skillet
  • Add all ingredients above and let simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring as needed
  • Cook another 10 – 15 minutes on reduced heat, adding olive oil as needed
  • Once reaching desired consistency, turn off heat and let cool to room temperature
  • Place in glass bowl once cool, cover and store in refrigerator overnight for best flavour

Then serve on tacos, burritos, with chips or eggs. An epic fool-proof topping.

Part of Tom’s Taco Ensemble

Enjoy!   Thomas Gorman – April 2017

Papaya Habanero Hot Sauce


This is terribly hot as well as exciting for me! I claim no originality with this having read something like this in a few different places. All I know is that it makes me very happy, hopefully it will you to–if you like hot and sweet together.


  • 3 (4 if you like it blazing hot) habanero peppers, remove stems and retain seeds, minced fine
    [CAUTION: Use utensils or rubber gloves handling peppers. You will know pain if you don’t]
  • 1/2 to 2/3rds cup fresh papaya, mashed to a pulp
  • 3/4 cup of raisins
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 TSP ground turmeric
  • 1/4 cup malt vinegar (red wine vinegar also works in a pinch)
  • 2 TBSP olive oil


  • Heat sauté pan, and add 1 TBSP olive oil
  • Dump in all ingredients listed above
  • Stir regularly making sure that no burning takes place
  • After 5 minutes, reduce heat and let simmer an additional 3-5 minutes
  • Let cool to room temperature
  • Puree in blender or food processor
  • For best flavour, let sit in refrigerator overnight covered

Then serve on tacos, burritos, with chips or eggs. An epic fool-proof topping.

Part of Tom’s Taco Ensemble

Enjoy!   Thomas Gorman – April 2017

Tom’s Guacamole Fresca


I enjoy guac on many things, but mostly on tacos, nachos and burritos. Here is a simple recipe to hopefully satiate your desire for this wonderful food.


  • 3 small-medium avocados peeled and smashed with fork in bowl
  • 1 TSP Paprika
  • 2 plumb tomato, diced
  • 1/2 TSP salt
  • 1 TSP ground cumin
  • 1 large diced white onion
  • 2 minced large jalapeno
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/5th cup almond milk for liquidity
  • 1 TBSP fresh lime juice, or orange juice (not from concentrate!)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro


  • Add all ingredients to glass or ceramic bowl
  • Stir together well to acheive even consistancy
  • Cover with plastic wrap or other item, like a plate
  • Let sit in refrigerator for 4-6 hours for fullest flavour

Then serve on tacos, burritos, with chips or eggs. An epic fool-proof topping.

Part of Tom’s Taco Ensemble

Enjoy!   Thomas Gorman – April 2017

Tom’s Simple Turkey Taco Meat


I like simplicity when I eat. Yes I can get complicated when it comes to spices, but not when  I am working with some of my base ingredients. Here is a simple way to start off any winning taco night.


  • 1 LB ground turkey
  • 2 or 3 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 TSP ground garlic (or 3 cloves peeled and minced, preferred)
  • 1 TSP Paprika
  • 1/2 TSP salt
  • 1 TSP ground cumin


  • Warm medium sauté pan with 1 TBSP olive oil, adding more as needed later
  • Begin browning meat, then add garlic, then spices
  • Brown meat to desired brownness or crispiness and serve
  • That’s it! I said it was simple

Then serve in tacos, burritos, with chips or eggs. An epic fool-proof starting point!

Part of Tom’s Taco Ensemble

Enjoy!   Thomas Gorman – April 2017

Mango Habanero Hot Sauce


This is terribly hot as well as exciting for me also! I claim no originality with this having read something like this in a few different places, I simply adapted to to circumstances.


  • 4 habanero peppers, remove stems and retain seeds, minced fine
    [CAUTION: Use utensils or rubber gloves handling peppers. You will know pain if you don’t]
  • 3 mangos mashed to a pulp
  • 1 cup minced carrots
  • 1 LG red onion minced
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime or orange juice (or, not from concentrate)
  • Orange juice added as needed for texture
  • 1/4 cup malt vinegar (red wine vinegar also works in a pinch)
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1/2 TSP salt


  • Dump in all ingredients listed above
  • Puree in blender or food processor
  • Blend until fluid
  • Heat sauté pan, and add 1 TBSP olive oil and pre-heat
  • Add mixture to hot sauté pan
  • Stir regularly making sure that no burning takes place
  • After 5 minutes, reduce heat and let simmer an additional 3-5 minutes
  • Let cool to room temperature
  • For best flavour, let sit in refrigerator overnight covered

Then serve on tacos, burritos, with chips or eggs. An epic fool-proof topping.

Part of Tom’s Taco Ensemble

Enjoy!   Thomas Gorman – April 2017

Tom’s Turkey Chorizo Sausage

ChorizoPostCookA healthy alternative to traditional ground pork, this turkey variety is for those who love that chorizo flavor, but can live without the high cholesterol and fat. This chorizo needs no casing since you will typically enjoy it in tacos, burritos, eggs, and more.

You might like to scale up the recipe and freeze some for later- it sure seems to disappear at my house.


  • 1 LB ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 TBSP Paprika
  • 1 TSP chili powder
  • 1 TSP salt (more later if you like)
  • 2 TSP dried oregano
  • 1/2 TSP ground black pepper
  • 1/2 TSP ground cumin
  • 1/2 TSP ground coriander
  • 1/4TSP ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 TSP ground cloves
  • 4 TBSP red wine vinegar


  • Peel and mince garlic, place in a small container
  • Take all the dry spices, and pre-mix them in a small container, separate from the garlic
  • Take one TBSP olive oil and pour it into skillet
  • Add ground turkey to hot skillet, and break apart with utensil like a wooden spoon or spatula
  • As turkey is browning, add garlic and stir into mix
  • When turkey is nearly browned, dump in those dry spices you have set aside
  • Once well mixed, add the vinegar and stir in thoroughly
  • Don’t you love that smell? That lets you know you have all the ingredients right!
  • Add more olive oil as needed, as the spices will absorb a bit of moisture
  • Continue cooking until meat is well crumbled and brown


Part of Tom’s Taco Ensemble

Photographs and recipe Thomas Gorman – February 2017