Thursday, November 29, 2012

KB-50 Aerial Refueling Aircraft

Is it a prop plane or is it a jet? Nope, it's a hybrid.
KB-50 Aerial Refueling Aircraft at MacDill AFB, FL

I saw this hulking aircraft on display across the field from the building where I have been working this week. As I looked at it, I at first thought it was a venerable B-29--but then I looked closer and saw the outboard jet engines on each wing and added fuel tanks.

I considered for a moment what this aircraft might be. B-50? No, they never put jets on the B-50's, I thought. A modified RB-50? Yes, as I crossed the parking lots and busy four lane road of MacDill AFB, Florida, that is exactly what I expected to see. It made sense--Cuban Missile Crisis, reconnaissance, Florida. Although the jet engines still bothered me because I didn't think the RB-50 ever had jets.
KB-50 Side View Showing the Outboard Jet Engine

People who know me, know that I am reasonably good at identifying aircraft--especially aircraft that were in service with the greatest command in history--Strategic Air Command (SAC). So when I arrived at the site and saw the aircraft was a KB-50, imagine my surprise--I had never seen a KB-50 before.

The last of these venerable aircraft were retired during 1965--what a great run.

I enjoyed researching the history of the aircraft and finding out how they were used. I think it was one of those really successful repurposing of old, but useful aircraft. Just a short walk away, and flying overhead I saw the current aerial refueling aircraft in the Air Force fleet--the KC-135R. It is good to get away to an operational Air Force Base every so often.

-- Bob Doan, writing from Tampa, FL




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