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

1 comment:

TAC Tankers said...

The plane you saw is a KB-50J model. It was moved to MacDill in 1997 from Wright-Patterson AFB Ohio. There were 112 of the "J" models and 24 "K" models. The J's were originally B-50D bombers. The K's were modified TB-50H's. The TB-50's were trainers for Navigators and Bombadiers. There are two tankers left out of 136. This one and the other at the Pima Air and Space Museum in Arizona. Those are not fuel tanks on the wing. Along with the appendage on the tail, they are refueling pods containing the hose that was let out for receiver aircraft to connect to. These tankers could refuel 3 planes at the same time. Six squadrons were equipped the KB-50's from 1956-1965. One in Japan, one in England and four in the States. During these years they refueled F-100's, F/RF-101's, B/RB 66's, F-104's and F-105's crossing the Pacific and the Atlantic using the "Probe and Drogue" system. They also could refuel some NATO, Navy/Marine and Nationalist Chinese aircraft. We had quite a history while we were around.
After the planes went into storage at Davis-Monthan, the J-47 jet engines and long range radars were removed to be used on KC-97L's

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