One of my favorite eras of aviation is 20 or so years after World War II. This was the beginning of the Jet Age, when aeronautical engineers were throwing everything against the wall to see what stuck. Mach 2 Bombers? Sure! Ten-engined flying behemoth? Why not? Delta and swing wings? Undoubted. Spying planes at the edge of space? Let’s see what happens.
It was an incredible time for technological advancement, all effectively done without computers. In many respects, the designs were so good that some aircraft are still flying today. In others, they are now fascinating relics of another time.
Strategic Air Command, a division of the Air Force, was one of the major customers for many of these bonkers designs, and Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum Just outside Omaha, Nebraska celebrates these incredible historic planes. Here’s a look around.
strategic air command
As the Cold War began, the US military realized it needed a specific command dedicated to the air threat posed by the Soviet Union and its allies. By the late 1940s, there were aircraft that could cross the North Pole to attack American cities.
The arms race began, at first there were bombers that could fly faster, farther and carry larger and larger payloads. Continuing the wartime strategic bombing mentality, those aircraft would need fast and long-range fighter escorts to intercept enemy bombers before they could reach their targets.
Strategic Air Command oversaw most of America’s offense and defense in this regard. under General Curtis LemayA fascinating and controversial figure in his own right, Sack went from a handful of surviving WWII bombers to an impressive, modern, jet-powered force. This is the era of the Century series fighters, bombers like the B-36, B-45 and B-52. The latter is still in service, and will be for many more decades. Not bad for a design from the early 50’s.
With the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles, Operation Chrome Dome For other strategic missions. With that shift, escort fighters were redeployed. High-speed bombers were less relevant. Many of the more extreme designs, such as the B-58, were dropped from use after only a few years. Improved designs either continued, or were improved., its airborne mission shifted away from the endless intercontinental bombers
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, SAC was abolished in 1992, with its troops and equipment being sent to other commands.
This 46-year history is on display at the SAC Museum. The majority of the collection is in two huge hangers, large enough to hold not only, but a B-47, a B-52 and a B-58, all next to each other.
However, not all of them are bombers. A U-2 spy plane hangs from the ceiling and an FB-111A, F-4, and a rare XF-85 Goblin are tucked into the larger planes. There are also some WWII-era aircraft, including the B-17 and B-29.
B-1 to B-52 and B-Yond
Since this museum was dedicated to one of my favorite eras of aviation, and one of my favorite types of aircraft, it is not surprising that I enjoyed it. However, I wish the lighting was better. Both hangers were quite dim. At some point they installed LED lights, but there weren’t enough of them. Hopefully they’ll add more so you can get a better look at these incredible planes.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t watch it now. If you find yourself near Omaha, perhaps on a cross-country road trip, Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum A wonderful way to spend the afternoon. If You’re Not Going to Nebraska, See For a look around and at these historic planes.
As well as covering TV and other display technology, Geoff does photo tours of cool museums and places around the world, including nuclear submarines, massive aircraft carriers, medieval castles, airplane cemeteries, and more.