Aerospace Valley Air Show an opportunity to see Edwards, NASA aircraft

The Aerospace Valley Air Show will feature aircraft from Edwards Air Force Base, and NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center flying over communities in the Southern California desert. Over the next few days, Aerotech News and Review will highlight some of the aircraft spectators can see flying in the skies overhead.

F-16 Fighting Falcon

The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a compact, multi-role fighter aircraft. It is highly maneuverable and has proven itself in air-to-air combat and air-to-surface attack. It provides a relatively low-cost, high-performance weapon system for the United States and allied nations.

General characteristics
Primary function: multirole fighter
Contractor: Lockheed Martin
Power plant: F-16C/D: one Pratt and Whitney F100-PW-200/220/229 or General Electric F110-GE-100/129
Thrust: F-16C/D, 27,000 pounds
Wingspan: 32 feet, 8 inches
Length: 49 feet, 5 inches
Height: 16 feet
Weight: 19,700 pounds without fuel
Maximum takeoff weight: 37,500 pounds
Fuel capacity: 7,000 pounds internal; typical capacity, 12,000 pounds with two external tanks
Payload: two 2,000-pound bombs, two AIM-9, two AIM-120 and two 2400-pound external fuel tanks
Speed: 1,500 mph (Mach 2 at altitude)
Range: more than 2,002 miles ferry range (1,740 nautical miles)
Ceiling: above 50,000 feet
Armament: one M-61A1 20mm multibarrel cannon with 500 rounds; external stations can carry up to six air-to-air missiles, conventional air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions and electronic countermeasure pods
Crew: F-16C, one; F-16D, one or two
Unit cost: F-16A/B, $14.6 million (fiscal 98 constant dollars); F-16C/D, $18.8 million (fiscal 98 constant dollars)  
Initial operating capability: F-16A, January 1979; F-16C/D Block 25-32, 1981; F-16C/D Block 40-42, 1989; and F-16C/D Block 50-52, 1994
Inventory: total force, F-16C/D, 1017

A B-52H Stratofortress assigned to the 419th Flight Test Squadron is undergoes pre-flight procedures at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. (Air Force photograph by Giancarlo Casem)

B-52 Stratofortress

The B-52H Stratofortress is a long-range, heavy bomber that can perform a variety of missions. The bomber is capable of flying at high subsonic speeds at altitudes of up to 50,000 feet. It can carry nuclear or precision guided conventional ordnance with worldwide precision navigation capability.

General Characteristics
Primary Function: Heavy bomber
Contractor: Boeing Military Airplane Co.
Power plant: Eight Pratt & Whitney engines TF33-P-3/103 turbofan
Thrust: Each engine up to 17,000 pounds
Wingspan: 185 feet
Length: 159 feet, 4 inches
Height: 40 feet, 8 inches
Weight: Approximately 185,000 pounds
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 488,000 pounds
Fuel Capacity: 312,197 pounds
Payload: 70,000 pounds
Speed: 650 miles per hour (Mach 0.84)
Range: 8,800 miles (7,652 nautical miles)
Ceiling: 50,000 feet
Armament: Approximately 70,000 pounds (31,500 kilograms) mixed ordnance—bombs, mines and missiles. (Modified to carry air-launched cruise missiles)
Crew: Five (aircraft commander, pilot, radar navigator, navigator and electronic warfare officer)
Unit Cost: $84 million (fiscal 2012 constant dollars)
Initial operating capability: April 1952
Inventory: Active force, 58 (test, 4); ANG, 0; Reserve, 18

Sky will soon meet Earth in this view of NASA Armstrong’s C-20 aerodynamics research test bed aircraft, tail number 804. (NASA photograph)

ER-2 High-Altitude Airborne Science Aircraft

NASA operates two Lockheed ER-2 Earth resources aircraft as flying laboratories in the Airborne Science Program under the Agency’s Science Mission Directorate. The aircraft, based at NASA Armstrong’s Building 703 in Palmdale, Calif., collect information about Earth resources, celestial observations, atmospheric chemistry and dynamics, and oceanic processes. The aircraft also are used for electronic sensor research and development, satellite calibration, and satellite data validation.

NASA acquired its first ER-2 aircraft in 1981 and a second in 1989. They replaced two Lockheed U-2 aircraft, which NASA had used to collect science data since 1971. The U-2s, and later the ER-2s, were based at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, CA, until 1997, when the ER-2s and their operations moved to NASA Dryden.

Since the Airborne Science Program’s inaugural flight on Aug. 31, 1971, NASA U-2s and ER-2s have flown more than 4,500 data missions and test flights in support of scientific research.

NASA’s ER-2 set a world-altitude record for the class of aircraft with a takeoff weight between 26,455 and 35,275 pounds on Nov. 19, 1998, when the aircraft reached 68,700 feet.
NASA ER-2s have played an important role in Earth science research because of their ability to fly into the lower stratosphere at subsonic speeds, enabling direct stratospheric sampling as well as virtual satellite simulation missions. The aircraft’s unique capabilities enable studies such as stratospheric ozone concentrations over Antarctica and the Arctic.

In August and September 1987, an ER-2 traveled to Chile to conduct overflights of the Antarctic. The direct measurements from the ER-2, combined with remote-sensing measurements from ground-based and satellite sensors, provided information suggesting that human-made chemical compounds, specifically chlorofluorocarbons, caused ozone depletion over the Antarctic region. The first field study of summer polar ozone conditions took place during a series of flights from Fairbanks, Alaska, between April and September 1997.

During the winter of 1999/2000, an ER-2, teamed with NASA’s DC-8 flying science platform, participated in the SAGE III Ozone Loss and Validation Experiment (SOLVE). Based in Kiruna, Sweden, SOLVE was the largest field campaign conducted to measure ozone in the Arctic stratosphere.

The ER-2 has been an invaluable tool for studying tropical cyclone (hurricane) development, tracking, intensification and landfall impacts. During the July 2005 Tropical Cloud Systems and Processes mission based in Costa Rica, the ER-2 carried instruments that measured the buildup and behavior of tropical storm systems over Mexico and Central America and in the eastern Pacific, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico. The aircraft flew over several hurricanes, including Emily and Dennis that were both violent Category 4-5 storms, and collected information on their entire vertical structure. Data were collected about the temperature, humidity, precipitation, and wind related to tropical cyclones and other related phenomena that often lead to development of more powerful storms at sea.

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