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Video: "RF-84F Thunderflash - The Predator of the 1950's"


Advances in aviation in the early part of the Jet age made the 1950's and 60's an exciting time to be a part of the fledgling United States Air Force. Master Sergeant Vince De Groot recently did some digging into the history of the mission of the RF-84 Thunderflash and tells us how the ingenuity of U.S. Airman contributed to the unique mission of RF-84 at the time. This 1950's era Republic RF-84 photo reconnaissance aircraft recently went through a significant make over and received a new coat of paint at the Air National Guard paint facility before being placed back on static display. The aircraft was flown by the 174th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron of the Iowa Air Guard in Sioux City, Iowa from 1958 to 1961. The RF-84 "Thunderflash" was the first of the "modern" jets to be specifically designed for photo-reconnaissance. Stand up: Title: Master Sgt Vincent De Groot 185 ARW PA Iowa Air National Guard The RF-84 was one of over a dozen variations of the F-84. The biggest difference in appearance was the addition of the camera payload area here on the nose of the aircraft where the air intake had been, the intakes on the RF model were then moved here to the wings straddling the fuselage. The "tactical" part of RF-84 mission meant pilots would typically find themselves over hostile airspace, flying low and slow...and usually alone. It was a precarious time in the late 1950's to fly photo reconnaissance. America's cold war with the Soviet Union demanded quick reliable intelligence, with both the U.S. and Russian fingers on the nuclear trigger. Throughout history, armies have sought to have the advantage of being able to see the battlefield from above. During the American Civil War, intelligence gatherers used the Balloon Corps, to get a bird's eye view of enemy encampments and capabilities. With powered flight in the early 1900's, British Aviation was used initially as photo reconnaissance. By the middle of the century units like the 174th flew near the speed of sound, higher than mountain peaks, all while taking incredibly detailed photos. After a century of flight the main application of each new advance in military aviation remains the same, that is, primarily to watch the enemy. The Thunderflash was specifically developed for application during the Korean War so when the Air Guard received the RF-84 after the war, in 1958 the aircraft was still relatively new. For the first time the RF-84 pilot used a view finder with camera controls in order to focus on specific targets. Retired Master Sgt. Duane McCallum worked as a photo lab technician at Sioux City where film from the RF-84 was developed: Title: Retired Master Sgt. Duane "Mac" McCallum 174th TFG Photo Lab Technician "Camera repair people got a salvage truck and put a darkroom on it, so that while they are driving to the hanger, they can take the film out, put it in the can, so that by the time they reach the hanger they are ready to bring it up to the photo lab". The change in procedure according to McCullum cut significant time off developing procedures and got the images to the war fighters much more quickly. This was part of how the 174th became the Air Guard's top reconnaissance unit in 1961. Today, fifty years after flying the RF-84 , the 174th is still the active flying unit of the Iowa Air Guard's 185th Air Refueling Wing and even though the mission and aircraft have changed numerous times through the years, the rich heritage, pride and ingenuity of its airman continue to bring the kind of value that only the Air Guard can bring to the mission of the Air Force. In Sioux City, Iowa I'm Master Sgt Vince De Groot... Air Force news. Video by Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot | 185th Air Refueling Wing, Iowa Air National Guard | Date: 11.03.2013

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