Monday, January 04, 2010

Tucson II

The repair shop opened this morning, and since we’re at the campground adjacent to the shop, the tech will come here shortly to look at the damage and give us an estimate. While we wait, I’ll update the blog.

Tucson is a very nice city, not so big to be overwhelming but big enough to have pretty much everything one would need, including a fine medical center affiliated with the University of Arizona. The weather at this time of year is quite nice –sunny days with temperatures in the upper 60s and nights in the 30s. Summers are a different story – it is in a desert after all.

DSC_0350 There’s a lot of military history here. We visited the Pima Air and Space Museum, which has hundreds of military and civilian aircraft on display, including a plane that was used as Air Force One by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.DSC_0349 Since there were a couple of similar planes used for each president, I’m not sure if this is the one that carried Kennedy’s body from Dallas, but it may have been.

A NASA plane that was used at one time to transport rocket parts looks like it would be impossible to fly, but apparently it did. DSC_0351

The Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is the site of the “bone-yard”, the place where the government stores all of it’s out of service aircraft. There are thousands of mothballed airplanes here, and the Pima Museum has an arrangement to take bus tours onto the base.DSC_0360 Since this is an active Air Force base, there were some security precautions and we had to stay on the bus, but it was quite interesting to see everything from B-52s to all sorts of jet fighters and transports no longer in active service. This is more than a depository for multi-million dollar junk…the aircraft that are retired versions of planes still being used, by the US or others to whom the US has sold them (hopefully allies), are used for spare parts. Others are considered to be flyable with a minimal amount of preparation, so those are sort of a ready reserve.

DSC_0356 It’s hard to believe, but B-52s have been in service for more than 50 years.

About 20 miles south of Tucson is the Titan II Museum, which is the only remaining Titan ICBM missile silo in the country that hasn’t been destroyed. For the uninitiated, ICBM stands for intercontinental ballistic missile, and they were the mainstay of the cold war. The government thought, apparently correctly, that if we had the capability of destroying the Soviet Union several times over with nuclear missiles, the Soviets would think twice about attacking us. The theory apparently worked, We’re all still here.

DSC_0365 This missile site, when active, was one of eight in the Tucson area. There were several other sets of eight situated in the Western part of the country. DSC_0372

This Titan II was never loaded with fuel, but this was an active site for about 20 years. We were told this Titan doesn't have a warhead. This site was preserved for historical purposes and has been inspected by Russia as part of the nuclear treaties to confirm that it could never be activated. The docents at this museum are former Air Force missile crews, so they had some interesting stories to share.DSC_0368

This image is the actual control room from which the missile would have been launched. Just like in the movies, there were two keys required to start the launch sequence and a bunch of “failsafe” protocols to prevent an accident. That’s a good thing because one this baby was launched there was no stopping it and no way to destruct it in flight.


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