Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center – Part 1: Modern Military Airplanes and Space Crafts (Summer 2015)

Recently, I moved back to the Washington DC area and I used this opportunity to re-visit some of our Nation’s Capital region most wonderful museums.

Panorama of the Museum from the entrance
Panorama of the Museum from the entrance

I was surprised that some of the displays were updated and some of the expositions were completely new:a good example is the Discovery Space Shuttle In Udvar-Hazy Center.

Panorama of the Space Section
Panorama of the Space Section

Furthermore, I always loved aviation and planes, therefore, the opportunity to visit the two DC area museums connected with aviation make me very happy. In my opinion, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is the number two air museum which should be visited by all aviation enthusiasts (THE NUMBER ONE is the National USAF Museum in Dayton, Ohio – I have also some good photos from that location in three parts: WWII military aircraft, Cold War aircraft and modern military aircrart).

Panorama of the Museum from the entrance to the space section
Panorama of the Museum from the entrance to the space section

Udvar-Hazy is very often being advertised as “a companion facility” for the National Air and Space Museum located near the National Mall. Somehow, I find this facility to be much superior to the museum Downtown DC. It is less crowded and located next to the Dulles International Airport, which makes it more “real.”

Welcome to Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Dulles, Virginia
Welcome to Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Dulles, Virginia

I will break my visit to the Udvar-Hazy into two blogs: modern military planes and space, followed by WWII military aircraft with modern civilian planes. It was fun to take plenty of good photos and enjoy the beautiful planes – I want to share this experience.

Therefore, with any delays – let’s start! In my opinion, it is necessary to start from most beautiful aircraft in the collection – the one and only Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. (http://airandspace.si.edu/collections/artifact.cfm?object=nasm_A19920072000). I attached the link to the short history of

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird in all its beauty
Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird in all its beauty

this amazing aircraft but I would like to mention few facts which are hard to find but fun to know.

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird - nose shoot
Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird – nose shoot

A total of 32 Blackbirds were built; 12 were lost in accidents and none lost to enemy action. Furthermore, the aircraft had very interesting missile counter-measure system: if the incoming missile was detected, the pilot simply increased the speed and out run it!

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird
Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird – it is long!

Another amazing aircraft presented on the display is the Lockheed Martin X-35B STOVL. This particular plane was the first prototype to fly and was extensively used by DARPA to further develop the project.

Lockheed Martin X-35B Joint Strike Fighter
Lockheed Martin X-35B Joint Strike Fighter

Behind the aircraft, to the left side of it, you can see the entire propulsion system. The jet engine system (because it is a complex combination) is truly amazing. I do not envy the mechanics who have to maintain that beast on daily basis. Here is the link to the information provided about the aircraft by the Smithsonian Institution (http://airandspace.si.edu/exhibitions/modern-military/).

Lockheed Martin X-35B Joint Strike Fighter
Lockheed Martin X-35B Joint Strike Fighter

The next plane in the Cold War collection is the Grumman F-14D(R) Tomcat. It is well know as a workhorse of the US carrier aviation and was made famous in the Hollywood blockbuster, “Top Gun.” If i am guessing correctly, F-14 will not be “playing” in the re-make of this movie but Tom Cruise (30 years older) will be in the in it.

Grumman F-14D(R) Tomcat in black and white
Grumman F-14D(R) Tomcat in black and white

F-14 is a true beauty and you really have to see it in person to get the true size of this plane!

Grumman F-14D(R) Tomcat from the nose
Grumman F-14D(R) Tomcat from the nose

In Udvar-Hazy Center, the F-14 is presented in the “close wing” configuration but to experience the true beauty of this plane you have to see it with wings extended. I think, I may have photos from Ohio with the wings in that configuration.

Another veteran of many conflicts which is on display in Udvar-Hazy Center is the McDonnell F-4S Phantom II. Very popular platform – it is still operated today by many countries. (http://airandspace.si.edu/exhibitions/korea-vietnam/)

McDonnell F-4S Phantom II
McDonnell F-4S Phantom II
McDonnell F-4S Phantom II from above
McDonnell F-4S Phantom II from above

Finally, by showing F-4 you must also present its main opponent from the Vietnam War era – Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21F Fishbed C. MiG-21 is also a true beauty and its slick lines amazed the

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21F Fishbed C
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21F Fishbed C

aviation enthusiasts for years! MiG-21, similarly to F-4, is still used by many countries today. (http://airandspace.si.edu/exhibitions/korea-vietnam/)

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21F Fishbed C
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21F Fishbed C

After more than 55 years since entering into production, MiG-21 is still alive, with constant upgrades to its avionics and engines. F-4 and MiG-21 are displayed side-by-side so you can see how they compare in the real life.

Another aircraft which was glorified in the Hollywood movie is the Grumman A-6E Intruder.

Grumman A-6E Intruder
Grumman A-6E Intruder

Personally, I find the movie “Flight of the Intruder” with Willem Dafoe and Danny Glover, to be much better and realistic to cheesy “Top Gun.” However, it is just my opinion. Anyway, A-6 did some serious work for the USAF and US Marines as the all-weather attack and electronic warfare aircraft since the Vietnam War.

Nose shoot of Grumman A-6E Intruder
Nose shoot of Grumman A-6E Intruder

The Human Spaceflight section has great stuff on display. The crown jewel of the collection is the Space Shuttle Discovery. Looking at this masterpiece of technology it is amazing to see that we humans can do wonderful things.

Space Shuttle Discovery from the nose
Space Shuttle Discovery from the nose

Therefore, as you can see the Udvar-Hazy Center is a great place and “a must see” attraction in the vicinity of the USA capital area.

Here are some additional photos for your viewing pleasure!

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