Taken above the coast of Florida overlooking the Gulf of Mexico by LIFE photographer J. R. Eyerman, the cool photo in this post shows the various types of aircraft operational in the U.S. Air Force (USAF) in 1956 flying in a single formation.
All the aircraft portrayed in this fantastic picture are listed below:
1. Lockheed F-94C Starfire
2. Northrop F-89H Scorpion
3. North American QF-80A
4. North American T-33
5. Republic F-84F Thunderstreak
6. North American F-86H Sabre
8. Convair F-102A Delta Dagger
9. Republic RF-84F Thunderflash
10. Republic F-84G Thunderjet
11. North American F-86D Sabre Dog
12. Boeing B-52 Stratofortress
13. Convair C-131 Samaritan
14. Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar
15. Douglas C-124 Globemaster II
16. Martin B-57 Canberra
17. Douglas B-66 Destroyer
18. North American B-45 Tornado
19. Lockheed RC-121C
20. Boeing KC-97 Stratotanker
What’s really incredible is that the B-52 is still in use today and not slated for retirement anytime soon.
This photo was taken at the height of the Cold War, the confrontation that dominated the second half of the 20th century and grew out of the clash between the ideologies of the Western democracies led by the United States — and the communist nations led by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The ever-present threat of nuclear weapons made this period the most dangerous one in world history.
The U.S. Armed Forces measure their level of readiness during military situations by Defense Readiness Condition (DEFCON). Based upon the severity of a crisis, this readiness ranges from DEFCON 5, the normal peacetime level, to DEFCON 1, when an imminent enemy attack is expected. The seriousness of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 was demonstrated when the U.S. Armed Forces went to DEFCON 2 — the second highest level. Throughout the Cold War, people and governments feared going to DEFCON 1 because it meant nuclear war, but that level was never reached — in large part because of the deterrence to aggression provided by the USAF.
Photo credit: J. R. Eyerman/LIFE
Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com
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