Cold War Era

Can you name them all? The 22 different types of aircraft operational in the USAF in 1956 fly in a single formation.

This photo was taken at the height of the Cold War, the confrontation that dominated the second half of the 20th century.

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

7. North American F-100A Super 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

21. Boeing B-47 Stratojet

22. Convair B-36 Peacemaker

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.

This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. B-52H Stratofortress 2nd BW, 20th BS, LA/60-0008 “Lucky Lady IV”. Barksdale AFB, LA

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.

This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

Photo credit: J. R. Eyerman/LIFE

Artwork courtesy of

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

View Comments

  • Great article! The B-52 will most likely still be in service in 2056!! Grazie Dario!!:)

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