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GENERAL COMMENTS ON THIS "SURVEILLANCE AIRCRAFT" SITE:
User Robert Merkle contacted me ( on the SR-71 Blackbird Talk page ) and asked for my comments on this site. Wow! Robert, there's a "lot of material" here and in the "Spyflight" hyperlink listed in it. Thus, I'll add a few comments here, but will not try and edit, prune and change the article in the limited time I have for this now. I'll leave that to whoever wishes to do so and perhaps my comments will open up some new directions others will wish to follow and dig into.
The site narrative makes one think aerial reconnaissance blossomed in WW II. Let's go back in time a bit. As an ex-USAF'er, I hate to admit this, but the US Navy had an aeroplane squadron before the US Army ( the parent of the USAF ). I'll leave it to a User to research what the "Black Shoe" flyers did, but will list here that on March 5, 1913, the 1st Aero Squadron was formed by the Army. It was an Observation Squadron and the only air arm the Army had with Army Gen. Jack Pershing when he chased Pancho Viva in Mexico in 1916. Humorous anecdotes exist in the 1st's recorded history about that campaign, but my favorite is the one about the under powered and open cockpit Jenny aeroplanes they flew being caught in thunder-showers in the Mexican mountains; rain water rapidly filled the cockpits and fuselage cavities causing the heavier than usual craft to crash land in the mountains.
During WW I, the 1st Aero Squadron ( and other units ) flew in combat and weapons were added to their original role of "surveillance". Early photos will show some of these aircraft with their squadron insignia of the time painted on their side: a fluttering American flag. After WW I however, the squadron adopted a new insignia patch: a caveman ( signifying the beginning of Army aviation ), shielding his eyes with one hand as he peered into the distance ( signifying "observation" ), armed with a spear held in his other hand ( signifying the armed reconnaissance role ) and standing in front of four rising sun rays ( representing the four major WWI campaigns the squadron participated in ) and all surrounded by a ring containing 13 black Iron Crosses ( signifying the 13 "kills" recorded by the squadron in WW I.
Note: The Air Force has kept this squadron "alive" and for many years in the 1950's and early 1960's it was the 1st Bomb Squadron in the 9th Bomb Wing and flying B-47E Bombers out of Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. When in 1966, the B-47's there were phased out of active duty inventory ( and ferried to the Davis-Monthan AFB "Bone Yard" ), the USAF transferred the unit numbers to the SR-71 program at Beale AFB, Ca; the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing containing the 1st and 99th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadrons. With the retirement of the SR-71's, the unit numbers were transferred to the U-2 Squadrons already there at Beale AFB. Thus, what the Army Air Corps started in 1913 with "Surveillance Aircraft" is alive and well today with it's inventory of U-2's.
Cameras and surveillance sensors have been put on so many aircraft over the years that a site like this one can only highlight significant events and vehicles. Many good examples are already listed here. Some "nits and grits" include:
1. The U-2 was a covert development, and flown covertly, but was not stealthy in it's operations and is still flying today ( minor correction ).
2. The B-57 mentioned had a follow-on model with a much larger wing allowing flights at U-2 altitudes and has been used for years in weather and surveillance reconnaissance ( easy to find with a web search ).
3. RF-101's complemented the U-2 missile discoveries in Cuba and flew many low level sorties producing highly detailed pictures of the missile installations, etc.
4. RB-36 aircraft were part of the early Cold War Surveillance aircraft. Web sites list how many and of what model types there were. I crewed on the RB-36F. The number one bomb bay was converted to a pressurized Photo Compartment with cameras, operators and a dark room. On a 24 hour training sortie, pictures would be taken of assigned areas and the film developed in flight to be off-loaded after landing as finished rolls of reconnaissance film ready for viewing. The 22 crew members also included Electronic Warfare and Radio Operators for Electronic "ferreting" of inflight detected signals and the aircraft were marked with three distinctive aft underbelly radomes and a porcupine array of stub antennas along the bottom sides of the entire fuselage.
5. RB-58. A Surveillance model was not produced, but test camera pods were developed and tested. When the Alaskan earthquake ( early 1960's, exact date not recalled ) struck, Federal reconnaissance requests caused the launch and successful usage of this high speed platform which rapidly flew to Alaska and quickly returned with the first clear pictures of the devastation that had occurred.
6. SR-71. Satellite capabilities did enter decisions made on the Blackbird's final retirement, as well as maintenance costs and political battles fought out of the public eye view. Stealthy, high altitude, long endurance, unmanned surveillance alternatives were studied and planned. But, with the budget battles caused by shrinking budgets following the end of the Cold War, many programs just stopped and disappeared.
7. Finally, I'll add a comment pertaining to the Surveillance aircraft future that a User might wish to develop: Time on station, listening, seeing and reporting via new "netcentric" links are critical components of today's Surveillance aircraft with "time on station" driving many Unmanned Air Vehicle ( UAV ) requirements. In the past, a bold, high speed overpass taking revealing pictures was often a primary design goal. Now, the ability to listen and hear ( telephone, radio, etc. ) conversations over long periods of time, plus witnessing, recording and documenting where moving targets are shifting are key Surveillance needs. I suspect that future Surveillance aircraft ( manned or unmanned ) will be design driven by these needs.
Overall, an interesting Wikipedia site which offers much opportunity to hone and broaden. I wish good luck to those that undertake this serious task.
David Dempster 06:28, 27 September 2005 (UTC)
- Thank you for your many interesting and informative suggestions. Amongst other things, the whole topic of WWI reconnaisance aircraft deserves a far better treatment than we give it here. In fact, ultimately we should probably branch out and do "aerial surveillance in WWI" and "aerial surveillance in WWII" stand-alone articles, because there is much of interest to say to say about both topics. --Robert Merkel 01:17, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
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A (ugly) merge tag has been slapped on this article with no explanation of why a merge should happen. The article explains that surveillance (typically performed by slow aircraft) and recce (typically performed by fast aircraft) are different. See also the requested move discussion above. If there are no objections I'll remove the tag. DexDor (talk) 20:53, 8 May 2012 (UTC)
The first thing you in an article should be to tell the reader what you're going to tell the reader. WTF IS a "surveillance aircraft"?? Well, I can tell you: based on this article they are aircraft that do reconnaissance - slow moving and (relatively) low flying. what rubbish. The authors also seem unable to address objections raised by their bass-ackwards distinction between surveilance and reconnaissance. According to the Oxford Shorter English Dictionary, reconnaissance is tactical (precedes military operations) while surveillance is spying. I also note that a very long comment by "David Dempster" is original research and not particularly useful, except as suggestions for areas where valid citations should be located. I also note he wrote as if we should recogize his name/authority(??); that is, without giving himself and his comments context (which would be useful if he actually IS an authority...) If someone can find an authoritative reference that justifies the use of the term surveillance aircraft ONLY for reconnaissance, then at least the position this article takes is "justifiable" (even if still incorrect). I have no dogs in that fight. I came to this article by redirect from "Spy plane". SO, my MAJOR complaint is that a "surveillance aircraft" based on the definition given here is NOT a "spy plane" - the redirect needs to be point to Reconnaissance aircraft. And please note that that term is equally 'wrong', the spy planes are SURVEILLANCE aircraft. I don't understand why they are mixed up, apparently the authors are not as familiar as they should be with English -- I'm not saying the TERMS' meanings are wrong, but if they are correct, then it should be obvious to any semi-literate that an explanation of why the meaning of the terms are exactly opposite what they are naturally expected to be should be up-front, probably in the lede. I also note that this article is pathetically out of date, the use of unmanned drones for both agricultural use and for cinematic use has exploded in the last several years, no mention of that occurs here. Just my two cents.188.8.131.52 (talk) 14:32, 26 July 2014 (UTC)