Special Sub-Topic: American Military Aircraft Nicknames
|Here's one that most aircraft enthusiasts know: the nickname for the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress. Boeing named it the Stratofortress in keeping with its "Fortress" tradition of naming its bombers that began in 1935 when a member of the press called the newly-unveiled B-17 "a flying fortress". With the dawn of jet power, Boeing started using "Strato" in the names of its planes. This began with the B-47 Stratojet to point out that this plane did most of its work in the stratosphere. "Stratofortress" was a natural merger of these two naming conventions. However, it did not catch on with the mechanics and aircrews. What somewhat-humorous name did?|
BUFF. "BUFF" is an acronym for Big Ugly Fat er, Fellow. "Stratofortress" is never heard at a BUFF base.
|Republic Aviation (later Fairchild) had a tradition of giving its planes names incorporating "Thunder". This began with the famous P-47 Thunderbolt of WWII. Although the A-10 is indeed a worthy successor to the P-47, the official nickname did not catch on when a more apt one began to be used almost immediately upon the plane's introduction to the Air Force. What endearing nickname is given to the A-10 Thunderbolt II?|
Warthog. A quick look at an A-10 will give you an idea of how this nickname came about. It even has "warts" on it in the form of radar warning receivers! One unit went "whole hog" with the idea and painted eyes, ears, and boar's tusks on the plane's nose!
|The Air Force did not like the name "Corsair II" for its version of the originally-for-the-Navy Vought A-7. What nickname did the Air Force eventually give to it? |
SLUF. Still stinging from its recent adoption of the Navy F-4 Phantom II, the Air Force refused to name the A-7 after a Navy plane so they left it without one. "SLUF" stands for Short Little Ugly er, Fellow.
|Although they are very different-looking planes and have decades between their service lives, the Grumman F-14 Tomcat and the Grumman/General Motors TBF/M Avenger both share a nickname derived from their appearance. What was it?|
Turkey. Both of these planes were called the Turkey for the same reason. When the pilots ( excuse me, aviators) of these planes did their control surface checks, the movement of the many large control surfaces at once reminded the deck crews of a turkey flexing its feathers.
|These next two questions cover a rivalry between the two main Air Force fighter communities. The official "Fighting Falcon" name for the Lockheed-Martin (nee General Dynamics) F-16 never caught on. Its pilots call it the "Viper" partly in homage to the fighters from the original Battlestar Galactica TV series that premiered at the time the F-16 entered service. What is the derisive name that F-15 pilots call the F-16?|
Lawn Dart. The Eagle drivers call it the Lawn Dart in reference to its early propensity to flame out and crash. By the end of the 1980s, the Air Force had lost enough F-16s to accidents to equip an entire fighter wing. The addition of the GE F-110 engine to the program and improvements to the original Pratt and Whitney F-100 rectified this situation but the nickname stuck.
|What is the put-down that F-16 pilots call the mighty Boeing (nee McDonnell Douglas) F-15 Eagle?|
Tennis Court. If the F-15's surface area were to be spread out flat in one place it would be equal to that of a tennis court. F-16 pilots use this nickname to indicate that an F-15 is much easier to see at a distance and its big size makes it less maneuverable in a turning fight. However, the F-15's awesome radar usually precludes the need for it to get into a turning fight!
|This one is a little bit tricky in that it eventually did become the plane's official name. But first, it flew for decades with what was only an unofficial nickname. I'm talking about the very-capable General Dynamics F-111. Remember, I am asking for its nickname in American service. What was it?|
Aardvark. The introduction of the F-111 was so mired in controversy that the Air Force was reluctant to give it an official name. Its long nose, built to house its multiple tracking and mapping radars, led to the Aarvark name being used. The general tasked with naming the -111 refused to adopt this and said that he would name no Air Force plane after an animal that dug holes in the ground. On the day of its official retirement it 1996, it was finally given "Aardvark" as its official nickname. By the way, Aussies call theirs the "Pig". They claim that it is a term of endearment.
|The beautiful, sleek, and very loud North American F-100 Super Sabre had an unofficial nickname given to it. What was it?|
Hun. This name supposedly came from the contraction of "100". It did have a reputation as a lieutenant eater, however. After an alarmingly high accident rate the Air Force contracted North American to build a two-seat trainer version, the F-100F. The danger of flying the jet was well illustrated by the fact that the Air Force lost over a quarter of these "F" models to accidents also!
|The often-overlooked Republic F/RF-84F Thunderflash series had nicknames deriding its less-than-stellar take-off performance. The modifications from its straight-winged predecessor to its intake inlet and sweep of its wings lengthened its take-off roll to become much longer than its early Cold-War stablemate, the North American F-86 Sabre. What was one of these nicknames for the ground-loving F/RF-84F? |
Hog or Ground Hog. In my dad's Air National Guard unit, the RF-84Fs were called "Hogs" for two reasons: one, the nose of the jet was turned up like a hog's for the forward-looking camera, and two, they used all of their long runway while taking off. There was a joke that suggested that a bag of dirt be placed on the nose gear for the pilot to let loose to trick the jet into thinking it had used all of its runway.
|The awesome and much-missed Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird had an unflattering nickname given to it by rival aircrews that shared a base with it. Its breathtaking appearance and over-the-top performance made any serious attempt to deride it irrelevant but what was this nickname?|
Sled. The U-2 pilots who shared Beale AFB with the SR-71 drivers called it the Sled in reference to its overall flat appearance. Could it have been "sour grapes" on the part of the U-2 drivers? This nickname stuck and one SR-71 pilot even titled his memoir "Sled Driver".
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