Flying with the legendary ‘Bloody Hundredth’ Part 1
The history of the 100th ARW stretches back to World War 2 with the eighth army air force, when they flew the Boeing B-17F and B-17G Flying Fortress aircraft and were designated the 100th Bombardment Group (BG). The 100th BG were based at Thorpe Abbots, Norfolk where they took on the great risk of bombing enemy targets deep in to the heart of Germany. On the 100th BG’s first mission over Germany the group lost three of it’s B-17’s, which resulted in the loss of thirty men. The unit didn’t have the highest overall loss rate in the USAAF but they did experience heavy losses. One mission on the 6th March 1944 proved to be one of the deadliest with the loss of fifteen aircraft over Berlin.
The mission on the 6th March 1944 and the other losses that the unit suffered during the war resulted in the unit getting its nickname ‘The Bloody Hundredth’. The unit flew 306 combat missions and destroyed 291.5 enemy aircraft. After all their combat missions the 100th BG also flew six humanitarian missions at the end of hostilities, which had the name of ‘Operation Chowhound’ where they dropped parcels full of food to hungry Dutch citizens.
The 100th ARW currently operates a fleet of Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker’s but during the Second World War the 100th Bombardment Group (Heavy) operated the Boeing B-17F & B-17G Flying Fortress powered by four Wright R-1820-97 turbo-supercharged radial engines capable of 1200 hp each, The B-17F was a heavily armed aircraft, armed with eleven .50 cal machine guns and a capable bomb load of 8,000 pounds, although B-17G was equipped with twelve .50 cal machine guns. The B-17 proved that it was quite a tough aircraft after photos depict various B-17’s coming back from missions with quite significant damage, one aircraft in particular was noted landing with parts of the tail, wings and rear stabilisers missing and on only one working engine, so this really shows how much of a beating the aircraft could take.
One B-17F and its crew in particular has quite recently come to light after the 100th ARW re-marked one of their KC-135R’s after the crew of Robert H. Wolff and his B-17F 42-30061 LD-Q ‘Wolff Pack’ named after him and his crew, unfortunately his B-17 never got the Wolff Pack nose art applied after sustaining damage and having to land in Africa, whilst the plane landed and stayed for maintenance Robert Wolff returned to the UK to continue missions with his squadron mates, but unfortunately after 7 1/2 missions on the 16th September 1943 he was shot down in aircraft 42-30064 ‘Wild Cargo’ and spent 19+ months as a Prisoner of War (POW). The 100th ARW currently honours ‘Wolff Pack’ and her crew by having KC-135R Stratotanker 63-8884 sport the nose art, before 63-8884 the Wolff Pack nose art was worn by 58-0001 but this aircraft returned to the United States and so the honour was given to 63-8884.
The 100th ARW now operates the Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker this aircraft is a derivative of the Dash 367-80 or “Dash-80” as it was also known; the first KC-135 variants were the KC-135A and KC-135Q these were powered by four Pratt-Whitney J-57-P-59W turbojet engines which produced 10,000 Ibf of dry thrust and around 13,000 Ibf of wet thrust this is achieved by injecting 2500 L of water into the engines before take-off this takes about 2 and a half minutes to achieve, this allows a second set of fuel injectors to activate without melting the turbine blades which in turn increases thrust. The main difference of the A model to the Q model was that they looked pretty much identical but the Q model was tasked with refuelling the SR-71A Blackbird, the Q models were converted to carry the special JP-7 fuel that the blackbird needed.
The second KC-135 tanker variant was the KC-135E these aircraft were powered by Pratt & Whitney TF-33-PW-102’s which gave the tanker a 14% fuel efficiency rate and now most of these have been modified to carry the CFM-56 or F-108 High bypass turbofan engines even the old KC-135Q’s now carry the CFM-56’s but are now designated KC-135T’s. Now externally there is very little difference between the KC-135R and the KC-135T only being that the KC-135T has a small clear window on the empennage of the aircraft this is where a remote-controlled search light is mounted, also positioned in the rear undercarriage well are two ground refuelling points where the ground crew are able to fuel the jets wing tanks and main body tanks separately, these are still in place from when they were Q models where the aircraft was able to carry the fuel for the blackbird separately from its own JP-8 or JP-4 fuel. Also the USAF (United States Air Force) operates eight KC-135R (R/T) aircraft these KC-135’s can give and receive fuel they are equipped with a refuelling hatch above the cockpit this allows these jets to stay on station and fuel the fight that bit longer than the standard KC-135R or KC-135T’s.