Cold War Aviation

After World War II ended, the United States and the Soviet Union began competing for primacy in a global struggle pitting democracy against communism. Tensions between the two superpowers led to such confrontations as the Berlin blockade, the downing of an American U-2 spy plane, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. "Hot" wars erupted in Korea and Vietnam.

Aerial reconnaissance played an important role in this struggle. To supersede its U-2 spy plane, Lockheed developed the top-secret, stealthy SR-71 Blackbird, the world's fastest jet-propelled aircraft, one of which is displayed here. The Cold War ended with the peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and relations between the former adversaries began to warm.


Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird
No reconnaissance aircraft in history has operated globally in more hostile airspace or with such complete impunity than the SR-71, the world's fastest jet-propelled aircraft. The Blackbird's performance and operational achievements placed it at the pinnacle of aviation technology developments during the Cold War.

More information: Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird

Bell H-13J at the Udvar-Hazy Center

Bell H-13J
On July 12, 1957, Dwight D. Eisenhower became the first President of the United States to fly in this helicopter. The occasion was a simulated nuclear alert staged to test how quickly the Chief Executive and other government officials could depart Washington, DC and reach a safe haven outside the city. During 1957, the Bell Helicopter Corporation modified a stock Bell H-13J helicopter to meet the President's special needs. Technicians added all-metal rotor blades, special arm and foot rests to the right seat, and a frame-less, Plexiglas nose bubble heavily tinted to reduce glare and heat. Eisenhower's personal helicopter pilot, United States Air Force Major Joseph E. Barrett, flew the rotorcraft from the center seat and a Secret Service agent occupied the left seat.

More information: Bell H-13J

Lockheed T-33A-5-LO Shooting Star

Lockheed T-33A-5-LO Shooting Star
Known to all as the T-Bird, the T-33 was the only jet trainer in the U.S. Air Force inventory from 1948 until 1957 when the Cessna T-37 Tweet took to the skies. The T-Bird served as an instrument trainer, utility aircraft, and test platform. The prototype first flew on March 22, 1948, piloted by acclaimed test pilot Tony LeVier. It handled much like the P-80C. It was officially designated T-33A on May 5, 1949.

The Museum's T-33A-5-LO, serial no. 53-5226N, was accepted by the USAF on September 16, 1954, and delivered to the DC Air National Guard at Andrews Air Force Base where it served until its transfer to the Museum on October 30, 1987. The Museum's aircraft has never been painted and has a highly polished natural metal finish. Used primarily as a training aircraft, all guns have been removed.

More information: Lockheed T-33A-5-LO Shooting Star