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F-105 Thunderchief Static Aircraft Display at AEDC

The static aircraft displayed outside the Main Gate and Gate 2 of Arnold Air Force Base hold a far greater significance than decorative purposes.

The displays symbolize the importance of the work performed across Arnold Engineering Development Complex, headquartered at Arnold AFB. Testing conducted within AEDC facilities played a role in either the development or advancement of each type of aircraft exhibited.

But there is a more substantial meaning behind the displays. Each serves to honor the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. They are dedicated to members of the U.S. military who gave their lives in service to the country.

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The displays are publicly accessible, and it’s not uncommon to see members of the community or other visitors stop for an up-close look at the aircraft. Many have likely taken the time to read the commemorative plaques installed in front of each to learn about those the displays honor.  However, others who catch a glimpse of the planes while passing by Arnold on Wattendorf Memorial Highway may be unaware of what the displays represent.

This is the second in a series of six stories focused on those to whom the displays are dedicated. Information on work performed at Arnold to field the safest and most effective version of each aircraft displayed will also be provided.

This feature focuses on the F-105 Thunderchief displayed at the Main Gate, dedicated in memory of Lt. Gen. Robert Bond during a Nov. 9, 1984, ceremony. The F-105 was the first static display to be dedicated at Arnold.

Joining Bond’s wife Betty and his daughter Pamela Bond Lunger in attending the ceremony was Lt. Gen. Bernard Randolph, who succeeded Bond as Air Force Systems Command vice commander. Randolph referred to Bond as a “special breed” and described him as someone who relished the challenge and opportunity to serve his country.

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“Underlying his qualities as an Airman and a leader was his personal commitment to the defense of our nation,” Randolph said. “In fact, he often talked about protecting and defending the United States as another man might talk about protecting his family. And these weren’t just words. He meant what he said and truly devoted his life to the noble duty of serving his fellow citizens. 

“This permanent display aircraft is a fitting tribute to the fighter pilot, the leader and the patriot that was Bobby Bond. May it serve as a lasting reminder of the man and the ideals that he represented during a long and distinguished career.”

The ceremony was held less than seven months after Bond’s death. He was killed on April 26, 1984, when the aircraft he was piloting crashed at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

Then-AEDC Commander Col. Philip Conran noted during the dedication that the F-105 was chosen to commemorate Bond because it was his favorite type of aircraft, adding that the growth of the F-105 as a leading U.S. air weapons system closely paralleled Bond’s career. As Conran pointed out, the story of the F-105 began in 1951, the same year Bond enlisted in the Air Force.

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“The F-105 was one of the first U.S. aircraft to be developed under the weapons systems concept and, while it was growing up, Gen. Bond was broadening his flying experience in the F-84, F-86 and F-100 aircraft,” Conran said during the ceremony. “Then, in the summer of 1958, the Air Force accepted delivery of the first production F-105B, and the transition from experimental aircraft to operations began.”

The F-105, a supersonic tactical fighter nicknamed the “Thud,” was deployed in May 1958. AEDC supported the aircraft program with air inlet tests and store separation testing.

Beginning in June 1954, tests were conducted at AEDC to determine the design and mass flow and pressure recovery characteristics through the supersonic range for an air inlet test. Inlet ducting tests for the F-105 were conducted at Arnold AFB in Tunnel E-1, the first major wind tunnel at AEDC to be placed in full operation. These tests made it possible for engineers to improve the design and increase the performance of the aircraft.

In 1968, Arnold engineers investigated the ability of the F-105 to launch or jettison various payloads of rockets, bombs and pods under combat conditions. The results of these tests, among some of the first of their kind to be conducted at Arnold, were in agreement with the limited data that were available from flight testing or other wind tunnel studies at the time.

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Wind tunnel tests were conducted in 1972 in a wind tunnel at Arnold to determine separation characteristics of a rocket launcher from the F-105. The tests involved the separation of full and empty rocket launcher models at high speeds and altitude. Data were obtained on six aircraft and weapons loading configurations with launcher releases from the wing and pylons of the F-105 model.

Bond was a command pilot with more than 5,000 flying hours, the majority of which were spent in tactical fighter aircraft. Decorations and awards he earned throughout his career include the Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, Air Medal with 11 oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award ribbon with four oak leaf clusters and several foreign decorations.

After a year in the aviation cadet program, Bond, born in 1929 in Trenton, Tenn., earned his pilot wings and commission in October 1952.  He completed advanced gunnery training at Nellis AFB and was assigned to the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing at the K-13 Airfield in South Korea. There, he flew more than 40 combat missions in the F-86 Sabre.

From 1954 to 1959, Bond was stationed at Alexandria Air Force Base, Louisiana. As a member of the 389th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 366th Tactical Fighter Wing, he participated in several nonstop deployments to Europe, flying the F-86, F-84 Thunderjet, and F-100 Super Sabre.

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From July 1958 to October of that year, Bond attended the U.S. Air Force Fighter Weapons School at Nellis AFB.

Following the deactivation of the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing in spring 1959, Bond returned to Nellis where he served as an instructor pilot in the Fighter Weapons School. He was a member of the 1960 Nellis Weapons Team and, in the fall of that year, transferred to the Training Research and Development Section of the Fighter Weapons School as an F-105 project test pilot.

Conran said Bond’s job as a test pilot was to evaluate the F-105 and to building experience and confidence in the then-unproven system.

“His first flight in an F-105 was on 1 November 1960, and his expertise was never more evident than when he became the first Air Force pilot to ‘dead stick’ the powerless aircraft to a successful landing,” Conran said. “The F-105 without power falls like a brick. That Gen. Bond was able to land the aircraft without incident was testimony to his outstanding airmanship.”

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In 1963, Bond was assigned to the 6002nd Standardization and Evaluation Group at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, and was chief of the Strike Branch. While stationed at Kadena, Bond flew F-105 combat missions in Southeast Asia. In two years, Bond compiled 599 combat hours flying in the F-105.

During the 1984 dedication ceremony at Arnold, Conran pointed out that the F-105 displayed at Arnold shared parallels with Bond’s career, as the aircraft that now honors Bond spent the better part of its life based in Okinawa before it was relocated to its permanent home in Tennessee.

Bond returned to the U.S. in 1965. He attended Air Command and Staff College from that year through 1966 and then joined the Directorate of Safety, Headquarters 1002nd Inspector General Group, Norton Air Force Base, California, as the F-105 and F-111 Aardvark project manager.

He returned to Southeast Asia after he was assigned in August 1968 to Cam Ranh Bay Air Force in the Republic of Vietnam. There, he flew 213 combat missions in the F-4 Phantom II. During this time, he also progressed from flight commander to operations officer.

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In July 1969, Bond was assigned to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona as an F-100 instructor. In July of the following year, he assumed command of the 310th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron. While stationed there, he progressed from squadron commander to director of operations for the 58th Tactical Fighter Training Wing.

Bond returned to England Air Force Base, formerly known as Alexandria AFB, as vice commander of the newly reorganized 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing. During this assignment, he served on temporary duty in Southeast Asia, flying the A-7 Corsair II in combat missions.

In June 1973, he became deputy director for general purpose forces at Air Force Headquarters in Washington, D.C. In this role, Bond worked to establish and validate operational requirements and system modifications for tactical fighter and airlift aircraft, including their associated weaponry and subsystems.

Five years later, Bond was assigned to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, as commander of the Armament Division within Air Force Systems Command at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland.

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In June 1981, Bond assumed the post of Air Force Systems Command vice commander. During the 1984 dedication ceremony, Conran said Bond made tremendous contributions to AEDC as a “leader and a friend.”

“One assignment was left for him to complete the cycle of developing, flight testing and operating aircraft, and that was realized when he became vice commander of the Air Force Systems Command in June 1981,” Conran said. “There, he helped direct the research, development, test and acquisition of future aerospace systems for the Air Force.

“This static aircraft display, dedicated to Gen. Bond, will serve as a reminder to all who visit [Arnold Air Force Base] that neither this man nor this machine will be forgotten.”

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