My inspiration for building scale models of BIG RIGS comes from my experience operating them during my tenure in the US Air Force. Some might ask why does the Air Force need semi tractors and trailers for? Well, these tractors and their operators had several critical duties to meet the mission of the USAF. Some hauled bombs from the Weapon Storage Area to those aircraft waiting for them. When you are filling a B-52, it takes a lot of bombs and the vehicle used to haul them in quantity needed to be big and powerful.

Pictured above is a fellow Airman securing a load of ammo cans used to transport the 30mm rounds used in the A-10 Warthog. This picture was taken at Suwon AB, ROK cira 1984. In those days all of the spent casings was recycled, placed back into the containers which it arrived in and shipped back to the USA. Today, from what I understand this is no longer done. These containers with live ammo were HEAVY so they required a stout trailer and a 10 ton tractor to pull it. Our GMC Astro 95 Slim Cab saw lots of use on and off base. It and the other tractors we operated were anything but luxurious as those rigs on the highways today.

Semi’s are used to haul components of Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles to their silos scattered across the missile complex surrounding those bases which had such a mission. Some drive specialized tractor trailers designed specifically to haul the ICBM missile body to and from the silo. Others haul specialized displays used for recruiting. If there is a mishap, you’ll see BIG RIGs used by the USAF to haul recovery equipment to the scene. There are lots of necessary missions for such vehicles.

During my tenure I hauled a little of everything including but not limited to building supplies, vehicles,  ammo, explosives, foodstuffs, aircraft pieces/parts and even the US Mail. I once hauled an entire load of toilet paper to a US Army outpost close to the DMZ in South Korea! The scariest…hauling unstable Class A Explosives from Suwon to Osan…Korean War surplus air to ground rockets which weren’t in the greatest of conditions…even the munitions personnel seemed to disappear during loading and unloading. GULP!

One of my most memorable trips was to haul a vehicle up to Glacier National Park in Montana then return with another! Talk about a view out my office window! The purpose for the vehicle wasn’t glamorous, in fact the surplus R-9 Refueler was being deployed as a portable septic tank at the Malmstrom AFB Campgrounds just outside the park. I back hauled an empty dump truck. :0/

Shortly, the next episode of The Plastic Scale Modeling Hour will be available for your listening pleasure. Tim Ahlborn of Tim’s Trucks joins me to discuss scale modeling of BIG RIGS! I hope you enjoy the show!


  1. Hi Gerald,
    I stumbled upon your big rigs by accident while looking for articles on the R-5 refueler.
    I drove these for most of my Air Force enlistment both at Homestead AFB in south Florida and at Hahn AB, Germany. I was in the AF from 4/71 to 4/75. They had a v6 engine with the automatic transmission. They were used mostly on the flighline with very few off base uses. I took one from Homestead to Ft. Lauderdale so the Navy could use and it came back in bad shape. During my time at Hahn I was sent to Bitburg to pickup 3500 gallons of a better grade of jet fuel to mix with oil as a corrosion preventative during some modifications to the F-4 fuel system. We were in the mountains so it was 10mph up hill and going like blazes down hill.
    I was called out to stop a tank leak after one of our R-5s was rolled. The driver was going to fast for the turn and the fuel skidding. He survived but left Hahn very quickly. The truck was a 66 model and a good runner before going to the scrap lot.
    Anyway thanks for your article on big rigs and pics. Take care. Roger

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