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Traveling Around - Ft. Walton Beach, FL - Air Force Armament Museum
The General Location
Ft. Walton Beach is located on the Gulf of Mexico and is surrounded with towns that have popped up over the years to house the military personnel associated with the Air Force. North of Ft. Walton Beach and its suburbs is Eglin Air Force Base. Established in 1931, the base has grown to encompass just over 1/2 million acres. There are 10 airport fields at the base and munitions testing is currently done on site. However, much of that testing is simulated on computers at the base.
On the southern edge of Eglin AFB is the museum. It is reached by travelling on US Highway 85 and is very close to the north side of Shalimar, FL (which is one of the Ft. Walton Beach suburbs) about 7 miles north of Ft. Walton Beach.
Outdoor Aircraft Display
In the above photo, the highway is to the right that leads north and south past the museum. The museum proper is visible on the left. Most of the picture is taken up by the outside display which circles the museum. There are some 30 planes on display at the museum which includes the fastest plane ever built, the SR-71 Blackbird, and it is flanked by numerous planes from World War II, Korean, Vietnam, and Gulf War times. A map of the outside area is available online at Air Force Museum Map.
Inside The Museum
The museum is arranged with exhibits around the outer circumference and the center floor filled with large aircraft. To the left of the entryway is a gift shop and restrooms are also located in the area.
The first exhibit area on the outside wall is a long, narrow room that is devoted to smaller weaponry. There is a major exhibit of hand weapons used by the military and this segues into major aircraft weaponry. There are several hundred weapons displayed.
The main exhibit area has planes galore (both small and large) as well as the weapons installed on those planes and weapons used in other types of military combat.
A large portion of the central display area is taken up by the F-105D pictured here. There are several smaller displays associated with it such as a napalm fire bomb and several missiles as well as a mannequin suited up as a pilot would be.
The eastern wall of the museum is devoted to another small narrow display room that contains an aircraft control room. To the lay person it is inconceivable that anyone could understand anything that is happening in an aircraft based on the lights and switches available to these trained operators.
Next to the Control Room Display is the showing of a 35 minute film. It traces the history of arming aircraft from the early days of World War II to the current times. It was surprising to me that as early as the late 1940's, the Air Force was using drones to test the atmosphere above nuclear bomb tests in the Pacific and even used a drone on a test flight from Eglin AFB to Washington, DC. The film runs continuously during the museum hours.
Also in this area are two trainer aircraft which are hands on exhibits and patrons are encouraged to sit in them and experience the sights which greet the pilots in performance of their duties.
There is a balcony that extends around the sides of the museum above the museum floor. It can be seen in the picture of the F-105 plane. This continuous exhibit traces the history of flight design and actuality from the time of drawings by Leonardo Da Vinci thru the modern aspects of flight.
We spent about 1 1/2 hours at the museum this time. It is our third visit to the museum and it seems that something is constantly being revised or added. There is no entry fee and the hours are convenient. There is a good website with lots of information at Air Force Armament Museum Website.