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Old 05-22-2017, 11:09 AM   #451
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Originally Posted by Wildblood View Post
Yeah the 'Bucc' was never one of my favourite aircraft growing up but it has grown on me over the years and I've ended up developing a grudging respect for it. It was certainly a very capable aircraft in it's day....even if it hit a few branches on the ugly tree!

I've not ruled out one reaching my collection at some point.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again!
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Old 05-24-2017, 09:56 AM   #452
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Lots of very nervous folks predict Russia and the USA will square off sooner or later (sooner than later), and that the outcome won’t be pretty. Two stealth fighters will go for each other’s throat, the F-22 Raptor and the Sukhoi PAK FA T-50, the only question being which will win.

Let’s first acknowledge that the F-22 and T-50 share many excellent characteristics: Both can supercruise (go supersonic without using afterburners) at over one and a half times the speed of sound—the Raptor faster than the PAK FA at Mach 1.8 compared to Mach 1.6. Both can operate at up to 65,000 feet, higher than the new F-35 Lightning. Both jets are agile: The F-22 Raptor is the most maneuverable fighter the U.S. has ever made, but the PAK FA is even more maneuverable. The PAK FA uses three-dimensional thrust-vector jets—its engine nozzles can literally tilt independently in any direction to assist it in executing maneuvers. The jets assist it in yaws as well as changing pitch and permit very high angles of attack—that is, when the nose of the plane is pointed in a different direction than the vector of the plane. The Raptor, in comparison, uses two-dimensional vector-thrust jets which can only go up and down in unison, affecting pitch only. Which is still awesome, considering the Raptor is the only U.S. fighter that supermaneuverable. But it’s not the PAK FA’s equal.

So why is maneuverability so critical in fighter combat? It can help a jet dodge missiles (useful in any scenario) and position itself in advantageous firing position for Within-Visual-Range (WVR) combat. Except, the most extreme maneuvers cost a lot of energy—and U.S. doctrine favors a high-energy state; the F-22 appears to bleed energy more slowly than its Russian counterpart. The bottom line being, the PAK T-50 has the edge.

Weapon’s wise, stealth fighters are still vulnerable to infrared guided missiles, and both aircraft can carry two. For quite some time, Russian aircraft have enjoyed short-range R-73 heat-seeking missiles linked to helmet-mounted sights: the pilot just has to look at an enemy plane to shoot at it (the plane doesn’t have to point at the target). But the United States finally deployed its own equivalent of the R-73, the AIM-9X; helmet-mounted sights should come by 2020. By the time PAK FAs are operational, the two planes should share roughly equivalent short-range missile capabilities. Bottom line: a draw.

But here’s the thing about WVR combat: You can get in close only if you first survive the Beyond Visual Range (BVR) encounter. The F-22 is a very stealthy fighter believed to have a radar cross-section of just .0001 meters. In contrast, the PAK-FA is a stealthy fighter, too, with a claimed cross-section as low as 0.1 meters from the front. The PAK-FA patent claims a maximum cross-section of 1 meter (those cool three-dimensional thrust vector nozzles in the back have a way of calling attention to themselves). Which may not be a tremendous limitation if the PAK-FA fights defensive engagements from the edge of their radar net, though it’s far less ideal for penetrating deeply into hostile radar coverage. That may be of less concern for Russia—but it does mean that the PAK-FA will remain more detectable than the F-22. Bottom line: The F-22 Raptor holds the edge.

In other BVR capabilities, the two designs are more evenly matched. The F-22 and the PAK-FA both have Active Electronically Scanned Array radars (once the N036 Byelka AESA radar completes its development). AESA radars are stealthier, are more resistant to jamming, and boast higher fidelity. The F-22 and PAK FA will be able to detect each other as they close within fifty kilometers, but which one will ping the other first is debatable. The T-50 does boast a modern Infra-Red Search and Track (IRST) system with a maximum fifty-kilometer detection range. The F-22 currently has none but will receive one by 2020. However, the F-22’s engines nozzles are designed to reduce heat signature, diminishing detection range, while the PAK-FA’s engines are indiscrete. In any event, the IRST can’t target other aircraft; it merely provides a general idea of position.

The T-50 also has its own L-Band radars in the wings theoretically able to determine the whereabouts of stealth fighters. However, their range is fairly limited and lack precision to lock on weapons. Unlike the IRST, they will render the T-50 highly observable on radar when activated. Bottom line: A draw, roughly.

If U.S. Air Force exercises pitting Raptors against F-15s and F-16s reveal anything, long-range missiles will ravage Fourth Generation fighters at distances opposing jets can’t detect or respond to. But when stealth fighters clash, the maximum applicable range will be a lot shorter. Both planes feature deadly long-range radar-guided missiles comparable in effectiveness. Russia boasts of its cutting-edge K-77M missile with a reported range of two hundred kilometers; the United States has its AIM-120D Scorpion with a range of one hundred sixty (which looks like a mismatch, except the greater range of the K-77M offers no advantage against a low-observable stealth fighter). Superior ramjet-powered missiles such as the Meteor and PL-15 are already being fielded, but it isn’t clear if either the F-22 or PAK FA will receive them. The F-22 can carry six AIM-120s in its internal bays, the PAK-FA four. This gives the American a modest edge, as future aerial clashes are likely to involve a lot of missiles where the more launched, the higher the kill ratio. Bottom line: The Raptor has a slight edge.

Lastly, many experts are skeptical that the PAK FA will field fifth-generation avionics and networking technology found in the latest U.S. fighters. Intriguingly, networking with a sufficiently powerful low-band AESA radar, such as that on an E-2D AWACs plane, might allow radar-guided missiles to target stealth fighters. But F-22 datalinks are also outdated, slated for upgrade. Operationally, F-22s will work in concert with an extensive network of supporting sensors and electronic warfare platforms, both at sea and in the air. There is even talk of using stealth fighters to cue potential targets to be hit by super long-range missiles launched from B-52 “arsenal planes.” In contrast, Russian analysts insist that ground-based low-bandwidth radars and long-range surface-to-air missiles such as the S-400 are a sure solution against stealth fighters. These tie the T-50 into operating closer to ground-based positions, which may be acceptable given Russia’s security posture. Bottom line: The F-22 wins here. History shows that the side that shoots first usually wins, and the stealthier F-22 seems more likely to do so even in a head-on approach.

So who would win in a gut-bustin’, balls-out slug fest? Frankly, I have no idea. Jets are no better than their pilots, and both nations field top-notch professionals. Both jets are first-string players that will do their absolute, wicked best to eviscerate the other. So it’s pure conjecture, despite patriotic, chauvinistic bluster, which one will survive. Personally, I pray the Raptor kicks the Ruskies’ butts.



I like this model. AirForce 1, for all its annoying, eccentric design and production boo-boos, produced a great little replica. The paint job sucks, frankly, AF1 technicians having raised overspray to an art, not to mention the model's main struts are overlong. But mostly the warbird competently represents what will no doubt become a huge pain in NATO’s badonkadonk. If you’re into Russian aircraft/weaponry, by all means find one of these and buy it.





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Old 05-24-2017, 08:34 PM   #453
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Three weeks before Christmas, 1945, five TBM Avengers (Flight 19) took off for an afternoon training flight (dubbed "Navigation Problem #1") from the Naval Air Station at Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The group was tasked with flying a large triangular route east to a point south of Grand Bahama island, north from there to another coordinate, then southwest back to Fort Lauderdale. Halfway through the first leg, they were to drop practice bombs on the Hen and Chicken Shoals and continue their 316 mile circuit. Fourteen men participated; Instructor Lieutenant Charles Taylor led the group.

All went well until the planes made their first turn north, at which time Taylor became disoriented, thinking himself lost. A swelter of conflicting location and direction reports followed until Taylor made a final transmission to bass at 6:20 pm, reporting, “All planes close up tight ... We'll have to ditch unless landfall. When the first plane drops below 10 gallons, we all go down together.” And that was the last anybody heard from Flight 19.

By then, other Navy planes were heading for the group's last reported position, three times farther north than expected and nowhere near the Florida coast. Within two hours, two PBM Mariner flying boats had joined the search, thirteen men crewing each plane. Inexplicably, one exploded in flight, witnessed by crew and passengers aboard the commercial ship S.S. Gaines Mills. No wreckage or flotsam was found. Which begs the question: What the heck happened to Flight 19? How could five hefty Navy bombers simply vanish into thin air? Waterspouts got ‘em? Cantankerous UFOs sucked them out of the air? The fiendish Bermuda Triangle itself pulled one of its hat tricks?

Probably not. I've come to learn that Charles Berlitz, author of the book Bermuda Triangle, proposed many harebrained theories explaining how and why ships and planes vanish in the area, including Flight 19. Which is fine for fiction lovers, but far too many folks accepted Berlitz's theories as gospel truth though his notions have never been (or likely ever will be) observed in the real world. Fortunately, we possess transcripts of Flight 19 radio conversations, which prove Taylor suffered from brain freeze over Grand Bahama, whereupon one of his students radioed: “I don't know where we are. We must have got lost after that last turn. The Skipper doesn't know what he's doing!”

Senior flight instructor Lt. Robert Cox, who was just leading his own student pilot group from Fort Lauderdale on the same route, overheard this conversation and radioed Taylor directly. Taylor responded: “Both my compasses are out, and I am trying to find Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I am over land but it's broken. I am sure I'm in the Keys, but I don't know how far down, and I don't know how to get to Fort Lauderdale.” Lt. Cox then offered to intercept him and lead him back, but Taylor declined, thus committing his second mistake, saying, “I know where I am now. I'm at 2300 feet. Don't come after me.”

In retrospect, the instructor's error was dumbfounding: Having just dropped their bombs on the correct map grid, Taylor nonsensically (and stupidly) believed his group was somehow 300 plus kilometers to the southwest of their true position. Which made little sense since Taylor was well familiar with the Keys. That, and every Navy pilot, instructor, and student stationed in Florida knew that when you got lost over the Atlantic you headed 270 degrees due west until you hit land, an infallible procedure. Even if Taylor had suffered from brain fugue, at least one of his students would have remembered the drill; and indeed one did. At one point Taylor radioed: “One of the planes in the flight thinks if we went 270 degrees we could hit land.” But he was still convinced his group was flying over the Gulf of Mexico. Taylor then said: “We are heading 030 degrees [north-northeast] for 45 minutes, then we will fly north to make sure we are not over the Gulf of Mexico.”

The base instructed Taylor to switch his radio to the search and rescue frequency, but he outright refused, committing his third mistake. He rationalized: “I cannot switch frequencies. I must keep my planes intact.” Then as late as 6:00 pm, Taylor radioed: “We didn't go far enough east. We may as well just turn around and go east again.” This in the face of his students who were screaming, “Dammit, if we could just fly west we would get home; head west, dammit.”

Ignoring their pleas, Taylor insisted they were over the Florida Keys and ordered his boys to fly east—driving them farther out to sea. Ever disciplined, they followed their instructor into oblivion.

The Board of Investigation issued a statement that Bermuda Triangle theorizers deem holy writ, which was: "We are not able to even make a good guess as to what happened." From this, enthusiasts posited that the Board was clueless about what happened, which invites all manner of competing, oddball theories; or the Board knew exactly what happened and is complicit in a UFO (or other) cover-up. Which is truly amusing, considering, but it's more likely the truth lies elsewhere: According to Board members, Taylor led his students out to sea where they ran dry of gas and ditched, likely somewhere near the Bahamas. The seas were high and rough, and the Avenger was a weighty plane. That no wreckage was found surprises no one.

Larry Kusche, who wrote the authoritative 1980 book The Disappearance of Flight 19, discovered that Charles Berlitz invented radio messages to support his narrative that Fight 19 had experienced baffling equipment failures and frightful meteorological conditions. At the same time, Kusche investigated Charles Taylor, who, at 28, had a history of reckless mistakes: Flying combat in the Pacific, Taylor got lost twice and ditched both times. Also, on the day Flight 19 took wing, he showed up 25 minutes after the group was scheduled to leave, offering no explanation for his tardiness while requesting someone else take his place. Along with this, Taylor forgot to bring his watch and navigational plotting board, too, which makes one wonder if the man was sozzled, too drunk to fly (or lead, for that matter) but adept at hiding his inebriation. We’ll never know, but the bottom line is, Taylor was unprepared, unprofessional, and essentially unqualified given his conspicuous ineptness.

Or in other words, extraterrestrials, time vortexes, or psycho rips in space time likely didn’t devour Flight 19. It was much more the fault of a floundering, derisory, hopeless instructor who couldn’t find his butt with both hands. Thirteen student pilots died because of it.



I love Hobby Master Avengers, especially those with mono, deep-blue finishes. Not much to say except this model comes as close to diecast perfection and indisputable beauty as possible. If you're into historical WWII USN birds, this one's a must-have.

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Old 05-24-2017, 11:05 PM   #454
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excellent write-ups (as usual) from monsieur richtofen. the piece that caught my eye was about the pak fa. i've always wondered (and still do) as to why the us decided to do away with the awesome raptors and embark on that comedy of errors called the lightning2. the pakfa is only now coming to fruition whereas the raptor is serving out their time waiting for retirement. i wonder what the head on stats between the pakfa and lightning2 will look like.
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Old 05-25-2017, 12:47 PM   #455
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Thank you, tomcatter. Appreciate your encouragement.

I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I am a keen observer; and from what I see, the F-35 is chiefly a triumph of hype over reality. I’m sure the jet will perform ably within some mission parameters; but it won’t survive long against the likes of the PAK FA, not if it goes head-to-head with it.

One fault nations have paid for dearly through the millennia was and is to underestimate the enemy. In today’s world, the USA and her Allies have desperately miscalculated Russia’s strength, technological genius, and resolve to win. It wasn’t England and America and Canada that finally beat Nazi Germany: It was Russia. No question, the West contributed to the Reich’s demise, but Russia beat back Hitler’s colossus on its own terms in mammoth proportions: It lost the most men, the most tanks, the most planes. It rose from being totally inept in the field to becoming an overwhelming, crushing military leviathan. The Russian mindset toward waging war was and is enviably smart: Produce reliable weapons, make them cheap, make them easy to service, and make a lot of ‘em. And most importantly, keep fighting even at the loss of impossible numbers until you win. And they did. And they will today. Unless …

The West pulls its collective head out of its butt and makes necessary changes in a big hurry. The F-35 will acquit itself reasonably well, but in end it’ll fall before the superior PAK FA. And won’t the rest of us shake our heads and wonder at how stupid we were for fielding a ridiculously extortionate jet that couldn’t hold a candle to sensible, functional Russian military weaponry.
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Old 05-25-2017, 04:38 PM   #456
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Kelly Johnson, designer of the F-104 Starfighter, took the newish General Electric J79 engine, wrapped a token aerodynamic airframe around it, pasted a pair of razor-thin wings to the metal tube, and called it good. And that, my friends, is how "missile with a man in it" was born, "The Zipper," so called because it zipped through the air like a rocket. Starfighter pilots had other, shall we say, less gracious names for it, too.

On paper, the Starfighter was a winner: It was mostly a day, clear-weather fighter (hamstrung with a weak radar and no radar-guided missiles), unrivaled in speed but for the English Electric Lightning, with excellent cockpit visibility compared to warbirds like the F-106 or F-4. It was relatively easy to fly (but for some hazardous flight regimes) and carried two heat seeking missiles plus a 20mm cannon (gun armament other US fighters had shunned). Plus it tickled the USAF brass all to pieces, who got all giggly over pointy-nosed Mach-2 fighter jets able to shoot down belligerent aircraft. What wasn’t to like?

Everything about the aircraft was optimized to reduce drag at supersonic speeds, its lean wings barely thick enough to accommodate hydraulic actuators for flight control, everything else crammed into the willowy fuselage. No two ways about it, this polished beast looked hotter than a motorcycle mamma wearing shimmery nose rings. And if it weren’t for two minor, niggling concerns, the F-104 would have become king of the hill: One, it could and absolutely would kill you given a chance; the second, it couldn’t turn for its life, offering up a plump, ripened target.

Single engined fighters are intrinsically dangerous, but the F-104 was in a league of its own. Mach 2 aircraft design advanced speedily in the ‘50s, often eclipsing aeronautical know-how that spurred engineers into trying new, revolutionary designs. This was certainly true in the Starfighter’s case with its stubby, paper-thin wings; but such novelty came with a price: The jet’s wings generated little lift, which rendered takeoff and landing problematic. The faster the speed, the more the lift; but high speeds were the kiss of death (literally) on approach. So to reduce speed from raging crazy to simply insane, the F-104 used "boundary layer control," sometimes called "blown flaps." A duct channeled engine air across the flaps so that air flowed smoothly over the wings and flaps without turbulence, thus decreasing stall speed, allowing the jet to slow. It demanded a power-on approach to keep the bleed air going, which was fine so long as the pilot didn’t chop the power, in which case he dropped like an anvil. Or just as lethal, if one wing didn’t blow, over he’d go. Even with the blown flaps, approach speeds reached 190 knots, 20 knots faster than a no-flap approach in a T-38. To slow the ship on touchdown, a drag chute deployed, which frequently failed to slow the jet quickly enough. Takeoffs and landings were cause for mighty prayer.

Too, aircraft with very short wingspans are vulnerable to "inertia coupling," a fault encountered at high roll rates where the plane yaws and pitches violently. To offset that, Lockheed engineers mounted the Starfighter's horizontal stabilizer high up on the tail. Which worked fine, except at steep angles of attack, the fuselage often “blanked out” the T-tail, triggering a violent pitch-up and stall (a problem the F-101 faced, too). To warn the pilot that his F-104 was approaching this limit, the stick would shake similar to those in airliners; and if he ignored the "shaker," he got the "kicker," which would forcibly shove the stick forward. Easy-peasy, except that boob pilots often overrode the kicker, whereupon they swiftly became smoking holes in the earth.

The Starfighter also got "draggy" at high angles of attack. This was common among supersonic aircraft but especially so on the F-104. At slow speeds, the tiny wings worked so hard to generate lift that they produced a tremendous amount of induced drag. This put pilots into what's called the "region of reverse command": The slower they went, the more thrust they needed to break even; fly too slow and they dropped like a brick long before they actually stalled the wing. Thankfully, Lockheed included ejection seats as a quick-fix. But the early seats couldn't clear the F-104's lanky tail, so Lockheed installed a downward ejection seat (best described as a reverse ballistic missile). It worked about as well as it sounds; but once perfected, upward ejection seats improved survival slightly. By now the Starfighter had gained the dubious distinction as a "widow maker."

Service wise, the Starfighter left something to be desired. In Vietnam, a Shenyang J-6 (MiG 19) shot down an F-104 when it strayed into Chinese airspace. Two more Starfighters collided with each other while searching for the downed Starfighter. While performing Close Air Support, two more bit the dust, ill-suited for the task (the F-104 was much too fast and couldn’t carry much air-to-ground ordnance). SAMs and AAA shot down and extra five; four others simply crashed.

Fewer than 300 Starfighters served in the USAF and were eventually fobbed off to the Air National Guard in 1969, who retired it by 1975. To keep the cash rolling in, Lockheed bribed politicians of other countries to buy the F-104 for their Air Forces! From Ben Rich, director of Lockheed's "Skunk Works" …
“Lockheed executives admitted paying millions in bribes over more than a decade to the Dutch, to key Japanese and West German politicians, to Italian officials and generals, and to other highly placed figures from Hong Kong to Saudi Arabia, in order to get them to buy our airplanes. Kelly Johnson was so sickened by these revelations that he had almost quit, even though the top Lockheed management implicated in the scandal resigned in disgrace.”
Did it work? Lockheed sold over 2000 Starfighters to other countries including Japan, West Germany and the Netherlands. Canada and Turkey didn't even need to be bribed: The Canadians wanted something to defend their airspace after the Avro Arrow bit the dirt and purchased both F-101s and F-104s.

Soon after, these nations noticed that their new jets crashed a lot. West Germany experienced a particularly high loss rate, partly from deploying the F-104 as a low-level strike aircraft. The West Germans lost about 30% of their F-104s over the years, killing 110 pilots in all. German nicknames for the aircraft included "Flying Coffin," "Widowmaker," and "Ground Nail (Tent Peg)." If you wanted an F-104, the joke went, just buy a piece of land and wait. Not to be outdone, Canada lost 110 of their 235 CF-104s. The RCAF called it the "Lawn Dart" or "Aluminum Death Tube." In the end, the RCAF lost almost half their Starfighters to accidents.

So no, the F-104 wasn’t a sterling success, probably not even a mediocre success. I do know it was shiny, pointy, and loud—especially when it crashed.



Boy, I’ll tell ya what … if you don’t own a German or Canadian Starfighter, you’re truly missing something. On looks alone, the Luftwaffe Jabog 31 “Boelcke” F-104G is an absolutely exquisite model that you’d be insane not to want. It’s all but impossible to find, but to have it is to experience eternal, heavenly bliss. Really, it’s just crazy good. Barring that, track down the Canadian equivalent featuring white wings, which is just as handsome.


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Old 05-25-2017, 05:20 PM   #457
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As Hiter romped across Europe, kicking Poland and France in the teeth, the British Royal Air Force looked to swiftly build its fighter strength. In April 1940, the British Air Purchasing Commission approached North American Aviation to construct Curtiss P-40's for the RAF. Which its president, James H. “Dutch” Kendelberger, was only too happy to oblige, except that the P-40 was a 1933 design, and he was certain NA could build a balls-out better fighter using the same Allison V-1710-39 engine. The British agreed on the new type with the stipulation that a prototype be readied within 120 days. North American designers Raymond Rice and Edgar Schmued, the latter having worked for Fokker and Messerschmitt in 1925, hit their drafting boards straightaway and rolled out a prototype 117 days later sans the engine with wheels borrowed from an AT-6 trainer. Six weeks later, the aircraft flew on October 26, 1940, with Vance Breese at the controls, who reached 382 mph, exceeding the P-40's top speed by 25 mph. The P-51 proved itself an instant success, even outperforming the Spitfire.

The P-51 featured a unique laminar flow wing design (which made a gargantuan difference), developed by the US National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). Contemporary aircraft wings presented a wing cross-section with maximum thickness about a fifth of the way across the wing from the leading edge with most of the camber on top. In contrast, the laminar flow wing’s maximum thickness lay well aft the leading edge and featured nearly as much camber on top as on the bottom. This element reduced turbulent flow across the wing and eased drag, thereby boosting speed and range. A ventral radiator positioned beneath the rear of the fuselage also reduced drag by presenting the smallest possible fuselage cross section.

The British Purchasing Commission drooled over the plane and straight off signed a production order for 320 Mustang Is, later increasing the contract by 300. One niggling concerned annoyed the Brits, though: Beyond 15,000 feet, the 1,100 hp Allison V-1710-39 engine sort of pooped out. Not that it was a bad engine, considering it performed spectacularly on the Lockheed P-38. The problem lay more with the USAAF's heavy reliance on turbosupercharging, which spurred a shortage of metal alloys like tungsten. There simply wasn’t enough of the stuff to go around, and since the P-51 was deemed a British project, higher-ups kicked the Mustang down the priority ladder. Interestingly, Donaldson R. Berlin, designer of the P-40, did some experimentation with turbosupercharged Warhawks that outperformed the Spitfire and Messerschmitt Bf 109.

In 1942 after a long, infuriating delay, the USAAF ordered 310 P-51As and 300 ground attack/bomber A-36A Mustangs. And the reason for the wait? Get this: Individuals in the United States Government, bigwigs in procurement, demanded a kick-back for the production award, which Dutch Kindelberger outright refused to pay. Fortunately and ultimately, those corrupt jackasses couldn’t sustain their position owing to the Mustang’s distinct qualities (they should have been hung) and placed the order. Even with the fighter’s limited Allison engine, the P-51 proved ideal as a ground attack and tactical reconnaissance platform. To enhance altitude potential, the British (and Americans) installed a Rolls-Royce Merlin power plant in the warbird’s nose, four of the prototypes featuring deep intakes below the engine for carburetor air. Engineers also strengthened the airframes to accommodate the extra power, deepened the ventral radiator, and moved the carburetor intake from above the nose to below to accommodate the Merlin’s updraft induction system. The result: Airspeed increased by 51 mph to 441 mph, causing the US Army Air Force no end to joy, who ordered 2,200 of the perfected fighters.

Some egghead then got the dazzling idea to install a graceful teardrop canopy on the bird, which eliminated the dangerous blind area created by the faired cockpit. First tested on two P-51Bs, they became standard on the P-51D and all later models. This definitive Mustang hefted six .50 caliber machine guns with a total of 1,880 rounds rather than the four guns mounted in P-51Bs. The wing was also moved forward marginally and provisions made for rocket launchers. Dorsal fins were later attached to compensate for keel-loss caused by the bubble canopy.

To say the P-51 Mustang was merely successful would be an affront to the fighter’s innumerable aficionados. It was the best piston aircraft of World War II (depending on whom you talk to) and stands among the world's aviation elite. A total of 14,819 Mustangs of all types were built for the USAAF. American Mustangs destroyed 4,950 enemy aircraft, making them the highest scoring US fighter in the ETO. They were flown as dive-bombers, bomber escorts, ground-attackers, interceptors, for photo-recon missions, trainers, transports (with a jump-seat), and after the war, high performance racers.



So yeah … I love this bird. She and the Hawker Tempest (with all due respect to the Spitfire) were the meanest, most fearsome fighters of WWII. They looked the part, tough, ballsy, elegant. And fortunately for us, a number of diecast manufacturers have produced them, the Mustang pictured above by Hobby Master, a 1/48 scale classic. All I can say is, she’s gorgeous decked out in that shark motif, a grinning reminder that a simple change of engine (with a few other modifications) can make all the difference. A magnificent American airframe mated with a superlative British power plant—it just doesn’t get better than that. What a marriage!!!

*** *** ***
***

My friends, this post may be my last. I’ve developed a rather worrisome health concern that demands my immediate attention, and I have no idea when or if I’ll return. I've had nothing but fun creating these write-ups and truly hope you've enjoyed them. Thank you so very much for your support and kindness over the last year and a half; I deeply appreciate it! If you're so disposed, please continue this thread; add your own favorite “gone but not forgotten” models here. They may be long in the tooth, but they merit your love and appreciation nonetheless. Keep your fingers crossed for me, and keep growing your collections. You deserve them.

Your friend,

Dave


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Old 05-25-2017, 06:04 PM   #458
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

What would be beyond awesome is if HM did the F-104 that you used in the 'score' part of your starfighter review.

But that would make too much sense. No, instead we get obscure crapola (sorry, canucks) like the red toothbrush scheme one.

Thank you for your awesome reviews. Not sure why the HM P-51 blue nose has 0/5 availability, but your scores have always been a bit mystifying.

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Old 05-25-2017, 08:41 PM   #459
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It's interesting to note that AF1 usually produce more after stock is low as none of their models are limited releases but with the T-50 they stopped altogether, which is odd because they had the market to themselves with that one.

Never understood why HM have not done more or any really USAF Starfighers since the mould started, which is a shame as I'm sure many of us would want a few.

Great reviews as always.
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Old 05-25-2017, 10:29 PM   #460
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I only just got here but have enjoyed your reviews.

All the best and I hope I can read some more of your reviews soon.

Cheers.
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Old 05-25-2017, 10:50 PM   #461
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My question about the Pak-FA MiG-35S is...if it's such a great plane, why did India reject it? It wasn't about cost. Also, those wonderful variable 3-D thrust nozzles are apparently not that reliable and very maintenance intensive. Plus the Pak-FA will not be made in large numbers at this time, if ever. So with such small numbers of aircraft, it's unlikely there will be a confrontation between F-22s and MiG-35s unless it's deliberate. BTW, great articles on all these models, you are a very knowledgeable and entertaining writer.
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Old 05-25-2017, 11:11 PM   #462
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Quote:
My friends, this post may be my last. I’ve developed a rather worrisome health concern that demands my immediate attention, and I have no idea when or if I’ll return. I've had nothing but fun creating these write-ups and truly hope you've enjoyed them. Thank you so very much for your support and kindness over the last year and a half; I deeply appreciate it! If you're so disposed, please continue this thread; add your own favorite “gone but not forgotten” models here. They may be long in the tooth, but they merit your love and appreciation nonetheless. Keep your fingers crossed for me, and keep growing your collections. You deserve them.

Your friend,

Dave
Dave, you are a legend!

You keep pumping these wonderful posts out at a quite remarkable rate given how must go into them, and the quality is unfailing.

I shall miss reading them, and very much hope they resume. As much as I love these, that actually has more to do with my hope your health improves again, which I really do hope for very much (regardless of whether you write any more of these!)..

I am saddened to hear you are unwell, and hope the prognosis improves. Being ill is awful and not at all fun, for you or your family. I spent a few months in hospital several years ago myself, recovering from a spinal cord injury so I am well aware of how much time in hospital drags; however, I defied the prognosis and now walk normally despite being told I was most likely to be confined to a wheelchair for life and hope you enjoy a similar recovery.

Please do let us know how you are travelling - until then thanks again and all the best.

Toby

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Old 05-25-2017, 11:22 PM   #463
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f-104... it's a sleek plane that has been decked out in attractive colours. although i have three in my collection, for me what truly stands out for this particular bird (albeit sadly) is that it scuttled the valkyrie. i'm with monsieur fs with regard to that starfighter "scoring" model... that would be an insta-buy for me too.

that blue nose bastard of bodney was my first mustang purchase, and for the very reasons stated. that grinning shark motif with the distinct "blue nose" over olive drab is simply outstanding. surprising though... it was the cheapest of all my mustangs! it's not exactly 0/5 availability... but after your article, it might well be!

dave... i don't think anybody can emulate what you've done here. i've always enjoyed reading your posts. they stand out in stark contrast from promotional marketing material. i would definitely miss your posts but hey, health comes first, mate... and here's to your speedy recovery!
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Old 05-25-2017, 11:38 PM   #464
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My question about the Pak-FA MiG-35S is...if it's such a great plane, why did India reject it? It wasn't about cost. Also, those wonderful variable 3-D thrust nozzles are apparently not that reliable and very maintenance intensive. Plus the Pak-FA will not be made in large numbers at this time, if ever. So with such small numbers of aircraft, it's unlikely there will be a confrontation between F-22s and MiG-35s unless it's deliberate. BTW, great articles on all these models, you are a very knowledgeable and entertaining writer.
india rejected it because there won't be any technology transfer. doubt any nation would give another their latest and best anyway. they were probably sulking that china could come out with their own indigenous fighters...
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Old 05-25-2017, 11:49 PM   #465
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Dave you are a true asset to this hobby and your particular brand of reviews will be sorely missed, I don't think anyone could replicate the kind of quality posts that you produced.

I hope it's nothing too serious and wish you a speedy recovery and look forward to your return mate, god speed.
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Old 05-26-2017, 12:18 AM   #466
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My friends, this post may be my last. I’ve developed a rather worrisome health concern that demands my immediate attention, and I have no idea when or if I’ll return. I've had nothing but fun creating these write-ups and truly hope you've enjoyed them. Thank you so very much for your support and kindness over the last year and a half; I deeply appreciate it! If you're so disposed, please continue this thread; add your own favorite “gone but not forgotten” models here. They may be long in the tooth, but they merit your love and appreciation nonetheless. Keep your fingers crossed for me, and keep growing your collections. You deserve them.

Your friend,

Dave
Just last night as I was reading your latest review I thought, how wonderful, it would be a good idea if Richtofen would gather all his stories and publish them in a little booklet...
And then today I read this! Well, my friends, health is something borrowed and does not always stay with us...
I wish you well Richtofen and that you return in full strength soon....
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Old 05-26-2017, 02:29 AM   #467
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Dave,

I really appreciate your posts, you tell the stories very well too. You're quite the graphical and design wiz too. I hope your health improves soon!
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Old 06-06-2017, 06:01 AM   #468
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As Richtofen mentioned, it would be nice to carry on his thread, so going to add some older releases here.

In continuing the Starfighter story above, this was HM's very first Starfighter release. In following the thread's scoring system, this early release is ok on quality, but a bit lacking in detail on things such as the missiles compared to later releases. But you get an open and closed canopy option and the gear fits ok. Also, the HM starfighter mold's wings are not quite at the same angle, but it's not very noticeable. As for availability, it's still knocking around for reasonable money if you look for it, got this one over a year ago.

Quality: 4/5

Accuracy: 3/5

Availability: 2/5


I liked this USAF one the most due to the early silver paint scheme. (and it looks closest to the one in "The Right Stuff"It) It was named "Really George" as it was based at George AFB in California and was flown by Wing Commander Col. George Laven.

Richtofen's blurb above is spot on, the F104 was a very fast, but deeply flawed aircraft. The whole concept was to having something very light, with tiny wings and minimal air resistance and the most powerful engine at the time. Unfortunately that gave it almost no lift, meaning it sacrificed all agility, payload, range and even safety at low speeds just to get to the magic Mach 2 number. Later aircraft would fix this with bigger engines, delta wings and/or lifting surfaces, but the F104 design really dates from a time when US designers were still not quite as far ahead as some British and Soviet designers. It probably shouldn't have gone into production. It would seem to confirm the fact that there is a fine line between genius and catastrophic failure, even for the legendary Kelly Johnson.

The only examples to really enjoy any confirmed success in combat at all were the Taiwanese ones against Communist Chinese Mig 19's. (some of which HM also makes) By employing high-speed attacking passes and scooting back out again, they could play to the aircraft's only real strength. In order to do anything even resembling a turn the Starfighter would need to bleed almost all its energy, leaving it a sitting duck to the agile Migs.

The design was not a complete waste though, as you might recognize the fuselage from the far more succesfull U2 spyplane. (I didn't spot that one for a long time either!) And as pointed out it certainly looks like it was built just for speed!














On another note, the Belgian air force was one of the few countries that managed to avoid the horrific accident rates of some of the other buyers. In fact, so good was one of the pilots, Bill Ongena, that he came up with the insanely dangerous touch-roll-touch manoeuver. In an F16, this is still hairy; with the horribly stall-and spin-prone F104, this was near suicidal! You can read all about it here:

F-104 Starfighter Veterans on the Ongena Tough-Roll-Touch Maneuver

On the way to my company's head office, I actually pass by this gorgeous Starfighter at a roundabout on a plinth near the Kleine Brogel airfield. It still takes my breath away each time!

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Old 06-06-2017, 06:22 AM   #469
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Very happy to see someone take up the mantle of these write-ups Esvees, and may I say you did a fine job

I shall start thinking about what I can write about myself from my little collection, inspired both by Dave's awesomely inspirational body of work and the fact somebody else was not only willing to take up the work, but was able to do so with such aplomb..
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Old 06-06-2017, 08:47 AM   #470
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Great review Esvees and a great little model as well.
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Old 07-14-2017, 09:15 AM   #471
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Glad to make it back—though I’m a little worse for wear. Things got a little hairy.

Hope you guys have been buying and collecting your hearts out. Lots of excellent models out there, both old and new—especially Corgi's B-17 coming down the pike. Anybody pre-order it, ‘cause I sure did.

I’ve made some changes to the “Gone but Not Forgotten” format, including new graphics and the deletion of the “availability” icon. Trying to keep current with model availability proved a little too ambitious and too often wrong, so I ditched it. In its place I’m including a “worth it?” graphic featuring either a green thumbs-up, a yellow, neutral thumb, or a red thumbs-down. Green stands for approval: the model is fantastic; yellow represents apathy: the model is a yawner: and red indicates yuck, the model is a reeking mound of mule flop. Please understand that these thumbs express my personal opinion only—not yours necessarily. Just because I post a red thumb on a model doesn’t mean I’m unequivocally, emphatically right; it simply means I think the model is a turd in a toilet; you may believe otherwise, and I welcome your thoughtful input. (And by the way, most of the models will be green ‘cause I love ‘em so much.)

Lastly, I’m including new or relatively new models to the lineup. Older, harder-to-find models are terrific, but it’s time to expand and celebrate newer issues too. Hope you like the change.

Again, my viewpoints are neither sacrosanct nor the last word; They are driven, however, by love for this hobby, and I hope they help to build a deeper appreciation for these magnificent little replicas and their real-world counterparts.

So here we go …


Word had it that the new B-26 Marauder was too hot, a flaming missile that would kill on a whim. And scuttlebutt was right: The USAAF had constructed B-26 Transition Training Fields at MacDill Field, Tampa, Florida and at Barksdale Field, Shreveport, Louisiana, where nine new Marauder-equipped units groups were activated in 1942. Within weeks, fourteen bombers had crashed on takeoff or landing, frying their crews to sizzling bacon. Not only did Army Air Force brass freak out, but the boys flying these aluminum torpedoes nearly mutinied. Somebody had to solve the problem quickly before things turned ugly.

The issues were sundry, but a blind man could see at least one of them: Many greenhorn Marauder pilots had no previous bomber experience—at least not in bull-headed, twin-engined monsters like the ‘26. These rookies had the skills necessary to fly advanced trainers, even current fighters; but few had mastered cutting-edge, multiple-engine bombers. Consequently, most of the accidents occurred during takeoff or landing, partly traceable to ever more weight added to the warbird during production (that increased the wing loading that resulted in higher stalling and landing velocities). Veteran pilots overseas could handle increased speeds, but numerous trainees couldn’t and ran headlong into serious or lethal accidents, earning the Marauder epithets such as "The Flying Prostitute," "The Baltimore Whore," "The Flying Vagrant," and "The Wingless Wonder." Other derisive names were "The Widow Maker," "One-Way Ticket," "Martin Murderer," "The Flying Coffin," "The Coffin Without Handles," and the "B-Dash Crash." So many accidents occurred at MacDill Field at Tampa, FL, that the jibe "One a Day Into Tampa Bay" became commonplace.

And yet that wasn’t the only headache—nor even the biggest. While it was true the Marauder’s wing loading was dangerously excessive and the stalling speed far beyond trainees’ ability to handle, the primary problem lay with the B-26’s propellers, which routinely ran away and feathered during takeoff. Under these circumstances, the bomber’s speed and drag caused the Marauder to flip toward the feathered prop at low altitude, giving pilots no time to react, causing the bomber to (typically) plunge into Tampa Bay. The USAAF was so wigged out that it seriously considered canceling the Marauder. The US Senate's Special Committee (Truman Committee), formed to investigate the National Defense Program, got in a lather, too, recommending that B-26 production stop. But upon hearing this, combat crews in the South Pacific (who were more experienced and had no problems whatsoever with the airplane), defended the Marauder so fervidly that the USAAF backed off.

By September of 1942, however, the situation worsened and training accidents multiplied. By then the B-26’s reputation was so trashed that civilian crews contracted to ferry USAAF aircraft quit their jobs rather than fly the beast. The USAAF’s Air Safety Board was forced to investigate once again, while the Truman Committee (again) recommended that B-26 production stop entirely.

USAAF commanding General Henry. H. Arnold directed Brig. General James H. Doolittle (fresh from his famous Tokyo raid) to investigate the bruhaha. Doing an exhaustive job, both General Doolittle and the Air Safety Board concluded that the B-26 was a worthwhile, indispensable aircraft. Noting the propeller issue plus the overloading of the bomber beyond safety parameters, they additionally blamed crashes on inexperienced aircrews and the many B-26 instructors who couldn't fly the bird on one engine and were thus unable to show their students how. Investigators also fingered green mechanics for poor maintenance, observing a change from 100 octane fuel to 100 octane aromatic fuel (which damaged carburetor diaphragms and compromised the engines).

General Doolittle subsequently tasked his technical adviser, Captain Vincent W. "Squeak" Burnett, to tour OTU bases and demonstrate B-26 safety procedures. These exhibitions included single-engine operations, slow-flying characteristics, and recoveries from unusual flight attitudes. Capt Burnett made numerous low altitude flights with one engine out, even turning into a dead engine (which aircrews were warned to never do), proving that the Marauder could be flown in one piece. General Doolittle himself carried out demonstration flights with the B-26 in which he cut an engine on takeoff, rolled over, flew the plane upside down at an extremely low altitude, and then righted it safely. Martin also deployed engineers to show crews how to pay proper attention to the plane's center of gravity, all of which helped to reduce crashes.

But just to make sure, Martin also increased the wing area on later series Marauders, which lowered the wing loading, which diminished the takeoff landing speeds, which further slashed takeoff and landing accidents. A taller fin and rudder helped to sustain stability with the larger wing, increasing overall height from 19 feet, 10 inches to 21 feet, 6 inches. With these improvements, the Truman Committee finally stopped pushing for the Marauder’s extinction. The derogatory nicknames still endured, nevertheless, and pilots students still firmly believed the B-26 was a deathtrap; as a result, few graduates requested assignment to a B-26 group. It’s a little-known fact that a number of pilots refused to fly the plane despite the lowered accident rate.

In the end, the USAAF recognized the B-26 as an excellent two-engined bomber that, once mastered, was unmatched for effectiveness and power. Germans and Japanese alike hated the beast for its ability to strike like a lightning bolt and obliterate at will.


Collectors who shun 1/48 scale diecast models do themselves a whopping disservice. The scale is sizeable compared to pint-sized 1/72 models and requires more display and/or storage space; but they’re also more imposing (some would even say commanding), giving you a closer, more up-front view, of the plane. Franklin Mint/Armour, though occasionally maligned, produced a number of superlative 1/48 models—this particular B-26 among them. It’s big and handsome and hefty, not to mention it’s tolerably accurate and sports a superlative paint job (though I'm not entirely jazzed about the heavy panel lines). I haven’t looked lately, but I’d guess the model (any in that series, actually) is difficult to find at a reasonable price—if at all. If you do luck out and unearth one, think about buying it. The B-26 played a valuable role in defeating the Axis powers and deserves a place in your hallowed collection, not to mention it just looks cool. Be careful, though: collecting 1/48 military aircraft is addictive. Take it from me; I know.



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Old 07-14-2017, 09:41 AM   #472
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Welcome back Dave ! Glad you made it through some tough times.

I quiet agree, 1/48 models are great, I see them as a great scale to represent classic aircraft, probably not going to buy as many per airframe as 1/72 but god they have some presence.

I recently bought a few Czech models to go with the up coming Czech Flogger.
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Old 07-14-2017, 07:28 PM   #473
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Welcome back Dave ! Glad you made it through some tough times.

I quiet agree, 1/48 models are great, I see them as a great scale to represent classic aircraft, probably not going to buy as many per airframe as 1/72 but god they have some presence.
Thanks, UK. Nice to be back.

About 1/48 models …

They’re big comparatively, and they take up loads more room than 1/72 miniatures. But really, and I agree with you 100 percent, they have loads more “presence,” the wizardly projecting of character and spirit and personality and temperament. Somehow, someway, they channel their real-world opposites insanely better than their bantam, small-scale brethren. Which is an absurd notion, I know; but sit a 1/48 Franklin Mint B-26 next to a 1/72 Forces of Valor Marauder and tell me which one inspires you more, stirs you with a palpable sense of muscle and speed and might. My guess would be the bigger model.

I challenge anybody who hasn’t already purchased a 1/48 model to do so and judge for himself/herself if I'm right. My only caveat is this: These models are addictive, and you might find yourself preferring them to their petite hangar mates.
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Old 07-14-2017, 08:29 PM   #474
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Hey Richtofen, glad to have you back! I hope that all remains well with you, and I look forward to continuing reading your superlative war stories and insightful if brief reviews on the models in question.
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Old 07-14-2017, 08:40 PM   #475
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Yes just beacause they are blown up versions of their miniature brothers hasn't meant they have lost details, the plan was to fill a whole cab with these but I've stopped very short of that, still waiting on a BF-109 I like.
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Old 07-14-2017, 09:08 PM   #476
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Hey Richtofen, glad to have you back! I hope that all remains well with you, and I look forward to continuing reading your superlative war stories and insightful if brief reviews on the models in question.
Very glad to be back, Uzair. And thank you!
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Old 07-14-2017, 09:26 PM   #477
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Hey Dave, glad you're alright, back with us and back to writing!

Great to see

I only have a few 48s, but they are certainly impressive models!
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Old 07-15-2017, 09:25 AM   #478
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Thanks, '76!

Yeah, it's good to be back in the saddle.
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Old 07-21-2017, 06:28 AM   #479
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welcome back, monsieur richtofen! and great seeing you back posting!

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Old 07-21-2017, 09:43 AM   #480
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Did you know that over 10% of all combat and combat support deaths in Vietnam occurred in helicopter operations, a combined total of 6,175 (2,202 pilots, 2,704 aircrew, and 1,269 passengers)? And that about 86% of these causalities were U.S. Army? In addition to the human cost, the helicopter “casualties” of the war totaled a mind-boggling 11,800 helicopters of all types. Of those, approximately 5,000 helicopters were destroyed of which all but 500 were U.S. Army. Meaning, your chances of getting your hams shot off in the ‘Nam were pretty high if you bounced around jungles in a helicopter—especially in the Bell UH-1, officially named the “Iroquois” (unofficially the “Huey”). It might have been a slammin’ way to get from point A to point B in a relative hurry, but it sure as crap hung a gargantuan target around your neck.

From 1965 to 1973, the Bell UH-1 served as the Army’s most ubiquitous utility helicopter in Vietnam. The “Huey” handle stuck thanks to her early “HU-1” designation (later re-designated UH-1 in 1962). The chopper operated in Vietnam’s hostile environment for nearly a decade and performed, among other missions, troop insertions and extractions, medical evacuations, helicopter crew recoveries, smoke, sniffer psyops, firefly missions, and gunship expeditions.

Typical armament included two M-60D machine guns pinioned on fixed door mounts (or attached to bungie cords) manned by the crew chief on the left and a door gunner on the right. Both routinely operated an M-60D, a 7.62mm NATO caliber weapon with a cyclic rate of fire of 600 to 700 rounds per minute. Large canisters located below the M-60’s contained roughly 2,000 rounds of linked 7.62mm ammunition, a typical field modification replacing the authorized 500-round can. Each crew chief and door gunner also wielded a secondary weapon, usually an M-16 rifle but ofttimes more exotic types. Pilots often carried unsanctioned weapons, too, slung over their armored seats for personal protection. Crew Chiefs and Door Gunners always brought along colored smoke grenades to mark targets for gunships after coming under fire or to mark landing zones (LZ’s). All aircrew were issued body armor, jokingly referred to as “chicken plates”: The crew, more often than not, stowed this protection under their seats to block enemy rounds from flying up their fudge factories.

In Vietnam, the UH-1 crew included an aircraft commander (A/C), co-pilot (or “Peter pilot), crew chief (C/E), and door gunner. The aircraft commander, as his name implied, managed the aircraft at all times. The co-pilot assisted the A/C and flew the aircraft as needed. Most pilots began their tour in Vietnam as a co-pilot and advanced to aircraft commander with experience. In many units, the A/C and C/E were assigned a specific aircraft while Co-pilots generally rotated among unit aircraft. In addition, the crew chief was the only crew member personally responsible for maintaining his aircraft, working countless hours in tandem with the door gunner. The door gunner also assisted in loading and unloading the helicopter and, like co-pilots, rotated among unit aircraft.

The basic Huey, dubbed the “Slick” by troops, carried infantry into combat, commonly called “combat assaults,” which involved a “package” of up to 8 or 10 slicks transporting the infantry, supported by two or three gunships monitored by a Command and Control slick (Charlie/ Charlie) orbiting overhead. During combat assaults, depending on density altitude and the strength of the particular aircraft, the UH-1 could carry 6 to 8 American infantrymen or 10 or more Vietnamese (due to their smaller size and weight). Other missions included supplying replacement personnel, food, water, ammunition, and necessities to infantry units in the field or at forward bases. Hueys were also often utilized as Medevac helicopters that transported wounded soldiers to safety and medical treatment.

Many Vietnam veterans describe the heavy whop-whop noise the Huey produced as the “sound of war.” Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association records show that 7,013 Hueys survived the Vietnam War, totaling 7,531,955 flight hours. Over 90,000 patients were airlifted (over half of them Americans), the average time between field wound to hospitalization averaging less than one hour opposed to days in the Korean War and World War II. Survival rates skyrocketed with UH-1s nearby.

Considered the most widely used helicopter in the world with more than 9,000 produced from the 1950s to the present, about 40 countries still fly the Huey.

My only problem with Hobby Master’s Bell UH-1 is that the manu didn’t make enough of them. I may be wrong, but I think I read somewhere that Hobby Master stumbled into licensing issues—or something like that. Whatever, I wish ol’ HM had produced a “slick” version of the Heuy and not another gunship (though they’re cool, too). In my universe, helicopter models are every bit as desirable as fixed-wing aircraft and sometimes (depending) even more so. And for my money, Hobby Master did a bang-up job on this particular trooper: accuracy is good, rendering is near perfect, a terrific effort for such a wee model. For collectors who are into Vietnam War war machines, this little treasure is a must-have.



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Old 07-23-2017, 12:56 PM   #481
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and that's why monsieur tker has enough of ' em to deliver the packages for a combat assault
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Old 07-25-2017, 01:16 AM   #482
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

I love HM's Huey and wish they had been able to carry on making them (though had they done so I would probably need a whole new cabinet!)

I have most of the US/RAAF releases, with favourites being the two RAAF releases, USN Seawolves and the Air America release, but all are great.

I would have very much liked the mould to have evolved to see H model Hueys, and eventually N thru Y model Twin Hueys. Would have loved a USAF F model too, but sadly not how things worked out

Both Corgi and FM produced decent Hueys in 48 too, which I have a number of I really enjoy also.
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Old 07-25-2017, 01:18 AM   #483
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Another great write up too, thanks Dave!

Really is great to have you back, I both very pleased and relieved by your recovery
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Old 07-25-2017, 09:22 AM   #484
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Thanks, tomcatter and tker76. Appreciate the kind words.
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Old 07-28-2017, 09:25 AM   #485
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In 1942, the Doolittle Raid b*tch-slapped the Japanese so hard they couldn’t believe America was whackydoodle enough to bomb Toyko (and other Nipponese cities) in broad daylight. Their hate and humiliation burned so violently that Tojo and his homeboys swore on their ancestors’ graves that they’d annihilate further strikes on Japan by any means necessary—whatever form that took. And thus the J2M Raiden was conceived.

Chief Designer Jiro Horikoshi, the semi-genius who’d designed the world-class Zero, got to work on an interceptor not unlike the A6M but seriously juiced up to prevent even more cocky, barefaced Americans from flying right up Japan’s whoppie cakes. The result was a tubby, stubby, chewy little brute blessed with power, speed, a terrific rate of climb, freakishly lethal armament, and enough grit to rattle the dookie salad out of American fighter pilots and air crews. Which seemed to be just what Japan wanted, except the new warbird sorely sacrificed range and maneuverability to achieve it.

Right out of the gate, the brassy little goblin rivaled the P-51D for speed and climb rate, which surprised many a Mustang pilot who found this hellion hot on their “six” and deeply regretted it. The Raiden wielded four 20mm cannons with a massive ammunition pool totaling 800 rounds that could, given a chance, blow the livin’ snot out of B-29s (and anything else) that crossed its path—causing all kinds of consternation in the enemy camp. With good aim and nominal practice, J2M3 pilots could "snipe" enemy aircraft to blazing bits from a kilometer away, eventually coming into their own defending against B-29 raids over Japan, proving an overpowering threat to bomber groups unused to cuckoo-for-Cocoa Puffs attacks by insanely provoked pilots. Four squadrons operated Raidens and destroyed 21 Superfortresses during one week alone in 1944.

Aside from the bird’s ferocious armament, American pilots, et al., were totally wowed by the Raiden’s phenomenal climb rate. The J2M3 could achieve altitude quickly (too quickly for American tastes) and then dive on bombers at full throttle, hit their targets with snapshots (quick bursts of fire), and then escape in a power dive. In a flash the Raiden could climb to altitude again and renew the attack. But it wasn’t all roses and candy: The Raiden suffered from piss-ant maneuverability during wild, turning melees. If caught out by more nimble fighters, Raiden pilots could do little more than turn away and dive; otherwise, doing the shimmy with later-model USN fighters was suicidal. And worse still, the J2M was prone to “lock up” in power dives, rolls, and turns at high speeds, spinning out of control and sending its pilots straight to the big sushi bar in the sky.

Overall, the Raiden was a hot little ship best deployed in defense against big, bad B-29s that were unable to pursue its pudgy little behind. The Raiden had no equal in high-altitude, high-damage surprise attacks, blessed as it was with hellish cannons and an unbelievable rate of climb. Tackling a Hellcat or Corsair, on the other hand, was an entirely different story with a much different outcome.

Alright, I’ll admit it, IXO wasn’t the greatest of diecast manus. In fact, it kinda sucked the hind tit until it joined hands with Atalya and produced a few reasonably good 1/72 magazine models. So it shouldn't surprise anyone that I’m not an IXO fan, which includes the Raiden showcased here. All in all, this little mutt ain’t all that bad (ain’t all that good, either) if you don’t mind its grody, contorted nose cone spinner. ‘Cause the fact is, nobody else produces a 1/72 diecast Raiden (that I know of); so like it or not it’s all we’ve got. Perhaps a Code-3 job would do it wonders (but somehow I doubt it).






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Old 07-28-2017, 10:04 AM   #486
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another awesome write-up, monsieur richtofen! well, hm did say they will be doing the zeke/zero so perhaps we'll see more japanese ww2 stuff from them as well (and seeing as to how they do listen to their japanese distributors quite a fair bit)?
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Old 07-28-2017, 08:25 PM   #487
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tomcatter View Post
another awesome write-up, monsieur richtofen! well, hm did say they will be doing the zeke/zero so perhaps we'll see more japanese ww2 stuff from them as well (and seeing as to how they do listen to their japanese distributors quite a fair bit)?
Thank you, tomcatter. It’s entirely possible some manu west of San Francisco will see the wisdom in producing Japanese WWII aircraft, possibly even the more obscure types we know and love.
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Old 08-01-2017, 09:12 AM   #488
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When the MiG 25 first appeared, it resembled a DC Comics fiend juiced on evil anabolic steroids, hostile and burly and ready to rip Superman’s head off and pee down his windpipe. Western air forces stared in solemn horror thinking it was a MiG-23 gone gorilla, some new bionic Soviet ogre brandishing prodigious, bullet-proof muscle come to devour the free world; but in reality, Russia’s new toy had but one purpose: to snare and obliterate America’s Convair B-58 and North American Valkyrie bombers (the XB-70, mockingly, hadn’t flown operationally at that point and never would). To counter this gruesome threat, America designed one the finest fighters to ever grace the skies (the F-15). Which irked Russia, who straightaway fashioned yet another, much more horrific warbird using the MiG-25 as a template, the MiG-31.

With little evidence to go on, America and its allies assumed the MiG-25 was a legitimate threat, a phantasma that could run down any fighter anywhere and blast it to bits, perhaps even the SR-71 Blackbird. To their blinkered view, the Foxbat was a world-beater that fused exceedingly high speed, high altitude capacity, and a lethal weapons load that could dominate the Central Front while ably defending Soviet airspace. Which was, NATO brass agreed, insufferable.

It wasn’t until Soviet pilot Victor Belenko landed a new MiG-25 in Japan on Sept. 6, 1976, that the U.S. got a closer look at the bird and sighed with relief. The jet was riven with issues: the Foxbat was heavier than its Western counterparts, causing it to maneuver atrociously at high speeds and low altitudes (likely due to faulty Soviet design and manufacturing methods). Its middling radar, coupled to the warbird’s low-altitude clumsiness, made it a frightful low-level interceptor, bettered only when it flew high-altitude missions, which, it turned out, wasn’t often.

In the meantime, rightly, the Foxbat failed to impress its Russian overlords. Shortcomings in design, manufacturing blips, and liquidation of its key targets (the XB-70 in particular) mostly eliminated the MiG-25’s raison d'être (reason or purpose for being). Within years, notwithstanding the bird’s sweltering speed and dazzling performance, the Foxbat all but vanished from communist and client air forces. The MiG-25 had entered Soviet service in 1970 (the same year the Hustler left service and eight years following the cancellation of the XB-70) and retired in 1984.

In all, the Soviet Union built 1,186 Foxbats for foreign and domestic operation, the overwhelming majority serving the USSR. Russia never licensed the Foxbat for foreign manufacture, which made little difference to the Chinese, who thought too little of the beast to copy it.

The MiG-25s capabilities were, and still are, jaw-dropping. It could reach Mach 2.83 in sustained flight and exceed Mach 3 in bursts (by completely melting the engines). It packed four R-40 air-to-air missiles able to fly fifty miles at sixty-five thousand feet; reconnaissance Foxbats carried state-of-the-art electronic and photographic equipage and could fly even higher. Russia optimized several Foxbats for high-speed strike roles. In combat, the Foxbat enjoyed limited success. In 1971, several Israeli fighters chased an Egyptian MiG-25 that lit its afterburners and escaped at Mach 3 and above, liquefying the jet’s engines. Over Lebanon, Israeli fighters obliterated several Syrian Foxbats in multiple engagements. And recently, the frantic Syrian Arab Air Force flew retired Foxbats in ground-support roles, one launching air-to-air missiles against ground targets. Iraq deployed MiG-25s during the Iran-Iraq War, claiming a doubtful number of Iranian fighters at equally uncertain cost; Foxbats reputedly suffered heavy casualties at the hands of Iranian F-14s. But Iraqi ‘25s did claim both of America’s last two air-to-air losses, splashing Capt. Scott Speicher’s F/A-18 in the early days of the Gulf War and shooting down a Predator UAV with an AAM. These days just a handful of Foxbats serve, most for the Algerian and Syrian Air Forces, one in Libya. Most MiG-25s withdrew following the Soviet Union’s collapse, a few serving in inheritor-state air forces. American personnel demolished Iraq’s MiG-25s during the Gulf War and Operation Desert Storm.

The ol’ MiG-25 got a new lease on life, as it were, through the MiG-31 Foxhound, a direct descendant/variant that resolved many of the Foxbat’s handling issues while retaining its core strengths. The Foxhound features a look-down/shoot-down radar that makes tracking and destroying low-flying bombers and cruise missiles comparatively effortless.
I’ve been a MiG-25 fan ever since I clapped eyes on my first Revell 1/48 Foxbat kit long ago, the jet’s honkin’, ginormous intakes and ponderous, bad-boy presence; and I’m happy to say Hobby Master’s version does it for me too—and how. The model is accurate, it projects blistering power, and HM technicians obviously took their sweet time constructing and painting it. My one concern is the irksome joint line that horizontally slices the forward fuselage in two: though not a deal breaker, it gives me heartburns. Given a little thoughtful brainstorming, I’m sure Hobby Master could eliminate (or at least better conceal) furrows in future model issues, but this one's here to stay (sadly). Still, this little monster is a winner, and something tells me it won’t stick around long. I can’t wait until the Iraqi version arrives.


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Old 08-03-2017, 10:31 AM   #489
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De Havilland’s DH.98 Mosquito was legendary for its speed, agility, long range, and firepower and was probably the most versatile aircraft of the entire war. It served as a light bomber, flew interdiction, fought at night, conducted ground strikes, and supplied invaluable reconnaissance. It also served in several Allies’ air forces and operated with foreign powers into the Cold War.

Expanding their already considerable skills fabricating the Mosquito, de Havilland engineers commenced a new twin-engined heavy fighter as a private venture, designed to serve over Japan with the RAF and RN. But unlike the DH.98, this aircraft would deploy not only to airfields but carriers too. The Air Ministry formally submitted a request for the fighter via Specification F.12/43, ultimately identifying the aircraft the DH.103 Hornet/Sea Hornet. Because the Hornet would operate from both land and sea, it necessitated excellent handling characteristics at low and high speeds and favorable cockpit situational awareness for its pilot. The aircraft carrier version imposed folding wings so the aircraft could fit below decks.

Similar looking to the Mosquito, the Hornet not only shared its predecessor’s technological merits but often improved on them. Workmen fashioned the wings differently, adding skinning atop the mixed-wood construction and hinging them and installing clipped tips for carrier stowage. Newer Rolls-Royce Merlin series engines, housed in slimmer profile nacelles, powered the ship. The wing mainplanes were fitted ahead of midships as was the cockpit, and the nacelles (mounted beneath the wings) ran ahead of the wing leading edges and extended to the trailing edges. The large canopy offered excellent vision, and cockpit armoring enveloped the pilot. The streamlined fuselage tapered elegantly to a solitary vertical fin. The plane was a tail dragger reinforced for carrier landings and sat moderately low for improved deck handling. And unlike previous British twin-engine designs, the Hornet’s propellers rotated in opposite directions, which canceled torque, making the plane more stable in flight.

Standard armament consisted of four 20mm Hispano V series cannons mounted in the lower fuselage (beneath the cockpit floor), each gun supplied with 190 rounds. Hardpoints outboard of the engine nacelles could carry eight 60 lb. RP-3 unguided rockets in later production models and two 1,000 lb. conventional dumb bombs, giving the Hornet a multi-role capability. In prototype form, the Hornet first went airborne on July 28, 1944, reaching speeds nearing 500 mph. Both de Havilland and the RAF were thrilled with the new fighter bomber, except the war in Europe ended in May of 1945 and Japan surrendered in August, eliminating the Hornet’s raison d'être. The aircraft was formally introduced into service in 1946. Nonetheless, the Hornet eventually served in eight RAF and fourteen Royal Navy (Fleet Air Arm) squadrons, production reaching 383 aircraft (including both variant forms). Australia and Canada considered buying the plane, but both countries opted out.

Fixed-wing Hornet F.Mk 1s first arrived on the scene (sixty in all) followed by PR.Mk 2s that were outfitted with cameras (for photo-reconnaissance). Hornet F.Mk3s trailed close behind, becoming the definitive fighter-bomber form, differentiated by a dorsal fillet, increased fuel capacity, and hardpoints for bombs and/or fuel drop tanks. FR.Mk4s brought up the rear as a mixed fighter/reconnaissance platform, of which 12 were produced. The Royal Navy received 29 F.Mk20 Sea Hornets, followed by NF.Mk21s, which were navalized, twin-seat night-fighters outfitted with Merlin 133/134 series power plants and ASH radar (buried in the nose). PR.Mk22s arrived as photo-reconnaissance types.

Of all the variants, only the F.Mk3 saw combat, this during the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960), which pitted British Commonwealth units against communist forces. The plane acquitted itself admirably, blitzing enemy positions with rocket, cannon fire, and bomb strikes. The Hornet exhibited extended loitering capabilities and operational ranges, while its Merlin engines well withstood the tropical environment). By the end of the campaign, the Hornet performed thousands of sorties, the last mission coming in May of 1955.

By 1956, both the RAF and RN retired their Hornets. By all accounts, it was a well-beloved and responsive aircraft and relatively easy to fly. It could zip through the skies at a blistering 475 miles per hour, cruise at 270 mph, fly 1,480 miles, and top out at 41,500 feet. Rate-of-climb was about 5,000 feet per minute.
Oxford impresses me, not only because its models are refreshingly inexpensive (comparatively), but they’re also tolerably accurate and well rendered. This little character is a dandy with its smooth metal finish and bright tampo emblems; I also like its convincing wing tanks and rockets. In fact, there’s little not to like about it but for the deep trench line circumscribing the base of its tail. It’s a smart little ship, one that rivals Corgi’s excellence (dare I say it). So I enthusiastically recommend it to anyone engrossed with British post-war aircraft.


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Old 08-04-2017, 08:26 AM   #490
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Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away, the Canadian government, headed by Prime Minister John George Diefenbaker, took the proverbial axe to CF-105 Arrow program and chopped it to bits, literally, nose to tail. What remained of the remarkably beautiful jet was, well … nothing, just scraps and shards of a dream, the overt ruination of Canada's aero industry. This awe-inspiring machine betokened Canada’s loftiest aircraft-design aspirations that left alive would literally have vaulted that country’s fortunes skyward.

Of that, there’s little question. But … having drilled a little deeper into this woeful episode, I better understand the whys and wherefores of it (I think) and offer a few tidbits you might find interesting.

We’ve been led to believe that the Arrow program, though beset with challenges, was galloping along technically and politically. With but a few more tweaks and tests, the mighty CF-105 would have burst free of bureaucratic wrangling and proved its worth to the most inflexible of governmental bigwigs. But the rude fact was, toward the end of the Arrow’s life, the program had all but lost its justification for existing. The jet itself was a prodigious hunk of superlative engineering, a testament to Canadian aero genius; but during the aircraft’s extensive gestation rightly or wrongly, many experts were persuaded that missiles were the incontestable answer to future defensive and offensive needs.

Improved anti-aircraft missiles, purportedly, could destroy Soviet bombers with comparative ease, eliminating the need for jets like the CF-105 entirely. Not to mention, American U-2 spy planes had revealed that Russia possessed far fewer bombers than first reported, making a sneak attack highly unlikely. Plus, development of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) was making Arctic bombing attacks unnecessary since available defensive technology (read: the CF-105 Arrow) couldn’t intercept ICBMs. Hearing and believing this, the new Conservative Canadian government cut Arrow production to 100, far fewer than planned, which consequently escalated unit cost. In the meantime, the first Arrow Mark 1, Number 201, rolled out on 4 October 1957 and flew for the first time on 15 March 1958. On that very day, the Soviet Union launched the first artificial Earth satellite, Sputnik I, which many military heads considered a much more tenable, urgent threat than Russian bombers attacking from the Arctic, further minimizing the Arrow’s perceived need.

Number 201 continued its test flights, confirming its excellent handling characteristics while exceeding Mach 1.5 on its 7th flight. On flight eleven, the landing gear failed, and the jet made a belly landing but was up flying again by early October. Four more Mark 1s reached flight status between August 1958 and January 1959. Lamentably, complications beset the program: in late September, the government canceled the Astra radar and Sparrow II AAM, replacing them with American Falcon and nuclear-tipped unguided Genie missiles. Which wasn’t a deal-killer but did liquidate Canadian weapons and electronics systems expressly designed for the Arrow. Worse was to come.

In August, the Canadian government sent representatives to the USAF to sell the Arrow but failed. The Americans counter-offered with the Boeing BOMARC-B anti-aircraft missile that featured a range of over 700 kilometers (435 miles), which according to them could ably defeat marauding bombers (though the BOMARC eventually proved to be a piece of dreck fettered by an unreliable guidance system and other issues). Still, the Diefenbaker government bought the BOMARC while juggling the Arrow program.

To make matters worse, Canada was in the throes of a recession, and the Arrow had become its most extravagant defense project ever. The Canadian Army and Navy were loath to cede their own programs to support the aircraft; so seeing the writing on the wall, RCAF Air Marshall Hugh Campbell announced to the Defense Ministry that he would abide the Arrow’s cancellation should the government purchase an equivalent high-performance interceptor. Thus, on 20 February 1959, Prime Minister Diefenbaker outright canceled the CF-105. At the time, the prototype Arrows had completed 66 flights, totaling 70 hours, and the first Mark 2 prototype was almost ready for flight tests, four more Mark 2s just behind. Wrecking crews scrapped all Arrows completed or in production, and design documentation and production tooling were likewise destroyed. Not one Iroquois-powered Mark 2 ever flew.

Worse followed: Avro laid off 14,000 workers, a massive shock to Canada's aircraft industry, known ever afterward as "Black Friday." To replace the Arrow, Air Marshall Campbell received 66 F-101B/F Voodoo supersonic interceptors with low flight hours capable of Mach 1.5 in 1961 and 1962. From then until the early 1980s, each received regular updates.

The aftermath was dismal. Many Canadians (and others) to this day condemn the Diefenbaker government as criminally irrational, deliberately and absurdly hostile to the Arrow, unforgivably ignorant, and in connivance with the US government. They damn Diefenbaker himself for demolishing the Arrow prototypes and their components, tooling, and documentation—which shattered all hope of resurrecting the program. But viewing that decision from a more exonerative viewpoint, it appears Diefenbaker had good reason: The Arrow (and all attendant data) was far too advanced technologically to let hostile governments (read: the Russians) thieve it; safeguarding the program’s materials and data from prying eyes would have proved undoable anyway; nobody wanted the burden—or expense.

Be that as it may, many history students don’t buy Diefenbaker’s argument that the Arrow program’s price tag was far too high to sustain, asserting that unrealistic assumptions inflated the cost. Others accuse the Americans of deliberately sabotaging the Arrow program, fearful of the competition, recounted in a full-blown conspiracy-theory TV movie released in 1996 by the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) starring Dan Ackroyd. The movie featured US President Eisenhower pressuring Prime Minister Diefenbaker to cancel the Arrow and "buy American." Anticipating hostile blowback, the movie’s producers shrewdly and subtly labeled the show a "work of fiction," the presentment of sham, patently invented evidence; but even so the show convinced many viewers that the conspiracy theory is incontestable fact.

Conspiracy theorists further claim that the US Defense Secretary told his Canadian counterpart that Canada would be far better off with US hardware than the Arrow and should liquidate the aircraft, which one Diefenbaker cabinet member vehemently denied, insisting the USA had categorically supported the program from its beginning, calling the conspiracy theory "complete rubbish." He protested that the Americans were clearly involved with and supportive of the Arrow program from its earliest days, confirmed by the NACA providing test support, the USAF furnishing a B-47 to test the Iroquois engine, and US hardware like the J75 engine contributed to the prototypes.

Little doubt remains that the Arrow would have been a superlative interceptor given more development, and it was a shame the Iroquois-powered prototypes never flew. But most military historians agree the program was immensely ambitious and enormously risky. The jet’s technology was based on almost entirely new technology, including the air frame, engine, fire control system, and missiles. The mission focused exclusively on interception, which at the jet’s geneses made sense; but by the time Arrow prototypes flew, the Soviet bomber threat appeared less critical, especially as ICBMs would soon enter service. These realities gave Diefenbaker pause to reassess and then cancel the project.

Interestingly, while the Canadians were working on the Arrow, the Americans were planning a conceptually similar long-range, high-performance interceptor: the North American F-108 Rapier. The Rapier never lived beyond the mockup stage (being canceled in September 1959). But Lockheed did continue work on a Mach 3 interceptor design (which was also canceled), the Lockheed YF-12A, elder brother to the SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft. For the USA, the strategic threat had swung to ICBMs, and pricey Mach 3 interceptors were simply too expensive.

Whatever the facts, it is hard not to sympathize with those who dream of the CF-105 thundering over Canada's snow-shrouded north chasing Russian Bears.
And yessir, I do love the Arrow, and boy howdy do I relish this model. I assume that Hobby Master produced this little work of art, which to me is entirely consistent with that company’s superlative reputation. I can’t fault the model even a little but for the half-circle curve of on either side of the canopy: If you look closely, you’ll see that the rounded portion on the real McCoy was shaped slightly dissimilarly from the model’s perspex window. But it’s close enough, and I’m not pointing a finger at anybody. Not me, baby; I like what I see. I fancy its sister Arrows painted in glow orange-red too, but something about the 201’s all-white livery is immaculate and deeply appealing. If you can find one of these gems for a reasonable price (likely hopeless), don’t hesitate. Pull the trigger and buy it before somebody else snarfs it up. Truly, of all my models (and I own a ton), my Avro CF-105 Arrows are my favorites.


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Old 08-05-2017, 09:24 AM   #491
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When you think of the Aichi B7A2 Ryusei “Grace,” envisage a Mitsubishi A6M Zero and a Junkers Ju-87D Stuka hooking up for an evening of drinks and impassioned fun. Their love child emerged as a two-seat carrier-based Torpedo/Dive Bomber, an answer to a specification Japan issued in 1941 to replace the B6N and D4Y.

Like its father, the B7A2 was a dive bomber blessed with dogged accuracy and robustness. But like its mother, it could imitate a fighter too with grace and agility, especially when flying close to the deck. And unlike the two warbirds it was meant to replace, the Ryusei featured both an internal and external payload, increased speed, and long-range. A few of its distinctive features included inverted gull-wings, a conventional fuselage and tail unit, plus a four-bladed propeller. And like so many similar aircraft, it agonized through developmental teething problems such as postponed engines, intractable engine issues, iffy handling, and undercarriage perplexities. And as if the project were cursed, an earthquake wrecked its main factory, smashing most of the B7As within, delaying the dive bomber’s active service until 1944. By which time, all Japanese aircraft carriers capable of handling the warbird were annihilated, the last being the Shinano, sunk 10 days after its commissioning. With nowhere else to go, the B7A2 soldiered on in home-defense, seeing scant service.

Aichi flew the first B7A1 prototype in May 1942 and was well pleased (as was the Imperial Navy). A Nakajima NK9C 12 Model radial engine, producing 1,825 hp, muscled it along, blessing the aircraft with exceptionally good speed even when lumbered with ordinance. Despite its generous dimensions, the B7A1 exhibited handling and performance matching Mitsubishi's A6M Zero, which impressed the top brass so much they ordered eight additional prototypes. With more testing, however, the experimental engine exhibited teething problems along with the air-frame that required extensive tweaking. It took two years to iron out the issues, and it wasn’t until ‘44 before production commenced in earnest. Aichi had completed only 80 B7A2s by May 1945 when an earthquake obliterated the factory housing the aircraft. Another workshop took up the slack.

Had plans come to fruition, many B7A2s would have taken to the skies including variations, one of which an experimental production B7A2 fitted with the Nakajima Homare 23 radial engine that could produce 2,000 hp. Another was the B7A3 Ryusei-Kai designed to house the Mitsubishi Ha-43 radial engine producing 2,200 hp but was never built. Lastly came the B8A1 Mokusei "Planet" minus carrier equipment and gull wings, sporting two Type 99 20mm cannons and two Type 5 30mm cannons. The B8A remained a daydream.

In all, 9 B7A1's, and 105 B7A2's were produced. 114 in total. And not one distinguished itself in battle (that we know of).
I’ve always maintained that WarMaster, though a bit heavy-handed in the grunge/weathering department, produced some remarkably good models (especially armor). In the Aichi B7A2’s case, the manu did a so-so job: accuracy is a bit iffy and the wing-joint joints are downright gauche. But once you accept that and the model’s clumsy, splotchy, shiny finish, it actually grows on you. Not to mention, WarMaster deserves props for producing the Grace at all, considering nobody else has or likely ever will. So overall, this model ain’t that bad, though it falls short of Corgi and Hobby Master excellence by a considerable margin.


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Old 08-07-2017, 08:06 AM   #492
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten


In the 1950s, the US Navy needed a small, lightweight, jet-powered fighter to operate from its smaller Escort Carriers. At the time, Escort Carriers couldn't accommodate newer, larger fighters then entering service, so Northrop responded with the "N-156" lightweight, twin-engine jet fighter proposal powered by the General Electric J85 turbojet engine---the identical powerplant employed in the McDonnell ADM-20 "Quail" subsonic decoy cruise missile. This installation proved ideal, generating a powerful thrust-to-weight ratio. But US Navy interest soon flagged once its Escort Carriers bit the dust, leaving the N-156's fate uncertain. Notwithstanding, Northrop engineers produced the N-156 in two separate types, the single-seat "N-156F" fighter and the two-seat "N-156T" combat trainer.

The USAF cast a longing eye at the N-156T twin-seat design, seeking a replacement for its elderly Lockheed T-33 "Shooting Star" jet trainer and chose it as the service's next-generation jet trainer (which eventually evolved into the YT-38 "Talon" and ultimately the celebrated Northrop T-38 "Talon"). Inexplicably, the USAF remained mulishly unimpressed with the fighter version, unlike the US Army that desired a close-support/reconnaissance platform of its own and made inquiries. The USAF was anything but amused by this attention, jealous of its standing as the only "true" fixed-wing, air-combat arm in the US military and derailed the notion. The N-156F again fell into limbo until then-President John F. Kennedy issued a new requirement for a budget export fighter to serve American allies worldwide (through the F-X program). The government formally declared the N-156F the winner of this directive on April 23rd, 1962, now officially designated the "F-5." To emphasize the jet's American "Mother and Apple Pie" export status, Lockheed nicknamed the F-5A the "Freedom Fighter," which made its first flight in May of 1963.

The F-5A was a basic aircraft design optimized for air-to-ground attack with limited air-to-air utility owing to no fire-control radar to identify, track, and engage aerial targets. Two General Electric J85-GE-13 turbojet engines featuring 2,720 lbs. of standard thrust and 4,080 lbs. on afterburner propelled the jet to Mach 1.4 (925 mph) at up to 50,500 feet. Maximum range on internal fuel reached 1,400 miles. Standard armament included two M39 20mm cannons on either side of the nose, two AIM-9 Sidewinders fixed to the wingtips, and bombs, rocket pods, and missiles, up to 6,200 lbs total. External fuel stores were optional.

As the Vietnam War raged on, the USAF deployed a single squadron of F-5As for combat assessment. The evaluation lasted from October 1966 to March 1967, dubbed "Skoshi Tiger" (Little Tiger). At least 12 F5-As initially participated with the 4503rd Tactical Fighter Squadron, followed by several more. Modifications to these Tigers included improved in-cockpit instrumentation, increased armor protection, and support for "probe and drogue" in-flight refueling. The upgrades were ornate enough to prompt a designation change to "F-5C," the jets serving with the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing out of Bien Hoa and Da Nang Air Base. The Skoshi Tigers flew 2,600 missions with only one loss.

Despite the jet's phenomenal showing (in both air-to-air and air-to-ground actions), the USAF remained incurably indifferent. The warbird's battle prowess did, however, impress friendly and heretofore uncommitted nations. Following the deployment, modified F-5Cs served with the South Vietnam Air Force. With the fall Bien Hoa in South Vietnam, these aircraft supported the Communist North or were shipped to the Soviet Union where comrades drank themselves silly over their new acquisitions.
I've gotta admit, Hobby Master's Northrup F-5E Tiger (HA3320) is a handsome little bugger. I marvel over its metallic finish, the smoothness of it, how realistic it is, the fact that I'm so ham-handed painting wise I'd never achieve that effect. And those yellow/black tampo bands across the fuselage, tail, and wings are stunning. The overall effect SCREAMS 1960s with its Sci-Fi metallic, UFO patina, its crystalline canopy, and military cyborg aura. I love it, right down to its tapered canoe nose. Anybody fascinated by Kennedy-era fast jets should buy this thing. It rocks!



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Old 08-07-2017, 10:26 PM   #493
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

interesting write-ups, monsieur richtofen... but tbh, the featured model and the "as for the model" graphic is getting me all confused.
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Old 08-08-2017, 09:13 AM   #494
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

The RAAF prized the Dassault Mirage 111 (for 25 years), affectionately calling it the “French Lady” for all its elegance and sultry appeal. She was something of a foxy courtesan blessed with sumptuous talents and abilities; but like a French mistress, this ladylove was pricey, capricious, occasionally difficult, and often demanding.

The Mirage III0 entered RAAF service in December 1963, eventually building to 100 Single seat III0s and 16 dual seat III0Ds. Aussie pilots adored her even though 43 aircraft crashed killing 14 pilots; Australian jet jockeys flew close to 2000 hours on the bird, some even more. And despite the jet’s modest thrust/weight ratio, it sizzled through the skies with exhilarating acceleration and rate of climb, further boosted with full afterburner. Few contemporary fighters could match its amazing roll rate, which, coupled with the aircraft’s straightforward flight controls, made it a delight to fly. Wing Commander (ret.) Trevor Martin recalled his experiences with the bird as “…the finest example of the aerodynamicist's art.”

Yet as sexy as the Mirage III was, it had its detractors too—for good reason. Air Commodore (ret.) Graham Thomas commented (in 1985) that though the aircraft performed well as a medium-to-high level interceptor armed with the Matra missile and a 30mm gun pack, Australian tactics called for additional external fuel tanks and two Sidewinder missiles (in addition to the Matra), which overburdened the engine and sapped available power. The result being, the RAAF Mirage III0 was woefully underpowered, which potentially crippled Australia's interception capabilities in time of war. AIRCDRE Thomas continued that the aircraft could not be refueled by air, which sharply reduced its operational reach. The tanks were topped off individually using mechanical valves, which zeroed the option of single-point, in-flight refueling. And given the extended distances RAAF jets were required to fly, this drastically curtailed the aircraft's range—not a good thing when defending against Russian bombers.

Plus, not all RAAF officers were chirpy about flying French-made fighters over American types (read: the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter). Both aircraft were interceptors, and both could fly limited air-to-ground attack sorties. But many Aussies considered the F-104 the better choice because it was an American aircraft, and the RAAF had a longstanding rapport with that country’s aero industry. Not to mention, American parts were more accessible, reliable, and less expensive. In addition, dealings with Dassault were often rife with quarrels and hassle. Because of French pressure, RAAF Mirages never served in combat over Vietnam, which would have provided Aussie pilots and ground crews with invaluable operational experience.

No question, the Mirage III was a sex kitten blessed with sensual curves and blazing speed; but it’s debatable if she was the right jet for Australia at the time. The F-104 wasn’t perfect, either (heaven knows), given its dubious service record. But the RAAF might have saved a shedload of money flying the Starfighter, enjoyed better parts availability, and dodged a string of exasperating conflicts.


Yep, I like this bird, though some collectors take issue with the model’s accuracy. Personally, I think Falcon Models did a passable job on its Dassault Mirage IIIs, the only manu to offer the beast: overall the model looks just as sexy and bodacious as its real-world counterpart, accentuated by handsome RAAF blue/dark blue-green camouflage. It’s not perfect (no model is), but she’s good enough until and unless another manu produces a better example. Poor ol’ Falcon bit the dust a few years back, making finding this particular model problematic. But if you can, get one!

P.S. In answer to your confusion about the featured model graphic and the “as for the model …” artwork, tomcatter, you’re right: some of them don’t match; they’re not the same aircraft (some aren’t even aircraft). But don’t despair: I’m just having fun with various unusual, mismated schemes. Hope you like them.


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Old 08-09-2017, 09:18 AM   #495
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

In 1945 as the Battle of the Atlantic lost steam, the British Admiralty requested a high-performance, specialized anti-submarine aircraft to meet future threats. Fairey Aviation, proficient in duo engines and contra-rotating propellers, was only too happy to oblige and designed a twin-engined ASW version of their successful Firefly fighter (burying the second engine behind the pilot) that could accommodate bulky new electronic equipment the Admiralty required along with two Armstrong-Siddeley Mamba turbojets that drove two hefty props.

In short order, the Type Q rolled out amidst much ballyhoo but revealed several worrying flaws including large trim changes on flap deployment, mushy elevator response, and exasperating directional instability. Laden with these and other niggling issues, the first prototype crashed on take-off, necessitating three months of intensive repair. During this fix, Fairey revamped the elevators, ailerons, and rudder, after which deck trials recommenced.

Lt. Cdr. G. Callingham made the first deck landing by a turboprop aircraft on HMS Illustrious on 19th June 1950, flying the Type Q VR546, followed by more test flights that enthused the Royal Navy. The second prototype featured a search radar sealed in a retractable radome slung beneath the rear fuselage. Everything went swimmingly until the Admiralty demanded a larger weapons bay (to accommodate torpedoes) plus an added cockpit to lodge a dedicated radar operator. Thus Fairey produced the third prototype featuring a more capacious bay (extended aft), a small increase in wing area, and a two-seat rear cockpit. On paper, these changes augmented the aircraft’s ASW capabilities but ended up causing directional instability when the radome was deployed. To address this issue, Fairey installed small finlets to the tailplane, which minimized the problem but not enough: The third prototype crashed, killing its pilot and several deck crew.

The Navy received their first production Gannets (AS.1s) at RNAS Ford in April 1954 when intensive trials began with 703X Flight, which discovered to its alarm that turboprop engines couldn’t respond to sudden power demands, unlike piston powerplant aircraft. Operational use eventually redressed this and other snags, though the Gannet was too underpowered to haul the added weight imposed by the Admiralty.

With time, later versions of the Gannet (read: the AEW.3) developed a solid reputation for reliability and manageability under the worst of conditions. But just as the AEW.3 was proving itself in 1964, the Tory government toppled, resulting in the ultimate collapse of military funding. Labour Party officials canceled plans for the Gannet’s AEW replacement and the Navy's new large carrier CVA-01 along with numerous other planned defense projects (including the TSR.2). Instead, the new government mandated that the Gannet serve far beyond its shelf-life, which it bravely did until further defense cuts extinguished the Royal Navy’s carrier force entirely. The Gannets were flown to Lossiemouth, where most were scrapped, their radars passing to the RAF's Shackleton force of land-based AEWs (the same radars fitted to Skyraiders in the 1950s), denuding the Royal Navy of airborne early warning systems entirely.

During the Falklands War of 1982, hardly four years after the last AEW Gannet had retired, Argentine fighter attacks against British ships underscored the Labor government’s harebrained (and utterly indefensible) military neglect. Only after the War did the Royal Navy regain partial AEW capability through hastily converted Sea King helicopters equipped with basic radar sets (similar to the sets used in RAF Nimrods not entirely suitable for the task). It wasn’t until 2002 before technicians installed more effective radars on Sea Kings, approaching AEW capabilities the navy had enjoyed 24 years before with the Gannet.
Yep, I dig this model. Witty (before Aviation 72 acquired some of its molds) occasionally surprised collectors with superlative productions, the equals (or even betters on rare occasion) of Corgi, Hobby Master, and other vaunted manus. Witty lavished all kinds of care and know-how on its Gannets: The model’s profile is remarkably clean; paint application is superlative, and overall the quality is top shelf. The Gannet didn’t distinguish itself in battle (never had the chance), but it did provide yeoman service to several nations’ navies, the RN foremost among them. Buy one and you’ll be surprised how cool it is.



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Old 08-10-2017, 07:57 AM   #496
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

The Italian fascist state, at least at first, was understandably jazzed about its new four-engined Boeing B-17 wannabe, the Piaggio P108. Italy had, after all, taken the world stage with superlative aircraft design and a cadre of exceptional pilots. Giulio Douhet, the presumptive father of strategic bombing theory, would certainly have championed the project (had he not died a decade earlier). Not to mention, designer Giovanni Casiraghi had recently returned from the USA as a multi-engine aircraft designer and assumed leadership of the Piaggio design team, crazy-pants determined to build a bomber superior to the Flying Fortress to strike Italy’s far-flung enemies. And thus work began over a heaping bowl of spaghetti, Casiraghi and his team feverishly committing a scheme to paper. Soon the bomber took physical form, looking vaguely like the B-17 but uglier. But despite the designers’ moxie and feverish enterprise, the P.108 ultimately amounted to exactly nothing. While the rest of the Regia Aeronautica's bomber fleet soldiered on courageously, the Piaggio languished on the sidelines beached like a whale.

Outwardly, the Piaggio P.108 was mostly conventional, sporting a long, smooth fuselage with a stepped forward section. The nose featured glazing, the cockpit resting along the third highest “step”; the wings were fitted as low-mounted assemblies ahead of amidships. The fuselage tapered off into an empennage featuring a conventional tail system, the tail itself towering above low-mounted stabilizers. Consistent with many other Italian aircraft, all wing surfaces were rounded, each wing housing a pair of engines and presenting a slight dihedral from wing root to wing tip. The undercarriage featured two retractable, sing-wheeled main landing gear and a fixed tail wheel. The main oleos retracted forward into the innermost engine nacelles. Four Piaggio PXII RC.35 radial piston engines powered the beast, producing approximately 1,500 horsepower each, giving the bomber a top speed of 267 miles per hour with a service ceiling of roughly 38,300 feet and a range of up to 2,185 miles. The engines were, for lack of a better word, crap, prone to seize up and/or catch fire in-flight.

Defensive armament consisted of 12.7mm heavy and 7.7mm rifle-caliber machine guns positioned around the fuselage and wings. Unique to the P.108 (if not amusingly), remote-controlled 12.7mm Breda-SAFAT heavy machine gun turrets were affixed to the aft end of the bomber’s two outermost engine nacelles—meant to defend the aircraft’s rear. Not surprisingly they proved useless. Offensively, the Piaggio could heft 7,709 lbs, bombs distributed across three divided bays. The anti-shipping version (P.108A “Artiglieri”) slung two torpedoes underwing and one beneath the fuselage centerline. In all, the crew consisted of six or seven personnel, including the pilot, co-pilot, bombardier, and machine gunners.

On paper, the warbird looked like a winner. She was nothing if not innovative and could have (given more intelligent development) rivaled comparable Allied bombers. Her wing design was sophisticated, and the integrated turrets, though absurd, offered considerable rearward protection (in theory). The problem was, no more than seven or eight machines were available at any one time, not to mention the P.108 demonstrated dismal handling characteristics (partly due to its sucky engines). The bombers that did see service were deployed over the Mediterranean Sea, mostly during 1942-43, right before the Italian surrender. Of historical note are its sparse raids on Allied shipping around Algeria during Operation Torch and its first war mission in June 1942 over Gibraltar.

All told, Piaggio produced 163 P-108s, none of which impacted the war but for one that likely cost the warbird its rightful place in history. P.108 No.43872 flew with the newly formed 274th BGR (long-range bombardment) squadron, commanded, of all people, by 23-year-old Capt. Bruno Mussolini, Il Duce’s beloved son. Flying with seven other men over the Sun Kuisto Airfield at Pisa, Bruno lost control of the bomber when its far port engine burst into flame. The bomber plummeted and exploded on impact, killing Mussolini along with Lieutenant Pilot Francesco Vitalini and Motorist Angelo Trezzini; five other crew members survived, barely. When Il Duce heard the news, he went catatonic, white as a ghost.

It surprised no one that the Italian dictator withdrew his endorsement of the plane swiftly, no longer lenient toward the bomber’s habitual engine failures and multifarious issues. And thus, the ol’ Piaggio P.108 was mostly left to rot, sitting feebly on the fringes of history, the hapless victim of crap-fest engines that could have—should have—powered it to immortality.
I’ll be honest: I’m not a huge fan of Altaya’s 1/144 scale bombers. Some of them are passable, perhaps even pleasing to some; but I'm not all that impressed. I appreciate it that the manu produced miniature models of bombers we’ll likely never see otherwise, but the majority of these brave attempts were clumsy, lacking in both accuracy and quality. To each his own, and if these little replicas do it for you, more power to ya; but I’ll sink my money into larger, more detailed, quality models.



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Old 08-11-2017, 07:42 AM   #497
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

Even an elderly bomber can pack a wallop when properly armed. The venerable old Tu-95 Bear, plodding around the globe for fifty-nine years, finally saw combat in November 2015 by launching several cruise missiles and blowing the snot out of several Syrian rebel battlements. This first-time deployment of cruise missiles on a Tu-95 served to demonstrate Moscow’s military capabilities (and resolve to use such) to the USA and her allies.

Pretty impressive show for an old fart, actually, when you consider the Tu-95 is a gray-haired geezer lumbered with old-timey turboprop engines and stone-age technology. It’s even more notable considering Russia maintains a diverse fleet of advanced bombers capable of hefting heavier payloads and flying heaps faster. The Bear owes its longevity (in part) to hauling heavy cruise missiles and keeping a watchful eye over the Pacific and Atlantic, especially when being discreet is not only unnecessary mission wise but contrary to its purpose. The Tu-95 is Russia’s B-52 with a decidedly maritime bent practiced at knocking on the doors of coastal air-defense systems in Europe, Asia and North America.

In 1950, Soviet planners requested in 1950 a four-engine bomber that would fly five thousand miles to hit targets throughout the United States with over twelve tons of bombs (the Commies demanded a strategic bomber force much like America’s). The biggest snag, however, was Russia’s voraciously thirsty engines, which guzzled fuel faster than Joseph Stalin’s vodka-quaffing grandmother, forcing Andrei Tupolev’s design bureau to build an aircraft featuring four powerful NK-12 turboprop engines with contrarotating propellers. Each NK-12 sported two propellers, one spinning opposite the other, which not only counteracted torque but also increased speed. The tips of its eighteen-foot diameter propellers spun at slightly over the speed of sound, producing a racket so deafening, bomber crews routinely lost their hearing. The Bear laid claim to being the fastest existing propeller plane ever, capable of flying over five-hundred miles per hour. And the Soviets discovered that contrarotating propellers are modestly more efficient than jets (though they’re more expensive and difficult to maintain). The Tu-95 was also one of very few propeller planes with swept-back wings that allowed for higher speeds.

And range wise, the Tu-95 could practically circuit the galaxy with its tremendous fuel capacity, able to fly over nine thousand miles on internal fuel alone. Later versions added the distinctive narwhal-tusk looking in-flight refueling probe to extend range. Typical Bear Cold War patrols lasted ten hours, sometimes twice as long.

Today (as it was yesterday), six to eight men crew the Tu-95 depending on the type, including two pilots, two navigators, and gun and sensor personnel. The definitive Bear of the ‘50s and ‘60s carried two twin-barreled, twenty-three-millimeter cannons in the belly and tail plus a single fixed gun in the nose, all designed to fend off enemy fighters. With the advent of long-range, air-to-air missiles, however, this defensive suite became obsolete and was removed, all but the tail guns.

The Bear’s original intended mission was straightforward and brazen: fly over the Arctic Circle and drop nuclear bombs on American heads. Even if the majority of Tu-95s fell victim to surface-to-air missiles and/or defending fighters, the Russians reckoned some would get through, copycatting the U.S. Air Force’s own war plans, all but maintaining a twenty-four-hour airborne nuclear-armed bomber force. By the 1960s, the Soviet Union decided that such a nuclear strategic bomber attack wasn’t only a wasteful strategy but entirely insane given developments in air defense compared to comparatively inexpensive, unstoppable ballistic missiles. New variants of the Tu-95, then, were deployed on other missions.

One of which was to carry long-range cruise missiles, eliminating the bomber’s exposure to interception. The Tu-95K variant could heft the enormous Kh-20 nuclear cruise missile, dubbed the Kangaroo (by NATO). The missile had a range of three to five-hundred miles and resembled a wingless MiG-19 (which, actually, it was). Other Bears shadowed U.S. carrier battle groups, though crews found that pinpointing ships on the vast ocean was ambitious, even when using state-of-the-art sensor suites. But the Bear, able to cover vast distances, was Russia’s only way to ferret out U.S. fleets and track their movements. The Tu-95RT maritime reconnaissance variant performs this duty with a belly-pod surface-search radar and a glass observation blister located aft of the tail gunner’s position.

In the ‘60s, the Soviet Union eventually developed a specialized anti-submarine reconnaissance Bear, the Tu-142, designed to counter America’s new Polaris Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM). The Tu-142 featured a Berkut (Golden Eagle) surface-search and targeting radar and a boom in the tail that housed a Magnetic Anomaly Detector. The current variant, the Tu-142MZ, employs very effective RGB-16 and RGB-26 sonar-buoys and boasts of more powerful engines. Tu-142s routinely detect U.S. submarines and follow them for hours; Tu-142MRs also communicate with Russian submarines, providing the whereabouts of their adversary. The Russian Naval Air Arm still operates fifteen Tu-142s today, one recently spotted in Syria spying on Syrian rebel positions and monitoring U.S. fleet movements.

Besides the Tu-142, fifty Tu-95MS serve as cruise-missile trucks, recently upgraded to carry sixteen Kh-55 cruise missiles each and outfitted with new navigation/targeting systems. The Kh-55 comes in many variants, both conventional and nuclear, with ranges from three hundred to three thousand kilometers. The Tu-95MSM variant can also fire the stealthy Kh-101 and nuclear Kh-102 stealth cruise missiles that skim at low altitude and fly up to 5,500 kilometers.

Even today, the Bear trolls the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Tu-95s have buzzed England’s coast, flown fifty miles off of California, intruded into the Alaskan air defense identification zone, and trespassed inside Japanese airspace. Closer flights usually provoke fighter interception and escort. Such incursions, routine during the Cold War (and becoming more so today), are surveillance missions theoretically, but their main intent is to remind adversarial countries that Russia can and will deploy nuclear-armed bombers when provoked.

I’ve gotta say, this little Herpa bird is hot, hot, HOT! It’s relatively small, of course (being 1/200 scale), but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in presence, precision, and personality. I’m not all that jazzed about the model’s yawning wing-root gaps, but the rest of the plane looks terrific, including its awesome turboprop engines and eight rotating props. Love the chin radar too and the model’s smooth overall metallic look. It’s doubtful some other manu will produce the Tu-95 in 1/72 scale (like it’s doubtful somebody will raise the Titanic any time soon), so you might want to grab this baby if and while you can. She’s a purdy little thing you’ll be proud of.



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Old 08-11-2017, 07:56 AM   #498
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

In the spring of 1916, the Deutsche Luftstreitkräfte (Imperial German Flying Corps,) flung a gargantuan bantha-fodder biscuit in the Royal Flying Corps’ face, shooting the poodoo out of Allied planes with maddening impunity. The RFC, aghast at this impertinence, issued a call to the British aircraft industry to produce better fighters to flog the cheeky blighters and show them what for.

Two dueling companies, Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough and Sopwith Aviation, gamely took up the challenge, Sopwith initiating studies that resulted in the legendary Sopwith Camel, R.A.F.'s Henry P. Folland, John Kenworthy, and Major Frank W. Goodden working on their own design dubbed the Scout Experimental 5. The new Royal machine mated a new water-cooled 150-hp Hispano-Suiza engine to a tough, square-rigged, single-seat fighter capable of sustaining high-speed dives. Construction of three prototypes began in the fall of 1916, one flying on November 22. During testing, two of the three prototypes crashed, the first killing Major Goodden on January 28, 1917. With further refinement, the bi-plane demonstrated high speed and agility with excellent lateral control. Just like its cousins the B.E. 2, F.E. 2, and R.E. 8, the S.E. 5 proved to be a sturdy, steady gun platform.

For armament, R.A.F. equipped the fighter with a synchronized Vickers machine gun that fired through the propeller yoked with an upper wing-mounted Lewis gun attached to a Foster mounting. The Foster mount not only allowed pilots to attack enemies from below by canting the machine gun upward but also simplified reloading and clearing jams.

The S.E.5 commenced service with No. 56 Squadron in March 1917 and deployed to France the following month. Arriving during "Bloody April," when Manfred von Richthofen enlarged his score by 21 kills, the fighter acquitted itself reasonably well, though pilots grumbled vociferously that the S.E.5 was decrepit. Famed ace Albert Ball made no bones about it carping “The S.E.5 has turned out a dud." Stung by the criticism, the R.A.F. rolled out an improved S.E.5a in June 1917 featuring a 200-hp Hispano-Suiza engine that blew the socks off the Hun. This version became the standard with 5,265 produced.

British pilots were delighted with this modified version, who praised the bi-plane's superb high-altitude performance, splendid visibility, and easy handling—in direct contrast to the Sopwith Camel with its burly, problematical engine that was routinely killing English airmen. Indeed, the S.E.5a beat the Sopwith in most respects but for maneuverability and was a much safer airplane to boot, which fledgling airmen unanimously prized. Unhappily, S.E.5a construction lagged behind Camel production owing to manufacturing snags with the Hispano-Suiza engine. For whatever reason, the factory didn’t/couldn’t resolve these issues until the 200-hp Wolseley Viper (a high-compression version of the Hispano-Suiza) engine materialized in late 1917.

It wasn’t until early 1918 that sufficient numbers of S.E.5a’s reached the front, equipping 21 British and two American squadrons. Many of the top Allied aces flew this fighter, including Billy Bishop, Andrew Beauchamp-Proctor, Edward Mannock and James McCudden. Legendary British ace Albert Ball initially complained about the S.E.5 but in the end claimed 11 of his 44 victories flying it. McCudden wrote of the S.E.5 "It was very fine to be in a machine that was faster than the Huns, and to know that one could run away just as things got too hot." When asked what they liked about this fighter, nearly everyone above recited the fighter’s following strengths...

The S.E.5a was:

• comfortable, with a good all-round view
• steady and quick to gather speed in the dive
• capable of fast zoom
• useful in both offense and defense
• strong in design and construction
• its engine (the Wolseley Viper) was reliable
• it maintained performance and maneuverability at high altitudes

Over a decade ago I purchased Matchbox’s 1/48 Spads and Fokker Triplanes and was totally thrilled; detail was abundant, and each model was blessed with abundant verisimilitude. Not long afterward, Corgi issued its first WWI 1/48 models, and for me buying them was a no-brainer. They’re accurate (as far as my amateurish eyes can tell), they’re accurate livery wise and professionally rendered; and at least with my examples, their wires are taut and realistic. The German fighters are exceptionally intriguing in their colorful plumage, but the Allied planes are no less satisfying. If I have misgivings, they lie in the models’ occasional trough-like joint lines. Other than that, these models are supremely cool, and I recommend them to anybody interested in WWI aviation. This S.E.5a remains one of my favorites.



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Old 08-11-2017, 08:06 AM   #499
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

Short Sunderlands sent 26 U-boat crews to their watery graves, most of them, no doubt, cursing the minatory flying boat all the way to the bottom. This porcupine, pugilist warbird couldn’t quite close the "mid-Atlantic gap" and beat off predatory Nazi subs (Coastal Command had to wait for the Liberator to cover the entire Atlantic), but the Sunderland was terribly effective where it did operate.

In 1933, the Air Ministry submitted a requirement for a general reconnaissance flying boat, which Short Brothers accepted and ultimately translated into the S.25 Sunderland (based on their famous S.23 "Empire" or "C-class" flying boat, the flagship of Imperial Airways). The S.25 first flew on 16 October 1937. The Sunderland featured a deep hull and wings set high on the fuselage intended to keep its engines and propellers free from water spray. Awe-inspiring in size, the hull featured a single step, which allowed the aircraft to more easily unstick from water. Its distinct, protrusive jowl supported a two-gun turret; the tail a four-gun turret. To correct a center-of-gravity issue, engineers gave the wings a slight sweepback, slightly toeing out the engines to compensate, which cost engine efficiency but improved controllability with one powerplant disabled. A strut and float under each wing stabilized the ship, and crew members steered the flying boat by deploying canvas drogues through galley windows.

The Sunderland could roll onto shore with special beaching wheels. On water, crew members moored the aircraft to a buoy, rolling back the gun turret and running out a chain. When the sea was rough, an anchor steadied the craft. Supply boats conveyed provisions, fuel, and ammunition to the plane but had to take care not to damage the hull. Crews generally lived in their Sunderlands between flights; but when the aircraft was moored and the crew was away, two men stayed aboard to handle emergencies. A pilot remained during inclement weather, turning the aircraft into the wind (via its engines) when necessary. Short Brothers provided both a manual pump and a pump driven by an Auxiliary Power Unit to empty the bilges.

Engine wise, four dependable Bristol Pegasus XXII air-cooled radial engines powered the Sunderland Mk.I. The Mk.II featured slightly more powerful Pegasus XVIII engines with constant-speed airscrews. The Mk.V version featured American Pratt & Whitney R-1830-90B engines of 1200hp that supplied fully-feathering propellers, which in combination with the additional power significantly increased the Sunderland’s survival rate when one or two engines quit.

The Sunderland’s fuselage was capacious and offered the crew reasonable comfort on long patrols, which often lasted 13 hours. The forward fuselage was partitioned into two decks, the upper accommodating the two-man cockpit and flight engineer, wireless operator, and navigator stations, plus gunner positions. The lower deck housed bombs and/or depth charges on movable racks conveyed to large rectangular doors under the wings; the bombardier sat below the nose turret (comparatively, the warload was modest for such a massive aircraft; but the flying boat’s primary purpose was reconnaissance, not bombing). The lower deck also boasted of a wardroom, a galley with an oven, two primus stoves, two bunks for off-duty crew members, a flush lavatory, a wash basin, and a shaving mirror. Crews often used their own sets of dishes and cooking utensils and spruced up the small wardroom with curtains.

The Sunderland was agreeable and easy to fly, cruising at 140 mph, typically at low altitudes. The flying boat mostly tracked enemy shipping over long patrols often above empty seas where some crews never sighted the enemy. The Sunderland also flew search-and-rescue missions though it rarely recovered survivors: The outward float struts had a nasty habit of snapping off; from 1942 on, the RAF expressly forbade landings in open sea except in special circumstances and only with permission.

U-boat crews hated the beast. Two Sunderlands often flew in tandem and met convoys far out to sea. When they sighted a U-boat, they attempted an attack before the sub submerged, dropping bombs set to explode at a depth of 25 feet to 30 feet, a highly effective practice against surfaced submarines. Later in the war to discourage these assaults, U-boats brandished Flak guns and were all too willing to duke it out. To counter this threat, Sunderlands returned fire with four fixed, forward-firing guns designed to obliterate Flak crews. Confrontations proved deadly to both airplane and U-boat. Early Sunderlands were vulnerable to enemy attack beyond Allied fighter protection; later Sunderlands, however, packed nose, dorsal, and tail turrets plus additional weapons furnished by their crews. Flying just above the waves to thwart ventral attacks, Sunderlands proved difficult to shoot down and could savagely defend themselves (as demonstrated on 2 June 1943 when a Sunderland shot down three of eight attacking Ju 88s). Such exploits earned the flying boat the German nickname "Fliegendes Stachelschwein" (Flying Porcupine), though the array of radar antennas fitted to many Sunderlands could account for the sobriquet.

When the war broke out, Coastal Command flew 34 Sunderlands. By war’s end, over 700 served around the world.


I wouldn’t argue with anybody should they insist Corgi’s B-17s or Lancasters or Halifax’s (or any number of other creations) are the manu’s best effort. A great many Corgi models are works of art, but I maintain that the pooch’s Short Sunderland stands pretty close to the head of the line. In fact, I can’t find a single thing I don’t like about the model: it’s clean, it’s accurate (so far as I can tell), and it positively reeks of quality. It's a tour de force, a gem; and to not own one is inexcusable, especially for those who collect WWII four-engined warbirds, especially British four-engined warbirds. It’s expensive, but it’s worth every last penny.



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Old 08-11-2017, 08:17 AM   #500
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

Not only was the SR-71 one of the speediest planes to ever fly operationally, she was the coolest in a major-league swag kind of way. The Blackbird was raven black and fiendish and hands-down shivery, Darth Vader’s second cousin, the archetype of rock-on! I mean, just look at the thing!

But she wasn’t built for looks. Back in the day, Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson, Lockheed’s genius aero designer, knew well that Russian SAMs would ultimately shoot his U-2 reconnaissance aircraft out of the sky and ergo planned a newer, faster successor. He and his buds at Lockheed Advance Development Projects (the Skunk Works) got busy on a replacement so staggeringly awesome the aircraft resembled something straight out of Star Wars. By 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that the USAF possessed a new, pimptacular strategic reconnaissance aircraft so swift no other aircraft in the universe could catch it: the SR-71 Blackbird.

And he was right: nothing could, missile or jet. When the SR-71 entered active service, its flight envelope skyrocketed beyond incredible: it could fly at more than three and a half times the speed of sounds at 88,000 feet, over sixteen miles up. In terms of altitude, the Blackbird could take photos from three times the height of Everest with its pilots arrayed in full astronaut pressure suits. We’re talkin’ high, folks!

Throughout its career, which ended on Oct. 9, 1999, not a single SR-71 was lost to hostile action. In fact, neither enemy fighters nor enemy surface-to-air missiles (SAM) shot down or damaged an SR-71, due in part to stealth technology that included special radar energy absorbing iron ferrite paint. Coupled to the RCS (Radar Cross Section) of a small light aircraft and integrated with sophisticated electronic countermeasures, the SR-71 appeared on radar scopes too late for missiles to compensate for the jet’s speed, direction, range, and bearing.

And it wasn’t just SAMs that couldn’t swat the Blackbird: The fastest Soviet fighter jets failed to keep up, too (much to their Russian pilots’ chagrin). Soviet pilot Viktor Belenko, who defected to Japan in a MiG-25 on Dec. 6, 1976, confirmed it in his MiG Pilot book …

“American reconnaissance planes, SR-71s, were prowling off the coast, staying outside Soviet airspace by photographing terrain hundreds of miles inland with side – angle cameras. They taunted and toyed with the MiG-25s sent up to intercept them, scooting up to altitudes the Soviet planes could not reach, and circling leisurely above them or dashing off at speeds the Russians could not match,” Belenko explained.

However, according to the MiG Pilot, Russians tried to intercept and shoot down Blackbirds but habitually failed: “[The Soviets] had a master plan to intercept an SR-71 by positioning a MiG-25 in front of it and one below it, and when the SR-71 passed they would fire missiles. But it never occurred. Soviet computers were very primitive, and there is no way that mission can be accomplished. First of all, the SR-71 flies too high and too fast. The MiG-25 cannot reach it or catch it. Secondly…the missiles are useless above 27,000 meters [88,000 feet], and as you know, the SR-71 cruises much higher. But even if we could reach it, our missiles lack the velocity to overtake the SR-71 if they are fired in a tail chase. And if they are fired head-on, the guidance systems cannot adjust quickly enough to the high closing speed.”

Moreover, as claimed by the former Blackbird pilot Col. Richard H. Graham in his book The Complete Illustrated History of THE BLACKBIRD: The World’s Highest, Fastest Plane, Belenko’s missiles would not have prevailed because “Most air- to-air missiles are optimized to maneuver in the thicker air below around 30,000 feet in order to shoot down an enemy plane. Firing at the SR-71, cruising at 75,000 feet, the air is so thin that any maneuvering capability of the missile is practically nonexistent.”

Ultimately, operating costs spelled the SR-71’s demise (among other factors). By some accounts, the SR-71 cost $200,000 per hour to operate, factoring in, among other things, supportive costs. Part of that expense arose because the fleet was small and specialized: because few jets were built—thirty-two—and its design was unique, the SR-71 was a maintenance hog. It also necessitated an exotic fuel that cost $18,000 per hour in 1989 dollars. The SR-71’s high-flashpoint JP-7 fuel—which also had to be carried aboard specialized KC-135Q tankers to refuel the Blackbird—was designed to not vaporize or blow up under extreme heat and pressure. It had such low volatility that one could extinguish a match in a puddle of JP-7. Which also meant the fuel was difficult to ignite using conventional systems. Accordingly, Lockheed developed a triethylborane-based chemical ignition system for the Black Bird’s engines, adding to the jet’s complexity—and thus maintenance costs.

As the Air Force’s budget atrophied toward the end of the Cold War, the service could no longer justify maintaining the wastrel SR-71—especially as new Soviet (and later Russian) air defenses and interceptors—like the SA-10 Grumble (and other advanced S-300 derivatives) and MiG-31 Foxhounds—came on line. The service also anticipated that USAF satellites and other technical means would replace the celebrated jet, finally sending the Black Bird into early retirement.

I’m a huge fan of the SR-71 Blackbird and own most of Century Wings’ series—all but the latest release. The model is hot to trot, a super-skanky vixen dressed to kill. But I’ve gotta say, the Grand-Canyon trench that bisects her fuselage at the forward wing joints is a turn-off. A big one. And so are the straight-facing nacelle inlet spikes that should be toenailed inward—you know, like the real things—but aren’t. It’s kind of exasperating, considering these models aren’t cheap, and Century Wing is a good enough manu to remedy such blunders. Still, CW’s Black Bird is a work of art, a treasure deserving of prime turf in your display cabinet. If Century Wings finally does correct the spike issue and somehow, someway, vanishes that nasty fuselage trench, I might even buy that last release.



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