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Old 08-11-2017, 08:29 AM   #501
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

Helmut Wilhelm Karl Wotersdorf was, by every indication, a personable man, pleasant and agreeable most of the time but hot tempered when provoked. Born on November 6, 1915, in Freiburg, Germany, he grew up enamored of airplanes, sharing his burgeoning interest with like-minded school chums. In the 1930s, he joined the then skulking Luftwaffe.

Showing himself an able pilot and impressing his instructors, Wotersdorf moved through the ranks and flew with I/ZG76, making his first kill in September 1939. Flying bomber escort missions during the Denmark and Norway campaigns, he shot down another six aircraft; and in August 1940, he destroyed an RAF Supermarine Spitfire during the Battle of Britain. Wotersdorf and his comrades relished the embroidery of success until, to their consternation, they were assigned to Nachtjagd fighter units (night-fighters). Something about flying at night repelled Wotersdorf, who glumly obeyed and joined II/NJG 1 at Leeuwarden in the Netherlands flying Do 215s.

Night flying demanded a whole new set of flying skills, forcing the young Oberleutanant to apply himself until he prevailed. He made his first night kill on the 12th, nailing a 144 Squadron Handley Page Hampden I, slaughtering two of its crew and wounding two more. Two months later, he and his crew, Uffz Held and Obgefr Kloss, obliterated a Vickers Wellington of 214 Squadron, except that as the Wellington plunged earthward, the tail gunner fired at the Dornier and scored. The ‘215’s port engine burst into flames as the starboard engine quit outright, giving Wortersdorf no choice but to ditch his mount in the relatively shallow waters of the Netherlands’ inland sea, the Waddenzee. Luckily, it was low tide and the ship belly landed at a perfect angle on a sandbank. All three crew, though rattled and bleeding, crawled out of the Do 215 and were eventually rescued. The warbird sat immobile for decades, untouched, shrouded by sand.

Upon recovery, Helmut took command of 7/NJG 1 and racked up an additional 13 RAF bombers. Now flying a Misserschmitt Bf 110 ‘G9+AR fitted as a three-seater, he, Oberfeldwebel Heino Papa, and Kurt Krause flew into the night but soon returned, fuming at their defective radar. Finding another serviceable ‘110, a two-seater, Wortersdorf and Papa took off, leaving Krause behind. And within minutes the crew detected a Handley Page Halifax II (of 10 Squadron) and shot it full of holes, but not before the tail gunner hit the night fighter in the right engine, badly wounding Heino.

The tail gunner had also punctured the port engine, causing it to flame and then quit. Calling his base at Twenthe in the Netherlands, Helmut was told to stay away owing to marauding de Havilland Mosquitos lurking around, but Heino was bleeding badly, and Wortersdorf chose to fly home regardless. Just within sight of the runway, a Mosquito lined up behind the Bf 110 and raked it with machinegun and cannon fire, sending the German night fighter earthward. The ‘110 crashed into a line of parked Bf 110s, killing Heino and Helmut instantly, therewith ending the career of one of the Lufewaffe’s most successful night-fighter pilots. It remains a mystery why he never received the Knight’s Cross.

The war finally ended, and the world remembered Helmut and his exploits no more. But on occasion, his Dornier emerged from its grave at low tide. Fortuitously for Luftwaffe and WWII enthusiasts, the Do 215’s resting place was designated a seal sanctuary in 1964, off-limits to everybody, which left its remains intact, free from souvenir hunters, scrap merchants, and vandals. Salt water presented its only threat.

Years ago, the Aircraft Recovery Group (ARG) hailing from the Airwar Museum at Fort Veldhuis in Heemskerk, Netherlands, got permission to partially recover the Do 215’s remains. Salt water had ruined the aircraft’s finish but did notably little damage to the air frame. The tail sat 70 ft. away from the main wreckage, and the fuselage was filled with sand (helping to preserve it). The wing was still attached, and the undercarriage remained within the engine nacelles. ARG salvaged the Daimler-Benz DB 601 engines, the starboard side of the cockpit, plus instrument parts, including the pilot’s oxygen mask. Which was remarkable considering the team was given permission to work the site for a mere few hours. These items are now on display at Fort Veldhuis.

The rest of the Do 215 remains all but impossible to retrieve. Obtaining permission from authorities yet again would prove nearly impossible, not to mention the site is remote and tidal dynamics complex. And if by some miracle it could be recovered, it couldn’t be restored to its former glory. At best it would need to be displayed in “as is” condition, similar to the Halifax at the RAF Museum at Hendon in London. Such a machine, however, having been flown by a successful night-fighter ace, would likely draw huge crowds.
I’ll be you can’t tell, I’m a huge fan of this particular Luftwaffe legend. Various dubious experts have vilified the Do 215 for its decidedly meager combat record, but I say she was a heck of a machine and performed heroically despite Reichsmarschall Hermann Goring’s emphatically hostile sentiments toward it and its immediate predecessor. Whatever, Corgi honest-to-goodness made a masterpiece replica of it, in my opinion, the closest that manu has gotten to perfection. The camouflage colors are bang right on, its accuracy is excellent, the rendering is near perfect, and overall the thing sings. No need to go on except to say that if you can find this model, do yourself a favor and buy it.



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Old 08-11-2017, 08:39 AM   #502
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

Many rational human beings thought the USN’s decision to prematurely retire the S-3 Viking in 2009 was not only shortsighted but brutally moronic. The fact that the jet could remain airborne practically forever on relatively little gas gave the DoD cause for turning the erstwhile sub hunter-turned-aerial tanker into a perpetual surveillance/ attack truck.

It was a no-brainer: the aircraft featured a capacious bay perfectly dimensioned for today's shrinking and super-capable precision-guided munitions; and with a little tweaking, the S-3 could have morphed into a hardcore weapons-toting version of the MQ-9 Reaper. At the time of its demise, the Viking had just been repurposed to detect roadside bombs and clear routes for convoys with F-14 hand-me-down LITENING targeting pods and other plug and play sensors—all with phenomenal success. But then the ax man cameth. And slayeth. And another eminently capable bird bit the dust.

Or maybe not …

Somebody with half a brain at the DoD proposed that possibly, maybe, conceivably, the S-3 could fly again, recycled, recovered, reclaimed—for very few bucks, no less—if Lockheed was game. The S-3 was an extraordinarily successful long-endurance platform blessed with lengthy loitering ability and phenomenal refit and development potential. In at time when the USN favors aircraft avionics and adaptability over raw performance, the S-3 offers an already accomplished, adaptable vehicle, and the price tag would be cheap (considering the aircraft were hitherto bought and paid for). But does the Navy share that notion? Nope. Will it change its mind? Doubtful. It’s more likely President Abraham Lincoln’s desiccated corpse will take a pee in the Potomac.

See, here’s the thing …

Though long endurance, fuel efficiency, and ample room for electronics/sensor suites have long dominated USN thinking, many top brass sea dogs stubbornly (and bafflingly) believe the Viking is first and always a sub hunter or gas truck and nothing more. It makes no difference that the aircraft has loads of surveillance and additional potential: it filled its niche, it did a yeoman job, and that’s the end. Which makes Lockheed Martin’s proselytizing all the more challenging, but the company is confident it can not only resuscitate but drastically improve the discarded jet. Close to a hundred of these aircraft sit mummified in the Arizona Desert, the majority of them endowed with around 9,000 hours of additional life—and that’s before major wing inspections! Theoretically, the S-3 could fly for tens of thousands more hours beyond its arbitrary 18,500-hour service life (in comparison to the Super Hornet’s 6,000 hrs).

One proposal fancies modifying a portion of the Viking fleet into unmanned tracking and surveillance trucks, a sort of nexus between tomorrow’s X-47B UCAVs and today’s manned systems. Yet another scenario would modify the Viking into a Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) aircraft to replace the elderly C-2 Greyhound: the Viking has longer legs and flies faster. The S-3 COD would feature an updated cockpit, a rear cargo ramp, and seating for up to 28 people. It would also heft at least 10,000 lbs of cargo, able to swallow an F-35 Pratt and Whitney F135 engine whole with no need for dismantling. Other plans abound, too.

Inasmuch as the DoD languishes in harsh budgetary environs, cutting costs while upgrading mission capabilities makes abundant sense. Dusting off retired Vikings and modifying them to meet current Naval needs is clever: it recycles existing, familiar assets while filling two critical carrier needs: high-speed logistics and airborne tanker gas for hungry Super Hornets and eventually F-35Cs. It could also serve as the eyes and ears of the fleet and even destroy sea and land threats. Can you think of a better aircraft to do all that?

I love this model. But for one or two inelegant joint lines, this Viking stands among Hobby Master’s better efforts. Everything about it is clean and tidy; rendering is just about perfect, the tampo applications are up to speed, and as far as I can tell, the model is accurate. Overall, in my opinion, the result is pleasing. At least one of these beasts belongs in your collection, especially if you’re into modern USN aircraft. Let’s hope the Navy reconsiders and resurrects this useful, porcine jet.



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Old 08-11-2017, 03:55 PM   #503
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

Russia has deployed at least four advanced Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback strike aircraft to Syria to support Bashar Al-Assad’s beleaguered regime against ISIS terrorists (and American-backed opposition alliances). The Fullback, a dedicated strike derivative of the Su-27 series, is the most advanced ground attack aircraft Russia has yet deployed to its natal Middle Eastern campaign, the jet’s first combat assignment beyond its borders.

Developed during the Soviet Russia’s last decade with a formidable air-to-air self-defense capability, the Su-34 is uppermost a strike aircraft with a 700-mile combat radius provisioned with an aerial refueling probe and drogue system. Because the jet is expected to remain aloft indefinitely, Fullback crews enjoy all the comforts of home, including a toilet (of sorts), a kitchenette, fully reclinable seats, and overhead space that allows pilots to stand up and move around. They can even watch a matinee, visit the theater snack bar, and chow down on refreshments (kidding, kidding).

The Leninets B-004 passive electronically scanned array radar comprises the core of the Fullback’s sensor suite, the same basic phased array radar technology found on other Flanker variants but optimized for air-to-ground operations. Western air forces surmise it's able to engage air-to-air targets 75 miles distant and air-to-surface targets more than 60 miles away and furnish synthetic aperture radar mapping and ground moving target indication capability. The Su-34 also boasts of an electro-optical fire control system with a Geofizika forward-looking infrared targeting pod that Russia’s defense industry concedes isn’t especially effective. In fact, Russia has considered license-producing French Damocles targeting pods but has yet to do so, which has hamstrung its fight against ISIS. India, which also flies the Su-34 and is all too aware of this shortcoming, has opted for the Israeli-made LITENING pod.

A pair of 27,500lbs Saturn AL-31F turbofans propels the Fullback, giving the bird enough oomph to heave about 17,600 lbs of ordnance on twelve hardpoints. The jet also carries Kh-59ME, Kh-31A, Kh-31P, Kh-29T, Kh-29L and the S-25LD stand-off air-to-ground missiles designed to destroy a variety of ground and maritime targets. It also can heft a host of rockets, guided and unguided bombs (laser, electro-optical and satellite)—including RBK-500 and SPBE-D cluster bombs.

In air-to-air combat, though limited in capability, the Su-34 carries short-range R-73 high off-boresight dogfighting missiles with the long-range, radar-guided R-77, giving the Fullback the ability to conduct “self-escorted” strike missions like its nemesis the Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle. It also features an aft radar boom that warns the crew of rearward threats.

Providentially for the Russians, the Su-34’s expeditionary deployment to Syria provides Putin’s boys with invaluable, real-world schooling in combat tactics and logistics, something it’s lacked against the US and allied forces.

I take it that Terebo purchased a few ol’ Gaincorp molds, one of which was the Su-34 Fullback. And pleasingly, the model Terebo produced is actually pretty darn good. The colors are a bit dazzling, a little overstated, but the overall effect is agreeable if not attractive. The panel lines are a tad bit exaggerated, too, but no more than those on many diecast models. You’ll like this model for its colorful livery, deft construction, and distinct Russian quirkiness. I recommend it to all who dig relevant modern jets.



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Old 08-14-2017, 11:00 AM   #504
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

Last December when President-elect Trump blurted, “Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!" all hell erupted in the aero industry. Lockheed Martin (producer of the F-35) condemned the declaration as pure madness (upset that the company lost billions in stock value following the announcement). "No, Mr. Trump, You Can't Replace F-35 with a 'Comparable' F-18," a headline at Breaking Defense thundered. Popular Science yapped in agreement saying, "You can't replace the F-35 with an F-18 any more than you can replace an aircraft carrier with a cruise ship!" And Lt. Col. David Berke, a former commander of the US Marine Corps' first operational F-35B squadron, chimed in, telling Business Insider that Boeing upgrading a legacy fighter to do the F-35's job was “absolutely nutz!!!”

But what these obstreperous detractors didn’t say (and wouldn’t say) is that yeah … the F/A-18 can be updated into a reasonably good imitation of the F-35. In fact, Boeing has already planned to refurbish and improve the F/A-18’s capabilities over Lockheed Martin's Joint Strike Fighter in several crucial areas. Dan Gillian, Boeing's vice president of F/A-18 and EA-18 programs, claimed US carrier air wings will still field versions of the F/A-18 into the 2040s, side by side with the F-35C naval variant. He continued that Boeing will initiate extensive design updates that will "address gaps" in naval aviation, culminating in what he called the “Advanced Super Hornet,” a rejuvenated F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, which itself was an F/A-18 Hornet make-over. Gillian asserts Boeing designed the Super Hornet "from the beginning in an evolutionary way with lots of room for growth in power, cooling, and weight so it could adapt to changes over the years." He continued that Boeing could field Advanced Super Hornets by the early 2020s; and though the F-35 and AS Super Hornet reflect different missions, they are comparable in terms of price, scope, and endowment.

So what would a modern F/A-18E/F Super Hornet update look like? According to Gillian, it will feature …

• Shoulder-mounted conformal fuel tanks to carry 3,500 pounds of fuel and reduce drag. According to Gillian, these fuel tanks could "extend the reach about 125 nautical miles," meaning the planes could "either go faster or carry more."
• An infrared search and track radar, the first such capacity featured on a US fighter jet since the F-14 Tomcat, allowing Advanced Super Hornets to detect heat-emitting entities without emitting radar signals of their own. "There was a fixation on stealth attributes," Gillian said of fifth-gen fighters, "which is an important attribute for the next 25 years, but tactical fighters are designed for stealth in one part of the spectrum; all planes emit heat."
• Cutting-edge electronic warfare capabilities. Currently, the F-18 family is wedded to EW platforms like the Growler, an electronic, souped-up Super Hornet version sans gun and wing-tip missiles for sensing pods. Which, it turns out, the initial generation of F-35s will rely on, too. Advanced Super Hornets will lug around EW self-protection but not the Growler’s present suite.
• An advanced cockpit system with a new 19-inch display (ideal for computer games). The monitor is essentially a massive iPad that’ll ease the management of voluminous information and data, compatible to the F-35's glass cockpit.
• Upgraded avionics and computing power with improved ability to link with the F-35 or the E-2 Hawkeye for targeting data. The Advanced Super Hornet would also feature an awesome-possum, electronically scanned array radar.

Further enhancements will include:

• A buried weapons pod that’ll render the warbird more aerodynamic while reducing the jet’s radar cross section up to 50%.
• An improved engine that will increase fuel efficiency and performance (and bump the overall project cost significantly).

So while an Advanced Super Hornet will never entirely rival the F-35 in every respect, it will acquire strengths lacking in the F-35. And interestingly, Advanced Super Hornets won’t cost much more than the current F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, which currently price out at $70 million apiece. Even if that price increased by $10 million, the new Hornet will still cost less than the estimated cheapest F-35s, which is currently bouncing around $85 million.

Will (or even could) an F/A-18 rival the F-35?

It depends. The F-18 will never do the F-35's job—nor will the Lightning II do the Hornet’s. Says Gillian, "The Advanced Super Hornet is really a collection of systems and design changes that when implemented achieve a significantly different capability for the air wing," he said, further stressing that the Super Hornet and Growler platforms were "well positioned" to improve over time. Gillian was insistent, none the less, that the Advanced Super Hornet had been, since its inception, designed to accompany the F-35 with carrier air wings consisting of three squadrons of Super Hornets and one squadron of F-35s into the 2040s. The existing Super Hornet fleet will update (eventually) to the Advanced Super Hornet package, serving side by side with F-35s, both jets complementing each other. The F/A-18 will likely never satisfactorily penetrate heavily contested airspace, but it’ll do yeomen service aiding its stealthier ship mate.

Hobby Master did a slamin’ job on its Super Hornet. In fact, everything about it reeks of excellence but for the retarded joint line extending forward below the canopy from the jet’s leading edge root extensions (LERXs) to its nose cone (which, truthfully, isn’t a deal killer). Otherwise, HM’s exceptional effort ranks with its best models, and I highly recommend you buy one before these sexy beasts become extinct.


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Old 08-14-2017, 05:52 PM   #505
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

Even as a brand-spanking new aircraft rolls out and flies for the first time, designers are planning its successors. The Mirage F1 was no exception, Dassault engineers conceptualizing it as the Mirage III made its debut. The aero manufacturer envisioned the F1 as a substantial upgrade with a fighter/strike role in mind, blessed with high-speed handling, high and low-altitude performance, and multifaceted capabilities. This advanced jet would even furnish major amenities for long, exhausting sorties (such as a ravishing French maid, a snooty garçon de café, and a totally stocked wine cellar. Ooh lah ’ lah. Kidding, kidding. )

The F1 first flew on December 23rd, 1966, slated to replace doddering old Mirage III and Mirage 5s. But unlike its predecessors, the F1 ditched their conventional low-mounted, delta-wing layout for a high-mounted, swept-wing form. The French Air Force was so enamored of the design it ordered additional prototypes in May of 1967, envisaging the jet as an all-weather interceptor able to thrash any and all new generation threats. And to everybody’s delight, the aircraft ultimately punched above its weight featuring high-performance, elegant lines, and a robust Cyrano radar system. Production ultimately commenced, and the warbird achieved operational status in May 1973.

Two side-mounted intakes fed a single SNECMA Atar 9K-50 afterburning turbojet which produced 15,785 lbs of thrust. A single-seat cockpit sat forward of the intakes on the tapered, forward fuselage. Further developments (commencing with the Mirage F1C-200) included an in-flight refueling probe that significantly extended combat range, and the unique high-mounted swept-wing design combined with the single vertical tail fin enabled short take-offs and landings. Equipage like a self-starter, shaded canopy glass, and a pressured refueling system offered further benefits.

The F1 carried twin 30mm cannons with two Matra R530 series medium-range air-to-air missiles slung under the wings. Designers later added wingtip rails for Matra R550 Magic and AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles, the latter at the behest of the American-friendly Hellenic Air Force. Many air forces considered the interceptor the best of its kind anywhere, especially impressed with its nose-mounted radar and weapon system. The array could track and engage multiple targets at the pilot’s discretion, select the appropriate missile, and automatically fire it when within optimal range of the target.

Combat wise, the F1 stood in the vanguard of several Cold War-era, worldwide conflicts. Mirages served with the South African Air Force in its Border War. Morocco operated the type against local rebels. Ecuador flew the F1 in its Paquisha War and follow-up Cenepa War against Peru. France deployed it against Libyan rebels struggling with Chad and more recently (2007) in Southern Afghanistan. Spain operated their F1's for over three decades against various foes before replacing them with Eurofighter Typhoons. The Mirage F1 served with distinction in the Greek Hellenic Air Force, where she served as a deterrent to Turkish air-space encroachments for some 28 years. Iraq made anti-shipping, interception, and ground-strike attacks against Iran, though inferior pilot training and lack of combat experience accounted for mediocre results, the same shortfalls Iraq exhibited against Coalition forces in the 1991 Gulf War. Of itself, the F1 performed favorably given the demanding circumstances. As of this writing, Greece, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar and South Africa no longer fly Mirage F1's. Dassault produced over 720 Mirage F1s.

I liked Falcon Models (still do). The company did reasonably well against competing manus and held its own (until it pitched forward and croaked). It was (I think) the only company that produced the Dassault F1 and Mirage III (along with the F-86D, BAe Hawk Mk.120, F-11F, F-21A, F9F-2, Fi 156, T-33A, blah, blah blah). And though many of those molds weren’t terribly convincing or rendered adeptly, they were (and still are) appealing to less exacting collectors. My Spanish Dassault F1CE suffers from ham-handed over-spray syndrome, where the technician apparently lacked the skill and/or inducement to paint the bloody model competently. But I forgive him/her for being so gauche, simply because I can’t obtain the aircraft elsewhere. So if you do want one of these miniatures, buy it knowing that what it lacks in rendering it makes up by simply being available.



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Old 08-14-2017, 08:47 PM   #506
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

I haven’t decided yet if the B-2 bomber resembles a space-age bat or the ugliest beak-nosed gooney bird in existence, but no matter what it mimics it’s one of the most survivable military aircraft in the world able to defy and obliterate elaborate enemy defenses and hence menace high value, heavily defended targets. So far, the B-2 has demonstrated this and other capabilities during several combat deployments, including Operation Allied Force in Kosovo; Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and most recently in Libya during Operation Odyssey Dawn.

To date, the B-2 is the only U.S. bomber that melds long range, large payload, and stealth into a lone aircraft, enabling it to project air power anywhere on earth. It can fly 6,000 nautical miles unrefueled and 10,000 nautical miles with one aerial refueling while heaving more than 20 tons of conventional and nuclear ordnance—and deliver the load with precision under any weather condition. And it doesn’t stop there. Northrop Grumman, the B-2 prime contractor, not only keeps the bomber fully mission capable but is instituting a range of upgrade programs to enhance the B-2's lethality, including its ability to collect, process and disseminate battlefield information with joint force commanders or other local first responders worldwide and its facility to receive updated target information during a mission.

Twenty-one aircraft were built for the original B-2 fleet. Today, the fleet consists of 20 aircraft, following the loss, in February 2008, of the Spirit of Kansas, which crashed while taking off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, the only such incident in the B-2's more than 20 years of operation. Nineteen B-2s are currently based at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., home of the 509th Bomb Wing, while one aircraft is assigned to flight testing at Edwards AFB, Calif. to certify software and weapon systems upgrades.

Additional nifty facts about this bomber …

1) The flying wing’s sharp wing/curved-fuselage design helps to mask it from radar; radar-absorbing materials further obscure detection. A veneer of anti-reflective coating underneath the B-2 renders it all but impossible to see at high altitudes. And the plane doesn’t produce contrails or vapor trails (resembling frilly ribbons of clouds typically formed by water vapor in engine exhaust).

2) Cost per bomber: over $2 billion. Moreover, observers estimate the bomber’s hourly operational cost exceeds $135,000. Because of this mind-blowing expense (not to mention whacked-out prices for software, construction materials, and maintenance), the Air Force prudently hasn’t ordered more B-2s. The bomber was meant to replace the Air Force’s aging, hoary Boeing B-52s; but owing to extortionate maintenance and other expenses, that little plan fizzled out.

3) The B-2 calls Whiteman Air Force Base (AFN), Missouri, home. The 509th Bomb Wing (509 BW) is assigned to the 8th Air Force of the Global Strike Command, which provides combat-ready forces for global strike operations and strategic nuclear deterrence in support of combatant commanders. The 509th was responsible for dropping the first atomic bomb.

4) The B-2 was a “Gray Project,” meaning the public didn’t even know it existed until 1988 (owing to a lot of hush-hush safeguards). One Northrop Grumman employee tried to pass information to the Soviets about it but got arrested for the trouble.

5) B-2s can carry up to 40,000 pounds of munitions, equivalent to hefting two tandem-sleeper semi tractors or 13 Honda civics or 1200 cinder blocks for thousands of miles faster than the speed of sound.

6) The B-2 lays claim to being one of the first computer-designed military aircraft in history. Those in the know say computers pretty much contrived the thing—humans were simply along for the ride.

7) The first B-2 to drop bombs in anger occurred over Kosovo in 1999, the bomber eventually accounting for a third of all targets destroyed. The USAF has also deployed them over Iraq and Afghanistan and will likely assist in North Korea’s obliteration if (when) called upon.

8) The B-2 is automated up the ying-yang. It performs with just two crew members—one pilot and one mission commander, which allows one to sleep while the other flies. Curiously, Northrop didn’t provide any kind of sleeping accommodations for long trips, forcing air crews to pinch-hit with cheap Walmart sleeping cots. No lie.
I like this little model. Italeri did a doggone good job on it, though it’s a bit on the small side (1/200 scale). Everything seems to be there: accuracy, convincing paint job, excellent tampo application. I’m actually impressed with this effort and was glad to add it to my collection. I only wish somebody like Hobby Master or Corgi or whoever would make it in 1/72, but I’ll take what I can get, especially when it’s this nice. Consider grabbing one if you don’t have it.



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Old 08-15-2017, 08:27 AM   #507
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

The Royal Air Force was smitten with twin-engine bombers throughout the 1930’s, partly because they made meager demands on engine production/maintenance plus they cost half as much as four-engined rigs. On the flip side, twin-engine bombers were comparatively under powered, which pressured British authorities to invest massively into 2,000 horsepower engines to boost performance. Meanwhile, the US and USSR were developing four-engined bombers featuring excellent range and heavier lift. So rather than be outdone, the Royal Air Force issued Specification B.12/36 for a bomber able to heft a 14,000 lb. bomb load 3,000 miles supplemented by 24 paratroopers (the idea being to drop the troops and provide bombing support). The bomber also had to be disassembled for train transport, reassembled, take off from a 500 ft. primitive runway, and clear 50 ft. trees at the end of it.

Among eleven competing companies, Short Brothers was the only one capable of relatively quick production. It was currently fabricating several four-engine flying boats which, providentially, matched the new bomber’s specified dimensions. Accordingly, Short proposed removing the lower deck and boat hull of its S.25 Sunderland for the new bomber’s core design, calling it the S.29. The new bomber and the S.25 were otherwise indistinguishable: both used the same wings and controls; construction was identical, and the new bomber retained the slight upward arc at the fuselage rear conceived to keep the Sunderland's tail clear of sea spray. Once the RAF recognized the S-29’s potential, it abandoned its unrealistic design requirements but one: The S.29’s 114 ft wings had to be shortened to less than 100 ft, the same as those on the Handley Page Halifax and Avro Manchester; no explanations were forthcoming. Thus ordered, Short compacted and reshaped the wing.

Everyone was enthused with the new design but for the bomber’s lengthy takeoff run, which mandated an increased wing angle that would cause it to fly nose down (much like the Whitley). As an alternative, Short lengthened the undercarriage struts to cant the aircraft upward on takeoff, giving the Sterling its classic long-shank look.

The first S.29, now the “Stirling,” flew on May 14, 1939, minted with four Bristol Hercules II radial engines. Upon landing, one of the brakes locked, causing the port undercarriage to collapse and slew the bomber off the runway; subsequently, the second prototype featured more robust struts. Two months later an engine failed on take-off, but the plane landed safely. From then on the aircraft excelled, and service production commenced in August 1940. Regrettably, a swarm of low-flying Dornier Do 17s attacked and heavily damaged the Short Brothers’ Rochester factory, setting back production by nearly a year. Stirlings finally reached operational status in January 1941, the first three flying the bomber’s first combat mission on February 10, 1941, over Rotterdam.

It was clear from the outset the bomber was more powerful and could heft a heavier payload farther than predicted, the only British bomber designed from the get-go with four engines.

The Stirling proved such an agile design it could out-turn Ju 88 and Bf 110 night fighters. It handled better than the Halifax, and some pilots even preferred it to the Lancaster. The bomber’s greatest failing, however, was its dismal low-altitude ceiling, the fault of its thickset wings: many missions were flown as low as 12,000 ft., which imposed serious hazards, most notably over the Italian Alps where they didn’t fly over the mountains but through them. That, and the Luftwaffe and ground artillery tended to concentrate on low-flying Stirlings opposed to higher-flying RAF bombers. Within five months of the bomber’s introduction, 67 out of 84 Stirlings were either destroyed by enemy action or written off from crashes.

Also, contrary to sanguine forecasts, the Stirling couldn’t haul heavy ordnance over 590 miles: on typical missions into Germany or Italy, the bomber was forced to carry smaller 3,500 lb. loads composed of seven 500 lb. bombs, more in line with Vickers Wellington and de Havilland Mosquito tonnage. Some historians suggest this was due to the Stirling’s flawed bay, pointing to two structural dividers that limited the aircraft to 2000 lb. bombs. When the RAF deployed 4000 lb. 'cookie' and larger bombs like the Grand Slam, the Stirling simply couldn’t cope and was accordingly demoted to secondary tasks like dropping mines, ferrying spies at night, and towing GAL Hamilcar and Airspeed Horsa transport gliders in the Battle of Normandy and Operation Market Garden. In all, Bomber Command Stirlings flew 14,500 operations, dropped 27,000 tons of bombs, and lost 582 aircraft in action with 119 written off to accidents.


Corgi has a gift for four-engined aircraft. It takes a whole lotta aptitude, skill, and motivation to produce them, and I for one thank these guys profusely for making ‘em. The Stirling, though nowhere near as popular as the Lancaster (or even the Halifax), is still a treasure given its attention to accuracy, detail, and rendering. I’m no zinc connoisseur, but from what I see the model is every bit as desirable and pleasing as any of its RAF hangar mates. You have to see it up close and personal to understand, but take it from me, she’s worth every penny.



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Old 08-15-2017, 06:53 PM   #508
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Many flying-boat aficionados agree the Kawanishi H8K (Emily) was the best of her breed during World War II, at the very least in the Japanese Navy. Which is saying a lot considering its rivals, the Consolidated PBY Catalina and British Short Sunderland. This splendid sumo-wrestler of a flying boat boasted of impressive cannon armament, phenomenal range, generous performance, and offensive firepower that tormented American submarines across the Pacific.

Its predecessor wasn’t so fortunate, the H6K Mavis, hobbled with sundry issues that the Kawanishi team feverishly set about to remedy in the Emily. The new ship featured a stout, slab-sided fuselage with a single vertical tail fin; the cockpit sat high just forward of the shoulder-mounted wing assembly that housed four Mitsubishi Kasei 22 radial engines, 1,850 horsepower each. The ship could operate from land or sea, smallish wheels affixed to struts attachable to the plane’s haul to support its enormous frame on solid earth; wing pontoons steadied the plane on water. The prototype promptly demonstrated poor landing characteristics on the ocean, whereupon the company deepened the hull, reshaped the planing bottom, and appended spray strips under the nose (which largely corrected the problem). Still, the Emily remained of scant service as a rescue platform as it couldn’t take-off from moderately rough seas (3.25 ft. waves).

Defensive armament consisted of five 7.7-mm Type 92 machine guns stationed in fuselage hatches and five 20-mm Type 99 cannon (one each in the bow, dorsal, and tail turrets, plus one each in two waist blisters). Kawanishi also installed armor protection for the crew—unlike previous flying boats. And in terms of speed, range, and torpedo and bomb ordinance, this ship was second to none. The improved H8K2 variant featured more powerful engines, slightly revised armament, and an increase in fuel capacity, with 112 produced. The H8K was notably effective as an anti-submarine platform when combined with ASW radar, sinking assorted American submarines during its combat life.

Though not generally known, two Emilys participated exclusively in Operation K, the “Second Attack of Pearl Harbor” in March 1942. Officials planned the strike as an armed reconnaissance of Pearl Harbor, meant to disrupt repair and salvage operations following the 7 December 1941 surprise attack. Preparations commenced weeks after the blitz when plotters pondered bombing the USS California and Texas but shelved the idea in favor of acquiring updated reports on repairs to Oahu’s docks, yards, and airfields. Such a report would help the IJN staff to assess the damage Japan had inflicted on the American safehold and plan future operations accordingly.

Preliminary plans called for five H8K flying boats to reach French Frigate Shoals, the largest atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, and refuel there via submarine prior to winging it for Oahu. The weather was all important: if the skies over French Frigate Shoals and Hawaii were clear, the raid would synchronize with a full moon that would better illuminate Pearl Harbor. When the day of the raid arrived, only two Emilys were available. Pilot Lieutenant Hisao Hashizume commanded the mission with Ensign Shosuke Sasao flying the second H8K. They flew to Wotje Atoll in the Marshall Islands and then 1,900 miles to French Frigate Shoals, from whence they continued to Oahu, 560 miles distant.

Weeks before the raid, the Japanese submarine I-23 deployed to an area just south of Oahu as a seaplane "lifeguard" and weather spotter but vanished sometime after 14 February. Left with no word about the weather, the mission proceeded on the assumption that Pearl Harbor’s skies were as clear as those above French Frigate Shoals.

American radar stations on Kauai (and later Oahu) tracked the two planes as they neared the main Hawaiian Islands, prompting a defensive fighter sweep that encountered a thick layer of nimbus clouds which concealed the Japanese flying boats flying at 15,000 ft. Both Japanese planes got lost in the same soup and went their separate ways, Hashizume using the Kaena Point lighthouse for a position fix and Sasao turning instead for Oahu’s southern coast. Hashizume could see only small blotches of the island below owing to blackout conditions and dropped his bombs on Tantalus Peak, an extinct volcanic cinder cone just north of Honolulu sometime between 02:00 and 02:15 HST. The four bombs landed about 1,000 ft from Roosevelt High School, creating craters 6–10 ft deep and 20–30 ft wide. Sasao eventually dropped his bombs off the coast of Waianae. The two aircraft then beat it independently for the Marshall Islands.

The bomb damage was inconsequential. No American military personnel or civilians were hurt or killed during the assault, but the raid did raise the specter of an enemy invasion. Farcically, both the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy blamed each other for the explosions, accusing the other of chucking munitions into Tantalus.

Hashizume gave it a second go on 10 March 1942 but tangled with a Brewster F2A Buffalo over Midway Atoll and got shot down.

Yet a third attempt was scheduled for 30 May to establish the whereabouts of U.S. aircraft carriers prior to the Battle of Midway. But around that time, Admiral Chester Nimitz boosted naval patrols around French Frigate Shoals to discourage further clandestine Japanese rendezvouses, prompting the Japanese to cancel the attack.
Amercom made a brave if an only so-so attempt at capturing the Emily’s persona, her steely elegance and strength. I'm loathed to vilify Amercom for this effort simply because it made it; but folks, this little pooper is unremarkable; it’s more a toy than a legitimate model with all those prickly micro rivets sprinkled over it, making me wonder why the manu didn’t simply forgo the bloody things. Nor do I like the model’s cumbersome shoulder-joint lines, far too easily overemphasized on small-scale models. So I can’t recommend this Lilliputian replica to anyone but the most addicted, hopeless, dedicated collector. Get one if you must, but don’t display it with your grown up models.



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Old 08-15-2017, 10:51 PM   #509
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richtofen888 View Post
I like this little model. Italeri did a doggone good job on it, though it’s a bit on the small side (1/200 scale). Everything seems to be there: accuracy, convincing paint job, excellent tampo application. I’m actually impressed with this effort and was glad to add it to my collection. I only wish somebody like Hobby Master or Corgi or whoever would make it in 1/72, but I’ll take what I can get, especially when it’s this nice. Consider grabbing one if you don’t have it.
monsieur richtofen, you're definitely back with more zeal! keep 'em coming!

i have this particular italeri and you're right, it's the best model out there (cheap as it may be). only thing lacking is landing gears. a little gappy perhaps, but love the detailing and the cockpit wraparound sits flush with the frame. nice model overall.
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Old 08-16-2017, 04:28 AM   #510
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

Love your work Dave - very impressed by the output!

Some more great reviews; thank you
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Old 08-16-2017, 10:07 AM   #511
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The USAF is loath to admit it, but the gruesome fact is it doesn’t possess enough dedicated air superiority fighters to counter Russia’s and China’s developing 5th Generation fighters—even with new F-35s coming on line. The finger points squarely at Congress, which terminated the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor fleet after only 187 aircraft were produced, less than half of the 381 jets needed. Which really gripes some folks, especially Air Combat Command Commander Gen. Hawk Carlisle, who stated to reporters at the Air Force Association convention in National Harbor, Md., that he’d love to see Lockheed churn out additional Raptors, musing loudly, “I dream about it every night.”

Indeed, the Raptor has proven itself a formidable warplane blessed with stealth, speed, maneuverability, altitude and sensors, the best air superiority fighter the United States has at its disposal. Which, few will challenge, confirms the vexing fact that it was a cockamamy, moronic decision to prematurely end its production. And while many within (and without) the Air Force would be chuffed to see the Raptor roll off the production lines again, it likely won’t happen.

Why?

Because human beings are stupid—and corrupt. Lockheed and the Air Force allegedly made every effort to squirrel away the tooling, equipment, and instructions for rebuilding (repairing) F-22s but can’t locate them (or much of them), as butt-munch as that sounds. For example, one recently retired Air Force official familiar with Raptor repair struggles claimed USAF ground personnel often couldn’t find the correct tooling. Recently when Air Force staff attempted to fabricate a particular component for a badly damaged F-22, the crews found the Conex boxes where the tooling and instructions were stored empty—apparently a common event. The fallout is that even if the Air Force wanted to it likely couldn’t reopen F-22 production without spending billions on parts, apparatus, and equipage it doesn’t have.

Another worry is that the Raptor’s avionics are woefully outdated—its computer architecture dating back to the early 1990s. Not only does the core processors run at a snail pace of 25MHz, the Raptor’s software is particularly dopey and problematic—which partly explains why marrying the AIM-9X and AIM-120D missiles to the aircraft has proven exasperating. To improve things, Lockheed Martin would have to revamp (read: outright rip out and replace) the jet’s decidedly antique avionic suite at a time when the Air Force’s budget is all but depleted.

And that’s not to mention that the F-22’s airframe is a fossil, designed in the 1980s, primordial by today’s aeronautical standards. The Raptor as of this year (believe it or not) has seen service for a decade. In the interim, stealth, propulsion, avionics, and airframe technology have moved on. If the Air Force were to invest tens of billions of dollars into the Raptor again, it would buy a doddering old codger barely able to fend off the Russian and Chinese stealth jets in its best moments; by 2035 the warbird will be a standing joke.

The reality is (and it’s probably a good thing) that the Air Force will likely never restart Raptor production. The F-22’s technology is too dated; as it stands the bird will wobble into the 2030s enfeebled and debilitated against far more able adversaries like the PAK-FA and J-20. Lucky for America, the Air Force is laying the groundwork for the next generation air superiority platform called the F-X, which hopefully will trash tomorrow’s threats. Something tells me we’re going to need it.


As models go, Hobby Master’s F-22 Raptor is actually quite appealing. In fact, I can’t find much of anything to fault about it. I’m not much of a Raptor fan, but I’m truly glad I own a couple of these replicas if only because they look so swagalicious. In fact, Hobby Master models don’t get much better than this; so without boring you further, I’ll simply end it there.



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Old 08-16-2017, 08:45 PM   #512
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

Way back in the stone-aged 1960s, a story made the rounds that two-seater Messerschmitt Me-262B-1a/U1s handily chopped the liver out of RAF Mosquitoes over Berlin. According to this frenzied yarn, Luftwaffe night fighters effortlessly found their prey in the dead of night and shot the livin’ blumpkin out of them, proving evermore that given additional time the Me-262B-1a/U1 would have single-handedly rescued Germany from certain defeat. Such zany notions were encouraged, enlarged, and embellished on by supposed “authorities,” it turned out, who cared little for scholarship or truth. Their narrative was intriguing, of course, but it was mostly mule flop.

The facts were a little different.

You seldom hear of this, but the Me-262 single-seater was a challenge to fly for most novice pilots, even trained veterans. The learning curve was so steep, in fact, Wilhelm Emil "Willy" Messerschmitt himself mandated a two-seat trainer version to ease the transition, commencing development of the jet early on, designated Me-262B-1a, appearing in the fall of 1944. Installation of the second seat reduced internal fuel capacity, necessitating the attachment of two 66-gallon drop tanks to ordinance pylons installed on the bomber variant. Messerschmitt produced 15 of the trainers before war’s end, the last two deployed to KG(J)54 according to Hans Busch, who flew Me-262 bombers with that unit.

Not surprisingly, someone proposed morphing the Me-262 into a night fighter. Engineers subsequently equipped a Me-262 with SN-2 “Liechtenstein” onboard radar, but the workload of flying the jet and deciphering the radar screen proved too much for a single pilot. A dedicated two-seat version then hit the drawing boards, the Me-262B-2a, which would have been approximately 3 feet longer than the standard Me-262, bearing four MK 108s in the nose and a “Schräge Musik” installation of two MK 108s behind the cockpit, but the scheme came to naught. Finally, when it was far too late, Messerschmitt modified three Me-262B-1a trainers through the Umrüst-Bausatz 1 factory refit package as night fighters, complete with onboard FuG 218 Neptun high-VHF band radar, using Hirschgeweih ("stag's antlers") antennae with a set of dipole elements.

Serving with 10. Staffel Nachtjagdgeschwader 11 near Berlin, these few aircraft (alongside single-seat examples) accounted for most of the 13 Mosquitoes lost over Berlin in the first three months of 1945. However, actual intercepts were entirely made using Wilde Sau tactics rather than AI radar-controlled interception. Wilde Sau (German for wild boar) was the Luftwaffe technique (employed from 1943 onward) to engage British night bombers illuminated by searchlight batteries only—not onboard radar—while avoiding friendly anti-aircraft fire.

So there you have it: In reality, the Me-262B-1a/U1 was an impressive ship blessed with much potential, a credit to German engineering. But it wasn’t an earth-shattering Hitlerian wonder weapon, and it didn’t take on the whole of the RAF and defeat it utterly. It did, in fact, none of that.

Thankfully, Jorg Czypionka, the last surviving pilot of Staffel Nachtjagdgeschwader 11, cleared this up by asserting the unit did field four Me-262 two-seaters in early April ‘45, two of which were equipped with radar. But because KW was a dedicated Wilde Sau unit (as described above), no radar operators or technicians were available or necessary to service the group, nor was there enough time to train crews for two-seater radar-intercept night missions. One or two of the Me-262Bs were, however, utilized in their intended role—pilot training; but the war drew to an end so quickly that the jets were little used. So tales of night-fighter ‘262s blasting Mosquitoes to bits with Wagnerian fervor are hogwash. Which isn’t to say the Me-262B-1a/U1 was a bad idea. Quite the contrary: the aircraft so impressed British and American authorities that both air forces promptly planned their own two-seat all-weather/night interceptors.


I’ve used the phrase “Corgi masterpiece” so often it’s become a niggling cliche. So I’ll call this particular model one of Corgi’s chef-'d oeuvres. I’ve been closely studying my example’s squiggly grey/green macaroni camo lines, and I’m fascinated. How’d they do that? One technician with a spray gun? A robot with a spray gun? Tampo applications? My grandmother??? However they applied them they’re first-rate; I couldn’t swing that in a thousand years. And the rest of the model is pretty much bang-on for accuracy and appeal, too. So yeah, if you didn’t buy this little gem, do so. You’ll love it.



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Old 08-17-2017, 08:45 AM   #513
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You’ve gotta hand it to the Russians: They’re nothing if not practical, studying warfare right down to its yecchy nose hairs, mastering painful (and ultimately costly) lessons handed to them before, during, and after WWII. They’re no fools, producing exceptional weapons that not only survive combat but prevail where their opposite numbers don’t. The Kamov Ka-50 Blackshark is a prime example.

Way back when, hungrily observing America’s helicopter gunships, Moscow determined to produce its own muscle-bound chopper that could obliterate infantry units, soft armor, and tank columns while outliving the enemy. This gunship had to be fast, agile, tough as nails under extremely brutal conditions, and haul a butt-load of weaponry. Hearing this, both Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant and Kamov Design Bureau stepped up to the plate. Kamov decided early on to produce a swift, brawny, bullet-proof chopper that could kick the enemy’s pooper clean over his shoulders. It would also be tough enough to operate without ground maintenance support in remote areas for two weeks or more. To harden the bird, Kavov embedded 35% composite materials into the airframe along with a kevlar/nomex central keel beam to shield critical systems and ammunition. The pilot’s cabin became a fully armored mini-fortress, able to defy 23-mm gunfire and the cockpit glass 12.7-mm MG gunfire. And to save the pilot in extreme conditions, the manu installed a Zvezda K-37-800 pilot ejection system that functions at any altitude at all speeds.

To reduce the helicopter’s weight and size (thus maximizing speed and agility), Kamov designed the aircraft around a single pilot, a layout NATO also studied but rejected. After exhaustive research of Russia’s helicopter deployment to Afghanistan (and other war zones), the company concluded that a single pilot flying a typical mission profile of low-level approach, pop-up target acquisition, and weapon launch could easily manage the workload aided by a well-designed support system.

Kamov chose a contra-rotating rotor system, which offers a medley of advantages over single-rotor/tail-rotor structures—chiefly the lack of a vulnerable torque-countering tail rotor with rear gearbox. The rotor arrangement also delivers considerably more muscle, all energy barreling through one primary shaft generating far more lift (opposed to single tail rotors demand up to 30% more engine power), allowing for additional fuel, weapons, ammunition, and/or sensor suites.

In addition, the Hokum’s contra-rotating co-axial rotors deliver unparalleled mobility, where the helicopter can loop, roll, and funnel (sustain a cone of fire on a target while flying shifting rings of altitude, elevation, and airspeed). The Ka-50 is also indifferent to wind direction and strength and excels in unlimited hovering turn rate, presenting a smaller profile and acoustic signature; no other helicopter in the world can match it for combat aerobatics. But like all devices, co-axial rotors suffer from their own shortcomings: counter rotating rotors require more maintenance and routinely fracture; indeed, Hokum rotors infrequently clip each other, splinter, and cause crashes.

The Hokum also features short, weapon-toting wings fixed to the streamlined fuselage. The fuselage, which is flat but for the underbelly gun pod and sensor, features a flush-plated, glassed-in canopy. The stock tail composes a slanting tail boom and square-tipped, back-tapered tail fin. The tail flats are high-mounted on the tail boom with end plates located forward of the fin. Twin turboshaft engines sit high on the fuselage above the stumpy wings trimmed with semi circular air intakes and outward-facing exhausts. Underwing hardpoints lug external stores, two stations per wing, often consisting of twelve AT-16 ATGMs, 500 x 30-mm cannon rounds, and 2 x 20-round pods of 80-mm folding fin unguided rockets, a typical anti-armor mix. The Hokum can also field Needle C guided air-to-air missiles sold to interested clients. The Ka-50’s fixed (and reliable) 30mm cannon is identical to the one carried on BMP-2s.

The Shark's cockpit avionics suite mirrors those of one-seater fighters and ground-attack jets, prominently featuring a remote targeting system that allows for attack far beyond direct visual range—up to 10 km. Upon locating the enemy, the firing computer rotates the aircraft to keep the gun on target. The chopper also supplies downlink battlefield data. The Kamov also features a sophisticated autopilot able to fly predetermined routes, follow a heading, hold pitch, bank, and altitude, and hover in auto-mode, all without pilot input. The autopilot can likewise link to the weapons systems permitting the helicopter to intuitively point at moving targets and fire ATGMs and/or its 30mm cannon.

So yeah, the Ka-50 is one heck of a gunship—or was until Mother Russia cancelled it several years ago for the new Ka-52 Alligator follow-on, a vastly improved two-seat, multi-role, all-weather attack successor, able to fly day and night blessed with a superb battlefield management system adept at swapping data with other ‘52s, enabling swarm attacks. Yowzah!
Easy Model doesn’t get the respect it richly deserves. For some incomprehensible reason, many zinc collectors shun plastic as the trailer-trash of model materials, a ridiculous notion. I love the heft and durability and beauty of zinc models, too; but to snub pre-made plastic models simply because they’re not metal is silly. Easy Model produces first-class replicas, the envy of many plastic-kit builders, and zinc fanatics would do well to pay more attention to them. The Ka-50 Hokum featured above comes in five liveries, each one an eye catcher. These bad boys are bona fide eye-candy, accurate and artfully rendered. My only misgiving is that the model is lightweight (as plastic models usually are), but it’s not a deal killer. Buy one and I promise you’ll be glad you did.



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Old 08-17-2017, 09:03 AM   #514
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

The Hurricane hadn’t even joined the Royal Air Force before Hawker Aircraft Company engineers drafted plans for its successor, the Hawker Typhoon. The British Air Ministry briefed the team that the Typhoon (or Tiffy) had to achieve at least 400 mph at an altitude of 20,000 feet, mount twelve Browning Machine guns, and shoulder a medley of weaponry. The machine also needed to feature either the 2,000 hp Napier Sabre or Rolls-Royce engine. In response, Hawker said, “Right you are, Guv-nor!” and got straight to work.

At 31 feet 11 inches long, 15 feet 3 inches high, with a wing span of 41 feet 7 inches, the Typhoon’s design showcased a fusion of bolted and welded duralumin, steel tubes, and flush-riveted, semi-monocoque material. The wings were downright brawny, providing plenty of room for fuel tanks while furnishing a steady platform for heavy weaponry. And the warbird, at least on paper, looked to be the high and medium-altitude interceptor the RAF craved. But …

Engine delays frustrated the Typhoon’s development. When one of two power plants slated for the bird, the 2,000 hp type 24-cylinder liquid-cooled inline Sabre I, finally did appear, it wouldn’t start (especially in cold weather). Worse, its engine sleeves jammed, causing the cylinder to burst, not to mention poisonous carbon monoxide leaked into the cockpit. Aside from the unreliable Sabre engine, other technical problems harried all 110 first-production Typhoons (known as Typhoon 1A): engine jamming or violent tail vibration mid-air caused structural failures and tail breakaways. Flight testing continued into mid-1941 with a new prototype, the Typhoon 1B, which encountered its own problems; but the government ordered 1,000 units nonetheless.

Feverish to thwart the new, frightfully lethal Focke-Wulf Fw 190, British Fighter Command shoved 150 Hawker Typhoons into combat during the summer of 1941 with devastating results. Cockpit armor plating blocked pilots’ rear views, allowing Germans to attack and slaughter it from behind; and the plane disagreeably continued to lose its tail. Plus, the fighter couldn’t climb for crap.

Brawls with the Luftwaffe over the English Channel in mid-1941 clearly demonstrated that the Typhoon was a dud at higher altitudes, which horrified Hawker, who tried to salvage the fighter’s reputation by proposing it fly at night (as a night fighter). But that idea flew like a lawn dart when somebody discovered that the plane’s exhausts blocked the pilot’s line-of-sight. Dismayed, the RAF conducted tests on the beast at the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment through to early 1943, when engineers fitted the Mark 1B with the more reliable 2,180 hp Sabre IIA engine, which gave the fully loaded (13,250 pounds) figher a speed of 412 mph, a ceiling of 35,200 feet, and a range of 980 miles. To everybody’s delight, the fighter was so fast it gave the ground attack Spitfire Mark XIV a run for its money and even outmatched the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Focke-Wulf 190, which flew 406 and 382 mph respectively.

Still, mechanical issues persisted. Oil coolers failed, causing engines to cut out upon landing; and tails annoyingly snapped off when the aircraft dropped from high altitudes or landed at speed, killing a raft of pilots. During the first two years of the fighter’s operational service, more Typhoon pilots died from engine and structural failure than to enemy action. Somebody prudently decided the Typhoon was better suited as a fighter-bomber, armed it with two 500 pound bombs, and flung it at enemy coastal targets in Northern France in August 1942.

By October 25, 1943, and loaded with eight 60-pound High Explosive Rockets, Hawker Typhoons flew their first rocket attack against the city of Caen, which turned out to be a flop with the loss of several Typhoons. Subsequent low-level attacks resulted in 380 Typhoons lost against 52 Focke-Wulf 190s destroyed. Eighteen Typhoon squadrons supported the D-Day invasion, obliterating all but one coastal radar installation during the first five days. On D-Day itself, June 6, 1944, Typhoons continually harried the 21st Panzer Division, nearest German armored formation to the beaches, and destroyed and/or damaged 26 tanks, resulting in only six panzers and a handful of infantry able to engage Allied forces. Once the beachhead was secured, Typhoons provided close air support to the British 2nd Army and, in tandem with Mitchel B-25s, annihilated the Panzergruppe West command center, which directed all German armored forces in Normandy.

More successes followed. In early July, Typhoons were diverted to attack V-1 and V-2 facilities and made mincemeat of them. That same month they pounced on Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s staff car, severely injuring the general. And during Germany’s Mortain counterattack and attempt to flee through the Falaise Pocket, Typhoons not only ravaged numerous Wehrmacht tanks and armored vehicles but struck their crews with overwhelming fear, many of whom panicked and abandoned their vehicles. During the four-month Normandy Campaign, 274 Typhoons were lost to enemy action, mostly to ground fire.

During the four years the Hawker Typhoon served, 670 pilots of its 23 squadrons perished. In September 1945, the Hawker Tempest, which had commenced service in April 1944, replaced the Typhoon 1B. Unlike other aircraft, all Typhoons were scraped owing to their shortcomings. By war’s end, Hawker had built 3,317 Typhoons.
To me, the Typhoon personified a jowly, beefy British boxer. It perpetually spoiled for a fight, routinely knocking the shiznip out of Hitler’s boys and taking haymakers to its frightful kisser in return—an image Corgi captured with finesse. Everything about this model is masterful, and I mean everything. The technicians applied its camouflage and tampo emblems competently; I see no crazy joint lines; overall the model is tight and pleasing. And as far as I can tell, the cast is accurate, too. It’s just a crackerjack effort all around, and I’m pleased to own one. If you don’t, you really should—especially if you’re into the Normandy Invasion. The Typhoon played a critical role in its success and deserves a place in your RAF collection.



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Old 08-17-2017, 11:12 AM   #515
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On Aug. 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein’s army rampaged into the Lilliputian kingdom of Kuwait with 120,000 troops and 300 tanks, alarming the world. And though unreported, the Kuwaitis didn’t roll over and play dead. KAF A-4KU Skyhawks were the first to resist, taking off under artillery shelling and stinging the invaders. By the time the bantam jets and their pilots bailed from Kuwait—some landing on highways when their bases were overrun—they had obliterated three Iraqi M-8 helicopters and ravaged a boatload of Iraqi vehicles.

Undersized, sprightly and simple, the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk served the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps from 1956 onward for nearly 40 years. Originally designated the A4D, the Skyhawk was meant to displace the propeller driven AD (or A-1) Skyraider, small and light enough to land on World War II-era Essex-class aircraft carriers still present in the 1950s. Douglas chief engineer Ed Heinemann, father of the SBD Dauntless dive bomber and the Skyraider, ruthlessly made sure the Skyhawk met the Navy’s parameters, making it so small it didn’t require folding wings for parking aboard aircraft carriers. The cockpit was consequently so tight that the shoulders of pilots’ flight suits came unraveled from constant rubbing against the sidewalls. To keep from scratching the canopy glass, pilots sometimes secured felt strips to their helmets. If an A-4 driver wanted to check his six, he had to bank his aircraft since his head could hardly swivel.

While something of a runt, the Skyhawk was a remarkable champion weightlifter, able to heft up to 9,900 pounds of bombs, rockets, and missiles. Each wing root mounted a Mk 12 20-millimeter cannon for strafing, though the guns were not particularly useful in dog fights since the Skyhawk lacked a computing radar (not to mention the weapons tended to jam). Still, the little monster packed a punch. The upgraded A-4E and its successors possessed five ordnance hard points giving pilots a wide choice of munitions. Ground crews prized the A-4’s simple internal architecture, though they required a ladder to reach the plane’s upper surfaces.

When America entered the Vietnam War, the A-4 was the U.S. Navy’s most numerous attack aircraft and also suffered the highest losses. Routinely engaged in ground attack missions over North and South Vietnam, A-4s made up 37 percent of U.S. Navy aircraft losses and 36 percent of the U.S. Marines.

Israel loved the little brute and relied heavily on it from 1969 to 2006. Israel had originally flown French-made jets, but Paris had embargoed further arms supplies to Israel in the 1960s, never mind the aircraft were aged and passé. Israel got its hands on the A-4H, the first U.S.-made military aircraft the Israeli Air Force adopted, an A-4F based export variant suited to Israeli requirements and American export restraints. It featured a braking parachute but removed the A-4F’s avionics hump, rear-facing radar warning receivers, and fire control systems devised for loft bombing. America also denied certain ordnance types including napalm, AGM-12 Bullpup missiles, and Rockeye cluster bombs. It wasn’t until Israel accepted the ceasefire ending the War of Attrition with Egypt in 1970 that Washington authorized sales of AGM-62 Walleye guided bombs and AGM-45 Shrike anti-radiation missiles. Observers could distinguish A-4Hs by the straight cut of the vertical stabilizer found on later U.S. Marine Corps A-4Ms (earlier versions featured a pointed stabilizer). Since Israeli aviators fancied ground strafing of parked aircraft during the 1967 Six Day War, they swapped the original 20-millimeter Mk 12 cannons for 30-millimeter DEFA cannons from 1969 onward since heavier shells were more destructive.

IAF’s Skyhawk had dropped plenty of bombs during the War of Attrition against Palestine Liberation Organization base camps in Jordan and Lebanon. But the Yom Kippur War of 1973 would present the aircraft’s toughest trial. Opposed to the Six Day War, Israel hesitated to launch preemptive raids against Egyptian or Syrian air bases since it would jeopardize U.S. diplomatic support for having shot first. This resulted in the Israelis not achieving air superiority against Egypt and Syria when they assaulted the Sinai and Golan Heights respectively. Israeli Skyhawks, now composed of ex-U.S. Navy A-4E and faster, newly built A-4N variants, were compelled to tackle formidable Egyptian air defenses and MiG-21 interceptors while targeting Arab ground forces. Whenever the A-4s flew low to avoid Egyptian medium-altitude SAMs, they exposed themselves to AAA and IR guided Strela-2 man portable air defense systems. In response to this threat, the IAF equipped its Skyhawks with extended exhaust pipes mounted on upgraded Super Mysteres. Informally called “barrels,” they caused IR guided missiles to explode near but not directly underneath the A-4’s tail fin, vastly increasing the aircraft’s survival.

You’ll find yourself hard pressed to find a single flaw on Hobby Master’s HA1407 Skyhawk. I can’t find an objectionable trench line on it anywhere, which in my assessment comes pleasantly close to perfect. This little model’s got it all, from expertly rendered four-tone camouflage to near-perfect tampo application to tight, hellaciously excellent fit (all but the canopy). Accuracy is spot on, too. If you get a chance to own one of these masterworks, don’t hesitate to buy the thing. You’ll be glad you did.



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Old 08-17-2017, 11:31 AM   #516
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These days it’s not uncommon to see USAF F-15s or F-16s patrolling the skies over Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, NATO’s tent-pole air force. But that task also falls on European air arms to keep Putin and his Ruskie boys in check. And for those air forces, namely Great Britain, Germany, Italy, and Spain, the aircraft of choice is the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Developed originally as a thoroughbred air superiority fighter, the Typhoon excels in the air-to-air arena. If war were to erupt, the Eurofighter would likely hold its own against late generation Flanker variants like the Sukhoi Su-35S; and while the Russian and European machines each have their assets, the jets are very similar overall. Indeed, Royal Air Force (RAF) Typhoons recently trained with their Indian Air Force Su-30MKI Flanker-H opposites and found that to be true. “First impressions of the Flanker are very positive,” Wing Commander Chris Moon, commander of 3(F) Squadron said in a statement. “It is a superb aeroplane and it’s a privilege to operate our Typhoon alongside it.”

The Indians were no less impressed with the Typhoon—noting that the two machines are one and the same, more or less. “Both are fourth generation aircraft and so are matched evenly, so the learning value comes from the person to person contact,” said IAF Squadron Leader Avi Arya in a statement to the RAF. “It’s the man behind the machine which matters.”

As Arya noted, most fourth-generation fighters like the Su-35 and Typhoon offer comparable performance, necessitating pilots to exploit the strengths of their aircraft while avoiding their weaknesses. In the Flanker’s case, that means using the jet’s extraordinary low-speed handling (thanks to its thrust vectoring capability) to neutralize the Typhoon’s exceedingly high turn rate and superlative energy accrual while capitalizing on its poor high angle of attack facility. Which mimics the way U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force pilots fight the Typhoon in a visual range engagement. When everything else is said and done, though, it comes down to individual pilots—and luck. Beyond visual range, technology plays a greater role, but tactics, training, and procedures are crucial. So crucial, in fact, that USAF units don’t employ their cutting-edge tactics during international exercises for fear of compromising them.

Technology wise, neither the Su-35 Flanker nor the Typhoon currently employ active electronically scanned array radar though both demonstrate good BVR (beyond-visual-range) capability. Both jets are designed for high-speed, high-altitude, beyond-visual-range engagements, which adds a monumental amount of launch energy to their beyond-visual-range weapons. But it’s unknown how effective Russian combat identification systems are, a critical ability considering you need to know what you’re shooting at. Further, the Typhoon’s cockpit and pilot vehicle interface are superlative—far exceeding current Flanker variants.

The Typhoon also has one other advantage. In the coming years, the RAF will deploy the MBDA Meteor missile, a long-range ramjet powered weapon that will quite possibly be the best beyond visual air-to-air missile developed to date. It has excellent end-game performance and could become the Typhoon pilots’ trump card—at least until the Russians develop an equivalent. There is no question that Russian jets have come a long way technologically since the end of the Cold War. The Su-30 and especially the Su-35 are excellent fighters—and they’ll be a handful for any Western fourth-generation fighter. But with that said, Russian machines still fall behind in sensor and pilot/vehicle interface. As such, the smart money is on the Typhoon.


Glad I got this model when it was still available. I did it on a lark thinking I’d add it to my existing euro fighter line up and be done with it. But then the prices skyrocketed, and I was gobsmacked. Corgi did an outstanding job on this particular Typhoon, all tricked out in its Battle of Britain commemoration camouflage, which is, after all, a huge calling card. The model itself is well crafted; joint lines are at a minimum. Paint is near perfect as are the tampos. I suspect availability is poor to zero, and those that do pop up sell at a king’s ransom. Still, if you’re able, buy this thing. It’ll become the jewel in your diecast crown.



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Old 08-17-2017, 05:09 PM   #517
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Had Uncle Joe Stalin pulled his head out of his patootie and recognized the Pe-8 for what it was, a powerful, fast, and hugely lethal bomber blessed with all kinds of demolition potential, Russian might have pulverized Berlin to dust years before it ultimately did. As it stood, the communist tyrant favored another aircraft, the Pe-2, and missed the opportunity forever.

The Petlyakov Pe-8 began life in 1934 after the Soviet government issued a directive for a new four-engine heavy bomber to replace the TB-3. The new warbird had to feature the latest innovations in aircraft design and fly at high altitude to dodge interception and ground-to-air artillery. It also needed to heft a prodigious bomb load and be armed with ample defensive armament. The engines were non-negotiable: Mikulin AM-34 water-cooled vee-12 engines, then in development.

Taking up the challenge, Tupolev OKB (experimental design bureau) broadly plagiarized Boeing’s XB-15 and B-17, fleshing out their new bomber’s skeleton with flimsy metal sheet while wrapping fabric over its flight control surfaces. Once the project took shape, the OKB officially designated the new bomber the "TB-7" (though known in the company as the"ANT-42", "ANT" standing for "Andrei N. Tupolev"). To everyone’s dismay, however, the Am-34 engine was problematic, partly because it was hard to come by and partly because it lacked the guts to operate at high altitude. To correct this issue, engineers installed a Klimov M-100 water-cooled inline vee-12 engine in the fuselage (of all places) to drive a blower system coupled to the four wing-mounted AM-34s. Though the AM-34 would have done a better job, it couldn’t fit the claustrophobic compartment; so the smaller, narrower M-100 substituted. The first prototype TB-7 completed its initial flight on 27 December 1936 and proved a colossal failure. The AM-34FRN engines had no oomph, and the aircraft itself was a cow.

To redeem the bomber, the nitwits who designed it rolled out the second prototype on 26 July 1938, cumbered with armament and armor. Unfortunately, the engines were still spineless, and the air-blower system was a total joke. The Kremlin was none too pleased and telephoned its favored firing squad to smoke Petyakov and his boys, but well-placed comrades rescued the program by procuring AM-35 inline engines and adapting the pre-series aircraft to accommodate them. The first TB-7 (re-designated as the Pe-8) hit the flight line in May 1940.

By the time the production machines rolled off the lines, somebody got the cute idea of installing Charomskii M-30 and M-40 two-stroke diesel engines instead, which crapped out during takeoffs and landings, forcing the retrofit of AM-35As. Which worked fine, except that they were still largely unavailable, which mandated a change over to Shvestsov M-82 air-cooled radials that required extensive engine nacelle refits. Air crews preferred the more robust M-82s for their increased speed, though the AM-35As were more trusty.

The Pe-8 got blooded over Berlin on 10 August 1941, scarcely three weeks following Nazi Germany’s invasion, a propaganda raid consisting of eight bombers, five of which reached the city and jettisoned their ordnance willy-nilly. This and other mission disappointments did nothing to enhance the Pe-2’s reputation—especially with Stalin. No one knows for sure how many Pe-8s Petyakov built. Western sources claim 79 before German tanks overran the factory; Russian sources claim more. Whatever the case, the Russian air force demoted the Pe-8 to secondary duties by 1944.

All told, the Pe-8’s report card was disheartening. It was an advanced aircraft for its time, comparing well (at least on paper) with contemporary British and American heavy bombers. But given its paltry numbers and middling successes, the plane rendered little effectual service to Soviet Russia’s war effort and was consequently shelved. Considering the Red Air Force was all about tactical battlefield support with squat interest in strategic bombing, it’s understandable why the bird languished on the sidelines.

And yet … had Stalin more closely emulated England’s and America’s bomber campaigns and developed his bomber, the Pe-8 might have evolved into a real rock-star.


I’ve said it before, I’m not a big fan of Italya/IXO 1/144 models but for a small handful. They’re a bit too small for my liking, a little too simple. Which is kinda the case with this Pe-8, though all in all it’s not a bad model. The paint job is skillfully rendered, the construction out-shines many a larger model, and the canopy frame detail is masterful. Though its real-world analog didn’t inspire, the replica bears a tolerable likeness. Don’t know if these are still available, but if you’re into WWII Soviet warbirds, you might consider buying one.



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Old 08-18-2017, 08:04 AM   #518
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No dummies, the Russians cast longing eyes at the USAF General Dynamics F-111 Twin-engine, swing-wing, two-seat fighter-bomber when it officially debuted in 1967. The jet pioneered a variety of technological advancements such as terrain following radar (opposed to terrain avoidance radar), variable swing-wing engineering, and an afterburning turbofan engine that outclassed anything the Voyenno-Vozdushnye Sily (VVS) could field. Understandably, the Soviets were frantic to produce their own Aardvark and worked on one like mad Russian monks.

What the Sukhoi Design Bureau birthed, however, was a gruesome baby that disillusioned the Soviet Air Force. The new T6-1 was a stinking turd, to put it charitably, nowhere near as capable as the Amerikanski jet and wanting in every particular, lacking for swing wings, lumbered with decrepit engines, and laughably powerless to follow terrain even if its tottering grandma held its hand.

Under threat of taking an extended vacation to a sub-zero Siberian gulag, the design team worked their butts off endlessly modifying the T6-1, adding a swing-wing assembly, among other refinements, that proved a royal pain in the fanny. The complexity of the mechanism with its myriad technical challenges drove two technicians to commit suicide by vodka. But thankfully for the crew, the GRU (military espionage section) purloined sensitive F-111 blueprints that, with a little tinkering, eventuated in a working, breathing swing-wing apparatus. The improved T6-1, now called the Su-24, formally entered service on February 6th, 1975, inspiring some of its crews to nickname it the "Suitcase" (owing to its slab-sides) while others were gobsmacked by the warbird's clearly incestuous kinship to the F-111 Aardvark. The West didn't learn about the Su-24 until 1974, incorrectly dubbing it the "Su-19" until 1981.

Unluckily but foreseeable, the Su-24 experienced teething problems from the start, obliging Sukhoi to remodel (again) both operational and new aircraft, basing many changes on crew feedback. The jet's countermeasure capabilities were also updated along with improved radar and missile launch warning coupled to integral onboard jamming equipment.

Looks wise, the Su-24 sports a long oblong fuselage with flat surfaces along all her sides save for the top. The cockpit sits aft of the nose/radar assembly; the pilot and systems officer ride abreast under a simple canopy that splits in two, the aft portions opening as stand alone assemblies hinged along their rear frames. The crew enters/exits the aircraft via "clip-on" ladders to the left and right sides of the forward fuselage, the Su-24 standing tall on the tarmac, some 20-feet, 4-inches in overall height. And like her prototype, the air intakes are mounted on either side of the fuselage and feature ample right-angled openings. The tricycle undercarriage remains largely unchanged from early models. The wings are high-mounted and fitted amidships, extending from short 69-degree swept "wing gloves." The preset wing sweep positions allow for landing/take-off (wings stand straight out), two altitude-sensitive cruise modes (wings are partially angled back), and a straight-line "dash" setting (wing sweep resembles an arrowhead). The jet offers four under-wing weapons hardpoints, two to each wing, an additional four centered under the fuselage.

As for weaponry, the Fencer sports a single Gryazev/Shipunov GSh-6-23 series 23mm internal cannon moored along the fuselage's starboard side armed with approximately 500 rounds of ammo, intended for use against ground targets. The Su-24 can wield up to 17,640 lbs of external ordnance across her eight hardpoints (nine in later production models). The two outermost (under-wing) stations swivel to match the existing wing sweep, keeping bombs or missiles facing directly forward at all wing angles. The two inner under-wing stations are "plumbed" for fuel delivery. Two fixed weapons stations sit under the wing gloves.

Russian air crews fancy the Fencer over their retired Yakovlev Yak-28s and Mikoyan MiG-27 "Floggers." In their view, the Su-24 is a well thoughtout design, especially endearing to airmen deployed on long flights: her automatic terrain flight system is much improved; the jet's cockpit offers a good field of view, and the variable wing-sweep technology delivers a fairly comfortable low-altitude ride. Additionally, they appreciate the warbird's somewhat forgiving and responsive handling, though it still requires a steady hand.

In combat, the Su-24 is noted for her precision, range and variable weapons load-outs flying strikes against Afghanistan Mujaheddin in 1984. And had the jet been assigned more targets, she likely would have garnered an enviable reputation; but as the war evolved, fewer strike opportunities arose and the Fencer finally relinquished its close-air support role to the Sukhoi Su-25 "Frogfoot." Regardless, not one Su-24 was lost to enemy ground fire, and accidents were few. During the volatile 1990s, Fencers flew strikes against Chechen targets and bombed Georgian fortifications in South Ossetia during the limited August 2008 conflict.

Closer to today, the Russians have deployed their most advanced versions of the Su-24 to Syria since 2011, executing bombing runs against opposition forces. In 2015, a Turkish jet downed a Su-24, prompting Russia to fly Su-35 air defense fighters in defense.


I love this little 1/100 replica. You usually don't associate stupendously awesome diecast models with Italeri, but the manu actually produced some desirable reproductions, including this Su-24. The word "cute" comes to mind, though that description is mildly crass and insulting, considering, but works nonetheless. And strangely, its shortcomings only add to its appeal: the black nose cone looks a little too prodigious and the canopy a bit too small, but together they work well. Construction is better than average, the paintwork is noteworthy, and the tampo emblems are spot on. Overall, as far as I can tell, the model is more or less accurate (but for the nose and canopy). So yeah, I give this little bird a thumbs up. My only misgiving is the odd scale: since 1/100 scale is tolerably close to 1/72, why not make 1/72 models instead since many more enthusiasts collect 1/72 scale models? All the same, Italeri's Fencer is a terrific little model, one worthy of your Middle East jet collection.



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Old 08-18-2017, 08:23 AM   #519
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Ironic, isn’t it, that the one German aircraft that inflicted the most strategic mayhem on England wasn’t even designed as a bomber? Or at least that’s how the Luftwaffe played it, flourishing the Heinkel He-111 as a Lufthansa commercial airliner opposed to a cleverly veiled war machine easily and cheaply converted into a bomber that amazingly hewed close to German military specifications (but that’s a different story).

No doubt about it, the ol’ He-111 was iconic, the very archetype of Nazi malice and hate and bloodshed. Through his career, NCO Beobachter (Observer) Josef Schmauz best illustrates the Luftwaffe’s deployment of the bomber.

Schmauz joined his unit, 6/KG53, in France at the end of 1940, flying night bombing missions over London before dispatching to the Russian Front in June 1941. On 29 June 1941, Soviet Mig-3 fighters shot down his He 111H-4 as he and his crew flew a daylight bombing raid, all surviving the crash without injury. Joseph and one other crewman made it to the German lines; the other three, though they surrendered, were summarily shot. Reassigned to a new He 111 and pilot, Schmauz continued to fly missions over Russia. On the 29th of January, 1943, he and his crew flew resupply missions into Gumrak in support of German troops surrounded at Stalingrad when artillery fire all but hacked his He 111H-6 in half. Schmauz was frightfully lucky to survive the bombardment. But worse followed …

On 31 July 1943, flying over Kharkov, Schmauz survived yet another barrage as his He 111H-16 got shot to bits, his crew bailing out successfully. Providentially, Schmauz’s superiors transferred him back to Germany, where he served as an instructor before returning to operational flying in 1944 flying resupply missions out of Rouvres, France. On 28 August 1944, he was called back to Germany to train on He 111H-20s bearing V-1 flying bombs. While flying one of these missions, P-51D Mustangs bounced his formation, obliterating seven Heinkels, each carrying ground and air crews. Thirty-four Luftwaffe personnel were killed while twenty-two were wounded (but survived, barely, Schmauz among them). After recovering, Josef continued flying He 111H-20s, participating in Operation Rumpelkammer (’Junk Room’), wherein his unit launched 300 V-1s at London, 90 at Southampton, and twenty at Gloucester by the end of August 1944. After transferring from Venlo to bases in Schleswig-Holstein in north-west Germany, he and his squadron were subsumed into KG53 and resumed operations in September.

KG53 dispatched 177 missiles against English targets that month, specifically London, successively increasing to 282 in October and 316 in November 1944, which by then included targets in Leeds and Manchester. The hazardous nature of the operations took a heavy toll on the group, seventeen aircraft lost to RAF night fighters, accidents, or V-1s detonating prematurely after take-off. Reichsmarschall Hermann Wilhelm Göring terminated these air-launch operations on 14 January 1945, by which time KG 53 had lost another twelve H-16s and H-20s. From then on the Luftwaffe used the He 111 purely as transport, but most were grounded due to lack of fuel, spares, and crews.

And what of NCO Beobachter Josef Schmauz? He bailed from the last Heinkel shot down during this campaign and was never seen nor heard from again.


If you want to get a better, heftier sense of an aircraft, buy a 1/48 scale version of it. Such is the case with this splendiferous Heinkel He-111. Armour made it (later subsumed by Franklin Mint); and I’m telling you, guys … she’s a humdinger on steroids. I’m not enthused about the gargantuan Balkenkreuz (straight-armed crosses) emblazoned on her wings (which were emplaced to better warn off friendly German fighters); but in toto, this model screams for attention—and gets it. Looking at it, you feel you’re gazing at the real thing up close and personal, right down to its elaborate engine cowlings and glazed, greenhouse cockpit. The camouflage colors are spot on, too, as is the tampo work. The painting application is excellent; and really, I can’t fault the model but for the Grand Canyon trenches spoiling the fuselage/wing junctions. Armour, though it no longer produces this and like models, should be applauded for producing such exquisite 1/48 zinc replicas. Years ago I thought I was nutz for investing into this and similar FM models, but now I’m ecstatic. You’ll feel terrific, too, if you add one of these Heinkels to your collection.



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Old 08-18-2017, 08:52 AM   #520
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From the get-go, Vought engineers designed the F4U Corsair’s fuselage and wings to be as smooth and silken as a butt-nekked woman, the idea being to mate the most powerful engine with the smallest, cleanest possible airframe. The team partly accomplished this through flush riveting and spot-welding, a technique developed jointly by Vought and the Naval Aircraft Factory. In addition, the manu buried the intake for the turbo-supercharger, intercooler, and oil cooler within inboard wing edge slots. To make the warbird even more slippery, the F4U featured landing gear that swiveled 90º and retracted straight back to fit flat inside the bottom of the wing, closed over by two panels that formed a perfectly smooth fairing.

In other words, the Corsair could flit through the air like greased lightning, pose for Playboy, and then return home before anybody was the wiser.

The US Navy had high hopes for their new stallion and was halfway vindicated when the XF4U-1 first flew on May 1, 1940, the first production aircraft to exceed 400 mph in level flight. The USN ordered 584 copies but soon became disenchanted when carrier trials aboard the USS Sangamon and other carriers exposed the warbird’s disturbing shortcomings. The problems partly lay with the Corsair’s gargantuan, protracted nose that extended 14 feet beyond the cockpit, blocking the pilot’s forward vision to about 12º above the horizon when the fighter sat on a deck. Carrier landings proved lethal on final approach, the Corsair’s snout blocking all sight of the Landing Signals Officer. And engine oil and hydraulic leaks added to the mayhem, smearing the windshield.

But the Corsair’s woes didn’t stop there. Landings on carrier decks required the fighter to stall just as the tail-hook snagged the deck wire, but the F4U was loath to cooperate: reaching stall speed, the Corsair’s port wing tended to drop like an anvil, which collapsed the gear, which severely damaged the aircraft and/or injured or outright killed the pilot. If the poor schmuck at the controls landed intact, the Corsair’s shock absorbers usually bounced the plane high into the air, causing it to miss the arrestor wire, a sure disaster when more planes were parked forward on the flight deck. It was said there were only two kinds of F4U landings: a "trap" and a catastrophe! As accidents piled up, the Navy eagerly donated the fighter to the US Marines, who swiftly racked up impressive kill scores with it. Britain, France, New Zealand, and Australia also flew the F4U.

Bless the British who finally methodized a way to safely land the Corsair on carriers notwithstanding the warbird’s long-nose. In place of the typical downwind/crosswind final approach, the Brits merely approached the carrier from behind in a slow, continual curl that aligned the Corsair over the deck at the last second. This allowed the pilot to keep the Landing Signals Officer in view, who gave the sign to either "cut" or make another attempt. To alleviate oil and hydraulic fluid from splattering the windshield, the Brits wired shut the cowl flaps across the top of the engine compartment, which deflected the oily broth to either side of the fuselage. RN personnel also eased the Corsair’s frightful stall characteristics, landing bounce, and tailhook issues, each remedy eventually wedded to Vought’s production line. By 1944, the US Navy revised its heretofore anti-Corsair policy and succeeded in flying the bird off of its own carriers mostly without incident, which turned out to be an extremely wise decision.


Love this model. Hobby Master made the wise decision to produce the Corsair (and other fascinating fighters) in 1/48, a scale large enough to emphasize not only detail but a sense of satisfying presence. You get the vibe you’re standing next to the fighter, well-nigh able to touch its power and spirit. My example is just about perfect, every part of it fastidious and precise; the paint, the emblems, the construction, the accuracy—they’re all there. Why a considerable number of diecast enthusiasts snub 1/48 models is beyond me. So give Hobby Master a chance to impress you. These larger models are winners.



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Old 08-18-2017, 10:07 AM   #521
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

You're on a roll with these frequent updates! I thoroughly enjoy reading your narrations, so wonderfully crafted and one can't help but smile from the very outset, such is your humor.

I am wondering if you are a professional writer or communicator of some sort. You could certainly write a mean book or two!
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Old 08-18-2017, 11:52 AM   #522
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

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Originally Posted by Uzair View Post
You're on a roll with these frequent updates! I thoroughly enjoy reading your narrations, so wonderfully crafted and one can't help but smile from the very outset, such is your humor.

I am wondering if you are a professional writer or communicator of some sort. You could certainly write a mean book or two!
You're too kind, Uzair! You're spoiling me!!!
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Old 08-18-2017, 07:52 PM   #523
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Pilots and ground crews called it the “double ugly,” “rhino,” “old smokey,” and several less flattering monikers. In four decades of active service in the United States Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, the warbird set 16 world performance records, downed more adversaries (280 claimed victories) than any other U.S. fighter in the Vietnam War, and flew combat missions in Desert Storm.

Looks wise, the Phantom looked jacked up. The horizontal stabilizers drooped 23.25 degrees; the outer wing sections tilted upward 12 degrees. Seeing it for the first time, flight crews were certain it had stability and control problems, a notion vindicated after Navy test pilot Commander J.L. Felsman attempted a speed record on May 18, 1961. Flying below 125 feet over a three-mile course, his F-4 experienced pitch damper failure, which resulted in pilot-induced oscillation that generated over 12 Gs. Both engines were ripped from the airframe and Felsman was killed. With all its peculiarities and faults, legions of pilots and backseaters loved/hated the Phantom. “You have to fly the F-4—or it definitely will fly you,” quipped the more jocular among them.

The Phantom had none of the bells and whistles found on next-generation fighters. Rather than multi-function flight displays, the rhino’s cockpit instruments consisted of “steam gauges”—round dials with needles. It did feature an inertial navigation system best described as peevish, but it offered no flight management system, no GPS, no Electronic Flight Instrument System (EFIS), and no “Bitching Betty” voice system to alert the pilot to hazards. Pilots had to navigate, bomb, shoot missiles, fire the gun, look for problems, and evaluate every action instrument by instrument, requiring heads-down time to analyze data.

To aggravate matters, USAF officials made two-pilot crews compulsory, an edict that disillusioned many a USAF officer coerced to fly second seat. Most pilots considered serving in the “pit” a de facto demotion, pricking more than a few egos. Backseaters had to beg, cajole, and whine for stick time, and when they got it they found flying the F-4 from the rear cockpit a nightmare. The meager instruments were placed haphazardly in a straight line across the panel; the useless clock and G-meter were located in the center simply because they fit there, not to mention instrument approaches gave backseater pilots migraines. To spot the runway, these boys had to peer through a knothole on either side of the cockpit, which made landing from the pit an adventure, especially in a crosswind.

Front-seaters weren’t always thrilled with the F-4 either. Dan Cherry, now a retired brigadier general, flew 185 combat missions in the Phantom over Vietnam. He recalled, “The F-4 cockpit was uncomfortable, the instruments were poorly arranged, crew coordination was a hassle, it was ugly, and it used fuel like nobody’s business.” Not the most ringing endorsement.

By the end of 1966, the Phantom had revealed additional shortcomings, one of which was the AIM-7 radar-guided missile saddled with a dismal kill prospect below 10 percent. The missile was designed to operate in a non-maneuvering, 1-G environment against bombers flying straight and level at high altitude. Instead, F-4s fired it in high-G turns at small MiGs that were turning hard and pulling Gs. Horrified, the Air Force expanded its Weapons System Evaluation Program (WSEP) at Clark Air Base in the Philippines, giving combat crews valuable missile practice against towed radar-reflective targets.

The C variant displayed its own unique shortfalls, the biggest being the lack of a gun. The rules of engagement over Vietnam required that Phantom crews identify adversaries before battle; but MiGs were small, forcing shooters to all but kiss the enemy’s tush, far too close for AIM-7 radar-guided and AIM-9B heat-seeking missiles to lock on. At that range, if you didn’t have a gun, you were up a tree. To remedy this, the Air Force installed the SUU-16/A gun pod with the M61A1 20-mm cannon, a workable fix sans a lead-computing sight and no tracer ammunition. Without that, F-4C pilots were denied visual cues necessary to correct aiming errors.

Providentially in 1967, the F-4D arrived featuring a lead-computing optical sight coupled to the gun pod. Additionally, the normal ammunition load now included tracers. The D model, for all that, was not a cure-all. The guns hung externally on the centerline, creating drag. As for the missiles, the AIM-9B was abandoned for the Hughes AIM-4D Falcon, which itself was flawed, known around the service as the “Falcon Fiasco” or “Hughes Arrow.” The missile proved a blind, dead bullet that at least one USAF official, General Robin Olds, ordered removed from his fleet.

Finally, the F-4E arrived in 1967 featuring an M-61A cannon mounted beneath a solid-state AN/APQ-120 radar, both crammed inside the aircraft nose. The Air Force soon trashed the AIM-4D for newer Sidewinders, and MiG kills began to climb.
Lot’s of Hobby Master F-4 Phantom aficionados out there of which I’m a card-carrying member. Of all my rhinos, HM’s Richthofen F-4F Phantom II is by far my favorite for reasons you’ll probably scorn: I love its camouflage. I can’t get enough of the exquisitely subtle 3-tone gray scheme, and I really dig its creamy nose cone too. Crazy, right? Some people think the paint job is insipid, flavorless; but I call it chic. You’ve got to hand it to the Germans: they’re all about military swag. I’m not too jazzed about the gauche joint lines aft the model’s air intakes, but I’ll live with them. The rest of the model is an inspiration, and to own this beast is a joy. I doubt you’ll ever find one, but if you do, buy it. You’ll love it.



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Old 08-19-2017, 07:40 PM   #524
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

When designing the Albatros D.V, some Ostdeutsche Albatros Werke engineer had a ribald sense of humor, an almost smutty, vulgar drollness that reportedly provoked spasms of laughter when Deutsche Luftstreitkräfte cadre laid eyes on the fighter. As it sat at an aerodrome in its unpainted, natural fleshy-wood finish, Baron von Richthofen smirkingly called it the “Ultimate Weiner,” later revising that to “gargantuan stink pickle” after he was severely wounded and almost killed flying one like it. At the very least, the bi–plane resembled a colossal cartoon cigar, prompting some waggish British airmen to claim they would “smoke the Hun,” horrified, no doubt, when the enemy smoked them first. Whatever this fighter resembled, the Albatros D.V wasn’t a screaming success.

Germany was beset up to its nose hairs with challenges by April 1917, not least of which was vanquishing the Brits and French in the air. Its go-to fighter, the Albatros D.III, had troublingly fallen behind the success curve, opening the door to enemy victories that left unchecked might ultimately crush Germany’s air force. Accordingly, the Idflieg (Inspektion der Fliegertruppen) ordered Albatros to dose the Albatros III with monster steroids to produce a beefier, more vigorous fighter. The resulting D.V prototype flew later that month, closely resembling the D.III, using the same 127 kW (170 hp) Mercedes D.IIIa engine. The new version, designated the D.V, appeared so similar to its predecessor, in fact, that casual observers couldn’t tell the difference but for the new biplane's deeper and more stylish ovate fuselage and decreased gap between it and the upper wing.

Adding to the confusion, the D.V’s wings were indistinguishable from those on the D.III, a sesquiplane arrangement similar to the French Nieuport 11. The only fundamental difference between the D.III and D.V was a revised routing of the aileron cables that placed them entirely within the upper wing. The D.V also featured a larger spinner, ventral fin, and a headrest (that peeved pilots routinely removed). The undercarriage was unremarkable, a steel tube type with a fairing appended over the axle.

On paper, the D.V looked promising; in service, it wasn’t much better than its mommy, the D III. In truth, it was worse—at least at first.

The D.V entered service in May 1917 and immediately suffered lower-wing structural defects that killed several pilots. The Idflieg, performing belated tests on the plane’s framework, was horrified to find the D.V’s sesquiplane wing layout was even more vulnerable than the DV III’s, the outboard segments of the upper wing failing in midair, necessitating additional wire bracing that little helped. Additionally, the fuselage repeatedly fractured and tore apart during rough landings. Front line pilots nearly mutinied when forced to fly the new Albatros, many preferring the older D.III. Even Manfred von Richthofen condemned the new aircraft, describing it in a letter dated July 1917 as "… so obsolete and so ridiculously inferior to the English that one can't do anything with this aircraft. I’d just as soon die in a Dr.1!" The British gleefully agreed, having captured an example and reporting that the German fighter was “slow to maneuver, heavy on the controls, and tiring to fly.”

Albatros Werke, of course, took the slight personally and responded with the D.Va that featured stronger wing spars, heavier wing ribs, and a reinforced fuselage, which only partway resolved the biplane's structural problems. To further strengthen the wing, the D.Va added a small diagonal brace connecting the forward interplane strut to the leading edge of the lower wing. To add to the frustration, the plane’s lighter high-compression 180 hp Mercedes D.IIIaü engine provided little added power. Despite this, Idflieg placed orders for 262 D.Va aircraft in August 1917, followed by orders for another 250 in September and 550 in October. The D.Va commenced deliveries in October 1917 and served through to the Armistice simply because the Luftstreitkräfte had no viable alternatives (the Fokker Dr.I suffered its own structural problems and the Pfalz D.III was a turd) until the Fokker D.VII entered service in mid-1918.

Production of the D.Va ceased in April 1918. By 31 August, fewer than 400 Albatros fighters of all types remained at the front.

I’ve been on a kick about 1/48 models lately, mostly because I just love that scale, and partway because larger scale models, though not always, are exquisitely detailed and hugely visually appealing. Corgi’s 1/48 WWI fighters fit that description to a tee, each one of them a mini masterwork and inspiration. I know of no other manu that produces these wonderfully archaic aircraft in that size (but for Matchbox and Carousel 1, who manufactured fine-looking models back in the Ice Ages). I especially like Corgi’s German birds for their incomparable, kaleidoscopic camouflage schemes and exacting detail. The model showcased here, Hermann Göring’s bird, is dressed to the nines. (Can you believe that Nazi butterball was credited with 22 confirmed victories and received the ‘Pour le Mérite’ [or ‘Blue Max’], Germany’s highest order of merit? Boggles the mind.) If you can get your hands on this mini masterpiece, do it. I can’t fault it but for a few semi-saggy wires. You’ll thank yourself.



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Old 08-20-2017, 01:42 PM   #525
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

Don't ask me why, but I’ve always (unjustly) considered the Northop P-16 Black Widow a fringe fighter, a curio that prowled around the outskirts of the war rendering marginal service. On one level, that’s fractionally correct; on another, the notion is irremissibly libelous. Allow me to share a few fascinating facts about this nocturnal American mack daddy.

As the company chosen to develop the world’s first dedicated night fighter, Northrop Aircraft Corporation seemed an unlikely choice. Headquartered in Hawthorne, California, the firm was only a year old, functioning principally as a subcontractor for larger aircraft makers like Lockheed, Grumman, and Douglas. But these established manufacturers were heavily committed to stocking the nation’s flying arsenal, so Northrop filled in.

The Brits kick-started the P-61, just as they had the P-51 Mustang. Having suffered nightly drubbings by German bombers during the Blitz, England had learned that night fighting required an aircraft with special characteristics: a high ceiling to intercept intruders, prolonged loiter time to orbit defended sectors, and heavy firepower to swat down big bombers before they reached their targets. Plus, it needed radar.

Northrop’s P-61 design was medium-bomberish: 66-foot wingspan, two 2,000-horsepower engines, twin tail booms, three crewmen required. Its estimated fighting weight exceeded 29,000 pounds (a fully loaded British de Havilland Mosquito fighter was only 17,700 pounds). The airplane’s unique mission drove its hefty specs, but the British influenced them too. In Queen of the Midnight Skies by Garry H. Pape and Ronald C. Harrison, Northrop chief of aerodynamics William Sears recalls, “The configuration, armament, loiter capability, relatively short range, were all pointed toward the London defense situation.”

The pièce de résistance was the airborne microwave radar enclosed in the aircraft’s nose: a spinning, 30-inch scanner-receiver dish antenna that swept the sky. Opposed to long-wave radar plagued by ground echoes at low altitude, the shorter wavelength unit benefited from improved accuracy, guiding interceptors in total darkness to within 100 yards of a target.

As the P-61 evolved, the initial engines—18-cylinder Pratt & Whitneys —were upgraded to 2,250 horsepower to enable airspeeds of 350 mph and a 33,000-foot ceiling for intercepting high-flying bombers. However, a remotely operated General Electric top gun turret—in scarce supply owing to the priority given to the B-29 Superfortress—ended up being scrapped from about half the P-61s in production.

In November 1943, P-61s were finally available for training. Most arrived from the factory in daylight camouflage: drab olive and gray. By moonlight, however, this livery was far too visible (as was flat black, oddly). Experiments revealed that a high-gloss, jet-black veneer provided maximum invisibility otherwise. On the nose of one black-garbed P-61, neophyte gunner Peter Raymen painted what quickly caught on as the moniker for America’s first dedicated night fighter: Black Widow.

As lone wolves stalking prey in total darkness, P-61 crews had trouble confirming shootdowns. Even the interceptors couldn’t always be certain they’d scored. Three probable kills of German airplanes occurred before a Black Widow crew got official credit for one. On the night of August 7, pilot Raymond Anderson and R/O John Morris were patrolling over Normandy in Lovely Lady when they intercepted a Junkers Ju 88. Closing in on the warbird, they made a positive identification and raked it with 20mm cannon fire, blasting the beast to kingdom come. The Black Widow had made its first certified kill in the European theater.

As the tide turned against Germany, Black Widows increasingly assumed the role of an intruder. If it was a slow night, P-61 crews routinely shot up ground targets instead. The 425th Night Fighter Squadron strafed German locomotives and convoys that attempted to retreat under cover of darkness from General Patton’s army. The most productive single night of the war transpired on April 11, 1945, when P-61 intruders obliterated 14 Luftwaffe aircraft, most of them Junkers transports lumbered with supplies. During the Battle of the Bulge when poor visibility grounded standard day fighters, only radar-aided P-61s were flight-ready to support ground troops—night or day.

Contrary to the notion that plunging into darkness and spoiling for a fight was extraordinarily dangerous, statistics proved it was actually safer than flying daylight fighters. The loss rate for all night fighters was just one-half of one percent. In fact, only four Widows were lost during the entire war, none to direct enemy action. Of course, the delay in the Widow’s combat debut skewed the number of available targets, particularly in Europe. By then, Hitler was shifting forces east, and lack of fuel was grounding many German warplanes. Though four Black Widow pilots became aces, there were relatively few verified night victories:158. On the night of August 14, 1945, after the Pacific-based crew of Lady in the Dark acquired a Nakajima Ki-43 fighter on airborne radar, Lady dogged the fighter down to water level, where it crashed into the sea near Ie Shima and exploded—one of the final aerial kills of World War II.
In my opinion, Air Force 1 diecast models are hit-or-miss affairs. I especially like the manu’s P-61 Black Widows and Sukhoi Su-35s, but its B-29, E-2C, F-22, F-35B and SR-71 bounce somewhere south of acceptable. And Air Force 1’s B-17G A Bit O Lace? Fuhgedaboudit. Pure dreck. Still, the Black Widow showcased here is a surprisingly good piece of modeldom: overall the replica is well crafted with a minimum of joint lines, the paint and tampo jobs are respectable, and as far as I can tell, the model is accurate (pretty much). I detest the model’s semi-frosty canopies (I mean, come on, AF1: if IXO can get that right, so can you!). And I’m not too jazzed about the cheesy fit between the fuselage and forward windshield. But mostly this little gem redounds well to AF1’s iffy reputation, and I recommend it to anybody who joneses for late-war night fighters.



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Old 08-20-2017, 04:54 PM   #526
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

At the start of World War II, the Mitsubishi A6M2 Reisen (Zero) absolutely stunned American and British pilots with its agility, speed, armament, and ability to fly circles around Hawker Hurricanes and Curtiss P-40 Tomahawks. Few Westerners realized, however, that most of these so-called Zeros were actually Ki-43 Hayabusas (Peregrine Falcons—“Oscars” to the Allies), Nakajima-designed Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) fighters. By the end of the war, the Hayabusa had proved itself a phenomenal machine in which nearly all of the JAAF’s top aces distinguished themselves with high kill tallies.

In 1937, Hideo Itokawa began work on a successor to Nakajima’s Ki-27 fighter, calling it the “Type 97.” The Japanese Army requested a replacement air superiority fighter that would nimbly eliminate enemy aircraft, allowing ground forces to maneuver unchecked. The Ki-27 met this requirement but compared unfavorably against new, up-and-coming Anglo-American aircraft. Thus Itokawa’s engineers set out to design a swift, modern interceptor possessed of superb maneuverability, all metal construction, a streamlined canopy, retractable landing gear, and a 950-horsepower Sakae radial engine propelling it to over 300 miles per hour. To meet JAAF weight specs, Nakajima designers omitted armor protection and self-sealing fuel tanks, thinking pilots would rely on the machine’s speed and agility to close with the enemy—or escape them.

Yet unhappily, when the Ki-43 prototype first flew in January 1939, test pilots condemned the fighter as abominable, protesting it was unresponsive, sluggish, and not much faster than the Ki-27 it was designed to replace. It took Nakajima 18 months and 13 separate modifications to deliver an acceptable aircraft, engineers having trimmed away every ounce of surplus weight, increased wing area, and redesigned the canopy. They also installed a set of paddle-shaped “butterfly flaps” under the wing roots to boost maneuverability. Thus refined, the newly modified interceptor could reach an altitude of 38,500 feet with a 3,900 feet per minute rate of climb. Maximum speed was 308 miles per hour at 13,000 feet. The new butterfly flaps enabled the fighter to turn inside any aircraft then flying, including the Zero.

As war spread across Asia and the Pacific, Allied fliers learned to fear Japan’s enraged little Falcon. Tangling with a Ki-43 usually resulted in fiery death, so air tacticians such as General Claire L. Chennault of the Flying Tigers taught their pilots to avoid dogfighting with one at any cost. It took time for these instructions to take hold, allowing Hayabusa aces such as Warrant Officer Iwataro Hazawa (15 kills) and Lieutenant Guichi Sumino (27 victories) to rack up impressive scores. Even so, JAAF aviators continued to condemn the Peregrine Falcon’s performance, firepower, and lack of durability. In service, the Ki-43’s wings tended to break off during steep dives, the upshot of Nakajima’s earlier weight-saving measures, forcing headquarters to suspend all flight operations until strengthened wing spars became available. Pilots also detested the slow-firing Ho-103 cannon (a Japanese copy of the U.S. Browning M2 .50-caliber machine gun), that habitually jammed in combat.

Nakajima designers watched with concern as modern Allied fighters like the Lockheed P-38 Lightning and Vought F4U Corsair took to the skies in late 1942. They upgraded the Hayabusa into the Ki-43-II, a faster, stronger, more maneuverable version that still inexplicably retained the Falcon’s vulnerability. Allied fliers soon discovered that one burst of .50-caliber machine-gun bullets into the Ki-43 II’s unprotected oxygen tank would habitually explode the fighter.

The Hayabusa’s two-gun battery was one-third as potent as the six heavy weapons most American fighters carried. Even firing explosive shells, the Ho-103 cannon proved woefully inadequate against tough-skinned Allied warplanes. When Consolidated B-24 Liberator bombers began operating in Chinese airspace in late 1942, JAAF fliers had no choice but to attack them though poorly armed. It took immense courage to intercept the formidable B-24, and even greater luck to bring it down. Captain Yasuhiko Kuroe told his pilots to fly head-on into the American formations and concentrate on a single bomber. “Attack boldly,” Kuroe counseled. “Go into the wall of fire and take their bullets, be relentless.” Kuroe’s tactic worked but often resulted in obliterated Ki-43s.

The tables were turning against the grizzled aviators who flew this ever more outdated fighter. Twelve-kill JAAF ace Captain Yohei Hinoki observed: “Times were changing dramatically. Soon we were forced to fly the Hayabusa in defense but were handicapped by the fighter's meager firepower. The Ki-43 was a splendid aircraft, but it was like a child playing among giants.” Japanese Army Air Force pilots continued to operate the aging Ki-43 simply because they had nothing else. By mid-1944, the Ki-43 was hopelessly outclassed, which prodded Nakajima into fitting it with an uprated 1,230-horsepower engine and twin 20mm cannons, an update that came too little, too late.


This is one of those cases where you either buy a decidedly mediocre, unexceptional model because it’s the only one available—or you do without. IXO’s Ki-43 isn’t a pile of mule flop exactly, but it’s not the Mona Lisa of modeldom, either. It’s saddled with banality; it neither inspires nor excites. The metal finish is second rate, and the camouflage freckling the wings and fuselage is ho-hum, what there is of it. I could go on, but you get the picture. No other manufacturer offers this particular bird; so if you’re into Japanese Army aircraft, you might consider getting one—or not.



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Old 08-20-2017, 07:23 PM   #527
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

Because this aircraft served so long and so well, air and ground crews dubbed it the “Faithful Annie—with the Delightsome Fanny.” The Avro Anson served the RAF from 1934 to 1968 (believe it or not), the brainchild of Roy Chadwick and company, who adapted the Avro 652 to meet Coastal Command’s G.18/35 requirement.

The Avro 652 flew for Imperial Airways as a small four-seat transport and mail plane, morphing into the 652A (the Avro Anson), easily recognizable for its large square windows opposed to smaller oval ones and novelly equipped dorsal turret. The type entered service with No.48 Squadron, Coastal Command, as the Anson Mk.I in 1936, flying its heart out as a maritime reconnaissance and search & rescue aircraft until the Hudson replaced it. The Anson proved so versatile that it served as a trainer for fledgling bomber and other multi-engined crews, 6742 Anson Mk.Is being produced. In toto, 11020 were built in a variety of versions, the Mk.I deployed for maritime patrol only.

The Anson Mk.I was a low-wing monoplane featuring retractable landing gear, a development so novel at the time to RAF crews that they habitually forgot to turn a designated crank 160 times to drop the undercarriage, warning horn notwithstanding (that many pilots found annoying and disconnected). The aircraft’s construction was entirely conventional, the wing made of spruce and bakelite-bonded plywood, the fuselage of steel tube sheathed in fabric and plywood. Ansons were originally adorned with a shiny aluminum dope but donned a coat of camouflage following the outbreak of war. The large cockpit and fuselage windows offered a good all-around view. Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah IX radial engines with two-bladed metal propellers powered the brute but lacked muscle: If one engine failed, the chances of staying airborne were slim to none.

The Anson carried a crew of four: pilot, bomb aimer, gunner, and wireless operator. The General Reconnaissance version featured a manually-operated gun turret with a single .303 machine gun, augmented by fixed nose artillery. The air gunners were volunteers drawn from the ground crew, who received an additional shilling per day for their trouble. Two 100 lb. bombs were infrequently stowed internally, and external racks could carry eight 20 lb. bombs, flares, or smoke generators.

The Anson was sturdy, reliable and pleasant to fly, well liked by its crews. The plane proved an uncompromising success as a trainer but an unmitigated flop as a maritime reconnaissance aircraft. Slow, vulnerable, short-ranged, and pitifully weak armament wise, the Anson got no respect from U-boat crews that sooner laughed at it than evaded it. In December 1939, the British were mortified to learn that an Anson had attacked the HMS Snapper in error, precisely hitting the submarine with 100 lb. bombs but only managing to break four of its light bulbs. That Ansons were the bulwark of Coastal Command in 1939 underscored the service’s cavernous shortfalls. Once Hudsons took over, the RAF eagerly banished the small Mrk.I to the outermost fringes of operational service.


Oxford has a lot of guts and moxie producing a model this agreeable for such a comparatively affordable price. It’s not a masterpiece, but it is exemplary, featuring correct camouflage colors and pleasant attention to detail. I’m not especially jazzed about the antenna wire connector jutting from the tail (reminds me of a buried tomahawk), but it is what it is. All in all, I like this bird and the fact that a manufacturer has the fortitude to offer it to a collector base with shifting allegiances. I applaud Oxford and hope it forges ahead with equally interesting subjects. If you haven’t purchased this particular bird yet, don’t hesitate. It’s a solemn reminder of England's most harrowing, traumatic days.



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Old 08-21-2017, 12:01 AM   #528
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You're too kind, Uzair! You're spoiling me!!!
monsieur uzair was merely speaking the truth. your zeal and prolific penmanship makes for such interesting reads... kinda like insightful snippets of not just the airframe, but diecast models of them. it's like those interesting "did you know?" columns/panels you find in air force magazines and hence, i too wonder whether you're a column contributor for such publications. writing a single column is difficult enough, but you constantly churn out three with seeming ease. that's certainly not your average joe's feature contribution. keep 'em coming.

and yes, i am one of those who till this day question the wisdom of scrapping the raptor program and whether the funding for the lightning2 could've been better served upgrading the raptors instead. don't have that many raptor models in my hangar for the simple reason that they all look awfully similar... but it's still the most gracefully designed stealth airframe, in my eyes.

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Old 08-21-2017, 12:04 PM   #529
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monsieur uzair was merely speaking the truth. your zeal and prolific penmanship makes for such interesting reads... kinda like insightful snippets of not just the airframe, but diecast models of them. it's like those interesting "did you know?" columns/panels you find in air force magazines and hence, i too wonder whether you're a column contributor for such publications. writing a single column is difficult enough, but you constantly churn out three with seeming ease. that's certainly not your average joe's feature contribution. keep 'em coming.
Thank you for your kind words, tomcatter. I enjoy writing about the things I love, especially diecast models. I’ve been pouring on the juice at the DA.C lately, publishing a bedlam of reviews, wishing to share as much as possible. But I’m being pulled in twenty different directions and need to slow down considerably. I really do encourage others to join in and post pics of their favorite models together with engaging little history blurbs and opinions. Their thoughts and perspectives are every bit as valid as mine. With the way this hobby seems to be winding down, members ought to do what they can to foster enthusiasm.

Anyway, thanks again for your thoughtful words. You, too, Uzair and Tker76!
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Old 08-21-2017, 09:44 PM   #530
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Thank you for your kind words, tomcatter. I enjoy writing about the things I love, especially diecast models. I’ve been pouring on the juice at the DA.C lately, publishing a bedlam of reviews, wishing to share as much as possible. But I’m being pulled in twenty different directions and need to slow down considerably. I really do encourage others to join in and post pics of their favorite models together with engaging little history blurbs and opinions. Their thoughts and perspectives are every bit as valid as mine. With the way this hobby seems to be winding down, members ought to do what they can to foster enthusiasm.

Anyway, thanks again for your thoughtful words. You, too, Uzair and Tker76!
much as i'd like to contribute, i suffer from chronic writers' block and really, even at my level best, couldn't hold a candle against your amusing write-ups. admittedly, i've been drawn to consider certain airframes by reason only of your background info and thought of the actual models. hoping that dac continue to have the strongest pull on you... and i mean that in the best way. cheers!
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Old 08-23-2017, 01:25 PM   #531
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

Crocodile. Drinking Glass. Devil’s Chariot. Hind. These are but a few sobriquets Mi-24 crews have called the Mil Mi-24 attack helicopter over the years, its adversaries calling it less charitable epithets we’ll forego here. And though the aircraft got a shaky start, it transfigured into a Russian rendition of the Hulk (from Marvel Comics), distended hideous muscles, maniacal temper, and all.

The Russians would have you think this gifted warrior popped into life nearly immaculate from the get-go, flawless, and rarin’ to punish capitalist dogs around the world with fire and shot. Indeed, in a celebratory press release, state-owned Rostec corporation, which produces the latest Mi-35M Hind, claims the helicopter “was conceived and built in record time, with development starting in 1968.” Russian Helicopters CEO Alexander Mikheev even claims that the Hind has always boasted of “high levels of efficiency and reliability and … sound construction.” Which, in light of history and abashedly for the Russians, is undiluted donkey dribble. The helo’s path to service was actually rocky: the initial Hind prototype flew for the first time on Sept. 19, 1969, but it wasn’t accepted into Soviet service until 1976.

When you think of the Hind, you commonly conjure up the helo from hell, an army-smashing behemoth freak festooned with canons and missiles; but this flying tank is actually a flying infantry-fighting vehicle instead, or was when it first appeared, similar to the U.S. Army’s UH-1 Huey of Vietnam fame. Such a helicopter was hugely forward-thinking back in the day, a concept the Soviet Defense Ministry was disinclined to endorse. Three different mock-ups and five iterations of the forward fuselage later, Mil eventually settled on a 10.5-ton design powered by a pair of turboshafts filched from an existing Mi-14 maritime helicopter (including its engines and the main and tail rotors). The three primary crew, a pilot, a gunner, and a technician, sat beneath a “greenhouse” canopy of flat glass panels; the troop compartment was placed in the center fuselage featuring back-to-back seating.

Not so surprising, early flight trials revealed major design flaws. The Mi-24’s stub wings, designed to provide lift and bear weaponry, adversely affected stability, later replaced by new downward-pitched versions. The original missile installation affixed to lower fuselage pylons impeded the helo’s line-of-fire rockets while obstructing the cabin doors. Plus, in its original form, the cockpit proved too cramped to house the weapons guidance system. Addressing these and other sizable faults, Mil finally introduced the Mi-24A in 1970, only to confront yet another nasty problem: heavy crosswinds twirled the chopper on its vertical axis, inducing several catastrophic crashes. To cope, Mil relocated the tail rotor from the starboard to the port side of the tail.

The Russian Defense Ministry boys were moderately happy with the bird’s firepower but wanted considerably more clout against light armor and enemy infantry, so they insisted on Mil adding a Gatling-type four-barrel 12.7-millimeter machine gun housed in a powered chin turret. Around that time, the aircraft also acquired enhanced Falanga-P missiles with semi-automatic guidance, and targeting accuracy improved with low-light-television and infrared sensors beneath the nose. The Mi-24B retained the greenhouse flight deck of the Mi-24A. No matter, the Mi-24B still wasn’t up to snuff. The original cockpit structure presented limited visibility; so, in early 1971, Mil redesigned the helo with a stepped-tandem cockpit arrangement that remains its salient feature. The Mi-24V was to be the first of the gunship-style Hinds, which would also have introduced modified landing gear and optional underwing fuel tanks, but long-awaited Shturm missiles were still unavailable, so Mil readied the provisional Mi-24D gunship loaded with the feeble Falanga-P. The Mi-24D began production in 1973 and entered Soviet service in 1976.

In 1973, the Shturm-V finally arrived and the first example of the definitive Mi-24V appeared. With its superior range, flight speed and accuracy, the semi-automatic-guided Shturm allowed the Mi-24V to excel in the close air support role. The Mi-24V also featured up-rated engines for hot and high operations as well as improved communications avionics. The Mi-24V went into production in 1976 with 1,400 examples. Based on hard lessons Soviet pilots learned in Afghanistan, subsequent Mi-24Vs offered a radar homing and warning system, infrared-suppressing exhaust nozzles, and an infrared jammer plus launchers for infrared countermeasures.

In the early days of the Mi-24 project, Mil had envisaged a cannon-armed gunship with a hard-hitting, twin-barrel 23-millimeter weapon, but the Defense Ministry had insisted on a smaller gun. While the helo’s 30-millimeter cannon was a formidable weapon, it was also weighty, bore too little ammunition, and produced oodles of recoil. To provide a definitive gun armament, Mil produced the Mi-24VP in 1985 with a lighter 23-millimeter twin-barrel cannon buried in a remote-controlled nose turret, which was unreliable. Entering production in 1989, the Mi-24VP appeared in piddling numbers.

Operations in Chechnya exposed the importance of a night-vision capability. And thus Mil made more adaptions, exploiting off-the-shelf technologies, including a night vision sighting system and color cockpit displays, which eventuated in the Mi-24PN.

The Mi-35, the latest Hind version, introduced a true night and all-weather capability, bringing the venerable Hind firmly up to date. It includes the main rotor of the more modern Mi-28 gunship, an X-shape low-noise tail rotor, shortened stub wings, and non-retractable landing gear. New weapons options include the Ataka-V air-to-ground missile and the Igla-Vair-to-air missile. Revised avionics include an electronic flight instrumentation system, new navigation system with GPS, and an observation and targeting payload that features a forward-looking infrared sensor TV camera and laser rangefinder.

In other words, this is a formidable foe that Western armies are best advised to avoid where possible. The Russians may have screwed up repetitively to get it right, but they definitely succeeded in the end.

Said it before: Easy Model makes terrific pre-build, plastic models adorned in good-to-excellent paint and tampo applications. If you’ve been holding back not purchasing one (say this particular Hind) because it’s plastic, you’re cheating yourself. Plastic, admittedly, doesn’t have heft like zinc, but it’s pleasing and fetching and satisfying all the same. I mean it when I say, “try it!” You’ll be surprised how cool pre-made Easy Models are.



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Old 08-24-2017, 04:25 PM   #532
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

The P-40 definitely wasn’t the most gifted fighter in the sky. The Bf 109 and Focke Wulf Fw-190 merely laughed at it, especially at altitudes above 15,000 feet. The Japanese Mitsubishi Zero outmaneuvered and outclimbed it with scorn. Even its hommies, the P-38 Lightning, P-47 Thunderbolt and P-51 Mustang, flew it into the dirt, rendering the poor bird obsolete by 1944. And yet the Warhawk was among the most ubiquitous, few aircraft to see combat in as many theaters, under as wide a variety of climactic conditions, or with as many different air arms. P-40s saw action from the Arctic to the tropics, from the desert to the jungle, and from sea level to the Himalayas. In addition to the U.S. Army Air Forces, British, Australian, New Zealand, South African, Canadian, Dutch, Free French, Soviet, Chinese, Egyptian and Turkish fighter units flew them. Whether it was called the P-40, the Tomahawk, the Kittyhawk, or the Warhawk, Curtiss-Wright’s fighter was one of the truly classic combat aircraft of World War II.

By far the most renowned of all Curtiss fighters were flown by the American Volunteer Group (AVG), or ‘Flying Tigers’ in China. The 100 dispatched there were technically Tomahawk Mk.IIbs originally built for the British, emblazoned with their trademark shark-mouth graphics courtesy of No. 112 RAF Squadron’s colorful Tomahawks. The AVG’s exploits made the shark mouth so famous that P-40 units worldwide copied it. First flying combat on December 20, 1941, the Flying Tigers operated under exceedingly difficult conditions at the end of the world’s lengthiest supply line with the lowest priority. Yet by the time the group demobilized six months later, its pilots had shot down 286 Japanese aircraft as the Japanese were utterly defeating everybody else in the Far East.

The AVG owed its success to Colonel Claire Lee Chennault, its tactical-genius leader. A former USAAC fighter pilot who had scrupulously observed Japanese aircraft over China, Chennault cataloged the strengths and weaknesses of both Japanese and American fighters. With that knowledge, he organized an advance warning system of Chinese observers, who tipped off his pilots to Japanese attack. He also drilled three cardinal rules into his pilots: first, never attempt to outmaneuver a Japanese fighter since it could nail a P-40’s butt within two turns (instead, dive to escape, climb, and re-engage); second, attack head-on, using the P-40’s superior two .50 and four .30-caliber machine guns against the Japanese’ piddling two 7.7mm weapons; and third, harass Japanese fighters following combat (a few holes in their tanks would exhaust their fuel before reaching base). These tactics generally guaranteed success.

The Japanese were a little confused by the P-40s’ Chinese insignia and became totally enraged when they discovered Americans were piloting the fighters. In theory, AVG personnel were U.S. civilians employed by the Nationalist Chinese government, so technically those emblems were legitimate. Curiously their success, jubilantly publicized in the United States, vexed the USAAC and its successor, the USAAF. Somebody got his nose pushed out of joint, likely due to a turf war, and the AVG was disbanded and absorbed into the USAAF on July 4, 1942.

In an attempt to improve the P-40’s performance above 15,000 feet, Curtiss installed a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine in a P-40D to produce the XP-40F. The British knew only too well that Rolls-Royce couldn’t supply enough Merlin engines for both their and America’s needs and thus contracted Packard to build 6,000 Merlins for the RAF and 3,000 for the USAAF. The production P-40F Warhawk, or Kittyhawk Mk.II, became the first American fighter to use the 1,300-hp Packard Merlin. With a top speed of 364 mph, the P-40F was 10 mph faster than the P-40E. To further improve the P-40’s performance, Curtiss reduced internal fuel and eliminated two of the wing-mounted .50-caliber guns. Designers also increased the glazing behind the cockpit. Called the Kittyhawk Mk.IV by the British, the lightweight P-40N Warhawk was the most-produced P-40 variant. With a top speed of 378 mph, the P-40N also had the best performance of the production-model P-40s, the last P-40N completed on November 30, 1944.


I like the P-40 as much as the next guy, and I say the following with no ax to grind, but this model is as Plain Jane as they come. Corgi did an outstanding job on the replica, don’t get me wrong: the model is accurate, the paint application is nearly perfect, the tampo work is second to none, and overall the effect is pleasing, mostly … but for one piddling fact: it’s boring. It’s tedious, it’s uninteresting, it’s monotonous. It’s soul-crushing! Which isn’t so much Corgi’s fault as the USAAF’s insipid, standard olive green/dark gray camouflage scheme that transfigures the bird into zinc anesthesia. Buy the model simply because it represents a splendid American WWII fighter, but understand that you’ll likely go comatose looking at it.



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Old 08-24-2017, 06:34 PM   #533
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

Sixty RAF Tornado GR1s went to war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army during Desert Storm, flying from Tabuk and Dhahran in Saudi Arabia and Muharraq in Bahrain. The aircraft helped to pin the Iraqi Air Force to the ground thanks to its JP233 munitions dispenser system, flying most of its missions at very low level in darkness. Doing so, it proved one of the most versatile combat aircraft available to the Coalition forces. Unfortunately, while performing such hazardous missions, the RAF lost six Tornados in combat. There were as follows …

The first: 17 January 1991, Flight Lieutenant J. Peters, pilot; Flight Lieutenant J. Nichol, navigator.

This Tornado, among others, executed an ultra-low level attack on Ruma airfield with 1,000lb General Purpose (GP) bombs. During egress from the target, the formation plunged into furious anti-aircraft defenses, principally Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA) fire, before the Tornados’ Sky Guardian Radar Warning Receivers (RWR) detected several Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) guidance radars honing in on them. Flt Lt Peters attempted to evade the Iraqi missiles but failed, two of them detonating just under the fuselage. The aircraft remained airborne and under control for three minutes as fire devoured the starboard wing, by which time the both crew members hit the silk, sustaining injuries from the ejection. The Iraqi army swiftly captured the men and later, notoriously, paraded them on Iraqi television.

The second: 17th January 1991, Wing Commander T.N.C. Elsdon, pilot; Flight Lieutenant R. M. Collier, navigator.

The aircraft conducted a low-level attack against Shaibah air base in Southern Iraq flying in a four-aircraft formation. Despite intense anti-aircraft fire all the way to the target, the group executed a successful strike before turning on a northerly heading. Later, as the four Tornados conducted a turn east, one aircraft crew witnessed a bright explosion on the desert floor below and behind. Though the formation leader called out for the formation to check in, Wing Commander Elsdon and Flight Lieutenant Collier didn’t reply and failed to return to base. An inquiry board concluded that the fireball was their aircraft crashing during a low-level turn. Tragically, both Wing Commander Elsdon and Flight Lieutenant Collier were killed.

The third: 19th January 1991, Flight Lieutenant David Waddington the, pilot; Flight Lieutenant Robbie Stewart, navigator.

Attacking an airfield in South West Iraq at night with 1,000lb GP bombs, this Tornado came under fire from defensive SAM batteries as it commenced a rapid climb from low level. A SAM detonated ahead of the aircraft shredding the cockpit and rendering Waddington unconscious. Flight Lieutenant Stewart initiated ejection at high speeds resulting in his and Waddington’s additional injuries. Three days later the Iraqis captured the two lacerated men and held them as POWs until end of the conflict.

The fourth: 22nd January 1991, Squadron Leader G. K. S. Lennox, pilot; Squadron Leader K. P. Weeks, navigator.

This aircraft was attacking the Ar Rutbah air defense site at low level with 1,000lb GP bombs and successfully struck the radar site despite intense anti-aircraft fire on approach. As the Tornado climbed out, another squadron mate glimpsed an explosion on a nearby hillside and observed fires and wreckage strewn across the landscape. Intelligence later confirmed that Lennox’s and Weeks’ aircraft had crashed. The exact cause has never been determined, though the Iraqi Air Force later claimed a MiG-29 “Fulcrum-B” brought down the aircraft with an R-60 (NATO code name AA-8 “Aphid”) air-to-air missile.

The fifth: 24th January 1991, Flying Officer S. J. Burgess, pilot; Squadron Leader R. Ankerson, navigator.

This Tornado was executing an early morning, medium level attack against an airfield in South West Iraq with 1,000lb GP bombs. As the weapons were released, a large explosion rocked the aircraft, the crew thinking it a SAM detonation that sheathed the wings in flame. The crew ventured to reach the Saudi Arabian border, but the aircraft grew uncontrollable until both men were forced to eject. The Iraqi army captured and held them as POWs. A post war investigation firmly established that the Tornado’s own ordinance detonated prematurely, downing it, though why the weapon exploded so early remains a mystery.

The sixth: 14th February 1991, Flight Lieutenant R. J. Clark, pilot; Flight Lieutenant S. M. Hicks, navigator.

The Tornado flew in tandem with Blackburn Buccaneers on a daylight, medium-level precision strike mission, the Buccaneers furnishing laser designation, the Tornado formation armed with Laser Guided Bombs (LGBs). As the formation neared the target airfield two seconds from weapons’ release, Iraqi radars “painted” them. Just as Clark's Tornado dropped one of its two LGBs, a Buccaneer crew reported SAM launches to its north. Recognizing the aircraft was under attack, Flight Lieutenant Clark then jettisoned his remaining external stores when a SAM exploded near his canopy, damaging most of the cockpit instruments. A second SAM burst and sprayed the wings and fuselage with shrapnel seconds later, the pilot still maintaining limited control of the Tornado for two additional minutes. On trying to contact his navigator, however, he got nothing but dead air. Finally, the jet plunged from the sky, and Clark and Hicks were thrown from the Tornado to the desert below. Clark was taken prisoner and learned that his navigator, Flight Lieutenant Hicks, had been killed. The Iraqis held Clark to the end of the conflict.


Come on, admit it: you love that shark grin emblazoned on this RAF desert demigod, don’t you. So do I. But for the tawdry wing-glove slit aft the air intakes and the barfy pinkish desert sand camo shade, I could really groove on this Tornado (I love the bird anyway for all its boxy glory, so it doesn’t take much). I own a bunch of Corgi and Franklin Mint Tornadoes and love the butter out of ‘em. If you fancy modern combat aircraft, too, you’ve gotta love the Tornado. Buy one. Buy them all!!!



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Old 08-24-2017, 07:08 PM   #534
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

Which four-engined bomber was the best in WWII? Ask ten guys and you’ll likely get twenty different answers, most of them incidental to their country of origin. The Brits usually champion the Lancaster (for lucid reasons); some the Halifax. Still others, mostly American, insist the Boeing B-29 or B-17 (or even the B-24) wins first place. The question is enduring, nobody giving even an inch to opposing opinion. But the truth is, each bomber had its strengths, each had its shortfalls, and each punched tyranny right in the chops, which deserves our everlasting affection.

For looks and sturdiness alone, I jump between the mighty Fortress and the Lancaster, both of them tough-as-nails war hounds. But because this review spotlights the B-17, allow me to share with you some engaging facts about this exceptional American bomber …

In 1940, Uncle Sam shelled out a little over $200,000 per B-17. That's over $3 million in today's currency.

With a production run of 12,731 B-17s (whip out your calculators), it cost the USA (in today’s money) a whopping $38 billion.

Paradoxically, Boeing designed the B-17 to bomb ships, but it ultimately crushed Germany’s industry instead. The Fortress’ original ship-killing design was partly liable for its comparatively small bomb load.

The press went bananas over the Fortress, crediting it with sinking the Japanese battleship Haruna off Luzon during the invasion of the Philippines. According to every news paper in America, Captain Colin Kelly and his noble '17 crew blew the battleship clean out of the water. Which, in fact, was pure mule flop. The Haruna wasn’t even hit with shrapnel, yet Kelly and his boys became overnight heroes. The story was never retracted.

Furthermore, in June 1942 when US carrier aircraft shattered the Japanese Navy in the Battle of Midway, B-17 crews readily claimed credit. The credulous press ran headlines like "Army Fliers Blasted Two Fleets off Midway," which peeved the Navy that was powerless to do anything about it. Official historian Samuel Morison notes in the History of US Naval Operations of World War II, "…there is no evidence that any Japanese aircraft-carrier was hit by a B-17 during the entire course of the Pacific War.”

Before the P-51D rode shotgun with B-17 bomber groups, the YB-40, a modified B-17F gunship bristling with a gazillion .50 cal machine guns, defended its sister bombers. On paper the concept was brilliant, except the plane’s gross weight exceeded fully armed B-17s by 4,000 lbs.; and thus laden, it couldn’t keep pace with formations after their bomb runs. Falling behind, the gunplane attracted marauding Messerschmitts Bf 109s and Focke-Wulf Fw 190s like flies on a turd.

The B-17G carried 13 .50-caliber machine guns in its waist, cheeks, chin, top turret, ball turret, and tail.

The Fortress dropped 640,000 tons of bombs on Nazi Germany. With less than 5/10ths cloud coverage and aiming visually, an average B-17 group hit within 1000 feet of the aiming point 32.4% of the time, (which sounds abominable but given circumstances it wasn’t half bad).

The USAAF boasted its Norden Bombsight could drop a bomb into a pickle barrel at 20,000 ft., which, it turned out, was derisorily untrue. Carl Norden, the bombsight’s irascible Swiss inventor, hired German engineers to work in his shop, one of whom was Hermann Long, a crypto-Nazi who passed a complete set of the plans to Herr Hitler. The Luftwaffe copied the Norden bombsight and employed it throughout the war—with no better results than the Americans.

In their unpressurized cabins, B-17 crews agonized through below-freezing temperatures, cockpit gauges frequently reading -40 degrees Fahrenheit. Crews shivered their hams off in fleece-lined uniforms, frostbite claiming hundreds of toes, fingers, and, ahem, other extremities.

Some brainiac thought that flying B-17s by remote control and crashing them into targets was a stroke of pure genius. The USAAF fitted out at least 25 B-17s with radio controls and television cameras along with 20,000 lbs. of high-explosives, dubbing them BQ-7 "Aphrodite missiles." Mother ships (mostly B-17s) radio controlled the explosive-laden B-17s to their targets, pointed them in the right direction, and let things fly. Of 14 Aphrodite missions, none succeeded.

The Luftwaffe captured and refurbished approximately 40 B-17s for evaluation, five of which cleverly slipped into flying American bomber groups and shot down neighboring Fortresses. After two such episodes, the Americans caught on and blasted these turncoat B-17s to smithereens.

The Japanese got their mitts on a Fortress too and flew it to Japan, where engineers virtually made love to it. Not long after, Nakajima gave birth to the G8N Renzan, which bore an incestuous likeness to the B-17. The Renzan never lived up to its potential, however, thanks to material shortages.

The B-17 could survive more abuse and battle damage than most other WWII bombers. One B-17 sustained a mid-air collision with a German Bf 109, nearly losing its tail, yet the Fortress flew home safely. Legions of B-17s sustained mind-boggling destruction and remained aloft, entire nose sections blown away, engines dangling from their mounts, colossal holes blown through wings and fuselages.


Corgi’s B-17G Nine O Nine (US33309) is a beauty of a model, one that’s gruesomely hard to find at a reasonable price (if you can find one at all). Corgi remains the premiere manu of large, four-engined bombers, everything about them tendered with superlative skill and expertise. The Nine O Nine is one of those iconic Corgi models you really should own (especially if you’re a devout, dedicated collector); so if it ever does show up, mortgage your house for it. You’ll become one of a very elite few who knows the true meaning of happiness .



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Old 08-24-2017, 10:51 PM   #535
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

another round of excellent contributions, monsieur richtofen!

i pretty much love the design cues of the warhawk (and that shark-mouth motif just fits the warhawk to a t!). i'm still waiting for a nice 48 to be done. there are franklin mints to be had but they're way way overpriced, imo. the wait continues indefinitely since the most likely candidate, hm, has decided to go with 72s...

yeah, the b17 is pretty much a classic airframe and with a name like "flying fortress", it's pretty set for life (and then some). pity that bombers contributed so much (the efficiency of the missions may be debatable, but the list of casualties sure speaks volumes) and yet, unless they carried fat-arsed mushroom bombs, pretty much languished in the far corners of history.
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Old 08-26-2017, 11:41 AM   #536
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

This will probably irk the livin’ doodie out of Japanese fighter aficionados who are certain the Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero was hands-down the best early-war fighter in the Pacific. An assertion is making the rounds that the Zero was a fantastic AIR-plane but a terrible WAR-plane, having been hobbled with weaknesses that prevented it from becoming a war-winning weapon, even by early 1943.

The argument goes thusly …

First, the fighter, when hit, burned like a torch. Every plane has failings, but the Zero’s entire airframe was vulnerable to hits, including its wings, cockpit, engine, stabilizers, and external gas tank. If just two to three rounds hit these places, the Zero would likely burst into flame. A lucky shot hitting any one of those areas stood a good chance of killing the fighter, ergo demonstrating it wasn’t an effective combat weapon.

Second, the Zero’s control surfaces were too small for its wing loading and thus required sheer physical strength to maneuver the plane at speed. Mitsubishi engineers designed it this way to economize on weight, but the result made it difficult to move the controls at 250 knots, extremely hard to impossible at 300 knots depending on the pilot’s muscle, and hopeless in a dive at 350+mph. Contrasted with Allied fighters of the time that could dive at 400+ knots and pull out, the Zero performed like a doddering old grandma with a slipped disc.

Third, the fighter’s armament was comparatively light with two 7.7 mm (.303 in) machine guns and two 20 mm cannons. The .303s were virtually useless stopping-power wise and invariably jammed. Plus the 20 mms suffered from low muzzle velocity, wretched cyclic rate, and limited ammo (to keep weight down), rendering them impotent after scanty use. The Zero couldn’t match Allied fighters for hitting power.

Lastly, it's conceded that Japanese Navy pilots in late 1941 were the best and most experienced naval aviators in the world, much of their early successes achieved against less seasoned Allied pilots. But once the experience gap was closed and lessons learned by March/April 1943, even the most novice Allied pilot could tangle with and beat Zeros. Which begs the question: If a greenhorn pilot could readily shoot down a superior pilot, doesn’t that imply the superior pilot flew an inadequate air frame? American fighters were rugged and featured armor protection, self-sealing fuel tanks, heavy armament, adequate control surfaces to maneuver at speed, and could dive away unscathed. The Zero hardly compared, especially against the likes of the Hellcat and Corsair. It could maneuver like a ballerina; it could fly seemingly forever on drop tanks; it could take down mediocre machines driven by less experienced pilots. But when the experience gap vanished and better fighters arrived, the Zero collapsed into a ball of mush.

And that, my friends, suggests—nay asserts—that the A6M5 was absolutely undeserving of its legendary status.

To which Zero enthusiasts reply …

Horsepucky! Indisputably, the Zero had inherent flaws that the skill of its pilots and the greenness of its opponents initially balanced. No argument, either, that American fighters eventually grew their kill-to-loss ratio far over the Zero’s. And yet the fact remains that the Zero, however short its reign, was the first carrier-based fighter capable of besting land-based opponents, which it did dramatically. And that supremacy spearheaded a momentous carrier-borne rampage over about a third of the earth’s circumference in less than half a year. And even as late as 1945, vintage, outmatched A6M5 Zeros could—and did—shoot down Allied aircraft and kill Allied airmen.

Credit should be given where credit is due. Amen.


According to several sources across the net (and I happen to agree with them), Witty’s A6M5 Zero is the best available, Corgi, Dragon, FOV, and AFV Club notwithstanding. Canopy, engine cowling, wings, fuselage, undercarriage—the whole enchilada—Witty’s is the most accurate. And that surprises the ding-dong out of a raft of collectors who to this day believe Witty was a second-stringer, a benchwarmer diecast manufacturer. Which isn't entirely incorrect, except Witty also produced some exceptional models that never got their due. This particular green-clad Zero is a champ, an aesthetically pleasing model I recommend to anyone interested in authenticity, precision, and unqualified excellence.



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Old 08-26-2017, 03:56 PM   #537
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

aoshima did some pretty awesome 48 zeroes... and included optional transparent engine covers! can't wait to see (if) hm betters aoshima's efforts...
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Old 08-26-2017, 05:05 PM   #538
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

The Zero and F4F Wildcat were pretty even matches by the time of the Battle of the Coral Sea in 1942. Just had to use different tactics. The Hellcat was specifically designed to fight the Zero.
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Old 08-29-2017, 12:01 PM   #539
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During the cold war, speed equaled life as far as the USAF was concerned. The faster you could zip through enemy skies, the less likely a Soviet jet, anti-aircraft battery, or guided missile would catch and annihilate your butt. Which actually worked exceedingly well, especially for the SR-71 Blackbird—until the MiG-31 Foxhound rolled out; and when that happened, the game changed dramatically.

The Mikoyan MiG-31 Foxhound is an interceptor designed to go straight, go stupidly fast, and go ape crackers on incursive enemy planes—a modernized, freakishly beefed-up successor to its decrepit, elderly brother, the MiG-25 Foxbat. It can do what the Foxbat never could: fly low altitude supersonic flights with its efficient low-bypass-ratio turbofan engines, sniff out slippery, low-flying bombers like the B-1, and nail them wholesale.

The Foxhound definitely has its positives. The 74-foot long two-seater features wings far sturdier than the older MiG-25 design, enabling speeds of Mach 1.23 at low levels and Mach 2.83 at high altitude. When called on, this monster can break Mach 3 but does so only in extreme emergencies since flying that fast literally melts the guts out of its engines. The jet also has its negatives: the Foxhound is virtually arthritic when making high-speed or tight turns, a shortcoming that cramps its usefulness as a dogfighter/air superiority platform. Rather, the MiG-31 relies on hit and run flyby tactics.

The Foxhound commenced service in 1982 largely in response to the USA’s deployment of strategic cruise missiles, which could fly low over the North Pole while remaining concealed from Soviet satellites until they reached the USSR's doorstep, aided en route by conspicuous radar gaps along the Northern Russian border. So rather than build a lattice of radar installations, the Soviets simply crammed as many cutting-edge electronics into the jet as possible. Dubbed the "Flying Radar," the MiG-31 carries both a phased array antenna and passive electronically-scanned array radar that furnish unparalleled detection capabilities, such as identifying as many as 24 bogies at a range of 200 km and track eight of them simultaneously. The onboard computer determines the four most threatening pings and automatically locks R-33 long-range air-to-air missiles onto them; anti-aircraft fire and supportive Soviet fighters immediately target the remaining four thanks to the Foxhound automatically relaying their coordinates to HQ. Basically, if you fly within 200 kilometers—that's 124 miles—of a MiG-31, you're dead meat.

And it's not just long-range tactical bombers that these Interceptors can destroy: with their extreme speed and sensory abilities, MiG-31s can easily interdict fast-moving targets that years ago simply outran Soviet defenses, such as cruise missiles and spy planes, specifically the SR-71 Blackbird. The SR-71, which used to fly over the USSR with impunity, was ambushed on numerous occasions beginning in 1986. In fact, the MiG-31's capabilities are so impressive that a number of defense analysts worry neither the US or any other Western air force has the air power to counter these impressive machines—and likely won’t within the next decade.

All modern fighters (except for the fifth generation fighter aircraft) are not fully supersonic since their supersonic flight time is limited to 5–15 minutes owing to restrictions in airframe design. Not so with the MiG-31, who’s supersonic flight is limited only by fuel supply. Moreover, the MiG-31 is able to pass the sound barrier in level flight and in climb mode, while many supersonic aircraft pass the M=1 speed in a shallow dive.

At one point, the MiG-31's bothersome maintenance schedule made it too burdensome financially, forcing the early retirement of at least 20 percent of its fleet. The Soviet Union’s all-out implosion in 1991 didn't help matters either; but once the Russian economy rebounded around 2006, roughly 75 percent of those planes re-entered service. Today, an estimated 370 MiG-31s serve Russia while another 30 fly for the Kazakhstan Air Force.


IXO/Altaya’s low-brow reputation attributable to that concern’s magazine-subscription models is somewhat warranted—but not entirely. I should know since I went on a buying binge years ago, acquiring most of Altaya’s 1/72 aircraft. I was surprised to see just how of these models excelled in accuracy and rendering, a revelation of sorts. And among these hidden treasures stood the MiG 31 Foxhound, a semi-terrific model blessed with excellent rendering and construction, nearly the equal of any decent Hobby Master model. No other manu produces this bird or probably will, which makes IXO/Altaya’s version all the more appealing. If you’re into Russian Federation and/or Soviet jets, this warbird is a definite must-have.



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Old 08-30-2017, 11:18 AM   #540
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Think of the Grumman EA-6 Prowler as General Dynamic's EF-111 Raven’s half brother (same dad, different mother), except it’s a whole lot more poly-wog shaped. Both aircraft served as Electronic Warfare Aircraft (EWA) platforms, the EA-6 having emerged from a United States Marine Corps (USMC) requirement for a support aircraft. Some Grumman engineer gazed at the Grumman A-6 Intruder years ago and had a brainstorm: why not elongate the frightful beast to accommodate a four-man crew, lumber it with gobs of electronic gadgetry, and call it good? Which is pretty much what Grumman did.

Well, sort of what it did. The fact is, the A-6 Intruder, 28 of them, had already metamorphosed into rudimentary EWAs (renamed the EA-6A), Grumman converting 11 A-6As to electronic versions while building 15 from scratch. The key to identifying this high-tech wunderkind was a pod fitted to the vertical tail fin that enclosed antenna gear. Other installations included AN/APQ-129 Fire Control Radar (FCR) and AN/APN-153 navigation radar systems. EA-6As served throughout the Vietnam War to 1990.

Then followed the EA-6B, a hot diggity damn EW platform, its fuselage lengthened to accommodate two additional EWA officers in a rear, side-by-side cockpit. The vertical tail fin housed the familiar antenna pod plus the FCR and navigation system. Grumman also affixed signal jammers to under wing pods and coated the canopy with a gold film to protect the crew from harmful external electronic emissions. Development of this bird began in 1966 and first flew on May 25th, 1968, leading to its formal introduction in 1971 and replacement of obsolete EWA Douglas Skywarriors. The USN/USMC procured a total of 170 EA-6B Prowlers, deploying them over Vietnam, during the Persian Gulf War (1991), and throughout the 1999 Balkans campaign. The jet flew its last recorded deployment over Afghanistan and Iraq jamming IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices). Over its service life, some forty EA-6 airframes were lost though none to direct enemy action.

The Prowler jumped down the enemy’s throat, to boot. In 1988, the Navy added the potent AGM-88 "HARM" anti-radar missile to the EA-6B's repertoire, giving it a "hard kill" option that kicked the bull-babbage out of anybody stupid enough to challenge it. With its wide-band receiver system and highly trained crews, Prowlers proved themselves the finest ARM shooters in the world, even more so after the Air Force’ retired its F-4G Wild Weasel. Additionally, Grumman plumbed the jet’s five external hardpoints to carry 300-gallon droppable fuel tanks to increase operational ranges.

Though the Navy no longer flies the EA-6B, having replaced it with the EA-18G Growler, the USMC continues to fly it (on a smaller scale). The Corps plans to retire it come 2019, but that will pose problems. The Marines didn't buy into the EA-18G Growler program—or the Super Hornet for that matter—leaving them with no replacement. Scuttlebutt has it that a modified F-35 or an unmanned jamming platform will eventually substitute, but it's more likely the Marine Corps will keep flying the Prowler far beyond its shelf life.


Here’s another aircraft I foolishly shunned because it didn’t drop bombs or shoot canon or wallop enemy fighters. I gave this astonishingly talented aircraft no respect at all though it saved many lives from Vietnam to America’s more recent conflicts, an oversight I’ll never commit again. This particular EA-6B is a purty little thing dressed up in dapper desert camouflage lumbered with two AGM-88 HARM missiles. Hobby Master exhibited its customary expertise, impressing me with the model’s silky camo finish and related eye candy. I recommend it to anyone who owns few Century Wings A-6 Intruders and needs an electronic umbrella.



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Old 08-31-2017, 11:54 AM   #541
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

Years ago a buddy of mine was a RIO (Radar Intercept Officer) in the F-14 Tomcat and shared a few intriguing yarns about this amazing bird. I was so entranced by his narrative I forgot to take notes, so most of the following comes from my decrepit memory. I’ll call my friend “Jerry,” who said …

The F-14 Tomcat was just too complex for a single pilot, but in the hands of a qualified, seasoned crew the beast mutated into a wolfish meat eater. An experienced Pilot and RIO (Radar Intercept Officer) could actually magnify the warbird’s destructiveness through cohesion and synergy, an old fire-breathing pilot telling him once, "Over the years, a few bad RIO's have nearly killed me. On the other hand, a few good ones saved my ever-lovin’ butt, too. So whatever you do, be a great backseater and keep your pilot alive. He'll bless you for it, and so will I!"

In a bid to amplify Tomcat crew efficiency, the Navy instituted the Crew resource management (CRM) policy, which assigned particular tasks to the Pilot and assorted others to the RIO that reinforced teamwork, such as …

During start-up, the pilot managed the engines, control surfaces, and assorted onboard checks while the RIO controlled the LANTIRN targeting pod, additional systems, clearance with ATC, and 90% of communications (most self-respecting RIOs wouldn't even let the pilots talk on the primary radio). During Air-to-Air engagements, the RIO worked the AWG-9 radar to acquire bandit[s], the pilot relating this information to an E-2C Hawkeye for confirmation. When cleared, the pilot then selected, armed, and fired the applicable missile. The RIO then maintained radar contact as the missile flew downrange.

Jerry mentioned that one of his favorite training exercises involved taking on two bandits at a time called “the hard way.” In the WVR (Within Visual Range) arena, the pilot kept tabs on the bandit[s] while the RIO kept sight of the closest threat. If this bogie brought his nose to bear (meaning he was preparing to shoot), the RIO called it and the pilot jinked the ship to befuddle the aggressor. If the second jet stepped in, the pilot forced a neutral pass while stiff-arming the first bandit. A competent Tomcat crew could not only elude these adversaries but turn the tables and splash one or both jets.

When the Tomcat became a “Bombcat” lumbered with Mk 84 2,000-lb. ordinance or laser-guided bombs, things got hugely interesting. The RIO painted the target with the LANTIRN pod and designated it. The pilot would confirm and "pickle" the weapon. The RIO then triggered the laser and guided the weapon to impact while the pilot continued to fly and scan for SAMs. With Mk 84s, the idea was to put the target square in the crosshairs and let ‘er rip; doing this together with multiple Bombcats, however, presented a challenge, especially when the group attacked in 30-second intervals. Typically, one Bombcat dropped his load while the next flew inbound in a dive. The first RIO had to keep his head on a swivel, visually acquiring the inbound striker and watching where the warbird’s ordinance hit. Add to that dodging MANPADs (Man-portable air-defense systems ) and the task became exhilarating.

But that was child’s play compared to managing the Tomcat’s circuit breaker board located directly behind the RIO. Rear-seaters were responsible for replacing faulty fuses, a terribly awkward task considering RIOs were strapped in and couldn’t visually confirm which breakers they were touching. Replace the right one and the plane kept flying; get it wrong and the jet made a big splash in the ocean.

Jerry summed it up this way: Two kinds of people inhabited this world: those in the Tomcat community and those who wished they were. He was convinced no current or future jet would see the like of the F-14 Tomcat village again, a tight brotherhood defined by camaraderie, hard work, fun, and rock and roll. Hollywood even made a movie of this fraternity; but according to Jerry, Tom Cruise's Tinseltown version didn't even come close to the real thing.


Yet another Hobby Master masterpiece, perhaps the better of Century Wings’ F-14. I’ll simply add that if you’re into modern day military jets, this model and its mates deserve a place on your shelf. Buy one and you'll see how far diecast models have come over the last decade.



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Old 08-31-2017, 12:25 PM   #542
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

Exactly one minute after Britain formally declared war against Germany on September 3, 1939, a Blenheim IV of 139 Squadron bounded into the air toward the German frontier, the RAF's first sortie of the war, a photo-reconnaissance operation. As the aircraft flew home hours later, a Bf 109 crossed its path, shocked that a British two-engined bomber had ventured so far afield and swung into the attack. Sedgwick Chapman had caught a fleeting glimpse of the fighter from his dorsal turret and opened up, stitching the German’s engine cowling with .303 lead, causing gouts of flame and black smoke to boil out. Miraculously, the pilot safely landed his Messerschmitt in a field, but not without considerable humiliation and a stiff reprimand from his superiors, including Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring. The following day, Blenheims attacked enemy warships, Bomber Command's first foray. And on 11 March 1940, a Blenheim sank the first U-boat of the war. England was justly proud.

Blenheims wouldn’t have even existed had Viscount Rothermere not commissioned the Bristol Aeroplane Company to build a commercial aircraft ‘faster than anything available elsewhere’ in 1934. Ostensibly, Rothermere was determined to pluck the speed crown from Germany, then a world leader in the field. But he was far more concerned about Britain’s growing vulnerability against Herr Hitler’s 1930s rearmament program, rebuking Ministers and military leaders for their lackadaisical disposition toward air readiness. Writing to Neville Chamberlain, then Chancellor of the Exchequer in October that year, he said, “Today Germany, day and night, week in week out, is building an immense air force with the intention of raiding and ravaging England and France. Yet the National Government whose first duty is to secure national safety has nothing more than the most meager program for meeting this supreme menace…”

After much toil and perseverance, Bristol Aeroplane debuted Rothermere’s Bristol 142 prototype passenger plane, which he dubbed the Britain First, the first truly ‘modern’ aircraft accessible to the RAF. The press baron’s plane reached a top speed of 307 mph at 11,800 ft, 80 mph faster than any contemporary British military aircraft then flying, and able to range 1,450 miles. The RAF recognized it as a major milestone in British aviation history and quietly drew up plans to convert the aircraft into a light bomber in July 1935. Two years later the RAF its Blenheim Bomber fleet to 150, each blessed with a 1,320 lb payload and roomy interior, which presented the RAF with another, unexpected advantage—space for radar. On the night of July 22, 1940, a Blenheim achieved the world’s first night-combat victory using airborne radar.

Blenheims served valiantly following the Fall of France, raiding German airfields during the Battle of Britain. On August 21, 1941, a flight of 54 Blenheims daringly attacked the power station at Cologne but spent 12 aircraft in the effort. As the war progressed and losses climbed, crews improvised several defensive improvements with little success, underscoring the fact the veteran warbird could no longer hold its own against ravening German fighters, day or night. The final variant, the Mk V, proved unpopular with crews and saw only brief service. It was clear by mid-1942 that the aircraft was too vulnerable, and the type ended its bombing career on the night of August 18, 1942; deployment in North Africa and the Far East ceased at the end of that year. In the meantime, Mk IF and IVF Blenheims achieved noteworthy success as night fighters carrying the Mk III and later Mk IV intercept radar. Blenheims also served as long-range daytime reconnaissance aircraft but proved as vulnerable as ever. Other Blenheims flew Coastal Command maritime patrol missions tasked with protecting Allied convoys. By 1943, the RAF withdrew the bird from front-line service and assigned it to training squadrons.


I hesitated to buy my first Blenheim thinking the bird looked freaky, particularly its bizarre cockpit/nose section. Something about it was off-putting, peculiar in the extreme, but I finally took the plunge and consequently purchased every Blenheim Corgi issued. The model is a masterpiece, a study in diecast expertise and rendering, suitable for any RAF and/or WWII collection. Personally, I don’t believe Corgi models come better than this, this AA38408 perhaps the best of the Blenheims. Love that cryptic, opaque panel installed on the lower port side of the canopy, though I haven’t a clue what purpose it served. Whatever, I highly recommend this gorgeous replica to everyone devoted to model excellence and RAF history.



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Old 09-01-2017, 01:55 PM   #543
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The F-16, for all its celebrity, bears one distinction that really revs up foreign air force fervor: the fact that it's practically the only top fighter on earth that's cost efficient. The Falcon is fast, extremely agile, and nearly as capable as its big brother the F-15 Eagle—all at half the price (around $27 million dollars). Air Forces all over the globe like that, making the F-16 the most popular fighter currently in modern military service: of 4,500 produced, nearly 2,700 operate in twenty-six countries—twenty-seven if India selects the Falcon over the Saab Gripen E. So it's likely this cutting-edge 1980s fighter will hang around for a long time to come.

The F-16 has the F-4 Phantom to thank for its existence, the big, muscle-bound jet having underperformed against North Vietnamese MiGs owing to embryonic, long-range missile technology and dogfight maneuvering ineptitude. To correct this shortfall, a group of influential Air Force officers and interested parties (dubbed "The Fighter Mafia") argued that Air Force's priorities were all wrong, that a relatively cheap, lightweight airframe maximized for short-range dogfights was far more preferable than a heavy, twin-engine fighter like the F-15 Eagle then under development (which was prone to over-reliance on defective guided missiles). Eventually, Pentagon support coalesced behind the F-16 owing to simple economics: the Air Force preferred the F-15 but couldn't afford to equip all of its fighter squadrons with it. A compromise eventuated in the form of a “high-low” force mix, where more numerous F-16s would support the bigger jet.

The F-16 leveraged new design technologies to maximize kinematic performance. A strapping Pratt & Whitney F100 engine with the intake slung under the fuselage generated a powerful thrust-to-weight ratio, propelling the F-16 to twice the speed of sound at high altitude. Prominent strakes jutted from its fuselage to support the clipped delta wings, enabling dizzying roll rates. A swollen canopy provided the pilot with a superlative view, who lounged in a seat angled thirty degrees back, which mitigated the G-forces from violent maneuvers (the F-16 could pull nine Gs in a turn—tighter than any other U.S. fighter until the advent of the F-22 Raptor). To maximize maneuverability further, engineers intentionally designed the F-16 to be aerodynamically unstable—corrected by its automatic Flight Control System. The F-16’s then-revolutionary fly-by-wire scheme interpreted the pilot’s controls via an electronic interface in place of hydraulic or cable-connected manual controls. Not only were fly-by-wire controls more trusty, the flight computer corrected pilot over-maneuvering to keep the jet from exceeding its tolerances. In addition, an integrated throttle in the joystick, known as Hands-On Throttle and Stick (HOTAS), provided smoother operation. Ever since, fly-by-wire and HOTAS have since become standard features in modern combat aircraft.

General Dynamics also designed the Falcon as a multi-role fighter able to heft seventeen thousand pounds of munitions or electronic-warfare gear on eleven hardpoints, which includes Maverick missiles and laser-guided bombs. A twenty-millimeter Vulcan cannon provides additional muscle.

Unexpectedly, while the Fighter Mafia had little faith in guided missile technology, the F-16 arrived just as these weapons were maturing, further enhanced by the Falcon’s APG-66 doppler radar, Heads Up Display, and targeting computers. Israeli F-15s demonstrated this in June 1982 when they and IAF F-16As engaged Syrian MiGs in a massive three-day air battle over the Bekaa Valley. The Israeli Falcons downed forty-four Syrian MiG-21s and -23s with no loss to themselves. A year earlier, these same Falcons had bombed the Osirak reactor in Baghdad with sixteen two-thousand-pound Mark 84 bombs, demolishing Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program.

By the mid-1980s, F-16C and two-seat D models entered service equipped with liquid-crystal displays and new APG-68 radars, which permitted long-range missile engagements with newer AIM-7 Sparrow and impending AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles. More upgrades ensued, including advanced radars, GPS-targeted weapon capabilities, and the integration of the AIM-9X Sidewinder heat-seeking missile, which the pilot can target using a helmet-mounted cueing system. And that was just for starters. The newest F-16s incorporate gadgetry and hyper-advanced electronics that equal or best even 5th generation jets, providing a solid base of support for the upcoming F-35, let alone updated F-15s. The earliest Falcons are long in the tooth, but the newer versions make them look like they're standing still. With all that going for the F-16, it's no wonder why India and like nations salivate over it.


I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir, but Hobby Master mastered the F-16 Falcon, capturing the jet's accuracy and appearance right down to its engine nozzle; and Boy howdy aren't we glad. The model is a tight little replica and looks mean decked out in its dual-gray camo, lumbered with all kinds of ordnance. My only grievance is the bad-tempered joint line bisecting the fuselage halfway down the spine; other than that, this and other HM Falcons are handsome in the extreme, and you'd be crazy not to own at least one.



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Old 09-01-2017, 02:36 PM   #544
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Some historians assert that based strictly on its kill-to-loss ratio, the Finnish Air Force was the best of World War II, made all the more ironic by Finland trouncing the Soviet Air Force flying the worst fighter of the war, the Brewster Buffalo.

When the USN requested a replacement for its venerable Grumman F3F pursuit plane, four aircraft manufacturers took the challenge. The Curtiss-Wright Company proposed a variant of its P-36 Hawk with reinforced landing gear and a tail hook. Seversky offered similar modifications to their P-35. Grumman coughed up the F4F Wildcat. And the pint-sized Brewster Aeronautical Corporation of New York City proffered a stumpy, barrel-like fighter designed by Dayton T. Brown.

Incredibly, the Navy chose the F2A Brewster Buffalo (called the "Peanut Special" by American pilots) over them all on June 11, 1938, arousing more than one raised eyebrow. And yet the bantam Brewster distinguished itself as the first all metal monoplane fighter to serve in the U.S. Navy, the first to employ flaps, the first with retractable landing gear, the first with a controllable pitch and constant speed propeller, and one of the first with a fully enclosed cockpit.

The Buffalo had its strengths and weaknesses. Contrary to its comical, porky fuselage, the F2A-1 was an agile plane with forgiving and pleasant flight characteristics. A nine cylinder Wright R-1820-34 engine pushed it to 311 mph at 18,000 feet. It weighed only 5,040 lbs., which benefited its range (1,095 miles) and initial climb (3,060 ft./min.). The fighter carried three .50 caliber machine guns and one .30 caliber machine gun (a relatively heavy, though unusual, armament). But the little fatso also had its flaws: the landing struts routinely snapped after repeated carrier landings (which ultimately made little difference since the Brewster was exclusively deployed to land-based squadrons). Plus, the interrupter gear cables often broke, stopping the entire gun suite from firing. And incorrectly heat-treated engine components often failed.

Nevertheless, B-239s were operational with a handful of nations by 1941, including Belgium, the Netherlands, Finland, Britain, and Australia.The British (who nicknamed the fighter "Buffalo"), realized it had limited potential and banished it to the Empire's Asian possessions.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, nearly all of the Navy's B-339s were destroyed on the ground; RAAF Squadron 21 lost eight planes on December 8th. The Peanut Special flew in battle with U.S. colors only once, involving Marine squadron VMF-22 stationed at Midway Island. On 4 June 1942, eighteen F2As along with four F4F Wildcats scrambled in defense of the island. All but five of the F2As and two of the four F4Fs took part, only one Japanese fighter falling to the Brewsters' guns (which when you think of it was a miracle). Capt. William Humbard claimed an A6M in a head-on pass.

Decades before on October 1920, Poland declared its independence from a weakened Russia. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Finland followed suit in quick succession. After the German-Russia invasion of Poland in September of 1939, however, the Soviets were determined to regain the territories they had lost and presented these Baltic states with an ultimatum: turn over air and naval bases or go to war. Finland was the only country to resist. The result became known as the Winter War, beginning on November 30th, 1939. Representatives from Finland appealed to the U.S. State Department for modern aircraft, specifically the B-239, and received forty-three originally built for the USN. Brewster built a forty-fourth out of spare parts.

When Hitler invaded Russia in June of 1941, the Soviets bombed Finnish targets along the Finland-Soviet border. Finland immediately allied itself with Germany, not out of support for the Nazi regime but in mutual support against a common foe. Finland fielded a mere 307 aircraft against an armada of I-152, I-153, MIG-1, MIG-3, Yak-1, and Yak-7s plus Spitfires, Hurricanes, P-40s, and P-39s supplied by the Western Allies. But despite overwhelming numerical and, in many cases, qualitative superiority, the "Pylly Walteri" (the Finns' nickname for the B-239) kicked the Soviets Air Force's butt. By the end of the Continuation War (as the Finns dubbed it), they had downed 496 Russian aircraft against 19 B-239s.

Which makes you wonder: How in the world did the Finns manage that? Especially when the Brewster Buffalo did so poorly elsewhere with other air forces?

Easily it turns out. First, the Finns were defending their own turf; no way would experienced, skilled, and determined Finnish pilots bow to their Soviet adversaries. The Russians were the invaders, and it didn't matter what fighter the Finns deployed so long as it could destroy the enemy. Second, Russia considered Germany the bigger threat and consequently flung their best pilots and aircraft against the Luftwaffe--not the Finns. Remaining, available Soviet squadrons were unexceptional and uninspired, equipped with out-dated aircraft such as the I-15 biplane, which made a huge difference. And third, the Finns piloted a lighter version of the Buffalo, further stripping it of additional, unnecessary weight, which made the warbird surprisingly agile.

And that's pretty much it. The Finns were hell-bent to destroy the Ruskies and made the best of what they had; little more was needed. The Brewster Buffalo shined as a result.


Please, if you're able, buy this happy little nugget of history. Hobby Master's expertise is written all over it: it's accurate, the camo is spot on, the rendering is excellent, the tampos are clean; I can't see an ugly joint line to save my life. How the Hobby Master crew rendered the canopy ribs so perfectly is a marvel. Not to mention, the model captures the real fighter's pudginess down to a tee. If you want a bonafide gunslinger, fatness and all, this one's for you.



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Old 09-01-2017, 03:00 PM   #545
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A story like this makes you want to weep, sort of—except this dark cloud definitely had a silver lining. We're talking about a flashy racehorse of a jet that was eventually yoked to a wagon to slog through the mud. But the yeoman service it rendered still resonates to this day.

The swept-wing F-100 made its maiden flight on May 25, 1953, and wowed the world. From its swept-back wings to its oblong nose intake, the beast appeared to fly at a blistering speed while standing still. And in truth, the Super Sabre could reach supersonic speed in level flight, the first USAF jet to do so. It was sleek, hideously fast, and carried a wallop too: in addition to its nuclear bomb armament and four 20 mm cannons, the F-100 could array various rockets and missiles, including the heat-seeking the GAR-8 Sidewinder. The Super Sabre also boasted of a service ceiling above 50,000 feet and a range of more than 1,000 statute miles. While the later models of the F-100 had a speed in excess of 1,000 mph, earlier "A" and "C" models set a series of supersonic speed records led by Colonel F.K. (Pete) Everest, who reached 755.149 mph in October 1953, and Colonel Horace Hanes, who topped 822 mph in August 1955.

In addition to the thin, highly swept wing and tail, the F-100 design incorporated heat-resisting titanium employed extensively throughout the plane. The jet sported a low-drag, ultra-streamlined fuselage and canopy that facilitated supersonic speed, the canopy line matching the rear fuselage in a smoothly curving line so that from the side the Super Sabre appeared to be slightly arched. Once pilots got comfortable with their new mount, they lovingly called it "The Hun," a clear reference to its "one hundred" designation.

But here's the irony: although the F-100 was made to soar majestically in the heavens and knock the livin' shiznit out of adversarial MiGs, it soon found itself hauling napalm, bombs, and rockets on air-to-ground missions in Vietnam. The simple fact was, the USAF needed a bomb truck, a fast one, available in number. Nothing else fit that pistol, so the F-100, once a proud silver stallion, was lumbered with ordinance and slogged through Vietnam's muddy, mucky paddies. Thence, the United States began expanding its F-100 squadrons in Southeast Asia as part of a larger build-up in 1965, most Super Sabres wearing the new green-brown color scheme, T.O.114 camouflage, ostensibly to better hide from the enemy.

The Super Sabre did have one glorious moment in the sun, however. During the brief spell when the F-100 flew air-to-air combat in 'Nam, Captain Donald Kilgus of the 416th Tactical Fighter Squadron fired on a fleeing North Vietnamese MiG-17 on April 4, 1965. Kilgus and other witnesses were sure he shot down the MiG, but the Air Force dubbed it a “probable” kill. After that, the F-100 never again claimed an aerial victory. F-100s spent the remainder of the war south of the 17th Parallel.

As F-100C and D models began to fly close air support missions in earnest, losses stacked up. The 510th Tactical Fighter Squadron alone lost eight aircraft in three months to ground artillery, flying so close to the crud that pilots came eyeball to eyeball with the enemy. Capt. Mike Jenner swore he blew several Viet Cong off their feet in a rice paddy. “I couldn't have been but several yards off the deck when I swooped over a knot of black-clad men, one of them shaking his fist. When I looked back, the group were landing on their butts where I'd just passed, splayed like rag dolls." In discussing the F-100's effectiveness, Jenner claimed the Hun delivered bombs and napalm accurately enough but proved a little inept as a strafing platform. "I mowed down a few with my guns," he said, "but a napalm canister was much more devastating even when I didn't drop it precisely."

Later in '65, two-seat F-100F Super Sabres began operating as dedicated surface to air missile (SAM) detection and suppression aircraft in the “Wild Weasel I” program, though in truth they didn't exactly glitter in that assignment, happy to pass the buck to the F-105 Thunderchief. Still, the F-100 killed a boatload of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong combatants, building an impressive kill tally. The last combat F-100 departed Vietnam in 1971 after nearly eight years of combat. According to official figures, Super Sabres flew 360,283 combat sorties (more than any other American combat aircraft in 'Nam). In fact, the four tactical fighter wings in Vietnam (3rd, 31st, 35th and 37th) exceeded the number of combat sorties flown by 15,000-plus P-51 Mustangs in World War II. The Air Force lost 186 F-100 Super Sabres to anti-aircraft fire, none to MiGs, seven during Viet Cong assaults on its air bases, and 45 to operational incidents.

Ironically, though the F-100 was meant to kill MiGs way up in the stratosphere, it slaughtered thousands more communists closer to earth with bombs and napalm. Where it was meant to soar with eagles, it flew with buzzards and became a remarkable success.


This is one pretty model. I don't know how Hobby Master managed it, but the bird's metallic finish is downright stunning, a tribute to know-how and deftness. Several collectors have expressed scorn for this model's multi-color stripes emblazoned on its fuselage and wings, but I like 'em—a lot. They add a certain sparkle, the nostalgia of more gladsome days long ago. The model is accurate as far as I can tell, and it lacks ugly joint lines, a big plus. If it's still available, you might consider grabbing it if you jones for a debonair USAF jet.



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Old 09-02-2017, 01:55 AM   #546
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I love HM's Hun, and though I don't have the Lavan one you specifically mention the BMF releases are very nice.

Another great stream of great reviews, much appreciated as ever!
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Old 09-02-2017, 09:13 AM   #547
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tker76 View Post
Another great stream of great reviews, much appreciated as ever!
Thank you, tker76. Had a lot of fun writing them.
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Old 09-05-2017, 03:16 AM   #548
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...and finally the f-14 gets a special mention
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Old 12-07-2017, 02:21 AM   #549
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sadly the images shared by monsieur richtofen has all but disappeared, as with any new write-ups
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Old 12-07-2017, 02:35 AM   #550
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Yeah I hope Dave is not suffering health issues again...
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