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Old 03-23-2018, 09:41 AM   #551
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Hi, guys! It's been a while.

In 1936, RAF top brass chortled when they clapped eyes on the Westland Lysander, Britain's newest Army co-operation aircraft. The bird was a monstrosity, encumbered with braced wings that resembled penguin appendages and whacking-big fixed spats, not to mention its immense greenhouse canopy. The plane flat-out looked ridiculous; so to put a good face on it, the RAF named the aircraft after the Spartan general (died 395 BC) who defeated Athens' fleet in the Peloponnesian War. What no one knew at the time was, and shame on them, this bumpkin of an airplane would become the preeminent special-missions warbird of World War II.

In 1934, the Royal Air Force fancied an advanced "Army co-operation aircraft" for artillery spotting, message dropping, and other sundry and essential support missions. Westland engineers Arthur Davenport and Teddy Petter straightaway envisioned an airplane with excellent downward visibility, good low-speed handling, and superlative short takeoff and landing performance.

Two years later, the Lysander rolled out into the English sunshine. Despite its scoffing detractors, the aircraft boasted of many inventive, advanced features, including a forward air frame built of aluminum alloy tubes. Light wooden ribs described the airplane’s shape partly wrapped in sheet metal, mostly in fabric; and designers used aluminum alloy extrusions rather than welded and bolted steel plates and brackets. The Lysander also boasted of automatic wing slots and slotted flaps that gave the aircraft phenomenal low-speed performance, allowing it to hang and not stall in the air at just 55 miles per hour.

By the outbreak of war in September 1939, serving as spotters over France and Belgium, Lysander Mark IIs flew headlong into Bf 109s, which slaughtered them wholesale. Messerschmitts annihilated 88 in the air and another 30 on the ground, forcing their withdrawal. Somebody got the brilliant idea the airplane was perfectly suited for ferrying spies to and from Nazi-occupied France, given its remarkable facility for landing and taking off from short, improvised airstrips. So in August 1941, the RAF formed the 138 Squadron (Special Duties), painted their Lysanders flat black for night operations (early examples wore brown/green camouflaged upper surfaces; later variants gray/green), and affixed extra fuel tanks to extend range. Forthwith the plane proved ideal for the task.

Lysanders typically flew at night using full moons for illumination, pilots armed with a compass, watch, and a map alone. To save weight, crews removed their .303 Browning machine guns and ammo and were just able to squeeze three passengers into the rear cockpit (with great difficulty). Typical missions included transporting spies, explosives, radios, and supplies to the Resistance and/or fetching downed airmen.

Predictably, these assignments were intensely hazardous. Of 418 SOE agents flown to France, 118 died violent deaths, one of whom was Violette Szabo, the SOE’s best shot. In April 1944 she flew aboard a Lysander to a field near Rouen to asses a local Resistance unit’s loyalty. Two weeks later a squad of SS soldiers captured and murdered her, a trusted but treacherous Frenchman having betrayed the woman to the Germans. Remarkably, after countless perilous mission, only one Lysander crashed over France, the victim of triple "AA" anti-aircraft flak, killing Flying Officer James Bathgate, RNZAF, of 161 Squadron, and French Army passenger Capitaine Claudius Four. Back in England, several Lysanders smashed up attempting to land in thick fog.

The RAF later fitted several Lysanders with four 20 lb (9 kg) bombs under its rear fuselage and 500 lb (227 kg) bombs on stub wings fitted to the spats, but little is known of their effectiveness. Other countries flew the Lysander, including the U.S. Army Air Corps, the Free French Air Force, Turkey, India, and Egypt. Most withdrew the planes from service in 1946, but Egypt flew theirs in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Westland produced 1,786 Lysanders, twelve of which survive to this day.

......

I relish this bird. The Lysander might have been an ugly duckling, but it was an eagle at heart. Corgi produced a faithful model of this exemplary (though troglodyte) warbird; and if you don’t have one, you really ought to. Last time I looked, they’re still available on eBay.
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Old 03-23-2018, 09:57 AM   #552
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Hey, great to hear from you again

Another great write up! The Lysander, definitely worthy of its eponymous classical inspiration’s Name.
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Old 03-23-2018, 10:14 AM   #553
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he's back! and with not less zeal than when he first begun!

welcome back, monsieur richstoffen...
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Old 03-23-2018, 12:12 PM   #554
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This is a great model. I only have the Black OSS version but I plan to get a few more.
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Old 03-23-2018, 07:53 PM   #555
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Thank you, my friends. Business and other obligations have pulled me six ways from Sunday, stretching my personal time to near zero. Still, I’m very much into military diecast models and thought I'd contribute a few more reviews.

This time around (together with regular model write-ups), I'll report on several historic warbirds that Hobby Master and Corgi will likely never produce, simply because the original airplanes were obscure or one-offs or never left the drafting table. Many of these “what-if” warriors are just as intriguing as their more celebrated brethren, and I think you’ll enjoy learning about them as much as I have.

As always, thanks for your support and camaraderie. Let the games begin!
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Old 03-30-2018, 11:13 AM   #556
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During WWII, kamikaze attacks smashed into the US Navy's collective conscious, convincing admirals that ships desperately needed air cover. Aircraft carriers provided fleet defense, but they couldn't protect every convoy and naval operation everywhere. So casting about for a solution after the war, naval strategists pondered deploying VTOL (vertical takeoff and land) interceptors aboard non-aircraft carrier hulls, using the Focke-Wulf Triebflugel (thrust-wing) program for inspiration. Four years later, Convair and Lockheed submitted their XFY-1 Pogo and XFV-1 designs respectively.

Both airplanes featured the same powerful Allison YT-40 turboprop engine, the mounting of two smaller T-38 powerplants side-by-side fed into a single, massive gearbox. The power plant pumped 5,850 shaft horsepower into two 16 ft diameter, counter-rotating propellers and worked superbly. At rest, the Pogo sat atop the trailing edges of its two wings and dorsal and ventral fins. Convair fitted a small castering wheel onto the end of a strut several feet long and mounted four of these to form an improvised landing gear at the tips of the wings and fins. At touchdown, the struts compressed several feet, akin to a child's pogostick, to dampen impact forces. The XFY-1 carried no brakes, and its wheels rolled freely; so flying under no-wind conditions was compulsory.

Because the fighter launched and landed vertically but cruised horizontally, the pilot's seat rotated in both flight regimes. Convair supplied 25 ft of rope attached to the cockpit so the pilot could deplane in an emergency vertical landing (nice of them, eh?). Proposed weaponry included 48 folding-fin aerial rockets or up to four 20mm cannon mounted in the wing tips.

In April, 1954, Convair moved the project to Naval Air Station Moffett Field near Sunnyvale, California, where test pilot James F. "Skeets" Coleman made the first tethered flight. No other propeller-driven aircraft with similar size, weight, and engine power had attempted to take off and land vertically, so the exercise was predictably dangerous. Nevertheless, Coleman performed over sixty hours of tethered flights inside Hangar Number One despite the aircraft’s stupendous propeller wash that nearly crashed it on several occasions.

Tests continued with Coleman executing his first free flights on August 1st, rising 20 ft on the initial attempt and soaring to 150 ft on the second. On November 2, 1954, Coleman flew horizontally for 21 minutes after hovered for seven minutes; and two days later the aircraft launched and transitioned about 150 ft above ground via its herculean engine strength. Even at minimum power, the XFY-1 whizzed through the air at well over 400 mph, often outracing chase aircraft monitoring it.

Landing proved extremely tricky, nonetheless, made worse by the Pogo’s want for low-speed velocity control. With practice, Coleman consistently descended to a near-perfect landing, but the doing proved exceedingly difficult. To accomplish this, the pilot approached the field low with the engine set at flight-idle, popped the yoke into his stomach, and then pitched the plane's nose straight up. As the speed fell off when the Pogo reached its peak, Coleman applied power and stopped the plane mid-air. The XFY-1 demanded constant corrective control to maintain hover as it dropped through its own gale-like propwash, and it didn’t help that it was nearly impossible to judge rate-of-descent with eyeballs alone. Ryan Aeronautical Company mounted a compact radar altimeter in the left wingtip pod to help, but the device proved only moderately effective. Understandably, Coleman always left the canopy open to escape “over the side" (technicians had disarmed the unreliable ejection seat).

By August 1956, the Navy tired of the XFY-1 and cancelled it. Though the beast worked well enough with a gifted pilot at its controls on windless days, top brass speculated that flying the aircraft from pitching, tossing ship decks would prove far too hazardous for average Navy fighter jocks.
...

All I can say is, I'd buy this dandy puddle jumper in a heartbeat if Hobby Master and/or Corgi produced it. We'll never see one, of course; but the thought of owning a diecast replica of this fierce little critter is delightsome.

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Old 04-06-2018, 11:14 AM   #557
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Jet fighters in the 1950s were generally large, fast, overpriced, and about as supple as elephants with wings. Northrop, by contrast, was hellbent to produce small, agile, inexpensive supersonic jets that could fly rings around its lubbery brethren and make booku bucks in the process. Today we categorize such clever aircraft as light fighters (the F-16 is a classic example), but in the days of the hula hoop, soaring tailfins on Cadillacs, and Elvis Presley, the notion was revolutionary. To demonstrate this foresight, Northrop developed two such machines: the F-5A/B Freedom Fighter and its sibling, the T-38 Talon supersonic trainer.

General Electric’s pintsized, maniac-muscled GE J85 engines pushed Northrop's new bantam bruisers, originally installed in Quail decoys meant to lure away SA-8 missiles from B-52 bombers. Though the engine was only 45 inches long and 18 inches in diameter, weighing in at 500 pounds, it produced an astonishing 2,950 pounds of thrust—and even more with an afterburner.

But for inexplicable reasons, the Air Force snubbed the F-5 fighter for the trainer version now christened the “white rocket.” The Talon became so successful that more than 50,000 pilots worldwide trained in it and still do. NASA couldn’t get enough of the nasty little squirt and schooled astronauts in it. After the OPEC oil embargo, the Air Force Thunderbirds even flew Talons in air shows from 1974 through 1983.

The F-5A Freedom Fighter, on the other hand, was left to rot until the Pentagon, in one of its rare lucid moments, admitted that many cash-strapped allies could neither afford more expensive fighters nor fend off newer, more deadly Soviet Union machines with hand-me-down American jets. A smaller, more economical, super-capable fighter would do nicely, the military reasoned, whereupon President Kennedy initiated the F-X program, the quest for a new export, supersonic, budget fighter. Northrop offered up the F-5A Freedom Fighter again and won the competition in 1962, tendering it to allies through the Military Assistance Program.

The single-seat F-5A packed two Pontiac M39 revolver cannons with five chambers and a single barrel able to fire 1,500 rounds per minute. The jet could also heft two wingtip AIM-9 heat-seeking missiles but lacked radar, obliging pilots to acquire targets visually, not so different from contemporary Soviet machines.

Fast forward to ’65 over Vietnam when the USAF was losing jets by the score. While top brass franticly struggled to stop the hemorrhaging, somebody proposed the F-5A as a cheapo, short-term fix, to which the Air Force agreed and sent a detachment of F-5s to Vietnam under the Skoshi Tiger program (“Skoshi” is Japanese for “little”). To get the jet up to speed, Northrop pimped it out with an inflight refuelling probe, 90 pounds of armor plate, and jettisonable pylons. The company also customized the plane’s instruments and flight controls, replacing the standard Norsight fixed optical sight for a lead-computing gunsight. And to sweeten the deal, the jet swapped its bare-metal finish for a fashionable SEA camouflage paint job.

Ever the champ, the little brute did itself proud, smacking the poop out of Charlie. The Air Force drove it as a bomb truck, much like its meatier cousin the F-100 but at half the cost. Laden with 4,400 pounds of external stores, the midget pugilist pulverized Vietcong and NVA units with ease, winning the respect and admiration of many a pilot though it never drew down on a MiG (which it likely would have creamed given half a chance). But despite this, the USAF soon chucked the F-5A to the South Vietnamese Air Force, which ultimately collapsed. Sizing the Freedom Fighter with many other spoils of war, the North Vietnamese Air Force wiggled the warbird under America’s nose. The communists particularly relished the jet’s smallish cockpit that fit their pilots hand-in-glove.

Once MiG-21s appeared in number, US allies whined that the F-5A lacked the chops to take it on. To temper these fears, Northrop offered up a significantly upgraded version, the F-5E/F Tiger II, able to fly at Mach 1.6. These models were more powerful, featured larger fuselages, carried more fuel, provided better avionics, and operated a radar system able to scan 20 miles and more. Northrop manufactured 1,144 Tiger IIs with another 467 built in Switzerland, Korea, and Taiwan. The USAF continued to snub it.


Hobby Master’s F-5E is a sweet little model, one you’re sure to love. They’re still available on eBay in several liveries, and I recommend them to all who love feisty, if not unforgivably underrated, underdogs.

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Old 04-07-2018, 04:55 PM   #558
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Thanks for the write up, Richtofen. This one is my second most favorite after the Tomcat.
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Old 04-07-2018, 09:17 PM   #559
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Another great write up Dave.

Another interesting test F-5(E) was one modified to test quiet supersonic flight, which has a radically different shape as pictured in the link.
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Old 04-08-2018, 11:58 AM   #560
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Thank you, Tajmashhad and tker76, for your kind comments. I actually like this model a lot. The Swiss F-5E sports a dapper, stylish look that appeals to many a collector. Trying to find the little bugger at a reasonable price (if you can find one at all) is problematic to impossible, though.

Switching to another topic, I'm a little concerned about China and America dooking it out over tariffs. Should the Prez include "toys" on his import-tax list, our sweet little hobby could (and likely would) collapse overnight. I'm not ringing alarm bells here, but the prospect is daunting. Just to be on the safe side, I recently ordered several Hobby Master tank models from Chinese vendors that otherwise wouldn't reach the USA should things go south. It was a knee-jerk reaction, I'll admit; but I'm glad I did.

In the end, my spidey sense tells me the worst won't happen despite Trump's twitterations and that military diecast model collecting will not only survive but thrive. I've crossed my fingers, anyway.
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Old 04-08-2018, 11:44 PM   #561
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the f-5 was probably one of us of a's largest military aircraft export (in terms of number of operators), no? strange how the usaf heaped praises on the f-104 and yet the f-5 was shunned. it was nimble as it was versatile. and yes, hm made some pretty nice tiger iis... but just too many freaking swiss and rokaf birds too!
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Old 04-09-2018, 12:07 AM   #562
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tomcatter View Post
but just too many freaking swiss and rokaf birds too!
Too many ROCAF (Taiwan) surely?
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Old 04-09-2018, 12:13 AM   #563
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It’s just there haven’t been any ROKAF F-5E releases, despite South Korea having been a major user, as opposed to the plethora of ROCAF releases...
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Old 04-09-2018, 12:26 AM   #564
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my bad... yeah, rocaf
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Old 04-13-2018, 10:53 AM   #565
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I love the McDonnell F-101 Voodoo—especially those decked out in Canadian livery. Many Canadian Air Force paint jobs were posh and stylish back in the day, typified by the smartly decorated CF-101. Oh, yeah!

RCAF Voodoos were tasked with intercepting unidentified aircraft entering Canadian airspace, tracked by DEW Line or other radar sites. Typically, NORAD analyzed airline flight plans; if an new aircraft’s data didn't jive, Voodoos scrambled to investigate. "Unknowns" often turned out to be Soviet Bear bombers testing NORAD readiness and/or snooping electronically, a cat and mouse game that both Cold War protagonists played since the early 1950s.

RCAF/CF Voodoos made numerous Bear intercepts over the years, one taking place on June 26, 1968, 416 Squadron on alert at Chatham with two Voodoos on five minute readiness and two more 15 minutes behind. F/L R.D. "Pat" Pattison and his AI nav S/L Ron Neeves were lead for the latter pair.

Just after lunch the scramble horn sounded, and the 5-minute crews strapped in, fired up, and taxied from the barn for takeoff. Lifting off Runway 27, they carved around to the east and disappeared in their A/B climb. Northern NORAD radar had picked up a trio of Russian bombers between Iceland and Greenland heading for Newfoundland. To confound the Canadians, the Russians flew an immense 100-mile holding pattern over international Atlantic waters, causing the first Voodoos to burn excessive fuel, which forced them to duck out for Gander early on.

Having shaken their the first pursuers, the Russians returned to their original track at 35,000 feet. Undeterred, GCI scrambled the next two Voodoos to see if they could catch the Russians with their pants down. The horn sounded and Pattison and Neeves donned theirs Mae Wests and parachutes, sprang into the cockpit, and lit the cans. Two and a half minutes later the jet sprang into the air like a rocket, climbed, and bent around onto its initial vector as the second Voodoo got airborne and caught up in the climb.

Both jets torqued eastbound at Mach .85 at 35,000 feet, bumping up to Mach 1.3 over the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Neeves made radar contact with the bombers that were flying line astern, five miles apart. Just as he selected the leader as their target, the second CF-101 declared "Bingo fuel" (little fuel left). Perturbed, Pattison snappily told his wingman to get lost and watched as the parched jet pulled away for Gander. Resolute, the remaining Voodoo slid in two miles behind the lead bogie and made a visual ident. Just in case the Bear wanted to draw down, Pattison armed his missiles, launchable with the squeeze of the trigger. As the jet closed to minimum launch range, the tail stinger locked up in the caged position unable to track and fire. The pilot let the missiles return to passive mode and continued with his vis-ident.

Pattison and Neeves had intercepted a Tu-20 Bear "D", a gargantuan, swept-wing bomber powered by four Kuznetsov NK-12 turboprop engines with eight contra-rotating propellers. As the Voodoo came abreast of the bomber's tail, the Canadians viewed a large perspex bubble near the tail. Crowded within sat three enthusiastic, waving crewmen, one brandishing a Playboy magazine opened wide to the centerfold. The Russians gave the thumbs-up gesture, which Pattison and Neeves returned, smiling.

As the Voodoo accelerated and came abreast of the cockpit, the Bear co-pilot leveled a menacing stare. Pattison signaled that the bomber had intruded into Canadian airspace and was best advised to follow his lead. The Voodoo then positioned itself at the Bear's 1 o'clock, waggled its wings, and turned seaward. All three Bears obediently followed and eventually turned south (probably toward Cuba). Pattison then set course for Gander and reached it with 2000 pounds of fuel, enough for a couple of overshoots and close-patterns. The Voodoo crew finally taxied in, shut down, and then debriefed the NORAD guys. Upon reaching Chatham later that day, Pattison executed a victory roll over the field, pitched out, and landed, welcomed home by the CO.


All I can say is, do yourself a kindness and grab this bird. It’s swanky, graceful, and downright dashing, a tribute to Hobby Master’s model-making prowess and Canada’s savoir-faire.
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Old 04-20-2018, 10:27 AM   #566
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Witnessing the Me-262’s 3rd flight test at Leipheim, Bavaria, Germany, 18 July 1942, the Japanese Air Attaché wept for joy. Here stood Japan’s flaming samurai sword that could conceivably hack America’s bomber formations to bloody, savage bits. Besotted with the jet, the envoy spent two maddening years pestering and hounding the Germans into handing them the aircraft’s blueprints.

By then it was too late to make a difference, but Japan seemed oblivious. Technical Cdr Iwaya Eiichi crammed a Jumo 004B engine, drawings and parts for the Me-163 rocket plane, and blueprints for the Me-262 into the Japanese submarine I-29, bound for Singapore. Upon arrival, Eiichi wisely flew from there to Tokyo, designs in hand. Meanwhile, the I-29, now en route to Japan, ate a torpedo launched from the American submarine Sawfish and sank, taking with it its priceless, technical booty. The loss of this equipment was staggering, but Nakajima engineers Kazuo Ohno and Kenichi Matsumura persevered with the few, limited drawings they possessed, commencing work on the new jet now designated the J9Y Kikka (Orange Blossom). To hasten manufacture, they substituted wood and other low-demand materials for unobtainable metals.

Ishikawajima, the Japanese jet engine manufacturer, crafted the Ne-10 centrifugal-flow turbojet, which proved pathetically underpowered. The company then designed a new axial flow turbojet based on a reverse-engineered adaptation of the German BMW 003 but found the going insanely difficult. Even so, technicians eventually concocted a working engine, the Ishikawajima Ne-20, boasting of 1,047 pounds static thrust. The resulting aircraft was a mini-masterpiece. The Kikka’s German pedigree was unmistakable, but its Japanese DNA was just as distinct. The Me 262's wingspan was roughly 40 feet and its fuselage around 34 feet; the J9Y just a tad over 26 ½ feet long with a wingspan of just over 32 ¾ feet. The Kikka’s wings were moderately swept; but its tail surfaces were not, all control surfaces covered in fabric unlike its all-metal German cousin, plus the wings folded for easier aircraft storage inside caves and tunnels. The Kikka also featured a three-piece sliding canopy opposed to the Messerschmitt’s three-piece hinged “coffin-lid” design.

On June 30, 1945, Nakajima personnel bench-tested the J9Y’s Ne-20 engines, which, to everyone's immense relief, performed flawlessly. Ground crew then dismantled the jet and shipped it to Isarazu Naval Airfield, where Lt. Cdr. Susumu Takaoka flew it for the first time on August 7th. Exasperatingly, the Kikka timidly rolled slowly down the runway until it took to the sky, Takaoka flying below 2000 feet for 20 minutes just to be safe. The little jet responded submissively to the pilot’s control inputs, but its comatose take-off speed obliged Nakajima engineers to attach RATOG bottles beneath the wings for additional thrust. On August 11, Takaoka coaxed the J9Y down the runway again to find someone had installed the rockets backwards, obliging him to abort the take-off, which caused him to crash beyond the runway. Personnel fiendishly worked around the clock to repair the damage but were forced to quit four days later when Japan surrendered to the Allies. Eighteen additional prototypes lay partially assembled on the production floor. And that was that.

The Kikka, given 12 more months, would have served as a fighter, bomber, two-seat trainer, reconnaissance variant, interceptor, and kamikaze bomber. With comparable speed and armament to the Me-262, it might have slashed B-29 formations to pieces as envisaged; but as it stood, the jet barely got off the ground and made no difference whatsoever.


...

Titans like Hobby Master and Corgi will never produce this little treasure because the diecast crowd prefers heroes, which the Kikka never was (never had the chance). Years ago an obscure Japanese manu called BOFORD produced the J9Y in 1/72 scale, a not-so-bad replica (but for two bizarre wing hinges) that’s become rare in its own right. Check it out on ebay.
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Old 04-27-2018, 09:48 AM   #567
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Most Luftwaffe enthusiasts agree that the Junkers Ju-88 was hands-down the most versatile and effective combat aircraft of World War II, a rather cocky assertion considering the de Havilland Mosquito and North American B-25 Mitchell, and perhaps even the Beaufighter, justly vied for the same distinction. There's no arguing the fact, though, that the Ju-88 was one heck of a warbird that caused more than one Allied pilot to drop a mud brick.

The Ju 88 came into its own as a night fighter during 1943. The British were bombing the living poo tinky out of German cities, and the Luftwaffe was frantic to stop the onslaught. Germany based its night fighter defenses around a series of ground control sites that directed fighter units to their targets (called the Himmelbett system), which worked reasonably well with relatively short ranged aircraft like the Bf 110. Unhappily for Hitler's boys, England literally foiled the Nazi defense system with bundles of thin metal strips (codenamed "Window") that scrambled their radar screens, putting the whammy on Germany's night fighter forays. In a rage, the Luftwaffe countered with the Wilde Sau (Wild Boar) stratagem, wherein individual night fighters loitered over potential targets, attacking bombers when sighted and landing when gas ran short. But this approach demanded greater endurance than the Bf 110 could give, so the venomously efficient Ju-88 stepped up to the plate, its production peaking at 2,518 in 1944.

By the end of 1943, Germany thwarted "Window" with new ground radar that laughed at British jamming. The Luftwaffe simultaneously launched a new tactic called the Zahme Sau (Tame Boar) meant to mount long running battles against bomber streams the moment they crossed into German territory. Sundry Ju-88s carried FuG 200 Lichtenstein SN-2 radar (the Flensburg system) able to isolate the RAF’s Monica tail warning radar and also featured electronics that detected H2S ground radar installed in pathfinder Lancasters. Additionally, Ju-88s packed upward-firing Scräge Musik cannons able to shred British bombers from below, all of which rained hell on RAF Bomber Command, the Luftwaffe inflicting excruciatingly high losses in early 1944, about 10% per mission. Which was a remarkable number, considering shooting down British bombers in the dead of night was absurdly difficult.

Two things happened that saved the RAF's bacon. First, Eisenhower redirected Bomber Command away from Germany to targets (communication links) over France months before D-Day (chopping bomber loses significantly). And second, on 13 July 1944, a Ju 88G-1 equipped with SN-2 and Flensburg kits stupidly and mistakenly landed at Woodbridge, Essex, England, revealing all kinds of Luftwaffe secrets. Whereupon the RAF brained out how to smack down Germany's SN-2 radar and removed Monica tail warning radars from their bombers. When the bombing campaign resumed in the second half of 1944, Ju-88 night fighters were virtually as blind as bats.

Germany desperately tried to redress this setback with newer, more capable radar systems and attack stratagems. But Luftwaffe night fighter units sustained additional blows from which they never recovered, among them the Allied capture of large swaths of the radar network (following the invasion of France). Fuel shortages severely hampered night-fighter sorties, too. And as American escort fighters slaughtered the Luftwaffe’s day fighter forces, fatso Hermann Göring threw his night fighter units against the 8th Air Force, suffering appalling losses while achieving little. By January 1945, the Luftwaffe could muster 913 night fighters; by April 1st, that figure had plummeted to 563, most of these aircraft unable to fly for lack of fuel.

Ju 88 units, given competent, brainy leadership, lots of gas, frequently updated electronics, and far larger numbers, might have wrecked Bomber Command's ambitions. They certainly had the potential. As it turned out, the Ju 88 night fighter did little more than briefly torment Britain's heavy bombing campaign.

Do I like this model? Yowsa! I could extoll its virtues all day long; but I’ll simply say that if you’re a Ju-88 aficionada and don’t own the AA36708, you’re missing one of Corgi’s premier Luftwaffe models. Some folks carp that its black, velvety finish is tedious; but enlightened collectors (like moi) deem it Darth-Vader dramatic. At the time of this writing, one of these beauties was selling for $300 on eBay.
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Old 04-27-2018, 10:51 AM   #568
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At the time of this writing, one of these beauties was selling for $300 on Ebay
i have a policy with lawsuits and 'asking prices':

- somebody files a crazy lawsuit = not news.
- somebody wins a crazy lawsuit = news.
- somebody asks a crazy price for something = not news.
- somebody sells something for a crazy price = news.



thanks for the nice writeup. you seem to like this model a heck of a lot more than i do. but then again i love the look of Corgi AA33703 which a lot of people don't.
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Old 04-27-2018, 04:43 PM   #569
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thanks for the nice writeup ... i love the look of Corgi AA33703 which a lot of people don't.

My pleasure entirely. Truth be told, the Corgi AA33703 is one of my favorite He-111 bombers, too.
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Old 05-03-2018, 08:33 PM   #570
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Anybody out there remember the character "Jeep" featured in Popeye cartoons? The pint-sized critter sporting an outrageous, kielbasa nose? Turns out the animator who illustrated Jeep was also brother to the Douglas Aircraft Company engineer who fashioned the A2D Shyshark’s extended prop spinner. Their distinctive family trait was a preposterously long, bratwurst-shaped shnoz. Coincidence? You decide. (Compare the Jeep’s and Skyshark’s snouts above. )

Days before WWII ended, the Navy asked Douglas to design a carrier-based, turboprop attack aircraft with muscled-up range, payload, and fighting prowess able to operate from its upcoming CVD-55 Casablanca-class escort carriers. After Douglas agreed, the Navy awarded the plane’s engine contract to Allison in December 1945. Douglas designed the new attack aircraft around its AD-1 Skyraider frame and Allison's forthcoming T-40 turboprop. The family resemblance between the Skyraider and Skyshark (Douglas' moniker for the new airplane) was unmistakable, but the A2D was longer and deeper with a cockpit that sat farther forward (affording better landing visibility). Douglas also ditched the Skyraider’s teardrop canopy for an unusual oval-glass panel form topped with a Perspex panel.

Allison’s XT40-A-2 engine slaved two Model 501 (XT-38-A) gas turbines to a common reduction gearbox that drove a set of coaxial propeller shafts fastened to two, three-bladed, 14-foot diameter contrarotating propellers. Either power plant could drive both propellers with the other shut down to increase range and endurance. The engine sat mid-fuselage, fed by intakes sited on the lower part of the nose. Large exhausts were positioned on both sides of the lower rear fuselage just behind the wing trailing edge.

To everyone’s alarm, severe engine vibrations nearly shook the first XA2D-1 to pieces on its first flight, March 26, 1950. Despite modifications, the juddering continued alongside bearing failures, reduction gear breakdowns, and overheating around the engine exhausts. All of which conspired to kill Lt Cdr Hugh Wood flying the first A2D prototype on December 19, 1950, who, moments before his gruesome death, radioed that his engine was literally flying apart.

Douglas pointed the finger at Allison, who denied all responsibility for the accident. But just to cover its butt, Douglas swapped the jutting rear engine exhausts for flush replacements and modified the fin and rudder. Allison, still claiming innocence, repositioned the accessory gearbox and added two additional compressor stages to the power plants. The company also installed an automatic decoupler that independently disengaged the power units when necessary. But even these corrections didn’t quell the turboprop’s continuing vibrations and mechanical snafus. Flight tests continued as did insoluble T40 engine problems that triggered yet a second fatal accident, at which point the Navy cut its loses and announced the Skyraider adequately severed its carrier needs, rendering the A2D redundant. Accordingly in mid 1952, the Navy abandoned ten newly constructed Skysharks, which redoubled space for additional Douglas AD Skyraider production while also attracting developmental money for the A4D Skyhawk.

Douglas produced 12 Skysharks in total. Perplexingly, the XT40 Allison turboprop engine, though hopeless on the Skyshark, worked flawlessly on other aircraft such as the C-130, P-3 Orion, and E-2 Hawkeye.


I'd give my eye-teeth for a decent diecast Skyshark. The plane was so ugly it was practically kissable with those gargantuan props jutting from its schwantz snout. Flying the monster must have been exhilarating (but for the crashes), yet neither Hobby Master nor Corgi will even consider reproducing the bird. Too bad, too, ‘cause I'd be first in line to buy one.
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Old 05-03-2018, 10:53 PM   #571
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Interesting post R888, thank you again for spending the time and effort on crafting such quality content
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Old 05-04-2018, 02:59 PM   #572
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Interesting post R888, thank you again for spending the time and effort on crafting such quality content
Truly my pleasure. Thank you, tker76!
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Old 04-26-2019, 02:38 PM   #573
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Hi, everybody! Been a while.

I plan to publish a few more reviews here for your viewing pleasure and will write additional material if I can find the time. My schedule is so crazy I can hardly keep pace, but I’ll contribute as often as circumstances permit. Which brings up the question: Does anybody know where my last bunch of reviews went to? Not sure why, but most of them vanished into thin air (a glitch, perhaps?), a bewildering occurrence to say the least.

For newer members out there, I write historical backgrounds about real military aircraft that diecast models depict and accompany those with graphics and brief comments on the models themselves. I firmly believe that retired models are every bit as desirable as their newer counterparts; but in our mad dash to grow collections, we ofttimes ignore the vintage models we already own, the oldie-but-goldie miniatures we squirrel away and forget. They deserve to be remembered too, and hopefully these reviews will help to remedy that.

To keep things real, I offer this disclaimer: Everything I write is personal opinion but for historical facts, and even some of those are arguable. I make no claim to being THE LAST WORD on diecast models, so please don’t take my say-so for chapter and verse. Just because I praise a particular model doesn't necessarily mean I'm absolutely right and you're absolutely wrong if you disagree. Likes and dislikes are deeply personal, and your opinion is more than welcome.

Many of the models I’ll review sold out years ago and might prove difficult to find. Or if they pop up somewhere they're outrageously expensive. If you see something in these reviews you'd like to own but can't find or afford, simply hang in there. Now and again extinct, affordable models actually do appear on eBay, and I speak from experience. I had searched eBay for an extremely rare War Master 1/72 Dodge WC-63 weapons carrier for years but couldn't find one. I finally threw in the towel until, on a hunch, I gave it another try and viola!!! There this model was, selling at a price I could handle, so I snapped it up and was overjoyed. It happens. All it takes is time and patience (and a little luck).

Which brings me to an off-subject topic: Is our hobby dying? Judging from the ebbing number of posts and contributions on diecast model forums these days you'd certainly think so. Years ago you could hardly squeeze into these venues for all the spirited, clamoring members inside. And buying on eBay was often a virtual feeding frenzy, everybody sniping and outbidding each other, driving prices skyward. Not to mention, hot new models would hit the shelves and sell out within hours, sometimes minutes. Contrast that with today when most models languish for weeks, even months or years, before they sell out. In my opinion, several factors contribute to this sad predicament but are not limited to: higher model prices, burgeoning shipping costs, lower model quality, and general collector burnout. These days I'm definitely more selective and buy far fewer models than before, which I suspect you’re doing too. So what do you think? Are the golden days of military diecast collecting dead and gone, or is that merely pessimistic hogwash?

Whatever, it's good to be back, and I hope you'll enjoy the show. My contributions this time around will be fewer and farther between, but at least we’ll have fun together.

So let’s start the festivities with Italeri's B-2 Spirit.





Some media wag once suggested that the B-2 Spirit could easily double as Darth Vader’s personal transport, a Star Wars version of a man-eating raptor. Which may well be true; but according to the USAF, this bomber can also penetrate heavily defended airspace and obliterate fortified targets around the world (and Coruscant)—and survive. Combat deployments to Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and most recently Libya, amply demonstrated this and other capabilities.

To date, the B-2 is the only U.S. bomber that unites long range, large payload, and stealth into a single package, able to project air power anywhere on earth. It can fly 6,000 nautical miles unrefueled or 10,000 nautical miles with one aerial refueling while lugging more than 20 tons of conventional and nuclear ordnance. And it can deliver that load with precision in any weather condition. Additionally, Northrop Grumman, the B-2's prime contractor, not only keeps the bomber fully mission capable but also continually updates it, including the ability to collect, process and disseminate battlefield information with joint-force commanders and receive revised target information.

Northrup (later Northrup Grumman) produced twenty-one B-2s fleet, which fell to 20 following the loss of the Spirit of Kansas in February 2008 owing to a computer program glitch. 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, CA, to certify software and weapon systems upgrades.

Nifty facts you don’t want know 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 beneath 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; hourly operational cost exceeds $135,000. Because of this boggling expense (not to mention mind-bending prices for software, construction materials, and maintenance), the Air Force hasn’t ordered additional B-2s. The bomber was meant to replace the Air Force’s hoary Boeing B-52s; but owing to extortionate maintenance and other expenses, that 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 security). One Northrop Grumman employee tried to pass B-2 secretes to the Soviets but fell afoul of the FBI (according to one source he loathes prison food and overly friendly cell mates).

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 or a herd of elephants.

6) The B-2 lays claim to being one of the first computer-designed military aircraft in history. Experts say computers pretty much created the thing—humans merely observed with mouths agape.

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

8) The B-2 is automated up the ying-yang. It operates with just two crew members, one pilot and one mission commander, an arrangement that allows one to sleep and one to fly. Curiously, Northrop didn’t provide bunk accommodations for long hauls, forcing air crews to buy and sleep on cheap Walmart cots instead. No lie.


Though not one of the leading lights of diecast models, Italeri Fabbri does a respectable job with its 1/200 series. As far as I can tell, the manu’s B-2’s colors, emblems, lines, and stencils are spot on, and the general shape is correct. If you're into Star Wars lore, you might consider buying Italeri’s little gem.
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Old 04-26-2019, 02:51 PM   #574
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Welcome back Richtofen... you missed... really
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Old 04-26-2019, 03:20 PM   #575
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Welcome back Richtofen... you missed... really

Absolutely! Your (Richtofen's) posts are always a HUGE joy to read - informative and entertaining like nothing else! Thank you for all your excellent work and please keep writing and sharing with us
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Old 04-26-2019, 03:50 PM   #576
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Thank you, cheesecake and Uzair, for your kind comments. It's good to be back!
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Old 04-27-2019, 12:24 AM   #577
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Welcome back R888, great to feast on your write-ups again.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Richtofen888 View Post
Which brings me to an off-subject topic: Is our hobby dying? Judging from the ebbing number of posts and contributions on diecast model forums these days you'd certainly think so. Years ago you could hardly squeeze into these venues for all the spirited, clamoring members inside. And buying on eBay was often a virtual feeding frenzy, everybody sniping and outbidding each other, driving prices skyward. Not to mention, hot new models would hit the shelves and sell out within hours, sometimes minutes. Contrast that with today when most models languish for weeks, even months or years, before they sell out. In my opinion, several factors contribute to this sad predicament but are not limited to: higher model prices, burgeoning shipping costs, lower model quality, and general collector burnout. These days I'm definitely more selective and buy far fewer models than before, which I suspect you’re doing too. So what do you think? Are the golden days of military diecast collecting dead and gone, or is that merely pessimistic hogwash?

For me it's a combination of very high prices, lack of display space and storage space for the boxes
he lower quality is a concern, but I have bought inferior products if the livery was right (unfortunately)
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Old 04-27-2019, 12:31 AM   #578
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Good to see your ok Dave and back to your usual best.
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Old 04-27-2019, 03:34 AM   #579
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Originally Posted by Richtofen888 View Post

Which brings me to an off-subject topic: Is our hobby dying? Judging from the ebbing number of posts and contributions on diecast model forums these days you'd certainly think so. Years ago you could hardly squeeze into these venues for all the spirited, clamoring members inside. And buying on eBay was often a virtual feeding frenzy, everybody sniping and outbidding each other, driving prices skyward. Not to mention, hot new models would hit the shelves and sell out within hours, sometimes minutes. Contrast that with today when most models languish for weeks, even months or years, before they sell out. In my opinion, several factors contribute to this sad predicament but are not limited to: higher model prices, burgeoning shipping costs, lower model quality, and general collector burnout. These days I'm definitely more selective and buy far fewer models than before, which I suspect you’re doing too. So what do you think? Are the golden days of military diecast collecting dead and gone, or is that merely pessimistic hogwash?
Good to see you back Richtofen.

I note your comments and I guess my views are somewhat different. First off, the only feeding frenzy back in the Golden Days was when models were dumped, either on Ebay on through one of the forums. UK retailers would have a black Friday sale and within minutes the news would be on the forums, notably the Diecast Aviation Forum and the original Model Hangers.

It was very rare for a release to sell on pre-order,...if at all. One that comes to mind is a Mule ME262. But most runs back then were well over a 1000 (up to 5000 or were unlimited), so dumps were inevitable.

I think collectors have the Golden Days confused with dumps. In which many retailers ultimately never recovered and manufacturers either disappeared or were sold and re-sold,...such as Corgi. Collectors got bargains, that's all.

These days, in my view the Hobby has never been so diverse. Older manufacturers are still selling Spits, 109s, P51s, just like they did back in the day. But the enormous amount of Russian stuff, the 50s and 60s and the incredible cosmopolitan nature of the Hobby sets it apart from the Golden Days. And believe me there is more coming down the pike.

The F105G is coming,...as is the 1:48 Gustav and more besides. The number of manufacturers now is very similar to the number back in the Golden Days.

Manufacturing runs are lower. For example the most recent RNZAF Pony is a run of only 300. Many toolings have been improved (some haven't).

The demographic has gotten older and clearly the biggest challenge for the Hobby is finding younger collectors.

To be frank I would not put much stock in what is happening in this place as an indication on where the Hobby is going. The Military Section of the DA.C has been though its own special circumstances. The Hobby does thrive elsewhere.

Ultimately, the Hobby may get smaller. But at the moment I think its just as alive as it was back in the days of big runs and bigger dumps.
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Old 04-27-2019, 10:05 AM   #580
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Thank you so much for your thoughts, Tajmashhad, Ukrainian_Falcons, and Light Fire Team. It's a pleasure to be back. I hope we can keep up a lively conversation about the state of our hobby, where it's heading, what we like (or dislike) about it, developments, etc., etc., etc. Heck, I might even address a new topic occasionally, something you might find stimulating. There's room here for everybody's point of view, and I totally welcome it.
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Old 04-27-2019, 10:11 AM   #581
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Thanks for your PM, tomcatter! I enjoy your take on things and hope to see you around!
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Old 05-02-2019, 09:54 PM   #582
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Probably the best summation of the Stuka came from Porucznik (First Lieutenant) Juliusz Bogdan Baczyński, who faced and survived Hitler's rampaging military blitz in the Battle of Mokra, September 1, 1939. Said he after watching his forces get pounded to dirt, "Kiedy widzieliśmy Stukas, pooped nasze spodnie." Translation: "When we saw the Stukas, we pooped our pants." And there you have it in six words, the true character of this bird. The Ju-87 literally scared the bum biscuits out of people.

In the days before precision-guided munitions, the way to air-drop ordinance precisely on target was to dive your airplane straight down, keep the bull's eye dead center in your windscreen, release the bomb, and pull up sharply before mother earth headbutted you. The Stuka (a contraction of "Sturzkampfflugzeug," translated as: "I'm a fricking Peterodactyle and I'm gonna eat you alive!") could not only kill people wholesale but it also became the most villainous of all dive bombers in history. Distinctive for its prehistoric, predatory appearance (inverted gull wings cranked to give the main bomb load sufficient ground clearance plus burly spatted landing gears), this aircraft flew on all fronts for Germany and its European allies except Finland. Stukas made the newsreels in the autumn of 1939, Stuka ketten peeling off formation one by one, rolling inverted, diving straight down the throats of a horrified world, propeller-driven sirens screaming. Traffic jams and hordes of panicked Polish troops didn't have a chance.

Funny enough, the Stuka required an autopilot to pull the aircraft out of a dive, or German pilots usually kissed terra firma in a dramatic way. In early 1939, a Ju-87 squadron leader blacked out while diving and mimicked an asteroid striking the planet. His entire kette meekly followed, one after the other, right into the ground. Luftwaffe chiefs scratched their heads and wondered if an autopilot feature for tactical bombing wouldn’t help.

Contrary to popular myth, the Stuka didn't run off and sulk in the closet after its disastrous performance in the Battle of Britain. In reality it had simply proved what every other air force operating similar aircraft already knew: dive bombers simply couldn't survive in skies infested with mad dogs and Englishmen. Fatso Reichsmarschall Hermann Wilhelm Göring had made a big deal out the Stuka's blitzkrieg successes in Poland and France, promoting it as some sort of super plane; so naturally the British threw a hellish air defense against it in August 1940. Caught without escort cover, the dive bomber predictably took it in the shorts. Even so, the Stuka went on to become the topmost Axis threat to British warships in the Mediterranean; and it did the beat-down to opposing forces in the Balkans, Crete, and Russia (during the opening stages of Operation Barbarossa).

The later "D" version, the one pictured above, benefited from a larger, more muscular Jumo 211J-1 engine and improved propeller, a redesigned airframe and more roomy canopy, pointy wingtips, and a new Revi C/12C gunsight. In addition, twin MG-81 guns replaced the single rear MG-15, and Junker's engineers added super-jacked weapons and an increased fuel load. Despite all this, the warbird's basic performance remained unchanged, forcing it to operate either at night or in company with a fighter escort.

Pilot Eric 'Winkle' Brown, famed Royal Navy test pilot, flew the dive bomber and published a mixed review of the type: "…[I]t gave the impression of being lot of airplane for one engine to pull...once settled down in cruise the feeling of vulnerability became almost oppressive, accentuated by the high position of the pilot's seat and the large glasshouse canopy." But he praised the aircraft's dive characteristics, stating, "Maximum dive (for most dive bombers) is usually in the order of 60 degrees…[T]he Ju-87 is the only one you can truly dive vertically....for some indefinable reason it felt right, standing on its nose."
....

For those interested, here's a little blurb about Hans Ulrich Rudel, the most decorated German combat pilot of WWII and a Stuka pilot to boot…

Born in Silesia in 1916, Rudel was the son of a Protestant minister and a chunky-but-funky mädchen. A poor student at best, he joined the Hitler Jugend in 1933 and became an ardent Nazi. In 1936 he applied for cadet training in the Luftwaffe as a way to continue his sporting activities but proved himself a dimwit.

Struggling mightily, he miraculously passed his flying training courses and requested further training as a dive-bomber pilot but was flatly refused. Undeterred, the new Lieutenant flew long range reconnaissance missions during the Polish Campaign and won the Iron Cross 2nd Class. Beseeching his superiors unceasingly, Rudel was finally accepted into the Sturzkampfflugzeug Schule in May, 1940, and found the program phenomenally difficult. In fact, his instructors considered him far too stupid to graduate; but he surprised everybody (including himself) and did anyway, after which he became Oberleutnant Rudel and served with LG (St.) 2 during the Battle of Britain, later transferring to 1.I/St.G. 2 “Immelmann,” where he participated in the airborne invasion of Crete in May, 1941. Weeks later he deployed to the Eastern Front, and that's when things really got interesting.

At 0300 on June 23, 1941, Rudel flew his first combat dive-bombing mission and then completed four more over the next 18 hours. Impressed, his superiors awarded him the Iron Cross 1st Class for this and other deserving feats. On September 23,1941, I and II/St.G. 2 attacked the Soviet Baltic Fleet in Kronstadt harbor, during which Rudel sank the pre-dreadnought battleship Marat, hitting its ammunition store and blowing the ship in half.

By December 24, 1941, Rudel had flown 500 missions and was awarded the Deutsche Kreuz im Geld (German Cross in Gold). On January 15, 1942, he received the Ritterkreuz (Knights Cross) before flying to Germany to train new Stuka crews. Speedily tiring of that, he returned to the Eastern Front in June, 1942 and became Staffelkapitän of 1.I/St.G. 2 that September.

Reaching his 1,000th mission in February 1943, Rudel joined the "Panzerjagdkommando Weiss," a group formed to develop anti-tank tactics. He won the Eichenlaub (Oak Leaves) to the Knight’s Cross for valor during the tank battle of Belgorod and received the Swords to the Knights Cross on October 25, 1943, for drubbing Russian forces at the Battle of Kursk.

Now at 1,500 missions in early March, 1944, Rudal became a major and the Gruppenkommandeur of II Gruppe of Schlachtgeschwader 2. During a mission in late March, a squadron of La-5s attacked Rudel's formation and shot down a Stuka while causing another to crash, its crew surviving. Seeing this, Rudel himself landed to rescue his men but couldn't take off later for all the snow and mud. Approaching Soviet troops pressed the four men to flee on foot, who were forced to swim across the Dniester River to reach their own lines. The Germans stripped to their knickers and braved the ice-clogged, subzero waterway; but just a few yards from shore, Erwin Henstchel—Rudel's close friend and gunner, whom he had flown with on 1,490 missions—drowned. The other two fliers died of exposure minutes later.

Stalin had followed Rudel's deadly career and put a 100,000-ruble bounty on his head, which pursuing Soviet troops were hot to collect. One of them shot and wounded the major in the shoulder but failed to stop him. Over the next 24 hours, Rudel—alone, unarmed, barefoot, nearly naked, without food, compass, or medical attention—crossed 30 more miles of enemy territory to find his lines. For this, the Luftwaffe command awarded him Diamonds to his Knights Cross with Oak leaves and Swords, the highest of all German military awards.

Promoted to Colonel and made Geschwader Kommodore, Rudel took a round to his left thigh in November, 1944, while attacking tanks near Budapest. Ignoring the pain, he returned to fly with his leg in a plaster cast, finding it awkward to fit in the cockpit. As a reward, Nazi leaders awarded him the Knights Cross with Golden Oak leaves, Swords and Diamonds, a decoration created especially for the nutjob pilot.

In February, 1945, near Frankfurt am der Oder, anti-aircraft fire shattered Rudel’s right thigh. He managed to crash land in German held territory, where doctors amputated his leg in a field hospital. Specialists fitted him with an artificial leg/foot at a Berlin hospital, from which insane-in-the-membrane Rudel returned to his unit and flew to the last day of the war, his men having to carry him to his Stuka and cram him into the cockpit. At the end of April, he volunteered to fly into Berlin to rescue Hitler but was turned down.

Through the War, Rudel logged 2,530 combat missions, including 400 in Fw-190s, shooting down 11 enemy aircraft. While flying the Ju-87 (confirmed by two or more pilots), he annihilated 518 tanks, 700 trucks and other vehicles, 150 flak and artillery positions, and the battleships October Revolution and Marat. During these operations the Russians shot him down 32 times. The diehard Nazi died in 1982 at age 66, still devoted to his all-time hero, Adolf Hitler.


All you need do is just look at this model and you’ll become a believer. Hobby Master is one of the best—if not the best—military diecast manufacturers out there, and I don’t think many collectors will disagree. Whoever painted and rendered this model knew what he/she was doing, and I take my hat off to them. If you’re a Stuka aficionado and you can still find this bird, I highly recommend it to you.
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Old 05-06-2019, 03:39 AM   #583
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I got this one and it's probably the nicest Stuka made along with AA32502.

Shame about the missing swastika, if only HM knew they could just cover it with a sticker like they did with later releases.
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Old 05-06-2019, 10:32 AM   #584
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ukrainian_Falcons View Post
I got this one and it's probably the nicest Stuka made along with AA32502.

I agree wholeheartedly, UF. This particular Stuka is a bona fide humdinger! Painting, emblems, accuracy, kewel factor—they're all there.
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Old 05-09-2019, 08:40 PM   #585
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I've written about the CF-105 Arrow before and do so again because this aircraft was a goddess of the skies, Scarlett Johansson sculpted in metal, a real eye-popping femme fatale. Just to look at her you felt a warm glow flow through you, which made the Arrow’s cancellation all the harder to bear. Were it possible, many fighter enthusiasts would travel back in time and kick Prime Minister John Diefenbaker in the fart box for aborting it. The ax came down on this bootylicious bird over sixty years ago, and yet people still fume over the technological and military loss it represented.

The CF-105 Arrow arose in April 1953 from the RCAF’s need for a supersonic aircraft able to intercept Russian bombers hotfooting it toward North American cities. Blessed with blistering speed and advanced weaponry, it could have intercepted and whamsauced intruders way up in the arctic, far from targeted metropolises. Which, at the time of the CF-105’s kickoff, seemed entirely doable though roaringly ambitious. To put wings to this dream, Avro Canada rolled up its sleeves and catalyzed one of the most handsome aircraft ever.

Given that military programs expenditures routinely escalate beyond initial estimates, the Diefenbaker government should have anticipated that the Arrow’s cost would skyrocket, which it did, twofold and beyond. When compared to modern day purchase projects (like the 200 billion US Joint Strike Fighter), 200 million seems like chump change. But given Canada's military budget at the time, the outlay must have seemed unthinkable—even horrifying. Not to mention, intercontinental ballistic missiles were about to take center stage, a Russia-killing safeguard that compromised the need for blistering fast interceptors—or so insisted Canadian government beancounters. Given this development and other fiscal/military misgivings, the Prime Minister abruptly killed the Arrow project on Feb 20, 1959, effectually executing Canada's hope of becoming a leading military aircraft manufacturer while liquidating thousands of industry jobs. Ironically, the government eventually purchased F-101 Voodoos from the USAF that ultimately cost Canada more than producing Arrows.

All in all, five Arrow prototypes flew successfully, albeit with surrogate American test engines. A sixth CF-105 packing a Canadian-built Orenda “Iroquois” engine saw daylight but never left the ground. Owing to fears Soviet agents would purloin the jet's designs and discover its secrets, Avro utterly destroyed all six aircraft along with jigs and tooling, an act that would reverberate through the decades.

The lament over the Arrow's demise came three-fold: First, Canada was left to fly a moderately capable proxy jet, the F-101 Voodoo, which couldn't fly as far or fast. Second, the Arrow's loss irreparably damaged Canada's aerospace industry, many of its best and brightest technological minds relocating to rival countries like America and Britain. And third, the jet was, as stated before, possibly the most exquisite, foxy aircraft to ever fly, an aeronautical sensation. Had the Arrow survived, it would have captured world celebrity, distinction, and cachet.

Canada continues to produce internationally recognized aerospace projects like the DeHavilland Beaver, Otter and Dash 8, and Canadair Regional Jet to name a few; but it's the CF-105 that wins our hearts. Contemporaries like the Convair F-106 Delta Dart, The English Electric Lightning, and The Dassault Mirage III, attractive aircraft in their own right, simply didn't compare.


I'm not Canadian, so I don't fully comprehend that country’s grief over the Arrow's loss; but I have a relatively good idea. The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum should be celebrated for commissioning its three CF-105 Arrow models, each a pièce de résistance. I'll just say that if you didn't buy at least one of these treasures when they were relatively inexpensive and available, you missed out. They appear on eBay occasionally for ridiculous prices; but if you've got the bread, buy one. The Arrow is a must-have for all serious diecast jet collectors.
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Old 05-17-2019, 11:18 AM   #586
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Without question, the Avro Lancaster was the crème de la crème of Royal Air Force WWII bombers, certainly the most destructive. Given its stupendous bomb capacity, it was a veritable flying sledgehammer, smashing German cities to pulp, clobbering damns, thrashing battleships, lambasting U-boat pens, and all around giving Hitler a royal heartburn between March 1942 and May 1945.

Indeed, most Lanc enthusiasts consider the beast the best bomber of WWII. Its indisputable assets included long rage, surprising agility for such a leviathan, and an unusually expansive and uncluttered weapons bay perfect for hefting blockbuster bombs, incendiaries, bouncing bombs, Tallboy and later 22,000 lb Grand Slam earthquake bombs (the only aircraft to better it was the B-29, one carrying two such bombs beneath each wing just to demonstrate it could [see pic above]). Also, later in the war the Lanc carried the first airborne, ground-scanning radar system, the H2S, which enabled more accurate bombing.

Others aren’t as bubbly about the beast, noting its deplorable vulnerability to enemy fighters. Of some 7300 built, nearly half were destroyed outright, many of those to night-fighter attack. The Lanc's defensive armament was poor to pathetic compared to American bombers, partly demonstrated by its exposed, completely defenseless belly. And the bomber's interior was dark and cramped, encumbered by a bulky wing-spar arrangement that made egress from stricken, plunging Lancasters devilishly difficult and ofttimes lethal to escaping crews.

The Lancaster owed its existence to the Avro Manchester bomber, a nightmarish aircraft featuring Rolls Royce Vulture engines that routinely caught fire and killed their crews. The problem became so frightful that the RAF demanded Avro either fix it double-quick or shove the beast where the sun don't shine. In reply, Avro presented the Manchester III, virtually identical to the Manchester but with a new wing center section with four Rolls-Royce Merlin powerplants and a reworked empennage—the classic Lancaster. The bomber took to the air on January 9, 1941 and almost immediately proved itself a war winner. The Air Staff rapturously ordered the Lancaster into mass production in February 1941 with the first production Lancaster flying on October 31, 1941.

By 1943, Lancasters equipped the majority of Bomber Command units; and by late 1943 a growing number were fitted with the H2S centimetric radar, electronic hardware that gave the bomber magical powers to find targets at night. This development vastly improved bombing precision, but it also killed a lot of Lancaster crews. Censurably, Air Marshal Harris and Bomber Command staff deliberately failed to tell their men that the H2S was a veritable spotlight in a darkened room, a beacon, essentially, that betrayed their position, drawing fighters to them like flies to poody (something the Germans learned from retrieving an H2S set from a crashed Lancaster). Bomber Command outright lied to Lancaster crews, telling them that the mid-air explosions and fiery trails they witnessed all around them were "scarecrow shells" fired by German flak. In actuality these poor souls were observing the blazing paroxysms of their British brothers, either shot down by night fighters or hit by anti-aircraft shells. Of 100,000 aircrew who served in Bomber Command during the Second World War, 50,000 were killed, wounded or made prisoner.

While the Lancaster was herculean in its ability to heft ever-heavier weapons, some historians, like British author/researcher Max Hastings, argue that the galactic expenditure of men and material poured into the bomber simply wasn't worth the cost. And it wasn't because the Lanc and/or her crews weren't up to the task. Far from it.

Hastings and others point the finger of blame at Sir Arthur Travers Harris ("Bomber" Harris to the press, "Butcher" Harris to many in the RAF), Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief (AOC-in-C) RAF Bomber Command. Harris strongly believed, bordering on obsession, that "area bombing" and "dehousing" (comfortable euphemisms for slaughtering civilians en masse) would end the war all by themselves. Killing civilians was unavoidable in the early stages of the war, considering British bombing accuracy was abysmal and collateral damage was inevitable. But this policy continued even after bombing precision greatly improved, designed to exterminate German workers and their families. Moral conundrums aside, this scheme failed categorically: German war production increased alarmingly despite these bombings, and the Nazi regime never came remotely close to losing political control.

Many historians agree, the morale of the German people remained steadfast to the end despite their knowing that the war was lost and the Fuehrer cared nothing for their fate. After Big Week in February 1944, Speer and Milch marveled at aircraft workers who labored in open assembly lines, freezing, their heated factories pulverized. They restored power and continued production, some even partly repairing their shattered homes, all with less assistance than that offered by British authorities to their own people during the Blitz. What the German Volke grappled with and surmounted between 1942 and 1944 was a triumph of will matched only by the British in 1940 and 1941. Harris' bonehead assumption that Germans were prone to moral collapse while the British public was not was laughably brainless.

And yet Harris had no truck with "panacea merchants," his witless term for individuals both in and out of the RAF who challenged his strategy. He was fiercely opposed to bombing specific industries, a stratagem the Americans championed, led by General Eisenhower, who was given direct control of the Allied strategic bombing forces in preparation for the invasion of Europe. It recently came to light that Harris was a breath away from removal for gross insubordination and disobedience for refusing to meaningfully participate in Operation Pointblank, the bomber offensive against the Luftwaffe and the German aircraft industry agreed to at the Casablanca Conference in February 1943.

When Bomber Command, in union with the 8th Air Force, finally attacked the German synthetic oil industry in the summer of 1944 (missions Harris openly defied until forced to comply), the strategic bomber campaign finally inflicted major damage to Germany's war-making capacity. This could easily have taken place a full year earlier, Bomber Command having the ability to find and strike these plants along with the USAAF. Which prompts the question: Had the Allies hit the synthetic oil industry in late 1943, would the Allied D-Day forces have encountered far less resistance in ‘44? The 1944 summer bombing strikes practically grounded the Luftwaffe for lack of fuel and impeded Panzer movement on all fronts, yet Harris argued his "morale bombing" credo to the end, never conceding that area bombing failed to bring Germany to its knees while costing Bomber Command nearly half of its bombers.

In his book Inside The Third Reich, Albert Speer insisted that bombing had been ineffective in cracking Germany until the closing phase of the war when the synthetic fuels industry was attacked and destroyed. “Had Britain and America bombed and even partially destroyed Germany’s synthetic oil industry in 1943,” he affirmed, “our forces would never have raised a credible resistance to the D-Day invasion of Europe.”

Though ill-served by their commander, Lancasters and their crews served valiantly in the face of difficult odds and fearsome combat. Given the stupendous tonnage of bombs it dropped and the havoc it wrought, the Lancaster deserves its place among the best bombers that ever were.


I love Corgi's Lancaster and would give it five stars but for one niggling flaw: Though this doesn’t apply to all of Corgi's Lancs, more than a few come with drooping propeller spinners. Rather than fitting tight against their engine facings, they hang limp; they sag. Long ago a collector on the long-defunct MHI forum described a way to remedy the issue that involved disassembly, which I won’t attempt. But besides that, Corgi Lancasters are top notch, and I recommend them to all military diecast collectors who value excellence.
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Old 05-23-2019, 09:30 AM   #587
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The Soviet Union found, to its utter disgust, that it's LaGG-1 and LaGG-3 fighters were weaksauce, sissified aircraft hardly deserving of the label "fighter." Neither could hold a candle to Bf-109s or '110s, which routinely shot their derrières to pieces and were so hated that V-VS pilots called them "varnished guaranteed coffins." It became painfully obvious something had to be done and swiftly. Enter the La-5.

Stalin was not amused with this aeronautic debacle and grimly handed the factories that produced the LaGG-3 over to Yakovlev, who expanded production of the Yak-1 and Yak-7 fighters, superior designs. This gesture so horrified the LaGG-3's designers, Smyon Lavochkin and Vladimir Gorbunov (thinking the NKVD would shoot their brains out for sabotage) that they pulled all-nighters attempting to marry the Shvetsov ASh-82A radial engine to the LaGG-3, doing this while hiding in a small shed beside an airfield. Ultimately Lavochikin succeeded in doing so (Gorbunov mysteriously disappeared in the meantime), grafting the nose section of a Sukhoi Su-2 to the LaGG-3's narrow fuselage.

Miraculously when this prototype took flight in March, 1942, it flew like a champ. Test pilots were so enamored with the little troll that they declared it superior to the Yak-7. And though the La-5 was still inferior to German fighters at altitudes over 15,000 feet, it didn't really matter. The new warbird was faster than both the Bf-109 and Fw-190 below 15,000 ft and was more maneuverable. Given that nearly all air combat over the Eastern Front took place at altitudes under 15,000 ft, the new design was decidedly coolbeans. And to make this little devil dog even more scary, Lavochikin armed it with two 20mm Berezin B-20 cannon, making it the most heavily armed Soviet fighter then extant. Stalin was so tickled about this improvement that he ordered maximum-rate production of the La-5 in July, 1942, threatening to make mincemeat out of anyone who didn't make it happen. Construction also involved converting incomplete LaGG-3 airframes to the new design.

In March 1943, production developed into the La-5F, which featured a cut-down fuselage and ASh-82F “Forsirovanny” (boosted) engine, which shared the same output as the Ash-82A power plant but delivered better performance at higher altitudes. Top speed came to 345 mph at sea level and 370 mph at 6,500 ft.

The definitive La-5FN “Forsirovanny Neprosredstvenno” (directly boosted) version arrived on March 23, 1943. The Russians deemed it a parallel development of the La-5F rather than a successor, both continuing in simultaneous production through most of the remainder of 1943. The La-5F remained in service throughout the war, 9,920 La-5s of all sub-types being produced between 1943-45. La-5 losses were the highest of all fighters in the V-VS except the Yak-1, totaling 2,591.





Ivan Vishnakov was born on February 17, 1917 to a peasant family in the village of Khokhly, Chelyabinsky Uyezd, Orenburg Governorate, in Russia's trans-Urals. He attended the Shumikhin elementary school before moving on to the Chelyabinsk industrial school where he trained as a fitter. Upon graduation he worked at the Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant where he joined the local aeroclub and developed a love of flying.

Vishnakov joined the Red Army in September 1938 aiming to become a pilot. He graduated from the Bijsk military pilot academy in the far-eastern Amur region in 1941 and was posted as a flying instructor to Serashevo. His superiors reassigned him to Moscow at the end of 1942 from whence he moved to the front on March 17, 1943.

Two weeks later, Vishnakov shot down a Bf-109 and shared a victory over a Ju-88 near the village of Urazovo in Belgorod province, southwest of Moscow. While flying close air-support around Belgorod, his eight-aircraft formation engaged a flight of German fighters, in which Vishnakov nearly lost his feet to canon shrapnel, whereon Russian surgeons threatened to amputate them. Nearly coming to blows with these blood-thirsty sawbones, Vishnakov escaped from the hospital on crutches and trekked 22 miles to the nearest airfield, where he secured transport to his unit. Still hobbling on crutches, he returned to combat, flying 144 sorties by the end of 1943 and scoring 23 individual and three shared victories.

Promoted to squadron commander of the 240th Fighter Aviation Regiment in August 1944, Vishnakov received the Hero of the Soviet Union award. The British were so enamored with him they granted him the British OBE in 1943, and a second HSU on February 23, 1945. Vishnakov scored his 53rd and last aerial victory on March 26, 1945, a Fw-190 over Budapest. By May 1945 he was a Major. Between March 1943 and April 1945 he flew 283 combat missions, engaged in 119 dogfights, and scored 53 solo and three shared aerial victories.



I'd love it if SkyMax Models (Hobby Master) would bring back its superlative WWII warbird series, possibly the best, most accurate and professionally rendered models ever. To be honest, I've never been a huge fan of Soviet Great Patriotic War fighters, though they were (or some were) outstanding warbirds in their own right. SkyMax's version of the La-5 is notable too, especially Vishnakov's red/black nosed mount. I haven't looked lately, but I figure this particular model is in short supply. I'd grab one if you want to round out your Eastern Front collection.
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Old 05-30-2019, 10:48 AM   #588
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Hands down, the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II is one of the baddest, meanest, most awesomesauce jet fighter/bombers ever produced, certainly the second most successful western jet fighter aircraft ever made (the F-86 Sabre taking the number-one slot) with over 5,000 units built and hundreds still flying today. There's surprisingly little that the Phantom didn’t do over the years, eclipsing its original design parameters to become an air superiority fighter, a ground attack aircraft, a tactical nuclear bomber, a Wild Weasel anti-radar attack vehicle, a capable reconnaissance platform, a target drone, and the mount of both the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels acrobatic teams. Ironically, while Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara struggled to achieve hardware commonality between the Air Force and Navy via the much maligned F-111, the strapping F-4 came as close to realizing McNamara’s policy as possible.

The Air Force caught wind of the Navy’s Phantom II and flew one against an F-106A, finding it superior in most respects, much to their shock. Actually, it was superior to every other Century Series aircraft too, which stunned Air Force brass, who placed an order with McDonnell Douglas for their own version, which included larger, lower pressure tires (which gave a resulting bump in the wing to accommodate them in the enlarged wheel well), anti-skid brakes, a complete set of flying instruments for the rear cockpit, dissimilar electronics, and plumbing to accommodate the Air Force’s flying boom aerial fueling system. Retained from the Navy F4H-1 (renamed the F-4B during McNamara’s crusade for simplification of nomenclature in 1962) were the arrestor hook, the folding wings, and the catapult attachment points.

Intoxicated with their new toy, the USAF deployed the Phantom to South East Asia, where it first shared and then entirely absorbed the F-105 Thunderchief’s air-to-ground bombing missions. It also went toe-to-toe with marauding MiG-17s and ‘21s, several models, notably the E and G, providing front line service for the next three decades.

One remarkable story from Vietnam illustrates how brave (some say foolhardy) motivated pilots can be. Known as "Pardo’s Push" in USAF lore, the incident involved two F-4Ds attempting to egress enemy airspace, both birds hit by anti-aircraft artillery, one disastrously.

Earl Aman and his wingman, Bob Pardo, ran headlong into anti-aircraft fire while dropping bombs on the steel factory at Thai Nguyen, north of Hanoi. Aman’s Phantom took the worst of it, 5,000 pounds of jet fuel gushing out of its shredded fuel tanks; whereupon he and his crewmate, Robert Houghton, readied to eject. But Captain Pardo, cruising just behind, radioed with an idea: he would physically nudge Aman's Phantom with his own F-4C towards neutral Laos, where the stricken crew could parachute to relative safety. It was a zany plan that hadn’t been tried before, but there were no other options.

Pardo then nudged the wounded bird with his Phantom's nose, placing the cone against the other jet’s parachute pack housing; but cyclonic vortices made the attempt impossible. Undeterred, Pardo flew beneath the other F-4 and attempted to push it upward with his jet’s spine, like a strongman lifting weights, which miscarried too. Next, Pardo told Aman to drop his arrestor hook as Pardo maneuvered behind, positioning the tailhook against his own windscreen, which nearly worked except the other jet's violent exhaust thwarted continuous contact. Pardo radioed Aman to cut his power. This helped, but the hook habitually skated off the one-inch thick windscreen, forcing Pardo to back off and re-engage, all the while praying the hook didn’t crash through the glass into his face. Cracks appeared in the windscreen, forcing Pardo to repositioned his Phantom until the hook tapped the lower metal frame of the windscreen instead. As astonishing as it sounds, the two jets limped along like this until Pardo's left J-79 engine caught fire. Shutting down the engine and restarting it, Pardo’s face turned white as the powerplant's internal temperature soared to 1000 degrees Celsius, way above red line. Cutting it again, Pardo then attempted to keep both aircraft airborne with the remaining turbojet.

Reaching Laos at 6000 feet with only two minutes of flying time left, the two F-4s disengaged, and Aman and Houghton ejected. Both floated towards a small village seething with hostile natives, Houghton suffering a vertebra fracture when ejecting. Still, he hit the ground running to dodge gunshots. Search and Rescue helicopters accompanied by A-1 Skyraiders rescued both him and Aman. In the meantime, Pardo and his crewman, Lt. Steve Wayne, hit the silk too before their jet crashed from lack of fuel and were also rescued. Back at Ubon, paradoxically, the four officers received a frosty reception, their commanders unsure of whether to court-martial Pardo for losing his aircraft when he could have returned it to base. After long deliberation, they did nothing; but it wasn’t until two decades later that Senator John Tower saw to it that Pardo and Aman received the Silver Star for legendary bravery and airmanship. Sadly, Earl Aman contracted Lou Gehrig’s disease and died in 1998.


I exhibited four F-4 Phantoms above, two X-Plus productions, two Hobby Master, and I’ve got to say, I love each of them though the X-Plus versions are the bombskie (something that’s superb, really good) for all their spiffy stencils. I wish both manus had been more exacting with joint lines, especially those bisecting the air intakes. Some say X-Plus did a little better job that way.

If you're into jets, you've gotta get yourself a Hobby Master and/or X-Plus F-4 Phantom II. One of my favorites is the HM Luftwaffe F-4F Phantom II (pictured above), the 38+33, JG71 "Richthofen," No. HA1915. I love the jet’s subtle camo color scheme. One popped up recently on eBay for $225 + shipping. If it's still there, check it out.
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Old 06-13-2019, 09:20 AM   #589
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You've likely never asked yourself this question, but think about it: Why did Hollywood feature the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress on the silver screen but not the Consolidated B-24? This proud old bird served in the USAAF and Navy (as well as Allied air forces) in every theater of operations, yet Tinseltown totally snubbed her; I dare you to name one film that spotlighted the bomber. In its shoes, the B-17 got the limelight—entirely. I find this indefensible given that the B-24 still tops the list of the world's most-produced bombers of all time. Between its initial flight on Dec. 29, 1939, and September 1945, nearly 18,500 Liberators rolled off the production lines at five plants. That’s almost 50 percent more than all the B-17s produced, placing the Fortress third in number behind the Liberator and Germany’s Junkers Ju 88.

What's more, the B-24 replaced the B-17 in the Pacific by Mid-1943 because it could fly farther, fly higher (owing to its Davis Wing design), and fly faster, making it the bomber of choice. Which is why, according to Tom Philo (historian and blogger), the two planes never flew together in a mixed formation. Granted, the Liberator couldn’t take as much punishment; but with so much else going for it the movie industry should have thrown makeup on the bomber's mug and filmed the heck out of it. Given that legendary actor Jimmy Steward and film director Robert Altman, not to mention political leaders like Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. and George McGovern, served in them throughout the war, you'd think Hollywood would have fanatically fought for the privilege. Right?

Wrong! Not one movie tycoon got off his pasty bootay and signed the bomber to a motion picture career. And it came down to one thing, according to Philo: public relations. Thanks to a snot-nosed press, the B-17 became the dashing Clark Gable of bombers, the jaunty, rakish hero of the skies; whereas the poor Liberator took the role of Rodney Dangerfield and got no respect.

It came down to perception. Between the two warbirds, the B-17 was first out of the gate, well known even before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The Royal Air Force flew them over Europe and the Atlantic (in limited numbers), and the USAAF deployed them to Clark field in the Philippines just before the powder keg ignited. As soon as the Fortress deployed to England via the Army Air Corp and flew deep into German territory, the bomber figured prominently in P.R. dispatches and film clips. Meanwhile, the hippo-looking B-24 arrived in England around mid-1943 and almost immediately suffered mechanical bugs. “The press wanted to fly aircraft with fewer operational problems, so most rode on B-17s,” Philo writes. “And it didn't help that war correspondents flying in B-24s were routinely shot down and either killed or captured. Andy Rooney and Walter Cronkite, flying in the same mission, survived combat while seven of their correspondent brethren didn't." The fallout, as you'd imagine, was severe and enduring.

Philo asserts that even when the B-24 did grab headlines, its victories were minor and short-lived. On Aug. 1, 1943, for example, 177 B-24s from Libya and Southern Italy bombed Romanian oil fields in Operation Tidal Wave. But the mission turned into a royal fiasco with more than four dozen aircraft and 660 crewmen lost, a major loss that didn't endear reporters to the bomber. Nor did any journalists request assignments to hot, dusty, filthy Africa, where many B-24s were based. The Lib simply wasn't the stuff of legend, nor were their digs, according to news-hounds. All the while, the B-17 smiled and grinned at the public, a genuine matinee idol. Film studios couldn't get enough of it, framing the bird as the demigod of bombers, the very personification of bravado. Memphis Belle hit the theaters as the defender of freedom, the first heavy-bomber warrior to complete 25 missions and then going on to sell war bonds in the USA. In 1949, Oscar-winning 12 O'clock High filled movie theaters and made actor Gregory Peck (General Savage) famous. In the early '60s, 12 O'clock High, the TV series, featured B-17s exclusively with nary a B-24 in sight.

But let's not ignore the elephant in the room. The fact was, the B-17 was a Hollywood heartthrob, sleek, rugged, handsome and classy, Brad Pitt and Rocky Luciano melded together. The B-24, in contrast, was gawky, corpulent, and repulsive, an ugly tag team of Bette Midler and the Grinch, proving that beauty beats hideous every time. Just look at the British deification of the Spitfire compared to the Hurricane: both fighters fought in the Battle of Britain, the Hurricane shooting down more Nazi aircraft. Yet British newspapers extolled the Spitfire as England's winged superhero. The poor, not-so-cute Hurricane got kicked to the curb.

I suggested above that the B-24 never got its due on celluloid, but that's not entirely true. On Jan. 9, 1970, CBS aired “Sole Survivor,” a made-for-TV flick starring Richard Basehart and William Shatner loosely based on the ill-fated mission of the Lady Be Good. After a bombing raid on Naples in 1943, this Liberator overshot its airbase and flew on for hundreds of miles over desert until it ran dry and crashed. Eight of the nine crewmen parachuted to safety but died walking for help. An oil exploration team from British Petroleum discovered the bomber in 1958, and a USAF expedition found the bodies two years later. So even when the B-24 finally landed a starring role, it couldn't catch a break.

...

Wanna hear an incredible story? One you probably won't believe, but it’s true?

A B-24 crew member, while parachuting from his stricken bomber, shot down a Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa. This took place on March 31st. 1943, when 12 Liberators of the U.S. 7th Bombardment Group flew from Penta Wisla, India, to Burma to bomb a bridge. Thirteen Ki-43s intercepted the formation and savagely ripped into it, pouring lead into one Liberator and catching it on fire, forcing its crew to hit the silk. As these defenseless men floated in their parachutes, the Japanese systematically machine gunned them, ripping them to pieces.

The bomber's copilot, Second Lieutenant Owen J. Baggett, suffered a slight wound to his left arm and played dead, hoping to fool the barbaric Japanese. At around 4,000 feet, a Ki-43 circled Baggett with its canopy open, its pilot closely eyeballing the American's limp body. Guessing the hoax, the fighter winged over and headed straight for the copilot; but as it did, Baggett drew his Colt M1911A1 pistol and fired four times at the plane. Incredibly, the Falcon stalled and then spiraled downward. Baggett never saw it hit the ground.

Japanese ground forces captured the copilot along with another injured crew member and threw both in a prison camp in Rangoon and later in Singapore. In Singapore, when swapping stories with US Colonel Harry Melton, Baggett learned that he'd indeed shot the enemy fighter out of the sky. According to Colonel Melton via a Japanese intelligence officer, a Ki-43 pilot attacking Baggett's squadron that day had been drilled through the head with a .45 caliber round. The Falcon crashed and burned, the dead pilot thrown from the wreckage. Later examination determined the bullet that hit the pilot's forehead was a .45 round, the identical ammunition issued with American Colt M1911A1 pistols.

Unfortunately for Lieutenant Baggett, the USS Sea Lion torpedoed and sank the ship Colonel Melton was sailing in route to Japan. The Colonel survived the sinking but was killed when a Japanese destroyer discovered his group and machine gunned their life raft.

Other witnesses heard this story, though, and lived to tell about it. And though no one can positively, unequivocally prove that Baggett did indeed kill the pilot of a Ki-43, enough anecdotal evidence strongly suggests he did. Nothing like a cup of whup-a$$ to cheer your day, huh?!


I'll be dreadfully honest: I'm not a B-24 fan, though the beast wrought more destruction over the Axis powers than its celebrated hangar mate, the B-17. It even contributed heavily to the Atlantic battles with a body count of 70 U-boats. But the undeniable fact is, it was moose-butt ugly, know what I mean? It had no grace or charm, the boogawoof girl everybody at school laughs at. Yet Corgi did an A-1, steak-sauce job on their version of it, all but the model's horrifying nose seam evocative of Frankenstein's hideous neck suture. Still, I like the model a lot and recommend it to WWII aficionados jonesing for a nifty USAAF bomber.
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Old 06-13-2019, 02:29 PM   #590
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Very informative read on the B-24 Liberator and i agree the B-17 may have gotten all the fame & attention but to me the B-24 really won the air war for the Allies in all theater of operations.. it may have been the 'ugly duckling' in the USAAF but at the end it got the job done IMO..

I still prefer the Corgi 1:72 B-24 over the Corgi 1:72 B-17G and even though the model has it gaps, particularly in the front nose section, at least all turrets can move left to right or rotate full circle and also how can you not love the unique tricycle landing gear.. the one i own is the Corgi 1:72 B-24H Pistol Packin' Mama and i'm very happy with her..
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Old 06-13-2019, 06:30 PM   #591
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Yep, you're right, Surinam Air 747. The ol' girl got the job done, and that was all that mattered. But I still wouldn't ask her out for a date!
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Old 06-17-2019, 03:34 PM   #592
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Few truly gifted aircraft have been as spurned as the Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter. It did everything asked of it and more, was deserving of respect and honor; yet the USAF stomped the poor little nipper nearly to pulp for who knows why. And shame on them for it.

Seeing the need for a small, lightweight, jet-powered fighter for its proposed Escort Carriers, the US Navy called on Northrup to produce one. Which Northrup did, offering the "N-156" lightweight, twin-engine jet fighter propelled by the General Electric J85 turbojet engine---the same powerplant installed in the McDonnell ADM-20 "Quail" subsonic decoy cruise missile. This marriage proved ideal, generating a powerful thrust-to-weight ratio then unrivaled in Navy jets. But shortly afterward the US Navy axed their escort carrier proposal and consequently lost interest in the N-156. Unblinking and believing steadfastly in their little jet, Northrop engineers re-engineered the N-156 into two distinct types, the single-seat "N-156F" fighter and the two-seat "N-156T" combat trainer.

Catching wind of this development, the USAF wondered if the two-seat version wouldn't make a great replacement for its geriatric Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star jet trainer and eventually engaged Northop to produce a few for them (eventuating in the celebrated Northrop T-38 Talon). For incomprehensible reasons, though, the Air Force thumbed its nose at the fighter version, which the US Army considered flying as a close-support/reconnaissance platform. The USAF, supremely jealous of its status as the only operator of American fixed-wing, air-combat aircraft deployed from ground facilities, stomped on the Army's scheme, leaving Northrop's little urchin alone and doomed.

Fortunately for Northrop, President John F. Kennedy requested a bargain-basement export fighter to serve American allies worldwide (through the F-X program). Happily, the N-156F won the competition, now officially designated the "F-5." To emphasize the jet's Americanesque uniqueness, Lockheed nicknamed it the "Freedom Fighter," which made its first flight in May of 1963.

The F-5A was a bare-bones design optimized for air-to-ground attack with limited air-to-air capacity (it lacked fire-control radar to identify, track, and engage aerial targets). Two General Electric J85-GE-13 turbojet engines pushed the jet to Mach 1.4 (925 mph) at up to 50,500 feet; maximum range on internal fuel reached 1,400 miles. Standard armament included two M39 20mm cannons on both sides of the nose, two AIM-9 Sidewinders fixed to the wingtips, and bombs, rocket pods, and missiles, up to 6,200 lbs total. External fuel stores were optional.

Nobody knew why, but the USAF still gave the little squirt the kiss-off, possibly because it posed some sort of existential threat to existing Air Force fighters. So it nearly took an act of Congress to force the Air Force to send the F-5 to Vietnam, where the USAF deployed it for combat assessment. And that's where this little whippersnapper really shined.

Now dubbed the "Skoshi Tiger" (Little tiger), F-5As (12 at first, a few more later) initially flew with the 4503rd Tactical Fighter Squadron and later the 3rd Tactical fighter Wing out of Bien Hoa and Da Nang Air Base. Because these Freedom Fighters featured modifications such as improved in-cockpit instrumentation, increased armor protection, and support for "probe and drogue" in-flight refueling, the Air Force changed the jet's designation to "F-5Cs." These Skoshi Tigers rendered such sterling service bombing with unprecedented accuracy and requiring comparatively little servicing, it surprised no one that only one F-5C was lost over 2,600 missions flown. In fact, Capt. David Howser, who flew the Freedom Fighter from beginning to end of its deployment, said, "I can't think of a better warbird than the F-5C for reliability, ease of maintenance, agility, and bombing /strafing stability. No other Air Force fighter compares."

With an endorsement like that, you'd think the Air Force would have bought and flown billions of Freedom Fighters, yet it remained stupidly indifferent. The warbird's battle prowess, however, didn't go unnoticed, impressing a host of friendly nations. Operators eventually included Brazil, Ethiopia, Greece, Iran, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan (Republic of China), Vietnam, Morocco, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia. Following the F-5's Vietnam deployment, modified F-5Cs served with the South Vietnam Air Force, its pilots overjoyed with the warbird's small but comfortable cockpit. With the fall Bien Hoa in South Vietnam, these aircraft flew for the Communist North or were shipped to the Soviet Union for further evaluation.




The best word to describe Hobby Master's Swiss Air Force F-5E Tiger (HA3320) is "handsome." Like most Hobby Master product, it's a marvel of expert craftmanship. Everything about this model is, well … stunning. I love its tapered canoe nose among other features. Love those Swiss crosses, too. If you can find one, grab it.
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Old 06-20-2019, 11:31 AM   #593
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America's daylight bombing strategy over Germany was strikingly similar to Bruce Lee doing the Hong Kong phooey chop on Mr. Han in Enter the Dragon. This flying kick to Nazi factory production gave der Führer serious acid reflux, and he understandably wanted payback. In response, Focke-Wulf cheerily stepped up with their newest Fw-190, the A-8 version, which tickled Adolf and his air force no end. In fact, the Luftwaffe so prized the Fw-190A-8 Würger (Shrike) that it demanded Focke-Wulf produce an avalanche of them, this particular mark becoming the single-seat fighter's most manufactured sub-type with over 6,655 airframes fabricated between March 1944 to May 1945. Eight factories going full whack day and night couldn't generate enough for Germany's dizzy needs.

Based on the previous A-7 version, the A-8 lumbered the same armament, two 13mm machine guns in the fuselage rather than the 7.7mm weapons of the A-1 through A-6 sub-types; some sub-variants hefted two 20 mm. cannon. In addition it wore thicker armor around the front annular cowling and its oil tank and featured a C3-injection Erhöhte Notleistung emergency boost system, which gunned its power to 1,953 hp in short bursts. This system sprayed additional fuel into the fuel/air mix, cooling it, allowing higher boost pressures, but at the cost much higher fuel consumption. Focke-Wulf also fitted the A-8 with a paddle-bladed wooden propeller easily identified by its wide blades with curved tips more able to chew into thinner air where bombers flew. The bird also featured a new bulged canopy, more like the P-51's Malcolm hood than a bubble top, providing improved sideways and forward vision, developed for the F-2 ground attack model but now seen on A-8s, F-8s and G-8s.

Further, Focke-Wulf relocated the radio equipment forward just behind the pilot to accommodate a 30 US gal. internal fuel tank to partly offset the additional fuel usage. The manu added a fuel filler to the port side, below the rear canopy, plus a rectangular radio access hatch to starboard. A large round hatch was installed into the lower fuselage to access the new C-3 tank, and the pilot's oxygen bottles were repositioned aft and positioned around this hatch. The Morane "whip" aerial for the Y-Verfahren (IFF) was fitted under the port wing, just aft of the wheel well.

The end result was a fighter that went homicidal on B-17s and B-24s, fearless in the face of gale-force defensive fire. It could get in relatively close, brave the gazillion 50 cal. machine guns trained on it, and let loose with megadeath canon fire (especially dreaded Minegeschoss rounds) that snuffed out more than a few bombers. The fighter also displayed an amazing roll rate, great energy retention, and a massive ammo pool. But it also displayed a poor turn rate, effectively exterminating any chance of it dogfighting. Other issues included poor maneuverability at low speeds, and its climb rate was underwhelming. If a Fw-190A-8 got caught in a Mustang's cross hairs, it was usually dead meat.



Josef "Pips" Priller (the pilot of the model featured above)

By the end of May 1944, JG26 was nothing like the deadly organization it was at the turn of the New Year. Five months of tangling with scrappy 8th Air Force P-51D Mustangs during Operation Argument (the strategic bombing campaign designed to knock out the Luftwaffe prior to the invasion of Europe) had driven the Geschwader to its knees. Three Gruppen had slugged it out with the 8th Air Force and suffered horrendous losses, especially among newer pilots (called Nachwuchs, "new growth"), owing to abbreviated training. Many leaders, among them III Gruppe’s Kommandeur “Wutz” Galland—youngest brother of the redoubtable Adolf—were killed in these battles along with other Staffel and Rotte officers.

Thus, with a forecast of bad weather the first week of June 1944, Geschwader Kommodore Oberst Josef "Pips" Priller sent pilots of II Gruppe to Mont de Marsan near Biarritz for a week's leave. I and III Gruppen were ordered to move inland on June 5, their ground echelons still on the road early June 6, 1944. As dawn rose that morning, the Lille command post awakened Priller with a phone call. The Allies had dropped paratroopers on the Cherbourg peninsula and inland from the Normandy beaches. 5th Jagddivision ordered Priller to move the Geschwader headquarters to Pas de Calais to counter the attack. At 0800 under drawn, leaden skies, Priller and his longtime wingman, Unteroffizier Heinz Wodarczyk, mounted their two Fw-190A-8s and took off to reconnoiter the invasion beaches.

With Wodarczyk hanging off his right wing, Priller headed west at an altitude of 330 feet. East of Abbeville, he spotted several formations of Spitfires and ducked into a cloud bank, turning northwest. Moments later the two broke from the clouds just south of the British invasion beach (code-named Sword), where Priller beheld the largest armada in history, inbound invasion barges plowing toward the beaches as far as the eye could see.

With a shouted “Good luck!” to Wodarczyk, Priller winged into a dive above Sword Beach at 400 m.p.h. and dropped to an altitude of 50 feet, Wodarczyk on his tail. British troops scattered while ships opened up on the two fighters, anti-aircraft booming so loudly that troops on the ground couldn't hear Priller's 20mm cannon strafing them. Six seconds later the two Fw-190s shot for the clouds and vanished, completing the most celebrated mission in JG 26's history. By that afternoon, I and III Gruppen had flown the majority of the 172 sorties flown by the Luftwaffe on June 6—against 14,000 sorties by the Allies.

Remarkably, six Jagdgeschwadern remained in Germany, 17 having flown to northwestern France to counter the invasion. Had all these units combined over France, their numbers would have totaled over 1,000 fighters, which likely would have tested Allied air forces to the max. Much to the USAAF's credit, the loses it inflicted on Luftwaffe warbirds in the preceding months sapped Germany's operational strength to 289 fighters. What remained of the Jagdwaffe would die over the next two months, outnumbered 100:1, out flown by better-trained, more experienced Allied pilots.

On June 7, Priller scored his 97th and 98th victories while pilots of I and II Gruppen scored 8 for two losses. The next day, after the weather lifted, Priller led a strafing mission against the beaches. On June 10, Priller scored his 99th kill, a P-38 in a low-level dogfight.

On June 12, headquarters ordered Priller to make an early morning sweep northwest of Caen. Leading Fw-190s of II/JG 26 and III/JG 54, and Bf-019s of III/JG 26, he received instructions to change course and attack formations of heavy bombers heading inland. He dived and fired at a group of B-17s to no effect. In the distance he spotted a formation of B-24 Liberators and winged toward them instead, striking one Liberator's cockpit and two left engines. As he dove away, the bomber plunged out of formation with three engines on fire. As Priller headed inland, the B-24 strained for the beach. As the Liberator's three engines died, Captain Billy J. Preston, the navigator, reported the bomber was over friendly turf and bailed out through the bomb bay. The pilot, Capt. John C. Freemore, held the bomber level for several more minutes until the forth engine quit and bailed out with the remaining crew. Unluckily, Preston jumped too soon, right into a German encampment and was taken prisoner. The rest of the crew landed safely behind Allied lines. Paradoxically, Preston survived the war, but the crew was killed three weeks later in an unrelated crash in England.

This B-24 marked Priller's 100th victory, all of them scored on the Western Front in the Battle of France, the Battle of Britain, and the Channel Front battles. At the end of June, Hilter awarded him the Swords to the Knight’s Cross, the second and last JG 26 pilot to be so decorated.

Priller scored one more victory at the end of 1944 and survived the war, leaving JG 26 shortly after Operation Bodenplatte to become Inspector of Day Fighters in the West. His record of five years’ continuous combat service on the toughest front of the war remained unequaled by any other Nazi pilot.


Not a whole lot to say about Hobby Master Fw-190s except that they're superlative, and I can't find much to fault about them. On earlier versions, HM should have hired somebody who knew their way around an airbrush, specifically when painting mottling. Other manus do a reasonably good job with mottling, so why can't Hobby Master? Still, HM's Fw-190s are worth owning, so buy one or two if you haven't already.
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Old 06-26-2019, 11:15 AM   #594
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Until the F-86 Sabre figured out how to kill it, the MiG-15 was something of a hobgoblin in the fall of 1950, a shiver of fear running down the spine of all U.S. fighters then operational. It was fast and hard-hitting; but for all its nimbleness, this tubby wubby little jet wasn’t designed to dog fight: Mikoyan-Gurevich created it to hack B-36 Peacemakers to bits over the Soviet Union at 45-50,000 feet on its first pass. Yet these swept-wing trolls caused more than a few heartburns among American flyboys and won for itself grudging respect in the doing.

From a performance standpoint, the F-86 and MiG-15 (or "Fagot," NATO's designation, not mine) were more or less evenly matched. Both had strengths and shortcomings: The MiG was lighter and boasted of 1,000 pounds more thrust, translating into a 1000 feet per minute higher climb rate, 40 knot faster airspeed, and a higher ceiling of 51,000 ft. Higher altitude theoretically gave MiG pilots time to choose if or when to engage in combat, though real-world circumstances deflated that advantage. Armament included three nose-mounted autocannons, a 37 mm N-37D and two 23 mm NR-23 cannon, both able to inflict death-row damage with one hit. The trade-off was, these cannons were tailored to kill lumbering American bombers, not fast, nimble fighter jets, and thus carried relatively few rounds, not a good thing in a protracted fight. And they were slow as molasses, pounding away with a significantly lower muzzle velocity than their American counterparts: hitting a Sabre was challenging even for the best commie pilots.

In contrast, the Sabre's armament was better suited for air-superiority. The F-86 packed six M3 .50-caliber machine guns, faster-firing versions than those on the North American P-51 Mustang. These routinely processed MiGs into scrap, plus the Sabre's sizeable ammo load made it easier to lead targets, assisted by tracer rounds. Even better, the F-86 packed the AN/APG-30 radar gunsight that made killing targets easy-peasy. All a pilot had to do was center the MiG in his gunsight, squeeze the trigger, and bam—the MiG went bye-bye. Besides that, American pilots were far better trained than their opponents (but for Russian pilots) and wore G suits that kept them conscious in tight turns.

What’s more, longer range capacity kept Sabres in the fight. F-86s flew hundreds of miles to Mig Alley, fought engagements at full power, and returned home with gas to burn. Their counterparts, in contrast, frequently withdrew from combat owing to dry tanks though relatively close to base. If Sabres hightailed it home, Migs usually didn't pursue for lack of go-juice. Longer legs served as a force multiplier, crucial because no more than 150 Sabres were available for combat at any one time, MiGs outnumbering them 3 to 1.

Sergei Komarenko, a Soviet ace with 1 Korean and 12 WW2 victories, described combat between Sabres and MiGs thusly: "The Sabre was the most dangerous threat to my friends and I in Korean skies. Our MiG-15 and the Sabre belonged in the same class, similar types with similar performance. They differed only in that the MiG had an advantage in rate of climb at altitude, while the Sabre was superior in maneuvering, especially at lower levels. The fight, as a rule, was decided in the first attack. After the first pass, we reached for altitude, while the Sabres rushed for the ground. Each tried to reach an altitude where it held a distinct advantage, and thus the battle faded." (And it wasn't just the Sabres that had a field day. On November 18, 1952, US Navy Lieutenant Royce D. Williams of VF-781, flying an F9F-5 Panther (considered inferior to the Fagot), singlehandedly outfought and outflew four Russian-flown MiG-15s, shooting down the lot. When Williams landed back aboard USS Oriskany, sailors counted 184 23mm hits in the Panther, one 37mm hole located 12 inches from the main spar and 18 inches from the engine, far too close for comfort. As it was, the Panther was beyond salvage, and the crew pushed it overboard.)

Considering the MiG-15 wasn't a dog-fighter but a serial bomber-killer, it did a yeoman job against its American rival. The Fagot put paid to B-29 raids over North Korea and generally gave the USAF a black eye (though certainly not a knock-out punch). US pilots claimed 792 MiG-15s shot down. Divide that by the 78 Sabre losses admitted by the USAF and you get an overall kill ratio of 10:1. Recent research, however, suggests this ratio was closer to 4:1, taking into account newly released Russian combat records and supplemental considerations.

I’m not sure what to say except Hobby Master did itself proud with this winged hellion, a tribute to Russian aviation prowess and British engine knowhow. She’s a bruiser and looks the part, a model you might consider buying (if you can find it).
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Old 06-27-2019, 09:20 AM   #595
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Alexander Kartveli, the genius behind the P-47 Thunderbolt, dreamed big, dared big, and ate big, often mirrored in his aircraft designs. Attempting to produce a workable turbojet-powered replacement for the Thunderbolt but flopping, Kartveli took a crack at a new aircraft, streamlining the fuselage and installing an axial compressor turbojet instead—which seemed a good idea at the time, but the design stumbled from the get-go.

It mostly had to do with power, or the lack of it. The engine, the General Electric TG-180 axial turbojet (Allison J35), produced merely 3,000 pounds of propulsion, not enough to push grandma up a hill in a shopping cart. And second, wind tunnel tests revealed longitudinal instability and stabilizer buckling at high speeds. These flusterbate results forced Mr. K back to the drawing board, who designed and tested yet a third prototype designated the XP-84A, which mounted a more muscular J35-GE-15 powerplant.

The Air Force liked Kartveli’s new fighter, but it now demanded the warbird be able to escort bombers to and from their targets, necessitating a boost in range and weapons. Republic obliged with wingtip fuel tanks hauling 226 U.S. gallons each and six .50-caliber M2 Browning machine guns, four in the nose and one in each wing root. Everything seemed to be coming together with F-84Bs until the 14th Fighter Group, based at Dow AFB, Bangor, Maine, were forced to limit maximum speed to Mach 0.8 owing to control-reversal glitches and fuselage skin issues. To complicate matters, technicians started to call the new jet the "Mechanic's Nightmare" owing to an acute parts shortage. Perhaps worse, the Air Force ground all F-84Bs on May 24, 1948, thanks to structural failures, swiftly followed by the grounding of F-84Cs just then coming off the production line.

Things looked positively evil for Republic until the new F-84D entered service in early 1949, which favorably addressed these faults. This version featured thicker aluminum wing skin, a winterized fuel system capable of using JP-4 fuel, and a more robust J35-A-17D engine. Engineers also fitted small triangular fins to the outer side of the wing tanks to redress structural failure induced by excessive wing torque during high-G maneuvers. Against the F-80 Shooting Star, the F-84 could carry a heavier bomb load, had better high-altitude performance, was faster, and could fly farther.

By the time the Korean War rolled around, the F-84E took the stage, a bomb-toting version; but its takeoff performance was dreadful. During hot Korean summers lumbered with a full combat load, the F-84 habitually required 10,000 ft of runway to takeoff, even with four rocket-assisted take-off (RATO) bottles going full blast, each providing 1,000 pounds of thrust for 14 seconds. The dust and choking rocket smoke these pyrotechnics produced blinded jets following behind.

On the upside, the F-84 could quickly achieve its Mach 0.82 limit at full throttle at low altitude. On the downside, if the jet exceeded Mach at low altitude, it would cause a violent pitch-up, twisting and shattering the wings. Fly faster at or above 15,000 ft and the fighter would shudder severely. When engaged with MiG-15s, Thunderjet pilots found this speed limitation a real bummerama, unable to turn tight enough to escape. Jacob Kratt, the only F-84 pilot to score two victories in one fight, achieved his second victory by deliberately flying his F-84 into pitch-up, which the pursuing MiGs couldn't match, one crashing. Luckily for Kratt, his airplane survived and got home but suffered buckling so badly the base junked it.

Still, this little jet rendered yeoman's service bombing and strafing the dookie out of North Korean and Chinese troops. By the end of the Korean War, 27 July 1953, the F-84 had flown over 86,000 sorties, dropped tens of thousands of tons of bombs, and fired tens of thousands of rockets. At least 335 Thunderjets were lost in the doing, over half to accidents and the rest to ground fire.

Other F-84Gs users included Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Iran, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, and even Yugoslavia. A number of European nations used the F-84E or F-84G in the reconnaissance role, camera pods replacing the wing tanks.

Republic built a total of 4,457 Thunderjets including the three prototypes. Portugal was the last operator, which phased out its F-84Gs in 1976.


I wish I knew what happened to SkyMax models, an affiliate of Hobby Master years ago. For my money, SM models were/are just as accurate and deftly rendered as any made. These days they're a challenge to find; those who own them count themselves lucky. I'm particularly impressed with SM's nimble painting skills, especially conspicuous on the F-84’s canopy braces (something I couldn't duplicate in a thousand years). If you can find a SkyMax F-84G Thunderjet for sale, buy it.
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Old 06-27-2019, 08:28 PM   #596
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The Saab JAS-39 Gripen is a striking, Nordic bombshell, no two ways about it. She's the fighter equivalent of a Hollywood babe, slim, shapely, blond—yummy. But contrary to popular belief, this little ice princess isn't entirely Swedish, wasn't solely spawned by Scandinavian aeronautics. In fact, Argentina comically snubbed the jet because British components are sprinkled throughout.

Sweden started developing the Gripen in 1979 as a replacement for its J-35 Draken and JA-37 Viggen. The basic criterion called for a Mach 2.0-class fighter with good short-field performance able to operate from 2,600ft by 30ft strips (roadways, highways), serviceable far from proper airbases. The aircraft that emerged defined the term “lightweight fighter,” utilizing composite assemblies throughout, about three-quarters the empty weight of an F-16C and nearly half the empty weight of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Dassault Rafale. Added to that, the Gripen’s reduced size and weight not only confer incredible nimbleness, speed, and punch but also ease maintenance.

Interestingly (for engine plant aficionados), General Electric and SAAB partnered up and produced the Volvo-Flygmotor RM12 bypass turbojet engine with afterburner, half-brother to the GE F404J turbofan used on the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet. The SAAB version features a larger fan that outputs more airflow, greater power, and better resistance to bird strikes. GE builds 60% of the engine's components.

The Gripen also features all-moving canard forewings with a 45 degree sweep in addition to cropped delta wings placed for optimum underwing weaponry and fuel tank allowance. A leading-edge flap and two trailing-edge drooping "elevons" enhance the jet’s short-field performance and maneuverability. Two nose strakes generate vortices that increase flight control at high angles of attack.

Unlike the Viggen, the Gripen has no thrust reverser. To compensate, the canard foreplanes tilt almost 90 degrees to help decelerate the fighter in concert with carbon brakes on tricycle landing gear to reduce landing roll. An antiskid systems keeps pilot and plane from piling into snow banks.

Initially, the Gripen came in two variants (the A and B models) that developed into the much-improved C and D versions. These days the Swedish air force operates the even more improved JAS-39E/F Gripen NG that will also likely fly with Brazil’s air force. The E/F variants offer greater range and payload capability plus vastly improved avionics, principally the new British-built Selex Raven ES-05 active electronically scanned array radar. The newest Gripen also features comprehensive networking capabilities.

While complex high-end jet fighters like the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Dassault Rafale, and Eurofighter Typhoon dominate the global fighter market, not every country wants or needs a primo warplane. While some nations unfriendly to the West might opt for Russian or Chinese-built machines, a sizeable market exists for lower cost alternatives like Sweden’s Saab JAS-39 Gripen. More countries, deterred by outrageous price tags, are likely to jump onboard the Gripen bandwagon as advanced derivatives enter production. Saab recently projected that it will likely sell between 300 and 450 jets over the next two decades.


Altaya isn't particularly known for producing top-tier models, but the manu did a credible job with its 1/72 jet aircraft line, including the Gripen. Regrettably, this model is, as are most of Altaya's jet series, all but extinct though definitely worth the trouble of finding. If you're into Nordic jets, this one's a must-have.
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Old 06-28-2019, 09:42 AM   #597
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The P-61 Black Widow was one of the baddest wicked-pizza aircraft of WWII, skulking around at night in blackguard guise, slaughtering victims with blizzards of lead. This warbird gushed with potential, a dark beauty who would have played a far more decisive role in the war had she not burst on the scene too late.

I can’t stress that point enough: for all the Black Widow's spooktacular artillery and mindboggling flying aptitude, she came too late to make a decisive difference, and her unremarkable kill numbers prove it. Despite the fact that she truly was a lunatic, flesh-eating carnivore that devoured most enemy night fighter that crossed its path, besting fighters one third its size and weight, the problem lay with its late arrival to the war when enemy night fighters were few and far between. The P-61 downed only 127 enemy aircraft (18 of which were V-1 Buzz Bombs) for just over a year’s service. The simple fact being, you can’t shoot down aircraft if they aren’t there. To muddy the waters further, Black Widow crews had difficulty confirming kills: one P-61 dispatched three German bombers in 1944 before receiving official credit for one. Other crews reported similar problems at night, suggesting the bird’s kill numbers were actually far higher than reported. So it wasn’t the bird’s fault: she just came too late to the party and didn’t get the credit she deserved.

It took the British to kick-start America's interest in night fighters, the USA shielded by two oceans from cannibal-corpse Germans and Japanese and perceiving no need for the like. The RAF enjoyed no such luxury, however, and straightaway clashed with Hitler’s maniacal military machine, swapping day for night attacks to survive. The Brits were desperate for a night-fighter that could loiter for at least seven hours, fly high, and heft enough firepower to liquidate bombers before they reached England. Plus it needed radar. Thus the RAF approached Northrop for such an aircraft in 1940, Northrop responding with a unique machine that met these expectations sans turbo-superchargers (born of a concern they would escalate fuel consumption and limit loiter times). Seemed like a good idea at the time, but the lack of superchargers impeded the plane’s speed and reduced its ceiling. So by the time the warbird finally entered service, the British already possessed a warbird that was an extremely potent night-fighter (read: de Havilland Mosquito). Undaunted, Northrop made a few tweaks and modifications, and the P-61 became a honking man-eater and favorite among American air crews.

The P-61 was all-metal twin boom design with a crew of three: pilot, gunner and radar operator. It was massive for a fighter, armed with four 20 mm Hispano forward-firing cannons in the belly and four 0.50 caliber machine guns mounted in an upper rotating dorsal turret. The guns sat behind the cockpit far enough to shield the pilot’s night vision from gun flash. The warbird featured tricycle landing gear, full-span retractable flaps, and an internal fuel capacity of 646 gallons. External racks could carry up to four 1,600 lb bombs or drop tanks.

As the P-61 evolved, Northop swapped its 18-cylinder Pratt & Whitneys for 2,250 horsepower versions that sustained airspeeds of 350 mph and a 33,000-foot ceiling. And though the remotely operated General Electric top gun turret looked savage, Northrop eliminated it from about half the P-61s in production owing to consequent tail-buffeting issues. The pièce de résistance was the bird’s nose-mounted airborne microwave radar, a spinning, 30-inch scanner-receiver dish antenna. Opposed to long-wave radar plagued by ground echoes at low altitude, the shorter wavelength unit offered improved accuracy, guiding interceptors to within 100 yards of a target in total darkness.

American pilots prized the bird. The Black Widow could perform all manner of aerobatics with greater agility than many contemporary fighters and was near impossible to stall. Crews could maintain full control on one engine even when the aircraft was fully loaded, and it could slow-roll into a dead engine, a fatal maneuver for most twin-engined aircraft. Plus it could turn on a dime.

The 422nd Night Fighter Squadron (the "Green Bats") was the first to fly the P-61 in Europe, May 23, 1944; the 425th was the second. Unhappily for both squadrons, the Widow arrived too late to take part in the D-Day invasion on June 6th, both deployed to chase and destroy dreaded V-1 “Buzz Bombs” instead. In the Mediterranean theater, the 414th received its P-61s on December 20th and straightaway shot down five German aircraft.

It didn’t take long, though, for the Black Widow's to demonstrate its shortcomings. Germany produced some of the fastest aircraft of the war, among them the Messerschmitt 410. Ground Control Intercept (GCI) directed Lt. Van Neiswender, piloting the Black Widow Daisy Mae, toward a bogey, an Me-410. The Hornet did a half-roll and dove straight for the woods, whereupon the P-61 pursued at full throttle but lost radar contact as the German accelerated to 400 mph (644 km/h). Overtaxed, the Widow's tail cone detached and spiraled to the ground, a common failure among power-diving P-61s. After three hours, Neiswender returned to base with nothing to show for his trouble. The most productive single night of the war occurred on April 11, 1945, when P-61s 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.

After American forces secured Guadalcanal in late 1942, military planners became aware that the American stronghold sat within striking distance of many Japanese bases. Circumstances demanded night air cover, which B-25s, P-40s, P-38s and P-70s adapted as night-fighters strained to accommodate. It wasn’t until May 1944 when the P-61 reached Pacific squadrons, finished in olive drab and equipped with the top turret, which most crews chucked. Up ‘til then, G4M bombers pretty much ruled the night skies, flying higher than pursuing P-70s. This changed on June 30th when a lone Betty pestered the airfield on Saipan and Lieutenant Dale Haberman, flying a Widow, observed it on radar. Haberman drew near, angled his P-61, then raked the bomber with 20 mm bursts. The Betty exploded like a gargantuan artillery shell, the first of 16 kills for the 6th NFS flying P-61s.

On July 7, GCI directed Flight Lieutenant Own Wolf and Radio Officer (RO) Lieutenant Byron Allain toward a bogey flying west of Owi Island. Wolf continued westerly through a rain squall until he picked up the Mitsubishi Ki-46 “Dinah” twin-engine bomber from maximum range. Catching up and positioning himself right behind, Allain fired four the 0.50 caliber machine guns as Wolf hosed it with 20 mm cannon fire. The enemy's starboard engine burst into flames as seconds later the fuselage exploded into a ball of flame, crashing into the ocean.

On the night of August 14, 1945, the Pacific-based crew of Lady in the Dark acquired a Nakajima Ki-43 fighter on airborne radar and chased it down to water level, where it crashed near Ie Shima and exploded—one of the final aerial kills of World War II. Captain Jack Killson scored the most kills in a P-61, 18 total.

Contrary to the notion that plunging into darkness and spoiling for a fight was extraordinarily dangerous, statistics proved it was actually safer than daylight flying. The loss rate for all night fighters was just one-half of one percent. All in all, the ol’ Widow was a cutthroat killer, a merciless murderer of Axis warbirds. Had it taken the stage a year earlier, it likely would have become a legend. But as it was, the aircraft simply didn’t have enough victims to slaughter.


I’ll just say it: I’m not a raving Air Force 1 fan. Though my three AF1 Black Widows are welcome, each suffers from a filmy canopy that doesn't particularly impress. Still, considering nobody else produces a zinc P-61, I recommend them to anybody wishing to flesh out his/her USAAF night-fighter collection.
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Old 06-28-2019, 04:43 PM   #598
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Some historical scholars insist that had fate been more generous to the Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate (Allied codename "Frank”), this Japanese samurai would have easily disemboweled its arch rivals, the Hellcat, Corsair, and Mustang, death on demand. And given this warbird’s potential, such bombast doesn’t seem so absurd. Others disagree, however, contending that despite appearances, the fighter simply didn’t have the chops, siting its wonky engine and other niggling concerns. But whichever side you favor, there's no question the fighter was superlative in many ways, especially in the hands of skillful pilots. The Hayate was easily the fastest fighter in the Imperial Japanese military and was utterly lethal with two 30mm and two 20mm cannons. It was also fleet-footed, able to do the cha-cha with its foes and come away grinning.

Had fortune not stuck a finger in the Ki-84’s eye, history might have gone differently. But as it was, production quality suffered appallingly in later models, notably after fleets of B-29s smashed Nakajima factories to kindling. To make good on loses and boost production, assembly lines adopted severe, sometimes idiotic, shortcuts that ultimately trashed the Hayate’s performance. The fighter’s irascible Sakae radial engine, dearth of high-grade avgas, landing gear that dependably buckled, and a drought of top-drawer pilots also added to its woes. Yet with all that stacked against it, the Ki-84 still proved a menacing foe.

Part of the Hayate’s mythos began at Akeno Fighter Army Flying School, where the prototype flew rings around a Ki-44 and a loaned Focke-Wulf Fw 190A-5. Performance disparity between the new fighter and its competition was so striking that student pilots and instructors bubbled with praise, convinced the new mount would eviscerate enemy warbirds with one merciless slash. And by the summer of 1944, the Ki-84 appeared to do just that. Going mano a mano with P-47 Thunderbolts and P-51 Mustangs of the US 14th Air Force for five consecutive weeks, the Hayate proved hellacious. Both combatants staggered away, the USAAF claiming victory; but the Ki-84 had proved it was a sizzlin’, salty assassin not to be treated lightly.

Impressed with this promising samurai, Hideki Tojo himself felt the fighter could butcher USN aircraft over Leyte and humiliate the American colossus. But this vision proved delusional as so many of his stratagems did: reliable early-production Ki-84s thrived under brutal combat conditions; but following the destruction of Nakajima’s Ha-45 engine and secondary Ki-84 assembly lines, quality took a nose dive. The number of serviceable Franks plummeted, many crashing en route to island garrisons or shortly after they arrived. By the third week in November ‘44, Philippine JAAF strength plunged to 21%, slipping further in December. By the end of the battle for the Philippines, Ki-84 units could scarcely mobilize.

Still, not all Franks were dreck. It’s a tribute to Japanese design and engineering that despite severe production challenges, the Ki-84 became the most effective Japanese single-seat fighter over the Home islands. It held its own against Allied fighters (when it worked) and inflicted severe damage on B-29 squadrons (until the bomber changed from daylight operations to night bombing).

Would the Hayate have won the war given more favorable circumstances? In my opinion, nope, not a chance. But it would have given the USAAF and US Navy pause for thought and possibly forced a change in tactics.


Oxford's Ki-84, though clearly not a masterpiece, might prove a welcome addition to Japanese fighter aficionados. Few manus produce[d] one (WarMaster made another), making the model all the more desirable. I recommend Oxford’s version to collectors who can overlook imperfection.
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Old 06-28-2019, 04:53 PM   #599
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Tons of WWII enthusiasts insist the P-51D was the preeminent fighter of WWII, sighing its war record and superlative performance. Other impassioned devotees are equally zealous about the Spitfire or Fw-190D or Corsair or Ki-84 Hyate (among other meritorious warbirds), contending they deserve that illustrious distinction. Yet, while the P-51 went fisticuffs over European and Pacific skies, the ape-man Republic P-47 Thunderbolt proved itself the real god of war.

Georgian-born (that’s south of Russia for you geography-challenged guys) aircraft designer Alexander Kartveli originally envisaged the P-47 as a featherweight interceptor. Republic (previously the Seversky Corporation) intended to muscle-up its P-43, which had served tranquilly in the U.S. Army Air Corp. But the war in Europe blew that notion away, exposing the need for a screamin’, chest-pounding gorilla of a warplane, forcing the company to shift gears. The “Jug” (short for “Juggernaut”) rolled out on May 6, 1941.

By any standard, the P-47 was immense, three feet wider than the P-51 and four feet longer. At more than 10,000 pounds empty, it was nearly 50 percent heavier than the Mustang and nearly twice the weight of the British Spitfire. In fact, the Thunderbolt was among the heaviest single-engine aircraft of WWII (sharing this distinction with the three-seat Grumman Avenger). Despite its serious bulk, the P-47’s 18-cylinder, 2,600-horsepower Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engine (the same power plant jamed into the Vought Corsair and Grumman Hellcat) supplied the Jug with speed equal to its charismatic hangar mate, the Mustang: Both could bogie at around 440 mph (700 km/h). But the Thunderbolt, lamentably, had no legs (not unlike the Spitfire): while the P-47 could reach altitudes in excess of 40,000 feet, its range of just over 800 miles (1,300 km) was half that of the P-51. And as the old saying goes: What good are ye if you can’t show up to the fight?

In this case, plenty. With four .50 caliber machine guns jabbed into each wing, the Thunderbolt whammed enemy warplanes and ground targets to scrap. Its interior stores could hold 3,400 rounds (the Mustang’s six guns could cram only 1,800), allowing the P-47 to spew molten lead for 30 seconds straight. While the Jug was a little clumsy against more nimble planes, it was a hellbeast when diving on (or “bouncing”) them with all guns blazing. It was even more effective strafing and bombing ground targets, able to heft as much as 3,000 pounds of external ordnance, about half the payload of a B-17 Flying Fortress. When equipped with 4.5-inch M8 rockets, the Jug possessed firepower equal to a battery of 105 mm howitzers.

Jug pilots idolized the brute. Not only could it absorb a shedload of damage, but the cockpit was as spacious and comfy as a living room, the bubble canopy, added to D-model variants, furnishing exceptional visibility. Ultimately the plane’s safety record was nothing short of astonishing: only 0.7 percent of all Thunderbolts were lost in action.

And here’s where things gets interesting. As proof that the Thunderbolt actually was the USAAF’s true King Kong, the warbird flew more than half a million sorties in Europe and the Pacific, claiming nearly 4,000 enemy aircraft, 6,000 armored vehicles, 9,000 trains, and 86,000 trucks. Also, the fact that American Thunderbolt aces achieved remarkable results in the bird should surprise no one: P-47 top guns included Francis “Gabby” Gabreski (28 kills), Robert S. Johnson (27 kills) and David C. Schilling (22.5 kills). Republic produced more than 15,600 P-47s between 1941 and 1945, most of them conducting bomber escort and/or close air support missions in every theatre of the war.

Back at the ranch, Republic tweaked the mighty Jug until it set a speed record of 505 mph (810 km/h), an achievement that remained unchallenged by a piston-engine aircraft until 1989. In 1942, the company announced that its plots had smashed the ‘sound barrier’ during dive tests, though naysayers questioned the claim. Two years later the company produced M model Thunderbolts with supercharged engines that reached emergency speeds of 473 mph (760 km/h). The USAAF deployed these to England to intercept V1 Buzz Bombs and swat German jets.

America principally operated P-47s, but Thunderbolts served elsewhere, too, more than 800 flying with the RAF and Commonwealth air forces. Free France flew nearly 500 of the aircraft, and 400 Jugs supported Uncle Joe Stalin’s air force under Lend Lease, principally as interceptors. The Russians were suitably impressed with their ginormous mounts, dubbing them (as close as accuracy and propriety allow) the “gargantuan engorged banana.”

Some collectors have trashed Hobby Master's 1/48 P-47D; but I’m here to tell ya, it’s a terrific model. The proportions are right, and it oozes verisimilitude (look it up—great word). I especially love the engine’s semi-blown cowl flaps. The model itself is professionally rendered (love that checkerboard motif), and the emblems are spot on. So if you want a great looking T-Bolt on your team, grab this one.
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Old 06-29-2019, 08:28 AM   #600
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In a nutshell, the MiG-31 "Foxhound" is a roid monkey, a knuckle-dragging psycho monster that doesn’t take prisoners, specifically speedy B-1 American bombers penetrating Russian territory low and fast. It's bigger, badder, and far more ruthless than its elder brother, the MiG-25 "Foxbat," posing intractable problems for any air force fixing to sneak past the russkies' backdoor. It’s death on speed dial.

The West had no clue the MiG-31 even existed let alone roll off the Soviet Gorky Plant assembly lines in 1979. Reports had it that a variant of the MiG-25 was whooshing around the Soviet Union's skies, but intelligence services were foggy on the details and weren't overly concerned. Indeed, the new "Foxhound" looked much like the MiG-25 if not more burly; but nobody grasped it was a totally new beastie with crazy berserk capabilities.

The MiG-25 and ‘31 bear a family resemblance, it's true, sharing similar wings, gargantuan side intakes, empennage, and general boxy shape, owed in part to Soviet aviation industry practices. As customary, the Central Aerodynamic and Hydrodynamic Institute (TsAGI for short) defined the jet's basic configuration and passed it to a design bureau (in this case MiG), which developed and perfected the layout, from whence manufacturers built the aircraft. Both jets are dedicated interceptors that can catch and annihilate marauding enemy aircraft far above earth. And, derisorily, both suck as dogfighters, clumsy at high-speed or tight turns. But that's where the similarities end.

The MiG-31 features efficient and muscular low-bypass-ration turbofan engines able to push the brute to Mach 1.23 at low altitudes and Mach 2.83 at high altitudes, way faster than the Foxbat. It also carries both a phased array antenna and Zaslon passive electronically-scanned array radar, which paint as many as 24 individual targets at 200 km and lock on to eight simultaneously. Which means if you fly within 124 miles of a MiG-31, you’re dead meat, blistering speed and/or stealth technology notwithstanding. In addition, the Foxhound can effortlessly detect and destroy bombers flying nap-of-the-earth missions (look-down/shoot-down capability), which sort of cramps the B-1 Lancer’s style.

Payload was modified to a more "multi-role" capability, featuring medium-range AA-12 "Adder" "fire-and-forget" air-to-air active radar homing missiles and air-to-ground and AS-17 "Krypton" anti-radiation weaponry. The more capable R-37 (AA-13 "Arrow") replaced the R-33 (AA-9 "Amos") long-range missile, increasing target ranges from 62 to 93 miles. And more powerful digital processors, onboard computers, and datalinks were installed to enable sharing between multiple aircraft. Or in other words, the Foxhound can take on all comers at a distance, high or low, and walk away smirking.

Only the Russia Air Force, Naval Aviation elements, and the Kazakhstan Air Force operate the type. The former maintains 286 examples with a further 100 in reserve while Kazakhstan operates 33 with 10 awaiting modernization. At one point, Syria ordered eight MiG-31E models but never received them owing to Israeli intervention and/or lack of funding.

Some aficionados believe that Author Craig Thomas based his Cold War-era novel "Firefox" on the MiG-31. In both the book and movie versions, the Firefox is undetectable to Western radar and flies at Mach 5, able to cover some 3,000 miles while the pilot controls the weapons through thought impulse. These abilities (at that time) were pure fantasy but made for exciting reading/viewing.


As of two years or so ago, you could find Altaya’s Foxhound on eBay through Portuguese and Spanish vendors, but supplies have evaporated since then. To date it's the only diecast 1/72 MiG-31 produced (along with its blue-liveried doppelgänger) and has become a must-have model for every Soviet/Russian jet enthusiast.
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