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Old 06-29-2019, 09:25 PM   #601
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The Macchi C.205V Veltro was a genuine thoroughbred, an Italian stallion that cashed in on foreign engine technology, much like the P-51 Mustang with the British Rolls-Royce Merlin powerplant. The Veltro’s marriage of airframe to engine reaped such spectacular results, in fact, that nobody to this day understands why the Italian air ministry subbed it for the Fiat G.55 Centauro and Reggiane Re 2005, inferior fighters by comparison.

The Veltro leaped beyond its progenitor, the MC202 Folgore, ditching the 202's mousy power plant for a German Daimler-Benz DB605 RC58 engine, comparable to pounding a trainload of spinach down Popeye's throat. A pilot could hardly sit in the cockpit without the bird dashing down the runway and bouncing into the sky like a psychopathic angel, excelling the MC202 in every possible way. In fact, when the Veltro was first blooded on April 7, 1943, it gave its enemies the razzies, annihilating 18 Spitfire Vs and Curtiss P-40s for the loss of only two of its own. During the Allied invasion of Sicily, the elite 51 Stormo fighter unit defending Sardegna bagged ten P-40s for the loss of three C205s. By August 2nd facing 3-to-1 odds, two C205Vs shot down five Allied aircraft. The Veltro was Italy's Superman, a sizzling hot fighter with a Mike Tyson fist.

The warbird’s only obnoxious weakness was (which might explain why Regia Aeronautica higher-ups wee-weed on it) its penchant for falling apart. Fighter squadrons counted themselves lucky if half their Veltros were flyable on any given day. But when they were up and running, they were unstoppable: after the Armistice and the creation of Mussolini's National Republican Air Force (ANR), 1st Gruppo’s C205Vs jumped a massive USAAF bomber formation with escorting P-38s and annihilated three Lightnings in seconds.

But the Veltro’s life was brief. Towards the end of May 1944, Macchi production stopped when USAAF bombs wrecked the factory; the last C205V's flew in mid-August 1944. Records show that the C205V destroyed 115 Allied aircraft with a further 45 probables for the loss of 55 C205Vs and 49 pilots killed. Not bad for a flawed super hero.


Though 21st Century 1/32 fighters were plastic, not metal, they were undeniably cool. Whoever designed and produced these models knew what he/she was doing, 'cause most of them were surprisingly accurate and expertly painted. Back in the day you could buy one at Walmart for $16, an extremely profitable investment considering MINT examples today sell anywhere from $69 to $109. You can still find a few on eBay if you're so inclined, but don't wait long. They tend to sell quickly.
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Old 07-01-2019, 03:10 AM   #602
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Originally Posted by Richtofen888 View Post

The Macchi C.205V Veltro was a genuine thoroughbred, an Italian stallion that cashed in on foreign engine technology, much like the P-51 Mustang with the British Rolls-Royce Merlin powerplant. The Veltro’s marriage of airframe to engine reaped such spectacular results, in fact, that nobody to this day understands why the Italian air ministry subbed it for the Fiat G.55 Centauro and Reggiane Re 2005, inferior fighters by comparison.

The Veltro leaped beyond its progenitor, the MC202 Folgore, ditching the 202's mousy power plant for a German Daimler-Benz DB605 RC58 engine, comparable to pounding a trainload of spinach down Popeye's throat. A pilot could hardly sit in the cockpit without the bird dashing down the runway and bouncing into the sky like a psychopathic angel, excelling the MC202 in every possible way. In fact, when the Veltro was first blooded on April 7, 1943, it gave its enemies the razzies, annihilating 18 Spitfire Vs and Curtiss P-40s for the loss of only two of its own. During the Allied invasion of Sicily, the elite 51 Stormo fighter unit defending Sardegna bagged ten P-40s for the loss of three C205s. By August 2nd facing 3-to-1 odds, two C205Vs shot down five Allied aircraft. The Veltro was Italy's Superman, a sizzling hot fighter with a Mike Tyson fist.

The warbird’s only obnoxious weakness was (which might explain why Regia Aeronautica higher-ups wee-weed on it) its penchant for falling apart. Fighter squadrons counted themselves lucky if half their Veltros were flyable on any given day. But when they were up and running, they were unstoppable: after the Armistice and the creation of Mussolini's National Republican Air Force (ANR), 1st Gruppo’s C205Vs jumped a massive USAAF bomber formation with escorting P-38s and annihilated three Lightnings in seconds.

But the Veltro’s life was brief. Towards the end of May 1944, Macchi production stopped when USAAF bombs wrecked the factory; the last C205V's flew in mid-August 1944. Records show that the C205V destroyed 115 Allied aircraft with a further 45 probables for the loss of 55 C205Vs and 49 pilots killed. Not bad for a flawed super hero.


Though 21st Century 1/32 fighters were plastic, not metal, they were undeniably cool. Whoever designed and produced these models knew what he/she was doing, 'cause most of them were surprisingly accurate and expertly painted. Back in the day you could buy one at Walmart for $16, an extremely profitable investment considering MINT examples today sell anywhere from $69 to $109. You can still find a few on eBay if you're so inclined, but don't wait long. They tend to sell quickly.



My "contribution"



https://flic.kr/s/aHskqY2FbC
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Old 07-01-2019, 07:34 AM   #603
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Originally Posted by Grecog70 View Post
Very, very cool, Grecog70!
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Old 07-01-2019, 08:05 AM   #604
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The F-16 Falcon looks insectoid, doesn't it, like a wasp in a hive primed to buzz out and sting the screamo out of anything it crosses? I love its bug-eyed canopy, its gaping maw, the missiles balanced at the tips of its wings. Take this little fighter on and you're farting against thunder.

The Falcon bears the singular distinction of being one of few jet fighters today that's expense efficient. Though it has shortcomings in range and payload compared to, say, the larger twin-engined F-15 Eagle, it also costs half as much—around $18 million in 1999 ($28 million in 2019 dollars). Air Forces around the world grove on that joyful fact, a bang-for-buck ratio that has made it the most popular aircraft in modern military service: out of 4,500 produced, nearly 2,700 currently remain flying for twenty-six countries.

The F-16 was born out of the USAF’s head-scratching experienced in Vietnam. The F-4 Phantom had underperformed against the North Vietnamese Air Force, specifically the MiG-21, owing to embryonic long-range missile technology and borderline dogfighting agility. A group of officers called the "Fighter Mafia" argued that the Air Force had gotten its design priorities all wrong, that a cheap, lightweight airframe that maximized energy for short-range dogfights was far more desirable to another heavy twin-engine fighter like the F-15 Eagle, then under development and considered too reliant on missiles. In the end, simple economics congealed support in the Pentagon for a light fighter concept, the Air Force finally realizing the F-15 was too expensive to equip all of its fighter squadrons. So a "high-low" force mix came into being, the Eagle representing the "high," the Falcon the "low." Two prototypes faced off in competition in 1974, the Northrop YF-17 and the General Dynamics YF-16, the USAF favoring the more responsive '16 while the later evolved into the Hornet family now serving with the US Navy and Marines. The first production F-16As entered service in 1980, joined by the two-seat F-16B variant.

The single-engine F-16 capitalizes on new design technologies that maximize kinematic performance. Its face-melting Pratt & Whitney F100 engine generates a dazzling thrust-to-weight ratio, propelling the super-light jet to twice the speed of sound at high altitude. A bulging bubble canopy provides the pilot an excellent field of view, and the cockpit seat angled back at thirty degrees eases violent G-forces. The Falcon became the first jet fighter to pull nine Gs in a turn—tighter than any other U.S. fighter until the F-22 Raptor.

General Dynamics (now Lockheed Martin) intentionally handicapped the F-16 with aerodynamic instability, which its Flight Control System defeats and manages. This works thanks to the Falcon's once-upon-a-time, revolutionary fly-by-wire control system that interprets the pilot’s controls via an electronic interface. Not only were fly-by-wire controls more reliable but overrode maneuvers that exceeded the F-16's limits. An integrated throttle in the joystick called the Hands-On Throttle and Stick (HOTAS), finesse much smoother pilot operation and has become a standard feature in modern combat aircraft. General Dynamics also designed the Falcon for multirole missions, enabling it to heft up to seventeen thousand pounds of munitions or electronic-warfare gear on its eleven hardpoints, including new generation precision guided weapons such as Maverick missiles and laser-guided bombs. A twenty-millimeter Vulcan cannon provides additional hitting power.

Paradoxically for the Fighter Mafia who had zero faith in guided missile technology, the F-16 arrived just as these weapons vastly improved, which the Falcon's APG-66 doppler radar, Heads Up Display, and targeting computers leverage to deadly effect. Israeli F-15s and F-16As demonstrated this utility in a monumental three-day air battle over the Bekaa Valley against Syrian jet fighters. The Falcons smoked forty-four Syrian MiG-21s and -23s without losing a single jet. A year earlier in 1981, the F-16s proved their flexibility when they blitzed the Osirak reactor in Baghdad with sixteen two-thousand-pound Mark 84 bombs, quashing Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program.

By the mid-1980s, F-16C and two-seat D models entered service, featuring modernized avionics such as liquid-crystal displays and new APG-68 radars that enabled long-range missile engagements with newer AIM-7 Sparrow and impending AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles. Since then, the C and D have both been upgraded with improved radars, GPS-targeted weapon capabilities, and the AIM-9X Sidewinder heat-seeking missile that the pilot can target with a helmet-mounted cuing system.

The U.S. F-16 fleet first saw action in the 1991 Gulf War, where it flew more than thirteen thousand strike missions lumbered with two-thousand-pound bombs and Maverick missiles. F-16s launched the largest air strike ever over downtown Baghdad, and one squadron attacked Iraqi surface-to-air missile batteries with AGM-88 Harm missiles on “Wild Weasel” missions.

The Air Force attempted to replace the A-10 Thunderbolt with the Falcon by equipping F-16Cs and Ds of the 138th Fighter Squadron with Pave Claw thirty-millimeter Gatling cannon pods. Fortunately for the Thunderbolt, the weapon recoil so jolted the lightweight jets that the Air Force abandoned the idea, the A-10 fleet yet again surviving another assassination attempt.
Since the Gulf War, the Falcon has engaged in numerous U.S. and NATO air campaigns over the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Syria, Serbia, and Kosovo. F-16s serving other air forces have also seen action in myriad conflicts, Pakistani F-16s destroying ten Soviet and Afghan aircraft on its border during the 1980s. In 1992, two Venezuelan Falcons shot down two rebel OV-10 Broncos and a Tucano trainer flying for Hugo Chávez.

Analysts estimate that F-16s have trashed seventy-six enemy aircraft while suffering only two losses. Falcons also continue to serve as bomb trucks over Lebanon, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The most sophisticated F-16 in service today is the United Arab Emirates Block 62 F-16Es and Fs. Their conformal fuel tanks greatly extend the Falcon’s range at minimal aerodynamic cost, and their APG-80 Active Electronically Scanned Array radar represents the cutting edge of fighter-borne radar technology. Currently, India is considering an even more advanced Block 70 version, but costs for these newer Falcons is prohibitive.

Due to delays and cost overruns in the F-35 stealth fighter program, the U.S. Air Force reports it will fly its 1,200 F-16s well into the 2040s by stretching the airframe’s service life from eight to twelve thousand hours. By one estimate, the Fighting Falcon costs $22,000 per flight hour to operate compared to $42,000 for a twin-engine F-15.


If you’re into modern jet fighters at all, get yourself a Hobby Master F-16, any variety or type. You’ll love it. The Polish “C” version with the conformal tanks is mad hot, take my word for it.
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Old 07-01-2019, 08:38 PM   #605
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Who doesn't love the McDonnell Voodoo in Canadian livery? Nobody sprays swankier paint jobs on fighter jets than the Canucks.

In lieu of the defunct CF-105 Arrow, the RCAF routinely intercepted bogies entering Canadian airspace with Voodoos. NORAD habitually checked airline flight plans, and if an intruder went unidentified, Voodoos scrambled to investigate. "Unknowns" were frequently Soviet Bear bombers testing NORAD readiness and/electronic measures, a game that both Cold War protagonists played like Chess pros from the early 1950s onward. RCAF/CF-101s conducted numerous Bear intercepts over the years, one occurring on June 26, 1968, when radar detected three bogies between Iceland and Greenland heading for Newfoundland. Two sets of 416 Squadron Voodoos were put on alert, two 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 second pair. Following the scramble horn, the 5-minute crews strapped in and taxied from the barn, lifting off Runway 27 and slewing around to the east. The Russians expected this and flew an immense 100-mile holding pattern over international Atlantic waters, forcing the initial Voodoos to exhaust their fuel and run for Gander.

Pleased with themselves, the Russians then returned to their original track at 35,000 feet. Savvy to this gambit, GCI scrambled the next two Voodoos to see if they could catch the Russians unawares. So when the horn sounded, Pattison and Neeves donned their Mae Wests and parachutes, sprang to their cockpit, and lit the cans. Two and a half minutes later the jet leaped into the air and climbed to its initial vector as the second Voodoo got airborne and caught up. Both jets shot eastward at Mach .85 at 35,000 feet, accelerating to Mach 1.3 over the Gulf of St. Lawrence when Neeves made radar contact with the formation, flying line astern, five miles apart. Just as he selected the leader as his target, the second CF-101 declared "Bingo fuel" (little fuel left) and awaited instructions. Pattison told his wingman to get lost and watched as the jet peeled off for Gander. The remaining Voodoo slid in two miles behind the lead bogie and made a visual ident; and just in case the Bear wanted to duke it out, Pattison armed his stinger missile only to find it was locked up, unable to track and fire.

Pattison and Neeves had intercepted a Russian 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 pulled alongside the bomber's tail, the Canadians observed three animated crewmen brandishing a Playboy magazine foldout from inside their large perspex bubble. 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 wasn’t as cheery. 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 then landed, taxied in, shut down, and debriefed the NORAD guys. Upon reaching Chatham later that day, Pattison executed a victory roll over the field, pitched out, landed, and was greeted a very pleased CO.


All I can say is, do yourself a kindness and grab this model. The Canadians really know how to dress their birds, and Hobby Master were crackerjacks at replicating it. This CF-101 is tuxedo and black tie all the way.
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Old 07-02-2019, 09:42 AM   #606
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a little mistake with polish F-16... you wrote Corgi on the pic.
The HM code is HA3803


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Old 07-02-2019, 09:51 AM   #607
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Have you ever wondered why pilots hung the nickname "Thud" on the F-105? One fond account has it that "Thud" approximated the sound of 50,000 pounds of metal uncontrollably impacting the earth, something Thuderchiefs did with gusto, early models from mechanical failures, later models from SAMs and MiGs. Awesomesauce wise, the single-engine F-105 delivered a greater bomb load than the B-17 and served as a primary attack aircraft over Vietnam with over 20,000 sorties flown, 382 aircraft lost, 62 of those losses being operational (non-combat).

It all started at Republic Aviation in 1951, who designed a successor to the F-84F, the prototype YF-105A first flying in October 1955. The Thud was conceived as an ‘in-house’ private venture, the Republic team studying no less than 108 configurations before finalizing the basic single-seat, single-engine, tactical nuclear strike fighter-bomber version. The handsome warbird was designed to penetrate the Soviet homeland low at high speed and deliver a tactical nuclear bomb with precision. But early on the USAF was forced to ground its new airplane following two fatal accidents owing to engine trouble. Faulty securing and routing of miles of wiring next to hydraulic and fuel lines occasioned chafing, which encouraged shorts and leaks that ultimately sparked fires—not a good thing when you're zipping close to terra firma. And if that weren't enough, the afterburner section of the fuselage overheated, which Republic scrambled to correct with two cooling scoops on either side of the aft fuselage. Given these and other niggling issues, Uncle Sam dramatically dialed down the projected production of 1,500 aircraft to 833.

The airframe incorporated a highly swept short wing and a ‘coke bottle’ shaped fuselage that exploited the ‘area rule’ concept for reduced aerodynamic drag at transonic speeds. It also featured unusual forward-swept air-intake ducts located at the wing root and a ventral fin on the rear fuselage's underside to provide enhanced lateral stability. As the largest single-engine jet ever built, the F-105 stood 19 feet 83/4 inches high, more than 3 feet higher than the hulking, twin-engine F-4 Phantom II. The Thud’s great size and weight demanded a freakishly powerful engine and eventually got the Pratt & Whitney J-75 turbine, the powerplant equivalent of explosive diarrhea, packing a static thrust of 23,000 pounds at sea level, burning JP-4 fuel at a rate of 776 pounds per minute. Water injection increased thrust exponentially.

And if that wasn’t stonking impressive, the F-105 'D' model, the USAF's definitive Thunderchief, packed fancypants electronics able to simultaneously supply position coordinates, ground speed, wind direction, distance to target, and heading. The warbird's R-14A monopulse radar provided all-weather terrain avoidance for pinpoint, low-level bombing missions. And the AN/ASG-19 Thunderstick fire-control system could deliver weapons blind or visual/manual. These advanced electronic gadgets singularized the F-105D as the only aircraft capable of penetrating elaborate Soviet-supplied air defense systems defending North Vietnam.

Thus, USAF bosses chose the F-105 to stare down the barrel of North Vietnamese anti-aircraft batteries for its speed, range, bombload, and accuracy. Moreover, the Thud also had versatility and survivability in spades. On its first mission over Nam, F-105D No. 62-4371 stumbled into enemy ground fire, becoming the first Thunderchief so stricken, stumbling home (but only just), proving the jet could survive considerable punishment. The beast grappled with unbelievably dense Soviet-designed and supplied air-defense systems manned by specialized Chinese and North Vietnamese operators. It also quarreled with hundreds of radar-controlled 57mm, 80mm and 120mm gun batteries too numerous to count strewn across North Vietnam, assisted by Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17 and MiG-21 interceptors flown by North Vietnamese and Soviet pilots. Also, though rarely mentioned, the Thunderchief flew through some of the worst weather on planet earth, which included ‘thunderbumpers’ with tops reaching over 50,000 feet able to bounce fighters like basketballs and undersides so low and thick that punching through them often meant shaking hands with hilltop farmers. Monsoon rains routinely cut visibility to zero.

But despite these and other snarls, Thud pilots persevered. The jet’s Thunderstick bombing and navigation system paid off–in spades, where F-105Ds hauled 12,000-pound bombloads, flew 600 miles Northward from bases deep inside Thailand, plunged down Thud Ridge at Mach 1 while skimming the terrain and dodging SAMs, MiGs, and anti-aircraft artillery, and deposited bombs right on the money. Lighting the afterburner, Thuds hurtled their merry way back to Thailand while making gas stops with Boeing KC-135 tankers.

As a rule, North Vietnamese MiGs hounded Thud pilots approaching or departing a target. But Thunderchief pilots gave as good as they got, downing 27 1/2 MiGs (sharing one with a F-4D Phantom crew). The Thud’s deadly M-61 20mm Vulcan cannon was the weapon of choice, able to spit out rounds at 6,000 per minute; AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles killed the rest.

To give SAM sites a swift kick in the stink wrinkle, Republic equipped F-105F trainers (later upgraded to F-105G specifications) with electronic counter measures (ECM) including radar sensing devices and Anti-radiation Shrike missiles to obliterate radar emplacements. The crew of a 'Wild Weasel' (a pilot and electronic weapons systems officer), locked on to radar-emitting SAM batteries or ZSU-23-4 Shilka self-propelled anti-aircraft systems and gleefully annihilated them—or so went USAF hype. In reality, the commies shot down Wild Weasel crews faster than they could be deployed—until the closing stages of the war.

By 1968, the USAF began to phase out the battle-weary, war-ravaged Thud, the only American aircraft removed from combat owing to high loss rates. On May 25, 1983, the Georgia Air National Guard retired the last Thud from service, the entire Air Force clutching a big hankie.


This is one model I'll never sell. To me she’s both a tribute to the will, heart, and might of the United States Air Force and a testimony against President Lyndon Baines Johnson's certifiably insane Operation Rolling Thunder campaign, which sent hundreds of good men to their needless captivity and/or deaths. Read up on this debacle here to learn just what a twonk Johnson was and how his brainless ploy didn't work.

Notwithstanding, Hobby Master did a slammin’ job its Thunderchief. They say love is blind; and if that’s the case, I’m totally sightless when it comes to the F-105D; I can't fault the model in anyway though others do. If you're looking to complement your USAF Vietnam collection, buy an F-105D.
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Old 07-02-2019, 08:38 PM   #608
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From the outside, the MiG-29M resembles an insatiable, nutzoid shark jonesing to shred, mince and swallow NATO fighters whole. It’s a Soviet-era nightmare that Western air force pilots are eager to shun. But the Fulcrum wasn’t always a man-eater; in fact, earlier versions were more minnow than Jaws, soggy-noodle conflations of fourth-generation engineering married to third-generation hardware.

The MiG-29 began development in 1974 as an advanced lightweight multi-role fighter optimized for primitive, front-line airfield operation. The warbird’s twin RD-33 turbofan engines furnish robust acceleration and a top speed of Mach 2.25—faster than the F-16 but slightly slower than the larger F-15. The ‘29s chief asset was its superlative handling, the ability to outmaneuver the Falcon in both instantaneous and sustained turns (twenty-eight degree per second versus twenty-six). Indeed, NATO F-16 pilots practicing against German Air Force Fulcrums found that at low speeds in short-range dogfights the MiG-29 was supermaneuverable and terribly difficult to catch. It could also attain very high angles of attack without stalling, something the F-16 flyboys wouldn’t even attempt.

Another worrying MiG-29 advantage was its short-range R-73 infrared-guided missile that a pilot could aim and fire through a helmet-mounted sight. Normally a jet must point at an enemy fighter to target it, but the Fulcrum driver needed only look at a target within a frontal arc of sixty degrees and shoot, a capability the U.S. Air Force didn’t acquire until 2003. In addition, the Fulcrum’s seven hardpoints could carry R-27 medium-range missiles and older R-60 types, some MiG-29s upgraded to fire R-77 long-range air-to-air missiles. The ‘29 could also heft up to eight thousand pounds of air-to-ground munitions. Plus, the MiG could fly from unprepared, debris-strewn airstrips, its air intakes protected by FOD flaps that re-route air to gills above the wing strakes.

These features together with other endowments made for a world-beating fighter—on paper at least. But this was mere window dressing on early-to-mid-production Fulcrums, which were hamstrung with older generation limitations, featuring no modern pilot displays, controls, or fly-by-wire avionics. MiG-29 pilots were forced to keep their eyes glued to their instrument panels far more than Western aviators blessed with modern Head’s Up Displays. Further, the throttle wasn’t integrated into the stick, costing Soviet pilots valuable time and efficiency. And the Fulcrum’s sensors were marginal: the jet’s N019 Phazotron pulse-doppler radar having a shorter accurate range (thirty-eight miles) than the missiles the MiG carried. And its infrared sensor (IRST) were likewise limited.

In common with other Soviet-era fighters, the MiG-29 wasn’t durable, either—designed for just two thousand five hundred hours of airframe time compared to six thousand common among U.S. fighters. Thus MiG-29 airframes rapidly fell apart with age and required extensive and expensive maintenance: Malaysia reported it spent $5 million per year per MiG-29 to keep them flying. This same concern so disquieted the German Air force that it retired its entire Fulcrum fleet though the jet was more agile than its F-4 and Tornado hangar mates. Limited range also plagued the MiG-29, unable to fly beyond nine hundred miles on internal fuel and missing in-flight refueling provision. So while the Fulcrum appealed to less-monied countries anxious over border conflicts, it was far less attractive to air forces seeking to project power over distance. Then the MiG-29M came along and changed all that. Or most of it.

The “M” version is a game-changer It’s equipped with the Russian analogue to the AIM-120 missile, the R-77, which is considerably more precise and resistant to EW countermeasures and boasts of a 110km range. Plus, depending on the weapons load, it can carry the Russian K-77 air-to-air missile, featuring a range of 193km and unrivalled accuracy and electronic capabilities. But it doesn’t stop there: the MiG-29M features much improved airframe capabilities. The fighter can fly considerably farther than earlier MiG-29s, plus it carries superior sensors optimized for beyond-visual-range engagements. The jet’s infra-red search-and-track systems (IRST) allow it to scan without emitting a radar signature, making it all the more lethal in medium and short-range engagements.

These enhancements, combined with an 18km operational ceiling, extremely high maneuverability, and low maintenance requirements make it an enormously dangerous adversary. Mikoyan even punched up its airframe lifespan several thousand hours. But unfortunately for MiG, buyers remain few (quite a few potential customers are turned off by the bird’s slightly slower speed and lower ceiling than earlier models). Still, it’s generally conceded that the warbird is a deadly opponent.


I'll just say it: Witty didn't get the respect and awe it deserved. Some collectors snobbishly shunned the manu simply because it didn’t share in Corgi’s or Hobby Master’s or Century Wings’ celebrity. But many Witty models competed well with their rivals and in some cases bettered them. If you can find one of Witty's Mig-29 Fulcums, grab it. They look good, they’re well built, they’re mostly accurate, and they make great additions to Russian/Soviet aircraft collections. The polka dot theme on this particular Indian bird is rather stylish.
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Old 07-03-2019, 09:02 AM   #609
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten


Two schools of thought debate the worth of the MiG-23 Flogger: one side deems it an impressive design, possibly among the best of the Cold War; the other regards it as a skid mark on the underwear of aeronautical history. Back in the day, most Russian pilots regarded the brute as a sturdy weapons platform though not a particularly good dog fighter. Others, like Arab flyboys, were less sanguine, considering it steaming pile of camel flop.

Nobody, however, accused the beast of being attractive. Appearance wise, she was a bucket of smashed crabs, a monster mash of penguin wings, frankenboo fuselage, and googely landing gear. A conical nose capped the jet's radar system, followed by a conventional cockpit and canopy offering ample views forward, above, and to the sides (a raised fuselage spine and high-mounted wings impeded rearward vision). Counter to standard practice, Mikoyan designers relocated the intake inlet to either side of the fuselage aft the cockpit. Behind those the fuselage assumed a tubular look with slab-sides, the empennage consisting of a large single engine exhaust ring, a large-area tapered vertical tail fin emerging from the fuselage spine sporting clipped and swept edges, and strong conventional horizontal tailplanes. A ventral fin was sited just under the engine exhaust housing, and the jet's tricycle landing gear was centered along the fuselage (counter to fitting the main landing gears in the wings—impossible on a swing-wing aircraft). The complex single-wheeled main landing gears retracted into housings along the sides of the fuselage while the twin-wheeled nose landing gear recessed rearwards just under the cockpit floor.

No question, the MiG-23's most noticeable feature was a swept-wing layout that extended from gloves sculpted into the wing roots. This arrangement enabled three flight regimes, namely take-off/landing, cruising, and high-performance speeds while allowing the MiG-23 to heft a potent ordnance load across fuselage, wingroot and underwing weapon stations. Moreover, the MiG-23 offered greater range than its forerunner, the MiG-21. Plus the undercarriage allowed for rough-an-tumble take-offs and landings, a real plus when operating from primitive forward airfields.

To give this bird a one-two punch, Mikoyan-Gurevich installed a twin-barreled 23mm Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-23L cannon loaded with 200 to 260 projectile rounds nested in a GP-9 gun pack under the fuselage, both weapons coupled to the radar, HUD (Heads-Up Display) and gunsight. Six total hardpoints hefted up to 6,600lbs of external stores, including two fuselage stations, two underwing "glove" stations, and two underwing pylons for sundry air-to-air missile systems. A typical interceptor loadout consisted of 2 x AA-7 "Apex" radar/infra-red and 2 x AA-8 "Aphid" short-range infrared missile assortments.

Right from the get-go, the jet was a sensation, Russia's allies shoving each other for first dibs. But the Soviet deemed their swing-wing fighter hot property, not wanting it to fall into Western hands and betray Holy Mother Russia's aeronautical secrets. Ergo, the MiG bureau modified the airframe into two simplified (or "sanitized") export versions, one for Warsaw Pact nations and another for "trusted" Third World export customers, the MiG-23MS and MiG-23MF models respectively. Third-World countries would soon find out the MiG-23MF was a castration fantasy: the MiG-23MS lacked radar warning receivers and decent missiles, a deficit so outrageous that many pilots refused to fly them. In fact, the MS version wanted for so many features found in the Russian variant that it was hellaciously incapable of fighting at all. Syria, Egypt, and Libya finally put out feelers for McDonnell Douglas F-4s and Dassault Mirage 2000s as replacements, vowing to never fly Soviet aircraft again.

Those airmen who did fly the MiG-23 usually chose discretion over valor as typified days into the first Gulf Air War: Iraqi pilots attempted to fly their Floggers to Iran to avoid annihilation. To frustrate this, the U.S. Air Force introduced a permanent BARCAP (BARrier Combat Air Patrol) tasked with patrolling the zone between the Iraq and Iran borders 24/7, four F-15 fighters covering six hour windows until the next tag team spelled them. On Jan. 28, 1991, the “Wolfhounds” of the 32nd TFS (Tactical Fighter Squadron) deployed to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, where Capt. Don “Muddy” Watrous piloted one of four F-15 Eagles. As his flight refueled behind a KC-10 Extender, AWACS reported four bandits running for Iran and supplied coordinates. “Muddy” and his boys winged over and headed straight for the enemy.

Approaching the bogies line abreast, the Americans primed their Sparrows and watched as Watrous fired two missiles toward the nearest MiG-23 but missed. By now the bandits were visible below, whereon “Muddy” jettisoned his three heavy fuel tanks and nosed over, accelerating to supersonic speed. Locking onto the closest bandit, Watrous fired a third Sparrow and missed again. Swearing under his breath, he pickled his last AIM-7 and watched the missile weave toward the enemy jet and hit its right wing, the MiG-23 cartwheeling in hellfire and hitting the ground inverted. The Iraqi pilot never ejected. Few Floggers broke cover for Iran or anywhere else after that. In the meantime, Russian pilots flying top-of-the-line MiG-23s smirked at their silly Arab comrades.


OK, I admit it: I'm not a MiG-23 fan. Despite what Defense analysists think or thought of it, I believe the Flogger was a turd. I suppose if a highly trained Russian flew the best of its type—not an MS version—the bird would have put up a fair-to-middling fight, but otherwise not a chance. As for Hobby Master's rendition, they did a cracking job on it, and I recommend you buy one just to say you did.
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Old 07-03-2019, 07:41 PM   #610
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten


If you’re a Messerschmitt Bf-109F (F for “Friedrich”) aficionado, you’re among many fanciers who consider it the best of its type, airframe, engine, and overall performance wise. Quite a few Luftwaffe aces, including Erich Hartmann, Hans-Joachim Marseille, Werner Mölders, and Darth Vader, judged it better than the Gustav and Kurfurst versions that followed it.

Shortly after introducing the Bf-109E, Willie Messerschmitt proceeded to tweak and improve the fighter, making structural and aerodynamic changes meant to capitalize on a forthcoming powerplant, the 1,350 horsepower DB 601E. Among these modifications, he stationed the radiators deeper into the wings, reducing drag and improving lift, streamlined the engine cowling, enlarged the spinner, and widened and shortened the propeller blades. He also rounded the wingtips, fitted shorter-span ailerons, and removed the tail bracing struts. Messerschmitt’s designation for the new version was the Bf-109F.

Based on combat reports proving concentrated firepower of fuselage guns was more effective than converging bullet streams from wing weaponry, Messerschmitt mounted two fuselage-mounted 7.9mm machine guns and a 20mm cannon firing through the propeller shaft. This not only dramatically improved the fighter's handling characteristics but also enabled greater high-G maneuvering without wing failure, which fighter aces like Werner Mölders wildly applauded. (Adolf Galland, another leading ace, wasn’t as convinced, believing the extra weight of fire from 20mm wing cannons was crucial, especially to novice pilots. Galland was so inflexible on this point that he doggedly continued to fly his Bf-109E-4/N until Messerschmitt presented him with two Bf-109F-2/S one-off specials with 13mm fuselage weapons and internally-mounted 20mm wing guns.)

While the Bf-109F arrived too late to join the Battle of Britain, it flew in number against the Russians at the start of Operation Barbarossa, superior to anything the Soviets threw at it other than the Yak-1. The Friedrich bent the Russian air force over its knee and gave it a terrific whacking, over seventy German fighter pilots achieving more than 100 victories each during 1940, 1941, eight claiming over 200 kills and two reaching 300. Eventually the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 replaced Messerschmitt 109Fs on the central and northern fronts, though 109s were deployed elsewhere with great effect. Around this time, the 109G began to replace the 109F, benefiting from a sturdier design better suited to primitive field conditions. Stalin’s flyboys didn’t get the upper hand until the LA-7 took the stage.

The RAF were in shock when the Bf-109F appeared, besting their newly delivered Spitfire V. During the “Non‑Stop Offensive” of 1941, the Friedrich commanded the skies, forcing England to rejig the Spit. In North Africa, the 109F served with distinction, swatting down Hawker Hurricanes and P-40 Kittyhawks like flies, though fuel and parts shortages buggered the fighter’s effectiveness. By the time it withdrew from active service in Africa in early 1943, the Bf-109F had racked up an astonishing kill tally. Only increasing Allied numerical superiority kicked the fighter off its throne.


Sadly, Gemini Aces rarely got the kudos it deserved, mostly because Hobby Master and Corgi upstaged it. Many collectors, including this author, feel GA models were every bit as good and in some cases better that their competition. In my humble opinion, GA’s Friedrich is a must-have model for serious-minded Luftwaffe collectors. Most who own them agree they’re treasures. Snatch one if you can.
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Old 07-04-2019, 09:29 AM   #611
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten


In 1936, RAF top brass sniggered 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, whacking-big fixed spats, and a planetary-sized greenhouse canopy. The plane flat-out looked farcical; but what no one knew at the time was (and who could blame them) this oafish brute would become the preeminent special-missions warbird of World War II.

In 1934, the Royal Air Force coveted an advanced "Army co-operation aircraft" for artillery spotting, message dropping, and other sundry, vital support missions. Westland engineers Arthur Davenport and Teddy Petter stepped up and visualized 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 a drizzly English afternoon, boasting of many inventive features, including a forward air frame built of aluminum alloy tubes, light wooden ribs that described the airplane’s partly sheet metal, mostly in fabric shape, and aluminum alloy extrusions rather than welded and bolted steel plates and brackets. The Lysander also featured automatic wing slots and slotted flaps that gave the aircraft phenomenal low-speed performance, allowing it to almost literally hang in the air at just 55 miles per hour.

Flying as artillery spotters by the outbreak of war in September 1939, Lysander Mark IIs mixed it with Bf 109s and got their bongo-bangin' butts shot off, 88 lost in the air and 30 on the ground, causing RAF honchos horrific indigestion. About this time, somebody got the brilliant idea the Lysander was perfectly suited for shuttling 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), painting the beast flat black for night operations (early examples wore brown/green camouflaged upper surfaces; later variants gray/green), and mounted extra fuel tanks to extend its range. Forthwith the plane proved itself an ideal rickshaw for James Bond agents.

Lysanders typically flew by full moon, their pilots armed with a compass, watch, and a map. To save weight, crews removed the .303 Browning machine guns and ammo, allowing three passengers to shoehorn into the rear cockpit. Typical missions included ferrying spies, explosives, radios, and supplies to the Resistance and/or fetching downed airmen.

Not unexpectedly, 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 determine a local Resistance unit’s loyalty. Two weeks later a squad of SS soldiers jailed and then murdered Szabo, a backstabbing Frenchman having betrayed the woman. Remarkably, after countless perilous missions, 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 of which twelve survive to this day.


The Lysander might have impersonated an ugly duckling, but at heart she was an eagle. Corgi produced a faithful model of this exemplary (though troglodyte) warbird; and if you don’t have one, you really ought to.
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Old 07-04-2019, 12:26 PM   #612
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten


Shrouded in shadow standing at the I-58’s periscope, Lieut. Cmdr. Mochitsura Hashimoto was sure that an American Idaho-class battleship sat in his crosshairs, though the warship’s contour was obscure. But hazy or not he was certain he could hit it; so holding raw emotion in check, he ordered the launch of six long-lance type 95 torpedoes. The bubbling wakes ran straight and true right to the heavy cruiser's starboard bow, where they exploded in frightful geysers, each blowing a gargantuan hole in the ship’s haul. The USS Indianapolis plowed on, listing heavily and then settling by the bow, twelve minutes later rolling over, stern thrust upward, plunging below the waves, dragging three-hundred of 1,196 sailors to their deaths. Crewmen topside jumped for their lives, few wearing lifejackets, everyone kicking and thrashing madly; there’d been too little time to drop but three lifeboats overboard. Watching this ghastly scene unfold, Hashimoto grinned with satisfaction.

Because the Indianapolis’ mission had been so secret (delivering parts and enriched uranium to Tinian for the atomic Hiroshima bomb), Navy command knew nothing of the ship's destruction until a PV-1 Ventura spotted survivors four days later. Before help arrived, the Indianopolis’ crew suffered a grisly nightmare of dehydration, delirium, suicides—and fiendish shark attacks. Men were literally ripped apart, chewed, and swallowed by an estimated 200 to 400 tiger and oceanic whitetip sharks, only 321 men surviving out of 880 crewmembers who outlived the sinking.

Flying overhead days later, Lieutenant Wilbur Gwinn’s PV-1 Ventura was experiencing aerial antenna problems, so he handed the controls to his copilot and stumbled to the back of the plane to troubleshoot the equipment. As he fiddled with the antenna, his neck got sore and he stretched his muscles, peering out a side window and focusing on the water below. Squint-eyed, he thought he spotted a disabled Japanese sub, lunged back toward the cockpit, grabbed the controls, and winged around to blow the vessel to kingdom come. At the last moment he saw it wasn’t a submarine at all but a large number of men drifting in the water, some trailing bloody red slicks. He radioed it in, but his skeptical superiors didn't believe him.

Just to be safe side, however, they dispatched a single Catalina with strict orders to look and report only. Thus Lieutenant Adrian Marks took off from Peleliu, reached the coordinates, and gaped in horror as a white tip shark savagely attacked and devoured a screaming sailor. Swearing fiercely and ignoring his orders, Marks nose-dived his ship to the choppy water below and landed it so hard rivets popped from the hull.

As Marks’s crew began to wrench men from the water, one of the half-drowned, oil-covered sailors uttered the name "Indianapolis." Only then did the aircrew grasp the magnitude of the disaster.

One of Marks’ flight crewmembers, a smallish, thickset Italian-American, was a wrestler in high school and had maintained his body-building regimen. In a Herculean display of strength, he grabbed sailors under their arms and flung them over his head into the plane’s belly, equivalent to standing on a chair, reaching to the floor, lifting a dead weight, and tossing it overhead—all as the chair teetered back and forth. To make things more difficult, many men fought their rescuers, kicking and thrashing and punching, thinking the Japanese had captured them. Many were forcibly wrestled into the plane. To save as many sailors as possible, Marks ordered his men to stack the survivors like cordwood throughout the Catalina’s compartments. When the PBY filled up, Marks himself wrapped men in silk parachutes and tied them to the seaplane’s wings and other surfaces. The Catalina sank deeper in the water under the increasing weight until the USS Cecil Doyle, a destroyer escort, arrived after sunset and removed the men. The lieutenant and his crew had rescued 56 Indianapolis crewmen; but the Catalina had been so badly damaged during landing it couldn't fly. The Doyle was forced to destroy it.

Twelve days later, Japan surrendered, ending World War II.

The Catalina was one of the most widely used seaplanes of the war, serving with every branch of the United States Armed Forces and other air forces and navies with distinction, including Britain and Canada. PBYs conducted anti-submarine warfare, patrol bombing, convoy escorts, search and rescue missions (especially air-sea rescue), and cargo transport. Even 80-plus years after its first flight, the aircraft continues to fly as a waterbomber (or airtanker) in aerial firefighting operations all over the world.

Sea planes just don’t come better. Ask any Indianapolis survivor.

Truly, you're missing out if you don't own at least one Corgi PBY Catalina, easily among the manu's best modeling efforts. I could go on and on about how exceptional the model is, but I’ll simply say that it’s remarkable, and you should buy one. If you’re into heroism, don’t miss out on this gorgeous bird.

In parting to commemorate the Declaration of Independence, I say to my fellow countrymen, Happy Fourth of July and God Bless America!!! May all of my DA.C friends ever find joy in this most happy of hobbies, diecast collecting.
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Old 08-08-2019, 05:37 PM   #613
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Exasperated that Chuck Yeager had broken the sound barrier in an experimental rocket-powered Bell X-1 (and not one of their own aircraft), North American drummed its F-86 Sabre into a supersonic design, the F-100 'Super' Sabre. Among other peculiarities, this death-metal monster featured swept back wings (of 45 degrees) for better high-speed performance and a honkin' big elliptical intake in the nose. To celebrate its top-slot position among 'Century Series' 50s-era fighters, the company nicknamed it the 'Hun,' an abbreviation for 100.

Some North American egghead designed the afterburner on the Hun's J-57-P-7 turbojet to dump raw fuel straight into the tailpipe, bypassing the jet turbine. Gorging on this go-juice, the engine boosted the F-100 to supersonic speeds as high as 850 miles per hour at high altitude, setting several speed records. Which enthralled the Air Force, who introduced the Super Sabre into service in October 1954. Except the supersonic fighter ran smack dab into a wall of accidents, including a mid-air disintegration that killed flying ace George Welch, which ended up grounding the entire fleet. Engineers later determined the tail was undersized, unstable, and far too inclined to induce uncontrollable yaw. North American corrected this fault, but others emerged that took time to remedy. The F-100 actually proved to be a good aircraft once the bugs were worked out, but it soon proved itself the spawn of a bygone paradigm: it lacked air-to-air missiles and long-range search radar while relying on drop tanks to make up for a limited range. The Air Force began to phase out the crash-prone F-100A in 1958.

Just for kicks, the USAF deployed an RF-100A high-speed reconnaissance variant to Germany and Japan that mounted four cameras and drop tanks in lieu of cannons. It flew high-altitude spy missions 50,000 feet over Eastern Europe and likely China and North Korea, famously photographing communist interceptors futilely attempting to reach its altitude. U-2s replaced these Super Recon Sabres in 1956.

Outdoing itself, North American then produced the F-100C fighter-bomber (476 built) that bragged of lengthened and strengthened wings and a cannibal corpse J-57-P21 engine that flung the jet at 924 mph, enabling it to heft 6,000 pounds of weapons on six pylons. Moreover it carried twice the fuel capacity and a wing-mounted inflight-refueling probe. This last feature allowed three F-100Cs to set a single-engine distance record flying from Los Angeles to London in fourteen hours on May 13, 1957. The famous Thunderbird aerobatics team adopted F-100Cs in 1956 and used them to unchain sonic booms to amuse spectators until the FAA stepped in.

Next, North American rolled out the F-100D model (1,274 built), featuring an even larger tail and wing plus a radar warning receiver, a seventh underbelly hardpoint, and compatibility with early AIM-9B heat-seeking air-to-air missiles. Both C and D models could carry weapons ranging from napalm canisters, Zuni 2.75-inch rockets, cluster bombs, to early AGM-45 Bullpup and AGM-83 air-to-ground guided missiles.

NATO F-100 squadrons could deploy four types of tactical nuclear bombs. But interested parties questioned how a fast, low-flying fighter-bomber would escape the blast of its own nuke, a deadly risk even with conventional weapons. In response, Hun pilots practiced a form of ‘over-the-shoulder’ toss-bombing in which the supersonic jet lunged upwards in a barrel roll. The Hun’s MA-2 Low-Altitude Bombing System automatically released the bomb as the Hun neared a vertical angle, lofting the nuke in an arc towards the target while the Super Sabre rolled over and lit the afterburners, hauling a$$ in the opposite direction. The Air Force also tested the F-100 ZEL (Zero Length Launch), which used a colossal rocket booster slung under the rear fuselage to take off the back of a truck. The reasoning behind the freaky truck-launched fighter was the fact that Soviet nuclear weapons would annihilate NATO airbases within minutes, necessitating alternative takeoff methods. But despite numerous successful tests, the ZEL got slamjected.

In April 1961, F-100Ds in the Philippines flew to Thailand—the first U.S. military jets deployed to South East Asia. It wasn't until 1964 that the brass dispatched them to strike anti-aircraft positions in North Vietnam, after which they escorted faster F-105 fighter-bombers as part of the Rolling Thunder bombing campaign. On April 4, 1965, Captain Donald Kilgus' F-100D was covering a raid targeting the Thanh Hoa bridge when four MiG-17s bounced his formation, emerging from cloud cover—the first jet-on-jet engagement of the Vietnam War. The MiG-17s were slower than the Super Sabres and lacked missile armament, but their powerful triple cannons blasted one F-105 to sparkling bits and severely damaged a second. Kilgus released his drop tanks and turned sharply, hugging the tail of one of the Frescos. The MiG dove vertically, trying to lure Kilgus into a lethal dive he couldn't escape. Only 7,000 feet above the earth, Kilgus capped the commie with his four cannons and pulled away unscathed. According to his account:

“I saw puffs and sparks on the vertical tail of the MiG, and very shortly thereafter I didn’t see anything. I could have been at 580 knots. I won’t embroider the story by saying I got spray from the Gulf of Tonkin on my windshield, but I pulled out at the last minute.” Of three MiGs lost that day, the North Vietnamese mistakenly shot down two of them with flak. The questionable fate of the third may support Kilgus’s claim to have scored the first MiG kill of the war, though the Air Force absurdly lists it as a ‘probable.’

Following that, the USAF reassigned its F-100s from North Vietnam combat operations to supporting ground forces in South Vietnam. At its peak, over 490 Super Sabres engaged enemy forces in South Vietnam, flying an average of two ground support missions a day, either hitting pre-planned targets or responding to desperate requests for close air support.

The Air Force also converted seven two-seater F-100F trainers (out of 439 built) into the first ‘Wild Weasels’ specially modified to sniff out and whack enemy air defense radars. The EF-100F model mounted two radar receivers to track the position enemy radars as well as rocket pods with which to mark their position for accompanying F-105s. Later, the Weasels carried AGM-145 Shrike radar-homing missiles to obliterate the radars themselves, destroying nine for two losses. Satisfied with the experiment, the Air Force phased in F-4s and F-105s to perform the Wild Weasel mission.

The F-100F also served as “Fast Forward Air Controllers” with back seaters who spotted enemies and marked them with smoke rockets to direct air strikes by other aircraft. Using the call-sign ‘Misty,’ Fast FACs flew over areas with a high density of air defenses too dangerous for slower spotter planes.

Amazingly, Super Sabre operations amounted to 40 million pounds of bombs and napalm dropped during 360,283 sorties—more than any other aircraft type, including the more celebrated F-4 Phantom and F-105 Thunderchief. But the butcher's bill was high: over 242 F-100s were lost, which included 186 to enemy fire and seven to airbase attacks. Overall through the jet's operational life, more than 889 F-100s were lost in accidents out of 2,294 built, killing 324 pilots.


Personally, I think Hobby Master F-100s stand among that manufacturer's best models. I'm not a diecast model connoisseur (as you can clearly tell), but for optics alone this bird is a real crowd pleaser. Perhaps it's because my first plastic model jet was an F-100A, but I just love this model, right down to its shagadelic nose hole. If you're into Vietnam-era jets, I highly recommend this one to ya.
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Old 08-11-2019, 09:29 PM   #614
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Pound for pound, muscle for muscle, nose hair for nose hair, the Hawker Sea Fury was one of the badest prop fighters ever conceived, Darth Vader and Steven Segal rolled into a genuine volcano. This little lady was so hardcore, in fact, that she nailed a MiG-15 just for kicks and proved her stonking invincibility years later by winning Reno Air Races. I mean, just look at this demented brickhouse and tell me she wasn't nasty.

Conceived by aircraft designer Sir Sydney Camm and associates, the Sea Fury was the last of a family of barbarian brutes, beginning with the geriatric Hawker Hurricane (the true hero of the Battle of Britain). Camm and crew later parented the Hawker Tornado, which morphed into the Hawker Typhoon (a Sasquatch, tree-felling fighter/bomber), which mutated into the stunning Hawker Tempest, which in turn revisited the Centaurus radial engine, which resulted in the inimitable Sea Fury. But by the time this muscle kebab hit the skies, WWII was all but over. Still, Hawker continued to produce the fighter, hopeful the Royal Navy needed a beastly piston fighter able to take the reins until carrier jets improved.

The muscle-monster, 3,000 HP Bristol Centaurus engine propelled the Sea Fury, spinning a hella big five-bladed propeller. Many of the engine's subsystems, including the fully automated cooling system, cockpit gauges, and fuel booster pump, were electrical, powered by an engine-driven generator accessorized by two standalone batteries. The hydraulic system operated the retractable undercarriage, tail hook, and flaps. Five self-sealing fuel tanks warehoused the go-juice, two inside the fuselage directly in front of the cockpit and three within the wings.

Like its ancestors, the Sea Fury FB.11s featured four 20-millimeter cannon able to fire in pairs or en masse and could heft external stores such as two 450-kilogram (1,000-pound) bombs, napalm tanks, sonobuoys, or sixteen RPs, as well as rocket-assisted take-off boosters.

The Sea Fury proved a real ruffneck, an ungly customer in the attack role yet light and responsive and able to boogie like a fiend on the dance floor. Speed wise she was a flame thrower: Pilot Neville Duke flying a standard Sea Fury from London to Karachi, Pakistan, in 1949 set a speed record, covering 1,448 kilometers (880 miles) in 2 hours 31 minutes 51 seconds, with an average speed of 574.3 KPH (356.9 MPH). Time for the entire trip of 4,827 kilometers (3,000 miles) was 15 hours 20.5 minutes, averaging 412.1 KPH (256.1 MPH).

In all, Hawker produced 615 FB.11s, supplying some to Australia and Canada, the type arriving in Korean waters with Number 807 Squadron on board the carrier HMS Theseus in October 1950. More Sea Furys later joined the party aboard the Royal Navy carriers HMS Ocean and Glory, and the Royal Australian Navy carrier HMAS Sydney. These angels of death conducted air strikes with any ordnance they could lift, including sea mines. Weapons delivery proved extremely accurate, one Sea Fury flaming a MiG-15 on 9 August 1952 when eight MiG-15s bounced four FB.11s from the HMS Ocean engaged in a 'train busting' mission. Lieutenant Peter "Hoagy" Carmichael effortlessly hung on the tail of a MiG and annihilated it with his four 20-millimeter cannon while two other Sea Furys turned two MiGs into sieves (which managed to limp home). This happy little fracas netted Britain with its only air victory by a British pilot in a British aircraft during the Korean War, which isn't too surprising considering the FAA focused on ground support (some sources argue another Sea Fury shot down a second MiG, but this claim remains unconfirmed). In the meantime, North Korea more than settled the score by splashing several several Sea Furies months later. The Sea Fury remained the go-to FAA single-seat fighter until the Hawker Sea Hawk replaced in in 1953.

...

The Royal Australian Navy Fleet Air Arm was formed in 1948 with its first aircraft carrier HMAS Sydney commissioned in the United Kingdom in December of that year. The first 25 RAN Sea Fury’s embarked in Sydney in April 1949 and were allocated to 805 Squadron, the carrier sailing for Australia in mid-April 1949 and arriving in Sydney in late May. The RAN received further batches of Sea Fury’s in December 1950, October 1951, March 1952, January 1953, and January 1954. Much to the Australian Fleet Air Arm's delight, the Sea Fury's solid construction and payload capabilities adapted well to ground attack duties.

805 and 808 Squadrons sailed from Australia to Korea in late August 1951, the FAN's FB-11s flying their first sortie on 4 October 1951. In all, the squadrons flew 2366 sorties from the Sydney over the next four months, losing eight Sea Fury’s before the last sortie on 25 January 1952. Three aircrew, all from 805 Squadron, died over Korea, the first being Lieutenant Keith Clarkson on 5 November 1951 while strafing North Korean ground targets. On 7 December 1951, Lieutenant Richard Sinclair was killed while bailing out and striking the tailplane of his damaged fighter, later to be recovered and buried at sea with full naval honors. The last to die was Sub-Lieutenant Ronald Coleman, RAN, whose Sea Fury disappeared over the Yellow Sea on 2 January 1952. 808 Squadron was luckier losing but one aircraft to enemy fire, its pilot rescued by a US Navy helicopter crew.


Yeah, I admit it: I really dig this model. Love its deep-blue togs, its burly musculature. I couldn't find one on eBay last time I searched though I found a few Sea Furys feathered in different liveries. Witty Wings, in my humble opinion, didn't get the kudos it deserved from the diecast community (before it went belly up years ago), a curious fact considering a number of the manu's models were every bit as good or better than Corgi's. Lucky for us, Witty Sea Furys on eBay remain affordable.
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Old 08-13-2019, 05:36 PM   #615
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Admittedly, I recently wrote about the MiG-15 and just what a cannibal corpse it was, a genuine Frankenstein of the skies but ultimately superb fighter with a ruinous punch. To be honest, I used to sneer at this tubby wubby Russian troll until I learned it was every bit as good and possibly better than the F-86 Sabre, not a comfortable admission coming from yours truly. Even more shocking, I stumbled over a little-known shootdown between commies and yanks over Europe featuring the MiG-15 that should have started WWIII but didn't. Said incident took place over the Czechoslovakian/German border in March 1953 between a Czech MiG-15 and an American Republic F-84 Thunderjet, the upshot giving the USAF a painful black eye.

Czechoslovakia at the time was a communist nation, the border between it and Germany extending from Austria southward to Poland northward, this boundary described by ancient bohemian forests and low mountains that were, as you'd expect, closely monitored by East and West. The war in Korea was going full throttle at the time, tensions between the communist bloc and the West best described as excessively high. US Air Force fighter jets continuously patrolled the border, sometimes crossing into Czechoslovak territory 'accidentally.' Russia, ever observant, equipped the Czech Air Force with impressive weaponry, including the MiG-15, praying America would push its luck too far.

Per routine, Czech MiG-15s flew combat air patrols along this border, USAF jets ofttimes shadowing them in hopes of testing their gamesmanship. On the 10th of March 1953, a pair of US Air Force F-84 Thunderjets from the 53rd fighter bomber squadron based at Bitburn, Germany, drifted over the border. The Republic F-84 Thunderjet was a straight-wing turbojet fighter bomber, then the primary USAF strike aircraft in Korea. By 10:00 a.m., the Czechs spotted the Thunderjets over the village of Macallan roughly 3000 feet below them and three miles distant. The MiG's made positive identification and called it in.

Ground control responded and ordered Capt. Romick, the senior MiG pilot, to knuckle up and prepare for combat. Prepping their planes, the MiG pilots then watched as the F-84s broke formation, one diving left, the other right in a balls-out effort to run for cover. Romick winged over and pursued the leading Thunderjet, radioing for permission to engage. Ground control ordered a warning shot only. Practically giddy, Romick misjudged and walloped the F-84's right-wing fuel tank instead, bursting it like a water balloon, further spurring the American pilot to firewall it for the Bavarian boarder.

Pushing pedal to the metal, the American, Lieutenant Aaron R. Brown, was hellbent to evade his foe, but the Czech MiG was faster, hammering along at 590 miles per hour and laughing all the way. Romick unleashed another burst from 328 yards, his cannon shell smacking the FAC's tail, reshaping it into a billowing funnel of smoke and fire. The other F-84 lost itself in the clouds.

Capt. Romick and his wingman had a good laugh upon return to their base, fellow squadron buddies embracing them in a group hug. Brown, in the meantime, ejected safely before his jet plowed into a farm near Regensburg and transmuted a chicken coup into a raging inferno. The farmer wasn't amused.

The political fallout was intense for several weeks, the Americans blaming the commie pilots for crossing the border and attacking over West Germany, not Czechoslovakia. Unapologetic and mocking this claim, the Czech government offered to provide mashed potatoes and gravy as a side dish for the chickens Lieutenant Brown's F-84 roasted. No war came of this incident though the USAF nursed a bruised ego for years afterward.


For those of you who still sit on the fence on this honey of a Russian jet fighter, please—do yourself a favor and buy one. Yes they're a little pricey, but you'll love the looks of this little troll and thank yourself. Besides, it's a historical bird rich with combat. If you're interested in the Czech MiG-15, you can find one here.
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Old 08-16-2019, 10:39 AM   #616
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In an alternate universe, the Aichi-produced B7A "Ryusei" (nicknamed "Grace" by the Allies) might have proved a genuine whackasaurus-rex ship killer that routinely blew the guts out of doofus American or British carriers that crossed its path. Such were the hash-pipe dreams of Nipponese Imperial Navy admirals in 1941, who eagerly wanted to amp up their torpedo-carrying aircraft fleet and do the big dirty on Japan's enemies.

As they envisioned it, the Ryusei, a new, hotroded version of the Nakajima B5N, would heave Japan's deadly accurate, destructive 1,764lb aerial torpedo (the Type 91) or an equivalent weight in bombs and fend off overeager adversary fighters with two fixed 20mm cannons in its leading wing edges and a single 7.92mm or 13mm machine gun at the rear cockpit position. To accommodate this warhammer's humongo four-bladed propeller, it featured gull wings not unlike the F4U Corsair. And to relieve space-strapped hangar bays aboard Japan's carriers, it also obligingly featured hinged wing sections. Power wise, a Nakajima NK9C Homare 18-cylinder, air-cooled, radial piston engine of 1,825 horsepower kicked the bird up to 352 miles per hour, a reasonably respectable speed. Range extended to 1,890 miles, and the service ceiling reached 36,910 feet. Overall dimensions came to a length of 37 feet, 8 inches, a wingspan of 47 feet, 3 inches, and a height of 13 feet, 5 inches.

All in all this ornery ninjutsu looked every bit the hate machine; but typical of Japan's overarching rotten luck, the Ryusei suffered from a host of ruinous issues, including engine development snags, scarcity of parts, lack of tolerable ave gas, inadequate crews, and an earthquake that shook its factory to dust. By the time the manufacturer recovered from these concerns and produced a scant 114 production aircraft, Japan no longer had carriers to fly them from, which essentially trashed the bomber's raison d'être. Circumstances forced the navy to deploy these B7As from land-based airfields, which ultimately junked their usefulness.

The B7A finally saw front-line service in September 1944 but contributed little to Japan's frenzied war effort. Its one ignominious claim to fame was the sinking of the USS Ommaney Bay, an American aircraft escort carrier (CVE-79), on the afternoon of 4 January 1945. As the carrier transited the Sulu Sea west of the Philippines, a Ryusei attacked bow on, hidden by the sun's blinding glare. The plane clipped the Ommaney's island, dropping part of the superstructure and then crashing into the deck itself, one of the kamikaze's two bombs penetrating the deck and detonating below, the other rupturing the fire main and exploding near the starboard side. The plane's flaming wreckage hit a TBM torpedo bomber, sparking a fire that consumed the aft part of the flight deck. Water pressure forward was lost immediately along with power and bridge communications.

Men battled the horrific blazes but were forced to retire owing to thick black smoke and exploding .50 caliber ammunition. Destroyer escorts attempting to assist the Ommaney Bay pulled back because of ammunition cooking off and the imminent threat of catastrophic detonation. Nonetheless, the destroyer Bell maneuvered close but collided with the carrier, damaging her port bridge wing. By 17:45, crew members had removed the wounded, and by 18:12, Captain Young gave the order to abandon ship. At 18:18, torpedoes stored in the aft end detonated, collapsing the flight deck and launching debris onto nearby destroyers, killing two crewmen aboard the USS Eichenberger. By the time Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf ordered the USS Burns to torpedo the Ommaney Bay at 19:58, ninety-five sailors had died aboard the carrier.

Ironically, Aichi engineers never anticipated the B7A becoming such a smash hit.


Warmaster was a hit & miss manu that produced both interesting models (especially armor types) and toss-away garbage. This B7A rated somewhere in between, neither dumpster trash nor masterpiece, a brave but barren attempt to reproduce a rather obscure Japanese warbird. Apart from accuracy issues, the weathering was typically ham fisted, and for that I recommend this model only to those who ignore gross imperfection for owning unfamed and mostly unrecognized warbirds.
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Old 08-18-2019, 02:35 PM   #617
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In light of this remarkable bi-plane's deeds, it's difficult not to drop praises on it like a rock slide. Bottom line, Germany fielded a wicked cool fighter so nightmarish to the Allies in May 1918 that pilots facing it experienced post-traumatic-poop syndrome. Once a Fokker D.VII pounced on your tail and let fly, you'd likely find red mist where your head was and your Sopwith Camel reduced to a cloud of rice krispies. Even middling Deutsche pilots became raging thirst buckets at its controls; but unhappily for zee Germans, Fokker couldn't pump out D.VIIs fast enough before the war ended.

For its time, the D.VII was a marvel of engineering. Though the earliest models had a ho-hum top speed of 124 mph and ceiling of 20,000 feet, they could climb to a nosebleed 1,874 feet per minute, far outclassing the French SPAD XIII (384 ft./min.), the British SE-5a (754 ft./min.), the Sopwith Camel (1,085 ft./min), and even the Fokker DR1 triplane (1,130 ft./min.), giving D.VII pilots the option to do the splitsville whenever they pleased. Even better, the axe-wielding D.VII featured a welded steel tubing fuselage frame that was lighter and stronger than wood, eliminating structural failure in a dive. The fighter was legged like a rabbit, too, able to climb at high angles of attack, dance on its tail (or "hang on its prop," whichever), and shoot enemy aircraft in the navel. And it would rarely spin, an extreme advantage over the Sopwith Camel that routinely pirouetted and the SPAD XIII that abruptly stalled.

The Fokker D.VII's pièce de résistance was its thick upper wing, a concept that flew (excuse the pun) directly in the face of accepted aeronautic theory at the time. Aircraft engineers believed thinner wings caused less drag and thus greater speed, which was partly true. But the Fokker boys determined that fat wings didn't impede speed as much as everybody thought it would but did deliver superior handling. The result was a limber fighter that would have diaperwhipped the Allied air forces given more time.

The Red Baron himself flew two prototypes in early 1918 and was effusive with praise but died several weeks before the first D.VII reached his Jastas. Leading German Aces who spent time in a D.VII included Ernst Udet (72 victories), Erich Löwenhardt (54), Josef Jacobs (48), Fritz Rumey (45), Rudolf Berthold (44 – the last 16 after losing an arm), Bruno Loerzer (44), Paul Bäumer (43), Franz Büchner (40) the Red Baron’s little brother Lothar von Richthofen (40) and future Nazi Luftwaffe chieftain Hermann Goring (22). Imperial Germany awarded each of these men its most prestigious decoration, the Pour le Mérite Cross, seven of these aces surviving the war. By war's end, 565 enemy aircraft had fallen to D.VII machine guns.

The credit for designing this mad swashbuckler of a warbird rightfully goes to Reinhold Platz, German aircraft designer in service of Fokker-Flugaeugwerke. Legend once had it this distinction fell to Antony Fokker, a Dutchman who was only too happy to take credit for others' creations (think: synchronized machine gun). Some 1000 D.VIIs rolled off the assembly lines, most of which the Allies promptly dismantled after the war. Such was the perceived lethality of this aircraft that the Armistice specifically singled out the Fokker D.VII fighter for destruction, forcing reluctant Germans to hand them over, though a number of former Luftstreitkräfte pilots flew their Fokkers to nameless locations and hid them in barns, etc.

Ernst Udet …

None of Germany's aces was more flamboyant than Ernst Udet, a womanizer who was nevertheless so dedicated to his childhood sweetheart Eleonore Zink that he painted her diminutive name ‘LO’ in large letters on the sides of his aircraft (see the graphic above). To twerk his adversaries' noses, he also emblazoned a middle-finger challenge on his fighter's tail.

Udet lived a rock-n-rolla, I'll-try-anything-once lifestyle between the world wars, flying as a stunt pilot, a movie scene pilot, an air show performer, an air racer, an airmail pilot, and an African bush pilot. In 1933 he joined the Nazi Party and greased the skids of the nascent Luftwaffe (its recreation was in defiance of the Versailles Treaty). As the director of research and development, he was celebrated for embracing dive bombing techniques and promoting the Stuka dive bomber. Ernst rose to the post of Director-General of Equipment for the Luftwaffe but found his administrative duties an intolerable shizerfest, which led to his epic drinking marathons.

Poor Ernst eventually fell out with the Nazi party, including his boss, fatso Hermann Wilhelm Göring, who unfairly and treacherously blamed him for the Luftwaffe's failure in the Battle of Britain and Operation Barbarossa. The persecution got so severe that Udet put a Luger P08 pistol to his head and decorated the nearest wall with his brains. In appreciation, Hiter claimed, "Our defeat was caused by Udet. That man concocted the most nonsensical state of affairs ever seen in the history of the Luftwaffe."


I'm not too jazzed with Udet's bloody red barber-pole livery, but you've got to hand it to the ace: nobody could ignore him. For you guys who elected not to collect Corgi's 1/48 WWI fighters, you totally missed the boat. In my humble opinion, the pooch's World War One collection is second to none, a series of superlative models that you'll likely never see again once they're gone. I especially like the D.VII string for its colorful and diverse liveries, not to mention the models' accuracy and excellence of construction. If you want models you can be proud of, buy yourself several Corgi WWI fighters, and make sure you include a D.VII.
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Old 08-24-2019, 12:16 PM   #618
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Ask Israeli Air Force ace Giora Epstein and he'd tell you the Dassault Mirage IIICJ was bombtastical, so off-the-hook funkadelic that you needed only buckle in and the jet would fly itself. Killing enemy fighters was so bada-bing, bada-boom easy in this berserk warrior that Arab adversaries didn't have a chance against it. And truth be told, in the right hands the IIICJ truly was super-naked lethal (just ask Arab-speaking ghosts that Ronen, Epstein, and others shot down). But in the end it came down to the pilot at the Mirage III's controls, just as it did/does in any other aircraft.

Arguably, Europe's best, first-string aircraft designer was Marcel Bloch (better known as Marcel Dassault), who, having returned from German prison camps, launched his primo aircraft company. Among his early projects, Dassault married the British Nene engine with his first original jet-powered design, the Ouragan, the first domestcially-designed and produced jet fighter of the Armee de l’Air. Marcel developed this further into the Mystere series, which became the first domestic Western European design to equal the F-86 Sabre and MiG-15 in performance. During the Suez War of 1956, the Israeli Air Force demonstrated the Mystere IV's clear superiority over the Egyptian-flown MiGs, which led to the Super Mystere's production, the first European fighter design capable of supersonic speed in level flight.

In 1953, the French Air Ministry issued a specification for a lightweight interceptor capable of supersonic speed, to which Dassault replied with the Mirage I, a dwarfish fighter lumbered with two small jet engines capable of March 1.2. While this weenie aeroplane met all specifications, the resulting aircraft was a bit of a dead end, which led to the Mirage II, some 30 percent larger and endowed with the ATAR turbojet capable of Mach 1.6. But before the Mirage II entered production, the Mirage III upstaged it, featuring a redesigned delta wing and ripping a hole in the sky at Mach 2.2.

Chuffed to bits with their new toy, the Armee de l’Air ordered 96 Mirage IIICs in 1960. And just as mirthful, the Israelis ordered 72 (with DeGaulle's blessing), these jet's designated as the Mirage IIICJ. The South Africans ordered 16. By the Six Day War in June 1967, the Mirage IIICJ had become the IDF/AF's (the Heyl ha’Avir's) frontline fighter, which went all bucknutty on the Arabs, chopping through the Egyptian and Syrian air forces like a cleaver.



Here's a rundown of the Mirage IIICJ as told by one of Israel's greatest aces, Ran Ronen …

“It was narrow, as was usual in French aircraft of its time (the F1 cockpit was the same). I was always very surprised whenever I saw those Phantom pilots walking towards their aircraft with a big bag in their hands; there was not room enough for a sandwich bag in the Mirage III cockpit.

"It’s almost as if ergonomics was invented after the Mirage III cockpit layout was designed.We had to push or pull at least two or three switches placed in different control panels to arm the weapons. Being good at twisting your torso was compulsory. I especially remember the starting button which was placed well behind the thrust lever and you had to push it by putting your left hand about 20 cm behind your back. The radar screen had insufficient brightness so they placed a plastic cowl about 30 cm long, which protruded towards your face (the display was in the center of the frontal panel). As a result, ‘the ball’ (the attitude indicator) was displaced to the left. It was the first and only time I’ve flown an aircraft without the ball in directly front of my eyes. Added to this is the peculiarly French custom, of having the ball’s vertical reference at the bottom. Anyway, after a dozen of or so flights you were happy with the complicated dance your fingers had to perform around the cockpit. Instead of HOTAS we had ‘HATC’, (Hands Around The Cockpit)!”

What were the best things about the Mirage III?

“First it was beautiful, complying with the first Law of Aerodynamics: ‘beautiful aircraft fly well’ (the opposite is also true, ‘ugly aircraft fly badly’).The Snecma Atar 9C was a very reliable engine, very resistant to compressor stalls and almost immune to flame out in flight. It was very easy to fly if you had enough speed, and stable around its envelope. We always flew with two supersonic fuel tanks but the aircraft behavior was very docile. It was also very strong. It had a landing gear that would have been strong enough for carrier landings and it wasn’t unusual to see 30 people over the wings and fuselage posing for a photo. We didn’t need any ground support to start the engine. Which was very good for detachments. It was very good at accelerating in a dive, no aircraft of that time could follow us. The aerodynamics were excellent but designed for high speed. It had double speedbrakes coming up and down the wings adding stability if you had to deploy them, and of course an Stability Augmentation System for pitch and yaw (or in french ‘tangage’ and ‘lacet’.”

What were the worse things about the Mirage III?

“It was underpowered, very underpowered, so no close or turning dogfight was possible. Common word at the time said that the Snecma Atar was a development of BMW engines of Me 262, and sometimes it appeared that this was true! Power supplied was 6700 kgs with afterburner, while normal take off weight was around 11000 kgs. There were no flaps or slats which would have aided its dogfight performance. There was also nothing to compensate for the huge induced drag caused by the big delta wing, and the very long take off and landing runs. The approach speed was 185 knots (which would need to be adjusted to accommodate any extra weight). We always used the brake chute on landings. The engine was a plain turbojet and was as thirsty as hell with or without afterburner. When we pushed it into afterburner, as we would for a whole dogfight, the fuel burning rate jumped to infinity. To worsen this problem, the internal fuel tanks had a capacity of only 2980 liters which made for two dogfights near the airfield and 45 flight minutes. That’s why we always had those two external tanks 500 liters each.”

What was the role of your squadron?

“In my time it was 80% air defense and 20% ground attack, which was changed to 60/40 a few years later.”

Was the Mirage effective at this role?

“First we have to understand that the Mirage III was designed in the late fifties — and as a fighter interceptor, which meant climbing and flying as fast as fast as possible towards the target to intercept it as far as possible from home. It was similar to the F-104: no multipurpose intentions, no maneuvering dogfight expected.

"After the late fifties designers stopped creating fighters optimized for Mach 2, as it’s not very useful. But the Mirage III was good in a dogfight in the hands of an experienced pilot. But no mercy for rookies. By the end of its life, we were quite proud of what it achieved in dogfights against far more modern aircraft.In war, the Mirage proved to be extremely effective in air-to-air fighting, as demonstrated by the Israeli air force. While it wasn’t supposed to be its business, the Mirage III behaved quite well in the ground attack role, but again, good training was essential.

"We had no frills to aid our aiming, just a fixed pipper which had to be calibrated by the pilot according to the weapon type. We had no guided bombs, just 2.75 rockets or the two 30-mm guns. We had a firing range 20 minutes flight time from the base, which was built to train our Wing, but was also frequented by other squadrons, and we flew a lot of missions out there. The Mirage III’s horizontal stability was a boon in the ground attack role, making it quite easy putting the pipper on target and keeping it there — but you had to fly at the right speed and with the correct diving angle or your bomb could fly out of the range. It was easier with the rockets of course, but 100 feet short or beyond the target was still a normal score for inexperienced pilots.

"With the guns (or cannons as we called them), coming very close to the target made it easy to hit it, and the bullets dispersion was straight enough to make really big holes, one 30-mm bullet, one foot long, was something. The problem was we only had 230 bullets, and a firing rate of 1,300 bullets per minute. The Mirage III payload was small and we always needed external tanks for ground attack, so never had more than three hard points available. In the inner wings hard points we could take two special fuel/bomb carrier tanks with four 250 kgs bombs attached and a capacity of 500 liters. It was called the RPK-10. Our Phantom colleagues made a lot of jokes about the fact they could carry more rockets than we bullets…and it was true! We answered by saying that we flew fighters, not bombers.”


It's strange given that Falcon Models weren't da shiznit of the diecast world, but I go cocoa bananas over them just the same. Most of these models suffer from gap, furrow, and accuracy issues that, to be honest, are cloying as all poooop; but somehow in some cryptic, nameless way, they appeal to me. And that's pretty much all I've got to say about these little wizards, except that for all their faults many Falcon models sell for outrageous prices on eBay—when you can find them.
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Old 08-25-2019, 12:26 PM   #619
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten


Remember the part in the movie Jaws where Quint tells Hooper and Brody about the shark attacks following the sinking of the USS Indianapolis? And a Lockheed Ventura flew low overhead; and a young pilot, younger than Hooper, saw the group; and three hours later a PBY Catalina swooped in and saved Quint and his remaining ship mates? The PV-1 represented above is that very aircraft, piloted by Lieutenant Wilbur Gwinn, who personally painted the shark-mouth motif on his Ventura days after the tragedy.

Lockheed Aircraft Company was well-known by the time the Ventura hit the stage. The Ventura's grand daddy, the Vega Model 14, was a corporate transport, mail carrier and general transport aircraft that smoothly transitioned into a military variant, the "Hudson." The Model 14's capacious belly hold for luggage morphed into a bomb bay, plus the plane offered reasonable speed, spacious cabin and cockpit, and fairly good range. The British purchased the Hudson for coastal patrol, arming it with a Boulton-Paul turret among other military accessories. And yet for all its utility, the Hudson fell well short of expectancy.

Luckily for the Brits, Lockheed had developed the Model 18 “Lodestar” transport by then, which was larger, faster, and stronger than the Hudson. And so, suitably geeked, the Brits bought the Ventura but insisted Pratt & Whitney Model 2800 Double Wasp powerplants (standard on American military fighters and bombers) replace the Lodestar's (Ventura's) existing weaksauce engines. Which was fine, except Lockheed refused to re-tool its Vega factory to increase the wing length or move the engines farther out along the wing necessary to accommodate the Double Wasps, which forced engineers to find another solution, which they did by installing larger, wide-chord “paddle bladed” propellers. The resulting close nacelle position transformed the Ventura into a compact, powerful design with outstanding low-to-mid altitude performance. Which impressed the Brits so much, England held a day of prayer and fasting in profound gratitude.

Except … the British were dreadfully disenchanted when they first flew it. Much to their displeasure, the Ventura was ill-suited as a low-level attacker against hardened targets despite its 2500lb payload, high speed, and good maneuverability. The pitiless fact was, the PV-1's high wing loading rendered it into a limp shrimp, a floppy-jalopy warbird that (the Brits believed) demonstrated little aptitude for hard fighting. Revolted and rigid with rage paralysis, the British re-assigned their Venturas to reconnaissance missions and nearly declared war on the USA. The US Army, in the meantime, acquired a few and designated them the B-37, muscling them up with U.S. standard .50 caliber machine guns and the familiar Martin turret. The USAAF never quite figured out what to do with the plane, the beast being too big for a trainer, not heavy enough as a bomber, and not dragonheart enough as a marauding attacker like the A-20. When the US Navy requested a transfer of Venturas, the AAF was only too happy to oblige.

The Navy was desperate for a land-based sidekick for the Catalina. PBY losses were nightmarish in high-threat areas, where Japanese fighters went chimpanzee all over the elegant but slow aircraft. USN Hudsons had proved themselves pantsworthy, but in comparison the Ventura was point-blank awesome. Even so, the Navy souped up the Ventura even more: with upgrades, the bomb bay could carry a single Mk. 13 aircraft torpedo or Tiny Tim rockets (though no records of their use exist). And the bomb bay could heft two fuel tanks, 200 and 280 gallons in non-self-sealing tanks. Additionally, hardpoints accommodated auxiliary fuel tanks, which became a standard feature.

The Ventura, with its 5-man crew, went to war and soon proved itself a genuine rock-and-rolla warrior. In the Aleutians, the Ventura outclassed its Japanese fighter opponents, all the but the Zero. They flew long-range convoy escort duty and, to everyone's stupefaction, provided long-range fighter protection to C-47s (the twin bow guns combined with the outstanding Martin turret and dorsal “stinger” guns made the Ventura a real gun slinger). The PV-1 could outrun Japanese Zekes and Hamps, and a Tony could only overshoot the Ventura when flooring it at hazardous high power. As a result, Navy pilots drooled over the Ventura and enthused about its machismo. PV-1s deployed to the South Pacific and North Atlantic supported convoy patrols and flew anti-shipping missions. A hotroded version deleted all nose windows in favor of a three .50 caliber gun pack that, combined with its topside turret, could saw small ships in half, which it literally did to the IJN minelayer Ōtate.

More than 1600 Venturas rolled off the lines during WWII. Incomprehensibly, this trooper ranks among the most ignored, cold-shouldered aircraft of the war, a real head-scratcher given its crackerjack successes in the USN.


OK, OK … I confess: I'm pulling your chain about the Ventura—it's not available as a 1/72 diecast model: what you see above is merely plastic. I was just having fun with ya (just to see if anybody actually reads my reviews). Nor does the company Koorgi exist (as if you didn't know already). And that bit about Lieutenant Wilbur Gwinn painting the shark-mouth motif on his Ventura? Pure malarkey. But I had you going—didn't I?! I do, however, appeal to Corgi (or any other diecast manu blessed with the means) to produce this magnificent bird in 1/72 scale. I suspect that a good many diecast collectors would love to add several PV-1 Venturas to their collections. In the meantime, everybody, smile!
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Old 08-25-2019, 07:06 PM   #620
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well i didn't really know the ventura so...interesting anyway
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Old 08-26-2019, 06:32 PM   #621
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One of the great pleasures I get from writing model reviews on the DA.C is to research various aircraft, their strengths, their weaknesses, their histories. When exploring the F-8 Crusader, I was tickled to find that this beef bayonet was fun (though difficult) to fly and a deadly pistolero to boot, a fighter many a Navy pilot yearned to drive. Which isn't too hard to understand considering most fighter pilots want to fly aircraft so creamy savage that nobody dares tangle with it (or them by extension). Naval aviators so regarded the F-8 Crusade the very quintessence of hair-raising fierceness with its four blistering 20mm cannons (the 'last gunfighter' they called it) that they cried in their soup when the Navy retired the fighter.

That was the Crusader's sunny side. On the cloudy side, this commie-killing maniac suffered from an astonishingly high mishap rate: of 1261 F-8s produced, 1,106 were involved in some misfortune or another. In fairness, the F-8 entered service at a time when the Navy and Marine Corps were transitioning from piston-powered propeller aircraft to jets as primary air/strike fighters, which mandated trial and error. But that doesn't downsize the fact that the Crusader was a Godzilla to fly, and a good many Navy pilots soiled their flight suits when manhandling the beast.

Come Vietnam, the Crusader more than proved itself against the North Vietnamese Air Force’s MiGs. By 1975 (after the US pulled out of Vietnam) the fighter boasted of the highest kill ratio of any American fighter in the conflict: a staggering 19:3, meaning that for 19 Vietnamese MiGs downed, only 3 Crusaders were lost. This fact traumatized the North Vietnamese so badly they refused to knuckle up with the jet: in head-on, mano-a-mano gun fights with F-8s, MiGs generally disengaged once the Crusader fired its cannons. The last F-8 kill of the war, occurring on May 23rd, 1972, best exemplified this commie "Crusaderphobia"…

VF-211, officially called “The Fighting Checkmates,”was one of the Navy’s most successful Crusader squadrons during the Vietnam war with eight confirmed kills. Lieutenant Junior Grade Gerald “Jerry” Tucker, an F-8J pilot, was attached to VF-211 aboard the USS John Hancock (CVA-19) for a lengthy deployment of dropping bombs and firing rockets—which didn't appeal to Tucker and his Checkmates compatriots, who thought they'd signed up for a gunfight. In late May 1967, Tucker and his wingman, LCDR Frank Bachman, were flying top cover for Navy F-4 Phantoms bombing targets on and around Vinh airfield close to the coast, bored to tears, when they heard over the radio that a lone MiG-17 was hot tailing it toward the alpha strike group, presumably to take revenge for the bombing run. Tucker pickled his mic and reported he and Bachman were gunned up and ready to rock and roll. And since they were the Navy's closest assets to the NVAF jet, the carrier group vectored them straight to the enemy.

The MiG flew hazardously low and skipped over the waves as Tucker primed an AIM-9C Sidewinder for a shot. But before he could fire it, the enemy jet's canopy jettisoned and barreled away, followed by the NVAF pilot ejecting from the aircraft. Angered, Tucker pulled back on the throttle and made a few passes at the anxious MiG driver, who gently parasoled to the sea. Regrettably, the MiG pilot never explained why he ejected, though Lieutenant Tucker and other F-8 pilots insisted he did it to escape the Crusader, predicated on the enemy's usual reluctance to engage. Nonetheless, the Navy refused to count it as a kill, despite historians and fellow naval aviators arguing in Tucker's favor. The Lieutenant's only solace was in knowing that he and his VF-211 buddies flew jets so intimidating that NVAF pilots chose to run than fight.


Sho 'nuff, I'm a Century Wings' F-8 Crusader devotee. I've never understood why CW dropped the proverbial ball and didn't produce a far-reaching line of Crusaders (like it did with the F-14 Tomcat), considering the jet's popularity and its galaxy of Navy markings. Of the relatively few liveries it did produce, I really dig the French Aeronavale version with its stupid fresh (extremely cool) shark mouth motif and blue-grey livery. Boy, it doesn't get more awesomesauce than that; and if you don't own one at this point, it's unlikely you will—unless you spend a king's ransom for it like this one.
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Old 08-27-2019, 05:45 PM   #622
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richtofen888 View Post
....
I absolutely groove on Corgi's P-47 Thunderbolts (love those semi-blown cowl flaps). They've definitely got the look of this strapping, powerful warbird and deserve a place in your WWII collection. If you don't own one yet, be sure to snatch this puppy.
Is timing everything? A diamond in the rough?

While watching WWII in HD: The Air War on the History Channel. I took an interest in one of the featured pilots....the P-47D Ace Pilot Steve Pisanos. So after the show, on a whim, I proceeded to see if his P-47D was ever produced in 1/72, low and behold...yes! One by Corgi and then by HM. I then went to eBay ... no sooner do I look at the listing..and Bingo! the Corgi US33816 version which I would want over the HM version was listed and for the bargain basement Buy It Now price of $49.95 + 16.10 shipping. Additionally the model has his signature with an COA!

I have seen other pics with his signature in white.....however if what I just bought is not a fraud, it is likely to me it was bought with the blank wing version and his signature was attained in person through a show, exhibit or something else where he was present to be able to sign it. It is specifically written in the description of the COA that it was signed with a black felt pen. When compared to the white ink signature version, it's not shown in the same cursive style....however aging of the person between signature styling of a younger Pisanos vs an older Pisanos is possible, or was written in a hurry in the space limited especially when there may be a line of people waiting for his autograph.

Whether the signature is legit or fraud does not matter...what matters, is acquiring this great plane dedicated to an Ace Pilot and at a great price......

BB


Gone but Not Forgotten-image.jpg
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Old 08-27-2019, 07:42 PM   #623
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

Excellent buy, Blues Boy! You got yourself a fantabulous model. P-47s are the bomb!!!
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Old 08-31-2019, 03:13 PM   #624
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten


World War II emphatically demonstrated that no one nation holds the monopoly on effective, superlative weaponry. The Germans fielded the Messerschmitt Me 262, the most advanced fighter jet of that era, plus the most feared and effective artillery pieces of the war, the 88mm anti-aircraft/anti-tank gun. The British deployed, arguably, the best multi-engined bomber over Europe, the Avro Lancaster, and conceived the sensational Spitfire and Mosquito. The Russians, no slouches on the battlefield, engineered the T-34 tank, considered by many the best medium tank of the war, complimented by Katyusha rockets and launchers that provided a devastating battlefield punch. The Americans produced, hands-down, the best military transport aircraft of all time, the Douglas C-47, not to mention the best fighter of the entire war (many will agree), the P-51 Mustang, plus the wallapalooza A-bomb. And Japan, last but not least, deployed the ship-killing Long Lance Type 93 torpedo, incontestably the best torpedo in the entire war, not to mention the extremely maneuverable Mitsubishi Zero-Sen, indisputably the best fighter in the Pacific Theatre up to 1943 with a kill ratio of 12 to 1. Every nation could point to at least one most-optimal weapon.

Japan's Zero-Sen (A6M Rei-sen) was prizewinning in every way, an insatiable flying spaghetti monster that gave American (and Allied) fighting men horrendous acid reflux until the F4U Corsair and F6F Hellcat came along. To counter these new American death-syndrome fighters, Mitsubishi proposed that it swap a more muscular, fart-blasting engine for the Sakae 21 power plant then propelling the Zero to accommodate heavier armament, armor, and self-sealing fuel tanks. But mystifyingly, the Imperial Navy refused the request and demanded that the Zero continue production with the comparatively mousy Sakae 21. The result was the A6M5 series, produced at both Mitsubishi and Nakajima factories in greater numbers than all other Zero models combined. This bird featured wings shortened like the A6M3 Model 32 but with rounded wingtips and a strengthened wing that welcomed higher diving speeds, coupled with a complete redesign of the engine cowling and introduction of single thrust-type exhausts. The main armament featured the belt-fed Type 99-2 Model 4 20mm cannon.

Not surprisingly, this proved inadequate against new werewolf American fighters that took particular delight in devouring Zeros alive; so Mitsubishi rolled out the A6M5 Otsu in early 1944, which itself proved lacking, followed by the Model 52, or 'Hei,' that appeared shortly after with armament augmented by a single 13mm machine gun in each wing alongside the 20mm weapon. While designers had planned to power this now significantly heavier pump truck with a meatier version of the Sakae (blessed with water-methanol injection), the engine wasn't then available. The upshot was a significantly heavier fighter with no increase in power, subtracting performance from a maximum speed of 358 m.p.h. to 352 m.p.h. Mitsubishi built only 93 Model Hei Zeros before they were kicked to the curb in favor of the A6M5a in the summer of 1944.

This version did reasonably well against American and British opposition given its limitations, but much of its meager success after early 1944 was attributable to individual pilots and not so much the Zero itself. The fighter was still well able to tangle with the Corsair and Hellcat, but it more often than not came away with singed tail feathers.



Warrant Officer Akimitsu Tanaka (represented above)

Warrant Officer Akimitsu Tanaka entered flight training in 1941 and graduated as a fighter pilot in March, 1942. Among the last Japanese fighter pilots to receive prewar-quality training, he was assigned to the carrier Shokaku in 1943 and before long made his first kill over Rabaul on November 2, 1943. He was then deployed to Truck and from there back to Rabaul to provide air cover in the face of increased Allied attacks.

Tanaka nursed a certifiable hatred for American pilots and took amusement in machine gunning the guts out of them as they parachuted from stricken planes. He got so good at it, in fact, that by the time the bulk of the surviving Japanese air units evacuated from Rabaul in February 1944, his squadron mates called him (roughly translated into English) the "fruitloop sashimi samurai." In March he served as an instructor with the Tainan Air Group in Japan and from there was transferred to Formosa, where on the afternoon of August 31, 1944, he engaged 11 B-24s attacking Kaohsiung (then called Takao). He shot to pieces one B-24 and methodically shredded the parachuting aircrew into ribbons and then damaged another B-24 so badly it later crashed in the mountains of southwestern China (later discovered in October 1996).

Shot down over Amoy on November 3, 1944, and recovering from the trauma, Tanaka was next posted to the 203rd Naval Air Group in Japan. Flying a Model 52c, he shot down two Corsairs of VFB-83 on March 10, 1945, and on June 10 engaged a flight of P-47Ns over Kyushu, unwittingly opening a can of whoopass and getting his tushie handed to him. Surviving this debacle (just barely) and now recognized as an undisputed ace and idolized leader, he painted victory symbols on his Zero to instill pride and morale among his younger, poorly trained pilots.

When Japan announced its surrender, Warrant Officer Tanaka refused to obey and spent days attempting to shoot down elusive American aircraft. Angered all the more, Tanaka finally dove kamikaze-like on a troop ship off Kyushu but missed and died in a mountainous geyser. He'd scored 28 victories during the war.


I'm going to make a pitch for Easy Model, the plastic, pre-made model manu that we all love and adore. Granted, Easy Models are plastic—not zinc—which is, in my opinion, a liability (I love the heft and feel of metal, not to mention it's more durable and everlasting). But for looks and artistry, Easy Models, in many cases, are every bit as appealing as, say, Corgi, Hobby Master, or Calibre models. They're not perfect, to be sure; but then no single plastic or zinc model is. For those of you who've studiously avoided buying Easy Models because they're plastic, give them a chance. They make for excellent substitutes until better diecast models come along, and they're far, far less expensive.
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Old 09-04-2019, 07:56 PM   #625
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The de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito was the best "multirole" warbird of WWII, possibly the best warbird, period. That's saying a lot considering the plane's much-praised, much-vaunted challengers, and I hold it against no one to think otherwise. But when you deconstruct this aircraft's capabilities, exploits, and sheer brilliance, you're hard-pressed to argue differently. The Mosquito was the blissful merger of two eloquent components: a wooden sandwich construction consisting of spruce, birch plywood, and balsa wood wedded to a pair of ultra tech, Duke Nukem Rolls-Royce Merlin V-12 engines. The resulting warbird was so light and Lamborghini fast it tore the wings off of its adversaries and swiftly became the sliced bread of bombers, fighters, fighter-bombers, night fighters, reconnaissance planes, and trainers. The last of the over 7,700 examples built flew well into the jet age, retiring in the early 1960s.

The Mosquito's roots began with de Havilland's DH.88 Comet, which made extensive use of plywood/balsa sections overlaid with stressed skin. The bird won the London-Melbourne Centenary Races, encouraging the manufacturer to produce an airliner utilizing the same wood approach, eventuating in seven beautifully streamlined DH.91 Albatrosses, first flown in 1937. These gorgeous babes were a genuine aeronautical achievement, which de Havilland thought to modify into a medium bomber design. But sadly the British Air Ministry, partial to metal-skinned aircraft—decidedly not wood—proved a fly in the ointment and rejected the manu's entry. (De Havilland's preference for wood was forward thinking and shrewd. Metals like aluminum would prove hard to find during war, everybody and their mother clamoring for it. The Mosquito, accordingly, relied on the British Empire's inexhaustible forests, a resource that demanded the skilled services of woodworkers and furniture makers not entirely critical to the primary war effort.)

Unflinching, de Havilland designed a novel wooden warbird as a private venture, an unarmed light bomber with an internal bomb bay powered by two über-ninja Merlin V-12 engines engines. The design dramatically departed from the metal-bound, snarkosaurus mounts the Air Ministry preferred, its inherent qualities being relative smallness and lightness (owing to its wood construction) plus the omission of heavy defensive turrets or gun stations. The design minimized the crew to two members—a pilot and navigator—further reducing weight. And the warbird could fly far above enemy air defenses faster than existing enemy interceptors. The aircraft's layout was typical of de Havilland designs, a shapely teardrop form with the cockpit positioned far forward, engines mounted in barracuda nacelles, with wings mid-mounted. The empennage consisted of a single vertical tail fin and low-set horizontal tailplanes. Pilot and navigator squeezed into a staggered side-by-side seating arrangement.

Dead from the neck up, the Air Ministry obstinately rejected this magnificent bird, remaining daftly indifferent until de Havilland's World War 1 ally, Air Marshal Sir Wildred Freeman (who sat on the Air Council) stepped in and approved further development of the Mosquito in 1939. The RAF, dubious at first, then contracted for a bomber prototype.

When the first Mosquito flew on November 25th, 1940, all remaining skeptics shut their gobs. The DH.98 proved a full-blooded dracowolf requiring only slight modifications to flush out teething issues. De Havilland unveiled a fighter prototype in May of 1941, and those subsequent were formally introduced into RAF service that same year. The manu outfitted the photographic reconnaissance variant with three camera systems with an optional fourth (1 x F.52 20- or 30-inch daytime camera, K.17 6-inch survey and mapping camera and 1 or 2 x F.24 cameras). The night fighter version swiftly followed with a sophisticated Airborne Interception (AI) radar for the task. Engineers added a bulletproof windscreen for crew protection and reinforced the wing spars for improved fighter-like qualities.

Mosquitoes were generally armed with 4 x 7.7mm Browning machine guns in the nose with 4 x 20mm Hispano cannons under the cockpit floor. Some versions removed the machine guns altogether while others replaced the 4 x cannons with a single 57mm cannon. The internal bomb bay supported up to 500lb of ordnance in original versions that later ballooned to bomb load-outs equal to that carried by American B-17s. Hardpoints beneath each wing could accommodate bombs, too—initially 2 x 250lb then 2 x 500lb types. Not to mention, the bird fired underwing rockets while navalized Mosquitoes hefted a single torpedo. External fuel tanks, when employed, extended operational ranges.

Limited production during its introduction restricted availability of this sabertoth werewolf to British flight groups, which officially accepted the Mosquito in January of 1942, the warbird first replacing fossilized Boulton Paul Defiants and stodgy Bristol Beaufighters. The Mosquito flew its first combat-level sortie on September 17th, 1941, when a photographic reconnaissance mount of No. 1 PRU took a swing over the France/Spain border. Night-fighting Mosquitoes almost instantly proved themselves sensations when, inside weeks in early 1943, pilots slaughtered 17 enemy aircraft. The success of the fighter-bomber, reconnaissance, and night fighter types was so bananapants awesome, in fact, that de Havilland felt no need to push its fighter prototype.

Reconnaissance Mosquitoes could outrun most intercepting German fighters; intruder versions shot depots, supply trains, troop columns, and airfields to confetti. Bomber variants swept in a tree-top level and hit targets deep inside enemy territory with impunity. Those armed with rockets blasted unsuspecting Axis vessels and submarines, swapping their their 4 x cannons for a single 57mm cannon. Bomber Command also used Mosquitoes to "light the way" for accompanying Lancaster bombers.

As if this weren't enough, the RAF also employed the Mosquito as a psychological tool, blowing factory worker housing to bits—along with resident families—customarily two hours before work shifts. Among the warbird's more celebrated attacks was a raid against the Gestapo HQ in Oslo, Norway, involving a round trip distance of 1,100 miles (1,800 km), with a flying time of 4.75 hours, the longest mission flown by Mosquitoes. The bombers crossed the North Sea at heights of less than 100 ft (30 m) to avoid enemy aircraft and navigated by dead reckoning. Each aircraft was armed with four 500 lb bombs with 11 second delayed fuses (meant to avert shrapnel damage to the aircraft). At least four bombs penetrated the Gestapo HQ, one failing to detonate, the others smashing through the opposite wall before exploding. The building escaped destruction, but 80 civilians were killed or injured in the attack. The Norwegian government in exile, not apprised of the raid earlier, later chastised the British government for its uncommunicative policy.

Operation Jericho proved a far more successful Mosquito operation on 18 February 1944, intended to free French Resistance and political prisoners. The raid was remarkable for its precision and daring, which breached the walls and buildings of the prison as well as destroying guards' barracks. Of 717 prisoners, 102 were killed, 74 wounded, and 258 escaped, including 79 Resistance and political prisoners. The Germans recaptured two-thirds of the escapees. Learning from the Oslo debacle, the Brits informed the French weeks before the raid.


So yeah, the Mosquito was one heck of a stallion. Corgi did a fine job with its version of it, the best of the series (in my opinion) being the jet-black night fighter (illustrated above). Corgi's Mozzies are getting a little long in the tooth and could use some updating but still hold up to today's standards. I recall almost bidding on a particular Mosquito fourteen years ago going for $600 plus but thought better of it (mercifully). Today you can buy the same model for around $100. How times change.
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Old 09-13-2019, 10:28 AM   #626
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten


An icon is a symbol. It can be literal, like the little trashcan on your computer desktop, or metaphorical, like Michael Jackson, pop idol/creepophile. Similarly, warbirds can be icons, including but not exclusive to the Mitsubishi A6M Zero that represented Japan's carnivorous empire, the ghoulish Heinkel He-111 symbolizing Hitler's savagery against England and Europe, and the Supermarine Spitfire, Britain's Jedi lightsaber swung against the minions of evil. America, too, had its legendary aircraft, among them the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, a genuine Mandalorian warrior paradoxically designed as a bomber-interceptor—not a fighter.

At its rollout, the P-38 was far more advanced and faster than its U.S. counterparts, the Bell P-39 Airacobra and Curtiss P-40 Warhawk. It was swifter than the Zero—even on one engine (and though scarcely reported, it shot down more Japanese warbirds than any other fighter during World War II, and seven of the top scoring USAAF aces in the Pacific flew the P-38). When first introduced in 1939, the Lightning could fly a steady course at 413 mph (665 km/h) making it the fastest production airplane in the world (at the time) and one of the fastest climbing fighters right up to the end of the WW II. It was just as versatile as the de Havilland Mosquito with the added distinction of being the only truly successful twin-engine fighter of World War II.

Lockheed's chief engineer, Hall Hibbard and (then) young Clarence "Kelly" Johnson, designed one of the boldest departures from traditional American fighter development ever. Given the demands for speed, range, and climb imposed on the new fighter, Hibbard figured not an engine in the world existed that could meet those requirements; so he eyeballed the new Allison V-1710 engine that had just been tested to deliver 1,000 hp (745 kW) for 150 hours, which eventually powered the bird to over 400 mph. With two of these lunatic powerplants installed, the Lightening packed twice the power and was nearly twice the size of its predecessors. The fledgling P-38 also boasted of four .50 caliber machine guns plus a 20 mm cannon, enough firepower to sink a ship, which it occasionally did. Emplacement of these weapons in the central fuselage pod eliminated the need for propeller synchronization, while the twin booms provided extra space for the engines, landing gear, and turbochargers.

For all of its Captain America prowess, the P-38 suffered from two vexatious issues: tail flutter and compressibility. Lockheed corrected flutter by installing wing fillets and making tailplane changes. Compressibility, however, proved a tougher nut to crack. For the aeronautically challenged, compressibility is a measure of the relative volume change of a fluid or (in this case) solid as a response to a pressure (or mean stress) change. Common to all high-speed fighters, this issue could tear the tail off the P-38 during high-speed dives, deflecting airflow up and down away from the leading edge, preventing proper air flow over the wing. To defeat this, engineers bent the booms upward, which raised the tailplane higher by 30 inches (76 cm) than the standard P-38, which failed miserably (Lockheed test pilot Ralph Virden took the high-tailed airplane to altitude, nosed over in a high-speed dive, and cratered the earth at over 400 mph).

The NACA ultimately solved the problem dive flaps. Flaps not only made high-speed dives a snap but dramatically safe too. Which took a load off everybody's mind; but until ground crews could install them, P-38 pilots were warned not to dive the fighter for fear of becoming a smoking hole in the earth. Germans engineers, no dummies, observed this fault and informed their pilots about it, one of whom was ace Hans Pichler, who eluded P-38s by performing a “split S” and diving for the deck (laughing all the way). Lockheed produced mod dive-flap kits and shipped them to England on a Douglas C-54, where an RAF Spitfire shot it down, dashing hopes of altering P-38s already in service. Half of all P-38s flew with no dive flaps, and factory-installed dive flaps didn't appear until the P-38J in mid-1944.

Engine detonation also proved a monumental headache, especially at high altitude. Allisons exploded without warning, dismembering pistons, rods, crankshafts, and sometimes adjacent pilots, caused by high carburetor air temperatures sucking in excessive manifold pressure. Jimmy Doolittle, then commander of the 8th Air Force, got so teed off about exploding P-38 engines that he yanked Lightnings from the European Theatre altogether. Other fronts, by contrast, clamored for the fighter, where the Lightning eventually shined. The Lightning fared far better in warmer climates, especially the Pacific, where it (at first) suffered from a hellified number of engine failures, this time owing to prematurely worn bearings. Pratt & Whitney powerplants similarly suffered with eroding bearings owing to acid buildup in the lubricating oil, ultimately remedied with a change in oil formulation.

The dimensions of the P-38 remained the same throughout production, its wing span 52 feet. At 17,500 pounds gross, the Lightning was the largest, heaviest, and fastest fighter to date. Two external drop tanks extended the warbird's combat range of 450 miles to an astonishing 2,600 miles, making it the first long-range bomber escort. In addition to its Death Star nose armament, the P-38 could heft up to 4,000 pounds of bombs—nearly as much as the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress (4,800 lbs). The P-38J was the fastest of the Lightnings with a top speed of 420 mph, and the "L" version was the most produced, 3,735 in all. By the “L” model, nearly all of the plane's mechanical problems had vanished.


The most famous of all P-38 missions was the interception and slaughter of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the commander of the Combined Fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy, creepazoid mastermind behind the attack on Pearl Harbor, and soon to be obituary material. P-38s operating from Kukum Field on Guadalcanal flying 600 miles at wave top level shot the hot sloppies out of him, his converted Mitsubishi G4M1 "Betty" bomber, and a second Betty over the Solomon Islands. Opposed to other available American fighters, only Lightnings (with drop tanks) were capable of performing the 1,000 mile long mission.

U.S. naval spy cats had intercepted messages that Yamamoto would fly from Rabaul to Balalae Airfield (near Bougainville in the Solomon Islands) to raise troop morale. Yamamoto was noted for his punctuality, which allowed USAAF Lightnings to precisely plan their attack on Yamamoto and his staff flying in two G4M1 Betty bombers escorted by six Zeroes.

A squadron of eighteen P-38s, led by Major John W. Mitchell of the 339th Fighter Squadron on April 18, 1943, flew the mission. Mitchell assigned a “kill” flight of four fighters, consisting of Tom Lanphier, Rex Barber, James McLanahan and Joseph Moore, to intercept Yamamoto’s Betty while other P-38s provided top cover at 18,000 ft.

On the way out, McLanahan’s Lightning blew a tire, and Moore’s drop tanks wouldn’t feed fuel to the engine, so Raymond Hine and Besby Holmes replaced them. Now numbering 16 planes, the group then headed for New Georgia, flying only thirty feet above the water to avoid detection. Miserably, flying at low altitude above a calm sea, the cockpits turned into virtual hothouses, one pilot nearly dozing off until his props hit the water, spraying water onto his canopy. Startled, he snapped awake and remained sharp for the rest of the flight, unable to sleep for days afterward.

Remarkably, the P-38s arrived only one minute before Yamamoto's plane appeared, the two Betty bombers flying at 4,500 ft. and descending, their six Zeroes soaring above and behind.

The kill team targeted the bombers and pushed pedal to the metal, but Holmes' tanks wouldn’t release and he pealed off, followed by his wingman, Hine. The rest of the squadron climbed to 18,000 ft. as top cover. Seeing the Americans and crapping their diapers, the Betty pilots dove for the deck as Rex Barber and Tom Lanphier moved in. Infuriated Zeroes above headed swooped toward the attacking P-38s but got their rear ends handed to them as Lanphier turned and claimed one kill. Barber nailed the starboard engine on Yamamoto’s Betty, the powerplant belching black smoke and flames as Lanphier spun around and fired a deflection shot at Yamamoto’s bomber and hit it, whereupon the aircraft nosedived into the jungle. The remaining Betty carrying Admiral Ugaki darted like a rabbit over the water as Barber and Holmes shot it to pieces, the bomber smashing into the sea like a meteorite. The upshot being, all of the P-38s returned but for Raymond Hine, and Tokyo refused to concede Yamamoto's death until May 21, 1943.

From the moment the squadron touched ground back at Kukum Field, a pipe-bomb debate exploded as to who shot down Yamamoto's plane. Tom Lanphier emphatically laid claim to the deed and was given official credit. But upon hearing this, Rex Barber went nova and ripped the official report a new one, which eventuated in both pilots getting half credit. Lamentably no gun cameras recorded the event and no official debriefing had been held, so the true account may never be resolved.


Do I love the P-38? Yep, I do. It was truly an underrated warbird that didn't get the kudos it deserved, and it looked downright trippy. Do I own P-38 models? Yep again, both Witty Wings and Corgi. And between you and me, I'm not sure which I like best, though Corgi might have the edge. And speaking of Corgi, if you're a pooch aficionado, get ready to drop more cheddar on these lovely models, 'cause Brexit for the Brits and the tariff war for the Yanks will likely kick Corgi prices through the roof (unless you live elsewhere). If you don't own a Corgi P-38 Lightning yet, snoop around and find one. They're extraordinary representations of flesh-eating monsters that devoured one of America's greatest WWII supervillains.
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Old 09-16-2019, 02:19 PM   #627
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten


Stare in the face of a Ju-88 and tell me it doesn't look totally insectoid with its bulging, "beetle's eye"canopy and chucklesome multi-paneled nose glazing. It's clear that Junkers (and other German manus) were love struck with insecta, articulating bugly ugly insect traits into any number of Nazi warbirds. The "Schnellbomber" accordingly resembled a wasp more than a two-engined warbird that nonetheless rendered cracking service as a bomber, dive bomber, night fighter, torpedo bomber, reconnaissance aircraft, heavy fighter—and flying bomb, becoming one of the Luftwaffe's most important assets. The Ju-88 assembly line ran non stop from 1936 to 1945, producing 14,676 of these hell planes in dozens of variants, more than any other twin-engine German aircraft of the war.

Not unlike the de Havilland Mosquito, the Ju 88 originated as a fast bomber, answering a Luftwaffe requirement for a "Schnellbomber" (fast bomber) able to boogie at 310 mph while lumbering 1700 lbs of bombs. Which at the time was supremely faster than biplane fighters that then equipped German fighter units and even faster than prototype Bf 109 monoplane fighters.

The first prototype (Ju 88V1) rolled out on 21 December 1936 featuring an all-metal, stressed skin construction designed by two American structural engineers. Two Daimler-Benz DB 600 engines powered the ship installed in cowlings with circular radiators. These inverted V-12 powerplants sat in front of the wing leading edge, not beneath it; and because of the long, kielbasa-like cowlings, Junkers employees nicknamed the Ju 88 the "Zwei Schwanzstuckers, " roughly translated into "two zipper sausages." Mindlessly, some ground crew dolt completely destroyed the Ju 88V1 before performance tests could start; but the type had already shown great promise for further development.

From the third prototype onwards, Junker's engineers swapped engines for Junkers Jumo 211s, because the preferable Daimler-Benz powerplants were scarce. The fourth prototype, the Ju 88V4, featured the "beetle eye" canopy we spoke about, which protected a four-seat cockpit. Junkers further parked a ventral gondola under the nose, manned by a gunner who fired rearwards. The Ju 88V5 set a closed-circuit record on 9 March 1939 flying 621 miles with 4,440 lbs of bombs at an average speed of 321 mph, a sensational public debut.

Meanwhile, the Luftwaffe general staff made two frightfully consequential decisions. One, they gave the Schnellbomber the highest possible priority, concerned production remained woefully behind schedule. And two, Luftwaffe brass requested the Ju 88 be converted into a dive bomber, which severely obstructed the warbird's development and impeded its flight performance. Installing dive brakes under the wing proved easy compared to reinforcing the structure for dive bombing attacks, which mushroomed the plane's weight. Larger internal bomb bays and external bomb racks for four 1000 lb. bombs increased the load, too, that imposed vexing restrictions on production aircraft. Which was all for naught anyway since pilots usually didn't dive steeper than 60 degrees except for anti-shipping missions. For all that, the Ju 88 was still easy to fly, gentle, responsive, and maneuverable. If the warbird had any vices, it was her accursed multi-paneled canopy framing that restricted view.

When the war broke out, only a handful of Ju 88s were available, production reduced to one per week, equipping only one Gruppe. In the third week of the war, four Ju 88A-1s attacked British warships at Scapa Flow but caused no damage. On 9 October 1939, a Ju 88 won the dubious distinction as the first German warbird shot down by RAF fighters. Perhaps the most effective Ju-88 bomber version was the A-4, featuring a longer wing span, stronger airframe, and Jumo 211J engines that blessed it with speed and a heavier bomb load. The plane's weak points were short range (extended with additional fuel tanks in the bomb bays), a cramped, inefficient cockpit, and feeble defensive armament. Flying from Norwegian bases without fighter escort during the Battle of Britain, the bird took such heavy losses that trained replacement crews grew hard to find.

Meanwhile, the Reichsluftfahrtsministerium (RLM) granted Junkers permission to develop a heavy fighter-bomber version, which eventuated in the Ju 88C. Junker engineers replaced the transparent bomber nose for a metal nose cap that shrouded three 7.92mm machine guns and one 20mm cannon, augmented by two more 20mm cannon in the gondola under the nose. Because the Ju 88C was too low in priority to secure BMW 801 radials, Junkers kept the Jumo 211 engines. The first production model, Ju 88C-2, retained bomb bays, which came in handy on long-range anti-shipping strikes from bases in Norway. The Ju 88C-4 appeared shortly thereafter, extending its roles to night attacks on British airfields, ground attack missions, flying escort for transport aircraft, and providing air cover for convoys.

The C-6 became the standard fighter version, still lumbered with the same Jumo 211 engines and serving mostly as a fighter-bomber assigned to bomber units. In reaction to escalating attacks on German shipping, especially on U-boats in the Bay of Biscay, KG40 flew anti-shipping patrols and escort missions from bases in France. They presented a significant threat to RAF antisubmarine aircraft, proving far more efficient than Ar 196 float planes, short-range fighters, and early Ju 88 bombers operating over the Bay. But aircraft like the Sunderland flying boat, slow as they were, posed their own serious threat. The Germans learned to attack them in packs, not individually, and even then found the sturdy, well-armed warbird hard to dispatch. As Allied losses increased, the British countered with Beaufighters and Mosquitos. To counter them, the Luftwaffe threw in Focke-Wulf Fw 190s with long-range fuel tanks. The fight intensified in the summer of 1943, the Germans taking the worst of it. In July 1944, KG40 disbanded.

Compared to other fighters, the Ju 88C was enormous; but its generous size was ideally suited for death star armament and capacious electronic equipment. Hence it was a prime candidate for nightfighter operations, which at first were conducted sans radars. But in late 1942 multiple Ju 88C-6 fighters received the Lichtenstein BC radar, later swapped for the Lichtenstein C-1 and later Lichtenstein SN-2. Although the Messerschmitt Bf 110 remained the most numerous nightfighter, the Ju 88C contributed too and was well-liked; but it was too slow for the role. In early 1943 enough BMW 801 engines became available, and Junkers traded its Jumo 211s for these more potent powerplants, calling the new version the Ju 88R. On 9 May 1943 a Ju 88R-1 defected to Britain, landed near Aberdeen and subsequently revealed her Lichtenstein BC radar secrets.

Further extensive nightfighter developments gave birth to the Ju 88G, featuring extended wingtips, rectangular tail surfaces, BMW 801D engines, and four 20mm MG151/20 cannon disposed in a small ventral gondola. Ground crews at times mounted two upward-firing autocannon in the fuselage called Schräge Musik, which unleashed a firestorm of led that literally tore the guts out of British bombers (which had no ventral gun positions). The Ju 88G replaced the C and R on the production lines and quickly became the most effective of German nightfighters. But again the fickle finger of fate jabbed the Luftwaffe in the eye: On 13 July 1944 a Ju 88G-1 landed on a RAF base after a navigation error and revealed all the secrets of its Lichtenstein SN-2 radar and Flensburg and Naxos radar detectors.

The Ju 88D, Ju 88H, and Ju 88T were reconnaissance versions, the Ju 88H-1 carrying radar, intended for long-range naval reconnaissance. The Ju 88P was an anti-tank version armed with two 37mm cannon, a 50mm cannon, or even a 75mm cannon in a ventral gondola, a good idea except these aircraft proved too unwieldy and vulnerable to recoil damage.

The most bizarro use of the Ju 88 was as the larger, unmanned component of a composite aircraft configuration comprising a small piloted control aircraft (usually a Bf-109 or Fw-190) mounted by struts above a large explosives-carrying drone (the Ju-88, or "Mistel"). A specially designed nose filled with a humongous load of explosives formed into a shaped charge replaced the entire nose-located crew compartment. When this fighter/bomber duo neared the target, the Fw-190 pilot aimed the Ju-88 at it, detonated explosive bolts on the strut, freeing itself from the drone, and flew home. A typical bombload consisted of 4,000 poubs of explosive material, enough to cripple a warship, destroy a bridge, or penetrate fortified structures. But such attacks met with limited success—if any.


Truth be told, I'm not an entomology enthusiast, so I don't collect bugs and insects for pleasure. But I do collect Corgi Ju-88s, which is almost the same thing. For my money, Corgi did an outstanding job on its Schnellbombers, cloning their buggy "beetle eye" canopies to perfection. It's amazing how sweet these models look; so if you haven't seen one at point blank range, do so. They flawlessly capture the warbird's waspy malevolence, and I'm willing to bet that after you lay your peepers on one, you'll want it. Badly.
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Old 09-21-2019, 01:42 PM   #628
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten


Half past eight on the first morning of Operation Desert Storm, three Tornados streaked across a dazzling sky. Having just refueled far above Saudi Arabia, the jets now accelerated towards their target, a ginormous airfield neighboring Iraq’s southern border. Navigator John Nichol and pilot John “J.P.” Peters crewed one of the warbirds, adrenaline pumping madly, Peters' finger on the bomb pickle. Locked and loaded, the British jet danced and shimmied through a storm of exploding fire, exactly the kind of low-flying attack the Tornado did best. But just at the critical moment, the aircraft’s bombs refused to drop. When interviewed by the Daily Mail, Nichol insisted the Tornado’s targeting system had decided that conditions were wrong for release. “There was chaos in the cockpit,” John continued. “JP was shouting at me. The attack was a failure and, as the person in charge of the weapons systems, it was my blunder.”

Worse yet, as the crew stomped on the gas pedal, an Iraqi heat-seeker donkey punched the warbird with a big bada boom. “One minute I was flying at 50 ft looking up at blue sky, then the jet was tumbling like a sycamore leaf and I was staring at brown sand,” Peters said. What followed was one of the most radioactive-poop events of the Gulf War, the two men forced to eject and then endure unspeakable torture at the hands of the Iraqis. But little of this was their fault.

Though the Tornado was blooded in the 1991 Gulf War, it was designed to skim the treetops of German forests at the height of a nuclear war and unleash unholy hell on Soviet ground targets. “The Tornado’s primary design driver was to conduct low level terrain following radar nuclear strikes into the USSR,” says defense expert Bill Hodson, director at international engineering consultancy Frazer-Nash. “It provided a world-beating capability to fly in cloud, at night, at 250 ft., being undetected by enemy air defenses.” The bird could fly old-school if its avionics systems went banoodles, crews using a map and stopwatch and night vision goggles. What it wasn't designed to do was fly over desert with no cover, vulnerable to Iraq's extensive SAM systems and 4.5-mm and 23-mm light antiaircraft weapons—which nobody shared with Nichol and Peters.

The first collaborative European military aircraft project, Panavia Aircraft GmbH, a consortium company established by three partner nations, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy, designed the multi-role "Tonka" to defeat Russian adversaries in three main variants: the IDS (Interdiction and Strike) fighter bomber, the ECR (Electronic Combat and Reconnaissance), and the ADV (Air Defense Variant) fighter. It was to herald a new level of capability for NATO air forces, able to deliver conventional and nuclear weapons in all weather conditions by day or night with great accuracy. To accomplish that, the designers turned to a few key technological tricks.

Much like the American F-14 Tomcat and F-111, the Tornado employed a "swing wing" design, which could transition from straight wings for more lift during takeoff to a swept-back configuration for better airflow at cruising speeds. It also featured reverse thrust jet engines (very unusually for a fast jet) that gave the plane excellent low-speed handling and landing abilities, able to stop in less than 2,500 feet. To simultaneously scan for targets and conduct fully automated terrain-following for low-level flight, Tonkas employed a navigation/attack Doppler radar kit. Europe's forests and hills offered a measure of safety and protection to Tornado crews, which Middle East deserts most definitely didn't. Missions involving low-level bombing raids on Iraqi air strips and Scud missiles sites, sometimes at altitudes below 60 feet, provided no cover whatsoever. Even a lone soldier with a Kalashnikov posed a threat. And thus exposed, the Tornado consequently suffered higher losses than other Allied combat aircraft; it wasn't meant to campaign over naked, hot deserts.

Additionally, the Tornado itself had issues. In essence, the Tornado was a flash from the past, a floppy-jallopy analog warbird operating in a progressively digital age. Its old-timey mechanical nature and the fact that it rarely flew without two external fuel tanks made the 28-ton warhorse far less maneuverable than contemporaries like the F-16, F-15, and French Mirage. In fact, the Tornado carried so much inertia that many less-than-impressed RAF pilots complained the bird was “heavy” or “lumbering.” And despite the fact the RAF deployed an interceptor variant designed to patrol the North Sea against Soviet bombers, the Tornado was most definitely not a dogfighter, proving ridiculously difficult to turn (pulling 5 'g' was possible but not sustainable).

Only too aware of this and other shortcomings, the RAF initiated a series of enhancements that kept the warbird active, among them the GR.4 upgrade that offered better electronics and avionics. And thus enhanced, the Tornado became the RAF’s primary fast jet asset for over a third of that service’s existence, contributing to every major conflict from Iraq, Kosovo, to Libya, including operations against ISIS in Syria. More than 1,000 rolled off the line, some flying for Germany and Saudi Arabia. As of March 31, 2019, the RAF officially retired the old warhorse.

As a tribute to this impressive jet, Squadron Leader Jamie Smith (Tornado pilot and aficionado) said, “Many aircraft have become famous over the 100-year history of the Royal Air Force, whether through being of revolutionary design, outstanding contribution in war, or just through being loved by all who knew them," referring to the Harrier, the Spitfire, and the Vulcan. “But the Tornado might fit all of those categories with the best of them.”


You know what I love best about the Tonka? Its tail fin, that glorious, humongo vertical stabilizer, a tribute to dorsal fins of extinct Megalodon monster sharks that lived 2.6 million years ago. I mean just look at the thing: It has presence; it has style and grandeur and lordliness. Corgi did itself proud with this particular model in terms of accuracy and overall appearance. Though it sold out long ago, you can still find it if you dig deep enough. I especially like the Norwegian camo job version. Don't you?
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Old 09-24-2019, 01:44 PM   #629
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten


As wacky as this sounds, supermarket tabloids recently claimed that prehistoric Pterodactyls flew in formation above Washington D.C. and other cities, stoking fears that Jurassic Park dinosaurs were swarming the skies. They affirmed that paleontologists, aware of this development, nervously rechristened the creatures' genus to Stratosaurus, a carnivore so ancient and fearsome it can drop its deadly load from far above and destroy entire municipalities. Other more 'enlightened' observers identified the beasts as Boeing B-52 Stratofortresses, America’s original long-range, swept-wing heavy bomber that first flew in April 1952. Dubbed the "BUFF," an acronym for “Big Ugly Fat Fartzilla," the B-52 is currently scheduled to remain active in the U.S. Air Force inventory until 2050. And you can bet your sweet bippy that at least one will continue to fly until April 15, 2052 (if only on a ceremonial basis) to potentially make it the first aircraft, military or civil, to stay in active service for a full century.

Were it not for a 32-year-old U.S. Air Force colonel who happened to be an MIT-degreed engineer, the B-52 Stratofortress would have been a Tupolev Tu-95 Bear lookalike—a big, sweptwing bomber with four massive turboprops driving eight contra-rotating propellers. Boeing’s engineers had settled on that composition when they proposed the B-52 to Colonel Pete Warden during an October 1948 meeting. “Get rid of those props or your proposal will be rejected,” Warden blurted, convinced jets were the future. And thus said USAF colonel/MIT grad did as requested (literally overnight), and a star was born. Pratt & Whitney was developing the J57 turbojet at the time, powerplants that would change aviation history by powering both the Stratosaurus—er, Stratofortress—and civil JT3D, the Boeing 707. Adding a fan to the J57 produced the TF-33, the low-bypass engine that ushered in the fanjet. The ancient TF-33 became the B-52H’s engine, which power Stratofortresses still flying.

So how did Boeing do it? By building an incredibly light yet simple and robust airframe featuring an immense volume of internal space, which allowed for steady upgrades through ingenious electronics, ordnance and equipment advances. The B-52 started life lumbering comparably rudimentary, fussy, vacuum-tube navigation and bomb-aiming hardware (some early versions flying with no electronics at all). These days, the BUFF boasts of the most cutting-edge, computerized military technology ever.

Boeing designed the '52 with a minimal rudder and small elevators, probably to impede overtaxing its somewhat fragile airframe (the bomber is limited to +2 Gs). The rudder constitutes just 10 percent of the vertical tail’s total area, making a stiff crosswind on takeoff and landing a big concern. Thus engineers castered the main gear, where the bomber can crab in a crosswind, steerable through 20 degrees to each side. The system works great though to see a B-52 steer down the centerline while its fuselage points at hangar row takes getting used to. Newby B-52 pilots train to land while looking out the side windows.

Another B-52 eccentricity is its takeoff performance, its wing mounted at an eight-degree angle of incidence to place the fuselage at a dead-level attitude during high-altitude nuclear drops. This eliminates the need for rotation on takeoff, which would prove problematic given the bomber's low-to-the-ground fuselage aft of the rear main landing gear. Once the B-52’s up-canted wing generates enough lift for takeoff, the airplane simply levitates, initially climbing out with a slight nose-down attitude. Which prompts some to claim that a B-52 doesn’t take off, it simply scares the earth away. With its huge Fowler flaps deployed, a B-52’s attitude on approach is virtually the same as in cruise.

Fortunately, the B-52 proved itself supremely capable in a role for which it was never intended: a conventional bomber that dropped dumb bombs from high altitude or low. If not for that versatility, the Stratofortress might have retired by the mid-1960s owing to superior Soviet anti-aircraft defenses (surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), interceptors, radar, and other sensors). Penetration of Russia's borders by a massive, barefaced, subsonic bomber was hopeless. As a result, the B-52 first went to war against a teensy-weensy Southeast Asian country most Americans had never heard of, dropping iron bombs on Vietnam that inspired comparisons to killing gnats with a sledgehammer. The BUFF’s combat debut in June 1965 was as clumsy and ineffective, thirty B-52Fs flying from Guam in 10 three-aircraft cells on the first raid of Operation Arc Light. Twenty-seven actually participated, two colliding while holding for aerial refueling, killing both aircraft and crews, and a third lost unable to find its tanker. Someone told the Viet Cong beforehand, who left for parts unknown.

A fierce rivalry erupted between Strategic Air Command and the USAF proper. General Curtis LeMay felt the BUFFs belonged to SAC—not the USAF. SAC had modified its B-52s to carry cruise missiles, most notably the 5-ton, air-breathing Hound Dog, a nuclear deterrent. To convert and use the airplane for close air support, LeMay insisted, was out-and-out ridiculous. But what a paradox: Tactical F-105 and F-4 fighter-bombers were attacking Hanoi on strategic missions while the world’s finest strategic bomber was flying tactical missions.

Many B-52 strikes over Vietnam were little more than 'matchstick missions,' good for nothing but altering jungles to splinters. Still, North Vietnamese who suffered torrents of 500- and 750-pound bombs found the experience terrifying. Each B-52 carried up to 108 bombs, most internal but many from the two underwing pylons. If the B-52s hit the enemy's position square on, nobody escaped. Entire brigades, even divisions, vanished in one bombing run. The effect was horrific. But each mission cost Uncle Sam a small fortune, typically $20 million per. And yet the bomber was so completely amortized that the B-52 remains the best all-time weaponry bargains ever, much like a used car that runs perfectly but is worthless for resale: reliable, cheap, efficient, familiar to both its drivers and maintainers with lots of spare parts.

The B-52’s most celebrated missions over Vietnam were part of Operation Linebacker II, when the bombers crushed Hanoi and Haiphong for 11 days in December 1972. The destruction convinced the North Vietnamese to return to the negotiating table. And though the North at length won the war, these negotiations facilitated the repatriation of American POWs and the country's withdrawal from South Vietnam. By the time Linebacker II was over, North Vietnamese SAMS had shot down 15 Stratofortresses (one, it's said, to a MiG-21).

Northrop Grumman B-2s suffer a similar problem. Valued at roughly $2 billion apiece, the USAF’s 20 stealthy Spirits are simply too expensive to risk in operations against enemies with sophisticated air defenses. The last of the B-2Bs will be retired by 2030, and the crews that deliver them to the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base boneyard may ride home in B-52s.

Today all the early B-52s are gone, boneyarded or crushed for scrap but for those sitting in museums. No B-52Gs are flying either, all sacrificed to the provisions of the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which called for the scrapping of the entire B-52G fleet. These Gs were guillotined to smithereens so Soviet satellites could verify their destruction. All that remain are 76 B-52Hs. At 240 tons apiece, they comprise the heaviest bombers of any air force ever. They also carry the heaviest-ever weapons load over the farthest distances. And when hypersonic cruise missiles come on line, the H will carry it. A B-52H has already launched several scramjet-engine Boeing X-51A Waveriders, one of which achieved Mach 5.

The BUFF, neither ugly nor fat, will forever stand amid the pantheon of truly great aircraft, its vast wings sheltering the Wright Flyer, DC-3, P-51D Mustang, and other all-time classics. None, however, will outlive it.


Heck yeah I love the Stratosaurus. Corgi splendidly captured the essence of this warhorse in 1/144 scale, and my hat's off to them. Herpa issued the B-52H in 1/200, a nice little effort but nowhere near as faithful and detailed as the Pooches' model. The joint lines where the wings meet the fuselage are conspicuous, but they're not too bad compared to those on other models (not to mention seams on smaller scales pop out more). I bless myself for having collected each and everyone of these Stratofortresses and hope you B-52 aficionados out there own some too. The only currently available AA33506 I could find on the net is here:
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Old 10-31-2019, 01:25 PM   #630
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten


As a keen observer, you've doubtless noticed that some aircraft bear an uncanny resemblance to assorted fish or mammals. The Me-262, for instance, bore a striking similarity to the predatory Mako Shark, the B-24 to a lard-face hippopotamus, and the SB2C Helldiver to the retarded, jelly belly Manatee. The Gloster Meteor, of its own accord, bore a rather awkward likeness to the Spiny Dogfish, a kind of dopey looking, tarter-sauce mackerel best displayed on a serving dish. This is not to malign the heroic service these planes rendered to their respective nations, however. The Gloster Meteor, for instance, though largely forgotten, was a genuine trailblazer: the first British jet fighter (the first operational jet fighter in the world, in fact, beating the Me 262 into squadron service by several days), the first jet aircraft to serve in RAF squadrons, and the only Allied jet to engage in combat during WWII. Not a bad roster, that.

Development of turbojet technology began in the mid 1930s, approximately when Germany took a morbid interest. The Air Ministry, ever visionary, was hot to monopolize this field in 1940 and approached Gloster Aircraft Company to develop a single-seat, jet-powered interceptor. The design fell to George Carter, something of an aeronautical William Shakespeare, a designer whiz who attacked the project with boundless energy. Carter and colleagues soon adopted a twin-engine design featuring a high tailplane, roused by the fact that early turbojets were pathetically weak and required two powerplants to push anything anywhere. The result was a single-seat, all-metal construction featuring low-mounted straight wings housing two grossly pregnant turbojet nacelles. The cockpit sat mere feet behind the nosecone, its globular canopy providing excellent visibility. And two main retractable landing gears (inboard of the engines) plus a fold-back nose strut composed the undercarriage. For armament, Gloster mounted four 20mm Hispano cannons on either side of the fuselage below the canopy, giving the jet a real knuckle-sandwich punch. To beef that up, the jet could heft up to 16 three inch high-explosive rockets beneath the wings, just outboard of the engines.

Gloster furnished the Meteor F9/40 prototype with two Whittle W.2B turbojet engines that could hardly blow out a candle at full-throttle. By the fifth prototype, however, Halford H1 engines hurled the jet skyward with 1,500 lbs of thrust, later replaced by Rolls-Royce W2B/23C Welland engines that provided 1,700lb thrust. And it was then production began with the Meteor F.Mk 1 series. Proud of this new bird, Gloster yearned to christened the jet the "Thunderbolt" to underscore its lightning-strike disposition but ultimately declined to nettle the Americans, who used the moniker for their Republic P-47. Instead, the company dubbed it the "Meteor."

On June 1st, 1944, fourteen F.Mk 1 Meteors joined Squadron No.616, the first RAF group to receive the type. Eleven days later the jets achieved operational status, replacing the squadron's Supermarine Spitfire VII piston-engined fighters. And though the pilots of No.616 were itching to prove the bird in combat, RAF top brass weren't as enthusiastic, fearful the Meteor's jeweled technology would fall into German hands owing to some miserable shootdown or crash. Still, the Meteor would soon stiff the Nazis right up the ol' sprocket thanks to der Führer's crazytown mentality. Without a doubt, Hitler was a death-metal fart machine, a cannibal corpse that drooled over stomping England to a bloody pulp. To partway accomplish this, his evil brain trust developed the V-1 flying bomb (called the "buzz bomb" or "doodlebug"), an early cruise missile powered by a pulse jet. Each could carry a 1-ton warhead nearly 250 km (160 miles) at a cruising speed of 650 km/h (400 mph), typically launched from French sites in Pas-de-Calais and the Dutch coast. At peak, the Germans fired more than one hundred V-1s a day at south-east England, 9,521 in total. Overall, about 25% of V-1s hit their targets, claiming 22,000 casualties and more than 6,000 fatalities, London taking the brunt.

Cheesed off, No.616 Squadron flew against them like angry midgets on acid, scoring their first victory on 4 August 1944. Haze and poor visibility prevented operational flying that morning, but Flying Officer T.D. Dean took off from Manston in the afternoon under Kingsley II (Biggin Hill) Control and straightaway sighted a V-1 cruising at 1,000 feet near Tonbridge. Diving from 4,500 feet at 450 mph, Dean unleashed of salvo of lead at it from dead astern—or tried to—his four 20mm cannons janking up and failing to fire (an irksome defect among Meteors). Enraged, he then flew abreast of the bomb, gingerly maneuvering his starboard wing tip inches beneath the V-1's port wing and then rocking the two upwards. The bomb tipped to its right and dove to earth, exploding in a geyser of earth and muck four miles south of Tonbridge. But ironically, brassed-off officers later rebuked Dean for damaging his wingtip. The Flying Officer's ‘tipping’ technique later switched to positioning the Meteor's wing just above the V-1's wing, disrupting the bomb's airflow, which monkeyed with its gyroscope, which caused the V1 to spin out of control and crash. That same afternoon, F/O J.K.Rodger sighted a doodlebug near Tenterden at 3,000 ft and attacked from astern, firing two bursts of two seconds, which caused the bomb to crash and explode five miles N.W. of Tenterden, becoming the squadron’s second kill.

The truncated period of battle between the Meteor and the V1 proved modestly successful for the British jet, the machine accounting for just 14 V1 kills by the end of the war. By comparison, the Hawker Tempest claimed 638 V-1s while Mosquitoes, Spitfire XIVs and P-51 Mustangs reported their own remarkable tallies. In an uncomfortable attempt to defend their derisory buzz bomb death count, Meteor pilots noted that the aircraft had been rushed into service with disgracefully unreliable armament—plus the jet's acceleration was outrageously whack.

Still, the Meteor had ushered in the jet age, amply demonstrated on 26 October 1944 during a training exercise involving a squadron of Meteors that 'attacked' a Lancaster bomber formation escorted by Spitfires. The Meteors effortlessly dodged the Spits, moved in, and presumptively shot the bombers to bits, later prompting observers to remark that air power was shifting decisively towards jet aircraft.



You need not be an RAF jet enthusiast to love this model. Corgi knocked it out of the park, producing an accurate, appealing replica attired in a host of dazzling liveries. I'm not a Meteor aficionado, given the jet's preggo-looking engine nacelles and diverse quirks; but she's bewitching enough to win a place in my collection. I recommend it to anybody interested in general jet history and/or is lovesick for the RAF.
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Old 11-04-2019, 10:55 AM   #631
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

(Dear readers: The DeAgostini 1/72 Mitsubishi A5M 'Claude' doesn't qualify as a 'Gone but Not Forgotten' model (having been issued as late as 2017), but I thought you'd enjoy reading about it anyway.)


Have you ever guys ever heard of Vernon E. Presley? If not don't worry, 'cause I hadn't either until I read Elvis Aaron Presley's bio, the undisputed "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King." As in Vernon's case (Elvis's dad), you'd think we'd crawl all over celebrities' parents, dying to know their backgrounds, their interests, who they were, what they did, yada, yada. But do we? Nope, not in a coon's age (Coon is slang for raccoon, coined in the mid 1700's). And why? 'Cause we love celebrities—not their second-rater parents. Nobody cares much for dads of famous people unless they've done something phenomenal themselves. Harsh but true. Which is pretty much the way we look at progenitors of famous aircraft. Nobody on planet earth gives a fig for the repugnantly pudgy P-43 Lancer, the pappy of the super-jacked Republic P-47 "Jug." Nor do they care about the absurdly deadly twin-engine Avro Manchester, direct forebearer of the awesomesauce Avro Lancaster. Same can be said about the Mitsubishi A5M "Claude," a killer-diller fighter in its own right, baby daddy to the breakdancing, two-thumbs-up Mitsubishi Zero.

In 1934, jazzed on producing a knuckle hailstorm of a fighter, the Imperial Japanese Navy called on Nakajima and Mitsubishi to produce an all-metal monoplane capable of 220 miles-per-hour and climb like a bat outta hell. Nakajima kind of stumbled with the football, leaving Mitsubishi to produce the Ka-14 prototype, of which six were built, two featuring progressively powerful engines. The first example, ironically, flew with a Nakajima Kotobuki 5 series radial piston engine that produced 600 horsepower, the aircraft itself sporting inverted gull wings. And though promising, this warbird tended to ground loop (among other intractable issues), leading to the second prototype, which by chance exceeded all specification expectations (hitting speeds of 280 mph). Flight testing went so swimmingly, in fact, that the new fighter went operational in the Japanese Navy as the A5M1 in 1937.

Mitshibishi emphasized lightness and streamlining in its new fighter (later dubbed "Claude" by the Allies), highlighting two fixed main landing gears housed in contoured wheel spats. The rumptious fuselage was tubular shaped wrapped in flush-riveted aluminum skin that tapered off into the empennage, the fuselage presenting a modest cross section. The low-fitted wings sat to the front of the airframe and described rounded wingtips. The open-air cockpit covered only by a windscreen sat well forward on the fuselage, a raised spine supporting the pilot. As a navy aircraft, the A5M featured an arrestor hook plus a 35-gallon centerline fuel drop tank for increased range, and a conventional empennage capped off the design. Armament, though sissified by WWII standards, consisted of a pair of 7.7mm Type 97 machine guns installed into the aircraft body.

The first A5Ms arrived in a nick of time to engage in the Second China-Japanese War, making its debut on 19 September 1937 when eighteen A5Ms went ninjutsu all over a larger Chinese force. The Japanese shot down 26 enemy fighters for no losses, demonstrating their muscle-monster prowess against Hawk IIIs and Boeing 281s. A5M units went on to support attacks on Nanking, Shanghai and Nanchang, occasionally throwing down with Soviet Polikarpov I-153 biplanes and I-16s monoplanes, both sides claiming the better machines. But though the two combatants were evenly matched in these death-dealer scraps, the Japanese prevailed during 1938, Soviet losses in China flying skyward.

Engrossingly enough, the A5M fought in the first monoplane-versus-monoplane air battles in history during the Japanese and Chinese 2nd Sino-Japanese War. A5M's squared off against American-made Boeing P-26 'Peashooters,' similar in design to the Claude with open-air cockpits, radial piston engines, and fixed, faired-over undercarriages. Unfortunately for the Chinese P-26 airmen, the Japanese were superior pilots, slaughtering the lot.

A5M served through 1941 until the Navy yanked them from China for the Pacific, where war with America and its Allies was imminent. In parallel, the A6M Zero began to enter service, replacing the A5M in front line units. Still, the Claude did its bit for Emperor and empire, flying from the carrier Ryujo and attacking Davao on Mindanao and later covering the invasion of the Dutch East Indies. Subsequently deployed to the Marshall Islands, A5Ms crossed swords with raiding American warbirds from the Enterprise and Yorktown and actually put up a stiff fight. Finally, on 7 May 1942, two A5Ms flying from IJN Shoho got airborne before the carrier took four US torpedoes in the ribs and sank. The two Claudes and three Zeros that launched claimed three victories, which was a nice touch; but there was nowhere to land afterwards. One A5M made it to an archipelago and crash landed while the other planes ditched at sea. The survivor, Misuzo Aramaki, died from head wounds on the desert island.

At the end of the war, a legion of flight trainees proved their devotion to the emperor by plunging into American ships, some some flying A5Ms. Remarkably, though these fighters were decidedly old geezers compared to their Hellcat and Corsair tormentors, a fist full got through and actually hit their targets, among them the USS Alpine (APA-92), an attack personnel transport ship, the USS Butler (DMS-29), a high-speed minesweeper, and the USS Fieberling (DE-640), a destroyer escort. In the case of the Fieberling, a Kamikaze Claude's horrendous crash killed an American gun crew and decapitated the Japanese pilot, his head fantastically landing upright on the lip of the ship's single smoke stack, where the crew insisted it stay until the Fieberling returned to the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco, August, 1945. Rumor has it the desiccated, grinning trophy sits on a bookshelf in a Vallejo, California, home.


I'll admit, I am not a fan of DeAgostini models, especially their WWII fighter series presented in (admittedly) spiffy looking boxes. Most don't meet my expectations; but even so, their Mitsubishi A5M Claude is a brilliant work of art. The model's black panel lines are a bit excessive, which collectors may or may not like (I do). But the rest of the model is spectacular in accuracy and rendering. Easy Model recently issued five 1/72 Claude fighters, each engaging in its own distinct liverie. But DeAgostini, bless their hearts, got the engine cowling right (which Easy Model didn't), a marvel in itself, impressing the screamo out of me. If you're interested, grab one now while they're still available.
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Old 11-09-2019, 12:05 PM   #632
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten


Given that the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk wasn't a fighter but a ground-attack aircraft, why do you suppose the Air Force designated it with an "F" versus a "B" or "A"? The answers might surprise you. So take your pick: here are the top three theories on why the USAF settled on the "F" tag …

One: The Air Force deliberately used the "F" to mislead its enemies into thinking the jet was a fighter development, not a ground-attack airplane. This had a desired effect on the Soviets, who became even more paranoid over the F-117 owing to the USAF's dupery.

Two: The F-117 was a ground-attack airplane, not a proper bomber. Ground attack warbirds are tactical; heavy bombers are strategic. The "B" designation is strictly reserved for strategic bombers such as the B-1 and B-52, not pencil-neck tactical aircraft.

Three: Given the F-117's highly complex, tricky nature, the USAF needed to attract its best personnel to fly it. So-called "real" pilots generally prefer fast and ferocious fighters; so once having amassed a large, motivated group per the "F" designation, the Air Force found it easy to pick the right people. Moreover (and above all else), jet jocks are chiefly self-absorbed douchebags (no offense to any reading this feature) who surely would have refused to settle for an A-117/B-117 classification, the inglorious label affording no bragging rights among fellow pilots. Or put simply, these cowboys were egomaniacs, and the big kahuna USAF had to stroke their swelled heads with fighter-specific nomenclature.

Soviet mathematician Pyotr Ufimtsev published a seminal paper in 1964 titled "Method of Edge Waves in the Physical Theory of Diffraction," contending that the strength of a radar return is related to the edge configuration of an object—not its size. The idea wasn't original, but the study confirmed that even a large aircraft could be made stealthy by exploiting this principle. The catch was, the aircraft's design would necessarily be aerodynamically unstable, far beyond '60s technology to keep airborne. But by the time Lockheed analyst Denys Overholser studied Ufimtsev's paper in the 1970s, computers and software could make it happen.

A 'stealth aircraft' offered a truckload of advantages, something the USAF jonesed for ever since its horacious experience over Vietnam. Soviet surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) had downed beau-coup American combat aircraft, and the Air Force was hell-bent on preventing similar loses in future conflicts. The ultra-secret project commenced in 1975 with a bizarro aircraft called the "Hopeless Diamond" (owing to its Hope Diamond semblance). In '76, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency consequently contracted Lockheed Skunk Works to build and test two Stealth Strike Fighters, code named "Have Blue," subscale jets that integrated Northrop T-38A jet engines, F-16 fly-by-wire systems, A-10 landing gear, and C-130 environmental systems. Unhappily, both aircraft crashed during testing, but their data enthused the government, which poured money into the program, now christened "Senior Trend."

Top Brass officially gave the go-ahead on the F-117A on 1 November 1978 and awarded the contract to Lockheed Advanced Development Projects (Skunk Works), in Burbank, California. Ben Rich, Bill Schroeder, and Denys Overholser subsequently developed a computer program dubbed "Echo," capable of drafting an aircraft with flat panels (called facets) that scattered over 99% of a radar's signal energy (rendering it virtually invisible). The result was spectacular.

The jet was a holy-freakin'-crap kind of airplane, a cross between a turtle and broken plate-glass windows, roughly the size of an F-15 Eagle. It was a single-seater featuring two non-afterburning General Electric F404 turbofan engines and quadruple-redundant fly-by-wire flight controls. To reduce developmental costs, the aircraft relied heavily on F-16, F/A-18, and F-15E avionics and other systems. The F-117A carried no radar, lowering emissions as a result; but it was equipped with radar detection equipment (allegedly). The jet boasted of advanced navigation and attack systems married to a digital avionics suite wired into GPS and high-accuracy inertial navigation. An automated planning arrangement coordinated and performed all aspects of an attack mission, including weapons release, Nighthawk pilots acquiring targets by a thermal imaging infrared system slaved to a laser range finder. The F-117A's split internal bay could carry 5,000 lb (2,300 kg) of ordnance, standard loadout composed of a pair of GBU-10, GBU-12, or GBU-27 laser-guided bombs, two BLU-109 penetration bombs, or two Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs).

On paper the warbird looked invincible, but that proved slightly hallucinatory: stealth came at a price. Among other limitations, the jet's inlets and outlets limited engine thrust; and that coupled to the jet's freakish design and shortage of an afterburner shackled the F-117 to subsonic speeds. And, curiously, the jet wasn't all that stealthy, an embarrassment the USAF concealed from everybody.

Still, the F-117 went on to distinguish itself in combat, first flying missions during the United States invasion of Panama in 1989, two Nighthawks dropping bombs on Rio Hato airfield (some wags suggesting the only reason they participated was to justify their extreme cost). During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the F-117A flew 1,300 sorties over Iraq reportedly destroying 1,600 high-value targets; but unsurprisingly, the USAF initially overstated the jet's effectiveness, eventually dialing back its early hit reports from 80% to "41-60%." On the first night of the war, F-117s failed to hit 40% of their assigned air-defense targets, including the Air Defense Operations Center in Baghdad, eight such targets remaining functional out of 10. The USAF also claimed "the F-117 was the only airplane that the planners dared risk over downtown Baghdad," allegedly because this area was extremely well defended. In reality, most air defenses had deployed to the outskirts of the city, and a boatload of other aircraft hit targets in the downtown area at night, incurring minimal casualties like the F-117.

Continuing its illustrious career, the F-117 served in Operation Desert Thunder (Part of Operation Southern Watch) from 1997 to 1998, Operation Allied Force in 1999, Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001, and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.

Only one F-117 (AF ser. no. 82-0806) was lost to enemy action, shot down by Yugoslavian forces on 27 March 199, during Operation Allied Force. At 8:15 pm local time, the Yugoslav 3rd Battalion of the 250th Air Defense Missile Brigade detected the jet on radar when it opened its bomb-bay doors (which betrayed its presence and location). The battalion launched several SA-3s from 8 miles (13 km) away, one of which exploded just below the F-117, causing the aircraft to cartwheel, obliging the pilot to eject (whom a U.S. Marine Corps combat search and rescue team later recovered). The jet struck the ground inverted, the airframe surviving relatively intact. Serb forces handed the Nighthawk over to Russian technicians, who thrilled over their new toy. (Scuttlebutt had it that a second F-117A nearly suffered the same fate on 30 April but returned to base resembling a kitchen sieve, never to fly again.)

Though unpublicized, the F-117's faceted airframe required a buttload of maintenance, one of several reasons obliging it to step aside for more streamlined, stealthier designs. The Air Force had planned to retire the F-117 in 2011 but removed it by October 2008 to free up an estimated $1.07 billion to buy more F-22 Raptors (pundits, contrarily, reported the USAF retired the bird by dint of advanced Russian radar able to light it up like a Christmas tree). Either way, unlike other Air Force aircraft sent to Davis-Monthan AFB for scrapping or dispersal to museums, most of the F-117s flew to their original hangars at the Tonopah Test Range Airport, where ground personnel removed their wings and stored them in their original climate-controlled hangars.


So, what do I think of Franklin Mint's (Armour's) 1/48 Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk? Honestly, I think she's a beaut. I don't own a single Hobby Master 1/72 version, so I have nothing to compare the FM model to. But I like what I see and wouldn't sell it for anything. Accuracy wise I'm guessing it bears at least a passing resemblance to the real McCoy, though I'm not a connoisseur and couldn't say confidently. I own FM's entire F-117 series and absolutely love them, especially my conceptual RAF variant with its traditional gray/green camouflage and roundels.
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Old 11-12-2019, 12:45 PM   #633
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten


Given that I relish French confectioneries, cuisine, and temptacious Mademoiselles, it should come as no surprise that I commend the Dassault Mirage 2000 too—one of the best jet fighters ever produced anywhere. In the hands of a competent pilot, this Gallic pork-sword warrior can hold its own against almost any adversary—even 5th generation machines occasionally. Defined as France's answer to America's F-16 Fighting Falcon, the 2000 has become the most heavily exported European combat aircraft around the world, prized for its low-cost, ease of maintenance, and dogfighting prowess. It's faster than the F-16 with a steeper rate of climb and boasts of longer range; plus its sturdy frame smoothly executes high-speed deep penetration strikes into contested airspace. For a 35 year old bird still prized today by air forces world wide, it definitely merits attention and respect.

But don't take my word for it. RAF Wg Cdr. Tim Allard, who flew the Lightning and Tornado, described what driving the Mirage 2000 was like and how it fared against the most formidable fighters of the 1980-90s. Read on!

So Mirage 2000s? That's a Frog plane. I thought you flew for the RAF.
"Yes, well … my career came to where I needed/wanted a change of scenery, having flown Air Defense for 13 years and switched from back to front seat. My options included becoming a staff officer, a Red Arrow pilot, a test pilot, or do the exchange program and fly for a foreign air force. Only exchange appealed to me because I wanted to fly a different aircraft outside the RAF as well as learn a foreign language. At the time, Air Defense pilots were given the opportunity to fly the F-15C/ F-16/ F-18 or Mirage 2000, and for me all those smashing Parisian girls made the choice easy."

Which variant did you fly?
“The Mirage 2000C—RDI—when it featured the RDM (pulse radar) and RDI Pulse doppler radar. The French also operated the Mirage 2000D and 2000N, which I didn't fly. The N’s nuclear role precluded foreign pilots from getting anywhere near it.”

Tell me about the cockpit. What was your first impression?
“Not to be too indelicate, but it was something of a bog, at least at first. I was used to the Tornado F3's spacious, well-ordered cockpit; the Mirage's, in contrast, was uncomfortably cramped, reminding me of fighters from the '70s brimming with analogue displays. In spite of that I got used to it quickly."

Was it easy to fly?
"After a fashion. Transitioning from a conventional wing F3 to a delta wing Mirage 2000C was like switching from a personnel carrier to a sports car. Delta wings generate a stupendous amount of lift with massive amounts of drag—great for a 'Bat Turn' but notorious for losing inertia. Landing was elementary, and the cockpit view was adequate (but nowhere near as good as an F-16's). Air-to-air refueling was a snap, and the jet's perfectly balanced controls gave you the sensation you were flying by the seat of your pants. The feedback was unparalleled."

Sound's intriguing. I gather you really liked the Mirage 2000. But what were its quirks?
“Like I said, the delta wing could catch you out; it would give you 9G+ performance but at a penalty. For example, flying a circuit was challenging, especially when turning into finals that demanded a heavy pull on the stick, which loaded the wing as drag increased. Once level you had to decelerate or you'd rocket down the runway. I did that once or twice.”

How did the Mirage's acceleration and climb compare to a Lightning?
“Two massive Rolls Royce Avon turbines pushed the Lightning; the Mirage 2000 featured but one. The Lightning was literally a rocket; but even so the 2000 gave the F.6 a run for its money.”

Did you fly dissimilar air combat training (DACT) flights on the Mirage 2000? And if so, against which types?
“Let's see: I flew against the F-14, F-15, F-16, F-18, Tornado F3, F-8 Crusader, and the F-104 Starfighter in simulated combat. Against the Mirage the older generation jets were laughable, but the F-16 block 50 excelled. If I were to fault the French air force for anything, it would be their Mirage vs. Mirage training regimes, where pilots learned to fight only other Mirages. Predictably, this didn't translate well into defeating Russian or American fighters, a painful lesson I learned when dueling with an F-16. The 2000 could make 9G+ turns and make my opponent's eyes water, plus it could outclimb the Fighting Falcon. It also featured a more robust fly-by-wire system that I used madly against the American. But … try as I would, I couldn't shake the nutter despite my pulling every insane, evasive maneuver I'd learned against other Mirages. My opponent shot me down with ease but warmly commented later that my aerobatics were "spectacular." This sort of no-worries handling gave Mirage pilots huge confidence in the bird.”

What was the most challenging fighter you faced while flying the Mirage?
“Probably the F-15C. The AMRAAM was just coming into service, which totally outclassed us. Plus the Americans' tactics were gobstopping impressive.”

How would you rate the Mirage 2000 in the following categories:

—Instantaneous turn rates (at low/medium and high altitudes)

“Stunning at all altitudes with its big wing even at 50,000 feet. It could still turn on a dime using the leading edge slats.”
—Sustained turn rates (at low/medium and high altitudes)
“Sustained turn was adequate but not phenomenal. Results were better at lower altitudes where you had enough energy to maintain speed.”
—High Alpha
“The Mirage 2000 was ace at low speed high Alpha Passes—120 knots was routine.”
—Weapon system
“As a weapons system, the Mirage 2000 carried a wonderful assortment of onboard electronic countermeasures and radar devices. It also packed a fine array of weapons plus an air-to-air refueling system."

Which three words best describe the M2000?
“Vive La France! It’s Sexy. It’s French. Dassault made a cracking aircraft, and apart from the ejector seat, it was among the best I ever flew. The M2000 entered service in 1984 and is still flying, a jet built like a tank that can pull 9G all day long.”

How would you compare the aircraft to an F-16?
“The F-16 has the edge. Whilst the M2000 evolved from the RDM, RDi, to RDY versions, its upgrades were meager in terms of airframe performance. In comparison, the latest Block F16s are a world apart from the original F-16As, far superior to the original jet. By all appearances, the Rafale ended further development of the Mirage 2000.”

How does it compare to the other aircraft you have flown?
“The Mirage 2000 is a fourth generation fighter, extremely capable in both air-to-air and air-to-ground roles as well as being highly maneuverable, even when bombed up. The Tornado was extremely competent as an interceptor but lacked the Dassault’s blinding agility.”

What was your most notable flight on the Mirage 2000?
“Trust me, when you fly a Mach 2.0+ 9 G fighter, you don't go unnoticed. A few stick out: night missions with air-to-air refueling over Bosnia or live missions protecting High Value assets over Iraq. Flying in France's air force was an honor. The trust the squadron placed in me was humbling."

Air Cdre. Allard flew the Mirage from 1993-97. Though he loved the Lightning, the Mirage 2000 remains his all-time favorite airplane.


Years ago I purchased Hobby Master's first two Mirage 2000s on a lark. I remember popping open their boxes and feeling thunderstruck by their impressive, dazzling, looks. I decided right there I would collect every Mirage 2000 HM produced—and did. I also purchased two Altaya Dassault Mirage 2000s (one of them pictured above), which, to my eyes, are every bit as appealing as Hobby Master's centerpieces. If you haven't pulled the trigger on a Mirage 2000 yet, buy one if you can. You won't regret it.
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Old 11-14-2019, 07:58 AM   #634
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

Great post Richtofen... and thee interview shows qualities of Mirage 2000...
Sexy and efficient !


About diecast models, yes, HM birds really rock.
Altaya ones are lighter of course, but the model is no so bad.
The model illustrating your post has a wrong color... normally the yellow is a bit more orange... but great to have it too
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Old 11-14-2019, 10:07 AM   #635
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

Thanks, Cheesecake! Yeah, the Mirage 2000 is quite a bird.
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Old 11-23-2019, 11:22 AM   #636
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten


Imagine you're a Polish lancer in the small town of Krojanty, and your commander orders you and your comrades to attack a horde of German panzers clanking your way. You'd think the guy was nutz, right? A complete ding bat!!! Yet that's exactly what occurred (despite what some debunkers say) during the first days of the Polish September Campaign, 1939. At least one Russian cavalry similarly drew their sabers against panzer formations crossing the Russian frontier in June 1941, desperate to stop the Wehrmacht juggernaut. Which begs the question: Given better options and/or weapons, do you think Polish and Russian commanders would have sacrificed their fragile cavalries against tanks?

Probably not. But as rash as their decisions seem, those officers had nothing better to use against the invader (at the time and under those circumstances). From which we can educe this simple but brutal stratagem: Nevershoutnever! When the chips are down and you've got nothing to lose, use whatever weapon is at hand. Don't have a machine gun? Grab a rifle or pistol or grenade. Don't have any of those? Wield a knife or spade or rock. If all you've got is yourself, fight with your friggin' hands and feet. Which is metaphorically what the US Navy did at Midway: The only ship-killing, torpedo-toting bomber they had was the snarkasaurus Douglas TBD Devastator, a chuckleworthy, "boom goes the dynamite" kind of airplane nobody in their right mind wanted to fly. It was the USN's equivalent of Polish lancers flinging themselves against steel tanks; yet for all of its wimpithetic appearance, this warbird did its dorkey best to sink Japanese aircraft carriers (but failed miserably, unlike its gallant stablemate the Douglas SBD Dauntless) for which it deserves a heaping plate of kudos. Although Devastator production totaled only 129 aircraft, it achieved a notoriety wildly out of proportion to its numbers.

The knee-slapping thing is, the USN considered the Devastator the most modern, hands-down best torpedo bomber in the world upon its debut (a distinction that deservedly went to the Nakajima B5N "Kate," which dealt fatal blows to the US Navy's, Lexington, Yorktown and Hornet). It was the first monoplane design ordered for service in the Navy, the first "all metal" carrier aircraft, and the first to sport hydraulic—not "manual"—folding wings. The Devastator equipped the carriers Saratoga, Enterprise, Lexington, Wasp, Hornet, Yorktown and Ranger as their standard torpedo bomber before the Avenger arrived.

The plane boasted of a crew of three: a pilot, a gunner facing aft, and a bombardier in between. During combat, the bombardier lay prone just behind the engine, peering through a window installed in the bottom of the fuselage. For protection, Douglas armed the Devastator with one forward firing Colt/Browning .30 caliber pilot-operated machine gun (later replaced with the .50 caliber variety); the rear gunner manned a .30 caliber Colt/Browning. An 850 hp (634 kW) Pratt-Whitney 1830-64 Twin Wasp engine powered the warbird, a pipsqueak motor that remarkably punched above its weight. The plane's wings spanned 50 feet (15.24 m), taking up far too much room in a carrier's packed innards; so Douglas designed them to fold upwards reducing the space to 26 feet (7.92 m). The wheels folded backwards into the wing, though they were designed to protrude about 10" (254 mm) below the wing just in case the TBD had to make a wheels-up landing. A supersillyass, bulging cockpit sat atop the fuselage halfway to the tail.

Everything seemed rosy until the last months of 1939 when naval intelligence noted the TBD was losing its combat edge to foreign designs (read: Japanese aircraft) and proposed a replacement. Yet with war drums pounding ever more loudly in Asia and Europe, few decision makers took the threat seriously, confident the Devastator was still state-of-the-art.

Two years later the Japanese bombed and machine gunned the crapzilla out of Pearl Harbor (or more accurately the ships and aircraft parked there). At the time, a hundred TBDs were deployed among the Navy's aircraft carriers, two of which, by providence, had just missed the Pearl Harbor attack. Which meant (at least on paper) that America could open a can of whoopass on the Japanese. But this cast the spotlight on an extremely vexing issue: By now, Navy squadron commanders were concerned the Devastator didn't have the cojones to kick butt. Intelligence reports indicated the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero-Sen ripped along at 325 mph (523 km/h), a fact that unnerved American military planners, who'd mistakenly thought the Japanese flew inferior copies of European designs. The lumbering, dummy-gladhands Devastator flying at a top speed of 206 mph (332 km/h) wouldn't stand a chance. The Grumman TBF Avenger would eventually replace it, but the question was when.

Yet despite this and amazingly, the TBD led a charmed life during the first five months of 1942. By February, USN carriers were attacking island bastions in the Marshalls and Gilberts held by the Japanese and were largely successful. Surprising everybody, the Devastator gave a good account of itself during these battles, acting not at all like a clownshoe wuss (when fighters protected her). Indeed, on May 7, TBDs contributed to sinking the Japanese carrier Shoho in the Battle of the Coral Sea.

But circumstances caught up to the ham-handed torpedo bomber. Among other issues, the Mark XIII torpedo the Devastator slung under its belly was an epic fail, punching ships but not exploding, the same phenomena USN submariners experienced with the Mark XIV. Carrier ordinance men attempted to correct the defect until the Navy Bureau of Ordinance in Washington stopped them cold, assuring everyone the Mk XIII torpedo was faultless. Beyond stupidly, BurOrd stuck with this position despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary; and just as densely, carrier groups took this at face value and looked for solutions elsewhere. Fortunately, submariners persisted and identified several fateful issues, one of them a faulty contact pistol, another the fact that the torpedo ran eleven to 14 feet below set depth. Had the BurOrd gotten off its rank ghetto booty early on, the US Navy would have sunk many more ships than it did. However, long before the torpedo problem was solved, a TBD attack on the Japanese Imperial Fleet north of Midway Island on June 4, 1942, confirmed Navy squadron commanders' worst fears about the Devastator.

At 0700 hrs., Torpedo Squadron Eight (VT-8) of the USS Hornet launched 15 TBDs, VT-6 of the Enterprise launched 14, and VT-3 of the Yorktown launched 12. Owing to cloudy weather, the squadrons lost their fighter escort and arrived on scene without "top cover." A6M Zeros jumped them from behind, 12 miles from the Japanese fleet, these ships putting up a wall of anti-aircraft fire. Heroically bounding through shot and shell, the TBDs fell one by one, not a single torpedo finding its target. Of 41 Devastators launched that morning, only four survived, representing a 90% loss rate. Unimpressed with this grim showing, the Navy struck the Douglas TBD Devastator from its combat roster, the ganky torpedo bomber serving in training and communications roles and from there mercifully forgotten.

Still, for all its ugly, booger-bears looks, the Devastator proved itself a gutsy (if not absurdly ineffective) warrior, very much like those hapless Polish lancers.
I'm sure somebody out there in military diecast collection land has a handle on what happened to SkyMax Models, seemingly Hobby Master's brilliant, upper-drawer affiliate. Truth be known, I'm not even sure I've got that right: Was SkyMax Models an HM affiliate? Whatever, the mini masterpieces SkyMax produced haven't dimmed with time, most of them delightsome replicas of some very famous aircraft. I especially like their Devastators, above all the models' corrugated wings, which to me look spot on. The canopy framework is crisp and precise, too, as are the paint jobs and tampo applications. I'm in no way a Devastator partisan, but I do stand in awe of the real torpedo bomber's plucky stand against the Japanese, their crews brave and true. I highly recommend this model to all who wish to build a credible collection of US Navy WWII attack aircraft.

Given how accurate and visually appealing this model is, I give it a thumbs up.
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Old 11-29-2019, 08:58 PM   #637
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten


Not all toilet papers are equal, assorted brands differing in style, cost, softness, color, size and plies. Some are absorbent and soft while others aren't; some are virtuosos at removing revolting wompa nuts, clinkers, and other odious grumple, while others dissolve and poop out. Others still are like action star Chuck Norris, so tough, rough and scratchy they don't take s***t from nobody. Which exactly describes the Ju-52, cut like a buffalo and thick-skinned, supremely able to survive Spartan kicks to its washboard ribs and sneer about it. What isn't so well known is that the Ju-52 arrived at the Reichswehr (the Luftwaffe wasn't reconstituted until 1935) as a passenger/cargo plane, was remodeled into a steely-eyed, kickass bomber, and then remade into a do-everything transport. The aircraft's phenomenal strength and ruggedness was so legendary, in fact, that Adolf Hitler himself preferred it as his personal flying limousine during the '30s (fun fact: Der Führer favored comfy, plush, three-ply butt wipes).

The Ju-52/3m had a wing span of 97 feet and measured 62 feet from nose to tail and was all-metal (80/20 magnesium/ aluminum), easily recognizable for its three-engine configuration and corrugated fuselage and wings that resembled your great-granny's washboard. This rippled metalwork gave the plane muscle-monster strength, so much so it could survive wildly harsh landings with nary a scratch, inspiring Ju-52 crews to christen it the “Eisen Annie” (Iron Annie) or "Aunte Ju," because why not.

In 1933, newly elected chancellor Adolf Hitler instructed his Air Ministry to construct a 1,000-plane air force—this despite the fact that the Treaty of Versailles prohibited Germany from producing military aircraft. To partly accommodate this, the ministry converted a boatload of existing aircraft from civilian to military use, including the Ju-52, which required surprisingly few alterations. Techies cut a new hole into the roof to accommodate a dorsal machine gun and modified the interior for various missions. Some versions featured a retractable dustbin attachment armed with a 7.92 MG 15 machine gun, though those were removed early on. When fully loaded, whether with troops or supplies, the aircraft had a top speed of 171 miles per hour with its three 660hp BMW 132A radial engines and a cruising speed of about 120 mph. The Ju-52/3m could heft a 1,984-pound load 720 miles, this range increasing to 900 miles with a lighter load (992 pounds) or decreasing to 450 miles with a heavier load (3,306 pounds). Junkers also equipped the Ju-52/3m with even more robust landing gear that enabled it to take off and land on dirt or grass strips as short as 437 yards, a feat similar aircraft couldn't match.

A military version of Eisen Annie, designated the Ju-52/3mg3e, began service in 1934, intended as a stop-gap bomber before more sophisticated types became available, which made it indispensable for the Spanish Civil War, July 1936. Hitler sent 20 Ju-52/3ms to support Nationalist General Francisco Franco, then brawling with Republican forces on the Iberian peninsula. The Reichswehr had requested that Junkers convert the Ju-52/3m to a bomber configuration (the g3e), which Junkers engineers obliged by installing vertical magazines in its lower cargo bay to accommodate 3,306 pounds of explosives. Five crew members operated these quick-fix bombers: pilot, co-pilot, radio operator, dorsal gunner, and bombardier/ventral gunner. But the bomber version proved too slow and geriatric; so by the third year of the war, ground crews converted the Ju-52/3ms back to transports.

The invasion of Denmark and Norway on April 9, 1940 (called Operation Weserübung), saw the first paratrooper attacks in military history. Ju-52/3ms ferried Fallschirmjäger to their drop zones, hauled air landing troops to captured airfields, and delivered heavy weapons and supplies to ground forces. On the first day of the invasion, these Fallschirmjäger seized the Vordingborg Bridge linking Copenhagen with its ferry terminal and two airfields at Aalborg in Denmark. The Ju-52/3ms also dropped paratroopers at three key airfields in southern Norway at Oslo, Stavanger, and Kristiansand; northward, the Iron Annie delivered weapons and supplies to German troops fighting at the North Sea port of Narvik. A particularly harrowing mission involved the ferrying of a fully equipped mountain battery to a frozen lake 15 miles north of Narvik with zero chance of returning. The '52s flew from Hamburg, refueled at Oslo, and continued to their destination, where the planes landed (skidded, more likely) on a frozen lake and remained in place until they sank in the spring thaw. These aircraft represented but a fraction of the Iron Annie's losses during the overall operation, 150 transports destroyed or damaged beyond repair.

The Norwegian campaign inspired a number of Ju-52 adaptions to grapple with snow and water. Floats replaced wheeled struts to facilitate landing on fjords, and skis supported snow operations, especially later during Russian winters. Service crews eventually removed the tear-shaped spats (wheel covers) altogether from most Ju-52s serving on the Eastern Front owing to muck and mud that fouled them. Combat also forced better protection for the crew and paratroopers, both from anti-aircraft artillery and fighter attack. The Ju-52g4f featured a reinforced cargo compartment floor, side, and loading doors and could carry 12 to 13 fully equipped paratroopers plus 18 air landing troops. In 1941, Junkers up gunned the dorsal 7.9mm MG 15 to a 13mm MG 131 to better able swat away fighters. But while this heavier gun gave greater protection against attacks from the rear, the Aunte Ju remained vulnerable to frontal attacks. The company consequently installed an additional MG 15 in the roof behind the cockpit manned by the radioman.

Intriguingly, the Ju-52 served as a minesweeper, too. Nerd-head Nazi scientists discovered that British mines laid along German-held coastlines were vulnerable to magnetic fields. This led to the the Ju-52 g4f, outfitted with an enormous horizontal ring hung from its underside and wings. A battery fed an electrical charge that zipped around the aluminum ring that detonated the mines, which caused huge explosions and occasional collateral damage to the aircraft. The Luftwaffe first deployed this version along the Dutch coast in 1940 and used it extensively along France's coastline.

Following Weserübung, Ju-52s dropped Fallschirmjäger on key military objectives in Belgium and Holland, 430 aircraft participating, 40 to tow DFS 230 gliders carrying assault troops that captured the Belgian fortress of Eben Emael and 390 to ferry paratroopers and air landing troops. The attrition rate was calamitous, 167 shot down. An even larger airborne invasion, Operation Mercury, took place one year later, 20 May 1941, paratroopers capturing the island of Crete to deny the Allies the use of its three airfields. More than 500 Ju-52/3ms dropped four parachute regiments of the 7th Air Division along with the 5th Mountain Division, the first battle conducted entirely by paratroops and air landing forces. German losses among aircraft and men were ghastly, Ju-52s literally smashing into or landing pancake-style on top of other Ju-52s, killing everybody and their mothers inside or the lot getting slaughtered when dismounting. Despite this the Fallschirmjäger eventually held sway and finally defeated the defending British forces.

Following America's invasion of Morocco and Algeria in November 1942, U.S. fighters regularly intercepted Ju-52s evacuating German forces from North Africa to Sicily. In a grisly aerial battle on April 5, 1943, Lockheed P-38 Lightnings jumped an armada of 54 Ju-52s off the western coast of Sicily, slaughtering 14 Aunte Jus outright and damaging another 65 parked on Sicilian airstrips. On April 18 they pounced on 65 Ju-52s ferrying men and materiél, obliterating 24. Even so, the Ju-52s served heroically, having flown 8,388 soldiers and ferried 5,040 tons of supplies to support Rommel's Afrika Korps.

The Eastern Front proved a freakishly horrifying hellscape. Junkers produced increasing numbers of Ju-52/3ms to make good on losses, but they weren't enough. To feed and supply Wehrmacht soldiers, Luftwaffe chief Hermann Wilhelm Göring shifted five of his six air transport groups to occupied Eastern territories, overflying partisans who frequently brutalized supply lines. When the blitzkrieg stopped just short of Moscow during the winter of 1941, masses of Germans were cut off from their main units by savage Soviet counterattacks. Ju-52s were forced to either land in these contested areas or drop supplies from the air, typified by the Demyansk pocket, where the the Soviet Eleventh and Thirty-Fourth Armies surrounded nearly 100,000 German soldiers. The men trapped within this cauldron required 300 tons of supplies per day, which 75 Ju-52s met by flying an airbridge of over 33,000 sorties from February 8 to April 21, 1942. German Sixth Army troops in Stalingrad weren't as fortunate. Four Soviet army groups surrounded Hitler's boys and threatened annihilation, but Göring was sure he could supply the troops by air until ground relief arrived. The troops required 600 tons a day, twice that of the Demyansk pocket, requiring 300 Ju-52s, far more than available. In the end, the best the Luftwaffe achieved was 289 tons a day, the average being around 90. When the last airfield (Pitomnik) fell to the Soviets in mid-January 1943, transports resorted to dropping supplies by air. The day the Sixth Army surrendered, February 2, the Luftwaffe had lost 266 Ju-52s with nothing to show for it.

The Ju-52 continued to supply beleaguered troops with food and ammunition until the end of the war, including the Crimean peninsula in 1944-1945, Budapest, and Breslau. Of the 2,822 Ju-52/3ms produced from 1939 to 1944, only 190 remained when Berlin fell on May 7.

Compared to the Douglas DC-3 Dakota/C-47 Skytrain, the Ju-52 was inferior flight speed and payload wise. But the old bird won praise from military aviation experts for its tough-as-nails disposition, something Chuck Norris would be proud of.
One of the finest examples of military diecast virtuosity, Corgi's Ju-52 is a gobstopper. It's a benchmark for qualities that make a diecast model great: accuracy, fastidious details, skilled paint rendering, competency abounding. It's all there and then some, and I can't say enough for this series. I especially prize my new Immelmann II version, Hitler's personal transport, despite the fact that several colleagues rebuked me for displaying "fascist memorabilia" in my office. Owing to the swastika on the model's tail, they commented (rather bluntly) that I'd offended people's political sensibilities and should remove the offending artifact. When I declined, their eyes narrowed suspiciously, the lot probably thinking I'm a crypto-Nazi. But they're wrong. I simply love military history, and I especially like the Ju-52. As far as I'm concerned, political correctness can geh zum Teufel.

Diecast models don't come finer than Corgi Ju-52s, so I'm giving this one an unconditional thumbs up. It's relatively new and is still available, so grab one if you can.
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Old 12-06-2019, 05:39 PM   #638
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten


Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, America's ace of aces in WWI, said of Frank Luke, “He was the most daring aviator and greatest fighter pilot of the entire war. His life is one of the brightest glories of our Air Service. He went on a rampage and shot down fourteen enemy aircraft, including ten balloons, in eight days. No other Ace: Britain’s Bishop from Canada, France’s Fonck, or even the dreaded Richthofen, had ever come close to that.”

Given the number of illustrious pilots of that war, Richenbacker's lofty assertion appeared dismissive, expecially to Brits, Canadians, Australians, and French aviators—plus those representing the Central Powers. A multitude of aces prevailed over the European skies (take a gander at Germany's lengthy roster for proof), who ran up considerable body counts on their way to aerial superstardom. So Allies and enemies alike either considered Captain Rickenbacker's assertion that Second Lieutenant Frank Luke Jr. was the most daring aviator and greatest fighter pilot of the entire war pure bombast—or legitimate fact. It's up to the reader to decide which; but wherever you stand, Luke's plucky exploits make for engrossing reading.

Frank's father, a free-spirited, transposed German, immigrated to New York and later resettled to the wind-blasted, sun-scorched Arizona Territory in 1873. There he married Tillie Lebenow and raised a faimily of nine children, including Frank, Jr., who was born on May 19th, 1887 in Phoenix. Little Frank grew up in the rough and tumble world of the Old West; and like his father, he was a maverick who roamed the range for days, hunting alone and relishing his solitude. Rustic moments like these seared ruggedness, self-reliance, and steely eyed determination into Frank's soul that other men deeply respected. By high school, Luke had grown into a scrappy cowboy and occasional sturdy athlete who once broke his collarbone during an important football game but refused to quit the field. Later while slaving in a gold mine, he learned of American's entry into World War I and eventually joined others seeking admission into the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps, utterly certain combat flying would fit his pistol.

By 1918, twenty-year old Frank earned his wings and sailed for France, where Uncle Sam assigned him to the America’s famed 27th Aero Squadron, where his commander, reportedly impressed with the young officer's manner, commented he could become an ace someday. Which, naturally, Luke lapped up but was deeply stirred when seeing wrecked planes and slaughtered pilots riddled with bullets. “They’ll never get me that way!” he vowed to a friend. And then, looking skyward, he followed a German Albatross as it shot down an American observation balloon and killed its two-man crew, to which he swore he'd become America’s greatest ace and blow to hell every enemy balloon he crossed. But the thing was, busting balloons was an extremely risky business, even more than dogfighting. Not only would you play tag with sharp and crunchy defending enemy fighters but you'd run a gauntlet of antiaircraft fire that would likely send you and your ride cartwheeling into eternity—none of which concerned Luke in the least.

On August 18th, 1918, Luke destroyed his first German fighter. Upon landing in his bullet-ridden Spad XIII, he declared: “I got a Fokker!” but no one saw his exploit, and squadron mates doubted his claim. Angry that hardly anybody acknowledged his kill, Luke determined to annihilate every Hun he encountered within seeing distance of his squadron buddies—and screw antiaircraft fire and defending Boche fighters.

When the great St. Mihiel offensive commenced on September 12th, Luke barked, "I'm going after the balloons!" Which nobody objected to, his best friend, First Lieutenant Joseph Wehner, flying cover while Luke dove and fired on his first balloon. The craft burst into flames, killing its two observers; but the doing came at a price, anti-aircraft artillery having stitched first-sized holes in Luke's Spad nose to tail, one shell barely missing his head. Frank's daring deed suitably impressed his commanding officer, Capt. Jeb Bullwick, who readied a second Spad armed with special incendiary ammo. Squadron mechanics noted a pistol Luke had strapped to the inside of the cockpit. Observing this, the plucky pilot smiled and exclaimed, "I'll never be taken prisoner."

On September 13th, Luke tested a new tactic by attacking at dusk after defending German fighters had booked it home and anti aircraft fire was less accurate. Wehner again flew top cover as Frank attacked, but no balloons fell that evening. Patrolling at dawn the following morning, Luke took up a challenge laid down by General Billy Mitchell to destroy two balloons in as many hours. Diving on one near Boinville, he ignored multiple antiarcraft hits and downed the beast on his sixth pass. Hours later he and Wehner struck at another balloon near Buzy, Luke killing it with his first salvo. The devilish duo would have downed a third balloon had Luke's guns not jammed and Fokker D.VIIs bounced them. Reaching base, Luke begged for another plane, but Captain Bullwick declined and said instead, “I’m proud of you, Frank. You've just done the impossible! Take the rest of the day off.” Word spread fast of this crazed up, foolhardy pilot, and General Billy Mitchell himself arrived late to add his congratulations. Pleased with the attention, Luke rubbed the back of his hand across his mouth and said to Mitchell: “If you return tomorrow evening, you’ll see two more balloons burn up!” And sure enough, Luke gonzo'd two more balloons the next day near Boinville, Mitchell himself witnessing the first kill at 6:58 p.m. and shouting, “That’s impossible!” Minutes later another huge explosion ignited the sky near Spincourt, and Mitchell howled: “My God! There goes the other!” When he and Wehner landed, Mitchell and others swarmed their planes. Responding to the crowd's cheers, Luke shouted, “We’ll burn them as fast as they put them up!”

On the 16th when headquaters ordered the squadron to cashier three balloons drifting beyond St. Mihiel, Luke boasted, “The first one will go up in flames at exactly 7:05.” His mates thought he was high on shrooms given that they couldn't reach the gas bags that quickly; but at exactly 7:05, Luke and Wehner dove on one near Reville. “There goes the first one!” someone shrieked. Then the duo wheeled around for Romagne and blew another to bits, Luke's second trophy that morning. Then at 7:35, the sky erupted as Wehner downed a third. Luke's record stood at an incredible nine balloons.

Sullen clouds crowded the skies on September 18th, the last time Wehner and Luke flew together. As Luke dived repeatedly on a balloon and dumpstered it near Labeuville, six Fokker D.VIIs jumped Wehner and shredded his Spad like a sieve. Nailing another balloon, Frank caught sight of Wehner's fighter plunging in flames and turned on his friend's attackers, obliterating two of them in less than ten seconds. The other Germans fled, leaving Luke to blindside an observation plane cruising over Verdun, roaring out of clouds in a rage and dry gulching the terrified crew, shooting them to bloody bits while flaming their crate. The ace had shot down two balloons and three planes in less than ten minutes, a feat unparalleled in the history of aerial warfare.

On the 19th, Luke's squadron held a dinner in his honor, officially confirming his fourteen victories and lauding him as America’s new “Ace of Aces.” Eddie Rickenbacker later wrote: “There never has been an aviator who possessed the confidence, ability and courage that Frank Luke had shown during those remarkable two weeks.” Woefully but perhaps not so unforeseeable, the loss of his best friend and grinding battle fatigue took a heavy toll on the pilot, who grew sullen and despondent, enough for his commanding officer to give him a seven day rest leave.

Luke was now the object of hero worship, squadron mates and superior officers requesting his autograph and wishing to stand with him in photographs, which he reluctantly obliged. As September 26th rolled around and the Allies launched their massive Argonne-Meuse offensive, Luke’s commanding officer assured him, “I’ll give you enough protection to run your string to a hundred. Only be careful!” To which Luke glumly replied, “Don’t worry, they can’t get me.” By the end of the day, Luke had bagged another Fokker D.VII.

On September 27th, Luke paired off with Lieutenants Ivan Roberts and Alden Sherry to strafe balloons but encountered five Fokkers on the way. Preoccupied with an unconfirmed victory, he lost Roberts and Sherry in the melee, whom the Germans dispatched near the American lines. Unswerving, Luke butchered another balloon and later spent the night at the Toul airdrome, where the French treated him like a king. His indignant commanding officer, however, considered him “absent without leave.” Returning to his own airdrome the next morning, Luke faced his cheesed-off commander, who castigated him for twenty minutes straight. Chafing under this dressing down, Luke jumped in his Spad against orders and headed for an enemy balloon seen near Bethenville. Downing that, he flew to the French squadron and spent another night there. In response, the his commander grounded him and threatened a court martial; but Luke defied the commander again and disappeared with his Spad in search of three reported balloons near Dun-Sur-Meuse. Flying low over an American balloon headquarters, he dropped a message that read: “Watch three Hun balloons over the Meuse. Luke.” Minutes later headquarters personnel witnessed a red glow in the sky, the ace's first balloon kill of the day. What happened next is still uncertain …

According to an affidavit signed by Murvaux townspeople, four Fokker D.VIIs jumped Luke's lone Spad and shot the pilot through the left shoulder and arm. Despite this, the American eluded his attackers and flamed two more balloons before losing altitude. Reaching Murvaux, he swooped down and strafed Hun troops in the streets, killing six and wounding more. Making a fender bender landing in a nearby field and cradling his arm, Luke headed for a nearby stream to get water but stumbled into German infantrymen, who ordered him to surrender. Standing his ground and replying in a throaty voice, "Go to hell, you damned Bosche!" Frank drew his pistol and fired, dropping seven infantrymen before several bullets struck his heart, killing him. It wasn't until 1919 that authorities located Luke's unmarked grave where he'd died.

So the question remains: Was Frank Luke Jr. the greatest fighter pilot of WWI like Captain Eddie Rickenbacker claimed? That's a matter of opinion. But if not, he was certainly one of the bravest of men to ever serve his country. He was a giant in developing the skills for aerial combat and left a legacy still unequalled to this day. His attributes included the essential qualities of a fighter pilot, including exceptional courage, the faculty to think and act quickly, expertise, cunning, and creativity in the air. His exploits directly affected the development of American air tactics, and he stands tall in history as an unforgettable example of true valor and self-sacrifice.
What can I say about Corgi 1/48 WWI fighters except that they're extraordinary. I can think of a string of superlatives to describe them, including remarkable, exceptional, impressive, and gorgeous; but somehow they fail to describe these models' core character, their singular grandness. I'm not suggesting these replicas are perfect, 'cause diecast model perfection is illusory. But if were to choose zinc models that approach consipcuous excellence, I would favor Corgi's Great War fighters. Luke's Spad XIII is all but impossible to find these days, but if it ever does come up for sale, consider buying it. It's a jewel in Corgi's crown.

No surprise, I think this model represents one of Corgi's best. Thumbs up!
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Old 12-07-2019, 03:30 AM   #639
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richtofen888 View Post
Yeah, I admit it: I really dig this model. Love its deep-blue togs, its burly musculature. I couldn't find one on eBay last time I searched though I found a few Sea Furys feathered in different liveries. Witty Wings, in my humble opinion, didn't get the kudos it deserved from the diecast community (before it went belly up years ago), a curious fact considering a number of the manu's models were every bit as good or better than Corgi's. Lucky for us, Witty Sea Furys on eBay remain affordable.

I picked one up on Ebay 3 weeks ago with a loose horizontal stab for $18 shipped. Once repaired will look good with my other two Furies.
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Old 12-12-2019, 01:23 PM   #640
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten



Maybe I shouldn't smirk, but tell me I'm wrong: The TSR.2, with its extended, gangly landing gear on final approach, bore a striking resemblance to a Puffin bird making a similar chuckleheaded landing. Judge for yourself …


All mocking aside, the TSR.2 was a scrappy, deadly serious attempt to arm Britain with an advanced strike aircraft in the early '60s but became a chew toy for Harold Wilson's liberal British government, which crunched it in its jaws and flung it into the dustbin of "might have been" aircraft along with (partly) the British Aerospace industry.

The TSR.2 came about when some eggmo in the RAF decided the English Electric Canberra bomber had become embarrassingly long in the tooth, necessitating a replacement. Which galvanized the Air Staff to cast about for a worthy successor, resulting in the issuance of "General Operational Requirement 339 (GOR.339)," an extremely ambitious specification, mandating that the new aircraft leg it at high or low altitudes in all weather for great distances while hauling a payload of nuclear weapons and advanced reconnaissance systems. Moreover, it had to be a short-field virtuoso that featured muscular landing gear for unimproved forward airfields. Had British political waters not been so perniciously choppy, the resulting jet might have survived its toddlerhood; but as things stood it had little chance.

On 4 April 1957, just after the Air Staff issued the GOR.339 requirement, British Defense Minister Duncan Sandys (pronounced "Sands") circulated his outrageous defense White Paper that declared the era of manned combat aircraft was dead and all but buried. According to him, missiles were the future, and government weapons procurement plans should mirror that reality. And though British air enthusiasts still blowtorch the man's effigy to this day, the fact remains Sandys wasn't alone in his pisspotical thinking: the US and USSR likewise embraced missile technology as the footpath to destiny (though not as tightly). The "Sandystorm," as the incident was later called, cornholed British aviation manufactory so badly that it's a genuine miracle manned British combat aircraft survived at all. Moreover, the collapse of Operation MUSKETEER, the Anglo-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt in 1956 (that foundered against US opposition), underscored the fact that England's imperial ambitions were done and dusted. Accordingly, word came down to slash the UK's aviation industry, which caused a veritable train wreck strewed across Britain's aeronautics landscape.

So right from the get-go the GOR.339 project stood on shaky ground. And it didn't help that the Royal Navy was competing with its own strike aircraft, the Blackburn "NA.39," later dubbed the "Buccaneer." To save buckets of money, some government boffin suggested both services could fly the Buccaneer, which, it turned out, was exactly what happened; but the NA.39 was subsonic, and the RAF refused to fly anything below Mach 2. The RAF then viewed the NA.39 as a threat to the GOR.339 program and treated it as such, which nettled their Royal Navy counterparts to the bone. When Blackburn proposed a supersonic derivative of the NA.39 better suited to RAF needs, the company smacked headlong into a wall, one RAF official confiding, "If we show the slightest interest in NA.39, we might not get the GOR.339 aircraft."

The standoff became, as the Brits say, a "sticky wicket." The RAF pushed all the harder for the GOR.339 and received proposals from all major British military aircraft builders manufacturers, two proving exceptional, the English Electric "P.17A" and the Vickers-Armstrong "571." The Air Ministry especially fancied Vickers-Armstrong's adoption of the "total weapons system" concept, which emphasized support facilities required to operate the new jet. But amid this optimism, the British government plonked yet another fly in the ointment, strongly encouraging the two competing British aviation firms to merge, or at the very least collaborate on a hybrid jet, now designated "OR 343." Which, predictably, created chaos, confusion, and naked rivalry between these companies. Nevertheless, the Air Staff publicly gave the green light for the aircraft's development on 1 January 1959, now calling it the "Tactical Strike & Reconnaissance 2 (TSR.2)." British authorities extolled the collaboration between English Electric and Vickers-Armstrong as a consolidation of the British aircraft industry, a goal further realized in January 1960 with the formation of the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC), the merger of English Electric, Vickers-Armstrong, and Bristol Aircraft. In reward, the Air Ministry awarded a full-development contract for 90 million pounds on 7 October 1960 for nine development aircraft, later bumping it to 20.

The jet that emerged was speedo-torpedo like, long and sleek, bearing some resemblance to the trailblazing North American A-5 Vigilante supersonic carrier-based bomber and strike aircraft then entering service with the US Navy. The TSR.2 was freakishly large, over 6 meters (20 feet) longer than an Avro Lancaster bomber and nearly twice as heavy. The aircraft featured pilot and navigator seated in tandem under clam-shell canopies, a high-mounted swept wing, a conventional tail assembly, and twin Bristol Siddeley Olympus 22R Mark 320 after-burning boomstick turbojets. The TSR.2 featured conventional aluminum-copper aviation alloys plus exotic metals such as aluminum-lithium and titanium alloys. Semicircular shaped engine inlets flanked the fuselage forward of and underneath the top-mounted wing, both featuring moveable half-cone inlet shock diffusers. The Olympus engine was already powering the Avro Vulcan bomber, but the 320-22R version was to benefit from an afterburner and other improvements, engineers pledging the power plants would provide 146.8 kN (14,970 kgp / 33,000 lbf) after-burning thrust each.

The leading edge of the aircraft's wing swept back 60 degrees, it's trailing edge running straight across. And though the relatively small area gave a smooth ride at Mach 1.2 at sea level, the high wing loading compromised maneuverability. The wing was flat, no dihedral nor anhedral, but it did present turned-down wingtips for lateral stability. Interestingly, the wing spars connected to the fuselage via two-pin pivoting links that not only allowed the wings to flex and provide a comfortable ride but increased the airframe's life by reducing vibration. The tail assembly featured all-moving tailplanes with a slight anhedral droop and small auxiliary "tailplane flaps" plus an all-moving tail fin.

The TSR.2 also used a "blown flaps" scheme to enhance low-speed and landing capabilities opposed to the American's "variable geometry" or "swing wings" stratagem. In the blown-flaps system, engine bleed air was fed through the back of the wing and blown over wide-span trailing edge flaps, which reduced stall speed and takeoff run. The advantage being, even with a typical war load, the TSR.2 could lift its wheels by 1,600 ft. An enormous brake chute, stashed in a "pen-nib" fairing between the engine exhausts, reduced landing roll. Four large airbrakes, arranged in a distinctive "flattened X" pattern on the fuselage between wing and tail also decelerated the jet. The landing gear was overly long to allow the airbrakes to deploy during landings, engineers deliberately shaping them into bodybuilder legs able to handle rough-field operation. The wheels were low-pressure tubeless tires for operation from dirt airstrips.

Strategically, the TSR.2 would have lumbered a single "red Beard" nuclear bomb, tossing it in a climb and booking it on afterburner before it detonated. Alternatively, the bomber could carry four smaller "WE.177" tactical nuclear weapons, two in the bomb bay and two on under-wing pylons, released in level flight with retarding parachutes. In a conventional strike, the TSR.2 could carry high-explosive bombs and unguided rocket pods and, it was alleged, the TV-guided "AJ.168 Martel" missile. Ground crew could load the jet with fuel tanks fitted on the stores pylons, while the bomber also carried a ferry tank in the bomb bay. A TSR.2 could also heave a "buddy refueling" pack to refuel a mate for a deep-penetration mission or ferry flight. Amazingly, the TSR.2 would have guided itself to a target in almost any weather, day or night, with the pilot observing progress and all relevant mission data on a Rank-Cintel head-up display (HUD). The aircraft could also automatically sense obstructions such as radio towers and fly over or around them. If any part of the system failed, the TSR.2 would spontaneously climb to give the pilot time to take full manual control.

BAC engineers hardened the cockpit's windscreen against high-speed bird strikes, a vexing problem in low-level operations, and covered the canopy with a gold film to safeguard against nuclear flash. The pilot and navigator rode in Martin-Baker Mark 8VA ejection seats, which not only had "zero-zero (zero speed, zero altitude)" capability, but were qualified for ejections at Mach 2 and 17,070 meters (56,000 feet). The navigator could eject on his own, leaving the pilot behind, or the pilot could eject both crewmen, the navigator egressing seconds before the pilot to avoid collision.

But for all this brilliant wizardry, political storm clouds obscured the horizon. Factions in the British government sharply opposed the TSR.2, and bitter rivalry over the Royal Navy's Buccaneer grew. It didn't help, either, that initial funding estimates had been preposterously low, inevitable overruns drawing unwelcome public scrutiny. Opposition Labour Party politicians slammed the project for being too expensive and wasteful, proof of inept government stewardship, while Tory politicians replied with a disconnected, weak defense. The knives were out, and both sides drew blood, Wilson's government the more.

Not to mention that the TSR.2 was such a complex machine, its advanced elements and systems so demanding, that it caused much of Britain's high-tech, egg-head industry gargantuan cerebral convulsions. The worst technical problems revolved around engine development. Engineers attached the first flight-worthy Olympus 320-22R engine to the belly of an Avro Vulcan bomber in a humongous housing with twin split inlets, flight tests beginning in February 1962. The Olympus 320-22R proved so powerful it could keep the Vulcan flying without powering up its own four engines. But the powerplant proved so volatile it exploded on the ground, destroying its Vulcan host and a nearby fire truck. The engine suffered two additional explosions over the following six months. BAC sidestepped the issue by fitting the TSR.2 with new engines and flew it on a second attempt on 31 December 1964. Test pilots conducted 22 more flights to the end of March, for a total of 24. One of these pilots, Roland Beamont, found the aircraft awe-inspiring, "the schnizz" he called it, noting the jet's brilliant handling and blazing performance—even without its vaunted avionics kit. Things were going so well that BAC believed their new jet would soon become a sensation. But …

It ended there. On 6 April 1965, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson's Labour government lopped off the TSR.2's head with one stroke, killing this extremely promising bird and causing many RAF devotees and officials to scream with rage. Another TSR.2 prototype was scheduled to fly the same day but never left the ground, its nine prototype hangarmates deserted in various stages of completion. The TSR.2 had completed only 13 hours of flight tests when Wilson's cabinet ordered BAC to dismantle everything, which it did with utter shock. The single flying prototype met a humiliating end, gradually blown to bits over years as a ground gunnery target hulk. Miraculously, two prototypes survived, one now on display at the Aerospace Museum in Cosford, the other at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford.

Through a blizzard of recriminations, blame, and censure, the British government eventually settled on the US General Dynamics F-111K as a replacement, which led to a subsequent fiasco after the F-111 ran afoul of development problems and sharp cost escalation. The RAF finally, with an irony lost on no one, turned to the Blackburn Buccaneer and F-4 Phantom II as stand-ins. And to no one's surprise, the RAF found the Buccaneer an outstanding aircraft that provided brilliant service into the Gulf War in 1991. Ultimately, the RAF would get its advanced technology low-level strike aircraft in the form of the Panavia Tornado IDS, but not until the early 1980s.

Would the TSR.2 have proved its worth for all the toil, cost and quarreling poured into it? Yes, no question. Should Wilson have canned it? Given how things turned out, you've got to wonder. The Buccaneer, just as the Royal Navy argued (much to the RAF's bother), proved itself a praiseworthy alternative.
Yeah, I like this model. It's big and hefty (comparatively), but that adds to its appeal. Don't ask me why, but I really like the bird's anti-flash roundels, pallid and bleached as they are. The model's only drawback is its tedious all-white finish (which is, in fairness, historical). Looking at the model as it sits in my display case, I sometimes feel a pang of sorrow, the awareness that not all good things come to pass. You've got to wonder how extraordinary this ship would have been and what service it might have rendered given half a chance. As for Corgi producing this model, I have to wonder at the company's business acumen, given that the real aircraft wore but one monotonous livery, and it offered only modest appeal to aero enthusiasts beyond Britain. Still, for Code 3 addicts, the model has become the perfect aspirant for "what if" RAF camouflage schemes.

I'm giving Corgi's TSR.2 an almost-thumbs-up rating, noting that I admire the manu's effort but am not wholly in love with the subject.
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Last edited by Richtofen888; 12-12-2019 at 03:45 PM.
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Old 12-19-2019, 11:41 AM   #641
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten


You've gotta admit, the B-29 looked a whole lot like a metalized Hebrew National Kosher Sausage, a gargantuan tube steak able to smack the livin' wu tang out of anybody unlucky enough to face it. From the instant the Superfortress dropped its bombload, citizens had, on average, 48 seconds before all hell broke lose, survival contingent on the bombs used: iron munitions massacred just 18% of the population; incendiaries, 57%; nukes 98% (of those living and/or working within a mile of ground zero). The B-29 was a weapon of mass production, an aluminium frankenstorm that sowed panic and slaughtercide wherever it flew. The Superfortress was the crowning achievement of the United States’ commitment to strategic bombing during the Second World War, a technological tour de force born of hard-won lessons learned over Europe.

At the onset, Boeing specifically designed the Superfort for high-altitude strategic bombing, operating at altitudes well beyond fighters and flack. But cheerily, their creation outdid itself at low-altitude, incendiary night raids and dropping naval mines in Japanese harbors. And, much to its credit (or ignominy, depending on whom you ask), the bomber nimbly dropped atomic bombs, which hastened the end of World War II.

One of the largest aircraft of World War II, the B-29 featured state-of-the-art technology, including two pressurized compartments and an analog computer-controlled fire-control system linked to four remote machine gun turrets operated by one gunner and a fire-control officer. The $3 billion cost of design and production (equivalent to $42 billion today) greatly exceeded the $1.9 billion cost of the Manhattan Project, making the B-29 the most expensive weapon of the war. The crew flew in relative luxury, attaining cruising speeds and operating at altitudes far exceeding its stablemates' capabilities, the B-17 and B-24. The bomber's effective warload and range were so superior, in fact, that Boeing dubbed it the "Superfortress," all of which impressed Army brass so much they ordered the ship into production straight from the drawing board. But the big bomber’s complexity and initial teething troubles led to inevitable delays, including chronic engine overheating and resultant fires that plagued the project until early 1945. Nonetheless, the project soldiered on, the bomber finally prosecuting the war as designed.

Ironically, General Curtis LeMay, reassigned from Europe to head the XX Bomber Command in India and later XXI Bomber Command in the Marianas, ordered a radical shift in tactics from high altitude day bombing to lower-level night bombing attacks, touched off by the B-29's wretched bombing results. Stripping his bombers of defensive armament but for two .50 caliber tail guns, LeMay crammed the aircraft with incendiary devices and flew the lot at low altitudes (5000 feet). Bomb damage assessment photos revealed that Japanese war industry had dispersed throughout urban areas, so LeMay rightly figured area bombing would more effectively destroy it. Accordingly, B-29s based at Saipan and Tinian flew straight for their targets without climbing to higher altitudes, saving on fuel and reducing engine overheating. Japanese dwellings, constructed mostly of wood and paper, greatly assisted in their own destruction, stoking the most ghastly of modern wartime horrors, the firestorm. Massive, nightmarish hellscapes literally carbonized many of Japan’s major cities.

Concurrently, the United States worked on the biggest and most expensive military enterprise ever undertaken, the Manhattan Project. Pressed by European scientists who'd fled Nazi tyranny in the 1930s, President Franklin Roosevelt sanctioned the development of a nuclear weapon, hoping America's efforts would beat parallel Nazi programs. The work continued on a massive scale with a completion date of mid 1945; but when Germany fell in April 1945, all attention focused on Japan, where firestorms had torched that nation's civilian populations by the hundreds of thousands. Given Japan's resolve to fight to the last man, President Truman ordered the A-bomb's implimentation, hoping its ghastly consequences would hasten unconditional surrender.

Seventeen specially modified B-29s were deployed to a new bomb group, the 509th Composite Wing, under Colonel Paul Tibbets' command. All were hand-selected on the production line, each built without turrets, the gunner observation blisters replaced with flush fairings and armor plating removed. Engineers installed uprated Wright R-3350 engines with reversible Curtiss Electric propellers to reduce landing rollout distances and propeller blade cuffs to improve cooling. The 509th trained secretly in Wendover, Utah, before flying to Tinian Island in the Marianas. There the crews dropped special high explosive-filled training bombs (dubbed “pumpkins”), which contributed to the fine tuning of the two nuclear devices: the uranium-gun “Little Boy”and the plutonium implosion “Fat Man.” Several of these missions took place over Japan proper.

Colonel Tibbets chose aircraft Victor-82 to fly over Hiroshima, chosing his mother's name, Enola Gay, for nose art. Amusingly, the pilot usually assigned to Victor-82, Capt. Ted Lewis, was ticked as hell when he saw the new artwork, angry the colonel had commandeered his plane; but Tibbets pulled rank and claimed the ship for his own, assigning Lewis as his co-pilot. Tibbets also removed the 509th’s large arrowhead-inside-a-circle tail marking for a circle-R, the same insignia emblazoned on B-29s from the 313th Bomber Wing, hoping to mislead Japanese spotters.

Early on August 6, the Enola Gay took off from Tinian, flew serenely over Hiroshima with two B-29s on his flanks, and dropped the Little Boy uranium bomb from 31,060 ft. at 8:15 am. The device itself was 9 ft., 10 in. long and weighed 9,700 lbs. Tibbet targeted the Aioi Bridge over the Ota and Motoyasu rivers, but the wind blew it 820 ft. off course. After 43 seconds, the bomb detonated 1,970ft off the ground, directly above Shima hospital, with a force equivalent to 15,000 tons of high explosives. It created a blinding flash of light and a fireball 1,200 ft. across with a core temperature of more than 1,000,000C. Citizens in the immediate blast zone were vaporized, imprinting their shadows on the scorched walls and pavements. A shock wave faster than the speed of sound obliterated almost every building within a mile, ensuing infernos gutting what was left and lasting three days. In total, the bomb leveled an area of more than six square miles. Experts estimate up to 80,000 people died in the blast and resulting fire storm, including some 20,000 military personnel. Another 70,000 were burned horribly. Thousands died from radiation sickness in the following weeks and months. And over the next two decades, cancer linked to radiation ate survivors from the inside out.

As soon as Enola Gay touched down on Tinian, President Truman announced to the world that a new, terrible weapon had been deployed over Japan, urging its leaders to accept the terms of surrender as formulated at the recent Potsdam Conference. Getting no response through official channels, Truman ordered a second strike featuring the "Fat Boy" plutonium implosion bomb, dropped over Nagasaki, that incinerated thirty-five thousand Japanese. Depending on whom you believe, the second bombing persuaded Emperor Hirohito to overrule his inflexible military leaders and surrender. While historians and scholars still debate the necessity and use of nuclear weapons, few disagree that the dropping of these two bombs helped to end the most deadly conflict in human history.

On 31 July 1944, a B-29 called Ramp Tramp (serial number 42-6256), part of a 100-aircraft raid on the Japanese Showa steel mill in Anshan, Manchuria, diverted to Vladivostok, Russia, following an engine failure and damaged propeller. On 20 August 1944, Cait Paomat (42-93829), flying from Chengdu, sustained damaged over the Yawata Iron Works and also flew to the Soviet Union. On 11 November 1944, during a night raid on Omura in Kyushu, Japan, the General H. H. Arnold Special (42-6365) was hit and forced to land at Vladivostok. And on 21 November 1944, Ding Hao (42-6358) sustained damage to two engines on a raid over an aircraft factory at Omura and also diverted to Vladivostok. The interned crews of these four B-29s escaped into American-occupied Iran in January 1945 sans their bombers, which Stalin considered involuntary capitalist "gifts," ordering his Tupolev OKB to examine and copy them bolt for bolt, quantity production to begin as soon as possible. Owing to different gauges of Soviet aluminum compared to American standards, the entire aircraft was extensively re-engineered. Moreover, Tupolev replaced Boeing's airfoil sections with his own favored forms and neatly substituted the Soviets' own lend-lease version of the Wright R-1820-derived 18 cylinder radial engine, the Shvetsov ASh-73. Dubbing their newly copied B-29 the Tupolev Tu-4 (code named "Bull" by NATO), the Soviets debuted both it and the Tupolev Tu-70 transport variant in 1947, shocking American observers right down to their toenails. And to no one's surprise, the Russians hotly denied they'd cloned the aircraft, fooling exactly nobody.
Do I like Corgi's 1/144 B-29? Kinda yes, kinda no. I'm gratified the pooch attempted to produce a reasonable facsimile of this celebrated bomber, and in some respects they succeeded. To my eyes, the model's shape and form are spot on (mostly); not to mention the paint job and tampo applications for such a smallish scale are good (but not great). What I have trouble endorsing is the model's horrific, Grand Canyon junction lines skirting its cockpit canopy/nose assembly, its ham-handed machine guns and turrets, and the profane propeller hubs, the size, shape, and scale of brewery vats. Otherwise, yeah … I kind of like Corgi's Superforts. I own a few and have no regrets. I haven't checked on their availability lately; but if you crave a passable diecast B-29, look no further.

I'd love to give Corgi a hearty pat on the back for this effort; but owing to those hockey-puck goobers I mentioned, the best I can manage is a meh rating, neither thumbs-up nor thumbs-down.


Merry Christmas, everyone, and Happy New Year to you! May this hobby smile upon you always.
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