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Old 10-17-2020, 11:54 AM   #651 (permalink)
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Remember the movie Flight of the Intruder, where Lt. Jake 'Cool Hand' Grafton (Brad Johnson) and "Morg," his Weapons Officer, are hugging the deck over some stinking-enema North Vietnam rice paddy, when a farmer fires a primitive rifle at their A-6E? The bullet hits Morg in the neck, he squeals, blood gushes everywhere, Grafton's gloved hands drip with red, gooey gore, big mess. Later as the Intruder approaches the carrier too high for a landing, Grafton goes full-tilt boggie and lands it in a shower of sparks. What a spectacle! Po' old Morg croaks anyway despite Grafton's wondermonkey heroics.

Grumman's A-6 Intruder was the US Navy's all-weather, deep-strike warbird for decades, wielding a murderlicious punch down low deep in the weeds, barreling through enemy territory at night, frequently in scroaty weather. Appearance wise the warbird looked like a shaved Chewbacca, frankenboo to the bone, detractors and adorers alike laughingly calling it "The Flying Drumstick." Upon first seeing the bird and staring at its globular snout and streamlined back, one admiral remarked the plane was built backwards; another likened it to Godzilla's sperm. But looks were deceiving: The A-6 Intruder’s power-slam AN/APQ-88 search-and-terrain-radar in its bulbous nose coupled to a stonking avionics system were cutting-edge fabtastic, able to precision bomb a freckle off an enemy's butt day or night in any weather. The Intruder was unmatched, and we’ll probably never see another aircraft like it—or one as capable.

On April 19th 1960, the prototype Grumman A-6 Intruder, Grumman model G-128, designated the YA2F-1, BuAer 147864, lifted off from Grumman’s Calverton facility first time. It featured swiveling exhaust nozzles (up to 23 degrees downward) designed to shorten takeoffs and landings, but flight tests established variable thrust direction wasn't the shizzles designers anticipated, so Grumman 86'ed them. Which was kind of funnay because said company precisely placed the Pratt & Whitney J52-P6 engines in the airframe to accommodate said exhaust nozzles (which proved dangerous to deck crews). Even so, Grumman angled replacement exhaust ducts several degrees outward in order to eliminate turbulence around the horizontal stabilizers.

The Navy awarded Grumman (manufacturer of the F-14 Tomcat and Lunar Excursion Module (LEM)) a contract to build eight A2F-1s in February 1958. The A-6A became operational with VA-75 Sunday Punchers in 1963, featuring fuselage and wing air brakes that caused major controllability headaches. Grumman removed the fuselage air brakes but kept the decelerons (often referred to as “boards”) on the wing. All Intruders retained leading edge slats and decelerons.

The office arrangement aboard the all-weather attack bomber was brilliant. The Intruder's two-place, side-by-side cockpit put the pilot on the port side (nothing unusual there) and the bombardier-navigator (BN) on the starboard side (less usual). The BN’s seat was slightly lower and located a little aft, which facilitated better communication between crew members. This enhanced communication/collaboration was so organic to the warbird's success, the Navy considered pilot and BN virtually one identity, awarding identical medals to both crew members when merited.

Without modifications, the A-6 could carry 28 MK-82 500-pound bombs, enough to rain on anybody's parade. With the gear doors removed, it lumbered an even 30. That was 15,000 pounds of ordnance on a warbird that weighed only 27,000 lbs. empty. Gorged with gas, it launched off the deck in 300 feet, zero to 160 knots, at 60,000 pounds of gross weight. Not bad for a tadpole.

The Intruder had brains, too, equipped with the Digital Integrated Attack Navigation Equipment (DIANE) system, that presented an electronic display of targets and geographical features even in low-visibility, crapulous conditions. The apparatus was so loony-toones accurate, the A-6 routinely hit targets on the button, typified by two A-6As that whacked a North Vietnamese power plant during a particularly butt-nasty, stormy night. The Intruders dropped 26 Mark 82 500 pound bombs on target, convincing the communists that B-52s had attacked it.

Intruders first waged war in Southeast Asia in 1965 flying from the USS Independence (CVA-62), the first A-6 loss occurring on July 14th 1965 when Navy Lieutenants Donald Boecker and Donald Eaton of VA-75 Sunday Punchers were buck choyed, both pilot and BN surviving. The Navy and Marines lost a total of 84 Intruders during the Vietnam War (owing to all causes) flying more than 35,000 sorties, Marine Intruder squadrons remaining shore-based throughout hostilities. The last Intruder to join the choir invisible took place on January 24, 1973, when a Russian-made ZSU-23-4 Shilka shot the livin' manboobs off it. Navy Lieutenants C.M. Graf and S.H. Hatfield of VA-35 Black Panthers with CVW-1 aboard USS America ejected and survived.

Nineteen A-6B variants originally intended to be a clear-air (not all-weather capable) version of the A-6A were overhauled to execute air defense/surface-to-air missile (SAM) operations, also called Iron Hand missions. The A-6Bs suffered above-average losses (5 creamed in combat), partly owing to the inherent risk of Iron Hand missions and partly because the crews attacked in daylight in clement weather. Grumman converted the 14 surviving A-6Bs to A-6E specs during the mid-1970s.

Grumman later mounted A-6C variants with the Trails Roads Interdiction Multi-sensor (TRIM), installed in the fuselage's mid-bottom. This early version of a Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) and Low Light-Level Television (LLLTV) set could detect vehicles, trains, and other targets at night, mutating the A-6C into a super-villain über ninja. The A-6C also carried the “Black Crow” engine-ignition sensor used to locate booger-eating trucks at night.

In the meantime, the fleet's KA-3B and EKA-3B Skywarriors (gas-hauling trucks) were getting long in the tooth, prompting Grumman to rework 78 A-6As and 12 A-6Es into KA-6D "Texaco Tadpole" tanker aircraft, completed during the early 1970s. KA-6Ds. These flying gas cans eased NavAir's fuel needs moderately, but there weren’t enough of them. Each squadron deployed three or four KA-6Ds, sometimes swapping (cross-decking) them from carrier to carrier as one returned from deployment and another departed. Modified S-3 Vikings eventually replaced the KA-6Ds, and today Super Hornets do the job.

It should be noted that when Uncle Sam made noises about retiring the A-6, Intruder drivers nearly mutinied.

At the risk of sounding cosmetic, I have to say I can't find a single thing wrong with Century Wings' A6-E Intruder. I looked one of mine up and down thoroughly, and I'm at a loss of what to say except "Wow!" Some people pooh-pooh the slightly conspicuous juncture lines between the twin intakes and fuselage, but I have no problem with them. In my humble opinion, Century Wings hit the ball out of the park with this model, and I highly recommend you grace your collection with at least one Intruder.

I'm not entirely sure why Century Wings doesn't expand their line. The company has been stingy lately with new releases but for their recent A-7D Corsair II and upcoming F-14D and SR-71. Judging from their fabricating prowess, CW could profitably expand into a galaxy of warbirds. I'd certainly be interested as would many a collector.
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Old 10-17-2020, 12:30 PM   #652 (permalink)
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Having seen the real deal in person, I can vouch for the CW A-6s accuracy.
Also-just my impressions, but the real aircraft has a sense a menace about it. It may look like a tadpole, but it’s a tadpole that’ll bust your arse.
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Old 10-17-2020, 01:51 PM   #653 (permalink)
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I have the CW's KA-6D, and is a real gem, tks 4 your review.


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Old 10-17-2020, 08:05 PM   #654 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grecog70 View Post
I have the CW's KA-6D, and is a real gem, tks 4 your review.

Yer welcome, Grecog70! I own the same one (among all the other CW Intruders), and it's a masterpiece.
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Old 10-23-2020, 09:33 AM   #655 (permalink)
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If you were a USN aviator in the '50s and '60s and jonesed to rockabilly all over die Lüfte (sky), you flew the A-4 Skyhawk, America's premier rocket-sauce, light-attack warbird. Dubbed the "Tinkertoy" or "Scooter," the jet was totally kickin', a carrier aircraft every Navy flier super liked---except for maybe Lieutenant Junior Grade Everett Alvarex, future Vice Admiral James Stockdale, and Capt (later Senator) John McCain, who got their chonka lonkas shot off over North Vietnam in one and consequently spent some serious leisure time at the Hanoi Hilton.

In the 1950s, combat aircraft grew alarmingly in weight, complexity, and cost, putting the joojoo eyeball on future warbird development, something that vexed Ed Heinemann, who, dad-gummit, wanted to redress the trend with a simple, liquid-easy, carrier-capable fighter/bomber. And so he and his aeronautical smarticles designed a lightweight fighter with a hamster-sized delta wing a little over twelve meters long from wingtip to wingtip, which eliminated heavy wing-folding mechanisms, improving storage aboard aircraft carriers. At every turn, Heinemann and his gnomes engineered the Skyhawk to decrease weight and complexity, minimizing cockpit components and redesigning the pilot ejection system, eliminating a heavy duty battery for a wind-driven generator, and employing gravity-dropped landing gear rather than a back-up hydraulic system. In addition, Douglas engineers installed a simplified air conditioning system that was one third the weight available types. All this resulted in a combat jet that measured only twelve meters long and weighed only five tons empty, bettering the Navy’s maximum weight restriction by more than half.

Officially, the Skyhawk thrilled the US Navy no end. This happy little spunk trumpet's short-takeoff-and-landing performance made it ideal for duty aboard the Navy's numerous, smaller, conventionally powered carriers (that were limited for deck space). Plus she was spry and spriggety, a pleasure to do the beenie weenie with all over the sky. Not to mention the warbird was a rolling ball of butcher knives ordinance wise. But on closer inspection, the A-4 wasn't all that terrific. First, its single Write J65 turbojet engine lost a peanut trying to reach 670 mph, its maximum speed (just below the speed of sound, slower than the MiG-17). Second, early-model Skyhawks lacked radar to detect and engage enemy fighters, relying entirely on the Mark-1 human eyeball to point their heat-seeking Sidewinder missiles and two twenty-millimeter cannons at an enemy's fart box (which wasn't that big a deal considering the Skyhawk’s preferred trade was to smash-kabab enemy ground targets with eight to ten thousand pounds of iron bombs). And hulking pilots with mountainous shoulders found the cockpit waay too cramped, likening it to jamming a man's foot into a toddler's shoe. But oh well.

On August 2, 1964, several North Vietnamese torpedo boats tried to flatline the destroyer USS Maddox but got bootstomped for the trouble. Two days later, both the Maddox and USS Turner double teamed a second attack—or what they claimed was an attack (later revealed as a spoof with historic consequences). President Johnson speedily ordered the first American air strike of North Vietnam, targeting the boat bases and an oil depot in Vinh. Skyhawks flew into the wild yonder and dropped the first of what became more than 7.6 million tons of U.S. bombs in Vietnam.

The Skyhawk remained the Navy's workaholic warhorse as Washington bombed the guts out of Vietnam, flying thousands of ground attack sorties in engagements like the Battles of Hue and An Loc. Newer, more techsavvy Skyhawks arrived later: the A-4E and F featured two additional weapons hardpoints, more powerful J52 engines, a doppler navigation radar, and a targeting computer. The F model sported a conspicuous “hump” behind the cockpit, crammed with goddess avionics. The Skyhawk also wielded guided weapons, including AGM-12 Bullpup missiles and AGM-45 Shrike antiradar missiles meant to butterbean Hanoi’s surface-to-air missile defenses.

By the end of the war, Navy and Marine Skyhawks had flown tens of thousands of combat missions, enemy ground fire croaking 195 A-4s. Marine Skyhawks in 1973 executed one of the last air strikes by U.S. combat aircraft in the Vietnam War.

The Skyhawk dallied several more decades in U.S. military service, the Marine Corps reluctant to surrender the reliable ground-support plane. It received an advanced A-4M model blessed with more powerful, roargasm engines, surplus cannon ammunition, and the hardware to let fly early Maverick missiles and laser-guided bombs. These remained active until Harrier jump jets expelled them in the 1980s. The Blue Angels acrobatics team also flew the agile aircraft from 1974 to 1986, replacing the greased-lightning but gawkward F-4 Phantoms.

The Royal Australian Navy loved the little pooper and purchased eight A4-G fighters and two TA-4G trainers from the USA to replace all of the Fleet's de Havilland Venom fighters, which they acquired on 26 July 1967. The HMAS Melbourne (II) lugged them to Jervis Bay, Australia, from whence they took a cab to nearby NAS Nowra. There they signed on with VF 805 Squadron, whose key functions included air defense, maritime strike, and Army support (when adapted for land attack role). These Skyhawks were ninjas on fire able to heft large weapon pay loads and were in-flight refueling capable, expanding their radius of action, enabling coastal and shipping attacks far from HMAS Melbourne.

Following the initial order for ten air-frames, Australia whistled up an additional ten A4-F variants from America, these upgraded to A4-G standards in 1971. The RAN lost ten Skyhawks between 1973 and 1980, underscoring the danger inherent in naval aviation. Following the decommissioning of HMAS Melbourne in 1982, the Royal Australian Navy sold their remaining ten Skyhawks to the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) in 1984.

All told, Douglas delivered 20 versions of the Skyhawk to the U.S military and foreign air forces, including Israel and Argentina, which flew the aircraft in combat during the Arab/Israeli Wars and the Falkland Islands War respectively, opening cans of whoopass in the process.

I love this particular green booger monster of an A-4. You've got to hand it to the Aussies for its superdog light-green, dookie brown-green camouflage (I can't put my finger on it, but it's cool beans all the way). Not to mention Hobby Master did a sick-as-nuts job on the model, which I can't knock. I only wish it popped up occasionally on eBay so more collectors could potentially enjoy it. Just for kicks I glanced at that website and was stunned by the astronomical asking-prices for other 1/72 Hobby Master Skyhawks. My face turned red, then purple, as I asked myself despairingly, "What's this world coming to?!" I'm not sure the sellers will get what they're asking for, but for Pete's sake.
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Old 10-28-2020, 11:39 AM   #656 (permalink)
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Military and other history is chockablock with revelations and twists. Turns out Adolf Hitler wasn't German but Austrian (as if you didn't know); Napoleon's family was more Italian than French. And Anthony Fokker, Germany's most celebrated aeronautical engineer during WWI, wasn't a technologist at all, distrusting those who were, especially those on his staff; nor was he a German but a Dutchman. Neither was he a particularly virtuous businessman, hated by his technical staff, including Martin Kreuzer and later Reinhold Platz, for taking total credit for their optimus-brilliant inventions. But Fokker did score big with Imperial Germany's Army Air Service (Luftstreitkräfte), dazzling senior officers and service pilots alike with his Super Mario World flying skills and superlative asskissery.

Fokker's boys based the Eindecker on their own Fokker M.5K Scout, (military designation Fokker A.III), itself a near copy of the French Morane-Saulnier H shoulder-wing monoplane but for chrome-molybdenum steel fuselage tubing supplanting wooden components. The single Parabellum MG14 machine gun sitting atop the cowling gave the fighter its sting—when the interrupter gear worked. Heedless historians puzzlingly associate ol' Antony with the pushrod synchronizer mechanism that allowed machine guns to fire through spinning propellers rather than shoot them off. In reality, someone on Fokker's staff (or Fokker himself) yoinked the idea from Franz Schneider and his employer, LVG, who sued Fokker in German courts and won but couldn't get the clown to pay up.

Whatever, this invention was all the rage in military aircraft circles, first featured in the Fokker Eindecker(German for "one wing") fighter, responsible for the "Fokker Scourge," the Luftstreitkräfte's air superiority over the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the French Aéronautique Militaire from August 1915 to early 1916. Amusingly, the first interrupters were failure-prone, and the ammunition was funky-junk too. Oswald Boelcke and Max Immelmann both survived shooting off their own propellers, their engines consequently ripping from their mountings. Indeed, only burgeoning victories achieved by front-line pilots like Boelcke, Immelmann, von Althaus, Buddecke, Parschau and Wintgens quashed an order grounding the Fokker following umpteen fatal crashes back in Germany.

But that was only one of the fighter's maddening issues. A royal pain in the membrane, Eindecker pilots had to hand-pump gas from the main fuel tank (mounted just behind them) eight times an hour, causing metacarpal, death-stroodle syndrome. And for newbie pilots, the extreme sensitivity of the elevators made level flight hilariously difficult. German ace Leutnant Kurt Wintgens, along with Leutnant Parschau were the first Luftstreitkräfte pilots to fly the Eindecker in combat during the spring and summer of 1915, both stating, "Lightning is a straight line compared with the barogram of the first solo," translated into English meaning, "Man, flying this crazy mofo is a bear in a wheelchair!" The Eindecker's roll response was a pain, too, commonly blamed on the fighter's absence of ailerons, though monoplanes of the time, even with ailerons, suffered unpredictable or unresponsive roll control. On the bright side, both the rudder and elevator were aerodynamically balanced, and the type had no fixed tail surfaces, rendering the Eindecker very responsive to pitch and yaw.

The Fokker E.III represented the definitive Eindecker, which used a slightly narrower-chord wing than earlier versions. Engineers provisionally armed a handful of E.IIIs with two 7.92 mm (.312 in) calibre LMG 08 "Spandau" machine guns, while most E.IIIs were armed with only one. The final variant, the Fokker E.IV, received a 119 kW (160 hp) Oberursel U.III, 14 cylinder twin-row rotary engine (a copy of the Gnome Double Lambda rotary) and carried twin machine guns. Boelcke's FeldfliegerAbteilung 62 operated the E.III towards the end of 1915.

Though unconfirmed, Leutnant Wintgens drew first blood (to coin a phrase) in the Eindecker on 1 July 1915, forcing down a French Morane-Saulnier L two seat "parasol" monoplane. Three days later he shot up another "Morane Parasol" and got credit for the deed on 15 July 1915, the first Eindecker pilot so honored. Oswald Boelcke (initially flying M.5K/MG aircraft E.3/15) and Max Immelmann, officers of Feldflieger Abteilung 62 and the most legendary of all Eindecker pilots, scored their first kills in E.Is in August 1915. Oswald scored the most Eindecker victories—19 out of his final tally of 40, on 27 June 1916; Max Immelmann claimed the second-highest Eindecker score, achieving all of his 15 victories in the type before getting killed in June 1916 when the fighter's MG synchronization mechanism failed and the machine gun shot off one propeller blade (the resulting vibrations literally shaking the fighter to pieces and Max with it). Boelcke, Immelmann and Wintgens all received Germany's highest military decoration, the Pour le Mérite or "Blue Max," while flying the Eindecker, having passed the then-required eight-victory total. Eleven pilots scored five or more victories in the fighter.

All good things come to an end, however. By early 1916, the Airco DH.2 and Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2 and F.E.8 pusher aircraft, along with the French Nieuport 11, took the stage, ending the "Fokker Scourge." Wintgens flew the E.IV version long enough to have confronted the far more advanced SPAD S.VII fighter piloted by French flying ace Alfred Heurteaux on September 25, 1916, wherein Heurteaux shot Wintgens full of holes, his eighth victory.

Fokker produced 416 E.I through E.IV Eindeckers total.


Yeah, I know. Corgi's E.II Eindecker is rather new; it's neither gone nor forgotten, this thread's raison d’etre. So why am I writing a review of it? Good question, my only response being I'm so jazzersized about it I just had to share my enthusiasm. Not to mention I'm kinda scraping the barrel for review ideas.

This and the Manfred von Richthofen Endecker E.III are legitimate sensations, given the skill and craft poured into them. If I have concerns, it's these: color wise, both are unexciting, a little too monotone. If the real McCoys were as prosaic, so be it, and more power to Corgi for capturing their looks and spirit. Also, the joint line where the top metal plate (just behind the cowling and just before the cockpit) is a bit noticeable, a nit-picky critique, but there you have it. And I wish Corgi had rendered the propeller on von Crailsheim's bird with more than a spray of tawny, suntan, bore-fest brown, mercifully corrected on the Richthofen version. The cockpit combing could have used more attention too. Other than that, the models are jewels.
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Old 11-05-2020, 12:20 PM   #657 (permalink)
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Given all the gurb your read/hear about mac-daddy Luftwaffe fighter pilots like Erich “Bubi” Hartmann, Gerhard “Gerd” Barkhorn, and Gunther Rall, you'd think they were the Jedi of the Third Reich, the primo pilots of everlasting, goosestepping awesomeness. But you'd be wrong (in part). That distinction justly falls to the maritime aircrews who flew Germany's seaplanes, particularly the Heinkel He 115. It's true; think about it. The boys who crewed these magnificent warbirds were, by necessity, more multiskilled than their land-based counterparts. The pilots were gym-tastical, masters of flying from and alighting onto water (no easy task); and they were also boomshakalaka mariners and navigators, deft in nautical disciplines. These rugged, Popeye-lovin', Luftwaffe/Kreigsmarine crews were a breed apart, braving the new technology of aviation and the old demands of the sea. Compared to fair-weather fighter jockeys who shared few such challenges, they were veritable zieg-heil studs.

Many aviation enthusiasts regard the He 115 as the best of Germany's seaplanes, nay, the absolute best of its type among all combatants of WWII. The bird flew for both the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine, attacking enemy shipping and generally raising hell around Norway, the North Sea, and kindred wet environs. She laid mines up and down shipping lanes and around coasts, played rescuer to downed German aircrews, and flew reconnaissance. The plane was so impressive, Bulgaria, Finland, Norway, and Sweden flew the beast, the Royal Air Force pinching four Norwegian He 115s for use in several clandestine operations. All told, Heinkel produced five-hundred of these bullyrag warbirds.

In 1935, the Reich Air Ministry called for a twin-engine floatplane design to tackle a variety of military maritime roles including torpedo bomber (primary function), mine layer, and reconnaissance platform (secondary roles). Maritime aircraft design demanded structural toughness to cope with killdozer sea conditions plus exceptional operational range. The new design would, necessarily, have to be kickass in nearly all areas of her airframe. In response, Hamburger Flugzeugbau (then a subsidiary of Blohm & Voss, makers of many successful civilian and military floatplanes and flying boats) produced the Ha 140 while Heinkel submitted their He 115. Both designs looked tasty, and both moved on to prototype construction; but the He 115 proved the more successful with its smokin' advanced design, kicking the Ha 140 to the curb.

Two lanky floats affixed to the underside of each engine nacelle defined the He 115, each running the full length of the airframe, positioned along the forward half of the aircraft and connected to the fuselage by large thick struts. The fuselage was tubular, noted for its stretched, multi-glazed canopy that comprised the nose assembly and crew cabin. This greenhouse scheme provided supa visibility for its three-man crew, two taking station behind the pilot, sitting in back-to-back tandem seating. The fuselage tapered off into a long empennage sporting a single vertical tail fin with a clipped tip; the vertical tail fin base supported the horizontal tail planes. The wings were mid-to-low-mounted monoplanes displaying slight dihedral, featuring a discernible swept leading edge. Heinkel attached long crew access ladders to the fuselage sides about amidships, secured from the rear of each pontoon. Streamlined nacelles cradled engines that tapered off into each wing element toward the trailing edges. The propellers were three-bladed.

The He-115's guts, needless to say, was her armament. Defensively, the bird was a twinkie, bearing pidly 7.92mm MG 15 and MG 17 series machine guns. Offensively, she lumbered LTF 5 or LTF 6b series torpedoes that could donkey punch the most mean-muggin' Allied warship. The He 115 could also heft, as replacements, a pair of SD 500 1,100lb or SC 250 550lb conventional dumb bombs or hang LMB III or LMA series mines from its belly. After 1943, Heinkel fitted 20mm MG 151 or 20mm MG FF canon to its nose to better suppress ship/ground-based flak guns during torpedo runs.

In September of 1939, approximately 60 He 115A and He 115Bs operated with the Kustenfliegergruppen, conducting limited reconnaissance over the Balkans prior to the German invasion of Poland. At the start of hostilities, the 106th and 406th Coastal Aviation Groups (the latter launching out of northern Norway in 1942) scattered mines across the North Sea and England's east and southern coasts to shocka wocka all merchant shipping and warships in the region. During the Battle of Britain, He 115A and He 115Bs attempted to crap in Britain's punch bowl but lost 33 out of 60 operational aircraft, most from coastal flak. By the end of the battle, the Luftwaffe pressed the He 115C model into service, which didn't do much better. Losing that scuffle, Hitler abandoned his England invasion plans and stopped production of the He 115 (for the time being).

The He 115 quickly proved its self against Allied arctic convoys crammed with sorely needed supplies to Soviet Russia. Lucky for the floatplanes, these led-butt convoys proved frightfully easy to toe tag, the He 115C-4 most responsible for raping the ships with torpedoes. Notwithstanding, the convoys persevered, eventually being protected by allied warbirds that ended He 115 attacks.

He 115 operations over Norway is a book in itself; but to summarize, by the time Germany invaded Norway in April of 1940, the Norwegians possessed seven He 115s, one of which Hitler's boys liberated early on. Outraged, the Norwegians in turn (over three years) swiped several Luftwaffe He 115s. Four Norwegian He 115 booked it to England carrying the Norwegian government; a fifth escaped to Finland, while a sixth croaked somewhere over the North Sea. The RAF flew the four emancipated He-115s over Norway dropping leaflets for the displaced government, but the effort devolved into a turdbaby. Instead, these warbirds served the Royal Air Force (with Norwegian crews) in clandestine operations up and down Norway and the Mediterranean Sea, where each was lost before the end of the war. The Swedes flew twelve He 115s as the "T 2" all the way up to 1952. During the war, these warbirds protected the country's waterway interests, safeguarding Sweden's cosmetic neutrality. Five were trashed in accidents.

Heinkel restored production in 1943 with improved He 115E models, numbering 141 in all. Changes of note centered around the aircraft's armament and avionics/communication suites. By all accounts, the design proved remarkably efficient; and when flown by crackerjack crewmen it was an extremely tough customer.

I'm not much of a 1/144 scale collector, but Altaya/IXO's mini warbird series is noteworthy. I'm the first to admit, more than half of these models suffer from questionable accuracy and clumsy optics issues. In fact, some are absolute dogs; but in the main, the rest of the collection ain't bad. Altaya's He-115 is passable but for a few niggling faults, one being its howitzer-sized nose cannon, another its redwood-tree scale crew ladders. Still, given its dinky winky size, the model is admirable. If you're into German seaplanes, give it a try. I doubt any diecast manu will produce one in 1/72 scale.
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Old 11-11-2020, 06:34 AM   #658 (permalink)
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How would you like it if history remembered you as a turdburger, a donkdroid, second-fiddle to your sexified, sworn brother? You'd find it intolerable, especially if you'd overwhelmingly outmatched your comrade-in-arms against fiendish, villainous hordes. Which is exactly how the Hawker Hurricane feels from the great aeronautic beyond, the RAF's true beast boy, the fighter that handily won the Battle of Britain—not its too-hot-for-words hangar mate, the Spitfire. The Spitfire gained the glory, but the scrappy, mugly Hurricane won the fight. The warbird performed like a champazoid, changing the outcome of a battle nobody expected Britain to win. Thus it deserves high distinction in military aviation history.

Here's another shocker: The superstars of the Battle of Britain weren't British at all...but Polish! The polski airmen of 303 Squadron won fame as the most successful squadron of the entire battle, scoring nearly three times as many victories as the next best Brit RAF squadron. In just 42 days, 303 Squadron creamed 126 Luftwaffe warbirds, nine of its pilots becoming aces. That's enough to make you swear off tea and crumpets forever!

By the early 1930s, the Royal Air Force requested new modern fighters, spurred on by Air Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding. Sydney Camm, Chief brainiac Designer of Hawker Aircraft, took up the challenge and began work on a new fighter design that the Air Ministry soon rebuffed. Undaunted, Hawker worked on a second fighter as a private venture in 1934, responding to Air Ministry specification that required an eight-gun monoplane fighter powered by the Roll-Royce PV-12 (Merlin) engine. Camm again headed the effort. Thrifty minded, the aeronautical genius engaged as many existing parts and manufacturing techniques as possible, resulting in an aircraft that was fundamentally an advanced monoplane version of the earlier Hawker Fury biplane. Worried that Germany was stealing a march on Britain's fighter projects, the Air Ministry ordered a prototype of the aircraft, which Hawker completed in October 1935, the example flying on November 6 with Flight Lieutenant P.W.S. Bulman at the controls.

The new Hawker Hurricane incorporated many proven construction techniques, chief among them the use of high-tensile steel tubes to fashion the fuselage that supported a wooden framework covered by doped linen. Though primitive compared to the Supermarine Spitfire's all-metal construction, this approach made the aircraft far easier to build and repair. The warbird's wings, initially fabric covered, eventually morphed into all-metal sheeting, which greatly increased its performance.

Ordered into production in June 1936 and entering service in December 1937, the Hurricane furnished the RAF with a modern fighter just as Germany's Luftwaffe grew in strength and menace. Providentially, Hawker produced 500 Hurricanes prior to the outbreak of World War II in September 1939. Through the course of the war, Britain and Canada manufactured around 14,000 Hurricanes of various types, major improvements featuring upgraded propellers, additional armor, and standard metal wings. The Mk.IIA was slightly longer than its predecessor and packed a more powerful Merlin XX engine. Hawker continued to modify and improve the bird with variants focused on ground-attack, adding bomb racks and cannon, ending with the Mk.IV. The Fleet Air Arm flew the bird as the Sea Hurricane, which operated from carriers and catapult-equipped merchant ships.

The Hurricane first saw action in France, late 1939, against Dowding's (now head of Fighter Command) wishes, concluding with the Battle of France during May-June 1940, in which it took heavy losses but croaked a fanny rash of German aircraft in retaliation. After covering the evacuation of Dunkirk, the Hurricane went ballistic on the Nazis during the Battle of Britain, doing the smackdown on inbound bombers while the slippery Spitfire engaged German fighters. The Spitfire and the German Messerschmitt Bf 109 were more speedy than the Hurricane, but the old girl was a more stable gun platform and could be quickly repaired and returned to service. Also, German cannon shells would pass right through the warbird's doped linen without detonating, a big plus, except the fabric structure was prone to fire. Not to mention the fuel tank, located in front of the cockpit, had the suckish habit of bursting into flame when hit, immolating the pilot (more than one Hurricane driver mimicked a crispy, Chicago rare steak when plunging to mother earth). Horror-struck by this, Dowding ordered the tanks retrofitted with Linatex, a fire-resistant material.

As stated above, the Hurricane was responsible for the majority of British kills during the Battle of Britain, three-fifths of the RAF's squadrons flying Sidney Camm's fighter. Following this victory, the bird remained in frontline service, seeing increased use as a night fighter and intruder aircraft.

The Hurricane played a vital role in the defense of Malta in 1940-1942 and shamwow'd the Japanese in Southeast Asia and the Dutch East Indies. Unable to stop the Japanese advance (the Nakajima Ki-43 [Oscar] outclassed the Hurricane), the fighter still punched the lights out of Japanese bombers. Sadly, Hurricane-equipped units effectively ceased to exist after the invasion of Java in early 1942. Britain then exported Hurricanes to the Soviet Union, which the Russians adored for its cut-like-a-buffalo toughness. Ultimately, nearly 3,000 Hurricanes served the communists.

In North Africa, the Hurricane was a veritable nutcracker, mercilessly whopping Afrika Korps tanks and troops. Though successful in mid-to-late 1940, losses climbed alarmingly following the arrival of German Messerschmitt Bf 109Es and Fs. So beginning in mid-1941, the Hurricane took on ground-attack duties, flying with four 20 mm cannon and 500 lbs. of bombs. These "Hurribombers" proved monstrously effective against Axis ground forces and assisted the Allied victory at the Second Battle of El Alamein in 1942.

Eventually the Hurricane got long in the tooth, at which point Hawker morphed it into a true ground-support warbird, culminating with the Mk.IV, which possessed a "rationalized" or "universal" wing capable of carrying 500 lbs. of bombs, eight RP-3 rockets, or two 40 mm cannon. Until the Hawker Typhoon arrived in 1944, the Hurricane continued as a key ground-attack aircraft with the RAF and was then phased out, not bad for a second-fiddler.
I once got into a pissing match on another diecast forum (now defunct, happily) over the shape of this model's spinner, likening it to a f'ugly thimble. Accurate or not, to me it's a big black monkey ape, the Loch Ness monster of propeller spinners, hideous. If that's the way the real thing looked, the RAF has my sincerest condolences. Other than that, the model is a wondrous achievement of model mastery, accuracy abounding. Happy Veteran's Day, USA!
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Old 11-11-2020, 07:56 PM   #659 (permalink)
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

Every day I am at work I have a beautifully preserved Hurricane sitting 50 feet behind me. I never get tired of seeing that magnificent beast.
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Old 11-17-2020, 05:27 PM   #660 (permalink)
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Lots of us embrace Hollywood's definition of "superhero": some semidivine hero of myth or legend who exhibits feats of incredible strength, fighting prowess, and cunning, someone faster than a speeding bullet who can jump buildings in a single bound. My view is dramatically different: It's someone who rises above him/herself despite physical, mental, emotional, and/or spiritual challenges. Someone who, though plagued with difficulties, wins at life through sheer determination. That's my superhero. That's who I look up to. Francis Stanley "Gabby" Gabreski (born Franciszek Stanisław Gabryszewski) was one of these, called "Captain Kickass" by his admirers. He was like so many of us: hopeless in some ways, not particularly adept in others. And yet despite his faults he refused to quit and eventually rose to greatness, so much so that had each WWII Allied fighter pilot been Gabby Gabreski, Hitler and Hideki Tojo would have released chocolate hostages so violently that commodes all over Berlin and Toyko would have exploded.

So here's a look at this superhero. But first, a peek at the Republic P-47D Thunderbolt, Gabby's trusty steed...

Renowned for its rambo ruggedness, firepower and speed, the massive, bull-balls Republic P-47 was one of the most celebrated USAAF fighters during World War II, produced in larger numbers than any other U.S. fighter. Affectionately called the "Jug," the Thunderbolt served as a bomber escort and highly effective ground attack fighter adored by its pilots and dreaded by its enemies. The Thunderbolt was the end product of several radial-engine fighters Russian émigrés Alexander de Seversky and Alexander Kartveli developed developed in the 1930s, their considerably larger prototype XP-47B weighing over twice as much as the original concept. The first production version, the P-47B, entered service in the spring of 1942, not a blinding success, limited to 171 units. The follow-on P-47C corrected some of the B's vices and rolled off the production line in September 1942. Finally getting it right with over 12,500 built, the P-47D became the most-produced Thunderbolt, near identical to the P-47C but with additional protective pilot armor. Although fast with an excellent roll rate, early P-47s couldn't climb worth a crap or fly for any appreciable distance.

In time, Seversky and Karveli booted the P-47D into superstar status, installing a souped-up propeller, larger internal fuel tanks, and new wing mounts that could heft droppable fuel tanks or bombs. Republic added additional wing mounts to late-model P-47Ds able to tote 10 air-to-ground rockets. Canon-like engine water injection kicked the warbird's Pratt & Whitney R-2800 radial engine into powered euphoria, producing hellacious horsepower, enough to reach 433 mph. The bird's most visible change was its new "bubble-top" canopy, which offered superior all-around pilot vision.

Through 1943 in Europe, the P-47C and P-47D equipped the majority of 8th Air Force fighter groups in England (and one in the 15th Air Force in Italy) as long-range escort fighters, eventually replaced by longer-ranged P-51 Mustangs (with the sole exception of the 56th Fighter Group). From there, the heavily-armed, sexy stubbled P-47D proved ideal for ground attack and became the backbone of the 9th and 12th Air Force. In the Pacific, several 5th Air Force fighter groups flying the P-47D clubbed Japanese air and ground forces in New Guinea and the Philippines in 1943-1944. Later, five groups in the 7th Air Force (and in the closing weeks of the war the 20th Air Force) flew the longer-ranged P-47N as an escort fighter for B-29s.

Other Allied countries also flew the P-47D in combat during WWII, including Brazil, Free France, Great Britain, Mexico, and the Soviet Union.

Now for Francis...

Francis Gabreski, top-scoring USAAF ace in the ETO with 28 victories, was one of seven U.S. pilots to become an ace in two wars, scoring 6.5 victories over MiG-15s while flying the F-86E Sabre in the Korean War, for a total score of 34.5 to become the third highest-scoring US ace after Richard Bong and Thomas McGuire. But you'd never have guessed he'd rise so high in the pantheon of great fighter pilots judging from his early dorkapotamus flying ineptitude.

Gabreski's parents emigrated from Poland to Oil City, Pennsylvania, in the early 1900s; his father, Stanisław "Stanley" Gabryszewski, owned and managed a market, the whole family working long hours there. Francis was an unexceptional student, impressing exactly no one scholastically but managing to graduate from high school in 1938 and (remarkably) gain admission to Notre Dame. And that's when the fun started...

Gabby's lazybone's approach to school left him ill-prepared for jawbreaker academics, which he nearly flunked during his freshman year. To escape desperation, his mind wandered to airplanes, thinking flying would be a nifty way to travel between Oil City and South Bend. So he took flying lessons from Homer Stockert (owner of Stockert Flying Services) in a Taylorcraft monoplane but couldn't get the hang of it after six flying hours and refused to fly solo. Stockert, patronizingly told him he didn't "have the touch to be a pilot," a diplomatic way of saying the kid was a stewpid shmuck and that cleaning crappatoriums presented a more appropriate career choice. Frustrated, Gabreski continued at Notre Dame as a sophomore, heedful Germany and Russia had gang raped and then pooped all over Poland. So when Army Air Corps recruiters visited the campus in July 1940, Gabby eagerly enrolled in their program, partly because it waved an academic test and mostly because it gave him an excuse to flip the bird at Notre Dame.

From there he booked it to Pittsburgh for a physical and induction into the Army and from there to East St. Louis for primary flight training at Parks Air College, a civilian program for novice cadets. There he flew Stearman PT-17 biplanes and Fairchild PT-19 low-wing monoplanes, blundering through it all and nearly washing out in an "Elimination Flight." But he passed, got a new instructor, and completed the program in November 1940. Shockingly.

Next, Gabreski reported to Gunther Army Air Base outside of Montgomery, Alabama, for basic flight training. Unlike Parks College, this was real Army where everyone wore khaki, and everybody marched, saluted, and sucked up to their superior officer. Here he flew the Vultee BT-13, a more powerful, more muscle-car plane, one so noisy the cadets called it the "Vultee Vibrator." Cadets learned instrument flying in it sitting within a shrouded cockpit, meant to teach them to fly in bad weather and/or night. Here Gabby witnessed his first fatality when a friend named Blackie went into a spin, bailed out, and hit the propeller, which hacked off his legs. The poor wretch bled to death before smacking the ground.

After completing basic training, Gabby and other surviving pilots trekked to nearby Maxwell Field for advanced training, the group now flying the legendary AT-6 Texan, a bigger, far stronger plane equipped with retractable landing gear and radio, akin to a fighter. At Maxwell, Gabby nearly washed out again, this time for collapsing at early morning parade from a hangover and not immediately explaining why. The Army reasoned that a pilot who fainted without apparent reason was deplorable risk, while one who fainted from a hangover was merely a mild disciplinary issue. Thankfully, Gabreski finally belched out the real reason; so apart from some extra guard duty and other punishments, no further repercussion ensued. He graduated in March 1941 a Second Lieutenant.

Following that, the USAAF assigned our boy to the 45th Pursuit Squadron of the 15th Pursuit Group at Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii, where he flew P-36A Peashooters and P-40s, almost bumping titties with the Japanese on December 7, 1941, but getting airborne after the Japanese had booked it.

Promoted to Captain in September 1942, Gabreski convinced the USAAF HQ in Washington to reassign him to England as a liaison officer to Polish RAF squadrons (given he spoke Polish), to gain modern combat experience. HQ assigned him to VIII Figher Command in October and from there to 315 Squadron (PAF) RAF, where a hornet's nest of Focke-Wulf Fw 190s stoobied his and his peeps' butts. Too wigged-out to make a "kill", Gabreski later learned to remain calm during such missions, a lesson that served him well later on. He later spoke warmly about his Polish mates and the invaluable lessons they taught him.

Gabreski soon left for the 56th Fighter Group, the first USAAF unit to fly the P-47 Thunderbolt, and became a flight leader in the 61st Fighter Squadron, the unit he would remain with throughout World War II. Woefully, the guys in the unit loathed him for his pugnacious personality and being a newcomer. This disdain increased exponentially after top brass promoted him to commander of the Fighter Squadron on June 9. Gabreski's promotion had bypassed two senior, possibly more deserving, pilots, both of whom croaked in combat on June 26, encouraging even more rancor.

Gabreski scragged an Fw 190 near Dreux, France, on August 24, 1943, his first credited kill, the first of many trophies his wingmen condemned, claiming his attack tactics intentionally excluded them. Wingmen typically hated his guts, several of whom died in both World War II and Korea. Gareski became an ace after obliterating two Bf 109s on November 26, 1943.

In February 1944, Gabreski adopted two Polish pilots into the 61st, who had flown with him in 1943 while serving with the RAF, one of them future USAAF ace Squadron Leader Boleslaw "Mike" Gladych. This transfer went so swimmingly that Gabreski took on five more Polish Air Force from the RAF, dubbing them the "Polish Flight." Not only did they serve the 61st well, these men also eased the shortage of experienced American pilots caused by veterans completing their tours. Moreover they provided a handy barrier between Gabby and his detractors.

By March 27, Gabreski's tally reached 18, six of these part of multiple-kill missions that vaulted him to third place in the "ace race" within VIII Fighter Command. He downed one more Nazi during the next two months. In view of his extraordinary success, Gabreski rose to Lt. Colonel in April 1944. And as if to put an exclamation point to that, he creamed three more Fw 190s on May 22. On June 27 he tied fellow 56th FG ace Robert S. Johnson as the leading ace in the European Theater, and then scored two additional kills on July 5, 1944, becoming the leading ace in the ETO with a score of 28 krauts destroyed, matching the total of the Pacific Theatre's top ace, Richard Bong.

Flushed with excitement and scheduled to marry his fiancé in his hometown of Oil City, Pennsylvania, Gabreski decided to make “one more mission.” On his return he spotted several He-111s lined up on the airfield at Niedermendig, Germany, begging for a strafing attack. Making one pass, Gabreski reversed for a second, fumbling with his camera to record the victory. As his tracers overshot one of the parked bombers, he dropped the nose of his P-47 to adjust, clipping the runway with his prop, bending its tips. He crash landed and ran for the nearby woods, eluding capture for five days but got caught and spent the rest of the war at Stalag Luft I.

There he was barracked in a 20-man shack surrounded by two rows of barbed wire fence, sharing bad food, hunger and punishments. Still, he was proud of the men's spirits under such horrid conditions, making their own clandestine radio to listen to war news, producing a newspaper under the very noses of their guards, and digging as many as 100 escape tunnels, few of which lead to freedom.By March, 1945, he heard artillery to the East and was elated when Russian soldiers liberated the group, even more so when American planes evacuated him to freedom.

After the war, Gabreski spent several years commanding various fighter units and test flying jets before deploying to Korea. In July 1951, now-Colonel Gabreski downed his first MiG flying an F-86 Sabre, replacing his jet's unfamiliar new gunsight with a piece of chewing gum stuck to the windscreen. In December 1951, he transferred from the 4th to the 51st FIW and in April 1952 scored his fifth kill of the Korean air war, becoming one of the few pilots to reach ace status in two different wars. That summer, cooperating with Bud Mahurin, Bill Whisner, and other commanders, he participated in furtive 'Maple Special' missions across the Yalu River into Manchuria, shooting down 1.5 more commie planes.

Gabby ended his distinguished Air Force career as commander of several tactical and air defense wings, later becoming president of the Long Island Rail Road. He lived in retirement on Long Island for many years as "America's Greatest Living Ace" and passed away on Jan. 31, 2002. My superhero.


I dig 1/48 scale aircraft models. They're bigger (of course) than their 1/72 cousins (which makes their details easier to see) and feel more hefty, giving them a more, I dunno, lifelike feel. Armor/Franklin Mint produced a profusion of 1/48 aircraft that, to my mind, are mostly slammin', hella-cool models. Hobby Master carried that torch with a variety of WWI, inter-war, WWII, and Korean War aircraft, P-47D fighters among them, which I think are sick-nasty, extremely sexy models. Gabby's camouflaged mount is da bombskee too, one I've gone over with a magnifying glass and can't find a single flaw. I love the way Hobby Master captured the fighter's fat-Dudley look, it's linebacker, gut-wagon persona, best represented in larger scales. Even if you're a smaller scale collector, it'll do ya a lot of nice if you grab one of Hobby Master's 1/48 Thunderbolts. You'll love it. So get one. Right now.
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Old 11-20-2020, 10:36 AM   #661 (permalink)
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She was the lonely princess trapped in a loveless marriage; he was the dashing cavalry officer in the British Army. Their love affair reportedly lasted for five years, and more than a few cybersleuths claim that the two produced a son with red hair. His name: Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, son of Diana, Princess of Wales. According to armchair bloodhounds, the similarities between Harry and James Hewitt (Harry's purported real biological father) are undeniable, the following photos offering persuasive proof that Diana and James did the mattress mambo and produced an illegitimate sweetums. Judge for yourself...

Likewise, whispers of a stealthy fling between a Japanese movie matinee icon and a French aeronautical wonder have dogged the aviation world for over half a century, the cause of acute embarrassment for a premiere French aviation concern. In sum, Godzilla, in the throes of passion, jumped the fence at Societe des Avions Marcel Bloch (later called Dassault) and boinked an unsuspecting airplane sitting on the factory floor, resulting in the Bloch MB.210, a French medium bomber that bore a striking resemblance to its hideous, thirty-seven story monster daddy. Think not? Compare the following photos (pay close attention to the chins) and see for yourself...

Bloch, the French aviation concern, was a maestro at designing, developing, and producing superb aircraft, both civilian and military. French aircraft engineer Marcel Bloch (1892-1986) founded the original company but found it advisable to change its name to Dassault Aviation after changing his own last name to "Dassault" in reaction to the Nazi-aligned Vichy French government's iniquitous persecution of Jews.

Bloch perfected a high-winged, twin-engine bomber in the early 1930s designated the MB.200 ("Marcel Bloch Model 200"), which several air powers adopted (including the French). In 1932, the Armée de l'Air had issued a requirement for a modern day/night-capable bomber, eventuating in the MB.200 series, comprising three versions, each equipped with different engines. From this basic design emerged the advanced private venture MB.210 series, hallmarking the relocation of the main wing appendages to a low-mounted position along the fuselage sides and retractable undercarriage, unique among many new designs still featuring fixed undercarriages. Two Gnome-Rhone 14K series radial piston engines of 800 hp. provided über average power. Bloch himself first flew the warbird on November 23rd, 1934, and was slightly underwhelmed with its qualities but still able to sell the idea to French aviation authorities, who eventually placed a contract for it in November of 1936. Since the Bloch facilities were incapable of constructing the required number of bombers in the specified time, the company consented to several other manufactures building them, including Les Mureaux, Breguet, Hanriot, Potez and Renault.

Four airmen crewed the bomber in its base form. Superficially, the airframe was homo-erectus primitive even by 1930s standards, consisting of a long, windowed nose section, stepped cockpit flight deck, and a lengthy slab-sided fuselage. Its single vertical tail fin and low-set tail planes were conventional, and the low-mounted, main-wing appendages supported two engine nacelles. While the undercarriage was retractable, the tail wheel was not, and the main oleo wheels remained exposed beneath the engines. Defensive armament composed three machine gun turret emplacements (3 x 7.5mm MAC 1934), one dorsal, one ventral, and one at the nose. Lodged in an internal bomb bay, the bomber carried up to 3,500lbs of stores.

In those days, French aircraft engines were prone to two achilee's heels: overheating and a cringeworthy lack of power, which didn't amuse the French Air, who ground their MB.210 fleet until Bloch resolved the issues. Mercifully, Bloch proposed a quick fix, modifying the plane's mounts to accept more reliable, beefy Gnome-Rhone 14N radial engines, which the company should have installed in the first place. The change-outs were made, and the MB.210 flew into glorious French history, 257 bombers in total.

Records show that the Armée de l'Air wasn't especially happiful with their new mount, its engines still crummy and the bomb load embarrassingly small (3,520 lb.). But French pride was on the line, and the air force flew them all over bloody creation, pretending the warbird was the best, most shiznit aircraft on planet earth. Behind the scenes, though, authorities tended to shuffle them away, warehousing their butts to avoid further indignity. By the time the krauts invaded France in June 1940, the MB.210 was one of few warbirds available in number and was thus pressed into combat service, 12 French bomber groups participating.

By then the bomber was every inch an obsolete design, a poo muffin, enmeshed in a major modern war it couldn't possibly stem or hope to survive. As the Luftwaffe butchered it wholesale, the Armée de l'Air shifted to night offensives, which proved no less cataclysmic. No mater, desperate French air crews flew it all the way up to the country's formal surrender, after which a few examples redeployed to North Africa in Vichy colors.

Given the plane's marginal talents, it's puzzling the Luftwaffe recruited and exploited a handful of them into 1942. Finally exasperated by the warbird's failings, Germany shipped six examples to the Bulgarian Air Force, which reluctantly accepted the unwelcome gift; Romania received 10 examples even less enthusiastically. By war's end, the MB.210s were forgotten relics, ghost turds of an earlier era.

Do I like this model? Confession time, I'm not a French early-WWII bomber aficionado, so this particular offering doesn't exhilarate me. But on a historical level it's a worthy addition to my growing Armée de l'Air collection. I'm reasonably sure the diecast community will need to wait a bit longer for Corgi to issue a 1/72 rendition of the MB.210, so Altaya's version will have to do. I try not to be too critical of this quirky little bird given its minuscule size, but I wish it were a little less toylike and a bit more realistic. But that's just me. Happy early Thanksgiving, everybody!!!
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Old 11-26-2020, 05:14 AM   #662 (permalink)
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It certainly was controversial on MHII back in the day, quite a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth from a few good ol' boys who thought that diecast blasphemy had been created
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Old 11-26-2020, 09:14 AM   #663 (permalink)
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Generalleutnant Walther Wever, prewar Chief of Staff of the Luftwaffe, was an inspired, farsighted advocate of strategic bombing, who, had he survived an air crash on 3 June 1936, would have produced a heavy bomber force (much like the Allies) capable of bombing Russia and England into after-birth on toast. Unfortunately for the Third Reich, he croaked and left the Luftwaffe with no such flying artillery.

Instead, Generaloberst Ernst Udet and Generalleutnant Kesselring, Wever's douchecanoe replacements, deemed four-engined heavy bombers outrageously laughable, a gross waste of resources, and forthwith canceled all such projects. Their decision, in hindsight, was completely craycray, given such a bomber force could have reached the Urals and Sodom-and-Gomorrahed Stalin's factories while bonehammering England's production facilities and/or airfields. But the closest the Luftwaffe got to a long-range heavy bomber was the Heinkel He 177 Greif, an epic failure according to sundry military historians but was, in actuality, a satisfactory bombing platform cursed with molten, buttmaggot engines (see below) and stewpid, unrealistic demands.

With Wever gone, Udet and Kesselring radically reshaped Germany's bomber program by proposing two new warbirds: Bomber A and Bomber B twin-engined medium bomber designs. The Bomber A specifications, issued in June 1936, called for an aircraft with a top speed of 335mph, an operational radius of 1,000 miles with a 4,400lb payload and 1,800 miles with a 2,200lb payload. The original specifications called for a shallow dive bomber, later amended to a steep-dive capability. Which was fine with German's major aircraft manufacturers except that no German aircraft engines in 1936 could power a twin-engined Bomber A (as proposed). So to meet that demand, they needed to produce a four-engined bomber, which the RLM opposed. To sidestep this quandary, Heinkel opted for the Daimler Benz DB 606 twin engine, which were two DB 601 inverted V inline powerplants placed side by side, the inner cylinders almost vertical. Outwardly, linked together, they looked like one engine, both turning a single propeller through a complex gearing mechanism, producing double the power. The arrangement offered significant loss of drag with fewer engine nacelles, but it also doubled the heat produced, turning the powerplant into a white-hot nuclear furnace.

Thus the DB 606 routinely caught fire. Oil leaked onto the hottest parts of the engine; oil and fuel leaked into the bottom of the engine cowling and ignited; fuel vaporized and exploded. To cope, Heinkel designed a system of evaporative cooling pipes placed throughout the wings to chill engine steam, but the arrangement was a catastrophic fail. Heinkel then installed a standard radiator system, which increased drag that consequently reduced fuel efficiency. To compensate, Heinkel increased the fuel load that raised the aircraft's weight, which necessitated a more strengthened airframe, which increased weight, which required more fuel. All the while the engines still overheated, causing fires that kwanza'd a buttload of He-177s. Later improvements reduced these infernos but never eliminated them.

Funny enough, the Brits experienced similar troubles with the Rolls Royce Vulture, an infernal twin-engine powerplant much like the DB 610. It too powered a twin-engined heavy bomber, the Avro Manchester, which also routinely caught fire and killed its crews. Unlike Avro, however, who swapped the Manchester's two Vultures for four Merlin engines, morphing the hideous bomber into the legendary Avro Lancaster, Heinkel kept the DB 610 (a genuine sewer weasel) and He-177. The fault for this lay with the butterbrained RLM, which turned down Heinkel's repeated requests to produce a four-engined version of the He 177 until it changed its mind in 1943; but it was too late. And as if that weren't enough, the RLM demanded the He 177 fly like a dive bomber too. Steep dives, sharp pull-outs, and punishing climbs grievously stressed the warbird's fuselage, which required even more strengthening. The resulting aircraft maintained its required range and bomb load but lost speed. Plus it became unwieldy like a boozy elephant seal owing to high wing loading (wing area divided by weight).

The He 177 entered service in the winter of 1942, airlifting supplies to Stalingrad, where it could barely cope with Russia's rough airstrips or carry even a smattering of materials. Failing at this, surviving 177s then attacked Russian positions around the city with bombs or 50mm BK 5 anti-tank guns mounted beneath their snouts but hardly made a dent. All the while engine fires continued to snuff more of these warbirds. The Luftwaffe took to calling it "Baron von Turkeypants," withdrawing the toiletbaby until the A-5 version made its debut. This newer variant began operations with KG 40 in summer 1943, dropping radio-controled Henschel Hs 293 glider-bombs on Allied merchant and navy ships, damaging and/or sinking 28 in all.

Two He 177 units took part in Operation Steinbock betweenJanuary and April 1944, the last Luftwaffe bombing campaign over Britain. Crews carried 12,000lb payloads on these missions, climbing to the warbird's service ceiling before crossing the British coast then plunging into a shallow full-power dive at over 400mph, making the aircraft harder to intercept. But the operation was mostly unproductive. By the spring of 1944, the Luftwaffe began to husband its strength for the allied invasion of Western Europe, grounding the Greif. In the days following D-Day, II./KG 40 fanatically attacked the invasion fleet but lost half of its 26 aircraft before disengaging.

Over the summer of 1944, the Allied attack on the German oil industry finally bore fruit. Among other German bombers, the He 177 rarely flew for lack of fuel and was basically grounded for the rest of the war. Heinkel eventually produced around 1,000 aircraft, but the majority never saw combat, most sitting forlornly in hangars and around airfields. Had the 177 flown with four reliable engines, it's entirely possible she'd have made a huge difference. Thanks to Udet and Kesselring, she didn't.

You have to hand it to IX0/Altaya for producing a series of 1/144 WWII bombers. It took a solid effort to replicate iconic and not-so-legendary warbirds on that scale, most of them reasonably accurate given size limitations and challenges. I'm something of a perfectionist and find model shortfalls annoying, which are common among these examples; but I also appreciate the fact that they're tolerable and in some cases exceptional. I can't say that I'm overly jazzed about the He 177's squiggly camouflage paint job, something of a ham-handed struggle. But oh what the heck.
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Old 11-27-2020, 02:57 AM   #664 (permalink)
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ukrainian_Falcons View Post
This and the Iraq 21 are by far HM's best 21's, it's a shame HM didn't make more Arab or even try African nation 21's as they had the best camo schemes
Yes I agree!! Pretty much the same story with the Mig-23's!! The production has become stagnant!!
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Old 11-28-2020, 01:38 PM   #665 (permalink)
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To me, the Martin Mariner looks like the great great grandaddy of a battlemech, the ancestor of some yet-to-be walking wall of armor and weaponry. You see it in the flying boat's belligerent, walrus chin, its stretched, cantilevered gull wings, its deep-hull citadel sides, those absurdly slanted, guitar-pick twin tails. It's all there, and I tell you true, some future Optimus Prime death-metal machine will point with pride to its patrol bomber ancestry. Or not.

Painfully, though, the Mariner got very little press in its day, possibly because the knuckle-dragging Neanderthal managed to sink but 10 U-boats (some say 12) and explode while searching for Flight 19, a group of five TBM Avenger torpedo bombers that vanished over the Bermuda Triangle on December 5, 1945 (more below). For all its badassery, the warbird didn't have a whole lot to show for all the treasure, trouble, and manpower poured into it, aircrews scornfully calling the beast the "flying gas tank" and "barf bucket" for its leaking gas and puke-inducing fumes.

Martin began work on the design in 1937 to replace the US Navy's Consolidated Catalina. Their Model 162 (naval designation XPBM-1 [Experimental Patrol Bomber Martin 1]) featured a cavernous hull, shoulder-mounted gull wings (to put the greatest distance between the engines and sea water), a flat twin-fin tail, and inward-retracting wing floats. The full-scale prototype first flew in February 1939, which revealed several shortcomings, resulting in a dihedral configuration redesign that matched the angle of the main wings.

The first production model, the PBM-1, rolled out in October 1940, service deliveries completing by April 1941. Officially called the Mariner, the PBM-1 had a crew of seven and was armed with five 12.7mm/0.5in Browning machine-guns, one mounted in a flexible tail position, two in mounts on either side of the rear fuselage, one fitted in a rear dorsal turret, and the last installed in a nose turret. In addition, the PBM-1 could heft up to 908kg/2000lb of bombs or depth charges in bomb bays that were, uncommonly, loaded in the engine nacelles. Improved PBM-3s arrived in late 1940, featuring uprated Pratt & Whitney 1700hp R-2600-12 engines, larger fixed wing floats, and larger bomb bays housed in enlarged nacelles. This version also came with powered nose and dorsal turrets and four-bladed propellers. The PBM-3C followed with better armor protection for the crew, twin gun front and dorsal turrets, an improved tail turret still with a single gun, and air-to-surface-vessel radar. Some were even fitted with an underwing searchlight.

In all, the PBM Martin Mariner was larger but less reliable than the Consolidated PBY Catalina, a nasty fact that escaped none of its crews. It suffered from engines (later updated) that death yodeled far too often. Few PBMs made it back to base on one power plant, none when both engines flatlined, the bird usually crashballing into an immense gout of seawater. Both the Catalina and the Mariner were lead-butt slow, maximum speeds topping out at around 200 miles per hour, normal cruising speeds well under that. Escape from enemy fighters was nutcase impossible, making both warbirds meat on the table.

US Navy Mariners saw massive use in the Pacific, guarding the Atlantic western approaches, and defending the Panama Canal. Given that most Mariners likely wouldn't encounter fighter opposition, crews removed much of the defensive armament, saving weight, resulting in a 25 per cent increase in the bird's range, especially useful for the PBM-3S anti-submarine variant. Most Mariners kept their nose guns for offensive fire against U-boats and other surface targets. As a follow on, Martin re-engined a few 3Cs and clad them with more armor, larger non-retractable floats, and self-sealing fuel tanks.

One big boon to the Mariner's modest success was the Allies' increasingly clever use of electronic intelligence like Huff-Duff (HFDF) and breaking the Enigma cipher to pinpoint U-boats far out at sea, their crews thinking themselves safe from air or surface attack. One example from June 1942 illustrates this. The crew of the type IXC U-158 had sunk thirteen ships in the Gulf of Mexico and off Bermuda, boarding and scuttling their final victim, a 4,000-ton freighter, having expended their torpedoes. Several different direction-finding stations, including one on Bermuda, pinpointed the U-Boat after its skipper, Erich Rostin, radioed headquarters on 30 June. Withing minutes a Bermuda-based Martin Mariner from US Navy Patrol Squadron 74 winged its way toward the unsuspecting sub. Fifty miles into the flight the Mariner crew saw U-158 on the surface, sailors sun bathing on its deck. Before the Germans could react, the Mariner dropped two Mark XVIl depth charges near the sub's haul but not close enough. Cursing his luck, the Mariner winged around and dropped two more charges on the frantically diving submarine, one lodging in its conning tower. As the U-boat submerged, the depth charge detonated, blowing the merry hell out of the U-158 with her entire crew, a fast, clinical operation that would become increasingly routine.

Everyone's familiar with the Flight 19 legend, where five TBM Avengers vanished in The Bermuda Triangle, a swatch of ocean infamous for swallowing planes, boats, ships, and shrieking grandmothers. An often overlooked footnote to that lore was the disappearance of a Martin Mariner that searched for the torpedo bombers, upping the victim tally to 27 men.

On December 5, 1945, 7:27 p.m, a Mariner launched from the Banana River Naval Air Station into strengthening winds and isolated rain showers, a worsening, foreboding storm front. Designated "Training 49," the lumbering aircraft, commanded by Lt. Walt Jeffrey (who'd volunteered for the mission), winged northward along the coast and then turned straight into the Atlantic to home-in on Flight 19's 5:50 p.m. radio position fix. At 9:12 p.m., Air-Sea Rescue Headquarters in Miami received a teletype message that the freighter S.S. Gaines Mill had witnessed a huge fireball in the sky, suggesting a midair collision. Training 49 hadn't radioed in, so SAR diverted yet another Martin Mariner (piloted by Lt. Gerald Brammerlin) to the given coordinates. Reaching the area at 10:45 p.m., Brammerlin reported he saw no debris or rain showers or lightning or anything that could have caused the explosion—if indeed there were one. The USS Solomons (a carrier), however, had followed Training 49's radar blip from its launch to where the Gaines Mill reported the fireball. At that point the Mariner's blip vanished from the Solomons' scope.

Five months later, news headlines still reported the night's events as the "Number One Mystery of the Naval Air Arm." Which was true regarding the lost Avengers, but little doubt remained that the Mariner had blown up. The brain-teaser was, what caused it to explode? Ground Technicians and pilots rigorously preflighted the birds. They flew the plane and knew its quirks; they didn't cut corners with inspections. Things turned decidedly more weird.

The Navy reviewed the records of the Board proceedings, especially eyewitness accounts of the Gaines Mill crew. Bafflingly, some of the sailors swore they'd seen a plane on fire hit the ocean and explode. Others alternately recounted a huge fireball in the sky, indicative of a midair explosion. The official ship log reported: "Hundred foot burst of flame lasting several minutes seen." Nobody on the freighter could definitively confirm what he saw. The Coast Guard wasn't especially helpful either. The Navy called on Coast Guard Lt. Commander William T. Murphy (reportedly someone familiar with the facts) to testify. The officer seemed lackadaisical and indifferent to the Mariner crew's fate, offering nothing of substance. His responses were so useless, so unenlightening, the Navy abandoned the inquiry in disgust. In the end, not even a particle of the plane was found. The Navy finally searched the sea floor for evidence but found not one tiny speck. Which raises a question...

Was a fuel-leak to blame or something else entirely? The Navy grudgingly came to believe the explosion theory though the accepted chain of events argued otherwise. The assumption ignores reports that the plane was in flames midair, suggesting the aircrew was aware of the fire yet sent no SOS, terse or long. A Mariner pilot aware his plane was going down would likely have ordered his radioman, sitting just behind, to send a message, which didn't happen.

This was an unusual amount of destruction even for a plane scornfully dubbed a “flying gas tank.” If a fuel leak did the deed, then the fire was quick and catastrophic. If an engine caught fire, the Gaines Mill would have seen a fire trailing from the warbird and heard two explosions: The engine and wing fuel tank would have blown up and following that the body tanks, two sequential explosions—not just one. And at least some debris would have remained, too, both above and below the water; but that wasn't the case.

This and the disappearance of Flight 19 spawned a trainload of mad-dookie theories, from wormholes and waterspouts to alien abduction. Personally, I think the Mariner got caught up in some crayzee electromagnetic hellstorm, shrank to 1/144 size, which IXO/Altaya eventually copied to death and sold to unsuspecting collectors like me. And don't laugh: I have proof!

Do I like this model? Yeah, in a cuhrazy way I do. Remarkably, Altaya got the dimensions tolerably right and nailed the Mariner's rotund, globular, bitchin' chin. I said it before: I'm not that enthused about smallish, hung-like-a-horsefly models. But given the fact that Corgi and Hobby Master and whoever will spurn this warbird entirely, I'm happy to at least own a midget version of it.
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Old 12-09-2020, 12:14 PM   #666 (permalink)
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Remember this, kiddies, 'cause you'll get a kick out of it: America designated World War II Japanese warbirds thusly: female names to bombers; male to fighters. One of the guys in the three-man intelligence team that picked these monikers, James 'hot to trot' Lambson, remembered a saucy, thunder-jugs waitress he'd, uh, dated in Beaver, Pennsylvania, and pinned her name to the Mitsubishi G4M, forever known thereafter as the Betty. No doubt the Japanese would have chuckled at the gesture but instead called their stogie-shaped bomber the Rikko (clipping their phrase for "land-based attack bomber").

The Betty/Rokko was Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's brainstorm, which his milieu of nerdy, air-minded naval officers enthusiastically supported. Yamamoto was a snerdy kind of guy himself though he earned only a C+ during his two-year stint at Harvard from 1919 to 1921. The dude routinely beat uppish Cambridge college boys at poker, spending his considerable winnings traveling around the USA, noting its strengths and weaknesses, knowledge he deviously exploited two decades later.

Just like pre-war US Navy bigwigs, senior Imperial Japanese Navy officers considered the battleship the queen of naval warfare, a notion that spawned two prohibitively expensive and remarkably wanky super-battleships, Yamato and Musashi, both ingloriously sunk by US Navy air power. Yamamoto, however, argued against building more battlewagons ("You could buy a thousand airplanes for the coast of a warship," he once famously quipped), tilting instead toward land-based bombers (like the Betty) blessed with long range and screamin' speed able to fly far out to sea and sink the livin' dino doo out of enemy navies.

The 1922 Washington Naval Treaty mandated a capital-ship building ratio of 5:5:3 between the U.S., Britain, and Japan, which the Japanese stridently rejected in 1936, which prompted Japan's military elite to embrace Yamamoto’s envisioned fleet of very-long-range torpedo bombers. Short version, the Imperial Japanese Naval Air Service (IJNAS) demanded the warbird reach a top speed of 247 mph and fly almost 3,000 statute miles (loaded range of 2,300 miles), which Mitsubishi, Japan's premiere aircraft company, balked at, insisting no bomber with less than four engines could manage the feat. The IJNAS stood firm on its twin-engine requirement, threatening death by beheading; and miracle of miracles, Mitsubishi magically introduced a trusty new 1,530-hp, 14-cylinder, twin-row radial that could manage the job. Work on the bomber commenced almost immediately.

Optically, the G4M was a flying butter hog, its fat-barreled airframe making a mock of gracefully tapered structures typical of WWII medium bombers. Kiro Honjo, the plane's chief designer, crammed the Betty with a full complement of guns in waist, dorsal-turret, nose and tail positions (more below), its roomy fuselage meant to provide the airplane’s seven-man crew (later reduced to five) space enough to relax during long flights and fill multiple positions. The hambeast's fuselage, ending in an enormous tail-gunner’s station, made sense aerodynamically; but the engineering team found the warbird cosmetically grotesque, dubbing it the "bacon bazooka" (behind Hondo's back). Visiting dignitaries agreed, snidely calling the bomber "a bucket of smashed crabs."

Yamamoto’s weapon of choice was the torpedo, and the Betty was first and foremost a torpedo bomber, hefting a single 1,890-pound Type 91 tin fish—the world’s most deadly, violent aerial torpedo right up to the end of the war. The Type 91 could race toward its target in excess of 42 knots (propelled by a tiny radial engine fueled by kerosene and compressed air) and featured a stupefyingly advanced automatic roll-control mechanism. It carried a stonking huge explosive charge able to blow ships sky high and bore large wooden tailfins that stabilized it in flight and broke away after the torpedo hit the water. Designers devised the Type 91 specifically for the Hawaii attack and Pearl Harbor’s shallow water, though single-engine, carrier-launched Nakajima B5N2 Kates, not Bettys, made the attack.

License-built World War I Lewis guns (called Type 92 machine guns), drum-fed from antique 47-round pancake magazines, comprised most of the Betty's defensive armament. With a comparably slow rate of fire and rifle-caliber (7.7mm) ammo, the hand-held Type 92 could hardly stave off .50-caliber toting Grumman F4F Wildcats, F6F Hellcats, and F4U Corsairs. The 20mm cannon tail gun proved all but useless, hand held and operated through a 20-degree arc that required pursuing fighters to willingly position themselves within the cannon’s narrow field of fire.

To achieve the G4M’s great range and performance, Honjo equipped the bomber with humongous fuel tanks sansrubberized self-sealing protection (much like the Zero), accountable for myriad fires. He also ditched protective armor, something Betty aircrews regretted. The bomber's wet wings were its tanks, the fuel cells neatly defined by the main spar and a secondary spar forward of it, the ends sealed by solid wing ribs, which worked great until an incendiary (or other) round hit them, whereupon the entire warbird erupted into a screaming flame thrower and exploded. Ultimately, Mitsubishi fireproofed the wings by applying a thick self-sealing layer on the outside of the lower wing skins, but by then a whole lotta G4M aircrews had become crispy death burgers. None of which mattered, however, during the Sino-Japanese campaign, when the new, long-rage A6M2 Zero escorted Bettys to the Philippines, Australia and, in their greatest single victory, against the Royal Navy.

The British had deployed a Singapore-based task force centered around the battlecruiser Repulse and the battleship Prince of Wales to protect their Southeast Asian territories. Ruefully, the Japanese unleashed a torrent of Nells and Bettys against both capital ships, which scored at least nine Type 91 hits (possibly as many as 21), deep-sixing both behemoths. With this one master stroke, Japan uber-sauced the Royal Navy from any effective role in the Pacific War. And from that moment until February 20, 1942, the bomber went on a killing spree across the Pacific until it attacked the USS Lexington plus its task force and got its fanny shot off.

This engagement marked the first kamikaze attack, the Lexington crew shooting a Betty's engine off its mounts, prompting the bomber's pilot to crash into the carrier but missed. Little did the US Navy know that the entire corps of Rikko pilots, mindful their mounts were dog rockets, were determined to slam into American ships if their warbirds were critically damaged. In this spirit, Betty crews carried no parachutes, preferring blazing death to cowardice. By the end of the attack, the task force had greased 17 unescorted Bettys.

Ever relentless, the Japanese tried again in August 1942 during the Guadalcanal campaign, this time escorting Bettys with fighters, which proved useless. In one engagement, the Navy gonzo'd 18 out of 23 attacking G4Ms—the single worst loss of Bettys during the entire campaign. By the end of the fight, more than 100 Bettys were shot to pieces, G4M air wings finally deciding that daytime missions against well-defended U.S. ships was lunacy (it escaped no one's attention that the Betty required a straight, stable torpedo run, exposing it to apocalyptic anti-aircraft fire). So G4M crews turned to night attacks, where they flew 500-mile missions in pitch blackness using dead reckoning, often serving as navigation lead ships for their own escorts. The scheme worked until the US Navy equipped their warships with effective radar, ending the tactic.

Amid all this bloodletting came one of the Betty’s most ill-famed flights: the mission to carry Admiral Yamamoto on an inspection tour of the Solomon Islands in April 1943. Over Bougainville, sixteen P-38 Lightnings intercepted the two G4Ms transporting the Admiral and his aides, blending Yamamoto into abortion porridge within the very bomber he'd championed. Talk about irony.

If not as mortifying but certainly more notorious, Bettys carried the dilly-wacker shaped Yokosuka MXY7 Ohka to within striking distance (20 miles or less) of U.S. fleets. The weapon was a purpose-built, rocket-powered, human-guided kamikaze attack aircraft laden with a 2,600 lb Ammonal warhead able to sink anything it hit. It was also brickhouse heavy—more than 4,700 pounds—further overloading their lumbering hosts, which were already vulnerable to fighter interception. Given this, more than a few Betty pilots ignored the plane's dinky fuel supply and pulled the release handle far too early, determined to leg it to safety. Several targeted warships remained blissfully unaware that Ohkas had attacked but slammed into the Pacific beyond their sight. The first Betty/Ohka strike, aimed at U.S. aircraft carriers off Kyushu in March 1945, consisted of 18 GM4s escorted by 30 Zeros. Within minutes, Hellcats shot all 18 bombers to hell. Throughout their short career, Ohkas claimed only one success, the destruction of the destroyer Mannert L. Abele at the cost of six out of the eight attacking Bettys.

According to captured files and had the Japanese followed through, 60 troop-carrying G4Ms would have simultaneously landed on Guam, Saipan and Tinian, disgorging hundreds of commandos dressed in USAAF uniforms trained to demolish B-29s wholesale and then vanish into the jungles as guerrillas. One plucky Betty crew was prepared to seize a Superfortress and fly it back to Japan. But all that went to snot when America dropped the atomic bombs.

Do I like this model? Nope. Not really. Two things turn me off about it: one, the fuselage isn't porky-pig fat enough, not as obese as the real McCoy. Second, I abhor the butt rash of humongo rivets strewn all over its wings and fuselage, a common failing on teeny-weeny scales. Still, like so many other bombers Altaya produced in 1/144 scale, the Betty likely won't see the light of day in 1/72, a shame really given that it's a deserving subject. Which begs the question: Would anybody here like to see Japanese bombers in 1/72 scale? I sure would, especially the Betty (if it were done right). But given today's chancy economic climate and tepid collector interest, I'm reasonably sure that ain't gonna happen.
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Old 12-22-2020, 03:20 PM   #667 (permalink)
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A youngster moved into my neighborhood when I was in 3rd grade, a quite, mousy kid whom nobody liked and many teased. A bookish student, Hudson (I'll call him) endured rejection and loneliness all the way up to and through high school, winning academic honors along the way. I lost track of him for decades until I saw his face (older and more imposing by then) on a business magazine cover one day. Hudson had become the owner and chief executive officer of a multi-million dollar Biotech company, a physician become entrepreneur, who'd won multiple awards for his (and his company's) advancements in antibody-drug conjugate technology for cancer treatment. My jaw dropped. Hudson? Really?

Perhaps you've known someone who started out all wrong but morphed into a thundering success. Some aircraft are like that too, seeming abject failures at first but evolving into epic superheros. You need only look at Martin's B-26 Marauder, a twin-engined flying pork sword that was simultaneously loved and hated. At an early stage, it killed unwary pilots and crews by the boatload; but by the end of WWII, the Martin B-26 boasted of the lowest combat loss ratio of any American bomber.

On March 11, 1939, the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) issued Circular Proposal 39-640 for a twin-engine, high-speed medium bomber. Among responding firms, Glenn L. Martin Company submitted a nerdtastic design drafted by a 26 year old aeronautical engineer named Peyton Magruder. Magruder championed high wing loading to reduce drag and allow for higher cruise speeds, but the design came at a price: At 56lbs/ft, the B-26 had the highest wing loading of any American World World War II aircraft---40% higher than that of the B-25. Which meant the comparatively thin wing demanded screaming takeoff and landing speeds, hazardous to rookie pilots; plus the bomber nosedived if it didn't fly like hell to maintain its "minimum control speed" (the speed at which a multi-engine plane can lose the "critical" engine without becoming a lawn dart).

No mater, USAAF officials accepted the bomber on February 8, 1941 and drooled over the bomber's speedo-torpedo nastiness. Two 1,850 hp (1,380 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-2800-5 morphed the beast into a street hot rod on steroids, further boosted by state-of-the-art, full-feathering, four-bladed Curtiss electric propellers with root cuffs (to aid in engine cooling). The combo looked unbeatable, but the long blades offered little ground clearance, limiting the warbird to improved runways only. It didn't take long before the cigargoyle Marauder lived up to its homicidal looks.

Right from the start the bomber killed crews. Most fatal crashes occurred during takeoff or landing, partly because Martin added weight to the warbird during production (that increased the wing loading that resulted in higher stalling and landing speeds) and partly because novice pilots couldn't handle the warbird's warp-speed velocity. The B-26 croaked so many trainees, in fact, that aircrews called it "The Widow Maker," "The Flying Coffin," and the "Martin Murderer." The funerary business around MacDill Field at Tampa, FL, grew by leaps and bounds, so much so one mortician wrote the dark quip "One a Day Into Tampa Bay" over his door.

As if that weren't bad enough, the B-26’s propellers routinely ran away and feathered during takeoff, which abruptly flipped the Marauder toward the feathered prop and then upside down, causing the bomber to crash, slaughtering its crews. The USAAF got so torqued at Martin for this mishap that it almost canceled the bomber outright. The US Senate's Special Committee (Truman Committee) agreed and also pushed for cancellation. But experienced B-26 crews in the South Pacific (who had no problems whatsoever with the airplane), defended the Marauder passionately until the USAAF backed off.

The crashes continued to multiply, nonetheless, prompting civilian crews that ferried the B-26 to combat units to quit their jobs. The USAAF’s Air Safety Board yet again investigated the ruthless warbird while the Truman Committee renewed its push to terminate it. Things didn't look good for the hometeam until USAAF commanding General Henry. H. Arnold directed Brig. General James H. Doolittle (fresh from his famous Tokyo raid) to evaluate the B-26. After an exhaustive investigation, both Doolittle and the Air Safety Board agreed that the Marauder was salvageable, fingering propeller issues, high wing loading, inexperienced aircrews, clueless B-26 instructors, and rookie mechanics as the root causes of its troubles.

General Doolittle thereupon directed his technical adviser, Captain Vincent W. "Squeak" Burnett, to tour OTU bases and demonstrate B-26 safety procedures, which included single-engine operations, slow-flying characteristics, and recoveries from irregular flight attitudes. Capt Burnett made numerous low altitude flights on one engine, even turning into a dead engine (which was insane), proving the Marauder was not only manageable but a crackerjack aircraft. General Doolittle himself flew demonstration flights in the B-26, cutting an engine on takeoff, rolling over and flying the plane upside down at an extremely low altitude and then righting it. These virtuoso displays did much to restore confidence in the aircraft.

On their end, Martin grew the wing area on later series Marauders, which reduced the wing loading, which diminished takeoff landing speeds, which slashed takeoff and landing accidents. A taller fin and rudder strengthened stability, increasing overall height from 19 feet, 10 inches to 21 feet, 6 inches. The Truman Committee finally backed off, but the plane's notoriety followed it, newbie pilots still convinced the B-26 was a deathtrap. Few graduates requested assignment to a B-26 group.

The 22nd Bombardment Group in Langley Field, Virginia, was the first group to fly the Marauder, deploying to Australia on December 8, 1941, from whence they bombed targets in New Guinea and Rabaul, stopping at Port Moresby to refuel. In June 1942, B-26As flew torpedo strikes against Japanese shipping in Midway and the Aleutians, scoring no hits (the 73rd and 77th Bombardment Squadrons operated from Alaska, where dense fog was more threatening than the enemy). General George Kenney, commander of the Allied Air Forces in the Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA), wasn't impressed and straight-out swapped his Marauders for Mitchell B-25s, which could fly from shorter, more rugged runways.

Providentially, Europe and North Africa were more suited to the B-26's talents. Bearing an uncanny resemblance to Churchill's cigars, the bomber dazzled the RAF, which deployed it to the Middle East, where it became operational in early 1943. The Marauder served with 14th, 39th, 326th, 327th and 454th Squadrons, doing ultra violence on Nazi and Italian fascist bad guys. In the Tunisia campaign, it shot down scores of Me 323 and Ju 52 transports over the Mediterranean. With the 8th Air Force in England, however, the story was far less favorable.

On May 17, 1943, flak and fighters obliterated a clutch of eleven Marauders winging toward Ijmuiden and Haarlem, the Netherlands (one airplane aborted for mechanical failure). Disillusioned, the 8th Air Force kicked the poor bird to the curb, favoring big, purple lightsaber B-17s over two-engined, slippery medium bombers. Unlike its Flying Fortress cousin, the B-26 was hard put to defend itself against hostile fighters, plus it was vulnerable to antiaircraft fire; its wings, though supremely efficient airfoils, couldn't survive violent damage. The B-17 Flying Fortress's wings, by comparison, were less streamlined but more able to survive monstrous flak damage and get their crews home safely.

Up stepped the 9th Air Force, which ultimately proved the Marauder's mettle. Shortly before D-Day, the Marauder became the first USAAF aircraft in Europe to operate at night and conduct precision attacks against bridges and transports. Operating from Continental airstrips, they flew 29,000 sorties and dropped 46,430 tons of bombs for a loss of only 139 aircraft, the lowest attrition rate of any aircraft the 9th Air Force operated. The Free French, Australians, Canadians, and South African Air Force also flew the B-26 in the three main theaters of combat. By the end of World War II, B-26 crews had flown more than 110,000 sorties and dropped 150,000 tons of bombs.

A few more interesting facts...

After Martin installed twelve 0.50 caliber machine guns, the B-26 bristled with as much armament as the Flying Fortress. Engineers swapped the flexible nose gun for a 0.50 cal. with another fixed nose gun on the starboard side and mounted two package guns in blisters on either side of the fuselage, below and behind the cockpit, which armed the Marauder with nearly as many fixed guns as some fighters. The tail featured a turret, and two guns were added at the waist positions.

The 9th Air Force operated Marauder bomb squadrons, designated Pathfinders (PF), that marked targets during nighttime and bad weather missions. Imitating similar de Havilland Mosquito duties, they employed an RAF electronic aerial navigation systems called Gee and Oboe plus HS-2 radar to achieve greater nighttime bombing accuracy said to be within 300 feet (the RAF shared very little information with the Americans about these systems apart from how to operate them, and only Brits maintained them). The only discernible difference between a pathfinder and a standard Marauder was a 4 inch diameter by 4 foot long Plexiglas Oboe antenna installed beneath the fuselage forward of the waist gun. With Pathfinders, the 9th Air Force blew the stinky pudding out of targets in the critical winter weather of 1944-45. After V-E Day, the squadrons vanished with nary a trace.

B-26 production stopped in 1945 with a total of 5,266 aircraft produced, its soiled reputation hounding it to the end of the war. Surviving Marauders were unceremoniously scrapped, overshadowed by the Douglas A-26 Invader. Funny enough, the USAAF finally, ultimately recognized the B-26 as an excellent twin-engined bomber that, once mastered, was unmatched for effectiveness and power. Germans and Japanese alike hated the beast for its ability to strike hard and obliterate at will.

So yeah, just because somebody or something looks anything but promising early on doesn't mean it'll remain so.

I had the great honor of chatting with a veteran who flew the Marauder during WWII, an exceptional instructor who said the Marauder was a sensational warbird but a serial killer too. A cadet named Crashbomb (no kidding, it's true) almost killed him during a takeoff when the greenhorn failed to pull the yoke back far enough, forcing my friend to grab his own column and firewall the engines, clearing a line of trees parked at the end of the runway by inches. Whew!

Forces of Valor did a dandy job on their 1/72 Martin B-26B "The Big Hairy Bird," all but the rubber machine guns. For my life I can't understand why FoV opted for rubber opposed to plastic or zinc, but there you have it. Otherwise, the model pleasingly approximates the warbird's slippery torpedo shape; and the silver paint job, weathering, and insignia are commendable. If you can find this model (no mean feat these days), you'll love it. Its hangar mate, the olive-painted " Flak Bait" version, is just as cool.
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Old 12-31-2020, 07:36 AM   #668 (permalink)
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Who would have thunk that an insectoid-looking aircraft, an "I think I saw this in a horror movie" warbird, would win the hearts of fighter enthusiasts worldwide? The Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker (and its derivatives) resemble an extraterrestrial bee-fly-wasp, something so incomprehensibly alien your spider senses tingle whenever you gaze at it. At the same time it's a sensuous, sexypants warbird, Angelina Jolie in metal, the honey dips of Russia's bruising warbird stable, designed to effortlessly smoke America's F-15 Eagle, F-16 Falcon, and (with a lot of luck) toe tag devilish threats like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightening II. It features lengthy range (1,910 nmi), killer aircraft ordnance, homicidal avionics, and twisted-insane maneuverability, a warbird that'll likely maintain its soul-crushing presence for years to come. And folks I've gotta tell ya, this yummy insecta jet is my all time favorite.

The Soviet Air Force and Ministry of Aircraft Industry teamed up way back in the early '70s to conceptualize future Soviet multi-roll fighter platforms, which they ultimately based on America's dual-fighter concept (a medium-to-heavy fighter paired with a lightweight performer, specifically the F-15 and General Dynamics F-16), which eventuated in the Su-27 Flanker and MiG-29 Fulcrum. Sukhoi OKB won the Flanker contract and quickly designed a sleek, wing-body blended shape with twin vertical tail fins set atop and a twin-engine arrangement. The structure was robust enough to lumber large, heavy-metal war loads while the engines delivered enough megazord power to drive the ship even when one croaked. A futuristic onboard suite plus a bubble-stye canopy (that supplied superb all-around vision) provided gangbuster situational awareness. And Sukhoi latter fitted a robust scan-and-tracking radar in the nosecone able to bird-dog multiple targets at a time.

The first prototype, tagged the T10-1, flew on May 20, 1977, but proved substandard, a porch monkey unable to meet maximum range and maneuverability demands owing to aerodynamic, engine, and fuel consumption issues. The second prototype, the T10-2, was even less lucky, a fly-by-wire software glitch crashing the jet and greasing the test pilot. Horror struck by this mishap, Sukhoi spent the next four years reworking the design until it rolled out a new bird loosely based on the old T10 but clearly superior. The T10S (as it was first called) morphed into the Su 27 Flanker, the Picasso masterpiece of engineering we know and love today, first flying on April 20, 1981.

Advanced lightweight aluminium, lithium alloys comprise the jet's airframe, making it light given its humongous size. The wing features a 42 degree leading edge sweep with full span leading edge slats and trailing edge flaperons. The flaperons merge the functions of conventional flaps and ailerons, moving in unison as flaps to provide lift and drag. Both function as ailerons by moving out of unison.

The Su-27’s pair of Saturn-Lyulka AL-31F engines are rated at a combined total thrust of 55,125 Ib, making it the hottest twin-engined operational fighter in the world with respect to raw thrust-to-weight performance. Su-33 (formerly Su-27K) and navalized version powerplants are 12-15 per cent more powerful yet. Considered megadeth technological breakthroughs, these engines are reliable, robust, and maintainable. When tested in severely disturbed airflow and extreme conditions, the engine performed flawlessly, allowing mad-town maneuvers like the tail-slide and Cobra.

The pilot enjoys a veritable smorgasbord of innovations, among them the highly advanced quadruplex fly-by-wire remote control system (designated EDSU by Russians) with built-in angle of attack and G limiters that prevent fatal spins and compensate for too many G's. He/she also benefits from a complex weapons control system using a RLPK27 coherent pulse-Doppler jam proof radar with look-down, shoot-down capabilities.The radar can simultaneously track up to 10 targets at 185 km away, the pilot able to fire missiles at two targets simultaneously. A 36sh electro-optical system can pinch-hit if the radar fails, providing a laser range finder (with a range of 8km) and Infrared Search and Track system (which a 50km range). The pilot can also track and target bogies with an electro-optical system mounted to his/her helmet.

No less important, the Su-27's armament is a veritable kick in the nuts, blue suicide to any opposing jet laughably stupid enough to challenge it. The Flanker packs a 30mm Gryazev-Shipunov Gsh-3101 located at the starboard wingroot that can cheese grate anything in its sights. Plus its10 hardpoints can heft up to 6000kg (13,227 Lbs) of homicidal magic, including six medium-range R-27 (AA-10 ‘Alamo’ in NATO code) and 2-4 short-range heat-seeking R-73 (AA-11 ‘Archer’ in NATO code) missiles (that are so deadly viper dangerous, the weapon truly spooks Western air forces). Armament tends to vary from version to version, the above representing the bird's “standard” configuration.

Through the years, Sukhoi spawned assorted Su-27 variants. The Su-27IB (better known as the Su-34) is a long-range attack variant with side-by-side seating for pilot and weapons officer. The Su-27UB 'Flanker-C' (pictured above) is a tandem two-seat long range interceptor and trainer. A navalized version, the Su-27K 'Flanker-D' (or Su-33), was designed in 1992 for service aboard Russian aircraft carriers (which, in the end, didn't work out too well). It has folded wings, a retractable flight refueling probe, an arrester hook, strengthened landing gear, and moving canard foreplanes. Next generation 'Flanker' derivatives include the Su-35 and thrust-vector controlled Su-37, both far more advanced than the Su-27, featuring canard foreplanes and the capacity to carry up to 11 and 14 external stores respectively.

The Su-27UB's classification as a combat trainer is misleading. Unlike most "trainers," it remains a full blooded weapons system able to fight in an instant. Russian squadrons decide which Flanker variant they wish to fly: the single-seater or two-seater. Two-seater "trainers" usually populate fighter units guarding Russia's northern borders, their pilots preferring a companion when flying patrol over the freezing sea.

All said, the Su-27 (and its variants) provide Russia with a perfectamundo, dazzling warbird with considerable operating range and armament loadout. It's larger than its closest rival, the F-15 Eagle, and with a powerful nose-mounted radar, it can scan and track targets Beyond-Visual-Range (BVR)—even at tree top levels. It functions as an interceptor, trainer, fighter, and ground attack platform with seamless excellence across all sortie types. It can escort a flight of Russian strategic bombers to the British homeland and back and effectively engage the Boeing B-52 "Stratofortress" conventional bomber and Rockwell B-1 "Lancer." Even USAF pilots agree (those willing to admit it), that the Flanker takes a backseat to no one and can best its foes when a competent, sober pilot flies it.

In other words it's a winner, a war beater. The stuff of weird dreams, the Su-27 Flanker is a Playboy foldout and savage alien beast rolled into one.

I'm fuzzy on this one, but I believe JC Wings absorbed part or all of Witty Wings back in the day. How factual that is remains unclear; but whatever the story, JC Wings produced a honey of a two-seater Su-27UB. I'll be honest: I'm not thrilled with the model's nose cone, which to me seems a bit too slender opposite the real thing; but I'll live with it. Personally, I'm more of a Hobby Master Flanker fanatic; but I like what JC Wings did with this and their other Su-27s. I highly recommend JC's Flankers to anyone nursing a serious bromance for Russian warbirds. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
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Old 01-09-2021, 12:15 PM   #669 (permalink)
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WWII aficionados are well aware that Allied technical teams at the end of WWII scoured the engineering papers and designs of German aviation companies while chasing down every German aeronautical designer and engineer possible. Dubbed Operation Paperclip, the United States coaxed 1,600 German scientists and engineers to permanently vacation in America, while the Soviets, in Operation Osoaviakhim, compelled 2,000 Nazi brainiacs to join their cause or get shot, more than 23,000 Germans, including wives and children, merrily moving to communist Russia.

Predicated on geographic location, the Americans inherited Willy Messerschmitt's engineering and technical personnel in Bavaria; the Russians snapped up Focke-Wulf's and Messerschmitt's archival material at the German Air Ministry in Berlin. No surprise, Messerschmitt's work influenced America's postwar jet fighter designs; Kurt Tank's (Focke-Wulf) projects shaped the Soviet Union's warbird industry.

Soviet intelligence swiped top-secret information about the new American B-36 bomber in 1946, whereon the Venno-Vozdushney Sily (V-VS, the Red Air Force) cast about for a jet-powered bomber interceptor capable of reaching 1,000 km/h (621 mph) at an operational ceiling of 14,000 meters (45,932 feet) and operate from crapster airfields. It was a reasonable request given the circumstances, except the Soviets were morons jet engine wise, reliant on German technology. Which prompted Minister of Aviation Mikhail Khrunichev and designer Andrei S. Yakovlev to approach Joseph Stalin and suggest they buy the British Rolls-Royce Nene engine that offered the required power and could be reverse-engineered. Stalin replied derisively, "What buttmuffin crackhead would sell us secrets like that?"

Indeed. Up stepped the British Labour Government, Prime Minister Clement Attlee specifically, who, positively giddy about the Soviets, told Minister of Trade Sir Stafford Cripps to sell 25 Nenes and a license to the Russians—with the proviso the engines were to be used for civil purposes only. To which the elated, if not snarcastic, Russians agreed and the Americans opposed ferociously. In any case, the Russians never paid the license fee, arguing both the RD-45 (the reverse-engineered Nene) and Klimov VK-1 (the ultimate Soviet development of the Nene) were original Russian designs unrelated to the 25 Rolls-Royce engines they'd purchased earlier. The Soviets laughed themselves silly at the ruse while getting hamboned on Stolichnaya Elit vodka.

Then Artem Mikoyan and Mikhail Gurevich, British knock-off engine in hand, designed a warbird (the I-310) with the selfsame swept-wings Edgar Schmued had developed in Germany, commencing work several months behind North American's redesign of the XP-86. What emerged was a mid-mounted winged jet that bore a remarkable resemblance to Kurt Tank's Ta-183. The centrifugal-flow Nene/RD-45 engine obligated the designers to "flatten" the original design, making the airframe less stable directionally, necessitating an enlarged vertical fin and rudder, the fin swept at 56 degrees to keep the exhaust short to reduce loss of thrust. This larger fin and rudder increased roll stability, reducing the ability to bank quickly, which was resolved by giving the wings two degrees of anhedral, which reduces roll stability. The vertical horizontal stabilizer high on the vertical fin kept the MiG-15 subsonic until the Ruskies studied a shot-down F-86E featuring an all-flying tail and poached its secrets.

All too aware of America's hydrogen bomb-carrying B-36 bomber, Mikoyan and Gurevich designed the MiG-15 to climb to 45-48,000 feet (the bomber’s operating altitude) and blow the monster apart with its N-37D 37mm cannon and two NS-23KM 23mm cannons, later used to effect against B-29s over North Korea. The rugged fighter could operate from primitive airfields too and resist (but wasn't proof against) the F-86's six 50-caliber machine guns. Indeed, the F9F Panther, with its four 20mm cannon, enjoyed greater individual success against MiG-15s than the Sabre, notwithstanding the first-generation Navy jet was inferior to the second-generation Soviet fighter.

The mad rush to make the MiG-15 operational lead to engine and airframe issues. The RD-45 powerplant habitually failed within 10 hours use. And metal for high-stress parts for engine and airframe was, at least initially, shoddy to defective, factory quality control bedeviled with imprecise production tolerances attributable to rotten machinery and dickhead technicians. And the jet's wings often didn't match, resulting in critical performance problems with individual aircraft. Fortunately for Moscow, plant managers (threatened with death) ironed out most of these production issues by the time the MiG-15 deployed to Korea, but handling problems lingered. Sans hydraulic flying controls, Soviet pilots learned that if they didn't whack a Sabre in a high-speed turning fight within the first third of the turn, the MiG would enter a deadly high-speed snap (stall then “swap ends" into a spin), not a good thing. At lower speeds, the MiG could out-turn its opponent, though if speed bled off below 330 knots, the Sabre got the upper hand. Without G-suits, MiG-15 pilots couldn't turn as tightly as Sabres without blacking out.

Cockpit ergonomics played an enormous part in the MiG's comparatively sub par combat results. Sabre pilots enjoyed excellent visibility over the nose and backward "six o'clock" position, sitting high up in a prominent bubble canopy. MiG pilots sat deeper in their machines, giving them greater protection in air combat but at the cost of inferior visibility, compounded by a heavily framed canopy that habitually fogged up, especially at high altitude. The reduced visibility front and rear cost many MiG-15 pilots their lives. That and the Sabre’s cockpit was pressurized while the MiG's wasn't, favoring Sabre pilots, who breathed more easily at high altitudes and consequently performed better. Soviet pilots also cursed having only one ejection lever: If one arm were injured, they were forced to reach across with the other to eject, which sometimes made escape difficult to impossible.

F-86 and MiG-15 pilots chose dissimilar tactics owing to differences in performance parameters. Captain Sergei Karamenko, a 12-victory ace in the Great Patriotic War who scored 13 victories in Korea, described the combat environment: “The Sabre was the most dangerous threat to my friends and I in Korean skies. Our MiG-15 and the F-86 belonged in the same class, similar types with similar performance. They differed only in that the MiG had an advantage in rate of climb at altitude, while the Sabre was superior in maneuvering, especially at low level. These advantages could not always be used, however. The fight, as a rule, was decided in the first attack. After the first pass, the MiG-15s reached for altitude, while the Sabres rushed for the ground. Each tried to reach the altitude where it held a distinct advantage, and thus the battle faded.” Captain Richard Becker, the second F-86 pilot to score five kills (and the first whose claims the Soviet's recognized), noted: “After our first four or five missions, combat became like a boxing match. It was either him or me while protecting my wingman, but it was a fight to the death. It was also a short fight. Sometimes during an entire day of combat, a dogfight might last only four to eight minutes, but it was so violent that we were exhausted when we landed.”

Though the MiG’s cannon had a low rate of fire and thus a harder time hitting an adversary, it took only one to two hits to croak a Sabre, while the F-86 six 12.7-millimeter guns lacked hitting power (the USAF used armor-piercing incendiary ammo containing magnesium later in the war, boosting its punch but reducing performance at high altitude). On the upside, the F-86 was well built and turned and rolled better than the MiG. Its radar gunsight was superior to the MiG's eyeball gunsight; and if its guns were of relatively small caliber, they were accurate, well focused, and had a high rate of fire. Captain Becker explained, “It only took one or two hits to be blown up, but I do know some pilots who were hit in the tail section who came back. If we were hit in the fuselage or near the engine with an explosive shell, it was the end. We were down.” By comparison, the the F-86's six 50-caliber machine guns necessitated getting in close behind the enemy to score. Becker recalled, “ I remember one MiG I shot down when I was within 300 feet with all six .50-caliber guns firing down his tailpipe, and in a short time, he blew up. It did not take a long burst. If we fired from 1,500 feet with a deflection shot, we had a problem.” Hence, the MiG pilots favored a single pass to wax a Sabre with one or two hits, Sabre pilots favoring shooting a MiG up its donkey booty with all guns firing.

Becker summed up the experience of Sabre pilots over Korea in 1951: “There was no 10-to-1 kill ratio when I was there. The guys we flew against were good, and they were as committed as we were. Every fight I was in was decided by the guy in the cockpit who was better able to take advantage of the moments presented by luck. The MiG-15 was a dangerous opponent. We were very evenly matched and I am certain that overall in that first year, we fought them to a draw.”

Lt. Colonel Yevgeny Pepelyaev, commander of the 196th IAD, was a believer in the maxim “train hard, fight easy,” his pilots experienced in dog fighting in pairs, flights, and larger formations. Pepelyaev summarized the Soviet MiG-15 perspective. “My goal was to strive to meet the American standard, but even my pilots were not, man for man, as well trained as their American opponents. Still, when opportunity permitted, we hit the Americans hard and acquitted ourselves well. Our adversary didn't expect such a tough fight and paid for his conceit.” The 324th IAD and the 303rd IAD were the two most dangerous units the Sabres faced in Korea. Pepelyaev scored 19 victories and emerged as the second-ranked ace of the war, while Captain Nikolai Sutyagin of the 303rd scored 21 victories to become the Ace of Aces in the Korean War.

In short, the MiG-15 was an extremely tough customer over North Korea and gave American F-86 Sabres a royal heartburn, Russians claiming a 2-1 kill ratio when they flew the bird. Many aviation history buffs agree, suggesting the '15 was slightly better than the Sabre overall but grossly inferior in some respects. Americans conversely, and rightly, stress the fact that the F-86 achieved a 4-1 kill ratio over the MiG-15, proof positive their bird was the winner. In point of fact, each fighterwas well suited to the mission for which it had been specifically designed. Sabres performed better at low altitudes, MiGs at high. For this reason, fights tended to be brief since the adversaries either climbed or dove for favorable ground. The Sabre had been designed primarily for the air superiority role; the MiG-15 primarily as a high-altitude bomber destroyer. Given the close balance between the F-86 and the MiG-15, the critical factor was pilot training and skill. The Russians rotated entire units through combat, starving newly arrived groups of experienced pilots, forcing newbies to earn the game alone, which put them at a disadvantage (unless they came from experienced, elite squadrons). American airmen were, before all else, rigorously trained and highly competent, rotating into combat individually, supported by skilled, adept pilots who knew their trade.

Because Hobby Master issued the MiG-15 years ago, some collectors consider it a castaway, contemptible and undeserving. But I'm here to tell ya, that's crap on a cracker. Feature for feature it's a damn accurate model, HM having taken meticulous care to get it right, which resulted in an excellent representation of a bitchan jet. Size wise it's a mosquito bite compared to its larger Soviet brethren, but that should surprise no one given the real thing was dwarfish, hard to spot and harder to dodge. The model's two shortcomings are its yawning, Captain Obvious wing joints and gappy horizontal fuselage seam lines, which are annoying. Otherwise the model looks terrific and commands attention. Get one (if you can) to compliment your Korean War collection.
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Old 01-26-2021, 05:28 PM   #670 (permalink)
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Long, long ago on a continent far, far away, my father bought me a Swiss Army knife for my birthday, complete with a screwdriver, scissors, tweezers, corkscrew, bottle opener, and of course large and small blades. I loved the thing, especially its ruby red case emblazoned with the Swiss Cross/shield logo. Cool stuff. Lost it promptly. The SEPECAT Jaguar was a kind of multi-purpose knife too, if you'll allow the dopey analogy, a handy little supersonic training aircraft/reconnaissance platform that doubled as a light attack warbird designed to go Duke Nukem on Russian tanks smashing into Europe. Had WWIII erupted in the '80s, it would have kicked Soviet corn holes all over the bloody landscape.

Breguet Aviation of France and the British Aerospace Corporation of Great Britain joined hands in the 1960s to produce such an aircraft, able to dispense both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons on Russian heads. The joint venture, one of the first major joint-Anglo-French military aircraft programs, fathered the SEPECATJaguar GR.1/GR.3, doubtless a sequel of their collaboration on the Concord, the world's first supersonic airliner. Bounding into the air on its debut flight on September 8, 1968, the Jaguar finally entered service with the French Air Force in May 1972 as a trainer (the Jaguar E [for Ecole, French for school]), gracing the likes of the Centre d’Experiences Aeriennes Militaires at Mont de Marsan. The RAF got their variant in 1973, a single-seat attack variant that would fly until 2007, taking its leave after mercilessly kicking Saddam Hussein's fart box during the Gulf War.

Both the French and British air arms in 1965 clamored for an aircraft to serve as both a single-seat light attack platform and a dual-control, advanced trainer prone to supersonic speed. SEPECAT, an Anglo-French aircraft manufacturer, formed in 1966 to produce such a jet, ginned up a warbird that was more capable than projected, so much so the dual-control trainer versions were virtually as combat ready as their single-seat counterparts, wanting only for full spectrum of avionics and weapons. The French variants, notably the E and A (Attack) versions, sported a pointed nose (sans sensors) and a humble navigation/attack system predicated on Doppler radar navigation equipment. The RAF Jaguar wore a distinctive "chisel” nose, comprised of wedge-type glazing that housed a Ferranti telemetry laser unit, a complex sensor that served as a rangefinder. Two DEFA 30mm cannon housed within the outboard edge of the fuselage beneath the cockpit and jet intakes comprised the main armament in all versions.

The bird boasted of an all-digital cockpit, equipped with head up display, multifunctional display, night vision and GPS. Other components include a helmet mounted display, radar altimeters, inertial navigation system, automatic direction finder, information friend or foe, weapon aiming computer, and digital data bus.

Two Rolls Royce/Turbomeca Adour afterburning turbofans provided 7,305 lbs. thrust (Mk. 102 version) or 8,600 llbs. thrust (later M.104 version), that were stuffed into titanium bays in the lower rear of the fuselage, similar to the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II side-by side, below-the-tail powerplant arrangement. The Jaguar's high, shoulder-mounted wing furnished space galore for large drop tanks and under wing stores. The wing featured leading-edge slats, full-span double-slotted flaps, and power-assisted spoilers for increased roll control. Twin-wheel main landing gear retracted forward into the fuselage directly ahead of the perforated air brakes.

The RAF Jaguar was superior to the French version, boasting of an inertial navigation/attack system, Heads Up and projected map displays, a Ferranti laser ranger (in the chiseled nose), and a more comprehensive electronic countermeasures (ECM) system, the ARI.18223 radar warning receiver, housed near the top of the tail fin. The RAF designated this warbird the Jaguar GR. Mk. 1 (receiving 165 by 1978) and the ground attack version the Jaguar S.

To killdozer the Russians (or any other annoying foe), the warbird hefted BL-755 cluster bombs, the AS.37 Martel radar-guided anti-radiation missile, Durandal runway-piercing missile (for whamsaucing Eastern European airfields), SNEB rocket packs, “Snake-eye” type retarded bombs, ECM payloads, the AN-52 tactical nuclear bomb, and Matra Magic air-to-air missiles. SEPECAT added the Martin Marietta/Thompson -CSF TV target acquisition and laser designation pod in 1978. Though the Jaguar could lumber a single AN-52 nuclear bomb, the French government assigned that duty to the Dassault Mirage IV and the later Mirage 2000N, preferring the Jag clear a path for the Strategic strike force.

Operationally during the Gulf War, the French Jaguar force in Saudi Arabia maxed out at 28 aircraft, which conducted 615 combat sorties against Iraqi armored units, Scud missile sites, and naval vessels. On January 15, 1991, twelve French Jaguars hammered Ahmad al-Jaber Air Base, Kuwait, three taking damage in the attack but returning safely. On January 26th, RAF Jaguars and Tornadoes hellwrecked several Silkworm missile batteries in Kuwait to foster the impression of an imminent amphibious invasion. On the 30th, two RAF Jaguars ruined a Polnochny-class landing ship with rockets and cannon. Allied Jaguars also butt bashed the Iraqi Republican Guard dug in along the Kuwait-Saudi border weeks before the ground war and performed valuable reconnaissance for Coalition forces. All Jaguars withdrew in March 1991 at the end of Desert Storm.

Jaguars built for export included options for more powerful engines, overwing hard points for AIM-9L, Matra Magic (or other dogfight missiles), Agave nose radar with a Ferranti 105S laser in a small fairing below the nose, and new weapons including Harpoon or Kormoran anti-ship missiles. By 1981, SEPECAT had produced 543 Jaguars, operators including France, Great Britain, Ecuador, India and Oman. The Armee de l’Air retired the Jaguar in 2005, replaced by the Dassault Rafael, the RAF in 2007, changed out by the Panavia Tornado and the Eurofighter Typhoon.

In all, the Jaguar was kind of like John Wayne toilet paper: rough and tough and didn't take crap from anyone.


Do I like this model? Um... yeah, kind of. If you've been reading my reviews, you know I'm no fan of yawning seams and gaps and joint lines, which this little honey seems to be blessedly lacking--sort of. It's nitpicky to say so, but I do see rather irksome joint lines bounding the intakes and fuselage assembly, which, in the scheme of things, is piddling but discernible. And I'm not entirely sure I like the forward fuselage heavy panel lines and nose-cone connection, but them's the breaks. All in all, this little brute is quite the warbird and makes for a handsome addition to anybody's Gulf War collection. Current eBay prices (click here) bounce around $79 - $100.
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Old 02-05-2021, 12:52 PM   #671 (permalink)
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For looks alone, the Avro Vulcan was the coolest, shapely, most sexylicious bomber ever made (but for the Rockwell B-1 Lancer, of course). It's said Batman himself loved the warbird's funkadelic, cranked bat-like wings, its studmuffin cockpit shroud, its statuesque struts. No question the thing looked dope, a bodacious lady well able to roach Russia's colossal stonkey butt given half a chance. But fate wasn't that kind: During one curious combat engagement over the Falkland Islands, the bird only managed to hit the Port Stanley Airport runway with a single bomb, scoring a crater so negligible that hostile Argentines laughed at the deed. Just doesn't seem right, dood it?! A true travesty. (Some diarists suggest that the RAF pressed for Black Buck raids because the British government had ruthlessly cut the nation's armed forces in the late seventies, goading said air force to deploy the Vulcan to foil further cuts.)

The Avro Vulcan was second of a three V-Bomber game plan, a sequence of high-altitude, long range, nuclear-capable designs, namely the Vickers Valiant, the Avro Vulcan, and the Handley Page Victor, developed to fly into Russia's deep hinterland, dodge its formidable air defenses, drop its nuclear payload, and return safely. In response to the British Air Ministry's 1947 request for such a wunderbird, Avro answered with a unique prototype delta-wing design that offered increased surface area for larger payloads, fuel capacity, and maneuverability. Its planetary wings provided maximum space for internal armament in the form of bomb bays mounted outboard of the powerplants. The flight deck sat well forward on the fuselage, and its four engines, arranged in a staggered internal grouping, two engines to a wing, provided thrust, all four sucking air from a single large rounded intake. (Fun Fact: The Avro Vulcan would be Avro's one and only jet-powered aircraft design to enter production.)

This design, though innovative, was flawed, two prototypes crashing and killing their test pilots. This lead to the Vulcan B.Mk 1, the initial production model, which the British Air Ministry ordered in 1952 but didn't become operational until 1957 (owing to development issues). The B.Mk1 featured the bomber's iconic Batman kinked-wing design and four Olympus 101 series engines of 11,000lbf thrust each (that eventually morphed into the Olympus 104 series with 13,500lbf thrust). In the late 1950's, Avro further refined the bomber's countermeasures suite and redesignated the bird the Vulcan B.Mk 1A. Meanwhile, Soviet air defenses improved enormously, forcing Avro to fit the bomber with chaff dispensers, a tail warning radar ("Red Steer"), a radar warning receiver, and jammers, the ECM gear clearly identifiable by the ECM gear in the tail cone.

The Vulcan B.Mk 2 followed the BMk1, featuring a modified, extended wing (increased from 99 feet to 111 feet), state-of-the-art Bristol Siddeley Olympus 201 series engines of 17,000lbf thrust, later swapped for Olympus 301s at 22,000lbf thrust), an upgraded electrical system, an in-flight refueling probe, a strengthened undercarriage (required by the new engines), an improved countermeasures suite, and supplemental enhancements to the aircraft's performance. The B.Mk 2 first flew on August 19th, 1958, deliveries coming two years later, eventually comprising 89 production examples.

Vulcans were "bomb-diggity cool," as Batman never said. The leading edges of the wings varied by degrees, the wing edge sweeping in a "kinked" delta shape to the end of clipped wingtips. Avro engineers elegantly contoured the wings outwardly from the fuselage, giving the aircraft a fluid form containing four engines, fuel tanks, and main landing gears. They also seated the engine intakes at each wingroot, the entire component (from intake to engine exhaust) running the length of the delta wing. The cylindrical forward fuselage extended well forward of the wingroots, the aft section behind the wing trailing edge. The cockpit sat behind a nose cone just in front of the wingroot intakes. The central bomb bay (when disposed) held additional fuel for increased range.

Designers fitted eight-wheel bogies to each undercarriage gear that retracted forwards while the two-wheeled nose gear retracted backwards. A single large dorsal fin extended from midway of the fuselage, the base of the tail extending vertically from about the end of the engines. The conspicuous tail cone housed a drag chute to check the aircraft's landing distance, much like America's B-47 and other aircraft with similar breaking systems.

Five standard crew members manned the Vulcan: a pilot and copilot, systems operator, navigator, and radar operator, occasionally accompanied by two mission specialists. The pilot and copilot viewed the world through a five-panel windscreen and circular side windows. Both sat in ejection seats; the remaining crew had no such kit and bailed out (in emergency cases) any way they could.

Ordinance wise, the Vulcan could lumber up to 21 x 1,000 lb conventional bombs or a nuclear weapon or weapons (including the Blue Steel Mk 1 stand-off missile) secured in the bomb bay.

As for combat operations, the RAF deployed the Vulcan B.Mk 1 to overawe insurgents during the the Malayan Emergency (1948-60), dropping no bombs on anybody's head. To unnerve the Russians, they conducted regular global flights to prove they could penetrate the Soviet Union and bomb their buttbags on a whim. Flights in concert with the USAF and other NATO allies were common too. The only authentic combat the Vulcan saw came with "Black Buck" missions flown during the 1982 Falklands War between Argentina and Britain.

On May 1st, 1982, a lone Vulcan (XM607) flying its first combat sortie in the Falklands War dropped a stick of twenty-one 1,000lb bombs on the Port Stanley Airport runway, missing it but for one hit, making a crater large enough to dissuade Argentine fighter jets from using it (until repairs were swiftly made, rendering the exercise pointless). A total of five Vulcans comprised the Vulcan strike force operating from Ascension island (two were held in reserve) and flew seven missions total. Missions one, two, and seven harassed ground forces with conventional bombs; three, four, five, and six assaulted missile batteries with Shrike anti-radar, air-to-surface missiles, missions five and six achieving minor success. "Black Buck 6" sustained a broken refueling probe on a return trip and was forced to land at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the crew and aircraft returning nine days following the war's end. According to hearsay, Argentine civilians were terrified that British bombers would thunder-dump their patooties with a-bombs.

Following the Falklands War of 1982, the Vulcan's career ended but for six modified examples that served as flying gas cans (aerial refueling aircraft), now designated Vulcan K.Mk 2s. These retired in 1984 when the VC10s came online.

Without doubt the Avro Vulcan was straight-up cool, a classic British bomber. Despite its iffy (sometimes fatal) development, the system provided a spine-chilling threat to nasties across the world. Despite its limited production totals and notably scant combat credibility, the warbird's unmistakable design and qualities made it a one-of-a-kind aircraft.

Do I like this model? Yep, I do. A lot. Corgi got the Vulcan's curvy, elegant shape right, which in 1/144 scale is a genuine achievement. In my humble opinion, the manu did justice to this phenomenal bird, a tribute to its notable place in aviation history. And I'm thrilled Corgi minimized the model's joint lines and seams, rendering them barely visible, another meritorious performance. Really, you can't go wrong with this model if only for its comeliness. You can buy the "Nuclear White" version on eBay for $64.99 as we speak.
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Old 02-11-2021, 08:41 PM   #672 (permalink)
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Thank you for these posts and reviews!


Wish some of your past artwork pics still showed up...
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Old 02-11-2021, 08:51 PM   #673 (permalink)
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As sleek as it was (and it was really awesome), you gotta love the B-58 Hustler.
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Old 03-01-2021, 11:11 AM   #674 (permalink)
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I confess a grudging respect for Stalin's deathmageddon, Nazi-crushing military machine. Just shy of four years, Russia's armed forces recovered from a hurtbag rabble of an army to a magazord, jigawatt hurricane, steamrollering Hitler's forces into crushed meat. Nobody could have stopped that behemoth, not even the USA and UK combined. And one of the most virtuoso, critical components of Russia's death-metal horde was the ILyushin II-2 Shturmovik, Stalin's bloodthirsty sledgehammer. (Fun Fact: Not only was the II-2 the most-produced combat aircraft of WWII, it was, until the Cessna 172 appeared, the most-produced aircraft ever, 36,166 total. Yet only a dozen exist today, testimony to the Eastern Front's fierce savagery.)

Stalin and his suck-ups vomited all over each other when Hitler's boys attacked the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, hysterical that their erstwhile partner in slime had betrayed them. Intriguingly, the Soviet Air Force was undertaking a crucial air force modernization program just then, introducing an assortment of new bombers, fighters, and attack aircraft that were only just reaching front-line units. Arguably the most effective among these was the Ilyushin Il-2 Shturmovik, a graceless, lumbering, single-engined ground attack aircraft that kicked enemy ground forces right in the meat clackers and brought them to their knees.

In early 1938, Sergei Ilyushin, boss man of the storied Ilyushin aircraft design bureau, bent Stalin's ear, proposing a “flying tank" that could wallop capitalist stink wrinkles with ease and got the mustachioed dictator's consent. Forthwith, Illyushin submitted a plan, whereupon Russian higher ups ordered two prototype II-2 Sturmoviks, the first flying in October 1939. To improve the bird's flying qualities, the Ilyushin bureau reworked the proposed two-seater design into a single-seater, which they ultimately modified back to a two-seater featuring a rear-facing gunner position. Factories had produced around 249 Il-2s by the time Nazi Germany muscled into Russia, of these only 70 available for combat, 20 serving with frontier military districts. To aggravate matters, II-2 pilots received only minimum training, rendering Sturmovik attacks as good as pointless. These first warbirds were blooded on June 27, 1941, five days into Germany’s invasion, when several II-2s attacked a German convoy of tanks and mechanized infantry, destroying a halftrack but getting smashed in the process.

Still, the Sturmovik's potential was indisputable, and Stalin pushed for its rapid buildup, a tricky task given Russia had been forced to relocate the production sites. Regardless, the dictator raged against production interruptions and threatened execution of responsible parties. Writing to the directors of one troubled II-2 plant, he said, “You have let down our country and our Red Army. You have the nerve not to manufacture IL-2s until now. Our Red Army now needs II-2 aircraft like the air it breathes, like the bread it eats. (This plant) now produces one II-2 a day….It is a mockery of the Red Army….I ask you not to try the government’s patience, and demand that you manufacture more II-2s. This is my final warning. If you clowntools don't get your acts together, I'll personally shoot every one your ever-lovin' poopy butts. Stalin.” Predictably, Il-2 production skyrocketed within weeks.

The Il-2 was primitive by anybody's standard, a fusion of wood-and-metal that low-skilled workers could produce in significant numbers. Yet it was an amazing warbird, possessed of strength and toughness that could survive screaming warpig damage. The forward fuselage section itself was a one-piece, sculpted, bulletproof shield that protected the aircraft’s fuel system, radiators, and crew. This shell utilized a special alloy that maintenance personnel could fabricate in the field (sort of), crucial where Soviet units operated from primitive forward battle areas. The result was a warbird that could survive killacious hits from anti-aircraft fire, impressing Germans gun crews, who dubbed it the “Betonflugzeug” (concrete plane), their 20 mm cannon only infrequently knocking it down. The Shturmovik's Achilles's heel was its barefaced vulnerability to German attack from above and behind. Escorting Russian fighters, which operated at higher altitudes, magnified the problem, unable to reach their charges in time to ward off Nazi fighters. In response, Ilyushin produced a two-seat version, the second crew-member operating a rearward-firing machine gun, displacing the single-seat variant.

Il-2 pilot Yurii Khukhrikov recalled: “It was an excellent aircraft for those times! We carried 600 kilograms of bombs, 8 rockets, 300 23 mm shells for the cannon (150 rounds for each gun), and 1800 rounds” for the machine guns. According to Khukhrikov, the engine was the most vulnerable part of the Il-2: “The wings were fine, more or less. If a fuel tank was hit, that wasn’t bad either, why? When we approached the target, we opened carbon dioxide canisters, which filled the empty space of the fuel tanks. If a bullet pierced the body and hit a fuel tank, the sealer would fill the hole, fuel would not leak out, there would be no vapor, and consequently, no combustion.”

The Il-2, to be fair though, wasn't always the ultimate tank-busting machine of Russian military lore. The rude fact was the bird's bombing accuracy against armored targets was abysmal (offset somewhat by its two 23 mm cannon)—but there were exceptions: In one attack during the Kursk Battle in summer 1943, Il-2s destroyed 70 tanks of the German 9th Panzer Division within 20 minutes. Shturmoviks fared far better against soft-skinned transport and logistical equipment, which included fuel transport, personnel, and supplies, typified when swarms of Il-2s provided close air support for Soviet ground troops enveloping German Panzer forces near Stalingrad, smoking 72 out of 150 warbirds parked at the Salsk airfield.

Innumerable Il-2 pilots were hugely successful, among them women like Senior Lieutenant Anna Yegorowa, who flew 243 missions in the Il-2 and received the Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union in late 1944. Lieutenant Colonel Nelson Stepayan, according to Soviet mythos, dumpstered no less than 53 ships, 80 tanks, 600 armored vehicles and 27 aircraft. When anti-aircraft fire hit his Shturmovik, grievously wounding him in December 1944, Stepanyan steered his plane into a German warship and sank it (no word on what happened to the LCol). Squadron commander Leonid Beda, decorated as a Hero of the Soviet Union, flew more than 100 combat sorties in an Il-2, famously describing how he led a group of Il-2s supporting Soviet ground troops assaulting Sapun Hill, a significant site near Sevastopol, Crimea. Flying 20-30 feet above the ground, they obscured their approach in the valleys encircling the hill's gun emplacements and kicked major German butt. To escape, Beda and his group ducked into the valleys again, flying through the weeds. Later, Beda assisted in strafing attacks on German vessels in Sevastopol’s bays and German airbases. Despite considerable anti-aircraft artillery, Beda's squadron sank several ships and junked eighteen aircraft.

As you'd expect, II-2 losses were staggering. In the spring and summer of 1942, Russian Il-2 squadrons lost four planes per 24 combat sorties; this increased during the Battle of Stalingrad to four every 10-12 combat missions. Luftwaffe fighters and anti-aircraft units snuffed 6,900 Il-2s in 1943, 7,300 in 1944. In all, the Soviets confirmed the loss of 11,570 Il-2s, roughly 30 percent of the Soviet Union’s total combat aircraft losses.

Even so by the end of World War II, Allied and Axes air forces regarded the Shturmovik as one of the best and most effective weapons in Soviet Russia's arsenal. Oleg Rastrenin, an authority on Soviet airpower, notes that during World War II, “...it was precisely the Il-2 that was the most useful aircraft for our infantry and the aircraft most feared by the German infantry.” According to Rastrenin, at the start of the war, Il-2s comprised less than 0.2% of the Soviet Air Force's inventory but grew to 30%. It was a major league player that dealt Hitler's war machine a crippling blow.

Do I like this model? As a matter of fact I do though it's 100% plastic. Which raises the question: Do plastic Easy Model models qualify as legitimate diecast-enthusiast collectibles? That depends. Technically, no they don't given they're plastic, not zinc, which overweening metal purists consider a crime. Others collectors disagree, contending it doesn't matter what a model is made of so long as it's accurate, it looks presentable, and you want it. Which pretty much describes Easy Model's Shturmoviks, not to mention they're less than half the price of comparable metal versions. So if you're into WWII Soviet flying monster-mashers, buy all five Easy Model II-2s. I did!


P.S. Thanks for your kind comment, Wingman01. Sorry I didn't respond sooner.
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Old 03-15-2021, 09:54 AM   #675 (permalink)
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Leave it to the Germans to concoct pissfunny nicknames, like hasenfürzchen (bunnyfart) to describe a cuddly woman, arschgeige (butt violin) to identify a bungling Nazi bureaucrat, or arsch mit ohren (butt with ears), a complete idiot, a favorite slur among ill-advised German officers when discussing Adolf Hitler and/or his latest military blunders. When one observer saw the Dornier Do17 for the first time, he chirped it was a Fliegender Bleistift ("flying pencil"), which Claude Dornier, boss man of Dornier Flugzeugwerke, heard, faced the offender, and retorted, "And you, my friend, are a broken pencil: You're pointless!"

Just the same, the label stuck, and flying pencils became the Snake Plissken of low-level, high-speed attacks, tormenting the RAF during the Battle of Britain by magically appearing over airfields, bombing the poogurt out of them, and hotfooting it home before the British responded. For a pencil, that wasn't a bad trick.

Dornier commenced work on the Do-17 in 1933, some say in response to a Lufthansa request for a high-speed airliner, others holding Dornier designed the aircraft from the start as a swift bomber. Either way the twin-engined airplane proved far too cramped for paying passengers, whereon the aircraft predictably morphed into a capable warbird for the Luftwaffe. During initial testing, Dornier produced two models: the Do 17 E1, a medium bomber designed to carry an 1100 pound bomb load, and the Do 17 F-1, a dedicated reconnaissance aircraft, differing from its sidekick with two reconnaissance cameras and extra fuel capacity in lieu of bombs. The wings featured a straight leading edge that curved in a near perfect semicircle into the trailing edge. The first flight took place on November 23, 1934, the aircraft featuring a strikingly streamlined fuselage (thus the "flying pencil" nickname) at 51 feet long with twin tails for added stability, excellent handling characteristics, and high speed. Upon seeing this anorexic beast, the Luftwaffe fell in love, and series production began in 1936 with the E-1 variant.

In combat during the Spanish Civil War, the Do17 proved an exasperating target for opposing communist fighters for its speed and agility. It was a whirlwind and easy to fly, but it still fell prey to Russian interceptors if and when they got lucky. In response, Dornier installed phenomenal Bramo 323 Faufner nine-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines of 900-1000 horsepower each, which jacked the warbird's speed by 20%. The company also boosted the bird's bomb capacity to 2,200 pounds, both improvements featured with the M series. Additionally, Dornier raised the cockpit roof (giving the pilot an unprecedented panoramic view) while installing an fortified gondola beneath the nose. Engineers also added a rear-facing gunner's position behind the pilot and a forward-facing gunner to the pilot's right, each firing MG-15 7.92 millimeter machine guns. The bombardier, lying beneath the forward gunner, not only dropped bombs but manned the gondola too, defending the warbird's belly. Later variants featured a fourth MG in the nose, which the bombardier likewise managed.

Fun Fact: Incredibly, almost unbelievably, some German aircrews equipped their Do 17s with backward firing flamethrowers (you heard right), intended to momentarily blind and disorient attacking fighters with black, oily smoke, not burn them to a crisp (though that would have been a delightsome bonus). When chasing the bomber, Allied pilots recurrently reported such oil sprays, which left them vulnerable to the bomber's defensive fire. Indeed, RAF Flight Sergeant Ray Holmes took a spritz from 400 yards away and was barely able to land safely for all the slimy, greasy lubricate on his canopy.

A revised nose design (the Germans called it the Kampkopf or "battle head"), appeared with the S series, a huge improvement. But this version introduced a fourth crewman, stationed in the nose, which decreased the bomb load. With each new revision, the warbird got increasingly heavier and draggier; to correct these limitations, Dornier next delivered the Z series, which featured Bramo Fafnir 323P-1 radial engines rated at 1,000hp each, the Do17Z-2 able to heft a 1,000kg bomb load. The Z series saw the highest production numbers of the warbird's entire run, manufactured from early 1939 until mid-1940.

During the Balkans, Greece, and Crete campaigns, where the enemy mounted little or no defense, the Do17 was a ravenous flying spaghetti monster, devouring everything before it. When Hitler attacked Poland on September 1, 1939, the Do17 was the tip of the spear flying strategic bombarding missions at low levels. The flying pencil reprized this role in the Battle of France, joining Ju-87 Stukas and blowing the snot out of French/British units at Dunkirk. But the Battle of Britain proved another story.

Following France's capitulation, the Battle of Britain commenced on July 10, 1940, when 210 Do17 bombers and recon versions took the fight to the British. Which was relatively easy at first, the thin bomber hugging the weeds and popping up over airfields, wreaking havoc. But the RAF were no dummies and orbited the air bases, diving on and kicking the livin' crap out of sneaky Do17s, exposing their frailties. By the time Hitler invaded Russia on June 22, 1941, only one Do17 air group existed.

Faced with the humbling fact that the Do17 couldn't defend itself against fanatical fighter defense, the Luftwaffe sold its remaining Do17s to Axis allies like Croatia, Italy, and other Eastern European air forces, including Finland's, which belatedly pinned its hopes of repelling Stalin's armies with Hitler's support. Germany delivered its last five flyable Do17 Z2 bombers to Finland in September 1943, which soldiered on until the middle of 1944. All told, Dornier produced some 2,140 Do 17s.

Do I like this model? Oh yeah, baby, it's gorgeous! I've been staring at mine all day long and can't find a single fault with it, including its seam lines, which are delightfully tight and blessedly unnoticeable. That's not to say the model's perfect, however, 'cause no such thing exists; but this one comes close. I love the bird's yellow engine nacelle recognition bands, yellow double empennage, and white nose identification stripe. You really need to see one up close to appreciate how accurate and convincing it looks, and that goes for its stablemates. Last time I looked you could buy this particular Do17 from Hong Kong for $211.95 (originally $104.95), an extravagant asking price that's bound to get even more pricy.
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Old 03-23-2021, 01:08 PM   #676 (permalink)
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten



Here's another WWII megastar fighter that got outrageously little credit. You likely don't know this, but in the early '40s, the Japanese populace regarded the Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa ("Oscar" to the Allies) superior to the Mitsubishi Zero. Why? Because it made far bigger headlines. In 1942 only good war news reached the Japanese people. The Hayabusa ("Oscar" in Allied speak) shot down more Allied aircraft than any other Japanese fighter, Army or Navy, at the time. Flown by seasoned, battle-scarred pilots, the Ki-43 bettered anything the Chinese, British, or Americans threw at it. And all this time you thought the Zero was the Tyrannosaurus Rex of Japanese fighters.

Few Westerner pilots realized that, at least at the beginning of the war, most "Zeros" they engaged were actually Nakajima-designed Ki-43s. Known as the “Army Zero” and later code-named “Oscar,” the Ki-43 Hayabusa (Peregrine Falcon) became Japan's principal fighter. Some 5,919 were built, more than any other Japanese aircraft except the Zero. Nearly all the JAAF’s top aces scored kills with this light-footed fighter, a potent weapon in skilled hands right up to war’s end.

(Fun Fact: American Volunteer Group pilots (1st AVG serving over Burma and south China) insisted they'd crossed swords with Mitsubishi Zeros, not Ki-43s, and stubbornly stuck to that narrative to the last man. Indeed, one would have courted a broken nose had he argued the point with any of them. But the rude fact was, the nearest Zero never came within 1,000 miles of Burma or south China during the Group's six-month existence.)

In 1937, Hideo Itokawa and his Nakajima design team commenced work on a replacement for its Ki-27 fighter, known as the Type 97. The Japanese Army demanded a lightweight air superiority fighter able to purge the skies of enemy aircraft so ground forces could operate unimpeded. The Ki-27, though able, was getting cobwebby compared to Anglo-American aircraft then in development.

Itokawa’s engineers commenced to design a fast, modern interceptor possessing awesome maneuverability. The low-wing, single seat Ki-43 would underscore all metal construction, a clean canopy, foldup landing gear, and a 950-horsepower Sakae radial engine shooting it to over 300 miles per hour. To meet JAAF weight specifications, Nakajima flouted armor protection and self-sealing fuel tanks. Pilots would rely on the bird's velocity and acrobatics to close with an enemy, dispatching him with two Type 89 7.7mm machine guns.

Nakajima took 18 months and 13 separate modifications to deliver the definitive Ki-43, trimming every ounce of extra weight along with increasing wing area and redesigning the canopy. They also fixed a set of paddle-shaped “butterfly flaps” under the wing roots to redouble maneuverability. The newly modified interceptor could now reach 38,500 feet with a 3,900 feet per minute rate of climb. Maximum speed was 308 miles per hour at 13,000 feet. Its butterfly flaps empowered the Hayabusa to turn inside any aircraft then flying, even the Zero.

Nakajima’s Ki-43-I, as the improved design was christened, measured 28 feet, 11 inches long, with a wingspan of 37 feet, six inches. It weighed 3,483 pounds empty and 4,515 pounds combat loaded. Armament was initially two 7.7mm machine guns in the front cowling, later swapped with one or two heavier Ho-103 12.7mm aircraft cannon.

Full-scale production began in April 1941. The JAAF accepted it as the Army Type One interceptor, and Ki-43-equipped squadrons entered service in October. As war spread across Asia and the Pacific, Allied fliers learned to fear Japan’s angry little goblin. Falling foul of a Ki-43 usually occasioned a fiery death, so air tacticians like General Claire L. Chennault of the Flying Tigers taught their pilots to avoid dogfighting one at all costs. It took time, though, for Chennault’s edict to take effect. For the first year of the war, Hayabusa aces such as Warrant Officer Iwataro Hazawa (15 kills) and Lieutenant Guichi Sumino (27 victories) racked up impressive scores against gormless Allied pilots.

On December 22, 1941, a flight of 18 Ki-43s encountered 13 Australian Brewster Buffalo fighters over Malaysia. Sergeant Yoshimao Yasuda described the air battle thusly: “Luckily, Capt. [Katsumi] Anma found a fleeing Buffalo and attacked it from above and behind. My turn came when Anma’s guns jammed. I sent a burst into the Buffalo’s engine and saw it belch white smoke.” Hayabusa pilots claimed 11 kills that day for the loss of one Hayabusa; Australian records reveal three Brewsters were actually destroyed while two more limped home too badly damaged to repair.

Notwithstanding these early successes, grousing JAAF aviators trashed the Peregrine Falcon’s performance, firepower, and robustness. In service the Ki-43 tended to shed its wings in a steep dive, a direct consequence of Nakajima’s earlier weight saving modifications. Headquarters consequently suspended all flight operations until Nakajima installed strengthened wing spars.

Pilots also bellyached about the slow-firing Ho-103 cannon. A Japanese copy of the U.S. Browning M2 .50-caliber machine gun, early models frequently jammed in combat, forcing most pilots to keep one 7.7mm machine gun as a backup.

Nakajima designers watched with dread as modern Allied fighters like the Lockheed P-38 Lightning and Vought F4U Corsair took the stage starting in late 1942. To compete, they installed a more waspy 1,150-horsepower engine to the Hayabusa plus self-sealing fuel tanks and armor protection for the pilot. They also equipped the cockpit with a reflector gunsight while fixing Ho-103’s reliability problems. Subsequent modifications included bomb/drop tank racks, radio equipment, and clipped wings to improve the roll rate.

The remodeled Ki-43-II was faster, stronger, and no less maneuverable than older models. The Falcon's one remaining Achilles Heel was its frightful weakness to enemy gunfire. One burst of .50-caliber machine-gun fire into the Ki-43’s unprotected oxygen tank would routinely trigger a catastrophic explosion.

The Hayabusa’s two-gun ordnance proved wimpish against American fighters' six .50 cal battery. Even firing explosive shells, the bird's Ho-103 cannon were laughably inadequate against tough-skinned Allied warplanes. When Consolidated B-24 Liberator bombers began operations over China in late 1942, JAAF fliers had no choice but to attack them in poorly armed Falcons. It took guts to intercept these fearsome Liberators bring one down. Captain Yasuhiko Kuroe told his pilots to fly head-on into the American formations and concentrate on a single bomber. “Attack boldly,” Kuroe counseled. “Go into the wall of fire and take their bullets, be relentless.” Kuroe’s tactic worked reasonably well but cost the lives of a great many Japanese pilots.

American aviators swiftly learned how to cope with the “Oscar.” Using team tactics, well-trained U.S. Navy and Army Air Corps fighter aces scored heavily against the shrinking number of skilled Hayabusa pilots. On August 2, 1943, Captain James A. Watkins and 15 pilots of the USAAF’s 9th Fighter Squadron pounced on a large formation of Ki-43s over the Huon Gulf in New Guinea. Flying the rugged P-38 Lightning, Watkins croaked two Ki-43s before diving on a third Oscar escaping at wave-top level. Trying to outturn Watkins’s plane, the Ki-43 dipped a wing into the sea and cartwheeled into a thousand pieces. This splasher constituted Watkins’s 11th career kill, seven of which were Hayabusas.

In the end, many Oscars flew kamikaze missions against American ships. Of the innumerable Ki-43 pilots killed, only one survived.

Do I like this model? Um … maybe, sort of. Honestly, Atlas Editions models don't float my boat like Corgi or Hobby Master WWII miniatures, possibly because (in this particular case) its yawning fuselage panel lines are scornful, or maybe I'm just a Corgi/Hobby Master smarty pants snob. But all in all the model's reasonably accurate; not to mention, fantabulous manufacturers like Corgi and Hobby Master don't make the Ki-43 and likely never will. So if you're building a JAAF collection, take the plunge and buy this larking little Oscar. I'm pretty sure you'll sort of, kinda like it.
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Old 03-24-2021, 10:53 AM   #677 (permalink)
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten



One of the all-time biggest Scooby-Doo mysteries in military procurement is how a company that manufactured buggies in the 19th Century overmatched Grumman's F4F Wildcat with its first attempt at a fighter, the Brewster B-239 (a.k.a. the "Buffalo"), the U.S. Navy's first monoplane fighter. Almost as puzzling is why virtually ever air force that flew this fighter detested it worse than Jar Jar Binks—except for Finland, which adored and flew the warbird brilliantly.

For all of the Brewster's hambeast faults, it became the first all-metal monoplane fighter featuring an enclosed cockpit and retractable landing gear to be distributed among US Navy fleet squadrons. Communally the US Navy, Britain, Belgium, and the Netherlands considered the Buffalo borderline psychotic and morbidly obese (not to mention butt fugly), especially when compared to the willowy Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero. But some airmen actually liked the monstrosity, among them New Zealand’s Geoff Fisken, who'd delivered Buffalos to newly equipped squadrons and used that experience over Singapore to bleed Japanese fighters like stuck pigs, two other RNZAF pilots achieving ace status too. And no less a fighter virtuoso than Marine legend Marion Carl, who flew the F2A-3 (the worst performing Brewster version) said the bird was “as good as the ponderous, low-performing F4F-4—even better for its longer range and more plentiful ammo load."

But it was the Finns who kicked Russian pilots to the curb with the Brewster Buffalo's resilience and durability, snagging world attention and applause between June 1941 and August 1944. With no more than 44 B-239s, the Finns coined 36 aces.

When the barbaric Soviets made territorial demands in April 1939, the Finnish government dialed the U.S. President for modern combat aircraft, the sooner their appearance the better. Speedy shipment and compatibility with 87-octane fuel were their only requirements, which Uncle Sam was only too pleased to accommodate, except that the USA was neutral just then, a niggling little matter that President Roosevelt sidestepped by transferring 44 Navy F2A-1"rejected for service" aircraft to the Finns, permissible through the Neutrality Act. The Navy was happy to oblige, given it considered the Buffalo a bag of wank.

Elated, the Finns purchased the fighters on December 16, 1939, spending $3.4 million for fighters, spare parts, replacement engines, and spare Hamilton Standard propellers. Before shipping them, the Navy stripped the fighters (now designated B-239s) of all naval equipment, including tail hooks and life-raft containers plus self-sealing fuel tanks and cockpit armor. Export-approved Wright R-1820-G5 950 hp radial engines replaced the warbirds' existing powerplants. Upon receipt, the Finnish Air Force stuck armored backrests, metric flight instruments, the Väisälä T.h.m.40 gunsight, and four 12.7 mm machine guns on the Brewsters. With other modifications, these machines achieved 297 mph.

The B-239s reached Bergen, Norway, in four bunches, January and February 1940. From there they took the train to Sweden, where Saab employees assembled the lot at Trollhättan. Finnish Air Force pilot Lieutenant Jorma Karhunen flight tested the first B-239 in February 1940 but snuffed the engine while flying low at high speed and crashed on a snow-covered field, damaging the propeller and belly panels. Finnish pilots were anything but impressed until they witnessed a Brewster hug the butt of a Finnish Fiat G.50 Freccia fighter and out-turn it though the Italian was faster in level flight.

The Finns never referred to their rotund Brewster B-239 as the "Buffalo," dubbing it the "Brewster" or “Pohjoisten Taivaiden Helmi” ("Pearl of the Northern Skies") or “Lentävä Kaljapullo” ("Flying Beer-Bottle") or "Iso, Kirottu, Lihava Sika" ("Big, D*mned, Fat Pig").

Ironically, given that other air forces felt quite the opposite, the Finns regarded their B-239s easy to fly, a "gentleman's traveling plane" popular for its relatively long range and solid maintenance record. Finnish mechanics cleverly solved a problem that had tormented Wright Cyclone engines by inverting one of the piston rings in each cylinder, promoting reliability. Finland's sub-zero temperatures also helped, given the engine overheated, principally in the tropics.

When the Continuation War began, pilots of Lentolaivue 24 (LeLv 24) had flown the beast for a year, honing their skills to a razor's edge. On June 25, 1941, two Buffalos from 2/LLv24 intercepted 27 Tupolev SB-2s from 201st SBAP over Turku, nailing five of them. Finnish pilots employed basic, if not brilliant, tactics against blundering Soviet opponents, flying in four-plane "parvi" (swarms), one pair flying lower as bait, the higher diving on their prey. They mostly engaged Polikarpov I-152's, I-153 biplanes, and I-6 monoplanes, the Soviet northern forces starved of more modern fighters until 1943 when American P-39s and P-40s arrived in Murmansk; some Yak-1 and LaGG-3-equipped units were later transferred to the northern sector of the Eastern Front.

B-239s of LeLv 24 claimed 477 victories for the combat loss of 19, a victory ratio of 26:1. The top-scoring B-239 pilot was Hans Wind with 39 kills.

Eino Luukkanen

Eino Luukkanen won glory as one of Finland's top-scoring aces and perchance the best combat leader of the Finnish Air Force during The Continuation War (1943—1944 Finnish war against USSR).

Luukkanen joined joined a cadet school course in 1931, graduated as a pilot officer, and was commissioned an Ensign in 1933, flying as both pilot and observer, stationed in Viipuri with the 1st Maritime Squadron. In 1935, he served with fighter squadron LeLv 26, that operated the Bristol Bulldog Mk.IV. Promoted to Captain in 1939, he took over command of the 3rd flight of Fighter Squadron 24 (LeLv24), which flew the Fokker D.XXI fighter. Luukkanen notched his first victory, a Soviet Tuplolev SB-2 bomber, on the second day of The Winter War, December 1, 1939. By the end of the war in March 1940, he'd creamed a second SB-2 and shared the kill of a Polikarpov R-5 bomber. Immediately following the war he was one of several pilots who ferried the 44 newly-arrived Brewster B-239 fighters from Trollhättan, Sweden to Finland. LeLv 24 re-equipped with the fighter, whereon training started in earnest.

Luukkanen croaked five Russians in 1941 and nine more in 1942. In January 1942 he took command of H/LeLv 30, the air force’s tactical reconnaissance unit, recording his dead-Russians tally on his B-239's vertical fin with Lahden Erikois beer bottle labels.

Do I like this model? Heck yeah! This tubby fighter is yet another testament to Hobby Master's enduring artistry, its singular, consummate, loving care toward complex canopy frames and diverse details. As for availability, I saw a rare HM B-339E Brewster Buffalo RNZAF, No 448 Squadron, Singapore, 1941, selling for $159.95 on eBay weeks ago, a real bargain. If you don't own a Hobby Master Buffalo yet, buy one. You'll thank me.
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Old 03-24-2021, 11:04 AM   #678 (permalink)
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten




Oblt. Rudolf E. Thun, who ended his Luftwaffe service as Staffelkapitän of 9./NJG 6, with 7 confirmed kills, made some rather intriguing observations about Bf 110 variants, especially those that flew against nocturnal British bombers. Limitations of time and memory confined his remarks to few recollections, some of which that were perhaps not entirely accurate but still engrossing.

First a sketch of the man's Luftwaffe nightfighter service...

Thun began the war as an infantryman, later transferring to the Luftwaffe following the French campaign, eventually attending Fighter School in Ingolstadt and Night Fighter School in Schleissheim near Munich, joining II/NJG 5 in early 1943. Major Rudolf Schoenert, commander of that unit with 64 confirmed kills, took Thun under his wing and saw to his success.

Night combat flying proved unrealizable for many pilots, unable to master its befuddling, high-risk environs and critical skills. Thun found the assignment grueling but persevered even after two hair-raising, near-death crashes. After flying Bf 110s day and night defending Berlin, he volunteered as a test pilot from late summer of ’43 to early ’44 and once again escaped death when the starboard wing of his Messerschmitt Me 309 tore off in a sharp turn. Following that little mishap, Luftwaffe brass assigned him to III/NJG 5 as a technical officer, where he served in Hungary and Southern German. On 5/10/44, NJG5 reformed into III/NJG 6, Thun taking charge as the 9th's Squadron commander now flying Ju 88s.

Back to Thun's random observations about the Bf 110...

He cut his teeth on the Bf 110E, which he contended was "badly rigged and a total dog." The F version, which lacked radar, he quickly added, was probably the most gymnastic of the Zerstörers, agile, fully acrobatic, and in some respects smoother than the Bf 109. The 110F, clearly, couldn't match the 109's performance, but it came tolerably close occasionally.

The 110G-4 was a ragbag. Its aerials, exhaust flame dampers, drop tanks, and other impedimenta caused excessive weight and drag compared to unencumbered variants, resulting in hamstrung performance and handling. Flight on one engine was nearly impossible, even with full rudder, which was was extremely heavy anyway and precipitated rapid fatigue. Still, visibility was excellent, and some pilots felt the control forces were pleasant and well balanced within the performance envelope. Despite these faults, Bf 110G-4, by many accounts, was an excellent gun platform; and since speed was immaterial against British bombers, the Bf 110G-4 performed well as a night fighter. By contrast, the Bf 110G-4 by day was a dunderbutt, American bombers and fighters kicking the warbird's fanny all over the skies, which forced its withdrawal from day sorties in early ’44.

Speaking of which, during ’43-’44 while flying day sorties against B-17s and '24s, Zerstörer squadrons armed their mounts with four 21cm (8″) diameter rockets. These weapons had an effective range of 800m, forcing '110s to expose themselves to murderous defensive .50 caliberfire. Many crews kept a wary distance and fired their rockets too soon, each projectile flying in wide spirals, typically missing their targets. Another concern was how unwieldy these weapons were to haul given their poundage, a Bf 110 in Thun's squadron equipped with rockets and bulky carrying racks crashing on takeoff after flying into the propwash of a plane just ahead.

Flying at night against Lancaster and Halifax bombers, Zerstörer crews weren't enthused about the 30mm MK 108 cannon, either. Its muzzle flash was far too bright, blinding pilots for several seconds while simultaneously revealing their position to targeted bombers, which invariably fired back. Moreover, the cannon's barrel burst when a shell jammed and exploded in it, spraying the fighter with shrapnel, hitting the pilot. That rarely happened with nose-mounted 20mm MG 151 and upward firing “Schräge Musik” cannons, which, sensibly, experienced Nachtjäger crews preferred. Skilled aircrews never used tracer ammunition, either.

Radar suites and supplemental electronic equipment varied greatly, even within a series. Early G-4’s featured the Fu G 202 or 212 (Lichtenstein) together with the SN-2; antenna polarization varied. SN-2 improvements offered adequate minimum range, eliminating the Fu G 212. In due course, greatly enhanced Fu G 218 Neptun and/or Fu G 350 Naxos Z systems equipped the G series, but only a small fraction.

During the early stages of the war, Zerstörer crews were wholly dependent on German's Lichtenstein radar system to guide them toward nocturnal British bombers. During this time they employed “Zahme Sau” and "Wilde Sau" tactics which, combined with ground radar, netted significant numbers of destroyed enemy aircraft. Mid war when the SN-2 materialized, giving Nachtjäger Bf 110s more autonomy, crews could distinguish between enemy aircraft and the metal foil curtains they dropped. Later on when more powerful British airborne jammers and electronic counter measures confounded younger, less experienced German aircrews, seasoned pilots still found their prey, the problem being, long-serving aircrews were nearing extinction.

As for night-fighter camouflage schemes, squadrons gave them little consideration, contrary to widespread belief. Aircrews generally agreed that light, mottled gray or blue-gray was hard to see at night; but beyond that, lowly mechanics wielding spray guns applied patterns according to their own whimsy.

With respect to the aircrews themselves, life wasn't a nonstop phantasmagoria of combat and terror. If anything, Nachtjäger units spent their night hours waiting for bombers that oft-times didn't come. On quiet nights, men played cards or chess or read books, finally retiring to their quarters around 2 AM. Technical officers and unit commanders weren't as favored and usually stayed awake.

Aircrews suffered more losses through weather, mechanical failures, and British night fighters than by return fire from bombers. Engine failures on take-off accounted for many crashes as did malfunctioning autopilots that precipitated roll-overs at low altitudes as did back flips on muddy, foggy airfields or British sneak attacks. Experienced pilots and crews had a fair chance at survival, but younger, inexperienced men died in droves. Thun lost every officer in his squadron during the last few months of the war.

Three personal experiences as told by the man himself...

"When I returned to II/NJG5 in early ’44, I volunteered to fly a few reconnaissance sorties. To avoid detection, I changed tactics and flew just above the trees to avoid detection. On one of these flights, I saw an American pathfinder, a B-24, flying by itself and chased it with little speed advantage. My 20mm cannons had an effective range of 800m opposed to the American's .50 caliber 1500m range. It took forever to fly through their fire, but I finally achieved position and shot the Liberator to pieces.The crew barely had time to parachute. After landing, I counted over 50 machine gun hits in my plane, several centimeters from my seat. None of the other 10 Bf 110s of my Group that sortied that day survived. Happily, most of the crews returned, parachutes under arm, but that ended night fighter participation in Germany's daylight air battles.

"On another occasion, my bride to be and I boarded a train on my annual leave when urgent orders reached me to return to my group. I obeyed and later scrambled aboard my Bf 110G4 to repel a British night raid on Berlin. Flying at 4800m altitude over the capitol city and dodging flak, I noticed small puffs of smoke near my tail, which was surprising given British bombers which are still 10 minutes away. Suddenly five searchlights caught me in brilliant light and 20mm shells chewed into my cockpit and left wing. Some brainless night fighter pilot with an itchy trigger finger had mistaken me for a four-engined enemy bomber and blasted away. As my 110 turned into a fireball, my gunner and I parachuted into the darkness and landed safely. On the ground, the Flak commander was overly apologetic, and my Division commander sent me packing to resume my vacation. My fiancee said not a word.

"During Mid-’44, the 105th British Bomber Group flew night raids from Foggia, Italy, into South-east Europe and Western Russia to provision partisan groups. These British crews were seasoned and cunning, but they flew dated aircraft like Halifaxes and Wellingtons. I caught one of these bombers one night in my radar over the eastern Alps, but the fellow got away by diving deep into one of the pitch black valleys, an extremely dangerous maneuver. His comrades in arms weren't so lucky through the coming months, my unit taking a heavy toll on the 105th, practically wiping out the group. In retaliation, a sister group attacked our airfield, and we barely got into the air before the bombs fell. My radar went wrong, so I strained to see a bomber. Fantastically, about 2000m ahead, a tail gunner used his flashlight for a split second, and the rest was easy. Diving beneath the bomber, I looked up and saw its large silhouette directly above me. I fired my upward-pointing guns, my “Schräge Musik,” into the left engines to give the crew a chance to bail out, and watched as the bomber disintegrated, my easiest kill."

Do I like this model? I actually do. Until I saw a photograph of an actual, kindred Nachtjäger Bf 110G4, I thought Hobby Master had botched the model's crooked nose (it hadn't). I've always relished the 110's shark-like demeanor, its malevolent, ruthlessly aggressive look. And I've gotta say, Hobby Master did this one proud. The model is elderly by today's standards, hitting the shelves over a decade ago; but that doesn't make it any less cool. In my opinion, the model ranks among Hobby Master's centerpieces, and I recommend it to anyone who joneses for an Avro Lancaster devouring, goose-stepping, predatory Nazi night fighter.
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Old 03-24-2021, 11:25 AM   #679 (permalink)
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten



Come on, admit it. You absolutely dig the F-105D for its slippery, phenomenally awesome sparkplug looks. You love it because it was the archetypal American crunkcrusher, the best, most gifted aerial warrior over Vietnam---until the F-4D Phantom took the stage. Of all the warbirds the USAF flew the decade before and during Vietnam, the F-105 Thunderchief saw the most combat, clubbed the most commie heads, raised the most bloody, unmitigated hell. It was also the only aircraft America removed from combat owing to getting its tooty kicked: of 833 produced, 382 got roached, including 62 non-combat losses. Which, in some sense, comes as no surprise, given Republic (the manufacturer) never meant the Thunderchief to chuck piffling dumb bombs in the mud: they tailored the beast to haul nuclear-armed weapons meant to incinerate entire cities, a painful downshifting akin to lumbering a race stallion with iron junkyard scrap. But it worked.

The F-105 Thunderchief began in 1952 as somebody's wet dream for a dedicated photo-reconnaissance aircraft to replace the RF-84F Thunderflash. When the USAF shunned the notion, Republic morphed the concept into a fighter-bomber, designer Alexander Kartveli eventually settling on the company's AP-63-31 design. The warbird, as envisaged, would burn rubber into Russian airspace at extreme low altitude and crater a city (or defensive complex, whatever), the jet's hulking weight and high wing loading furnishing a stable ride. The bird would, in most ways, be a bomb truck, not so much a sprightly fighter.

The prototype YF-105A first flew on October 22, 1955, followed by the second on January 28, 1956. Because the intended J75 engine was delinquent, the two warbirds fielded the less thunderous J57-P-25 power plant that provided 15,000 pounds of thrust with afterburner (opposed to 24,500 pounds). Even so, the first prototype reached Mach 1.2 on its first flight. Further tests exposed aerodynamic problems associated with transonic drag, similar to issues the Convair F-102 confronted. Engineers reshaped the fuselage with a "wasp waist" contour, emphasizing "area rule" dynamics for smooth transonic flight, resulting in the F-105B (in tandem with the new J75 engine), reaching March 2 on its maiden flight. First production F-105Bs populated USAF fighter/bomber squadrons beginning May 27, 1957.

Things went so swimmingly that Republic next proposed the F-105D variant, equipping it with the AN/ASG-19 Thunderstick bombing/navigation system coupled to an Autonetics R-14A radar (which could operate in both air-to-air and air-to-ground modes) and the AN/APN-131 Doppler navigation radar, kicking bombing accuracy into the stratosphere. The 105's cockpit featured vertical-tape instrument displays that enabled adverse weather operation, plus the bird could heft a TX-43 nuclear bomb. The F-105D first flew on June 9, 1959, pleasing the doody out of the Air Force, which jonesed for 1,500 Thunderchiefs, which then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara scuppered in November 1961 for the Navy’s F-4 Phantom and new TFX program (that emerged as the General Dynamics F-111). Consequently the Thunderchief equipped only seven tactical fighter wings with 833 examples, the final 143 surfacing as the two-seat F-105F conversion trainer.

Thunderchief aficionados gleefully note that the single-engine F-105D could deliver a heavier bomb load than the B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator but skip the fact that the jet was ill suited for extended conventional bombing. Republic designed the Thunderchief to prosecute a short-lived nuclear war, in which it would likely fly just one attack. But in Southeast Asia (Vietnam) where each surviving airframe flew over 100 missions (and very often more), the F-105 swiftly manifested several failings, including a hydraulics system that croaked when sneezed on and fuel tanks that exploded when slightly perforated, not to mention the bird demanded high maintenance (often attributable to vacuum-tube avionics) that limited overall operational usage.

Some pundits insist the F-105 would have excelled despite these shortcomings had the USAF better trained its pilots for head-to-head gun duels. Given MiGs sometimes dominated face-offs with Thunderchiefs, you'd think that was a no-brainer. But such wasn't the case. Unthinkably, the service knew before Operation Rolling Thunder in 1965 that the F-105D would likely catch hell from opposing hostile fighters. In 1964, Colonel Abner M. Aust, Jr., a staff officer at PACAF HQ, carped, “One item that concerns me as much as anything is air combat tactics. I don’t think we have any F-105 or F-100 pilots in Southeast Asia who could fight their way out of a paper bag if they were really contested by MiGs today. There has been no real training on air-to-air tactics for a good five years. Because of the emphasis on nuclear attack by tactical fighters, our tactics and techniques lessons learned during Korea and World War II have been pretty much discarded.” In consequence, reverses like the April 4, 1965 strike on the Thanh Hoa Bridge (aka “The 4 Dragon’s Jaw”) resulted, the debut of the VPAF in air combat. Four MiG-17s attacked 46 F-105s, escorted by 21 F-100Ds, and shot down two F-105s for no losses.

Rightly so, detractors slammed the Air Force's hesitation to adequately train its F-105D pilots for nose-to-nose combat. Thankfully by the summer of 1965, Tactical Air Command owned up to this deficiency and proposed formal training for Thud drivers in air combat maneuvering. But the inexplicable, scandalous truth was, the TAC made no changes to either basic pilot training or the advanced training provided at the Fighter Weapons School throughout the Vietnam War until 1971, when the service introduced “energy management” (a proven combat tactic), later employed by F-15 and F-16 jockies in the mid/late 1970s. “Energy management,” proposed by Lt. Colonel John Boydwhich, is today the “bible” for air combat school around the world.

The warbird became the primary Air Force attack aircraft during Operation Rolling Thunder, in which the Air Force flew 20,000 sorties between 1965-68. And incredibly, despite its imperfect maneuverability in air combat, F-105s shot down 27 MiGs.

Do I like this model? Oh, honey, do I! You've got to see this little beaut up close and personal to really appreciate it. It's got class, elegance, steely-eyed menace. But for a few niggling joint lines (which aren't all that bad), the model's a delicacy, a winner. I visited the F-105D and F-105G at Hill Air Force Museum, Utah, put my hands on them, photographed them extensively; and I've got to say, Hobby Master got their Thunderchiefs nearly perfect in comparison. These days they're not cheap, however, especially on eBay, where prices bounce around $200 to $300 per for hard-to-find editions. If you can find one you like at a reasonable price, I highly recommend it. Availability won't last forever.
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Old 03-30-2021, 11:08 AM   #680 (permalink)
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten



Danny Wilcot was the apple of his father's eye. His daddy was a lawyer, who insisted his son become just like him, supreme jurisprudent of the universe. Danny truckled to his father's desires, eventually graduating from a prestigious law school, but his heart wasn't in it. He did, however, love all things confectionery, growing an impressive baking talent along the way. To his father's horror, Danny soon quit his law practice and started his own small bakery, which grew into a flourishing business, which went multinational years later. It's a common theme among professionals who thrive in careers apart from those they prepared for.

And yep, you guessed it, warbirds are sometimes like Danny Wilcot, meant for one specialty but are equally or more adroit in another, no better example being the Mosquito, which, originally designed as a bomber, became one of the war's most formidable fighters. Undeniably it ranks among the most effective, accomplished twin-engined types built between 1939 and 1945, excelling in widely assorted roles such as low-level day and night bombing, long-range photo-reconnaissance, mine laying, pathfinding, high-speed military transportation, and operating as a long-range day and night fighter and fighter-bomber.

The Ministry of Aircraft Production placed the first contract for the machine on March 1, 1940, fifty D.H.98 bombers (including prototypes) to be built to specification B.1/40, written around de Havilland's proposals. But with the fall of France and the Dunkirk evacuation, the Ministry voided the order, an imbecilic, blinkered cancellation it restored later with the proviso de Havilland's Tiger Moth and Oxford production take priority. Had the Mosquito used aluminum and not "non-strategic" molded plywood construction, it might never have flown.

Construction of the prototype pressed ahead through the arduous months of 1940, bombs falling within a mile of the Hatfield factory, the staff hunkered in air raid shelters 25 per cent of their time. Despite these tribulations, Geoffrey de Havilland, Jr. flew the prototype (W4050) on November 25, 1940, ten months and twenty-six days following its commission. The enterprise went swimmingly except the Air Ministry had confusedly altered the warbird's requirements in the interim. Top brass had lost confidence in the high-speed bomber concept, now favoring the heavily armed long-range fighter approach. The Ministry therefore amended the contract to twenty bombers and thirty fighters, obliging de Havilland to fabricate a number of new parts. In response, the company produced a fighter prototype at Salisbury Hall, London Colney, where a German spy parachuted nearby with orders to destroy the warbird along with the facilities. Fortunately, British agents nabbed the infiltrator within hours; and the day after, May 15, 1941, Geoffrey de Havilland flew the fighter prototype from a 450-yard field bordering the manufacturing complex.

The resulting N.F.Mk.II, essentially a night-fighter variant, flew in home defense alongside the Bristol Beaufighter in early 1942. It carried four 20 mm cannon in the front fuselage belly and four Browning .303 in. machine-guns in the nose. It also featured Aircraft Interception (AI) Mk.IV or AI Mk.V "arrowhead" radar and a G-45 machine gun. Two Merlin 21 engines providing 1,280 hp for takeoff and 1,480 hp at 12,250 feet, or two Merlin 23 power plants delivering 1,390 hp for takeoff and the same maximum power at 12,250 feet, powered the warbird. (FUN FACT: The Mosquito's matt-black overall finish reduced its maximum speed by 16 mph.)

Mosquito N.F.IIs scored their first "probable" kill on the night of May 28-29, 1942. And during the following three years, Mosquito night-fighters croaked approximately 600 enemy aircraft over the British Isles plus 600 flying bombs. Mossies later operated in the bomber support role defending Lancaster and Halifax bomber streams. Of the 466 Mark II Mosquito fighters produced, some of the later aircraft wore day-fighter finish and, with the AI radar removed, operated over Malta, Italy, Sicily and North Africa.
Operational learning with the Mosquito II in its day-fighter and intruder roles led to development of the F.B.VI in 1943, a metal-knuckles fighter-bomber that toted a much heavier warload, giving rise to the Mark VI, bearing a strengthened wing for external loads (later called the "basic" wing), the warbird now hefting a full complement of cannon and machine-guns, two 500 lb. bombs in the rear half of the bomb bay (the front half containing the cannon breeches) and two 500 lb. bombs under the wings. With still greater improvement (the installation of Merlin 25 engines), the Mark VI Series 2 carried 2,000 lb. bomb loads.

Later in mid-1943, the Mosquito FB Mk VI flew for both the RAF and Coastal Command. As an anti-shipping aircraft, it lugged eight 60 lb. rocket projectiles. For ground attack, it sometimes featured 57 mm cannon (capable of destroying any armored vehicle) or the 4,000 lb. 'block-buster' bomb, able to drop a building. Even when saddled with this bomb, the Mosquito could out-fly most German night fighters, and, not surprisingly, attack faraway Berlin.

The Mosquito NF XII became the first British aircraft to carry centimetric AI radar with a spinning-dish scanner that eclipsed earlier "arrow-head" efficiency but reshaped the Mossie's nose into a gopping, horrific snout. The centimetric radar replaced the warbird's four nose machine guns, reducing the armament to four 20 mm Hispano cannon. To expedite this variant's service debut, engineers based it directly on the Mark II.

A few of the surgical strikes this astonishing warbird executed...

On Sept. 25, 1942, a group of four RAF 105 Squadron Mosquitoes flew more than 500 miles across the North Sea to Norway to bomb and cannonade the Oslo Gestapo headquarters. Each aircraft, lumbered with 500 lb. bombs, combed the waves to avoid detection but ran afoul of two Focke-Wulf 190s patrolling the Scandinavian coast. One Mossie got hit and landed in occupied Norway; the other three slipped away and reached the target. The trio hit the building, but all three bombs passed through the walls and detonated in an adjacent neighborhood, killing dozens of civilians. Although the mission was a fiasco, it did prove the Mosquito could penetrate enemy airspace at extremely low altitude and hit targets with surgical precision.

On January, 1943, a flight of three RAF Mosquitoes penetrated deep into Germany in broad daylight to bomb a Berlin radio station moments before fatso Riechsmarschall Herman Goering was to deliver a speech. His address, meant to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Nazi regime’s 1933 election victory, was delayed owing to the attack, mortifying Goering, who had only recently blustered that Berlin was safe from air attack.

The Mosquito flew another surgical strike one year later to save 100 condemned French Resistance operatives imprisoned at Amiens. Eighteen British, Australian, and New Zealand Mosquitoes from 140 Wing of the RAF Second Tactical Air Force were to strike the watchtowers, guard barracks, and prison walls, creating enough confusion for a breakout. A dozen Hawker Typhoons provided fighter escort. Shortly into the mission, four of the Mosquitoes returned to base having gotten lost, a fifth suffering engine problems. The remaining aircraft flew at tree-top level to Amiens and found their target at exactly noon. Within five minutes the warbirds had obliterated a Gustapo guardhouse and breached the main cell block. Another eight bombs ripped open the walls surrounding the prison as a simultaneous attack on a nearby railroad station delayed reinforcements. As the Luftwaffe swarmed overhead, the Mosquitoes bolted for home. Thirty-seven prisoners and 50 enemy guards died in the attack, but more than 250 inmates escaped. Sadly, the Gestapo recaptured 180 of these and shockingly murdered an additional 260 civilians in reprisal. The RAF lost one bomber to enemy fire and two Typhoons to unknown causes.

Mosquitoes of 140 Wing flew a similar mission over Copenhagen, Denmark, in the final weeks of the war. The Danish resistance requested the RAF bomb the Gestapo headquarters lodged in the former corporate offices of the Royal Dutch Shell Company. Fear of reprisal unsettled the Allies; but the Danes insisted, asserting the building contained files on the resistance movement and several condemned agents. At 11 a.m. on March 21, 1945, 20 Mosquitoes and 30 RAF Mustangs abruptly appeared over Copenhagen, whereon three Mosquito waves pummeled the six-story office building. Within minutes, 100 Gestapo personnel were killed along with eight prisoners; but 18 Danish agents escaped. Lamentably, one Mosquito clipped a lamppost and slammed into a nearby block of buildings, killing the crewmen and 125 civilians, 86 of whom were schoolchildren. Three more Mosquitoes and two Mustangs were also destroyed, nine aircrew lost in total.

Between April 1943 and July 1945, 25 Mosquitoes from No. 618 Squadron RAF were equipped to carry a smaller version of the famous “bouncing bomb” carried by Lancaster “Dambuster” bombers. Engineers designed these spherical “highball” bombs to sink German and later Japanese warships, but the RAF never flew such missions.

Specially equipped Mosquitoes from the British 654th Bombardment Squadron flew top secret “Redstocking” radio missions for the American OSS during 1944 and 1945. The aircraft, loaded with classified VHF transmitters and receivers, codenamed Joan-Eleanors, flew night missions to relay radio transmissions between agents on the ground and headquarters in the U.K. Authorities chose the Mosquito for its long operational range, high speed, and ability to fly above the reach of anti-aircraft fire.

Bomber Command employed Mosquitoes as pathfinders in raids over Europe. They typically flew over areas in advance of heavy bomber strikes to mark and illuminate targets with flares and/or incendiary weapons. Mosquitoes also deployed chaff packs at high altitude to mess up German radar returns, screening massive bomber formations. Confused air defense personnel would divert Luftwaffe night fighters elsewhere, away from the real bombers.

In sum, de Havilland produced no fewer than twenty-seven Mosquito versions, which performed feats that far outstripped expectations. Given the bird's prowess, WWII enthusiasts who don't consider the Mosquito the most outstanding warplane of the war should. It deserves that recognition.

Do I like Corgi's model? I can spell that out in three letters: Y-E-S! This little honey dates back to Cro-Magnon times, but it's still got it where it counts. My only complaint is its nose cap, the very tip of the schnozzle, that doesn't quite line up with the fuselage, but what the heck. Otherwise the bird looks magnificent, a tribute to Corgi's enduring conformance to accuracy and appeal. Incredibly, you can bid on this sweet little warbird on eBay (as we speak) for roughly $78 (eBay item number: 393222828016).
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Old 04-01-2021, 01:00 PM   #681 (permalink)
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Why do you suppose hottie, eye-candy actresses get all the attention and not their less attractive, potato-queen rivals? You see it everywhere, bootylicious starlets like Gal Gadot, Angelina Jolie, and Jessica Alba (to name a few) making the headlines while competing artists like Uma Thurman, Annette O'Toole, and Sandra Oh get comparatively little ink though they're just as gifted---arguably more so. Unpretty warbirds have suffered the same fate for generations too, the Hawker Hurricane a celebrated example, an eyesore opposed to its exalted, underfed hangar mate, the Spitfire. And there's the P-47D, a flying hippopotamus, a lard face compared to its angular, hot-rod cousin, the P-51D Mustang. Yet this fattie burrito distinguished itself like no other warbird, devouring Japanese and German archrivals like French fries.

The nimble, blistering North American P-51 became America's air power symbol of World War Two, undeniably helping to win the European and Pacific skies, but in reality the less glamorous Republic P-47 Thunderbolt was the real workhorse of the Allied victory. Allow me to present to you several awesome facts about this magnificent warbird.

Georgian-born aircraft designer Alexander Kartveli originally envisioned the Thunderbolt (Jug) as a featherweight interceptor...

Based on the diminutive P-43 Lancer that saw limited service in the U.S. Army Air Corps before 1941, Republic pinned its hopes on an improved version of the fighter. But as the war in Europe got nastier and demanded tougher warplanes, the company rethought the project. The result was a much more meaty, gearthy machine: the P-47. The prototype first flew on May 6, 1941.

The Jug was part flying tank, part wooly mammoth...

We're talkin' big and harry! It was three feet wider and four feet longer than the P-51. At more than 10,000 pounds empty, it was roughly 50 percent heavier than the Mustang and almost twice as heavy as the Supermarine Spitfire. Alongside the three-seat Grumman Avenger, the P-47 was the heaviest single-engine aircraft of World War Two. And yet it could challenge the fastest fighters of the war. Speaking of which...

It could book it faster than a carjacked Ferrari...

Despite the P-47 looking like a McDonald's Big Mac, its 18-cylinder, 2,600-horsepower Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engine (the same power plant used by the Vought Corsair and Grumman Hellcat) powered it to speeds equaling the Mustang's. Both topped out at 440 mph (700 km/h). But while the P-47 reached altitudes in excess of 40,000 feet (12,000 meters), its range was just over 800 miles (1,300 km), half the legs of the P-51.

The Thunderbolt thew a rip-yer-jaw punch...

Packed with four .50 caliber machine guns in each wing, the Thunderbolt could rip bananas from enemy warplanes and ground targets alike. Its internal stores could hold 3,400 rounds (opposed to the Mustang’s 1,800 [feeding six .50 cal. MGs]), enabling the P-47 to unchain hell itself for 30 seconds straight. Admittedly, the Jug was a whale and fared poorly in fast turning dogfights against sprightly planes, but it was murder when diving on (or “bouncing”) enemy fighters with all guns blazing. It was even better as a ground attack aircraft, capable of carrying as much as 3,000 pounds of external ordnance. Indeed, when fully armed, a P-47 Thunderbolt could deliver nearly half of a B-17 Flying Fortress' payload. When equipped with 4.5-inch M8 rockets, the Jug matched the firepower of a battery of 105 mm howitzers.

It could take in on the chin too...

Pilots loved the P-47 for its hired-killer toughness, the way it absorbed hefty moose amounts of punishment. On one mission, a Thug returned with sixty-eight bullet holes and two shot-off cylinders. The pilot had hardly noticed the engine's convulsions. In fact, the plane’s safety record was nothing short of miraculous---only 0.7 percent of Thunderbolts got croaked in action.

P-47s cost an arm and a leg...

Republic Aviation factories in Long Island, New York and in Evansville, Indiana, along with a Curtis plant in Buffalo, assembled 15,600 Thunderbolts between 1942 and 1945—an average of 360 a month for three and a half years. Each plane cost $85,000 (about $1.1 million in 2021). All told, the War Department spent $1.2 billion on P-47 Thunderbolts before VJ Day. That’s roughly equal to $15.5 billion today.

...but they paid off...

On its combat debut in April 1943, a USAAF 4th Fighter Group Thunderbolt annihilated a Focke Wulfe FW-190 over France. Over the next two years, the fighter flew more than half a million sorties in Europe and the Pacific and wacked nearly 4,000 enemy aircraft, 9,000 trains, 86,000 trucks, and 6,000 armored vehicles. The Mustang didn't even come close.

Lots of aces preferred the Thug...err, Jug...

This includesFrancis “Gabby” Gabreski (28 kills), Robert S. Johnson (27 kills) and David C. Schilling (22.5 kills).

Advanced P-47s broke speed records...

Republic repeatedly optimized the the mighty Jug's performance. One experimental model set a speed record of 505 mph (810 km/h), unchallenged until 1989. In 1942, Republic reported that the Jug had broken the then-elusive ‘sound barrier’ during dive tests---though some historians challenge that record. Notwithstanding, two years later the company produced a limited number of M model Thunderbolts featuring supercharged engines that reached emergency speeds of 473 mph (760 km/h). Uncle Sam sent these to Britain to intercept V1 rockets and German jets.

Over 20 nations few the P-47...

While the United States largely flew the P-47, Thunderbolts served in a number of other air forces too. More than 800 served Britain and Commonwealth countries during the war. Free France operated nearly 500 of the aircraft, and 400 Jugs served the Soviet Union under Lend Lease, where they mostly served as interceptors.

Thunderbolts were Cold Warriors too...

Although P-47 production ceased mere weeks following Japan’s surrender, Thunderbolts (now designated the F-47) continued to serve for years (and in some cases decades) after World War Two. America pulled the plane from front line service in 1949, but NATO allies like Turkey, Portugal and Italy maintained squadrons of Thunderbolts into the 1950s, as did Iran. Taiwanese F-47s routinely engaged communist fighters off the coast of China. And surplus models supported Latin America air forces during the same time. Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic maintained fleets for years. Peru retired its Jugs in 1966.

When producing its fearsome A-10 tank buster in the early 1970s, Fairchild Republic engineers christened their new twin-engine attack jet the Thunderbolt II in honor of the P-47. No less than 15 original wartime Jugs are still airworthy today and perform on the North American air show circuit each summer.

Do I like this model? Umm...I do...but I just can't wrap my head around the barefaced canopy joint lines. I don't know how Corgi could have attached the canopy otherwise. But for me the jointures are too conspicuous, too splashy to ignore. I really dig the rest of the plane though, its accuracy, its ballsy authority. Truth be told, you get a better sense of the warbird's massiveness and superdope toughness from Hobby Master's 1/48 renditions. But all in all, this Jug ain't all that bad.
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Old 04-10-2021, 01:38 PM   #682 (permalink)
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

Thought you guys might enjoy a few more graphics of some of my favorite diecast models. Enjoy!






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Old 04-21-2021, 12:32 PM   #683 (permalink)
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten



Indisputably, massive, nightmarish sharks inspire horror and awe, the dread that a hellhound Jaws can and will shred us into stumpy, bloody smears in the ocean given half a chance. The scare of getting chewed alive is so powerful that air forces have painted shark-teeth motifs on their fighters for decades, possibly to rouse their pilots to aggressiveness, perhaps to strike primal fear in their opponents. A legendary example of this is Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, possibly the most famed teeth-bearing fighter ever. (Which begs the question: Given the P-40's (Tomahawk's/Warhawk's/Kittyhawk's/Baloney Pony's) unexceptional capabilities, Would the P-40 be as wildly popular stripped of its iconic shark grin?)

Bazillions of WWII aficionados love the P-40 (in no small measure owing to its shark-themed snout). It was a workhorse, a slogger, not unlike the Hawker Hurricane, that served in nearly every theater of the Second World War. Praised by many, it fended off numerous enemy onslaughts over scores of battle fronts at the beginning of the war. But it lacked a dependable supercharger, which compromised its performance, especially against the Mitsubishi Zero and Messerschmitt BF 109 (among other foes). Thankfully for the Allies, the War Hawk was available in number when hostilities commenced, the fighter notably balancing its faults with qualities like toughness and resilience.

Don Berlin was the egghead behind the P-40, a gifted but quarrelsome chief engineer who joined Curtiss-Wright in the 1930s after going fisticuffs with Jack Northrop and quitting his job. Berlin developed the series of radial-engined fighters called P-36s (which also fought at Pearl Harbor), which impressed the U.S. Army, who in 1938 contracted to adapt the design around an Allison V-1710 12-cylinder, liquid-cooled, “monster-of-an-engine" (as one engineer described it). This powerplant boasted of better streamlining, more power, and better fuel consumption than most air-cooled radials at the time. The V--1710 became the default powerplant for about 90 percent of the 13,378 P-40s built though it lacked a powerful supercharger for high-altitude fighting. On Oct. 14, 1938, test pilot Edward Elliott flew the XP-40 on its maiden flight at the Curtiss-Wright factory in Buffalo, N.Y.

In May 1939 as war clouds gathered, the US Army ordered 524 production P-40s, a stonking huge contract at the time, totaling nearly $13 million dollars. In so doing, the P-39 and P-40 comprised more than half of the USAAF fighters committed overseas during the early part of World War II. By May 1940, President Roosevelt bumped the total number of fighter planes (all makes) to 50,000, P-40s accounting for a large portion of these aircraft, which Britain and France fawned over. Deliveries came to late for France, whereon Uncle Sam shipped 140 P-40s to the Royal Air Force, which called the American bird the "Tomahawk Mk.1." Simultaneously, America sent the Soviet Union 247 P-40B/Cs (equivalent to the Tomahawk IIA/B in RAF service) and 2,178 P-40E, -K, -L, and -N models between 1941 and 1944. The P-40 would become the third most American fighter produced during World War II, after the P-51 and P-47, with 13,738 War Hawks built.

All in all, the P-40 was a relatively clean design, unusual (in the early war) for having a fully retractable tail wheel. Overall the aircraft was easy to fly, a big plus for greenie pilots; but it lacked high altitude performance, somewhat addressed in 1941 when Curtiss installed a British-built Rolls-Royce Merlin 28 engine with a single-stage, two-speed supercharger. The Curtiss H-87-D, as the Merlin-powered prototype was known, boasted of 1,300 hp (970 kW), which offered significant improvements over earlier models, furnishing a maximum speed of 373 mph (600 km/h). The follow-on to that, the YP-40F, featured the Packard-built Merlin V-1650-1 with a reworked air intake relocated to the radiator scoop. Gross weight climbed to 9,870 lb (4,475 kg).

The first major design change came with the P-40D, Model H-87-A2, powered by a shortened 1,150 hp Allison V-1710-39 engine with an external reduction gear, raising the thrust line and reducing the overall length by 6 inches. Curtiss also condensed the fuselage's cross-section and clipped the landing gear. The radiator was increased in size and shifted forward slightly. Engineers also pulled the nose guns for four .50 caliber machine guns in the wings and made provisions for an external center-line fuel tank or 500 lb bomb. Gross weight increased to 8,670 lbs, and max speed decreased to 360 mph. Climb rate and ceiling remained unexceptional.

When the P-40D and E took the stage, the USAAF spotted several bugaboos. When maneuvering in high G turns, the fighter's guns would recurrently jam owing to faulty ammunition storage. And these P-40's demanded strong rudder pressure to offset engine torque and frequent trim adjustments during rapid speed changes. With further adjustments including a larger vertical stabilizer and revised ammunition storage, these issues vanished.

To compete with the faster P-47 and P-51 later in the war, Curtiss removed the P-40's "beard" radiator to wing installations, installed a "bubble" canopy, and clipping the wings, resulting in the sole XP-40Q. Engineers also fitted a four-blade propeller to a 1,425 hp (1,060 kW) Allison V-1710-121 engine featuring water injection. With a weight of only 9,000 lb (4,080 kg), the XP40Q reached 422 mph (680 km/h), still less than Mustangs and Thunderbolts. The type never saw production.

The Flying Tigers

In the middle of 1941, General Claire Chennault recruited pilots for his Volunteer Group—called the Flying Tigers—to kick Japanese bippy over China. Uncle Sam helped out, ordering one-hundred P-40s for three squadrons; ninety of these, mostly P-40Bs, were actually delivered. Eighty Americans joined, drawing first blood just after arriving at Kunming on December 20, 1941, two squadrons creaming six out of ten Japanese bombers that were attacking their base. Though no Americans died on on this sortie, the third squadron, stationed at Mingaladon, Burma, lost two pilots on their first interception three days later. The Americans had misjudged the Nakajima Ki-43-II Hayabusa fighters opposing them, ignorant of their speed, turning, and diving advantages. Following this skirmish, the group seldom engaged Hayabusas in dogfights but instead dove on them, fired, and hoofed it out of there before their adversaries recovered.

In March 1942, P-40Es replaced P-40Bs in China. The increased performance proved advantageous against the Ki-43, but the Warhawk still couldn't go toe-to-toe with them. The ground-attack potential of the P-40E improved substantially, however. By the time the Flying Tigers disbanded on July 4, 1942, the unit had croaked 286 Japanese aircraft for the loss of eight pilots killed in action, two pilots and one crew chief killed during ground attack, and four pilots missing. The top-scoring AVG pilot, Robert H. Neale, destroyed sixteen enemy aircraft in his P-40, while eight more pilots claimed ten or more victories.

The Desert War

During the summer of 1941, No. 112 Squadron RAF, having lost all its Gloster Gladiators in Greece the previous spring, refitted with Tomahawks. In short order, the pilots painted their squadron badge, a black cat, on their P-40s' deep-jowled cowlings. The deplorable results, however, prompted them to replace the cats with shark mouths; and Voilà, a legend was born. Other squadrons and air forces, most notably the USAAF, adopted the toothy, sharky embellishment for their own mounts.

Do I like this model? Em...not a lot. The roomy wing joints annoy me, obscured slightly by the model's black fuselage/wing paint. Accuracy is on target, more or less, so no complaints there. But the fighter's red/black/ checkered yellow ornamentation makes me dry heave every time I look at it, making me wonder why I got model in the first place. Add to that I'm not a extremist, dyed-in-the-wool Warhawk lover, which, no doubt, predisposes my lack of enthusiasm. But for those who really dig the P-40, Corgi did a competent job on it.
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Old 05-08-2021, 11:55 AM   #684 (permalink)
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten




Sometimes the names we attach to people and things are moronic, even addle-brained. Believe it or not, I once had a friend named "Snake" (not a nickname but his given name) which caused him nothing but grief throughout his utterly benighted life (it also described the halfwit to a T). As for "things," the name"Stuka" was just as mindless, the oddball abbreviated form of Sturzkampfflugzeug---literally meaning "diving fighting plane." Some Nazi airhead pinned the label on the Ju-87, and it stuck, the botheration being, it was like naming the P-51 Mustang the "Fighter" or Avro Lancaster the "Bomber," an unthinkable dunce-cap notion. People got so used to calling the bird the "Stuka", though, that the dippy moniker sounded marginally apropos, which we still use today.

The Stuka (see, I even use the word) was instantly recognizable for its inverted gull wings, fixed spatted undercarriage, and infamous Jericho-Trompete ("Jericho Trumpet") wailing siren. During the early days of WWII, the dive bomber proved abundantly adept at blowing the man boobs off of fixed defensive positions, tanks, light transport, troops---and even warships on occasion. Later on, apoplectic fighters like the Spitfire and Hurricane routinely über boned the warbird so ferociously that the bird cried for fighter protection just to exist. First flown on September 17, 1935, the Stuka was obsolete at the start of World War II; but because of its early exploits and no readily available replacement, the dive bomber remained in production to nearly the end of the war.

Contrary to popular myth, dive-bombing didn’t begin with World War II but rather World War I, a British tactic that repeatedly pulverized unsuspecting Germans. This impressed the Americans and Japanese, who experimented with dive-bombing between the wars, leading to the Dauntless Douglass and Aichi D3A "Val" Carrier Bomber. Early on, aeronautic nerds considered the biplane the optimum tactical weapon, dumb, stupid, and slow enough to execute pin-point accuracy and pull-out safely; but World War II soundly proved that monoplanes were just as, if not more so, capable of doing the job.

Hermann Pohlmann, a Junkers engineer/designer, fathered the Ju-87, dragooned by Ernst Udet, who shoved the bird to the forefront of German aviation development. After observing Curtiss Hawks dive-bombers at a Cleveland air show in 1933, Udet purchased two Curtiss BFC-1 Hawks and shipped them back to Germany, where he dove from 3,280 ft, released his bombs at 330 ft, and pulled out, impressing the living snot out of everybody---or so went the myth. In actuality, Junkers had already finalized the Stuka design, which was in the mock-up stage before Udet leched over the Curtiss Hawk. Additionally, Udet never performed airshow bombing, just crowd-pleasing aerobatics; so he never, in fact, did the bombing stunt. But he did, avidly, support vertical dive-bombing.

Contrarily, Maj. Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen, cousin of the famous World War I ace, was certain the average Luftwaffe pilot would blow chunks and black out recovering from 5+ G dives and was just as trusting that anti-aircraft fire would kick the dunderhead dive-bomber's butt out of the sky. For those reasons, not to mention he loathed Udet, Richthofen outright canceled the Ju 87 program. But the Chief of the Luftwaffe Command Office, Walther Wever, and the Secretary of State for Aviation, Erhard Milch, reversed Richthofen's order. Publicly, the two men utterly rejected Udet’s idea (to maintain the charade of supporting the Treaty of Versailles); but behind closed doors, they embraced the Stuka concept intensely, keen to improve the Luftwaffe's bombing accuracy. Some zealots were even convinced a mere handful of Stukas could achieve superior results over an entire squadron of horizontal bombers. Ultimately Udet replaced Richthofen, and the Ju 87 was off to the races.

Junkers fitted the Ju 87A with a 630 hp (470 kW) Junkers Jumo 210D. Typical armament consisted of one 7.92 mm MG 17 machine gun in each wing with 500 rounds of ammunition stored in the undercarriage "spats." The rear gunner operated a single 7.92 mm MG 15 with 14 drums containing 75 rounds each. The Ju 87 could heft a 500 kg (1,100 lb) bomb but were usually limited to a 250 kg (550 lb) bomb load if the aircraft was topped up with fuel. The extra gas increased the range by 220 miles.

The Ju 87D was the most produced variant (3,639 in all), fitted with a more powerful 1,400 hp (1,050 kW) Junkers Jumo 211J engine, which allowed a bomb load up to 1,100-2,650 lb. The internal fuel capacity rose to 1,700 lbs. with the option of retaining the 80 gal wing drop tanks, all of which increased endurance to four hours.

Given the Stuka would have to withstand a 360 mph dive, Junkers fitted dive-brakes to prevent the airplane from exceeding safe speeds. In addition, Junkers engineers installed a clever automatic pull-up system that leveled the plane even if the pilot blacked out during a dive. About half of the pilots lost consciousness when pulling 5+Gs to recover, confirming Richthofen's concerns. The system worked brilliantly, rolling the aircraft 180 degrees into a 60-90 degree dive, whereon the dive brakes would extend and trigger the automatic recovery system. When the aircraft reached 1,500 ft., a red light flashed on the instrument panel, prompting the pilot to release the bomb. He then pickled a trigger on the control stick, and the bomb released via a swiveling trapeze below the fuselage, which enabled the bomb to clear the propeller. The dive flaps then automatically retracted, the propeller pitch shifted, and the controls automatically wrested the plane out of the dive into a speedy climb. All the pilot did was to aim the warbird at the target. Once the plane’s nose sprouted above the horizon, he took control again, a brutally efficient system that made the Stuka the legendary death-metal, savage-ravage weapon it was.

At the start of the war, the Stuka proved itself a crazed butt kicker over Poland then France, roflstomping the livin' fart pebbles out of most everything the Allies could field against the Hitler's steamrolling army. The Allies began to think the Stuka was invincible as did the Germans themselves until it became alarmingly clear it was horrifically vulnerable to Spitfires and Hurricanes that routinely ape-raped it so severely during the Battle of Britain the Luftwaffe restricted the warbird to night-bombing missions and later redeployed it from Western Europe. The poor dive bomber got the same scream-and-cream treatment from Russian pilots flying Bell P-39 Airacobras on the eastern front.

The Stuka remained the only card-carrying land dive-bomber during the war, a conspicuous distinction. But it was sluggish and cumbersome with laughably poor defensive capabilities, a glaring fact that haunted butchered Ju-87 crews. But despite these faults (and others), Stukas still held sway over Yugoslavia, Greece, North Africa and the Caucasus where Allied fighters mostly didn't molest them. The Regia Aeronautica also flew the Ju-87, calling it the picchiatelli (little woodpecker); the Royal Romanian and Bulgarian Air Forces also flew the warbird but with execrable results.

Near the end of the war, Junkers frankensteined the Ju 87 into a doomsday, flying spaghetti monster, anti-tank weapon, designating it the Ju 87G. Engineers slung two 30 mm (or 37-mm high-velocity) cannons in underwing pods under its wings plus a 2,200 lb free-fall bomb. To protect the crew, Junkers installed armor protection similar to the kind found on the Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik, making it tough to knock down. Only the most experienced pilots, however, were allowed to fly this version owing to its unwieldy nature. Junkers produced only a few G models.

Oberst Hans-Ulrich Rudel was the most famous Stuka pilot and was the only one to earn the Knights Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds. He flew a record 2,530 combat missions destroying 519 tanks, 150 artillery pieces, 70 landing craft, nine aircraft, several bridges, a destroyer, the Soviet battleship Marat, and severely damaging the battleship October Revolution. Russian artillery shot him down 30 times and shot off his right leg too (in February 1945). In all he was wounded five times. Given the aircraft’s performance and Rudel's length of service, it’s a miracle he survived at all.

Faster and far more nimble fighters such as the Focke-Wulf 190 unseated the Stuka. Unlike the Ju 87, fighter/bombers not only dropped bombs but were able to defend themselves in dog fights. Advanced bomb sites increased the accuracy of horizontal bombing, matching the Stuka's precision.

In the end, Junkers produced 6,500 Ju 87s. Amazingly, less than 400 were in service at any one time. Despite the warbird's relative scarcity, it left a haunting footprint on those who faced its wrath.

Do I like this model? Yep, indeed I do. This is one of the rare models in the military diecast galaxy that pretty much checks off all the perfection boxes. Accuracy is excellent. Detail is excellent. It looks right head to toe. My two niggling complaints are the model's slightly frosted canopy and its inescapable panel lines; otherwise, we're talking spic-and-span happiness. I especially like the propeller spinner, that big, gearthy thing that resembles, oh, I don't know...a thumping big bullet head. If you don't own one of Hobby Master's Stukas, do yourself a solid and buy one. You'll love it.
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Old 05-13-2021, 08:10 PM   #685 (permalink)
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten



Everybody has a favorite fighter and/or bomber, jet or prop. Enthusiasts often rhapsodize about their best-loved warbirds, many claiming these aircraft are/were the very best of their class. And to prove it, they lean on metrics like performance, firepower, bomb tonnage, war record, exploits, etc., frequently infusing flag-waving snobbery into their argument. Many military diecast collectors gush like this, unfortunately, and I'm loath to admit I'm one of them.

Case in point: The Brits insist the Sopwith Camel was the most significant, famous aircraft of World War I, having shot down 1,294 enemy aircraft, more than any other Allied fighter. The Germans beg to differ, satisfied the Fokker D.VII was the ultimate beer dog of WWI dogfights (a sentiment shared by most WWI aircraft historians). The French hotly disagree, asserting that the SPAD III seized that distinction, an opinion many Americans hold too, who extol the SPAD III's speed, agility, and toughness, traits their countrymen fluently translated into German aircraft kills. At the very least and without question, the SPAD scout was the most successful French fighter of World War I. And it should surprise no one that this warbird, like so many great airplanes, rose from humble beginnings.

The Deperdussin company's brilliant young designer, Louis Bechereau, designed a blisteringly fast, braced-wing monoplane that won the Gordon Bennett Cup in 1912, flying l73.97km/h. The following year, the racer bettered that performance at 204 km/h, powered by a Gnome l4-cylinder rotary engine, the engine, plane, and company becoming an overnight sensation. Deperdussin's original company name was the Societe des Produclions Armand Deperdussin, truncated to SPAD, which the world called it forever after.

With such an auspicious start, you'd think SPAD would take the aeronautic world by storm; but it didn't. The first aircraft to bear its name, the A2 and A4, were eggwads, total screw ups, probably the most unconventional---and least successful---configurations in aviation history. Air crews outright hated them, even refused to fly them; and it wasn't long before the company kicked the planes to the curb.

Recovering from that embarrassment, Bechereau designed the SPAD Xll in April 1916, a conventional, brawny biplane that flew circles around Nieuports, the French Aviation Militaire's go-to fighters. The SPAD was muscly and sturdy, a strapping aircraft that promised to razzle German butt all over the landscape. Suitably enthralled, the French military contracted for 300 (with options to buy more), production starting almost immediately, SPAD Xlls reaching French squadrons in September.

Part of the SPAD's wolf-blood success was its Hispano-Suiza water-cooled V8 engine that provided a whopping l50 hp. Sounds farcical by today's standards, but back then that was akin to strapping a Saturn rocket to the warbird. Deperdussin installed a single 7.65mm Vickers machine gun, offset to the right, featuring reliable Birkigt synchronizing gear, the kit providing deadly, accurate fire. A sleek, curved fuselage tank provided extra fuel, which the pilot could jettison in an emergency, a first for fighters everywhere.

A sad-eyed 20-year-old lieutenant named George Guynemer, flying with Escadrille de Chasse N3, received the very first of these SPADs and forthwith shot down an enemy Albatross, an extraordinary kill that he reprized days later, multiplied by three. By the end of January, he'd croaked 30 German aircraft, christening his beloved SPAD La Mitrailleuse Volante, the Flying Machine Gun. Guynemer's exploits inspired his other squadron pilots, the most productive of these collectively called Les Cigognes, the Storks, which included Capitaine Armand Pinsard (with 27 victories), Sous-Lieutenant Rene Dorme (with 23), Capitaine Alfred Herlaux (with 2l) and Capitaine Albert Deullin (with 20).

The Escadrille de Chasse N3 and their wicked, spiffy new fighters quickly made the news, whipping other Allies into a lather, among them British-based companies jonesing to license-build SPAD VIIs. Mann Egerton in Norwich manufactured a slew of them as did British Bleriot and Spad Company at Brooklands; but strangely, none of these found their way to the Western Front. Instead, they deployed to the Middle East, Belgium, and Italy, where they served with distinction. Maggiore (Major) Francesco Baracca of the Gia Squadriglia claimed 23 of his 34 victories in SPADs before becoming mower meat on June l9, l9l8.

Things went so swimmingly for the SPAD XII, Bechereau bettered it with the SPAD XIII in 1917, basically the XII on roid-monkey steroids. A new, going-gorillas Hispano-Suiza V8 200hp engine powered it, making the beast practically impossible to catch. And it packed two Vickers 7.65mm guns mounted over the engine, double trouble for gormless German marauders. Georges Guynemer took delivery of one of these and grew his confirmed kill tally to 54, only to vanish on a patrol over Poelcapelle. Rene Fonck, a friendly competitor, grew his tally to 75 in a SPAD XIII, making him the leading Allied ace. (Fun Fact: Fonck croaked 11 German pilots in a SPAD fltted with a propeller-hub firing 37mm cannon. Guynemer achieved four victories in a similar aircraft).

America was duly impressed, even more so when two of her sons, Eddie Rickenbacker and Frank Luke, played hell with the Boche in SPAD XIIIs. Their exuberant reports (among others) lionizing the SPAD spurred the USA to build no less than 6000.

SPAD manufacturers produced 14,700 of the type by war's end, outnumbering all other World War I fighters. If the SPAD XIII wasn't the very best of its kind in WWI, surely it ranked alongside the SE5, Camel, and Fokker D.VII.


Do I like this model? I'd be lying if I said otherwise...but once again Mr. Fastidious raises his ugly head. My Corgi SPAD XIII suffers from droopy-cable syndrome, sagging, limp wires that should stretch tighter than banjo strings (corrected via Photoshop in the above grahic). Not to mention, I'm not particularly enamored with the clumsy seam that spoils the white-painted engine cowling, both sides. If it weren't for these two issues, I'd be pleased to display it. As we speak, you can find myriad Corgi SPADs on eBay, some cheap, others laughably expensive.
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Old 05-14-2021, 03:18 PM   #686 (permalink)
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

Congrats on Your milestone Richtofen!!!

I’m not sure the column will expand to six figures once you get there as I know you will

Keep up the GREAT art and documentary text.

BB

Gone but Not Forgotten-0751e4ca-7ba7-45e0-990b-d6dfd01cafad.jpg
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Old 05-15-2021, 07:04 PM   #687 (permalink)
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

Blues Boy,


Thank you so much for your kind words. Honestly, I never thought I'd reach this many hits. You're considerate to mention it.



Yeah, I have loads of fun cobbling together these graphics and reviews. Hope everyone on the DA.C enjoys them as much as we do!



All the best, Dave
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Old 05-15-2021, 09:12 PM   #688 (permalink)
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

Keep up the great work Richtofen! I'm sure everybody on the forum loves your reviews, I know I certainly do and I always get a chuckle out of them. You certainly have a way with words, and you're obviously an extremely knowledgeable aviation enthusiast and historian. I'm a bit of a wordsmith myself (a 'cunning linguist', even) but I confess I did have to look up 'benighted' and 'apropos' - they're not words you hear every day!

On a side-note, regarding the SPAD and its saggy rigging, I recently acquired Corgi's 1/48 S.E.5a AA37709 (I just had to get it, as it was flown by the leading Australian air ace of WWI - Major Roderick Stanley Dallas) and it's a beauty, with lovely taut rigging, so hopefully Corgi is getting better at this.
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Old 05-16-2021, 03:09 PM   #689 (permalink)
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten

Thanks for your kindhearted, generous compliments, Angels22! It's truly nice to know fellow collectors enjoy my work.

As for the rigging, I shouldn't complain. I own a beaucoup stash of Corgi's WWI 1/48 birds, and only a few suffer from the poop-stain, flaccid nonsense. Still, every time I look at that model I want to tear my hair out.
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Old 05-22-2021, 11:48 AM   #690 (permalink)
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten



Let's say, just for argument sake, that you engage a local artisan to create an Argyle four-door cabinet for your living room, one so handsome and hunky your friends will melt with envy. The buzz is this woodworker fashions superlative furniture, so you figure he'll work his eye-popping sorcery on your cabinet too. On the one hand, you want him to pour his vision into the project and craft a one-off masterpiece; on the other, you impose precise specs, such as dimensions, type of joinery, clasps, woods, etc., which will doubtless inhibit his creativity. Worse still, you inform him you'll need the furniture in less than a week, given you're hosting a dinner party shortly and want to impress your guests. Incredibly, the forbearing woodworker agrees to your cockeyed demands and price, whereon you leave and then return several days later to behold the man's handiwork—only to vomerrhea all over his shop: The cabinet is a fart knocker, a bonafide poopmeister!!! It conforms to your exacting specifications and exudes craftsmanship, but it doesn't even come close to your fastidious expectations.

Who's at fault? You or the artisan? In every way, the cabinet adheres to your strict measurements, methods, and materials. Craftsmanship oozes from it, an extraordinary achievement given your preposterous timetable. But it falls far short of your desires, and you're ready to chainsaw the cabinetmaker in half.

With a few tweaks, that's pretty much the story behind the Short Stirling, the RAF's first four-engined bomber. In 1936, the British Air Ministry issued Specification B.12/36, mandating a long-range, high-speed, four-engined penetration bomber to be designed and manufactured in the blink of an eye. The ultimate winner of the contract, the Short company, was a renowned, productive aeronautical firm with a solid reputation. But from the get-go, the Air Ministry imposed design demands on Short that, a great many historians agree, were absurd.

They were: One, the wing span could extend no more than 100 feet so as to fit between the RAF's 120 foot width hangars. (Fun facts: Early Halifax bombers complied with this wooden-headed formula and suffered accordingly. But Roy Chadwick, father of the Avro Lancaster, ignored the dicta utterly and produced Britain's finest bomber.) Two, like the Halifax, the Stirling could carry bombs of up to only 2000 lbs, owing to the Air Ministry's loopy assumption that a stick of smaller bombs would destroy a target better than a single large one. Three, the Air Ministry insisted on a 3 degree wing incidence (angle of attack) to reduce the bomber's take-off run, which necessitated the Stirling's freakishly long main struts, which caused frequent collapses, which unfailingly ended in nasty smashups. And four, the Ministry wanted the bomber immediately, giving Short practically no time to design and produce an exceptional aircraft. To meet this unworkable wish, Short converted their Sunderland sea plane into a land-based version featuring a lengthy weapons bay (the family resemblance is unmistakable), resulting in the Stirling, which vastly underwhelmed the RAF. (Fun fact: RAF top brass retched all over themselves at the very sight of the bomber.)

On September 1938, following the prototype's first pathetic test flight, Short reworked the design, now designated the S.29, and flew it afresh on 14 May 1939. Ruefully, the prototype's brakes failed, causing the bomber to veer from the runway, which collapsed its landing gear. Short replaced the undercarriage with stronger, heavier struts; and by the time the design entered production, the bomber behaved tolerably well. Short manufactured the warbird's earliest versions but later oversaw a dispersal system wherein 20 different factories produced the main components. The growing German Luftwaffe threat goaded the Air Ministry into bumping the Stirling order from 200 to 1500 aircraft.

Deliveries of production aircraft commenced in August 1940. But because Stirlings impressed no one and deliveries were tortoise-like, the bomber didn't fly its first mission until 10 Feb 1941 (with No. 7 Squadron Royal Air Force), wherein three of its kind dropped 24,000 lbs of bombs on fuel storage tanks in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and returned unscathed. Though bite-sized, the raid demonstrated the type's potential, given it would have taken twice the number of Wellingtons to achieve similar results. Elatedly, crews reported that the Stirling's muscular wing structure allowed them to dodge German Ju 88 and Me 110 night fighters and searchlights, something Lancaster and Halifax bombers sucked teeth at. Pilot Murray Peden of No. 214 RAF Squadron even waxed lyrical, describing the Stirling as "one of the finest aircraft ever built" (noted in David Bashow's book No Prouder Place). However, the aircraft revealed a dismal array of shortcomings, the most glaring of these being its perilously low service ceiling, which exposed the bomber to cataclysmic anti-aircraft artillery. Plus when participating in concentrated bombing raids, the Stirling's low service ceiling forced it to fly three thousand feet below Lancaster and Halifax squadrons, putting the warbird directly beneath friendly bombs. This proved such a hazard by 1943 that Bomber Command reassigned the bomber to mine-laying and tug-towing duties to the end of the war. Several Stirlings (fitted with Mandrel jamming equipment) flew electronic counter measure missions intended to overburden German radar and radio systems.

Before all that came to light, Bomber Command yearned to whip Berlin into gooey mashed potatoes and wielded the Stirling like a mixer. On 9 April 1942, the bomber's first bid to reach the German capital failed miserably; but on 17-18 April a single Stirling reached Berlin and dropped 8,500 lb of bombs, hardly pricking Hitler's ego. As time progressed, Bomber Command deployed Stirlings in growing numbers, bombing in sizable groups by May 1943.

During 1941, Stirlings attacked European coastal targets in daylight, which proved exquisitely costly and achieved little, surprising no one. Notwithstanding, the bomber briefly flew Circus operations during the summer of 1941, raids into occupied Europe meant to lure the Luftwaffe into battle after the Germans had ignored earlier fighter sweeps sans bombers. The Stirling, sadly, proved the wrong choice for the task, given that anti-aircraft fire croaked and mangled far too many of them. Mortified, Bomber Command plucked the new heavies from the action and employed two-engined bombers instead.

The Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, two aggressive Kriegsmarine capital ships moored at Brest, France, practically screamed for bomber attack. So the Stirling stepped up and spanked them in April, July, October, and December 1941, doing no vital damage while suffering appalling losses themselves. Humiliatingly, both battlewagons hoofed it northward for safer anchorages during their fabled “channel dash," a kind of middle-finger gesticulation to the Brits.

To redeem itself, the Stirling attacked northern Italy from bases in Britain in 1941 but could barely clear the alps. On several occasions the bomber flew through Alpine passes strewn with anti-aircraft batteries but, predictably, suffered miserably. Stirling squadrons reprized these attacks in late 1942 to support the invasion of North Africa but once again ran afoul of murderous anti-aircraft fire.

In 1942, Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, newly minted boss of Bomber Command, was determined to justify the very existence of his heavy bomber force (its continuation opposed by sharpshooting critics, many within the British government). To accomplish this, he organized "1,000 bomber raids," the massing of practically every RAF bomber available, 88 Stirlings participating of 1,046 aircraft attacking Cologne, 30 May. Seventy-eight Stirlings joined the second raid (over Essen) on 1-2 June, and 72 supported an attack on Bremen on 25-26 June. Thereafter, smaller raids became the norm.

The Stirling finally and convincingly proved its worth when seeding enemy coastal waterways with 1,500 lb naval mines, in all dropping 20,000 from March 1942 to war's end. The most high-priority and fruitful of these routes traversed Danish waters, which linked the Baltic and North Seas, Axis ships routinely blowing themselves to bits on these beastly devices. Given altitude was hard to judge over water, low-flying Stirlings too often sideswiped and crashed into the sea when unloading mines. Later experiments proved that crews could safely drop these weapons from higher altitudes, considerably upping the bomber's chances of survival.

Short later produced the Stirling IV, a purpose-built, long-range troop transport and glider tug able to carry up to 24 paratroops or 34 airborne troops. The Mk V, the Stirling's last version, served as an unarmed military transport and freighter featuring a redesigned nose. Stirling production came to 2,380, the bomber dropping 27,821 tons of bombs compared to 41,800 for the Wellington, 227,000 for the Halifax, and a mind boggling 608,612 tons for the Lancaster. The Sterling did, however, best its three lordly hangar mates by dropping 20,000 mines into German controlled waters.

So do I like this model? Yeah, I've got to admit, I love it: Something about the bomber plucks at my heart strings. The old gal's got a jutting, "in your face" kisser that embodies Britain's famed ballsiness in the face of evil, which I revel in. I like her wings, too, comparatively stubby as they were (the Air Ministry's fault, not Corgi's). She's a massive model and weighty, which imparts a manly stoutness to it, the impression that the real McCoy was no pushover. I'm truly grateful Corgi produced this splendid bomber, an impressive addition to its stable of British earth shakers.
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Old 05-28-2021, 10:04 AM   #691 (permalink)
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten



Lamentably, before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, most Americans regarded the Japanese people as bespectacled, crafty, third-world munchkins, who were fiercely devout to their deified emperor, who's military was yoked to an outworn, barbarous Bushido credo. Given such, the Japanese war machine posed no threat to the USA and warranted little concern—or so went American thinking until Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and rolled up Yankee and Allied strongholds across the Pacific. It became all too manifest that the heathen yellow men Americans trivialized were actually supersmart and fearless, evidenced by their mind-blowing advances in torpedo, submarine, aircraft carrier, battleship, cruiser, destroyer, and aircraft technology. The Japanese, it turned out, were anything but ignorant mung beans.

In aircraft design especially, the Japanese excelled wildly, fielding thoroughbred fighters like the Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa and Mitsubishi A6M Zero, which literally flew rings around early American (and Allied) fighters. No less spectacular was the Nakajima B5N 'Kate,' easily the most successful Japanese torpedo bomber of World War II (some say the best of the war, period). The Kate played hardball in every Japanese victory following Pearl Harbor, ending its career crashing into USN task forces in blazing kamikaze attacks.

Until the B5N debuted, the Imperial Japanese Navy was keenly unimpressed with its stable of torpedo bombers. The Mitsubishi B2M was flaky, and the Navy Type 92 Attack Bomber B3Y1 was a bobble head (in extremis). To remedy that, the Navy issued a 7-Shi (an official request) in 1932 for a serviceable torpedo plane/level bomber, which ultimately failed to yield the desired aircraft. Undaunted, the Navy issued a 9-Shi specification two years later that spawned the Yokosuka B4Y, a biplane with fair-to-middling performance.

Persevering as ever, the Navy issued yet another specification for a carrier attack bomber, this one to be a single engined monoplane with a wing span of no more than 52ft/32inches and a folded wing span of less than 24ft/32in (so it could fit Japanese aircraft carrier elevators). It was to have a top speed of 205mph, fitted with either the Nakajima Hikari or Mitsubishi Kinsei radial engine, have an endurance of 4 to 7 hours, and carry a crew of three. Given these specs, Nakajima's design team leader, Katsuji Nakamura, and his cohorts fashioned a low-wing, three-crew monoplane with inwards-retracting wide-track landing gear, a clean, exceptional aircraft that headlined several innovative features. Among these was a hydraulic wing-folding mechanism, a first in Japanese service, that hinged at slightly different angles, allowing their tips to overlap when fully folded. The plane also featured Fowler flaps, which increased lift when extended, slowing the aircraft's landing and take-off speeds. In addition, the team installed a Nakajima Hiukari 2 engine 9-cylinder single row radial engine that powered a variable pitch propeller.

Nakamura and crew completed the prototype in December 1936, whereupon it made its maiden flight in January 1937. The new warbird hit nearly 230 mph, exceeding the Navy's requirements, but its hydraulic undercarriage janked up, which the design team later corrected (with some difficulty). And Voila!, the B5N Kate was born, more or less. The thing was, the Japanese Navy, impressed as they were with their new toy, fretted that the newfangled innovations were a little too ambitious and opted to remove the hydraulic wing folding mechanism, replace the Fowler flaps with more standard flaps, and downgrade the engine to the Hikari 3 with a constant-speed propeller. Nakajima obliged (disgruntledly) and increased the Kate's range with fuel tanks in the wings.

Mitsubishi, in the meantime, had developed the B5M, similar to Nakajima's B5N1 but with manual folding wings and a fixed undercarriage. This bird flew a little faster than the B5N1, powered by a 1,000 hp Mitsubishi Kinsei engine, but was also slightly antiquated compared to Nakajima's masterpiece. The Navy subsequently chose the B5N1 between the two, sighting the Kate as a more modern design with more potential. The production aircraft reached a top speed of nearly 230mph, well above the Navy's requirements. In 1939, the improved B5N2 Model 12, or Type 97 Carrier Attack Bomber Model 12, appeared with a more powerful Sakae 11 engine sheathed in a smaller cowling; and although armament and bomb load remained unchanged, this version remained in production until 1943.

Once the dust settled and Nakajima fully addressed the Kate's gremlins, the IJN deployed the warbird to its carriers and land-based units in late 1938, where it flew almost immediately over China as a tactical bomber, escorted by A5M Navy Type 96 fighters. Given that skilled fighter opposition was all but nonexistent, the aircraft performed well despite the absence of crew armor, self-sealing fuel tanks, and effective defensive armament. Headquarters deployed a unit of B5N1s to French Indo China in the autumn of 1940, from whence they flew operations over China.

The second version, the B5N2, began its combat career over Pearl Harbor when 144 of these warbirds joined the attack. The B5N2s won glory (in Japan) and villainy (in the USA) when it sank four America's battleships and damaged four more, 7 December 1941. The B5N2s dropped either Type 91 aerial torpedoes fitted with wooden fins (to prevent their hitting the harbor's shallow bottom) or 16 inch naval shell "bombs" fitted with tail fins. Forty torpedo-armed Kates and fifty bomb-toting B5Ns attacked in the first wave, fifty-five bomb-carrying B5Nss in the second. The torpedo bombers claimed a 90% hit rate, a testament to the highly skilled crews that manned each plane.

Over the next twelve months, the B5N raised hell with the Americans both at sea and on land, often while supporting amphibious assaults. Flying from the IJN's fleet carriers, the Akagi, Kaga, Hiryu, Soryu, Shokaku, Zuikaku, Rhyujo, and Hiyo, air groups blitzed targets from Guam to Australia (the Kaga smacked a reef and had to return to Japan for repairs in February), including British warships in the Indian Ocean. The B5N2 chalked up notable successes sinking the USN's aircraft carriers USS Lexington (in the Battle of the Coral Sea), the USS Hornet (in the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands), and later bone-punched the USS Yorktown at the Battle of Midway. For payback, the United States Navy crushed Japan's four fleet carriers (and moliwhopped the Zuikakus' air group in the Battle of the Coral Sea a month earlier with karate-like windmill kicks), croaking the best, most seasoned Kate pilots. The B5N2 plugged away with the remaining IJN Fleet Carrier Air groups in the battles of Guadalcanal, Eastern Solomons, and Santa Cruz in 1942, and then took a respite, mostly, until June 1944. Then the Battle of the Philippine Sea came round, and all bets were off. USN F6F Hellcats roastbeefed B5N2s along with the new Nakajima B6N Tenzan and other luckless Japanese warbirds, nearly 400 in all, forever memorialized as The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot.

During the last eight months of the war, the Kate, like other Japanese aircraft, smashed into American ships with abandon but also functioned as a maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine aircraft operating far from Allied fighter threat. Some B5N2s carried early radars and magnetic anomaly detectors hoping to rapetrain American submarines basking on the surface. Nakajima produced 669 Kates of all types between 1936 and 1941; Aichi manufactured 200 B5N2s in 1942-1943, and Dai-Juichi Kaigun Kokusho 280 B5N2s during the same period.

Intriguingly, a little-known Mexican attack on an American Naval base recently came to light. In a fit of wounded pride over the War of the United States Against Mexico (1846-1848), Capt. Miguel Casteneda of Escuadrón 201 (flying a B5N1 Kate armed with a Type 91 aerial torpedo) mistook a garbage scow for a destroyer moored near the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas, and attacked and sank it. How the Mexican Air Force acquired a tooled-up B5N1 is puzzling; still, NSA officials trivialized the incident afterward, telling air station personnel and local news outlets that the explosion and sinking resulted from volatile, rotting vegetables. Ever since, the Navy refuses to even acknowledge the exploit yet keeps a guarded, wary eye on aircraft, especially vintage Japanese torpedo bombers flying from Mexico toward Texas (Casteneda's B5N1 illustrated above).

Do I like this model? Absolutely. I've savored Japanese warplanes since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, so nearly all diecast Nipponese warbirds grab my whole-hog attention. I've come to realize (with no little anguish) that diecast models simply aren't perfect nor ever will be (given they're metal and all). Seam/joint lines simply can't be helped, though the less conspicuous they are the better. Hobby Master did a reasonably good job on their B5Ns in that regard—but for the wing junctions that resemble yawning butt cracks. Otherwise the model passes with flying colors. (By the way, I was kidding about the Mexican attack on Corpus Christi. No hard feelings. And that garbage scow? The culprit really was incendiary vegetables—mostly Mexican Pinto Beans!)
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Old 06-04-2021, 09:31 AM   #692 (permalink)
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I've reviewed the Avro CF-105 here before, twice actually, and extolled both the genuine article and the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum's (Hobby Master's) replica. And though I'm not Canadian, I commiserate with that country's loss, the forfeiture of what would have become the finest interceptor every coined, certainly the most stunning. To me its cancellation was more than a tragedy: It was a debacle for the Canadian aeronautical industry and air enthusiasts everywhere.

Funny thing is, not everybody feels that way, and I'm speaking of several prominent Canadians, one of whom is Carter Campbell, an intelligent, perceptive writer I've come to regard. So allow me, in my perverse way, to summarize his take on the Arrow's extinction, why it fell, and if it was even a sensible project.

In short, Mr. Campbell believes the Arrow's doom was the certain outcome of brutal financial realities coupled to a faulty weapons acquisition process, fostered by an unbridled, grasping RCAF. Tethered to this unholy union was an unforeseen, categorical shift in world military strategy (at the time), which declared all interceptors everywhere were monumentally irrelevant. And as if this weren't enough to whamsauce the CF-105, mushrooming costs attributable to the RCAF's concurrent complementary systems, the Arrow airframe, Iroquois engine, Sparrow II air-to-air missile, and Astra radar and electronics system, helped to swing the killing blow.

The first big blunder was the RCAF handing Avro, the Arrow's creator, a blank cheque, throwing unlimited money at the manufacturer in hopes of acquiring a superior interceptor. Ultimately, the RCAF got what it wanted, but political and military leaders grew anxious as costs skyrocketed, especially following the Korean War when defense budgets imploded. What's more and oh-so predictable, inter-service rivalry reared its ugly head, army and navy brass denouncing the RCAF's "gold-plated" interceptor while asserting their own services desperately needed advanced weapons. And the RCAF itself was split between rival Norad vs NATO procurement goals.

Campbell continues that the RCAF mindlessly contributed to the Arrow's demise. The Air Force was a virtuoso at lobbying for its own interests, its political masters habitually toadying to their demands. But the RCAF was far less competent at managing its weapons acquisition process, having badly guesstimated future technological, strategic, and financial developments. In consequence, the service forged ahead bereft of a well-reasoned military-industrial strategy, not even establishing an office to manage every aspect of their prestige project until 1957.

This aside, yet another dynamic helped to extinguish the Arrow: meteoric advances in Russian missile technology, underscored by the launch of Sputnik in 1957—on the very day the CF-105 made its debut. It's difficult to quantify just how lethal this event was to the Arrow's existence, Western military thinking shifting almost overnight, the senile strategy of intercepting and shooting down Russian bombers yielding to threatened reprisal attacks with ICBMs. This concept swiftly morphed into the brainless notion that interceptors (like the Arrow) were pointless, some politicians and generals arguing devoutly that missiles would soon supplant manned aircraft altogether. This precipitated a draconian change in the RCAF's interceptor requirement, downsizing the anticipated 500 to almost none, which ended domestic production before it even began.

In the end, it wasn't that the Arrow was staggeringly more expensive than equivalent Western aircraft; it was the vexing reality that a middle power like Canada couldn't afford to develop a prohibitively expensive weapons system without partnering with a deep-pocketed, wealthy nation. And that wasn't in the cards because the Arrow was too tightly wrapped around the CF-105's singular purpose: to intercept Russian bombers approaching its northern borders. And though the United States and the United Kingdom paid homage to the Arrow, each country was beholden to its own aircraft industry, not Canada's. So in the end, according to Campbell, JohnGeorge Diefenbaker, Canada's 13th Prime Minister, was correct to lop off the Arrow's head.

What do I think? The CF-105 was too good looking to kill; it deserved to fly. If anything, the Arrow personified Canada's collective brilliance, it's can-do disposition. Had it lived, it would have garnered great gobs of world-wide cachet, something Canada's emerging aeronautical industry likely would have turned to gold. I actually grieve that Diefenbaker struck down that magnificent, luminous dream.

Do I like this model? Oh, brother, do I! I wasn't kidding when I said The Arrow was a knockout, an astonishingly graceful, dazzling aircraft; I can't dream up enough superlatives to describe it. And Hobby Master, who made it, did an exquisite job, right down to the model's long-legged struts. If I have a gripe (one almost unworthy of mention), it's that the jet's crescent-shaped canopy panes don't quite match the real thing; they're not as rounded. Still, I'm a happy camper and wouldn't trade my Arrows for nuttin'! These days the model depicted above (RL-201) sells for $500 on eBay (when you can find one. Hobby Master made three versions, likely the last of their kind); but if you've got the dosh and one's available, don't hesitate. Buy it. You'll truly thank yourself.
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Last edited by Richtofen888; 06-04-2021 at 10:55 AM.
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Old 06-10-2021, 02:47 PM   #693 (permalink)
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Default Re: Gone but Not Forgotten



The internet is abuzz with news that the US Government will soon publish a report on supposed "UFOs," precipitated, allegedly, by US Navy pilots, who claim they've chased (or been chased by) "alien spacecraft" around the skies for decades. This highly anticipated disclosure won't hit the street for weeks, but two news outlets cited multiple unnamed officials who were briefed on the contents but not authorized to speak publicly. And they said ...

The government has found no evidence that these unexplained aerial phenomena (UAPs) are alien in origin. But...they can't rule out the possibility either. Big Brother finally admits these craft do exist, that they defy gravity and physics, and that they fly faster and perform aerobatics far, far, beyond our military's present abilities. Perhaps even more troubling, Uncle Sam claims they routinely surveil Navy, Army, and Air Force facilities and operations without so much as a By-your-leave. The feds are also quick to deny all linkage to these sick-sauce flying whatevers, insisting neither the American military nor advanced U.S. government technology originate them. Which makes you wonder who does. The Russians perhaps? The Chinese?? Zeta Reticulums???

Though the following remains hearsay, some folks are convinced that a cadre of Hitler's impossibly nerdy scientists produced this phenomena, crafting fantastical flying saucers that defied gravity but never reached full production. Following war's end, American (and possibly Russian) scientists co-opted these anti-grav craft and grew their technology. And voila! Flying Saucer City!

Unquestionably, Germany worked feverishly on a fistful of radical aircraft and guided missile technologies late in the way meant to snatch the Reich from certain ruin. The majority of these projects never left the drawing board, but many Ufologists believe the Nazis produced operative zero-g craft that might have, given more development time, defeated the Allies. What they can't agree on is which of two saucer narratives is the unalloyed truth.

Account one revolves around a strange looking contraption dubbed "Die Glocke" (Bell), the brainchild of Nazi SS Lt General Jakob Sporrenberg (presumably ultra smart) and his scientist clique. He and these nerdster colleagues worked in an experimental weapons facility dubbed Der Riese (“The Giant”) near the Wenceslaus mine close to the Czech border and pioneered the very first UFO. Himmler, terribly impressed, granted their project priority status, the highest Nazi tier of secrecy and funding obtainable.

Die Glocke was approximately 2.7 metres (9 ft) wide and 3.7 to 4.6 metres (12 to 15 ft) high, crafted from hard, heavy metal and shaped into a bell. According to Polish author Igor Witkowski, this contraption featured two counter-rotating cylinders filled with a violet, mercury-like substance code-named “Xerum 525” plus thorium and beryllium peroxides. The device sucked up huge amounts of electricity via a thick cable snaking from a nearby power plant. And when activated, Die Glocke glowed, vibrated, rotated, and lifted off the floor several feet (depending on the amount of juice coursing through its circuits). Unfortunately for its creators, the contraption also radiated a freakish 600 ft. effect zone that formed crystals in animal (and human) tissue, gelled and separated blood, and disintegrated plants into a buttery green substance. Seven project engineers died ghoulish deaths after standing too close to the object.

Keeping Die Glocke secret was no easy task. So in November of 1943, an SS Special Evacuation Kommando unit transported the bell (and staff) to an underground laboratory squirreled beneath the Gandau airfield on the western outskirts of Breslau, 190 miles south east of Berlin. A year later, SS personnel trucked the entire project to Furstenstein Castle in Burgenland, Austria. Like bandits on the run, the unit then schlepped the bell to the abandoned Wenceslas mine (50°37′43″N 16°29′40″E), some 3.1 kilometers (1.9 mi) southeast of the underground works of Project Riese, which was equipped with a test rig for anti-gravity propulsion experiments. In early April 1945, the SS evacuated the Die Glocke (and staff) yet again, this time to Regensburg, perilously close to American forces, where the kommando unit fled for their lives. Among those who remained was SS Lt General Jakob Sporrenberg, who handed over the craft to the Americans in exchange for clemency.

Fast forward twenty years. A similar bell (or acorn) shaped craft made an appearance over Kecksburg, Pennsylvania, a small town located roughly 40 miles from Pittsburgh. On the night of December 9, 1965, thousands of witnesses from six different states plus Ontario, Canada, saw a brilliant light streak through the sky. Sure it wasn't a meteor, citizens jammed phone lines to newspapers, radios, and TV and police stations.

Straightaway, officials interrogated many of these eyewitnesses, including a small boy and his mother, who indisputably saw the object crash in nearby woods. Others confirmed their stories, having felt a “thump” or shudder accompanied by a sonic boom as the object crashed. Local volunteer firefighters responded and ventured upon a curious, acorn-shaped craft, gold or bronze in color, roughly the size of a compact car, partially buried in mud. The curious craft showed no seams, joints, rivets, or means of entry or exit. And no evidence of wreckage or bodies was present, puzzling in the extreme. A military unit arrived swiftly and cordoned off the crash site, herding civilians away from the scene. In little time, soldiers loaded the object onto a flatbed truck, covered it with a tarp, and drove away at speed. Army officers then forbade eyewitnesses from sharing their experiences with anyone—on penalty of incarceration. Was the Kecksburg UFO an American version of Die Glocke?

Scenario 2 posses an entirely different narrative, a curious detour from the first story-line—unless it actually took place too, apart from the first project. That or it's somebody's fertile imagination fueled with yummo liquid refreshment and/or long, happy tokes on ancient thunder lettuce. I present an abridged version of it here for your consideration.

Hitler personally tasked the SS E-IV (Entwicklungsstelle 4), a development unit of the SS occult "Order of the Black Sun," to research and produce alternative energy sources that would liberate the Third Reich from its endangered oil supplies. Given this charge, Nazi scientists, working at a secluded testing facility in Northwest Germany (designated "Hauneburg"), engineered an ingenious electromagnetic-gravitic engine that fashioned Hans Coler's free-energy machine into an energy converter. Scientists coupled this to a Van De Graaf band generator and Marconi vortex dynamo (a spherical tank of mercury), which together quickened powerful rotating electromagnetic fields that manipulated gravity and reduced mass. They then married this drive (now called the Tachyonator-7) to a flyable disc, dubbing the new craft the "H-Gerat" (Hauneburg Device, later shortened to "Haunebu I").

Following this achievement, the SS relocated the project to the Vril Arado Brandenburg aircraft testing facility, where engineers constructed two Haunebu I prototypes. Each was 25 meters in diameter, accommodated a crew of eight, and could reach a staggering velocity of 4,800 km/h (2,982 mph)—but only at low altitude. Additional improvements pushed the machine to 17,000 km/h (10,563 mph) and extended endurance to 18 hours, but the blistering velocity nearly melted the saucers' skin, which SS metallurgists eased with a special armor called Victalen ("Frozen Smoke").

The Haunebu I racked up 52 test flights and led to the larger Haunebu II, 26 meters in diameter. This disc carried nine crewmembers and achieved supersonic speeds of 6,000 to 21,000 km/h (13, 048 mph) with a flight endurance of 55 hours. Both it and the follow-on development, the 32-meter diameter Haunebu II Do-Stra (Dornier STRAtospharen Flugzeug/Stratospheric Aircraft), featured heat shielding of two Victalen hulls. Engineers constructed and tested this craft between 1943-44, making 106 test flights. By 1944, two prototypes of the Haunebu II Do-Stra debuted, massive machines reaching several stories crewed by 20 men. These could reach hypersonic speeds beyond 21,000 km/h.

By early 1945, having overcome most of the saucer's issues, the SS chose Dornier to mass produce the Haunebu II Do-Stra, which by this late stage had become undoable, owing to dire war circumstances. Still, through herculean effort, Dornier built a lone prototype with a 71 meter diameter, the Haunebu III, crewed by 32 and able to achieve speeds of 7,000 to 40,000 km/h. This version featured a triple Victalen hull and could, it's reported, stay airborne for eight weeks. A 120 meter diameter Haunebu IV was planned, but it remained unbuilt. It's further rumored that the US Army removed each flying saucer to the USA along with all evidence of their existence. And of course, the USA welcomed the captured SS scientists with open arms through its dubious "Operation Paperclip" program. By 1948, reports of "flying Saucers" became commonplace.

What do I think of all this? In short, I believe increasing numbers of gravity-defying craft of all shapes and sizes fly through earth's atmosphere at impossible speeds and execute unthinkable acrobatics. You'd have to be supremely simple-minded and/or deaf to reason to not believe in UFOs, given all available data. But did seventy-eight year old Nazi technology spawn this phenomena? That's the $100 million dollar question, to which I respond: It's possible, but to me the above accounts are more invented than factual. I will disclose, however, that I and several of my compeers witnessed UAPs/UFOs (at different times, places, and circumstances); but try as we will, we can't explain their appearance—unless these "craft" hailed from hostile governments or our very own, which nobody's copping to. It's even possible (according to several nameless officials) that they're extraterrestrial in origin. Said enough. Over and out.

Do I like this model? Yeah, it's kind of neat. Can't say I like the shape and structure of the flying saucer itself, but Luft-X's execution of the model, their deft application of resin (not diecast) is first-class: sharp details abound, typified by the saucer's gun turrets. The model's diameter is eight inches, it's hefty, and it comes with interchangeable landing gear, collectible card, and display stand. The paint job ain't that bad either. The problem for those who want one (at this late date) is it's all but impossible to find. Undeniably, the Haunebu II is out of this world, a fun nod to bizarro flying phenomena we have yet to identify.

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