Monday, July 26, 2010

Letters; We Get Letters, Whale Stuff, and the Double Dagger

It's In The Mail

To me, anyways. We published day-before-yesterday (almost, but not quite, a full week later than intended) and, as usual, we could've done some things a little bit better. Here are a couple of missives for your consideration:

First, from Tommy Thomason, a reference to more FJ-4 stuff at his blog. If you aren't already following Tommy's work you really need to start doing it. His site is, in my opinion, a must-read as far as naval aviation is concerned, and is well-worth bookmarking.

Good stuff in yesterday's post. Feel free to reference either of my blogs when appropriate (in this case see, which adds before/after pictures of the FJ-4 horizontal tail, and or use the pictures.

Best regards,
And I even made it easy for you! Just click on the link (that's Computer Talk, ya'll...) and you'll be on Tommy's site before you know it. Shazam!
I knew when I published that 30-year old FJ piece of Rick's that it might be dated, but it really came off pretty good, I think---in my world it's stood the test of time pretty well. Rick had a comment about it, though, and since it's his piece that I shamelessly published (the fault/blame therefore lies entirely with me) it's only fair to publish a correction!
Oh boy, now you’re embarrassing me; putting up research material over 30 years old! There is so much on here (that's) wrong now I don’t know where to start; CRIPES, I don’t even have a copy of this in my files any more! Among other things, I have tried to avoid the term ‘decommission” when referring to squadrons ever since Bob Lawson explained the officially correct term for that period was ‘disestablished’, at least until 1998, when the terms ‘activate/deactivate’ were adopted. (not that many seem to care- even official notices from the office of CNO still use the ‘wrong’ terminology).

Let’s just say it was a humble start back in the days when material was hard to come by, correspondence was by Postal mail and before everyone was an Internet expert As to other references on the type, I’d recommend Tommy Thomason’s book on Navy strike types and Steve Ginter’s books are good too, although I don’t believe he has an FJ-3 edition out yet. Concerning the VF-126 shot, they actually didn’t become the west coast F-14 FRS (that was VF-124), but were the Miramar instrument RAG, first with F9F-8Ts and then TA-4s. Much later they became an adversary unit.


Gotta remember, 124 had the Tomcats; 124 had the Tomcats...  Thanks for the correction, Morgo! And, to all of you who have yet to get it, may I firmly recommend Rick's book Tip of the Spear, Schiffer, 2007.

Put this one on your Must Have list if you have any interest whatsoever in American naval aviation. The book is that good.

Finally, do you remember that F-104 photo I ran last time around? (As if you could forget since it was only day-before-yesterday!) Don Jay, who submitted the photo, knows of my soft spot for the "Zipper" and he's sent along another photo or two, but these offer something just the least little bit different. (I was grinning when I wrote that, ya'll...)

 Sometimes the F-104 ended up being used as a chase plane, primarily due to its exceptional speed. I seriously doubt it could pace this airplane, though, even with it carrying that somewhat unusual airframe! Lockheed via Don Jay

Here's another shot of the airplane that isn't an F-104. I'll let Don tell you about the photographs.  Lockheed via Don Jay

Hi Phil, Since you enjoy the F-104, here is something for you.

Most folks know about the SR-71 program but few know of or know the difference between the A-12, YF-12, and the SR-71. Well how about the MD-21?

The A-12 was the original 'Blackbird' built for the CIA-many have heard the name Oxcart-which was its operational codename. 13 were built. In addition to these 13, Lockheed built two modified A-12s to carry a drone. The ac was called the M-21. The drone was the ramjet powered D-21. When mated, the system was known as the MD-21. The major difference between the A-12 and the M-21 was the removal of the 'Q' bay and insertion of a second cockpit for the Launch Control Officer.

Actual operations of the D-21 are shrouded in mystery and there are many conflicting stories as to what they did or didn't do. The operational name was 'Senior Bowl'. Several missions were conducted over China, N. Korea and N. Vietnam. Results were supposedly disappointing but our friends in China have one on display in one of their museums dedicated to us imperialists. I can only imagine their consternation of watching this drone fly over the entire country at 90k and Mach WOW!! That alone was worth it.

M-21 60-6941 was lost in July 66 in an operational accident. The last reported launch of the MD-21 combo was in the late 66 timeframe. The D-21 survived to be mated to the B-52 and the last known op was in 1970.

Attached are photos from the 68 timeframe and as you can see in the first one, the 'zipper' is the chase plane. Of course what other ac could keep up with these hybrids? M-21 60-6940 in these photos resides in Seattle Wash. at the Museum of Flight. The D-21 you see at Pima Museum in Tucson is next to an SR-71.

All photos courtesy of Lockheed by some guy in an F-104!!

And all I can say to that one is I'm impressed! Many thanks, Don!
Ode to the Whale
How about a tribute to a Navy airplane that isn't an FJ-Something-or-Other? We've never done anything on That Other Douglas Attack Airplane, the A3D Skywarrior, so today's as good a time as any.
And you thought that catapult launches were hairy! The "Whale" could be fitted with RATO bottles, which dramatically decreased the take-off roll. Said launch assistance generally increased the excitement level in the cockpit, but it was a good way to get a heavily-loaded airplane out of a tight field. This A3D-2 belonged to VAH-4 and this particular takeoff added a new interpretation to the whole "it's not a job; it's an adventure" thing!  US Navy via R. Morgan
This may well be the most famous "Whale" picture ever taken. It depicts 138974 from Heavy Four when stationed on the Oriskany during 1966, and that's a Mk84 2000 lb bomb falling away from the aircraft. There's no telling about that bomb, but the airplane must've scared the Bad Guys to death!  US Navy via R. Morgan
The Navy tried out an over-all dark green camouflage during 1965 and 66. Here's one of VAH-4s birds wearing it when assigned to Air Wing 11 aboard Kitty Hawk; the aircraft has just trapped and the cross-deck pendant is still attached to the hook. Note the opened escape hatch above the canopy; this was SOP for the A-3. No bang seats were fitted!  US Navy via R. Morgan
Here's a "Whale" from an earlier era. This A3D from VAH-11 launches off the FDR in 1962. Note that opened escape hatch.  Frank Garcia
Here's another view of a bird from Heavy Eleven taking the cat shot. The HUP was a normal part of flight ops, and there's little doubt the guys in that Skywarrior are glad it's there! US Navy via Frank Garcia
Let's jump ahead a few years to April 24th, 1978. A VC-1 TA-4J formates with one of VAQ-33's ERA-3Bs during the 1978 iteration of Operation Rimpac. By this time the "Whale" had long-since left the attack community, while the "Tinker Toy" still had a few years left before its retirement. Douglas attack aircraft dominated the flight decks of the US Navy for some 20 years, with ADs, A3Ds, and A4Ds sharing the deck during the fifties and the first part of the sixties. Ed Heinemann knew how to design an airplane! Navy KN-26934
And Now For Something a Little Different
We all know the A-3 was originally an attack bomber, but it's usefulness in that role had long-since passed when the Navy decided to hang this particular weapon off of it for one phase of a test program:
Sometimes a big, heavy attack airplane can prove useful in the test role. This XAIM-54A Phoenix is shown during its 1966 evaluation at Point Mugu, and is mounted to a pylon attached to the port fuselage of a "Whale". When you think about it, the A3D might have been fairly effective as a platform for the Phoenix, but we'll never know. It's probably for the best. US Navy KN-13240
Rub-a-Dub-Dub, Two Men in a Tub
Convair's F-102A Delta Dagger was quite an airplane when it first entered service (after it was de-bugged!), and a two-seat trainer was considered to be necessary for flight training and proficiency on the Air Force's first supersonic interceptor. Nobody pays much attention to the TF-102A anymore, so it's only appropriate that we feature it today.
South Carolina's 157th FIS was flying the F-102A during 1971, so it was a natural that they have a TF or two hanging around for proficiency training. This TF-102A-26-CO basks in the sun on the ramp at McEntire ANGB on 19 August. The APUs indicate that a flight is in the offing. Note the striped treatment on the upper speed brake door.  Jim Sullivan
Nobody ever called the "Double Deuce" pretty, and it wasn't. Supersonic speed was possible, but only in a dive, and its usefulness was confined to training and, late in its life, flying BDA missions for B-52 Arclight strikes in SEA. This shot defines the aircraft's built-in headwind, and also shows both the taxi light and the Ram Air Turbine to good avantage. The airframe is 56-2374, an F-102A-45-CO, as it appeared in September of 1968. This airplane would make a pretty neat model, I think. Jim Sullivan
Here's our friend 55-4034 at Last Chance, getting ready to launch. She's carrying an infrared sensor ball on the upper nose, and the RAT is deployed. Of particular interest are the vortex generators spaced around the front of the canopy. Aerodynamics was a relative thing when the TF-102 was designed! Jim Sullivan
Scramble! 56-2339, a TF-102A-41-CO, launches for a practice intercept on  23 August, 1969. Note the tail markings, which differ completely from those on the other aircraft in this series. Jim Sullivan
Homeward bound, 56-2363 prepares to recover on 25 May 1968. You could never call it pretty, but I'd love to see a kit of it, or even a decent conversion kit for the elderly but still-viable Monogram F-102A. What a nifty airplane!  Jim Sullivan
And We're Done for the Day
I'm trying to figure out what to build next, so I'm off to ponder the ramifications of that weighty issue. In the meantime, be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon.

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