Thursday, January 20, 2011

It Looks a Lot Like a B-29, The Electronic Intruder, Some Pre-Shading, A Primordial AWACS, and Some More Tanker Stuff

Sometimes Bigger's Actually Better

That was certainly the case with the Boeing B-50, a stretch of the basic B-29 design that resulted in a far more capable aircraft than its sire, and who's active service life extended well into the 1960s. There's no real reason to start off with the B-50 today, but then there's no reason not to do it either. In my world that could be taken as Logic, so let's look at some big airplanes!

The B-50 never had to go to war as a bomber, which was probably a Very Good Thing considering it would have been opposed by first-generation jet fighters that would, in all likelihood, have savaged the type thoroughly in combat. It did, however, participate in the Cold War as a recon and weather bird, and more than a few were lost on ops in that arena. 47-0122 was built as a B-50B-40-BO, then modified to RB-50E configuration, then finally modified into an RB-50F. She's illustrated here in her RB-50E guise while serving with the 1370th PMCW. She finished out her career on the scrap heap at Davis Monthan.  AMC History Office via Mark Morgan

Same unit, different paint job. 47-0139 entered the world as a B-50B-50-BO but was subsequently modified to RB-50F configuration. Note the lack of the arctic conspicuity markings so evident on the photo of 47-0122 above. 0139 survived her Cold War duties to be transferred to MASDC in 1966. She was scrapped out two years later.  AMC History Office via Mark Morgan

Talk about an early B-50! Here's the 4th B-50B-1-BO built; 46-0005. She's depicted here after conversion to WB-50A status. Those weather ships got around, going to places they really shouldn't have been visiting and occasionally getting shot at for their trouble. Sometimes I can figure out what happened to the airframes we depict, but this one's fate is a mystery to me.  AMC History Office via Mark Morgan

Here's one you may not have seen before---she's the sole JB-50D, converted from her B-50D-115-BO build state. This bird led an interesting life, first as a bomber, then as a WB-50D, then finally as a JB-50D assigned to Systems Command for testing "detection devices". A retired USAF Lt Col made me aware of the type back in the early 1980s when he showed me a slide of her, along with the comment "Do you see anything odd about this airplane?". I'm going to ask you the same question: Do you see anything odd about this airplane? Presuming you didn't, check out that nose installation---it's on upside-down. Said Retired LC, who was assigned to SysCom and also the program at the time this bird was flying, mentioned that the mod was intended to put the optically-flat bombardier's panel facing upwards but would only smile when I asked why. We may never know the whole story on that one...  Friddell Collection

It Looks Like a Tadpole to Me

But then again, all the members of the A-6 family make me think of tadpoles. We're familiar with the attack and tanker components of the family, and most of us have a passing familiarity with the current EW platform based on the Intruder, the EA-6B, as well, but there's another family member that's not so well-known, It's the initial electronics warfare version of the airframe; the EA-6A. Here are a couple of photos:

If there's one classic Marine EW scheme, this has to be it!  148616 is shown here in all her pre-TPS Easter Egg glory while assigned to VMCJ-2. It was relatively easy to keep those shiny, pre-tactical paint-schemed airplanes clean, and this bird's spotless! Back in the 70s it was relatively uncommon to find nicknames painted on American military airplanes, making "Buzzard" an unusual marking. I like it!  Nankivil Collection

The NAV flew the Alpha model of the EA-6 too, but only in the reserves. This one's from VAQ-209, and she's yet another Clean Machine. 209 was assigned to Reserve Air Wing 20 when this photo was taken in December of 1982. The wing-mounted ECM pods are ALQ-76s, while the "towel rack" mounted to the inboard pylons is part of the ALQ-100 suite. Weathering is very much a Time and Place sort of thing; modelers take note that these are clean airplanes.  Nankivil Collection

This shot of VAQ-209's 151598 may well qualify as one of the prettiest in-flight shots I've ever seen. What a gorgeous photo! (That guy's flying some pretty good form too!)  Nankivil Collection

151599 was serving with VMAQ-4 when Rick Morgan took this shot in August of 1984. The "steering wheel" on the wing-mounted ALQ-76 is a protective cover that will be removed before flight, while the pod on the outboard station is an ALE-41 chaff dispenser. That's an unusual paint demarcation on the nose but it's pretty, don't you think? Rick told me once that he liked this scheme because of the "Seahawks" emblem on the tail. I always figured it was because of the tail code...  Rick Morgan

It's Easy to Over-Do It But Sometimes Pre-Shading is a Good Thing

You've probably all figured it out by now, but in case you haven't I'll say it plain; I'm not a big fan of pre-shading model airplanes. That's because most of the people who participate in the application of that particular modeling technique tend to overdo it a bit, which can make the finished result look really goofy and entirely non-prototypical. (That's our word for today---"non-prototypical"---use it often and amaze your friends while driving your college English professors to drink at the same time!)

Every once in a while it's a viable technique, though, and it can work really well when simulating stretched fabric is your goal in life. I've been off on one of my periodic Great War adventures of late, and decided (for Lord knows what reason) that my very own personal life wasn't worth living without an Eduard Morane Saulnier "N" on the shelf, thus leading to the building of same. It's not much of a model, being really tiny and also possessed of just one lonely single set of wings (it's a monoplane in case you didn't know such things) which gives us an opportunity to add detail via technique; a little bit of extra work can work wonders on such models. With that in mind I did that pre-shade thing on the flying surfaces as seen below:

And here's all there is too it. Just mask the valleys between the tops of the ribs and paint the ribs black, or maybe dark grey or even dark brown---it doesn't really matter. It doesn't have to be particularly neat, although neatness counts (especially if you're going through an "I-can-see-light-through-the-wing" effect, which I wasn't in this particular instance) and is generally a Good Thing. Once you've stripped off the tape, all that's necessary is to paint the wings with the Official Clear-Doped Fabric Color of your choice. Use really thin paint and several coats of it (you do normally thin your paint for airbrushing, right?) and you'll end up with a pretty fair representation of said clear-doped fabric.

And here's what you end up with if you're careful. The intention here was to get the effect of a set of ribs under the wing's fabric and this came out ok, I think. As with any technique, there's more than one way you can do it and I encourage you to experiment with the effect. My personal tastes cause me to use this one for simulating fabric and not much else, but that's just me. The point is that it works pretty well and you might want to try it out for yourself sometime.

Primal AEW

If there's one thing that's essential to successful carrier operations, it's keeping said carrier safe so the aforementioned carrier ops can be successfully conducted. That Essential Truth caused the Navy to develop airborne early warning aircraft fairly early in the game, with both carrier and land-based examples becoming increasingly prevalent in the years immediately following the conclusion of the Second World War.

The Boeing B-17 was rapidly approaching the end of the road in terms of being an effective bomber but was still a useful airframe and was therefore pressed into service for a wide variety of post-War missions, one of which was AEW for the Navy. Boeing converted some 32 B-17F and G Flying Fortresses to that configuration between 1945 and 1947 and the resulting airframes served until the early 50s when they were replaced by the far more effective WV-2 Warning Star. You just don't see much on the type, which makes these photographs from the Jim Sullivan collection of particular interest.

What do you think of when somebody says B-17? Here's the answer for most folks; a stately procession of airplanes forging their way deep into the airspace of the Third Reich as typified by "Mary Ruth", a B-17F shown here on a raid over Germany early in 1944. The Flying Fortress was a state of the art bomber in 1942, but was aging rapidly by the time this photo was taken. The writing was on the wall...  Sullivan Collection

How do you turn a B-17 into a PB-1, you might well ask yourself. The conversion was relatively simple, involving the addition of supplemental fuel tanks in what was once the bomb bay, installation of hard points between the engines to allow the carriage of external fuel tanks, com gear to facilitate incorporation of a primitive on-board CIC, and most importantly, the installation of an AN/APS-20B search radar. The early examples of the type retained the ability to carry defensive armament as depicted by this PB-1W of VP-51, photographed at NAS Norfolk in 1946. This example led an interesting life, being constructed as a B-17G-95-DL (44-83864) and subsequently transfered to the Navy to become BuNo 77132. She then left the service to become a civil aircraft, which life included a bried stint in Mexico, after which she enjoyed a Hollywood career with the television series "Twelve O'Clock High". She ended her days as a fire bomber and crashed to destruction on December 7th, 1972, in New Mexico. Sullivan Collection

Here's a shot of BuNo 77237 (44-83874), yet another B-17G-95-DL, while serving with VX-4 in the late 40s. She's stripped of her armament but carries instead a tantalizing array of antennae for us to ponder. The paint finish appears to be a well-worn and somewhat faded Glossy Sea Blue. 77237 also transitioned to the civilian world but met a far calmer end that 132, being scrapped out in 1963. Sullivan Collection

The Coast Guard was another big user of the type. Here's 77257, a PB-1G, as photographed at Wilmington, NC in 1948. The Coasties operated the PB as a long-range SAR aircraft, and the G models featured a completely different electronics suite as a result. Sullivan Collection

Happy Snaps From Boomer

It seems like we've run more than our share of pictures of airplanes on the tanker of late. Mark Morgan's gone digging in the archives for us and come up with a few more, which is as good a way as any to end the day.

We probably don't need to discuss my ongoing affection for Lockheed's F-104 Starfighter. This photo shows a Charlie model formating with a KC-135A, time an place unknown.  AMC History Office via Mark Morgan

Somewhere over SEA... The pylon-mounted M117 and the lack of tailcode dates this photo to the late-1965/early-1966 time frame. You may recall that there was never a bomb shortage in theater, which is undoubtedly why this F-105D is heading Up North with only a pair of bombs for an ordnance load. There wasn't a bomb shortage, though...  AMC History Office via Mark Morgan

Another batch of Thunderchiefs heading for trouble. This early-War shot shows a flight of "Thuds" armed for the anti-personnel roll, a mission that wouldn't last long over the North.  AMC History Office via Mark Morgan

The F-4 did it all in SEA. Here's an unidentified F-4C configured for the MiG CAP role topping off prior to ingress. Wish we could see the rest of the airplane...  AMC History Office via Mark Morgan

Another MiG chaser. This Phantom's beat to snot as far as her paintwork is concerned, but you can bet that airframe's in good shape! Modelers take note of her finish!  AMC History Office via Mark Morgan

The Relief Tube

This installment was a little later than we're used to seeing---it was one of those Life Gets in the Way deals. Apologies, and we'll try to get back on schedule for next week!

You may note that I finally figured out how to put links on this site. It wasn't rocket science, but I've never been very bright so it took awhile for me to figure out how to do it, for which I also tender my profound apologies, etc., etc. In my view those links will take you to quality sites and I think they're well worth a look; with any luck you'll enjoy them too.

One site I didn't put there was one that an old friend sent to me the other day. There's a lot of good stuff there but some of the captions are goofy and a large number of the photos come from those LIFE archives we've been seeing so much of lately, which made me reluctant to list the place as a straight-up link. It's definitely worth your time, though, and is well worth checking out. The place is called Jet Pilot Overseas and the links attached to it will also produce a Navy-related site, Navy Pilot Overseas. The link is and you might want to take a look at it.

We ran a couple of shots of a crashed A-1H last time, along with an inquiry from Don Jay. Rick Morgan took a look at his records and offers the following insight:

Phil: Concerning the crashed A-1H, it would seem to have to be 135314, or 52-135314 in Air Force. Chris Hobson’s “Vietnam Air Losses” notes that USAF A-1H 52-135314 was listed in records in TWO losses.

1. 18 Jun 71: 1 st SOS, 56 th SOW, Capt Robert Witte KIA: On a Barrel Roll mission near Ban Na and the Plain of Jars; hit by AAA, crashed.

2. 18 Jul 71: 1 st SOS, 56 th SOW, (pilot unknown): Barrel Roll escort mission in Northern Laos; hit by AAA, crashed near Ban Sun Visay, 15 East of Luang Prabang, pilot rescued. No indications of it ending up on a runway.

I would guess it’s the second one listed- but have no other information.
And neither one of us have any idea why someone took the time to stick an inflated life raft in the cockpit of that airplane!
Finally, I've developed an interest in the post-War USAF in Japan or South Korea ca. 1945-1950. If any of you have photography of same and are interested in sharing it with our readers please forward it to me at  . As always, be good to your neighbor and we'll see you again real soon.

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