Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Some Thuds on the Tanker, Post-War Mitchells, Remembering Monogram's Century Series, Some Rhinos From RAM 88, A Couple of Huns, and a Lightning Completed

Just Passin' a Little Gas Before We Head For the Fun

Don Jay spent some time in Southeast Asia during the late 60s and early 70s, and has contributed some remarkable photography to this effort as a result of that visit. Here's a photo essay of Thuds on the tanker:

It was fairly easy to get to Utapao from the other Thai bases and there was an existing 'orientation' program that allowed troops the chance to ride on a refueling sortie. Too many guys passed this up and went to the 'R&R' facilities at Pattaya beach. Being of moral fiber, I chose the orientation ride! Note that these photos have been published several times and places over the years and with the internet, no doubt will be published many times more. These were F-105s from the 355TFW out of Tahkli and are on a pre-strike tanker-I believe the Cherry Tanker track in Northeast Thailand.The B&W were a separate flight from -284. These were very typical loads for this timeframe as they were striking targets in Laos. Enjoy. dj

Just waiting his turn, an F-105F flies close to the Boomer's position prior to a top-off, to be followed by ingress into Indian Country. The Thunderchief could refuel using either boom or probe and drogue, thus enabling it to take gas from just about any American tanker in theater. Unfortunately, both refuelling systems were in front of the cockpit, which guaranteed the presence of JP4 fumes in that area following each and every air-to-air refuelling. We normally think of the 105F as a Wild Weasel sort of airplane, but 302 is configured for a conventional strike with a centerline MER full of Mk 82s and a pair of Mk 81s on the  outboard stations.  Don Jay

Here's what it looks like from the boomer's point of view. This is another F-105D from the 355th TFW, probably photographed on the same strike as the F-model we looked at a minute ago. She's carrying the same load as the F.
Don Jay

Finally, it's off the tanker and heading for trouble. Are those guys sharp or what?  Don Jay

It's Quite a Change From the 5th AF to the Peacetime Air Force

But it's a change a number of airplanes made once the war was done. Quite a few North American TB-25 Mitchells ended up as trainers, liaison aircraft, and hacks, mostly in the ZI. It' a type that's rarely depicted outside the wartime environment, but it hung around until the very late 1950s, with a couple of military (as opposed to warbird) survivors making it into the early 1960s as well. The TB-25 even made it to the movies, co-starring with Andy Griffith and Nick Adams in the classic 1958 service comedy No Time For Sergeants! Jim Sullivan sent us a few examples; let's look:

The negative has seen better days but the airplane's in pretty good shape. This B-25J was photographed at Indian Head ILM in 1948. I'm guessing she's trimmed in Insignia Red, and check out those propeller faces, which are polished natural metal with a small anti-glare area on the aft portion of the blades.  Sullivan Collection

Here's 719 again, this time photographed at Wilmington NC, also in 1948. That plated-over tail position looks odd, but the B-25 wasn't combat-effective by the end of the 40s and guns weren't really required, even though the type did see limited service as an EW platform in Korea. Sullivan Collection

"Join the A.F. Now and Fly High". You just don't see American military airplanes with recruiting slogans painted on them any more, but it wasn't that unusual in 1949 when TB-25J 44-29129 was photographed on the ramp at Wilmington, NC. Of interest is the turret base, which is still in place on the forward dorsal fuselage. Some units removed the turret and the base, fairing over both. In this case there's a big honkin' flat plate up there instead, although replacement of the turret wouldn't be all that easy in any event.  Sullivan Collection

45-8898 sits on the ramp at Wilmington. Originally build as a hard-nosed Mitchell, she still manages to look purposeful in spite of her role as a hack. Aside from the classic Boling Field insignia on the nose, the red/white/blue stripes on the vertical stabs are also of interest. This aircraft is in overall natural metal, with no white top to the fuselage, and that it has the more aerodynamic of the two turret removal treatments.  Sullivan Collection

TB-25J 43-36079 sits on the ramp at Wilmington in 1951, resplendent in natural metal, but with black nacelles. Her prop blades are the regulation black, and I have no idea what color the stripes on the nose might be; my first guess would be red, but black or dark blue are just as likely. We may never know. Oh, and check out that Coastie PB-1W taxiing past in the background!  Sullivan Collection

Here's one to fool you if you aren't paying attention; take a look at the serial number and tell me what you think it is. Here's a hint: If you guessed anything besides 44-29885 you're wrong! No B-25Js, TB or otherwise, were built in 1942, Gang! 885's a Clean Machine, and was photographed at Wilmington in 1952. I saw my last real (as opposed to warbird) TB-25 in the air in 1957 or 58 at Sheppard, and it probably looked quite a bit like this, although it most likely had a big ol' ATC badge painted on the nose. Long ago and far away...  Sullivan Collection

It's late in the day as far as active duty B-25s are concerned, but there's no doubt somebody loves this airplane---look at her shine! 44-30439 was photographed at LaCrosse, WI, in 1955; a well-cared-for hack. Nacelles are gloss black ("Jet", in USAF parlance of the day), and her tail position has been entirely plated over. She's a gorgeous airplane, and provides a good way to end this segment.  Sullivan Collection

I Was Thinking About Monogram This Afternoon

More specifically, I was thinking about their Century Series kits. Monogram was an amazing company when it was actually Monogram, way back when it was pretty much the king of the heap as far as good plastic model airplane kits were concerned. Even their earliest stuff was good, and that includes the wood and plastic kits that were sold right up until the beginning of the 60s, but their later models were simply magic.

That, my friends, is my opinion, and it's probably the opinion of most folks who were modeling when Monogram was a vibrant and highly viable force in our hobby. We, or at least I, could spend a lot of time discussing Monogram and their contribution to the hobby, but it's my intention to keep this brief in spite of my proclivity to do otherwise in almost any situation. That's also why we're going to discuss the Monogram Century Series in 1/48th scale for a minute or two. Turn that electronic page if you aren't interested; otherwise, let's see what we've got (or, more properly, had).

First, The Big M did kit the entire Century Series family of fighters which, in the classic sense, was made up of the F-100 through F-106. And yes, before you start writing; I know there were flying F-107 prototypes, and I also know that the F-110 and F-111 are considered by some folks to be in the Century Series too, but then by that logic you'd have to also include the F-117 since its designation was a 3-digit number beginning with "1". In my world the Century Series was the F-100 through F-106, period.

So then, what exactly did Monogram kit? I'm working off memory here, even though the 2/3rds-completed F-106A that got me started on this ramble is sitting a mere foot or so off my keyboard (inspiration, as it were), but the initial batch were the F-100D, F-101B, F-102A (eventually in both Case 10 and Case 20 wing configurations), F-104A/C (with a G in there someplace; I told you I was working off memory!), an F-105F/G (two different iterations of the same kit), an F-105D, and an F-106A.  All were State of the Art for the time in which they were released, and only one (the F-104) has been better done by someone else since that time.

All of those kits were done with raised detailing (which is not quite the boogabear or model spoiler you've been led to believe it might be by the internet crowd), all were dimensionally close enough to be called accurate, and all had highly detailed cockpits and interiors that were only bettered with the advent of resin and photo-etched detail sets. There was no aftermarket to speak of back when these kits were released, although there are quite a few decal sheets available for them thanks to the Krasel Brothers (MicroScale and, later on, SuperScale). You could, were you so inclined, build yourself a darned good model with any of those kits. For that matter, you still can.

What prompted all this commentary, you might easily ask. The answer to that one is quite simple: Most of those kits came out between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s, and nobody's done much better with the Centuries kitted and released since those days. Yes, it's true that we've seen an F-100 family birthed by Trumpeter over the course of the past 18 months or so, but the only area where they've significantly improved on the now-ancient Monogram offering of same is in the arena of buildability. If you want to choose an accurate kit of the "Hun", I'll take The Contender from Morton Grove every time. Somebody (Hobby Boss, maybe?) did an F-105D recently, but my story's the same: Give me the Monogram kit, warts included (and there are a couple of those warts sadly evident on the vertical stab of Monogram's D) every time. Hasegawa did manage to give us a viable F-104 family and in so doing made a significant improvement on what was arguably the Weak Sister of the the Monogram Century Series, but they also covered all of the flying surfaces with extremely heavy rivet detail that has to be filled prior to painting---there's no such thing as a free ride, I suppose.

Anyway, there's a point to all this and yes; I'm finally going to get to it. Every single member of the Air Force's Century Series, every single type, was significant in its own way. Each airplane was a showcase for ground-breaking technology at the time it was introduced into service, failures notwithstanding, and every single one of them had a lengthy service life. All but the F-106 had distinguished combat careers as well (and even the Six deployed to Korea during 1968 in response to the Myaguez incident), making them ideal candidates for modern, up-to-date kits.

In one respect we're fortunate, because those old Monogram kits have held their age extremely well, although the ones made in MG are more crisply molded than the ones now made overseas. Still, wouldn't it be nice if we had a really good "Hun" to work with instead of yet another F-18? Or a really good out-of-the-box RF-101C? I'd buy 'em---how 'bout you?

Picture-Taking Bug Suckers

There was a time when your correspondent (me) used to take pictures of airplanes and, thanks to the advantages provided by a press pass, both with the original RIS and with its more-or-less successor, Aerophile, was able to go to some neat places and photograph some seriously cool stuff. That all came to an end shortly after the F/A-18 got into the Fleet and began replacing virtually every airframe there, even though in point of fact most of them needed replacement, and I lost interest in photographing predominently grey airplanes. (That's why you don't see much of anything past the mid-80s on this site; it's a Personal Interest kind of deal...)

Some of those shoots were really special, with a particular fondness in my memory for the two photo recon events I worked at Bergstrom AFB; RAM 88 and RAM 90. Those were international recce meets that were held every two years and there were lots of neat airplanes in attendance from numerous units, mostly American and Luftwaffe RF-4s with a smattering of TARPS-equipped F-14s and an Aussie "Aardvark" or two to spice things up (and, at RAM 90, a pair of RAF Jaguars too, but that's a story for another day).

But, as usual, we digress. Most of my images from those shoots only exist in negative form and this point and I doubt I'll be printing much of anything anytime soon, but here are a couple of teasers for you to enjoy in the meantime:

Here's a photo that wasn't taken at RAM. During the 80s the ANG that provided a considerable portion of the recon assets for the USAF here in the States. Some of those Guard birds were awfully pretty, especially when tarted up with special markings;  65-0822 is an RF-4C-24-MC of the 165th TRS/123rd TRW, Kentucky ANG photographed at Laughlin AFB on 26 March 1988. She was a Grey Bird but with an immaculate paint job. Wing and squadron badges were under the windshield (on opposite sides) in outline form, with the legend "Phantom's Finest" on the intakes in two shades of grey to compliment the camouflage. The fin cap was white, with "Kentucky" spelled out on the band. 0822 was transferred to the Spanish Air Force year after this was taken.  Phillip Friddell

A really neat fringe benefit to RAM attendance was the ability, under the right circumstances, to spend part of the shoot at Last Chance watching the aircraft get a final inspection before turning onto the active to launch. Here's my version of an Artsy-Fartsy shot; a pair of RF-4Cs from the 106th TRS/117th TRW, Alabama ANG, at RAM 88 on 21 August of that year. 893 is taxiing into position for her pre-launch check, while the "Rhino" in the foreground is being held and inspected. Sharp-eyed readers will notice that the pilot's hands are out of the cockpit and resting on the frame of the windscreen. It was hot that day, and the jet wash from multiple F-4s didn't help much in that regard. Check out the horizontal stabs on 893; they normally look like that on the F-4 when it's taxiing.  Phillip Friddell

Artsy-Fartsy strikes again! The same pair of Birmingham RF-4Cs sit at Last Chance. A number of military aviators, both past and present, read these missives; this shot's for them. There's no way anyone could possibly understand the sensory experience of this sort of thing without having actually been there; the airplanes are in movement preparing to launch, you can see the heat distortion off the AB cans, the air is filled with the aroma of burning JP-4, and the noise, even with ear protection, can only be described as thunderous!  Phillip Friddell

The High Rollers from Nevada's 192nd TRS/152nd TRG were at RAM 88 too. Here's 64-1021 holding at Last Chance getting ready to go. The engines are idleing and the pilot's hands are well clear of the cockpit as the pre-launch check begins. Oh yeah!!!  Phillip Friddell

Bergstrom was a hopping place when RAM was in town, but the normal daily business of operating an Air Force base had to continue in spite of the festivities. Here's an RF-4C-19-MC from the 67th TRW on short final on the 21st of August, shot from Last Chance while waiting for more RAM participants to taxi up. The 67th was tenant at BAFB and operated there until the facility was closed and given to the City of Austin for their new airport---that's part of the Austin skyline in the background. 757 was from the third production batch of RF-4Cs and went to the MASDC facility in 1991.  Phillip Friddell

Hey Look, It's a Hun!

Don Jay and I were e-mailing back and forth about the Late SEA War Games a few days ago and it was somehow mentioned that we hadn't run any F-100s here in quite a while. Don's got a fondness for the type and sent along a couple of shots to remedy that particular situation.

Sittin in the Pen in Udorn, watchin' the time slip away (with apologies to Otis). 58-1222 is an F-100F-20-NA and is from the correct serial range to have been involved in Wild Weasel I, although I can find nothing that links her to the program. She was with the 614th TFS/35th TFW when Don shot her. Modelers take note of the way the paint is burned off the aft fus, and the appearance of the metal beneath the paint; this is a fairly typical presentation of the effect.  Don Jay

A Misty FAC F-100F prepairs to hit the tanker, date and place unknown. Those appear to be CBUs hanging off the outboard stations---this bird's gettin' ready for the boogie.  Don Jay

It's Finally Done and I'm Glad of It!

OK, let's take a quick survey: All of you who have built a Hasegawa P-38G raise your hands. Now then, all of you who actually enjoyed the experience, raise your hands! Yep, it's just like I thought...

Most of us like the way the P-38 looks and its service record speaks for itself, but it's never been an easy aircraft to model, not with those twin booms, twin tails, and goofy canopy to contend with. Nope, it's a Test of something-or-other to build; there's no doubt about that. Take the one you're about to see as an example. It was started nearly two years ago and worked on in fits and spurts until it finally hit the paint shop a few months ago (well, nearly a year ago, but who's counting?) where it languished waiting for another bout of enthusiasm/masochism to strike. It's finally done, or as done as it's ever going to get. Here's how it turned out.
Sometimes I like what I do and sometimes I don't. This is one of the ones I'm not overly fond of, but the weathering (which shows up a lot better in real life than it does in these photos) came out the way I wanted it to, which pretty much justified the pain and suffering incurred during the course of the project. That shiny oval patch inside the starboard nacelle is a stick-on provided by the kit to simulate the polished aluminum panel that was on the real airplane in that location. It's a neat idea but way too thick---in the extremely unlikely event that I ever build another P-38 I'll probably use the kit offerings as templates and make those panels from Bare Metal Foil or similar. Readers with a functioning memory may recall that the props were installed opposite from where they should have been when last we saw this model; that's now corrected.

A slightly different view. The upper surface paint on this one is four different mixed shades of OD, while areas of the airframe heavily travelled by people (that means "walked on") were done by random "scratching" with a light green colored pencil, very similar in tone to yellow zinc chromote, followed by an extremely thin (and highly random) overspray of one of the lightened olive drabs. It work pretty well but doesn't show up worth a darn in any photo I've taken of the model. You can never have too many P-40s, but I'm not so sure about P-38s...

The Relief Tube

Either I'm not making mistakes or you guys aren't catching them any more---we've only got one correction this time around, and that's regarding the goofy nose that was on one of the A-26 shots we ran a few days back. Frank Emmett tells me he thinks it's the nose for the still-born 75mm gun project Douglas tried with the airframe. Anybody out there have anything showing the gun installation in place? Please get in touch with us at if you do.

Now for a request. Don Jay has been collecting photography of airplanes related to the Vietnam Fracus for a number of years, and has sent in a couple of shots along with an inquiry:

While researching the battle of Dak Seang in Ap of 1970, I came across these photos. They were reported to be photos of an A-1 shot down at the airfield at DakSeang. The only problem is that this isn't the airfield at DakSeang and I find no record of this A-1's loss during Ap 70 timeframe. Can anyone help correctly ID this incident? Don't know who the photographer was but they were military and the date may be April/May of 70 but suspect that is an error. Area is in the A-Shau valley near the tri-border area. dj

Any landing you can walk away from... 314 is the crashed A-1 Don's referring to---note the jettisoned canopy and the inflated raft (?) in the cockpit. If you look closely at the photo of the airfield below you can see that yellow whatsis sticking out of the cockpit there too.  Can any of you provide more information regarding this photo?   USAF via Don Jay

OK Gang, where was this taken? Don's been to A-Shau and is certain the photo was taken there. Any ideas?  USAF via Don Jay

And finally, Tommy Thomason has some comments regarding the paintwork on the VF-17 F4U-1 I ran a couple of installments ago: The VF-17 F4U picture in your New Year's blog is an excellent example of what I call the Norfolk paint scheme for lack of a better explanation. See
Tommy  Thanks, Tommy.

And that's it for now. Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon.

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