Monday, April 18, 2011

Some Deuce Facts While We're Waiting for More Pictures, One Day in April a Long Time Ago, And Now We Know, and An Early Recce Bomber

Stuff You Didn't Know You Needed to Know, But You Do

At this moment, this very moment in time, we're anxiously awaiting the arrival of some more F-102 photography to share with you but, until that moment comes, we thought we'd mention a couple of things you ought to know if your heart beats faster at the mere mention of the name Delta Dagger. Neither one is what you'd call a Primal Experience or even an extensive study, but one is essential to your understanding of the F-102, while the other is just neat and you ought to know it.

First, let's look at wings. That's the thing that confuses a whole lot of people when they start thinking about the "Deuce", and it's all because of that whole Case thing. For those of you who don't remember, or maybe never even knew, there were two distinct wings to be found on the F-102, the Case X (that's pronounced "Case Ten" and not "Case Ex", by the way) and the Case XX (with Case XX being pronounced "Case Twenty", but we're guessing you've already made that modest jump in logic.

In any event, the actual difference between the two couldn't be simpler; the Case X wing has reflexed wing tips, which means they turn up at the ends, while the Case XX wing is somewhat more cambered and maintains that camber all the way out to the wingtip, with no reflex. Testing of the new wing was performed in 1957, with F-102A 56-1317 being the Case XX guinea pig. 56-1001 was the participating Case X airframe, with the actual test program spanning a whopping 11 hours/35 minutes of flight time in 56-1317 and 4 hours/30 minutes in 56-1001. The results were pretty significant.

Overall handling characteristics were improved in all flight regimes, and maximum speed was bumped upwards some .06 Mach at high altitude, while altitude capability was increased by approximately 4,200 feet, to a 56,000-ft ceiling. The negative trade-off came in range, with an approximate 5% decrease at low and medium altitudes. The mod was well worth the doing.

This all brings to mind another interesting point, one that's overlooked or simply not known by most aviation enthusiasts and scale modelers. Start paying attention to photographs of F-102s sitting on the ground, and pay particular attention to the main mounts. Why? Because, in addition to a potential difference in wheels from aircraft to aircraft, the earliest operational F-102s had a different main-mount arrangement, known to the Air Force as "unskewed" (as opposed to the far more common and somewhat later "skewed") landing gear. Almost all production "Deuces" had the latter, with the gear appearing to drop out of the wings at a slight forward angle, while really early F-102s had the so-called "unskewed" mains, in which the gear drops straight out of the wings. The reason for the "skew" was strictly functional, as it greatly reduced minimum take-off speed by allowing the elevons to "bite" somewhat earlier, thus allowing the nose to rotate earlier as well. This was particularly helpful on aircraft with the Case X wing, which had a smaller elevon than did the Case XX.

Here's a chart from the Air Force, dated 22 November 1957, that defines the difference in the two wings. It makes for interesting reading, we think.  F-102A Case XX Wing Phase IV, Performance, USAF

And a graphic explanation of that whole skewed landing gear thing. TO F-102A-1-4 states that the unskewed gear was only found on 15 service aircraft; thanks to Mike Druzilowski (via Doug Barbier) for that information.  F-102A Case XX Wing Phase IV, Performance, USAF

And now for our other Amazing "Deuce" Fact. A short year before the launch of Sputnik, an Italian rocket expert named Aurelio Robotti had approached the Air Force with the notion of using an F-102A, mated to a V-2, to achieve orbital flight. There were weight issues, however, and the scheme eventually evolved into an F-102 launched on a dolly, with what was then known as a "bumper" rocket vehicle strapped beneath it. The concept was simple; the "Deuce" would launch, with RATO assistance and minimal fuel, hit a tanker on climbout, and launch the satellite vehicle at 42,000 feet, whereupon said bumper vehicle would zip right on up into orbit. It may or may not have been a good idea; we'll never know. Here's a conceptual drawing showing what it might have looked like:

Up, up and away! Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. From an article in Quest magazine via Marty Isham

Some More Folks We Owe

There was a time in history when Americans were known for innovation in the face of adversity. These next photographs chronicle such an event. We've just passed the 69th anniversary of Doolittle's Tokyo Raid, in case you'd forgotten. Here's a quick salute to those guys:

If the B-25 had never accomplished one other thing, its place in history was assured on that Spring day back in 1942. There are a number of decent histories of the event so we're not going to recount it here, but we are going to make a correction to the original caption for this photo, or at least add to the confusion. Actually, we're now on our second correction! The shot is black and white and looks vintage, which it is to an extent. The airframe is an RB-25 modified by North American to resemble Jimmy Doolittle's B-25B from the raid. Here's a brief note from Dave Menard about the foul-up: 

Phil, That photo of "Doolittles" B-25B isn't! She is an RB-25D brought back to close to B standards as was possible in 1957 or so by NAA-LA and then flown cross country to be donated to the USAF Museum, where she sits today. Check out the cowlings on the bird in the photo with shots of Bs taken in the day. OK? cheers, dave     If I repeat this one enough times we just may get it right...                  USAF via Don Jay

It was tough even getting to the party that April Day. Jimmy Doolittle's aircraft were specially modified for the mission, (and then unknowingly un-modified at the depot prior to embarcation, thus reducing their range and compromising the mission) for the trip. Take a look at Hornet's attitude in relation to the horizon; the Naval Aviators in our midst will tell you that sea state is not to be sneezed at. They launched, they bombed, and most of them came home. Some of those guys are still around and show up at airshows and commemorative events when they can. If you ever get the chance, you need to meet them and shake their hand. They're some of the bravest men you'll ever meet. Navy via Don Day 

The Mystery Kit Revealed

And, if you're reading it here, you're about a week late, because Tamiya more or less announced their new, super-detailed 1/32nd scale P-51D right after we published our last installment of this missive and, if we can believe what we read, a lot of folks are soiling their undies over it even as we speak.

Why do we tell you this, given the fact that we aren't normally in the habit of engaging in such things? That's hard to say, unless it's because there are so many other airplanes we'd rather have seen kitted first. Our personal list is extensive and includes a number of airplanes from The Big One that have never been properly done (a Hawker Tempest has been mentioned as next year's Tamiya Surprise, but it wouldn't be much of a surprise if that were true, since we've already heard about it), as well as quite a few from the early days of the Jet Age, but it is what it is and the simple truth is that said Mustang will sell like hot cakes. The old Williams Brothers was all about altruism. Tamiya, like most companies these days, is all about making money and turning a profit (those two things don't necessarily go hand-in-hand, by the way). The published price seems fair enough, but your never-humble correspondent doesn't get overly worked up about yet another P-51, even one that promises to be museum-quality right out of the box.

Still, there's a lot you can do with that sort of thing so, when it comes out, if one of our loyal readers will build a museum-quality model from that museum-quality kit, preferably in Korean War or ANG markings, photograph it, and send said photos to us at the address we might publish them. Then again we might not, but most likely we would, so give it a try. What's there to lose?

An Early Jet Recce Bird

Frequent contributor Don Jay was doing some spring cleaning last week and came across a really tasty shot of a Korean War-era RB-45A, which he sent a long and which we promptly published. That photo in turn caused me to contact Mark Morgan and ask what he might have on the type. The following pictures are his response.

Here's 48-0001, a straight B-45C, in flight. Study this photo carefully and then compare the airplane to the RB-45Cs that follow. Life is Change. (The Jefferson Airplane said that.)  North American Aviation via Mark Morgan
Here's something you don't see every day. 48-0011 sits on the compass rose, with Mark's best guess being that the photo was shot at the Douglas plant at El Segundo. Like most RB-45s, this example survived the Cold War to be scrapped out in 1957.  AMC History Office via Mark Morgan
If you don't have much range you have to pass a little gas every now and then, and no First Generation jet bomber could be said to have much in the way of legs. 48-0012 is in flight near Edwards AFB hanging off a KB-29, giving us an excellent view of the configuration of the aft fuselage.  She was a proud bird when this photo was taken, but she was stricken at RAF Sculthorpe in 1957 and sent to Chateaurous AB in France for use as a fire training aid later that year.  North American 153-92-24C via Boeing via Mark Morgan
And another one on the tanker. 48-0031 takes a little gas from a 91st AREFS KB-29. 0031 survived the Cold War too, being surplused out in 1957 and sent to Rhein Main for use as a fire training aid, a sad, if useful, end.  AMC History Office via Mark Morgan
Every once in a while the Tornado even made it to the headlines. This 323rd SRS RB-45C made the first non-stop trans-Pacific crossing in 1952, winning that year's Mackay Trophy in the process. Crew members were Major Louis Carrington, Major Frederick Shook, and Captain Wallace Yancey. They seem happy... AMC History Office via Mark Morgan

And speaking of happy, it's time again for (drum roll, please!)

Happy Snaps

One of the really neat things about this project is the fact that we're getting back in touch with a great many old and valued friends from Back in the Day. One such friend is Doug Barbier, who's varied career included a stint as an advanced flying training instructor. Doug submitted this somewhat unusual shot (along with others; be patient!) for our enjoyment:

It was always hard teaching students that, in formation, "up and down" are relative to your leader, NOT the earth. This was one way to get the point across. Doug

Too cool! Thanks for sending this one, Doug!

The Relief Tube

And speaking of that RB-45C that we ran last time, Grant has supplied us with a probable identity:

I believe the RB-45C is from the 322nd SRS, 91st SRW out of Lockbourne AFB. It has a light green fin band edged in yellow. Another, better color photo of the same aircraft is in the March 1998 "Air Classics" article on the "Tornado" by Col. H. Meyers and the photo has been published elsewhere. I got the squadron color tie up from the article on the B-45 "Tornado" by G. Knox Bishop in the old IPMS Quarterly. It included a few profiles and the 322nd TRS "Tornados" in it have a yellow green fuselage band edged with yellow.

If you look at the tail end, you can see the rarely-remarked-on later twin .50-cal mount. It is different from the mount on the B-45As and can be distinguished from the side by the fairing at the bottom. It looks similar to a B-47 mount but with .50-cal guns.  Best wishes, Grant

Many thanks for that information, Grant!

And, as an aside to Grant's comments, the last time I saw Know Bishop was in 1977 or so, when we were zipping over south Bexar County in Knox's Cessna, taking in the sights (at a fairly low level; he was an FB-111 driver at that time) and generally enjoying things, which leads to a request: If any of our readers keep in touch with Knox Bishop, please give him the link to this blog and ask him to get in touch with us. On the other hand, if you're reading this, Knox, please drop me a line at . I've got a few questions for you...

And that's what I know for today. Be good to your neighbor and we'll see you next time.

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