Saturday, June 25, 2011

They Weren't Always Mustangs, an Aussie 'Vark, A Few More 102s, The Earliest Phantom, Our 104th Issue, and a Belated Tribute

The Jug in Germany

It all started out innocently enough. We ran a few photos on post-War PACAF P-51Ds a while back, then corrected one of the pieces because of a problem with a credit line, after which the dam broke, in a manner of speaking, and we started seeing all sorts of post-1945 P-51/F-51 photos. You'll be seeing some more of those soon enough, but this time around we'd like to do something a little bit out of the ordinary and show you some post-War P-47 Thunderbolts instead.

Most people think of the P-51D when they think of the occupation air forces in Germany following the end of the Second World War, but there was a strong P-47 presence there too. In this case those "Jugs" are all from the 86th FG during the late 1940s, and are courtesy of Dave Menard. Enjoy!

The 86th FG was comprised of three squadrons of P-47/F-47Ds (the 525th, 526th, and 527th), all of which were involved in occupation duty in Germany after the war. This shot is softer than we'd prefer but provides a fascinating study of 44-89817 in flight. She's from the 525th FS (originally the 525th FBS, and the 525th BS before that; the 86th FG was a put-together outfit specifically tailored for the occupation) and was probably based out of Landstuhl AB when this photo was taken. Note the cheat line under the anti-glare panel and the drop tank beneath the fuselage. The cowling is most likely red.  Merle Olmstead via Menard

It seems as though the 86th preferred the centerline position for their gas bags; 44-90046 is carrying one on that station too. NA1 is the commanding officer's aircraft, and has a unique side number of its own; Dave says it's a classic Staff Weenie sort of thing, to which we concur wholeheartedly!  Merle Olmstead via Menard

And here's 44-33747, aka ND19, sitting on the ground. Squadron identifiers for the 86th were: 525th, NB, 526th, NC, and 527th, ND. That assignment of NA to the staff made a little bit of a mess for those who might not be aware of it! And there's that gas bag on the centerline again!  Merle Olmstead via Menard

Here's another aircraft from the 527th taxiing in at Rhein Main, date unknown. The "Jug" didn't hang around very long after the war, so seeing one with USAF under the wings and the red-barred national insignia is a little unusual. Once again we're looking at a white rudder and red cowl; note that the vertical stab carries a partial serial number only. That's probably the crew chief in the cockpit, judging from the fact that the pitot tube cover is still in place---that airplane ain't goin' flyin' in that condition, folks! Merle Olmstead via Menard

Here's a somewhat dramatic view of 44-89869, also from the 527th. The aircraft is undergoing an engine run but isn't ready for flight; also with the ground cover in place on the pitot tube. 869 would make a really pretty model, and one that would be just that little bit out of the ordinary.  Merle Olmstead via Menard

And here's a full side view of 869. Note how the cowl flaps are painted, and the mis-matched bar on the fuselage insignia. She's carrying a practice bomb, and her drop tank appears to be painted rather than natural aluminum. These 86th FG Thunderbolts just get better and better... Merle Olmstead via Menard

How about a yellow cowling and rudder? The color of those cowl flaps is unknown at this time, but it's a pretty airplane all the same. If we were to use conventional wisdom those cowl colors would have been red for the 525th, blue for the 526th, and yellow for the 527th, but none of these aircraft follow that logic. The notes both on and accompanying the photographs are very specific regarding both color and squadron assignments, so we're a little puzzled about that color thing. Then again, that's not so unusual around here...  Merle Olmstead via Menard

All good things eventually come to an end. This pair of Thunderbolts were assigned to the 86th when active with the Air Force, but were part of the MDAP program when this shot was taken. They're carrying as much extra gas as you can hang off a P-47 and are on their delivery flight to an unspecified country. This is the part where we'd say something along the lines of "it's a sad end for a magnificent airplane", but this isn't the end. Some of those post-War F-47s soldiered on well into the 1950s in Latin America, but that's a story for another day.  Menard Collection

Kangaroo? What Kangaroo?

That's a viable question in South Texas, at least as far as military aircraft are concerned, because very few representatives of the RAAF ever get down this way anymore. It wasn't always so, however; 6 Sqdn RAAF deployed to Bergstrom AFB outside of Austin at least twice that we know of, in 1988 and 1990; both times the aircraft were participating in the RAM photo recon meets. Here's a shot or two from those bygone days (literally, because Bergstrom has long-since been closed and is now Austin's municipal airport) to remind us of What Was. The photos were taken on 19 August, 1990.

A8-134 was an F-111C of the Royal Australian Air Force and was a participant in RAM 90; note the ventral recon pod just aft of her nose gear. 6 Sqdn's markings were subdued but attractive, working well with the F-111's lines. Talk about your pretty airplane!  Friddell

There were two F-111Cs representing Australia at RAM 90. This photo depicts A8-146 undergoing maintenance in the late morning. Those Aussies obviously knew a thing or two about Summer Heat on the Ramp, and came dressed for the occasion. Their airplanes were immaculate.  Friddell

146 became a very popular airplane shortly after we began photographing her---we lucked into a pre-mission maintenance cycle and were able to take several shots with her being tended to by her ground crew. Sharp-eyed readers will note that most of those guys are wearing their ears; the airplane wasn't powered up but her APU was running. That ramp was somewhat loud... Friddell

Very Nearly the Last of the "Deuce" (but not quite)

It's not like we're running out of F-102 photos, because we're a very long way from doing that. We are, however, ready to move on to a different airplane, so we're going to start winding down our coverage of the "Deuce", running just a few shots today and then another installment or two to finish our coverage up for a bit.

Before we get to those photos, though, we need to correct a significant mistake. Last issue, or maybe the one before, we (I) stated that the presence of an IR ball on the F-102 meant the airplane wearing it was Genie-capable. That was it mistake, and it was ours and ours alone. What could we have been thinking? Why did we do that? The short answer is something along the lines of "Schmit, we don't know---we just did it!) Many thanks to Dave Menard, Doug Barbier, and Marty Isham for setting us straight on that one, and apologies to our readers for leading them down The Primrose Path of Misinformation! We'll try not to do that anymore!

Now that we've got that off our chests, how about a few more F-102s?

The F-102 went to war fairly early in Southeast Asia, being deployed for air base defense against North Vietnamese air strikes that never materialised very early in the conflict. 56-1394 was one of those early birds, probably from the 509th FIS, and is shown taxiing at DaNang during 1966. There's that IR ball again, but you ought to know it's associated with the AIM-26A  Falcon, not the Genie! Fortunately, neither missile was employed in anger during the war.  D. Smith

If you're going to station your F-102s in Vietnam, Republic of, you've got to get them there somehow. This photo, while of less than optimal quality, shows a lineup of "Deuces" from the 82nd FIS on the ground at Wake Island while en route to Naha AB in Okinawa in February of 1966. Tailcodes would be assigned shortly after their arrival there.  Isham Collection

This evocative shot was taken in January of 1968, long after the 82nd's aircraft received their tailcodes. This is a fairly late example of the type; 57-0882 was an F-102A-95-CO and was most likely photographed on a TDY to SEA. Note the semi-gloss finish of the paintwork, entirely befitting the 102's role as an interceptor.  Miller Collection via Isham

Here's 56-1491, an F-102A-80-CO, in flight over Okinawa in 1970. Those "Deuces" were getting tired by then but were kept in immaculate condition. Smith via Isham

The Guard had been a long-time operator of the F-102A, and it was only logical that they would adopt the SEA scheme for their aircraft. A number of units converted to the camouflage scheme defined in 1-1-4, including this example from the Montana ANG's 120th FIG, photographed in May of 1972. There appears to be some sort of emblem or art on her left intake but we can't quite make it out---reader comments are invited (  Friddell Collection

In The Beginning There Was the Phantom

Way back there, before McDonnell designed and built the immortal F4H Phantom, they designed and built the not-quite-immortal-but-we-had-to-start-someplace FH-1 Phantom! The FH-1 was McDonnell's first attempt at a jet fighter and, although it suffered all the usual failings of American first-generation jet fighters, it was a beginning. The airplane was well-liked but was quickly overtaken, both in technology and performance, by the designs of other companies---it was very much a bridge aircraft between the piston-engined fighters of the mid-1940s and the jet fighters that came later. The Banshee, Demon, and Phantom II were yet to be designed and built when these photos were taken.

If you build 'em you've got to test 'em! 111755 sits on the ramp at Pax River in this 1948 portrait. That lump aft of the nose gear doors is a auxilliary fuel tank, an addition sorely needed by the FH-1 to extend its extremely limited range. The aircraft is resplendent in its Glossy Sea Blue paint job, but that aux tank appears to have a dead flat finish---a flat Sea Blue or maybe some dark primer color. Our files don't have anything in color that might shed a light on the color of that tank. If any of our readers can clarify it please drop us a line at .  Oh, and that "AT" on the nose stands for Armament Test, in case you were wondering.  Peter Bowers via Jim Sullivan Collection

VMF-122 was one of a handful of units that operated the Phantom, and was the only Marine unit to fly the type operationally. They received their airplanes in late 1947 and flew them until late 1949 when they turned them over to the Reserves. 111783 was photographed during early 1948 and shows the earliest presentation of tailcode used by the squadron, an underlined BC. Prospective modelers might want to note that the landing gear and wheels are painted silver on almost all of the FH-1s. Paul J. McDaniel via Jim Sullivan Collection

By 1949 VMF-122 had transitioned to their LC tailcode and were occasionally appearing at airshows as "The Flying Leathernecks" flight demonstration team. The team was organized by Marion Carl, famed Marine ace and 122's first CO, and flew demonstrations for approximately two years. We're guessing some of those shows were pretty hairy given the type's lack of thrust in certain flight regimes! Paul J. McDaniel via Jim Sullivan Collection

Here's 111760 as seen from her starboard side. All markings other than the national insignia are in white, and this view provides an excellent depiction of the anti-skid material on the wing root and those silver wheels. Sharp-eyed readers might also note that the flaps are dropped on this aircraft, one of the few times we've seen that on an operational Navy bird that's ready for flight. Paul J. McDaniel via Jim Sullivan Collection

Guess What Today Is?

Give up? That's probably a Good Idea, given how obtuse we sometimes get around here but, as a hint, we're not celebrating the 135th anniversary of the Battle of the Little Bighorn (even though today is The Day if you happen to be reading this on the 25th of June) for whatever that might be worth. Nope; today is our 104th issue, which takes us to a suggestion from reader and contributor Don Jay that we run some F-104 shots. It's been a busy week and we haven't had the time to break out the scanner and copy any of the Starfighter photos from our collection, so we're going to let Don do the honors for us!

Let's start off with an F-104A, 56-0749. She was built as an F-104A-10-LO and was redesignated as a JF-104A when bailed to the NASA as a research platform. She was ultimately lost due to an asymetric flap deployment on 20 December, 1962, but is seen here while in her prime. The tips of the wings have been painted in a conspcuity color, and we can't tell if the thingy in front of the word "FORCE" on the nose is a blotch on the photo or part of a marking, although we suspect the former.  Don Jay Collection

Lockheed Palmdale was a hummin' sort of place when this shot was taken in the late 1950s. The aircraft depicted were a mixed bag of F-104As and Bs, and those of you interested in television and movie aircraft may notice that 56-0817 was the "Zipper" used in the old "I Dream of Genie" television show.  Everybody gets their fifteen minutes of fame...  Jay Collection

The Starfighter went to war twice in SouthEast Asia; this photo is from the 1965 deployment at DaNang. 56-0883 is The Famous One of the Bunch; built as an F-104C-5-LO, she was assigned to the 436th TFS/479th TFW when shot down by an AAM fired by a Chinese MiG-19 near Hainan Island on 20 September 1965. The pilot survived to become a POW, and was released from captivity in 1973.  USAF via Jay Collection

The 58th TFTW operated out of Luke AFB for a number of years training Federal Luftwaffe fighter pilots in F-104 operations. This three-ship is from that Wing and is seen in flight over Arizona on a training hop. A couple of their airplanes got modest color treatments during the 1976 BiCentennial, but most of the 58th's birds were in plain old natural metal for their entire careers.  Jay Collection

The F-104 was powered by the J-79 in all of its production variations, which means it was LOUD and, in most of its versions, a smoker to boot. It also managed to produce an etherial howling noise at low airspeeds thanks to its BLC---you always knew when a Starfighter was in the pattern. Don tells us that Gordon Macade (the photographer who took this outstanding shot) scared his PAO escort to death while taking this image. We think it was well worth the effort!  Gordon Macade via Jay Collection

In addition to the F-104G, Italy produced its very own variant of the "Zipper", the F-104S. Here's a fine example of the type escorting a Soviet Tu-16 Badger after an intercept over the Med. Quite a few airplanes could out-turn the F-104, but it was a rare fighter that could out-climb one. The nickname "Zipper" was born in USAF tactical manuals of the late 1950s; there was a good reason for that name...  Jay Collection

On a Day in 1942

We rarely run photographs that have seen publication in other journals, much less books, but frequent contributor Jim Sullivan sent this one to us a while back and we just had to do it. Considering the month, it's a fitting thing to do...

Every once in a while you'll find a unit that can be said to define the concept of courage. One such unit must surely be the Navy's Fighting Six, a fighter squadron assigned to Enterprise's Air Group Six during parts of 1941 and 1942. This classic photograph was taken on 12 May, 1942, and shows several F4F-3s of VF-6 preparing to launch; less than a month later the squadron would play a role in the defeat of the Imperial Japanese Navy at the Battle of Midway. Most of those pilots, and the courageous Japanese aviators they flew against, are gone now, and the few that remain on either side are getting fewer with every passing year. Every once in a while we'll run a photograph and say something along the lines of "if you're an American you owe those guys". Today's one of those days. We owe those guys.  Richard Hill via Jim Sullivan

Happy Snaps

There's a fair amount of what might be termed "Navy stuff" in this week's edition, so our Happy Snap entry for the day is another "Electric Jet" shot from Doug Barbier:

Low over the thumb headed north in the Peck MOA. We knew we were losing the airplanes, so I was taking as many photo's as I could before the opportunity left forever. The other pilot knew we were going for photo's and was a Michigan Technological University grad... he begged the crew chief to let him put the MTU sticker on the tail for the flight. You can see he's staring straight into the sun trying to hold position for me. The crew chief made him take the sticker off the second he got out of the cockpit after we landed, but they used the photo in the NMU ROTC recruiting office for a long time. This was shot in Apr of 94 - just before we lost the jets & I retired.  Doug Barbier

The Relief Tube

Here we are again, another week gone by and, inevitably, another batch of additions and corrections. And, unlike a lot of other folks, we actually encourage that sort of thing so if you've got something to say about anything we've run (or maybe would like to contribute something of your own!) feel free to drop us a line at .

That said, let's get started by Righting a Wrong.

A long while back, and no; we're not going to go looking to find out just how long ago it was, we ran some of photos of a couple of really nifty T-33As, one of which was carrying kill markings, that had been photographed on the ramp somewhere in Alaska during the 1970s. Publication of those pictures coincided with a major glitch in our e-mail (user-induced, but let's not tell anybody about that!) that resulted in loss of the contributor's name. The mystery was solved last week when the photographer, Chris Williamson, sent the photos again along with an explanation. (Those photos are also up on HyperScale today for those of you who follow the modeling boards; that's in case you aren't a regular here and the pictures look familiar---they are!) Never ones to turn down a chance to Make Good, we're publishing those photos again, along with Chris' explanation and an apology to him for losing those captions in the first place! These images were all taken by Chris.

Hello Phil. The T-33's were not only used as hacks so everyone could get their flying time in, but also used to test ADC's radar & F-4E's scrambling to find out what was out there. The Phantom pilots hated the T-33 because it would be flying low and slow near the ground and the only way you could really see it was with your eyeballs. (Remember that the F-15 was just coming on line with its look-down, shoot-down radar capability.) Up pops the T-33, a few tac-a-tac-a-tac-a (machine gun) sounds over the radio, and 1 "dead" F-4 crew. Don't know why the 6th "kill" isn't painted in full like the others...maybe it was a probable kill?

As to the natural metal T-33, the pilots who played the bad guys hated flying this aircraft because the sun would glint off the metal no matter how low/slow they went. I was told the crew chief of this bird wanted to bring back the look of the 1950s aircraft: natural metal. He got permission to do this and yes, he did polish the skin. This was the only T-33 like this while I was there. Chris

Many thanks for your perserverence with those photos, Chris!

We've been running quite a few images of post-War P-51s lately, and it was inevitable that we'd make a mistake or two along the way. Dave Menard has a comment about the identification of one of the units we depicted an issue or two ago, and offers this comment:

Phil, that WN on the sides of those Mustangs was for WASHINGTON NG, not Wisconsin! That one four ship image has their 116th FS Ace of Spades unit insignia showing. Cheers, Dave

And here are a couple of photos from Dave's collection to prove the point. Note that Washington used "WN NG" as an identifier, while Wisconsin used WIS NG. Oops...  Menard Collection

While we're on the subject of P-51Ds, you might recall that we've discussed the fact that the post-War Mustangs often had their tailwheels locked down. Frequent contributor Doug Barbier has some thoughts on that:  Phil, The Korean era seems to be where the original, retractable tail wheel became a fixed extension. Anyhow, that's what I use when trying to judge the date of a photo and it's pretty reliable. My guess is that all that mud really gummed up the mechanisms in Korea and they went to fixed tail wheels as a maintenance aid. Virtually all of the post-Korean Mustang photo's I've seen have that fixed tail wheel. That's my story and I"m sticking to it - at least until someone who can tell us what the "real story" was shows up. Doug  Makes sense to me! Thanks, Doug.

Some of those F-102 shots we've been running of late have been a little tough to ID, and we've had to caption a few of them less unit identification. ADC authority Marty Isham comes to our rescue with information on one of them, and some thoughts on that "F-102D" shot we ran:

Hey Ole' Bud...FC-248 was one of the 317th's original allotment of 102s to AAC on Sep 24th,1957 from McChord.Went to Depot in Aug 58 for Iran and was reassigned I think to USAFE, then ANG 176th FIS, Wisc ANG, to PQM 751, dest at Holloman on 17 Mar 80. And an update before we got this one published---that's a First of sorts, and much appreciated!  Phil, disregard previous info after iran/usafe. FC-249 went to ANG, 194th FIS, Cal ANG. to Sperry, PQM 102B, 811 on 17 Dec 80. I don't have dest date on 249. Sorry for the mixup on tail numbers! Marty

Concerning the F-102D designation...I was told by an AF retired LtCol working for Sperry that for a very short time it was a unofficial early Sperry designation. D for drone of course. To me an F-102D moniker was better than a QF/PQM one (the KISS principle). Cheers...Marty   Thanks as always, Marty! Keep on keeping us honest!

We also ran a shot of a semi-Plain Jane "Deuce' with a bat's head emblem on the vertical stab, and Grant Matuoka offered this comment regarding it: Hi, Phil. The F-102A was with the 59th FIs out of Goose Bay, but the photo looks like it was taken somewhere in the Lower 48. Link to Bathead site with another photo of one of their planes with a better view of the tail badge: . Also in that site, the 44th F-47N is very rare. Keep up the good work. Best wishes, Grant

And finally, here's a really neat way to end the day. We receive quite a bit of photography from contributor Mark Nankivil (and are getting ready to run a bunch of it in the very near future, so be prepared!), but today's batch included something we consider to be Special. By way of explanation, this past week has been Marine Week in St Louis and, being a resident of that fine community, Mark was there, photographing a whole bunch of aircraft (and bagging a hop in an MV-22B Osprey for good measure!), and he took an assistant with him in the form of his son, Jack. Having done much the same thing ourselves (my very own daughter and son have both put in camera time on military ramps) we know just how cool that can be. Here then, for our parting shot of the day, is Jack Nankivil doing what the Nankivil Family does best!

Just when we thought that aviation photography was a dying art, Mark sent us this! I don't know about you folks, but I'm thinking the future is in good hands!  Mark Nankivil

That's about all for today, ya'll. Be good to your neighbor and we'll see you again soon!

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