Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Forgotten F-94, Some Iron Dogs, Another F-4 or Two, A Couple of Helos, Some More Scooter Tubs, and A Plug For a Friend

You Have to Start Someplace

We've been spending a lot of time covering the Convair F-102A of late, and we've stated the opinion that it was a vital weapons system for America's air defense during the 1950s, 60s, and a big chunk of the 70s. It's easy to forget just how amazing the "Deuce" really was until you look at What Came Before, and thanks to the kindness of Marty Isham we're going to do that today.

Before we get started, though, let's get ourselves what they call a perspective. Once we get past the handful of piston-engined aircraft that could somewhat loosely be termed "interceptors" from the 1940s (of which the P-61 and F-82 families come somewhat to mind) and enter the Jet Age, we've got an interesting row to hoe. The first American interceptors that were actually designed for that mission, more or less, were Northrop's F-89 Scorpion and Lockheed's F-94 Starfire family. The F-94 possessed a level of performance that was far beyond the reach of the F-89, although you could best describe both aircraft as slugs in the go-fast department. They were really pretty, though, as the following photos will prove. They were also pioneers in their own way, and therefore deserving of more notice than they're normally given.

Take an F-80, stretch the fuselage and add a second cockpit, and you've got a T-33. Take a T-33 and add a primitive fire control system and an even more primitive afterburner and you've got yourself an F-94. 49-2509 is an early example of the breed; an F-94A-5-LO; this example is from the 449th FIS and is seen placidly cruising along on a clear afternoon, an element far removed from her design criteria for an all-weather interceptor. That moniker was more than a little bit optimistic, but you have to start somewhere!  Dickman via Isham

Here's another bird from the 449th FIS, and this time we get a far better view of the squadron insignia on the nose. Conspicuity markings were often found on the Starfire since its intended stomping grounds were generally way up there in the Frozen North. How do you like that drop tank trim? Pretty cool, huh? 49-2520 is another A-5-LO.  Haufler-Homme via Isham

49-2526 comes a cropper! She was repaired and flew again, but was having a Bad Day when this photo was taken on 16 May, 1954. The squadron emblem has really grown in this photo, and the conspicuity markings are well defined (including those on the upper wings). That white stripe just aft of the radome is a new wrinkle, and the tip-tank markings have morphed into solid red. Former USAF maintenance types among our readership will note that the bang seats have been pinned and the streamers for those pins have been prominently draped over the cockpit sill---nobody wants to be around a bang seat accident...  Haufler-Homme via Isham

We'll wrap up our coverage of the F-94A with yet another aircraft from the 449th. 49-2531 is in a very simple interpretation of the squadron's markings, although the landing gear doors, both nose and mains, show quite a bit more color than we're used to seeing down there. This airplane, and 2509 at the beginning of this piece, are wearing standard-issue Fletcher tanks. It's a pretty airplane, don't you think?  Dickman via Isham

The F-94A was quickly followed into service by the slightly-more-capable B-model, and an early example of the that sub-species is shown here while on the ground at Thule in the winter of 1952-1953. She belongs to the 318th FIS and is in simple but highly-attractive markings. In theory the Bravo Starfires were in their element in places like Thule, but in reality they were what we might call "somewhat lacking". It really didn't matter; they were what we had at the time.  Dorr via Isham Collection

Thule's a cold and barren place, so a little color doesn't hurt at all. In this case the color is provided by F-94B-B-1-LO from the 59th FIS getting prepped to sit on alert during 1952. The radome appears to be in natural fiberglass and the rest of the airplane is done up like an Easter egg---beauty!  Shipke via Isham

Here's a whole flock of F-94Bs from the 59th in the air near Thule. Those markings just get prettier and prettier, and check out the red gun blast tubes on 50-0875. We can't quite make out that name on the nose---anybody know what it says?  Shipke via Isham 

Scramble! This shark-mouthed F-94B-1-LO is launching out of an un-named but snowbound airfield late in 1953. Note how the conspicuity red on the upper wing of the photo ship cuts in and out around the "USAF" legend.  England via Isham

Most folks are familir with the 68th FIS from their days in the "Deuce", but they flew the Starfire first. 51-5346 was an F-94B-5-LO and is seen in flight in this absolutely gorgeous air-to-air study. Her markings are simple yet effective, and look really good on the airframe. Lockheed has always built lookers...  Toler via Isham

They come in colors. These Starfires from the 68th were photographed in different variations of their squadron livery; our previous example was trimmed in black, while 5365 is in green and 5349 is in yellow. We presume those to be flight colors but are always willing to be educated! Note the yellow outlines to the buzz numbers on 5349. A modeler could keep busy just building this one variant of the F-94, although the only good kit is in 1/72nd. Ain't that always the way!  Fahey via Isham

The F-94B was available for use shortly after the outbreak of the Korean War, and wasn't long in getting to the theater. The 4th FIS was operating this colorful F-94B-5-LO (51-5475) under the 6231st ABW out of Naha when photographed in 1952. The airplane was well-used, as indicated by the wear on the radome, but was combat-ready all the same. The 4th finished up its association with FEAF (later PACAF) flying F-102As out of Misawa, but that's a story for another day.  Minert via Isham Collection

The 68th FIS was one of several F-94B squadrons that ended up in The Land of the Morning Calm during that unfortunate conflict. 51-5358, another F-94B-5-LO, was a colorful addition to the fracas when photographed here but ended up in the drink as the result of an in-flight engine fire. Both crewmen were killed in the crash; Korea was a tough little war for all concerned.  Col. AR Hunter via Isham Collection

"Ann", an F-94B-5-LO from the 319th FIS, sits on the PSP preparing for flight sometime in 1953. She's relatively plain as FEAF Starfires go but is carrying a name, probably not an unusual occurance but one that's not been well documented up until now. We can only hope that more personally-marked F-94s will come to light in the future!  Gratch via Isham Collection

You knew it was coming so here she is: F-94B-5-LO 51-5449, the first Air Force jet to claim a night kill in combat. She's not as spectacularly painted as you might expect but the 319th FIS, to which she belonged at the time, wasn't an overly flamboyant unit either. Sure looks a lot like a chubby T-33, doesn't it?  Col. R Merritt via Isham Collection

OK, Gang; here's your modeling test for the day. What was the very first aircraft model kit released by Revell way back in 1954? The picture above is probably a dead giveaway, but if you guessed F-94C you guessed right! 51-5607 is a drop-dead gorgeous example of the breed and is shown here while serving with the 354th FIS. Her paintwork is busy but would be a wonderful excercise for a custom decal manufacturer except for the fact that we don't have a kit to put any sort of stickies on. Why is that?  McCann via Isham

The F-94C was never as widely used as some folks think, but a small number of ADC squadrons used them well into the 50s. 51-13524 was a fairly late F-94C-1-LO and was photographed in pristine condition at an air show in 1956. The aircraft is missing the fiberglass covers on her wing-mounted rocked pods, giving us an excellent view of that particular detail. She was with the 27th FIS at the time.  McDaniel via Isham

There was still an F-94C presence in the USAF in 1957, as demonstrated by these members of the 29th FIS on the ramp at George AFB in March of that year. The Charlie is our favorite F-94 variant and is beautiful in her own way, but her total armament consisted of a load of 2.75-inch FFARs carried in those wing pods and in a bay around the radome. It was probably a Very Good Thing that she never had to fire a shot in anger!
Markraf via Isham Collection

Sometimes You Hold the Line With What You've Got

Way back yonder, back in 1968 or 1969, Mike Bloomfield and Steven Stills collaborated on a live album called Super Sessions. During the course of introducing the band to the audience, Stills commented "here's the truth of this gig" and I've wanted to borrow the phrase ever since. Today, some 42 years later, the time has finally come so, without further ado; here's the truth of this gig:

We don't run a whole lot of WW2 stuff around here, and precious little of anything before that conflict. It's not that we aren't interested in those eras, but rather that our assets are thin once you've gone back a certain number of years. Both ourselves and our friends who are regular contributors to this work in progress have managed to build collections that, for a number of reasons, begin in 1946 and move forward from there and, simply put, that's where most of our emphasis will continue to lie. It's an area of specialty, if you will.

Still, there's something really special about the old iron, and therein lies a tale. One of our readers, Bobby Rocker, has been collecting images from that conflict for most of his life and has amassed quite a collection  as a result. You've seen a few of those photos before in various books and periodicals, since most of them have been obtained from what used to be called Official Sources, but Bobby's been somewhat more tenacious than most in terms of his collecting and has been, as we said before, going at it for quite a while. He wrote us a couple of weeks ago asking why we didn't run hardly anything from The Big One and we told him pretty much what you've just read. At that point he offered to share his collection with us and has been sending in images (which brings us to the part of the day where we encourage the rest of you to do the same; the e-mail address is ) pretty much ever since. There's some remarkable photography there, and we're going to start running some of it every other issue or so, beginning with today's feature on the Bell P-39 in the Southwest Pacific. We're going to concentrate on the Bad Old Early Days today, and show you some images from Milne Bay and Port Moreseby during 1942. Enjoy.

Milne Bay in Southeastern New Guinea was one of the first stops on the long road back. Here's a group of P-39D-1-BEs, probably from the 8th FG, in transit to Port Moresby. Check out the wheel covers on 41-38403 in the right foreground---there's not much color on those airplanes but that AAF corcarde is a nice touch.  B. Rocker Collection

If you've spent any time at all examining photos of P-39s in the Pacific you're familiar with "Sun Setter". You may be somewhat less familiar to the pilot standing on her wing; if that's so, prepare to be schooled. Phillip  Rasmussen was one of a handful of American fighter pilots to get off the ground during the attack at Pearl Harbor. He was flying a P-36 that day, and managed to score a kill against the Japanese on his sortie. A few short months after the attack he was in New Guinea with the 35th FS and was transiting through Milne Bay when this magnificent photograph was taken. Times were tough but those guys were confident.  B. Rocker Collection

Ever seen a P-39 stripped for major repair and overhaul work? This 35th FS/8th FG P-39D is hard down for maintenance, probably at Port Moresby. Things were pretty raggedy in the Pacific during 1942 and there was a lot of improvisation involved in maintaining some of the aircraft there, but this photo shows that the 35th was well-equipped with ground support equipment. This would make a really neat diorama...  B. Rocker Collection

Sometimes things don't go as planned. This Airacobra suffered landing gear failure at Milne Bay, but was quickly repaired and able to resume operations a short time after this photo was taken. Quite a bit as been made of the P-39's alleged unsuitability for combat, but the airplane held the line for both the 8th and 35th FGs until better aircraft became available. She was a tough old bird...  B. Rocker Collection

Sometimes the airplane can't be repaired. P-39D 41-38499 went in hard at Milne Bay, transitioning from a fighter aircraft into source of surplused parts in the blink of an eye. Sometimes you win; sometimes you don't.  B. Rocker Collection

Port Moresby was an improvement over Milne Bay, but not by much. The facility was a scattering of airfields in the general vicinity of the town; this "Iron Dog" was photographed refuelling at 30-Mile Strip. The term "they fought with what they had" certainly applied to early fighter operations in the SW Pacific.  B. Rocker Collection

The 27th Air Depot at Port Moresby did outstanding work trying to keep the 35th in the air. The spinner cap is off the propeller of this Airacobra and the prop is about to be pulled. There's a name on that airplane, but we can't quite read it. Darn the luck!  B. Rocker Collection

We'll end today's photo essay where we began it, at Gurney Field near Milne Bay. Everything looks relatively placid in this photo but the Japanese were never far away, making early air operations a little bit sporty. This photo show the airfield and a handful of neatly-arranged aircraft. It doesn't show the heat, humidity, or the mosquitos. It wasn't an easy war.  B. Rocker Collection

It's One of Our Favorite Airplanes, Ya'll

Which is why we're running another couple of F-4 shots, this time from the NAV. There's no real reason for it except that we like the photos. We hope you do too.

There was a time when the F-4 Phantom was the American fighter, both in its parent Navy and in the Marine Corps and the Air Force as well. These VF-33 F-4Js were captured in flight in 1969, when the type had become the Navy's standard fighter. The birds are clean and the photo was most likely taken in the ZI, but you can't miss the purposefulness of the design.  R. Morgan Collection

This VF-11 F-4B is coming up on the basket during an aerial refueling cycle. This is what you might call a beautiful study of a classic aircraft. We like it.  R. Morgan Collection

The F-4 family ended up being quite literally an airplane for all seasons, but it was designed as an interceptor first and foremost. We don't know exactly when this dramatic photo was taken, but the airplane is an F-4N from Fighting 154 and was aboard the Coral Sea when she was immortalized in this shot. The aircraft is configured for the interception mission and is tensioned and in burner just before launch---you can almost hear the roar of her J-79s and smell the danger on that flight deck. It's not a job...  Lawson Collection via R. Morgan

We've been blessed by having some exceptional photographers contributing their work to this project, as is illustrated by this shot of one of VF-111's F-4Bs. Don Jay photographed her at Cubi Point in 1975, giving posterity an excellent photograph of one of our all-time favorite Phantom markings. D. Jay

We'll end today's look at the Phantom with another bird from Fighting 111. 152293 was photographed in April of 1977, when she was in her prime. The markings on her travel pod are distinctly non-standard! Friddell Collection

Beauty Is In the Eye of the Beholder

Mark Nankivil never ceases to amaze us. He sends in unique images of extremely high quality, and you just never know what you're going to see next. This next set of photos bears that out in spades; a pair of color shots of one of the Marine's unsung heros. Let's take a look:

Boeing/Vertol's CH-46/HH-46 family has proven to be a true workhorse for the Navy and Marine Corps. The early variants provided sterling service in a number of roles during that scrape in SouthEast Asia back in the 60s, and the design is still going strong today. We don't know much about 151912 except that she was assigned to the Marines when this photo was taken, and that she's an absolutely gorgeous example of the HH-46A. She'd be a boring aircraft if all she had on was her specification Engine Grey paint, but that orange really makes her special. We like it!  Nankivil Collection

Everybody smile for the camera! There's a photographer sitting in the door of 151921 as she hovers; she's another HH-46A and is a SAR bird but once again we're at a loss as to the details, although we'd bet you money she was assigned to K-Bay when this was taken. Note the apparent color shift in the grey of her paint; that's an anomaly caused by the lighting. She's actually a twin of 151912 shown above. Gotta love those HH-46s!  Nankivil Collection
Ending the Day With Stuff We Like

And in this case "stuff" is defined as a few more TA-4Js. The Skyhawk has always been a favorite around here and there's more than a little bit of photography to back up that interest, so it falls into the category of The Right Thing to Do.

Let's start out with a "normal" TA-4J in a normal operational environment. The unit was TraWing 2, and this particular "Scooter" was shot from the control tower catwalk at NAS Corpus Christi in May of 1989. Her paint and markings are pretty much the norm for the Navy's advanced trainers during the era; compare them to the TW-2 T-2C Buckeye taxiing just behind her.  Friddell

And another really normal TA-4J from TW-2, this time photographed at Laughlin AFB during the late 1980s. Note the USS Lexington moniker on her fuselage; the "Lex" was used for TraCom's car-quals boat and her name ended up on the sides of the airplanes who utilized her for training. She actually had no air assets permanently assigned once she was transferred to training duties. It's likely that her gas bags recently came from an operational squadron since they're grey instead of the more typical Insignia White.  Friddell

Here's a "Scooter" that's a little bit out of the ordinary. 153496 was a TA-4J that ended up spending a short period of time with VF-171's Key West Det, an adversary unit operating in the south of Florida during the early 1980s. The det had a "normal" TA-4 assigned to them, a hot-rod F-model, that was in for major maintenance for a period of time. They needed a replacement aircraft and received this lesser-performing Juliet for use while their "real" bird was hard down; the squadron didn't much like it but made do with what they'd been given (that overall white paint probably didn't help much since all the rest of 171's aircraft were in some variation of camouflage). The insignia on the vertical stab was taken from the logo of a local bar and was only on this one aircraft, and only for the period she was assigned to VF-171. Every picture tells a story, don't it?  R. Morgan

Here's your final Special "Scooter" Tub for the day. Marty Isham shot VX-4's 153674 while she was on the ground at Andrews during 1975. This airplane was featured on a MicroScale decal sheet Way Back When and makes for an extremely colorful model---that paintwork is an absolute knockout in three dimensional form! Oh, and check out the bobbed gas bag on the centerline; auxilliary tanks mounted on that particular station on the A-4 (any A-4) generally didn't have the aft section of the tank (the pointy part with the fins) fitted; it eliminated the possibility of striking the deck during a cat shot and allowed easier access to the aft hell hole for maintenance. It's a point to watch when you model the "Scooter".  Isham

A Site You Need to Look At

We've been meaning to do this for a while now, and the receipt yesterday of the artwork you see below tells us it's time for you to check out the work of John Mollison. John is, like most of us, a collector of things aeronautical and is also an accomplished artist. He has two different web sites that are linked on our home page; John Mollison and WW2 Fighters, and we strongly recommend that you visit them both. His motto ("I interview old guys and draw their airplanes.") says it all. That said, here's that artwork for your enjoyment today:

See? We told you you'd like it! You might want to drop in and see what else John has been doing; it's definitely worth your while.

The Relief Tube

We must have had a fairly good issue last time, because we don't have to fix anything this time around! We do, however, have a request from a friend who's working on a book. Take a look at this photo:

Frank Emmett, the guy who's working on that 58th FG history, is looking for a better shot of this airplane. To wit:  Pioneer Peggy is one of the colorful P-47D-16-21s of the 310th FS/58th FG. 1st Lt. Herman Guffey of Akron, Ohio was her primary pilot. He was a member of 1st Lt. Jim Driscoll's red flight, hence the red cowl flaps contrasted with the natural metal. Up until November-December 1944 she would have had a squadron identifier on her fuselage sides, just behind the cockpit beginning with the letter "H" and then the a two digit code, e.g., 44 or H44. The serial number is also unknown. What is known is that she survived the war and was flown to Clark AB in October 1945 and was salvaged/scrapped sometime between 1946 and 1949. Being such a colorful and popular nose art subject someone(s) had to have taken a full photo of her. Thus far in all my research and all me interviews I've been unable to turn anything up, other than other nose art shots. If you have any information please send it to Phil at Replica in Scale. Credit for your assistance will be acknowledged in the book. Thanks in advance. That's simple enough---can anybody help?

And that takes us to the end of today's adventure, so be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon.

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