Sunday, August 14, 2011

Walkin' the Dog, The Chief Goes to France, Hawks of the 49ers, And a Turkey Comes A Cropper

Dog Days at the Blog

There's a method to the madness around here, although you'll have to admit the pattern is rarely evident to the casual observer. Then again, it's rarely evident to us either, which ought to tell us all something. One thing that should be evident to all concerned, however, is our love for The Silver Air Force of the 1950s and early 1960s. One of the airplanes that typified that era was the North American F-86D (and L) Sabre, colloquially known as the "Sabre Dog" or "Dog Ship".

Whatever you choose to call it, The "Dog" was a mainstay of the ADC for almost a decade, first as the F-86D and then, later in its career, as the F-86L. (Those L-models were conversions from existing Ds, so don't go looking for purpose built Limas; there aren't any!) The type was even sold overseas, both as the D and the gun-armed export-only K. It's an airplane that just screams Fifties Air Force, and today we're going to look at the first of several installments featuring the type. Are you ready? Alright then; let's get down to it!

The "Dog" was an early example of the dedicated interceptor concept and, like its American contemporaries the F-89 and F-94, featured a primitive intercept and fire control system linked to a battery of 2.75-in FFARs which, in the case of the F-86D, deployed in a 24-round tray that dropped down out of the forward fuselage. The system was impressive in concept but a lot like sticking a shotgun out of the window of a car moving at highway speed in practice; you might hit what you were aiming at, but then again you might not. It was a flawed concept but was the best thing available before functional air-launched guided missiles, and their delivery systems, became available.  51-6030 was from the 37th FIS and was photographed at a gunnery meet at Yuma in 1955; that's a load of rockets in the foreground. That trailer would be relatively easy to scratch-build and the scene could make for a really neat diorama.  Isham Collection

The 49th FIS was another early operator of the "Dogship" and a section from that squadron is shown here in flight during 1955. The 49th's markings were simple but effective, and worked well with the lines of the aircraft. The markings were pretty, but looks aren't everything and the airplane was intended to be an interceptor, ready to launch at a moment's notice to go get the Bad Guys. The F-86D's throttle assembly featured a primitive computer in the linkage, and that computer took several minutes to become toasty-warm and fully operational after the engine was started, which severely compromised any sort of quick reaction time as far as interception was concerned. The problem was eventually resolved but the early "Dogs" were crippled until it was fixed.  Isham Collection

Compromised as it was, the "Sabre Dog" was a favorite on the airshow circuit of the 1950s. It was hyped quite a bit in the press of the times, there were plastic kits of it available, and it looked neat too. The fact that it never quite lived up to its promise was secondary and it fortunately never had to go to war. This shot of a 95th FIS F-86D, taken during an airshow at Andrews in 1956, shows off the slats and rocket tray to advantage, as aerospace writers are wont to say from time to time.  Isham Collection

The "Dog" was pretty airplane from any angle, as effectively demonstrated by this bird from the 15th FIS in flight during 1957. The markings on 52-3722 are, once again, simple yet effective. The "Dogship" utilized smaller gas bags than did the day fighter F-86 variants; the F-86D was equipped with a fuel-guzzling afterburner and there was just no way to get enough fuel in the airplane. In theory an interceptor doesn't need a whole lot of gas, but the United States is a moderately-large chunk of real estate, meaning that you could spend a fair amount of time up there trying to find the Bad Guy and get into a firing position, all the while watching the needle on your fuel gauge drop towards "E" (which in this case could easily stand for "ejection"). We had to start somewhere, though, and the F-86D was unique in that it pioneered the single-seat interceptor concept in the USAF.  Isham Collection

The year is 1957 and we think the location is Kirtland, probably during a gunnery meet---we're saying that because there are no gas bags under the wings, which implies that somebody was looking for max performance out of that bird. It's from the 93rd FIS and appears to be taxiing out for a sortie; note the airman to the left of the photo directing another aircraft. Isham Collection

Some "Dogships" wore what might be called Classic paint jobs. The 37th FIS used a really pretty scheme that featured yellow both fore and aft. This classic air-to-air is a great way to end our F-86D coverage and slide on over into a look at the F-86L. We'll pick up the "Dog" story in a later edition.  Isham Collection

L comes after D, just in case your own personal alphabet tells a different story. 53-0891 was built as an F-86D but morphed into an F-86L a couple of short years later. She's shown here while on display at a public airshow in 1957, and is somewhat unusual in that she's got an intake screen in place. That screen was probably a Good Idea considering the stuff kids used to throw down intakes at air shows Way Back When, but it's still rare to see one in public. This particular bird was assigned to the 47th FIS/30th AD when the photo was taken. Things were different in the fifties...   Isham Collection

Here's another F-86L on display, this time from the 56th FIS. Your editor can remember getting to sit in cockpits, play in cargo bays, and poke and prod just about every place a kid could get into on those airplanes, and nobody seemed to mind. An airshow was something to look forward to all year back in those days---it was special, ya'll.  Isham Collection

If you don't know what you're looking at all "Sabre Dogs" look pretty much the same, but you can tell an L from a D by the enlarged wingtips (which you can rarely see, of course!) and the datalink antenna for the SAGE equipment sticking out of the fuselage in front of the port wing. The Ls generally had properly-functioning throttles too, but by the time the Lima came along the writing was on the wall; the introduction of the Convair F-102A was near at hand. 53-0792 was photographed at Kirtland in 1957 and gives us a good view of both that SAGE antenna and her weapons tray.  She was from the 94th FIS at Selfridge and was most likely on her way to or from a gunnery meet.  Isham Collection

The "Dogships" were all F-86s at the end of the day, which meant they were relatively simple to operate and didn't require a whole lot of specialized GSE for support---manning up was still done The Old Way in the "Dogs". This pristine example of the type is an F-86L assigned to the 71st FIS/30th AD and was a flight commander's aircraft when she had her portrait taken in early 1957. Note that both variants of the F-86D had a retracting step to replace the obsoleted gun panel that was used for entrance and egress on the F-86A thrugh F.  Isham Collection

The 83rd FIS had the F-86L on strength when this photograph of 53-0598 was taken in 1958. We're guessing she's either going into or, more likely, judging from all that masking tape, coming out of a visit to Corrosion Control. Note the deployed slats; none of the "Dogships" had hard wings.  Isham Collection

The "Sabre Dog" was a dying breed in the regular Air Force by 1959, but a few were still in squadron service even though most of the F-86Ds and Ls were quickly going to the Guard. 53-0803 was with the 95th FIS when photographed at Scott AFB in 1959. She doesn't look bad at all, but her days as an effective interceptor are pretty much behind her. For the next 20 years ADC would belong to the delta, but that's a different story.  Isham Collection

It's time to end today's look at the F-86D family but there's more to come, so stay tuned. We aren't done with the "Dog" just yet!

Some "Thuds" in Europe

It's a familiar story, and most amateur aviation historians can quote it chapter and verse: The F-105D Thunderchief was built for nuclear war but ended up being attrited into oblivion in Southeast Asia. That's a pretty fair assessment of  what happened, but there's a part that some folks don't know about---the "Thud" stayed around in Europe far longer than a lot of folks realize. Let's take a look back at the F-105D while the type was assigned to the 36th TFW assigned to Bitburg AB, Germany, in 1965.

Welcome to France! The year was 1965, and these F-105D-10-REs from the 36th were spending a little time at Laon. The European-based "Thuds" had mostly gone through Operation Lookalike's application of silver lacquer by the time this photo was taken from a taxiing C-47 by former co-worker Richard Franke. The Silver Air Force was on its way out, but it was going out with a bang.  Franke

60-0450 was another F-105D-10-RE and was showing the effects of operational life on the continent when this photo was taken in July of 1965. USAFE's "Thuds" didn't have racks for external ordnance, but were still fitted out for the tactical nuclear strike mission utilizing their rotary bomb bays. Those days of dedicated nuclear strike were about to change forever...  Franke

It rains quite a bit in western Europe, and the ramp at Laon frequently looked like it does in this photo. The F-105D had as good an all-weather capability as any tactical aircraft in the world during this time period, though, and was considerd to be a true all-weather strike fighter. 0471 survived both USAFE and the Vietnam War to be restored for the Yanks Air Museum in 2002. She was one of the few.  Franke

Here's a 3/4 rear shot of 0471 showing off the afterburner petals, which on the F-105 also doubled as speed brakes. The "Thud" was never much of a turning machine, but a clean example would leave almost everything in the dust at low altitude. She rarely got the chance to show that side of her personality in the SEA fracas,  but she was destined to become the stuff of legends all the same. Republic knew how to build fighters, ya'll.  Franke

And a final shot of 0471 sitting on that rain-soaked ramp at Laon. The writing's already on the wall for the "Thud" in USAFE; check out the camouflaged F-105D sitting behind her. The Thunderchief was about to leave the world of the mundane and enter the realm of the Legendary.  Franke

It Was a Crummy War

It's easy to glamorize things from nearly 60 years worth of distance, but the air war in the Pacific was a thoroughly dirty, nasty little war, with precious little glamor to it. The 49th FG were in it from almost the beginning, being formed in Australia in early 1942 and incorporating a handful of Philippines and Java campaign veterans into its ranks. It was a hot outfit from the very beginning, overshadowed (and some, including this writer, will dispute that) only by the 475th FG during the latter years of the war after the best and the brightest were taken from the previously-existing fighter groups to create that outfit.

The 49th flew the P-40, P-47, and P-38 in combat during its stay in the Pacific. Today, thanks to the kindness of Bobby Rocker, we're going to take a look at them during their time with the P-40.

The 49th was quick to move to New Guinea after their combat debut in the skies over Darwin. Here's an excellent study of an unidentified P-40E from the group undergoing maintenance at 30-Mile Strip near Port Moresby. She's wearing "British" camouflage but her undersurfaces appear to be in Neutral Grey and she's wearing the "U.S. ARMY" legend under her wings, something not always found on Warhawks taken from British contract. Her port aileron is interesting; it doesn't appear to be deflected and is substantially lighter in hue than the surrounding airframe, which suggests it may be in the light blue-gray specified for export P-40Es. It could also be in yellow zinc chromate primer (unlikely) or clear-doped linen; without a color photo it's almost impossible to determine which one it actually is.  Rocker Collection

Most of these Warhawks were with the 9th FS when photographed at 30-Mile Strip. For some reason most of the "British" P-40Es ended up in the 9th and the RAF-style camouflage displayed here, plus their high squadron numbers, confirm that unit. Check out the parking apron---that red dirt would become a sea of mud during the frequent rains that fell on the region. There was nothing fun about war in the Southwest Pacific.  Rocker Collection

Certain of the 49th's P-40s have become famous because of the number of times they've showed up in books and periodicals. No. 34 was assigned to the 7th FS, and this photograph shows a detail often overlooked; the aircraft name "Pistoff" is yellow, but is trimmed in white. There aren't many aftermarket decal sheets for this bird, but that name has been given in overall yellow at least once. It's something to watch out for if you're building a model. That's her pilot, Don Lee, standing by her nose. He's happy here, obviously proud, and young. New Guinea would age him, as it aged everyone who fought there. That's something we often forget when we build models of the airplanes from those days. Next time you decide to have yourself an adult beverage, consider lifting your glass to those guys. They deserve it, they earned the right to that sort of tribute with their blood.  Rocker Collection

Here's "Scatterbrain" from the 7th FS, photographed at Dobodura during 1943. That dark patch on her nose is frequently depicted as a neatly-defined separate color in the drawings that appear in aviation monographs. It's undoubtedly a separate color, but the demarcation is anything but neat. Check out those "Kelly" helmets worn by some of her ground crew too; that would be a neat touch for a diorama, we think.  Rocker Collection

The P-40K was a rarity in the 49th, only operated for a short time by the 7th FS. This example from "Nick Nichol's Nip Nippers" is being gassed up on the field at Dobodura. A few of the 7th's K-models were delivered in the "British" scheme, and this otherwise unidentified example may well have been one of them. Note that the WWI-vintage "Kelly" helmets from the previous photo have now been replaced by government-issue tropical sun helmets. New Guinea was a lousy place to fight a war.  Rocker Collection

"Vera" is one of those famous P-40s from the 49th; her photo has shown up all over the place over the years. One thing that nobody seems to have noticed is that she's carrying artwork in front of her fuselage corcarde---there may also be some sort of marking back there on her rudder, but the light-colored shape that appears on that surface may also be a repair patch. Once again, we may never know... Rocker Collection

The 8th FS is perhaps best remembered for its colorful P-40Ns. Here's "Norma" being salvaged after an incident involving a collapsed port landing gear. Of special interest is the way the white theater markings extend to her MLG doors. Her spinner is in at least two different colors, and may in fact be in three. Even the "mundane" airplanes in the 49th were interesting!  Rocker Collection

Here's another 8th FS P-40N undergoing salvage. This may be a different view of "Norma" but is identified as being at a different airfield and probably is a different ship. That treatment around the national insignia is interesting, as are the armed GIs surrounding the aircraft; you could never describe any of the northern New Guinea airfields as truly secure. That mud you see was a constant of life in the Solomons. With it came mosquitoes, malaria, and all sorts of other assorted nastiness. Did we mention that it was a lousy war?  Rocker Collection

The late dash-number P-40Ns were equipped to carry stores, including auxilliary fuel tanks, under the wings as illustrated by this often-reproduced photograph of the 7th FS' "Rita". There are any number of plastic kits of the P-40N available, but the long out-of-production AMT offering in 1/48th scale was, if we recall correctly, the only kit to offer that option. Of course, they put the wrong exhaust stacks on their model, and it's been effectively replaced by Hasegawa's kit. They did it, though, and that has to count for something!

Froggy Went A-Courtin' and Turkey Came a Cropper

When we recently ran several of Jim Sullivan's TBM photos we did it because we thought it made for a neat article. Then, a little over a week after we ran the original piece, we read where someone on one of the modeling boards was modeling a VU-1 TBM for his collection, which reminded us that Jim had sent along a late-comer to that photo essay. It's a neat photo so we're going to break precedent and run it today. We hope you enjoy it.

It's neat to be able to do a headstand unless, of course, you do it in an airplane. This TBM-3U from VU-7 did that very thing on 8 May, 1949, and here she is; 85959 is in all her Target Tug glory but sitting in a somewhat undignified positon. She was back in service soon enough; the pilot's humiliation probably lasted a little longer. Darren, this shot's for you!  J. Sullivan Collection

Reader's Rides

Very few of our readership own their own aircraft, and fewer still own ex-military examples of same. That means that we probably aren't beginning a new section of the blog today, but one of our readers is getting ready to go aviating in a rather unique airplane and we thought you might enjoy seeing it.

If you were to ask us exactly what a Pilatus P2 was, we'd have to plead ignorance. We know it's a Swiss-built trainer, and it sure looks like it's stolen a lot of its design, as well as that Argus powerplant, from certain Arado and Focke Wulf designs of the 1930s, but once you get past that we're pretty much at a loss. This one lives near Austin, Texas, and is being restored (and will ultimately be flown) by a team including RIS reader Simon Diver. We think his model airplane kit is a whole lot neater than ours are. It's a matter of perspective...  via Diver

Happy Snaps

We've bragged on Doug Barbier's air-to-air work many times before, and we haven't shown any of it the past issue or two. It's time to make amends:

Doug spent some of his "Hun" time with the Arizona ANG---here's one of their F-100Fs breaking ground and heading for the range Back in The Day. The F-100 was one of those airplanes that looked like it was going fast even when it wasn't, and this example is beautifully captured here. Thanks, Doug!   Barbier

The Relief Tube

Given the fractuousities we experienced with the equipment last time around we can honestly say its a relief of the highest magnitude to be able to get out a "normal" edition. That said, we do have some entries for the Relief Tube today, so let's get started.

First off is that photo of the disassembled "Scooter" that looked like a model airplane project gone wrong. As we suspected it turned out to be one of Maddog John Kerr's shots, but it's a fascinating airplane in its own right. First, let's hear from Maddog:  Phil, yes it is my photo. It was taken in September 1992 at Buckley ANG, CO. I have it marked as an NA-4E. I believe the aircraft had been on display there, and was in the process of being airlifted to New York state. Believe it is now on display at the Village of Oriskany New York. John  Rick Morgan noticed some other details on the photo and has provided this addtional information for us:  Phil: Regarding the detached Scooter 148613, it’s actually a YA4D-5 (YA-4E) and was one of two prototypes for the E-model. It was apparently delivered with A-4C nose and intakes . The China Lake page at the Skyhawk Association site shows it in proper configuration as an NA-4E, so it appears to have spent most of its life as a test aircraft. It’s now on display at Oriskany NY marked for VA-163.   Rick   Thanks, Morgo. Rick also provided a link to the Skyhawk Association Web Page, which is well worth checking out if you've got a spare minute. That address is:

Chris Banyai-Reipl, who publishes Internet Modeler, had this to say about that F-86L shot we ran last week:
Hi. I just wanted to drop you a line and say, first off, thanks for your blog and the efforts of the old Replica in Scale. I still read those magazines for inspiration and to remember how modeling used to be.

On the F-86D at the end of your column, I have some updated information for you. Unfortunately, I do not have a squadron for you, but I can tell you that it is in fact an F-86L, not an F-86D. While the easiest identifier for the F-86L is the SAGE antenna on the left side, there are other clues to the type. As the F-86L had the 6-3 wing with the 12" tip extension, the straight pitot tube and ailerons not going to the tip of the wing are also good clues. Of course, in that photo, you can't see the wingtips, so that easy identifier is not going to help. However, the 6-3 extension will, as at the root it places the leading edge of the wing ahead of the angle point on that prominent fuselage panel. The F-86D has the leading edge of the wing aft of that angle point. Finally, the junk behind the seat under the canopy is different. The F-86L is much more tightly packed with boxes and stuff. It's more open on the F-86D, but that can be tough to discern from an angle or a distance.

I went through all of this working on my book and it took me a while to figure it all out. Once I did, though, I discovered quite a few more F-86Ls than I had figured! This photo is particularly interesting, as I haven't come across many fluorescent F-86Ls with the star-n-bar in the center of the fuselage. I look forward to seeing if you find out the unit, as I'd love to add that example to my 2nd edition, when I get to it (I need to finish up the book on the F-89 and F-94 first, though).

Again, thanks for all the great work you've put into this hobby of aviation history and scale modeling! Chris  Thanks Chris, both for the kudos and for your comments. As an addendum, we're now more than certain that particular F-86L is from the New Hampshire ANG; its paintwork and markings (that tail stripe) tally perfectly with the 133rd FIS' livery for the time period in question.

In our recent TBM photo essay we ran a shot of a "Turkey" marked with a ZA tailcode and requested help with its identification. Tommy Thomason came to the rescue on that one: According to Elliott, Aircraft Circular Letter No. 156-46 dated 7 November 1946 established a two-letter tail code for Naval Reserve Air Stations, with the first letter identifying the station and the second, the squadron's mission. In this case, Z was Squantum and A was Attack. This became a one-letter tail code per Naval Air Reserve Training Command Memorandum No. 160-48 dated 23 September 1948, less than two years later, dropping the aircraft class letter. T  Tommy also had this to say about one of the captions in our recent FJ-1 piece:  "(FJ-1) 120346 was assigned to the Navy's AT-3 when this photo was taken at Pax River in 1948." The caption implies that AT-3 was a unit. The test functions at NATC were divided into divisions. The names have changed, mergers have occured, etc. but at the time there was an Armament Test division. You'll also see ST for Service Test, ET for Electronics Test, FT for Flight Test, TT (my favorite) for Tactical Test, etc. sometimes followed by a number, sometimes not. My guess is that the number was another way for the division to keep track of the airplanes assigned to it. T  Thanks as always, Tommy!

Mike McMurtrey offered an insight to the ID of one of those TraCom transports we ran a while back:

Thought I had sent this to you last week, but just now discovered that I sent it to myself! She was indeed BuNo 50743 (c/n 26079, ex-USAAF 43-48818). Here is her complete history:
Del Date 24 Sep 1944, San Diego
FAW 29 Sep 1944
VH-5 5 Oct 1944
VE-3 Dec 1944
VE-1 Jan 1945
FAW-14 17 Mar 1945
ComAirPac SCF Apr 1945
Pearl Harbor oct 1945
Alameda Nov 1945
Jacksonvill mar 1946
Com NABS 17 Aug 1946
NAS Kodiak Sep 1946 - May 1950
MCAS Yuma 3 Aug 1960
NAATC Kingsville 1 May 1963
Corpus Christi 18 Nov 1965
Struck 17 Apr 1958 (sic) - probably error for 1968

This info comes from the latest edition of Air Britain's DC-3 book courtesy Matt Miller. My earlier report that she was reported for sale at Corpus Christi in 1949 came from the info in the first edition of that same book, a copy of which is in my possession, and which has obviously been corrected and updated. Guess it's time for me to spring for the new edition.  Mike  Thanks for sticking with that one, Mike! We appreciate the information. (And we agree with you---go buy that book!)

Finally, Dave Menard had a comment on that 50th TFW "Hun" we ran last time around:  Phil, GORGEOUS shot of 814! I worked on her during my time with the 50th TFW (May 59-May 62). The red fences and trim on the nose meant she was a 417th TFS a/c out of Ramstein AB Germany. Since the buzz number is painted over, the photo was taken post January 1965 when T.O. 1-1-4 deleted the buzz number section. Did not take long for them to get painted over, darn it. As Bob Hope used to say, thanks for the memories. Cheers, dave  We're glad you enjoyed it, Dave, and thanks to you for all the support you continue to give to the RIS project!

It's now officially all over but the shoutin', at least as far as this edition is concerned. Thanks for your patience last week, and keep those cards and letters coming ( ). Be good to your neighbor and we'll see you again next week.

No comments:

Post a Comment