Wednesday, March 31, 2010

An Old Friend, and Swishy-Boomy Things,

Everybody Loves the Sabre

The F-86 is everybody's favorite, and with good reason. The airplane embodied pretty much everything you could want in a jet fighter during the late 1940s and early to mid-1950s; it was fast, reliable, easy to maintain, maneuverable, and well armed. It was also fairly small and simple both to fly and to maintain, and the design was right the first time. Sabre variants were still flying in American military service in limited numbers during the 1970s, and remained in several foreign air forces for a while after we finally retired it. It was a Good Airplane, and a viable counter to both the MiG-15 and, when properly flown (ask the Taiwanese about that one), the MiG-17 as well. It's also a highly colorful aircraft and that, when combined with its service history, makes it an ideal choice for a model subject.

That said, we aren't going to review any F-86 kits today, primarily because the subject's been pretty well worked to death by others. The primary variants are all available in plastic, although we're still missing the F-86A and H in 1/48th and 1/32nd scale, but the E/F series have been catered to, at least if you consult your references before you go building a model; for instance, it's tougher to do some USAF Korean War variants than you might imagine and building straight from the box isn't necessarily a good idea with the available kits. There's also a really good F-86D kit out there from Revell of Germany that's been released in both early and late variants, which makes it possible to build some really colorful Ds and Ls in 1/48th scale. Our cup almost runneth over!

Here are a couple of photos for inspiration should you decide to build yourself an F-86. They don't depict outrageously different airplanes, but they're not quite the norm either, and at least one probably got in some post-Korean War combat time. This airplane's a lot like the F4U; you can never have too many of them.

Here's F-86E-10-NA 51-2779 of the 119th FIS, 177th FIG, New Jersey Air National Guard. The 119th transitioned from Mustangs to the Sabre during 1955 and kept their E-models until 1962 when the group transitioned to the F-86H. This photo depicts the F-86 in its classic "ground" mode, with everything hanging. The slats are dropped (they were aerodynamically actuated; that was their normal position when the aircraft wasn't moving) as are the speed brakes and gear doors, which normally dropped open after the aircraft had been shut down. Note the segmented serial number presentation and that gorgeous lightning flash on the fuselage.   Gordon Blake via Ron Picciani

The Taiwanese Air Force operated the F-86 for a number of years and was involved in frequent air combat with the Chinese Communists while using the type. This F-86F-25-NH is seen in that service during November of 1958 and was photographed at Chia AB. Taiwan was virtually at war with Mainland China during this time period, and the Sidewinder rails seen on the inboard pylons of this aircraft were usually loaded with live rounds. Of particular interest is the smudging around the lower gun ports; the guns have recently been fired and the powder and gun lube residue haven't been completely cleaned off yet. What a neat airplane!  Carl Brown

52-10150, an F-86L-50-NA of the 133rd FIS, 157th FIG, New Hampshire ANG. The 133rd only flew the Dog for two years; 1958 to 1960, and never developed the colorful markings found on the F-86s of other ANG units. The primary color on this bird is the arctic red conspicuity markings found on the nose and the fuselage band. The anti-glare panel on the F-86D could be black but was more often olive drab. Most Sabres in this serial range were ultimately transferred to Japan.  Gordon Blake via Ron Picciani

A four-ship from the 182nd FIS/149th FIG of the Texas ANG formate over South Texas. 53-0667 is an F-86D-55-NA, while the other three aircraft are F-86D-60-NAs. All were subsequently converted to F-86Ls and many were ultimately sent to MAP customers. On these aircraft the group badge is on a red band, while the large areas of what appear to be white paint are day-glo red. Anti-glare panels are olive drab.  149th TFG

More Noisemakers

I guess we've started a series of sorts regarding American aviation ordnance, so we'd may as well add a little to it. Here are a couple of illustrations of the sorts of unguided rockets that were in use during the 1950s and 60s in the Navy. Once again the information comes from The Aviation Ordnanceman's Manual (AO), NavAer 00-80T-65, dated 1958.

Let's start with the biggest one first! Here's Tiny Tim shown in its component parts. The Navy had an extremely specific way of designating its rockets; first the caliber of the round, then the warhead, then the motor. Then end result produced a designation such as "11.75-inch Rocket Mk 3 Mod 0" for a complete round. There were different heads available as well as different fuzes, so a variety of descriptions was possible for each individual size of rocket. Figuring it all out can get a little confusing without a Decoder Ring!

The Navy specified that rocket motors (the body of the weapon) be painted olive drab, while the types of warheads were defined by the following color code:

High Explosive                        Olive Drab with white markings
Chemical (casualty gas)           Gray with green band, white lettering
Chemical (smoke)                   Gray with yellow band, white lettering
Practice                                  Blue with white markings
Inert                                       Black with white markings

The 2.25-inch Subcaliber Aircraft Rocket. This is a practice round only.

 The 3.5-inch rocket could be loaded with either a 3.5-inch or 5-inch warhead. Note that the drawing shows the rocket motor in a sectioned conditon; this is not a short stubby round!

The 5-inch High Velocity Aircraft Rocket (HVAR).

The 2.5-inch Folding Fin Aircraft Rocket (FFAR), also known as Mighty Mouse. This rocket is the one you find in pods during the Vietnam Fracas; the fins fold behind the motor tube and deploy to stabilize the round when it's fired.

The manual doesn't provide the same sort of relative scale diagram for the rockets as it does for bombs, so there's no comparison-at-a-glance sort of drawing provided. If I can find one I'll publish it later, but this is it for now.

Crazy Times A-Coming

We've been getting together pretty much every weekday since I began this thing, but we may miss a few days during the next month due to an extended visit from family. Don't be unduly concerned if you don't see a post each and every day for a while or if the posts you do see are somewhat abbreviated; nothing's wrong, we're just out driving folks around the Texas Hill Country. In theory everything will be back to normal, whatever you may define that to be, in May.

And that's it for a Tuesday. Be good to your neighbor!

The Dauntless' Daddy, A Dart, Fox Peter 2, and Another Cat

The Dauntless' Daddy

Everybody knows about the Douglas SBD, and most people are also aware that it turned the tide of the war in the Pacific almost single-handedly. That's a bold and perhaps even rash statement (I'm no stranger to that sort of thing; it's part of my charm.), but think back for a minute. The first significant reprisal strikes on the Japanese after the attack on Pearl Harbor were made with air groups that counted two SBD squadrons (one scouting squadron and one bombing squadron on each ship) in their complement of aircraft. Then came Coral Sea, what amounted to a command performance at Midway, and finally Guadalcanal and the Solomons. The Dauntless was obsolescent at the beginning of the war and lasted so long in the Fleet primarily because its designated replacement (the Curtiss SB2C series) experienced so many technical problems that it was months after its initial deployment before it finally became a viable weapon. As a result the Navy had to use the SBD far longer than they had ever wanted to do, but it proved itself up to the task right to the end. It was a classic weapon, and a pretty good looking airplane too.

There are probably still folks out there who don't realize that it was a development of two other aircraft; it's immediate parent, the XBT-2, and it's true sire, the Douglas BT-1. The XBT-2 wasn't all that far from being a Dauntless, and you can recognize the lineage without any trouble at all. It was, in point of fact, designed and built to correct the shortcomings (poor speed and handling during flight deck operations, which is to say that it was scary to fly around the boat) of the original design, the BT-1. In fact the BT-1 looks more like a Northrop design than anything by Douglas, which isn't unreasonable when you remember that Jack Northrop was heavily involved in the BT-1's conception. A great many of the BT-1's technical problems were sorted out by a relative newcomer named Ed Heinemann (first with Northrop and then with Douglas), but the design's Northrop parentage is extremely obvious.

A couple of kits have been issued of the BT-1 over the years, but they've been difficult to obtain and required a fair dose of modeling skills (That keeps coming up, that modeling skills thing...) to produce a good replica. It would be really neat if somebody would give us a more user-friendly kit and up-to-date kit, and maybe someday somebody with a Czech last name will do just that, but for now we pretty much have an Empty Bag. Here's a photo to whet your apetite, just on the off-chance that some day some one will produce a kit for us.

Here's BuNo 0615 as it appeared when it was assigned to VB-5 aboard the USS Yorktown. It's a classic study in pre-War colors, with silver fuselage, yellow upper wing surfaces, colored tail, and a section leader's colored cowl. Bombing Five's leaping ram is visible in black under the windscreen. This shot leaves no doubt that the BT-1 was a Northrop design.  Douglas via Harry Gann

It's Funny Now, But I Bet That Guy Was Pretty Scared

We've touched briefly on the Air Force's Air Material Command and the various repair and overhaul depots under that umbrella. The Late, Great Kelly AFB, now part of the Lackland AFB complex (an Odd Thing, since Lackland was originally created out of a wartime expansion of Kelly; funny how the circle is a wheel...) used to be prime on the Convair F-106 interceptor back when it was still San Antonio Air Logistics Center. Besides the normal overhaul and repair they also did developmental work (the frameless semi-bubble canopy and M61 Vulcan installation were both done there) and sometimes provided aircraft for special purposes. To that end the depot "owned" an F-106A and an F-106B, and they could be frequently seen overhead during the 80s if you were anywhere near Kelly.

As for the Funny Story, it's one of those deals that's funny because everything turned out all right in the end. It was almost a tragedy, the sort of thing that you'd see on the national news at 5 o'clock. It could've been Real Bad.

I used to work at a company that had its production facilities immediately off the north end of Kelly's runway, and I made a practice of looking skyward any time I was outdoors. I was involved in materials management at the time, and some of our raw materials were stored outside, so that was an easy thing to do, just in case you were wondering. You can always find a reason to chase airplanes, right?

Anyway, I was out there one fine, sunny morning, when I heard the unmistakeable sound of Tactical Aviation approaching from the north. I looked up and there was F-106A AF 59-0061 in lead, with an F-101B (maybe from Ellington ANGB, but I'm not sure on that) on its starboard wing, tucked in really tight and looking good. They were at 500 feet, give or take, and the Six snapped into a break immediately after they crossed the Kelly perimeter, immediately followed by the Voodoo. Therein lies The Rub, and also the crux of this story.

The F-106 was designed as a true delta-winged fighter, and was possessed of an initial turn rate that few of its contemporaries could match. The F-101, on the other hand, had little-bitty wings and a tee-tail that was easily blanked off by the rest of the aircraft during certain flight parameters; things like high angle of attack or in the course of a really tight turn. Our Six was apparently living large that day, and cranked in what could only be described as The Mother of All Really Tight Turns. The Voodoo driver followed. The Six turned. The F-101 had what some folks might call "issues" as the airplane effectively masked the empennage surfaces, creating an immenent stall. At 500 feet, over a heavily-populated Air Force base. You could see that F-101 shudder, even from my vantage point about 300 yards away, and then watch it as it dropped like a stone heading for Mother Earth.

Most afterburning jet fighters designed during the 1950s were possessed of what's known as a "hard light" when said AB was called into play. This "hard light" produced almost-instant thrust, accompanied by a resounding BOOM. The 101 turned. The 101 shuddered and dropped like a rock. Then the Miracle occured (at least I thought it was one!). The nose of the Voodoo perceptably straightened out, accompanied by an earth-shattering BOOM-BOOM as the pilot crammed the throttles into AB some 350 feet overhead. The F-101 ceased to fall, and began to accellerate, albeit somewhat slowly, into a more normal flight path.

That was the part where I realized I'd been holding my breath the whole time. I watched as the two aircraft made another circuit, executed a far more leisurely break than before, and landed. It's been nearly 25 years since I saw that happen, and I can still see it as though it was yesterday. And, I'm still impressed to this day with the airmanship of the F-101 driver, and with his Abundant Good Luck. True, he got himself into it by trying to follow a Delta Dart in a turn, something that no American fighter could do until the advent of the F-15 and F-16, but he got himself out of it too. That's gotta count for something.

I wonder if it's hard to get stains out of Nomex?

Here's 59-0061 on the ground at Kelly in 1988. At the time the photo was taken it was owned by the SAALC and performing B-1 chase duties, as depicted in the artwork on the vertical stab. It's a pretty airplane and I'll run a shot for you in color once I get a slide scanner. Until then you'll need to be happy with this slightly over-developed (the negs are good; blame my darkroom skills or lack thereof) image of 0061.
Was the Delta Dart a good looking airplane or what?  Friddell

Fox Peter 2

On 4 July, 1952, the 31st Fighter Escort Wing left Turner Field, Georgia, for a air-refueled trans-Pacific flight to Misawa AB, Japan. The deployment, named Fox Peter 1, was successful. Slightly more than 90 days later (6 October 1952) the 31st was relieved by the 27th FEW out of Bergstrom AFB, Texas, who made the same journey and  provided air defense for Northern Honshu until relieved by the 508th Strategic Fighter Wing on 13 February 1953, when they returned to Bergstrom to transition from their F-84Gs to F-84Fs.

I've always had an interest in USAF activities at Misawa, and discovered that Mark Morgan had access to a series of photographs of Fox Peter 2. Mark was kind enough to share them with me, which allows us to view this brief photo essay of the deployment.

Saddling up. It's going to be a long day.  USAF via M. Morgan

The 27th FEW was based at Bergstrom AFB, but this may have been taken at Travis AFB in California immediately prior to the trans-Pacific leg of the flight. Bergstrom was a SAC base at the time and there are a lot of transports in the background of these photos, which would suggest the location to be Travis.  USAF via M. Morgan

The KB-29 provided sterling service as a tanker. This formation is preparing to provide refueling support to the 27th. The aircraft in the foreground (44-83883, presumeably a KB-29) is a bit of an enigma; that serial number was assigned to B-17G-95-DL. Clarification would be appreciated.  USAF via M. Morgan

Getting ready to pass a little gas before going feet wet. The Thunderjet is carrying every tank it's possible to hang on an F-84! The antenna mounted to the starboard nose is presumed to be associated with some sort of navigation equipment; once again clarification would be appreciated! Note the size of the USAF legend on the wing.  USAF via M. Morgan

Of poor quality but great historical interest, this newspaper photo apparently depicts the 27th's arrival in Japan. Bet he's tired!  USAF via M. Morgan

The photos shown above seem to raise more questions than they answer, which in turn leads me to ask if any of you have further information on them. If you do, please drop me a note at . I'd love to find out a little more about them.

And a Cat to End the Day

A while back the folks at Eduard released a model of the F6F-3. It was pretty well picked-over at that time, but the worst anyone could say about the kit was that the tires didn't have any tread and were a little too thin. Well, they don't have tread (certain subsequent releases have included resin tires/wheels to correct the problem) and they may be too thin, but in every other respect the kit lives up to its advance billing. It's an excellent representation of the real aircraft. Let's close out the day with a couple of photos of one I built a year or so ago.

The starboard side. The model was built as Alex Vraciu's VF-6 mount, "Gadget". I wasn't overly concerned about the tires and wheels when this was built so I didn't replace them; mostly I just wanted to see if the kit lived up to its hype. It did, right down to that infamous "Hellcat Grin" that's apparently been such a bugaboo to modelers the past few years. If you'll work on the premise that no model is, or ever will be, perfect, then this offering by Eduard is probably a 9 on a 10 Scale. It sure looks like a Hellcat!

The port side. I don't particularly care for the shade of blue in the national insignia, but that could have been easily addressed by a trip to the decal box if I'd been a little more energetic when I had it in the paint shop. About the only thing that really annoyed me about the kit was the fact that Eduard didn't provide photo-etch for the cockpit consoles, even though PE came with the kit. They later issued a supplementary set of PE to spiff up other areas of the model, and that fret included the consoles. It should've been in the original issue. Fie!

Yesterday's offering was a short one due to circumstances beyond my control. Today's offering is a late one (it's already tomorrow here, for cryin' out loud) but we're going to figure that Late is ok. In the meantime, be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Helping a Friend With Some Photos

Helpin' When I Can, Or Thoughts On a Speedy-Dee

We all have favorite airplanes, and I've made no bones about the fact that mine is the Lockheed F-104. This isn't about that, though, so don't go looking for pictures of pointy little airplanes here. There won't be any of those, not this time anyway. (Probably later, though...)

What there will be is the Douglas SBD, or A-24 if you prefer, although it won't really be an A-24 deal at all because I've got some really tasty photos of 3rd Attack Banshees at Port Moresby to share with you, and that's going to be a whole separate thing on another day. Today's just going to be the SBD, and more specifically, the SBD-2 and -3. So why is that, you might reasonably ask?

It's really simple. My friend Frank has started a Midway-based -2 using the Accurate Miniatures kit and I wanted to help out. What follows (after I finish talking, anyway) are some scans from a Douglas manual that will give a really good idea of what a wartime (as opposed to a contemporary restored warbird, which are, I can assure you, two dramatically different animals!) Dauntless radio operator's turret (and that's what both Douglas and the Navy called it; a turret, and the guy that sat back there was the radio operator) should look like. (Another highly convoluted sentence, that. It's probably a good thing I'm not in school anymore!)I've thrown in a couple of other goodies too just in case they might end up being of use. You would reasonably expect to see cockpit photos too, but they're deliberately conspicuous by their absence since every book you've ever seen on the SBD details that area pretty well and I'm pressed for time just now.

First, and pressed for time or not, here's some more talking! Frank builds primarily in 1/48th scale. So do I. That means we're going to take a half-minute or so and discuss the three kits that are contenders in that scale, even though two of the three are worthwhile with an enormous caveat attached to them. You can get a pretty good SBD model out of any one of these kits even though you're going to laugh at two of them, and maybe even exercise some of that Internet Expertise that can be so pervasive in our hobby and which may even cause you to say something Profound. Then again, maybe not.

The first kit that you can laugh at, or be snobby at, or whatever you might want to do at, is the now-ancient Monogram SBD-more-or-less-3. It truly is old (1960 or 61, I think), and it's got lots of working features such as retractable landing gear, working flaps, and a droppable bomb. It's also got poorly-detailed landing gear and no cockpit to speak of, and on top of all that it's covered in rivets. OK, so let's throw it away, right? No. Let's don't do that, but let's clarify why I'm saying what I'm saying. The basic kit is accurate dimensionally. The working features can be un-done (Modeling 101 rears its ugly head again; no Instant Gratification here, gang!) and missing details added. The landing gear can be fixed. And the rivets are ok, mostly, because the real SBD was covered with universal head rivets (those round-headed ones that stick up from the surface). The rivets are accurate and no other 1/48th (or 1/32nd) scale kit gets them right. In the rivet department it's Monogram's race, although it would be far easier and infinitely more practical to build your model off something a little more modern. It would be extremely labor intensive to construct a good model from this kit, although it can be done. The Monogram kit suffers from being the first one in the scale, and I would probably agree with you that it's best built box-stock, as a representative of days gone by. The pain ain't worth the gain anymore. You can, however, produce an outstanding model from it if you want to do that.

The next contender is from Hasegawa, which I think was issued as a -3 and a -4, and maybe (although I'm not certain about it) as a -5 or -6 too. It's a good kit dimensionally and is easy to build, but in many ways it's as tough a date as the old Monogram one. Simply put, it's not up to what anybody would consider to be The Normal Hasegawa Standards. It doesn't have raised rivet detail (not a deal-breaker), the cockpit is inaccurate in a number of areas, but the worst is in the diving flaps. Monogram didn't open up those holes (all 350+ of them) on their kit, but their kit is almost 50 years old so we can forgive the omission. Hasegawa didn't open them up either, and molded them so softly that centering a drill to correct the flaps is extremely difficult, thus forcing you to replace them with aftermarket, presuming that's still available, or fill them with black paint. It's a cryin' shame, too, because those holes are a major part of the Dauntless' personality. It might not seem so at first glance, but it would take almost as much work to correct the Hasegawa kit as it would the old Monogram one even though you do, in theory at least, have a better starting place. Me, I'd pass it right on by.

Fortunately, Accurate Miniatures also did an SBD for us, and have released it as all the Navy/Marine variants (at least I think they did, but it's no Big Deal if they didn't. If you've got a -2 then a -3 and -4 are a snap to build, while having a -5 means you can easily do a -6 too; most of the changes between SBD variants were internal, with cowling and free-gun installations being the significant external differences. (Yes, I know about the little spinner. It's no big deal.) The AM kit doesn't have rivets (wonder why not---they got everything else right!) but otherwise it's a thing of beauty. I personally stick Eduard PE in every kit I build, but you don't really need it for this one. It's the basis for an outstanding model right out of the box and is the kit of choice for most folks. It's a good 'un.

Now that we've got that out of the way, here are some illustrations and photos for you:

The radio operator's turret. The top of the photo faces forward on the actual aircraft. Note the rudder pedal troughs and radio operator's lap belt---the SBD could be flown from the back seat.   Douglas via Harry Gann

Sitting in the radio operator's position looking forward. The rudder pedals, stowed stick (at the left of the photo) and rudimentary flight instruments are all shown to advantage. Note the hoisting sling by the turnover pylon. While the SBD could certainly be flown aboard the boat, it was frequently hoisted aboard at pierside.  Douglas via Harry Gann

The upper view gives a better idea of how the stick was stowed. The throttle is at upper right. It was a simple cockpit.  The lower photo showes the canvas screen that was normally in place at the forward end of the radio operator's position; note the cutout allowing the back-seat instruments to be seen with the cover in place. Douglas via Harry Gann

The SBD-3 got twin .30 calibre free guns early in the production run, while all the -1s and -2s were outfitted with a single .30 in the radio operator's position. This illustration shows the single gun and its ammo can in the stowed position.  There's no armor visible here; that came later, after combat experience showed it to be a Really Good Idea.  Douglas via Harry Gann

And finally, some shots of operational SBD-2s and 3s. Please excuse the quality on a couple of them; the originals weren't very good...

Neutrality Gray. These SBD-3s wouldn't look like this for long; it's October of 1941 and war is barely a month away. Note that only the middle aircraft has a spinner fitted.  National Archives HG85-017C via Jim Sullivan

Remember that hoisting sling we talked about a few minutes ago? Here's what it was used for. Present-day safety officers would be seriously concerned about the goings-on in this photo, but it was business as usual for the WW2 Navy. The aircraft is an SBD-4.  National Archives

A classic shot of a classic aircraft. These Bombing Six SBD-3s are running up to launch aboard Enterprise; this photo was taken during the February/March 1942 time frame. Note the rudder stripes and oversized national insignia. The Air Group Commander's aircraft is immediately behind B4.  National Archives

End of the road at The 'Canal. This damaged Marine SBD-3 is in the process of being salvaged for parts at Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. The battle for the island extracted a heavy toll in both men and equipment.
Admiral Nimitz Museum via Bruce Smith

Is That All There Is?

Yep, for today, anyway. We were experiencing what some folks might call "technical issues" for the better part of the day and now I need to jump on the lawn tractor and go cut a whole lot of grass. Be good to your neighbor and we'll be back to normal tomorrow.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Another Zip and a Peculiar 109

AheyBop-A-ReeBop; It's Friday Again!

It's amazing, simply amazing, how quickly the week passes. This one's been fun, and I hope you've enjoyed what we've done with it. Please remember that I'm open to your comments and criticisms should you be so inclined, which is an invitation to write and tell me all about it, within reason, of course. That address is . I'm also still looking for photographic material on the 21st TFW or 39th AD at either Misawa or Kunsan during the late 50s and early 60s; if you hold photography on the subject I'd sure like to see it!

Also, I've received a few requests for different views of particular aircraft that I've published. That's fair, and I'll help when I can, but what gets published is generally all there is at the moment so don't be unduly disappointed if I can't do much to help out with requests for additional shots. Believe me, I feel your pain!

Anyway, let's get right down to it with a couple of my favorite topics.

Sometimes the Zipper is a Tub

Lockheed produced two different "trainer" variants of the F-104 for the Air Force; the B model, which was a two-seat variant of the A, and the D model, which was a two-seater based on the F-104C. Both featured the enlarged vertical tail that would adapted to all subsequent Starfighters. The Bs and Ds may, to some extent, have been responsible for creating the rumor that the F-104 had no range to speak of (if you take things on internal fuel only, the Zip actually had a greater unrefueled range than the F-4 if the pilot could make minimal use of the AB) because it was the variant that most senior officers got to fly in, and a great many of those worthies wanted to fly fast, since Fast was seemingly what the F-104 was all about. In a jet Fast means afterburner and afterburner means Gas Guzzler with a capital G, which ultimately translates to Bingo Fuel and a bad reputation. You get the picture.

That notwithstanding, here are a couple of shots of my favorite airplane to end the week.

This photo was taken at the NWC at China Lake on 11 February, 1972, and shows an F-4D carrying an AGM-62 Walleye ("Seek-Bang 2" is notated on the back of the photo; does anyone have details on that?)  with F-104D-5-LO  57-1317 preparing to fly chase. The shot gives an excellent representation of the white upper wings common to either natural metal or gray USAF Starfighters. Although the original photo is annotated as being taken in 1971, the serial number presentation on the Phantom is more consistent with that found in the USAF during 1966-67, when Walleye was undergoing evaluation trials and entering initial service with the Navy.  USN LHL155048

57-1316, another F-104D-5-LO,  in flight out of NWC China Lake in June of 1967. This natural metal F-104D may have been flying chase for a Navy program since the original photo was taken by that service. Note that both slats and flaps are slightly deployed.  USN LO88757

F-104B-1-LO 56-3719 on the ground at Edwards AFB. Note the striped test boom and the number "80" that's positioned above the serial number. Even the tub is a Clean Machine!  USAF Photo

An absolutely gorgeous shot of F-104B-10-LO 57-1304 assigned to Air Material Command. The striping on the white vertical stab, tip tanks, and pitot boom is noteworthy. Modelers, take a look at the underside of the horizontal stab; it's natural metal. I have no idea which Lockheed photographer took this, but he was good!  Lockheed LA6637-8

Anybody who's ever been around tactical jets knows they're loud. Any airplane powered by the J-79 is really loud. And the J-79-powered F-104, with its bleed air systems functioning on the ground, is loud beyond belief. We can hope that the airman parking F-104B-1-LO 56-3723 is wearing earplugs (although I personally doubt that he is); he certainly isn't wearing any other sort of noise attenuation. Things were a little looser back in the 60s! This airframe ended up in the Taiwanese AF.   KAFB History Office, Neg No Unknown

3723 in the chocks at Kelly. Early on the Zip was given the PR nickname of "missile with a man in it". This view illustrates why.  KAFB History Office, Neg No Unknown

And here's today's Mystery Meat. The aircraft is F-104D-5-LO s/n 57-1315, and it was photographed at China Lake. There's a SysCom badge on the intake trunk just aft of the fuselage star, but there's also that what-ever-it-is hanging off the back end. At first that piece of sheetmetal appears to be some sort of test installation to reduce the airplane's not-inconsiderable IR plume, but it doesn't seem to be particularly well-attached to the airframe. I spent years thinking I knew what was going on here, but now I'm not so sure!
This bird ended up being transferred to Taiwan.   USN Photo, Neg No Illegible

Finally, Something on the Bf109!

And we say that somewhat tongue-in-cheek, since valued friend Bad Brad says it so often (and, I can pretty well assure you, doesn't really mean it! I recently got hooked on the Bf-109E-3s and -4s that were used in the Balkans Campaign of 1941 because of their heraldry, and would like to offer a recent model of one of them as today's parting shot.

It's the Tamiya Bf-109E-3 done as the mount of Hpt Herbert Ihlefeld, CO of II(J)/LG 2 as photographed at Hesckemet, Hungary, at the beginning of the campaign. The aircraft was well-travelled before getting to LG 2 (JG 52 was a previous owner) and had apparently been involved in night fighter trials at one time. Surviving photographs show the installation of a Peil Gerat IV antenna cover on the aft ventral surface of the fuselage and irregular blotching over the upper-wing splinter pattern. I was drawn to the scheme because of the colorful theater markings and think the model to be a reasonable representation of the real aircraft, but this one's a little tough to figure out.

Oh yeah, and I owe you folks an apology. I wasn't really very happy with the quality of some of the photos of models that I published last week; they were a little too soft for my liking. Today I noticed that I'd somehow moved the camera's resolution off of "fine" and over to "really gnarly", which is what caused the problem. It's fixed now, and any other problems in resolution rest squarely on my shoulders. I can't blame the camera any more! Just thought you ought to know that...

Lordy, I love all that yellow! Don't you love all that yellow? I love all that yellow! Decals are from Third Group sheet 48-008, and paint is ModelMaster enamel. You can see the Peil Gerat installation pretty well in this photo. It was scratch-built from a piece of card stock and the gun camera fairing from a 1/32nd scale Hasegawa P-40E. Somebody probably makes one as aftermarket but I didn't have it when I built the model (or now either, for that matter!).

An interpretation of the light-colored blotching seen in the photos of this aircraft. Speculation is that it was either light blue or light gray; I used Helgrau 65 because there was already so much gray on the airframe. Is it correct? I don't know, but I don't think anybody else knows for sure either and it seems to match the tonal values in the black and white photos pretty well. Besides the blue, all the other blotching on this model was based on the 3 or 4 photos I had available of the real thing at the time it was built. With any luck it's reasonably close to being correct. That's part of the fun of modeling the Luftwaffe, you know...

At this point in time I have to wonder if you really wanted to see what the opposite side of the model looked like, but I wanted to show it to you so here it is. Not much different, huh? As a personal note, I tend to underweather most of my models on the theory that too much grunge makes them look bad.

A parting photo that shows what a thin coat of yellow I apply to these things. A lot of the yellow markings used by the Luftwaffe were temporary in nature and pertained to specific campaigns or operations, while even the more permanent ID markings were applied directly over existing paint. A fairly thin application of the yellow (or white, or whatever) allows some of the original camouflage to come through, which I like. If you decide you don't happen to like it, you might not want to do it. Choices, choices...

Be good to your neighbor and we'll see you next week.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Something Unexpected, A Little More On Old Shakey, and a Dark Blue Cat

It's a Hormone Thing

Did you ever have one of those days when you just couldn't find something you wanted but found something else that was actually better instead? I had one of those days yesterday. The original object of my search was a battered manila folder entitled "Models". It was something I put together back in the late '80s and it has some pretty neat stuff in it that I wanted to share with you today, but it wasn't where it was supposed to be (in the Dogs & Cats Miscellaneous File). There was another folder that caught my eye, though, and some of its contents are the subject of today's photo essay.

Any of you who ever flew for the military during the Cold War, or are familiar with folks who did, know that there were (and undoubtedly still are) a whole lot of cameras out there in Aviation Land. A great many of them are personal property, although more than a few are provided by the parent organization (USAF, USN, etc) to facilitate the documentation of things that might be a little bit out of the ordinary. What follows would seem to fall into that Little Bit Out of the Ordinary category. All were officially released for publication back in the early '80s but I can't recall seeing them published before now. Enjoy!

Smile for the camera, please! A Soviet aircrewman prepares to do a little photography from the cabin of this Kamov Ka-25 "Hormone" in March of 1972. The photo was taken in the Med and shows what a compact aircraft the Kamov is. I'd love to see a good 1/48th scale kit of this aircraft!  USN K-93750

The bird farm. Here's a view of the fantail of the Kiev shot in 1978  and showing a deckload of Kamovs and Yaks. Note the way the rotors fold for storage on the helos.  USN 1173146

Kiev initiates air ops off the Philippines in 1979. It's not quite the deck full of aircraft that we're used to seeing on American carriers but the ship and her air wing were viable assets for the Soviet navy during that time period. USN 1175141

You never know who you're going to find hanging around the boat. A "Hormone" hovers off the port side of the John F. Kennedy on 17 September, 1972 during her deployment to the Med. Comparison between the Ka-25 and the HC-2 SH-2D being preflighted on the angle provides an excellent size comparison between the two aircraft. The Kamov is being observed from the deck but nobody's particularly concerned about the visitor. This sort of thing was fairly common during the Cold War.  USN 17559

Let's have a little fun! An SH-3A from HS-6 shadows a "Hormone" somewhere over the pacific in May of 1972. This image was taken with a long lens and causes the two aircraft to appear to be similar in size(and very close together!) when in fact the Kamov is considerably the smaller of the two helos. This shot holds our Most Dramatic Photograph of the Day title!  USN  1151607

Me, I Like the C-124

Which is why we're taking another look at it today, but not with photographs. These images are from T.O. 1C-124A-1 and show various details that may be of interest.

This illustration shows the flight deck and various crew ladders, but that's not why we're looking at it. Take a gander at the wing roots, then note the crawlways leading out to the engine nacelles, and the on-board maintenance platforms built into those nacelles. Yep! You could perform minor maintenance operations while in flight on Old Shakey. Those were the days!

You have to get in it before you can fly it. This page from the flight manual shows how the crew (as opposed to passengers, troops, etc) gained entry to the aircraft.

How to Tell When You're Having a Bad Day, Part I.  Those old radials were neat engines, but sometimes they didn't work quite as planned. This page from the flight manual tells the crew how to figure out the cause and relative severity of an in-flight engine fire.

How to Tell When You're Having a Bad Day, Part II. It only goes downhill from there. Note that on this page there are a couple of conditons that call for use of the terms "explosion", "...engine may fall off its mounts.", "abandon aircraft", and "bail out". And you thought that sort of stuff only happened on TV!

Old Shakey wasn't particularly sophisticated, but she did carry a lot of com gear. This illustration shows the variety of antennae present to support her various radios and navigation systems. You don't normally notice that stuff in photographs because the airplane's so darned big!

And finally, this diagram shows what the Globemaster's all about. Besides the ramp that's evident up front, there's a loading platform that drops down from the belly aft of the wing. The auxiliary floor allowed for the transport of both troops and cargo at the same time. This was a huge airplane for its day, and an extremely capable one. In many respects it typifies the Air Force of the 1950s.

In Theory It's a Modeling Pub, So Here's a Model

Hasegawa released a pair of 1/48th scale F6F Hellcat kits back in the mid-90s. Both suffered from soft detail and an undersized cowling, but both were, and to a great extent still are, good representations of the real thing. Eduard issued a superb rendition of the F6F a couple of years ago which immediately became the Gold Standard for models of that aircraft and pushed the Hase offerings into a distant second place. You can still get a pretty fair model out of either of the Hasegawa kits, however, and they're worth building if you have them. Here are a couple of shots to illustrate that point.

Here's a 3/4 nose shot of the port side of the Hasegawa F6F-5. Eduard makes a detail set for the Hasegawa kits that is an essential for building an accurate model; it includes cockpit components, details for the wheel wells, and the aileron hinges that Hasegawa represents with small blobs of plastic on the kit. The cowling on this model is from the now-defunct Cutting Edge and improves things considerably. Obscuro also has a replacement cowl that's supposed to be quite good; either one will enable you to build a far better Hellcat!

And the other side. The national insignia were painted on the model by using stencils made by Eduard. I'm pretty sure those stencils have been discontinued, which is a shame considering how much better the painted markings look than decals. (Montex probably has the same sort of mask for doing the same thing, but I'm not sure about that...) Some folks had a field day trashing this kit back when it was the only game in town. Then they had another one when Eduard released their F6F kits. The offerings of either manufacturer will produce an outstanding model of the Hellcat; it all comes down to what you want to put into it.

And that's what I know. Until then, be good to your neighbor.