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!

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