Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Thirsty Camel, Another Deuce or Two, A Hot Seat, Engine Grey, and The Last Thing You'd Expect

It's a Long Way Across the Pacific

But sometimes you have to make the hop in a single-engined fighter. We pretty much take that whole global deployment thing for granted these days, but it's always been a tough date, up to and including right now. Right Now doesn't concern us though; instead, let's go back to February of 1966, when there was still some concern that the North Vietnamese Air Force might attempt a strike in the south, and point defense of American bases was still a significant concern. That concern led to the support deployment of the 82nd FIS to Naha AB, Okinawa, in a trans-Pacific journey named Operation Thirsty Camel. (Have you ever wondered who comes up with those goofy names? It's been a mystery to me for the past 45 years, with no answer in sight. I guess we should appreciate the humor...)

Here's your basic 82nd FIS F-102A prior to deployment to Points West. The "Deuce's" IR ball is evident in this shot, as is the lack of any sort of refuelling probe (a non-retractable add-on for the F-102). That striped pitot boom is about as much color as the camo'd "Deuces" ever displayed, at least until they were converted to QF-102A drones in the mid-70s. Most of the 82nd's birds escaped that fate; after a brief stint in Vietnam the majority of their aircraft were scrapped in place.  Isham Collection

A trio of "Delta Daggers" fly across a whole lot of water. It might even be the Pacific post-deployment, but the 82nd's aircraft all had IFR probes fitted for the transit flight; they would've been wet pedestrians without them!  Modelers, note the difference in camouflage patterns on these aircraft. That's depot-applied paint on every one of them, done during an IRAN, and none of it's the same.  Isham Collection

This is more to the point. An F-102A of the 82nd FIS moves up on the tanker during the Thirsty Camel deployment. The probe is mounted on the right side of the aircraft (to the left of centerline in the photo), which is why the "Deuce" is formating off-centeron the boom.  Isham Collection

I suspect this photo was taken at the beginning of the deployment rather than at the end of it, but it shows that IFR probe to advantage. It also illustrates just how big the IR ball on the nose really was. That whole IR thing went away in the late 1970s/early 1980s, but not because the pilots wanted to get rid of them. A passive IR sensor is a pretty neat thing to have on an interceptor or fighter, even now.  Isham Collection

As a final note, at least three F-102s were lost in combat during the SEA fracas. Known losses are:

55-3373   509th FIS   Lost to ground fire during close air support, 15 Dec 1965, RVN
56-1166   509th FIS   Lost on CAP 03 Feb 1966, North Vietnam; shot down by MiG-21
56-1389   64th FIS/405th TFW  Lost on CAP 14 Dec 1966, North Vietnam

A Little More On the "Deuce"

Most aviation enthusiasts are familiar with at least some portion of the F-102's story, and a lot of folks don't think much of the aircraft. That would be a mistake; once the "Dagger's" birthing pains were resolved it became a good, solid performer, providing yeoman service to the Air Force and Air National Guard for decades. It was, in short, a viable and highly effective weapons platform, and was a quantum leap ahead of the F-86Ds, F-89s, and F-94s it replaced in service. Here's a little more on the type for your enjoyment.

All of the F-102's weapons were carried internally, in a weapons bay. The aircraft was never fitted with a gun, being armed with missiles from conception to retirement, and this Air Force schematic gives us a pretty good idea of how the bay looked. Those bay doors were termed "fast acting" and that was the unvarnished truth; they snapped open in a flash, remained open long enogh to allow for weapons launch, and snapped shut just a quickly. It was a nifty arrangement, all in all.

The "Deuce's" primary weapon was the AIM-4 Falcon, although it could also be fitted with the AIM-26. This illustration is from 1F-102A-33-3-1 and gives us an idea of the configuration of those weapons

Here's a little more detail for the modelers among our readership. Both weapons were radar-homing, although Falcon could be fitted with an IR seeker as well. They wouldn't have been the right missle to take to a knife fight, but were just the ticket for removing bombers from the playing field. Fortunately the USAF never had to use them in anger.

There was another weapon that was standard to the F-102, at least in the early days of operations. The center bay doors were fairly thick and contained tubes for the fitment of a complement of 2.75" FFARs. The weapon wasn't much use on any of the earlier Air Force interceptors either (firing a salvo of them was a lot like shooting a really inaccurate shotgun), and it was removed from service fairly early in the game. Those tubes remained, though.

Almost all of the ANG's interceptor units flew the Delta Dagger at one time or another. This example's from the 146th FIS/112th FIG of the Pennsylvania ANG, its colorful black trim shown to advantage in this photo. 57-0813 was an F-102A-90-CO and could be the Poster Child for the type.  Isham Collection

Then again, this blog's published in Texas (ain't it the truth!) and that means we need to have some Lone Star "Daggers" in the mix. Here's a trio from the 182nd FIS/149th FIG in close formation over Kelly AFB. The 149th kept the air defense mission until the early 1970s, when they became a tactical fighter group and transitioned into the Republic F-84F. I suspect they weren't particularly happy about that...  149th TFG

This could be the part where we say we're finished and say "The End", but that's too corny even for me. Besides, we aren't done with the "Deuce" just yet. Stay tuned for further adventures!  Jim Sullivan

Here's Something You Don't See at Just Any Airshow

Things just aren't the same as they used to be. I can remember (and it isn't something I heard; it was something I saw) the Thunderbirds coming out of their "Bomb Burst" formation and crossing right over the heads of the crowd at a hundred feet or so at an air show at Sheppard AFB, ca. 1958. Similar excitements were formulated and played out for an enthusiastic public (I was darned sure enthusiastic, ya'll!) at Armed Forces Day celebrations across the land. Those heady times are far behind us now, with public safety actually being a primary concern rather than an afterthought, but it wasn't always so.

"Holy Cow Martha; wouldja look at that!" Mark Nankivil remembers this particular round of merriment from an 1965-66 air show at NAS Barber's Point. The aircraft is an F9F-5KD (BuNo 126275) and the Airdales on the ramp are ready to spring into action, although the fella on the right may well be preparing to execute a hasty retirement from the festivities. "Holy Cow, Martha! Look at that sailor run!") Running might not have been such a bad idea...  Nankivil Collection

Sometimes You Have to Prove a Point

Which is what we're doing here. Take a look at 133370, a somewhat well-used US-2C from VU-1. Note the color of the airplane, and compare it to the crankcase covers on the front of the engines:

Every now and again someone on one or the other of the various modeling boards will ask what that dark grey color was that used to show up on Navy helos and patrol/utility aircraft. Well, what it was was FS x6076, and you can find it on airframes, engine components, and sometimes as an anti-glare panel color as well. It was glossy when new, but weathered pretty quickly in service. Now you know!  Nankivil Collection

He's a Stubby Little Fellow

Jack Northrop, and his various design teams, has been responsible for a number of significant American military aircraft, including the immortal SBD Dauntless. The following Northrop design wasn't one of the significant ones...
If any airplane ever deserved a starring role in a 1940s cartoon, the Northrop XFT-1 was surely it. Although designed by Ed Heineman, it's manners, particularly when low and slow, and its vicious spin characteristics assured it a place as an also-ran. It was fast, but maneuverability was lacking, and the aircraft was quickly relegated to the scrap heap. This image is of the first one of the type; XFT-1 BuNo 9400, and was taken on 18 January 1934. It was actually a pretty neat looking little airplane. It just didn't work very well.   Northrop 373

Happy Snaps

Although not air-to-air, these photos were taken by Rick Morgan at the recent Avalon air show in Australia. The subject matter is different enough to warrant inclusion.

I've got a special fondness for the Spitfire Mk VIII, having just finished building Tamiya's 1/32nd scale offering of same. This example's a beauty, isn't she?  Rick Morgan

And a Boomerang. It's amazing what's flying nowadays! Sure wish I could've been there to see this one!  Rick Morgan

And finally, an Avon Sabre. Pick the very last thing you'd expect to see at an airshow and this just might be it!  Thanks, Morgo!  Rick Morgan
The Relief Tube

First, an admission. As soon as I received this e-mail from Marty I immediately went into the article and corrected the appropriate captions in the blog---the mistakes were just too awful to let stand. Still, I did it because of his correction, so let's give credit where credit's due:

I love your articles- I just recently discovered them. Please keep it up! I love 60's and 70's military aircraft but was too young to ever see most of the aircraft in active service and look forward eagerly to each new edition. I love the quality of the photos people share with you and appreciate their kindness in sharing their collections with all of us.

Just a couple of points here for the Tomcat Squadrons. The red rippers are actually VF-11 and the formation photo is VF-142 Ghostriders in their early paint scheme. Marty

Thanks, Marty! And if anyone else has any corrections/additions they'd like to send along, the address is . Please send your comments there if you would, since I can't respond to you if you use the otherwise-appropriate feature in the blog. Many thanks, etc, etc.

You've probably all noticed that we're running an ongoing series on aircraft in post-War Japan. Another one of our readers sent comments about some our recent photos:

The F-61B (post 47) is from the 339th FS (AW) with the short lived black widow insignia. It was based at Johnson AB and, some time after reactivation, absorbed the personnel and equipment of the 6th NFS which had moved to Japan from Wheeler AFB in Hawaii in 1946. The aircraft shown still has the distinctive gothic style lettering and large nose numbers as used by the 6th post-war in Hawaii.
The OD/NG A-26 is probably from one of the 3rd BG WW II aircraft painted in that scheme. I think that Johnson AB would be a good guess as it doesn't look like Yokota AB. Also speaking of A-26s in Japan, the 38th BG also flew out of Itami AB in Japan for two years and I believe that they had absorbed the aircraft if not the remaining personnel of the 319th BG that flew out of Okinawa. The 38th adopted the colored tails like the 319th had used, but with a letter, not a number on the tail. The camo aircraft with the wheel on the tail is one the famous Chadwicks, (possibly it might be the first one, but it is not possible to inspect all of the name) named after and flown by the group/wing commander post war. The wheel referred to the 'big wheel' or head honcho. Honcho is from the Japanese term Han-cho or group/section leader. I always associated it with cowboys.

Great job that you are doing. Grant

Thanks Grant. Your comments are appreciated, and we're happy indeed to get clarification on the F-61!

Reader Brad Poling sends a comment regarding our affair with the North American FJ Fury:


I love the pix in your FJ series. Please keep them coming. The photo of FJ-1 116 you recently posted was flown by then Lt. (later LCDR) H. G. Bud Sickel. His name is just under the canopy. He held at least one speed record in that a/c. He was instrumental in the Fury program, test flying the XFJ-2's and delivering the first FJ-2 to the Navy. He landed the XFJ-2 during testing of the Antietam's canted deck in 1953. He later was killed in an FJ-3 crash.
Brad Poling

Brad also sent along a couple of photos of a 1/18th Scale FJ-2 he modified from an Admiral Toys F-86. We'll take a look at those next time around. Meanwhile, thanks for the information on LCDR Sickel!

One final thing. We've been doing this for just a little over a year now, and have built up quite a following, it seems---if the stats can be believed Replica is getting some 500 hits per day, and I'd like to thank you for that. This is not a commercial site, but rather a labor of love, and we're glad you enjoy it. Neat things are in store so please stay with us. We wouldn't mind seeing any original photography you might be inclined to share either; if you'd like to contribute to our effort the contact address is . Meanwhile, please accept our sincere thanks for helping to make the project what it is!

That said, be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon.

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