Monday, 24 April 2023

RAF Manston History Museum - Open cockpit Day April 16, 2023


..another gorgeous sunny day and a brilliant turnout as visitors flocked (yes, flocked!) to clamber on over, in and through some of the neat airframes exhibited at the RAF History Museum at Manston, Kent, England on one of the museum's regular open cockpit days. Where else in the UK can you sit in a Lightning, Buccaneer, Canberra and Victor, to name just four types? And everything in the Buccaneer works too. Heck, even the Auster is fun - pedals and stick work just as they should !  Thanks to 'johnboygtv' for the great drone shots of the museum. Not often you get to see a Lightning from this angle. 

Tuesday, 18 April 2023

Are the Russians using their so-called 5th Gen Su-57 (Frelon) in the Ukraine war ? latest UK MoD defence Intelligence report

According to the UK MoD Russia has been flying its new Su-57 jets against, but not over, Ukraine. According to the latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine the Russians have almost certainly used Su-57 FELON to conduct missions against Ukraine. To quote the UK Defence journal web site, 

"The Su-57 is equipped with advanced avionics and a range of modern weapons, including long-range air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles. It is also designed to have stealth capabilities, which makes it difficult to detect on radar. The missions have likely been limited to flying over Russian territory, launching long range air-to-surface or air-to-air missiles into Ukraine..."

“Since at least June 2022, Russian Aerospace Forces have almost certainly used Su-57 FELON to conduct missions against Ukraine. FELON is Russia’s most advanced fifth-generation supersonic combat jet, employing stealth technologies and highly advanced avionics. These missions have likely been limited to flying over Russian territory, launching long range air-to-surface or air-to-air missiles into Ukraine.

Recent commercially available imagery shows five FELON parked at Akhtubinsk Air Base, which hosts the 929th Flight Test Centre. As this is the only known FELON base, these aircraft have likely been involved in operations against Ukraine.

Russia is highly likely prioritising avoiding the reputational damage, reduced export prospects, and the compromise of sensitive technology which would come from any loss of FELON over Ukraine. This is symptomatic of Russia’s continued risk-averse approach to employing its air force in the war.”

".. The SU-57 does look very cool, but looking cool isn’t the same as being effective...Using this aircraft in effect as a bomb truck does not make any real sense outside of the political and military sales arenas. I also wonder if the real reason is for such a low level of particiation by the Russian air force is more fundemental and deep seated than the quoted reason of not wanting to risk compromising their latest tech.

It has been discussed in the past that the Russians may lack the skills and comprehensive support structure necessary to mount large coordinated air operations. Most of their operations over Syria were reportedly small scale, rarely if ever more than 3 or 4 aircraft over the target area. This could well point to a lack of training for large scale coordinated operations involving dozens of aircraft of different types each conducting different roles within the mission profile, e.g surpression of enemy air defences, re-fueling, airborne command and control, escort and finally attack… All of this is required if you are operating in a contested environment and thanks to the Russians own lack of aggression against the Ukrainian air defences I suspect the the latter have only improved since the start of the war.

'Stealth' probably isn’t really the right word to describe the Su 57 -  low observable (L/O) is the better description so it is likely that the SU-57 would be vulnerable to the Ukrainian air defences if the type did venture into Ukrainian airspace. ."

Friday, 10 March 2023

Russian AF launches six Kh-47 Kinzhal hypersonic ballistic missiles against Ukraine

The Russians have been primarily using short-range air-launched cruise missiles against Ukraine such as the Kh 59 M (As-18 Kazoo) operating in the border area. Longer range cruise missiles launched from Tu 95 and Tu-160 strategic bombers include the Kh 101 and the Kh 555. According to RU Air Force spokesman Yuri Ignat six Kh-47 Kinzhal hypersonic ballistic missiles were fired across Ukraine on 9 March, their largest use to date and at the same time a considerable percentage of the available stock of such weapons. One of Putin's so-called 'carrier-killer' hypersonic ballistic missiles the Kinzhal was introduced in 2017-2018 and has a range of 3,000 kms and can be lauched (below) from the MiG 31 K.

During 2022 the Russian military said that it used Kinzhal missiles to destroy an alleged underground weapons depot of the Ukrainian armed forces in Deliatyn on 18 March 2022 and a fuel depot in Konstantinovka the next day. US President Joe Biden said of its use "As you all know, it's a consequential weapon but with the same warhead on it as any other launched missile. It doesn't make that much difference except it's almost impossible to stop it."

It was reportedly used again on 11 April. On 9 May, according to reports, Russian Tu-22 aircraft launched three Kinzhal-type missiles at targets in the port city of Odesa.

On 26 January 2023, according to the Ukrainian Air Force, 55 missiles and 24 Shahed-136 drones were fired at targets in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Air Force said that they had shot down all of the drones and 47 of the missiles. Included in the attack was a Kh-47 Kinzhal hypersonic missile. Kyiv's Mayor said one person had died and two were wounded when an apartment block was hit in the Holosiiv district.

Sunday, 13 November 2022

Deadly mid-air collision at the Wings over Dallas airshow - B-17 "Texas Raider" lost


Screen shots of the mid-air at the Wings over Dallas airshow involving the B-17 "Texas Raider" (44-83872) and P-63 "TEST" (42-68941), both of the Commemorative Air Force. Unfortunately the B17 was in the Kingcobra's blind spot under its nose and appears to hit the B17 around the waist gunner's position severing the tail off. 

" ..Just got back home from Dallas and the Wings Over Dallas put on by the CAF. It is their largest show. It was shut down due to one of their B-17s colliding with a P-63 King Cobra at the south end of the airport just before the runway area. The information as to how many people on board the B-17 has not been released nor has their status. The crash occurred during their flying routine with several B-17s, some B-25s, some P-51s, a B-24 and a P-63. At first, it was thought to be some pyro technics going off at the wrong time, but when the fire went out of control for the two airport firetrucks to contain, most people realized it was something else. The airshow was shut down and all spectators were ordered to leave the airport. When I left there were about 40 different first responder vehicles at the scene, along with a Med-Vac helicopter and a few news helicopters. The explanation as to what happened has not been released, but the bombers were lining up to portray a bomber sweep with fighter aircraft flying cover that would pass at a low level parallel to one of the runways running north and south where the air show crowd was gathered. It happened as the group was turning to approach the runway from the south..." georgeusa on BM

"... the P-63 banked pointing his belly at the B-17 ..[and].. he completely lost situational awareness doing this. He could no longer see the B-17. The P-63 already has terrible blind spots. An aircraft overtaking a slower aircraft is responsible to keep view of that aircraft. This was totally preventable, from the planning, controlling, and the flying. And yes, I trained and I am qualified in Human Factors facilitation in military aviation. There are far too many warbird owners who should not be in the cockpit. The aviation safety net is supposed to prevent these types of accidents..." scooby on BM

Saturday, 12 November 2022

Re-assessment of the Fairey Battle, abgeschossener Engländer!, Westfeldzug - the battle of France May-June 1940

The Fairey Battle was intended as a relatively light and agile light bomber designed and manufactured by the Fairey Aviation Company and flew combat missions during the early stages of the Second World War. It was developed during the mid-1930s for the RAF as a monoplane successor to the earlier Hawker Hart and Hind biplanes. The Battle was powered by the same high performance Rolls-Royce Merlin piston engine that powered various contemporary British fighters.

 During the "Phoney War", the type achieved the distinction of attaining the first aerial victory of an RAF aircraft in the conflict. But just days after this feat on 30 September 1939 five Battles of No. 150 Sqn on a photo recce sortie over Saarbrucken were caught by fifteen Bf 109s. And during May 1940, the Battle suffered heavy losses - on four days in particular these were in excess of 50 percent of sortied aircraft per mission. By the end of 1940, the type had been entirely withdrawn from active combat service, instead being mainly relegated to use by training units overseas.

Most writers would probably qualify the Battle as " ..relatively slow, limited in terms of range and .. highly vulnerable to both anti-aircraft fire and hostile fighters, possessing only two defensive .303 machine guns " (See the wiki entry for the Battle.) Jeff Ethell in his 1995 volume 'Aircraft of WWII ' wrote that "..for an aircraft which had been viewed to possess a high level of pre-war promise, the Battle quickly became one of the most disappointing aircraft in RAF service..." And the type's reputation has never really recovered, despite or perhaps because of the fact that the first two RAF VCs went to Battle crews or that it was the first RAF machine to shoot down an enemy aircraft at the start of WWII.  Perhaps it is time to look again at the Battle.

Below; Three Battle Mark Is, K9353 ‘HA-J’, K9324 ‘HA-B’ and K9325 ‘HA-D’, of No. 218 Squadron RAF, based at Auberives-sur-Suippes, in flight over northern France. K9325 went missing during an attack on enemy troops near St Vith on 11 May 1940, and K9353 was shot down north of Bouillon the following day. K9324 survived the Battle of France to serve with the RAAF until 1944. (IWM photo)

The Belgian aeronautical engineer Marcel Lobelle served as the aircraft's principal designer. One of the early decisions made by Lobelle on the project was the use of the newly developed Rolls-Royce Merlin I engine, which had been selected due to its favourable power and compact frontal area. The Merlin engine was quickly paired to a de Havilland Propellers-built three-bladed variable-pitch propeller unit. The choice of engine enabled the designing of the aircraft to possess exceptionally clean lines and a subsequently generous speed performance.The resulting design was an all-metal single-engine aircraft, which adopted a low-mounted cantilever monoplane wing and was equipped with a retractable tail wheel undercarriage. On 10 March 1936, the first Fairey prototype, K4303, equipped with a Merlin I engine capable of generating 1,030 hp, performed its maiden flight at Hayes, Middlesex. The prototype was promptly transferred to RAF Martlesham Heath, Woodbridge, Suffolk for service trials, during which it attained a maximum speed of 257 mph and reportedly achieved a performance in advance of any contemporary day bomber.

Upon the commencement of the BoF in May 1940, Battles were called upon to perform unescorted, low-level tactical attacks against the advancing German army; this use of the type placed the aircraft at risk of attack from Luftwaffe fighters and within easy range of light anti-aircraft guns. Results were predictable and horrific. In the first of two sorties carried out by Battles on 10 May 1940, three out of eight aircraft were lost, while a further 10 out of 24 were shot down in the second sortie, giving a total of 13 lost in that day's attacks, with the remainder suffering damage. Despite bombing from as low as 250 ft (76 m), their attacks were recorded as having had little impact on the German columns. During the following day, nine Belgian AF Battles attacked bridges over the Albert Canal, losing six aircraft, and in another RAF sortie that day against a German column, only one Battle out of eight survived.

On 12 May, a formation of five Battles of 12 sqn attacked two road bridges over the Albert Canal; four of these aircraft were destroyed while the final aircraft crash-landing upon its return to its base. Two VCs were awarded posthumously for the action.

On 14 May 1940, in a desperate attempt to stop German forces crossing the Meuse, the AASF launched an "all-out" attack by all available bombers against the German bridgehead and pontoon bridges at sedan Having graciously given the Germans three days to prepare their defences, the light bombers were attacked by swarms of opposing fighters and were decimated.. Out of a strike force of 63 Battles and eight Blenheims, 40 (including 35 Battles) were lost. After these abortive raids, the Battle was switched to mainly night attacks, resulting in much lower losses.

On 15 June 1940, the last remaining aircraft of the Advanced Air Striking Force returned to Britain. In six weeks almost 200 Battles had been lost, with 99 lost between 10 and 16 May.

According to Drix at the 'Aviation Flashback' blog ;

"..The Battle was a good bomber, used by outstandingly brave crews. They had the huge misfortune to be sent on missions by completely incompetent generals..."

While it is probably true to say that the Battle was only "partially " maligned it was definitely mis-used. It was a single engine 'strategic' bomber pressed into tactical use without proper training (low level bombing vs medium or high altitude) for the crews. It usually flew unescorted - and what bomber flying unescorted at low level won't or doesn't pay a heavy price! Fighters and anti-aircraft fire at low level have been seeking out bombers since the dawn of combat aviation. The Battle was slow ?  Some 50 km/h faster than the Whitley, only 10 km/h slower than the Fairy Fulmar shipborne fighter. However with better wings - its span was almost the same as the twin-engine Blenheim IV and wing loading as low - not ideal for an aircraft committed at low level.

" ..With better armour and heavier armament the Battle could have performed well and enjoyed a Sturmovik-like reputation...."

The Battle's story is what happens when you take a medium level strategic bomber and use it in penny packets as a low altitude interdiction bomber against pinpoint targets - to blow up bridges and troop columns - with little or no escort against an enemy who has in the main air supremacy and good anti-aircraft. In the mid-1930s the RAF needed something (anything?) to equip the rapidly forming squadrons and the Battle was picked as one of the types. It was ready, it was cheap, it was better than the existing biplanes. It trained an industry in modern construction techniques. It turned out to be sturdy, easy to fly with few, if any vices. If the war had broken out in 1937/38 it might be remembered differently.

Saturday, 29 October 2022

Cessna A-37 Dragonfly walkaround on the blancolirio YT channel

 Meet the unsung hero of the Vietnam War, the A-37 Dragonfly. This nimble attack airplane flew more than 160,000 sorties during the war and proved to be a very accurate close air support aircraft or as Juan Browne refers to it .."..a bigger, heavier 'Tweet' with F-5 engines!" 

" ..these put out in MIL power and no afterburner what the T-38 puts out with afterburner ..50,000 lbs of thrust for a little over 9,000 lbs TOW so it goes like a scolded cat.. [..] will melt the asphalt [..]...the fuel burn rate is super high ....350-400 gallons per hour...[..].. Three throttle settings, VISA, Mastercard and Gold card .."

"..The max indicated airspeed for the A-37 is 415 kts. When I first flew the aircraft in USAF Test Pilot school, I was initially worried that I would easily exceed that speed. Turns out that although the aircraft had plenty of thrust, the drag went up so fast that exceeding the airspeed limit wasn’t really a problem. "

Great walkaround on the blancolirio YT channel of the A-37 'Attack Jet', the only flying example in the US and a 7-year South Vietnamese combat veteran

and another museum-piece walkaround on the " Fly with Magnar" Channel

Monday, 3 October 2022

123 Wing 609 Squadron Hawker Typhoon Normandy (D-day +20)

123 Wing 609 Squadron  Hawker Typhoon Normandy D-day +20 F/sgt McKenzie Sgt Paice Bj Martragny PR-L. Good detail view of the rocket rails and electrical connectors. Thanks to Snautzer!

Sunday, 2 October 2022

Hawker Typhoon FR.Ib EK 183 US-A No 56 Sqd and EK 427 'S'


photo caption by Colin Ford

Hawker Typhoon FR.Ib EK427 'S', from a series of ATP photos taken around April-May 1945 at a RAF MU in the UK at the time the aircraft had been retired from active service and its eventual fate was awaiting a decision (scrapping in early 1946). From its AM78, it is officially recorded as only ever having been allocated to No.268 Squadron RAF in the period August to November 1944. However, in digging through the ORBS for No.IV(AC) Squadron RAF, its serial does make a couple of entries for post-strike reconnaissance sorties conducted using a limited number hand me down Typhoon FR.Ib aircraft that were received from 268 in December 1944 and used until February-March 1945. In the other photos in the series, the starboard wing appears to have some replacement panels fitted, including a 'blank' panel on the underside of the wing in the location where the reconnaissance camera lenses would normally be fitted. Reason for ATP taking photos as the type was being withdrawn from service was that they had not previously taken the standard set of technical photos for the type before it was introduced into service or whilst it was in service - someone was catching up with the paperwork.
This photo and a couple of others from the series have been used in the various editions/reprints of the Valiant Wings Publications book on the Hawker Typhoon/Tornado, with rather inaccurate captions and descriptions regarding the type, its FR modifications and operational use.

Below; Typhoon Mk Ib EK 183 US-A No 56 Sqd, flown by Squadron Leader T.H.V Pheloung [21 Apr 1943] Squadron Leader T.H.V Pheloung died 20-06-1943

Saturday, 17 September 2022

Vulcan XM 665 overshoots runway on 'live' taxi run


 ...currently all over social media -  Vulcan XM 665 overshot the runway on a 'live' taxi run following an air-speed indicator fault according to the official XM 665 FB page. XM655 was the third to last Vulcan produced and delivered to 9 Squadron at RAF Cottesmore in November 1964. One of only three 'taxiable' Vulcans, she is based at Wellesbourne near Warwick.

Photo credit; Dave Coton

From XM 665's FB page;

" ..As many of you will have already seen, XM655 suffered a runway excursion earlier today during our trial run for the event which was planned for Sunday 18th. That event has been cancelled, all ticket holders have been informed by email and full refunds have been processed via Eventbrite. As far as we can see, the aircraft is largely undamaged, but in addition to the ongoing recovery work, we also have a lot of inspection work to carry out before we can consider any further live activity.

In an attempt to reduce uninformed speculation, we will explain what happened. After satisfactorily completing low speed steering and braking tests on runway 05/23, the aircraft was taken onto runway 18/36 for a trial high speed run. Due to a malfunction of a piece of equipment in the cockpit, the aircraft remained at full power for approximately two seconds longer than intended. This resulted in excessive speed and less distance in which to stop, and the aircraft passed beyond the end of the runway on to the agricultural area, stopping just before the airfield perimeter. The failed equipment was an air speed indicator which had been tested and found satisfactory six days ago, and which started working normally before the end of the run. The aircraft brakes worked properly but were unable to bring things to a halt within the reduced space available. We will provide further updates when XM655 has been recovered and we have had chance to assess any damage...."

Friday, 9 September 2022

Hind at Duxford

Tim Felce photos reposted from FB. Czech Hind arriving for the Duxford September airshow..