Saturday, 13 October 2018

Thunder City EE Lightning T.5 crash, November 2009

Having posted recently about the terrible loss rates of the Starfighter, it is perhaps worth mentioning that they were apparently no worse than those of the EE Lightning. Of course more Starfighters crashed than Lightnings were actually built, but approaching a third of all RAF Lightnings did crash (nearly 90 machines). The problem is that no matter how professional any maintenance crew is, aircraft like the Lightning are/were inherently more subject to failures compared to other types because of their design. A look at the typical loss rates of the Lightnings or most other supersonic fighters designed in the '50s will show that even during their service lives, while being maintained by trained and experienced personnel with immediate access to spare parts and expense not an issue, failures did occur in relatively large numbers...

 Back in 2009 one of three then airworthy EE Lightnings operated by Thunder City crashed at an airshow in South Africa killing experienced test pilot Dave Stock. I've spent the day reading the 136-page accident report which is quite horrific..

Of course we've had the Hunter Shoreham crash since then but this report rams or rammed home the potential dangers of operating such complex kit without the support infrastructure they had whilst in service with the military. Even in the 1960s fuel leaks were commonplace and a major potential fire hazard due to the inherent design of the machine. Engine bay fires frequently resulted in loss of flight controls, commonly heat failure of the v-jack controlling the elevator. Fires and Lightnings do not mix and SOP was to eject. Only in the Thunder City crash the ejection seat was long over-due maintenance and did not function.

 Quoting from 'Lightning Boys';
"...Other exceptional modifications developed for the Lightning involved wrapping all hydraulic connections with fire proof tape, so that any spray leaks there (highly inflammable) would be turned into drip leaks (far less so). Procedures too evolved; eventually all hydraulic unions in hot areas were x-rayed after being squeezed into exactly the right shape. And, by 1982, no maintenance due point would be extended (a trivial practice on most aircraft types, within reason) without an internal inspection of engine compartments while the aircraft was restrained and run in double re-heat on the de-tuner. (The de-tuner was so-called because to call it a "silencer" would probably have infringed the Trade Descriptions Act.). Many times these inspections ended any thoughts of an extension of flying hours and the aircraft was brought smartly into the hangar for some urgent rectification.

In all, in engineering terms, operating the Lightning was a challenge. Working on it was difficult, and what was done had to be perfect because the aircraft could be very unforgiving..."

Graham Perry, former senior engineering officer 11 Sqn and later commander of the engineering wing at Binbrook

extract from  "Tribute to a Legend from the Overberg" by James Clash

" ..I noticed an article about the air show in the Cape Town Times. A fighter jet developed problems with its hydraulics, and the pilot managed to steer away from the crowd and dump fuel. Then, after three attempts he said, “Ejection seat failure” and crashed in a fireball.

The pilot was Dave Stock and the aircraft was the Lightning I had flown in.

Writing this now, my thoughts shift from me to Stock and back. I can’t help wondering: Had the hydraulics failed a day earlier, on our flight (the last on which Stock took a commercial passenger), would I be alive?

I believe Stock thought he would be fine on his air-show flight, until the end. His aircraft had flown for a half-century without incident and was well-maintained at Thunder City. He methodically attacked the problem by using his air skills — first, to point the plane away from 40,000 spectators, and second, to dump fuel to reduce the size of a crash explosion. Finally, he planned to eject at the last minute. From his stated confidence in the equipment, he had no idea he was going to die until the seat failed....."

  continued here

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Berlin airlift 1948 scenes from Tempelhof & Tegel - ebay photo find 88

Douglas C-74 Globemaster at Tempelhof

scenes during the period of the Berlin airlift taken at Tempelhof and Tegel during August and November 1948

A brief 'ceremony' to mark the millionth sack of coal having been unloaded from an RAF Avro York at Berlin Gatow

January 1949 Tempelhof

currently on offer here

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

" Der Tod war schneller " Nörvenich crash 19 June 1962 - Starfighter tragedies in the Bundeswehr -Luftwaffe 'Die Starfighter Affäre' Der Spiegel magazine cover story 5/1966

Above; Jagdgeschwader 74 "Mölders", June 1965.

Below, left; " Alles in Ordnung "  - Luftwaffeninspekteur General Josef Kammhuber climbing down from the back-seat of an F-104 F to be greeted by Defence minister Franz Josef Strauss on 22 July 1960 in Nörvenich...

The Bundesluftwaffe (Federal German air force) was the primary user of the Starfighter, operating over thirty-five percent of all F-104s built and received a total of 916 Starfighters (30 F-104 Fs, 96 F-104 Gs, and 136 TF-104 Gs from Lockheed, 255 F/RF-104 Gs from the North Group, 210 F-104 Gs from the South Group, 88 F-104 Gs from the West Group, 50 F/RF-104 Gs from the Italian Group, plus 50 replacement F-104 Gs from MBB to replace some of those lost in crashes). At their peak in the mid-1970s, Starfighters equipped five nuclear-armed Luftwaffe fighter-bomber wings, two interceptor wings, and two reconnaissance wings. In addition, two attack wings of the Marineflieger (Federal German Navy) were equipped with Starfighters. The first German Starfighters were the Lockheed-built two-seat F-104 Fs which were initially used in the USA to train German instructors. At that time, the F-104 Fs were painted with standard USAF insignia and carried USAF serial numbers. These machines were then handed over to Waffenschule 10 under Mjr. Hans-Ulrich Flade, which was based at Nörvenich, near Cologne, BRD (Federal Republic). After handover, they were repainted in Luftwaffe insignia and assigned German serial numbers. They began converting pilots for JBG 31 in July of 1960. The first operational unit to be equipped with the F-104 G - the Gustav - was Jagdbombergeschwader 31 "Boelcke" (JBG31) under Kommodore Barkhorn, also based at Norvenich. JBG 31 became fully operational in 1963.

Lockheed F-104 G cn 2083 DC 234 JaboG 33 Buchel 1967 (Francillion photo archive)

On 20 June 1962 the official commissioning of the WS F-104 G "Starfighter" was planned for JaboG 31 at the Fliegerhost Nörvenich. The day prior to this, 19 June, the dress rehearsal of the short-lived aerobatics Schwarm F-104 F of the WaSLw 10 took place. This formation was due to present the F-104 to the numerous guests at the commissioning ceremony. The following aircrew were involved;

John Speer (4./WS 10, "Lead", USAF Advisory Group; BB+370),
Olt. Heinz Frye (flight instructor 2./WS10; BB+378),
Olt. Bernd Kuebart (Squadron Captain 2./WS10, ex JaboG 31; BB+365),
Olt. Wolfgang von Stürmer (flight instructor 4./WS10, ex WaSLw 10 Oldenburg; BB+385) as well as
Major Tom Perfili ("Solo", USAF).
Olt. Bernd Kuebart and Olt. Wolfgang von Stürmer were among the first six pilots in 1960 to retrain for the F-104 in Palmdale, California.

The program for this demonstration was practiced several times in the past. With the call sign "Starfighters" the formation took off in the afternoon. After take-off in "Finger Tip Formation" the first two figures were flown correctly. Major Tom Perfili waited in the holding position for his solo performance, which was planned about 15 minutes later. About 10 minutes after take-off some 8 km eastern distant and above the brown coal open pit mine Knapsack (near Hürth) clouds of smoke were seen in the sky. What had happened?

As "lead" John Speer had tried to  come back over the airfield with the Schwarm as fast as possible. He cut through a small cloud bank in an elevated 180° (right) curve and overturned the machines then flying in "Diamond" formation so far that pulling out was no longer possible. Probably due to John Speer's spatial disorientation the formation left the cloud at too steep angle (in an almost vertical attitude) downwards. Olt. Wolfgang von Stürmer, who was flying at the rear of the formation and thus had the best overview, tried in vain to pull up his machine.

" ..Without haste the Schwarm leader, US Captain John Speer, gave the commands, as he had done every previous manoeuvre, with a calm voice via radio. This was to be the last one. In the operations tower of the Nörvenich air base, suddenly those present heard; "Hau ab! (Get away!), immediately followed by, "Hold it!" (Hold the machine!), then "My God!". At that moment, on Tuesday of last week, just after four in the afternoon, the disaster could no longer be stopped. Two of the four Starfighters had touched each other with their stubby 2.50 meter-long wings.. They sagged and dragged the other two machines with them. The four aircraft burst into pieces; their debris bored into the lignite mine of the Fürstenberg briquette factory near Frechen, which was covered with a layer of mud. The four pilots, apart from the US captain the Bundeswehr lieutenant Kuebart, Frye and von Stürmer, were killed instantly..." (Der Spiegel 26/162)

In the period that followed, those responsible at the time endeavoured to minimise the circumstances of the incident so as not to give the impression that it was an aerobatics flight. But today the accident is the reason why the Luftwaffe does not practise formation aerobatics. The idea of setting up an aerobatics Schwarm with the WS 104 was born in September 1961 on the occasion of the Luftwaffe's five-year anniversary at Fürstenfeldbruck. There, the combat-like flying and the spectacle of four Starfighters breaking the sound barrier at an altitude of 16,000 metres led in the following months to routine flight operations in Nörvenich comprising two, three ship formations working their way more and more towards a four ship formation, which finally demonstrated aerobatics with the F-104. These figures were mainly flown horizontally and the (critical) vertical maneuvers for the F-104 were omitted.

 Below; JBG 31 F-104 at IAT 1977

The 'Hundert vier' Starfighter in Luftwaffe service quickly acquired an appalling reputation - there were a large number of accidents, many of them resulting in fatalities. Intensive flying operations with the Starfighter did not start in Germany until 1961, when only two crashes took place. There were seven crashes in 1962, 12 in 1964, and 28 in 1965, or more than two a month. 1965 was the 'blackest' year for the German Starfighter programme - 26 million D-Mark of machines smashed into the ground, 17 pilots dead. By mid-1966, 61 German Starfighters had crashed, with a loss of 35 pilots. One pilot killed was the son of a former Defence Minister Kai-Uwe von Hassel. Joachim von Hassel was the 57th German Starfighter pilot death when he crashed in 1970. ('Mein Mann war Nummer 57') At the height of the crisis, the Starfighter accident rate peaked at 139 per 100,000 flying hours. As a result, the German press went into a feeding frenzy and the F-104 G was given derogatory nicknames such as "Witwenmacher"  -'widowmaker' - " Der Sarg mit dem Balkenkreuz" - " the Coffin with the Maltese Cross" - or even the "Sargfighter". In total 116 Bundesluftwaffe pilots lost their lives in Starfighter crashes.  At the height of the Starfighter political crisis in mid-1966, the Luftwaffe chief, Luftwaffeninspekteur General Werner Panitzki, Kammhuber's successor, was forced to resign after he had criticized the Federal Republic's Starfighter procurement program as being politically-motivated. His successor was the World War 2 ace Lieutenant General Johannes Steinhoff, who had flown Me 262 jets during the war. Steinhoff had not initially been a Starfighter supporter, and he had complained about the Bonn Defence Ministry's failure to implement the recommendations of his 1964 report on F-104 G survival measures. One of Steinhoff's first moves was to review the F-104 G's ejection system to enhance the probability of a successful escape by a pilot at low level. The Lockheed C-2 ejection seat initially fitted to the F-104 G had been fitted with a more powerful Talley Corp 10100 rocket booster by November 1966 to give it true zero-zero capability. However, it was found that the Talley rockets had a destabilizing effect after ejection, and had to be removed. After the German Starfighter had to be grounded once again for fixes to the C-2 seats in December of 1966, it was decided to switch over to Martin-Baker Mk GQ7A zero-zero ejection seats. A contract was signed on March 8, 1967 to re-equip the entire German F-104 G force with the Martin-Baker seats. This took about a year to get done. The first successful use of a GQ7 seat to escape from a German F-104 G took place during a ground-level overshoot at Ramstein on 24 September 1968.

Part 1 of a five-part German documentary  'Die F-104 G Starfighter Affäre'

" ...Walter Krupinksi, former JG 52 fighter ace and JV 44 Me 262 jet pilot went to the US at the request of Defence Minister Strauss to trial the Starfighter although he was no test pilot. He wrote an enthusiastic report about the type and presented it to Luftwaffeninspekteur Kammhuber ..."

" ...the Lockheed lobbyists - the firm was threatened with bankruptcy at the time - set up their HQ in the Koenigshof hotel in Bonn and undertook a month long tour through Germany in an attempt to clinch the deal - advertisements appeared in the German press for the type on a daily basis as if a new brand of washing powder was being sold.. .."

"..With the 'Super' Starfighter contract, the Federal Republic of Germany ordered Lockheed to develop an all-weather multi-purpose aircraft -from the existing F 104 A day fighter- at German expense, namely the F 104 G, with which three roles would have to be filled: that of the interceptor, the reconnaissance aircraft and the fighter bomber, which in an emergency would be used for a nuclear strike against targets beyond the Iron Curtain. Effectively the Federal Republic was buying a machine that did not exist..." (Der Spiegel 24/1962)

" By the spring of 1962 the time had arrived. At the Nörvenich Air Force Base the first squadron was equipped with the Starfighter. Strauss and Kammhuber wanted to present the aircraft to the public with great fanfare. 

interviewee Günther Rall (faded in) 

"... and Kammhuber said: "Let's go outside, see the practise display." And then he said: " the Waffenschule has an aerobatics team." Rall: "What do you have ? An aerobatics team ? ... (Shaking his head, smiling ironically) ... But you know that ... Kammhuber wanted to fly along, two-seater ...  I said: "Well, General, enough!"

Commentator :  "...Kammhuber's secretly ordered aerobatics display goes terribly wrong. One day before the celebration the squadron crashes during a training flight. The American pilot Speer, the leader of the formation, makes a mistake. The other three pilots follow him to their deaths. The celebrations in Nörvenich are cancelled. Instead Strauss has to attend the funeral service of the dead pilots. An enormous embarrassment, he had mocked the critics only a few weeks previously. .."

 Strauss's speech faded in (underlaid with pictures of the funeral ceremonies): "... and as far as the formation of the F-104 squadrons is concerned, you will receive the invitation to be personally present at the formation of the first full squadron of the F-104 G in Nörvenich on 20 June..."

Trailer for the RTL German TV dramatisation of the "Starfighter Affäre"

" With a 20,000 hp jet engine in his back Lieutenant Peter Kmonitzek in his Starfighter fighter bomber "F - 104 G" chased through the dark evening sky. It was a training flight, altitude: 9000 meters.

Suddenly, exactly eleven minutes after take-off, the lieutenant felt a choking feeling and nausea. His arms and legs began to twitch. Hastily Kmonitzek, one of the best qualified Starfighter pilots in the Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces) reached to the right for the control switch of the oxygen system and increased the supply from 60 to 100 percent. Nevertheless, nausea and limb twitching did not subside .Kmonitzek pushed the stick forward and let the machine swing down. His left hand clasped the catapult grip of the ejection seat. Lieutenant Kmonitzek tore the oxygen mask off his face at an altitude of 5000 metres. He looked into the rear-view mirror: his lips were white.
Kmonitzek aborted the flight. After his landing the security officer of the squadron said: "It could have been his death". The lieutenant came for medical treatment to the Aeromedical Institute in Fürstenfeldbruck.

Eight days before, on 6 December last year (1965) at 17:09, one of Kmonitzek's comrades, the 33-year-old Starfighter pilot and squadron captain Major Klaus Heinrich Lehnert, had also taken off from Nörvenich for a training flight. Eleven minutes later, over the Dortmund beacon, Lehnert answered for the last time with the call sign of his aircraft via voice radio: "Delta Alpha 254 . ." Then, in the middle of the sentence, the radio contact broke off. Pilotless - Major Lehnert slumped over in his pilot's seat - the atomic bomber raced northwards at an altitude of 9000 metres, almost at the speed of sound. Two hours and 33 minutes after take-off, the tanks were empty. The plane crashed on a rocky cliff outcrop near Ankenes, seven kilometres south of Narvik.

One of the possible causes of the Lehnert accident: traces of toxic gases in the airstream of the oxygen system, the reason for the premature landing of the Starfighter pilot Kmonitzek: fear of poison in the oxygen.

The fatal crash of Major Lehnert and the emergency landing of his comrade Kmonitzek cast a shadow on the year's end - the tenth year in the history of the Bundeswehr. It was supposed to be a year of accomplishment for the flying arm of the Federal German armed forces. Five years earlier, when a Starfighter was demonstrated for the first time in Germany on the occasion of the Hanover Air Show, the-then Air Force Inspector General Josef Kammhuber had predicted that the German Starfighter air fleet would be complete and ready for battle by the end of 1965. The new German air force would then "belong to the best-equipped air forces in the world ".

" there is no end to the Starfighter Crisis. On page 23 of this issue of 'Der SPIEGEL' you can read, how one winter evening out of 52 aircraft of the Jabo-Geschwader Memmingen only eleven were serviceable but by the next morning only six machines were able to fly; how at the fighter squadron Wittmundhaven one training 'Rotte' went unserviceable while two replacement machines - declared startklar - were also unable to get airborne.. There will be no end to this 'crisis' so long as this aircraft remains in service and Hans Schmelz is SPIEGEL editor..."

"... The news of crash upon crash from Germany's Starfighter fleet has made headlines and filled obituary columns. Bad jokes like "widow maker", "flying coffin" and "beautiful death" (as US pilots had already christened the Starfighter years ago) reappeared in banner headlines. The Hamburg "Welt" called it the "Starfighter tragedy" at the end of December and added: "The run of accidents has become a matter of public concern. It belongs before the parliament." Already one year ago, on 20 January 1965, the Starfighter program of the German Armed Forces was the subject of a furious, albeit irrelevant, Bundestag session. The central theme of the debate on military maladministration: massive accusations by SPD member of parliament Karl Wienand, who had denounced the Starfighter program (among other armament projects) as a "huge waste".

Now, on Wednesday the week before last, the people's representatives again consulted about the Starfighter affair - this time in a small, secretive circle. Behind the locked doors of Bundeshaussaal 117 A, surrounded by steel cabinets filled with secret files, the 31 members of the defense committee met with a pack of officers and officials from the Federal Ministry of Defense to get an answer to a small request from the SPD.

The Bundeswehr's most expensive weapon system, according to the dreams of the strategists "spearhead of German air defense" ("FAZ") and "most powerful force within NATO" ("Interavia"), has turned out to be a disastrous planning bankruptcy. West Germany's taxpayers have so far spent at least eight billion marks on the acquisition and maintenance of the Starfighter fleet - as much as the Americans spent on the construction of the first atomic bomb.

For this the Germans have purchased an air force, which (according to the judgement of the SPD delegate Wienand) is at best "conditionally operational". Germany's Starlighter squadrons would, measured by the current crash rate, have shrunk by about a quarter of their stock by the beginning of the seventies, are of limited use for one of their planned operational tasks according to NATO planning as interceptors against enemy atomic bombers - in bad weather, are only imperfectly able to navigate their strategic mission - the nuclear strike in a Soviet attack.

Now, four years after the handover of the first Starfighter aircraft to the Luftwaffe, the scale and causes of the Starfighter debacle become visible. The frightening losses of planes and pilots - described by General Johannes Steinhoff with the pithy word "blood duty" - and last but not least the fact that for the Starfighter program, independent of the losses by crashes, so far about 750 million marks avoidable additional costs have been incurred, are the consequence of an unprecedented overestimation by German armament planners.

In a touch of military-political craving for great power and in the determination to participate on the nuclear stage with the Western powers, the Bundeswehr, with a lack of expertise and in a hurry, imposed a technically extremely complicated weapon system - on a scale that far overtaxed the technical and personnel capabilities of the still young Luftwaffe. The pilot who controls the single-seat aircraft is stretched to the limit of human capability. When he climbs the cockpit via the eight-step stepladder and settles down with his shoulders, stomach and legs tied to the ejection seat - behind the control stick - he is, as it were, surrounded by electronic equipment. The Starfighter contains such a variety of measuring, calculating, display and operating systems that only a few years ago they were scarcely found in large bombers with a large crew...

Left; cover image 'Der Spiegel  - 5/1966" and, below, interview with Luftwaffeninspekteur Generalleutnant Werner Panitzski
  ( translations of the Spiegel article and interview by this blog author)

Der Spiegel   " General, the public are saying that the series of crashes of the Starfighter last year was "catastrophic". How do you assess the accident situation?

Panitzski   " In 1965 the Luftwaffe recorded an increase in aircraft accidents with the "F-104 G", as a result of which the attention and interest of the public was naturally concentrated on the "F-104". However, the accident curve does not differ significantly from the development of aircraft accidents in the weapon systems introduced in the Air Force before the "F-104".

Der Spiegel   " How do you explain the frequent accidents last year? "

Panitzski   " The increase in the "F-104" accident rate is not the result of one or other principal failure or error, but, as we discovered during the detailed investigations, it was the combination of errors, deficiencies and inadequacies in a wide variety of areas that led to the emergence of this catastrophe. From the catastrophic situation you also cited. There can therefore be no question of an accident 'situation', even though every single accident worries me. Air accidents cannot, however, be avoided by any measure, however conscientious it may be. Even in road transport - if you will allow me to make this comparison - accidents will not be ruled out by daily instructions for drivers or by improving driving safety in technology and people. We will not, however, be slackening in our efforts to identify and eliminate the causes of accidents..."

Der Spiegel  ".. What are the reasons why the relatively young Luftwaffe maintains such a complicated weapon system as the Starfighter in such large numbers? "

Panitzski  ".. Let me remind you that, for various reasons, the Air Force's original equipment consisted of subsonic weapon systems which had already been phased out by the US Air Force. When selecting a new system at the time, we did not opt for the next generation in the technical sense, but for the one after next. This makes it possible to keep the new weapon system in service for many years. The costs are spread over a longer period of time than with a less modern system, which would soon have to be replaced again. Production also becomes more economical for larger quantities. At the same time the possibility arose to bridge the twelve-year break from 1945 to 1957 and to catch up with the air forces of our NATO partners.."

Der Spiegel   " There is no doubt that there are many difficulties in the Air Force in overcoming the Starfighter problem. Where do these problems come from? How will you solve them? "

Panitzski  ".. The Luftwaffe was of course aware that this leap in development would cause some problems. The difficulties you mentioned, however, are not just  problems specific to the Starfighter. The Bundeswehr, not just the Luftwaffe, lacks a high percentage of longer-serving personnel which, from the point of view of length of service alone, would make it possible to obtain the time-consuming special training to become an "F-104" technician. I have just proposed a number of possible measures to the Defence Committee in the personnel sector, which I hope will improve the personnel situation. Whether the proposed measures will be sufficient depends on many factors, including the future development of the situation in the German labour market, and cannot, of course, be predicted. The second difficulty lies in the technical deficiencies which have been discovered both in the course of aircraft accident investigations and during maintenance and repair work and which have repeatedly prompted the German Air Force to block the "F-104" from flying for safety reasons until all aircraft have been inspected and the deficiencies rectified. Of course, these difficulties also exist with other air forces and other types of aircraft, but this problem hits the young German air force particularly hard because it has a dual effect: technical deficiencies can endanger flight safety on the one hand, and, on the other hand, a high percentage of flight hours is lost in the event of closures, which in turn is lacking in order to provide pilots with flying experience. Of course, changes will never be avoidable. In future, however, they will be limited to those which improve flight safety and which are absolutely necessary for tactical reasons..."

Der Spiegel:  " General, you mentioned the personnel problem. How do you explain the fact that there are too few candidates for pilot duty?.."

Panitzski   "  I don't think there is a causal connection between the increasing number of aircraft accidents and this. Rather, I see the main reasons for this in the diversity of opportunities offered to a young person in the age of economic prosperity in all professions..."

Geschwaderkommodore of JG 71 and former JG 51 ace Günther Josten was one commander who did not doubt the qualities of the F-104. But the widespread view that the procurement of the F-104 had not been done the right way, that the aircraft was unreliable, its electronic equipment unsuitable, all the facts and half-truths, right and wrong conclusions that were flying around rather blocked the determined management of the crisis, because they strengthened the already overpowering 'siege mentality' in both the political and military leadership of the Bundeswehr. On 27 January 1966 Josten took the dramatic step of requesting that his squadron be taken completely out of NATO subordination since the maintenance of an 'Alarmrotte' - the permanent readiness of machines to be scrambled against the Russian threat - prevented JG 71 from attaining the necessary and required flight hours. For reasons of flight safety, live firing training over the sea had already been stopped. In addition weather minima had to be increased for flight operations, since his pilots did not have enough experience and could hardly gain more. Günther Josten was not interested in confrontation. He was more interested in training more intensely than it was possible to do. He needed more time to manage and master the weapons and electronic systems - from the technical, logistical and infrastructure standpoints. On 31 January 1966 Josten was met by the commanding General of Luftwaffengruppe Nord, Gen. Lt. Werner Eugen Hoffmann - waiting unannounced in the Stabs building in Wittmund - who had arrived to participate in the pilots pre-sortie briefings. Hoffmann wanted to know how many flying personnel JG 71 had lost since its formation. - How many ? Thirteen: "That's not so bad," Hoffmann replied angrily according to Josten's notes - "other units have lost far more... "  Now 'Der Spiegel' magazine's reporting was also used against him: "How were the pictures in the latest Starfighter articles taken? " And how was the magazine able to write in its issue 7/1966 that in Wittmund recently a training Rotte from " Jagdgeschwader Wittmundhaven " could not get airborne because of technical problems with the two assigned machines nor was it able to take off with the two replacement aircraft? *  (*a telephone conversation with a press officer in Bonn was partly overheard by a Spiegel editor who was present at the time, but the circumstances of the actual chain of events had been misrepresented in the magazine..) Josten enlightened him: Weather and serviceability issues had prevented  himself and Hptm. Pötter, the Kapitän of 711. Staffel from flying the sortie. " The accusations of the commanding General were so serious that I was gave real thought to relinquishing my post as Geschwader Kommodore.."

 -Based on Günther Josten's 'Gefechtsbericht' (296 Verlag)

-Der Spiegel article on the Nörvenich crash " Death in the Afternoon " in issue 26/1962 here

 -interview with ex-Starfighter pilot Wulf Beeck published in Bild newspaper to coincide with the broadcast of RTL's TV film production 'Starfighter - sie wollten den Himmel erobern ' in 2015 here   (German text)

 -Wulf's own film of his time on Starfighters is also on youtube. English commentary. A single click to view here

Monday, 10 September 2018

Bundesluftwaffe Jagdbombergeschwader 32 Lechfeld Panavia Tornado - ebay photo find 87

Luftwaffe Jagdbombergeschwader 32 Lechfeld Panavia Tornado

Luftwaffe Jäger F-104 G Starfighter 1967

Jäger WTD 61 F-104G Starfighter

Fouga Magister

on offer here

Thursday, 6 September 2018

by Shawn Derrek, Sim Pilot on F-15C, Su-27/33, MiG-29A/G/S, Su-25/T
Let me give you a definitive answer. It depends. Dont believe me? Ask any former fighter pilot or someone who knows what he's talking about to answer this. I bet they will say the same. Given the infinite amount of factors eg. Aircraft loadout, fuel, weight, altitude, airspeed, missile pK, countermeasure effectiveness and the general concept of who shoots first will win etc, it is literally not possible to answer your question. Anyone who says otherwise is not considering these or does not know what they are talking about. I can however, give you a likely winner.
PS: I won't talk much about gun kills, as it's a simple concept and you're normally going down if someone guns you. Did I also mention the probability of a missile hitting a target when it is dispensing countermeasures is literally like rolling a dice? You never know the outcome.
Now prepare yourself for a very long article on the capabilities and vulnerabilities of each aircraft. For simplicity's sake, I will use the best combat loadout that is normally taken for each individual aircraft.
F-14 Tomcat
Now, it is worth mentioning that the F-14 was designed for fleet air defense and is more of an interceptor than anything else. It can dogfight, just it isn't very good at it.
The F-14 normally comes equipped with 4x AIM-7 Sparrows (semi-active radar guided), 2x AIM-54 Phoenix (active radar guided) and 2x AIM-9 Sidewinder (heatseeking) missiles and a 20mm M61A1 Vulcan. As you can probably tell from it's combat loadout, it has a fair bit of long range firepower, not so much on the dogfighting side of things. That being said, the F-14 could dogfight sufficiently well given it had enough energy. However, the wing sweep on the F-14 was commonly complained about, as it was a dead giveaway on how much energy the aircraft had retained. In a dogfight, if you lose energy, you lose the fight (some Russian aircraft excluded). Now, at close ranges (especially furballs), most fighter pilots would use heatseekers as they are more maneuverable and are generally better suited for close ranges. Now, as previously mentioned, I can't give an answer. No one can. But I will state the one that is most likely to survive. Moving on.
F-15C Eagle
The F-15 is a remarkable fighter, with absolutely no losses in aerial engagements. Now, that might lead you to believe the F-15 is invincible. I can tell you it isn't. I know how it flies, how it handles under different situations and how the weapon systems and countermeasures work. The main advantage of the F-15 is in fact, it's maneuverability and missiles.
The F-15C comes equipped with a load of either 4x AIM-120 AMRAAM (active radar guided) and 4x AIM-9 Sidewinder (heatseeking) missiles OR 6x AIM-120 and 2x AIM-9. The F-15 has the same Vulcan that is used on the F-14. For the best case scenario, I will use the first loadout. With 4 heatseekers, the F-15 definitely stands a better chance of maneuvering for a kill against a target, and has more ordinance to hand feed to said target. The aircraft, despite it's delta wing design, turns pretty hard at speeds at or above 300 knots, and could pull some pretty high alpha at speeds lower than 300 knots for snapshots at targets. However, all US aircraft are conditioned for long range BVR combat. Thus they share common similarities with each other. While the AMRAAM is definitely better against maneuvering targets compared to the Phoenix, it still isn't the best at close ranges.
F-16C Fighting Falcon (Viper)
This is something I have to stress right from the beginning. The F-16 is a VERY GOOD dogfighter. The main advantage of the F-16 is its maneuverability, which it excels in. Having a relaxed static stability/fly-by-wire system, the F-16 was designed to be unstable from the get-go, and that's where it gets it's maneuverability from.
The F-16 can carry a load of 6x AIM-9s to go with its Vulcan cannon. This makes it shine as a dogfighter and it can pull hard turns and maneuvers that some aircraft just can't do because of their respective aerodynamic qualities.
F/A-18C Hornet
It should be noted that the F/A-18 was not designed solely for air combat. Then again, so did the F-16, so the F/A-18 should be pretty good right? Well, it depends. The Hornet can pull some pretty insane Alpha and turns fairly tightly for an aircraft of its size and weight. In a dogfight, it stands just as good a chance as any other aircraft. With a HMCS, the F/A-18 has the ability to lock on to any aircraft within the aircraft's visual cueing cone.
The Hornet can carry a maximum load of 4x AIM-9s and 2x AIM-7s OR AIM-120s. I'm actually running out of ideas on what to say here, until we get to the Russians at least. You know the drill. AIM-9 is good. AIM-120 can even used but it not the most ideal when really close to an enemy aircraft.
Ah the good ol' Mirage-2000. It's a fun aircraft to fly. Not so much in the way of dogfighting though. I wrote an answer for this aircraft a few days ago regarding air combat. Now, the Mirage is a delta wing design, which means less lift. But, unlike the F-15, it doesn't have traditional control surfaces. The Mirage uses elevons that function for both roll and pitch, which is the same as the F-15. The only problem, being they are mounted on the wings themselves, which equates to less pitch control at low speeds, thus not making it the best dogfighter out there.
The M-2000 is equipped with 2x Matra Super 530s (semi-active radar guided) and 2x Matra R-550 Magic IIs (heatseeking). It can hold it's own in a dogfight, but I doubt it does too well in a furball. If you really want to know, at low speeds, the delta wing on the Mirage limits it's pitch authority so bad that the 3rd gen F-5E can turn with it.
Eurofighter Typhoon (we're halfway down the list, YAY!)
The Eurofighter Typhoon. Very beautiful aircraft indeed. Unlike traditional delta wing designs like the M-2000C, the Typhoon is exceptionally maneuverable at both low and high speeds, thanks to it's fly-by-wire system and use of canards. The Eurofighter is one of the best on this list, and may very well win in a furball. The reason behind this is it has a HMCS and lock-on-after-launch (LOAL) capability. However, let's not jump to conclusions.
The Eurofighter carries… err… well I'll be completely honest. I don't really know the amount of air to air weaponry it can carry. However, the typical Eurofighter carries 6x AIM-120 and 2x AIM-132 ASRAAM or IRIS-T (heatseeking) missiles. Since we can't really talk about how good the missiles are because it's impossible to predict real life situations, I won't bother.
JAS-39 Gripen
I don't really know what to say for the Gripen. It is essentially a Eurofighter by aerodynamic design, with a similar fly-by-wire system and canards for improved stability and maneuverability and a HMCS as well. Therefore, I will move straight to the weapon systems. Besides, I don't really know the Gripen that well, so I won't pretend to.
In the best case scenario, a Gripen may carry 6x AIM-9s OR IRIS-T OR A-Darter (heatseeking) missiles.
Dassault Rafale
WHY DO THEY DO THIS? It's pretty much exactly the same as both the Eurofighter and the Gripen in terms of agility, avionics and weapons. Can we skip this one?
The Rafale can carry a number of Magic IIs and MICA (radar guided/infrared homing) missiles.
Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-29S
Now we're getting to the fun stuff. Like the American aircraft, I actually don't need to refer to any external sources for this. Now, the MiG-29's armament is different depending on the model, so I'll use the MiG-29S. The Fulcrum can perform hard sustained turns for long periods and is excellent in the dogfighting department with it's powerful engines and most importantly, the High Off Boresight (HOBS) missile capability and Infrared Search and Track (IRST) sensor which gives the Russian aircraft a major edge in close ranges. By simply pointing his head and looking at an enemy aircraft, the pilot can lock the target and launch a missile within a +-60° cone in front of the aircraft. It doesn't help the offending pilot that the Russian R-73 heatseekers are supermaneuverable and can literally turn almost 180° for target interception.
The MiG-29S is capable of carrying 2x R-77 (active radar guided), 2x R-27ER/ET/R/T/P (radar guided/heatseeking depending on model) and 2x R-73 (highly maneuverable heatseeking) missiles. The highlight here is the R-73 which is, for lack of a better word, stupidly maneuverable, though limited in range compared to its counterparts from other countries.
Sukhoi Su-27
One of my personal favourites. I know her like the back of my hand. The Su-27 is supermaneuverable, can turn incredibly tight, is able to perform Pugachev's Cobra to either snap it's nose close to an enemy for it's pilot to use the HMD and HOBS missiles or to break the radar lock of an enemy aircraft. It has a very long range and carried a huge complement of missiles.
The Flanker carries multiple loadouts: 6x R-27ER/ET/EP/R/T/P, 2x R-73 and 2x wingtip mounted SPS-171 “Sorbtsiya” ECM pods OR 4x R-27ER/ET/EP/R/T/P, 4x R-73 and 2x wingtip mounted SPS-171 “Sorbtsiya” ECM pods OR 4x R-27ER/ET/EP/R/T/P and 6x R-73.
I know where to find a manual for it if you want one.
Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-25
Ugh. I'm not even posting a photo. The MiG-25 is a bad dogfighter, like very bad. It's only advantage was it's speed, and that was only at high altitude. It is slower compared to other aircraft at sea level. Plus, with a maximum G-loading of 4.5G, it doesn't really do well.
The MiG-25 carries a load of 4x R-40RD/TD (long range semi-active radar guided/heatseeking respectively) OR 2x R-23 OR 2x R-60 OR 4x R-73.
Remark: This thing isn't a very good fighter. In fact, it isn't one.
As far as I understand the Harrier, it uhh… just won't survive in a furball. The MiG-25 stands a better chance. No, really.
The Harrier can equip 4x AIM-9s. For the fancy AV-8B Plus, which actually has a radar fitted, it can fire 6x AIM-120s. For self defense mind you.
Now comes the likely winners of the furball. I say winners because I can't say. It only takes a missile to destroy an aircraft, and it doesn't matter where said missile comes from. Whether it comes from an A-10 or F-5.
So the likely winners would be: F-16, F/A-18, Eurofighter, Gripen, Rafale, MiG-29 and Su-27.
Note: The Harrier is a good aircraft, I can tell you that. But by no means is it a dogfighter even with VSTOL nozzle capabilities.

Monday, 27 August 2018

LIGHTNING T.5 XV 328 11 Squadron RAF Binbrook - ebay photo find #86

Phantom FGR.2 XV406/A RAF/23Sqdn May78

Harrier GR.1 XV741/A RAF/3Sqdn Aug73

Jaguar GR.3A XX119 RAF/6Sqdn out of service c/s 2007

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Victor B.2 XL513 & XL 512 carrying Blue Steel - ebay photo find #57

An original Ministry of Defence photograph of Handley Page Victor B.2 XL513 equipped with a Blue Steel Missile. Note the four Vulcans on...