Monday, 28 November 2011

Javelin sortie RAF Coltishall 1962

From the University of East Anglia film archive, an Anglia Television programme showing life behind-the-scenes at RAF Coltishall. In the lead-up to the 1962 open day to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Britain, Anglia Television correspondent Christopher Rainbow heads to RAF Coltishall to see some of the aircraft on show and visit some of the less accessible areas of the base. Looking behind the scenes at what keeps three squadrons in the air, Rainbow speaks to the commanding officer Group Captain Malins and visits the radar workshop, armoury, guided weapons facility, control tower and fire service. Footage includes a very interesting sequence showing armourers loading Firestreak missiles onto the under wing pylons of Javelin XH 962 prior to the aircraft taxying out and getting airborne. Crowds are shown enjoying the open day, with static aircraft displays in the hangars and flying displays from Spitfire, Hurricane, Javelin, Vulcan and Lightning aircraft.

The Javelin of course features quite prominently in James Hamilton-Paterson's "Empire of the clouds "; in fact Paterson's book is almost a sympathetic biography of Bill Waterton, Gloster and Javelin test pilot. Like many post-war British designs the Javelin was assessed as a complete dud by its pilots. From a recent post on the Flypast forum;

" ..Today I met a Javelin pilot and commiserated with him. Quite so, he said. We read up on Kamikazes and despaired. They had half a chance of doing some good. We knew we had none. Yet, largely US-funded, we deployed 428 Harmonious Dragmasters. Useless. There was no golden yesteryear.."

Ground crew load Firestreak missiles on to a Gloster Javelin FAW.9 of No 64 Squadron RAF at RAF Tengah.

Friday, 18 November 2011

A day at Kubinka - superb Flanker and Fulcrum selection

Kubinka is the largest Russian air force base in the Moscow region and is known as the primary school of aerobatics in Russia. The town of Kubinka itself is situated 50-75 km south-west of Moscow. Kubinka is the location of the Russians' famous display teams, the Strizhy, the Russian Knights and the Flying Hussars. Shortly after foundation, the Strizhy were followed by another display team flying the Sukhoi Su-27, which was founded at Kubinka air base on 5 April 1991. Contrary to the Strizhy's MiGs, the Knights' Su-27s are painted up in the Russian national tricolour. The third display team at Kubinka air base, equipped with the Su-25 attack aircraft, the Sky Hussars is the only group in the world to show aerobatics on attack aircraft.

More low level passes !

Having blogged the best of youtube's 'low level pass' videos I recently came across the most amazing page of 'low level' photos. And since my blog header photo has been up here much longer than it has 'there' I have no hesitation in reproducing it again here along with a couple of  'their' images and a recommendation to drop in at this most amazing of aviation web pages.

Of course the thing about this post-war Lanc shot (note the deactivated nose turret and the dorsal dome) is that the aircraft can't be flown with three Merlins feathered! So a very foolish manoeuvre. It's basically achieved through diving for the deck, performing a high-speed fly-by and then pulling up towards the end of the strip while desperately unfeathering!

Below; the Human Fly, a stunt man by the name of Rick Rojatt, makes a low pass on top of a DC-8 flown by the legendary Clay Lacy in front of the grandstands between events at the 1976 California National Air Races at Mojave. The aircraft is ex-Japan Airlines JA8002. It was owned and operated by American Jet Industries in 1976.

One of the most celebrated images of a low pass is this shot of F-14 Tomcat driver Captain Dale “Snort” Snodgrass making a curving pass alongside USS America. Snodgrass explained: " This was my opening pass in a Tomcat tactical demonstration at sea. I started from the starboard rear quarter of the carrier, slightly below flight deck level. Airspeed was about 270 kts with the wings swept forward. I selected afterburner at about a half-mile out, and the aircraft accelerated to about 315 kts. As I approached the fantail, I rolled into an 85-degree bank and did a hard 5-6G turn, finishing about 10-20 degrees off of the boat's axis. Microseconds after this photo was taken, after rolling wings-level at an altitude slightly above the flight deck, I pulled vertical with a quarter-roll to the left, ending with an Immelman roll-out 90 degrees and continued with the remainder of the demo. It was a dramatic and, in my opinion, a very cool way to start a carrier demo as first performed by a great fighter pilot, Ed "Hunack" Andrews, who commanded VF-84 in 1980-1988.."

oh..and that web page for much much more like this is at  - prepare to let your jaw hit the floor!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

U.S. To Buy Decommissioned British Harrier Jets - Defense News

" Britain has agreed to sell all of its 74 decommissioned Harrier jump jets, along with engines and spare parts, to the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps - a move expected to help the Marines operate Harriers into the mid-2020s and provide extra planes to replace aging two-seat F-18D Hornet strike fighters.

The British GR 9 and 9As are similar in configuration to the Marines' AV-8B night attack version, which make up about a third of U.S. Harriers. The British planes also are night planes dedicated to air-ground attack, he said, and while both types carry Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) sensors, neither is fitted with a multimode radar such as the APG-65 carried by U.S. AV-8B+ models.
British GR 9s, although upgraded with improved avionics and weapons, are powered by the Rolls-Royce Mark 105 Pegasus engine. GR 9As have the more powerful Mark 107, similar to the Rolls-Royce F402-RR-408s that power Marine AV-8Bs.
British and U.S. Harrier II aircraft had a high degree of commonality from their origin. The planes were developed and built in a joint arrangement between British Aerospace - now BAE Systems - and McDonnell Douglas, now a division of Boeing. While each company built its own wings, all forward sections of the British and American Harrier IIs were built by McDonnell in St. Louis, Mo., while British Aerospace built the fuselage sections aft of the cockpit.

The Harrier IIs, built between 1980 and 1995, "are still quite serviceable," said author of several books on the Harrier Lon Nordeen. "The aircraft are not that far apart. We're taking advantage of all the money the Brits have spent on them. It's like we're buying a car with maybe 15,000 miles on it."

U.S. To Buy Decommissioned British Harrier Jets - Defense News

and some photo reference for the new Airfix Harriers from Fairford. Click on the image to open a high-res full screen copy

Sunday, 13 November 2011

D-Day stripes - Normandy Air War - latest edit January 2016

“..You will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world. Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped, and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely. But this is the year 1944. Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940 and 1941. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeat in open battle man to man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our home fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned. The free men of the world are marching together to victory. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory. Good luck, and let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking...”

For inspiration and thanks

Images from the IWM and Roger Freeman collections are published here under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Licence. Thank you

Below; Spitfire PR Mark XI, PL775 ‘A’, of No. 541 Squadron RAF based at Benson, Oxfordshire, in flight.
As usual click on the images to view large


Bristol Beaufighter TF. Mk.X  RAF North Coates Strike Wing Squadron 236, June 5 1944, D-Day -1

Sherman tanks move up past a crash-landed Spitfire for an attack on Tilly-sur-Seulles, 17 June 1944. (IWM Collection)


Supermarine Spitfire Mark IX raises the dust as it taxies past a Hawker Typhoon Mark IB of No. 181 Squadron RAF, at an advanced landing ground - probably B2/Bazenville - in Normandy. The Spitfire is fitted with a 45-gallon 'slipper' fuel tank.


Above; 359th FG P-51B/C Mustang with D-Day stripes at East Wretham Airfield. 

Below; 56th FG 63rd Fighter Squadron. P-47D 42-26057 UN-W. This a/c was lost on 18 September 1944 when it crashed into North Sea due to Flak. Lt. Elwood D Raymond being killed in action.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Spitfire Ace of Aces - Johnnie Johnson

My aviation 'Book of the Month' is this new bio of the RAF's top-scoring WWII fighter pilot by Dilip Sarkar published by Amberley books. Cover illustration above depicts Johnson leading 127 Wing off from Lashenden (Headcorn) in his clipped wing Spitfire LF Mk IX.
By the end of the Second World War Johnson's was a household name in Britain and the RAF Spitfire pilot was feted by Churchill and Eisenhower. Although he missed the Battle of Britain where he might have been able to add a few lumbering Heinkels to his tally, by 1945 he had notched up 38 enemy ‘kills’ – all fighters which as the author says "took far more skill to shoot down" - and was officially the RAF’s topscoring fighter ace. One of his most impressive achievements was that in over 1000 combat missions, he was never shot down. His Spitfire was damaged once and on his return to base he apologised to his fitter saying ‘I was surrounded by six of them’. Dilip Sarkar spent many hours with Johnson in the final years of the great man’s life, recording the last interviews Johnson would ever give. The book is full of exciting first hand accounts from Johnnie himself and many of his fellow Spitfire pilots are also interviewed by the author. Sarkar also does a particularly good job of describing virtually all of Johnson's combats and identifying his opponents and his victims. He even includes accounts from German ground troops. Profusely illustrated with photographs from Johnson’s personal albums.

" In his log on 16 June 1944 Johnson wrote, 'Matoni and his 190s about'. He later recalled; " Yes, the Matoni thing was interesting. We had noticed this distinctive long-nosed 190 about, leading ordinary 190s and our spies confirmed the pilot to be an ace, Walter Matoni. We often saw him in the air but he could only be brought to battle if the circumstances were entirely favourable to him. His presence therefore became something of a challenge and I formed the habit of calling up Kenway and asking if Matoni was about. Challenging Matoni to a personal duel was, of course, rubbish. The subsequent newspaper reports put me in the firing line, not only for a lot of ribbing by the boys, but also an unexpected written bollocking from Paula (Johnson's wife) who reckoned that I was taking unnecessary risks.."

an illustration from the book; Wing Commander Johnnie  Johnson poses with his personal mount at Kenley Spitfire Mk IX EN 398 - the most successful combat Spitfire of WWII in terms of victories.

and an old post from Martin on, an anecdote that doesn't appear in this latest book

" ..One of my favourite Normandy 'tales' comes, not from the usual sources, but from the famous book 'Wing Leader' by 'Johnnie' Johnson.
During the daylight bombing of Caen, Johnson's Spitfires provided target-cover for Bomber Command - with no Luftwaffe in sight, he had a 'grandstand view'. As the raid finished : -

'Instead of turning to the of the Lancasters came down in a fairly steep dive towards the..enemy-held territory south of the city. I watched this manoeuvre in some amazement...Perhaps the aircraft had had its controls shot away or damaged.. But wait, the bomber has now levelled out and is still flying due south only a few feet above the Caen-Falaise road...What the hell is the pilot up to ?

The road is packed here and there with stationary tanks and vehicles. As it sweeps down the road, both front and rear turrets of the Lancaster are in action and the gunners are firing bursts into the enemy vehicles. There is a lot of light flak, but the pilot obviously scorns this... For him this affair is a bit of a lark..Now the Lancaster carries out a slow wide turn to retrace its flight northwards to Caen. Majestically, it ploughs along over the straight road with ..guns blazing away.Enemy drivers and crews abandon their vehicles as the Lancaster pounds along and dive for cover... Speechless, I watch the role of fighter-bomber being carried out, and most effectively, by the 'heavy'...

I fly alongside the Lancaster as it settles down for the flight back..and wave to the adventurers inside. Long after the war I discovered that the pilot of the bomber was a Scottish ex-bricklayer called 'Jock' Shaw. At the time of my story, he was the proud captain of his own Lancaster, and was to win the DFC and Bar.'

I've always liked this story - one can imagine the bomber crews' urge to 'have a go'

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