A note on sources and credits

As far as possible photographs that are not mine are posted here with permission; thank you to all contributors to 'Jet & Prop', especially photographers Tad Dippel, Neil Cotten and Nico Charpentier, the editor of the magnificent 'Avions' magazine Michel Ledet and Jean-Yves Lorant, author, researcher and archivist at the Service Historique de la Défense, Paris. Images from the IWM and Roger Freeman collections are published here under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Licence. Occasionally some images on this site have been 'reposted' from facebook or ebay. They are used non-commercially in an educational context to depict historical events. If such is deemed necessary they can be removed on simple request. Contact me at falkeeins at aol.com. All rights reserved.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Jaguar sur Al Jaber (2) capitaine Alain Mahagne's story

Former capitaine Alain Mahagne (right), a French Jaguar pilot with EC 2/11 Vosges with a copy of his account of the sortie flown on 17 January 1991 against the Kuwaiti base of Al Jaber and displaying his flight helmet which was pierced by a Kalashnikov round at high speed and low altitude. Amazingly although knocked out by the impact the pilot survived with just a 10 centimetre long wound to his scalp and demonstrated the presence of mind and courage to be able to fly his aircraft home.....

17 January 1991 - it was still night-time that morning on the base at Al Ahsa, the principal operating platform assigned to the French air contingent participating in 'Desert Storm' or “Daguet” as it had been dubbed by the French. Forty Jaguar fighter bombers and thirty 30 Mirage F-1CR jets. With their 9mm MAC-50 automatic pistols holstered and a gas mask hooked onto their belts, twelve pilot officers leave their mobile home and make their way by bus out to their aircraft, sand-camouflaged Jaguars carrying a full load-out. The machines were lined-up on the tarmac and had been fussed over for hours by their mechanics. One by one each pilot carries out his pre-flight check and pulls the safety pins from his ejection seat. The aircraft are all similarly configured; four 250kg bombs, an electronic counter-measures pod, a Matra air-to-air missile and a jettisonable drop-tank of 1200 litre capacity .-"Jupiter 01, check" calls the ‘leader’, having lit his two Adour MK-10 jet engines. The flight leader was commandant Jean-Luc Mansion, call-sign "Schnapy", 36 years old, 3700 flying hours.-"Jupiter 2,... Jupiter 3, 4, 5,..." respond his wing men.-"Al Asha, Jupiter 01, okay to taxi". On the order from the control tower the Jaguars roll out to the runway. The first four jets line up in echelon formation and roar off down the runway, afterburners lit. Thirty seconds separates each aircraft. Jaguar n° A-108, n° 11, flown by capitaine Alain Mahagne call-sign "Charly" gets airborne in turn and climbs blindly into the morning haze. With gear and flaps now safely tucked away he forms up with his four wingmen. At around 5,000 feet the cloud deck thickens up and the pilots flying in tight formation catch only momentary glimpses of the other aircraft. Twenty minutes later they rendezvous with four Boeing C-135FR tankers flying a race-course track. The Jaguar in two sections of six peel off two-by-two and extend their retractable refuelling probes. Capitaine Mahagne hooks up with the basket in turn and four minutes later, tanks now full, pulls away for capitaine Hummel call-sign "Mamel" to take his place. With his tanks full in turn the two Jaguars break off to reform with capitaine Pacotel call-sign "Paco", n°7 and flight leader of the second group. They turn together on a northerly heading and head down into the murk.

Capitaine Pacotel breaks radio silence "Bidon Secours – reserve tank 1. Armed, jettison tank!", On Pacotel’s command the twelve drop tanks tumble down from the jets one-by-one.-" Is my tank still hooked up ?" asks one pilot-"yep, still there..." responds Lieutenant Bonnafoux call-sign "Bonaf". A few gentle shakes later and the tank tumbles away.-"Counter measures on, armament safety on Off, check your IFF" orders Pacorel. From now on things are likely to get serious – the Jaguars accelerate to 480 kt, altitude 100 feet. The time is 8h46 as the 12 Jaguars over-fly the Kuwaiti border.

Having fanned out into attack formation the Jaguars hurtle across the Iraqi front lines: a divisional command post distinguished by a series of large white tents. Suddenly a little off to the right of the heading being followed by the Jaguars, a self-propelled anti-aircraft armoured vehicle with four 23-mm automatic cannon, probably a ZSU-23-4, opens up, followed by another on the left in concert with the heavier calibre twin barrel 30 mm cannon of a ZPU-30-2..flashes of light spurt from the barrels. -"Draw head into shoulders ..very low and very fast, it’s our only chance" . Suddenly a white trail appears ahead of Mahagne – a "Strela" – a Russian-manufactured man-portable anti-aircraft missile with a passive infra-red homing guidance system. It must have been launched by someone on the ground and is heading directly for the aircraft of the leader n°7.-"Missile port" called one of the pilots-"Ne bouge pas -do not move" orders capitaine Pacorel. The propellent charge of the Sa-7 runs out at around two metres from its target n°7 and falls away to the ground. "Visual on target". Suddenly - "I’m hit ! Oil warning light lit" calls Lieutenant Bonnafoux. He felt the impact on the fuselage as an SA-7 slammed into the aircraft without exploding – the result, a fire alarm in the starboard jet engine. He tries to keep up but the Jaguar is losing speed and altitude. He had soon lost sight of his comrades. "Nothing for it but to eject" he reasons, but the Jaguar struggles gamely on so the pilot elects to stay with it to bring the aircraft home. Having first deactivated his weapons he jettisons his bombs and turns for home. The eleven remaining Jaguars press on.

It is  8h49 - the Jaguars are one minute from their target.  Still at very low altitude the jets turn onto heading 300 now moving directly into the target - the air base of Al Jaber in the middle of the Kuwaiti desert and a hangar full of Scud missiles. There is a moment of confusion as the pilots realise that they are too far south of the runway at Al Jaber, before Pacoral calls ' attack on sight'. By now the Jaguars are caught in a maelstrom of anti-aircraft fire, tracers and small arms fire.. searching right and left out of the cockpit Mahagne is powerless in the barrage of fire of fire - suddenly spotting a command post he is flying too low and too fast to line up on this potential target. Ahead of him he can see a series of large dark shapes half-buried in the sand. Tanks ! Pulling on the stick he releases his four 250 kg bombs. Like a thin telegraph pole a SA-7 missile tears the darkness apart followed by a second which streaks past his port wing -"Hit, I'm hit"  shouts n°12, capitaine Hummel, flying just ahead of Mahagne who instinctively makes himself smaller in his cockpit. Suddenly his canopy is shattered by an explosive impact, the pilot feels a terrible blow to his head and is rocked back in his seat...Mahagne takes up the story in his account 'Jaguar sur Al Jaber' ;

" ..I was blinded ..instantly ..but only for a matter of seconds. I pulled back instinctively on the control column. After a moment my sight returned. I could see my visor shredded in front of my face, so I pulled the pieces off as best I could. The pain was horrendous, it felt as if my head was going to explode. I'd obviously been knocked out and was coming around slowly. First thing I did was to check my engines - still delivering full thrust. There was some cockpit noise, but nothing of any major concern so I pushed the stick forward again until I was at around twenty feet. I was evidently no longer over hostile forces. Then looking carefully to my right and to my left I noticed two holes in the canopy - an entry hole and and an exit hole, with my helmet between them both- a Kalashikov round had gone through the canopy and my helmet. It was then that I realised that I was injured. Fuck! A warm sticky liquid was starting to spread down my neck. I wasn't frightened or unduly concerned and remained in full control. Mamel was worse off than myself  with his starboard jet engine on fire and his aircraft rapidly becoming unstable. I calmly reported my problems over the radio; - .-"Charly. Je suis touché. J'ai un trou dans la tête et je pisse le sang - I'm hit!, I have a hole in my head and there's blood running down !" 

"Tu confirme Charly ?" requested commandant Mansion.-"Yes I confirm my message - I'm hit, there's blood. Climbing now ! -"Non, Non !" responded several voices "Charly, get out now!" shouted the leader.

"JAGUAR SUR AL JABER" by Alain Mahagne, former Jaguar pilot of EC 2/11 Vosges, the only French pilot to be injured on operations in the first Gulf Air War is a 127-page account of flying the Jaguar in combat and description of the sortie flown on 17 January 1991.

With Alain's permission I re-wrote and completed this piece in a three-page feature that was published in the September 2011 issue of Airfix Model World

alain.mahagne@sfr.fr  for book orders

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Granby HS Buccaneer S.Mk 2 B XV352 -RAF Manston History Museum

Cockpit section of Buccaneer XV352 preserved under cover in the Manston Airfield History museum. This machine flew ten sorties during Operation Granby ('Desert Storm'). The aircraft was scrapped in 1998 at St. Athan. John Hume of the Manston museum now has all the cockpit electrics working including the seat! Very impressive too, if a little cramped for me (below). According to John, all 12 Granby Buccs had the 'Sky Pirates' flag on the nose, each with a slightly different design. XV352 was one of the few not to feature any other nose artwork. The first Buccaneers to operate over Kuwait arrived at Muharraq (Bahrain) from RAF Lossiemouth on 26 January 1991. Eventually 12 aircraft were used to provide laser-designation for Muharraq and Dahran based Tornados. The first mission was flown on 2 February. A total of 216 sorties were eventually flown. The aircraft returned home in early March 1991. Rather poor quality period shots of XV 352 from a Fairford RIAT during the early 1990s.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Dewoitine D. 520 in the débacle - the French campaign May/June 1940

Dewoitine D 520 prototype no. 3 seen after capture by the Germans. This aircraft had crashed in March 1940. The hard-edged camouflage distinguishs this from D.520 no. 2.

Below; an early series aircraft as indicated by the location of the radio access hatch

Wrecks of D.520s of the  2nd escadrille of G.C I/3 at Wez-Thuisy or Meaux-Esbly

G.C I/3 2 escadrille D.520 assigned to S/Lt Parisse, shot down on 21 May 1940 in the vicinity of Fonches-Fonchette (Somme) after combat with Bf 109s. The pilot was seriously wounded and died shortly after carrying out this crash landing ..(source "GC I/3 Les rois du Dewoitine 520" published by Lela Presse Avions).

Currently on special offer (-45%) at the Avions website; " La Débacle - May-June 1940". A 96-page A-4 softback devoted to wrecks and relics of the French campaign by Denes Bernad, comprising some 150 original photos taken by German soldiers during the Westfeldzug - the campaign in France during May and June 1940, including many previously unpublished. Includes detailed English-language captions by this blog author.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Jaguar sur Al Jaber (1) - last edit December 2015

An extract from the film "Les ailes de la gloire" - ECPA-D 1998. A brief overview of the first French combat sortie of Desert Storm, the 1991 Gulf War, flown by twelve Jaguars of the 11th escadre de chasse EC 2/11 Vosges against the heavily defended Kuwaiti base of Al Jaber on 17 January 1991. Commentary from flight leader commandant Mansion. A single click to view here.

"..it's still night time. We are preparing our briefing at Al Asha. We are going over all the details so that we can be sure that everyone has understood what is required. We go over everything. And then we learn that the sortie is on, the first French mission of the war. I look at my comrades...twelve of us flying this first sortie. We climb up into our cockpits, I quickly close my canopy. I had been advised to shut the canopy quickly. As soon as you shut the canopy you are on your own and the mission is on and we are going to go. We have to succeed. We are flying Jaguars. Many think that the Jaguar is an old and somewhat slow aircraft, and yet that morning when I release the brakes, my aircraft literally bounds forward and leaps into the sky. We're off. I've had my head down in the cockpit but as I look up I'm in for a shock. Ahead of us, just darkness. I know why. Fires burning, columns of smoke from the flames obscuring the horizon. I know now that the mission is starting..There is an opening in among the columns of smoke and I pass through it, like going through a small door and behind the door there is the real war. But I'm lost, I'm scanning my instruments very carefully now. I'm looking for an enormous airbase - it should be there ..but it isn't. I've lead twelve guys here and we're going to get shot at ..and I can't see the target. Suddenly someone shouts "north! it's there, to the north !" I look in that direction. Yes, thats our target. I can see Hangar no. 4, our target. We drop our bombs ..bof, bof, bof, bof. What a relief! All four of them dropped correctly..on the base, on the target. The mission is a success..."

Récit de Mansion, leader lors de l'intervention... by armee-de-l_air

Of the twelve Jaguars airborne from Al Asha to carry out a low-level bombing raid against the base at Ahmed Al Jaber in Kuwait, no less than four sustained heavy damage. The first is hit by small arms fire and the ailerons are damaged. The second Jaguar was hit by a missile, damaging the starboard engine which was successfully shut down by the pilot who jettisoned his bombs and turned back (see photos below) The third Jaguar was hit by a Strela missile resulting in the starboard engine catching fire and exploding and showering the wing with debris. Once again the four 250 kg bombs carried by the Jaguar were jettisoned. Both these two machines managed to put down at the US base of Al Jubail some 300 km away. But worse was still to come for the pilot of the fourth Jaguar, capitaine Alain Mahagne....... 

Alain Mahagne's own account; 'Jaguar sur Al Jaber' continued on this blog here

Source: Pilotes dans la tourmente by Jean-Pierre Otelli . Editions Altipresse

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Voyager Airbus A330-200 tanker

from the BBC's web site;

" ...The largest RAF aircraft in history has arrived in the UK for the first time. The new tanker and transport plane - named the Voyager - is almost 60m (197ft) long and has a 60m wingspan. It is twice the size of a Lancaster bomber and will replace the VC-10 and Tristar aircraft. The RAF has bought 14 Voyagers and the first is expected to be in service by the end of the year. The plane arrived at the MoD's airfield at Boscombe Down, Wiltshire, where further trials will be carried out.It flew in from Airbus Industrie's factory near Madrid in Spain.

The Voyager, a converted Airbus A330-200 airliner, can carry 291 troops for more than 6,000 miles (9,600km). The new Voyager is twice the size of a Lancaster bomber It can refuel another aircraft in the air with 100,000 litres of fuel, more than the amount contained by two large petrol tankers.The Ministry of Defence said it can refuel at a rate of 5,000 litres per minute, compared with a pump at a garage that delivers fuel at 40 litres per minute.

Peter Luff, Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, said: "The arrival of the first Voyager aircraft in the UK marks an important milestone in the process that will see the Royal Air Force equipped with the best available air-to-air refuelling capability, with the first due in service by the end of the year.

"Recent events in Libya and ongoing requirement for air-to-air refuelling over Afghanistan clearly demonstrate the essential role that air-to-air refuelling plays in getting our aircraft to where they are needed."
Fourteen Voyager aircraft are being provided to the RAF under a 27-year, £10.5bn private finance initiative contract signed with the AirTanker consortium in 2008. The plane and its parts are being manufactured and assembled in France, Germany, Spain and the UK. One of the Voyagers arrived at Boscombe Down on Monday, and two of the planes will be based there during an intensive programme of testing that will continue into next year.."

Photo montage of the Voyager refuelling two Typhoons

Thursday, 14 April 2011

"Forgotten photographs" from the aviation-ancienne.fr forum - Nord Noriot, Breguet 960 Vultur, SNCAC 702 'Martinet'

 The Nord Noroit was an amphibian flying boat designed for the French Aeronavale in the immediate post-war period. Like many French ventures of the time two of the first four aircraft constructed were powered by German powerplants, in this instance the Jumo 213. The Noroit featured a 'flattened' gull-wing with a two-step hull with a cantilever horizontal tail surface with three vertical surfaces. The floats were not retractable. It had an enclosed cabin for the seven crew with a forward viewing compartment and a large rear cabin for use in rescue operations.  The prototype first flew on 6 January 1949 powered by two 1600hp (1193kW) Gnome Rhone 14 R radial engines. The second aircraft was fitted with a retractable tailwheel landing gear for amphibious operation which was later retrofitted to the prototype. The next two aircraft first flown in 1949 were designated the Nord 1401 Noroit and were fitted with two 1800hp (1342kW) Junkers Jumo 213 engines and both were also tested with two Bristol Hercules radial engines. These two aircraft were modified to production standard as the Nord 1402 Noroit and were followed by 21 production aircraft. The last aircraft was delivered to the French Navy in 1956.

Above;  Arsenal VG 70 was a swept-wing fighter research type designed shortly after the liberation of France and powered by a German Jumo 004 jet engine, the only jet powerplant available to the French. Because of the relatively low thrust available the airframe dimensions were kept as small as possible. Note the semi-circular intake under the fuselage. More at the 'Flight' archive on this type..

Breguet 960 Vultur, predecessor of the more well-known Alizé

Below;  Sea Venom or Aquilon was a navalised version for carrier operations, followed by two images of an Aeronavale Do 24 flying boat.

Above ;  The SNCAC 702 'Martinet' was a French derivative of the Siebel 204 (below in French service) ; photographed at Telergma in 1956

More 'forgotten photos' at the aviation-ancienne. fr forum

Sunday, 10 April 2011

'Black night for Bomber Command' 16 December 1943 - The Battle for Berlin

review Des Evans

"...Its taken me a few months to get round to reading this fine book As soon as I started reading it I was back at Bourn on that dark damp foggy night, its difficult to put into words the atmosphere one felt in the very early hours of the Friday morning when the bombers were due to return. I remember standing at our dispersal point waiting and waiting, you could hear the drone of the Lancasters engines as they circled trying to find a gap in the fog to get down, and for so many, time ran out as the fuel in their tanks diminished to zero. Richard Knott describes everything so well in his book. I can only relate to 97 squadron as we lost so many wonderful young guys, it was the squadrons worst night, not through enemy action, but lousy British weather and bad weather prediction by whom I know not..What this book reminded me of was the bravery of these young aircrews. Names come back to me with clarity and some of those who managed to get down were to lose their lives very shortly afterwards on similar raids to Berlin. I was ground crew, a flight mechanic, these guys although of higher rank than me were friends, and many of my friends who were ground crew shed many tears that night.We mixed well with our aircrews, trouble was we would just get to know them well, and then suddenly they were gone, and a day or two later you were introduced to a new young crew.---how long would they last--that was the question. In most cases, not very long. I recommend this book. When I'm asked, what period of your life was the best. This book is the answer. I learnt trust,comradeship and loyalty AND I learnt about sadness...."

by Martin Bull   (writing on ww2f.com in 2003)

"...This winter is the 60th Anniversary of Bomber Command's 'Battle of Berlin' : winter '43/'44. A battle which the German Nachtjagd and the weather conclusively won, the RAF losing 625 bombers and 2,690 aircrew killed. One of the squadrons to suffer the highest losses was 97(PFF), operating from Bourn, Cambs and yesterday I made a small pilgrimage up to the old airfield. As I drove up the A1, the weather closed in, with light mist and drizzle turning to sleet and snow flurries from low cloud. But in a way, this was fitting because on the night of 16/17 December 1943 ( 'Black Thursday' ) 97 lost five Lancasters around Bourn, all crashing in the fog trying to find their base. As I stopped the car on the remains of an old dispersal, the rain dripped onto the windscreen and even getting out of the car was a miserable prospect - what must it have been like to live in Nissen huts here ? Nearly all the buildings have gone - even the respirator store, still here when I last visited in the Summer, has now vanished - but the perimeter track and runways are still used for light aircraft flying. No flying today, though - so I walk through the open gate to the end of runway 07/25, its' full 1,960 yards still intact, to take some photos through the drizzle and to ponder on the 60 Lancasters and 24 Mosquitoes which left this runway, never to make it back 'home'. Back near the car, the area where the briefing rooms, flight offices and other admin functions once stood, is now thick with trees and brambles. I push through the dripping undergrowth and stumble over pathetic heaps of rubble, brick and concrete. Something white is sticking from the ground by a tree root : I pull and twist and half of an old NAAFI dinner plate appears,cracked and caked with earth. I bring it home as a souvenir of RAF Bourn. The last thought goes to a veteran, not of 97 but of 44 further up the road in Lincolnshire. From Martin Middlebrook's 'The Berlin Raids' , Pilot Officer John Chatterton :
'The Battle of Berlin that winter was my tour. My mind is full of night takeoffs, climbing through cloud, icing, Berlin flak - the sheer length and breadth of it - not of night fighters; we never saw one of those....no sitting on the grass or playing cricket with the groundcrew for us. We waited in the dark and cold and rain - that was our tour.'

American experimental types - a slideshow of 103 WWII vintage photos

American experimental types - a slideshow of 103 WWII vintage photos

A slide show of some 50 French types

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

91 Squadron Spitfire XIV

Image and 'embed code' via 'blueyonder' photostream on flickr. Click on the image to see the rest of 'blueyonder's' photo collection !

Spitfire XIV RAF
Google search of this Spitfire led me to the following from a book titled 'Griffon Spitfire Aces' by Andrew Thomas, which gives the following history of Spitfire DL-K Mk XIV RB188. This was the airplane flown by Flt. Lt. H.D. Johnson of 91 squadron, West Malling, July 1944. “One of the most successful Spitfire pilots during the V1 campaign with 13.5 destroyed was Flt. Lt. “Johnny” Johnson, who had been flying with 91 squadron since 1942. His first victory was in this aircraft on 23 June when he shared a V1 near Uckfield, and he brought down another near Hawkhurst the next day, again in RB188. A little over a week later Johnson destroyed three more in this aircraft, which carried the stunning nose-art of a naked red-head (named Brumhilde) riding a V1. RB188 was used to bring down three more “buzz bombs.” …This aircraft later served on the Continent with Nos. 130 and 350 squadrons and was eventually transferred to Thailand post-war.