Saturday, 10 December 2011

Captured Tupolev TB-3 4M-17F

Tupolev TB-3 4M-17F captured by the Germans during the winter of 1941-42. Note the small red stars on the engine cowlings. By the early 1940s the TB-3 had been in service for a decade and was largely obsolete. Some 516 examples were still in service with the VVS in the West when the Germans lauched Barbarossa and losses during the first weeks of Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union were catastrophic, especially when the type was pressed into service by day as a ground attack aircraft. The TB-3 enjoyed some successes bombarding German aerodromes at night during July 1941 in the Minsk and Smolensk sectors. The TB-3 is perhaps best known as a 'flying aircraft carrier' with mid-air launches (Zveno) being successfully carried out with two I-16s loaded with FAB-250 bombs in the dive-bombing role (SPB). The first successful raid was mounted by two TB-3s in this configuration on 1 August 1941 by aircraft of the Black Sea Aviation against the Rumanian port of Constanza. The bombers launched their I-16s some 50 km from the target with the Polikarpovs returning safely to an airfield near Odessa. On 11 and 13 August 1941 Zveno-SPBs attacked the bridge over the Danube at Chernovodsky. Zveno-SPBs also attacked refineries at Ploesti. As the Germans closed in on Perekop, Zveno-SPBs were launched against German armoured columns. By 1942 the first TB-3s were deployed as flying bombs being radio-guided (TMS - Tele-Mekhanichevsky Samolet) from the ground over distances of up to 100 kms and further from in the air.  (from 'Avions' No. 72 March 1999 with permission)

Friday, 9 December 2011

Easyjet A320 landing at EDI yesterday

Winds of up to 165 mph swept across the country yesterday. Easyjet A320 landing at EDI, pic from the Sun's news pages

via the hotlink in Radleigh Bushell's photostream on flickr. 


Thursday, 8 December 2011

On board a Syrian AAF Sukhoi Su-24 M2 - latest edit January 2017

According to the "Middle East Air Forces news" blog this is a rare look at a training sortie over Syria flown by three of Assad's Su 24s as posted on youtube. I have grabbed some stills in case the video disappears quickly although from the commentary the uploader appears to be very much a regime supporter..

" The Su-24 MK tactical bombers are the main striking power of the Syrian Air Force. In summer 2016, it became known that in addition to the ‘winged trucks with bombs’ from Russia, the upgraded Su-24M2s have also started to enter in service of the Syrian Armed Forces. The Su-24 M2 has improved avionics which has significantly improved accuracy of usage of regular ballistic bombs. The range of precision-guided weapons deployed  has also been expanded. According to some reports, the electronic warfare systems that make the process of using of air-to-ground and air-to-air missiles against these aircraft more difficult have also been improved. The fact that the Syrian Air Force has received these enough modern aircraft caused concern of the US. For this reason, it was not surprising that the F-22 Raptor fifth-generation fighter jets have been sent to intercept these Syrian bombers that can threaten the US Special Forces, operating on the Syrian territory. The increasing effectiveness of the Syrian Air Force has led to the fact that Americans do everything in order to limit activity of the Assad’s air power, including the Su-24 M2s, using any diplomatic means. Despite this fact, according to military experts, supplies of the Su-24 M2s bombers to Syria will be continued.."


and via Tom Cooper on the " Russians can't just hand over their Su-24M2s or Su-24M-SVP-24s to Syrians like that. These are nuclear-capable, and thus 'A-wired'. Even Keystone Cops are not as crazy as to give such aircraft to a party that's de-facto under Iranian control..."

RQ -170 Sentinel spy drone downed over Iran

The RQ-170 Sentinel is a Cessna-size UAV built in small numbers by Lockheed Martin sometime in the last decade. The aircraft is moderately stealthy by virtue of its shape and radar-absorbing coating. “The RQ-170 will directly support combatant commander needs for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to locate targets,” the Air Force explained in 2009, two years after photographers first spotted the drone at Kandahar Air Field in southern Afghanistan.The Sentinel reportedly streamed video to commanders during the May raid to kill Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. The UAV has also been spotted at U.S. bases in South Korea and Japan, leading to speculation that it’s involved in sniffing out nuclear facilities. An RQ-170 Sentinel was recently lost over Iran according to news reports.

" ...China, Russia want to inspect downed U.S. drone
TEHRAN, Dec. 7 (MNA) -- An informed source in the Iranian military has said that Russian and Chinese officials have asked for permission to inspect the U.S. spy drone that was recently downed by the Iranian Armed Forces, reported on Wednesday. On Sunday, an unidentified Iranian military source said that the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic had downed an advanced RQ-170 unmanned U.S. spy plane, which had violated the country’s airspace along the eastern border. There are unconfirmed reports that Iran may put the drone on public display. According to the Washington Post, the RQ-170 drone has been used by the CIA for highly sensitive missions into other nations’ airspace, including months of surveillance of the compound in Pakistan in which Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was allegedly hiding before he was killed in an attack by Special Operations forces on May 1, 2011. On Monday, U.S. military officials said that they are concerned that Tehran may now have an opportunity to acquire information about the classified surveillance drone program, AP reported. U.S. officials considered conducting a covert mission inside Iran to retrieve or destroy the stealth drone but ultimately concluded such a secret operation wasn’t worth the risk of provoking a more explosive clash with Tehran, a U.S. official said, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday...".

from Iranian news site


"...Two years ago, pictures leaked of a previously unknown, bat-winged drone operating out of Afghanistan’s Kandahar airport. Speculation spiked about the mission of the mysterious aircraft, instantly nicknamed “the Beast of Kandahar” by secret plane-spotter extraordinaire Bill Sweetman. The drone’s smooth, curved shape meant it was stealthy — hard for radars to spot. But the Taliban didn’t have any radars. So what was the Beast doing? Some suggested that it might be snooping on Iran’s nuclear program. Others thought the drone (officially known as the RQ-170 Sentinel) might be the test bed for a new, microwave weapon to fry enemy electronics or a next-gen jammer to screw with enemy communications. The drone was even spotted over Korea; maybe it was watching missile launches while avoiding the prying eyes of our foes in Pyongyang?..."

" ..Escalating tension over Iran’s alleged nuclear-weapons program could explain the stealthy ‘bot’s presence over the border, but less clear is who programmed the drone’s mission. We know the U.S. Air Force operates the hush-hush RQ-170s — the flying branch has admitted as much. But sources told ABC News that the crashed Sentinel was a CIA asset. It’s not unheard of for the Air Force and CIA to share equipment. Both agencies fly identical Predator drones. Its also not unheard of to have military pilots fly drones under the CIA’s operational control..."

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Gloster E28/39 first British jet engined aircraft to fly

The Gloster E.28/39, (also referred to as the "Gloster Whittle", "Gloster Pioneer", or "Gloster G.40") was the first British jet engined aircraft to fly. Developed to test the new Whittle jet engine in flight, the test results would influence the development of an operational fighter, the Gloster Meteor.

In September 1939, the Air Ministry issued a specification to Gloster for an aircraft to test one of Frank Whittle's turbojet designs in flight. The E.28/39 name comes from the aircraft having been built to the 28th "Experimental" specification issued by the Air Ministry in 1939. The E.28/39 specification had actually required the aircraft to carry two .303 Browning machine guns in each wing, but these were never fitted.
Working closely with Whittle, Gloster's chief designer George Carter laid out a small low-wing aircraft of conventional configuration. The jet intake was in the nose, and the tail-fin and elevators were mounted above the jet-pipe. A contract for two prototypes was signed by the Air Ministry on 3 February 1940 and the first of these was completed by April 1941. Manufacturing started in Hucclecote near Gloucester, but was later moved to Regent Motors in Cheltenham High St (now the Regent Arcade), considered a location safer from bombing.   ( Via auldm)

Monday, 5 December 2011

Lew Funk's WW II photos - Short Stirling bomber

At one time Lew Funk's images could be viewed on Flickr.

Lew Funk's Stirling pics were almost certainly taken at RAF Mendlesham which was a US airbase, hence the Jeep and US servicemen studying the aircraft.

The aircaft appears to be LF133 which belonged to 218 Sqn and was the aircraft used by Sqn Leader John Overton DFC who was the commander of A flight.

The aircraft has the names G H Dennis, AWH Aubrey and J Overton written in what appears to be red paint by the crew entrance door. Also written is '32 not out' which is a reference to the aircraft having completed a 32 mission tour of ops. There appear to be other names as well but I can't make them out. The tour was completed in 1944 and I'm guessing this picture is a summer 1944 shot. There's no invasion stripes, so it's presumably pre-invasion. This aircraft took part in the D-day deception 'Operation Glimmer', where chaff was dropped in patterns to simulate a spoof invasion fleet in the Channel. The aircraft shows 42 missions on the nose (rows of 8 not 10) so presumably not all the missions of this aircraft were with John Overton.

The nose art shows a clown/harlequin figure, the best I can come up with is a suggestion on another website of the figure being a cartoon character called 'Reilly Fowl', a play on words

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Boelcke funeral ceremony Cambrai 31 October 1916

Still photos taken at the funeral ceremony held in Cambrai, northern France (Pas de Calais) for Oswald Boelcke (where Manfred Richthofen carried Boelcke's Ordenskissen) currently available on

A funeral service was held for Hptm. Boelcke in Cambrai Cathedral on 31 October 1916. This was the first time that a German hero had been honoured at one of the venerable cathedrals of Northern France and was conducted on a massive scale. Manfred von Richthofen wrote that "it was like that of a reigning prince", and it was his honour to carry Boelcke's medals on his Ordenkissen (a black velvet pillow). Following the funeral of his friend and mentor, von Richthofen was given command of Jasta 2, renamed Jasta Boelke.

Nick Caudwell Sopwith Snipe Vintage Aviator Ltd Sopwith Snipe debut 12 November 2011

A great view of the cockpit of Nick Caudwell's Sopwith Snipe, still undergoing test flying at Tyabb, April 2015 via The Australian Vintage Aviation Society FB page. Click to view large

Newly built by The Vintage Aviator Ltd this Sopwith Snipe is the only example flying in the world with an original 230hp rotary engine. The Snipe was the last rotary engine powered fighter operated by the Royal Air Force (it was retired in 1926), and it began operational service just a few weeks before the end of World War One in November 1918. This debut public display was held at Hood Aerodrome in Masterton, New Zealand on 12 November 2011. The aircraft will eventually be displayed at Kermit Weeks' Flight of Fantasy facility in Florida, USA.

Terror Of The Autumn Skies - The True Story of Frank Luke, America's Rogue Ace of World War I

Terror Of The Autumn Skies by Blaine Pardoe

The True Story of Frank Luke, America's Rogue Ace of World War I

" ..Lieutenant Frank Luke,Jr., was not just one of the four Army Air Service aviators to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was the first pilot to receive that honor. He received the Medal of Honor decades before the more widely known Captain Eddie Rickenbacker. Most people who know any American First World War pilots know one name: Eddie Rickenbacker, the top ranking American ace of the war. His was the name that history chose to etch in our collective consciousness as the pilot worthy of our memories. Rickenbacker knew Frank Luke personally. “Had he lived he would have put me out of business long ago as America’s leading ace. I wouldn’t have had a show against him.” Rickenbacker is remembered as America’s “Ace of Aces”. But there were a few days in the early autumn of 1918 when Frank Luke held that title. That September, Eddie Rickenbacker was number two to a young stallion, a maverick pilot who captivated a nation—if only for a few days. Rickenbacker merely inherited the title from Frank..."

Chapter One   " First Blood August 16, 1918

“Am waiting now to be sent to the front and am very anxious, for I feel that I am better than the average German and as good as the best.”   Frank Luke July 1918

Near Coincy, France

The pilots flying into battle that day hated their new airplanes. Almost universally, they held the same flat opinion: “The thing flies like a bloody brick.”

The American 27th Aero Squadron (the Eagles, or Fighting Eagles as they were most commonly known) had recently received their new Spad XIII C.1s. The Spad XIII aircraft were temperamental and hard to maintain. These fussy planes would present new challenges and dangers during the combat patrol on the morning of August 16, 1918.

Major Harold Hartney took up fifteen of the new Spads with him in an escort mission. A dozen or so were with the 27th Squadron, the rest were from the 94th Squadron. They were to provide cover for a photographic mission over the trench lines led by the 88th Squadron and Major Kenneth Littauer. It was supposed to be a simple mission, and after take-off the Major led his squadron in almost perfect formation. For the new replacement pilots, it was a chance to gain valuable flight experience.

Four years of war had mauled the once lush green French landscape. There were still patches of green, grass that had not been blasted or burned, leaves that still clung to their trees; but these were exceptions from the air. The ground was mostly brown and black, the sod and mud of the war had ripped it up and turned France into a vision of hell. The trench lines of the Germans and the Allies ran parallel to each other like jagged scars across the burned and churned landscape. The space between the trench-lines was a deadly jumble of shell holes and barbed wire and death known as No-Man’s Land. Smoke clung to the ground, smoke often mixed with the horrors of chemical gas shells. From the air, pilots could see the lands beyond the front. They could see what France had been before the war.

The afternoon of August 16 was clear, only a few clouds in the sky. The sun would have been welcomed, though once the aircraft got into the air, it would provide no warmth for them. It was perfect flying weather.

The universe of Spad XIII pilots was not the glorious one that is often associated with World War I aviators. The twin Vickers machine guns were mounted in front of the cockpit, in a narrow space between the top of the engine cowling and the bottom of the upper wing. It was a space only one foot by three feet to see though, shoot through, and live and die by. The freezing windtunnel was only protected by a tiny windshield and a menacing gun sight in their field of vision. Further out in front of the pilot was a nasty engine that belched choking smoke and Castor oil as it ran. Each breach they drew was ice cold air laced with smoke. It seared at their lungs and stung at any exposed portion of their flesh. The noise was loud enough to rise above the rush of the wind and the padding over the ears that they wore.

The pilot sat with only some thin wood and doped fabric between him and a potentially deadly bullet. To the sides of the pilot, there was nothing substantial—a thin layer of doped canvas. Dope was a varnish-like covering painted onto the canvas to make it more rigid and durable. He had a similar level of protection at his feet, and he sat on a thin seat of light brown leather stretched over a piece of plywood.5 Pilots wore a lot of clothing, as the open cockpit made flight over a few thousand feet a bone-chilling experience. Fur lined goggles and a leather flying cap encased their heads, but that was not enough to keep anyone warm, not at 21,000 feet. The trademark scarves that most pilots wore were not just for the warmth, but to keep the light spray of Castor oil out of their mouths. While often times the lives of pilots were portrayed as glorious compared to the infantry, the truth was that if they took in even a small amount of oil they would be confined to their latrines. Pilot’s gloves were really massive mittens, usually lined with fur or wool. The only part that was open was for the index finger, to allow the pilot to hit the gun trigger.

Parachutes had been around for years, but were reserved for members of the Signal Corps, who sat under observation balloons. Some pilots experimented with parachutes, but the thought was that they were not suitable for American pilots. The Germans provided their pilots with this “luxury” for survival, but the Americans did not. If your Spad was hit and forced down, you had no choice but to ride it all the way to the shellscarred, trench-torn ground. If you were lucky, you might be able to guide what was left of your aircraft to make some sort of landing. If not, you would most likely flip over, or pancake, on the ground and be crushed in your cockpit.

Flying the temperamental new Spad XIIIs was not simply a matter of working the throttle, rudder pedals, and the flight control stick. Just keeping the aircraft in the air required constant concentration and was complicated even by today’s standards. You had to watch your oil pressure, making sure that it stayed near the midline of 150 grams. A pilot had to monitor the temperature of the engine and try to maintain it at around 70°C. When you were performing combat maneuvers it was important to keep the engine above 500 RPM. Pilots had to make sure that near the end of a long flight they turned on their Nourrice fuel tank. If you dove vertically, you had to close the choke. There was a sediment cup on the fuel line that had to be cleaned prior to a mission or your line could clog and kill your engine mid-air. Managing and maintaining the Spad was summed up best by Major Hartney’s number one tip for “General Maintenance of the Plane: Live with your machine as much as possible.”

There was no armored protection whatsoever, not in this era. The standard .303 bullet fired at a cockpit had little to impede its trajectory other than the pilot himself. The cockpit controls were laid out in a semicircle and were more basic than a modern automobile’s. Foot-pedals, a throttle, and a stick completed the controls. It was an icy world of chunks of wood, a handful of bolts, wire, flammable gasoline, hot oil, dope-painted canvas, and prayer.

Besides bullets from enemy planes, pilots had to contend with fire from anti-aircraft cannons (known as “Archie”), which was inaccurate but still deadly. Shrapnel could shred a fighter or the pilot. Machine guns on the ground, if you wandered too close, could pop through the tight canvas and mangle an engine or pilot. The aircraft themselves sometimes fell apart or were shaken apart from damage. Dive or bank too steeply and pull up, and the wing canvas could rip free from the wood framing and send you to your death.

The life expectancy of a new pilot in 1918 was less than three weeks..."

Copyright © 2008 by Blaine L. Pardoe

Binbrook Lightning in 'Soviet' markings

EE/BAC Lightning T.5 XS458 at RAF Binbrook. An unusual and rare image with the aircraft marked with a red star on the fin. Although this was relatively commonplace during a major air defence exercise the "CCCP" on the fuselage was very unusual.

From Stewart Scott's Ebay sales

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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...