Saturday, 28 February 2015

Fighter Country - The F-14 Tomcats of NAS Oceana (Motorbooks International) - David Parsons

 Author and former Top Hatters RIO Dave Parsons refers to his book 'Fighter Country' as a 'labour of love'. Published by Motorbooks Int in 1992, it is a superlative tribute to NAS Oceana, Virginia, and its Tomcats. The book features more than 190 full-colour photos of F-14s and other aircraft from all of Oceana's fighter squadrons - on the base and on the boat in action around the world. It takes you through a year in the life of the Tomcat driver or radar intercept officer (RIO): study at the RAG, soaking up the lore of the fighter community in the officers' club, air combat manoeuvring, carrier qualifications, workups, deployment on a cruise, and into combat during Operation Desert Storm.

 Fighter Country is also the first-ever history of Oceana and of each of the fleet fighter squadrons stationed there: the VF-13 Tophatters, VF-32 Swordsmen, VF-33 Starfighters, VF-41 Black Aces, VF-74 De-Devilers, VF-84 Jolly Rogers, VF-102 Diamondbacks, VF-103 Sluggers, VF-142 Ghostriders, and VF-143 Pukin' Dogs. Also included are the VF-101 Grim Reapers (the F-14 RAG), the VF-43 Challengers (Oceana's resident bandits), and the VF-11 Red Rippers and VF-31 Tomcatters (squadrons that transferred to NAS Miramar in early 1992). The base and squadron histories are brought to life by dozens of colour and black-and-white historical photos showing most of the great US Navy fighters of the past in the colourful and unique markings of these squadrons.

If you are a fan of the F-14 this is a great book! It is relatively hard to find, correspondingly expensive but is a great addition to any aviation book collection. Even if don't have a copy of Dave's book you can still enjoy many of his superb photos via his Facebook page

all images Dave Parsons 'shoebox', herewith a tiny taster. Thank you Dave;

"...Sun rising over Gulf of Sidra in 1986 after raid on Libya (known as Eldorado Canyon). I shot this image of our VF-102 wingman as we joined up for a hook check prior to recovery aboard USS America..."

Below; ".. I took this picture in late 1990 during Desert Shield deployment aboard USS John F Kennedy to Red Sea. We had come back through Suez Canal for port call in Turkey and did some intercept training with Brits operating out of Eastern Med. I asked the RAF pilot to join up after one of the intercepts so we could capture the moment so-to-speak..."

"..A gathering of Tomcats: KC-10 flying tanker track inside Iraq during Desert Storm providing fuel for Tomcats on CAP stations blocking Iraqi aircraft from escaping to Iran. This image is unique in capturing Tomcats from multiple carriers operating in both Red Sea (Kennedy) and Persian Gulf (America and Roosevelt)..."

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

French flying boats of WWII Ebay photo find # 30 - Seeflieger album - Breguet Br 521 Bizerte, Bv 138, He 115

Spotted on ebay with four days still to bid, currently at around 500 euros. An album featuring some nice images of Luftwaffe seaplane types photographed in Holtenau and Brest, France..

Above; two views of the rather ungainly "nose" of a Breguet 521 Bizerte - a feature which proved very useful for observation tasks while the aircraft was in flight. Note the defensive position to the right of the cockpit. Following the armistice at the end of the Westfeldzug (campaign in the West) the Germans had an urgent requirement for air-sea rescue seaplanes along the French Atlantic and Channel coastlines. Bizerte seaplanes were sold to the Germans by the Vichy government during the summer of 1940. The first loss of a Bizerte was SG+FM (N° 11), launched on 16 November 1940 to look for the crew of a KG 100 He 111 and intercepted and shot down by a N° 236 (Coastal Command) Squadron Blenheim. As of April 1944 the Luftwaffe Seenot Staffeln had just five Bizertes on strength, two with 3. Seenot at Berre (N° 20 and ??) and three with 1. Seenotstaffel (N° 3, 4 and 36) at Biscarosse. With the Allied landings in Provence during August 1944, both Staffeln were ordered back to Germany. At least one of these machines (N° 4) remained in France to be incorporated back into the French naval air arm with 30S post-war. Bizerte flying boats were based in Hourtin (Atlantic coast, north of Bordeaux) and Brest among others. It was in Hourtin that Leutnante Klingspor and Unterhorst first arrived on 30 July 1940 with two crews to take possession of Bizertes N° 11 and 34 abandoned on 18 June. Both machines were repainted in German colours and flew into Lanvéoc-Poulmic (Brest, southern Brittany) on 7 August 1940..

more Bizerte pictures below including  rare cockpit shot, and some shots of Bv 138s

The original Ebay link to the sale is here

Vulcan B.1 Olympus testbed Farnborough 1962

photo via John D Myers (click to view large) and reproduced here with John's permission who says;

"...My first airshow at Farnborough when I was 5 years Dad took the picture with a Voigtländer on Agfa slide film. Olympus engines designed for use in the TSR 2 were tested on this Vulcan XA 894. In July 1960, the airframe was modified to carry the engine, an Olympus 22R in a central nacelle. At Farnborough in September 1962, it did several low level passes with reheat on which were quite spectacular. BAC Warton's famous Chief Test Pilot, Wing Commander R P Beaumont, flew the aircraft on the 20th November. This turned out to be its last flight. On the 3rd December 1962, XA 894 was positioned on the detuner at Filton for a ground run and full power check but the aircraft was completely destroyed by a massive fire following an engine explosion. The crew all survived.."

Above; Roger Leitch photo
 The explosion that destroyed XA 894 was the result of a low pressure turbine disc in the engine which failed during a full power ground test and punctured fuel tanks causing the fire. The explosion also destroyed a brand new fire engine in close proximity another part of the engine separated and stopped just short of hitting a prototype Bristol 188. The fire was so intense it was left to burn itself out..

a full account of the trials of XA 894 on the aviation archive org heritage site here

Sunday, 22 February 2015

IL 78 M Midas and Foxhounds

These IL 78 M Midas are part of special regiment 203 'Orlovski' based at Dyagilevo, south-east of Moscow. The 19 aircraft delivered support VVS fighters and bombers and have a 'transferable fuel' capacity of 105 tons. These two examples were tracked by Norwegian fighters during 2007 and were photographed refuelling two MiG 31 Foxhound each armed with four air-to-air R-33 E missiles (AA-9 Amos). Click on the images to view large...

via the AIR FAN FB page

Friday, 20 February 2015

The RAF in the Cold War 1950-1970 (Ian Proctor, Images of War - Pen and Sword)

With yet another 'Bear' intercept in the news currently, it is easy to forget how closely the RAF has watched our skies for decades. And while over the past few years, QRA aircraft have been scrambled on just over one day a month on average, Russian sorties towards the UK have been a reality ever since Churchill announced an Iron Curtain had descended over Europe. As if to remind of us this a recently published Pen and Sword book entitled 'The RAF in the Cold War 1950-1970' compiled by author Ian Proctor presents a collection of rarely-seen images from the height of the Cold War, taken by specialist Air Ministry photographers. The full-colour photographs were painstakingly collated from the Imperial War Museum archives and document a time when the world hung on the brink of nuclear war.

From the early 1950s the perceived threat of a Soviet strike on Western Europe or Britain dominated military planning. At the time of HM Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation review at RAF Odiham on 15 July 1953 (picture above), the RAF was still equipped in the main with war-time generation aircraft, including Meteor FR.9s, Vampire F.3s  Coastal Command Liberators and Bomber Command Washington B.1s. A sign of the future can be seen in the skies, a formation of swept-wing Sabres led by Flight Lieutenant Burns of  441 Sqd RCAF.

For the next forty years, the Royal Air Force was in the front-line of the Cold War. In Britain and Germany, light bomber crews exercised in preparation for a future conflict, while interceptor pilots stood by ready to counter incursions by Soviet aircraft. Between 1956 and 1969, the elite crews of the iconic V-Force of nuclear bombers trained to perform the ultimate mission, striking targets deep in the heart of Russia. Below, Vulcan B1 XA896 seen at RAF Waddington in August 1957. This aircraft was piloted by WC AD Frank and his crew who were selected in participate in the 1957 Strategic Air Command bombing competition held in Pinecastle, Florida. Note the aircraft is not in the more familiar all-white gloss finish. XA 896 was one of the first Vulcans to be delivered to 230 OCU in March 1957.

Interviewed in the Daily Mail (18 February 2015) author Proctor makes the point that while defence cuts are hitting Britain's capability to respond to threats, cuts have always been a reality for peacetime armed forces.

 "..Even at the height of the Cold War, the armed forces were not immune to cuts. A number of defence reviews were undertaken during the period, each ultimately reducing the number of operational aircraft or front-line squadrons, as priorities changed or technology advanced. In 1956 Fighter Command had no more than 600 aircraft within 35 squadrons each with 18 operational aircraft. By 1962, this had reduced to 150 aircraft in 11 squadrons...Today there are approximately 100 Typhoons in the air defence role, within five front line squadrons and one reserve, each operating an estimated 12 aircraft..."

While the Battle of Britain may have been the heroic high point for the Royal Air Force, in terms of aircraft and the sheer scale of operations, the Cold War was its golden era. Ian Proctor's remarkable selection of photographs go a long way to bringing that fascinating time to life. The colour reproduction is superb and the detail, including aircraft tail numbers where possible, is excellent.The photographs include publicity shots of all the famous RAF aircraft - from Canberras to Lightnings, from Meteors to Vulcans. These are superb pictures - well posed! Recommended!

Below; Javelins of 46 Sqd RAF Odiham July 1956

Loading a Blue Steel missile onto a Vulcan, RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire, February 1963

Victor B.1 RAF Cottesmore, Rutland, 1957

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Spitfire V (serial number AR404) of the 7th Photographic Reconnaissance Group

A Spitfire V (serial number AR 404) of the 7th Photographic Reconnaissance Group at Mount Farm

Photo : Robert Astrella Collection via Roger Freeman Collection (FRE 5400)

More Spitfires of the 7th PRG on this blog

Westland Whirlwind, 137 Squadron, Manston, March 1943

" Westland Whirlwind pilots of 137 Squadron at Manston, 5 March 1943. The officer standing forward and to the right is Squadron Leader H. St J. Coghlan and the unit's bull mastiff mascot, 'Lynn', lies to the left."

Source: Flightglobal archives FA_18475s

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Interview with RAF F-4 Phantom pilot Dave Gledhill

An in-depth interview with David Gledhill on his life as a navigator in the RAF flying the F-4 Phantom and the Tornado F2/F3. He looks at his training, squadrons, flying, exchanges and his career as a successful author. The back drop of Newark Air Museum and FGR 2 XV 490 gives the interview a great feel.

Interview by Aircrew Interview on Facebook 

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A visit to the Bristol Aeroplane Co. Filton - pre-war colour film footage

A visit to the Bristol Aeroplane Co. Filton, just prior to the outbreak of WWII. Bristol's chief Test pilot Capt. C.F. Uwin...