Tuesday, 18 June 2019
USAF Thunderbirds F-100 Super Sabres, Royal Canadian Air Force F-86's of the Golden hawks, and F11F-1's of U.S. Navys' Blue Angels. An F-8 Crusader and 2 x T-2c Buckeyes thrown in for good measure on a busy ramp at NAS Oceana in June 1961 (S). Mark Taylor collection
Harry Tranter and Colin Collis photos - Jaguar display getting airborne at BAe Woodford and IAT 95
Friday, 7 June 2019
Some nice air-to-air shots of RAF 74 Sqd Phantoms over RAF Wattisham prior to a move to RAF Valley, Anglesey, and a switch to BAe Hawks taken in September 1992
On offer here
Joachim Castan. Der Rote Baron: Die ganze Geschichte des Manfred von Richthofen. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 2007. 360 S. EUR 24.50 (cloth), ISBN 978-3-608-94461-7.
Reviewed by Richard Byers (Department of History, North Georgia College and State University) Published on H-German (July, 2008) " De-mythologizing the Red Baron.."
"....Few figures of aviation history rank higher in popular consciousness than Manfred von Richthofen, the greatest air ace of the First World War, forever immortalized in Western culture as the "Red Baron." Historian and documentary producer Joachim Castan, with assistance from Richthofen's surviving descendants, has written a new biography of the air ace due to the need, in the author's view, to confront the mythological memory of the Red Baron, replete with "gross exaggerations, vulgar clichés, wishful thinking, pure fantasy, beloved legends and bright shining lies" (p. 15), with the "complete" history of his short but illustrious life. The work that results from this approach is a richly-detailed, more nuanced assessment of Richthofen than earlier works, which Castan rightly asserts based their arguments on popular mythological assumptions rather than documentary evidence. Castan's access to Richthofen's personal papers and family archival holdings, cited extensively throughout his account, reinforce his theses and provide a wealth of information for interested scholars and non-scholars, particularly into the family relationships of the Richthofen clan from the beginning of the twentieth century into the First World War and beyond.
Many aspects of this work warrant praise. Castan's documentary background makes him keenly aware of the importance of the role played by the German government and media in transforming Manfred von Richtofen from an unknown airman into a national celebrity. With the death of the previous air "idol," Oswald Boelcke, in late 1916, German military officials embraced and cultivated Richtofen as Boelcke's heir and successor. As a result, Richtofen's meetings with higher officials and the Kaiser were carefully choreographed to maximize their potential as propaganda, both for internal and external consumption. Castan is at his best here, as he narrates the growth of the Red Baron's fame and transformation, by 1917, into wartime Germany's most recognized hero. Additionally, Castan's concluding chapter on the use of Richtofen by the Nazis, and the development of the "Cult of the Red Baron" during their reign, is a valuable contribution to our knowledge of the air ace's posthumous legacy, and will be of interest to scholars of the propaganda and mythology of the Third Reich. When he moves into contemporary discussions of Richtofen's utility as an example for the Bundeswehr and NATO, however, he is on less solid ground.
More problematic, though, are Castan's attempts to analyze the Red Baron psychologically, a theme that recurs throughout the work. Correctly confronting the partisan nature of previous literature, which uncritically accepted wartime representations of Richtofen as a paragon of Prussian and German chivalry and honor, Castan draws from Richtofen's 1917 autobiography and unpublished family documents to paint a different picture of the air ace as a cold, amoral aerial predator who sought to hunt and kill his opponents in a manner reminiscent of a game hunter. In Castan's view, Richtofen never viewed his enemies as human; instead, he viewed them as "targets" to be shot, and their aircraft debris as trophies to be displayed at the squadron mess hall, like the preserved heads of vanquished game. Castan repeatedly attempts to explain these realities by resorting to psychological analysis of Richtofen's childhood, adolescence, and family relationships. This process does yield some interesting insights, such as the recognition that Richtofen never developed a normal maternal bond with his mother, but in my opinion Castan's approach never materializes into a convincing case that helps explain Richtofen's actions and motivations. As many readers will recognize, psycho-historical approaches are useful as a tool to help explain the actions of historical actors, but they rarely achieve this aim in isolation from other methodologies. Castan's approach is no exception. At times these sections become repetitive, lessening the impact of the overall narrative, and they tend to minimize the importance of the brutal wartime environment on Richtofen and his contemporaries. Castan correctly points out that Richtofen's perspective on aerial combat was hardly unique; nearly all of the most successful "air aces" of the war possessed the same detached, perhaps pathological attitude toward their actions.
Despite these criticisms, however, this important work furthers our understanding of the First World War's most recognizable figure. It also encourages scholars of German military history to consider a re-evaluation of the conflict and its protagonists, in line with recent research on the conduct and motives of combatants in the Second World War, and to take the ideological atmosphere of the First World War seriously. More similarities may be found between the two conflicts in these terms than previous scholarship has suggested. Additionally, his astute analysis of the problematic nature of German military heroism, and its legacy for present and future generations of German military personnel, is worth serious consideration...."
Monday, 13 May 2019
I'm going to throw a controversial one into the ring, the British Aircraft Corporation TSR-2.
I think it’s fascinating, not just for what it was or what it could have been, but for the entire history of its development and events leading to its untimely demise.
TSR-2: The intended state-of-the-art supersonic strike and reconnaissance aircraft for the RAF, envisioned in the late-1950s,designed and built in the early ’60s and summarily executed in 1965.
Designed to be extremely fast at both low and high altitudes in order to penetrate air defences as well as scouting them out from afar.
Using two Bristol Siddeley Olympus reheated turbojets (a development of which would later be used in Concorde), all-moving tail planes and smaller delta wings with turned-down tips, it ensured the aircraft was immensely fast and swift to take off.
Add to that, cutting-edge computer systems to process the multiple ground-tracking cameras and side looking radar. It was the most advanced aircraft in the world, in 1963. Filling the low-altitude strike, high-altitude reconnaissance and nuclear-deterrant gaps with one supersonic aircraft.
The one flying TSR-2 flew 24 times, going supersonic once over the Irish Sea. With reheat on one engine (problems prevented both), it accelerated past the escort Lightning, which was required to push itself to its limit in order to keep up. The TSR-2 could cruise at Mach 2.1, above 37,000ft, with a theoretical top speed of almost Mach 3 at 45,000
To this day, its cancellation is controversial.
So many factors contributed to its downfall… Pressure from politicians to cut the program that was extremely expensive, pressure from the Royal Navy to stop the aircraft that could see them relinquish their submarine based nuclear deterrent (Lord Mountbatten was a staunch anti-TSR-2 activist), likely pressure from the Americans that would see the UK gain a top-spec aircraft to compete for sales with the in-development F-111… all were factors, with cost looming largest.
1965 saw a change of government and a swift cancellation of the program that Labour had campaigned against for years. The aircraft and parts under construction were ordered to be destroyed. They were burned and scrapped, however several were not.
Several already built were simply sold for scrap hence two survive today. The gap it was designed to fill was instead filled by the proven Blackburn Buccaneer and Phantom II before the Panavia Tornado could properly fill the void.
There’s a lot more to it than the bits I mentioned, but I think it had a fascinating… and tragic history.
Saturday, 27 April 2019
Those a/c were used as decoys with fake German markings to be later "bulldozered" on to the nearby beach. All a/c are former French naval aviation types, 'left over' on June 18 1940 when the station was evacuated. The reverse of the photo is marked " Lockvögel auf FF Platz Querqueville Aug. 40". The German word "Lockvogel" (plural Lockvögel) means decoy. From L to R : Two Potez 631 (ex F1C) MS 406 (ex Armée de l'air, evacuated from Calais by Lt Habert of AB4 squadron), two Dewoitine 376 (ex F1C), one Loire-Nieuport 401 or 411 (ex F1A), Potez 567 (c/n n° 9), Levasseur PL.7 (station "hack"), Potez 631 (ex F1C)
Tuesday, 16 April 2019
Monday, 8 April 2019
Lt Cdr John Moffat RN was one of the Swordfish pilots from HMS Ark Royal that attacked the Bismarck and is generally credited with launching the torpedo that damaged her steering gear and, consequently led to her demise at the hands of the British cruisers, which should certainly mean that he knows what he’s talking about. In his 2009 book “I Sank the Bismarck”, he had this to say about the Fairey Swordfish, which explains some of its success:
This aircraft (the Swordfish) seemed like a hangover from the 1920s, although it had actually come into service in 1936. It was a biplane, and had all sorts of struts and wires reminiscent of the First World War planes like the Avro 504 that had first excited my interest in flying. But the Battle of Britain was being fought by fast monoplanes - Hurricanes and Spitfires. They were all metal, whereas the greater part of the Swordfish, the wings and the rear fuselage, were canvas covered. It was powered by a single radial engine that gave it a top speed of barely 110 miles per hour. The Spitfire could manage over 300 quite easily. The Swordfish was a big aircraft, with a crew of three. The pilot sat in a forward open cockpit, which was high above the centre line and gave a good field of view. Behind was another cockpit, set lower in the fuselage, in which there was first the observer/navigator; then behind him the telegraphist air gunner, or TAG, who worked the radio and could fire a rear-pointed drum-fed Lewis gun. Apart from this, there was a forward-firing machine gun mounted in the fuselage behind the engine. The huge wing area gave the Swordfish the ability to carry a bomb load of almost 2,000lb, which was impressive for a single-engined plane. It was manoeuvrable at slow speed and could pull out of a dive without any trouble.
I felt that I was riding a cart horse instead of a steeplechaser at first, but the more I flew it, the more I began to appreciate its qualities. It was nicknamed the ‘Stringbag’. Several reasons are given for this, the most obvious being that at first glance it looks as though it is held together by string. This is deceptive. The main struts were made out of stainless steel, the rigging was very strong steel cable, and the frames were made of steel and duralumin, an aluminium alloy produced for aircraft production. No, I believe the Stringbag got its name because, like the old lady’s shopping bag, it expanded to accommodate whatever was demanded of it. It carried bombs, depth-charges, torpedoes, smoke flares, and they even mounted sixteen rockets under the wings in the later stages of the war. There are stories of some squadrons moving rapidly from airstrip to airstrip in the desert in North Africa, securing motorbikes underneath the fuselage of their Swordfish and then carrying them to a new location. It was a tough plane and could take an awful lot of damage, as many aircrew were to discover and be grateful for. It’s low speed was also an asset, it seemed, as our instructors told stories of Swordfish in the Norwegian campaign being attacked by Messerschmitt 109s. The British pilots employed the tactic of making 180-degree turns at sea level towards the attacking plane. The Swordfish had a much smaller turning circle than any fast fighter, and moreover it had such an advantageous lift ratio that you could reduce its speed to just 70 knots in the turn and it would continue on a perfect line. Most planes need more power to complete a turn, but not the Swordfish. The hapless Messerschmitt pilot would not know why his target had suddenly disappeared from view as he sped past.
I particularly like his explanation of why the Swordfish was nicknamed Stringbag, which wasn’t what I had previously been led to believe.
Sadly, John Moffat is no longer with us, as he died in December 2016 at the age of 97. In his sixties, after 40 years, he began flying again and celebrated his 90th birthday in June 2009 by performing aerobatics in a light aircraft. He was often the guest of honour at Fleet Air Arm Taranto Night dinners, which celebrate the attack on the Italian fleet in Taranto harbour in November 1940, when Swordfish sank several Italian capital ships. Although he hadn’t taken part in the raid, he was one of the very few remaining WWII Swordfish pilots alive at that time.
Visiting the RN Historic Flight in 2008 to get re-acquainted with the Swordfish
As guest of honour at Ark Royal's final Taranto Night event in 2010
One point only touched upon - the Swordfish was slow which meant that it could fly low near the surface of the water - low and slow was good for aiming and launching torpedoes. US torpedo bombers for example would have to slow considerably as they approached their target to get a good launch. This made them difficult to control.
Sunday, 17 March 2019
Barbarossa victims -more Soviet aircraft destroyed. Quora opinion piece on Soviet aircraft by Charles McDevitt
The Soviet aircraft of WWII are fascinating for where they differ and where they match other nations aircraft.
The Russians were not much interested in strategic bombers, but were real leaders in tactical and attack aircraft. Their fighters were dangerously late to reach parity with the Germans, but did so despite being handicapped by a lack of strategic materials.
The Soviets learnt a number of lessons from the Spanish Civil War, where they supplied the Republicans with most of their aircraft, but Stalin’s purges slowed the implementation of those lessons - it takes longer to design an aircraft while you are in prison!
Let me develop my points.
Tactical and Attack aircraft.
Able to carry huge loads and very well armoured. For reasons that have never been clear, Illyushin was not able to use a radial, air-cooled engine - by far and away the better choice for a ground attack aircraft. So, he put the radiator behind the engine! Hence that huge air scoop on top of the cowling.
More Illyushins were built than any other plane in history!
High speed twin-engined dive bomber. Petylyakov's “get out of jail free card”. A candidate for the best dive bomber of WWII.
And then fighters
Yaks - lots of them! 43,000 in all! Starting with the Yak 1.
Stalin was so impressed Yakolev got the Орден Ленина, Orden Lenina - the highestbestowed by the - a 100,000 rouble prize plus Zis car
Moving on to the Yak 3 - more manouverable than the Spitfire according to some!
Luftwaffe pilots were told to avoid dogfighting low down with Yaks that had an oil cooler below the engine.
And ending up with the Yak 9
And then you have the Laggs
Amazing what you can do with pressure bonded plywood! The Lagg 3 was nothing special - and Soviet pilots nicknamed the plane Lakirovanny Garantirovanny Grob, or "guaranteed varnished coffin"
But Lavochkin worked hard to improve his design (prison is a good incentive?). He fitted a radial engine to get the Lavochkin La-5 ( Vladimir Gorbunov had given up so his name was dropped off the aircraft designation!)
The La-5 was a superb dogfighter low down and later Lavochkins were even better.
Migs are similar - an iffy start
But achieving greatness eventually
OK, late for WWII but came as a real surprise in the Korean War! So, we still do not know as much about Soviet aircraft as we might like, but what we do know is very impressive..."
Wednesday, 13 March 2019
A repost from the RAF Marham twitter feed of the nine-ship formation that flew to mark the end of the type in RAF service. A single click to view here. Posted using twitter embed code.
via Ian Black twitter feed.
We thought you would like to see this amazing video of the 9 ship of Tornados over RAF Marham last Thursday! @StnCdrRAFMarham @tornadohq @31SqnOC #FarewellTornado #ThanksTonka #FINale #9ship pic.twitter.com/sgsXhlbcLq— RAF Marham (@RAFMarhamMedia) March 4, 2019
via Ian Black twitter feed.
Magnifique @31SqnOC @RAFMarhamMedia @jamie_aviacom @DickyCoops @2000_zinc @JohnNicholRAF watching the final Tornado 9 ship what an honour to witness the end of the @tornadohq can’t wait to see the book now ! pic.twitter.com/fw1TriT2Jl— Ian Black (@BlickyIan) March 1, 2019
Tuesday, 12 March 2019
Hellcats and Helldivers - French Carrier "Arromanches" in Indo-China Operations (1953) Gulf of Tonkin - SB2C Helldivers de la flottille 3F - Bernard Klotz memoir 'Enfer au paradis'
French carrier Arromanches, and below, scenes on the flight deck of the Arromanches, off French Indochina in the Gulf of Tonkin, circa 1951. Arromanches was a light aircraft carrier of the French Navy, serving from 1946 to 1974. She was previously HMS Colossus of the Royal Navy. The carrier was home to the SB2C Helldivers of flottille 3F and the Hellcats of 11F during the Indochina war (1954)
Arromanches/Colossus was the name-ship of the Colossus class of light carriers. She was commissioned in 1944, but did not see any action in World War II. She served with the British Pacific Fleet in 1945–46, as an aircraft transport and repatriation ship. In 1946, she was loaned to the French Navy, and renamed Arromanches; she was bought by the French in 1951. Arromanches participated in the First Indochina War in three campaigns from 1948 to 1954, and the Suez Crisis of 1956. In 1968 she was converted to an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) carrier. She was decommissioned in 1974, and broken up in 1978.
ARROMANCHES' aircraft flotille 3F (Helldivers) and 11F (Hellcats) were in action against the Viet Minh over Diên-Biên-Phu on March 13, the day the all-out assault on the camp was launched. That day just 4 Hellcats were overhead. One of them, piloted by the LV DOE of MAINDREVILLE was was lost. Following this the decision was taken to base the carrier's aircraft ashore reducing transit times and pilot workload. Their main mission was to provide Dien-Bien-Phu with maximum fire support against Viet Minh concentrations, artillery and enemy AAA and to ensure the protection of aircraft parachuting food and equipment.
Losses of the 2 flotille during this period:
- 15 March: shot down by anti-aircraft fire, LV LESPINAS of 11F was reported missing aboard his Hellcat 6 km from Dien Bien Phu.
- 31 March: LV ANDRIEUX 3F CO, shot down by anti-aircraft fire 2 km from the Gabrielle support point (KIA)
- April 9: EV LAUGIER (3F) shot down by flak aboard his Helldiver. (KIA)
- April 23: LV Bernard Klotz of 11F was hit by anti-aircraft fire. Jumping clear he was picked up on the ground by the legionnaires of the 13° DBLE. Taken prisoner by the Viet Minh when the camp fell, he was released in September.
- April 26: the Hellcat of SM ROBERT (11F) was hit by anti-aircraft fire. The latter also parachuted but fell into enemy lines. Taken prisoner, he died of exhaustion in the forced march to an internment camp.
Lt. Bernard Klotz's account of his dive-bombing sortie flown on 23 April as a preamble to a counter-attack following the loss of 'Hugette 1' to the Viets;
"...During the night of April 22-23, the enemy seized "Huguette 1". The loss of this fortified position located at the midpoint overlooking the runway was serious- the whole airfield was now dominated by Giap's artillery and by the machine-guns and mortars of his infantry. Even more serious it shrunk the size of the drop zone, reducing the space available for parachuting. The latter ensured the survival of the garrison, provided however that the personnel and equipment dropped by the transport aircraft were recoverable. As of 22 April at least a quarter of what was being parachuted was going to the Viêts. For the camp commander, the loss of "Huguette 1" was unacceptable. He decided to launch a counterattack. First of all, the occupants had to rendered stunned by a large-scale aerial bombardment which had to be effective. It was therefore the Hellcats and Helldivers that de Castries requested first and foremost. As leader of the second 'patrouille' "Savart vert" ('Savart green Leader')I started my dive from 8,000 ft (cf. Windrow p530) with two 500 lb bombs. The weather was excellent. The target was clearly visible. So was the anti-aircraft fire. I had to be very precise. Believing that my attack would not be, I aborted my first attempt and informed my comrade Goizet that I would have to repeat it. He replied that white smoke was billowing from my right wing. I wasn't happy, but the most pressing thing was to drop my bombs on the target. I released them between 2 and 3,000 feet and started to pull out. At that very moment I experienced a violent impact in my machine as my instrument panel exploded. I briefly considered landing on the earthen runway of "Isabelle" which was right in front of me about a minute's flying time away.
I had no time.. My machine was on fire....
In fact, in the seconds that followed, I lived two simultaneous lives. I was two characters at the same time, one whose leitmotif was to say "It's over", and another who would do whatever it took to make the first one lie and thought of nothing but to impose his will on fate. For each of them time had slowed down. Each second was worth a thousand normal seconds. To the first, who kept saying "I'm fucked ", he would scroll his life below and beyond the present moment at which, without a doubt, he would not survive. The second ignored that a bit of doubt, hesitation or clumsiness that would compromise his immediate goal: to get out of this aircraft before it exploded. A pilot does not like to abandon his machine, hence my first idea was to land mine, even on fire, on a nearby runway. The memory of Robin, who had experienced a similar situation on December 5, immediately dissuaded me from doing so. A parachute bail out requires some preliminary operations. First, climb, if possible, so as not to be too low when opening the parachute. At the same time, always if possible, direct the plane towards a favourable area, that is, for "him" outside our lines, but for me, close enough to them so that I did not fall into enemy hands. Two objectives that were difficult to reconcile in this particular case. Then unhook the seat harness, jettison the canopy, stand up, roll the plane - the last act of piloting - and dive into the void with enough effort to prevent the tail or rudder from hitting your head as it flashes past. Once in the atmosphere, all that remains is to deploy the chute. Despite the whining of my double pessimist, I did all of this very well, as if carrying out an exercise, except for the last but essential manoeuvre. To deploy the parachute you have to pull on a handle. It's simple. So that's what I did. But the handle came off in my hand. The cable connected to this handle was broken. The parachute would not open. I had no idea how to proceed ignoring the secrets of its functioning. While my 'double' kept up the mantra, "..this time it's really over" I stubbornly sought another solution. I imagined it lay behind my back thinking that maybe, although without seeing or knowing, I would be be able to do something manually. Instead of crossing my arms on my chest, I flung the, behind me to rummage around on my back. It was at that moment, when I must have been free-falling at around 750 feet, that the parachute mush-roomed open but, as it unfolded, the lines suddenly carried my misplaced arms with them and dislocated my right shoulder..."
Klotz was rescued by Legionnaires after coming down in the camp and was taken captive on 7 May 1954 with the fall of Dien Bien Phu. He survived the long march into captivity and was finally released by the Viet Minh in September 1954.
At that time he had flown 1090 hours, carried out 180 combat sorties over Vietnam and made 187 carrier landings in the Hellcat.
This was only the start of a long career that saw him command 16F (Etendard IVP) and the French carrier Foch. His memoir covering his three tours in Vietnam was entitled "Enfer au paradis" (Ardhan)
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