EXHIBITION OF THE INTERNATIONAL PLASTIC MODELLING
SOCIETY GLOUCESTER BRANCH
CHURCHDOWN COMMUNITY CENTRE
SUNDAY 10 MAY 2009
to Stratford Park Leisure Centre in Stroud notwithstanding, the annual
exhibition of the Gloucester Branch of the International Plastic
Modelling Society has long been a spring Sunday fixture at Churchdown
Community Centre, Parton Road, GL3 2JH.
As at the twice yearly
exhibitions of the Cheltenham GWR Modeller's Group,
a small entry fee yields access to purveyors of refreshments, model
kits, accessories, paints, tools, books, artwork and other
However, in place of
layouts defined in a programme the attendance of IPMS Gloucester Branch
members - and those of other plastic modelling societies from as far
afield as Oxfordshire and the West Midlands - guarantees a smorgasbord
of aircraft, ships, road vehicles and other exhibits in a variety of
scales. Some of these truly stand alone while others are
grouped in themes - like the 1/72 scale Grumman F-14 Tomcats and
McDonnell Douglas F4 Phantom IIs seen alongside other US Navy aircraft
on the table pictured above.
Although there were too
many exhibits for each one to be individually described, this feature
focuses on some of the more remarkable items that caught both my
attention and my camera lens on Sunday 10 May 2009.
Looking down from the
Community Centre stage across the main hall tables, the United States
Navy seemed to be a recurring theme, as exemplified by the Vought
Cutlass ( above ) and Vought F8 Crusader and Bicentennial marked
McDonnell Douglas F4 Phantom II pictured together below.
The Cutlass was
Vought's winning entry in a U.S. Navy competition opened on 1 June 1945
for a carrier-capable day fighter able to fly at 600 mph at
40,000 feet. The design featured broad chord,
ratio swept wings, with twin wing-mounted tail
fins either side of a short fuselage.
was situated well forward to provide good visibility for the pilot
during aircraft carrier approaches.
The design was given the Vought company type number of V-346 and the US
Navy designation F7U.
Pitch and roll control
was provided by elevons, or
"ailevators" as Vought called these surfaces at the time, and
were fitted to the entire span
of the leading
edge. All controls were hydraulically-powered
although the very long nose wheel strut required for high angle
of attack takeoffs
was rather weak, and collapse could seriously jeopardize the pilot's
The F7U was
also largely let down by its afterburning - yet underpowered - Westinghouse
turbojets, an engine which some pilots wryly observed put out less heat
than the same company's toasters.
Naval aviators referred to the F7U as the "gutless cutlass" or, in
kinder moments, as the "praying mantis"
Three prototypes were
ordered in 1946, with the first example flying on 29
piloted by Vought's Chief Test Pilot, J. Robert Baker at the Patuxent
River Naval Air Station. Baker died while flying
the same aircraft a few weeks later when he lost control and crashed
although during testing one of the prototypes reached a maximum speed
of 625 mph.
Production orders were
placed for the F7U-1 in a specification very close to the prototypes,
and further developed F7U-2 and F7U-3 versions with more powerful
engines. Because of development problems with the powerplant, however,
the F7U-2 would never be built, while the F7U-3 would incorporate many
refinements suggested by tests of the F7U-1.
The first 16 F7U-3s had
J35-29 engines which could flame out due to
rain. The -3 with its Westinghouse
would eventually become the definitive production version, with 288
aircraft equipping 13 U.S. Navy squadrons.
The US Navy's Blue
team flew two F7U-1 Cutlasses as a side act during their 1953 show
season in an effort to promote the new aircraft, but did not use them
as part of their regular formation act. Both the pilots and ground
crews found the aircraft generally unsatisfactory and it was apparent
that the type was still experiencing teething troubles.
During the Blue Angel's
first appearance in 1953 pilot Edward "Whitey" Feightner, the former
program manager for the F7U, experienced a total loss of hydraulics on
a full afterburner takeoff and steep climb. While trying to gain enough
altitude for ejection he was able to stay with the aircraft until the
back up system came on. He clipped trees on the end of the runway,
causing the left engine to flame out. With hydraulic fluid streaming
back in a bright flame, he made a hard turn and got the plane back on
the runway, much to the excitement of the crowd.
travelling to the airshow at Glenview
Airport in Chicago,
Blue Angel's pilot Lt Harley MacKnight, experienced an engine flameout
in his Cutlass, forcing him to make an emergency landing.
him, "Whitey" Feightner was redirected to make his landing at Chicago's
Airpark, which had been expanded and renamed O'Hare
Airport. The runway had just been completed and
was covered with peach baskets to prevent aircraft from landing until
it was opened. Lt. Feightner was told to ignore the baskets and land on
the new runway. As a result, LT Feightner's F7U became the first
aircraft to land on the new runway for Chicago's O'Hare Airport.
incidents the two F7U were deemed unsuitable for demonstration flying
and were flown to Naval
Air Station Memphis, where they were abandoned
to become aircraft maintenance instructional airframes for the Naval
Technical Training Center.
development stopped once Vought's replacement - the F8U
Crusader - flew on 25 March 1955. An
example of the Crusader was seen below - with a rainbow tail and
numbered "4OU" on the nose - behind the Bicentennial marked McDonnell
Douglas F4 Phantom II at the IPMS exhibition. Immediately below however
is a picture of die cast Vought F8 Crusader 150 336 from the Jet
Age Reserve Model Collection included
here to show the variable incidence wing at full upward
pivot. Note, too, the under wing bomb load typical of many
carrier launched raids against Viet Cong and Viet Minh forces .
first F-8U was the last American
fighter with guns
as the primary weapon while the RF-8 photo-reconnaissance
variant operated longer in U.S. service than any of the fighter
versions. RF-8s played a crucial role in the Cuban
Missile Crisis, providing essential low-level
photographs impossible to acquire by other means and US
Naval Reserve units continued to operate the
RF-8 until 1987.
Vought F8U Crusader was designed by a team led by John Russell Clark in
response to a US Navy Requirement issued in September 1952 for a
fighter aircraft with a top speed of Mach
1.2 at 30,000 ft with a climb rate of
25,000 ft / min , and a landing speed of no more than
100 mph. Korean
War experience had demonstrated that
.50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns were no longer
sufficient and as the result the new fighter was to carry a
20 mm (0.79 in) cannon.
Unusually for a fighter,
the Vought contender design had not only a high-mounted wing - which
allowed for short and light landing gear - but also a
variable-incidence wing which pivoted by 7° out
of the fuselage on takeoff and landing. This afforded increased lift
due to a greater angle
of attack without compromising forward
visibility because the fuselage stayed level.Simultaneously,
the lift was augmented by leading-edge slats drooping by 25° and
inboard flaps extending to 30°. The rest of the aircraft took advantage
of contemporary aerodynamic innovations with area
ruled fuselage, all-moving stabilators,
dog-tooth notching at the wing folds for improved yaw stability, and
liberal use of titanium
in the airframe. Power came from the Pratt
& Whitney J57 afterburning turbojet and
the armament, as specified by the Navy, consisted of four
20 mm (.79 in) cannon, a retractable tray with 32
unguided Mighty Mouse folded-fin rockets, and cheek pylons for two AIM-9
Sidewinder air-to-air missiles.
However in May 1953,
John Russell Clark's design was declared a winner and in June, Vought
received an order for three XF8U-1 prototypes (after adoption of the
unified designation system in September 1962, the F8U became the F-8).
The first prototype flew
on 25 March 1955 with John Konrad at the controls. The aircraft
exceeded the speed of sound during its maiden flight and the
development was so trouble-free that the second prototype, along with
the first production F8U-1, flew on the same day, 30 September 1955. On
4 April 1956, the F8U-1 performed its first catapult launch from USS
Prototype XF8U-1s were evaluated by VX-3 beginning in late 1956, with
few problems noted. Weapons development was conducted at
NAF China Lake and a China Lake F8U-1 set a U.S.
National speed record in August 1956 when Commander "Duke" Windsor set,
broke, and reset a new Level Flight Speed Record of
1,015.428 mph on 21 August 1956 beating the previous record of
822 mph (1,323 km/h) set by a USAF
However, the World
Air Speed Record of 1,132 mph
(1,822 km/h), set by the British
Fairey Delta 2on 10 March 1956 was not broken.
The first fleet
squadron to fly the Crusader was VF-32 at Naval Air Station Cecil Field
Florida, in 1957, deploying to the Mediterranean late that year aboard
the USS Saratoga and becoming known as the "Swordsmen" in keeping with
the Crusader theme. The Pacific Fleet received the first Crusaders at
NAS Moffett Field in Northern California when the
VF-154 "Grandslammers" (named in honor of the new
1,000 mph jets & subsequently renamed the "Black
Knights") began their F-8 operations. Later in 1957, in San
DiegoVMF-122 accepted the first Marine Corps Crusaders.
In 1962, the United
States Defense Department standardized military aircraft designations
generally along Air Force lines. Consequently, the F8U became the F-8,
with the original F8U-1 redesignated F-8A.
The Crusader became the
ultimate carrier borne "day fighter". At the time, U.S. Navy carrier
air wings had gone through a series of day and night fighter aircraft
due to rapid advances in engine and avionics. Some squadrons operated
aircraft for very short periods before being equipped with a newer
higher performance aircraft. The Crusader was the first post-Korean War
aircraft to have a relatively long tenure with the fleet and - like
the contemporary USAF F-105 Thunderchief - might have stayed
in service longer if not for the Vietnam war and resulting attrition
from combat and operational losses.
The unarmed photo
Crusader was operated aboard carriers as a detachment from
either VFP-62 or VFP-63 to provide photo reconnaissance capability.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, RF-8s flew
extremely hazardous low-level photo reconnaissance missions over Cuba.
The Crusader was not an easy
aircraft to fly, and often unforgiving in carrier landings where it
suffered from yaw instability and the castoring nose wheel. It earned a
reputation as an 'ensign killer' during its early service introduction,
although the aircraft did possess some amazing capabilities, as proven
when several hapless Crusader pilots took off from Da Nang with the
wings folded. The Crusader was capable of flying in this state, though
the pilot would be required to lose weight by ejecting stores and fuel,
and then return to the carrier.
When conflict erupted
in the skies over North Vietnam, it was U.S. Navy Crusaders that first
tangled with Vietnam People's Air Force MiGs in April 1965. Although
the VPAF claimed the downing of a Crusader, all aircraft returned
safely. At the time, the Crusader was the best dogfighter the United
States had against the nimble North Vietnamese MiGs.
In the same way that
the Royal Air Force moved on from Armstrong Whitworth built Meteor
Night Fighters to the Gloster Javelin,
the US Navy had evolved its "night fighter" role in the air wing to an
all-weather interceptor, the F4 Phantom II. Equipped to engage incoming
bombers at long range with missiles as their sole air-to-air weapons,
manoeuvrability was not emphasized in the McDonnell Douglas design.
Some experts believed
that the era of the dogfight was over as air-to-air missiles would
knock down adversaries well before they could get close enough to
engage in dog fighting. As aerial combat ensued over North Vietnam from
1965 to 1968, it became apparent that the dogfight was not over and the
F-8 Crusader and a community trained to prevail in air-to-air combat
was a key ingredient to success. In the longer term, the US
Navy introduced its "Top Gun" programme of fighter pilot training made
famous by the Tom Cruise film of the same name.
Despite the "last
gunfighter" moniker, the F-8s achieved only four victories with their
cannon — the remainder were accomplished with AIM-9 Sidewinder
air-to-air missiles - partly due to the propensity of the
20 mm (.79 in) Colt Mk 12 cannon's feeding mechanism
to jam under G-loading during high-speed dog fighting manoeuvres.
Nonetheless, the Crusader would be credited with the best kill ratio of
any American type in the Vietnam conflict - 19:3. Of the 19
aircraft shot down during aerial combat, 16 were swept wing Mig-17s and
three were delta winged MiG 21s. Approximately 170 F8 Crusaders would
be lost to all causes during the war with both ship-based US Navy units
and land-based USMC squadrons also bombing communist forces
in both North and South Vietnam.
just as American involvement in Vietnam had followed the withdrawal of
France as its colonial master, so the F8 Crusader found an export
customer in the French Navy. And following the cancellation
the Hawker P1154 Short Takeoff / Vertical Landing fighter for
Royal Navy in 1963 a
Chance-Vought Crusader was flown to Britain for inspection by RAF and
Royal Navy top brass as a possible De Havilland Sea Vixen and even
English Electric Lightning replacement.
a two seat development of this high-winged supersonic fighter been
selected, it would have been built for British - and possible export
use - by Short Brothers & Harland Ltd in Belfast equipped with
reheated Rolls Royce RB 168 Spey engine and British electronics,
air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons. Mr H.G. Conway,
Managing Director of Shorts, estimated that an order of 50 units could
result in each aircraft being built for £ 357 000 - half the cost of
the rival McDonnell Douglas Phantom II - and be ready in just two years.
it was however, the Phantom - albeit also powered by Rolls Royce Spey
engines - prevailed in RAF and RN service and the Crusader jobs at
Shorts never materialised. On
the basis that - as William Cobbett once said - "one cannot agitate a
man with a full stomach" perhaps the Troubles in Ulster would have
taken a different form if there had been more jobs and wealth creation
available there in the late 1960s?
DOUGLAS PHANTOM II
McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II was a two-seat, twin-engined,
all-weather, long-range supersonic jet interceptor fighter /
fighter-bomber originally developed for the U.S. Navy and later serving
with the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and, as can be seen in the image
below, the air force of Spain.
First entering service
in 1960, the Phantom continued to form a major part of U.S. military
air power throughout the 1970s and 1980s, being gradually replaced by
more modern aircraft such as the F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon in
the U.S. Air Force; the F-14 Tomcat and F/A-18 Hornet in the U.S. Navy
and the F/A-18 in the U.S. Marine Corps. It remained in use by the USAF
in the reconnaissance and Wild Weasel ( radar suppression ) roles in
the 1991 Gulf War finally leaving the inventory in 1996 apart from use
as an unmanned target.
Phantom production ran
from 1958 to 1981, with a total of 5,195 built.This extensive run makes
it the second most-produced Western jet fighter, behind the North
American F-86 Sabre at just under
aircraft, the Phantom could climb vertically at supersonic speeds and
specially equipped examples photographed the initial launch stages of
American space shots – the only plane flying that could do so. Fully
laden, the Phantom weighed twice as much as a DC-3 Dakota and iIts
external payloads of bombs, rockets, missiles, napalm and cannon pods
could weigh up to eight tons, which was 3 tons more than a WW2 Flying
Fortress could carry. The fuel alone weighed more than the all-up
weight of a Hawker Hunter.
The model nearest the
camera above is McDonnell Douglas F-4J Phantom II (Build Number 153088)
of U.S. Navy Air Test and Evaluation Squadron VX-4 based at Naval Air
Station Point Mugu, California during 1976. Unusually, this
F-4J is fitted with an infra-red seeker under the radar cone normally
only used on the F-4B/N.
Following the cancellation of the
British Aircraft Corporation's TSR2, the United Kingdom bought versions
based on the USN F-4J for use with the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy.
The main differences were the use of the British built Rolls Royce Spey
engines and of British-made avionics. The RN and RAF versions were
given the designation F-4K and F-4M respectively, and entered service
as the Phantom FG.1 (fighter / ground attack) and Phantom FGR.2
(fighter / ground attack/ reconnaissance).
the Spey was a more powerful engine than the Phantom's existing General
Electric turbines it was also bigger. As a result the
Phantoms" were bigger than their all-American ancestors and the
resulting less aerodynamic shape took back almost all the advantage of
the extra pounds of thrust.
Another distinctive feature of the
Royal Navy Phantoms was the long nosewheel leg. This was to
provide a sharper angle of attack when being catapulted off HMS Ark
Royal - an aircraft carrier much smaller than the latest American
nuclear-powered flat-tops. The long legs were shortened when
"Ark" was decommissioned in the 1970s and the Navy's Phantoms
transferred to the RAF.
After the1982 Falklands conflict, 15 upgraded ex-USN F-4Js, known as
the F-4J(UK) entered RAF service to compensate for one interceptor
squadron redeployed to the South Atlantic islands.
Around 15 RAF squadrons
received various marks of Phantom, many of them based in Germany. The
first to be equipped was 6 Squadron at RAF Leuchars in July 1969 while
Leuchars based 43 Squadron continued to fly Phantom FG1s for a
remarkable twenty years, arriving in September 1969 and departing in
The interceptor Phantoms
were replaced by the Panavia Tornado F3 from the late 1980s
onwards, and the last British Phantoms were retired in October 1992
when 74 Squadron disbanded.
The Spanish Air Force
acquired its first batch of ex-USAF F-4C Phantoms in 1971 under the
"Peace Alfa" program. Designated C.12, the aircraft were retired in
1989. Shortly afterwards, the Spanish Air Force received a number of
ex-USAF RF-4Cs, designated CR.12 and identifiable by the longer nose
with square camera ports. In 1995–1996, these aircraft received
extensive avionics upgrades and 12-64 - in more muted two tone grey
camouflage - visited the Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford,
Gloucestershire in July 1996.
Spain retired its
RF-4s - as operated by Torrejon based 123 Squadron - in 2002,
an event celebrated in the markings of 12-64 seen below.
Particularly of note is the lack of the usual Spanish AF tail markings
of a black cross on a white background.
Just when I
thought I'd never see a Phantom fly again what should approach Fairford
on 16 July 2009 but the Greek RF-4E in the YouTube clip above. I
was on Cheltenham Station at the time waiting for the arrival of 70013 "Oliver Cromwell"
and nobody else could believe they were seeing the distinctive
planform - and smoky trail - either!
STARFIGHTER PUT OUT TO GRASS
The caption on this
Luftwaffe marked Lockheed
F104G Starfighter - built from the 1/72 Academy kit by Deanflyer read
"This was built as an attempt to portray a badly neglected museum
exhibit.. note the faded markings, flat tyres, padlocked canopy, gaffer
tape repairs and guano on the fin. The base was made from a
picture frame using railway scenic materials and fencing."
All a harder task than
building a nice, clean model - as per kit instructions - to represent
the Starfighter in service!
F-104G (Lockheed Model 683-10-19) was the European-built version of the
Starfighter, designed for the air forces of the USA's NATO allies.
Externally, the F-104G looked quite similar to the earlier F-104C day
fighter( depicted above in this Corgi die cast model from the Jet Age Reserve Model Collection), but differed in being a multi-role, all-weather aircraft
rather than a daylight strike fighter.
The F-104G featured an
Autonetics F15A-41B NASARR (North American Search and Ranging Radar)
fire control system optimized in two basic air-to-ground and air-to-air
modes. In the air-to-air mode, it provided radar search, acquisition,
and automatic tracking of aerial targets to make it possible to to
carry out head-on attacks with automatic missile release.
The NASAAR acted in
conjunction with the director-type gunsight for the M-61 Vulcan cannon
giving the pilot an optical line-of-sight indication after the NASARR
had computed the required lead angle. The weapons sight incorporated a
basic infrared facility with common optics developed by Lockheed, which
gave the aircraft some nocturnal capability.
For air-to-ground modes,
the NASAAR provided the pilot with range information for visual bombing
computation, ground mapping for all-weather bombing and navigation,
contour mapping for navigation, and terrain avoidance for low-level
combat missions. The caged sight could also be used as an aiming
reference for visual dive-bombing.
The F-104G was also
equipped with a Litton LN-3 inertial navigator which provided the pilot
with continuous optical indication of direction and distance to a
preselected target. The F-104G was one or the first combat aircraft to
make use of such a system. However, the LN-3 was to encounter major
development problems in meeting its specified design goals.
The fuselage, wing, and
empennage were strengthened to enable the aircraft to carry an
increased offensive weapons load and to handle the stresses of
low-altitude combat missions flown at high speeds. A total of 36 new
forgings were needed to reinforce the fuselage mainframes, wing
fittings and beams, fuselage longerons, joints, and tail frames,
empennage beams and ribs, plus some fuselage skins. Some reinforcement
was made to the trailing-edge flap fittings to allow partial
deflections of up to 15 degrees during combat manoeuvres, allowing
reductions of up to 33 percent in turning radius at altitudes of 5 000
Like the F-104C, seven
hardpoints were fitted to the F-104G--one on the fuselage centreline,
two under the wings, and two at the wingtips--enabling up to 4000
pounds of external stores to be carried. The internal fuel tankage was
revised to increase the total load from 1624 to 1784 US gallons.
The length of the
fuselage of the F-104G was the same as that of the earlier versions,
but the F-104G had the enlarged and broader vertical tail of the
F-104B/D two-seater, which provided a considerable improvement in
longitudinal stability at high Mach numbers. In addition, the F-104G
was equipped with the fully-powered rudder of the F-104B/D. With the
extra area, the irreversible hydraulically-powered rudder of the F-104G
provided both directional control and yaw damping, eliminating the
separate yaw damper tab of the earlier Starfighters. and providing the
characteristic rudder overhang, first seen on the F-104B/D, above the
afterburner nozzle. The tailplane servo-mechanism was modified to
afford increased hinge movement as demanded by the increased control
power required by low-altitude operations at increased gross weights.
and the amount of power for the horizontal stabilizer control system
booster was increased. The hinge and operating controls were contained
within the empennage contours, avoiding external fairings.
The F-104G had a
slightly higher maximum takeoff weight than the F-104C. In order to
cope with the extra weight and the higher landing speeds, larger wheels
were fitted. The wheel brakes were improved and were made fully powered
and equipped with anti-skid capability. The tail braking parachute
increased in diameter from 16 to 18 feet.
The Lockheed C-2
rocket-boosted upward-firing ejector seat was standard for the F-104G,
and was cleared for use at all altitudes down to ground level at speeds
between 90 knots and 550 knots.
The engine of the F-104G
was the General Electric J79-GE-11A, rated at 10,000 lb dry and 15,600
lb thrust with afterburning. The J79 engines were coproduced under
license by MAN-Turbo in Germany, Fabrique Nationale in Belgium and by
Fiat in Italy.
A F-104A-15-LO (serial
number 56-0770) was modified by Lockheed with the bigger tail surfaces
to become the aerodynamic prototype of the F-104G, although it lacked
the internal airframe strengthing and many of the internal systems of
the definitive F-104G. It flew for the first time at Palmdale,
California on September 1, 1960. It was intended as the prototype
CF-104, and flew in Royal Canadian Air Force colours.
The first true F-104G
(Werke Number 2001) was flown by Lockheed for the first time on October
5, 1960, and was the first of the initial German order for 66 examples.
Production deliveries started in May of 1961.
sites were clustered into four groups, based generally on geographical
location. The South Group included Dornier at Munich, Heinkel at
Speyer, Messerschmitt at Augsburg (later reorganized as
Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm, or MBB), and Siebel at Donauworth, plus BMW
at Koblenz for J79 production.
The North Group included
the Dutch companies Fokker at Schipol and Dordrech and Aviolanda at
Papendrecht, plus the German companies Focke Wulf at Bremen, Hamburger
Flugzeugbau in Hamburg and Weserflugzeugbau at Einswarden.
The West Group consisted
of SABCA (Societe Anonyme Belge de Constructions Aeronautiques) and
Fairey S.A. of Belgium, which operated a joint facility at Gosselies
near Charleroi, along with Fabrique Nationale in Brussels for J79
The Italian Group
consisted of Fiat at Turin as the prime contractor, with Aerfer-Macchi,
Piaggio, SACA, and SIAI-Marchetti as subcontractors. Canadair in Canada
was contracted to supply 121 sets of wings, aft fuselage, and tail
assemblies to the FRG and the Netherlands, and 40 sets to Lockheed.
Lockheed itself remained
heavily involved in the license production programs, and supplied small
numbers of complete F-104Gs along with knock-down kits of parts to the
licensees to help them in the launch of their own individual programs.
In addition, Lockheed built the first 66 F-104Gs for the Luftwaffe and
built 84 for USAF Mutual Aid contracts.
The initial production
schedule called for 210 aircraft to be built by the South Group, 350 by
the North Group, 188 by the West Group, and 199 by the Italian group.
There was lot of cross-flow of components, parts, and even complete
airplanes between the various Groups. The Luftwaffe eventually received
700 single seaters from five different nations.
In order to assure early
service introduction, it was agreed that Lockheed was to build the
initial lot of F-104Gs while the European consortium got up to speed.
Lockheed eventually built 139 F-104Gs, which were delivered to the air
forces of Germany, Greece, Norway, and Turkey, plus pattern aircraft
delivered to manufacturers in Belgium and Italy. In addition, Lockheed
also built a number of two-seat TF-104G combat trainers. The first
Lockheed-built F-104G flew on June 7, 1960.
The South Group's first
F-104G took to the skies on October 5, 1960. The South Group of
companies eventually built 210 aircraft, all of them destined for the
West German Luftwaffe and South Group Starfighters were identified by
construction numbers in the 7000 range.
The West Group's first
F-104G flew on August 3, 1961. West Group Starfighters were identified
by construction numbers in the range 9002 to 9189 and went both to the
Force Aerienne Belge and to the Luftwaffe.
The North Group's first
F-104G flew on November 11, 1961. The North Group eventually built 231
aircraft for the Koninklijke Luchtmacht (Royal Netherlands Air Force)
as well as the Luftwaffe. The North Group F-104Gs were identified by
construction numbers between 8001 and 8350. F-104Gs were produced in
parallel with RF-104Gs.
The Italian Group flew
its first Starfighter on June 9, 1962, and delivered 169 aircraft to
Dutch, German, and Italian air forces. The F-104Gs built by the Italian
Group (with Fiat as major contractor) had company numbers in the range
between 6502 and 6700. F-104Gs were interspersed with RF-104Gs on the
Once the European F-104G
program was well underway, the USAF ordered 140 F-104Gs to be built by
Canadair for various NATO nations under the MAP program. They were
intended for Norway, Denmark, Greece, Turkey, and Spain. They followed
the Canadian-built CF-104s off the production line. Canadair-built
F-104Gs differed from European-built versions primarily in the type of
NASARR installed--the F-15AM-11 which was optimized for both air-to-air
and air-to-ground modes. Canadair-built F-104Gs were identified by
construction numbers in the range between 6001 and 6140. The first of
these Canadair-built F-104Gs (c/n 6001, USAF serial number 62-12302)
made its maiden flight on July 30, 1963, and deliveries to NATO began
before the end of the year.
The ejector seat
initially fitted was the Lockheed Model C-2 upward-firing seat, but
beginning in 1967 it was replaced by a Martin-Baker Mk GQ7(F)
"zero-zero" ejector seat.
When the F-104G program
finally ended with the delivery of the last example by MBB in 1973,
1122 aircraft had been built, representing nearly 44 percent of
Some of the F-104Gs
built were purchased with MAP funds and were assigned USAF serial
numbers for record-keeping purposes even though they never carried USAF
insignia. In addition, many F-104Gs owned by the West German Luftwaffe
actually operated at training bases in the USA where they sported USAF
insignia and carried USAF serial numbers.
THOR MISSILE IN RAF MARKINGS
The caption on this 4mm
Douglas Thor IRBM on
transporter trailer towed by Leyland Hippo tractor.
20 RAF Squadrons ( 77,
82, 97,98, 102, 104, 106, 107, 113, 130, 142, 144, 150, 218, 220, 223,
226, 240, 254 and 269 ) operated a total of 60 of these nuclear armed
Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBMs) from bases is eastern
England between 1958 and 1963. These missiles were liquid
fuelled and were withdrawn because the resulting long reaction time
made them vulnerable to pre emptive strikes.
BW Models white metal
and vacuform kit with markings from spares box.
I was particularly drawn
to this Douglas Thor model not only because of the rarely depicted
subject matter but because it was displayed next to an Airspeed Horsa
glider, Hawker Hunter jet and Bristol
Beaufighter and Westland
Whirlwind twin engined propeller fighters: all available for comparison
in 1/72 scale and together showing the advances made in less than 30
years of the mid 20th Century.
The Thor was the first
Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) deployed by the U.S. armed
forces. Although its military career was relatively short, its
descendants are still in use as space launch vehicles.
Development began in
1954 with USAF studies regarding a 1500 mile range single stage
ballistic missile to complement the long-range ICBM. Soviet ballistic
missile progress resulted in a decision in 1955 to develop an IRBM, to
be named Thor, as quickly as possible.
components (the Rocketdyne S-3D liquid-fuel rocket motor from the
Jupiter IRBM, and the inertial guidance unit and
Mk.2 re-entry vehicle from the SM-65D/CGM-16D Atlas),
and requiring the missile to be air-transportable by C-124 Globemaster
transport aircraft, the basic design and overall dimensions of the Thor
were quickly determined. Go-ahead for development was given in
September 1955, and in December 1955, Douglas was selected as prime
contractor for the SM-75 Thor IRBM.
Because of the many
existing components development was extremely quick, and production of
test missiles began as soon as the drawings were completed in August
1956. Testing of the XSM-75 missile began in December 1956, but the
first launch attempts all failed - sometimes in spectacular explosions.
The first successful flight finally occurred in September 1957. Unlike
the later production missiles, the first XSM-75s had small stabilizing
fins at the base of the rocket.
caption on this Daily Express Giles cartoon of 1 April 1958 read
"Polishing rockets on a U.S. base isn't my idea of celebrating the 40th
anniversary of the R.A.F." Karl Giles probably hadn't seen a
Thor at the time.
After the Soviet Sputnik
launch in October 1957, the IRBM program was again accelerated, and Thor was
ordered into full production in November 1957. In the next month, the first
flight with a fully operational guidance system succeeded. All operational SM-75
missiles were stationed in Great Britain beginning in September 1958. Deployment
was completed in June 1960 with 60 missiles at five bases including RAF Hemswell
By then, the Royal Air Force had taken over the operation
of the Thor bases and missiles and one unarmed Thor from each base was sent with
its crew to Vandenburg Air Force Base in California for a combat training launch
on the Pacific range there.
The SM-75 was
powered by a single Rocketdyne S-3D (designated LR79-NA by the
USAF) fuelled by kerosene and liquid oxygen. The complete
main propulsion system was designated as MB-3. Two small Rocketdyne
LR101 vernier engines were used for fine-tuning thrust and directional
control. The Thor could carry a 1.45 megaton W-49 thermonuclear
warhead and the all-inertial guidance unit achieved an
accuracy of somewhere between 1000 ft and 2 miles Circular Error
Probability. To protect them from conventional attacks and the weather,
the missiles were stored horizontally in soft shelters at the base.
After the launch order, the missile would be raised into the vertical,
for fuelling and launch.
This resulted in an
overall reaction time of about 10 minutes - better than the US Army Atlas
IRBM ( 15 minutes when stored in a "coffin" silo ) and much better than
the Soviet R7 ICBM ( 24 hours ) - although still more than twice as
long as the four minute warning that NATO radar was expected to offer
of an incoming Soviet first missile strike.
During 1962, the Thor
was used in a series of exo-atmospheric nuclear tests (called "Starfish",
"Bluegill", and "Kingfish"), including the explosion of a 1.4 megaton
device ( equivalent to 1 400 000 tons of TNT ) at an altitude of 280
Also in 1962, the USAF
already started to plan the retirement of the SM-75 IRBM. The intended
replacements were the GAM-87/AGM-48 Skybolt ALBM
(Air-Launched Ballistic Missile), which was later cancelled, and the
Polaris SLBM (Submarine-Launched Ballistic
Missile). The first Thor was removed from base in November 1962, and by
September 1963, all Thors had been deactivated and moved back to the
USA. Production of Thor IRBMs totaled about 225, with a peak deployment
level of 60 missiles.
In June 1963, shortly
before its retirement in the UK, all Thor missiles were redesignated in
the PGM-17 series: XSM-75 Thors becoming XPGM-17A, SM-75 items becoming
PGM17A and unarmed training missiles changing from USM-75 to PTM-17A
The final chapter in the
military career of the Thor was its use as an anti-satellite weapon. In
February 1962 the USAF had started Program 437 to provide for a nuclear
ASAT (anti-satellite) capability. Unarmed tests of Thors as ASAT
missiles began in February 1964, and by September 1964 the ASAT Thor
was declared operational. From that time until the retirement in
December 1972, the ADC (Air Defense Command) always had two Thor ASAT
launchers on 24h alert. The designation of the Thor in the ASAT role
was apparently still PGM-17A, although a redesignation to PIM-17A would
have been appropriate.
After retirement as an
IRBM, disarmed PGM-17As, as well as new-built Thors, were used by the
USAF as space launch vehicles under the basic designation of SLV-2. The
Thor was developed by McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) into the very
successful Delta family of space launchers, still in use today.
THE CREEK WITH A PADDLE
Americana behind, my attention was drawn to these two designs of paddle
steamer - both very different from the faux diesel paddle wheeler
"Oliver Cromwell" currently moored in Gloucester Docks! Both
were designed for freight use in 1910 by the Marine Iron Works of
Chicago with the smaller, single funnel boat measuring only 50' long in
reality and proportionately smaller when scratch built in 1/72 scale.
From east of the Iron
Curtain - and more specifically from Soviet helicopter maker Mil - came
these two very different Aeroflot marked 1/72 scale whirlybirds, the
V-12 - pictured above - being the largest helicopter ever
built. Had it gone into production it would have been called
the Mi-12 by the Soviets and "Homer" by NATO although in fact only two
prototypes were ever built.
The V-12 was
developed from 1965 to carry missile components of up to 30 000 kg and
the first prototype made its first lift-off on 27 June 1967. After a
few oscillations in close proximity to the ground the V-12 made a rough
touchdown on one wheel resulting in a burst tire and a bent wheel disc.
Even though the damage was insignificant, it was reported in the
Western press that the prototype had suffered severe damage, and even
to this day the rumour persists that the prototype had crashed fatally.
The V-12 features the
only two-rotor transverse scheme ever built by Mil, eliminating the
need for a tail
rotor. The twin engines were taken together with
the rotors from the Mil
Mi-6 and duplicated on the V-12.
However, the twin rotor
transverse scheme was not new. It was first seen in the Focke-Wulf
Fw 61 - the first fully controllable helicopter
from 1936 - and later in the design of the Focke
Achgelis Fa 223 Drache from 1940 and the 1958
vintage Soviet Kamov
Ka-22 Vintokryl . This aircraft had also the
combined wing/rotor arrangement later used on the Mil V-12.
The first prototype, now
wearing the registration CCCP-21142, made its first true flight on 10
July 1968 from the Mil factory pad in Panki
to the Mil OKB test flight facility in Lyubertsy.
In February 1969, the first prototype lifted a 31,030 kg
payload to 9,682 feet and on 6 August 1969, the V-12 lifted
44,205 kg to a height of 7,398 feet, a world
In May and June 1971 the first
prototype V-12 CCCP-21142 made a series of flights over Europe being
topped by the participation in the 29th Paris
Air Show at Le
Bourget wearing exhibit code H-833.
The second prototype had
been assembled at the Mil experimental production facility in Panki but
sat in the workshop for a full year waiting for its engines. It was not
until March 1973 that the second prototype could make its first flight,
being from Panki to the flight test facilities in Lyubertsy. Curiously
the second prototype was also registered as CCCP-21142.
The design outperformed
its design specifications, set up numerous world records which still
hold today, and brought its designers numerous awards such as the
Prize awarded by the American
Helicopter Society for outstanding achievements
in helicopter technology. The V-12 design was recognized as an
invention for which patents were issued in the USA, Great Britain and
Despite all of these achievements
the Soviet Air Force refused to accept the helicopter for state
acceptance trials for many reasons, the main one being the fact that
the initial purpose for which V-12 had been developed - the rapid
deployment of strategic ballistic missiles
- no longer existed. In the meantime the military concept of deploying
missiles had been altered since some of the missiles had proved
disappointing and were phased out. This was the same reason which led
to the massive reduction inAntonov An-22 production. Another
was that the design was expensive and that other lifting requirements
were met with the Mi-6 and later by the more powerful Mi-26.
contrast the Mil Mi-2 is a single pilot, light transport twin turbine
type helicopter with a three bladed main rotor (48 ft
diameter) and two bladed tail rotor system, making it at first glance
similar to the Bristol Type 171 Sycamore.
Intended to replace the earlier Mi-1 and known by NATO as the Hoplite,
the Mi-2 can be used for transport of up to eight passengers or an
equivalent amount of internal or external freight, for training ( with
the option of twin cockpit controls ), reconnaissance and rescue tasks
as well as providing close air support with 57mm rockets or laying a
smoke screen in front of armoured fighting vehicles.
The first prototype Mi-2 flew in September 1961 but from 1964, further
development, production and sales of this type was passed over to the
Polish PZL Swidnik aircraft factory. Several thousand of these aircraft
were built from 1966 to 1985. The flight control system is a
positive, mechanical linkage with hydraulic boost to a conventional set
of helicopter controls and the Mi-2 is powered by two 400 shp GTD-350
2005 more than 1,500 Mi-2 helicopters were in operation in different
parts of the world and nearly all of them had reached the end of their
service life and were in need of an overhaul. However, the cost of
refurbishing a Mi-2 being several dozen times lower than the price of a
new foreign-made light helicopter of a similar category, the Mil OKB
and the Swidnik plant took the decision to start work with a view to
restoring, improving and upgrading the existing fleet of Mi-2
helicopters. The first stage of this work envisaged increasing
reliability and improving the performance, as well as ensuring good
quality repairs. The next step includes a programme of increasing the
helicopters’ service life and fitting them with more lightweight and
up-to-date equipment, some of them using composite materials.
MARK VII DIORAMA
My interest in
Churchill tanks - 764 of which were built by the Gloucester
Railway Carriage and Wagon Company -
was reignited by this superb diorama featuring a 1/35 scale Mk VII
variant from the Tamiya kit arriving at a filling station "closed for
The Mark VII Churchill
tank was radically different from earlier models with a new, wider and
better armoured hull and completely new turret equipped with a 75mm
gun. Sometimes referred to as the Heavy Churchill, the Mark
VII first saw service in the Battle of Normandy, and was redesignated
A42 in 1945 - marking a long journey from the original pre-war concept
of the Tank, Infantry Mk IV (A22)
specified prior to the outbreak of the Second World War the British
Army General Staff designation A20 was to be the replacement for the Matilda II
infantry tanks. In accordance with British Infantry Tank doctrine and
based on the expected needs of World
War I style trench
warfare, the tank was required to be capable of
navigating shell-.cratered ground, demolishing infantry obstacles (such
wire) and attacking fixed enemy defences. For
these purposes, great speed and heavy armament was not required
The task of design and
construction of the A20 was given to Belfast based shipbuilders Harland
and Wolff who completed four prototypes by June
1940. The vehicle was armed with two 2-pounder
guns each located in a side sponson
and plans existed for an additional third gun in a central turret. Indeed one of
and Wolff prototypes was built with a Matilda turret and the Ulster
firm was also responsible for the side escape hatches which featured on all
marks of Churchill.
Even by this point the
sponson idea had fallen out in favour of turret and hull mounted guns.
The A20 designs were short-lived however, as at roughly the same time the
emergency evacuation of the British
Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk
occurred. With France
conquered, the scenario of trench warfare in
Northern Europe was no longer applicable and the design was revised by
Dr. H.E. Merritt, director of Tank Design at Woolwich Arsenal, based on
the combat witnessed in Poland
and France. These new specifications, for the A22 or Infantry Tank Mark
IV, were given to Vauxhall
in June 1940.
With German invasion
looking imminent and the United Kingdom having lost most of its
military vehicles in the evacuation from France, the War
Office specified that the A22 must begin
production within the year. By July 1940 the design was complete and by
December of that year the first prototypes were completed; it was in
June 1941, almost exactly a year as specified, that the first Churchill
tanks began rolling off the production line.
The hull of the
Churchill tank was made up of simple flat plates initially bolted but
later welded together. It was split into four compartments: the drivers
position at the front, then the fighting compartment including the
turret, the engine compartment and then finally the gearbox
The suspension was
fitted under the two large "panniers" on either side of the hull - the
track running over the top. There were eleven bogies either side, each
carrying two 10-inch wheels. Only nine of the bogies normally took the
vehicle weight, the front coming into play when the vehicle nosed into
the ground or against an obstacle, the rear acting in part as a track
tensioner. Due to the number of wheels, the tank could survive losing
several without much in the way of adverse affects as well as
traversing steeper terrain obstacles. As the tracks ran around the
panniers, escape hatches in the side could be incorporated into the
design. These were retained throughout the revisions of the Churchill
and were of particularly use when the Churchill was adopted as an
armoured recovery vehicle.
The Vauxhall designed
twin engines were connected through a common crankshaft feeding a
regenerative transmission steered by a tiller bar rather than levers or
steering wheel. The Churchill was also the first tank to utilize the Merritt-Brown
gear-box, which allowed the tank to be steered by changing the relative
speeds of the two tracks; this effect was more pronounced as the gears
were lowered, allowing the tank to fully turn on its own axis while in
Each tank was delivered
with a document from the manufacturer which stated that it had great
confidence in the fundamental design of the tank but that the model had
been put into production without time for proper honing and that
improvements would be made in time:
"All those things
which we know are not as they should be will be put right....Fighting
vehicles are urgently required, and instructions have been received to
proceed with the vehicle as it is rather than hold up production"
This hasty development
had not come without cost though, as there had been little in the way
of testing and the Churchill was plagued with mechanical faults. Most
apparent was the Churchill's underpowered and unreliable engine, a
situation made far worse by the engine's lack of accessibility.
shortcoming of the tank was the 2 pounder 40 millimetre gun in its
cast, round turret fitted with a Vickers Tank Periscope MK IV. This
relatively weak gun was augmented by the addition of a 3 inch howitzer
in the hull ( or the turret in the case of the Mk IICS ) to deliver a
high explosive shell - albeit not on howitzer type trajectories.. This
enabled the tank to deliver a useful HE round while retaining the
antitank capabilities of the 2-pounder. However, like other multi-gun
tanks, such as the French Char B, it was limited by a poor fire arc.
The entire tank had to be turned to aim of the hull gun. The Mk II
dispensed with the howitzer and replaced it with a bow machine gun.
These flaws contributed
to the tank's poor performance in its first combat outing, the
Raid in August, 1942. In fact the poor
performance of the Churchill nearly caused production to be ceased in
favour of the upcoming Cromwell
was saved though by the emergence of the much improved Mk III which
appeared in March 1942 and first saw operational use during the Second
Battle of El Alamein in October of that year.
'second chance' a select group of five Mk III's, known collectively as
'King Force' went into battle. All were heavily shelled by German
anti-tank guns but all bar one Mk III returned with little damage. One
tank was said to have been struck up to 80 times.
The Mk III was easily
distinguished by a new turret design carrying a 57mm calibre 6 pounder
gun and in one encounter the updated Churchill tank even eliminated a
heavy German Tiger
I tank when the shell becoming lodged in between
the Tiger's turret and turret ring. The crew abandoned the Tiger, which
was subsequently captured and is on display at Bovington Tank Museum in
Dorset. In the following Tunisia
campaigns, the Mk III and its immediate successors continued to prove
The Churchill Mk III
underwent field modification in North
Africa with several tanks being fitted with the
75 mm gun salvaged from destroyed M4
Shermans. These "NA75" variants were
used in Italy and although the 75 mm gun was inferior as an
anti-tank weapon to the 6-pounder it proved better as an all-around gun
and was soon made standard on successive versions.
The second major
improvement in the Churchill's design, the Mk VII ( pictured in colour
above and below ) first saw operational use in the Battle
of Normandy in 1944. The Mk VII improved on the
already heavy armour of the Churchill with a wider chassis and the 75
mm gun ( installed in a custom made fabricated
turret ) that had been introduced on the Mk VI. The new size,
armour and firepower of the Churchill Mk VII combined with its existing
long wheelbase and multiple bogie suspension was instrumental to its
success in helping VIII Corps capturing Hill 309 in Normandy as part of
Operation Bluecoat between 30 and 31 July 1944.
It was primarily the
Mark VII Churchill, also known as the A22F, which served through the
remainder of war and was redesignated as A42 in 1945.
The armour on the
Churchill, often considered its most important trait, was originally
specified to a minimum of 16 mm and a maximum of
102 mm; this was increased with the Mk VII to a range from
25 mm to 152 mm. Though this armour was considerably
thicker than its rivals -including the German Tiger tank, but not the Tiger
it was not sloped, reducing its effectiveness. Earlier models were
given extra armour by the expedient of welding extra plates on.
Because the engines on
the Churchill were never upgraded, the tank became increasingly slower
as additional armour and armament was equipped and weight increased;
while the Mks I to VI weighed
36 tons, the Mk VII weighed 40 tons. This caused
a reduction in maximum speed of the tank from its original
26 km/h down to 20.5 km/h. The engines also suffered
from many mechanical problems.
relatively small turret also prevented the use of weapons much larger
than the 75 mm gun. Although the Churchill's thick armour
could withstand several hits from any German AT gun, even some from the
famous 88, the guns often lacked punch to fight back effectively. While
earlier Churchills could outgun many German medium tanks, like the
Panzer IV's short-barrel version and the Panzer III's 50 mm
gun with its 6 pounder, the later Churchill variants were armed with a
general purpose 75 mm gun while Germans had 75 mm
high-velocity cannons as their main armament.
The Churchill was also
quite notable for its versatility and was utilized in numerous
specialist roles. Additionally, in tests conducted in the Madang
by the Australian
Army in mid-1944, at the request of the British
War Office, the Churchill was tested against the M4 Sherman and found it to be,
overall, a superior tank for jungle warfare.
Union received a total of 301 of Churchill Mk.
III and Mk. IV types as part of the Lend-Lease
program and the tank remained in the service of the British
Army until 1952 with one bridgelayer
variant remaining in service well into the 1970s.
Army took delivery of four Churchill Mk VI tanks
in 1948. They were rented from the British War Office as trials
vehicles until 1954, when they were purchased outright. This purchase
was despite the fact that the supply and transport corps workshops, who
maintained them, had reported that spares had all but run out.
Experiments were carried out involving replacing the existing Bedford
engine with a Rolls
Royce Merlin engine salvaged from an Air
The experiment was not a success, although the reasons are not
recorded. By 1967 only one Churchill remained serviceable, and by 1969
all were retired. One remains preserved in the Curragh
Camp. The Churchill was an unusual choice for
the Irish Army, as the most of the country at that time consisted of
narrow roads and small fields with hedges and ditches restricting
movements by armoured vehicles. In general, the Irish Army has always
relied upon lighter, more manoeuvrable armoured vehicles, such as the Panhard
AML and FV101
Scorpion of modern times.
1/72 SCALE JUNKERS 287 V1
Ju 287 was intended to provide the Luftwaffe
with a bomber that could avoid interception by outrunning enemy
fighters. The swept-forward wing was suggested by the project's head
designer, Dr Hans
Wocke, as a way of providing extra lift at low
airspeeds - necessary because of the poor responsiveness of early
turbojets at the vulnerable times of take-off and landing.
The first prototype was
intended to evaluate the concept, and was cobbled together from the
fuselage of a Heinkel
He 177, the tail of a Junkers
Ju 388, main undercarriage from a Junkers
Ju 352, and nosewheels taken from crashed B-24
Liberators. Two of the Jumo 004 engines were
hung under the wings, with the other two mounted in nacelles
added to the sides of the forward fuselage. Flight tests
began on 8 August 1944, with the aircraft displaying extremely good
handling characteristics, as well as revealing some of the problems of
the forward-swept wing under some flight conditions.
Tests also suggested
that the aircraft would benefit from concentrating more engine mass
under the wings, a feature that was to be incorporated on the
subsequent prototypes. These were to have been powered by Heinkel
HeS 011 engines, but because of the development
problems experienced with that motor, the BMW
003 was selected in its place. The second and
third prototypes were to have six of these engines, the former with a
cluster of three under each wing, the latter with two under each wing
and one on each side of the fuselage, as the first prototype had. These
machines were to have all-new, purpose designed fuselages, and the
third prototype was also to carry armament and serve as the development
aircraft for a production version.
Before the second
prototype was complete, though, the Junkers factory was over-run. Wocke
and his staff, along with the two prototype aircraft, were taken to the
Soviet Union. There, the second prototype (returned to its original
Junkers in-house designation, EF-131) was eventually finished and flown
on 23 May 1947, but by that time, jet development had already overtaken
the Ju 287. A final much-enlarged derivative, the EF
140 was tested in prototype form in 1949 but
BRITISH JETS IN THE MIDDLE EAST
the first jet dogfights had taken place in the Korean War of
1950-1953 between Soviet built and United Nations aircraft -
including Royal Australian Air Force
Gloster Meteor F8s - the first such
confrontation in the Middle East involved two makes of British
Israel's victory in its 1948-1949 War of Independence De Havilland
Mosquitos were acquired from France, Supermarine Spitfres from Italy
and North American P-51 Mustangs from Sweden to re-equip the Israeli
Air Force ( IAF) . However, Egypt - with which Israel had
an armistice but not a peace treaty on 24 February 1949 - acquired its
first Gloster Meteor F4s at the same time. The Royal Egyptian
Force - loyal to King Farouk - also acquired De Havilland
Vampires while Israel's hostile neighbours also acquired British jets:
Syria taking delivery of Meteors while Jordan opted for Vampires.
10 February 1953 Israel ordered eleven Meteor Mk 8s and four Meteor T7
trainers from Gloster Aircraft and the first two T7s touched down in
the Jewish state on 17 June 1953. At the handover ceremony,
Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion named the T7s Gale and Tempest.
Gloster Meteor F8 was derived from the earlier F3 model, as
supplied to the Royal Air Force to create its first jet squadron in
1944, and both types are represented in the photographs above.
F3s - lettered 4DZ and 0NH - can be distinguished
Israeli 36 by the original design of upward curved tail empennage,
shorter and fatter engine nacelles and longer wingspan.
Gloster Meteor F4 meanwhile featured the same tailplane as
but the longer , thinner engine nacelles and shorter wingspan continued
on the F8.
The Israeli Air Force also specified that its eleven
Meteor F8s were to be equipped with target towing equipment, Martin
Baker M2E ejector seats and underwing rails for the carriage of High
Velocity Aircraft Rocket (HVAR) projectiles. HVAR firing
were conducted over the Lyme Bay range with aircraft 2166 - serials as
delivered being 2166 to 2169 and 2172 and 2178. The first
F8s arrived in Israel in August 1953 and the last left Hucclecote in
Israel's Meteors and other military aircraft were
to be maintained by a new organisation - Bedek Aircraft Ltd - which was
to evolve into Israel Aircraft Industries, today perhaps best known for
its own design of executive jet transports.
early 1955 the
Armistice agreements of 1949 were beginning to fail with Israel
attacking targets in the Gaza Strip and Sinai in response to guerilla
activity by displaced Palestinian Fedayeen guerillas. In
response, Egypt's President Gamal Abdel Nasser - whose revolution had
overthrown King Farouk in 1952 - sought to acquire Soviet built Mig-15
fighter and Il-28 bombers via Czechoslovakia. The subsequent
arrival of these Communist built aircraft enhanced Nasser's political
position to the extent that he ordered Britain to withdraw its troops
from the Anglo-French owned Suez Canal.
that Nasser's Egypt was supporting its opponents in the Algerian civil
war, supplied Ouragon and more advanced Mystere IVA jet fighters to
Israel. The first Ouragons - the first all-French jet fighter design -
arrived in November 1955 while the first Mystere IVA - with low swept
wings and mid-fin tail - was delived to the IAF in April 1956.
on 31 August 1955 IAF Meteors and Egyptian Vampires fought the first
jet air battle in the Middle East. As IAF Colonel Aharon
"At seven o'clock in the morning a standby
of four Meteor 8s were ready. I was not a standby pilot, but
an early riser and bang - the siren goes off. The two duty
are brushing their eyes and by that time Sedan and I are in the
aircraft ands we made contact with the controller who said, "Take off
heading south west, fly at 7 000 feet." It was a cloudy day
the sun was only ten to fifteen degrees above the horizon. We
took off headed south and were told that there was a bogey consisting
of two airplanes flying southbound below us at two to three o'clock.
I made a left turn so they couldn't see me because I would be
the sun and two minutes later my number two said "I see them," and I
turned my head and saw them.
We simply pulled up and started to
come down behind them. The closing speed was, say 150 mph.
Number Two was behind me. My sight was on night
and since I was slowly closing in, I had no time to mess with it.
I saw one aircraft at about five hundred yards range, opened
safety cover, and slowly closed line astern behind the Vampire.
At 200 to 250 yards, I opened fire. My tracers
the left to the wing, and I simply shifted them to the center and I
didn't finish until I saw the bubble [ canopy] explode. We
at about 3 000 feet and I was flying at about 460 knots.
the airplane broke up but didn't explode and I pulled up the left.
two was following; he warned me that the Egyptian number two was behind
me. The I saw him. The second Vampire turned
started to dive towards a sandy area at 1 000 feet. When I
straight behind him, he started to roll with his nose down, and I
thought that damn son of a gun will hit the ground before I can shoot
him. So I missed a chance to shoot him. He made
roll and I closed in. I headed the gun sight up front as I
to do when shooting targets in training, and I said, "This is the right
deflection angle and the right range." I pulled the trigger
hit the cockpit - bang - unbelievable - the airplane exploded right
there! That was that! The two other bogeys had
crossed the border so I went back, made two victory rolls over the
base, and I landed"
more significantly, on the morning of 29 October 1956, ten Gloster
Meteor F8s provided a fighter escort for 16 IAF Douglas Dakotas flying
paratroops to capture the strategic Mitla Pass in the Egyptian held
attack on Egypt - known as Operation Kadesh - was designed to eliminate
Fedayeen bases in Sinai and Gaza, disrupt Egypt's ability to attack
Israel and to end Egypt's blockade of the Gulf of Eliat.
following secret talks between France, Britain and Israel the previous
month, Operation Kadesh also allowed France and Britain to intervene in
the war between Egypt and Israel - ostensibly to keep the peace but in
reality to recapture the Suez canal from a pro-Communist regime.
October 30, Britain and France issued an ultimatum calling for Israel
and Egypt to stay ten miles away from the Suez Canal and to end combat
in Sinai. If these conditions were not met, Britain and
threatened to occupy the Canal Zone. Israel accepted the
ultimatum but Egypt did not.
caption on this 4mm model read:
Electric Canberra B6, 109 Squadron RAF Luqa (Malta) Suez Crisis 1956
The B6 was
the second bomber variant of the Canberra to attain production.
with Aeroclub replacement nose, finished in Halfords Nissan Silver with
markings from generic sheets.
result, RAF Vickers Valiant
and English Electric Canberra
aircraft began bombing Egyptian airfields at 10.30pm on 31 October 1956
from an altitude of 40 000' to avoid interception by Egyptian jet
fighters. Although the bases at Almaza, Inchas, Abu Suweir,
Kabrit and Cairo International Airport were damaged by both contact and
delayed-action bombs only 14 Egyptian aircraft were destroyed on the
ground - although Egyptian, Czech and Soviet pilots immediately began
dispersing their remaining serviceable aircraft either to remote
locations or out of Egypt altogether.
However, despite the
military success of Britain, France and Israel, the threat of
intervention on the side of Egypt by the Soviet Union and diplomatic
pressure from the United States ( where President Eisenhower -
campaingning for re-election - was already occupied by the uprising
against Communism in Hungary ) forced Britain and France to agree to a
United Nations resolution to end their invasion on 7 November 1956.
BRITISH AIRCRAFT CORPORATION TSR2
"All modern aircraft have four dimensions:
span, length, height and politics. TSR.2 simply got the first three
right."- Sir Sydney Camm
of the TSR2 - as depicted in the 1/72 scale model displayed at
Churchdown in 2009 - really in the late 1940s when English
Electric had realised the need for a modern
Canberra replacement even before the official requirement for the
Canberra had been issued.
1956 the Ministry of Supply envisioned a small, fast, strike-fighter to
replace the Canberra - possibly a development of English Electric's
P.1B (soon to become theLightning) but English Electric preferred an
The requirement evolved for an aircraft with a
2,000 nautical mile [ferry] range, capable of Mach 1.5 at altitude,
able to carry a variety of weapons and reconnaissance equipment, attack
at very low level, and vertical or short take-off capability. English
Electric had been working on a design designated the P.17, and this
moved on from their initial layout (basically straight wings with
podded engines hanging off them) to being a delta wing design with
engines buried in the rear fuselage (and now designated the P.17A).
Discussions began in the MoS and the RAF and soon more
specific requirements were made available - a crew of two was required,
at least four - and preferably six - 1,000lb bombs were to be
carried, and more emphasis was put on low-level performance and short
take-off runs, with a preference for vertical take-off.
Around this time a report on the supply of military
aircraft was issued by the House of Commons Select Comittee on
Estimates. It included recommendations to limit the number of aerospace
companies by forcing them to band together to win contracts. This was
the beginning of the end for the majority of the famous British
aircraft manufacturers. Meanwhile, the air staff were drawing up
General Operational Requirement (GOR) 339 to cover a Canberra
replacement, and finished it days before Duncan Sandys, the Minister of
Defence, announced in the infamous 1957 Defence White Paper that manned
aircraft were obsolete. GOR 339 was then the subject of much debate
before it was finally issued to various companies in late September.
Shorts Brothers made a submission to cooperate with English Electric
and cover all aspects of GOR 339. Their outlandish idea was for the
P.17A to be joined by the P.17D, a platform with no fewer than 56 lift
engines which would lift off vertically and from which the P.17A would
then launch. Understandably this idea did not come to fruition!
In March 1958 an announcement was made on which companies had
been successful in their bids for the contract - Avro, Hawker,
Vickers-Armstrong and English Electric. Cooperation from them all was
expected. The requirement was refined, reissued, renamed and renumbered
- first OR 339 then OR 343. Now operation from semi-prepared strips was
mentioned along with higher speed, longer range, higher altitude,
shorter take-off run... the straight-forward Canberra replacement was
rapidly becoming the stuff of science fiction, plus the MoS wanted the
new aircraft to fulfill every role the Canberra was undertaking,
The MoS had decided that the best way forward was a partnership between
Vickers Armstrong and English Electric, even though neither company had
much contact with the other. The first public acknowledgement of the
new project was made in the House of Commons in December. In January
1959 more details were forthcoming, including the designation of TSR.2
(the 2 standing for Mach 2). This designation originally stood for
Tactical Support and Reconaissance, then later became Tactical Strike
and Reconaissance once the possibility of a nuclear role was considered.
Blackburn Aircraft had seen GOR 339 and realised that their Buccaneer
already went some way towards satisfying the requirements. With
improvements, the Buccaneer could be made into an aircraft that would
satisfy most - though not all - of the requirements.
Obviously developing a completely new aircraft was obviously going to
cost much more than modifying an existing one, and the Fleet Air Arm
were already delighted with the performance of the Buccaneer. However,
the RAF had nothing but contempt for this naval aircraft.
Blackburn's P.150 design (which appeared some years later in 1968) was
for a supersonic Buccaneer with Spey engines with reheat, new TSR.2
style intakes, longer fuselage, thinner non-folding wings and twin
mainwheels and gave some idea of how Blackburn might have proceeded had
their been any interest in their proposal. Despite the lack of RAF
interest, the Buccaneer would return to haunt the TSR.2 project later
July 1959 meanwhile Vickers and English Electric had jointly submitted
their new design (which did not actually differ too much from English
Electric's P.17A) despite worries about the restrictive aspects of the
specification. On 1 January 1960 the two companies ( along with Bristol
Aircraft ) merged to form the British Aircraft Corporation and in
October 1960 - a year later than planned - the contract for TSR2 was
The government had looked at American methods of project management and
development, and while finally admitting that the American's methods
were superior to traditional British methods, they make a complete mess
of implementing these improved methods. To all intents and purposes it
appeared that the government's version threw away all the good points
and kept the bad - the new, more 'efficient' management techniques
would soon turn into the most bloated and inefficient bureaucracy ever
seen in the aviation industry.
One celebrated incident occurred when a meeting was called and the
meeting's chairman decided that far too many people had turned up. He
cleared the room and asked for only essential
personnel to turn up for the second attempt at the meeting. When the
reconvened meeting arrived, and the essential personnel had trooped in,
it was found that there were actually more people present than in the
Design and manufacture proceeded despite these problems and despite
poor cooperation between the constituents of BAC. One example of this
was that when the engines were ready to be placed in the airframe it
was found that they simply did not fit in the supplied tunnels! In
addition, some sub-contractors were not working for BAC, but were
working for the Ministry instead, with communication problems being a
Ministry's interference extended into the design and manufacture of the
aircraft itself; they took charge of the cockpit layout, and often had
three hour meetings to decide the location of a single
often got it wrong. In contrast, Avro's Chief Test Pilot Roly Falk
fought for and got permission to design the cockpit of the Vulcan
the same time the British Government were under American pressure
to buy the TFX (later to become the General Dynamics F-111)
instead of the 'more expensive' TSR.2 when a BAC delegation
visited Australia and left with high expectations of an export order.
The Australians were very interested in the new
wonder-plane but their interest was undermined by Lord Louis
Mountbatten suggesting that the Royal Australian Air Force could buy
ten Buccaneers for the price of a single TSR.2. . The
chose to buy the F-111 shortly afterward at a cost 10 times more than
they had been told by the Americans. The F-111 also entered
Australian service ten years late.
in Britain TSR2's all-new Bristol-Siddely Olympus engines suffered
major teething problems before the first prototype - XR219 - began
assembly at RAF Boscombe Down in early 1964. Vickers had
test flying to begin at their airfield at Wisley, but the chief test
pilot, Roland Beamont, objected to this because of the short runway
there. English Electric's airfield at Warton would have been ideal, but
as a compromise Boscombe Down was chosen
As neither company had a presence there the prototype had to be
reassembled over a period of three months but on 6 May
1964 XR219 left its hangar to begin testing, including taxi
trials. Various minor problems occurred, including the failure of the
braking parachute to deploy on one fast taxi run where the
long runway came in useful, vindicating Beamont's objection to the
shorter airfield at Wisley, but most were overcome.
On 27 September 1964 XR219 finally flew, with Roland Beamont
- callsign Tarnish 1 - as pilot and Donald Bowen
as navigator. Beamont summed up the flight as 'a very good
start'. However, XR219 at this point was hardly representative of an
operational version; with limitations on engine power, many missing
systems (both to keep weight down and to hurry up the first flight) and
no attempt was made to retract the undercarriage (a complicated affair
made necessary by the lack of room in which to place it).
Finally, on flight 10, after four months of attempts to fix the
problems, the undercarriage was successfully retracted and Beamont
decided that XR219 was ready to continue its flight test programme at
Warton while XR220 would be brought to Boscombe.
14 was XR219's trip to Warton, during which it went supersonic for the
first and only time. TSR.2's performance was shown to particularly good
effect when Beamont engaged reheat on a single engine and left the
Lightning T5 chase aircraft behind despite engaging reheat on both of
By this time in early 1965 however the national newspapers
reported that an RAF team was in the USA to consider purchasing the TFX
(F-111) instead of continuing the TSR.2 programme. Urgent discussions
between BAC and the Labour government - elected in October 1964 -
ensued, and there was even a protest march in London where 10,000 BAC
employees called for the keeping of the TSR.2.
Mass physical support notwithstanding, the second
prototype would never fly. The government, in the Budget Day
announcement on 6 April 1965, announced that the TSR.2 programme was to
be terminated immediately. The aircrew were at the time having lunch in
a pub near Boscombe Down and on hearing the announcement they rushed
back to the airfield in an attempt to get XR220 into the air and to at
least present the government with a second flying prototype. Permission
however was denied.
XR219, XR221 and XR223 were taken to the shooting range at Shoeburyness
to be destroyed as 'damage to aircraft' targets. XR220 was kept at
Boscombe for a year or so and then placed in storage at RAF Henlow
after it had had all internal equipment ripped out (even the wires to
equipment were cut rather than disconnected). It was later transferred
to RAF Cosford's Aerospace Museum. XR222 was initially to be scrapped
but was instead sent to the College of Aeronautics at Cranfield and
later saved for restoration and moved to the Imperial War Museum at
Duxford. All other airframes were scrapped and all tooling was
Cancelled shortly before the TSR.2 were
Hawker-Siddeley's two major projects; a new transport aircraft and the
P.1154 (the 'supersonic Harrier'). The P.1154 had also been victim of
the infighting between the Navy and the Air Force, but some good was to
come of these two cancellations. The P.1127, a less ambitious project,
was allowed to proceed. This became the Harrier, a world-beating VTOL
light strike aircraft and fighter which has since been developed into a
number of versions for countries around the world, including the UK,
the USA, India and Italy.
The TFX programme continued in the US; but when it too became massively
expensive and development ran into major problems the UK (and the US
Navy) cancelled their orders. Britain was to pay hugely for the TSR.2
cancellation; not only in the waste of the TSR.2 development, but now
in cancellation fees to General Dynamics.
Instead it was decided to buy the F-4 Phantom II. But the government
could not be seen to be buying an inferior American aircraft after this
fiasco, so specified that British engines were to be used. The UK
Phantoms were to use Speys, an engine generally thought to be
unsuitable for a fighter. Problems with the Spey and Phantom marriage
meant that not only were British Phantoms the most expensive of all,
but they also performed nowhere near as well as the original US models.
TSR.2 was long gone, and all we had in its place was an aircraft of
nowhere near the capability. Not only did the Phantom not come close to
fulfilling the TSR.2's role, it could not adequately fulfil narrower
roles such as air defence. The ageing English Electric Lightning
continued to outfly Phantoms until its retirement in 1988.
BAC survived the TSR.2 cancellation; the only major project not
cancelled was the Anglo-French Concorde supersonic transport, which
while never being a massive commercial success, gave BAC valuable
experience and prestige both with advanced aircraft and with
international cooperation. The SEPECAT Jaguar, near enough a 'baby
TSR.2', gave them even more experience of this kind of cooperation, and
produced a useful strike aircraft, though it did not compare with the
TSR.2. Following soon after came the MRCA (Multi Role Combat Aircraft,
or, more cynically, Must Replace Canberra AGAIN!) project, a truly
European project, which despite its detractors produced another
world-beater - the Panavia Tornado.
Strangely, in 1981, the then Conservative government
briefly looked at reviving the TSR.2 programme. This got as far as
looking at possible modifications to bring it up to date (Tornado style
intakes, modern electronics, extensive use of carbon fibre construction
to lower the weight and so on) before the project was once again
returned to the grave.
It was certainly a strange episode; with the Tornado
shortly to enter service, developing the TSR.2 to completion (using
XR220 and XR222 as a basis for the new project!) would have been a very
odd thing to do. As it turned out, the Tornado became more or less what
the TSR.2 was to have been. That it was still slightly less capable
than the TSR.2 had been projected to be a full fifteen years earlier
says a great deal about how far advanced the TSR.2 project really was.
That the TSR.2 was all-British (bar some electronics) and the Tornado
required the cooperation of three countries also says a great deal
about just how good the British aircraft industry was.