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  THE GRUMMAN STORY  
 

 
 
 
 
 

OVERVIEW

 
 

 

   
  The Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation was founded on 5 December 1929 by Leroy Grumman and four of his fellow former Loening Aircraft Engineering Corporation employees when Loening was bought by the Keystone Aircraft Corporation and operations moved from Long Island, New York, to Bristol, Pennsylvania.  
 

 

   
 

The Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation was founded on 5 December 1929 by Leroy Grumman and four of his fellow former Loening Aircraft Engineering Corporation employees when Loening was bought by the Keystone Aircraft Corporation and operations moved from Long Island, New York, to Bristol, Pennsylvania.

Starting work on 2 January 1930, Grumman began welding aluminium tubes for truck frames - with motor vehicle and canoe building becoming profitable alternatives to aircraft manufacture until Grumman merged with Northrop in 1994.

However, Leroy Grumman's long association with the United States Navy began with his design for the first practical seaplane floats with retractable wheels, followed by his first complete aircraft, the FF-1 biplane (pictured above) - also with retractable wheels in its floats -and first flown on 29 December 1931.

During World War II Grumman became known for its F4F Wildcat and F6F Hellcat fighters as well as the Avenger torpedo bomber and Albatross and Gosling twin engined amphibious flying boats.

The F9F Panther of 1949 marked Grumman's entry into the jet age followed by the swept wing Cougar and variable geometry F-14 Tomcat of "Top Gun" film fame.  Also serving with the US Navy were the A-6 Intruder and EA-6 Prowler jets along with the piston engined anti-submarine S-2 Tracker - and turboprop E-2 Hawkeye flying radar stations, as pictured below.

Grumman also built the Lunar Excursion Module which landed twelve Apollo astronauts on the Moon as well as the wings and vertical stabiliser of the Space Shuttle orbiter as sub-contractor for Rockwell, but still diversified into crop spraying biplanes such as the Ag-Cat, first flown in 1957.

In 1969 the company changed its name to Grumman Aerospace Corporation, and in 1978 it sold the Grumman-American Division to Gulfstream Aerospace.  

In 1990 the Outboard Marine Corporation bought Grumman's boat building division and after the last Grumman designed canoe was produced in 1996 former Grumman executives formed the Marathon Boat Group to keep the name and design - as seen in the film "Deliverance" - alive.

Meanwhile Grumman Olson P-600 and P-6800 aluminium stepvan bodies were produced for parcel carrier UPS as well as Firecat fire engines and the 1986 vintage Long Life Vehicle for  United States Postal Service deliveries.

 
 

 

   
  The F9F Panther of 1949 marked Grumman's entry into the jet age followed by the swept wing Cougar and variable geometry F-14 Tomcat of "Top Gun" film fame.  Also serving with the US Navy were the A-6 Intruder and EA-6 Prowler jets along with the piston engined anti-submarine S-2 Tracker and turboprop E-2 Hawkeye flying radar stations, as pictured below.  
 
 

 
 
  THE CLIC SARGEANT CHALLENGE  
 

 

   
 

In 2011 Mike Walker, organiser of the long running Cheltenham GWR Modeller's Exhibitions in aid of CLIC Sargeant Cancer Charity, was kind enough to offer me an entire room - just off the stage at St Margaret's Hall - for a model presentation in April 2012.  As I had not fielded any Americana since my first appearance at Coniston Road with Lockheed Aircraft in October 2005 I decided that it was time to give the East Coast a look in - not least as a  Grumman theme would also allow me to have another crack at a Lunar Module diorama - more of which later.

In fact I already had a diorama box based on a Grumman Panther downed during the Korean War ready for another exhibition appearance and had some time before featured a number of the swept and variable geometry jet aircraft to emerge from Grumman's Long Island  "Ironworks" in the article Rainbow of the US Navy, devised to highlight the role of different carrier deck specialists and their distinctive coloured uniforms.

Having measured the room in question at St Margaret's Hall I then found that there would be table space for the most modern Grumman fast jets to be laid out in the manner of a New England Naval Air Station on the Airfield Embankment diorama ( complete with some of my American trains not exhibited before ) and for the Airfield Embankment's alternative grass field to be converted to a Pacific island recently captured by the US Marine Corps during World War II.

 
 

 

   
  GRUMMAN ISLAND  
 

 

   
 

The map above illustrates the vast distances over which the armed forces of the United States of America and its allies fought the Empire of Japan between 1941 and 1945 following both the 7 December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and the loss of the Royal Navy's Force Z three days later.

 
 

 

   
 

The map above illustrates the vast distances over which the armed forces of the United States of America and its allies fought the Empire of Japan between 1941 and 1945 following both the 7 December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and the loss of the Royal Navy's Force Z three days later. 

Both General Douglas McArthur, advancing from Guadalcanal to The Philippines, and Admiral Chester Nimitz, advancing from Tarawa via the Marshall and Marianas Islands to Iwo Jima and Okinawa, relied on aircraft to help amphibious forces capture strategic island airfields for each new phase of victory. 

This island-hopping war across the Pacific Ocean also saw opposing naval forces fight for the first time without seeing each other, using aircraft in effect as long range artillery.

My "Grumman Island" diorama therefore represented a Pacific island airfield recently captured by US Marines with a tracked LVT- 4 and wheeled DUKW bringing supplies to a command post while a General Motors 2 1/2 ton tanker truck refuelled a Grumman F6F Hellcat fighter flanked by an earlier F4F Martlet and a larger TBM-3 Avenger torpedo bomber.

 
 

 

   
 

In 1936 Grumman won the US Navy contract to build a new monoplane fighter which - after several modifications - first flew as the XF4F-2 on 2 September 1937.  An improved version was ordered into production in August 1939 with the first five aircraft going to Canada and the next 90 going to the Royal Navy to equip 804 Squadron of the Fleet Air Arm.

 
 

 

   
 

In 1936 Grumman won the US Navy contract to build a new monoplane fighter which - after several modifications - first flew as the XF4F-2 on 2 September 1937.  An improved version was ordered into production in August 1939 with the first five aircraft going to Canada and the next 90 going to the Royal Navy to equip 804 Squadron of the Fleet Air Arm. 

Known there as the Martlet Mark 1, two of the four-gun armed radial engined fighters became - in December 1940 - the first American made aircraft to shoot down a German aircraft in World War II.

The first US Navy F4F-3 was flown on 20 August 1940, powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1830 engine with 1,200 horsepower and the subsequent F4F-4 (Martlet Mark II)  boasting folding wings, six guns and self-sealing fuel tanks, was delivered in November 1941. It was then that the name "Wildcat" was first given to the F4F.

US Navy and Marine Corps Wildcats flew in all of the major Pacific battles as well as in North Africa with the Navy but in mid 1942, Grumman realized that it needed to concentrate on the production of its new F6F Hellcat fighter, and so contracted General Motors to build the Wildcat under the designation FM-1.

The first FM-1 flew on 31 August 1942, and over 1 150 of them were produced, hundreds of which went to the Fleet Air Arm as the Martlet Mk V.

General Motors next developed an improved version, called the FM-2 (Wildcat Mk VI in the Fleet Air Arm, the Martlet designation having been dropped in March 1944), which was powered by a Wright R-1820 engine with 1 350 horsepower and featured a taller vertical tail than the FM-1. Over 4,700 FM-2s were built before the Wildcat was eclipsed by the more capable fighters which appeared later in the war.

 
 

 

   
 

The Grumman F8F Bearcat pictured above was the last of the single piston engine carrier-based fighters built at the Long Island "Ironworks". Two XF8F-1 prototypes were ordered in November 1943, and the first of these was flown on 21 August 1944. Grumman decided once again to utilize the most powerful engine available at the time, the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp - the same engine that had powered both their single engine F6F Hellcat and twin motor Tigercat designs. This time, the engine was fitted to the smallest, lightest airframe that could be built. This resulted in a highly manoeuvrable, fast airplane with a rate of climb 30% greater than the Hellcat.

 
 

 

   
  To create the Grumman Hellcat, major design changes from the Wildcat included a low-mounted wing, wider landing gear which retracted into the wings, a more powerful engine, improved cockpit armour plating, and increased ammunition capacity.

The Navy ordered four prototypes of the new fighter, each with a different engine for test and evaluation purposes. Less than a year later, on 26 June 1942, the first prototype (the XF6F-1, with a Wright R-2600 Cyclone engine) flew for the first time. Before much meaningful evaluation of the various engines could be made, however, the Navy decided to press the Hellcat into production by fitting the XF6F-1 prototype with the most powerful engine available, the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp. (This turned it into an XF6F-3. The XF6F-2 and XF6F-4 were never evaluated.)

The first production model, the F6F-3, first flew in October 1942, and deliveries began four months later with squadron VF-9 on the USS Essex in the Pacific. The Hellcat was later credited with over 75% of the US Navy's air-to-air kills in the war.

The Fleet Air Arm received 252 F6F-3s (designated Gannet Mk I) from 1943 and on 3 April 1944 Grumman Wildcats and Hellcats led Fairey Barracudas in Operation Tungsten, an attempt to sink the German battleship Tirpitz in Kaafijord, Norway.

 Meanwhile, in the US, over 200 Hellcats were modified as radar-equipped night fighters. During the F6F-3 production run, which lasted until April 1944, Grumman had developed an improved Hellcat, the F6F-5, which utilized a redesigned engine cowl, new ailerons, a strengthened tail, and a water-injection system for the engine, which added 10% to the takeoff performance and increased its armament-carrying capabilities. The F6F-5 was first flown on 4 April 1944, and production continued through November 1945. Over 900 more "Dash-5" Hellcats were delivered to the UK under the Lend-Lease program under the designation Hellcat Mk II.

 

The Grumman F8F Bearcat pictured above was the last of the single piston engine carrier-based fighters built at the Long Island "Ironworks". Two XF8F-1 prototypes were ordered in November 1943, and the first of these was flown on 21 August 1944. Grumman decided once again to utilize the most powerful engine available at the time, the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp - the same engine that had powered both their single engine F6F Hellcat and twin motor Tigercat designs. This time, the engine was fitted to the smallest, lightest airframe that could be built. This resulted in a highly manoeuvrable, fast airplane with a rate of climb 30% greater than the Hellcat.

Production of the F8F-1 began just six months after the first flight of the prototype, and the first airplane was delivered to the US Navy's VF-19 squadron on 21 May 1945. The Navy's order totaled 2,033 airplanes, and Grumman contracted with General Motors to build the Bearcat under license, with the designation F8FM-1. Only a few Bearcats had been delivered to the Navy when the end of the war halted production. Grumman cancelled 1,258 of its Bearcats, and General Motors cancelled its entire order of 1,876. Production resumed after the war, and several variants were made, including the F8F-1B, with four 20mm cannon in place of the previously-fitted 12.7mm (0.5 inch) machine guns; several night fighter variants (F8F-1N and F8F-2N); and a photo-reconnaissance version (F8F-2P). Production continued until May 1949.

At least 24 US Navy squadrons flew the Bearcat, some until as late as 1952, after which a number of aircraft were sold to the French Armee de l'Air for combat operations in Indo-China. Another 129 Bearcats were sold to the Thai Air Force.

 
 

 

   
 

First flown on 1 August 1941, the three-seat Grumman TBF-1 Avenger torpedo-bomber entered US Navy service just in time to participate in the Battle of Midway in June 1942. During its World War II lifespan, the Avenger design changed very little, and this allowed it to be built in huge quantities. Demand for the airplane was so great that the General Motors Company was also contracted to build it, under the designation TBM-1, beginning in September 1942.

 
 

 

   
  First flown on 1 August 1941, the three-seat Grumman TBF-1 Avenger torpedo-bomber entered US Navy service just in time to participate in the Battle of Midway in June 1942. During its World War II lifespan, the Avenger design changed very little, and this allowed it to be built in huge quantities. Demand for the airplane was so great that the General Motors Company was also contracted to build it, under the designation TBM-1, beginning in September 1942.

Over 1,000 TBF/TBMs (initially called Tarpon Mk I, and later designated Avenger Mk I) were also used by the Royal Navy and  the Royal New Zealand Air Force. The second major variant was the TBM-3, which featured strengthened wings to allow rockets and radar pods to be carried. A large percentage of the TBM-3s were delivered with their large dorsal turrets removed. The Avenger's torpedo-delivery capability had a huge impact on the Japanese fleet during the war, and its rugged simplicity made it highly resistant to enemy air defences.

Avengers took part in Operation Meridian, the Royal Navy's largest ever air raid when 140 aircraft from the four fleet carriers "Indomitable", "Illustrious", "Indefatigable" and "Victorious" attacked oil refineries at Palembang on the eastern side of Sumatra on 24 January 1945.  Diving from 9 000' to 3 000', each Avenger defied intense anti-aircraft fire and barrage balloons to release their four 500 lb bombs but all returned safely.

The TBM-3 modelled was based aboard the USS Yorktown, sunk at Midway.

 
 

 

   
 

Although the overall theme of this presentation was Grumman aircraft, I felt it just as important to put each of these in the correct geographic and historic context using landscape and other vehicles.

 
 

 

   
 

Although the overall theme of this presentation was Grumman aircraft, I felt it just as important to put each of these in the correct geographic and historic context using landscape and other vehicles. 

To begin with, the plain grass field diorama more often used with the Joint Harrier Strike Force had palm trees added along the back to supplement the deciduous species stuck down at either edge as much to keep perspex from falling inward on any models as to provide a scenic barrier. 

The smaller palm trees were by Plastruct and very kindly purchased in and brought back from Los Angeles by my friend Paul Elliot while the larger items were from the Pegasus injection moulded range, available in Britain but originating in Montclair, California.  The Pegasus palm tree set was provided with bases while the Plastruct had wire cores to their trunks and were designed to be let into holes drilled in to scenery.  As this was not an option on a multi-role diroama I covered their exposed ends with Plasticine which was then mounted on thick plastic card, painted brown and covered in grass flock powder. 

The Pegasus palm trees also had flexible trunks although the denser and heavier foliage meant that they still had a tendency to topple over and were thus given an additional wider plastic card sub-base - weighed down with Plasticine and similarly painted and grassed over - to help keep them upright.

The gapping of both types of palm tree along the back edge of the diorama was partly determined by the presence in one corner of the hut and shelter from the Airfix Jungle Outpost kit.  This includes mules and Japanese soldiers - saved for future use on other projects - but in this instance I just made use of the oil drums, packing cases and the woven rattan structures which seemed as appropriate to a tropical island as they would have been to a sweltering Burmese jungle.  The hut and shelter were both given an overall coat of matt black to begin with (and before the two roof sections went on the stilted hut) before I gave the exteriors a coat of wood brown and a dry brushing of green to represent growths of slightly rotten mould.

Had I been able to source a suitably scaled Stars and Stripes I could have added a flag pole to the hut and had my Revell US Marines run up the colours in the manner of Joe Rosenthal's famous picture of Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima but instead I put them to more practical purposes: unloading a tracked LVT4 while a wheeled DUKW also approached with more supplies offloaded from a ship moored in the atoll's lagoon. 

While the NCOs waving at each other from the packing cases and the balcony of the hut were as supplied in the box, the remaining leathernecks handled their loads much more easily when their guns had been removed with a sharp knife.

 
 

 

   
 

The LVT4 was a development of the LVT1 designed for the US Marine Corps in 1940 which in turn was based on the Alligator, designed by Donald Roebling in 1935 as a civilian rescue vehicle able to reach swampy areas inaccessible to both boats and cars.

 
 

 

   
  The LVT4 was a development of the LVT1 designed for the US Marine Corps in 1940 which in turn was based on the Alligator, designed by Donald Roebling in 1935 as a civilian rescue vehicle able to reach swampy areas inaccessible to both boats and cars. 

In 1937 an improved, faster version of the Alligator appeared in an article in "Life" magazine which caught the eye of USMC planners developing the amphibious warfare doctrines of Lt Col Earl Hancock "Pete" Ellis.  As a result, Donald Roebling was approached to design a more seaworthy machine ultimately known as the Landing Vehicle Tracked (LVT). 

The first 200 LVTs were built in Dunedin, Florida by Food Machinery Corporation (FMC) who had made some parts for the Alligators as well as insecticide spray pumps and other farm equipment.  Eventually FMC also made LVTs at Lakeland, Florida as well as Riverside and San Jose in California, but although the Riverside plant was erected by Roebling Construction the very patriotic Donald Roebling waived any other royalties for the use of his invention by the Allies.  However, FMC later evolved into United Defence, now a part of BAe Systems Land and Armaments.

The original LVT could carry 18 men or 4 500 lb of cargo ashore at 12 mph but its tracks and suspension  proved unreliable on hard ground.  Fitted with new torsilastic suspension however, the LVT2 with a power train taken from the Stuart light tank proved its worth at the battle of Tarawa in June 1942, delivering combat troops to beaches made inaccessible to boats by coral reefs. 

Nevertheless, only 35 of 125 LVTs fielded were serviceable at the end of the struggle and the need for armour and fire support in an opposed landing became apparent.  As a result the USMC added engines and turrets from Stuart light tanks to create the fire support (LVT(A)-1)  with a 37mm gun and Howitzer Motor Carriage (LVT(A)-4) amphibious fighting vehicles.  The latter's 75mm gun proved highly effective against Japanese fortifications although machine guns were later added to suppress infantry attacks to the open topped vehicle. 

Both "Amtanks" were used inland from the beaches in the Marianas campaigns although of the 18 621 LVTs were built during World War II the more lightly armoured LVT4, as depicted in the diorama model, was the most prolific with 8351 units delivered.  This version had the engine relocated to the front of the vehicle, allowing the rear to contain an open well - capable of holding up to 30 men or a light vehicle - behind a ramp for ease of exit.

Over 1 000 LVTs took part in the battle for Okinawa, by which time the LVT4 had been used by British, US and Canadian forces to cross such rivers as the Schelt, Rhine and Po in Europe.  The LVT4s supplied to the British army were known as Buffalos and used by the 79th Armoured Division were armed with a forward facing 20mm Polsten Cannon and 0.30 calibre Browning machine guns on either side.

Indeed, had Japan not surrendered in September 1945, the 79th Armoured Division's design of flame throwing "Sea Serpent" LVT would have been deployed in amphibious assaults on the home islands although the American built LVT-3 "Bushmaster" with rear ramp and engines in side sponsons was used in the Okinawa landings.

US supplied LVTs finally saw action with the French army in Indo China and during the 1956 Suez Crisis.

 
 

 

   
 

The DUKW meanwhile was essentially an amphibious version of the General Motors Corporation  2 1/2 ton 6 x 6 truck, the fuel tanker version of which was seen earlier in this article with the Grumman Hellcat.  Capable of carrying 25 troops, 12 loaded litters or 5 000 lb of cargo through moderate sea or surf at 6 knots, the DUKW could itself be carried on the davits or deck of a ship.

 
 

 

   
  The DUKW meanwhile was essentially an amphibious version of the General Motors Corporation  2 1/2 ton 6 x 6 truck, the fuel tanker version of which was seen earlier in this article with the Grumman Hellcat.  Capable of carrying 25 troops, 12 loaded litters or 5 000 lb of cargo through moderate sea or surf at 6 knots, the DUKW could itself be carried on the davits or deck of a ship. 

The first British use of the DUKW came during the invasion of Sicily when 230 amphibians of the Royal Army Service Corps companies attached to the 8th Army carried stores and anti-tank guns.  Later, the 50 mph DUKWs took part in landings at Salerno and Anzio as well as river crossings in Italy and Burma and were most famously used to unload ships moored in the Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches from June 1944 and take the supplies inland to Normandy and beyond.

DUKWs continue to operate in preservation and a number have been adapted for amphibious civilian tours of Liverpool and London.

 
 

 

   
 

EMBANKMENT NAVAL AIR STATION

 
 

 

   
 

For much of the Cold War period Grumman was one of the largest corporate employers on Long Island and its products were considered so reliable and ruggedly built that the company was often referred to as the "Grumman Iron Works".  As well as aircraft, fire trucks such as the model pictured above were manufactured from the 1970s to the 1990s after the acquisition of the Howe Fire Apparatus Company of Anderson, Indiana.

 
 

 

   
 

For much of the Cold War period Grumman was one of the largest corporate employers on Long Island and its products were considered so reliable and ruggedly built that the company was often referred to as the "Grumman Iron Works".  As well as aircraft, fire trucks such as the model pictured above were manufactured from the 1970s to the 1990s after the acquisition of the Howe Fire Apparatus Company of Anderson, Indiana.

As the company grew, it moved within New York state to Valley Stream, then Farmingdale and finally to Bethpage with the testing and final assembly at the 6,000-acre Naval Weapons Station in Calverton, all located on Long Island. At its peak in 1986 Grumman employed 23,000 people on Long Island and occupied 6,000,000 square feet in structures on 105 acres it leased from the U.S. Navy in Bethpage.

However, after the 1994 purchase of Grumman by Northrop for $ 2.1 billion ( bettering a $ 1.9 billion offer from Martin Marietta ) Northrop Grumman closed almost all of its facilities on Long Island with the Bethpage plant being converted to a residential and office complex (with its headquarters at 1111 Stewart Avenue becoming the corporate headquarters for Cablevision and the Calverton plant being turned into an airport that is being developed by Riverhead, New York. A portion of the airport property has been used for the Grumman Memorial Park. Northrop Grumman's remaining business at the Bethpage campus is the Battle Management and Engagement Systems Division, which employs around 2,000 people.

 
 

 

   
 

 The fictional Embankment Naval Air Station presented in this diorama however was further north alongside the Boston & Maine Railroad, which operated in all the New England states except Rhode Island after its foundation in 1833.  The Boston & Maine Railroad also once owned the World's largest fleet of Budd rail diesel cars but was declared bankrupt in 1970.

 
 

 

   
 

The fictional Embankment Naval Air Station presented in this diorama however was further north alongside the Boston & Maine Railroad, which operated in all the New England states except Rhode Island after its foundation in 1833.  The Boston & Maine Railroad also once owned the World's largest fleet of Budd rail diesel cars but was declared bankrupt in 1970.

Switcher 114 was a 44 ton General Electric Bo-Bo built in July 1941 with the works number 13092 and sold for spare parts to Narragansett Pier in September 1971.  Introduced in 1940 and in production until 1956, the 44 ton 1 200 bhp design was devised to get round trade union demands that heavier locomotives should still have a fireman as well as an engineer.  348 examples of this locomotive were built as well as a 45 ton military variant with lowered cab for the European loading gauge and air compressors relocated to running board boxes.

 
 

 

   
 

Approaching from the other direction was Southern Pacific Railroad liveried Alco S-2 # 69.  Introduced in 1940 to replace the American Locomotive Company's earlier high-hood switchers, the 1 000 bhp S2 was a turbocharged version of the S1 and 1 502 Alco S2s were sold to North American railroads.  As built, the S1/S2 locomotives were distinguished by Blunt trucks while the later S3/4 featured AAR style trucks. The equivalent of the British Railways Class 20, the Alco S2 design was both popular and versatile, explaining its presence (supposedly) on hire to the Boston and Maine Railroad and a long way from its more usual routes in Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. 

 
 

 

   
 

Approaching from the other direction was Southern Pacific Railroad liveried Alco S-2 # 69.  Introduced in 1940 to replace the American Locomotive Company's earlier high-hood switchers, the 1 000 bhp S2 was a turbocharged version of the S1 and 1 502 Alco S2s were sold to North American railroads.  As built, the S1/S2 locomotives were distinguished by Blunt trucks while the later S3/4 featured AAR style trucks. The equivalent of the British Railways Class 20, the Alco S2 design was both popular and versatile, explaining its presence (supposedly) on hire to the Boston and Maine Railroad and a long way from its more usual routes in Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. 

 
 

 

   
 

The Central Vermont Railroad operates between New London, Connecticut and points in northern Vermont and New York State and opened between Windsor and Burlington, Vermont in 1849.  It also cooperates with the Boston & Maine Railroad to run fast freight trains between New Haven, Connecticut and St Albans, Vermont.  The Green Mountain Route is a reference both to Vermont's landscape and the Green Mountain Boys - led by Ethan Allen and his family - who resisted attempts in the 1760s by the then British province of New York to control their land.  Vermont became a republic in 1777 and joined the United States in 1791 with the term Green Mountain Boys most recently being applied to the Vermont National Guard.

 
   

 

 

 
 

The Central Vermont Railroad operates between New London, Connecticut and points in northern Vermont and New York State and opened between Windsor and Burlington, Vermont in 1849.  It also cooperates with the Boston & Maine Railroad to run fast freight trains between New Haven, Connecticut and St Albans, Vermont.  The Green Mountain Route is a reference both to Vermont's landscape and the Green Mountain Boys - led by Ethan Allen and his family - who resisted attempts in the 1760s by the then British province of New York to control their land.  Vermont became a republic in 1777 and joined the United States in 1791 with the term Green Mountain Boys most recently being applied to the Vermont National Guard.

The New York Central Railroad was formed in 1853 from ten smaller railroads and was known from 1869 to 1914 as the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad after merging with a line owned by Cornelius Vanderbilt.  Famous for operating the Twentieth Century Limited luxury express from Grand Central station in New York City along the Water Level Route of the Hudson and Mohawk valleys to Buffalo and Chicago, the New York Central Railroad declined after World War II and merged with its rival, the Pennsylvania Railroad, in 1968.  However, the resulting Penn Central was declared bankrupt in 1970 and became part of Conrail in 1976

 
 

 

   
 

Following the success of the straight winged Panther - first flown on 21 November 1947 and reaching an F9F-5 variant - the 35 degree swept wing F9F-6 Cougar first flew on 20 September 1951. In all 1 985 F9F-6 to F9F-8 Cougars served with the US Navy until 1960 with the first examples delivered to VF-32 in Korea in November 1951, a year after the debut of the MiG-15 which had prompted fresh interest in swept wing fighters despite their low speed handling issues.

 
 

 

   
 

Following the success of the straight winged Panther - first flown on 21 November 1947 and reaching an F9F-5 variant - the 35 degree swept wing F9F-6 Cougar first flew on 20 September 1951. In all 1 985 F9F-6 to F9F-8 Cougars served with the US Navy until 1960 with the first examples delivered to VF-32 in Korea in November 1951, a year after the debut of the MiG-15 which had prompted fresh interest in swept wing fighters despite their low speed handling issues. 

Although having improved control surfaces to remedy these faults, lack of wingtip tanks reduced the Cougar's internal fuel capacity, which was supplemented by under wing drop tanks and in some later cases by flight refuelling probes.

138891 was a Grumman F9F-8 Cougar which served with VA-113, CVG-11 aboard the USS Essex (CVA-9) during which time it was fitted with a "dishpan" under-nose faring for the ARA-25 UHF-DF antenna. 

 
 

 

   
 

Sixty examples of the F9F-6P reconnaissance Cougar were built with cameras replacing four 20mm canon  while many earlier airframes were upgraded to the standard of new build F9F-8 fighters.

 
 

 

   
 

Sixty examples of the F9F-6P reconnaissance Cougar were built with cameras replacing four 20mm canon  while many earlier airframes were upgraded to the standard of new build F9F-8 fighters. 

These featured an 8" fuselage stretch and new wings for better low speed flying and fuel capacity with late production models also being able to carry four AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and even nuclear bombs.  The UHF homing antenna under the nose was however retained.

A total of 110 F9F-8Ps were also produced with an extensively modified nose carrying cameras. They were withdrawn after 1960 to reserve squadrons. In 1962, surviving F9F-6P and F9F-8P aircraft were re-designated RF-9F and RF-9J respectively.

F9F-8s were withdrawn from front line service in 1958-9 and replaced by Grumman F11F Tigers and Vought F8U Crusaders although reserve squadrons continued using Cougars in the 1960s and training versions did not bow out until 1974.

Partly responsible for the design of the Cougar, earlier Panther and the Grumman Tiger of 1954 was Massachusetts born Joseph Gleason "John" Gavin Junior who had gained a masters degree in aero engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1942 before joining the US Navy to work on its earliest jet engines.  Inspired by America's pioneering aviators - and once having travelled to Vermont just to see Charles Lindbergh land - John Gavin became Grumman's Chief Missile and Space Engineer in 1957.

 
 

 

   
 

Introduced in 1963 the twin engined A-6 Intruder was designed as a replacement for the single piston-engined Douglas A-1 Skyraider .  More capable than any preceding US Navy or Marine Corps attack aircraft, it could deliver all available air-to-ground weapons and also defend itself with the AIM-9L/M Sidewinder air-to-air missile.  Like the Royal Navy's equivalent Blackburn Buccaneer, the A-6 had all weather capability at long range.

 
 

 

   
 

Introduced in 1963 the twin engined A-6 Intruder was designed as a replacement for the single piston-engined Douglas A-1 Skyraider .  More capable than any preceding US Navy or Marine Corps attack aircraft, it could deliver all available air-to-ground weapons and also defend itself with the AIM-9L/M Sidewinder air-to-air missile.  Like the Royal Navy's equivalent Blackburn Buccaneer, the A-6 had all weather capability at long range.

A total of 693 production A-6s were built and over the 34 years until retirement in 1997 the Intruder served with 17 U.S. Navy and 7 U.S. Marine Corps squadrons, some aircraft being fitted with composite wings to extend their fatigue life. The Intruder was replaced at some reduction in combat radius by the multirole McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet and fighter-bomber adaptations of Grumman's own F-14 Tomcat.

158531 was an A-6E issued brand new to VA-65 "Tiger" Squadron in August 1972, replacing older A-6A models as part of Carrier Air Wing 7 aboard CVA-62 USS Independence.

 
 

 

   
 

160432 made its final landing as recently as 10 June  2011 as the oldest combat jet owned by the USMC and is modelled in the markings of its entry into service on 17 February 1977 with VMAQ-2 "The Playboys", so called because the squadron was formed at the same time as Mr Hefner's periodical in 1955.  Since then, 160432 has served all over the World including the Persian Gulf, Bosnia and Afghanistan.

 
 

 

   
 

The A-6 Intruder  was also the basis for two electronic warfare versions, the two-seat EA-6A and the EA-6B Prowler, introduced in 1971 with seats for a pilot and three electronic countermeasures officers. The Prowler carried up to five AN/ALQ-99 pods, each with two transmitters for jamming enemy radar systems, and could also gather radio intelligence on other enemy defence systems as well as firing anti-radiation missiles.

With the retirement of the USAF's EF-111 Raven in 1998, the EA-6B was the only dedicated electronic warfare aircraft available to US Forces until replaced by the McDonnell Douglas EA-18G Growler in 2009.

160432 made its final landing as recently as 10 June  2011 as the oldest combat jet owned by the USMC and is modelled in the markings of its entry into service on 17 February 1977 with VMAQ-2 "The Playboys", so called because the squadron was formed at the same time as Mr Hefner's periodical in 1955.  Since then, 160432 has served all over the World including the Persian Gulf, Bosnia and Afghanistan.

 
 

 

   
 

First flown in December 1970, the F-14 Tomcat entered service in 1973, replacing the similarly supersonic two seat McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II as the US Navy's air superiority and precision strike fighter.  However, as a variable geometry aircraft, it had the advantage of relatively slow approaches to landing on aircraft carriers with its wings swept fully forward.

 
 

 

   
  First flown in December 1970, the F-14 Tomcat entered service in 1973, specifically countering the threat of the Soviet Tupolev Tu-22M "Backfire" martime bomber to the carrier fleet and replacing the similarly supersonic two seat McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II as the US Navy's air superiority and precision strike fighter.

However, as a variable geometry aircraft, it had the advantage of relatively slow approaches to landing on aircraft carriers with its wings swept fully forward, and was faster than the Phantom with more sophisticated AWG-9 radar, target management avionics and weapons.  As many as six AIM-54 Hughes Phoenix long range air-to-air missiles could be carried with six different targets being acquired and identified at once: the first time that such capability had been available in a fighter aircraft.  The key to the success of this system was that the AIM-54 had a fire-and forget capability due to its own onboard radar which left the Tomcat's AWG-9 system free to track more targets or offer target illumination to the shorter range AIM-7 Sparrow air-to-air missile fitted with a semi-active homing seeker.

 
 

 

   
 

As well as Phoenix, Sparrow and Sidewinder missiles , the F-14 was armed with an M-61 gun for air-to-air combat and used the LANTIRN system to deliver laser guided bombs.  Alternatively, missions could be flown with the Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod System

 
 

 

   
 

In the picture above, a half-ton Hughes Phoenix is visible under the fuselage with shorter range and AIM-7 Sparrow and heat seeking Sidewinder air-to-air missiles under the wing.

As well as Phoenix, Sparrow and Sidewinder missiles , the F-14 was armed with a 20mm Vulcan M-61 gun for air-to-air combat.  Alternatively, missions could be flown with the Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod System

Grumman F-14 Tomcats are perhaps most famous for their starring role in the 1986 Tom Cruise film "Top Gun", based on the work of the US Navy Fighter Weapons School at Miramar, California.

Top Gun was set up in 1969 to stem the losses of McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom IIs over Vietnam to single engined MiG-21s and its syllabus of air combat manoeuvring skills owed much to both the Royal Navy's Air Warfare Instructor's School at Lossiemouth in Scotland and more specifically to its exchange graduate Richard Stanley Lord RN, later a Brigadier General in the South African Air Force, who always used the radio call sign "Brit 1".  Soon after Top Gun was established, a Phantom flown by one of its students shot down a MiG-21, the first time a US Navy aircraft had succeeded in aerial combat in two years.

The F-14B, introduced in November 1987, incorporated new General Electric F-110 engines and from 1995 an upgrade program incorporated new digital avionics and weapon system improvements.

The F-14D, delivered in 1990, was a major upgrade with F-110 engines, new APG-71 radar system, Airborne Self Protection Jammer (ASPJ), Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS) and Infrared Search and Track (IRST). Additionally, all F-14 variants were given night vision compatibility, new defensive countermeasures systems and a new digital flight control system.

As such, the F-14 - larger and more expensive than the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet introduced in 1983 - was to take on a much broader range of roles before retirement from service in 2006.  The combination of Martin Marietta LANTIRN (Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infra-Red for Night) and GPS equipment in one underwing store turned the Tomcat into an all-weather precision bomber which delivered laser guided munitions in the Balkans from 1995 and later as part of Operation Desert Fox over Iraq.

F-14A Tomcat  161621 is represented in this Century Wings die cast model in the markings of VF-111 "The Sundowners" aboard CVN-70 USS Carl Vinson in 1988.  VF-111 were to continue as an F-14 unit until disbandment in 1995.

 
 
 

 

 
 

GRUMMAN ON THE MOON

 
 

 

   
 

The six Grumman Lunar Modules - originally termed Lunar Excursion Modules by NASA and often referred to as LEMs - that they used were all slightly different from each other and so the left hand side of my lunar diorama was an attempt to portray the typical equipment of an early Apollo (H-Class) Moon landing rather than replicate a specific mission down to the last footprint in the dust.

 
 

 

   
 

The idea of visiting Earth's satellite inspired storytellers and visionaries for millennia but was only achieved by twelve American astronauts between 1969 and 1972. 

The six Grumman Lunar Modules - originally termed Lunar Excursion Modules by NASA and often referred to as LEMs - that they used were all slightly different from each other and so the left hand side of my lunar diorama was an attempt to portray the typical equipment of an early Apollo (H-Class) Moon landing rather than replicate a specific mission down to the last footprint in the dust.

The LEM, astronauts, flag, S-band antenna dish (used from Apollo 12 onwards) and three stand-alone lunar surface experiments (out of many more actually deployed around a central station powered by a radioactive cylinder, not included)  were all supplied as part of a 2009 Airfix set with the overall title "One Small Step For Man.."

This included a very impressive history on the instruction sheet and a painting guide which reflected the thin silver, gold and aluminium foil used to control the temperature of the flying LEMs and protect them from micro meteorites - as opposed to the simpler black and white scheme of early mock-ups which the first-issued Airfix Lunar Module kits recommended as accurate.

 "One Small Step For Man.." also included astronauts with wheeled rovers and one and two seat flying machines and a rectangular representation of the lunar surface. 

Although this was a vast improvement on the small injection moulded circle of "Moon" originally supplied with the 1970 vintage 1/72 scale Airfix LEM, I found that the four (aptly enough!) vacuum formed landing pad depressions did not quite line up with the descent stage and so some other lunar features were improvised to represent a level, if risky landing. 

In fact, due to problems with the radar altimeter on Apollo 11's LEM, Neil Armstrong had to land some distance from his intended spot and with only 30 seconds of fuel to spare.  Although designated as Lunar Module Pilot (LMP), Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin's role on Apollo 11 was that of an engineering officer for all the modules involved.  However like all LMPs he had the skills to return the Lunar Module to orbit around the Moon had his Commander been incapacitated.

Indeed, had "Eagle" come to rest at more than 12 degrees from horizontal, both Neil and Buzz would have been unable to rendezvous with the orbiting Command and Service Modules and been doomed to die on the Moon: an eventuality for which US President Richard Nixon had prepared a special speech.

Similarly, although Charles "Pete" Conrad Jr was able to put Apollo 12's LEM "Intrepid" down on the Ocean of Storms just 600 feet from the unmanned Surveyor 3 spacecraft - which had made its own automatic landing in April 1967 -  the spot designated "Pete's parking lot" had been avoided at the last minute as being too rough.  Unfortunately this had been selected as far enough away for the LEM descent engine not to blow dust all over Surveyor 3, which ended up coloured beige rather than white!

Before the soft landing of the Surveyors on the Moon in the mid 1960s some scientists believed that the lunar surface was covered in a layer of dust so thick that a spacecraft might disappear into it.  Other experts meanwhile predicted pot holes, boulders or even a glass like slippery surface.  As a result, John Gavin and his team developed a computer programme allied to a quarter scale model lunar lander and evaluated 400 possible landing surfaces.

As history records however, the lunar seas were only covered with enough thickness of dust to support a boot print and talcum powder blown and brushed away from under the Airfix LEM descent engine bell was used to represent a slightly hesitant landing made on terrain rougher than expected.

Blending these additional terrain features into the existing vacuum formed moonscape with spray paint also led to the formation of some features akin to lava flows.  However, although the lunar "maria" have traditionally been ascribed to outpourings of magma from the core of the young Moon, more recent research has uncovered the reason why there are no active lunar volcanoes despite the frequent "Moonquakes" detected by instruments left by the Apollo astronauts.  Put simply, titanium rich rocks carried to the core from the surface during the Moon's turbulent early geological periods - as replicated by Dutch and Scottish scientists using electric currents and a press - made the reserves of liquid magma at the centre of the celestial body too dense to reach the surface.

Furthermore Apollo 15's LEM "Falcon" came to rest on the plain between the Lunar Appenines and Hadley Rille at an 11 degree angle due to one foot being in a depression.  However, what David R. Scott and James B. Irwin described as their "Portable Leaning Tower of Pisa" was able to deploy the first manned Lunar Rover and then have the ascent stage blast off to join the Command Module "Endeavour" in orbit for the journey home, having landed with more than 100 seconds of hover time fuel remaining in the Descent Stage tanks.

Having outlasted its usefulness, the ascent stage of each Grumman Lunar Module would have been jettisoned either to crash into the Moon or orbit the Sun.

 
 

 

   
 

In all cases, the legs of the descent stage of the Grumman Lunar Module began their journey to the Moon folded to fit inside the third stage casing of the Apollo Saturn V launch vehicle underneath the combined Command and Service Modules (CSM).  After Trans Lunar Injection, the CSM would separate from the Saturn V Third Stage, turn round and dock with the LM, using its small thruster rockets to separate all three Modules from the last part of the launch vehicle.  Once in Lunar orbit, explosive bolts could then be actuated to spring the LM legs into landing configuration and lock them in to place.

 
 

 

   
 

In all cases, the legs of the descent stage of the Grumman Lunar Module began their journey to the Moon folded to fit inside the third stage casing of the Apollo Saturn V launch vehicle underneath the combined Command and Service Modules (CSM).  After Trans Lunar Injection, the CSM would separate from the Saturn V Third Stage, turn round and dock with the LM, using its small thruster rockets to separate all three Modules from the last part of the launch vehicle.  Once in Lunar orbit, explosive bolts could then be actuated to spring the LM legs into landing configuration and lock them in to place.

To illustrate this stage of the mission, I added a Micro Machines CSM/LM combination to one upper wall of the diorama using superglue to adhere the Service Module rocket engine bell.  Although small and relatively crude compared to the 1/72 scale Dragon Wings die cast equivalent released in 2011, this model fitted the box without dominating the scene and was much less expensive!

One detail missing from most model depictions of a complete LM in flight however are the three foot long probes extending from three of the landing pads.  These cut the descent engine on contact with the lunar surface, thus committing the pilot to landing.  Any manoeuvres to avoid rough ground would therefore have to be carried out relatively high above the Moon and with the engine blowing dust over the terrain.

 
 

 

   
 

Touchdown techniques and opportunities aside however, Project Apollo was able to send back to Earth a rich legacy of samples and images, not least those from later, more ambitious Moon walks and drives showing the LEM small and glittering against the endless black of space and the rolling lunar hills with their shades of brown and grey seen close up through a vacuum rather than distantly refracted through the atmosphere of Earth.

 
 

 

   
 

Touchdown techniques and opportunities aside however, Project Apollo was able to send back to Earth a rich legacy of samples and images, not least those from later, more ambitious Moon walks and drives showing the LEM small and glittering against the endless black of space and the rolling lunar hills with their shades of brown and grey seen close up through a vacuum rather than distantly refracted through the atmosphere of Earth.

It was this sense of what Apollo 11 Lunar Module pilot Buzz Aldrin called "magnificent desolation" that I wanted to replicate in a diorama rather than just displaying a Lunar Module as the literal height of Grumman's achievement. 

Indeed, as can be seen in this website's Cosmic Heroes article on the pioneering years of manned spaceflight, I had already made one attempt to model the Moon using the Airfix Lunar Module but to appreciate Grumman's achievement in building Planet Earth's first true space ship - that could only operate in a vacuum - it is worth considering its planned antecedents and considering the question "Why go to the Moon?".

For Oliver Cromwell's brother in law Bishop John Wilkins the Earth's satellite was a possible trading partner as he described in his "Discourse Concerning a New World and Another Planet" of 1638.

Wilkins, who experimented with flying machines in the gardens of Wadham College, Oxford around 1654, was convinced the Moon was inhabited by a race known as the Selenites and planned to reach them in a wooden chariot powered by springs, gunpowder and feathered wings - just as Drake and Raleigh had set out across uncharted oceans a century earlier. Sadly for the inventor of the airgun, mileage recorder and prototype pneumatic tyre, the next 30 years saw the discovery of vacuum and other phenomenon which would make such a journey impossible with the technology of the time.

Indeed, intelligent Selenites also featured in H.G. Well's 1901 novel "The First Men in the Moon", their civilization being discovered by both a curious scientist and a businessman eager to make money on Earth from abundant Lunar gold.  Cavor and Bedford's spacecraft was powered by gravity-defying Cavorite, a fictional material despite Wells reading a serious research paper by John Henry Poynting into the subject which was published in "Nature" in 1900.

French science fiction writer Jules Verne meanwhile came a little closer to the eventual reality of Project Apollo.  In his novels "From the Earth to the Moon" and "Around the Moon", written just after the American Civil War, three astronauts are launched toward the Moon in a vehicle fired from a giant cannon named Columbiad located at Stone's Hill in Florida.  Their journey took five days, during which time the men encountered weightlessness, and due to a close encounter with the gravity field of an asteroid they did not land on the Moon but viewed its barren surface with opera glasses before passing into the cold and darkness of the far side.  Finding themselves drifting back towards Earth - on what would later be called a Free Return Trajectory - the crew of two Americans and a Frenchman then tried to regain the Moon by firing the rockets that they had planned to use to cushion their vertical tail-first landing.  However, this rocket burn has the opposite effect and the projectile fell back to Earth like a bright star, landing in the Pacific Ocean where the crew miraculously survived and are were picked up by the crew of a ship.

As it turned out, Stone's Hill is relatively close to Cape Canaveral and the Apollo 11 Command Module - named "Columbia" - took three days to reach the Moon, which it then orbited just as Apollo 8 had done a few months earlier. In 1970, Apollo 13 used its LEM descent engine for course correction during a perilous return to Earth and all Apollo Command Modules splashed down in the Pacific, albeit having deployed parachutes to slow their descent!

Despite being impractical for manned use due to the lethal acceleration of the projectile, a Columbiad style space cannon even appeared as late as 1936 in the H.G. Wells inspired film "Things to Come", which ended with a meditation on the nature of human progress and the quest for knowledge following another attempt to reach the Moon.

"And if we’re no more than animals, we must snatch each little scrap of happiness, and live, and suffer, and pass, mattering no more than all the other animals do or have done. It is this, or that. All the universe or nothing. Which shall it be?" 

Or as David Scott of Apollo 15 said on the edge of Hadley Rille:

"I realise that there's a fundamental truth to our nature: man must explore."

These words were a definite development on "Because it's there" - the reason George Mallory gave for wanting to climb Mount Everest in 1924 - and also on the We-do-it-because-we-can attitude of Jules Verne's Moon voyagers. But H.G. Wells had also foreseen a second World War and from this came both technological and political developments which would ultimately make Moon landings a reality.

 
 

 

   
 

Thanks to the theoretical work of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935) - who first conceived of multi-stage rockets, space stations and air locks among other ideas - and the practical invention of the liquid fuelled rocket motor by American Robert H. Goddard in 1926, the components of prospective space travel were already in place by 1944 when the first Nazi V-2 rocket bombs began to fall on England.

 
 

 

   
  Thanks to the theoretical work of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935) - who first conceived of multi-stage rockets, space stations and air locks among other ideas - and the practical invention of the liquid fuelled rocket motor by American Robert H. Goddard in 1926, the components of prospective space travel were already in place by 1944 when the first Nazi V-2 rocket bombs began to fall on England.

A year later - with both the USSR and USA eagerly collecting German rocket scientists and technology for their own research programmes - the first atomic bombs were detonated and by 1950 the two ideologically motivated superpowers had settled into Cold War: both restrained by mutually assured destruction through stockpiles of nuclear weapons yet eager to steal a march on each other wherever possible.

In this context, both the Moon - and space in general - was seen as the new high ground and spaceships an extension of the air power used to devastating effect during World War II.  Both USA and USSR built nuclear armed intercontinental missiles derived from the German V2 and - although ultimately outlawed by international treaty - a satellite appeared as the ultimate strategic bomber, able to visit destruction anywhere on Earth.

The effect of the revelation of Sputnik 1 in 1957 on America is more fully explored in Cosmic Heroes but seven years earlier the George Pal film "Destination Moon" included the political and technical developments of the time in making a surprisingly accurate forecast of a Lunar landing.

The Technicolor feature portrayed four astronauts blasting off from New Mexico (then real-life  home of the  White Sands missile proving ground) in a V-2 shaped rocket powered by a nuclear engine and landing on its finned tail.  Like the Columbiad cannon imagined by Jules Verne, this space ship was privately built - this time by the combined efforts of the American aircraft industry, experiencing something of a renaissance due to the Korean War - and the astronauts claimed the Moon for the USA - an appropriation later also made illegal by international treaty.  Indeed, it was only at the last minute before the launch of Apollo XI that the US government insisted that Armstrong and Aldrin plant the Stars and Stripes in the dust of the Moon rather than the light blue flag of the United Nations as proposed by NASA.

In its plot twist of the engine using more fuel than expected and the ship having to be lightened to return to Earth, "Destination Moon" paid homage to Fritz Lang's 1929 feature "Woman in the Moon" which also introduced the concept of multi-stage rockets and a countdown to cinema audiences.  "Woman in the Moon" itself looked back to H.G. Well's novel "The First Men in the Moon" as the German crew voyaged in search of gold - while in "Destination Moon" the American astronauts discover uranium. 

In both cases however the landing vehicles were streamlined - due to having to negotiate the Earth's atmosphere - and left the Moon complete with the implied possibility of a future mission.

 
 

 

   
 

Even if Project A119 had succeeded however, it would have prejudiced any scientific study of the Moon's natural radiation and also interfered with Lunex, another US Air Force project of 1958, which envisaged sending a three man spacecraft (pictured above) directly from Earth to the Moon in 1967 prior to the construction of a 21 man permanent base there.

 
 

 

   
  More practical evidence for the militarisation of the Moon came with a number of proposals around the time that America's National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) became operational 1 October 1958, co-ordinating efforts to launch Explorer and Vanguard satellites that had previously been led by the US Army and Navy.

In May 1958 the US Air Force sponsored a study into the possibility of detonating a small atomic bomb on the Moon so that the explosion and dust cloud would be visible from Earth.  This was in response to a widely publicised - and partly true - rumour that the USSR was planning to do the same thing to commemorate the 40th anniversary of its October Revolution.  However, Project A119 - as it was known - was cancelled in January 1959 due to worries about the reliability of the launch vehicle, World opinion rather than just American morale and the risk that the missile could miss the Moon and fall back uncontrolled to Earth.

Even if Project A119 had succeeded however, it would have prejudiced any scientific study of the Moon's natural radiation and also interfered with Lunex, another US Air Force project of 1958, which envisaged sending a three man spacecraft (pictured above) directly from Earth to the Moon in 1967 prior to the construction of a 21 man permanent base there.

Interestingly, although drawings show a blended wing crew return vehicle not totally unlike the Space Shuttle orbiter of the 1980s, the whole assembly landing on the Moon would have made first contact with a descent stage fitted with four landing pads which would in turn have provided a firing base for an ascent stage to propel the aerodynamic "lifting body" off the Lunar surface and towards Earth.

Even allowing for the two lowest stages of the vehicle to be sacrificed in order to return the crew to an aircraft-style landing on Earth however, the Lunex lander would have been heavier - and thus required a more powerful rocket to launch from Earth - than the eventual Apollo approach of just putting  manned descent and ascent stages on the Moon and leaving the crew return portion in Lunar orbit: albeit for potentially more difficult separation and docking manoeuvres.

The Lunex planners also identified the problem of an aerodynamic crew return vehicle either burning up on re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere or skipping off it - a problem solved by heat resistant tiles on the Space Shuttle and variable geometry wings on Scaled Composites SpaceShipOne - and more immediately the unknown challenges of making a rocket-cushioned tail-first landing and then launching a spacecraft off the Moon with no external back up.

Meanwhile, on 8 June 1959, the Army Ballistic Missile Agency presented the US Department of the Army a report entitled "Project Horizon, A U.S. Army Study for the Establishment of a Lunar Military Outpost" stating:

"The lunar outpost is required to develop and protect potential United States interests on the moon; to develop techniques in moon-based surveillance of the earth and space, in communications relay, and in operations on the surface of the moon; to serve as a base for exploration of the moon, for further exploration into space and for military operations on the moon if required; and to support scientific investigations on the moon."

Project Horizon envisioned a first lunar landing by two soldier astronauts in April 1965 with a twelve soldier base - complete with Davy Crockett missiles and Claymore mines to deter an overland Soviet attack - operational in December 1966. 

Before the actual landing however, 147 Saturn 1 rockets would have contributed to the construction of a space station in Earth orbit, near which a lunar shuttle craft would also be built from components flown up from Earth.  The 16 seat shuttle craft would then move back and forth to the Lunar surface as required - sacrificing a descent stage each time - with separate vehicles connecting the low Earth orbit space station with Earth itself - much as was to be depicted in Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film "2001: A Space Odyssey" and had already been suggested earlier in the 1950s by Wernher von Braun in a series of articles published in "Collier's" magazine. 

Incidentally, the Project Horizon space station and Moon base would have been constructed from used cylindrical fuel tanks much as the NASA Skylab of the 1970s was converted from the second stage of a Saturn V rocket.

 
 

 

   
 

Although neither Projects Lunex or Horizon progressed beyond the feasibility study stage, their respective Direct Ascent and Earth Orbit Rendezvous formats were considered by NASA for Project Apollo as a follow up to Project Mercury, which competed with the Soviet Vostock missions in placing a single astronaut at a time in low Earth orbit.

 
 

 

   
  Although neither Projects Lunex or Horizon progressed beyond the feasibility study stage, their respective Direct Ascent and Earth Orbit Rendezvous formats were considered by NASA for Project Apollo as a follow up to Project Mercury, which competed with the Soviet Vostock missions in placing a single astronaut at a time in low Earth orbit.

In fact the name Apollo - originally the Greek god of light, music and the Sun - was chosen by NASA manager Abe Silverstein as early as 1960: before either Yuri Gagarin or Alan Shepherd had flown in space or President John F. Kennedy declared America's intention of putting a man on the Moon by the end of the decade.  After reading a book on mythology, Silverman thought that the image of Apollo riding his chariot across the Sun was appropriate to the grand scale of the proposed program.

Also considered was the concept of Lunar Surface Rendezvous, in which an automated craft laden with propellant would land on the Moon first to refuel a manned vehicle arriving either from Earth orbit or directly from Earth itself. 

This idea of supplies being provided ahead of a manned landing has also been suggested as one component of a mission to Mars while in 1962 a symposium of the Institute of Aerospace Sciences did briefly think about a shelter full of food and oxygen being sent ahead of a one-man one-way mission to the Moon.  This would have enabled the United States to rapidly claim the glory of beating the Russians to the lunar surface and kept the astronaut in question alive until he could be rescued by a more technically complex Apollo mission.  The idea was not considered for long, but it did provide the basis for the novel "The Pilgrim Project" by Hank Searls which was filmed by Robert Altman in 1968 as "Countdown" with James Caan in the leading role.

On 11 June 1962 however, the eventual Lunar Orbital Rendezvous (LOR) format - first suggested by the British Interplanetary Society in 1939 - was chosen and definitive work on both the Saturn V launch vehicle and the Lunar Excursion Module could begin.  By this time though, the Command and Service Modules had already been planned with other mission formats in mind, causing the Service Module main engine to be made powerful enough to lift the combined CSM off the Moon and heavier than was ultimately needed.

The LOR format was also selected by the USSR for its attempts to land just one cosmonaut on the Moon's surface using the N-1 booster, on which work was finally abandoned in the 1970s after a series of test launches ended with mid-air explosions.

 
 

 

   
 

Similarly, the Ascent Stage developed from a pure cone shape to something akin to a helicopter cockpit - pictured above - with seats, large windows for the best view of the lunar surface and a second docking port so that the crew could actively dock with the CSM.  However, seats were deleted and the second docking port replaced by a simple hatch to save weight, making the two crew stand up for LOR while the CSM pilot had full responsibility for docking.  Similarly, two small triangular windows replaced the Westland Dragonfly type glazing and batteries rather than CSM type fuel cells provided electrical power.

 
 

 

   
 

 

The Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation was chosen to build the Apollo Lunar Module in November 1962 ahead of eight other American firms which had submitted a 60 page proposal to NASA.  Main sub contractors for the project were further identified as Bell Aerosystems for the ascent engine, Hamilton Standard for environmental controls, Marquardt for the reaction control system and Rocketdyne for the descent engine. 

However, the latter was dropped in 1965 in favour of a hypergolic engine (using chemical propellants which would react to provide thrust without the presence of oxygen) developed by Space Technology Laboratories (TRW).  Bell Aerosystems also designed and built five Lunar Landing Research and Training Vehicle, somewhat similar to the British "Flying Bedstead" of the 1950s but with one gimbal mounted vertical jet engine capable of supporting 5/6 of the weight of the craft and hydrogen peroxide thrusters to represent attitude control.  Of these unstable vehicles three crashed although thanks to rocket powered ejection seats all of the pilots - including Neil Armstrong - survived.

Grumman project leaders Thomas J. Kelly and John Gavin meanwhile were faced with the challenge of making their Lunar Module sufficiently light yet practical and reliable and as such four landing legs were specified as being a compromise between the lightweight minimum of three and the most stable yet heavy and complicated approach of five.

Similarly, the Ascent Stage developed from a pure cone shape to something akin to a helicopter cockpit - pictured above - with seats, large windows for the best view of the lunar surface and a second docking port so that the crew could actively dock with the CSM.  However, seats were deleted and the second docking port replaced by a simple hatch to save weight, making the two crew stand up for LOR while the CSM pilot had full responsibility for docking.  In the same way, two small triangular windows replaced the Westland Dragonfly type glazing and batteries rather than CSM type fuel cells provided electrical power.

This minimalist design philosophy thus makes an interesting comparison with the two-person lander proposed by the American Golden Spike Company in 2012 and designed by Northrop Grumman which has an offset transparent ball-type crew compartment and four landing legs.

 
 

 

   
 

This minimalist design philosophy thus makes an interesting comparison with the two-person lander proposed by the American Golden Spike Company in 2012 and designed by Northrop Grumman which has an offset transparent ball-type crew compartment and four landing legs.

 
 

 

   
 

Although the Grumman Lunar Module was to become the most reliable craft of the Apollo program, development delays and the resolution of 14 000 design imperfections initially held back the progress of the whole US Moon effort with Apollo 5, the first unmanned flight of LM-1 in Earth orbit, being planned for April 1967 not lifting off aboard a Saturn 1B until 22 January 1968.

A second unmanned test flight  - of LM-2 - was originally planned but cancelled as unnecessary and LM-3 not being ready by December 1968 prompted NASA to send Apollo 8 around the Moon boosted by a Saturn V rocket as much as any rumours of a similar Soviet mission.

The first manned Lunar Module flight was therefore Apollo 9 on 3 March 1969.  However, as was the case with LM-4, carried to the Moon on Apollo 10, the ascent stage of LM-3 would have been too heavy to lift off from the lunar surface.  For this reason both Apollos 9 and 10 were incremental test flights, LM-4 being short-fuelled to save weight during a lunar orbital flight separated from the CSM.

In fact LM-5 "Eagle" was only delivered to NASA just in time for the planned launch date of Apollo 11 and although sufficiently light for the landing mission was non-standard to LMs 6 to 9.  Due to this, and the unique deployment of the more easily set up Early Apollo Surface Experiments Package (EASEP) rather than the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) of Apollos 12-17, Apollo 11 is considered as a G-Class mission rather than the H-Class of Apollos 12-14 and the J-Class designation of Apollos 15-17.

 

Having proved its worth on Apollo missions 9 to 14 the basic Grumman Lunar Module design was enhanced for the final three J-Class missions of Apollo 15 -17.  Indeed, LM-7 "Aquarius" was to work well beyond its design envelope, acting as a lifeboat for the successful return of Apollo 13 and earning John Gavin a Distinguished Public Service Medal for his part in managing the crisis.

 

To allow for a greater landing payload  - including a Lunar Rover - and surface stay times of up to 75 hours, the Descent Stage fuel tanks were enlarged and engine power was improved by the addition of a 10 inch extension to the bell. A waste storage tank was also added to the Descent Stage, with plumbing from the Ascent Stage.

Hover times and landing weights were also maximized by using the Service Module engine to perform the initial Descent Orbit Insertion burn before the LM separated from the CSM, a practice begun on Apollo 14. The LM then began its powered descent with a full load of descent stage fuel. This method allowed the final three Apollo landings to be made with enough reserve fuel for over a minute of hover time.

Had American lunar exploration continued and developed beyond Apollo 17, the Grumman LM would have been further developed into a three astronaut crew delivery taxi and unmanned delivery truck for a proposed Moonbase.

The table below should be cross referenced with the Apollo mission table in Cosmic Heroes in terms of Grumman Lunar Module Descent Stage locations.

SERIAL NAME LAUNCH USE NOTES
LM-1   22 January 1968 Apollo 5

 Re-entered atmosphere.  Only LM ever flown on Saturn 1B rather than Saturn V.

LM-2

Intended for second - cancelled - unmanned flight.  On display at National Air & Space Museum Washington DC

LM-3 Spider 3 March 1969 Apollo 9 Re-entered atmosphere
LM-4 Snoopy 18 May 1969 Apollo 10

Descent Stage impacted on Moon, Ascent Stage - left in Solar orbit - is the only surviving Grumman Lunar Module component to have flown.

LM-5 Eagle 16 July 1969 Apollo 11

Ascent Stage left in decaying Lunar Orbit.  Exact point of impact on Moon unknown.

LM-6 Intrepid 14 November 1969 Apollo 12

Ascent Stage deliberately crashed into Moon

LM-7 Aquarius 11 April 1970 Apollo 13 Re-entered atmosphere
LM-8 Antares 31 January 1971 Apollo 14

Ascent Stage deliberately crashed into Moon

LM-9

Originally allocated to Apollo 15 as the last H-Class mission but replaced by enhanced LM-10 when Apollo 15 became the first J-Class mission.  On display at Kennedy Space Center

LM-10 Falcon 26 July 1971 Apollo 15

Ascent Stage deliberately crashed into Moon

LM-11 Orion 16 April 1972 Apollo 16

Ascent Stage left in decaying Lunar Orbit.  Exact point of impact on Moon unknown.

LM-12 Challenger 7 December 1972 Apollo 17

Ascent Stage deliberately crashed into Moon

LM-13

Originally intended for cancelled Apollo 18.  On display at Cradle of Aviation Museum, Long Island NY.  Also used for HBO's 1998 series "From Earth to Moon"

LM-14

Originally intended for cancelled Apollo 19.  Never completed, parts apparently incorporated in LM displayed at Franklin Institute, Philadelphia.

LM-15

Considered for Apollo Telescope Mount project but scrapped without having flown

 
     
 

Having proved its worth on Apollo missions 9 to 14 the basic Grumman Lunar Module design was enhanced for the final three J-Class missions of Apollo 15 -17.  Indeed, LM-7 "Aquarius" was to work well beyond its design envelope, acting as a lifeboat for the successful return of Apollo 13 and earning John Gavin a Distinguished Public Service Medal for his part in managing the crisis.

 
 

 

   
 

A MODEL LUNAR FUTURE

 
 

 

   
 

Unlike a field or aerodrome on Earth, few vehicles have ever arrived on the Moon, none have either completely left or left complete and no footprints or tracks will ever erode due to lack of any wind or rain.  As such, a lunar diorama even with an Apollo mission in progress has only limited interest due to the small realistic possibility of change.

 
 

 

   
 

Unlike a field or aerodrome on Earth, few vehicles have ever arrived on the Moon, none have either completely left or left complete and no footprints or tracks will ever erode due to lack of any wind or rain.  As such, a lunar diorama even with an Apollo mission in progress has only limited interest due to the small realistic possibility of change.

As such, I decided to give the crater floor on the right hand side of the diorama - enlarged beyond the Airfix vac-formed base - to a possible future spacecraft  that also harked back to both the rounded Soviet style of spacecraft construction and to some of the seriously proposed but unfulfilled lunar expeditions described above. 

Just as the specific provenance of this "fantasy" model rocket is currently unknown ( I acquired it already built and added paint and super-detailing ) I deliberately did not apply any national or corporate markings as from the viewpoint of 2012 the next manned Moon landing may not be American or even be financed by a national government.

In practical terms though, the future lander - like the Grumman Apollo LEM - will have no need of streamlining if it is to operate solely on the Moon or in the vacuum of space and could similarly feature ladders, handrails, access platforms incorporating steering jets, solar panels and even a cargo pannier box for small wheeled surface vehicles or reaction-powered flying machines.

To minimise mass - just as the LEM was built from thin metal foil - the new spacecraft could comprise just of a framework holding together spherical fuel and oxidant tanks with a multi-nozzle rocket engine below and a crew module on top.

This came fitted with its own emergency escape motor as built on the model and I added the air lock to avoid the astronauts having to depressurise the module for every extra-vehicular activity: a luxury not available on the Grumman LEM.  The future lander also has larger landing pads and hydraulic legs to allow it to right itself for lift off if it lands on uneven ground.

 
 

 

   
 

In practical terms though, the future lander - like the Grumman Apollo LEM - will have no need of streamlining if it is to operate solely on the Moon or in the vacuum of space and could similarly feature ladders, access platforms incorporating steering jets, solar panels and even a cargo pannier box for small wheeled or reaction powered surface vehicles.

 
 

 

   
 

However, just as the Grumman LEM worked at the limit of 1960s technology to facilitate a 75 hour stay by two astronauts, so such a substantial re-usable vehicle as the modelled Future Lander would only be justified by a more regular human presence on the Moon than two Apollo missions a year - and most probably by a Moon base of some description.

Unlike the habitats proposed under either Projects Horizon or Lunex however, the lack of ideological superpower rivals in the 21st Century would mean that such a base would most likely be civilian and scientific in nature and perhaps the result of international co-operation.

Rather than trading with Selenites, the next wave of lunar explorers could well be surveying much more of the Moon and in more depth than the Apollo astronauts while astronomers could use the airless natural satellite to search for extra-solar planets and environmental scientists look back at climate change on Earth.  Similarly, a radio telescope on the side of the Moon away from Earth would be shielded from the planet's radar and broadcasting, thus enhancing the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence and other electromagnetic phenomenon. 

As an orbiting laboratory too, the Moon has the advantage over current space stations of its own gravity - albeit 1/6 that of Earth - in keeping astronauts in better health during extended periods away from Earth.  Likewise, due to being further away from Earth and minutely drifting away, the Moon would be unaffected by upper atmosphere drag compared to a low Earth orbit space station and have resources of its own to offer in terms of land area on which to spread photo-voltaic panels, craters and pits for nuclear power plants and a crust rich in both metal ores and Helium 3 isotopes for fusion reactions.

More crucially, unmanned spacecraft such as Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and LCROSS sent to the Moon in the 21st Century have discovered signs of of water ice, nitrogen and sulphur in regions shaded from sunlight.  In turn, this makes more likely a Moon base that would not need to have all its oxygen and water expensively brought up from Earth but could grow its own food on hydroponic farms: assisting such activities as refuelling spacecraft (which could also be lofted to orbit on electromagnetic catapults) and even building parts for new ones, perhaps for expeditions to Mars and beyond.

 
 

 

   
 

 
 

 

   
 

Obviously the infrastructure to achieve all the scientific goals mentioned above would be expensive but in the long term a more efficient financial investment in the exploration of space than the Apollo missions. 

In the graphic above - taken from the 1970 Brooke Bond Picture Card album "The Race into Space" - illustrates a sequence of travel from Earth to Moon starting with a winged space shuttle flying to a space station in low Earth orbit. 

This of course was a reality from 1981 to 2011 with NASA's Space Transportation System helping to build the International Space Station, which can still be accessed in 2012 by Soyuz, Jules Verne and Progress spacecraft launched atop conventional step rockets. 

Unfortunately the American Space Shuttle orbiter - launched vertically with uncontrollable solid boosters rather than from a winged mother ship as once planned - suffered two fatal losses during its 30 year career and although dubbed as reusable required expensive refurbishment after every mission which in turn slowed the number of launches scheduled for each year.

As a future alternative, large cargo payloads may still be launched by expendable rockets with a winged crew return vehicle being developed based on the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo, designed to be launched at altitude from a White Knight jet propelled carrier aircraft.  Indeed, at some point space tourism may even extend as far as the Moon.

Interestingly, the 1970 graphic shows the next stage in the journey being from the low Earth Orbit space station to another one in geosynchronous orbit - close to the position of modern communication satellites as described in The Telstar Story.  However, more recent research into carbon fibre nanotubes - lighter yet stronger than any other man made material - has raised the possibility of a satellite in geosynchronous orbit being linked to the Earth's surface by cable and that cable in turn supporting an elevator vehicle which could take astronauts and cargo into space without any need for chemical rockets.

Leaving this concept aside though, a space transfer vehicle ( or "Space Tug") of some sort would still be needed to link space stations in orbit around the Earth with each other and with the envisaged nuclear engined vehicle constantly travelling from Earth to Lunar orbit and back again.

Although research into a nuclear powered ROVER spaceship was mentioned in the same speech by US President John F. Kennedy in which he announced the goal of sending men to the Moon, more recent unmanned probes have been powered by a stream of ions instead of hot gases and this technology could be used on a larger scale for an Earth-Moon shuttle, moving at a constant velocity and perhaps cutting down the three days that it took the Apollo spacecraft to reach the Moon.

Indeed, the smaller space transfer vehicles themselves might have ion engines although chemical rockets would be needed for more responsive acceleration and braking and for landing on and taking off from the Moon near any permanent base or other location.

It is for this kind of transfer work in the vacuum of space that I would see my "fantasy rocket" being used, perhaps even picking up loads from the lunar surface and flying them to an orbiting station or even docking directly to an ion powered shuttle for the journey to Earth orbit where it could undock and proceed to a geosynchronous space station (possibly to unload to a carbon nanotube based elevator) or a low Earth orbit station, thereby minimising the difficult and dangerous transfer of payloads from one space vehicle to another. 

Once emptied and refilled with an outbound load, the lunar-landing-capable space tug would then hitch a ride with another nuclear powered spacecraft back to Lunar Orbit and the Moonbase.  During its piggy-back Moon-Earth-Moon travels, the space tug could be maintained in zero gravity by astronauts tethered to its structure or yellow grab rails or if gravity and/or a breathable atmosphere were needed to make repairs such work could be done in a hangar building on the Moon - perhaps even a temporary inflatable one that could be moved to a location best suited to the job.

 
 

 

   
 

 

 

 

 
  Indeed, had room on my diorama permitted I would have liked to have built a model Moon base although in its earliest and most achievable guise this would have consisted of little more than a door in a turret leading down to some cylindrical dwellings buried to protect them from solar radiation and meteorites, as once again envisaged by Brooke Bond in 1970 and illustrated above.  In contrast, the type of lunar city depicted by Stanley Kubrick in "2001: A Space Odyssey" would be much further into the future and the science fiction staple of geodesic domes easier to erect but much more vulnerable.

Instead I hinted at buried cylinders by equipping the lunar rover supplied by Airfix with a bulldozer blade (made from part of a yoghurt pot) as well as solar panels to recharge its batteries and surrounded it with the kind of flying "chariots" also expected for future missions.

Although not yet tested, these vehicles be the equivalent of helicopters on Earth and would let astronauts travel long distances without inflicting their boot and tyre marks on the otherwise pristine lunar surface that would be prized by geologists.  They could also rendezvous with a landed space tug for guidance, refuelling or rescue missions or even to help build a network of lattice beacon towers across the lunar surface.  These would not only guide any lost astronauts by radio signals and as landmarks but relay signals from one base to another, thus avoiding the need for navigation satellites cluttering the orbit of the Moon.