Posted tagged ‘aircraft’

ACHTUNG!!!! FOKKER!!!!

April 20, 2011

Fokker Dr.I

Role     Fighter
Manufacturer     Fokker-Flugzeugwerke
Designed by     Reinhold Platz
First flight     5 July 1917

Primary user     Luftstreitkräfte
Number built     320

The Fokker Dr.I Dreidecker (triplane) was a World War I fighter aircraft built by Fokker-Flugzeugwerke. The Dr.I saw widespread service in the spring of 1918. It became renowned as the aircraft in which Manfred von Richthofen gained his last 20 victories, and in which he was killed on 21 April 1918.

Design and development

V.4 prototype

In February 1917, the Sopwith Triplane began to appear over the Western Front. The Sopwith swiftly proved itself superior to the Albatros fighters then in use by the Luftstreitkräfte. Fokker-Flugzeugwerke responded by converting an unfinished biplane prototype into the V.4, a small, rotary-powered triplane with a steel tube fuselage and thick cantilever wings, first developed during Fokker’s government-mandated collaboration with Hugo Junkers. Initial tests revealed that the V.4 had unacceptably high control forces resulting from the use of unbalanced ailerons and elevators.
Instead of submitting the V.4 for a type test, Fokker produced a revised prototype designated V.5. The most notable changes were the introduction of horn-balanced ailerons and elevators, as well as longer-span wings. The V.5 also featured interplane struts, which were not necessary from a structural standpoint, but which minimized wing flexing. On 14 July 1917, Idflieg issued an order for 20 pre-production aircraft. The V.5 prototype, serial 101/17, was tested to destruction at Adlershof on 11 August 1917.

Operational history


Fokker produced two pre-production triplanes, designated F.I, which could be distinguished from production Dr.I aircraft by a slight curve to the tailplane leading edge. These aircraft, serials 102/17 and 103/17, were the only machines to receive the F.I designation. They were sent to Jastas 10 and 11 for combat evaluation, arriving at Markebeeke, Belgium on 28 August 1917.
Richthofen first flew 102/17 on 1 September 1917 and shot down two enemy aircraft in the next two days. He reported to the Kogenluft (Kommandierender General der Luftstreitkräfte) that the F.I was superior to the Sopwith Triplane. Richthofen recommended that fighter squadrons be reequipped with the new aircraft as soon as possible. The combat evaluation came to an abrupt conclusion when Oberleutnant Kurt Wolff, Staffelführer of Jasta 11, was shot down in 102/17 on 15 September, and Leutnant Werner Voss, Staffelführer of Jasta 10, was killed in 103/17 on 23 September.
The remaining pre-production aircraft, designated Dr.I, were delivered to Jasta 11. Idflieg issued a production order for 100 triplanes in September, followed by an order for 200 in November. Apart from minor modifications, these aircraft were almost identical to the F.I. The primary distinguishing feature was the addition of wingtip skids, which proved necessary because the aircraft was tricky to land and prone to ground looping. In October, Fokker began delivering the Dr.I to squadrons within Richthofen’s Jagdgeschwader I.

Compared to the Albatros and Pfalz fighters, the Dr.I offered exceptional maneuverability. Though the ailerons were not very effective, the rudder and elevator controls were light and powerful. Rapid turns, especially to the right, were facilitated by the triplane’s marked directional instability. Vizefeldwebel Franz Hemer of Jasta 6 said, “The triplane was my favorite fighting machine because it had such wonderful flying qualities. I could let myself stunt — looping and rolling — and could avoid an enemy by diving with perfect safety. The triplane had to be given up because although it was very maneuverable, it was no longer fast enough.”
As Hemer noted, the Dr.I was considerably slower than contemporary Allied fighters in level flight and in a dive. While initial rate of climb was excellent, performance fell off dramatically at higher altitudes due to the low compression of the Oberursel Ur.II, a clone of the Le Rhône 9J rotary engine. As the war continued, chronic shortages of castor oil made rotary operation increasingly difficult. The poor quality of German ersatz lubricant resulted in many engine failures, particularly during the summer of 1918.
The Dr.I suffered other deficiencies. The pilot’s view was poor during takeoff and landing. The cockpit was cramped and furnished with materials of inferior quality. Furthermore, the proximity of the gun butts to the cockpit, combined with inadequate crash padding, left the pilot vulnerable to serious head injury in the event of a crash landing.

 Wing failures

On 29 October 1917, Leutnant der Reserve Heinrich Gontermann, Staffelführer of Jasta 15, was performing aerobatics when his triplane broke up. Gontermann was fatally injured in the ensuing crash landing. Leutnant der Reserve Günther Pastor of Jasta 11 was killed two days later when his triplane broke up in level flight. Inspection of the wrecked aircraft showed that the wings had been poorly constructed. Examination of other high-time Dr.Is confirmed these findings. On 2 November, Idflieg grounded all remaining triplanes pending an inquiry. Idflieg convened a Sturzkommission (crash commission) which concluded that poor construction and lack of waterproofing had allowed moisture to destroy the wing. This caused the wing ribs to disintegrate and the ailerons to break away in flight.
In response to the crash investigation, Fokker improved quality control on the production line, particularly varnishing of the wing spars and ribs, to combat moisture. Fokker also strengthened the rib structures and the attachment of the auxiliary spars to the ribs. Existing triplanes were repaired and modified at Fokker’s expense.[22] After testing a modified wing at Adlershof, Idflieg authorized the triplane’s return to service on 28 November 1917. Production resumed in early December. By January 1918, Jastas 6 and 11 were fully equipped with the triplane. Only 14 squadrons used the Dr.I as their primary equipment. Most of these units were part of Jagdgeschwadern I, II, or III. Frontline inventory peaked in late April 1918, with 171 aircraft in service on the Western Front.
Despite corrective measures, the Dr.I continued to suffer from wing failures. On 3 February 1918, Leutnant Hans Joachim Wolff of Jasta 11 successfully landed after suffering a failure of the upper wing leading edge and ribs. On 18 March 1918, Lothar von Richthofen, Staffelführer of Jasta 11, suffered a failure of the upper wing leading edge during combat with Sopwith Camels of No. 73 Squadron and Bristol F.2Bs of No. 62 Squadron. Richthofen was seriously injured in the ensuing crash landing.
Postwar research revealed that poor workmanship was not the only cause of the triplane’s structural failures. In 1929, National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) investigations found that the upper wing carried a higher lift coefficient than the lower wing — at high speeds it could be 2.55 times as much.
The triplane’s chronic structural problems destroyed any prospect of large-scale orders. Production eventually ended in May 1918, by which time only 320 had been manufactured.[28] The Dr.I was withdrawn from frontline service as the Fokker D.VII entered widespread service in June and July. Jasta 19 was the last squadron to be fully equipped with the Dr.I.[29]
Surviving triplanes were distributed to training and home defense units. Several training aircraft were reengined with the 75 kW (100 hp) Goebel Goe.II. At the time of the Armistice, many remaining triplanes were assigned to fighter training schools at Nivelles, Belgium, and Valenciennes, France. Allied pilots tested several of these triplanes and found their handling qualities to be impressive.

Postwar

Very few triplanes survived the Armistice. Serial 528/17 was retained as a testbed by the Deutschen Versuchsanstalt für Luftfahrt (German Aviation Research Institute) at Adlershof. After being used in the filming of two movies, 528/17 is believed to have crashed sometime in the late 1930s.[32] Serial 152/17, in which Manfred von Richthofen obtained three victories, was displayed at the Zeughaus museum in Berlin. The triplane was destroyed by an Allied bombing raid during World War II. Today, only a few original Dr.I artifacts survive in museums.

 Replica aircraft

While no Dr.I airframes survive, large numbers of flying and static replicas have been built. In 1932, Fokker built a Dr.I from the spare parts of various aircraft. The reproduction appeared in the 1939 film D III 88. Bitz Flugzeugbau GmbH built two Dr.I replicas for use in Twentieth Century Fox’s 1966 film The Blue Max. One of these aircraft currently operates in the United States.
Since April 1994, the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has displayed a reproduction Fokker Dr. I. It is painted in the markings of a Jagdstaffel 19 aircraft flown by Leutnant Arthur Rahn in April 1918.
Large numbers of replica aircraft have been built for both individuals and museums. Due to the expense and scarcity of authentic rotary engines, most airworthy replicas are powered by a Warner Scarab or Continental R-670 radial engine. A few, however, feature vintage Le Rhône 9 or reproduction Oberursel Ur.II rotary engines.

Variants

    * V.3 – Initial prototype
    * V.4 – First production prototype
    * V.5 – Prototype with Goebel Goe.III engine
    * V.6 – Enlarged prototype with Mercedes D.II engine
    * V.7 – Prototype with Siemens-Halske Sh.III engine
    * V.10 – Prototype with Oberursel Ur.III engine

Operators

 German Empire

    * Luftstreitkräfte

 Specifications (Dr.I)

General characteristics

    * Crew: One
    * Length: 5.77 m (18 ft 11 in)
    * Wingspan: 7.20 m (23 ft 7 in)
    * Height: 2.95 m (9 ft 8 in)
    * Wing area: 18.70 m² (201 ft²)
    * Empty weight: 406 kg (895 lb)
    * Loaded weight: 586 kg (1,292 lb)
    * Powerplant: 1× Oberursel Ur.II 9-cylinder rotary engine, 82 kW (110 hp)
    * Zero-lift drag coefficient: 0.0323
    * Drag area: 0.62 m² (6.69 ft²)
    * Aspect ratio: 4.04

Performance

    * Maximum speed: 185 km/h at sea level (115 mph at sea level)
    * Stall speed: 72 km/h (45 mph)
    * Range: 300 km (185 mi)
    * Service ceiling: 6,095 m (20,000 ft)
    * Rate of climb: 5.7 m/s (1,130 ft/min)
    * Lift-to-drag ratio: 8.0

Armament

    * 2 × 7.92 mm (.312 in) “Spandau” lMG 08 machine guns.

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Whispering Thunder

September 12, 2010

Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II

 The A-10 Thunderbolt II is an American single-seat, twin-engine, straight-wing jet aircraft developed by Fairchild-Republic in the early 1970s. The A-10 was designed for a United States Air Force requirement to provide close air support for ground forces by attacking tanks, armored vehicles, and other ground targets with a limited air interdiction capability. It is the first U.S. Air Force aircraft designed exclusively for close air support.

The A-10 was designed around the GAU-8  Avenger ,  a  heavy automatic cannon which forms the aircraft’s primary armament. The aircraft’s hull incorporates over 1,200 pounds of armor and was designed with survivability as a priority, with protective measures in place which enable the aircraft to continue flying even after taking significant damage.

The A-10’s official name comes from the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt of World War II, a fighter that was particularly effective at close air support. The A-10 is more commonly known by its nickname “Warthog” or simply “Hog”. As a secondary mission, it provides airborne forward air control, guiding other aircraft against ground targets. A-10s used primarily in this role are designated OA-10.The A-10 is expected to be replaced in 2028 or later.

 Development

 Background

Criticism that the U.S. Air Force did not take close air support seriously prompted a few service members to seek a specialized attack aircraft. In the Vietnam War, large numbers of ground-attack aircraft were shot down by small arms, surface-to-air missiles, and low-level anti-aircraft gunfire, prompting the development of an aircraft better able to survive such weapons. In addition, the UH-1 Iroquois and AH-1 Cobra helicopters of the day, which USAF commanders had said should handle close air support, were ill-suited for use against armor, carrying only anti-personnel machine guns and unguided rockets meant for soft targets. Fast jets such as the F-100 Super Sabre, F-105 Thunderchief and F-4 Phantom II proved for the most part to be ineffective for close air support. The A-1 Skyraider was the USAF’s primary close air support aircraft.

A-X

In mid-1966 the U.S. Air Force formed the Attack Experimental program office. On 6 March 1967, the Air Force released a request for information to 21 defense contractors for the A-X. The objective was to create a design study for a low-cost attack aircraft. The officer in charge of the project was Colonel Avery Kay. In 1969, the Secretary of the Air Force asked Pierre Sprey to write the detailed specifications for the proposed A-X project. However, his initial involvement was kept secret due to Sprey’s earlier controversial involvement in the F-X project. Sprey’s discussions with A-1 Skyraider pilots operating in Vietnam and analysis of the effectiveness of current aircraft used in the role indicated the ideal aircraft should have long loiter time, low-speed maneuverability, massive cannon firepower, and extreme survivability; an aircraft that had the best elements of the Ilyushin Il-2, Henschel Hs 129 and Skyraider. The specifications also demanded that the aircraft cost less than $3 million. Input on the design was later provided by famed World War II attack pilot Hans-Ulrich Rudel.

In May 1970, the USAF issued a modified, and much more detailed request for proposals . The threat of Soviet armored forces and all-weather attack operations had became more serious. Now included in the requirements was that the aircraft would be designed specifically for the 30 mm cannon. The RFP also called for an aircraft with a maximum speed of 460 mph , takeoff distance of 4,000 feet , external load of 16,000 pounds , 285-mile mission radius, and a unit cost of US$1.4 million. During this time, an RFP was released for A-X’s 30 mm cannon with requirements for a high rate of fire (4,000 round/minute) and a high muzzle velocity.Six companies submitted proposals to the USAF, with Northrop and Fairchild Republic selected to build prototypes: the YA-9A and YA-10A, respectively. General Electric and Philco-Ford were selected to build and test GAU-8 cannon prototypes.The YA-10A first flew on 10 May 1972. After trials and a fly-off against the YA-9A, the Air Force announced its selection of Fairchild-Republic’s YA-10A on 18 January 1973 for production. General Electric was selected to build the GAU-8 cannon in June 1973. The YA-10 had an additional fly-off in 1974 against the Ling-Temco-Vought A-7D Corsair II, the principal Air Force attack aircraft at the time, in order to prove the need to purchase a new attack aircraft. The first production A-10 flew in October 1975, and deliveries to the Air Force commenced in March 1976 to units at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. The first squadron to use the A-10 went operational in October 1977. In total, 715 airplanes were produced, the last delivered in 1984.One experimental two-seat A-10 Night Adverse Weather version was built by converting an A-10A. The N/AW was developed by Fairchild from the first Demonstration Testing and Evaluation A-10 for consideration by the USAF. It included a second seat for a weapons system officer responsible for electronic countermeasures , navigation and target acquisition. The variant was canceled and the only two-seat A-10 built now sits at Edwards Air Force Base awaiting a spot in the Flight Test Historical Foundation museum. The N/AW version did not interest the USAF or export customers. The two-seat trainer version was ordered by the Air Force in 1981 but funding was canceled by Congress and was not produced.

Upgrades

The A-10 has received many upgrades over the years. Aircraft added the Pave Penny laser receiver pod beginning in 1978. It senses reflected laser radiation from a laser designator on a target for faster and more accurate target identification. The A-10 began receiving an inertial navigation system in 1980. Later, the Low-Altitude Safety and Targeting Enhancement upgrade provided computerized weapon-aiming equipment, an autopilot, and a ground-collision warning system. The A-10 is now compatible with night vision goggles for low-light operation. In 1999, aircraft began to receive Global Positioning System navigation systems and a new multi-function display. Its LASTE system is being upgraded with the Integrated Flight & Fire Control Computers .

In 2005, the entire A-10 fleet also began receiving the Precision Engagement upgrades that include an improved fire control system , electronic countermeasures, and the ability to aim smart bombs. The aircraft that receive this upgrade are redesignated A-10C. The A-10 will receive a service life extension program  upgrade with many receiving new wings. A contract to build 242 new A-10 wing sets was awarded to Boeing in June 2007. In July 2010, the USAF issued Raytheon a contract to integrate a Helmet Mounted Integrated Targeting system into A-10Cs.

The Government Accounting Office in 2007 estimated the cost of upgrading, refurbishing, and service life extension plans for the A-10 force to total $2.25 billion through 2013. Modifications to provide precision weapons capability are well underway. The Air Force Material Command’s Ogden Air Logistics Center at Hill AFB, Utah completed work on its 100th A-10 precision engagement upgrade in January 2008.The C model upgrades are to be completed in 2011.

Design

 Overview

The A-10 has superior maneuverability at low speeds and altitude, due to large wing area, high wing aspect ratio, and large ailerons. The large high aspect ratio wing also allows for short takeoffs and landings, permitting operations from primitive forward airfields near front lines. The aircraft can loiter for extended periods of time and operate under 1,000 ft ceilings with 1.5 mi  visibility. It typically flies at a relatively slow speed of 300 knots , which makes it a much better platform for the ground-attack role than fast fighter-bombers, which often have difficulty targeting small and slow-moving targets.

Engine exhaust passes over the aircraft’s horizontal stabilizer and between the twin tails, decreasing the A-10’s infrared signature and lowering the likelihood that the aircraft can be targeted by heat-seeking missiles. The placement of the engines behind the wings partially shields them from anti-aircraft fire. The leading edge of the wing is honeycomb panel construction to provide strength with minimal weight compromise. Honeycomb panels of this type on the A-10 include the flap shrouds, elevators, rudders and other sections of the fins.

The A-10 has integrally machined skin panels. Because the stringers are integral with the skin there are no join or seal problems. These panels, fabricated using computer controlled machining, reduce the time and hence the cost of production. Combat experience has shown that this type of panel is more resistant to damage. The skin is not load-bearing, so damaged skin sections can be easily replaced in the field, with makeshift materials if necessary.

The ailerons are at the far ends of the wings to gain greater rolling moment, as with many aircraft, but there are two distinguishing features. First, the ailerons are larger than is typical, almost 50% of the chord, providing improved control even at slow speeds. The aileron is also split, making it a deceleron.

The Thunderbolt II can be serviced and operated from bases with limited facilities near battle areas. An unusual feature is that many of the aircraft’s parts are interchangeable between the left and right sides, including the engines, main landing gear, and vertical stabilizers. The sturdy landing gear, low-pressure tires and large, straight wings allow operation from short rough strips even with a heavy ordnance load, allowing the aircraft to operate from damaged airbases. If runways are damaged in an attack, the A-10 can operate from taxiways, or straight roadway sections, such as Germany’s autobahn. The aircraft is designed to be refueled, rearmed, and serviced with minimal equipment. Also, most repairs can be done in the field.

The front landing gear is offset to the aircraft’s right due close proximity of the A-10’s main cannon. The cannon’s firing barrel lines up with the aircraft centerline. During ground taxi, the offset front landing gear causes the A-10 to have dissimilar turning radii. Turning to the right on the ground takes less distance than turning left.

Durability

A-10 is exceptionally tough. Its strong airframe can survive direct hits from armor-piercing and high-explosive projectiles up to 23 mm. The aircraft has triple redundancy in its flight systems, with mechanical systems to back up double-redundant hydraulic systems. This permits pilots to fly and land when hydraulic power or part of a wing is lost. Flight without hydraulic power uses the manual reversion flight control system; this engages automatically for pitch and yaw control, and under pilot control (manual reversion switch) for roll control. In manual reversion mode, the A-10 is sufficiently controllable under favorable conditions to return to base and land, though control forces are much higher than normal. The aircraft is designed to fly with one engine, one tail, one elevator and half a wing torn off. Its self-sealing fuel tanks are protected by fire-retardant foam. The A-10’s main landing gear is designed so that the wheels semi-protrude from their nacelles when the gear is retracted so as to make gear-up landings (belly landing) easier to control and less damaging to the aircraft’s underside. A belly landing would be required in the case of a landing gear failure. Additionally, the landing gear are all hinged toward the rear of the aircraft, so if hydraulic power is lost the pilot can drop the gear and a combination of gravity and wind resistance will open and lock the gear in place.

The cockpit and parts of the flight-control system are protected by 1,200 lb  titanium armor, referred to as a “bathtub”. The armor has been tested to withstand strikes from 23 mm cannon fire and some strikes from 57 mm rounds. It is made up of titanium plates with thicknesses from 0.5 to 1.5 inches  determined by a study of likely trajectories and deflection angles. This protection comes at a cost, though; the armor itself weighs almost 6% of the entire aircraft’s empty weight. To protect the pilot from the fragmentation likely to be created from impact of a shell, any interior surface of the tub that is directly exposed to the pilot is covered by a multi-layer nylon spall shield. The front windscreen and canopy are resistant to small arms fire.

Proof of the durability of the A-10 was shown when then-Captain Kim Campbell, USAF, flying a ground support mission over Baghdad during the 2003 invasion of Iraq on 7 April, suffered extensive flak damage to her A-10. Enemy fire damaged one of the A-10’s engines and crippled its hydraulic system, forcing the back-up mechanical system to operate the aircraft’s stabilizer and flight controls. Despite this, Campbell managed to fly it for an hour and landed it safely at the air base in manual reversion mode.

Powerplant

There are several reasons for the unusual location of the A-10’s General Electric TF34-GE-100 turbofan engines. First, the A-10 was expected to fly from forward air bases, often with semi-prepared substandard runways that presented a high risk of foreign object damage to the engines. The height of the engines lowers the chance that sand or stones will enter the inlet. This also allows engines to remain running, allowing for shorter servicing and rearming turn-around times by ground crew. Servicing and rearming are further helped by having wings closer to the ground than would be possible if the engines were wing-mounted. The position also reduces the infrared signature further, which is already low due to the engines’ 6:1 bypass ratio. Because of their high position, the engines are angled upward nine degrees to bring the combined thrust line closer to the aerodynamic center of the aircraft. This avoids trimming measures to counteract a nose-down pitching moment if the engines were parallel to the fuselage. The heavy engines require strong supports, so their pylons are connected to the airframe by four bolts.

The A-10’s fuel system components are protected in multiple ways. All four fuel tanks are near the center of the aircraft, reducing the likelihood that they will be hit or separated from the engines. The tanks are separate from the fuselage; thus, projectiles would need to penetrate the skin before reaching the tank. The refueling system is purged after use so that all fuel in the aircraft is protected. All fuel transfer lines self-seal if they are compromised. Most of the fuel system components are inside the tanks so that if a leak were to occur from the component the fuel would not be lost. If a tank does get damaged, check valves ensure that fuel does not flow into the compromised tank. Most importantly, reticulated polyurethane foam lines both the inner and outer sides of the fuel tanks, retaining debris and restricting fuel spillage in the event of damage. The other source of possible combustion, the engines, are shielded from the fuel system and the rest of the airframe by firewalls and fire extinguishing equipment. Even in the event of all four main tanks being holed and all contents lost, sufficient fuel is carried in two self-sealing sump tanks to allow flight for 230 miles.

Weapon systems

Although the A-10 can carry considerable disposable stores, its primary built-in weapon is the 30 mm GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling-type cannon. One of the most powerful aircraft cannon ever flown, it fires large depleted uranium armor-piercing shells. In the original design, the pilot could switch between two rates of fire: 2,100 or 4,200 rounds per minute; this was changed to a fixed rate of 3,900 rounds per minute.[ The cannon takes about half a second to come up to speed, so 50 rounds are fired during the first second, 65 or 70 rounds per second thereafter. The gun is precise; it can place 80% of its shots within a 40-foot  circle from 4,000 feet while in flight. The GAU-8 is optimized for a slant range of 4,000 feet with the A-10 in a 30 degree dive.

The fuselage of the aircraft is built around the gun. The gun’s firing barrel is placed at the 9 o’clock position so it is aligned on the aircraft’s centerline. The gun’s ammunition drum can hold up to 1,350 rounds of 30 mm ammunition, but generally holds 1,174 rounds. The damage caused by rounds firing prematurely due to impact of an explosive shell would be catastrophic, so a great deal of effort has been taken to protect the 5 feet 11.5 inch long drum. There are many armor plates of differing thicknesses between the aircraft skin and the drum, to detonate an incoming shell before it reaches the drum. A final layer of armor around the drum itself protects it from fragmentation damage. The gun is loaded by Syn-Tech’s linked tube carrier GFU-7/E 30 mm ammunition loading assembly cart; a vehicle unique to the A-10, the only aircraft that is armed with the GAU-8 cannon.

Another commonly used weapon is the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missile, with different variations for either electro-optical (TV-guided) or infra-red targeting. The Maverick allows targets to be engaged at much greater ranges than the cannon, a safer proposition in the face of modern anti-aircraft systems. During Desert Storm, in the absence of dedicated forward-looking infrared cameras, the Maverick’s infra-red camera was used for night missions as a “poor man’s FLIR”. Other weapons include cluster bombs and Hydra rocket pods.[57] Although the A-10 is equipped to carry laser-guided bombs, their use is relatively uncommon. The A-10 has not been equipped with weapon control systems for accurate bombing. A-10s usually fly with an ALQ-131 ECM pod under one wing and two AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles under the other wing for self-defense.

Modernization

The A-10 Precision Engagement Modification Program will update 356 A-10/OA-10s to the A-10C variant with a new flight computer, new glass cockpit displays and controls, two new 5.5-inch  color displays with moving map function and an integrated digital stores management system.

Other funded improvements to the A-10 fleet include a new data link, the ability to employ smart weapons such as the Joint Direct Attack Munition  and Wind Corrected Munitions Dispensor, and the ability to carry an integrated targeting pod such as the Northrop Grumman LITENING targeting pod or the Lockheed Martin Sniper XR Advanced Targeting Pod . Also included is the ROVER or remotely operated video enhanced receiver to provide sensor data to personnel on the ground.

 Colors and markings

Since the A-10 flies low to the ground and at subsonic speed, aircraft camouflage is important to make the aircraft more difficult to see. Many different types of paint schemes have been tried. These have included a “peanut scheme” of sand, yellow and field drab; black and white colors for winter operations and a tan, green and brown mixed pattern.

The two most common markings applied to the A-10 have been the European I woodland camouflage scheme and a two-tone gray scheme. The European woodland scheme was designed to minimise visibility from above, as the threat from hostile fighter aircraft was felt to outweigh that from groundfire. It uses dark green, medium green and dark grey in order to blend in with the typical European forest terrain and was used from the 1980s to the early 1990s. Following the end of the Cold War, and based on experience during the 1991 Gulf War, the air-to-air threat was no longer seen to be as important as that from ground fire, and a new color scheme, known as “Compass Ghost” was chosen to minimise visibility from below. This two-tone gray scheme has darker gray color on top, with the lighter gray on the underside of the aircraft, and started to be applied from the early 1990s.

Many A-10s also featured a “false” canopy painted in dark gray on the underside of the aircraft, just behind the gun. This form of automimicry is an attempt to confuse the enemy as to aircraft attitude and maneuver direction.

Weapon systems

 

Although the A-10 can carry considerable disposable stores, its primary built-in weapon is the 30 mm GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling-type cannon. One of the most powerful aircraft cannon ever flown, it fires large depleted uranium armor-piercing shells. In the original design, the pilot could switch between two rates of fire: 2,100 or 4,200 rounds per minute; this was changed to a fixed rate of 3,900 rounds per minute.[ The cannon takes about half a second to come up to speed, so 50 rounds are fired during the first second, 65 or 70 rounds per second thereafter. The gun is precise; it can place 80% of its shots within a 40-foot  circle from 4,000 feet while in flight. The GAU-8 is optimized for a slant range of 4,000 feet with the A-10 in a 30 degree dive.

The fuselage of the aircraft is built around the gun. The gun’s firing barrel is placed at the 9 o’clock position so it is aligned on the aircraft’s centerline. The gun’s ammunition drum can hold up to 1,350 rounds of 30 mm ammunition, but generally holds 1,174 rounds. The damage caused by rounds firing prematurely due to impact of an explosive shell would be catastrophic, so a great deal of effort has been taken to protect the 5 feet 11.5 inch long drum. There are many armor plates of differing thicknesses between the aircraft skin and the drum, to detonate an incoming shell before it reaches the drum. A final layer of armor around the drum itself protects it from fragmentation damage. The gun is loaded by Syn-Tech’s linked tube carrier GFU-7/E 30 mm ammunition loading assembly cart; a vehicle unique to the A-10, the only aircraft that is armed with the GAU-8 cannon.

 

 

Another commonly used weapon is the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missile, with different variations for either electro-optical (TV-guided) or infra-red targeting. The Maverick allows targets to be engaged at much greater ranges than the cannon, a safer proposition in the face of modern anti-aircraft systems. During Desert Storm, in the absence of dedicated forward-looking infrared cameras, the Maverick’s infra-red camera was used for night missions as a “poor man’s FLIR”. Other weapons include cluster bombs and Hydra rocket pods.[57] Although the A-10 is equipped to carry laser-guided bombs, their use is relatively uncommon. The A-10 has not been equipped with weapon control systems for accurate bombing. A-10s usually fly with an ALQ-131 ECM pod under one wing and two AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles under the other wing for self-defense.

 

 

Modernization

 

The A-10 Precision Engagement Modification Program will update 356 A-10/OA-10s to the A-10C variant with a new flight computer, new glass cockpit displays and controls, two new 5.5-inch  color displays with moving map function and an integrated digital stores management system.

Other funded improvements to the A-10 fleet include a new data link, the ability to employ smart weapons such as the Joint Direct Attack Munition  and Wind Corrected Munitions Dispensor, and the ability to carry an integrated targeting pod such as the Northrop Grumman LITENING targeting pod or the Lockheed Martin Sniper XR Advanced Targeting Pod . Also included is the ROVER or remotely operated video enhanced receiver to provide sensor data to personnel on the ground.

 

Operational history

 

 Introduction

The first unit to receive the A-10 Thunderbolt II was the 355th Tactical Training Wing, based at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona in March 1976. The first unit to achieve full combat-readiness was the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing at Myrtle Beach AFB, South Carolina in 1978. Deployments of A-10As followed at bases both at home and abroad, including England AFB, Louisiana, Eielson AFB, Alaska, Osan Air Base, South Korea, and RAF Bentwaters/RAF Woodbridge, England. The 81st TFW of RAF Bentwaters/RAF Woodbridge operated rotating detachments of A-10s at four bases in Germany known as Forward Operating Locations: Leipheim, Sembach Air Base, Nörvenich, and Ahlhorn.

A-10s were initially an unwelcome addition to many in the Air Force. Most pilots switching to the A-10 did not want to because fighter pilots traditionally favored speed and appearance. In 1987, many A-10s were shifted to the forward air control  role and redesignated OA-10. In the FAC role the OA-10 is typically equipped with up to six pods of 2.75 inch  Hydra rockets, usually with smoke or white phosphorus warheads used for target marking. OA-10s are physically unchanged and remain fully combat capable despite the redesignation.

 Gulf War

The A-10 saw combat for the first time during the Gulf War in 1991, destroying more than 900 Iraqi tanks, 2,000 military vehicles, and 1,200 artillery pieces. A-10s shot down two Iraqi helicopters with the GAU-8 gun. The first of these occurred on 6 February 1991 when Captain Robert Swain shot down an Iraqi helicopter over Kuwait marking the A-10’s first air-to-air victory. Four A-10s were shot down during the war, all by surface-to-air missiles. Another three battle-damaged A-10s and OA-10As returned to base, but were written off, some due to additional damage sustained in crashed landings. The A-10 had a mission capable rate of 95.7%, flew 8,100 sorties, and launched 90% of the AGM-65 Maverick missiles fired in the conflict. Shortly after the Gulf War, the Air Force gave up on the idea of replacing the A-10 with a close air support version of the F-16.

 Bosnia and Kosovo

U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft fired approximately 10,000 30 mm DU rounds in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1994-1995. Following the seizure of some heavy weapons by Bosnian Serbs from a warehouse in Ilidza, a series of sorties were launched to locate and destroy the captured equipment. On 5 August 1994, two A-10s located and strafed an anti-tank vehicle. Afterwards, the Serbs agreed to return remaining heavy weapons. In August 1995, NATO launched an offensive called Operation Deliberate Force. A-10s flew close air support missions, attacking Serbian artillery, and positions. In late September, A-10s began flying patrols again.

A-10s returned to the region as part of Operation Allied Force in Kosovo beginning in March 1999. In March 1999, A-10s escorted and supported search and rescue helicopters in finding a downed F-117 pilot. The A-10s were deployed to support search and rescue missions. But the Warthogs began to receive more ground attack missions as the days passed. The A-10’s first successful attack in Operation Allied Force happened on 6 April 1999. A-10s remained until combat ended in late June 1999.

 Afghanistan and Iraq Wars

During the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, A-10s did not take part in the initial stages. For the campaign against Taliban and Al Qaeda, A-10 squadrons were deployed to Pakistan and Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan beginning in March 2002. These A-10s participated in Operation Anaconda. Afterwards, A-10s remained in-country, fighting Taliban and Al Qaeda remnants.

Operation Iraqi Freedom began on 20 March 2003. Sixty OA-10/A-10 aircraft took part in early combat there.United States Air Forces Central issued Operation Iraqi Freedom: By the Numbers, a declassified report about the aerial campaign in the conflict on 30 April 2003. The A-10s had a mission capable rate of 85% in the war, and fired 311,597 rounds of 30 mm ammunition. A single A-10 was shot down near Baghdad International Airport by Iraqi fire late in the campaign. The A-10 also flew 32 missions in which the aircraft dropped propaganda leaflets over Iraq.

The A-10C first deployed to Iraq in the third quarter of 2007 with the 104th Fighter Squadron of the Maryland Air National Guard. The jets include the Precision Engagement Upgrade.The A-10C’s digital avionics and communications systems have greatly reduced the time to acquire a close air support target and attack it.

On March 25, 2010, an A-10 conducted the first flight of an aircraft with all engines powered by a biofuel blend. The flight, performed at Eglin Air Force Base, used a 50/50 blend of JP-8 and Camelina-based fuel.

The A-10 is scheduled to stay in service with the USAF until 2028 and possibly later,when it may be replaced by the F-35 Lightning II.

Variants

YA-10A 

Pre-production variant. 12 were built.

A-10A 

Single-seat close air support, ground-attack version.

OA-10A 

A-10As used for airborne forward air control.

YA-10B Night/Adverse Weather

Two-seat experimental prototype, for work at night and in bad weather. The one YA-10B prototype was conversion from a A-10A.

A-10C 

A-10As updated under the incremental Precision Engagement program.

 Operators

The A-10 has been flown exclusively by the United States Air Force and its Air Reserve components, the Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) and the Air National Guard . The USAF operated 335 A-10 and OA-10 aircraft (188 in active duty, 96 in ANG, and 51 in AFRC, all variants) as of September 2008.The Air Force operates multiple A-10/OA-10 Active, National Guard, and Reserve squadrons.

Specifications A-10A

General characteristics

Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II

Role                       Close air support, and ground-attack aircraft

Manufacturer    Fairchild-Republic

First flight          10 May 1972

Introduced        March 1977

Status                In service

Primary user    United States Air Force

Number built    716

Unit cost          $11.8 million

Crew: 1

Length: 53 ft 4 in 

Wingspan: 57 ft 6 in

Height: 14 ft 8 in 

Wing area: 506 ft²

Airfoil: NACA 6716 root, NACA 6713 tip

Empty weight: 24,959 lb 

Loaded weight: 30,384 lb  On CAS mission: 47,094 lb

On anti-armor mission: 42,071 lb 

Max takeoff weight: 50,000 lb 

Powerplant: 2× General Electric TF34-GE-100A turbofans, 9,065 lbf  each

Performance

Never exceed speed: 450 knots  at 5,000 ft  with 18 Mk 82 bombs

Maximum speed: 381 knots  at sea level, clean

Cruise speed: 300 knots

Stall speed: 120 knots

Combat radius:

On CAS mission: 250 nmi  at 1.88 hour single-engine loiter at 5,000 ft , 10 min combat

On anti-armor mission: 252 nmi , 40 nm  sea-level penetration and exit, 30 min combat

Ferry range: 2,240 nmi  with 50 knot  headwinds, 20 minutes reserve

Service ceiling: 45,000 ft

Rate of climb: 6,000 ft/min

Wing loading: 99 lb/ft²

Thrust/weight: 0.36

Armament

Guns: 1× 30 mm  GAU-8/A Avenger gatling cannon with 1,174 rounds

Hardpoints: 11 (8× under-wing and 3× under-fuselage pylon stations) with a capacity of 16,000 lb  and provisions to carry combinations of:

Rockets:

4× LAU-61/LAU-68 rocket pods (each with 19× / 7× Hydra 70 mm rockets, respectively)

4× LAU-5003 rocket pods (each with 19× CRV7 70 mm rockets)

6× LAU-10 rocket pods (each with 4 × 5.0 in Zuni rockets)

Missiles:

2× AIM-9 Sidewinders air-to-air missiles for self-defense

8× AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missiles

Bombs:

Mark 80 series of unguided iron bombs or

Mk 77 incendiary bombs or

BLU-1, BLU-27/B Rockeye II, Mk20, BL-755 and CBU-52/58/71/87/89/97 cluster bombs or

Paveway series of Laser-guided bombs or

Joint Direct Attack Munition (A-10C) or

Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser (A-10C)

Other:

SUU-42A/A Flares/Infrared decoys and chaff dispenser pod or

AN/ALQ-131 & AN/ALQ-184 ECM pods or

Lockheed Martin Sniper XR & LITENING targeting pods (A-10C) or 2× 600 US gallon Sargent Fletcher drop tanks for extended range/loitering time.

Avionics

AN/AAS-35(V) Pave Penny laser tracker pod (mounted beneath right side of cockpit) for use with Paveway LGBs

Head-up display (HUD) for improved technical flying and air-to-ground support.

 Nicknames

The A-10 Thunderbolt II received its popular nickname “Warthog” from the pilots and crews of the USAF attack squadrons who flew and maintained it. The A-10 is the last of Republic’s jet attack aircraft to serve with the USAF. The Republic F-84 Thunderjet was nicknamed the “Hog”, F-84F Thunderstreak nicknamed “Superhog”, and the Republic F-105 Thunderchief tagged “Ultra Hog”. A less common nickname is the “Tankbuster”. The saying Go Ugly Early has been associated with the aircraft in reference to calling in the A-10 early in combat.

 Notable appearances in media

 Aircraft in fiction

The A-10 Thunderbolt is utilized against the Decepticon Scorponok in the 2007 film, Transformers.A-10s were also used by the human resistance effort against the machines of Skynet in the 2009 film Terminator Salvation.

Operational history

 

 Introduction

 

The first unit to receive the A-10 Thunderbolt II was the 355th Tactical Training Wing, based at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona in March 1976. The first unit to achieve full combat-readiness was the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing at Myrtle Beach AFB, South Carolina in 1978. Deployments of A-10As followed at bases both at home and abroad, including England AFB, Louisiana, Eielson AFB, Alaska, Osan Air Base, South Korea, and RAF Bentwaters/RAF Woodbridge, England. The 81st TFW of RAF Bentwaters/RAF Woodbridge operated rotating detachments of A-10s at four bases in Germany known as Forward Operating Locations: Leipheim, Sembach Air Base, Nörvenich, and Ahlhorn.

A-10s were initially an unwelcome addition to many in the Air Force. Most pilots switching to the A-10 did not want to because fighter pilots traditionally favored speed and appearance. In 1987, many A-10s were shifted to the forward air control  role and redesignated OA-10. In the FAC role the OA-10 is typically equipped with up to six pods of 2.75 inch  Hydra rockets, usually with smoke or white phosphorus warheads used for target marking. OA-10s are physically unchanged and remain fully combat capable despite the redesignation.

 Gulf War

The A-10 saw combat for the first time during the Gulf War in 1991, destroying more than 900 Iraqi tanks, 2,000 military vehicles, and 1,200 artillery pieces. A-10s shot down two Iraqi helicopters with the GAU-8 gun. The first of these occurred on 6 February 1991 when Captain Robert Swain shot down an Iraqi helicopter over Kuwait marking the A-10’s first air-to-air victory. Four A-10s were shot down during the war, all by surface-to-air missiles. Another three battle-damaged A-10s and OA-10As returned to base, but were written off, some due to additional damage sustained in crashed landings. The A-10 had a mission capable rate of 95.7%, flew 8,100 sorties, and launched 90% of the AGM-65 Maverick missiles fired in the conflict. Shortly after the Gulf War, the Air Force gave up on the idea of replacing the A-10 with a close air support version of the F-16.

 

 Bosnia and Kosovo

U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft fired approximately 10,000 30 mm DU rounds in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1994-1995. Following the seizure of some heavy weapons by Bosnian Serbs from a warehouse in Ilidza, a series of sorties were launched to locate and destroy the captured equipment. On 5 August 1994, two A-10s located and strafed an anti-tank vehicle. Afterwards, the Serbs agreed to return remaining heavy weapons. In August 1995, NATO launched an offensive called Operation Deliberate Force. A-10s flew close air support missions, attacking Serbian artillery, and positions. In late September, A-10s began flying patrols again.

A-10s returned to the region as part of Operation Allied Force in Kosovo beginning in March 1999. In March 1999, A-10s escorted and supported search and rescue helicopters in finding a downed F-117 pilot. The A-10s were deployed to support search and rescue missions. But the Warthogs began to receive more ground attack missions as the days passed. The A-10’s first successful attack in Operation Allied Force happened on 6 April 1999. A-10s remained until combat ended in late June 1999.

 Afghanistan and Iraq Wars

 

During the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, A-10s did not take part in the initial stages. For the campaign against Taliban and Al Qaeda, A-10 squadrons were deployed to Pakistan and Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan beginning in March 2002. These A-10s participated in Operation Anaconda. Afterwards, A-10s remained in-country, fighting Taliban and Al Qaeda remnants.

Operation Iraqi Freedom began on 20 March 2003. Sixty OA-10/A-10 aircraft took part in early combat there.United States Air Forces Central issued Operation Iraqi Freedom: By the Numbers, a declassified report about the aerial campaign in the conflict on 30 April 2003. The A-10s had a mission capable rate of 85% in the war, and fired 311,597 rounds of 30 mm ammunition. A single A-10 was shot down near Baghdad International Airport by Iraqi fire late in the campaign. The A-10 also flew 32 missions in which the aircraft dropped propaganda leaflets over Iraq.

The A-10C first deployed to Iraq in the third quarter of 2007 with the 104th Fighter Squadron of the Maryland Air National Guard. The jets include the Precision Engagement Upgrade.The A-10C’s digital avionics and communications systems have greatly reduced the time to acquire a close air support target and attack it.

On March 25, 2010, an A-10 conducted the first flight of an aircraft with all engines powered by a biofuel blend. The flight, performed at Eglin Air Force Base, used a 50/50 blend of JP-8 and Camelina-based fuel.

 

The A-10 is scheduled to stay in service with the USAF until 2028 and possibly later,when it may be replaced by the F-35 Lightning II.

 

 

Variants

 

YA-10A 

Pre-production variant. 12 were built.

A-10A 

Single-seat close air support, ground-attack version.

OA-10A 

A-10As used for airborne forward air control.

YA-10B Night/Adverse Weather

Two-seat experimental prototype, for work at night and in bad weather. The one YA-10B prototype was conversion from a A-10A.

A-10C 

A-10As updated under the incremental Precision Engagement program.

 

 Operators

 

The A-10 has been flown exclusively by the United States Air Force and its Air Reserve components, the Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) and the Air National Guard . The USAF operated 335 A-10 and OA-10 aircraft (188 in active duty, 96 in ANG, and 51 in AFRC, all variants) as of September 2008.The Air Force operates multiple A-10/OA-10 Active, National Guard, and Reserve squadrons.

Specifications A-10A

General characteristics

Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II

Role                       Close air support, and ground-attack aircraft

Manufacturer    Fairchild-Republic

First flight          10 May 1972

Introduced        March 1977

Status                In service

Primary user    United States Air Force

Number built    716

Unit cost          $11.8 million

Crew: 1

Length: 53 ft 4 in 

Wingspan: 57 ft 6 in

Height: 14 ft 8 in 

Wing area: 506 ft²

Airfoil: NACA 6716 root, NACA 6713 tip

Empty weight: 24,959 lb 

Loaded weight: 30,384 lb  On CAS mission: 47,094 lb

On anti-armor mission: 42,071 lb 

Max takeoff weight: 50,000 lb 

Powerplant: 2× General Electric TF34-GE-100A turbofans, 9,065 lbf  each

Performance

Never exceed speed: 450 knots  at 5,000 ft  with 18 Mk 82 bombs

Maximum speed: 381 knots  at sea level, clean

Cruise speed: 300 knots

Stall speed: 120 knots

Combat radius:

On CAS mission: 250 nmi  at 1.88 hour single-engine loiter at 5,000 ft , 10 min combat

On anti-armor mission: 252 nmi , 40 nm  sea-level penetration and exit, 30 min combat

Ferry range: 2,240 nmi  with 50 knot  headwinds, 20 minutes reserve

Service ceiling: 45,000 ft

Rate of climb: 6,000 ft/min

Wing loading: 99 lb/ft²

Thrust/weight: 0.36

Armament

Guns: 1× 30 mm  GAU-8/A Avenger gatling cannon with 1,174 rounds

Hardpoints: 11 (8× under-wing and 3× under-fuselage pylon stations) with a capacity of 16,000 lb  and provisions to carry combinations of:

Rockets:

4× LAU-61/LAU-68 rocket pods (each with 19× / 7× Hydra 70 mm rockets, respectively)

4× LAU-5003 rocket pods (each with 19× CRV7 70 mm rockets)

6× LAU-10 rocket pods (each with 4 × 5.0 in Zuni rockets)

Missiles:

2× AIM-9 Sidewinders air-to-air missiles for self-defense

8× AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missiles

Bombs:

Mark 80 series of unguided iron bombs or

Mk 77 incendiary bombs or

BLU-1, BLU-27/B Rockeye II, Mk20, BL-755 and CBU-52/58/71/87/89/97 cluster bombs or

Paveway series of Laser-guided bombs or

Joint Direct Attack Munition (A-10C) or

Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser (A-10C)

Other:

SUU-42A/A Flares/Infrared decoys and chaff dispenser pod or

AN/ALQ-131 & AN/ALQ-184 ECM pods or

Lockheed Martin Sniper XR & LITENING targeting pods (A-10C) or 2× 600 US gallon Sargent Fletcher drop tanks for extended range/loitering time.

Avionics

AN/AAS-35(V) Pave Penny laser tracker pod (mounted beneath right side of cockpit) for use with Paveway LGBs

Head-up display (HUD) for improved technical flying and air-to-ground support.

 Nicknames

The A-10 Thunderbolt II received its popular nickname “Warthog” from the pilots and crews of the USAF attack squadrons who flew and maintained it. The A-10 is the last of Republic’s jet attack aircraft to serve with the USAF. The Republic F-84 Thunderjet was nicknamed the “Hog”, F-84F Thunderstreak nicknamed “Superhog”, and the Republic F-105 Thunderchief tagged “Ultra Hog”. A less common nickname is the “Tankbuster”. The saying Go Ugly Early has been associated with the aircraft in reference to calling in the A-10 early in combat.

 Notable appearances in media

 Aircraft in fiction

The A-10 Thunderbolt is utilized against the Decepticon Scorponok in the 2007 film, Transformers.A-10s were also used by the human resistance effort against the machines of Skynet in the 2009 film Terminator Salvation.

Development of Aerial Combat in World War II

May 30, 2010

Fighter development slowed between World War I and II, with the most significant change coming late in the period, when the classic World War I type machines started to give way to metal monocoque or semi-monocoque monoplanes, with cantilever wing structures. Given limited defense budgets, air forces tended to be conservative in their aircraft purchases, and biplanes remained popular with pilots because of their agility. Designs such as the Gloster Gladiator, Fiat CR.42, and Polikarpov I-15 were common even in the late 1930s, and many were still in service as late as 1942. Up until the mid-1930s, the vast majority of fighter aircraft remained fabric-covered biplanes. Fighter armament eventually began to be mounted inside the wings, outside the arc of the propeller, though most designs retained two synchronized machine-guns above the engine (which were considered more accurate). Rifle-caliber guns were the norm, with .50 caliber machine guns and 20 mm cannons deemed “overkill.” Considering that many aircraft were constructed similarly to World War I designs (albeit with aluminum frames), it was not considered unreasonable to use World War I-style armament to counter them. There was insufficient aerial combat during most of the period to disprove this notion.

The rotary engine, popular during World War I, quickly disappeared, replaced chiefly by the stationary radial engine. Aircraft engines increased in power several-fold over the period, going from a typical 180 hp in the 1918 Fokker D.VII to 900 hp in the 1938 Curtiss P-36. The debate between the sleek in-line engines versus the more reliable radial models continued, with naval air forces preferring the radial engines, and land-based forces often choosing in-line units. Radial designs did not require a separate (and vulnerable) cooling system, but had increased drag. In-line engines often had a better power-to-weight ratio, but there were radial engines that kept working even after having suffered significant battle damage.

Some air forces experimented with “heavy fighters” (called “destroyers” by the Germans). These were larger, usually a two- engine aircraft, sometimes adaptations of light or medium bomber types. Such designs typically had greater internal fuel capacity (thus longer range) and heavier armament than their single-engine counterparts. In combat, they proved ungainly and vulnerable to more nimble single-engine fighters.

The primary drive for fighter innovation, right up to the period of rapid rearmament in the late thirties, was not military budgets, but civilian aircraft races. Aircraft designed for these races pioneered innovations like streamlining and more powerful engines that would find their way into the fighters of World War II.

At the very end of the inter-war period came the Spanish Civil War. This was just the opportunity the German Luftwaffe, Italian Regia Aeronautica, and the Soviet Union’s Red Air Force needed to test their latest aircraft designs. Each party sent several aircraft to back their side in the conflict. In the dogfights over Spain, the latest Messerschmitt fighters (Bf 109) did well, as did the Soviet Polikarpov I-16. The German design, however, had considerable room for development and the lessons learned in Spain led to greatly improved models in World War II. The Russians, whose side lost in the conflict, nonetheless determined that their planes were sufficient for their immediate needs. I-16s were later slaughtered en masse by these improved German models in World War II, although they remained the most common Soviet front-line fighter until well into 1942. For their part, the Italians were satisfied with the performance of their Fiat CR.42 biplanes, and being short on funds, continued with this design even though it was obsolescent. The Spanish Civil War also provided an opportunity for updating fighter tactics. One of the innovations to result from the aerial warfare experience this conflict provided was the development of the “finger-four” formation by the German pilot Werner Mölders. Each fighter squadron (German: Staffel) was divided into several flights (Schwärme) of four aircraft. Each Schwarm was divided into two Rotten ,which was a pair of aircraft. Each Rotte was composed of a leader and a wingman. This flexible formation allowed the pilots to maintain greater situational awareness, and the two Rotte could split up at any time and attack on their own. The finger-four would become widely adopted as the fundamental tactical formation over the course of World War II.

Aerial combat formed an important part of World War II military doctrine. The ability of aircraft to locate, harass, and interdict ground forces was an instrumental part of the German combined-arms doctrine, and their inability to achieve air superiority over Britain made a German invasion unfeasible. German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel noted the effect of airpower: “Anyone who has to fight, even with the most modern weapons, against an enemy in complete command of the air, fights like a savage against modern European troops, under the same handicaps and with the same chances of success.”

During the 1930s, two different streams of thought about air-to-air combat began to emerge, resulting in two different approaches to monoplane fighter development. In Japan and Italy especially, there continued to be a strong belief that lightly armed, highly maneuverable single-seat fighters would still play a primary role in air-to-air combat. Aircraft such as the Nakajima Ki-27, Nakajima Ki-43 and the Mitsubishi A6M Zero in Japan, and the Fiat G.50 and Macchi C.200 in Italy epitomized a generation of monoplanes designed to this concept.

The other stream of thought, which emerged primarily in Britain, Germany, the Soviet Union, and the United States was the belief that the high speeds of modern combat aircraft and the g-forces imposed by aerial combat meant that dogfighting in the classic World War I sense would be impossible. Fighters such as the Messerschmitt Bf 109, the Supermarine Spitfire, the Yakovlev Yak-1 and the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk were all designed for high level speeds and a good rate of climb. Good maneuverability was desirable, but it was not the primary objective.

The 1939 Soviet-Japanese Battle of Khalkhyn Gol and the initial German invasion of Poland that same year were too brief to provide much feedback to the participants for further evolution of their respective fighter doctrines. During the Winter War, the greatly outnumbered Finnish Air Force, which had adopted the German finger-four formation, bloodied the noses of Russia’s Red Air Force, which relied on the less effective tactic of a three-aircraft delta formation.

European theater (Western Front)

The Battle of France, however, gave the Germans ample opportunity to prove they had mastered the lessons learned from their experiences in the Spanish Civil War. The Luftwaffe, with more combat-experience pilots and the battle-tested Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter operating in the flexible finger-four formation, proved superior to its British and French contemporaries relying on the close, three-fighter “vic” (or “V”) and other formations, despite their flying fighters with comparable maneuver performance.

The Battle of Britain was the first major military campaign to be fought entirely by air forces, and it offered further lessons for both sides. Foremost was the value of radar for detecting and tracking enemy aircraft formations, which allowed quick concentration of fighters to intercept them farther from their targets. As a defensive measure, this ground-controlled interception (GCI) approach allowed the Royal Air Force (RAF) to carefully marshal its limited fighter force for maximum effectiveness. At times, the RAF’s Fighter Command achieved interception rates greater than 80%.

In the summer of 1940, then Flight Lieutenant Adolph Malan introduced a variation of the German formation that he called the “fours in line astern”, which spread into more general use throughout Fighter Command. In 1941, Squadron Leader Douglas Bader adopted the “finger-four” formation itself, giving it its English-language name.

The Battle of Britain also revealed inadequacies of extant tactical fighters when used for long-range strategic attacks. The twin-engine heavy fighter concept was revealed as a failed concept as the Luftwaffe’s heavily armed but poorly maneuverable Messerschmitt Bf 110s proved highly vulnerable to nimble Hurricanes and Spitfires; the Bf 110s were subsequently relegated to night fighter and fighter-bomber roles for which they proved better-suited. Furthermore, the Luftwaffe’s Bf 109s, operating near the limits of their range, lacked endurance for prolonged dogfighting over Britain. When bomber losses induced Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring to assign most fighters to close-in escort duties, forcing them to fly and maneuver at reduced speeds, German fighter effectiveness fell and losses rose.

The Allies themselves, however, would not learn this latter lesson until they sustained heavy bomber losses of their own during daylight raids against Germany. Despite the early assertions of strategic bombing advocates that “the bomber will always get through”, even heavily armed U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) bombers like the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and Consolidated B-24 Liberator suffered such high losses to German fighters (such as the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 “bomber destroyer”) and flak (AAA) that – following the second raid on Schweinfurt in August 1943 – the U.S. Eighth Air Force was forced to suspend unescorted bombing missions into Germany until longer-range fighters became available for escort. These would appear in the form of Lockheed P-38 Lightnings, Republic P-47 Thunderbolts and North American P-51 Mustangs. The use of drop tanks also became common, which further made the heavy twin-engine fighter designs redundant, as single-engine fighters could now cover a similar distance. Extra fuel was carried in lightweight aluminum tanks below the aircraft, and the tanks were discarded when empty. Such innovations allowed American fighters to range over Germany and Japan by 1944.

As the war progressed, the growing numbers of these advanced, long-range fighters flown by pilots with increasing experience eventually overwhelmed their German opposition, despite the Luftwaffe’s introduction of technological innovations like jet- and rocket-powered interceptors. The steady attrition of experienced pilots forced the Germans to more frequently dip into their training pool to make up numbers when casualties surged. While new Allied airmen in Europe were well-trained, new Luftwaffe pilots were seldom able to get effective training – particularly by the summer of 1944, when Allied fighters often loitered around their airfields. Luftwaffe training flights were additionally hampered by the increasingly acute fuel shortages that began in April 1944.

European theater (Eastern Front)

On the Eastern Front, the strategic surprise of Operation Barbarossa demonstrated that Soviet air defense preparations were woefully inadequate, and the Great Purge rendered any lessons learned by the Red Air Force command from previous experience in Spain and Finland virtually useless. During the first few months of the invasion, Axis air forces were able to destroy large numbers of Red Air Force aircraft on the ground and in one-sided dogfights. However, by the winter of 1941–1942, the Red Air Force was able to put together a cohesive air defense of Moscow, successfully interdict attacks on Leningrad, and begin production of new aircraft types in the relocated semi-built factories in the Urals, Siberia, Central Asia and the Caucasus. These facilities produced more advanced monoplane fighters, such as the Yak-1, Yak-3, LaGG-3, and MiG-3, to wrest air superiority from the Luftwaffe. However, Soviet aircrew training was hasty in comparison to that provided to the Luftwaffe, so Soviet pilot losses continued to be disproportionate until a growing number of survivors were matched to more effective machines.

Beginning in 1942, significant numbers of British, and later U.S., fighter aircraft were also supplied to aid the Soviet war effort, with the Bell P-39 Airacobra proving particularly effective in the lower-altitude combat typical of the Eastern Front. Also from that time, the Eastern Front became the largest arena of fighter aircraft use in the world; fighters were used in all of the roles typical of the period, including close air support, interdiction, escort and interception roles. Some aircraft were armed with weapons as large as 45 mm cannon (particularly for attacking enemy armored vehicles), and the Germans began installing additional smaller cannons in under-wing pods to assist with ground-attack missions.

Pacific theatre

In the Pacific Theater, the experienced Japanese used their latest Mitsubishi A6M “Zero” to clear the skies of all opposition. Allied air forces – often flying obsolete aircraft, as the Japanese were not deemed as dangerous as the Germans – were caught off-guard and driven back until the Japanese became overextended. While the Japanese entered the war with a cadre of superbly trained airmen, they were never able to adequately replace their losses with pilots of the same quality, resulting in zero leave for experienced pilots and sending pilots with minimal skill into battle, while the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and U.S. schools produced thousands of competent airmen, compared to hundred the Japanese graduated a year before the war. Japanese fighter planes were also optimized for agility and range, and in time Allied airmen developed tactics that made better use of the superior armament and protection in their Grumman F4F Wildcats and Curtiss P-40s. From mid-1942, newer Allied fighter models were faster (Wildcat was 13 mph slower than the Zero, but the Warhawk was 29 mph faster) and better-armed than the Japanese fighters. Improved tactics such as the Thach weave helped counter the more agile Zeros and Nakajima Ki-43 ‘Oscars’. Japanese industry was not up to the task of mass-producing fighter designs equal to the latest Western models, and Japanese fighters had been largely driven from the skies by mid-1944.

Technological innovations

Piston-engine power increased considerably during the war. The Curtiss P-36 Hawk had a 900 hp (670 kW) radial engine but was soon redesigned as the P-40 Warhawk with a 1100 hp (820 kW) in-line engine. By 1943, the latest P-40N had a 1300 hp (970 kW) Allison engine. At war’s end, the German Focke-Wulf Ta 152 interceptor could achieve 2050 hp (1530 kW) with an MW-50 (methanol-water injection) supercharger and the American P-51H Mustang fitted with the Packard V-1650-9 could achieve 2218 hp (1650 kW) under war emergency power. The Spitfire Mk I of 1939 was powered by a 1030 hp (770 kW) Merlin II; its 1945 successor, the Spitfire F.Mk 21, was equipped with the 2035 hp (1520 kW) Griffon 61. Likewise, the radial engines favored for many fighters also grew from 1,100 hp (820 kW) to as much as 2090 hp (770 kW) during the same timeframe.

The first turbojet-powered fighter designs became operational in 1944, and clearly outperformed their piston-engined counterparts. New designs such as the Messerschmitt Me 262 and Gloster Meteor demonstrated the effectiveness of the new propulsion system. (Rocket-powered interceptors – most notable the Messerschmitt Me 163 – appeared at the same time, but proved less effective.) Many of these fighters could do over 660 km/h in level flight, and were fast enough in a dive that they started encountering the transonic buffeting experienced near the speed of sound; such turbulence occasionally resulted in a jet breaking up in flight due to the heavy load placed on an aircraft near the so-called “sound barrier”. Dive brakes were added to jet fighters late in World War II to minimize these problems and restore control to pilots.

More powerful armament became a priority early in the war, once it became apparent that newer stressed-skin monoplane fighters could not be easily shot down with rifle-caliber machine guns. The Germans’ experiences in the Spanish Civil War led them to put 20 mm cannons on their fighters. The British soon followed suit, putting cannons in the wings of their Hurricanes and Spitfires. The Americans, lacking a native cannon design, instead chose to place multiple .50 caliber (12.7 mm) machine guns on their fighters. Armaments continued to increase over the course of the war, with the German Me 262 jet having four 30 mm cannons in the nose. Cannons fired explosive shells, and could blast a hole in an enemy aircraft rather than relying on kinetic energy from a solid bullet striking a critical subsystem (fuel line, hydraulics, control cable, pilot, etc.). A debate existed over the merits of high rate-of-fire machine guns versus slower-firing, but more devastating, cannon.

With the increasing need for close air support on the battlefield, fighters were increasingly fitted with bomb racks and used as fighter-bombers. Some designs, such as the German Fw 190, proved extremely capable in this role – though the designer Kurt Tank had designed it as a pure interceptor. While carrying air-to-surface ordnance such as bombs or rockets beneath the aircraft’s wing, its maneuverability is decreased because of lessened lift and increased drag, but once the ordnance is delivered (or jettisoned), the aircraft is again a fully capable fighter aircraft. By their flexible nature, fighter-bombers offer the command staff the freedom to assign a particular air group to air superiority or ground-attack missions, as need requires.

Rapid technology advances in radar, which had been invented shortly prior to World War II, would permit their being fitted to some fighters, such as the Messerschmitt Bf 110, Bristol Beaufighter, de Havilland Mosquito, Grumman F6F Hellcat and Northrop P-61 Black Widow, to enable them to locate targets at night. The Germans developed several night-fighter types as they were under constant night bombardment by RAF Bomber Command. The British, who developed the first radar-equipped night fighters in 1940–1941, lost their technical lead to the Luftwaffe. Since the radar of the era was fairly primitive and difficult to use, larger two- or three-seat aircraft with dedicated radar operators were commonly adapted to this role.

B-25 : The Pistol Packing Bomber

May 16, 2010

B-25 Mitchell

The North American B-25 Mitchell was an American twin-engined medium bomber manufactured by North American Aviation. It was used by many Allied air forces, in every theater of World War II, as well as many other air forces after the war ended, and saw service across four decades.The B-25 was named in honor of General Billy Mitchell, a pioneer of U.S. military aviation. The B-25 is the only American military aircraft named after a specific person. By the end of its production, nearly 10,000 B-25s in numerous models had been built. These included a few limited variations, such as the United States Navy’s and Marine Corps’ PBJ-1 patrol bomber and the United States Army Air Forces’ F-10 photo reconnaissance aircraft.

Design and development

Flight Performance School also included work in evaluating the performance of this B-25 Mitchell medium bomberThe B-25 was a descendant of the earlier XB-21 (North American-39) project of the mid-1930s. Experience gained in developing that aircraft was eventually used by North American in designing the B-25 (called the NA-40 by the company). One NA-40 was built, with several modifications later being done to test a number of potential improvements. These improvements included Wright R-2600 radial engines, which would become standard on the later B-25.

In 1939, the modified and improved NA-40B was submitted to the United States Army Air Corps for evaluation. This aircraft was originally intended to be an attack bomber for export to the United Kingdom and France, both of which had a pressing requirement for such aircraft in the early stages of World War II. However, those countries changed their minds, opting instead for the also-new Douglas DB-7 (later to be used by the US as the A-20 Havoc). Despite this loss of sales, the NA-40B re-entered the spotlight when the Army Air Corps evaluated it for use as a medium bomber. Unfortunately, the NA-40B was destroyed in a crash on 11 April 1939. Nonetheless, the type was ordered into production, along with the Army’s other new medium bomber, the Martin B-26 Marauder.

Early production

An improvement of the NA-40B, dubbed the NA-62, was the basis for the first actual B-25. Due to the pressing need for medium bombers by the Army, no experimental or service-test versions were built. Any necessary modifications were made during production runs, or to existing aircraft at field modification centers around the world.A significant change in the early days of B-25 production was a re-design of the wing. In the first nine aircraft, a constant-dihedral wing was used, in which the wing had a consistent, straight, slight upward angle from the fuselage to the wing tip. This design caused stability problems, and as a result, the dihedral angle was nullified on the outboard wing sections, giving the B-25 its slightly gull wing configuration. Less noticeable changes during this period included an increase in the size of the tail fins and a decrease in their inward cant.A total of 6,608 B-25s were built at North American’s Fairfax Airport plant in Kansas City, Kansas.A descendant of the B-25 was the North American XB-28, meant to be a high-altitude version of the B-25. Despite this premise, the actual aircraft bore little resemblance to the Mitchell. It had much more in common with the B-26 Marauder.

Operational history

The B-25 first gained fame as the bomber used in the 18 April 1942 Doolittle Raid, in which sixteen B-25Bs led by the legendary Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle, attacked mainland Japan four months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The mission gave a much-needed lift in spirits to the Americans, and alarmed the Japanese who had believed their home islands were inviolable by enemy troops. While the amount of actual damage done was relatively minor, it forced the Japanese to divert troops for the home defense for the remainder of the war. The raiders took off from the carrier USS Hornet and successfully bombed Tokyo and four other Japanese cities without loss. However, 15 subsequently crash-landed en route to recovery fields in Eastern China. These losses were the result of the task force being spotted by Japanese fishing vessels forcing the bombers to take off 170 mi early, fuel exhaustion, stormy nighttime conditions with zero visibility, and lack of electronic homing aids at the recovery bases. Only one landed intact; it came down in the Soviet Union, where its five-man crew was interned and the aircraft confiscated. Of the 80 aircrew, 69 survived their historic mission and eventually made it back to American lines.Following a number of additional modifications, including the addition of Plexiglas windows for the navigator and radio operator, heavier nose armament, and deicing and anti-icing equipment, the B-25C was released to the Army. This was the second mass-produced version of the Mitchell, the first being the lightly-armed B-25B used by the Doolittle Raiders. The B-25C and B-25D differed only in location of manufacture: -Cs at Inglewood, California, -Ds at Kansas City, Kansas. A total of 3,915 B-25Cs and -Ds were built by North American during World War II.

Although the B-25 was originally designed to bomb from medium altitudes in level flight, it was used frequently in the Southwest Pacific theater (SWPA) on treetop-level strafing and parafrag (parachute-retarded fragmentation bombs) missions against Japanese airfields in New Guinea and the Philippines. These heavily-armed Mitchells, field-modified at Townsville, Australia, by Major Paul I. “Pappy” Gunn and North American tech rep Jack Fox, were also used on strafing and skip-bombing missions against Japanese shipping trying to re-supply their land-based armies. Under the leadership of Lieutenant General George C. Kenney, B-25s of the Fifth and Thirteenth Air Forces devastated Japanese targets in the SWPA from 1942 to 1945, and played a significant role in pushing the Japanese back to their home islands. B-25s were also used with devastating effect in the Central Pacific, Alaska, North Africa, Mediterranean and China-Burma-India theaters.Because of the urgent need for hard-hitting strafer aircraft, a version dubbed the B-25G was developed, in which the standard-length transparent nose and the bombardier were replaced by a shorter solid nose containing two fixed .50 in machine guns and a 75 mm M4 cannon, one of the largest weapons fitted to an aircraft, similar to the experimental British Mosquito Mk. XVIII, and German Ju 88P heavy cannon carrying aircraft. The cannon was manually loaded and serviced by the navigator, who was able to perform these operations without leaving his crew station just behind the pilot. This was possible due to the shorter nose of the G-model and the length of the M4, which allowed the breech to extend into the navigator’s compartment.

The B-25G’s successor, the B-25H, had even more firepower. The M4 gun was replaced by the lighter T13E1, designed specifically for the aircraft. The 75 mm gun fired at a muzzle velocity of 2,362 ft/s . Due to its low rate of fire (approximately four rounds could be fired in a single strafing run) and relative ineffectiveness against ground targets, as well as substantial recoil, the 75 mm gun was sometimes removed from both G and H models and replaced with two additional .50 in machine guns as a field modification. The -H also mounted four fixed forward-firing .50 machine guns in the nose, four more fixed ones in forward-firing cheek blisters, two more in the top turret, one each in a pair of new waist positions, and a final pair in a new tail gunner’s position. Company promotional material bragged the B-25H could “bring to bear 10 machine guns coming and four going, in addition to the 75 mm cannon, a brace of eight rockets and 3,000 lb of bombs.”

The B-25H also featured a redesigned cockpit area, with the top turret moved forward to the navigator’s compartment (thus requiring the addition of the waist and tail gun positions), and a heavily modified cockpit designed to be operated by a single pilot, the co-pilot’s station and controls deleted, and the seat cut down and used by the navigator/cannoneer, the radio operator being moved to the aft compartment, operating the waist guns. A total of 1,400 B-25Gs and B-25Hs were built.

The final version of the Mitchell, the B-25J, looked much like the earlier B, C and D, having reverted to the longer nose. The less-than-successful 75 mm cannon was deleted on the J model. Instead, 800 of this version were built with a solid nose containing eight .50 machine guns, while other J-models featured the earlier “greenhouse” style nose containing the bombardier’s position. Regardless of the nose style used, all J-models also included two .50 in guns in a “fuselage package” located directly under the pilot’s station, and two more such guns in an identical package just under the co-pilot’s compartment. The solid-nose B-25J variant carried an impressive total of 18 .50 in guns: eight in the nose, four in under-cockpit packages, two in an upper turret, two in the waist, and a pair in the tail. No other bomber of World War II carried as many guns. However, the first 555 B-25Js (the B-25J-1-NC production block) were delivered without the fuselage package guns, because it was discovered muzzle blast from these guns was causing severe stress in the fuselage;this was cured with heavier fuselage skin patches, while later production runs returned these guns, they were often removed as a field modification for the same reason. In all, 4,318 B-25Js were built.

The B-25 was a safe and forgiving aircraft to fly. With an engine out, 60° banking turns into the dead engine were possible, and control could be easily maintained down to 145 mph . However, the pilot had to remember to maintain engine-out directional control at low speeds after take off with rudder – if this was attempted with ailerons, the aircraft would snap out of control. The tricycle landing gear made for excellent visibility while taxiing. The only significant complaint about the B-25 was the extremely high noise level produced by its engines; as a result, many pilots eventually suffered from various degrees of hearing loss. The high noise level was due to design and space restrictions in the engine cowlings which resulted in the exhaust “stacks” protuding directly from the cowling ring and partly covered by a small triangular fairing. This directed exhaust and noise directly at the pilot and crew compartments. Crew members and operators on the airshow circuit frequently comment that “the B-25 is the fastest way to turn aviation fuel directly into noise”. Many B-25’s now in civilian ownership have been modified with exhaust rings that direct the exhaust through the outboard bottom section of the cowling.

The Mitchell was also an amazingly sturdy aircraft and could withstand tremendous punishment. One well-known B-25C of the 321st Bomb Group was nicknamed “Patches” because its crew chief painted all the aircraft’s flak hole patches with high-visibility zinc chromate paint. By the end of the war, this aircraft had completed over 300 missions, was belly-landed six times and sported over 400 patched holes. The airframe was so bent, straight-and-level flight required 8° of left aileron trim and 6° of right rudder, causing the aircraft to “crab” sideways across the sky.

An interesting characteristic of the B-25 was its ability to extend range by using one-quarter wing flap settings. Since the aircraft normally cruised in a slightly nose-high attitude, about 40 gal of fuel was below the fuel pickup point and thus unavailable for use. The flaps-down setting gave the aircraft a more level flight attitude, which resulted in this fuel becoming available, thus slightly extending the aircraft’s range.

By the time a separate United States Air Force was established in 1947, most B-25s had been consigned to long-term storage. However, a select number continued in service through the late 1940s and 1950s in a variety of training, reconnaissance and support roles. Its principal use during this period was for undergraduate training of multi-engine aircraft pilots slated for reciprocating engine or turboprop cargo, aerial refueling or reconnaissance aircraft. Still others were assigned to units of the Air National Guard in training roles in support of F-89 Scorpion and F-94 Starfire operations. TB-25J-25-NC Mitchell, 44-30854, the last B-25 in the USAF inventory, assigned at March AFB, California as of March 1960[6], was flown to Eglin AFB, Florida, from Turner Air Force Base, Georgia, on 21 May 1960, the last flight by a USAF B-25, and presented by Brig. Gen. A. J. Russell, Commander of SAC’s 822nd Air Division at Turner AFB, to the Air Proving Ground Center Commander, Brig. Gen. Robert H. Warren, who in turn presented the bomber to Valparaiso, Florida Mayor Randall Roberts on behalf of the Niceville-Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce. Four of the original Tokyo Raiders were present for the ceremony, Col. Davy Jones, Col. Jack Simms, Lt. Col. Joseph Manske, and retired Master Sgt. Edwin W. Horton. Donated back to the Air Force Armament Museum circa 1974 and marked as Doolittle’s 40-2344.

Empire State Building incident

On Saturday, 28 July 1945, at 0940 (while flying in thick fog), a USAAF B-25D crashed into the north side of the Empire State Building, hitting between the 79th and 80th floor. Fourteen people were killed — 11 in the building, along with Colonel William Smith and the other two occupants of the bomber. Betty Lou Oliver, an elevator attendant, survived the impact and a subsequent accident with the elevator. It was partly because of this incident that towers 1 and 2 of the World Trade Center were designed to withstand the impact of a Boeing 707 aircraft (unfortunately NOT Arab terrorist hijacked airliners).

Variants

B-25

The first version of the B-25 delivered. No prototypes were ordered. The first nine aircraft were built with constant dihedral angle. Due to low stability, the wing was redesigned so that the dihedral was eliminated on the outboard section. (Number made: 24.)
B-25A
Version of the B-25 modified to make it combat ready; additions included self-sealing fuel tanks, crew armor, and an improved tail gunner station. No changes were made in the armament. Re-designated obsolete (RB-25A designation) in 1942. (Number made: 40.)
B-25B
Rear turret deleted; manned dorsal and remotely-operated ventral turrets added, each with a pair of .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns. The ventral turret was retractable, but the increased drag still reduced the cruise speed by 30 mph (48 km/h). 23 were delivered to the RAF as the Mitchell Mk I. The Doolittle Raiders flew B-25Bs on their famous mission. (Number made: 120.)
B-25C
Improved version of the B-25B: powerplants upgraded from Wright R-2600-9 radials to R-2600-13s; de-icing and anti-icing equipment added; the navigator received a sighting blister; nose armament was increased to two .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns, one fixed and one flexible. The B-25C model was the first mass-produced B-25 version; it was also used in the United Kingdom (as the Mitchell II), in Canada, China, the Netherlands, and the Soviet Union. First mass-produced B-25 model. (Number made: 1,625.)
ZB-25C
B-25D
Identical to the B-25C, the only difference was that the B-25D was made in Kansas City, Kansas, whereas the B-25C was made in Inglewood, California. First flew on 3 January 1942. (Number made: 2,290.)
ZB-25D
XB-25E
Single B-25C modified to test de-icing and anti-icing equipment that circulated exhaust from the engines in chambers in the leading and trailing edges and empennage. The aircraft was tested for almost two years, beginning in 1942; while the system proved extremely effective, no production models were built that used it prior to the end of World War II. Many prop aircraft today use the XB-25E system. (Number made: 1, converted.)
ZXB-25E
XB-25F-A
Modified B-25C that tested the use of insulated electrical de-icing coils mounted inside the wing and empennage leading edges as a de-icing system. The hot air de-icing system tested on the XB-25E was more practical. (Number made: 1, converted.)
XB-25G
Modified B-25C in which the transparent nose was replaced by a solid one carrying two fixed .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns and a 75 mm (2.95 in) M4 cannon, then the largest weapon ever carried on an American bomber. (Number made: 1, converted.)
B-25G
To satisfy the dire need for ground-attack and strafing aircraft, the B-25G was made following the success of the prototype XB-25G. The production model featured increased armor and a greater fuel supply than the XB-25G. One B-25G was passed to the British, who gave it the name Mitchell II that had been used for the B-25C. (Number made: 420.)
B-25H

B-25H Barbie III taxiing at Centennial Airport, ColoradoAn improved version of the B-25G. It featured two additional fixed .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns in the nose and four in fuselage-mounted pods; the heavy M4 cannon was replaced by a lighter 75 mm (2.95 in) T13E1. (Number made: 1,000; number left flying in the world: 1.)
B-25J
The last production model of the B-25, often called a cross between the B-25C and the B-25H. It had a transparent nose, but many of the delivered aircraft were modified to have a solid nose. Most of its 14–18 machine guns were forward-facing for strafing missions. 316 were delivered to the Royal Air Force as the Mitchell III. (Number made: 4,318.)
CB-25J
Utility transport version.
VB-25J
A number of B-25s were converted for use as staff and VIP transports. Henry H. Arnold and Dwight D. Eisenhower both used converted B-25Js as their personal transports.

U.S. Navy / U.S. Marine Corps variants

PBJ-1C
Similar to the B-25C for the US Navy; often fitted with airborne search radar and used in the anti-submarine role.
PBJ-1D
Similar to the B-25D for the US Navy and US Marine Corps. Differed in having a single .50 in (12.7 mm) machine gun in the tail turret and beam gun positions similar to the B-25H. Often fitted with airborne search radar and used in the anti-submarine role.
PBJ-1G
US Navy/US Marine Corps designation for the B-25G
PBJ-1H
US Navy/US Marine Corps designation for the B-25H
PBJ-1J
US Navy designation for the B-25J-NC (Blocks -1 through -35) with improvements in radio and other equipment. Often fitted with “package guns” and wingtip search radar for the anti-shipping/anti-submarine role.

Survivors

There are more than one hundred surviving B-25 Mitchells scattered over the world, mainly in the United States. Most of them are on static display in museums, but about 45 are still airworthy.

On 18 April 2010, 17 airworthy B-25s took off from the airfield behind the National Museum of the United States Air Force and flew over in formation to commerate the 68th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid. Four of the surviving members of the Raid were in attendance for the reunion; Cole, Griffin, Hite and Thatcher, although Hite departed before the flyover. Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley, Commander of Air Force Material Command General Donald Hoffman and the Director of the National Museum of the United States Air Force Major General Charles Metcalf were there also.

Specifications (B-25J)

North American B-25 Mitchell

Role Medium bomber

Manufacturer North American Aviation

First flight 19 August 1940

Introduction 1941

Retired 1979 (Indonesia)

Primary users United States Army Air Forces,Royal Canadian Air Force,Royal Air Force,Soviet Air Force

Number built 9,984

Developed from XB-21

Developed into North American XB-28

General characteristics

Crew: six (two pilots, navigator/bombardier, turret gunner/engineer, radio operator/waist gunner, tail gunner
Length: 52 ft 11 in (16.1 m)
Wingspan: 67 ft 6 in (20.6 m)
Height: 17 ft 7 in (4.8 m)
Wing area: 610 sq ft (57 m²)
Empty weight: 21,120 lb (9,580 kg)
Loaded weight: 33,510 lb (15,200 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 41,800 lb (19,000 kg)
Powerplant: 2× Wright R-2600 “Cyclone” radials, 1,850 hp (1,380 kW) each
Performance

Maximum speed: 275 mph (239 kn, 442 km/h)
Cruise speed: 230 mph (200 kn, 370 km/h)
Combat radius: 1,350 mi (1,170 nmi, 2,170 km)
Ferry range: 2,700 mi (2,300 nmi, 4,300 km)
Service ceiling: 25,000 ft (7,600 m)
Rate of climb: 790 ft/min (4 m/s)
Wing loading: 55 lb/ft² (270 kg/m²)
Power/mass: 0.110 hp/lb (182 W/kg)
Armament

Guns: 12-18 × .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns
Hardpoints: 2,000 lb (900 kg) ventral shackles to hold one external Mark 13 torpedo[15]
Rockets: 3,000 lb (1,360 kg) bombs + eight 5 in (130 mm) high velocity aircraft rockets (HVAR)
Bombs: 6,000 lb (2,700 kg)

A Short History of Aircraft Nose Art

May 3, 2010

Nose art

is a decorative painting or design on the fuselage of a military aircraft, usually located near the nose, and is a form of aircraft graffiti.

While begun for practical reasons of identifying friendly units, the practice evolved to express the individuality often constrained by the uniformity of the military, to evoke memories of home and peacetime life, and as a kind of psychological protection against the stresses of war and the probability of death. The appeal, in part, came from nose art not being officially approved, even when the regulations against it were not enforced.

Because of its individual and unofficial nature, it is considered folk art, inseparable from work as well as representative of a group. It can also be compared to sophisticated graffiti. In both cases, the artist is often anonymous, and the art itself is ephemeral. In addition, it relies on materials immediately available.

Nose art is largely a military tradition, but civilian airliners operated by the Virgin Group feature “Virgin Girls” on the nose as part of their livery. In a broad sense, the tail art of several airlines such as the Eskimo of Alaska Airlines, can be called “nose art”, as are the tail markings of present-day U.S. Navy squadrons. There were exceptions, including 8th Air Force B-17 “Whizzer”, which had its girl-riding-a-bomb on the dorsal fin.
History

The practice of putting personalized decorations on fighting aircraft originated with Italian and German pilots. The first recorded piece of nose art was a sea monster painted on the nose of an Italian flying boat in 1913. This was followed by the popular practice of painting mouths underneath the propeller spinner, initiated by German pilots in World War I. The cavallino rampante (prancing horse) of the Italian ace Francesco Baracca was another well-known symbol, as was the red-painted aircraft of Manfred von Richthofen. However, nose art of this era was often conceived and produced by the aircraft ground crews, not by the pilots.

Other World War I examples included the “Hat in the Ring” of the American 94th Aero Squadron (attributed to Lt. Johnny Wentworth) and the “Kicking Mule” of the 95th Aero Squadron. This followed the official policy, established by the American Expeditionary Forces’ (AEF) Chief of the Air Service, Brigadier General Benjamin Foulois, on 6 May 1918, requiring the creation of distinct, readily identifiable squadron insignia. What is perhaps the most famous of all nose art, the shark-face insignia made famous by the American Volunteer Group Flying Tigers, also first appeared in World War I, though often with an effect more comical than menacing.

While World War I nose art was usually embellished or extravagant squadron insignia, true nose art appeared during World War II, which is considered by many observers to be the golden age of the genre, with both Axis and Allied pilots taking part. At the height of the war, nose-artists were in very high demand in the USAAF and were paid quite well for their services while AAF commanders tolerated nose art in an effort to boost aircrew morale. The U.S. Navy, by contrast, prohibited nose art, while nose art was uncommon in the RAF or RCAF.
Curtiss P-40 fighter aircraft of the Flying Tigers, with their iconic shark face and the 12-point sun of the Chinese Air Force.

The work was done by professional civilian artists as well as talented amateur servicemen. In 1941, for instance, the 39th Pursuit Squadron commissioned a Bell Aircraft artist to design and paint the “Cobra in the Clouds” logo on their aircraft. Perhaps the most enduring nose art of WWII was the shark-face motif, which first appeared on the Bf-110s of Luftwaffe 76th Destroyer Wing over Crete, where the twin-engined Messerschmitts outmatched the Gloster Gladiator biplanes of RAF 112 Squadron. The Commonwealth pilots were withdrawn to Egypt and refitted with Curtiss Tomahawks off the same assembly line building fighter aircraft for the AVG Flying Tigers being recruited for service in China. In November 1941, AVG pilots saw a 112 Squadron Tomahawk in an illustrated weekly and immediately adopted the shark-face motif for their own planes. This work was done the pilots and ground crew in the field. Similarly, when in 1943 the 39th Fighter Squadron became the first American squadron in their theatre with 100 kills, they adopted the shark-face for their P-38 Lightnings. The shark-face is still used to this day, most commonly seen on the A-10 Thunderbolt II (with its gaping maw leading up to the muzzle of the aircraft’s GAU-8 Avenger 30mm cannon), a testament to its popularity as a form of nose art.
Nose art on a B-17 Flying Fortress

In the Korean War, nose art was popular with units operating A-26 and B-29 bombers, C-119 Flying Boxcar transports, as well as USAF fighter-bombers. Due to changes in military policies and changing attitudes toward the representation of women, the amount of nose art declined after the Korean War.

During the Vietnam War, AC-130 gunships of the U.S Air Force Special Operations Squadrons were often given names with accompanying nose art – for example, “Thor”, “Azrael – Angel of Death”, “Ghost Rider”, “War Lord” and “The Arbitrator.” The unofficial gunship badge of a flying skeleton with a Minigun was also applied to many aircraft until the end of the war, and was later adopted officially.

Nose art underwent a revival during Operation Desert Storm and has become more common since Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom began. Many crews are merging artwork as part of camouflage patterns. The United States Air Force had unofficially sanctioned the return of the pin-up (albeit fully-clothed) with the Strategic Air Command permitting nose art on its bomber force in the Command’s last years. The continuation of historic names such as Memphis Belle was encouraged.

International designs

Source material for American nose art was varied, ranging from pinups such as Rita Hayworth and Betty Grable and cartoon characters such as Donald Duck and Popeye to patriotic characters (Yankee Doodle) and fictional heroes (Sam Spade). Lucky symbols such as dice and playing cards also inspired nose art, along with cartoon characters and references to mortality such as the Grim Reaper. Cartoons and pinups were most popular among American artists, but other works included animals, nicknames, hometowns, and popular song and movie titles. Some nose art and slogans imposed contempt to the enemy, especially to enemy leaders.

The farther the planes and crew were from headquarters or from the public eye, the racier the art tended to be. For instance, nudity was more common in nose art on aircraft in the Pacific than on aircraft in Europe.

Luftwaffe aircraft did not often display nose art, but there were exceptions. For example, Mickey Mouse adorned a Condor Legion Bf-109 during the Spanish Civil War and one Ju-87A was decorated with a large pig inside a white circle during the same period. Adolf Galland’s Bf-109E-3 of JG 26 also had a depiction of Mickey Mouse, holding a contemporary telephone in his hands, in mid-1941. A Ju-87B-1 (S2+AC) of Stab II/St. G 77, piloted by Major Alfons Orthofer and based in Breslau-Schongarten during the invasion of Poland, was painted with a shark’s mouth, and some Bf-110s were decorated with furious wolf’s heads or shark mouths on engine covers. Another example was Erich Hartmann’s Bf-109G-14, “Lumpi”, with an eagle’s head. A Bf-109g-10 (10 red) of I./JG 300, maintained by Officer Wolfgang Hunsdorfer, was flown by various pilots. In addition, the fighter wing Jagdgeschwader 54 was known as the Grünherz (Green Hearts) after their fuselage emblem, a large green heart. The Geschwader was originally formed in Thüringen, nicknamed “the green heart of Germany”. Perhaps the flashiest Luftwaffe nose art was the snake insignia running through the whole fuselage of certain Ju 87 Stukas.

The Soviet Air Force also decorated their planes with historical images, mythical beasts, and patriotic slogans.

The attitude of the Finnish Air Force to the nose art varied by unit. Some units disallowed nose art, while others tolerated it. Generally the Finnish air force nose art was humorous or satirical, such as the “horned Stalin” on Maj. Maunula’s Curtiss P-36.

The Japan Air Self-Defense Force has decorated fighter aircraft with Valkyrie-themed characters under the names Mystic Eagle and Shooting Eagle.

Canadian Forces were reported to have nose art on CH-47D Chinook and CH-146 Griffon helicopters in Afghanistan.

Famous examples

General Adolf Galland was famous for painting Mickey Mouse on his aircraft, and the mascot was adopted by his Gruppe during the early airwar phase of World War II.Oberstleutnant Werner Mölders flew a yellow-nosed Bf-109F2 while with JG 51 during June 1941.Other fighter aces and their nose art have become synonymous.

* Don Gentile’s P-51C’s named “Shangri-La”, with an eagle sporting boxing gloves.
* Chuck Yeager’s series of aircraft named “Glamourous Glennis”, with bright letter art.
* Ian Gleed’s Spitfires featured Figaro the Cat, from the 1940 Disney animated movie Pinocchio.
* Pierre Closterman’s Hawker Tempest Le Grand Charles featured the Cross of Lorraine.
* Johnny Johnson’s Spitfire IX featured the Canadian maple leaf.
* Erich Hartmann’s Bf 109s featured a distinctive “black tulip” design on the very front of the cowling, immediately behind the spinner.

The markings of aces were often adopted by their squadrons, such as Galland’s Mickey Mouse and Hartmann’s black tulip (still in use today on the aircraft of JG 71 “Richthofen”).

Nose art bans

The British MoD banned the use of pin-up women in nose art on Royal Air Force aircraft in 2007, as commanders decided the images (many containing naked women), were inappropriate and potentially offensive to female personnel, although there were no documented complaints.

The Battle

April 22, 2010

This was my final graduation demo from the School of Communication Arts. It began as a storyboard idea of a one on one tank engagement in World War II between a US Sherman tank and a German Panther tank. Through time constraints and fluid ideas, it evolved into what you see here. The Sherman tank was modeled using Alias Maya 4. The texture mapping was referenced from various tech drawings and pictures. The P-51 aircraft were modeled using my own creative interpretation of what a P-51D would look like. I did use the skinning and mapping to reflect actual aircraft paint schemes. Some of the skills I learned on the fly were the movement of the tank tread and the particle smoke and explosions seen in the reel. These were self taught and within the confines of the time limit due to the instructor not knowing how to give me the proper technique. My other pride and joy was the USMC AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter. This was modeled only using photographs and the skinning was my own design take on it. The software used was Alias Maya, Adobe Photoshop, After Effects, Premiere, and SoundForge.

Coloring the past

March 28, 2010

You’ve all seen them in the Hallmark stores.  The cutesy black and white photograph cards with the little kids all dressed in grown up clothes doing some quirky adorable pose.  Well, I wanted to learn to do that.  It seems simple enough, and well it is.  You can take literally any color photograph into Adobe photoshop.  One step here, another there and all of a sudden you have a black and white photo with splashes of color. I realize that I just over simplified the whole process but this isn’t about giving you a photoshop lesson.  I just wanted to show you how much fun it can be.  The first photo I retouched was of my youngest daughter and her friend at the water’s edge of Carolina Beach in North Carolina.  The sky was slightly overcast and the water was vibrant at all.

This particular photograph of actress Elisabeth Shue was scanned many years ago from , I think, US Magazine.  I felt that the picture would be better served if you focused more on the colors of the flag than the actress herself.

 

 

This photograph was more of a chance since I saw the artistic value of a touching scene and wanted to quickly capture it. Unfortunately, those cars were in the frame and I decided to turn it into a black and white photo with contrasting opposite colors on both of the girls.  Subjects are of my youngest daughter and of my neighbor’s youngest daughter.

 

 

This last photograph was taken at the 2009 Airpower of Goldsboro Airshow.  It featured the Navy’s Blue Angels demo team and vast assorted other aircraft.  One of the features was a reenactment of the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7th 1941.  Using old AT-6 Texans heavily modified to look like Zeros, Kates, and Vals, they put on an impressive show.  I was able to be right next to the tarmac as they warmed their engines and taxiid out to the runway.  It was an impressive sight.  Although, I took countless photos of this event, I chose to turn two photos into black and white with a splash of color.  The first is of a Japanese “Zero”.  Although you can’t tell, to give it more of an old time feeling, I photoshopped some elements of “modernism” out of the scenery.

This last photograph doesn’t even begin to tell you how giddy with excitement I was.  This is a Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress medium bomber.  It is NOT the original Memphis Belle.  However, it was used in the motion picture,”Memphis Belle”.  What makes this the most exciting thing about all of the airshows I have ever attended, was the fact that I got to go inside it.  This was a piece of history and I was so beside myself I couldn’t stop grinning and taking pictures.  The top ball turret, side guns, radio ops station, cockpit, tailgun and to walk though and feel how this was actually a small aircraft. Wow.

Anyway, that’s just a few of the photographs that I have turned into black and whites.  I hope that you’ve enjoyed it.  Semper Fi!