Posted tagged ‘combat’

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.

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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.

Here Comes the General

May 6, 2010

The M3 Stuart, formally Light Tank M3, was an American light tank of World War II. It was used by British and Commonwealth forces prior to the entry of the USA into the war, and thereafter by US and Allied forces until the end of the war. The name General Stuart or Stuart given by the British comes from the American Civil War General J.E.B. Stuart and was used for both the M3 and the derivative M5 Light Tank; in British service it also had the unofficial nickname of Honey (named when a tank driver remarked “She’s a honey”). To the United States Army the tanks were officially known only as “Light Tank M3” and “Light Tank M5”.

Development

Observing events in Europe, American tank designers realized that the Light Tank M2 was becoming obsolete and set about improving it. The upgraded design, with thicker armor, modified suspension and new gun recoil system was called “Light Tank M3”. Production of the vehicle started in March 1941 and continued until October 1943. Like its direct predecessor, the M2A4, the M3 was armed with a 37 mm M5 gun and five .30-06 Browning M1919A4 machine guns: coaxial with the gun, on top of the turret in an M20 AA mount, in a ball mount in right bow, in the right and left hull sponsons.

To relieve the demand for the radial aero-engines used in the M3, a new version was developed using twin Cadillac V-8 automobile engines. The new model (initially called M4 but redesignated M5 to avoid confusion with the M4 Sherman) also featured a redesigned hull with sloped glacis plate and driver’s hatches moved to the top. Although the main criticism from the units using it was that the Stuarts lacked firepower, the improved M5 series kept the same 37 mm gun. The M5 gradually replaced the M3 in production from 1942 and was in turn succeeded by the Light Tank M24 in 1944.


Combat history

The British Army was the first to use the Light Tank M3 as the “General Stuart” in combat. In November 1941, some 170 Stuarts took part in Operation Crusader during the North Africa Campaign, with poor results. Although the high losses suffered by Stuart-equipped units during the operation had more to do with better tactics and training of the Afrika Korps than the apparent superiority of German armoured fighting vehicles used in the North African, the operation revealed that the M3 had several technical faults. Mentioned in the British complaints were the 37 mm M5 gun and poor internal layout. The two-man turret crew was a significant weakness, and some British units tried to fight with three-man turret crews. The Stuart also had a limited range, which was a severe problem in the highly mobile desert warfare as units often outpaced their supplies and were stranded when they ran out of fuel. On the positive side, crews liked its high speed and mechanical reliability. The high speed[citation needed] and high reliability distinguished the Stuart from cruiser tanks of the period, in particular the Crusader, which composed a large portion of the British tank force in Africa up until 1942.From the summer of 1942, when enough US medium tanks had been received, the British usually kept Stuarts out of tank-to-tank combat, using them primarily for reconnaissance. The turret was removed from some examples to save weight and improve speed and range. These became known as “Stuart Recce”. Some others were converted to armored personnel carriers and were known as “Stuart Kangaroo”, and some were converted command vehicles and known as “Stuart Command”. M3s, M3A3s, and M5s continued in British service until the end of the war, but British units had a smaller proportion of these light tanks than US units.The other major Lend-Lease recipient of the M3, the Soviet Union, was even less happy with the tank, considering it undergunned, underarmored, likely to catch fire, and too sensitive to fuel quality. The narrow tracks were highly unsuited to operation in winter conditions, as they resulted in high ground pressures under which the tank sank into the snow. Further, the M3’s radial aircraft engine required high-octane fuel, which complicated Soviet logistics as most of their tanks used diesel. However, the M3 was superior to early-war Soviet light tanks such as the T-60, which were often underpowered and possessed even lighter armament than the Stuart. In 1943, the Red Army tried out the M5 and decided that the upgraded design was not much better than the M3. Being less desperate than in 1941, the Soviets turned down an American offer to supply the M5. M3s continued in Red Army service at least until 1944.

In US Army service, the M3 first saw combat in the Philippines. Two battalions, comprising the Provisional Tank Group fought in the Bataan peninsula campaign. When the American army joined the North African Campaign in late 1942, Stuart units still formed a large part of its armor strength. After the disastrous Battle of the Kasserine Pass the US quickly followed the British in disbanding most of their light tank battalions and subordinating the Stuarts to medium tank battalions performing the traditional cavalry missions of scouting and screening. For the rest of the war, most US tank battalions had three companies of M4 Shermans and one company of M3s or M5/M5A1s.

In Europe, Allied light tanks had to be given cavalry and infantry fire support roles since their main cannon armament could not compete with heavier enemy AFVs. However, the Stuart was still effective in combat in the Pacific Theater, as Japanese tanks were both relatively rare and were generally much weaker than even Allied light tanks. Japanese infantrymen were poorly equipped with anti-tank weapons and tended to attack tanks using close-assault tactics. In this environment, the Stuart was only moderately more vulnerable than medium tanks. In addition, the poor terrain and roads common to the theatre were unsuitable for the much heavier M4 medium tanks, and so initially, only light armor could be deployed. Heavier M4s were eventually brought to overcome heavily entrenched positions, though the Stuart continued to serve in a combat capacity until the end of the war.

Though the Stuart was to be completely replaced by the newer M24 Chaffee, the number of M3s/M5s produced was so great (over 25,000 including the 75 mm HMC M8) that the tank remained in service until the end of the war and well after. In addition to the United States, United Kingdom and Soviet Union, who were the primary users, it was also used by France, China (M3A3s and, immediately post-war, M5A1s) and Tito’s partisans in Yugoslavia (M3A3s and few M3A1).

After the war, some countries chose to equip their armies with cheap and reliable Stuarts. The Republic of China Army, having suffered great attrition as a result of the ensuing civil war, rebuilt their armored forces by acquiring surplus vehicles left behind in the area by the US forces, including 22 M5A1s to equip two tank companies. They would have their finest hours during the Battle of Kuningtou, for which the tank came to be known as the “Bear of Kinmen”. The M5 played a significant role in the First Kashmir War (1947) between India and Pakistan, including the battle of Zoji-la pass fought at an altitude of nearly 12,000 ft. The vehicle remained in service in several South American countries at least until 1996.During the 60s and 70s, the Portuguese Army also used some in the war in Angola, where its all terrain capability (compared to wheeled vehicles) was greatly appreciated. An unspecified number of M5A1 Light Tanks served with the 1927th Cavalry Battalion stationed at Nambuangongo, being employed mostly for convoy escort duties and limited counterinsurgency operations. Period photographs show some modifications in the basic design, namely the omission of the bow machine gun, re-installed on a pintle mount in the roof of the turret and a small searchlight fitted in front of the commander’s copula .


In the media

A heavily modified M5A1 Stuart was featured in the movie Tank Girl as the eponymous heroine’s tank.

Modified Stuarts were used in the movie Attack! as German tanks.

“The Haunted Tank” was a DC Comics feature that appeared in GI Combat starring an M3 Stuart scout tank commanded by Lieutenant Jeb Stuart, a direct descendant and namesake of the Civil War cavalry general J.E.B. Stuart. The tank was haunted by the Confederate officer, who would appear to warn his kinsman of impending danger or offer usually cryptic advice on how to handle a combat action. The original series ran from 1961 to 1987.


Light Tank M3A3 (Stuart V)

Type     Light tank

Place of origin      United States

Produced     1941–1945
Specifications

Weight      32,400 lb
Length      14.8 ft
Width      8.1 ft
Height      7.5 ft
Crew      4 (Commander, gunner, driver, co-driver)
Armor      13–51 mm
Primary
armament 37 mm M6 in M44 mount 174 rounds

Secondary
armament 3 × .30-06 Browning M1919A4 MG 7,500 rounds

Engine     Continental W-670-9A, 7 Cylinder air-cooled radial 250 hp

Power/weight     17.82 hp/tonne

Suspension     Vertical volute spring

Operational
range     74 mi
Speed     36 mph (road) 18 mph (off-road)

Note:  All of the photographs were taken on my visit to the Tank Museum in Danville, Va. in April 2006

USS North Carolina : The Showboat

May 5, 2010

USS North Carolina BB-55 “Showboat” was the lead ship of her class of battleship and the fourth in the United States Navy to be named in honor of this U.S. state. She was the first new-construction U.S. battleship to enter service during World War II, participating in every major naval offensive in the Pacific theater to become the most decorated United States battleship of the war with 15 battle stars. She currently rests as a museum ship at the port of Wilmington, North Carolina.

Construction and shakedown

Fitting-out stage, 17 April 1941

She was laid down on 27 October 1937 at the New York Naval Shipyard and launched on 13 June 1940, sponsored by the young daughter of Clyde R. Hoey, Governor of North Carolina. The ship was commissioned in New York City on 9 April 1941 with Captain Olaf M. Hustvedt first in command. The first commissioned of the navy’s fast, heavily-armed battleships with 16-inch guns, North Carolina received so much attention during her fitting-out and trials that she won the enduring nickname “Showboat”.

As the first newly designed American battleship constructed in 20 years, North Carolina was built using the latest in shipbuilding technology. Constrained to 36,000  tons  standard displacement by both the Washington Naval Treaty and the London Naval Treaty, to a beam of less than 110 feet  by the locks of the Panama Canal, and to a draft of 38 feet  to enable the ship to use as many anchorages and navy yards as possible, she was a challenge to design.

To save weight, North Carolina was built using the new technique of welded construction. Her machinery arrangement is unusual in that there are four main spaces, each with two boilers and one steam turbine connected to one of the four propeller shafts. This arrangement served to reduce the number of openings in watertight bulkheads and conserve space to be protected by armor. The long sweeping flush deck of North Carolina and her streamlined structure made her far more graceful than earlier battleships. Her large tower forward, tall uncluttered stacks, and clean superstructure and hull were a sharp break from the elaborate bridgework, heavy tripod masts, and casemated secondary batteries which characterized her predecessors. North Carolina was one of fourteen ships to receive the early RCA CXAM-1 RADAR.


Service in World War II

North Carolina completed her shakedown in the Caribbean prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Early in 1942, North Carolina was scheduled to head to Pearl Harbor. However, she remained in the Atlantic a few more months so she would be available to take on the German battleship Tirpitz, in the event that ship began to attack Atlantic convoys carrying goods from America to England. North Carolina was ordered to the Pacific in the summer of 1942.

After intensive war exercises, North Carolina departed for the Pacific theater. She was the first new battleship to arrive in the Pacific since the beginning of the war, clearing the Panama Canal on 10 June, four days after the end of the Battle of Midway. She sailed to San Pedro and San Francisco before arriving in Pearl Harbor. According to sailors there, North Carolina was “the most beautiful thing they had ever seen”, and her arrival in Hawaii greatly increased the morale of the Pacific Fleet. North Carolina departed Pearl Harbor on 15 July with the carrier Enterprise, heavy cruiser Portland, light cruiser Atlanta and eight screening destroyers, bound for operations in the South Pacific.

North Carolina joined the long island-hopping campaign against the Japanese by landing Marines on Guadalcanal and Tulagi 7 August 1942, beginning the Guadalcanal campaign. She was the only battleship in this naval contingent, accompanied by the carriers Saratoga, Enterprise, and Wasp, along with their cruisers and other escorts. After screening Enterprise in the Air Support Force for the invasion, North Carolina guarded the carrier during operations protecting supply and communication lines southeast of the Solomons. Enemy carriers were located on 24 August, and that engagement became known as the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. The Americans struck first, sinking carrier Ryūjō; Japanese retaliation came as dive and torpedo bombers, covered by fighters, roared in on Enterprise and North Carolina. In an eight-minute action, North Carolina shot down between seven and fourteen enemy aircraft, her gunners remaining at their guns despite the jarring detonations of seven near misses. One man was killed by a strafer, but the ship was undamaged. Her sheer volume of anti-aircraft fire was such as to lead Enterprise to query, “Are you afire?” The protection North Carolina could offer Enterprise was limited as the speedier carrier drew ahead of her. Enterprise took three direct hits while her aircraft severely damaged seaplane carrier Chitose and hit other Japanese ships. Since the Japanese lost about 100 aircraft in this action, the United States won control of the air and averted a threatened Japanese reinforcement of Guadalcanal.

USS North Carolina during Marshall Islands Campaign, 25 January 1944

North Carolina now gave her strength to protect Saratoga. Twice during the following weeks of support to Marines ashore on Guadalcanal, North Carolina was attacked by Japanese submarines. On 6 September, she maneuvered successfully, dodging a torpedo which passed 300 yd  off the port beam. Nine days later, on 15 September, sailing with Wasp and Hornet, North Carolina took a torpedo portside, 20 ft  below her waterline, and six of her men were killed. This torpedo originated from I-19, and other torpedoes in the same salvo sank Wasp. Skillful damage control by the crew of North Carolina and the excellence of her construction prevented disaster; a 5.6° list was righted in as many minutes, and she maintained her station in a formation at 26 kn.

After temporary repairs in New Caledonia, the ship proceeded to Pearl Harbor to be dry docked for a month for repairs to her hull and to receive more antiaircraft armament. Following repairs, she returned to action, screening Enterprise and Saratoga and covering supply and troop movements in the Solomons for much of the next year. She was at Pearl Harbor in March and April 1943 to receive advanced fire control and radar gear, and again in September, to prepare for the Gilbert Islands operation.

With Enterprise, in the Northern Covering Group, North Carolina sortied from Pearl Harbor on 10 November for the assault on Makin, Tarawa, and Abemama. Air strikes began on 19 November, and for ten days mighty air blows were struck to aid marines ashore engaged in some of the bloodiest fighting of the Pacific War. Supporting the Gilberts campaign and preparing the assault on the Marshalls, North Carolina’s highly accurate big guns bombarded Nauru on 8 December, destroying air facilities, beach defense revetments, and radio installations. Later that month, she protected Bunker Hill in strikes against shipping and airfields at Kavieng, New Ireland and in January 1944 joined the Task Force 58 (TF 58), Rear Admiral Marc Mitscher in command, at Funafuti, Ellice Islands.

During the assault and capture of the Marshall Islands, North Carolina illustrated the classic battleship functions of World War II. She screened carriers from air attack in pre-invasion strikes as well as during close air support of troops ashore, beginning with the initial strikes on Kwajalein 29 January. She fired on targets at Namur and Roi, where she sank a cargo ship in the lagoon.[19]

The battlewagon then protected carriers in the massive air strike on Truk, the Japanese fleet base in the Carolines, where 39 large ships were left sunk, burning, or uselessly beached, and 211 planes were destroyed, another 104 severely damaged.[20] Next she fought off an air attack against the flattops near the Marianas 21 February splashing an enemy plane, and the next day again guarded the carriers in air strikes on Saipan, Tinian, and Guam.

During much of this period she was flagship for Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) Willis A. Lee, Jr., Commander Battleships Pacific.

With Majuro as her base, North Carolina joined in the attacks on Palau and Woleai on 31 March–1 April, shooting down another enemy plane during the approach phase. On Woleai, 150 enemy aircraft were destroyed along with ground installations. Support for the capture of the Hollandia (currently known as Jayapura) area of New Guinea followed (13–24 April); then another major raid on Truk (29–30 April), during which North Carolina splashed yet another enemy aircraft. At Truk, North Carolina’s planes were catapulted to rescue an American aviator downed off the reef. After one plane had turned over on landing and the other, having rescued all the airmen, had been unable to take off with so much weight, Tang saved all involved. The next day, North Carolina destroyed coastal defense guns, antiaircraft batteries, and airfields at Ponape. The battleship then sailed to repair her rudder at Pearl Harbor.

Returning to Majuro, North Carolina sortied with the Enterprise’s carrier group on 6 June (D-Day in Europe) for the Marianas. During the assault on Saipan, North Carolina not only gave her usual protection to the carriers, but starred in bombardments on the west coast of Saipan covering minesweeping operations, and blasted the harbor at Tanapag, sinking several small craft and destroying enemy ammunition, fuel, and supply dumps. At dusk on invasion day, 15 June, the battleship downed one of the only two Japanese aircraft able to penetrate the combat air patrol.

On 18 June, North Carolina cleared the islands with the carriers to confront the Japanese 1st Mobile Fleet, tracked by submarines and aircraft for the previous four days. Next day began the Battle of the Philippine Sea, and she took station in the battle line that fanned out from the carriers. American aircraft succeeded in downing most of the Japanese raiders before they reached the American ships, and North Carolina shot down two of the few which got through.

On that day and the next American, air and submarine attacks, with the fierce antiaircraft fire of such ships as North Carolina, virtually ended any future threat from Japanese naval aviation: three carriers were sunk, two tankers damaged so badly they were scuttled, and all but 36 of the 430 planes with which the Japanese had begun the battle were destroyed. The loss of trained aviators was irreparable, as was the loss of skilled aviation maintenance men in the carriers. Not one American ship was lost, and only a handful of American planes failed to return to their carriers.

After supporting air operations in the Marianas for another two weeks, North Carolina sailed for overhaul at Puget Sound Navy Yard. She rejoined the carriers off Ulithi on 7 November as a furious typhoon, Typhoon Cobra, struck the group. The ships fought through the storm and carried out air strikes against western Leyte, Luzon, and the Visayas to support the struggle for Leyte. During similar strikes later in the month, North Carolina fought off her first kamikaze attack.

As the pace of operations in the Philippines intensified, North Carolina guarded carriers while their planes kept the Japanese aircraft on Luzon airfields from interfering with the invasion convoys which assaulted Mindoro on 15 December. Three days later the task force again sailed through a violent typhoon, which capsized several destroyers. With Ulithi now her base, North Carolina screened wide-ranging carrier strikes on Formosa, the coast of Indo-China and China, and the Ryūkyūs in January, and similarly supported strikes on Honshū the next month. Hundreds of enemy aircraft were destroyed which might otherwise have resisted the assault on Iwo Jima, where North Carolina bombarded and provided call fire for the assaulting Marines through 22 February.


Strikes on targets in the Japanese home islands laid the ground-work for the Okinawa assault, in which North Carolina played her dual role, of bombardment and carrier screening. Here, on 6 April, she downed three kamikazes, but took a 5 in hit from a friendly ship during the melee of anti-aircraft fire. Three men were killed and 44 wounded. Next day came the last desperate sortie of the Japanese Fleet, as Yamato, the largest battleship in the world, came south with her attendants. Yamato, as well as a cruiser and a destroyer, were sunk, three other destroyers were damaged so badly that they were scuttled, and the remaining four destroyers returned to their fleet base at Sasebo badly damaged. On the same day, North Carolina splashed an enemy plane, and she shot down two more 17 April.

After overhaul at Pearl Harbor, North Carolina rejoined the carriers for a month of air strikes and naval bombardment on the Japanese home islands. Along with guarding the carriers, North Carolina fired on major industrial plants near Tokyo, and her scout plane pilots performed a daring rescue of a downed carrier pilot under heavy fire in Tokyo Bay.

North Carolina sent both sailors and members of her Marine Detachment ashore for preliminary occupation duty in Japan immediately at the close of the war, and patrolled off the coast until anchoring in Tokyo Bay on 5 September to re-embark her men. Carrying passengers from Okinawa, North Carolina sailed for home, reaching the Panama Canal on 8 October. She anchored at Boston 17 October, and after overhaul at New York exercised in New England waters and carried United States Naval Academy midshipmen for a summer training cruise in the Caribbean.


Decommissioning and battleship memorial

After inactivation, she was decommissioned at New York on 27 June 1947. Stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 June 1960, North Carolina was transferred to the people of North Carolina on 6 September 1961. She was purchased from the U.S. Navy for $330,000 raised by the efforts of North Carolinian school children who saved their spare change and lunch money for the “Save Our Ship” (SOS) campaign. In 1961, a fleet of tugboats was used to maneuver the 728 ft  ship through an area of the river 500 ft  wide. During this move the ship struck the restaurant “Fergus’ Ark”, near Princess Street. The river-based restaurant was damaged severely and ceased operation. On 29 April 1962, she was dedicated at Wilmington, North Carolina as a memorial to North Carolinians of all services killed in World War II and may be visited to this day.This battleship was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

Visitors to the USS North Carolina Battleship Memorial can tour the main deck of the ship, many interior rooms, and some of the gun turrets. Visitors can also view one of the nine surviving OS2U Kingfisher aircraft in the world, located on the stern of the ship. Various events are held at the memorial including the annual Fourth of July fireworks display from the adjacent battleship park and spaces may be rented for special events. A Roll of Honor in the Wardroom lists the names of North Carolinians who gave their lives in service in all the branches of the military during World War II. The site is accessible by car or a short water taxi ride originating from downtown Wilmington and also features a gift shop, visitors center and picnic area.

The memorial is administered by North Carolina Battleship Commission which was established by statutes of the State of North Carolina in 1960. The memorial relies upon its own revenues as well as donations and does not receive any tax revenues.

In 1999, a reunion was held on the USS North Carolina Battleship Memorial. While standing on the signal bridge, the site of the friendly fire strike during the Okinawa assault of 6 April, former PFC Marine Gunner Richard R. Fox recalled the incident, describing to his daughters and granddaughters how he helped carry a severely injured sailor down to the sickbay. Fox had never been able to find out whether the other man had survived. During his story, Fox was approached by the fellow North Carolina veteran Richard W. Reed, who had overheard the story and interrupted it to identify himself as the injured sailor and offer his thanks. Neither man had known the other’s identity for over a half-century.

Recent projects undertaken to maintain the battleship include the replacement of the teak deck. Following a visit by officials from Myanmar, she received the most generous donation in her history: the gift of two tractor-trailer loads of the highest quality teak decking in the world, valued at approximately one quarter million dollars, and a very substantial discount on another eight tractor-trailer loads of the precious wood, valued at another quarter million dollars, to permit the entire re-decking of the ship’s more than one acre of deck.

Several near-term restoration projects are planned which will not require closure of the memorial. The next major restoration project for North Carolina is a refit of her hull. This may require the ship to leave Wilmington for several months, and she might be towed to the nearest suitable drydock in Norfolk, Virginia. Towing and drydocking are expected to take place no earlier than 2012.


Career (US)

Name:             USS North Carolina (BB-55)
Namesake:     North Carolina
Ordered:     1 August 1937
Builder:     New York Naval Shipyard
Cost:             $76,885,750
Laid down:     27 October 1937
Launched:     13 June 1940
Sponsored by:     Isabel Hoey
Commissioned:     9 April 1941
Decommissioned: 27 June 1947
Struck:     1 June 1960
Nickname:     Showboat
Honors and
awards:

Silver-service-star

Bronze-service-star

15 Battle Stars

*  American Defense Service Medal
*  American Campaign Medal
*  Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
*  Philippine Independence Medal
*  Philippine Liberation Medal
*  Philippine Presidential Unit Citation
*  World War II Victory Medal
*  Navy Occupation Medal

Development of Aerial Combat in World War I

April 25, 2010

A fighter aircraft is a military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat with other aircraft, as opposed to a bomber, which is designed primarily to attack ground targets by dropping bombs. Fighters are small, fast, and maneuverable. Many fighters have secondary ground-attack capabilities, and some are dual-roled as fighter-bombers; the term “fighter” is also sometimes used colloquially for dedicated ground-attack aircraft. Fighter aircraft are the primary means by which armed forces gain air superiority over their opponents in battle. Since at least World War II, achieving and maintaining air superiority has been a key component of victory in warfare, particularly conventional warfare between regular armies (as opposed to guerrilla warfare). The purchase, training and maintenance of a fighter fleet represent a very substantial proportion of defense budgets for modern militaries.

The word “fighter” did not become the official English term for such aircraft until after World War I. In Great Britain’s Royal Flying Corps these aircraft continued to be called “scouts” into the early 1920s. The U.S. Army called their fighters “pursuit” aircraft (reflected by their designation in the “P” series) from 1916 until the late 1940s. In the French, Portuguese and German languages the term used (and still in use) literally means “hunter”. This has been followed in most other languages, an exception being Russian, in which the fighter is called “истребитель” (pronounced “istrebitel”), meaning “exterminator”.

Fighters were developed in response to the fledgling use of aircraft and dirigibles in World War I for reconnaissance and ground-attack roles. Early fighters were very small and lightly armed by later standards, and were mostly biplanes. As aerial warfare became increasingly important, so did control of the airspace.

The word “fighter” was first used to describe a two-seater aircraft with sufficient lift to carry a machine gun and its operator as well as the pilot. The first such “fighters” belonged to the “gunbus” series of experimental gun carriers of the British Vickers company which culminated in the Vickers F.B.5 Gunbus of 1914. The main drawback of this type of aircraft was its lack of speed. It was quickly realized that an aircraft intended to destroy its kind in the air needed at least to be fast enough to catch its quarry.

Fortunately another type of military aircraft already existed, which was to form the basis for an effective “fighter” in the modern sense of the word. It was based on the small fast aircraft developed before the war for such air races as the Gordon Bennett Cup and Schneider Trophy. The military scout airplane was not expected to be able to carry serious armament, but rather to rely on its speed to be able to reach the location it was required to “scout” or reconnoiter and then return quickly to report – while at the same time making itself a difficult target for anti-aircraft artillery or enemy gun-carrying aircraft. British “scout” aircraft in this sense included the Sopwith Tabloid and Bristol Scout; French equivalents included the light, fast Morane-Saulnier N.

In practice, soon after the actual commencement of the war, the pilots of small scout aircraft began to arm themselves with pistols, carbines, grenades, and an assortment of improvised weapons with which to attack enemy aircraft. It was inevitable that sooner or later means of effectively arming “scouts” would be devised. One method was to build a “pusher” scout such as the Airco DH.2, with the propeller mounted behind the pilot. The main drawback was that the high drag of a pusher type’s tail structure meant that it was bound to be slower than an otherwise similar “tractor” aircraft. The other approach was to mount the machine gun armament on a tractor-type airplane in a manner that enabled the gun to fire outside the arc of the propeller.

Only two configuration options were practical initially for tractor aircraft. One involved having a second crew member added behind the pilot to aim and fire a swivel-mounted machine gun at enemy airplanes. However, this limited the area of coverage chiefly to the rear hemisphere, and the inability to effectively coordinate the pilot’s maneuvering with the gunner’s aiming, which reduced the accuracy and efficacy of the gunnery. This option was chiefly employed as a defensive measure on two seater reconnaissance aircraft from 1915 on. The alternative configuration mounted a gun on the upper wing to fire over the propeller arc. While more effective for offensive combat, since the pilot could move and aim the guns as a unit, this placement made determining the proper aim point more difficult. Furthermore, this location made it nearly impossible for a pilot to maneuver his aircraft and have access to the gun’s breech – a very important consideration, given the tendency of early machine guns to jam – hence this was a stopgap solution. Nevertheless, a machine gun firing over the propeller arc did have some advantages, and was to remain in service from 1915 (Nieuport 11) until 1918 (Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5). The British Foster mounting was specifically designed for this kind of application.

The need to arm a tractor scout with a forward-firing gun whose bullets passed through the propeller arc was evident even before the outbreak of war, and its approach motivated inventors in both France and Germany to devise a practical synchronization gear that could time the firing of the individual rounds to when the propeller was not in the way. Franz Schneider, a Swiss engineer, had patented such a device in Germany in 1913, but his original work was not followed up. French aircraft designer Raymond Saulnier patented a practical device in April 1914, but trials were unsuccessful because of the propensity of the machine gun employed to hang fire due to unreliable ammunition.

In December 1914, French aviator Roland Garros asked Saulnier to install his synchronization gear on Garros’ Morane-Saulnier Type L. Unfortunately the gas-operated Hotchkiss machine gun had a firing cycle which caused the bullet to leave the weapon too late to effectively and consistently synchronize the gunfire with a spinning propeller. Because of this, the propeller blades were armored, and Garros’ mechanic, Jules Hue, fitted metal wedges to the blades to protect the pilot from ricochets. Garros’ modified monoplane was first flown in March 1915 and he began combat operations soon thereafter. Firing 8 mm (.323 in) solid copper bullets, Garros scored three victories in three weeks before he himself was shot down on 18 April and his airplane – along with its synchronization gear and propeller – was captured by the Germans.

However, the synchronization gear (called the Zentralsteuerung in German) devised by the engineers of Anthony Fokker’s firm was the first gear to attract official sponsorship, and this would make the pioneering Fokker Eindecker monoplane a feared name over the Western Front, despite its being an adaptation of an obsolete pre-war French Morane-Saulnier racing airplane, with a mediocre performance and poor flight characteristics. The first victory for the Eindecker came on 1 July 1915, when Leutnant Kurt Wintgens, flying with the Fliegerabteilung 6 unit on the Western Front, forced down a Morane-Saulnier Type L two-seat “parasol” monoplane of Luneville. Wintgens’ aircraft, one of the five Fokker M.5K/MG production prototype examples of the Eindecker, was armed with a synchronized, air-cooled aviation version of the Parabellum MG14 machine gun, which did not require armored propellers. In some respects, this was the first “true” fighter victory of military aviation history.

The success of the Eindecker kicked off a competitive cycle of improvement among the combatants, building ever more capable single-seat fighters. The Albatros D.I of late 1916, designed by Robert Thelen, set the classic pattern followed by almost all such aircraft for about twenty years. Like the D.I, they were biplanes (only very occasionally monoplanes or triplanes). The strong box structure of the biplane wing allowed for a rigid wing that afforded accurate lateral control, which was essential for fighter-type maneuvers. They had a single crew member, who flew the aircraft and also operated its armament. They were armed with two Maxim-type machine guns – which had proven much easier to synchronize than other types – firing through the propeller arc. The gun breeches were typically right in front of the pilot’s face. This had obvious implications in case of accidents, but enabled jams (to which Maxim-type machine guns always remained liable) to be cleared in flight and made aiming much easier.

The use of metal in fighter aircraft was pioneered in World War I by Germany, as Anthony Fokker used chrome-molybdenum steel tubing (a close chemical cousin to stainless steel) for the fuselage structure of all his fighter designs, and the innovative German engineer Hugo Junkers developed two all-metal, single-seat fighter monoplane designs with cantilever wings: the strictly experimental Junkers J 2 private-venture aircraft, made with steel, and some forty examples of the Junkers D.I, made with corrugated duralumin, all based on his pioneering Junkers J 1 all-metal airframe technology demonstration aircraft of late 1915.

As collective combat experience grew, the more successful pilots such as Oswald Boelcke, Max Immelmann, and Edward Mannock developed innovative tactical formations and maneuvers to enhance their air units’ combat effectiveness and accelerate the learning – and increase the expected lifespan – of newer pilots reaching the front lines.

Allied and – until 1918 – German pilots of World War I were not equipped with parachutes, so most cases of an aircraft catching fire, or structurally breaking up in flight were fatal. Parachutes were well-developed by 1918, and were adopted by the German flying services during the course of that year (the famous “Red Baron” was wearing one when he was killed), but the allied command continued to oppose their use, on various grounds.

note:  the following blog was compiled from various readings and sources and is not an original work