Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Happy Birthday F-14 Tomcat!

Happy Birthday F14 Tomcat 

Cue"Highway to the Danger Zone..."
Have an earworm, guys!

The F-14 is an iconic aircraft for all us Top Gun movie lovers out there, and most aircraft nuts of the 80s, even if you didn't like Top Gun...

The Grumman F-14 Tomcat flew for the first time 44 years ago today.

The F-14 emerged from the failed F-111B, which left the Navy without a successor for the F-4 Phantom in the air defense role.  Variable geometry swing-wings combined high-speed performance and supersonic maneuverability with docile low-speed handling.  The Tomcat was well ahead of its time – the Central Air Data Computer used to control wing sweep was the first microprocessor design in history and it’s design was not made public until more than 20 years after the F-14 first entered service.

The Hughes AN/AWG-9 radar was capable of detecting and tracking 24 targets flying at different airspeeds, altitudes and directions while engaging six targets simultaneously at a range of 100 miles with the AIM-54 Phoenix missile.  A Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod System (TARPS) was designed for use on the Tomcat in the carrier-based photo-reconnaissance role as the RA-5 Vigilante and RF-8 Crusader aircraft were retired.  TARPS allowed the F-14 to deliver real-time photos to theater commanders, providing surveillance and Bomb Damage Assessment imagery.  The Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTIRN) system allowed the Tomcat to transition to the “Bombcat,” enabling it to fly at low altitude, at night and in all weather conditions to attack ground targets with a variety of precision-guided munitions.  The Tomcat did it all – long-range carrier-based fleet interceptor, tactical reconnaissance platform and fighter-bomber aircraft.

Some tailfin art for the afficionado's out there:

Sadly many are now in mothballs, and awaiting disposal.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Black Hawk Down - for the last time: 160th's last Black Hawk MH-60K retires

Black Hawk Down: MH-60K retires from active duty

The sole operator of the MH-60K has retired the last of these secret rotor aircraft. The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) was the only unit that operated the MH-60K:


 As the crowd gathered around the US National Navy Sea, Air and Land (SEAL) Museum Nov. 19, 2014, it became clear this wasn’t a standard military retirement.

There was no podium, no colors and no sound system. A small crowd gathered with their eyes fixed on the horizon.Then, a familiar sound became increasingly audible to the special operators in attendance. That sound was the rotors of two MH-60 Black Hawks, a MH-60K and a MH-60L, as they appeared over the shoreline, flying as a team one final time.

The MH-60K, tail number 388, made it’s long anticipated final flight from Fort Campbell, Ky. to the National SEAL Museum, where it will be demilitarized and put on display.“The relationship between the Army, the Navy and what we do has been in the shadow for a long time,” said Rick Kaiser, a retired Navy Seal Master Chief Petty Officer and Executive Director of the museum. “A lot of people will ask the same question – ‘Why do you have this Black Hawk in here?’ People always assume it’s Navy aircraft that fly the SEALs around. We will then be able to tell them the story about the relationship between the SEALs and the Army Special Operations Aviators.”

The process, which began almost a year prior, required careful coordination between several command elements, branches and offices across the Army; the unit who owned the aircraft – 1st Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) (SOAR) (A), 160th SOAR (A) Operations Section, The United States Army Special Operations Aviation Command (Airborne) (USASOAC) (A) Aviation Readiness Branch, the USASAOC (A) Technology Applications and Program Office, the SEAL Museum, and the Army Tank and Automotive Command (TACOM) donations branch. All offices worked together to ensure all the necessary requirements were met in order to legally transfer the aircraft to the museum.

Sgt. 1st Class Joseph W. Evans, USASOAC (A) Aviation Readiness Branch Senior Maintenance Noncommissioned Officer in Charge, has been working the project since he arrived to the unit in March.“This is the first time I have had the opportunity to work an aircraft donation for the team,” said Evans. “Previously, I worked with the U.S. Army Center of Military History to divest aircraft [tail number] 288 to the U.S. Army Aviation Museum at Fort Rucker, Ala. There is a big difference between a divesture and an outright donation to a group not funded by the Federal Government.”

For the aircraft 388’s final flight, it only seemed fitting that Chief Warrant Officer 5 Ben D. Savage, 160th SOAR’s (A) Command Chief Warrant Officer, was in the cockpit. Savage has been training on the airframe since it arrived in the unit 20 years ago.“We started getting the MH-60K in 1994,” he said. “I was part of the train-the-trainer in Block Zero. Block Zero was to train all the instructor pilots in each of the following blocks. In April of ’94 I got qualified on the aircraft and started teaching block one in the fall.”

Savage, who had close to 4000 flight hours on the MH-60K airframe, said tail number 388 had a storied history during its lifetime.“This aircraft has been on multiple Joint Readiness Exercises leading up to 2001,” he explained. “It has also been in a “Class A” accident where it rolled over and was unable to fly for an extended period of time. In 2002, it made its first trip to Afghanistan and has flown multiple missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa since that time. During one of 388’s missions, the aircraft’s copilot had his microphone boom shot off his helmet and its pilot-in-command was shot in the face. They still managed to fly the aircraft out of the area after it had taken fire, so the aircraft has a significant history of battle damage as well.”

Pilots from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) stand with the unit’s last MH-60K Black Hawk, tail number 388, prior to handing the aircraft over to the National Navy Sea, Air and Land (SEAL) Museum Wednesday. The aircraft will be put on display to help museum visitors further understand the unique relationship between Army Special Operations Aviators and the Navy SEALs. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Thaddius S. Dawkins II, United States Army Special Operations Aviation Command (Airborne) Public Affairs)

Task Force 160 of Fort Campbell, Kentucky — the Army's elite helo outfit — flies this heavily modified Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopter. The pair used to carry Navy SEAL Team 6 to Osama bin Laden's Pakistan hideout in May 2011 had special stealthy modifications added to the choppers to make them quieter and less susceptible to radar detection. 

It also boasts terrain-following radar, a special defensive avionics suite to help it elude enemy detection, and blades mounted on the fuselage to slice through power lines that might bring down a standard chopper. A cover for the tail rotor — it's otherwise a flashing light for radar — as well as special fuselage trim and custom-crafted stabilators (the "rear wing" just underneath the tail rotor) suggested this was no stock MH-60K. That became crystal clear when photographs of one that had to be abandoned at bin Laden's compound began circling the globe. These Black Hawks can carry several different kinds of machine guns mounted at their side doors along with two crew chiefs to man those guns, a pair of pilots, and about a dozen troops.

The aircraft also participated in the mission that helped rescue American, Jessica Buchanan and her coworker, Poul Hagen Thisted. Both Buchanan and Hagen Thisted were captured by Somalian pirates and held hostage for three months in 2012. During the operation, SEAL team members parachuted into the objective and engaged the pirates, killing all of them. After the firefight, multiple aircraft evacuated the SEALs and the two hostages, including aircraft 388.“I’m going to put this on my list of things to do once this display gets set up,” Savage said. “We are leaving our checklists, which have our names in them, in the aircraft. So it’s an honor to know it’s going to be in the SEAL Museum. It’s quite fitting because of the number of SEALs we’ve carried around in this airframe.”

As for Evans, he said everyone’s hard work to get the aircraft donated to the museum pales in comparison to what the pilots, crew members and MH-60K have all given to the Special Operations community.“To me, the reward is knowing the 160th’s last MH-60K will be preserved and on display for many years to come,” he said. “This ensures the memory of those that have gone before us and what they accomplished on so many missions with the use of the MH-60K and more specifically, aircraft 388.”

Story Sgt. 1st Class Thaddius Dawkins

The Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk is a four-bladed, twin-engine, medium-lift utility helicopter manufactured by Sikorsky Aircraft. The UH-60A entered service with the U.S. Army in 1979, to replace the Bell UH-1 Iroquois as the Army's tactical transport helicopter. This was followed by the fielding of electronic warfare and special operations variants of the Black Hawk. Improved UH-60L and UH-60M utility variants have also been developed.

Modified versions have also been developed for the U.S. Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. In addition to U.S. Army use, the UH-60 family has been exported to several nations. Black Hawks have served in combat during conflicts in Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Somalia, the Balkans, Afghanistan, and other areas in the Middle East.

Upgrades and variations
After entering service, the helicopter was modified for new missions and roles, including mine laying and medical evacuation. An EH-60 variant was developed to conduct electronic warfare and special operations aviation developed the MH-60 variant to support its missions.

Due to weight increases from the addition of mission equipment and other changes, the Army ordered the improved UH-60L in 1987. The new model incorporated all of the modifications made to the UH-60A fleet as standard design features. The UH-60L also featured more power and lifting capability with upgraded T700-GE-701C engines and a stronger gearbox, both developed for the SH-60B Seahawk. Its external lift capacity increased by 1,000 lb (450 kg) up to 9,000 lb (4,100 kg). The UH-60L also incorporated the automatic flight control system (AFCS) from the SH-60 for better flight control due to handling issues with the more powerful engines. Production of the L-model began in 1989.

Development of the next improved variant, the UH-60M, was approved in 2001, to extend the service life of the UH-60 design into the 2020s. The UH-60M incorporates upgraded T700-GE-701D engines, improved rotor blades, and state of the art electronic instrumentation, flight controls and aircraft navigation control. After the U.S. DoD approved low-rate initial production of the new variant, manufacturing began in 2006, with the first of 22 new UH-60Ms delivered in July 2006.After an initial operational evaluation, the Army approved full-rate production and a five-year contract for 1,227 helicopters in December 2007. By March 2009, 100 UH-60M helicopters had been delivered to the Army. In November 2014, US military ordered 102 aircraft of various H-60 types, worth $1.3 billion.

Following an operation in May 2011, it emerged that the 160th SOAR used a secret version of the UH-60 modified with low-observable technology which enabled it to evade Pakistani radar. Analysis of the tail section, the only remaining part of the aircraft which crashed during the operation, revealed extra blades on the tail rotor and other noise reduction measures, making the craft much quieter than conventional UH-60s. The aircraft appeared to include features like special high-tech materials, harsh angles, and flat surfaces found only in stealth jets. Low observable versions of the Black Hawk have been studied as far back as the mid-1970s.

In September 2012, Sikorsky was awarded a Combat Tempered Platform Demonstration (CTPD) contract to further improve the Black Hawk's durability and survivability. The company is to develop new technologies such as a zero-vibration system, adaptive flight control laws, advanced fire management, a more durable main rotor, full-spectrum crashworthiness, and damage tolerant airframe; then they are to transition them to the helicopter. Improvements to the Black Hawk are to continue until the Future Vertical Lift program is ready to replace it

The UH-60 entered service with the U.S. Army's 101st Combat Aviation Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division in June 1979. The U.S. military first used the UH-60 in combat during the invasion of Grenada in 1983, and again in the invasion of Panama in 1989. During the Gulf War in 1991, the UH-60 participated in the largest air assault mission in U.S. Army history with over 300 helicopters involved. Two UH-60s (89-26214 and 78-23015) were shot down, both on 27 February 1991, while performing Combat Search and Rescue of other downed aircrews, an F-16C pilot and the crew of a MEDEVAC UH-1H that were shot down earlier that day.

In 1993, Black Hawks featured prominently in the assault on Mogadishu in Somalia. Black Hawks also saw action in the Balkans and Haiti in the 1990s. U.S. Army UH-60s and other helicopters conducted many air assault and other support missions during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The UH-60 has continued to serve in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine (OAM) uses the UH-60 in its operations specifically along the southwest border. The Black Hawk has been used by OAM to interdict illegal entry into the U.S. Additionally, OAM regularly uses the UH-60 in search and rescue operations.

Highly modified H-60s were employed during the U.S. Special Forces operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden on 1 May 2011. One such MH-60 helicopter crash-landed during the operation, and was destroyed by the team before it departed in the other MH-60 and a backup MH-47 Chinook with bin Laden's remains. Two MH-47s were used for the mission to refuel the two MH-60s and as backups. News media reported that the Pakistani government granted the Chinese military access to the wreckage of the crashed 'stealth' UH-60 variant in Abbotabad; Pakistan and China denied the reports, and the U.S. Government has not confirmed Chinese access.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Happy Birthday DH 98 Mosquito !

Seventy-four years ago today, the de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito took flight for the first time.

One of the most useful Allied aircraft of World War II, the Mosquito performed as a bomber, fighter, anti-shipping and photo-reconnaissance platform.  The key to the success of the “Wooden Wonder” was its light wood construction and the power of its twin Merlin engines, which gave it the speed to out-fly almost every other aircraft type of the war.  Nicknamed the “Mossie” by its crews, the Mosquito could fly virtually unchallenged and deliver devastatingly precise attacks with bombing radar.
Photo by Luigino Caliaro

Production of all Mosquitoes totaled 7,781 and the DH.98 served with over a dozen nations.  A Mosquito became the first twin-engine aircraft to land on a ship on March 25, 1944, aboard the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Indefatigable.


Here is a photo of the DH.98 Mosquito from the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, Virginia taking-off during the 2013 Flying PROMS airshow.

This Mosquito was built in Canada in 1945 but never saw combat during the war.  The Military Aviation Museum acquired the aircraft in 2004 and it was shipped to New Zealand to undergo an eight-year restoration.  The restored aircraft made its first flight  (clicky) here in New Zealand in September 2012 and arrived back at the Military Aviation Museum in March 2013.  It is painted as EG-Y to replicate the No. 487 (NZ) Squadron of the Royal New Zealand Air Force as a tribute to those responsible for the restoration.

Wiki: The de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito was a British multi-role combat aircraft with a two-man crew that served during and after the Second World War. It was one of few operational front-line aircraft of the era constructed almost entirely of wood and was nicknamed "The Wooden Wonder".

 The Mosquito was also known affectionately as the "Mossie" to its crews. Originally conceived as an unarmed fast bomber, the Mosquito was adapted to roles including low to medium-altitude daytime tactical bomber, high-altitude night bomber, pathfinder, day or night fighter, fighter-bomber, intruder, maritime strike aircraft, and fast photo-reconnaissance aircraft. It was also used by the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) as a fast transport to carry small high-value cargoes to, and from, neutral countries, through enemy-controlled airspace.

When the Mosquito began production in 1941, it was one of the fastest operational aircraft in the world. Entering widespread service in 1942, the Mosquito was a high-speed, high-altitude photo-reconnaissance aircraft, continuing in this role throughout the war. From mid-1942 to mid-1943 Mosquito bombers flew high-speed, medium or low-altitude missions against factories, railways and other pinpoint targets in Germany and German-occupied Europe. From late 1943, Mosquito bombers were formed into the Light Night Strike Force and used as pathfinders for RAF Bomber Command's heavy-bomber raids. They were also used as "nuisance" bombers, often dropping Blockbuster bombs - 4,000 lb (1,812 kg) "cookies" - in high-altitude, high-speed raids that German night fighters were almost powerless to intercept.

As a night fighter, from mid-1942, the Mosquito intercepted Luftwaffe raids on the United Kingdom, notably defeating Operation Steinbock in 1944. Starting in July 1942, Mosquito night-fighter units raided Luftwaffe airfields. As part of 100 Group, it was a night fighter and intruder supporting RAF Bomber Command's heavy bombers and reduced bomber losses during 1944 and 1945.

 As a fighter-bomber in the Second Tactical Air Force, the Mosquito took part in "special raids", such as the attack on Amiens Prison in early 1944, and in precision attacks against Gestapo or German intelligence and security forces. Second Tactical Air Force Mosquitos supported the British Army during the 1944 Normandy Campaign. From 1943 Mosquitos with RAF Coastal Command strike squadrons attacked Kriegsmarine U-boats (particularly in the 1943 Bay of Biscay, where significant numbers were sunk or damaged) and intercepting transport ship concentrations.

The Mosquito flew with the Royal Air Force (RAF) and other air forces in the European, Mediterranean and Italian theatres. The Mosquito was also operated by the RAF in the South East Asian theatre, and by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) based in the Halmaheras and Borneo during the Pacific War.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Airbus A350 touches down in Auckland

First A350 XWB Touches down in New Zealand

In a NZ First: Airbus’ rival to the new generation Boeing Dreamliner has landed in Auckland and Sydney on its global tour.
The A350 - 900 XWB (extra wide-bodied) test aircraft  touched down at Auckland International airport earlier today after flying from Sydney, via Johannesburg, South Africa.
The aircraft is operated by Airbus flight crews and while in Auckland is to be demonstrated such as meeting normal airline turnarounds using airport handling and ground demonstration services.
The tests form part of the final trials required for aircraft Type Certification, which is expected by the end of September.


The A350 family as envisaged 

Comparison of competitors

The aircraft, named A350-900 (MSN 5), is one of five A350 test aircraft one of two with 265 seats (42 business and 223 economy).
The world tour began on July 24 and involves a series of tests on four different trips. It will visit 14 airports around the world and will end on August 13.

Airbus says the aircraft offers a 25% reduction in fuel use and comes in three versions from 276 to 369 seats.
It has a carbon fibre fuselage and wings, the same as its Boeing rival, which has been bought by Air New Zealand. 
The visit could be seen as a reminder that Airbus has a strong competitor here.

The NZ national carrier has switched to Airbus A320s to replace its aging single-aisled Boeing 737 fleet.
At the end of June 2014, the A350 XWB had 742 orders from 38 customers worldwide.
From Airbus' website:
" The A350-900 is the cornerstone member of Airbus’ all-new A350 XWB Family, which is tailored to meet airlines’ future market requirements in medium-to-long haul operations.
As the first A350 XWB Family version that will enter airline service, the A350-900 has the same optimised cabin cross-section as the other A350 XWB versions (A350-800 and A350-1000) – which ensures maximum comfort for both passengers and crew while guaranteeing operators optimum revenue potential and operating efficiency.

This jetliner accommodates 315 passengers in a two-class configuration, while offering unbeatable economics in high-density seating and true long-haul capability with a range of up to 7,750 nautical miles.
Airbus’ right-sized interior cross-section for the A350 XWB Family is five inches larger than the nearest competitor, allowing operators to comfortably accommodate economy class passengers at eight-, nine- or 10-abreast arrangements.
The A350 XWB’s wide fuselage cross-section was designed for an optimal travel experience in all classes of service, with passengers enjoying more headroom, wider panoramic windows and larger overhead storage space.  With a cross-section of 220 inches from armrest to armrest, the jetliner’s cabin provides the widest seats in its category, being five inches larger than its nearest competitor.  In addition to providing the space for unmatched premium first class and business solutions, the A350 XWB allows for high-comfort economy seating in a nine-abreast arrangement, with a generous 18-inch seat width. 

Over 70 per cent of the A350’s weight-efficient airframe is made from advanced materials that combine composites (53 per cent), titanium and advanced aluminium alloys. The innovative carbon fibre reinforced plastic fuselage results in lower fuel burn as well as easier maintenance. With this new fuselage – along with the latest systems and engines, as well as an advanced wing optimised for Mach 0.85 cruise speed – the A350-900 is a generation beyond its current competitor, benefiting from a 25 per cent lower fuel burn, 25 per cent lower operating costs, and 25 percent lower CO2 emissions.  The A350-900 also offers more range and additional seats for greater revenue potential.
The A350-900, along with the other A350 XWB variants, inherit commonality features from Airbus’ fly-by-wire aircraft family, while benefiting from the latest in display technology and integrated modular avionics.  
They retain the same handling qualities as the A320, A330/A340 and A380 families, and are flown utilising similar operating procedures. For Airbus-rated pilots, this means less training time when transitioning from one aircraft to another, as shorter-duration Difference Training classes replace the Full Type Rating course.
Additionally, pilots can fly multiple aircraft types within an Airbus fleet by using the proven Mixed Fleet Flying concept – enabling significant benefits for airline profitability, pilot productivity and scheduling flexibility."

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Soviet Douglas A-20 Havoc (re) discovered in Siberia - The history

U.S. World War II Havoc A-20 Bomber Found in Siberia: 

The Moscow Times Jul. 23 2014

An American military aircraft lost 71 years ago over western Siberia was discovered in the Taiga, Russian environmentalists said.The wreck of a Soviet Douglas A-20 Havoc recently re-emerged in the Taiga of western Siberia in Russia. Apparently the lend-lease medium bomber, one of roughly 3400 of the type given to the Soviet Union, went down on its ferry flight from Alaska to the Eastern Front in 1943 flying from Alaska over the ALSIB (Alaska-Siberia) air ferry route. The Taiga is a vast  forest which is largely uninhabited, and buried under snow and ice for much of the year.

No photographs have surfaced publicly as of yet, the aircraft (technically designated a DB-7) apparently went down on the slopes of Zelyonaya mountain in the Kemerovo region. Sadly, it appears that the un-named Soviet ferry crew perished in the wartime crash. The aircraft’s serial number is not known currently, but the fuselage bears the markings “F216″, so finding its true identity should not pose too great a problem for researchers.

The Soviet Union received more than $11 billion worth of supplies and military equipment from its U.S. ally over the course of the war. The wreckage of the lost DB-7 was initially discovered by a hunter in 1966, but after leaving the aircraft, he was unable to retrace his steps in order to find it again.

The search continued for 48 more years until the bomber was finally discovered in the Kuznetsky Alatau wildlife reserve, according to the reserve's official site.

It remained unclear what caused the crash. No hostilities took place in Siberia, but the heavily loaded bomber could have failed to fly over the mountain in cloudy weather, the report said.
Aircraft incoming from Alaska were manned by Soviet crews. The DB-7 had a crew of four, whose names remain unknown.

What will happen with the wreck is not public knowledge, but hopefully a recovery team will locate and identify the crew’s remains for burial. Given the remoteness of the location, the wreck seems likely to stay where it is for the meantime though.

Inhospitable Taiga forest terrain

The Douglas A-20 Havoc (company designation DB-7) was an American attack, light bomber, intruder and night fighter aircraft of World War II. It served with several Allied air forces, principally the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF), the Soviet Air Forces (VVS), Soviet Naval Aviation (AVMF) and the Royal Air Force (RAF) of the United Kingdom. Soviet units received more than one in three (2,908 aircraft) of the DB-7s ultimately built. It was also used by the air forces of Australia, South Africa, France, and the Netherlands during the war, and by Brazil afterwards.

In British Commonwealth air forces, bomber/attack variants of the DB-7 were usually known by the service name Boston, while night fighter and intruder variants were usually known as Havoc. An exception to this was the Royal Australian Air Force, which referred to all variants of the DB-7 by the name Boston. The USAAF referred to night fighter variants as P-70.


Operational history

The French order called for substantial modifications, resulting in the DB-7 (for Douglas Bomber 7) variant. It had a narrower, deeper fuselage, 1,000 hp (746 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-SC3-G radials, French-built guns, and metric instruments. Midway through the delivery phase, engines were switched to 1,100 hp (820 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-S3C4-G. The French designation was DB-7 B-3 (the B-3 signifying "three-seat bomber").

The DB-7s were shipped in sections to Casablanca for assembly and service in France and French North Africa. When the Germans attacked France and the Low Countries on 10 May 1940, the 64 available DB-7s were deployed against the advancing Germans. Before the armistice they were evacuated to North Africa to avoid capture by German forces.

French DB7s being assembled

Here, they fell under control of the Vichy government, but saw practically no action against the Allies except briefly during the Allied invasion of North Africa. After French forces in North Africa had sided with the Allies, DB-7s were used as trainers and were replaced in front line units by Martin B-26 Marauders. In early 1945, a few DB-7s were moved back to France where they saw action against the remaining isolated German pockets on the western coast.

British Commonwealth
The remainder of the order which was to have been delivered to France was instead taken up by the UK. In the course of the war, 24 squadrons operated the Boston. It first entered service with RAF Bomber Command in 1941, equipping No. 88 Squadron.

Their first operational use was not until February 1942 against enemy shipping. On 4 July 1942 United States Army Air Force (USAAF) bomber crews, flying RAF Boston aircraft, took part in operations in Europe for the first time attacking enemy airfields in the Netherlands. They replaced the Bristol Blenheims of No. 2 Group RAF for daylight operations against occupied Europe until replaced in turn by de Havilland Mosquitos.

Some Havocs were converted to Turbinlite aircraft which replaced the nose position with a powerful searchlight. The Turbinlite aircraft would be brought onto an enemy fighter by ground radar control.

The onboard radar operator would then direct the pilot until he could illuminate the enemy. At that point a Hawker Hurricane fighter accompanying the Turbinlite aircraft would make the attack. Unfortunately this also made the aircraft a target. The Turbinlite squadrons were disbanded in early 1943.

Soviet Union
Through Lend-Lease, Soviet forces received more than two-thirds of version A-20B planes manufactured and a significant portion of versions G and H. The A-20 was the most numerous foreign aircraft in the Soviet bomber inventory. The Soviet Air Force had more A-20s than the USAAF.

They were delivered via the ALSIB (Alaska-Siberia) air ferry route. The aircraft had its baptism of fire at the end of June 1942. The Soviets were dissatisfied with the four Browning machine guns and replaced them with faster-firing ShKAS. During the summer 1942, the Bostons flew low-level raids against German convoys heavily protected by flak. Attacks were made from altitudes right down to 33 ft (10 metres) and the air regiments suffered heavy losses.

 By mid-1943 Soviet pilots were well familiar with the A-20B and A-20C. The general opinion was that the aircraft was overpowered and therefore fast and agile. It could make steep turns with an angle of up to 65°, while the tricycle landing gear facilitated take-off and landings. The type could be flown even by scarcely trained crews. The engines were reliable but rather sensitive to low temperature, so the Soviet engineers developed special covers for keeping propeller hubs from freezing up.

Some of these aircraft were armed with fixed-forward cannons and found some success in the ground attack role. By the end of the war, 3,414 A-20s had been delivered to the USSR, 2,771 of which were used by the Soviet Air Force.

user posted image

American-built Douglas A-20C Havocs being loaded onto a cargo ship for transport to the Soviet Union. They were welded to the deck to prevent loss in heavy seas.

The scow with two planes on it, the Lillian E. Petrie, was damaged in an accident Long Island in November 1943. While the Arctic Convoys were more dangerous and captured the public's attention, much more supplies were sent through Iran and across the Pacific. Ships carrying Lend-Lease supplies would transit from New York, New York to Capetown, South Africa and terminate in Bandar Shahpur, Iran or Basra, Iraq.

In 1941-1942 most supplies went through the North Sea, because the Soviets did not want a large Anglo-American presence on their border. It took time to develop the "Persian Corridor" to receive substantial supplies, because only one dock in each terminus could handle large ships and the Tehran-Soviet railways lacked capacity. The railway from Bandar Shahpur to Tehran and then the Soviet Union was light rail through mountains. As late as 1944 supplies ordered (and delivered) in 1942 were still waiting for transit to the Soviet Union. The British took over the railroad, but the delivery of rolling stock and engines from the United States was delayed. The Americans took over the administration of the Persian Corridor in 1944, when their industrial output was reaching its zenith. By July, the peak month of deliveries, 282,097 long tons (286623.8 metric tons) came through the Persian Corridor.

2,771 A-20s were delivered to the Soviet Union through Lend-Lease. The A-20C was an attempt to standardize British and American versions. Developed for foreign markets, it was designated the A-20C by the United States Army Air Force and the Boston IIIA by the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force. Douglas built 808 at their Santa Monica plant and Boeing Aircraft built 140 A-20Cs under license.

user posted image

Much of the Lend-Lease order for the United Kingdom was sent to the Soviet Union. When the United States entered the war, they took over many A-20Cs to start training; the Americans rarely, if ever, used the C model in combat. However, because the variant could carry a torpedo, it was effective as a surface raider with the Soviet Air Force.

user posted image

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Last of Enola Gay's crew dies

The last member of Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the first atom bomb's crew  has died.

Van Kirk (3rd from the left); the last surviving member of Enola Gay's crew has died

The last surviving member of the US crew that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, hastening the end of World War II and moving the world into the atomic age, has died. (Associated press)

Theodore "Dutch" Van Kirk died on Monday (local time) of natural causes at the retirement home where he lived in Georgia, his son Tom Van Kirk said. He was 93.

Van Kirk flew nearly 60 bombing missions, but it was a single mission in the Pacific that secured him a place in history. He was 24 years old when he served as navigator on the Enola Gay, the B-29 Superfortress that dropped the first atomic bomb deployed in wartime over the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.

He was teamed with pilot Paul Tibbets and bombardier Tom Ferebee for Special Mission No. 13.

Signed Enola Gay postcard Tibbet (L) and Van Kirk (R)

The mission went perfectly, Van Kirk told The Associated Press in a 2005 interview. He guided the bomber through the night sky, just 15 seconds behind schedule, he said. As the 4080-kilogram bomb nicknamed "Little Boy" fell toward the sleeping city, he and his crewmates hoped to escape with their lives.

They didn't know whether the bomb would actually work and, if it did, whether its shockwaves would rip their plane to shreds. They counted - one thousand one, one thousand two - reaching the 43 seconds they'd been told it would take for detonation and heard nothing.

"I think everybody in the plane concluded it was a dud. It seemed a lot longer than 43 seconds," Van Kirk recalled.

Then came a bright flash. Then a shockwave. Then another shockwave.

The blast and its aftereffects killed 140,000 in Hiroshima.

Three days after Hiroshima, a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. The blast and its aftermath claimed 80,000 lives. Six days after the Nagasaki bombing, Japan surrendered.

Whether the United States should have used the atomic bomb has been debated ever since. Van Kirk told the AP he thought it was necessary because it shortened the war and eliminated the need for an Allied land invasion that could have cost more lives on both sides.

"I honestly believe the use of the atomic bomb saved lives in the long run. There were a lot of lives saved. Most of the lives saved were Japanese," Van Kirk said.

But it also made him wary of war.

"The whole World War II experience shows that wars don't settle anything. And atomic weapons don't settle anything," he said. "I personally think there shouldn't be any atomic bombs in the world - I'd like to see them all abolished. "But if anyone has one," he added, "I want to have one more than my enemy."

Van Kirk stayed on with the military for a year after the war ended. Then he went to school, earned degrees in chemical engineering and signed on with DuPont, where he stayed until he retired in 1985.

Like many World War II veterans, Van Kirk didn't talk much about his service until much later in his life when he spoke to school groups, his son said.

"Dutch" Van Kirk

"I didn't even find out that he was on that mission until I was 10 years old and read some old news clippings in my grandmother's attic," Tom van Kirk told the AP in a phone interview Tuesday.

"I know he was recognised as a war hero, but we just knew him as a great father," Tom van Kirk said.

Signed photograph of Enola Gay (11 signatures) also the only known photo with "Boxcar" the plane that dropped the Nagasaki bomb, in the background.

The Enola Gay was a Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber, named for Enola Gay Tibbets, the mother of the pilot, Colonel Paul Tibbets, who selected the aircraft while it was still on the assembly line. On 6 August 1945, during the final stages of World War II, it became the first aircraft to drop an atomic bomb. The bomb, code-named "Little Boy", was targeted at the city of Hiroshima, Japan, and caused unprecedented destruction. Enola Gay participated in the second atomic attack as the weather reconnaissance aircraft for the primary target of Kokura. Clouds and drifting smoke resulted in Nagasaki being bombed instead.

Paul Tibbets

After the war, the Enola Gay returned to the United States, where it was operated from Roswell Army Air Field, New Mexico. It was flown to Kwajalein for the Operation Crossroads nuclear tests in the Pacific, but was not chosen to make the test drop at Bikini Atoll. Later that year it was transferred to the Smithsonian Institution, and spent many years parked at air bases exposed to the weather and souvenir hunters, before being disassembled and transported to the Smithsonian's storage facility at Suitland, Maryland, in 1961.

In the 1980s, veterans groups began agitating for the Smithsonian to put the aircraft on display. The cockpit and nose section of the aircraft were exhibited at the National Air and Space Museum (NASM), below,  in downtown Washington, D.C., for the bombing's 50th anniversary in 1995, amid a storm of controversy. Since 2003, the entire restored B-29 has been on display at NASM's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

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