All posts by Leo Guo

About Leo Guo

Leo Guo is an avid aviation enthusiast based in West Vancouver, Canada. Having a particular interest in German and Chinese aviation, Leo has contributed numerous articles for Plane Encyclopedia, of which he holds the position of team manager, head writer and co-owner.

Shangdeng No. 1

PRC flag People’s Republic of China (1958)
Helicopter / Bus / Boat Hybrid – None Built

Perhaps the only known photo of the original Shangdeng No.1 model. (中国飞机全书: 第3卷)

Shangdeng No.1 was an overambitious design undertaken by the Chinese Shanghai Bulb Factory in 1958 to produce a multipurpose vehicle which could serve as a helicopter, a bus and a boat for the National Day celebrations. Vastly unknown both inside and outside of China, the Shangdeng No.1 can be considered one of the People’s Republic of China’s more obscure designs of the 1950s. Quietly canceled after the conclusion of National Day, the Shanghai Bulb Factory would never fulfill their promise of completing the design and preparing it for mass production. This could be attributed to a plethora of reasons, but information is scarce.

History

On October 1st 1958, the People’s Republic of China celebrated the ninth anniversary of the founding of the nation. As their personal way of celebrating this national holiday, representatives of the Shanghai Bulb Factory unveiled a model of a hybrid design as a gift to the government. Unorthodox and, some may rightfully argue, ridiculous in concept, this design (dubbed the “Shangdeng No.1” / “上灯” 1号) was meant to have served as a versatile multipurpose vehicle capable of acting as a helicopter, a boat and a small bus. Upon presenting this model to the government, they proclaimed that design and manufacturing work would be completed in 1959 thus allowing for mass production. However, this would never happen, as work on the project ceased shortly after the model was presented and the conclusion of National Day.

The reason for the cancellation is unknown, but one could speculate a number of reasons. First and foremost, the Shanghai Bulb Factory specialized in the production of lightbulbs, therefore they completely lacked any expertise, experience, qualified personnel and machinery required to design and in turn produce such a conceptually complicated vehicle. A second possible reason why the project was canceled was due to Mao Zedong’s “Great Leap Forward” campaign, which would have the entire country struggle to industrialize and collectivize. The Shangdeng No.1 could have been deemed as useless and thus canceled by the government so that the factory could focus its resources to fulfill government mandated quotas of lightbulb production. Lastly, the Shanghai Bulb Factory could have had no intention of developing the Shangdeng No.1 in the first place, and the model presented could have been just a demonstration to show off Chinese ingenuity and to boost the morale of the Chinese people in a small show of fanciful propaganda. These, however, are just theories to speculate on why the Shangdeng No.1 was canceled. Only one photo is known to exist of the Shangdeng No.1’s scale model presented during National Day.

In conclusion, the Shangdeng No.1 was an overambitious design concept explored by the Shanghai Bulb Factory which resulted in the presentation of a scale model on the ninth National Day of the People’s Republic of China. Absurd in concept, the Shanghai Bulb Factory would have had no possible way of delivering on their promise to produce such a vehicle as they certainly had little to no experience on vehicle design and machinery intended for light bulb production could only produce so little. The fact that a light bulb factory conceptualized this vehicle is quite interesting though, and, to their credit, an intended helicopter/bus/boat hybrid design would most certainly have raised a few eyebrows in the country and in the Western world, assuming that the design was feasible and successful.

As details on this project are so scarce, it has led to some debate on the legacy of the design. A popular claim by numerous online sources is that, after the project was canceled, documents on the Shangdeng No.1 was transferred to the American Boeing firm, and that the Shangdeng’s tandem rotor design served as the inspiration of the Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopter. This claim is unrealistic and vacuous, as the People’s Republic of China and the United States of America had no formal relations until the late 1960s / early 1970s, nearly a decade after the Chinook was serviced. Therefore, the concept of a Chinese light bulb factory transferring documents to and influencing a world-renowned aviation corporation would be extremely illogical and, frankly, impossible. The United States of America was also no stranger to tandem bladed helicopters designs, as numerous helicopters (eg. Piasecki HRP Rescuer, Piasecki H-21, etc) formerly and currently in service had these designs prior to the conceptualization of the Shangdeng.

Design

The design of the Shangdeng No.1 resembles a rectangular box with rounded edges. A tandem rotor blade configuration was used, and the conceptual power plant of the Shangdeng would have been an unspecified radial engine model capable of producing up to 450 hp, connected to both the front and the rear rotors. The cockpit located at the front of the helicopter would have allowed space for two pilots. Four passengers (or the weight equivalent in cargo) could have been held in the compartment located behind the cockpit. Windows were planned to be installed in the fuselage as can seen in the scale model. Relatively speaking, the Shangdeng’s dimensions are quiet small for a tandem rotor helicopter design. The Shangdeng was only 6 ft 7 in (2.00 m) tall, which would have likely made the interior compartment quite cramped.

Four static wheels were mounted in pairs in the front and rear part of the fuselage which would have moved the Shangdeng in its bus configuration. It is unknown whether or not the design would have allowed the tandem helicopter rotors to be folded in this configuration. If not, the blades could potentially be damaged in urban areas or crowded spaces. It is unknown if a separate transmission would have been connected to the wheels, but this would have certainly greatly complicated the design. If the vehicle in its bus configuration was meant to be propelled by the rotors, that would have been not only unacceptably inefficient, but would have also limited the paths it could travel and would have been highly dangerous to be next to. Steering in the wheeled mode is also unclear.

In its naval configuration, the Shangdeng would have been propelled by an unspecified amount of 15 in / 40 cm propellers in the rear, possibly with assistance from the wheels which would have provided limited propulsion in the water. Again, this would have probably been highly fuel-inefficient. Also, why would a helicopter, which can easily get between any two points by flying, be used as a boat is hard to fathom. How steering was achieved in the boat mode is unclear.

In the helicopter configuration, the Shangdeng would have just been propulsed by the rotor blades and radial engine. The problem of having someone trained both as a pilot, driver and skipper at the same time seems to have gone unnoticed by the designers. As the project did not progress beyond the conceptual model stage, intricate details regarding the Shangdeng No.1 are unknown. However, basic dimensions and estimated performances are provided by 中国飞机全书: Volume III, a book written by People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) general Wei Gang (魏钢), former PLAAF model maker and artist Chen Yingming (陈应明) and aviation magazine author Zhang Wei (张维).

Operator(s)

  • People’s Republic of China – The Shangdeng No.1 would most likely have been operated by the various military branches and likely some civilian institutes if it were to see mass production.

Shanghai Bulb Factory Shangdeng No.1*

* – Statistics taken from中国飞机全书 (Vol. 3)

Length 32 ft 10 in / 10.00 m
Height 6 ft 7 in / 2.00 m
Engine 1x Unspecified Multi-Cylinder Radial Engine Model (450 hp)
Rotor Blade Length 26 ft 3 in / 8.00 m
Rotor Blade Spacing 22 ft / 7.00 m
Boat Propeller Length 15 in / 40 cm
Wheel Diameter 27.5 in / 70 cm
Maximum Takeoff Weight 4000 lbs / 1,800 kg
Climb Rate 6.6 ft / 2 m per second
Maximum Speed (Flying) 95 mph / 150 km/h
Maximum Speed (Driving) 60 mph / 100 km/h
Maximum Speed (Sailing) 7 mph / 12 km/h
Range 400 mi / 650 km
Maximum Service Ceiling 9,800 ft / 3,000 m
Crew 2x Pilot

4x Passengers

Gallery

Side Profile View Illustration by Ed Jackson

Sources

Yermolayev Yer-2ON

USSR flag USSR (1944)
VIP Transport – 3 Converted

A 1/4 view of the Yer-2ON. (AviaDejaVu)

The Yer-2ON was a VIP passenger transport aircraft designed in 1944 by Vladimir Grigoryevich Yermolayev and his Yermolayev OKB (design bureau). Based off of the firm’s preexisting Yer-2 bomber, the Yer-2ON was meant to fulfill the role of a government VIP transport aircraft which would carry government members to and from meetings in or out of the Soviet Union. Shortly after Vladimir Yermolayev died on December 31st of 1944 from a typhoid infection, the Yermolayev OKB firm was integrated into Pavel Sukhoi’s Sukhoi OKB firm where the project continued. Despite showing relatively promising performance, the Yer-2ON would eventually be cancelled due to the conclusion of the Second World War and the Sukhoi OKB’s need to concentrate resources on other projects. Thus, the three produced Yer-2ON would never be used for their intended purpose and were presumably scrapped some time post-war.

History

Diplomacy between the Allied countries during the Second World War was an essential step in defeating the Axis powers. With the increasing successes of the Allies during the war, meetings between representatives from the United States, Soviet Union and United Kingdom were held to discuss the future of Europe along with battle plans. In order to attend these meetings, the Soviet government became aware of the need for a long-range VIP passenger transport aircraft capable of carrying 10 to 12 people while maintaining comfort, reliability, cruising abilities at 13,000 ft to 16,400 ft (4,000 m to 5,000 m) and range of 2,500 mi to 3,100 mi (4,000 km to 5,000 km). After Joseph Stalin himself made a request for an aircraft meeting these requirements in January of 1944, a meeting was held between government and Soviet Air Force officials discussing the feasibility of converting existing bomber aircraft to meet this need. Not only would this save time, but also had the benefit of sharing the same airframe as aircraft already in production. In the end, the Yermolayev OKB’s liquid-cooled Charomskiy ACh-30B V-12 diesel engine powered Yer-2 bomber was chosen for conversion. Curiously enough, Yer-2 being used as a transport aircraft is quite ironic, as it reflects on Roberto L. Bartini’s 1937 Stal-7 transport aircraft, from which the Yer-2 bomber was originally developed from.

A frontal view of the passenger compartment. (AviaDejaVu)

Shortly after the NKAP (People’s Commissariat for Aviation Industry) approved Order 351 on May 23, 1944, the head designer of the Yermolayev OKB firm, Vladimir Grigoryevich Yermolayev, began work on converting the Yer-2 into a VIP passenger transport aircraft. In his address to the NKAP on that day, he promised that a completed example would be converted by Factory No.39 and be ready for tests by November 15th. This new variant would be designated Yer-2ON (Osoboye Naznachenie – Special Purpose). With most of the groundwork already completed, Yermolayev was able to complete the conversion blueprints by August. An inspection was conducted on the Yer-2ON’s plans on August 28th and was approved for production. The difference between the Yer-2ON and the standard bomber variant was the removal of all armament and replacement of the bomb bay with a passenger compartment. The passenger compartment would have been able to hold 9 passengers, as well as a flight attendant. All relevant technical drawings were sent to Factory No.39 in the Irkutsk Oblast. A total of four Yer-2 bombers were ordered for conversion, but standard Yer-2 production would run into difficulties as the diesel powered Charomskiy ACh-30B engines manufactured at Factory No.500 were found to have defects and needed to be addressed. As such, the project was put on hold for a considerable amount of time.

A rear view of the Yer-2ON. (Одноклассники)

On December 31st, Vladimir Grigoryevich Yermolayev passed away due to a typhoid infection. As a result, the Yermolayev OKB and its assets were integrated into Pavlov Sukhoi’s Sukhoi OKB firm. It would appear that N.V. Sinelnikov took over as head designer once the project was integrated into Sukhoi OKB. Once the issue with the engines was resolved, three Yer-2 bombers were set aside and were prepared to be converted into the Yer-2ON. Due to the relatively poor documentation of the Yer-2ON’s development, it is unknown when precisely the first Yer-2ON was completed, but most sources allege it was completed at the end of December. The manufacturer’s flight tests and maiden flight appeared to have taken place sometime in February of 1945. Through these tests it was revealed that the Yer-2ON was capable of covering a distance of 3,230 mi / 5,200 km while maintaining a flight ceiling of 19,700 ft / 6,000 m and a top speed of 270 mph / 435 kmh.

On April 16th, the first Yer-2ON made a record non-stop flight from the Irkutsk Aviation Plant’s airfield in Eastern Siberia to Moscow. This flight was accomplished by Heroes of the Soviet Union M. Alekseev and Korostylev over a flight time of 15 hours and 30 minutes and covered a distance of approximately 2,611 mi / 4,202 km. It would appear that a second flight would be conducted sometime near the end of April with the second converted aircraft once it was ready. The second flight had identical circumstances as the first flight (same pilots, destination, fuel load, etc). Interestingly enough, both flights concluded with enough fuel for four more hours of flight, attesting to the Yer-2’s long-range capabilities. A third Yer-2ON was converted at an unspecified time, but details of its tests (if it performed any at all) are unknown. Some internet sources claim that a fourth example was completed on May 10th of 1945, but this cannot be confirmed and disagrees with most publications.

One of the passenger seats of the Yer-2ON. (AviaDejaVu)

Despite the Yer-2ON performing relatively well and passing the manufacturer’s flight tests, the aircraft was never used for its intended role of government VIP passenger transportation. This was likely the result of the project being deemed as low priority within the Sukhoi OKB firm. At the time, Sukhoi was invested in other more pressing projects which led to the Yer-2ON being eventually canceled. Joseph Stalin himself was reputed to have aviophobia (a fear of flying) and the Yer-2ON not entering service did not appear to have consequences for the Sukhoi OKB. Nonetheless, the Yer-2ON project was dropped some time post-war and the three manufactured prototypes were likely scrapped as a result.

Design

A cutout drawing of the Yer-2ON’s interior. (AviaDejaVu)

The Yermolayev Yer-2ON was a two engine VIP passenger transport aircraft based on the Yermolayev Yer-2 bomber aircraft, powered by two liquid-cooled Charomskiy ACh-30B V-12 diesel engines capable of producing 1,500 hp each. The Yer-2ON was identical to the standard Yer-2 bomber in most respects, though armaments and turrets were removed and the bomb bay was converted to a passenger compartment with seats for 9 passengers and 1 flight attendant. The crew would have consisted of a commander pilot, a co-pilot, a navigator, a radio operator, and a flight attendant. In the passenger compartment, the left side (aircraft facing forward) had 5 seats while the right side had 4. The flight attendant’s seat was located behind the last seat on the right side, and was retractable. A luggage compartment was also provided. Another notable feature was the addition of a toilet compartment, as the aircraft’s long-distance travel routes required such a feature. Several windows were installed on the side of the fuselage for the passengers.

Operators

  • Soviet Union – The Yer-2ON was intended to be used as a passenger transport aircraft for government VIPs traveling in and out of the country to attend meetings.

Yermolayev Yer-2ON*

* – Statistics taken from “OKB Sukhoi: A History of the Design Bureau and its Aircraft” by Dmitriy Komissarov, Sergey Komissarov, and Yefim Gordon

Wingspan 75 ft 5.51 in / 23 m
Length 53 ft 7.31 in / 16.34 m
Height 15 ft 9.76 in / 4.82 m
Wing Area 850.35 ft² / 79 m²
Engine 2x liquid-cooled Charomskiy ACh-30B V-12 diesel engines
Engine Ratings 1,500 hp (1,120 kW) – Maximum at Sea Level

1,250 hp (930 kW) – Regular

Empty Weight 38,800 lb / 17,600 kg
Takeoff Gross Weight 41,890 lb / 19,000 kg
Maximum Speed 270 mph / 435 kmh at 19,680 ft / 6,000 m
Ranges 3,040 mi / 4,900 km – Standard

3,230 mi / 5,200 km – Maximum

Maximum Service Ceiling 19,700 ft / 6,000 m
Takeoff Run 3,445 ft / 1,050 m
Landing Run 3,346 ft / 1,020 m
Crew Pilot / Commander

Co-Pilot

Navigator

Radio Operator

Flight Attendant

Accomodation 9 Passengers

Gallery

Yermolayev Yer-2ON Side View Illustration
A side view of the Yer-2ON. (AviaDejaVu)
The entrance to the passenger section. (AviaDejaVu)
This photo shows what appears to be a retractable seat in the rear of the passenger compartment. This seat most certainly would be for the flight attendant. (AviaDejaVu)
Toilet compartment of the Yer-2ON. (AviaDejaVu)

Sources

 

Manfréd-Weiss XNI-02 Kaméleon

Hungarian Flag Kingdom of Hungary (1944)
Fictitious Jet Attacker / Dive Bomber – 1 Scale Model Built

The original photo published on the XNI-02. (Repülés Magazine)

The Manfréd-Weiss XNI-02 Kaméleon (Chameleon) is a fictitious Second World War Hungarian jet-powered attacker aircraft written about in the April 1980 edition of the Hungarian aviation magazine Repülés (Flight) as an April Fools joke. The brainchild of Hungarian author György Punka, the XNI-02, though meant as a harmless April Fools joke, unfortunately fooled unsuspecting readers and caused controversy within the military aviation fanbase. As a result, numerous websites, magazine authors, armchair historians and casual readers are still convinced to this day that the XNI-02 Kaméleon was an authentic project undertaken during the war and believes it existed.

Alleged History

According to the April 1980 edition of the Hungarian aviation magazine “Repülés”, while working for the Hungarian Manfréd Weiss Steel and Metal Works, (Weiss Manfréd Acél- és Fémművek, also known as “Csepel Works”) engineer Pál Nemisch designed a jet attacker aircraft in 1944. Due to the frequent Allied bombing and Hungary’s shortage of supplies, Nemisch presumably decided to base his design off pre existing components taken from other aircraft. Christened the “XNI-02”, the aircraft gained the nickname of Kaméleon (Chameleon) due to the number of parts incorporated from foreign designs. The XNI-02’s construction consists of a concoction of German, American and indigenously manufactured parts. Further details of the XNI-02’s design process are unknown, as Punka did not expand on them.

The mock guncam footage of the XNI-02 getting shot down. (Repülés Magazine)

Construction of the XNI-02 is presented as having began in mid to late 1944, after parts for the aircraft were collected. The prototype began assembly in Kőbánya, Hungary, but construction was relocated to an underground aircraft production facility near Augsburg, Germany. This can possibly be accredited to Operation Margarethe, the German occupation of Hungary to ensure their loyalty to the Axis. The XNI-02’s development team would once again be relocated to Austria, near Wiener Neustadt prior to November. The XNI-02 prototype was presumably completed by the Wiener Neustädter Flugzeugwerke factory and made its maiden flight on November 6th.

On April 1st of 1945, Lieutenant R. Taylor from the USAAF 385th Fighter Group was patrolling Austrian airspace in search of Axis fighters with his North American P-51 Mustang. While flying near the town of Linz, he spotted a rather peculiar looking aircraft flying to his starboard side at an altitude of approximately 9,840 ft / 3,000 m. While trying to get behind the mysterious fighter, Lt. Taylor inadvertently revealed his presence to the aircraft which led to it speed away. Determined to chase down this mysterious aircraft, Lt. Taylor proceeded with the chase. For some odd reason, the aircraft Lt. Taylor was chasing began to slow down and extended its landing gears. Now in a position to engage the aircraft, Lt. Taylor fired towards the unidentified aircraft. Failing to shoot it down in the initial pass, Lt. Taylor pulled off and reengaged it. This time, the burst of gunfire from his Mustang seemingly crippled the unidentified aircraft and thus forced the pilot to bail out. The aircraft crashed shortly thereafter. After returning to the 385th Fighter Group’s homebase in Foggia, Italy, the guncam on Lt. Taylor’s Mustang was examined and the film revealed that the mysterious aircraft Taylor shot down was the sole XNI-02 (the guncam still frame in the magazine was created using Punka’s model). This, however, was unknown to them at the time. This information would be revealed later on from an unnamed technician who provided pictures and some information regarding the XNI-02 after the war. On that day, the XNI-02 was supposed to be performing a weapon firing flight test, but this would never occur as Lt. Taylor was able to successfully shoot down the prototype. In Lt. Taylor’s private log book, he recorded the victory as: “Unidentified jet over Linz. 10:35, 1945 April 1st”. The reasons why the XNI-02 test pilot decided to slow down and extend his landing gear are up for personal interpretation, as the story is fictitious in itself. The test pilot may have believed he lost Lt. Taylor and decided to prepare for landing, or this was an indication that the XNI-02 was experiencing mechanical problems and needed to perform an emergency landing. Realistically though, the story was written in this way to cover up Punka’s XNI-02 model’s inability to retract its landing gears. It is unknown whether or not the radioman was present onboard the aircraft at the time of its shootdown.

The Wiener Neustädter Flugzeugwerke factory was also in the process of building the reconnaissance variant of the XNI-02 in 1945. The incomplete fuselage of this variant was destroyed by advancing Soviet troops when they overran the factory. Other than the attacker / dive bomber and reconnaissance variant, there was also plans to produce a night fighter and trainer variant for the XNI-02. These plans, however, were never acted upon due to the advancing Allied troops. Details of these variants are unknown as Punka did not write about them.

Supposed Design

 

As mentioned before, the XNI-02 Kaméleon is a fictitious jet fighter created by Hungarian author György Punka. All known photos of the XNI-02 are sourced from a model Punka created. Using components from several model kits, Punka was able to create a fairly realistic and convincing model. The XNI-02 model uses a North American P-51B Mustang’s fuselage, a set of the iconic gull wings from the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka (the model also uses the Ju 87’s horizontal stabilizer as an anhedral outer section of the regular wings), the Lockheed P-38 Lightning’s nose, and the BMW 003’s two engine cowls were taken from a Sud Aviation Caravelle passenger jet model. The combination of parts used for this aircraft is attributed to the fact that Hungary was unable to manufacture its own aircraft components. However, parts of the tail and nose were constructed using plastic and wood. In the original article written by Punka, only Stuka parts were mentioned. This could mean that the P-51 fuselage was either taken from captured models or the Hungarians reverse engineered it and indigenously produced them with modifications. The fuselage would have been reinforced with steel plates for protection, though every other part of the aircraft was constructed using wood and plastic.

The XNI-02 would have had space for two crew members, a pilot in the plexiglass cabin and a gunner / radio operator which would be housed in the nose (likely in a prone position). The gunner would be able to remotely control two 12.7x81mm Gebauer GKM 1940.M machine guns located under the nose help from a monitor. (The machine guns are not believed to have been installed on the prototypes.)

The XNI-02 was powered by two BMW 003 turbojet engines given to the Hungarians by the Germans. They are mounted on the rear fuselage on either side accompanied by a slight bulge in the fuselage which would have held the fuel tanks. It would appear that the fuel weight impacted the performance of the XNI-02 but guaranteed an increase in endurance and distance. The exact variant of the engines is unknown. The armaments consisted of two 30x184mm Rheinmetall-Borsig MK 103 autocannons and two remote-controlled 12.7x81mm Gebauer GKM 1940.M machine guns. The MK 103 cannons were mounted in the nose while two Gebauer GKM 1940.M machine guns were envisioned to be mounted under the nose. As an attacker, the XNI-02 prototype theoretically would have been able to mount two 550 lb / 250 kg bombs or four 8.26 in / 21 cm Werfer-Granate 21 rockets under the fuselage or wings.

The production variant of the XNI-02 would have had ejection seats for both crewmen, but this feature was not installed on the prototype. Curiously enough, the original prototype concept would have had a propeller-driven engine, but due to time constraints this experimental concept was not tested and jet engines were mounted right away.

Conclusion

Though the XNI-02 Kaméleon is a fictitious aircraft, the design of it would have been quite modern and advanced, but also unusual and with plenty of quirks that signal it as a fake design. The monitor assisted remote gunner system is an example of this. Though Punka was able to sell a convincing story of the XNI-02 Kaméleon, there are some questionable details which impact the veracity. For one, the fact that the Hungarians would have received BMW 003 turbojet engines in 1944 is quite unrealistic. At that time, German would have likely reserved their resources for use against the Allied forces. The basis of the design, although creative, would have imposed an issue for production facilities. The basis of the design resides on the availability of spare parts from existing aircraft, and if such parts were not available, the XNI-02 would have needed extensive modification to accommodate different parts.

Despite these flaws, Punka’s creation most certainly made an interesting and, to some degree, convincing story which made a great April Fools article. However, not everyone realized that this was, in fact, an April Fools joke and some took this as a real aircraft. This caused many other magazines and websites to write their own articles on the XNI-02, stating that it was a real project. The XNI-02 was even able to convince some Hungarian veterans, which led them to contact each other to see if anyone knew if this was a real project.

Variants

 

  • XNI-02 Attacker / Dive Bomber – Attacker variant powered by two BMW 003 turbojet engines. One prototype was built and was destroyed on April 1st of 1945 when Lieutenant R. Taylor of the 385th Fighter Group shot it down during a test flight.
  • XNI-02 Reconnaissance – Reconnaissance variant of the XNI-02. One incomplete prototype was in construction presumably at the Wiener Neustädter Flugzeugwerke factory in Austria. The prototype was destroyed by the Soviet troops.
  • XNI-02 Night Fighter – Intended night fighter variant. Details unknown.
  • XNI-02 Trainer – Intended trainer variant. Details unknown.
  • XNI-02 Night Bomber – Intended night bomber variant. An IR (Infrared Radiation) bombsight would have been installed in the nose for use by the radio operator / gunner (bombardier in this context).

Operators

  • Kingdom of Hungary – The XNI-02 Kaméleon was intended for use by the Royal Hungarian Air Force.

Gallery

Credits

Messerschmitt Me 163S Habicht

Nazi flag Nazi Germany (1945)
Rocket Interceptor Trainer – 1 Built

A rear 3/4 view of the Soviet captured “White 94” Me 163S. Colorization by Michael Jucan [Yefim Gordon]
The Messerschmitt Me 163S (Schulflugzeug / Training Aircraft) Habicht (Hawk) was an unarmed two-seat training glider based off of the famous Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet. Originally designed for the purpose of training novice pilots for landing, the Habicht ultimately never saw active service with the Germans and only a single example was produced through the conversion of a serial Me 163B-1. With the sole example captured by the Russians after the war, the Habicht underwent extensive testing by the Soviet Air Force which helped them understand the flying characteristics of the Komet and prepared Soviet pilots for flying the powered Komets. The Habicht undoubtedly played a part in helping Soviet engineers understand the Komet and thus played a part in the future development of Soviet rocket aircraft.

History

A closeup view of the Me 163S showing the right wing. [Yefim Gordon]
The Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet was one of Nazi Germany’s most famous aircraft produced during the Second World War. Although bearing the title of the world’s first mass-produced rocket-powered interceptor, the Komet did have its fair share of flaws, such as the volatile and sometimes dangerous Walter HWK 109-509 rocket engine, which prevented it from becoming an effective weapon against the Allies.

As the Komet was designed to have a limited amount of fuel to engage Allied bombers, pilots were expected to glide the Komet back to friendly airfields once they disengaged from combat. With gliding landings as a potential problem for the less experienced pilots, one of the ideas proposed by Messerschmitt designers in 1944 was to introduce a dedicated trainer variant of the Komet which would have a student pilot accompanied by an instructor pilot. Designated as the Messerschmitt Me 163S (Schulflugzeug / Training Aircraft) Habicht, the trainer glider differed from the production model with the addition of an instructor’s cockpit behind the forward cockpit. This addition was accompanied by the removal of the Walter HWK 109-509 rocket engine and the Habicht would have to be towed by another aircraft in order to get airborne. Another interesting addition to the Habicht was a second liquid tank behind the instructor’s cockpit for counterbalancing. All the liquid tanks would be filled with water for weight simulation and ballast. A total of twelve examples were planned for production, but only one was produced due to wartime production constraints.

The sole example of the Habicht was built by converting an earlier Me 163B-1 production model. Due to the scarcity of information regarding the Me 163S, it is unknown exactly when the Habicht was produced and what sort of testing it may have undergone during German possession. However, it is known that the Soviet Union was able to capture the only example during the final stages of the World War II’s Eastern Front. The sole Habicht was sent to the Soviet Union along with three Me 163B Komets during the Summer of 1945 for thorough inspection and testing. In historian Yefim Gordon’s book “Soviet Rocket Fighters – Red Star Volume 30”, he claims that in addition to the three Komets, seven Habicht trainer models were also captured. This, however, remains quite dubious as there is no evidence that more than one Habicht existed, and all current photographic material, research materials, and books all suggest that only a single example was produced.

The Me 163S in simulated flight configuration aided by struts. [Yefim Gordon]
As the Soviets were particularly interested in rocket propulsion aircraft, the State Defence Committee issued a resolution which called for the thorough examination of the Walter 109-509 jet engine and the Me 163 Komet along with captured German documents on rocket propulsion. The three Me 163B Komets, of which only one was airworthy, and the Me 163S Habicht were sent to the Flight Research Institute (LII), the Valeriy P. Chkalov Soviet Air Force State Research Institute (GK NII VSS), and the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute (TsAGI). The Habicht and Komets saw extensive testing in Soviet hands, undergoing several structural, static and wind tunnel tests. During the initial flight testing period, the Komet only flew as a glider as Soviet pilots and engineers were unsure of whether or not the Walter rocket engine was ready for use since bench tests were not completed. Securing the T-Stoff and C-Stoff propellants for the rocket engine was also a problem. In order to understand the handling characteristics of the Komet, the Habicht was flown numerous times at different altitudes, as was the unpowered Komet. A Tupolev Tu-2 bomber was responsible for towing the Habicht to these altitudes. Under Soviet ownership, the Habicht was given the nickname of “Карась” (Karas / Crucian Carp) due to the glider’s distinct silhouette. The test pilot responsible for flying the Habicht was Mark Lazarevich Gallaj. In general, the Habicht was considered relatively easy to handle by the Soviet test pilots. It is unknown how many test flights the Habicht underwent, but the aircraft certainly aided Soviet pilots in understanding the handling characteristics of the Komet. The Habicht’s service came to an end once the Soviet state trials of the Komet concluded. The sole example was scrapped sometime in 1946, along with seemingly all the other Komets.

If the Me 163S was able to be mass produced and flown with the Luftwaffe, the aircraft would have been a valuable tool to train German pilots. Landing the Komet was a problem for some pilots and in some cases resulted in fatalities but, with the use of the Habicht, the number of accidents would have certainly decreased.

Design

The Me 163S hung upside down in an unspecified TsAGI workshop for static testing. [Yefim Gordon]
The Messerschmitt Me 163S Habicht was a semi-monocoque aluminum based two-seat training glider developed off the standard tailless Messerschmitt Me 163B-1 Komet. The sole example was converted from a production Komet, which meant dramatic modifications had to be made to the aircraft. The Walther HWK 109-509 rocket engine was removed and in its place was a cockpit for an instructor. The fuel tanks in the airframe were all filled with water to simulate fuel weight while another water tank was added behind the instructor’s cockpit for ballast purposes. There was no armament fitted to the glider. There was a small transparent section between the student pilot’s cockpit and the instructor pilot’s cockpit, presumably for the purpose of communication. As there are no known German documents on the Habicht and Russian documents are scarce, not much is known on the other differences the Habicht may have had. Detailed specifications of the Habicht are unknown, but theoretically it should have been identical to the standard Me 163B-1 Komet except for possibly weight, air drag and center of gravity.

Operators

  • Nazi Germany – The intended operator and producer of the Me 163S Habicht.
  • Soviet Union – The main operator of the Me 163S Habicht. A single Habicht was captured and tested by the Soviets after the war. The Habicht was scrapped in 1946.

*Editor’s note: As noted above, the exact specifications of the Me 163S Habicht are unknown. However they are presumed to be similar to that of the Me 163B-1 Komet.

Gallery

Illustrations by Haryo Panji https://www.deviantart.com/haryopanji

Me 163S Habicht “White 94” in Russian Service [Haryo Panji]
Me 163S Habicht in German Service [Haryo Panji]
 

 

Now known as the “White 94”, the Me 163S sits idly by. [Yefim Gordon]
A closeup view of the Me 163S showing the transparent section between the two cockpits. [Yefim Gordon]
The Me 163S in simulated flight configuration aided by struts. [Yefim Gordon]
A top down view of the “White 94” Me 163S. [Yefim Gordon]
A photo of the “White 94” Me 163S in flight being towed by a presumed Tupolev Tu-2. The pilot in the photo is likely Mark L. Gallaj. [Yefim Gordon]
The Me 163S inside TsAGI’s T-101 wind tunnel for testing. The struts support the Habicht and simulate its flight configuration. [Yefim Gordon]
An alternate closeup view of the Me 163S during static tests. [Yefim Gordon]

Yet another inverted static test, but this time the tail wheel strut and tire were removed from the Me 163S. [Yefim Gordon]

Sources

English Electric / Avro Canada Canberra T.25 “Hoverberra”

Canada flagUK flag Canada / United Kingdom (1960)
Experimental VTOL Aircraft Variant – 1 Converted

The prototype Canberra T.25 during it’s first vertical flight. The Avro-Stroker B.69-420 jet engines would explode and destroy the plane just seconds after this photo was taken. (British Archives)

The English Electric Canberra T.25 (nicknamed Hoverberra by the designer team) was an experimental VTOL variant of the British Canberra jet bomber which was patented and developed by Avro Canada designer Richard Stroker. With a standard Canberra B.2 converted to mount two experimental Avro-Stroker BS.69-420 turbojet engines, the aircraft was given the experimental title of T.25 and was vertically flown for the first time on April 1st of 1960. Unfortunately, the first and only test flight resulted in catastrophic failure when the two experimental Avro-Stroker J-69-420 engines spontaneously combusted and exploded shortly after the T.25 got off the ground. Soon after, all work on the project was halted.

History

In the recent months, an experimental variant of the English Electric Canberra jet bomber was discovered in the National Archives in Greater London. Surprisingly enough, the variant was developed in the Dominion of Canada, which never officially operated or received any Canberras! This experimental variant bears the title of Canberra T.25 and was a testbed for an obscure Canadian developed turbojet engine designated as the “Avro-Stroker BS.69-420”. Much of the information regarding this variant has been lost to history, but the fundamentals appear to have been recorded by a variety of sources. Although Canada was never a recipient or official operator of the English Electric Canberra jet bomber, a single example of the Canberra B.2 found its way to Canada in February of 1959. Details of this purchase are not known, but it would appear that the aircraft was purchased by a civilian firm. As such, the aircraft was stripped of much of its military equipment.

Sometime in late 1959, a relatively unknown Avro Canada employee known by the name of Richard Stroker (referred as “Dick” by most) patented a turbojet engine which he had been working on since 1951. Stroker was part of the occupational forces in Germany after the war, and he was one of the engineers who were tasked with studying experimental Nazi hoverjet technology. Details on the precise technologies he was tasked to study are unclear. It would appear that the Avro Canada had taken an interest in this experimental engine Stroker developed, and decided to manufacture a small batch for trials. The engine received the designation of “Avro-Stroker BS.69-420” and it would appear that only four examples were manufactured. Wishing to test the engines, Avro Canada reached out to the Canadian government for permission to utilize a test frame. With the rather small size of the turbojet engines, they were envisioned to power the aircraft horizontally, allowing it to lift upwards. Previous work done on the VZ-9 Avrocar assisted with this engine’s development. As the Canberra B.2 was obtained recently, the Canadian government allocated it to the Avro Canada designers. It would appear that the British Ministry of Aviation was notified of this development, and they took a keen interest in the modification. Soon after, a team of twelve British engineers were dispatched to Canada to observe and assist in the project’s development.

By March 3rd of 1960, much of the modified Canberra’s design was completed. The Canberra received the official designation of Canberra T.25 within the United Kingdom and was nicknamed “Hoverberra” by the design team. Two BS.69-420 turbojet engines were mounted within the bomb bay and rear fuselage at a 90-degree angle. According to official engine bench tests, the BS.69-420 was capable of producing 4410 lb (2,000 kg) of thrust, which would have barely been able to power the Canberra, even with most of its military equipment stripped. As such, the Canberra T.25 was transported to the Toronto Malton Airport (today known as Pearson International Airport) on March 27th. Preparations were being made to initiate the Canberra T.25’s first vertical flight. The Canadian test pilot’s full name is unknown, but documents identified him as “Pranks.” Soon after, all preparations for the Canberra T.25’s first flight was complete. The test flight was to take place within a hangar, as the maiden flight’s purpose was to see if the aircraft could get off the ground at all, and did not instruct the pilot to fly high.

On April 1st at 0500 hours exact, the two BS.69-420 turbojet engines were ignited and the Canberra T.25 slowly lifted itself into the air. Canadian and British engineers and designers observed this process at a safe distance. Twelve seconds after the aircraft began hovering, a strange sound was reported by Pranks which he described as “a high pitched screeching.” As this was unusual and did not occur during engine bench tests, Pranks was ordered to immediately shut down the engine and descend. Just as this command was spoken, the B.69-420 turbojet engines exploded which completely destroyed the Canberra T.25 and killed Pranks. Two nearby engineers were also injured by flaming debris, one was severely burnt while the other made it off with relatively light injuries. Soon after this tragic incident, the Canadian government ordered the immediate cessation of work on this project.

As not much documentation seems to exist on this obscure project, much of the developmental history and post-cancellation history is unknown. However, the Canberra T.25 “Hoverberra” holds a special spot in aviation history as Canada’s indigenous endeavor to produce a VTOL aircraft. It is recorded that Richard Stroker soon resigned from Avro Canada following the catastrophic disaster. He soon moved from Toronto to Medicine Hat where he opened up a restaurant with his wife. He died in 1996 after suffering from colonl cancer.

Operators

  • Dominion of Canada – The Avro Canada firm developed the Canberra T.25 with assistance from British engineers. The aircraft would have likely entered service as a photo reconnaissance aircraft
  • United Kingdom – The Ministry of Aviation took great interest in the Canadian VTOL development of the Canberra and provided personnel assistance to the Avro Canada designers. It is unknown whether or not they would have adopted the type for service.

Sources

  • Fiddlesworth, R. (1962). Completely Reliable Report on Jet Aircraft: Ministry of Fictitious Aircraft & Aviation.
  • Realname, J. (1960). April 1st Report on VTOL Technology: The Canberra T.25
  • Stroker, R. (1959). Engine Patent: VTOL BS.69-420 Turbojet

Curtiss P-40 Warhawk in Finnish Service

Finnish flag old Republic of Finland (1943)
Fighter– 1 Operated

The Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk/Warhawk is one of the most iconic symbols of American aviation. Having served with over a dozen nations throughout its career, the aircraft proved itself capable of handling its own in combat. Although the Republic of Finland was never a recipient or official operator of the P-40, they were still able to obtain a single example from a Soviet pilot who landed in Finnish territory with his pristine P-40M. Serving mostly as a training aid, the Finnish P-40 Warhawk would never see combat against any of Finland’s enemies.

History

The Curtiss P-40 (affectionately known as the Kittyhawk for early variants and Warhawk for later variants) is perhaps one of the most recognizable American fighters of the 1930s. Most well known for having served with the “Flying Tigers” American Volunteer Group in the Pacific Theatre, the P-40 also had a fruitful service life on the Western Front and Eastern Front. One of the lesser known parts of the P-40’s history however, is the story of the Finnish P-40M Warhawk. The Finnish Air Force (FAF) had quite an interesting history during the 1940s. Equipped with a wide variety of German, Soviet, British and American aircraft, the word “diverse” would certainly apply to them. Despite Finland never officially receiving Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk / Warhawks, they were still able to obtain and service a single P-40M Warhawk from the Soviet Air Force during the Continuation War through a forced landing.

P-40 KH-51 after repainting for Finnish service (Kalevi Keskinen)

On December 27th of 1943, a Curtiss P-40M-10-CU known as “White 23” (ex-USAAF s/n 43-5925) belonging to the 191st IAP (Istrebitel’nyy Aviatsionnyy Polk / Fighter Regiment) piloted by 2nd Lieutenant Vitalyi Andreyevitsh Revin made a wheels-down landing on the frozen Valkjärvi lake in the Karelian Isthmus region. Finnish forces were able to quickly retrieve the plane in pristine condition.

The circumstances of Revin’s landing are quite odd, stirring up a couple of theories on why Revin decided to land his undamaged aircraft in Finnish territory. According to the 2001 January edition of the Finnish magazine “Sähkö & Tele”, Revin intentionally landed his plane in Finnish territory, suggesting he may have been working as a German spy. This magazine sourced a report by a Finnish liaison officer working in Luftflotte 1. Other contemporary sources suggest that Revin had to land due to a snowstorm which disoriented him and resulted in him getting lost, or that he simply ran out of fuel and had to make a landing. The fate of Revin is unknown. Nonetheless, White 23 was dismantled and taken to the Mechanics’ School located in Utti where it was reassembled and refurbished. Now given the identification code of “KH-51”, the aircraft was delivered to Hävittäjälentolaivue 24 (HLe.Lv.24 / No.24 Fighter Squadron) based in Mensuvaara on July 2nd of 1944.

Warhawk “White 23” in Soviet service before its capture by Finnish forces. (Kalevi Keskinen)

Although KH-51 was never deployed in combat, it served as a squadron training aid where numerous HLe.Lv.24 pilots flew the P-40 for practice without incident. On December 4th of 1944, KH-51 was handed over to Hävittäjälentolaivue 13 (HLe.Lv.13 / No.13 Fighter Squadron). No flights are believed to have happened while the aircraft was serving with this unit. On February 12th of 1945, the P-40 was taken to Tampere where a week later it would be retired and stored in the Air Depot. The total flight time recorded with KH-51 in Finnish service was 64 hours and 35 minutes. On January 2nd of 1950, KH-51 met its end once and for all when it was scrapped and sold.

Variant(s) Operated

  • P-40M-10-CU – A single example of the P-40M-10-CU known as “White 23” belonging to the Soviet 191st IAP was captured by Finnish forces after the plane’s pilot (2nd Lt. Vitalyi Andreyevitsh Revin) made a landing on Lake Valkjärvi in the Karelian Isthmus area on December 27th of 1943. The aircraft was dismantled, sent to a mechanics school, given the identification code of “KH-51”, reassembled and given to HLe.Lv.24 where it served as a training aid. KH-51 would later be reassigned to HLe.Lv.13 for a short while.

Gallery

Finnish P-40M-10-CU Warhawk “KH-51”

Sources

  • Keskinen, Kalevi, et al. Curtiss Hawk 75A, P-40M. Vol. 5, 1976.
  • Curtiss P-40 M-10 White 23 (Later Finnish KH-51) .” Soviet Warplane Pages
  • Illustrations by Haryo Panji https://www.deviantart.com/haryopanji

Sikorsky S-70C-2 Black Hawk in Communist Chinese Service

PRC flag People’s Republic of China (1984)
Utility Helicopter – 24 Operated

The Sikorsky Black Hawk family is one of the most well-known helicopters of recent history. In its dozens of guises, it serves over 20 militaries worldwide. One of the lesser known operators is the People’s Republic of China. Initially purchased to be operated in the mountainous terrain of Tibet and Xinjiang, the Black Hawk eventually found itself as an aid relief helicopter in the 2008 and 2013 earthquakes in Sichuan and an inspiration for the design of the Harbin Z-20 helicopter.

History

S-70C-2 in combat excercises [dser.com]
The harsh geographic characteristics of Tibet and Xinjiang undoubtedly presented many tough problems to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The extreme altitudes of the Tibetan and Xinjiang plateaus make the duties of border troop outposts quite difficult, with Tibet being especially problematic. The Tibetan border alone spans nearly 3,728 mi / 6,000 km, with guard posts on mountains reaching over 13,123 ft / 4,000 m. The highest guardpost is the Shenxianwan (神仙湾) post at 17,650 ft / 5,380 m altitude. At these extreme altitudes the temperature is quite low with snow covering the mountains all year around, and the air is also oxygen deficient. All these factors combined make patrols and resupplying quite difficult for the border troops. Helicopters are the only viable option for resupplying missions as there are nearly no airstrips or adequate roads. The oxygen scarcity prevents helicopter engines from working to their full capacity, as well as reducing the rotor efficiency. This means that flying a helicopter up to that altitude is risky and difficult. Even if the helicopter can safely arrive, the amount of supplies that can be transported is severely limited and it would require several trips to fully resupply a base. In order to find a solution for this problem, China began to look into the international market for a high performing utility helicopter capable of operating at high altitudes and replacing the aging Soviet Mi-8 they were using for transport duties. Adopting the principle of “comparing three products and buying the best” (货比三家,择优选购), China chose three models of helicopters from various Western companies to compete for their business. The American Bell 214ST, Sikorsky S-70 Black Hawk and French AS332 Eurocopter were chosen as potential candidates and examples of these helicopters were promptly sent to Lhasa for flight trials in December of 1983.

S-70C-2 preparing for takeoff [seesaawiki.jp]
The flight tests were conducted on an airfield at an altitude of approximately 5,600 ft / 1,600 m and had all three helicopters fly to higher mountains. Upon reaching approximately 9,840 ft / 3,000 m, it was discovered that the power of all these helicopters dropped noticeably and the engines were not able to deliver sufficient amounts of thrust and the helicopters were unable to successfully complete the test flight. After three months of research, Sikorsky’s technicians were able to successfully address most of the issues and flight tests for the Black Hawk were continued. The improved Black Hawk was able to fly over the Tanggula Mountains at an altitude of over 17,060 ft / 5,200 m and land in the nearby Ali region. After numerous thorough examinations, the Black Hawk was ultimately crowned as champion and determined to be best suited for the Tibetan and Xinjiang environment. In July of 1984, the Chinese government officially placed an order for 24 unarmed S-70C-2 Black Hawk models, which would be specially built for China. They featured high performing General Electric T700-701A engines for high altitude flights and a nose-mounted weather radar. The first batch of Blackhawks would arrive in November of the same year, designated as civilian helicopters. The transaction cost China an approximated total of 140 million USD.

S-70C-2 LH92204 participates in an aid relief operation [Sina News]
Despite officially being classified as civilian helicopters, the S-70C-2 was used in a military capacity during their service with the People’s Republic of China. Initially assigned to the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) in 1986, the Blackhawks were later reallocated to the PLA’s air branch. In Chinese service, the Black Hawk would mostly be assigned to the Tibetan plateaus, where they resupplied and transported border troops. During the 1987 border skirmish with India, the Blackhawks were extensively used for tactical troop transport and supply runs in the Indo-Tibetan border region. The S-70C-2 was able to carry up to 8000 lbs / 3630 kg of equipment, 12 or 14 people in normal situations , and up to 19 people in emergency situations. Unfortunately for the Chinese, support and spare parts from Sikorsky would come to an abrupt end after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. The result of this massacre greatly impacted Sino-American relations and future sales of military hardware were prohibited. It seems that Sikorsky made an attempt to reestablish relations with the Chinese in 1998 by asking the government to allow the sale of replacement engines and parts to the Chinese, arguing that the parts should no longer be considered military hardware. This request, if ever made, was rejected. It would appear that only 21 of the 24 Blackhawks purchased were in service after 2000. Three Blackhawks were supposedly written off during service, probably due to piloting error or equipment malfunctions. Numerous Blackhawks were deployed during the 2008 and 2013 earthquakes in Sichuan, China to administer aid relief, alongside numerous Soviet-era helicopters such as the Mi-8. The Blackhawks are still in service with the Chinese to this day, but will most likely be replaced by the Harbin Z-20.

China’s “Indigenous” Black Hawk

Harbin Z-20 [chinese-military-aviation.blogspot.com]
When taking in account of China’s long history of reverse engineering or copying technology from other countries, it should be no surprise that the Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing Company’s (HAMC) latest Z-20 (直-20, or Zhi-20) helicopter bears a striking resemblance to the Blackhawks. Believed to have been in development since 2006, the Z-20 finally took to the skies on December 23rd of 2013. Contemporary sources seem to suggest that the Z-20 possesses superior characteristics to the Black Hawk due to the refined design, but this has yet to be confirmed. As the Z-20 has only recently entered service and is still kept in relative secrecy. One can only speculate about its capabilities.

Variants Operated

  • S-70C-2 – The People’s Republic of China operated 24 examples of the S-70C-2 which were specially built for them by Sikorsky. This variant featured a nose-mounted weather radar, improved General Electric T700-701A engines for high altitude flights and various other improvements to the fuselage.

 Gallery

Illustrations by Ed Jackson www.artbyedo.com

Sikorsky S-70C-2 – LH92207
Sikorsky S-70C-2 – LH92210
S-70C-2 Hovering (Unknown source)
Detailed closeup of cockpit exterior (afwing.info)

S-70C-2 LH92206 transports a jeep during a military exercise [Sina News]
An unidentified S-70C-2 Black Hawk evacuates civilians in the Tibetan region. [Encyclopedia of Chinese Aircraft]
An unfortunate incident involving a unidentified S-70C-2 [Army Star]

Sources

 

Gloster CXP-1001

Taiwan flag UK Union Jack Republic of China / United Kingdom (1947)
Jet Fighter – 1 Mockup Built

A modern interpretation of the Gloster CXP-1001 Blueprint (theblueprints.com)

The Gloster CXP-1001 jet fighter was the result of a joint Anglo-Chinese design venture initially conducted in 1946 to provide the Republic of China with a modern and efficient jet fighter. Based on the Gloster E.1/44, the CXP-1001 would have been the first jet aircraft to enter service in China. Plagued by slow development and lack of funding, the CXP-1001 was never fully completed, although a mockup was produced. Despite the fact that the Gloster CXP-1001 was one of the most important milestones of Chinese aviation, it is relatively unknown to both the Eastern and Western world due to its obscurity.

History

With the conclusion of the Second World War, both the Communist Chinese forces under Mao Zedong and Chinese Nationalist forces under Chiang Kai-Shek were preparing themselves for the inevitable continuation of the Chinese Civil War, a conflict between the two factions that had been going on since 1927. The American Lend-Lease programme greatly assisted the modernization of the Nationalist forces during the Second World War, equipping them with contemporary weapons and vehicles. The Communist forces, on the other hand, relied on mostly obsolete weapons from the Qing-era (pre-1912). Despite this, the Nationalists expected fierce resistance from the Communists, and the fact that members from the former Imperial Japanese Army Air Service and Manchukuo Imperial Air Force were helping the Communists build up an air force alarmed the Nationalist ranks. In order to gain an upper hand on the Communists, Chiang authorized a technical mission to the United Kingdom in early 1946 to investigate the possibility of a joint Anglo-Chinese program for a fighter, a bomber and a jet fighter. After extensive negotiating, the Gloster Aircraft Company agreed to initiate a collaborative jet fighter design with China. Following an agreement on July 18th of 1946, thirty Chinese designers and engineers were to be given facilities at the Design and Drawing Offices at Hucclecote, Gloucestershire for twelve months. A team of thirty-three British designers was to reside with the Chinese in order to mentor them on improving the Chinese aircraft industry. The Chinese team arrived sometime in September of the same year and they were brought to a section of the Brockworth factory where workshops and offices were set aside for the Chinese to study the British aircraft industry. Interestingly enough, each member of the Chinese delegation was gifted an Austin 8 car for the duration of their stay. Another term of the aforementioned agreement was that, after six months, the Nationalist government could send a list of specifications to Gloster and they would design and produce three jet prototypes for them within thirty months. The prototypes would then be shipped to mainland China, where the Nationalists could decide whether or not to acquire a manufacturing licence.

During the initial days, the Chinese designers were rarely allowed to see anything of value, as the Air Ministry had, quite expectedly, declared most of the projects that were being worked on as secret. Technology such as the Gloster Meteor fighter, the Rolls-Royce Nene Mk.2 and E.1/44 fighter were all hidden from the Chinese. Despite this, the Chinese were able to negotiate a Rolls Royce Nene Mk.1 jet engine manufacturing licence, but the British Ministry of Air secretly ordered Rolls-Royce to delay the contract as much as possible.

With the worsening situation back in China, the Chinese delegate in Britain reached out to Gloster and asked them to prepare a contract for the design of a single-seat fighter aircraft powered by either the Rolls-Royce Nene or de Havilland Ghost turbojet with assistance from the Chinese engineers. As such, Gloster representatives consulted the Ministry of Air for permission to adapt the Gloster E.1/44 jet fighter to the specifications set by the Chinese, but refrain from production. This request was granted and the new aircraft proposal was assigned the designation of “CXP-102” (Chinese Experimental Pursuit) on May 14th of 1947. During development, it was noted that the situation in China worsened every day for the Nationalists and a stable aircraft industry back home would take a considerable amount of time to set up. Colonel Wu, part of the military attache and negotiator with Gloster decided to once again contact the Gloster firm with the hopes of securing a more advanced design which could be immediately exported to China for use. This time, the Ministry of Air stepped in and voiced their objections to providing a foreign air force with a jet fighter whose performance would match or even surpass the latest British fighters fielded. To make matters worse for the Chinese, more and more Gloster staff were being reassigned to work on the Gloster F.43 and F.44/46 projects, as there was a limited design capacity in the United Kingdom at the time. The Foreign Office was also hesitant on supplying a future prototype to China due to the civil war China was facing. However, they did approve of a manufacturing license as they predicted that the design was still two or three years away from completion, and that the Civil War would be over by then.

With the proposal for an already completed design rejected, Gloster and the Chinese staff began to redesign the CXP-102 to meet higher standards. This new design would be based on the E.1/44 once again, but also incorporated many parts used on the Gloster Meteor (such as the landing gear) for simplicity and quicker design. Although considered to be a clean and efficient design by the designers, the CXP-1001 was unfortunately plagued with slow development and lack of funding. By early 1949, the design was almost completed and a preliminary plan for two prototypes was made. Only a mockup and a couple of components were made before Colonel Lin (another Chinese military attache member) contacted Gloster on February 3rd to halt all work on the CXP-1001 due to the string of defeats suffered by the Nationalists. Gloster received the confirmation to halt work on February 28th but agreed to complete all unfinished blueprints and ship them to Formosa (Taiwan) along with a scale model and the mockup of the CXP-1001. The Nationalists planned to finish the work by themselves, but this would never happen as on June 12st of 1949, the British freighter Anchises was inadvertently bombed by Nationalist aircraft whilst in Shanghai. The incident soured relations between the two countries, and the British decided to freeze the blueprint and mockup shipment in October of 1950. After two years in limbo, the CXP-1001 would finally meet its fate as on November 25th of 1952, the Gloster Aircraft Company decided to dispose of all the materials on the CXP-1001 without informing the Nationalist Chinese. The Ministry of Supply (MoS) commented on this saying that disposing of the materials was justified as this was an outdated design, but also stated that they were not responsible for the actions of Gloster.

No photos of the CXP-1001 mockup or scale model are known to exist to this day but the Jet Age Museum in Staverton, Gloucestershire appears to possess official sketches of the CXP-1001 which can be seen in Tony Butler’s book British Secret Projects: Jet Fighters Since 1950. Though ultimately not making it past the mockup stage, the CXP-1001 remains one of the most important milestones of Chinese aviation history, being the first jet fighter design in which Chinese engineers were involved and would have been the first jet to enter service with the Chinese.

Misconception – Meteor or E.1/44 Variant?

One of the biggest controversies that surrounds the CXP-1001 is the debate of whether it is a Gloster Meteor variant or E.1/44 variant. Most contemporary internet sources (such as the BAE Systems Website) states that the CXP-1001 is a Meteor variant, but does not cite any sources to substantiate their claims. As mentioned earlier, most of the British technology were kept secret to the Chinese and the British refused to supply a foreign air force with an aircraft comparable or superior to the ones fielded by the Royal Air Force. This adds on to the argument that the CXP-1001 was based on the E.1/44, as stated by many credible authors with a long history of published books on aircraft (ie. Tony Butler & Derek N. James). When the CXP-1001’s blueprints are examined, it is also quite obvious that the design resembles the E.1/44 more than it does the Meteor.

Design

The CXP-1001’s design was heavily influenced by the Gloster E.1/44, essentially being a redesigned and improved variant of it. The CXP-1001 was an all-metal stressed skin jet fighter powered by a single Rolls-Royce RB.41 Nene Mk.1 engine producing 5,000 lbs / 22.2 kN of thrust and armed with four 20x110mm Hispano Mk.V cannons. The cannons would have been mounted in pairs above and below the nose intake. Each cannon would have been fed with 180 rounds, making a total of 720 rounds. The CXP-1001 would also have been able to carry two 200 gal / 757 L Drop Tanks to extend their range. Due to a lack of information, the details of the CXP-1001’s design is quite unknown and may never be found.

Variants

  • CXP-102 – Initial design concept based on the Gloster E.1/44 with estimated higher performance. The CXP-102 was redesigned into the CXP-1001.
  • CXP-1001 – Improved design based on the CXP-102 / E.1/44 which featured parts from the Gloster Meteor. Armed with four 20x110mm Hispano Mk.V cannons and powered by a single Rolls-Royce RB.41 turbojet, the CXP-1001 would have been the first jet fighter to enter service with the Chinese if it were to see production.

Operators

  • Republic of China – The CXP-1001 was designed with the assistance of the Chinese, and would have been operated solely by the Republic of China Air Force in a military capacity.
  • United Kingdom – The Gloster Aircraft Company was the main designer of the CXP-1001, and would have operated it in a testing capacity before shipping the prototype to mainland China.

Gloster CXP-1001*

* – Data taken from British Secret Projects: Jet Fighters Since 1950 by Tony Butler and Gloster Aircraft since 1917 by Derek N. James

Wingspan 38 ft 0 in / 11.6 m
Length 41 ft 9 in / 12.8 m
Height 14 ft 10 in / 4.29 m
Wing Area 360 ft² / 33.5 m²
Thickness to Chord Ratio 0.011
Wings Sweepback 20 °
Engine 1x Rolls-Royce RB.41 Nene Mk.1 turbojet (5,000 lb / 22.2 kN of thrust)
Internal Fuel Load 470 gal / 1780 L
Empty Weight 8,960 lb / 4,060 kg
Normal Weight 13,900 lb / 6,305 kg
Maximum Overload Weight 18,700 lb / 5,700 kg
Climb Rate 6,000 ft/min / 1,830 m/min at Sea Level
Service Ceiling 40,000 ft / 12,200 m
Maximum Range 410 mi / 600 km – Standard

1,000 mi / 1,600 km – With Drop Tanks

Maximum Speed 600 mph / 965 kmh at 10,000 ft / 3,050 m
Crew 1x Pilot
Armament 4x 20x110mm Hispano Mk.V cannon (180 rpg)
External Load 2x 200 gal / 760 L Drop Tanks

Gallery

Illustrations by Haryo Panji https://www.deviantart.com/haryopanji

Artist conception of the CXP-1001 in a late 1950s ROCAF livery. (Illustration by Haryo Panji)
Artist conception of the CXP-1001 in a late 1940s ROCAF livery. (Illustration by Haryo Panji)

Sources

Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa in Communist Chinese Service

PRC flag People’s Republic of China (1945-1952)
Fighter – 8+ Operated

An illustration depicting a Hayabusa in Communist service flying. (Encyclopedia of Chinese Aircraft: Volume 2)

Widely known as one of Japan’s most iconic aircraft of the Pacific War, the Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa’s service life was not limited to the Second World War. Shortly after the Japanese capitulation, Nationalist and Communist Chinese forces were able to capture stockpiles of firearms, tanks and planes left over by the fleeing Japanese forces. Among these were various models of the Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa. These were pressed into service with the Communist Chinese as an advanced combat trainer and fighter. One of the rather obscure chapters of the Hayabusa’s service life was that it was the first plane used by the Communist Chinese in aerial combat.

History

Developed in the late 1930s, the Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa (Type 1 Fighter) enjoyed a relatively successful service record in the Second Sino-Japanese War once introduced in 1941. The Japanese 59th and 64th Sentai (Squadrons) were the first two squadrons to receive the new Ki-43-I fighter. With barely any resistance by the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF), the Ki-43-I helped reinforce Japanese aerial superiority over China, French Indochina, Malaya, and parts of India until the arrival of lend-lease Allied warplanes for China. Throughout the service of the Hayabusa, three major variants were issued to units: the Ki-43-I, Ki-43-II, and Ki-43-III. The Japanese also provided some of these variants to the Manchukuo Imperial Air Force in the Northeast region of China. With the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War, stockpiles of Japanese equipment was up for grabs between the Soviets, Nationalist Chinese, and the Communist Chinese. The Nationalist Chinese forces reoccupied Shanghai near the end of 1945 and captured warplanes formerly belonging to the Japanese. Among these were various models of the Hayabusa which were used to equip the 18th and 19th Squadrons of the ROCAF’s 6th Fighter Group. These Hayabusas were stationed at Shandong in preparation for the Chinese Civil War. Due to a lack of spare parts and adequate mechanics, the two squadrons were disbanded the following May.

The Communist Chinese forces were by no means idle during the immediate few postwar months. Countless guns were captured, with a considerable amount of tanks and planes as well. In October of 1945, the Communist Chinese forces captured their first five Hayabusas during the liberation of Shenyang during the Liaoshen Campaign from the Nationalists. These five captured Nationalist Hayabusas were Ki-43-II models that formerly belonged to the Japanese 4th Training Regiment. The exact model of the planes is unknown. (It is unknown if they are kō, otsu, hei, etc. variants). These five planes would be sent to the recently established Northeast Old Aviation School (东北老航校) after some refurbishing and repairs. In December of the same year, two of these planes were repaired and were planned to be ferried to the Northeast Old Aviation School. Two Japanese ferry pilots now loyal to the Communist Chinese took off from Fengjibao (奉集堡) to fly to Tonghua (通化), one of their destinations. The two Hayabusas and their pilots never made it to Tonghua however, and it is widely speculated that these Japanese pilots were unfamiliar with the geography and ended up getting lost. This is indeed a possibility but there are many other theories. It’s conceivable that the planes suffered from mechanical failure and crashed. Another possibility may be that the pilots were intercepted by ROCAF planes, but there is no proof of this.

Artwork Depicting a Ki-43 flying over Japanese trainers in the Northeast Aviation School. (Illustration by Chen Yingming / 陈应明)

The rest of the Hayabusas were eventually delivered to the Northeast Old Aviation School, where they were used as advanced trainers for fighter pilots. In April of 1948, men belonging to the Northeast Old Aviation school were able to capture an unspecified amount of Hayabusa fighters in the Chaoyang (朝阳镇) Town airport located in Jilin. This was followed by another unspecified batch of Hayabusas captured in Sunjia (孙家) Airport located near Harbin in the Heilongjiang province sometime in June of the same year. Four Hayabusas were recorded to have been repaired by the school from 1947 to 1948. Under the guidance of former Japanese and Manchukuo pilots, many of the Communist Chinese air cadets were soon able to graduate from flying in the two-seater Tachikawa Ki-55 trainer to flying solo in the Hayabusa.

In March of 1948, a number of experienced pilots and instructors were pulled from the school to form a “Combat Flying Wing” (战斗飞行大队). The 1st Squadron would use bombers and transport aircraft while 2nd Squadron would use fighters. Among these would be six Ki-43-II models. The intent of this formation was to combat Nationalist planes, but this wing never saw any combat action.

Considerations were made to use the Hayabusa in the Establishment of the People’s Republic of China parade on October 1st of 1949, but this did not happen. Despite what one may think, the Japanese planes were not withheld from the parade due to political and racial issues, but rather fear of them experiencing mechanical problems during the parade.

Communist Chinese service members standing in front of a captured Hayabusa. (Encyclopedia of Chinese Aircraft: Volume 2)

As such, these worn out Hayabusas were grounded. By November of 1949, there were only five examples of the Hayabusa that were still in use. These final five fighters were used by the 7th Aviation School as trainers and teaching aids. By 1952, all of the Hayabusas were finally retired from service. There are no surviving examples of the Communist Chinese Hayabusa, but there is one known photo of the Communist Hayabusa in service.

First Air-to Air Combat of the Communist Chinese Air Force

In the afternoon of October 15th 1947, four Nationalist Chinese P-51D Mustangs belonging to the Shenyang Beiling airfield took off under the leadership of Xu Jizhen (徐吉骧), the co-captain of the squadron. They were tasked with the mission of patrolling the airspace of Harbin (哈尔滨), Jiamusi (佳木斯) and the Sino-Soviet border. Upon crossing the mountains near Mishan (密山), the Mustangs squadron noticed a Tachikawa Ki-55 trainer with Communist Chinese markings belonging to the Northeast Old Aviation School preparing to land at the nearby Tangyuan (汤原) airport. This Ki-55 was piloted by Lu Liping (吕黎平) and an unnamed Japanese instructor. Xu Jizhen immediately dove for the trainer and began firing. The area immediately behind the instructor’s compartment was hit, which resulted in a fire. Watching the attack from the ground, Fang Hua (方华), a veteran Communist soldier, scrambled for a nearby parked Nakajima Ki-43-II Hayabusa and took off. Unfortunately for him, the Hayabusa was not loaded with ammunition so he was unable to engage the Mustangs. However, he was able to lead the Mustangs away from the airfield and evaded their shots until they ran out of ammo. This unfortunate skirmish was the first air-to-air combat experience the Communist Chinese had.

Debunking the Numbers Operated

According to many Western sources, the Communist Chinese Forces only operated five Hayabusas. This is however incorrect. The author believes the reason that these sources mention only five models captured was due to translation errors or simply by overlooking facts. The most likely cause of the misconception is likely due to two facts:

  1. By the end of the Liaoshen Campaign, the Communist Chinese forces had captured five models.
  2. By the time the PLAAF was officially established, there were five models still in service.

What these Western sources may have overlooked however, was the fact that two of the first five models captured crashed during a ferry flight in December of 1945. This leaves only three models operational.

However, a commonly overlooked fact is that the Northeast Old Aviation School was able to capture an unspecified amount of Hayabusas in the Chaoyang (朝阳镇) Town airport located in Jilin sometime in April of 1946. Another unspecified batch of Hayabusas were also captured in Sunjia (孙家) Airport located near Harbin in the Heilongjiang province in June. Due to the unspecified nature of the amount of Hayabusas captured in these two places, it only adds to the difficulty of determining how much Hayabusas were truly captured and operated. But on an inventory check done in April of 1948, a total of six Hayabusas were accounted for serving with the 2nd Squadron. According to this record, that should mean three or more Hayabusas were captured in those two airfields. That should make a total of eight or more Hayabusas when accounting for the two crashed ones. In conclusion, the author believes that a potential total of eight or more Hayabusas were captured, and operated by the Communist Chinese forces to some extent until the retirement of all models in 1952.

Gallery

Communist Chinese Ki-43-II in the colors of the Northeast Old Aviation School by Brendan Matsuyama

Sources

Gang, W., Ming, C. Y., & Wei, Z. (2012). 中国飞机全书 (Vol. 1). Beijing: 航空工业出版社., Gang, W., Ming, C. Y., & Wei, Z. (2009). 中国飞机全书 (Vol. 2). Beijing: 航空工业出版社., Allen, K. (n.d.). PEOPLE’S LIBERATION ARMY AIR FORCE ORGANIZATION., 网易军事. (2016, May 24). 老航校70周年:“鬼子飞行员”在中国当教官., Zhang, X. (2003). Red Wings over the Yalu: China, the Soviet Union, and the Air War in Korea. College Station: Texas A & M University Press., Side Profile Views by Brendan Matsuyama

North American P-51 Mustang in Communist Chinese Service

PRC flag People’s Republic of China (1948-1953)
Fighter – 39 Operated

The North American P-51 Mustang is considered one of the world’s most iconic warplanes from the Second World War, seeing action in nearly all theaters, as well as the Korean War and many other conflicts thereafter. However, one of the lesser known stories of the Mustang is its service with the Communist Chinese forces who would go on to form the People’s Republic of China shortly after. A total of 39 Mustangs were obtained from the Chinese Nationalist forces either by capture or defection. These Mustangs were used in various roles with the Communists, and nine of them even had the honor of flying over Beijing on October 1st 1949 for a parade to commemorate the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. Although never seeing combat, the Mustangs still had served with the Communist Chinese forces as one of their most advanced fighters until the arrival of Soviet aid.

A photo displaying the rather impressive cache of captured Nationalist planes now in Communist service. In this photo, there are around nineteen P-51 Mustangs visible. (Encyclopedia of Chinese Aircraft: Volume 2)

History

The Republic of China (i.e, Chinese Nationalists under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek) was a notable operator of the North American P-51 Mustang during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). Since the United States entered the Second World War, plans were made to provide the Republic of China China with modern American warplanes to replace the worn and outdated planes that the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) were using. The Mustangs were initially flown by pilots of the Chinese-American Composite Wing (CACW) starting from November 1944. The models they operated were P-51B and P-51C, but later in February 1945, P-51D and P-51K variants were delivered and put to use against the Japanese along with the P-51B and P-51C. At the end of the Second World War, the ROCAF received 278 Mustangs from the USAAF, most of which were P-51D and P-51K models, but also with some F-6D and F-6K photo reconnaissance models. Soon after, the uneasy relationship between the Communist Party of China under the leadership of Mao Zedong and the Nationalist government under the leadership of Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek) disintegrated. As such, the civil war between the two parties resumed after nearly nine years of truce. This time however, the Communist forces were more prepared to fight the Nationalist forces. As time went on, the Nationalist forces began losing their hold on mainland China and were forced to retreat to Formosa (Taiwan), but not before many of their soldiers, officers and generals defected, leaving a substantial amount of equipment behind.

The People’s Liberation Army obtained their first Mustang on September 23rd 1948 when Captain Yang Peiguang (杨培光) from the Nationalist 4th Fighter Wing based in Beiping (Beijing) defected with his P-51D to the Communist forces at Siping, Jilin Province. The bulk of the Mustangs which would be captured by the Communist forces were, however, from the Liaoshen Campaign which lasted from September 12th – November 2nd, 1948. With the Communist victory at the Battle of Jinzhou on October 15th, a considerable amount of Nationalist equipment was captured; among these were thirty one Mustangs in various states of repair at the Jinzhou Airfield. Though now with thirty four Mustangs in total, the People’s Liberation Army was not able to press any into service due to many factors; the most important two being the lack of able pilots and the varying states of disrepair that the Mustangs were in.

The city of Shenyang was finally captured by the People’s Liberation Army on October 30th 1948, and on the second day of the city’s capture on October 31st, the Northeast People’s Liberation Army Aviation School sent men to secure the Shenyang Beiling airport, factories, warehouses, personnel, and various other assets formerly belonging to the Nationalists. In November, the Shenyang Beiling airport was officially established as the People’s Liberation Army Air Force Repair Factory Number 5 (中国人民解放军空军第五修理厂). With the establishment of this repair factory, the first machines to be repaired were the Mustangs. The repairs took top priority and the first Mustang was ready for service on December 30th. Since then, thirty six Mustangs were repaired within a span of eighteen to twenty months lasting until 1950.

On December 10th 1948, the People’s Liberation Army was able to capture the Nationalist-held Beiping (Beijing) Nanyuan Airport as part of the Pingjin Campaign. Three Mustangs were found in relatively good condition, and a total of 128 Packard-built V-1650 Merlin engines were captured as well. This boosted the total amount of Mustangs in the People’s Liberation Army to thirty seven, and provided plenty of replacement engines for maintenance. After this, two more Mustangs would fall in the hands of the Communist forces.

On December 29th, Lieutenant Tan Hanzhou (谭汉洲) of the Nationalist 4th Fighter Group defected with his Mustang from Qingdao to Communist held Shenyang. The last Mustang to fall into the People’s Liberation Army’s hands occured on January 14th of 1949 when Lieutenant Yan Chengyin* (阎承荫) from the Nationalist 3rd Fighter Group’s 28th Squadron defected from his home base of Nanjing to Communist held Jinan.

Lieutenant Tan Hanzhou with his Mustang shortly after his defection. (blog.163.com)

 

Now with thirty nine Mustangs in total, the People’s Liberation Army began to put them to use. Starting from late January 1949, a large number of Mustangs were presented to the Northeast Old Aviation School’s (东北老航校) 2nd Squadron of the 1st Air Group with the purpose of training pilots. On August 15th 1949, the People’s Liberation Army formed their first flying squadron named at the Beiping Nanyuan airfield. The squadron consisted of two Fairchild PT-19 trainers, two de Havilland Mosquito fighter-bombers and six Mustangs. Shortly after the formation on September 5th, this squadron was assigned the task of defending Beiping’s airspace from Nationalist forces. At some point before October, eleven more Mustangs were assigned to this squadron. The squadron saw no combat.

* Mr. Yan later changed his name to Yan Lei (阎磊) after his defection.

Perhaps the most notable use of the Mustangs in Communist Chinese service was on October 1st 1949. By then, the bulk of the Nationalist forces were in discord and in the process of retreating to Formosa (Taiwan). With the Communist victory inevitable, Mao Zedong proclaimed the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. A Soviet-style military parade was held in newly-renamed Beijing’s (Beiping) Tiananmen Square which included sixteen thousand and four hundred soldiers, one hundred and fifty two tanks, two hundred and twenty two cars and seventeen planes were displayed to the public. Of these seventeen planes, nine were Mustangs. The Mustangs flew in groups of threes in a V formation and led the aerial convoy. Once over Tiananmen square, these Mustangs increased their speed and flew past the square and out of sight, they made a turn and reentered Tiananmen square for the back just in time to link up with the two Fairchild PT-19A trainers flying last. Because they re-entered the square so quickly, the spectators were led to believe these were nine different Mustangs, with a total of twenty six planes appearing over Tiananmen square instead of the actual seventeen. This was mentioned in a government made propaganda newsreel. Of these nine Mustangs, at least one was a P-51K model.

After the parade, the Mustangs were once again deployed in a defensive state awaiting possible Nationalist intrusions in Beijing. By November 1949, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force was officially established and a total of twenty two airworthy Mustangs were in service, with nine more awaiting repair. This meant that thirty one Mustangs still survived, with eight written off. It is unknown what precisely happened to these Mustangs but the author speculates that they could have been cannibalized for parts, destroyed in training flights, disassembled to study the structure, or simply scrapped.

One of the only known photos of the two seat P-51D trainer. The canopy seemed to have been removed to make space. (js.voc.com.cn)

On July 26th 1950, the Beijing defense squadron was renamed the “Air Force 1st Independent Fighter Brigade” (空军独立第一歼击机大队). By then, the Soviet Union was supplying the Chinese with more modern equipment and by mid-August, the brigade’s Mustangs were replaced by Soviet Lavochkin La-9 fighters. Once replaced, all Mustangs scattered across the country were collected and given to Aviation School No.7 to train new pilots. With this, Aviation School No.7 modified thirteen Mustangs to be two-seat trainers. This was done perhaps to speed up the training process, and to prevent accidents by rookie pilots without guidance. There is currently one known photo of the two seat trainer.

By September 1953, most Mustangs were retired from training service due to cracks in the landing gear. However, eight of them remained in service with Aviation School No.7 to train Ilyushin IL-10 pilots how to taxi their planes. A few more examples were used as teaching tools to train pilots on identifying plane parts. It is unknown when precisely the Mustang was retired once and for all.

An illustration showing three P-51 Mustangs flying over Beijing on October 1st of 1949. (thepaper.cn)

Surviving PLAAF Mustangs

To this day, only two Mustangs formerly in PLAAF service survive in museums. The first one is a P-51K-10-NT “Red 3032” with the serial number 44-12458. This P-51K is on public display at the Chinese Aviation Museum (中国航空博物馆), sometimes also known as the Datangshan Aviation Museum located in Datangshan, Beijing. It remains in relatively pristine condition as it was in an indoors display and sheltered from the elements. Bomb hardpoints are visible under each of the wings which signifies that this Mustang perhaps once served as a fighter/bomber for the ROCAF.

P-51K-10-NT “Red 3032” on display. It is in rather good condition due to being stored indoors. (George Trussell)

The other surviving PLAAF Mustang is a P-51D-25-NA “Red 3” with the serial number 44-73920. This Mustang can be seen at the China People’s Revolution Military Museum (中国人民革命军事博物馆) in the Haidian District of Beijing. What is notable about this specific plane is that it was one of the nine Mustangs that flew over Beijing on October 1st of 1949 for the Founding of the People’s Republic of China parade. This Mustang was displayed outdoors exposed to nature for the majority of its life until the museum went under renovation when it was finally moved indoors. The Mustang has gone through minimal restoration, as it looks considerably cleaner than when it was displayed outdoors. This Mustang also had bomb hardpoints under its wings.

The P-51D-25-NA “Red 3” in its new indoor display after the museum renovation. It looks considerably cleaner than when it was displayed outdoors. (Wikimedia Commons)
The P-51D-25-NA “Red 3” in its old outdoors display, dust and slight rust can be seen on the machine. (Wikimedia Commons)

Variants Operated

A total of 39 North American P-51D Mustangs were operated by the Communist Chinese forces, and later the People’s Republic of China. Within these Mustangs, an unknown amount were P-51D and P-51K models.

  • P-51D – An unspecified amount of P-51D Mustangs of various block numbers were operated by the People’s Republic of China. A P-51D-25-NA is confirmed to have been in service as it flew over Beijing as part of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China parade and is now in the China People’s Revolution Military Museum (中国人民革命军事博物馆) in the Beijing.
  • P-51K – An unspecified amount of P-51K Mustangs of various block numbers were operated by the People’s Republic of China. A P-51K-10-NT is confirmed to have been in service as it is in the Chinese Aviation Museum (中国航空博物馆) in Beijing.
  • P-51 Trainer – A total of thirteen Mustangs were modified by Aviation School No.7 in 1951 to be two-seat trainers. The instructor sat in the rear while the student pilot was at the front. No surviving examples are preserved to this day.

Note

The author would like to extend his thanks to Mr. Hemmatyar for restoring some of the photos used in this article.

Gallery

P-51K-10-NT “Red 3032” displayed in the Chinese Aviation Museum in Datangshan, Beijing. Illustration by Brendan Matsuyama
P-51D-25-NA “Red 3” displayed in the China People’s Revolution Military Museum in the Haidian District of Beijing. Illustration by Brendan Matsuyama
A PLAAF P-51D/K with a blue rudder. The unit and serial number is unknown. Illustration by Brendan Matsuyama
A rare photograph of a mini P-51 Mustang model with PLAAF markings dated some time in the early 1950s. Two little boys accompany the cutout. This shows how impactful the Mustang was to the initial years of the People’s Republic of China. (eBay)
22 year old Lin Hu (林虎) with his P-51K before taking off to partake in the parade. (gogonews.cc)
A still frame showing three P-51 Mustangs flying over Beijing. (Establishment of the People’s Republic of China Parade)
A line of P-51 Mustangs awaiting inspection with their respective pilots standing at ease. (sohu.com)
A PLAAF Mustang taking off. Note the rocket rails. (Encyclopedia of Chinese Aircraft: Volume 2)
Mechanics and ground crew doing engine work on a Mustang. (Encyclopedia of Chinese Aircraft: Volume 2)
Four Mustangs line up on the Beijing Nanyuan Airfield awaiting to take off for the participation in the 1949 parade. Two Curtiss C-46 Commandos can also be seen in the background. (windsor8.com)

Sources

Gang, W., Ming, C. Y., & Wei, Z. (2009). 中国飞机全书 (Vol. 2). Beijing: 航空工业出版社., 八一战鹰大全(一)—— P-51“野马”战斗机. (n.d.). , Armstrong. (n.d.). 天马行空: 纪念 P-51 野马战斗机升空六十年., 肖邦振, & 李冰梅. (2010). 新中国成立前后 国民党空军飞行人员驾机起义探析. 军事史资料., Allen, K. (n.d.). PEOPLE’S LIBERATION ARMY AIR FORCE ORGANIZATION., (2016, December 19).开国大典——1949国庆大阅兵, Side Profile Views by Brendan Matsuyama