Hütter Hü 136 Stubo

Nazi flag Nazi Germany (1938)
Armored Ground Attack Aircraft – 1 Replica Built

Stubo I Replica [aviationmuseum.eu]
The Hütter 136 was an interesting concept for a ground attack aircraft that employed numerous experimentations in its design. The cockpit was fully armored, the landing gear was replaced by a skid, and the entire propeller would be jettisoned off during landings. The aircraft came in two forms: the Stubo I, a short design with the ability to carry an external 500 kg bomb, and the Stubo II, a lengthened version that could carry two internal 500 kg bombs. The program never progressed as far as production and work stopped on the project shortly after the Henschel Hs 129 was ordered for production.

History

Artist’s Impression of the Stubo I [Heinz Rodes]
During the years leading up to the Second World War, Nazi Germany found itself needing a competent air force to rival those it would soon face. Restrictions set by the Treaty of Versailles severely hindered the German military both in size and equipment in order to ensure that German power would not threaten the continent again, as it did during the First World War. History notes that the Germans broke this treaty, at first covertly and then overtly, with the Allies showing no response or protestation to the blatant violations. Germany began amassing a massive military force in preparation for war. New programs and requirements were laid down in preparation for the inevitable war. These projects included many newly tested concepts, such as dive-bombing. The Junkers Ju-87 Stuka proved the effectiveness of dive bombing in the Spanish-Civil War, with a famous example being the Bombing of Guernica, but a newer attacker was eventually needed to complement it. An order in 1938 was put out by the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (Aviation Ministry, “RLM”) to develop a new armored ground-attacker. One of the companies that would participate in this requirement would be Hütter.

2-way and cutaway of the Stubo II

The designs of Ulrich and Wolfgang Hütter are relatively unheard of when it comes to aircraft. They began their aviation career designing glider aircraft in the 1930s, such as the popular Hü 17, some of which were used post-war. The Hütter brothers built a career in designing aircraft for the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) between 1938 and 1944 under the codename of Ostmark. The two began working on the project mentioned before for an RLM request for a new ground-attacker in 1938. The requirement laid down very specific guidelines to be followed. The new aircraft needed to have good flight performance and an armored airframe for extra protection, as well as enough speed to evade fighters. In preparation for the new designs, the RLM notified designated factories that would begin to produce these airframes upon adoption into service. The Hütter brother’s response would be the Hü 136. Other competitors included the Henschel Hs 129 and the Focke-Wulf Fw 189V-1b, an armored ground attack version of their reconnaissance plane. Not all projects for a new attacker were armored at this time. Other new designs included the Junkers Ju 187 and Henschel Hs P 87.

The Hütter Hü 136 was nicknamed the Stubo, a shortened version of the name Sturzbomber (Dive Bomber). The aircraft itself would be a single-engine design. Two versions of this aircraft existed. The first, Stubo I, was meant to fill the need for a heavily armored attacker and would be used in ground-attack and dive-bombing tactics. The second was the Stubo II, a two-seater which was essentially a longer version of the Stubo I and carried twice the bomb load internally. The flight performance of the Stubo II was estimated to be the same as that of the Stubo I although, given the design characteristics, that estimation is highly doubtful. The two designs did not meet the requirements for bomb load and range. To make the aircraft more efficient, the brothers took an interesting design change. Taking a note from their glider designs, they removed the conventional landing gear and replaced it with an extendable landing skid, which made the aircraft lighter and freed more space for fuel. This, however, posed serious designs problems. The Hü 136 now had to take off using a detachable landing gear dolly, similar to how the Messerschmitt Me 163B rocket plane would take off a couple years later. Due to this, the propeller would not have enough clearing and would hit the ground during landings. To fix this, the two brothers made the propeller detachable. During landings, the aircraft would eject the propeller, which would gently parachute to the ground above an airfield for recovery and reuse. To assist in landings, a new surface brake was also added to the aircraft.

2-way and cutaway of the Stubo I

The far more conventional Henschel Hs 129 would be designated the winner of the competition. Subsequently, no construction was ever started on either the Stubo I or II. The Stubo proved to be an interesting but flawed concept. The limited visibility from the armored cockpit would negatively affect the aircraft in all operations. Dogfighting, bombing and even flying in general would be affected by the cockpit’s design. The change in landing gear design may have extended the range and lowered weight, but pilots now had to learn how to land using a skid. The fact the entire propellor evacuated the aircraft was a huge issue in itself. Once ejected, the landing could not be aborted, and if the landing attempt failed, there was no chance to loop around and try again.

This, however, would not be the last project designed by the Hütter brothers for the Luftwaffe. Wolfgang would begin working on a long-range reconnaissance version of the Heinkel He 219 called the Hütter Hü 211. Another project is the rather unknown Hütter Fernzerstörer (Far Destroyer), a long-range turboprop attacker meant to be used on the Eastern Front. With the war ending, no further Hütter aircraft were designed. One would think the story of the Stubo ends with its cancellation, but the story continued rather surprisingly recently. The Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, VA, acquired a full-scale replica of the Stubo I in 2017 and it is currently on display in their German Experimentals section, along with full-scale replicas of other “Luft 46” designs.

Design

The Stubo I was a single-engine armored ground attacker. In the front, it mounted a detachable propeller and a Daimler-Benz DB 601 inline engine. In the fuselage, a large gap was present between the engine and cockpit. This was most likely the fuel tank where the fuel tank was placed. Beneath the aircraft, a single 1010 Ibs bomb (500 kg) was mounted on an external hardpoint. This hardpoint most likely would be in the way of the landing skid, implying the payload had to be dropped before making an attempt at landing. For takeoff, a dolly would have to be mounted beneath the aircraft. This would be jettisoned shortly after the Stubo would be airborne. For landing, the aircraft would use an extendable skid. The wings of the aircraft had slight dihedral, which meant the wings were angled upward from the body. The Stubo I had an armored steel cockpit that was completely enclosed. For visibility, a small sight in the front and two side portholes were given. Had the aircraft been produced, peripheral vision would have been nonexistent and dogfighting would have been near impossible if it needed to defend itself. Normal operations, such as navigation and landing would have also been hindered, while combat operations such as target acquisition and attack run planning would have been exceedingly difficult. A tailfin was mounted directly behind the cockpit and not in a conventional tail design. Sources also mention the Stubo I would have mounted machine-guns, but the plans do not show exactly where or of what type these would have been.

Artist’s Impression of the Stubo II [Heinz Rodes]
The Stubo II was virtually identical to the Stubo I, aside from its extended fuselage. This lengthened design would allow the Stubo II to carry two 1010 Ibs (500 kg) bombs in a bomb bay, compared to the single bomb carried on a hardpoint by the Stubo I. Among smaller differences, the Stubo II’s wings had no dihedral compared to the angled dihedral of the Stubo I. With the lengthened fuselage, the landing skid was also extended to accommodate the longer airframe. It most likely also carried over the machine guns used on the Stubo I. The Stubo II uses nearly identical sized wings to the Stubo I, which gives the Stubo II a rather odd design, having the body lengthened but the wing size remaining the same. This would have definitely affected performance and possibly would have made the aircraft more unstable in maneuvering with the extra weight.

Variants

 

  • Stubo I – Armored ground-attacker that would carry a single external 500 kg bomb. Sources also mention machine guns, but documents don’t show where exactly they would have been located.
  • Stubo II – A lengthened version of the Stubo I, the Stubo II had an internal bomb load of two 500 kg bombs.

 

Operators

 

  • Nazi Germany – If the Hütter 136 would have entered production, Nazi Germany would have been the main operator of the craft.

Hütter 136 “Stubo I” Specifications

Wingspan 21 ft 4 in / 6.5 m
Length 23 ft 7 in / 7.2 m
Height (estimate) 5 ft 3 in / 1.6 m
Engine 1x 1,200 hp (894 kW) DB 601 Inline Engine
Loaded Weight 8,160 lbs / 3,700 kg
Maximum Speed 348 mph / 560 km/h
Range 1,240 mi / 2,000 km
Maximum Service Ceiling 31,170 ft / 9,500 m
Crew 1 pilot
Armament
  • 1x 1010 lbs (500 kg) bomb
  • At least 2 machine guns of unknown type (Most likely MG 15 or MG 17)

Gallery

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

Stubo I Side View [Haryo Panji]
Stubo II Side View [Haryo Panji]

Sources

Martin-Baker Tankbuster

UK Union Jack United Kingdom (1942)
Anti-Tank Aircraft Design – None Built

3D artist impression of the Tankbuster in flight [candymountain.jp]
The Martin-Baker Tankbuster was a concept British anti-tank aircraft that was designed according to an order in 1942 for a specialized ground attacker. The aircraft had a twin-boom, pusher design and was only armed with a 6-pounder (57mm) cannon, most likely a Molins M-Class Gun. Compared to its competitors, the Tankbuster was strictly limited to exactly what it was named for; busting tanks, and would find itself having trouble against other ground targets or even defending itself. With the program being canceled in early 1943 and Martin-Baker working on more important projects, all work stopped on developing the Tankbuster any further.

History

Drawing of the Martin-Baker Tankbuster [British Secret Projects]
In early 1942, the Royal Air Force began seeking a new ground-attack aircraft that would replace the 40mm-armed Hawker Hurricane Mk.IID. An order was officially placed on March 7th for a specialized ground attacker that would be used against a multitude of targets including ground units, enemy aircraft, transports/shipping, and a main focus on destroying tanks. To accomplish the destruction of the aforementioned targets, the aircraft was meant to use more heavier guns than the Hurricane Mk.IID. Alternative weapon arrangements included: three 40mm Vickers S cannons, four 20mm Hispano Mk.V cannons, a combination of two 20mm with two 40mm cannons, six unguided rocket (RP) racks with two 20mm cannons or one 47mm Vickers gun with two 20mm cannons. Two 500Ibs bombs could also be added. The expected speed for the design had to reach at least 280mph (450 km/h) at 3,000ft (900 m). Visibility was also a necessity and forward view had to be unobstructed and clear. Full production was to be expected by 1944. The programs would be overseen by the Air Staff.

Over 10 different designs by several aircraft companies were subsequently created for this program. A majority of them were of unorthodox design. Armstrong-Whitworth (AW.49) and Boulton-Paul (P.99) both created twin boom designs. Boulton-Paul also submitted a canard design labelled P.100 and a biplane design labelled P.101, the latter being seen as a safe alternative to the radical canard and twin boom designs prevalent through the program. Perhaps the most interesting of the designs was the submission by Martin-Baker.

3D artist impression of the Tankbuster [candymountain.jp]
At the time of its submission, Martin Baker had been working steadily on their MB.5 project, which would eventually become one of the best performing piston aircraft built by Britain, but this wouldn’t be completed until 1944. Their design for the ground attacker was submitted several months after the order was given by the Air Staff and was only named the “Tankbuster”. Martin Baker’s concept was for a twin boom design that deviated extensively from the given requirements. The aircraft was armed with a single 6-pounder (57mm) cannon, and the aircraft would be completely encased in 1/2-inch armor. The armor itself weighed 4,900Ibs (2,200kg).

The project wasn’t very impressive nor reasonable in the eyes of the Air Staff, especially compared to the other designs in the program. Its single large-caliber gun extremely limited its target range and it would only have been able to attack one of six predicted target types the program requested. The aircraft lacked any other offensive or defensive armament and would rely on its armor alone to protect itself, a gambit that other designs in the program resolved by following the armaments listed by the Air Staff. Attempts to add more ordnance such as additional guns, rockets or bombs to the wings would have added too much stress on the airframe. The main feature of the aircraft was the root of its problems, its gun. The gun itself couldn’t be removed from the airframe and an aircraft going into battle with a single weapon would be inefficient for resources. The Tankbuster didn’t meet the armament expectations and fell under the expected speed by 10mph (16 km a h). On April 15th, 1943, Air Marshall F J Linnell (who was a good friend of James Martin, a founder of the company) advised Martin-Baker to drop development of the Tankbuster in favor of continuing work on the more successful MB.5 project going on at the same time.

Near the later days of April 1943, the Air Staff brought the program the Tankbuster was designed for to an end. They concluded that, at the time, developing and producing an entirely new ground attack aircraft would impede the current war programs and that the submissions were too specialized in design compared to modifying aircraft already being produced for ground attack duties. One such aircraft they pointed to was the Hawker Hurricane Mk IV, a ground attacker version of the famous fighter which was performing successfully in the role and had started production in March of 1943. Later additions to the ground attack role would be the Hawker Typhoon, which became a scourge to German ground troops. Even if the program had continued towards production, it was significantly unlikely the Tankbuster would have been chosen for the role. The aircraft was way too specialized and disliked by the Air Staff, and Martin Baker was working on an aircraft that would yield much better results. Although the Tankbuster may have been the runt of a doomed program, it still proves to be an interesting, albeit flawed solution in the name of destroying enemy armor.

Design

The Martin-Baker Tankbuster was a twin-boom single-engine design. The aircraft would have been constructed entirely of metal. The airframe itself would be covered in an additional 1/2-inch (12.7mm) armor. This armor would weigh 4,900Ibs (2,223kg) on its own. The armor covered the entire body and also the engine cowling. What’s interesting to note is that the aircraft had two engine intakes, one facing forward and one facing the rear. The radiator and oil tank were mounted in the frontal fuselage. The radiator itself was armored by offset plates that would prevent bullets from ricocheting inside. The cockpit area had clear forward visibility, and would seat a single pilot. The canopy would most likely have had bulletproof glass to complement the rest of the armored body. For it’s engine, the Tankbuster would have mounted a Griffon II engine in pusher configuration. This is relevant to Martin-Baker’s other project, the MB.5, as this aircraft also used the Griffon. The reason the aircraft utilized a pusher configuration was it gave the pilot clear visibility in the front and the gun could be placed directly forward. The pusher configuration isn’t common because of the fact that it leaves the engine open to enemies that are chasing the aircraft. This would have been especially deadly for the Tankbuster, given it has no defensive armament. The tail section and wings would also be constructed of metal. The wings were wide to improve low level flight. There was an attempt to diversify the targets by adding additional weapons to the wings, but this would only overload them. The Tankbuster had a fixed tricycle landing gear. This decision was made to conserve interior space but would have slowed the aircraft considerably. The only armament the aircraft would have been armed with would be a 6-pounder cannon (57mm) that would be frontally mounted, supplied with 30 rounds of ammunition. The aircraft would only be allowed to target heavily armored targets. To assist in aiming, the gun was placed towards on horizontal axis. This would prevent the aircraft from pitching when the gun was fired.

Role

The Tankbuster’s design might seem odd by conventional aircraft standards, but every single feature the aircraft had was to assist in it’s role of attacking enemy armor. Long, flat wings would give the aircraft an edge in low-level flight. The pusher engine would give the aircraft a clear view and nothing to obstruct the cannon. The entire airframe being heavily armored would protect against AA fire and enemy aircraft. Going into battle, the Tankbuster would need escort fighters to protect against opposing interceptors. Once in the combat zone, the Tankbuster would begin its assault on enemy tanks. The De Havilland Mosquito also mounted the 6-pounder Molins gun and was also used in the ground-attack role, but only for a short time before switching to an anti-shipping role. It is likely the Tankbuster would have also undergone this change had it entered production.

Variants

  • Martin-Baker “Tankbuster” – The only version of the Tankbuster drawn was the original design with a single cannon.

Operators

  • United Kingdom – This aircraft would have been operated by the Royal Air Force had it been produced.

Martin-Baker Tankbuster Specifications

Wingspan 47 ft 10.8 in / 14.6 m
Length 41 ft / 12.5 m
Wing Area 471.5 ft² / 43.8 m²
Engine 1x 1,730 hp ( 1,290 kW ) Griffon II Inline-Engine
Weights 12,000 Ibs / 5,440 kg
Climb Rate 2,250 feet/min / 686 meters/min
Maximum Speed 270 mph / 434 km/h
Minimum Speed 75 mph / 122 km/h
Crew 1 pilot
Armament
  • 1x 6-pounder (57mm) Molins M-Class cannon

Gallery

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

Scale model of the Tankbuster [modelingmadness.com]

Sources

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

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.

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

Focke Wulf Fw 187

Nazi flag Nazi Germany (1937)
Twin Engined Fighter – 9 Built

The Fw 187 Falke was a twin engine fighter that was built by Focke-Wulf in 1936, at a time when the newly-formed Luftwaffe did not consider such an airplane type necessary. Despite receiving significant negative feedback, several prototypes were built and three pre-production versions were also constructed. The three pre-production types saw limited service defending the Focke-Wulf factory in Bremen against Allied bombing in 1940. Aside from that, they saw no other combat.

History

The first Fw 187 V1 shortly after being completed.

The twin-engined fighter was a concept few countries pursued in the early days of flight. The type only started serious development in the years directly preceding the outbreak of the Second World War, with planes such as the American Lockheed P-38 Lightning entering service. Most officials across the globe agreed that two-engine fighter aircraft would be rendered unnecessary by cheaper and lighter single-engine designs. In the early 1930s, Germany had no plans to develop such an aircraft either.

However, an aeronautical engineer by the name of Kurt Tank showed an interest. Kurt Tank was the main aircraft designer of the Focke-Wulf company, who developed most of the company’s most famous aircraft. During WWII, he would go on to create the iconic Fw 190 and would later have an aircraft designation named after him, with the Ta 152 and Ta 154. He began work on the new twin-engine project, despite there being no current requirement for such an aircraft. Tank had his first chance to reveal his design at a weapons exhibition held at a Henschel plant in 1936. Tank showed off his innovative design, claiming the twin-engine layout would offer a great speed of 348 mph (560 km/h) if the aircraft mounted the newly developed Daimler Benz DB 600 engines. One of the attendants of the event was Adolf Hitler himself, who found the design particularly interesting.

The Fw 187 on jackstands. This photo was taken during testing of the double-wheeled landing gear.

But to the Technischen Amt (Technical Research Office), the design was unnecessary, as it was believed single-engine designs could perform just as well as the twin-engined concept. Another pre-war doctrine was that the current bombers would be fast enough to outrun the fighters of the enemy, and escort fighters wouldn’t be needed. Tank, not happy with this response, took his design to Oberst (Colonel) Wolfram von Richthofen, the head of the Development section of the Technischen Amt. Tank persuaded him that technological advances would eventually allow the construction of more powerful fighters that would be able to catch up with the bombers which would thus require an escort fighter. Convinced by his claim, Richthofen agreed that it would be better to have a countermeasure now rather than later. Richthofen’s term as chief was short, but in this time he authorized three prototypes of Tank’s twin-engine design. The design was officially given the name of Fw 187.

Work began on the Fw 187 soon after, but, to Tank’s dismay, the requests for the DB 600 engine were turned down. Instead, he had to work with Junkers Jumo 210 engines, as DB 600s were only allocated to projects which were viewed as being highly important. The design work was handed over to Oberingenieur (Chief Engineer) Rudi Blaser, who was the one of the most experienced members onboard Focke-Wulf. Blaser had previously headed the design of the failed Fw 159 monoplane fighter, but he was ready to continue work and move on from his failure. Blaser wanted to achieve only one thing with this design: maximum speed.

The Fw 187 V2 on a test flight.

The first prototype Fw 187 was completed in early 1937. The Fw 187 V1 (designated D-AANA) was first flown by test pilot Hans Sander. In the initial flights, the aircraft reached speeds of up to 326 mph (524 km/h). The Luftwaffe was surprised to learn that despite weighing twice as much as the Bf 109, the Fw 187 was still able to go 50 mph (80 km/h) faster. They accused the team of having faulty instruments. Blaser was determined to prove them wrong and had a Pitot tube (a device that measures air speed using the total air pressure) installed on the nose of the V1, which would accurately tell the performance. Sander once again flew and confirmed the aircraft indeed had attained such a speed. Further flight trials showed the aircraft had superb maneuverability, climbing and diving. These great characteristics led Kurt Tank to name the aircraft his “Falke” or Falcon. This name became official as well, and wasn’t just a nickname the creator gave to his creation.

In the summer of 1937, the airframe had an impressive wing loading of 30.72 Ibs/sq ft (147.7 kg/m2), something no other fighter could equal at that point. Further tests by Sander put the airframe to the extremes to try the limitations of the aircraft in diving. The rudder, during dives, was predicted to begin fluttering after 620 mph (1000 km/h), but Blaser was more cautious, and thought it would start at a lower speed. To counteract this, a balance weight was attached to the rudder. Blaser assured Sander that the aircraft would perform better in dives as long as he didn’t exceed 460 mph (740 km/h). With the new weight attached, Sander took off to begin trials. Hitting 455 mph (730 km/h), Sander noticed the tail had begun violently shaking. With the tail not responding, Sander had started to bail when he reported a loud noise came from the rear. Sander’s control over the aircraft had returned and all vibrations had ceased. Upon landing, it was found that the weight itself had been the culprit of the vibrations and the sound Sander heard was the weight breaking off the rudder.

An aft view of the V6. The surface cooling system is visible in this shot.

Several modifications were made to the V1 during testing. The frontal landing gear was switched out for a dual wheeled design at some point, but was found it offered no benefit over the single wheel and thus was reverted. The propellers were also changed from Junkers-Hamilton to VDM built ones. Weapons were eventually added as well, but these were just two 7.92mm MG 17s. The 2nd prototype arrived in the summer of 1937. Visually, the V2 was identical to the V1, but had a smaller tailwheel, modified control surfaces, and Jumo 210G engines with enhanced fixed radiators.

However, in 1936, there was a change of leadership in the Technischen Amt. The supportive Richthofen was replaced by Ernst Udet. Udet was a fighter pilot, and his experience reflected upon his decisions. He made sure no more biplane designs were being built and all designs were now of monoplane construction. He had a major focus on fighters, and believed them to be the future. The modern fighter had to be efficient, with speed and maneuverability being the utmost importance. And, from this viewpoint, he saw twin engine fighters as not being as capable as single engine fighters. With this mindset, the Luftwaffe now saw no real reason to continue developing the Fw 187 as a single seat interceptor, but it could be developed as a Zerstörer (“Destroyer” heavy fighter), the same role the Bf 110 occupied. This required a crew of more than one and much heavier armament. Tank was reluctant, and felt his design was still as capable as single engine designs were, but he knew continuing to go against the Technischen Amt would result in his aircraft being terminated, so he regretfully obliged.

The V3 was in the middle of construction and changes had to be made as a result of this. The V1 and V2 had already been produced, and any drastic changes would further affect development, so no attempt to convert the two initial planes into two-seaters ever occured. To accommodate a radioman, the cockpit had to be lengthened. This worried Blaser, who was concerned these changes would affect the size and overall performance of the aircraft. Thus, he tried making the changes that affected the aircraft’s performance as little as possible. The fuselage was increased lengthwise, the tailfin was shortened, and increased cockpit volume demanded the fuel tank be moved farther back. Engine nacelles were also shortened to allow installation of landing flaps for when the aircraft carried larger ordnance. The 7.92mms were now complemented with two 20mm MG FF cannons, although V3 never mounted any actual weapons, only mock-ups.

The Fw 187 had good luck up until this point, but this good fortune ran out shortly after the V3 was produced. A few weeks after it was finished in early 1938, the V3 was doing a test flight when one of its engines caught on fire. The aircraft was able to safely land and the fire was extinguished, but the airframe had taken some damage and needed repairs. Tragedy struck once again not too long after, on May 14th. The V1 was lost and its pilot, Bauer, was killed during a landing accident. These two events happening so close together made the already negatively viewed Falke seem not only an unnecessary weapon, but now an unreliable one as well. Two more prototypes were built late in 1938, the V4 (D-OSNP) and V5 (D-OTGN). These two were mostly identical to the V3, but had several slight modifications, such as a modified windshield. Judging by photos, one obvious trait V4 and V5 had over V3 is the lack of the radio mast mounted on the cockpit of the V3. V4 and V5 were sent to the Echlin Erprobungsstelle, a major aircraft development and testing airfield for the RLM (Reichsluftfahrtministerium, German Ministry of Aviation). The trials at this site yielded favorable evaluations of the aircraft and three pre-production examples were ordered.

One of the A-0s flying overhead.

While all of this was going on, Tank was finally able to acquire two DB 600A engines for his Falke. The plane that mounted these engines would be the V6. Before the V6 was built, Tank had shown interest in surface evaporation cooling, a drag reducing novelty which had been researched and developed by Heinkel and was soon to be worked on by Messerschmitt. With the V6 now under construction, Tank drew plans to apply the feature into the prototype to give it peak performance. V6 (CI+NY) first flew in early 1939 and showed how well the new engines and surface cooling made the aircraft perform. On takeoff, the V6 had 1,000 HP from each engine, a 43% boost over the previously used Jumo 210s. During one test flight, the V6 was flying 395 mph (635 km/h) in level flight.

The three pre-production examples previously mentioned were designated Fw 197A-0. These were were fully armed. The A-0s added armored glass to the windshield and carried two more MG 17s. The A-0 planes also returned to using the Jumo 210 engines. Due to the additional weight, the performance of the A-0s was a bit lower than the prototypes. However, the RLM continued to argue against the Falke, claiming that, because it had no defensive armament, the Fw wouldn’t be as effective as the Bf 110 in the same role (despite it being able to outperform the 110 performance-wise). The final decision related to the Falke was an idea to turn it into a night-fighter in 1943. Nothing ever came out of this proposal.

The Factory Defender

Although the Bf 110 seemingly took the Falke’s place, its story continued. As the Royal Air Force (RAF) began its attacks over mainland Germany in 1940, aircraft firms scrambled to defend their valuable factories. Several firms formed a “Industrie Schutzstaffel”, which was an aerial defence program which would have aircraft company’s factories and testing sites be defended by aircraft piloted by test pilots and to be managed by on-site personnel. Focke-Wulf was one such firm and, luckily for them, three fully operational Fw187A-0s were ready and waiting to be used in combat. These examples were sent to the Focke-Wulf factory at Bremen and were sent on numerous missions to defend the plant from Allied bombing. Allegedly, Dipl.-Ing (Engineer’s degree) Melhorn claimed several kills while flying one of these aircraft. After the stint in Bremen, the three were put back into armament and equipment testing. In the winter of 1940 to early 1941, the three were sent to a Jagdstaffel unit in Norway, where they were evaluated by pilots. One of the three was sent to Værløse, Denmark in the summer of 1942 and temporarily assigned to Luftschiess-Schule. It is likely the remaining 3 and prototypes were either scrapped or destroyed by Allied bombing, as no examples are known to have survived the war. Some sources claim the aircraft Melhorn flew was the V6 converted into a single seater and armed for combat, but no proof supports this.

The Fw 187 was no secret weapon. After the fighting in France died down, the Propaganda Ministry began producing film and photos of the Fw 187 in 1940-1941 to persuade the Allies into thinking the Falke was fully operational and replacing the Bf 110 as the Luftwaffe’s all new Zerstörer. In reality, the latter was taking over the role of the former. The campaign sort of worked, as the Fw 187 was now a part of the rogue’s gallery that the Allies expected to fight. Identification cards, models and even movies were made to train pilots in the event they should encounter the two engine terror in combat. One such film denotes that the Fw 187 is “a rare bird” and that they should comically “make it extinct”. This shows that the Allies didn’t completely fall for the propaganda that claimed it was being produced in mass quantity.

Design

The Fw 187 had a twin engine design. The airframe was of all light metal construction. To reduce drag, the airframe was actually narrower at its widest point than other fighters of the time. The wings were of metal construction and divided into three sections. The connected segments carried the fuel and the outer segments had the flaps installed. The first and second prototypes had a single seat cockpit. The cockpit was covered by a canopy that slid aft. The cockpit itself wasn’t built for comfort, as it was built for an average sized pilot. The cramped cockpit lacked the necessary space to mount certain instruments and had these mounted outside on the engine cowlings. V1 had tail sitting landing gear, with all three wheels being able to retract into the hull. V2 was similar to V1, but had modified control surfaces. Beginning after the first two, all examples of the Fw 187 had an extended greenhouse cockpit to accommodate the radioman. The cockpit now opened up in two sections, one to the front and one to the rear. The fuselage was lengthened to some degree as well. The extended cockpit required the fuel tank to be moved down the fuselage. The engine nacelles were shortened to allow landing flaps to be added. V3 also had a radio mast mounted on the rear part of the cockpit. V4 and V5 had this removed.

For engines, the majority of the Falke’s used the Jumo 210 engine. V1 mounted the 210Da, V2-V5 using the 210G, V6 using the powerful DB 600A engines and the A-0 reverting back to 210Gs. The aircraft performance stayed the same overall, with the V6 having peak performance speedwise.

For armament, V1 mounted two MG 17 machine guns. V3 had accommodations for two more MG FF cannons but only mockups were added. When the A-0s were rolled out, an additional two MG 17s were added to fill the Zerstorer role. The extra two had their ammunition mounted in front of the radioman’s seat.

Variants

  • Fw 187 V1 – First prototype. Mounted two Junkers Jumo 210Da engines. Originally mounted Junkers-Hamilton propellers but was changed to VDM airscrews. Originally had two wheeled forward landing gear which was switched to single during development. Fitted with two MG 17 machine guns.
  • Fw 187 V2 – Second prototype, had different rudders and a semi-retractable tail-wheel. Had fuel-injection Jumo 210G engines.
  • Fw 187 V3 – Third prototype. Two seat version, the cockpit was lengthened to accommodate the radioman. The engine nacelles were shortened some degree to allow new landing flaps.V-3 also mounted two MG 17 machine guns and two MG FF cannons.
  • Fw 187 V4/Fw 187 V5 – Fourth and fifth prototypes. Nearly identical to V-3, aside from several small modifications, such as having different windscreens.
  • Fw 187 V-6 – Sixth prototype. High speed version that mounted Daimler Benz DB 600A engines.
  • Fw 187A-0 – Pre-production version. Three were constructed. Armed with two MG FF cannons and four MG 17 machine guns. Frontal armored windshields were added. These three were tested and sent to various locations for trial and defensive purposes.

Operators

  • Nazi Germany – The sole operator was Nazi Germany, which reportedly used the Falke during the air defense of Bremen in 1940.

Focke Wulf Fw 187A-0 Specifications

Wingspan 50 ft 2 in / 15.3 m
Length 36 ft 6 in / 11.1 m
Height 12 ft 7 in / 3.8 m
Wing Area 327.2 ft² / 99.7 m²
Engine 2x 700 hp (522 kW) Junkers Jumo 210Ga 12-cylinder liquid cooled inline engines
Propeller 2x 3-blade VDM airscrews
Powerplant Ratings
Horsepower output Altitude
Take Off 700 hp Sea Level
Normal 730 hp 3,280 ft
Weights
Empty 8,150 lbs / 3,700 kg
Loaded 11,000 lbs / 5,000 kg
Climb Rate
Rate of Climb at Sea Level 3,450 ft / 1050 m per minute
Time to 6,560 ft / 1999.4 m 1.9 minutes
Time to 19,700 ft / 6000 m 5.8 minutes
Speed 329 mph / 530 km/h at 13,780 ft / 4,200 m

322 mph / 518 km/h at Sea Level

Range 560 mi / 900 km
Maximum Service Ceiling 32,810 ft / 10940 m
Crew 1 Pilot

1 Radio Operator

Armament
  • 2x 20mm MG FF cannons
  • 4x 7.92mm MG 17 machine guns

Gallery

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

Focke-Wulf Fw 187 V1- Prototype
Focke-Wulf Fw 187 Night Fighter
Focke-Wulf Fw 187 A-0
The V5 on standby. A visual difference between the V3 and the V4/V5 is the absence of a radio mast mounted on the cockpit.
Side view of the V6.
A period 3-way illustration of the Fw 187 A-0
The Fw 187 V3 after it’s engine fire. Notice it’s greenhouse cockpit and the way it opens.
A cockpit view of one of the A-0s. Note the glass floor.
The V4 taking off. The V4 and V5 were slightly modified versions of the V3.
Three pre-production Fw 187 A-0s on standby.
An aft view of the V6. The surface cooling system is visible in this shot.

Sources

EF-18 Hornet in Spanish Service

Spanish flag Spain (1985)
Multirole Fighter Aircraft – 96 Built

The first European customer for the F/A-18 Hornet multirole fighter was the Spanish Air Force, the Ejercito del Aire Espanol (EdA). Spain did not join NATO until May of 1982, but even before that date the Spanish government had issued a requirement for a new fighter/attack aircraft that would replace its fleet of F-4C Phantoms, F-5 Freedom Fighters, and Mirages. In response to the announced requirement, the US government initially offered Spain an interim loan of 42 ex-USAF F-4E Phantoms, followed by the sale of 72 F-16s. However, the F-18 entered the competition in 1980, offering the benefit of a twin-engine safety margin.

History

In December of 1982, Spain announced that they had selected the Hornet and made plans to order 72 single-seaters (F/A-18A) and 12 two-seat (F/A-18B) versions. However, this proved more than the Spanish government could afford, and the order was reduced to only 60 A variants and 12 B variants on May 31, 1983. An option was put aside for 12 additional Hornets, but due to budgetary restrictions, they were not taken up.

As part of an offset agreement reached with Spain, Construcciones Aeronauticas SA (CASA) at Gefale is responsible for the maintenance of the EdA Hornets. CASA is also responsible for major overhauls of Canadian Hornets based in Europe, as well as the Hornets of the US 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean.

EF-18 on takeoff at exercise Anatolian Eagle, Turkey (USAF)

The Spanish Hornets are sometimes referred to as EF-18A and EF-18B, the “E” standing for “España” (Spain) rather than for “Electronic” as would normally be the case for an official Department of Defense designation. They have local EdA designations C.15 and CE.15 respectively. Serial numbers are C.15-13 through C.15-72 and CE.15-01 through CE.15-12 respectively.

The first EdA Hornet, EF-18B CE.15-01, was presented in a formal ceremony at St Louis on November 22, 1985, and made its first flight on December 4. The first few two-seaters were sent to Whiteman AFB in Missouri, where McDonnell Douglas personnel assisted in the training of the first few Spanish instructors. The first two-seater was flown to Spain on July 10, 1986. By early 1987, all 12 two-seaters had been delivered to Spain, after which the single-seaters were delivered. A total of 60 EF-18As and 12 EF-18Bs were delivered to Spain, the last planes being delivered in July of 1990.

The Hornet serves with Escuadron (Squadron) 151 and Escuadron 152 of Ala de Caza (Fighter Wing) 15 at Zaragoza-Valenzuela and with Escuadron 121 and Escuadron 122 of Ala de Caza 12 at Torrejon de Ardoz. Escuadron 151 was established first and declared combat-ready in September of 1988. In EdA service, the Hornet operates as an all-weather interceptor sixty percent of the time and as a night and day fighter-bomber for the remainder. In case of war, each of the four front-line squadrons is assigned a primary role. 121 is tasked with tactical air support for maritime operations, 151 and 122 are assigned the all-weather interception role, and 152 is assigned the suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) mission.

Spain has ordered 80 Texas Instruments AGM-88 HARM antiradiation missiles and 20 McDonnell Douglas AGM-84 Harpoon anti-shipping missiles. The Spanish Hornets carry the Sanders AN/ALQ-126B deception jammer and, on the last 36 aircraft, Northrop AN/ALQ-162(V) countermeasure systems. For air-to-ground work, EdA Hornets carry low-drag BR and Mk 80 series bombs, Rockeye II cluster bombs, BME-300 anti-airfield cluster bombs, BEAC fuel-air explosive bombs, GBU-10 and GBU-16 Paveway II laser bombs, AGM-65G Maverick air-to-surface missiles, and AGM-88 HARM antiradiation missiles. In the air-to-air missions, EdA Hornets carry a 20-mm M61A1 cannon, AIM-9L/M Sidewinders and AIM-7F/M Sparrows. The Sparrows were supplemented from late 1995 onward by AIM-120 AMRAAMs. Spanish Hornets can also carry AN/ALE-39 chaff/flare dispensers, ALR-167 radar homing and warning systems and ALQ-126B Jammers which have been supplanted in most of the aircraft by the more advanced ALQ-162. EdA Hornets can carry the AN/AAS-38 Nite Hawk FLIR/laser designator pod on the port fuselage stores station. Air refueling for the Spanish Hornets is provided by KC-130Hs from Grupo (Group) 31 and Boeing 707TTs from Grupo 45.

In 1993, plans were announced for the EdA’s fleet of EF-18A/B Hornets to be upgraded to F/A-18C/D standards. McDonnell Douglas reworked 46 of these planes, with the remainder being upgraded by CASA. Most of the changes involved computer improvements and new software, although some changes were required to the weapons delivery pylons. Following the rework, the planes were redesignated EF-18A+ and EF-18B+.

Worried about a “fighter gap” opening up early in the next century because of delays in the Eurofighter 2000 program, Spain searched for additional fighter aircraft, acquiring some additional Mirage F1s from Qatar and France. The USAF offered Spain 50 surplus F-16A/B Fighting Falcons and the US Navy offered about 30 F/A-18As. These F/A-18s had the advantage in the contest, since Spain already operated the Hornet, and in late 1995 the Spanish government approved the purchase of 24 US Navy surplus F/A-18A/Bs. This marked the first sale of US Navy surplus Hornets. There was a separate deal for new F404-GE-400 engines, which were being contracted directly from General Electric.

The US Navy surplus Hornets were intended to equip the 211 Escuadron of Grupo 21 based at Moron. Escuadron 211 had been operating the F/RF-5A fighter, but these planes had been phased out of front-line service and transferred to Ala 21, while the Moron-based unit was temporarily equipped with CASA C-101 Aviojets. The first six were delivered in late 1995. They bore EdA serials C.15-73 to C-15-78 (being ex-US Navy BuNos 161936, 162415, 162416, 162426, 162446, and 162471 respectively). The remainder would follow at a rate of six per year until 1998. After a period of service, they were retrofitted in Spain and later subjected to a mid-life update.

With the withdrawal of USAFE and Canadian squadrons from Europe, Spanish F-18s (and Mirage F1s) have been in demand for NATO exercises and are frequent visitors to air bases in Europe and the UK. In 1994, eight EF-18s participated in a Red Flag exercise at Nellis AFB in Nevada. Eight EF-18s participated in Deny Flight operations out of Aviano, Italy beginning in December of 1994. On May 25, they received their first taste of combat when they participated in an attack against a Serb ammunition depot near Pale (currently in Bosnia and Herzegovina).

The Hornet is extremely popular with its EdA crews and is reportedly a pure joy to fly, stable and yet highly maneuverable and with good acceleration. By 2002, only six Spanish Hornets had been lost in accidents. This is the best safety record of any EdA fighter that ever served, and as good, if not better, than that of any other F/A-18 operator.

Active Service

Spanish Hornet at a NATO Tiger Meet exercise (FloxPapa)

After the Bosnian War began in 1992, the UN Security Council passed a resolution prohibiting military flights in Bosnian Airspace. Despite this no-fly order, hundreds of violations were committed. As a result, enforcement of the UN no-fly zone over Bosnia and Herzegovina by NATO began in 1993 as Operation Deny Flight, which was successful in denying unauthorized airplane access over Bosnia, but was ineffective with regards to helicopters. However, Operation Deny Flight was extended beyond the enforcement of the no-fly-zone, with ground air strikes in support of UN forces being made in the operation. As a NATO member state, the Spanish Air Force was involved and flew missions jointly with the U.S. Air Force, with eight EF-18s, two KC-130s and one CASA 212 participating in 23,000 fighter sorties, 27,000 close air support missions, 21,000 training sorties and 29,000 SEAD and other types of sorties.

The next military operation of the Spanish Forces was Operation Deliberate Force, aimed at weakening the military power of the Bosnian Serb Army which had perpetrated the Srebrenica massacre in July 1995, in which 8300 Bosnians were murdered. The air campaign lasted for three weeks, with eight EF-18s and several other Spanish aircraft involved in operations flying over 3500 sorties.

Spanish Air Force EF-18 Hornets have also flown Ground Attack, SEAD, and combat air patrol (CAP) combat missions in Kosovo, under NATO command, in the Aviano detachment (Italy). They shared the base with Canadian and USMC F/A-18s. Over Yugoslavia, eight EF-18s, based at Aviano AB, participated in bombing raids in Operation Allied Force in 1999, a NATO military campaign directed against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as part of the Kosovo War. The operation was carried out without UN approval due to China and Russia vetoing it. The end of the campaign lead to the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo and end to the Kosovo War.

During the 2011 Libyan Civil War, a coalition of nations imposed a no-fly zone over the country in order to prevent Muammar Ghadaffi’s Lybian Armed Forces from using the air force to bomb the rebels, along with an arms embargo. Six Spanish Hornets, along with a few other Spanish planes, participated in enforcing the no-fly zone. Spain also allowed the use of its Rota, Morón and Torrejón bases by the coalition. The total costs for Spain over the 7-month operation ammounted to more than 50 million euros.

Variants

  • EF-18A – Single seat version, locally designated C.15
  • EF-18B – Two seat version, locally designated C.15E
  • EF-18A+ – Single seat version upgraded to F-18C standard
  • EF-18B+ – Two seat version upgraded to F-18D standard*Note: The “E” in “EF-18” stands for “España” rather than “Electronic [warfare]” as typically designated by the U.S. Department of Defense

EF-18A Specifications

Wingspan 40 ft 5 in / 13.5 m
Length 56 ft 0 in / 16.8 m
Height 15 ft 4 in / 4.6 m
Engine 2x General Electric F404-GE-402 turbofan engines
Maximum Takeoff Weight 51,900 lbs / 23,540 kg
Climb Rate 833 fps / 254 m/s
Maximum Speed Mach 1.7+
Range 1250 mi / 2,000 km
Maximum Service Ceiling 50,000 ft / 15,240 m
Crew 1 pilot
Armament
  • One M61A1/A2 Vulcan 20mm cannon
  • AIM 9 Sidewinder, AIM 7 Sparrow, AIM-120 AMRAAM
  • Harpoon, Harm, SLAM, SLAM-ER, Maverick missiles
  • Joint Stand-Off Weapon (JSOW)
  • Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM)
  • various general purpose bombs, mines and rockets

Gallery

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

Two Hornets prepare for takeoff at exercise Anatolian Eagle, Turkey (USAF)
Armed EF-18, with laser guided GBU-10 Paveway II bombs and and AIM-9 Air to Air missiles (USAF)

Sources

 

Vultee XA-41

USA flag United States of America (1944)
Prototype Ground Attack Aircraft – 1 Built

XA-41 in flight

The Vultee XA-41 was a single-engine aircraft that began life as a dive bomber. Months later, its role was changed to a low-level attack aircraft. The XA-41 performed admirably in flight tests, but the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) eventually decided that the fighter aircraft then in service were already performing well enough in the attack role. Despite its job being erased, the XA-41 continued development as a testbed, showing off the powerful XR-4360 engine it mounted and how much it could carry. The aircraft itself would have been deadly had it been produced in large numbers, as it boasted four 37mm cannons. As the war went on, the XA-41 was still being tested. Throughout the trials, the aircraft had extremely good performance, even being able to outturn a P-51, but its speed wasn’t quite enough for its role. At one point, it was given to the Navy for testing and eventually it would wind up at Pratt & Whitney (PR). At PR, it served as a testbed through the war and was eventually scrapped in 1950.

History

Cutaway Concept for the XA-41

The XA-41 began as part of a United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) requirement in October 1941 for a new single-seat attack aircraft. The Douglas A-20 Havoc (and soon to be produced North American A-36 Apache) was performing well at the time, but the USAAC wanted something new. The aircraft requested had to be able to reach at least 300mph (482.8kph) at sea level, have a service ceiling of at least 30,000ft (9,144m), and a range of 1,200 miles (1,932km). For the attack role, the aircraft was to have either 37mm, 20mm, or 50. cal guns mounted in the wings. Given this imposing armament, it is likely the aircraft would have attacked soft targets or even been used for tank-busting.

The USAAC commissioned Vultee Aircraft Corporation, Kaiser Fleetwings, and Curtiss to design a new aircraft for the role. Kaiser Fleetwings developed the XA-39, which would have mounted the R-2800-27 engine. Their aircraft didn’t progress beyond the mockup stage. Curtiss reused their naval XTBC-1 prototype for their part, renaming it the XA-40. This also didn’t go beyond the mockup stage. Vultee’s answer was the V-90, a ground attack aircraft mounting the fairly new and powerful R-4360 engine. Interestingly, the XA-41 started off as a dive bomber, despite it being commissioned as an attack aircraft. It isn’t often stated, but the Army had been interested in dive bombers since 1940, going as far as purchasing several Navy designs. The Army bought several SB2D-1 Helldivers in December of 1940 and renamed them the A-25 Shrike. They also had a troubled history with one of Vultee’s own aircraft, the A-35 Vengeance, which they tried numerous times, but to no avail. The XA-41 was most likely a chance for the Army to have a successful dive bomber or attack aircraft. The Army was satisfied with Vultee’s V-90 design and awarded a contract for two prototypes on November 10, 1942. Shortly after a mockup inspection, the Army interestingly switched the role from a dive bomber to a dedicated attack aircraft. The switch was rather abrupt and caused a delay in the development.

XA-41 Prototype

On April 30th, a new contract was signed which included a static mockup. Vultee continued construction on the project until the prototype was halfway completed, at which point the Army decided that the most current aircraft, the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and North American P-51 Mustang, were already quite capable in the attack role. But this wouldn’t be the end of the XA-41. Maj.Gen Oliver P. Echols, Chief of the Material Division, opted not to cancel the program and instead complete it in order to show the true potential of a new attack aircraft with the new R-4360 engine. This decision went through on November 20th, with the prototype ¾ the way through completion. The 2nd prototype was cut at this point and only one would be built (Serial No. 43-35124/5).

On February 11th, 1944, the XA-41 flew for the first time from Vultee Field, California, with test pilot Frank Davis at the controls, and landed at March Field, California. Several flights after this were conducted at the nearby army base. The aircraft was flown by both Vultee and Army pilots, and both agreed it handled well. There were some problems here and there, which Vultee quickly fixed with some additions to the airframe. On June 25, the Army accepted the XA-41. On July 16th, on its 60th flight, the aircraft was ferried to Eglin Field, Florida. Testing proved the XA-41 was an exceptional aircraft, with many great features. The craft had an excellent turn rate, being able to outturn the P-51. For its size, it carried an impressive arsenal of weapons. But the Army wanted an attack aircraft that could also defend itself if the need would arise, and the 350mph (563.2 km/h) of the XA-41 wasn’t that impressive compared to other aircraft in service. The United States Navy became interested in the XA-41 at some point and the prototype was given to them for testing at Patuxent River, Maryland. The Navy wanted to see if the aircraft could be flown from aircraft carriers. After the Navy briefly tested it, the XA-41 was given to Pratt & Whitney (PR) on August 22, 1944. It was obvious at this point that the XA-41 would never see combat, but would remain in the US as a testbed aircraft. Serving with PR, it was used as a flying testbed for their R-4360 engine, as well as having a supercharger mounted. As testing continued, the aircraft was purchased by PR on October 9 and re-registered as NX6037N. There are few documents that reference the XA-41 post-war. The only thing mentioned is that the sole XA-41 was finally scrapped in 1950, having served for many years at PR.

Design

The XA-41 was a conventional single-engine aircraft. It had a slight gull wing and a tail sitter configuration. The landing gear in the wings would retract inboard and was placed widely to allow better landing performance. During development, the tail wheel had doors installed to completely cover it in-flight. The cockpit was placed far forward and raised to allow the pilot to see over the engine, giving him better visibility when attacking ground targets. The ventral tail had an extension that spanned most of the length of the aircraft. This was added during development. A spinner was also added at some point. The XA-41 mounted the PR XR-4360 Wasp Major engine, which was the main reason the Army and PR were so interested in the project.

For armament, the XA-41 had four M2 Browning .50 cal machine-guns mounted in the wings. For the attack role, it was meant to mount four more 37mm cannons (sources don’t mention what particular kind of gun) in the wings. All armament in the wings was placed outside of the propeller’s range. For bombing, the XA-41 had a bomb bay that could carry four 500Ibs bombs, a torpedo, additional fuel, or two 1,600Ibs weapons. In total, it had up to 6,500Ibs of ordnance. Documents mention that up to 1,100Ibs of additional bombs could be mounted to the wings. The aforementioned competing XA-39 only sported the four Brownings, two 37mms, as well as a predicted carrying capacity of six 500Ibs bombs.

Variants

  • XA-41 – [The sole prototype built, used as a testbed for the XR-4360 engine.]

Operators

  • United States of America – The United States Army Air Corps would have operated it had it entered production. After serving as a testbed for the Army, the Navy and Pratt & Whitney also did tests with the aircraft.

XA-41 Specifications

Wingspan 54 ft / 16.4 m
Length 48 ft 7 in / 14.8 m
Height 14 ft 5 in / 4.4 m
Wing Area 540 ft² / 164.5 m²
Engine 1x 3,000 hp ( 2240 kW ) XR-4360-9
Propeller 1x 4-bladed Hamilton Standard propeller
Weights
Empty 13,400 lb / 6078.1 kg
Gross 18,800 lb / 8527.5 kg
Maximum 23,359 lb / 10595.4 kg
Climb Rate
Rate of Climb at Sea Level 2,326 ft / 708.9m per minute
Maximum Speed 353 mph / 568 kmh at 15,000 ft / 4572 m
Cruising Speed 270 mph / 434.5 kmh
Range 800 mi / 1287.4 km
Maximum Service Ceiling 27,000 ft / 8229.6 m
Crew 1 pilot
Armament
  • 4 Browning M2 machine guns (400rpg)
  • 4 37mm cannons (30rpg)
  • Up to 6,500 Ibs of weapons

Gallery

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

Vultee-XA-41 Original Prototype Colors
Vultee XA-41 with possible service markings (artist interpretation)
XA-41 at Patuxent River
XA-41 on the runway
XA-41 in a slight climb
XA-41 parked on the ramp

Sources

 

Douglas XTB2D-1 Skypirate

usa flag USA (1945)
Prototype Torpedo Bomber – 2 Built

XTB2D-1 on the Runway
First prototype of the Skypirate on the runway.

The Douglas XTB2D-1 “Skypirate” was a large, single-engine torpedo bomber built for use on the Midway class carriers during World War 2. At the time, it was the largest aircraft to be used aboard a carrier, dwarfing even two-engine designs. Unfortunately for the Skypirate, engine troubles, little support from the US Navy (USN), and numerous setbacks with the construction of Midway-class carriers nearly doomed it from the start. By the time it was airworthy, it was trying to fill an obsolete role which other aircraft, such as the TBF/TBM Avenger, already filled adequately. Work continued after the war, with several attempts to revive the program but it proved to be too costly and the Skypirate program was finally cancelled in 1947, with the two prototypes being scrapped in 1948.

History

With engagements such as the Battle of the Coral Sea and the hunt for the Bismarck, the effectiveness of torpedo bombers, such as the TBF/TBM Avenger and Fairey Swordfish, was clear. With the announcement of the large Midway-class carriers, the possibility of a new torpedo-bomber/scout bomber came about. In February 1942, a competition was put forward by the Navy for this role. The Douglas Aircraft Company, based in Southern California, proposed the Skypirate. The single-engine Skypirate was picked from eight different designs, most of which were two-engined. The Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAer) wasn’t expecting a single engine design to be submitted, assuming the specified massive carrying capacity would require a two-engine design. The program was being headed by Ed Heinemann as lead designer and Bob Donovan as the chief engineer, who would be on the project until the end.

XTB2D-1 Frontal View
An impressive look at the massive Skypirate from the front.

In November of 1942, Douglas was given permission to begin production of two prototypes and a mockup of the XTB2D-1 (then called the Devastator II, before being changed to Skypirate). Delays in the development of the Midway class would continue to hamper the Skypirate throughout its life. The finished product was a formidable aircraft, capable of carrying four torpedoes from land or two torpedoes from a carrier, the former being four times the carrying capacity of the TBM Avenger. In March and May of 1943, the mockup was inspected and an order for 23 production aircraft was put in. This was enough for a single squadron to operate from a Midway carrier. Problems began about this time, with the delivery of engines and propellers being delayed. By 1944, the Skypirate was still not airborne and it was obvious it wouldn’t be operational anytime soon. With earlier torpedo bombers performing adequately, a lack of support from the Navy, most of the Japanese fleet in shambles and continued delays with the Midway class (which would eventually sail after the war), the 23 production planes were cancelled. On February 18th, 1945, the first Skypirate was rolled out of the production facility, being completed on March 13th and finally going airborne on May 8th. Neither of the prototypes had any defensive armaments, but they were tested with torpedoes and drop tanks. Although no production was to ever start, the Skypirates would continue flying until the end of the war. During one such flight in June of 1945, a Skypirate was damaged mid-flight, but the craft was brought down safely. Engine problems were a frequent issue with the Skypirate and propeller problems would ground it in August of 1945, not flying again until after the war.

Skypirate Landing
Perhaps the most well known photo of the aircraft, the Skypirate prepares to land.

Postwar, the aircraft industry changed with the introduction of jet aircraft, thus eliminating the need for many prototypes being developed during the war. The Skypirate was no exception. With the torpedo bomber role now fading, the Douglas firm looked at other options to revive their Skypirate. Some ideas included using the Skypirate for an electronic warfare role or even as an anti-submarine aircraft (a role overtaken by another piston engine aircraft, the Grumman AF Guardian), but none of these propositions ever managed to become reality. As the Cold War was just beginning, the Skypirate program ended in 1947 and the 2 prototypes were scrapped in 1948.

Design

The Skypirate is most likely the largest single-engine aircraft to ever be designed for carrier operations. In comparison, the twin-engined B-25 Mitchell medium bomber measured around the same in length and width.

In flight
The 2nd prototype in flight, notice how the tail is shorter in comparison to the first prototype.

The initial Skypirate design had an internal bomb bay, which the prototypes dropped in favor of four external Mark 51 Mod 7 bomb hardpoints. These hardpoints could carry a range of weapons including 500Ib-2000Ib bombs, torpedoes, depth charges, mines or even incendiary bombs. The use of up to 4 Mk.13 Torpedoes (from land) were planned had it entered production. The Skypirate could alternatively carry up to 8,400Ibs of bombs. For offensive armament, the Skypirate had 4 M2 Browning machine guns in the wings. For defense, it had a Firestone model 250CH-3 remote turret behind the cockpit which carried 2 M2 Brownings and a turret in the back of the lower fuselage which carried a single M2 Browning. The lower turret was remotely fired through electronic control and powered hydraulically. Drawings indicate that Mark 2 Gun Containers could be added for extra forward firepower but none were ever attached during testing. 300 gallon drop tanks were also fitted during testing and could have been used had the craft been operational.

The Mockup
The sole mockup made alongside the 2 prototypes.

Along with such an impressive weapons payload, the Skypirate was full of advancements which would have improved its performance. To get such a large aircraft off the ground, the Skypirate was powered by a single Pratt & Whitney XR-4360-8, the largest radial engine ever built up to that time. The engine had a unique exhaust style that combined the exhausts in alternating rows to lower the effects of backpressure. Being a carrier-based aircraft, the Skypirate had folding wings as well as a catapult hook. The inclusion of a tricycle landing gear was also interesting, as it helped with bomb loading and carrier space. Most single engine aircraft of the time preferred using a tailwheel. The Skypirate had large flaps that extended the length of wingspan. The outer flaps served as ailerons while the midsection flaps were used as dive flaps. The dive flaps could also be lowered to help the aircraft cruise or assist in turning to help ease the stress off the aircraft when fully loaded. To assist with bombing or flight in general, a Type 3 Sperry vacuum-controlled, hydraulic autopilot was also to be added. A de-icing system was also added that pumped hot air over the wings and tail section.

The planned modifications of the prototypes are interesting to note. The 2nd prototype (Bu.36934) differed from the first, having a shorter tail of 8.6 ft, compared to the regular 10.5 ft tail of the original design. This was done most likely to conserve valuable space when inside a carrier. Along with these differences, plans to fit a jet engine in the fuselage of the 2nd prototype were made, but nothing ever came to fruition. The first prototype (Bu.36933) had a larger tail and was planned to be converted for the scout bomber role. These plans included adding cameras onboard. As with the jet engine designs, these also never came to be.

Variants

  • XTB2D-1 Bu.36933 – Prototype version, lacked any armament
  • XTB2D-1 Bu.36934 – The 2nd prototype. The tail was shortened to 8.6 ft. Also lacked any armament.
  • TB2D-1 – Proposed production version, 23 were ordered and planned production was to be 100 built every month. These versions were to be fitted with four .50 caliber machine guns in the wings, two in a Firestone power turret and one remotely controlled in the ventral hull. Eventually, the production versions were cancelled in favor of higher priority projects.

Operators

  • United States of America – Slated to be used aboard the Navy’s Midway-class carriers, with the end of the war and other setbacks, the XTB2D-1 was never used operationally.
XTB2D-1 Rollout
The design team poses with the first Skypirate on rollout day.

TB2D-1 Specifications

Wingspan 70 ft / 21.3 m
Length 46 ft / 14 m
Height 22 ft 6 in / 6.9 m
Wing Area 605 ft² / 184.4 m²
Engine 1x 3,000 hp ( 2240 kW ) XR-4360-8
Propeller 1x 8 bladed Hamilton Standard contra-rotating propeller
Fuel Capacity 501 US gal / 1896 L
Oil Capacity 28 US gal / 106 L
Empty Weight 18,405 lbs / 8350 kg
Gross Weight 28,545 lbs / 12950 kg
Maximum Weight 34,760 lbs / 15765 kg
Rate of Climb at Sea Level 1,390 ft / 425 m per minute
Time to 10,000 ft / 3048 m 8.2 minutes (Normal) 10.2 minutes (Military)
Time to 20,000 ft / 6096 m 22.3 minutes (Normal) 26.5 minutes (Military)
Maximum Speed 340 mph / 550 km/h at 15,600 ft / 4755 m
Cruising Speed 168 mph / 270 km/h

312 mph / 500 km/h (with torpedoes)

Range 1,250 mi / 2010 km (Torpedoes)

2,880 mi / 4635 km (Maximum)

Maximum Service Ceiling 24,500 ft / 7470 m
Crew 1 pilot

2 gunners

Armament 4 Browning M2 machine guns mounted in the wings (1600rds)

2 Browning M2 machine guns mounted in turret (1200 rds, incl remote 50.)

1 remote Browning M2 machine guns mounted in ventral hull

4 x Mk 13 Torpedoes (from land)

2 x Mk 13 Torpedoes (from carrier)

2 x 2,100 lbs Bombs

Total of 8,400 lbs payload capacity

2 x Mark 2 Gun Containers

Gallery

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

Douglas XTB2D Skypirate Side View
Douglas TB2D Skypirate Side View – With the Defensive Gun Pod

 

XTB2D End
The last known photos of the Skypirates before being scrapped.
XTB2D Loaded
One of the prototypes with mounted Mk-13 torpedoes.
XTB2D Backside
A back view of one of the prototypes
XTB2D-1 on the Runway
First prototype of the Skypirate on the runway.
XTB2D-1 Frontal View
An impressive look at the massive Skypirate from the front.
Skypirate Landing
Perhaps the most well known photo of the aircraft, the Skypirate prepares to land.
In flight
The 2nd prototype in flight, notice how the tail is shorter in comparison to the first prototype.
The Mockup
The sole mockup made alongside the 2 prototypes.
XTB2D-1 Rollout
The design team poses with the first Skypirate on rollout day.

Sources

 

Rockwell B-1A Lancer

USA flag United States of America (1974)
Prototype Supersonic Heavy Bomber – 4 Built

B-1A 74-0159

The B-1A program arose out of a need for a long-range, supersonic, low-flying heavy bomber. The program’s initial development was pushed forward through an ever-shifting geopolitical landscape, as well as opposition and contention among the the top levels of the U.S. government. Even with advanced features such as variable sweep wings, and variable air intake and exhaust capability, it was derided as a ‘dinosaur’ in the age of ICBMs. The opposition and political infighting nearly ended the Lancer, before it was given a miraculous second chance.

History

B-1A 74-158 taxiing on ground. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The origin of the Rockwell B-1 can be traced back to 1961, when the Air Force began to consider alternatives to the North American B-70 Valkyrie, which had just been downgraded from production to test aircraft status. At that time, the long range strategic missile was assumed to be the weapon of the future, with manned long-range bombers being relegated to a secondary role. The B-70 had been designed to fly at extremely high altitudes and at Mach 3 speeds, and increasingly effective Soviet anti aircraft defenses had made such an aircraft rather vulnerable.

Nevertheless, the Air Force commissioned several studies to explore possible roles for manned bombers in future planning. If successful, these would replace the B-52. At this time, the ability to fly through enemy airspace at extremely low altitudes was was thought to be the key for survival in the face of sophisticated air defenses.

The first such study was known as the Subsonic Low Altitude Bomber (SLAB), which was completed in 1961. It envisaged a 500,000 pound fixed-wing aircraft with a total range of 11,000 nautical miles, with 4300 nm of these miles being flown at low altitudes. This was followed soon after by the Extended Range Strike Aircraft (ERSA), which had a weight of 600,000 pounds and featured a variable sweep wing. The ERSA was supposed to be able to carry a payload of 10,000 pounds and achieve a range of 8750 nautical miles, with 2500 of these miles being flown at altitudes as low as 500 feet. In August of 1963, a third study known as Low-Altitude Manned Penetrator(LAMP) was completed. It called for a 20,000 payload and a 6200 nautical mile range, 2000 miles being flown at low altitude. None of these projects ever got beyond the basic concept stage.

In October of 1963, the Air Force looked over these proposals and used the results as the foundation of a new bomber proposal, termed Advanced Manned Precision Strike System (AMPSS). In November of that year, 3 contractors were issued Requests for Proposals for the AMPSS. The companies were Boeing, General Dynamics, and North American. However, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara kept a tight rein on funds, and expressed doubts about the assumptions behind AMPSS, so the RFPs only involved basic concept studies and did not focus on a specific aircraft. In addition, the contractors all agreed that some of the suggested USAF requirements either did not make much sense or else were prohibitively costly.

In mid-1964, the USAF had revised its requirements and retitled the project as Advanced Manned Strategic Aircraft (AMSA). The AMSA still envisaged an aircraft with the takeoff and low-altitude performance characteristics of the AMPSS, but in addition asked for a high-altitude supersonic performance capability. The projected gross weight for the aircraft was 375,000 pounds, and the range was to be 6300 nautical miles, 2000 of which would be flown at low altitude.

Secretary McNamara was never very excited about the AMSA, since he thought that strategic missiles could do a better job of “assured destruction” than manned bombers, and thought that the cost of the AMSA would probably be excessive. Nevertheless, there was a potential gain in avionics and propulsion technology that could be achieved if the project were to proceed, and McNamara released a small amount of funding for preliminary AMSA studies. The airframe for the AMSA would be worked on by Boeing, General Dynamics, and North American, whereas Curtiss-Wright, General Electric, and Pratt & Whitney would work on the engines. Both IBM and Hughes aircraft looked at potential avionics systems. These contractors issued their reports in late 1964. General Electric and Pratt & Whitney were given a contract to produce two demonstrator engines, but no airframe and avionics contracts were issued at that time.

74-0160 on display at Edwards AFB in 1980. (U.S. Air Force photo)

A bit of confusion entered the picture when the Defense Department selected the FB-111A as the replacement for the B-52C, B-52F, and B-58. The Air Force had not requested a bomber version of the controversial F-111, and was not all that enthusiastic about the choice. Nevertheless, a low-cost interim bomber did have some attractive features, and the Air Force went along with the choice of the FB-111A provided it did not interfere with AMSA development.

By 1968, an advanced development contract was issued to IBM and the Autonetics Division of North American Rockwell. On September 22, 1967, North American Aviation had merged with Rockwell Standard Corporation to create North American Rockwell. Earlier in that year, the Joint Chiefs of Staff had recommended the immediate development of the AMSA, but Secretary McNamara was still opposed, preferring instead to upgrade the existing FB-111 and B-52 fleet. McNamara vetoed the proposal.

When Richard Nixon became President in January of 1969, his Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird reviewed Defense Department needs and announced in March of 1969 that the planned acquisition of 253 FB-111s would be reduced to only 76, since the FB-111 lacked the range and payload required for strategic operations, and recommended that the AMSA design studies be accelerated.

The AMSA was officially assigned the designation B-1A in April of 1969. This was the first entry in the new bomber designation series, first created in 1962.

New Requests For Proposals were issued in November of 1969. IBM and Autonetics were selected for the avionics work on December 19. The selection of airframe and engine contractors was delayed by budget cuts in FY 1970 and 1971. On December 8, 1969 North American Rockwell and General Electric were announced as the winners of the respective airframe and engine contracts for the B-1A.

The original program called for 2 test airframes, 5 flyable aircraft, and 40 engines. This was cut in 1971 to one ground test aircraft and 3 flight test articles (74-0158/0160). First flight was set for April of 1974. A fourth prototype (76-1074) was ordered in the FY 1976 budget. This fourth plane was to be built to production standards. At one time, some 240 B-1As were to be built, with initial operational capability set for 1979.

Design

B-1A Orthogonal Projection. Note the difference between the wings at maximum and minimum sweep. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The fuselage of the B-1A was fairly slim, and seated a crew of four in the nose. There was a large swept vertical tail, with a set of all-flying slab tailplanes mounted fairly high on the vertical tail. The aircraft’s fuselage blended smoothly into the wing to enhance lift and reduce drag. In addition, the fuselage was designed to reduce the aircraft’s radar cross section in order to minimize the probability of detection by enemy defenses.

In order to achieve the required high-speed performance and still be able to have a good low-speed takeoff and landing capability, a variable-sweep wing was used. This made it possible for the aircraft to use short runways that would be inaccessible to the B-52. The outer wing panels were attached to a wing carry-through attachment box which faired smoothly into a slim, narrow fuselage. Each outer wing had full-span slats and slotted flaps, but used no ailerons. Lateral control was provided by a set of spoilers on the wing upper surface, acting in conjunction with differential operation of the slab tailplanes.

The engines were four afterburning General Electric F101-100 turbofans. The engines were installed in pairs inside large nacelles underneath the wing roots,, and close to the aircraft’s center of gravity to improve stability while flying at high speed through highly-turbulent low-altitude air. The nacelles were far enough apart so that the main landing gear members could be installed in the wing roots between them with enough clearance to retract inwards. In order to achieve the required Mach 2 performance at high altitudes, the air intake inlets were variable. In addition, the exhaust nozzles were fully variable.

Initially, it had been expected that a Mach 1.2 performance could be achieved at low altitude, which required that titanium rather than aluminum be used in critical areas in the fuselage and wing structure. However, this low altitude performance requirement was lowered to only Mach 0.85, enabling a greater percentage of aluminum to be used, lowering the overall cost. Titanium was used primarily for the wing carry-through box, the inner ends of the outer wings incorporating the pivots, and for some areas around the engines and rear fuselage.

Eight integral fuel tanks were planned, one in each outer wing panel, and the rest in the fuselage. About 150,000 pounds of fuel could be carried. There were three 15-foot weapons bays in the lower fuselage, two ahead and one behind the wing carry-through box. Each bay could carry up to 25,000 pounds of conventional or nuclear weapons. The total weapons load was almost twice what a B-52 could carry. All of the offensive weapons were to be carried internally, with no provision for externally-mounted pylons. A key weapon was to be the AGM-69A SRAM (Short-Range Attack Missile), 8 of which could be carried on a rotary launcher in each of the weapons bays.

No defensive armament was planned, the B-1A relying on its low-altitude performance and its suite of electronic countermeasures gear to avoid interception.

An extensive suite of electronics was planned, including a Litton LN-15 inertial navigation system, a Doppler radar altimeter, a Hughes forward-looking infrared, and a General Electric APQ-114 forward-looking radar and a Texas Instruments APQ-146 terrain-following radar.

The B-1A carried a crew of four–a pilot, copilot, offensive systems officer, and defensive systems officer. The crew escape system resembled that of the F-111 crew escape module. In an emergency, a capsule containing all four crewmembers would separate from the aircraft and be steered and stabilized by various fins and spoilers. A rocket motor would fire and lift the capsule up and away from the aircraft. Three parachutes would then open and would lower the capsule along with the crew safely to the surface. Once down, the capsule would serve as a survival shelter for the crew members.

Development

The B-1A mockup review occurred in late October of 1971. There were 297 requests for alterations.

The first B-1 flight aircraft (74-0158) rolled out from USAF Plant 42 at Palmdale, CA on October 26, 1974. It made its first flight on December 23, 1974, a short hop to Edwards AFB where the flight testing was to be carried out. The crew was Rockwell test pilot Charlie C. Bock,; Jr, Col. Emil Sturmthal, and Richard Abrams. The third aircraft (74-0160) was to be the avionics testbed and flew for the first time on March 26, 1976. The second aircraft (74-0159) was initially used for some static ground testing and did not make its first flight until June 14, 1976.

The B-1A test program went fairly smoothly. However, there were numerous modifications introduced throughout the program and some items of additional equipment were added. The avionics suite of the B-1A was perhaps the most complex yet used on an aircraft. The Initial Operational Test and Evaluation tests were successfully passed in September of 1976. The Phase 1 flight test program was completed on September 30, 1976. In December of 1976, the Air Force concluded that the B-1A was to go into production, with contracts placed for the first three aircraft and plans were made for an initial Block 2 production batch of 8 aircraft.

It seemed that the B-1A was well on its way to a full production run of 240 aircraft. However, the cost of the B-1A program began to escalate, and there were still some unresolved issues concerning the avionics suite. In 1970, the estimated per-unit price was $40 million, and by 1972, the cost had risen to $45.6 million. Although this sounds like small-change by today’s standards, this was considerably greater than the figure for any previous production aircraft. Moreover, by 1975, this number had climbed to $70 million.

Alarmed at these rising costs, the new presidential administration of Jimmy Carter (which had taken office on January 20, 1977) began to take a second look at the whole B-1A program. On June 30, 1977, President Carter announced that plans to produce the B-1A would be cancelled, and that the defense needs of the USA would be met by ICBMs, SLBMs, and a fleet of modernized B-52s armed with ALCMs. President Carter genuinely wanted to reduce the arms race, but he was unaware at the time of the secret projects that would ultimately lead to the F-117A stealth attack aircraft and the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.

B-1A during the B-1B flight test program. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Despite the cancellation of the production program, the Carter administration allowed the flight testing of the B-1A to continue. Most of the effort involved the avionics, in particular the defensive systems. In addition, General Electric continued to work on improvements for the F101 engine, and most of the contractors kept their engineering teams intact. Perhaps most important, work continued in reducing the radar cross section of the aircraft. Less than a month after the cancellation, 74-0160 launched a SRAM on July 28, 1977 at an altitude of 6,000 feet over the White Sands missile range. This aircraft was later modified with an advanced electronic countermeasures system mounted in a dorsal spine, and Doppler beam sharpening was added to the forward-looking radar. 74-0158 had achieved Mach 2.0 in April of 1976, and after completing its stability and control tests was placed in storage in 1978. On October 5, 1978, 74-0159 achieved a speed of Mach 2.22, the highest speed achieved during the B-1A program.

74-0158 was retired from flying in April of 1981 after having flown 138 sorties, the largest number of flights of any of the prototypes. By this time, it had acquired a three-tone desert camouflage scheme. It was eventually dismantled and used as a weapons trainer at Lowry AFB.

74-0159 was later used as a flight test article in the B-1B program. It was modified by having B-1B flight control system features installed. It began flying on March 23, 1983. Unfortunately, it crashed on August 29, 1984 when the aircraft’s center of gravity got unbalanced during fuel transfer management procedures, causing it to lose control. The escape capsule deployed successfully, but the parachute risers did not deploy properly. The capsule hit the ground at a steep angle, so steep that the inflatable cushions could not shield the impact. Chief test pilot Doug Benefield was killed, and two other crew members were seriously injured.

74-0160 was later converted to a ground trainer under the designation GB-1A and is now on display at the Wings Over The Rockies Air and Space Museum (formerly Lowry AFB), near Denver, Colorado.

76-0174 had been ordered to serve as a pre-production B-1A aircraft and was configured with full avionics systems. When the B-1A program was cancelled, work on this aircraft was well under way. Unlike the first three B-1s, 76-0174 was equipped with four conventional ejector seats in place of the escape capsule. This change was made after tests had determined that the crew escape module was unstable if ejected at speeds above 347 knots. It flew on February 14, 1979 and carried out 70 sorties. This plane was later used as a test article in support of the B-1B program. It resumed flying on July 30, 1984. Externally, the main change was the removal of the long dorsal spine but many of the B-1B avionics systems were installed internally. It is now on display at the USAF Museum at Wright Patterson AFB in Ohio.

Variants

  • B-1A – The initial prototype run of four aircraft

Operators

  • U.S. Air Force – The sole operator of the B-1A was the USAF

 

B-1A Lancer

Wingspan
(at max sweep)
78 ft 2.5 in / 23.84 m
Wingspan
(at min sweep)
136 ft 8.5 in / 41.67 m
Length 143 ft 3.5 in / 43.8 m
Height 34 ft 0 in / 10.36 m
Wing Area 1,950 ft² / 181.2 m²
Engine 4x General Electric F101-GE-100 turbofans, 17,390 lbf dry, 30,000 lbf with afterburner
Fuel Capacity 29,755 US Gal / 11,2634 L
Loaded Weight 389,000 lb / 176,450 kg
Maximum Take Off Weight 395,000 lb / 179,170 kg
Maximum Speed Mach 2.2 / 1,688 mph / 2716.5 kmh at 50,000 ft / 15,240 m
Maximum Service Ceiling 62,000 ft / 18,900 m
Crew 1 pilot, 1 copilot, 1 offensive systems officer, 1 defensive systems officer

Gallery

Illustrations by Basilisk https://basilisk2.deviantart.com

B-1A 74-0158 seen in Anti-Flash White
B-1A 74-0160 seen in a SAC Low Level Livery
B-1A 76-0174 seen in camouflage paint scheme
B-1A 76-174 seen in camouflage during testing. (U.S. Air Force photo)
A right side ground view of a B-1A aircraft wearing dark green camo. (U.S. Air Force Photo)
B-1A 76-174 in flight with wings extended in the 25-degree sweep position. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Sources