Archive for May, 2009

31
May
09

Lockheed C-130 Hercules

Everyone knows the Hercules – even those who are unaware of its C-130 military designation know exactly what it is for and what it does, this bulky, squat, but lovable aircraft with the reassuring friendly face of a seal pup and whaled tail. In RAF circles it goes by the name of ‘Fat Albert’ and in Vietnam it soon earned sardonic affection as the ‘trash and ass hauler’ – at least, that’s what the ‘fast movers’ called it. Its reputation was such that one US colonel pro* claimed that it was the only airplane of which it could be said that if it had been grounded, then the war would have ended. Universally this ‘Mr Dependable’ is fondly referred to as the ‘Herky Bird. In the twenty years since the Vietnam War this priceless aircraft has written its own chapter in aviation history as the world’s most successful military airlifter. For when military cargo and heavy equip-ment have to he delivered into trouble zones – or soldiers and paratroops, or people, relief supplies and medical aid, or if the need to be evacuated from war and famine, then the success of the operation depends on this immensely reliable and versatile airlifter. When there are labours to be done, whether they be military support or international relief, the Hercules is usually there, swirling the dust in the middle of desert wastes, being put down on a remote jungle strip, or landing on bomb-scarred runways at war-ravaged airports, delivering cargo or airdropping supplies.

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31
May
09

Grumman E-2 Hawkeye

The need to efficiently protect combet fleets was tragically evidenced during the Kamikaze attacks at the end of WW 2. The appearance of the new AN/APS 20 considerably enhancing the detection capabilities of the radar detection systems, a new concept was born: Airborne Early Warning (AEW). The new concept was aimed to detect the potential threat as early as possible and transmit the relevant data to both combat planes and fleet units to allow proper actions to be taken to counter the threat. At first, this role was given to specially adapted versions of existing attack planes, beginning with the Grumman TBM-3 W Avenger then to the Douglas AD-3W Skyraider and finally to the Grumman AF-2W Guardian. In 1958, was developed the first dedicated plane to carry this AEW mission: the Grumman E-1B Tracer. This plane was the first to carry the radar antenna ”piggy back” within a purposely designed fairing and can be considered as the forerunner of the E-2 Hawkeye. It was back in 1955, when the US Navy first emitted a request for proposal for an AEW aircraft with a long loiter time able to detect, identify and follow multiple threats at the same time (both aircraft and naval units) far beyond the horizon and transmit the relevant data to the chain of command and the CAP and attack aircraft. A concept called ATDS (Airborne Tactical Data System).

31
May
09

Kennedy’s Wars – Berlin, Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam

On 22 November 1963 John Fitzgerald Kennedy, thirty-fifth president of the United States, was shot by an assassin while campaigning in Dallas, Texas. Such a shocking death for a glamorous figure, at the peak of his power, encouraged a “Kennedy industry” that has already generated some one thousand books. The fact that his surviving family enjoyed achievement and adulation while suffering scandal and tragedy helps to explain the enduring fascination with all aspects of the Kennedy legend. The questions left unanswered, the policies still undeveloped, and the tragic sense of promise unfulfilled continue to draw historians to the early 1960s. The history of his presidency was shaped at first by the rich and loving memoirs of two of his more liberal aides, Theodore Sorensen and Arthur Schlesinger Jr.1 Later writings challenged the image of a gifted and wise leader, potentially one of the great modern presidents, in two crucial respects. First, his achievements in foreign policy were subject to increasing scrutiny. He was blamed for helping to trigger those crises over Berlin and Cuba that also provided his finest hours, and for allowing the drift into the Vietnam War to gather pace.

31
May
09

German Secret Flight Test Centres to 1945

Characterizing briefly the tasks of an E-Stelle is frequently related to the phrase ‘proof of technical usefulness’ as opposed to ‘military usefulness’. It is convenient to imagine, however, that there is only one all-embracing indivisible usefulness. Over and above technical requirements, the E-Stelle was certainly expected to concern itself with military aspects, but which for various reasons, was not well entertained. Testing has to involve, in particular, examining the usefulness of a specific type of aircraft, systems, or article of equipment within the shortest period of time, thus serving as one of the bases for the decisionmaking authorities. Test results basically encompass the cooperative efforts within the Test Centre and provides its consolidated opinion – not that of an individual employee. Exactness and considered judgement within the specified limits are therefore of importance for test-work.

31
May
09

Challenger Squadron

During the Second World War British tanks were consistently inferior to their German counterparts – only in the scale of production were the two countries comparable, with each manufacturing approximately 24,000 tanks between 1939 and 1945. However, as compared to earlier designs, the final British tank to emerge in the closing days of the war showed considerable promise. Forged in the crucible of war, Centurion was an admirable design with considerable growth potential. This was just as well, since in its original form it displayed no major advance over the German Panther introduced in 1943. Based on bitter experience – in the wastes of the Western Desert, among the steep hills of Tunisia and Italy, in the blind maze of the dreaded Normandy borage, on the exposed embankments of the Dutch polders, and in the dank twilight of the Reichswald – British designers vowed never again to allow British soldiers to enter battle with tanks of inferior firepower or armour protection to those of their potential foes.

31
May
09

Captured Tanks under the German Flag

The term “captured tanks” refers to armored vehicles captured and reused by the capturing troops. These tanks were either captured by the fighting forces in usable condition, or were quickly made usable, in order to replace their own losses or strengthen their fighting power. There were such tanks—quite a large number of them, in fact—used as individual units in very many groups, even within infantry divisions. The main thing was that drivers and crews could be found who could operate the weapons. But most of these tanks had a very short life, since spare parts and ammunition were lacking. In the latter case they were often used as towing tractors. To avoid confusing them with enemy tanks, the captured tanks used at the front were usually painted with large-dimension German crosses or swastikas—on the bow as well. Captured tanks also include those taken on the battlefield or in factories, which were overhauled and made usable by industries (including those in occupied countries) or larger military repair units. Entire combat units, from column to brigade strength, were equipped with these tanks.

31
May
09

Bell P-39 Airacobra

No other tighter used in large numbers by any hostile force matched the Bell P-39 Airacobra for the unusual and unorthodox location of its engine. And as already mentioned, the Airacobra was also the first US Army single-seat tighter with tricycle landing gear, the undercarriage dic-tated by the requirement to mount heavy armament in the nose; this reflected the interest of all nations during the middle and late 1930s in developing tighter aircraft with good forward firepower. Both the powerplant and the gun were sensible, and airmen were later to lament that they were not accompanied by a capability for effective combat at higher altitude. Even so, the most severe critics of the Airacobra would find plenty more to say about it, especially after it reached the hostile climes of the South Pacific. Throughout its service life, many considered the Airacobra to be a maintenance nightmare, largely owing to its complicated and not-too-reliable electrical system, its engine cooling problems, and the excessive vibrating fatigue with the long, geared propeller drive. Efforts to correct these faults were to produce mixed results over the period 1942-44 when the long, geared propeller drive.