REC.AVIATION.MILITARY FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Ross Smith <email@example.com>
Subject: C.15. What were the "new" fighters in _Hot Shots_?
They were Folland Gnats, an early British jet fighter that first flew in
1954 (as the Midge). It was designed as a private venture by Folland, to
demonstrate that a lightweight fighter was a practical alternative to the
trend towards heavier and more complex aircraft. It entered RAF service
only as a trainer (Gnat T.1), but both the fighter and trainer versions
were built under licence by HAL in India, as the Ajeet (unconquerable);
India, Finland, and Yugoslavia also imported British-built Gnat fighters
(as well as a reconnaissance version for Finland). The trainer version
equipped the RAF's Red Arrows aerobatic team before the arrival of the
Hawk. The Ajeet remains in service with India. The Gnats seen in _Hot
Shots_ were all privately owned.
Vital statistics (Gnat F.1): length 9.06 m, span 6.75 m, empty weight 2200
kg, max TO weight 4030 kg, max speed 1150 km/h, max range 1900 km; power
plant: one 20.10 kN Bristol Orpheus 701 turbojet; armament: two 30mm Aden
cannon (115 rounds each), four hardpoints, max external load 454 kg.
Subject: C.16. Why do the USAF/USN use incompatible refuelling systems?
By far the most common method for in-flight refuelling is the
"probe-and-drogue" system, in which the tanker unreels a hose behind it
with a drogue on the end (a meshwork cone whose drag keeps the end of the
hose in a stable position). The receiving aircraft has a probe attached to
it, which is inserted into the drogue to link the fuel systems. Some
receiving aircraft have probes permanently mounted, some have bolt-on
probes that can be attached if a mission requires them, and some have
retractable probes. This method is used by the US Navy, modern Russian
aircraft, and every other country that uses in-flight refuelling.
The US Air Force alone uses the "flying-boom" system. In this system, a
rigid boom, with control surfaces on the end, is extended from the tanker
and inserted into a socket on the receiving aircraft. This method has two
major disadvantages over the probe-and-drogue method. First, the boom has
to be attached directly to the tanker's fuselage, which prevents refuelling
from detachable pods attached to a tanker's wings (allowing more than one
receiver to link up at a time) or to the centreline hardpoint on a fighter
or strike aircraft (allowing such aircraft to refuel each other without a
dedicated tanker), both of which are commonly done with probe-and-drogue
refuelling. Second, the equipment on the receiving aircraft is
incompatible with the probe-and-drogue system, which means that USAF
aircraft can neither refuel nor receive fuel from any other aircraft,
including the US Navy's.
The reason why the USAF puts up with this is that the flying-boom system
can achieve much greater fuel flow rates than the probe-and-drogue system
(mainly because the rigid boom is shorter and wider than the flexible
hose). This is mainly for the benefit of large bombers such as the B-52
and B-1; refuelling such large aircraft by probe-and-drogue would take much
longer, enough (in the USAF's judgement) to cause significant tactical
problems. Few other air forces operate aircraft of similar size; the
handful that do are prepared to live with the refuelling delays in the
interests of compatibility.
The third refuelling system used is the "wingtip-to-wingtip" system, used
only by older Russian bombers. In this system, a hose is unreeled from one
wingtip of the tanker, and caught by a socket in the opposite wingtip of
the receiver; the two aircraft then fly side by side, with the hose joining
their wingtips (the length of the hose is comparable to the wingspan of the
aircraft). The tankers are all converted bombers themselves, mainly the
Myasishchyev M-3MS-2 "Bison-B". This system is very tricky to link up,
occasionally dangerous, only usable with bombers (smaller aircraft can't
carry the necessary receiving equipment on their wingtips), and gives flow
rates even worse than probe-and-drogue; not surprisingly, the Russians have
largely replaced it with the probe-and-drogue system, and it will probably
become extinct with the retirement of the last M-3 tankers in 1994 or 1995.
Subject: C.17. What air-to-air missiles are in service?
The following list covers the air-to-air missiles known to be in service or
under development, as of late 1993.
Guidance types: AR = active radar, IR = infrared, Opt = optical, PR =
passive radar, SAR = semi-active radar.
Missile Length Mass Range Speed Warhead Guidance
(m) (kg) (km) (M) (kg)
------------------------------ ------ ---- ----- ----- ------- --------
AIM-132A ASRAAM 2.90 87 15 ? 10 IR
S225X ? ? 100 ? ? AR
MAA-1 Mol 2.82 90 10 2.0 12 IR
PL-2 2.99 76 3 ? 11 IR
PL-3 2.99 82 3 ? 14 IR
PL-5B 2.89 85 16 ? 9 IR
PL-7 2.75 90 ? ? 13 IR
PL-8 3.00 120 5 ? 11 IR
PL-9 2.99 120 5 ? 10 IR
PL-10 3.99 300 15 3.0 ? SAR
MICA AR 3.10 110 60 ? ? AR
MICA IR 3.10 110 60 ? ? IR
R.550 Magic 1 2.72 89 10 2.0 13 IR
R.550 Magic 2 2.75 90 10 2.0 13 IR
Super 530D 3.80 270 40 4.5 30 SAR
Super 530F 3.54 245 35 4.5 30 SAR
Iris ? ? ? ? ? IR
Astra ? ? ? ? ? AR
Python 3 3.00 120 15 3.5 11 IR
Python 4 3.00 ? ? ? ? IR
Shafrir 2 2.60 93 5 ? 11 IR
Aspide 1 3.70 220 100 4.0 35 SAR
Aspide 2 3.65 230 100 4.0 35 SAR
AAM-3 Type 90 2.60 70 5 ? ? IR
K-13A/R-13S "AA-2 Atoll" 2.84 75 8 2.5 11 IR
K-13M/R-13M "AA-2-2 Atoll-D" 2.87 90 13 2.5 11 IR
K-13R/R-13R "AA-2-2 Atoll-C" 3.50 93 8 2.5 11 SAR
Kh-31P "AS-17 Krypton" 5.23 600 200 3.0 90 PR
KS-172 RVV-L 7.40 750 400 ? ? AR
R-23R "AA-7 Apex" 4.46 244 27 3.4 35 SAR
R-23T "AA-7 Apex" 4.16 217 27 3.4 35 IR
R-24R "AA-7 Apex" 4.46 ? ? ? ? SAR
R-24T "AA-7 Apex" 4.16 ? ? ? ? IR
R-27EA "AA-10 Alamo" 4.78 350 130 ? 39 AR
R-27EM "AA-10 Alamo" 4.78 350 170 ? 39 SAR
R-27ER "AA-10 Alamo-C" 4.78 350 130 ? 39 SAR
R-27ET "AA-10 Alamo-D" 4.78 350 130 ? 39 IR
R-27P "AA-10 Alamo" ? ? ? ? 39 PR
R-27R "AA-10 Alamo-A" 4.08 235 60 ? 39 SAR
R-27T "AA-10 Alamo-B" 3.80 245 40 ? 39 IR
R-33 "AA-9 Amos" 4.15 490 120 ? 47 SAR
R-37 ? 600 150 ? ? AR
R-40RD "AA-6 Acrid" 5.98 461 70 4.5 38 SAR
R-40TD "AA-6 Acrid" 5.98 460 30 4.5 38 IR
R-60 "AA-8 Aphid" 2.14 45 7 2.5 4 IR
R-60M "AA-8 Aphid" 2.14 45 ? 2.5 4 IR
R-60MK "AA-8 Aphid" 2.14 45 12 2.5 4 IR
R-73/R-73M1 "AA-11 Archer" 2.90 105 15 ? 7 IR
R-73E/R-73M2 "AA-11 Archer" 2.90 110 30 ? 7 IR
R-77 RVV-AE "AA-12" 3.60 175 90 3.0 18 AR
Darter 2.75 89 10 4.2 16 IR
V3B Kukri 2.94 73 4 3.9 ? IR
Sky Sword I 2.87 90 15 ? ? IR
Sky Sword II 3.60 190 40 ? ? SAR
Active Sky Flash 3.66 208 50 4.0 30 AR
Sky Flash 3.66 192 50 4.0 30 SAR
United States of America
AIM-7M Sparrow 3.66 230 100 2.5 39 SAR
AIM-7P Sparrow 3.66 230 45 ? 39 SAR
AIM-7R Sparrow 3.66 ? 45 ? ? IR+SAR
AIM-9J Sidewinder 3.07 78 15 2.5 ? IR
AIM-9L Sidewinder 2.87 87 18 2.5 10 IR
AIM-9M Sidewinder 2.87 87 8 2.5 10 IR
AIM-9P Sidewinder 3.07 82 8 2.5 12 IR
AIM-9R Sidewinder 2.87 87 8 2.5 10 Opt
AIM-9S Sidewinder 2.87 87 8 2.5 10 IR
AIM-9TC Sidewinder 3.00 84 ? ? ? IR
AIM-54C Phoenix 4.30 463 200 4.0 60 AR
AIM-92A Stinger 1.52 14 5 2.0 3 IR
AIM-120A AMRAAM 3.65 157 75 4.0 22 AR
Have Dash 3.00 180 50 3.0 ? AR+IR
[Most of the information here is from Doug Richardson and Piotr Butowski's
survey of AAMs in the October 1993 issue of _Air International_]
Subject: D.1. Is aircraft X still in service?
* Blackburn Buccaneer: NO -- The last squadron of Buccaneers in RAF
service was disbanded in early 1994. South Africa, the only other
Buccaneer user, had already disposed of its aircraft by then.
* Boeing B-29 Superfortress: SORT OF -- China still has 15 Russian-built
B-29 copies (Tu-4) on its inventory; these are now used entirely for
training and research. One was fitted with a pylon-mounted disk for AEW
* Convair F-106 Delta Dart: SORT OF -- The last aircraft in US service
were retired in 1988. About 180 were converted to QF-106 target drones;
most have been destroyed by now, of course, but some are still flying (July
* Dassault Ouragan: YES -- El Salvador still has eight Ouragans in
* De Havilland Vampire: NO -- There are no Vampires in military service;
several are still flying in private hands.
* De Havilland Venom: NO -- There are no Venoms in military service;
several are still flying in private hands.
* English Electric Canberra: YES -- The Canberra is still in service with
Argentina, Chile, India (largest user, with 46), Peru, and the UK. The 20
aircraft on the British inventory are used for training and photographic
reconnaissance, not in the bomber role.
* Grumman S-2 Tracker: YES -- Eight countries still have S-2s in service.
Many retired examples have been converted to civilian firebombers.
* Handley Page Victor: NO -- The RAF retired its last Victor K.2 tanker on
30 November 1993.
* Hawker Hunter: YES -- The Hunter is still in service with Chile, India,
Oman, and Switzerland (largest user, with 87). Lebanon and Somalia still
have a handful of Hunters listed, but these are almost certainly
unserviceable. The handful of Hunters still flying in the UK are operated
by civilian organisations. Switzerland plans to dispose of its Hunters by
the end of 1995.
* Ilyushin Il-28 ("Beagle"): YES -- The Chinese-built Hong-5 is in service
in large numbers (about 650) with China, as well as North Korea and
Romania, but only Egypt still operates five Russian-built Il-28s.
* Lockheed F-104 Starfighter: YES -- Remains in service with Greece,
Italy, Taiwan, and Turkey (largest user, with 220).
* Lockheed P-2 Neptune: YES -- Japan still flies 14 of its locally-built
* Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird: SORT OF -- These were retired from USAF
service in 1990. Three aircraft were transferred to NASA, and are used for
atmospheric research. Currently (June '94) there seems to be serious talk
of reactivating some USAF SR-71s for reconnaissance, probably in connection
with the Korean situation.
* Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star: YES -- 14 countries still use T-33s for
training; the largest user is Japan, with 113.
* Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 ("Fagot/Midget"): YES -- About 20 countries
operate the MiG-15UTI trainer; three (Albania, Cuba, and Romania) still
operate the single-seat fighter. All Chinese MiG-15s have been retired
(see also section H.11).
* Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17 ("Fresco"): YES -- About 25 countries still use
the MiG-17, or the Chinese-built J-5. The Chinese PLA Air Force only
operates the JJ-5 trainer version.
* Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-19 ("Farmer"): YES -- The Chinese J-6 is still in
service with 14 countries, but only Cuba still flies the genuine article
(about 30). Production of the J-6 stopped about 1981.
* Myasishchyev M-3/4 ("Bison"): YES -- The last M-3M and M-4 "Bison-A"
bombers and M-3MD "Bison-C" maritime patrol aircraft were retired or
converted in 1987. A small number of M-3MS-2 "Bison-B" tankers remain in
service with the Russian AF, but are being replaced by the Il-78T "Midas",
and will probably be gone by the end of 1994. A few aircraft (possibly
only one) have been converted to M-3VM-T Atlant heavy transports; these
remain in use, mainly for transporting space hardware, pending the
manufacture of more An-225 transports.
* North American F-86 Sabre: YES -- The Bolivian Air Force still operates
four F-86F interceptors.
* North American F-100 Super Sabre: NO -- Turkey, the last operator of the
F-100, disposed of its aircraft in 1989.
* Sukhoi Su-7 ("Fitter/Moujik"): YES -- Only Algeria, Iraq, and North
Korea (largest user, with 30) still fly the Su-7.
* Sukhoi Su-15 ("Flagon"): NO -- This was withdrawn from Russian service
* Tupolev Tu-128 ("Fiddler"): NO -- This was withdrawn from Russian
service about 1992.
* Vought A-7 Corsair II: YES -- In service with Greece (largest user, with
85) and Portugal. The last A-7s in US service were withdrawn at the end of
* Vought F-8 Crusader: YES -- 19 F-8E(FN) Crusaders serve with the French
Navy, and are expected to remain in service until the Rafale M is available
* Yakovlev Yak-28 ("Brewer/Firebar/Maestro"): NO -- The last Yak-28P
"Firebar" interceptors were withdrawn in the 1980s, the last Yak-28R
"Brewer-D" reconnaissance aircraft about 1990, and the last Yak-28PP
"Brewer-E" electronic warfare aircraft (along with the last Yak-28U
"Maestro" trainers) about 1992.
* Yakovlev Yak-38 ("Forger"): NO -- The Russian Navy retired the last of
its Yak-38 fleet around the end of 1993.
[Most of the above comes from the "Air Forces of the World" directory in
the 24-Nov-93 issue of _Flight International_]
Subject: D.2. Did one of the XB-70 prototypes crash during a photo shot?
On 8 June 1966, XB-70 AV/2 (Air Vehicle 2) took part in a publicity flight
involving five aircraft powered by General Electric engines, over the
Mojave Desert. The aircraft were flying in a V formation; from left to
right, a Northrop T-38A Talon, a McDonnell Douglas F-4B Phantom II, the
North American XB-70 Valkyrie, a Lockheed F-104N Starfighter, and a
Northrop F-5A Freedom Fighter. Two more aircraft, a Learjet and an F-104D,
At 9:26 a.m., just after the end of the photo session, with no warning or
explanation, the F-104N's tail hit the XB-70's right wingtip. The F-104
flipped over and passed above the XB-70, slicing off parts of both of its
vertical fins on the way, then rammed into its port wing several times.
The XB-70 then flipped over and began spinning, spraying fuel from the
ruins of its port wing. Both aircraft dived into the ground.
The command pilot of AV/2, Al White (North American's test pilot), ejected
and survived, although he suffered back injuries when the air bag that
should have served as shock absorber on his ejection capsule failed. He
said later that the other pilot, Major Carl Cross (USAF), was slumped
forward in his seat; White tried to activate Cross's ejection capsule but
was unable to do so before he had to eject himself. It was speculated that
Cross had suffered a blow to the head, or was incapacitated by G forces.
The F-104N pilot, Joseph A Walker (NASA's chief research pilot) was
apparently killed in the initial collision.
The collision is believed to have been caused by the F-104 getting too
close to the XB-70 and getting caught in its wingtip vortices, but nobody
knows for certain.
The surviving XB-70, AV/1 (tail number 20001), is on display at the Air
Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, Ohio.
[Information from _Valkyrie -- North American XB-70_ by Steve Pace (thanks
Dan); also thanks to Al Bowers for additional details]
Subject: E.1. What jet aircraft were the Germans working on during WW2?
* Arado Ar 234 Blitz (Lightning): The world's first jet bomber. First
flight, 15 June 1943; service entry, September 1944. The two versions to
see service, the Ar 234B-1 unarmed reconnaissance aircraft and B-2 bomber,
were single-seat aircraft powered by two 8.83 kN thrust Jumo 004B
turbojets. The Ar 234C series, with four 7.85 kN BMW 003A-1 turbojets,
never reached service, although several prototypes flew. 210 Ar 234s were
completed before the end of the war; the Ar 234 was involved in the Battle
of the Bulge, the destruction of the Remagen bridge, and several other
battles. Plans included the Ar 234C-1 reconnaissance plane, C-2 bomber,
and C-3 in bomber, ground attack, and night fighter subtypes; a C-3 variant
carrying a V-1 cruise missile on its back was also planned. Other
proposals included the Ar 234D (two Heinkel HeS 011A turbojets), Ar 234E
(fighter based on Ar 234D), Ar 234P (night fighter), and Ar 234R (rocket
Vital statistics (Ar 234B-2): length 12.65 m, span 14.20 m, empty weight
5200 kg, max weight 8410 kg, max speed 742 km/h, range 1630 km; armament:
two 20mm cannon, 1500 kg bomb load.
* Bachem Ba 349 Natter (Viper): This was a tiny, extremely short-range
rocket-powered interceptor. It was designed to be launched vertically,
fire its rocket armament into a bomber formation, and then come apart in
mid-air; the forward section would be thrown away, the rear section would
descend by parachute to be re-used, and the pilot, released from between
the two, would descend on his own parachute. The initial version, the Ba
349A, was powered by four 11.77 kN Schmidding 109-533 booster rockets and
one 16.67 kN Walter 109-509A-2 sustainer rocket; 20 of this version were
built, of which only one made a single manned flight. Part of the forward
fuselage broke away prematurely, and the aircraft crashed, killing the
pilot. There were plans for a Ba 349C with a more powerful rocket and a
larger tail for better control.
Vital statistics (Ba 349B): length 6.10 m, span 3.60 m, max weight 2200
kg, max speed 800 km/h, range 40 km; armament: 24 Föhn rockets.
* DFS 228: High-altitude, air-launched reconnaissance aircraft with a
rocket engine, in development during 1945. Claimed are a ceiling of 20000
m, a speed of 1000 km/h, and a range of 720 km -- but no DFS 228, and few
documents, survived the war.
* DFS 346: A 1945 design for an aircraft with two 20 kN Walter rocket
engines, swept wings and a prone pilot position. It had an estimated top
speed of Mach 2.6 at 30500 m. The incomplete prototype was captured by the
USSR and test flown, with one of the interned B-29s as launch aircraft.
* Fieseler Fi 103R Reichenberg: Basically a manned version of the Fi 103
("V-1") flying bomb (the first cruise missile). In theory, this wasn't a
Kamikaze-style suicide weapon, since the pilot was intended to bail out
after aiming the aircraft/missile at its target. In practice, this would
have presented certain difficulties, since the cockpit was placed directly
underneath the jet intake! The engine was the same one used on the V-1,
one 2.94 kN As 109-014 pulse-jet. Versions planned were the Fi 103R-I and
R-II training gliders, R-III powered trainer, and R-IV operational version.
About 175 were built, and a few test flights were made by the R-III, but
none flew operationally.
Vital statistics (for the V-1; the Fi 103R-IV would have been very
similar): length 7.90 m, span 5.30 m, weight 2180 kg, max speed 645 km/h,
range 240 km; armament: 850 kg warhead.
* Focke-Wulf Ta 183: Single-seat jet fighter powered by one 12.75 kN
Heinkel HeS 011 turbojet. Planned versions included the Ta 183A-1 and A-2
fighters, and A-3 photo-reconnaissance version. It was selected for
production in January 1945 over the Messerschmitt P-1101; it is not known
how far it had progressed by the end of the war, but it is unlikely that
any examples flew. Drawings and parts were taken by the Russians, and
probably contributed to the design of the MiG-15, which was similar in
Vital statistics (Ta 183A-1): length 9.20 m, span 10.00 m, max weight 4300
kg, max speed 954 km/h, range 722 km; armament: four 15mm or 20mm cannon
or two 30mm cannon; 500 kg bomb load.
* Heinkel He 162 Salamander: A tiny, single-engine fighter, famous for the
speed of the development programme -- the first prototype flew on 6
December 1944, less than three months after the requirement was issued! It
was intended to be a "Volksjäger" (people's fighter) that could be flown by
Hitler Youth volunteers after minimal training; fortunately for the youths
concerned, the war ended before this plan could be put into action. 280
aircraft were completed before the end of the war (and another 800 were
found in various stages of completion in the factories), but only a handful
actually saw combat, in the hands of expert pilots. By all accounts the
Salamander had lousy handling characteristics and was difficult for even
experienced pilots to fly. In addition, the high-tech glue used to make
the wooden laminate wings in the prototypes was replaced with a cheaper
type in the production aircraft, resulting in frequent catastrophic
failures. Versions built were the He 162A-1 and A-2, both powered by one
7.85 kN BMW 003E-1 or E-2 turbojet (differing only in being armed with two
30mm or two 20mm cannon, respectively); proposals included the He 162B (one
or two pulse-jet engines), He 162C (forward-swept wings), He 162D
(swept-back wings), and various combinations of jet and rocket propulsion.
Vital statistics (He 162A-2): length 9.00 m, span 7.20 m, empty weight
2180 kg, max weight 2695 kg, max speed 784 km/h, range 695 km; armament:
two 20mm cannon.
* Heinkel He 280: The first jet fighter to fly, the He 280 was powered by
two 8.24 kN Junkers Jumo 004 turbojets. Development was delayed, and
eventually abandoned in favour of the superior Me 262.
Vital statistics (He 280 V6): max speed 817 km/h; armament: three 20mm
* Henschel Hs 132: A dive bomber powered by a single 7.85 kN BMW 003A-1
turbojet, the Hs 132 was built along the same general lines as the He 162,
with the engine mounted dorsally on the fuselage. The unique feature was a
prone pilot position, intended to improve G tolerance. The factory was
overrun by the Soviet Army shortly before the first flight was planned.
Vital statistics: Max speed 700 km/h; armament: one 500 kg bomb.
* Horten Ho IX (also known as Gotha Go 229): A flying wing fighter of
futuristic and elegant appearance. It had a flat, tailless design, and was
intended to be constructed mainly of wood, with special glues and lacquers
to minimise radar signature -- in other words, it was the first stealth
fighter! Only one prototype flew, the Ho IX V2, making its first and only
powered flight in January 1945; unfortunately it crashed on landing. The
prototype was powered by two 8.73 kN Jumo 004B turbojets (which would also
have powered the production Go 229 versions). Production of the fighter
was assigned to the Gotha factory; versions planned were the single-seat Go
229A day fighter, and the two-seat, radar-equipped Go 229B night fighter.
A captured prototype rests at Silver Hill, Maryland, USA.
Vital statistics (Go 229A-0): empty weight 4600 kg, max weight 7507 kg,
max speed 977 km/h, range 1900 km; armament: four 30mm cannon; 2000 kg
* Horten Ho X: Single-engined flying wing fighter, basically a slightly
scaled-down Ho IX. None were built.
* Horten Ho XVIII "Amerika bomber": Six-engine flying wing bomber. Apart
from the curved trailing edge, this design bore an amazing resemblance to
the Northrop B-2. None were built, although the first prototype was under
construction at the end of the war. Rumour has it this aircraft was
intended to carry the German atomic bomb to America.
Vital statistics: range 11900 km; armament: 3600 kg bomb load.
* Junkers Ju 287: A heavy jet bomber, unusual in having forward swept
wings. A single prototype flew before the end of the war (a second was
completed and flown in Russia after the war). The prototype was built
largely from salvaged parts, including an He 177 fuselage, and was powered
by four turbojets, one under each wing and one on either side of the nose;
planned versions included several different arrangements of two, four, or
* Lippisch P13a: This one takes the prize (any prize). It was a
ramjet-powered, sharply swept delta, with the cockpit built into the tail
fin. It was powered by coal gas generated from solid fuel, and had a
nominal design speed of 1650 km/h. Yes, you read that right -- a
coal-powered supersonic fighter. A small rocket engine was provided for
take-off. Alas, it never flew. The DM-1 glider, built along the same
general lines and intended to validate the airframe design, was completed
after the war and test-flown in the US; some results were published in
_Lippisch P13a and Experimental DM-1_ by Hans-Peter Dabrowski (Schiffer
Military History; ISBN 0-88740-479-0). Aerodynamic testing in a
wind-tunnel took place at Langley field, by what was then NACA, in 1946.
Results were "disappointing", but led eventually to the successful delta
Vital statistics: length 6.7 m, span 6.0 m, max speed 1650 km/h (Mach
1.55; this was the original design speed, although wind tunnel tests went
up to Mach 2.6), range 1240 km; armament: two cannon.
* Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet: The only rocket-powered aircraft ever to
enter service. First flight, early 1941; service entry, May 1944. Unusual
in appearance as well as propulsion, it had a short fuselage with swept
wings and no horizontal tail; despite the tailless design, it had excellent
flight characteristics and was reportedly very easy to fly. Landing was a
different matter, though -- the awkward centreline skid arrangement (to
save weight, the wheeled trolley used for take-off was jettisoned once the
plane was airborne), combined with the presence of highly volatile and
explosive rocket fuel, resulted in many Komets living up to their name and
ending their days as fireballs. In the air, however, the combination of
tremendous speed, small size, and the element of surprise made them
reasonably successful against American bomber formations, on the few
occasions they entered combat. There was only one service version, the Me
163B-1, powered by one 16.67 kN Walter HWK 509A-2 liquid fuel rocket; about
370 of these saw service. Plans existed for a greatly improved version,
the Me 263 (also known as the Junkers Ju 248; Junkers did much of the
development work), with a new engine (16.67 kN Walter HWK 109-509C-4, with
separate boost and cruise chambers, giving a 15-minute endurance), more
fuel, and a real landing gear, but none were built by the end of the war.
Vital statistics (Me 163B-1): length 5.69 m, span 9.30 m, empty weight
1905 kg, max weight 4110 kg, max speed 960 km/h, range 100 km; armament:
two 30mm cannon.
* Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe (Swallow): The first jet fighter to enter
service with any country. First flight, 4 April 1941; service entry, 30
June 1944. The Me 262 was much faster and more heavily armed than the
contemporary Gloster Meteor, and could have had a much greater effect on
the war than it actually did if it had been produced in larger numbers in
time. The story that delays were caused by Hitler's insistence that the
promising fighter be used only as a bomber appears to be a myth. The Me
262 was designed as a versatile fighter-bomber from the start; delays were
mainly caused by the difficulty of manufacturing the engines in large
enough quantities in the face of materials shortages caused by Allied
bombing (the service life of an engine was only about 20 hours!). The Me
262 was also the first aircraft in service with swept wings, although this
came about by accident -- a redesign of the fuselage happened to move the
centre of gravity further back than had originally been intended (an early
design had the engines mounted in the wing roots), and the wings were
angled slightly back to compensate; it was only later that it was
discovered that this had fortuitously improved the aerodynamics. Not quite
enough, though; transonic aerodynamics were not considered in the design,
and the Me 262 became effectively uncontrollable in a shallow dive, some
pilots having to jettison the canopy to recover from spins! Variants to
see service were the Me 262A-1a fighter, A-2a fighter-bomber, B-1a two-seat
trainer, and B-1a/U1 radar-equipped night fighter, all powered by two 8.83
kN Junkers Jumo 004B turbojets. Although 1433 Me 262s had been delivered
by VE day, shortage of fuel (and pilots) meant that only about 100 of them
ever saw active service. Plans included the Me 262B-2a night fighter with
enlarged fuselage carrying more fuel and Schräge Musik upward-firing
cannon, and Me 262C with rocket boosters (a few prototypes flew before the
Vital statistics (Me 262A-1a): length 10.60 m, span 12.50 m, empty weight
4000 kg, max weight 7045 kg, max speed 870 km/h, range 1050 km; armament:
four 30mm cannon.
* Messerschmitt Me 328: This was a short-lived design, powered by two 2.94
kN Argus As 014 pulse-jets and intended to be a cheap and quickly-built
ground attack aircraft, with a secondary role as a day fighter. Only one
prototype flew, sometime in 1944; this was enough to convince even the
desperate Germans that a pulse-jet powered fighter was a Dumb Idea.
Vital statistics (Me 328A-1): max speed 755 km/h; armament: two 15mm
* Messerschmitt P-1101: Jet fighter powered by one Junkers Jumo 004B
turbojet, mounted in the lower forward fuselage and fed by a nose inlet, in
a design similar to the post-war Yak-17 or Saab 29. The unique feature was
the variable geometry wings, the first time "swing wings" had been tried on
an aircraft. Only one prototype was completed before the P-1101 was
cancelled in favour of the Focke-Wulf Ta 183; it was never flown during the
war, but was taken back to the US and fitted with an Allison J35 turbojet.
Unfortunately it was damaged in the only attempt to take off. The Bell X-5
was based on the P-1101's design, and was successfully used to investigate
variable sweep. The P-1101 prototype (like the X-5) lacked true variable
geometry; the sweep angle could only be adjusted on the ground, and could
not be varied in flight. The cancelled production version would have had
true variable sweep.
* Mistel 5: This was an unmanned flying bomb, intended to carry an He 162
fighter piggyback, in the same way as the Me 109 or Fw 190 was coupled with
a warhead-carrying Ju 88 in the original Mistel versions. The He 162 pilot
would aim the missile at its target, then separate the two aircraft and fly
his fighter back home. The unmanned component is referred to by different
sources as either the Arado E-377a or the Junkers Ju 268. Power plant was
two BMW 003 turbojets. This one never left the drawing board.
Some surviving examples of German jets can be seen at the NASM facility in
Silver Hill, Maryland, USA, where they have a fully restored Ar 234, Ba
349, and He 162. For those interested in plastic modelling, the Dragon
line of kits includes many of the above types (Ar 234B/C/C+V1, Ba 349, Fi
103, Go 229A/B, He 162, Me 163, Me 262A/B, Mistel 5, P-1101) in 1/48 or
1/72 scale; the Japanese company Mauve produce a 1/48 kit of the Lippisch
P13a; PM Models make a Ta 183 kit.
A few other projects are worthy of note. The A4b was a winged A4 ("V-2")
rocket, with a gliding trajectory giving it a range of 750 km, compared to
the A4's 33 km. It was test flown in 1945 but never used in the war. A
winged rocket was reported to reach 4340 km/h (Mach 4.1), although it isn't
clear whether this was the A4b or A10.
The A9/A10 was a planned two-stage missile; the first stage (A9) was
basically a scaled-up V-2, while the second stage (A10) was a winged
skip-glide re-entry vehicle, based on the A4b, that could have carried a
massive warhead (I don't know exactly how massive) to the United States.
Prototype versions of the two components were tested separately, but not
together. There were also plans for a manned version.
The Sänger-Bredt "spaceplane" was a design for a manned craft launched by a
captive rocket booster on rails; the booster remained on the ground after
the spaceplane separated (at about Mach 1.5!). The 100-tonne plane (of
which 90 tonnes was fuel) would not reach orbit, but would attain a maximum
altitude of 185 kilometres in a series of boosts and glides which would
carry it all the way around the world. It was designed as a bomber, but
could easily have been adapted for other purposes. An orbital version,
although not officially investigated, must surely have been on the minds of
the designers, Eugen Sänger and Irene Bredt.
[Most of the above is from Bill Gunston's _Encyclopaedia of the World's
Combat Aircraft_ and Kenneth Munson's _German War Birds_; also thanks to
Steve Malikoff for further information on the Lippisch deltas, and Emmanuel
Gustin and Bernd Felsche for much additional information]
Subject: E.2. How "stealthy" was the wooden Mosquito?
The suggestion that the Mosquito, being made largely of wood, would have
made a good "stealth bomber" is brought up every now and then. It's a
myth. It's true that wood absorbs some radio waves, but it also reflects
some and transmits some. The Mosquito showed up perfectly well on radar,
mainly because the waves that passed through the wood reflected very well
off the metal internal structures -- framework, wing spars, bomb racks,
cockpit, and (especially) engines.
On modern stealth aircraft, the cockpit in particular is still a problem;
most canopy materials are almost as transparent to radio waves as they are
to visible light, and the complex shape of the interior of the cockpit (not
to mention the pilot, especially their helmet) is an excellent radar
reflector. The materials used for canopy coatings are among the most
secret parts of stealth designs (see C.10).
It would, however, have been possible to built a stealth aircraft out of
wood, if (unlike the Mosquito) it was designed with stealth in mind from
the start. The Germans tried it with the Horten Ho IX flying-wing fighter,
which (besides its tailless design, which helped a lot) was constructed
with special glues and coatings designed to absorb radar. Presumably the
same would have been true of the Ho XVIII bomber. (See E.1 for further
Subject: F.1. What good books are there on air combat?
The definitive work on air combat manoeuvring (ACM) is generally believed
to be _Fighter Combat_ by Robert L Shaw (the full title is either _Fighter
Combat: Tactics and Manoeuvring_ or _Fighter Combat: The Art and Science
of Air-to-Air Warfare_, depending on which edition you have). The book is
published by the US Naval Institute, Annapolis, Maryland (ISBN
1-85260-201-5). It covers a wide range of mission profiles, engagements
(one-on-one to many-on-many), and weapon types.
Subject: F.2. Where can I get a pilot's manual for aircraft X?
You might try:
Snail: 1401 Kings Wood Rd, Eagan, Minn 55122, USA
Voice: US/Canada 1-800-225-5575, overseas 1-612-454-2493
They have a wide selection of aircraft related books, including
reproduction pilot's manuals (and Shaw's book, mentioned above). Most
manuals cost about US$10.00, some running up to US$15.00; the SR-71 manual
is a special case, costing US$99.95. Dwight Brown reports good service
Manuals available include AT-6, B-17, B-24, B-25, B-26, B-29, F-80, F-82,
F4U, F6F, FM-2, Hurricane, Me 262, Mosquito, P-38, P-39, P-40, P-47, P-51,
P-61, P-63, Spitfire, and SR-71.
Subject: F.3. What FTP sites have aircraft pictures and related material?
-- Military history site, with J Baugher's posts on American fighters,
Emmanuel Gustin's lists of military aircraft, the "Boomerang Barbara"
posts, several other fact sheets, this FAQ, and some pictures. Other
directories are worth scanning too.
-- Aircraft pictures.
-- Part of the USAF history.
<ftp://ftp.shell.portal.com/pub/trader/> (IP 126.96.36.199)
-- Information related to "excessive military secrecy", Groom Lake, and
-- A lot of modern aircraft pictures.
-- A number of ".bmp" images, including F-111 dump-and-burn,
helicopters, Mustangs, Neptunes, others.
-- Articles, lists and pictures of Lockheed "Skunk Works" aircraft.
-- Numerous aviation-related files. Includes "combat-aircraft",
"humor-folder", "aircraft-info-folder", etc.
-- FAQs nd other regular postings.
Subject: F.4. What military aviation related mailing lists are available?
Groom Lake Desert Rat: Covers America's secret aircraft mecca. To
subscribe, send requests to Glenn Campbell at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Neon Azimuth: Devoted to the sources and methods that can be used to
locate secret US military programs. To subscribe, send requests to Paul
McGinnis at <email@example.com>.
Skunk Works Digest: To subscribe, send a message to
<firstname.lastname@example.org>; in the body of the message, include the line
[Thanks to Paul McGinnis]
Subject: G.1. Where can I see surviving examples of famous aircraft?
There are many museums all over the world with historic aircraft in their
collections; the following are just the random sample I've assembled from
posts on the newsgroup and contributions by email. Further contributions
* EAA Aviation Museum, Oshkosh, Wisconsin (B-17, Voyager)
* Hill AFB Museum, Utah (SR-71C, others)
* Museum of Flight, Boeing Field, Seattle, Washington (707 and 747
prototypes, B-29, B-47, F4U, SR-71 + D-21, others)
* Pima County Air Museum, Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Arizona (B-29,
B-58, SR-71, YF-107, others)
* San Diego Aerospace Museum, San Diego, California (Bf 109, F-4,
* Sea, Air, and Space Museum, New York City (A-12, others; the museum
itself is the retired aircraft carrier USS _Intrepid_)
* Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC (many historically
* Wright Field USAF Museum, Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, Ohio (B-36,
B-58, Fw 190, Kawanishi N1K2 Shinden, Me 262, P-75, Storch, Wright 1909
Military Flyer, XB-70, many more; probably the largest aircraft museum in
* US Navy Aviation Museum, Pensacola, Florida
* Virginia Air and Space Museum, Hampton, Virginia (F-4, F4U, F-84,
F-104, F-106, Langley Aerodrome, P-39, YF-16)
* Brooklands Museum, Weybridge (SW of London)
* Cosford Air Museum, Wolverhampton (Avro 707, F.D.2, Hunter, Lincoln,
Me 163, P.5, S.R.177, TSR.2, many others)
* Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton, Somerset
* Imperial War Museum, Duxford, Cambridgeshire (probably the biggest
collection in Europe)
* Imperial War Museum, Lambeth, London
* Mosquito Museum, Salisbury Hall, near Hatfield, St Albans (several
Mosquitos, including the first prototype; closed in winter for restoration
* RAF Museum, Hendon, London
* Science Museum, South Kensington, London
* Shuttleworth Collection, Old Warden, Sandy, Bedfordshire ("string and
* Yorkshire Air Museum and Allied Air Force Memorial, Elvington, near
York, North Yorkshire (Halifax, Lightning, Mosquito, Vampire, Victor,
* Aviodome, Schiphol, Netherlands (many Dutch aircraft)
* Caproni Museum, Trento, Italy (Breda 19, Ca 6, Ca 9, Ca 100, Ca 163,
Ca 193, Fokker D.VIII, others)
* Deutsches Museum, München, Germany (Ba 349, Do 335, Ju 52, Me 262
many other aircraft from pre-WW1 to present)
* Le Bourget, Paris, France (large collection)
* Luftwaffenmuseum Untersen, 2081 Appen, near Hamburg, Germany (all
aircraft flown by both Germanies since 1945)
* Military Museum, Brussels, Belgium (CF-100, Draken, F-86, Hanriot
HD-1, Hurricane, MiG-15, Spad XIII, others)
* Motor und Technik Museum, Sinsheim, Germany (F-104, Fw 190, He 111,
Ju 52, Ju 87, Ju 88, Me 109, MiG-21, MiG-23, Venom, others)
* Musee de l'Hydravion, Biscarosse, France
* Museo Nazionale Leonardo da Vinci, Milano, Italy
* Museum of the Aviation Legere de l'Armee, Dax, France (mainly
* Aviation Museum, Krakow, Poland (large collection, including An-2,
Il-2, Il-10, Il-28, MiG-15, MiG-17, MiG-19, MiG-21, PZL P-11, Yak-9,
Yak-11, many others)
* Monino, Moscow, Russia (vast collection of rare and unusual Russian
types, e.g. La-250, M-52, T-4, T-6, V-12, Yak-36, Ye-166, Ye-231, many
* Plovdiv Museum, Plovdiv, Bulgaria (Ar 196, Il-2, Il-28, Li-2, Mi-1,
Mi-4, MiG-15, MiG-17, Yak-9, Yak-11, Yak-23, many others)
* Chinese People's Revolutionary Military Museum, West-City Region,
Beijing (J-5/MiG-17, MiG-15, captured U-2, many missiles, tanks, model
* Datang Mountain Aerospace Museum (Da4-Tang1-Shan1-Hang2-Kong1-Bo2-
Wu4-Guan3), Chang-Ping, Beijing (all Chinese military aircraft, including
prototypes such as J-12 and Tu-4/B-29 AWACS plane, plus many missiles and
Russian aircraft; this is the Chinese equivalent of Monino in Russia, and
is probably the largest aircraft collection in Asia)
* Airworld, Wangaratta, Victoria (Dragon, Hudson, Rapide, Staggerwing,
others; mainly civil aircraft)
* Australian War Memorial Museum, Canberra, ACT (Bf 109, Lancaster, Me
163, Me 262, P-40, Spitfire, Zero, others)
* RAAF Museum, Point Cook, Victoria (Boomerang, Canberra, F-4, F-86,
Meteor, Mirage, P-2, P-51, Vampire, Ventura, Walrus, Wirraway, others;
claimed to be the largest collection of military aircraft in the Southern
* RAN Fleet Air Arm Museum, Nowra, NSW (A-4, Firefly, Gannet, MiG-15,
S-2, Sea Fury, Sea Venom, Vampire, others)
... Ross Smith (Wellington, New Zealand) <email@example.com> ...
"Being in the air farce and navy means you only get to kill people by
remote control, which takes some of the fun out of it."
(Steve Kieffer-Higgins, in alt.tasteless)