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An Idiot’s Guide to Chinese Flankers

 

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Dear Hush-Kit, 

I am generally a happy man, but there is one thing in life that leaves me confused and angry: I can’t get my head around all the different Chinese Flankers (I refuse to put that word in inverted commas). Please please could you explain the differences, without drowning me in details? 

Yours hopefully, 

Jeffrey Bainbridge, Luton 

OK Jeffrey, no problem. I will do my best. Where I fail, better informed readers will gently correct me in the comments section.

So, first of all we have the Shenyang J-11.

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The J-11 was just a Russian Su-27SK provided as a kit and assembled in China (China also got a batch of Russian-built Su-27SKs). The J-11B is a Chinese-made version with indigenous engines, avionics and a lighter composite airframe. Importantly, the J-11B can deliver smart bombs.

So pretty good then? 

Yes, probably is. It also added a glass cockpit. It has some good weapons too, the PL-12 is analogous to the AMRAAM- and the US Navy, for one, is terrified of it. The Chinese WS-10 engines were initially shit though- and the aircraft had to be refitted with Russian AL-31Fs, but they’ve since sorted the ’10 and they’ve gone back to it.

Think crap Su-35.

Wait, so early Flankers didn’t have glass cockpits?

I know, pretty lame right? The Russians lagged behind the West with glass cockpits. The original Su-27 cockpit was jokes.

Is the J-11 a ‘pirate’ copy?

It’s complicated. The Russian did give them a licence to build some on the condition that they had Russian-built engines and avionics, but the J-11B broke that agreement and is a pirate (it’s 90% Chinese so doesn’t benefit Russia much). Initially Russian aircraft manufacturers were vocally pissed off, but now (realising they can’t do anything about it) they say it’s all fine, though they do have a vested interest in selling them more stuff. Intellectual property rights have only been around in China since 1979, and the attitude of both Communism and China to the protection of ideas/things is a different one to the West (to be fair Russia is also pretty laissez-faire on this matter). The Chinese aren’t allowed to export J-11s, an agreement they have honoured.

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Good radar? 

The Chinese thought the early Su-27SK and J-11 radar (the N001) was pretty rubbish. There was a big argument about upgrading (the Russians dragged there heels) and eventually it was upgraded to N001VE (for the J-11A) standard (kinda like an early F-15 radar). The J-11B got the Chinese Type 1474 set which is far better, and is now being tested with an AESA.

J-11B prototype 524 - 06 Chinese J-11B Flanker Fighter Jet Spotted With Grey Radome modifed radardome active radar scanned, AESA In Play (5)

My head is starting to hurt. What else is in the J-11B family? 

Before we get to that you must know that they also bought a combat capable two-seater called the Su-27UBK.

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Two-seats and square-tipped fins identify this as a Su-30MK. Inserted in the wrong part of this article to confuse you.

OK, that I can deal with. So now can we go back to the other J-11 variants?

No, because we need to know about the Russian-built, Russian-equipped Su-35.

So what’s that? 

A Russian-made top of the range ‘Super Flanker’. Chinese has bought 24, probably just so they can filch the technology.

Super eh? So that’s the best Flanker of all?

In some ways. But it has a PESA radar. AESA is what everyone wants, and the Chinese already have it on their J-11Ds (more on this later). So in terms of radar technology it’s not the best. In most other respects – notably its fly-by-wire system, integrated avionics and use of composite materials- it probably is.

Can you stop teasing me about the J-11 family now? 

OK. We have:

  • J-11BS – A twin-seat version of the J-11B.
  • J-11BH – Naval (but not carrier compatible) version of the J-11B.
  • J-11BSH – Naval version of the J-11BS.

Hey, are you just stealing this bit from Wikipedia? 

I’ve got a friend coming ’round soon and I’m getting bored of your questions.

Alright, tell me quickly what the other ones are…

J-15

China’s first carrier-borne J15 fighter jets were displayed for public to see Wednesday in Xi’an of northwest China’s Shaanxi Province (2).jpg

The J-15 has canard foreplanes and naval markings.

Carrier-based version based on the J-11B, that also has some bits nicked from the Su-33 design. Mercifully easy to identify as it has canard foreplanes and lives on carriers. 

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Wait, why haven’t you mentioned the Su-30s yet? 

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The most formidable fighter-bombers in PLA service are the Su-30MKKs.

Jeez, be patient, I was going to explain. The Su-30 is a two-seat fighter-bomber. It’s heavier than an old Flanker and more versatile. It can carry a whole bunch of horribly effective air-to-ground weapons. China has the Su-30MKK and Su-30MK2. They have the longest range radar of any Chinese Flankers- the Zhuk-MS. As you can expect the Chinese ripped off this design to produce a variant they called the J-16 (though some claim it is based on the J-11BS)

Did you mention a J-11D? Yes I did. This is the probably the most badass of all. It has AESA, reduced conspicuity to radar, and new electronic warfare systems, but it isn’t yet in frontline service.

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The J-11D has a funny looking nose.

You failed, my head still hurts. 

 

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Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. Those interested in the Cold Way should read A pilot’s guide to flying and fighting in the Lightning. Those feeling less belligerent may enjoy A pilot’s farewell to the Airbus A340. Looking for something more humorous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes or the Ten most boring aircraft. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

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Navy Growlers draw massive sky penis

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Those that argue that the US Navy is a phallocentric Freudian organisation were given succour today by photos circulating showing a massive sky penis reportedly drawn in the sky by pilots from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island—the home of the Navy’s fleet of EA-18G Growlers. 

Image from @anahi_torres_ story shared by The Drive

Top 10 aircraft camo schemes 2017

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Chinese Z-8s have an amazing camo scheme but we couldn’t fit them on our list.

Modern military aircraft are all painted in a desperately boring shade of grey… well, almost all. Air Forces Monthly Editor Thomas Newdick teams up with Hush-Kit’s Joe Coles to dig deep, and uncover ten masterpieces of conspicuous inconspicuity.

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10. Antonov An-26 ‘Curl’, Kazakh Border Guard, ‘Chocolate pudding’  WHITE-04-Antonov-An-26_PlanespottersNet_434862

 

9. Northrop F-5N Tiger II, US Navy, ‘Rhythm of the Saints’a68564da8bcdaf5002bf1afb13e1531e 2.jpg

This Navy aggressor impresses with a wild dazzling stripe scheme.

8. Lockheed Martin F-16C Fighting Falcon, US Air Force ‘Arctic monkey’

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7. Sukhoi Su-27UB ‘Flanker’, Eritrean Air Force, ‘Splinter faction’SU-27UB 609 ERITREO ERITREA 05-06-2002.jpg

African ‘phwoar-lord’.

 

6. ShinMaywa US-2, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, ‘Blue steel’2211693.jpg

Smart as hell. US Pacific World War II style? 1950s US Navy chic? Steel blue with crisp red Hinomaru: perfection.

5. Grumman F-14AM Tomcat, Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force, ‘Shi-raz-clart Mehrabadboy’F-14-IRIAF.jpg

A smart desert splinter scheme reminiscent of an airshow ‘Flanker’ of the 1990s gives this Iranian Tomcat a certain something. Smart white undersides.

4. Antonov An-22 ‘Cock’, Russian Air Force, ‘Insert heteronormative Cock joke here’

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Attempting to hide such a massive airlifter is an exercise in futility. Still, nice Bond-esque scheme.

3. MD Helicopters MD500, Korean People’s Air Force, ‘Lime twizzler’img_1344-2a.jpg

Crazy colours, turquoise belly. Job’s a good’un.

2. Grumman S-2T Tracker, Republic of China Air Force, ‘Return to the blue lagoon’s-2t-1.jpg

Carnival time, down in Taiwan.

 

  1. McDonnell Douglas F-4EJ Phantom II, Japan Air-Self Defense Force, ‘Digital Forest Ranger’ ghhg.pngfucknutt.pngSpetsnaz Viggen. Disrupticon prime.

 

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This site needs your help to continue. Our site is absolutely free and we have no advertisements (any you do see, are from WordPress). If you’ve enjoyed an article you can donate here. 

Have a look at How to kill a RaptorAn Idiot’s Guide to Chinese Flankers, the 10 worst British military aircraftThe 10 worst French aircraft,  Su-35 versus Typhoon10 Best fighters of World War II top WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. Those interested in the Cold Way should read A pilot’s guide to flying and fighting in the Lightning. Those feeling less belligerent may enjoy A pilot’s farewell to the Airbus A340. Looking for something more humorous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes or the Ten most boring aircraft. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 

An air force of my own #2: France 1937

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 “A faster version of the superbly agile MS 406 would be just the ticket.”

Could France have been saved from the Nazi invasion by a better air force? We put Greg Baughen in charge of aircraft procurement for the year 1937; with 80 years of hindsight can he save France?

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Air Force Procurement

Head of procurement: Greg Baughen

Occupation: Teacher turned author

Nation to defend: France

Year: 1937

In the mid- thirties France looked set to build the air force it would need in 1940. The disastrous BCR bomber-reconnaissance-fighter plane had been abandoned, there was talk of fleets of ground attack planes halting armoured divisions in their tracks, and General Denain, the Air Minister, was planning to build an entirely new sort of air force, with  specialised fighter, medium bombers, ground attack planes, dive-bombers  – and the target date for the new plan just happened to be 1940.

Unfortunately, these plans went up in smoke when the 1936 Rhineland crisis reignited fears about German bombers devastating French cities. Large long-range bombers to deter became the priority again.

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But what if Hitler had got cold feet and the Rhineland crisis never happened?

It’s no good messing with the impossible. Squadrons of weird Arsenal-Delanne 10 tandem biplanes, clever tandem engined Arsenal VB 10s and brutish Sud-Est S.E.100s may look good, but the air battles in 1940 were fought with planes that had their origins in the years 1933-1935, or upgrades of these, and that’s what we have to go with.

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With a 352 mph top speed and superb agility, a ‘Super 406’ would have achieved parity with the best fighters in the world.

That means the fighter has to be the MS 406 –  but not the 300 mph original version. By 1939 it should have been in production with a ducted Hurricane type radiator instead of the retractable system (worth an extra 12 mph), Szydlowski-Planiol supercharger —the 920 hp HS 12Y45 engine – (worth another 20 mph), ejector exhaust stubs (an extra 20 mph at 7,000 metres ) and two belt-fed guns in each wing, instead of a drum-fed gun. All these improvements had been trialled, tested and were available. They were all wasted on the Dewoitine D.520, which never reached its intended 354 mph top speed and didn’t reach the squadrons in time anyway. A faster version of the superbly agile MS 406 would be just the ticket.

What were the top 10 fighters at the outbreak of War? Answer here

Tactical force 

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The Bloch 151/152 was useless as a fighter but here is our perfect fighter-bomber. Very manoeuvrable at low level, extremely rugged and with two HS 404 20 mm cannon, a useful ground attack plane even without any bombs. Bloch were actually advertising it as a ground attack plane in 1937.

 For tactical bombing, it has to be the cheap and very easy to build Potez 63. A lightweight design perhaps, but the Potez 639 version carried extensive armour protection for the crew, a 20 mm cannon for ground strafing and five internal and five external 110-lb bombs. Admittedly, there were problems fitting the bombs in the armoured fuselage, but reduce the bomb load and we’ve got a good low-level attack bomber. 

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How the Fairey Battle won the war here

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The beautiful Amiot 570.

The same plane minus armour and with a bomb sight would do as a light bomber (the Potez 633). It was faster and more manoeuvrable than the Do 17 and had the same bomb load as the Blenheim. Range was limited, but the targets are the German panzers, not Berlin. This version was in production – but for export only.

No dive-bombers, shallow dive-bombing with the above is fine.

A long-range bomber is needed to keep the politicians happy. The Farman (SNCAC) 220 series looks horrible (there go my points for aesthetics) but carried an impressive 10,000 lb bomb load and ideal for indiscriminate retaliation by night.

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Farman (SNCAC) 220

For long-range day bombing, definitely not the disastrous LeO 451. This was difficult to fly, expensive to  build and, in 1937, could only get into the air with 1,000 hp HS AA engines that never worked properly.  The much lighter, easier to build and cheaper Amiot 340 with the tried and tested Gnome Rhone Mistral Majors or even the Amiot 370 with the HS 12Y31 were much better bets (and wins me back some of my  points for aesthetics). They flew in 1937, but Amiot had been working on them since 1933 and if Felix Amiot had not been in permanent dispute with the French Air Ministry,  and the Ministry had not insisted on using the HS AA engine that didn’t work, a useful bomber could have been available even sooner.

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Amiot 340

If we need an interim medium bomber, the French flirtation with the BCR planes means the cupboard is pretty bare. The Breguet 462 adaptation of the Breguet 460 BRC was probably the best bet (and certainly better than the disastrous Bloch 131). It flew a year before the Amiot 340, was capable of 250 mph and provided something like the  capability of the Heinkel 111. 

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The Potez 63.11

For short-range observation duties the Potez 63.11 is fine, as long as it only has to peep over the frontline and not fly deep in the enemy rear. For deeper penetration we need fighter -reconnaissance planes, the Bloch 151/2 or MS 406 would be ideal. (In 1940 the French were planning to use the MS 406 for this, but simply didn’t have enough).  For longer range reconnaissance we have the Amiot 340/350.

We also put modern RAF procurement in different hands, the result is here

The D.520, D.550 and Bloch 174 were fine planes, but couldn’t arrive in time. The previous generation, with less production capacity wasted on long-range bombers and artillery spotter planes and more on short-range tactical bombers and lots of fighters to escort them, (i.e. don’t turn over factories producing the MS 406 to the LeO 451!) and the French could have had an air force to match the Luftwaffe.

Our Verdict

Political considerations

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Given that the ‘Armée de l’air du Greg Baughen‘ consists entirely of domestic aircraft this Air Force is going to play very well with French industrialists and nationalist types at home. However this France looks extremely isolationist which might not impress its Allies so much but hey, war’s around the corner, big deal. This air force would not involve any awkward legislative export or import considerations of any kind (unlike the supply of Soviet equipment to Republic Spain for example) and as such is a sure fire hit not to annoy anyone.

95/100

Aesthetic appeal 

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Amiot 370

Nearly all French military aircraft of the 1930s were hideous, including the ones that never entered service, so judging the aesthetic appeal of any French Air Force, real or imagined is a tough call. Nonetheless the inclusion of the Amiot 370 (an Art Deco masterpiece) and Baughen’s aesthetically pleasing alterations to the cuddly MS.406 show a genuine desire to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear or a Farman 220. Given the material available this is a sterling effort

90/100

Realism

The homework that has gone into this is nothing short of impressive, it would undoubtedly have been a more effective force to meet the German invasion of 1940, and on domestic aircraft production it is difficult to fault. However, the absolute omission of foreign aircraft (or engines) is perplexing. In reality, the most successful fighter over France in 1940 was the Curtiss Hawk 75, despite making up a mere 12% of the fighter force, Hawks were responsible for a third of all kills scored between September 1939 and the French capitulation in 1940. True, the French obtained these aircraft only after overcoming considerable objection at home (one Curtiss cost double an MS 406) and in America (the export licence was only granted after the personal intervention of President Roosevelt) so it could be argued that getting any more from the US would have been extremely difficult but there were other sources of decent aircraft available. Britain managed to find capacity to export Hurricanes for Belgium, Finland, Turkey, Yugoslavia, Romania, Latvia and Poland before the fall of France and it would not be hard to imagine a French order receiving priority over, say, Turkey, due to its strategic importance. Italian aircraft were also available – France actually did obtain five Caproni 313s and the UK had 300 Reggiane Re 2000s on order before Italy declared war in 1940. Even Germany had an inexplicable habit of exporting modern military aircraft to nations it would shortly invade. Anyway, brilliant, brilliant work on the French stuff but where’s everyone else? Je ne sais pas.

75/100

Imagination

As Baughen says ‘Squadrons of weird Arsenal-Delanne 10 tandem biplanes, clever tandem engined Arsenal VB 10s and brutish Sud-Est S.E.100s may look good‘ and indeed they do so where are they? Likewise where’s the plans for a presidential Latécoère 631? Or the fighter variant of the Bugatti racer? This Air Force is profoundly imaginative within the bounds of good sense but for entertaining, just-about-plausible craziness it’s a teensy bit lacking.

65/100

The Rise and Fall of the French Air Force: French Air Operations and Strategy 1900-1940 by Greg Baughen is out soon. 

Greg Baughen has spent a lifetime researching British and French aviation history. Retirement has provided the opportunity to turn this research into a series of books. The first three on the history of British air power have been published , Blueprint for Victory, The Rise of the Bomber and The RAF in the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain.  He has also  published a reappraisal of  the operational career of The Fairey Battle. “The Rise and Fall of the French Air Force 1900-1940” will be published later this year. 

To support this site you may buy an aviation calendar here. It’s your support that keeps us going. Many thanks. 

Thank you for reading Hush-Kit. This site is in peril as it is well below its funding targets. If you’ve enjoyed an article you can donate here. 

Have a look at How to kill a RaptorAn Idiot’s Guide to Chinese Flankers, the 10 worst British military aircraftThe 10 worst French aircraft,  Su-35 versus Typhoon10 Best fighters of World War II top WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. Those interested in the Cold Way should read A pilot’s guide to flying and fighting in the Lightning. Those feeling less belligerent may enjoy A pilot’s farewell to the Airbus A340. Looking for something more humorous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes or the Ten most boring aircraft. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 

Amiot 370

 

Mirage pilot interview, Part 5: Looping in Diamond Nine

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Now a crack aerobatic pilot, Gonzalo O’Kelly was once one of the best fighter pilots in the Spanish air force. During his time in the Ejército del Aire he flew the Mirage III, a formidable and beautiful fighter of French origin. In the fifth and part of our Mirage special he talks reveals more on the Dassault ‘Magic triangle‘.

“Another sortie I love to remember was no doubt, a non-accounted world record. It was May 1980. An Armed Forces Week was to be celebrated in Valencia, ending with a big military parade with an air force flypast. The 11th Wing would be hosting, so we should display the most dramatically. A diamond nine was planned and as usual, a training flight would be flown to check ground references and have some fun.

The leader of the training flight was my Squadron Chief, Mayor Carretero, one of the greatest pilots I’ve ever met and a member of a Spanish Aerobatic Team for many years, and still flying.

I was placed in the centre of the diamond, behind the leader. We took off in threes, joined up and climbed to 20,000 feet over the sea, southeast of the Base, flying parallel to the shoreline.

Some sweet turns and manoeuvres were made to make everyone feel comfortable, and then we heard the leader on the tactical frequency, “Let’s make a loop”. At once every aircraft around me flickered up and down as if they, not their pilots of course, were suddenly nervous. Well, I must say I was quite nervous.And then, confirmation, “We’ll fly a loop, I’ll dive to get 550 kts with such power, and flying as gently as possible”.

Imagine, a diamond nine as the Red Arrows do, but with Mirages IIIs! And down we went, speed 550 kts and gently the noses go up, more and more and then we are facing down again as if it was business as usual. Mayor Carretero asked by the radio how it was received, and there was enthusiastic requests asking for more from all the pilots.

And more we did, performing a further two loops. Nobody saw us, not even one picture was taken, but still we did it. The glory of flying at its best.”

What should I have asked you? 

“I think your questionnaire is very good and covers everything about the Mirage III people would like to know. I could only add how I felt after four years flying a glamorous legend, an aircraft placed in a very short list of flying wonders every aviation fan knows. It was a real honour, the F1 was better, but the Mirage III was as historically significant as the 11th Wing itself. From Fiat CR-32s, to Messerschmitts, to Sabres on to the Mirage III, and today, Typhoons.

I was also lucky enough to be able to master such a difficult warhorse, and I’m proud of being a small part of 11th Wing long history.”23432247_10156844500343642_938685336_o

What do you think of the appearance of the Mirage III

“As I said in the beginning, it was a beautiful aircraft and highly photogenic as any other delta winged plane. It also had a nice camouflage paint scheme which I miss instead of that universal light grey every air force uses today, which is utterly dull and boring

What was the Mirage like in the following ways:

A. Instantaneous and sustained turn rates

“Well, not very good at instantaneous- but better in sustained turns as with everything else, with the nose down.”

B. Agility

“Hmmmm, next question please.”

C. Climb rate

“Good enough in those years.”

D. Landing and taking-off 

“The take-off run was quite long in clean configuration, and scary at or near maximum weight. Every Mirage III pilot remembers those 185 kts of approach speed.”

E. Reliability

“Very good. I’ve already talked about the engine. I never heard of a flame-out, only some compressor stalls and all of them were pilots error induced. We in the 11th Wing, enjoyed highly experienced mechanics and engineers, and their work was outstanding. It was very common to have 80% of the fleet operative, and it was never below 50%.”

Tell me something I don’t know about the Mirage III

“The Mirage III operations manual stated that ceiling was an astonishing 70,000 feet, but the only way of reaching that altitude was with a rocket engine installed below the engine nozzle. Of course, the pilot had to wear a pressurised flying suit to climb to an altitude where you can see practical demonstration of Copernicus’ theories: the Earth is round! This rocket was called the SEPR 84, and burnt a mixture of normal Jet A1 and nitric acid.

While the contract for buying the Mirages was negotiated, it looked like our air force was interested in adding the rockets. A special hangar was built at the base to handle the rockets and their very dangerous fuel. Pressurised flying suits were acquired together with their refrigeration cases (very similar to the ones used by astronauts). In the end they served to ‘welcome’ new lieutenants, who were ordered to try the suit (without the comfort of the refrigeration case).

In the end, and happily for the pilots, they decided not to buy them. If you’ve seen The Right Stuff, you’ll understand why by remembering the scene in which Yeager is flying an F-104 rocket assisted, and suddenly and a very high altitude, the rocket flames out.

Another feature of the Mirage III was its Mach 2 capacity, a common capability from the 1960s onwards, but absolutely useless. In the Initial Training Course they gave us one sortie dedicated to reaching Mach 2.

The procedure was to climb to the troposphere in a south east track from base, over the Mediterranean, and fly away 250 NM. Then you inverted the heading towards home, set maximum afterburner and began acceleration in level flight until you reached Mach 1.4. Then you climbed maintaining 1.4 until reaching 40.000 feet, level again to accelerate to Mach 1,8, and again maintaining this Mach climb to 50, 000 to level and accelerate to Mach 2, which didn’t always happened. After reaching Mach 2 you made a pure ballistic trajectory climbing until you had to lower the nose to maintain speed.And then, the deceleration. Afterburner OFF and descending. It was forbidden to throttle back above Mach 1,4, so speed brakes and Gs were mandatory once back in the atmosphere.

We finished about 40 or 50 miles from base and with just enough fuel for transit and landing. During the whole acceleration and even more during deceleration, controls had to be handled with extreme finesse, as the movie demonstrated.

In my Mach 2 sortie, I got it and reached 65,000 feet.”

Want to see more stories like this: Follow my vapour trail on Twitter: @Hush_kit

Thank you for reading Hush-Kit. Our site is absolutely free and we have no advertisements. If you’ve enjoyed an article you can donate here. 

Have a look at How to kill a RaptorAn Idiot’s Guide to Chinese Flankers, the 10 worst British military aircraftThe 10 worst French aircraft,  Su-35 versus Typhoon10 Best fighters of World War II top WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes.Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. Those interested in the Cold Way should read A pilot’s guide to flying and fighting in the Lightning. Those feeling less belligerent may enjoy A pilot’s farewell to the Airbus A340. Looking for something more humorous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes or the Ten most boring aircraft. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 

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10 amazing things you didn’t know about Air Force One

 

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Air Force One is the most important aircraft in the world, as this heavily modified airliner is used to carry the US President and his friends. The ultra high-tech jet can transport the Commander-In-Chief to any airport in the world in luxury and safety, and has some startling and unique features. Here are 10 astonishing facts you didn’t know about Air Force One. 

 

10. The aircraft is able to communicate with nuclear submarines. The communication pipe is over 120 miles long and is trailed from the aircraft’s main door. One end goes to the President’s chair, the other through the snorkel and onto the command deck of every Ohio Class Submarine.

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9. Like all airliners, sickbags are provided. In AF1 they are made from the flags of vanquished enemies.

Google reveals F-35 is overexposed here.

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It is customary for the President and First Lady to honour the ‘Lift-a-loft’ step on exiting the aircraft. The first couple will stay an average of one hour on this step to celebrate the achievements of the American company that makes it possible to exit large aircraft. Before Lift-a-a-loft was established (in 1962) many passengers starved to death, unable to leave their aircraft.

8. The aircraft is equipped with over 500 miles of Scalextric track.

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Dick Cheney’s favourite car to play on the onboard Scalextric track was a custom-made gold AMC Gremlin. Trump has a red Pontiac Firebird.

10 worst US aircraft here

7. On a hostile radar the aircraft appears as a mighty eagle holding lightning in its claws.

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6. Legally the interior of the Air Force One is considered the interior of the President’s mind, therefore US law and dreams are in force there, wherever the aeroplane is. The President’s nightmares are filtered out by a series of state-of-the-art ‘dreamcatchers’ developed by engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney.

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5. Over two litres of the President’s sperm is stored in a refrigerated unit in the rear fuselage. In the case of nuclear war, this will aid repopulation efforts.

4. The skull of President Nixon is given its own seat on all flights. This tradition was started by George W Bush, and has been continued by subsequent Presidents. It is said by the famously superstitious pilots that Washington will fall if Nixon’s skull is not carried aboard.

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3. In 2006 AF1 (then occupied by George W Bush) met Putin’s equivalent aircraft (the Ilyushin IL-96-300-PU) in the sky above Tokyo. Both leaders being competitive men, insisted that their own aircraft should reach Narita International Airport first. The details of the ad hoc drag-race that ensued were until recently a state secret. During the 20 minute race, AF1 reached an astonishing speed of twice the speed of sound (aided by two escorting F-22 Raptors pushing it). Though AF1 reached the airport perimeter first, Bush was despondent to seeing the Russian leader landing ahead of him…by parachute!

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2. There is a strict ‘no political chat’ rule on AF1; the President has designated it an official chill-out zone.

1. The President’s overhead luggage bin, is a whopping 10% bigger than a regular one. He is also allowed to bring on a generous two items of hand luggage.

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Find out 10 amazing things you didn’t know about the Spitfire here.

Want to see more stories like this: Follow my vapour trail on Twitter: @Hush_kit

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Have a look at How to kill a RaptorAn Idiot’s Guide to Chinese Flankers, the 10 worst British military aircraftThe 10 worst French aircraft,  Su-35 versus Typhoon10 Best fighters of World War II top WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes.Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. Those interested in the Cold Way should read A pilot’s guide to flying and fighting in the Lightning. Those feeling less belligerent may enjoy A pilot’s farewell to the Airbus A340. Looking for something more humorous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes or the Ten most boring aircraft. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 

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Mirage pilot interview, Part 4: The tricky art of intercepting B-52s

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Now a crack aerobatic pilot, Gonzalo O’Kelly was once one of the best fighter pilots in the Spanish air force. During his time in the Ejército del Aire he flew the Mirage III, a formidable and beautiful fighter of French origin. In the fourth part of our Mirage special he shares his most surprising intercept.  

Mirage III versus B-52

“In four years and more than 800 flight hours, there were a lot of notable flights, but the one coming to the mind was, perhaps, a very demanding sortie that I flew in a huge air defence exercise that included USAF. Two Mirages with my friend Lieutenant Maestre and myself, were scrambled to intercept two enemy aircrafts flying high with a northeast track, south of Madrid. Manises AB is placed east of Spain so they were flying approximately towards us.

In our first communication with our interception controller, he told us two traces were flying at 45 angels! (45,000 feet, so they were not hiding at all), and flying extremely slowly at about 200 kts IAS. 

We were surprised because we had never engaged such a conspicuous target, and never one so high and slow, but up we went, climbing in afterburner, and  reached 45 angels in about 10 minutes.

The second surprise (a nasty one) was that we had to maintain military power to stay at that altitude and speed (250 kts IAS). Flight controls and throttle had to be handled very carefully, or we could lose altitude or speed or both…and any sudden movement of throttles could lead to a compressor stall.

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The third surprise was that we had radar contact with the targets when they were 25 miles away, very unusual for the old Cyrano II.

But the biggest surprise was having a tally-ho with two ponderous big B-52Es, (with radar-guided twin 20-mm cannon in the back), flying wide abreast. They were about 10 miles leaving a trail of black smoke behind them.

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We had them in our 1 o’clock, so I decided to get closer and turn right towards their 6. When I was about 1 mile, the closest B-52 made a high bank turn towards me — which I was unable to follow because of my slow speed so I had to go down and accelerate again. My wingman did the same while approaching the second B-52.

It was easy for them turn like that at such an altitude, with those tremendous wings, but not for us.

So down we went, accelerated and set afterburner to climb again. This time we approached from behind them but then our radar warning lit up showing we had been locked on by their rear cannons. So we immediately broke, and headed down again. More afterburner, another climbing and this time we closed on them from their 3 o’clock. Of course they made their defensive 60º bank turns towards us, but this time we made some nice gun camera snapshoots with the pipper right between their wings.

After flying over them, we joined in close formation with their leader and flew with them for a short while to pay them our respects (a very short time indeed because we were a bit beyond our Bingo fuel). I’ll never forget that enormous aircraft turning hard towards me, it was terrific.”

Want to see more stories like this: Follow my vapour trail on Twitter: @Hush_kit

Thank you for reading Hush-Kit. Our site is absolutely free and we have no advertisements. If you’ve enjoyed an article you can donate here. 

Have a look at How to kill a RaptorAn Idiot’s Guide to Chinese Flankers, the 10 worst British military aircraftThe 10 worst French aircraft,  Su-35 versus Typhoon10 Best fighters of World War II top WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes.Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. Those interested in the Cold Way should read A pilot’s guide to flying and fighting in the Lightning. Those feeling less belligerent may enjoy A pilot’s farewell to the Airbus A340. Looking for something more humorous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes or the Ten most boring aircraft. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 

Flying and fighting in the MiG-19: In conversation with Wg. Cdr. Irfan Masum (Rtd)

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Like most MiG fighters, the ’19 was a rough and ready hotrod. Fast, agile and powerful — it was also ill-equipped, unforgiving and brutal. Armed with three 30-mm cannon and Sidewinder missiles, and the fastest acceleration of its generation, the MiG-19/F-6 of the Pakistan Air Force was flawed but potent. We spoke to Wg. Cdr. Irfan Masum about flying and fighting in the ‘Pack of Roaring Power’. 

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“Immediately after fighter conversion on the F-86F, I was selected for MiG-19 (the Chinese version that we had was known as the F-6) rather than go to a F-86 fighter Squadron. I was excited that I was to fly the MiG-19 as it presented a formidable challenge to harness the ‘Pack of Roaring Power’ as it was known in the PAF. I did my conversion in the Conversion Squadron in the year 1975.

There was no dual seater for training, at the time, and we had to be prepared really well to fly solo the first time. A couple of fast taxi runs were given, though.

My very first impression was that the plane didn’t look very aerodynamic and was not the prettiest fighter on the scene. It had a thick wing with thickness to chord ratio of about 8%, which meant that it would not transition to supersonic speed easily. However, the two powerful engines gave it good initial acceleration and with 0.8 thrust to weight ratio, it climbed exceedingly well which made it ideal for point interceptions.”

You’ve also flown the F-86F, how did the MiG-19 differ from this? 

“The F-86F had automatic leading edge slats, speed operated – a virtue not available to most other fighters around, not even the F-86E. That made the plane extremely manoeuvrable at low speeds. The MiG-19, on the other hand an aerodynamic problem where it would ‘adverse yaw’ at low speeds, often snapping out of hard turns during low speed manoeuvring. One had to assist a hard turn with a bit of inside rudder to keep it from ‘adverse yawing’. 

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Another major difference was in the fire control systems of the two planes. F-86F had a computing gunsight – where as the MiG-19 had a non-computing gunsight. That meant that the MiG-19 pilots had to pre-calculate (at various speeds, angles and distance scenarios) how much to lead the gunsight in order to hit the target, which bordered on the verge of judgement and estimated guess work envelopes.

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The F-86F used six –three on each side of the nose – 20mm canons with a very good rate of fire. The MiG-19 had two side guns and one center gun and used 30mm rounds at an inferior rate of fire.

The major difference in combat area was that the MiG-19 was better in the vertical plane, where as the F-86F had distinct advantage in the horizontal plane.

There is no statistical data of the two adversaries in actual combat. But the Korean War did see MiG-17 pitted against the F-86 in actual combat.”

Interview with a MiG-21 pilot here.

What were its best qualities? 

“The engines were powerful enough to get you out of a bad situation and the acceleration they provided was excellent, especially with afterburners.”

What were it worst qualities?

“There were quite a few bad qualities but the worst, in my opinion, was the thick wing which made transonic speeds (just short of Mach 1) very rough to ride through and almost uncontrollable, although it employed ‘short arm’ and ‘long arm’ technology to cater for it.”

How effective were its weapon systems? 

“With 30mm canon, just one bullet hitting the target was enough to destroy it. That is if you had computed the gunsight calculations correctly. It had no forward looking radar and no missiles carriage capability. It was the PAF (Pakistan Air Force) which modified it to carry two US made heat-seeking Sidewinder missiles.”

Interview with a Mirage 2000 pilot here.

What was your Squadron’s role?

“The fighter squadron that I served in was an ‘Air Superiority Squadron’ used for air defence and ground support roles.”

What advice do you wish you’d be told before flying the MiG-19?

“Don’t be scared of vertical manoeuvring the plane.  The myth was that the Chinese did not fly it as a combat aircraft where one would utilise the vertical plane as well. The reason that vertical looping manoeuvres bled the speed too low to handle the aircraft turned out to be myth only. Once you learned to fly at low speeds it manoeuvered beautifully in the vertical plane too.”

Did you feel confident at the prospect of facing potential enemies in the aircraft? 

“Absolutely. PAF put a great deal of effort in air combat training and DACT (Dissimilar Air Combat Training) for the ‘Air Superiority’ squadron pilots. The aircraft could hold it’s own in point interception and air combat roles.”

What was the fighter you feared fighting the most and why? What were the aircraft you expected to face in war?

“We did not fear fighting any opposing aircraft. The Intel, at the time, was that we were  most likely to face the Hunter in the war as that was the aircraft which was to cross over the border to do battlefield air-interdiction and airfield strikes. The Hunter was a manoeuvrable aircraft like the F-86, and we had gained valuable experience during DACT with our F-86s. So we pretty much knew what tactics to employ. Firstly, force the Hunter to get into a vertical plane combat where our superior thrust-to-weight ratio would give us a distinct advantage. Secondly, allow the Hunter to exit and then catch him with the  MiG-19’s excellent acceleration and let the heat-seeking Sidewinder do the rest. Other aircraft that we could have encountered in our air defence role were Gnats and Canberra bombers. There were remote chances of encountering MiG-21 and Su-7 too.”

Did you practice dissimilar air combat flying? If so, against which types and how would you fly against them? 

“We had three mainstay aircraft in the time period I was actively flying. The MiG-19, F-86F & E and Mirage III. DACT amongst all was an essential part of the training.

MiG Vs Mirage: As MiG pilots, we were always scarce on fuel, especially if we used after burners – which we had to in combat. Therefore, we always planned for a short engagement. MiGs would utilise the horizontal plane superiority against the Mirage and try and engage the Mirage in a ‘turning’ battle. MiG pilots had to rely a lot on clearing their tails exceptionally well, as the Mirage would try and merge the fight at high speeds to take a missile shot. Therefore, MiG pilot had to spot him earliest possible and quickly get into hard turn, into him, before letting the Mirage get in missile firing range. The Mirage would then exit still maintain high speed and out run the MiG, only to re-engage/ merge the fight without getting into a turning manoeuvre.”

What did it feel like firing the guns on the MiG-19?

“The 30mm ammo really shook the aircraft and made vibrations that could be felt in seat of the pants of the pilot. The central gun was very accurate. We as MiG pilots were always detailed to do gun harmonisation ourselves of the dedicated aircraft to our name. So, each pilot very much knew how accurately his guns fired.”

Which three words best describe the MiG-19?

 “Challenging – Powerful – Fun”

What equipment would you most have liked the MiG-19 to have been fitted with? What did it lack? 

“The MiG-19s that we got from China were only equipped with two side and one centre gun. Then we modified it to carry Heat seeking Sidewinders.

It had no navigation systems except NDB. It could have done well if it had INS (Inertial Navigation System) or at least a HUD.”

What was your most frightening or memorable flight on the MiG-19?

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“The MiG 19 was notorious for getting into spins without much warning due to it’s ‘adverse yaw’ attribute. And my most frightening episode also relates to this aspect.

I was an operational wingman in an ‘air superiority’ squadron with less than 80 hours on the type. During one of the air combat training missions, I got airborne as a part of a four ship for  2 Vs 2 air combat mission.

During the very first merge, I was told by my section leader to do a hard 180 turn to the left. I remember going in to a hard turn and lighting my after burner. The next thing I remember is that is that the MiG flips out of the turn and starts spinning (this phenomenon was the result of adverse yaw attribute of the MiG-19)

The spin recovery procedure was: “throttled idle, full opposite rudder to stop the yaw and shove the stick forward to un-stall the aircraft) – I did the procedure – The MiG kept spinning. I thought that I may have given the wrong rudder. So I tried to look at ‘turn and slip indicator’ to see which side I was spinning. Needless to say, in the confusion and panic state that had set in, I could not ascertain which side I was spinning. Since the MiG was not responding, I decided to apply the other rudder and wait. Fortunately, the MiG responded and the spinning stopped and I neutralized the rudder and the stick.

But my problem was far from over. Coming out of the spin I found myself in vertical dive and the mother earth approaching at a rapid rate (during the confusion of the spin recovery, I lost track of height loss and descended below 10,000 feet – SOP was to eject if not recovered by 10,000 feet)

It finally dawned on me that I could not eject while being in a vertical dive, MiG speeding up and the safe ejection altitude of 6,000 feet had already passed (the Chinese ejection seat had 6000 feet limitation for a safe ejection)

Having no other choice but to recover, I put the speed breaks out, pulled with all my might, overstressing the aircraft by pulling some 7-8 gs – but broke my descent. And to my relief cleared the ground. By how much, I really don’t know – but I had a good look at the cattle grazing on the mother earth.

Although safe, I was trembling to no end. Didn’t give a call to my leader and went back to the Base to land. The amazing aspect of this episode was – which I was told in the debrief – that my leader was talking to me all the time. He told me over the radio the direction I was spinning in – didn’t hear him – which rudder to give – didn’t hear him again – and the whole recovery procedure – didn’t hear that either. He even advised me to check my height and if below 10,000 feet, eject – God, didn’t hear that at all.

How I didn’t hear any of it, beats me to this day. But that is how one’s brain can act when in an emergency situation.”

…and your most pleasant? 

“My most pleasant moment was rather a cruel one. Having been pleased with myself in a certain situation, I got reported and was disciplined to a verbal extent by the Officer Commanding.

I was made to scramble from  ADA (Air Defence Alert) duty to intercept an unidentified target by the radar. I had  full gun ammo load and two live Sidewinder missiles. My wingman aborted on take off for a technical reason. So, I proceeded alone to the intercept point under full radar cover and spotted a rather large aircraft from some 20 NM. At first I thought that a Soviet Bomber from Afghanistan may have strayed in our airspace. However, as I closed in I realised that it was an airliner (B747) of our very own National carrier. The airliner had strayed in the military training airspace. I was told by the radar to guide it out of the military air space. The airliner was on VHF radio frequency and I was on UHF. Not being able to talk to the airliner on the radio I got up close and used hand signals to guide it away from the military airspace. Having achieved the objective of the intercept mission, I felt pretty good and decided to barrel around the airliner. I started my barrel roll from his right wing, went around and under him to come back on his right wing again from where I had started.

I had no idea that the Captain of the airliner reported me for barreling around him and putting both aircraft and the passengers at peril. That is till I was called in by the Officer Commanding the next day for disciplining me over the incident. Fortunately, the flak I got was contained to the office of the Officer Commanding only.”

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How would you rate the MiG-19 in the following ways? 

A. Instantaneous turn rates – Average

B. Sustained turn rates – poor as compared to F-86 and Mirage

C. Climb rate – Excellent with  thrust to weight ratio of 0.8, it climbed really well.

D. High alpha – High Alpha (very high angles of attack – close to stalling angle of attack -where the nose of the aircraft is kept way above the horizon while maintaining low speeds) If you could control the adverse yawing, High  Alpha was no great issue

E. Ease of flying – It was a difficult plane to fly primarily because of its bad aerodynamic behaviour. It would adverse yaw very easily, had awful transonic range speed control and it’s engines (axial flow compressors) were prone to stall if not handled properly.

Everything wanted to know about Indian air power but were afraid to ask here

Did you perform the ground attack role, if so what would you have been expected to do it in wartime and how did you prepare for it? 

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 “The MiG 19 was  used in ground attack role utilising its three 30-mm canons and 8 rockets in two pods (modified to carry the pods by PAF) in support of the Army’s ground battle. Typical targets were troops gathering to create a bridgehead, troops on ground like convoys, tanks, artillery and radar stations and lines of logistics, railroad stations etc.

Typical training consisted of live strafing and rocket firing at targets in the firing ranges created for the purpose. This was first practiced by remaining in the traffic pattern of the firing range and repeating attack after attack. Later, put to test by means of tactical strikes where you had only one dive attack to hit the target.”

Tell me something I don’t know about the MiG-19?

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Irfan Masum with his F-86F. 

“Having highlighted some of the disadvantages of the MiG-19, I’d like to dwell on the fun part of flying it, that is after one had mastered the art of handling it in the air.

During one of the 1 Vs 1 combat training, I pulled vertically up without the afterburner. The airspeed bled so fast that before I could recover, my speed was approaching stalling speed.  I knew fully well that if I allowed any yaw at the time of stalling, I will enter in a spin. So, I held my rudders neutral to avoid inducing any yaw. Also, I pushed the stick forward just enough to go to zero G – in a state of zero G the aircraft never stalls. Soon the speed went to zero and the MiG started sliding down while remaining in vertical position and the altimeter began to register a descent. I was thrilled that I was descending while in vertical position without stalling or spinning. My elation was rather short lived as I realised that I must recover without stalling or spinning. It was not possible to drop the nose forward or back words to the horizon. The only option was to yaw the MiG and let the nose drop sideways to the horizon. Mindful that if I induce a yaw the MiG will go in to a spin, I made sure that I maintained zero g (which does not allow the plane to stall) and induce a yaw just enough to let the nose drop sideway as done in a ‘Stall turn’ manoeuvre – which I had learnt in my basic training on the ‘Harvard the T-6G’. I also had to counter the roll that the yaw would induce by applying just enough opposite aileron. To my great delight and relief, the nose dropped sideways to the horizon and I could complete the recovery. The amazing thing was that the engines, which were very prone to stall, did not.

Encouraged by this feat, I went on to repeat it again and again, each time recovering without any problem. Thereafter, I would employ this manoeuver to shake off anyone who tried to get behind me in 1 Vs 1 combat. I would simply pull up vertically and unload to zero g, dropping my speed rapidly to zero. The chase aircraft would follow me and fall out of the vertical pursuit. I would then execute a stall turn and get behind him.

Some years later, when I became a fight weapons instructor, PAF got the dual seater of the MiG-19 and I began to teach this manoeuver to other instructors and demonstrate it to the students.

Another aspect of the MiG-19 relates to drop tanks that it carried. It carried two 760 litre each drop tanks which had to be dropped in case of actual combat. With drop tanks the Gs were limited to five and without drop tanks to six. Flight characteristics with drop tanks were more stable than in clean configuration.”

Special thanks to @Le_Sabre54  for introducing me to the Wing Commander (Rtd).  

Have a look at How to kill a RaptorAn Idiot’s Guide to Chinese Flankers, the 10 worst British military aircraftThe 10 worst French aircraft,  Su-35 versus Typhoon10 Best fighters of World War II top WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes.  Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. Those interested in the Cold Way should read A pilot’s guide to flying and fighting in the Lightning. Those feeling less belligerent may enjoy A pilot’s farewell to the Airbus A340. Looking for something more humorous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes or the Ten most boring aircraft. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 

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Mirage pilot interview, Part 3: Stalling, Tomcats and duelling F1s

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Now a crack aerobatic pilot, Gonzalo O’Kelly was once one of the best fighter pilots in the Spanish air force. During his time in the Ejército del Aire he flew the Mirage III, a formidable and beautiful fighter of French origin. In the third of our five part Mirage special he rates the Mirage’s weapons, shares the hairy tale of stalling in a mock dogfight and describes flying against the US Navy’s 6th Fleet.

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Were the weapon systems effective? 

“Well, in those years nobody had weapon systems, maybe the Phantom was the exception. We had weapons and ways of using them. Our only ‘modern’ weapon was the radar guided missile Matra 530. We could carry just one in the aircraft belly hard point. It was big and heavy, and we didn’t like to fly with its added drag.

But the Cyrano II radar average effective range of detection was no more than 15 nautical miles, and if flying below 10,000 ft the ground clutter made it almost impossible to see any radar returns – so it was not a really effective weapon. We trusted our eyes much more than the old Cyrano II; we had two Sidewinders AIM-9B, two powerful cannon and we mastered their use.”

What was the most frightening mission you flew? 

“I had a very frightening mission — but was it my fault. The Mirage III was a noble steed, though you had to be careful when flying at the envelope limit. It was a one-on-one dogfight training flight in my Initial Training Course. I had about 25 flying hours on the type. Remember what I said before? The Mirage offered really no mercy to rookies.

I was flying on a two-seater Mirage IIID, with my instructor in the back and my sparring partner was our Squadron Chief, Lieutenant Colonel Quintana who sadly passed away a couple of years ago. I, of course, wanted show to off my flying skills, but my aircraft had other ideas.

The first engagement began with me 2,000 ft higher, and on his 5 o’clock. Both of us were at about 450 kts. I called “engaged” and he broke hard towards me. I had the advantage in speed and altitude so I let him pass left to right in front of me, and pulled up to exchange speed for altitude while turning right towards him. I still had a good position – and the advantage, so next our cross was almost equal, with both trajectories crossing with an angle of around 60 degrees. In this cross he already had his nose down.

I still was turning hard right with not too much energy but when he passed again in front of me, I decided to change my turn to the left to get behind him. It was a good manoeuvre with enough energy for softening the turn but that young lieutenant maintained the G’s. It looked like my aircraft agreed with me for a couple of seconds, and then suddenly changed its mind and gave me the most vicious self righting turn while stalling, and then going into a steep spin.

I controlled the spin while the instructor yelled at me in the interphone, and recovered after two rounds in which I lost 14,000 feet of altitude! The aircraft wanted to give me final lesson for the day, and promptly gave me a compressor stall to fight after the spin recovery. This at least, was easy: throttle back to idle and very gently, again forward. To understand how fast you could lose altitude in the Mirage III, we began at 35 angels (35,000ft), and recovered the compressor stall at 8,000 feet.

Then back to the base, to report the compressor stall to maintenance, and enjoy a particularly ‘nice’ post briefing.”

Which aircraft did you fly against in dissimilar type combat training? 

As Spain was not yet in NATO, we were limited to dissimilar with Phantoms from the 12th Wing, based in Torrejón Air Base, and Mirage F1 from the 14th Wing in Albacete Air Base. Once a year we took part in exercises with the US Navy 6th Fleet.This gave us the opportunity of having some very boring dogfights with the Tomcats.”

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Mirage versus F-14 Tomcat

“Regarding our exercises with the US Navy’s 6th Fleet, we always played the bad guys trying to attack and sink the carrier, but it was almost impossible. Think of 20 destroyers and cruisers around, all of them full of long and short range guided missiles -and leaving no hole to go through. So at the end of our attacking run, we used to meet a couple of Tomcats, but maybe they knew we had been killed three or four times before arriving there, so they didn’t seem eager for a bit of rock ’n’ roll. A couple of turns with their wings fully extended, and that’s all folks. Anyway, we were at low altitude.I don’t know why they never planned for real dissimilar dogfights with us as part of the exercises. They were not interested. Pity. You know what navies are like though…” 

Mirage III versus Mirage F1

“The Mirage F1 was a completely different thing. They had a lot of advantages over the Mirage III: Better engine, 7200 kgs against our 6700; the aircraft was a ton lighter; it had no need for external tanks so always flew in a full clean configuration; automatic slats and flaps; and better radar and a HUD. Only the weapons were equal: Sidewinders and guns. To dogfight them was real hard work for us. We had to emphasise mutual support to stop them entering firing range. If we reached an advantageous position on one of them, they only had to zoom up and comfortably wait up there for us to nose down and generate sufficient speed to follow. Our only resource was the diving acceleration, so the usual tactic was fly towards them at full throttle, kill the speed to get a position to fire the Sidewinder and escape diving like hell. I remember the F1 pilots complaining because we always tried to avoid close dogfight. Our answer always was: give us your engine and your automatic slats/flaps and we’ll stay for close dogfight.” 

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Have a look at How to kill a RaptorAn Idiot’s Guide to Chinese Flankers, the 10 worst British military aircraftThe 10 worst French aircraft,  Su-35 versus Typhoon10 Best fighters of World War II top WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. Those interested in the Cold Way should read A pilot’s guide to flying and fighting in the Lightning. Those feeling less belligerent may enjoy A pilot’s farewell to the Airbus A340. Looking for something more humorous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes or the Ten most boring aircraft. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 

Mirage pilot interview, Part 2: Flying & fighting

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Now a crack aerobatic pilot, Gonzalo O’Kelly was once one of the best fighter pilots in the Spanish air force. During his time in the Ejército del Aire he flew the Mirage III, a formidable and beautiful fighter of French origin. In the second of our five part Mirage special he explains the basics of this classic French fighter. 

What were you first impressions of the Mirage III? 

“I was a young lieutenant, 24 years old, fresh from the Spanish Air Force Fighter School, and with about 450 flight hours in my log when I first encountered a Mirage. It was an impressive and beautiful aircraft, and the 11th Wing (based in Manises Air Base, near Valencia) was an elite unit, heir to the Garcia Morato, (40 victories ace), standard and badge. I was assigned to 111th Squadron, (triple one, the best one), and so began the four best years in my life (nowadays the 11th Wing is based in Morón Air Base flying Typhoons).

The Mirage III entered Spanish Air Force inventory in 1970, surrounded by a great aura won in the brutal skies of the Six Days War. By the time I arrived, this formidable reputation was further cemented by its performance in the Yom Kippur War.

Our’s was the Mirage IIIE version with a better radar than the C one, a Doppler navigation system and a different vertical stabilizer.”

What was the cockpit like? 

“It was narrow, as was usual in French aircraft of its time (the F1 cockpit was the same). I was always very surprised whenever I saw those Phantom pilots walking towards their aircraft with a big bag in their hands; there was not room enough for a sandwich bag in the Mirage III cockpit.

It’s almost as if ergonomics was invented after the Mirage III cockpit layout was designed.We had to push or pull at least two or three switches placed in different control panels to arm the weapons. Being good at twisting your torso was compulsory. I especially remember the starting button which was placed well behind the thrust lever and you had to push it by putting your left hand about 20 cm behind your back. The radar screen had insufficient brightness so they placed a plastic cowl about 30 cm long, which protruded towards your face (the display was in the centre of the frontal panel). As a result, ‘the ball’ (the attitude indicator) was displaced to the left. It was the first and only time I’ve flown an aircraft without the ball in directly front of my eyes. Added to this is the peculiarly French custom, of having the ball’s vertical reference at the bottom. Anyway, after a dozen of or so flights you were happy with the complicated dance your fingers had to perform around the cockpit. Instead of HOTAS we had ‘HATC’, (Hands Around The Cockpit)!”

What were the best things about the Mirage III?

“First it was beautiful, complying with the first Law of Aerodynamics: ‘beautiful aircraft fly well’ (the opposite is also true, ‘ugly aircraft fly badly’).The Snecma Atar 9C was a very reliable engine, very resistant to compressor stalls and almost immune to flame out in flight. It was very easy to fly if you had enough speed, and stable around its envelope. We always flew with two supersonic fuel tanks but the aircraft behaviour was very docile. It was also very strong. It had a landing gear that would have been strong enough for carrier landings and it wasn’t unusual to see 30 people over the wings and fuselage posing for a photo. We didn’t need any ground support to start the engine. Which was very good for detachments. It was very good at accelerating in a dive, no aircraft of that time could follow us. The aerodynamics were excellent but designed for high speed.

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It had double speedbrakes coming up and down the wings adding stability if you had to deploy them, and of course an Stability Augmentation System for pitch and yaw (or in french ‘tangage’ and ‘lacet’.”

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What were the worse things about the Mirage III?

“It was underpowered, very underpowered, so no close or turning dogfight was possible. Common word at the time said that the Snecma Atar was a development of BMW engines of Me 262, and sometimes it appeared that this was true! Power supplied was 6700 kgs with afterburner, while normal take off weight was around 11000 kgs. There were no flaps or slats which would have aided its dogfight performance. There was also nothing to compensate for the huge induced drag caused by the big delta wing, and the very long take off and landing runs. The approach speed was 185 knots (which would need to be adjusted to accommodate any extra weight). We always used the brake chute on landings. The engine was a plain turbojet and was as thirsty as hell with or without afterburner. When we pushed it into afterburner, as we would for a whole dogfight, the fuel burning rate jumped to infinity. To worsen this problem, the internal fuel tanks had a capacity of only 2980 litres which made for two dogfights near the airfield and 45 flight minutes. That’s why we always had those two external tanks 500 litres each.”

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What was the role of your squadron? 

“In my time it was 80% air defence and 20% ground attack, which was changed to 60/40 a few years later.”

Was the Mirage effective at this role? 

“First we have to understand that the Mirage III was designed in the late fifties — and as a fighter interceptor, which meant climbing and flying as fast as fast as possible towards the target to intercept it as far as possible from home. It was similar to the F-104: no multipurpose intentions, no manoeuvring dogfight expected..

After the late fifties designers stopped creating fighters optimised for Mach 2, as it’s not very useful.

But the Mirage III was good in a dogfight in the hands of an experienced pilot. But no mercy for rookies. By the end of its life, we were quite proud of what it achieved in dogfights against far more modern aircraft.In war, the Mirage proved to be extremely effective in air-to-air fighting, as demonstrated by the Israeli air force.

While it wasn’t supposed to be its business, the Mirage III behaved quite well in the ground attack role, but again, good training was essential.

We had no frills to aid our aiming, just a fixed pipper which had to be calibrated by the pilot according to the weapon type. We had no guided bombs, just 2.75 rockets or the two 30-mm guns. We had a firing range 20 minutes flight time from the base, which was built to train our Wing, but was also frequented by other squadrons, and we flew a lot of missions out there. The Mirage III’s horizontal stability was a boon in the ground attack role, making it quite easy putting the pipper on target and keeping it there — but you had to fly at the right speed and with the correct diving angle or your bomb could fly out of the range. It was easier with the rockets of course, but 100 feet short or beyond the target was still a normal score for unexperienced pilots.

With the guns (or cannons as we called them), coming very close to the target made it easy to hit it, and the bullets dispersion was straight enough to make really big holes, one 30-mm bullet, one foot long, was something. The problem was we only had 230 bullets, and a firing rate of 1,300 bullets per minute. The Mirage III payload was small and we always needed external tanks for ground attack, so never had more than three hard points available. In the inner wings hard points we could take two special fuel/bomb carrier tanks with four 250 kgs bombs attached and a capacity of 500 litres. It was called the RPK-10. Our Phantom colleagues made a lot of jokes about the fact they could carry more rockets than we bullets…and it was true! We answered by saying that we flew fighters, not bombers.”

Want to see more stories like this: Follow my vapour trail on Twitter: @Hush_kit

Thank you for reading Hush-Kit. Our site is absolutely free and we have no advertisements. If you’ve enjoyed an article you can donate here. 

Have a look at How to kill a RaptorAn Idiot’s Guide to Chinese Flankers, the 10 worst British military aircraftThe 10 worst French aircraft,  Su-35 versus Typhoon10 Best fighters of World War II top WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. Those interested in the Cold Way should read A pilot’s guide to flying and fighting in the Lightning. Those feeling less belligerent may enjoy A pilot’s farewell to the Airbus A340. Looking for something more humorous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes or the Ten most boring aircraft. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 

Save the Hush-Kit blog. This site is in peril, we are far behind our funding targets. Our site is absolutely free and we have no advertisements. If you’ve enjoyed an article you can donate here. 

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