Category: Aviation

The secret life of aircraft

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Looking up at an aeroplane in the sky, have you ever wondered where it originally came from- and where it will end its life? We take a fascinating look at the secret life of aeroplanes. 

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  1. Conception
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The mating rituals of aeroplanes are one of nature’s greatest wonders. Though these machines weigh hundreds of thousands of pounds, their intimate ‘sky-dances’ are balletic feats of erotic intimacy.

As with most vehicles, aeroplane copulation involves the male mounting the female from above (or in some cases behind). When a male aeroplane is interested in mounting a female, he waggles his wings and activate his foglights. If the female is receptive, she will either extend her drogue, sometimes called a basket, or in the case of many inland aeroplanes species, the male will extend his boom. Once coupled, the aircraft will exchange vital liquids that contain the blueprint for a new aircraft. If fertilisation is successful, the female aircraft will gestate for between ten and twenty years.

2. Birth

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Birth traditionally took place at 25,000 feet, but modern birthing techniques can be as low as 500 or as high as 30,000 feet. The process takes place at great speeds to avoid Predators or other Unmanned Air Vehicles. Litters vary in size, this F-111 is giving birth to four young (young F-111s are known as piglets). Note that the young have yet to develop full-size wings.

3. Childhood

11390h.jpgAs can be seen in this photograph of a young Bell X-1, young aeroplanes seldom stray far from their protective mothers. Note that the mother has four visible engines, whereas the X-1 has none. Engines are developed during puberty. A young aircraft often has neither the software, weapons integration or spare parts to make it in the world by itself.

4. Adolescence 

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Juvenile delinquents gangs are responsible for many anti-social acts, including flying under bridges and buzzing picnic areas.

After sexual maturation aeroplanes are forced to leave their family nests. Badly tempered- and highly hormonal male aeroplanes often form gangs (as seen above).

5. Sexual orientation 

Though these terms are now highly contentious, traditionally three types of aeroplane sexual orientation were understood:

A. Monocoque

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A monocoque aircraft relationship involves at least one mailplane in a monogamous relationship.

B. Biplane

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The following pun is exceptionally lazy.

Biplanes are more versatile than monocoque aircraft, but some (especially in the monocoque community) have expressed doubt on their existence.

C. Triplane

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This aircraft was made by splicing the DNA of three bus shelters with a steam fair. It is powered by the bonemeal of steampunks.

Very popular in the hedonistic 1910s, especially in German aristocratic circles – today there are few self-designated ‘triplanes’. Triplanes were famous for their flamboyant ‘drag culture’ – later replaced by the Lift-to-Drag culture.

6. Finding a job

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In life you can have gloves or a tray, but not both.

Though originally it was considered enough that aeroplanes could fly -today they are forced to earn their keep. Some are employed by budget airlines to act as prisons for humans, the hapless detainees are not allowed to leave until they have bought a thirty Euro teddy bear and a four-Euro Coke. Other aircraft are forced to perform in circuses flying unnaturally low or to fight to the death for the entertainment of national leaders.

7. Middle Age

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Many aircraft put on weight in their middle years. This once beautiful MiG-29 is now forced to drop its young dreams and accept it will never become a Su-30.

During middle-age, aircraft become more emotionally maintenance heavy. Aware that they are half way through their service life many, like this German Tornado ECR, start to wear gaudy costumes in an attempt to recapture the ghost of their youth.

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Though now wealthy enough to wear this extravagant outfit, the Tornado has not received export orders since the 1980s.

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8. Old Age 

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The average aeroplane lives to around 7,000 flight hours. By 6,500, the aeroplane will be suffering from embarrassing coolant leaks, a general feeling of fatigue and appalling unreliability. Belts, hoses and gaskets — and anything else that rubs against something else — will need frequent attention. On the positive side, most elderly aeroplanes are thoroughly loved by both humans and other ‘planes. Particularly charismatic geriatrics may even become stars, performing before millions of spectators.

9. Death 1461203297783321.jpg

One day an aeroplane will die. Its turbines or pistons will splutter and give up, and it will be hauled away, melted down and turned into sporks. Many aeroplanes, as Zoroastrians, request an open ground-level burial. A ‘tower of silence’ is built – where the bodies are left exposed so their aluminium can be picked from their bones by Vulture UAVs. 

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The 11 worst Soviet aircraft

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The Soviet Union lasted a mere sixty-nine years (the Spitfire has been flying longer), but in that time produced some of the largest, fastest, toughest and most agile aircraft. Even now, 25 years after its collapse, almost all Russian and Ukrainian aircraft have their roots in the communist super state.  Favouring clever robust design over high technology and refinement, the Soviet approach enabled the mass production of cheap machines. Many of these were outstanding, but some – for reasons of politics, bad luck or incompetence – were diabolical. Let’s pack beer and vobla, and take a walk through the rusting graveyard of the eleven worst Soviet aircraft.

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11. Tupolev Tu-116

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With the death of Stalin, the Khrushchev Thaw left the Soviet Union in the tricky position of wanting to engage with the wider world but with no indigenous way of getting there.  Fearing that mating an airliner fuselage to the wings of a Tu-95, to make the Tu-114, would take more time than was available before a 1959 state visit to the USA, a less ambitious back up plan was made. The Tu-116 replaced the Tu-95’s bomb bays with a passenger compartment for the head of state and his entourage, in a prescient nod to post-9/11 security arrangements it was impossible to access the cockpit from the passenger compartment, messages being passed by pneumatic tube. While no one appeared to think arriving on a diplomatic mission in something that looked exactly like a strategic bomber might be a bad idea, the nail in the coffin of the Tu-116 was actually the 737 style air stair that allowed the First Secretary of the Communist Party to emerge from the bowels of the aircraft, something he deemed beneath his standing. Deprived of their raison d’être the two aircraft served out their miserable lives flying technicians to the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, presumably to ensure the Franken-liner was hidden from public view.  The Tu-116 was a poor idea and implemented badly. It was mercifully left to wallow in obscurity, somewhat like the Miss Havisham of Soviet aviation.

— Bing Chandler, former Lynx helicopter Observer (now works in flight safety)

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10. Tupolev Tu-22 ‘Blind John the man-eater’

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The Tu-22 medium bomber, first flown in 1962, was a dangerous hotrod with a litany of design flaws. Its VD-7M engines were unreliable and caused a spate of lethal accidents. The aircraft was also very hard to handle, according to one pilot “..two flights with no autopilot drained all strength“. Tu-22 pilots had to be physically strong and keep both hands on the control yoke at all times. The landing speed was perhaps the worst of any operational aircraft: it was forbidden for pilots to go under 180 mph. The ejection seats ejected downward, a sobering prospect for low-level escapes. Pre-flight preparations took at least 3 hours, and other common procedures required 24 hours of maintenance. The high-mounted engines were exceptionally inconvenient for maintenance crew to reach. Its abysmal visibility from the cockpit resulted in one of its nicknames – Blind John (Слепой Джон). Another less than flattering nickname was ‘the man-eater’ (Людоед).

– Vasily Kuznetsov, Aviation photographer and lawyer

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9. Sukhoi Su-7

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For the first two decades after World War II the Soviet Union wasn’t great at building ground-attack aircraft. Ilyushin’s classic wartime Shturmovik soldiered on for a while, but in the era of atomic weapons, the use of aircraft for battlefield close support fell out of favour within the Red Army. If Soviet troops were to need firepower, they could call upon artillery. And nuclear-tipped battlefield missiles. And more artillery.

With the explosion of counter-insurgency and brushfire conflicts in the mid-1960s, it was time to reassess the ground-attack aircraft. One quick fix was to add bombs and rockets to MiG fighters. But the USSR’s first purpose-designed, jet-powered ground-attacker to reach service was the Sukhoi Su-7. Unfortunately, it wasn’t great. The Soviets never took it into battle. The Arabs did, and were not impressed.

In July 1967 Egyptian pilot Tahsin Zaki was in a formation of 12 Su-7s that was to attack Israeli forces opposite the Suez Canal. Loaded with four 500kg bombs each, the jets suffered so much drag that they couldn’t accelerate beyond 600km/h. They also proved very difficult to control. ‘The Su-7 was never a very stable aircraft at such slow speeds’, Zaki reflected in Arab MiGs Volume 4.

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Provided it made it over the battlefield unscathed, the Su-7 was hampered by dismal range, meaning it was unable to loiter where it was needed. The powerful Lyulka AL-7F1 turbojet took up so much space that there was little room left for fuel tanks. It was vulnerable to foreign object damage (FOD) and, without air-to-air missile capability, was unable to protect itself other than with its two NR-30 cannon. Were it unfortunate enough to get into a dogfight with an Israeli Mirage, Arab pilots found that its fuel was quickly expended.

A final word goes to Egyptian pilot Gabr Ali Gabr: ‘The Su-7 was a totally bloody useless aircraft. It had a feeble bomb load and ineffective rockets only. The only Sukhoi that really showed an improvement over the MiG-17 was the Su-20, which we received only years later.

—  Thomas Newdick, Editor at Harpia Publishing and Assistant Editor of Combat Aircraft

8. Lavochkin LaGG-3 

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A pathetic climb rate, sluggish top speed, poor build quality, the inability to pull out of a dive or even to perform a sharp turn are among the many failings of the lamentable LaGG. The designers intended the aircraft (which started development as the LaGG-1) to use the 1,350 hp inline Klimov VK-106 engine, but when this engine failed to mature, it was replaced with the Klimov M-105 – a weedy powerplant with around 300 less horsepower. The result was an exceptionally underpowered fighter hated by its crews and mauled by its enemies. Other than an exceptional ability to withstand battle damage (something it received in abundance) -the aircraft’s only saving grace was that it sired the magnificent LaGG-5.

— Joe Coles, Hush-Kit

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7. Silvanskii IS

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Silvanskii is a name synonymous with Russian fighters..oh, wait – no it’s not. And there is a very good reason that it’s not. In the midst of Stalin’s muddled and oppressive USSR, one A.V. Silvanskii secured state funding to create a new fighter in 1937. The concept seemed sound- it was a low-winged monoplane with a 1,000 horsepower radial engine, armed with two heavy machine guns. As development began it soon became apparent that Silvanskii was a reckless bodger. By 1938 the prototype aircraft was virtually complete. Initial tests of the undercarriage revealed that the wheel wells were too small- the undercarriage did not fit into the wing in the retracted position. How this elementary mistake had been made is hard to understand, but the solution was simple- the undercarriage legs were shortened. Now the undercarriage could be retracted it was realised that the wheel bays were too shallow so the undercarriage would stick out into the airstream producing drag. Deciding not to rectify this issue, the team then fitted the propeller. Though the aircraft now had a shorter undercarriage than originally designed, no-one saw fit to think through the consequences of this modification; the propeller was now too large and would smash against the ground on take-off. Ever the master of methodical engineering, Silvanskii took a saw to the offending propeller and lopped four inches off each blade. The manager of the GAZ state aircraft factory watched this slapstick affair with dismay and growing alarm. He quite sensibly refused Silvanskii permission to fly from the factory airfield. The persistent Silvanskii looked for an alternative airfield for his fighter and charmed the State Flight Research Institute (LII) in Moscow into providing a runway and a test pilot for the maiden flight. One cold morning in early 1939, the LII test pilot strapped himself into the aircraft, known simply as the IS or ‘Istrebitel’ (fighter) and prepared to fly. The machine had other ideas, but thanks to a combination of full throttle and extremely dense cold air the machine was coaxed into taking off for one hair-raising circuit flown dangerously close to the stall. On landing the pilot damned the aircraft as unflyable. The Silvanskii bureau was bankrupted and the hapless designer was banned from working in aeronautical design.

— Joe Coles, Hush-Kit

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6. Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23MS 

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Arab MiG-21 pilots were excited by the prospect of a new advanced fighter, but early MiG-23s provided a huge disappointment. The Soviet Union generally offered client nations inferior versions of their fighters, but the MiG-23MS was one of the cruelest examples – and they were supplied when the air forces of Syria and Egypt were at war with a well-equipped enemy. Because of delays with the R-23 (a Sparrow equivalent), the ’23 carried only the K-13 (comparable with an early Sidewinder). The weapon system, with its very basic Sapfir-21, was completely mismatched to the aircraft’s performance – the aircraft was designed for fast long range engagements – something it couldn’t do with the K-13. The former MiG-21 pilots now had an aircraft with greatly inferior agility to the previous mounts and nastier handling characteristics. The aircraft also lacked vital equipment, including radar warning receivers. The MiG-23MS force suffered terrible losses to the Israeli Air Force, and encouraged Egypt and Libya to turn away from the use Soviet equipment, and instead favour US F-4s and French Mirages respectively. The MiG-23 was later developed into the formidable ML, but the MS was a dreadful machine hated by many of its pilots.

— Joe Coles & Thomas Newdick

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5. Antonov An-10 ‘Bulgakov’s magic catflap’ 

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The An-10 was terrible. It’s almost as if the Ministry of Aircraft Production gave the brief to Antonov to make flying more unpleasant and dangerous. If this was the brief then Antonov succeeded with aplomb and this aircraft shouldn’t have made this list. Initial test flights revealed stability issues, leading to the ungainly ventral fins. But even these didn’t fix the problem, and further stabilizing devices (quasi winglets) were added to the horizontal tails. Which was great, apart from making the aircraft wickedly uncomfortable – it shook like a paint mixer, perhaps even worse. Then there was the insufficient amount of windows causing nausea in those prone to air sickness. There was also a  lack of a real baggage hold (the low floor took up this space). An almost criminal deficiency for any aircraft, let alone one based in the USSR, was the faulty anti-icing system; two aircraft were lost in its first winter resulting in the deaths of 72 people.
A paltry 104 An-10’s were produced, but of these at least twelve were lost – most with fatalities. The straw that broke the camel’s back? After a mere 13 years in service, metal fatigue made the wings fall off. It wasn’t all bad- at least you could ride to your likely doom in a large comfortable seat.

– Bernie Leighton, helicopter pilot and Managing Correspondent at Airline Reporter

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4. Tupolev Tu-144

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Its chief designer, its passengers and its launch customer were all less than enamoured with Tupolev Tu-144 – the Soviet ‘Concordski’ – and for many valid reasons.

On the last day of 1968, the Tu-144 became the first supersonic airliner to fly. It was two months ahead of Concorde’s maiden flight, but in the rush to achieve this symbolic victory, Tupolev had made a dog. The first flight was misleading – the production machine was virtually a complete redesign, most notably in the critical relationship between the wing and the engine.

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Its design was aided by a huge national effort. Even its chief designer Alexei Tupolev thought it was given too great a priority. Almost all state funding for civil aviation went into the Tu-144, at the detriment of more conservative (and more useful) designs, such as the Il-86.

As well as huge centralised effort, darker methods were used to collect useful data: Sergei Pavlov, a senior Aeroflot representative in France, was banished by a personal dictate from French President de Gaulle in 1965. Pavlov had made a concerted effort to extract information from the programme, and had employed two French communists to spy at Toulouse. At the 1973 Paris Air Show, the two rival airliners were competing for foreign orders, and the second prototype was to be displayed. Its pilot, Mikhail Kozlov, had boasted that he would give a better display than Concorde: “Just wait until you see us fly. Then you’ll see something.” His words proved tragically prescient. The aircraft disintegrated in the air, killing Kozlov and his crew. Following this, the launch customer Aeroflot decided not to put the aircraft on international passenger routes. When Tu-144 entered service in December 1975, it was assigned the less-than-glamorous task of transporting cargo. In late 1977, politicians decided that the Tu-144 should begin passenger services, against the advice of Aeroflot and safety inspectors. Despite it being seven years from its first flight, the aircraft was still unreliable. It was only able to perform one of its first six scheduled passenger flights. In 180 flight hours, the first sixteen Tu-144s suffered more than 226 failures of various kinds – many of them significant. Passengers were shocked by the cabin noise, with one declassified CIA report saying “the cacophony of rushing air, engine noise and air conditioners meant conversations in the rear of the aircraft had to be shouted”. The terrible Kuznetsov NK-144 turbofans were replaced by Kolesov RD-36-51s, to produce the marginally improved Tu-144D. Whereas the cabin noise was unbearable, cabin depressurisation was potentially lethal. There was also faulty de-icing equipment for the air intakes, poor fireproof paint, substandard navigation equipment and a panoply of other failings. In 1977 Tupolev took the unprecedented step of asking the West for technical assistance – hardly a propaganda coup. The British Government declined these requests. Handing technology to the designer of your enemy’s nuclear bombers was too much to ask, even for the nation that had already given the USSR a great step up by giving them the world’s best jet engines).
It can hardly inspire confidence among passengers when no aircraft is allowed to take off without an inspection by its chief designer, yet that was the extraordinary situation for this terrible machine. In May 1978 another Tu-144 crashed. This was too much for Aeroflot, and passenger flights were cancelled. In a twist that nobody would have predicted in the 1960s, the Tu-144 ended its life as ‘supersonic flying laboratory’ for NASA.

– Joe Coles & Glen Towler

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3. Yakovlev Yak-38 20090915141759!Yak-38_on_Novorossijsk_deck.jpg

Were it not for two factors, the Yakovlev Yak-38 ‘Forger’ would probably be regarded as a success. Putting a vertical take-off and landing  fighter into operational service was no mean feat. Of the profusion of concepts and designs that plastered drawing boards (in the US, France, West Germany and in every other aircraft producing nation) in the 1960s, the vast majority never reached even prototype stage – and only two types entered service, so on that basis, the Yak-38 did well. The first of its reputation-killing problems was the lack of any more capable follow-on. The second was the existence of the Hawker Siddeley Harrier.
Expectations of the Yak-38 should have been low. It was intended more as a concept-proving vehicle than a frontline aircraft in its own right. Unfortunately, the planned replacement – the much larger, supersonic Yak-41 ‘Freestyle’ – was cancelled, leaving the Forger to fight its own corner as an operational VTOL fighter rather than an analogue to the pre-production Hawker Siddeley Kestrel (the earlier Yak-36 could be compared to the P.1127 or Short SC.1).
The problem was the Yak-38’s lack of combat capability. Yes, it could take off and land vertically, and transition between vertical to horizontal flight, a significant achievement. Unfortunately, its payload was derisory and its range pathetic, its air-to-air capability virtually non-existent. One reason was the Forger’s VTOL concept – while the Harrier had a single engine and could use all its thrust for horizontal or vertical flight, the Yak-38 had to lug two lift engines, dead weight at all other times than in vertical flight. In hot and high conditions (such as the combat evaluation it endured in Afghanistan), the Forger could carry less than 500lb of munitions. As a proof of concept vehicle, the Yak-38 only managed to ‘prove’ that VTOL combat aircraft were impractical. If only the Harrier had not disproved the point over the Falklands, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan…

– Matthew Willis is a writer and journalist specialising in naval aviation. He is the biographer of A&AEE and Fairey test pilot Duncan Menzies. His book on the Fairey Flycatcher is due out imminently

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2. Sukhoi Su-2 ‘A Soviet Battle’1437523175_su-2.jpgThe rather unassuming Su-2 is historically significant in being the first creation of Pavel Sukhoi. The Su-2, both by design and unfortunate circumstances, did not anticipate any of this greatness. Designed at a time when metal was a strategically limited resource, the Su-2 was one of the last frontline aircraft that are not all metal construction (prior to today’s composite age), other examples of mixed construction being the famously excellent ‘Mossie’ and the spectacularly atrocious LaGG-3 series. Armed with a meagre four fixed 7.62 light machine guns and a notoriously unwieldy turret armed with a single Shkas. The unfortunate Su-2 was thrown into the meat grinder of Operation Barbarossa where, to the surprise of no-one, it racked up tremendous losses. While faster than its much more famous replacement, the Il-2, it had much lower survivability, armament and payload (not that the marginal difference in speed would make much difference when being chased down by the far faster Bf-109F). The toughness of the Ilyushin competitor – as well as its enormous production figures – explain why the name Il-2 still resonates to this day while the Su-2 is known nowadays mostly for being one of the least useful planes in War Thunder. The first of the Sukhoi’s was a little more than a footnote in aviation history though and, much like other designs of the era, it went from design to obsolescence in the space of 3 years.

– Matthew Wilks, Witch Doctor

  1. Kalinin K-7

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This is what you get if you cross a Spitfire with Frank Lloyd Wright’s ‘Falling Water’ house (emphasis on the ‘falling’) then enlarge the resulting mutant to the size of Stalin’s ego. The 1930s USSR was in love with big things. Their big locomotives hauled big trains over massive distances, their enormous factories churned out terrific amounts of Fordson tractors and in the air the Kalinin K-7 was to display the triumph of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat to a disbelieving world. Their other big aeroplane, the Tupolev ANT-20, was impractically large but wasn’t a bad aircraft considering. The Kalinin K-7 on the other hand was ridiculous. Konstantin Kalinin had already produced the USSR’s most successful airliner to date and he had some interest in flying wing development. The K-7was, more or less, a seven engine flying wing with a fuselage pod and a couple of tail booms and no one seemed entirely sure whether it was an enormous bomber or a massive airliner. Nonetheless, the mighty K-7 could fly but its first brief flight revealed terrible instability and appalling vibration. Applying stereotypical Soviet engineering principles, two massive slabs of steel were welded to the tailbooms to keep them rigid. Unfortunately its structure was resonating with the engine frequency and the ‘strengthening’ had no effect: on its eighth flight the K-7 shook its right tailboom off at 350 feet, killing 14 on board and one on the ground.
-Ed Ward

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You can find out more about the Kalinin K-7 here.

 

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 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. At the moment our contributors do not receive any payment but we’re hoping to reward them for their fascinating stories in the future.

 

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You may also enjoy 11 Cancelled French aircraft or the 10 worst British military aircraftSu-35 versus Typhoon10 Best fighters of World War II , Su-35 versus Typhoontop WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Flying and fighting in the Tornado. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? Try Sigmund Freud’s Guide to Spyplanes. 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 LightningThose 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. 10 great aircraft stymied by the US. 

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The Top Ten Fighters: 1985

An air-to-air right side view of a 50th Tactical Fighter Wing F-16A Fighting Falcon aircraft in formation with a 36th Tactical Fighter Wing F-15D Eagle aircraft during a dissimilar aircraft combat tactics exercise.

An air-to-air right side view of a 50th Tactical Fighter Wing F-16A Fighting Falcon aircraft in formation with a 36th Tactical Fighter Wing F-15D Eagle aircraft during a dissimilar aircraft combat tactics exercise.

The 1980s was the last decade to witness air-to-air combat on a large scale, and the fighters of this age were impressively capable machines. Advances in radar, missile and man-machine interface technology produced extremely potent machines that were far easier to fly and fight in than their 1960s forebears. In the past, enemy aircraft had been safe hiding in the clutter of ground returns, but by the mid-80s many fighters had a look-down/shoot down capability making the sky a far more dangerous place. 

In producing a top ten, I don’t hesitate to add all the normal disclaimers: each aircraft has strengths and weaknesses at different heights, speeds and in different situations; pilot quality and tactics are more important than hardware. The ordering one to ten has involved consideration, but is ultimately arbitrary. Aircraft considered that failed to make the grade included the Kfir C2, which deserves an honourable mention, but was pipped to the number ten slot by the Sea Harrier. The RAF’s Phantom FGR.2s were also capable machines, despite the airframe being passed its prime. The RAF’s Tornado F.Mk 2/3 were flying in late 1985 but were grossly immature- lacking as they were a functional radar or even the provision for chaff and flares. Though at a push the Tornado ADV and F-14 interceptors can be described as ‘fighters’, the MiG-31 seems a trifle too specialised to be featured but was certainly an impressive machine that is worth a mention. Upgraded MiG-21s would have given half the aircraft on this list a run for their money in the ‘merge’, but were too poorly equipped to make selection.

Here are the ten most potent fighters of 1985:

10. BAe Sea Harrier FRS.Mk 1

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The Sea Harrier is the oddest aircraft on this list: its top speed was half that of the other aircraft, it could only carry half the amount of missiles and its radar had half the detection range. Yet, it managed to perform well in the air-to-air mission in the Falklands War of 1982. Its virtues were its high thrust-to-weight ratio and that it was small and smokeless, but the main reasons for its success were its highly-trained pilots and the excellent AIM-9L missile. It could also operate in weather conditions that would have kept any other carrier fighters on or under the deck. The Harrier family pioneered the use of vectored thrust for abrupt decelerations and unexpected manoeuvres in the dogfight, though these have not been used in actual air combat.

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See the top ten jump-jets here 

9. Dassault Mirage F1

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The Dassault Mirage F1 proved itself a formidable fighter in the Iran-Iraq War: one jet alone got a dozen kills. In this long bloody war, the F1 also downed several F-14s, making it the first type to bring down the mighty Tomcat. In service with the South African Air Force it was fitted with a helmet-cueing system and the respected Kukri air-to-air missile.

8.  Saab JA37 Viggen

JA37

Though not the highest performance airframe, the JA37 was one of the world’s best-equipped fighters in 1985. At this time the Viggen had just received a secure datalink allowing the sharing of encrypted information. This innovation, years ahead of other nations gave the fighter an enormous edge in situational awareness. Its electronic warfare equipment was also world-class. The Skyflash, that armed the JA37, was the best medium range missile in the world. The Viggen’s agility was inferior to the new generation of Soviet, US and French fighters.

Click here for the Top Ten Swedish aircraft.

7. Dassault-Breguet Mirage 2000C

1984

Described by many that have flown it as a perfect machine, the ultimate Mirage was an absolute thoroughbred. Fast, agile and easy to fly, it was a well-balanced design. The fly-by-wire system cured most of the worst vices associated with the delta wing. In 1985 the Mirage was fitted with the unimpressive Thomson-CSF RDM (Radar Doppler Multifunction) which had a limited look down/shoot capability and the Matra Super 530F semi-active radar guided missile. Though a capable fighter- the design was not close to the formidable machine it would become later in its life.

Top Ten French aircraft here

6. General Dynamics F-16C 

F-16C_86th_TFW_F-4D_148th_FG_in_flight_over_Germany_1987

The F-16 did not have a beyond-visual-range weapon until the Sparrow-capable Block 25 of mid-1984; but in 1985, it was still an immature model riddled with software problems. Despite this, the F-16C was an extremely agile, long-ranged aircraft and a worthy opponent for any fighter in the world in the close-range dogfight. Like the F-15, the F-16s first saw combat with the Israeli air force; a Syrian Mi-8 and MiG-21 were shot down in 1981. In the 1982 Lebanon War, Israel claimed 44 kills for the F-16 for no losses (a large number of the aircraft destroyed were Syrian MiG-21 and ‘23s).

Top Ten fighter aircraft at the outbreak of World War II here

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5. Mikoyan MiG-29

Soviet_MiG-29_over_Alaska_1989_side_view

The MiG-29 of 1985 would have been able to destroy most F-16s at arm’s length, armed as it was with medium range R-27 missiles. Opponents that got closer to the MiG-29 would face an almost unbeatable fighter capable of firing the world’s best short range air-to-air missile, with an unprecedented off-boreshot capability cued by a helmet ‘look, shoot’ system (something the West would not have until the 1990s). Its manoeuvrability was breath-taking due to extremely powerful and tolerant engines, and advanced aerodynamics. Its weaknesses were short-range, poor man-machine interface and smoky engines. Remarkably, early MiG-29s did not include a fly-by-wire system.

4. McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A Hornet

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In 1985 the F/A-18 had the most user-friendly cockpit in the world, the best multi-mode radar and the best low-speed manoeuvrability of any western fighter. Unlike the F-16, it had a mature Sparrow capability. The F/A-18 set new standards for a multirole fighter that Europe and Russia could only follow. Its weaknesses lay in its disappointing range and its poor performance at high speed and high altitude.

Click here to see how things have changed in 2015 (Top Fighters of 2015).

3. Grumman F-14A Tomcat

F-14A_VF-142_Ghostriders_Jan_1985

The F-14 flew with both the US Navy and the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force. The F-14’s most notable weapon was the ultra-long range AIM-54 Phoenix missile, capable of destroying hostile aircraft 100 miles away (at least in theory). The main problem with the F-14A was its unreliable Pratt & Whitney TF30 engines, which were prone to stalling, and were insufficiently powerful to get the most out the airframe. The F-14, designed as a fleet air defence interceptor was also not as agile as the F-15 or Su-27. The F-14 proved devastatingly effective in the Iran/Iraq War. By 1985, the most successful F-14 pilot, Jalil Zandi of the IRIAF, had downed seven Iraqi aircraft including Mirage F1s, Su-22s, MiG-21s and MiG-23s. The F-14 was the elite fighter of the IRIAF and it is claimed that it destroyed 160 enemy aircraft including 58 MiG-23s, 23 MiG-21s, nine MiG-25s, 33 Dassault Mirage F1s, 23 Su-17s and five Tu-22s.

Check out the ten worst carrier aircraft here.

2. Sukhoi Su-27

Su-27_05

After a problematic development, the Su-27 began entering service with the VVS in 1985. In kinematic terms, the Su-27 was the best fighter of 1985, with superior manoeuvrability to the F-15, especially at lower speeds. Its manoeuvrability was unbeatable, and combined as it was with the same helmet/R-73 missile combination as the MiG-29, it would have proved almost invincible in the close-range dogfight.It had an impressive range, though at maximum weights it was not a particularly agile aircraft. It also had a large weapon load, normally consisting of six R-27 medium-ranged missiles and two R-73s, backed up by a 30-mm cannon. Another system it shared with the MiG-29 was a combined infra-red search and track/laser range finder sensor.  At this time IRSTs were out of vogue with western air forces and offered Soviet fighters an advantage in ‘silent’ passive detection. In 1985 the Su-27 was just bedding into frontline service and just misses the top spot through a lack of maturity.

  1. McDonnell Douglas F-15C Eagle
An air-to-air underside view of an F-15 Eagle aircraft from the 555th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron, 405th Tactical Training Wing, Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, banking to the left. The aircraft is equipped with four AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles on the wing pylons and four fuselage-mounted AIM-7 Sparrow missiles.

An air-to-air underside view of an F-15 Eagle aircraft from the 555th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron, 405th Tactical Training Wing, Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, banking to the left. The aircraft is equipped with four AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles on the wing pylons and four fuselage-mounted AIM-7 Sparrow missiles.

The earlier F-15A, though excellent in many ways, suffered from an immature radar and disappointing endurance. The F-15C, which entered service in 1979 rectified these problems and demonstrated McDonnell Douglas’ mastery of fighter design. The Eagle’s air superiority was achieved through a mixture of unprecedented manoeuvrability and acceleration, and advanced avionics, making it the benchmark of 1980s fighters. The F-15 was an uncompromised air superiority fighter, designed to excel in both within- and beyond visual range engagements. For the first time, USAF had a fighter with a thrust-to-weight ratio that exceeded unity at combat weight. The brute force of its large APG-63 radar gave it excellent detection range and a hearty resilience to electronic countermeasures. The aircraft was fast, and armed with up to eight air-to-air missiles and a M61 rotary cannon with 940 rounds. The first production Multistage Improvement Program (MSIP) F-15C was produced in 1985, which carried an upgraded central computer, the Programmable Armament Control Set, allowing for advanced versions of the AIM-7, AIM-9, as well as provision for the forthcoming AIM-120A missiles. In 1985 the Su-27 was still finding its legs, but the F-15 was combat proven; Israeli F-15s had scored multiple kills with no reported losses.

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Have a look at 10 worst British military aircraftSu-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. 

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Maslow’s Hammer: How will the F-35 affect foreign policy?

sdd_f35testc_059In a 2007 interview with former General Wesley Clark, he described how Rumsfeld told him (on the 20th September 2001), “We’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.” The reasons for these vast, and potentially catastrophic, actions were vague, however Rumsfeld noted that the US had a strong military, ‘“I guess if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail.”

The danger of finding problems that fit your tool is known as the ‘Law of the instrument’ or ‘Maslow’s hammer’. This idea was expressed in 1964 by the American philosopher Abraham Kaplan as: “Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding.”

As we have mentioned before, military plans and military inventories are not independent bodies. The aircraft your air force chooses will to a large extent dictate how you can use your air force. The ramifications of armed unmanned aircraft have been well-explored (such as in the excellent Wired for War by P. W. Singer), the consequences of stealth aircraft less so.

In attempting to justify the F-35, some have hinted at breakthrough technologies onboard the aircraft that are classified and enormously impressive. While all F-35 claims can be taken with a grain of salt (remember the Lockheed Martin boast of superior kinematics to any 4th generation fighter?) it seems likely that one of these technologies is electromagnetic-pulse based.

This development has entered the White world in several recent projects, notably the Boeing Counter-electronics High-powered Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP). These weapons use microwave radiation to fry enemy electronics, crippling computers or even knocking the power system out for an entire building (it should also be noted that missiles contain electronics). Other possible candidates for ‘technology-X’ on the F-35 include extremely aggressive electronic attack modes to disable enemy radars, including computer virus insertion. If this were the case, it would combine with the F-35’s low-observability to produce an ‘asymmetric fighter’ capable of Black ops. As with unmanned aircraft, this could led to small scale military operations without the bother of international accountability. The F-35, which will inevitably serve in smaller numbers than now anticipated, will not be well suited to 21st century offensive warfare’s central mission of close air support. Though it may well excel in the other important modern role: intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR). The F-35 to was conceived excel in Desert Storm-style warfare, it was to be used in blitzkrieg (later, and with added emphasis on the psychological, known by the revealingly repulsive term ‘shock and awe’) operations.

Israel is expected to receive its first F-35s in 2016. The Israeli air force has a long history of surprise air attacks on enemies or potential enemies outside of declared wars— at the risk of losing aircraft, and thus deniability and national prestige. If the F-35 performs as advertised (to use a cliche that has long attached itself to the programme) then it would by the ideal aircraft for Israel to threaten or attack Iran.

For other F-35 users, especially in NATO, the type’s usage- with its emphasis on off-base, centralised maintenance and sealed box components — will make it further apparent that their air forces are little more than ancillary wings of USAF. Whereas today it would be hard to conduct prolonged military operations without US consent (considering the large amount of US technology used by all NATO nations), in the days of the F-35 it would be impossible.

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Top Ten Fighters at the outbreak of World War II

Flugzeuge Messerschmitt Me 109 auf Flugplatz

The fighter aircraft was never more important than it was during the global calamity that began in 1939. However, at this time of need, the fighter types available were pretty limited to say the least.  If you were an air force leader choosing a fighter to defend your nation, your choice (if you were lucky and appropriately aligned politically) would be from this pack of misfits and immature thoroughbreds.

Here are the top ten operational fighter available on September 1st 1939. 

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10. Mitsubishi A5M Cheeky Claude

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There may have been a few better land-based fighters in 1939 but if you wanted a carrier fighter then this is it. None of the classics had entered service yet, no Wildcat, no Zero even the Brewster Buffalo didn’t appear till December. If you want a monoplane it’s either this or a Blackburn Skua, and let’s face it, no-one wants a Skua. Manoeuvrable, well armed, fairly fast and long ranged, the A5M was dominant over China and was first carrier aircraft to demonstrably prove to be as good as its land-based contemporaries.

9. Fokker G.1 Dutch Courage

1_Fokker_G1-C

Resembling an unholy union between a P-38 Lightning and a Morris Traveller the G.1 caused a sensation when it was first revealed in Paris. The twin boom design was radical but effective (and influential), and was dubbed La Faucheur (the Reaper) by the French press due to its unheard of armament of eight nose-mounted machine guns. Tasked with policing the Netherlands’ neutrality, the G.1’s first ‘kill’ was an RAF Whitley. When the Germans invaded in May 1940 the G.1 had only five days of action to prove its worth during which it operated effectively, despite being massively outnumbered, in both the ground attack, and air to air role, scoring at least 14 kills. In 1941 two Dutch test pilots escaped to the UK in one which, despite its exciting history was left outside to test the effects of the climate on a wooden airframe and then scrapped in 1945. Bah.

8. Messerschmitt Bf 110C Achtung Zerstorer!

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The best twin-engined fighter of 1939 looked like an invincible force when first committed to action. It was fast, powerful, had a massive range and terrific firepower. It was also the first aircraft to be painted to resemble a shark thus exponentially increasing its effectiveness. Unfortunately it was very large for a fighter and lacked manoeuvrability. Having said that, the 110 could outclimb any other European fighter in 1940. Supremely successful over Poland, France, Norway and the low countries, its subsequent mauling when faced with modern, well organised single-engined fighters has diminished its postwar reputation. This is unfair as it was the tactical employment of the aircraft that was at fault rather than the aircraft which was more or less as good as it was possible to be in 1939.

7. Bloch MB.152 lente mais brutale

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Despite being the best French fighter available in 1939, the prototype of what would become the MB.152 actually failed to fly, as a result the fact that this aircraft makes it onto the list at all is nothing short of amazing. No one would call it a looker, in fact the whole nose was canted off to one side to counteract propellor torque – an ingenious if mildly hideous solution – and it wasn’t particularly fast but the MB.152 was amazingly resilient (one once returned to base with over 360 bullet holes), and unusually well-armed for a single-seat fighter of this era with two 20-mm cannon.

6. Curtiss P-36/Hawk 75/Mohawk The Quiet American

curtiss-p36-hawk

By far the best American fighter of 1939, and by far the shiniest aircraft on this list, the Hawk 75A scored the first aerial victory on the Western front of the Second World War. Two years later the Curtiss made history again by scoring the first aerial victory for the US over Pearl Harbor. Despite seeing very little service with US forces the Hawk 75 flew successfully over France, scoring a third of all French victories though making up only 12 per cent of the fighter force. Survivors were then used to great effect by Finland. In the RAF Mohawks fought the Japanese until the end of 1944 and Argentina only withdrew theirs in 1954. The Hawk 75 was tough, nimble – notably more manoeuvrable than a Spitfire or Hurricane at high speed, well armed but never quite fast enough.

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5. Polikarpov I-16 Stalin’s Fat Falcon

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Due to its primary mission being to become the fighter with the greatest number of nicknames in aviation history (Yastrebok: ‘Hawk’, Ishak: ‘Donkey’, Rata: ‘Rat’, Boeing: ‘Boeing’, Mosca: ‘Fly’, Super Mosca: ‘Super Fly’, Dientsjager: ‘Duty Fighter’, Siipiorava: ‘Flying Squirrel’, Abu: ‘Gadfly’), by 1939 the I-16 was no longer at the cutting edge of combat aircraft technology but it was still a force to be reckoned with. Despite looking like a barrel it was easily the most advanced fighter in the World when it entered service in 1934, the aesthetically abrupt I-16 cut a dash over Spain and was master of all aircraft that opposed it – except, tellingly, one. Faster than nearly all contemporary fighters, it was jaw-droppingly manoeuvrable but difficult to fly. Interestingly Mark Hanna, possibly the only Western pilot to fly both the Hurricane and I-16 (though neither in combat) said ‘I had just flown a Hurricane for the first time, a week before the Rata … I felt that you’d be better off fighting in a Rata. At any rate I felt quickly far more comfortable in it. In air combat against early low-powered 109s, I would suspect that the two aircraft were very comparable’. Which leads us neatly on to:

4. Hawker Hurricane I Slow but steady wins the race

Hurricane_mk1_r4118_fairford_arp

The Hurricane was available in large numbers in September 1939 which was its principal advantage over its great rival the Spitfire. Later its relative simplicity and great sturdiness would prove invaluable but when war broke out these were not great concerns and it was simply one of the world’s best fighters. Hurricanes saw the most action of any British type over France and it acquitted itself well before historically proving its worth in the Battle of Britain. Not particularly fast, the Hurricane was very well-armed by the standards of the day, able to withstand battle damage to a greater degree than any other British fighter, though horrifically prone to catching fire in the vicinity of the pilot, in tests at 15000 feet the cockpit went from room temperature to 3000 degrees Celsius in ten seconds when the fuel tank caught fire. It was supremely responsive and easy to fly – a great boon at a time when very few pilots had experienced combat.

3. Macchi MC.200 Saetta Chunky Italian Lightning

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Saetta Entering service a mere month before the outbreak of World War Two the Macchi MC 200 was for several years Italy’s premier fighter. Despite its slight rotundity and anachronistic open cockpit the Saetta was an excellent flying machine, being pretty quick with viceless handling and sprightly manoeuvrability. Later it would fly rings around Hurricanes over the Mediterranean. Sadly for the Italians it never had the sort of engine power that was becoming de rigeur by 1939 and its armament was pitiful, so the afore-mentioned Hurricanes largely got away. Despite its shortcomings it established a surprisingly good kill ratio against later designs over Russia, where it operated until early 1943. Fitted with a decent engine it became arguably Italy’s best all-round fighter of the war (the Folgore). Of course all this was academic in 1939 because Italy was neutral and probably should have stayed that way.

2. Supermarine Spitfire I The Usual Suspect

SpitI19a

What is surprising about the Spitfire is just how early it was available. When most of the world was still operating biplanes that would not have looked out of place in 1918 (including the RAF) the Spitfire looked sensational and pointed the way to the future. Despite being the fastest aircraft in service anywhere it was still an underdeveloped aircraft in 1939, the rate of climb particularly suffered due to its being fitted with a fixed pitch wooden airscrew. Well armed by contemporary standards, it was considered easy to fly though not as forgiving as the Hurricane. On the downside it was woefully short-ranged and the engine was prone to overheat virtually as soon as it was started. In combat the Spitfire was not able to withstand the same levels of damage as the Hurricane and it could not perform some of the manoeuvres possible with the 109 because the engine would conk out.

1. Messerschmitt Bf 109E Emil the Great

bf109e1

Today Messerschmitt is just a teensy part of the Airbus group, the prime German contractor for the Eurofighter Typhoon, an aircraft that has virtually the same wingspan as the Bf 109 but is ten tonnes heavier and over 1000 mph faster. It is one of the best fighter aircraft in the world in 2015. Back in 1939 the Bf 109E had proved to be the most formidable aircraft of the Spanish civil war and it was the finest fighter in service at the outbreak of World War II.

The best fighter in the World was not without its flaws, Willy Messerschmitt was a noted glider designer before he turned his hand to fighters and aspects of its design were somewhat flimsy for a combat machine, a tail supported by struts was pretty weedy by the late thirties and the occasional catastrophic total structural failure kept the Luftwaffe pilot of 1939 on his toes. Nonetheless in September 1939 it was a more mature combat aircraft than its great opponent and nearest rival, the Spitfire and at the outbreak of war over 2000 Bf 109s had been built as opposed to barely 300 Spitfires. It had been refined with experience garnered in Spain, it was cannon armed and its fuel injection system was better able to cope with combat manoeuvres than the British aircraft. It was fitted with a constant speed airscrew which was a great boost to engine efficiency and pilot workload. In addition it had marginally better range which was to be greatly improved by a drop tank. Within hours of the outbreak of hostilities it was sweeping all aerial opposition aside and appeared unstoppable. It was decidedly more difficult to fly than most of its enemies but Germany entered the war confident (correctly) that its premier fighter aircraft was the world’s finest.

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Meet the ten most formidable piston-engined fighters here and the most potent modern fighters here.

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The ten best-looking US Navy airplanes

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The US Navy has had such a dazzling selection of beautiful airplanes, that we must accept that there has to be omissions in this list. Despite this, we hope you enjoy our choice- the following ten are certainly all extremely handsome machines. 

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10. Grumman Panther

F9F attached to the USS BON HOMME RICHARD (CVA31) flies over task force 77 engaged in 3 carrier operations against North Korean targets.  The carriers are USS BON HOMME RICHARD (CVA31) USS ESSEX (CVA9) and the USS PRINCETON (CVA37). NARA FILE #:  80-G-480645

9. McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 HornetWorld-Cockpit-Blue-Angels-F-18-Hornet-Fresh-New-Hd-Wallpaper

8. Vought F7U Cutlass

Tail Hook JM low rez7. F2D Banshee

A F2H-2 "Banshee" is serviced aboard the USS ESSEX (CV-9), for a strike on Communist targets in Korea, by crewmen of the 27,000 ton aircraft carrier.  A "Banshee" is hauled to the flightdeck of the carrier on the forward elevator. NARA FILE #:  80-G-432627

6. Vought F4U Corsair

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5. Wright XF3W Apache

Wright_XF3W_Apache_at_NACA_Langley_in_1926

4. North American A-5 VigilanteDN-SC-04-09229 3. Douglas A-4 Skyhawk

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2. Grumman F-14 Tomcat

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1. Grumman F7F Tigercat fighter2ws_1680sx

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You may also enjoy A B-52 pilot’s guide to modern fighters, Flying and fighting in the Lightning: a pilot’s guide,Interview with a Super Hornet pilot, Trump’s Air Force Plan, 11 Worst Soviet Aircraft, 10 worst US aircraft,and10 worst British aircraft

You may also enjoy Ten incredible cancelled Soviet fighter aircraftTen worst Soviet aircraftTen incredible cancelled military aircraftFighter aircraft news round-up,  11 Cancelled French aircraft or the 10 worst British military aircraftSu-35 versusTyphoon10 Best fighters of World War II , Su-35 versus Typhoontop WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Flying and fighting in the Tornado. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? Try Sigmund Freud’s Guide to Spyplanes. 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. 10 great aircraft stymied by the US

OCTOBER 23, 2016

The secret life of aircraft

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Looking up at an aeroplane in the sky, have you ever wondered where it originally came from- and where it will end its life? We take a fascinating look at the secret life of aeroplanes. 

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  1. Conception

mating.png

As with most vehicles, aeroplane copulation involves the male mounting the female from above (or in some cases behind). When a male aeroplane is interested in mounting a female, he waggles his wings and activate his foglights. If the female is receptive, she will either extend her drogue, sometimes called a basket, or in the case of many inland aeroplanes species, the male will extend his boom. Once coupled, the aircraft will exchange vital liquids that contain the blueprint for a new aircraft. If fertilisation is successful, the female aircraft will gestate for between ten and twenty years.

2. Birth

DF-ST-83-10620.jpg

Birth traditionally took place at 25,000 feet, but modern birthing techniques can be as low as 500 or as high as 30,000 feet. The process takes place at great speeds to avoid Predators or other Unmanned Air Vehicles. Litters vary in size, this F-111 is giving birth to four young (young F-111s are known as piglets). Note that the young have yet to develop full-size wings.

3. Childhood

11390h.jpgAs can be seen in this photograph of a young Bell X-1, young aeroplanes seldom stray far from their protective mothers. Note that the mother has four visible engines, whereas the X-1 has none. Engines are developed during puberty. A young aircraft often has neither the software, weapons integration or spare parts to make it in the world by itself.

4. Adolescence 

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After sexual maturation aeroplanes are forced to leave their family nests. Badly tempered- and highly hormonal male aeroplanes often form gangs (as seen above).

5. Sexual orientation 

Though these terms are now highly contentious, traditionally three types of aeroplane sexual orientation were understood:

A. Monocoque

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A monocoque aircraft relationship involves at least one mailplane in a monogamous relationship.

B. Biplane

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Biplanes are more versatile than monocoque aircraft, but some (especially in the monocoque community) have expressed doubt on their existence.

C. Triplane

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Very popular in the hedonistic 1910s, especially in German aristocratic circles – today there are few self-designated ‘triplanes’. Triplanes were famous for their flamboyant ‘drag culture’ – later replaced by the Lift-to-Drag culture.

6. Finding a job

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Though originally it was considered enough that aeroplanes could fly -today they are forced to earn their keep. Some are employed by budget airlines to act as prisons for humans, the hapless detainees are not allowed to leave until they have bought a thirty Euro teddy bear and a four-Euro Coke. Other aircraft are forced to perform in circuses flying unnaturally low or to fight to the death for the entertainment of national leaders.

7. Middle Age

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During middle-age, aircraft become more emotionally maintenance heavy. Aware that they are half way through their service life many, like this German Tornado ECR, start to wear gaudy costumes in an attempt to recapture the ghost of their youth.

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8. Old Age 

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The average aeroplane lives to around 7,000 flight hours. By 6,500, the aeroplane will be suffering from embarrassing coolant leaks, a general feeling of fatigue and appalling unreliability. Belts, hoses and gaskets — and anything else that rubs against something else — will need frequent attention. On the positive side, most elderly aeroplanes are thoroughly loved by both humans and other ‘planes. Particularly charismatic geriatrics may even become stars, performing before millions of spectators.

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One day an aeroplane will die. Its turbines or pistons will splutter and give up, and it will be hauled away, melted down and turned into sporks. Many aeroplanes, as Zoroastrians, request an open ground-level burial. A ‘tower of silence’ is built – where the bodies are left exposed so their aluminium can be picked from their bones by Vulture UAVs. 

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You may also enjoy A B-52 pilot’s guide to modern fighters, Flying and fighting in the Lightning: a pilot’s guide,Interview with a Super Hornet pilot, Trump’s Air Force Plan, 11 Worst Soviet Aircraft, 10 worst US aircraft,and10 worst British aircraft

You may also enjoy Ten incredible cancelled Soviet fighter aircraftTen worst Soviet aircraftTen incredible cancelled military aircraftFighter aircraft news round-up,  11 Cancelled French aircraft or the 10 worst British military aircraftSu-35 versusTyphoon10 Best fighters of World War II , Su-35 versus Typhoontop WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Flying and fighting in the Tornado. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? Try Sigmund Freud’s Guide to Spyplanes. 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. 10 great aircraft stymied by the US

OCTOBER 13, 2016

Mirage 2000 pilot interview: Cutting it in the ‘Electric Cakeslice’

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After mastering the Lightning  and Tornado, the RAF’s Ian Black volunteered to fly France’s hottest fighter, the superb Mirage 2000. Black explains what is was like to fly the ultimate Mirage, and how it fared in dogfights against the most formidable fighters of the 1980s. 

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How did you end up flying Mirage 2000s?

“I’d flown Air Defence for around 12 years and converted from back to front seat. I’d reached a point in my career where i had to expand my horizons. I could go down the staff Officer route, apply to the Red Arrows, Test Pilot School or try for an exchange posting. I opted for the exchange option as i wanted to fly an aircraft the RAF didn’t have as well as the opportunity to learn a foreign language appealed – At the time the RAF had exchange postings for Air Defence pilots on the F-15C/ F-16/ F-18 F-4F and Mirage 2000 – I wanted the French Exchange because it was based in Provence and the Mirage is a unique airframe.”

Which variant?

“I flew the Mirage 2000C – RDI – at the time the FAF had the Mirage 2000C RDM ( pulse radar ) and the RDI Pulse doppler radar. They also operated the Mirage 2000D and 2000N – Eventually a Tornado GR1 pilot flew the Mirage 2000D, but the N’s Nuclear role meant no foreign pilots were allowed to operate it.”

“I managed to put a Mirage 2000 into the vertical whilst being chased and held the manoeuvre a few seconds too long – when I looked into my HUD I was in the pure vertical at 60 knots and decelerating”

What were your first impressions of the cockpit?

” Slightly disappointing at first – I’d come from the Tornado F3 which was painted grey – then blacked out for NVG work – and was very spacious and well laid out. The Mirage 2000 is more like a fighter from the 70s with a lot of analogue displays. The rear view was not as good as an F-16 and it was pretty cramped. On the plus side it was not overly complex.”

Is it easy to fly?

“Yes and no- It’s easy to fly once you get the hang of it but the delta wing takes a unique approach to flying – Its not like a conventional wing – It generates huge amounts of lift but also an enormous amount of drag – great for a ‘Bat Turn’ but you always end low on energy afterwards. Landing is pretty straightforward. The view is good. Air-to-air refuelling is easy. It has very well balanced controls and gives you great seat of the pants type senses – I’d almost say it was the perfect blend of old and new – great feedback to the pilot using its early fly-by-wire controls without feeling like a computer game.”

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What is the hardest thing about flying the Mirage 2000- any quirks?

“As mentioned, the delta wing could catch you out, it would give you 9G+ performance but at a penalty; flying in the circuit could be a challenge, turning finals required quite a lot of pulling on the stick -which loaded the wing up as the drag built. Once you rolled wings level it was imperative to take the power off or you would accelerate quickly.”

How does the acceleration and climb compare to a Lightning?

“The Lightning had two massive Rolls Royce Avon engines – The Mirage 2000 had one – but it was still pretty potent.”

Did you fly dissimilar air combat training (DACT) flights on the Mirage 2000? If so, against which types and what did you learn from each type?

 “An interesting question – I must have flown against the F-14, F-15, F-16, F-18, Tornado F3, F-8 Crusader and the F-104 Starfighter in combat. The older generation didn’t stand a chance, but the F-16 block 50 was very good. One of the drawbacks of the Mirage 2000 being unique was that as we did a lot of 1vs 1 and 2vs 2 Mirage vs Mirage combat – you developed tactics and handling skills to fight Mirage vs Mirage. This actually was counter productive as these tactics -and the way you handled the aircraft – didn’t cross over to fighting other types. I got beaten by an F-16 by fighting him like a Mirage and learnt a painful lesson.”

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“DACT was interesting in the M2000 – if your opponent was new to fighting a delta it could make his eyes water! At the merge the initial 9G+ turn was eye-watering, despite having a single engine it could still reach heights other fighters like the F-16 couldn’t. It also possessed, in my opinion, a far more sophisticated fly-by-wire system – it was in effect limitless. I managed to put a Mirage 2000 into the vertical whilst being chased and held the manoeuvre a few seconds too long – when I looked into my HUD I was in the pure vertical at 60 knots and decelerating ! As we hit Zero the aircraft began to slide backwards and the ‘burner blew out. My heart-rate increased. As the aircraft went beyond its design envelope, the nose simply flopped over pointing earthwards – with a few small turns the airspeed picked up. As I hit 200 knots I simply flew the aircraft back to straight and level. I admit that my opponent did shoot me down, but he did say it looked spectacular. This sort of carefree handling gave pilots huge confidence in the aircraft”

What was the most challenging fighter you faced while flying the Mirage?

“Probably the F-15C as AMRAAM was just coming into service which totally outclassed us – They had amazing SA and the way they operated was impressive.”

How would you rate the M2000 in the following:

 Instantaneous turn rates (at low/medium and high altitudes)

“Stunning – at all altitudes – with its big wing even at 50,000 feet using the leading edge slats it could still turn well.”

Sustained turn rates (at low/medium and high altitudes)

“Sustained turn was still good, especially at low level where you had sufficient energy to maintain speed.”

High Alpha

“The Mirage 2000 was legendary at its low speed high Alpha Passes -120 knots was pretty easy to fly.”

Weapon system

“As a weapons system the Mirage 2000 is a great ‘package’ with a good radar , onboard electronic countermeasures and radar warning receiver. It also packs a good array of weapons – with air-to-air refuelling its a formidable fighter. “

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Which three words best describe the M2000?

 “Vive La France !  It’s Sexy. It’s French – Dassault make fine aircraft and apart from the ejector seat it pretty much is 100%. Future-Proofed – The M2000 first flew in 1978 and it’s still in service in 2016 – despite its sleek frame it’s built like a tank and can pull 9G all day long.”

How would you compare the aircraft to an F-16?

“I’d say the F-16 has the edge – whilst the M2000 evolved from the RDM – RDi to RDY versions they were pretty small upgrades in terms of airframe performance – The latest Block F16s are a world apart from the original F-16As. Part of the Mirage 2000’s problem was the arrival of Rafale, which pretty much stopped any further development.”

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How does it compare to the other aircraft you have flown?

“The Mirage 2000 is a fourth generation fighter – and extremely capable in both air-to-air and air-to-ground roles – as well as being highly manoeuvrable even when loaded up. The Tornado was extremely competent at the role of interceptor, but lacked the agility of Dassault’s masterpiece.”

What was your most notable flight on the Mirage 2000?

“When you fly a Mach 2.0+ 9 G fighter trust me they are pretty notable. A few stick out: night missions with air-to-air refuelling over Bosnia or live missions protecting High Value assets over Iraq were pretty noteworthy. Flying in another Air Forces aircraft is a real honour – the trust they have on you is humbling. “

Ian flew the Mirage from 1993-97. Even after flying the mighty Lightning, the Mirage 2000 remains Ian’s favourite aeroplane. 

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Buy Ian Black’s Lightning: volume 2, as it is a beautiful tribute to a very exciting aircraft- it is available directly from Ian on Twitter and will soon be available via Firestreak Books

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OCTOBER 11, 2016

Revolution! Interview with USMC Osprey pilot

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The most radical, and controversial, aircraft in frontline service is the V-22 Osprey. Far faster and longer-ranged than a helicopter yet with the same ability to take-off and land vertically, the Osprey is unique. But its critics describe it as vulnerable, costly and dangerous. So what is the view of those who have taken the aircraft into combat? We spoke to Carleton Forsling who flew MV-22s for the United States Marines Corps to find out more.

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“From a commander’s perspective, the speed and range of the Osprey are complete game-changers. Fixed-wing aircraft have always travelled long distances at high speed, but they require airfields to operate. That has always implied a chicken-or-egg scenario–you can’t get troops in without an airfield, but you can’t take an airfield without troops. Before the Osprey, that meant fighting one’s way to get an airfield or other facilities close to the fight or using airborne troops, which have always been incapable of sustaining themselves. Helicopters are notoriously short-ranged and slow. They provided tactical mobility, not operational or strategic mobility. Today, an Osprey can deliver troops hundreds of miles at high speed. It completely changes that paradigm.

From a pilot’s perspective, that is still impressive. For example, when I flew CH-46E Sea Knights, usually called the “Battlephrog,” it took the better part of a week to move helicopters from North Carolina to California for an exercise. With the V-22, it was just a long day. I flew a CH-46E from a ship in the Arabian Sea to Afghanistan in 2001. It was a fairly harrowing trip – at the limits of the machine. When I delivered one of the first V-22s from a ship to Afghanistan in 2009, it was as uneventful as taking a commuter flight from Des Moines to Chicago.

Still, what I most enjoyed about the Osprey was the way it made many of the most demanding tasks in traditional helicopters easy. In a helicopter, especially an older helicopter like a CH-46E, instrument flight was practically an emergency procedure. It was something you avoided. The V-22 was such a good IFR platform we could fly formations through bad weather routinely. In the -46, landing in a brownout was tempting fate each and every time–you just set your deceleration and attitude as best you could and tried to time your landing. In a V-22, you have several options in automation–you can use the electronic display to hand-fly the aircraft to the deck, showing your drift all the way to the ground even if you can’t see it. You can also use it to set up in an automatically stabilized high hover, or HOGE, then let yourself down under computer stabilization. Your choice depends on the tactical situation. It makes the most demanding task in all of military aviation, the brownout landing, into a routine one.

 

I always expressed my frustration with the Osprey as something along the lines of “We bought a Lamborghini, but didn’t spring for the power locks or a decent stereo.” It was things that the engineers forgot, like making the latches on maintenance panels sturdy enough for the demands of a high-performance machine, or having a GPS not certified for IFR use, or an icing system not up to commercial standards. The big-ticket technology, like the tiltrotor part, worked great. It was the ancillary systems that drove me crazy sometimes.”

Myths

“The biggest myth is that it’s unsafe. I did many tours, airshows, and public-relations appearances with the aircraft. Some people acted as if I was a professional stuntman or something and asked if I felt like I was in danger flying it. Historically, the Osprey suffered greatly, reputation-wise, because senior leaders mishandled its introduction, both in engineering and in aircrew training. In its mature form, it is statistically one of the safest combat aircraft in military service. It has double and sometimes triple redundancy in most of its critical systems. In the event of an engine failure, it can fly all day in airplane mode. In many helicopters, the second engine just takes you to the scene of the crash. I had my share of emergencies in the V-22, just as I did in the Phrog (CH-46), but I was always confident in the airframe to do its job.”

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What were your first impressions of the Osprey?

“The first time I saw it was as a CH-46E pilot flying around MCAS New River. It was still in developmental test at the time, and it was something like seeing a pink elephant or something. It was cool-looking, but I never thought much of it. Then I heard about the much-publicized mishaps and disparaged it, just like some of my compatriots.

The programme stopped flying for a couple of years, but when it stood up, some of the lead pilots did a road-show to tell fleet pilots where the program was going. I was an instructor in HT-18, the helicopter training squadron. When I saw their presentation, I was impressed. When the message came out asking for applications to fly it, I jumped right on it.”

Is it reliable?

“I won’t lie and say it isn’t a bit finicky. I like to say it’s a Lamborghini, but perhaps it’s best likened to a Porsche Panamera. It ain’t a Honda Accord. It takes more to keep it going, but it gives a lot more too. It’s a much more avionics-intensive machine. In fact, one of the problems we encountered early on is that the squadrons were structured very much like an old helicopter squadron in terms of the numbers of airframes mechanics, power line (or “flight line” in Marine-speak) mechanics, and avionics technicians assigned. In reality, most problems with the Osprey came down to electronics, and gradually the Corps readjusted to that.”

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“It does have the complexities of both a helicopter and a fixed-wing aircraft. Helicopters have a lot of hour-limited components, as does the Osprey. It does take a lot of work, I won’t lie about that. Many maintainers who switch to the Osprey aren’t pleased at first, but eventually most grow to love it, just like any other aircraft.

Another thing to remember is that the aircraft is incredibly self-aware. Whereas in a traditional aircraft, the first indication of a system degradation is an in-flight emergency, in the Osprey almost every parameter is recorded every flight. That means that problems are spotted before they affect the safety of flight and can be fixed before a system fails, not after. That’s a huge step up from legacy aircraft”

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Is it too fast to be used to its greatest potential with helicopters?

“That depends. It’s a mistake to treat it like a legacy aircraft, and during the fleet introduction, a lot of pilots were frustrated by senior leaders who treated it like just a slightly faster version of the CH-46. During exercises, we’d park the amphibious ships just a couple of miles from the beach, so that the V-22s barely had a chance to transition from helicopter, or “VTOL,” mode, before touching down in an LZ. If we employ it that way, then it is truly just an overly-expensive rotorcraft.

If we employ it they way it was designed, though, it can achieve things that no helicopter can. There are a variety of ways to achieve that synergy. If I had (several) billion dollars, I’d invest in high-speed escorts, perhaps even in heavily-armed V-22s to achieve that. In today’s world, though, there are still many ways to exploit the Osprey’s assets while still supporting troops in an LZ. That can come from using armed rotorcraft from FARPs (Forward Arming and Refueling Points). It can come from synchronizing V-22s with fixed-wing escorts. And it can be done by using V-22s to land where the enemy isn’t, because he can’t be anywhere, and the V-22 gives commanders the opportunity to “hit him where he ain’t.”

Have a look at 10 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 humourous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 

Is it particularly vulnerable to ground-fire?

“Like any rotorcraft, it’s not invulnerable. Movies sometimes give the impression that some helicopters can be rendered invulnerable to small-arms fire. Other than critical systems, it’s impossible to protect helicopters from holes being punched in them if they’re hit.

The biggest defense against battle damage is to avoid being hit in the first place. The Osprey is unique among assault aircraft in this regard. Enroute, it flies faster than helicopters, making it harder to hit. It also can fly either a low altitude or high altitude profile, depending on the MANPAD threat.

It is also far more maneuverable than traditional rotorcraft. Some people mistake being able to shake the controls around for maneuverability. Maneuverability means being able to move an aircraft’s velocity vector quickly in multiple axes. That’s something the Osprey can do better than any helicopter I’m familiar with. The Osprey can displace from a threat vertically and horizontally. In helicopters, the solution is just to fly lower, and there’s certainly a lower limit on altitude!”

 

150715-M-TT095-119.JPG“If it does get hit, the Osprey has multiple redundant systems. That’s true for its engines, hydraulics, and key electronics. Its fuel tanks are self-sealing and fill with inert nitrogen as they empty to prevent fires. The pilots’ control inputs are transmitted to the control surfaces by electrons, not rods and cables. The troop seats stroke to reduce the impact in the event of a crash. Those features are what truly help troops survive in combat.”

What is your most memorable flight on the aircraft, what is it like to fly?

“Most memorable? Well, there was this time when I flew though the wake of my lead aircraft while turning and descending on a base leg and it nearly flipped us over. We recovered at 47′. That phenomenon has to do with the strong rotorwash due to the high disk loading of the V-22, which leaves disturbed air behind a lead aircraft and the way the fly-by-wire system holds an attitude for the dash two. After this incident, the Marine Corps changed the parameters for where the dash two aircraft should be relative to the lead aircraft while descending in conversion (helicopter) mode. In my personal opinion, this wake interaction was what caused the Marana mishap, not the infamous “Vortex Ring State.

As far as what it’s like to fly, it’s like nothing else. It accelerates and decelerates incredibly quickly and is extremely maneuverable for a big aircraft at both high and low speeds. It’s also remarkably stable. Hovering is a breeze–to the point that fixed wing pilots transitioning to the V-22 ask what the big deal is when helicopter pilots talk about hovering. It’s also an amazing instrument platform.”

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What do you believe is the future for the V-22 and tilt-rotors in general?

“I think that tiltrotors have a very bright future. When I look at the information on the upcoming Bell V-280, it really looks as if they taken the lessons of the V-22 and taken it to the next level.”

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“As long the military has a need for crisis response, there will continue to be a need for tiltrotors.

The biggest challenge will be whether tiltrotors are accepted in commercial aviation. The operating cost will have to come down for it to become viable in EMS, petroleum, and executive transport. The military doesn’t have to turn a profit. Civilian operators do.”

Does it have a nickname?

“The Osprey hasn’t gotten a cool second nickname like some other aircraft, like the CH-46 SeaKnight, which became the ‘Phrog,’ or the CH-53, which became the ‘Shitter.’ Occasionally you’ll hear someone call it the ‘Plopter’, but it really hasn’t caught on, except as an occasional joke.”

Any advice to those working with the Osprey?

“Try to keep up. Seriously, though, my guidance for those planning to fly with the Osprey is to begin your mission planning with a clean sheet of paper. The Osprey isn’t a helicopter that flies fast. It’s an airplane that can land vertically.

The biggest mistake you can make is to treat it like just another rotorcraft. Whether that means you fly unescorted and use operational surprise, whether you coordinate a time-on-target CAS or artillery strike, use detached escort, etc…that’s all situationally dependent.  The flexibility of the Osprey is one of its biggest assets, but it’s also a challenge for planners who’ve worked under the same paradigm for a long time.”

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What equipment would you like to see fitted to the MV-22?

“I’m not even as creative as the Bell-Boeing developers right now. Anything that could be installed on a light cargo aircraft can be put on an Osprey. Of course, the vertical landing capability means that those capabilities can be brought to environments that didn’t have them before, e.g. off amphibious ships and out of remote forward operating bases.

I think the MV-22 is capable of doing many of the tasks the Air Force AC-130 and the Marine Corps Harvest Hawk KC-130 aircraft are doing. It is definitely capable of providing close air support and other fires, especially in a low-threat environment.

Additionally, it’s supremely well-suited for other utility missions, e.g. command and control, surveillance, electronic warfare, and aerial refueling. The sky is the limit. It could be a drone mothership, an AWACs or E-2 type battle manager, whatever you want.

The big issue is not the technical feasibility of these, but investing in the resources to train pilots and aircrew in not just their primary assault support missions, but also the additional missions the Osprey is capable of.”

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How did the MV-22 do in Afghanistan- what were the biggest challenges and most notable missions?

“The V-22 built on the lessons learned in Iraq when it went to Afghanistan. It became more of a mainstay of Marine Corps assault support in Afghanistan, vice just a sideshow.

To be honest, neither conflict  was one at which the Osprey was really going to demonstrate decisive advantages over helicopters. When there’s already a network of forward operating bases and the distances involved are relatively short, the Osprey’s advantage over traditional rotorcraft is reduced when compared to an amphibious assault or long-range crisis response scenario.

However as the war in Afghanistan wound down, the Osprey became a great platform for casualty evacuation. As the Marine Corps started to shut down FOBs, and the distances to medical facilities became greater, the “golden hour” could still be maintained. Helicopters couldn’t do that.”

Carl is the Senior Columnist for Task and Purpose

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More about Carleton Forsling:
USMC major (retired), now flight officer (EC-120 pilot) with Baltimore Police Department, Served in several billets, including Executive Officer of VMMT-204 (joint V-22 training squadron), Executive Officer of Border Advisor Team 2/6 (working with Afghan Border Police), Maintenance Officer of VMM-165 (fleet Osprey squadron), flight school instructor pilot in TH-57s, NATOPS evaluator (check pilot) in CH-46E and MV-22B, several others
Aircraft: T-34C, TH-57B/C, CH-46E, MV-22B, EC-120
Major operations: Kosovo/Albania 1999 flying the CH-46E (Allied Force, Joint Guardian, Noble Anvil, Avid Response)
Afghanistan 2001 in CH-46E, delivered first MV-22Bs to country in 2009. Served as advisor with Afghan Police in 2012-2013.

 

Note: This blog can only carry on with donations, please hit the donation button and share what you can. Thank you.

You may also enjoy A B-52 pilot’s guide to modern fighters, Flying and fighting in the Lightning: a pilot’s guide,Interview with a Super Hornet pilot, Trump’s Air Force Plan, 11 Worst Soviet Aircraft, 10 worst US aircraft, and10 worst British aircraft

 

 

 

 

 

 

OCTOBER 6, 2016

A B-52 pilot’s guide to modern fighters

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 Keith Shiban flew the B-52 in the nuclear deterrent role, and in combat missions over Iraq. We asked for his assessment of a bomber pilot’s nightmare, the latest generation of fighter aircraft. His conclusion? He’s glad he’s retired! Over to Keith: 

“As an old bomber guy, I write about fighter planes the same way I would about grizzly bears, biker gangs, and mafia hit-men. I’m no expert on any of them. I just know I wouldn’t want one coming after me. So here is one aviation geek’s look at what’s out there today and what’s coming in the near future.”

Fifth Generation

“What sets these apart is that they all use some degree of “low observable” technology to enhance survivability. Other features include advanced engines with vectored thrust, the ability to cruise at supersonic speeds without afterburner, advanced radars that are hard to detect and advanced sensors and electronics to improve the pilot’s situational awareness. By this criteria, the only operational 5th Generation fighter is the F-22 Raptor.”

F-22 Raptor

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“This thing’s been in service for 11 years now? Damn, I’m getting old.

I’ll admit I was at first a bit skeptical of the F-22. Having talked to people that worked on the programme as well as people who have actually flown it has brought me around. Apparently it really is as good as they say it is.

I am told that four F-22s, if they are fully data-linked, can take on as many F-15s as you care to throw at them until they simply run out of missiles and go home. Yeah, it’s that good. It will see you long before you see it and your first indication that it’s in the neighborhood might be an AMRAAM missile in your face. Nasty.

F-22 tactics seem to involve flying at high speed at high altitude, which adds a lot of extra oomph to its missiles when they’re launched. The technical term is “kinematic advantage”. Think of it as giving the missile a big head-start on its way to the target. For example, the AMRAAM missile gets about a 40% range bonus when launched in this manner.

Ironically, this is how we thought air combat would be back in the 50s and 60s with supersonic jets firing radar-guided missiles from beyond visual range. It just took technology a while to catch up. Mind you the F-22 can still dogfight, but I would venture that if a Raptor finds itself in a visual dogfight something has gone very wrong.”

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“The only drawbacks that I know of are that the F-22 is expensive to operate and it is limited by how many missiles it can carry internally. To correct the second issue, there is talk of having other platforms carry missiles that the F-22 could target and launch remotely. That’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. Today everything is data linked together and newer missiles can be fired first and then locked on to a target.”

Other weaknesses of the Raptor include: a poor range for its weight, absence of a helmet-cueing system and the use of rare and obsolete electronic components. Though cutting edge at the time, the man-machine is inferior to the F-35 and the Gripen E/F.

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Sukhoi T-50/PAK FA

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Gone are the days when Russia cranked out relatively cheap fighters like the MiG-21 in huge numbers. Today the T-50 is every  bit as complex and expensive as its Western counterparts.

So expensive, in fact, that Russia is jointly developing it with India to defray some of the costs. This is similar to how Western fighters like the Typhoon have been developed.

The T-50 has some cool features. The engines will have vectored nozzles, similar to the F-22, but which can move in both axis. This will let them use vectored thrust for yaw and roll, unlike the on the F-22 which can only affect pitch axis.

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On paper the T-50/PAK FA looks impressive but it’s still not an F-22. It has a radar cross section several orders of magnitude larger than the F-22. It’s stealthier than a 4th Generation fighter, but calling it a true 5th Generation fighter might be a stretch.

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The engines, always a problem in fighter development, are apparently giving them some difficulty. The T-50 will initially fly with a variation of the Su-35’s engine, which is itself a derivative of the Su-27’s engine that has been around for a long time.

The Russian economy being what it is these days, they now plan on only building an even dozen of these between now and 2020. That’s way down from the initial plan of 52.

In summary, it’s a very expensive aircraft that may not live up to expectations. Where have I heard that before? Still, the fact that they’re even building something like this shows just how far they’ve come.

Chengdu J-20

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“Gone are the days when China could only build copies of Soviet designs. They’re now building some pretty cutting-edge stuff of their own. The J-20 is one of them and could be operational around 2018.

The J-20 “Black Eagle” is a bit of an enigma. We’re not exactly sure what its intended role is. Or if we do we’re not saying. China certainly isn’t.

It’s big, stealthy and appears to have been built with range and payload in mind. That leads some to think that it’s primarily a long-range strike aircraft. However, it also appears to be built for maneuverability due to the canards and vectored nozzles. So perhaps it’s more of a heavy air-superiority fighter.  Or maybe it’s both.

The big question seems to be, will the Chinese be able to develop a suitable engine for it? Currently it is powered by the WS-10 engine, derived from the commercial CFM-56. The production model is supposed to get the much more powerful WS-15 engine, assuming they get it working. In order to compete as an air-superiority fighter it will need the more powerful engine.

Creating Hush-Kit takes time and resources, if you would like to help us continue please hit the donate button on this page (we are unfortunately well behind on our fundraising efforts). 

I’ll go out on a limb here and say that the “Black Eagle” (cool name) probably won’t be a match for the F-22, but would definitely be a threat to US and allied fourth generation fighters in the Pacific Rim.

Its combination of range, speed and stealth would also make it a major threat to high value assets like tankers and AWACS. Without tankers, short-ranged fighters like the F-22 and F-35 would have a tough time operating over the vast distances of the Pacific.

Lockheed F-35 Lightning II

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The F-35, depending on who you ask, is either the latest and greatest in fighter technology or an overweight, over cost, poorly performing testament to a bloated defence industry. If you’re looking for the definitive answer I’m afraid I don’t have it. One thing that everyone can agree on is that it’s expensive, behind schedule and very controversial.

I can safely say that it’s trying to do an awful lot with one aircraft. The F-35 will be built in three flavours to replace the Air Force F-16 and A-10, the Navy’s F/A-18 and the Marine’s AV-8B Harrier. That’s a pretty tall order.

Why are we doing this? The main reason is that air defences are getting to be really good. So good, that anything without stealth may be tactically obsolete in a few years, at least in a high-intensity conflict.

I would say that the most important feature of the F-35 is the electronics. Sensor integration on the F-35 is said to be even more advanced than the F-22.

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F-35 detractors say it’s too expensive, too slow and can’t beat a ‘legacy’ fighter in a visual dogfight. An F-35 proponent would say that if an F-35 ever finds itself in a dogfight something has gone horribly wrong.

Keep in mind that the F-35 is not meant to be an air superiority fighter. It’s a multi-role aircraft. Perhaps a better description would be a strike aircraft that can protect itself if need be.

I can remember being told back in the 1980s that the F-15 and F-16 ‘wouldn’t work’ because they were too expensive and too complicated. That obviously hasn’t been the case. I think the same may someday be said of the F-35, but only time will tell.”

 Generation 4.5

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“Sometimes these are described as Generation 4.5 or ‘Fourth Generation Plus’ aircraft. That means they have most of the cool features of the Fifth Generation aircraft minus the stealth.

Depending on your point of view, that makes these either a more cost effective choice than the expensive stealth aircraft or they’ll just have really great situational awareness of the thing that kills them.

Dassault Rafale

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“I admit I’m a bit of a Francophile, so that’s reason enough for me to like the Rafale. Plus it’s also a good looking jet and that’s got to count for something.

The Rafale came to be when the French pulled out of the Eurofighter programme and decided to go their own way. That sounds very French.

The Rafale frequently gets compared to the Eurofighter Typhoon, especially since both are heavily competing for export sales. Which one is better? I guess that’s kind of like asking which is the best car. It depends on what you want it to do.

From what I can gather, the Rafale is better than the Typhoon at the air-to-ground mission. It reportedly has a very good ECM package that lets it operate in places that might otherwise require stealth or a SEAD (suppression of enemy air defences) package.

Conversely the Typhoon is reportedly better in the air-to-air role due to its superior radar (editor notes: probably not true of AESA-equipped Rafales) and data-link capabilities. The Typhoon currently has better air-to-air missiles, but the French will soon equip the Rafale with the same missile (MBDA Meteor). For now the Rafale has to get by with the relatively short-ranged MICA.”

Eurofighter Typhoon

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“The Typhoon is a joint venture between the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain. This shows just how expensive modern jet fighters are. It would have been prohibitively expensive for any one European country to develop this aircraft on their own.

I don’t think the Typhoon is a pretty as the Rafale but it has a very futuristic look to it. Something about those squared off intakes and the downward canted canards.

I’m surprised that Germany bought off on the name ‘Typhoon’, since that was a British WWII fighter.(Ed: They haven’t really for just that reason, in Luftwaffe service it’s known as the Eurofighter). 

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Obviously I haven’t flown one of these, however if anyone wants to give me a ride in one I’m available. I’ll try not to throw up in it, honest.

The Typhoon’s list of features reads like an F-22 minus the stealth. Supercruise capability, extremely maneuverable, advanced radar (it is effective even though it is mechanically scanning) and sensors, advanced data-link. It even has voice recognition, like my phone, except I don’t use it because I’m old. Other than being expensive (and what isn’t these days) it sounds very impressive.

Certainly a number of countries have decided to purchase these. If you’re into the whole Anglo-French rivalry that’s been going on since the beginning of time, the Typhoon is outselling the Rafale by a sizeable margin.

Sukhoi Su-35 

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“It used to be that Russia built cheap, relatively unsophisticated fighters in large numbers. ‘Quantity has its own quality’ as the saying goes.

Today they are building very advanced (and expensive) aircraft that are close in capability to their Western counterparts.

The Su-35 is the latest variation on the tried and proven Su-27 Flanker. When the Russians build something that works they like to stick with it. Performance wise it stacks up very well against aircraft like the Typhoon and Rafale. Its avionics, while an improvement over older Russian aircraft, probably aren’t a match for the latest Western systems.

“The Su-35 makes me makes me glad I retired.”

While it boasts exceptional maneuverability, especially at low speeds, what really impresses me about the Su-35 is the number of missiles it carries. With a load of up to 12 (count ‘em) air to air missiles of various types, it can present a serious threat.

One probable Su-35 tactic would be to send a salvo of missiles at you with different seeker heads. Light your afterburners to manoeuvre against the radar-guided missile? Guess what, there’s a heat-seeker right there with it. Turn on a jammer? Here comes the anti-radiation missile to home in your signal. Makes me glad I retired.

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The other drawback to the Su-35 is that Russian aircraft really aren’t as reliable as you think they are. That at least has been the experience of the Indian Air Force, which operates both Russian and Western aircraft.”

Saab JAS-39 Gripen

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“Sweden may be officially neutral, but don’t confuse that with weakness. It’s more the ‘poke your nose in here and we’ll bite it off’ kind of neutrality. As such they’ve always maintained a very capable air force.

Saab has built some impressive fighters over the years and the Gripen is certainly impressive. Think of it as the “poor man’s Typhoon”. It can do most of what the Typhoon or Rafale can do for about half the cost. It’s cheaper to operate than even the ‘low-cost’ F-16.

It also has the advantage of being able to operate from roads and austere airfields.

In a ‘bang for the buck’ competition the Gripen seems to be the clear winner. Would you rather have three Gripens or a single Typhoon or Rafale?”

Chengdu J-10

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The ‘Vigorous Dragon’ (sounds like a superhero) is China’s first home-grown fourth generation fighter.

Just how home-grown it is depends on who you ask. Some claim it has its roots in the Israeli Lavi and US F-16. The Chinese claim it grew out of their own cancelled J-9 project. Who knows? It does look a bit like the Lavi, but different countries often reach the same conclusion on their own. It’s not like we’re the only smart people in the world.

It’s hard to guess just how capable the J-10 is since the Chinese are pretty secretive about their systems. On paper it seems to be in roughly the same class as an F-16C.”

The Legacy Fighters

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“The F-15/16/18 and A-10 have been around a long time, yet continuous upgrades have kept them relevant. It’s amazing just how good the F-15 has been for such a long time. We’re talking about a plane that first flew in 1972!

The question is, can these aircraft be kept relevant against the threats we’re likely to face? It all comes down to what you think we’ll be doing in the next ten years or so.

The stated case for the F-22 and F-35 is that something like an F-16, as good as it is, just won’t be able to operate in a future high-intensity conflict. Even if it was fully upgraded with the latest electronics, the argument goes, the lack of stealth would still render it vulnerable to modern air defences.

The opposing case would be: we’re not fighting a high-intensity conflict today, we’re bombing terrorists in the Middle East. An F-16 or an A-10 is almost overkill for that scenario.

Even in a future conflict the legacy fighters might be able to operate behind a “wall” of Fifth Generation aircraft. Once the defenses are neutralized an F-16 or F/A-18 is still a perfectly good strike aircraft.”

Summary

“These comparisons tend to leave out one very important factor. It’s not just a battle between Fighter A and Fighter B, it’s a fight between two forces. You might read that Fighter A once beat Fighter B in some exercise but that doesn’t tell the whole tale.

Who has the better training? Who has the better tactics? How many hours a month do their pilots get to train? Who has the better Command-Control and Intelligence? What about AWACS and tanker support? Who has the better logistics? The best jet in the world won’t do much without spare parts to keep it flying. None of that is as sexy as dogfighting but it’s very important.”

Creating Hush-Kit takes time and resources, if you would like to help us continue please hit the donate button on this page (we are unfortunately well behind on our fundraising efforts). 

You may also enjoy 11 Cancelled French aircraft or the 10 worst British military aircraftSu-35 versus Typhoon10 Best fighters of World War II , Su-35 versus Typhoontop WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Flying and fighting in the Tornado. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? Try Sigmund Freud’s Guide to Spyplanes. 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. 10 great aircraft stymied by the US

You may also enjoy 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 of The Planet SatelliteFashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. 

SEPTEMBER 20, 2016

10 most insane aircraft

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As can be witnessed in popular political movements, insanity is very ‘hot’ this season. Stephen Caulfield from Suburban Poverty decided to leap on the bandwagon with this collection of 11 deplorables. Such was the quality of the entrants, even the remotely controlled stuffed cat pictured failed to make the grade.

10. Piaggio P.7

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This is not a picture of a crashed aircraft waiting for a hoist out of Lake Como. The P.7 is seen here in pre-take-off position. The waterproof fuselage would lift up on hydroplanes as it moved forward. Pilots refused to fly it – the man who did try couldn’t get it to fly. Some things don’t really need to be explained.

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9. Fu-Go/Outward
Fu-Go balloons & Operation Outward

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Women and schoolchildren built a large number of incendiary-carrying balloons entrusted by the Japanese army to the jet streams over the Pacific Ocean for delivery to North America. Such are the schemes of a dying empire. Over 9,000 were released, and they did kill people picnicking in Oregon. Fu-Gos were made from less strategic materials, including layers of mulberry-based paper squares secured with an edible glue (this programme was hampered by war-deprived workers stealing and eating said glue). This programme’s sheer insanity has brought it a certain legendary status. No, the Fu-Go bombs did not enter the dishonour roll of insane aircraft because they succeeded in burning down the forests of North America. They arrived as far away from Japan as Saskatchewan and Mexico, making them the first ever intercontinental strategic instrument of air power. They are insane in their own right.

 

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Did you know that Britain mounted a far greater balloon campaign against Germany during the middle of World War II? No, you didn’t. It was ten times bigger, and a lot more effective, but also insane. Both programmes offer proof that science is no guarantee against insanity.

The Royal Canadian Navy had to go out and blow up the last one of these things in 2014. 

 

 

8. Chyeranovskii BICh-21

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Here is an entry from that Fordist font of high function, the Soviet Union. Life is hard, da. Hence the expression ‘life’s a bitch’ (note from Editor: Jesus, I hoped you were going to avoid that pun). With any luck, and maybe a residential treatment programme, it might turn out to be a BICh-21 tailless racer from the 1930s. Being easy on the eyes and being insane don’t necessarily exclude one another. For further evidence of this phenomenon, enrol in a free online dating service immediately.

 7. Fieseler Fi 103R Reichenberg

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Among the sorrowful artefacts and moments of the Third Reich, the manned version of the FZG-76/V-1 barely registers. It was really just another ersatz outburst (note: were Ersatz Outburst a Prog Rock band?) on the fanatical road to ruin, rubble and regret. That is to say, it was insane. Shades of the modern Middle East here – suicide as a tactical approach to lavishly equipped and larger opponents with all the advantages. Contemporary accounts rehashed for the digital era claim “it flew fairly well”. There was an apparently mirthless notion that the pilot would aim his Reichenburg and bail out. But isn’t the round thing above the cockpit a pulse jet intake? Never used in action, but WTF?

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6. Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II ‘Joint Sunk-cost Fallacy’

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Take a little bit from each of these entries and add eighty zillion lines of computer code. Seriously, it’s getting a little late in the day for the human race to be concentrating so much on high-tech weapons. Even if this flying laptop has a belly full of super secret weapons, that doesn’t mean it isn’t insane. Though in the last couple of years the general mood of the press has become more supportive of the F-35, the following quote from the US GAO should be considered: “DOD plans to begin increasing production and expects to spend more than $14 billion annually for nearly a decade on procurement of F-35 aircraft.”

There are two ways you can look at the F-35: if you believe high-intensity war against an advanced enemy is a possibility, you may want to consider the fact that the Lightning II was conceived to be supported in war by large numbers of high-end F-22s to protect them from enemy fighters – but the Raptors weren’t ordered in large numbers. Or if you believe that low-intensity war against irregular forces in poor countries is the more likely, you may wish to question the use of aircraft of this level of expense and sophistication. And although programme supporters have been citing the sunk cost fallacy forever, there are at least three more questions you should ask:

1. Could the high levels of situational awareness and connectivity (neither of which the F-35 currently has, reliably) be retrofitted to older platforms?

2. How long have potential adversaries had to think about countering aircraft with reduced conspicuousness in the x-bandwidth?

3. Which threats could not be handled adequately by non-stealthy aircraft with stand-off munitions?

And we’re not being all loony-tunes Russia Today in asking these questions – there is certainly more than one high-ranking member of the US Navy that has come up with answers that would discomfort Lockheed Martin.

More cynical observers might note that nobody can afford, or needs, large numbers of stealthy tactical aircraft.

5. Boeing B-52 Stratofortress ‘Dr Strangehate’

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No plane spotter or other type of aero enthusiast should ever be totally comfortable with their interest. There needs to be a little psychological ‘something’ present to remind them that expressions of military might are rooted in corporate power and abuse – and are a disaster for the human race. What can we label that little something? Label it insanity. Take a wild guess how many people this eight-engine monster has killed or hurt in the last 60 or so years. B-52s have killed in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Iraq and Afghanistan. Over twelve days during the Vietnam War, B-52s dropped 15,237 tons of bombs.

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In 1961 a B-52 broke up in mid-air over North Carolina. The aircraft was carrying two Mark 39 nuclear bombs, information declassified in 2013 revealed that one of the bombs came very close to detonating.

The list of accidents involving B-52s carrying nuclear weapons is also extremely scary. In 1961, a B-52 accidentally dropped a 3.8 megaton thermonuclear bomb on North Carolina! According to a bomb disposal expert who took part in the Goldsboro incident- “We came damn close to having a Bay of North Carolina”. The destruction would have been greater than that of every explosive ever detonated in history combined and would have killed everyone in a 14 mile radius – with many more being killed by radiation and secondary fires. Fortunately the weapon did not explode. Nuclear warfare remains the most insane idea of all time. The concept of nuclear deterrence is equally whacko, and rests on the premise that a leader who deems genocide acceptable can be deterred by the threat of genocide. Thanks to the nuclear deterrent, the Cold War was a period of peace, completely free of proxy wars.

At this very moment the B-52 remains an instrument of nuclear annihilation by accident and intention, and for perpetual police actions. Insanity is nothing if not durable and easily scaled up.

4. Heinkel He-177 Greif

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One risk with a list like this is a tendency to drift towards late Third Reich prototypes like the Natter and its ilk. Nonetheless, from this set of German wings, we just cannot look away. You see, when engineers and other technical adepts are yes-men locked in a military-industrial complex throwing big money at ill-advised, immoral aggressions, you better go to the basement and stay there.

 

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What a waste. A silly collection of specifications (including the expectation of an ability to dive bomb with over twenty-five tons of aircraft) resulted in major structural failures and fire-prone powerplants. The Greif typifies a couple of hundred completely whacked wartime crash programmes, and illustrates exactly why they are called that to this day. The Greif killed a huge chunk of the Luftwaffe’s test pilot cadre, probably some of the era’s best pilots. Also, it never really looked right from any angle. Insanity is a matter of perspective.

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3. Piasecki PA-97 Helistat

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Kiss your loved ones before you leave the house tomorrow morning. If they ask why you are crying, mumble ‘Helistat’ before turning your back on them for the last time. The Helistat concept was to combine the lifting abilities of four helicopters with a giant sausage (in fact a 1950s naval airship) full of helium to allow the transport of massively heavy payloads. Test flights were made from the Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst in New Jersey, using the ancient airship hangars. At 343 feet (104.54 metres) long, it was the largest aircraft in the world when it first flew in 1986.

On 1 July 1986, a gust of wind rocked the test aircraft, causing it to move across the ground. This in turn caused the undercarriage to shimmy uncontrollably, which led to ground resonance (an unwanted phenomenon whereby the helicopter rotors oscillate in phase with the frequency of the helicopter shaking on its undercarriage – Wiki rather neatly compares this to when clothes get stuck in one part of a washing machine during the spinning cycle). This shook one of the helicopters off its mounting, whereupon its rotors slashed the gasbag, causing the remaining three helicopters to break free. One pilot was killed, and the project was scrapped. Today, Piasecki is interested in returning to the concept with an even bigger helistat.

See the ten coolest cancelled helicopters here

2 . Fly-powered art aircraft ‘Wasp Factory-build’

Sometimes life finds us riding a bus at night, crying and laughing simultaneously. Other times, we stay in and build powered model aeroplanes. Animals are put on this Earth for our entertainment, apparently. You can see the aircraft here.

At least no death is involved here, unless you count the flies.

1 – Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka ‘cherry blossom’

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A ‘manned bomb’ with three solid fuel rockets, and yet so much more. Let the term ‘manned-bomb’ term sink in a little, maybe even say it out loud to yourself if there’s no-one else in the room. The ‘cherry blossom’ looks a bit like a spritely orange prop reject from a Star Wars movie. Cute, yes – but thoroughly insane. These desperate things actually entered service and rearranged several United States Navy vessels (there was over a ton of explosives inside each one). It flies straight into its target.

It’s hard to know the exact calculus involved in determining the difference between a heroic dangerous assignment in war and an inhuman act of forced martyrdom – however you do the maths, being an Ohka pilot was a shitty posting.

Stephen Caulfield cleans limousines around the corner from what was once the Avro Canada plant.  He appreciates writing, art, aeroplanes and the tragic nature of modernity in pretty much equal parts these days. His contributions to Hushkit.net have included the very tasteless The top popstar-killing aircraft manufacturer of all time, the bizarre Top ten most-whacked undercarriage, the widely discredited Bermuda Triangle  and this lovely ode to the C.102 jetliner. 

Keep this blog alive!

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You will keep us impartial and without advertisers – and allow us to carry on being naughty. A big thank you to all our readers.

 

You may also enjoy Ten incredible cancelled Soviet fighter aircraftTen worst Soviet aircraftTen incredible cancelled military aircraftFighter aircraft news round-up,  11 Cancelled French aircraft or the 10 worst British military aircraftSu-35 versusTyphoon10 Best fighters of World War II , Su-35 versus Typhoontop WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Flying and fighting in the Tornado. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? Try Sigmund Freud’s Guide to Spyplanes. 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. 10 great aircraft stymied by the US

nuclear_mishap-_marker_in_eureka_nc

SEPTEMBER 19, 2016

Generation Xbox may kill you: Why you SHOULD be afraid of flying

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Do commercial pilots know what they’re doing? Flight Safety expert Philip Chandler believes many airline pilots have lost basic skills that save lives in emergencies.

“In the final few days of 2014 an A320 of Air Asia flew into the Java Sea killing all 162 on board.  What had been a perfectly airworthy jet with a minor system fault had fallen in a stalled condition from 28,000 feet with the Captain pushing the stick forward to regain airspeed and the Co-Pilot pulling back; the aircraft’s flight control system had detected conflicting signals, and taken the democratic decision to let them cancel each other out- the result was none of the aircraft’s control surfaces (the flaps and assorted moving parts that steer the aircraft) moved.  If this seems familiar, it’s because only five and a half years earlier Air France 447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris had plummeted in to the Atlantic with the same confusion in the cockpit.  Although both accidents had their roots in minor technical faults, the aircraft flew into the seas as a result of crews’ dependence on automation – and ignorance of what to do if things go wrong. The crew failed to carry out correct actions that even the private pilot of a light aircraft would be expected to get right.

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As isolated incidents these two events would be bad enough, however Loss Of Control Inflight (known as LOC-I ) is now the leading cause of fatalities on modern airliners. Since 2006 43% of fatal incidents on airliners have been due to the inability of the aircrew to operate the aircraft.  Nor is it an Airbus issue, Asiana managed to bounce a 777 along San Francisco airport after the crew, including a training captain, failed to understand the autopilot logic and stalled on short finals.  Three of the 307 aboard were killed, two of whom were notably not wearing their seat-belts and were flung clear of the wreckage suffering blunt force trauma, possibly from being run over by a fire tender.

Nor does it only affect fixed wing aircraft, in August 2013 a Super Puma of the CHC Helicopter Corporationcrashed just short of Sumburgh Airport after entering a vortex ring state, where the aircraft is trapped in a column of descending air of its own making.  In that case the crew had again failed to fully understand the workings of the automatic pilot and had allowed the aircraft to get too slow with too little power available to maintain height.  This of course being only one of many possible ways to suffer a fatal accident in a Super Puma the numerous technical failings the type has suffered in the last decade being worthy of an article on their own.  Hint hint (OK Philip, go for it. Ed)

Although accidents can happen at any stage of the flight only around 24% of fatal accidents occur while an aircraft is cruising, the time to really worry is during the final approach and landing.  During this phase of the flight 49% of fatal accidents take place, accounting for 47% of the 3191 deaths that have occurred since 2006. Just to prove that you can’t relax once the aircraft is on the ground 20% of deaths occur because the aircraft runs off the runway, lands abnormally or the pilots just miss the big ass piece of tarmac they’re supposed to land on.  As recently as 5 August 2016, a Boeing 737-400 of ASL Airlines failed to stop on Bergamo’s 9209 foot runway and instead ended up straddling a dual carriageway another 900 feet further on.  Fortunately it was a freighter operating for DHL so there were no passengers to worry about and both crew survived (the aircraft on the other hand may need a bit of a polish before re-entering service).  Slightly further back in April 2013, a Lion Air 737 landed in the water 0.6 nautical miles short of the seawall that protects the runway threshold.  In that case the crew continued to descend below the minimum safe altitude despite not being in sight of the runway.  When they finally made the decision to go around they were far too low and only the shallowness of the water prevented any fatalities.

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Is too much automation to blame?  Probably not, aircraft accident rates in commercial aviation have been decreasing as automation has allowed aircraft to be operated more efficiently than ever before.  However, this has removed the onus on aircrew to maintain core flying skills with the so called ‘Children of the Magenta’ blithely following the lines presented to them on the in cockpit displays and successfully completing hundreds of flights.  But when something does go wrong many lack the basic skills required to fly the aircraft and make the wrong decision when faced with the unexpected.  The miracle on the Hudson and the successful end to QF32, an A380 that suffered an uncontained engine failure, were in no small part due to the training and experience the crews had that allowed them to Aviate, Navigate and Communicate when things started to go wrong. Unfortunately, although many fine websites exist that allow you to determine the best seat to choose for any flight, the author has yet to find one that gives you a detailed breakdown of the flight decks experience levels.

Current trends since 1999 indicate that on average there are 4.14 hull loss accidents per million departures, leading to 32 fatalities per million departures.  With nearly 38 million scheduled flights per year that’s a decent line in revenue for Boeing and Airbus in replacing lost aircraft.  With an annual average of 1233 deaths in commercial accidents it is however fair to say that no matter how terrifying the flight may seem, you’re significantly more likely to die on the drive to the airport than on the actual flight.  In the UK alone there are an average of 2500 road traffic deaths a year.  So maybe catch the train to the airport next time.”

Since working in Flight Safety, Philip Chandler regularly Googles airline safety records before booking flights.

Keep this blog alive!

To keep this blog going- allowing us to create new articles- we need donations. We’re trying to do something different with Hush-Kit: give aviation fans something that is both entertaining, surprising and well-informed. Please do help us and click on the donate button above – you can really make a difference (suggested donation £10). You will keep us impartial and without advertisers – and allow us to carry on being naughty. A big thank you to all of our readers.

 

You may also enjoy 11 Cancelled French aircraft or the 10 worst British military aircraftSu-35 versusTyphoon10 Best fighters of World War II , Su-35 versus Typhoontop WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Flying and fighting in the Tornado. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? Try Sigmund Freud’s Guide to Spyplanes. 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. 10 great aircraft stymied by the US

Air Asia Accident Report

Sources:

http://www.aaiu.ie/sites/default/files/FRA/KNKT%20Indonesia%20Final%20Report%20PK-AXC%20Airbus%20A320-216%20Air%20Asia%20PT%20Indonesia%202015-12-01.pdf

Air France Accident Report

https://www.bea.aero/docspa/2009/f-cp090601.en/pdf/f-cp090601.en.pdf

Asiana Accident Summary

http://www.ntsb.gov/news/events/Pages/2014_Asiana_BMG-Abstract.aspx

CHC Accident Report

https://www.gov.uk/aaib-reports/aircraft-accident-report-aar-1-2016-g-wnsb-23-august-2013

ASL Accident Details

http://avherald.com/h?article=49c27d0c

Lion Air Accident Report

http://asndata.aviation-safety.net/reports/Indonesia/20130413-0_B738_PK-LKS.pdf

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not Hushkit.net

SEPTEMBER 13, 2016

Shocking revelation in Indian Rafale fighter jet deal

A_French_air_force_Rafale_aircraft_breaks_formation_after_refueling_from_a_U.S._Air_Force_KC-135_Stratotanker_aircraft_assigned_to_the_351st_Expeditionary_Air_Refueling_Squadron_(EARS)_over_an_undisclosed_130317-F-BY961-185.jpg

NEW DELHI:  Long rumoured to be imminent, the Indian Air Force’s attempt to buy 36 Rafale fighter aircraft from French aerospace giant Dassault has been rocked by a revelatory press conference held this morning in New Delhi.

According to a Government  spokesperson, “The contract and the inter-governmental agreement have dragged on for so long – and have been quoted as imminent as so long- that we started to suspect foul play. An investigation revealed that negotiations were partly led by a company known as Vasdu Holdings.” Investigation of this shadowy firm’s involvement in the Rs 55,000 crore (7.3 billion Euros) deal led members of Indian’s Procurement Supervisory Board to Hollywood. It is here that the Managing Director of Vasdu Holdings lives – but who is he? One C.A Kutcher. If that name is familiar it is because it is that of Christopher Ashton Kutcher, the film star and famous prankster.

ashton-kutcher-15.jpg

During today’s press conference the 38-year-old hunk revealed that the Indian Rafale deal was a prank, one that went wildly out of control: “The medium fighter contest was started as a joke to conceal David Hasselhoff’s motorcycle, but it spiralled out of control. Soon we had the biggest arms manufacturers in the world queuing up try and sell us their planes. I was like, ‘dude- this is literally off the hook crazy- but man let’s ride it out’.”

The first the 64-year old actor and singer David Hasslehoff knew of the joke was when representatives of Russian aircraft manufacturer RSK MiG were found in his garage trying to integrate R-77 missiles onto his Harley-Davidson Roadster. Kutcher was now in hot water, and the situation was only getting worse – as Heads of state flocked to Indian to woo the Government with grand promises in an attempt to seal the deal, he knew he had to do something. Indian’s Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition hit big delays in 2007 as Kutcher was busy filming romantic comedy ‘What Happens in Vegas’ with Cameron Diaz. On 31 January 2012, it was announced that the Dassault Rafale had won the contest, defeating the Eurofighter Typhoon (the Gripen NG, MiG-35, F/A-18 and F-16E had already been dismissed from the evaluation).

2007_kickin_it_old_skool_007.jpg

“Shit was now real, and I felt like I couldn’t back down. I knew if I kept a poker-face Hasselhoff would look like a total dick. To buy time- I’d already added like a million delays- I scrapped the MMRCA last year citing deadlock over Dassault’s refusal to take responsibility for the 108 jets to be made in India. I said that the Government had decided to go instead for direct purchase of 36 Rafales during the Modi-Hollande summit in Paris. I have managed to delay and delay the deal but now feel I must confess that the whole deal was a joke that got out of hand. I sincerely hope that India taxpayers, the French Government and David Hasslehoff have the good grace and sense of humour to forgive me my greatest prank.” 

 

To keep this blog going- allowing us to create new articles- we need donations. We’re trying to do something different with Hush-Kit: give aviation fans something that is both entertaining, surprising and well-informed. Please do help us and click on the donate button above – you can really make a difference (suggested donation £10). You will keep us impartial and without advertisers – and allow us to carry on being naughty. A big thank you to all of our readers.

 

You may also enjoy 11 Cancelled French aircraft or the 10 worst British military aircraftSu-35 versusTyphoon10 Best fighters of World War II , Su-35 versus Typhoontop WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Flying and fighting in the Tornado. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? Try Sigmund Freud’s Guide to Spyplanes. 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. 10 great aircraft stymied by the US

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Older posts

F11Fs_Blue_Angels_over_Niagara_Falls_c1957

The Ten Greatest Biplane Fighters

WW1 Pilots

 Image credit: http://www.timetoast.com

The two periods in which biplane fighters saw combat in significant numbers oddly coincided with the beginning and very end of the fighting biplane‘s development with nearly twenty years of comparative peace in between. Thus any assessment of the ‘greatest’ biplane fighters naturally looks at these bookends of the biplane story. Many fine aircraft appeared, flew for a few years in the squadrons, and were quietly withdrawn without ever firing a shot in anger. This cursory, and totally arbitrary, list of the greatest looks only at those ‘lucky’ enough to have seen operational combat service and naturally follows the odd pattern of the biplane‘s most significant periods of service, 1914-18 and 1936-41, before the monoplane showed two fingers to two wings for good. Please also grant us the cognitive dissonance required to use terms like ‘scorer’, we do not intend to celebrate war or to trivialise the lives lost in these dogfights.

 

10. Airco DH.2
airco-dh2
Top scorer: Patrick Langan-Byrne, 10 kills on type, 10 total.
An aeroplane nicknamed ‘the Spinning Incinerator’ doesn’t particularly imply Greatness but in 1915 the word ‘incinerator’ was virtually synonymous with the word ‘aircraft’ and the DH.2 was only prone to spinning when compared with the rock solid stability of the BE series that the British airmen were used to. The DH.2 was incredibly significant as the first aircraft designed from the outset to be a single-seat fighter thus beginning 99 years of unbroken development and leading to the likes of the F-22 (a cantilever monoplane, with twin pusher turbines), which, one can’t help but suspect, would be much more interesting if it were nicknamed the Spinning Incinerator.
The Fokker Eindecker, which beat the DH.2 into service, was little more than a lash-up, a machine gun bolted to an existing (inadequate) airframe and liable to fall apart if the gun was fired. The DH.2 quickly gained ascendancy over the German monoplane and remained in frontline service into 1917, a remarkable career given its pioneering quality. The opening shots in the long war between monoplane and biplane had been fired and the biplane was the initial victor.
9. Nieuport 17/23/24
Nieuport_23_C.1_(colour)
Top scorer: Philip Fullard, 40 kills on type, 40 total.
In the Second World War (and ever since) we became used to the fact that the US supplied aircraft to virtually everyone. In the First World War France fulfilled this function and the tiny Nieuport Scout was the first truly mass-produced fighter, at least 7000 were built in France, licence production of thousands more took place in Britain and Italy (the exact total of how many were built is now lost due to the hilariously vague standards of contemporary record-keeping) and it was operated by 17 nations during the war. This compared to the paltry totals of 453 DH.2s and 416 Fokker Eindeckers, neither of which were exported. For a time the Nieuport 17 equipped every French fighter squadron. Luckily, given its ubiquity, it was an outstanding aircraft and was markedly superior to any enemy aircraft.
The Germans paid the Nieuport the ultimate compliment by producing a direct copy which entered operational service as the Siemens-Schuckert D.1.
Eventually surpassed by aircraft of greater power and strength, the Nieuport lingered in frontline British service into early 1918 and even then some of the more influential pilots retained one for personal use, notably Albert Ball and Charles Nungesser. Virtually all Allied aces scored at least some of their kills on the type.
 
8. Sopwith Camel
148th_Aero_Squadron_-_Sopwith_Camels
Top scorer: Donald Maclaren, 54 kills on type, 54 total.
It shouldn’t be left out of any list of the ‘greatest’ biplanes but the Camel was in many ways an extremely bad aircraft. It was a dead end technologically, obsolete by the armistice and already being relegated to ground-attack in frontline squadrons. Furthermore it was famously difficult to fly, a vicious stall led invariably to a dangerously tight spin and the torque of the spinning engine was very nearly beyond the ability of its rudder to correct. Add to this the ludicrously difficult engine management techniques required to keep the rotary engine running and it becomes less surprising that at least 385 Camel pilots lost their lives in non-combat related accidents (including my Great Grandmother’s fiance).
However, these terrifying handling qualities conferred upon the Camel exceptional manoeuvrability, it may well have been the most manoeuvrable fighter of all time, and in a turning fight the Camel was untouchable. The statistics bear this out, Camels accounted for 1294 victories, more than any other fighter type of the war. Its rival the SE5a was in virtually every respect a better aircraft but the Camel seemed to capture the wider imagination, possibly due to Biggles and of course the type’s most famous pilot, Snoopy.
7. Fokker D.VII
Fokker_D.VII_fighter_flying_a_looping_c1919
Top scorer: Erich Löwenhardt, 34 kills on type, 54 total.
Generally considered the best fighter of the Great War, the Fokker D.VII was a harbinger of the future. It wasn’t the fastest, most manoeuvrable or best climbing aircraft to see service but it offered the best combination of all these facets in one airframe coupled to a markedly fine altitude performance, allowing it to operate above its enemies and secure the initiative in combat. Perhaps most importantly, despite its excellent performance it was also very easy and forgiving to fly, possessed of a very gentle stall, and could be flown to the limits of its performance with impunity, unlike the Albatros D.V it generally replaced which had problematic tendency to shed its wings in a dive (it is not coincidence that the Germans were the first to introduce parachutes for their fighter pilots).
A massive production programme meant that despite entering service as late as May 1918, some 3300 had been built by the end of hostilities in November. Famously singled out to be handed over to the Allies as a condition of the armistice terms the D.VII re-entered production in the Netherlands and ultimately served in the air arms of 19 nations, in some cases well into the 1930s.
Curiously both wings of the Fokker were cantilever units, virtually unheard of at the time, the wing struts were added only to prevent vibration. The D.VII could therefore be considered two monoplanes bolted to the same fuselage. As such, despite being a biplane, it included an early example of the technology that would ultimately doom the two-winged fighter to obsolescence.
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. At the moment our contributors do not receive any payment but we’re hoping to reward them for their fascinating stories in the future.
6. FIAT CR.32 Freccia
Fiat_C.R.32-Baleari
Top scorer: Joaquín García Morato y Castaño, 36 kills on type, 40 total
The CR.32 and its great rival the I-15 were the main aggressors in the last major conflict in which biplane fighters could still be regarded as the finest combat aircraft in the world. Even then, their time at the top was relatively brief and they were supplanted by the (monoplane) Fiat G.50 and I-16 respectively. The Fiat was the pinnacle of a line of excellent fighters designed by Celestino Rosatelli for a flamboyantly confident Italian air force. Oddly, both the Fiat and its Polikarpov nemesis fought as part of the Chinese air force against Japan. In China the CR.32 was found to be superior to both the Curtiss Hawk and Boeing P-26 but operational use there was relatively limited due to the scarcity of its fuel (its 600 hp Fiat A30 engine required a heady cocktail of alcohol, benzole and petrol to work properly) and other, less picky fighters came to the fore.
Meanwhile, over Spain, Fiat flew the flag for Fascism against the Communist upstart I-15, its one major advantage over the Soviet aircraft being its heavier armament. Spain would prove to be its finest hour, it was capable of destroying the Tupolev SB-2 bombers that were thought uninterceptable due to their speed – indeed Spain saw the unusual situation that both sides possessed monoplane bombers that were faster than their respectivebiplane fighters, a situation that hastened their replacement by speedier monoplanes.
5. Polikarpov I-15
chatote7
Top scorer: Leopoldo Morquillas Rubio, 21 kills on type, 21 total.
Compared to the decidedly elegant CR.32, the I-15 looks like it has been driven into a wall. However looks can be deceiving and the gull-winged Polikarpov was one of the few aircraft in the world capable of meeting the CR.32 on roughly even terms. Slightly slower, the pugnacious I-15 was more manoeuvrable – but not by much. Individual combat, if neither aircraft had a height advantage, would be decided by piloting skill. By contrast, Germany’s best fighter of the time, the Heinkel He 51 was completely outclassed by the Polikarpov. To be fair they caught up rather quickly. Designed by Nikolai Polikarpov in ebullient mood having just been released from jail, the I-15 was conventional but brought Soviet fighter design up to contemporary world standards where it remained until the Soviet Union’s ultimate demise.
Weirdly nicknamed ‘Curtiss’ by the Nationalists for reasons unclear to anyone, and more accurately ‘Chato’ (Flatnose) by the Republicans who operated it, the I-15 was the premier fighter of the Republicans until its eclipse by the I-16. Speed, dive and climb were becoming the most important attributes of the fighter and the incredible manoeuvrability of the I-15 was, by the end of its career, little more than an irrelevance. But for a year or two the chunky Polikarpov was demonstrably one of the two best fighters in the world bar none.
4. Kawasaki Ki-10
Kawasaki_KI-10_Type_I_biplane
Top scorer: Kosuke Kawahara, 8 kills on type, 8 total.
Virtually unknown today, the Kawasaki Ki-10, codenamed ‘Perry’ during World War II, established an air superiority over China that would last years, gave the Japanese their first air aces, and firmly founded the near-pathological Japanese obsession with manoeuvrability above all other fighter attributes that would ultimately lead to the exceptional A6M Zero. It is also the only aircraft on this list from whose manufacturer you can buy a brand new motorcycle (if you wish). Interestingly the Ki-10 was judged superior to a monoplane (the Nakajima Ki-11) competing for the same order. This would be the last time a fighter biplane would be selected in preference to a rival monoplane.
In service the Kawasaki proved master of all it encountered until it ran up against the latest Soviet types during the so-called ‘Nomonhan incident’ of 1939, by then even Japan had accepted the inevitable and it was replaced by a developed version of the monoplane it had initially beaten in the form of the dainty Nakajima Ki-27. Even then it forged a secondary career playing Chinese aircraft in the (excellent) aerial sequences in the 1940 flick ‘Burning Sky’ which you can see here: Ki-27 and Ki-10 in mock combat sequences (Fixed).wmv
3. Gloster Gladiator
Gloster_Gladiator
Top scorer: Marmaduke Pattle, 15 kills on type, at least 40 total.
Obviously everyone knows everything already about the Gloster Gladiator don’t they?
So, what nationality was the first pilot to score a kill in a Gladiator?
That’s right: American. John ‘Buffalo’ Wong flying in the Chinese air force in 1938 shot down a Mitsubishi A5M, long before the ‘Flying Tigers’ had even been thought of. This kind of cosmopolitanism is typical of Britain’s last fighting biplane as the Gladiator was little more than a convenient stop-gap to keep up the numbers until the Hurricane and Spitfire came on stream in sufficient quantity and was thus released for export at a fairly early date.
Curiously the Gladiator pops up in an unusual number of unequal conflicts far from its home where it was forced to operate (invariably heroically and to great propaganda value) in the face of numeric and technological superiority – thus conveniently mirroring the general experience of the biplane fighter in World War II. Flying for the Chinese against the Japanese, with the Finns against the Soviets, the Belgians against the Luftwaffe and, most famously, with the RAF against the Italians over Malta the Gladiator stoically defied the odds. More prosaically, when operated in numbers against a similarly equipped enemy it performed excellently and a similar situation to the CR.32/I-15 situation in Spain developed over Africa, where it clashed regularly with the Fiat CR.42, which, though slightly faster, did not handle as well as the Gloster. Despite being the RAF’s last biplane fighter it was also that service’s first fighter to sport an enclosed cockpit, there are not many aircraft that were simultaneously in the vanguard of development whilst totally obsolete.
2. FIAT CR.42 Falco
cr42_general_01
Top scorer: Mario Visintini, 17 kills on type, 19 total.
The Italians, based on misleading combat reports from Spain, believed that the fighting biplane with its undeniable advantage in manoeuvrability still had a place in the modern air force, and they had the dubious honour of being the last nation to bring a biplane fighter into service. That aircraft was the Falco, at first glance a chubbier version of the CR.32. Undeniably a fine aircraft, it had the misfortune to appear into a world full of monoplanes it couldn’t catch. However, world air forces are a conservative bunch and the new Fiat biplane met with ready acceptance on the export market. In Hungarian service it established an impressive 12 to 1 kill/loss ratio against the Soviet Union, whereas in Sweden and Belgium it flew alongside its arch-foe the Gladiator. With the Italians over Greece and Africa the Fiat was well able to deal with the types initially fielded against it such as the Blenheim and Wellesley and whilst it was on a par with the Gladiator, when newer types such as the Hurricane appeared the CR.42 found itself struggling.
The CR.42 may well have scored the last biplane kill, in 1945 a ground-attack Falco in service with the Luftwaffe reported attacking a P-38, which did not in fact return to base. The kill remains unconfirmed. Despite its conceptual obsolescence, the CR.42 was built in greater numbers than any other Italian fighter and as a final fling, Fiat fitted a Daimler Benz DB.601 to the CR.42. The resultant CR.42B achieved 323 mph, making it the fastest biplanefighter ever built by some considerable margin. It did not enter production as by then even the Italians realised that the future lay with a single wing.
In 1942 production of the CR.42 finally ended and the last fighter biplane to be produced anywhere rolled out of the factory and into history.
 
1. Polikarpov I-153
latest
Image credit: http://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net
Top scorer: Aleksander Avdeyev, 12 kills on type, 13 total.
The Polikarpov I-153 generally did not fare well in combat but its inclusion here is justified not only as it took biplane performance to the furthest limits (at 280 mph it was the fastest biplane to see service) but also due to the fact that, obsolescence notwithstanding, on one occasion it replaced the seemingly superior I-16 monoplane on operations. The I-153 was good enough that even in a monoplane infested world it amazingly persisted in frontline service until 1945.
Given that the Soviet Union were the first nation to introduce a modern monoplane fighter into their inventory as early as 1934, it seems odd that they should persist with the biplane but Soviet tactical thinking foresaw a tidy combat situation wherein monoplane fighters would break up a force of incoming bombers, then the I-153s would deal with them, and any pesky escorts, individually. In reality this simply didn’t work. Nonetheless 3437 were built and were heavily used, mostly in a desperate rearguard action against the invading Germans in 1941. However, back in 1939, the brand new I-153 was rushed to the Mongolian front to replace the I-16 monoplane. The Japanese were fielding the Nakajima Ki-27 which possessed the sparkling agility to outmanoeuvre the faster I-16. The I-153 offered near-parity in performance and manoeuvrability terms and combat performance against the Ki-27 improved.
Interestingly the I-153 is also one of a handful of fighters to fight itself; in March 1943 two Soviet I-153s clashed with three Finnish I-153s, damaging one in the ensuing mêlée and forcing it to land. The Finns, never ones to ignore a decent aircraft, operated about a dozen captured I-153s against their former owners until February 1945 by which time the eight survivors were the last biplane fighters flying on operations anywhere in the world.

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. At the moment our contributors do not receive any payment but we’re hoping to reward them for their fascinating stories in the future.

Have a look at 10 worst British military aircraftSu-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. 

Why the Mach3 razor annoys aviation addicts

Aircraft-SR-71-Blackbird-Wallpaper

Sleek as your face, the Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird. Image: USAF

Martin Cloe investigates the link between razors and planes and decides he’s not happy.

Apart from the excellent treatments for testicular cancer, the best thing about being a man in the modern age is the Mach3 razor. Though its blades couldn’t be more expensive if they were made by Lockheed Martin, it lives up to the hype: it is a superb razor. It is alleged that developing the razor, which reached the shelves in 1998, cost $570 million in research and development. The razor took around the same time as the F-35 to develop; the manufacturer Gillette started development of a three blade razor in the 1970s and took years to master one that didn’t cause increased skin irritation. The name was well-chosen, putting glamorous images of the SR-71 Blackbird into many men’s heads. What I didn’t like was an ‘improved’ version, the ‘Mach3 Turbo’. Ignoring the relative merits or demerits of the razor (in my opinion the attempt to improve on perfection was unnecessary and cynical – like Silent Eagle, and was a less pleasant shave) and instead look at the name ‘Mach3 Turbo’.

Technically the SR-71 was the fastest turbojet-engined aircraft. In 1976 the aircraft smashed the performance records for C-1 (Landplanes) in Group 3 (turbo-jet) reaching a terrifying speed of 2,193 miles per hour.  But calling it a turbojet-powered aircraft is rather misleading- at these speeds the spinning bits are causing more drag than thrust; at the higher end of the Blackbird’s performance spectrum the aircraft is effectively powered by ramjets. I know, it could be said that the MiG-25, with its turbojets, was Mach 3 capable, but it was Mach 3-capable in the same as my mountain bike is 150 mph-capable: it can do it if you’re willing to change the wheels and tyres afterwards (and allow three miles of braking distance). So suggesting that a Mach3 Turbo would have more grunt than a simple Mach3 seems a bit of a confused message. In fact it’s even more confused as it seems to have been borrowed from the automobile lexicon. I know how I can make my Mach3 car faster, I’ll stick a supercharger on it! This is a bit insulting to men. Oh wait, before I explain why, I should explain some of the silliness in the difference between the marketing of men’s and women’s razors: change the colour, change the name, change the slogan. I’ll give an example: the same razor in both sex-assigned versions was once advertised in the same break. The women’s version had its ‘blades behind silky-fine wires’, the men’s ‘was so sharp it had to be kept behind bars’. The reason I brought this up was my disappointment at the forced marriage between Mach3 and Turbo as words. It’s like there was a meeting to generate ‘words men like‘ and two were just thrown
together without rhyme or reason. I mean why not go the whole hog and call it the Titty-burger, the Football-Barbecue or the relationship-without-commitment-Cornish-Pasty.

Rant over.

X-2_on_ramp_with_B-50_mothership_and_support_crew.jpg

Top Twelve Contra-Rotating Lunatics

DCIM100GOPRO

By the mid-1940s the limitations of piston aero engines were becoming apparent. Every possible scheme to squeeze the last bit of power from the internal combustion engine was tried. One of the most successful innovations was the contra-rotating propeller arrangement whereby two sets of propellers driven by one engine and sharing a common axis are contra-rotated (with one set travelling clockwise and the other anticlockwise). 

This system, though insanely noisy, produced more thrust than an equivalent conventional arrangement. It also produced some of the most insane flying machines ever to have deafened their ground crew. 

12. Douglas A2D Skyshark

Douglas_A2D-1_in_flight_1954

In 1945, barely three months after the piston-engined Skyraider had flown, Douglas were asked to produce a turboprop aircraft of much greater power. Though the contra-rotation system was originally developed for the piston-engine, it was with the new turboprop that it realised its potential (the first turboprop aircraft, the Trent Meteor flew the same year on 20th September). The Skyshark, finally took to the air on 26th May 1950, and a proved a marked improvement over the Skyraider: it had a 160 percent better climb rate, a 50 per cent higher service ceiling and a 170 mph faster top speed. Unfortunately development problems (centred around the engines) had so delayed the type, that it was now up against the XA-4D-1 Skyhawk, a type that was superior in almost every way (as we shall see this would not be the last time that one of Heinemann’s creations would defeat a contra’ design). The brutal Skyshark was cancelled after the sixth production aircraft was built.

11. Martin-Baker MB 5

8142751658_23b7b82fb7_z

First flying in 1944, the MB 5 was a superb fighter. According to master pilot Janusz Żurakowski (who demonstrated the type’s astonishing manoeuvrability at the 1946 Farnborough Airshow) it was superior in many respects to the Spitfire. The world’s most experienced test pilot Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown also commented on what a capable aircraft it was. Despite its huge potential, it didn’t enter production.

10. Convair XFY ‘Pogo’ and Lockheed XFV ‘Salmon’

XFY-1 POGO (37)

In 1950 the US Navy approached Convair and Lockheed and asked them to build tail-sitting experimental aircraft powered by the impressive (and troublesome) Allison T40. The 5,500 horsepower engines turned 16-feet co-axial propellers producing a pull that exceeded the weight of the aircraft. The aircraft demonstrated vertical take-offs (and that the US Navy were insane).

300px-Lockheed_XFV-1_on_ground_bw

9. Fisher P-75 Eagle

Fisher P-75 Eagle

The 1943 Fisher P-75 Eagle was certainly not as impressive as its later McDonnell Douglas namesake. Testing revealed several issues with this powerful (but mediocre) fighter including: miscalculated centre of mass; dismal engine performance from the Allison V-3420 engine; high aileron forces at high speed, and poor spin characteristics. Everything the Allison V-3420 touched turned to shit as all the types fitted with it (the Douglas XB-19, Boeing XB-39 Superfortress, Lockheed XP-58 Chain Lightning) failed to enter service.

8. Westland Wyvern 

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The post-war Wyvern was a single-seat carried-based fighter powered by a turboprop engine. As Ed Ward pointed out, it was, “650 pounds shy of a loaded Dakota”. Unsurprisingly, of the 127 that entered service with the Fleet Air Arm, 39 were lost despite a service life of only five years.

You may also enjoy 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 of The Planet SatelliteFashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. 

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7. Fairey Gannet

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Fairey’s seeming battle with Westland to produce the ugliest aircraft was won outright when the Gannet prototype took to the air in 1949. On 19 June 1950 it became the first turboprop aircraft to make a deck landing on an aircraft carrier.  Not put off by the type’s hideous appearance it received export orders from the German Marineflieger, the Indonesian Navy and the Australian Fleet Air Arm.

6. Tupolev Tu-95/114/116/126/142

An air-to-air left side view of a Soviet Tu-95 Bear aircraft.

In original purpose, the Tupolev Tu-95 is closely analogous to the US B-52 with the minor discrepancy in the direction the atomic attacks would culminate. Whereas the US opted for jet engines for the B-52, Tupolev decided that turboprops were the preferable solution. The 14,800 shift horsepower Kuzetsov NK12 is the most powerful turboprop that has ever entered production (the Tu-95 has around twelve times more engine power than a Lancaster bomber). The result was one, if not the, fastest propeller-powered aircraft ever to fly. This superb design remains in service a staggering sixty two years after it first flew. It spawned several other family members – the Tu-114 and Tu-116 airliners, the Tu-126 AWACS and the Tu-142 maritime patrol aircraft.

5. Tupolev Tu-91

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The Tu-91 was planned to service a new Soviet carrier force in a similar way to the FAA’s Wyvern. It performed well in tests, and when the carrier plan was scuppered, it was developed as a land-based aircraft. However it was cancelled in this role, the apocryphal reason being that Khrushchev found the notion of a new propeller-powered warplane untenable.

4. North American XA2J Super Savage

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The Super Savage competed with the jet-powered Douglas XA3D to become the new twin-engined attack aircraft for the US Navy. Unfortunately for the North American, development of the rival XA3D was being supervised by Ed Heinemenn, an unbeatable aircraft designer. The Super Savage was greatly inferior to the XA36D and lost the contest. The winner became the superb A-3 Skywarrior.

3. Avro Shackleton

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If war between the Warsaw Pact nations and NATO had broken out in the late 1980s Soviet Su-27s would have been given the rather unsporting task of shooting down an aircraft that was essentially a World War II bomber. The popular idea that the Shackleton was based on the Lincoln bomber is misleading, the fuselage was a clean sheet of paper design and the aircraft inherited some features from both the Lincoln and the Tudor airliner, but the basic configuration could be traced back as far as the Manchester. The maiden flight of the Shackleton was 9th March 1949, a mere eleven days before the first flight of the Wyvern. Originally a maritime patrol aircraft, (capable of deploying nuclear depth-charges) it continued life as an airborne early warning aircraft. In this role it served well into senility despite being equipped with a late -1940s technology radar (partly because of the failure of the Nimrod AEW.Mk 3). In the 1970s individual Shackletons were given name from popular children’s TV shows (The Magic Roundabout and The Herbs). Despite, or more probably because of its anarchistic survival into the 1980s it was loved by many (though generally not the aircrew). The type was retired in 1990.

2. Northrop XP-56 Black Bullet

Northrop XP-56

Northrop seems to have designed aircraft on the principal of providing the juiciest inspiration to the vehicle and set teams of future steampunk films. Whereas most aircraft designers of the 1940s looked to aluminium as their primary metal, something about magnesium attracted mavericks. In several cases, these non-conformists were also drawn to the ‘pusher configuration’. In 1943 US aero-giant Northrop flew the XP-56 Black Bullet, it looked like nothing else and was the probably the most bizarre American aircraft produced during World War II. The bat-winged fighter was an extremely unorthodox design and was probably the first ‘Magnesium pusher’. However, the type proved dangerous to fly and delays in its testing saw this piston-engined aircraft fall out of favour, by now it was the dawn of the jet age. Somebody at Northrop clearly thought the XP-56 was not mad enough and began work on the lunatic XP-79, schemed a rocket-propelled fighter built to destroy enemy aircraft by physically ramming them. Again, this was a largely magnesium construction.

1. Douglas XB-42 Mixmaster

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The remarkable XB-42 was in many ways the most advanced piston-engined warplane ever flown. As René J. Francillon put it, “the XB-42 was as fast as the Mosquito B.XVI but carried twice the maximum bomb load…furthermore the Mixmaster had a defensive armament of four 0.50-in machine-guns in two remotely-controlled turrets whereas the Mosquito B.XVI was unarmed.” A variety of offensive gun options were considered including sixteen .50 cals or two 37-mm cannons. The XB-42A had a top speed of 488 mph and a maximum range of 4,750 miles.

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Have a look at 10 worst British military aircraftSu-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.