My favourite Spitfire #2: Like a Duck to Weightlifting, the Seafire LIII

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The Spitfire wasn’t a natural carrier aircraft, the undercarriage was weak and narrow, and the fuselage was fragile; the endurance made a permanent combat air patrol impossible if the carrier had to be somewhere other than where the wind was coming from. Fortunately, by the time the Mk III was released to service most of these flaws had been addressed…in the same way credit card debt can be addressed by getting more credit cards.  The extra metal of the tail hook, and reinforced fuselage, put the Centre of Gravity right at the aft limit of acceptability. The fix was a 3-lb mass added to the control column that pulled it forwards under g, preventing the pilot pulling too tight a turn (which could make the wings fall off).  But by putting the Merlin 55M into the LIII, Supermarine also created the fastest naval fighter of the war below 10,000 feet – where the majority of naval interceptions took place (presumably because that’s where most of the ships were).  Around 20mph faster than the Hellcat or Corsair at 6000’, both of which were at least 40mph faster than the Zero, it was also the only one that could out-climb the Zero.  In the final days of the war the Seafire LIII flew low level combat air patrols over the fleet as the last layer of defence against the Kamikaze threat, as well as escorting strike missions leading it to claim the last aerial victory of the war over Tokyo Bay.  The Griffon Seafires may have had more power, which caused its own problems, but none would be as iconic as an LIII in British Pacific Fleet markings screaming over the waves at low level.

Bing Chandler is a former Lynx Observer, current Air Safety Officer and struggling Naval History MA student.  He also has some great offers on his internal organs now Seafire PP972 is up for sale.  

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My favourite Spitfire #1 – Paul Beaver

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For some time, I have trying to decide which is my favourite of the 73 variants or sub-variants of that most iconic of fighter aeroplanes, the Spitfire. Now I have the opportunity to put my thoughts on paper and it has been most rewarding.

Like many pilots, the first thought is to the aeroplane of which one has personal experience. That would be the Mk IX with both Merlin 66 and Packard-Merlin 266 engines. But what about the Mk V with floats? As a seaplane pilot, I love the challenge of operating off water in such a powerful machine. Then, my thoughts went to those young men who were the spear tip of the Battle of Britain defence of the country, so the Spitfire Mk IIa. The high flying and super-fast PR Mk XI perhaps whose pilots showed another type of courage to go unarmed deep over enemy territory. There’s event the Seafire FR Mk 47 from the Korean war, surely the ultimate warbird of the whole family.

But in the end, it was the Spitfire Mk XIV which won out. I am not alone in thinking the Griffon-powered, bubble-canopy fighter is a favourite. Captain Eric (Winkle) Brown thought so too. Whenever the Spitfire was mentioned, he would talk about low level trials in the Mk VIII or flying high over France in a Mk IX with the Canadians. I have not had those privileges but I am now sure the Mk XIV is the one and as Eric would say “it was the best fighter of the Second World War”.

Paul Beaver FRAeS

Author of SPITFIRE PEOPLE

The Men & Women who made the Spitfire the Aviation Icon

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Nothing about the B-21 Raider: Hushing the kitty

il_340x270.994120885_2ul5Years ago, when I was caught between a rock and hard place, my friend Eva suggested I start a blog. The site would be somewhere for me to develop my writing and a means to stop my heavily caffeinated brain from over-heating. I had previously worked as an editor for several aviation magazines, so aviation was an obvious subject. Here was a chance to explore all the subjects I had longed to cover in magazines but wasn’t allowed to. Freed from the responsibility of not offending aircraft manufacturers, air forces or ideologies, I could have fun. That blog became this thing. 

45 thousand hours of work later I am delighted at the response I’ve received from the aviation enthusiast community, and their tolerance of my eccentricity! This site has given me the opportunity to meet some incredible people and research some utterly bizarre subjects.  I would very much like to continue this but Hush-Kit requires funds to function. Though you may see the odd advert on this site, they do not benefit me (they’re from wordpress). I’d rather not have a sponsor, though I could be persuaded by the right one, and would rather not have tons of adverts. This is where you come in you great big sexy aeroplane expert: Your Donations keep this going – as a thank you (and because someone told me to) I have added some incentives and goodies to Patreon supporters – some seriously good stuff there. Personally I prefer Paypal supporters (see button above) but there you go – choose the option you prefer. I thank you in advance for those who have the big heart to help this site.

As a bribe: The first ten donations I get this week will receive a free limited edition Hush-Kit 2018 calendar (UK&Europe free P&P)

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Ten most important fighter aircraft guns

ImageIn August 1910 Jacob Earl Fickel shot a rifle from from an aeroplane. He repeated the feat at an air show in 1911, putting six bullets through a dinner plate while flying 200 feet (61 m) from the ground. This circus-like demonstration led directly to the creation of the gun-armed aeroplane, a type that would become known as the ‘fighter’.

The gun-armed fighter would be a decisive weapon in many 20th Century wars. The gun has been a standard part of fighter armament for over 100 years with few exceptions. Let’s take a look at the ten most important fighter guns. 

10. Vickers machine-gun (1913) ‘The Vickers’ missus’ 

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The world’s first purpose-built warplane, the experimental Vickers E.F.B.1 biplane, was armed with a Vickers machine-gun (though by the time it entered service it been rearmed with the Lewis gun). The  Sopwith Camel, the SPAD XIII and virtually all Allied fighters used at least one synchronised Vickers, due, most of all to its exceptional reliability. The weapon remained in service for a long time; the Gloster Gladiator was the last RAF fighter to be armed with them, though the Fairey Swordfish carried them right up until retirement 1945.

9. Maschinengewehr 08 ‘Spandau ballet’ (1915)

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The answer call to the Vickers above was frequently a barrage of fire from the Imperial German air force’s equivalent: the LMG 08/15 and IMG 08 ‘Spandau’ machine-guns. The weapon of the greatest fighter pilot of all time, the ‘Red Baron‘ and armament to almost every German fighter of the War. More than 23,000 examples of the LMG 08/15 and an unknown number of the lMG 08 were produced during World War I

8. Mauser MG 213 (1944) ‘Reich said Fred’

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The only gun on this list not to have entered service, the Mauser was still extremely important. The Mauser MG 213 was a revolver cannon developed for the Luftwaffe during World War II. It was initially a 20-mm weapon, but there was a 30-mm variant. Following Germany’s defeat this innovative design was closely studied around the world and directly influenced most, if not all, aircraft revolver cannons that have followed, including the British ADEN, French DEFA and American M39 cannon.

7. Nudelman-Rikhter NR-23 (1949) ‘Hitting the Marx’

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The two lower weapons are NR-23s.

The NR-23 was the gun of Cold War Soviet air power. This 23-mm autocannon armed a number of aircraft, notably including the MiG-15 of Korean War fame. It was also fitted to the obscure and under-rated Lavochkin La-15, the MiG-17, some models of the MiG-19, the Ilyushin Il-28 medium bomber and the Beriev Be-6 maritime patrol aircraft. The 1974 Almaz 2 (Salyut 3) Russian space station was experimentally armed with an autocannon for self-defence, the Rikhter R-23which would make it only space weapon on this list.

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The space station’s R-23 cannon installation. 

The NR-23 was scaled up to create the 30-mm calibre NR-30 used by the MiG-19, early MiG-21s, Sukhoi Su-7s and the Sukhoi Su-17, and as the Chinese Type-30 on the Shenyang J-6. An intriguing feature of the NR-30  was the ability to distribute chaff.

(With only ten places in this list there was not room for the Afanasev Makarov AM-23, which was a far fast-firing weapon largely used as a defensive weapon in larger aircraft part from the Tu-16 and Tu-95, Antonov An-8, An-12B, B-8, B-10, Il-54, Il-76, Myasishchev M-4, 3M and M-6 bombers and transporters)

6. MG 131 machine-gun (1940) ‘Goering of thrones’

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At a mere 13-mm the MG 131 appeared to be lagging behind world standards in calibre terms by the time it was committed to action over Europe. However whilst lighter than any rival gun of equivalent calibre (it weighed only slightly more than half as much as an M2 Browning), it possessed an extremely high rate of fire. Being so small it could be crammed into the nose of tiny fighter aircraft, firing from the cowling or through the spinner, resulting in a much more concentrated gun harmonisation than was possible with wing-mounted weapons. It provided tragically capable and many Allies met their death by MG 131s carried by Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Fw 190s.

5. HS.404/Hispano 20-mm cannon (1940) ‘Britain’s French Heavy Metal’914913122892638489In 1939 the French had arguably the best armed air force in the world with the superlative 20-mm Hispano fitted to all their fighters. Sadly those fighters were generally woefully inadequate in all other regards. Meanwhile the British knew they needed a cannon but experiments with the 20-mm Hispano were proving unsuccessful. Designed to be used the right way up and fastened to a weighty engine block, laying the weapon on its side in a Spitfire wing was inspired but took a very long time to get to work. Persistence paid off however and the Hispano formed all or part of the armament of every British fighter aircraft from 1941 through to the advent of the ADEN cannon (which almost made this list). The Hispano was also produced in America, being particularly popular with the US Navy who employed it extensively through the late-war period and throughout Korean conflict.

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4. ShKAS machine-gun (1933) ShKAS for questions’

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The ShKAS was the fastest-firing rifle calibre (in this case 7.62-mm) aircraft armament in general service of World War II. 1,800 round per minute was virtually unheard of, and (the notoriously unreliable Ultra-ShKAS variant) unleashed a veritable firestorm of 3,000 rounds per minute! Extremely light and fast-firing, the ShKAS equipped the majority of Soviet fighters and bombers in World War II. Though not the most reliable weapon, it proved extremely effective. It influenced the ShVAK cannon (which narrowly avoided inclusion itself), and quite possibly the Mauser 213.

3. M61 Vulcan (1959) ‘Rotary club’ 

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Source: JASDF via The Aviationist

When Richard Gatling conceived his fast firing rotary gun in the 19th Century he considered that its awesome destructive effect would limit the size of armies and so reduce casualties, and maybe even end wars. This did not come to be. Though Gatling’s design offered high rates of fire, it was large and required external power, and by the early 20th Century its popularity had waned. Requiring fighter weapons of a higher firing rate Imperial Germany issued a requirement in the First World War for an aircraft-powered (engine or electrical system) multi-barrelled gun, a slew of prototypes followed. None entered full service but a Siemans’ prototype achieved an aerial kill during a combat evaluation.

Following World War II the US wanted a more destructive weapon than the Browning. The new gun should be capable of destroying enemy aircraft in the fleeting opportunities offered by the new era of high speed jet-v-jet combat, and the rotary cannon was the chosen solution. USAF tried 15-,20- and 27-mm rounds for the new weapon before deciding that the second option, 20-mm, was the best. The resultant M61 entered combat in 1965, and during the Vietnam War it was responsible for at least 39 MiG kills. It has also been used to devastating effect by many other nations’ air forces, notably Israel’s (on F-4s, F-16s and F-15s) and Iran’s (on F-4s and F-14s). It has armed almost every US fighter since the F-104 and today arms the F-22. Though superficially similar, Russia’s rotary cannons use a different principle, shunning electric power in favour of gas. Though historically not as significant as others on the list, its ubiquity and longevity have earned it a high ranking. Image

 

2. Berezin UB ‘The Union strikes back’ (1941)

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The 12.7mm Berezin entered service a mere two months before Germany turned on the USSR. Strongly influenced by the Finnish 20-mm cannon, the UB was a fast-firing and effective weapon produced in large numbers. In 1941 6,300 were produced, and in 1943 the annual total jumped to an impressive 43,690. Similar production levels would continue for the rest of the war. The weapon was carried by the vast majority of Soviet wartime aircraft and was thus enormously important.

1. Browning ‘fifty-cal’ ‘Browned off’ (1940)

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The Browning was the fighter gun that won World War II: it armed Spitfires from the Mark V onwards (smaller calibre variants of the Browning were also very important -notably the .303 weapons carried by earlier RAF aircraft), provided the teeth for P-51s escorting bomber raids over Germany and P-47s destroying tanks in Normandy, and it took the fight to the Japanese over the Pacific. Browning armed F-86s were credited with the destruction of 792 MiG-15s over Korea. This is an exaggerated claim but the fifty-cal is responsible for downing more aircraft in the post-war period than any other aircraft-mounted weapon. Despite a basic design approaching one hundred years old, the Browning is going strong as a vehicle-mounted weapon for forces around the world and forms the standard armament of the Super Tucano which is still in production. It was neither radical nor particularly advanced but the fifty-cal is probably the most successful airborne weapon in history. It is certainly the longest serving.

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Stingbat LHX stealth helicopter: would it have worked in real life?

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In the 1980s, the concept of ‘Stealth’ was mysterious, cutting-edge and sexy. This appeal was harnessed to sell films and toys; one example of the latter was Testors’ LHX Stingbat, a notional stealthy ‘Light Combat Helicopter’. We asked Ron Smith, former Head of Future projects at Westland Helicopters how it would have fared in real life. 

“Interestingly. I was looking at real Stealth Helicopter projects from early 1982 in my role as Westland Helicopters Head of Future Projects. I remember showing an image of WG44 at a defence conference, which took place shortly after the sinking of ‘Atlantic Conveyor’.

Another related subject in which I have experience is the NOTAR™ (no tail rotor) system developed by Hughes / McDonnell Douglas Helicopters (MDH) and used on the MD Explorer. It depends (in part) on a boundary layer control system called Circulation Control, where a jet of air is ejected out of a slot (or slots) running along a curved surface. Changes in the mass flow from the slot allow rapid changes in the lift (circulation) around the aerofoil. Very high lift coefficients (>6.0) can be obtained and rapid variations can be achieved for control purposes.

My PhD related to experimental tests and a theoretical model of such a system, the latter being capable of modelling more than one blowing slot on a surface.

Andy Logan of MDH, who gave a paper on NOTAR to the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) when I was the Chairman of the RAeS Rotorcraft Committee was kind enough to reference my PhD in his presentation. (A developed version of my theoretical model was used for quick look optimisation of NOTAR, as it could handle multiple blowing slots).

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Having said all this, what about the Testors Stingbat LHX?

A quick look at the photographs of the model reveals some interesting features, but leaves a number of questions unanswered.

The main features include:

  • A heavily faceted airframe with (presumably retractable) skid undercarriage, although it is not clear where the latter is stowed, or why the skids appear to be in two pieces.
  • A retractable sensor of some sort below the nose
  • A three-barrel gun turret mounted centrally under the fuselage
  • Retractable weapons stowage for a small number of quite small missiles (possibly only one each side). These have the appearance of air to air rather than anti-armour weapons (such as Hellfire or Brimstone)
  • A small louvred nozzle at the tail, presumably for anti-torque and directional control
  • It is not clear how the engine intake and exhaust system are supposed to work and how infra-red shielding and suppression are managed. (I am giving the designer credit for not imagining that the exhaust is ducted out of the tail nozzle).
  • A three bladed rotor which is swept in a crescent shape from root to tip. The blades appear to have a separately controllable outboard section.
  • There is no sign of treatment to minimise the radar signature of the cockpit apertures.

As one might expect, there are a few issues with this design. My main comments relate to the tail boom and anti-torque / directional control; Infra-red suppression; viability of the gun turret solution shown; inadequate downward view from the cockpit; design of the main rotor blades; weapon load out; undercarriage.

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Tail Boom & Directional control

A really quite significant thrust is required to counter main rotor torque and provide for yaw manoeuvre against the torque when in and around the hover. In the MD Explorer, the downwash across the tail boom is deflected by the circulation control air ejected from longitudinal blowing slots. This produces a side force on the tail cone that partially offsets the main rotor torque (this requires a circular section tail boom and is not consistent with the shaped rear fuselage shown. An adjustable tail nozzle (with air supplied by a gearbox-driven fan) supplements the blown tail boom. In forward flight, when the downwash no longer blows across the tail boom, directional stability is provided by twin fins (with rudder control) mounted on the end of a tailplane.

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The Boeing- Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche used a version of the Fenestron (fan-in-fin) anti-torque control, dubbed Fantail by Boeing Sikorsky) allied to a canted tailfin. The Fantail was optimised for reduced acoustic signature (compare, for example the penetrating pure tone of the Gazelle with the much quieter systems on the EC135 and later model of the Dauphin).

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With no fin area and a very small exhaust nozzle, there must be serious doubts as to the directional stability and control of the Stingbat LHX design. Furthermore, the rear fuselage shaping is inconsistent with the implementation of a NOTAR system, if that was considered.

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Infra-red suppression

The shaped tailcone of the Comanche was mainly taken up with a bulky exhaust infra-red suppression system and this was also a prominent feature of the Westland WG45 and WG47 projects. I’ll assume that the Stingbat adopts a system similar to that on the Comanche.

Gun turret

Helicopters adopt a nose down attitude in forward flight. This means that frontal ground targets appear above the nose of the helicopter when it is flying at speed. Firing the gun at such a target means firing upward relative to the helicopter, universally resulting in a forward-mounted turret with decent upward look angles. (see A129, Tiger, Cobra, Hind, Rooivalk, Apache, Havoc, etc). That shown on the Stingbat is entirely impractical.

Cockpit downward view

The flat shaped nose and wide fuselage may obstruct downward view, although this could be overcome by slaving the retractable sensor to a helmet-mounted sight. A sensor behind a mesh-covered aperture (as adopted by the F-117) might offer a lower signature solution that the retractable sensor pack shown. (Although the F-117 does find it worthwhile to implement retractable comms aerials).

Main rotor blade design

The curved blades look wrong. The primary means for reducing helicopter acoustic signature are having a modest main rotor tip speed (think Sea King and AW101), avoiding high tail rotor noise, and avoiding flight paths that result in blade slap.

Assuming a low basic tip speed, high Mach numbers will only be encountered close to the advancing blade tip. This explains why those helicopters that do feature any blade sweep only do so close to the tip. The other major difficulty is that sweep along the whole blade will introduce large in-plane bending loads in the blade due to the centrifugal loads trying to straighten the blade out. (The end result would almost certainly be increased rotor system weight).

The two-section blade looks as if it has a separately controlled outer section with a small control tab. This is a good idea as it would potentially allow higher frequency control inputs (known as Higher Harmonic Control), which could reduce external noise, possibly eliminate blade slap, and reduce on-board vibration. 

Weapon load-out

The primary targets for most attack helicopters are enemy main armour, command and control vehicles, and air defence systems. Some form of tandem warhead precision guided missile is required – these are quite large and heavy. The ones shown fitted to the model look like reduced length AIM-9s or, at any rate, air-to-air rather than anti-armour weapons.

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Because each sortie carries with it a finite probability of being engaged by the enemy, it is important to carry enough weapons on each helicopter that a small group of helicopters can inflict significant damage without having to fly multiple sorties. This typically means eight weapons (assumed for WG-44 to WG47), with Apache carrying a maximum of sixteen weapons. Even the Comanche managed six weapons in its weapons bay.— 

The provision on the Stingbat does not appear to be sufficient.

Undercarriage

It’s hard to tell exactly what is provided, but Crashworthiness (used to be based on Mil Std 1290A) is a key consideration. I assume that the skid undercarriage is retractable for signature reasons, but I cannot tell how it is stowed. It looks too flimsy to be crashworthy and the apparent introduction of shock struts may prove problematical in terms of the avoidance of ground resonance.”

Ron Smith, Co-author of Two up down under  

 

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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 Typhoon, top WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes or Flying and fighting in the Tornado.

 

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

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World Cup Air Forces 2018: Group Stage Opening match – Saudi Arabia versus Russia

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Tomorrow Russia faces Saudi Arabia in what the Financial times has dubbed the worst World Cup opener ever, leaving confused fans to drift off into their belligerent fantasies. With this in mind, who would win in an aerial war? Over to our Football & Air Defence Specialist Calista Wildenrath with a rather tasteless war/sport crossover. 

“Both Russia F.C. and the R.S.A.F Rovers have reputations for high risk tactics, excepting relatively high losses. Russia F.C. remains surprisingly uninterested in precision playing, using overwhelming force and loose management approach to achieve its results. Traditionally RSAF (which is a lavishly equipped side) has been considered a team of rich careless playboys – but some would say those days are over. RSAF has still endured many hard losses against local upstarts Yemen United. Let’s see how the two sides stack up.

Goalkeepers (SAMs)

Saudi Arabia  PAC-2 ‘Pac man’

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Regarded as one of the most reliable shot-stoppers among Western long-range SAMs.

Its predecessor in this position, the original Patriot, was highly rated in the 1991 Gulf World Cup, but subsequent video replays showed that it failed to stop most of the long-range efforts launched by the Iraqi strikers.

Following its transfer to Saudi Arabia, the Patriot more recently endured a torrid season against Houthi opposition.

Russia S-400 ‘Triumph Acclaim’ 

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Finally, in 2017, aviation fans began to sit up and take notice of the incredible job that the S-400 has done as part of the Russia’s infamously mean backline. Russia’s goalkeeper is now more vital than ever as the team seeks to develop strength in depth.

The S-400 has it all: still young, strong command of his penalty area, expert positioning, brilliant shot-stopping ability and all of it with unerring consistency. Recently he achieved caused by his transfer to Syria, and has attracted much interest on the foreign transfer market.

The S-400 is arguably the best goalkeeper in the world right now – and might just stay there for a very long time.

Defenders 

RSAF : McDonnell F-15C/D Eagle ‘Regal beagle’ 

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It is hard to believe that this big-shouldered American is 39 years old, but that does not stop the F-15C from making sure that his performance levels reach RSAF Rovers’ required standard. Though old, he remains the most successful defender (in term of loss-kill rate) of his generation.

Russian Air Force F.C. Mikoyan MiG-31 ‘Foxhounds of love’

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The Russian stalwart has once again had a stellar season. He is as reliable as ever in the pitch and always keeps a calm and composed head when faced with high-pressure situations. The MiG-31 is an old-school defender in the sense that he values speed over the art of tackling. There are few players who can beat him aerially, while only few can beat him for speed when he is on form.

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Midfield – support asset

Russia – Antonov An-124 ‘Condor’ ‘Ukraine in the membrane’

The heaviest player in the world. This heavyweight mid-fielder has played for Blackburn Rovers, Queens Park Rangers and Antonov. Controversially, for several reasons, the An-124 is Ukrainian born.

RSAF – British Aerospace Jetstream ‘Radlett flatulence’ 

 

Despite a controversial sex life, the famously cheeky 38-year-old has made the squad. Expect high jinks on and off the pitch.

Striker

Russia: Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack ‘A bigger Bone’ 

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Russia FC’s talismanic Blackjack is a favourite of the manager. Far bigger and more powerful than anything possessed by the fun-loving RSAF, it’s a throwback to the 1970s style of brute force and massive long distance shooting. Though impressive, this old-style centre-forward is somewhat inflexible.

 

Saudi: Panavia Tornado IDS ‘Tonka Stonker’

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Confounding the experts who expected RSAF to place the Strike Eagle or Typhoon in striker role, they’ve opted for the perennial IDS. While some observers argue that the ageing Tornado should have been retired from the first team some time ago, it’s continued to play a vital role in the Saudi strike force and the punchy centre-forward still has some clever tricks up its sleeve. Compared to Russia’s titanic Blackjack the Tornado is tiny with short endurance. Interestingly, both teams are putting up a swing-wing for the striker role.

Captains (AEW)

Beriev A-50 ‘Mainstay awhile longer’ 

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Russia FC’s eccentric captain Beriev A-50 is a mainstay of the team with over thirty years service. Known for his short endurance and primitive approach he is a controversial figure lacking the sophistication of RSAF’s new Swedish coach.

Saab 2000 Erieye ‘Erieye for the straight guy’ 

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Let’s all meet up in the Saab 2000.

RSAF Rovers’ publicity shy Captain Erieye is highly intelligent but small and short-legged. Never previously seen at a major international tournament, it has much to prove.

Surprise substitute 

RSAF: PAC MFI-17 Mushshak

Russia: Beriev Be-12

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About the author: Calista Wildenrath is the creator of the Football & Aerial Warfare Blog. She has worked for many defence and football publications including: Razzle (as airline interiors corespondent), The Ultimate Soccer & AWACS Factfiles, The Rassclart Review (Shackleton Desk), The Critical Blimp, Quadcopter Perspectives and Pushpak Pushback. She lives in Hemel Hampstead with her three dalmatians Swampthing, Stratotanker and UCAV.

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Predictions 

Despite some fancy acquisitions by RSAF Rovers this game should be Russian F.C.’s. Expect mass confusion and high losses as RSAF face a brutal onslaught from an aggressive and experienced Russian squad.

Predicted score: Russia 7 – RSAF 1

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Why the Merlin has three engines

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It has been said that all naval aircraft for aircraft carrier use after the War had to fold up into the same width as a Seafire – because that determined the available lift size. Is this true?

Well, maybe not quite, but similar considerations apply to the question of the AW101 and its use of three engines.

Conceptual Design Background

To discuss this question it is worth considering how the conceptual design process works. First, the customer (through the Operational Requirement staff and with Defence Equipment & Support (or MoD PE, as it was then)) identifies a capability gap and commissions preliminary feasibility or concept studies to look at options for addressing this gap.

These options will investigate different technology options to determine what potential solutions could be available to meet the capability requirements within the required timescale at an acceptable cost and risk. (In this instance, Multi-Role Fleet Helicopter; Sea King Replacement; and WG34 (also known as SKR Option 5) studies).

The diagram below gives some idea of the subsequent process. The ‘Requirements & Constraints’ at this early stage are likely to be expressed in terms of a Target. Later on as the project matures, this will harden into a Requirement (used as the basis of a competition to down-select a contractor for the development phase).

Once the solution has been selected for development, that work and the subsequent acceptance of the design will be against a contractually-binding specification.

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Operational analysis is used in this process to analyse the Concept of Operation at the system level. OA and trade studies are used to identify how changes in technology influence the effectiveness of individual sub-systems and system attributes (such as manoeuvrability, survivability, detectability, threat detection and prosecution, flight performance, environmental limitations, etc). Parametric cost assessments and risk analysis then allow optimisation in terms of cost effectiveness.

Physical integration (packaging) is likely to set hard constraints on some elements of the system and generally requires design activity (i.e. drawing of the system solution – nowadays on a CAD system).

Effects of a ‘stove-piped’ view

Now, each specialist area tends to have a strong view of how the project should emerge, based on their specific perspective. (We must use this new armour, the radar signature requires these strategies etc. This results in the sort of cartoon reproduced below:

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It is the job of the Head of Projects, or the Configuration Team to make sensible cross-system trade-offs to produce a solution which, if not ideal, is acceptable to all.

Naval helicopter design drivers

In the instance of AW101, it is useful to consider the ‘influence diagram’ below, which gives some idea of how specific requirements and factors influence the design solution of a naval shipboard helicopter.

In looking at this diagram, it is instructive to consider how many aspects of the design and the underlying requirements end up driving the system weight.

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Now, the system level requirements from the customer (typically driven by his Operational (and Threat) Analysis) include: Performance Requirements (including mission profile), Speed, Deck Motion, Mission Equipment, Endurance, and Crew numbers.

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In addition to these there will be a number of Mandatory Requirements (sometimes driven by policy, and sometimes specific to a particular Capability), which have to be addressed. These may also be known as Key Performance Parameters or KPPs.

Examples of candidate KPPs could include

  • Crashworthiness,
  • EMC and EMP protection,
  • Sonar and radar system performance,
  • Engine failure criteria (e.g. an engine failure at a critical point during take-off must not result in jettison of weapons or stores on the ship deck)
  • Ship deck & hangar size (must be able to operate from a Type 23 ship’s deck and be stowed in a Type 23 hangar
  • Environmental (operation in specified environmental conditions – wind, temperature, icing conditions, sea state, deck motion, etc.
  • Crew numbers and anthropometry
  • Mission profile and endurance
  • Weapons and defensive aids fit and capability.

Impact on Design

A further constraint for EH101 (in the early design stage) was the desire to be able to deliver a helicopter with civil certification at the same time as the proposed military utility and naval variants. To meet project timescales, this required that the helicopter make use of an existing engine that was either already certified or on track to so being. (This is because the development and certification of a new engine in parallel to a new airframe would result in unacceptable programme timescale, performance and cost risks).

The mission capabilities for EH101 were expressed in terms of a mission endurance of some five hours with a certain number of crew, plus search radar, sensors, communication equipment, defensive aids and weapons. This mission profile and equipment and crew requirements indicated, via the feasibility studies, a take-off mass of some 13 tonnes (some 33% heavier than the Sea King).

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There was, however, a mandatory requirement (KPP) that the new helicopter be compatible with the existing Type 23 Frigate landing deck and hangar size. This restricted the rotor diameter essentially to that of the existing Sea King.

With a given rotor diameter, the power required for a helicopter to hover depends on its all-up weight raised to the power 1.5. This implies that a helicopter 33% heavier than the Sea King, with the same rotor diameter, will require 54% more power to hover under the same conditions.

A quick review of available certified engines reveals that three CT7s (or RTM-322s) providing a total 5,100 hp would meet this requirement, compared with the 3,320 hp of the two Gnomes in the Sea King. The need for three engines emerges from these factors, not from any design criteria placed at the outset by the customer.

Of course, by the time a procurement contract is written, the associated Specification will be written around the selected solution and reflect the use of three CT7 engines.

Is this an optimum solution?

The answer to this is both yes and no.

Whereas, on narrow cost and complexity grounds, the three-engine solution would probably not be favoured, a properly constructed COEIA (combined operational effectiveness and investment appraisal) would probably show that it is justified.

This is primarily because the alternative solution (using a pair of newly-developed 2,600 hp engines) would incur significant additional up-front cost, timescale and performance risk, in parallel with the required airframe development.

In this case, the Type 23 ship deck and hangar are analogous to the possibly apocryphal size of the aircraft carrier lift to suit a Seafire.

It also demonstrates that KPPs are capable of driving a design in a particular direction irrespective of the results of any Operational Analysis.

(Although, to be fair, the mission equipment (sensors, weapons and defensive aids) and their performance, mission profile, crew numbers and environmental requirements are probably all driven by appropriate OA and Threat Analysis).

I should say that I did not participate at this level in the EH101
projects, although I was on the Configuration Team of NH90 during its
Feasibility and Pre-Definition Study (up to the point where the UK
Government withdrew from the programme).

–– Former Head of Future Projects at Westland Helicopters, Dr Ron Smith

 

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8 ways to annoy your Air Traffic Controller

 

 
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Most pilots learn to fly simply to annoy Air Traffic Controllers. We asked our favourite ATCO, Dorian Crook, for the top 8 ways to keep these coffee-sucking control freaks furious. 
1. Calling yourself  “THE Bluebird 342”. No, you’re just “Bluebird 342”.  You’re not The Dude. It makes you sound like a Hospital Radio DJ. So expect to be treated like one.
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2. Reporting “Runway Vacated” when you aren’t. There are very few airports or situations where you’re required to report this. We have large windows in our Towers (for now)  and, in a lot of cases,-Surface Movement Radar. So don’t do it- and if you do, it doesn’t count if just the pilot’s feet are over the line: we need the whole aircraft clear of the runway. Especially the tail. That can cause a lot of damage and paperwork.
3. Giving your Life Story over the Radio. This is more common among Private Pilots, who are still excited about using the radio, rather than seeing it as a necessary evil, like the Big Boys do. Most common in the club rental aircraft, such as Cessna 172 /PA28. Less common amongst the exotica and vintage boys- presumably because all THEIR attention is kept on keeping the damn thing in the air/not shaking itself to pieces. There are some things you should include (see CAP413) but don’t go on like Ken Dodd at the Liverpool Empire. This is often delivered in a Nasal Voice, for which you will lose extra points.

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4. Pressing the Cabin Announcement PA button instead of the RT Transmit. If you make your Cabin Announcement to the Tower and all the others listening to it, three things will happen:
1. You’ll have to do it again with the right button.
2. You’ll look a fool
3. You’ll have blocked the Tower frequency for 40-60 seconds. Bad news for the aircraft at half-mile Final waiting for his landing clearance.
Lose extra points (and possibly any chance of starting at all) by blaming ATC for a delay which was actually caused by a flat tyre on the catering truck.
5.Having a Chat with other Pilot’s who you recognise.Hey Bruno, let’s have a beer next time we’re in Munich” is not a phrase you’ll find in the Manual. And you’re never going to have that beer, anyway. Bruno hates you.
6. Saying “Roger That”. No. It’s “Roger”. Join the Hospital Radio point 1 and go to Remote Parking.
7. Saying “seen on the Metal Detector” as a response to Traffic Information. Go and join your friends from 1) and 6).
8. Ask for opposite-direction Runway for ” performance reasons” when it’s obviously too busy. Everyone else can do it -and so can you. Either throw off the Fatties, or sharpen your Performance Pencil a bit more.

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SabadellJan

“Sometimes the Controller will say “Standby”. This means he is busy with other tasks in the Tower.

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Dorian Crook is a pilot, air traffic controller & stand-up comedian. His Maule has bigger wheels than your Cessna.

MiG-37B assessment: The Stealthy Soviet that never was

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Jim Smith had significant technical roles in the development of the UK’s leading military aviation programmes, from ASRAAM and Nimrod, to the JSF and Eurofighter Typhoon. He was asked by the British Government to assess the YF-22 and YF-23; we wondered what he would make of a totally fictional aircraft, the MiG-37B model kit of 1987. 

 

“The Testors toy company released this model 2 years after their very successful F-19 kit and only about a year before the F-117 appeared in public. It’s a pretty ugly beast, but, let’s not hold that against it, given the impact that designing for low signature had on Have Blue and the F-117. So what have Testors’ done in ‘Russianizing’ their F-19 stealthy strike concept? Well, somewhere along the way, the Testors team appear to have heard some whispers about ‘The Black Jet’, as insiders were referring to the F-117. The MiG-37 model has outward canted fins, and has a facetted structure, while retaining the letterbox-slot exhaust of their F-19 concept. While the appearance of these features may have caused some disquiet in some circles, there was by this time some awareness of strange black aircraft operating up in Tiger Country (the far reaches of the Nellis, Tonopah and Area 51 complexes). In addition, the Pentagon was moving towards first, disclosure that the F-117 existed, and then, the presentation to families and the media which I attended.

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As well as some of the F-117 features, Testors has done quite a good job of giving the aircraft a Russian look. Partly, the use of a MiG-23- like undercarriage, and partly subtle stylistic and colour scheme aspects which just convey a less-Western look. Paradoxically, the crude-looking faceted shaping turned out to be more accurate than the smooth surfaces of their F-19 concept.

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From a propulsion perspective, the intakes perhaps look a little more likely to work than those of the F-19, and still bear no resemblance to those of the F-117. From a stealth perspective, however, the whole aircraft is full of changes in angle which look counter productive to maintaining a low signature. In particular, the under-surface of the aircraft does not feature the flat surface of the F-117, and appears unlikely to be successful in managing the MiG-37 ‘s signature. In addition, the changes in sweep of the planform, the gaps and joins around wing slats and other features, and the intakes all suggest a less successful stealth design.

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-37B Ferret E [LIMITED to 500px]

Aerodynamically, the MiG-37 concept would probably have been more efficient and easier to manage than either the F-19 or the F-117, as the moderately swept wings would allow the use of high lift devices and a significantly lower take-off and landing speed. Like the F-19, the relatively conventional cockpit would probably have resulted in a less constrained environment for the pilot than the essentially pyramidal F-117 cockpit.

 

I am a bit concerned about the extremely large fins, coupled with the anhedral of the wing, which might lead to unusual lateral-directional handling, but again, there is nothing terrible about the configuration (given the open-minded approach I am adopting). It is very ugly, but it is not alone in that.

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Like the F-19 forward fins, I do have a gripe – the dorsal airbrakes just don’t make sense. There-s no way this aircraft would be used as a dive bomber, and the configuration is likely to be draggy enough that airbrakes are unlikely to be needed to manage the approach. Plus they have the disadvantage that they would deny the opportunity to use uber-cool black silk parachutes deployed by the 2 F-117s that came ‘out of the black’ at Nellis in April 1990.

Summing up the MiG-37 – ugly, but closer to the appearance of the F-117 than the F-19. In the aerodynamics vs stealth trade off, perhaps the solution has better aerodynamics than stealth.”

 

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