Rurhstahl X-4 Guided Missile

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The Rurhstahl X-4 was a German air-to-air missile which began development in 1943.  The Luftwaffe sought a missile capable of downing American B-17s while keeping the launching aircraft safely beyond the range of the bombers’ defensive fire.  The missile was wire-guided, and had a maximum range of 2.2 miles (3.5 km) and a maximum speed of 708 mph (1,124 kph).  It carried a 44 pound (20 kg) fragmentation warhead.  This missile is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
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The weapon was armed seven seconds after launch, and self-destructed thirty seconds after launch.  The warhead was detonated upon contact or by a unique acoustical proximity fuse housed in the nose.  The fuse was tuned to the sound of the engines of a B-17, and actuated when the target entered lethal range.
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The missile was controlled by inputs from the launching aircraft using wire guidance.  Bobbins of wire were housed at the tips of two of the missiles fins, the other two housed flares so the controller could track the missile visually.  Since it was not radio guided it was not susceptible to jamming.  The missile was stabilized by rotating, spinning at the rate of one revolution per second.  Control inputs were normalized using a gyroscope.  A Joystick was used, but directing the missile while simultaneously piloting an aircraft proved difficult.
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Propulsion was via a liquid-fueled rocket motor using S-Stoff and R-Stoff.  Fuel was fed to the combustion chamber by forcing pistons through coiled reservoirs.  The fuels were volatile and extremely corrosive but solid-fueled rocket motors were not available.  Motor production ended after the BMW factory at Stargard was destroyed by Allied bombing, which effectively ended any possibility of the X-4 being deployed in numbers.
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The X-4 was launched from Ju 88G-1, Ju 388, and Fw 190 aircraft during the testing program, and was expected to be deployed operationally using the Me 262.  The first air launch was from a Fw 190 on 11AUG44.  Here two X-4s are seen under the wings of a Focke-Wulf Fw 190.
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The X-4 was never used operationally as an air-to-air weapon.  After the war several nations developed similar weapons for the anti-tank role.  Wire-guided anti tank missiles are still in use today.

Dragon Jagdpanzer IV in 1/72 Scale

Here is Dragon’s Jagdpanzer IV.  A great little kit and a pleasure to build.  This a more recent offering than Hasegawa’s kit.  While the Hasegawa kit is nice, Dragon’s is the better of the two.  The DS tracks are a strong point, they really look the part and are easy to work with.

 

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The Bridgebusters Book Review

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The Bridgebusters: The True Story of the Catch-22 Bomb Wing

By Thomas McKelvey Cleaver

Hardcover in dustjacket, illustrated, 288 pages

Published by Regnery History, May 2016

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1621574881

ISBN-13: 978-1621574880

Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches

During the Second World War the USAAF’s 57th Bomb Wing flew B-25 Mitchell medium bombers from airfields in Corsica.  Their mission was the interdiction of German supply routes supporting the Axis armies fighting in Italy.  While medium bomber units are not as well documented as those flying fighters or heavy bombers, the 57th has achieved some notoriety as the inspiration for Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22.

Bridgebusters follows a template familiar to readers of military aviation histories – specifics of the missions are detailed giving dates, places, participating units, and personal anecdotes.  Research is thorough and the writing style keeps the reader engaged.  I found the ordeals of downed aircrew particularly interesting, the situation on the ground in Italy was complicated as the population at any given location could be aligned with either side (or both!).

Where author Tom Cleaver really shines lies in providing strategic context for the efforts of the 57th Bomb Group and the Italian Campaign in general.  There is an old military axiom which states that “Captains discuss tactics, Generals discuss supply”.  The 57th’s primary focus was interdiction of German supply routes through the Brenner Pass and cutting off the German Armies in the field.  Severing road and rail networks becomes a contest first between the bombers and Luftwaffe flak gunners, and then the amount of damage caused versus the speed of the repair crews.  When the weather is good the bombers cut more of the supply routes, when the weather is bad the repair crews complete more repairs to the lines.  Bridges are obvious targets to both the attacker and the defender.  Cleaver’s writing supplies the “why” to the aerial campaign and counter efforts, often missing in aviation books.

Issues on the ground are also detailed.  While their duties were not as hazardous as combat aircrew, the work of arming and servicing the aircraft was far from safe and hardships were shared by all.  The eruption of Mount Vesuvius was an unusual event which destroyed more of the Group’s aircraft than the Germans did.  The USAAF employed a rotation system where aircrews could return home after completing a certain number of missions, but when the mission requirements were increased incrementally from 50 to the eventual 70 due to lack of replacements, the effects on morale were predictable.  This is where Cleaver provides some insights into Heller’s experiences and their influence on his novel.

Overall a very enjoyable read, one of the better written aviation histories.  This book provides insights into medium bomber operations and the Italian Campaign, neither of which are covered very extensively in aviation literature.  It also provides useful insights into Heller’s experiences, so read this one first if you plan on reading Catch-22.

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Nakajima Ki-27 “Nate” Build in 1/72 Scale, Mania and ICM Kits Part III

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Two of the Nates I’m modeling were camouflaged.  Here I am using “poster putty” to mask off the tan segments of the upper surface camo.  The wing trailing edges and tail surfaces are protected using regular masking tape.  The wheels are also protected against overspray with tape.  Sharp-eyed readers will note that one of the wheels has broken off again.
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This Ki-27 is in Thai markings from Print Scale sheet 72-080.  The decals went on without any issues, but be ready as they separate from the backing sheet within a couple of seconds of touching the water.  There are markings for two different Thai Nates on the Print scale sheet.  There is a small error though, three of the elephants on the tail markings face to the left, only one faces to the right.  The elephants are always supposed to face forward on the aircraft, so you’ll need two of each if you want to use both sets of markings.  You can side-step the issue by doing a late war bird, the tail elephant markings were replaced with red-white-blue-white-red rudder stripes.
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Kit decals were used for the victory markings and lightning flash on this model, the Hinomaru and nose band are painted.  This is not the same aircraft as the box art but is from the same Sentai.  The wing walk area was masked after the rest of the model was painted and shot with Mr. Color tire black.
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I love the camouflage on this one, it was a field applied pattern.  The canopy frames remained in the light gray green factory paint.  These markings and Hinomaru are all from the ICM decal sheet, I didn’t use masks for the Hinomaru to ensure the reds were all the same tone.
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Here is the Mania kit completed.  I re-built the cockpit and added vacuform transparencies from Squadron.  The antenna mast, pitot tube, and gun sight are replacements, the kit parts were a bit clunky.  The cockpit opening is located too far to the rear, the horizontal tail planes are slightly too far forward.  The molding is not as refined and lacks the surface detail of the ICM offering, but it is easy to assemble.  I wouldn’t shy away from building another, but I would correct the cockpit opening position and the tail position the next time.
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This is one of the ICM kits.  I gave all the models a dark acrylic wash to bring out the surface details.  ICM replicates the rivet details on the surface, but these are so finely engraved that they are difficult to see even with a wash but they are there.  I like the texture, but I really doubt you could see rivets in 1/72 scale so the subtlety is accurate.  The shapes are superior to the older Mania kit, and the fuselage is more slender.  This is the better kit of the two and is more accurate.  BUT, ICM has made the kit more complex than it has to be.  There is lots of detail behind the engine which can never be seen, my advice is to simply leave it all out.  The interior structure for the tail skid also doesn’t fit and should be cut away.  The biggest problem with the kit is the landing gear, which are unnecessarily complicated and weak.
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Here is the second ICM kit.  The antenna wires are Uschi elastic line.  Since I did not use the kit’s engine exhaust parts I fabricated exhaust stubs from brass tubing flattened into ovals.  The seat has Eduard belts, but other than those additions it is all out of the box.

Junkers Ju 88H-1 Conversion in 1/72 Scale

The Junkers Ju 88H-1 was an extended range maritime reconnaissance aircraft operated in small numbers by the Luftwaffe’s Fliegerfuhrer Atlantik.  The length of the fuselage was extended forward and aft of the wing to provide additional fuel tanks, giving the aircraft a range of 3,200 miles.  It carried a FuG 200 search radar in the nose and three camera in the rear fuselage.  Defensive armament was augmented by a pod under the nose known as a Waffentropfen for two MG 131s.  These faced to the rear, and were sighted by the pilot using a periscope.

The base kit for this conversion is Revell of Germany’s excellent Ju 88A-4.  The fuselage was cut and resin extensions were inserted fore and aft.  Engines were replaced with spare BMW 801D’s from a Hasegawa kit.  The Waffentropfen was made from two bomb halves from the Revell kit and some Evergreen, filed to shape.  The nose radar is Aimes PE, canopies are vacuforms from Squadron.

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Republic P-43 Lancer Color Photographs

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The Republic P-43 Lancer was a development of the Seversky P-35 design, the most significant alteration being the fuselage was modified to allow the installation of a turbocharger.  During the design process Alexander Seversky was ousted from the company by the board of directors and the name of the company was changed to Republic Aviation.  While the design met USAAC specifications, it was soon outpaced by contemporary European designs.
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The Lancer was powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1830 radial which developed 1,200 hp with the supercharger.  It was armed with two .50 caliber machine guns in the nose and one .30 caliber in each wing.  The wing was a “wet” design which also served as fuel tanks.  Initially these were plagued with leaks until effective internal coatings could be developed. The wing was thin, there was insufficient volume to make the wings self-sealing in case of damage, and there was no armor provided in the first examples.
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A fine shot of a P-43 in formation with the other USAAC fighters of the day, the P-40, P-39, and P-38.  The P-43 had an excellent Oxygen system, and the turbocharger made it fast at altitude.  It was ordered into production mainly to keep Republic’s assembly halls operating while the promising P-47 Thunderbolt was being designed.
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This 55th Pursuit Group Lancer has nosed over at Portland Oregon, displaying the obvious family resemblance to the subsequent Thunderbolt.  Early war markings are on full display, as is the paint wear at the wing root.
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Another 55th Pursuit Group mishap.  This one gives us a fine view of the underside showing the turbocharger installation, flap details, and wheelwell interiors.  Note that the inner doors to the wheelwells are closed.
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A total of 272 Lancers were produced.  In the P-43A variant the armament was increased to four .50 caliber machine guns and pilot armor was provided.  Performance was roughly comparable to the P-40B at lower elevations, but the P-43 had an advantage at altitude.
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The Royal Australian Air Force operated a total of eight P-43s with the No. 1 Photo Reconnaissance Unit, based at Coomalie Creek, Northern Territory.  They were operational over Timor and New Guinea providing reconnaissance of Japanese airfields in the area.  They served from November 1942 through 1943, when the six surviving aircraft were returned to the USAAF.
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The underside of a P-43 in flight revealing the camera ports.  While only mediocre as a fighter, its speed and ceiling made it valuable for the photo reconnaissance mission.
P-43A Lancers and a C-47, Kunming, China - June 1942
The Lancer was shipped to China where it operated with both the Chinese Air Force and the USAAF.  Here one from each service share the ramp at Kunming.  At one point the P-43 was intended to equip the Third Group of the American Volunteer Group, and pilots of the AVG flew Lancers on reconnaissance missions.  This photograph was taken by AVG pilot R. T. Smith.

ESCI Jagdpanther in 1/72 Scale

This is the ESCI Jagdpanther.  Not a bad kit given it’s age.  I’ve added towing shackles from Dragon spares and handles from wire.  It comes with side skirts but they’re too thick and best replaced.  The spare tracks on the rear hull are poorly defined and should also be replaced (as here) or left off.  Tracks here are link and length.  I struggle with these and am hoping that practice improves my efforts.

 

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Subchaser in the South Pacific Book Review

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Subchaser in the South Pacific: A Saga of the USS SC-761 During World War II

By J. Henry Doscher, Jr.

Paperback, illustrated, 110 pages, indexed

Published by Ibooks, Inc. April 2006

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1596873329

ISBN-13: 978-1596873322

Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.4 inches

During the Second World War the U.S. Navy operated a large assortment of small combatants.  One of the most numerous were the SC-497 class submarine chasers.  A total of 438 were built.  These were of wooden construction, 110 feet long, and displaced about 100 tons.  Propulsion was provided by two Diesel engines.  Armament varied, but mainly consisted of light guns and anti-submarine weapons as the name implies.  Crew was twenty seven.

Written by one of her Officers this is the story of one such vessel, the USS SC-761 (most smaller vessels were not named, but commissioned only with their type designations and hull numbers).  Much of her war was spent on escort and patrol duties in the Solomons.  These boats were also used for liaison duties, SC-497 picked up Australian coastwatchers from submarines on two occasions.  Her journeys took her from construction at Ipswich Massachusetts across the Pacific as far south as New Zealand and back.

Having served on a large ship, I find life on the smaller ships interesting.  Even though they are small, they are still U.S. Navy warships and are expected to maintain the same core proficiencies as their larger compatriots.  When one factors in that the crew was almost exclusively comprised of Reservists who were only very recently untrained civilians, the fact that they sailed halfway around the world and went to war in small wooden ships is all the more impressive.

A short book, but a fun read.

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