Israeli A-4 Skyhawk Units in Combat Book Review

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Israeli A-4 Skyhawk Units in Combat

By Shlomo Aloni, illustrated by Jim Laurier

Osprey Combat Aircraft Series Book 81

Paperback, 96 pages, heavily illustrated, 24 color profiles

Published by Osprey Publishing November 2009

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1846034302

ISBN-13: 978-1846034305

Dimensions: 7.2 x 0.2 x 9.9 inches

The Douglas A-4 Skyhawk is one of the classics of aeronautical engineering.  It was developed as a carrier-borne light attack aircraft for the U.S. Navy.  It was designed by Ed Heinemann and exceeded its design expectations in every respect – it was lighter, smaller, faster, and cheaper than specified.  It was also loved by both pilots and ground crews, it was easy to fly, simple to maintain, and could absorb significant punishment.  Almost 3,000 were produced.

In addition to the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps the Skyhawk was exported to several other air arms, Israel was the largest export customer.  The A-4 was intended to replace both the French Mystere and Ourangan in IDF service.  This book details the political maneuvering and negotiations which resulted in the initial acquisition of the A-4 in 1965 using first-hand accounts from the participants.  I found this process fascinating, and the “What If” crowd will certainly enjoy reading about the multiple aircraft types in consideration for the contract.

The A-4 saw considerable combat while in Israeli service, and these actions are covered well here using pilot interviews and mission summaries.  The factors which lead to changes in tactics and adaptations of the aircraft are interesting.  There is discussion of the organizational structure of the Israeli Air Force and the evolving mission tasking of the Skyhawk force.  It was surprising to see how suddenly the shifts in personnel were conducted, in many cases squadron Commanding Officers were shifted overnight.

The book covers Skyhawk service in the IDF through several major conflicts – the War of Attrition and the Yom Kippur War, along with more limited actions against the PLA and in Lebanon.  This is an interesting narrative which did not get bogged down in dry mission statistics but struck a good balance between first hand accounts and keeping the larger strategic picture in focus.  One of the better volumes in Osprey’s Combat Aircraft Series.

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Douglas SBD Dauntless Color Photographs Part 3

More SBD Dauntless color photographs, if you missed the earlier posts just follow the tags at the bottom of this one.

The first five pictures are from the National Air and Space Museum Archives, Rudy Arnold Photo Collection, and are an ideal illustration of one of the hazards faced by modelers in determining color schemes.   The aircraft are SBD-1 of Marine Scout Bombing Squadron 132 (VMSB-132) operating from Quantico Virginia in 1941.  The aircraft are painted in the overall non-specular Light Gray scheme authorized from 30DEC40 through 20AUG41, when Blue Gray was to be added to the upper surfaces.  The pictures all depict the same aircraft on the same flight, coded 132-B-4.  During the flight the photographer has utilized different cameras with different films to capture the scene, which in this case has resulted in some very different variations in appearance.  In the last picture the upper wing surfaces are visible which reveal temporary white crosses added to the wings for identification during wargames.

The second group are a series of LIFE magazine photographs of Dauntlesses from a stateside training command.  The barred national insignia with the Insignia Blue borders became standard on 31AUG43.  A beautiful series of photographs and a useful study in paint wear.  Enjoy!

 

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Douglas XB-19 Interior Photographs

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The flight deck of the XB-19 was quite spacious by aviation standards.  This compartment was fitted with acoustical batting to deaden engine noise and the pilot and co-pilot are provided with tinted sun visors.  Note the padded leather office chair in the navigator’s position behind the pilot and the parachutes in the chairs.  This photograph was taken at march Field, pilot is Major Stanley Umstead, co-pilot Major Howard Bunker, flight engineer Warren Dickerson (between the pilots), and radio operator Duncan Hall in the foreground.
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A similar view looking forward.  This may be one of the earliest XB-19 test flights as the pilot to the left is Major Stanley Umstead who was first to fly the XB-19.  The bombardier is visible at his position in the lower nose.  Behind the pilot is the navigator’s position, behind the co-pilot is the aircraft commander.  (Coleta Air & Space Museum photograph)
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A technician makes adjustments to the bomb release mechanism in the nose compartment.  While designed as a bomber, the XB-19 functioned as test bed for new equipment and was instrumental in the development of American heaver bomber programs.
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The flight deck looking aft.  To the left is the radio operator.  The flight engineer’s station with its array of engine gauges and controls dominates the rear of the flight deck.  Immediately behind the engineer is the chief mechanic.  
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A similar view aft shot from the aircraft commander’s position showing minor changes.  The XB-19 was designed to carry a crew of sixteen with the provision for eight additional relief crewmen in a berthing area with galley.  In practice her payload was test equipment and technicians.
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The engines of the XB-19 were serviceable in flight.  The mechanics could access the engines by crawl tunnels inside the wings.  Not a job for the claustrophobic!
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A similar view of a mechanic inside one of the wing tunnels.  A considerable amount of electrical cabling has been added compared to the previous photograph.
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A crewman uses the intercom in the tail of the aircraft.  To the rear is the tail gunner’s position, behind the crewman is the gun port for the starboard .30 caliber gun with ammunition racks behind.
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A slightly different view of the after fuselage.  Racks for both .30 caliber waist guns are visible and equipment bins have been added along the centerline.  Note that none of the interior surfaces in any of these photographs have been primed, all remained in natural aluminum.

Douglas XB-19 Book Review

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Douglas XB-19: An Illustrated History of America’s Would-Be Intercontinental Bomber

By William Wolf

Hardcover in dustjacket, 128 pages, heavily illustrated

Published by Schiffer Military History February 2017

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0764352326

ISBN-13: 978-0764352324

Dimensions: 8.8 x 1 x 11 inches

At the time of its first flight on 27JUN41 the Douglas XB-19 was arguably the largest aircraft in the world, and would remain so until the Consolidated B-36 Peacemaker prototype flew in 1946.  In the intervening years a few other designs (the Martin JRM-3 Mars flying boat, Blohm & Voss BV 238 flying boat, and the Junkers Ju-390 transport) exceeded its gross weight of 164,000 pounds (74,390 kg), but none surpassed its 212 foot (64.4 meter) wingspan.  While it was designed to be the world’s first intercontinental bomber it was underpowered and obsolete by the time it was ready to take to the air.  It spent its life as flying laboratory testing equipment for future bomber designs.

Even today not a lot is known about the XB-19, even amongst aviation enthusiasts.  Only a single example was built, Douglas did not want to see it completed and the USAAC really didn’t know what to do with it once they had it.  While it had an impressive range and load carrying capacity its cruising speed of 120 mph (192 km/h) (maximum 205 mph (329 km/h) sustained) would have made it easy prey for defending fighters – as a consequence it was never seriously considered for combat.

Author William Wolf has done a great service in gathering surviving documentation to fill a gap in the aviation record and tell the story of the XB-19.  The background leading up to the design of the first intercontinental bomber is explored in depth, with previous USAAC bomber designs described so the reader can see the type’s evolution.  Parallel competing designs are also explored.  Construction at Douglas is covered in detail as is the aircraft’s public unveiling and first flight.  A considerable amount of raw information is presented with technical details from the Erection Manual, memoranda, and USAAC & Douglas press releases making up much of the narrative.

Throughout, the book is heavily illustrated with several photographs on each page.  While this is perfectly adequate in many cases, it also represents a missed opportunity as several of these photographs are quite strikingly detailed and would have been most impressive had they been reproduced in full- or half-page formats.  Larger photographs would also have been useful in the opening chapters where previous designs and competing configurations are discussed –  postage stamp sized photographs just don’t do the trick here.  There are five color full-page renderings showing the XB-19 and XB-19A in its evolving paint schemes and configurations, but only one page of color photographs and these are also too small to be of any real use.

This is likely the only book we’ll see on the XB-19 so it fills a gap in the overall narrative of aviation history and is therefor welcome.  The book is let down by its treatment of the photographic material, which could have easily been significantly improved.

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Douglas XB-19 “Hemispheric Bomber”

Douglas XB-19. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The Douglas XB-19 was what we would today call a “technology demonstrator”.  It was never intended for series production, but was built as a proof of concept design to explore the idea of a very heavy long-range bomber.  It was the largest aircraft built in the U.S. until the Convair B-36 flew in 1946. (USAF photo)
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The top-secret project was begun in 1935, Douglas beating out Sikorsky for the contract.  Construction was lengthy, facing delays in funding due to the Depression and changes due to the rapid progression of innovations in aviation at the time.  Douglas recommended cancelling the project because the design had become overweight, underpowered, and too expensive.
Douglas XB-19 under construction. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The USAAC instructed Douglas to proceed in spite of the developmental issues.  Douglas finished the aircraft using its own funds at a considerable financial loss.  In an interesting public relations move, the USAAC declassified the project and the huge bomber became a press favorite.  (USAF photo)
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The first flight took place on 27JUN41 with Major Stanly Ulmstead (pilot) and Major Howard Bunker (co-pilot) at the controls.  A crowd of 45,000 had gathered at the Douglas plant at Santa Monica, CA to witness the event.  Six P-40Cs of the 20th Pursuit Group from Hamilton Field provided escort.
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The aircraft handled well in the air, but there was significant porpoising during the landing approach at March Field.  In addition, the taxiway was damaged due to the immense weight.
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Everything about the design was to a large scale.  Both of the XB-19 main wheels survive and can be seen today, one at Hill AFB in Ogden Utah and one at the NMUSAF in Dayton, OH.
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The tip of the vertical fin rose to 42 feet (12.8 meters) above the ground, here airmen giving the tail a wash down provide perspective.
Douglas XB-19 in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor the aircraft was camouflaged in the standard Olive Drab over Neutral Gray scheme and the designed defensive armament of five .50 caliber, six .30 caliber, and two 37 mm guns was fitted.  (USAF photo)
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On 23JAN43 the XB-19 arrived at Wright Field in Dayton OH to continue its testing program.  By that time the XB-19 was serving as a “flying laboratory” to test equipment and concepts for America’s heavy bomber programs.  One modification was the replacement of the 2,300 hp Wright 3350 radial engines with 3,000 Allison V-3420 24-cylinder in-lines and four-bladed props.  This change was performed at Romulus Army Air Base at Detroit, MI.
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The aircraft’s immense 212 foot wingspan was a continued source of fascination, here illustrated by the mechanic at the end of the port wing at Romulus.  The down side was the aircraft was simply too big to fit in many hangers and it took up a lot of space on the ramp.
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The aircraft was redesignated XB-19A to reflect the engine change.  The new engines solved persistent cooling problems with the Wright radials and increased maximum speed by almost 70 mph (111 kph).
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The aircraft serial was 38-471, and was marked in the USAAF paradigm as 8471 in yellow on the tail, here with the last two digits also repeated on the nose.  The barred U.S. national insignia date the photograph to after August 1943 while the aircraft was still serving as a test bed for new equipment.
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Most of the test equipment was later removed and the XB-19A was converted to carry cargo, intended for use within the continental U.S.  In this configuration it could carry up to 45,000 pounds.  Externally, the change was indicated by the removal of the dorsal turret with the opening being faired over and the addition of a cargo door.  The aircraft was used little in this configuration.
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The XB-19A was then transferred to the All-Weather Flying Center at Wilmington, OH.  There it was stripped of its camouflage paint and given high-visibility markings in the form of a red vertical tail and nose with yellow engine cowlings.  It is pictured here in these markings in storage at Davis Monthan where it was scrapped in 1949.

Airfix Douglas C-47 Skytrain in 1/72 Scale

This is the new mold Airfix C-47A in 1/72 scale.  It is a fine kit in all respects, it builds up quickly and with no surprises.  The interior is perfectly adequate, very little can be seen in any case and I would advise against adding additional detail as the effort will be wasted.  I did add ignition wiring to the engines as these can be seen, and I replaced the kit wheels with aftermarket resin which offered a small improvement.  I added brake lines from wire, and Uschi antenna lines.  Kit decals were used, and represent “Kilroy is Here” of the 92nd Troop Carrier Squadron / 439th Troop Carrier Group operating from Devon, England for the Normandy landings.  The invasion stripes showed through the fuselage insignia so those were doubled up with spares from the decal stash.  A nice kit overall, one which can be recommended without reservation.

Build thread here:  https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/?s=airfix+douglas+c-47

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Airfix Douglas C-47 Skytrain Build in 1/72 Scale Part III

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The first step in painting for me is a coat of Mr. Surfacer 1000.  This is a final check for seams and other construction errors – anything amiss is sanded back and re-primed.  Even at this stage everything is applied in the direction of airflow, that way any variation in the finish is a contribution to the final weathering instead of a flaw.
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The iconic image of the C-47 is dropping paratroopers behind the Normandy beaches, so invasion stripes are in order.  White was applied first then masked, then black and more masking.  Both the white and black were toned down a bit, the pure colors are just too stark when applied to a model.
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The aircraft I’m modeling had Medium Green 42 disruptive patches on the wings and tail surfaces, these were masked off with poster putty.
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Next the basic camouflage of Olive Drab over Neutral Gray was applied using Mr. Color paints.  Both of these colors were darkened, then lighter mixes were applied to vary the tone.  The control surfaces were then masked off and shot with Olive Drab lightened with Light Gray and Orange to simulate the fading seen on the canvas material.
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All masks are removed revealing the basic finish.
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Next the de-icer boots are masked off and painted using Mr. Color Tire color.  The entire model then was sprayed with a layer of Glosscoat in preparation for weathering and decals.
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I had intended to model this C-47 of the 98th Troop Carrier Squadron at Devon, and had purchased the Xtradecal sheet for this aircraft.  Unfortunately, Xtradecal missed the chalked number “1” seen between the cargo door and the invasion stripes so I had to use the kit decals.
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The kit decals are for the well-known “Kilroy is Here” C-47 of the 92nd Troop Carrier Squadron.  The older Italeri C-47 also had a boxing with these markings.  The Airfix decals worked well and include all the stenciling, the only flaw is the white is a little transparent so the invasion stripes show through the national insignia on the fuselage.  I doubled those up with spares from the decal stash and all was well.
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Panel lines were enhanced with Tamiya Panel Line Accent Color, black for the panel lines and brown to simulate oil leaks from the radial engines (which always seem to leak).  The excess was wiped off in the direction of airflow, so any streaking is a feature, not a flaw!
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After all the fiddly bits are attached the model is sealed with Testors Dullcoat and rigged with Uschi elastic line.  Overall a rather straight-forward build with no surprises.  Now if only I can find a set of those EDO floats …

Airfix Douglas C-47 Skytrain Build in 1/72 Scale Part II

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Airfix has made some interesting engineering choices with this kit.  The wing center section spans across the underside of the fuselage.  The wing spar sits on top of this piece, and forms the back of the wheelwells and the wing leading edge landing lights.  Should be no problem getting the dihedral tight on this one!
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The wing panels fit nicely, just follow the build sequence in the instructions.  The after part of the wing fillet is molded as a separate piece which is unusual, but this fit well and caused no issues.
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The engines are nicely molded.  You could invest in some aftermarket engines but they are not required to get a good build.
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I did add ignition wires to mine, a simple improvement which improves the detail.  The wires are made from very fine copper electronics wire.  These were folded in half and superglued into holes drilled behind the harness ring.
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Painting propellers can be a pain.  Most U.S. propellers have yellow tips and a polished hub.  I painted these first and protected the tips with masking tape.  The hub is a bit more difficult to mask, so I made a slotted piece of card to slip over the blades to protect the hub from overspray.  Airfix provides both broad and narrow prop styles so there is a set for the spares box.  While I was at it I painted up both sets so future me will have a little less to do next time.
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All the transparencies are installed and protected with Eduard masks.  I then sprayed Mr. Surfacer 500 to check seams.  The kit really assembles quickly and with no drama.  After this is smoothed she’ll be ready to prime.

Airfix Douglas C-47 Skytrain Build in 1/72 Scale Part I

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I’ve always had a soft spot for the C-47, it’s one of those designs where they got it right.  They were flying long before I was born, and they’ll still be at it long after I’ve gone.  When Airfix released their new C-47 I couldn’t resist.
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Airfix provides a nice interior, the real aircraft was not that busy inside and you won’t be able to see much of it anyway.  If you leave the crew access door open some of this would be visible.
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The fuselage is basically empty – just like it should be.  The jump seats are optional and are molded as separate pieces.  The cargo doors and crew access door are also molded as separate pieces, posing the cargo doors open would reveal the fuselage interior pretty well for those wanting to do so.
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I painted the interior Dull Dark Green (FS 34092).  Seatbelts are made from masking tape.  There is a decal for the instrument panel, but I doubt it will be visible once the fuselage is closed up.  I put mine in anyway because I had it, but I wouldn’t invest in an aftermarket panel.
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I washed the interior with acrylic black and drybrushed the raised detail with silver.  The cargo bay floor is natural aluminum.  For those wanting something different, there is ample photographic evidence that many C-47 interiors were painted a color resembling RAF Sky.