F-105 Wild Weasel vs SA-2 ‘Guideline’ SAM Book Review

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F-105 Wild Weasel vs SA-2 ‘Guideline’ SAM: Vietnam 1965–73

By Peter E. Davies, illustrated by Jim Laurier and Gareth Hector

Osprey Duel Series Book 35

Paperback, 80 pages, illustrated, indexed

Published by Osprey Publishing May 2011

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1849084718

ISBN-13: 978-1849084710

Dimensions: 7.3 x 0.2 x 9.6 inches

I found this book at an IPMS show along with a few other Osprey titles.  Osprey books, while short, are an excellent introduction to their topics and are well illustrated being chock full of photographs, maps, and useful illustrations specially commissioned for the series.  This title is what you would expect from this publisher and does not disappoint.

The Duel series pits competing weapons systems against each other comparing the relative strengths and weaknesses of each.  In this case the weapons are asymmetric, meaning this is not a case of two versions of the same platform (think tank versus tank), but a dissimilar example of aircraft versus surface to air missile.  In this instance the aircraft is the USAF F-105 F/G Thunderchief “Wild Weasel” SAM suppression attack aircraft pitted against the North Vietnamese SA-2 “Guideline” surface to air missile system.  Neither system operated alone, the Weasels being supported by jamming aircraft and strike aircraft tasked with bombing the missile sites, the North Vietnamese utilizing AAA and MiG interceptors to complicate matters for the F-105s.

The author describes the move and counter-move nature of the struggle between two technologically advanced systems.  The F-105’s Shrikes could home in on the SA-2’s “Fan Song” radar; the radar could be turned off to make the Shrike miss; the Weasels could jam the SA-2 guidance link but the missile could be guided optically for much of its flight, and so on.  For every new tactic or innovation by either side a counter measure was soon introduced which limited the advantage.

I found this book to be interesting and informative, just right for an evening read with a cat on your lap.  Recommended.

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Dragon Northrop YF-23 Black Widow in 1/72 Scale

The YF-23 Black Widow was Northrop’s entry into the USAF Advanced Tactical Fighter competition, which was eventually won by the F-22 Raptor.  Dragon kitted the YF-23, the blended wing and fuselage configuration makes for a very simple model as everything is molded together as a large single top and large single bottom piece with very few other parts to add – mainly the landing gear and cockpit.  I decided to build mine as if it were from an operational unit.  Two Bobs excellent F-22 sheet provided replacement markings plus two to spare if I ever build a Raptor.  Markings are of the 325th TFW at Tyndall AFB in Florida, a possible appearance if the YF-23 had entered production instead of (or in addition to) the F-22. One of the two YF-23s completed is currently at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton.

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Hasegawa Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk in 1/72 Scale

Here is Hasegawa’s Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter.  I think of these as being “modern”, but they’re already retired.  Hard to believe.  I’m old.   This is a relatively simple kit.  The plastic is harder than usual, must be to absorb radar energy better.  It’s also much bigger than I expected, I kept checking to make sure it was the proper scale.  Quite a lot can be seen even with the canopy closed due to the large flat panels.  I used the Eduard mask set which saved time with the sawtooth frames.  The fuselage seams needed filled on the underside, as do the wing joints. The clear sprue contains a solid nose weight.  This was barely enough to keep the nose down, the model will sit on its tail if positioned that way.  I’d add just a bit more weight just to be sure if building another.

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Convair B-36 Peacemaker Models Are Big. Really, Really Big.

It is big.  That is the first impression, and it is undeniable.  It is the biggest model airplane I have ever seen.  Is it the biggest model airplane in the world?  Reportedly not, but a brief search reveals the all-knowing internet is thoroughly confused on that point.  It is, well, big.  And impressive.

How big is it?  It is a 1/9th scale B-36, with a wingspan of 26 feet.  It was built by James Pappas in his mother’s attic in 1952, at the same time Convair was building the real thing at Fort Worth.  Think about 1952 for a minute – no CAD, no scale plans, no internet, no fancy tools.  A drill, a saw, a miter box, and a whole lot of Balsa.  The model was built to a flying standard, but there is debate about whether it was ever actually flown.  The story of the model is here:  http://www.rchalloffame.org/Exhibits/Exhibit41/index.html

Last week Ed Crotty of the RC Hall of Fame donated the model to the Academy of Model Aeronautics in Muncie, Indiana.  I went along to help move the model, which was a bit of an adventure!

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The model was living comfortably in the ceiling of a basement in Cleveland.  It was supported by wires anchored into the overhead, and ladders had been propped under strategic points to support it during the move.  Still a nice looking model after sixty seven years!
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Ed Crotty (on the left) discusses the move plan with Michael Smith, Director of the National Model Aviation Museum.  Even with the vertical tail removed the model still was a “head knocker.”  The aft ends of the engine nacelles are visible on the upper right.
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The nose section seen from under the wing.  Interestingly, there was canopy ribbing but no sign of glazing on either the canopy or the nose section.  The gunners’ sighting domes are represented, as are a range of SAC insignia and unit markings.  These markings were vinyl so would have been added after the original construction.  There are no markings present on the vertical tail.
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The propellers, jet engine pods, and flaps had been removed beforehand to facilitate the move.  The model was originally equipped with 1950’s vintage engines, including the jets.  It was built to run under power so it could taxi on its own at the very least.
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Ed demonstrates the bomb bay door operation for Michael.  All four bomb bays featured operable doors, which still worked easily after all the years.  One has to admire the workmanship and planning needed to pull off a model like this.
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The landing gear was operational and fully retractable.  The gear doors and flaps were also articulated, but had been removed prior to moving the model.
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A view up into the wing box from below.  The bronze rods extend deep into the wings, their original purpose is not obvious but it was eventually determined that they were part of the gear retraction mechanism.  The rod below the bell crank was intended to be on top, it being wedged under the crank necessitated removal of much of the hardware shown here before the wings could be released from the fuselage.
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Some of the “smaller” components outside on blankets, waiting to be loaded.  The model was designed to be broken down into assemblies to make transportation more manageable.  Some of the structure of the tail section is visible, hinting at the intricacy of the assembly.
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Most modelers secure their projects into various sorts of boxes to transport them to shows.  Here Michael secures the B-36 model into a box truck.  Every bit of the floor space of the cargo box was needed.
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The nose section is a separate assembly, and shows off some of the internal structure in this view.  While there were original engines with the model, there were no radios or evidence of radios ever being mounted within the model.  Perhaps Mr. Pappas intended to mount a radio receiver on the platform visible here at the rear of the nose section.

MiG-17/19 Aces of the Vietnam War Book Review

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MiG-17/19 Aces of the Vietnam War, Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 130

by István Toperczer, illustrated by Jim Laurier

Paperback, 96 pages, 30 color profiles

Published by Osprey Publishing October  2016

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1472812557

ISBN-13: 978-1472812551

Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.4 x 9.6 inches

This volume follows the standard format which will be familiar to any reader of Osprey’s previous Aircraft of the Aces volumes.  Author István Toperczer provides a historical overview of the Vietnamese Peoples Air Force and their employment of the MiG-17 and MiG-19, and illustrator Jim Laurier treats us to thirty beautifully rendered side profiles of the aircraft, most of which are depicted in natural metal schemes with a few shown in camouflage for good measure.

The VPAF credits eight pilots with five or more victories while flying MiG-17 or -19s.  Roughly half of the officially credited VPAF claims are uncorroborated, and many of the losses admitted by the U.S. were attributed to AAA or SAMs.  Toperczer notes throughout the text where North Vietnamese claims cannot be reconciled with USN or USAF loss reports, but does not explain the VPAF crediting methodology nor explains the discrepancy.  The reader is left to wonder if ground controllers who tracked U.S. aircraft throughout an engagement couldn’t easily confirm or deny a claim, or if the lack of aircraft wreckage or downed aircrew was ever taken into account.

Another more humorous illustration of the “fog of war” is the strange case of three very active MiG-19 pilots, who all flew with the 925th Fighter Regiment from Gia Lam airfield at the same time.  Their names were very similar – Nguyen Hong Son, Nguyen Hung Son, and Pham Hung Son.  As their exploits were reported in the Vietnamese press the matter became so confusing that the pilots were referred to as Son “A”, Son “B”, and Son “C” and historians have continued the paradigm.

A surprise to me was the presence of North Korean “volunteer” aircrew, which was not officially acknowledged until 2001.  They were active from 1967 through 1969.  Fourteen North Korean pilots were killed.  The VPAF credited them with achieving four victories although none of those can be corroborated with U.S. losses.

These books are a good reference for modelers and the profiles provide some great eye candy and inspiration for planning builds.  I would have liked to have seen more attention paid to sorting out or explaining the overclaiming issue, and perhaps some complementary descriptions of the same combats from the perspective of the U.S. aircrews.  A recommended reference volume, particularly as Airfix is expected to release a Mikoyan MiG-17 kit in 1/72 scale shortly.

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