Focke Wulf Fw 190D-9 Dora

Arguably, the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 evolved into wartime Germany’s most effective fighter, offering the Luftwaffe the benefit of manoeuvrability combined with stability as a formidable gun platform and the flexibility to perform as an air superiority fighter, a heavily armed and armoured interceptor and as an ordnance-carrying ground attack aircraft. However, this superlative machine had its Achilles’ heel, for when the first Fw 190A-2s entered operational service with Stab/JG 26 and I./JG 26 on the Channel Front in July 1941, it became apparent quite quickly that the type’s performance at high-altitude was weak.

The Fw 190A-2 was powered by the 1,500hp BMW 801C-1 and 1,600 hp C-2 radial engines. From the start, and during initial testing in 1940 and early 1941, this engine was plagued with faults. Crews and technicians of the Luftwaffe’s dedicated test unit Erprobungsstaffel 190 at Rechlin, therefore, were forced to undertake considerable trouble-shooting. Finally, by August 1941, the engine was deemed safe enough to allow the first Fw 190A-1 production machines to be handed over to 6./JG 26, which at the time was based in Belgium. Unfortunately, the problems persisted, with nine Fw 190s crashing in August–September 1941. The finger of blame was pointed at BMW, whose engines continued to be plagued by overheating and compressor damage.

There were also delays in deliveries associated with failings afflicting the anticipated 1,700hp BMW 801D. This engine, fitted in the Fw 190A-3 (in production from late 1941), benefited from uprated power achieved by increasing the compression ratio in the cylinders and refinements to the two-speed supercharger. Nevertheless, it was found to suffer from a fall in performance above 19,750ft.

Despite this worrying scenario, since early 1941 Kurt Tank had been working on a re-design of the Fw 190 that would incorporate a different powerplant capable of functioning effectively at altitudes higher than those then achievable. In his post-war memoirs, Tank summarises succinctly the prevailing situation at the time:

Hardly was the Fw 190 flying at the beginning of the war before it had to be extensively redesigned, enlarged and made more powerful still. In no time at all, the requirements of very many pieces of auxiliary equipment connected with the armament and communications of the plane forced up its weight, and at the same time new and more powerful engines were becoming available.

In November 1941, under the project designation ‘Ra-8’, Focke-Wulf decided to install a Junkers Jumo 213A inverted V12 engine into the airframe of an Fw 190, while tests also proceeded with a Daimler-Benz DB 603 inline inverted V12 – this option was ultimately dropped in favour of the Jumo unit. The Jumo 213’s edge came in the form of a pressurised cooling system and, with high boost settings, was designed to produce 1,750hp at 3,250rpm. In a clever move, the Junkers design team placed the mounting points in exactly the same locations as those for the DB 603. Although this meant easy interchange, the supercharger intake was to be found on the left side of the DB 603, while in the case of the Jumo it was on the right. The Jumo 213 also had a strengthened crankshaft and engine block, with smaller external dimensions than the Daimler-Benz motor, although it did retain the same bore and stroke.

The first aircraft to be fitted with a Jumo 213A was Wk-Nr. 0039 CF+OX, which was prototype V17. This Fw 190, with its ‘Langnase’ (‘long nose’) as a result of the engine installation, also featured a tail unit that was similar in shape to what would appear in the later Ta 152 high-altitude interceptor. It took to the air for the first time on 26 September 1942 from Hannover-Langenhagen, flown by Focke-Wulf chief test pilot Flugkapitän Hans Sander. There were some initial teething problems with the installation, and after Kurt Melhorn had made the eighth test flight in V17 on 4 December 1942, he reported that ‘the engine is still running very roughly so that proper testing cannot be carried out.’ In January 1943 the aircraft was returned to the workshops for fitting with a pre-production Jumo 213A-0.

Focke-Wulf persisted with the trials throughout 1943, Sander completing three test flights in V17 on 27 February, for example. The aircraft had its radio equipment removed and replaced by a ballast load of 290lb, with 26lb in the tail fin and 33lb in the jacking tube. Unfortunately, extreme vibration made the machine impossible to fly, casting heavy doubts over any chance of it becoming a combat-ready fighter since, primarily, such vibration would greatly hamper use of a reflector gunsight. More flights were undertaken in March by Sander, his fellow test-pilot Bernhard Märschel and Hauptmann Otto Behrens, a Luftwaffe fighter technician from Rechlin. Still the Jumo was viewed as unfavourable compared to the earlier BMW engine, despite the fitting of new bearings. Beside long-running coolant leaks, oil was now found to be routinely seeping onto the floor of the cockpit when the aircraft was aloft.

On 30 April V17 was transferred to Rechlin for further assessment in the hope of solving these problems. It was discovered that the vibration was caused by crankshaft resonance in the continuous speed range, and a solution was soon found in the form of a spoke wheel inserted between the crankshaft and the propeller. This duly shifted the resonance into an rpm range that was not disruptive. A change in the cylinder firing sequence reduced vibration levels even further, although this in turn reduced the engine’s performance by a full eight per cent because the exhaust and intake lines had been optimised for the original firing sequence. Nevertheless, by June 1943, the 185 engines thus far completed at Junkers’ Dessau plant had been modified accordingly.

During the summer V17 returned from Rechlin to Focke-Wulf, where it was fitted with a Jumo 213A-1 and a streamlined cowling but still lacked armament.

The technical issues surrounding the Jumo powerplant persisted for more than a year, prompting General-Ingenieur Wolfram Eisenlohr, head of the engine department in the RLM, to lament:

The neglect under which matters of engine development have long suffered have now led to a critical lack of developmental capacity. A glance at other countries shows that research into powerplant matters abroad have been handled much more favourably than here.

In May 1944 V17 was refitted with a Jumo 213A-2 that drove a wooden VS 9 propeller. The Junkers engine was some 24 inches longer than the BMW 801, which meant the aircraft had to be modified at the Focke-Wulf plant at Adelheide in late April. Its fuselage was extended by 20 inches just ahead of the tail assembly to offset this. In this configuration, the machine became V17/U1 – the first true Fw 190D-9 prototype. Testing went reasonably well, with Märschel completing the inaugural flight on 17 May when he flew it back to Hannover-Langenhagen. Here, it underwent extensive trials, with test pilots generally reporting that the Jumo 213A offered a great improvement at altitude over the BMW 801D. Furthermore, thanks to the D-9’s reduced drag as a result of its a narrower radiator profile, it was faster than the radial-engined Fw 190 in a dive.

In a further stage of development, in June–July 1944, because of ‘difficulties with existing prototypes’, the airframes of two early Fw 190A-8s were reconfigured under the suffix D-9 (‘D’ being given the moniker ‘Dora’) – a designation that seems to have first been used in a Focke-Wulf drawing dating from January 1944. These aircraft were to be made available ‘immediately’ at Adelheide under the prototype numbers V53 and V54. The Fw 190A-8 variant was by far the most numerous and most potent Focke-Wulf heavy fighter to be built, and it became the Luftwaffe’s main close-range interceptor for operations against USAAF heavy bombers throughout 1944–45.

The January 1944 drawing incorporated an extended fuselage and tail assembly, along with strengthening of the forward fuselage and wing centre section and provision for a Jumo 213A engine.

The first to be converted was Wk-Nr. 170003, the third A-8 to be built, which became V53 (coded DU+JC) in the D-9 programme. However, this prototype was fitted with a Jumo 213C at the Focke-Wulf plant at Sorau, in Silesia. Essentially an A-model Jumo engine with rearranged secondary equipment (such as supercharger and oil pump), it was capable of, and designed from the outset for, the fitment of a centreline cannon firing through an opening for a blast tube in the propeller hub. This had the advantage of a gun being more along a pilot’s line of sight, as well as offering less impact on speed and manoeuvrability. A disadvantage, however, was the recoil associated with a centrally-mounted weapon and the impact it had on the engine, leading to potential mechanical problems and possible damage.

When the aircraft made its first flight on 12 June 1944, it retained the original A-8 wing armament comprising four 20mm MG 151/20E cannon and a pair of 13mm MG 131 machine guns mounted over the engine. Testing of V53 was rigorous, with no fewer than 100 flights being made before it was eventually reassigned as an armaments test aircraft for the new Ta 152B-5, at which point it became V68.

Fw 190A-8 Wk-Nr. 174024, coded BH+RX, was an aircraft that had suffered some damage on 29 May. Reconfigured as D-9 V54, its maiden flight took place on 26 July 1944 and its last on 4 August at Focke-Wulf’s Langenhagen plant when it was flown by Flugkapitän Sander. The main task of V54 was to trial the MW 50 methanol-water power-boosting system, for which a 115-litre tank was installed. There is some documentary evidence to suggest that the original plan was for V54 to test the GM-1 nitrous oxide-based injection power-boosting system developed by Otto Lutz in 1940.

MW 50 was a solution of 50 per cent methanol, 49.5 per cent water and 0.5 per cent anti-corrosive fluid, the liquid being injected directly into the supercharger for limited periods not exceeding ten minutes. In air combat, the boost increased the power of a Jumo 213 engine by at least 300hp to 2,000hp for short periods. Such a system came with the added benefit of needing only the installation of purpose-made spark plugs to modify the engine. However, its one side-effect was that the corrosive nature of methanol reduced engine life.

Production of the Fw 190D-9 was planned to commence in August, but on the 5th there was a setback when both the A-8 conversions were damaged as a result of an American bombing raid on Langenhagen. V53 escaped with light damage rated at five per cent, but V54 suffered 80 per cent damage and was written off. Nevertheless, series production did start at Focke-Wulf’s Cottbus and Sorau plants later in the month, as well as at the Gerhard Fieseler Werke at Kassel-Waldau and at the Ago Oschersleben and Arbeitsgemeinschaft Roland plants. The first production machines rolled out of the assembly halls at Sorau towards the end of August, with Sander taking Wk-Nr. 210001 TR+SA up on the 31st, while Hauptmann Schmitz flew the second example, Wk-Nr. 210002 TR+SB, on 15 September. Both aircraft did suffer from minor teething problems, but series production was now underway.

Having been repaired after the August attack on Langenhagen, V53 had had its outboard wing MG 151s removed and the two inboard weapons replaced by 30mm MK 103 cannon by late 1944. In such a configuration the aircraft was redesignated V68. V17 was still available for testing, despite its ‘official’ testing life having ended on 6 July at the Erprobungsstelle at Rechlin. Wk-Nr. 210001 was fitted with two MG 131 machine guns above the engine and two MG 151 cannon in the wing roots. Problems were still being experienced with the Jumo 213A-1, however. The second machine to be turned out, Wk-Nr. 210002, had the same armament and took to the air on 15 September flown by Hauptmann Schmitz. It was found during subsequent tests in this aircraft that ‘while climbing at combat power, with all flaps set to flush at 9,000m [29,500ft], an increase of over 2m [6.5ft]/sec in the rate of climb, as well as an increase of the service ceiling to 10,500m [34,500ft], could be obtained.’

In one test to measure engine temperature during a climb in Wk-Nr. 210001 at Langenhagen on 20 October, it was noted that:

The radiator coolant inlet and outlet temperatures, as well as the lubricant and supercharger air temperatures at the engine entrance, were taken using combat power climb with 20 degrees angle radiator flap opening. Since the last flight had to be broken off because of weather and engine breakdown, the height of peak temperature was just reached at 6000m [19,685ft] altitude.

Teething problems persisted, however, as illustrated by a report prepared at Langenhagen on 24 October:

As delivered, substantial gaps were present in the engine, in particular in the connection from the cowl to the wing. In order to check for their influence on level speeds, performance comparison flights were carried out in the low supercharger range, before and after sealing of all existing gaps. After conclusion of the trials in the initial condition, an even gap width at the transition from the cowl to the wing had to be ensured, first by shifting of the lower engine cover against the propeller direction of rotation, since substantial differences arose by the engine torque in flight. Then the sealing of the fairing was made by means of rubber gaskets and metal strips.

Nevertheless, as production stepped up at Cottbus and Sorau, plans were made to manufacture four D-9s per day, but such a scale of output would not be reached until November, when, in addition to the Focke-Wulf, Fieseler and Roland plants (Ago was eventually dropped from the programme), Mimetall at Erfurt-Nord was added. The first Fw 190D-9 to be delivered to an operational Luftwaffe unit was Wk-Nr. 210003.

It was not until December 1944 that this aircraft saw operational service. The Junkers Jumbo 213A-1 engines produced an amazing 2242hp at sea level and had a methanol injection system as well. The speed at 20,000 ft was 426mph and at sea level it was 327mph. The climb rate was quite impressive from sea level to 32,000-ft it took only 7.1 minutes.

Even though the FW190D-9 “Langnasen-Dora” shared parity with many allied fighters, it also suffered heavy losses, both in the air and on the ground. Many inexperienced and poorly trained pilots, were no match and were at the mercy of the allied pilots with a great deal of flying time and combat experience.

Kurt Tank had designed this model to operate as a high-altitude fighter but the cabin design was unable to provide adequate pressurization. The aircraft was used to replace The FW 190A at lower altitudes and coincidentally was sometimes humorously referred to as “Downstairs Dora” or “Maid”.

Pilots that flew the FW 190A were somewhat distrustful and apprehensive to switch over to the new FW 190D-9 with its liquid cooled engine. Once these seasoned and operational pilots became accustomed to this new breed of fighter, they soon regarded it to be the best piston-engine fighter to serve with the Luftwaffe in World War II.

Motobomba FFF



The Motabomba, or more properly the Motobomba FFF (Freri Fiore Filpa), was a torpedo used by Italian forces during World War II. The designation FFF was derived from the last names the three men involved with its original design: Lieutenant-Colonel Prospero Freri, Captain-Disegnatore Filpa, and Colonel Amedeo Fiore.

The FFF was a 500 millimetres (20 in) diameter electric torpedo which was dropped on a parachute and was designed to steer concentric spirals of between 550 and 4,375 yards (500 and 4,000 m) until it found a target. It weighed 350 kilograms (770 lb), and contained a 120 kilograms (260 lb) warhead. Its speed was 40 knots (46 mph) and it had an endurance of 15–30 minutes. It was acknowledged by the Germans as superior to anything they had and American intelligence was eager to get its hands on it after the Armistice with Italy in September 1943.


The initial development work on the torpedo was carried out at Parioli, near Rome. It was demonstrated in 1935 to Benito Mussolini, Admiral Domenico Cavagnari, General Giuseppe Valle and other high officials. Freri later demonstrated it at the Germania works at Travemünde, the Luftwaffe experimental trials centre, and the Germans were sufficiently impressed to order 2,000 examples.

500 were ordered for the Regia Aeronautica, the first planned uses for them in combat to be against the British naval bases at Gibraltar and Alexandria in 1940. The limiting factor was the fact that only the Savoia-Marchetti SM.82 bomber had the necessary power and range to deliver such a weapon over such a distance.

The first version of the FFF were designed to enter the water vertically, but it was found that a tilt device allowing it to make a gentler angled entry was less likely to upset the delicate mechanisms, and this was implemented on the second series.

Service history

The first attack using the FFF was made on July 17, 1942 when three SM.82s flew from Guidonia against Gibraltar, an effort repeated on July 25, both missions aborted before launch. On the night of August 20, a Major Lucchini conducted a successful mission against Gibraltar and this was followed by attacks on targets in Albanian, Libyan, and Egyptian waters. Aircraft of 32 Stormo attacked Gibraltar once more in June 1941 and in that same month Lieutenant Torelli (based at Rhodes) attacked Alexandria harbour on the night of June 13.

The largest use of the weapon was against the PEDESTAL convoy to Malta on August 12, 1942 when ten Savoia-Marchetti SM.84s of 38 Gruppe’s 32 Stormo launched them against the convoy south of Cape Spartivento, Sardinia. This made the ships of the convoy alter course, which allowed conventional attacks to penetrate the convoy’s defences.

By September 1942 the Italians had 80 of the improved Mk 2 version at bases in Sardinia, 50 in Sicily, and 50 more with their experimental (ASI) 5 Squadron.

The Luftwaffe made their first mass attack using the weapon on March 19, 1943 when Junkers Ju 88s launched 72 of them against shipping at Tripoli, sinking two supply ships and damaging the destroyer HMS Derwent. Derwent was subsequently beached with her engine room flooded and although salvaged and returned to England, was never repaired.

The FFF was subsequently used in attacks against invasion shipping at Bône in Algeria on April 16, 1943 and at Syracuse during the Allied invasion of Sicily later that year. On December 2 a force of 105 Ju 88s attacked Bari harbour with FFFs, destroying 16 Allied ships including the SS John Harvey, which had been carrying mustard gas.


Giuseppe Ciampaglia: “La sorprendente storia della motobomba FFF”. Rivista Italiana Difesa. Luglio 1999

Motobomba FFF

The first Italian bombers appeared on Gibraltar in 17 of July, 1940. three SM 82 Marsupiale dropped each 4 250 kg high explosive bombs on the harbour( not in the sea) that was not darkened because none in the British Empire knew the performances of this three-engine aircraft yet ( 4000 km autonomy, 4000 kg bomb load).The British night fighters didn’t succeed in striking the raiders.

Bombs on the sea? Maybe you are right, but some weapons MUST be dropped in the sea.

In July/august 1940 and in June 1941 the SM 82s bombed Gibraltar 4-6 times. A special weapon employed in this attacks was the Motobomba FFF ( Freri Fiore Filpa) torpedo. These were 50cm electric torpedoes which followed a circular course when dropped, the circle getting gradually larger. They weighed 350kg, of which 120kg was the warhead. The weapon was dropped as a bomb in the sea but it moved as a torpedo and was very useful against ships that were anchored in an harbour. Each motobomba was connected with a parachute , this is the reason why the wind took 2 bombs on a Spanish village.

In 13 July and 20 august 1941 two merchant ships in Gibraltar were sunk by the “motobombe” .

The Motobomba was also employed by the Luftwaffe ( FLT 400 torpedo was dropped by Ju-88 and Dornier 217 on Tripoli, Bona and Algeri harbours , some ships were sunk).

Post-war Spitfire XIV


The final Spitfire variant, the Mk 24, was similar to the Mk 22 except that it had an increased fuel capacity over its predecessors, with two fuel tanks of 33 gal (150 l) each installed in the rear fuselage. There were also zero-point fittings for rocket projectiles under the wings. All had the larger “Spiteful” tail units: modifications were also made to the trim tab gearings in order to perfect the F 24’s handling characteristics. Late production aircraft were built with the lighter, short-barrelled, electrically fired Mark V Hispano cannon.

Performance was impressive – the F 24 achieved a maximum speed of 454 mph (731 km/h), and could reach an altitude of 30,000 ft (9,100 m) in eight minutes, putting it on a par with the most advanced piston-engined fighters of the era.

Although designed primarily as a fighter-interceptor aircraft, the Spitfire proved its versatility in several different roles. In fighter configuration the F 24’s armament consisted of 4 × short-barrelled 20 mm Hispano cannon – operational experience had proved that the hitting power of these larger weapons was necessary to overcome the thicker armoured plating encountered on enemy aircraft as the war progressed. The aircraft also served successfully in the fighter-bomber role, being capable of carrying 1 × 500 lb (230 kg) and 2 × 250 lb (110 kg) bombs, with rocket-projectile launch rails fitted as standard.

A total of 81 Mk 24s were completed, 27 of which were conversions from Mk 22s. The last Mk 24 to be built was delivered in February 1948. They were used by only one RAF squadron, 80 Squadron, until 1952. Some of the squadron’s aircraft went to the Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force where they were operated until 1955.

Introduced into service in 1946, the F. Mk 24 differed greatly from the original Spitfire Mk I in many respects and undoubtedly brought the design to the peak of perfection, being twice as heavy, more than twice as powerful and exhibiting an increase in climb rate of 80% over the prototype aircraft, ‘K5054’. These remarkable increases in performance arose chiefly from the introduction of the Rolls-Royce Griffon engine in place of the famous Merlin of earlier variants. Rated at 2,050 hp (1,530 kW), the twelve-cylinder Vee liquid cooled Griffon 61 engine featured a two-stage supercharger, giving the Spitfire the exceptional performance at high altitude that had been sometimes lacking in early marks.

In growing numbers and with increasing capability the Spitfire served throughout World War II, not only with the RAF but with the nation’s allies, including US and Soviet squadrons. It also had the distinction of remaining in production throughout the entire war and was operational post-war, the last mission flown by a photo-reconnaissance Spitfire PR.MK 19 of No. 81 Squadron in Malaya on 1 April 1954.


Bulgarian PZL 43A Tchaika



In early 1936 Bulgaria placed an order for 12 P.23s, with the additional requirement of a more powerful engine and an additional forward-firing machine gun. The fuselage was thus redesigned to accept the Gnome-Rhone 14N-01 engine, and the plane was given the designation PZL 43A Tchaika (sea gull in Bulgarian). Because of delays in engine shipments from France, this first series was eventually fitted with Gnome-Rhone 14kfs engines, while additional 42 planes ordered by Bulgaria, designated PZL 43B, received the intended GR 14N-01 engine. At the outbreak of war nine of these aircraft were still at the Warsaw Okecie airfield, and five of them saw combat in the Polish Campaign. The PZL 43 equipped units of the Bulgarian air force never saw front line combat, and were used locally against communist guerillas throughout 1943 and 1944. In September 1944, after Bulgaria switched sides and joined the Allies, the Tchaikas were finally replaced by aircraft of indigenous design.

The Karas was another formerly advanced Polish machine that had fallen behind technologically by 1939. Flown with fanatical bravery, they inflicted heavy losses upon German armored formations.

In 1931 the Polish government sought to acquire a new light bomber based upon the unsuccessful PZL P 13 civilian transport. Several prototypes were then constructed until the cowling was lowered somewhat to improve the pilot’s forward vision. This change gave the new P 23 Karas (Carp) its decidedly humped appearance. It was an allmetal machine with fixed, spatted landing gear and a spacious glazed canopy. The P 23 also mounted a bombardier/tailgunner’s ventral gondola just aft of the main wing. At the time it debuted, the Karas possessed radically modern features such as stressed skin made from sandwiched alloy/balsa wood. This innovation conferred great strength and light weight to the machine. Initial production models were powered by a 590-horsepower Bristol Pegasus radial engine, but their performance proved limited and they served as trainers. Subsequent models featured more powerful engines and greater payload, entering frontline service in 1937. By 1939 P 23s equipped 12 bombing and reconnaissance squadrons in the Polish air force. Bulgaria also expressed interest in the P 23, purchasing 12 and ordering an additional 42 in 1937. Nonetheless, by the eve of World War II the Karas had become outdated as light bombers and helpless in the face of determined fighter opposition.

The initial German blitzkrieg of September 1, 1939, failed to destroy many P 23s on the ground, and they struck back furiously at oncoming armored columns. Several Panzer forces lost up to 30 percent of their equipment in these raids, although many P 23s were claimed by ground fire and enemy fighters. Toward the end of the month-long campaign, a handful of surviving Karas fought their way to neutral Romania. Within two years these machines were reconditioned and flown against the Soviet Union. A total of 253 were built.

Guided Bombs in Korea


The VB-3 Razon (for range and azimuth) was a standard 1,000-pound general purpose bomb fitted with flight control surfaces. Development of the Razon began in 1942, but it did not see use during World War II.


The ASM-A-1 Tarzon, also known as VB-13, was a guided bomb developed by the United States Army Air Forces during the late 1940s. Mating the guidance system of the earlier Razon radio-controlled weapon with a British Tallboy 12,000-pound (5,400 kg) bomb, the ASM-A-1 saw brief operational service in the Korean War before being withdrawn from service in 1951.

As with aircraft design, guided weapons development did not cease in the aftermath of World War II. Allied and German progress in the latter stages of the war appeared so promising that a number of related projects were contracted by the U. S. military throughout the late 1940s. Not surprisingly, much of the emphasis within the munitions community in the early postwar period remained on further development and testing of atomic weapons. However, following the Operation Sandstone atomic bomb tests of early 1948, Air Proving Ground Command reorganized several of its units returning from the Marshall Islands to create a 750-man group dedicated to the acquisition of guided weapons. Based at Eglin Air Force Base, in the Florida panhandle, the 1st Experimental Guided Missiles Group was specifically charged to develop tactics and techniques for guided missile operations. Although the term “guided missile” conjured up images of exotic weaponry that captured the imagination of neighbors in nearby Fort Walton Beach, as used in the postwar period it designated the limited mix of existing guided weapons, all of which had pre-1945 antecedents.

By December 1948 the Group was conducting proving demonstrations on four distinct guided weapons, only one of which was a self-propelled missile. However, the one thing that all four did have in common was the implementation of radio control for guidance. The most “missile-like” weapon under test, the JB-2, was simply an American adaptation of the German V-1, or “Buzz-Bomb.” Powered by a pulse-jet engine, this short-range, high-explosive missile was modified to allow launch from a parent aircraft and adapted to guidance either by preset data or remote radio control while in right. Capable of a fifty-mile range at speeds up to 440 miles per hour, the fact that the JB-2 was never fielded was more a function of its inaccuracy, which was in the half-mile range, than the mere result of budget constraints. Another Guided Missiles Group project that likewise never saw production was Project Banshee. Hoping to prove that “a pin-point target can be precision-bombed by remote control, at a very long range from an operating base,” Banshee underwent operational testing beginning in February 1949. Using equipment designed and fabricated by General Electric and RCA, airmen were able to fry a B-29 aircraft 2,000 miles and drop a bomb on a target by remote control, using two airborne navigation stations. Despite achieving “excellent” results on several test rights, it became clear that the electronic equipment still suffered from technical difficulties. Beyond this, even at its best Banshee could hope to achieve an accuracy no better than a manned B-29 bomber.

Not every early postwar test project ended in obscurity-in fact, two survived to see not only quantity production but also actual combat in Korea. Classified as air-to-surface missiles, these two weapons were a continuation of the wartime high-angle bomb project, and bore the designation “VB” for vertical bomb. Similar to the VB-1 Azon, discussed in the previously, the VB-3 Razon bomb consisted of a free-falling M-65 1,000-pound general-purpose bomb, fitted with a special tail section for guidance. Like Azon, the tail fins contained the equipment necessary to receive transmitted radio signals from the aircraft and apply the appropriate control surface movements. However, in place of cruciform fins, the Razon tail employed a pair of in-line octagonal shrouds-the rearmost containing the elevators and rudders that allowed the bomb to be controlled in both azimuth and range-mounted on struts containing roll stabilization surfaces. In practice, Razon was controlled by a bombardier using a method reminiscent of earlier Azon and Fritz-X deployment, namely by means of a rare attached to the bomb’s tail and superimposed upon the target through the optics of a bombsight.

In order to remedy the parallax problem that had plagued wartime engineers’ attempts at range guidance, the standard M-series Norden bombsight was modified with a clever crab and jag attachment. The “crab” portion of this device consisted of a mirror placed between the target mirror and the telescopic lens system of the bombsight. This mirror not only projected an image of the rare onto the target mirror but also calculated the correct time of fall when the trail angle set into the sight was aligned exactly with the angle of the “crab” mirror setting. In principle, this allowed the bombardier to simply superimpose the rare image on the target throughout bomb descent using a radio control joystick. However, because any movement of the bomb’s control surfaces during the drop caused a variation in the time of fall, affecting range, the “jag” attachment was introduced to compensate for this effect by changing the rate set into the bombsight each time course corrections were made. In theory, by keeping the images of the rare and target in perfect collimation via radio control throughout the bomb’s descent, a bombardier could score a direct hit with Razon virtually every drop. In actuality, testing still showed Razon to be far more accurate in azimuth than range. For example, of the eight bombs tested in August 1948, fully three out of four had an azimuth error of zero, while the average range error was almost 200 feet. Only one of the eight scored a direct hit. Still, Razon bombing showed enough promise in early testing that approximately five hundred tail assemblies were produced by Union Switch and Signal Company and stockpiled, allowing their use in the early months of the Korean War.

Although development and testing of a second vertical bomb, the VB-13 Tarzon, trailed Razon, it too had its roots in the World War II high-angle dirigible bomb project. Realizing that some of Azon’s deficiencies in accuracy could be negated through increased firepower-in this case, bomb tonnage- Gulf Research and Development Corporation received Army authorization in February 1945 to investigate the aerodynamic aspects of the problem of controlling larger bombs. Simple scaling up of Razon proved unsatisfactory, since the derecting forces on a given bomb increase with the square of the diameter, while the mass to be controlled increases as the cube of the diameter. A larger bomb thus required disproportionately larger control surfaces- which, in turn, magnified the problem of range error due to variation in time of fall-and limited in number and placement its carriage by existing bombers. Several preliminary models were built in mid-1945 but failed to reach combat, and by 1947 the NDRC was still of the opinion that “future developments in this field will require considerable fundamental research.”

Ironically, at the time this NDRC report was issued, Bell Aircraft Corporation had already developed a working solution involving a bomb an order of magnitude larger than Azon and Razon. Once again following technological precedent, Bell designed only a bomb tail guidance assembly to be mated to an existing bomb. In order to gain the full advantages of increased yield, however, the warhead selected for this project was the British “Tallboy,” a 12,000-pound bomb in use by Bomber Command by 1944, and procured by the Air Force as the general-purpose M-112 bomb following the war. The name of the resulting guided weapon, Tarzon, was arrived at as a clever-sounding pseudo-acronym combining Tallboy, range, and azimuth only. In order to produce sufficient force to steer Tarzon without introducing giant fins that would exceed a standard bomb bay, Bell attached a lift ring to the warhead around the bomb’s approximate center of gravity. The effect of this ring shroud was to greatly amplify directional changes introduced by the tail surfaces, much like the wings of an airplane. However, this ingenious solution to heavy bomb guidance was not itself without antecedent. In order to adapt its NDRC-sponsored Roc radar-guided bomb to naval aircraft in 1944, Douglas Aircraft Company had replaced large crossed wings with a ring shroud, greatly reducing its cross-sectional area. Even so, Tarzon measured twenty-one feet in length, four and one-half feet in diameter, and with a gross weight of 13,000 pounds, could be dropped only by a specially modified B-29 Superfortress with cutouts in the bomb bay doors, and was limited to a single bomb per aircraft sortie.

In virtually every other respect, Tarzon was an enlarged version of Razon. For example, its tail section consisted of an octagonal shroud containing pitch and yaw control surfaces, connecting struts with roll stabilization surfaces, a rare cone, and a center section containing the radio receiver, gyroscope, batteries, and servomotors. Guidance equipment aboard the launching aircraft similarly consisted of a radio transmitter controlled by a two-axis control stick, and a Norden M-series bombsight modified with crab and jag attachments. Although development of Tarzon lagged Razon by several years, testing of the two bombs was performed concurrently in 1948-49 by the 1st Experimental Guided Missiles Group. However, because of its greater size and cost, and retarded development, far fewer Tarzon bombs were dropped on Eglin test ranges during this period. For example, during the month of August 1948, as four Razon drops per week were contributing to improved tactics, training, and accuracy, a single Tarzon was expended to determine the effect of applying maximum up control using a recently modified tail assembly. By mid-1949, Razon had been upgraded with “the newest modification of radio control equipment” and underwent extensive testing under a variety of conditions, including night rights. During this same period, Far East Air Forces sent two airmen from Japan to Eglin for “training in the tactical application of VB-type bombs,” where they participated in a variety of missions and dropped sixteen Razons before returning to their unit. Meanwhile, Tarzon testing under cold weather conditions produced results that “were at best only fair, due to rare failure.”

Notwithstanding the steady introduction of new technology throughout the late 1940s, the early fighting in Korea closely resembled that of World War II-familiar faces and weapons engaged in a familiar war-winning strategy. However, the exploitation of existing jet fighter technology, which rapidly translated into American air superiority, created a combat environment conducive to the introduction of precision bombardment at a time when the ground situation desperately called for it. The radio-controlled vertical bombs just described were not the only postwar attempts at precision. In 1949 the 1st Experimental Guided Missiles Group took on seven additional test projects, including the VB-6 Felix, a heat-seeking bomb designed to steer itself toward the target producing the highest temperature emanation within the twenty-degree scope of its forward sensor. Felix was envisioned as a decisive tactical weapon, but initial tests were disappointing. Although the decision to return the bomb to the research and development phase was based primarily on insufficient reaction speed of its control surfaces, the final test report also noted “lack of a suitable target during this time would also negate any efforts to test it, even if a theoretically workable model was available.” Thus, as America went back to war in 1950, its best prospects for precision guidance bore a remarkable resemblance to the radiocontrolled weapons used during World War II.

Once war broke out, it did not take long for bombing accuracy to surface as a deficient capability. Specifically in the realm of strategic bombardment, despite the use of sophisticated, computer-assisted bombing systems such as the Air Force’s K-series, CEPs remained in the 500-foot range, far from optimal given North Korea’s rugged terrain and segregated targets. Not surprisingly, as the only guided weapon in quantity production prior to 1950, Razon emerged early in the conflict as a promising alternative to gravity bombs. As previously noted, preparations for the implementation of Razon by Far East Air Forces bomber crews anticipated the Korean conflict. As early as 1949, Air Proving Ground had trained three officers and six enlisted men of the 19th Bombardment Group for Razon work and in early 1950 began delivering specially equipped aircraft and a supply of Razon tail assemblies to this same group, which was based on the Japanese island of Okinawa. Clearly, the intent was to establish a training cadre that would instruct additional aircrews of this group to use Razon. However, shortly after the outbreak of war in Korea, it became apparent that neither the personnel nor the equipment was being utilized, and Far East Air Forces headquarters turned to the Air Proving Ground for additional assistance.

Because of the resulting delay in assembling the necessary equipment and personnel, the 19th Bombardment Group did not fry its first Razon combat mission over Korea until August 23, 1950. Even then, the first several missions produced unsatisfactory results because of frequent bomb malfunctions, some caused by damage from the bombs’ long storage and poor packaging, and some by the relative inexperience of the group’s operators and maintainers. Moreover, even though missile reliability quickly rose to 96 percent, from the outset Razon remained far more accurate in azimuth than in range, making it a weapon best suited for use against long, narrow targets. Like its Azon predecessor, Razon was used almost exclusively against bridges in Korea, with defensible results-during the last four months of 1950, fifteen Korean bridges were destroyed using Razon bombs. However, to put these results into perspective, a total of 489 Razons were dropped during this period, of which 331 were controllable. Razon was far from attaining the long-sought single-bomb destruction capability, and yet it had its supporters. The low percentage of targets destroyed was partially attributable to the fact that limited equipment and crews forced training to be combined with combat missions. As an example, one bombardier destroyed two bridges with his first two bombs, but was then instructed to drop the remaining six for practice. In every case where a bridge was destroyed by Razon, additional bombs were dropped on the same target for practice. Although clearly not unbiased, the onsite Razon project officer estimated that “any bridge can be successfully severed or destroyed with a maximum of four Razon missiles.

Ilya Muromets – 1914 Giant

The massive Ilya Muromets was the world’s first four-engine bomber-and a good one at that. In three years it dropped 2,200 tons of bombs on German positions, losing only one plane in combat.

In 1913 the Russo-Baltic Wagon Works constructed the world’s first four-engine aircraft under the direction of Igor Sikorsky. Dubbed the Russki Vitiaz (Russian Knight), it was also the first to mount a fully enclosed cabin. This giant craft safely completed 54 flights before being destroyed in a ground accident. In 1914 Sikorsky followed up his success by devising the first-ever four-engine bomber and christened it Ilya Muromets after a legendary medieval knight. The new machine possessed straight, unstaggered, four-bay wings with ailerons only on the upper. The fuselage was long and thin, with a completely enclosed cabin housing a crew of five. On February 12, 1914, with Sikorsky himself at the controls, the Ilya Muromets reached an altitude of 6,560 feet and loitered five hours while carrying 16 passengers and a dog! This performance, unmatched anywhere in the world, aroused the military’s interest, and it bought 10 copies as the Model IM.

The aircraft had a wingspan of nearly 100 feet and weighed more than 10,000 pounds. The most advanced model had a range of 5 hours and a ceiling of more than 9,000 feet. It carried a bombload of 1,000-1,500 pounds and was equipped with up to seven machine guns. Four 150 horsepower Sunbeam V-8 engines allowed the bomber to cruise at 75-85 mph. The rear fuselage possessed sleeping compartments for a crew of five, a washroom, a small table, and openings for mechanics to climb out onto the wings to service the engines during flight. More than 75 Ilya Murometses were deployed against the Central Powers along the Eastern Front from 1915 to 1918. These aircraft conducted more than 400 bombing raids against targets in Germany and the Baltic nations. During the war, only one bomber was lost to enemy action. In February 1918, many Ilya Murometses were destroyed by the Russians to prevent capture by advancing German forces.

After World War I commenced in 1914, Sikorsky went on to construct roughly 80 more of the giant craft, which were pooled into an elite formation known as the Vozdushnykh Korablei (Flying Ships) Squadron. On February 15, 1915, they commenced a concerted, two-year bombardment campaign against targets along the eastern fringes of Germany and Austria. The Ilya Muromets carried particularly heavy loads for their day, with bombs weighing in excess of 920 pounds. This sounds even more impressive considering that ordnance dropped along the Western Front was usually hurled by hand! The mighty Russian giants were also well-built and heavily armed. In 422 sorties, only one was lost in combat, and only after downing three German fighters. Operations ceased after the Russian Revolution of 1917, with many bombers being destroyed on the ground. A handful of survivors served the Red Air Force as trainers until 1922.


Although Russia was not as industrially advanced as the other European powers, it would enter the First World War with the world’s first four-engine aircraft, the Sikorsky Ilya Muromets. After achieving success with a number of smaller aircraft, Igor Sikorsky joined the Russo-Baltic Railroad Car Factory (Russko-Baltiisky Vagonny Zaved or R-BVZ) in the spring of 1912 and began designing a massive aircraft, the Bol’shoi Bal’tisky (the Great Baltic), which had a wingspan of 88 ft and a length of 65 ft. Sikorsky had originally intended to use just two 100 hp Argus inline engines. Although he managed to take off on 2 March 1913, the Great Baltic proved to be underpowered. Undeterred, Sikorsky added two additional motors, which were installed in tandem with the first two, thereby providing both a tractor and pusher configuration. Beginning in May 1913, Sikorsky made several test flights in the Great Baltic, after which he reconfigured all of the engines to be on the leading edge of the lower wing for a tractor design. This proved far more successful, as indicated by a 2 August 1913 flight in which he carried eight people aloft for more than 2 hours.

Sikorsky’s next version, which served as the prototype of the wartime versions, was introduced in December 1913. It was similar to the Great Baltic, but it had a much larger fuselage that could accommodate up to sixteen passengers. By the spring of 1914, Sikorsky had developed the S-22B, dubbed the “Ilya Muromets” after a famous medieval Russian nobleman, it successfully completed a 1,600-mile round-trip flight between St. Petersburg and Kiev in June 1914.4 With the outbreak of the war, the S-22B and a sister aircraft were mobilized for service. An additional five were constructed by December 1914 and organized as the Eskadra Vozdushnykh Korablei (EVK) or Squadron of Flying Ships.

Because the first Ilya Muromets types had been designed primarily to carry passengers, once the war began Sikorsky started work on a slightly smaller version, the V-type, that could be used as a bomber. Introduced in spring 1915, the V-type Ilya Muromets had a wingspan of 97 ft 9 in. and a length of 57 ft 5 in. Because of Russia’s chronic shortage of engines, the R-BVZ was forced to rely upon a variety of engines for the V-type, including at least one that used different sets of engines; two 140 hp Argus and two 125 hp Argus inline engines. Of the thirty-two V-types produced, twenty-two were powered by four 150 hp Sunbeam inline motors, which provided a maximum speed of 68 mph. They had a loaded weight of 10,140 lbs, including a bomb load of approximately 1,100 lbs. Its crew of five to seven members were protected by free-firing machine guns. Three later versions were introduced during the war: the G-type and D-type introduced in 1916, and the E-type introduced in 1917. Of these, the E-type was the largest with a wingspan of 102 ft, a length of 61 ft 8 in., and a loaded weight of 15,500 lbs. Its four 220 hp Renault inline engines could produce a maximum speed of 80 mph. The E-type carried an eight-man crew, including two pilots, five gunners, and one mechanic. At least eight were constructed during 1917. The E-type went on to serve in the Red Air Force until 1924. The Sikorsky Ilya Muromets were sturdy, rugged aircraft.




Soviet V-1s


The Soviet-made Chelomey 10Kh superficially resembled the German V‑1.

Eighteen months after the first V1 attack on London the NKAP top brass (and probably the Soviet military leaders as well) did an ‘about face’ on their attitude to guided weapons The aforementioned engineers Nikol’skiy and Chachikian wrote to the Soviet government; this letter prompted the preparation of a draft directive by the State Defence Committee (GKO – Gosaodarsfvennyy komfret oborony) ordering the establishment of the OKB-100 design bureau within the MAP system with a prototype construction shop and flight test facility based on the (former) plant No.23 In Leningrad. The new enterprise was tasked with developing and building radio-controlled and unguided gliding torpedoes and radio-controlled guided bombs. At about the same time the task of developing an indigenous equivalent of the German ‘buzz bomb’ was assigned to the Central Aero Engine Institute (TslAM – Tsentrahl’nyy institoot aviatsionnovo motorostroyeniya).

Work on pulse-jet engines at TslAM had proceeded since 1942 under the guidance of Vladimir Nikolayevich Chelomey. It took him two years to build and test the first workable Soviet pulse-jet. When the Soviet government learned of the missile attack on London, Aleksey I. Shakhoorin (the then People’s Commissar of Aircraft Industry), Air Marshal A. A. Novikov (the then Commander- in-Chief of the Red Army Air Force) and V N. Chelorney were summoned to the Kremlin for a GKO briefing and tasked with developing new pilotless aerial weapons systems. The appropriate GKO directive appeared soon afterwards.

The advanced development project of Chelomey’s winged missile powered by a D-3 pulse-jet and designated 10Kh was completed in the late summer of 1944. On 19th September of that year V. N. Chelomey has appointed Chief Designer and Director of NKAP plant No.51 – the former prototype construction shop of the late ‘Fighter King’ Nikolay N. Polikarpov.

Development of the 10Kh was accelerated by the delivery of incomplete V1 ‘buzz bombs’ (or their wreckage) from Great Britain and Poland; yet, while bearing a strong resemblance to the V1, the 10Kh was not a direct copy of it. For instance, to speed up the production entry of the Soviet missiles’ AP-4 autopilot the specialised OKB-1 design bureau under V. M. Sorkin made maximum use of off-the-shelf components from production Soviet aircraft instruments. By early 1945 the first prototype 10Kh had been completed and the D-3 engine had passed official bench tests at TslAM The first production missile left the assembly line as early as 5th February 1945; seventeen of the nineteen missiles manufactured by plant No 51 were cleared for flight tests, the remaining two being retained by the plant as pattern samples.

Three Petlyakov Pe-8 long-range bombers and two Yermolayev Yer-2 long-range bombers were fitted out with racks for carrying and launching the 10Kh missile. The smaller and cheaper Yer-2 was considered a better alternative, but the Charomskiy ACh-30B diesels of the first Yer-2 involved suffered from the high ambient temperatures of Central Asia where the test range was, the shortfall in engine power was so severe that the bomber could not become airborne with the missile in place. Eventually the engines went unserviceable altogether and from then on only the Pe-8s were used in the tests at that location; the other Yer-2 was operated in the cooler climate or the Moscow Region.

By the end of 1944 the development of the D-3 pulse engine that propelled the 10Kh was at the prototype stage and the first production 10Kh was ready on February 5, 1945. As no launching ramps had been constructed, the first test was an air launch from a Petlyakov Pe-8 heavy bomber on 20 March 1945, near Tashkent. By 25 July 1945 66 missiles had been launched, of which 44 transitioned to autonomous flight, 22 of these reaching the range target and 20 maintaining the required heading. A batch of improved 10Kh (Izdeliye 30) were constructed with wooden wings, and 73 more air launches were performed in December 1948. A ground launched variant called 10KhN was also tested in 1948, which used rocket-assisted takeoff from a ramp.

The purpose of the first tests was to determine the feasibility of dropping the 10Kh missiles from a plane in flight and, about 100 meter below the plane, ignite the pulse jet, but only 6 out of 22 missiles did so correctly. The second series of tests were on corrected faults in the missiles, allowing a success of 12 out of the 22 missiles launched. The final tests were conducted to determine the precision (6 of 18 missiles launched impacted the target) and effectiveness (from 4 missiles, 3 detonated successfully) of the missiles.

In the spring of 1945 NWP plant No.125 joined forces with other plants to launch production of the 10Kh in accordance with the manufacturing documents supplied by Chelomey’s plant No.51. A total of 300 had been built before production was halted due to the end of the hostilities.

In the meantime the Chelomey OKB brought out three models of more powerful pulse-lets based on the D-3; these were the D-5 rated at 420-440 kgp (925-970 Ibst), the 600-kgp (1,320-lbst) D-6 and the 900-kgp (1,980-lbst) D-7.The D-5 delivered 425 kgp (937 lbst) during bench tests In November 1945 Back in 1944 Chelomey had begun design work OR the 14Kh winged missile powered by this engine. The greater engine thrust and the more aerodynamically refined fuselage were expected to give this weapon a 130-150 km/h (80-93 mph) higher cruising speed as compared to the 10Kh; the new engine’s higher weight was offset by a weight saving thanks to changes in the wing design (the wings were smaller, featuring pronounced taper).

Teaming up with plant No.456, the Chelorney OKB’s experimental shop manufactured a batch of twenty 14Kh missiles in 1946. Ten of them underwent flight tests at a target range between 1st and 29th July 1948, a Pe-8 bomber acting as the launch platform. Six of these missiles featured standard rectangular wings, while the other four featured reinforced wings of trapezoidal planform: the wings were of wooden construction both cases. The trials showed that the 14Kh met the specifications; the trapezoidal-wing version attained a speed of 825 km/h (512 mph) or even higher on a 100km (62-mile) stretch, exceeding the target figure by 10%. On the other hand, the wooden wings were not strong enough; several wing failures were experienced and the structure needed to be reinforced before the missile could enter service.

The D-6 passed its official manufacturer’s tests In October 1946 with good results. Two months later it bettered the specified thrust figure by 110 kgp (240 Ibst) when run on a bench during state acceptance trials. This allowed plant No.51 to develop a projected winged missile of 7,000 kg (15,430 Ib) calibre powered by two D-6 engines a 1946.

In 1945 the Chelomey OKB had completed the advanced development project of the 16Kh winged missile. At first this was basically the airframe of the 10Kh mated to a D-6 engine; later, however, the project was significantly revised to feature two D-3 englnes on outward-canted pylons. The Tu-2 bomber was chosen as the delivery vehicle.

In early 1947 plant No.51 (the Chelomey OKB) was tasked with developing a whole series of winged missiles, the air-launched 16Kh, the naval 15Kh and 17Kh to be launched from surface ships, and the 18Kh. Very soon, however, the government had to curb its appetite, limiting the order to the revised 16KhA Priboy (Surf) missile and the 10KhM target drone (M = mishen’ – target).



The initial production version of the V-1 reverse engineered look-alike, powered by a single Chelomey D-3, reverse engineered Argus As014.

10Kh Izdeliye 30

Improved version with wooden wings.


A ground launched version using rocket assisted take off gear to boost the missle up a launch ramp.


Further development with revised wings of several configurations and structural material, powered by single Chelomey D-5.


An outgrowth of the Kh14 powered by a single Chelomey D-6.


A ship launched version.


Experimental missiles using Kh10 airframes with single Chelomey D-6 engines, later tested with two Chelomey D-3 engines mounted side by side on V-configured pylons on the aft fuselage and extended tailplanes with rectangular fins and rudders at the tailplane tips.


A ship launched version.


Further development of the 10Kh series of cruise missiles.

Gliding bomb

An unpowered gliding bomb was also derived from the 10Kh featuring a twin tail similar to the 16Kh in addition to a central fin, as well as a jettisonable undercarriage.




No. 75 Squadron is a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) fighter unit based at RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory. The squadron was formed in 1942 and saw extensive action in the South West Pacific theatre of World War II, operating P-40 Kittyhawks.

Port Moresby and Milne Bay

In February and March 1942 the Allied position in New Guinea was under pressure and Japanese aircraft had been sighted over the Torres Strait Islands and Cape York in northern Australia. As a result, priority was given to basing a fighter squadron at Port Moresby in New Guinea to defend the town’s important airfields and port facilities. The RAAF received an allocation of 25 P-40 Kittyhawk fighters in late February that were flown to Townsville, Queensland and used to form No. 75 Squadron on 4 March 1942. The need to reinforce Port Moresby’s defences was so pressing that the squadron was allowed only nine days to train with the aircraft before it deployed. Commanded initially by Squadron Leader Peter Jeffrey, No. 75 Squadron’s advance party arrived in Port Moresby on 17 March and its aircraft followed between the 19th (when Squadron Leader John Jackson assumed command) and 21st of the month. At this time only four of the squadron’s 21 pilots, including its commander, had previously seen combat.

No. 75 Squadron took part in the Battle of Port Moresby between March and April 1942. The squadron scored its first “kill” on the afternoon of 21 March when two Kittyhawks shot down a Japanese bomber which was conducting a reconnaissance of the town. On 22 March nine Kittyhawks attacked the Japanese airstrip at Lae, destroying 14 aircraft (including two during a dogfight) and damaging another five; two Australian aircraft were lost in this operation though another three crashed in separate accidents on 22 March. The Japanese launched a retaliatory raid on Port Moresby the next day. No. 75 Squadron was in action over Port Moresby or Lae almost every day during late March and April, and was generally outnumbered by Japanese aircraft. As well as mounting their own attacks on Japanese positions, the Kittyhawks also frequently escorted a squadron of United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) A-24 Banshee dive bombers, which were stationed at Port Moresby. No. 75 Squadron’s casualties quickly mounted and were exacerbated by high rates of disease. Squadron Leader Jackson was shot down and killed on 28 April, shortly after he had destroyed a Japanese fighter. His younger brother Squadron Leader Les Jackson assumed command the next day. By the time two USAAF squadrons arrived to reinforce it on 30 April, No. 75 Squadron had been reduced to just three serviceable aircraft and a further seven Kittyhawks in need of repair. The squadron was withdrawn from operations on 3 May after losing two aircraft the day before. During its period at Port Moresby No. 75 Squadron was confirmed to have destroyed 35 Japanese aircraft, probably destroyed another four and damaged 44. The squadron suffered twelve fatalities and lost 22 Kittyhawks, including six in accidents.

The squadron departed Port Moresby to return to Australia on 7 May 1942. It was first located at Townsville and later moved to Kingaroy followed by Lowood to be re-equipped. During this period it also received a number of pilots who had served in Supermarine Spitfire-equipped squadrons in Europe. In late July the unit departed Queensland and returned to New Guinea.

A No. 75 Squadron Kittyhawk at Milne Bay in September 1942

No. 75 Squadron arrived at Milne Bay on 31 July 1942 where it joined No. 76 Squadron, which was also equipped with Kittyhawks. At the time an Allied base was being developed at Milne Bay to both protect Port Moresby and mount attacks against Japanese positions in New Guinea and nearby islands. Japanese aircraft made their first major raid on Milne Bay on 11 August, which was intercepted by Kittyhawks from both No. 75 and No. 76 Squadrons. In mid-August the Milne Bay defenders were warned that they might be the target of a Japanese landing, and on 24 August Japanese barges were sighted heading for the area. These vessels were destroyed the next day on Goodenough Island by nine No. 75 Squadron Kittyhawks. However, on the night of 25/26 August another Japanese convoy landed an invasion force at Milne Bay. During the resulting Battle of Milne Bay the two Kittyhawk squadrons provided important support to the Allied defenders by heavily attacking Japanese positions and intercepting Japanese air raids on the area. On 28 August the Kittyhawks were withdrawn to Port Moresby when the Japanese troops came close to their airstrips, but they returned to Milne Bay the next day. No. 75 and No. 76 Squadrons later supported the Allied counter-offensive at Milne Bay which ended with the remaining Japanese troops being evacuated in early September. Following the battle Lieutenant General Sydney Rowell, the commander of New Guinea Force, stated that the attacks made by the two squadrons on the day of the Japanese landing were “the decisive factor” in the Allied victory. From 21 to 23 September No. 75 Squadron flew sorties in support of the 2/12th Battalion during the Battle of Goodenough Island.

In late September the two Australian squadrons at Milne Bay were relieved by two USAAF squadrons, and No. 75 Squadron was redeployed to Horn Island. It subsequently moved again to Cairns for a period of rest before returning to Milne Bay in February 1943, under the command of Squadron Leader Wilfred Arthur. During this deployment the squadron operated alongside No. 77 Squadron. No. 75 Squadron flew patrols over Milne Bay and Goodenough Island, and on 14 May a mixed force of 17 Kittyhawks from it and No. 77 Squadrons inflicted heavy casualties on a force of 65 Japanese aircraft bound for Milne Bay while only a single Australian aircraft was lost. This was No. 75 Squadron’s last major air battle of the war. From August to December the squadron was issued with two F-4 Lightning aircraft for photo reconnaissance tasks. No. 75 Squadron moved to Goodenough Island in October 1943 to support the Allied offensive in the Louisiade Archipelago and New Britain.

Offensive operations

In December 1943 No. 75 Squadron became part of No. 78 Wing, which in turn formed part of the newly established No. 10 Operational Group. This group had been formed to provide a mobile organisation capable of supporting the offensives in and around New Guinea which were planned for 1944.During the first half of 1944 the squadron frequently moved between air bases to support Allied operations and was based at Nadzab from January to March, Cape Gloucester from March to May, Tadji in May, Hollandia from May to June and Biak from June to July. During this period its role was to provide close air support for Australian and US ground troops and protect Allied shipping from air attack. No. 75 Squadron was stationed at Noemfoor from July to November 1944 where it conducted long-range attacks on Japanese airstrips and shipping in the eastern islands of the Netherlands East Indies. No. 10 Operational Group was renamed the First Tactical Air Force (1TAF) on 25 October 1944; at this time No. 75 Squadron continued to form part of No. 78 Wing alongside No. 78 and No. 80 Squadrons. The squadron was ordered back to Biak by 1TAF on 2 November to provide air defence for the island, to the displeasure of the pilots who considered that they were “being taken out of the war”. Only 149 sorties were flown from Biak before No. 75 Squadron returned to Noemfoor on 11 December.

No. 75 Squadron and the rest of No. 78 Wing moved to Morotai in the Netherlands East Indies in late December 1944. The squadron arrived at Morotai on 21 December and flew 147 operational sorties that month during attacks on Japanese positions in the nearby Halmahera islands. Attacks on Halmahera and other islands in the NEI continued in early 1945, and No. 75 Squadron also flew sorties in support of US troops who were attacking the remaining Japanese on Morotai. These and similar operations were seen as wasteful by many of 1TAF’s fighter pilots and their leaders. On 20 April, eight officers including Wilf Arthur, now a Group Captain and No. 78 Wing’s commander, attempted to resign in protest during the “Morotai Mutiny”.

From May 1945 No. 75 Squadron participated in the Borneo Campaign. While the squadron’s ground crew landed on Tarakan with the invasion force in early May 1945, delays in bringing the island’s airstrip into operation meant that its aircraft could not be deployed there until mid-July rather than 3 May as had been originally planned. During this period No. 75 Squadron’s pilots remained at Morotai but conducted little flying, causing their morale to decline. Once established at Tarakan the Kittyhawks attacked targets near Sandakan and supported Australian forces during the Battle of Balikpapan in the war’s last weeks.

Following the Japanese surrender No. 75 Squadron flew reconnaissance patrols over prisoner of war camps and continued general flying. The Kittyhawks were later flown to Oakey, Queensland and the ground crew returned to Australia in December 1945 on board the British aircraft carrier HMS Glory. The squadron suffered 42 fatalities during World War II.