The Dornier Do 26 and Northern Missions

The Dornier Do 26A (V-1, D-AGNT “Seeadler”) flying boat.

Dornier Do 26V4

In the 20s and 30s of last century, the firm Dornier was the leading one in German flying boat construction. The chosen configuration, engines in tandem and wing stubs (“sponsons”) on the lower fuselage for water stability proved very successful, and so Dornier flying boats, especially the “Wal” (= “whale” in English) played a major role in establishing early airborne connections over the Atlantic Ocean.

Normally the Wal was a two engined machine, and so were its successors Do 15 and Do 18. But Dornier also had built four-engined versions, as the Do R4 “Superwal” and the experimental Do S. With prospected increase of Atlantic traffic, Dornier renewed this configuration for another type, the Do 26.

The new flying boat became a special aerodynamic beauty. The wing stubs were omitted, and stabilizer floats retractable to the wings were foreseen instead. In the position of the bend of the gull wing, the machine carried the four Jumo 205 C Diesel engines, delivering 600 hp each. The rear propeller were driven by elongated shafts and hinged to rotate upwards 10° on take-off to avoid damage by spray water. The aircraft was an all-metal construction. First flight of the V-1, civil registration D-AGNT was on 21 May 1938 with Flight Captain Erich Gundermann on the controls, the second’s one, V-2 D-AWDS, on 23 November 1938 in the hands of Egon Fath. The aircraft were overtaken by the Deutsche Lufthansa and became baptized “Seeadler” and “Seefalke” (“Sea Eagle” and “Sea Falcon”, remark by RT: ornithologically “Seeadler” is “white-tailed eagle”, Haliaetus albicilla, while a “Seefalke” is no distinct species).

The new aircraft gained attention when in early 1939 an earthquake in Chile happened and the “Seefalke” transported 580 kg of medicines there. Under the control of Flight Captain Graf (= earl) Schack von Wittenau, it needed 36 hours for the 10.700 km distance. But the civil career of the Do 26 remained short. Although the Boeing 314 was already serviceable in May 1939, so there have been no fair economic reasons, the USA refused to permit a regular service route over the North Atlantic between Lisbon and New York for the Do 26. Because of this, the Do 26 only operated on the South Atlantic route. The V-1 did six, the V-2 twelve times the tour between Bathurst (now Banjul, capital of Gambia) and Natal (Brasil). Two Passengers could be carried alongside to the mail, one time even three.

When WWII broke out, both aircraft were out in the Atlantic and returned home on “adventurous ways” (Neitzel says, they were ordered together with catapult ship “Ostmark” to Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain, from where it was planned to keep on doing transport service and reconnaissance in one, but this proved impossible). After their return, they received a military equipment, including a 20 mm cannon in a rotating turret on the bow and some machine guns in blister-formed glazed stations on both sides of the fuselage right behind the wing. Together with the Blohm & Voss Ha 139s, they formed the “Transozeanstaffel” (=”transoceanic squadron”). Four more samples were built, now under the designation Do 26 C, what meant receiving military equipment from the beginning together with Jumo 205 D engines of 880 hp performance.

In the following time, they were used during “Unternehmen Weserübung”, the occupation of Norway, where they had to deliver supplies. But they soon had to suffer heavy losses. V-2 “Seefalke”, still under command of Graf Schack, was shot down on 9 May 1940 at Tepkölenfjord (location could not be verified, RT). The crew including Graf Schack survived and were taken POW by the British. V-1 and V-3 (“Seemöwe”, = sea gull) were destroyed on 28 May at Rombakkenfjord, Norway on 28 May 1940 by British fighters (Hurricanes from 48 (F) Squadron) (location confirmed as “Rombaksfiord” near Narvik by http://www.skovheim…./do26/do26.html, this means, V-1 and V-3 ran into heaviest fighting around the city of Narvik, including temporary German retreat. The aircraft were strafed on the ground and sunk. One wreck in comparably good condition was found in 1991).

The qualities of the Dornier Do 26 suggested use as long-range reconnoiter. In fact, they were the only German aircraft at that time, besides the Focke-Wulf FW 200, capable to perform such actions at all. On 31 July 1940, two Do 26 were stationed at Brest to do reconnaissance for the German U-Boat operations, since convoys supplying Britain now used the northern approach. The third one followed some time later. Until 30 September, the Do 26s flew 17 sorties on 12 days. They found no convoys, only single ships. For a short time, two Do 26 were sent again to Norway from where they flew reconnaissance over the Denmark Strait (between Iceland and Greenland) for a planned outbreak of German heavy cruiser “Admiral Hipper”.

The service from Brittany was a difficult time for the Do 26s. The aircraft proved technically trouble-stricken. Supply of spare parts was not easy for a small-series aircraft, so often two of three Do 26 were unserviceable. Long-distance flights would have meant to return and land at night, what was impossible because the Bay of Brest is surrounded by bigger hills and there were no light buoys to mark a landing runway. Taking off at night was also impossible because the fully loaded machine lacked climb capability. Morning take off delay by fog meant the cancellation of the whole flight because it would have meant a return at night.

To improve the range of the Do 26, take-off help by catapult was considered. Germany in general and Dornier especially had a long experience in aircraft catapulting for civil traffic, i.e. Atlantic crossing, and special catapult ships were available and now in military use. First, “Ostmark” was detached, but sunk by British submarine “Tuna” on 24 September 1940. Instead, “Friesenland” reached Brest on 11 October. The first effort to catapult the V-5 was scheduled for 23 November. But as one engine failed, V-5 was smashed to pieces on the water and the whole crew killed.

After this, “Friesenland” and the two remaining Do 26s were ordered south to the Gironde mouth near Bordeaux. But the Do 26s never flew reconnaissance again. In January 1941, the “Transozeanstaffel” was disbanded and in March 1941, both Do 26 were ordered back to Germany. The rest of the war, they lived a rather unspectacular life at the German proving base for seaplanes at Travemünde near Lübeck. This was only interrupted in summer 1943, when the V-6 first had to supply, than to evacuate the crew of a German weather station on Sabine Island off the icy east coast of Greenland (6-7 rsp.16-17 June 1943).

The somewhat peaceful scenes we see on some pictures suggest V-4 and V-6 were used for linking flights to Norway, and for to connect the German-controlled seaplane industry (Sartrouville on the river Seine is home of the French firm SCAN). Both V-4 and V-6 were still in the stock of the proving base Travemünde in 1944. Their final fate is unknown. Travemünde, the harbour of Lübeck, belongs to the British occupation zone, and before Lübeck was reached by British troops on 4 May 1945, all aircraft attached to the proving base were damaged beyond repair. Maybe the Do 26s had been scrapped already before or their wrecks were not worth mentioning for the British troops when they took over the place.

Specifications – Do 26V6

General characteristics

    Crew: Four

    Payload: 500 kg or 12 fully equipped troops (1,102 lb)

    Length: 24.6 m (80 ft 5 in)

    Wingspan: 30 m (98 ft 5 in)

    Height: 6.85 m (22 ft 8 in)

    Wing area: 120 m² (1,291.67 ft²)

    Empty weight: 11,300 kg (24,912 lb)

    Loaded weight: 22,500 kg (49,601 lb)

    Powerplant: 4 × Junkers Jumo 205D Diesel, 656 kW (880 hp) each


    Maximum speed: 324 km/h (175 kn, 201 mph)

    Range: 7,100 km (3,834 nmi, 4,412 mi)


1 × 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon in a bow turret, 3 × aft-firing 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 15 machine guns


• Jörg-M. Hörmann: Flugbuch Atlantic, German catapult flights 1927-1939, Delius Klasing Verlag, 2007

• Grey, Duggan: LUFTHANSA GERMAN, South Atlantic Airmail Service 1934-1939, Zeppelin Study Group, 2000

• Manfred Griehl: Dornier flying boats in World War II – Thurs 18 – Thurs 24 – Thurs 26 -, arsenal band 171, Podzun-Pallas Verlag, Woelfersheim 1998, ISBN 3-7909-0628-X.

• Siegfried Graf Schack of Wittenau: pioneer flights of Lufthansa-Captain 1926-1945, engine book publishing, 1981 ISBN 3-87943-764-5

• Wilhelm Küppers: Green Light – Atlantic, longing – Conquest – mastery, Hoffmann & Campe Verlag, 1955

Grumman F4F Wildcat

The US Navy’s requirement of 1936 for a new carrier-based fighter resulted in the Brewster Aeronautical Corporation receiving an order for a prototype of its Model 39 under the designation XF2A-1. This became the US Navy’s first monoplane fighter in squadron service, but so tentative was the US Navy in its decision to order this aircraft that it ordered also a prototype of Grumman’s competing biplane design under the designation XF4F-1. However, a more careful study of the performance potential of Brewster’s design, plus the fact that Grumman’s earlier F3F biplane was beginning to demonstrate good performance, brought second thoughts. This led to cancellation of the biplane prototype and the initiation of an alternative Grumman G-18 monoplane design. Following evaluation of this new proposal, the US Navy ordered a single prototype on 28 July 1936 under the designation XF4F-2.

Rolled out of Grumman’s Bethpage, Long Island, assembly shed and flown for the first time on 2 September 1937, the XF4F-2 was powered by a 1,050 hp (783 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-66 Twin Wasp engine, and was able to demonstrate a maximum speed of 290 mph (467 km/h). Of all-metal construction, with its cantilever monoplane wing set in a mid-position on the fuselage, and provided with retractable tailwheel landing gear, it proved to be marginally faster than the Brewster prototype when flown during competitive evaluation in the early months of 1938. Speed, however, was its major credit. In several other respects it was decidedly inferior, with the result that Brewster’s XF2A-1 was ordered into production on 11 June 1938.


Although the new ship was not a true “aerobatic” performer, it was stable and easy to fly and displayed excellent deck-handling qualities. One problem that would remain with the F4F throughout its life, however, was its manual landing gear retraction mechanism. The gear required 30 turns with a hand crank to retract, and a slip of the hand off the crank could result in a serious wrist injury.

Clearly the US Navy believed the XF4F-2 had hidden potential, for it was returned to Grumman in October 1938, together with a new contract for its further development. The company adopted major changes before this G-36 prototype flew again in March 1939 under the designation XF4F-3. These included the installation of a more powerful version of the Twin Wasp (the XR-1830-76 with a two-stage supercharger), increased wing span and area, redesigned tail surfaces, and a modified machine-gun installation. When tested in this new form the XF4F-3 was found to have considerably improved performance. A second prototype was completed and introduced into the test programme, this aircraft differing in having a redesigned tail unit in which the tailplane was moved higher up the fin, and the profile of the vertical tail was changed again. In this final form the XF4F-3 was found to have good handling characteristics and manoeuvrability, and a maximum speed of 335 mph (539 km/h) at 21,300 ft (6490 m). Faced with such performance, the US Navy had no hesitation in ordering 78 F4F-3 production aircraft on 8 August 1939.

With war seemingly imminent in Europe, Grumman offered the new G-36A design for export, receiving orders for 81 and 30 aircraft from the French and Greek governments respectively. The first of those, intended for the French navy, powered by a 1,000 hp (746 kW) Wright R-1820 Cyclone radial engine, flew on 27 July 1940 but by then, of course, France had already fallen. Instead, the British Purchasing Commission agreed to take these aircraft, increasing the order to 90, and the first began to reach the UK in July 1940 (after the first five off the line had been supplied to Canada), becoming designated Martlet Mk I. They first equipped No. 804 Squadron of the Fleet Air Arm, and two of the aircraft flown by this squadron were the first American-built fighters to destroy a German aircraft during World War 11, in December 1940.

Subsequent Grumman-built versions to serve with the FAA included the Twin Wasp-powered folding-wing Martlet Mk II; 10 F4F-4As and the Greek contract G-36A aircraft as Martlet Mk III; and Lend-Lease F4F-4Bs with Wright GR-1820 Cyclone engines as Martlet Mk IV. In January 1944 they were all redesignated as Wildcats, but retained their distinguishing mark numbers.

The first F4F-3 for the US Navy was flown on 20 August 1940, and at the beginning of December the type began to equip Navy Squadrons VF-7 and VF-41. Some 95 F4F-3A aircraft were ordered by the US Navy, these being powered by the R-1830-90 engine with single-stage supercharger, and deliveries began in 1941. An XF4F-4 prototype was flown in May 1941, this incorporating refinements which resulted from Martlet combat experience in the UK, including six-gun armament, armour, self-sealing tanks, and wing-folding. Delivery of production F4F-4 Wildcat fighters, as the type had then been named, began in November 1941, and by the time that the Japanese launched their attacks on Pearl Harbour a number of US Navy and US Marine Corps squadrons had been equipped, As additional Wildcats entered service they equipped increasing numbers of US Marine and US Navy squadrons. In particular they served with the carriers USS Enterprise, Hornet and Saratoga, being involved with conspicuous success in the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, and the operations in Guadalcanal. They were at the centre of all significant action in the Pacific until superseded by more advanced aircraft in 1943, and also saw action with the US Navy in North Africa during late 1942.


The final production variant built by Grumman was the long-range reconnaissance F4F-7 with increased fuel capacity, camera installations in the lower fuselage and armament deleted. Only 20 were built, but Grumman also produced an additional 100 F4F-3s and two XF4F-8 prototypes. With an urgent need to concentrate on development and production of the more advanced F6F Hellcat, Grumman negotiated with General Motors to continue production of the F4F-4 Wildcat under the designation FM-1. Production by General Motors’ Eastern Aircraft Division began after finalisation of a contract on 18 April 1942, and the first of this company’s FM-ls was flown on 31 August 1942. Production totalled 1,151, of which 312 were supplied to the UK under the designation Martlet Mk V (later Wildcat Mk V).

At the same time, General Motors was working on the development of improved version, designated FM-2 which was the production version of two Grumman XF4F-8 prototypes. Its major change was the installation of 1,350 hp (1007 kW) Wright R-1820-56 Cyclone 9 radial engine, but a larger vertical tail was introduced to maintain good directional stability with this more powerful engine, and airframe weight was reduced to the minimum. A total 4,777 FM-2s was built by General Motors, 370 of them supplied to the UK these entering service with the FAA a designated Wildcat Mk VI from the outset.

Combat History
First combat for the F4F was not with the U.S. Navy but with Britain’s Royal Navy, and its first victim was German. The British had shown great interest in the Wildcat as a replacement for the Gloster Sea Gladiator, and the first were delivered in late 1940. On Christmas Day 1940, one of them intercepted and shot down a Junkers Ju-88 bomber over the big Scapa Flow naval base. The Martlet, as the British also called it, saw further action when 30 originally bound for Greece were diverted to the Royal Navy following the collapse of Greece and were used in a ground attack role in the North African Desert throughout 1941.

The Wildcat’s American combat career got off to a more inauspicious start. Eleven of them were caught on the ground during the December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbour attack, and nearly all were destroyed. It was with Marine squadron VMF-211 at Wake Island that the Wildcat first displayed the tenacity that would bedevil the Japanese again and again. As at Pearl Harbour, the initial Japanese attacks left seven of 12 F4F3s wrecked on the field. But the survivors fought on for nearly two weeks, and on December 11, Captain Henry Elrod bombed and sank the destroyer Kisaragi and helped repel the Japanese invasion force. Only two Wildcats were left on December 23, but the pair managed to shoot down a Zero and a bomber before being overwhelmed.

Carrier-based F4F3s engaged the enemy soon after. On February 20, 1942, Lexington came under attack from a large force of Mitsubishi G4M1 Betty bombers while approaching the Japanese base at Rabaul. The F4F fighter screen swarmed over the unescorted bombers, and Lieutenant Edward H. “Butch” O’Hare shot down five of them. He was awarded the Medal of Honour and became the first Wildcat ace.

During the Coral Sea battle in May, F4Fs from the carriers Lexington and Yorktown inflicted heavy losses on the air groups from Shokaku, Zuikaku and Shoho but could not prevent the sinking of Lexington. While the air battles were by no means one-sided, they were clearly a shock to many Zero pilots, who had faced little serious opposition up to that time.

By the time of the Midway engagement in June, the fixed-wing F4F-3 had been replaced by the folding-wing F4F-4. Although the new wings enabled the carriers to increase their fighter complement from 18 to 27, the F4F-4’s folding mechanism, coupled with the addition of two more machine guns, raised its weight by nearly 800 pounds and caused a fall-off in climb and manoeuvrability.


Nearly 85 Wildcats flew from Yorktown, Enterprise and Hornet during Midway, but it was the Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber that was destined to be the hero of the battle, sinking the carriers Akagi, Kaga, Hiryu and Soryu, and dealing the Imperial Navy a disastrous defeat.

When news of the U.S. invasion of Guadalcanal reached the Japanese on August 7, 1942, they launched air strikes from Rabaul. Flying escort was the elite Tainan Kokutai (air group), which counted among its pilots Sakai (64 victories), Nishizawa (credited with 87 before his death in October 1944) and other leading aces. But over Guadalcanal, the Zeros were off-balance from the start. Their first glimpse of the new enemy came when Wildcats of Saratoga’s VF-5 dived into their formation and scattered it. Sakai and Nishizawa recovered and claimed eight Wildcats and a Dauntless between them, but they were the only pilots to score. The Navy F4Fs, in return, brought down 14 bombers and two Zeros.

Although exact Japanese losses over Guadalcanal are not known, they lost approximately 650 aircraft between August and November 1942 and an irreplaceable number of trained, veteran airmen. It is certain that the F4Fs were responsible for most of those losses. During the Battle of Santa Cruz on October 26, 1942, Stanley W. “Swede” Vejtasa of VF-10 from the carrier Enterprise downed seven Japanese planes in one fight. Marine pilot Joe Foss racked up 23 of his 26 kills over Guadalcanal; John L. Smith was close behind with 19; and Marion Carl, Richard Galer and Joe Bauer were among other top Marine aces.

A large part of the Wildcat success was tactics. The agile Zero, like most Japanese army and navy fighter craft, had been designed to excel in slow-speed manoeuvres. U.S. Navy aviators realized early on that the Zero’s controls became heavy at high speeds and were less effective in high-speed rolls and dives. Navy tacticians like James Flatley and James Thach preached that the important thing was to maintain speed, whenever possible, no matter what the Zero did. Although the Wildcat was not especially fast, its two-speed supercharger enabled it to perform well at high altitudes, something that the Bell P-39 and Curtiss P-40 could not do. The F4F was so rugged that terminal dive airspeed was not redlined. The A6M2’s 7.7 mm (0.303 in) cowl guns and slow-firing 20 mm cannons were effective against an F4F only at point-blank range. But F4F pilots reported that hits from their 12.7 mm (0.50 in) calibre wing guns usually caused complete disintegration of a Zero.

The Zero and Wildcat shared one serious liability, though. Neither could be modified successfully to keep pace with wartime fighter development. It was determined that the F4F airframe could not accommodate a larger engine without an almost complete redesign, which ultimately did take shape as the new 2,000 hp (1492 kW) F6F Hellcat. The Wildcat’s air combat role began to wane when the Chance-Vought F4U Corsair arrived at Guadalcanal in February 1943. Nevertheless, the stalwart F4F was still the front-line fighter when Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto launched Operation I-Go against Allied forces in the Solomons in April, and Marine Lieutenant James Swett shot down seven (and possibly eight) Aichi D3A1 Val dive bombers in a single combat.

As 1943 wore on, the Wildcat gradually was relegated to a support role as the F6F replaced it aboard fleet carriers. The F4F’s small size, ruggedness and range (enhanced by two 58 gallon drop tanks) continued to make it ideal for use off small escort carrier decks. The little warrior, in both US and Royal Navy markings contributed to eliminating the U-boat menace in the Atlantic.

A General Motors­built version of the F4F received a marginal boost when a Wright 1,350 hp (1007 kW) single-row radial was installed in place of the 1,200 hp (895 kW) Pratt & Whitney. The first production models of the new variant, designated the FM-2, arrived in late 1943. The FM-2’s new engine, coupled with a 350 pound weight reduction, produced improvements in performance over the F4F. In fact, postwar tests revealed the late-model A6M5 Zero to be only 13 mph (21 km) faster.

FM-2s were normally teamed with TBF Avengers in so-called VC “composite” squadrons on small escort carriers. During the Battle of Savo on 25 October 1944, FM-2s and Avengers from several “baby flattops” aided destroyers in disrupting an overwhelming Japanese battleship task force that surprised the American invasion fleet off the Philippines. The aircraft, although handicapped by a lack of anti-shipping ordnance, so demoralized the Japanese that a potential American disaster was averted.

Although opportunities for air combat were few, FM-2s notched a respectable 422 kills (many of them kamikaze aircraft) by the end of the war. On 5 August 1945, a VC-98 FM-2 from USS Lunga Point shot down a Yokosuka P1Y1 Frances recon bomber to score the last Wildcat kill of the war.

XF4F-1: Grummans biplane design with the Navy designation XF4F-1. This was cancelled in favour of the monoplane design.
XF4F-2: Grummans first monoplane design (Grumman G-18) with the Navy ordering one example designated XF4F-2.
XF4F-3: further development of the XF4F-2 led to the XF4F-3 (Grumman G-36) with many new design changes. Powered by a XR-1830-76 Twin Wasp engine and a two-stage supercharger.
F4F-3: designation given to the production aircraft of XF4F-3 prototype.
F4F-3A: designation given to US Navy aircraft with the R-1830-90 engine with a single stage supercharger.
G-36A: export version which flew as the Martlet Mk I, II, III, IV. Later they all reverted back to the Wildcat designation.
XF4F-4: prototype incorporating changes learned from Marlet combat experiences.
F4F-4: US Navy production aircraft of the above.
F4F-7: final production variant built as a long range reconnaissance aircraft. Only twenty were built.
XF4F-8: two prototype aircraft.
FM-1: F4F-4 aircraft built by General Motors Eastern Aircraft Division. Export aircraft of this type served as the Martlet V (later the Wildcat V).
FM-2: The General Motors built production aircraft based on the XF4F-8 prototypes. Powered by a 1,350 hp (1007 kW) Wright R-1820-56 Cyclone 9 radial engine.


Specifications (Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat)
Type: Single Seat Carrier Based Fighter
Design: Grumman Design Team Manufacturer: Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation and also built by the General Motors Eastern Aircraft Division
Powerplant: (XF4F-2) One 1,050 hp (783 kw) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-66 Twin Wasp 14-cyclinder two row radial engine. (G-36A, Martlet I) One 1,200 hp (895 kw) Wright R-1820-G205A Cyclone 9-cyclinder radial engine. (F4F-3) One 1,200 hp (895 kw) Wright R-1830-76 Twin Wasp 9-cylinder radial engine. (F4F-4, FM-1) One 1,200 hp (895 kw) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-86 Twin Wasp radial engine. (FM-2) One 1,350 hp (1007 kW) Wright R-1820-56 Cyclone 9-cylinder radial engine.
Performance: Maximum speed 318 mph (512 km/h) at 19,400 ft (5915 m); cruising speed 155 mph (249 km/h); service ceiling 39,400 ft (12010 m).
Range: 770 miles (1239 km) with internal fuel stores.
Weight: Empty 5,785 lbs (2612 kg) with a maximum take-off weight of 7,952 lbs (3607 kg).
Dimensions: Span 38 ft 0 in (11.58 m); length 28 ft 9 in (8.76 m); height 9 ft 2 1/2 in (2.81 m); wing area 260 sq ft (24.15 sq m).
Armament: Six 12.7 mm (0.50 in) Browning-Colt machine guns, and underwing racks for two 250 lbs (113 kg) bombs.
Avionics: None.
History: First flight (XF4F-2) 2 September 1937; (XF4F-3) 12 February 1939; production (G-36 and F4F-3) February 1940; (FM-2) March 1943; final delivery August 1945.
Operators: RCAF, RN, USMC, USN, France, Greece.

Myasishchev M-50

To quote Bill Gunston in one of his many books on Soviet aircraft, this huge aeroplane was ‘one of the most breathtaking aircraft of its day’. The seeds for the M-50’s relatively brief moment of glory were first planted in 1954. Soon after Myasishchev’s M-32 was dropped in 1953, the Soviet Union received its first news of the forthcoming American Convair B-58 Hustler bomber, which essentially comprised a relatively small aircraft with all of the disposable load, fuel and bombs, housed in an external pod underneath the fuselage; this was key because the pod helped to keep down the bomber’s overall size. In response, the Myasishchev OKB, backed up by a new SovMin resolution dated 30th July 1954, began work on a ‘composite long-range bomber’, of its own (composed of a strike aircraft and a launch aircraft) which it designated the M-50.

The aircraft, powered by four Dobrynin or Mikulin jet engines, was to be capable of 1,119mph (1,800km/h) and achieve a range approaching 8,080 miles (13,000km) when carrying a 11,023 lb (5,000kg) load. Early studies included a twin-boom carrier aircraft that looked more like a contemporary airliner with the supersonic bomber attached underneath, or the attachment of a large float to allow the bomber to take-off from water. Another design had a droop nose (somewhat similar to the Concorde supersonic airliner) and another used ten engines – four in pairs in two underwing nacelles, four stacked in pairs in two wingtip nacelles plus one either side of the fin root. Other preliminary projects looked at using between two and ten engines with the NK-6, VD-9 and AL-9 as the possible alternative engines.

However, some of the basic problems to appear during the first quarter of 1955 included a lack of sufficient knowledge for the stability and controllability afforded by the canard over such a wide speed range, that it was impossible to obtain a higher relative weight/load for the attack component of the composite bomber, the difficulties in flight testing this type of combined aeroplane (especially after separation since the attack element would not be recovered) and the difficulties of creating a launch system that could reach a speed of 404mph (650km/h) for a launch weight of at least 551,146 lb (250,000kg). TsAGI wind tunnel test also showed that the aerodynamic efficiency of a combined aeroplane was inferior to a conventional aircraft. In March 1955 the M-50 ‘composite bomber’ was halted and replaced by a more conventional aeroplane.

The first ‘single aircraft’ designs were actually completed in February 1955 and on 19th July a new SovMin resolution upgraded the M-50 to a conventional long-range type with a powerplant of four VD-9 turbojets or NK-6 bypass turbofans, giving a maximum speed of 1,243mph (2,000km/h) and a service ceiling approaching 52,493ft (16,000m). I P Tolstykh was nominated as the chief designer and on 28th March 1956 another resolution was passed authorising the installation of 46,295 lb (205.8kN) Zubets RD16-17 engines or VD-9As. The RD16-17 could sustain supersonic flight without afterburning and it also offered a fuel consumption that did not exceed the requirements. Designed by OKB-16 led by P F Zubets, the engine offered 40,785 lb (181.3kN) of dry thrust and 46,295 lb (205.8kN) in reheat. The M-50 was to begin its state acceptance trials in the first three months of 1958.

Despite Myasishchev’s heavy commitments on the M-4/3M series of bombers, the huge programme that this new aircraft represented meant there was no possibility of a competition between prototypes from different OKBs. One of the key factors in achieving the required performance was a big reduction in the weight of equipment carried, plus a crew of only two. Myasishchev and TsAGI conducted a joint research programme which analyzed no less than 39 possible configurations, each tunnel tested in model form, and these embraced tailless and canard formats and tandem wing designs, but the final choice centred on a more conventional delta plus swept tail layout.

The design and development of the M-50, both through its advanced shape and capability but also its sheer size, presented many new problems for which no existing data was available to help in solving them. For example, new calculations and formulae had to be devised by the Myasishchev design bureau to determine the resistance to deformation exhibited by this type of wing. In fact this was the first time that such logarithmic structural stress calculations were used in the USSR to determine the properties of a new aircraft’s wing, but the task was still so complex that it took four years to complete, from 1955 to 1959. Other features that needed to be designed from scratch included the nacelles and their intakes and the need to ensure optimum stability and controllability at all speeds, for which the all-flying tailplane and tailfin were essential. Several fatal crashes of early supersonic aircraft types had occurred because the centre of lift forces moved rearwards when an aircraft passed from subsonic into supersonic flight; for the M-50 longitudinal stability and controllability were vital.

New methods of construction were also required including the employment of large stringers and milled skin panels, the structural materials used in the greatest quantities being V-95 light alloy and 30KhGSNA steel. Another substantial task was to match these features with the huge amount of fuel needed to achieve a satisfactory range because current jet engines were still heavy consumers of fuel. Since there were only two crew members, to keep down the workload many of the flight systems had to be made to operate automatically which meant much better and lighter electronics had to be created to prevent this new equipment from being too heavy, thus cancelling out the progress in weight reduction already achieved. Nevertheless, despite these measures, the final structure weight was 39,683 lb (18,000kg) higher than required; the empty weight was estimated to be 131,393 lb (59,600kg). Thanks to the extreme performance demands coupled with the size of the aircraft, the M-50 did have a new control system that was capable of transmitting signals electronically to the control surfaces. In addition an automatic system was used to adjust the balance of the CofG by transferring fuel between the various internal tanks. The airborne requirements included the ability to fly at between 168mph and 1,243mph (270km/h and 2,000km/h) while the unrefuelled range had to be 7,458 miles (12,000km) maximum. Normal cruise speed would fall within the range 1,056mph to 1,119mph (1,700km/h to l, 800km/h) but the M-50 had to be capable of a dash at 1,180mph to 1,243mph (1,900km/h to 2,000km/h) over the target. A long-range mission would require at least two in-flight refuelling operations (the first after 1,243 miles [2,000km]) but the aircraft itself could carry 385,8021b (175,000kg) of fuel at take-off (in an all-up-weight of 557,760 lb [253,000kg]), although it would need RATOG to help get it off the ground.

Although first designed as a bomber, there were soon plans to adapt the type as a cruise missile carrier as well, with Myasishchev’s own ’45B’ missile the favoured choice. The M-50’s preliminary project was concluded in December 1955 and work began on a mockup early in the new year; when complete an official inspection by a Commission led by Marshal of Aviation V A Sudets was held in July 1956. It appeared that the aircraft should meet most of its requirements except for its unrefuelled range (which was eventually reduced to 6,215 miles [10,000km]) and a take-off run which was too long if RATOG was not used. The lower range meant IFR was essential which, because it was carried out at subsonic speed, also made the M-50 more vulnerable to enemy defences. Due to these weaknesses the Commission was unable to approve the M-50 mock-up but its findings were a surprise to the designers.

The M-50A made its maiden flight on 27th October 1959 and performed well. Initial flights were made without afterburning on any of the engines, but this facility was added when the inner VD-7s were replaced by VD-7MAs, giving 35,2751b (156.8kN) of thrust with reheat, in April 1961. It was hoped that these would deliver a top speed of Mach 1.35 but, in the event, reheat was only ever used on take-off. In 1958 the Myasishchev OKB was released from its obligation to present the M-50 for state testing because a decision had now been taken to use the two M-50s as part of the development programme for a derived follow-on design called the M-52. The limited power of the substitute flight test engines meant that the M-50 was never flown at weights above 253,527 lb (115,000kg); reports also suggest that flying the beast made massive demands on the crew.

A total of eleven sorties had been completed when the decision was taken in 1960 to abandon both the M-50 and M-52. A number of factors influenced this move but the shortfall in performance, despite the achievement of completing such a massive aeroplane to such a tight schedule, was especially important. However, there was also plenty of politics behind the issue because, by this time, the VVS was now considered to be less important for the Soviet Union’s planning for future warfare than in the past, strategic missiles were the way forward.

In late May 1961, after the Myasishchev OKB had been closed, it was decided that the M-50 should be displayed at that year’s Tushino Show. The aircraft had been lying idle for about a year and quite a bit of preparation was needed to make it airworthy again. Seven practice flights were completed before the M-50 made its final trip over Tushino on 9th July 1961, although Western observers did not know this and the aircraft received considerable attention from the world’s newspapers (and was eventually codenamed Bounder). The M-50 performed a roll over Tushino’s spectators, leaving behind its escorting MiG-21 fighters, but it was never to be seen in the air again. Despite making such a big technical advance and introducing many new features, the M-50 actually proved to be relatively free of major problems. Its weakness were the engines which could not combine the large thrust the aircraft needed together with an acceptably low fuel consumption.

Westland Wessex






In 1956, Westland acquired a license to build the S-58 and developed a turbine-engined version called the Wessex. Initially Westland imported an HSS-1 and flight tested the aircraft with its original Wright engine. The company then modified the machine with a 1,100-horsepower Napier Gazelle gas turbine engine and improved metal rotor blades, designed to sustain more combat damage. On May 17, 1957, the modified rotorcraft made its first flight, and on June 20, 1958, two preproduction Wessex Mk 1s, designed for naval trials, followed. Upgraded with a 1,450-horsepower Gazelle Mk. 161 engine and equipped with a dipping sonar and homing torpedoes, the HAS Mk. 1 went into production in 1959 for the Royal Navy (RN) as an ASW helicopter. RN No. 700H Flight received the first models in April 1960, and the next year six RN squadrons added the new aircraft to their inventory; the first No. 815 Squadron received theirs in July 1961. The RN equipped 848 Squadron with Wessex designed for commando assaults and stationed them aboard HMS Albion. These aircraft carried sixteen fully equipped Royal Marine commandos or eight stretchers and a medical attendant in the cargo area. Optionally, the commando version could deliver a 3,600- pound slingload on an external hook. In January 1967 the HAS Mk. 3 entered service. Powered by a 1,600-horsepower Gazelle Mk 122, Westland installed advanced search gear in a large dorsal radome. In August 1962, Westland began supplying the Royal Australian Navy with a Wessex model similar to the HAS Mk 1 but powered by a 1,540-horsepower Gazelle Mk 162 engine. Westland delivered a total of 320 military variants to UK armed forces and another 42 versions to foreign militaries. The Queen’s Flight detachment received all-red HCC 4s with VIP interiors and advanced avionics.

Countries of origin: USA and UK

Type: Utility transport/SAR helicopter

Powerplants: HC. 2 – Two 1005kW (1350shp) Rolls-Royce (Bristol Siddeley) Gnome Mk 110/111 turboshafts, driving a four bladed main rotor and four bladed tail rotor.

Performance: HC. 2 – Max speed at sea level 212km/h (115kt), max cruising speed 195km/h (105kt).

Max initial rate of climb 1650ft/min.

Hovering ceiling out of ground effect 4000ft.

Ferry range with auxiliary fuel 1040km (560nm).

Range with standard fuel 770km (415nm).

Weights: HC. 2 – Operating empty 3767kg (8304lb), max takeoff 6123kg (13,500lb).

Dimensions: HC. 2 – Main rotor diameter 17.07m (56ft 0in), length overall rotors turning 20.04m (65ft 9in), fuselage length 14.74m (48ft 5in), height overall 4.93m (16ft 2in), height to top of rotor head 4.39m (14ft 5in). Main rotor disc area 228.1m2 (2643.0sq ft).

Accommodation: Two pilots on flight deck with up to 16 equipped troops in main cabin. In medevac configuration can be fitted for eight stretcher patients, two seated patients and a medical attendant.

Armament: None usually.

Operators: UK, Uruguay. History: The Wessex is a re-engined and re-engineered development of Sikorsky’s S-58, developed initially for the Royal Navy as an ASW platform. The Sikorsky S-58 arose from a 1951 US Navy requirement for an ASW helicopter. The Wright R-1820 radial piston engine powered S-58 flew for the first time on March 8 1952 and was adopted by the US Navy as the HSS-1 Seabat (or SH-34G from 1962). Other S-58 variants include the US Army’s CH-34 Choctaw and the US Marine Corp’s UH-34 Seahorse. All piston powered S-58s have now been retired from military service, although small numbers of twin Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6T turboshaft S-58T conversions serve in Thailand and Indonesia. UK interest in the S-58 came about when the Royal Navy cancelled development of the twin Napier Gazelle turboshaft powered Bristol 191 in 1956. The 191 was being developed to meet an ASW helicopter requirement but instead the RN opted for the development of a single Napier powered development of the S-58 to meet its requirement. A Westland re engined Napier powered S-58 flew for the first time on May 17 1957, and the type was ordered into production as the Wessex HAS. 1 (with dunking sonar and armed with torpedoes). Now retired Wessex variants include the HAS. 1, more powerful HAS. 3 with a new automatic flight control system, the Royal Marines’ HU. 1 troop transport and the RAF’s HC. 5, a transport conversion of RN HAS. 1/HAS. 3S. The RAF’s major Wessex variant is the HC. 2, which differs significantly from the Royal Navy’s Wessexes in that it is powered by two Bristol SidJeley Gnome turboshafts joined through a combining gearbox. About 60 HC. 2s still serve with the RAF for search and rescue and utility transport, while HC. 2s exported to Brunei (as the Mk 54), Iran (Mk 52) and Ghana (Mk 53) have all been retired.

Vickers Wellington bomber – Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft

In late 1944 a radar-equipped Vickers Wellington bomber was modified for use by the RAF’s Fighter Interception Unit as an Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft. Flying at an altitude of 4,000 feet (1,200 m) over the North Sea, it directed Mosquito fighters charged with intercepting He 111s from Dutch airbases that sought to launch V-1s from the air.

In June 1944, the home-based night fighter squadrons were suddenly pitched into a defensive battle against the first of Hitler’s `revenge weapons’ – the V-1 flying bomb. The Mosquitoes opened their score against the V-1s on the night of 15/16 June, when a Mosquito VI of No. 605 Squadron from Manston (Flight Lieutenant J. G. Musgrave and Flight Sergeant Sanewell) exploded one over the Channel. Four Mosquito squadrons – Nos 96, 219, 409 and 418 – were assigned exclusively to anti-flying bomb operations, known as Diver patrols, and were joined later in June by Nos 85, 157 and 456. Other squadrons operated against the V-1s on a part-time basis, as priority was given to patrolling the Normandy beachhead. Between them, the seven full-time anti-Diver Mosquito squadrons claimed 471 flying bombs, while the part-timers claimed 152 to give a combined total of 623, or about one-third of the RAF’s total claim against the V-1s.

The Mosquito squadrons began to take losses in the later phases of the campaign against the V-1. In September 1944, with their bases in the Pas de Calais overrun by the Allied advance, the enemy began flying bomb attacks on London and other UK targets, such as Portsmouth and Southampton, with V-1s air-launched from Heinkel He 111s of KG 53. Later in September air launches were made against east coast targets from positions off the Dutch coast. Catching the Heinkel launchers was very difficult, for they flew slowly at low level, and several Mosquitoes were lost to return fire, or because they stalled at low speed while trying to intercept. In an attempt to improve interception rates, a radar picket ship, the frigate HMS Caicos, and a specially equipped radar Wellington of the Fighter Interception Unit were used to direct the Mosquitoes, which patrolled over the sea at about 4,000 feet between Britain and Holland. These operations continued until 14 January 1945, by which time KG 53 had lost seventy-seven aircraft, forty-one of them on operations.

Although pulled back to airfields in Germany, KG 53 was not quite finished with the air launched missile programme. Firings continued throughout December and drew in another innovation as a counter to their attacks on Britain. Throughout 1941 and on into 1942 and 1943, the Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE) had conducted a series of operational experiments using a Wellington bomber in the ‘Air Control of Interception’ (ACI) role, or what today would be called ‘Airborne Early Warning’ (AEW). First mooted in August 1941 by Watson Watt in his capacity as DCD, as a means of directing fighters onto the Focke Wulf Fw 200 Condor patrols in the North Atlantic, TRE had equipped Wellington Ic, R1629, with a rotating Yagi dipole array, an ASV Mk.II receiver, a special high powered transmitter and a nine inch (23cm) PPI display. Successfully trialled several times in 1942 and 1943, but dismantled in April 1943, R1629 was written off in a ground accident the following October. During January 1945 the Fighter Interception Development Squadron (FIDS), a part of the recently created Central Fighter Establishment (CFE) which was raised to supersede Fighter Interception Unit (FIU) in October 1944, undertook a series of trials at Ford and Manston in the ACI role under the codename Operation Vapour.

Using an ex-Coastal Command Wellington fitted with an ASV Mk.VI radar and PPI display, these trials were practised in the Channel during the hours of daylight in early January 1945 and flown operationally off the Dutch coast at very low level, in the company of five Mosquito night-fighters. Using the Rebecca/Eureka beacons system to maintain a formation, the set-up was controlled by a New Zealand civilian scientist, Mr E.J. Smith, from the Wellington, who provided vectors to likely targets for the accompanying Mosquitoes. Overall, the results proved disappointing since the sea returns restricted the ACI’s maximum range when flying at low level, but ranges of 14 miles (22.5 km) were recorded at higher altitudes – which were twice as good as the Mosquito’s AI Mk.X. However, at the critical point the Luftwaffe ceased air-launching operations on 14 January and the ACI project was allowed to fall into abeyance.

Convair B-36


The second series of FICON tests used the prototype YF-84F sweptwing Thunderstreak. The trapeze was much simpler than the one designed for the abortive XP-85 tests and proved much more effective. Of course, the more conventional handling qualities of the F-84 compared to the Goblin undoubtedly helped also.


The B-36J was the final production version of the B-36. It had two additional fuel tanks, one on the outer panel of each wing, which increased the fuel load by 2770 gallons, for a total fuel capacity of 36,396 gallons. It also had a much stronger landing gear, permitting a gross takeoff weight as high as 410,000 pounds.

The YB-36J flew for the first time in July of 1953. The first production B-36J flew in September of 1953.

The last 14 B-36Js were manufactured as B-36J(III) featherweights, with all guns removed except the pair of cannon at the tail position. The crew was reduced to 13, and the blisters were replaced by flat windows. The reduction in weight enabled a service ceiling of 47,000 feet to be reached, although some missions were flow as high as 50,000 feet. In contrast to the other B-36 featherweights (which were modified after delivery), these planes were modified on the production line during manufacture.

A total of 33 B-36s were accepted, the last one (a III featherweight) being delivered on August 14, 1954.









Convair’s B-36 long range bomber is well recognized by many attributes. It was America’s first true intercontinental heavy bombing platform and the Strategic Air Command’s initial deterrence weapon. Although its service life of just 10 operational years (1949 to 1959) was short in comparison to other aircraft conceived during the same time, such as the U-2, SR-71 and B-52, which still flies today; the B-36 was the first symbol of US air power during the early stages of the Cold War.

Unlike the U-2 Dragon Lady, the SR-71 Blackbird and B-52 Stratofortress, its eventual replacement, the massive B-36 was never assigned an official name by the US Air Force. Despite this sobering fact, today much of the world recognized the huge propellant pusher bomber as the ‘Peacemaker’. The history behind the name is as interesting as the aircraft’s own life cycle. It all started back in December 1948, when the Convairiety, the Consolidated Vaultee Aircraft Corporation’s newsletter, announced a dedication and naming contest for the new plane.

“Needed is a name appropriate to their size and purpose. A name which will be in keeping with the fine, historic traditions of Convair’s fighting ships in days gone by, the Liberators, Catalinas, Coronados and Vengeance dive bombers”, read the headlines of the piece. Further instructions were provided, “the name should be one word and should not be a ‘made-up’ combination. Duplication or possible confusion with another Army or Navy aircraft names should be avoided. Preference will be given to names which relates to the size, weight, power, range, purpose and mission of the B-36”.

Accordingly to the statement, entries will be allowed from 5th January until the 28th of February 1949, after which a judging committee composed of Amon Carter, the editor of the Dallas-based Fort Worth Star, Major General Rodger M. Ramey, the head of the Eight Air Force and Lamotte T. Cohu, Convair’s president; would pick a winner. Prize for the selected one was settled at 50 dollars, plus a barrage of publicity appearance.

In late 1949, the Air Force Munitions Board Aircraft Committee, the organization in charge of matters such as name tagging, gave the contest a passive approval, but with a caveat. In a January 1949 memo, the Board stated that “The MBAC reserve the right to chose any other name if desired”. Because of this, Convair modified the rules adding that “if some name submitted by a Convair employee other than the winner of the contest is subsequently selected by the Munitions Board, the employee who submitted the name chosen will also be awarded $50”.

Although the contest was not limited to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where the plane was actually developed, the region accounted for more than 95% of the entrees, the rest came from the San Diego assembly plant section. Overall, 813 submissions were received, six hundred and forty (640) ballots from Texas and 173 out of California. Among the most popular proposed names out of Dallas were ‘Longhorn’, ‘Texas’, ‘Texans’, and ‘Gardua’. Others such as ‘Condor’ and ‘Crusader’ topped the San Diego-area submissions. Interesting enough, 60 entries (49 from Dallas, 11 out of San Diego) called for the name ‘Pacemaker’.

The word ‘Peacemaker’ has its roots in the Texas’ Old West. It was use to describe the powerful Colt .45 caliber revolver, often use as a deterrence mechanism. Most of the people who conjured the word did so believing that the B-36 would serve in a similar matter. “I think that this incredible plane will be like a Colt. A weapon people respect and feared. It maintained the peace in an un-settling time. So will the B-36”, said J.G. Bohn, a Fort Worth toolmaker who, along with J.L. McDaniels, L.R. Harris, C.W. Cannon, E.M. Wilson and G.E. McKenzie were chosen to represent all the winners.

Originally the announcement of the winner was slated for 30th March 1949. But due to a logistical mix up the judging committee did not receive the final ballots until the last week of February. The revelation of the selection was made on the April 1949 issue of Convairiety. “Convair proudly announce that….have won the B-36 naming contest. This would be forwarded to the AF Munitions Board Aircraft Committee for approval”, expressed the editorial section of the paper.

Sadly for Cohu, Bohn, McKenzie and all involved with the program, religious objections by various groups dissuaded the Air Force from branding the B-36, the Peacemaker, deferring the decision to a later date. But like most bureaucratic actions that are postponed, the official name-tagging of this amazing bomber was lost in the time. As of today, the AF Arsenal Registry has no official name is listed beside the B-36.



Prototype powered by six 3,000 hp (2,200 kW) R-4360-25 engines and unarmed, one built.


Prototype, s/n 42-13571, with modified nose and raised cockpit roof, one built later converted to YB-36A.


Former YB-36 with modified four-wheel landing gear, later modified as a RB-36E.


Production variant, unarmed, used for training, 22 built, all but one converted to RB-36E.


A cargo/transport version of the B-36. One built.


Armed production variant with six 3,500 hp (2,600 kW) R-4360-41 engines, 73 built, later conversions to RB-36D and B-36D.


Designation for 39 B-36Bs temporarily fitted with a camera installation.


Projected variant of the B-36B with six 4,300 hp (3,200 kW) R-4360-51 engines driving tractor propellers, not built.


Production version of the YB-36, completed as B-36Bs.


Same as B-36B, but fitted with four J47-GE-19 engines, two each in two underwing pods, 22 built and 64 conversions from B-36B.


Strategic reconnaissance variant with two bomb bays fitted with camera installation, 17 built and seven conversions from B-36B.


Same as RB-36D, but modified to carry a GRF-84F Thunderstreak on a ventral trapeze as part of the FICON program, 10 modified.


The YB-36A and 21 B-36As converted to RB-36D standards.


Same as B-36D, but fitted with six 3,800 hp (2,800 kW) R-4360-53 engines and four J47-GE-19 engines, 34 built.


Strategic reconnaissance variant of the B-36F with additional fuel capacity, 24 built.


See YB-60.


Same as B-36F with improved cockpit and equipment changes, 83 built.


One B-36H fitted with a nuclear reactor installation for trials, had a revised cockpit and raised nose. This was intended to evolve into the Convair X-6.


Strategic reconnaissance variant of the B-36H, 73 built.


High altitude variant with strengthened landing gear, increased fuel capacity, armament reduced to tail guns only and reduced crew, 33 built.


Originally designated the YB-36G, s/n 49-2676 and 49-2684. Project for a jet-powered swept wing variant. Due to the differences from a standard B-36 its designation was changed to YB-60.

Curtiss Shrike

A Curtiss A-8 Shrike of the 13th Attack Squadron during evaluation by the USAAC which resulted in a 46-strong order for the A-12.

One of 20 `export’ A-12s that were delivered to the Chinese Nationalist Air Force in 1936, all of which saw subsequent action against the Japanese the following year.

The sole YA-10 (Model 59B) was the first YA-8 (32-344) to be converted with a 625hp Pratt & Whitney Hornet air-cooled radial engine.

The US Army attack bomber requirement, issued in 1929, saw designs offered by Atlantic-Fokker in the shape of the XA-7 and Curtiss with its XA-8. It was the latter that was selected, an aircraft that would go on to become the USAAC’s main attack aircraft for the majority of the 1930s.

Designed by Don Berlin, the A-8 `Shrike’ was an impressive aircraft which featured a large number of advances and firsts for Curtiss in one respect but, in another, ideas that dated back to the First World War. The aircraft was the first all-metal low-wing monoplane to be built by Curtiss. It was fitted with advancements such as leading-edge slots and trailing edge flaps but was also installed with strut and wire-braced wings, which, with the exception of the Douglas O-31 and Boeing P-36, had not been seen since the First World War.

The pilot and an observer/gunner were positioned in widely spaced cockpits, the former under a fully enclosed canopy (only for the XA-8, all other variants were open) and the latter only protected by an extended windscreen. Power for the XA-8 and the production YA-8 (Model 59A) and Y1A-8 was 600hp Curtiss V-1570C inline engine with a radiator below the nose but the experimental YA-10 (Model 49B) was powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1690-9 Hornet radial. The radial engine was the preference of the US Navy, especially for carrier borne operations, and the resulting production order was for the A-12 (Model 60). Still fitted with open cockpits, the A-12 had the rear cockpit moved much closer to the pilots in order to improve communications.

The XA-8 prototype was first flown in June 1931 and was followed by the first of eight service test aircraft which joined the USAAC from April 1932. Serving with the 13th Attack Squadron, 3rd Attack Group at Fort Crockett, Texas, the A-8 took the USAAC by storm, the service up until then having only operated biplanes. The main production variant, the A-12, entered service from 1934 with the 8th and 18th Attack Squadron, 3rd Attack Group. At least nine A-12s were operational at Hickam Field during the attack on Pearl Harbor and the type remained in service until 1942.

20 A-12s joined the Chinese Nationalist Force in May 1936, serving with the 27th and 28th Squadrons, 9th Group, but after some initial success, very few survived the Japanese onslaught in the summer of 1937.

Some 13 D1A1s stumbled on the Chinese secondary airfield at Chao-Er, where 12 Curtiss Shrike attack aeroplanes of the Chinese 26th and 27th Squadrons of the 9th Attack Group were preparing for a strike on Shanghai. A dogfight duly ensued between two unlikely opponents, namely carrier dive-bombers and ground-strafing attack aeroplanes. Two D1A1s were shot down and a third machine was seriously damaged, returning to Kaga with a fatally wounded crewman onboard. The Chinese in return lost five Shrikes, two in takeoff accidents.

One XA-8 prototype (30-387) was built, followed by five YA-8 (32-344 to 32-348) and eight Y1A-8 (32-349 to 32-356) service test aircraft; twelve of the service test machines were re-designated A-8. The first YA-8 was converted to the YA-10 and one XS2C-1 Shrike (Model 69) which became the first two-seat combat monoplane to be evaluated by the US Navy since the early 1920s. The main production variant was the A-12, of which 46 were built (33-212 to 33-257), at a cost of $19,483 each, minus GFE. 20 A-12s (c/n 12155-12174) were sold to China and deliveries commenced from May 1936 at a cost of $24,328.45.

JUN 1931 Maiden flight of XA-8, 30-387

APR 1932 A-8 joins 3rd Attack Group

DEC 1932 Development of YA-10, the XS2C-1, delivered to USN

1934 A-12 entered service

AUG 15, 1937 Four Japanese D1A1s shot down by Chinese A-12s

1942 Trainers retired by USAAF. As they were replaced by newer aircraft, 15 A-12s were assigned to Kelly Field, Texas as trainers and 20 went to the 26th Attack Squadron in Hawaii, where they served until 1941.

Specifications (A-12 Shrike)

General characteristics

    Crew: 2

    Length: 32 ft 3 in (9.83 m)

    Wingspan: 44 ft 0 in (13.41 m)

    Height: 9 ft 0 in (2.74 m)

    Wing area: 284 sq ft (26.4 m2)

    Empty weight: 3,898 lb (1,768 kg)

    Gross weight: 5,756 lb (2,611 kg)

    Powerplant: × Wright R-1820-21 Cyclone 9-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engine, 690 hp (510 kW)

    Propellers: 3-bladed fixed-pitch propeller


    Maximum speed: 176.7 mph (284.4 km/h, 153.5 kn)

    Cruise speed: 151 mph (243 km/h, 131 kn)

    Range: 521 mi (838 km, 453 nmi)

    Service ceiling: 15,150 ft (4,620 m)

    Rate of climb: 1,170 ft/min (5.9 m/s)



        4 × forward-firing 0.300 in (7.6 mm) M1919 Browning machine guns mounted in the wheel fairings

        1 × 0.300 in (7.6 mm) machine gun mounted in the observer’s cockpit for rear defense

    Bombs: Up to 4 × 122 lb (55 kg) bombs carried under the wings or up to 10 × 30 lb (14 kg) fragmentation bombs in fuselage chutes either side of the main fuel tank

Imperial Japanese Navy Aircraft

The air force component under the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II. The birth of Japanese naval aviation occurred in 1912. The navy had been part of the Provisional Military Balloon Research Society, which had been established as a joint effort with the army. The army dominated the society, and the navy decided to withdraw and create its own organization, the Kaigun Kokujutsu Kenkyu Kai (Naval Aeronautical Research Association). This event would be a bone of contention between the army and navy for many years to come.

The naval association sent six officers to France and the United States to acquire seaplanes and learn to fly and maintain them. The operation was a success, and a new naval air station was established on the Oppama Coast near Yokosuka. Within the year, the Imperial Japanese Navy commissioned their first seaplane tender, the Wakamiya Maru.

In 1916, the first Navy Air Corps was activated, the Yokosuka Kokutai. In 1917, the first completely Japanese designed aircraft was built at the Yokosuka naval arsenal.

After World War I, the navy became intrigued with the idea of launching aircraft from ships. In June 1920, a deck was mounted to the Wakamiya Maru, and a Sopwith Pup was launched successfully from the deck. Then, in late 1921, the Hosho-the world’s first true aircraft carrier-was launched. Other ships had been modified to carry aircraft, but the Hosho was designed from the ground up to be an aircraft carrier.

It was not until 1932 that a major push was made to develop true carrier aircraft. The navy issued Specification 7-Shi for a carrier-based aircraft to be built. The navy had developed a system where it would submit a specification to a number of manufacturers, which would compete to have their design accepted for service. This specification was thought to be extremely important to the navy in its development of attack aircraft and fighters. However, only one aircraft, the E7K1 Alf, was placed into production in quantity. The failure was primarily due to high expectations and limited technology at the time. Two years later, navy specifications would be met, and the first of the dominant Japanese aircraft would start to appear in the arsenal.

It was about this time that the navy entered the second Sino-Japanese conflict. The results were outstanding. Japanese fighters and bombers forced the Chinese to withdraw their aircraft or lose them. There was also one additional benefit to the war with the Chinese. Beyond the experience gained, it gave the Imperial Japanese Navy a chance to further organize and develop effective air combat tactics. These would become very useful during the Pacific War.

Because of its collection of long-range aircraft and aircraft carriers, the navy would become responsible for all campaigns in the Pacific islands. It would also be responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbor.

By November 1941, the JNAF had ready about 1,750 frontline fighters, torpedo planes, and navy dive bombers, as well as over 500 flying boats or sea planes. These were deployable to forward sea bases and on six fleet carriers and four larger fleet carriers. The JNAF organized its planes into kokutai or air corps, usually of all one type, either of fighters or bombers. In 1941 all JNAF pilots were highly trained-at a minimum of 800 hours flying time-and some JNAF planes were superior to anything the U. S. Navy could then put into the air. That gave the JNAF an initial skills and numerical advantage in the Pacific War. However, Japanese reserves were insufficient to sustain a long war with the U. S. Navy: the entire aircraft industry produced under 1,500 military planes in 1937, which had to be divided with the Japanese Army. Production rose to 4,768 aircraft by 1940, again divided between the JAAF and JNAF. Just 5,088 military aircraft left the assembly lines in 1941. Japan also uniquely failed to expand its pilot training schools. It began the Pacific War with just 2,500 Navy pilots-the Sea Eagles-to fly its aircraft, and throughout the war suffered from a shortage of pilot training plans or facilities.

In the first six months of the war in the Pacific, the navy was extremely effective. Its experience in China and its organization made it a formidable foe. However, in June 1942 at Midway Island, U. S. carriers dealt the navy a heavy blow, sinking four aircraft carriers. This loss of ships and aircraft stopped the Japanese advance in the Pacific.

At this point of the war, it appeared that the industrial production of the United States and the abundance of pilots available to Allied forces could not be equaled by the Japanese. Japan was quickly running out of trained pilots as well as materials to produce aircraft and ships.

In October 1944, the Imperial Japanese Navy developed a new tactic: kamikaze attacks. A kamikaze would dive his aircraft, loaded with bombs, into Allied ships. The tactic did minimal physical damage given the number of aircraft and pilots that it sacrificed. Hostilities in the Pacific War continued until August 1945, when the order for surrender was given. This spelled the end of the Imperial Japanese Navy until the postwar years.

The Mitsubishi G4M medium bomber (“Betty”) entered service with the Japanese army early in 1941 and was involved in pre-World War II operations in China. It was designed in great secrecy during 1938-1939 to have the maximum possible range at the expense of protection for the crew and vital components, and it was mainly used in the bomber and torpedo-bomber roles. G4M1s were mainly responsible for sinking the British battleship Prince of Wales and battle cruiser Repulse off Malaya in December 1941. The G4M had an extraordinary range, but more than 1,100 gallons of fuel in unprotected tanks made the aircraft extremely vulnerable to enemy fire. The G4M2 appeared in 1943 and was the major production model, with more-powerful engines and even more fuel. Losses of the aircraft continued to be very heavy, and Mitsubishi finally introduced the G4M3 model late in 1943 with a redesigned wing and protected fuel tanks. A total of 2,479 aircraft in the G4M series were built.

The Kawanishi N1K1-J (“George”) evolved from a floatplane and was one of the best fighters of the Pacific Theater. Entering service early in 1944, it had automatic combat flaps and was outstandingly maneuverable, its pilots coming to regard even the F6F Hellcat as an easy kill. Its climb rate was, however, relatively poor for an interceptor, and the engine was unreliable. The later N1K2-J was redesigned to simplify production, and limited numbers entered service early in 1945. A total of 1,435 aircraft of the N1K series were built.

The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) had several carriers at the start of the war, the air groups of which were weighted toward attack aircraft rather than fighters. Its aircraft were lightly built and had very long range, but this advantage was usually purchased at the expense of vulnerability to enemy fire. The skill of Japanese aviators tended to exaggerate the effectiveness of the IJN’s aircraft, and pilot quality fell off as experienced crews were shot down during the Midway and Solomon Islands Campaigns.

The Nakajima B5N (“Kate” in the Allied designator system) first entered service in 1937 as a carrier-based attack bomber, with the B5N2 torpedo-bomber appearing in 1940. The B5N had good handling and deck-landing characteristics and was operationally very successful in the early part of the war. Large numbers of the B5N participated in the Mariana Islands campaign, and it was employed as a suicide aircraft toward the end of the war. Approximately 1,200 B5Ns were built.

The Aichi D3A (“Val”) carrier-based dive-bomber entered service in mid-1940, and it was the standard Japanese navy dive-bomber when Japan entered the war. It was a good bomber, capable of putting up a creditable fight after dropping its bomb load. It participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor and the major Pacific campaigns including Santa Cruz, Midway, and the Solomon Islands. Increasing losses during the second half of the war took their toll, and the D3A was used on suicide missions later in the war. Approximately 1,495 D3As were built.

When it first appeared in mid-1940, the Mitsubishi A6M Zero was the first carrier-based fighter capable of beating its land-based counterparts. It was well armed and had truly exceptional maneuverability below about 220 mph, and its capabilities came as an unpleasant shock to U. S. and British forces. It achieved this exceptional performance at the expense of resistance to enemy fire, with a light structure and no armor or self-sealing tanks. Its Achilles heel was the stiffness of its controls at high speed, the control response being almost nil at indicated airspeed over 300 mph. The Zero was developed throughout the war, a total of 10,449 being built.

The Nakajima B6N (“Jill”) carrier-based torpedo-bomber entered service late in 1943 and was intended to replace the B5N, but the initial B6N1 was plagued with engine troubles. The B6N2 with a Mitsubishi engine was the major production model, appearing early in 1944. Overall, it was better than its predecessor but not particularly easy to deck-land. It participated in the Marianas Campaign and was encountered throughout the Pacific until the end of the war. A total of 1,268 were built.

The Yokosuka D4Y (“Judy”) reconnaissance/dive-bomber entered service on Japanese carriers early in 1943 and was very fast for a bomber. Initially assigned to reconnaissance units, it was intended to replace the D3A, but it was insufficiently armed and protected and suffered from structural weakness in dives. In common with most other Japanese aircraft, it was used for kamikaze attacks, and a D4Y carried out the last kamikaze attack of the war on 15 August 1945. A total of 2,819 D4Ys were built.

In addition to transporting troops and supplies, the four-engine Kawanishi H6K and four-engine Kawanishi H8K flying boats also served important roles as long-range reconnaissance aircraft, with the former having a maximum range of 4,210 miles and the latter having a maximum range of 4,460 miles.

Japan relied on three primary reconnaissance floatplanes during the war. The three-seat Aichi E13A, of which 1,418 were produced, was Japan’s most widely used floatplane of the war. Entering service in early 1941, it was employed for the reconnaissance leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor, and it participated in every major campaign in the Pacific Theater, performing not only reconnaissance but also air-sea rescue, liaison transport, and coastal patrol operations. Introduced in January 1944 as a replacement for the E13A, the two-seat Aichi E16A Zuiun offered far greater performance capabilities but came too late in the war to make a significant difference, primarily because Japan’s worsening industrial position limited production to just 256 aircraft. Based on a 1936 design that underwent several modifications, the two-seat Mitsubishi F1M biplane, of which 1,118 were produced, proved to be one of the most versatile reconnaissance aircraft in Japan’s arsenal. Operating from both ship and water bases, it served in a variety roles throughout the Pacific, including coastal patrol, convoy escort, antisubmarine, and air-sea rescue duties, and it was even capable of serving as a dive-bomber and interceptor.

The three-seat Nakajima C6N Saiun, of which 463 were produced, was one of the few World War II reconnaissance aircraft specifically designed for operating from carriers. With a maximum speed of 379 mph, a maximum range of 3,300 miles, and service ceiling of 34,236 ft, the C6N proved virtually immune from Allied interception. Unfortunately for Japan, it did not become available for service until the Mariana Islands Campaign in the summer of 1944.

The twin-engine, two-seat Mitsubishi Ki-46, of which 1,742 were produced, served as Japan’s primary strategic reconnaissance aircraft of the war. Entering service in March 1941, the Ki-46 was one of the top-performing aircraft of its type in the war with a service ceiling of 35,170 ft, a range of 2,485 miles, and a maximum speed of 375 mph. This aircraft was first used by the Japanese Army in Manchukuo and China, where seven units were equipped with it, and also at times by the Japanese Imperial Navy in certain reconnaissance missions over the northern coasts of Australia and New Guinea.

Although Japan employed a variety of multipurpose aircraft, such as the Nakajima G5N Shinzan and the Tachikawa Ki-54, for transporting troops and supplies, it relied primarily on four main transport aircraft during World War II: the Kawanishi H6K flying boat, the Kawanishi H8K flying boat, the Kawasaki Ki-56, and the Mitsubishi Ki-57.

When Japan entered the war, the four-engine Kawanishi H6K served as the navy’s primary long-range flying boat. Although used at first primarily for long-range reconnaissance, it was soon relegated to transport duty because of its vulnerability to Allied fighters. Capable of carrying up to 18 troops in addition to its crew, the H6K remained in production until 1943. Of the 217 constructed, 139 were designed exclusively for transport.

The four-engine Kawanishi H8K entered service in early 1942 and gradually replaced the Kawanishi H6K. While it also served in a variety of roles, its transport version, the H8K2- L, of which 36 were built, could carry up to 64 passengers. With a cruising speed of 185 mph and a range of up to 4,460 miles, it was well-suited for the Pacific Theater, and its heavy armament afforded better protection than the H6K.

Japanese Aircraft of the Sino-Japanese and Pacific War