llyushin II-28

Countries of origin: Russia and China

Type: Tactical bomber

Powerplants: II-28 – Two 26.5kN (5950lb) Klimov VK-1A turbojets.

Performance: II-28 – Max speed at 14,765ft 900km/h (485kt), max speed at sea level 800km/h (432kt), typical cruising speed at altitude 875km/h (472kt). Max initial rate of climb 2950ft/min. Service ceiling 40,350ft. Range at 32,810ft 2400km (1295nm), range at 3280ft 1135km (612nm).

Weights: II-28 – Empty equipped 11,890kg (28,415lb), max takeoff 21,200kg (46,738lb).

Dimensions: II-28 – Wing span without tip tanks 21.45m (70ft 5in), fuselage length 17.65m (57ft 11 in), height 6.70m (22ft 0in). Wing area 60.8m2 (654.4sq ft). Accommodation: Crew of three – pilot under fighter style canopy, bombardier/navigator in nose and rear gunner/radio operator in tail.

Armament: Two NR-23 23mm cannon in lower forward fuselage, two NR-23 cannon in rear turret and up to 3000kg (6615lb) of bombs, or two torpedoes in internal weapons bay.

History: The Harbin H-5 is China’s unlicenced built copy of the llyushin II-28 ‘Beagle’ light tactical jet bomber. llyushin first began design work on the II-28 in December 1947 as a private venture. The first of three prototypes, powered by two RollsRoyce Nenes (at the time the most powerful turbojets in the world and donated to the USSR by the UK Government during the late 1940s as ‘technical aid’), flew for the first time on July 8 1948. After competitive evaluation against Tupolev’s larger but similarly powered Tu-73 the II-28 was selected for production to meet a Russian Air Force need for a medium sized jet bomber. Several thousand ll-28s were built for the Soviet Air Force and various Warsaw Pact nations, with deliveries beginning in 1950. Over 500 were exported to China in the 1950s, while other II-28 operators included Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, North Korea, North Vietnam, Syria and Yemen. Small numbers were also built in Czechoslovakia as the B-228. II-28 variants include the basic II-28 bomber, II-28T torpedo bomber, reconnaissance II-28R and the II-28U trainer with a second cockpit in the nose (forward of the standard cockpit). Several served through to the late 1980s as target tugs and ECM platforms. After Russia and China severed ties in the 1960s China began a program to build the II-28 unlicenced. The Harbin Aircraft Factory was responsible for reverse engineering the II-28 and consequently the first Chinese built ‘Beagle’, designated H-5, first flew on September 251966. H-5 production began the following year and continued into the 1980s (although late production was at a low rate primarily for attrition replacements). As many as 2000 H-5s may have been built (including HJ-5 two seaters and H-5R or HZ-5 reconnaissance platforms) for China’s Air Force and Navy. Several hundred still serve, despite their obsolescence. North Korea also operates Chinese ll-28s, with the export designation B-5.

Variants

Soviet Union variants
Note: Order of variants determined chronologically by production/development dates.
Il-28
Basic three-seat bomber version, powered by two VK-1 engines.
An Il-28U trainer of the Egyptian Air Force in 1981.
Il-28U
Unarmed training version fitted with new nose housing cockpit for instructor, while the trainee sat in the normal cockpit. First flown 18 March 1950.
Il-28R
Three-seat tactical photo reconnaissance version, with extra fuel in bomb bay and tip-tanks, and with one forward firing cannon removed. Fitted with revised undercarriage to deal with heavier weights. First flew 19 April 1950.
Il-28RTR
ELINT version of Il-28R.
Il-28REB
Electronic warfare, electronic jamming version, fitted with wingtip electronic pods, that were in the former wing tanks.
Il-28T
Torpedo bomber version for the Soviet Naval Aviation able to accommodate two small or one large torpedo (including RAT-52 rocket propelled torpedoes) in a lengthened weapons bay.
Il-28N
Nuclear bomber for the Soviet Air Force with modified bomb-bay and revised avionics. (N – Nositel – carrier, also known as Il-28A – Atomnyy – atomic).
Il-28P
Unarmed civil conversion for Aeroflot, used as jet conversion trainer and to carry high priority cargo (i.e. newspaper matrices to allow simultaneous printing of Pravda and Izvestia in Moscow, Sverdlovsk and Novosibirsk). Also designated Ilyushin Il-20.
Il-28S
Proposed swept-wing version with more powerful Klimov VK-5 engines. Unbuilt.
Il-28RM
Modified Il-28R with VK-5 engine. One prototype built plus two similarly converted bombers (which carried no special designation) but no production.
Il-28TM
Il-28T with VK-5. One converted, no production.
Il-28PL
High-speed anti-submarine conversion of Il-28 bomber or Il-28T torpedo bomber. Capable of carrying dropping sonobouys or acoustic homing torpedoes on direction of other anti-submarine assets.
Il-28Sh
Ground attack (Shturmovik) conversion of Il-28 with 12 underwing pylons for rocket pods. Small number converted which saw limited service.
Il-28ZA
Atmospheric sampling version.
Il-28M
Target drone conversion of Il-28. Also known as M-28.
Czechoslovakia variants
B-228
License-built standard Il-28s built by Avia in Czechoslovakia.
CB-228
License-built Il-28U trainers built by Avia in Czechoslovakia.
Chinese variants
H-5
(Hongzhaji – bomber) – Standard three-seat tactical bomber.
H-5A
Speculative designation of for nuclear capable H-5 variant.
HD-5
(Hongzhaji Dian – bomber/electronic reconnaissance) Chinese ECM jammer version.
HJ-5
(Hongzhaji Jiaolianji – bomber trainer) Chinese trainer version with similar layout to Il-28U.
HZ-5
(Hongzhaji Zhenchaji – bomber/reconnaissance) Tactical reconnaissnce aircraft. Fitted with underwing drop tanks instead of tip tanks of Il-28R.
B-5
Export designation of the H-5.
B-5R
Export version of HZ-5.
BT-5
Export version of the HJ-5.
H-5 Ying
(Ying – eagle) Avionics testbed for Xian JH-7 programme.
H-5B
Speculative designation for unflown H-5 testbed for WS-5 aft-fan engines.

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Avro Lancaster – Coastal Command

Designed as a back up in case Merlin production was interrupted, the 300 Hercules-powered Lancaster Mk.IIs built were dropped by Bomber Command in the interests of commonality in autumn 1944. Because of their better performance at lower altitudes many of them found their way to Coastal Command, operating alongside Liberators in the long range anti-submarine role.

Bulged bomb bay doors and ventral turret were removed to reduce drag and nose-mounted Yagi aerials formed part of the ASV equipment. Front turrets were faired over and provision was made for 4 fixed 20mm cannon in the nose, although only 2 were often carried. Some aircraft had their upper turrets removed to save weight and increase range.

Though the Lancaster is rightly associated in particular with Bomber Command, it was briefly a Coastal Command aircraft too during the war and served in peacetime. It would have added considerably to the ability of the Command to perform a number of its tasks, had it been made available in larger numbers and on a permanent basis. Here was an example of “Cinderella Service” treatment.

In 1940 the Avro Chief Designer Roy Chadwick and his team were working on a four-engine version of the Avro Manchester, two-engine bomber, which would be equipped with Rolls Royce Merlin engines. With the Merlin badly needed for Hurricane and Spitfire fighters, the Air Ministry did not encourage the project at first. Eventually, a request to go ahead with the design was made, with the stipulation that as many Manchester components as possible should be used.

The first flight of a prototype Lancaster took place on January 9 1941. On December 24 1941 No. 44 Squadron, based at Waddington, Lincolnshire, became the first squadron in Bomber Command to receive Lancasters. The earliest Lancaster participation in an operation occurred on March 3 1942 when four of the type from No. 44 Squadron laid mines in the Heligoland Bight between the mouth of the River Elbe and the Heligoland Islands.

Over 7,000 Lancasters were built and fifty-seven Bomber Command squadrons were equipped with them during the Second World War.

Today the Lancaster lives on most prominently in the shape of PA474, the aircraft operated by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight from Coningsby, in varying guises.

Nearby, at the former Bomber Command airfield at East Kirkby, the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre offers the chance to taxi in Lancaster NX611, “Just Jane”. There are hopes that this aircraft will fly again.

During the Second World War, Coastal Command made representations to be allocated Lancasters, but it was not until after hostilities had ended that Lancasters were formally added to the Command. During the war itself some Lancasters were loaned to Coastal Command, but the pressure to keep all of these outstanding aircraft focused on the bomber offensive was always very strong. The Lancaster represents one of the key instances where Coastal Command did not reach the top of the list of Air Ministry priorities.

The Phoenix: V-22 Osprey in Service

A decade to the day after the disaster at Marana, tragedy revisited the Osprey for the first time since its Dark Ages. On a pitch-black night in southern Afghanistan, an Air Force Special Operations Command CV-22B Osprey, one of three carrying Army Rangers on a raid against an insurgent target, touched down at more than 90 miles an hour a quarter mile short of its intended landing zone, a desolate area five kilometers east/southeast of the village of Qalat. With its landing gear down and its nacelles tilted upward at more than 80 degrees—not quite in 90-degree helicopter mode—the Osprey sped across the flat, sandy earth in what some of the Rangers on board thought was just a fast roll-on landing. Then its front wheels bounced, smacked into the ground, and collapsed. The Osprey’s bulbous nose began plowing into the soft soil, then hit a two-foot-deep gully, flipping the aircraft onto its back, tail over nose. The cockpit was crushed. The fuselage slammed into the ground upside down. The pilot and an enlisted flight engineer from the Air Force’s 8th Special Operations Squadron, the latter sitting in the jump seat behind and between the pilots, were killed. So were a corporal from the Army’s 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and an Afghan woman interpreter, both riding in the middle of the cabin. The copilot, thrown from the aircraft still strapped into his seat, survived. So did another Air Force flight engineer, thirteen other Rangers, and a male Afghan interpreter, all of whom had been kneeling in the cabin, wearing safety harnesses attached to the floor. Many had serious injuries.

The Air Force took eight months to release its accident report, whose results were inconclusive and, for some, controversial. The president of the eight-member Aircraft Investigation Board, Brigadier General Donald Harvel of the Texas Air National Guard, ruled out enemy fire, vortex ring state or a “brownout” landing, in which dust kicked up by the rotors might have disoriented the pilot. Harvel concluded that as many as ten factors contributed to the accident, none of which could be singled out as the primary cause. Among them were a 17-knot tailwind and the crew being distracted while pressing to get to the target on time. Harvel included a loss of power in the Osprey’s engines on the list of contributing causes. The vice commander of the Air Force Special Operations Command, Major General Kurt Cichowski, disagreed. Citing engineering studies by the maker of the engines and Navair, Cichowski officially declared that there was no evidence of power loss. The one piece of gear that could have settled the disagreement, the CV-22’s Flight Incident Recorder, which records engine data and instrument readings, was never recovered, though troops who arrived to rescue the victims and sort through the debris removed many other items of classified gear. Four hours after the accident, on the recommendation of an Army commander, two Air Force A-10 “Warthog” planes dropped four 500-pound bombs on the wreckage to keep insurgents or others from getting their hands on anything that might be of value. Harvel retired from the Air Force as planned on Sept. 15, 2010, three months before the Air Force released his report, still troubled by the failure to recover the Flight Incident Recorder. He was sure the device would have shown that the CV-22 had lost at least some power in each of its engines that night, possibly from compressor stalls caused by the tailwind, possibly because of the thin air at the altitude where the accident occurred—5,226 feet above sea level—or perhaps because of mechanical failure. The pilot, Major Randell Voas, 43, had been one of the Air Force’s best in the Osprey. Voas approached the landing zone that night too fast, but Harvel was certain that, rather than simply losing track of his altitude and flying his plane into the ground, Voas was trying to make an emergency roll-on landing, presumably because he lacked enough engine power to either maintain level flight or land like a helicopter.

In any event, the news media barely took notice. As in the late 1990s, by 2010 the Osprey was once again a dog-bites-man story. The frequency of helicopter and personnel losses in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was perhaps one explanation for media lack of interest. By the time the CV-22B went down, the U.S. military had suffered 546 deaths in 403 helicopter crashes in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Twenty of those killed died in five crashes of CH-46 Sea Knights, the Marine Corps helicopter the Osprey was primarily designed to replace. Over roughly the same period, the Marines had flown their MV-22B Ospreys more than 70,000 hours without a fatal accident, including more than 11,500 hours over Iraq and Afghanistan. VMM-263 and two other Marine Corps squadrons had flown the dozen Ospreys taken to Iraq in 2007 a total of 9,054 hours in that war zone. Poor reliability remained a problem. Marine Corps and Bell-Boeing mechanics in Iraq were hard-pressed to keep an average 70 percent of the Ospreys there “mission capable,” a shortcoming largely laid to parts wearing out faster than engineers had predicted. At the same time, those dozen Ospreys safely delivered more than 44,000 passengers and 2.8 million pounds of cargo during their nineteen months in Iraq. Pleased with the Osprey’s performance there, the Marines sent a dozen MV-22Bs to Afghanistan in November 2009, where the Corps was gearing up for a campaign against Al Qaeda and the Islamic fundamentalist terrorist group’s Taliban allies in Helmand province. The Air Force Special Operations Command began flying its CV-22Bs in Afghanistan not long afterward.

Given its safety record over the previous decade, even after the CV-22B crash, the idea that the Osprey was a “death trap” and “widow-maker,” as its harshest critics had charged, sounded like a hysterical echo from the past. In Afghanistan, reliability remained a stubborn issue for the MV-22B, but during its first year there, the Osprey defied the predictions of detractors who had warned that the tiltrotor would be an easy target for enemy fire in “hot” landing zones. In Afghanistan, the Osprey wasn’t flying into ambushes of the sort helicopters faced in Vietnam, where enemy troops cloaked by jungle cover often met choppers with a hail of gunfire. The technology of war had changed greatly since the 1960s, and as a result, so had tactics. Enemy forces— especially in barren Afghanistan—rarely massed in the modern age, when unmanned surveillance drones and other airborne sensors could spot them as they gathered and aircraft carrying “smart” bombs could attack them with pinpoint accuracy—tools of war that didn’t exist during Vietnam. Like helicopters flying in Afghanistan, the Osprey was more often a target for lone insurgents or small groups armed with AK-47 assault rifles or short-range rocket-propelled grenades. After a year in Afghanistan, the Osprey had so far proven equal to that challenge. During that year, Marine Corps Ospreys bringing troops into combat had been hit a confirmed five times by 7.62-millimeter bullets—standard ammunition for the AK-47. No one in those aircraft was killed or wounded. In each case, their pilots were able to fly them back to their base at Camp Bastion, where mechanics repaired the damage and put the aircraft back into service.

Even so, the Osprey’s public image was little changed, and the debate was far from over. Those unfamiliar with the Osprey’s rise from its own ashes since 2001 were often surprised to hear it still existed. Bloggers, think tank experts, and many journalists still described the Osprey as “troubled,” ignoring its safety record and focusing on its low reliability rates and high cost. Critics derided the Marines for using the Osprey in Iraq as a “truck” and a “bus,” or to ferry VIPs around combat zones. Some insisted the Osprey’s inability to autorotate to a safe landing still constituted a major risk. A V-22 would be a dead duck, they said, if both engines were shot out or otherwise failed too close to the ground or with too little speed for its pilots to convert the rotors to airplane mode and glide on the wing to a safe landing. The most severe critics still contended the side-by-side placement of the Osprey’s rotors would lead to an uncommanded and unrecoverable roll if one rotor went into vortex ring state at low altitude.

Marine and Air Force Osprey pilots were sanguine about their ability to handle such risks. They were also certain that the tiltrotor’s ability to fly far faster and farther and higher than any helicopter, putting it well above the small-arms threat, was saving lives in Afghanistan by making the Osprey a far tougher target than the critics imagined. Still, the Marines clearly had much to prove before they could definitively claim the Osprey had been worth its hefty price. On March 28, 2008, two weeks before Lieutenant Colonel Paul Rock led VMM-263 home from Iraq, the Pentagon awarded the Bell-Boeing partnership a $10.4 billion contract to build 167 more Ospreys over the coming five years, 141 for the Marines and 26 for the Air Force. The Marines, the Air Force, and the Navy still planned to buy 458 in all. Calculating from the first contract in 1983 and including inflation, their total cost was projected at nearly $53 billion—$12 billion more than estimated in 1982 for what at the time was expected to be nearly three times as many aircraft. Bell-Boeing’s multiyear contract was the kind of deal defense companies strive for, a near guarantee that neither President Barack Obama’s administration nor Congress would cancel the Osprey before 2012. Cancellation charges would make writing off such an investment prohibitively expensive and politically difficult. Navair and Bell-Boeing were negotiating a second multiyear contract to begin in 2013 as well. In an era of trillion-dollar federal deficits, though, the Osprey remained a juicy target for defense spending critics and others searching for ways to cut the federal budget. In November 2010, the co-chairmen of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, a panel created by Obama to find ways to close the budget deficit, recommended halting Osprey purchases at 288. Even so, there was little expectation the proposal would be adopted. Without commenting on the Osprey, Defense Secretary Robert Gates rejected the commission’s proposed military spending cuts as “math, not strategy.” Equally importantly, the Osprey’s support in Congress remained strong, and Marine and Air Force leaders insisted their services needed all the V-22s planned.

As 2010 ended, the Marine Corps was well along in creating new operational squadrons to fly its expanding Osprey fleet. Six Osprey squadrons existed at New River Marine Corps Air Station and two more at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in California. One of the busiest was VMMT-204, the training squadron at New River. Paul Rock, who had spent the Osprey’s Dark Ages at the same squadron, was now its commander. After leading the Osprey’s first deployment to Iraq, Rock had been promoted to full colonel in July 2009 and put in charge of preparing new Osprey pilots and mechanics for the Marines and Air Force both.

The Osprey’s survival and initial success, meanwhile, was rekindling civilian interest in the tiltrotor. The aviation revolution predicted by the true believers was nowhere in sight, but the dream was alive. “I really do believe that tiltrotor aviation is going to revolutionize a lot of the things that we do,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, a former Marine general and astronaut, told engineers in September 2010 at his agency’s Ames Research Center in California—where tiltrotor true believer Dick Spivey was now running the co-located Army Aeroflightdynamics Directorate, that service’s rotorcraft research arm. Spivey’s agency was working on ideas for new rotorcraft, including tiltrotors, to replace military helicopters. NASA had built a computerized simulator of a 100-passenger civilian tiltrotor and was studying how such an aircraft might share the national airspace with other civilian traffic. Bell Helicopter and its Italian partner, AgustaWestland S.p.A., meanwhile, were flight-testing prototypes of a nine-passenger civilian tiltrotor roughly the size of the XV-15 called the BA609. Bell executives no longer saw an unlimited market for tiltrotors, just niches where its speed could make a big difference, such as emergency medical services and evacuating offshore oil platform crews in emergencies. AgustaWestland, though, remained committed as ever. Chief Executive Giuseppe Orsi forecast that the BA609 would be in production by 2013 or 2014, and with European partners, AgustaWestland was also working on another tiltrotor called the Erica. “We believe the future is in the tiltrotor,” Orsi said.

Others were exploring tiltrotors with equal enthusiasm. California aircraft designer Abraham Karem, regarded as a genius by many in his field, hoped that by 2018, airlines would be buying his AeroTrain, a tilt-rotor designed to carry 120 passengers 200 to 1,000 miles per trip. “The obstacles to fielding a high-efficiency transport tiltrotor remain more political than technical,” Karem told me. “I personally believe that there is no other effort in aeronautics today that can equal the transformative potential of a civilian transport tiltrotor with efficiency rivaling our best fixed-wing transports.” Others were studying technologies such as variable-length rotor blades to improve on those used in the Osprey and BA609. Who could say whether some technological breakthrough that would make the tiltrotor simpler and cheaper wasn’t just around the corner? In 1936, Orville Wright had flatly declared the helicopter impractical. Three years later, Igor Sikorsky proved Wright wrong. The helicopter required two decades more to come into every day use, but it did. Perhaps the tiltrotor just needed more time to change the world.

Or perhaps the true believers were dreaming. That might be so, but then progress often depends on dreamers, especially in aviation. Whoever sets out to conquer the air just has to have a dream. It comes with the territory.

Hurricanes with Vickers Class ‘S’ 40mm gun

Hurricane IId, HW719, seen while serving with the Specialised Low Attack Instructors School, a training unit for ground-attack pilots, at RAF Milfield, in early 1943. It is armed with a pair of Vickers ‘S’ 40mm cannon under its wings and despite the streamlined fairings, this weapons fit had a noticeable drag-inducing effect on the aircraft’s performance.

Close-up detail of a Vickers ‘S’ 40 mm cannon. This gun first saw action in the Western Desert from June 1942 following the delivery of twenty-seven of them to that theatre where both they and their installations worked almost flawlessly, any problems encountered being due to the ammunition itself, some of which it was discovered had not been filled with propellant! Rolls-Royce also developed a 40mm cannon and an order for 1,000 was placed in early 1942, however, for a number of reasons this gun proved overly sensitive during air firing trials and the order was cancelled despite the completion of 200 sets of components. None of the RR guns entered service in an airborne capacity. Each ‘S’ gun carried a fifteen-round magazine with an additional round inside the chamber and used armour-piercing (AP) or high-explosive (HE) shells according to need. The AP round proved effective against all tanks other than Tigers, and was even known to be capable of penetrating the long-barrelled 75mm gun of a Panzer IV. The HE round was found to be particularly effective in the Far East against Japanese ‘soft’ targets and, surprisingly, against Japanese tanks too, albeit the latter’s armour was much thinner than that on German tanks. The 40mm AP Mk.I shell weighed 2lb.7oz and could penetrate 50mm of armour at an angle of 30° to normal flight. In 1943 the AP Mk.V shell entered service, it weighed 3lb – increasing penetration values by approximately 10 per cent. Although the Vickers ‘S’ was undoubtedly successful, and accurate, rocket projectiles were considered to be more useful tactically as, round-for-round, they were more destructive; moreover, once a fighter had released its RPs (or bombs) it could in theory revert to a fighter role without pause, whereas 40mm-equipped Hurricanes remained very vulnerable.

The Vickers Class ‘S’ 40mm gun was developed in the late 1930s as an aircraft weapon, albeit intended for bomber defence and tested as such in a turret fitted to a modified Vickers Wellington II. In the event it wasn’t adopted for bombers, however, once trials at Boscombe Down in September 1941 with Hurricane IIb Z2326 proved successful, it was adopted as an airborne anti-tank gun with special armour-piercing ammunition. Rolls-Royce also developed a 40mm gun, but it never served as an airborne weapon.

The first squadron to be equipped with Hurricanes fitted with two Vickers 40mm guns, mounted one beneath each wing in conformal fairings, was No.6 Squadron, in the Western Desert in June 1942 where they achieved considerable success, although they also suffered heavy losses, mainly to ground fire. The designation applied to these 40mm gun-armed Hurricanes was Mk.IId – basically a modified 1,280hp Merlin XXII-powered Hurricane IIc with the 20mm cannon removed. A pair of wing-mounted .303 inch mgs were installed – used primarily for ranging and sighting purposes, but also to keep the heads of enemy gunners down – and shackles fitted to take the 40mm gun packs. At least three UK-based squadrons operated the type, No.184 being the first, forming at Colerne, Wiltshire, in December 1942, and Nos.137 and 164 Squadrons, which were only partially equipped with the sub-type in 1943, pending receipt of the ‘multi-role’ Hurricane IV.

Number 20 squadron, based in the Far East, re-equipped with the Mk.IV in May 1943, equipped with 40mm cannon firing high explosive (HE) ammunition against road and river transports. Tests (undertaken in the Far East) showed a high level of accuracy for the weapon, with an average of 25% of shots fired at tanks striking the target. Attacks with HE were twice as accurate as with Armour Piercing (AP) rounds, possibly because the ballistics were a closer match to the .303 inch mgs used for sighting (the HE shell was lighter and was fired at a higher velocity). By comparison, the practice strike rate of the 60lb rocket projectiles (RP) was only 5% against tank-sized targets.

A new universal wing was developed for the Hurricane, which had the ability to take various loads such as the 40mm gun, up to two 500lb bombs, Smoke Laying Canisters and Rocket Projectiles. The fitting of a more powerful 1,620hp Merlin 24 or 27 engine, and an additional 350lb of armour plate, resulted in a slightly re-shaped underside radiator housing. Initially designated as the Hurricane IIe, it was quickly changed to become the Hurricane IV.

Night Mosquitoes

RAF 23 Squadron

November 1944 saw the same pattern of operations with bomber support and night and day Intruder and Ranger patrols. No. 85 Squadron continued its run of success with a superb individual effort during a night Intruder on 4/5 November when Bomber Command’s main thrust was against Bochum, with smaller raids on the Dortmund–Ems Canal and on Hanover. Three Bf 110s were claimed shot down, one each by Wing Commander K. H. P. Beauchamp and Flying Officer Mony of 157 Squadron, Flight Lieutenants N. W. Young and R. H. Siddons of 239 Squadron, and Squadron Leader Tim Woodman and Flying Officer Arthur F. Witt of 169 Squadron. Bf 110 of II/NJG1 was shot down at 1900 hours at a height of 20,000 ft (6,100 metres). Unteroffizier Gustav Sario, the pilot, was injured and baled out. Unteroffizier Heinrich Conrads, the radar operator and Obergefreiter Roman Talarowski, the air gunner, were both killed. Bf 110G-4 Wrk Nr 440648 G9+RS of VIII/NJG1 crashed at Bersenbrück, 20 miles (30 km) north of Osnabrück. Feldwebel Willi Ruge, the pilot was wounded and baled out. Unteroffizier Helmut Kreibohm, the radar operator, and Obergefreiter Anton Weiss, the air gunner, were both killed. Also shot down that night by a Mosquito was Leutnant Heinz Rolland, the 26-year old pilot of IV/NJG1, who had fifteen victories at night. Rolland, Feldwebel Heinz Krueger, 25-year-old radar operator, and Unteroffizier Karl Berger, the 22-yearold air gunner, were killed when their Bf 110 crashed south-west of Wezel. By far the greatest achievement that night, though, went to Squadron Leader Branse Burbridge DSO* DFC* and Flight Lieutenant Bill Skelton DSO* DFC*. They were airborne from Swannington at 1731 hours on a high-level Intruder patrol south-east of Cologne, crossed the enemy coast and headed into Germany. Burbridge wrote later:

We were returning to our patrol point from Limburg at 15,000 ft [4,600 metres], on a north-westerly course, when Bill reported contact at 1904 hours, range 4 miles [6 km], crossing starboard to port at about our level. We turned in behind it, flying west, looking vainly for Type F response while closing in. I obtained a visual at 1,500 ft [460 metres] range. At 1,000 ft [300 metres], I believed it to be a Ju 88, and using night binoculars Bill identified it as a Ju 88G. I fired a short burst from 500 ft [150 metres], producing strikes on the port engine. A dull flame appeared. A second short burst gave the same result, and a fire slowly developed in the engine as the enemy aircraft lost height. Soon it began to dive steeply, exploding on the ground at 1909 hours.

By the time we had climbed up again to our patrol point, the markers were beginning to appear in the target area, so we set course towards it. On returning to a reciprocal brief investigation of further flares south-west of us were fruitless, but at 1953 hours Bill reported contact at 4 miles [6 km] range. We dived after it and found that it was taking regular evasive action by losing height at high speed, weaving up to 45° in either direction. After about five minutes we had lost height to 7,000 ft [2,100 metres], and I obtained a visual at about 1,200 ft [365 metres] range. Again no Type F response or exhausts were seen. We closed in and identified the target with binoculars as a Ju 88. At 500 ft [150 metres] range, having finger trouble, I pressed the camera button by mistake, but the absence of thunder and the mocking buzz of the camera on the R/T put me right. Ashort burst (cannon) gave strikes and a flash from the port engine and fuselage, but owing to the dive I lost the visual against the darkness of the ground. Bill regained contact, and although the evasion of the enemy aircraft had increased and became irregular, we closed in again to visual range of about 1,200 ft [365 metres] after a further five minutes, our height now being 3,000 ft [900 metres]. Another short burst at 2002 hours at the same engine produced the same results, and once again the visual was lost below the horizon. We searched around, but were unable to pick him up again; our position was roughly 5 miles [8 km] SE of what we took to be the dummy flarepath of Bonn. At 2005 hours, an aircraft exploded on the ground some distance ahead of us. Two minutes later I saw what I believed to be another crash on the ground.

We now proceeded to regain a bit of height, and when at 8,000 ft [2,400 metres], set course from the last-named position to join the bomber homeward route near Duren, which point we reached at 2020 hours. It was our intention to fly on the reciprocal of the route, towards the target, and to intercept contacts coming head-on: these would most likely be hostiles attempting late route interceptions, as the bombers should all have been clear. After two minutes flying on 50° my attention was attracted by a recognition cartridge (red and white) fired about 25 miles [40 km] east of us. We hurried in its direction losing height on the way, and shortly the red perimeter lights of an airfield appeared. Then I saw the landing light of an aircraft touching down east to west at 2028 hours.

A minute later we had a snap contact and fleeting visual of an aircraft above us, but were unable to pursue it. On commencing a right-hand circuit of the airfield, however, Bill obtained a contact (on the north side of the aerodrome) at 2 miles [3 km] range and at our height, which was about 1,000 ft [300 metres] above the ground. Following round the south side, we closed in to identify an Me 110. He must have throttled back rather smartly when east of the airfield for we suddenly found ourselves overtaking rapidly, horn blaring in our ears, and finished up immediately below him about 80 ft (24 metres) away. Very gradually we began to drop back and pulling up to dead astern at 400 ft [120 metres] range, I fired a very short burst. The whole fuselage was a mass of flames, and the Me 110 went down burning furiously, to crash in a river about 5 miles [8 km] north of the airfield, which we presumed to be Bonn/Hangelar. The time was 2032 hours.

We flew away to the north for a few minutes, and then turned to approach the airfield again. As we did so Bill produced yet another contact at 2 miles [3 km] range, 80° starboard. When we got in behind him he appeared to be doing a close left-hand orbit of the airfield. Again we followed round the west and south sides, and as he seemed to be preparing to land, I selected 10° of flap. I obtained a visual at 1,500 ft [460 km] range; no a/c was visible, so I took the flap off again. We identified the target as a Ju 88 and a very short burst from dead astern, 400 ft [120 metres] range, caused the fuselage to burst into flames. The cockpit broke away, and we pulled up sharply to avoid debris. Crosses were clearly visible in the light of the fire, and the Ju 88 dived towards the airfield. He finally turned over to starboard and exploded in a ploughed field just north of the aerodrome at 2040 hours.

We could see intruder warnings being fired from aerodromes in every direction by this time, and although we tried to investigate one further recognition signal some distance from us, we obtained no joy, and presumed that we had outstayed our welcome.

Burbridge and Skelton landed back at Swannington at 2223 hours and submitted claims for one Bf 110, one Ju 88 and one Ju 88G destroyed and one Ju 88 probably destroyed. Their Bf 110 victim was a II/NJG1 machine which crashed into the River Rhine near Hangelar airfield at 2150 hours. Oberleutnant Ernst Runze, the pilot, was killed and Obergefreiter Karl-Heinz Bendfeld, the radar operator, and the bordschütze baled out safely.

James Lansdale Hodson, a newspaper reporter, visited Swannington and in his subsequent article attributed Burbridge’s and Skelton’s great success to ‘intelligence’.

They know before they set out precisely where they will be at a certain time. They carry a picture in their head of the whole night’s operation … the various bomber streams, times, targets. They try to read the enemy mind … they visualize at what time he will discover what is happening, how far he will be misled, what he will do, what airfields he will use, what times he will rise, whether he will fly, what his tactics will be. They act accordingly. If one expectation fails, they know which next to try. After they had shot down three on the night they shot down four, Burbridge said, ‘Time we were starting for home, Bill.’To which Skelton replied: ‘Well if you like, but I’ve got another Hun for you.’ They went round after him and destroyed him too. Then they had a further look round, ‘But,’ says Burbridge’s combat report, ‘we found no joy and presumed we had outstayed our welcome.’

The popular press dubbed Branse and Bill the ‘Night Hawk Partners’. Such was the need for morale-boosting headlines. Less happy reading was that although 100 Group Mosquitoes claimed six enemy aircraft that night it had been a sorry twenty-four hours for Bomber Command. Despite the actions of the Mosquito crews (239 Squadron and 157 Squadrons also destroyed an enemy aircraft apiece) and a Window Spoof by 100 Group, out of a combined 1,081 sorties during the day (to Solingen) and night, thirtyone bombers were lost, the highest for some time.

Two nights later, on 6/7 November, the bombers attacked the Mittelland Canal at Gravenhorst. It was about of the worst night’s weather Tim Woodman had ever flown in.

We left the target area and flew into a cold front of exceptional violence. We were thrown all over the place, ice quickly froze on the windscreen and static electricity began to spark about the cockpit. We would drop like a stone and I feared my wing tips would come off. Down at 800 ft [240 metres] the ice cleared but it was too dangerous so close to the sea so I went back up to 2,000 ft [610 metres]. Flying Officer Witt had his straps loose in order to operate the Gee set but after he had hit the top of the cockpit for the third time I told him to lock his straps and I would fly due west until we reached better weather. I listened out on the radio. Other crews were obviously in dire trouble from the nature of their calls. Outside the propellers were whirling discs of violet fire, the aerials on the wings glowed violet like neon tubes. The inside of the windscreen was a lattice of static and, as I leant forward concentrating on the instruments the static struck across like pinpricks on my face. We dropped out of the sky in another violent air disturbance, the instruments went spinning and we waited to hit the sea. Arthur Witt then said, quite calmly, ‘Another one like that, why not let the controls go’. Then it will all be over. I am quite easy about dying.’ We made it after some more dicey episodes. But poor Arthur was killed a fortnight later flying with another pilot. Eleven aircraft were lost due to the weather, including two 100 Group Mosquitoes.

On the night of 6/7 November 100 Group crews claimed two Ju 188s, a Bf 110 and a Ju 88 and Ju 188 as probables. Two Ju 88G-6 aircraft were lost. 620396 R4+KR of Stab/IV/NJG3 was shot down by a Mosquito and crashed at Marienburg. Hauptmann Ernst Schneider, the pilot, was killed. Oberfeldwebel Mittwoch, the radar operator, and Unteroffizier Kaase both baled out safely. Wrk Nr 620583 R4+TS of XI/NJG3 was shot down in air combat and crashed south-west of Paderborn. Oberleutnant Josef Foerster, the pilot, survived. FeldwebelsWerner Moraing, the radar operator, and Heinz Wickardt were both wounded. Squadron Leader Dolly Doleman and Flight Lieutenant Bunny Bunch DFC of 157 Squadron at Swannington received confirmation of a Bf 110 destroyed. Doleman reported:

We were airborne at 1734 hours and before reaching our patrol point obtained a contact to starboard on 090 just by the Rhine. Chased and obtained a visual on exhausts like a Mosquito, but on closing in to identify definitely, aircraft did steep turn to port. Chased on AI on target, which was taking evasive action, and obtained a second contact head-on, which we chased and got a visual on an Me 110 going west. The position and time are somewhat uncertain after the first chase. Minimum range on weapon was poor, but opened fire on a visually estimated range of 500–600 ft [150–180 metres] with a short burst. Strikes and explosion occurred instantaneously and poor Hans went straight down in flames.

Contacts were obtained on bags more, Mosquitoes and the odd bomber throwing out Window, and also on two aircraft (at different times) going north-west at very high speed. Mosquito flat out but contacts drew steadily away. One visual obtained on two pairs of exhausts, one of these at 6,000 ft [1,800 metres] range. Do not know what they were but most certainly they were not Mosquitoes on one engine.

Returned from these chases towards Koblenz, and was followed by some crab in a friendly for about fifteen minutes, in spite of G band, Type F and calling on Command Guard. At 2040 hours set course for base as supplies of chewing gum were running low. Saw one beacon lit up. No contacts obtained and Monica was unserviceable by then anyway. Near Brussels was challenged by an American on Channel C and put navigational lights on as second American was advising our chum to ‘Shoot the basket down’ – only he didn’t say ‘basket’. Landed base with nasty smell of burning in cockpit at 2155 hours. Claim one Me 110 destroyed.’

When the fitting of AI Mk X into 100 Group Mosquitoes began there were not sufficient equipments available for the whole force. Tim Woodman recalls:

Although 85 and 157 Squadrons had been attached to 100 Group since May 1944 with 10 cm AI we considered they were not shooting down the numbers of Hun night-fighters they should have. Our Mk IV radar was completely jammed over Germany. Only half a dozen crews of 85 and 157 were getting scores; two or three doing quite well. I challenged the SASO, Air Commodore Rory Chisholm, to let two of 169 crews have the use of 85 Squadron’s aircraft for five ops each, guaranteeing to shoot down a Hun apiece. We went over to Swannington, myself to fly with Flying Officer Simpkin, an 85 Squadron observer, plus Mellows and Drew from 169. What a delight to have 10 cm radar which could range up to 8 miles [13 km] ahead and no jamming. Mellows proved my challenge by shooting down a Heinkel 219 on the second of his five ops. I failed but nearly got a Ju 88 on my fifth op on 2 January. Chased three Huns but had partial radar failure. Shot at a Ju 88 as it entered cloud. Followed him down through, shooting blind on radar. Clear below cloud. A light on the ground and another pilot said he saw an aircraft crash. Made no claim, however, and climbed back up as unsure of the height of the ground.

This was Tim Woodman’s fifty-first op, and his last with 169 (85). He was assessed as a ‘Bomber Support pilot: exceptional’. He received a commendation from 100 Group’s AOC for meritorious service and was appointed to be operational test pilot at the BSDU at Swanton Morley. There he, Squadron Leader Gledhill, and Flight Lieutenants Arthur Neville and Tommy Carpenter, specialist radar observers, checked out ASH, Perfectos, Piperack, centimetric homer and other electronic devices, and flew eight more operations.

‘Wilde Sau’ fighters

Fw 190A-5/U2 of III. Gruppe des Jagdgeschwaders 300, 1943.

Major Hajo Herrmann had been one of the most famous of the Luftwaffe bomber pilots, with an already incredible record of accomplishment. In early 1943 he was at staff college, fuming at the fact that each night the Reich was being defended by grossly overworked night fighters while hundreds of single-seaters stayed on the ground. He made out to Kammhuber a powerfully argued case for what was virtually a return to the old Helle Nachtjagd system. Herrmann was a man of influence far above his rank, and he explained how readily he could build a potent night force of single-seat fighters that would not be part of the regular day (JG) wings but manned by skilled former bomber pilots, all men used to flying at night and toughened by years of action. In his view such a man flying a 109 or 190 could find enemy bombers at night, especially over the glow of a burning city. Searchlights would be invaluable, and he considered that such experienced pilots ought to be able to destroy every bomber held in a searchlight cone for as long as two minutes. But Kammhuber had patiently constructed a formidable defence based on close GCI Himmelbett control. Fighters ranging uncontrolled among the Flak bursts seemed a terrible idea, even though Herrmann stressed that he wanted to fight not in place of the NJG force but in addition to it.

Getting nowhere with Kammhuber, he did not give up; he just went over his head, straight to Generaloberst Weise. Weise had no vested interest in the Himmelbett system, and felt that every little helped, especially as Herrmann had secured a verbal agreement from the Berlin Flak commander to restrict gunfire to below an altitude of 5 km (16,404 feet), giving the fighters a safe region above; and presumably other Flak divisions might do the same. Weise gave permission for trial operations, and Herrmann gathered his forces to practise what he called the Wilde Sau (wild boar) method. It was intended to be simple and effective. The single-seaters would be standard except for carefully flame-damped exhausts and, in some cases, the fitting of Naxos-Z homers. The main Wilde Sau fighters were the Bf 109G-6/U4N and Fw 190A-5/U2N. The name of the unit was the Kommando Herrmann, and there is no doubt that – quite apart from whatever else it achieved – it exerted an inspiring effect on the regular NJG forces. Herrmann’s ex-bomber pilots were imbued with their leader’s fanaticism. One way in which this was manifest was in their flight planning, which was based on continuing each mission until the tanks had practically run dry. The heavily armed single-seaters carried no external fuel, and endurance was very limited. It may have been deliberate policy to eschew such a nicety as being bothered about the fuel state, because in the course of the winter 1943–4 this became increasingly the general policy among the NJG units as well. Night fighters were now pouring off the assembly lines. So long as the crew got away with it, a dead-stick landing in the dark that destroyed the aircraft was of little consequence. Indeed, the most remarkable factor was the high proportion of pilots who did manage to regain an airfield runway.

The Kommando Herrmann began operations in the Essen/Duisburg area in June 1943, and had their first big chance on 3 July, when the target was Cologne. Undeterred by the fact that he had not notified the local Flak division, Herrmann and eleven of his pilots spent two hours among the intense shell bursts and shot down twelve bombers. Next day Herrmann found himself a national hero; he was instantly summoned to Karinhalle, where Goering authorized him to form a full Wilde Sau wing, designated JG 300 (not, it will be noted, NJG). It put Kammhuber in a difficult position. In the Nazi environment of constant intrigue it might have served him best to decide that, if he couldn’t beat Herrmann, he would join him (by publicly joining in the chorus of adulation). He chose instead to stick to his rigid and narrow doctrine of close radar control, and to call for a further increase in radar production. Little did he know what was just around the corner.

On the afternoon of 24 July 1943 the crews of over 800 RAF bombers were briefed to attack Hamburg. During the briefing they were at last told about Window, and that night the 746 aircraft that bombed also released about 92 million strips of foil. The result was chaos. Ground controllers, night fighters, master searchlights and Flak were thrown into frantic confusion. Only twelve aircraft were lost, and those tended to be either low-flying Stirlings or the highest-flying Lancasters, cruising outside the main Window cloud. Just a few Himmelbett stations and NJG operators managed, partly by luck, to pick off from their crowded and flickering display screens the vital blip that appeared to have a motion different from the rest. But Window made no difference to Herrmann. In subsequent attacks in the ten-day battle that destroyed Hamburg, his single-seaters moved to the area and destroyed more than fifteen bombers, while others fell to NJG crews operating in the same freelance way. Some of the bombers were seen from below, dimly reflecting the light of the burning city. Some were seen from above, silhouetted against the fires, while others were spotted against the numerous searchlight beams pointing out the bombers’ track almost horizontally along the ground. It says much for the courage and tenacity of the German pilots that they were able to inflict many casualties by the same crude methods that had proved so ineffectual over Britain in 1917 and 1940. But one is not comparing like with like: over Germany in 1943 the bombers were bigger and much more numerous, and the amount of illumination on the ground and in the sky was immeasurably greater. Both RAF and Luftwaffe aircrew were hard-put to retain their night-adapted vision in the midst of such an inferno. (It was in theory a court-martial offence for Bomber Command aircrew to look at the glowing target.)

Great as was the confusion caused by Window, it was not the only countermeasure used by the RAF. The awareness, ingenuity and fast action of the TRE, Bomber Support Development Unit and other organizations had already begun a succession of ECM developments that henceforth kept the Luftwaffe perpetually off-balance. One of the first was Mandrel, a powerful airborne radio transmitter that broadcast intense noise interference on the exact frequency of Freya. Defiants, pensioned-off from night fighting, orbited bravely near the outer reaches of the Kammhuber Line with Mandrel instead of armament, taking out a section up to 200 miles wide during major RAF attacks. The heavies themselves were able to carry the jamming across Germany, because a Mandrel transmitter was installed in an average of one bomber in every squadron. To blot out GCI communication between the Himmelbett stations and the NJG fighters most bombers also carried Tinsel. This was simple and effective: the ordinary TR 1154/1155 radio was tuned to the German controller’s wavelength and arranged to broadcast from a microphone bolted inside one of the bomber’s engine nacelles. With Wilde Sau tactics, in a sky full of Window, everything depended on guiding the fighter in among the bombers. The Luftwaffe reacted violently to Mandrel and Tinsel, investigating ways of making the newer Mammut and Wassermann early-warning radars resistant to jamming, and building powerful new HF and VHF radio stations for broadcasting to the night fighters – all of them, not just the single-seaters. The RAF responded with Special Tinsel; monitors in England listened to the GCI traffic and radioed each new frequency to the attacking force, which then jammed it as before. To smother the VHF frequencies, 101 Squadron Lancasters sprouted tall mast aerials to broadcast jamming from ABC – Airborne Cigar – an extremely powerful VHF transmitter manned by a special German-speaking operator who listened to all VHF transmissions until he or she found the GCI frequency.

This was still only the beginning, for there was even more that the RAF could do. For months the possibility of sending the RAF’s own night fighters over Germany had been discussed, but as the majority of possible targets they might find were RAF heavies there were obvious snags. Of course IFF would help, but how could they be made to home on to the Luftwaffe night fighters? The answer was provided by TRE within a week of laying hands on the Lichtenstein-equipped Ju 88 that landed at Aberdeen. They devised Serrate, a small receiver tuned to 490 MHz and displaying any received signals on a cockpit CRT. The observer saw a display like a gappy herringbone; the bones became longer as the range closed, and moved up or down the display. When the fighter was heading straight for the German night fighter the bones were equal in numbers and length on each side of the vertical time-base. Serrate was issued first to 141 Squadron at Wittering, equipped with early Beaufighter VIF aircraft that still used AI.IV radar. Radar was essential, because Serrate did not positively indicate range. Under aggressive Bob Braham No. 141 began a few weeks of startlingly successful intruder operations, mostly over Holland, but after destroying 23 Luftwaffe night fighters the work was halted in September, because there were insufficient customers. By this time No. 141 was achieving a kill every 35 sorties, on average.

I suspect the real problem was bringing Braham’s men and their quarry together. One of the snags was that the rather tired Beaufighters were almost always slower than the German night fighters. Another was that, in a chaotic electronic environment, the Luftwaffe night fighters were operating freelance all over Germany. A leading Experte, Oberst Viktor von Lossberg, had argued for NJG units to infiltrate into the bomber stream before the heavies even reached the coast, and he transferred several squadrons to the Scheldt estuary and north German coast. Under the name Zahme Sau (Tame Boar) he proposed a freelance running fight with the NJG force to partner Herrmann’s Wilde Sau single-seaters which concentrated over the target. An integral part of Zahme Sau was to use the RAF’s own Window to confirm the position and track of the bomber stream. The technique recognized that under the new circumstances the Himmelbett system was useless, except to get the odd straggler that strayed out of Window protection. The answer seemed to be loose control, with fighters flying perhaps right across Germany, instead of staying in a neat little box, and fighting until they ran out of fuel. It was essential for the GCI controller to use every wile and sixth sense to try to divine the bombers’ target in advance, and to note every turn made by the leading sections in the bomber stream. Co-operation with Flak was essential, and one of the recurrent problems was that the free-ranging fighters were often running into intense Flak.

Boston Variants in USSR

The Soviet Union was actually the single largest user of the DB-7/A-20 series, receiving nearly half the total production. The USA reserved no less than 3125 DB-7Bs, DB-73s, DB-7Cs, A-20Bs, A-20Cs, A-20Gs, A-20Hs, and A-20Ks for delivery to the USSR under Lend-Lease. 2901 of these were actually delivered. In addition, substantial numbers of RAF Bostons were diverted to the Soviet Union. Many of the Soviet A-20s were ferried by air to Russia via Iran or Alaska rather than sending them via sea, where a number had been lost aboard ships to German U-boats.

Some of the Soviet A-20s had their rear gun positions replaced by a spherically-shaped Russian-built turret containing a single 12.7-mm Beresin BS machine gun. Soviet A-20s were used in just about every conceivable role, ranging from tactical support of armored units, to low-level strafers, to torpedo bombers. Unfortunately, little is known in the West about the service of Soviet A-20s. When the war ended, they were rapidly phased out of service.

Sources:

American Combat Planes, Third Enlarged Edition, Ray Wagner, Doubleday, 1982.

United States Military Aircraft Since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Smithsonian, 1989.

McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Since 1920, Vol 1, Rene J. Francillon, Naval Institute Press, 1988

A-20 Havoc in Action, Aircraft Number 144, Squadron/Signal Publications, Jim Mesko, 1994.

Famous Bombers of the Second World War, William Green, Doubleday, 1960

Boston, Mitchell and Liberator In Australian Service, Stewart Wilson, Aerospace Publications, 1992.

Jane’s Fighting Aircraft of World War II, Military Press, 1989.

Dog of War, Peter M. Bowers, Wings and Airpower, Vol 26 No 1 (1996)

DB-73

A French variant very similar to BD-7B, which again were diverted to England as Boston Mk IIIs. Many of these were built under licence by Boeing. Events further overtook this shipment after the German attack on the Soviet Union and the Attack on Pearl Harbor, when many Bostons were sent to the USSR and many more retained by the USAAF for its own use. Twenty-two were also sent to the RAAF by the British.

DB-7C

A Netherlands variant intended for service in the Netherlands East Indies, but the Japanese invasion was complete before they were delivered. Part of this order was stranded in Australia on the so-called “lost convoy” and the first 31 Bostons were assembled at Richmond Airbase (NSW) and operated by 22 Squadron during the campaign against Buna/Gona and Lau on New Guinea. The assembley of these 31 was hampered by the manuals and instrument panels being completely in Dutch. The remaining aircraft in this order were sent to the Soviet Union under Lend-Lease which would receive 3,125 examples of different variants of the Douglas DB-7 series.

T30 triple launcher for 4.5 in (114 mm) rockets.

When shipments to the UK finally resumed, they were delivered under the terms of Lend-Lease. These aircraft were actually refitted A-20Cs known as the Boston IIIA.

A-20B

The A-20B received the first really large order from the US Army Air Corps: 999 aircraft. They resembled the DB-7A rather than the DB-7B, with light armor and stepped rather than slanted glazing in the nose. In fact, 665 were exported to the Soviets, so relatively few actually served with the USAAC.

A-20C

The A-20C was an attempt to standardize a common British and American version, produced from 1941. It reverted to the slanting nose-glass and had RF-2600-23 engines, self-sealing fuel tanks and additional armor. They were equipped to carry an external 2,000 lb (907 kg) naval torpedo. A total of 948 were built for Britain and the Soviet Union, but many were retained by the USAAF after Pearl Harbor. The Soviet A-20s were often fitted out with turrets of indigenous design.

A-20G

The A-20G, delivered from February 1943, would be the most produced of all the series – 2850 were built. The glazed nose was replaced by a solid nose containing four 20 mm (.79 in) Hispano cannons and two .50 in M2 Browning machine guns, making the aircraft slightly longer than previous versions. After the first batch of 250, the unreliable cannon were replaced by more machine guns. Some had a wider fuselage to accommodate a power driven gun turret. Many A-20Gs were delivered to the Soviet Union. The powerplant was the 1,600 hp (1,200 kW) R-2600-23. US A-20Gs were used on low-level sorties in the New Guinea theatre.