Grumman/General Dynamics EF-111 Raven

The Grumman EF-111A Raven is a highly specialised electronic warfare conversion of over 40 General Dynamics F-111A strike bombers.

Grumman has considerable experience in designing, integrating and building electronic warfare aircraft, specifically the EA-6A and EA-6B Prowler variants of its Intruder for the US Navy. Thus Grumman was the logical choice as lead contractor to develop surplus F-111 As as electronic warfare aircraft for the US Air Force. Development work of an EW aircraft, or Tactical Jamming System, based on the F-111 airframe began in 1972, and the US Department of Defense awarded Grumman an initial contract to build two prototypes in 1975. An aerodynamic prototype flew in late 1975, while the first production standard prototype flew in May 1977. Extensive testing ensued, and the first production conversion flew on June 26 1981. In all, the USAF took delivery of 42 EF-111 conversions.

The Raven conversion is based on the basic F-111A airframe, featuring a Tactical Jamming System based on the ALQ-99 system in the EA-6B Prowler, but with a higher degree of automation, requiring one Electronic Warfare Operator (rather than three in the Prowler).

The jamming system’s antennae are housed in the System Integrated Receiver pod, the bulbous fairing on top of the fin, plus further receivers on the fin, and the two blade antennae protruding from the lower fuselage. The jamming transmitters are housed in a canoe fairing (with 10 transmitters, five exciters and six receivers) on the aircraft’s underside, occupying the internal weapons bay space. A central computer processes and analyses all data received, either presenting its findings to the EWO, or carrying out automatic jamming.

The primary feature of the Raven was the AN/ALQ-99E tactical jamming System. The receivers were housed in a distinctive pod carried on the top of the vertical stabiliser of the aircraft. The electronic components were installed in the weapons bay and the transmitters in a canoe-shaped fairing on the underside of the aircraft.

The AN/ALQ-99E worked in conjunction with the AN/ALQ-137 threat warning system and the AN/ALR-62 digital radar warning system. The EF-111A had a crew of two, the pilot and the electronic warfare officer

(EWO) known unofficially as a `Crow’.

The EF-111 also differed from the regular F-111 in that it had 90 kilovolt amperes (kVA) generators as opposed to the 60kVA ones of the standard F-111 because the Raven needed so much more power.

The cockpit was arranged so that the EW systems instrumentation and controls were on the EWO’s position on the right, with the flight and navigation instrumentation and controls on the pilot’s side.

The EF-111A retained the F-111’s navigation, Radar Homing and Warning (RHAW) and Terrain Following Radar (TFR) systems, but carried no offensive armament. It relied on its speed and countermeasures systems to keep it out of trouble.

Capt Robert (Z-Bob) Zaehringer came to the EF-111A after flying the Fairchild Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II with the 81st TFW based at RAF Bentwaters, Suffolk. He recalled: “I went from simple, slow and manoeuvrable to fast high-tech. I thought the EF-111 was a great aeroplane. It went straight and fast really well. It was a really heavy aeroplane; 88,000lb fully loaded, 34,000lb of which was fuel. It took a long take-off roll; but when flying low level in Europe it was like driving a Cadillac or a Rolls-Royce. It was a luxury ride. There’s no doubt about it.”

The EWO’s part in the planning process included navigation to the target area and, most importantly, the programming of the AN/ALQ-99E.

Maj Howard recalled: “The AN/ALQ- 99E had ten transmitters of between 1,000 and 3,000 watts. The ALQ-99E jammer was programmed by the EWO, either by an extremely long and time-consuming key entry system using the cockpit keypad [located where the right control stick was on other F-111s], or by a flight-planning device, which could save the programme to a data tape.

“The EWO could programme the system to look for speci­fic threats based on received radar characteristics and position from the Raven, or it could be set to pre-emptively jam targets, received or not. There was a programme for each transmitter. One aspect of the EF-111A/ALQ-99E system that isn’t well known was that the Raven had steerable horn antennas for all frequencies above the VHF band. This feature is why we could ‑ fly parallel to the FEBA and still deliver high power jamming to threat radars. The ALQ-99E would steer the antennas automatically based on how the EWO programmed the system, or the EWO could manually steer them. Most of our antennas have beam widths around 30 to 45°.”

The Raven’s principle mission types were to provide a standoff jamming barrage to disguise incoming air raids, direct escort of strike aircraft, and battlefield jamming support. The EF-111’s success in these roles in the Gulf War staved off premature retirement, although their role was handed over to US Navy EA-6Bs in 1999.


It was in two different theatres, rather than Central Europe, that the 42nd ECS was involved in combat. American tensions with Libya boiled over after a terrorist attack on the La Belle nightclub in West Berlin on April 5, 1986. Two US servicemen and a Turkish woman were killed in the bombing, which America linked to Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. Operation El Dorado Canyon involved USAF aircraft ­ flying from the UK to bomb targets in and around the Libyan capital Tripoli. The US Navy’s Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean supported the operation in addition to carrying out their own raids on targets around the city of Benghazi.

The USAF’s attacking force consisted of F-111Fs from the 48th TFW at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk. They were supported by EF-111As from the 42nd ECS which worked in harmony with the navy’s Grumman EA-6B Prowlers to jam Libyan radar systems. Twenty-four F-111Fs and six EF-111As took off in the late afternoon of April 14 accompanied by a tanker force of McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extenders and Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers. France denied over­flight rights so a large supporting tanker force was required.

After the first refuelling, six F-111F airspares and one EF-111A returned to their bases. The air armada was due to strike Libyan targets at around 2am on April 15. Ten minutes beforehand the EF-111As and the EA-6Bs began jamming Libyan air defence radars and communications. It was not until the ground attack aircraft egressed the area that the EF-111s left their jamming orbits and headed for their tankers.

During Operation Desert Storm, between January and February 1991, the 42nd ECS ­ flew missions from Incirlik in Turkey and Taif air base, Saudi Arabia. The aircraft at Incirlik were already on an exercise at the Turkish base when Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait on August 2. They remained there until Desert Storm started, with six aircraft, taking part in operations. The four EF-111As had deployed to Taif on December 21, 1990.

The EF-111As provided jamming support for a wide range of coalition aircraft in Desert Storm, for example on the first day of the campaign (January 17) three Ravens supported Lockheed F-117A Nighthawks when they attacked targets in Baghdad. The same day one of the unit’s Ravens was credited with the first aerial `kill’ of the campaign by causing a pursuing Iraqi Dassault Mirage F1 to crash. The EF-111A had been one of two supporting 22 F-15E Strike Eagles conducting a raid on an Iraqi airfield when it was attacked by the Mirage. Evading a missile by deploying chaff and ­ flares, the Raven then descended rapidly to low level, and the enemy fighter ­ flew into the desert while trying to follow. During the campaign the EF-111As of the 42nd ECS ­ flew 471 combat missions, totalling 1,859 hours.

One 42nd ECS EF-111A crew was lost when aircraft 66-0023, belonging to the 390th ECS, crashed into the desert just over the Iraqi border in Saudi Arabia. The precise reason for this incident is not known. The

Ravens stayed on at Incirlik after the end of Desert Storm as part of Operation Provide Comfort to assist with the protection and give reassurance to the Kurds of Northern Iraq from persecution by Saddam Hussein’s forces. They returned to the UK in March 1992.


By the early 1990s, the days of the Raven were numbered. The 42nd ECS was reassigned to the 20th TFW on January 25, 1991 and was finally inactivated on July 10, 1992, with its Ravens being returned to the 429th ECS at Cannon AFB, New Mexico. Finally, in May 1998, the EF-111 was retired from the USAF inventory and replaced in the electronic combat role by the EA-6B Prowler in a co-operative venture with the US Navy and the US Marine Corps.

Country of origin: United States of America

Type: Electronic warfare aircraft

Powerplants: Two 82.3kN (18,500lb) with afterburning Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-3 turbofans.


Max speed 2272km/h (1226W), max combat speed 2215km/h (1195kt), average speed in combat area 940km/h (507kt).

Max initial rate of climb 3300ft/min.

Service ceiling 45,000ft.

Combat radius 1495km (807nm).

Endurance unrefuelled over 4hr.

Weights: Operating empty 25,073kg (55,275lb), max takeoff 40,347kg (88,948lb).

Dimensions: Wing span fully extended 19.20m (63ft 0in), wing span fully swept 9.74m (31ft 11 in), length 23.16m (76ft 0in), height 6.10m (20ft 0in). Wing area with wings fully spread 48.8m2 (525.0sq ft), wing area with wings swept 61.6m2 (657.1sq ft).

Accommodation: Pilot and Electronic Warfare Officer side-by-side.

Armament: Usually none, although can carry two AIM-9 Sidewinders for self defence.

Operators: USA


Junkers Ju 86 high-altitude reconnaissance/bomber

The Junkers Ju 86 was a twin-engine medium bomber. Six military variants were produced by Junkers Flugzeug und Motorenwerke AG: the Ju 86 D, E, G, and K bomber series and the Ju 86 P-2 and Ju 86 R-1 reconnaissance variants.

The aircraft was originally designed as a high-speed, ten-passenger civilian plane and medium bomber with a four-man crew based on Luftwaffe specifications. It was in competition for Luftwaffe contracts with the Dornier Do 17 and Heinkel He 111; all three received contracts, but Heinkel dominated the industry with He 111 production ultimately reaching 6,556 aircraft while Junkers built 910 Ju 86s.


Engineers for Junkers Flugzeugwerke AG designed a bomber similar in construction to those built by the company’s competitors and characterized by all-metal construction; a broad, rounded fuselage tapering toward the rear and ending at a twin-stabilizer-and-rudder system; and a low-wing design featuring double flap and aileron configuration. The series went through several cockpit configurations in size, shape, and glazing. The early Ju 86 A and D variants were powered by Junkers Jumo 205C diesel engines; later variants were fitted with BMW 132N radial engines.

Two Ju 86 D airframes were converted in 1939 as prototypes for the Ju 86 P-2 Höhenbomber (high-altitude bomber) and the Ju 86 P-1 Aufklärer (reconnaissance) aircraft. Structural modifications to the Ju 86 P-2 included a smaller two-man pressurized cockpit that reduced overall length by three feet. Three vertical cameras were installed in the bomb bay. Defense armament consisted of a single fixed, rear-firing MG 17 machine gun. The P-2 was powered by two 1,000-horsepower turbocharged Junkers Jumo 207A-1 diesel engines providing a maximum speed of 224 miles per hour (420 kilometers per hour). Approximately 40 P-1s and P-2s were built.

The unarmed Ju 86 R-1 followed with four-bladed propellers powered by 1,100-horsepower 207B-3/V diesel engines with nitrous oxide injection boosters for the superchargers. Wingspan was nearly 21 feet (6.4 meters) longer than that of the P-2. Conflicting information confuses the record on specific performance data of the reconnaissance variants, especially the R-1’s maximum service ceiling; some sources cite the aircraft as capable of reaching more than 49,000 feet (14,935 meters), some 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) higher than the P-2’s rated ceiling.

Combat in the Stratosphere


The Ju 86’s service life as a frontline bomber was rather brief, as it was outperformed by the He 111B, which was approximately 50 miles per hour (80 kilometers per hour) faster. In addition, the diesel engines of the A and D were difficult to maintain in the field. Most Ju 86 bomber variants were taken out of frontline service during 1939. However, demand for high-altitude bombers and recon aircraft remained strong, and the Luftwaffe requested that between 37 and 40 Ju 86 Ds be converted to the Ju 86 P bomber and Ju 86 P-1 photo intelligence platform. The Ju 86 P-2 prototype (W.Nr. 0421) first flew in February 1940. Luftwaffe units equipped with the aircraft began reconnaissance operations that summer. The P-2’s rated service ceiling was 39,300 feet (11,980 meters), but there were instances in which 42,000 feet (12,800 meters) was obtained, an altitude that was beyond the capacity of conventional enemy fighters for some two years. Approximately 16 Ju 86 Ps were upgraded to the Ju 86 R-1 recon variant, with W.Nr. 5132 becoming the first of that type delivered to the Luftwaffe in early 1942.

Aufklärungsgruppe (Aufkl. Gruppe; reconnaissance group) (F)/Ob.d.L. was equipped with the Ju 86 P-2. Some of these aircraft bore Lufthansa markings and began unmolested flights over Britain in the summer of 1940, followed by missions over Soviet territory during the winter of 1940 and 1941 from bases in Poland and Hungary. On 15 April 1941, a Ju 86 P2 suffered engine failure and was intercepted by a Soviet fighter near Rovno, Poland. The Russian plane opened fire, damaging the port engine and forcing the German pilot to make a crash landing. The pilot and observer were caught by Soviet authorities but later escaped and joined advancing German forces at the opening of Operation Barbarossa. Between 1942 and 1943, 1./Versuchsverband Ob.d.L. (Experimental Unit) conducted recon flights over Soviet territory with the Ju 86 P-2; Aufkl. Gruppe (F)/Ob.d.L overflew the Middle East with the Ju 86 R-1.

When Aufkl. Gruppe Ob.d.L. was disbanded, four R-2s were transferred to Crete in June 1942, followed by one more in August, for operations with 2(F)/123. To counter the German reconnaissance plane, the British and Soviets modified Spitfire V fighters by removing most nonessential equipment, including all but one wing gun. According to British records, the first successful interception took place north of Cairo on 24 August 1942, when a Spitfire of No. 103 Maintenance Unit (MU) brought down a Ju 86 from Aufkl. Gruppe 2(F)/123. However, German records show the Ju 86 R-1 returned to base safely, though damaged. One more reconnaissance variant was lost to the RAF on 6 September and one Ju 86 R-1 was recorded by 2(F)/123 as lost due to engine failure on 29 August. Encounters with the high-altitude RAF Spitfires led to the field installation of one rear-firing M 17 machine gun in recon Ju 86s. Still, two more aircraft became operational losses during November and December 1942. The group was down to one Ju 86 R-1 by October 1943 when it completed conversion to the Ju 88 recon variant.


Retired. The Ju 86 P-2 was withdrawn from frontline service by mid-1943; the Ju 86 R-1 was withdrawn in July 1944, as within months of acceptance by Luftwaffe units, it, too, could be intercepted by aircraft such as the Spitfire IX. Junkers exported the Ju 86 K bomber to several countries but none of the reconnaissance variants were sent abroad. The only known survivor is a Ju 86K in the Swedish Air Force Museum.

Specifications (Ju 86 R-2)

General characteristics

    Crew: 2 (pilot and radio operator)

    Length: 16.46 m (54 ft)

    Wingspan: 32 m (105 ft)

    Height: 4.7 m (15 ft 5 in)

    Wing area: 97.5 m² (1,049 ft²)

    Empty weight: 6,758 kg (14,900 lb)

    Max. takeoff weight: 11,530 kg (25,420 lb)

    Powerplant: 2 × Junkers Jumo 207B-3 diesel engines, 746 kW (1,000 hp) each


    Maximum speed: 420 km/h (261 mph) above 9,000 m (29,527 ft)

    Range: 1,580 km (980 mi)

    Service ceiling: 14,400 m (47,244 ft)

    Rate of climb: 4.67 m/s (920 ft/min)



        1 x 7.92 mm (0.31 in) MG 17 machine gun remotely controlled in rear fuselage, firing aft

    Bombs: Up to 1,000 kilograms (2,200 lb) of ordnance in four internal ESAC 250 bays rated at 250 kg (550 lb) each

        4 × 250 kg (551 lb) (1,000 kg/2,204 lb total)

        16 × 50 kg (110 lb) (800 kg/1,764 lb total)

        64 × 10 kg (22 lb) (640 kg/1,410 lb total)

Fighters Over Poland


During the summer of 1939 the Polish air force found itself dealing with repeated violations of its airspace by photoreconnaissance Do17s of the Luftwaffe, and the experience of the P11c, the principal Polish fighter, was not encouraging. Unable to reach either the speeds or the altitudes of the German intruders, the P11c was clearly obsolescent by this time, and the intruders were able to evade the Polish fighters’ attempted interceptions virtually at will. In preparation for the conflict which by this stage was widely anticipated, the Polish Air Force had been reorganized in the spring, with around a third of the available fighters concentrated around Warsaw and the remainder allocated to the various armies. By the end of August most of the operational aircraft had been dispersed to concealed airfields in preparation for the assault, which duly began before dawn on September 1. Because of heavy fog on the opening day of the war, German plans were changed, with the intended mass attack on Warsaw postponed in preference to raids against airfields and other tactical targets. Flying low to locate the airfields, the bombers of Luftflotte 4, allocated to the advance against Kracow in the south, gave the defending fighters a chance at interception.

Built by the Pánstwowe Zaklady Lotnicze (National Aviation Establishment) and first flying in August 1931, the PZL P.11 was the descendant of a series of clean monoplanes designed by Zygmunt Pulawski, incorporating a unique gull wing that was thickest near the point where four faired steel struts buttressed it from the fuselage sides. When the first PZL P.1 flew on September 26, 1929, it thrust Poland to the forefront of progressive fighter design. In 1933 Poland’s air force, the Lotnictwo Wojskowe, became the first in the world to be fully equipped with all-metal monoplane fighters as the improved P.6 and P.7 equipped its eskadry. When the production P.11c, powered by a 645-horsepower Škoda-built Bristol Mercury VI S2 nine-cylinder radial engine, entered service in early 1935, it still rated as a modern fighter, with a maximum speed of 242 miles per hour at 18,045 feet and a potent armament of four 7.7mm KM Wz 33 machine guns, although its open cockpit and fixed landing gear were soon to become outdated. By 1939 the P.11c was clearly obsolete, and efforts were already under way to develop a successor to replace it within the year. Poland did not have a year, however—on September 1, time ran out as German forces surged over her borders.

A morning fog over northern Poland thwarted the first German air operation, as Obltn. Bruno Dilley led three Junkers Ju 87B-1 Stukas of 3rd Staffel, Sturzkampfgeschwader 1 (3./StG 1) into the air at 0426, flew over the border from East Prussia and at 0434—eleven minutes before Germany formally declared war—attacked selected detonation points in an attempt to prevent the destruction of two railroad bridges on the Vistula River. The German attack failed to achieve its goal and the Poles blew up the bridges, denying German forces in East Prussia an easy entry into Tszew (Dirschau). The “fog of war” also handicapped a follow-up attack on Tszew by Dornier Do 17Z bombers of III Gruppe, Kampfgeschwader 3 (III./KG 3).

Weather conditions were better to the west, allowing Luftflotte 4 to dispatch sixty Heinkel He 111s of KG 4, Ju 87Bs of I./StG 2, and Do 17Es of KG 77 on a series of more effective strikes against Polish air bases near Kraków at about 0530, Rakowice field being the hardest hit. Assigned to escort the Heinkels was a squadron equipped with a new fighter of which Luftwaffe Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring expected great things: the Messerschmitt Me 110C-1 strategic fighter, or Zerstörer.

The Me 110 had evolved from a concept that had been explored during World War I but which was only put into successful practice by the French with their Caudron 11.A3, a twin-engine, three-seat reconnaissance plane employed as an escort fighter in 1918. The strategic fighter idea was revived in 1934 with the development of the Polish PZL P.38 Wilk (Wolf), which inspired a variety of similar twin-engine fighter designs in France, Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, Japan, and the United States.

Göring was particularly enthralled by what he dubbed the Kampfzerstörer (battle destroyer), and in 1934 he issued a specification for a heavily armed twin-engine multipurpose fighter capable of escorting bombers, establishing air superiority deep in enemy territory, carrying out ground-attack missions, and intercepting enemy bombers. BFW, Focke-Wulf, and Henschel submitted design proposals; but it was Willy Messerschmitt’s sleek BFW Bf 110, which ignored the bombing requirement to concentrate on speed and cannon armament, that won out over the Fw 57 and the Hs 124. Powered by two Daimler Benz DB 600A engines, the Bf 110V1 was first flown by Rudolf Opitz on May 12, 1936, and attained a speed of 314 miles per hour, but the unreliability of its engines required a change to 680-horsepower Junkers Jumo 210Da engines when the preproduction Bf 110A-0 was completed in August 1937.

Although more sluggish than single-seat fighters, the Bf 110A-0 was fast for a twin-engine plane, and its armament of four nose-mounted 7.9mm MG 17 machine guns and one flexible 7.9mm MG 15 gun aft was considered impressive. Prospective Zerstörer pilots were convinced that tactics could be devised to maximize its strengths and minimize its shortcomings, just as the British had done with the Bristol fighter in 1917. The Bf 110B-1, which entered production in March 1938, was even more promising, with a more aerodynamically refined nose section housing a pair of 20mm MG FF cannon. Later, in 1938, the 1,100-horsepower DB 601A-1 engine was finally certified for installation, and in January 1939 the first Messerschmitt Me 110C-1s, powered by the DB 601A-1s and bearing a new prefix to mark Willy Messerschmitt’s acquisition of BFW, entered service. By September 1, a total of eighty-two Me 110s were operating with I Gruppe (Zerstörer) of Lehrgeschwader (Operational Training Wing) 1 (I(Z)./LG 1) commanded by Maj. Walter Grabmann, and I Gruppe, Zerstörergeschwader 1 (I./ZG 1) under Maj. Joachim-Friedrich Huth, both assigned to Luftflotte 1; and with I./ZG 76 led by Hptmn. Günther Reinecke, attached to Luftflotte 4 along the Polish-Czechoslovakian border.

Intensely trained for their multiple tasks, the Zerstörer pilots, like those flying the Stuka, had been indoctrinated to think of themselves as an elite force. Therefore, the Me 110C-1 crewmen of the 2nd Staffel of ZG 76 were as eager as Göring himself to see their mettle tested as they took off at 0600 hours to escort KG 4’s He 111s. To the Germans’ surprise and disappointment, they encountered no opposition over Kraków.

During the return flight, 2./ZG 76’s Staffelführer, Obltn. Wolfgang Falck, spotted a lone Heinkel He 46 army reconnaissance plane and flew down to offer it protection, only to be fired at by its nervous gunner. Minutes later Falck encountered another plane, which he identified as a PZL P.23 light bomber. “As I tried to gain some height he curved into the sun and as he did I caught a glimpse of red on his wing,” Falck recalled. “As I turned into him I opened fire, but fortunately, my marksmanship was no better than the reconnaissance gunner’s had been, [for] as he banked to get away I saw it was a Stuka. I then realized that what I had thought was a red Polish insignia was actually a red E. I reported this immediately after landing and before long the colored letters on wings of our aircraft were overpainted in black.”

As the Stukas of I./StG 2 were returning from their strike, they passed over Balice airfield just as PZL fighters of the III/2 Dywizjon (121st and 122nd Eskadry), attached to the Army of Kraków, were taking off. By sheer chance one of the Stuka pilots, Ltn. Frank Neubert, found himself in position to get a burst from his wing guns into the leading P.11c’s cockpit, after which he reported that it “suddenly explode[d] in mid-air, bursting apart like a huge fireball—the fragments literally flew around our ears.” Neubert’s Stuka had scored the first air-to-air victory of World War II—and killed the commander of the III/2 Dyon, Kapitan Mieczyslaw Medwecki.

Medwecki’s wingman, Porucznik (Lieutenant) Wladyslaw Gnys of the 121st Eskadra, was more fortunate, managing to evade the bombs and bullets of the oncoming trio of Stukas and get clear of his beleaguered airfield. Minutes later, he encountered two returning Do 17Es of KG 77 over Olkusz and attacked. One went down in the village of Zurada, south of Olkusz, and Gnys was subsequently credited with the first Allied aerial victory of World War II. Shortly afterward, the wreckage of the other Do 17E was also found at Zurada and confirmed as Gnys’s second victory. None of the German bomber crewmen survived.

In spite of the adverse weather that had spoiled its first missions, Luftflotte 1 launched more bombing raids from East Prussia, including a probing attack on Okacie airfield outside Warsaw by sixty He 111Ps of Lehrgeschwader 1, escorted by Me 110Cs of the wing’s Zerstörergruppe, I(Z)./LG 1. As the Heinkels neared their target, the Polish Brygada Poscigowa (Pursuit Brigade), on alert since dawn, was warned of the Germans’ approach by its observation posts, and at 0650 it ordered thirty PZL P.11s and P.7s of the 111th, 112th, 113th, and 114th Eskadry up from their airfields at Zielonka and Poniatów to intercept. Minutes later, the Poles encountered scattered German formations and waded in, with Kapral (Corporal) Andrzej Niewiara and Porucznik Aleksander Gabszewicz sharing in the destruction of the first He 111. Over the next hour, the air battle took the form of numerous individual duels, during which Kapitan Adam Kowalczyk, commander of the IV/I Dyon, downed a Heinkel, and Porucznik Hieronim Dudwal of the 113th Eskadra destroyed another.

The Me 110s pounced on the PZLs, but the Zerstörer pilots found their nimble quarry to be most elusive targets. Podporucznik (Sub-Lieutenant) Jerzy Palusinski of the 111th Eskadra turned the tables on one of the Zerstörer and sent it out of the fight in a damaged state. Its wounded pilot was Maj. Walter Grabmann, a Spanish Civil War veteran of the Legion Condor and now commander of I(Z)./LG 1.

In all, the Poles claimed six He 111s, while the German bombers were credited with four PZLs; their gunners had in fact brought down three. Once again, Göring’s vaunted Zerstörer crews returned to base empty handed. When the Germans sent reconnaissance planes over the area to assess the bombing results at about noon, Porucznik Stefan Okrzeja of the 112th Eskadra caught one of the Do 17s and shot it down over the Warsaw suburbs.

As the weather improved, Luftflotte 1 struck again in even greater force, as two hundred bombers attacked Okecie, Mokotow, Goclaw, and bridges across the Vistula. They were met by thirty P. 11s and P.7s of the Brygada Poscigowa, which claimed two He 111Ps of KG 27, a Do 17, and a Ju 87 before the escorting Me 110Cs of I(Z)./LG 1 descended on them. This time the Zerstörer finally drew blood, claiming five PZLs without loss, and indeed the Poles lost five of their elderly PZL P.7s. One Me 110 victim, Porucznik Feliks Szyszka, reported that the Germans attacked him as he parachuted to earth, putting seventeen bullets in his leg. The Me 110s also damaged the P.11c of Hieronim Dudwal, who landed with the fuselage just aft of the cockpit badly shot-up; two bare metal plates were crudely fixed in place over the damaged area, but the plane was still not fully airworthy when the Germans overran his airfield.

For most of September 1, the Me 109s were confined to a defensive posture, save for a few strafing sorties. For the second bombing mission in the Warsaw area, however, I. Gruppe of Jagdgeschwader 21 was ordered to take off from its forward field at Arys-Rostken and escort KG 27’s He 111s. The Me 109s rendezvoused with the bombers, only to be fired upon by their gunners. When the Gruppenkommandeur (Group Commander), Hptmn. Martin Mettig, tried to fire a recognition flare, it malfunctioned, filling his cockpit with red and white fragments. Mettig, blinded and wounded in the hand and thigh, jettisoned his canopy—which broke off his radio mast—and turned back. Most of Mettig’s pilots saw him head for base, and being unable to communicate with him by radio, they followed him. Only upon landing did they learn what had happened.

Not all of the Gruppe had seen Mettig, however, and those pilots who continued the mission were rewarded by encountering a group of PZL fighters. In the wild dogfight that followed, the Germans claimed four of the P.11cs, including the first victory of an eventual ninety-eight by Ltn. Gustav Rödel. The Poles claimed five Me 109s, including one each credited to Podporuczniki Jerzy Radomski and Jan Borowski of the 113th Eskadra, and one to Kapitan Gustaw Sidorowicz of the 111th. Podpolkovnik (Lieutenant Colonel) Leopold Pamula, already credited with an He 111P and a Ju 87B earlier that day, rammed one of the German fighters and then bailed out safely. Porucznik Gabszewicz was shot down by an Me 109 and, like Szyszka, subsequently claimed that the Germans had fired at him while he parachuted down.

In addition to challenging the waves of German bombers and escorts that would ultimately overwhelm them, PZL pilots took a toll on the army cooperation aircraft which were performing reconnaissance missions for the advancing panzer divisions. Podporucznik Waclaw S. Król of the 121st Eskadra downed a Henschel Hs 126, while Kapral Jan Kremski shared in the destruction of another. After taking off on their second mission of the day to intercept a reported Do 17 formation at 1521 hours, Porucznik Marian Pisarek and Kapral Benedykt Mielczynski of the 141st Eskadra spotted an Hs 126 of 3.(H)/21 (3 Staffel (Heeres), Aufklärungsgruppe 21, or 3rd Squadron Army of Reconnaissance Group 21), attacked it and sent it crashing to earth near Torun. The pilot, Obltn. Friedrich Wimmer, and his observer, Obltn. Siegfried von Heymann, were both wounded. Shortly afterward, two more P.11cs from their sister unit, the 142nd Eskadra, flew over the downed Henschel, and one of the Poles, Porucznik Stanislaw Skalski, later described what occurred when he landed nearby to recover maps and other information from the cockpit:

The pilot, Friedrich Wimmer, was slightly wounded in the leg; his navigator, whose name was von Heymann, had nine bullets in his back and shoulder. I did what I could for them and stayed with them until an ambulance came. The prisoners were transferred to Warsaw. After the Soviet Union invaded Poland on 17 September, they became prisoners of the Russians, but were released at the end of October. When they were interrogated by the highest Luftwaffe authorities, Wimmer told them of my generosity. The Germans, who later learned that I had gone to Britain to fight on, said if I should become their prisoner, I would be honored very highly.

The observer, von Heymann, died in 1988. . . . I tried to get in touch with the pilot for three years. The British air attaché and Luftwaffe archives helped me to contact Colonel Wimmer. I went to Bonn to meet him in March 1990, and the German ace Adolf Galland also came over at that time. In 1993, Polish television went with me, to make a film with Wimmer. Reporters asked why I did it—why I landed and helped the enemy, exposing my fighter and myself to enemy air attack. I was young, stupid and lucky. That is always my answer!

I came back late in the afternoon and I had to land on the road close to a forest—Torun aerodrome had been bombed already. I then gave [General Dywizji Wladyslaw] Bortnowski, commander of the Armia Pomorze, the maps that I had captured from the Hs 126, which gave all the dispositions and attack plans of German divisions in Pomerania. He kissed me and said this was all the information his army needed.

On the following day, Skalski came head on at what he described as a “cannon-armed” Do 17 in a circling formation of nine and shot it down, then claimed a second bomber minutes later. Dorniers were not armed with cannon; but Me 110s were, and Skalski subsequently recalled that the Poles were completely unfamiliar with the Zerstörer—nobody had seen them in action until September 1. Moreover, I/ZG 1 lost a Bf 110B-1, its pilot, Hptmn. Adolf Gebhard Egon Claus-Wendelin, Freiherr von Müllenheim-Rechberg, commander of the 3rd Staffel, being killed, while his radioman, Gefreiter Hans Weng, bailed out and was taken prisoner of war (POW). Skalski’s “double” was the first of four and one shared victories with which he would be officially credited during the Polish campaign. Later, flying with the Royal Air Force, he would bring his total up to 18 1/2, making him the highest-scoring Polish ace of the war.

Although Poland was overrun in three weeks, its air force occasionally put up a magnificent fight, though its efforts were rendered inconsistent by poor communications and coordination. Polish fighters were credited with 129 aerial victories for the loss of 114 planes, and many of the pilots who scored them would fight on in the French Armée de l’Air and the Royal Air Force.

The fall of Poland terminated the career of the PZL P.11c, but only marked the beginning for the Me 110, which, after a further run of success, finally met its nemesis in the form of the Hurricane and Spitfire. Relegated to fighter-bomber and photoreconnaissance duties after the Battle of Britain, the Zerstörer would undergo a remarkably productive revival as a night fighter.

Poland’s main front-line fighter in September 1939 was the PZL P11c. Obsolete in comparison with the German Me109s, it nevertheless gave a good account of itself before Poland fell.

Poland was first in the firing line. Early in the morning of September 1 a force of about 120 Heinkel He111s and Dornier Do17s, escorted by Messerschmitt Bf110 fighters, were reported by Polish ground observation posts to be heading for Warsaw. The Luftwaffe had made giant strides since the first German pilots went into action with the Condor Legion in 1936. It now possessed 3652 first-line aircraft comprising 1180 medium twin-engined bombers (mostly He111s and Do17s), 366 Stuka dive bombers, 1179 Me109 and Me110 fighters, 887 reconnaissance aircraft and 40 obsolescent ground-attack Hs123s. Transport was provided by 552 Ju52s, and there were 240 naval aircraft of various types. For the Polish campaign the Luftwaffe deployed 1581 of these aircraft.

German intelligence had estimated the front¬ line strength of the Polish air force at some 900 aircraft. In fact on 1 September the figure was nearer 300, made up of 36 P37 `Los’ twin-engined medium bombers, 118 single-engined `Karas’ P23 light reconnaissance bombers and 159 fighters of the PZL P11c and P7 types. Light gull-winged monoplanes, with open cockpits and fixed undercarriages, they had been an advanced design in the early 1930s but were now hopelessly outclassed by the Luftwaffe’s modern aircraft. Neither the PZL P11c nor the P7 could get high enough to intercept the high-flying Do17 reconnaissance aircraft.

On the opening day of hostilities, however, the German attack came in at low level, aiming to knock out the Polish air force on the ground. The Luftwaffe failed to achieve its objective as during the last days of peace the Polish air force had dispersed its aircraft to a number of secret airfields. On the morning of September 1 not one Polish squadron remained at its pre-war base. As a result only 28 obsolete or unserviceable machines were destroyed at Rakowice air base.

The first air combat of WW2 took place during this action when Captain M Medwecki, commanding officer of III/2 Fighter `Dyon’ was shot down by a Ju87 soon after he took off. Another pilot, Lieutenant W Gnys attacked the Ju87 and later shot down two low-flying Dornier 17s – the first Polish kills. Warsaw too was attacked by Luftwaffe bombers and the first to be shot down, a low-flying He111, was destroyed by Lieutenant A Gabszewicz.

A more spectacular victory occurred later that day during a running air battle above Warsaw. Second Lieutenant Leopold Pamula shot down a He111 and a Ju87 but ran out of ammunition when the fighter escort came down on the P11s. Pamula rammed one Me109 before parachuting to safety. In the same battle Aleksander Gabszewicz had his P11 set on fire and had to bale out. On his way to the ground he was shot at by a fighter, an event experienced by other parachuting Polish pilots as the battles continued.

Despite the inferiority of the Polish fighters, they achieved at least a dozen victories on the first day of WW2, although they lost 10 fighters with another 24 damaged. This gave the Polish pilots some confidence. Even with their outmoded aircraft they seemed able to cope with the Germans. Their pilots found that one good method of attack was to dive head-on where a tail-chase was more or less out of the question. This collision-course tactic unnerved the German bomber pilots and was most effective in breaking up formations and inflicting damage on the Heinkels and Dorniers. The Polish fighter pilots unexpectedly found the twin-engined Me110s more dangerous than the single-engined Me109s. The first German kill of WW2 was in fact scored by a 110 pilot, Hauptmann Schlief, who shot down a P11 on September 1.

By mid-September German pincers from north and south had closed around Warsaw. Then on September 17 the Red Army intervened from the east, destroying the last Polish hopes. Warsaw surrendered on September 27 and the last organized resistance collapsed in the first week of October. Despite the obsolescent equipment of the Polish air force, and its inferiority in numbers, it had inflicted heavy damage on the Luftwaffe, which had lost 285 aircraft with almost the same number so badly damaged as to be virtually noneffective. Polish fighter pilots were officially credited with 126 victories, which indicates modest claiming by them, for Polish anti-aircraft fire claimed less than 90, leaving an unclaimed deficit of some 70 aircraft. The last German aircraft shot down by a Pole in this campaign was claimed on September 17 by Second Lieutenant Tadeusz Koc. The highest-scoring Polish pilot was Second Lieutenant Stanislaw Skalski, with 6 1/2 kills. The highest-scoring German, and Germany’s first `ace’ of WW2, was Hauptmann Hannes Gentzen, who scored seven victories in a Me109D.

A total of 327 aircraft were lost by the Polish Air Force. Of these 260 were due to either direct or indirect enemy action with around 70 in air-to-air fighting; 234 aircrew were either killed or reported missing in action. One of the chief lessons learned by the German bomber force operating over Poland (and as the RAF bombers were soon to discover) was that they were susceptible to fighter attack. The immediate requirement, therefore, was for the bombers to have heavier defensive armament and additional armor protection for their crews.


When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Stanislaw F Skalski was in his early 20s. and a regular Polish Air Force officer, flying PZL fighters with 142 Squadron. On the second day of the war, he destroyed two Dornier 17s, and by the end of the brief Polish campaign was the top-scoring fighter pilot with 6 1/2 victories. He escaped to England, and joined 501 Squadron RAF in the Battle of Britain, scoring four victories. In June 1941 he was made a flight commander in 306 Polish Squadron and shot down five more German aircraft. He received the British DFC, having already won the Polish Silver Cross and Cross of Valor. He then had a spell as an instructor before commanding 317 Squadron in April 1942, winning a bar to his DFC.

In 1943 he led a group of experienced Polish fighter pilots into the Middle East, flying Spitfire IXs attached to 145 RAF Squadron. This ‘Fighting Team’ or ‘Skalski’s Flying Circus’ as it was also called, operated during the final stages of the Tunisian campaign, Skalski adding three more personal kills. He was then given command of 601 Squadron – the first Pole to command an RAF fighter squadron. He received a second bar to his DFC as well as the Polish Gold Cross before returning to England.

As a Wing Commander in April 1944 he commanded 133 (Polish No 2) Fighter Wing, flying Mustangs, raising his score to 19 victories when he forced two FW190s to collide on June 24. He ended the war as a gunnery instructor, decorated additionally with the British DSO. Returning to Poland after the war he was imprisoned by the Russians; and, following his release, drove a taxi in Warsaw.

Hawker Hunter

The Hawker Hunter is a transonic single seat fighter / ground attack monoplane, with swept-back wings, variable incidence tail plane, powered flying controls and cabin pressurisation. It is powered by a fifteen stage axial flow Rolls-Royce Avon MK 207 turbine engine developing 10,150 lbs thrust. The fuselage is of monocoque construction and manufactured in three main sections. The swept-back wings are two spar stressed skin structures covered with heavy gauge skin thereby ensuring a perfectly smooth finish and providing for the necessary stiffness of the internal structure.

Originally designed as an air superiority fighter in the 1950’s, the Hunter went on to become the most successful post-war British Military aircraft with almost 2000 being produced. Of these, about one third were later rebuilt by the manufacturer to zero time standard, the last leaving the Dunsfold factory in 1976. Aided by its high power to weight ratio, inherent strength and adaptability, the design evolved from the pure fighter in to a superlative ground attack aircraft, the pinnacle of the design being the Swiss MK58 Hunters. This version was continuously updated to accommodate the latest weapons systems prior to being prematurely retired in the mid 1990’s as a direct result of the end of the Cold War.

In 1944, Sir Sydney Camm, Chief Designer at Hawker Siddeley, showed the Royal Air Force the design for the P.1040, a fast interceptor fighter. Little interest was shown in it at first, but a year later the Royal Navy chose the aircraft as a carrier-capable fighter designated Sea Hawk. Almost at the same time, Hawker modified the design from P.1040 to the swept-wing P.1052, which flew for the first time in November 1948. The new P.1081 design was based on it. Resulting from the experienced gained and the flying qualities of the P.1052 and P.1081, Hawker Siddeley developed the P.1067 as an interceptor fighter to combat Soviet bomber formations. The main- and tail wings had a sweep of 40º and at first sight the aircraft looked like a radically altered version of the Sea Hawk. The shooting armament was a 30-mm Aden cannon on floor-mount. The P.1067 took off on 20 July 1951 for the maiden flight piloted by Neville Duke, and on 7 September 1953 the same test pilot flew a P.1067 modified into the Hunter F.3 at 1171 km/hr over a measured 3-kilometre stretch for the absolute speed record. Amongst other achievements the Hunter went through the sound barrier in a dive on several occasions including at air shows.

The RAF ordered two different versions. The F.1 with an Avon 203 engine (3300 kg thrust) accepted into 43 Squadron in July 1954 and the F.2 fitted with the Armstrong-Siddeley Sapphiere (3,500 kg thrust) which joined 257 Squadron in September the same year. Neither remained in service for long, for very soon after acceptance the first weaknesses were seen, for example the F.1 engine compressor tended to stall at high altitude when the cannonn was fired. Fuel consumption of both versions was extremely high and the 1502-litre tank capacity inadequate, which naturally limited the flight endurance. These problems were not cured until the introduction of the F.4 when the wing form was modified and external disposable fuel tanks fitted. The tank capacity was now between 1,884 litres with a further 910 litres in two additional tanks.The shape of the Hunter was aerodynamically favourable so that the aircraft soon became one of the most interesting fighters of its time. The main series model for the RAF was the F.6 with Rolls-Royce Avon 203 engines produced as from 1955. By 1958 all operational squadrons of the Royal Air Force had been converted to this type. Later the F.6 received the improved Avon 207 engine.

The Hunter was one of the great British postwar export successes and was used operationally by over 20 countries: Belgium and the Netherlands even built it under licence. Numerous acrobatic teams also flew the Hunter later, amongst others the legendary British “Blue Diamonds” and the Swiss “Patrouille Suisse”. Even today fifty examples of this elegant machine can be found in private hands, mainly in Australia, Great Britain and the United States.

The Hunter was the most successful of the British postwar fighters, and is remembered as a delightful, capable airplane in every respect. The prototype was first flown on 20 July 1951, and the single-seat Hunter F1 entered service with the Royal Air Force in July 1954. A two-seat variant, the Hunter T7, entered service in 1958. Deliveries of the Hunter continued until 1966, and during its life, the airplane was continually modified and improved, resulting in over 25 variants, including export versions for over 22 foreign nations. All versions were supersonic, and most variants featured increases in armament, power and fuel quantity.

Major variants included the F4 (Avon Mk 115 engine, increased fuel capacity from earlier versions); F5 (Sapphire Mk 101 engine); F6 (Avon Mk 203 engine, increased fuel capacity); T8 (Two-seat Navy version); FR10 (RAF reconnaissance version); GA11 (Royal Navy single-seat attack version; and FGA9 (Greater weapons capacity, increased thrust, strengthened fuselage for ground-attack role.)

Until just a few years ago, almost 20% of all Hunters built were still in service (mainly with the Swiss Air Force, RAF and Royal Navy), but as of 1998, only Zimbabwe’s Hunters are still in front-line service. At least 30 are still airworthy in private hands.

Specifications (Hunter F6):

        Engine: One 10,150-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Avon Mk207 turbojet

        Weight: Empty 14,120 lbs., Max Takeoff 23,800 lbs.

        Wing Span: 33ft. 8in.

        Length: 45ft. 10.5in.

        Height: 13ft. 2in.


            Maximum Speed at Sea Level: 650 mph

            Ceiling: 51,500 ft.

            Range: 1,400 miles in ferry configuration (Combat radius 230 miles)


            Four 30mm Aden cannon

            Four underwing pylons for 500 or 1000-pound bombs, 24 76-mm rockets, or fuel tanks.

Number Built:  1,985


First off, only for a very short time in mid- to late-1940, was the name ‘Apache’ applied to the Mustang – the A-36 specifically. In fact, at the time, the A-36 was not even on the drawing boards. The name was used, however, in several magazine advertisements in the late 1940s including Popular Science that showed the NA-73 or Mustang Mark I as it was named by the British Purchasing Commission. Moreover, except for an attempt by MTO A-36A pilot, Lt. Robert B. Walsh, around mid-1943 to name the A-36 the ‘Invader’ to distinguish it from P-51s, P-51As, F-6As and F-6Bs, was the name ‘Invader’ was not even considered. Officially, but temporarily, the name ‘Invader’ was seen in an official government document. In the Aircraft Recognition Guide issued by the US War Department on 15 October 1943, under the NAA P-51 Mustang heading, it reads: ‘Dive Bomber version [of the P-51] known as A-36 Invader.’ Nevertheless, the name ‘Invader’ was never officially adopted for the A-36A. Finally, the name ‘Invader’ was officially assigned by the Douglas A-26 series of attack aircraft. Thus, as it stands, the A-36 was never named ‘Apache’ or ‘Invader’ and it remains a Mustang – period.

On 5 June 1944, a flight of four A-36As led by USAAF First Lieutenant Ross C. Watson flew through a heavy overcast on the approach to their target: a large, well-defended rail depot and ammunition storage facility at Orte, Italy. During this well-planned attack, this quartet of A-36As scored several hits while under intense anti-aircraft artillery fire. Watson’s A-36A was hit and damaged by ground fire. However, under heavy ground fire, Lt. Watson continued his attack and was able to destroy the ammo dump before he made an emergency landing at an advanced Allied airfield. This mission alone dispelled any doubt of the true effectiveness of the A-36A as a dedicated light attack dive bomber.

The North American A-36A Mustang was nearly identical to the RAF Mustang Mark I, but was equipped with four wing-mounted Browning M2 .50 calibre machine guns, two nose-mounted .50 calibre machine guns, wing-mounted dive brakes and two under-wing bomb racks to carry 500 lb bombs for its intended use as a low-altitude dive bomber. They had the same fuel, water and fluids capacities, radio equipment, measurements and so on, but were powered by the single-stage supercharged 1,325 hp water-cooled Allison V-1710-87 (F21R) engine. The Mustang Mark I used the 1,150 hp V-1710-39 engine.

There was a growing need for suitable light attack aircraft in the early months of 1942. NAA immediately offered a modified version of its P-51 Mustang – its proposed NA-97 – to address at least part of this urgent requirement. With USAAF approval to proceed with its NA-97 proposal, NAA initiated work on 16 April 1942. The design, most similar to the NA-73 Mustang I, was given the designation A-36A and it was to be a low-level dive bomber with speed brakes. On 7 August 1942, the War Department approved USAAF contract AC-27396 for the manufacture of 500 North American A-36A-1-NA Mustang airplanes at NAA’s Inglewood, California, facility. The premier A-36A (42-83663) was completed and rolled out in September 1942. Piloted by Bob Chilton, this new version of the Mustang made a successful first flight on 27 September from Mines Field next to the Inglewood factory where it and all subsequent A-36s were manufactured.

After contractor flight testing had been completed, two NA-73 (Mustang Mark I) airplanes were delivered to the USAAF as XP-51 prototypes for evaluation at Wright Army Airfield in Dayton, Ohio. They came with USAAF markings and the serial numbers 41-038 and 41-039. The first XP-51, which was first flown on 20 May 1941 by Bob Chilton, arrived at Wright AAF some three months later on 24 August 1941. Since this airplane was not a ‘sibling’ of the USAAF, it languished on a ramp for several weeks before it was finally evaluated by several USAAF test pilots including Major Benjamin S. ‘Ben’ Kelsey who became one of its staunchest supporters. Kelsey, chief of the Pursuit Branch in the Production Engineering Section of Wright AAF, had high praise for the XP-51 and became instrumental in the A-36A production programme along with his boss Brigadier General Oliver P. Echols. It was these two officers that were wholly responsible for getting the contract to NAA for the production of 500 A-36A airplanes for the USAAF.

After the USAAF had finished its evaluation of the first XP-51 at Wright AAF to which it had first arrived on 16 December 1941, it was flown to Langley Army Airfield in Hampton, Virginia, for National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) flight test evaluations of its laminar flow wing in particular, its performance and aerodynamics in general. It arrived there on 1 March 1942 and the first test flight was made that same day. The last test flight was flown on 15 May 1943 totalling twenty-two flights and about twenty-four hours’ flying time. Thirteen months later, NACA published a Wartime Report entitled Flying Qualities and Stalling Characteristics of North American XP-51 Airplane (A.A.F. No. 41-38) in April 1943, two months and several flights before flight testing had finished.


The 27th Fighter-Bomber Group of the 12th Air Force was operating in the European-African-Middle Eastern (EAME) Theatre of Operations and was based in North Africa at Ras el Ma Airfield, French Morocco, when it first received its A-36As in April 1943. It subsequently moved to Korba, Tunisia, and from there it flew its first combat mission on 6 June 1943.

The 86th Fighter-Bomber Group (Dive) was the second unit to receive combat-ready A-36As in North Africa during May 1943, but it was the first outfit to get pilots that had been specifically trained and qualified to fly combat missions on the A-36A in the EAME Theatre. The A-36As were at first based at Oran Es Sénia Airport in Oran, Algeria, but moved to Marnia Airfield in French Morocco when it first flew its initial combat mission on 6 June 1943.

The 311th Fighter Group (Dive) and its 382nd Bombardment Squadron (Dive) of the 10th Air Force arrived from the US via Australia with its A-36As at Nawadih Airfield in India beginning in July and became operational on 14 September 1943. It flew its first combat mission on 16 October against enemy aircraft near Sumprabum, Burma, and three of its A-36As failed to return. This unit transferred from Nawadih Airfield to Dinjan Airfield, India, on 19 October 1943 for continued operations in the CBI. The 383rd 384th and 385th Bombardment Squadrons (Dive) likewise became part of the 311BG (Dive).

For the most part, the 311BG (Dive) performed ground attack missions over northern Burma and fighter escort missions throughout the theatre. It also helped protect transport aircraft flying ‘The Hump’ air route to China. In July and August 1944, after moving once more to Tingkawk Sakan Airfield in Burma, it helped to support numerous troop movements including the famed Merrill’s Marauders. Its final move was to the 14th Air Force in China where it remained until the end of the war. It was based at Pungchacheng Airfield from 28 August 1944 to 14 December 1945. At the end of the war, it helped ferry P-51s to China to equip the Chinese Air Force before it returned to the US in December 1945.

The 311BG (Dive) was the third and last group to receive the A-36A light attack dive bombers during the Second World War.

One A-36A-1-NA (42-83685), the 26th one built, was turned over to the RAF in March 1943 to be evaluated by the A&AEE at Boscombe Down. It was designated Mustang Mark I (Dive Bomber) and issued RAF serial number EW998. This evaluation process found that it was no better than the Hawker Typhoon series of fighter-bombers that served the RAF and no orders were forthcoming.

A-36A Specifications

Length: 32 ft 3 in.

Height: 12 ft 2 in.

Wing span: 37 ft ¼ in.

Wing area: 233 sq ft

Empty weight: 6,087 lb

Gross weight: 10,700 lb

Propulsive system: one 1,325-hp Allison V-1710-87 (F21R) Vee

Propeller: three-bladed constant speed electrically pitch actuated 10-ft-6-in.-diameter Curtiss Electric Propeller

Maximum speed: 366 mph at 5,775 ft (level flight)

Armament: six Browning M2 .50 calibre machine guns – two nose-mounted, four wing-mounted; two 300 or 500 lb bombs

A-36A Combat Units in the Second World War

27th Bomb Group (Light); 16th Bomb Squadron (Light); 17BS (L); 91BS (L); 86BG (L); 309BS (L); 310BS (L); 312BS (L); 86th Fighter Group; 312th Fighter Squadron; 523FS; 525FS; 526FS; 527FS;

86th Fighter-Bomber Group; 522nd Fighter-Bomber Squadron; 523FBS; 527FBS; 111th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron; 311FBG; 528FBS; 529FBS

86th Fighter Group

Ju-52 ”Kaleva”

Kaleva, registered OH-ALL, was a civilian Junkers Ju 52 passenger and transport plane, belonging to the Finnish carrier Aero O/Y. The aircraft was shot down by two Soviet Ilyushin DB-3 bombers during peacetime between the Soviet Union and Finland on June 14, 1940, while en route from Tallinn to Helsinki, killing all 9 on board.

A few minutes after taking off in Tallinn, Kaleva was joined at close range by two Soviet DB-3T torpedo bombers. The bombers opened fire with their machine guns and badly damaged Kaleva, making it crash into the water a few kilometers northeast of Keri Lighthouse. All nine passengers and crew members on board were killed.

Estonian fishermen had witnessed the attack and crash of the plane. Shortly after the crash the Soviet submarine Shch-301 surfaced and inspected the fishing boats. After confiscating items taken from the wreck by the fishermen, the Soviets picked up diplomatic mail from the wreck and the sea. The future top-scoring Finnish pilot Ilmari Juutilainen was sent to inspect the crash site. After the Soviets spotted the Finnish airplane, the submarine hid its flag.

At the time of the incident Finland was not at war with the Soviet Union. The attack was probably part of the Soviet preparations for the full-scale occupation of Estonia, which took place two days after the Kaleva incident, on 16 June 1940. The occupation was preceded for several days by a Soviet air and naval blockade, which included preventing diplomatic mail from being sent abroad from Estonia. The passengers on the last flight of Kaleva included two German businessmen, two French embassy couriers, one Swede, an American courier, and an Estonian woman. The French couriers had over 120 kilograms of diplomatic mail in the plane. The American courier was reportedly transporting the U.S. military codes to safety from Estonia.

The plane was piloted by Captain Bo von Willebrand, and Tauno Launis was the wireless operator. The American victim was Henry W. Antheil, Jr., younger brother of noted composer George Antheil. Antheil worked as a clerk at the U.S. Legation in Helsinki. In 2007, he was honored for his service in a ceremony at the U.S. Department of State. His name was inscribed on the U.S. Department of State’s Wall of Honor.

The Government of Finland did not send any complaints or questions to the Soviets out of fear of hostile Soviet response, and the true reason for the crash was hidden from the public. This was due to the heavy pressure put upon Finland during the Interim Peace by the Soviets. After the outbreak of the Continuation War, the incident was described in detail by the government.

G. Golderg’s report

The commander of Shch-301 G. Golderg’s report on the incident held in the Russian State Naval Archives starts with the notice of a Finnish airplane on its way from Tallinn to Helsinki on June 14, 1940 at 15.05 PM. According to the report, the airplane was chased by two Soviet Tupolev SB high-speed bombers. At 15.06 PM, the Finnish airplane caught fire and fell into the sea, 5.8 miles from the submarine. At 15.09 PM the submarine took course to the crash site and made it to the location by 15.47 PM. The submarine was met by 3 Estonian fishing boats near the detritus of the airplane. The Estonian fishermen were searched by lieutenants Aladzhanov, Krainov and Shevtshenko. All valuables found from the fishermen and in the sea were brought on board of the submarine: the items included about 100 kg. of diplomatic post, valuables and foreign currencies. At 15.58 a Finnish fighter plane was noticed with the course towards the submarine. The airplane made 3 circles above the site and then flew towards Helsinki. The exact coordinates of the crash site were determined to be at 59°47′1″N 25°01′6″E.

A. Matvejev’s report

Captain A. Matvejev’s report states that on board the Shch-301 noticed an airplane crash on June 14, 1940 at 15.06 on 5.8 miles distance from the submarine. At the crash site 3 Estonian fishing boats and the remains of the airplane were found. At 15.58 PM a Finnish fighter plane made 3 circles above the crash site. By 16.10 PM all items found from the sea and from the hands of the fishermen were brought on board the submarine. The items included about 100 kg of diplomatic mail, and valuables and currencies including: 1) 2 golden medals, 2) 2000 Finnish marks, 3) 10.000 Romanian leus, 4)13.500 French francs, 5) 100 Yugoslav dinars, 6) 90 Italian liras, 7) 75 US dollars, 8) 521 Soviet rubles, 9) 10 Estonian kroons. All items were put on board of patrol boat “Sneg” and sent to Kronstadt.

Vickers-Armstrongs 447 Windsor

Designed to provide better performance than the Lancaster in the long-range bomber role, the Vickers Windsor had many interesting features, but suffered from protracted development and was cancelled in 1945.

The B. 3/42 resulted from the merger of the B. 5/41 and the twin-engine Wellington replacement project. Vickers declared that it could not do the four-engine job at the required weight, so the weight limitations were dropped and it then became possible to combine the two designs. It was also possible to ‘lift’ most of Vickers’ work on the 8.5/41 into the B. 3/42 since the new design had the same engines and wings but a different fuselage (for example a great deal of the calculations could be applied); however, all of the work on the pressure cabin was wasted. Vickers called the project its Type 447 and, for stressing purposes, B. 3/42 requested a maximum speed of 350mph (563km/h) EAS.

The two prototypes, which retained the original serials, were to be joined by two more, MP829 and MP832 ordered on 4th July 1942 (in fact these were never built). The B. 3/42 Mock-Up Conference took place on 29th and 30th October, another prototype, NK136, was ordered on 10th December and on 1st January 1943 J E Serby notified Vickers of the extension of the contract to include the prototypes plus two pre-production aircraft (NN670 and NN673). This was followed on 21st April by a production order for 300 aeroplanes to be built at Weybridge and in the autumn the new bomber was called the Windsor B Mk. l. The first prototype DW506 made its maiden flight on 23rd October 1943 but the first two machines had to be limited to 55,000lb (24,948kg) all-up-weight because they had been too far advanced in construction for the additional strengthening to be incorporated that would take them up to B. 3/42 standards.

The bomber’s defensive armament was the subject of extensive investigation and controversy. In August 1942 a combination was established of two fixed 0.303in (7.7mm) machine guns in the nose plus two 20mm cannon in a turret at the extreme rear of the fuselage but, in due course, the tail turret was dispensed with and the vacant position used as a sighting and control station for two barbettes, one at the rear of each outer engine nacelle, which each contained two rearward-firing 20mm guns. This later arrangement was officially adopted on 15th February 1943 and in 1944 the second Warwick prototype, L9704, was used to test it, but with 0.5in (12.7mm) machine guns fitted in lieu of the 20mm. In April 1944 it was also decided to provide stations for amidships beam guns as supplementary armament.

Initially the barbettes were to be fitted to the fourth Windsor but these were brought forward to go on K136, which had now become the third prototype. This aircraft, known as the Type 461 and powered by Merlin 65s, was to be the only other Windsor to fly after DW406 and DW412 (on 11th July 1944) and it was much closer to the production standard; the remotely-controlled guns were not fitted until 1945 but they were used in firing tests until 1946. The weight of the barbettes raised problems over the aeroplane’s CofG and the favoured solution was an extended nose. The single pilot cockpit also caused controversy because, in an emergency, access to the pilot’s station by another crew member was near impossible. As a result on 16th August 1944 a drawing was produced showing the Windsor with a new nose based on an RAE ‘Lancaster’ design; here a seated bomb aimer controlled a twin 0.5in (12.7mm) turret behind which came the pilot’ cockpit with side-by-side seating. AlI-up-weight was now 80,000lb (36,288kg).

It was expected that the Windsor, starting at some 75,000lb (34,020kg) all-up-weight, would be capable of development to something approaching 84,000lb (38,102kg), when the Mk. IV Lancaster would probably reach the limit of its development at 75,000Ib. The Windsor was 10mph to 20mph (16km/h to 32km/h) faster than the Lancaster IV and, with a maximum 12,000Ib (5,443kg) load, had a 490 mile (788km) range excess. To meet the long-range requirements of the Pacific War, in spring 1944 Vickers submitted a proposal to extend the Windsor’s still air range with 4,000Ib (1,814kg) of bombs to 4,000 miles (6,436km), which involved sacrificing most of the armour protection and some of the self-sealing material from the fuel tanks; the company stated that this version could be delivered from the start of Windsor production.

In April 1944 it was expected that Windsor production should begin in mid-1945 and during 1946 work up to a peak of forty per month. It was hoped that by mid-1947 thirty squadrons would be equipped with the type, mostly for operations in the Japanese theatre, but VCAS doubted, with its present armament, that the bomber would be suitable for that arena. The Windsor ever-increasing weight brought proposals to fit Griffon engines, but these would require considerable redesign and were not adopted. Pierson’s first brochure for a Griffon Windsor was completed in December 1944. Four 2,070bhp (1 ,544kW) Griffons (with the barbette guns) offered a maximum 382mph (615km/h) at 23,000ft (7,010m), sea level rate of climb at maximum loaded weight (79,000lb [35,834kg]) was 1,380ft/min (421m/min), service ceiling 30,000ft (9,144m) and the maximum bomb load was 12,000lb (5,443kg). An alternative Bristol Centaurus installation took the weight to 81 ,400lb (36,923kg) but reduced the ceiling to 27,000ft (8,230m).

The defensive armament problem, together with several other delays, meant that by the end of the war the type was not offering a sufficient advance for production to proceed. In November 1944 the order for 300 machines was cut to 100, and later to just 40. Then on 17th November 1945, at a Ministry production meeting, the surviving B Mk. ls were cancelled. On 23rd November Vickers was told that ‘the manufacture of Windsor aircraft should cease immediately’. At this point NN670 was almost complete and NN673 well advanced and both were eventually reduced to produce.

The Windsor was originally designed as a replacement for the obsolescent Wellington and was to be an aircraft that could take its place in the first line alongside the Lancaster and Halifax; its development life would also extend well beyond either of these types. As originally conceived the Windsor was a fast, lightly-armed and comparatively heavily armoured night bomber which was to carry a moderate load of 4,000Ib (1,814kg) at a maximum cruise speed of 330mph (531 km/h) but, when it became clear that it would be needed for the Pacific, the debate centred on just how suitable it might be. In its initial stages the type was found to be not sufficiently in advance of the Lancaster IV in range or general performance to justify the Ministry’s plans to employ it actively in the war against Japan; it was also thought undesirable to introduce a new type in this theatre until it had been fully tried out in the UK.

Interest in the Windsor had gradually waned, Vickers became increasingly involved in the commercial aviation field and it was to be the Lincoln which entered production to serve the post-war RAF. The RAF also evaluated two American bombers, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress and the Consolidated B-32 Dominator, and at one point it was keen to have the B-29. In fact there were proposals to build the B-29 in Britain but this never happened. The RAF had to settle with the Lincoln as its main post-war heavy bomber until examples of the B-50 Washington, an upgrade of the B-29, were acquired in 1951.

Vickers Windsor Development

In January 1945 Rex Pierson completed a brochure for a Windsor powered by four Rolls-Royce Clyde RCI. I. AC turboprop engines and fitted with four main undercarriage legs of a six-wheel bogie type then in the course of development. Visibly the airframe was unchanged, with a Windsor prototype nose, and only the engine nacelles had been altered; the rear nacelle guns were also retained. Cruise speed was estimated to be 390mph (628km/h) at 20,000ft (6,096m), sea level rate of climb 3,050ft/min (930m/min), time to 30,000ft (9,144m) 17.0 minutes and service ceiling 37,000ft (11,278m). A maximum 3,580gal (16,278Iit) of internal fuel would have been carried and the range was 2,415 miles (3,886km). The Clyde turboprop, an example of a new concept of a jet engine and a propeller joined together, offered a combined 3,020bhp (2,252kW) and 1,225lb (5.4kN) thrust at sea level and 3,310bhp (2,468kW) and 738ib (3.3k ) for maximum speed and climb. Contra-rotating propellers would have been fitted if they were available.

The extra power from the Clyde would have been very beneficial to the bomber, which was designated Type 601 Windsor B Mk. 2. In view of the attractive performance offered by the engine MAP informed Vickers on 27th February 1945 that it had been decided to fit NN673 with the new powerplants and asked that design work should proceed as soon as possible. Two more production Windsors were to be similarly converted (the same letter also stated that the idea of fitting the Griffon had been abandoned). Pierson replied that NN673 should be flying with Merlins by January 1946, but added that Rolls-Royce had reported that Clyde units would not be available until April 1946. By June 1945 this version had been given the revised ‘ideal’ nose with the twin 0.5in (12.7mm) turret, but the conversion and the whole project was cancelled on 16th January 1946.


Type 447

    First prototype, serialled DW506, powered by four 1,315 horsepower (981 kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin 65 engines.

Type 457

    Second prototype, serialled DW512, powered by four 1,635 horsepower (1,219 kW) Merlin 85 engines.

Type 461

    Third prototype, serialled NK136, powered by four 1,635 horsepower (1,219 kW) Merlin 85 engines, armed with four 20mm guns in remote-controlled barbettes in rear of outer engine nacelles (a pair in each) aimed from the unarmed tail position.

Specifications (Vickers Windsor Type 447)

General characteristics

  • Crew: six to seven[
  • Length: 76 ft 10 in (23.43 m)
  • Wingspan: 117 ft 2 in (35.71 m)
  • Height: 23 ft (7.01 m)
  • Wing area: 1,248 ft² (116 m²)
  • Empty weight: 38,606 lb (17,548 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 54,000 lb (24,545 kg)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Rolls-Royce Merlin 65 liquid-cooled V12 engine, 1,635 hp (1,220 kW) each


  • Maximum speed: 317 mph (276 knots, 510 km/h) at 23,000 ft (7,010 m)
  • Range: 2,890 mi (2,513 nmi, 4,653 km) with 8,000 lb (3,600 kg) bombs
  • Service ceiling: 27,250 ft (8,300 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,250 ft/min (6.4 m/s)


  • Guns: 4 × 20 mm cannon in remote controlled barbettes firing to rear[
  • Bombs: about 15,000 lb (6,800 kg) of bombs[