Monday, January 31, 2011

A Message From the Editor, An Incorrect Color on Some Kit Decals, Some Texans at Misawa, An Early Lib, Some Bi-Centennial Birds, and More Stoofs

Sometimes Stuff Happens and you Just Don't Know Why

If you're one of our regular readers you pretty much know the drill around here---we do military airplanes, primarily American, and we do model airplanes, mostly military but not necessarily American. We do short articles, if somewhat infrequently, and we do a lot of photo essays. To cut straight to the chase for once, I've just modified a couple of those essays by deleting a couple of images. Here's why:

I periodically check this blog, each and every page of it, to try to find and correct glaring errors or, to the extent I'm capable of doing it, poor page design. In the course of that operation I'll click on most, if not all, of the photos I've published to make certain the links still work. I did that very thing this morning, and discovered that not only were a couple of links not working, but that clicking on said images produced a blood red screen with a message stating that the picture was dangerous; clicking on the message to see what it was that presented a danger produced yet another message stating that there could be viruses involved, of which we don't want none of those around here. (And I'm pretty sure there aren't any, although I guess you really can't tell from this end. We work pretty hard around here to make sure that sort of thing doesn't happen; this is in theory a clean site, ya'll!)

Upon closer examination there was a common thread that seemed to produce that Big Red Screen; bawdy nose art. Most of it was on models, although one image was on a real airplane. I pondered that Common Thread for a while and surmised that it's possible that the images may have breached the terms of use that we all have to agree to when we sign up to do a blog. I don't want to have to declare RIS to be one of those "restricted" sites because of a couple of decals on a model airplane, so the possibly-off-color-but-I'm-not-really-certain-of-it images have been deleted. It's honestly not much of a loss and, presuming those red screens really were in reaction to the terms and conditions of operating a blog here, it's ok with me. Rules are rules and the photos are gone, removed by my hand. Life goes on.

And now back to our regular programming...

You Can't Control Everything, I Suppose

We've said it before and will say it again; we're truly living in a Golden Age for plastic modeling. That said, every once in a while one of the major manufacturers drops a clanger, which rare-but-it-happens sometimes occurence impacted a model I just mostly completed. The end result was my own fault, largely because of laziness but also because I just didn't have anything better in the way of decals lying around and didn't want to airbrush concentric circles on the wing of a model; I lived with what the kit provided, but at the end of the day what was provided was wrong. Here's how that worked.

The kit is Eduard's 1/48th scale Morane Salnier N monoplane, painted up to represent the aircraft Roland Garros flew before he shot off his propellor and got himself captured by the German army. The kit is a beaut, well detailed, and it's one of those models that pretty much just falls together. The empennage is, by virtue of the design of the Real Thing, somewhat delicate, but the rest of the model is extremely sturdy and it's not a bad First Venture into Modeling the Aircraft of the Great War, except for those decals. Check out the color of the outer ring of the insignia on the wings, plus the "red" areas on the fuselage and rudder flashes. That "red" should, more or less, match the darker shade of same that's resident on the cowling, wheels, and struts, but it isn't. It's orange, ding-dang it! Orange! Every single decal on the kit's sheet that should have been red was orange. Phooey!

This view shows how the wing looks with those bright orange cocardes on them---it wouldn't be so bad if there was no other red on the model, but there is and the contrast is enormous. The decal sheet was consistent, for whatever that's worth, since every single thing on it that was supposed to be red was, you guessed it; orange (and the quality of that sheet was superb for the record, all except for that one somewhat critical color). We used this particular model to illustrate how to pre-shade wing ribs a couple of issues ago, and this shot depicts how that worked out, if any of you were wondering. There's a tiny bit of photo-etch on the model thanks to Eduard's Profi-Pack packaging but the model could just as easily do without it, I think. The sharp-eyed among you (not that you have to be particularly astute in this instance) will notice that the model hasn't been rigged yet---I'll do that as soon as I figure out how to fix those orange markings on the wings! I'll live with the fus and tail markings. Oh, and I don't know what that is laying under the wing except that it's part of something else and not the Morane. I'm too lazy to go back and re-do the photo so you'll have to live with that whatever-it-is. My bad!

And a photo of the other side, this time showing that Whatsis in repose under the fuselage rather than the wing---I still don't know what it might be, though. The "genuine" red on the model is courtesy Testor ModelMaster enamel, and is their standard flat insignia red, applied over a light grey base to keep it from being too bright. Check out the tires; early producers of rubber didn't always put lamp black in their formulations, and in consequence the tires on those early airplanes could be almost any shade of grey, as well as black or, so help me Gracie, sometimes even pinkish-grey! Don't paint them tires black, ya'll! I started to rig the model, which is evident here, and then changed my mind pending some sort of conclusion regarding those wing insignia. I may let you know what happens, but then again I may not.

It Must've Been a Long Flight

Those early jet deployments to bases outside of the CONUS must've been pretty sporty affairs, what with all that distance to be covered in single-engined tactical aircraft. During the early 1950s Misawa AB, Japan, had its air defense supplied by a rotation of F-84G units, one of which was the 27th FEW, nominally stationed at Bergstrom AFB, Texas. Here are a couple of shots from Mark Morgan to prove the point.

Misawa's ramp isn't all that big, and we're guessing that the simultaneous arrival of the better part of a fighter wing all at once made things really interesting for the transient folks who ran that ramp. 1035 is an F-84G-5-RE and almost a new airplane at the time of this photograph, which was taken during the deployment of Fox Peter 2 in October of 1952.  AMC History Office via Mark Morgan

You've got to be someplace to start with if you're going to fly to Japan. Here's another 27th FEW F-84G, also a -5-RE, launching from Hickam for the next leg of that Fox Peter deployment. Your humble editor made that flight in 1962 and it's a long one. Global projection doesn't just happen...   AMC History Office via Mark Morgan

An Opportune Coincidence

One of the modeling boards was having a discussion re the origins of the CAF's "Diamond Lil" the other day. Mark Nankivil had previously sent me a photograph of her during her early post-war days and I was wondering what to do with it---wonder no more! The picture's of interest to me and hopefully to you as well.

Here's what N1503 looked like before she hit The Big Time with The Organization Formerly Known as The Confederate Air Force. Built as an LB-30B (essentially a B-24A conversion in Consolidated's world), she was assigned the British serial number AM927 but never delivered to the RAF due to damage incurred during delivery, spending her war at the Convair plant before going on to a career in the civilian arena. She was first registered as N1503, then there was a stint Down South as XC-CAY, then back to the States as N12905 and, finally, as N24927 with the CAF. Her original short nose (B-24A through D) was replaced at some point by the lenthened nose seen here, although she always carried those round cowlings, a trademark of the LB-30 series. She's got to be the oldest surviving member of the B-24 family around and it might be time to find her a good home in a first-class museum someplace...  Nankivil Collection

Anybody Out There Remember the BiCentennial?

The United States hit its 200th birthday back in 1976, and the Air Force and Navy both painted up airplanes in commemorative schemes to honor the occasion. The Navy's been painting up some of their airplanes of late in honor of one of their anniversaries, which in a roundabout way leads us back to those BiCi birds. (It's what passes for logic in my world. Roll with it.)

TraCom got caught up in the BiCentennial celebrations along with the rest of the NAV. One of the aircraft that received a special paint job was 157057, a T-2C Buckeye assigned to VT-26 at the now-defunct NAS Chase Field in Beeville, Texas. Additional markings include the legend "Be Someone Special/Fly Navy" on her fuselage decking, "Spirit of '76" on the nose, "City of Beeville, Texas" on the intake trunk, and the official Bi-Centennial emblem on her vertical tail. Observant readers will also notice the USS Lexington painted beneath the star and bar on her fuselage. The "Lex" was TraCom's CarQual boat and had no aircraft permanently assigned to her, although a great many T-2s and TA-4s had the wording painted on their sides, presumably to foster esprit de corps. I think this is a really pretty airplane.  Mark Nankivil

And speaking of pretty airplanes...   VS-41 jumped on the BiCi wagon big-time with their treatment of 160120, an S-3A repainted in overall white with red stripes on the vertical stab and some nicely applied blue trim. The rattlesnake and "Don't Tread on Me" legend date back to the Revolutionary War and are highly appropriate for the paint job and the festivities at hand. Mark Nankivil

I Think We Promised You Some More Stoofs

Last time around we took a look at some early, Glossy Sea Blue, S2Fs. For todays installment let's move on to the post-1956 grey on white scheme.

Ever wonder what a squadron of "Stoofs" might look like if they were all parked at the same place and at the same time? Wonder no more! Here's a lineup of VS-33's S2Es on the ground at NAS North Island while attached to CVS-20. The S2 provided all of the Navy's carrier-based fixed-wing ASW assets until the advent of the S-3 in the late 1970s. Pretty neat photo, I think! Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

This shot proves that a sharkmouth looks really good on just about anything that flies! 152842 is an S2-G from VS-30 and shows off her markings, including that sharkmouth, to advantage in this shot. Modelers might want to take note of the wing fold on both this and the preceeding photograph; it's pretty complicated in there!  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Let's look at another wing-fold shot, this time on VS-37's 152374, another S-2G but this time assigned to the Ticonderoga. That tail bumper and wheel assembly was essential to deck operations with the "Stoof" and is always down when the airplane is on the ground! Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

When we think of the S-2 most folks think "ASW", and that was certainly the primary role. The "Stoof" could be useful for the control of sea lanes as well, however, as depicted by this rocket-armed S-2E of VS-25. There wasn't much else available, at least not in the non-attack sea-based community, when this photo was taken off the Oriskany in 1964.  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

 This is what you might call a high-drag configuration; all this VS-24 S2F-1 needs is some underwing stores hanging off the wings! Check out 136506's array of wire antennae running from the vertical to the fuselage too; it couldn't be any tougher to rig a biplane than it would be to duplicate that!  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

And away we go in an S-2E from VS-21. This photo does a great job of defining the underwing hard points and extended radome. I'm not certain how effective that MAD boom would be at altitude, but it looks pretty neat when it's deployed.  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

We'll take another look at the "Stoof" when next we meet. Meanwhile, do any of our readers have any sea stories to contribute about the S-2? We'd love to hear from you at if you do.

The Relief Tube

We really don't have anything to put in the tube today, which is unusual, so I'm going to add a comment of my own, as if I didn't already do enough of that.

Some of you are kind enough to electronically subscribe to this effort, and I can't thank you enough for so doing. On the other hand, I've been told that "subscribing" means that you get a notification every time I publish this thing, and it's occured to me that I could be driving some of you nuts when I go back and edit something (which is publishing, I think) rather than producing a Brand New Blog. If that's truly happening I'd like to apologize for it, but I still want to correct errors/typos when I find them and can't figure any way around the problem except to ask for your continued indulgence in the matter, which I guess I'm doing now. That is, of course, if the problem even exists. I don't know for sure, but thought it was worth mentioning. My intentions are, as always, of the highest order!

Anyway, be good to your neighbor. We'll talk again soon.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Those Other Guys, Some Post-War Mustangs, Some Stoofs, An Airplane That Almost Never Was, and a Couple of Happy Snaps

Some Airplanes You Wouldn't Normally Expect to See Around Here

It all started with Rick Morgan, who sent along a couple of MiG-21 shots for our consideration a few days ago. They looked familiar to me so I went into the archives and, sure enough, there were those Cuban MiGs, sent to me by Rick way back in those pre-internet days of yore. That got me looking at other former Soviet aircraft, which in turn takes us to the following highly disjointed and deceptively brief photo essay.

First, the Cuban Fishbeds that started it all, with Rick's comments:  (Here are a couple of happy snaps taken by VQ-2 EA-3B crew of Cuban MiGs on their wings while conducting missions off the Caribbean Paradise of Cuba in the late ‘60s.  No.500 is a two-seat Mongol;  the other (511) is a late-model Fishbed loaded with four Atolls. 

Here's what it looks like when you get Your Bad Self intercepted by a MiG-21. I really can't add a whole lot to what Rick's already said, except that that guy's close! Sometimes we forget just how sporty the Cold War could be!  via Rick Morgan

And here's the Mongol. Everybody smile pretty for the camera, ok? The UTI variant of the MiG-21 wasn't exactly a major threat in a knife fight, but it could still tote around an AAM or two, although this one appears to be unarmed.  It's a pretty airplane.  via Rick Morgan 

Most of us know Maddog John Kerr for his love of Warbirds, but his collection is extensive and often amazing. Here's an interesting shot from it:

Here's a fairly early Fishbed C on public display in China. It's possible this one was of Chinese origin, but equally likely that it was provided by the former USSR. Either way, it's a pretty airplane, albeit a relatively useless one in this particular variation. I'm guessing that's some sort of test boom attached to the nose since it's way too big to be a "normal" pitot static boom.  John Kerr Collection

Here's a Sov bird that isn't a MiG. It's in my collection but I have no idea who sent it to me; if anybody out there knows please contact me so I can put a proper credit line on it!

A Su-15 Flagon accellerates away from an unspecified US or NATO aircraft following an intercept. This guy's armed and ready to rumble; bet there was some excitement in the photographer's aircraft that day!  Friddell Collection

The former Soviet Union tried its hand at aircraft carriers, and the Yakovlev design bureau designed and built a strike aircraft for their flight decks. Initially known as the Yak-36 in the West and later corrected to its proper Yak-38 designation and code-named Forger by NATO, the type provided minimal tactical capability but was a great learning tool. The subsequent collapse of the USSR curtailed further development of the type. Warship enthusisasts will be interested in the detail shown at the edge of the flight deck in this October 1976 photo.  USN 1168236 

A bird farm's a bird farm, no matter who's name is on the boat. Here's another view of Kiev, this one taken in April of 1976 and showing a Soviet version of The Pack sitting on deck. This photo's pretty interesting because of the lowered elevator and all the electronics in view.  To the best of my extremely limited knowledge of such things this was the only operation scheme ever carried by the Forger.  USN 1173147

A Rough Day at the Office

Last time around I asked our readers for any photography they might have of US military aircraft in service in Japan immediately following WW2. It would be hard to beat these images, intitially provided by a reader and accredited in error to his collection but actually belonging to the owner of Swiss Mustangs, Martin Kyburz:

Sometimes you really wish you knew the whole story about a photograph. Unfortunately, we don't know very much about this one, although we do know that the airplane is a P-51D-30-NA assigned to the 431st FS/475th FG. The 475th's Mustangs were assigned variously to Tachikawa, Itazuke, and Ashiya AB. Japan during the February 1947 to April 1949 time frame and this photo could have been taken at any one of those facilities, although Tachi would seem to be the most logical since the airframe is still carrying late-War wing ID bands. Special Note: These images were initially provided to us by a reader who had taken them from an internet site that was thought to be defunct. We originally ran them credited to that reader's collection, but recently discovered that they actually came from the collection of Martin Kyburz and his Swiss Mustangs website. In addition to correcting that error, Martin was also kind enough to provide some historical information on the shot. It was indeed from the 475th FS and was assigned to Kimpo in Korea during 1947. On 8 December, 1947, the aircraft was involved in target towing duties while being flown by Lt. Duncan Palmer. We presume that Lt. Palmer survived the crash, although the P-51 did not. Our sincere thanks are extended to Martin for pointing out our error and allowing us to keep the images on our site. pf  Martin Kyburz/Swiss Mustangs Collection

And another view of the crash. Do any of you have further information on this airplane? It's quite a looker and we'd really like to know more about both the airplane and the crash, and maybe even get a full view of the airplane prior to its accident. Please contact us at if you can add to the story! Please see the caption for the photograph immediately above for clarification of the aircraft and corrected credit lines to the photos. pf   Martin Kyburz/Swiss Mustangs Collection

Some of Those Stoofs We've Been Promising

You may recall that Doug Siegfried flew the "Stoof", and that we said we'd run some photos of them a while back. Today's the day we start doing that, ya'll---it's time for the immortal Grumman S2F/S-2 Tracker to take the stage:

In the beginning...  Here's an S2F-1 assigned to the NATC performing flight test (and one might presume acceptance tests) on an early "Stoof". That pylon-mounted blade antenna over the cockpit is fascinating.  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

Here's what they looked like when they were operational. This particular S2F-1 is from VS-36 and shows us a gorgeous example of the GSB paint scheme. Modelers note the radome color and the landing gear struts. VS-36 wasn't carrying any specific squadron markings at this time so a model could be finished in this scheme using only letters and numbers from the spares box.  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

VS-21 added a little color to the Basic Blue with red lightning flashes on white cowl panels. The exhaust streaking shown is typical for the S-2 family and is present even when the rest of the aircraft is spotless, as this example certainly is. Bet that "BS" tailcode was tough to live with, though.  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

This photo's seen better days, and so have those "Stoofs" of the Oakland Reserves. The paintwork is faded and patched, and these early S2F-1s (note that blade antenna instead of a radome over the cockpit) have been around the block a time or two. The basic color is Glossy Sea Blue, although you'd never know it from this shot.  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

A VS-37 S2F-1 runs up aboard the Princeton preparatory to launch, date unknown. There are at least three "Stoofs" running up in this shot, and I'll guarantee you that nobody on that flight deck can hear anything but radials and propellors! Note that the landing gear struts on these particular S2Fs are GSB, and that's a VS-21 bird parked alongside the island. I love this photograph!  Tailhook Association via Doug Siegfried

We'll take a look at some grey and white "Stoofs" next time, so stay tuned!

It Just May Be the Most-Kitted Never-Used Airplane of All Time

We're all familiar with the sadly heroic story of Japan's Special Attack units, colloquially known to most folks as Kamikaze. Most special attack sorties were performed with standard or lightly modified conventional aircraft, but there were a few purpose built designs in the the pipeline or, in a couple of cases, actually built. Today's model is one of the latter.

The Nakajima Ki-116 "Tsurugi" was one of those purpose-built special attack aircraft, but was a handful to fly even for an experienced pilot and was never issued to an operational unit; in point of fact, the type never really got past the test stage, but a substantial number were built and put into storage for the final battle for Japan that fortunately never came. There's one survivor of the type, and several kits of it have been released over the years, beginning with Nitto's 1/72nd scale offering in the mid-60s and ending, at least so far, with Eduard's early 21st Century release in 1/48th. There have been at least four kits issued all told, pretty significant for an airplane that basically never flew, and people have modeled those four kits in all sorts of goofy markings. What follows is our attempt at it.

Is that a shiny airplane or what? The real thing was built out of as many non-strategic materials as possible, which resulted in a largely wood airframe---the fuselage was skinned in steel, with aluminum wings, while the empennage was made of wood. Keeping in mind that none of these things ever saw combat, or even flew for that matter, caused me to finish this one as if it had just left the factory. There's no rust on the fus yet because steel is generally oiled after production, then wiped down prior to painting. The wings on this model are painted with Testor Metalizer "Aluminum", with the fuselage done in "Stainless Steel", which gives a nice contrast between the two metals. (The "buffing" variety of both colors were used and produced a really nice finish.) The tail is painted in a couple of shades of Testor JAAF Grey Green, while the anti-glare panel is faded black (a mix) and the surrounds to the upper wing hinomarus are done in Testor JAAF Green.

And the other side of the fus; a view useful for demonstrating structural detail but not much else. Eduard pretty much got everything right on the kit and it's a quick build---this one had about 14 hours in it from start to finish. The stickies worked well and everything fit like the proverbial glove. Sure wish we could have a kit of the P-40B done to this level of quality!

Here's what the upper surfaces look like. Nakajima painted on the national insignia and, in some cases, a surround of upper-surface color, during final assembly. This was done to simplify the painting of the Ki-115s intended final scheme of green over natural metal. Several photographs show the wings with the hinomarus applied to a band of green rather than surrounded by it, so that's what was done here. No attempt was made at producing a consistent color on the green, although the black of the anti-glare panel is pretty solid. Those caps on the forward fus are from the kit's minimal photo-etch fret and look better than the decals that are also included in the kit.

And a final view. There's no weathering, no staining, and just a tiny amount of dirt on the tires---this is a Clean Machine. The kit supplies two well-done bombs, one of 500kg and the other a whopping big 800kg weapon. Neither were installed since the airplane wouldn't have had ordnance mounted inside the factory. If you decide you can't live without a big honkin' bomb under your airplane, remember to flatten those tires---either bomb would put a whole lot of weight on that bird, and it would definitely show up in the sit of the airplane and the degree of inflation (or lack of same) in the tires.

Happy Snaps

We have a pretty cool readership around here. Most people's photos from work are pretty boring, but reader Kolin Campbell has a neat job and sent along a couple of photos to prove it:

Phil, here's two 'happy snaps' I took during the summer of 2009 while participating in exercise 'Northern Edge' up in Alaska. Had to join up on this big guy during one of our 'red air' periods. My wingman is in an F-18F (as was I). Let me know what you think.  Kolin

Well, Kolin, I think they're great! Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing them with us.

If anyone would like to contribute this sort of photography, we'd be more than willing to open up a "Happy Snaps" section of the blog to accomodate contemporary aircraft. Any takers? Drop us a line at if you're interested.

A Shameless Plug for a Friend of Mine

You may have noticed by now that a lot of my friends are in the business, in a manner of speaking, and a couple of them are downright famous. Jim Sullivan falls into that latter category, and I'm willing to bet that most of you have at least one of his titles on your shelf if your interests run towards naval aviation. He's known to a lot of people as Mr. Corsair and with good reason; he's pretty much the ranking authority on the type, and he's just had a new book published that you might want to take a look at.

Jim Sullivan's latest, F4U in Action, Squadron Signal Publications, 2010. This is, if memory serves, Jim's 3rd "In Action" title on the "Hog", and it's definitely the best of the lot. The book contains 64 pages of mixed b&w and color photos as well as line drawings and color profiles. It's extremely well-written (but you'd expect nothing less of Jim) and the photo captions are highly informative. There are some fascinating new schemes portrayed and a great many of the photos haven't been previously published. It isn't the reference on the F4U, although I certainly anticipate that Jim will produce such a work for us one of these days, but it's a worthy addition to your aviation library all the same---it's definitely not just another thrown-together airplane book. This one is a Class Act from start to finish.

The Relief Tube

We've got one comment for today; new contributor Kolin Campbell has some thoughts on our "DNIF" P-47 photo from a couple of issues back:


Ran across your 'Replica in Scale' blog the other day - good stuff! Haven't checked out everything yet, but did take a look at some P-47N photos you had posted. You were wondering about the meaning of 'DNIF' painted on the nose of one of those beasts. To us Navy flyers, 'DNIF' stands for 'duty not involving flying'. It is what you DO NOT want to see written down by the flight surgeon or, heaven forbid, included on your next set of orders. I suspect the same acronym has been used in the military flying community for years. When you see 'DNIF' painted on that P-47N next to the scantily clad lady, though, I think you get the picture of what the artist had on his mind ... perhaps a not-so-unpleasant duty, in this case! My Dad is also a retired Naval Aviator (Spads, A-4s, A-7s), but his last flying gig was hauling VIPS in a T-39 that belonged to ADC, out of Peterson Field, CO. One of the generals he flew around was a former Ie Shima Thunderbolt pilot. His comment on overloaded P-47s and Ie Shima's short strip was that Republic forgot to attach a cement mixer to the prop so you could lay enough runway for yourself to takeoff.  Kolin 

Laying runway for yourself in a Republic product---some things never change! ("If anybody ever builds a runway around the world, Republic will build an airplane that can't take off from it!")

And that's what I know. Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

It Looks a Lot Like a B-29, The Electronic Intruder, Some Pre-Shading, A Primordial AWACS, and Some More Tanker Stuff

Sometimes Bigger's Actually Better

That was certainly the case with the Boeing B-50, a stretch of the basic B-29 design that resulted in a far more capable aircraft than its sire, and who's active service life extended well into the 1960s. There's no real reason to start off with the B-50 today, but then there's no reason not to do it either. In my world that could be taken as Logic, so let's look at some big airplanes!

The B-50 never had to go to war as a bomber, which was probably a Very Good Thing considering it would have been opposed by first-generation jet fighters that would, in all likelihood, have savaged the type thoroughly in combat. It did, however, participate in the Cold War as a recon and weather bird, and more than a few were lost on ops in that arena. 47-0122 was built as a B-50B-40-BO, then modified to RB-50E configuration, then finally modified into an RB-50F. She's illustrated here in her RB-50E guise while serving with the 1370th PMCW. She finished out her career on the scrap heap at Davis Monthan.  AMC History Office via Mark Morgan

Same unit, different paint job. 47-0139 entered the world as a B-50B-50-BO but was subsequently modified to RB-50F configuration. Note the lack of the arctic conspicuity markings so evident on the photo of 47-0122 above. 0139 survived her Cold War duties to be transferred to MASDC in 1966. She was scrapped out two years later.  AMC History Office via Mark Morgan

Talk about an early B-50! Here's the 4th B-50B-1-BO built; 46-0005. She's depicted here after conversion to WB-50A status. Those weather ships got around, going to places they really shouldn't have been visiting and occasionally getting shot at for their trouble. Sometimes I can figure out what happened to the airframes we depict, but this one's fate is a mystery to me.  AMC History Office via Mark Morgan

Here's one you may not have seen before---she's the sole JB-50D, converted from her B-50D-115-BO build state. This bird led an interesting life, first as a bomber, then as a WB-50D, then finally as a JB-50D assigned to Systems Command for testing "detection devices". A retired USAF Lt Col made me aware of the type back in the early 1980s when he showed me a slide of her, along with the comment "Do you see anything odd about this airplane?". I'm going to ask you the same question: Do you see anything odd about this airplane? Presuming you didn't, check out that nose installation---it's on upside-down. Said Retired LC, who was assigned to SysCom and also the program at the time this bird was flying, mentioned that the mod was intended to put the optically-flat bombardier's panel facing upwards but would only smile when I asked why. We may never know the whole story on that one...  Friddell Collection

It Looks Like a Tadpole to Me

But then again, all the members of the A-6 family make me think of tadpoles. We're familiar with the attack and tanker components of the family, and most of us have a passing familiarity with the current EW platform based on the Intruder, the EA-6B, as well, but there's another family member that's not so well-known, It's the initial electronics warfare version of the airframe; the EA-6A. Here are a couple of photos:

If there's one classic Marine EW scheme, this has to be it!  148616 is shown here in all her pre-TPS Easter Egg glory while assigned to VMCJ-2. It was relatively easy to keep those shiny, pre-tactical paint-schemed airplanes clean, and this bird's spotless! Back in the 70s it was relatively uncommon to find nicknames painted on American military airplanes, making "Buzzard" an unusual marking. I like it!  Nankivil Collection

The NAV flew the Alpha model of the EA-6 too, but only in the reserves. This one's from VAQ-209, and she's yet another Clean Machine. 209 was assigned to Reserve Air Wing 20 when this photo was taken in December of 1982. The wing-mounted ECM pods are ALQ-76s, while the "towel rack" mounted to the inboard pylons is part of the ALQ-100 suite. Weathering is very much a Time and Place sort of thing; modelers take note that these are clean airplanes.  Nankivil Collection

This shot of VAQ-209's 151598 may well qualify as one of the prettiest in-flight shots I've ever seen. What a gorgeous photo! (That guy's flying some pretty good form too!)  Nankivil Collection

151599 was serving with VMAQ-4 when Rick Morgan took this shot in August of 1984. The "steering wheel" on the wing-mounted ALQ-76 is a protective cover that will be removed before flight, while the pod on the outboard station is an ALE-41 chaff dispenser. That's an unusual paint demarcation on the nose but it's pretty, don't you think? Rick told me once that he liked this scheme because of the "Seahawks" emblem on the tail. I always figured it was because of the tail code...  Rick Morgan

It's Easy to Over-Do It But Sometimes Pre-Shading is a Good Thing

You've probably all figured it out by now, but in case you haven't I'll say it plain; I'm not a big fan of pre-shading model airplanes. That's because most of the people who participate in the application of that particular modeling technique tend to overdo it a bit, which can make the finished result look really goofy and entirely non-prototypical. (That's our word for today---"non-prototypical"---use it often and amaze your friends while driving your college English professors to drink at the same time!)

Every once in a while it's a viable technique, though, and it can work really well when simulating stretched fabric is your goal in life. I've been off on one of my periodic Great War adventures of late, and decided (for Lord knows what reason) that my very own personal life wasn't worth living without an Eduard Morane Saulnier "N" on the shelf, thus leading to the building of same. It's not much of a model, being really tiny and also possessed of just one lonely single set of wings (it's a monoplane in case you didn't know such things) which gives us an opportunity to add detail via technique; a little bit of extra work can work wonders on such models. With that in mind I did that pre-shade thing on the flying surfaces as seen below:

And here's all there is too it. Just mask the valleys between the tops of the ribs and paint the ribs black, or maybe dark grey or even dark brown---it doesn't really matter. It doesn't have to be particularly neat, although neatness counts (especially if you're going through an "I-can-see-light-through-the-wing" effect, which I wasn't in this particular instance) and is generally a Good Thing. Once you've stripped off the tape, all that's necessary is to paint the wings with the Official Clear-Doped Fabric Color of your choice. Use really thin paint and several coats of it (you do normally thin your paint for airbrushing, right?) and you'll end up with a pretty fair representation of said clear-doped fabric.

And here's what you end up with if you're careful. The intention here was to get the effect of a set of ribs under the wing's fabric and this came out ok, I think. As with any technique, there's more than one way you can do it and I encourage you to experiment with the effect. My personal tastes cause me to use this one for simulating fabric and not much else, but that's just me. The point is that it works pretty well and you might want to try it out for yourself sometime.

Primal AEW

If there's one thing that's essential to successful carrier operations, it's keeping said carrier safe so the aforementioned carrier ops can be successfully conducted. That Essential Truth caused the Navy to develop airborne early warning aircraft fairly early in the game, with both carrier and land-based examples becoming increasingly prevalent in the years immediately following the conclusion of the Second World War.

The Boeing B-17 was rapidly approaching the end of the road in terms of being an effective bomber but was still a useful airframe and was therefore pressed into service for a wide variety of post-War missions, one of which was AEW for the Navy. Boeing converted some 32 B-17F and G Flying Fortresses to that configuration between 1945 and 1947 and the resulting airframes served until the early 50s when they were replaced by the far more effective WV-2 Warning Star. You just don't see much on the type, which makes these photographs from the Jim Sullivan collection of particular interest.

What do you think of when somebody says B-17? Here's the answer for most folks; a stately procession of airplanes forging their way deep into the airspace of the Third Reich as typified by "Mary Ruth", a B-17F shown here on a raid over Germany early in 1944. The Flying Fortress was a state of the art bomber in 1942, but was aging rapidly by the time this photo was taken. The writing was on the wall...  Sullivan Collection

How do you turn a B-17 into a PB-1, you might well ask yourself. The conversion was relatively simple, involving the addition of supplemental fuel tanks in what was once the bomb bay, installation of hard points between the engines to allow the carriage of external fuel tanks, com gear to facilitate incorporation of a primitive on-board CIC, and most importantly, the installation of an AN/APS-20B search radar. The early examples of the type retained the ability to carry defensive armament as depicted by this PB-1W of VP-51, photographed at NAS Norfolk in 1946. This example led an interesting life, being constructed as a B-17G-95-DL (44-83864) and subsequently transfered to the Navy to become BuNo 77132. She then left the service to become a civil aircraft, which life included a bried stint in Mexico, after which she enjoyed a Hollywood career with the television series "Twelve O'Clock High". She ended her days as a fire bomber and crashed to destruction on December 7th, 1972, in New Mexico. Sullivan Collection

Here's a shot of BuNo 77237 (44-83874), yet another B-17G-95-DL, while serving with VX-4 in the late 40s. She's stripped of her armament but carries instead a tantalizing array of antennae for us to ponder. The paint finish appears to be a well-worn and somewhat faded Glossy Sea Blue. 77237 also transitioned to the civilian world but met a far calmer end that 132, being scrapped out in 1963. Sullivan Collection

The Coast Guard was another big user of the type. Here's 77257, a PB-1G, as photographed at Wilmington, NC in 1948. The Coasties operated the PB as a long-range SAR aircraft, and the G models featured a completely different electronics suite as a result. Sullivan Collection

Happy Snaps From Boomer

It seems like we've run more than our share of pictures of airplanes on the tanker of late. Mark Morgan's gone digging in the archives for us and come up with a few more, which is as good a way as any to end the day.

We probably don't need to discuss my ongoing affection for Lockheed's F-104 Starfighter. This photo shows a Charlie model formating with a KC-135A, time an place unknown.  AMC History Office via Mark Morgan

Somewhere over SEA... The pylon-mounted M117 and the lack of tailcode dates this photo to the late-1965/early-1966 time frame. You may recall that there was never a bomb shortage in theater, which is undoubtedly why this F-105D is heading Up North with only a pair of bombs for an ordnance load. There wasn't a bomb shortage, though...  AMC History Office via Mark Morgan

Another batch of Thunderchiefs heading for trouble. This early-War shot shows a flight of "Thuds" armed for the anti-personnel roll, a mission that wouldn't last long over the North.  AMC History Office via Mark Morgan

The F-4 did it all in SEA. Here's an unidentified F-4C configured for the MiG CAP role topping off prior to ingress. Wish we could see the rest of the airplane...  AMC History Office via Mark Morgan

Another MiG chaser. This Phantom's beat to snot as far as her paintwork is concerned, but you can bet that airframe's in good shape! Modelers take note of her finish!  AMC History Office via Mark Morgan

The Relief Tube

This installment was a little later than we're used to seeing---it was one of those Life Gets in the Way deals. Apologies, and we'll try to get back on schedule for next week!

You may note that I finally figured out how to put links on this site. It wasn't rocket science, but I've never been very bright so it took awhile for me to figure out how to do it, for which I also tender my profound apologies, etc., etc. In my view those links will take you to quality sites and I think they're well worth a look; with any luck you'll enjoy them too.

One site I didn't put there was one that an old friend sent to me the other day. There's a lot of good stuff there but some of the captions are goofy and a large number of the photos come from those LIFE archives we've been seeing so much of lately, which made me reluctant to list the place as a straight-up link. It's definitely worth your time, though, and is well worth checking out. The place is called Jet Pilot Overseas and the links attached to it will also produce a Navy-related site, Navy Pilot Overseas. The link is and you might want to take a look at it.

We ran a couple of shots of a crashed A-1H last time, along with an inquiry from Don Jay. Rick Morgan took a look at his records and offers the following insight:

Phil: Concerning the crashed A-1H, it would seem to have to be 135314, or 52-135314 in Air Force. Chris Hobson’s “Vietnam Air Losses” notes that USAF A-1H 52-135314 was listed in records in TWO losses.

1. 18 Jun 71: 1 st SOS, 56 th SOW, Capt Robert Witte KIA: On a Barrel Roll mission near Ban Na and the Plain of Jars; hit by AAA, crashed.

2. 18 Jul 71: 1 st SOS, 56 th SOW, (pilot unknown): Barrel Roll escort mission in Northern Laos; hit by AAA, crashed near Ban Sun Visay, 15 East of Luang Prabang, pilot rescued. No indications of it ending up on a runway.

I would guess it’s the second one listed- but have no other information.
And neither one of us have any idea why someone took the time to stick an inflated life raft in the cockpit of that airplane!
Finally, I've developed an interest in the post-War USAF in Japan or South Korea ca. 1945-1950. If any of you have photography of same and are interested in sharing it with our readers please forward it to me at  . As always, be good to your neighbor and we'll see you again real soon.