Westland Lynx HMA.8 & Westland Sea King ASaC.7 at RNAS Culdrose Air Day 2016

A selection of images of a Lynx HMA.8 and Sea King ASaC.7 in the static display during a misty RNAS Culdrose Air Day 2016.

All photographs kindly contributed by Dave Taskis (please take time to visit his blog by clicking here).


Lynx HMA.8 ZF562/404 appears to be having something of an identity crisis. It is wearing Iron Duck nose art of HMS Iron Duke but has HMS Monmouth titles painted on the radar fairing.


Sea King ASaC.7 ZE422/192 of 849 NAS perfectly camouflaged against the misty backdrop in the static display at RNAS Cudrose. The Sea King ASaC.7 – known throughout the Navy as Baggers – are the ‘eyes in the sky’ of the Royal Navy, searching for aerial threats to the Fleet with its powerful radar or suspicious movements on the ground in support of land forces. They are the among the last examples of the ubiquitous Sea King in British service.

For more images of British military equipment and museums please visit the Galleries section or follow Defence of the Realm on Instagram

If you have photographs or articles you wish to contribute to Defence of the Realm than you can email them to defencerealmyt@gmail.com. If successful you will of course be given full credit for your contribution and can even promote your own website/blog/social media account.

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Vickers FB27 VIMY Replica ‘NX71MY’ at Brooklands Museum

A collection of pictures of Vickers FB27 VIMY Replica ‘NX71MY’on display at the Brooklands Museum in Surrey.

All photos were taken on April 5th 2016
Photos: Tony Wilkins


The Vickers Vimy on display at Brooklands is a replica aircraft built in 1994 as part of a project led by Peter McMillan the aim of which was to re-enact three long distance flights carried out by the type between 1919 and 1920. The aircraft first took to the air on July 30th 1994 in California hence the US registration.

Not long after it flew it carried out an incredible flight to Australia crewed by McMillan and Lang Kidby on the 75th anniversary of the original flight. Five years later it successfully flew to South Africa with Mark Rebholz and John LaNoue at the controls. To complete the “hat trick”, in July 2005, the Vimy successfully re-enacted Alcock & Brown’s historic trans-Atlantic flight from St Johns, Newfoundland to Clifden, Ireland, making the flight in just under 19 hours.

In 2006 ownership passed to the American ISTAT Foundation and the aeroplane was maintained to airworthy standards at Dunsfold Park by Brooklands Museum volunteers. It was finally donated to Brooklands Museum Trust on 26th August 2006.

For more images of British military equipment and museums please visit the Galleries sectionor follow Defence of the Realm on Instagram

If you have photographs or articles you wish to contribute to Defence of the Realm than you can email them to defencerealmyt@gmail.com. If successful you will of course be given full credit for your contribution and can even promote your own website/blog/social media account.

 

Scottish Aviation Jetstream T.1 XX499 at Brooklands Museum

A collection of pictures of Scottish Aviation Jetstream T.1 XX499 on display at the Brooklands Museum in Surrey.

All photos were taken on April 5th 2016
Photos: Tony Wilkins


The Jetstream was originally conceived by the Handley Page company but in 1970 the company went bankrupt. Production continued however thanks to a consortium being formed out of companies that had been subcontracted to build parts for the Jetstream before Handley Page went bankrupt. Chiefly among these were Scottish Aviation who received an order for 26 Jetstream 201s from the RAF where they were designated Jetstream T.1 (the ‘T’ indicating its training role).

XX499 was delivered to the RAF in 1976 for use as a multi-engine trainer. It was withdrawn and delivered to Brooklands in 2008.

For more images of British military equipment and museums please visit the Galleries section or follow Defence of the Realm on Instagram

If you have photographs or articles you wish to contribute to Defence of the Realm than you can email them to defencerealmyt@gmail.com. If successful you will of course be given full credit for your contribution and can even promote your own website/blog/social media account.

NEWS: Watchkeeper drone cleared to fly in civil airspace

Watchkeeper British Army drone UAVUK defence firm Thales recently flew its Watchkeeper Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) in civil airspace for the first time having been granted clearance from the British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The drone took off from West Wales Airport on a three-and-a-half-hour flight of which around one hour was through civilian airspace with the craft being managed by air traffic controllers on the ground. This is the first time a UAV has been flown in non-segregated airspace along with commercial aircraft in the UK.

The test run has been hailed as a success with operators saying it brings the UK one step closer to using unmanned aircraft for various applications including border security and search and rescue roles. Thales believes this first foray into civilian airspace will lay the foundations for developing the required operational and regulatory conditions to allow widespread use of UAVs in UK air space.

The flight was good news for the Watchkeeper program which has come under criticism in recent years for being well behind schedule.The drone is based on the Elbit Hermes 450 UAV and in March of last year the Ministry of Defence finally granted Watchkeeper a Release of Service enabling the British Army to commence flight training with the aircraft. However the program has been further delayed by reports that there aren’t enough operators being trained to keep the drone at an operational level although the Army has said it is addressing this problem.

NEWS: Merlin transfer from RAF to Royal Navy completed

Chinook Apache Merlin  (7)The RAF and Royal Navy have officially completed the transfer of the Merlin HC.3/3A troop transport helicopter force following a ceremony held at RAF Benson earlier this week. The last 25 of the RAF’s helicopters operated by No.28 (Army Cooperation) Squadron were handed over to the Royal Navy’s No.845 NAS on the 9th of July. No.28 (Army Cooperation) squadron has now been re-formed as the RAF’s Chinook and Puma operational conversion unit based at RAF Benson but as No.28 (Reserve) Squadron.

The plan to transfer the aircraft came as a result of the 2010 Strategic Defence & Security Review under the coalition government of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties and was intended to keep the Royal Navy’s transport helicopter force operational as the Royal Navy’s Commando HC.4s reach the end of their operational lives in March 2016. As part of the transition the Merlins will undergo a £445m upgrade program known as the Merlin Life Sustainment Programme which as well as prolonging the life of the aircraft will also make them more suitable to naval operations and will include features from the naval Merlin HMA.2 such as folding main rotors and tail boom for stowage aboard a carrier.

To make up the shortfall in RAF rotary transport up to 14 new Chinook HC.6 heavylift helicopters are to be acquired.

Supermarine Spitfire IX vs. Macchi C.205 Veltro

Supermarine Spitfire IX vs. Macchi C.205 Veltro

The story of the Royal Air Force’s war against the Regia Aeronautica Italiana (Italian Royal Air Force) during the first half of World War II is a story of extremes. Excluding the Italian’s brief involvement in the Battle of Britain the real story begins in North Africa between British and Commonwealth forces flying from Egypt taking on the numerically superior Italians in aircraft that wouldn’t have seemed too out of place in World War One. Biplanes such as the British Gloster Gladiator and the Italian Fiat CR.42 still dominated the African sky.

The war over the desert and over the Mediterranean quickly progressed however and soon both sides were committing more capable fighters. The British utilised American fighters primarily the American P-40 Tomahawk to supplant the usual Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfires. The Italians, having lagged behind somewhat, produced an excellent warplane in this period by mating the German DB.601 engine to their Macchi C.200 Saetta. The resulting Macchi C.202 was fast and nimble bringing it on a par with other contemporary fighters such as the Messerschmitt Bf109E and the Supermarine Spitfire V (click here to view the complete comparison) however it was let down by its low armament.

The MC.202s shortcomings were recognised early and in 1941 work commenced on producing an even more powerful version built around the German DB 605 engine which Fiat produced for the Italian aviation industry as the RA.1050 R.C.58 Tifone (Typhoon). This had nearly 300hp over the previous engine and greatly improved the already sprightly performance of the earlier aircraft. The new aircraft, now designated the C.205 Veltro, was also more heavily armed and would prove an unwelcome shock to allied fighter pilots.

In Britain the Royal Air Force’s premier fighter the Supermarine Spitfire was also advancing forward. The arrival of the “Butcher Bird” – the Focke-Wulf Fw190-A – had tipped the balance in the air dramatically in favour of the German Luftwaffe as the Spitfire V simply proved to be inferior. Supermarine therefore frantically undertook work on a further improved version of the aircraft based on the high altitude Spitfire VII version. The logically named Spitfire VIII was powered by the Merlin 63 engine (two sub variants for low and high altitude work were powered by the Merlin 66 and 70 engines respectively) and this offered greatly enhanced performance.

However the problem was that development of the aircraft began to drag out as the aircraft went through further redesigns to get the most out of the new engine and airframe. Coupled with the delay of retooling the factories to produce the aircraft the Air Ministry decided to develop an interim aircraft powered by the new two-stage supercharged Merlin engine that could be put in to service as an interim fighter until the Mark VIII became available. The resulting Spitfire IX was effectively a Spitfire V modified to use the more powerful Merlin 61 engine and the performance increase was dramatic to say the least despite the fact that the airframe couldn’t utilise the engine to its maximum potential without breaking.

Far from being a stop-gap the Spitfire IX went on to become one of the great fighters of World War II and remained in production until the end of the war. In the end 5,656 Spitfire IXs were produced making it the most numerous variant of the famed Spitfire family. The aircraft had equal performance to the dreaded Fw190 which helped restore parity in the air war over Western Europe and against the Italians on the southern front which by now was being fought more and more over Italy itself. By far the Spitfire IXs finest hour was on the 5th of October 1944 when Spitfire Mk IXs of No.401 Squadron shot down a Messerschmitt Me.262 Jet fighter; the first jet aircraft ever to be shot down in combat.

Both these aircraft were forged in combat but which was the better warplane?


Performance

Spitfire IX 3

The problem with the designation “Spitfire IX” is that it actually covers a number of Spitfire/Merlin combinations. While the airframe remained more or less unchanged at least four different Merlins were used in Mark IXs to create sub-types optimised for different roles. Therefore this comparison will be looking at those aircraft fitted with the Merlin 61 engine as this was the first engine and was seen as the best all-rounder until it was replaced by the Merlin 63. The Merlin 61 was a 12-cylinder, two-stage supercharged, liquid-cooled engine that churned out 1,580hp at 23,000ft. This finally took the Spitfire over the 400mph mark with a top speed of 409mph while service ceiling was raised to 43,000ft compared to the Spitfire V’s 36,500ft with the initial climb rate being 3,200ft a minute. When fitted with the full span “C” wing (as opposed to the cropped wing of the low altitude optimised variant) the Spitfire IX’s wing loading was 159.4kg/m²

The fitting of the DB 601 engine to the Macchi C.202 was a winning combination and it was only natural that as German engine technology advanced the Italians would take advantage of their ally’s latest engine the DB 605. The Macchi C.205 was fitted with an Italian built version of the DB.605 called the RA.1050 R.C.58 Tifone and was built by Fiat. Like the Merlin it was a 12-cylinder, liquid-cooled engine although like the rest of the DB-series engines the cylinders were arranged in an inverted Vee configuration. Unlike the Merlin the Tifone featured a single-stage supercharger which meant it started to lose power faster at higher altitudes but at lower altitudes it was slightly more powerful. The Tifone engine churned out around 1,474hp which took the C.205 to a top speed of 400mph at 24,600ft and to a service ceiling of 37,730ft. Wing loading for the Macchi C.205 was significantly higher than the Spitfire IX being 202.9kg/m².

Armament

spitfire ix

The Spitfire had several wing types during its lifetime. The Mark IX was fitted with the “C” wing known as the universal wing for it could accept a number of armament options ranging from the original eight .303 machine guns to a mix of .303 and two 20mm cannons to four 20mm cannons. By 1941 it was clear that the eight .303s lacked sufficient hitting power to defeat armoured aircraft that featured self-sealing fuel tanks therefore the Spitfire IX only flew with either four 20mm cannons or two 20mm cannons and four .303 machine guns. Early trials with the Hispano 20mm cannon were abysmal it proving extremely unreliable and prone to jamming after just a few shots. The weapon became more reliable as its entry in to service continued and gave the Spitfire a good punch but reliability would never be what was hoped. American Spitfire IXs and later some RAF aircraft fitted with the .303s had the guns barrelled for the US 50.cal round which was harder hitting. The “C” wing did allow the aircraft to carry a pair of 250lb bombs for ground attack.

Macch C.205

The Macchi C.202 was an excellent aircraft in terms of its performance but the biggest criticism was its lack of hitting power. In combat against American raids by B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-24 Liberators the C.202s struggled to inflict sufficient damage to bring down the mighty bombers requiring them to get in closer to concentrate their firepower where they were very vulnerable to defensive fire. With the C.205 the designers decided that rather than extensively redesigning the aircraft to add more guns which would delay its entry in to service they would simply up-gun the new aircraft. To that end the C.205 only had four guns in total with two 12.7 mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns mounted in the nose above the engine. Each of these guns was provided with an extremely useful 400 rounds and had a rate of fire of 700 rounds a minute. It was in the wings however where the real hitting power of the C.205 was located with two German MG 151 cannons with 250 rounds each. This was a powerful and proven weapon that gave the C.205 a heavy punch against armoured aircraft.

Misc

Spitfire IX 2

The Spitfire IX pilot was protected by a sheet of armour plating behind his seat intended to protect him from incoming rounds fired from behind. The Spitfire pilot’s view in the rear quarter was quite poor leaving him open to surprise attacks until a modified version of the IX came along with a cut down rear fuselage and bubble canopy similar to the P-51D Mustang but these did not appear until near the end of the war and was more of a feature of later Spitfires. The large wing of the Spitfire, a major factor in its excellent performance, also severely hindered visibility below the aircraft to the port and starboard. A major combat enhancement came to the Spitfire IX in 1944 with the introduction of the gyro gunsight which predicted the angle of deflection for the bullets when firing against a turning target. The gunsight dramatically improved the Spitfire’s effectiveness by allowing the newest of pilots to fire with a similar level of accuracy to experienced ones.

Macch C.205 2

The Macchi C.205 pilot enjoyed a marginally better all-round view than the Spitfire IX pilot with the smaller area wing being mounted more forward of the cockpit. This allowed him to look down to the starboard and port sides more easily although the trade-off was that when pursuing a turning fighter ahead and below of the Macchi there was more chance of the C.205 pilot momentarily losing sight of his prey. The C.205 pilot also enjoyed a better rearward view compared to the Spitfire pilot thanks to the smaller rear fuselage although both the Focke-Wulf 190 and P-51D Mustang enjoyed better views than either of these aircraft. The C.205 was fitted with a San Giorgio reflector gunsight which was equivalent to the early gunsight on the Spitfire.

Conclusion

Macch C.205 LuftwaffeOnly the most foolish allied pilot would underestimate the C.205 it being a highly competent combat aircraft for the period. Even the German Luftwaffe appreciated the aircraft’s performance and adopted the aircraft themselves in a limited capacity. In the medium altitude arena the Spitfire IX and the C.205 Veltro were very evenly matched with both aircraft having a very similar top speed. The Spitfire’s large area wing meant that it enjoyed a low wing loading that gave it a very good turning circle. The smaller area wing on the C.205 came with a much higher wing loading as a result but enjoyed a slightly better roll rate. This made the Spitfire an extremely difficult target for the C.205 in a continuous turning battle.

As the altitudes increase however the Spitfire pilot began to enjoy more advantages over the C.205. It had a significantly higher service ceiling than the Italian aircraft and when the C.205 was operating near its own service ceiling at 37,000ft it ran out of steam while the Spitfire IX had energy to spare. On the other hand in the low to medium altitude arena the C.205 enjoyed a degree of superiority over the Spitfire IX with its DB 605-based engine providing marginally more horsepower and a slightly higher speed. The thicker air also made the large winged Spitfire less manoeuvrable.

In terms of firepower the Spitfire enjoyed marginally greater collective hitting power even when fitted with the two 20mm Hispano cannons and four .303 machine guns. The C.205 enjoyed a better engagement envelope however with its closely coupled guns being able to concentrate their hitting power over a longer arc ahead of the aircraft which is especially important when engaging bombers.

Spitfire IX USAAFActual combat results tell a seemingly biased story in favour of the C.205. On the 20th of April 1943 a mixed formation of C.202s and C.205s met a large formation of South African and Polish (RAF) Spitfires off the cost of North Africa. In a fierce battle the C.205s downed around 14 Spitfires for the loss of seven of their number – these figures are disputed by numerous sources on both sides – although the majority of the Veltro’s victims were older Spitfire Vs and so were not an a par with the Italian aircraft. Indeed, a look at a lot of the successes achieved by the C.205 during its short combat career shows that the majority were made against allied aircraft that were of the previous generation. Due to their small number and the desperate situation Mussolini’s Italy found itself in 1943 the C.205 served in mixed units with the older C.202 and were often assigned to the best pilots which also goes some way to explaining the aircraft’s brief success with the Italians and the subsequent legend that grew up around it in Italy.

In conclusion the C.205 Veltro was a competent aircraft and a very real threat to the Spitfire IX. In this instance victory would be decided more by the situation the two pilots found themselves in coupled with the skill and experience of the pilot.


Picture credits

  • Commons.wikimedia
  • Spitfireperformance.com
  • Asisbiz.com