Rogozarski LVT-1 – The “Hurrischmitt”

How the Hurricane looked with the DB 601a engine installation (Nenad Mukslev)

How the Hurricane looked with the Daimler-Benz DB 601A engine installation (Nenad Mukslev)

The Hawker Hurricane is one of the greats of military aviation. Forever sitting in the shadow of its more famous comrade-in-arms, the Supermarine Spitfire, its unassuming looks hide a fascinating and pivotal role it played in history. While its service with the Royal Air Force and Britain’s allies has been well documented less is known of its equally fascinating story with the Kingdom of Yugoslavia Army Air Force (Jugoslavensko kraljevsko ratno zrakoplovstvo).

YRAF_Hawker_HurricaneWith Europe rearming in the face of an increasingly aggressive Nazi Germany the Yugoslavian government signed an agreement with Hawker in the UK to acquire up to 24 Hawker Hurricane Mk.Is with kits to produce more aircraft locally in the future. Production of Yugoslavian machines was split between the factories at Rogozarski and Zmaj and a total of 100 machines were planned. At the same time the Yugoslavians acquired Messerschmitt Bf109Es from Germany as well as undertake a domestic fighter program and it was these three factors that would conspire to create perhaps the most unique of Sydney Camm’s Hawker Hurricanes.

Rogožarski IK-3 (aviastar.org)

Rogožarski IK-3 (aviastar.org)

The story of this unique machine begins with the development of the Rogožarski factory’s IK-3 fighter. The latest in a series of successful fighters designed and built by the factory for the Yugoslavian Air Force the IK-3 was powered by an Hispano-Suiza 12Y-29 liquid-cooled supercharged V12 engine imported from France. The aircraft consequently bore a strong resemblance to the French Morane-Saulnier M.S.406 and in tests against Yugoslavian Hurricanes and Bf109Es it was found to be a very competent combat aircraft. It was faster than the Hurricane at nearly all altitudes while at the same time being more manoeuvrable than the Bf109E.

Production machines began to reach frontline squadrons in 1940 by which time, with commendable foresight, the engineers at Rogožarski realized that they needed to start work on improved versions to keep it credible in the face of rapidly advancing German technology that was being spurred on by the outbreak of war with Britain and France in 1939. They therefore began to look at alternative powerplants for the IK-3 imported from overseas. Three engines were shortlisted the first of which was the French Hispano-Suiza 12Y-51, an improved version of the engine already fitted to the IK-3 that developed 1100hp. The other two engines shortlisted were the 1080hp Daimler-Benz DB 601A (as in the Messerschmitt Bf109E) and the 1030hp Rolls-Royce Merlin III (as fitted to the Hawker Hurricane). These were all sensible choices as the factory and the air force both had some kind of experience with all three. The Hispano-Suiza engine was seen as the low-risk option and plans were beginning to get underway to start production on aircraft fitted with the more powerful version when the Germans overran France in June 1940.

With France now subjugated gone was any chance of acquiring the engine and neither was importing DB 601s from Germany a possibility. It was suggested therefore that plans should be put in to place to fit around 30 spare DB 601 engines Yugoslavia had for their Bf109Es to the IK-3 but not wanting to burn their bridges just yet it was agreed with the Yugoslavian Air Ministry to continue comparison testing with the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. Building two prototype IK-3s –  one powered by the DB 601A and one powered by the Rolls-Royce Merlin III – would be a costly and time consuming effort but the Yugoslavians came up with a cunning plan. They already knew how the Rolls-Royce engine performed in the Hurricane so they decided to fit a DB 601A engine in to one of their Hurricanes and see how the aircraft performed.

Hurricane converted to DB 601 A engine

Rolls-Royce Merlin powered Hurricane Mk.I compared to DB 601A powered version (below)

It was decided to undertake the conversion at the Ikarus factory in the town of Zemun just outside Belgrade and Hurricane Br.2301 (c/n L1751) was selected for the purpose. It was hardly a straightforward conversion. For one thing the DB 601A’s 12-cylinders were arranged in an inverted-Vee as opposed to the Merlin’s upright-Vee arrangement. This meant that the nose section had to be redesigned with the propeller mounted noticeably lower down the nose along with the exhausts (see image left) giving the aircraft an almost droopy appearance. The aircraft retained the Hurricane’s standard armament of eight .303 Browning machine guns.

The impressive conversion was completed in March 1941 and testing began immediately of what Rogozarski now designated the LVT-1 (Lovac-Vazduhoplovno Tehnički-1). Air force test pilot Captain Milos Bajagić carried out the first flight and immediately noticed a dramatic improvement in performance over the original Merlin engined Hurricane especially in the vertical plane. Further testing revealed that the DB 601A engine gave the Hurricane/TSV-1 a higher top speed over the original aircraft although it was still slightly slower than the Bf109E given the limitations of the original airframe. The TSV-1 climbed faster than the Hurricane yet maintained the excellent turning circle which gave it a real advantage over the Bf109E. Finally, the direct fuel injection system fitted to the DB 601A meant that the TSV-1 could handle much higher g-forces including negative-g (where the pilot experiences weightlessness) which often left the carburettor equipped Merlin engine struggling to take fuel. The aircraft did demonstrate a somewhat nose-heavy feel however indicating that the weight of the DB 601 did unbalance it somewhat. The tests proved conclusively for Rogozarski that the DB 601A was the superior engine but any hopes of fitting it to an improved IK-3 would quickly be dashed as history intervened and incredibly the sole TSV-1 would have its part to play.

On April 1st 1941, less than a week before the German and Italian invasion of the Balkans, a Messerschmitt Bf110C “Zerstorer” took off from Vienna bound for Romania on a flight path that would take the aircraft through Hungary. The aircrew comprised of pilot Lt. Hans Diehter and navigator Wilhelm Pries and included a mechanic, Eugen Schaufelle. Mid way through the flight the aircraft strayed off course and wandered in to Yugoslavian airspace. At the same time the LVT-1 was being readied for a test flight with Capt. Sinisa Nikolic at the controls from the airfield at Kraljevo. With tensions between Yugoslavia and Germany at an all-time high news of German aircraft over Yugoslavian territory saw pilots scrambling to their aircraft and armourers quickly loading rounds in to their guns. Nikolic was no exception and his DB 601A powered Hurricane was prepared for combat. The aircraft took off with a formation of Yugoslavian fighters to search for the Bf110C and stumbled upon the aircraft trying to make its way to Romania having realized its mistake. The Yugoslavian planes spotted the Messerschmitt and made high speed passes on the aircraft firing warning shots. It is reported that Nikolic too fired his guns during the incident which forced the outnumbered Messerschmitt crew to surrender and land back at Kraljevo.

Bf110 captured Yugoslavia

Messerschmitt Bf100C captured by the Yugoslavians on April 1st 1941 and painted in Yugoslavian markings (wp.scn.ru)

The capture of the aircraft and the internment of its crew did much to improve morale amongst the strongly anti-Nazi Yugoslavian people but only further worsened the situation between Hitler and Belgrade. Yugoslavia was never an intended target for Hitler’s armies but rather it was invaded out of necessity. In March 1941 Hitler demanded that Yugoslavia submit to his wishes to have his forces use the country in the war against Greece. The Yugoslavian Prince Regent turned to Britain for help but when the British couldn’t offer the support he wanted he felt compelled to submit to Hitler’s request. This angered the Yugoslavian people on a large scale and within days Prince Paul of Yugoslavia was forced to abdicate and the agreement was quite literally torn up. Hitler decided to teach the Yugoslavians a lesson and ordered plans for a Blitzkrieg assault to be drawn up. On April 6th 1941 his orders materialised in to a fullscale invasion.

Heavily outnumbered, the Yugoslavians put every aircraft they had in to the air including the LVT-1. On April 7th the aircraft took off with Pantelija Grandić (rank unknown) at the controls to join in an attack on German forces around the Kacanik gorge area. Grandić and his comrades approached using heavy cloud for cover before diving through and strafing German troops and vehicles. As they formed back up the LVT-1 was seen with white smoke streaming from the engine bay. It is unclear whether this was a result of combat damage or simply a mechanical breakdown as the aircraft had previously suffered a coolant puncture during testing that produced a similar result. Grandić flew on for a short while before crashing the aircraft in to a field in modern day Kosovo. Grandić survived the crash and abandoned the aircraft.

In the chaos of a German occupied Yugoslavia and the birth of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia just what happened to the aircraft afterwards remains a mystery. Sadly, any specific test data or even photographs have also disappeared and we only have pilot notes on how the aircraft looked and handled. A true oddity in aviation the story of the Hurricane with a Messerschmitt Bf109 engine is a tale of a handful of committed and intelligent people making the most of what they had and it is a true testament to the unsung genius of Yugoslavian aviation.

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Gloster Meteor F.8

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The penultimate variant of Britain’s first jet fighter the F.8 (sometimes referred to as the Mark 8 or F.mk.8) variant of the Gloster Meteor was intended to keep the aircraft competent while the new generation of swept wing fighters were under development. In reality the Meteor F.8 was not in the same class as the Soviet Union’s MiG-15 swept wing fighter as was proven in combat during the Korean War. Nevertheless the aircraft in the hands of the Royal Australian Air Force still gave a very good account of itself and was still potent when faced with the piston engined fighters still in service around the world or other straight wing jets such as the Republic F-84 Thunderjet and the Yakovlev Yak-15/17.

553229_761905707263236_8605473380426401875_nThe Meteor F.8 was based on the stretched fuselage two-seat Meteor T.7 trainer fitted with a single cockpit and standard fighter armament. It was powered by a pair of Rolls-Royce Derwent 8 engines that produced 3500lbs of thrust each, more than double what the Meteor Mk.I with its Welland engines produced demonstrating just how far the aircraft and jet technology had come in just 5 years. Stripped out (i.e. guns and ammunition removed as well as non-essential equipment) and the Meteor F.8 could tear through 640mph with relative ease. Fully loaded however and the airspeed tended to hover around the 600mph mark, still impressive when you consider that just three years earlier the fastest propeller driven aircraft were struggling to get beyond 400mph. The two Derwents allowed the aircraft to achieve a thrust-to-weight ratio of 0.45 and this meant it could climb at around 7,000ft a minute to a service ceiling of 43,000ft.

The Meteor’s design benefited from experience gained in the years of World War II in terms of its gun armament. The aircraft was fitted with four Hispano Mk.V cannons, an arrangement that quickly became standard on all British fighters of the period as it offered the best compromise between weight, ammunition capacity and of course hitting power. The weapon could hurl a 20mm shell at 840m/s and achieve a rate of fire of 750rds/min. Mounted close together in the nose meant that the pilot could bring all four guns to bear on a single spot on a target at longer ranges thus increasing their destructive power. The gun did have a somewhat chequered history however and the earlier version of the weapon was prone to jamming. In fact the first two interceptions of V-1 Flying Bombs by earlier versions of the Meteor suffered from jammed guns forcing the pilots to resort to the wingtip method of bringing them down. The Mk.V in the Meteor F.8 had largely resolved the problem but it was still prone to jamming if not properly maintained. During testing of the aircraft it was discovered that when all the ammunition had been expended the aircraft became tail heavy. This resulted in a redesigned tail being fitted to help counteract the problem.

Gloster Meteor F8 rocketsAgain, recent war experience played a part in the air-to-ground configurations with the Meteor often adopting the powerful 60lb Rocket Projectile (RP) that had proven so effective against tanks and ships under the wings of wartime Bristol Beaufighters, De Havilland Mosquitoes and of course the Hawker Typhoon. The Meteor could carry up to sixteen of the weapons under its outboard wings or alternatively eight 5-inch HVAR rockets. Another air-to-ground weapon was the traditional unguided bomb and the Meteor could carry two 1,000lb bombs under its wings.

Initial deliveries of the F.8 to the RAF began in August 1949 and the first frontline squadron converted to the aircraft the following year. Between 1950 and 1955 the aircraft constituted the bulk of RAF Fighter Command’s daytime fighter force but because of its general inferiority to the MiG-15 “Fagot” a number of Canadair built F-86 Sabres were acquired for operations in Germany until newer British fighters appeared such as the Supermarine Swift and Hawker Hunter. The Meteor F.8 was replaced in frontline service in 1957 but the nightfighter and fighter-reconnaissance versions served on until the 1960s.

  • Powerplant: 2x Derwent 8 (3,500lbs thrust each)
  • Max Speed: 592mph
  • Service Ceiling: 43,000ft
  • Length: 44ft 7in (13.59m)
  • Wingspan: 37ft 2in (11.32m)
  • Height: 13 ft 0 in (3.96m)
  • Armament: 4x 20mm Hispano V cannons
    2x1000lb bombs or 16x60lb unguided rockets

See Also

Gloster Gamecock J7904 at the Jet Age Museum

The Gloster Gamecock first flew in 1925 and was the RAF’s last wooden fighter. No complete Gamecock survives but the Jet Age Museum’s reproduction Gamecock I is nearing completion. Work has been carried out on the reproduction at the Tithe Barn Centre in Brockworth, not far from the site of the former Gloster Aircraft Company’s factory-airfield. Rear fuselage sections of two Finnish-built Gamecocks survive in museums in Finland, but apart from a handful of components that is all.

A few compromises have been made – the rigging wires are circular rather than streamline section due to cost, and plywood is used instead of asbestos for the firewall – but otherwise it is pretty much spot on. The engine is on loan from the RAF Museum and was reconditioned by Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust. The propeller is original, as are one interplane strut and two inter-aileron struts, one of them restored after it had been sharpened as a fence post.

The Gamecock reproduction is being finished as J7904 of 43 Squadron as flown by the squadron commander, complete with black and white chequers on the rear fuselage spine.

History: The Jet Age Museum
Photos: Tony Wilkins


De Havilland Vampire FB.5 vs. Saab J.21R

De Havilland Vampire Saab J.21R

The advent of the jet engine did more than offer a new form of propulsion. It opened the door to new and more exotic types of aircraft that fired the imagination and made the late 1940s and early 1950s a truly exciting time for aviation enthusiasts; one that perhaps will never be seen again.

One of the more unusual looking jet aircraft to take to British skies in this new golden age was the De Havilland Vampire. It looked nothing like the Spitfires and Hurricanes that came just five years before it. Instead of a long slender fuselage like those iconic fighters the Vampire seemed to be a set of wings, a cockpit and a double tail mounted on the end of two long booms thus producing what appeared to be a gap the aircraft. Naturally the aircraft and others like it adopted the term of “boom fighter” and it seemed to typify the future despite the fact that twin-boom aircraft were nothing new with piston engined fighters like the P-38 Lightning and P-61 Black Widow having served through the war along with the more traditional looking planes.

De Havilland Vampire 3The Vampire very nearly didn’t make it in to service. Early jet engines were extremely underpowered and it was believed that at least two were needed to give an aircraft the power needed to fly and just as importantly for the RAF to fight. The RAF therefore backed Gloster’s Meteor design but De Havilland persisted with their single engine type and eventually convinced the RAF to invest in the Vampire. Despite this difficult birth the Vampire became a winner and achieved considerable export success. It also attained several accolades such as being the first jet aircraft to fly the Atlantic and the first jet to land and take off from a carrier. The twin-boom layout typified De Havilland’s combat aircraft of the 50s and 60s with the Vampire morphing in to the Venom before work began on the awe-inspiring De Havilland Sea Vixen all-weather naval fighter.

Saab 21 3Another “boom fighter” that emerged in the early forties has gone almost forgotten outside of its home country. Sweden defended its neutrality fiercely before and during the war and to that extent went to the effort of attempting to build an air force based almost entirely on home-built designs. This freed them from being reliant on outside sources and so they were less likely to get dragged in to the war that tore Europe apart although the Swedes did operate both allied and German-designed aircraft as well. During this time the Swedish produced the extraordinary looking twin-boom Saab J.21 piston engine fighter. Powered by a license-built DB.605 engine (the same engine used in the superlative German Messerschmitt Bf.109) the J.21 also broke European trends for fighter design by adopting a pusher arrangement (propeller at the rear pushing the aircraft as opposed to one at the front pulling as in most types). Some aircraft even featured explosive bolts on the canopy and a primitive ejector seat designed to throw the pilot away from the aircraft and clear of the propeller at the back which made escape somewhat difficult otherwise.

Naturally such an advanced and unorthodox aircraft had a protracted development and it finally reached frontline units in December 1945 by which time its performance had proved wanting compared to other more mature designs such as the Supermarine Spitfire XIV which had almost 100mph over the aircraft’s top speed. The Saab J.21 therefore found itself used in the light attack role something for which it was well suited. Meanwhile the Swedish were looking for a new fighter and considered developing the J.21 in to a front engine puller version but the dawn of the jet age threatened to render that aircraft obsolete before work even began. What the Swedish needed was to develop a jet fighter and the willingness of the UK government to supply De Havilland Goblin jet engine gave them the opportunity to do just that.

Saab 21 4Saab began drawing up plans for new jet fighters but in the interim they decided to take the J.21 and install the new jet engine in place of the DB.605. It was a logical decision since like the pusher arrangement the jet engine works by pushing the aircraft along. Saab needed to redesign the rear fuselage to include an exhaust and two side mounted intakes for the jet engine yet the resulting Saab J.21R still shared over 50% commonality with its piston engine predecessor. The Swedish government were taking no chances however and had already ordered the De Havilland Vampire as well.

In the end the Vampire served the Swedish for longer albeit mostly in a training role. They were both operated as fighter-bombers and the friendly rivalry between units was fierce and passionate.

So which was better?

For this comparison the De Havilland Vampire FB.5 will be compared to the Saab J.21R.


PERFORMANCE

De Havilland Vampire 2

Both aircraft were powered by De Havilland Goblin Mk.II engine. In the Vampire this produced 3,100lbs of thrust that took the aircraft to a top speed of 540mph while a climb rate of around 4,800ft/min meant that it could reach its service ceiling of 42,000ft in a little under ten minutes. The Goblin Mk.II in the Vampire FB.5 gave the aircraft a maximum thrust-to-weight ratio of 0.46 which is slightly higher than that of the twin engine Gloster Meteor F.8. The Vampire was also an aerodynamically clean aircraft with the wing blending in to the air intakes which also generated lift.

Saab 21 5

Despite the J.21R being slightly lighter than the Vampire the low thrust of the Goblin Mk.II meant that it had a maximum thrust-to-weight ratio of 0.44. The engine took the J.21R to a speed of just 497mph most likely as a result of the higher drag the aircraft produced compared to the Vampire. The J.21R had a service ceiling of 39,000ft which gave the Vampire a 3,000ft advantage. Around 30 aircraft did feature the slightly more powerful Goblin Mk.III and this gave the aircraft a slightly better thrust-to-weight ratio but generally performance was not significantly improved. One significant criticism of the early J.21Rs were its low endurance with some flights barely lasting 40 minutes. Later models did feature increased fuel capacity but endurance remained quite limited.

Please note; maximum thrust-to-weight figures are determined by taking how much thrust is available compared to the empty weight. Internal fuel and adding ground attack weapons such as bombs and rockets decrease the thrust-to-weight ratio however as fuel is expended so the ratio becomes higher than it was just after take-off.


GUN ARMAMENT

De Havilland Vampire 1

British aircraft designers in the mid-1940s benefited from experience gained in the early years of World War II in terms of gun armament. The Vampire was fitted with four Hispano Mk.V cannons, an arrangement that had quickly become standard on all British fighters of the period as it offered the best compromise between weight, ammunition capacity and of course hitting power. The weapon could hurl a 20mm shell at 840m/s and achieve a rate of fire of 750rds/min. Mounted close together in the nose meant that the pilot could bring all four guns to bear on a single spot on a target at longer ranges thus increasing their destructive power. The gun did have a somewhat chequered history however and the earlier versions of the weapon were quite prone to jamming. The Mk.V in the Vampire had largely resolved the problem but it would still jam if not properly maintained.

Saab 21 2

Main armament for the Saab J.21R was a single 20mm Bofors gun mounted in the nose. This was a 20mm development of the famous Bofors 40mm anti-aircraft gun and was selected for its hitting power against both air and ground targets but had a firing rate of just 360rds/min. This was backed up by four 13.2mm heavy machine guns that could churn out 900rds/min although a pod was available for an additional eight guns that could be put on the centreline pylon meaning this aircraft could effectively fly with thirteen guns (!) which must be something of a record for a single seat aircraft (a close runner up was the Hawker Hurricane IIB which had twelve .303 machine guns).


ADDITIONAL ARMAMENT

De Havilland Vampire 4

As its “FB” designation signified the Vampire FB.5 was a fighter-bomber and as such packed a hefty punch with an option to carry two 500lb bombs in place of the external fuel tanks. Alternatively the Vampire could carry a pair of launchers for a quartet of 60lb rockets that proved extremely useful in World War II against a wide variety of targets including tanks and ships. These rockets were quite heavy and had a very steep gravity-drop angle (the motor was not powerful enough to keep the rocket flying level after launch) which meant they were always launched in a steep dive towards the target.

Saab 21

The Saab J.21R had four underwing pylons and a single centreline pylon for the carriage of additional weapons. Common bomb sizes for the centreline pylon were 551lbs (250kg), 1102lbs (500kg) and 1323lbs (600kg). Alternatively, four 110lb (50kg) bombs could be carried on the four underwing pylons. The Saab J.21R had a wide variety of unguided rockets at its disposal. Typical loads were ten 80mm or 100mm rockets while alternatively up to five 180mm anti-tank rockets.


CONCLUSION

As day fighters then the Vampire held a better poker-hand than the J.21R. The Vampire was over 40mph faster, had slightly better acceleration and could attain a higher service ceiling thanks in no small part to its aerodynamic efficiency. The Vampire pilot also had much better all-round visibility compared to the Saab J.21R pilot who had to contend with the fuselage coming up behind him and a heavily framed canopy. By comparison the Vampire pilot had a two piece bubble canopy that protruded from atop the forward fuselage allowing him to take a good look around and above. The J.21R pilot did have higher cumulative hitting power in terms of his gun armament if he used both the machine guns and the bofors gun in conjunction. In the extremely unlikely event that he could bring his eight guns mounted in the external pod to bare as well then the Vampire would be torn to shreds if the J.21R pilot got the British jet in his sights.

In the ground attack role the Saab J.21R was a more rounded aircraft than the Vampire. It had more weapon options which it could tailor for specific target types whereas the Vampire was more heavy handed. The Vampire could fly further but for neutral Sweden who had a policy of defensive operations this was not so much of a concern. The Saab J.21R did serve a vital purpose in that it launched the Swedish aviation industry in to the jet age and over the next 60 years the company produced some of the finest fast jet types in Europe.

 

English Electric Lightning F.6 vs. MiG-21F-13 “Fishbed-C”

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The English Electric Lightning is for many the epitome of all-British fighter design. It was indeed one of the last of it’s kind and only barely survived the now notorious 1956 White Paper that effectively killed off manned fighter development in the UK. On the other side of the Iron Curtain a similar aircraft was taking shape in the form of the equally famous MiG-21F-13. This relatively simple aircraft was rubbished by many Western observers who felt that missile technology would negate the impact of the MiG-21. As history would show over Vietnam however this was a grave underestimate and the USAF and US Navy paid dearly for it.

Although the Lightning and MiG-21 never met in combat it would certainly be an interesting comparison. PLEASE NOTE; for this comparison I am only looking at the Lightning F.6 and MiG-21F-13 “Fishbed-C” versions of these aircraft as these were operational at around the same time in the early 1960s.


ROLE

EE_Lightning_F6_XS904_BQ_(7173086416)

Both aircraft had very similar roles in that they were designed as classic Cold War interceptors; i.e their mission was to get off the ground as quickly as possible and intercept an approaching enemy bomber force. In wartime they would use their weapon system and air-to-air missiles to shoot down these bombers before they could have a chance to launch their nuclear weapons.

MiG-21F-13_Fishbed_C

In the UK and across the Iron Curtain these aircraft would form part of an intricate air defence system for their respective nations that would include surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and other aircraft. Neither of these aircraft were intended to be true dogfighters like the fighters of old since there was the belief that missile technology would nullify this aspect of air warfare. The Lightning and the MiG-21 had a secondary light attack role using rockets and unguided bombs and it was in this role that the Lightning saw it’s only actual combat with the Royal Saudi Air Force.

PERFORMANCE

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The Lightning F.6 was powered by two Rolls-Royce Avon 301R turbojets each producing 16,000lbs of thrust with full afterburner. With its low weight and aerodynamically efficient design the Lightning was able reach Mach.2 with ease and could achieve an incredible rate of climb – 50,000ft/min. The Lightning F.6 had a service ceiling of some 56,000ft but if enough thrust was achieved in the climb this could be extended higher for brief periods. Rumours persist of Lightnings buzzing U-2 spyplanes at nearly 70,000ft whilst performing these “zoom” climbs. Range was always the Achilles Heel of the Lightning however and without ferry tanks or refuelling had an absolute range of around 900 miles which translates in to a combat radius of just 180 miles from base.

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The MiG-21F-13 was powered by a single Tumansky R-11F-300 turbojet engine that developed 12,655lbs of thrust that took the MiG-21F-13 to a speed just in excess of Mach.2. The much lighter MiG-21F-13 had a climb rate in excess of 40,000ft a minute and had a service ceiling of 62,000ft. Like the Lightning the MiG-21F-13 was hardly blessed with long legs and had an absolute range of 1,030 miles while typical combat radius was around the same figure.

WEAPON SYSTEM

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The Lightning were equipped with the Ferranti-developed monopulse AI.223 radar located in a conical bullet shaped radome at the centre of the engine intake. Radar information was displayed on an early heads-up display and the radar featured several operational modes which included autonomous search, automatic target tracking, and ranging for all weapons; the pilot attack sight provided gyroscopically-derived lead angle and backup stadiametric ranging for gun firing. The radar and gunsight were collectively designated the AIRPASS: Airborne Interception Radar and Pilot Attack Sight System. The system did have a narrow detection arc however of just 40 degrees.

MiG-21F-13_NVA645_28426

The MiG-21F-13 was less of a complete weapon system. It was optimized for daylight operations only and in a strict Ground Control Interception (GCI) environment. This reflected the Soviet doctrine of almost total inflexibility toward how their pilots dealt with a threat. The aircraft was fitted with a very primitive and minuscule ranging radar designed to aid with targeting enemy aircraft in the final stages of the interception. Other than that the only other weapon systems were a primitive gunsight and the pilot’s own eyes.

WEAPONS

LightningSaudiwithJL-100

The Lightning F.6 was primarily armed with a pair of Red Top air-to-air missiles. The early Lightnings were armed with Firestreak missiles and these remained nominally in service until the Lightning was withdrawn from use. The Red Top was a rather large infra-red guided missile compared to the US AIM-9B Sidewinder but was arguably more capable having a more advanced seeker head. Unfortunately it suffered from the same problems most infra-red air-to-air missiles suffered from in the 1960s and that was poor reliability in its electronics (for more on Red Top click here). To back these up were two of the proven 30mm ADEN cannons which could also be used for straffing ground targets. In RAF service the full potential of the Lightning’s carrying capability was never reached but for the export market versions were offered with mulitple launch rails and rocket/fuel tank combinations increasing range and weaponry .

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Primary armament for the MiG-21F-13 was the K-13 infra red guided air-to-air missile. Known in the West as the AA-2 “Atoll”, if you think this weapon has a striking similarity to the US AIM-9B Sidewinder you would be right. The weapon was a direct copy of the US weapon following the failure of the Soviets to develop an equivalent missile. It was thanks to a Taiwanese F-86 Sabre firing an AIM-9B at a Chinese MiG-17 that the Communists were able to get hold of one. The missile struck the MiG’s wing but failed to detonate and became lodged inside it. The pilot flew back to his base with the missile sticking out and relatively intact. Like Red Top and Firestreak the AA-2 suffered from poor reliability and liked to chase the sun rather than an enemy plane. Most of the kills accredited to the MiG-21F-13 in Vietnam was actually a result of the aircraft’s NR-30 30mm cannon. The aircraft could also carry a variety of unguided bombs and rockets on its three pylons.

CONCLUSION

The Lightning was an aircraft designed primarily for one role and that was short ranged high speed attacks on incoming bomber formations. The MiG-21F-13 carried out the same role but was a more rounded combat aircraft in that it could more easily adopt other roles. In a dogfight neither of these aircraft had particularly good weapons aside from their guns and while the MiG-21F-13 did have a higher degree of agility the Lightning pilot was afforded a far superior weapon system meaning he could detect the MiG-21F-13 much sooner giving him greater scope with which to attack; he could decide to flee in face of superior numbers or alter his attack approach in order to ambush a MiG-21F-13 whose pilot still largely relied on the old “Mark One Eyeball” sensor. As Manfred “Red Baron Von Richtofen often said; the majority of his victims never saw him coming.

Forgotten Aircraft: Fairey Battle

65991FFD_5056_A318_A8262370B6EFBB7CThe Fairey Battle was a single engined light bomber that was operational at the start of the Second World War. As such it played a large although somewhat unsuccessful role in the RAF’s efforts to blunt the advance of the German forces. The aircraft was conceived in the days when there was a belief that bombers could be built fast enough to outrun enemy fighters. Unfortunately every advance that made bombers faster could also be applied to fighters and so the fighter always had an advantage. It was however an improvement over the previous Hawker Hart and Hind biplanes that it replaced.

Power came from the same Rolls-Royce Merlin engine as the Spitfire and Hurricane but was heavier and therefore not as fast (top speed was 257mph) or nimble. The aircraft had just two guns; a single .303 machine gun in the starboard wing for straffing and a single .303 in the rear of the cockpit for defence. For offensive operations the aircraft could carry four 250lb bombs internally and two 500lb bombs on external hardpoints.

db_Fairey_Battles1

The aircraft has been mired by the savagery at which the Germans destroyed them. The aircraft proved disappointing but recently military historians have put more blame on the way the aircraft was used rather than the design itself. They were used as level day bombers which left them incredibly vulnerable. Had the aircraft been used more like the remarkably similar and infinitely more successful Il-2 Shturmovik of the Soviet Air Force then it might have proven more useful.

Before it was withdrawn from frontline service in 1940 however it did achieve its greatest claim to fame – this was the first RAF aircraft to shoot down a German plane in the war when on 20th September 1939, a Luftwaffe Bf109 fighter was shot down by Sgt. F. Letchard during a a patrol over France.

bessmyslennyi_02

  • Role: Light Day Bomber
  • Crew: 3
  • Powerplant: 1 × Rolls-Royce Merlin II liquid-cooled V12 engine, 1,030 hp (768 kW)
  • Maximum speed: 257 mph (223 kn, 413 km/h) at 15,000 ft (4,600 m)
  • Range: 1,000 miles
  • Service ceiling: 25,000 ft
  • Length: 42 ft 4 in (12.91 m)
  • Wingspan: 54 ft 0 in (16.46 m)
  • Height: 15 ft 6 in (4.72 m)
  • Wing area: 422 ft² (39.2 m²)
  • Empty weight: 6,647 lb (3,015 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 10,792 lb (4,895 kg)
  • Armament:
    1× .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine gun in starboard wing
    1× .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers K machine gun in rear cabin
    4× 250 lb (110 kg) bombs internally
    500 lb (230 kg) of bombs externally