Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Coming Back from the Dead

I remember the moment quite vividly,  I was a student at Lead-In Fighter Training and in an Intel Class.  The moment was that blinding flash of enlightenment and realization that flying a fighter, something I'd wanted to do all my life, just might not be all guns and glory.

The instructor, a rather cute Lt, was briefing us on the armament carried by various Soviet aircraft.  She'd rattle on about the Mig-21 Fishbeds carrying Atolls and having a 23mm cannon whereas the Su-11 Fishpot only carried missiles.  My mind (I was unmarried at the time) was, lets just say, more interested in the Lt than in what she had to say.

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah...Why do I care if they've got missiles AND guns or just missiles?  

That's when the moment happened.

Hey, Dummy!  Wouldn't it be nice to know what the bad guys are trying to kill you with?  or even worse shooting you down?

You see, while I didn't want to die, the thought of becoming a POW terrified terrifies me.  Coming of age at Webb, I knew several guys in Dad's flight who went over to SEA and did not come back, and several that did come back, just not on their initial DEROS.  Listening to their stories and reading their books led me to think the former was the lesser of two bads.

So, while visiting the Air Force Museum, I did not look forward to walking through the Vietnam POW exhibit at the exit of the Vietnam Era wing.  I found many of the displays to be quite dusty (if you get my meaning).
Capt Lance P. Sijan

However, as we exited that museum building and entered the next, there was a much more uplifting display.

What does it look like when you come back from the dead?

Much like this.

And where were they when that shot was taken?

On board this particular aircraft.

C-141B 66-0177

Dubbed the "Hanoi Taxi" for its role in repatriating the first group of POWs from Vietnam.

The roster
Turns out there's a tad more to the story of C-141B 66-0177, one of its last sorties before being turned over to the museum was to fly to Hanoi and return the bodies of two American's killed during the war.  Its pilot was MajGen Edward Mechenbier. 
"Life on a $5 Bet"

General Mechenbier was shot down in June of 1967 in his F-4, and was repatriated on this aircraft.  General Mechenbier's flight in the 141 was his last in the Air Force prior to retirement.  At his retirement, he was the last Vietnam POW in the Air Force.
Right after I took this shot, I was going to pull a Murph and climb into the cockpit.  Unfortunately, there's a juvat sized mark on the plexiglass at face level.

There were a lot of unique, cool, nostalgia causing aircraft in the museum and I'm glad they're being preserved.  However this one, I think, was the most deserving.  Never Give Up! Never Surrender!  Indeed.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Эй России, в чем дело?

Been seeing a huge jump in hits on the old blog lately.

Are folks in the Родина really that bored? Or have the spambots been unleashed again? Though really the only spam comment I've seen lately is from sumdood in India (Bangalore to be precise) who wants us to use his moving services.

Hey, if I need furniture moved in Bangalore (perhaps I should say Bengaluru, or बेंगलुरू if you prefer) I'll call you, but not gonna happen in the near future.

Anyhoo, Tsar Peter says...


Maybe I shouldn't post when I'm tired and can't sleep?

Big 'uns

Welcome to any newcomers to Sarge's blog.  If you happened to be stopping by expecting to see well-endowed human anatomical parts, well...you're probably going to be disappointed.  

Big 'uns in this case refers to large aircraft.  Specifically the large aircraft I encountered earlier this month at the National Museum of the US Air Force.  

There were some Yuuuge! aircraft on display.  At least one of which is larger than Donald Trumps ego, (but not as large as the puddle of corruption surrounding one of the other Presidential candidates in this election).  

But, I digress...

One of the first aircraft in this collection was on display as an RB-47H Stratojet.  

RB-47H (Sort of,,  the nose section is from an EB-47E from the Navy.  Who knew?  I thought all Navy aircraft had to have hooks!)
In any case, the B-47 was put into service as an all jet nuclear bomber.  Fortunately, it never saw combat in that role.  It also performed reconnaissance flights over Russia and in at least one case, encountered a MIG-15 and did not return to base.  The Cold War wasn't always cold.  

Walking around the aircraft took quite a while as it's wingspan sheltered several other exhibits.  It qualifies as a Big 'un.
Another Big Un was the C-124.  Huge aircraft and I'm old enough to have seen them flying.  They would fly in to Webb when I was a kid.  It was always interesting to climb in the nose wander around and then exit from the tail.  Not very fast, not very high flying but carried a lot of things a long way..
One of the drawbacks to not flying above the weather.  your props would pick up ice and when you used the deicing equipment in flight, chunks of ice were thrown off.  I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to have been sitting in the seat just behind the prop there.

Trying to provide some size perspective.  There are two separate exhibits between the left inboard engine and the wingtip
As you can see, there were two decks for passengers or 1 and 1 for passengers and cargo.  It could carry a lot of stuff!

Another large aircraft in the Museum that I wouldn't have minded flying (and I'm sure was "one of the models I made as a kid" for a great number of the readership) was this one.

B-58A Hustler
I never saw one of these when it was actively flying.  The first time I got a close up was at the Lone Star Flight Museum in Galveston.  A cool museum, (it even has a flying Spitfire) the Hustler filled up the room.

Powered by 4 J-79 engines (the same engine that powered the F-4), it was capable of Mach 2 at high altitude.  The large pod under the fuselage was a combination fuel tank and bombbay.  The thing that looks like a baby seat to the right of the fuselage, was actually an ejection pod, designed to protect the crew in the event of a high speed ejection.

There was also a B-52 at the museum, but for some reason, I didn't take any pictures of it.  The BUFF was in the Vietnam section and had been badly damaged in the Linebacker II campaign.  Badly shot up it made it back to base, but was Class-26'd at that point.

Also, in the above shot is another aircraft, the B-36.  Huge does not suffice in describing this aircraft.  In the above shot, you've got a father and his son looking at the Hustler.  The guy was about 6'1" or so.  He obviously could walk under the fuselage without much difficulty.

B-36 Tail section..  The horizontal slab actually goes over the top of the Hustler fuselage.
It's so big that it dominates the whole exhibit.  I couldn't get far enough away to get a picture that encompasses it.
It was built to carry this weapon.  That's the aircraft in the background.  Huge weapon required huge aircraft.

Screen Shot from the Museum's Virtual Tour  Cold War 6/17 is the position.  That's the RB-47 wing above.  The B-36 wing still has a jet engine to the left of the screen.  Monster Aircraft!

The last aircraft in the Big 'Uns category was the pride and joy of the Museum. The only surviving example of this beautiful aircraft

XB-70 Valkyrie

So big, I had to climb up on the Space Shuttle to get it all in one shot.

Three aircraft were ordered, two were delivered and one crashed in a publicity photo shoot.  The program was canceled at that point. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Hot Enough For You?

Yes, that is the surface of the Sun. No, it's not that hot in Little Rhody.
Here's what the weather map for temperature looked like on Saturday -


Now that's the temperature (yes, it's Fahrenheit, I don't do Celsius), here's what the humidity looked like -


Now to go all scientific on you, there's something called the heat index, this is a real thing, not The Weather Channel, this comes from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration so it can be trusted. I mean come on, the initials are NOAA, and God had him build an ark and...

Oh, his name was spelled "Noah"? Uh, never mind.

Still we can trust the government can't we? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? ...

Anyway, the following chart has been around since I was a wee lad (though it didn't have all that metric crap back then) -

As of the time I write this (Saturday, 23 July, 1645 local) in Little Rhody we're at 93 degrees with 33% humidity. Which doesn't even register on the chart. But trust me, it's hot out.

I like to describe things in certain ways, based on my own personal experiences and observations over the span of my existence. Or at least since I became self-aware around the age of four. (Before that I don't remember much, not sure I even qualified as "sentient.")

So here's the Sarge's heat scale (for summertime purposes, there's a different scale for winter called the cold scale which I might share this coming winter. POCIR...) -
  • If you can jog back upstairs because you forgot your badge and not break a sweat, that's called Not Bad.
  • If under the same circumstances you get a little sweaty, that's called Warm.
  • Same circumstances and you get very sweaty, that's called Hot.
  • Same circumstances and you are so sweaty you need to change your clothes, that's called Freaking Hot.
  • You forget your badge and decide "The Hell with it, I'm not going to work today." - that's called Oh My Lord it's Freaking Hot.
  • Anything above that and the odds are pretty good that you are in Mississippi. Or Louisiana. Or Alabama. Or Florida.
  • If the same holds true but everyone looks Asian, then you're either on Okinawa or in the Philippines.
Today it is Hot inside Chez Sarge. I did venture into the great outdoors earlier today and it was also Hot. Right now, outside anyway, it's Freaking Hot.

Do I like hot weather? Sort of, but not really. I find that as I get older I have developed a greater tolerance for heat and have far less of a tolerance for cold. Though one can put on more clothing in the winter, there is only so much clothing one can shed before one gets in trouble. Or gets odd looks...

Yeah, it's hot. But it ain't Mississippi Gulf Coast in July hot. No sir!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Been Thinking...

View of the Rhode Island State House from near Saints Sahag and Mesrob Armenian Church. I-95 is in the foreground.
Those of you who have been following along know that I am currently doing a stint as a juror in Superior Court in Providence, the capital of Little Rhody. While I can't talk about the details of the case, the participants, or anything else about the case now, I will, eventually post about the trial itself. All I can say at this point is that the trial is a criminal matter.

I consider myself a student of the human condition, anyone who studies history must be, for history (as we know it) is made by, and recorded by, humans. To my knowledge, no other species on this planet does so. Though I often wonder about elephants, they even mourn their dead. I wonder if they have some form of history, perhaps passed down from generation to generation orally. Much as we did long before the written word was invented.


That lead in picture was taken Thursday morning as I was waiting for the shuttle bus over to the court house. As is my wont, I had arrived rather early (I'm all about beating the traffic, I'd rather sit and wait in a parking lot than sit in traffic). Usually the shuttle is already there but there were no new jurors needing to show up at 0815, so I had some time. I decided to stroll around to see what I could see.

As I mentioned above, the picture was taken near an Armenian church. I had no idea such a thing existed, and I've had a few friends of Armenian descent. I also learned (from a sign out in front of the church) that the Armenian language has it's own alphabet, for instance - Հայ Առաքելական Եկեղեցի is (as you might guess) Armenian, for the "Armenian Apostolic Church." I had no ideer. They also have a few beliefs I find quite interesting. Most interesting. (Of course, I Googled the church. Seems that that branch of Christianity has been around since the Fifth Century AD.)


When I took that opening photo, I had time to spare, nowhere to be right away. I looked around. I watched a small bird rooting around in the grass leading down to a very busy interstate highway. People going to and fro, going about their business. That bird didn't give a fig. He was looking for food, no doubt the same way his kind did ten thousand years ago.

Other than the traffic noise, it was most pleasant where I stood, just watching things going on around me. Part of it, but detached, at least for the moment. All too soon I would have to head on over to the court house. Back to business as it were.

But I thanked my God for that brief opportunity to just take a moment and watch. The people, the birds, the clouds in the sky. Stopping to smell the roses, as it were.

Being in court, thrown in with a bunch of strangers has been very enlightening. One thing I've noticed, even in this very red blue* state of Little Rhody, is that normal folks seem disgusted with "politics as usual." Gives me hope it does. I mean, many of my fellow jurors are life long Dems! They cannot stomach the current circus either. What happens in November, I have no idea. I pray for the best. I still have hope. Perhaps the Creator is testing us. It certainly feels like it. But I see things which give me hope.

There is another thing about court that is most depressing. I am often appalled at the evil we do unto each other. Some of the things I'm hearing are, depraved. There is no other word for it. The things we humans do to each other is, in a word, disgusting.

But there is no court today (Friday as I write this), Saturday, and Sunday. I am away from that. I have no idea how people in the court system manage to do this every day. Week after week, year after year. I don't know if I could. I suppose you learn to stay detached from it, to develop a hard shell to protect yourself. But still, what the Hell is wrong with some people?

It's depressing...

But I have my faith, my family, and my friends. That's enough for me, it suits me fine. The outside world will do what it does, as for me, I will sit in my garden, have a beer, and watch the sky.

The Lord's canvas is vast, if one is observant, you can see a masterpiece that would make the great artists of old weep at the beauty of it.

Je suis content...

Friday evening at sunset was breathtaking.

I am blessed...

* Freudian slip. I know that red is used to represent Republican enclaves and that blue is for Democrat. I see red, I think Communist. Sorry. Thanks for the correction Cap'n Steve!

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Friday Flyby - July 2016

Focke-Wulf Fw 190 F-8 / R1, II. Gruppe, Schlachtgeschwader 2
While visiting the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA back in November of '14, I came across this beauty depicted above tucked away in the hangar. This is what the Smithsonian's website had to say about this particular aircraft -
Nicknamed the Würger (Butcher Bird*), the Fw 190 entered service in 1941 and flew throughout World War II on all fronts. It was the only German single-seat fighter powered by a radial engine and the only fighter of the war with electrically operated landing gear and flaps. Some served as fighter-bombers with ground attack units, but the Fw 190 is best known for defending against Allied daylight bombing attacks.

This Fw 190 F-8 was originally manufactured as an Fw 190 A-7 fighter. During 1944 it was remanufactured as a fighter-bomber and issued to ground attack unit SG 2. After Germany's surrender it was shipped to Freeman Field, Indiana, then transferred to the Smithsonian in 1949. Its 1980-83 restoration revealed a succession of color schemes. It now appears as it did while serving with SG 2 in 1944. (Source)
Juvat's latest post had a nice photo of the Fw 190 D, nicknamed Dora by the Luftwaffe, and a couple of the comments reminded me of just how much I liked the Fw 190. As I mentioned, she wasn't particularly pretty, but she packed a punch.

Note the landing gear...

I may have mentioned before that I had a run-in with a scout master back in the day over a model I had built of the Fw 190. He said the landing gear was wrong. I said, no, it wasn't. Long story short, I mentioned that he couldn't build a fire by rubbing two brain cells together. He was "miffed," I was pissed off and decided that perhaps scouting wasn't for me.


Note how the gear struts are canted inwards, that's the part my scoutmaster claimed that I "got wrong," he said that the struts should be straight and wouldn't listen to reason, or superior knowledge of the subject in question.

Yes, I do bring this up from time to time as it still rankles, some fifty years after the event.

Another comment indicated that the 190 had a "long nose," the Dora version, shown below, was mentioned as having an even longer nose. Well, yes, the Dora did have a long nose, much longer than the A-series of the Fw 190. The Fw 190 D-series were powered by the Junkers Jumo 213A 12-cylinder inverted-V piston engine which was introduced in the Fw 190 D-0 prototype.


The Jumo 213A was also used in the following aircraft -
  • Heinkel He 111
  • Junkers Ju 88
  • Junkers Ju 188
  • Junkers Ju 388
  • Focke-Wulf Ta 152
  • Focke-Wulf Ta 154
  • Messerschmitt Me 209-II
The A-series aircraft (known as Anton) was powered by the BMW 801 D-2 radial engine, rather shorter than the Jumo 213A. I guess if you say the nose is the bit of the aircraft forward of the cockpit, then yes, all Fw 190s had long noses. I only count the nose as the bit forward of the wing leading edge. Which is where the engine is. A minor quibble I suppose, but after listening to lawyers all week (with the requisite apologies to those friends and readers who actually are lawyers) I find myself quibbling a lot lately. It seems to be what litigators do. (It's not "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin," but it's close.)

Oh yeah, the BMW 801 D-2 was also used in these aircraft -
  • Blohm & Voss BV 141
  • Blohm & Voss BV 144
  • Dornier Do 217
  • Focke-Wulf Fw 191
  • Heinkel He 277
  • Junkers Ju 88
  • Junkers Ju 188
  • Junkers Ju 288
  • Junkers Ju 388
  • Junkers Ju 290
  • Junkers Ju 390
  • Messerschmitt Me 264
In most cases above the two engines mentioned mostly powered multi-engine aircraft, some of which never went into production. The Germans loved to tinker and experiment rather than stick to a proven design. I'm not gonna say that's why they lost the war, but it didn't help. Not at all. They just didn't have the industrial resources to waste/expend on experiments and prototypes. We did.

The Ta 152 listed as using the Jumo 213A looked a lot like the Fw 190 D (oh yeah, the Germans also called that bird the Langnase Dora, "Long nosed Dora").  But rather than have an "Fw" designation, the Ta 152 was designated after its designer, Kurt Tank. The aircraft was built by Focke Wulf. Now Herr Tank also designed the Fw 190, which was built by Focke Wulf. Why Ta 152 and not Fw 190? I don't know, might be an interesting story...

Focke Wulf Ta 152 H (Source)

She looks like a Focke Wulf with a passing resemblance to her Fw 190 sisters, but she looks "odd" for some reason. A glance at a plan view shows a number of differences which makes her look "odd."

Ta 152 H (Source)

Longer fuselage, longer wings, longer nose. Wikipedia has this to say about this bird -
The Focke-Wulf Ta 152 was a World War II German high-altitude fighter-interceptor designed by Kurt Tank and produced by Focke-Wulf. The Ta 152 was a development of the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 aircraft. It was intended to be made in at least three versions—the Ta 152H Höhenjäger ("high-altitude fighter"), the Ta 152C designed for medium-altitude operations and ground-attack using a different engine and smaller wing, and the Ta 152E fighter-reconnaissance aircraft with the engine of the H model and the wing of the C model. (Source)
Fw 190 A-3
Fw 190 D-13/R11

Having flown one in simulation, I had the impression that they were very maneuverable. You could do an aileron roll just by thinking about it (almost).

A feared "target."

Yes, the engine sounds like a tractor. Don't let that "tractor" get on your Six though, she wasn't called the Butcher Bird for nothing...


Of course, Scott's comment below got me to thinking (and to Googling). Couldn't find a color photo but found this (along with a great website!)

The Gerbini Focke–Wulf  Fw 190, flying unmolested above the United States. It was shipped to the United States in January 1944, where repairs were made. It was test flown at NAS Anacostia, then moved to NAS Patuxent River in February. It should be noted that the USN seemed impressed enough by this aircraft that they encouraged development of the F8F Bearcat, which was clearly and visually inspired by the tough fighter. Photo: US Navy

Great article on captured warbirds over at Vintage Wings of Canada. A great site, check it out!

* Würger is the German word for a shrike, sometimes known as the "butcher bird," a most interesting wee bird noted for impaling its prey. No, seriously. There is a Navy strike fighter squadron named for the shrike. Yup, the Shit Hot World Famous Orange Tailed Shrikes of VFA-94. Lex's first command. Just thought I'd mention that...

F/A-18C Hornet from VFA-94

Thursday, July 21, 2016


Since you're reading this,  Sarge must still be performing his civic duty as a member of a "jury of your peers".  Given that, I thought I'd bring out a few more photos from the National Museum of the USAF.  Today's subject will be "Targets".

Targets, of course, are something that it's okay to shoot at.  Shooting at something that is not a target is not okay and great effort should be taken to avoid doing.  So, to put this into fighter pilot english, targets are airplanes flown by the "bad guys".  (Yes, I'm not only a fighter pilot, liking things in black and white, I'm also an IT guy, liking things in 0's and 1's.  In my little corner of the universe, airplanes are flown by "good guys" or "bad guys".  YMMV.)

In any case....

Today's subject will be "Targets", which interestingly, there were several examples of in the Air Force Museum.

Fokker Dr.I

For instance, in WWI, this would be a good example of a target.  If you were looking out the front of your aircraft and saw this whilst in a diving left turn, and with your machine guns already firing, this would indeed be a target.

Thomas-Morse S4C Scout
If you were in this Scout, you might be the Target.  The Fokker (and his airplane, old joke) have already started his conversion turn, is using god's "g" to assist his turn, is nose low so gaining airspeed.  Unless you've got friends in the immediate vicinity, you may be in deep kimche.

Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero
Flown throughout WWII with extreme success early on, this aircraft eventually became a target.  However, if you happened to wake up early one Sunday to the sound of engine noise and explosions and decided to go for a flight in your P-36 whilst in your PJs, you might be the target.

In other parts of the Pacific Theater, the Japanese flew these targets.
N1K2 Shiden Kai
Highly maneuverable and well armed, this aircraft had the potential to hold it's own against the Allies best fighters.  However, as a great fighter pilot once said "The quality of the box matters little. Success depends upon the man who sits in it."  By the time this aircraft arrived in theater, the Japanese had few experienced pilots to fly it.

On the other side of the world, the Italians flew some targets themselves.

MC.200 Saetta
Even aircraft in a museum need maintenance

Lest your fighter pilot self be lulled into a sense of complacency, this fighter was flown by the Italians throughout the war.  Another tidbit of "I didn't know" trivia, the aircraft was used by the Italians against the Soviets and achieved a kill ratio of 88-15.

On the German side,  there were three targets I hadn't seen before (I've already seen an ME-109).  First, was this one.
FW-190 D

A cool looking aircraft, I hadn't paid much attention to how far back the pilot sat.  Much like the F-4U Corsair, the pilot actually sat at the trailing edge of the wing.  A dangerous aircraft when flown by a capable pilot, it caused much damage to the Allies attacking bomber forces.  However, as the experienced Luftwaffe pilots were attrited (i.e. shot down and killed), they became less effective.  This phenomenon was the basis of the USAF Doctrine emphasizing gaining and maintaining Air Supremacy.

Another case of "too little, too late", political indecision brought this aircraft to the battlefield way too late to make much of a difference.  Its speed advantage made the aircraft virtually undefeatable once on the attack.  This forced the Allies to position fighters over the Luftwaffe bases and attack the ME-262s as they were taking off and landing.  Their low speed during those phases of flight made them very vulnerable.

This was an interesting exhibit of a target.  This was a rocket propelled fighter built by the Germans launched from the ground, it took off in a steep climb having only enough fuel for one pass on the bomber fleet, then glided back to base landing on a skid.  As this particular aircraft was being restored, the museum discovered that it had been targeted successfully and had it flown would likely have destroyed itself.  Built by slave labor, it had a stone stuck in between the fuel tank and its support which would likely have caused a fuel leak.  Additionally, the glue used in the wing lamination was faulty likely causing failure in flight.  Inside the skin was printed "Mon coeur est en chômage".  "My Heart is not occupied."  Some French laborer understood "Never give up, Never Surrender".  

The MIG-15 was another example of the Red Baron's dictum.  A worthy adversary of the F-86, nonetheless it proved many times to be the target in engagements.  The Sabre was flown by well trained pilots with fighter combat time in WWII.  The Korean Pilots were minimally trained in general and closely controlled by ground radars.  The minimal training usually resulted in their first combat mission being their last.  In the hands of experienced pilots, frequently Russian, the aircraft could and did hold it's own.

Learning from some of the mistakes made in the Korean war, the North Vietnamese would use their Migs in hit and run attacks rather than sustained turn and burn engagements.  This, plus, some personnel assignment policies in the USAF which significantly reduced the combat experience levels of the pilots flying fighters in the war, reduced the USAF kill ratio to basically 1-1.  Additionally, political decisions to fight the war as "nice guys" precluded strategies to gain and maintain air supremacy. For that matter, those decisions precluded strategies to even win the war.  Which would have been more acceptable, if the people making those decisions were the ones who bore the cost of those decisions.

Know far too many of these 
Wasn't true then, isn't true now, won't be true anytime in the future. More's the pity.

Nowadays, arriving at this position is not usually a requirement to turn a fighter into a target.  Indeed, it's usually the second most dangerous place to be.  The first, of course, being the Fulcrum's predicament.  Advance ID and missile capability reduce the requirement to maneuver to a rear quarter gun shot.

But arriving here, in a training fight, sure is fun!!!