Friday, August 16, 2013

The Friday Flyby - 16 August

He-219 Uhu
That magnificent bird above is one of the Old AF Sarge's favorite WWII aircraft, the He-219 Uhu, a night fighter sans pareil.

From Wikipedia:
The Heinkel He-219 Uhu ("Eagle-Owl") was a night fighter that served with the Luftwaffe in the later stages of World War II. A relatively sophisticated design, the He-219 possessed a variety of innovations, including an advanced VHF-band intercept radar. It was also the first operational military aircraft in the world to be equipped with ejection seats, and the first operational German World War II-era aircraft with tricycle landing gear. Had the Uhu been available in quantity, it might have had a significant effect on the strategic night bombing offensive of the Royal Air Force; but only 294 of all models were built by the end of the war, and these saw only limited service.
Here's the Uhu's namesake, the European Eagle-Owl - 


A magnificent night hunter, I've seen an Eagle-Owl in person, they are very big birds. They can have a wingspan of up to six feet, plus! A very appropriate name for a very effective night fighter.

Predator and Prey
Europe

Northrup P-61 Black Widow

Another of my favorites, the P-61. I should note that I had models of both of these aircraft. Both are kind of strange looking, both are kind of dangerous looking. Weapon systems should look dangerous!

From Wikipedia:
The Northrop P-61 Black Widow, was the first operational U.S. military aircraft designed specifically for night interception of opposing aircraft, and was the first aircraft specifically designed to use radar. It was an all-metal, twin-engine, twin-boom design developed during World War II. The first test flight was made on 26 May 1942, with the first production aircraft rolling off the assembly line in October 1943. The last aircraft was retired from government service in 1954.
Here's the Black Widow's namesake - 



[Shudder...]

Predator and Prey
Pacific

Sometimes, the predator becomes the prey...
Mossie versus Me-110

Night Falls...

Bomber Crew's Nightmare
Flak and Ju-88

"Goodnight Jerry!"

As you might expect, the top night fighter aces were German. After all, RAF Bomber Command flew hundreds of missions in the night skies over Germany. While the Yanks pounded Germany by day, the British pounded Germany at night. So there was a lot of action in the night skies over Europe. Mostly German pilots trying desperately to stem the growing tide of destruction of their homeland.


Major Hans-Wolfgang Schnaufer
Deutsches Luftwaffe
121 Aerial Victories
(All at night)
1922 - 1950

Oberst Helmut Lent
Deutsches Luftwaffe
110 Aerial Victories
(102 at night)
1918 - 1944
Wing Commander Bransome Arthur "Branse" Burbridge
Royal Air Force
21 Aerial Victories
(All at night)
Born 1921

Group Captain John "Cat's Eyes" Cunningham
Royal Air Force
20 Aerial Victories
(19 at night)
1917 - 2002

Only two American night fighter pilots became aces. Northrop P-61 Black Widow pilot Paul A. Smith downed five German aircraft over Europe in 1944. Major Carroll C. Smith, commander of the 418th Night Fighter Squadron in New Guinea and the Philippines, scored two of his night victories in modified P-38Js and five in P-61As, including four on the night of December 29-30, 1944. (Source)

Appropriately enough, one Smith in Europe, one Smith in the Pacific. Both flew the Black Widow.
Captain Paul Smith in the cockpit of his P-61 "Lady GEN"

Major Carroll Smith, Commander of the 418th Night Fighter Squadron

16 comments:

  1. I too made models of most of these aircraft. Thought the P-61 was WAY cool. Then got into flying fighters at night and realized that it was an order of magnitude more difficult than during the day. Old Heads said you got used to it the more you did it and I suppose that was so, but I never really enjoyed it as much as day. So, long way to say, I've got a lot of respect for these guys and becoming Aces at Night.
    Keep up the good work with the Friday Flyby. It's an interesting read every week.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks juvat.

      I can't imagine trying to fly and fight in the dark.

      Delete
  2. Yup, I was a big P-61 fan as well.

    Yet another great post.

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    Replies
    1. That was an awesome bird.

      Thanks Buck.

      Delete
  3. My only comment is the dipole antennae really screw up the lines of the aircraft.
    Function before beauty I guess.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, that always bothered me too. But you're right, function first.

      Delete
  4. That is an airplane I want to see in person. Next summer hope to visit Wright-Patterson.

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    Replies
    1. They have a P-61 at Wright-Pat? I need to get over there someday!

      Delete
  5. http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=524

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  6. That Uhu is one evil-looking aircraft. It positively reeks malevolence.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Weapons systems should look malevolent. Just think of the Apache helicopter. Not very cuddly.

      Delete
  7. P-61s were one helluva design! And it took a large 'set' to fly those in night combat, trusting to a new and VERY rudimentary system... Sadly there are only one or two still in existence, and one is thankfully at Udvar Hazy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Another opportunity for me to actually see one.

      Thanks for the tip!

      Delete
  8. The only surviving Messerschmitt Me 262 jet night fighter may be viewed at the South African National Museum of Military History. It's an interesting aircraft.

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    Replies
    1. I had no idea there were any examples of the Me-262 night fighter still around. That would be something to see!

      Delete

Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)