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!!!


  1. Great post and lots of fun.

    That Dora has fine lines.

    I wonder if many krauts ever paused to think through the whole "enemy slave labor is building my equipment" angle.

    1. Given that quite a few died in unexplained explosions, I'd say it might have been the last thing that went through their minds...Well except from that pesky engine part.

  2. Inside the skin was printed "Mon coeur est en chômage". "My Heart is not occupied." Some French laborer understood "Never give up, Never Surrender".

    Learned something today. Thank you.

    1. I just hope he/she made it through.

  3. Replies
    1. It was a cool airplane (in a museum FULL of cool airplanes). It took me a second to recognize it, and yes it was one of my first models also, because I didn't realize the nose was that long.

    2. One of my first models was a FW190A, too. One reason this one looks odd is that the D models swapped out the radial engine for an inline one, thus making the already long nose even longer (about an extra meter longer, counting the lengthened tail section as well). They look similar-but-different-enough to give pause.

      My very first kit, a gift, was a F86, but the first one I think I bought for myself was a Do.335. Talk about odd ducks.

    3. Did not know that about the FW. That would probably explain why there was an engine block under the opposite wing. I'll include a picture of it on the next installment.


  4. Hey, Juvat, I am enjoying this series of posts. I actually just got to go to the AF Museum last May. My brother is part of the Pavelow exhibit there (he was on that bird's last flight). Best part of the trip was when I noticed a father and his kids showing particular interest in the Pavelow. I walked up and asked if they wanted to meet a guy who flew on it. The kids eyes got real wide as I pointed to my brother. I then brought them over and introduced them. I then got to watch Bob back in his element talking about his 15 years as a Pavelow gunner. I know he misses it (he retired in 2009).
    Hopefully next time we'll have enough notice to get the early morning tour and be able to get on the helicopter.

    1. I'll bet that was pretty cool. One of the places they do actually let you climb on and into the aircraft is an F-104 (although I did notice a sign saying "except Murph"). I was sitting in it when a father and his HS freshman son came up. I started to climb out, but they told me to stay and asked me if I knew anything about the aircraft. I related a couple of short stories (yes, I can be brief). The son started to become engaged and asked me questions about flying fighters and what did he need to do to get into pilot training. We probably spent 15 minutes talking. A docent walked up as I was walking away, thanked me and said that happens to visiting vets all the time.

      As I said, cool museum.

  5. Great photos, great text, and a great museum. Historical trivia: a certain blogger who likes guns, planes and dogs was frog-marched out of that museum back in the 1980's for giving himself a self-guided interior tour of that B-24 standing behind the Italian fighter there. Note to museum staff: If you don't want people in the aircraft, don't put benches directly below open waist-gun ports. And who even knew that they had plainclothes security in there, anyway?

    1. Murph, at the entrance to the cross-over tunnel to the third building they have two mannequins dressed in East German uniforms. These had those Commie burp guns. Those guns walked out somehow and I'd guess security tightened up after that. As an aside, Juvat, did you find the black painted Hangars a help or a bother?

    2. My son loaned me his High Dollar camera which, obviously, didn't have much trouble. I suspect my trusty $50 Nikon would have had issues. But, holy smokes, that camera burned through storage. I had a 64Gb SD card and had to copy the pictures to my tablet and erase it every night.

    3. Murph,
      I do have a couple of pictures I took just for you of riveted shut boarding ladders. I figured that was a pretty good indicator that you'd visited.
      BTW, if you ever run across the aforementioned blogger, could you ask him if he took any pictures?

  6. juvat:

    Thanks for a great post and pictures. Do you know if they have a C-141B there?

    Paul L. Quandt

    1. Yes they do. A special one. More to follow.

  7. Yes, still doing the "jury of one's peers" thing. But school is out until Monday.

    Most excellent post Juvat.

    Love the FW-190, she ain't pretty but she packs a punch.

    1. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder (or in this case, the pilot). I thought the F-4E was a very good looking fighter. Looked like what it did, a whole lot of different things pretty well. The Eagle, well, that was truly a beautiful aircraft!

    2. I had no problem with any of the Phantoms. I too thought the "E" was a thing of grace, elegance, and deadly beauty.

      As to the Eagle, truly a beauty. In every way.

    3. It would be interesting to see if th E model fit closer with the golden ratio than the short nose models. I'd just looked better to me.

    4. Hhmm...

      That would be interesting. Anyone out there with mad math skills?

    5. I'm bored, waiting for a call back from tech support on a stop work problem. The golden ratio is 1.618.... and that is calculated by taking adding the two dimensions together and dividing that by the longer dimension. The closer it is to 1.618... the better.
      The E model is 63' long and 38.375' wide. 101.375/63=1.609... I knew it was a good looking airplane!

      Just because I'm really bored. The D model came in at 1.667, so farther away.

      The Eagle is 1.670. Hmmm, blows the heck out of that golden ratio theory!

    6. The golden ratio isn't the end-all-be-all of aesthetics now is it? As always, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

      The Eagle is sublime...

  8. Great post! The French could use a little "Mon coeur est en chômage" these days.

  9. I've read that the MiG-15 had a poor pressurization system that caused canopy fogging during high speed (read that "run away, run away") descents that lead to additional "targeting." Can't remember which F-86 pilot's book from which that tidbit came. FWIW, IMHO, the Dora just "looks right." Great post altogether. regards, Alemaster

    1. "led" sigh, Alemaster

    2. That would be interesting to read. One would think the faster you went, the more friction and thus heat was on the canopy. I do remember an RTB to Cope Thunder in the F-4D, low on gas so high altitude til last minute, idle descent to initial. Didn't add power til starting the final turn. Cockpits completely fogged over. Reached down and flipped on the rain removal switch. Vented engine bleed air (aka very hot) over the canopy. About 3 seconds of anal puckering followed by sighs of relief.


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