Tailhook Topics

by Tommy H. Thomason

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Angelo Romano Rules!

 Angelo Romano has been creating excellent books on U.S. Navy operating units since at least 2004. He has an enormous and well-organized collection of photos (some of which he has taken himself over the years); books and documents; and an address book of subject-matter experts second to none. His latest, published in conjunction with Ginter Books, is World Class Diamondbacks, A Pictorial History of Strike Fighter Squadron 102 (VFA-102):

It is available from Ginter Books: http://www.ginterbooks.com/NAVAL/NF306/USN_SQ_Hist_306.htm

You can buy with confidence that it is as comprehensive, informative, beautifully illustrated, and high-quality as his other books.

I’ve written brief reviews about most of them, which probably don’t do them justice; I’ve assumed that if you have any interest in the subject matter, you will not hesitate to buy any of them:

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Douglas A-4 Skyhawk: Early ECM Antennas

Defensive Electronic Countermeasures (DECM) against Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs) was a given for large Navy attack airplanes but not initially for the A-4 Skyhawk because of the size and weight of the electronics required. Losses over North Vietnam dictated its addition.

The exterior change was the addition of five antennas, three forward and two aft. One forward or one aft detected the radar pulse of four different kinds of fire-control radar. The ALQ-51 electronics then automatically transmitted a pulse from the other two forward antennas or the other one aft that misled the radar operator or confused him as to the location of the airplane, preventing guidance of the SAM to it. For an instructive video on the process, click HERE.

The antenna resembled an ice cream cone:

The forward transmitting antennas were located on either side of the nose landing gear actuator well. Two were probably required because there was no place to mount one aft of that or if there was, the airframe or stores might block or diminish the signal from it in some directions.

The antennas were exposed and therefore sometimes broken off. In that event or if they were not required, they would be replaced by a half-round black rubber ball as in the mount labeled 9 here:

A subsequent addition to the Skyhawk's ECM suite provided the pilot with a warning that a fire-control radar was tracking him to improve his chances of spotting a SAM fired at him and evading it in case it wasn't being spoofed. This was the APR-25. It utilized four antennas about the size and shape of small drink coasters, two facing forward and two aft. They were angled outward so the APR-25 electronics could analyze the strength of the pulse being received at each antenna, determine the direction it was coming from, and display that to the pilot on a scope in the cockpit.

The two aft antennas were mounted one on each side of the sugar scoop.

The two forward APR-25 antennas were colocated with the forward facing ALQ-51 receiving antenna in a larger fairing.

Thanks to Dave Dollarhide, Bill Egen, Carlton Floyd, and Jim Winchester for their help with this topic; any errors in the above were made by me. Comments, corrections, and additional information are welcome.

Monday, August 31, 2020

The Colorful TBM-3U

2 September 2020: Sword plans to issue a kit of the TBM-3U at the end of the year.

2 September 2020: The white store under the right wing is an AN/APS-4 radar. See https://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2014/11/things-under-wings-anaps-4.html

Sword Models (https://www.facebook.com/swordmodels/) has just released three 1/72 scale kits of postwar TBMs (for a summary of all the U.S. Navy variants and a guideline for the presence of an internal or external tailhook, see https://thanlont.blogspot.com/2015/07/post-war-eastern-tbm-variants.html):

SW72130 Avenger AS.4

SW72131 TBM-3S2

SW72132 TBM-3R

The TBM-3R was the first real COD (Carrier Onboard Delivery) in the U.S. Navy. For more, see https://tailhooktopics.blogspot.com/2013/01/tbm-3r-cod.html

One of the significant differences among these versions is the various canopy iterations from the standard one with a prominent machine gun turret. As a result, the TBM-3R kit makes it easy to create a fourth and very colorful variant, the TBM-3U.

The U for Utility TBM was a modification of existing one involving the removal of all offensive and defensive equipment and addition of a target-tow capability. The canopy was basically identical to one of the TBM-3R variants.

This is a notional inboard profile:

Note that the tow reel might be mounted higher to fit within the width of the lower fuselage at that point. The circular structure on which the turret was mounted would probably still be present.

The tail hook might be internal or external depending on the TBM used for the conversion or removed entirely.



 External (note the cutback of the lower gun tunnel)

 This is probably a TBM-3J (note that it still has a rear turret) with the external tailhook removed:

The tow reel might look something like this, less the structure aft of the reel (this is the pod-mounted AD Skyraider tow mechanism):

Although later target-tow airplanes had engine gray fuselages, as of May 1946 they had gloss Sea Blue fuselages as well as an 18-inch wide walkway on the upper surface of the wings adjacent to the fuselage. The upper and lower surface of the wings and horizontal stabilizer were to be Orange Yellow as well as the vertical fin (the rudder was to be Insignia Red). A 36-inch wide Insignia Red band was also to be painted on the upper and lower surface of the wing about one third of the distance outboard from the fuselage to the wing tip.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

FJ-4 and FJ-4B Stores Pylons

Mads Bangsø asked for information on the FJ-4 and FJ-4B pylons. I knew the subject was complicated but had forgotten how complicated it was.

First, the FJ-4 was equipped with four external stores stations, outboard and mid-wing, and the FJ-4B attack derivative with six: outboard, mid-wing, and inboard.

FJ-4 pylons:
FJ-4B pylons:
 Unfortunately, I don't have any drawings or dimensions for any of the pylons.

Second, only the mid-wing stations on the FJ-4 were plumbed for external fuel tanks. On the FJ-4B, the outboard stations were also plumbed for external fuel tanks.

After that, it gets complicated. What I'll call "pylon adapters" could be mounted at the stores stations as on this FJ-4 target tug.
Note that when the mid-wing pylon was removed, the plumbing connections were covered by a small fairing. I'm pretty sure that one wasn't required on the FJ-4 outboard station.

Pylons suitable to the store to be carried were attached to the pylon adapter.

I don't know if the Sidewinder was carried on a bespoke pylon attached directly to the wing or it also utilized the adapter.

The pylons get really complicated on the FJ-4B:
All the stations could carry rocket pods or Bullpups (if armed with Bullpups, the right inboard station was used for a Bullpup-control pod.) The outboard stations were capable of carrying a 150-gallon Douglas fuel tank on a dedicated pylon and the mid-wing stations, the standard FJ 200-gallon tank, a Mk 7 nuclear weapon (left side only), or the North American inflight-refueling tanks. Note that the different stores required different pylons and some did not utilize the adapter but were attached directly to the wing.

Also, the inboard adapter was different:

Missing from the above display are the unique Bullpup pylons.

 However, the adapter on the right inboard station was utilized for a pylon to which was mounted the Bullpup control pod.

The refueling pods pylon (the right pod carried the hose and reel in addition to some fuel):
It appears to have been attached directly to the wing.

The Mk 7 pylon was also attached directly to the wing:
As was the outboard pylon for the 150-gallon tank (the tip of the outboard tank seems to be bulged but that is the nose of a tank mounted on the mid-wing station).
Whereas the 200-gallon tank on the mid-wing station utilized the adapter the same as the FJ-4:

The standard nuclear strike configuration was the Mk 7 and three external tanks:

Rocket pods were hung from pylons mounted on the adapters;

This FJ-4B has a pylon on the mid-wing station for bombs, no adapter (it appears to be identical to the pylon used for the inflight-refueling pods):

And lastly, when there were no adapters or bespoke pylons, a small fairing was substituted near the aft end of the station (the dark areas on the most outboard fairing are from the location of the national insignia), even for some reason, the inboard one, at least on the right side.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

F8U-3 Monograph - Last Chance!

A big part of the McDonnell F4H-1 story is the fly off with Vought's F8U-3, the best airplane that the Navy didn't buy, according to George Spangenberg, the Director of BuAer's Evaluation Division at the time. Steve Ginter is down to his last box of my F8U-3 monograph that provides much more information and background on that program than I could include in my F4H-1 monograph. For the whole story, I recommend that you include both in your library.

If you do buy one or both, I suggest that you do so directly from Steve Ginter so he gets the full value of the sale:

For the F8U-3, see http://www.ginterbooks.com/NAVAL/NF87.htm

For the F4H-1, see http://www.ginterbooks.com/NAVAL/NF108.htm

Sunday, April 12, 2020

F4U-5 Redux

Why the chipmunk-like filled cheeks on the F4U-5? The reason was the addition of air ducts leading from the inlets on the cowl ring back alongside the engine to the -5's auxiliary stage superchargers aft of the engine.
For more, see https://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2017/04/the-last-propeller-pulled-corsairs-f4u.html

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Lockheed P2V-3 Neptune

Lockheed designed and built P2V patrol bombers with seven different dash numbers, all powered by the Wright R-3350 engines. The XP2V-1 first flew in May 1945 as the war in the Pacific neared its end. Three more dash numbers, generally associated with ever increasing takeoff horsepower, followed in fairly short order but none were built in large numbers due to the austere military budgets that followed World War II. The P2V-5, with yet another more powerful R-3350, first flew in December 1950, just in time to benefit from the resumption of military spending engendered by the Korean War. Almost 500 P2V-5s and MR.1s were built. It was followed by a relatively small quantity of P2V-6s, theoretically capable of fighting its way in and out of shipping lanes and harbors where it was to lay mines, and 287 of the final dash number, the -7, which was soon optimized for antisubmarine warfare.

 For a pretty good summary of the various Neptunes, click HERE

Since the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force utilized the P2V-7, it was appropriate for a Japanese plastic model-kit manufacturer to produce one in this configuration. It was first released in 1972 and has been frequently reissued with different decals. While some of configuration details, notably the canopy, are unique to the -7, "cottage-industry" conversion kit manufacturers have provided the details necessary to backdate the -7 to the -5. See http://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2020/03/lockheed-p2v-5-vs-7-neptune.html

However, my main interest in the Neptune is that the Navy optimized a handful for a very specific mission after World War II, the delivery of a nuclear weapon from an aircraft carrier. This was the P2V-3C. While the conversion to a -3 is more extensive than creating a -5 from the -7, it is not a significantly higher degree of difficulty. For a detailed -3 conversion build-article by Edward Ellickson, aka TheRealMrEd, click HERE. It is profusely illustrated. Even though you may not be interested in a P2V-3 model, it is entertaining and informative, with lots of modeling tips and descriptions of a few problems necessitating creative solutions. Moreover, unlike some of us (me for one), Ed completes his challenging projects.
Edward Ellickson model and photo

While the P2V bomb bay wasn't big enough for the Mk 4 atomic bomb, it could accommodate the original Mk 1 and carry it a long way, particularly after fuel tanks were added to the nose and aft crew compartment. As a result, it was a quickly created placeholder until the North American AJ Savage, which was literally designed around the Mk 4, was ready to deploy. To reduce drag, the radar was moved to the nose and the upper turret was removed, along with the tail bumper and every other external excrescence.
The P2V-3C was to be deck launched from the big Midway-class carriers by utilizing JATO.

The initial plan was to recover it back aboard by the usual means, but after an evaluation of the degree of difficulty during field-landing trials at Patuxent River, the tailhooks were removed and the operational concept was to crane the P2V-3Cs aboard when required. This picture was taken during the tailhook proof-load testing at Lockheed.

More later...