Category Warbirds

. Blohm und Voss Bv 138

Dimensions: wingspan, 88 feet, 4 inches; length, 65 feet, 1 inch; height, 19 feet, 4 inches Weights: empty, 24,250 pounds; gross, 34,100 pounds

Power plant: 3 x 600-horsepower Junkers Jumo 205C liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 170 miles per hour; ceiling, 18,700 feet; range, 2,500 miles Armament: 2 x 20mm cannons; 1 x 13mm machine gun; up to 1,200 pounds of bombs or mines Service dates: 1939-1945


izarre looks notwithstanding, the “Flying Clog” was an important part of the Luftwaffe’s mar­itime reconnaissance program. It would frequently rendezvous with U-boats at sea, bringing them diesel fuel.

In 1933 the Luftfahrtkommissariat (part of the Air Ministry) issued specifications for a long – range reconnaissance flying boat. That year Dr. Richard Vogt of Hamburger Flugzeugbau GmbH, a subsidiary of the famous Blohm und Voss company, conceived an unusually configured design. Initially designated the Ha 138, this was a trimotor craft with dual booms. Moreover, the short fuselage also dou­bled as a watertight hull. The initial flight trials in 1937 revealed it to possess serious aerodynamic and hydrodynamic deficiencies, and so extensive modifi­cations were undertaken to correct them. This en­tailed enlarging the fuselage by 50 percent, lengthen­ing the booms, and redesigning the tail section. The craft was approved for production in 1939 under the revised designation Bv 138. The initial preproduc­tion batch of 25 machines saw service in the Norwe­
gian campaign of 1940, where they were judged un­derpowered and restricted to transport duties.

Continual refinements resulted in appearance of the Bv 138B with stronger engines and greater ar­mament. The open gun parts were fitted with power turrets mounting 20mm cannons. The final produc­tion version, the Bv 138C, arrived in the spring of 1941, featuring additional machine guns and more efficient propellers. By now the Bv 138 possessed fine flying and water characteristics and functioned well in its appointed role. Crews nicknamed it Der Fliegende Holzschuh or “Flying Clog,” because of its distinct shape. In service these fine machines flew from bases along the North Sea and Norway, con­stantly shadowing Allied convoys and providing in­tercept coordinates for U-boats and surface raiders. Given its 18-hour endurance, Bv 138s would also alight next to U-boats far at sea, provisioning them with food and diesel fuel. A final version, the Bv 138MS, was equipped with a large degaussing ring for minesweeping. Production amounted to 279 units.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 27 feet, 10 inches; length, 21 feet, 10 inches; height, 9 feet, two inches

Weights: empty, 1,482 pounds; gross, 2,073 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 150-horsepower Daimler liquid-cooled engine

Performance: maximum speed, 111 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,404 feet; range, 260 miles Armament: 1 x 7.92mm machine gun Service dates: 1916-1917


he infamous “Star-strutter” was one arguably of the worst fighter planes ever designed. Its slow climb, poor forward vision, and unpredictable stalls earned it an ignominious nickname: “The Flying Coffin.”

By 1916 the Austrian Luftfahrtruppe (Austrian air service) was in urgent need for new fighter craft to counter more modern French and Italian designs. It fell upon Ernst Heinkel of the German firm Hansa und Brandenberg Flugzeugwerke to provide a proto­type, as the company’s owner was an Austrian na­tional. Initially christened the KD Spinne (Spider), Heinkel’s new craft was both bizarre and ugly. It was outwardly a standard biplane configuration, its squarish wings sporting a positive stagger, with a relatively small rudder buried deep in the fuselage. What made the craft unique was the arrangement of the bracing struts, namely, four sets of vees converg­ing between the two wings in a star arrangement. This innovation enabled the KD to dispense with the usual wire rigging but did little to enhance its per­formance. Tests flights further revealed that the
plane, dubbed “Star-strutter” by the press, was slow and unstable. More important, the placement of the radiator directly over the engine nearly obstructed the pilot’s frontal view. Yet the pressing need for new fighters left Austria little recourse but to allow Heinkel’s abomination to enter production. In the spring of 1916 these unsightly machines were de­ployed to field units as the D I.

Predictably, pilots immediately disliked the Star-strutter on account of its strange appearance and poor handling. Although relatively fast for its day, the D I possessed vicious stall characteristics, and several were lost to crashes. Moreover, its single machine gun, housed in a conspicuous fairing above the top wing, was inaccessible to the pilot and fur­ther denigrated its marginal handling. At length, the D I acquired the nickname Die Fliegender Sarg (The Flying Coffin). The Ufag and Phonix companies tried improving the craft with modified tail configu­rations, with little success. The hated D Is remained in frontline service until their welcome replacement by Aviatik D Is in mid-1917.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 44 feet, 3 inches; length, 30 feet, 3 inches; height, 9 feet, 10 inches

Weights: empty, 2,205 pounds; gross, 3,296 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 150-horsepower Benz Bz III liquid-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 109 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,405 feet; range, 400 miles

Armament: 3 x 7.92mm machine guns

Service dates: 1918-1926


he fast, maneuverable W 29 was one of World War I’s best floatplane fighters. From numerous stations along the Northern European coast, it con­tinually menaced British shipping and aircraft with great effect.

In the early days of World War I, German naval installations along the North Sea shore were con­stantly raided by numerous well-armed British flying boats. The lack of an effective naval fighter prompted Hansa-Brandenburg’s talented engineer, Ernst Heinkel, to develop a series of floatplane fight­ers to counter them. The first, the W 12 of 1917, was a uniquely shaped biplane fitted with pontoons, and it rendered effective service. By the spring of 1918, however, Heinkel realized that biplane fighters en­cumbered by floatation gear were unequal to the task of fending off the latest Allied seaplanes. The only solution was to develop a monoplane fighter with less drag and more performance.

The new Hansa-Brandenburg machine was designated the W 29 and among the finest deployed during the war. It was essentially a modified W 12
fitted with an enlarged, low-mounted wing whose surface area nearly equaled that of the biplane. Like all aircraft of this series, the W 29’s fuselage formed a knife-edge rearward and canted upward. A rather small rudder was placed on the very end and partially drooped down under the fuselage. It was powered by a 150-horsepower Benz BZ III en­gine, which gave it excellent speed, and the overall design displayed great agility. The W 29 subse­quently entered into production, and a total of 75 were completed.

In service the W 29 proved itself the terror of the North Sea. The detachment commanded by Oberleutnant Friedrich Christiensen routinely en­gaged and shot up numerous Felixstowe F2A flying boats. His W 29s were also responsible for sinking three British patrol boats in a single action, and Christiensen himself seriously damaged a British submarine. After the war, these superlative float­planes were utilized by Denmark and Finland until 1926. Its basic features were also incorporated into similar designs throughout the postwar period.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 30 feet; length, 26 feet, 9 inches; height, 10 feet, 2 inches Weights: empty, 2,734 pounds; gross, 3,609 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 640-horsepower Rolls-Royce Kestrel VI water-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 223 miles per hour; ceiling, 29,500 feet; range, 270 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns Service dates: 1931-1939


he Hawker Fury was the first British warplane to exceed 200 miles per hour in level flight. It united the virtues of beautiful design, high perform­ance, and great maneuverability into one formidable machine.

Sydney Camm began working on the Hawker Fury in 1927 with an initial design called the Hor­net. The Air Ministry at that time had been calling for fighters with superior speed and climbing capa­bilities, even at the expense of range. Camm took it upon himself to disregard ministry specifications fa­voring radial engines and fitted a new Rolls-Royce Kestrel in-line engine to the old Hornet body. The re­sult was a masterpiece of aeronautical engineering: the Fury I. It was an unequal-span, single-bay bi­plane with wings supported by “N” struts splaying outward. The fuselage was oval in cross-section and covered in fabric save for a sharply pointed engine area, enclosed by metal. The result was a sleek-look – ing craft of particularly pleasing lines. Test flights demonstrated it was 30 miles per hour faster than the Bristol Bulldog and climbed faster as well. The
ministry was so impressed that it rewrote new spec­ifications around this craft! In 1931 the first Fury Is were deployed; 146 were built. Pilots immediately took a liking to this aerodynamic doyen, which was both fast and nimble.

In 1936 the Fury II appeared, sporting a larger engine and more fuel capacity. This version climbed 30 percent faster than the original model but at the cost of shortened range. Pilots also reported that it was inferior at high altitudes to the Gloster Gaunt­let. Nevertheless, the Royal Air Force acquired an additional 118 machines. The airplane’s sparkling performance naturally attracted foreign govern­ments, and about 50 were exported to Norway, Per­sia, Portugal, Yugoslavia, and South Africa. Three even clandestinely found their way to Spain during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1938). One was cap­tured by Nationalist forces, and another was rebuilt by Republicans from wreckage of the original two, so the Fury ended up fighting for both sides! By 1939 these elegant biplanes had been supplanted by another Camm masterpiece: the Hawker Hurricane.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 37 feet, 3 inches; length, 29 feet, 4 inches; height, 10 feet, 5 inches Weights: empty, 2,530 pounds; gross, 4,554 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 525-horsepower Rolls-Royce Kestrel IB liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 184 miles per hour; ceiling, 21,230 feet; range, 470 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine gun; up to 500 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1930-1938


he successful Hart spawned more variants than any other British design of the 1930s. It became one of the most advanced and significant bomber aircraft of the interwar period.

The adaptable Hawker Hart evolved in re­sponse to Air Ministry Specification 12/26, which mandated creation of a day bomber with unprece­dented speed. Hawker’s Sydney Camm originated plans for such a craft in 1927, and when developed as a prototype it exerted profound military implica­tions. The new craft was a standard single-bay bi­plane with unequal, staggered wings made of metal frame and covered in fabric. They were supported by “N”-type interplane struts that splayed outward. The fuselage was oval-sectioned, metal-framed, and canvas-covered. The most prominent characteristic of the Hart was its extremely pointed cowl and spin­ner, giving it a decidedly streamlined appearance. This was in complete contrast to the blunter, radial – engine machines of the day. The Hart flew well and extremely fast, so fast that it embarrassed all British
fighters then in production—none could catch it! The ministry was suitably impressed by Camm’s brainchild, so in 1930 the Hawker Hart entered the service as a light bomber.

The overall excellence of Camm’s creation can be gauged by the sheer number of variants spawned by his original design. The Fleet Air Arm went on to acquire the Hawker Osprey, a navalized version, in quantity. They were followed in short order by the Hawker Audax, built as an army cooperation type; the Hardy, a general-purpose type; and the Hector, another army cooperation craft. The Hart series also inspired its replacement, the Hawker Hind, which was just as striking and even more capable. The total number of Harts numbered roughly 1,000, exclusive of subtypes, making it one of the most numerous light bombers of the 1930s. They lingered in frontline ser­vice before being supplanted by Bristol Blenheims in 1938. Although best remembered as a light bomber, the Hart is more significant for having stimulated de­velopment of even faster British fighters.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 33 feet, 8 inches; length, 45 feet, 10 inches; height, 13 feet, 2 inches

Weights: empty, 14,400 pounds; gross, 24,600 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 10,150-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Avon turbojet engine

Performance: maximum speed, 620 miles per hour; ceiling, 50,000 feet; range, 443 miles

Armament: 4 x 30mm cannons; up to 6,000 pounds of bombs or rockets

Service dates: 1954-


stensibly the most beautiful jet fighter ever built, the rakish Hunter is also Britain’s most successful postwar aircraft. At the half-century mark of its lifespan, several machines are still in ac­tive service.

By 1948 the British Air Ministry was looking for an updated aircraft to replace its Gloster Meteors and issued Specification F.4/48 for Britain’s first swept-wing fighter. Sir Sydney Camm of Hawker, who had helped sire the Hurricane, Tempest, and Sea Fury, quickly promulgated a design of classic proportions and performance. The P 1967 made its first test flight in 1951 with great success. This was a midwing, stressed skin monoplane with wings of 40- degree sweep and a relatively high tail. The new craft exhibited sparkling performance in the tran­sonic range and entered the service in 1954—much to the delight of Royal Air Force pilots. Hunters pos­sessed world-class performance, were highly ma­neuverable, and proved very much the equal of any fighter then in production. However, an early prob­
lem encountered was engine failure after firing the four 30mm cannons positioned near the nose. The problem was traced to the ingestion of gun fumes, which induced a flameout, but this was corrected in subsequent versions. The most numerous of these was the FGA Mk 9, a dedicated ground-attack air­craft that could deliver a sizable load of bombs and rockets. By 1964 a total of 1,985 Hunters had been constructed.

The Hunter also proved itself one of the most outstanding export successes of the century. India, Iraq, Switzerland, Belgium, Sweden, and Jordan, among others, all imported the sleek fighter and em­ployed it for years after its departure from the RAF stable. The various Indo-Pakistani wars of the 1970s proved that the aging fighter had lost none of its punch, and it was also flown against the redoubtable Israeli air force with good effect. The Swiss were so enamored of their beloved Hunters that they made no real attempt to replace them until 1991! A handful are still performing frontline service in Zimbabwe.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 40 feet; length, 32 feet; height, 13 feet, 1 inch Weights: empty, 5,800 pounds; gross, 8,100 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,280-horsepower Rolls-Royce Merlin XX liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 336 miles per hour; ceiling, 35,600 feet; range, 460 miles Armament: 8 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 1,000 pounds of bombs or rockets Service dates: 1938-1945


ew aircraft were as significant to England’s survival as the famous Hurricane. During the Battle of Britain it shot down more aircraft than the vaunted Spitfire, and later rendered distin­guished service in the Mediterranean and Pacific theaters.

Upon receipt of Air Ministry Specification F.7/30 in 1930, Sydney Camm decided to leapfrog ex­isting biplane technologies by designing a mono­plane fighter. He did this by incorporating lessons learned from the excellent but aging Hawker Fury biplanes then extant. The prototype Hurricane first flew in November 1935 to great applause. From a construction standpoint, it employed arcane fea­tures such as metal tubing structure and fabric cov­ering, but this rendered the craft strong and easily repaired. The Hurricane was also very streamlined for its day, possessed retractable landing gear, and carried no less than eight machine guns, the first British fighter so armed. The design exuded great promise, so in 1934 the Air Ministry issued Specifica­tion F.36/34, even before flight-testing concluded, to obtain them as quickly as possible. The urgency was
well justified, and by the advent of World War II, in 1939, Hurricanes constituted 60 percent of RAF Fighter Command’s strength.

The 1940 Battle of France proved that Hurri­canes were marginally outclassed by Bf 109Es, so throughout the ensuing Battle of Britain they were usually pitted against bombers.

Their great stability and heavy armament al­lowed them to claim more German aircraft than all other British defenses combined. Successive modifi­cations next turned the Hurricane into a formidable ground-attack aircraft and tankbuster in North Africa and Burma. Some versions sported two 40mm cannons or rockets in addition to 12 machine guns! By 1941 the Fw 200 Condors were threatening Britain’s sea-lanes, so expendable Hurricanes were adapted to being catapulted off of merchant ships to defend them. These were then ditched after usage. By 1942 a navalized version, the Sea Hurricane, had also been developed. Hurricanes saw active service in every theater up through 1945 before retiring as one of history’s greatest warplanes. Production amounted to 14,449 machines.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 38 feet, 4 inches; length, 34 feet, 8 inches; height, 15 feet, 10 inches

Weights: empty, 8,977 pounds; gross, 12,114 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 2,470-horsepower Bristol Centaurus radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 460 miles per hour; ceiling, 36,000 feet; range, 760 miles

Armament: 4 x 20mm cannons; up to 2,000 pounds of bombs or rockets

Service dates: 1946-1953


he Sea Fury was the Fleet Air Arm’s ultimate piston-powered aircraft, probably the best of its class in the world. It served with distinction in Korea and counted among its many victims several MiG 15 jet fighters.

Origins of the mighty Sea Fury trace back to June 1942, when a German Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighter mistakenly landed in England. Heretofore, ra­dial engines had been dismissed as inferior to more complicated in-line types, but the streamlining and efficiency of the German craft surprised the British. Accordingly, the Air Ministry issued several specifi­cations in 1943 for a lightened Hawker Tempest to equip both the Royal Air Force and Fleet Air Arm. Sir Sydney Camm then developed an entirely new monocoque fuselage, fitted it to Tempest wings, and mounted a powerful Bristol Centaurus radial engine. The resulting craft was called the Fury, a compact, low-wing fighter of great speed and strength. How­ever, when World War II ended the RAF summarily canceled its contract, and the 100 or so Furies were
sent to Egypt, India, and Pakistan. The Royal Navy, meanwhile, continued development of the Sea Fury, which became operational in 1947. Being a naval air­craft, it was fitted with folding wings and an arrester hook. The big craft was nonetheless supremely agile for its size and popular with pilots. A grand total of 615 were ultimately acquired by the Fleet Air Arm, with several of these being farmed out to Common­wealth navies.

Commencing in 1950, several squadrons of Sea Furies participated in the Korean War (1950-1953). They carried prodigious ordnance loads, made ex­cellent bombing platforms, and extensively flew in­terdiction strikes against communist supply lines. Sea Furies also destroyed more communist aircraft than any other non-American type and demon­strated their prowess by shooting down at least two MiG 15 jet fighters. Sea Furies were quickly phased out after 1953, for with the age of jets the end of pro­peller-driven fighters was nigh. Pakistan neverthe­less operated their cherished machines until 1973.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 41 feet; length, 33 feet, 8 inches; height, 16 feet, 1 inch Weights: empty, 9,250 pounds; gross, 13,640 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 2,180-horsepower Napier Sabre II liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 435 miles per hour; ceiling, 36,000 feet; range, 740 miles Armament: 4 x 20mm cannons; up to 2,000 pounds of bombs or rockets Service dates: 1944-1951


he Tempest was another fearsome machine un­leashed by Hawker. It combined all the hard-hit­ting attributes of the earlier Typhoon with excep­tional high-altitude performance.

Shortcomings of the Hawker Typhoon at higher altitudes led Sydney Camm to reconsider his design. The problem—unknown at the time—was compressibility, whereby air passed over airfoils at nearly the speed of sound. Because the Typhoon em­ployed a particularly thick wing, it gave rise to con­stant buffeting at high speed. In 1941 Camm sug­gested fitting the aircraft with a thinner airfoil of elliptical design. A new engine, the radial Centaurus, was also proposed.

Design went ahead with the new Typhoon II, as it was called, which was continuously modified over time. The thinner wing necessitated the fuel tanks being transferred to the fuselage, which was lengthened 2 feet and given a dorsal spine. In light of these modifications, Hawker gave it an entirely new designation: Tempest. It was then decided to fit the

Mk V version with the tested Napier Sabre II engine because of delays with the Centaurus engine. The first deliveries of Tempest Vs were made in the fall of 1943, and these reached operational status the following summer.

In service the Tempest continued the ground – attack tradition of the Typhoon, for it easily handled 1,000-pound bombs and a host of rockets. However, because of its new wing, it also possessed superb high-altitude performance. The Tempest flew so fast that it became one of few Allied fighters able to in­tercept the German V-1 rocket bombs, claiming 638 of the 1,771 destroyed. The Tempest could also suc­cessfully tangle with the German Me 262 jets, de­stroying 20 of those formidable fighters. After the war, the Centaurus engine was finally perfected and a new version, the Tempest II, was introduced. This was the last piston-engine fighter-bomber flown by the Royal Air Force, and it served as the basis of the superb Hawker Sea Fury. A total of 1,418 Tempests of all models were constructed.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 41 feet, 7 inches; length, 31 feet, 11 inches; height, 15 feet, 3 inches Weights: empty, 8,800 pounds; gross, 13,980 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 2,180-horsepower Napier Sabre II liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 405 miles per hour; ceiling, 34,000 feet; range, 510 miles Armament: 4 x 20mm cannons; up to 2,000 pounds of bombs or rockets Service dates: 1942-1945


he formidable “Tiffy” overcame a troubled ges­tation to emerge as the best ground-attack air­craft of World War II. Attacking in waves, they dev­astated German armored formations at Normandy and elsewhere.

In 1937 Air Ministry Specification F.18/37 stipu­lated a future replacement for the Hawker Hurri­canes then in service. Design began that year, but in­termittent problems with the Roll-Royce Vulture engine greatly prolonged its development. The proto­type did not fly until May 1941, and then it was pow­ered by the unreliable Napier Sabre I engine. The Ty­phoon was a low-wing monoplane and the first Hawker product featuring stressed-skin construc­tion. It also mounted widetrack landing gear, and ini­tial models had a cabin-type cockpit with a side door. The aircraft flew well at low altitudes but demon­strated dismal climbing capacity. However, when Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighter-bombers began playing havoc on England’s southern coast, the Typhoon was rushed into production with minimal testing.

The first Typhoons arrived in service during the fall of 1941 with mixed results. The Sabre engine remained unpredictable, and the rear fuselage suf­fered from structural failure. At one point the Royal Air Force seriously considered canceling the entire project, but Hawker persisted in refining the basic design. Consequently, the airframe was beefed up and more reliable versions of the Sabre engine were mounted. By 1943 the major bugs had been elimi­nated, and the Typhoon found its niche as a low-alti­tude fighter and ground-attack craft. Being the first British aircraft to achieve 400 miles per hour in level flight, it successfully countered Fw 190 raids at lower altitudes. By 1944 Typhoons were also modi­fied to carry two 1,000-pound bombs or a host of rocket projectiles. Attacking in waves, they proved particularly devastating against German Panzer divi­sions at Falaise, destroying 137 tanks in one day! They were all retired by 1945 as the most effective ground-attack aircraft of the war. A total of 3,330 had been built.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Trainer; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 30 feet, 9 inches; length, 38 feet, 4 inches; height, 13 feet Weights: empty, 9,700 pounds; gross, 11,350 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 5,845-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Turbomeca Adour turbofan engine Performance: maximum speed, 645 miles per hour; ceiling, 44,500 feet; range, 317 miles Armament: none or 1 x 30mm cannon pod; up to 6,614 pounds of bombs and rockets Service dates: 1976-


he Hawk is one of the world’s most successful jet trainers and is widely exported abroad. It can be fitted with a variety of weapons and functions as a highly capable light strike aircraft.

A 1964 air staff study predicted that the forth­coming SEPECAT Jaguar trainers would be too ex­pensive and too few in number to meet Royal Air Force training requirements. That year specifica­tions were issued for a cheaper yet capable trainer to replace the Gnats and Hunters then operating. At length the Hawker-Siddeley group announced its Model HS 1182, a sleek, low-wing aircraft seating two under a long tandem canopy. Suitably im­pressed, the RAF in 1972 placed an initial order for 176 Hawk T Mk 1s, the first of which was delivered in 1976. This relatively low-powered aircraft turned out to be surprisingly successful. The Hawk is fast, maneuverable, and easy to fly. It can also be rigged for weapons training and is fitted with a centerline cannon pod under the fuselage, and the wings em­ploy four hardpoints capable of launching missiles.

In this capacity, the Hawk affords multimission trainer/light strike capability as much less cost than conventional jets. More than 700 have been built and are operated by seven nations.

In an attempt to exploit the Hawk’s potential as a combat type, British Aerospace (BAe, which ac­quired Hawker-Siddeley) in April 1977 developed a dedicated ground-attack version, the Hawk 100. It differed from earlier models in possessing a modi­fied combat wing better suited for heavy ordnance and high-G maneuvers. First flown in 1992, it was purchased by Abu Dhabi, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Oman, and Saudi Arabia. In 1986 BAe sub­sequently designed the Hawk 200, which is a single­seat dedicated strike fighter for the Third World. This model exhibits a redesigned front section, a more bulbous nose housing an advanced radar, and other digital systems. As before, it offers relatively high performance and firepower at affordable prices. Thus far, only Oman and Malaysia have placed orders.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Antisubmarine; Patrol-Bomber; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 114 feet; length, 126 feet, 9 inches; height, 29 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 86,000 pounds; gross, 192,000 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 12,140-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan engines

Performance: maximum speed, 575 miles per hour; ceiling, 42,00 feet; range, 5,758 miles

Armament: up to 13,500 pounds of torpedoes, depth charges, or mines

Service dates: 1969-


he Nimrod is one of the most capable antisub­marine platforms currently in service, a union of advanced electronics with fine flying characteristics. A few also serve as secret electronic countermea­sure platforms and intelligence-gatherers.

By 1964 the British Air Ministry wished to re­place its Korean War-vintage Avro Shackletons with a more advanced machine for antisubmarine war­fare (ASW). Specifications were initially drawn around the existing Dassault Atlantique, but the British government intervened and requested that the existing Comet 4 civilian airliner be adopted. This was an aircraft renowned for good cruising and flying abilities and had been in Royal Air Force ser­vice since 1955 as a transport. Accordingly, in 1967 the first Nimrod prototype was flown. It shared some similarities with its forebears but, being fitted with a lengthy bomb bay, the fuselage acquired a “double-bubble” cross-section. The Nimrod also sports an electronic “football” atop the rudder and a long magnetic anomaly detector boom jutting from
the tail. Consistent with its ASW mission, the plane carries a variety of depth charges, sonobuoys, hom­ing torpedoes, and related detection gear. A typical patrol might last up to 12 hours, and the Nimrod can extend its loiter time over a target by up to six hours by shutting down as many as three of its engines! A total of 45 Nimrods (named after the great hunter of the bible) have been acquired and are subject to constant electronic upgrades.

In 1971 three aircraft were deflected from the ASW program to be outfitted as Nimrod R Mk 1s. These are highly sensitive, top-secret intelligence­gathering platforms of which much is said but little is known. They are distinguished from other air­planes by the absence of radar tailbooms and the presence of external fuel tanks on the leading edges. In the hands of No. 51 Squadron, they were highly active during the 1982 Falkland Islands War with Ar­gentina and garnered a battle citation. Both Nimrod versions are expected to actively serve well into the twenty-first century.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 36 feet, 1 inch; length, 27 feet, 6 inches; height, 10 feet, 6 inches

Weights: empty, 3,247 pounds; gross, 4,189 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 750-horsepower BMW VI liquid-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 205 miles per hour; ceiling, 25,260 feet; range, 345 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns; 120 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1935-1943


he shapely He 51 was the first Luftwaffe fighter constructed since the Armistice of 1918 and a potent symbol of German rearmament. It was out­classed as a dogfighter in Spain but helped pioneer the ground-attack tactics used in World War II.

Ernst Heinkel formed his own company in 1922 following the liquidation of the old Hansa-Bran – denburg firm. He was ostensibly engaged in con­structing floatplanes and civilian craft, but as the po­litical climate in Germany hardened, his designs more and more resembled military aircraft. As Ger­many embarked on national rearmament in 1933, Heinkel was directed to develop a new fighter plane—the first since World War I. He responded with the He 51, an outgrowth of his earlier He 49 civilian machines. It was a handsome, single-bay bi­plane of mixed wood and metal construction, cov­ered with fabric. It featured an attractive pointed cowl and streamlined, spatted landing gear. Flight tests revealed the He 51 to be fast and nimble, so it was accepted for service in 1935. That same year,
the existence of the previously secret Luftwaffe was defiantly announced to the world.

In service the He 51 proved somewhat trouble­some. It was unforgiving by nature, and a tendency to “hop” while landing contributed to several acci­dents. Nonetheless, it was the only aircraft on hand when the Spanish Civil War erupted in 1936, and Hitler dispatched large numbers of them piloted by German “volunteers” of the Kondor Legion. Initial reports were favorable, for the He 51 easily dis­patched a host of older French and British ma­chines. But Heinkel’s fighter was badly outclassed by the Russian-supplied Polikarpov I 15 and sus­tained heavy losses. Thereafter, it became necessary to restrict He 51s to ground attack, a role in which they performed admirably and helped pioneer the close-support tactics made famous in World War II. The introduction of Arado’s Ar 68 in 1937 led to its withdrawal from frontline service. This neat biplane spent its last days as a training craft up through 1943. A total of 725 were built.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Patrol-Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 77 feet, 9 inches; length, 57 feet, 1 inch; height, 23 feet, 3 inches

Weights: empty, 13,702 pounds; gross, 19,842 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 660-horsepower BMW VI liquid-cooled in-line engines

Performance: maximum speed, 134 miles per hour; ceiling, 11,480 feet; range, 1,087 miles

Armament: 3 x 7.92mm machine guns; 2,205 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1932-1943


ne of the first aircraft acquired by the Luftwaffe, the big He 59 was a versatile machine capable of many functions. It saw active service in World War II and even helped stage daring commando missions.

The He 59 was originally designed in 1930 as part of a clandestine program to equip Germany with military aircraft. Although posited as a twin-en­gine maritime rescue craft, it was in fact intended as a reconnaissance bomber capable of serving off both water and land. The first prototype, designed by Reinhold Mewes, flew in 1931 with large “trousered” wheel spats, but subsequent versions were all fitted with twin floats. Like many aircraft of this era, the He 59 was of mixed construction, hav­ing a fuselage made from steel tubing, wings of wood, and entirely covered by fabric. The bomber seated a crew of four comfortably and was well­armed with machine guns in nose, dorsal, and ven­tral positions. Both flight and water performance were adequate, so the German government ordered 105 machines built in several versions.

The He 59 first saw combat during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1938), where it functioned as a pa­trol-bomber. At night the big craft would glide over an intended target unannounced, then drop bombs upon astonished defenders. He 59s were pushing ob­solescence in 1939 when World War II erupted, but for many months the lumbering craft performed use­ful work. Most He 59s equipped coastal reconnais­sance groups, but others operated with the Seenot – dienststaffeln (air/sea rescue squadrons). These craft were conspicuously painted white with large red crosses in the early days of the war and left un­molested by Royal Air Force fighters—until they were discovered directing German bombers by radio. But the most important service of the He 59 was in transporting Staffel Schwilben (special forces). On May 10, 1940, a dozen He 59s landed in the Maas River, Rotterdam, and disgorged 120 as­sault troops, who paddled ashore and stormed the strategic Willems bridge. They were all finally re­tired by 1943.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Reconnaissance; Light Bomber; Liaison

Dimensions: wingspan, 48 feet, 6 inches; length, 38 feet, 4 inches; height, 10 feet, 2 inches

Weights: empty, 5,723 pounds; gross, 7,716 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 750-horsepower BMW VI water-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 220 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,685 feet; range, 500 miles

Armament: 1 x 7.92mm machine gun; up to 661 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1933-1939


hen it appeared in 1932, the futuristic He 70 was a marvel of streamlining and aerodynamic innovation. It enjoyed a relatively short service life but set significant trends in aircraft design for years to come.

With the acquisition of Lockheed Orion air­craft in 1932, Swiss Air became Europe’s fastest pas­senger carrier. This development alarmed the Ger­man national airlines, Deutsche Lufthansa, which then approached Heinkel for a new and even faster aircraft. It fell upon two brothers, Siegfried and Wal­ter Gunter, to conceive one of the most advanced yet beautiful aircraft of the decade. Christened the He 70 Blitz (Lightning), this was a single-engine, low-wing monoplane of extremely clean, aerody­namic lines. The broad wings were elliptically shaped and sported retractable landing gear. The fuselage, meanwhile, was oval in cross-section and semimonocoque in construction with a low-profile windscreen to cut drag. Moreover, the engine uti­lized ethylene glycol as a coolant, which allowed a smaller radiator and overall frontal area. To reduce
drag even further, the stressed metal skin was se­cured in place by countersunk riveting. The net re­sult was a strikingly beautiful airplane that antici­pated the features of monoplane fighters by several years.

In test flights the He 70 easily outpaced the He 51 biplane, a craft possessing a more powerful engine, while weighing half as much! In 1933 the prototype alone went on to establish eight world speed records and bolstered Lufthansa’s reputation as the fastest airline on the continent. Naturally, such high performance caught the military’s atten­tion, so several models were built for the Luftwaffe. These included both light attack and reconnaissance versions, 18 of which served in the Spanish Civil War. Flown by the Kondor Legion, they performed with distinction and easily outflew all opposition. A total of 296 He 70s had been manufactured by the time production ceased in 1937, and most were em­ployed as courier/liaison craft. Heinkel’s master­piece enjoyed a short, undistinguished career but is best remembered as a harbinger of things to come.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Medium Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 74 feet, 1 inch; length, 53 feet, 9 inches; height, 13 feet, 1 inch Weights: empty, 19,136 pounds; gross, 30,865 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,350-horsepower Junkers Jumo liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 227 miles per hour; ceiling, 21,980 feet; range, 1,212 miles Armament: 4 x 7.92mm machine guns; 1 x 20mm cannon; up to 4,409 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1936-1945


he long-serving He 111 was a mainstay of the Luftwaffe bomber force, as well as a successful tactical machine. However, the lack of a suitable successor kept it in production long after becoming obsolete.

In the early 1930s the Germans resorted to clandestine measures to obtain modern military aircraft. Accordingly, the Heinkel He 111 had been ostensibly designed by Walter and Siegfried Gunter as a fast commercial transport for the German air­line Lufthansa. Like the famous He 70, it was a rad­ically streamlined, all-metal aircraft with smooth skin and elliptical wings. Early models, both civil and military, also featured a stepped cabin with a separate cockpit enclosure. The new bomber proved fast and maneuverable, so in 1937 several were shipped off to the Spanish Civil War for evalu­ation. Not surprisingly, the He 111s outclassed weak fighter opposition and flew many successful missions unescorted. Thereafter, German bomber doctrine called for fast, lightly armed aircraft that could survive on speed alone. That decision proved
a costly mistake in World War II. In 1939 the Model P arrived, introducing the trademark glazed cock­pit canopy that appeared on all subsequent ver­sions. When war finally erupted that fall, the fast, graceful Heinkels constituted the bulk of Ger­many’s bomber forces.

After deceptively easy campaigning in Poland and France, He 111s suffered heavily at the hands of British fighters during the 1940 Battle of Britain. This caused later editions to carry more armor and weapons, which in turn degraded performance. And because its designated successor, the He 177, proved a failure, the He 111 was kept in production despite mounting obsolescence. For the rest of the war, the lumbering craft functioned as torpedo – bombers, cable-cutters, pathfinders, and glider tugs. A final variant, the He 111Z (for Zwilling, or “twin”), consisted of two bombers connected at midwing with a fifth engine. These were designed to tow mas­sive Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant gliders into ac­tion. By war’s end, more than 7,000 of these venera­ble workhorses had been produced.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Reconnaissance; Torpedo-Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 72 feet, 2 inches; length, 56 feet, 9 inches; height, 21 feet, 8 inches Weights: empty, 11,684 pounds; gross, 22,928 pounds Power plant: 2 x 865-horsepower BMW 132N radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 220 miles per hour; ceiling, 18,045 feet; range, 2,082 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns; 2,765 pounds of bombs, torpedoes, or mines Service dates: 1937-1945


he Heinkel He 115 was the Luftwaffe’s most ver­satile floatplane reconnaissance craft. It per­formed so successfully that production was re­sumed in midwar.

In 1936 the prototype He 115 was flown as the successor to the aging He 59. It was a standard, all­metal, midwing monoplane whose broad wing pos­sessed tapering outer sections. A crew of three was housed in an elongated greenhouse canopy, and the craft rested upon two floats secured in place by struts. The prototype was fast, handled well, and quickly broke eight floatplane records in 1938. Such impressive performance resulted in orders from overseas, and both Norway and Sweden purchased several machines. The He 115 also entered produc­tion with the Luftwaffe Seeflieger (coastal recon­naissance forces). In 1939 the B model appeared, featuring greater fuel capacity and reinforced floats for operating in snow and ice.

When World War II commenced, the He 115s partook of routine maritime patrolling and mining of

English waters. They were the first German craft adapted to drop the new and deadly acoustic sea mines from the air, which inflicted great damage upon British shipping. They also proved quite adept at torpedo-bombing and as long-range reconnais­sance craft. Curiously, the 1940 invasion of Norway found He 115s closely engaged on both sides of the conflict. The six Norwegian machines put up stout re­sistance, with three survivors and a captured German machine escaping to Britain. These were subse­quently given German markings and employed for clandestine operations ranging from Norway to Malta. These activities were subsequently suspended after 1943 for fear of attacks by Allied aircraft. The high point of He 115 operations with German forces occurred in 1942, when they shadowed ill-fated Con­voy PQ-17 in the Arctic Circle and assisted in its de­struction. Production of He 115s ceased in 1941, but their services were so highly regarded that it resumed in 1943! A total of 450 machines were built, and most performed capably up to the end of hostilities.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Heavy Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 103 feet, 1 inch; length, 72 feet, 2 inches; height, 20 feet, 11 inches

Weights: empty, 37,038 pounds; gross, 68,343 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 950-horsepower Daimler-Benz 610 A-1 in-line engines

Performance: maximum speed, 304 miles per hour; ceiling, 26,245 feet; range, 3,417 miles

Armament: 6 x 7.92mm or 13mm machine guns; 1 x 20mm cannon; 2,205 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1942-1945


he He 177 was the Luftwaffe’s sole heavy bomber type of World War II, but it remained a minor player. Considering the quantity of resources squandered, the Greif (Griffon) was Germany’s most conspicuous aeronautical failure.

The 1936 death of General Walter Wever, the Luftwaffe’s vocal proponent of heavy bombers, seri­ously compromised Germany’s attempt to obtain strategic weapons. Two years later the Air Ministry contacted Heinkel to build a long-range bomber, de­spite that firm’s unfamiliarity with such craft. The prototype He 177 Greif emerged in 1939 as a mod­ern, all-metal, high-wing monoplane. Curiously, it was propelled by four engines, but to reduce drag two power plants were coupled together in each na­celle, attached to a single propeller. As an indication of how disoriented German war planners had be­come, the giant craft was also expected to be capa­ble of dive-bombing! Consequently, the much-ma­ligned He 177 suffered a litany of insurmountable technical problems, especially engine fires. Several
prototypes were built and crashed before the first He 177s could become operational in March 1942.

From the onset, the Greif was an unsatisfac­tory aircraft, one that wasted huge quantities of scarce resources and manpower. Operations on the Eastern Front proved sporadic owing to the constant engine fires, as well as structural failure arising from dive-bombing attacks. Crews, although admiring the fine flying qualities of the craft, came to regard it as the “Flaming Coffin.” In the West, He 177s conducted Operation Steinbock, also known as the “Little Blitz” of January 1944. Those few machines able to get air­borne climbed to their maximum height over Ger­many, then commenced long, shallow dives over London. Ensuing speeds of more than 400 miles per hour prevented their interception but did little to en­sure bombing accuracy. With greater emphasis on re­search and development, the He 177 might have evolved into a formidable weapon. As it was, most were abandoned by late 1944 because of fuel and parts shortages. Around 1,000 were built.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Night Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 60 feet, 8 inches; length, 50 feet, 11 inches; height, 13 feet, 5 inches

Weights: empty, 25,691 pounds; gross, 33,370 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,800-horsepower Daimler-Benz 603E radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 416 miles per hour; ceiling, 41,665 feet; range, 1,243 miles

Armament: 6 x 30mm cannons; 2 x 20mm cannon

Service dates: 1944-1945


he mighty Uhu was Germany’s best operational night fighter of World War II. Fast and heavily armed, it was one of few aircraft capable of engag­ing the formidable British Mosquito on equal terms.

Ernest Heinkel began developing the He 219 in 1940 as a private venture to create a long-range fighter-bomber. The Luftwaffe leadership expressed no interest in the project until 1941, when large-scale night bombing by the Royal Air Force commenced. They then requested Heinkel to modify his design into a dedicated night fighter, and the prototype flew in 1943 with impressive results. The new He 219 was a big, high-wing, twin-engine monoplane with a nose – wheel and double rudders. It was also the first pro­duction airplane to be equipped with ejection seats. The crew sat back-to-back under a spacious canopy that granted excellent visibility. Moreover, the arma­ment of four cannons was buried in the fuselage belly so that muzzle flashes did not blind the opera­tors. Flight tests were concluded after a preliminary order for 300 machines was received. The first

He 219s, called Uhu (Owl) by their crews, were ini­tially deployed at Venlo, Holland. On his first night­time sortie, Major Werner Streib shot down five Lan­caster bombers, and after only six operational sorties the unit tally stood at 20 victories. Six of these were the heretofore unstoppable Mosquitos.

Production of the He 219 commenced in 1943 but remained slow and amounted to only 288 air­craft. This proved fortunate for the Allies, as succes­sive versions of the Uhu grew increasingly lethal to bombers. One reason was adoption of the Schrage Musik (“slanted music,” or jazz) installation, whereby heavy cannons were mounted on top of the fuselage at an angle. This enabled He 219s to slip below the bomber stream in level flight and pour heavy fire directly into their bellies. The handful of He 219s constructed and deployed were responsible for thousands of Allied casualties. But in 1944 Gen­eral Edward Milch canceled the entire project in favor of the unsuccessful Focke-Wulf Ta 154 and Junkers Ju 388 projects.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Dive-Bomber; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 34 feet, 5 inches; length, 27 feet, 4 inches; height, 10 feet, 6 inches

Weights: empty, 3,361 pounds; gross, 4,888 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 880-horsepower BMW 132Dc radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 214 miles per hour; ceiling, 29,530 feet; range, 530 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns; 440 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1936-1944


he antiquated-looking Hs 123 was the Luft­waffe’s first dive-bomber. Although eclipsed by the legendary Ju 87 Stuka, it rendered impressive service during World War II and gained a reputation for toughness.

One of the first requirements espoused by the newly established Luftwaffe in 1933 was the need for dive-bombers. Henschel consequently fielded the Hs 123, a single-bay sesquiplane (two wings of un­equal length) with an open canopy, a large radial cowling, and streamlined, spatted landing gear. The craft was of all-metal construction, save for fabric – covered control surfaces, and the pilot enjoyed ex­cellent all-around vision. Noted pilot Ernst Udet test-flew the prototype in the spring of 1935 with great success, and the government determined to acquire it as an interim type until the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka became available. Accordingly, the first Hs 123s rolled off the production lines in 1936 and were sent to Spain for evaluation under combat con­ditions. At high altitude they proved vulnerable to attacks by Russian-supplied Polikarpov I 15 fighters,
so they were subsequently employed as ground-at­tack aircraft. Here the Hs 123s enjoyed remarkable success for such an allegedly obsolete design, drop­ping bombs and strafing enemy troops with great precision. By 1938, however, the Stuka became the standard Luftwaffe dive-bomber, and the handful of Hs 123s still in service equipped only one squadron.

The onset of World War II in September 1939 garnered additional luster for the little biplane’s rep­utation. They served with great success in the Polish campaign where, flying low with throttles wide open, their deafening howl terrorized men and horses alike. The craft also established a legendary reputation for absorbing tremendous damage. Hs 123s then bore prominent roles in the 1940 cam­paigns in Belgium and France, where they readily broke up concentrations of troops and tanks. De­spite the growing obsolescence of its equipment, the squadron distinguished itself further during the Balkan and Russian campaigns of 1941. They were finally withdrawn from combat in 1944, one of the world’s great fighting biplanes.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Antitank; Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 46 feet, 7 inches; length, 31 feet, 11 inches; height, 10 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 8,400 pounds; gross, 11,574 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 700-horsepower Gnome-Rhone 14M radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 253 miles per hour; ceiling, 29,540 feet; range, 429 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns; 2 x 20mm cannons; up to 551 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1942-1945


espite its small size, the Hs 129 was the most successful German tankbuster of World War II. It flew persistently throughout the Eastern Front, exacting a heavy toll from Russian armor.

One lesson learned from the Spanish Civil War was the need for dedicated ground-attack aircraft. Consequently, in 1937 the German Air Ministry is­sued specifications for a well-armored, single-seat machine powered by two engines. Henschel re­sponded in 1939 with a unique prototype designed by Friedrich Nicolaus. It was an all-metal, midwing craft with an extremely blunt nose and wings pos­sessing a tapered trailing edge. Moreover, the rela­tively small cockpit was shielded by bulletproof glass and so cramped that several engine instru­ments were by necessity relocated to the inboard engine nacelles! Power was provided by two Argus As 410A-1 inverted in-line engines. Test flights, un­fortunately, were disappointing, as the Hs 129 proved underpowered and sluggish. The Luftwaffe authorized several preproduction examples as a
hedge, but they were subsequently passed off to the Romanian air force.

By 1940 Nicolaus had sufficiently revamped his creation, the Hs 219B, and submitted it for flight tri­als. This time it was powered by captured French Gnome-Rhone 14M radial engines and assisted in flight by electric trim tabs. Results were better, so the Hs 129B entered into production; 870 were eventually built. These craft also were fitted with an amazing array of heavy weapons for antitank warfare, particu­larly along the Eastern Front. Eventually, Hs 129s proved themselves the scourge of Soviet armor, and during the 1943 engagement at Kursk they destroyed several hundred tanks. Attempts were then made to upgrade the Hs 129s firepower, and several were fit­ted with a huge 75mm Pak40 antitank gun. This weapon could destroy a tank from any angle, but it recoiled so strongly that the Hs 129s usually stalled. These “Flying Can-openers” remained the bane of Russian armor until the end of 1944, when most were grounded due to lack of fuel and spare parts.

. Hansa-Brandenburg D I

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 29 feet, 6 inches; length, 52 feet, 3 inches; height, 11 feet, 9 inches Weights: empty, 13,658; gross, 24,048 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 4,850-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Orpheus turbojet engines Performance: maximum speed, 675 miles per hour; ceiling, 40,000 feet; range, 898 miles Armament: 4 x 30mm cannons; 54 unguided rockets in a retractable pack; 4,00 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1968-1985


he Marut was the first and only indigenous jet fighter constructed in India. Although designed by the famous Dr. Kurt Tank, it was continually hin­dered by lack of adequate power and so never ful­filled its obvious potential.

In 1950 the newly independent government of India sought to break its traditional reliance on Euro­pean aircraft by developing warplanes of its own. Ne­cessity required them to replace the aging fleet of Das­sault Mysteres and Ouragans then in service as well. In 1956 Hindustan Aircraft Limited tasked a German engineering staff headed by the brilliant Dr. Kurt Tank, formerly of Focke-Wulf, with designing a multipur­pose jet fighter with supersonic performance. With the aid of Indian engineers, a full-scale glider was tested in 1959, followed two years later by a functioning pro­totype. The new HF 24 Marut (the Wind Spirit in Hindu mythology) was a sleek, twin-engine design with a highly pointed profile and a low-mounted wing. It flew in 1961 powered by two Bristol-Siddeley Or­pheus 703 turbojets, but nearly a year lapsed before a
second prototype emerged. In 1964 16 preproduction Maruts followed, but they were not equipped with af­terburners. This deficiency ensured that HF 24s would never approach Mach 2. Work continued on a succes­sion of different power plants and a locally designed afterburner for several years, and it was not until 1967 that full-scale production of the HF 24 resumed. This concluded after 145 machines were built; an addi­tional 18 Mk IT two-seat trainers were added in 1970.

Despite its low power, the Marut handled fine and proved a capable fighter-bomber when so armed. Their combat initiation occurred during the 1971 war with Pakistan and three squadrons acquit­ted themselves well with few losses. After this a va­riety of new engines was fitted, none of which nudged the aging HF 24 toward supersonic speed. The scheme was ultimately abandoned, and by 1995 most Maruts were replaced in service by MiG 23s and SEPECAT Jaguars. The HF 24s were fine air­craft, but their passing confirms India’s continuing dependence on foreign technology.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Transport; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 150 feet, 11 inches; length, 121 feet, 4 inches; height, 35 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 67,572 pounds; gross, 108,030 pounds

Power plant: 6 x 1,000-horsepower BMW Fafnir 323R radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 242 miles per hour; ceiling, 23,950 feet; range, 3,787 miles

Armament: 3 x 20mm cannons; 5 x 13mm machine guns

Service dates: 1940-1945


he mighty Wiking was the largest flying boat to achieve operational status during World War II. It served extensively from Norway to the Mediter­ranean before heavy losses restricted its deployment.

In 1937 the airline Deutsche Lufthansa re­quested development of a new flying boat capable of nonstop service between Germany and New York. Such a craft would have to carry up to 24 passengers and remain airborne for 20 hours. A Blohm und Voss design team under Dr. Richard Vogt conceived such a craft in September 1940. It was a large, all-metal, high-wing monoplane with six engines. In typical Vogt fashion, the enormous wing mainspar func­tioned as both engine mount and fuel tank. The craft also possessed retractable stabilizing floats near the wingtips that drew up into recesses. The Bv 222 pro­totype originally flew in civilian markings, but by this time Germany was at war. Thereafter, it was pressed into service as an unarmed transport and flew on many occasions between Norway and the Mediterranean. As flying boats, Bv 222s were mar­
ginally larger than the Kawanishi H8K and Short


Continuous development of the Bv 222, called Wiking by its crews, resulted in an additional nine prototypes and four production models. These dif­fered from the original version in being armed with an array of weapons. Several ended up in the hands of Lufttranportstaffel See (naval transport squadron) 222, which was organized to operate such large craft. Fully loaded, a Wiking could carry up to 92 fully equipped troops or 72 stretchers. Their tremendous range and endurance also made them ideal for mar­itime reconnaissance. One even managed to surprise and shoot down an Avro Lancaster at sea. However, the presence of British long-range fighters made un­escorted Wiking missions hazardous, and several were lost in action. By 1944 the surviving six machines were restricted to medical evacuations in the Baltic region. After the war, two of these impressive flying boats were obtained by the United States for evalua­tion, while one remained in British service until 1947.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Fighter; Night Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 39 feet, 4 inches; length, 35 feet, 4 inches; height, 12 feet, 2 inches Weights: empty, 6,150 pounds; gross, 8,600 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,030-horsepower Rolls-Royce Merlin III liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 303 miles per hour; ceiling, 31,800 feet; range, 480 miles Armament: 4 x.303-inch machine guns Service dates: 1940-1943


he turret-armed Defiant was hopelessly inept as a fighter craft, despite an impressive debut. It later performed useful work as a night fighter before ending up as a trainer.

By 1934 the British Air Ministry began toying with the notion of turret-armed fighters. These were envisioned as superior to the eight-gun aircraft then under development, the Hurricane and Spitfire, be­cause pilots were theoretically free to concentrate on flying while the gunner remained focused upon shooting. Specification F.9/35 was consequently is­sued in 1935, and the Boulton-Paul company, which specialized in constructing aircraft turrets, entered a machine called the Defiant. This was an all-metal, low-wing monoplane with inward-retracting under­carriage. The armament consisted solely of four.303- inch machine guns housed in a large dorsal turret aft of the pilot’s cockpit. No forward-firing weaponry was provided. In tests the Defiant flew well, though somewhat slower than other fighters owing to the weight and drag created by the gun turret. But the
designers, as well as the Royal Air Force, held high expectations for the craft, and in May 1940 Defiants were committed to battle over France.

What followed was a near disaster for the RAF. On its first combat mission over the Low Countries in 1940, five of six Defiants, acting as bomber es­corts, were shot down. They subsequently enjoyed better success during the British withdrawal from Dunkirk, however. In the heat of combat, German pi­lots mistook the lumbering craft for single-seat Hawker Hurricanes and, as Bf 109s locked on their tails, they were met by a withering fusillade of fire. Defiants managed to claim 65 kills in one week, with 38 Messerschmitts falling in one day. Naturally, the Germans quickly assessed the aircraft’s weakness and attacked frontally or from below; the hapless De – fiants were shot down in droves. Thereafter, they were fitted with radar and employed as night fighters with some success. Once replaced by more modern designs in 1942, all were either shunted aside into training and army cooperation duties or scrapped.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Light Bomber; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 47 feet, 1 inch; length, 29 feet, 1 inch; height, 10 feet, 10 inches

Weights: empty, 2,271 pounds; gross, 3, 450 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 300-horsepower Renault liquid-cooled engine

Performance: maximum speed, 114 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,960 feet; range, 435 miles Armament: 2 x 7.7mm machine guns; up to 661 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1917-1932


he rugged Breguet 14 was the best French bomber of World War I, as well as an outstand­ing aircraft in general. It enjoyed a career of impres­sive longevity and established many aviation records throughout the postwar period.

In 1916 the talented aviation engineer Louis Breguet undertook designing a new bomber/obser – vation plane for the Aviation Militaire (French air service). He deliberately disregarded specifications for a pusher-type aircraft and developed a conven­tional-looking machine that was years ahead of con­temporaries. The Breguet Model 14 was a large, an­gular craft with square wings displaying a slightly negative stagger. The fuselage was constructed mostly of the metal duralumin, which contributed greatly to its lightness and strength. Moreover, to im­prove the aircraft’s agility, ailerons were fitted on both upper and lower wings, along with automatic flaps—one of the earliest applications of this tech­nology. Despite its size, the Breguet 14 was fast and strong, features that prompted the government to commence wholesale production in 1917. Within a
year, Breguet’s magnificent design outfitted no less than 93 French bombardment and reconnaissance squadrons. It also went on to equip two Belgian for­mations and a number of units attached to the newly arrived American Expeditionary Force. By war’s end, no less than 3,500 had been deployed, dropping 1,900 tons of bombs on German targets.

After the war, the mighty Breguet went on to distinguish itself in a number of nonmilitary appli­cations. It was the first aircraft assigned to fly postal routes between Paris, Brussels, and Lon­don, and it registered several record-breaking en­durance flights. In January 1919 a Breguet 14 flown by Captain Coli and Lieutenant Roget suc­cessfully crossed the Mediterranean twice, cover­ing 1,000 miles without mishap. Throughout the 1920s, it was also widely used to fly the route be­tween Toulouse, France, and Dakar, West Africa. The Breguet 14 underwent no less than 14 revi­sions and served with the French air force until 1932. It remained in production until 1927, with more than 8,000 being constructed.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Reconnaissance; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 48 feet, 8 inches; length, 31 feet, 2 inches; height, 10 feet, 11 inches

Weights: empty, 2,645 pounds; gross, 4,850 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 450-horsepower Lorraine water-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 137 miles per hour; ceiling, 22,970 feet; range, 497 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.7mm machine guns; up to 1,543 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1924-1939


he Breguet 19 was one of the most successful machines of the interwar period, built in greater numbers than any contemporary. Throughout a lengthy military career it helped establish many world long-distance records.

Immediately after World War I, a design bureau under Louis Vullierme commenced work on a suc­cessor to the famous Breguet 14. The prototype was displayed at Paris in 1921 and flew the following year. The new Breguet 19 was a two-seat biplane with a structure built entirely of metal. The wings were unequal in length, with the top exhibiting greater span and twice the chord. Both were fabric – covered and fastened by a single interplane strut canting inward. Unlike its boxy predecessor, the new craft sported a circular cross-section and landed on two streamlined landing gears. It was ini­tially powered by a 450-horsepower Breguet-Bug – gatti engine, and it was fast and maneuverable. Con­sequently, the French Armee de l’Air acquired more than 1,000 machines, equally divided between bomber and reconnaissance versions. These re­
mained in frontline units until 1939, rendering excel­lent service.

The Breguet 19 was proudly demonstrated in 1923 at the international fighter contest in Spain, where it made a profound impression. Orders from Yugoslavia soon followed, and Spain agreed to manu­facture it under license. The 177 CASA-built ma­chines subsequently served both sides during the Spanish Civil War, and many Yugoslavian Breguet 19s fought against German forces in 1940. The secret of the Breguet’s success was its ability to be refitted with successively more powerful engines without ex­tensive modifications. Several of these machines went on to establish impressive long-distance records. In 1927 the craft Nungesser-Coli flew around the world from Paris to Tokyo, covering 35,400 miles in 350 hours. Another famous Breguet 19, the Point d’ Interrogation (Question Mark) also flew nonstop from Paris to Manchuria in 1929, a total distance of 4,912 miles. This same craft also flew nonstop from Paris to New York in 1930 and subsequently toured the United States amidst great fanfare.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 50 feet, 5 inches; length, 31 feet, 8 inches; height, 10 feet, 5 inches Weights: empty, 6,636 pounds; gross, 10,803 pounds Power plant: 2 x 700-horsepower Gnome-Rhone 14M-6/7 radial engine Performance: maximum speed, 304 miles per hour; ceiling, 27,885 feet; range, 840 miles Armament: 4 x 7.7mm machine guns; 1 x 20mm cannon; 880 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1939-1940


he Breguet 691 was among the best French air­craft of World War II. Fast and rugged, it was never available in sufficient numbers to have an impact.

A 1934 French Air Ministry announcement calling for a new three-seat fighter resulted in six contestants. The Breguet firm, however, felt the new specifications were restrictive, so it dropped out to experiment with a heavier, more adaptable design as a company project. The ensuing Model 690 of 1937 proved a radical departure from the company’s an­gular, ugly biplanes. It was an all-metal, twin-engine, high-wing monoplane with extremely smooth lines. The puglike nose was rather short, not protruding beyond the propeller spinners, and the craft also mounted twin rudders. However, because the Model 690 was not officially sanctioned, it enjoyed little priority on engines and could not be flown until 1938. Flight results were excellent, and it demon­strated better performance than the Potez 63, the aircraft that won the earlier competition. It was also faster than the Morane-Saulnier MS 406, the stan­
dard French fighter, and easily kept apace with the new Dewoitine D 520. The usually indifferent French government was impressed, and in 1939 it fi­nally authorized production.

Breguet soon spawned an entire family of re­lated machines. The Breguet 691 was a two-seat ground attack version, of which 78 were con­structed. These were followed by the Breguet 693, featuring bigger engines; production totaled 224 planes. The final version was the Breguet 695, again with differing engines, which amounted to 50 units. However, acute part shortages meant that only half of these excellent airplanes were combat-ready when the Germans invaded in May 1940. Breguet 691s engaged in heavy fighting around Belgium and distinguished themselves in low-level attacks on German troops. But because fighter escorts were unavailable, half of these fine machines were lost in combat. After France’s capitulation, many surviving Breguet 691s were impressed into the Italian air ser­vice, but those confiscated by Germany had their en­gines removed and were scrapped.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Fighter; Night Fighter; Torpedo-Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 57 feet, 10 inches; length, 41 feet, 8 inches; height, 15 feet, 10 inches

Weights: empty, 14,600 pounds; gross, 21,600 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,670-horsepower Bristol Hercules XVI radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 333 miles per hour; ceiling, 26,500 feet; range, 1,480 miles

Armament: 4 x 20mm cannons; 6x.303-inch machine guns; 2,000 pounds of bombs or rockets

Service dates: 1940-1957


he mighty Beaufighter was the first dedicated night fighter employed by the Royal Air Force (RAF), and it helped pioneer radar-directed ground – controlled intercepts. It also functioned brilliantly as a torpedo-bomber, sinking scores of Axis vessels.

By 1938 the coming crisis in Europe high­lighted Britain’s deficiency in modern long-range fighters. That year Leslie Frise of Bristol com­menced a company-funded project to design a large aircraft of unprecedented range and firepower. To save time, he utilized the tail and rear fuselage of the Bristol Beaufort then in production. The prototype Beaufighter first flew in September 1939 as a mid­wing, all-metal monoplane, with retractable under­carriage and hydraulically operated split flaps. Moreover, it was fitted with no less than four 20mm cannons in the belly and six.303-inch machine guns in the wings. Test flights proved that the Beaufighter was fast and maneuverable for its size, so the RAF decided to employ them as night fighters. Accord­ingly, they were fitted with the top-secret A/I radar system. These machines debuted in October 1940
and, guided by ground radar to their targets, de­stroyed many bombers. Losses proved so severe that the Germans were forced to cancel their night­time blitz of January 1941. Beaufighters also served as long-range fighters in the Mediterranean and Western (Sahara) Desert until replaced by the even more capable de Havilland Mosquito.

Experiments in 1942 demonstrated that the Beaufighter could easily adapt to torpedo warfare. Consequently, RAF Coastal Command created sev­eral antiship strike wings of Beaufighters armed with torpedoes as well as rockets. They also carried the ASV Mk VII antishipping radar, housed in a unique thimble-shaped nose. These played havoc with Axis shipping, and one occasion the radar – equipped Beaufighters sank five U-boats in two days. In the Pacific, Japanese soldiers dubbed the big fighter “Whistling Death” on account of its quiet approach. By war’s end, no less than 5,562 Beau- fighters had been produced in England and Aus­tralia. The Aussie machines subsequently served as target tows and utility aircraft up through 1957.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Torpedo-Bomber; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 57 feet, 10 inches; length, 44 feet, 3 inches; height, 14 feet, 3 inches

Weights: empty, 13,100 pounds; gross, 21,228 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,130-horsepower Bristol Taurus radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 265 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,500 feet; range, 1,600 miles Armament: 6 x.303-inch machine guns; 2,000 pounds of bombs or torpedoes Service dates: 1940-1945


he Beaufort was the Royal Air Force’s standard torpedo-bomber for most of World War II. It per­formed excellent service in many theaters and was also mass-produced in Australia.

In 1935 the British Air Ministry issued specifi­cations for new aircraft to replace the aging Vickers Vildebeest as its standard torpedo-bomber. This an­nouncement was later revised to include a similar craft to also serve as a reconnaissance bomber, but both versions were mandated to have crews of four. In 1938 Bristol, then engaged in manufacturing the Blenheim, flew a new prototype that mounted the new Taurus radial engines, prone to overheating. The new Beaufort was essentially an enlarged Blenheim, being an all-metal, midwing monoplane. Unlike its forebear, it had a high cabin roof ending in a semi-enclosed power turret. The bomb bay was also considerably enlarged to accommodate a tor­pedo. Tests were successful, and Beauforts starting arriving in the fall of 1939, but they were beset by engine problems. Consequently, most aircraft re­mained grounded until the spring of 1940. It was not
until that April that Beauforts successfully con­ducted their first mining operations. Soon after they also delivered 2,000-pound bombs for the first time, and gradually they acquired a reputation for reliabil­ity and strength. Perhaps their most celebrated ac­tion was the futile attempt on April 6, 1941, to pre­vent the German warships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau from escaping the English Channel, in which many Beauforts were sacrificed. A total of 1,429 were built.

Beauforts subsequently served with distinction throughout the Mediterranean, and squadrons based on Malta were especially effective at harassing Axis shipping. They remained so employed until 1944, when that task was assigned to new Bristol Beau – fighters. In 1939 the Australian government also ex­pressed interest in building the Beaufort under li­cense. They were fitted with more powerful engines and, consequently, a taller tail fin. The 700 Australian – built Beauforts saw extensive service in the Pacific, bombing and torpedoing their way across New Guinea, New Britain, Rabaul, and the East Indies.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Light Bomber; Night Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 56 feet, 4 inches; length, 42 feet, 7 inches; height, 9 feet, 10 inches

Weights: empty, 9,790 pounds; gross, 13,500 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 920-horsepower Bristol Mercury XV radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 266 miles per hour; ceiling, 22,000 feet; range, 1,460 miles

Armament: 3 x.303-inch machine guns; 1,300 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1937-1944


ltramodern in its day, the Blenheim had grown obsolete by World War II. Despite sometimes heavy losses, it nonetheless saw widespread service with every branch of the Royal Air Force and in every theater.

The Blenheim had its origins in a commercial transport built for newspaper magnate Lord Roth- mere of the London Daily Mail. Entitled Type 142, it was an all-metal, low-wing, snub-nosed monoplane with twin engines and U. S.-built variable-pitch pro­pellers. The new craft caused a sensation by flying 50 miles per hour faster than the newest RAF bi­plane fighters. Naturally, the Air Ministry was acutely interested in the design, and it issued Speci­fication B.28/35 in order to obtain it. The military version differed specifically in possessing a low wing, a bomb bay, and a power turret. It entered ser­vice in 1937 as the Blenheim, at the time the world’s most advanced bombing aircraft. To accommodate additional fuel and range, a long-nosed version was test-flown in 1938.

Technology quickly overtook the Blenheim by the time World War II commenced in 1939, but it con­stituted the bulk of light bombers within RAF Bomber Command. Various subtypes also served with RAF Fighter Command, Coastal Command, Army Coopera­tion Command, and Training Command, becoming the only type to do so. On September 3, 1939, Blenheims conducted the first armed reconnaissance over Ger­many, and the following day they launched the first at­tack on the German fleet. It was subsequently active in daylight bombing raids but, in view of slow speed and weak armament, sustained heavy losses. The British, however, desperately needed aircraft of any kind, so in 1940 they outfitted Blenheims with top-secret A/I air­borne radar, creating the first dedicated night fighter. That August Blenheims achieved the very first night­time interception of a German bomber. Others served in the Mediterranean, Burma, and Singapore, where they did useful work but suffered heavily. Surviving aircraft were finally transferred to training duties by

1944. Blenheim production ceased at 4,440 machines.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 33 feet, 10 inches; length, 25 feet, 2 inches; height, 8 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 2,222 pounds; gross, 3,660 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 490-horsepower Bristol Jupiter VIIF radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 174 miles per hour; ceiling, 29,300 feet; range, 300 miles

Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; 80 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1929-1937


he Bulldog was a mainstay of Royal Air Force fighter strength in the 1930s and represented a shift in Britain’s philosophy toward fighter design. It served with distinction for several years and was also widely exported abroad.

By 1926 the appearance of high-speed bombers such as the Fairey Fox, which could outrun most fight­ers then in service, induced changes in British fighter philosophy. Thereafter, greater emphasis was placed on speed than maneuverability, although the latter trait still remained significant. The Air Ministry then issued Specification F.9/26, calling for new fighter de­signs to replace the Gloster Gamecocks and Arm – strong-Whitworth Siskins IIIAs then deployed. Bris­tol fielded a new craft for the 1927 fighter competition that looked as pugnacious as its name implied: the Bulldog. This was a robust biplane of unequal wingspan whose wings and fuselage frames were con­structed of stainless-steel strip for greater strength. Save for metal paneling in the engine area, it was en­tirely covered by fabric. The single-bay wings had pro­
nounced dihedral while the upper one sported a re­duced center section to enhance pilot visibility. A vari­able-incidence tailplane was also fitted so that the craft could be trimmed in flight. The prototype suc­cessfully edged out competing designs and won a con­tract. The first batch, 95 machines, was constructed as Bulldog IIs in 1929 and was greeted with enthusiasm.

A newer version, the Bulldog IIA, evolved by 1930. This differed by the addition of a strengthened structure, higher weight, an improved oil system, and wider undercarriage. A total of 247 were pro­cured, and they represented 70 percent of Britain’s fighter strength over the next few years. In light of its fine performance, the Bulldog was also exported in quantity to Australia, Denmark, Estonia, Sweden, and Finland. Finland kept them in frontline service until 1940, and they fought actively during the Russo-Finnish War. These fine machines, a common sight at the Hendon Displays for many years, were gradually phased out of British service by Gloster Gladiators in 1937.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Reconnaissance; Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 39 feet, 3 inches; length, 25 feet, 10 inches; height, 9 feet, 9 inches Weights: empty, 2,150 pounds; gross, 3,250 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 275-horsepower Rolls-Royce Falcon III liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 123 miles per hour; ceiling, 18,000 feet; range, 350 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns Service dates: 1917-1932


he “Brisfit” was the best general-purpose war­plane manufactured during World War I. Its com­bination of high speed, sound construction, and excel­lent maneuverability made it a formidable opponent.

By 1916 glaring deficiencies of the BE 2c re­connaissance aircraft necessitated a search for a suitable replacement. Frank Barnwell of Bristol originated such a machine, which first flew in Octo­ber of that year. Designated the R.2A, it was a con­ventional, two-bay biplane with some distinguishing features. Foremost among them was a fuselage that sat midway between the two wings, by use of struts, to afford pilots a better forward view. Moreover, it also had a downward sweep toward the tail, which greatly enhanced the gunner’s field of fire. Flight tests were encouraging, so the type entered produc­tion as the F.2A.

For such a promising craft, the F.2A had a dis­astrous combat debut. On April 5, 1917, a flight of six encountered Albatros D IIIs of Manfred von Richthofen’s “Flying Circus,” which promptly shot
down four. Similar losses followed until it was dis­covered that tactics employed by F.2A crews were faulty, not the aircraft itself. Previously, F.2As were flown as reconnaissance craft, in straight lines and tight defensive formations. This made them easy prey for more agile German fighters. However, as pilots became better acquainted with the big “Bris – fit” they adopted more aggressive tactics. The F.2A, flown offensively, soon emerged as one of the great fighters of the war. By year’s end the improved F 2B was available in numbers and proved an even better dogfighter. For example, on May 7, 1918, two of the newer “Brisfits” were surprised by seven Fokkers yet promptly shot down four. Minutes later they en­countered 15 more enemy craft and claimed an­other four without loss. The F 2B remained in pro­duction until 1927, after 5,252 had been constructed. The Royal Air Force employed the big craft in various army cooperation capacities until 1933, and it also saw service in air forces around the world.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 24 feet, 7 inches; length, 20 feet, 8 inches; height, 8 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 760 pounds; gross, 925 pounds Power plant: 1 x 100-horsepower Gnome rotary engine

Performance: maximum speed, 95 miles per hour; ceiling, 14,000; range, 200 miles Armament: none, officially Service dates: 1914-1916


ersatile Bristol Scouts were outstanding aircraft for their day but suffered from a lack of arma­ment. They nonetheless saw varied, wide-ranging service, and one was even launched from the back of a seaplane!

In 1913 Frank Barnwell developed a fast single-seat biplane design with a view toward racing it. The prototype, called the Baby, first flew on Feb­ruary 23, 1914, and clocked a respectable 95 miles per hour. The Baby’s fine performance caught the at­tention of the military, and two additional craft, la­beled Scout Bs, were delivered that August. By this time World War I had commenced, and both the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service began placing orders for the sprightly machine.

The Scout C was the first production model, and it performed reconnaissance service for many months. That role was ironic, for the little Bristol craft was faster and more maneuverable than many German fighters opposing it. Many pilots thus lashed rifles to their Scouts and actively engaged the enemy.

On July 25, 1915, Captain L. G. Hawker won the Victo­ria Cross when he dispatched three machine gun-armed Albatros scouts with his rifle. That same year an improved version, the Scout D, which fea­tured a more powerful engine and larger tail surfaces, arrived. It too was unarmed, but several squadrons jerry-rigged a wing-mounted Lewis machine gun on the upper wing to fire over the propeller arc. A total of 161 C and 210 D versions were constructed.

The Scouts were basically withdrawn from the Western Front in 1916, but attempts were made to convert it into an anti-Zeppelin device by mounting explosive Ranken darts. In an effort to increase range, two Scouts were nestled aboard the primitive carrier Vindex, and in November 1915 one became the first British aircraft launched from a ship. Experi­ments were also conducted with the large Porte Baby flying boat, which carried aloft a single Scout C on its wing. This piggyback arrangement proved per­fectly functional, and on May 17, 1916, a Scout was successfully launched from an altitude of 1,000 feet.

. Blohm und Voss Bv 222 Wiking

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 30 feet, 4 inch; length, 37 feet, 1 inch; height, 11 feet, 7 inches

Weights: empty, 15,542 pounds; gross, 31,000 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 21,750-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Pegasus turbofan engine

Performance: maximum speed, 601 miles per hour; ceiling, 51,000 feet; range, 932 miles

Armament: 2 x 30mm cannons; up to 8,000 pounds of bombs or rockets

Service dates: 1968-


he Harrier is the first vertical-takeoff fighter in history and among the most maneuverable. It performed sterling service as an interceptor during the 1982 Falkland Islands War and is continually upgraded.

The Harrier concept dates back to 1957 when Sir Sydney Camm of Hawker and Dr. Stanley Hooker of Bristol Siddeley teamed up to design the world’s first vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) fighter. They employed the new Bristol BS.53 turbofan en­gine, which directed thrust downward into four vec­toring (movable) nozzles. In wartime, such an air­craft could dispense with runways and operate off of any level ground near the front, a tremendous tac­tical advantage. The prototype P 1127 first flew in October 1960 and was refined through a succession of stronger engines and vectoring configurations. This evolution culminated in 1968, when the first op­erational Harrier GR 1 appeared. This was a small craft with swept wings of negative dihedral and fuselage centerline landing gear. Four rotatable noz­
zles are located on the fuselage to control vertical assent and horizontal flight; two wingtip nozzles provide added stability. As a dogfighter, the Harrier is capable of vectoring in forward flight (vff, or “viff – ing”), literally stopping in midair and causing enemy aircraft to overshoot. Harriers are currently de­ployed in numbers by the Royal Air Force and U. S. Marine Corps and are operated by the Spanish navy as well.

In 1975 the Royal Navy also acquired its first Sea Harriers. These were initially based closely upon the RAF GR 3 model but were later refitted with a modified canopy and nose section. A total of 57 were purchased; they made aviation history during the 1982 Falkland Islands War with Argentina. Operating as interceptors, they bagged 22 enemy planes without loss, although three were lost to ground fire. These craft have since been superceded by the newer Har­rier F/A.2, which utilizes the advanced Blue Vixen radar in a bulbous redesigned nose. India also oper­ates this model in large numbers.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Dimensions: wingspan, 26 feet, 11 inches; length, 54 feet; height, 13 feet, 11 inches

Weights: empty, 16,06 pounds; gross, 36,376 pounds

Power plant: 1 18,750-pound thrust General Electric J-79 turbojet engine

Performance: maximum speed, 1,516 miles per hour; ceiling, 58,000 feet; range, 548 miles

Armament: 2 x 30mm cannons; up to 13,415 pounds of bombs or rockets

Service dates: 1975-


he Kfir resulted from Israel’s attempt to sever its traditional dependency upon France for military aircraft. It was a feat of considerable engineering and placed that country in the forefront of aviation technology.

Since acquiring independence in 1947, the state of Israel relied heavily upon French patronage for modern weapons to defend itself against its Arab neighbors. In the early 1960s Israel acquired the rela­tively sophisticated Dassault Mirage IIIs, which were superbly utilized in the 1967 Six Day War. Israel had also ordered 50 of the less-expensive Mirage 5 ground-attack craft, fully paid for, when French Pres­ident Charles de Gaulle ordered an arms embargo. Cut off from its main supplier of aircraft, and faced with the specter of the Soviets arming Arab states with sophisticated MiG fighters, the Jewish state re­solved to develop indigenous fighters. This required imaginative engineering of a very high order.

Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI) initially began by marketing its own version of the Mirage 5, which
it called the Nesher (Eagle). This was a potent craft but possessed all the shortcomings of the original Mirage III design. But having purchased McDon- nell-Douglas F-4 Phantoms from the United States, the firm hit upon squeezing the powerful J-79 turbo­jet engine into the Mirage 5 fuselage. This feat re­quired engineering skills and was resolved only after much difficulty. However, the resulting new craft, the Kfir (Lion Cub), was revealed to the world in 1975. This was still a Mirage in outline, but it pos­sessed an expanded fuselage to accommodate the bigger engine. The rear was also consequently short­ened and the front extended in comparison with the Mirage 5. And because the J-79 runs hotter than the original French power plant, four additional airscoops were installed. Newer versions of the Kfir, the C2, feature removable canards just aft of the canopy to improve maneuverability at low speed. The Kfir remains a potent weapon in Israeli hands and has also been exported to Colombia and Ecuador.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Antitank; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 48 feet; length, 36 feet; height, 11 feet, 1 inch Weights: empty, 9,590 pound; gross, 14,021

Power plant: 1 x 1,770-horsepower AM-38F liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 251 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,685 feet; range, 373 miles Armament: 2 x 7.62mm machine guns; 2 x 30mm cannons; 1,321 pounds of bombs or rockets Service dates: 1941-1955


he famous Shturmovik was the most important Russian aircraft of World War II. Built in massive quantities, it proved instrumental in defeating German armor and preserving the Soviet Union. The Il 2 is also among the most numerous warplanes ever built.

The Red Air Force was conceived as a tactical adjunct to the Red Army and, as such, bore respon­sibility for removing tanks and fortifications in its path. Throughout the 1930s several experimental craft were tested that were heavily armored and in­tended to function as bronirovanni shturmovik (ar­mored attackers). In 1939 Sergei Ilyushin developed a prototype that was to exert profound influence on the military history of the world. His Il 2 was a rela­tively sleek, all-metal, low-wing monoplane with re­tractable undercarriage that withdrew into wing na­celles. The most distinguishing feature was the highly armored “tub,” an integral metal structure holding the engine, pilot, and fuel. It was impervious to ground fire and gave the aircraft great structural integrity. Test flights were encouraging, so the first

Il 2s became operational in May 1941. Their appear­ance was fortuitous, for the following month Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union.

From the onset, the Il 2 proved itself the bane of German tanks. Flying low at treetop level, it swooped upon them from behind, where their de­fenses were weakest, delivering lethal blows. Many Il 2s were lost for want of a tailgunner, so in 1942 a two-seat version was introduced with even heavier weapons, including the world’s first air-to-ground rockets. These performed essential work during the 1943 battle at Kursk, knocking out many of Ger­many’s latest Tiger tanks with ease. The Il 2 was so important that Stalin himself declared it “as essen­tial to the Red Army as bread and water”—and warned factory officials to produce them faster. With some justification, Germans regarded the Il 2 as the Schwartz Tod (Black Death). This landmark Russian design remained in production until 1955 after 36,000 had been built. Only the vaunted Po – likarpov Po 2 was obtained in greater quantity.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Medium Bomber; Torpedo-Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 70 feet, 4 inches; length, 48 feet, 6 inches; height, 13 feet, 5 inches Weights: empty, 13,228 pounds; gross, 22,046 pounds Power plant: 2 x 1,100-horsepower M-88B radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 255 miles per hour; ceiling, 32,810 feet; range, 1,616 miles Armament: 3 x 12.7mm machine guns; up to 2,205 pounds of bombs or torpedoes Service dates: 1937-1945


he Il 4 was another simple, exceedingly tough design that saw widespread use during World War II. It gained notoriety for becoming the first So­viet bomber to raid Berlin in 1941.

In 1936 Sergei Ilyushin delighted Soviet au­thorities by designing the DB 3 medium bomber. This was an all-metal, low-wing, twin-engine craft with a peculiarly blunt nose turret. More important, the craft boasted outstanding performance for its day and established several payload and altitude records. DB 3s became operational in 1937, and the following year Ilyushin began developing an im­proved variant, the DB 3F. This plane differed from its pug-nosed predecessor by sporting a redesigned, streamlined nose that was highly glazed. Other re­finements included greater internal capacity for fuel—in this instance up to 27 percent of its loaded weight—and an autopilot. The DB 3F consequently enjoyed excellent long-range capability for a rela­tively small bomber. In addition to carrying a useful payload, it could also be fitted with a torpedo for an­
tishipping work. DB 3Fs became operational in 1939 with both Red Air Force and Red Navy bomber regi­ments. The following year it was redesignated Il 4 after the new Soviet system of employing designers’ initials. Ultimately, 5,520 were constructed.

Il 4s were the most numerous bomber in the Soviet inventory when Nazi Germany invaded Rus­sia in June 1941. They gained international notoriety on the evening of August 8, 1941, when several navy Il 4s staged the first Russian bombing raid on Berlin. German advances, meanwhile, forced Ilyushin to re­locate his factories beyond the Ural Mountains. There he faced critical shortages of strategic metals, and so many Il 4s were partially constructed of wood. This did not detract from the basic robust­ness of the design, although Il 4s continually suf­fered from weak defensive armament. This unsung aircraft, largely unknown to the West, fought hard, absorbed staggering losses, and performed well up through the end of the war. It remains an unsung hero of the Soviet Union.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 70 feet, 4 inches; length, 57 feet, 11 inches; height, 22 feet

Weights: empty, 26,455 pounds; gross, 46,300 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 6,040-pound thrust Klimov VK-1 turbojet engines

Performance: maximum speed, 560 miles per hour; ceiling, 40,350 feet; range, 684 miles

Armament: 4 x 23mm cannons; up to 2,205 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1950-


he Il 28 was the first Soviet jet bomber and a di­rect counterpart of the North American B-45 Tornado and British Canberra. Less capable than ei­ther, it nonetheless enjoyed a service career of great longevity and still flies in China.

After World War II a race commenced to eval­uate captured German jet technology and incorpo­rate it into new generations of warplanes. For the Soviet Union, this meant development of a practical jet bomber that would eventually carry atomic weapons. The Ilyushin design bureau constructed the Il 28 prototype in 1948 as a high-wing, twin-jet design with swept tail surfaces. Curiously, the main wing was straight with a tapered trailing edge. A crew of three was housed in a streamlined, attrac­tive fuselage. The bombardier sat in a glazed nose section while the pilot was sequestered under a handsome canopy, and the tailgunner reposed in a turret reminiscent of the Boeing B-29, from which it had been copied. The Il 28 was powered by two VK – 1 engines, mounted far forward beneath the wings.

The craft was originally flown with weak Junkers Jumo engines, but due to the shortsightedness of the British Labor government, the Soviets obtained examples of the latest Rolls-Royce Nene—then the world’s finest. The prototype flew well on these copied engines, and the design entered production in 1949. However, Stalin insisted that at least 25 Il 28s be utilized in the 1950 May Day flyover, and the company strained every resource to success­fully meet his demand. At length 6,317 Il 28s were constructed and received the NATO designation BEAGLE.

The Il 28 enjoyed a long service record with Russian and numerous Warsaw Pact air forces. The type was also widely exported abroad to several communist client states. Il 28s were primitive ma­chines and carried a relatively light payload, but they displayed rugged construction and ease of maintenance. Russian and Eastern European Il 28s have long been retired, but China retains and oper­ates a number as trainers.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Antisubmarine; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 122 feet, 9 inches; length, 129 feet, 10 inches; ceiling, 33 feet, 4 inches

Weights: empty, 79,365 pounds; gross, 139,991 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 4,250-horsepower ZMD AI-20 turboprop engines

Performance: maximum speed, 448 miles per hour; ceiling, 32,810 feet; range, 2,299 miles Armament: unknown Service dates: 1967-


he far-ranging Il 38 was the Soviet Union’s first long-range antisubmarine aircraft. It is also en­countered while performing reconnaissance and electronic intelligence-gathering missions.

During World War II, the Allies acquired tremendous experience in the field of antisubmarine warfare (ASW) throughout the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. Afterward, they parleyed this expertise into several specifically designed ASW aircraft like Lockheed’s P2V Neptune. Russia, primarily a land power, felt no such necessity and was content to de­ploy short-range platforms like the Beriev Be 12 for coastal patrol work. However, the advent of missile­firing submarines in the 1960s interjected new ur­gency to the development of such aircraft. Because nuclear-tipped submarine-launched missiles consti­tuted a vital threat to Russia, they had to be engaged far away from coastal waters to be defeated. It was not until 1967 that the Soviets fielded their first dedi­cated ASW aircraft, the Ilyushin Il 38, known by the NATO code name MAY. This was essentially a highly modified Il 18 commercial airliner adapted for long-
range maritime reconnaissance. The West had previ­ously set a precedent by developing two similar craft, the Lockheed P-3 Orion and BAe Nimrod, also from civilian craft. The most notable difference from the II18 is the forward positioning of the wing, which suggests that the center of gravity has been altered by the presence of heavy equipment in the front fuselage. The Il 38 also displays a very promi­nent chin radome, along with the numerous protu­berances and airducts typical of ASW designs.

Little is known of the capability or armament of the Il 38, but certainly it cannot be slighted. Two spacious bomb bays, before and after the wing, are undoubtedly crammed with a huge array of sonobuoys, depth charges, homing torpedoes, and other tools of the ASW trade. But its procurement in small numbers (around 60) suggests that the more numerous Tu 142 BEAR is actually the preferred ma­chine for this role. The only other operator is India, which maintains its own five-plane squadron of Il 38s. Operationally, the craft appears slated for re­placement soon.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Transport; Early Warning

Dimensions: wingspan, 165 feet, 8 inches; length, 152 feet, 10 inches; height, 48 feet, 5 inches

Weights: empty, 216,050 pounds; gross, 374,780 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 26,455-pound thrust Soloviev D-30KP turbojet engines

Performance: maximum speed, 528 miles per hour; ceiling, 50,855 feet; range, 3,107 miles

Armament: 2 x 23mm cannon

Service dates: 1974-


he Il 76 is a standard Russian heavy air transport capable of carrying heavy loads to remote, un­prepared landing strips throughout Siberia. Modern variants also serve as that nation’s most advanced airborne warning command center.

The advent of Lockheed’s C-141 Starlifter in 1965 demonstrated the viability of large jet trans­ports. Its great range and lifting capacity certainly in­spired the Soviet government to acquire a similar ma­chine for its own use. Such a craft would be especially useful in helping to develop remote parts of Russia like Siberia, where adverse operating condi­tions are routine. The government then instructed the Antonov design bureau to create such a beast; of course, it had to be bigger and better than its capital­ist counterpart. In 1971 Antonov complied with the prototype Il 76, which bore great similarity to the Starlifter. It possessed a high-mounted wing fitted with leading-edge slats and trailing-edge slotted flaps for quick takeoffs. The spacious fuselage was circular in cross-section with streamlined fairings on either
side to house the landing gear. As with most Soviet airplanes, the tire pressure can be adjusted in flight for landing on any kind of surface. The Il 76 became operational in 1974 and broke several altitude and payload records. Around 750 have been built, making it among the most numerous aircraft of its class in the world. The NATO designation is CANDID.

Around this time the United States began man­ufacturing self-guided cruise missiles, which are small, fast, and designed to operate at altitudes below a radar net. The Soviets responded by con­verting several Il 76s into airborne early warning and control (AWACS) aircraft. The AWACS version of the Il 76, called the A 50, is fitted with a rotating radome that scans downward and picks out missiles from the ground clutter. This information is then re­layed by computer to MiG 31 interceptors, which then maneuver to engage the missiles. This version, built by Beriev, received the NATO designation MAINSTAY and will probably see frontline service for years to come.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 39 feet, 6 inches; length, 25 feet, 11 inches; height, 7 feet, 9 inches Weights: empty, 1,562 pounds; gross, 2,310 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 180-horsepower Mercedes D Ilia liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 100 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,685 feet; range, 200 miles Armament: 3 x 7.92mm machine guns Service dates: 1918-1919


he angular, futuristic CL I was probably the best attack aircraft of World War I. It was certainly the most sophisticated of its day and pioneered building techniques that were years ahead of the time.

In the spring of 1918, the Junkers firm sought to replace the Halberstadt CL attack planes with a derivative of its ultramodern D I fighter. The new craft flew on May 4, 1918, and, like its predecessor, was built entirely of metal. It consisted of a steel – tube structure covered by corrugated metal skin­ning, buttressed by extensive internal bracing. This combination provided the craft with both strength and lightness. The fuselage employed a carlike radi­ator placed in front of the engine and just above the thrust line. A crew of two was also provided with separate cockpits. The gunner’s position, in particu­lar, was elevated and granted an unimpeded field of fire. In the air, the CL I was speedy, agile, and virtu­ally impervious to small-arms fire. These traits made
it ideal for low-level ground attacks, so CL Is were outfitted with bomb racks, hand grenades, and other antipersonnel devices. For strafing duties, the pilot also operated two fixed machine guns.

Production of the CL I commenced in the sum­mer of 1918, and 47 machines arrived at the front be­fore the war ended. They were certainly the most advanced attack craft deployed by either side, years ahead of competing designs. Although there is no record of CL Is being used on the Western Front, they most certainly operated against Bolshevik forces in Finland, Estonia, and Latvia throughout 1919. Flown by veteran German pilots, CL Is were credited with excellent results. An interesting deri­vation was the CLS, a floatplane created for recon­naissance duties. Three examples were delivered to the navy, but no orders were forthcoming. After the war, a single CL I was also fitted with a canopy over the rear seat, thus becoming the first-ever all-metal airliner.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 29 feet, 6 inches; length, 23 feet, 9 inches; height, 7 feet, 4 inches

Weights: empty, 1,439 pounds; gross, 1,835 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 185-horsepower BMW liquid-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 118 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,685 feet; range, 150 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns

Service dates: 1918-1919


he diminutive Junkers D I was the first all-metal fighter plane produced in quantity. Deployed but never tested in battle, it dramatically foreshadowed events to come.

Hugo Junkers had conceived and constructed the first all-metal aircraft as early as 1915. This was the J I, a compact monoplane with relatively high performance. However, the conservative-minded German military greeted such futuristic contrap­tions with suspicion and manifested no official inter­est. Junkers persisted with several intervening de­signs, and he arrived at the J 7 in October 1917. This was another monoplane aircraft, exceptional in being fitted with pivoting wingtips, instead of ailerons, for longitudinal control. When these were found to cause wing flutter, more conventional arrangements were affixed. However, one feature that could not be overlooked was the radiator, which bizarrely sat astride the engine, directly blocking the pilot’s view! Subsequent revisions relo­cated it toward the front of the fuselage. It was not
until March 1918 that Junkers fielded his most re­fined effort, the J 9. As before, this was a low-wing cantilever monoplane with considerable military promise. It flew effectively during the D-class fighter trails at Aldershof, and authorities finally decided to authorize production that spring.

The new craft entered the military service as the Junkers D I in the summer of 1918. It differed from the prototype in only minor details, but the most obvious was the large ailerons of unequal chord on each wing. A rollbar to protect the pilot in the event of an overturned landing was also fitted. The D I’s metal construction rendered it light and strong, and once airborne it was fast and agile. Junkers’s invention might have wielded consider­able influence in the waning weeks of World War I, but because the construction techniques employed were so novel, only 41 machines were delivered be­fore the Armistice that November. After the war, several were exported to the Baltic states and flown by German pilots against Bolshevik forces there.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 52 feet, 5 inches; length, 29 feet, 10 inches; height, 11 feet, 1 inch

Weights: empty, 3,885 pounds; gross, 4,795 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 200-horsepower Benz BZ IV liquid-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 96 miles per hour; ceiling, 13,100 feet; range, 193 miles

Armament: 3 x 7.92mm machine guns

Service dates: 1918


he big J I appeared so ungainly to crew members that it was unofficially known as the “Moving Van.” However, it was heavily armored and ideally configured for the dangerous work of ground support.

For many years Hugo Junkers proffered the idea of all-metal airplanes to a skeptical German High Command. Commencing in 1915, when he con­structed the first metallic monoplane, Junkers devel­oped a succession of viable designs that had obvi­ous military applications. His perseverance paid off in 1917, when the government finally approached him to design and develop an armored biplane for the Infanterieflieger (ground-support units). The ensuing Junkers J I turned out to be one of the most unusual, if not outright ugly, aircraft employed by the German air arm during this conflict.

Despite a conventional biplane configuration, the JI was unique in several aspects. Its most promi­nent feature was the enormous top wing, spanning more than 50 feet tip to tip. It possessed a thick air­foil section and cantilevered construction and was
made entirely of metal frames with corrugated cov­ering. The lower wing was of identical planform but nearly a third smaller. The intrinsic strength of these units meant that they were fastened to the fuselage only by a series of inboard struts. The J I’s fuselage, meanwhile, possessed an unusual octagonal cross­section. Its front half consisted of a completely ar­mored “tub” that housed the motor, fuel, pilot, and gunner. To the rear were large, almost rectangular tail surfaces, also covered in metal. In service the J I was heavy to fly, required a long runway for takeoff, and was difficult to land on short strips. It was so ungainly in bulk that crew members christened it the Mobelwagen (Moving Van).

Despite appearances, Junkers’s design was su­perbly adapted for infantry close-support missions. Its heavy armor made it nearly invulnerable to small – arms fire from below, and it also exhibited good low – altitude characteristics. No less than 227 of these rugged craft were built, and they served with dis­tinction along the Western Front throughout 1918.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Transport

Dimensions: wingspan, 95 feet, 11 inches; length, 62 feet; height, 18 feet, 2 inches

Weights: empty, 12,610 pounds; gross, 23,149 pounds

Power plant: 3 x 725-horsepower BMW 132A-3 radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 171 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,360 feet; range, 808 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns; up to 1,102 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1935-1945


eloved “Tante Ju” (Auntie Ju) was the most nu­merous European transport aircraft in history. As versatile as they were ungainly, Ju 52s participated in every German campaign during World War II.

In 1931 a design team under Ernst Zindel con­verted a single-motor Ju 52 passenger transport into a trimotor aircraft. The original version was a boxy, low-wing, all-metal machine with corrugated skin and fixed landing gear. It also employed a double set of flaps and ailerons along the trailing edges for bet­ter STOL (short takeoff and landing) performance. When the two engines were added to the wings, they were sharply canted outward to offset asymmetric power in the event of engine failure. The revised Ju 52 was a startling success and sold in great num­bers to the airline Deutsche Lufthansa. By 1940 they comprised 75 percent of its inventory and won plau­dits for safety and reliability. In the early 1930s the Luftwaffe was also clandestinely seeking military air­craft, so it adopted the Ju 52 as an interim bomber. In 1936 several were dispatched to fight in the Spanish

Civil War and served effectively, dropping 6,000 tons of bombs and ferrying 13,000 Moroccan troops with­out loss. By the eve of World War II, the angular Ju 52 was the most numerous and important Luftwaffe transport, with more than 500 in service.

World War II only enhanced Auntie Ju’s reputa­tion for ruggedness. They were initially employed during the 1940 assault on Norway, the first military campaign to utilize air transport on a huge scale. They then flew against France and the Low Coun­tries, and in 1941 Ju 52s played a conspicuous role in Operation Mercury, the airborne assault on Crete. At the time, this was the largest aerial assault in his­tory, and losses were staggering. However, Ju 52s subsequently did meritorious work in Russia, where they ferried supplies, dropped parachute troopers, and evacuated casualties. Total wartime production of this rugged craft peaked at 4,845 machines. Spain also constructed several hundred transports that re­mained in service through the 1970s. The Ju 52 was a legendary aircraft.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Medium Bomber; Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 73 feet, 9 inches; length, 58 feet, 7 inches; height, 16 feet, 7 inches

Weights: empty, 11,354 pounds; gross, 18,078 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 600-horsepower Junkers Jumo 205C-4 diesel engines

Performance: maximum speed, 202 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,360 feet; range, 932 miles

Armament: 3 x 7.92mm machine guns; up to 1,764 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1936-1941


he Ju 86 suffered from abysmally bad power plants that compromised its service career in Spain and elsewhere. However, several specially modified craft were among the highest-flying recon­naissance aircraft of World War II.

In 1933 the German government issued re­quirements for a new commercial airliner that could simultaneously function as a bomber. Heinkel re­sponded by fielding the He 111 while Junkers origi­nated the Ju 86; prototypes were ordered for both. Unlike the gracefully elliptical Heinkel design, the Junkers entry looked brusquely angular. It was an all-metal, low-wing monoplane with twin rudders and retractable landing gear that folded outward from the fuselage to the engines. It was to be pow­ered by Junker Jumo diesel engines, an unproven form of technology at that time. The prototype first flew in November 1934, exhibiting sluggish perform­ance and instability at low speeds. Its narrow-track landing gear, when combined with poor forward vi­sion from the canopy, made it difficult to taxi as well as land. Nonetheless, the type was ordered into pro­
duction that year, and with better engines it enjoyed considerable overseas success as a passenger air­liner. Several diesel-equipped bombers were sent to Spain in 1936, but they proved unreliable and unsat­isfactory in combat. It was not until the Ju 86E ver­sion of 1937 that the plane received conventional motors. The follow-on Ju 86G also introduced a re­designed nose for improved pilot vision.

The Ju 86’s inferior performance to the He 111 mandated its retirement from frontline service by 1939 and relegation to training duties. At length, Junkers decided to convert several machines into high-flying reconnaissance platforms. This was ac­complished by extending the wingspan, employing new engines, and installing a pressurized cabin. The new Ju 86Ps could reach altitudes upward of 40,000 feet and were active during the Battle of Britain. They also flew with impunity in Africa until August 1942, when one was shot down by a specially equipped, stripped-down Spitfire V By 1943 most Ju 86s had been scrapped following a production run of around 800 machines.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Dive-Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 49 feet, 2 inches; length, 37 feet, 8 inches; height, 12 feet, 9 inches Weights: empty, 8,686 pounds; gross, 14,550 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,500-horsepower Junkers Jumo 211P liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 248 miles per hour; ceiling, 27,885 feet; range, 410 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns; 2 x 20mm cannons; up to 6,000 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1936-1945


ew aircraft projected such an evil intent as the unattractive, angular Stuka. It nevertheless per­sonified Nazi blitzkrieg warfare and was an effective dive-bomber when unopposed, but it wilted quickly in the face of fighter opposition.

In 1933 German aerial expert Ernst Udet wit­nessed dive-bombing in the United States, which convinced him of similar applications for Europe. The embryonic Luftwaffe had been envisioned as aerial artillery for Wehrmacht land forces, and Udet urged creation of a new Sturzkampfflugzeug (Stuka) forces. A Junkers design team under Hans Pohlmann fielded a prototype in 1935, which was unlike any airplane ever built. Angular and ugly, the Ju 87 was an all-metal monoplane with unmistak­able “cranked” wings and trousered landing gear. A crew of two sat back-to-back in a short greenhouse canopy. Test flights proved the new craft to be some­what slow and sluggish yet highly accurate while diving. Several saw combat during the Spanish Civil War, where they operated with great effect against weak enemy opposition. When World War II com­
menced, only 500 Ju 87s were in the Luftwaffe in­ventory, but they wielded a tactical and psychologi­cal impact far greater than mere numbers suggested.

The screaming, precision-bombing Stukas epitomized blitzkrieg warfare as they blasted a path for oncoming German tanks and infantry. Their effect upon unarmed civilians was terrifying, for Stukas emitted a loud, high-pitched howl as they nosed over, giving the impression of giant birds of prey. The Ju 87s functioned brilliantly until the Battle of Britain in 1940, where effective fighter opposition caused heavy losses. Thereafter, Stukas were assigned to secondary theaters like the Aegean and Mediterranean with good results. They also enjoyed startling success against Russia, where on September 23, 1941, Hans-Ulrich Rudel destroyed the battleship Marat with a single 2,200- pound bomb, and ultimately accounted for 511 tanks. Stukas rendered good work wherever the Luftwaffe enjoyed air superiority, but by late 1944 they had faded from the scene entirely. More than

5,0 had been constructed.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Medium Bomber; Night Fighter; Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 65 feet, 7 inches; length, 48 feet, 2 inches; height, 15 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 18,250 pounds; gross, 30,400 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,730-horsepower BMW 801G-2 radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 340 miles per hour; ceiling, 32,800 feet; range, 2,130 miles Armament: 6 x 20mm cannons; 1 x 13mm machine gun; up to 4,409 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1939-1945


he Ju 88 was the most numerous and versatile German bomber of World War II. It was grafted to every conceivable purpose, and even served as the lower half of a primitive guide missile!

In 1935 the German Air Ministry announced specifications for a new, twin-engine Schnellbomber (fast bomber). One year later Junkers beat out two other contenders with the Ju 88, a highly stream­lined, smoothed-skinned airplane with midmounted wings. A crew of four sat under a large glazed canopy while a bombardier gondola, offset to the left, ran back from the nose. Test results were excel­lent, but Luftwaffe priorities were skewed to other craft, and production remained slow. By the time World War II erupted in September 1939, only about 50 Ju 88s had reached Luftwaffe units.

In combat the Junkers design was fast, carried a good bomb load, and could absorb great amounts of damage. Moreover, although originally intended as a bomber, it could be adapted to virtually every mis­
sion assigned to it: mine-laying, nighttime fighting, reconnaissance, antiship patrols, heavy fighter, ground attack, and dive-bombing. Ju 88s accordingly distinguished themselves in combat from England to Russia, Norway to North Africa. As the Allied ring began closing in on Germany, several dedicated night-fighter versions were developed with radar and heavy armament, such as the Ju 88G. These were among the best such craft deployed, and they ac­counted for hundreds of Allied bomber kills. The Ju 88S was a stripped-down high-speed bomber that appeared in 1943. It was as fast or faster than most contemporary fighters and therefore only lightly armed. One final version of note was the Mistal, which consisted of a radio-controlled Ju 88 carrying a piggyback Bf 109 or Fw 190 fighter. Once launched, it would be guided to a target like a primitive air-to – ground missile. Ju 88s of every stripe fought with dis­tinction until the very end. Total production of this amazingly versatile machine reached 14,676 units.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Medium Bomber; Reconnaissance; Torpedo-Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 72 feet, 2 inches; length, 49 feet; height, 14 feet, 7 inches

Weights: empty, 21,825 pounds; gross, 31,898 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,776-horsepower Junkers Jumo 213A radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 325 miles per hour; ceiling, 30,665 feet; range, 1,210 miles

Armament: 3 x 7.92mm machine guns; 1 x 20mm cannon; up to 6,614 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1943-1945


ppearing in the wake of the superlative Ju 88, the Ju 188 proved itself an even better aircraft. It excelled as a bomber, torpedo plane, and recon­naissance platform but came too late and in too few numbers to have an impact.

In 1939 the German Air Ministry announced specifications for a new high-speed bomber to re­place the Do 17s and He 111s then in service. Junkers proposed a radical new design, the Ju 288, which was plagued with technical obstacles from the onset and never materialized. Meanwhile, the company also worked on the Ju 188 as a private ven­ture in a logical progression from the already suc­cessful Ju 88. The new craft bore marked resem­blance to its forebear, but it differed in having a new bulbous canopy section and longer, tapering wings. It also sported a power turret and squared-off tail surfaces. The first Ju 188 was test-flown in 1940 with excellent results, although its initial payload was the same as the earlier craft’s. Nonetheless, production
commenced in 1942, and by war’s end 1,076 ma­chines had been delivered.

The Ju 188E was the first production variant and was employed as a radar-equipped torpedo – bomber. It functioned well and was possibly the best of its type during the war. They were followed by the Ju 188F, a high-altitude long-range reconnaissance version that performed useful work in Russia. By

1943 the bugs had been shaken out of the new Jumo 213A engines, and they were fitted to the dedicated bomber variant, the Ju 188A. These proved even faster and more versatile than the already legendary Ju 88s and were very popular with crews. Many were employed as pathfinders during the January

1944 “Little Blitz” against London. The final version, the Ju 188T, was a stripped-down reconnaissance machine that could reach 435 miles per hour at very high altitude. The Ju 188s were excellent machines but appeared too late and in too small numbers to improve Germany’s fortunes.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Patrol-Bomber; Reconnaissance; Transport

Dimensions: wingspan, 137 feet, 9 inches; length, 95 feet, 7 inches; height, 22 feet, 4 inches Weights: empty, 72,764 pounds; gross, 101,413 pounds Power plant: 4 x 1,700-horsepower BMW 801D radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 273 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,685 feet; range, 3,784 miles Armament: 7 x 20mm cannons; up to 6,614 pounds of bombs or missiles Service dates: 1943-1945


he huge Ju 290 transport was successfully adapted as a patrol-bomber but served in only limited numbers. One variant, the six-engine Ju 390, was designed to reach New York City and return.

In 1936 Junkers constructed the Ju 89, a practi­cal, four-engine strategic bomber, but Luftwaffe au­thorities expressed little official interest. The company subsequently developed the aircraft into a civil ver­sion, the Ju 90, for the benefit of Deutsche Lufthansa. Eight were built and functioned as the pride of Lufthansa until 1939, when all were impressed into military service. At that time, the Luftwaffe desired a new bomber as an eventual replacement for the Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Kondor, and Junkers complied with the Ju 290. This was essentially a Ju 90 with re­designed wings and better engines. Flight tests were encouraging, so the aircraft entered production in

1942. A total of 66 of the lumbering giants were built.

The Ju 290s were variously employed in mar­itime patrol and as military transports. They were
excellent machines and well-liked by crews but were never available in sufficient number to affect much. From their bases in France they would arc out over the Atlantic, relaying convoy locations to a dwindling number of U-boats. Others found work during the siege of Stalingrad, ferrying supplies and evacuating wounded, with several being lost. Subse­quent models of the Ju 290 bristled with increasingly heavier armament, radar, and antishipping missiles, but they failed to surmount Allied control of the air. Nonetheless, in the fall of 1944 a pair of Ju 290s staged an impressive round-trip flight, 5,000 miles, to Manchuria and back.

In 1940 the Luftwaffe called for creation of an even bigger machine, the so-called Amerika Bomber, in the event of war with the United States. Junkers then conceived the Ju 390, which had a lengthened fuselage, wings, and six engines. Only two of these capable craft were built, and they did not proceed beyond a few test flights.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Antisubmarine; Transport

Dimensions: rotorspan, 52 feet, 2 inches; length, 37 feet, 1 inch; height, 17 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 13,338 pounds; gross, 27,778 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 2,205-horsepower Klimov TV3-117V turboshaft engines

Performance: maximum speed, 155 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,405 feet; range, 497 miles

Armament: torpedoes or depth charges

Service dates: 1981-


he tubby Ka 27 (NATO code name HELIX) is the latest member of a long-serving and successful series of Russian naval helicopters. In addition to antisubmarine warfare (ASW) versions, other mod­els can perform assault and radar picket work.

In 1956 the Soviet navy issued requirements for a new and capable helicopter for ASW pur­poses. Such a machine would also have to be com­pact, owning to the cramped storage facilities aboard many Russian naval vessels. Nikolai Kamov’s design bureau confronted the problem with great imagination and engineering skill by producing the first Ka 25 (NATO code name HOR­MONE) in 1960. This was a rotund, twin-engine hel­icopter utilizing what became the company trade­mark: counter-rotating coaxial rotors. This unique system offered many advantages over conventional layouts, with the most obvious being deletion of the long tailboom and dangerous tailrotor. Com­mencing in 1966, the Ka 25 became the standard Soviet ASW platform at sea, easily recognized by various sonar bugles and protuberances. More than
600 were built, and many still fly in former Soviet client state navies.

In 1981 Kamov was succeeded by Sergei Mikheyev, who continued the company tradition by designing the newer Ka 27. As before, the new ma­chine was coaxial-powered, which allowed a stubby, compact design, although in this case somewhat big­ger than the previous machine. The Ka 27 featured a crew of five, twin canted fins, and two engines with twice the power. Moreover, it is the first Kamov de­sign capable of all-weather and nighttime ASW mis­sions. At least 100 have been built and currently serve with the Russian navy.

In 1980 Kamov subsequently built upon its ear­lier success by designing two additional models. The Ka 39 is a tactical assault helicopter for Russian naval infantry, with an enlarged cabin and heavy ar­mament in the form of machine guns and rocket pods. The similar Ka 31 is designed for radar picket work, with a large E-801 Oko radar bulge under the belly. Both were procured in small numbers before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Antitank


Dimensions: rotorspan, 45 feet; length, 52 feet, 5 inches; height, 17 feet, 8 inches Weights: gross, 16,534 pounds

Power plant: 2 x Klimov TV3-11VK turboshaft engines

Performance: maximum speed, 217 miles per hour; ceiling, 13,125 feet; range, 155 miles Armament: 1 x 30mm cannon; 16 x AT-9 Vikhr missiles; various gunpods Service dates: 1992-


he futuristic Ka 50, nicknamed “Black Shark” by the Russians, is the world’s first single-seat at­tack helicopter. It retains many trademark features of the Kamov design bureau and is currently await­ing export orders.

In the 1970s Western mania for large and so­phisticated attack helicopters like the Hughes AH-64 Apache convinced Soviet authorities that they should emulate such tactical thinking. In 1977 Kamov design bureau chief Sergei Mikheyev ad­vanced a new machine based upon proven company concepts. The Ka 50 is the world’s first single-seat at­tack helicopter design, so chosen to enhance its sur­vivability over larger two-seat machines. It is also unique in employing the coaxial rotor configuration that is a Kamov trademark. The reason behind this adaptation is that single rotors were perceived as too vulnerable to damage in low-level ground-attack work. The fuselage is attenuated, heavily armored, and ends in a long, blunt snout. It is also partially made from lightweight composite materials that add
greatly to overall strength. Moreover, to assist the pilot, the cockpit is completely computerized and employs the Kamov autoland, autohover, and auto-formation-flying equipment pioneered in naval helicopters. Finally, this craft is the first helicopter in the world to boast an ejection system for the pilot. The sequence begins when explosive bolts shed the rotor blades, and then a rocket pack drags the helpless operator out of his cockpit!

To fulfill its mission as an antitank attack heli­copter, the Ka 50 is extremely well armed. It sports no less than 16 Vikhr antitank missiles, which are supersonic and capable of penetrating reactive armor up to a thickness of 35 inches. A 30mm high velocity cannon is also fitted to the starboard side of the fuselage, and the choice of either explosive or armor-piercing ammunition can be made in flight. In sum, the Ka 50 is a formidable adversary and goes by the NATO designation HOKUM. The precise num­ber of Ka 50s in service since the collapse of the So­viet Union has not been determined.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Reconnaissance; Transport

Dimensions: wingspan, 131 feet, 2 inches; length, 84 feet, 1 inch; height, 20 feet, 6 inches

Weights: empty, 27,293 pounds; gross, 50,706 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 1,300-horsepower Mitsubishi Kinsei 53 radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 239 miles per hour; ceiling, 31,365 feet; range, 4,210 miles

Armament: 4 x 7.7mm machine guns; 1 x 20mm cannon; up to 2,205 pounds of torpedoes

Service dates: 1938-1945


he graceful H6K was among the best flying boats during the early stages of the Pacific war. It boasted greater range and endurance than its Ameri­can and British counterparts.

The Japanese navy first gained experience with flying boats with the assistance of a team of en­gineers from the British Short firm in 1930. Within five years Japan had accumulated sufficient experi­ence to manufacture similar craft on its own. Such was the case when the navy issued a 9-Shi (1934) specification to Kawanishi for a large flying boat of unprecedented range and endurance. Fortuitously, the Japanese had recently purchased an example of the Consolidated P2Y Ranger from the United States, and Kawanishi design teams under Yoshio Hashiguchi and Shizuo Kikuhara set about adapting it for their own purposes. The prototype H6K first flew in 1936 as a large four-engine aircraft with par­ticularly pleasing lines. The streamlined two-step hull mounted a parasol wing on struts and pylons, and two stabilizing floats were placed outboard of
midspan. The first H6Ks rolled off the assembly lines in 1938 and, by virtue of their excellent air and water handling, were among the best flying boats in the world. When the Pacific war commenced in Decem­ber 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy possessed 64 of these impressive giants, soon to be known to the Allies as Mavis.

The H6K was heavily employed throughout ex­tensive reaches of the Southwest Pacific. In addition to reconnaissance work, they carried a variety of bombs or torpedoes, and on several occasions they raided Rabaul and northern Australia. However, a major weak point was the lack of self-sealing fuel tanks, which rendered them very vulnerable to enemy fighters. By 1943, as Allied defenses im­proved, losses had grown untenable, and the Mavis became restricted to nighttime flying and trans­portation work. They were well suited to this role, having been operated by Japan Air Lines in this manner for several months prior to hostilities. A total of 217 H6Ks were built.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Reconnaissance; Transport

Dimensions: wingspan, 124 feet, 8 inches; length, 92 feet, 4 inches; height, 30 feet Weights: empty, 40,521 pounds; gross, 71,650 pounds Power plant: 4 x 1,530-horsepower Mitsubishi MK4B Kasei radial engines Performance: maximum speed, 290 miles per hour; ceiling, 28,740 feet; range, 4,460 miles Armament: 5 x 20mm cannons; 4 x 7.7mm machine guns; up to 4,408 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1942-1945


he mighty H8K was the best all-around flying boat of World War II, superior in many respects to all other British, American, and German designs. Fast and heavily armed, it was difficult to shoot down and treated respectfully by enemy fighters.

By 1938 Japanese naval planners realized that it would take three years to produce a more modern replacement for the H6K flying boat. They then is­sued a 14-Shi specification calling for a craft with performance superior to that of the contemporary Short Sunderland. Accordingly, a design team headed by Shizuo Kikuhara set about conceiving what evolved into the world’s best flying boat. The prototype flew in 1940 as a high-wing, all-metal monoplane with a rather narrow hull and extremely clean lines. Unfortunately, this version proved unsta­ble during water taxiing tests and prone to porpois­ing uncontrollably. Consequently, a revised model was built featuring a deepened two-step hull and modified flaps, both of which cured the problem. The new craft, designated the H8K 1, was also heavily
armed, mounting no less than five 20mm cannons and four 7.7mm machine guns. Moreover, unlike tra­ditional Japanese warplanes, it also featured self­sealing fuel tanks and considerable armor plating for the crew. During World War II this massive craft came to be known to the Allies as Emily.

The H8K was a formidable war machine. With a range over 4,000 miles, it was fast, maneuverable, and could cruise 27 hours without refueling. Well­armed and armored, it was also extremely difficult to shoot down and had to be approached gingerly. The combat debut of the H8K occurred in March 1942 when a pair of Emilys flew several hundred miles from French Frigate Shoals to Pearl Harbor, only to discover the target was obscured by cloud cover. Thereafter, the big flying boat was encoun­tered throughout the Pacific while performing mar­itime reconnaissance. In 1943 a transport version, the H8K2 Seika (Clear Sky), was developed that could carry 64 fully armed troops. A total of 175 were constructed.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 39 feet, 4 inches; length, 30 feet, 8 inches; height, 13 feet Weights: empty, 5,858 pounds; gross, 8,818 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,990-horsepower Nakajima NK9H Homare radial engine Performance: maximum speed, 369 miles per hour; ceiling, 35,300 feet; range, 1,488 miles Armament: 4 x 20mm cannon Service dates: 1944-1945


he Shiden Kai was one of the best all-around fighters deployed by Japan in World War II. Its success is even more surprising considering that it evolved from a floatplane.

In 1940 the Imperial Japanese Navy sought pos­session of a capable floatplane fighter to be used in conjunction with the tactic of island hopping. Kawan­ishi responded with the N1K1 Kyofu (Mighty Wind), a streamlined and powerful aircraft. By 1943, however, Japan was on the defensive and needed newer, land – based fighters. A design team subsequently over­hauled the Kyofu by eliminating the floats, and thus the N1K1-J was born. This was a heavily armed, mid­wing fighter of great strength and maneuverability. It carried no less than four 20mm cannons and two 7.7mm machine guns, in addition to armor for the pilot. Called the Shiden (Violet Lightning), it proved a formidable fighter and very much equal to Grumman F6F Hellcats and Vought F4U Corsairs. And unlike most Japanese fighters, it was rugged and difficult to shoot down. However, Shidens suffered from unreli­able Homare radial engines and problems associated
with the long, telescopic landing gear inherent in mid­wing configurations. Kawanishi nonetheless pro­duced 1,001 of these excellent machines, which re­ceived the Allied code name George 11.

In the fall of 1943, the Kawanishi design teams took another look at their promising fighter in an at­tempt to simplify and improve it. The biggest changes involved adapting a low-wing construction, along with revised tail surfaces and a cleaned-up cowl. Shorter, more conventional landing gear were also fitted. The result was the N1K2-J Shiden Kai (Modified Violet Lightning). It boasted higher per­formance using the same engine and one-third fewer parts than the original design. This craft, known to the Allies as George 21, was an even better dog – fighter than the legendary Zero. On February 6, 1945, a single N1K2 flown by the noted ace Kaneyoshi Muto single-handedly engaged 12 Grumman F6F Hellcats, shooting down four and driving the re­mainder off! Unfortunately for Japan, this excellent fighter was never available in sufficient quantity to turn the tide of events. Only 428 were built.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Fighter; Night Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 49 feet, 4 inches; length, 36 feet, 1 inch; height, 12 feet, 1 inch

Weights: empty, 8,818 pounds; gross, 12,125 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,080-horsepower Mitsubishi Ha-102 radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 339 miles per hour; ceiling, 32,810 feet; range, 1,243 miles

Armament: 1 x 37mm cannon; 2 x 20mm cannon, 1 x 7.7mm machine gun

Service dates: 1942-1945


he Ki 45 was Japan’s first twin-engine fighter and its most successful night fighter. It also served capably in a variety of missions, including ground at­tack, antishipping, and kamikaze.

By 1937 the notion of long-range strategic fighters, capable of escorting bomber fleets to tar­gets and back, was becoming prevalent. Germany began successfully experimenting with its Messer – schmitt Bf 110, which prompted the Imperial Japa­nese Army to adopt similar craft. That year it invited several companies into a competition, and Kawasaki, after many trials and prototypes, origi­nated the Ki 45 Toryu (Dragon Slayer). This was a handsome, low-wing design with a pointed nose and a long, tandem cabin housing pilot and gunner. Ini­tial flights revealed that the craft was underpow­ered, so a succession of better engines ensued until the Nakajima Ha-25 was utilized. Other problems centered around the landing gear, which were weak and hand-cranked in flight. With better motors and powered undercarriage, the Ki 45 showed promise,
so in 1941 it entered production. A total of 1,701 were ultimately built, and they received the code name Nick during World War II.

The first Ki 45s were deployed in Southeast Asia and, despite exceptional maneuverability for their size, were at a disadvantage fighting single-engine op­ponents. Given their speed and heavy armament, how­ever, they proved ideal for ground attacks and anti­shipping strikes. Moreover, the Ki 45 was also an effective bomber interceptor and played havoc with American B-24 formations throughout Burma and In­dochina. When the B-24s switched to night attacks, the Ki 45 was converted into a night fighter by mount­ing heavy cannons on top of the fuselage in slanted fashion. Considerable success was achieved, which gave rise to the Ki 45 KAIc, a dedicated night-fighter version, in 1944. These machines also performed use­ful work against high-flying B-29s over Japan toward the end of the war. More ominously, on May 27, 1944, it fell upon four Nicks to perform the first army kamikaze attacks against American warships off Biak.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 57 feet, 3 inches; length, 41 feet, 10 inches; height, 12 feet, 5 inches

Weights: empty, 10,031 pounds; gross, 14,881 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,150-horsepower Nakajima Ha-115 radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 314 miles per hour; ceiling, 33,135 feet; range, 1,491 miles

Armament: 3 x 7.7mm machine guns; up to 1,764 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1940-1945


t the beginning of World War II, the Ki 48 was Japan’s most important light bomber. Slow and underarmed, it was never much of a threat against improving Allied defenses.

By 1938 Japanese forces operating in China began encountering numbers of Soviet-supplied Tupolev SB 2 light bombers. These proved so fast that Japan’s most modern interceptor, the Nakajima Ki 27, could scarcely intercept them. Naturally, the Imperial Japanese Army sought possession of a light bombardment aircraft with similar capabilities. A Kawasaki design team under Takeo Doi then com­menced work on a prototype that emerged in 1939. The new Ki 48 was a modern-looking, midwing bomber with a crew of four and an internal bomb bay. Variable-pitch propellers were also fitted to the two Nakajima Ha-25 radial engines for improved performance. The new craft flew fast and handled very well, so it entered production in 1940. That fall the first units equipped with Ki 48s arrived in north­ern China and commenced combat operations. As
expected, the new bomber simply outflew weak Chi­nese defenses and established a reputation for relia­bility and ease of maintenance. By the advent of the Pacific war in December 1941, the Ki 48 was the most numerous light bomber in the Japanese arse­nal. It received the Allied designation Lilly.

During the opening phases of war, Ki 48s per­formed useful work against British forces in South­east Asia and the U. S. installations in the Philippines. This, however, was accomplished largely in the pres­ence of Japanese air superiority. Advancing next upon the Dutch East Indies and New Guinea, Ki 48s began taking heavy losses over Australia as defenses consolidated and resistance stiffened. Kawasaki then introduced the Ki 48-II, which featured bigger en­gines, twice the bomb load, and slightly heavier ar­mament. These, too, wilted in the face of newer Al­lied fighters, and by 1943 the Lilly was restricted to night bombing. By 1944 all were declared obsolete, and many ended their days as kamikazes. Production amounted to 1,977 machines.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 39 feet, 4 inches; length, 29 feet, 4 inches; height, 12 feet, 1 inch Weights: empty, 5,798 pounds; gross, 7,650 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,175-horsepower Kawasaki Ha-40 liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 348 miles per hour; ceiling, 32,810 feet; range, 1,181 miles Armament: 2 x 12.7mm machine guns; 2 x 20mm cannon Service dates: 1943-1945


he streamlined Hien was a useful aircraft beset by troublesome power plants. Once outfitted with a new radial engine, however, it became Japan’s finest fighter of World War II.

In 1937 Kawasaki obtained rights to manufac­ture the superb German Daimler-Benz DB 601A in­line engine. Three years later the Japanese army re­quested that Kawasaki design a fighter around this power plant. A team under Takeo Doi then con­structed a prototype that initially flew in December 1941. In contrast with other radial-powered Japanese fighters, the Ki 61 possessed rakish lines reminiscent of the Messerschmitt Bf 109F. It was also heavily armed with four machine guns and possessed pilot armor in contrast to prevailing design philosophies. Moreover, mock combat trials between the Bf 109 and captured examples of the Curtiss P-40 revealed the Ki 61 superior to either warplane. The Imperial Japanese Army was then in great need to replace its aging Ki 43 Hayabusa fighters, so it authorized the new craft into production as the Hien (Swallow). Al­
lied forces gave it the code name Tony; production came to 2,654 machines

The Ki 61 debuted at New Guinea in the spring of 1943 and was relatively successful in combat. It was as fast as many Allied fighters and even more maneuverable. However, recurrent problems with the Ha-40 engine were never resolved. In 1943 an improved version, the Ki 61-II, mounted a bigger en­gine, but it suffered from even worse maintenance problems than earlier craft. Nonetheless, by 1945 the Tony was one of few Japanese aircraft able to attack American B-29 bombers at high altitude. When air raids finally destroyed the last stock of Ha-40 engines, Kawasaki was ordered to fit existing airframes with the Mitsubishi 112-II radial engine. This was engineered with considerable finesse, and the new fighter, christened the Ki 100, was the best Japanese fighter of the war. It easily outflew the F6F Hellcats and P-51 Mustangs encountered over Japan, but only 272 were built before the war ended.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 32 feet, 2 inches; length, 28 feet, 2 inches; height, 9 feet, 3 inches

Weights: empty, 5,816 pounds; gross, 7,496 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,859-horsepower Shvetsov M-82FN radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 413 miles per hour; ceiling, 35,435 feet; range, 395 miles

Armament: 3 x 20mm cannons; up to 441 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1942-1945


he La 7 was among the best fighters produced during World War II. It was a superior dogfighter to both the Bf 109 and Fw 190 and the chosen mount of leading Soviet aces.

In the fall of 1941, as the German blitzkrieg rolled toward Moscow, the Soviet government began frantically scrambling to acquire more effi­cient weapons. Semyon Lavochkin, who had di­vested himself from his earlier partnership, began developing the inadequate LaGG 3 into a first-class fighter. He started by taking a basic LaGG frame, fit­ting it with a powerful M-82 radial engine, and the ef­fects were startling. With additional refinements like a cut-down canopy and redesigned cowl, the new La 5 proved faster than the fabled Bf 109G in speed and maneuverability. These machines were first commit­ted during the horrific Battle of Stalingrad in 1942 and acquitted themselves well. The following year, the La 5FN, with a fuel-injected engine, arrived dur­ing the Battle at Kursk, again with good results. Compared to the stopgap LaGG 3, Lavochkin’s new
fighters were fast, responsive, and highly agile at low altitudes. In the hands of capable pilots like Ivan Kozhedub, the leading Allied ace with 62 kills, Rus­sia slowly wrested air superiority away from the Germans.

Lavochkin’s final wartime variant was the La 7. This was basically an La 5FN fitted with a more powerful engine and additional aeronautical refine­ments. These included metal wing spars (earlier craft being made entirely of wood) for greater strength and lighter weight. The armament was also increased to three 20mm cannons that spat out seven pounds of lead per second. In an attempt to shed even more weight, the fuel capacity was cut in half, reducing the fighter’s operational radius to about an hour. However, because Soviet fighters were usually deployed right on the front lines, this was not viewed as detrimental. Lavochkin fighter craft were major contributors to the ultimate Soviet victory, and their designer received the prestigious Stalin Prize. Production totaled 21,975 of all models.

. IAI Kfir Israel

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 32 feet, 1 inch; length, 29 feet, 1 inch; height, 8 feet, 10 inches Weights: empty, 5,776 pounds; gross, 7,275 pounds Power plant: 1 x 1,240-horsepower M-105PF liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 348 miles per hour; ceiling, 29,350 feet; range, 404 miles Armament: 2 x 7.62mm machine guns; 2 x 12.7mm machine guns; 1 x 20mm cannon Service dates: 1940-1945


he much-derided LaGG 3 was the most numer­ous Soviet fighter during the early days of the Great Patriotic War (the Soviet name for World War II). A robust design, it nonetheless exhibited mar­ginal performance and suffered great losses.

In 1938 the Soviet government announced com­petition for a new single-seat fighter with optimal performance at medium to low altitudes. A design bureau headed by Semyon A. Lavochkin, assisted by engineers V. Gorbunov and M. Gudlov (hence the designation LaGG), designed and flew the prototype I 22 in 1939. It was a streamlined and conventional – appearing aircraft for its class but also unique in re­verting to wooden construction. In fact, only the cowling and movable control surfaces employed metal. The wood itself was impregnated with plastic for added strength, but this added greatly to overall weight. The I 22 demonstrated serious performance deficiencies during flight-testing, but as Stalin de­manded great amounts of fighters, Lavochkin was or­dered to salvage his design rather than start over.

The I 22 entered production as the LaGG 1 in 1940 and, in a play upon the designer’s initials, pilots nick­named it the “Guaranteed Wooden Coffin.” Further modifications eventually yielded the LaGG 3 in 1941, which was lighter and fitted with wing slats. These modifications cured the craft’s most vicious charac­teristics, but climbing performance remained poor. By 1942, 6,258 LaGG 3s had been constructed.

The LaGG 3 was among the most numerous Soviet fighters when the Great Patriotic War erupted in June 1941. For many months they bore the brunt of Germany’s aerial onslaught and, being inferior to the Messerschmitt Bf 109, suffered heavily. Many more craft would have been lost had it not been for the LaGG’s amazing ability to absorb damage and keep flying. By 1943 most had been superceded by the radial-powered and far superior La 5. Many LaGGs were employed for the rest of the war as low – level escorts for the Il 2 ground-attack craft. It is best remembered as a sacrificial aircraft marking time until the arrival of better designs.



ohn Fredriksen’s book on international warbirds is a very welcome addition to the literature, for it goes beyond the conventional approach of most books on combat aircraft, which tend to emphasize only statistics, nomenclature, and operational his­tory. John includes all of these, of course, but he adds a human dimension that enlivens each of his descriptions and lets us see behind the machine to the people involved.

As one reads through the book, three things become apparent. The first of these is the high qual­ity of designers in all countries; the second is the critical nature of timing; and the third is the often overlooked importance of scale.

Fredriksen’s apt capture of the essence of these airplanes is an impressive achievement. He makes you realize just how amazing is the ingenu­ity of aircraft designers and builders all over the world. It is really remarkable how designers in all countries, regardless of their size, were able to maintain a parity in the performance of their de­signs over the years, even when the resources of a particular country might not match the resources of another.

There are many illustrations of this phenome­non. If one examines the beautiful biplane fighters of the late 1920s and early 1930s, one finds such ster­ling examples as the American Curtiss P-6E, English Hawker Fury, Czech Avia B 534, Italian Fiat CR 32, Japanese Nakajima A2N, and Soviet Polikarpov I 15. Each aircraft was the product of its own design stu­dio, and the designers had to accommodate the re­quirements of their armed service to the engines, equipment, and available materials. All were flown within roughly the same time frame, and all achieved roughly the same performance. A similar situation developed with the several generations of monoplane fighters, both those of the first genera­tion (Boeing P-26, PZL 11, Polikarpov I 16) and of the second (Messerschmitt Bf 109G, Hawker Hurri­cane, Supermarine Spitfire).

Even well into World War II, when the im­mense industrial resources of the Allies began to take their toll, Axis designers were able to come up with competitive aircraft, for example, the Focke – Wulf Fw 190D, Macchi C 205, and Nakajima Ki 84. And when the chips were really down, the Germans managed to excel with the Messerschmitt Me 262. Similar resilience was shown by the Soviet design­
ers, who managed to move a generation ahead in in­digenous fighter design with such capable aircraft as the Yakovlev series of fighters, and do it under the pressure of relocating factories and workforces even as the fighting was going on. In all of these achievements, it is the Olympic spirit of the human desire to excel that stands out.

If one accepts the inherent ability of designers of all countries to come up with comparable air­craft, one next has to look into the matter of timing, which is almost always dictated by political, rather than practical, events. Poland, for example, had one of the most modern air forces in the world in the early 1930s—but was unable to modernize it in time for World War II. France was in the same boat; it had created one of the largest air forces in the world, only to see it go to rack and ruin as a succession of peacetime governments refused to spend the money to modernize it. When at last the funds did begin to flow, it was far too late, and France fought World War II with inadequate equipment and inadequate numbers.

A crucial example of timing may be found in the air forces of Great Britain and Germany. Ger­many had an advantage, as it could create an air force at the same time that it was creating a timetable for going to war—and could thus be sure that they would coincide. So when Hitler struck Poland on September 1, 1939, the Luftwaffe was filled with new and modern aircraft that were de­signed for the job they had to do.

Britain’s situation was different. It had dod­dered along for years after World War I with open- cockpit biplanes fitted with fixed gear, two light ma­chine guns, and a fixed-pitch propeller. Fortunately, two far-seeing companies, Hawker and Superma­rine, were willing to speculate on the future with their Hurricane and Spitfire designs, building proto­types on spec and counting on the government to recognize their worth. (Coincidentally, at the same time, the Royal Air Force became convinced that fighters needed eight-gun armament and they were so equipped.) As it happened, the Hurricane and the Spitfire began to arrive in sufficient numbers just as the Battle of Britain commenced in 1940.

The case of the United States was different. Not only did it sit out the war for two years—until 1941—it had the advantage of the Anglo-French Pur­chasing Commission buying lots of aircraft and

– Xiii –



building up the U. S. industrial base. And this brings us to the third element: scale.

The aggressor nations—Germany, Japan, and, to a lesser extent, Italy—had a preconceived notion of how aerial warfare should take place. In each case they presumed that they would be the aggres­sor nation, that they would fight a sharp, swift war against a less well equipped opponent, and would then pause to regroup and reequip.

Their calculations indicated that a first-line air force of 3,000-4,000 aircraft would be adequate for the task. Great Britain and France thought along similar lines. Only in the Soviet Union and, to a far greater extent, in the United States did the planners envision operations on a grand scale. Incredibly enough, in the United States four men (Lieutenant Colonels Harold L. George and Haywood S. “Pos­sum” Hansell Jr. and Majors Laurence S. Kuter and Kenneth W. Walker) would in nine days create Air War Plan Document-1, which would clearly and ac­curately outline the mammoth scale of American air operations.

Of the three elements under discussion—qual­ity, timing, and quantity—the last ultimately proved to be of the greatest value. Germany and Japan were
trapped by the early successes provided by the qual­ity of their aircraft and the timing with which they were built. The successes merely confirmed their opinion that a small, highly trained air force was all that was necessary. When the tide of war changed, and massive numbers of enemy aircraft opposed them, they began frantically to build—but to no avail. Despite all their efforts (and Germany achieved an incredible 44,000 aircraft produced in 1944), it was far too little and far too late. The Allies’ industrial output (mainly thanks to the United States and the Soviet Union and, to a lesser degree, Great Britain) had so far outstripped them in quantity that the war was already lost. And perhaps fittingly, the length of the war had switched the effect of timing, so that many new designs of the highest quality were now entering frontline Allied service.

It is to be hoped that John Fredriksen’s fine book will be widely read by the decisionmakers in the United States, who might then see that having aircraft of high quality is often not enough; you must also have them in sufficient numbers to overcome a determined enemy.

Walter Boyne

– Xiv-


. Canadair CL 28 Argus Canada

Type: Patrol-Bomber; Antisubmarine

Dimensions: wingspan, 142 feet, 3 inches; length, 128 feet, 9 inches; height, 38 feet, 8 inches Weights: empty, 81,000 pounds; gross, 157,000 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 3,400-horsepower Wright R-3350-EA1 Cyclone radial engines Performance: maximum speed, 315 miles per hour; ceiling, 25,000 feet; range, 5,900 miles Armament: 8,000 pounds of internal ordnance; 3,800 pounds of wing-mounted ordnance Service dates: 1957-1981


t the time of its debut, the all-seeing Argus was the world’s most advanced antisubmarine pa­trol-bomber. Although partly based upon a commer­cial airliner, it flew for more than two decades with distinction.

By 1952 the Royal Canadian Air Force wished to replace its antiquated Avro Lancasters and Lock­heed P2V Neptunes with a new craft better suited for antisubmarine (ASW) warfare. Such a machine would have to conduct lengthy patrols over open ocean and carry with the latest radar and sonar equipment. The RCAF consulted closely with Canadair and agreed that the most cost-effective so­lution for a new patrol-bomber would be to utilize an existing commercial craft. For that reason, Canadair selected the Bristol Britannia as the basis for its work. The tail unit, wings, and undercarriage of the Britannia were kept intact, but the fuselage was entirely redesigned to North American stan­dards. It featured two capacious, 18-foot bomb bays, before and aft of the wings, that could house a vari­
ety of depth charges, sonobuoys, and homing torpe­does. Pressurization was also eliminated, as it was unnecessary for low-altitude maritime patrols. The first CL 28 rolled out in March 1957 and was suc­cessfully test-flown. That same year it entered pro­duction as the Argus, so named for the all-seeing, 100-eyed monster of Greek mythology. The first 12 units, designated Argus Is, utilized U. S.-built sonar and computers, but the subsequent version, the Argus II, operated more advanced British equip­ment. A total of 33 machines were constructed.

For many years the CL 28 functioned as the West’s most advanced antisubmarine aircraft. It car­ried a crew of 15, who operated in shifts to ease the burden of long flights. Successive modifications also enabled the Argus to carry a complex variety of new weapons and equipment, which further enhanced its utility. The last of these useful machines was retired in 1981 by the more advanced Lockheed P-2C Orion, itself based on a commercial airliner. The Argus was a vital but little appreciated Canadian machine.

. LeO 20

Dimensions: wingspan, 73 feet; length, 45 feet, 3 inches; height, 13 feet, 11 inches

Weights: empty, 6,008 pounds; gross, 12,037 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 420-horsepower Gnome-Rhone 9 Ady radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 123 miles per hour; ceiling, 18,900 feet; range, 621 miles

Armament: 5 x 7.7mm machine guns; 2,205 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1928-1939


he LeO 20 was the standard French heavy night bomber for over a decade. Although slow and underpowered, it served admirably in a variety of functions.

The Liore et Olivier (LeO) firm was founded in 1912 at Levallois-Perret, and throughout World War I it manufactured various Nieuport, Morane-Saulnier, and Sopwith designs under license. The firm then es­tablished itself as a major force in French aviation design, specializing in large bombers. In 1924 speci­fications were issued for a new night bomber and the firm’s prototype, the LeO 32, proved a rival to the bigger Farman Goliath and just as capable. This was followed by the LeO 122 of 1926, which was not pro­duced but served as a model for a subsequent air­craft, the LeO 20 which was a conventional biplane bomber with three-bay, equal-span wings (a consis­tent LeO trait) melded to a deep, rather rectangular fuselage. The nose housed a gunner’s cockpit while a bombardier’s station was placed directly below him. Two radial engines sat in uncowled nacelles on
the lower wings, to which were affixed large “trousered” landing gear. Despite its appearance, the LeO 20 was stable, handled well, and functioned ca­pably as a night bomber. The French Armee de l’Air eventually acquired 320 of these cumbersome ma­chines, and they formed the backbone of French nighttime attack squadrons for a decade. This func­tional design attracted overseas interest, and seven LeO 20s were exported to Romania.

The reliable LeOs underwent a number of ex­perimental developments throughout their long ser­vice life. The LeO 206 was a four-engine variant that entered production in 1932 with a run of 40 machines. Less successful was the LeO 208, which featured nar­row-chord lower wings, bigger engines, and re­tractable landing gear. It offered better performance than the stock LeO 20 but was not produced. Several machines, designated LeO 201s, were also outfitted for training of parachute forces in 1937. By the advent of World War II, nearly 100 LeO 20s were still em­ployed as target tugs or trainers in North Africa.



irplanes are certainly fascinating machines.

Since their invention in 1903, they continue capturing the world’s imagination. Not surprisingly, aviation literature remains one of the most popular facets of the history genre. Year after year, an ava­lanche of picture books, directories, and histories— particularly about military aircraft—are published for the entertainment and enlightenment of inter­ested readers, both professional and layperson alike. This sheer outpouring of literature can some­times represent a problem for parties interested in testing the rather deep waters of this topic: How and where does one begin? This is an especially daunt­ing proposition for students with little experience in historical research. Curiously, despite a highly de­veloped body of literature available, aviation refer­ence books have been less successful in bringing in­formation quickly and easily to the attention of casual users. Most titles are, in fact, written by spe­cialists with specialists in mind, or at least for read­ers steeped in the nuances of the technology. Nei­ther is the coverage of world military aircraft afforded by these books necessarily uniform. Refer­ence material on airplanes from World War I, World War II, and contemporary times are plentiful, but few address aeronautical developments of the so – called Golden Age (1919-1939). For students and laypersons interested in pursuing the aeronautical facts and feats of this essential period, this gap is an obstacle to effective research.

The present work is an attempt to address all the problems associated with aviation research books in general, reference books in particular. Drawing upon the success of my earlier volume (Warbirds: An Illustrated Guide to U. S. Military Aircraft, 1915-2000, published in 1999 by ABC – CLIO), International Warbirds is designed to ad­dress student inquiries about specific types of air­planes on a global scale. Simultaneously, it also contains sufficient breadth and depth to satiate most advanced researchers. However, unlike Warbirds, I drop all pretense toward comprehensiveness. That claim would require a book two or three times the size of this volume. Being restricted to only 336 en­tries, I was hard-pressed to assemble a list that was objective, far-reaching, and afforded good coverage of the most famous machines, not to mention a myr­iad of lesser-known ones. I believe I succeeded in compiling a useful, working survey. Naturally, any thorough treatment of airplanes is going to be domi­nated by the big five: France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, and Russia. All their famous aircraft, and a host of lesser types, are included. However, I went to great lengths to cover interesting machines from smaller countries, be they powerhouses like Israel and Canada, or developing nations like China, India, or Brazil. Wherever possible, I sought to accommo­date as eclectic a collection of interesting or unusual airplanes from around the world as possible. I cer­tainly wanted to avoid the usual Eurocentric ap­proach to aviation history, for no one nation can claim a monopoly on military technology.

Given the constraints on space, my selection criteria were highly selective by necessity. I there­fore chose aircraft that have been manufactured and actually deployed by military and naval units in some kind of squadron service. As in my previous venture, experimental prototypes—regardless of their celebrity or infamy—have been deliberately omitted. I believe my otherwise thorough coverage more than compensates for their absence.

To facilitate reader access, this book shares great commonality with its predecessor. Each entry consists of a photograph and a succinct account of each machine. Here I provide essential technical in­formation such as dimensions, performance, power plant, armament, and service dates. Each narrative is carefully crafted to contextualize the airplanes in terms of development, deployment, and denoue­ment. Special attention is paid to any record-break­ing feats or unusual features that may have distin­guished each in its time. Furthermore, everything has been rendered in direct, nontechnical prose for ease of comprehension. My goal throughout is to be exacting in scope without becoming burdensome in detail.

To facilitate additional inquiry, two detailed subject bibliographies are included in the rear mat­ter of this book. This feature was added to counter a personal pique of mine with many so-called refer­ence books about military aviation. On more than one occasion, I have become intrigued by entries discovered in the works of aeronautical mavens such as William Green, Bill Gunston, and Kenneth Munson, only to discover that no further references have been provided! Such material can, in fact, be uncovered eventually, but only after expending much time and effort. Therefore, I proffer two avia-


tion bibliographies that are extensive and reflect some of the very latest literature available. The first (Aircraft Bibliography) painstakingly denotes printed materials available on an airplane-by-airplane basis. Wherever possible, material on the parent company is also provided for greater historical context. This assemblage has been carefully collected from WorldCat and other online sources to ensure that each book or magazine can be accessed through in­terlibrary loan. Furthermore, magazine articles, if not borrowed outright, can also be copied from many aviation museum libraries for a small charge, or ordered directly from the publisher. The second bibliography (General Bibliography) was culled from a vast number of titles pertaining to national aviation history. All are listed alphabetically by country, then in identical fashion by author. These materials represent the most recent titles on avia­tion literature anywhere. As previously noted, their availability was confirmed by WorldCat, and all should be easily obtained through loan or purchase.

I next sought to enhance this volume’s utility through the addition of several appendixes. For the benefit of readers unacquainted with the history or applications of military aviation, Appendix 1: Aircraft by Mission identifies aircraft by the function they per­formed. Whenever an aircraft is employed in more than one mission, it is listed in each appropriate al­phabetical category by name. Appendix 2: Museums is a listing of many of the biggest air museums from across the world. Appendix 3: Aircraft Journals and Magazines concludes the book by listing non-U. S. avi­ation magazines, many of which are in English or contain printed English-language translations.

The author would like to acknowledge and thank many people for their selfless contributions to this effort. Aviation author and scholar Walter Boyne needs no introduction, and his review of the manuscript and comments were extremely helpful. Walt was also generous enough to provide a Fore­word that is both cogent and thought provoking. Also noted are John H. Bolthouse III and Miles Todd of the San Diego Aerospace Museum and Nilda Per – gola-Jensen of the Defense Visual Information Cen­ter for their cheerful assistance in locating photo­graphs. I am also deeply indebted to Joan McKenny and Dan Hagerdorn of the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution. The same applies to Leo Opdyke of World War I Aero, Gerard Frawley of Australian Aviation, Avro Haav of Estonia, Jan Eric Keikke of the Netherlands, and Gordon G. Bart­ley of British Aerospace. Gratitude is also extended to that aviation research stalwart, Bill Hooper of the New England Air Museum Library, for both patience and permission to ransack—literally—his holdings. My editors, Alicia S. Merrit and Liz Kincaid, also warrant kudos for exemplary endurance in handling my many and impossible requests. Finally, I want to voice a personal note of thanks to aviation artist Charles Kourmphtes of Warwick, Rhode Island, Bob Gordon of Uncasville, Connecticut, for unfettered use of his private library, and Robert E. Schnare of the Henry E. Eccles Library, U. S. Naval War College, for access to his splendid facility. As with my previ­ous endeavor, I could have neither begun nor fin­ished this book without them.

John C. Fredriksen, Ph. D.

. Canadair CL 41 Tutor

Type: Trainer; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 36 feet, 6 inches; length, 32 feet; height, 9 feet, 4 inches

Weights: empty, 4,895 pounds; gross, 7,778 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 2,950-pound thrust Orenda J85-CAN J4 turbojet engine

Performance: maximum speed, 480 miles per hour; ceiling, 42,200 feet; range, 1,340 miles

Armament: none, or up to 4,000 pounds of bombs and rockets

Service dates: 1963-


he diminutive Tutor remains Canada’s standard jet training craft. As part of the famed Snow­birds demonstration team, it has thrilled thousands of spectators with precision acrobatics.

In 1958 Canadair began investigating the possi­bly of constructing Canada’s first jet trainer. This was regarded as essential for familiarizing students with the flight characteristics of jet aircraft then en­tering service in ever greater numbers. However, even when the Canadian government expressed no interest, Canadair continued with a private, com­pany-funded project. The prototype CL 41 took flight in 1960 following a short gestation. It was a low – wing, all-metal monoplane with straight wings and an upward-opening canopy. Pilot and student were seated side by side in a spacious cockpit. The craft also employed a high “T” tail, retractable tricycle landing gear, and air brakes. The CL 41 performed well, and, in parallel with developments in the United States and England, the Canadian govern­ment acquired it in numbers. Since 1963, 190 CL 41s, under the official designation CT 114 Tutor, have
been purchased. These are all deployed at the No. 2 Flying School at Moosejaw, Saskatchewan, where pilots are trained up to wing standard and beyond. Other Tutors are employed by the Central Flying School, where instructor-pilots are taught. Their most famous unit, the Snowbirds, is an internation­ally renowned precision flying group composed en­tirely of instructors from that school. They operated stock but highly painted CL 41s outfitted with smoke generators for effect.

In the wake of various insurgency movements throughout Asia, the Malaysian government in 1967 needed to acquire an inexpensive strike aircraft. It approached Canadair to produce a militarized ver­sion of the Tutor, the CL 41G, which featured more powerful engines and hardpoints for hauling ord­nance. Malaysia acquired 20 such machines as the Tebuan (Wasp), which have since been retired due to metal fatigue and corrosion. Canada maintains a fleet of about 100 machines, and they will remain its standard jet trainer well into the twenty-first century.

. Canadair CL 41 Tutor

Type: Patrol-Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 73 feet, 10 inches; length, 46 feet, 10 inches; height, 14 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 8,466 pounds; gross, 15,510 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 900-horsepower Isotta-Fraschini liquid-cooled inline engine Performance: maximum speed, 171 miles per hour; ceiling, 22,965 feet; range, 1,490 miles Armament: 3 x 7.7mm machine guns; up to 1,404 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1936-1950


he Z 501 was a record-breaking flying boat that saw widespread service with Italian forces. De­spite obvious obsolescence, it fought actively in World War II and was utilized by both sides.

Cantiere Navale Triestino (CANT) was formed in 1923 to design and build water-based aircraft for civilian and military applications. In 1931 fascist dic­tator Benito Mussolini dispatched his famous air marshal, Italo Balbo, to lure Filippo Zappata, one of Italy’s finest aircraft designers, back from France. The entreaties worked, and in 1934 Zappata designed his first CANT aircraft—the Z 501. It was a single-en­gine flying boat constructed entirely of wood and fabric. A study in contrasts, its beautifully stream­lined fuselage and gracefully elliptical wings were offset by unsightly bracing. It seated five crew mem­bers, including pilot and copilot in the cabin, two gunners, and a flight engineer stationed behind the nacelle to monitor the engine and man a machine gun. In 1934 noted pilot Mario Stoppani flew the pro­totype on a record-breaking 2,560-mile flight from

Monfalcone to Eritrea. The French subsequently broke the record in 1935, but Stoppani won it back again when his Z 501 ranged 3,080 miles from Mon – falcone to British-held Somalia. Such excellent per­formance pleased Italian authorities, and in 1936 the Gabbiano (Gull) entered production as the only fly­ing boat in the Regia Aeronautica (Italian air force).

In service the Z 501 was well-liked, being easy to fly and maintain. It initially fought in the Spanish Civil War by conducting bombing missions from Ma­jorca. The Gabbiano flew well, but as a wood and fabric machine it was hopelessly outclassed for the rigors of World War II. Z 501s flew missions through­out the Mediterranean and suffered heavy losses. The craft was also deployed in squadron strength by Romania, which operated on the Black Sea against Soviet forces. By the time of the 1943 Italian surren­der, only a handful remained in service, equally di­vided between pro – and antifascist forces. Several surviving Gabbianos were maintained in service until 1950.

. Canadair CL 41 Tutor

Type: Torpedo-Bomber; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 81 feet, 4 inches; length, 60 feet, 2 inches; height, 17 feet, 1 inch Weights: empty, 19,338 pounds; gross, 30,029 pounds

Power plant: 3 x 1,000-horsepower Piaggio P. XI bis (improved) radial engines Performance: maximum speed, 280 miles per hour; ceiling, 24,600 feet; range, 1,370 miles Armament: 2 x 7.7mm or 12.7mm machine guns; up to 4,410 pounds of bombs or torpedoes Service dates: 1937-1945


he Z 506 was one of the most versatile float­planes ever built and set several world records. It functioned throughout the Mediterranean in World War II as torpedo and reconnaissance craft.

In 1936 Filippo Zapata designed the CANT Z 506A, an all-wood trimotor float transport aircraft. Streamlined and ruggedly built, several were ac­quired by the airline Ala Littoria and established a reputation for good handling and reliability. That year test pilot Mario Stoppani helped establish 16 world distance and payload records in the Z 506A. Such excellent performance caught the attention of the Regia Aeronautica (Italian air force), and CANT was persuaded to develop a bomber/reconnais – sance version for the military. The prototype emerged in 1937 sporting a long ventral gondola under the fuselage and a dorsal turret. Like its civil­ian counterpart, the new craft exhibited outstand­ing aerial and water characteristics. The large streamlined floats were specially designed to en­able the craft to take off and land in water as rough
as Force 5 conditions. These excellent seaplanes, designated the Airone (Heron), became operational in 1937, and several campaigned during the closing stages of the Spanish Civil War. By the time Italy en­tered World War II in 1940, Z 506Bs outfitted two re­connaissance groups.

Airones were initially employed as torpedo – bombers, and against relatively weak aerial opposi­tion they attacked numerous French and Greek tar­gets. They proved less successful facing determined resistance from the Royal Navy, and the slow-flying floatplanes sustained serious losses. Thereafter, most Z 506Bs conducted coastal reconnaissance, convoy escort, and antisubmarine operations. Once the Italian armistice was signed in 1943, 28 Airones managed to reach Allied lines. They were employed as rescue craft in southern Italy until the end of the war. A handful were also operated by the Luftwaffe, and it was a Z 506B that successfully evacuated Mussolini to safety. A total of 563 were built; a hand­ful performed air/sea rescue operations until 1959.

. Canadair CL 41 Tutor

Type: Medium Bomber; Torpedo-Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 81 feet, 4 inches; length, 60 feet, 2 inches; height, 17 feet, 1 inch Weights: empty, 19,338 pounds; gross, 30,029 pounds

Power plant: 3 x 1,000-horsepower Piaggio P. XI bis (improved) radial engine Performance: maximum speed, 280 miles per hour; ceiling, 24,600 feet; range, 1,370 miles Armament: 4 x 7.7mm or 12.7mm machine guns; up to 4,410 pounds of bombs or torpedoes Service dates: 1939-1945


he graceful Alcione was Italy’s second most im­portant bomber of World War II. Despite wooden construction and weak defensive arma­ment, it rendered useful service on many fronts.

In 1935 Filippo Zapata’s success with the Z 506 floatplane inspired him to explore the possibility of a similar land-based bomber, the first such craft pro­duced by CANT. Two years later the prototype Z 1007 flew as a low-wing monoplane of trimotor configura­tion. The reason for three motors was that Italian en­gines produced decidedly lower horsepower. In fact, a competing two-engine design, the Z 1011, was rejected by the Regia Aeronautica (Italian air force) as under­powered. The Z 1007 also employed outdated wooden construction, but that kept its overall weight down. One possible weakness was the armament, which was restricted to four 7.7mm machine guns in dorsal, ven­tral, and beam-hatch positions. Test pilots nonetheless enjoyed its fine flying characteristics, and in 1939 it en­tered production as the Alcione (Kingfisher). When

Italy joined World War II in 1940, only 55 Z 1007s were available. Many were the bis (improved) model, fea­turing heavier guns and better engines. Curiously, the Alciones were built in both single – and twin-rudder configurations, without differing designations, flying side by side in the same squadrons.

In service the Alcione was Italy’s most impor­tant bomber after the SM 79 Sparviero. They ranged the length of the Mediterranean and performed bombing missions in Greece, France, North Africa, and Russia. The Z 1007 was also quite adept at anti­shipping functions and could be outfitted with a pair of 1,000-pound torpedoes. Even though a good basic design and easy to fly, the Alcione remained poorly defended and suffered heavy losses at the hands of Royal Air Force fighters. This resulted in curtail­ment of daylight operations over Malta in favor of night bombing. After the Italian surrender of 1943, Alciones continued serving both sides up through the end of the war. A total of 563 were constructed.

. LeO 451

Type: Medium Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 73 feet, 9 inches; length, 56 feet, 4 inches; height, 17 feet, 4 inches Weights: empty, 17,229 pounds; gross, 25,133 pounds Power plant: 2 x 1,140-horsepower Gnome-Rhone 14N 48/49 radial engines Performance: maximum speed, 308 miles per hour; ceiling, 29,350 feet; range, 1,429 miles Armament: 2 x 7.5mm machine guns; 1 x 20mm cannon; up to 3,307 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1939-1945


he LeO 451 was the best French bomber of World War II and one of few available in quantity. It fought well during the Battle of France and also flew capably in the hands of Vichy French pilots.

No sooner had the Armee de l’Air become inde­pendent in April 1933 than it pressed for immediate expansion and modernization programs. Part of this entailed development of a new four-seat medium bomber capable of day and night operations. In 1937 the firm Liore et Olivier fielded its Model 451 proto­type, which marked a breakthrough in French bomber design. It was an all-metal, midwing, twin-en­gine craft with a glazed nose and twin rudders. In contrast to the ungainly aircraft of the early 1930s, the LeO 451 was beautifully streamlined and per­formed as good as it looked. Operationally, however, the type suffered from technical detriments that were never fully corrected. It had been designed for 1,600- horsepower engines at a time when no such power plants were available. Hence, employing 1,000-horse­power motors, LeO 451s remained significantly un­
derpowered and never fulfilled their design potential. Worse still, when the French government decided to acquire the bomber in quantity, bureaucratic lethargy militated against mass production. By September 1939 only five LeO 451s had been delivered.

The German onslaught in Poland energized French aircraft production, and when the Battle of France commenced in May 1940 around 450 LeO 451s were available. They had been designed for medium-level bombing, but the speed of the Ger­man blitzkrieg necessitated their employment in low-level ground attacks. The bomber served well in that capacity, but, exposed to enemy fighters and an­tiaircraft fire, serious losses ensued. Yet the type re­mained in production after France’s capitulation, with an additional 150 being acquired. These were actively flown against the Allies in North Africa be­fore Vichy France was occupied by the Germans. They confiscated about 94 LeO 451s; stripped of ar­mament, these were flown as transports. A handful survived into the postwar period as survey aircraft.

Подпись: Letov S 328

Подпись: Type: Light Bomber; Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 44 feet, 11 inches; length, 33 feet, 11 inches; height, 11 feet, 2 inches

Weights: empty, 3,704 pounds; gross, 5,820 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 635-horsepower Bristol Pegasus radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 174 miles per hour; ceiling, 23,620 feet; range, 435 miles Armament: 4 x 7.92mm machine guns; up to 1,102 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1933-1944


useful craft, the Letov S 328 was designed for Finland yet deployed by Czechoslovakia. Ironi­cally, it flew actively during World War II in the hands of numerous belligerents.

In 1931 the Czechoslovakian Letov firm, which had manufactured airplanes since 1918, developed a two-seat reconnaissance/utility machine for Estonia called the S 228. It was a fine machine, and the follow­ing year the Finnish government asked for a similar craft. A team headed by Alois Smolik responded with the S 328, which borrowed heavily from the earlier design. It was a single-bay biplane with staggered wings of equal length. Both the wings and fuselage were made of metal framework and fabric-covered, although the engine area sported alloy panels. Provi­sions were made for two forward-firing machine guns up front, with a similar armament for the gunner/ob – server. Like all Letov products, the S 328 was a first – rate machine, but orders from Finland never materi­alized. The changing political climate of Europe, occasioned by Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1933,
then induced the Czech government to acquire S 328s in quantity. A total of 445 machines were constructed, including several night-fighter and floatplane variants.

In March 1939 German forces occupied Bo – hemia/Moravia and acquired all existing stocks of S 328. Interestingly enough, the type was kept in pro­duction for another year. The excellent Letovs were subsequently impressed into Luftwaffe service as trainers, but others were doled out to the puppet Slovakian air force. Several S 328s accompanied the invasion of Poland that year and acquitted them­selves well. Two years later S 328s were present dur­ing the German invasion of the Soviet Union, al­though many Slovak pilots defected along with their aircraft. Those remaining in German hands were employed as night fighters to foil the harassing raids of Polikarpov Po 2s. Finally, a small number of S 328s ended up with the Bulgarian air force for pa­trolling the Black Sea. The hardworking Letovs saw their final service during the 1944 Slovakian uprising against German forces.

. LeO 451

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 33 feet, 10 inches; length, 25 feet, 3 inches; height, 9 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 1,680 pounds; gross, 2,824 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 160-horsepower Mercedes D III liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 103 miles per hour; ceiling, 15,000 feet; range, 500 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns Service dates: 1916-1917


hen it appeared in 1916, the LFG Roland C II was an unusual and effective German recon­naissance craft of World War I. Simultaneously streamlined yet rotund, it was affectionately known to crew members as the “Whale.”

The firm Luftfahrzeug Gesellschaft was founded in 1906 with a view toward constructing airships. Shortly before the onset of World War I, it modified its name to LFG Roland to avoid confusion with another firm, LVG. For two years into the war, LFG manufactured Albatros fighters, but by 1916 the company was ready to field its own design.

The new craft debuted in the spring of 1916 as a two-seat reconnaissance vehicle of most unusual lines. In fact, compared to contemporary German observation craft, beset with numerous struts and wires, the LFG Roland C II represented a tremen­dous advance in the art of streamlining. The most obvious aspect of this was the plywood-covered monocoque fuselage, which was very deep and ta­
pered off to the rear. The two wings were wedded directly to it, thereby closing the interplane gap and giving both pilot and gunner unrestricted views up and forward. The highly staggered wings were also buttressed by a single “I” strut to minimize drag. The net result was an extremely modern design that an­ticipated the CL-class aircraft of the late war. In light of its somewhat tubby appearance, the C II was un­officially dubbed the Walfisch (Whale).

In service the C II proved itself to be fast, rugged, and difficult to shoot down. On occasion, the nimble craft was called upon to serve as an es­cort fighter to slower C-series reconnaissance air­planes. However, its peculiarly thin wings gave it mediocre climbing abilities, and the pilot’s view downward was also poor, leading to a propensity for accidents while landing. Within a year the C II was withdrawn from service on the Western Front and relegated to secondary theaters and training func­tions. An estimated 250-300 had been constructed.

. LeO 451

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 29 feet, 4 inches; length, 22 feet, 8 inches; height, 10 feet, 2 inches

Weights: empty, 1,397 pounds; gross, 1,749 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 180-horsepower Argus liquid-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 112 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,400 feet; range, 230 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns

Service dates: 1917-1918


he LFG Roland D II was a failed attempt to mod­ify the successful C II Walfisch (Whale) into a single-seat fighter. Despite an attractive appearance, it was tricky to fly, heavy on the controls, and infe­rior to contemporary Albatros fighters.

By 1916 the outstanding performance of the two-seat LFG Roland CII induced that company to de­velop a single-seat fighter along similar lines. The pro­totype first flew in July of that year and bore unmis­takable resemblance to its predecessor. Like the C II, the new D I possessed a rather deep, fishlike outline. The cross-sectioned oval fuselage was constructed from a wooden monocoque shell that left the engine almost completely buried. The front end possessed metal engine-access panels, typical Roland cooling vents, and terminated in a large, bowl-shaped pro­peller spinner. Meanwhile, the two equal-chord wings were unstaggered and lacked dihedral. Moreover, the upper span attached directly to the fuselage, com­pletely filling in the gap. A relatively small wooden rudder and broad, trapezoidal tailplanes outfitted the
rear quarter. In view of the D I’s slimmer appearance, it was unofficially dubbed the Haifisch (Shark).

From the onset, unfortunately, the D I exhib­ited poor flying characteristics for a fighter. Both forward and downward views from the cockpit were obstructed by the wings, placing pilots at a serious disadvantage. In an attempt to rectify this defi­ciency, a new model, the D II, evolved with a modi­fied center section for improved vision. This con­sisted of a long, narrow pylon and a cut-down cockpit. The aircraft, however, remained sluggish to maneuver, heavy on the controls, and clearly infe­rior to the Albatros scouts they were meant to re­place. A total of 300 D IIs were manufactured, but in view of their inferior qualities they were confined mostly to secondary theaters like Macedonia and quiet sectors of the Western Front. A final version, the D III, emerged in late 1917 with more conven­tional struts affixing the upper wing, and 150 ma­chines were eventually built, serving mostly as ad­vanced trainers.


. LeO 451

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 45 feet, 11 inches; length, 29 feet, 6 inches; height, 11 feet, 1 inch

Weights: empty, 1,859 pounds; gross, 2,888 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 160-horsepower Daimler liquid-cooled engine

Performance: maximum speed, 85 miles per hour; ceiling, 9,843 feet; range, 180 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns

Service dates: 1914-1917


leek-looking Lloyd biplanes were among the best of their kind in the early days of World War I. They performed useful field service before obsoles­cence relegated them to training duties.

The firm Ungarische Lloyd Flugzeug und Mo – torenfabrik AG fielded its first military biplane de­sign in 1914, shortly before the commencement of World War I. Its C I was a streamlined design, unique in being entirely covered by wood, not fab­ric. It also possessed two-bay, swept-back wings whose trailing edges flared dramatically rearward. In 1914 a Model C I piloted by Henrik Bier set an al­titude record of 20,243 feet, which brought it to the attention of the Austrian military. One day following the declaration of war against Serbia in August, Lloyd was immediately contracted to provide two – seat biplanes for reconnaissance purposes. The C I performed yeoman’s work over the Italian front for nearly two years and was the sole Austrian craft that could safely negotiate the 13,000-foot mountain ranges there. Within a year a new model, the C II,
had been introduced, which mounted a stronger en­gine and a single Schwarzlose machine gun for the observer. In 1916 the most numerous model, the C III, was deployed. It featured a 160-horsepower Daimler engine and a fixed machine gun on the upper wing that fired above the propeller arc. De­spite these changes, the Lloyd remained a docile machine, stable in rough weather and possessing excellent gliding characteristics.

As the Allies introduced better fighter planes, the leisurely, underpowered Lloyds began suffering disproportionate losses. The company countered with the Model C IV, which adopted a two-bay sys­tem of wing supports to save weight. The final ver­sion, the C V, was more drastically revised with a shorter wingspan and a 220-horsepower Benz en­gine. It was faster than previous marks but also in­herently less stable and therefore less popular. By war’s end, the remaining Lloyd aircraft still in ser­vice were retained for training purposes only. Nearly 500 of all versions had been acquired.


. LeO 451

Type: Reconnaissance; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 44 feet, 1 inch; length, 29 feet, 3 inches; height, 10 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 2,075 pounds; gross, 3,069 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 160-horsepower Daimler liquid-cooled engine

Performance: maximum speed, 85 miles per hour; ceiling, 11,483 feet; range, 250 miles Armament: 1 x 7.92mm machine gun; 485 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1914-1917


he underpowered Lohner series was marginally obsolete throughout its service life. Nonethe­less, these planes handled well in mountainous ter­rain and gave a good account of themselves.

In 1913 the firm Jakob Lohner Werke in Vienna constructed its first military land planes for the Aus­trian air service. The B I was a two-seat reconnais­sance design built of wood, covered in fabric, and seated two crew members in a common cockpit. Its narrow fuselage, highly pointed cowling, and two – bay, swept-back wings gave it an exceptionally sleek appearance. As World War I progressed, the BII ver­sion was introduced in 1915 with minor refinements, followed by the B III a year later. This was the first Lohner to be armed, although it boasted but a single Schwarzlose machine gun for defense. A maximum of 485 pounds of bombs could also be carried aloft, which for the day was considered impressive.

In service the Lohners tended to be plodding, but they were rugged with excellent STOL (short takeoff and landing) characteristics. This made
them ideal for operating in mountain valleys along the Italian front, and they gradually replaced the aging Lloyd C Is and C IIs that preceded them. Lohn – ers frequently conducted air raids deep behind Ital­ian lines, both singly and in formation, which could last five or six hours in duration. On February 14, 1916, the Austrians launched their most ambitious attack when 12 of the new 160-horsepower Daimler – powered Lohner B VII’s successfully struck Milan’s Porta Volta electrogeneration plant. This was ac­complished by traversing 236 miles of dangerous mountain terrain and occasioned the loss of only two aircraft through mechanical failure. The Allies responded to such raids by deploying better air de­fenses, and the leisurely Lohners were eventually phased out by faster, more modern Hansa-Branden – burg C Is.

Lohner tried updating his basic design with the C I model, which featured reduced wing sweep and less bracing, but to no avail. By 1917 all surviving Lohners were consigned to training functions.

. LeO 451

Type: Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 42 feet, 7 inches; length, 24 feet, 5 inches; height, 9 feet, 2 inches

Weights: empty, 2,046 pounds; gross, 3,058 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 200-horsepower Benz BZ IV liquid-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 106 miles per hour; ceiling, 19, 680 feet; range, 350 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns

Service dates: 1917-1918


ate model LVG C aircraft were the most numer­ous of their class and among the largest. They shared many design features of the contemporary DFW C V, having originated with the same engineer.

The firm Luft-Verkehrs Gesellschaft had pro­duced numerous C-series aircraft for the German military since 1915, mostly designed by the Swiss engineer Franz Schneider. These were functional, solidly constructed craft and well-adapted for ar­tillery-spotting and reconnaissance. In November 1916 an LVG C II became the first aircraft ever to drop bombs on London. As the war continued, it be­came apparent that more modern machines were necessary to keep apace of the latest Allied fighters. In 1917 it fell upon a new engineer, Sabersky-Mus – sigbrod, formerly of DFW, to initiate a new series of C-type airplanes.

In the autumn of 1917, LVG unveiled its new C V model, which boasted considerable improve­ments over earlier versions. It was a large airplane,
spanning 42 feet, but also neatly designed and com­pact for its size. In this respect, it also bore marked resemblance to the DFW C V, an earlier product of Sabersky-Mussigbrod. The new C V maintained the company’s reputation for fine-looking, rugged air­planes, and it served with distinction along the West­ern Front. However, in service the exposed engine, radiator, and numerous struts seriously impeded the pilot’s forward view.

To correct deficiencies associated with the C V, LVG developed a new model, the C VI, in 1918. At first glance the two machines appeared similar, but the C VI placed greater emphasis on practicality than aes­thetics. The fancy spinner was eliminated in favor of a plain propeller hub, the wings acquired a slight posi­tive stagger to afford the pilot a better view, and the entire craft was lightened to improve performance. The C VI was completely successful in the field, and more than 1,100 were constructed. They served along­side the C V versions up through the end of the war.

. LeO 451

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 39 feet; length, 26 feet, 6 inches; height, 9 feet, 4 inches Weights: empty, 1,587 pounds; gross, 2,183 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 160-horsepower Isotta-Fraschini water-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 117 miles per hour; ceiling, 20,340 feet; range, 300 miles Armament: 2 x 7.7mm machine guns Service dates: 1918-1923


he elegant Macchi M 5 was Italy’s most numer­ous flying-boat fighter of World War I. Developed from a captured Austrian machine, they rendered excellent service in a variety of capacities.

Prior to World War I, the Societa Anonima Nieuport-Macchi firm of Varese was preoccupied with manufacturing fine coaches. It obtained li­censes to build various Nieuport aircraft in 1912, an activity that expanded during the war years. The firm’s expertise was limited to land planes until May 1915, when Italian forces captured an Austrian Lohner LI flying-boat fighter intact. The government authorized Macchi to build copies of the craft for its own use as the L 1. In 1916 a more refined version, the M 3, was introduced, featuring more powerful engines and aerodynamic streamlining. Macchi con­structed 200 of these fine aircraft.

By 1917 the Austrians were employing Hansa – Brandenburg KDW flying-boat fighters with better performance than the M 3s, so Macchi undertook improving their design. The prototype M 5 was con­
structed in the spring of 1918. Like its forebear, it was a handsome airplane with obvious Nieuport in­fluence. The two wings were of uneven length, with the top being longer in both length and chord, and both were secured in place by two sets of the fa­mous Nieuport-type vee struts. A powerful Isotta – Fraschini motor was affixed to the bottom of the top wing, under which sat the pilot. From there he oper­ated a pair of machine guns buried in the airplane’s nose.

The Macchi M 5 was attractive, and it flew as good as it looked. The craft possessed high speed comparable to most land-based fighters and was fully acrobatic with a good rate of climb. M 5s were deployed throughout the spring of 1918 and saw ac­tive service against Austrian naval forces through­out the Adriatic. It was also flown by a small number of U. S. Navy pilots sent to Italy as observers. By 1918 the Macchi floatplane fighters vied with their bigger Caproni cousins as the most famous Italian aircraft of World War I.

. LeO 451

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan. 34 feet, 8 inches; length, 26 feet, 10 inches; height, 11 feet, 6 inches

Weights: empty, 4,451 pounds; gross, 5,710 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 870-horsepower Fiat A.74 RC.38 radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 312 miles per hour; ceiling, 29,200 feet; range, 540 miles Armament: 2 x 12.7mm machine guns Service dates: 1939-1945


elightful to fly, the Saetta (Lightning Bolt) was the most numerous Italian fighter of World War II. It suffered from the usual Italian attributes of being underpowered and underarmed yet gave a good account of itself.

The biggest handicap facing the Italian aviation industry in the 1930s was the lack of high-powered in­line engines. Thus, when the transition was made to all-metal monoplane fighters in 1935, these craft were inevitably equipped with bulky, high-drag radials. In 1936 Dr. Mario Castoldi, famed designer of the Mac­chi Schneider Cup racing planes, conceived what was then an excellent design around the 840-horsepower Fiat A.74 engine. It was an all-metal, low-wing ma­chine with a fully enclosed cockpit, stressed skin, and two heavy machine guns for armament. A unique fea­ture was the wings’ trailing edge, which was com­pletely hinged and interconnected with the ailerons. Test flights demonstrated that the new MC 202 pos­sessed viceless characteristics, being highly maneu­verable and responsive to controls. As good as it was, the Saetta was still slower and possessed less fire­
power than contemporary British Hurricanes and Spitfires as well as German Bf 109s. Nonetheless, Ital­ian dictator Benito Mussolini wanted modern-looking aircraft to replace the popular biplanes fighters still in use, so in 1938 the MC 200 entered production. After the first models were viewed suspiciously by conser­vative-minded Italian fighter pilots, an open cockpit was reinstalled.

When Italy entered World War II in June 1940, only 156 Saettas were on hand. They witnessed their baptism of fire over Malta, suffering considerably at the hands of modern British fighters. Italian losses overall proved so disturbing that Germany’s X Fliegerkorps (air division) was moved down in sup­port. The MC 200s were subsequently encountered in greater numbers throughout North Africa. Italians pilots did commendable work despite great odds but were finally outclassed as better opposition materi­alized. Curiously, several Saettas operated against the Red Air Force in Russia until 1943, claiming 88 kills at a loss of only 15. Only a handful survived at war’s end. A total of 1,153 were built.

. LeO 451

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 34 feet, 8 inches; length, 29 feet; height, 9 feet, 11 inches Weights: empty, 5,545 pounds; gross, 6,766 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,175-horsepower Daimler-Benz DB 601A liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 372 miles per hour; ceiling, 37,730 feet; range, 475 miles Armament: 2 x 7.7mm machine guns; 2 x 12.7mm machine guns Service dates: 1941-1945


he sleek Folgore (Thunderbolt) was Italy’s best all-around fighter of World War II. Fast and ma­neuverable, it arrived in too few numbers to alter the balance of power.

One of few advantages of an Italian alliance with Nazi Germany was access to advanced aviation engine technology. Once the superb Daimler-Benz DB 601A in-line engine was imported by Macchi, Dr. Mario Castoldi was convinced that the potential of his MC 200 design could finally be realized. He then melded the German engine to existing airframes to create the MC 202 Folgore, one of the best Italian fighters of World War II. The new fighter employed the basic outline of the earlier craft and almost the exact tooling, so production was greatly facilitated. In 1940 test flights revealed that the streamlined Fol­gore enjoyed a 60-mile-per-hour advantage over the earlier Saetta, with commensurate improvements in climb rate. Neither were any of the sweet flying characteristics adversely affected. It even enjoyed the advantage of an additional pair of wing-mounted
machine guns. The MC 202 was deployed in strength throughout 1941, and it demonstrated superiority to both the Hawker Hurricane and the Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk in the Western Desert. Had the craft been deployed in numbers a year earlier, Axis con­trol of the air might have been established. Nonethe­less, the Folgore distinguished itself along a number of fronts, including Russia, where it completely mas­tered the numerous MiGs and LaGGs opposing it. A total of 1,200 were built.

In 1943 Macchi unveiled its last and best fighter of the war, the MC 205 Veltro (Greyhound). This came about by marrying the MC 202 airframe to an even more powerful DB 605A engine. The result­ing fighter easily matched North American P-51 Mustangs and late-model Spitfires. It was also more heavily armed than its ancestor, sporting a pair of 20mm cannons. After the 1943 Italian surrender, the Germans seized several examples and outfitted a Luftwaffe Gruppe that flew continuously until war’s end. Only 289 Veltros were manufactured.

. LeO 451

Type: Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 38 feet; length, 27 feet; height, 9 feet, 8 inches Weights: empty, 1,793 pounds; gross, 2,458 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 160-horsepower Beardmore liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 104 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,000 feet; range, 400 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; 260 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1916-1917


he aptly named Elephant was too large to serve as an effective escort fighter. Instead, it func­tioned better as a hard-hitting low-level bomber.

In the summer of 1915, Martinsyde engineer A. A. Fletcher conceived plans for a new and very modern escort fighter. The design was large by ne­cessity, as it was required to hold sufficient fuel to complete missions lasting up to four hours. The re­sulting prototype then flew as a two-bay biplane fighter with staggered, broad-chord wings. It was of conventional wood-and-fabric construction, and the fuselage was fitted with a close-fitting metal cowl­ing. A single Lewis machine gun sat on the top wing above the pilot, owing to the lack of interrupter gear, while a second gun was strangely situated be­hind him, firing backward, to ward off attacks from that quarter. Test results were encouraging, so the craft entered production as the Martinsyde G 100. In view of its large size for a fighter, pilots quickly dubbed it the Elephant.

The first G 100s reached France in the spring of 1916, and they were initially deployed in penny packets of two or three aircraft per reconnaissance squadron. The big plane flew well and possessed good range, but its sheer size precluded the agility necessary to combat nimble German fighters. How­ever, in view of its excellent range and lift, Ele­phants quickly found work as light bombers with No. 27 Squadron, the only unit so equipped. In ser­vice the G 100s were strong and could handle great amounts of damage. Their payload was also consid­erable, and No. 27 Squadron conducted numerous effective raids on German positions. Several Ele­phants were also deployed to Palestine and Mesopo­tamia for bombing and strafing duties against the Turks. Production of G 100s reached 100, and they were followed by 171 slightly more powerful G 102s. The big craft were retired from service in mid-1917, although several carried on as trainers. Their mem­ory is perpetuated by today’s No. 27 Squadron, whose unit heraldry displays an elephant.

. LeO 451

Type: Reconnaissance; Antitank Helicopter


Dimensions: rotorspan, 32 feet, 4 inches; length, 38 feet, 11 inches; height, 9 feet, 10 inches

Weights: empty, 2,820 pounds; gross, 5,290 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 429-horsepower Allison 250-C20B turboshaft engines

Performance: maximum speed, 150 miles per hour; ceiling, 17,000 feet; range, 388 miles

Armament: none, or 6 x HOT antitank missiles

Service dates: 1976-


he rotund BO 105 is Germany’s first postwar helicopter and helped pioneer new rigid-rotor technology. It is renowned for high performance and agility at low altitude, especially as an antitank platform.

Design of the BO 105 was initiated in 1962 by Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm (MBB) in response to a German government specification for new heli­copters to replace the Alouette IIs in service. These would be the first such machines to originate in Germany since World War II. The prototype emerged in 1967 as a standard-looking pod-and – boom affair, but the BO 105 was designed from the onset to employ the radically different rigid-rotor technology. In most helicopters, the rotors are rela­tively loose so blade angle can be pitched down­ward during forward flight. This system allows for rapid climbing but is unable to sustain much in the way of negative-G forces—that is, rapid sinking. The new rigid rotor, as the name implies, was hinge­less and kept the blades at right angles to the main rotor at all times. It was a very strong arrangement
and capable of resisting high negative-G forces. A helicopter thus equipped could rise quickly over ob­stacles in the conventional sense—and then sink past them with equal rapidity. Moreover, the BO 105 was fully acrobatic and maneuverable. Its military potential was immense, and the German army en­thusiastically ordered 312 machines for the Herres – flieger (army aviation).

In service the BO 105 received two designa­tions. The first, VBH, is a dedicated reconnais – sance/liaison craft for close work with field units. The PAH 1, meanwhile, is especially rigged as an an­titank platform. It mounts up to six HOT wire – guided antitank missiles and carries a variety of sighting and imaging technology. Both versions are also equipped for nighttime operations and, by dint of their great maneuverability, can easily utilize ter­rain for cover at low altitude. A total of 1,200 BO 105s have been built and exported to 18 coun­tries worldwide. With constant upgrades, they will remain potent weapons well into the twenty-first century.

. LeO 451

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 32 feet, 6 inches; length, 29 feet; height, 8 feet, 2 inches Weights: empty, 5,893 pounds; gross, 7,491 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,475-horsepower Daimler-Benz BD 605 liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 386 miles per hour; ceiling, 37,890 feet; range, 350 miles Armament: 1 x 20mm cannon; 2 x 13mm machine guns Service dates: 1937-1945


he Bf 109 was one of history’s greatest combat aircraft and the most widely produced German fighter of World War II. Small and angular, its very lines seemed to exude menace.

Willy Messerschmitt began developing his benchmark fighter in 1933 once the Luftwaffe desired to substitute its Arado Ar 68 and Heinkel He 51 bi­planes. The prototype flew in 1935 as a rather angular, low-wing monoplane with a fully enclosed cockpit and narrow-track landing gear. Results were impres­sive, and in 1937 the new Bf 109B fighter outpaced all other rivals at the International Flying Meet in Zurich, Switzerland. By 1939 the first production model, the Bf 109E, was introduced, featuring a bigger engine and heavier armament. As a fighter, the diminutive craft flew fast and maneuvered well, features that helped secure German air superiority at the start of World War II. Simply put, Bf 109s annihilated all their outdated opposition until encountering Supermarine Spitfires during the 1940 Battle of Britain. Although speedier than its British opponent, Bf 109Es turned somewhat slower and never achieved superiority.

As the war ground on, successive new models were introduced to keep the five-year-old design solvent. The F model was aerodynamically refined, with rounder wings and tail surfaces, as well as a bigger engine. It was the best-handling variant, but in 1942 the most numerous version, the Bf 109G, made its appearance. It featured a stronger engine and heavier armament but sacrificed the sweet han­dling characteristics of earlier versions. Worse yet, German war planners failed to provide for new de­signs, so the Bf 109G remained in production long after its growth potential ceased. Late-model H and K versions tried interjecting better high-altitude performance into the old workhorse with some suc­cess, but they never became available in quantity. Nonetheless, leading German ace Eric Hartmann scored all 451 victories in his beloved Messer – schmitt. By war’s end, no less than 33,000 Bf 109s had been produced. Moreover, Spain continued constructing them up until 1956, and they also served in the postwar air forces of Israel and Czechoslovakia.

. LeO 451

Type: Fighter; Night Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 53 feet, 3 inches; length, 39 feet, 7 inches; height, 13 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 12,346 pounds; gross, 15,873 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,110-horsepower Daimler-Benz liquid-cooled, in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 352 miles per hour; ceiling, 35,760 feet; range, 745 miles Armament: 5 x 7.92mm machine guns; 2 x 20mm cannons; up to 2,205 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1939-1945


he fearsome-looking Bf 110 was actually rather defenseless in the face of determined fighter op­position. However, it found its niche as a nocturnal predator and accounted for 60 percent of Germany’s night-fighter defenses.

The notion of long-range strategic fighters arose simultaneously in several countries during the 1930s. In Germany, as elsewhere, they were envisioned as escorts for heavy bomber forces then under develop­ment. In 1936 Willy Messerschmitt fielded his second warplane design, the twin-engine Bf 110, for the task. It was an advanced, all-metal design with twin rud­ders and a long greenhouse canopy. Test flights showed that the airplane was extremely fast, but it handled sluggishly. Moreover, the death of General Walter Wever in 1936 led to the cancellation of Ger­many’s heavy bomber program, hence the new craft was without a mission. The Bf 110 was nonetheless ordered into production as a heavy fighter and de­ployed in strength just prior to World War II. The Luft­waffe held high expectations for it.

In the early days of the war, the Bf 110s easily swept aside obsolete Polish and French machines, fully living up to its role as a Zerstorer (De­stroyer). Thus, in the summer of 1940 they were confidently thrown into the Battle of Britain, but they took staggering losses at the hands of nimble Spitfires and Hurricanes. The Bf 110s were so outclassed that they required escorts of single-en­gine Bf 109 fighters! Thereafter, Bf 110s were de­ployed in secondary theaters as ground-attack craft. Production of the aging craft began to wane when, in 1943, the failure of the Me 210 caused production to be accelerated. This time the Bf 110 was outfitted as a night fighter and equipped with heavy cannons and radar systems. Fast and stable, it made an ideal platform for nocturnal warfare and destroyed several hundred British bombers. In sum, the Bf 110 exhibited many fine qualities, but it was simply not on par with modern single­engine fighters. By war’s end, more than 6,000 ma­chines had been constructed.

. LeO 451

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 30 feet, 7 inches; length, 19 feet, 2 inches; height, 9 feet, 1 inch

Weights: empty, 4,206 pounds; gross, 9,502 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 3,750-pound thrust Walter liquid-fuel rocket motor

Performance: maximum speed, 593 miles per hour; ceiling, 39,500 feet; range, 50 miles

Armament: 2 x 30mm cannon

Service dates: 1944-1945


he revolutionary Komet was the world’s first rocket-propelled fighter and the fastest aircraft of World War II. Fast and lethal-looking, it often posed greater hazards to its own pilots than the enemy.

The Me 163 had its origins in the work of Dr. Alexander Lippisch, the world’s leading exponent of tailless gliders. He joined the Messerschmitt com­pany in 1939 and, despite personal antipathy for Willy Messerschmitt, set about developing a rocket – powered glider. The prototype emerged in 1941 as a rather small, but very futuristic, swept-wing design. Built of metal and wood, the new craft dispensed with landing gear to save weight. Accordingly, it lifted off on a jettisonable dolly and landed on a re­tractable skid. But when rocket motors finally be­came available, even greater technical problems arose. The Komet was powered by a combination of two highly combustible fuels, C-Stoff (hydrazine hy­drate and methyl alcohol) and T-Stoff (hydrogen peroxide and water). The two ignited when com­bined, providing tremendous thrust for about eight minutes. However, the practice of fueling the Me 163
was unpredictable, and the slightest misstep led to catastrophic explosions. Test flights were nonethe­less successful, reaching unprecedented speeds of nearly 600 miles per hour. In 1944 the Me 163 en­tered production as a last-ditch weapon against the seemingly unstoppable Allied bomber streams. Around 350 were built.

In service the aptly named Komet (from the large flame it exuded) had a short but spectacular career. It skyrocketed to altitudes of 30,000 feet in only two minutes and traversed bomber formations so fast that gunners could scarcely draw a bead. However, closing speeds were tremendous and al­lowed for few bursts. Consequently, in nine months of combat, only 15 or so bombers were claimed by Komets. Moreover, many Me 163s were lost, mostly upon landing, when residual fuel left in the tanks ex­ploded without warning. For all its shortcomings, the Me 163 possessed excellent performance for its day and reflects considerable German ingenuity. Had time existed for additional research, the Komet might have evolved into a formidable weapon.

. LeO 451

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 40 feet, 11 inches; length, 34 feet, 9 inches; height, 12 feet, 7 inches

Weights: empty, 8,378 pounds; gross, 14,110 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,984-pound thrust Junkers Jumo 004B turbojet engines

Performance: maximum speed, 540 miles per hour; ceiling, 37,565 feet; range, 652 miles

Armament: 4 x 30mm cannon

Service dates: 1944-1945


ith its unmistakable sharklike lines, the Me 262 was the world’s first operational jet fighter. It might have reestablished German aerial supremacy had sufficient jet engines been available.

In 1938 the German Air Ministry approached Willy Messerschmitt to create a radically different fighter craft, one powered by new turbojet engines then under development. The first prototype emerged in April 1941 but had to be flown with a conventional nose-mounted engine. The Me 262 was a low-wing, all-metal monoplane of stressed-skin construction. The wings were swept, and the first prototypes landed on tailwheels, but subsequent versions employed tricycle landing gear. However, the Luftwaffe displayed little interest initially, and the project received few construction priorities. It was not until July 1942 that the first jet-powered flight could be held, but the new craft was a marvel to behold. It was at least 100 miles per hour faster than the best Allied piston-powered fighters, and it handled extremely well. At this time the Third Reich
was being battered by enormous fleets of Allied heavy bombers, so it became imperative to deploy the Me 262 as an air-superiority weapon. However, when Adolf Hitler witnessed a test flight, he ordered that the craft be outfitted as a high-speed bomber! This did little to facilitate production, and efforts were further beset by a lack of engines.

The first Me 262s deployed in August 1944, less than a year before the war in Europe ended. There were ongoing problems with engine reliability and fuel shortages, but the vaunted Schwalbe (Swallow), as it was dubbed, created havoc with Allied bombers. On March 18, 1945, a force of 37 Me 262s attacked U. S. B-17s near Berlin, scything down 15 with a loss of two jets. The bomber version, known as the Sturmvogel (Storm Petrel), had also debuted, but it was tactically misused. Although 1,430 Me 262s were built, only a handful actually saw com­bat. They claimed 150 Allied aircraft—and may have shot down many more—save for Hitler’s meddling and the Luftwaffe’s initial indifference.

. LeO 451

Type: Glider; Transport

Dimensions: wingspan, 180 feet, 5 inches; length, 93 feet, 6 inches; height, 31 feet, 6 inches

Weights: empty, 64,066 pounds; gross, 99,210 pounds

Power plant: 6 x 1,140-horsepower Gnome-Rhone 14N radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 149 miles per hour; ceiling, 14,760 feet; range, 808 miles

Armament: 2 x 20mm cannons; 2 x 13mm machine guns

Service dates: 1942-1945


he lumbering Gigants were among the biggest aircraft used in World War II. They carried useful payloads but were highly vulnerable when con­fronted by Allied fighters.

The Me 321 evolved in October 1940 when the German invasion of Great Britain seemed imminent. The German Air Ministry requested development of giant glider craft to ferry troops and equipment across the English Channel by air. Willy Messer – schmitt, who had designed gliders since childhood, readily complied, and within two weeks he con­ceived the Me 321 Gigant (Giant). This was a high – wing, braced monoplane featuring mixed construc­tion. Both wing and fuselage were made from steel tubing, strengthened by wood, and then covered in fabric. The Gigant was also the first airplane to pos­sess clamshell nose doors for ease of loading. Up to 22 tons of men and supplies could be hauled aloft and safely landed, making it the biggest transport of World War II. The prototype debuted in the spring of 1941 and, although somewhat fatiguing for a single
pilot to handle, flew well. Getting airborne was tricky, however, and usually meant being towed by three Bf 110s, or a single He 111Z (two bombers lashed together at midwing). The Me 321 entered production that year, and 211 were built. Most served along the Eastern Front ferrying supplies.

At length it was decided that a powered model, the Me 323, would be safer and offer more strategic flexibility. Accordingly, an Me 321 was fit­ted with six French Gnome-Rhone radial engines and fuel tanks. The added weight almost reduced the payload by half, and the giant craft still needed to be towed or employ rockets to assist takeoff. Nonetheless, the Me 323 entered production in 1943 and saw widespread service in Russia, North Africa, and the Mediterranean. The slow-moving transports proved easy prey for Allied fighters, and on one oc­casion British Spitfires annihilated 14 of 16 Gigants at sea. Given the hazards of interception, the lum­bering behemoths were restricted to rear-area sup­ply missions.

. LeO 451

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 53 feet, 7 inches; length, 40 feet, 11 inches; height, 14 feet Weights: empty, 16,574 pounds; gross, 21,276 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,850-horsepower Daimler-Benz 603A liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 364 miles per hour; ceiling, 32,180 feet; range, 1,050 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns; 4 x 20mm cannons; up to 2,205 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1943-1945


he formidable-looking Me 410 was an outgrowth of the earlier Me 210, an embarrassing failure. It was fast and capable but never fulfilled design ex­pectations.

In 1937 the German Air Ministry began looking for a successor to the Bf 110 Zerstorer (Destroyer), the Luftwaffe’s only strategic fighter. Willy Messer – schmitt originated his second warplane design, the Me 210, which was heavily based upon the initial ma­chine. Like its precursor, the new craft had twin en­gines and twin rudders, but it also sported tapered wings and lengthened engine nacelles. The effect was a handsome machine that proved very unstable in flight and prone to stalls and spins. Subsequent modifications introduced a single rudder, but Mar­shal Hermann Goring, the Luftwaffe chief, ordered

1,0 machines produced before the design was per­fected. Consequently, when the Me 210 became oper­ational in 1941, it still possessed all the old vices of the prototype. Several crashed due to bad handling, and the government canceled its contract after 300
machines. Several officials also demanded Messer – schmitt’s resignation from the company bureau.

In an attempt to save both the Me 210 and his own reputation, Messerschmitt tried revamping the balky craft. The resulting Me 410 appeared almost in­distinguishable from its predecessor, but it had a lengthened fuselage and nacelles, along with auto­matic wing slots on the leading edges. Larger engines were also fitted, and the Me 410, when it appeared in 1943, was a significant improvement. Through most of 1944, the Hornisse (Hornet) was employed as a night bomber over England, where its high speed made interception difficult. It was also utilized to de­fend the Reich, where its heavy armament caused havoc with bomber formations. However, like all two – engine fighters, the Me 410 was at a severe disadvan­tage when opposing single-engine craft and suffered heavy losses. By the time production ceased in the fall of 1944, no less than 1,160 had been produced. Their contribution to the war effort proved negligible and constituted a waste of valuable resources.

. LeO 451

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 33 feet, 9 inches; length, 26 feet, 9 inches; height, 8 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 5,996 pounds; gross, 7,694 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,350-horsepower Mikulin liquid-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 398 miles per hour, ceiling, 39,370 feet; range, 777 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.62mm machine guns; 1 x 12.7mm machine gun; up to 440 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1941-1943


he MiG 3 was an impressive high-altitude inter­ceptor when it appeared in 1941 and won its de­signers the coveted Stalin Prize. However, it proved woefully inadequate at lower levels and could not compete with better German fighters.

In 1939 Artem Mikoyan and Mikhail Gurevich, veterans of the Polikarpov design bureau, proposed a high-altitude interceptor, the MiG 1. This was a highly streamlined, modern-looking craft with a long cowling, retractable landing gear, and an open cock­pit. Constructed from steel tubing and covered with wood, the prototype flew in April 1940 with impres­sive speed and performance at high altitude. How­ever, the extreme length of the nose—designed to accommodate the biggest possible engine around the smallest possible fuselage—rendered it inher­ently unstable. In fact, the MiG 1 displayed down­right vicious handling characteristics, but the Soviet government needed fighters quickly, and so the de­sign entered production. In 1941 the MiG bureau attempted to rectify earlier shortcomings with a new machine, the MiG 3. This was essentially a cleaned-
up version of the earlier craft, with a fully enclosed canopy, a cut-down rear deck for better vision, and increased dihedral on the outer wing sections. The new design performed only marginally better, but the government awarded Mikoyan and Gurevich the prestigious Stalin Prize.

The onset of the German invasion of June 1941 only underscored the inadequacy of the MiG 3 as a fighter. Unstable and unforgiving, it was tiring to fly and could not engage nimble Messerschmitt Bf 109s at low altitudes, where the majority of battles were fought. It was also unsatisfactory as an interceptor, being too lightly armed with machine guns to inflict much harm upon bombers. Nonetheless, the Sovi­ets, hard-pressed for aircraft of any kind, dutifully employed the MiG 3 in frontline service for nearly three years. Russian pilots accepted the assignment stoically—and suffered commensurately. By 1943 most MiG 3s had been withdrawn from combat func­tions and were restricted to high-speed reconnais­sance missions. Total production exceeded 4,000 units.

. LeO 451

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 33 feet, 1 inch; length, 35 feet, 7 inches; height, 11 feet, 2 inches

Weights: empty, 7,500 pounds; gross, 12,750 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 5,950-pound thrust Klimov VK-1 turbojet engine

Performance: maximum speed, 668 miles per hour; ceiling, 51,000 feet; range, 665 miles

Armament: 2 x 23mm cannons and 1 x 37mm cannon; up to 1,100 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1950-


his classic design was the most successful of early Soviet jet fighters and a complete shock to the West. Its debut during the Korean War put the world on notice that Russian aircraft were among the best in the world.

At the end of World War II, the Soviets inher­ited a trove of advanced German technology, espe­cially concerning jet aviation. Stalin, fearful of trail­ing the West in its use, demanded the creation of new jet-powered aircraft for the Red Air Force. In 1946 engineers Artem Mikoyan and Mikhail Gurevich con­ceived what was then a highly advanced fighter de­sign. It was a midsize, fairly compact machine with swept midmounted wings and high tail surfaces. The MiG 15 also carried a bomber-killing three-cannon pack that lowered down on wires for ease of servic­ing. Up until then, Soviet attempts with jet aircraft largely failed on account of using weak German Jumo engines of insufficient thrust. However, Great Britain’s shortsighted Labor government had fate­fully arranged the export of several Rolls-Royce

Nene jet engines, then the world’s best. This proved a technological windfall of the first order, and the en­gine was quickly copied by Soviet engines as the VK – 1. Once installed in the MiG 15 prototype, the result was a world-class jet fighter that was faster and could outclimb and outturn almost any jet employed by the West. The MiG 15 entered mass production in 1949 and received the NATO designation FAGOT.

MiG 15s were an unwelcome surprise to UN forces when these fearsome new machines suddenly appeared over North Korea in November 1950. Only rapid deployment of equally advanced North Ameri­can F-86 Sabres kept control of the skies from com­munist hands. These two adversaries were almost evenly matched, and in 1953 a defecting North Ko­rean pilot, Ro Kim Suk, gave the West its first intact example. MiG 15s continued in production through­out the 1950s until an estimated 18,000 were made. They were employed by all Soviet allies and client states, with many two-seat trainer versions still in use.

. LeO 451

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 23 feet, 6 inches; length, 51 feet, 9 inches; height, 13 feet, 6 inches

Weights: empty, 12,051 pounds; gross, 21,605 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 15,653-pound thrust Tumansky R-25-300 turbojet engine

Performance: maximum speed, 1,385 miles per hour; ceiling, 62,336 feet; range, 600 miles

Armament: 1 x 23mm cannon; up to 4,409 pounds of bombs or rockets

Service dates: 1959-


he classic MiG 21 is the most extensively ex­ported jet fighter in history. It has fought in sev­eral wars and continues in frontline service four decades after its appearance.

The experience of air combat in Korea forced the Mikoyan design bureau to draw up radical plans for a new air-superiority fighter. This machine would have to be lightweight, be relatively simple to build, and possess speed in excess of Mach 2. The prime design prerequisite entailed deletion of all unneces­sary equipment not related to performance. No less than 30 test models were built and flown through the mid – to late 1950s before a tailed-delta configura­tion was settled upon. The first MiG 21s were de­ployed in 1959 and proved immediately popular with Red Air Force pilots. They were the first Russian air­craft to routinely operate at Mach 2 and were highly maneuverable. Moreover, the delta configuration en­abled the craft to remain controllable up to high an­gles of attack and low air speed. One possible draw­
back, as with all deltas, was that high turn rates yielded a steep drag rise, so the MiG 21 lost energy and speed while maneuvering. This was considered a fair trade-off in terms of overall excellent perform­ance. More than 11,000 MiG 21s were built in 14 dis­tinct versions that spanned three generations of de­sign. They are the most numerous fighters exported abroad, and no less than 50 air forces employ them worldwide. The NATO code name is FISHBED.

The MiG 21 debuted during the Vietnam War (1964-1974), during which they proved formidable opponents for bigger U. S. fighters like the McDon – nell-Douglas F-4 Phantom. Successive modifications have since endowed them with greater range and formidable ground-attack capability, but at the ex­pense of their previously spry performance. Russian production of the MiG 21 has ended, yet China and India build, refurbish, and deploy them in great numbers. These formidable machines will undoubt­edly remain in service for many years to come.

. LeO 451

Type: Fighter; Ground Attack

Dimensions: wingspan, up to 45 feet, 8 inches; length, 54 feet, 9 inches; height, 15 feet, 9 inches Weights: empty, 22,487 pounds; gross, 39,242 pounds Power plant: 1 x 18,849-pound thrust Soyuz turbojet engine

Performance: maximum speed, 1,553 miles per hour; ceiling, 60,695 feet; range, 715 miles Armament: 1 x 23mm Gatling gun; up to 8,818 pounds of bombs or rockets Service dates: 1970-


he MiG 23 was the first Soviet combat plane equipped with variable-wing geometry. Its suc­cess led to an equally capable ground-attack ver­sion, the MiG 27.

By the mid-1960s the Red Air Force wanted to supplement its vaunted MiG 21s with air-superiority fighters that could also perform ground-attack work. The new machine would have to approximate the formidable performance of such Western stalwarts as the F-4 Phantom and F-105 Thunderchief. Fur­thermore, excellent STOL (short takeoff and land­ing) ability from unfinished fields was also required. The Mikoyan design bureau initially toyed with re­vised delta configurations before settling upon a “swing-wing” version like the General Dynamics F-

111. The new MiG 23 prototype first flew in 1967 as a high-wing jet with an extremely sharp profile. The wing could be deployed at three different angles for takeoff, cruise, and fighting mode and, when fully extended, would assist in achieving shorter landing distances. To ensure high performance at high
speed, the craft also carried adjustable “splitters” at the front of each air intake. The first MiG 23s had no sooner been deployed in 1970 than it was deter­mined to optimize them for air supremacy and forego ground-attack functions for a subsequent model.

The impracticality of endowing the MiG 23 with good tactical strike abilities led to development of a related design, the MiG 27. This was essentially a stripped-down MiG 23 refitted with a distinct flat­tened nose housing a laser range finder. The craft lost its intake splitters, as excessively high speed is considered unnecessary at low altitude. The after­burner was also simplified and lightened to compen­sate for weight lost at the front end. Not surpris­ingly, Russian pilots dubbed the MiG 27 Utkonos (Duck-nose) on account of its odd appearance. More than 3,000 of both versions have been built, and collectively they are identified by the NATO des­ignation FLOGGER. Neither craft is considered a match for their Western equivalents.

. LeO 451

Type: Fighter; Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 46 feet; length, 78 feet, 2 inches; height, 20 feet

Weights: empty, 44,092 pounds; gross, 79,807 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 27,000-pound thrust Tumansky R-31 turbojet engines

Performance: maximum speed, 1,849 miles per hour; ceiling, 80,000 feet; range, 901 miles

Armament: 9,636 pounds of missiles

Service dates: 1973-


n ingenious design, the elusive MiG 25 was once the doyen of Soviet high-altitude recon­naissance. It continues on today as a formidable cruise-missile interceptor.

Toward the end of the 1950s the United States embarked upon developing a viable Mach 3 high-al­titude bomber, the North American XB-70 Valkyrie. Such a craft would fly so high and fast that it ap­peared virtually immune to Soviet missiles and con­ventional jet aircraft. Aware of its weakness, the Red Air Force scrambled for a new, ultra-high speed in­terceptor to thwart such a menace. Mach 3 opera­tions posed daunting operational difficulties, but the Mikoyan design bureau tackled them with charac­teristic aplomb. The first MiG 25 prototype flew in 1964 with complete success. This was a large, if squat, machine of futuristic appearance. Highly streamlined, it possessed a high-mounted, swept wing, an extremely pointed profile, and twin rudders that canted outward. It was powered by two huge Tumansky engines and mounted equally imposing airducts on either side of the fuselage. Because heat
arising from air friction at Mach 3 was intense, the MiG 25 was constructed mostly of expensive stain­less steel and titanium—anything less would melt! Every design priority reflected an unyielding empha­sis on speed and high-altitude performance, but out­side of this regimen the MiG 25 maneuvered like a brick. It nonetheless became operational as a fighter and reconnaissance craft in 1973—a decade after the XB-70 program was canceled. The NATO code name is FOXBAT.

During the 1970s the MiG 25 performed consid­erable overflight activity in the Middle East and could not be intercepted by the redoubtable Israeli air force. The West got its first up-close look when MiG 25 pilot Viktor Belenko defected to Japan in Sep­tember 1976. Engineers marveled at the ingenuity of design yet crudity of construction. Since then, FOX – BATs have undergone considerable electronic and en­gine upgrades, making them even more formidable. Modern versions are equipped with the very latest look down/shoot down radar capable of detecting and destroying U. S. cruise missiles at any altitude.

. LeO 451

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 37 feet, 3 inches; length, 56 feet, 9 inches; height, 15 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 24,030 pounds; gross, 40,785 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 11,111-pound thrust Klimov/Leningrad RD-33 turbofan engines Performance: maximum speed, 1,519 miles per hour; ceiling, 55,575 feet; range, 932 miles Armament: 1 x 30mm cannon; up to 6,614 pounds of bombs and rockets Service dates: 1984-


he MiG 29 is one of the most modern and capa­ble fighter planes ever designed. It confirms Rus­sia’s ability to construct weapons of lethality equal to Western counterparts.

In 1972 the Soviet government issued demand­ing specifications for a new lightweight fighter with secondary ground-attack capability to offset the aging MiG 21s, MiG 23s, and Su 17s in service. In addi­tion, such a machine would have to be capable of en­gaging and defeating the formidable Grumman F-14s and McDonnell-Douglas F-15s of the United States, as well as the forthcoming General Dynamics F-16 and McDonnell-Douglas F-18. As usual, the Mikoyan de­sign bureau undertook the assignment with determi­nation and originality. By 1977 it had arrived at a solu­tion: the modest-sized MiG 29. This was an ultrasleek and futuristic-looking machine with a beautifully blended high-lift, low-drag wing and fuselage. The twin engines were widely spaced and outwardly canted; twin rudders were also provided. One of the most unusual features was the underwing air intakes.

Like all Russian warplanes, MiG 29s are expected to operate off of rough, unprepared airstrips. To mini­mize any chance that dirt or rocks might be ingested by an engine, they are covered by panel doors that open automatically when lifting off and close again upon touchdown. While these are shut, air is fed con­tinuously to the engine through louvers near the wing roots. In terms of maneuverability, the MiG 29 is a sterling dogfighter, light on the controls and highly re­sponsive. An estimated 1,350 have been built and de­ployed by Russia and former Soviet client states. The NATO designation is FULCRUM.

As expected, the MiG 29 was a popular addition to the Red Air Force stable, placing Russian pilots on equal footing with potential Western adversaries. A look down/shoot down fire-control system, helmet – actuated sights, and accurate missiles make it possi­bly the world’s best interceptor. Its handling is even more impressive considering that all controls are hy­draulic and devoid of fly-by-wire technology. The FULCRUM remains every fighter pilot’s dream.

. LeO 451

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 44 feet, 2 inches; length, 74 feet, 5 inches; height, 20 feet, 2 inches

Weights: empty, 48,115 pounds; gross, 101,859 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 34,170-pound thrust Aviavidgatel D-30F6 turbofan engines

Performance: maximum speed, 1,865 miles per hour; ceiling, 67,600 feet; range, 745 miles

Armament: 1 x 30mm cannon; up to six homing missiles

Service dates: 1982-


he MiG 31 is a heavily armed long-range inter­ceptor designed to engage and destroy fast, low- flying targets. Linked by computer, four of these fearsome machines can effectively blanket 590 miles of airspace!

By the late 1980s Russia anticipated that the threat of strategic bombardment from the United States had undergone fundamental changes. Instead of subsonic, low-flying B-52s, Russia now faced the prospect of ultrasophisticated and stealthy B-1 Lancers backed my myriads of terrain-following cruise missiles. In 1975 the Mikoyan design bureau was tasked with creating a totally new machine to counter this new threat. After several studies, it elected to begin with a revamped version of the MiG 25 FOXBAT, a high-speed, high-altitude interceptor. Despite its international celebrity as an unstoppable spy plane, the FOXBAT was incapable of supersonic speed at low altitudes. Thus, the solution posed was to build a new craft: the MiG 31. It shared some common ancestry with the earlier machine but was, in fact, a much more capable interceptor. Like the

MiG 25, the MiG 31 (NATO code name, FOX­HOUND) is a big, squat airplane with twin engines and twin tails. However, it differs by seating two crew members in tandem, possessing larger air in­takes for low-altitude work, as well as extended af­terburner nozzles. Moreover, its construction has dispensed with heavy stainless steel in favor of lighter titanium and nickel steel. All told, the MiG 31 displays lower absolute top speed than the MiG 25 but enjoys much better handling and maneuverabil­ity. Its role is to assist the faster Sukhoi Su 27s by plugging gaps in Russia’s defensive radar net.

The biggest changes in the MiG 31 are elec­tronic. It boasts state-of-the-art Zaslon phased – array nose radar, which can detect targets as far out as 125 miles. In addition, the computerized fire – control system can track up to 10 targets independ­ently and engage four. The MiG 31 is also capable of linking to other aircraft via computer and their fire being coordinated by a team leader. To date a total of 280 FOXHOUNDS have been manufactured and deployed.

. LeO 451

Type: Transport; Gunship


Dimensions: rotorspan, 69 feet, 10 inches; length, 59 feet, 7 inches; height, 18 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 14,990 pounds; gross, 26,455 pounds Power plant: 2 x Klimov TV3-117MT turboshaft engines

Performance: maximum speed, 155 miles per hour; ceiling, 14,760 feet; range, 289 miles Armament: 2 x rocket or gunpods Service dates: 1962-


or four decades, the Mi 17 has been among the most numerous large helicopters in the world. It was the workhorse of the former Soviet Union and continues in active service with many nations.

Toward the end of the 1950s, the Mil design bu­reau attempted to update and enlarge its existing Mi 4 helicopters with a view toward greater power and lifting capacity. By 1961 it had developed the Mi 8, which retained the transmission and tailboom of the earlier craft but relocated the engine overhead and the canopy forward. The new craft was much bigger internally but somewhat underpowered, so a second engine was added. When the Mi 8 became opera­tional in 1962, it was among the world’s foremost military helicopters. It could lift up to 28 fully armed troops and carry them to their objective with good reliability. As Soviet imperialism spread through client states in the 1970s, more often than not the Mi 8s were there. Cuban and East German advisers em­ployed them to good effect in Ethiopia, Angola, and

Nigeria. However, the Mi 8s enjoyed far less success when they were outfitted as gunships and deployed in huge numbers during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Muslim guerillas, equipped with CIA – supplied Stinger missiles, took a heavy toll on the lumbering giants. The craft still operates under the NATO designation HIP.

In 1981 the Mil bureau decided to update its basic design by introducing the Mi 17. This was a standard Mi 8 refitted with the more powerful en­gines and transmission from the naval Mi 14; the tail – rotor was relocated to the port side. The craft also employs a unique system for maintaining engine syn­chronization. Should one engine lose power or fail completely, the other automatically reaches a contin­gency rating of 2,200 horsepower to ensure steady flight. The Mi 8/17 family is a rugged, dependable se­ries of military machines with a long service life ahead. An estimated 13,000 have been built and are operated by 60, predominately Third World, nations.

. LeO 451

Type: Attack Helicopter

Dimensions: rotorspan, 56 feet, 9 inches; length, 57 feet, 5 inches; height, 13 feet, 1 inch

Weights: empty, 18,078 pounds; gross, 26,455 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 2,190-horsepower Klimov TV3-117 turboshaft engines

Performance: maximum speed, 208 miles per hour; ceiling, 14,750 feet; range, 456 miles

Armament: 1 x 23mm Gatling gun; 4 x gun or rocket pods

Service dates: 1973-


escribed as a “flying tank,” the formidable Mi 24 is the world’s biggest and most heavily armed helicopter gunship. It offers heavy firepower, good speed, and troop-carrying capacity in one lethal package.

The year 1967 witnessed introduction of the Bell AH-1 Cobra, the world’s first dedicated helicop­ter gunship. It proved highly effective against unpro­tected infantry during the Vietnam War and added new dimensions of firepower into battlefield equa­tions. Soviet planners watched such developments closely and decided they needed to counter this lat­est Western threat. It fell upon Mikhail Mil to design Russia’s first gunship, drawing upon his earlier expe­riences with large machines like the Mi 8 transport helicopter. He utilized the engine and transmission of the earlier craft, melded to a somewhat smaller, heavily armored fuselage. This contained high pro­portions of steel and titanium, making it nearly im­perious to small-arms fire. To this were fitted large anhedral winglets that produced added lift and acted as convenient platforms for carrying weapons.

A squad of eight fully armed soldiers could also be transported. Finally, the crew of two sat in a squared-off cabin with large glazed windows. The overall effect was impressive, and when the first Mi 24s were sighted in East Germany, NATO dubbed them HINDs.

Greater operational experience with the Mi 24 resulted in a total redesign of the forward portion. Henceforth, newer models sported two staggered canopies that granted better vision, along with a four – barrel machine gun in a chin turret. Tactically speak­ing, the HIND D was now more involved with battle­field firepower than in transporting troops. These behemoth gunships were employed in great numbers throughout the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, some­times with great success against lightly armed gueril­las. It was not until the United States supplied Stinger antiaircraft missiles that the big helicopters sustained meaningful losses. Mil 24s are still regarded as formi­dable antitank platforms in more conventional modes of warfare. An estimated 2,300 have been built and are still flown by 20 nations.

. LeO 451

Type: Transport

Dimensions: rotorspan, 105 feet; length, 110 feet, 8 inches; height, 26 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 62,170 pounds; gross, 123,450 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 10,000-horsepower ZMKB D-136 turboshaft engines

Performance: maximum speed, 183 miles per hour; ceiling, 15,090 feet; range, 497 miles

Armament: none

Service dates: 1983-


y many measures, the giant Mi 26 is the world’s most powerful helicopter. It has an internal stor­age capacity equivalent to the Lockheed C-130 Her­cules!

By the early 1970s the Soviet government de­sired a heavy-lift replacement for its already impres­sive Mi 6 helicopters. The new machine was in­tended to possess twice the power and lifting ability of the older craft. These features were necessary for transporting great amounts of supplies to undevel­oped regions of the country, like Siberia, to assist development there. The Mil design bureau under N. M. Tishchyenko settled for a slightly smaller ver­sion of the existing craft, one absolutely crammed with power and aeronautical efficiency. In 1977 the first Mil 26 took flight and went on to establish sev­eral world payload and altitude records. At first glance it was outwardly similar to the Mi 6 but was driven by the world’s first eight-blade rotor. This de­vice allowed the helicopter to absorb power from the massive, twin ZMKB engines, and it made for
smooth, almost vibration-free flight. It also allowed the Mi 26 to dispense with the two pronounced winglets of the earlier craft. For loading purposes, the Mi 26 boasts an integral rear loading ramp and two powered clamshell cargo doors. It can carry up to 44,000 pounds of cargo or 100 fully equipped troops on a very strong titanium floor. It flies in both civilian and military guises with the NATO code name HALO.

Considerable ingenuity was expended in weight-saving measures. In fact, the Mi 26 is actually

2,200 pounds lighter that the less-capable Mi 6. Part of this comes from the rotor assembly, which is tita­nium; the huge rotor blades are made from steel spars and fiberglass. The big craft can be flown in any weather conditions using state-of-the-art naviga­tion and computerized flight assistance. On auto­hover it can reputedly remain motionless only 5 feet off the ground! This triumph of aeronautical engi­neering is destined to be the world’s chopper-lift champ for some time. A total of 70 have been built.

. LeO 451

Type: Trainer

Dimensions: wingspan, 39 feet; length, 35 feet, 7 inches; height, 9 feet, 3 inches

Weights: empty, 4,293 pounds; gross, 5,573 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 870-horsepower Bristol Mercury XX radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 242 mile per hour; ceiling, 25,100 feet; range, 393 miles

Armament: 1 x.303-inch machine gun

Service dates: 1939-1950


he Master was the most numerous advanced British trainer of World War II. In its original form it possessed performance almost rivaling the fabled Hurricanes and Spitfires.

By 1935 the advent of high-performance monoplanes necessitated adoption of training craft with similar flight characteristics. In 1937 M. G. Miles fielded his Kestrel design, a low-wing mono­plane made of wood frames and covered in ply­wood. A crew of two was housed in a tandem cock­pit, and the instructor’s seat could be raised in flight for better view on takeoffs and landings. Powered by a 745-horsepower Rolls-Royce Kestrel engine, it reached 300 miles per hour, slightly slower than Hurricanes and Spitfires employing much more powerful engines. However, the Air Ministry re­mained disinterested, and the project subsided. The following year it reversed that decision, and Miles was required to modify the fuselage and reposition the radiator from the nose to the wing’s center sec­tion. Moreover, a derated Kestrel XXX engine was
utilized, which slowed the new craft down by 70 miles per hour. The Master, as it was christened, was still delightful to fly and handled very much like a fighter. In June 1938 the ministry adopted it under Specification 16/38 and ordered 500 copies. This was the largest order placed for a training plane to that date.

The first Master Is were not deployed at flight schools until the fall of 1939. Thereafter, they trained thousands of British pilots in the art of fighter tactics. As the war progressed, a shortage of Kestrel engines developed, so the Master II arose by mounting an 870-horsepower Bristol Mercury radial engine. This spoiled the airplane’s fine lines but re­sulted in a 16-mile-per-hour increase in speed. When these stocks ran out, the Master III was fitted with a lower-rated 825-horsepower Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior and suffered a commensurate decrease in top speed. By war’s end, a total of 3,227 of the wonder­fully agile Masters had been delivered. Many were retained as trainers until 1950.

. LeO 451

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 36 feet, 1 inch; length, 24 feet, 9 inches; height, 10 feet, 6 inches

Weights: empty, 2,681 pounds; gross, 3,759 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 710-horsepower Nakajima Kotobuki radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 273 miles per hour; ceiling, 32,150 feet; range, 746 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.7mm machine guns

Service dates: 1937-1945


he diminutive A5M set aviation standards as the world’s first all-metal, carrier-based monoplane. Commencing in 1937 it helped secure Japanese con­trol of the air during the war against China.

In 1934 the Imperial Japanese Navy issued new specifications for a monoplane fighter that could top 217 miles per hour in level flight and reach 6,000 feet in less than six minutes. It devolved upon a Mit­subishi design team under Jiro Horikoshi to devise an appropriate solution. He responded with a proto­type that, at the time it appeared, was revolutionary for Japan’s fledgling naval air arm. The new craft was an all-metal, low-wing monoplane with fixed, spatted wheels. It was totally covered in stressed metal and flush-riveted to reduce drag. During test flights in 1936 the prototype reached 280 miles per hour, 60 miles per hour faster than the specifica­tions, but problems were encountered with the wing shape. It originally possessed a gull-shaped plan – form, but this subsequently gave way to a graceful, elliptical design. Once fitted to a more powerful en­gine, the new craft exhibited better speed and per­
formance than contemporary Japanese biplanes, so in 1937 it entered the service as the A5M. It debuted as the world’s most advanced carrier-based fighter, and during World War II Allied intelligence gave it the code name Claude.

No sooner were A5Ms built than they deployed from Japanese carriers operating off the Chinese coast. These demonstrated their mettle over Nanking in September 1937 by shooting down 10 Chinese-piloted Polikarpov I 16 monoplanes without loss. Thereafter, the Claudes facilitated Japanese control of the air over Chinese coastal regions. A fully enclosed cockpit was fitted to the second model in an attempt to improve the A5M, but the swashbuckling Japanese pilots objected, and later models reverted back to an open cockpit. In the early days of the Pacific war, Claudes were the most numerically important Japanese fighter, but they were rapidly outclassed by newer Allied fighters. Most were retired by the summer of 1942 to serve as trainers, but after 1945 many became kamikazes. Total production ran to 1,094 machines.

. LeO 451

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 36 feet, 1 inch; length, 29 feet, 11 inches; height, 11 feet, 6 inches

Weights: empty, 4,136 pounds; gross, 6,508 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,130-horsepower Nakajima NK1F radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 351 miles per hour; ceiling, 36,255 feet; range, 1,193 miles Armament: 2 x 7.7mm machine guns; 2 x 20mm cannon Service dates: 1940-1945


he legendary A6M (the dreaded Zero) was the first carrier-based fighter in history to outper­form land-based equivalents, and it arrived in greater quantities than any other Japanese aircraft. Despite the Zero’s aura of invincibility, better Allied machines gradually rendered it obsolete.

As early as 1937 the Imperial Japanese Navy began searching for a craft to replace its A5M carrier – based fighters. That year it issued specifications so stringent that only Mitsubishi was willing to hazard a design. Specifically, the navy wanted a fighter of prodi­gious range and maneuverability, one able to defeat bigger land-based opponents. A design team headed by Jiro Horikoshi originated a prototype in 1939. The A6M was a study in aerodynamic cleanliness despite its bulky radial engine. It had widetrack undercarriage for easy landing and was heavily armed with two cannons and two machine guns. Tests proved it possessed phe­nomenal climbing and turning ability, so it entered pro­duction in 1940, the Japanese year 5700. Henceforth, the new fighter was known officially as the Type 0, but it passed into history as the Reisen, or Zero.

A small production batch of 30 Zeroes was sent to China in the summer of 1940 for evaluation, and they literally swept the sky of Chinese opposi­tion. Such prowess was duly noted by Claire L. Chennault, future commander of the famed Flying Tigers, but his warnings were ignored. Zeroes sub­sequently spearheaded the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, and over the next six months they ran roughshod over all Allied op­position. However, following the Japanese defeat at Midway in June 1942, the fabled fighter lost much of its ascendancy to new Allied fighters and a growing shortage of experienced pilots. New and more powerful versions of the Zero were intro­duced to stem the tide, but relatively weak con­struction could not withstand mounting Allied fire­power. Furthermore, the additional weight of new weapons and equipment eroded its famous powers of maneuver. By 1945 most A6Ms had been con­verted into kamikazes in a futile attempt to halt the Allied surge toward the homeland. A total of 10,964 were constructed.

. LeO 451

Type: Medium Bomber; Torpedo-Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 82 feet; length, 53 feet, 11 inches; height, 12 feet, 1 inch

Weights: empty, 11,552 pounds; gross, 17,637 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,300-horsepower Mitsubishi Kinsei radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 258 miles per hour; ceiling, 33,725 feet; range, 3,871 miles

Armament: 4 x 7.7mm machine guns; 1 x 20mm cannon; 1,764 pounds of bombs or torpedoes

Service dates: 1937-1945


t the time of its appearance, the Nell was one of the world’s most advanced long-range bombers. It participated in many famous actions in World War II before assuming transport duties.

In 1934 Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, future head of the Japanese Combined Fleet, advocated develop­ment of long-range land-based naval bombers to com­pliment carrier-based aviation. That year Mitsubishi designed and flew the Ka 9, an unsightly but effective reconnaissance craft with great endurance. It owed more than a passing resemblance to Junkers’s Ju 86, as that firm had assisted Mitsubishi with the design. Now a team headed by Dr. Kiro Honjo developed that craft into the even more capable Ka 15. It was a twin – engine, midwing design with stressed skin through­out, twin rudders, and distinctive, tapered wings. Fol­lowing a succession of prototypes, it entered service in 1937 as the G3M. That year these bombers made history by launching the first transoceanic raids against the Chinese cities of Hankow and Nanking from their home island—convincing proof of Japan’s
burgeoning aerial prowess. Moreover, the G3M could also function as an effective torpedo-bomber, adding even greater punch to Japanese naval aviation. By the time World War II erupted in the Pacific in December 1941, the G3M formed the bulk of Japanese naval medium bomber strength. At that time it acquired the Allied designation Nell.

Three days after Pearl Harbor, G3Ms made world headlines when a force of 60 bombers helped sink the British battleships HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales off Malaysia. Several days later, Nells were among the first Japanese aircraft shot down by U. S. Navy fighters at Wake Island. The spring of 1942 then witnessed G3Ms functioning as parachute aircraft over the Dutch East Indies. Within months, however, revitalized Allied forces poured into the region, forcing the slow and under­armed Nells to sustain heavy losses. By 1942 most had ceased active combat operations and spent the rest of the war as transports. Production came to 1,048 machines.

. LeO 451

Type: Medium Bomber; Torpedo-Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 82 feet; length, 63 feet, 11 inches; height, 19 feet, 8 inches Weights: empty, 18,409 pounds; gross, 27,558 pounds Power plant: 2 x 1,825-horsepower Mitsubishi MK4T Kaisei radial engines Performance: maximum speed, 292 miles per hour; ceiling, 30,250 feet; range, 2,694 miles Armament: 4 x 7.7mm machine guns; 1 x 20mm cannon; 2,205 pounds of bombs or torpedoes Service dates: 1940-1945


he bulbous G4M was the most numerous and best-known Japanese medium bomber of World War II. It possessed incredible range, but its unar­mored fuel tanks led to the unenviable nickname “Flying Lighter.”

In 1937 the Imperial Japanese Navy issued an incredibly difficult specification mandating produc­tion of land-based bombers with even greater range than the superb G3M. Although such performance was usually attained by four-engine designs, the new craft was restricted to only two. That year Kiro Honjo commenced work on a machine whereby fuel capacity was emphasized to the exclusion of all other considerations. In 1939 the G4M prototype was flown as an all-metal, midwing design with rak­ish wings and tail surfaces melded to a rotund fuse­lage. As expected, the airplane performed well and possessed impressive range. However, this was achieved by stuffing as much fuel as possible into wing tanks that remained unarmored to save weight; crew armor was also deleted for the same reason. Nonetheless, the navy was highly pleased with the

G4M, and in 1940 it entered production. The follow­ing year they were baptized under fire in northern China, performing well against limited opposition. When the Pacific war broke out in December 1941, roughly 160 G4Ms were in service. Allied forces gave them the code name Betty.

The G4M came as quite a surprise to British and American forces, who believed themselves be­yond the reach of medium bombers. But in quick succession, G4Ms helped sink the battleships HMS Repulse and Prince of Wales, and they plastered airfields throughout the Philippines. It was not until the spring of 1942 that the Betty’s weakness was revealed. The very attributes endowing it with such long range caused it be destroyed by a few tracer rounds. The G4Ms took staggering losses during the Guadalcanal campaign, and the Japa­nese finally introduced self-sealing tanks and crew armor in subsequent versions. One of the last roles of the G4M would be to carry the Yokosuka MXY 7 Oka suicide rocket. Production totaled 2,416 of all versions.

. LeO 451

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 35 feet, 5 inches; length, 32 feet, 7 inches; height, 12 feet, 11 inches

Weights: empty, 5,423 pounds; gross, 8,695 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,820-horsepower Mitsubishi MK4R Kasei radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 371 miles per hour; ceiling, 38,385 feet; range, 655 miles

Armament: 4 x 20mm cannon

Service dates: 1944-1945


he J2M was a radical departure from traditional Japanese fighter design precepts, emphasizing speed and climb over maneuverability. Despite per­sistent engine problems, it matured into an effective bomber interceptor.

A 1939 Japanese navy specification outlined creation of an interceptor-fighter, the first acquired by that service. Foremost among design considera­tions was an ability to reach 20,000 feet in only six minutes. Jiro Horikoshi subsequently led a team that created a machine that emphasized climb and speed above all other attributes. The prototype arrived in March 1942 and differed completely from Japanese fighters then in service. The new craft was exceed­ingly squat and compact, with stubby, laminar-flow wings and a long-chord cowl. The canopy section was extremely curved while the radial engine, which was rather broad, was fitted with a streamlined re­duction assembly to reduce cowling surface area. The J2M’s first flights proved disappointing, as it was slower than anticipated, hard to handle, and difficult to see from. A complete overhaul was enacted to
correct these problems, but the engine chosen, the Mitsubishi Kasei, remained a source of endless teething problems. It was not until late 1943 that the J2M’s performance became acceptable, and it en­tered operations the following spring as the Raiden (Thunderbolt). Allies came to call the diminutive lit­tle powerhouse the Jack.

In service the Raiden was beset by continual technical problems, mostly arising from the Kasei en­gine. Unfortunately, thanks to U. S. bombing, no other power source could be made available. Thus, the Raiden never reached its full potential until the last months of the war, when the remaining bugs were worked out. It was then pitted against Boeing’s formidable B-29. The J2M was one of few Japanese aircraft that could engage heavy bombers at high alti­tude, and by virtue of its heavy armament, several kills were scored. It was fortunate for the Allies that the Jack’s development was prolonged, for postwar tests revealed it to be a formidable interceptor. More­over, it could outclimb any Allied fighter extant. Only 476 J2Ms were constructed before the war ended.

. LeO 451

Type: Medium Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 73 feet, 9 inches; length, 52 feet, 6 inches; height, 15 feet, 11 inches

Weights: empty, 13,382 pounds; gross, 23,391 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,500-horsepower Mitsubishi Ha-101 radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 301 miles per hour; ceiling, 32,810 feet; range, 1,678 miles

Armament: 5 x 7.7mm machine guns; 1 x 12.7mm machine gun; up to 2,205 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1938-1945


he Ki 21 was one of the world’s best bombers when it appeared in 1938, combining good speed and range into an attractive airframe. However, by World War II it was rapidly overtaken by more mod­ern designs.

In 1936 the Imperial Japanese Army issued de­manding specifications for a new bomber with five hours’ endurance and a cruising speed of 250 miles per hour. Mitsubishi accepted the challenge and in 1937 beat out a Nakajima competitor with the Ki 21. It was an extremely attractive, all-metal, midwing bomber with stressed skin. It featured retractable landing gear, and its most distinctive feature was a long greenhouse canopy for the rear gunner. In flight the Ki 21 was fast and very agile for its size. The army approved the Ki 21 as its new heavy bomber (although by Western standards it would be classi­fied as a medium bomber), and by 1938 the first units were deployed in China. During the next three years, Ki 21s did sterling service against weak Chi­nese defenses, although crews realized that stronger
defensives were needed. Mitsubishi then added a dorsal turret, ventral guns, and a remotely operated “tail stinger” in the rear. By 1941 the Ki 21 was the most important Japanese army bomber in service. Early in World War II it initially received the Allied designation Jane, a none-too-subtle reference to General Douglas MacArthur’s wife, but this was sub­sequently changed to Sally.

The Sally performed useful work during the initial phases of the Pacific war against scattered and disorganized Allied defenses. It flew in great numbers against Burma, the Philippines, Java, and northern Australia. However, within a year more ad­vanced British and American fighters began appear­ing, and lightly armed Ki 21s suffered disproportion­ate losses. Stronger engines and heavier armament were fitted on late-production models, but by 1943 the hardworking Sally had been surpassed by better machines. Thereafter and until the end of the war, it was employed in transport and training functions. A total of 2,062 were constructed.

. LeO 451

Type: Reconnaissance; Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 48 feet, 2 inches; length, 36 feet, 1 inch; height, 12 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 8,444 pounds; gross, 14,330 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,500-horsepower Mitsubishi Ha-112 II radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 391 miles per hour; ceiling, 34,450 feet; range, 2,485 miles

Armament: none

Service dates: 1941-1945


he beautiful Ki 46 was the among the most capa­ble reconnaissance aircraft of World War II. It performed critical intelligence work prior to the out­break of hostilities by mapping invasion routes and Allied defenses.

Commencing in 1937, the Japanese army em­ployed the Mitsubishi Ki 15 in China for reconnais­sance purposes. This single-engine craft did ex­tremely useful photographic work, although war planners realized a more modern airplane would be needed for a war with Western powers. Therefore, that same year they authorized Mitsubishi to com­mence research on a new twin-engine replacement for the Ki 15, with speed, altitude, and range taking precedence over all other considerations. A design team headed by Tomio Kubo then originated a proto­type that first flew in November 1939. This new ma­chine, the Ki 46, was startlingly beautiful to behold. It was a low-wing, all-metal affair with extremely rak­ish lines, a sharply pointed nose, and cleanly cowled engines. Test flights revealed it fell about 10 percent short of required performance, but it was still faster
than any Japanese fighter in service. The following year more powerful motors were installed, and the Ki 46 easily reached 35,000 feet at 350 miles per hour, with endurance of seven hours. When the Ki 46 en­tered production in 1941, it was the most outstanding reconnaissance craft in the world. During World War II it received the Allied designation Dinah.

Prior to the Pacific war, the Dinah flew clan­destine intelligence missions throughout Southeast Asia and the Pacific, carefully photographing Allied installations and the best invasion routes to reach them. It continued this work well into 1942, being so fast and high-flying that interception was virtually impossible. Eventually, improved Allied fighters began to take a toll on the earlier machines, so a new variant, the Ki 46 III, was introduced. It fea­tured a front canopy that was completely fared into the fuselage. This model flew so high and fast that a special bomber-interceptor version was introduced late in 1944. Dinahs continued excellent reconnais­sance work up through the end of hostilities. It was a truly outstanding aircraft for its time.

. LeO 451

Type: Medium Bomber; Torpedo-Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 73 feet, 9 inches; length, 61 feet, 4 inches, height, 25 feet, 3 inches

Weights: empty, 19,070 pounds; gross, 30,347 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,900-horsepower Mitsubishi Ha-104 radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 334 miles per hour; ceiling, 31,070 feet; range, 2,361 miles

Armament: 3 x 12.7mm machine guns; 1 x 20mm cannon; 2,350 pounds of bombs or torpedoes

Service dates: 1944-1945


he Ki 67 Hiryu was the best all-around Japanese bomber of World War II and possessed impres­sive speed and agility for its class. However, it ar­rived too late and in too few numbers to alter Japan’s military fate.

A spate of border clashes with the Soviet Union during the late 1930s convinced the Japanese military that it needed bombers with greater speed, range, and payload than existing models. In 1940 the army drafted demanding specifications for a new tactical bomber, and Mitsubishi responded with a prototype that first flew in December 1942. The Ki 67 was an all-metal, midwing machine with tapering wings and tail surfaces not unlike the earlier G4M bomber. However, the fuselage was much slimmer and more aerodynamically refined. The new craft also boasted ample armament and armor for the crew, along with self-sealing fuel tanks. The Ki 67 performed extremely well during flight tests, being fast and maneuverable for its size; it could even be
looped! The army was delighted and ordered it into production as the Hiryu (Flying Dragon). Experi­ments had shown that it excelled as a torpedo – bomber, so the navy also acquired the plane in quan­tity. Soon the Allies came to know this formidable machine as the Peggy.

In 1944 the Ki 67 debuted with naval units during the Battle of the Philippine Sea. They performed capa­bly, but their effectiveness was compromised by inex­perienced pilots and swarms of U. S. fighters. At length it was decided to produce a specialized kamikaze model operated by three crew members and outfitted with a nose boom that ignited explosives on impact. By this time the homeland was being ravaged by massed B-29 raids, so a high-altitude fighter version, the Ki 109, was also developed. This version mounted a 75mm cannon in a solid nose but, given Japan’s in­ability to obtain turbosuperchargers, it failed to reach the necessary altitudes. Peggys fought well until the end of the war; only 698 were built.

. LeO 451

Type: Trainer; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 25 feet, 10 inches; length, 58 feet, 7 inches; height, 14 feet, 5 inches Weights: empty, 14,017 pounds; gross, 30,203 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 5,115-pound thrust Rolls-Royce/Turbomeca turbojet engines Performance: maximum speed, 1,056 miles per hour; ceiling, 50,000 feet; range, 345 miles Armament: 1 x 20mm Gatling gun; up to 6,000 pounds of bombs and rockets Service dates: 1976-2000


he T 2/F 1 series was Japan’s first foray into super­sonic technology and the first warplanes con­structed there since 1945. Given the defensive-minded outlook of Japan, these imposing machines are offi­cially designated as “anti-landing craft” airplanes.

By 1967 the Japan Self Defense Force desired modern supersonic equipment to replace its Korean War-vintage North American F-86 Sabres. It also needed a more capable trainer to facilitate easier transition to Lockheed F-104 Starfighters and Mc – Donnell-Douglas F-4 Phantoms then being acquired. Accordingly, a design team under Dr. Kenji Ikeda conceived an aircraft not dissimilar in appearance and performance to the Northrop T-38 Talon and SEPECAT Jaguar trainers. The prototype T 2 emerged in 1971 with marked similarity to the ear­lier Jaguar and, in fact, utilized the same engines. It was a streamlined, high-wing machine with an ex­tremely pointed profile. Lacking ailerons, it obtains lateral control through the use of differential spoil­ers mounted in front of the flaps. The T 2 also em­
ploys variable-geometry lateral air intakes to opti­mize performance at high altitude. The type entered production in 1976, and a total of 90 were com­pleted. The T 2 also displays the maneuverability and handling qualities long associated with Japa­nese airplanes.

The next stage of the program’s evolution was to modify the T 2 into a high-performance strike fighter for antishipping/defensive purposes. This specification was precisely delineated, as the cur­rent Japanese constitution precludes offensive oper­ations and, hence, no attack aircraft are permitted. The first F 1 rolled out in 1975 as a machine very similar to the T 2. The most notable change was a fared-over rear canopy containing an advanced radar/navigation set. The first F 1s were delivered in 1977 and rapidly replaced the elderly F-86s. In ser­vice these aircraft proved themselves fast and reli­able strike platforms. A total of 77 were constructed, but they are eventually to be phased out by the more advanced FS-X.

. LeO 451

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 27 feet, 11 inches; length, 18 feet, 6 inches; height, 7 feet, 10 inches

Weights: empty, 928 pounds; gross, 1,431 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 150-horsepower Gnome Monosoupape rotary engine

Performance: maximum speed, 129 miles per hour; ceiling, 22,965 feet; range, 200 miles

Armament: 1 or 2 x 7.7mm machine guns

Service dates: 1918


he A 1 was an attractive machine, but a reputa­tion for structural weakness forestalled wide­spread service. However, it subsequently inspired a generation of French parasol fighters in the decades that followed.

In 1917 the firm of Morane-Saulnier decided to develop a new monoplane fighter to replace its novel but unsuccessful N model, or “Bullet.” The new craft, christened the A 1, was a handsome para­sol design with several unique features. The over­head wing was decidedly backswept and possessed large ailerons that cut forward into each wingtip. This assembly was then secured to the fuselage by an intricate series of bracing struts to withstand the stress of violent maneuvering. The fuselage itself possessed a circular cross-section and tapered rear­ward to a point. It was fabric-covered up to the dis­tinct metal cowling, a beautifully contoured piece sporting seven ventilation slots around the opening. The A 1 looked and flew impressively, so in the fall of 1917 it was ordered into production. Three mod­els were built; the MoS 27, which had one machine
gun; the MoS 29, which mounted two; and the MoS 30, an unarmed trainer.

The new fighter originally equipped three fighter escadrilles (squadrons) as of January 1918 but was withdrawn from combat a few months later. Apparently, several aircraft had been lost to structural failure, and it was also deemed under­powered. The 1,210 production machines conse­quently spent the remainder of the war as trainers. It was a standard French practice to take A 1s and strip large portions of their wing fabric, rendering them unflyable. Such craft, known as “Penguins,” were employed for taxiing instruction only. Post­war service largely refuted the A 1’s reputation for weakness. It became a favored stunt machine of French ace Charles Nungesser, and on February 25, 1928, Alfred Fronal consecutively looped his parasol fighter 1,111 times over a period of four hours without incident! But the greatest legacy of the A 1 was that it inspired Morane-Saulnier para­sol fighters like the MS 130 and MS 230 in the 1920s and 1930s.

. LeO 451

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 33 feet, 9 inches; length, 20 feet, 9 inches; height, 10 feet, 4 inches Weights: empty, 849 pounds; gross, 1,444 pounds Power plant: 1 x 80-horsepower Gnome rotary engine

Performance: maximum speed, 71 miles per hour; ceiling, 13,123 feet; range, 280 miles Armament: none, officially Service dates: 1914-1915


he fragile-looking Type L, nominally a reconnais­sance craft, became the world’s first successful “fighter” without ever intending to do so. Among its many victims was a giant German Zeppelin.

In 1913 the Morane-Saulnier firm initiated what would become a two-decade long obsession with parasol aircraft by designing the Model L. It was a functional, if indisputably ugly, machine with a single wing mounted high over the rectangular fuselage. The Model L did, in fact, possess lively performance for its day, and that year the Turkish government ordered 50 copies. These machines were seized by the French government following the start of World War I and hastily impressed into service. The seemingly harm­less two-seaters were originally intended for recon­naissance purposes until flight crews began arming themselves with rifles, pistols, and carbines. In this manner, several of the equally vulnerable German Al – batros and Aviatik reconnaissance aircraft were shot down in primitive aerial combat. The Morane-Saulnier Ls gave a good account of themselves until forced into retirement by more advanced German fighters in 1915.

Two incidents stand out in the history of this pioneer warplane. Of the 600 Type Ls constructed, several were exported to England for service with the Royal Navy Air Service. On June 7, 1915, Sub­Lieutenant R. A.J. Warneford encountered a huge German Zeppelin while patrolling over Bruges, Belgium. He valiantly dodged heavy machine gun­fire until reaching an altitude of 11,000 feet, above his intended victim. He then dove straight down, dropping six small bomblets and setting it afire. For destroying the first Zeppelin of the war, Warneford received the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest honor. Another famous name indelibly as­sociated with this craft was noted French aviator Roland Garros. Garros had installed a machine gun in his parasol that fired through the propeller arc in unsynchronized fashion. He claimed four German victims, but on April 19, 1915, Garros was himself shot down. The captured airplane inspired Anthony Fokker to invent a truly synchronized ma­chine gun; thus was born the “Fokker scourge” of the following year.

. LeO 451

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 34 feet, 9 inches; length, 26 feet, 9 inches; height, 9 feet, 9 inches Weights: empty, 4,189 pounds; gross, 5,445 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 860-horsepower Hispano-Suiza 12Y-21 liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 302 miles per hour; ceiling, 30,840 feet; range, 497 miles Armament: 2 x 7.5mm machine guns; 1 x 20mm cannon Service dates: 1939-1940


his mediocre design was the most numerous French fighter of World War II. Underpowered and underarmed, it subsequently saw service in the air forces of Switzerland, Croatia, and Finland.

In 1934 the Morane-Saulnier firm broke with its long practice of building parasol fighters by field­ing the company’s first monoplane aircraft. This was the prototype MS 405, a low-wing machine with fully retractable landing gear. It was the first French fighter to exceed 250 miles per hour in level flight, but retained many archaic features. Rather than breaking with tradition, the new craft employed steel-tube construction with fabric-covered control surfaces and aft fuselage. Its composite skin con­sisted of plymax—plywood bonded to aluminum, which covered the wings and forward fuselage. The braced tailplane and fixed tailskid also harkened back to an earlier age. The MS 405 first flew in 1935, but flight-testing was dreadfully slow, and three years lapsed before the craft entered production as the MS 406. Nonetheless, when World War II erupted
in September 1939, it was the most important French fighter available and fully equipped 12 groupes de chasse (fighter groups).

From the onset, the MS 406 proved markedly inferior to nimble German Messerschmitt Bf 109Es. It was slower, less robust, and possessed weaker firepower in the form of a 20mm cannon firing through the propeller hub and two 7.5mm machine guns. In its favor, the MS 406 did handle pleasantly, but that alone could not transform it into an effec­tive fighter. By the time of France’s collapse, MS 406s claimed 175 German airplanes at a loss of 400. As an indication of its poor reputation, the newly im­posed Vichy regime retained only one MS 406 unit in service and exported the remainder abroad. The biggest customers were Finland and Croatia, which refitted many MS 406s with more powerful Soviet engines for better performance. Total production amounted to 1,080 machines. The Swiss also subse­quently developed it into a series of domestic fight­ers, the D 3800.