Category Archives: Military Aircraft

Military Aircraft: South African Atlas Impala (Macchi MB-326) Military Aircraft 13 MAY 2015

My introduction to the Impala as a boy growing up in the 80’s was of course through promotional images of the Silver Falcons proudly flying these distinctive jet airplanes throughout the country. In other words, it is about time I featured the Impala on this site then!

south african airforce SAAF Atlas Impala Mk II

Introduced in 1962, the Aermacchi or Macchi MB-326 is a light military jet aircraft designed in Italy. Originally conceived as a two-seat trainer, there have also been single and two-seat light attack versions produced. It is one of the most commercially successful aircraft of its type, being bought by more than 10 countries and produced under licence in Australia, Brazil and South Africa. It set many category records, including an altitude record of 56,807 ft (17,315 m) on 18 March 1966. More than 600 were built.

Macchi MB-326 atlas impala jet fighter plane 2

South Africa obtained a license to produce the MB-326M (similar to the ‘G’ model), as the Impala Mk I in 1964 with production starting in 1966. It received 40 Italian-built aircraft followed by about 125 built locally by the Atlas Aircraft Corporation, using them both as trainers and in an armed configuration. Seven examples of the MB-326K were also bought as light attack aircraft, with a further 15 assembled from kits, while around 78 were license-produced and known as the Impala Mk II. Licence production of the single seat version began in 1974. The Impala Mk II, locally manufactured and equipped with French armament, was also advanced with a South African ECM suite.

Macchi MB-326 atlas impala jet fighter plane 3

The South African Defence Force employed Impalas during campaigns against the Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola (FAPLA) and Cuban expeditionary troops in Angola between 1975 and 1989. Impala pilots typically flew at 550–650 km/h at a height of 15 m to avoid Angolan air defences. Over the course of the South African Border War, one was downed by an SA-7; another returned with an unexploded missile in its exhaust.

Macchi MB-326 atlas impala jet fighter plane 4

The aircraft had many advantages over expensive supersonic jets. Although slower, it could operate take off from relatively primitive airfields and strike swiftly. The South African Air Force (SAAF) used up to 6 x 120 kg or 4 x 250 kg bombs. The main armament consisted of 68 mm SNEB rocket-launchers (four x 6 or two x 18), and two 30 mm autocannon (with 300 rounds). These cannons were the real bonus for the Impala Mk II, helping to give a superior performance compared to earlier two-seat versions. The latter could also carry a pair of 30 mm DEFA guns in under-wing pods. However, dual capability as trainer-attackers was better appreciated, as was the availability of six hard points and so dual-seat versions were far more common. Six squadrons were equipped with the Impala Mk II in the SAAF during the 1970s and 1980s. Prior to Operation Moduler, most Impalas were withdrawn from their operating bases in South-West Africa, leaving the work to Mirage IIIs and Blackburn Buccaneers.

Macchi MB-326 atlas impala jet fighter plane 5

Impala Mk IIs were also opportunistically used as interceptors. In several encounters in 1985 with Mi-8 and Mi-24 helicopters, they shot down a total of six. This happened during a crucial phase of the ground war, when Angolan and Cuban troops were checked in an offensive against UNITA bases. This ended in disaster for the Angolan/Cuban alliance when their supplies were cut off by UNITA and the SAAF and front line troops ran out of ammunition. Helicopters were being used to supply the besieged troops and the SAAF cut off this link. Two Mi-24s were shot down in the first encounter while escorting Mi-17s. The MiG-21s that escorted them flew too high to react in time. Two days later the Impala Mk IIs struck again, downing two Mi-24s and two Mi-17s. Attacks on unsuspecting helicopters were carried out with only two guns per aircraft. The single seat Impala Mk IIs were also sometimes armed with Matra R550 Magic air-to-air missiles for self-defense. The Impala Mk II operated at extreme ranges and had to fly very low, climbing only when helicopters were seen at medium altitude. After each attack they returned to low level to avoid interception by enemy MiGs.

And as I started this whole passage off, the Silver Falcons, the SAAF aerobatic team, were of course equipped with Impala Mk Is for a long period of time as well.

Macchi MB-326 atlas impala jet fighter plane 6 silver falcons aerobatic team impala

Related Link: Wikipedia | SAAF

Military Aircraft: British Avro Shackleton Military Aircraft 02 MAY 2015

The Avro Shackleton was a British long-range maritime patrol aircraft for use by the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the South African Air Force (SAAF). It was developed by Avro from the Avro Lincoln bomber, itself being a development of the famous wartime Avro Lancaster bomber. The type is named after the polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton.

Avro Shakleton maritime patrol aircraft in flight 1

Entering service with the RAF in 1951, the Shackleton was used primarily in the anti-submarine warfare and maritime patrol aircraft roles; it also became used as a search and rescue platform and for performing several other secondary roles such as being a troop-transport. In later life, a small number of the RAF’s Shackletons were subsequently adapted for airborne early warning duties, performing in this capacity until the type’s retirement in 1991. The Shackleton was also procured by South Africa, and would be operated by the SAAF between 1957 and 1984.

Avro Shakleton maritime patrol aircraft in flight 2

The Shackleton was a purpose-built aircraft for the maritime patrol role; however, the legacy of Avro’s preceding aircraft is present in many aspects of the overall design. The center section of the Shackleton’s wing originates from the Lincoln, while the outer wing and undercarriage were sourced from the Tudor outer wings; at one stage during development, the tail plane had closely resembled the Lincoln’s, but were enlarged and changed soon after. An entirely new fuselage was adopted, being wider and deeper to provide a large space in which to accommodate the crew, their equipment, and a large bomb-bay. Later variants of the Shackleton were substantially redesigned, adopting a new nose-wheel undercarriage, redesigned wings and center-section, and a larger fuel capacity for more range.

Avro Shakleton maritime patrol aircraft in flight 3

Various armaments and equipment was carried by the Shackleton in order to perform its missions. In ASW operations, the ASV Mk 13 radar was the primary detection tool; it could detect a destroyer at a range of 40 nautical miles, a surfaced submarine at 20 nautical miles, and a submarine’s conning tower at 8 nautical miles, although rough seas considerably reduced the radar’s effectiveness. Other equipment included droppable sonobuoys, electronic warfare support measures, an Autolycus diesel fume detection system and an magnetic anomaly detector (MAD) system. A special camera bay housed several reconnaissance cameras capable of medium altitude and night time vertical photography, and low-altitude oblique photography. The crew would also perform visual searches using various lookout positions that were provided for this purpose.

Weapons carried included up to nine bombs, three homing torpedoes or depth-charges; the aircraft also had two 20 mm cannon in a Bristol dorsal turret. An in-flight refueling receptacle could be accommodated, but was not fitted on production aircraft.

Sierra Exif JPEG

During the Second World War, the importance of securing the sea routes around the Cape of Good Hope had been made apparent, with over a hundred vessels being sunk in South African waters by enemy vessels between 1942 and 1945. In the post-war situation, the South African Air Force sought a large and capable platform to perform the maritime patrol role. After evaluating four RAF MR 2s in 1953, an order was placed for eight Shackletons as a replacement for the SAAF’s aging Short Sunderland maritime patrol aircraft. Modifications were required to fulfill South African conditions and requirements, such as the ability to operate over the Indian Ocean, the resulting aircraft was designated as the Shackleton MR 3.

On 18 August 1957, the first two Shackletons were delivered to D.F. Malan Airport, Cape Town. Two more followed on 13 October 1957 and the remainder arrived in February 1958. Delivered to the same basic standard as the RAF’s MR 3s, they were assigned single letter codes between “J” and “Q” and operated by 35 Squadron SAAF. The type typically patrolled the sea lanes around the Cape of Good Hope, often monitoring Soviet vessels traversing between the Indian and Atlantic oceans. The Shackleton was briefly used in low-level overland patrols along the Southern Rhodesian border, but these duties ended following concerns of the disturbance of wildlife.

Often, the Shackleton would be called into perform search and rescue operations in the treacherous waters around the cape. In March 1971, Shackletons successfully intervened in the SS Wafra oil spill, deliberately sinking the stricken oil tanker with depth charges in order to prevent an ecological disaster. The only operational loss incurred was 1718 K, which crashed into the Wemmershoek mountains at night time on 8 August 1963 with the loss of all 13 crew.

Avro Shakleton maritime patrol aircraft in flight 5

Due to an embargo imposed by the United Nations over South Africa’s policy of apartheid, acquiring components for the Shackleton fleet became increasingly difficult and thus the aircraft’s serviceability suffered. The fleet had been modified to Phase III standards prior to the implementation of the arms embargo, albeit without the auxiliary Viper engine. Two of the aircraft were re-sparred, 1716 J in the United Kingdom and 1717 O in South Africa by the SAAF, but the lack of engine spares and tyres, together with airframe fatigue, took a gradual toll. By November 1984, the fatigue lives of all but the two re-sparred aircraft had expired and the fleet was retired into storage.

Avro Shakleton maritime patrol aircraft in flight over beach

Although the joke has been applied to several aircraft, the Shackleton was often described as “a hundred thousand rivets flying in close formation.”

Related Link: Wikipedia | SAAF

Military Aircraft: British de Havilland DH.115 Vampire Military Aircraft 21 APR 2015

The de Havilland DH.100 Vampire was a British jet fighter developed and manufactured by de Havilland. Having been developed during the Second World War to harness the newly developed jet engine, the Vampire entered service with the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1945. It was the second jet fighter, after the Gloster Meteor, operated by the RAF and its first to be powered by a single jet engine.

south african airforce saaf de havilland dh.115 vampire trainer jet aircraft 1

The RAF used the Vampire as a front line fighter until 1953 before it assumed secondary roles such as pilot training. It was retired by the RAF in 1966, replaced by the Hawker Hunter and Gloster Javelin. It achieved several aviation firsts and records, including being the first jet aircraft to cross the Atlantic Ocean. The Vampire had many export sales and was operated by various air forces. It participated in subsequent conflicts such as the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the Malayan emergency and the Rhodesian Bush War.

south african airforce saaf de havilland dh.115 vampire trainer jet aircraft 2

Almost 3,300 Vampires were manufactured, a quarter of them built under licence in other countries. The Royal Navy’s first jet fighter was the Sea Vampire, a navalised variant which was operated from its aircraft carriers. The Vampire was developed into the DH.115 dual-seat trainer and the more advanced DH.112 Venom ground-attack and night fighter.

south african airforce saaf de havilland dh.115 vampire trainer jet aircraft 3

The South African Airforce (SAAF) operated the DH.115 Vampire as primarily a trainer, with a period of service stretching from 1953 to 1978.

south african airforce saaf de havilland dh.115 vampire trainer jet aircraft 4

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Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Havilland_Vampire | SAAF

Military Aircraft: German Messerschmitt Bf 109E-3 (1938) Military Aircraft 06 FEB 2015

The Messerschmitt Bf 109, sometimes incorrectly called the Me 109 (most often by Allied pilots and aircrew), was a German World War II fighter aircraft designed by Willy Messerschmitt and Robert Lusser during the early to mid-1930s. The “Bf 109” Designation was issued by the German ministry of aviation and represents the developing company Bayrische Flugzeugwerke (at which the engineer Messerschmidt led the development of the plane) and a rather arbitrary figure. It was one of the first truly modern fighters of the era, including such features as all-metal monocoque construction, a closed canopy, a retractable landing gear, and was powered by a liquid-cooled, inverted-V12 aero engine.

The Bf 109 first saw operational service during the Spanish Civil War and was still in service at the dawn of the jet age at the end of World War II, during which time it was the backbone of the Luftwaffe’s fighter force. From the end of 1941, the Bf 109 was steadily being supplemented by the superior Focke-Wulf Fw 190.

Originally conceived as an interceptor, later models were developed to fulfill multiple tasks, serving as bomber escort, fighter-bomber, day-, night-, all-weather fighter, ground-attack aircraft, and as reconnaissance aircraft. It was supplied to and operated by several states during World War II, and served with several countries for many years after the war. The Bf 109 was the most produced fighter aircraft in history, with a total of 33,984 airframes produced from 1936 up to April 1945.

The Bf 109 was flown by the three top-scoring German fighter aces of World War II, who claimed 928 victories among them while flying with Jagdgeschwader 52, mainly on the Eastern Front, as well as by Hans-Joachim Marseille, the highest scoring German ace in the North African Campaign, scoring 158 victories. It was also flown by several other aces from Germany’s allies, notably Finn Ilmari Juutilainen, the highest scoring non-German ace on the type with 58 victories flying the Bf 109G, and pilots from Italy, Romania, Croatia, Bulgaria and Hungary. Through constant development, the Bf 109 remained competitive with the latest Allied fighter aircraft until the end of the war.

german fighter plane messerschmitt Bf 109E

In late 1938, the Bf 109E entered production. To improve on the performance afforded by the 441–515 kW (600–700 PS) Jumo 210, the larger, longer Daimler-Benz DB 601A engine was used, yielding an extra 223 kW (300 PS) at the cost of an additional 181 kg (400 lb). A much bigger cooling area was needed to disperse the extra heat generated by the DB 601 and this led to the first major redesign of the basic airframe. Enlarging the existing nose mounted radiator sufficiently to cool the engine would have created extra weight and drag, negating some of the performance gains afforded by the increased power, so it was decided to move the main radiators to beneath the wings’ undersurfaces immediately outboard of the juncture between the wing root and wing panel, just forward of the trailing edges’ inner ends, leaving the oil cooler under the nose in a small, streamlined duct. The new radiator position also had the effect of counterbalancing the extra weight and length of the DB 601, which drove a heavier three-bladed VDM propeller.

To incorporate the new radiators the wings were almost completely redesigned and reinforced, with several inboard ribs behind the spar being cut down to make room for the radiator ducting. Because the radiators were now mounted near the trailing edge of the wing, coinciding with the increased speed of the airflow accelerating around the wing’s camber, the overall cooling installation was more efficient than that of the Jumo engined 109s, albeit at the cost of extra ducting and piping, which could be vulnerable to battle damage. In addition the lowered undercarriage could throw up mud and debris on wet airfields, potentially clogging the radiators.

The E-3 was armed with the two MG 17s above the engine and one MG FF cannon in each wing. A total of 1,276 E-3 were built, including 83 E-3a export versions.

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messerschmitt_Bf_109

Military Aircraft: Swedish Saab JAS 39 Gripen (1997) Military Aircraft 01 JAN 2014

The Saab JAS 39 Gripen (Griffin) is a lightweight single-engine multi-role fighter jet manufactured by the Swedish aerospace company Saab. It was designed to replace the Saab 35 Draken and 37 Viggen in the Swedish Air Force (Flygvapnet). The Gripen has a delta wing and canard configuration with relaxed stability design and fly-by-wire technology. It is powered by the Volvo-Flygmotor RM12 engine, a derivative of the General Electric F404, and has a top speed of Mach 2. Later aircraft are equipped for in-flight refuelling; most of the export aircraft have been designed to be compatible with NATO interoperability standards.

A further development of the Gripen, often referred to as Gripen NG or Super Gripen, is in development as of 2013. Amongst the changes includes the adoption of a new powerplant, the General Electric F414G, an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, and significantly increased onboard fuel capacity. Other derivatives, including a navalised Sea Gripen for carrier operations and an optionally-manned aircraft capable of unmanned operations, have also been proposed by Saab.

This particular shot captures one of the South African Air Force’s recently purchased Gripen Jets flying above the Union Buildings, Pretoria.

Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighter jet flying over Union Buildings in Pretoria South Africa

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saab_JAS_39_Gripen

Military Aircraft: American McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle (1976) Military Aircraft 09 NOV 2013

The McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F-15 Eagle is a twin-engine, all-weather tactical fighter designed by McDonnell Douglas to gain and maintain air superiority in aerial combat. It is considered among the most successful modern fighters, with over 100 aerial combat victories with no losses in dogfights.

Following reviews of proposals, the United States Air Force selected McDonnell Douglas’ design in 1967 to meet the service’s need for a dedicated air superiority fighter. The Eagle first flew in July 1972, and entered service in 1976. Since the 1970s, the Eagle has been exported to Israel, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and other nations. The F-15 was originally envisioned as a pure air superiority aircraft. Its design included a secondary ground-attack capability that was largely unused.

The design proved flexible enough that an all-weather strike derivative, the F-15E Strike Eagle, was later developed, and entered service in 1989.

american McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McDonnell_Douglas_F-15_Eagle

Military Aircraft: Russian Mil Mi-24 SuperHind Mk.II (1972) Military Aircraft 07 AUG 2013

The Mil Mi-24 (NATO reporting name: Hind) is a large helicopter gunship and attack helicopter and low-capacity troop transport with room for eight passengers. It is produced by Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant and operated since 1972 by the Soviet Air Force, its successors, and more than 30 other nations.

The core of the aircraft was derived from the Mil Mi-8 (NATO reporting name “Hip”): two top-mounted turboshaft engines driving a mid-mounted 17.3 m five-blade main rotor and a three-blade tail rotor. The engine configuration gave the aircraft its distinctive double air intake. Original versions have an angular greenhouse-style cockpit; Model D and later have a characteristic tandem cockpit with a “double bubble” canopy.

Other airframe components came from the Mi-14 “Haze”. Two mid-mounted stub wings provide weapon hardpoints, each offering three stations, in addition to providing lift. The load-out mix is mission dependent; Mi-24s can be tasked with close air support, anti-tank operations, or aerial combat.

The body is heavily armored and can resist impacts from .50 caliber (12.7 mm) rounds from all angles, including the titanium rotor blades. The cockpit is protected by ballistic-resistant windscreens and a titanium-armored tub. The cockpit and crew compartment are overpressurized to protect the crew in NBC conditions

Mi-24 SuperHind Mk.II (pictured here) is a modern western avionics upgrade produced by South African company Advanced Technologies and Engineering (ATE).

Military Aircraft Russian Mil Mi-24 SuperHind Mk II

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mil_Mi-24

Military Aircraft: American Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress (1938) Military Aircraft 06 AUG 2013

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is a four-engine heavy bomber aircraft developed in the 1930s for the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC).

The B-17 was primarily employed by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) in the daylight precision strategic bombing campaign of World War II against German industrial and military targets. The United States Eighth Air Force, based at many airfields in southern England, and the Fifteenth Air Force, based in Italy, complemented the RAF Bomber Command’s nighttime area bombing in the Combined Bomber Offensive to help secure air superiority over the cities, factories and battlefields of Western Europe in preparation for the invasion of France in 1944. The B-17 also participated to a lesser extent in the War in the Pacific, early in World War II, where it conducted raids against Japanese shipping and airfields.

From its pre-war inception, the USAAC (later USAAF) touted the aircraft as a strategic weapon; it was a potent, high-flying, long-range bomber that was able to defend itself, and to return home despite extensive battle damage. It quickly took on mythic proportions, and widely circulated stories and photos of B-17s surviving battle damage increased its iconic status. With a service ceiling greater than any of its Allied contemporaries, the B-17 established itself as an effective weapons system, dropping more bombs than any other U.S. aircraft in World War II.

Of the 1.5 million metric tons of bombs dropped on Germany and its occupied territories by U.S. aircraft, 640,000 tons were dropped from B-17s

Military Aircraft American Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_B-17_Flying_Fortress

Military Aircraft: American Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor (2005) Military Aircraft 30 JUL 2013

The Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22 Raptor is a single-seat, twin-engine fifth-generation super-maneuverable fighter aircraft that uses stealth technology. It was designed primarily as an air superiority fighter, but has additional capabilities that include ground attack, electronic warfare, and signals intelligence roles.

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics is the prime contractor and is responsible for the majority of the airframe, weapon systems and final assembly of the F-22. Program partner Boeing Defense, Space & Security provides the wings, aft fuselage, avionics integration, and training systems.

The aircraft was variously designated F-22 and F/A-22 during the years prior to formally entering USAF service in December 2005 as the F-22A. Despite a protracted and costly development period, the United States Air Force considers the F-22 a critical component of U.S. tactical air power, and claims that the aircraft is unmatched by any known or projected fighter

american Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor flying over snowy mountains

Related Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_Martin_F-22_Raptor