Tailhook Topics

by Tommy H. Thomason

Monday, September 25, 2017

Douglas A3D-2P/RA-3B/ERA-3B Skywarrior

Douglas built less than 300 A3D Skywarriors but its family tree had many branches. For a summary, click HERE

Phil Clayton is building the Trumpeter ERA-3B kit with the Steel Beach update set and asked for clarification on the location of some of the details. That led me down the usual rabbit hole of research in the process of resolving some issues that I uncovered in the process of answering his questions.

I hadn't spent much time on the ERA-3B (not to be confused with the EKA-3B, which was a derivative of the bomber) because it was restricted from carrier operations and fulfilled a vital but peripheral Navy mission, training the crews of Navy ships and aircraft to operate in a hostile electronic-warfare environment.

All eight ERA-3Bs were originally delivered as A3D-2Ps, a photo-reconnaissance "Version" of the A3D-2 bomber. Like the other Versions, the interior had been permanently rearranged to provide a cabin aft of the cockpit.
In the case of the A3D-2P, the cabin was divided into two compartments, one for cameras and the other for photo-flash cartridges and bombs, separated by a bulkhead.

Another distinctive feature was the addition of a periscope sighting system providing a downward view through windows on the underside of the radome.
The view ports dominated the instrument panel.
The long narrow fairing on the lower side of the fuselage housed the doors that could cover the camera ports as did similar ones on the belly.

When the RA-3Bs began to be supplanted by the supersonic RA-5Cs for reconnaissance, four were repurposed in the early 1970s to be ERA-3B electronic-warfare aggressors, BuNos 144827, 144832, 146446, and 146447. Note that the last two were delivered with the Cambered Leading Edge (CLE) wing, readily identified by the addition of a leading edge slat between the wing and the fuselage.
The major external modifications were the addition of a "canoe" on the belly like the EA-3B's; four ram-air turbines, two on each side of the fuselage, for additional electrical power; a extended aft fuselage for chaff dispensing; flare/chaff dispensers on the lower sides of the aft fuselage; and several antennas.
The bulkhead between the camera compartment and the bomb bay was removed and crew seats added for two equipment operators.
An escape hatch (19 above) was added above the aft compartment.
In the early 1980s, four more RA-3Bs were converted to the ERA-3B configuration, BuNos 142668. 144838, 144841, and 144846. However, these appear to have been delivered with a smaller canoe, a different tail cap, different antennas mounted on the sides of the fuselage in four locations, and a different antenna under the nose.
Rick Morgan Photo

Of the original four ERA-3Bs, at least BuNo 146446 and 7 were converted to this configuration.

An excellent walkaround of a moldering 146447 by Bill Spidle can be found HERE. Note that its RAT hubs and propellers have been replaced by a conical fairing. It was not unusual to see one or even two RATs on operational ERA-3Bs with the fairing.

The Trumpeter A-3 series continues to disappoint. A detailed build article of the ERA-3B kit (the early configuration) by Philip Cavender is provided HERE

Note that it's missing two of the four RATs and numerous antennas. Not apparent from this angle, but the radome leaves a lot to be desired as well. The kit's cabin is also taken directly from the EA-3B kit, so it has four seats instead of two, but since nothing can be seen of it, that's a moot point.

However, Steel Beach has come to the rescue with an accessory kit for the later configuration (small canoe, etc.) reviewed by Haagen Klaus HERE

The Steel Beach ECM pods appear to have the ALQ-99"s outwardly bulged lower sides rather than the flat-sided ALQ-76 pods that were carried by the ERA-3B according to Rick Morgan. Another stores option is the ALQ-167 "Bullwinkle" pod, an example of which is in the Revell F-14D kit.

The Trumpeter engine nacelles are inaccurate but might be acceptable to most given all of the other inaccuracies. However, an excellent replacement set is available from HYPERSONIC

The Trumpeter canopy is equally off-putting. Hypersonic has a replacement in work but availability is TBD.

More later after comments are provided by my subject-matter experts...

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Things Under Wings - Before Douglas High-Speed External Tanks

 I've updated my post on the 150 and 300-gallon tanks in use before the introduction of the Douglas high-speed tanks thanks to research by David Collier. See https://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2016/09/things-under-wings-post-war-external.html

Monday, August 21, 2017

F-4 Phantom ACLS Radar Reflector

ACLS is the initialism for Automatic Carrier Landing System. For more, see http://thanlont.blogspot.com/2011/07/look-no-hands.html

Up until now, I'd never seen a good picture of the radar reflector as incorporated on the F-4 Phantom although I'm sure there must be one or more in the F-4 books that I don't have. This was the best I could come up with. There was a door under the nose and a corner reflector extended from the compartment it was housed in.

Thanks to Angelo Romano, we now have one:
It took me a few minutes to figure out how it folded up even with this illustration in hand, which depicts the reflector from behind:
If you look closely at Angelo's picture above, there is a line on the panel on the left (on the right side of the F-4) that shows where it folds in half. It is then sandwiched between the upper panel and the one on the right to form a very compact package that can be stored in the space available.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Relying on Museum Pieces for Accuracy Part 3

Restored airplanes, either static or warbirds, can lead a kit manufacturer and/or modeler astray from an accuracy standpoint. Missing parts, ersatz replacement parts, flat oleo struts, one-off test program modifications, etc. have all resulted in kits and built models with errors. Sometimes, however, what's there is ignored or disbelieved. A case in point is the Douglas AD (A-1) Skyraider vertical stabilizer.

In addition to thrust, the propeller on a single-engine airplane creates other forces that must be taken into account. Consider the following for a propeller turning clockwise from the pilot's point of view. When the propeller is inclined nose up to the relative airflow, the down-going blade produces more thrust on that side than the other, resulting in a turning moment to the left (this effect is known as P-factor). The turning propeller also creates torque, causing the airplane to roll to the left; opposing this requires right stick, which increases lift on the left wing and therefore potentially drag and a turn to the left (some aileron-control designs compensate for this). When the airplane is on its takeoff roll, the torque also puts more pressure and therefore more drag on the tire on the left side of the airplane, causing a turn to the left. The swirl from the propeller, equivalent to downwash from a wing, impinges on the vertical fin, pushing it to the right and therefore the nose to the left.

In other words, a lot of right rudder (which results in a turn to the right) can be required to oppose these forces that cause a left turn. They change with the throttle setting and, in the case of P-factor, angle of attack. More powerful engines and bigger, heavier propellers result in higher forces. The flight-control forces to counteract them decreases with airspeed. As a result, the designer of a powerful single-engine, propeller-pulled airplane sometimes provides a built-in assist like a vertical fin with the leading edge angled left, providing a right rudder effect.

The Douglas AD (A-1) Skyraider incorporates such a feature, with the fin angled left at three degrees.

You'll note that the fin also appears to have a cambered airfoil, creating lift to the right as in the application of left rudder. My guess is that this isn't as effective at low speeds during a high-power wave-off as the angling of the fin to the left (right rudder) but is important in a dive (the AD was designed as a dive bomber) when the fin angle created too much "right rudder" at that low angle of attack, reduced throttle setting condition at fairly high speed.

This is my picture of the fin of the AD Skyraider at the National Naval Aviation Museum that shows the airfoil and the angle to the left relative to the dorsal fin that can be seen forward of the red anti-collision beacon.

Byron (SpadGuy) Hukee (see http://skyraider.org/) provided this picture of a Skyraider's rudder.
If you look closely, you'll see a kink in the trailing edge of the rudder just above the location of the horizontal stabilizer. You'll also note a difference in the fairing of the fuselage into the fin between the left and right sides of the airplane.

An even more striking example was provided by Ed Barthelmes (see https://www.amazon.com/1-Skyraider-Walk-Around-No/dp/0897474295) of the AD-5's vertical fin leading edge. Its air inlet and dorsal fin provide an excellent perspective of the fin's offset to the left side of the fuselage.

The old Airfix 1/72 kit of the AD Skyraider incorporated this feature. Some modelers have erroneously gone to the trouble of removing it...

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Relying on Museum Examples for Detail Accuracy: Part 2

Today's example is the gorgeous "F7U-3M" at the National Naval Aviation Museum at Pensacola.
This picture is from the walkaround section of Britmodeller curated by Julien and in this case credited to Bootneck Mike. For more, see http://www.britmodeller.com/forums/index.php?/topic/234949143-vought-f7u-cutlass/

I hadn't noticed it until F7U expert Al Casby of Project Cutlass pointed it out to me, but the external tanks are almost certainly bogus. External tanks are not often seen on the F7U-3 (even though it was short on endurance) but if present, they would have been either the standard Douglas-design AERO 150-gallon tanks, the very similar Fletcher 150-gallon tank, or the bespoke belly-mounted tank. These tanks have no fins and their afterbody has a distinctive upward sweep.
 Don Hinton Photo Cropped

 I suspect that they are either the 200-gallon tank that was carried by F-86s.
Or even more likely, given the flange on the left side of the NNAM tank, the one for the F-100s (see http://www.supersabre.com/200GallonTank.htm).

Note that this F7U was delivered to the Pensacola museum with these tanks installed so they weren't a goof by the workshop at the National Naval Aviation Museum.

These are what the F7U-3 tanks should look like:
Note that the pod under the belly was also a fuel tank that could be jettisoned. (A very similar pod could be carried in its place that contained 2.75-inch folding fin rockets.)

For other detail issues with this airplane from an accuracy standpoint, see http://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2015/08/its-not-that-easy-to-get-it-right.html

Friday, July 21, 2017

F-111B Monograph: Buyer Beware

Steve Ginter was my first and still favorite publisher. See http://www.ginterbooks.com/

I prefer to write about the also-ran, unappreciated, much-maligned aircraft that were not flown by operational squadrons. Few publishers would consider even a paperback monograph on one of those little-known (in most cases for pretty good reasons) programs. Steve has been willing to front the printing of a monograph on whatever esoteric loser I am interested in writing about, which has sometimes been a loser from his standpoint as well. (You would do us both a favor if you'd order my excellent—don't just take my word for it; see the review on Amazon—monograph on the XFL-1 Airabonita, http://www.ginterbooks.com/NAVAL/NF81.htm from him. He has plenty.)

He did finally sell all of my F-111B monographs that he printed, mainly because that was almost 20 years ago. You'll see that he doesn't include it on his website.

However, it is for sale on Amazon. Unfortunately, some of what is being sold is not one of the originals but a "print-on-demand" version. I haven't seen one but I've been told that that at least some are not very good reproductions, indifferently reproduced on low-quality paper. There is now a review on Amazon to that effect. A known purveyor of them has graciously agreed to stop at my request, but I'm not sure that was the only supplier and of course there are the extant copies.

What to do? I have no control over what's out there and legal action would be a waste of time and money. I can only suggest that you ensure that what you're buying is an original, unless of course you don't need good quality pictures.

For a limited time, you can also buy the monograph directly from me, which will include a multi-page errata document that corrects and augments information in it. For a quote, email me at tommythomason@sbcglobal.net.

Friday, June 23, 2017

F3D (F-10) Skyknight Post Synopsis

Unfortunately, the "Whale" doesn't get the respect it deserves. Portly and underpowered from the beginning, it eventually received one of the most derogatory nicknames of all time, "Drut". However, it may well have been the longest-serving combat airplane used by the US military during the Vietnam War (depending on how you keep score, the C-47 might have that title).

I've recently updated one of my posts on the F3D for the variations in the overhead hatch configuration: http://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2015/04/the-f3ds-of-flying-nightmares-in-korea.html

Two of my other posts on the F3D may also be of interest: