Tuesday, 3 May 2016

The First Jets - Huckebein

Red 4 & Yellow 4, two Focke-Wulf TA183 Huckebein in dangerously close formation at high altitude

After the failure of the Flitzer Project, Focke Wulf turned back to the 183. This was a true swept wing design. Swept wings reduce drag and the formation of shock waves as a plane approaches the speed of sound, i.e. transonic speeds.

The 183 had the usual problem of the poor quality early jet engines being unable to cope with long air intakes, hence the short body. So the tail had to be thrown back leading to doubts about flutter. The 183 prototype was still under construction when British troops captured the factory in April, 1945.

German designers knew more about swept wing designs than anybody else but a true understanding of the maths didn't come until later. Swept wings are fast but they introduce a whole new set of problems. Firstly landing speeds go up and the 183 would have had a narrow track landing configuration as there was no room in the thin wings for the wheels. Couple this to makeshift airfields and you have potential issues.

IAe 33 Pulqui II

The 183 would have had a 600mph top speed and a 47K' ceiling but would it have worked? The omens are not good.

After the war, Tank moved to Argentina and designed the IAe 33 Pulqui II as a successor to the pedestrian but functional Meteor. The plane is a reworked 183, with a British engine allowing a longer body.

And it was a dog with awful stability and wing-tip stall issues.

 As a swept wing plane approaches stall speed, it loses lift from the wing tips, changing the centre of gravity and pushing the nose up, increasing the stall in a vicious positive feedback.

Korean war jets.

The landing behaviour of the Sabre gave rise to an all new problem for pilots - the Sabre Dance. Apparently watching novices porpoise towards the runway on landing approach became quite a spectator sport.

The British-engined MIG 15, probably the best of the early swept wing fighters, used a wonderfully Slavic crude but effective way to control the Sabre Dance: runners on the wings that stopped the air sliding down and off the wing tip.

Hawker Hunter

The next generation of western transonic fighters had 'notches' in the wing leading edge which had much the same effect as the MIG's runners.

As far as I know, neither of these fixes were known to German jet designers in the 1940s.

Grumman X29 research aircraft

The Germans did experiment with forward-swept wings which avoid the wingtip stall issue all together by stalling first at the wing roots. So why has no one ever built a forward-swept wing fighter?

Well, in a sharp climb the wings warp and the nose lifts, tending to push the plane into a stall.

At least one American transonic fighter made the wing tips wider than the wing root, which also helped to prevent wing tip stall.

And so it goes.

English Electric Lightning going supersonic: look where the shock waves form, wing tips and the cockpit area.

Designers did eventually get it right. The Lightning was the ultimate supersonic swept wing but it wasn't really a fighter. It was a point-defence interceptor where speed and rate of climb trumped all other factors. It had the same function as the Me 163 rocket plane.

Along with the Bloodhound rocket/jet powered missile the Lightning was the last ditch defence of the dispersed British V Bomber airfields. It's job was to keep away Soviet nuclear bombers just long enough for the V Bombers to get airborne and clear.

The Lightning had to use braking parachutes to land and we lost one a month to crashes in the 60s but it climbed at a near vertical inclination straight off the runway. And by God it was fast.

So would the FW 183 been part of the Wonderwaffe? Only if they had ten more years to get it right.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Proofs for Tabletop Wargames

Just been through the proofs for Tabletop Wargames. Very clean copy from Pen & Sword so only found a few and they are probably mine!

Daniel Mersey, of Lion Rampant fame did the layout.

It will be fun to see if readers can detect which bits are mine and which are Rick's.

All on track to be out in September this year.

The book is currently on preorder.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

The First New Doctor Who Miniatures

 10th Doctor, Martha & Wilfred

The first of the new Warlord Doctor Who licenced minis have been painted up.

Judoon - the Inter-Galactic Police


I don't know the names of the sculptors and painters but......RESPECT!

The scale is 'heroic' 28mm.

Friday, 15 April 2016

The First Jets - Spider Crab and Flitzer

Models by Revell, painted and photographed by author.

The ramshackle mess that passed for government in Nazi Germany could not bring itself to admit that they would soon need air defences so fighter aircraft had a low priority and the Me 109, a 1934 design, soldiered on in increasingly hostile skies.

Meanwhile the German fighter designers amused themselves by churning out ever more exotic designs, each seemingly trying to outdo the other in bizarre innovation. Focke-Wulf had two promising jet fighter designs among the myriad paper studies of 1943, the type 5 & 6. The Type 6 was nicknamed 'Flitzer'.

The Flitzer adopted wing root air intakes and a short body reducing the distance from air intakes to  the jet exhaust. Early jets were extremely inefficient if fed by long tubes, which is why the 262 and Meteor had wing mounted engines. The tail plane was mounted on two booms clear of the jet exhaust. Increasing power allowed the use of one engine rather than two.

In July '44, not even the Nazis could ignore the daylight bomber raids and the order went out for the design to a new high performance jet fighter coupled with a cheap Volksj├Ąger.

The Flitzer was one of FW's  bids for the high performance jet contract, using an auxiliary rocket motor to boost the plane to high altitudes quickly to intercept bomber streams. The concept was abandoned in September because the Flitzer required strategic materials in short supply and because it was considered too slow when compared to radical swept wing designs- more about them later.

The irony is that De Haviland in Britain was working on a similar design, the Spider Crab or Vampire as it was later known, in 1943. It was delayed until '45 when the allocated Rolls Royce engine was sent to Lockheed so they could experiment with jet fighters. The Vampire/Venom was a more robust design than the Flitzer and went on to serve in many airforces as a fighter, strike fighter, night fighter and naval fighter (as the Sea Venom).

Incidentally, the Vampire had a top speed of around 550mph, as against the Flitzer's estimated 600mph. But of course the Vampire flew whereas the Flitzer never got past the mock up stage.

The Vampire was armed with four 20mm cannon and had hard points for 1,000 lbs of stores. The Flizter would have had two 300mm cannon - plus two 20mm if it could have carried the extra weight.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

The First Jets - Messerschmitt Myths

A fast moving Me 262 Sturmvogel overshoots a breaking Gloster Meteor.

This never happened, of course, except on the wargames table.

Messerschmitt Myth No 1: The ME262 was the world's first operational jet fighter.
Actually, no: 616 RAF Squadron was operational with Meteors a few weeks before the 262 started operational service with the Luftwaffe.

Messerschmitt Myth No 2: The Me262 was designed with novel high technology swept back wings to make it a fast subsonic fighter.
Actually , no: The 262's wings are slightly swept but no more so than many other aircraft of the period and the reason was to move the CG aft. This method of controlling CG dates back to some of the very earliest pre WWI  plane designs. The 262 was an aerodynamically clean well designed fighter that could get up to Mach 0.86 (circa760 mph at sea level) but it wasn't swept wing. The 1945 Meteor F4 was about 50mph slower but had better engines capable of faster break manoeuvres without flaming out.

A duel between a Meteor F3/4 or 262 would probably depend on position and pilot skill. The 262 pilot would have attempted a firing pass on a dive zoom, while the Meteor pilot would have tried to suck his opponent into a high speed scissors or similar.

The photo was taken by me using Oxford Diecast 1:72 models and Paint Shop Pro.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Doctor Who - The Starship Mary-Rose

The Doctor and Rose board the wrecked Starship Mary-Rose to find a datadump with the location of the Rice Pudding Graveyard. Expecting trouble, the Doctor is accompanied by a small group of World War II reenactors. He has taken the precaution of reactivating their weapons so that they work: in fact they work rather better than the originals!

And trouble is a-coming: a Dalek with pig slave.

The boards are from a new GW game and represent a wrecked ship's interior. So there are lots of vertical walls, corridors and rooms. It's not open space.

A burst from a Dalek Agent's sub-blaster past the Doctor's left ear is the first sign that he has been rumbled.

The real 'Big-Bad' is revealed. The Master is also wants unlimited rice pudding and has sacrificed some of his minions to get into the datadump room. A hail of shots from the reenactors takes out the agent and, astonishingly, a Dalek when a freak shot goes right down it's eye stalk.

'My vision is impaireeeed'

The blinded Dalek drives straight into a corridor wall at high speed and explodes: they do keep doing that.

The Doctor and Rose break into the datadump room but The Master is waiting. The Doctor downloads the data with his sonic screwdriver. Meanwhile The Master knocks Rose down and threatens her with his laser-screwdriver.

'The data or the mayfly gets it, Doctoooor."

A hail of blaster bursts from the surviving reenactors, who have taken out the last Dalek with a grenade down the hatch, knocks down the pig-slave and distracts The Master so that the Doctor can rush him, defeat him in hand-to-screwdriver combat, and rescue Rose.

While the Doctor tends Rose's injuries, The Master recovers and slips away. There will be other opportunities.

Another adventure for Rose and the Doctor ends in triumph.


Thursday, 31 March 2016

Living on the Frontline

Our first try at the Living on the Frontline rules.

Marxist Guerrilla roadblock 'somewhere in West Drayton'. You can just see a shot up Panda Car top left and look for the re-commissioned T55 bottom right. There has already been a bit of a battle here the previous month.

 The Marxist guerrillas are not exactly the world's finest shots.

But to everyone's surprise, not least their commander (I can vouch for that for I was he), they hit and penetrated a crypto-fascist USMC M60's frontal armour on the second shot.

This turned out to be because I had got a rather critical rule somewhat, uh, completely wrong.

Bring on the Broncos!