Thursday, October 25, 2012

Museum of Naval Aviation, Part 2

First off today we have the A-7 Corsair II. Built by Vought, the aircraft started with their successful F-8 Crusader design.  The design was modified by (amongst other things) shortening the fuselage and deleting the ability to vary the incidence of the wings. The wings of the Corsair II are also longer and less swept back. The A-7 was designed to replace the A-4 Skyhawk in the carrier launched attack role and the aging A-1 Skyraider as well. It was the first US aircraft to feature a Heads Up Display system and also featured a Projected Map Display system (PMDS) that constantly showed the aircraft's position in two different scales. The Corsair II also had a bombing computer that was integrated to its onboard radar that allowed it to make bombing runs at a greater stand off distance and with increased accuracy. The USAF and ANG also flew a version called the A-7D which featured a license built version of the Rolls Royce Spey jet engine and and M61 20mm Vulcan Cannon. The Navy liked so much that they then made their own carrier capable version designated the A-7E. The Corsair II saw its last combat deployment with the US Navy during Operation Desert Storm and it was retired in May of 1991. They were replaced in the US Navy by the F/A-18 Hornet.
A-7 with A-6 Intruder (right) and OV-10 Bronco and UH-1 Iroquois (above)

 The A-1 Skyraider is one the most respected aircraft that the US military has ever flown. It was flown by the US Navy, USMC, and the US Air Force. It also in service with the Royal Navy. It saw extensive combat use with the French Armee de l'Air in Algeria and has fought in many of the post colonial wars in Africa. Designed for WWII, it was used by the US in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, were its ability to provide heavy air support with bombs and strafing runs with its four 20mm cannon made it very popular with ground forces. Many of the features of the Skyraider made their way into its replacement in the Air Force, the A-10 Thunderbolt II. Slow speed maneuverability through a long straight wing. Heavy cannon firepower to destroy armored enemy ground assets. Long loiter time to provide support as needed. (the A-1 could stay in the air for up to 10 hours) It was provided with heavy armor on critical areas, making it much more likely to survive hits from ground fire than the fighter bombers of its day like the F4U Corsair or the P-51 Mustang. It had an amazing 15 external hardpoints for up to 8,000 pounds (3,600 kg) of rockets, bombs, gun pods, mines or anything else that can cause hurt feelings. It was a radial piston engine driven aircraft in the jet age, lasting longer than anyone ever thought it might. For my money, the Skyraider could beat out the stupid Super Tucano any day for a modern COIN aircraft.

Not all the aircraft in the museum belonged to the US Navy. Of special note was the Messerschmidt Me 262, the world's first operational jet fighter. Feared in the sky for their heavy armament of four 30mm cannons and amazing speed of up to 550 mph /900 kph. These were a treasure when captured by Allied ground forces in Germany. They were tested extensively after the war and the technology were used to advance the jets of both the Navy and Air Force. Only about 1400 were ever made and only a few dozen are known survivors today.

Not an aircraft and and not a friend of them either. The Bofors 40mm Anti Aircraft gun in a double mount. This was the primary AA gun of the US Navy in WWII and the variants of the 40mm Bofors cannon are still in service today. The US versions were built by Chrysler and heavily modified from the original Swedish guns. Water cooling for extended firing burst was added and the manufacturing process itself was vastly simplified and cut down. The Bofors 40mm was responsible for thousands of enemy aircraft shot down. The Navy was reportedly so pleased with the weapon that they would telegraph the serial numbers of weapons that shot down enemy aircraft back to Chrysler. This is simply one of the best weapons ever made in the modern era. Several times, in the military forces of several different nations, people have attempted to replace it with something more flashy, more tech-y and more expensive. Then they had to look stupid when the Bofors came back like the cat in the hat. 

NAS Pensacola is the training home of the Blue Angels, which are of course the United States Navy's flight demonstration team. In the atrium, the museum displays four Blue Angel A-4F Skyhawks in diamond formation. The Skyhawk was flown by the Blue Angels starting in 1974, replacing the F-4J Phantom II and was replaced by the F/A-18 Hornet in 1986.

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