Air and Space Photos from Alternate Worlds.

Saturn II.png


The Saturn II Launch System

The Saturn II Launch System (SLS) is made up of the S-IF first stage, which boosts the stack to over 200,000 feet before returning to Kennedy Space Centre and a second stage; derived from the ever-useful and ageless S-IVB, which completes orbital insertion.

While the Nixon Administration decided against the development of a reusable launch system (to be known as the Space Shuttle) in 1972, NASA engineers and private industry independently pursued research into so-called ‘flyback’ boosters as an alternative to continuing use of disposable rocket stages. They would send a payload on their way to orbit before returning to land at Kennedy Space Centre. A short overhaul would follow before the booster would be ready for its next launch.

A reusable booster of this kind, it was surmised, would reduce costs and turnaround time between launches, with little more required than refuelling and restacking on the launch pad. History shows that to have been overly optimistic, but it is unlikely that the US space programme could have continued at the intensity it did in the 1990s had it continued to rely on disposable launch vehicles alone.

In 1981, planning and preparation for the Ares mission was continuing at pace, with flight tests of the Interplanetary Injection Booster (IIB) and the Mars Exploration Module (MEM). An influential report on the future of the manned space programme, written by former NASA Manager and systems engineer Joseph O’Shea, suggested that a reusable, fly back booster be developed to replace the Saturn I Evolved Launch Vehicle (ELV) that launched three missions a year to the latest Skylab workshop, by 1990.

McDonnell Douglas rose to the challenge, meeting the long-cherished ambition of NASA to retire the S-I stage, the oldest and most inflexible part of the Saturn launch family. Scampish journalists termed it ‘Mueller’s Revenge’, when George Mueller: a strong proponent of the Space Shuttle in the late 1960s, returned to NASA to manage Saturn II development and integration in 1983.

Construction of the first of four S-IF boosters began in 1985, and flight test articles took to the sky for the first time the week before the Ares mission touched down at Mangala Valles.

The payload for the Saturn II was initially the Apollo Command and Service Module (CSM), in its role as a crew transport and logistic vehicle. The first CSM launched by Saturn II docked with Skylab in 1991. The S-IF stage operated nominally, sending Apollo-Skylab 91B on its way before returning to land at KSC’s Booster Landing Facility – a 15,000-foot runway built specially for this purpose.

The maiden flight was followed by a series of interplanetary probes, earth observation satellites and, controversially, US military payloads, alongside the three flights a year to the orbital station.

Thirty years after its first launch, and after almost 130 flights, the CSM was replaced by the Hermes Crew Vehicle in 1997, which, launched by the Saturn II, continues to be the backbone of NASAs manned space programme today.
 
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A CG shot of a American carrier from the show Salvation, the US Navy is apparently very different in this reality.
Named, no doubt, for USN legend Capt. Christopher Pike, who skippered the carrier Enterprise during all of its major engagements in World War II.
 
View attachment 537385

The Saturn II Launch System

The Saturn II Launch System (SLS) is made up of the S-IF first stage, which boosts the stack to over 200,000 feet before returning to Kennedy Space Centre and a second stage; derived from the ever-useful and ageless S-IVB, which completes orbital insertion.

While the Nixon Administration decided against the development of a reusable launch system (to be known as the Space Shuttle) in 1972, NASA engineers and private industry independently pursued research into so-called ‘flyback’ boosters as an alternative to continuing use of disposable rocket stages. They would send a payload on their way to orbit before returning to land at Kennedy Space Centre. A short overhaul would follow before the booster would be ready for its next launch.

A reusable booster of this kind, it was surmised, would reduce costs and turnaround time between launches, with little more required than refuelling and restacking on the launch pad. History shows that to have been overly optimistic, but it is unlikely that the US space programme could have continued at the intensity it did in the 1990s had it continued to rely on disposable launch vehicles alone.

In 1981, planning and preparation for the Ares mission was continuing at pace, with flight tests of the Interplanetary Injection Booster (IIB) and the Mars Exploration Module (MEM). An influential report on the future of the manned space programme, written by former NASA Manager and systems engineer Joseph O’Shea, suggested that a reusable, fly back booster be developed to replace the Saturn I Evolved Launch Vehicle (ELV) that launched three missions a year to the latest Skylab workshop, by 1990.

McDonnell Douglas rose to the challenge, meeting the long-cherished ambition of NASA to retire the S-I stage, the oldest and most inflexible part of the Saturn launch family. Scampish journalists termed it ‘Mueller’s Revenge’, when George Mueller: a strong proponent of the Space Shuttle in the late 1960s, returned to NASA to manage Saturn II development and integration in 1983.

Construction of the first of four S-IF boosters began in 1985, and flight test articles took to the sky for the first time the week before the Ares mission touched down at Mangala Valles.

The payload for the Saturn II was initially the Apollo Command and Service Module (CSM), in its role as a crew transport and logistic vehicle. The first CSM launched by Saturn II docked with Skylab in 1991. The S-IF stage operated nominally, sending Apollo-Skylab 91B on its way before returning to land at KSC’s Booster Landing Facility – a 15,000-foot runway built specially for this purpose.

The maiden flight was followed by a series of interplanetary probes, earth observation satellites and, controversially, US military payloads, alongside the three flights a year to the orbital station.

Thirty years after its first launch, and after almost 130 flights, the CSM was replaced by the Hermes Crew Vehicle in 1997, which, launched by the Saturn II, continues to be the backbone of NASAs manned space programme today.
When are you gonna quit teasing us and give us this glorious timeline?
 
Saturn IB lets stay together.jpg

Looking to the future
Soundtrack here.

NASA has confirmed an order for 15 new Saturn launch vehicles. Enough, they say, for manned space flight through to 1980. Speaking over the weekend, Vice President Agnew said that in the 1970s the United States would ‘exploit the technology’ developed for the moon shots and the Skylab station, which launches next week.

All 15 of the new vehicles will be of the uprated Saturn I type. The first 5 will be so-called ‘repeats’, copies of the booster used to launch early Apollo missions and flights to Skylab, while the balance will include upgraded engines in both stages and a reusable first stage. A reusable launch vehicle has been described as ‘revolutionary’ for space flight, both in terms of technology and resultant reduction in cost.

In Washington, Sen. William Proxmire (D-WI) said that NASAs ‘attempt’ to reduce costs was admirable, but he criticised the agency and the administration for not ruling out plans to order new Saturn V rockets, and appropriating money to reactivate Launch Complex 37 at Cape Kennedy. “This administration needs to keep NASAs budget at ground level, avoid more flights of fantasy, and instead focus on the more mundane priorities of the American people: like looking after our farmers and ending the war in Vietnam.”
 
In Washington, Sen. William Proxmire (D-WI) said...
This is the second reference to Proxmire I've seen TODAY.
Everytime I see That Man's name, I'm reminded of the Larry Niven story "The Return of William Proxmire".
May he NOT rest in peace.
 
Everytime I see That Man's name, I'm reminded of the Larry Niven story "The Return of William Proxmire".
we deal with him also (and Walter Mondale) in 2001: A Space-Time Odyssey
They got under wheels of Politics, as Nixon push the Space Program and federal states got money, allot of Money !
 
we deal with him also (and Walter Mondale) in 2001: A Space-Time Odyssey
They got under wheels of Politics, as Nixon push the Space Program and federal states got money, allot of Money !
Proxmire was a complicated character - as most people drawn to national politics are. I don’t really subscribe to the view that he was NASAs nemesis, but that he was driven by a misplaced focus on public spending.
 
All 15 of the new vehicles will be of the uprated Saturn I type. The first 5 will be so-called ‘repeats’, copies of the booster used to launch early Apollo missions and flights to Skylab, while the balance will include upgraded engines in both stages and a reusable first stage. A reusable launch vehicle has been described as ‘revolutionary’ for space flight, both in terms of technology and resultant reduction in cost.
question on those upgraded Saturn I
are build like old Saturn I &IB or feature a new lighter weight integral tank that replace the ICBM plumbing ?
 
question on those upgraded Saturn I
are build like old Saturn I &IB or feature a new lighter weight integral tank that replace the ICBM plumbing ?
My assumption is that they continue to be cluster tanks. My understanding is that the weight saving from changing from cluster to integral would be minimal while the cost of retooling production and associated development and integration would be significant. The ‘low hanging fruit’ to uprate the Saturn IB is upgrading both stage engines (increasing thrust in the H-1 while replacing the J-2 with J-2S) and trimming weight in both the S-IB and S-IVB-200. And, with development in electronics etc, the Instrument Unit weight will rapidly reduce (from 2tons to basically nothing by the late 1970s) further boosting payload.
 
Saturn S-IC Speaks AGAIN.jpeg

They had tried to keep the event discreet, but engineering of this size was hard to hide. In the present political environment, you could choose your own metaphor: Ripples needed to be avoided, horses not scared, and foxes most certainly kept from pigeons. That said, the Public Affairs Office had sent out a press pack to some local rags and industry press. So maybe not everyone had got the memo.

The test article had arrived from Michoud on a barge just like they used to, and now was firmly secured to the ground. Its bulk was almost hidden by the test stand, with the red USA just about visible on its flank. The air was pregnant with anticipation.

A special viewing gallery had been set up, just over a mile away. Representatives from Boeing, Rocketdyne and a handful of invited guests stood in the shade, sipping sweet tea. Even beneath cloud, the mercury on this Mississippi morning was touching 85.

The pre-test procedures moved quickly until just after 12 noon when a shrill klaxon rang out. It was followed by a momentary, but deafening, silence. And then:

Ignition.

The five engines roared into life, spilling bright light and boiling the gallons of water protecting the test stand into thick white steam that billowed across the landscape.

Saturn spoke again.

In the gallery, one man already had his arms above his head, punching the air, a boyish grin across his face. “Let’s go flying!” whooped Alan Shepherd, Chief of the Astronaut Office.

And here's the theme.
 

View from the bridge of the snelskip-class surface cruiser Heidelberg Heksie. In the background, the cruisers Valkiri and Rooi Haar Hond are visible, with all three vessels constituting the main striking element of the “Jan Compagnie”, a minor Staatsjaer sister squadron of the Transorbitaal Republiek. The squadron is transiting the Redlands Isthmus on a northwestern spur of the Elephants’ Graveyard in order to intercept an unlicensed commercial nanodust convoy registered to the SinoCorp Conglomerate. Although in recent years the Transorbitaal Republiek has considerably loosened restrictions on the sale of transit licenses to Kommersant-affiliated corporate and colonial subsidiaries wishing to send convoys along the Republiek’s proprietary Great Northern Dust Route, the alluring profitability of the highly trafficked shipping route and the steep cost of Republiek licensing fees still induce many unscrupulous traders and smugglers to attempt illegal transits, which makes the Great Northern a target rich environment for the Republiek’s Staatsjaer squadrons.
 
From a modeller called Comrade Harps (https://www.whatifmodellers.com/index.php?action=profile;u=286) - Trosky won an 2º Russian Civil War against Stalin (that refugeed in Caucasus), and several other events happens (Spanish Republicans won the SCW; Hitler is assassinated in Op. Valkyrie and an new post-Nazi government cease hostilities with Western Forces, called "Great Betrayal" by the Socialist Unions (instead of Soviet Union); and Japan doesn't surrender, but Korea is invaded instead of Kyushu and they invaded Honshu in March) - more info on the links (none of this models belongs to me)



423 Belarus Escadrille, 420 International Regiment, Socialist Union Red Army Air Force (https://www.deviantart.com/sport16ing/art/Frankincane-727663173)


777 Sqd American Volunteers, Vaenga, Socialist Union, March 1944 (https://www.deviantart.com/sport16ing/art/777-Sqd-American-Volunteers-Hurricane-682251493)



102nd Mira Dioxeos (Fighter Squadron), Northern Expeditionary Group, Hellenic Air Force, Morozovskaya-Öst, Axis-occupied Socialist Union, November 1942 (only the stripes - https://www.deviantart.com/sport16ing/art/Eastern-Front-Greeks-Bf-109-F-2-B-815849465)


MT-402, Yellow 4, 1. Lentue, Lentolaivue 26, Ilmavoimat (https://www.deviantart.com/sport16ing/art/VL-Pyrremyrsky-III-713607921) - Yellow 4 was delivered in May, 1944 and wears the Finnish national markings adopted in April of that year. More concerned about concealment than identification, the Ilmavoimat had toned-down the white disc background of their markings in late 1943, adopting a dull blue-grey disk. This was replaced from April, 1944 by Luftwaffe-inspired black and white swastikas, with solid black emblems applied to underwing and to fuselage sides and white outline swastikas to wing tops.



SAAF F4U-1A, Okinawa (https://www.deviantart.com/sport16ing/art/SAAF-F4U-1A-Okinawa-687044119) - For the Pacific theatre, the SAAF adopted a modified national marking, the blue, white and orange roundel being flanked by American style white bars. When the overall midnight blue finish was adopted in February, 1945, the white from the roundel was dropped and the blue assumed by the midnight blue. The fin flash was reduced to a single, orange vertical bar. The Fleet Air Arm were making similar stylistic concessions to the British roundel and fin flash for operations in the Pacific on midnight blue camouflaged Corsairs, Hellcats and Helldivers at around the same time.


Personal mount of Captain Giorgi Kvilitaia, 17 July 1942, Elista, Soviet Socialist Republics of TransCaucasia (SSRT)-occupied Socialist Union (https://www.deviantart.com/sport16ing/art/Stalin-s-Fords-pt2-806764184)

(There's more nation still not posted - if you want, I can post more)
 
From a modeller called Comrade Harps (https://www.whatifmodellers.com/index.php?action=profile;u=286) - Trosky won an 2º Russian Civil War against Stalin (that refugeed in Caucasus), and several other events happens (Spanish Republicans won the SCW; Hitler is assassinated in Op. Valkyrie and an new post-Nazi government cease hostilities with Western Forces, called "Great Betrayal" by the Socialist Unions (instead of Soviet Union); and Japan doesn't surrender, but Korea is invaded instead of Kyushu and they invaded Honshu in March) - more info on the links (none of this models belongs to me)



423 Belarus Escadrille, 420 International Regiment, Socialist Union Red Army Air Force (https://www.deviantart.com/sport16ing/art/Frankincane-727663173)


777 Sqd American Volunteers, Vaenga, Socialist Union, March 1944 (https://www.deviantart.com/sport16ing/art/777-Sqd-American-Volunteers-Hurricane-682251493)



102nd Mira Dioxeos (Fighter Squadron), Northern Expeditionary Group, Hellenic Air Force, Morozovskaya-Öst, Axis-occupied Socialist Union, November 1942 (only the stripes - https://www.deviantart.com/sport16ing/art/Eastern-Front-Greeks-Bf-109-F-2-B-815849465)


MT-402, Yellow 4, 1. Lentue, Lentolaivue 26, Ilmavoimat (https://www.deviantart.com/sport16ing/art/VL-Pyrremyrsky-III-713607921) - Yellow 4 was delivered in May, 1944 and wears the Finnish national markings adopted in April of that year. More concerned about concealment than identification, the Ilmavoimat had toned-down the white disc background of their markings in late 1943, adopting a dull blue-grey disk. This was replaced from April, 1944 by Luftwaffe-inspired black and white swastikas, with solid black emblems applied to underwing and to fuselage sides and white outline swastikas to wing tops.



SAAF F4U-1A, Okinawa (https://www.deviantart.com/sport16ing/art/SAAF-F4U-1A-Okinawa-687044119) - For the Pacific theatre, the SAAF adopted a modified national marking, the blue, white and orange roundel being flanked by American style white bars. When the overall midnight blue finish was adopted in February, 1945, the white from the roundel was dropped and the blue assumed by the midnight blue. The fin flash was reduced to a single, orange vertical bar. The Fleet Air Arm were making similar stylistic concessions to the British roundel and fin flash for operations in the Pacific on midnight blue camouflaged Corsairs, Hellcats and Helldivers at around the same time.


Personal mount of Captain Giorgi Kvilitaia, 17 July 1942, Elista, Soviet Socialist Republics of TransCaucasia (SSRT)-occupied Socialist Union (https://www.deviantart.com/sport16ing/art/Stalin-s-Fords-pt2-806764184)

(There's more nation still not posted - if you want, I can post more)
By all means post more.
Good stuff. :cool:
 
Now with story

Goodyear AG-1 Basilisk
VMFA-232, USMC
Oshima, Japan, February 1946

When the US Navy chose Grumman's F8F Bearcat over Goodyear's F2G Super Corsair, Goodyear was rewarded with a consolation prize. Anticipating the need to invade Japan in 1946 and with Douglas running behind schedule on it's AD-1 Skyraider, Goodyear was contracted to supply 500 attack-configured F2Gs as an interim solution to meeting Navy and Marine Corps attack aviation requirements. Designated AG-1, and bestowed the popular name Basilisk (a basilisk being a type of 18th century naval cannon as well as a mythical deadly serpent), 418 were delivered before VJ Day saw the contract cancelled. Bsilisks remained in USMC and USN service until 1949, when finally replaced by Skyraiders. 50 were sold that year to France for use in IndoChina, which maintained these and a further 20 delivered in 1950 in service until 1954. Another 35 were supplied to the Chinese Nationalsits in 1950.

The AG-1 differed from the F2G in having a beefed up structure for a heavier maximum take-off weight, four 20mm cannon instead of six .50 cal machine guns and additional armour. To solve directional instability problems, the taller fin of the F2G was supplemented by a ventral spine.

One XAG-2 prototype tested contra-rotating props and a more powerful R-4360-20 engine. Several post-war racing Basilisks would later use this configuration, Goodyear having purchased 10 incomplete AG-1 airframes after the contract cancellation for sale to civilians. Lightened and highly polished, these planes preformed well and Basilisks came first in the 1947 Thompson Trophy Race and first in the 1949 Tinnerman Trophy Race.

During WW2, the AG-1 served with several US Navy and US Marine Corps squadrons in combat before and after the Y-Day invasion of Honshu. The USMC's VMFA-232 replaced their TBF Avengers with the AG-1 in late 1945 and resumed combat after going ashore at Oshima on 15 February, 1946. Oshima Island is close to Tokyo Bay and needed to be at least neutralised prior to the the invasion of the Kanto Plains. To achieve this, US Marines went ashore on 26 January, 1946, and in bitter and cold fighting secured a perimeter that included he Island's airfield, the habour facilities at Okata and the golf course at Okubo. US Navy and USMC planes soon began operating from the airfield, preparing the battlefield over the Kanto Plains as a prelude to the invasion.

VMFA-232's Basilisk's served as bomb-trucks, flying missions heavily loaded with 260, 500, 1,000 and 1,600 lb bombs. Following the invasion, napalm was introduced into their armoury, but rocket attacks (other than a handful of missions with Tiny Tims) were left to other types. The load seen here (drop tank, two 1,000lb bombs and four 500lb bombs) is visible on Big Hog in the newsreel Marines over Tokyo, which followed VMFA-232 and other units based at Oshima on a raid against targets on the Kanto Plains. Big Hog was the personal mount of Captain Laurence Scott, who had previously flown Dauntless dive-bombers with the unit against Rabaul.


Alfa Romeo A.R.102 Series III
White 2, personal mount of Major Nikita Chernov
Knights of the White Cross Squadriglia, 21º Gruppo Autonomo Caccia Terrestre, Regia Aeronautica
Makeyevka airfield, Ukraine
Summer 1942

By 1939, the military arm of the White Russian anti-Bolsheviks was confined to border areas of Finland and Poland. When German invaded the latter in September, the Red Army also crossed into Poland, seizing a broad strip of land “infested with counter-revolutionaries”. Later, the Winter War of 1940-41 between the Socialist Union and Finland was waged when the Red Army crossed into Finnish territory to destroy the White Russian's last active military sanctuaries. Not trusted by Hitler, the White Russians fled to Italy, where they were the honored guests of Mussolini.

Absorbed into the Italian military, the White Russians formed the White Cross Legion with the Regio Esercito and the Knights of the White Cross Squadriglia with the Regia Aeronautica. Both White Russian units joined the Italian expeditionary force sent to combat the Socialist Union in August 1941, their fighter squadron being equipped with the Macchi C.200.

In February 1942, the Knights of the White Cross Squadriglia withdrew to regroup and equip with the Alfa Romeo A.R.102, flying a mix of Series II (armed with 4 x .50 cal Breda machine guns) and Series III aircraft (with 2 x .50 cal Bredas and 2 x MG151/20 20mm cannon). These aircraft were purchased through donations raised by a network of Catholic anti-Communists, including (controversially) American donors. Significantly, the unit now also included non-ethic Russians, with several French and Danish pilots and maintenance personnel joining before their return to the Eastern Front in May, 1942.

The A.R.102 was Alfa Romeo's first indigenous fighter, following a lack-lustre response from the Regia Aeronautica to their earlier efforts, which were both Heinkel designs. The A.R.100 was proposed as a locally-built He 100D but failed to gain Italian orders. Only 80 were purchased of the A.R.101, which was a locally made version of the He 112B. The A.R.102, though, was local design to meet Regia Aeronautica specifications for a fighter powered by the Alfa Romeo RA 1000 RC 41 (a licensed-built DB 601 powerplant), 1,026 of which were delivered in three Series between late 1940 and early 1943. The basic A.R.102 went on to be adapted for the Fiat RA.1050 R.C.58 Tifone (a licensed built DB 605A powerplant) as the A.R.105, of which 341 were made. When Tifone supplies ran out, the A.R.103 was further adapted to accept the Piaggio P.112 radial engine, resulting in the A.R.106, 87 of which were produced.

The White Cross Squadriglia was in constant action, flying escort and fighter sweeps, air defence, armed reconnaissance and close air support missions during the Axis advanced to the Volga River. Although their planes were built as fighter-bombers, neither the Italian-manned nor the White Cross-manned Alfa Romeo A.R.102s in the East ever flew with underwing stores, meaning that their missions were restricted to tactical ranges and ground attack sorties limited to strafing. Although their aerial success rate has been confirmed at 29 victories to 7 losses during this, their second campaign on the Eastern Front, there were no attrition replacements sent and by mid-January 1943, on the defensive and retreating, the White Cross Squadriglia was down to just 5 airworthy planes. Their last mission came on 17 January, when 5 White Cross aircraft joined 20 Regia Aeronautic planes strafing enemy troops in the Millerovo area. The next day, with the Italian and White Cross Legion ground troops routed and suffering horrendous losses, the Italian expeditionary force withdrew from the battlefield.

White 2 was the personal mount of Major Nikita Chernov. Chernov's family had fled Russian during the 2nd Russian Civil War/The War Against Stalinism during the 1920s, his parents being involved with the counter-revolutionary White Russian Army. He joined the White Russian Army in Finland during the 1930s and learnt to fly. He flew as a transport pilot during the 1940-41 Winter War before fleeing to Italy and joining the Knights of the White Cross Squadriglia. He scored 1 aerial victory flying a Macchi C.200 during the 1941-42 deployment to the Eastern Front and another 4 whilst flying the this aircraft during the 1942-43 campaign.

The Knights of the White Cross Squadriglia returned to Italy with just 3 aircraft (including White 2) and went into a period of rest and recruiting before being disbanded by the Regia Aeronautica in May, 1943. By then, the Russian Liberation Army was forming with German backing and Himmler had persuaded Hitler and Goering to establish a Russian-manned fighter unit in the Luftwaffe, largely as a propaganda ploy. This saw former members of the Knights of the White Cross Squadriglia transferred to the Luftwaffe, where they flew Bf 109Gs adorned with Russian markings. They continued in action until Germany's final collapse in May, 1946.

Major Chernov was killed in action on 14 November, 1943 when his Bf 109G-6 was struck by flak and crashed. By then his victory tally was 9.

Saiman 200/I
a/c 5, Spanish Blue Division Flight, Italian Air Force Expeditionary Corps in Russia, Regia Aeronautica
Russia, Socialist Union, January 1943

After their defeat in the Spanish Civil War, Franco's Fascist forces regrouped in Italy, Mussolini inviting them to recreate the Hispanic Legions of the Roman Empire. Several Spanish units were formed for service in Italy?s army, navy and air forces, the most prominent of which was the Blue Division which fought as part of the Italian Army in Russia.

The Italian Air Force Expeditionary Corps in Russia included fighter, bomber, reconnaissance and transport aircraft, the Blue Division bringing having their own semi-independent Flight within its structure. This included a variety aircraft including several Saiman 200 biplanes, used for liaison, battlefield reconnaissance and artillery spotting. Designed as a trainer, the Saiman 200 featured tandem open cockpits, the Blue Division taking 3 of these planes to the Socialist Union in August 1941. Although Franco successfully arranged for the Blue Division to experience the campaign's first winter regrouping along the Amalfi Coast, he figured that he might not be so lucky for the campaign?s second winter. As such, he issued orders to winterise his forces, having them train with the Italian Alpine divisions, prepare winter clothing and such like.

Having experienced the significance of properly coordinated airpower in Spain, Franco made sure that the Blue Division had its own aviation assets. Although part of the Regia Aeronautica, the Spanish Blue Division Flight was assigned permanently to the Blue Division and was mostly made up of Spanish exiles. One of the Flight?s steps to prepare for the northern winter was to adopt a winterised version of the Saiman 200. To create this, they arranged for the delivery of 4 Saiman 200/S instrument trainers, a model which featured a heavily braced rear-sliding cockpit canopy with a retractable curtain for the student pilot. The curtain was removed and heating, underwing flare tubes and additional radios were added to produce the Saiman 200/I (I for inverno = winter).

These planes were in service with the Blue Division when the Red Army launched the Ostrogozhsk?Rossosh Offensive as part of Operation Little Saturn to encircled and push back Axis forces along the River Don north of Volgograd. Serving alongside the Italian 8th Army's Alpini (Mountain) Corps, the Blue Division held their ground against Red Army attacks but was outflanked to the north and the south and forced to break out from the enemy?s enveloping pincer movements. Retreating through contested territory with Germain, Hungarian and Italian troops, the Blue Division was instrumental in defeating a series of Red Army defensive lines established to their rear. A critical asset the Spaniards brought to the withdrawal was the coordination conducted with the Division?s Saiman biplanes, whose pilots scouted for the Axis troops and marked targets for Italian and Hungarian fighters with flares.

One unmodified Saiman 200 and three 200/Iwere available at the start of the battle on 13 January 1943, with just a single 200/I still airworthy when the retreating Spaniards made their way to friendly lines on the 31st. Samain 200/I Red 3 crashed in adverse weather on the 17th, killing the pilot. Samain 200/I Red 4 was shot down by ground fire near Nikolayevka on the 23rd, its pilot surviving an emergency landing and successfully exiting the plane before it burnt out; he later hitched a ride in the open cockpit Saimain 200 Red 2. This plane was itself destroyed on the 27th in a takeoff accident. Only Red 5 survived the campaign and was returned to the Italians at the end of February when they withdrew from the Socialist Union. Having distinguished themselves in the overwise disastrous retreat, the Blue Division transferred to German patronage for the remainder of the war.

This aircraft was painted in a winter camouflage with the standard Regia Aeronautica's wing and flank roundels; the rudder painted with the red-yellow-red bands of the Spanish Nationalist flag and the wheel hubs were painted in the Falangist blue of the Blue Division. Next to the individual aircraft number (in red) was a black saltire, which was a simplified Cross of Burgundy.
 
Now with story

Goodyear AG-1 Basilisk
VMFA-232, USMC
Oshima, Japan, February 1946

When the US Navy chose Grumman's F8F Bearcat over Goodyear's F2G Super Corsair, Goodyear was rewarded with a consolation prize. Anticipating the need to invade Japan in 1946 and with Douglas running behind schedule on it's AD-1 Skyraider, Goodyear was contracted to supply 500 attack-configured F2Gs as an interim solution to meeting Navy and Marine Corps attack aviation requirements. Designated AG-1, and bestowed the popular name Basilisk (a basilisk being a type of 18th century naval cannon as well as a mythical deadly serpent), 418 were delivered before VJ Day saw the contract cancelled. Bsilisks remained in USMC and USN service until 1949, when finally replaced by Skyraiders. 50 were sold that year to France for use in IndoChina, which maintained these and a further 20 delivered in 1950 in service until 1954. Another 35 were supplied to the Chinese Nationalsits in 1950.

The AG-1 differed from the F2G in having a beefed up structure for a heavier maximum take-off weight, four 20mm cannon instead of six .50 cal machine guns and additional armour. To solve directional instability problems, the taller fin of the F2G was supplemented by a ventral spine.

One XAG-2 prototype tested contra-rotating props and a more powerful R-4360-20 engine. Several post-war racing Basilisks would later use this configuration, Goodyear having purchased 10 incomplete AG-1 airframes after the contract cancellation for sale to civilians. Lightened and highly polished, these planes preformed well and Basilisks came first in the 1947 Thompson Trophy Race and first in the 1949 Tinnerman Trophy Race.

During WW2, the AG-1 served with several US Navy and US Marine Corps squadrons in combat before and after the Y-Day invasion of Honshu. The USMC's VMFA-232 replaced their TBF Avengers with the AG-1 in late 1945 and resumed combat after going ashore at Oshima on 15 February, 1946. Oshima Island is close to Tokyo Bay and needed to be at least neutralised prior to the the invasion of the Kanto Plains. To achieve this, US Marines went ashore on 26 January, 1946, and in bitter and cold fighting secured a perimeter that included he Island's airfield, the habour facilities at Okata and the golf course at Okubo. US Navy and USMC planes soon began operating from the airfield, preparing the battlefield over the Kanto Plains as a prelude to the invasion.

VMFA-232's Basilisk's served as bomb-trucks, flying missions heavily loaded with 260, 500, 1,000 and 1,600 lb bombs. Following the invasion, napalm was introduced into their armoury, but rocket attacks (other than a handful of missions with Tiny Tims) were left to other types. The load seen here (drop tank, two 1,000lb bombs and four 500lb bombs) is visible on Big Hog in the newsreel Marines over Tokyo, which followed VMFA-232 and other units based at Oshima on a raid against targets on the Kanto Plains. Big Hog was the personal mount of Captain Laurence Scott, who had previously flown Dauntless dive-bombers with the unit against Rabaul.


Alfa Romeo A.R.102 Series III
White 2, personal mount of Major Nikita Chernov
Knights of the White Cross Squadriglia, 21º Gruppo Autonomo Caccia Terrestre, Regia Aeronautica
Makeyevka airfield, Ukraine
Summer 1942

By 1939, the military arm of the White Russian anti-Bolsheviks was confined to border areas of Finland and Poland. When German invaded the latter in September, the Red Army also crossed into Poland, seizing a broad strip of land “infested with counter-revolutionaries”. Later, the Winter War of 1940-41 between the Socialist Union and Finland was waged when the Red Army crossed into Finnish territory to destroy the White Russian's last active military sanctuaries. Not trusted by Hitler, the White Russians fled to Italy, where they were the honored guests of Mussolini.

Absorbed into the Italian military, the White Russians formed the White Cross Legion with the Regio Esercito and the Knights of the White Cross Squadriglia with the Regia Aeronautica. Both White Russian units joined the Italian expeditionary force sent to combat the Socialist Union in August 1941, their fighter squadron being equipped with the Macchi C.200.

In February 1942, the Knights of the White Cross Squadriglia withdrew to regroup and equip with the Alfa Romeo A.R.102, flying a mix of Series II (armed with 4 x .50 cal Breda machine guns) and Series III aircraft (with 2 x .50 cal Bredas and 2 x MG151/20 20mm cannon). These aircraft were purchased through donations raised by a network of Catholic anti-Communists, including (controversially) American donors. Significantly, the unit now also included non-ethic Russians, with several French and Danish pilots and maintenance personnel joining before their return to the Eastern Front in May, 1942.

The A.R.102 was Alfa Romeo's first indigenous fighter, following a lack-lustre response from the Regia Aeronautica to their earlier efforts, which were both Heinkel designs. The A.R.100 was proposed as a locally-built He 100D but failed to gain Italian orders. Only 80 were purchased of the A.R.101, which was a locally made version of the He 112B. The A.R.102, though, was local design to meet Regia Aeronautica specifications for a fighter powered by the Alfa Romeo RA 1000 RC 41 (a licensed-built DB 601 powerplant), 1,026 of which were delivered in three Series between late 1940 and early 1943. The basic A.R.102 went on to be adapted for the Fiat RA.1050 R.C.58 Tifone (a licensed built DB 605A powerplant) as the A.R.105, of which 341 were made. When Tifone supplies ran out, the A.R.103 was further adapted to accept the Piaggio P.112 radial engine, resulting in the A.R.106, 87 of which were produced.

The White Cross Squadriglia was in constant action, flying escort and fighter sweeps, air defence, armed reconnaissance and close air support missions during the Axis advanced to the Volga River. Although their planes were built as fighter-bombers, neither the Italian-manned nor the White Cross-manned Alfa Romeo A.R.102s in the East ever flew with underwing stores, meaning that their missions were restricted to tactical ranges and ground attack sorties limited to strafing. Although their aerial success rate has been confirmed at 29 victories to 7 losses during this, their second campaign on the Eastern Front, there were no attrition replacements sent and by mid-January 1943, on the defensive and retreating, the White Cross Squadriglia was down to just 5 airworthy planes. Their last mission came on 17 January, when 5 White Cross aircraft joined 20 Regia Aeronautic planes strafing enemy troops in the Millerovo area. The next day, with the Italian and White Cross Legion ground troops routed and suffering horrendous losses, the Italian expeditionary force withdrew from the battlefield.

White 2 was the personal mount of Major Nikita Chernov. Chernov's family had fled Russian during the 2nd Russian Civil War/The War Against Stalinism during the 1920s, his parents being involved with the counter-revolutionary White Russian Army. He joined the White Russian Army in Finland during the 1930s and learnt to fly. He flew as a transport pilot during the 1940-41 Winter War before fleeing to Italy and joining the Knights of the White Cross Squadriglia. He scored 1 aerial victory flying a Macchi C.200 during the 1941-42 deployment to the Eastern Front and another 4 whilst flying the this aircraft during the 1942-43 campaign.

The Knights of the White Cross Squadriglia returned to Italy with just 3 aircraft (including White 2) and went into a period of rest and recruiting before being disbanded by the Regia Aeronautica in May, 1943. By then, the Russian Liberation Army was forming with German backing and Himmler had persuaded Hitler and Goering to establish a Russian-manned fighter unit in the Luftwaffe, largely as a propaganda ploy. This saw former members of the Knights of the White Cross Squadriglia transferred to the Luftwaffe, where they flew Bf 109Gs adorned with Russian markings. They continued in action until Germany's final collapse in May, 1946.

Major Chernov was killed in action on 14 November, 1943 when his Bf 109G-6 was struck by flak and crashed. By then his victory tally was 9.

Saiman 200/I
a/c 5, Spanish Blue Division Flight, Italian Air Force Expeditionary Corps in Russia, Regia Aeronautica
Russia, Socialist Union, January 1943

After their defeat in the Spanish Civil War, Franco's Fascist forces regrouped in Italy, Mussolini inviting them to recreate the Hispanic Legions of the Roman Empire. Several Spanish units were formed for service in Italy?s army, navy and air forces, the most prominent of which was the Blue Division which fought as part of the Italian Army in Russia.

The Italian Air Force Expeditionary Corps in Russia included fighter, bomber, reconnaissance and transport aircraft, the Blue Division bringing having their own semi-independent Flight within its structure. This included a variety aircraft including several Saiman 200 biplanes, used for liaison, battlefield reconnaissance and artillery spotting. Designed as a trainer, the Saiman 200 featured tandem open cockpits, the Blue Division taking 3 of these planes to the Socialist Union in August 1941. Although Franco successfully arranged for the Blue Division to experience the campaign's first winter regrouping along the Amalfi Coast, he figured that he might not be so lucky for the campaign?s second winter. As such, he issued orders to winterise his forces, having them train with the Italian Alpine divisions, prepare winter clothing and such like.

Having experienced the significance of properly coordinated airpower in Spain, Franco made sure that the Blue Division had its own aviation assets. Although part of the Regia Aeronautica, the Spanish Blue Division Flight was assigned permanently to the Blue Division and was mostly made up of Spanish exiles. One of the Flight?s steps to prepare for the northern winter was to adopt a winterised version of the Saiman 200. To create this, they arranged for the delivery of 4 Saiman 200/S instrument trainers, a model which featured a heavily braced rear-sliding cockpit canopy with a retractable curtain for the student pilot. The curtain was removed and heating, underwing flare tubes and additional radios were added to produce the Saiman 200/I (I for inverno = winter).

These planes were in service with the Blue Division when the Red Army launched the Ostrogozhsk?Rossosh Offensive as part of Operation Little Saturn to encircled and push back Axis forces along the River Don north of Volgograd. Serving alongside the Italian 8th Army's Alpini (Mountain) Corps, the Blue Division held their ground against Red Army attacks but was outflanked to the north and the south and forced to break out from the enemy?s enveloping pincer movements. Retreating through contested territory with Germain, Hungarian and Italian troops, the Blue Division was instrumental in defeating a series of Red Army defensive lines established to their rear. A critical asset the Spaniards brought to the withdrawal was the coordination conducted with the Division?s Saiman biplanes, whose pilots scouted for the Axis troops and marked targets for Italian and Hungarian fighters with flares.

One unmodified Saiman 200 and three 200/Iwere available at the start of the battle on 13 January 1943, with just a single 200/I still airworthy when the retreating Spaniards made their way to friendly lines on the 31st. Samain 200/I Red 3 crashed in adverse weather on the 17th, killing the pilot. Samain 200/I Red 4 was shot down by ground fire near Nikolayevka on the 23rd, its pilot surviving an emergency landing and successfully exiting the plane before it burnt out; he later hitched a ride in the open cockpit Saimain 200 Red 2. This plane was itself destroyed on the 27th in a takeoff accident. Only Red 5 survived the campaign and was returned to the Italians at the end of February when they withdrew from the Socialist Union. Having distinguished themselves in the overwise disastrous retreat, the Blue Division transferred to German patronage for the remainder of the war.

This aircraft was painted in a winter camouflage with the standard Regia Aeronautica's wing and flank roundels; the rudder painted with the red-yellow-red bands of the Spanish Nationalist flag and the wheel hubs were painted in the Falangist blue of the Blue Division. Next to the individual aircraft number (in red) was a black saltire, which was a simplified Cross of Burgundy.
Good stuff, like the background stories that went with them.
 
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