Air and Space Photos from Alternate Worlds.

What if (and hear me out) we take a space shuttle orbiter and External Tank and stick them on top of a metholox converted Saturn-V first stage? No, you're right, it's nuts. It's not the '60s any more, who'd throw away an S1-C like that?
So what if we took that S1-C, then stuck wings and jet engines on it so it could fly back to base..?

This was an actual idea, seriously presented, by NASA in the 1980s as the sort of thing that would be needed to support Space-based Solar Power (SPS) satellites.

@e of pi challenged me to put this together based on models I already had, including the Space Lifter first stage from his and @Polish Eagle's excellent Right Side Up timeline.

View attachment 666440
Quick note that "Hazygreyart" on YouTube did a vid of this shuttle version launching :)

F5 Teiger II of Number 5 Squadron Royal Welsh Air Force based at Pen y Cwm Air Base (RAF Brawdy) in a timeline in which Wales is an independent nation.
Click full image in your attachment and it will show the image properly, rather than just a small thumbnail.
I revamped an old render:

And then I went above and beyond:

As a penance, I did this, complete with lower-deck lounge:

And then Just Because, a 737-200 Advanced Quick Change with the South African winglets, the 1980s Boeing proposal for single-point in-flight refueling, and a gravel kit, because some runways will probably end up being made of crushed coral:

Edit: I got the exact position of the refueling pod wrong per this image from Flight International 1982-0988. I should have been further forward, and I will correct this on a later revision. I may also correct the tail to get the livery closer to the historic configuration. Based on the numbers from a 1981 edition of Flight International, a single '737-KX-150' in the heaviest configuration could refuel a pair of F-14s at a radius of about 600 nautical miles, or a pair of Sea Vixens at a radius of about 800 nautical miles.
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Boeing 747-300 (c. 1985) for a hypothetical U.S. flag carrier airline. The thinking is with the enlargement of the U.S. federal government in the mid-20th century, especially in regards to transport-related matters (such as with the interstate highways in the '50s, the establishment of USDOT and Amtrak in the late '60s and early '70s), the U.S. also decided to make an official state-sponsored airline.

The National Airline Passenger Corporation (doing business as United States Airlines [abb. USA or USAL {pron. EWE-sal}), est. 1972.
ICAO: USA (for United States Airlines)
Callsign: Tedstay (derived from the last and first syllables of "United" and "States", as the "A" in "USA" was deemed to sound too close to the ICAO pronunciation of the number 8).
Headquarters: 701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20004

This particular livery (nicknamed the "Tommy Hilfiger" due to its resemblance to the textile brand's attire) was the inaugural design from the 1970s, used until it was replaced by a refreshed paintjob in the early 1990s, which in turn was used until the mid-2000s, as part of an effort to revitalize the airline as part of a post-9/11 air travel slump. On the vertical stabilizer is a perched bald eagle, the same one used on the 1970–1994 USPS logo, as part of the U.S. government's effort to make a unique and unified branding logo (like Canada did with its wordmark in 1980 and France did with Marianne in 1999).

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Boeing 747-300 (c. 1985) for a hypothetical U.S. flag carrier airline. The thinking is with the enlargement of the U.S. federal government in the mid-20th century, especially in regards to transport-related matters (such as with the interstate highways in the '50s, the establishment of USDOT and Amtrak in the late '60s and early '70s), the U.S. also decided to make an official state-sponsored airline.

While I have doubts as to the set up, It's not a bad livery. I think I'd also expect a transition in the 1990s to the Sonic Eagle as opposed to the Standing Eagle (similar to what I have here).
While I have doubts as to the set up, It's not a bad livery. I think I'd also expect a transition in the 1990s to the Sonic Eagle as opposed to the Standing Eagle (similar to what I have here).

Yup, that's what I had in mind for post-1994. I actually based it off the old SAA and KAL liveries from the late 20th century.

Speaking of which, made this livery for SAA, taking the old design but putting a different spin on it. I guess this could serve as a transitional livery after 1994 but before the introduction of the new paintjob in 1997. Took the old SAA livery and replaced the winged springbok with a protea flower and changed the colors to that of the RSA's sports teams.


And a preliminary concept for a successor livery (c. mid-1990s to early 2000s) livery for USAL. Same Eagle as post-1994 USPS on the vertical stabilizer, and uses the USPS font as well for cross-agency branding consistency:

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Kaman CH-62 Yupik​

A fictional design I had in mind recently. It’s a bash of V-22 Osprey and CH-47 Chinook elements.
It’s used for tactical transport (troops and heavy material).
(Sry for lack of postings - lack of some of the models (of both Dizyfugu and Comrade Harps) to post without repeating (so the pauses will occur at some intervals), but I've return, and this time, Dizzyfugu Kfirs)


IAI Kfir C.60, Bulgarian Air Force​


Some background:
The Bulgarian Air Force (BAF, 'Bulgarski Voyenno Visitation Sili') is one of the oldest air forces in Europe and the world. In the past decade Bulgaria has been trying actively to restructure its army as a whole and a lot of attention has been placed on keeping the aging Russian aircraft operational In recent times BAF aircraft have been actively taking part in numerous NATO missions and exercises in Europe. In 2010, the Bulgarian Air Force's inventory numbered around 137 aircraft, including 55-56 combat jets. But only the MiG-29s and about a dozen Su-25s and a few MiG-21bis were flight worthy, the L-39ZA only used for training.

Since 2000 the BAF planned to retire most of its Soviet-era aircraft, keeping only the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29 'Fulcrum' fleet (which was modernized only recently) as well as its Mi-24 gunships and the Su-25s. The MiG-21s in service were scheduled to be replaced with possible American or European aircraft – and in 2006, a proposal from Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) won a deal: the delivery of IAI’s Kfir C.60.

The Kfir C.60 was an upgraded version of the C.10, a variant developed especially for export and sold to Ecuador and Colombia. The most important feature of this version is the adaptation of the Elta EL/M-2032 radar, an advanced pulse Doppler, multi-mode Fire Control Radar intended for multi-role fighter aircraft originated from the Lavi project. It is suitable for air-to-air and air-to-surface mode, including high-resolution mapping (SAR), and offers a high mission performance in all weather conditions. Other new features include two 127×177mm MFD's, HOTAS configured cockpit, a Helmet Mounted Display System (HMD) and in-flight refuelling capability.

A total order of 18 Kfir C.60 was placed, deliveries were completed in April 2008. The planes were actually converted from mothballed IAF C.7 fighter bombers, keeping costs and development time low. The Kfir C.60 is supposed to replace BAF’s vintage MiG-21bis completely, parts of the Su-25 fleet and fill the gap of the fighter bomber role the Su-22 (which had already been retired in early 2004) left.

The Bulgarian C.60 would primarily be used in the ground attack/CAS role, but also augment the small MiG-29 fleet in air defence tasks. Consequently, the Kfir C.60 can not only carry a wide range of air-to-ground ordnance, the planes were also equipped with IR-homing AAMs like the R-60 (AA-8 'Aphid') and R-73 (AA-11 'Archer') missiles of Russian origin, still making up most of the BAF's weapon inventory.

All Kfir C.60 were allotted to the 3rd Fighter Squadron at Graf Ignatievo Air base, where they replaced the leftover ten MiG-21bis at 1/3 Fighter Squadron and grounded Su-25 from 22nd Ground Attack Squadron, formerly based at Bezmer Air Base.

It is uncertain if more Kfirs will be acquired, but chances are good. In January 2011 the Bulgarian MoD issued a Request for Information (RFI) regarding the acquisition of 8 multi-role fighters. The main competitors are expected to be the Eurofighter GmbH Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale, Saab JAS 39 Gripen, Mikoyan MiG-29 or MiG-35, or the Lockheed Martin F-16 and Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet. On March 9, 2011 the Swedish Government submitted its response to the RFI containing 8 new Gripen C/D fighters. The Bulgarian MoD has extended the time limit for submittal of responses by two months due to the lack of responses from the other competitors.

In October 2011, IAI stepped in and offered the Kfir as a new combat aircraft for the Bulgarian Air force (see: It coincided with the two days visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Bulgaria, which may bring another competitor for a new fighter for Bulgarian Air force – a modernized version of the Kfir C.60 already in service. Two weeks earlier the Bulgaria defence minister Anu Angelov was ‘tempted’ by such an offer when visited the IAI booth at the Paris Air show. The supposed price in times smaller compared to the ones offered by the companies requested by the RFI, sent in February to Eurofighter, SAAB, Boeing and Martin Lockheed.

Bulgaria and Israel held a joint session of their governments and signed a defence cooperation agreement on July 7 2011 in Sofia. "This is the first joint session that Israel holds with another country in the (Balkan) region," ministry spokeswoman Vesela Cherneva said. Cherneva added that the two countries will sign a bilateral agreement for defence cooperation, with Israeli companies encouraged to participate in the modernisation of Bulgaria's defence equipment.

However, as stated by the Ministry of Defense the contract for new multi-role fighter should be signed by midterm of 2012 and the first machines should start arriving in 2015. Tactical UAV should be procured in support of the land forces operations, too. No decision has been settled upon yet.[/URL]

General characteristics:

Crew: One
Length: 16.27 m (53 ft 4½ in)
Wingspan: 8.22 m (26 ft 11½ in)
Height: 4.55 m (14 ft 11¼ in)
Wing area: 34.8 m² (374.6 sq ft)
Empty weight: 7,285 kg (16,060 lb)
Loaded weight: 11,603 kg (25,580 lb) two 500 L drop tanks, two AAMs
Max. take off weight: 16,200 kg (35,715 lb)

1 × IAl Bedek-built General Electric J-79-J1E turbojet, rated at 52.9 kN (11,890 lbs) dry thrust and 79.62 kN (17,900 lbs) with full afterburner

Maximum speed: 2,440 km/h (1,317 knots, 1,516 mph) above 11,000 m (36,000 ft)
Combat radius: 768 km (415 nmi, 477 mi) (ground attack, hi-lo-hi profile, seven 500 lb bombs, two AAMs, two 1,300 L drop tanks)
Service ceiling: 17,680 m (58,000 ft)
Rate of climb: 233 m/s (45,950 ft/min)

2× Rafael-built 30 mm (1.18 in) DEFA 553 cannons, 140 rounds/gun; 5,775 kg (12,730 lb) of payload on seven external hardpoints, including guided and unguided missiles and bombs, air-to-air missiles, reconnaissance pods or drop tanks.


IAI F-21D Love - Royal Danish Air Force 1983​


Some background
The Royal Danish Air Force (RDAF) was formed as a military service independent from the Army and Navy in 1950 from the merger of the Hærens Flyvertropper (Danish Army Air Corps) originally founded on July 2, 1912 and the Marinens Flyvevæsen (Danish Naval Air Service).

In the 1960s and 1970s the RDAF operated a number of US financed Lockheed F-104G Starfighters, North American F-100D/F Super Sabres, plus several other types, including an export version of the Saab 35 Draken in the ground attack role.

The 70ies brought a major re-structuring of the RDAF: The Hawker Hunter was phased out in 1974, as well as the Republic RF-84F Thunderflash reconnaissance aircraft in 1971. In order to rejuvenate their air forces in the 80ies, the NATO countries Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, and Belgium undertook a joint arms and introduced the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon as their common fighter-bomber in January 1980. The F-16 was later bought by further NATO countries, Greece and Turkey, and the United States of America, also a NATO member, operates the F-16, too.

As the F-16 deal was closed in the late 70ies it became clear that the Danish aging F-100 fleet and the limited number of Saab Draken (locally designated F-35) would leave a serious gap in the country's defense in the mid-80ies, esp. against ground and sea intruders. Additionally, the F-104G fleet was also about to reach its service life end, so Denmark decided to fill this gap with upgrades of existing types and the introduction of an interim fighter bomber.

One of the results was the WDNS (Weapon Delivery and Navigation System) update for the Danish Saab 35 Draken fleet. In the early 1980s all aircraft (a total of 51 was operated by the RDAF) received a Marconi 900 Series HUD and a Ferranti LRMTS (laser rangefinder and marked target seeker) in a characteristic nose fairing that resembled the photo recce version of the Saab 35, and an ALQ-162 jammer.

In parallel, Denmark bought a batch of IAI Kfir fighter bombers from Israel in 1978. The Israel Aircraft Industries Kfir (Hebrew: כְּפִיר, "Lion Cub") was an Israeli-built all-weather, multirole combat aircraft based on a heavily modified French Dassault Mirage 5 airframe, with Israeli avionics and an Israeli-made version of the General Electric J79 turbojet engine. The Kfir entered service with the IAF in 1975 in the C.1 version, but the updated C.2 with canard foreplanes and "dogtoothed" leading edges on the wings for better maneuverability followed soon.

The export aircraft for Denmark were basically of C.2 standard, but the RDAF had these aircraft further modified and brought up to the Drakens’ WDNS standard. This modification gave the Danish Kfirs a true all-weather ground attack capability, which was superior to the Drakens’ potential in many ways.

The latter were only capable of carrying outdated and rather unreliable AGM-12 Bullpup AGMs, as well as iron bombs or pods with unguided rockets. The modified Kfirs (locally designated F-21D and nicknamed 'Løve' (= Lion, as a translation of the type’s original name and hinting at a ‘more mature’ version), were not only able to carry state-of-the-art smart weapons like the AGM-65 Maverick or various HOBOS and Paveway guided bombs, they were also able to carry external sensor equipment like a TISEO (Target Identification System Electro-Optical), FLIR (Forward Looking Infra Red) or LANTIRN (Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night) pod. This offered, together with the LRMTS in the nose, a true and very flexible all-weather strike capability. Furthermore, the RDAF F-21Ds were able to carry more powerful electronic countermeasures which would significantly improve the type's survivability in hostile environment.

Most significant external difference of the Danish Kfir to its Israeli C.2 brethren was a modified nose with a stepped shape, similar to the updated Draken fighter bombers – the Kfir’s original, telemetric Elta Systems radar was omitted. Another modification for Denmark was an integral ALQ-162 jammer and an ALR-69 radar warning system, housed in a characteristic pod on top of the fin.
Less obvious changes included a beefed-up landing gear with an anti-brake system, night formation lights to NATO standard, a new Martin Baker ejection seat, a modern glass cockpit (with HMD capability and two 127×177mm MFDs) and the avionics to carry and deploy various guided weapons.

Even though the F-21Ds had an excellent rate of climb and top speed, and were able to carry up to six AIM-9 Sidewinder AAMs and retained their 30mm cannons, they were exclusively used in the ground attack/fighter bomber role. They replaced the last F-100D in Danish service at Eskadrille 727 and 730, relieving the F-35 fleet during the update measures and also filling gaps in the F-104G ranks, as some aircraft had been lost in accidents. The RDAF retired their Starfighters in 1986, being replaced by F-16 in the interceptor role.

Being just a gap-filler, though, the Løve only had an active service career of 12 years in the RDAF. It was gradually taken away from front line service from 1990 on, as more and more brand new F-16 became available. By this time, the F-21D fleet had also already been reduced to 16 aircraft through several flight accidents and engine failures. The last Danish Kfir/Løve was finally retired together with the Danish Saab 35 fleet in 1993. The remaining aircraft were returned to Israel, where they were partly stored and partly revamped to c.7 standard and sold to other foreign customers like Sri Lanka.

General characteristics
Crew: One
Length (incl. pitot): 15.73 m (51 ft 6 1/4 in)
Wingspan: 8.22 m (26 ft 11½ in)
Height: 4.61 m (14 ft 11 3/4 in)
Wing area: 34.8 m² (374.6 sq ft)
Empty weight: 7,285 kg (16,060 lb)
Loaded weight: 11,603 kg (25,580 lb) two 500 L drop tanks, two AAMs
Max. take-off weight: 16,200 kg (35,715 lb)

1× General Electric J-79-J1E turbojet (IAl Bedek-built) with a dry thrust of 52.9 kN (11,890 lb st) and 79.62 kN (17,900 lb st) with afterburner

Maximum speed: 2,440 km/h (2 Mach, 1,317 knots, 1,516 mph) above 11,000 m (36,000 ft)
Combat radius: 768 km (415 nmi, 477 mi) in ground attack configuration, hi-lo-hi profile, seven 500 lb bombs, two AAMs, two 1,300 L drop tanks)
Service ceiling: 17,680 m (58,000 ft)
Rate of climb: 233 m/s (45,950 ft/min)

2× Rafael-built 30 mm (1.18 in) DEFA 553 cannons, 140 rounds/gun under the air intakes
7× external hardpoints under the wings and fuselage for up to 5,775 kg (12,730 lb) of payload, including unguided air-to-ground rockets, AIM-9 Sidewinder AAMs; AGM-45 Shrike ARMs, AGM-65 Maverick ASMs, Mark 80 series bombs, Paveway series of LGBs, CBUs, BLU-107 Matra Durandal, reconnaissance pods, drop tanks or other tactical equipment like sensor pods.


IAI Kfir RC.7, Royal Malaysian Air Force, 1997​


Some background:
The Malaysian air forces trace their lineage to the Malayan Auxiliary Air Force formations of the Royal Air Force (RAF) formed in 1934. They later transformed into the Straits Settlements Volunteer Air Force (SSVAF) and the Malaya Volunteer Air Force (MVAF) formed in 1940 and dissolved in 1942 during the height of the Japanese advance over Malaya. The latter was re-established in 1950 in time for the Malayan Emergency and contributed very much to the war effort.

On 2 June 1958 the MVAF finally became the Royal Federation of Malaya Air Force (RFMAF), this date is celebrated as RMAF Day yearly. On 25 October 1962, after the end of the Malayan Emergency, the RAF handed over their first airfields in Malaya to the RFMAF, at Simpang Airport; it was opened on 1 June 1941, in Sungai Besi, Kuala Lumpur which was formerly part of Selangor and the national capital city. The first aircraft for the fledgling air force was a Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneer named "Lang Rajawali" by the then Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman. Several Malayans serving with the Royal Air Force transferred to the Royal Federation of Malaya Air Force. The role played by RMAF was limited initially to communications and the support of ground operations against Communist insurgents during the Malayan Emergency. RMAF received its first combat aircraft with the delivery of 20 Canadair CL41G Tebuans (an armed version of the Canadair Tutor trainer). RMAF also received Aérospatiale Alouette III helicopters, to be used in the liaison role.

With the formation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963, the name of the air force was changed to "Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia" or "Royal Malaysian Air Force". New types introduced into service included the Handley Page Herald transport and the De Havilland Canada DHC-4 Caribou. RMAF received Sikorsky S-61A-4 helicopters in the late 1960s and early 1970s which were used in the transport role. RMAF gained an air defence capability when the Australian Government donated 10 ex-Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) CAC Sabre fighters. These were based at the Butterworth Air Base. After the withdrawal of British military forces from Malaysia and Singapore at the end of 1971, a Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) agreement between Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom was concluded to ensure defence against external aggression. The RAAF maintained two Mirage IIIO squadrons at RAF/RAAF Station Butterworth, Butterworth Air Base as part of its commitment to the FPDA. These squadrons were withdrawn in 1986, although occasional deployments of RAAF aircraft continue.

With the withdrawal of British military forces, RMAF underwent gradual modernization from the 1970s to the 1990s. The Sabre were replaced by 16 Northrop F-5E Tiger-IIs. A reconnaissance capability was acquired with the purchase of two RF-5E Tigereye aircraft. RMAF also purchased 88 ex-US Navy Douglas A-4C Skyhawks, of which 40 of the airframes were converted/refurbished by Grumman Aircraft Engineering at Bethpage into the A-4PTM ('Peculiar To Malaysia'), configuration (A-4Bs updated to A-4M standard). RMAF has traditionally looked to the West for its purchases, primarily to the United States. However, limitations imposed by the US on "new technology" to the region, such as the AIM-120 AMRAAM fire-and-forget air-to-air missile, has made RMAF consider purchases from Russia and other non-traditional sources. The early 1990s saw the arrival of a number of IAI Kfir fighter bombers from Israel and the first BAE Hawk Mk108/208s which replaced the T/A-4PTMs and the ageing F-5Es. These were followed by the MiG-29N/NUB in 1995 in the air superiority role.

Malaysia’s order for the IAI Kfir had been placed in 1989 and a total of twenty-eight aircraft were procured. These machines were among the last newly built aircraft of this type, comparable with the IDF’s late C.7 standard with HOTAS and a partial “glass cockpit”. Deliveries included twenty-four single seaters, optimized for the fighter bomber/strike role, even though the machines could carry light AAMs like the AIM-9 Sidewinder, too, and operate as interceptors. Additionally, four new Kfir TC.7 two-seaters were bought, primarily for conversion training, but these machines had, except for a reduced internal fuel capacity in the fuselage due to the second seat, the same capabilities as the TUDM C.7 single seaters. By 1992 the RMAF Kfir fleet was ready for service and the machines were concentrated at No. 17 Squadron, based at Kuantan Air Base, located at the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Even though they were not officially re-christened, the RMAF Kfirs were frequently referred to as “Anak Singa” among the personnel, meaning “lion cub” in Malaysian language.

In 1996, three TUDM Kfir C.7s were, with the help from IAI and imported hardware, modified into armed photo reconnaissance aircraft, resulting in the CR.7 variant exclusively operated by Malaysia. These machines received an elongated nose section (more than 4’ longer) with space for a rotating long-range oblique camera, similar in shape to the former “Tsniut” conversion of C.2 fighter bombers for the IDF. The guns were replaced with avionics but the C.7s’ Elta EL/M-2021B pulse-Doppler radar was retained, so that these converted machines kept their limited all-weather strike and interception capability. But as dedicated reconnaissance aircraft they were almost exclusively operated unarmed, just carrying up to three drop tanks for extra range and loiter time.

The Kfirs did not serve with the Royal Malaysian Air Force for a long period, though: In 1997, Malaysia received a dozen F/A-18D Hornet two-seaters to provide an all-weather interdiction capability, which the rather simple Kfirs did not offer. They could also use the AGM-84 “Harpoon” ASM, making them better suited for naval strike missions, and initially the Hornets frequently served as pathfinders for the Kfirs on all-weather missions. Despite their limitations, what still made the Kfirs attractive for the RMAF was their relatively low operational cost level and the type’s high speed and rate of climb.
However, in 2003 a contract was signed for 18 Su-30MKMs from Russia for delivery in 2007 to fulfill a requirement for a new multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA). Boeing alternatively offered the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, but the type was declined. These capable machines, which were adapted to Western ordnance like GBU-12 laser-guided glide bombs, eventually replaced the RMAF Kfirs, which were gradually phased out until 2010, mothballed, and put up for sale. The last new Su-30MKM arrived in 2009 August, but the F/A-18Ds remained in service – even though only eight machines were still operational at that time. Apparently, the RMAF’s budget was tightened in the meantime since a new requirement for a further batch of new 18 MRCAs remained unfulfilled. Furthermore, the RMAF has also been looking for an AWACS aircraft, although no firm orders have been placed.

General characteristics:
Crew: One
Length (incl. pitot): 16.92 m (55 ft 5¾ in)
Wingspan: 8.22 m (26 ft 11½ in)
Height: 4.61 m (14 ft 11 3/4 in)
Wing area: 34.8 m² (374.6 sq ft)
Empty weight: 7,285 kg (16,060 lb)
Loaded weight: 11,603 kg (25,580 lb) with two 500 L drop tanks, two AAMs
Max. take-off weight: 16,200 kg (35,715 lb)

1× IAl Bedek-built General Electric J-79-J1E turbojet with a dry thrust of 52.9 kN (11,890 lb st)
and 79.62 kN (17,900 lb st) with afterburner

Maximum speed: 2,440 km/h (2 Mach, 1,317 knots, 1,516 mph) above 11,000 m (36,000 ft)
Combat radius: 768 km (415 nmi, 477 mi) in ground attack configuration, hi-lo-hi profile,
with seven 500 lb bombs, two AAMs, two 1,300 L drop tanks
Service ceiling: 17,680 m (58,000 ft)
Rate of climb: 233 m/s (45,950 ft/min)

No internal guns
9× hardpoints under the wings and fuselage for up to 5,775 kg (12,730 lb) of payload

RNAF Republic P-47M Thunderbolt vs Japan​

Republic P-47M Thunderbolt
a/c 421160/26, “Lucky Lady”/“Ruth”, 322 Squadron, Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNAF)
K-10 Chinhae, UN Occupied Southern Korea
Personal mount of Flying Officer Johannes Chrishostomus "Kick" Smit, 27 February 1946

The Republic P-47M Thunderbolt was designed and built in response to the growing threat of Axis jets. At the time, little was known of Japan’s considerable reaction-powered aircraft program, but Germany's was clearly evident. Ordered as an interim solution for a faster Thunderbolt, all 130 P-47Ms were intended for use by the 56th Fighter Group in England. However, the Separate Peace of 22 August 1944 had ended the war in Western Europe before the aircraft arrived. With USAAF commanders in Europe wanting to standardise their Thunderbolt fleet on proven and plentiful late-model P-47Ds, and USAAF commanders in the Pacific wanting to standardise their Thunderbolt fleet on the soon to be delivered P-47N, the P-47M’s deployment was held in limbo until an operator could be found.

With their nation liberated from German occupation, the Dutch government looked to increase its efforts to re-colonise the Netherlands East Indies (NEI), most of which was under Japanese occupation. Seeking to replace the P-40N Kittyhawks of 120 NEI Squadron with new, faster, longer-ranged planes, the Dutch had asked for P-47Ds or P-51Ds, but instead had to settle for the less suitable Kaiser-built Grumman P-50K Spitfire. This deal had just been concluded when, at the start of negotiations on the Dutch commitment to the anticipated invasion of the Japanese Home Islands, the Dutch government learnt of the orphaned P-47Ms. Agreeing to field two fighter squadrons to support the invasion, they asked for the P-47Ms and a deal was struck.

322 and 323 Squadrons of the RNAFwere disbanded in February 1945 and reformed at Clarke Field, Philippines, in May. Once fully trained on the P-47M, August and October saw the two squadrons undertake several fighter escort and sweep missions to Formosa. No enemy aircraft were met in flight. In November they deployed to Ie Shima, off Okinawa, where they flew defensive patrols, again without encountering Japanese aircraft. In January 1946 they moved K-10 Chinhae in UN Occupied Southern Korea, performing air defence patrols (including both defensive Peach and Asparagus flights, the latter to deter Red intervention), Cherry escort missions and Honeydew offensive sweeps. 20 of the Dutch pilots became aces in the turkey shoot that followed the 1 March Allied invasion of Honshu. After the 23 May Japanese surrender, 322 Squadron returned home in July. They re-equipped briefly with the Supermarine Spitfire L.F. Mk.IX before converting to the de Havilland Vampire FB.3. In August 323 Squadron moved to Yotoka, Japan, flying their P-47Ms until September 1948, after which they returned to the Netherlands to fly Meteor F.4s.

Due to its speed, fast climb and high diving velocity, the Dutch P-47Ms were dedicated to air-to-air combat and specialised in engaging Japan’s reaction-powered combatants. Dutch Thunderbolt pilots downed 53 piloted Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka Model 43B Otsu Baka kamikaze pulse jets (plus another 72 unnamed flying bombs), 7 Fuji Kaiken - Kai Terry turbojet fighters, 2 Kyushu Ya Bruce rocket-powered interceptors, plus 1 each of the Rikugun Ki-89 Itsumade-Kai Floyd turbojet dive bomber and the pulse jet-augmented A6M9 Hadō ryū version of the Zero. A further 147 Japanese planes were shot down by the Dutch P-47M pilots, all while flying from K-10 Chinhae.

The Dutch pilots first encountered the manned and unmanned versions of the Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka flying bomb on 23 February 1946. Acting on intelligence that the Allies were embarking invasion forces onto ships at southern Korean ports, the Japanese began their flying-bomb campaign against the invasion fleet on this date. Referring to enemy jets as “suckers” (sukkels in Dutch), the pilots of 322 and 323 Squadrons adopted the phrase “Hi sucker” as a radio callout when pulsejet- or turbojet-powered aircraft were sighted. According to Kick Smit, exclaiming the “hi sucker” battle cry quickly over the radio was a “mocking mimicry of excited Japanese speech.” The phrase was painted on an aircraft when its nominally assigned pilot was credited with his first jet kill.

F/O Smit had just missed combat ops in Europe and flown dozens of missions in the Asia/Pacific theatre without seeing enemy aircraft until 23 February 1946. On that date, he dispatched two unmanned Ohka, and “HI SUCKER” was painted in yellow under the canopy of his personal mount, a/c 421160/26. Both kills were made using the flipping technique, whereby the Allied fighter pilot manoeuvred a wingtip under the flying bomb’s wing and pull up (the wings not making contact due to a boundary layer of air). If done properly, the Ohka would depart from controlled flight and crash. This manner of interception had been pioneered during the Okinawa campaign, when the first manned Ohkas, launched from bombers, were encountered. Proving difficult to shoot down due to their small size, US Navy pilots learnt that disrupting the jets’ flight path could sufficiently disorientate the poorly trained and highly stressed kamikaze pilots into uncontrolled flight.

By 27 February, Smit had achieved 11 kills, all Ohka (6 manned, 5 unmanned). On that date, 322 and 323 Squadrons were tasked with performing a Cherry fighter escort mission for the P-47Ds of the Latin American Fighter Group. Their targets were logistical sites believed to be supplying the flying bomb units with fuel and compressed air. Because the Ohka had only just enough range to reach the southern-most Korean ports from the Japanese Home Islands, their launchers were concentrated around southern Honshu and northwestern Kyushu. The plan for this mission was for the P-47D pilots to unload their bombs and rockets and immediately return to K2 Taegu. The Dutch Thunderbolt pilots were to remain, using the endurance afforded by their loadout of underwing and centreline fuel tanks to transition from the Cherry escort mission to that of a Mango “anti-diver” patrol until relieved by the P-47Ns of the USAAF’s 414 Fighter Group.

However, the plan went awry when the Brazillian pilot Captain Ademir Marques de Menezes was shot down by flak near Manukata, Kyushu. Its engine disabled, de Menezes rode his Thunderbolt to the ground, crashing just short of the coast. It was now a Blackberry rescue CAP mission, with 323 Squadron responsible for strafing to protect the downed airman from capture until a US Navy HO2S-1 helicopter crew could affect a rescue. Assigned top cover, 322 Squadron was patrolling the sky overhead when, without warning, a lone Fuji Kaiken - Kai Terry was seen approaching a low level. F/Lt Faas Wilkes, with his wingman Smit, were the first to see the enemy jet fighter and immediately dove to execute an intercept. Looking forward and up, his vision rearward restricted by the dorsally mounted turbojet, Captain Kazu Noaki (with no combat experience and on just his second Terry flight) didn’t see them coming. Reacting only when he saw Wilkes’ tracers pass by, Noaki pulled into a starboard turn, the planform of his jet filling Smit’s gunsight. A direct burst of fire from his 8 .50 cal Brownings was followed by a long deflection shot as the Terry “wallowed and shuddered” at low altitude. “A gout of flame flickered into a streaming tongue,” Smit wrote in 1949, “and the jet turned over, yawed and toppled over into a series of swirling barrel rolls… it careened into the ground.” The inexperienced Noaki, who was flying a training mission (and directed to intervene in the ResCAP by older commanders who avoided the opportunity to take off and engage the Thunderbolts themselves), was killed. Although injured, Captain de Menezes was rescued and survived the war. Smit would go on to be credited with 31 air-to-air kills.

The nose art on Smit’s P-47N was a reference to a USAAF nurse Kick Smit met in the Philipines: Second Lieutenant Ruth Blackburn. Tended to by nurse Blackburn after breaking his left wrist in a Dutch vs Argentina soccer friendly, the two exchanged addresses and maintained a mail correspondence until they met again in the US in 1951. They married in 1952.


Fairchild FF.260WCu Warrior​


Fairchild FF.260WCu Warrior
#4394 , UM 3710 Regimiento, Cuban Air Force
Luanda, June 1975
Personal mount of Captain Vinícius Júnior

With the swearing-in formalities complete and the “champagne supernova” festivities winding down, President Rúben Dias, with less than three hours on the clock as the first leader of an independent Angola, turned to his generals. They looked worried. Worse still, they were in animated discussion with National Security Advisor André Silver. Dias looked around for his Defence Minister, but the Honorable Simão Sabrosahe couldn’t be seen. The President gestured to Silver and Army Chief of Staff, General Paulo Sousa, to follow him into a quiet room off the main hall.

“Gentlemen, what’s your first recommendation to your new President?” To Sousa, the President’s up-beat and pompous tone seemed out of place. Sousa had personally given the then President-Elect the gravest of briefings just last night. Surely he knew that all this was pomp and circumstance, the champagne and fireworks, the 21 gun salutes, the ball gowns and the waltzes, the brass band and the chamber orchestra, the speeches from men in tuxedos and the Freedom Fighter flyover were just for show. Surely he knew that it was all about to end.

Silver nodded to the General for him to speak.


There were a few moments of silence. President Dias looked stunned and taken aback. The General continued. “There’s a Sea Knight on the 18th hole waiting to take you to an American ship. I recommend that you and your family take it. Now.”

All the President could say was “Where’s Sabrosahe?”

Dias couldn’t find his new Defence Minister, Simão Sabrosahe, because he had already taken General Sousa’s advice and left the gated, razor-wire bordered confines of the Luanda Trump International Resort and Casino Precinct less than an hour after being sworn-in. He and his family had taken two Jetrangers from the Luanda Trump Heliport and were already safely aboard the US Navy’s LHA-2, USS Managua...

Aloft in this Warrior that morning, Captain Vinícius Júnior of the Cuban Air Force could see and hear the drama unfolding. He flew over the thousands of Red and UNITA demonstrators who pushed aside security forces and met in a rioting melee in central Luanda. He heard the crackling radio reports of Angolan government troops withdrawing as their positions were overrun, of mutineers and of units surrendering and changing sides. He identified a convoy of deserters heading for the docks, their trucks loaded with gold and silver stolen from the Angolan Treasury. He avoided a buzzing fleet of private Jetrangers as they picked up well-dressed families and their dogs from rooftops.

Then a familiar voice came on the air. “This is Colonel Alfredo Ribeiro. Cuban Warrior scout, can you give me the quickest route to the Presidential Palace?”. They’d never met, but Capt. Júnior recognised the name and the voice. Col. Ribeiro was a regular on UNITA’s radio stations. Following orders given in the morning briefing, Captain Júnior responded, saying "Consider me your tour guide, Sir."

From the book Leaving Angola: the last days of Portuguese rule and the UN’s failure to prevail, Chapter 3: Champagne supernova by Gabriel Jesus, São Paulo Popular Press, 2005

The Italian aeronautical engineer Stelio Frati was clearly talented, but his designs attracted few orders in the depressed post-war Italian economy. Lured to America by the ailing Waco Aircraft Company in 1947, he designed a couple of highly praised but expensive light civilian aircraft whose sales just kept the company afloat. With the outbreak of war in 1950, Waco and Frati shifted from civilian to military designs, starting with the Waco Etude. Powered by a single Continental Model 320 turbojet, the jet trainer prototype first flew in October 1952, but lost out to Cessna’s T-37 for USAF orders and no more were built. Waco shares slumped with the loss to Cessna and the company was acquired by Fairchild, which kept Frati on as a senior designer. His early designs for Fairchild also failed to garner orders, but with the FF.250, first flown in 1963, Fairchild finally believed that they were on to a winner. Submitted to the USAF as a primary trainer, Frati again lost out to a Cessna, the USAF placing orders for hundreds of Cessna 172-based T-41 Mescaleros.

Unlike Waco’s failure to make the Etude a success in similar circumstances, Fairchild and Frati had a business plan for the FF.250 beyond losing to Cessna. A more powerful (260 hp instead of 250 hp), fully aerobatic version of the FF.250 was already under construction, the intention being to market this new plane to export customers seeking trainers and light attack aircraft. A pair of SF.260 Warriors began a tour of UN and neutral nations in 1965, Fairchild offering generous terms including licence assembly and local manufacturing options. In 1967, Iran placed an order for 240 civilian and military FF.260s, the first 50 being built by Fairchild, after which assembly would lead to full domestic manufacturing. Turkey followed with a similar deal for 150 and by 1972 the FF.260 was also being assembled in Cuba and the Philippines. Basic versions included the FF.260M series of trainers, FF.260C civilian general aviation planes, FF.260W Warrior armed trainers and light strike aircraft, FF.260SW Sea warrior littoral patrol and combat aircraft and later the FF.260TP turboprop-powered versions. When Fairchild went the way of Waco in 1999, the rights and type certificates for the FF.260 were sold to Cubana de Aviación (CdA). CdA followed in the footsteps of Waco and Fairchild by tendering the uprated and updated FF.260E to the USAF competition to replace the T-41, but again failed to achieve a contract.

CdA began assembling FF.260s in 1968, leading to full local manufacturing from 1974. Producing civilian and military versions for both domestic and export customers, the CdA’s FF.260s would see service with clients across Latin America and Africa. Military customers included the armed forces of Burkina Faso, Bolivia, Chad, Columbia, Comoros, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Fiji, Guatemala, Haiti, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nicaragua, North Yemen, Panama, Somalia, South Yemen, Sudan, Uganda, Uruguay and Zambia. The Cuban Air Force used FF.260MCu trainers and FF.260WCu combatants, the Cuban Army fielded the FF.260MCu as a liaison machine and the Cuban Navy acquired FF.260MCu trainers and the FF.260SWCu for coastal and fisheries patrol.

In 1970, Cuba and Brazil led a major UN-mandated intervention into Angola, where the exiled government of the Portuguese Empire was failing to maintain control against growing pro-independence insurgencies. However, the Angolan Stabilisation Force often acted contrary to their official task of propping up the Portuguese position in Angola. Officially, they were there to support the Portuguese Empire, but the Cuban and Brazillian governments sided with the UNITA rebels that were one of several insurgencies vying for power in the inevitable post-independence Angola. Among the main guerrilla forces were the Marxist MPLA, which was supported by the post-Aparthied government of Anzania (South Africa), and the ethnic-based, separatist FLNA which was backed by Zaire and the US. The Brazilians and Cubans conspired to hand the reins of Angolan governance to UNITA as the Portuguese Empire collapsed, but the security situation did not improve. In 1980, with UN combat forces withdrawn, UNITA succumbed to a final series of MPLA offensives.

The FF.260WCu Warrior-equipped UM 3710 Regimiento of the Cuban Air Force arrived in Angola in April 1970. Their counter-insurgency missions included armed convoy and helicopter escort, photographic or armed visual reconnaissance, close air support, light strike, radio relay, artillery spotting and airborne forward air control. Armed with 7.62mm machine gun or minigun pods, anti-personnel or target marking rockets or carrying flares, photo or infrared linescan recce pods or the canopy sill mounted AN/AVQ-9 Zot Box laser designator, the Cuban Warriors of UM 3710 Regimiento were active throughout Angola until the Cuban (and UN) withdrawal in November 1979. They were simple and cheap to maintain, easy to fly, could be deployed to remote airstrips with minimal support and were accurate attack platforms with good range and endurance. Though the Cuban Air Force re-equipped a squadron of Warriors operating in Mozambique with the FMA IA 58A Pucará in 1978, many of Cuba’s first-generation FF.260s were upgraded to or replaced by aircraft in the second generation FF.260TP series during the 1980s and 90s.

This FF.260WCu of the Cuban Air Force’s UM 3710 Regimiento is depicted as photographed at Luanda in June 1975. In the space of less than a week, Captain Vinícius Júnior flew and fought in this aircraft during the Battle of Quifangondo, the handover from the Portuguese Empire to the independent government of President Rúben Dias, the collapse of the Dias regime and the triumphant entry of UNITA forces into Luanda. A notable feature detailed in several photographs of this plane at that time was the lack of its landing gear covers. Capt. Júnior had been flying this plane from small airstrips “up-country” before being ordered back to Luanda for the independence ceremonies. Interviewed by historian Gabriel Jesus for his book Leaving Angola, Cpt. Júnior noted that they had been removed to save weight and to ease access during maintenance; this was a common practice on Cuban Warriors in Angola. Routinely flying morning and an afternoon mission, Capt. Júnior flew armed scouting and forward air control sorties over Luanda and its surroundings during the Portuguese Empire’s withdrawal and UNITA’s succession to power, including target marking sorties during the Battle of Quifangondo and the Battle of Luanda. His aircraft was armed with two Avibras LM-37/7 rocket launchers, each carrying seven 70mm SBAT-37 rockets.

During the Quifangondo battle, UNITA, Cuban and Brazillian forces combined to defeat an attempted advance on Luanda by the National Liberation Army of Angola (ELNA), the armed wing of the National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA). The FLNA was making a desperate attempt to occupy Luanda before the 6th of June when the Portuguese Empire was to officially withdraw from Angola. UNITA troops had occupied Quifangondo since the 2nd of June as it too approached Luanda. Although F-5A fighters and A-37B bombers of the Zairan Air force had attacked UNITA positions ahead of ELNA's assault, their accuracy was poor and they did not return to provide air defence or close air support. UNITA, though, had both on tap, as the Warriors of UM 3710 Regimiento maintained a presence over the battlefield throughout the fighting. Scouting, spotting for artillery and marking targets for Cuban EMB-326Ks and Brazillian (EMBRAER-built) F-104G Starfighters, the Warrior crews directed fire onto the ELNA troops with devastating accuracy. Forced to retreat from Quifangondo, ELNA was substantially defeated on that day and four months later its leaders fled to Zaire, its base territories having been secured by UNITA and its UN backers.

Capt. Júnior told Gabriel Jesus that he knew it was over for the Dias Government when he saw the Bell “Jetrangers parked in the Trump Precinct taking off and heading offshore throughout the morning of the inauguration.”


Eastern Front 1941 Reggiane Re.1901 FB​


Reggiane Re.1901 FB
a/c 23-1, 23° Squadriglias, 61° Gruppo, Regia Aeronautica, Italian Expeditionary Corps in Russia (Corpo di Spedizione Italiano in Russia – CSIR)
27 August, Krivoi Rog, Ukraine

On the morning of 27 August, 1941, Italy launched its first air combat sorties over the Eastern Front. From Krivoi Rog, Ukraine, the Macchi Mc.200 fighters of 22° Gruppo escorted the Reggiane Re.1901 bombers of 61° Gruppo to Petrikovka, where they bombed the centre of the town. It was a short flight between their airfield and the target, allowing another mission to flown during the afternoon. Both missions where well documented by Italian media, with several still and newsreel photographers and reporters in attendance. The Re.1901 marked 23-1 was a star of the resultant newsreels, as a cameraman was flying in the plane next to it in formation on both the morning and afternoon missions.

The Reggiane Re.1901 was a land-based development of the Reggiane Re.1900, which had been designed to meet a Regia Marina requirement for a carrier-based torpedo bomber. Although the Re.1900 didn't enter production due to the failure of the Regia Marina's carrier program, 734 of its land-based derivative were built for the Regia Aeronautica. The original production type was a three seat multi-role torpedo-bomber, capable of fulfilling the anti-shipping role with a 800kg torpedo, level bombing and photographic reconnaissance.

The torpedo-bomber was supplemented on the production line from early 1941 by the FB (Foto Bomber) version. The FB omitted the torpedo gear, had 12.7mm instead of 7.7mm Breda-SAFAT machine guns, carried less fuel but had more armour and featured additional hardpoints under the wings. The navigator/bombardier's position was retained, but as the FB's range was shorter most combat sorties were conducted with just the pilot and radio operator/rear gunner aboard. This was anticipated by the addition of a sight for the pilot that catered for bombing from a shallow dive.

There has been much confusion over the type of bombs carried by the planes of 61° Gruppo for their morning raid against Petrikovka. As seen here, the Re.1901 FBs were each armed with a pair of underwing bombs. Many have assumed from their size that they are 500kg bombs, but the Re.1901 FB couldn't carry two of these under the wings (although they could carry a single 500kg bomb in a slightly off-set position under the centre fuselage). As detailed in captured unit records, the weapons were actually thin-walled 250kg bombs, which were larger than the more commonly used Italian 250kg general purpose bombs. It appears that the thin-walled variety was selected for that first mission in order to generate more spectacular blast shock-waves for the newsreel cameras. The afternoon mission, which switched from the morning’s level, formation bombing to individual, shallow dive bomb runs, used the dimensionally smaller 250kg general purpose bombs. Enemy defensive positions around Petrikovka were targeted in this second visit to the town.

Re.1901 FBs were active on the Eastern Front throughout the Italian commitments of 1941 and 1942. They were withdrawn with the remainder of the Italian land and air forces following the disastrous Volgograd campaign in February 1943. The type also saw considerable service over North Africa,during the bombing of Malta and in the defence of Sicily.
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