All posts by Gunther Arnold

Blohm & Voss Bv 138C-1 (“Seedrache”, „Sea Dragon“), Supermodel

TYPE: Long-range maritime reconnaissance flying boat

ACCOMMODATION: Crew of six

POWER PLANT: Three Junkers Jumo 205D liquid-cooled, vertically opposed diesel engine, rated at 870 hp each

PERFORMANCE: 177 mph at 19,700 ft

COMMENT: Originally developed under the company name of Hamburger Flugzeugbau, the type was initially designated the Ha 138. Its appearance was unique in its combination of unusual design features with its twin boom tail unit, short fuselage and trimotor engine configuration. The short hull, with its hydrodynamic step beneath and flat sides, earned it the nickname “Der fliegende Holzschuh” (“The flying clog”).
Three piston engines were used. The central engine was mounted above the wing, driving a four-blade propeller, while the wing engines were lower, with three-blade propellers. The pre-production prototypes were powered by various makes of engines ranging from 650–1,000 hp. The first standardized version, BV 138B-1, was powered by three 868 hp Junkers Jumo 250D two-stroke, opposed-piston aircraft diesel engines. The engine cowlings also had an atypical appearance, due to the unique nature of the vertical orientation of the six-cylinder opposed-piston Jumo 205 diesel engines, and resembled the cowlings of 4 or 6-cylinder inverted inline engines found on smaller civil and utility aircraft from the Jumo 205’s propshaft placement, emerging forward at the uppermost front end of the power plant.
The booms of the twin tail unit, much like the smaller Focke-Wulf Fw 189 twin-engine reconnaissance monoplane, extended horizontally from the rear of the outer engine nacelles.
For hydrodynamic reasons, the hull featured a distinct “turn-down”, or “beak” at the stern. Two enclosed, powered gun turrets, each mounting a single MG 151/20 autocannon, were located prominently at the bow and stern. A third, fully open Scarf ring-like emplacement, behind the central engine and both above and forward of the rear turret, mounted a MG 131 heavy machine gun covered fields of fire obstructed from the other turrets by the horizontal stabilizer.
In all, 227 examples of standard service variants of the BV 138 were built. The first such variant, Bv 138C-1, began service in March 1941. While non-standard variants carried a variety of armament, the standard variant featured two 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons, one in a power-operated bow turret and one in a power-operated stern turret, up to three 7.92 mm MG 15 machine guns, and a 13 mm MG 131 machine gun in the aft center engine nacelle. It could carry up to 500 kg of bombs or depth charges (under the starboard wing root only) or, in place of these, up to 10 passengers. Both the B-1/U1 and C-1/U1 variants had racks under both wings to double the offensive load.
Some examples of the BV 138 were adapted to specialized roles. The Bv 138 was tested with the oft-used Walter HWK 109-500 “Starthilfe” (RATO) jettisonable rocket pod, used in pairs, for shorter take-off performance. One anti-shipping variant carried FuG 200 “Hohentwiel” low-UHF band maritime search radar. The BV 138 MS variant was converted for minesweeping (suffix “MS” means “Minen-Suchgerät”, “mine-search” aircraft, and carried magnetic field-generating degaussing equipment, including a hoop antenna with a diameter equal to the length of the fuselage, which encircled the hull and wings, which was also used on certain models of the Junkers Ju 52/3m trimotor transport used for the same duty (Ref. 24).

Curtiss SOC-2 “Seagull” (Hasegawa)

TYPE: Scout observation airplane, trainer

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot and observer

POWER PLANT: One Pratt & Whitney R-1340-18 radial engine, rated at 550 hp

PERFORMANCE: 165 mph at 5,000 ft

COMMENT: The Curtiss SOC “Seagull” was an American single-engine scout observation biplane aircraft, designed by the Curtiss-Wright Corporation for the US Navy. The aircraft served on battleships and cruisers in a seaplane configuration, being launched by catapult and recovered from a sea landing. The wings folded back against the fuselage for storage aboard ship. When delivered  from factory or based ashore or on carriers the single float was replaced by fixed wheeled landing gear.
The SOC was ordered for production by the US Navy in 1933 and first entered service in 1935. The first order was for 135 SOC-1 models, which was followed by 40 SOC-2 models for landing operations and 83 SOC-3s. A variant of the SOC-3 was built by the Naval Aircraft Factory and was known as the SON-1
The SOC was not called the “Seagull” until 1941, when the U.S. Navy began the wholesale adoption of popular names for aircraft in addition to their alpha-numeric designations (Ref.:24).

Curtiss SOC-3 “Seagull” (Hasegawa)

TYPE: Scout observation float-plane, trainer

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot and observer

POWER PLANT: One Pratt & Whitney R-1340-18 radial engine, rated at 550 hp

PERFORMANCE: 165 mph at 5,000 ft

COMMENT: The Curtiss SOC “Seagull” was an American single-engine scout observation biplane aircraft, designed by the Curtiss-Wright Corporation for the US Navy. The aircraft served on battleships and cruisers in a seaplane configuration, being launched by catapult and recovered from a sea landing. The wings folded back against the fuselage for storage aboard ship. When based ashore or on carriers the single float was replaced by fixed wheeled landing gear.
The SOC was ordered for production by the US Navy in 1933 and first entered service in 1935. The first order was for 135 SOC-1 models, which was followed by 40 SOC-2 models for landing operations and 83 SOC-3s. A variant of the SOC-3 was built by the Naval Aircraft Factory and was known as the SON-1
By 1941, most battleships had transitioned to the Vought OS2U “Kingfisher” and cruisers were expected to replace their aging SOCs with the third generation Curtiss SO3C “Seamew”. The SO3C, however, suffered from a weak engine and plans to adopt it as a replacement were scrapped. The SOC, despite belonging to an earlier generation, went on to execute its missions of gunfire observation and limited range scouting missions.
The SOC was not called the “Seagull” until 1941, when the U.S. Navy began the wholesale adoption of popular names for aircraft in addition to their alpha-numeric designations.
When operating as a seaplane, returning SOCs would land on the relatively smooth ocean surface created on the sheltered side of the vessel as it made a wide turn, after which the aircraft would be winched back onto the deck.
When the SOC was replaced by the OS2U “Kingfisher”, most remaining airframes were converted into trainers; they remained in use until 1945. With the failure of the Curtiss SO3C “Seamew”, many SOCs in second line service were returned to frontline units starting in late 1943. They saw service aboard warships in the combat zone for the rest of World War II. This is one of the few instances in aviation history in which an older aircraft type, that was retired or sent to second line service, replaced the new aircraft type that was intended to replace it (Ref.: 24).

Grumman F7F-1 Tigercat (Monogram)

TYPE: Carrier-based fighter-bomber

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only

POWER PLANT: Two Pratt & Whitney R-2800-22W Double Wasp engines, rated at 2,100 hp each

PERFORMANCE: 427 mph at 19,200 ft

COMMENT: In mid 1938, the US Navy had ordered a prototype twin-engine fighter from the Grumman Company and, by middle of 1941, preliminary flight-test data for this aircraft, the XF5F-1 (Grumman G-45) was available. Although the XF5F-1 suffered a number of shortcomings, it provided a useful basis for the development of a larger twin-engine fighter. Ordered in June 1941 and designated XF7F-1 this new fighter was intended to be operated from the forthcoming 45,000 ton carriers of the USS Midway class. It was the Navy’s first twin built in production quantities, and the first carrier-based fighter to operate with a tricycle undercarriage. Although classified as a fighter the aircraft was designed to operate in a ground-support role, for which it was heavily armed. In early 1944 an order for 500 Tigercats was given and deliveries began in April 1944. Operational problems and changing requirement let to restriction in the production program. After 34 F7F-1 had been delivered production switched to 189 F7F-3s, similar to the single-seat model but with more powerful R-2800-34W engines. Including two-seated night-fighter variants , the Grumman F7F-3N Tigercat, production totaled 250 aircraft. Too late for operational service in WW II, the Tigercat served with a few Marine squadrons after the war but was soon displaced by the advent of jet-powered aircraft. (Ref. 18)

Ryan F2R-1 Dark Shadow (MPM)

TYPE: Carrier-borne fighter

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only

POWER PLANT: General Electric XT31-GE-2 turboprop and General Electric J31-GE-3 turbojet

Ryan FR-1 Fireball (Airmodel, Vacu)

TYPE: Carrier-borne fighter

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only

POWER PLANT: One Wright R-1820-72W Cyclone 9 air-cooled radial engine, rated at 1,350 hp and General Electric J31-GE-3 turbojet, engine rated at 700 kg thrust

PERFORMANCE: 404 mph at 17,800 ft

Messerschmitt Me 108B Taifun (Fly)

Republic P-47D-25 Thunderbolt, 512 FS, 406 FG (Revell, Parts from Pavlamodel)

Republic P-47D-22-RE Thunderbolt, 509 FS, 405 FG (Revell, Parts from Pavlamodel)

Northrop XP-79B Flying Ram (RS Models)

TYPE: Interceptor fighter

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only, in prone position

POWER PLANT: 2 x Westinghouse 19B (J30) jet engines, rated at 650 kp each

PERFORMANCE: 547 mph

COMMENTS: In 1942 John K. Northrop conceived the XP-79 as a high-speed rocket-powered flying-wing fighter aircraft. In January 1943, a contract for two prototypes with designation XP-79 was issued by the United States Army Air Forces. To test the radical design, glider prototypes were built, designated MX-324. Originally, it was planned to use a Aerojet XCALR-2000A-1 liquid-fueled rocket motor rated at 920 kp thrust supplied by monoethylanilin and red fuming nitric acid. Because of the corrosive and toxic nature of the liquids, the XP-79 was built using a welded magnesium alloy monocoque structure to protect the pilot if the aircraft was damaged in combat with a 3 mm skin thickness at the trailing edge and a 19 mm thickness at the leading edge. However, the rocket motor configuration using canted rockets to drive the turbopumps was unsatisfactory and the aircraft was subsequently fitted with two Westinghouse 19-B (J-30) turbojets instead. This led to changing the designation to XP-79B.  The nickname “Flying Ram” is attributed to the unusual fighting tactic. It was planned to fly with high speed direct towards the enemy and to hit it with wingtips or fuselage. Due to its extreme stability the fighter and its pilot should survive. The XP-79B was lost during its first flight on 12 September 1945. Shortly thereafter, the second and the overall project was cancelled (Ref.: 23).