tiistai 14. marraskuuta 2017

Po-2 night bombers

"Night Witches" (German: Nachthexen; Russian: Ночные ведьмы, Nochnye Vedmy) was a World War II German nickname for the women military aviators of the 588th Night Bomber Regiment, known later as the 46th "Taman" Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment, of the Soviet Air Forces. 
Though women were initially barred from combat, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin issued an order on October 8, 1941 to deploy three women's air force units, including the 588th regiment. The regiment, formed by Colonel Marina Raskova and led by Major Yevdokia Bershanskaya, was made up entirely of women volunteers in their late teens and early twenties.

The regiment flew harassment bombing and precision bombing missions against the German military from 1942 until the end of the war. At its largest, it had 40 two-person crews. The regiment flew over 24,000 missions and dropped 23,000 tons of bombs
 It was the most highly decorated all-women unit in the Soviet Air Force, each pilot having flown over 800 missions by the end of the war and twenty-three having been awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union title. Thirty of its members died in combat.

The regiment flew in wood-and-canvas Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes, a 1928 design intended for use as training aircraft and for crop dusting, and to this day the most-produced wood-airframed biplane in aviation history. The planes could carry only six bombs at a time, so 8 or more missions per night were often necessary. Although the aircraft were obsolete and slow, the pilots made daring use of their exceptional maneuverability; they had the advantage of having a maximum speed that was lower than the stall speed of both the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and the Focke-Wulf Fw 190, and as a result, German pilots found them very difficult to shoot down. 

An attack technique of the night bombers was to idle the engine near the target and glide to the bomb release point, with only wind noise left to reveal their location. German soldiers likened the sound to broomsticks and named the pilots "Night Witches." Due to the weight of the bombs and the low altitude of flight, the pilots carried no parachutes.

From June 1942, the 588th Night Bomber Regiment was within the 4th Air Army. In February 1943, the regiment was honored with a reorganization into the 46th Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment and in October 1943 it became the 46th "Taman" Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment. "Taman" referred to the unit's involvement in two celebrated Soviet victories on the Taman Peninsula during 1943.

On October 8, 1941, Order number 0099 specified the creation of three women's squadrons—all personnel from technicians to pilots would be entirely composed of women. 

Although all three regiments had been planned to have women exclusively, only the 588th would remain an all-women regiment throughout the war. The Regiment had to employ male mechanics as no women had received training to work on the Yakovlev fighter planes before the war. 

The 586th's woman commander, Major Tamara Aleksandrovna Kazarinova, was replaced by a man, Major Aleksandr Vasilievich Gridnev, in October 1942. 

The 587th Regiment was originally under the command of Marina Raskova, but after her death in 1942, a male commanding officer, Major Valentin Vasilievich Markov, replaced her. The 587th's Petlyakov Pe-2 dive bombers also required a tall person to operate the top rear machine gun, but not enough women recruited were tall enough, requiring some men to join the aircrews as radio operator/tail gunner.

In 1981, a Soviet feature-length film called Night Witches In The Sky (В небе ночные ведьмы) was directed by Evgenia Zhigulenko (Евгения Жигуленко), Hero of the Soviet Union, and one of the members of the 588th.

In 2001, a UK-Russian co-production starring Malcolm McDowell, Sophie Marceau and Anna Friel was due to be made, but failed to get backing from an American studio.

In 2013 two different productions were released. First came a short animation called The Night Witch commemorating Nadezhda Popova  - who had died earlier that year 

 - was commissioned in collaboration with The New York Times Magazine's The Lives They Lived issue, and directed by Alison Klayman. 

Secondly, a Russian TV series titled Night Swallows was produced and distributed. There was also an announcement in the same year of a feature film to be written by Gregory Allen Howard and financed by the grandson of Boris Yeltsin, but there have been no updates since the initial announcement.

torstai 9. marraskuuta 2017

RAF 331. - Norwegian Squadron

No. 331 Squadron RAF was a Second World War squadron of the Royal Air Force. The squadron was primarily manned with Norwegian aircrew. The squadron was part of Fighter Command between 1941 and March 1944 when it joined the 2nd Tactical Air Force until the end of the war. The squadron took part in the Dieppe Raid and the Normandy landings.
It was formed as a fighter squadron at RAF Catterick in Yorkshire on 21 July 1941. The squadron was manned by exiled Norwegians, except for the ground crew and the commanding officer.

It was given the RAF aircraft code prefix "FN", which was often said to be an abbreviation for "First Norwegian" or "For Norway", the latter being the squadron's official motto (in Norwegian For Norge). The squadron badge was a Norwegian Viking sword and a British sword in saltire, bound together with a ring — symbolising the friendship between Norway and Great Britain.
Aircraft operated during RAF service
July–August 1941 Hawker Hurricane I & IIB
August–November 1941 Supermarine Spitfire IIA
November 1941-August 1942 Supermarine Spitfire VB
March–October 1942 Supermarine Spitfire IXB

October 1942-November 1945 Supermarine Spitfire IXE
The squadron was initially equipped with Hawker Hurricane Mk 1s, inherited from a Polish RAF unit. These had to be rebuilt before 331 Squadron could become operational, on 15 September 1941. It provided defence for northern Scotland, moving to RAF Castletown on 21 August and later to RAF Skaebrae.

On the 4th May 1942, the squadron moved south to RAF North Weald,[3] having re-equipped with Spitfires in November 1941.

331 Squadron was joined by a second Norwegian unit 332 Squadron, also flying Spitfires. Together they were known as North Weald Wing and were part of the Allied air umbrella over the landing area in the Dieppe Raid, and later flying fighter sweeps and escort operations over occupied France and the Low Countries.

In November 1943, 331 and 332 Squadrons were transferred to the 2nd Tactical Air Force and became known as No. 132 Airfield; later No. 132 Wing.

Following fighter bomber and tactical air superiority operations, connected to preparations for D-Day and the actual landings in France, the squadron moved to Caen, Normandy, in August 1944. From September onwards, 132 Wing participated in the Liberation of Holland and provided air support for the crossing of the Rhine.

On 24 April 1945, the squadron was transferred to North Weald and later to RAF Dyce in Scotland, where 331 and 332 Squadrons converted to Spitfire Mark IXe and Mk XVI.

Following the end of the war, the wing flew to Norway and on 21 September 1945, 331 Squadron was officially disbanded as an RAF unit, with control passed to the re-formed Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF).

Between them during the war, 331 and 332 Squadrons scored 180 confirmed destroyed, 35 probables and more than 100 damaged. Combined losses were 131 aircraft lost with 71 pilots killed.

In honour of the achievements of the Second World War squadrons, the RNoAF has maintained RAF squadron names, including a 331st Fighter Squadron, now flying F-16s and based at Bodø Main Air Station.

sunnuntai 5. marraskuuta 2017

Fokker E.IV

Given the Fokker designation of M.15, the E.IV was essentially a lengthened Fokker E.III powered by the 119 kW (160 hp) Oberursel U.III two-row, 14-cylinder rotary engine, a copy of the Gnome Double Lambda. The more powerful engine was intended to enable the Eindecker to carry two or three 7.92 mm machine guns, thereby increasing its firepower and providing redundancy if one gun jammed - a common occurrence at the time. However, the E.IV was a troubled design that never achieved the success of its predecessor and was soon out-classed by French and British fighters.
The prototype E.IV was accepted for testing by the German Inspektion der Fliegertruppen in September 1915. It was fitted with three forward-firing 7.92 mm lMG 08 "Spandau" machine guns, mounted to fire upwards at 15°. Anthony Fokker demonstrated the E.IV at Essen but the complicated triple-synchronization gear failed and the propeller was damaged. 
The removal of the left-side gun is believed to have been pioneered on Oswald Boelcke's E.IV, believed to have borne IdFlieg serial 123/15, with a simpler double-synchronisation system used on the retained center-line and right side MG 08 Spandau guns. The fitment of dual MG 08 "Spandau" forward-firing, synchronized machine guns became the standard armament for production E.IVs, and indeed for all subsequent German D-type biplane fighters. The angling of the guns was also abandoned.
General characteristics
Crew: 1
Length: 7.5 m 
Wingspan: 10 m 
Height: 2.7 m 
Wing area: 15.9 m2 
Empty weight: 466 kg 
Max takeoff weight: 724 kg 
Powerplant: 1 × Oberursel U.III 14-cyl. two-row air-cooled rotary piston engine, 119 kW (160 hp)
Maximum speed: 170 km/h (
Range: 240 km 
Service ceiling: 3,960 m 
Rate of climb: 4.167 m/s 
Armament: 2 × forward-firing 7.92 mm LMG 08 "Spandau" mg
or 3 x forward-firing 7.92 mm LMG 08 "Spandau" mg
The modified prototype underwent combat evaluation on the Western Front by Oberleutnant Otto Parschau in October 1915, making it the first twin-gun fighter in service. Leading German ace Oswald Boelcke evaluated the E.IV at Fokker's Schwerin factory in November. The pilots discovered that mounting the much heavier Oberursel U.III onto the Eindecker airframe did not produce a better aircraft - one pilot described it as "practically a flying engine." 
The inertial and gyroscopic forces of the spinning mass made the E.IV less manoeuvrable than the E.III and any loss of efficiency from the notoriously unreliable engine made the aircraft virtually uncontrollable, requiring the engine to be switched off. Turning under such conditions was exceedingly difficult because the E.IV still used wing warping instead of ailerons. Furthermore, the engine worked well when new, but lost power after only a few hours of operation.

Only 49 E.IVs were built out of the total Eindecker production run of 416 aircraft. Over half of the E.IVs entered service in June 1916 and the last were delivered in December 1916 by which time they were obsolete.