Monthly Archives: August 2013

Of Dragon Ladies and Oxcarts

From the Usual USAF Source

Declassified CIA Document Released on U-2, Oxcart

George Washington University’s National Security Archive last week released a redacted, declassified 1992 CIA document on the history of the U-2 and Oxcart reconnaissance aircraft programs that includes “a significant amount” of never-before-publicized details on them, according to the archive. Among them are: “numerous references” to the Air Force’s classified test site at Groom Lake, Nev., with a map of the area; and discussion of British participation in the U-2 program, U-2 operations from India between 1962 and 1967, and US-sponsored Chinese Nationalist U-2 operations. The CIA’s release of the redacted version of this document, The Central Intelligence Agency and Overhead Reconnaissance: The U-2 and OXCART Programs, 1954-1974, came in response to the archive’s 2005 Freedom of Information Act request. Some press reports last week made it seem like this document represented the first time that the US government publicly acknowledged the existence of the Groom Lake facility. That is incorrect, as US government recognition goes back at least to the mid-1990s by our count. (National Security Archive webpage on document) (See also Flying High and The Oxcart Story from Air Force Magazine’s archives.)

I’m working my way through the document at the web page link (above), beginning with the Oxcart section.  It’s fascinating reading, especially about Convair’s proposed alternative to the Lockheed design.  I never knew…

Here’s the table of contents:

Chapter 1 : Searching for a System
Chapter 2 : Developing the U-2
Chapter 3 : U-2 Operations in the Soviet Bloc and Middle East, 1958-1968
Chapter 4 : The Final Overflights of the Soviet Union, 1959-1960
Chapter 5 : U-2 Operations after May 1960
Chapter 6 : The U-2’s Intended Successor: Project OXCART, 1956-1968
Chapter 7 : Conclusion
Appendices, Bibliography

Those links work.

Cross-posted from EIP.


Filed under Airplanes, History, Other Stuff

Sukhoi T-4 (Part 1)


The Sukhoi T-4 at the ramp.

The Sukhoi T-4 is arguably called the “world’s first fly-by-wire” aircraft. It is however the first aircraft in Russia, to be built using titanium (like Lockheed’s SR-71 Blackbird).

Design configuration for the T-4 was finalized in December 1964 after extensive research done at TsAGI (the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute, the Soviet counterpart to NASA) over the previous 2 years. The T-4 was do be a Mach 3+ so-called “strategic weapons system” i.e. a bomber, somewhat similar to the North American XB-70 (to which the T-4 bears a more than passing resemblance).

T-4 3 view

Sukhoi T-4 3-view drawing.

The Sukhoi T-4 (sometimes called the “Sotka” meaning 100) is 146ft 2in long and has a wing span of 72ft 2in (smaller than the XB-70) and is 36ft 9in tall. She weighs in empty 120,370lb. Loaded at 252,205lb (normal) or a maximum weight of 299,824lb. The wing has an area of 3,183 sq ft2.

The design performance specifications are as follows: Maximum speed was to have been 1,988mph (Mach 3.01). At sea level 715 mph (Mach 0.94). The service ceiling was 78,740ft with a range of 3,780 miles in the clean configuration. Take off and landing runs were 3,281ft and 3,117 respectively.

T-4 Fuselage 1

The T-4s fuselage at construction.

T-4 Fuselage 2

The T-4 aircraft under construction without the nosecone.

Overall, the structure of the T-4 used VT-20, VT-21L and VT-22 titanium alloys. As mentioned, the T-4 was the first aircraft in the Soviet Union to be constructed of titanium. VIS-2 and VIS-5 stainless steels were also used in the structure of the T-4. VKS-210 structural steel was used for fuel system piping and VNS-2 steel was used for hydraulic system piping.

The T-4’s flight control system consisted of a main, electro-hydraulic, fly-by-wire control system and a back mechanical system. The FBW system operated in 3 modes :

-a damper mode operating jointly with the mechanical control system.

-the takeoff and landing mode.

-the enroute mode.

The quadruplex FBW system had full authority but would automatically fail-over to the mechanical system if any of the 2 FBW channels failed. Each channel of the mechanical system was equipped with an automatic cable tension control unit and a changeover mechanism. The FBW and mechanical control system both had common artificial feel units and trimming mechanisms. Duplicate electromechanical actuators operated the canards via electrical signals from the pilot’s controls. All flights were done with the FBW control system switched on from the moment of takeoff.

T-4 in flight

An in-flight view of the T-4s wing surface.

The wing featured 0 degrees of anhedral. The inboard leading edge was angled at 75 degrees 44’. The outboard leading edge was angled at 60 degrees 17’. The wing’s thinkness/chord ratio was 2.7%. Both leading edges were fixed. Each wing also had 4 evelons (a combination of elevators and ailerons). There were also flapped canard foreplanes and a 2 part rudder.

T-4 Nose Position

A composite photo of the movable nose in the lowered and raised positions.

The fuselage diameter was 20 inches. The nose could be drooped (for better crew visibility during takeoff and landing) to 12 degrees 12’ at speeds up to 435 mph. The nose was driven by screwjack driven hydraulic motors located behind the pilot. The first T-4 (aircraft serialed “101”) had a periscope for the pilot when the nose was fully raised. The cabin as fully pressurized and located behind the cabin was a refrigerated fuselage section containing the avionics. Behind that were 3 fuel tanks that carried a a total of 57 tonnes of fuel (a specially developed fuel called RG-1, a naphthyl fuel similar to JP-7)In the aft section of the fuselage, there is provision for braking parachute.

photo (1)

T-4 landing run after the first flight trailing the braking parachutes.

The fuel system was automated to maintain the T-4s center-of-gravity throughout the flight envelope. Production versions had provision for a ventral-mounted drop tank and air refueling recepticle.

T-4 aft

A view of the 4 RD-31 engine nozzles as installed on the T-4.

T-4 Inlet and gear

A view of the T-4’s landing gear, engine bay and air inlet.

Under the wing of the T-4 was a huge box containing the air inlet system and the RD-36 turbojet engines.  The T-4 was powered by 4 Kolesov RD-36-41 turbojets each rated at 35,273lb in afterburner. The RD-36 has a specific fuel consumption of 1.94lbs/h at military power and 4.19lbs/h. The FBW system controlled the engines, the 3-section variable nozzles and the variable geometry air inlets. The T-4 had an automatic engine control system. For the most part it was used during decent and final approach phases to maintain speed. The system was doubly redundant and had built-in test equipment.

photo (2)

The T-4 main gear.

Each main landing gear had 4 twin tired wheels that retracted forward, rotating 90 degrees to lie on it’s side just outboard of the air inlet box. The nose gear has a levered suspension on 2 tires with wheel brakes and steering. The nose gear retracts backwards into a a bay between the engine ducts.

The T-4 has 4 autonomous hydraulic systems pressured at 3,980lb/in2. The aircraft also had a 400Hz 3 phase electrical system rated at 220/115V powered by 4 oil-cooled alternators each rated at 60kVa.

T-4 Cutaway English

Sukhoi T-4 cutaway drawing.

In part 2 I’ll cover the T-4 flight-test program.


Filed under Aeronautical Engineering, Airplanes

Storm in The Desert

Among The Joshua Trees

On occasion this time of year we get these big Thunder Bumpers. It makes me think of Kansas. Yeah, I miss The Sunflower State.

This storm looked like it had a lot of rain but out here, most of the rain does not reach the ground. It is the powerful wind pushing the sand and dirt. Visibility on the roads suffers because of the blowing sand.

This big puppy was to the East over North Edwards, Boron, Kramer Junction and Barstow at least.



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User submit: only remaining flyable B-29 Superfortress (35 HQ Photos)


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Australia 1986 – Sydney


Images of Australia 1986


I was able to stay in Australia 6 weeks. From Cairns – up in the northwest corner I flew to Sydney, which was about as different as night & day.

I always like to compare Sydney and Melbourne to Los Angeles and San Francisco. Melbourne is laid back and Sydney is go-go-go. Continue reading


Filed under Travel

Book Review: National Naval Aviation Museum: The Aircraft Collection

photo (3) I recently purchased this book after looking at a link in the Nep Lex Facebook group (another reason to join FB and the Group if you haven’t already). It’s been quite a while since I’ve been to the National Naval Aviation Museum and I thought it would be a good book to have at the coffee table.

I couldn’t be happier with this purchase, now granted I like all airplanes but I’ve got a special place in my heart for Naval Aviation.

The National Naval Aviation Museum: The Aircraft, is a 164 page color  photo guide to most, if not all of the aircraft on display not only inside the Museum but, to my surprise and delight, displayed outdoors on their ramp as well.

Each page contains a color photo of the aircraft as its displayed in the Museum as well as a few pictures of the type as it appeared in service. I’m not a photog by any stretch but the photos are absolutely beautiful!

There’s a brief description of the aircraft and the role it played in the story of Naval Aviation. My favorite part of the book is the description of the individual aircraft history not many Museum book do that and this is one of the few. There’s also a small section for each aircraft containing the performance and specifications.

The book covers the entire gambit of Naval Aviation history from the beginning through both World Wars, The Cold War, Korea, Vietnam Desert Storm and many others. There’s a fascinating section that details aircraft current undergoing restoration at the Museum that made me wish they took more photos there 🙂

My ONLY nitpick is the picture of the F-16N to open the Vietnam War section of the book. The F-16N isn’t a Vietnam War era aircraft but hey, it in no way detracts from the book (I’m just kind of being a nerd here).

The National Naval Aviation Museum: The Aircraft, would also serve as a great reference for taking the Museum’s virtual tour.

The book is available for purchase, from the Museum’s Flight Deck Store for $15.00. A darn good value in my opinion AND you get to help the Museum.

If you like aviation in general (and especially Naval Aviation) I can’t recommend this book enough. The National Naval Aviation Museum: The Aircraft, is a welcome addition to my collection.


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Cutaway Thursday: Chance-Vought XF5U-1

Pancake Cutaway


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Berlin 1992


Images of Berlin – 1992


I’ve been reading 2 books last few days – one – is fascinating but so full of detail as to make (at least for me) an arduous read. The other, I started and I am flying through it. Continue reading


Filed under Travel

Kiowa Warrior Pr0n

The Brigade has quite a few high-Rez pics of the Army’s OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter.
The things crews did with this helo in OEF and OIF is legendary.
Here’s some samples of what you’ll find:





Go ahead, go look. You know you want to. I’ll be here when you get back…promise 🙂


Filed under Army Aviation, Heroes Among Us

Soviet Aggressor Program

7-17-2013 11-40-37 AM

Most readers will already be familiar with the famed US Navy “graduate level” ACM program, TOPGUN (yeah, that’s one word, all caps) and the USAF’s Fighter Weapons School and the Red Flag exercises. During the Cold War did the Soviet Air Force have a similar program. That’s indeed the case and that the topic of this post.

Due to very poor showing of Soviet built aircraft in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the Soviet Union began a program generally known with the Soviet Air Force as The Center for Flight Personnel. The Center was located in Turkmenistan at an airbase called Maryy-1 (Maryy is pronounced “Marie).

1521st AB AM BadgeLocated at this base is a unit known as the 1521st Airbase unit. The 1521st consisted of 3 squadrons, 2 that would be considered “aggressor” units both flying the MiG-29 and an additional unit that operated the La-17 drone for target practice for the visiting Soviet Air Force units.

The squadrons of the 1521st was formed in 1974 and flew the MiG-21bis. Pilots for these squadrons contained a higher number of highly experienced pilots (distinctions of combat pilot experience in Soviet forces at the time were known as “First Class” and “Sniper” level pilots). These units had a higher proportion of these highly experienced pilot when compared to regular Soviet Air Force units.

Generally, the syllabus used by the units at Maryy-1 consisted of 5 parts:

-assessment of individual pilot skills.

-low level flying over the area’s featureless terrain for aircrew familiarization.

-ACM and QRA performance assessment.

-tactical excerises involving multiple aircraft.

-live missile launch and gunnery.

It should be noted that the Soviet Air Force had no TACTS system with which to provide real-time monitoring of aircraft involved in ACM (such as that used by the USAF and US Navy). All training was monitored in real time over the radio using a GCI from the 1521st and another controller from the visiting unit.

Soviet Air Force regiments’ results reflected on it’s graded readiness level and as expected getting a perfect score in the evaluation was very difficult.

Aggressor Fulcrum 1 Aggressor Fulcrum 7 The 1st Squadron of the 1521st initially flew the MiG-21bis and then the MiG-29 Fulcrum-C. The tips of the horizontal stabilator and the wingtips were painted yellow, with a black outline, to make the aircraft look like the F-15 Eagle. To keep up that appearance, angled black converging in a black and yellow chevron were applied aft of the cockpit. Sharkmouth markings were also added to aircraft based on ground crew preference.

Aggressor Fulcrum 47-17-2013 11-39-00 AM The 1st Squadron markings consisted of saber-toothed Tiger with a winged number “1.” The current status of this squadron is not known.

MiG-23MLD Aggressor 7-17-2013 11-40-13 AM7-17-2013 11-39-44 AM The 2nd Squadron of the 1521st first flew the MiG-23MLD. There were plans to reequip the squadron with the Su-27 Flanker but instead received high-time MiG-29 airframes. These aircraft also featured sharkmouth markings with other marking consisting of a “sour-faced” hornet superimposed on a red lightning bolt with the letters “AM” (aviabaza Maryy, airbase Marie) above it.

Aggressor Fulcrum 3

Aggressor Fulcrum 2

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the 2nd Squadron’s aircraft were transferred to the Kazakstan Air Force.

There really isn’t a lot of open-source information, either from books or the DTIC publication database. According to these sources there isn’t even references to these squadrons in Soviet defense publications.

Back To The Secondary Index 


Filed under Airplanes, Outside the Box, Red Flag, USAF