Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk

Frederick Air Show – 8/18/2003

General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark

The F-111 Aardvark is a all weather fighter-bomber with a variable geometry wing developed by the United States in the 1960s . The development of this aircraft was difficult, but once all the problems were solved, the F-111 proved to be a formidable weapon system, and very reliable. Over 554 F-111’s were produced over twenty years.  In December 2010, it was retired from service with the Australian Army, the last to possess in service.

As early as 1968 , the F-111A was sent to fight in Vietnam. Following the loss of several aircraft, all F-111 were banned from flying in December 1969 to July 1970. Three problems were discovered and fixed: the first in the motion control of the rudders, and the other two are the weaknesses of the structure at the wings. The war missions revealed various other malfunctions in the electronic systems, and in case of heavy rain, problems with the engines. Despite this, the F-111 proves capable of performing missions a variety of missions, and took over many bombing missions from the lesser capable F-4 Phantom.

All models of the F-111 (except the Australian F-111C) were equipped to carry the nuclear weapons . Tactical versions typically can carry the B43 , B57 or B61 , while the FB-111A can also carry the B77 and B83.

Republic P-47 Thunderbolt

The Republic P-47 Thunderbolt was one of the most important American fighters of the Second World War. Its large size and sturdy construction have earned it the nickname Jug, short for The Juggernaut. The P-47 excelled in fire support missions helping the ground troops, which quickly became its main role. Because of The Jugs importance in the ground war, it never competed with the other American fighter, the P-51 Mustang as air superiority King.

A total of 15,660 Thunderbolts were produced, making it one of the most produced aircraft of all time. While it was overshadowed somewhat by the North American P-51 Mustang in the role of fighter, many American pilots obtained their success on this machine, such as Francis S. Gabreski with 31 confirmed victories, Captain Robert S. Johnson with 28, and Colonel H. Zemke with 20. Even in the Pacific , where fighting low level against the agile Japanese fighters did not favor the P-47, it remained a competitive fighter against the Zero.   Colonel Neel Kearby proved that by bringing down 24 Japanese planes before his death in March 1944 over Wewak .

The P-47 Thunderbolt  was powered by the powerful Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp which boasted  2000 h , supercharged by a turbocharger, and was armed with eight 50 caliber machine guns.


A Hellcat that Got Its Feet Wet

I recently heard about a Grumman Hellcat that is now a popular scuba wreck site in Indochina.  Not only is it a perfectly preserved plane that can be explored, it has a very interesting story to go along with it.

The F6-F Hellcat , like the Wildcat, was built by the U.S. firm Grumman.   Grumman produced 12,275 copies of the plane from 1942 to 1945. It was a  formidable fighter, 56% of all Japanese losses, more than 5,000 aircraft, were attributed to the Hellcat. The Hellcat had a wingspan of 13.05 m and a length of 10.2 m. It was powered by a 2,000 hp Pratt and Whitney R-2800-10, and could reach 605 km / h with a ceiling of 11,450 m. Its range was 1,755 km.

This copy was bought by France in 1950 had served in Indochina before being repatriated in Hyères in August 1954. The sunken wreck was discovered in 1999. The archives of the Navy mention a ditching following an engine failure during an exercise to fly landing configurations designed  to test the reactions of the plane at a reduced speed. But when Jean-Noël Duval, Patron of the CIP Lavandou and discoverer of the wreck, contacted the pilot Jack Langin in July 1999, he told him the real reason for the presence of the aircraft under the sea.

On May 14, 1956 young pilot, Jack Langin headed off for a training flight. Joined by another driver, they had fun doing low altitude passes above the sea, but a slight mistake caused him to touch the surface of the sea. The engine stalled and Jack no longer has as an option but than attempting a water landing, which he did. He left the cockpit and was recovered in his rescue dinghy. If he told the truth, his career would have been over before it even began!  This accident led to the invention of this story about an engine failure before the Commission of Inquiry by the Navy.

This is the ultimate aircraft wreckage.  The wreck lies at a depth of 57 m off of Cape Negro in Indochina and is reserved for experienced divers. It is located on the flat sandy bottom. During the descent,  the Hellcat feels like its going to take off again because it appears absolutely flawless even after more than 50 years spent under water. The landing of Jack Langin had to be perfect, the fuselage , tail , as well as the wings are intact. In addition the guns and the cockpit canopy are still attached.  At the front the engine is in good condition, however the propeller is missing.