Skip to comments.Irregular warfare offers new role for propeller driven aircraft
Posted on 10/25/2010 9:06:30 PM PDT by sukhoi-30mki
Irregular warfare offers new role for propeller driven aircraft
By Stephen Trimble
Bringing back the propeller-driven fighter in the age of counterinsurgency may seem to some a belated no-brainer or to others a wasteful diversion with potentially suicidal risk to the pilot.
As late as early 2008, the leadership of the US Air Force sided firmly with the sceptics. Lt Gen Donald Hoffman, then the USAF's top-ranking acquisition official, implied to a group of reporters in April of that year that the idea of deploying propeller-driven aircraft in modern combat is too risky.
"We can rebuild the [North American] P-51 - great airplane," said Hoffman, citing the propeller-driven Second World War fighter. Then, however, the former Lockheed Martin F-16 pilot pointed at each of the journalists. "All we need is you, you, you and you to go fly it into the threat zone," he said.
The Second World War P-51: a template for a modern-day propeller-driven fighter? Picture: Staff Sgt Jeremy Smith/US Air Force
Propeller-driven aircraft fly lower and slower than fast jets such as the F-16, and carry less cockpit armour than the "titanium bathtubs" surrounding pilots in the Fairchild A-10 or the Boeing AH-64 Apache.
It is this combination that drove the type out of the USAF inventory immediately after the Vietnam war, with the retirements of the Douglas A-1 Skyraider, the Cessna O-2 Skymaster and the de Havilland C-7 Caribou.
Paradoxically, however, the propeller-driven aircraft's ability to fly low and slow for long periods is responsible for a rebirth of enthusiasm within the USAF since shortly after Hoffman made his remarks about reintroducing the P-51.
The USAF leadership's position on the light attack mission would quickly
(Excerpt) Read more at flightglobal.com ...
The Apache chopper and the A-10 ain’t too bad.
a) Composites make for a stronger, lighter AC.
b) Turbo vs. the Allison or RR. 'nough said.
c) Much less cockpit clutter on the keeping the airplane in the air part.
d) Much more room for advanced avionics.
I'm fairly technically happy with the new AT-6 variant. How they do the operational doctrine, I haven't seen much of that.
Right on. The able dog was a tough airplane, packing plenty of firepower.
I was training in the AD when the Navy nixed the airframe...I loved that bird ...
As a former zoomie, I sorta stand with the Marines on ground support.... It needs to go organic. Army should own the A-10s.
Perhaps I wouldn't be so opinionated if the AF didn't make TSgt cooks study Clausewitz and all the others if they want to make MSgt. ;)
http://www.802u.com/ offers an interesting concept at a very low cost. Much more cost effective than helicopters for many missions that don’t really need a helicopter.
A lot of the article whizzed right on by me but there is a reason that many successful demo derby drivers still run contact-point ignitions.
When all the high-tech stuff is breaking down, what with directed energy weapons and whatnot, the last guy running wins...
1. The Republic Thunderbolt had a radial engine that could take hits and keep on running. I know of an actual case where a Jug brought a pilot back from Borneo after 8 hours in the air. The pilot landed with the master cylinder and three other cylinders blown out of commission. But the Jug kept chugging along, running well enough to bring its pilot back safely to his base at Morotai. I was there.
2. The Jug's radial engine was air cooled, instead of liquid cooled with a radiator system, like the Mustang's V-12. This is significant because one small caliber hit on an aluminum cooling line in a Mustang would let the coolant leak out, and when the coolant was gone, the engine seized, and the show was over.
I took a small caliber hit in a coolant tube over Formosa (Taiwan). When I landed back at base, my crew chief said, "Lieutenant, did you know you got hit?" I replied, "No." He continued, "You took a small caliber shell in the coolant tube on the right side of the engine. I'd give you between 10 and 15 minutes flying time remaining." I had just flown from Formosa, over nothing but the Pacific Ocean, to our fighter strip on Okinawa.
3. The P-47 could fly higher than the P-51. With its huge turbocharger, it could climb to over 40,000 feet. You could just look down at your enemy in a stall and smile. 4. The Jug could out dive the Mustang. As a matter of fact, it could out dive any enemy fighter, and at 7.5 tons loaded, it dove fast! I have personally been in a dive at what we called the "state of compressibility," at nearly 700 mph indicated air speed. I was scared to death, but with a tiny bit of throttle, I pulled it out at about 2,000-foot altitude, literally screaming through the sky.
5. The Thunderbolt had eight .50's. The Mustang had six. That's 33 1/3% more firepower. This made a major difference.
6. The later model Thunderbolt's could carry and deliver 2,500 pounds of bombs. (One 1,000-lb. bomb on each wing, and one 500 lb. bomb under the belly.) This was a maximum load and you had to use water injection to get airborne. But it would do this with sufficient runway. I have done this myself.
In addition to being a first class fighter, it was also a superb fighter-bomber and ground level strafer. Jugs practically wiped out the German and Italian railroads. I have strafed Japanese trains, troops, ships, gunboats, warships, airfields, ammo dumps, hangers, antiaircraft installations, you name it. I felt secure in my P-47.
7. The P-47 was larger and much stronger, in case of a crash landing. The Jug was built like a machined tool. Mustangs had a lot of sheet metal stamped out parts, and were more lightweight in construction. One example was the throttle arm. You can see the difference. What does all this mean? The safety of the fighter pilot.
8. The Thunderbolt had no "scoop" under the bottom. You can imagine what happens during a crash landing if your wheels would not come down (due to damage or mechanical trouble). On landing, it could make the P-51 nose over in the dirt as the scoop drags into the earth. In water (and I flew over the Pacific Ocean most of my 92 combat missions), it could cause trouble in a crash landing because the air scoop would be the first part of the aircraft to hit the water. Instead of a smooth belly landing, anything might happen.
9. The Thunderbolt had a much larger, roomier cockpit. You were comfortable in the big Jug cockpit. In my Mustang, my shoulders almost scraped the sides on the right and left. I was cramped in with all my "gear." I could not move around like I could in the P-47. I found the ability to move a little bit very desirable, especially on seven and eight hour missions.
10. The Mustang went from 1,150-horse power Allison engines to the Packard built Rolls-Royce Merlin engine that had 1,590 hp. The Thunderbolt started out with a 2,000 hp Pratt & Whitney engine, and ended up with 2,800 war emergency hp with water injection. That's close to twice the power.
11. The Jug had a very wide landing gear. This made it easy to land just about anywhere, with no tendency to ground loop. Many times we had to land on rice paddies and irregular ground. When you set the Thunderbolt down, it was down. In the Far East, England, Africa, and Italy, this helped you get down and walk away from it. To me, that was very important for the safety of the pilot.
12. The Jug's record against all opposing aircraft is remarkable. The ratio of kills to losses was unmistakably a winner. Thunderbolt pilots destroyed a total of 11,874 enemy aircraft, over 9,000 trains, and 160,000 vehicles.
The dumbest thing the airfarce did was can the thunderbolt(P-47) for the p-51 for ground attack during the korean war.WTF?over.A BB will knock down a mustang whereas it would take another thunderbolt to knock down a thunderbolt.Mustangs are just hair dressers airplanes anyway.
I read a quote from a WWII pilot, can’t remember which one, (Maybe Frances Gabreski?) that went something like this.
“If you wanted to pick up dames at the dance, you flew a P-51. If you wanted to fly in combat, get hit and survive, you flew a P-47.”
No matter what gee-whiz night vision, blackberry-enabled scope and weapon system a Marine carries, I bet every last one has a knife.
Just paint a sharks mouth on the front of it and she will be beautiful.
I actually thought of the t-6 when I saw the headline. The aircraft would be a success, I believe, and USAF pilots would like it (better than a drone anyhoo).
That was a fun read! I’m glad you are still around to tell the story!
The one true advantage the Mustang had was range and it was also cheaper. Range is always important, but was it a decisive factor in Korea?
Wow! Just getting a post like this, real first-hand stuff, alone makes my $10 a month worthwhile!
I also can attest to the construction of the thunderbolt from being involved with rebuilding one that had bellylanded in a plowed field.The property owner said he was fine with the ditch that the bird made as he would just lay pipe in it.I have a friend who is rebuilding old 49th fighter group thunderbolts(3) in australia.Were you ever at finchhaven or dobodura?I am a big 49th FG fan.Thanks so much for what you did and did quite well.
My Uncle as well as Wife’s Uncle flew P-47 “Jugs” in WW-II.
They weren’t the greatest fighter apparently, but they were one heck of a ground support vehicle and were about the closest thing to a flying tank they had back then.
Pretty decent dive bomber too, it seems.
The P-47 IIRC was one of the first to use A2G rockets extensively and effectively.
If one were to resurrect a WW-II design - an appealing but probably impractical option - I would think that replacement of the piston engine with a turboprop would be requisite for fuel compatibility with other aircraft and ground vehicles, as well as much less maintainance required on the turbos.
These planes were pushing the envelope on speed at which you could safely bail out - ejection seats would have to be incorporated IMHO.
Some kind of STOL capability would be a plus for operating in remote areas.
One nice thing about the A-10 or other jets; you don’t have a prop to shoot through. A machine gun can be synchronized, but can that work with a Vulcan system?
Mounting heavy gun pods out on the wings might be tough on the airframe I would think.
Any prop plane is hard to keep quiet; the A-10 has a reputation for being “silent death” to the enemy, we’re told.
As much as I would love to see a turbopropped P-48 or P-51, I don’t really see it in the cards for serious military application.
We aren't talking about a replacement for tactical aircraft, we are talking about a mixed ISR/FAC(A)/light attack aircraft to be used in a specific permissive counter insurgency environment.
There is the opportunity to procure the Tucano, but it was shot down in Congress because it wasn't a U.S. produced aircraft. This was an all but done deal and now the troops this aircraft was supposed to support have to go without.
Great post. Thanks for the education.
Where did you hear it was cheaper?Did you know that Packard had to pay royalties to rollsroyce of $5000.00 US per merlin built under licence?That was a boatload of money that did not stay here in America whereas Pratt&Whitney was an American company that supplied the engines for the P-47s as well as the Corsair,P-61,Hellcat,B-26 and on and on and on. Maintainence was also better on the thunderbolt than the mustang.Just ask any mechanic that works on them today.
thank you for all this info. We are lucky to have Freepers with your kind of personal experience, and lucky that you fill us in knowing we are your friends here on FP. What a great online community.
and, thanks for your service.
The P47 was better than the P51 at ground attack. No coolant lines or radiator.
Sorry,I didnt answer your question fully.All the range in the world does you no good at all if the motor craps out on you on the way home.Round motors brought alot of guys home.Mustangs didnt fair that well in korea as they were not used for what they were designed for.It was politics pure and simple.
Maybe somebody here can answer this. I wonder how a P-47 would stack up against a skyraider AD-1? I realize we are talking two very differently designed airplanes. The former was an attack aircraft originally designed to operate off carriers. Certainly not designed as a fighter, whereas the P-47 was a fighter-bomber.
Wow! I’m in awe. I love firsthand posts and flowerplough, yours was one of the best in awhile!
I was fortunate enough to have a chance to interview General Doolittle at his home in Carmel, CA in 1985. Of course it would be silly NOT to ask about the raid and I’m sure by 1985 he’d only told the story a hundred thousand times, but he told it like it was his first time. My cohort and I were held spellbound as he gave us his firsthand account.
Anyhow, reading your P-47 post made me think of that interview!
For anyone who is interested, and I have a feeling Flowerplough may have seen it, but there is a History Channel upload on YouTube about P-47 dogfights. It’s a series of five videos, very well done, each about 10mins. I left each link open so you can cut and paste the link easily if you need to.
Dogfights: The Thunderbolt Part 1
Dogfights: The Thunderbolt Part 2
Dogfights: The Thunderbolt Part 3
Dogfights: The Thunderbolt Part 4
Dogfights: The Thunderbolt Part 5
As far as bringing back some sort of prop aircraft; they kick the idea around every so often. I think as late as 1995 there still were some (props) organic to the Army or USAR. Anyone know if they still have some that are actually being used?
I can blow the whole night watching Dogfights.I pull them up on youtube and the history is researched very well.The picture of the T-bolt you have is that of the fighter collection of Duxford England by the way.Thank much
Roger that....MA...Well done!
Would love to see them bring back the Skyraider.
I haven’t flown any of these planes. From the perspective of the guy on the ground, I would want one of those puppies overhead for as long as possible with as much ordinance as possible. That makes Spooky the Gunship a contender, especially if it has artillery rounds.
Correction, this sentence should read: the latter (the AD-1, not the former, the P-47) was an attack aircraft originally designed to operate off carriers.
It looks like it might be the one at Duxbury. The one on display in the American Air Museum had a red cowl at one time but this one is also tagged as being at Duxbury, so I’m not 100% sure.
Not that is a tough aircraft!
My son is on his first enlistment in the AF. He has a rather boring, mundane job (repairing runways) so whether he wants to reenlist goes from "hell ya" to "hell no" twice a day. Though I guess that's true for most :-)
Anyhow, he was on another rant one day when I told him that if he was going to get out he should check with the local Reserve unit and see what they had available for slots. On this particular day that was the last thing he wanted to hear and started off on a tangent about how if he wasn't staying active duty he sure as hell wasn't staying in the Reserves.
Then I said, "I've gotten a couple emails from the recruiter over there and he says they have a couple of Aerial Gunner slots open. You, know, the AC-130". I was just yanking his chain to see what he'd say and after this pregnant pause he says, "Well, that would be pretty cool." LOL!
You are awesome. Thanks for the post you made and all you taught with it.
My big brother flew AD1 Skyraiders during his first tour in Viet Nam. He rates them almost as high as the A6’s he flew later.
Fascinating post. Thanks for sharing that with us!
Homer_J_Simpson, just wanted to bring flowerplough’s post to your attention since you keep a WWII ping list.
The USAF did bring back the P-51 - sorta
The Piper PA-48 was built on the P-51 but with a turbine engine
30mm gun pod and all
Fly in competition with the A-10.
Cool airframe, the A-10 carries more - both are COIN A/C
‘Tweren’t me. Sorry. I shudda put sprinkled quotes in hear and there. Sorry. Link’s at bottom of post.