NAA P-51H Mustang: “Have no fear of perfection.”

North American didn’t conform with producing arguably the best fighter of WW2. They knew there’s still room for improvements in their majestic P-51D. Developed via the XP-51F and XP-51G prototypes, the P-51H was a considerably lightened souped-up Mustang which achieved the stupendous top speed of 487 mph; 50 mph faster than the P-51D. In production just before WW2 ended, the P-51H came too late to see combat. A pretty number (555) were produced anyway and they served until 1952.

Magnificent photo of a “H” of the 194th Fighter Squadron, California Air National guard.  At first sight, compared to the P-51D, the H had a longer deeper fuselage plus a taller tailfin.

Antonov An-30D: The eye of the beholder.

Taking as a basis their An-24, the Antonov OKB conceived in the mid-1960s this funny looking aerial survey airplane. The whole forward fuselage was changed and fitted with this extensively glazed nose section for the navigator; the cockpit was raised in the process. A wide array of photo equipment and configurations were available. 124 were built in the 1970s and some were exported to the usual friendly nations. The An-30s are well-known because they are still employed by some of their operators in “Open Skies Treaty” duties.

The splendid An-30’s “raison d’etre” of this cute thing. In this case the An-30D Sibiryak (Siberia) ice reconnaissance variant. Equipped on each side of the fuselage with additional fuel tanks, long-range navigation system and other equipment for operations in the Arctic.

Blackburn Beverley C.1: Almost gone, surely not forgotten.

Can’t get any more British than this charming heavy cargo aircraft. Not a thing of classic beauty, these fixed undercarriage aircraft were nevertheless very dependable and also possessed very handy short take-off & landing performances. They also were the largest aircraft in RAF service. The around 50 built more than earned their keep during their operational service (1958-68). All that said it’s so regrettable to know the only one remaining Beverley (XB259) at Fort Paull Museum is now in danger: shortly to be put up for auction after the museum closure. Let’s cross fingers.

Happier times in this neat Imperial War Museum photo. Some RAF Parachute Brigade members using the peculiar “paratroop hatch” on the Beverley tailboom, Exercise Red Banner, Oct, 1959. Clumsy, but a cool aircraft in its own particular way.

Dirigible Torres Quevedo: ¡Qué Inventen Ellos!

Talking the other day about my Astra-Torres AT‘s post, I noticed the photo didn’t show the main feature of Torres Quevedo’s concept: its characteristic tri-lobed configuration. Not the same fault with this one. This is the first airship built in Spain by the Air Navigation Laboratory headed by its inventor. The studies started in 1905 and concluded three years later with its successful tests undertaken at the Parque Aeronáutico de Guadalajara. This stupendous Will’s Cigarette Card was created using a photo taken during those 1908 tests. The design was offered to the Spanish government which passed up, as usual. Torres Quevedo sold later the patent to Astra.

“Let them (others) do the inventing!” Miguel de Unamuno. Spain in a nutshell.

Project Pluto: “Good old American know-how and insanity.”

Nicknamed the “Flying Crowbar”, Project Pluto was an attempt during the 1950-60s to create a Supersonic Low Altitude Missile (SLAM) powered by a nuclear ramjet. And what an attempt. In addition to the multiple nuclear warheads carried, this “creature” was conceived to spend weeks flying over populated areas at low altitude after its payload was expended, its engine irradiating all around in the process. Not to mention the killing properties of the tremendous shockwave wherever it flew over. If all that was not enough, add the extra radiation released when it crashed. Gladly the sheer horrific qualities of this monster, the possibility of emulation by the Soviets and the availability of the cheaper ICBMs put an end to all this incredible idea.

Lovely -what a word choice- cutaway of the ultimate LTV design. This 1959 GD-Convair “The Big Stick” video gives us an oversight of the concept, its goriness apart.

Lockheed F-104A Starfighter: Pyrrhic victory.

Not happy with the F-104 light-weight fighter concept, the USAF demanded Lockheed that it must be able to carry and launch the AIR-2A Genie nuclear armed air-to-air missile. They thought the F-104 being a bare minimum design would not fulfil that challenging demand, and hence justify a production curtail. Kelly Johnson and Lockheed took the bull by the horns and came up with a superb retractable trapeze placed on the centre fuselage hard-point which allowed the F-104 to carry and launch such a large and heavy missile. A series of launches were undertaken, one of them at Mach 1.7 and 56,000 ft. A valiant effort in vain: the USAF in the end used instead the Starfighter’s limited range as the excuse to achieve their aim.

Astonishing gif of the very alive ground test of this startling combo.