Lioré-et-Olivier LeO 451: “Show me what you got”.

The French LeO 451 was the fastest bomber in service at the beginning of WW2. With the slick and extremely clean LeO 451, at last, the French left behind ugliness and mediocrity in their bomber designs. Sadly, only few were in service when it really mattered, at the 1940 Battle of France. Anyway, such a valuable asset could not wasted; they continued to be manufactured in the Vichy France. They enjoyed an interesting operational life in both sides: Vichy, Free France, Germany, Italy and some even by the USAAF. The end of the war didn’t put an end to these peripatetic aircraft either; the French Air Force didn’t retire their last ones until the late 1950’s.
The fastest and one with the largest “sting”. The defensive armament carried by the LeO 451 is of particular interest, being among the very few which carried a 20mm cannon at that time. The dorsal defensive position seen here was fitted with a Hispano HS 404 mounted on an electro-hydraulically powered SAMM Type 170Bis gun carriage. Some punch no doubt, but disappointing. The field of fire was limited and its hefty 30-round magazine proved to be cumbersome to change. Add to that the rest of its uninspiring rifle-caliber defensive armament…., they needed the speed.

In this photo one of those garishly dressed Vichy France “Armée de l’Air de l’Armistice” aircraft. A LeO 451 of the 2eme Escadrille of GB 1/25 while operated from El Aouina (Tunis), 1941. This unit took part later in the Syrian campaign against the Allies and of their 18 Leo 451’s, 12 were lost.

Mil Mi-8: Here we go again.

A Mil Mi-8 helicopter ready for some early action at the runway of Camp Bastion (Afghanistan) October 23, 2011. Afghanistan is a place those ageless helicopters know all too well. They still, regrettably, have a lot of hot and dangerous days ahead down there.

A superb photo anyway of Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Chandler (Regional Command Southwest).

Messerschmitt Bf 109G-2/Trop: Thank you, Sir.

Just heard the sad news of Russ Snadden’s demise. Snadden was the mastermind behind the epic restoration of that old favourite of mine, the iconic “Black 6”. I still remember how incredible was, back then, to see a real Bf 109 back in its element. His book recounting the whole process is simply mesmerizing,… to read and reread.

Glorious portrait of “she” with the equally legendary Flt Lt Charlie Brown at the controls.  I love its “tropical” air filter.

Brewster SB2A Buccaneer: Cargoes of Bullshit.

The main claim of the mass-produced Buccaneer/Bermuda is that not one of them took part in any front-line service. This “world-beater” was an updated evolution of Brewster’s 1936 SBA dive bomber. More powerful and well-armed, a very promising design, in resume. When first flown in June 1941, the hard reality became soon evident. The prototype was dangerously unstable and suffered lethal dive brake asymmetric deployment and buffeting both in those brakes and with the intended turret. During its development some faults were solved, but the Buccaneer/Bermuda endemic instability remained untamed. Hard to understand why 1,052 were produced with nowadays hindsight. Anyway, the vast majority was simply scrapped by their “happy” receptors (RAF, RCAF, USAAF and the US. Navy) or just employed in training.

To give you an idea of the SB2A’s awfulness: the US. Navy preferred the Son of a Bitch 2nd Class instead…. The funny thing was according to the company “Brewster Builder” magazine (July 1943): “Bermudas (its British nickname) are over there by the hundreds (true*), and everybody who has flown them is enthusiastic (not so true*). The Squadrons are located in North Ireland, Scotland, England and South Wales. They would rather fly the Bermuda than any other plane….(oh, well*).”