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An aircrewman’s best friend

This flak-damaged M1911A1 .45-cal pistol and cap badge were worn by USAAF Sgt. Roy Zeran, 97th Bomb Group, when his B-17 was shot down on November 20, 1942, during WWII. It stopped a piece of shrapnel that would have likely ruined more than the slide of his pistol.

USAF Museum #170405-F-IO108-031

I recently got to handle a minty correct 1943-issued Remington Rand and matching holster, reportedly used by a B17 bomber pilot during the war. It was an honor.

If only guns could talk.

Guarding the fort

Official Caption: “Dec. 1942: Production. B-17 heavy bomber. An Army sentry guards new B-17F (Flying Fortress) bombers at the airfield of Boeing’s Seattle plant. The ship will be delivered to the Army and the Navy after they have successfully undergone flight tests. The Flying Fortress has performed with great credit in the South Pacific, over Germany and elsewhere. It is a four-engine heavy bomber capable of flying at high altitudes.”

Dec. 1942 Production. B-17 heavy bomber Army sentry Boeing's Seattle plant Winchester 12 shotgun riot gun

Photo by Andreas Feininger, Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress) LC-USE6- D-008483

The MP is attired in a mix of Doughboy and 1930’s gear with a 10-pouch belt, M1917 Brodie helmet, wool gloves, pre-1938 single-breasted overcoat, class B uniform complete with tie and khaki canvas leggings. His primary arm is a Winchester Model 12 riot gun.

As noted by Bruce Canfield (Complete Guide to U.S. Military Combat Shotguns), factory records indicated that Winchester delivered 61,014 Model 12s to the government between April 1942 and March 1944 in a mix of riot, training (field) and trench variants. These remained in use through Vietnam.

As for the B-17, Boeing would produce 6,981 of the iconic four-engined bombers, slightly over half of the aircraft’s 12,731-frame run. While the Seattle plant would crank out 2,300 early B-17Fs as in the photo above (note the two-piece bombardier’s nose glazing and lack of a chin turret), the majority– 4,035 bombers– would be the legendary B-17G, which bristled with 13 machine guns.

P-40 Throwback…Hyundai?

Above we see a Kittyhawk fighter plane of the British RAF No. 112 “Sharknose” Squadron grounded during a Libyan Sandstorm – April 2, 1942, running with a mechanic on the wing directing the pilot. This was required because the view ahead is hindered by the aircraft’s nose angle when all three wheels are on the ground.

During July 1941, the British squadron was one of the first in the world to become operational with the Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk (the lend-lease version of the equivalent to the P-40B and P-40C variants of the US Army Air Corps Warhawks) which was used in both the fighter and ground attack role.

Inspired by the unusually large air inlet on the P-40, the squadron began to emulate the “shark mouth” logo used on some German Messerschmitt Bf 110s of Zerstörergeschwader 76 (ZG 76) earlier in the war, which they had seen in various magazines.


Flugzeug Messerschmitt Me 110

Zerstörergeschwader 76 (ZG 76) Messerschmitt Bf 110C with shark mouth, May 1940, Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-382-0211-011

This toothy practice was later followed by P-40 units in other parts of the world, including the famous Flying Tigers, American volunteers serving with the Chinese Air Force in late 1941 and early 1942.

Capt. Forrest F “Pappy” Parham in front of the shark teeth of Little Jeep, a P-40 Warhawk, when a member of “Chennault’s Sharks” the 23rd Fighter Group in the China-Burma-India theater of WWII in late 1942. He went on to make ace with the 75th Fighter Squadron flying P-51s.

Which brings me to this USAF Recruiting Service Hyundai I came across this week:

Just wondering if RAF and Luftwaffe recruiters are also rocking sharks on their own rides.

Boeing’s T-X Begins EMD Flight Tests

The Boeing/Saab T-X was selected on 27 September 2018 by the Air Force as the winner of the Advanced Pilot Training System program to replace the aging Cold War-era Northrop T-38 Talon. In the below, the downright cute little twin tail trainer makes it first, official Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) flight test in St. Louis, Mo.

The USAF currently has some 500~ T-38A/B/C models in inventory, with the newest example coming off the lines in 1972. It is envisioned that some 351 new T-X aircraft and 46 simulators are to be supplied by Boeing as part of the $9 billion program to put the venerable Talon to bed.

Both of the current two Boeing T-Xs in flight.

The T-X, which will hopefully get a cooler name at some point, could also go on to be a sweet little scooter for budget air defense/COIN if given underwing hardpoints, after all, Saab runs the Gripen and in the past developed the Viggen, Draken, Lansen, and Tunnan, which all had a solid pedigree. .

The T-X does look pretty sweet though. I vote for the T-60 Peashooter II as a name update, in honor of Boeing’s last cute little combat-ish trainer.

Boeing P-26 Peashooters of the 17th Pursuit Group at March Field, California in 1932. (U.S. National Archives Photograph.)


This pretty neat Bundeswehr film from 1988 shows REFORGER operations, specifically setting up an ersatz airfield on a closed portion of autobahn.

First come the standard Luftwaffe planes of the day, to include Panavia Tornados, Dornier Alpha Jets and F-4E Phantoms (using drogue chutes) along with some twin-engined Transalls.

Then follows some American C-130s, which unload a lot of plane handling gear, security forces, and ordnance.

Finally, some RAF SEPECAT Jaguars, Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16s and USAF A-10s and F-15s show up to make NATO Cold War lineup complete, with the latter picking up some freshly unloaded Maverick AGMs.

Good stuff.

The concept dated back to the 1940s, when the old Nazi Reichautobahn was set up with just such a use in mind.

Junkers JU88 & Messerschmitt-Kampfflugzeuge Reichautobahn highway airfield

This 1973 film shows a group of 24 Fiat G.91 “Ginas” set up such a field in a day.

Some 29 Autobahn-Behelfsflugplatz/Autobahnflugplatz areas were created by the West Germans during the Cold War, with the length running between 2,000 and 5,000m. While most were demolished around 2005, several have been rebuilt in recent years and could still, in theory, pull off their assigned task if needed.

Bail Out Guns, Fireball Edition

The basis for many of today’s best survival and trail guns, the U.S. military developed a series of compact, takedown, and foldable designs to give aircrew something just in case they had to hit the silk.

You may know of guns like the M4 (the bolt-action .22 Hornet made by H&R in 1949, not today’s 5.56mm Carbine) as well as the M5 and M6 combination guns, but have you heard of the Individual Multi-purpose Weapon of the 1960s?

Designed at Eglin AFB’s weapon lab, Colt made five of IMP-221s (as they were chambered in .221 Fireball, or 5.56x36mm) for testing as the GUU-4P, which later led to the Bushmaster Armpistol.

For more, go down the rabbit hole in my column at

Constant Peg: The (formerly secret) Red Eagles of Nellis

Below is a really great doc about the 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron. Better known as the Red Eagles, they were active from 1978 to 1988. During this time, they made 15,000 sorties and trained 6,000 pilots. The purpose: teach American pilots to win against Soviet fighters.  Their aircraft, “acquired” Warsaw Pact/Chinese-made MiGs and Sukhois as part of Operation Constant Peg.

(Video by Airman 1st Class Olivia Grooms, Nellis AFB Public Affairs)


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