Tag Archives: flying tigers

Paging Clarie Chennault, Ukraine edition

Draken International’s No.574 Mirage F-1M fresh out of the paint barn, Nov 2019. The company recently picked up a ton of retired supersonic fighter bombers (20 single-seat Mirage F1Ms and two two-seat F1Bs) from Spain and has been busy putting them back together and getting them flightworthy, as part of the growing “Red Air” business.

LT Taylor Buck (USNA 2016), currently a screwtop driver with VAW-125, has an interesting take in this month’s Proceedings, on rebooting the Flying Tigers but instead of Curtiss P-40s and Claire Chennault’s 100 volunteer flyboys, it would be more of a shell corporation with privately-owned high-performance jets and fighter jocks looking for a challenge as a military contractor.

With all of the second-hand Mirages, MiGs, F-16s and F-18s owned by the assorted commercial aggressor firms, it’s not a terrible idea.

From the piece:

Just as the original volunteers flew U.S.-designed P-40 Warhawks sold under foreign license, assembled in the CAMCO factory in Rangoon, Burma, modern diplomatic interests would be best served if the AVG did not fly aircraft supplied directly from the active U.S. government inventory. Fortunately, red air contractors already possess a carefully curated treasure-trove of warbirds from which an AVG could be assembled.

ATAC owns a fleet of more than 90 aircraft, including the Mirage F1, F-21 Kfir, Mk 58 Hawker Hunter, and L-39 Albatross. The JTAC/FAC focused contractor “Blue Air Training” possesses seven OV-10D+/G Broncos, eight A-90 Raiders, six PC-9A/F Pilatuses, and a fleet of BAC 167 Strikemasters and IAR 823 Brasovs. Tac-Air operates the Embraer EMB 312F Tucano (A-27), Canadair CF-5D, Siai-Marchetti SF-260TP, Su-27, and A-29 Super Tucano. Draken owns a “dozen ex-South African Atlas Cheetahs, and 22 ex-Spanish Air Force Mirage F1Ms plus assorted other subsonic jets . . . A-4 Skyhawks, L-159 Honey Badgers, L-39s, and MB339s . . . as well as a deep backstock of MiG-21s.” Top Aces operates the Bombardier Learjet 35A, Dornier Alpha Jet, and the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk.

Draken, Top Aces, Air USA, and Tac-Air boast the best potential for fourth-generation fighters that could help establish an AVG-enforced no-fly zone. Draken owns 24 former Norwegian and Dutch F-16s. Top Aces operates 29 ex-Israeli F-16A/Bs. Air USA recently acquired 46 Australian F/A-18A/B Hornets that supplement its healthy attack and command-and-control fleet, which includes the L-39, BAE Hawk Mk.67, Cessna 0-2/C-337 Skymaster.

Tac-Air flies an unspecified number of F-16Cs as well as 25 F-5 Advanced Tigers upgraded with heads-up displays and hands-on-throttle-and-stick controls, “open architecture mission computers and tailored operational flight programs that enable integration of advanced radar and [radar-warning receiver] systems, [infrared search-and-track systems], [electronic attack], datalinks,” and so on. It refers to the Advanced Tigers as a “4th generation adversary platform with 3rd generation economy.”

More here.

And in related news, the Ukraine Air Force is trying to crowd-source new fighters. Because this is 2022.

Flying Tigers Remembered in Taipei

The Republic of China Air Force, popularly known outside of Taiwan as the Taiwan Air Force, this month is celebrating two events, the Air Battle Over Hangchow, now commemorated as “Republic of China Air Force Day” and the 80th Anniversary of the First American Volunteer Group, popularly just remembered as Claire Chennault’s Flying Tigers, taking to the air.

The 14 August 1937 air battle over Hangchow, in which the first Chinese Air Force (of the Nationalist Kuomintang’s) fighter squadrons, the which Chennault had just been hired to advise, took to the air over Shanghai and Nanjing to provide the incoming Japanese bombers the first air-to-air threat they had ever experienced. The American-made Curtiss Hawk IIIs of the Chinese 21st, 22nd, and 23rd Pursuit Squadrons (borrowing the term used at the time for fighter squadrons in the U.S. Army) destroyed four Japanese Mitsubishi G3M Type 96 (Nell) long-range bombers without losing a single plane in return. The event is referred to these days by the Taiwan Air Force as “814” after its date.

Box art for the 1:48 Hawk III kit sold by Special Hobby (SH72223), depicting the events of 814 against IJN G3M2 “Nells”. The 30 or so Hawk IIIs used by the pre-war ROCAF were gradually replaced by Soviet fighter types they were destroyed, and Russian-built I-15 and I-16 types were imported to rebuild it.

Likewise, the Flying Tigers were formed in April 1941 with 100 former and on-leave American military aviators employed by the shell “Central Aircraft Manufacturing Company,” and were later married up with an equal number of crated Curtis P-40B Warhawks shipped via slow boat to Rangoon. By August 1941, 99 Warhawks were more or less assembled and on their way to the AVG training unit at Toungoo where they would be fitted with gunsights, radios, and wing guns which Curtiss was not allowed to supply. They would enter combat on 20 December 1941, 12 days after Pearl Harbor. 

1941 AVG Flying Tigers 3rd Pursuit Squadron in front of a P-40 Tomahawk fighter.

A “blood chit” issued to the American Volunteer Group Flying Tigers. The Chinese characters read, “This foreign person has come to China to help in the war effort. Soldiers and civilians, one and all, should rescue and protect him.” The same flag as flown by the old Republic is Taiwan’s current flag. (R. E. Baldwin Collection)

Hell’s Angels, the 3rd Squadron of the 1st American Volunteer Group “Flying Tigers”, photo by RT Smith.

To celebrate the two events, the ROCAF has specially designed a commemorative emblem incorporating both, showing “the spirit of victory, inheritance, and loyalty and unremitting struggle.”

It should also be noted that the service has an affinity for the Tigers’ characteristic “sharks mouth” nose paint. Here, seen on a ROCAF F-16 and F-CK-1