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For Aircraft enthusiasts: Land based planes getting sea legs.

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by Blazer, Nov 11, 2012.

  1. Blazer


    Nov 27, 2003
    The Netherlands
    Rogue luthier employed at Knooren Handcrafted bass guitars
    In times of conflict when an air arm is forced to expand it isn't uncommon for that said air arm to look towards other military arms to find solutions for this sudden need for expansion. And that has resulted in several air forces buying planes which were meant for use on aircraft carriers and using them from land bases.
    The F-4 Phantom is a stellar example of that, the USAF bought it because it fitted their specs for a fighter bomber so much better than any contemporary purpose built plane did. Its navy heritage can be seen in the fact that it still has folding wings and a heavy duty arrester hook. The USAF could land their phantoms on a carrier if the need for them doing so would ever arise.

    But it also happened the other way round, that a Naval air arm looked at land based planes to use on carriers because of there not being purpose built planes around which fit the bill. And I figured it to be fun to start a thread about those instances that happened.

    I'll start off with the planes developed for an aircraft carrier which never went into service, the Graf Zeppelin of the German Kriegsmarine.
    One of the many mistakes made by the German high command was failing to see the merits of having carriers in their fleet, both Marshall Hermann Goering and Admiral Karl Dönitz had no intention of having a naval air arm around and believed that planes should be for the Luftwaffe and ships for the admiralty.
    Regardless Admiral Raeder had succeeded into having the build for the Zeppelin commence and she was launched in 1938 but never put into service. After the war, she was taken by the Russians as war bounty and used for target practice.
    Read more about the Graf Zeppelin here.

    But with having no purposely designed naval planes, the admiralty had to look at land based planes to use from the Zeppelin and had she ever be put in service her deck would have had many familiar looking wings there.
    The fighter force of the Zeppelin would have comprised of Messerschmitt 109-T (T for "Träger", carrier) which were based on the 109-E model but fitted with folding wings and an arrester hook which is seen clearly in this picture. There weren't many 109-T models built and the ones which saw action did so from small airfields where their naval equipment came in use.

    Having said that, the 109, thanks to its narrow undercarriage was notorious for its landing qualities, in fact more 109's were lost in landing accidents than in combat. God knows how many would have been lost at seas where the conditions are far rougher. In my opinion the Focke-Wulf 190 would have made a better carrier fighter.

    So if the fighter force of the Zeppelin was familiar looking, the same could also be said about the bomber force.
    The Junkers 87 Stuka (Which stood for Sturtz Kampfflugzeug which means dive bomber) had proven its use during the blitz krieg as a precision bomber and thus would be perfect to use against shipping, in addition its sturdy fixed undercarriage meant that it could handle the rough landing conditions at sea perfectly. So Junkers developed the Ju-87E which had folding wings and arrester hook.
    The use of Stukas against ships during the course of the war had indeed proven that that plane was indeed perfectly suited in anti-shipping actions. And the fact that much of the Japanese imperial navy was sunk by American carrier operated dive bombers such as the Douglas SBD Dauntless and the Curtiss S2BC Helldiver we can all let out a big sigh of relief that the Germans never put the Graf Zeppelin and further carriers which were in the planning into action.

    Across the channel the Brits were having different problems, their resourses were stretched to the limit when they were asked to protect the vital convoy supply lines which were being pushed to the breaking point by German submarine attacks and attacks by long range patrol aircraft such as the Focke-Wulf 200 Condor. So they fitted several ships with a special ramp from which they could launch a Hawker hurricane fighter which would ditch itself into the water after having done whatever action it was send out to do.

    But this very wasteful way of dealing with that problem in an era where every resourse was already pushed to the limit a far better solution was to convert several of those ships into light carriers and supply them with a few planes which could ward off the condors or tell destroyers where a submarine could be found.
    The HMS Nairana.

    But to equip those carriers with planes turned out to be a hassle, the Royal Navy didn't have a lot of purpose built naval fighters and the ones they had such as the Grumman Wildcat were needed elsewhere, so the only option they had was to look at what the RAF was flying and see if those planes could be fitted for carrier use. And again the venerable Hawker Hurricane proved itself to be a capable warrior.
    The aptly named Sea Hurricane differed from its landbased cousins by it having catapult connection points and an arrester hook both which are shown brilliantly in this picture. But did not come with folding wings because their wooden construction didn't allow them.

    So if the Hurricane could fly from carriers, could a Spitfire do that too? There was only one way to find out and so Vickers-Armstrong got the go-ahead to develop the "Seafire"
    As was the case with the naval Messerschmitt though, the Seafire was hampered with landing issues due to its narrow undercarriage and accident rates were high.
    This picture clearly shows the arrester hook of the Seafire. Later model Seafires had their arrester hooks at the end of their tails, which came out like a stinger. This surviving Seafire shows that feature.
    Seafires saw a lot of action against the Japanese where their agility and speed proved itself more than a match against the Zeros.

    With the US Navy it has always been a case of, if it ain't broke, don't fix it, so when the need arose to have an advanced trainer with which they could teach rookie pilots to land on aircraft carriers, they took a look at the USAAF's trainers and took a liking at what they saw. And so North American aviation got the order to develop their already successful T-6 Texan trainer into a naval version.
    The naval version of the Texan had Catapult connection points and an arrester hook but otherwise didn't differ that much from the stock version.

    After the war ended and with jet-power making way the US Navy again looked at the trainers which were flown by their colleagues of the Air force and liking what they saw. The Venerable Lockheed t-33 was the perfect jet trainer and so the admiralty got in touch with Lockheed for a Naval version. But it gave Lockheed's R&D team quite some headaches.
    The resulting T2V Seastar. And here's one with a normal T-33, showing clearly how much had to be done to convert the type to be suitable for carrier use.
    The Seastar had a shorter fuselage, an enlarged tailfin, a stronger undercarriage and the customary fitting of an arrester hook and catapult connection points. The Seastar wasn't a successful plane and was quickly replaced by the North American T-2 Buckeye. But the US Navy kept them in service until the early 1970's.

    And having mentioned the T-2 Buckeye, for a replacement of that plane, the US Navy once again turned their eyes landwards and liking what they saw, although different from before, they actually looked at what the RAF was training their pilots in.
    The Hawker Siddeley Hawk had proven itself as being a dependable platform which could both be used as an advanced trainer and a light attack aircraft, the type is still in production and used by many airforces.

    So a deal was made with McDonnell/Douglas to build a special naval version of the Hawk. And so the T-45 Goshawk came to be.
    The Goshawk differs from its British cousin by having the cockpit raised slightly for a better landing view and and by it having a strengthened undercarriage and of course the arrester hook and catapult connection points.

    And to close this off I'll tell about the plane which caught the eyes of Naval officers everywhere right away.
    The Hawker Harrier with its vertical take off and landing capability was from its conception percieved as a plane that would be perfect for naval use where space (or lack of it) is always an issue, so both the US Marines and the Spanish Armada ordered it to be used from ships.
    But it soon became clear that the Harrier when used on a carrier was notoriously difficult to handle and unstable in use, many were lost in accidents. So in the UK the Harrier was redesigned to create a version specially for naval use: the Sea Harrier.
    The Sea Harrier differs from the earlier models by having a raised cockpit (Compare to the other pictures I posted.), a more powerful engine and advanced avionics which helped in the stability issues, The Sea Harrier certainly proved itself to be a valuable asset in the Falklands war where it and its older land based sibling fought side by side against the Argentine navy and airforce with a stellar record.

    Meanwhile in the USA, they made their own improved version of the harrier: The AV-8B, which much like the Sea Harrier has a higher cockpit and a more powerful engine, but also has a larger fuselage and redesigned wings and uses state-of-the-art fly by wire technology to again make a plane which is one of the most difficult to fly, suited for operational use.
  2. Interesting. I had forgotten about the Hurricat.

    Here's a video of a Sukhoi Su-33 not landing on a carrier.

  3. Blazer


    Nov 27, 2003
    The Netherlands
    Rogue luthier employed at Knooren Handcrafted bass guitars
  4. Thank you for an interesting and entertaining post.