By Tommy H. Thomason

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Things Under Wings: FJ-4B

23 April 2013 Revision: Well, that didn't take long. Gerry Whiteside has correctly identified the weapon on the FJ-4B in this post as a 750-lb Mk 77 Fire Bomb modified with a Mk 19 Bomb Conversion Kit. I've revised the post accordingly...

I'm just knowledgeable enough to know that these are not standard bombs under the wing of  a VA-63 FJ-4B:
Emil Buehler Library, National Museum of Naval Aviation

My go-to guy for stuff like this, Jim Rotramel, confirmed that it was definitely not a 2,000-lb bomb as a caption in at least one publication would have it but did not know what it was.

And there is a second picture of one being jettisoned from a different VA-63 FJ-4B:

Emil Buehler Library, National Museum of Naval Aviation

What was somewhat mystifying at first is that this is a squadron airplane, not a North American dog ship or a VX-5 FJ-4B that would usually be used stores-jettison envelope tests, one of the more dangerous flight test events (the store might depart cleanly or it might go rogue, with dire consequences).

But wait, there's more: the photo caption for the first picture indicates that it was taken on 9 September 1958, shortly after the squadron had begun a deployment aboard Midway (CVA-41). A stores-carry and jettison evaluation by a squadron at sea? That seems unusual even though those were somewhat more permissive times in Naval Aviation.

Close examination of the store suggested that it might be an AJ Savage tip tank with the addition of a tail fin kludge (for one thing, the fins are externally braced).

Note the clear nose and that they might be painted sea blue. The FJ-4B store seemed a bit longer than the AJ tank but that could have been a modification, like the addition of the shackles and fins. (The FJ-1 Fury carried a similar tip tank and an longer version was used to provide the range, just barely, for the Bendix Trophy "Race"  in 1948.)
As a result, I had thought that it might have been a kludge to provide a source of external fuel tanks because not enough of the unique FJ-4 drop tanks were available for this deployment, one of the first for the FJ-4B.

Another guess was that it was a revisit to a home-grown napalm bomb concept to have on hand for crowd control if necessary. That turned out to be close. As Gerry pointed out in his comment below, it is actually a standard 750-lb Mk 77 fire bomb with the Mk 19 bomb conversion kit. It does in fact have a clear nose cone over the igniter. The addition of tail fins in the bomb kit allowed it to be dropped from a dive as opposed to a low-level pass.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

American Military Transport Aircraft Since 1925

This was a pleasant surprise. I never expected to see an entire book dedicated U.S. military fixed-wing transports. Yet another book on fighters, bombers, or strike airplanes, yes. But transports, even as important as they are to the services? Moreover, it’s clearly a labor of love based on its considerable breadth and depth of content. E.R Johnson is the author; he has written three other well-received books on aviation subjects. The esteemed Lloyd S. Jones did the three-view drawings. Aviation historian David W. Ostrowski provided the majority of the many photographs.

Presumably in order to hold publishing cost down, it’s soft cover and there are no color pictures. That’s pretty much where the frugality stops. Including the index and glossary, there are 480 pages of text, pictures, and drawings. One hallmark of scholarship and quality is the care taken to provide captions under the photographs that add content rather than state the obvious or worse, contain errors. Although the book is generously illustrated, with one or more on almost every page, there is plenty of text including specifications and a three-view provided for each airplane entry.

The book is divided into three main sections: 1925 to 1962, 1962 to present, and utility and miscellaneous transports since 1962. I’ve had a lifelong interest in airplanes and there are several that I haven’t heard of and many that I know little about.

Checking one that I am familiar with did reveal an error. The General Motors TBM-3R entry repeats the usual misstatement that it could carry seven passengers. Strictly speaking, it was a seven-place airplane, with one of the seats occupied by the pilot and another usually reserved for a loadmaster/crew chief. So it was intended to carry five passengers. I also doubt that the bomb bay was used to carry someone on a litter as the text implies; there was no hope of his survival if the airplane had to be ditched or crash landed. Also see

However, that may well be the only mistake in the book and skimming other entries with which I am familiar, I didn’t notice any more. The interweb is very useful for fact checking and looking up background on aircraft and incidents of interest but the accuracy and completeness vary significantly. I much prefer books like this. McFarland provided it to me for review but I would have bought it anyway.

McFarland's website to order books is; the phone number is 800-253-2187. It’s also available from Amazon and as an ebook (see for providers).