Developments in Japan

Many of my blog articles are borne from reading articles on the BBC News website, and this is the latest. On May 26th, Alexander Neill, (described as the Shangri-La Dialogue Senior Fellow at the IISS Asia) wrote an article entitled “Japan’s growing concern over China’s naval might” (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-39918647). He described a couple of interesting developments in Japan’s Self-Defense forces, especially in the light of Japan’s relationship with China.

1. The JMSDF has an aircraft carrier? Well, not really. Well, maybe. JS Izumo is  officially classified by Japan as a helicopter destroyer. The Wikipedia article notes that the ship is as large as any aircraft carrier of the Second World War, but it’s called a destroyer because the Japanese constitution forbids the acquisition of offensive weapons.  It doesn’t take a huge leap of the imagination to see the Izumo embarking some kind of STO/VL aircraft even though the Japanese Self Defense Forces don’t have any just yet.

Helicopter Destroyer JS Izumo

JS Izumo (DDH-183) in December 2016
Kaijō Jieitai (海上自衛隊 / Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force) – http://www.mod.go.jp/msdf/formal/jmp/201612.html (CC BY 4.0)

2. Indigenous Maritime Patrol Aircraft?  The news of the Izumo was interesting,  but what also caught my attention was the reference to the Kawasaki P-1 Maritime patrol Aircraft – two of which were apparently demonstrated in the UK at the RIAT (Royal International Air Tattoo) in 2015.  it seems that Kawasaki thought it was worth putting in a bid to the UK Ministry of Defence  to supply the P-1 as a replacement for the Nimrod.  The Japanese bid was unsuccessful, however.  The UK is going to buy the Boeing P-8 Poseidon  instead.  The Poseidon is a patrol variant of the Boeing 737-800ER and has been in service for about 5 years in the US Navy. International customers so far consist of the Indian Navy,  Royal Australian Air Force,  Royal Air Force, and the Royal Norwegian Air Force. Several other countries have expressed an interest. Poseidon deliveries to the UK are supposed to commence in 2019.

Boeing P-8A Poseidon and Kawwasaki P-1

A U.S. Navy Boeing P-8A Poseidon next to a Kawasaki P-1 of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force
(US Navy – Public Domain)

The P-1 is a pretty interesting aircraft which Japanese officials have claimed is more capable, (but more expensive) than the P-8, having been purpose-built for the maritime patrol mission.  It is noteworthy for its pioneering use of a fly-by-light flight control system using fiber optic cables, which decrease electro-magnetic disturbances to its sensors  in comparison with fly-by-wire control systems, which are more electrically “noisy”.   Speaking as a dinosaur who thinks fly-by-wire was a huge advance over control cables, servos, and rods,  fly by light is a pretty amazing (albeit logical) application of fiber-optic technology.

All this technology needs to be seen against the increasing military posturing from Japan and China over territorial claims in the East and South China Sea, which are in themselves related to access to natural resources.  All progress comes at a cost,  and sadly some of the advances in flight and defense technology may be driven by a degree of rising tension between two nations.   We have certainly been in this situation before.

Farewell to Bobby

Just occasionally,  my casual browsing dredges up something unexpected, interesting, and aviation-related.

A couple of days ago, on Saturday (October 29th) it seems that Lufthansa flew their last commercial flights using the Boeing 737.  The 737 is known as ‘Bobby’ or ‘Bobby Boeing’ by Lufthansa, who were the launch customers of the type in the late 1960s. ‘Bobby’ is being replaced by what Lufthansa describes as “quieter and more fuel efficient” equipment produced by Bombardier and Embraer. Lufthansa press releases also mention the present and future line of Airbus products as replacements for ‘Bobby’ on some routes.

This Ken Fielding photo from 1972 shows a Lufthansa 737 in an early livery and, as Ken says,  it’s notable for the logo of the 1972 Munich Olympic Games  on the aft fuselage.

Lufthansa Boeing 737


Lufthansa Boeing 737-130 D-ABEA Seen at Manchester airport (UK) on July 31st 1972. 
It first flew on May 13th 1967 and was delivered to Lufthansa on April 24th 1968.
After later service in the USA and New Zealand it was scrapped in the USA in 1995.
(Photo by Ken Fielding http://www.flickr.com/photos/kenfielding CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

 

Should you desire to brush up on your German,  here’s a YouTube video from a group of German plane-spotters commemorating the event.  Its is, as they say a slightly sad event as an original customer retires a machine that was once the backbone of its short-haul fleet This is not simply auf wiedersehen, it’s farewell, Bobby.

One thing leads to another

I wrote about the B-52 being a shape  that didn’t do much for me, and soon thereafter my lovely wife posted a note on Facebook about a B-52 being brought out of storage from AMARC at Davis-Monthan AFB.    One facet of the reporting that amused me was that there was some confusion about the airplane’s Air Force serial number, although all the news sites agree its name is Ghost Rider.

There was another B-52 at Barksdale AFB that had a serious cockpit fire, and apparently it was cheaper to pull a B-52 out of storage than repair the damaged airframe.  The surviving systems from the damaged machine will be transferred to Ghost Rider.

B-52H 61-0007 Ghost Rider being readied for the flight to Louisiana

B-52H 61-0007 “Ghost Rider” being readied for the flight to Louisiana.
http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/the-ghost-rider-b-52-rises-from-the-grave-to-ride-aga-1686588702

I checked with Joe Baugher’s site http://www.joebaugher.com/usaf_serials/1961.html, and verified that the correct serial for the aircraft is 61-0007, not 61-10007 or 61-1007 as listed in some reports. Let’s just say I’ll back Joe Baugher’s judgement on serial numbers any day. The Boeing construction number is 464434.

A different confusion arises when the Jalopnik article foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/the-ghost-rider-b-52-rises-from-the-grave-to-ride-aga-1686588702 quotes the serial number of the B-52 that had the serious cockpit fire, necessitating Ghost Rider’s resurrection, as 61-0049. Joe Baugher says that’s the serial of an F-105D-15-RE Thunderchief of the 49th TFW which crashed near  Wheelus AB in Libya on Mar 6, 1962 due to engine failure.  It isn’t 61-1049 either, since Baugher says that’s in the range of serials (61-0973 61-2050)  allocated to  a bunch of Martin ASM-N-7 Bullpup missiles re-designated AGM-12 in 1962.  It’s just a typo somewhere, I’m sure.

I’d better do some more reading.  FYI the serial range for the three B-52 construction blocks  built in Wichita, KS in FY 1961 are 61-001 to 61-0013 (B-52H-165-BW) , 61-0014 to 61-0026 (B-52H-170-BW) and 61-0027 to 61-0040 (B-52H-175-BW)

Postscript

There is a nice segment in a story on the Davis Monthan AFB website  – http://www.dm.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123439488 concerning Mr. Jerry Fugere, aged 80 from Tuscon, AZ who was Ghost Rider’s first Crew Chief in 1962.  Mr. Fugere was given the honor of marshaling Ghost Rider for its first taxi run since 2008. That’s him in the orange Hi-Viz jacket in the USAF picture below.

 

Jerry Fugere salutes the “Ghost Rider” as it taxis by on Feb. 13, 2015, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.
In 1962, Fugere was the first crew chief of the B-52H Stratofortress, tail number 61-0007, and is given the honor of marshaling the jet from its parking spot before taking its first flight since being decommissioned in 2008.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Greg Steele/Released)

December 17th – News Items

It isn’t news as such, but I couldn’t allow December 17th to pass unrecorded on an aviation related blog. 111 years ago today the Wright Brothers made their historic flight at the Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

The Wright Flyer at the National Air and Space Museum, 2008 – Photo by RadioFan
CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)
GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) via Wikimedia Commons

I noticed that History Today published an older article on Facebook today re-stating the bizarre rival claim of Alberto Santos Dumont that he made the first powered flight 3 years later, since his 14Bis was the first aircraft to take off under its own power in 1906, the Wright Flyer having being launched.  Since the Wrights’ engine must have helped sustain the earlier flight I think this is a nice but irrelevant argument.  I’m happy to stay with the American claim.

Meanwhile in Kansas

However, this is news.  Kansas.com published an article and a picture today of the continuing restoration of the old China Lake B-29 Doc (44-69972). The article says the volunteers hope to have Doc back in the air in Spring 2015. A link to the article is in the photo caption.

Renovation continues on “Doc,” a Boeing B-29 bomber. December marks the plane’s 70th birthday. It was delivered to the USAAF in Dec., 1944. The plane was going to fly before the end of this year, but it now will be spring before it will make its first flight. Mike Hutmacher Photo – The Wichita Eagle
Read more here: http://www.kansas.com/news/business/aviation/article4546947.html#storylink=cpy