Friday, March 16, 2018

Let's Play Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China, Mission Five - Malaya'd Flat

On December 8th, 1941, less than an hour before the attack on Pearl Harbor on the other side of the International Date Line, Japanese forces invaded Malaya. Resistance came in the form of undermanned and outgunned British, Indian, Australian, and New Zealand forces.

Unlike how the in-game mission plays out, historically this was a disastrous invasion for the Allied forces. Japan held total air supremacy from the start of the invasion, and the Buffalos, Blenheims, and Vildebeasts arrayed against them proved woefully ineffective at stopping the landings, much less providing much air support once the landings had been accomplished and Japanese troops were ashore. The entire defense of Malaya was over by the end of January, 1942.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Museum Stories: The Rogallo Wing and Gemini Tow Test Vehicle

While hunting through my Udvar-Hazy trip photos for something to use in my Flying Tigers companion story on the Westland Lysander, I came across this photo which I’d completely forgotten about.

My photo.
I generally find space capsule exhibits kind of boring. Oh, they’re interesting to look at and visualize the cramped quarters that astronauts have had to work with, and the technology used to keep humans alive where we were never meant to be is fascinating, but with a couple of notable exceptions, spacecraft don’t fly. At best they mostly just fall with style. Or without style, in the case of most capsules. What’s really interesting to me are the rockets that propel the capsule up there.
But this… thing, the Rogallo Paraglider and Gemini capsule Tow Test Vehicle, while its flight characteristics could only charitably be categorized as falling with style, at least flew. More or less. Maybe less, since the concept never really worked as intended. Something about inflatable gliders and high winds not being a happy mixture.
Amy Shira Teitel did a great explainer video a couple of years ago on her Vintage Space channel.

Mostly I think I like this combo because it’s weird, and it’s from the ‘60s space and aviation programs when people weren’t afraid to take some risks and try some crazy experiments. With the budget numbers and risk averse culture that seems to inhabit NASA anymore, it’s tough to imagine anyone greenlighting this concept, much less signing off on the cobbled together training craft built by Milt Thompson and Neil Armstrong.

All the risk now seems left to private industry. Maybe that’s better. I can’t help but notice that while NASA’s Orion capsule still hasn’t left the ground, and will ride non-recoverable rockets when it does, SpaceX is busy certifying their Dragon capsule for human flight and recovering more rocket parts. Scaled Composites is drop testing their new and improved SpaceShip Two and expects to be doing engine runs this year. At least someone’s still trying new things, and willing to take some risks.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Raid On Coasts Video Preview

More on this next week when the full written preview hits on Marooners' Rock, but I got offered a key for upcoming RTS title Raid On Coasts to do a preview. It's... well, look, just watch the video, all right?

Look, if you hand me an ugly baby and ask for my honest opinion, don't be offended if I tell you your baby's ugly.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Around the Web - Backlog Burndown #27, Christmas in March

Over on Marooners' Rock, I finished another game! The first of the year, actually. Maybe I should try to plan out my play throughs of holiday themed games a little better so that they actually roughly coincide with the holidays that they're themed around? That's such a crazy idea, that it just might work!

Rated 10/10 on dueling Santa costumes, regardless of any other issues.
Backlog Burndown #27, Sakura Santa, is now live.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Monday Vlogging - February Wrap-Up

Taking a look at February, I made some major productivity changes that seem to be producing immediate dividends. Let's see if I can keep it up for a full month.

I broke my car, but I got her back. Lesson learned: do a full Nut and Bolt inspection of my four-wheeled vehicles, not just my motorcycle. Contacts are back on my face!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Let's Play Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China Mission Four - Rangoon Rumble

In a period of five days from December 20-25th, 1941, a massive force of Imperial Japanese Army Air Force aircraft attacked the city of Rangoon, and the airfields used by the RAF and AVG. The Brewster Buffalos and Curtis P-40B Warhawks of No. 67 Squadron and AVG 3rd Squadron rose in defense.

While in the game mission you seem to manage an unmitigated success, in truth, the Japanese attacks did manage to kill over a thousand civilians and destroy twenty Buffalos and P-40s, mostly on the ground.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Flying Tigers Companion: Brewster F2A/B-339 Buffalo

This week, we take on the third and final flyable aircraft from the first training mission in Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China, and also the initial star of the fourth mission in the game. The Brewster F2A Buffalo is something like the Rodney Dangerfield of World War II aircraft, it gets no respect at all. A frequent inclusion in various “World’s Worst Aircraft” lists, the poor Buffalo was generally disliked by American and British pilots, but also loved by the Finns, who compiled a 32-to-1 kill ratio against early Russian aircraft during the Continuation War of 1941-1944. (Although this last stat could also simply be considered more proof that Finlanders will happy kill Russians with whatever equipment they have available. See also Simo Häyhä.)
RAAF Buffalos of No. 453 Squadron. (Wikipedia)

First flown in December 1937, the F2A-1 Buffalo was the United States Navy’s first monoplane fighter. While it won the fly-off competition against Grumman’s F4F Wildcat, Brewster’s production delays and management issues pushed the Navy into procuring the Wildcat as well. By the time war broke out in the Pacific, only a handful of Buffalo squadrons were still operated by the U.S. Navy, while the Finns, the RAF, and the Dutch operated squadrons of their own.
Dutch Buffalo from IL-2, dirtied up for landing.

Of the three major sub-variants of the Buffalo that were produced, it is the performance of the final version, the F2A-3, which mostly earns the poor Buffalo its place of shame on “World’s Worst” lists. That version, with increased fuel capacity, cockpit armor, and heavier weapons, was simply more weight than even the upgraded engine could handle. Where early F2A-1 and -2 models were compared favoriably to the P-40Bs of the time, the -3 was simply inferior in almost every way to not only other U.S. Navy fighters, but critically inferior to the Japanese Zeros against which it would be flying in the opening year of World War II in the Pacific.

British Buffalos suffered similarly to the American F2A-3 models. Overloaded and underpowered for the hot, high climates of Malay and Burma, the export model B-339Es were often run with a minimum of fuel and ammunition to at least keep up with the older Ki-27s that the IJAAF initially flew in theatre. With the arrival of the Ki-43, however, the Buffalo’s days were essentially over.
B-339C Replica in the Netherlands. Wikipedia

There are no restored, flying Buffalos. Given its reputation, there are no flying replicas either. A single restored B-339 of the Finnish Air Force is displayed in the Aviation Museum of Central Finland. In addition, a full-scale replica B-339 built by the Cradle of Aviation Museum is displayed in Militaire-Luchtvaartmuseum of the Netherlands. A second replica F2A-2, also built by the Cradle of Aviation Museum and sporting U.S. Navy markings is displayed at that museum.
Odd, but historically true markings of another British Buffalo from IL-2

Virtual pilots, at least, have an easier time finding the cockpit of a Buffalo. In addition to its appearance in FTSOC, it shows up as a Tier IV American multirole fighter in World of Warplanes, and in War Thunder as a Tier 3 aircraft. The more sim-minded can find both the Finnish B-339 and American F2A variants in IL-2, still my old go-to for combat flight sims.