Aircraft Recognition No. 6, Vol. 1

FEBRUARY, 1943 AIRCRAFT THE THERE IS a wide school o f thought which advocates the use of systematic charts for aircraft recognition. These charts—which sub-divide and group all aircraft together in their respective structural categories :—single-m otor high-wing monoplanes with twin fins and rudders, and so forth— have many attractions. They also have many pitfalls. Systematic charts are valuable for reference and for confirmation o f results. But they should never be considered as shortcuts to snap spotting. There is only one highroad to success in this direction and that is through familiarity with the aircraft in the air. An expert spotter does not necessarily recognise an aeroplane by any single feature or combination o f features—except subconsciously. He knows each particular aeroplane from its general appearance and can often recognise it before there is any direct indication o f high or low wing or one, two or more motors. Even so, systematic charts do fulfil a useful purpose in recognition training. They group similar types together, lay emphasis on features of design, and relegate and separate the less orthodox types from the others. In a subsequent issue o f this Journal we hope to publish one o f these charts for reference and study. A fact that appears at once from these charts is that there are more low-wing monoplanes with single radial motors and single fins and rudders than aircraft o f any other class, although this class is rivalled by mid-wing monoplanes with two radial motors and both single fins and rudders and twin fins and rudders. These categories are at once a commentary on modern tendencies in design and on the types upon which to concentrate attention to avoid confusion. In all, the proficient Spotter who is prepared for action anywhere in the World should have knowledge o f some 300 different types of aeroplane o f the seven chief Nations at war— Great Britain, America, R ussia,G erm any, Italy, Japan and France. There is no characteristically national type for any o f these countries. N o nation has a monopoly o f low-wing monoplanes, elliptical wings, square-cut rudders or underslung motor nacelles, and confusion can only arise from sug­gesting that there is any particular national characteristic. Nevertheless, profit can be had from observing the idiosyncrasies o f individual designers—so long as one remembers that several com­panies have more than one designer— for instance, Heinkel, Fiat, Blackburn and Curtiss. Family likenesses areas valuable guides to identity in aeroplanes as in people. W e hope to have more to say about this, too, before long. As time goes on and air warfare develops the tendency is for new and specialised types to appear for particular purposes. The Bristol 160 aeroplane is an instance o f this trend— a modification of the old Blenheim adapted for close support duties. The trend is shown also in the evolution o f the military transport aeroplane and the emergence o f the specialised high-flying fighter such as the Spitfire IX and the specialised anti-bom ber fighter such as the Beaufighter. The requirements o f these two types o f fighter are somewhat different— the high-flying fighter is intended chiefly for top cover and must be manuccvrable and armed with m achine-guns as well as cannon so that snap shooting is possible with the high orate f fire which m achine-guns afford. The anti-bom ber fighter need not have such a orate f climb but must have speed and heavy armament to catch and then kill the bombers. And so with the development o f flying we are likely to see an increasing variety o f aircraft although many of the varieties may spring from individual designs. The Hurricane is perhaps the best instance o fall. More than a hundred different versions have flown, including fighters, fighter- bombers, ground attack versions and ship planes—even a two-seat trainer version was begun but not completed. Another very topical example is theM esserschmitt Me 323 six-motor transport, a drawing o f which appears on page 118 o f this issue. This new aeroplane is a development o f the earlier“ G igant ”glider about which little information was available. Certainly a glider with a wingspan o f 178 feet must have proved very difficult to tow and uneconomic in operation. The transformation into a relatively slow transport aeroplane o f large capacity greatly increases its usefulness and at the same time goes someway towards satisfying the urgent need through­out German occupied territory— improved communications and routes o f supply. TheMe 323 is particularly interesting for its simple braced high-wing construction and the unique arrangement o fits ten-wheel undercarriage which gives avery low ground clearance for ease o f loading. Thus although the art and science o f aircraft recognition becomes more complex, month by month, it becomes more interesting as well. By close study o f the new types o f aeroplane as they appear we can trace the whole trend o fair warfare and the growing ascendency of Air Power which is to play such an important part in the future. I DAY BO M BER—The Martin Marauder I (U.S. Army B-26a) in service with the U.S. Air Forces in both the African theatre and the Pacific, and here shown in R.A.F. colours RECOGNITION VoL I.—No. 6103
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