Author Topic: Blue Widows  (Read 1718 times)

Offline apophenia

  • Patterns? What patterns?
Blue Widows
« on: December 06, 2020, 11:04:32 AM »
Forked-Tailled Marines - Northrop's 'Blue Widows'

In 1944, the US Marines planned to take on 75 Northrop P-61 Black Widow night fighters as the F2T-1N. That intended night-fighting role was later shifted to carrier-capable Grumman F7Fs. [1] The Black Widow contract was accordingly revised for two, revised P-61 derivatives. The first was the Marines' TF2T-2 trainer - a dual control conversion (akin to the Army's TP-61C but based upon reconditioned P-61A-5 airframes). [2] The second variant would ultimately become the F3T-1A Nemesis strike fighter.

Scout Torpedo - Tentative Steps Toward a Strike Fighter

As first envisioned, the Marines' Northrop was to be a diurnal torpedo bomber with a reduced fixed armament. Designated XTST-1 in the USN's new (and short-lived) Scout Torpedo [3] category, the prototype was a conversion of an XP-61-NO Black Widow trials airframe. [4] Unofficially dubbed 'Stingray', the XTST-1 had the 2-seat fuselage pod of Northrop's XP-61E escort fighter. Armament consisted of a single torpedo mount set to the portside and fixed-gun installations. The starboard pair of 20 mm belly cannons would be retained but the nose radome was also replaced with gun mounts. [5] Modifications to XTST-1 standards proceeded slowly and, by the time the prototype was completed, the Marines had decided to drop the torpedo-carrying component from its requirements. The focus now shifted to a dedicated fighter-bomber design.

Bottom Northrop XTST-1 'Stingray' torpedo strike - prototype conversion underway showing 2-seat pod, P-38 nose, and belly torpedo mount. Although painted in the correct USN all-over dark blue scheme, the prototype has been given USAAF-style national insignia and an unofficial 'Marines' marking on each boom.

Like the XTST-1, the production variant was based upon the 2-seat XP-61E fuselage pod. As a strike fighter, the production type was designated as F3T-1A and named Nemesis. There was no F3T-1A Nemesis prototype. The 2-seat pod was simply mated with the otherwise standard airframe of the P-61B-2-NO. The latter was identical to the in-production P-61C but lacked the turbocharged engines - deemed unnecessary for the low-altitude attack role. Compared with the torpedo-toting XTST-1, the production F3T-1A carried an aggressive fixed armament. This restored the P-61's full belly armament of four 20 mm cannons combined with a quartet of heavy machine guns. The XTST-1's P-38-style nose was replaced by a simpler shape based on the original radome.

Attack! - The Operational F3T-1A Nemesis Strike Fighter

A distinct USMC Nemesis formation was established in 1944 - the Marine Aircraft Group 34 - which absorbed two squadrons from MAG-24. MAG-34, under Colonel Keith B. McCutcheon (formerly of MAG-24), consisted of two SBD squadrons - VMSB-241 'Sons of Satan' and VMSB-341 'Torrid Turtles'. Some fresh personnel accompanied the F3T-1A delivery to the Philippines but most MAG-34 converted over to the F3T-1A in Manila. There, these units were redesignated as Marine Attack Squadron (Heavy) - VMA(H)-241 and VMA(H)-341. In the southern Philippines, the MAG-34 squadrons operated alongside Douglas SBDs of the remaining VMSB units and the North American PBJs of VMB-611.

Such was the success of the F3T-1A Nemesis attack fighters of MAG-34 that, by September 1945, few large targets remained among the scattered Japanese hold-outs on Mindanao. Accordingly, VMA(H)-241 and VMA(H)-341 were staged north to prepare for the invasion of the Japanese Home Islands. To simplify supply lines, these Marine aircraft were based together with Army Black Widows - 20th AF P-61B-2s of the 549th NFS - on Iwo Jima. From there, the MAG-34 F3T-1As began attack runs on the Osumi Islands and Kyushu itself. By the time of the attack on Kyushu, MAG-34 was scheduled to receive replacement F3T-2s (with eight nose guns and four wing pylons) but, it is believed, none of these late-model Nemesis saw full operational deployment.

Top An F3T-1A Nemesis of VMA(H)-241 marked with yellow invasion cowling 'rings' (and matching spinners). The 'B' rudder mark is for CVL-30 San Jacinto - VMA(H)-241's notional home since flying Dauntless dive bombers. [6] The VMA(H)-241 crest is worn above the individual aircraft code on the fins. The pilot of this aircraft was 1st Lt G.F. Coleman who had transferred over from VMA(H)-341. On the nose are the personal markings 'Outta the Park' - showing a baseball marked with the Japanese ensign being knocked out of the park ('Jerry' Coleman having been a professional ball player before joining the Marines).

While the F3T-1A Nemesis served the Marines well in wartime, they did not long survive the peace. In the Summer of 1946, all F3T-1A and F3T-2 aircraft were modified and redesignated as KDT-1 and KDT-2 remote-controlled target drones. By the beginning of 1949, all KDT drones had been expended (most simulating attacking bombers).

__________________________________________

[1] The US Navy had borrowed two USAAF P-61s to qualify the aircraft for shipboard catapult launches. Trials were inconclusive and, it seems, the intended F2T-1 designation was never applied to these aircraft.

[2] Sole operator of the F2T-2T trainer was VMAT-201 (Marine Attack Training Squadron 201) which functioned as an operational conversion unit.

[3] The only other 'TS' designation was assigned to the unbuilt 1944 Grumman XTSF-1 - an enlarged F7F.

[4] The first YP-61-NO - 41-18876 c/n 704 - had crashed taking off from Northrop Field in April 1944. Although written-off by the USAAF, Northrop was given permission to rebuild the damaged airframe to XTST-1 standard.

[5] The prototype XTST-1 was fitted with a modified nose from a P-38 fighter. This was armed with four 50-caliber machine guns and a cannon - either another 20 mm or a 37 mm M9.

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Offline perttime

  • The man has produced a Finnish Napier Heston Fighter...need we say more?
Re: Blue Widows
« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2020, 03:46:06 PM »
The P-38 nose on the XTST-1 prototype looks sleek.

What was in the P-61 belly? The XTST-1 looks better to me, with a flat shape there.

Offline finsrin

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Re: Blue Widows
« Reply #2 on: December 06, 2020, 05:50:08 PM »
Looking sleek and fast.  :smiley:

Offline Robomog

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Re: Blue Widows
« Reply #3 on: December 06, 2020, 06:43:48 PM »
That's one pretty impressive fighter bomber !    :-* :-* :-*

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Offline Old Wombat

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Re: Blue Widows
« Reply #4 on: December 06, 2020, 07:47:14 PM »
Nice! :smiley:

Though I prefer the P-38 nose, which can, with the belly "pod", give you a gun load of either 5 x .50cal's & 4 x 20mm's or 4 x .50cal's & 5 x 20mm's. ;)
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Offline Geoff

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Re: Blue Widows
« Reply #5 on: December 07, 2020, 12:13:00 AM »
IIRC the US 8th AF looked at using the P-61 as a photorecce aircraft. Just a thought.

Offline Dr. YoKai

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Re: Blue Widows
« Reply #6 on: December 07, 2020, 02:30:56 AM »
IIRC the US 8th AF looked at using the P-61 as a photorecce aircraft. Just a thought.
Eventually developed as the F (f for photo) -15 Reporter, wasn't it? I can't remember if it was ordered for service or not.

More outstanding profiles. I neve confirmed it, but I think my Father might have repaired P-61 Radar & radio sets during the war - I know he introduced me to a Widow pilot he knew when we were in North Dakota in the 70s.

Offline The Big Gimper

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Re: Blue Widows
« Reply #7 on: December 07, 2020, 03:00:38 AM »
Great story and profiles Stephen.

Here are some, Blue, Grey, Green and Brown Widows.  Radar is the ASV Mark II as used by the B-24.
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Offline apophenia

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Re: Blue Widows
« Reply #8 on: December 07, 2020, 04:50:52 AM »
Thanks folks!  :D

perttime: That P-61 paunch housed the four, fixed 20 mm Hispano cannons.

Old Wombat: Yeah, I too like the change of profile that the P-38 nose gave it. Originally, I was thinking of the 37 mm M9 (might've been handy against coastal shipping targets). One concern with cannons in a longer nose would be the c/g shifting while firing  ???

Dr. YoKai: That's the one! The prototype XF-15 photo-recon type was actually a conversion of the original XP-61E (whose fuselage I based my XTST-1/F3T-1A Nemesis on).

The Big Gimper: Cheers Carl. Great to see the P-61 in something other than its usual Black Widow[/b]'s weeds! 'Maverick' has also answered my concern about mounting rocket rails on the P-61 - so long as they're forward of the spoilers, no probs  :smiley:
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Offline Geoff

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Re: Blue Widows
« Reply #9 on: December 07, 2020, 05:41:46 AM »
IIRC the US 8th AF looked at using the P-61 as a photorecce aircraft. Just a thought.
Eventually developed as the F (f for photo) -15 Reporter, wasn't it? I can't remember if it was ordered for service or not.

More outstanding profiles. I neve confirmed it, but I think my Father might have repaired P-61 Radar & radio sets during the war - I know he introduced me to a Widow pilot he knew when we were in North Dakota in the 70s.

Yes I think hats right

Offline perttime

  • The man has produced a Finnish Napier Heston Fighter...need we say more?
Re: Blue Widows
« Reply #10 on: December 07, 2020, 12:30:14 PM »
IIRC the US 8th AF looked at using the P-61 as a photorecce aircraft. Just a thought.
Eventually developed as the F (f for photo) -15 Reporter, wasn't it? I can't remember if it was ordered for service or not.

...
Number built    36
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northrop_F-15_Reporter

They mainly operated from Japan. Mapping Korea was probably the major task.

edit: many are probably familiar with Logan's Reporters: https://www.deviantart.com/comradeloganov/gallery/36273612/what-if-profiles
« Last Edit: December 07, 2020, 12:40:25 PM by perttime »

Offline Geoff

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Re: Blue Widows
« Reply #11 on: December 07, 2020, 04:05:45 PM »
IIRC the US 8th AF looked at using the P-61 as a photorecce aircraft. Just a thought.
Eventually developed as the F (f for photo) -15 Reporter, wasn't it? I can't remember if it was ordered for service or not.

...
Number built    36
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northrop_F-15_Reporter

They mainly operated from Japan. Mapping Korea was probably the major task.

edit: many are probably familiar with Logan's Reporters: https://www.deviantart.com/comradeloganov/gallery/36273612/what-if-profiles

Thank you

Offline MAT

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Re: Blue Widows
« Reply #12 on: December 07, 2020, 06:20:41 PM »
Great inspiration
I have a couple of old Frog P-61s somewhere in my stash. Maybe I should dig them up someday in the near future.

Offline apophenia

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Re: Blue Widows
« Reply #13 on: December 08, 2020, 05:51:13 AM »
I have a couple of old Frog P-61s somewhere in my stash. Maybe I should dig them up someday in the near future.

That would be very cool MAT  :D

I'd forgotten that there had ever been a Frog Black Widow! It looks like an excellent candidate for conversion.

I know that there are XP-61E/F-15 conversions out there - eg: Maintrack resin for the Airfix kit. But looking at the Frog sprue makes it look like a DIY conversion to 2-seater is feasible ... dare I say, even an 'easy' conversion after your Jet Mossie;D

(Edit: Forgot to mention, the F-15 water bomber conversion later adopted a T-33 replacement canopy. So, lots of 'spares box' canopies from postwar 2-seat aircraft are potential candidates.)
« Last Edit: December 08, 2020, 05:54:06 AM by apophenia »
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Offline The Big Gimper

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Re: Blue Widows
« Reply #14 on: December 08, 2020, 06:25:22 AM »
Lone Star models did in 1/72 P-61C, XP-61E and F-15 conversions. Have them in the stash.

https://www.scalemates.com/search.php?fkSECTION%5B%5D=All&q=1%2F72+P-61
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Offline GTX_Admin

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Re: Blue Widows
« Reply #15 on: December 09, 2020, 01:22:31 AM »
Lone Star models did in 1/72 P-61C, XP-61E and F-15 conversions. Have them in the stash.

https://www.scalemates.com/search.php?fkSECTION%5B%5D=All&q=1%2F72+P-61

and 1/48...ditto
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