Author Topic: Squawks of the FAA  (Read 4724 times)

Offline Cliffy B

  • Ship Whiffer Extraordinaire...master of Beyond Visual Range Modelling
  • Its ZOTT!!!
    • My Artwork
Squawks of the FAA
« on: September 16, 2013, 09:08:30 AM »
Finally done, here's Weaver and I's collaboration project.

Alright here's the back story.  Profiles are inbound!

Quote
The future plans of the Royal Navy and the Fleet Air Arm were shaped in the post-war years by the principles of the 1947 Brokensha report, which made the unpopular, but inarguable case that Britain's role in the world was inevitably going to decline, and that the sooner she started “cutting her coat to suite the cloth”, the less painful the necessary adjustments would be. Once the Brokensha principles had been accepted, a host sub-committees and reports followed, and the ones related to air policy made some pretty stark recommendations, principally that Britain should concentrate it's limited development resources on projects that had clear commercial or military pay-offs, and that that didn't include any new naval aircraft. This was principally driven by the perception of a declining future market for such aircraft. The related naval reviews would inevitably result in a diminishing RN carrier force, it was argued, and the only export market worth having, the US Navy, was constrained by a “not invented here” mentality that would never allow the purchase of  foreign types that represented competition for their own industry. The inevitable conclusion was that if the Royal Navy wanted to stay in the carrier game, the only realistic option was to take advantage of the US Navy's huge production runs and development budget and buy American.

The resulting chorus of protest from the British aircraft industry, motivated by concerns about jobs and technical leadership, proved to be largely unjustified, as the Treasury insisted that the consequences for Britain's balance-of-payments be mitigated by choosing American types that could be licence-produced in the UK with high British content. The most lasting result was, of course, the highly successful collaboration between Grumman and Gloster (later Hawker Siddeley Aviation) to produce the F9F Panther, which lead, via the Cougar and Tiger, to today's Jaguar. However at the time, an equally important partnership was that formed between Douglas Aircraft and  Blackburn and General Aircraft, initially to produce the AD-1 Skyraider strike aircraft following cancellation of Blackburn's Firebrand and Firecrest projects. This lead to further contracts for the Skynight and Skyhunter night-fighters, and put the two companies in a good position to compete when the matter of the Skyraider's replacement arose.

By the mid-1950s, the Royal Navy's strike requirement had changed almost completely. The advent of relatively small tactical nuclear weapons, the perceived threat from the Soviet Union's Sverdlov class cruisers, and the decision, post-Korea, to abandon large carriers in favour of the more affordable 35,000 ton Colossus/Majestic class carrier, created a requirement for a fast, compact strike aircraft that could deliver the projected Red Beard nuclear weapon to a land or sea target. Douglas and Blackburn had the perfect aircraft for this requirement in the former's A4D Skyhawk, a remarkable little aircraft that seemed perfectly tailored to the RN's “small carrier” doctrine since it managed to carry a substantial warload for it's size by virtue of ruthless weight-saving rather than technical sophistication. It also used an American version of a British engine (Wright J-65/AS-Sapphire) which kept the UK content acceptably high. Most of the competing proposals were either too big or too slow, and the only serious competition came from North American and Supermarine's project based on the FJ-4 Fury, which was proposed as a follow-on to Supermarine's F-86 Sabre production for the RAF. However the Skyhawk won the day, RN orders being placed for the aircraft in 1956.

Unfortunately, politics now intervened. The US government was highly displeased by the joint British/French Suez operation, and demonstrated the leverage which the UK's dependence on American hardware now gave it by suspending all British orders for US aircraft and weapons, this being a major factor in the UK's decision to abandon the adventure. Both Tiger and Skyhawk programmes were affected and it wasn't until relations had been patched up that orders could be reinstated in 1958. However cooperation between the various UK and US companies quietly continued during this period, and in many ways the delay actually proved beneficial, since many technical issues could be explored and addressed properly without the pressure to start production as soon as possible. The Grumman-Gloster Tiger had been struggling with afterburner problems on it's J-65/Sapphire engine, and during the hiatus, a proposal to replace it with Rolls Royce's Avon was developed and accepted. This then lead to a similar proposal to re-engine the Skyhawk with a non-afterburning Avon, with great benefits in commonality, reduced costs and easier maintenance. This too was accepted, and the production aircraft now became the Avon-engined S.2, the eight Sapphire-engined S.1s that had been built being used for testing and trials.

Another decision which affected both aircraft was the change to British 30mm ADEN cannons. This was a controversial move for the Tiger since it meant going from four guns to two, while the original proposal for the British Skyhawk had seen its guns removed altogether and replaced by extra fuel since they weren't needed for any of the  intended missions. However further studies, and mock combat exercises with the Sapphire-engined S.1s, demonstrated that the aircraft could make a useful contribution to its carrier's daytime fighter cover, this flexibility being very important in view of the fact that each ship could only operate one squadron of fighters and one of strike aircraft. This resulted not only in the Avon-engined S.2 getting it's guns back, but also to the incorporation of extra outboard pylons which were wired for Sidewinders in addition to conventional stores.

The Avon-engined, ADEN-gunned Skyhawk S.2 entered service with the Fleet Air Arm in 1960 and served ably for the next decade and a half. Of course the Skyhawks never got to deliver their Red Beard nuclear bombs for real, although it's now generally believed that they came uncomfortable close within months of taking delivery of them. The training unit for the Skyhawk was 736 NAS, which also incorporated the Intensive Flying Trials Unit (formerly 800B Flight) and the responsibility therefore fell to them to develop procedures for the new weapon, the first examples of which were delivered in mid-1962. Initially, trials took place ashore, but it was then decided that  a full-scale exercise at sea was necessary to test the new procedures under realistic conditions. HMS Albion had just completed the necessary refit to enable her to store the weapons safely, so at the start of October, six Skyhawks from 736 NAS deployed to the carrier, and she put to sea with Red Beards in her magazines for the first time. After an initial work-up period in home waters, she then ventured out into the North Atlantic for further exercises in rougher weather.

Just days after Albion moved into the Atlantic however, the Cuban Missile Crisis erupted without warning, and the US urgently requested help from all it's allies. The on-station carrier in the Caribbean, HMS Bulwark, was just about to end her deployment and had no nuclear capability, so the British Government decided to send Albion to replace her, since it was felt that flying the bombs from ship-to-ship was too risky. The two carriers rendezvoused off Bermuda, and with some cross-decking of aircraft and stores, Albion was made ready for war. The carrier spent the next month operating with the US Navy off Cuba to enforce the American blockade, eventually returning to British waters in mid-December. The British Government stubbornly refuses to declassify details of her operations during the crisis to this day, however by piecing together recollections from former sailors and airmen, and cross-referencing with American accounts, researchers now believe that the carrier went to full nuclear alert on at least two occasions, with Skyhawks armed with live Red Beards ready on deck with engines running. However what has become clear in recent years is just how limited this capability really was, since declassified records make it clear that Albion cannot have had more than three Red Beards on board at the time, and the actual number may have been even smaller.

Despite having been to the brink of conflict over Cuba, it was a few years later in Vietnam that the “Squawk” was to earn it's battle honours, the aircraft making a significant contribution towards the British war effort whenever a Royal Navy carrier was on-station. Trading their Red Beards for “old-fashioned” iron bombs and rockets, Skyhawks performed strike missions and provided much-appreciated close air support for, at various times, British, American, Australian and Canadian ground forces, the wisdom of the decision to fit guns and five pylons now being apparent. Not only were these invaluable in the ground attack role, but Skyhawks also claimed two air-to-air victories, a MiG-17 being downed with guns and an La-15 with a Sidewinder. Ironically, given that they had been bought as the high-tech replacement for the Skyraider, the Fleet Air Arm's Skyhawks now frequently found themselves operating alongside those same aircraft, the RN's surplus Skyraiders having been passed to the RAF who used them for close air support and rescue helicopter escort in much the same manner as the USAF. The “Squawk's” success in Vietnam came at a price however: thirty-eight of the Fleet Air Arm's one hundred and fifty aircraft were lost in action, with seventeen fatalities, and almost as many aircraft were written off due to non-combat accidents or sheer airframe fatigue. The last British POW to be repatriated from North Vietnam in 1978, lieutenant James Robinson of 803 NAS, was a Skyhawk pilot.

During Vietnam it was quickly realized that the Squawks needed an ECM improvement program to survive in such a SAM ridden environment.  Engineers from Douglas quickly proposed the "avionics hump" they were fitting to A-4Cs turning them into A-4Ls.  Blackburn approved and the S.3 was born.  Blackburn followed that up with the addition of a pair of tail mounted radar warning receivers for 360 degree coverage.  By this time another realization was made as well, the standard ED Sea Gray over White scheme was too conspicuous.  When the Squawks first arrived off Vietnam they were still wearing overall Anti-Flash White schemes and were repainted in route with what small stocks of EDSG HMS Centaur and HMS Leviathan had aboard prompting a high demarcation line.  Once more EDSG was acquired they shifted to a less conspicuous low demarcation line.  After a short while even this was deemed insufficient as the FAA felt it stood out too well against the jungle.  The solution was taken straight from the FAA's own history books.  A young pilot suggested they see how the tried and true EDSG and Slate Gray combination worked and after a series of trials was deemed a rounding success.  All Squawks were ordered repainted in this scheme as soon as humanly possible.  Aircraft still in England got Slate Gray mixed to the WWII specs/color chips while aircraft in theater initially had to make do with some custom mixes aboard ship only being repainted after "official" paint reached the fleet.  With the new ECM equipment and more appropriate camouflage the S.3s went on to excel in the skies over Vietnam in their uniquely suited role of SEAD carrying AGM-45 Shrikes and using them to lethal success.

Although the Royal Navy was pleased with the performance of both Skyhawk and Tiger, it was increasingly frustrated by the limitations involved in having two different aircraft on each of it's small carriers. By the mid 1960s it was becoming apparent that a new generation of electronics would make a single multi-role aircraft a practical proposition, and the government's 1966 commitment to a new generation of small, conventional carriers (once the proposals of the “V/STOL Mafia” had been examined and rejected) provided the impetus to develop such an aircraft. The requirement for a single-aircraft to replace both the Tiger and the Skyhawk put their two manufacturing consortiums, who had largely co-operated up to this point, into competition with each other. Grumman-HSA, now thoroughly integrated and riding the success of the Tiger in export markets was ready. Their new Jaguar proposal was based on the Tiger design, but enlarged to take a Rolls-Royce Spey afterburning turbofan and a high wing with plenty of hardpoints and ground-clearance. By contrast, Douglas never seemed fully engaged with the process, being in the throes of merging with McDonnell who had never forgiven the UK for selecting the Tiger over their F3H Demon design back in the 1950s. Blackburn tried heroically to offer upgraded air-to-air capable Skyhawks, but with lukewarm support from their US partner their proposals lacked credibility, and the Jaguar won the day, gradually replacing first the Skyhawk, then the Tiger, from 1975 onwards.

The Fleet Air Arm's surviving Skyhawks were put up for sale on the export market, and were very nearly sold to Argentina, which would have proved ironic a few years later, but the deal eventually fell through, mostly because of the aircraft's non-standard Avon engines (Argentina already operated various J52-engined American versions). The last of the “Squawks” finally went to Brazil, enabling that nation's navy to maintain it's fast jet capability right through to the late 1990s, when the superannuated aircraft were finally replaced by upgraded ex-Kuwaiti Skyhawks with many more flying hours left on them. The Royal Navy has never regretted it's decision to buy the Jaguar, but many ex-Skyhawk veterans will point to Brazil as proof that “the only replacement for a Squawk is another Squawk!”

Enjoy,
-Mike
-Weaver
« Last Edit: September 16, 2013, 12:38:02 PM by Cliffy B »
"Radials growl, inlines purr, jets blow!"  -Anonymous

"Helos don't fly.  They vibrate so violently that the ground rejects them."  -Tom Clancy

"If all else fails, call in an air strike."  -Anonymous

Offline Cliffy B

  • Ship Whiffer Extraordinaire...master of Beyond Visual Range Modelling
  • Its ZOTT!!!
    • My Artwork
Re: Squawks of the FAA
« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2013, 12:35:49 PM »
Profiles are here!  Sorry for the delay...  Photoshop wanted to start acting up in the final hour  :-\

Note: Profiles were done by me while all credit for the story and the original idea goes to Weaver.  I only added one paragraph about the S.3.  :)

First - The S.2 originally had 2 wing tanks but its depicted minutes before nuclear release when the tanks are pickled one at a time to prevent damage to the nuke. 

Second - Red Beard is on its way, flash hood is completely shut and the Squawk is hauling buns away from the blast. 10, 9, 8, 7...  The entire centerline stores station is jettisoned with the Red Beard as well.  Every little bit helps.

For the ECM pod on the S.3 I referenced the real life pods on late model A-4L/Ms and the pods used on Buccaneers.  I chose to use the A-4's pod but enlarge the rear antennae to replicate the 2 different sized RWRs on the Buccs.  Remember in this story the Squawks replace Buccs  ;)

Douglas-Blackburn Skyhawk S.2 - 736 NAS 1962


Douglas-Blackburn Skyhawk S.2 - 736 NAS 1962


Douglas-Blackburn Skyhawk S.2 - 803 NAS 1967


Douglas-Blackburn Skyhawk S.3 - 893 NAS 1967




Any and all thoughts, comments, ideas, etc... are appreciated as always.

Enjoy folks,
-Mike
-Weaver
« Last Edit: September 17, 2013, 03:29:05 AM by Cliffy B »
"Radials growl, inlines purr, jets blow!"  -Anonymous

"Helos don't fly.  They vibrate so violently that the ground rejects them."  -Tom Clancy

"If all else fails, call in an air strike."  -Anonymous

Offline GTX_Admin

  • Evil Administrator bent on taking over the Universe!
  • Administrator - Yep, I'm the one to blame for this place.
  • Whiffing Demi-God!
    • Beyond the Sprues
Re: Squawks of the FAA
« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2013, 12:40:07 PM »
I assume it is supposed to be Blackburn...don't worry though, we will forgive you. ;)
All hail the God of Frustration!!!

Offline Cliffy B

  • Ship Whiffer Extraordinaire...master of Beyond Visual Range Modelling
  • Its ZOTT!!!
    • My Artwork
Re: Squawks of the FAA
« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2013, 12:46:13 PM »
Oh you've got to be kidding me............................ :-X

I'll fix them tomorrow....  I've had enough with computer issues for one night.

And I'm not even doing this  :icon_beer:

Edit: I couldn't live with them like that so they're fixed now.  Thanks Greg  :)
« Last Edit: September 16, 2013, 12:57:02 PM by Cliffy B »
"Radials growl, inlines purr, jets blow!"  -Anonymous

"Helos don't fly.  They vibrate so violently that the ground rejects them."  -Tom Clancy

"If all else fails, call in an air strike."  -Anonymous

Offline Jeffry Fontaine

  • Unaffiliated Independent Subversive...and the last person to go for a trip on a Mexicana dH Comet 4
  • Global Moderator
  • His stash is able to be seen from space...
Re: Squawks of the FAA
« Reply #4 on: September 17, 2013, 03:14:55 AM »
Mike and Harold,

Great back story and love the profiles!
« Last Edit: September 17, 2013, 04:05:06 AM by Jeffry Fontaine »
"Every day we hear about new studies 'revealing' what should have been obvious to sentient beings for generations; 'Research shows wolverines don't like to be teased" -- Jonah Goldberg

Offline Weaver

  • Skyhawk stealer and violator of Panthers, with designs on a Cougar and a Tiger too
  • Chaos Engineer & Evangelistic Agnostic
Re: Squawks of the FAA
« Reply #5 on: September 17, 2013, 10:41:27 AM »
Cheers Jeff!

Thought I'd run the profiles and backstory together to make it easy to read.




Squawks, Parrots and Camels
The FAA's bantam bombers
Profiles by Cliffy B
Story by Weaver and Cliffy B


The future plans of the Royal Navy and the Fleet Air Arm were shaped in the post-war years by the principles of the 1947 Brokensha report, which made the unpopular, but inarguable case that Britain's role in the world was inevitably going to decline, and that the sooner she started “cutting her coat to suite the cloth”, the less painful the necessary adjustments would be. Once the Brokensha principles had been accepted, a host sub-committees and reports followed, and the ones related to air policy made some pretty stark recommendations, principally that Britain should concentrate it's limited development resources on projects that had clear commercial or military pay-offs, and that that didn't include any new naval aircraft. This was principally driven by the perception of a declining future market for such aircraft. The related naval reviews would inevitably result in a diminishing RN carrier force, it was argued, and the only export market worth having, the US Navy, was constrained by a “not invented here” mentality that would never allow the purchase of  foreign types that represented competition for their own industry. The inevitable conclusion was that if the Royal Navy wanted to stay in the carrier game, the only realistic option was to take advantage of the US Navy's huge production runs and development budget and buy American.

The resulting chorus of protest from the British aircraft industry, motivated by concerns about jobs and technical leadership, proved to be largely unjustified, as the Treasury insisted that the consequences for Britain's balance-of-payments be mitigated by choosing American types that could be licence-produced in the UK with high British content. The most lasting result was, of course, the highly successful collaboration between Grumman and Gloster (later Hawker Siddeley Aviation) to produce the F9F Panther, which lead, via the Cougar and Tiger, to today's Jaguar. However at the time, an equally important partnership was that formed between Douglas Aircraft and  Blackburn and General Aircraft, initially to produce the AD-1 Skyraider strike aircraft following cancellation of Blackburn's Firebrand and Firecrest projects. This lead to further contracts for the Skynight and Skyhunter night-fighters, and put the two companies in a good position to compete when the matter of the Skyraider's replacement arose.

By the mid-1950s, the Royal Navy's strike requirement had changed almost completely. The advent of relatively small tactical nuclear weapons, the perceived threat from the Soviet Union's Sverdlov class cruisers, and the decision, post-Korea, to abandon large carriers in favour of the more affordable 35,000 ton Colossus/Majestic class carrier, created a requirement for a fast, compact strike aircraft that could deliver the projected Red Beard nuclear weapon to a land or sea target. Douglas and Blackburn had the perfect aircraft for this requirement in the former's A4D Skyhawk, a remarkable little aircraft that seemed perfectly tailored to the RN's “small carrier” doctrine since it managed to carry a substantial warload for it's size by virtue of ruthless weight-saving rather than technical sophistication. It also used an American version of a British engine (Wright J-65/AS-Sapphire) which kept the UK content acceptably high. Most of the competing proposals were either too big or too slow, and the only serious competition came from North American and Supermarine's project based on the FJ-4 Fury, which was proposed as a follow-on to Supermarine's F-86 Sabre production for the RAF. However the Skyhawk won the day, RN orders being placed for the aircraft in 1956.

Unfortunately, politics now intervened. The US government was highly displeased by the joint British/French Suez operation, and demonstrated the leverage which the UK's dependence on American hardware now gave it by suspending all British orders for US aircraft and weapons, this being a major factor in the UK's decision to abandon the adventure. Both Tiger and Skyhawk programmes were affected and it wasn't until relations had been patched up that orders could be reinstated in 1958. However cooperation between the various UK and US companies quietly continued during this period, and in many ways the delay actually proved beneficial, since many technical issues could be explored and addressed properly without the pressure to start production as soon as possible. The Grumman-Gloster Tiger had been struggling with afterburner problems on it's J-65/Sapphire engine, and during the hiatus, a proposal to replace it with Rolls Royce's Avon was developed and accepted. This then lead to a similar proposal to re-engine the Skyhawk with a non-afterburning Avon, with great benefits in commonality, reduced costs and easier maintenance. This too was accepted, and the production aircraft now became the Avon-engined S.2, the eight Sapphire-engined S.1s that had been built being used for testing and trials.

Another decision which affected both aircraft was the change to British 30mm ADEN cannons. This was a controversial move for the Tiger since it meant going from four guns to two, while the original proposal for the British Skyhawk had seen its guns removed altogether and replaced by extra fuel since they weren't needed for any of the  intended missions. However further studies, and mock combat exercises with the Sapphire-engined S.1s, demonstrated that the aircraft could make a useful contribution to its carrier's daytime fighter cover, this flexibility being very important in view of the fact that each ship could only operate one squadron of fighters and one of strike aircraft. This resulted not only in the Avon-engined S.2 getting it's guns back, but also to the incorporation of extra outboard pylons which were wired for Sidewinders in addition to conventional stores.

The Avon-engined, ADEN-gunned Skyhawk S.2 entered service with the Fleet Air Arm in 1960 and served ably for the next decade and a half. Of course the Skyhawks never got to deliver their Red Beard nuclear bombs for real, although it's now generally believed that they came uncomfortable close within months of taking delivery of them. The training unit for the Skyhawk was 736 NAS, which also incorporated the Intensive Flying Trials Unit (formerly 800B Flight) and the responsibility therefore fell to them to develop procedures for the new weapon, the first examples of which were delivered in mid-1962. Initially, trials took place ashore, but it was then decided that  a full-scale exercise at sea was necessary to test the new procedures under realistic conditions. HMS Albion had just completed the necessary refit to enable her to store the weapons safely, so at the start of October, six Skyhawks from 736 NAS deployed to the carrier, and she put to sea with Red Beards in her magazines for the first time. After an initial work-up period in home waters, she then ventured out into the North Atlantic for further exercises in rougher weather.



Douglas-Blackburn Skyhawk S.2 carrying a live Red Beard tactical nuclear bomb. The aircraft would carry two drop tanks, but the nearside one has been omitted to show the bomb clearly. 


Just days after Albion moved into the Atlantic however, the Cuban Missile Crisis erupted without warning, and the US urgently requested help from all it's allies. The on-station carrier in the Caribbean, HMS Bulwark, was just about to end her deployment and had no nuclear capability, so the British Government decided to send Albion to replace her, since it was felt that flying the bombs from ship-to-ship was too risky. The two carriers rendezvoused off Bermuda, and with some cross-decking of aircraft and stores, Albion was made ready for war. The carrier spent the next month operating with the US Navy off Cuba to enforce the American blockade, eventually returning to British waters in mid-December. The British Government stubbornly refuses to declassify details of her operations during the crisis to this day, however by piecing together recollections from former sailors and airmen, and cross-referencing with American accounts, researchers now believe that the carrier went to full nuclear alert on at least two occasions, with Skyhawks armed with live Red Beards ready on deck with engines running. However what has become clear in recent years is just how limited this capability really was, since declassified records make it clear that Albion cannot have had more than three Red Beards on board at the time, and the actual number may have been even smaller.



The same aircraft as it would appear after dropping it's bomb. Note the closed flash hood, designed to protect the pilot from being blinded by the nuclear explosion. This feature was highly unpopular with FAA pilots and was removed for Vietnam service since it was felt to obstruct rear quarter vision, even when open.


Despite having been to the brink of conflict over Cuba, it was a few years later in Vietnam that the “Squawk” was to earn it's battle honours, the aircraft making a significant contribution towards the British war effort whenever a Royal Navy carrier was on-station. Trading their Red Beards for “old-fashioned” iron bombs and rockets, Skyhawks performed strike missions and provided much-appreciated close air support for, at various times, British, American, Australian and Canadian ground forces, the wisdom of the decision to fit guns and five pylons now being apparent. Not only were these invaluable in the ground attack role, but Skyhawks also claimed two air-to-air victories, a MiG-17 being downed with guns and an La-15 with a Sidewinder. Ironically, given that they had been bought as the high-tech replacement for the Skyraider, the Fleet Air Arm's Skyhawks now frequently found themselves operating alongside those same aircraft, the RN's surplus Skyraiders having been passed to the RAF who used them for close air support and rescue helicopter escort in much the same manner as the USAF.

The Skyhawk fleet evolved in a number of way during the Vietnam War, perhaps most conspicuously in the matter of paint. When HMS Centaur first deployed to the South China Sea, her Skyhawks were still wearing the overall Anti-Flash White scheme designed to protect them from the effects of their own nuclear weapons, and this was clearly inappropriate for tactical use over Vietnam's jungles. The choice of paint aboard the carrier was limited, so it was decided to adopt a similar scheme to her Grumman-HSA Tigers, namely a coat of Extra Dark Sea Grey over the upper surfaces and fuselage sides. The original intention was to have a low demarcation line between the two, but it then became apparent that paint stocks were insufficient for this so a compromise "highish" demarcation line was used. The Admiralty was allegedly less than pleased with the ad-hoc repaint and vacillated for so long before formalising the new scheme that HMS Leviathan's air wing had to adopt similar measures when she relieved Centaur on station after the latter's first tour.

No sooner had aircraft started deploying to Vietnam with the properly painted, low-demarcation EDSG-over-white scheme than feedback from returning pilots began to suggest that even this was insufficient and that a proper camouflage scheme was required to break up the outline of the aircraft over the jungle. The solution was taken straight from the FAA's own history books, a number of pilots suggesting the EDSG and Slate Gray combination which had been proved to work well in World War II. Trials proved the scheme a success, and the Skyhawk fleet was ordered to be repainted in this scheme as soon as humanly possible.  Aircraft repainted in the UK got Slate Gray mixed to the WWII specifications, but aircraft repainted in-theatre initially had to make do with some custom mixes devised aboard ship only being repainted after "official" paint reached the fleet. The exact colour of any particular "Jungle Squawk" or "Parrot" as they were nicknamed remains a subject of (sometimes heated) debate amongst historians and model-makers to this day.



One of 803 Squadron's aircraft wearing the initial "high-ish" demarcation EDSG-over-white scheme adopted aboard HMS Centaur during her initial deployment to avoid wasting scarce supplied of EDSG on areas like the undersides of the air intakes that couldn't be seen from above. 803's colourful tail markings might seem at odds with the requirements of low-visibility, but in fact the profile shows the aircraft as it appeared in the 1968 Spithead Review, the paint job having been "smartened up" after Centaur's return to the UK.


A more substantial modification came from the realization that the FAA's Skyhawks needed ECM support to survive in Vietnam's SAM-saturated environment. The USAF, the USN, and (eventually) the RAF adopted dedicated ECM/SEAD aircraft for this role, but the limited number of aircraft available to the RN's carriers made this an unattractive option. The best solution was felt to be an internal ECM suite which didn't compromise the aircraft's strike capability and fortunately, developments in America made this possible. Douglas engineers had developed an avionics "hump" for the Skyhawk's spine and this was already being fitted to US Navy A-4C and Es.  It was therefore a relatively simple matter for Blackburn to adapt the hump to the British S.2 version and the Ferranti electronics company did much pioneering work to develop the miniaturised threat warning and analysis system that it carried. With the addition of a pair of tail-mounted radar warning receivers for 360 degree coverage and the ability to fire the American AGM-45 Shrike anti-radar missile, the modification was complete, being substantial enough to warrant a new designation: the Skyhawk S.3. The only penalties for the new capabilty were cost and a reduction in disposable load, so the RN declined to convert every S.2, choosing instead to deploy a mix of S.2 and S.3s (usually four of the latter, though numbers varied) on each carrier.



An S.3 showing it's avionics hump, RWR aerial, Shrike missiles and two-tone camouflage. In FAA slang, the S.2s had been dubbed "Parrots" (because they "squawk" in the jungle), so the S.3s were immediately christened "Camels".


The S.3's "defence suppression" capabilities proved highly successful and loss rates for the Skyhawk force dropped significantly following it's introduction. Many commentators (not least in the USAF) doubted whether such a small SEAD force could be effective, but in practice, the fact that both defence suppression and strike aircraft were part of the same squadrons and trained together extensively proved to be an advantage, the S.2 pilots becoming adept at following the S.3s' Shrikes to their targets and silencing the SAM sites with bombs or rockets while their radars were switched off to avoid being hit by the missiles. No amount of SAM suppression could reduce the other dangers of operating over Vietnam however, and despite being judged a success, the “Squawk's” reputation came at a price: thirty-eight of the Fleet Air Arm's one hundred and fifty aircraft were lost in action, with seventeen fatalities, and almost as many aircraft were written off due to non-combat accidents or sheer airframe fatigue. The last British POW to be repatriated from North Vietnam in 1978, lieutenant James Robinson of 803 NAS, was a Skyhawk pilot.

Although the Royal Navy was pleased with the performance of both Skyhawk and Tiger, it was increasingly frustrated by the limitations involved in having two different aircraft on each of it's small carriers. By the mid 1960s it was becoming apparent that a new generation of electronics would make a single multi-role aircraft a practical proposition, and the government's 1966 commitment to a new generation of small, conventional carriers (once the proposals of the “V/STOL Mafia” had been examined and rejected) provided the impetus to develop such an aircraft. The requirement for a single-aircraft to replace both the Tiger and the Skyhawk put their two manufacturing consortiums, who had largely co-operated up to this point, into competition with each other. Grumman-HSA, now thoroughly integrated and riding the success of the Tiger in export markets was ready. Their new Jaguar proposal was based on the Tiger design, but enlarged to take a Rolls-Royce Spey afterburning turbofan and a high wing with plenty of hardpoints and ground-clearance. By contrast, Douglas never seemed fully engaged with the process, being in the throes of merging with McDonnell who had never forgiven the UK for selecting the Tiger over their F3H Demon design back in the 1950s. Blackburn tried heroically to offer upgraded air-to-air capable Skyhawks, but with lukewarm support from their US partner their proposals lacked credibility, and the Jaguar won the day, gradually replacing first the Skyhawk, then the Tiger, from 1975 onwards.

The Fleet Air Arm's surviving Skyhawks were put up for sale on the export market, and were very nearly sold to Argentina, which would have proved ironic a few years later, but the deal eventually fell through, mostly because of the aircraft's non-standard Avon engines (Argentina already operated various J52-engined American versions). The last of the “Squawks” finally went to Brazil, enabling that nation's navy to maintain it's fast jet capability right through to the late 1990s, when the superannuated aircraft were finally replaced by upgraded ex-Kuwaiti Skyhawks with many more flying hours left on them. The Royal Navy has never regretted it's decision to buy the Jaguar, but many ex-Skyhawk veterans will point to Brazil as proof that “the only replacement for a Squawk is another Squawk!”
« Last Edit: September 17, 2013, 10:47:05 AM by Weaver »
"I have described nothing but what I saw myself, or learned from others" - Thucydides

"I've jazzed mine up a bit" - Spike Milligan

"I'm a general specialist," - Harry Purvis in Tales from the White Hart by Arthur C. Clarke

Twitter: @hws5mp
Minds.com: @HaroldWeaverSmith

Offline buzzbomb

  • Low Concentration Span, oft wanders betwixt projects
  • Accurate Scale representations of fictional stuff
    • Club and my stuff site
Re: Squawks of the FAA
« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2013, 08:29:49 AM »
Well that is good reading.
Great profiles

Offline ChrisF

  • Doesn't mind rough when he knows its gonna be rough...
  • Ham-fisted? Maybe. Master modeller? Definitely!
Re: Squawks of the FAA
« Reply #7 on: October 04, 2013, 09:50:25 PM »
Im suddenly tempted to buy a Airfix Scooter now... :D

Offline Cliffy B

  • Ship Whiffer Extraordinaire...master of Beyond Visual Range Modelling
  • Its ZOTT!!!
    • My Artwork
Re: Squawks of the FAA
« Reply #8 on: October 05, 2013, 12:49:51 AM »
Do it, do it, do it....

You know you want to  ;)
"Radials growl, inlines purr, jets blow!"  -Anonymous

"Helos don't fly.  They vibrate so violently that the ground rejects them."  -Tom Clancy

"If all else fails, call in an air strike."  -Anonymous

Offline ChrisF

  • Doesn't mind rough when he knows its gonna be rough...
  • Ham-fisted? Maybe. Master modeller? Definitely!
Re: Squawks of the FAA
« Reply #9 on: October 05, 2013, 12:53:59 AM »
To be fair i would but ive already got too much on.. With the chally build being for a customer, The F16XL for the Scotland group build and the Hawker and MIG29 builds taking up the remaining space... :/