Author Topic: Logan's Profiles - SdKfz 231 Halbkettenfahrzeug  (Read 198442 times)

Offline Logan Hartke

  • High priest in the black arts of profiling...
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Re: Logan's Profiles - Over Exposed! - Part 2: Crossing the Finnish Line
« Reply #630 on: May 25, 2014, 11:00:55 AM »
Thanks, guys! Indeed, Matt, the B-29s that participated in Operation Crossroads were certainly...colorful!

And now for part 2 in the series following the "what if" history of this airframe. As always, click on the image below to see the picture at 100% or view it at my DeviantArt page. I've also submitted this profile to The Snoops, Sensors, Spooks, & Spies GB where you can see how it all came together.



Over Exposed! - Part 2: Crossing the Finnish Line

As Capt. Tanner and Capt. Stroud nursed their stricken RF-61F towards the Finnish border, the PVO aircraft could tell that it was in trouble and attempted to force it to land on Soviet territory. Even on one engine, however, the Reporter was not easy prey. Tanner jettisoned the drop tanks, and the fact that one engine was feathered seemed to streamline the plane considerably. Just as it seemed the American spy plane was boxed in, the Soviet fighters were ordered to return to base as they had crossed the Finnish border near Salla. Even so, Tanner and Stroud were not out of the woods, yet. They were still in a damaged aircraft far from any active airfield, and Lapland in the winter was far from hospitable to stranded aviators.

Once reasonably sure that they were over Finnish territory, the two men began looking for a suitable place to land. Spotting what he correctly assumed was a frozen lake, Tanner began setting up for an emergency landing. At that time, he decided to boost the power on the good right engine for a normal single engine landing, but discovered that the propeller governor was inoperative as well as the manual switches. Also during the descent the propeller had somehow worked itself down to a little less than 1,800 rpm. He realized that he would not be able to get much power out of the right engine and accordingly tried to time his turns to reach the lake in a low power glide. In order to clear the trees on approach, he planned to come in a little high. He dropped his wheels about two miles out and when he was sure of making the lake, he dropped full flaps and opened the cowl flaps to slow the plane down. As the plane touched down, Tanner turned off the ignition and battery switches, skidding to a stop on the lake surface.



The interception of 'Over Exposed' by the Soviet fighters that had approached the Finnish border was also noticed from the ground by the Frontier Guard. They reported that the aircraft had landed somewhere to the west and patrols soon found the American plane and its crew. The Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs notified the American Legation of the incident and arranged for the return of the airmen. The aircraft, however, was a more complicated matter. The two countries recognized that the Soviet Union would object if the Finns merely gave the spy plane back to the United States. In an attempt to avoid an international incident, it was agreed that Finland would 'confiscate' the trespassing Reporter, but turn over the photographs that the plane took on its risky flight over the northern Russia. Additionally, the US would pass along the spares necessary for the Finnish Air Force to repair the plane and return it to flight. The trade benefitted both parties. The photographs reassured Western leaders that long-range bombers were not deployed on the Kola Peninsula. For their extraordinary aerial feat, the aircrew members each two Distinguished Flying Crosses, though the SAC commander, General Curtis LeMay, made it plain he would rather have decorated them with the Silver Star. That award, however required the approval of a board in Washington whose members were not cleared to know about the Soviet overflights.

On the Finnish side, the incident was officially recorded as merely "a high-altitude electric storm". Bringing the matter to light in the media would have been impossible in the political climate of the time. The daily newspaper Uusi Suomi nevertheless got wind of the incident and published a piece about it. The Political Section of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs immediately branded the news item as a cock and bull story. For much of the Cold War, Finland reported that they had merely purchased the RF-61F from the US for evaluation purposes, which was a complete fabrication. An Ilmavoimat team was assembled to recover the aircraft, and—despite their unfamiliarity with the type—they soon had the aircraft repaired and running. ‘Over Exposed’ had its American markings hastily painted over to obscure its origins and Finnish markings were added for its flight south. While all the aircraft numbers and USAF roundels were painted over with light gray, the recovery team could not bring themselves to paint over the pinup.


Major R. Birger Ek, Ilmavoimat

The greatest challenge to getting it out of there was the aircraft’s sheer size. The RF-61F was the heaviest aircraft ever operated than the Ilmavoimat, heavier even than the massive LeO H-246s borrowed from the Germans in 1944. This was also the first tricycle landing gear aircraft operated by the Finnish Air Force, as well. A Knight of the Mannerheim Cross, Major R. Birger Ek was one of the most experienced and decorated Finnish bomber pilots of the Second World War and was at the time serving as the Finnish Military Attaché in London. Arrangements were made for Maj. Ek to get a familiarization flight in one of SAC’s remaining RF-61Fs based at RAF Scampton before getting temporarily recalled to Finland. After a few taxi runs across the surface of the frozen lake, Maj. Ek got the big plane airborne and proceeded to the Flight Test Center at Tampere. There the aircraft could also be studied by the engineers of the State Aircraft Factory (Valtion lentokonetehdas, VL). Once a few test pilots were checked out on the aircraft, Maj. Ek returned to his posting as military attaché in London. While his association with ‘Over Exposed’ ended there, RF-61F 44-71999’s career with the Finnish Air Force was just beginning.

Cheers,

Logan
« Last Edit: May 29, 2014, 01:22:23 AM by Logan Hartke »

Offline Alvis 3.1

  • Self acknowledged "Bad Influence"…but probably less attractive than Pink
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Re: Logan's Profiles - Over Exposed! - Part 2: Crossing the Finnish Line
« Reply #631 on: May 25, 2014, 12:40:26 PM »
As usual, astounding artwork and a fantastic back story!

Alvis 3.1

Offline lauhof52

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Re: Logan's Profiles - Over Exposed! - Part 2: Crossing the Finnish Line
« Reply #632 on: May 25, 2014, 03:17:42 PM »
I second that!! :)

Offline Logan Hartke

  • High priest in the black arts of profiling...
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Re: Logan's Profiles - Over Exposed! - Part 3: Trials at Tampere
« Reply #633 on: May 26, 2014, 01:54:26 PM »
Thanks, Alvis and lauhof!

We now return to Finland for the third part in the exciting history of 'Over Exposed!', RF-61F 44-71999. As always, click on the image below to see the picture at 100% or view it at my DeviantArt page. I've also submitted this profile to The Snoops, Sensors, Spooks, & Spies GB where you can see how it all came together.



Over Exposed! - Part 3: Trials at Tampere

After the RF-61F Reporter arrived at Tampere, the black underside was repainted light blue for daylight operations and green bands were added on top of the natural metal. Additionally the black spinner was repainted yellow and an 'F' was painted on the tail. The meaning of the 'F' is unknown, but it seems likely that the letter was chosen because that's what was there when the aircraft was recovered. This is the scheme that the aircraft would wear throughout much of its testing. It was somewhat unusual for Finnish aircraft at the time but harkened back to the Swedish Gladiators of F 19 that fought for Finland during the Winter War in 1940.

The primary test pilot for these trials was Esko 'Scrooge' Halme. Halme was one of the most experienced test pilots in Finland. Having completed 49 sorties flying Blenheims with Lentorykmentti 4 (LeR 4) during the Winter War, Halme was no stranger to multi-engine aircraft, but the Reporter would prove to be a new experience for him.



The Nortrop RF-61F Reporter was the most modern aircraft in Finland at the time. It was the faster than the Bf 109G and had a longer range than the recently-retired Ju 88. The aircraft could easily fly from Hanko to Utsjoki and back again, so the acquisition of replacement drop tanks from the US was not a priority. Eventually, the pylons would be removed altogether for normal operations, but they remained during much of the testing phase. Pilots found the aircraft to be very large, but the tricycle landing gear made it easy to handle on the ground. Despite its size, it was as maneuverable as a fighter due to its innovative spoilerons, another first for the Finns, although the Reporter lacked the fighter brakes of the P-61 fighter variants.

Cheers,

Logan
« Last Edit: May 29, 2014, 01:24:26 AM by Logan Hartke »

Offline GTX_Admin

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Re: Logan's Profiles - Over Exposed! - Part 3: Trials at Tampere
« Reply #634 on: May 26, 2014, 05:15:32 PM »
Looking good.
All hail the God of Frustration!!!

Offline apophenia

  • Patterns? What patterns?
Re: Logan's Profiles - Over Exposed! - Part 3: Trials at Tampere
« Reply #635 on: May 27, 2014, 07:15:26 AM »
Yep. Amost any aircraft looks good in a Finnish scheme but the Reporter is dead sexy  :)
The hammer of the gods will drive our ships to new land ...

Offline Logan Hartke

  • High priest in the black arts of profiling...
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Thanks, Greg and apophenia! What do you think of this camouflage?

Coming up next, part 4 of 'Over Exposed!', the story of RF-61F 44-71999. As always, click on the image below to see the picture at 100% or view it at my DeviantArt page. I've also submitted this profile to The Snoops, Sensors, Spooks, & Spies GB where you can see how it all came together.



Over Exposed! - Part 4: Russian Treaties and Polish Vodka

The RF-61F successfully completed its trials in early 1949, the Ilmavoimat ordered the aircraft repainted in a more standard scheme of green and black over light blue. After the Finno-Soviet YYA Treaty was signed in 1948, Finland was forbidden from operating bombers with enclosed bomb bays. This forced the Finnish Air Force to either scrap their fleet of Blenheims, Do 17Zs, and Ju 88As or place them in storage. This also freed up a large number of experienced pilots and ground crew when the squadrons were stood down. One such bomber squadron was Pommituslentolaivue (PLeLv) 46, a former Do 17Z squadron that also performed mapping missions. It was redesignated Tiedustelulentolaivue (TLeLv) 46 to reflect its new dedicated reconnaissance mission, as the RF-61F carried no armament.



Aside from its new camouflage, the RF-61F also wore the Żubrówka Bison Grass Vodka-inspired "roaring bull" emblem of PLeLv 46 and a cartoon of a RF-61F holding a camera, much like the "flying pencil" mapping emblem worn by the Do 17Zs. Finally, the aircraft was assigned the serial RP-999. The logic behind the '999' number is unclear, but it's possible that it was reference to the aircraft's USAF serial painted on the aircraft when discovered.


Captain Itävuori, left, 22 March 1944.

The primary pilot of the Reporter during this period was Major Erkki Itävuori, a former test pilot with many combat flight hours in the Junkers Ju 88, the closest analog to the RF-61F Reporter in the Finnish Air Force. While the RF-61F was designed for two pilots, the shorter duration missions flown by the Ilmavoimat saw them carrying a navigator/observer instead of a co-pilot in most cases. During this period, TLeLv 46 continued to operate the RF-61F from Tampere since the extensive facilities there allowed them to better maintain the big, complex, one-of-a-kind airplane.

Cheers,

Logan

Offline apophenia

  • Patterns? What patterns?
... What do you think of this camouflage? ...

Absolutely love it!  :-*  And your amazing backstory continues. Go Logan!
The hammer of the gods will drive our ships to new land ...

Offline Logan Hartke

  • High priest in the black arts of profiling...
  • Rivet-counting whiffer
Re: Logan's Profiles - Over Exposed! - Part 5: A Day at the Races
« Reply #638 on: May 29, 2014, 11:33:27 AM »
Thanks, apophenia! Here's a more colorful one that you might like!

Part 5 of the Finnish Reporter Chronicles, 'A Day at the Races'. As always, click on the image below to see the picture at 100% or view it at my DeviantArt page. I've also submitted this profile to The Snoops, Sensors, Spooks, & Spies GB.



Over Exposed! - Part 5: A Day at the Races

While assigned to TLeLv 46, RP-999 participated in the 'Mid Summer Air Festival' held at Utti Airbase in Finland on 24 June 1950. For this airshow, an air race was planned in which four Bf 109s of HLeLv 31 marked in flashy paint schemes would race around a pylon-type track. The organizers at Utti had only intended for HLeLv 31 to race, but TLeLv 46 personnel heard about the event and decided that the RF-61F could give the Bf 109Gs a run for their money. One can't attend a costume party without a costume, however, so they set about repainting the RF-61F in markings appropriate for an air race. Given its American origins and big twin-row Pratt & Whitney radial engines, the personnel of TLeLv 46 decided to paint the left boom and wing in a scheme inspired by the Gee Bee Model R racers of the 1930s.



When the RF-61F made its unexpected appearance over Utti on the morning of the race, it soon became apparent that not everyone was thrilled with the newcomer's presence at the air show. The facilities at Tampere allowed TLeLv 46 to make a much neater job of the Reporter's scheme than HLeLv 31 was able to hand paint in the field on their Bf 109s. 'Over Exposed' had come to the party in costume, but had just made the faux pas of showing up the host



In anticipation of being allowed to compete against the the 109s marked 'A' through 'D', RP-999 had an 'E' painted on the tail, but she was not allowed to participate in the race on account of 'not having registered' beforehand. After the race, however, 'Over Exposed' was allowed to do a few laps around the pylons on its own where it beat the race times set by the 109s. While the air show was a complete success, the paint used was not temporary and TLeLv 46 was soon forced to repaint the Reporter once again.



Cheers,

Logan

Offline GTX_Admin

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Re: Logan's Profiles - Over Exposed! - Part 5: A Day at the Races
« Reply #639 on: May 29, 2014, 04:28:37 PM »
All hail the God of Frustration!!!

Offline lauhof52

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Re: Logan's Profiles - Over Exposed! - Part 5: A Day at the Races
« Reply #640 on: May 29, 2014, 07:31:26 PM »
Absolutely TOP!! Logan! Story and profils are excellent!

regards
Lauhof

Offline perttime

  • The man has produced a Finnish Napier Heston Fighter...need we say more?
Re: Logan's Profiles - Over Exposed! - Part 5: A Day at the Races
« Reply #641 on: May 30, 2014, 12:33:49 AM »
Can you guess who has downloaded all the big images of 44-71999  ;D
I love them  :-*

Offline Logan Hartke

  • High priest in the black arts of profiling...
  • Rivet-counting whiffer
Thanks, guys! I'm glad you like them! I've still got a couple more left in the story.

We now return to Finland for the exciting part 6 of 'Over Exposed!' As always, click on the image below to see the picture at 100% or view it at my DeviantArt page. I've also submitted this profile to The Snoops, Sensors, Spooks, & Spies GB.



Over Exposed! - Part 6: "You're so near to Russia..."

During the Cold War, Finland occupied a strategic position between two hostile blocks and was an object of interest to the superpowers as both a buffer zone and an overflight and military transit route. Both sides cultivated the potential to use tactical nuclear weapons against targets in our (i.e. Finnish) territory, at least pre-emptively. Both engaged themselves in intensive intelligence activities in Finland and in the bordering areas.

U.S. intelligence services and the United States Air Force had by 1952, if not even earlier, available sets of old aerial photographs almost complete covering the eastern and northern parts of Finland. Some of the pictures were old German ones, and some showed also the Soviet side of the border. In 1951-52, the Army intelligence service (G-2) wished to get their hands on new more detailed maps and aerial photos and directed the Military Attaché's office in Helsinki to expedite delivery from Finland. The entire Finnish coastline was photographed from above.



In 1952, maps and photos of ditches on meadows, fields and swamps all over Finland were demanded, as well as plans of ditch development in general. The Army G-2 (intelligence) requested to be sent three copies of exact photos and maps of each specified location throughout the country. They were needed for possible war-time use and for guidance systems of missiles. Negotiations with the Finnish Mapping Service yielded results: in the 1950's, the Finns handed over to the United States at least 100,000 copies of aerial photo maps and photos of areas of which they themselves had not printed maps yet.

In return the Americans provided the Finns with good-quality photography paper (600,000 sheets sent in diplomatic pouches) and “secret” – not “top secret”, however – intelligence on the socialist countries. All was very secret, because disclosure of this arrangement would lead to difficulties with dire consequences, as G-2 wrote.



The Military Attaché bureau wrote to G-2 in 1952 stressing that a lot of important information had been obtained from Finns in Helsinki, but the Finnish representatives in Washington had received practically nothing in return. The flow of intelligence information would probably grow, if there were more reciprocity. G-2 agreed that Finland as a neighbor of the USSR was an important observation post. The Department of the Army agreed: there were security risks, but the profit justified them.

An important element to both sides in this exchange was Ilmavoimat's RF-61F Reporter. After three years of service and only limited spares provided by the United States, the Finnish Air Force was having difficulty keeping the aircraft operational. If the US wanted the high quality aerial photos the Reporter could take--especially along the Soviet Border--they would need to provide Finland with the spares necessary to keep 'Over Exposed' flying.



It was in the scheme depicted that RP-999, repainted after the air race at Utti, took many of these photos in the early 1950s. The tally marks on the rudder indicate completed photography sorties.



Much of the above text comes from this much longer article on the Economist that I'd recommend to anyone interested in the period.

Finland and American intelligence - The Economist

Cheers,

Logan

Offline apophenia

  • Patterns? What patterns?
Love the 'sharkmouth' repaint!  :)
The hammer of the gods will drive our ships to new land ...

Offline lauhof52

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Very good! :) :)