Author Topic: Project ‘HIGH OCTANE’  (Read 4435 times)

Offline M.A.D

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Project ‘HIGH OCTANE’
« on: February 19, 2012, 09:21:01 PM »
Now someone on this forum recently did some profiles of WWII bombers converted to aerial refuelling!
I can't recall who it was (I'm sorry)  :icon_crap:, because I was really interested in what they had done!
So I dragged out an old backstory I did on another forum, which might go somewhat hand in hand with their great profiles

M.A.D


Project ‘HIGH OCTANE’

………As his squadron struggled to climb to its assigned altitude, the flight engineer aboard the olive drab coloured Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress, could hear his four turbocharged Wright radial engines working like they had never before. But he knew that this was due to the fact that they had never had to lift the bomb load that his and the other 119 Flying Fort's of his Bomber Wing were lifting, as part this days historical mission.                                                                                                   

For on all other previous missions they had normally only carried a bomb load of no greater than 4,000 lb, but thanks to Project ‘High Octane’, they were now on their way to deliver an amazing 8,000 lb against their target in Nazi Germany.                                                                                                         

As the flight engineer contemplated just how the engine and fuel systems under his care were coping, the navigator came across the intercom – ‘OK captain we are about ten minutes out from our rendezvous point’. ‘Keep to this course at an altitude of 17,000ft over’. There was a short pause as both the pilot and co-pilot checked their compass bearing and corrected their climb to the navigators call of 17,000ft. ‘Ok navigator, this course at an altitude of 17,000 ft, all you other guys keep a look out for those Midwifes’.

Every ones eyes were eagerly scanning the sky, not for German fighters, for they were still to close to England for the Luftwaffe to risk coming out hunting for them. No the enemy fighter and Flak defences would wait till the bomber streams would run the gauntlet through the corridor of hellish defences that Nazi Germany had become. Today mission was different for two reasons, firstly the crew of the lead Flying Fortress were scanning for their Midwifes and not enemy fighters. Secondly they had no intention of giving the German’s and their fixed and powerful Flak air defence network the opportunity of picking them off as had become traditional, as they had every other mission.                                                                                       

As the lead B-17 broke through the clouds at 16,000 ft it began to send its pre assigned signal to the rest of his formation. This signal was the indicator that the first bomber squadron had eye balled the ‘Midwifes’.                                                                                                   
It was the bomb aimer aboard the lead Flying Fortress who notified his pilot via intercom of his sighting of the ‘Midwifes’. ‘Ok boys lets do this like we been practising all these weeks now’, said the pilot, as he began to level out at about 16,500 ft, looking out his cockpit window to ensure that the rest of the squadron was following his lead.
Before the Flying Fortress laid a sky full of ‘Midwifes’ with what look to be umbilical cords streaming from their bellies.

The ‘Midwifes’ were in fact modified early model Boeing B-17’s and Short Sterling Mk I’s heavy bombers. They were no longer regarded as efficient or for that matter survivable. They had seen and did their bit for the war, and had been relegated to transport duties or worst awaiting scrapping so that their materials could be reforged into new aircraft. But for now they had been given a new and very important lease of life under the name Project ‘High Octane’.               

Their armament and armour had been removed, as well as the need for half their crews. They now carried over 8,000 – 12,000 lbs of transferable high octane aviation fuel in place of their bomb loads, and from their belly streamed a retractable re-enforced 4’ in rubber house with a bucket-type arrangement on its end. This 4’ in rubber hose streaming from the modified bombers is what transferred this all-important, life giving blood (aviation fuel in this case) to the Flying Fortresses climbing up to meet them. Once received and refuelled, they would be on their way bound for Germany. Hence the bomber crews had fondly given the this all new and super secret ‘Aerial Tanker’ the title of ‘Midwife’, because of their streaming hose that supplied their needy aircraft with fuel – like an umbilical cord supplies blood and nutrients to a dependent baby in a womb.

It was imperative that the B-17 pilots concentrated and work hard to successfully insert their fixed wing-tip probe into the ‘Midwifes’ trailing hose-bucket. It was no easy task, with the pressure of this both being the first operational use of Project ‘High Octane’, which unlike their training missions was made more difficult with the fact that the Flying Fortress' were fully bombed up and hence less responsive to the small adjustments whilst in flight. Some of the pilots were unable to hook-up at all, and due to their much heavier than normal bomb loads on this mission, had consumed to much fuel climbing to this appointed altitude, to be what was termed ‘topped-off’. These unfortunate crews were forced to turn back towards England, jettison their bomb loads into the sea as they did. As it was deemed to risky and dangerous to both the aircraft and its crews to land with the stress of a full bomb load.

But most importantly what ‘Project ‘High Octane’ / Aerial refuelling allowed on this mission in 1943 and all after was not just to carry and deliver double their normal bomb loads onto enemy targets, but it also allowed the Allies the flexibility to choose the routes they flew, through intelligence, that would allow bomber crews to detour the most heavily defended corridors in North-Western Europe and hence in doing so they were able to lower their combat losses in getting to their targets, as opposed to the predictable routes they had to fly, which the Germans had long known and positioned their vast defences accordantly.

Project ‘High Octane’ would go on to be a debilitating thorn in the Nazi’s air defence structure and planning, from that first faithful mission in 1943, the German’s were forced to vacate their concentration of fixed and costly (in both money and labour) fixed Flak and radar emplacements, to allow for the unpredictable route that the Allied bombers would use – hence thinning their firepower and minimising the critical early warning. The Luftwaffe fighter and interceptor forces had to spend much more time in the air or in transit after vectoring, once it was clear from ground controller, in which direction the Allied bombers were coming. This eat up both precious aviation fuel and caused diversion of important resources from other hard pressed front. Something the German's could ill afford at this stage of the war.

As time went on and critical experience was gained, the Allies put much more emphases on the role of aerial refuelling, to the point that they would implement it in supporting the important fighter-escort that supported the bombers to Germany and back, as well as putting more resources into building specialised – purpose built Aerial Refuelling aircraft based on the Boeing B-29 Superfortress and the Avro Lancaster bombers.

The end


It really amazes me that although flight refuelling had been toyed with in the late 1920’s. Even to the point that in 1934, a British company by the name of ‘Flight Refuelling Limited’ (FRL), had been established to develop the small but important fittings and hose connections that enabled aerial refuelling to be performed routinely. It was only thought viable for commercial aviation use.

Even In 1942, representatives of FRL visited the United States to fit their equipment to a B-24 Liberator tanker and a B-17 Flying Fortress receiver. The Army Air Forces planned to develop fleets of tanker and receiver aircraft. However, aircraft with large internal fuel capacity, such as the B-29 Superfortress, alleviated the need for aerial refuelling.                                                                 

The End

M.A.D.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2017, 11:45:25 AM by M.A.D »

Offline GTX_Admin

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Re: Project ‘HIGH OCTANE’
« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2012, 02:33:18 AM »
Quote
Now someone on this forum recently did some profiles of WWII bombers converted to aerial refuelling!
I can't recall who it was (I'm sorry)



That would be JP Vieira - see here
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Online The Big Gimper

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Re: Project ‘HIGH OCTANE’
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2012, 02:52:02 AM »
As well Maverick did this KB-35A for me last year.



One day I will build it.
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Offline RussC

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Re: Project ‘HIGH OCTANE’
« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2012, 04:09:41 AM »
That's a big machine in 1/72, I built both the 35' and 49' kits from Testors. For a Tanker, it might be cool to do like the KC-97 and put two jet pods under the machine, like I did on this B-49 in SAC markings (red wingtips).



Flying wings of that size are a bit easier to handle in 1/144 scale, but unfortunately, the only kit of it is a very cranky Anigrand resin that I would not wish on anybody.





But there is a New series of 1/200 kits of the Flying wings, and a 1/200 Vulcan from Dragon Models Ltd.

Online The Big Gimper

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Re: Project ‘HIGH OCTANE’
« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2012, 05:12:52 AM »
Cool.

I have two B-35s and two B-49s. SWMBO is not aware how much space they will take up. I'm building my smallest kits and so on first so hopefully when I break these bad boys, I won't have to sleep in the garage.

My boom is coming from an Academy KB-29A. Trial fits look good.
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