Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Overrated, and Underrated, WW2 Fighters

Some controversial positions about fighter aircraft of WW2. 

The P51 mustang is amazingly great... And yet is still amazingly overrated compared to almost every other major fighter of WW2.

The P38 is rated about right... Great but significant issues. The early model variants are a bit overrated, the later vsriants a bit underrated, overall that balances out.

The ME109/BF109 is also generally rated about right compared to allied fighters... Pretty good but with significant flaws. Better than the hurricane, not as good as the spitfire, but with much more range and staying power. Totally outclassed by the P38, p47, and P51, somewhat better than the P39 and P40, but only because it had a great engine. 

HOWEVER... the ME109/BF109 is MASSIVELY overrated when compared to what may be the most underrated fighter of the war, the FW190... Especially the later versionsthe FW190 was the best fighter of the war, period. Yes, better than the P51... 

The problem was the German lack of high quality high octane fuel. When given the same fuel and with it's engines and induction operated to the limits of that fuel, the FW190 absolutely TROUNCES the Mustang. Add in the nitromethane and nitrous systems, and water injection system, that were fitted to some late war FW190s, and you get the fastest prop fighter of the war... Even against the sea fury, bearcat etc... The very late war superprop fighters that never saw much if any action.

The P47 is also vastly underrated... Again, the late war variants, with the big tanks and big drop tanks, and with the turbo systems operated to their limit as they did in the late pacific war, and the '47 was also a mustang beater... Longer range, just as fast, and with more firepower. 

In terms of naval fighters... The F4U Corsair is also amazingly great... And yet still amazingly overrated, just like the Mustang is... In largely the same ways, and for the same reasons of mystique and mythology. 

It was a GREAT aircraft, but it had a lot of issues, it was a maintenance hog, it was EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE, and it was incredibly unforgiving to fly, with a deserved reputation as a killer of inexperienced pilots. 

Both the F4F wildcat and F6F hellcat are vastly underrated... not because they're amazing, but. Because they have an undeservedly bad reputation. 

The F4F is largely regarded as hopelessly outclassed by the zero, which it wasn't... Once the pilots figured out the best way to fight the zero, the wildcat was only moderately outclassed, and the hellcat was basically at parity with the zero... It was better in some ways, worse in others, but overall the quality of American pilots gave it an edge, unless it was caught in a badly disadvantaged position. 

However... It's entirely possible that the Bell P39 Airacobra/P63 King Cobra, and the Curtis P40 Warhawk/Tomahawk/Kittyhawk, are the most underrated fighters of the war. 

Again, not because they were better than ANY of the other aircraft mentioned in this post, because they're not (except maybe the Wildcat)... But they're widely considered to be utter crap...while in reality, they are both VERY GOOD aircraft. 

In fact, as operated by the Brits/ANZAC/Commonwealth, Russians, and Chinese, they performed AMAZINGLY well; and are among the most admired and beloved aircraft of the war, by said ANZACs, Russians and Chinese. 

Both were let down by their engines... they used the same basic engine model, but the P39 used a special variant to allow for the cannon firing through the prop hub... Specifically their forced induction systems/lack thereof, and secondarily, their oxygen systems. 

This gave them poor high altitude performance, which was critical over western Europe... thus the bad reputation (which by the way, was the same reputation of the early mustangs, for the same reasons). However for medium and low altitude use, both aircraft were excellent... And most of the air combat in the Russian and Chinese theaters was at medium or low altitude... Thus, the Brit (who did most of their Pacific flying in China), Russians, and Chinese LOVE them. 

They were incredibly tough, generally very reliable outside of problems with the early variants  (except in the humid Pacific island theater, and the frozen Siberian theater... NOTHING was reliable in those environments), had good firepower (especially on their cannon armed variants... The P39/P63s had BIG medicine in their main 37mm cannon, which the Soviets loved especially, and many of the P40 variants had 20mm cannons, which vastly outperformed the ganged .50 cals common to most of the other fighters mentioned here).

Critically, especially in the P40s case, they were MUCH MUCH CHEAPER than the P38, P47, P51, and the three major naval fighters, the F4F wildcat/F6F hellcat, or the F4U Corsair... Which meant the British/ANZACs, the Russians, and the Chinese could actually afford them in HUGE numbers. 

... And then Allison upgraded the C series engines in both aircraft (and in the early P38s and early model.mustangs) to the F series, with MUCH higher power and much improved forced induction (though they still didn't go to compound or turbo compound induction, which meant they still performed best at 15,000 feet and below)...

At which point, the P39/P63 and P40 became almost entirely new, and much improved aircraft (as did the P38 once they made the L series counterrotating versions for it... At which point the P38 stopped being slightly overrated, and became slightly underrated). 

In fact that was the single biggest improvement that separated the P39 from the P63... They're almost the same aircraft, but with many small improvements, a slight increase in size in all dimensions, and the MAJOR powerplant improvement; making the P63 the near equal, or even the equal, of almost anything in the sky; if operated properly, to it's strengths. 

The early P40s certainly had major issues, but the P40 ended up the third most produced allied fighter of the war (behind the P51 and P47) almost all of them going to the British/ANZACs, the Russians, and the Chinese, and almost all of them the later, higher powered variant, with the better induction and oxygen systems... Many of them armed with 2x and some even 4x 20mm cannon. 

...and they performed MAGNIFICENTLY.... 

First, they absolutely wrecked both the Germans and the Japanese in their respective African, Russian, Chinese, and south pacific/ANZAC/malay theaters, with some Soviet or Chinese pilots racking up kills in the high double digits or possibly even low triple digits (depending on who you believe).

But just as important, both the P40 and the P39/P63 were OUTSTANDING ground attack aircraft. They did more damage to the Germans and Japanese on the ground, than any other allied fighters. The Soviets especially LOVED the giant freaking cannon on the P39/P63.

And again... CHEAP and TOUGH... Which means LOTS AND LOTS OF THEM. 

They made a hell of a lot of difference in the war, as exceptionally effective weapons systems... They just weren't good high altitude fighters, which is how the bomber types judged the utility and quality of a fighter aircraft.... How were they as bomber escorts. Just because they were not good bomber escorts, does not mean they were bad fighters, or bad aircraft. 

... Thus, the most underrated fighters of the war...

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Not Paranoid... Just Prepared

"Oh, why do you carry guns and knives and tools and so much stuff... Are you paranoid?"

No... I'm not paranoid... I'm PREPARED.

Yes, I was a boy scout, and yes I absolutely believe in the motto "Be Prepared"... Mentally, physically, and materially. 

Not just for criminal assault... I try to be prepared for whatever may happen in my life, to the extent I can be. You may not need a weapon or tool or medication etc... Often... But when you need them, you REALLY need them.

... And I need them more urgently, and more often,  than most others.... In many cases a hell of a LOT more... 

I am a long term cancer patient with other serious medical issues. I am significantly disabled. I work on or with cars, motorcycles, electronics gear, and computers a lot... And these things break a fair bit, and I'm dependent on them. In fact, I'm a lot more dependent on what I call my "support infrastructure" than others, which means I both need more of it than others, and I need to have it closer to me and easier to get to than others. When things actually do break, I have a greater need to fix things, faster, than others. 

... And then there's more specific risks and potential dangers... 

I live in a physically very hostile and unforgiving environment... A very hot desert in summer, and a surprisingly cold desert in winter... But always a desert;  where it's very easy to get into a remote area a long way, or a long time, from help.

I also live in an area where home invasion and kidnap for ransom are popular among Mexican and Salvadoran gangs; where we have fairly serious meth and opiate problem; as well as a serious problem with mentally ill and/or substance abusing homeless people. 

Just as an example, a few days ago, what appeared to be a homeless tweaker decided to try walking in my front door.

Because Im seriously ill, and significantly mobility disabled, I may look like an easy target to a stupid, tweaked, jonesing, or mentally ill assailant.

Also because of my illness and disability, I carry up to a weeks worth of opiates, adderall, and other controlled substances on my person at all times (and at times, as much as three weeks worth, more on that below), and may have up to a 90 day supply in my house. And again, accordingly may be seen as an easy, and high value target. 

And again, because of my illness and disability, I have a very high risk of... And in fact several times have needed to be... Hospitalized, without any warning or notice. At any moment I may be stuck somewhere far away from home for days or even weeks. 

Thus, I do my best to be prepared.

I sleep with a defensive AR carbine (and a bunch of mags in a handy package)  about 12 inches from my head, with a defensive carry pistol and 2 reloads next to that, and another one... My pocket gun... about 24 inches from my right hand. 

As it happens, I sleep, work, play, and watch TV all in the same spot all day (yay cancer), so I have three ready defensive firearms within easy reach at all times.

If I have even soft shorts or pants on... anything more than my boxer briefs... I have at the very least my pocket carry gun on me. If I'm wearing any pants heavier than dress slacks, or I have my bailout bag...

...(I don't leave the house without a cross body bailout bag. As noted I am seriously ill and disabled, and I may easily end up suddenly and unexpectedly hospitalized, or otherwise unable to get home for a few days. I also sometimes take long car trips or motorcycle rides that have me far away from easy help or rescue, and I'm not physically capable of hiking out of anywhere. I have to be able to last until someone can come get me out. 

Accordingly, I carry at least 3 days worth of my meds, and up to 7 days worth normally... If necessary , I can easily expand that to up to 3 weeks worth {I take more than 20 pills daily, plus several injections. If I don't take some of them for a few days, I can easily go into a coma or otherwise have to be hospitalized, or I may even die}, my med test kits and accessories {glucosimeter, strips, and lancet; plus my continuous glucose monitor, pulse oximeter, and blood pressure cuff}; a blowout, trauma, and first aid kit; CA superglue, some paracord and a couple of carabineers and clips, and some ranger bands and small bungees, along with a basic "survival kit"; a multi tool and a small but fairly comprehensive tool kit; two very powerful but small flashlights, and a second pocket knife or compact utility razor blade knife {or both. Two is one and one is none}, plus at least two different ways to make fire {usually a classic zippo, plus a modern electronic plasma torch lighter, and a firestarter set in the survival kit}; a sharpy and a pen, a small notepad, various replacement batteries, a large USB battery bank and various cables and chargers; and I usually have a Kindle and an iPad, a headphone amp and some in ear monitor headphones, a set of wireless earbuds, sometimes a handheld ham radio and spare battery etc... 

Oh and molle loops where I can hang other pouches on the outside of the bag, including straps/bottle carriers for up to two 32 or 48 oz nalgene water bottles. I usually just carry one, usually in my off hand (though I could have up to three if I use the bottle carriers, I usually don't)... Because I live in a desert, I need to take pills a lot, and my meds both make me sweat a lot, and give me dry mouth... And hitting someone upside the head with a 48oz water bottle is a pretty handy emergency backup self defense method, to give yourself time and space enough to get a more effective defensive weapon into play. I also walk with a cane, which again, is a good tool to get time and distance to better respond to a situation)... 

... Then I probably have my primary defensive carry gun with me as well. Either in a holster on my belt, or in a holster in a hidden compartment in my bag specifically designed for a holster; along with two reloads. 

... (Yes, I absolutely strongly prefer on body carry, but I have to go into and out of a lot of doctors offices, hospitals, medical testing centers, and other non-permissive environments etc... I have to take my clothes off a lot, or to wear clothes without metal etc... for medical exams and tests. I carry in the bag for that, rather than on the body, so I can either keep the gun in the bag, in sight and in hands reach at all times, or easily lock the bag with the carry gun in secure storage in my car, or in a secure locker etc...)... 

... I think you get the picture...

Yes, if it sounds like all of that weighs a lot, it does... About 12 pounds not including the water, and then if I carry three nalgene jugs, another up to 9 pounds of water.

... But everything I carry... EVERY SINGLE ONE of the things I carry... Is something that I have absolutely needed, several times. Often something I badly needed but didn't have. I don't carry any of it just to have it. I carry it because there's a decent chance I'll need it, and if don't have it when I need it, I could be in serious trouble, up to and including dying. 

I absolutely AM at a much higher risk than others, and my responses are much more limited than others, so I have to think about, prepare for, and give myself the tools, to have better response options than others. 

When it comes to potential criminal assault...  I'm too crippled to run away, so standing and fighting back is my only option. I'm damn sure prepared to do so if I have to.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Best Beef Per Buck

Did you know, that if you just need a whole crap ton of actually pretty good beef burger, you can order a McDonalds double quarter pounder... With or without cheese or toppings... As up to a QUADRUPLE quarter pounder?

Is it cheap? Not exactly... It's like $11 or $12 with tax at my nearest McDs

BUT it's probably the cheapest way to get a full pound of fresh, never frozen, and well seasoned beef, in the shortest time. 

If you didn't know, a few years ago, McDonalds MASSIVELY upgraded the beef on the quarter pounder. Since 2018, in the U.S., the quarter pounder has been made on special griddles, with fresh never frozen beef, with no preservatives, and no other ingredients in the patty, except a shake on seasoning applied to the burger while grilling; with salt, black pepper, and a small amount of "other seasoning", which I think is a tiny bit of paprika, and a tiny bit of garlic powder (not enough to taste on its own, but just a little bit as part of the overall flavor). 

Also, it's now actually 4.25oz of beef precooked, which cooks down to appx 3oz... But Quarter pounder plus quarter ouncer, isn't exactly a good name for a burger. 

It really is fresh never frozen beef, that's well seasoned, and properly cooked to a medium well... They have an entirely separate grill and cooking process, and separate meat and supply chain, just for the quarter pounder... At least if the McDs you're ordering from is any good... Just like any chain, some stores are better than others. 

I mean... A double quarter pounder with cheese is up to $7 around here , and as high as $10 or $11 in some places (or even more in like, an airport), and it's between $2.20 and $3.00 for each extra 1/4 pound patty, depending on where you are again. Because yay inflation.

So as I said above, it's not exactly cheap, but I think it's a great deal. $12 for a full pound of actually decent beef, in an actually decent, well cooked burger. And you can have just the beef, beef and cheese, and if you want to bring it out with pickles, onions, lettuce, tomato, bacon... Even jalapenos and nacho cheese sauce... Thats like $2 more. 

Basically, everything you get when you order a TGIMcFridayChiliBees double cheeseburger, only more meat, and served in like, 4 minutes, for like, $6 less. Or if you want fries and a large drink too, that's like $16 plus tax, vs. like $24 plus tax, AND tip, so like $8 less, and like 15 minutes less time. 

It's a great way to protein load... Or if you're a normal human who weighs less than 220 lbs and doesn't need 96 grams of protein at a time... To get multiple meals worth of burger at once (I don't eat the buns).

Saturday, August 05, 2023

The OTHER all time aviation genius

Most aviation enthusiasts, and probably most military history enthusiasts, and a lot of engineers and other geeks, know who Kelly Johnson was, and what the Lockheed "skunkworks" were.

It's a shame... almost a crime against aviation history... but I'd wager most of those same people have no idea who Ed Heinemann was.

What Kelly Johnson was for Lockheed, and the Air Force; Ed Heinemann was for Douglas, and the Navy.

Heinemann took over as Chief Engineer for Douglas in 1936, and shared duties as Chief Designer with Arthur Raymond ( the designer of the DC3, who had been chief engineer before Heinemann); leaving Raymond to focus primarily on large transport aircraft, and Heinemann to focus primarily on small and medium military aircraft... Fighters, attack planes, and light bombers.

His first aircraft as Chief Engineer for Douglas was the SBD Dauntless (which Heinemann had begun at Northrop, before Douglas took them over), and he went on to be the Chief Designer of all the Douglas fighters, light and medium bombers, and attack aircraft, not just for WW2, but for the next 25 years.

Those included the Invader, the Havoc, the Skyraider, the Skyhawk... and really, about half the aircraft the navy flew for about 40 years.

In his long and accomplished career, he was chief designer for more than 40 aircraft (including more than 20 combat aircraft), and contributed to the designs of many more; including most Douglas aircraft designs between 1936 and 1960 (and many Northrop designs, which shared engineering resources with Douglas).

After leaving Douglas, he became the Chief Engineer, Vice President of engineering, and director of new aircraft development, at General  Dynamics; contributing to most GD aircraft designed between 1962 and 1976.

After a full 50 year career designing aircraft, Heinemann retired in 1976; his last major role having been to head the development of the F16 at General Dynamics.