Thursday, January 17, 2013

MiG-17 FRESCO-A of the 921st Air Regiment, Vietnamese People's Air Force (NVAF)

The MiG-17 as well as the Chinese version, the Shenyang J-5, was the most numerous fighter in the Vietnamese People's Air Force, with the first batch of 36 arriving as "gifts" from the USSR in February 1964 together with a few MiG-15UTI trainer aircraft to equip the 921st Air Regiment, which was the first unit to be formed by the NVAF. MiG-17s first saw action on April 3, 1965, when two groups of MiG-17s took off from Noi Dai Airbase under the command of Lieutenant Pham Ngoc Lan. The first group of two MiGs was to act as a bait for US aircraft while the second group of four MiGs was to engage enemy aircraft. The target was a US Navy strike package consisting of 80 aircraft that was tasked with the destruction of the Ham Rung bridge near Thanh Hoa.

The group of four MiGs attacked a group of F-8E Crusaders of VF-211 from USS Hancock, and Lieutenant Lan did damage a F-8E flown by Lieutenant Commander Spence Thomas, who had to perform an emergency landing ashore at Da Nang. Lieutenant Lan's wingman, Lieutenant Phan Van Tuc claimed a second F-8, although this was not corroborated by the the US Navy.

Three North Vietnamese aviators became aces while flying MiG-17s: Nguyen Van Bay with seven victories together with Luu Huy Chao and Le Hai who both scored six victories. MiG-17s accounted for 71shot down US aircraft, with most of the victories being supersonic-capable jets a generation ahead of the 1950s vintage MiG-17. Two MiG-17s were also the first aircraft to attack USN vessels since WW2, when the light cruiser USS Oklahoma City and the destroyer USS Higbee were bombed on April 19, 1972.

This model is the old Dragon FRESCO-A, the initial version of the MiG-17 that lacked an afterburner. The paint scheme can be found at the bottom of the page, and the camouflage pattern in intentionally splotchy and shoddy, since the NVAF often used automotive paints for camouflage. The paints would wear off more easily than proper aviation lacquer. The FAB-500 bombs were added to fill out space, but they were not used by NVAF MiG-17s (FAB-250 bombs were used against the USN vessels). The kit does have some issues, with the nose wheel well blocking the air intake, the flaps being slightly incorrect as well as some general fit issues, but the result is rewarding nevertheless. Now I'd like an F-4B, please.

Friday, January 11, 2013

I-58 Otsu-type Japanese submarine

The I-58 was laid down on December 26, 1942 at the Yokusuka Naval Arsenal and launched on June 30, 1943. She was the third vessel of her type, and her primary task was reconnaissance. The I-58 was initially equipped with a Type 0 Small Reconnaissance Seaplane (Yokusuka E14Y "Glen") and a launch rail, and she was completed on September 7, 1944 after being modified to carry four Kaiten manned torpedoes in addition to the aircraft. Her first commander was Kaigun Shōsa (Lieutenant Commander) Mochitsura Hashimoto. The I-58 was assigned to 6th Fleet and Submarine Squadron 11 for training in the Inland Sea.

On December 4, 1944, the I-58 was assigned to the 15th Submarine Division and subsequently to the Kongo (Diamond) group together with I-36, I-47, I-48, I-53 and I-56 to launch Kaiten attacks at five USN anchorages. The I-58 was to attack Apra Harbor in Guam. After a week of exercises I-58 took on fuel, provisions and torpedoes as well as four Kaiten and their crews. She left Kure together with I-36 on New Years' Eve 1944. Twelve days later she attacked her target, launching her Kaitens between 03:10 and 03:27 on January 12, 1945, just about eleven miles west of Apra. The last Kaiten detonated immediately after launching, but at 05:30, as I-58 was leaving the area two pillars of smoke were observed. The I-58 returned to Kure on January 22, being credited for sinking and escort carrier and a large oiler, although these claims were false.

The I-58 and the I-36 then joined the Shimbu group to attack American forces that had invaded Iwo Jima in February 1945 and took part in the attack on the anchorage at Ulithi (Operation Tan No. 2), and in March she was stationed as a radio relay vessel for 24 kamikaze bombers attacking Ulithi.

The I-58 toiok part in Operation Ten-Go against American shipping off Okinawa after further training, but she could not penetrate the US anti-submarine defenses and she returned to Kyushu on April 10, 1945. Further operations between Okinawa and Guam were also unsuccessful, and she returned to Kure for refitting. The catapult and the hangar was removed, which enabled the I-58 to carry six Kaiten. She was also fitted with a snorkel. 

Following the refit, the I-58 was attached to the Tamon group with I-47, I-53, I-363, I-366 and I-367. On July 18, 1945 she sailed for an area east of the Philippines, and on July 28, the I-58 sighted the 6,214-ton cargo ship Wild Hunter escorted by the destroyer Lowry (DD-770) 300 miles north of Palau.Two Kaiten were launched, but Wild Hunter sighted a periscope, opened fire with her 3-inch gun, and the periscope disappeared. The Lowry rammed and sank the other Kaiten, receiving minor damage. Aboard I-58, two explosions were heard, but a rain squall prevented any visual verification. The I-58 eventually surfaced, but detected no ships on radar and reported both as sunk.

At 2300 on 29 July 29, 1945 I-58 surfaced 250 miles north of Palau and headed south. Shortly afterwards the navigation officer Lt. Tanaka spotted a ship approaching from the east, making 12 knots and not zigzagging. Lt.Cdr. Hashimoto (incorrectly) identified the target as an Idaho-class battleship. She was in fact the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35). The Indianapolis had sailed from Guam for Leyte the previous day after having delivered parts and nuclear material the nuclear bombs being prepared at Tinian. The I-58 submerged and prepared to attack with Type 95 torpedoes. After manoeuvering into position, the submarine fired a spread of six torpedoes at two-second intervals at 2326. At 2335, Lt.Cdr Hashimoto observed three equally spaced hits on the cruisers starboard side. The ship stopped, listed to starboard, and was down by the bow, but Hashimoto decided to attack again and dived to 100 feet to open the range and reload torpedo tubes. The Indianapolis capsized and sank at 12°02′N 134°48′E while the I-58 was submerged. When I-58 made a periscope check, the target was gone. The submarine surfaced and departed the area at full speed, heading north while recharging batteries. The surviving crew of the Indianapolis were forced to spend seven days in shark-infested waters.

On the morning of August 9, the I-58 launched Kaiten against what was misidentified as a convoy 260 miles north-east of Aparri in the Philippines. This was in reality hunter-killer team Task Group 75.19 led by the escort carrier USS Salamaua (CVE-96). The attack was not successful, although the I-58 evaded pursuit. On August 12 the I-58 launched another Kaiten at the dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD-7) and her escort, USS Thomas F. Nickel (DE-587). This attack was also unsuccessful with two Kaiten being sunk. The I-58 returned to Kure on August 18, and Japan surrendered on September 2. The I-58 was scuttled as part of "Operation Road's End" of the Goto Islands at 32°37′N 129°17′E. Further details regarding the I-58 can be found here:

The model is the Tamiya 1/700 I-58 and it is a quick build. Various pieces of photo-etch were used to detail the submarine, and a decal flag on aluminum foil was added. The I-16 that came with the I-58 may very well be completed one of these days.