Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Alcock and Brown's Flight into Darkness

Flying the Vimy from Lester's Field.
A simulation of that historic take-off from Lester's Field that changed aviation forever.
The simulator's model was ferry flown from Torbay Airport to the actual site of Lester's field as it existed in 1919.

This play list is a series of video clips which were recorded of sessions on the flight simulator where we attempted to fly the model of the Vimy aircraft across the stormy North Atlantic using real live weather and full realism settings. The flight path followed was the one flown by Jack Alcock and Teddie Brown exactly 96 years prior in 1919.

The task was anything but easy since the Vimy handled like a pig in conditions of severe turbulence, which we had to encounter on numerous occasions during the crossing, as did the Alcock and Brown Team.

The goal was to follow the origonal flight path and to land as close as possible to the team's crash landing site near Cliffden in Ireland.

Watch the entire play list to see how we made out.

Read the eBook at Google Play [Flight into Darkness]
Video recorded from actual MS Flight Simulator 2004 sessions with real live weather and full realism settings.

Ice Road Air War

The Road of Life (Доро́га жи́зни, doroga zhizni) was the ice road winter transport route across the frozen Lake Ladoga, which provided the only access to the besieged city of Leningrad while the perimeter in the siege was maintained by the German Army Group North and the Finnish Defence Forces. The siege lasted for 29 months from 8 September 1941, to 27 January 1944. Over one million citizens of Leningrad died from starvation, stress, exposure and bombardments.[1] Each winter, the Lake Ladoga ice route was reconstructed by hand, and built according to precise arithmetic calculations depending on traffic volume.[2] In addition to transporting thousands of tons of munitions and food supplies each year, the Road of Life also served as the primary evacuation route for the millions of Soviets trapped within the starving city.[3] The road today forms part of the World Heritage Site.[4]
Our mission is to try to repel the Nazi bf 109's and do our bit to protect the Ice Road and the flow of food and supplies to the starving people of Leningrad.

A view of the ice road during April 1942 when the journey became was even more hazardous as the ice began to melt.

The siege of Leningrad was a deliberate attempt by the German army to eradicate the city’s population by starving the people to death. In early September 1941, German forces cut the last roads leading into the city. For the next 872 days (8th September to 27th January 1944) the people of Leningrad were subjected to a blockade designed to slowly strangle the city. With a pre-war population of 2.5 million to feed, mass starvation became a very real possibility during the siege. For five weeks during the winter of 1941, many Leningrader’s daily ration of bread had been reduced to a mere 125 grams. Even this was adulterated with cottonseed, flax cake and mouldy grain. For those fighting on the front line and involved in vital war work, rations were slightly higher, but never beyond the most bare subsistence. Despite appalling conditions, the city survived the winter of 1941 and continued to resist for the next three years before the Germans were finally pushed back. This would not have been possible without the determined efforts of the Russians to keep Leningrad supplied with basic food and fuel necessities needed to keep the city alive. The supply route that was hacked out over the snow and ice became a symbol for Russia’s determination to survive. The two supply roads became known as route 101 and route 102. Since Leningrad had been cut off from land supply routes, the Russians were forced to construct a route over the ice. The plan for the ice road had begun to take shape in October of 1941. On the 29th October, Soviet ships had laid an underwater signals cable at the bottom of the Lake Ladoga to link with the encircled area. From the 8th November, Soviet reconnaissance aircraft began to fly over the lake looking for signs of ice formation. The northern part of the lake had frozen over nicely, but the middle was still unsafe. However, on the 15th November a north wind started the big freeze and the ice rapidly reached the thickness required to carry vehicles. By early December some sixty ice roads were formed across the frozen lake. Constructing the ice road was a large and dangerous undertaking. It was built under terrible conditions, over cracks and fissures on the lake’s surface and through frequent snow storms. Workers were under constant German artillery fire and air attack from the Luftwaffe. Once completed, the road ran from the rail and loading depots on the Soviet shore of the lake, across a twenty-mile stretch of ice which ran parallel to the German siege positions. The ice road led to the small port of Osinovets on the western shore of Lake Ladoga. Here the cargo was unloaded and transported by rail and truck into the city. The road became Leningrad’s only link to the rest of mainland Russia. It therefore held a powerful symbolic importance to the Russian defenders and was later given the name, the ‘Road of Life’. Lorries transporting food and supplies across the ice. Indeed it was the ‘Road of Life’. Leningrad needed an absolute minimum of 100 tonnes a day to keep the city alive. The first large-scale scheduled convoy of sixty trucks set off on the 22nd November carrying 33 tonnes of flour. Driving all night through a snowstorm, the convoy reached the city on the 23rd November. Despite this success, the ice road was extremely dangerous. One-hundred and fifty-seven trucks were lost during the first crossing. Many divers kept their doors open to enable them to jump to safety, should a crack in the ice suddenly appear in front of their vehicle. Throughout the winter of 1941, the enemy put the supply route under heavy air and artillery attack, but were unable to halt the flow of traffic. Soviet fighter pilots flew overhead to protect the convoys from German air attack. By December 1941 over 4000 trucks and transport vehicles were bringing more than 700 tons of supplies into Leningrad on a daily basis. As the road network developed, a support infrastructure had to be rapidly constituted. Tents were set up on the ice where people could warm up. In order to maintain traffic, twenty control points were also set up between 300 and 400 metres apart. By January 1942, there were seventy-five such points. In response to the massive Soviet effort, the Germans dispatched ski patrols to try and ambush the Soviet supply columns. The Russians soon developed an effective remedy in the form of pillboxes made from ice, which they turned rock-hard by pouring water on them. With no protective cover, the ski patrols were shot down without difficulty. In addition to these defences, the Russians established 350 anti-aircraft guns and machine guns, supported by 200 searchlights to deter the Luftwaffe from strafing convoys. The crews were accommodated in igloos also on the ice. Despite these supply routes, thousands of people in Leningrad starved over the winter. In December 1941, the city’s population was estimated at 2,280,000. By April 1942, it had fallen to 1,100,000. Whilst 440,000 of these people can be accounted for as having been evacuated, this still meant that over half a million people had starved by spring. Yet the city continued to withstand the siege. The lessons learnt in the winter of 1941 enabled the Russians to construct even better ice-roads in the winter of 1942. Without these ice roads, it is likely that the entire city would have starved to death. Their construction and maintenance was a powerful reminder of the Russian ability to innovate and use the hostile climate to their advantage over the German invader. If you are interested in finding out more about the siege of Leningrad, have at look at these books; Michael Jones, ‘Leningrad: State of Siege’ (London, 2008) Chris Bellamy, Absolute War: Soviet Russia in the Second World War (London, 2007) Michael Burleigh, The Third Reich: a new history (London, 2001) Martin Gilbert, The Second World War (Phoenix, 2000)

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Gulf of Finland Air War

Gulf of Finland 1944
I recently tried loading my old copy of IL 2 Forgotten Battles after a long hiatus from active online gaming. To my surprise the program loaded and ran flawlessly on my big screen all-in-one desk-top computer running Windows 7 Ultimate, without  the aid of layers of patches, that were necessary with earlier versions of Windows. The experience brought back memories of how much fun I had playing this game, but now on the big screen it is even better.
It is virtually impossible to fly this mission and survive with all the hazards of heavy flack in the attack approach zone, the continual threat from enemy Fw-190 A's and the murderous intensity of anti-aircraft fire from the convoy its self, plus the challenge of coaxing a damaged aircraft back to home base. I tried numerous times without success.


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Battle of Seelow Heights Air War

Battle of Seelow Heights
Part of the Eastern Front of World War II
Date16–19 April 1945
LocationSeelow HeightsGermany
52°32′5″N 14°23′45″ECoordinates52°32′5″N 14°23′45″E
ResultSoviet victory
 Soviet Union
Poland Poland
 Nazi Germany
Commanders and leaders
Soviet Union Georgy ZhukovNazi Germany Gotthard Heinrici
3,059 tanks
16,934 guns and mortars
587 tanks
2,625 guns
Casualties and losses
Estimate based on archival data (1st Belorussian Front):
5,000-6,000 killed out of about 20,000 total casualties[1]
Other estimates: 30,000 killed[2][3]
12,000 were killed[2]
The Battle of the Seelow Heights, 1945 The Battle of the Seelow Heights was fought over four days from April 16 to April 19, 1945 east of Berlin along the current border with Poland. It was one of the last pitched battles of World War II. Almost one million Red Army soldiers, with more than 20,000 tanks and artillery pieces were deployed to break through the “Gates to Berlin.” Defending the terrain were 100,000 German soldiers and 1,200 tanks and guns. The Soviet forces, led by Marshal Georgi Zhukov broke through the defensive positions on April 19, having suffered about 30,000 casualties, while the Germans lost 12,000 personnel. It was the last hurrah for the Tiger tanks. After the 1st Belorussian Front broke through the final line at the Seelow Heights, nothing but shattered German formations lay between it and Berlin. Battle of Seelow Heights Map of Seelow, Germany View to the east from Seelow Heights Read everything you can by Tony Le Tissier, a British Army officer. The best is Zhukov at the Oder. Make sure you take your copy to the battlefield, which is about one hour east of Berlin by car; you can use the maps in it to navigate the battlefield. Start by visiting the museum on the battlefield at Seelow. Don’t forget to drive over to Küstrin on the Oder River and visit the old fortress there.
On 9 April 1945, Königsberg in East Prussia fell to the Soviet Army. This freed the 2nd Belorussian Front under Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky to move to the east bank of the Oder. During the first two weeks of April, the Soviets performed their fastest front redeployment of the war. The 2nd Belorussian Front relieved the 1st Belorussian Front along the lower Oder between Schwedt and the Baltic Sea. This allowed the 1st Belorussian Front to concentrate in the southern half of its former front, opposite the Seelow Heights. To the south, the 1st Ukrainian Front under Marshal Ivan Konev shifted its main force from Upper Silesia north-west to the Neisse river. The three Soviet fronts together had 2.5 million men, 6,250 tanks, 7,500 aircraft, 41,600 artillery pieces and mortars, 3,255 truck-mounted Katyusha rocket launchers, and 95,383 motor vehicles.[5] The 1st Belorussian Front had nine regular and two tank armies consisting of 77 rifle divisions, two cavalry, five tank and two mechanized corps, eight artillery and one guards mortars divisions, and a mixture of other artillery and rocket launcher brigades. The front had 3,059 tanks and self-propelled guns and 18,934 artillery pieces and mortars.[6] Eight of the 11 armies were posted along the Oder. In the north, the 61st Army and the 1st Polish Army held the river line from Schwedt to its meeting with the Finow Canal. On the Soviet bridgehead at Küstrin, the 47th Army, 3rd and 5th Shock Armies, and 8th Guards Army were concentrated for the attack. The 69th Army and 33rd Army covered the river line south to Guben. The 1st Guards and 2nd Guards Tank Armies and the 3rd Army were in reserve. The 5th Shock and 8th Guards were posted directly opposite the strongest part of the defences, where the Berlin Autobahn passed through the Heights.[7]

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Air Battle for Belgorod

Belgorod City in Russia
Belgorod is a city and the administrative center of Belgorod Oblast, Russia, located on the Seversky Donets River just 40 kilometers north of the Ukrainian border. Population: 356,402; 337,030; 300,408. Wikipedia

The Belgorod-Bogodukhov Offensive Operation[edit] Early on 3 August 1943, the Forces of the Voronezh and Steppe Fronts b advancing on a wide front between Sumy and Volchansk (175 km), crossed the Vorskla river & quickly penetrated the defences of the 332nd Infantry Division & 167th Infantry Division to a depth of 100 km[3] between Tomarovka & Belgorod on the northern flank, and as far as Bogodukhov sweeping aside the weakened 19th Panzer Division. By 5 August Belgorod which was defended by XI Armeecorps (Raus) was also being surrounded and isolated, requiring attempts by the German Armeeabteilung Kempf and 4th Panzerarmee Armies to relieve the garrison which was ordered by Hitler to defend the city.

Date23 July – 14 August 1943
ResultSoviet victory
 Nazi Germany Soviet Union
Commanders and leaders
Nazi Germany Erich von MansteinSoviet Union Nikolai Fyodorovich Vatutin
Soviet Union Ivan Konev
Units involved
4th Panzer Army
Army Group "Kempf"
XLVIII Panzer Corps
III Panzer Corps
XI Army Corps
Großdeutschland Panzergrenadier Division
Voronezh Front
Steppe Front
1st Guards Tank Army
5th Guards Tank Army
6th Guards Army
5th Guards Army
53rd Army
69th Army
7th Guards Army
27th Army
60,000 men[1]
250 tanks
400,000-500,000 men[1]
1859 Tanks[2]
Casualties and losses
20,000 killed[1]
80 Tanks/Assault Guns destroyed
50,000 killed
800 Tanks destroyed or damaged
Four La-5F fighters of the 8th Guards Fighter Division, are called in to help protect the Soviet`s front lines from attack by Nazi Henschel 129`s and FW 190`s; with odds stacked at two to one against us, this mission will not be an easy one.

La 5F

RoleFighter aircraft
DesignerSemyon Lavochkin
First flightMarch 1942
IntroductionJuly 1942
Primary userSoviet Air Force
Number built9,920
VariantsLavochkin La-7
Another Mission: 

Russian P-39 Aircobre Dogfighting with German Me 262 Jet Fighter

IL2 Forgotten Battles Video Game of the unusual mid engine, Bell P-39 of the Russian Army Air-force engage in air to air combat with an Me 262 German's famous jet fighter aircraft. The so called "tank buster" could hold its own against the enemy thanks to its powerful through the propeller shaft canon. The P-39 was used with great success by the Soviet Air Force, which scored the highest number of individual kills attributed to any U.S. fighter type. The scenes were flown from the cockpit and recorded on track files which are later played back, viewed from various locations, through the magic of view control and recorded by FRAPS; the computer screen capture software.
Shooting down the Messerschmidt Me 262 was not an easy task even in this game. If an offensive attack was attempted the results were predictable: a quick defeat and falling victim to the Me 262's superior fire power and performance. After several unsuccessful attempts we tried defensive measures and hoping to out turn him and get in a lucks shot or two. Watch the video and see how it worked out.

Russian P-39 Aircobre Dogfighting Hartmann's Bf-109

IL2 Forgotten Battles Video Game of the unusual mid engine, Bell P-39 of the Russian Army Air-force engage in air to air combat with Hartmann's Me109 German fighter aircraft. The so called "tank buster" could hold its own against the enemy thanks to its powerful through the propeller shaft canon. The P-39 was used with great success by the Soviet Air Force, which scored the highest number of individual kills attributed to any U.S. fighter type. The scenes were flown from the cockpit and recorded on track files which are later played back,viewed from various locations, through the magic of view control and recorded by FRAPS; the computer screen capture software.
Hartmann's Fighting technique[edit] Hartmann flew a Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter. Unlike Hans-Joachim Marseille, who was a marksman and expert in the art of deflection shooting, Hartmann was a master of stalk-and-ambush tactics. By his own account, he was convinced that 80% of the pilots he downed did not even realize what hit them. He relied on the powerful engine of his Bf 109 for high-power sweeps and quick approaches, occasionally diving through entire enemy formations to take advantage of the confusion that followed in order to disengage. When the decorated British test pilot Captain Eric Brown asked Hartmann how he had amassed 352 air victories, he revealed: Well you can't believe it, but the Sturmovik, which was their main ground-attack aircraft, flew like B-17s in formation and didn't attempt to make any evasive manoeuvres. And all they had was one peashooter in the back of each plane. Also, some of the pilots were women. Their peashooter was no threat unless they had a very lucky hit on you. I didn't open fire until the aircraft filled my whole windscreen. If I did this, I would get one every time.

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Bell P-39 in Air-to-Air Combat over Smolensk

IL2 Forgotten Battles Video Game of the unusual mid engine, Bell P-39 of the Russian Army Air-force engage in air to air combat with various German aircraft types. The so called "tank buster" could hold its own against the enemy thanks to its powerful through the propeller shaft canon. The P-39 was used with great success by the Soviet Air Force, which scored the highest number of individual kills attributed to any U.S. fighter type. The scenes were flown from the cockpit and recorded on track files which are later played back and all scenes recorded by FRAPS; the  computer screen capture software.
The Bell P-39 Airacobra was one of the principal American fighter aircraft in service when the United States entered World War II. Wikipedia Top speed: 605 km/h Length: 9.19 m Wingspan: 10 m First flight: April 6, 1938 Engine type: Allison V-1710 Unit cost: 50,666–50,666 USD (1944) Manufacturer: Bell Aircraft

  • Over 2,000 of these aircraft were built at Bell's factory in Buffalo New York and shipped to the Russians during the second world war where they played a decisive roll in defeating the Nazi forces. The P-39 scored more victories than any other other American designs

  • Battle of the Kerch Peninsula

     IL2 Forgotten Battles Video Game of a German He 111 medium bomber on a torpedo mission from Feodosiya to Kerch on the Crimean Peninsula; not that far from Sochi Russia (where the games took place and the Germans and Russians battled so long ago). All scenes recorded by FRAPS; the  computer screen capture software free licence (limited to 30 seconds not looped recording time).

    The Heinkel He 111 was a German aircraft designed by Siegfried and Walter Günter in the early 1930s in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. Wikipedia
    Top speed: 400 km/h
    Length: 18 m
    Wingspan: 23 m
    First flight: February 24, 1935
    Introduced: into service 1936
    Engine type: V12 engine
    Manufacturer: Heinkel

    Battle of the Kerch Peninsula (GermanUnternehmen Trappenjagd) (Russian Керченско-Феодосийская десантная операция (Kerchensko-Feodosiyskaya desantnaya operatsiya, 'Kerch-Feodosiya landing operation') was a World War II offensive by German and Romanian armies against the Soviet Crimean Frontforces defending the Kerch Peninsula, in the eastern part of the Crimea. It was launched on 8 May 1942 and concluded around 18 May 1942 with the near complete destruction of the Soviet defending forces. The Red Army lost over 170,000 men killed or taken prisoner, and three armies (44th, 47th, and 51st) with twenty-one divisions.[1] The operation was one of the battles immediately preceding the German summer offensive (Fall Blau), and its successful conclusion made it possible for the Axis to launch a successful assault on Sevastopolin the following months.
    Some groups of Soviet survivors refused to surrender and fought on for many months, hiding in the catacombs of the quarries. Many of these soldiers were occupying the caves along with many civilians, who had fled the city of Kerch.[2]
    Battle of the Kerch Peninsula
    Part of the Eastern Front of World War II
    Eastern Front 1941-12 to 1942-05.png
    The Eastern Front at the time of the siege of Sevastopol. (click to enlarge)
    Date26 December 1941 — 19 May 1942 (4 months, and 23 days)
    LocationCrimean Peninsula
    ResultAxis victory
     Soviet Union
    Commanders and leaders
    Nazi Germany Erich von MansteinSoviet Union Dimitri Kozlov
    Soviet Union Lev Mekhlis
    Soviet Union Filipp Oktyabrsky
    Casualties and losses
    ~9,000 casualties170,000 dead or captured (including civilians)
    wounded unknown

    Luftwaffe operations[edit] Meanwhile, the Luftwaffe had flown in the specialist torpedo bomber unit KG 26. On 1/2 March 1942, it damaged the 2,434 long tons (2,473 t) steamer Fabritsius which was damaged but written off. The 4,629 long tons (4,703 t) oil tanker Kuybyshev was damaged on 3 March south of Kerch, which deprived the defenders of much fuel. It was withdrawn the port of Novorossiysk where it was crippled by Ju 88s of KG 51 on 13 March. On 18 March, KG 51 Ju 88s sank the 3,689 long tons (3,748 t) transport Georgiy Dimitrov. Further damage was done on 23 March when nine Ju 88s of KG 51 sank the minelayers Ostrovskiy and GS-13 and a motor torpedo boat in Tuapse harbour. They also damaged two submarines (S-33 and D-5). That evening, He 111s of KG 27 claimed one 5,000 long tons (5,100 t) and two 2,000 long tons (2,000 t) ships sunk. Soviet records recorded the loss of the 2,960 long tons (3,010 t) steamer V.Chapayev, with the loss of 16 crew and 86 soldiers. KG 51 returned to Tuapse on 24 March and sank the transports Yalta and Neva. On 2 April, the Kuybyshev was intercepted and sunk. So great was the loss of the ship that Soviet land forces were ordered to cease all offensive operations and conserve its supplies. In the eight-week air offensive, from early February to the end of March, the Black Sea Transport Fleet had been reduced from 43,200 long tons (43,900 t) of shipping to just 27,400 long tons (27,800 t). Six transports had been lost and six were under repair. On 17 April, the 4,125 long tons (4,191 t) steamer Svanetiya was sunk by KG 26 while trying to bring in supplies to Sevastopol. Some 535 men were lost. Worse was to follow. On 19 April, the tanker I. Stalin was damaged along with three other transports. On 21 April, KG 55 damaged the minesweeper Komintern and sank a transport ship. By this time the Black Sea Fleets ability to supply the Soviet forces in Sevastopol was severely curtailed.[7]

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    Sunday, April 26, 2015

    Introduction to the Bell P-39 Airacobra

    IL2 Forgotten Battles Video Game of the unusual mid engine, Bell P-39 of the Russian Army Air-force engage in Dogfights with various German aircraft types. The so called "tank buster" could hold its own against the enemy thanks to its powerful through the propeller shaft canon. The P-39 was used with great success by the Soviet Air Force, which scored the highest number of individual kills attributed to any U.S. fighter type. The scenes were flown from the cockpit and recorded on track files which are later played back and all scenes recorded by FRAPS; the computer screen capture software. German Aircraft in order of appearance: Me 109; Me 210; FW-190; and FW-189

    Flying the P-39: Introduction to the Bell P-39 Airacobra Fighter (1942)

    Published on 25 Apr 2012
    "You've gotta love a World War 2 fighter with a big honkin' 37mm cannon in the nose!" Zeno, Zeno's Warbird Video Drive-In http://www.zenoswarbirdvideos.com Don't miss our P-39 DVD for more Airacobra action & P-39 pilot's manual http://bit.ly/JnWnwf

    One of the Russian Air Force's favorite US lend lease imports, the rugged P-39 was an outstanding tank buster on the Eastern Front where it saw lots of action. It's mid engine and 37mm canon were virtually unique. After being pulled out of front line US service in the early in the World War 2, the '39 was widely used as a trainer. Her tricky stall characteristics had a reputation for weeding out poor rookie pilots -- permanently.

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