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No, really, it's not a MiG-21
Looks like a MiG-21, doesn't it? Except it's not a MiG-21 or even a MiG. It's a Sukhoi SU-9.

Like most people I used to think that all Russian fighters were MiGs. In reality, much of their interceptor force came from the Sukhoi design bureau. There were no aircraft "companies" in the Soviet Union, but the design bureaus served a similar function.

Never heard of an SU-9? No problem, that's why we're here. You're probably a Cold War geek like myself or you wouldn't be reading this.

The big difference between an SU-9 and a MiG-21 is that the Sukhoi is much larger, about one and a half times the size of the MiG. Most MiGs were nimble little sports cars, Sukhois were big fast muscle-cars.  

The reason they look about the same is they were designed around the same time from the same set of numbers. During the Korean War, the Soviet aerodynamic research institute TsAGI did a series of aerodynamic studies for the development of future fighter aircraft.

They came up with what you see here. A sharply swept delta wing, but with a conventional tail. This aircraft shared development with the SU-7 ground attack aircraft and the fuselage looks almost identical.

SU-9 top and SU-7 bottom. Almost identical except for the wing.
First flight was in 1956 and performance was pretty impressive for the day. Top speed around Mach 1.8 and a service ceiling of 55,000 feet. They even managed to zoom-climb a modified one up to 94,000 feet, briefly holding several speed and altitude records.

Range was limited as was typical in many Soviet aircraft. They could build a powerful jet engine but fuel efficiency was never their strong point.

Handling was supposedly unforgiving. Takeoff and landing speeds were insanely high, somewhere around 200 knots!

SU-9s ready to defend the motherland. This shows the relatively large size of the Sukhoi.
They built roughly 1,100 of these and all were assigned to PVO Strany, the Soviet air defense force. Note that PVO was a completely separate branch of the military and had nothing to do with the Soviet Air Force (VVS). None were ever exported outside the Soviet Union.

Its closest US counterpart would probably be an F-101 or F-102. Both were early interceptors with good performance but hampered by poor armament.

Its strengths would have been speed and rate of climb. It was designed to get up and go after high flying bombers.

Its weakness would have been its armament or almost total lack thereof.

The intake shock cone housed a very primitive R1L radar. It carried no guns. Sole armament was four K-5 (NATO AA-1 Alkalai) missiles. These were, to put it mildly, junk. They were primitive "beam riders" meaning they could only be used from a pure tail-chase attack.

The SU-9 pilot would have depended heavily on GCI (Ground Controlled Intercept) guidance to line him up almost directly behind the attacking bomber. The K-5 missile had a maximum range of less than 4 miles and a minimum range of just over a mile. That's a pretty small window to line up a shot. He would then have to lock on and "ripple fire" at least two or probably all four missiles to have any chance of a hit.

After those missed (and they probably would) he would be reduced to a ramming attack, except he's probably out of gas at this point. I have little doubt that a dedicated PVO pilot would have rammed an attacking bomber if ordered to. One of these actually attempted to ram Francis Gary Powers but missed.

SU-9 firing a K-5 missile. Good luck with that.
K-5 Air to Air Missile
These were all retired sometime in the 1970s. Some shared the fate of their US counterparts and were converted to target drones.
SU-9 sitting forlornly in front of what looks to be an apartment building. And he's taking up at least two parking spots! What a jerk! Seriously, how did this thing get here?
Next up was the SU-11. This was an improved version of the SU-9 except with a more powerful engine, a better radar (NATO "Skip Spin") and a missile that at least had a chance of working, the K-8 (AA-3 Anab).

The SU-11 looks almost identical to its predecessor. The only distinguishing features are the external fuel lines to feed the thirstier engine and the larger shock cone housing the improved radar.

Some sources claim it carried four missiles but I've never seen a picture with more than two mounted, so I'm going to say two was more likely.

The interesting thing about the R-8, and most other Soviet air to air missiles, is that it came in both a heat seeking and Semi-Active radar guided versions. Normal load for an SU-11 would have been one of each. Soviet tactical doctrine was to fire both, with the heat seeker actually being launched first. Otherwise the heat seeker might actually lock on to the other missile.

Theoretically the SU-11 could carry a gun pod(s) in place of the external fuel tanks. I don't know if they actually did.

Well preserved SU-11. Note the external fuel lines and the large R-8 missiles.
SU-11 with two external fuel tanks.
Note that each missile has a different seeker head. One is IR and the other is radar guided.
The SU-11 was an interim aircraft and only 100 or so were built. Some SU-9s may actually have been upgraded to SU-11s. The last ones were retired in 1983. None were ever exported and none ever saw action at least that we know about.

That brings us to the quintessential Soviet interceptor - the SU-15 "Flagon".

SU-15
Now is as good a time as any to explain the silly code names NATO gave Soviet weapons. "F" means Fighter, "B" means Bomber, "C" means Cargo. One syllable means it's propeller driven and two means it's a jet. So a "Flagon" is a jet fighter and a "Bear" is a propeller driven bomber. Air to air missiles start with "A", so we have "Atoll", "Alkalai", "Anab", "Adder" and so on.
SU-15 with a pair of R-8 (AA-3) missiles.
The SU-15 was developed in the early 1960s and entered service in 1965. Over 1200 were built, and all served with PVO. Like its predecessors, it was never exported.

It shares a lot of DNA with the SU-9/11 but is a much different configuration. They ditched the shock-cone intake and went with two turbojets fed by side mounted intakes. The initial versions kept the pure delta wing but later versions gained a "kinked" or "cranked" delta wing with blown flaps for better takeoff and landing performance.

Late model SU-15 at top. Earlier version is at the bottom.
This was a pretty advanced aircraft by Soviet standards. Roughly equivalent to the American F-106. Top speed of Mach 2.5 in a clean configuration, Mach 2.1 with missiles attached. Climb rate of 45,000 feet/minute, impressive even by today's standards.

The new nose allowed for a much improved radar to be installed. Operationally however it was still very dependent on GCI. The aircraft could actually be controlled from the ground via data-link up to the last part of the intercept.

SU-15 Cockpit. The radar screen is at the top of the instrument panel.
Another cockpit shot showing ejection handle.
Armament was improved over its predecessors. It still carried the pair of R-8 missiles but it could also carry 2 (sometimes 4) R-60 heat seekers (NATO AA-8 Aphid). The R-60 didn't have much range but it did have limited all-aspect capability and was a highly maneuverable little missile.  
Later model SU-15 with kinked wing.
It could, and sometimes did, carry a pair of 23mm gun pods in place of the drop tanks. By then the Soviets had figured out, like we did, that a fighter without a gun is at a disadvantage.

The plane was quite well suited for its role as an interceptor. Fast, high rate of climb, decent radar and avionics plus a reasonable weapons load.

It had its share of weaknesses as well. Those two gas-guzzling Tumansky turbojets limited its range. Takeoff and landing speeds were still quite high, 215 knots for the early models and around 200 even with the improved wing!

Handling was reported to be responsive but very unforgiving, not atypical for high performance aircraft of that era. Visibility over that long nose looks iffy for takeoffs and landings. I'm guessing here, but you could probably kill yourself in one these about as easily as you could in an F-104.

Two seat training version. Note the periscope for back-seat landings!
I had the good fortune to work with a former USAF test pilot and aggressor pilot in my National Guard unit. The aggressor pilots were trained to mimic Soviet tactics at Red Flag exercises.

Having closely studied Soviet aircraft he had this little tidbit about Sukhoi:

When you look at a Sukhoi prototype it's nice and clean. After they've crashed a bunch of them, it will have sprouted all sorts of stall fences and vortex generators to make it fly properly. There are graveyards in Russia full of Sukhoi test pilots.
The biggest weakness of the SU-15, however, was its lack of any look-down/shoot-down capability. By the time this aircraft entered service US bomber tactics had already switched to low level penetration. These were still in service when I was flying B-52s and we didn't consider them to be much of a threat for that very reason. PVO came to prefer MiG-23s over the SU-15 because the MiG at least had some capability against a low flying target.

The SU-15 is most notable for shooting down KAL Flight 007 in 1983. Most of what can be said about that incident has already been written so I'm not going to beat it to death here.

There was one interesting fact that came out of incident - as the SU-15 was lining up for a missile shot, the 747 reached one of its programmed navigational waypoints and began a gentle 30-degree-banked airliner turn to the right. This was enough to cause the Sukhoi's radar to break lock and force the pilot to circle around for another pass.

Against a well trained bomber crew that was maneuvering and employing countermeasures one of these would have had a very tough time.

Kind of sad to see them end up like this. SU-15, SU-11 and SU-9 (I think) all in a row.
These stayed in service until the end of the Soviet Union in 1993. Ukraine kept theirs around until 1996. The Russians actually put some of them in storage in case they're ever needed again.

Cool SU-15 video. There are actually 4 parts to this.

SU-9 video, in Russian.

And another. This one actually has footage of the K-5 missiles being fired.

That's all for today. There's more Cold War fun to come.

Originally posted to Kossack Air Force on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 12:14 PM PDT.

Also republished by Central Ohio Kossacks and Aviation & Pilots.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (50+ / 0-)

    If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

    by Major Kong on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 12:14:30 PM PDT

  •  great diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Otteray Scribe, Simplify

    looking forward to one on the Sukhoi T-4 (ahem ripoff) maybe?

    I see a very beautiful planet that seems very inviting and peaceful. Unfortunately, it is not.…We're better than this. We must do better. Cmdr Scott Kelley

    by wretchedhive on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 12:31:26 PM PDT

  •  So Soviet Air design is like their Space work? (4+ / 0-)

    Put it up there, see what happens...

    Nice diary, enjoy reading about this stuff.

  •  This airplane and the MiG-21 both look like (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PrahaPartizan, Gordon20024, lazybum

    engine nacelles that somebody stuck the least wings on they could get away with and still get it to fly. Same for the F-104. You can go real fast or have a dogfighter, but it is pretty hard to have both in the same airplane.

    This is really interesting, because I didn't realize the MiG-21 had an oversize clone.

    Rudeness is a weak imitation of strength. - Eric Hoffer

    by Otteray Scribe on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 01:17:19 PM PDT

    •  Otteray Scribe, you got an F !!! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lazybum, eyesoars, Captain C

      No, Su-9 were not clones of the Mig-21.

      Take the course again :-)

      Su-9 and Mig-21 shared an air of resemblance because their designs were derived from the same aerodynamic studies. But that's pretty much all there is in common between the two planes.

      Mig-15, 17, 19 and 21 were fighters, with the Mig-21 being the first of the series to have performances good enough to also fill interceptor duties to some degree. Those Mig planes were meant to operate fairly independently, to stay and "loiter" (very relative notion, here) on position and seek and attack targets as they came. For air combat, they filled a role which is sometimes called "counter-air interdiction". A mission plan for a fighter can be summarized as "Fly over there. We think there should should be baddies trying to fly through that general area. Find them and shoot them down."

      Su-7, 9, 11 and 15 were purpose-built interceptors. They were designed and equipped with the strict minimum needed for that one mission and only for that mission. That mission decided of everything in those planes, all the way to the rather peculiar type of jet engines they were equipped with, to give them high supersonic acceleration, which at the time was (and still is) contradictory with high fuel efficiency.

      Their job was to stay standby, ready to roll on call from ground control. Then, when ground control got a blip on their radars, bearing, speed and altitude, one (or more) interceptor(s) got scrambled to engage the unknown or intruder. From the moment ground control gives the go, the interceptor job is to take off and climb as fast and as hard as possible towards to the target, almost entirely under ground guidance on a largely preset trajectory, with corrections fed along the course to the pilot from the ground radars over radio links, then when close enough to the target to lock and fire its missiles on the target then come home.

      The difference between the two types of mission, fighter and interceptor, is so vast that in the very doctrine-minded USSR, the jobs were handled by two completely different organizations, PVO aka Air Defenses for interceptors and VVS aka Air Forces for fighters.

      In reality, an interceptor is a big radio-guided ground-to-air missile whose warhead is composed of smaller missiles and which happens to have a mostly anecdotal human brain inserted in its guidance system. The presence of a human on board is simply a reflection that, at the time, computers and data-links were not good enough to do the job of processing information from the ground control and the on-board radar. But the presence of wetware in this type of weapon system is otherwise a wholly undesirable feature. If stand-alone interception became ever again relevant (dubious), it would be a prime mission for drones.

      I deal in facts. My friends are few but fast.

      by Farugia on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 04:41:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  asdf (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Farugia
        In reality, an interceptor is a big radio-guided ground-to-air missile... [with] a mostly anecdotal human brain inserted in its guidance system.
        This explains why those Sukhois had such tiny canopies. The pilots were expected to have just enough lines of sight to align with an enemy bomber, nothing more. The visibility from the cockpit must have been almost nil. How in the hell were the pilots able to land those beasts?

        And they’'ll drink 'til their eyes are red with hate for those of a different kind. -Richard Thompson

        by lazybum on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 05:16:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Carefully....Very Carefully....n/c (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lazybum

          "Personally, I'm a cultured sort of fellow, I read all sorts of extraordinary books, you know, but somehow I can't seem to make out where I'm going, what it is I really want, I mean to say-to live or shoot myself, so to speak. " APC

          by Brian1066 on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 05:31:44 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  USAF Took the Pilot Out Altogether (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BlackSheep1, lazybum

          This approach to bomber defense accounts for why the USAF took the pilot out altogether in the BOMARC air defense missile.  It was powered by two ramjets, tipped with a nuclear device, and was as large as the typical fighter/interceptor of the day.  Since it was designed to operate in what was called the SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment) which was designed as an integrated air defense system for NORAD.  They were essentially ground-controlled pilot-less fighters.

          "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

          by PrahaPartizan on Sun Aug 11, 2013 at 06:38:58 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  In the USAF (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Farugia, lazybum

        I've heard fighter pilots deride air-defense guys as "dot chasers".

        Note that the SU-7 was a ground-attack aircraft, otherwise you had it right.

        If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

        by Major Kong on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 05:46:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Are the NATO names for all of these handy? (0+ / 0-)

    Flagon got mentioned, but not the SU-9 and SU-11.

    Fun diary!

    •  They had the same name (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eyesoars, BlackSheep1

      The SU-9 was a "FISHPOT" and the SU-11 was "FISHPOT-C".

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Sun Aug 11, 2013 at 07:07:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Remember how we're supposed to be afraid... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PrahaPartizan

    ...of the "evil empire"?

    They're more justified in their fear of us than we are in our fear of them. :-)

    •  They certainly weren't 10 feet tall (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PrahaPartizan, BlackSheep1

      like we always tried to make them out to be.

      That's not even taking into account the poorly trained conscripts that were maintaining this stuff. It's amazing some of these things worked at all.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Sun Aug 11, 2013 at 07:05:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  the USSR developed some (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lazybum

        tough damn equipment, and relied on lower-level tech.

        See the Fisher Space Pen vs. the pencil ... I remember reading somewhere (Dale Brown, maybe? Major Kong, have you read him?) that some of the Sukhois were built for rough service, like tanks....

        LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

        by BlackSheep1 on Sun Aug 11, 2013 at 09:45:40 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  There's a bit of an urban legend (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BlackSheep1, lazybum

          to the "space pen" story.

          Space Pen

          But yes, Sukhois, at least the SU-7 ground attack plane, were quite ruggedly built.

          The SU-7 was reportedly very stable on high speed low level runs. They say at 500 knots on the deck you could trim the thing up and pretty much take your hands off it.

          If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

          by Major Kong on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 03:48:42 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Wow. So a better low-level than an F/B-111? (0+ / 0-)

            That seems impressive.

            I remember hearing someplace that during one of the joint Soyuz missions, the Russians all had pencils and the US astronauts had brought hi-tech pens. Probably is really just an urban legend.

            (I remember when Cross Pens and Aladdin thermos bottles came with some USAF gear ... the original light- and middle-weight flight jacket sleeve pen-pockets were too skinny for almost anything but a Cross.)

            LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

            by BlackSheep1 on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 10:41:23 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I wouldn't go that far (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              BlackSheep1, lazybum

              The F/B-111 was a very advanced aircraft (maybe a little too advanced for its time) with terrain following radar that would automatically follow terrain contours.

              The SU-7 was a very simplistic aircraft but it had a very high wing loading that made it inherently stable at high speeds and low altitude. The control forces were said to be quite heavy but the plane had forgiving handling.

              Its closest US counterpart would have been an F-105.

              If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

              by Major Kong on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 12:25:32 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  The original Wild Weasel (0+ / 0-)

                how do the two compare in terms of initial flight / production timelines?

                Didn't a few Thunderchiefs get bailed out of over Southeast Asia that may have been somewhat reverse-engineer-able?

                LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

                by BlackSheep1 on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 02:37:13 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  They were developed around the same time (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  BlackSheep1

                  It's a case of parallel development rather than a copycat.

                  There's only so many solutions to any given problem. Aerodynamics are the same whether you're in Russia or the US.

                  The F-105 was originally developed to be a low-level tactical nuclear bomber before it ever was adapted to the Wild Weasel mission.

                  If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

                  by Major Kong on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 06:38:24 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Thunderchiefs were the last of the (0+ / 0-)

                    follow-on designs for the Voodoo and Starfighter, weren't they?

                    Thunderchief struck me as a bit like trying to sidesaddle a rocket, two-up ...

                    LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

                    by BlackSheep1 on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 09:30:06 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  It was part of the "Century Series" (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      BlackSheep1

                      of fighters that were numbered in the 100s.

                      F-100 Day fighter/attack
                      F-101 Twin engine interceptor
                      F-102 Delta wing interceptor
                      F-104 Lightweight fighter
                      F-105 Low level strike aircraft
                      F-106 Delta wing interceptor (a better F-102 basically)
                      F-107 (Prototype) F-100 with a bigger engine
                      F-111 Swing-wing low level strike aircraft

                      I've actually seen most of of these fly. F-102s used to fly over my house when I was a kid. The 101, 105 and 106 were still in the Air National Guard in the early 1980s and I recall seeing German F-104s sometime in the 1990s. The F-111s of course were in service well into the 1990s.

                      At some point it was determined that the Air Force and Navy should have the same numbering scheme, which is where we got:

                      F-14 (Navy)
                      F-15 (USAF)
                      F-16 (USAF)
                      F-18 (Navy)

                      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

                      by Major Kong on Tue Aug 13, 2013 at 08:44:18 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  I've seen 102s, 105s and 111s in service (0+ / 0-)

                        as well as Tomcats, Eagles and Falcons. The only 18s I've seen were the Blue Angels (and they put on the kind of show that makes me wish people dedicated to "sequester" were the exact people whose salaries we could start by cutting). I was a little too late for the 100s and 101s (although the RFf101 was still around overseas when I was at Lackland; my first USAF presentation was a research paper on 'em, in the days when DARPA hadn't yet built milnet and research happened in the library).

                        LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

                        by BlackSheep1 on Tue Aug 13, 2013 at 08:59:29 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                  •  this reminds me of the Russian space shuttle Buran (0+ / 0-)
                    There's only so many solutions to any given problem. Aerodynamics are the same whether you're in Russia or the US.
                    When it appeared, half the US assumed it was just a brainless copy of the US space shuttle.  It wasn't.  It had completely different and more advanced engines (unlike the US shuttle it could make a powered descent), and entirely new instrumentation. It had the same external shape as the US shuttle simply because it performed the same aerodynamic tasks.
  •  Always amazed me how ineffectual the early... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PrahaPartizan

    Cold War fighter/interceptors were, largely due to electronics and weapons that were 'bleeding edge' at the time but now look incredibly crude.

    In WWII, vast streams of hundreds of bombers were intercepted by hundreds of defensive fighters, resulting in running battles of attrition where defensive 'success' meant downing enough bombers to make an ongoing campaign prohibitively costly in bombers & lives. It took so many sorties to knock out a factory that it was 'good enough' to destroy 10-20% of the attacking force.

    After 1945, a single bomber dropping a nuclear bomb could wipe out a city, so attrition was no longer good enough. Guns were seen as not decisive enough. But early Cold War interceptors like the F-89 Scorpion or the 'Saber-Dog' F-86D models, firing salvos of unguided rockets directed by crude and unreliable radar/computer systems using scores of vacuum tubes, would have been lucky to hit anything.

    The subsequent F-102/F-106 interceptors armed with six Falcon missiles were somewhat better, but my understanding is that the 'P/K' per missile was quite low, so that engagements would have to involve salvos of multiple missiles to have a decent chance of downing a bomber.

    Ironically, by the time modern electronics and computers made all this stuff actually work reliably, ICBMs and SLBMs had made nuclear armed bombers largely irrelevant.

    •  I've been told by fighter pilots (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BlackSheep1

      "You can't hit your ass with a rocket"

      Bullets start out fast and slow down.
      Rockets start out slow and speed up.

      Aerial rockets tend to "tip off" when they come off the launch rail and go off in any given direction.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Sun Aug 11, 2013 at 07:02:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Basically all U.S. unguided air to ground rockets (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lazybum, PrahaPartizan

        including those carried by the modern Apache helicopter, are relatively long and narrow 2.75" diameter cylinders. That's because they are all descendents of the original 'Mighty Mouse' rocket designed to down Soviet bombers circa 1950. Twenty four of them were carried in a retractable 'tray' under the cockpit of the F-86D, and a similar number behind little doors in the nose of the F-94. The F-89 carried lots more in those giant wingtip pods, and the F-102 actually carried 12 of them in tubes set into the folding doors of the missile bay, which tells you how much confidence there was in the Falcon missile.

        My understanding is that the radar/computer guidance system required a solid hand-off from ground control radar, and an enemy bomber flying in a straight line without evasive action. If everything worked exactly right, the enabled system would launch a salvo of rockets on a course intersecting that of the bomber, with a reasonable chance that at least one of the rockets would hit, and the warhead was big enough that one or two would be sufficient to down even a large bomber. And the preferred engagement was head-on, because the rockets would be arriving just about the same time a pilot could see the incoming fighter.

        But any evasive action would immediately defeat the fire control solution. And vacuum-tube era electronics meant that the system reliability/availability was abysmal. And that one salvo of rockets was it for the mission. And as soon as even one nuclear warhead detonated, the EMP would likely scramble the entire GCI network, rendering the entire thing worthless.

        I grew up within sight of one of the old Nike-Hercules surface to air missile bases near Buffalo NY. At the time the system was touted as an 'infallible' defense against those evil Russkie bombers. In retrospect, they were nearly worthless. The base had perhaps 25 missiles, each of which required significant preparation to launch. Many of the bases had a handful of missiles with nuclear warheads, which makes me shudder to think about. Each base could engage only a single incoming target at a time, because every launched missile required the undivided attention of the base's solitary target tracking and missile tracking radars plus the base's computer, which had to continuously generate steering commands directing the missile toward intersection with the bomber's course. If the Nike missile missed, another one would have to be launched at the same target, and no other targets could be engaged until the first one was hit. Yes, it was nominally very capable of intercepting and destroying a high-altitude incoming bomber. But an attack involving scores of incoming targets, or jamming, or low altitude targets, would immediately overwhelm the system. And the first detonation of a nuclear warhead was likely to knock the whole system off line due to EMP.

        I guess it's an indication of the sense of desperation felt during the Cold War that a huge network of 145 Nike Hercules bases were completed and operational despite the system's minimal effectiveness.

        •  That's called Command Guidance (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lazybum, PrahaPartizan, BlackSheep1

          One radar tracks the target while another radar tracks the missile and the ground-based computer issues steering commands.

          I think this type of guidance was used because electronics hadn't been miniaturized yet and the computers were much too large to fit into a missile.

          The SA-2 uses a similar system. If the EWO called out "Pilot I've got missile guidance!" that meant one was headed your way.

          In Vietnam days the terminology was "SAM Uplink" causing some B-52 crews to joke "Who's Sam Uplink and why's he doing these terrible things to me?"

          If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

          by Major Kong on Sun Aug 11, 2013 at 09:31:50 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I just read a detailed history of all the... (0+ / 0-)

            U.S. Navy surface to air missiles, from the early 'bumblebee' experiments through the Terrier and Talos systems to the 'Standard' system from the late 1970s that still serves, albeit in a vastly more potent form.

            The first couple of generations were essentially unusable, despite occupying thousands of cubic feet and many hundreds of tons in converted WWII era cruisers. They required massive guidance radars that made the ships unstable in storms due to the excess topside weight, yet even very large ships like the cruiser Long Beach could only engage (at most) two or three targets at a time. And the missiles required substantial preparation and hands-on assembly prior to launch.

            Honestly, I find it bizarre. By late 1944, the U.S. fleet had an extremely lethal air defense system comprised of vast numbers of radar-directed 5" guns firing proximity-fuzed shells, backed up by thousands of automatic weapons. The attrition rate for attacking aircraft was so astronomically high that the Japanese resorted to Kamikaze tactics out of desperation. And the Navy's response to the Kamikaze threat was to replace this lethal network of radar directed guns with...crude, gigantic, sluggish, ineffective missiles costing vast amounts of money that could only engage one target at at time, and couldn't engage anything below 1,000 feet altitude or so. It seems self-evident to me that the very costly missile-armed ships converted or built from the early 1950s to the 1970s were far more vulnerable to air attack than a circa 1945 equivalent. I can't help thinking that a lot of snake oil and wishful thinking about miraculous technology (and some good old fashioned corruption) was involved.

            Current systems are a whole 'nuther thing, of course. Everything I read about late model Navy 'SM-3' generation missiles, or the Patriot system, or new generation Russian SAMs suggests they are extremely dangerous.

            •  We feared the S300 (SA-10) (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Ralphdog, BlackSheep1

              In the B-52G we had no real defense against it except to fly so low that hopefully we put a piece of dirt between us and the missile.

              The B-52H and B-1 supposedly had better ECM that could counter it.

              Even the SA-6 worried us. If we did everything right we could defeat it, but I sure didn't want to try.

              If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

              by Major Kong on Sun Aug 11, 2013 at 05:24:22 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I've read a lot about the '73 Yom Kippur war... (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                PrahaPartizan, BlackSheep1, lazybum

                and how the Israelis were stunned by their very high loss rate to the Egyptian Army's air defenses in the early going. They had chosen not to buy expensive countermeasure gear from the U.S. and the consequent unimpeded threat of the SA-6 forced their F-4's and A-4's down below its effective altitude. But most of the Israeli losses were actually caused by the lethally effective ZSU-23 gun system.

                My impression (as an admitted complete amateur) is that the stellar performance and very low loss rate of U.S. Air Force and Navy strike aircraft since the 1980s is mostly the result of fantastic training and enough 'electronic superiority' that they could operate at altitudes well above the reach of anti-aircraft gunfire.

                •  Not To Mention Anti-Tank Missiles (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Ralphdog

                  That 1973 Yom Kippur War also saw the first extensive deployment of anti-tank missiles, which caught the Israelis by surprise too.  The Israelis had always found in a pinch they could launch armor attacks on Egyptian infantry without their own infantry support like the British used to do in the desert in WW2 and watch the Egyptian infantry break and run.  That didn't happen in the Sinai when that war started.  The Israelis launched the armored equivalent of cavalry charges and had their heads handed to them.  I've read histories about how the surviving Israeli tanks would return with lines and lines of guidance wire being hung around their tanks.  Of course, the AT missiles were there to defend the infantry while the Egyptian SAMS just over the Suez Canal were defending the air space above the infantry and AT missiles.  When the Egyptians tried to push beyond the SAM umbrella things started to fall apart though.

                  "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

                  by PrahaPartizan on Sun Aug 11, 2013 at 06:50:10 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  Above? (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  BlackSheep1

                  Hate to pimp my own diary, but...

                  Night One

                  If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

                  by Major Kong on Sun Aug 11, 2013 at 07:04:07 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

            •  Nuclear Weapons Changed Everything (0+ / 0-)

              The Navy was concerned about the impact of nuclear weapons on fleet formations by the 1950s, as they still are today.  While the US expected the Soviet Union to concentrate using its nuclear weapons on value targets in the 1950s (like cities or ground troops), one could not discount the Soviet Union going after a rich, fat target like a carrier task force with a nuclear device.  Therefore, the Navy needed to take down the delivery system - a Soviet bomber - well outside the kill zone for a nuclear bomb.  Yes, the beam-rider surface-to-air missiles of the 1950s were less effective against WW2 style torpedo or bomb attacks (as ultimately demonstrated by post-WW2 engagements involving anti-ship missiles) and required the Navy to adapt the anti-air gatling gun systems for shipboard use as a last ditch defense against a wave-skimming missile approaching a ship at Mach 3.  The need still exists to keep enemy aircraft at a distance.

              "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

              by PrahaPartizan on Sun Aug 11, 2013 at 06:06:40 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  Take a Look Around the Country (0+ / 0-)

          The wonders of the internet have revealed the deployment locations for the Nike sites around the nation.  It looks pretty authentic, since I am aware of the site located at Lido Beach, NY because my spouse has mentioned it to me and the sites around Hartford, CT because of a reference made to the redevelopment of an old site in the Hartford newspaper several years back.  It's intriguing to learn just how extensive the system was, especially with the introduction of the Nike-Hercules since some models of that version were tipped with nuclear warheads.  It's great learning that the US Army had nuclear bombs stationed literally within 5 miles of almost every person living in major metro area back in the 1950s and 1960s.  They didn't call it the Atomic Age for nothing.

          "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

          by PrahaPartizan on Sun Aug 11, 2013 at 06:30:28 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Just wondering... (0+ / 0-)

    ...where did you get the photos? Find them online or take them yourself? I assume since none of the aircraft were exported that they're all from inside Russia?

    Great post; looking forward to more.

    When atlatls are outlawed, only outlaws will have atlatls.

    by wheeldog on Sun Aug 11, 2013 at 09:22:11 AM PDT

    •  I dug them up online (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PrahaPartizan, BlackSheep1

      I'd love to see some of the Russian museums if I ever get over there.

      I've seen the occasional MiG at US and Canadian museums but I've never been up close to a Sukhoi.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Sun Aug 11, 2013 at 10:32:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It was an SU-15 that shot down.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest

    Korean Air Lines Flight 902 - a Boeing 707-321B - on April 20, 1978.

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