Aviation Historian 16
D.Gordon - Spies in Cold War Skies
When plans were put in place to undertake a series of flights over the Siberian coast with the Boeing RB-50s of the 55th SRW in conjunction with the Lockheed Neptunes of US Navy unit VP-931 - “The Flying Eagles” - the latter type was no stranger to the region. The P2V-2s of VP-32 had surveyed the icy wastes of Alaska back in 1948, as seen here.
The 55th SRW’s RB-50 The Cock ’n’ Bull comes in to land after another long mission. During April-June 1952 the Wing’s RB-50s completed a series of overflights of the Siberian coast with P2V-3Ws of VP-931. The type was also used by the Wing’s 38th RS for the Franz Josef Land mission from Greenland in September 1952.
The English Electric Canberra was the world’s most advanced aerial reconnaissance aircraft in the early years of the Cold War, being fast and capable of very-high-altitude flight. This example is PR.3 WE146, photographed in 1953.
North American RB-45C 48-014 of the 91st SRW at Yokota, in a standard bare-metal scheme with dark anti-glare panels on the upper nose, engine nacelles and inner tiptank surfaces. The aircraft also sports the “bloodshot eye’’ on the nose, an artwork of a shapely woman “au nature! ” on the forward fuselage and shark’s-teeth markings on the nose and tiptanks.
An RB-45C Tornado of the 91st SRW shares ramp space on the flight line at Yokota with the unit’s Boeing RB-29s. The tiptank and wing at the far left of the photograph may belong to RB-45C 48-027, which was painted all-black with red tail markings in an attempt to counter searchlight locks on aircraft operating at low to medium altitudes.
With a toothless mouth painted on the nose and stylised red arrows on the outer tiptank surfaces, RB-45C 48-027 is seen here before it was painted all-black with a mixture of zinc chromate and black lacquer. The weight of the paint made a small difference on top speed, but the idea was found to be effective in countering searchlight lock-ons.
Squadron Leader John Crampton (with brief­case) beside an RB-45C at Lockbourne Air Force Base in Ohio during the Jiu-Jitsu crew’s training period on the Tornado in the USA. Crampton, who was 31 when called on to undertake the first Jiu-Jitsu flight, retired from the RAF in 1957, and in 1959 joined Hawker, later becoming Technical Sales Manager (Harrier).
North American RB-45C 48-037 of the 91st SRW’s Detachment A, which conducted vital early overflights of North Korea, China and the Soviet Union. Note the “all-seeing eye” nose.
Призраки Скултропа. Благодаря особым отношениям между США и Великобританией, было сформировано одно из самых секретных подразделений Королевских ВВС. Поставленные ВВС США RB-45C Tornado с английскими экипажами действовали с авиабазы Скултроп в Норфолке и совершали разведывательные полеты вглубь территории СССР, чтобы получить радиолокационные изображения местности, которые позднее могли использовать штурманы и бомбардиры американского САК. В целях обеспечения секретности Tornado несли опознавательные знаки британских ВВС.
The photograph shows four RB-45c Tornadoes at Sculthorpe together with their mixed RAF and US crews. I think the pilots and navigators were RAF and the remainder American. They were used for the clandestine photography of potential targets the other side of the Iron Curtain. Russian maps available at this time were very poor and it was essential to know the target’s exact position before any ICBM could be programmed. The Tornado operated from Sculthorpe and was flight-refuelled from a KB-29P just before it entered East German territory. At first the aeroplanes were flown in USAAF markings - when I visited Sculthorpe in January, 1952, they were all complete with stars etc. (Incidentally there were B-45A-5s and B-45cs also there, which I was allowed to inspect but the RB-45 was still considered secret.) Soon after this the RAF markings were applied but no serial numbers were allocated.
Bearing only RAF roundels and fin flashes and with no serials, the four RB-45CS lent to the RAF for Operation Jiu-Jitsu are seen here at RAF Sculthorpe in the spring of 1952, along with their associated crews and ground staff. Three RB-45s were to be used for the sorties, the other being a spare in case of unserviceability.
Spitfire XIX PS852, in which Flt Lt Ted Powles made a series of overflights of Chinese territory in 1951, at its base at Kai Tak, Hong Kong, in 1953.
Supermarine Spitfire PR.XIX PS836 during its tenure with No 81 Sqn, a crucial part of the Far East Air Force’s reconnaissance element. It was a squadron-mate of this aircraft, PS852, in which Ted Powles overflew Chinese territory from Kai Tak in January 1951; PS836 survives today and is undergoing restoration in Thailand.
Lockheed RF-80A 45-8417 of the 8th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron at Taegu in South Korea during 1950-51. The standard F-80’s radio compass antenna was removed on the RF-80 to make space for a K-18 camera with a 36in lens, which took forward oblique photos through a transparency in the nose.
A very heavily-laden RF-80 uses rocket-assisted take-off (RATO) equipment to get off at Yokota. The large underslung “Misawa" extra-long-range tiptanks were made at Yokota using standard F-80 165 US gal tiptanks with two additional sections inserted in the middle, each reportedly capable of holding some 265 US gal.