June 12th, 2012
The Royal Air Force Museum in Hendon, UK has a fantastic collection of not only British designed aircraft but also those of American, German and Italian origin (Axis). American aircraft include World War Two legends such as the Curtis P-40N Kittyhawk IV, Republic P-47D Thunderbolt and North American P-51D Mustang fighters; and the Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress, North American TB-25J Mitchell and Consolidated B-24L Liberator bombers.
The majority of aircraft that served the RAF during the Cold War era (1947-1991) were of British origin, the major exception was the American designed McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II. The RAF operated various versions of the Phantom II from 1969 to 1992: the FG.1 (interceptor fighter), FGR.2 (ground attack/reconnaissance) and from 1977 their primary role was as an interceptor fighter. After 1982 a squadron of F-4J(UK) were acquired also for interceptor duties (these were retired in 1992 with the others all being retired by the late 1980’s). The major exception with these aircraft from those built in the US was the fitting of Rolls Royce Spey engines and British designed avionics. The Panavia Tornado replaced the Phantom II in service.
The German aircraft include a World War One Fokker D.VII, two very rare night fighters the Messerschmitt Bf-110 and Junkers Ju-88 (they are the only complete aircraft of this type in existence today); a Messerschmitt BF-109G, Messerschmitt Me-262 Schwalbe (“Swallow“), Heinkel He-111 H-20 (this is a troop carrier version used to drop paratroops), Heinkel He-162 Volksjager (the “Peoples Fighter” was fitted with a jet engine and made mostly of wood), a Focke-Wulf FW-190A-8/U-1 (two seat trainer version of the famous “Butcher Bird”) and the infamous dive bomber the Junkers Ju-87 Stuka (one of only 2 complete airframes left today – the other is in Chicago).
An Italian aircraft on display was one of the last biplane fighters to be used in World War Two; the Fiat CR-42 Falco. The Falco was highly manoeuvrable and a tough aircraft that could take a lot of damage, it surprised a number of French and British pilots in combat with its combat manoeuverability but despite many success against aircraft like the Hawker Hurricane it was poorly armed and completely outgunned by the much faster British fighters.