November 30, 2009

Dive Bomber

Back in the early days of dive bombing, the British Air Ministry attempted to answer the question "what IS a dive bombing attack?"  In their definition, which was generally accepted by the various air forces, when the aircraft drops its bombs while descending at an angle of 20 degrees or less, it was executing a shallow glide bombing attack.  From 20 to 60 degrees, it was a steep glide bombing run.

However it was only when the pilot guided his craft into a plummeting descent of between 60 and 90 (also known as 'straight down') degrees that he was performing that most accurate, deadly and dangerous manuever, a dive bombing attack.  It was dive bombing that blew open the way for Germany's blitzkrieg across Europe.  It was dive bombing that helped pummel Pearl Harbor's facilities and airbases.  It was dive bombing that killed HMS Hermes, the first aircraft carrier to be sunk by aircraft.  It was dive bombing that sank four Japanese aircraft carriers at Midway.  It was (mostly) dive bombing that shut off the flow of supplies to the Japanese soldiers at Guadalcanal.  One could go so far as to argue that dive bombing won the naval war in the Pacific.

Yet it was the dive bomber that disappeared from the lineups of the various air forces almost as soon as World War II was over.  Why?

*THE PLANES
For all intents and purposes, there were four major planes designated as Dive Bombers in World War II.  Oddly, the worst of the bunch is the one that's best remembered and is thought of as the prototypical DB.

The Ju87, better known as the Stuka, was used by Germany as heavy artillery.  Luftwaffe liason officers were attached to Wehrmacht units as what we would now call forward air controllers for Close Air Support.  The Stuka would be called in to pummel strongpoints with the type of accuracy only available to dive bombers.  The Luftwaffe had better designs to chose from when the time came to begin preparing for war but the Stuka had the support of Ernst Udet, who was the Director-General of Equipment.  However, it was quite slow when carrying the usual bombload of 1100lbs, maxing out at about 150mph.  In comparison to the other planes on this list, it had a very short range of about 300 miles  It was also quite unmanueverable and could be hacked out of the air in immense numbers by even small amounts of fighters.  When escorted by fighters, however, the Stuka could be very effective.  It was able to dive vertically when executing an attack, which was devastating against stationary targets.  After the Battle of Britain, where the Stuka's weaknesses were brought to stark light, the plane should have been withdrawn from action.  Germany had no choice but to use it throughout the war, in upgraded forms, as there was no replacement.  Despite all this, it is images of the Stuka, stooping upon a target with its landing-gear-mounted sirens (called "Jericho's Trumpet" by crews) wailing, that leap to mind when the public thinks of dive bombing.

The Aichi D3A (Allied code name 'Val'), was the primary dive bomber of the Imperial Japanese Navy for most of the Pacific War.  A contemporary of the Stuka, it flew slowly enough that drag from the fixed landing gear was not considered an issue.  It was rather sturdy for a Japanese warplane, yet manueverable enough to be able to hold its own against fighters when unladen.  While it generally could not dive as steeply as the other planes on this list, when combined with the highly experienced pilots of the IJN it was phenomenally accurate.  During the Indian Ocean raid at the beginning of 1942, Vals caught the British cruisers Dorsetshire and Cornwall 200 miles off of Ceylon and scored on 85% of their attacks, sinking both ships in minutes.  Later, Vals participated in the attack on HMS Hermes, scoring 40 hits from 70 planes.  With a maximum speed of 240mph (less with bombload) and a maximum range of 915 miles, it was perfectly suited to naval war in the vast ranges of the Pacific Ocean.  Its main weakness was that it could only carry a 551lb bombload, which was marginal against larger vessels.

The Douglas SBD, or Dauntless as it was commonly known, was used by the US Navy and Marines throughout WWII, though it was supplanted by the SB2C Helldiver in 1944.  It was never entirely replaced, however.  With a top speed of 255mph and a range of 770 miles without a bomb, the Dauntless was also quite nimble, racking up quite a few kills against the Japanese Zero.  Early in the war, it was common to see Dauntlesses acting as anti-torpedo-plane interceptors, though this practice stopped when the number of fighters carried by US carriers was increased.  It could carry a 1000lb bomb.  The Dauntless is credited with singlehandedly sinking six Japanese carriers, including four in one day at the Battle of Midway.  When carrying a bombload however, the Dauntless only had a combat radius of about 200 miles or so, fairly short in the Pacific.  It was also used by the Army Air Force as the A-24, but was generally unsuccessful, more from a lack of institutional enthusiasm for dive bombing than poor performance.

The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver was the ultimate in dive bombers.  Able to carry a ton of bombs (or a torpedo) in an internal bay, it could go nearly 300mph with a maximum range of 1200 miles (unladen).  A big plane, it was rather unmanueverable and complex to maintain.  After early teething problems were ironed out, though, it became quite a useful bomber, participating in all major actions in the later years of the war in the Pacific.  It was never as popular amongst aircrews as the Dauntless, being nicknamed "Beast" or "Son of a Bitch 2nd Class", though later versions of the plane were undoubtably better in every way than the smaller SBD.  Due to a lack of targets, the Helldiver didn't ring up a large kill total of ships, though they were instrumental in the sinking of the Yamato and Mushashi, the IJN superbattleships.

Other dive bombers in World War II included the British Blackburn Skua, the Soviet Pe-2 and IL-2, the Vought SB2U Vindicator, the German Ju88 and the Japanese Yokosuka D4Y Suisei, which was the only plane that could argue the SB2C's title as "best dive bomber."

*THE TACTICS
Dive bombing was much more than just "point yourself at the target and dive".  

A dive bomber would approach a target from around 10-15000 feet altitude, dropping in shallow dive down to about 5000-7000 feet.  Upon reaching the push-over point, a dive bomber would throttle back to about 50% maximum power, extend their dive brakes, and begin a steep dive down to around 1000 feet.  Each plane would reach a different high speed during this dive (the Stuka would hit around 350mph, while the Dauntless would hover around 240mph).  Upon reaching its release altitude (again, around 1000 feet), a pilot would retract his dive brakes, increase throttle and pull up steeply at around 5g.  Again, depending on the plane and the bravery of the pilot, the altitude would bottom out around 500 feet or less as the dive bomber rapidly exited the area.

Against an immobile target, a squadron of dive bombers would approach and dive from different directions so as to confuse the defending antiaircraft guns.  As always, however, coming out of the sun was usually the preferred method of attack, so as to limit the defender's visibility.

Against a ship, however, the rules were different.  In a perfect setup, a squadron would dive heading upwind and in the direction of the ship's travel (heading from stern to bow, in other words).  The planes would all attack from the same direction, one after the other, in line astern.  A vigorously manuevering target, however, did cause some headaches for a pilot.  He would have to change the attitude of his plane to follow the ship's path, all the while hanging against his seatbelt/harness.  

Early in the war, particularly for the Japanese, it was nearly impossible to shoot down a dive bomber after it began its dive with anti-aircraft guns.  Early gun directors could not deal with a plane moving at high speed and shedding appalling amounts of altitude in a short time, making a plunging dive bomber nearly invunerable.  Indeed, during the Battle of Midway, Japanese AA managed to shoot down only one Dauntless.  The best defense against a dive bomber at this time was to shoot it down during its approach, usually with a fighter.

*THE END OF A WEAPON
It was improvements in anti-aircraft fire that spelled the end of the dive bomber, however.  

By the end of the war, it was practically suicidal for any dive bomber to approach an American ship.  More (and better) AA guns, under radar direction, using proximity fuzes, could blow any plane out of the air at long ranges.  It was bad enough for a torpedo plane, having to fly in a straight line at a relatively low speed, but at least they could stay a good distance away from their target and still release their weapon.  For a dive bomber, however, which basically had to overfly its target, they were sitting ducks.  By the end of the war, a Japanese naval vessel, which never carried a particularly large number of AA guns even under the best of circumstances, could expect that it would have the number of AA guns doubled or tripled from what it had carried at the beginning of the war.

And though the Axis powers never developed the proximity fuze for their AA guns, when you're putting enough bullets in the air you often didn't need them.  German anti-aircraft guns were fearsome indeed, which is one of the reasons the Allies didn't use dive bombers much in Europe.  Indeed, the RAF and FAA, who are often credited with creating and formalizing the concept of dive bombing, never had more than a couple of squadrons of dive bombers at any time during WWII.  This despite the benefits of the type being on display against them in Poland, Belgium and France.  The reason given was that it would be too costly in men and machines, and it's hard to debate the point.

Another reason for the disappearance of the dive bomber was the rise of what is now called the multi-role aircraft.  The F4U Corsair, for example, could perform steep diving attacks nearly as well as the Dauntless despite the lack of dive brakes, had a longer range, and could carry a greater weight of bombs to boot.  The P-47 Thunderbolt was another excellent fighter that could double as an attack plane, as was the Focke-Wulf Fw190.  Using a fighter to do a bomber's job, and perhaps do it better to boot, made a lot of sense, particularly in the crowded hangar decks of an aircraft carrier.

The massacre of a squadron of dive bombers by such technology as a surface-to-air missile could easily be imagined, but by that time the dive bomber was no more.

*EPILOGUE
The dive bomber, in some ways, still lives on today.  It's not hard to see modern precision guided munitions (or "smart bombs") as the direct descendant of the bombs dropped by Stukas, Dauntlesses and Vals.  To continue the analogy, the air-dropped torpedo became the stand-off missile (such as the Tomahawk cruise missile or Harpoon anti-shipping weapon).  

However you look at it though, today's attack pilot still needs to do the same thing as the dive bomber: put a bomb on a relatively small target with skill and precision.

This post is dedicated to Mort Price, USMC, Dauntless rear-seat gunner.

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November 29, 2009

Oh, Why Not?

I'm about halfway through the full rewrite of the dive bomber post.  I decided earlier this evening that I pretty much had to scrap the original version, save for the introduction: that, I kept.

So, tomorrow.  While you're waiting, another in the 'lazy blogger's best friend' series... this one behind a NSFW tag, though:


more...

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November 28, 2009

By Popular Demand

Since it appears that people actually want to read my thoughts on the dive bomber as a weapons platform, I'll rewrite it on Sunday with an aim of getting it posted that night. (UPDATE: No, it'll be on Monday... I think.)

 And for once, it won't be limited to the Pacific theatre, either... though that's where the majority of the dive bombing action took place.

In fact, it's rather surprising how little dive bombing was used in Europe (other than by Germany and to a lesser extent, Italy), but we'll cover that in the post.

While you're waiting, also by demand, here's another cute girl.

-Hatsukoi Limited, BD ED

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November 27, 2009

Well, THAT'S Two Hours Shot To Hell

I just spent two hours on a post.  A post that I thought was clever.  It wasn't.  It fails.  Miserably.  On so many different levels.  It's a treatise on how the dive bomber was an evolutionary dead-end, yet a war-winning one.  I'll be darned if I can figure out how to make it something more than "Huh huh huh me luv Dauntless durrrrrr" however.  I've saved it, so it may see the light of day sometime after a major rewrite and much sacrificing of farm animals to dark gods, but for the moment, yeeeesh!

So, instead, here's a cute girl.

-Hatsukoi Limited, ep10

See?  Everybody wins.

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November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009


May you and yours have a wonderful day, from all of us here at The Pond! 

And remember to give your Mom a hug.

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November 24, 2009

I Can't NOT Post This


One cannot count the number of awesomes that went into the creation of this.

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November 23, 2009

The Japanese "Saving Private Ryan"

Otoko Tachi no Yamato, or "The Men of Yamato" in English, tells the story of the final sortie of that famed battleship.  Not from a strategic standpoint, mind, but from that of her men.  The script isn't brilliant, but you do know and care about these sailors by the time the American carrier planes begin to appear as the battleship approaches Okinawa.

But the main character in this movie is the Yamato herself.  No expense was spared in the making of this epic film, including a 1:1 scale set of the forward section of the ship, and the port side of the island area (the anti-aircraft guns in particular) that cost ¥600 million (nearly $7million).

While the producers did wind up reusing a lot of the CG footage in the two major battle scenes, it's barely noticeable amidst all the chaos of war.  And make no mistake, this movie pulls no punches when it comes to the combat... if you can't stand the sight of blood, this is not the movie for you.

If you can stomach seeing people opened up by machine-gun rounds and the deck running red with blood, however, what you'll get is a war movie that ranks up near the top of the list.  It's not as good as Saving Private Ryan or the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, true, but it's lightyears ahead of, say, Tora Tora Tora or Midway.

While this screencap makes it look obvious that we're looking at models or CG, in motion it's nearly flawless.  The amount of detail is immense, both in the planes and in the Yamato herself.

But when the final attack begins, the great ship goes to hell in a hurry.  You barely notice that the whole fight is nearly 30 minutes long.

The sailors aren't supermen.  There's no "one man shooting down a squadron", or even a single plane, like you might see in an American war movie.  They're just there to serve the guns, and die.  And die they do, in droves. 

If you can find a copy of the movie, I recommend it heartily.  It's well-done, historically accurate, and beautifully shot.  You get the feeling that you're watching a documentary on the shipboard life of the Yamato, rather than a feature film, but it's never dull, despite the 2-1/2 hour length.

It's not perfect, but it's plenty good, and a fitting tribute to the men who crewed her.

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November 21, 2009

Wonderduck's Tales From The Radio Biz

In the previous post I mentioned that, free music notwithstanding, radio was never going to make me rich, but it was the greatest job I've ever had.  There are two distinct reasons for that. 

The first reason is, hey, it's radio!  Everybody listens to the radio, everybody knows what it is, everybody has an idea of what goes into it, and most people think it's a "cool" job.  "You really get paid to do that?" was a common theme when it came up in conversation.  Never mind that shows like WKRP in Cincinnati or Midnight Caller show only the fun part of the job (though Midnight Caller did it better than any show I've seen, they still got some stuff wrong), and not the show-prep, people think (or thought, at least) that Radio was a glamourous job.

The second reason, though, is the stories that everybody who works in the biz for any amount of time accumulates.  And that's what this post (and perhaps others down the road) will talk discuss.  What type of stories?  Well, pour yourself a cuppajoe, tune in WDUK radio, and listen to The Wonderduck.  And remember, all of these are true...

THE NIGHT DUCKFORD WAS DESTROYED
It was 1988, and I was working my usual Saturday night shift at the time, board operator for a recorded-on-vinyl national program, Cruisin' America with Cousin Brucie.  While it was a canned show, I still read a brief news and weather update at the top of the hour.  The newsroom was right next to the studio, with a small window set into the wall between the two for no good reason that I could ever discern; during the day, the news guy actually came into the studio to read the news, and at night the news staff went home.

Now, to understand what's about to occur, you need to know that I was the only person in the station at the time.  The sister station to mine went off-air at nightfall, so they had gone home, and I was three hours into my shift.  Since my show was canned, I had the door to both the studio and the newsroom open, in case some breaking news came down the teletype from either UPI or the National Weather Service.  Yes, teletype: computers weren't common yet, and the internet didn't exist at all.  All our news and weather came through the UPI teletype.  Important news was announced by a ringing bell and the chatter of the 'type.

So, I'm sitting in the booth reading something as Cousin Brucie turned and turned.  My news and weather update was five minutes in the past, and I could relax until the next commercial break.  Then, from the newsroom, came the peal of the bell and the rattling of the teletype.  Unconcerned, I walked over, ripped off the report and took a look.

******FLASH NEWS******
The city of Duckford, Illinois, population 125000, was destroyed tonight by a mile-wide tornado.  More to follow...

A moment later, the bell rang again:
******FLASH NEWS******
The city of Duckford, Illinois, population 125000, was destroyed tonight by a mile-wide tornado.  The tornado moved from northwest to southeast, cutting directly through the second largest city in the state.  Thousands are feared dead.  The National Weather Service in Chicago, Illinois, reported the funnel cloud was moving at 40 miles an hour, and may have been a F5 in power, the strongest possible.  More to follow...

Hm.  Really?  After checking on the state of the show, I strolled out of the station.  Clear sky above.  Walking to the parking lot, I could see the usual glow of the city lights (the station was about a mile east of the limit of Duckford, and there weren't any buildings within a couple of miles).  Returning to the booth, I ran the commercial break, then called Momzerduck at the Old Home Pond.  No problems at all,  just a light breeze.

Chuckling, I pinned the printout to the bulletin board in the newsroom and returned to the studio... at which point the phone "rang" (actually, it lighted up.  As you can figure, a ringing phone in a radio booth doesn't work well).  It was the news room of WBBM-AM in Chicago, asking if the FLASH NEWS report was real.  I confirmed that, indeed, it was real and that I was actually dead, we laughed, and wondered just what the folks manning the master teletype at UPI were smoking that night.  And that's where it ended.

Except WGN Radio, 50KW blowtorch that covers most of the US and Canada at night, ran the story.  My grandmother in New Mexico heard it and called Momzerduck in a panic.  Whoops.

So that's the night I was on the board when Duckford was destroyed.  Funny, I don't feel dead...

UPDATE:  Forgot to mention that we late found out what really occurred.  The National Weather Service office in Kansas City was running a test of their systems by sending test messages out via their network.  The test messages, which I covered above, were supposed to have a special header that would send them out, but prevent the teletypes across the country from printing them.  Somehow, the messages were sent out without that header, resulting in the destruction of Duckford.  In later conversations with friends of mine at other, larger,  Duckford radio stations, they were getting phone calls all night from media outlets across the country, asking if it was the straight dope.  I still wonder how many people were fired because of this snafu...

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November 19, 2009

Radio

In lieu of anything anime, F1 or rubber duckie to post about (one day there will be an anime about a rubber duckie that drives a F1 car and I'll have to shut The Pond down out of sheer joy), I'll instead talk to you about one of the great loves of my life.

Radio.

As a young duckling, I grew up listening to "The Great 89", WLS-AM outta Chicago.  This was back before they turned into the talk radio abomination they are now, and instead played music from high atop the downtown Burger King.  John Records Landecker (and yes, Records truly was his real name) brought his "boogiecheck-boogiecheck-ooh-AH" into Pond Central, amusing this fresh out of the shell duck every night.  Les Grobstein, the sports newscaster is a legend in Chicago, and has recently returned to the airwaves, too.  Lyle Dean, the main newsman, had the greatest voice ever

But it was Larry "Superjock" Lujack and Tommy Edwards that truly warped my brain.  As "Uncle Lar" and "Lil' Snotnose Tommy", they reported on bizarre goings-on in the animal kingdom in their world-famous Animal Stories segment.  Just hearing Lil' Tommy break up puts a smile on my face.  Better'n a shiny new dime!

But I grew up wanting to be Larry Lujack.  It didn't happen, but it was a nice dream while it lasted.  I only spent 10 years in the business and never made more than $7.00/hr at it, but it was the greatest job I could ever hope to have.

On Memorial Day in recent years, WLS has taken to bringing back some of their legendary voices for a full day of remembering the good ol' days.  Here's some snippets from the 2007 "Big 89 Rewind":



You know what?  This post went a completely different direction from what I was planning. 

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November 17, 2009

Silly Season Heating Up

With Mercedes' purchase of BrawnGP yesterday, it appears that Jenson Button maybe didn't believe the team's assertions that they won't be an all-German team.  Earlier today, it appears that he agreed to a three-year, £6million contract with... McLaren, the team that Mercedes sent packing.

Lewis Hamilton, 2008 Driver's Champion.  Jenson Button, 2009 Driver's Champion.  Yeah, I'd say that's a halfway decent driver's lineup for McLaren.

I suddenly suspect that Kimi Raikkonen is headed for Mercedes.  If that doesn't happen, then expect Merc to be all-German.  Then expect plenty of WWII references, what with British/McLaren vs German/Mercedes... then throw in the dream of an American/USF1 team, and we're all set.

In other driver news, the favorite driver of Vaucanson's Duck's wife, Timo Glockenspiel, signed with newbie team ManorGP.  That's a good signing for the team in my opinion.  Not only is he a good driver, but his experience will go a long way towards improving the car during testing sessions.

Finally, a new name has arisen in the race to partner Robert Kubica at Renault.  Would you believe former SuperAguri driver Franck "The Barber" Montagny may be back?  What, Luca Badoer isn't available?

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November 16, 2009

Silver Arrows Replaces White Knights!

Not a bad year for Ross Brawn, really.  He rescues the Honda F1 team from the dead, renames it after himself, the team goes on to win seven of the first eight races, rolls on to both championships... and then Brawn goes out today and sells 75.1% of his stake in the team to German car giant Mercedes.

Which means that, for the first time since 1955, Mercedes is back as a Formula 1 team.  Let me put that in perspective here: the last time Mercedes entered their own cars in a F1 race, two of their drivers were Juan Manuel Fangio (aka St Fangio the Quick) and Sterling Moss.  And how are they getting back into it?  Buy buying the reigning Constructor's Championship team.  Not too shabby, that.

I guess we now know why BrawnGP was reluctant to re-sign Jenson Button... Mercedes wanted to choose their own drivers.  Speaking of which, they've come out and said they didn't want two German drivers, which leaves the door open for Button to come back, but... but... there are three very good prospective German pilots out there.  The obvious two are Nico Rosberg and Grizzly Nick Heidfeld.  Perhaps we now know why Rosberg was so confident that he'd be driving this season, despite his name not being linked to any team.  But what of Slappy Schumacher?  Sure, his heart is with Ferrari, but is it THAT far out of the realm of possibility that he'd hook up with MercedesGP?

But what of McLaren, or as it is correctly named, "McLaren-Mercedes"?  Doesn't Mercedes own a stake in the team themselves?  Yep, they sure do, a 40% one, as a matter of fact... which McLaren is going to buy back over the next two years.  They'll still be getting their engines from Mercedes until 2015, except now they'll have to pay for them.  There's some speculation that the reason for all of this is that Mercedes is a little peeved about McLaren's new road-car, the MP-4/12c.  It may be that Mercedes doesn't want to supply engines to what will be, essentially, a competitor to the SL-65 AMG.

So there you have it: BrawnGP is no more, taken over by MercedesGP.  Big news indeed!

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November 15, 2009

Broken

I've tried to avoid writing a post like this, but I can't do it anymore.  If you don't want a closer look at the person behind The Pond, then don't click on 'More', and enjoy the pretty picture.

-Sora no Manimani, ep12


more...

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November 14, 2009

Formula 1: The Text Adventure

WONDERDUCK: LOOK_
You are in 3rd place at Spa-Francorchamps. What do you want to do now?

WONDERDUCK: PUSH HARDER_
You gain on the car in front. What do you want to do now?

WONDERDUCK: CAST SPELL_
What sort of spell do you want to cast?
- Shield of Collisionity (L1)
- Turbo Shoes (L3)
- Steering Wheel of Misfortune (L2)

WONDERDUCK: CAST STEERING WHEEL OF MISFORTUNE_
You cast the spell.
+3 Hit Points!
The 2nd place driver loses control and crashes heavily!
You are now in 2nd place. What do you want to do now?

WONDERDUCK: PUSH HARDER_
You gain on the car in front. What do you want to do now?

WONDERDUCK: LOOK_
You see an Eau Rouge.  How do you want to engage it?

WONDERDUCK: FLAT OUT_
You beat the Eau Rouge.  What do you want to do now?

WONDERDUCK: PUSH HARDER_
You gain on the car in front. What do you want to do now?

WONDERDUCK: PUSH HARDER_
Suddenly everything is spinning and you are very dizzy! You have lost control.
-7 reputation
What do you want to do now?

WONDERDUCK: LOOK_
You are stranded in a gravel trap. A marshall is here.

WONDERDUCK: QUIT_
Your rank is: Finnish Rally Driver.... BYE!

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November 11, 2009

F1 News Nuggets

Now that the racing part of the F1 year has ended, it's time for the other part: the Silly Season!  To be honest, the Silly Season got started a little early this year when HWMNBN signed with Ferrari and Robert Kubica went to Renault.  Now, however, there's a whole slew of seats to be filled with names, and the speculation, contract squabbles, and actual signings are flying fast and furious throughout the Circus.

A little over a week ago, Williams named both their drivers for the 2010 season.  The first was a blessing for F1U!, as he has the greatest name ever: Nico Hulkenberg.  I mean, come on, that right there is just begging for nicknames, Marvel-related jokes, and Bruce Banner parodies, and you may expect a lot of them next year.  The other driver wore out his welcome with his 2009 team, and in the process damaged his reputation with a lot of fans.  Still, there's no denying that he'll go down in history as F1's greatest wingman: Rubens Barrichello.  The amazing thing is that sometime during the 2010 season, barring incident, Rubens'll reach the 300-race mark.  Truly a phenomenal statistic in this sport where 30 is considered old, and racing at 40 is unheard of these days.  He'll be 37 when the season starts, and is the last active driver to have raced against the late Ayrton Senna.  And speaking of Senna...

Campos Meta, one of the new teams on the grid for 2010, named the nephew of Ayrton, Bruno Senna, to be one of their drivers.  Uncle Ayrton said in 1993, "If you think I'm good, just wait until you see my nephew Bruno."  To date, Bruno is best known for having had a run-in with a dog during a GP2 race in Turkey, but it's undeniable that he's got a whole bucketload of talent.

Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button, the 2007 and 2009 Driver's Champions respectively, still have yet to sign with any team.  Rumors were that Kimi was going to McLaren, but it appears that the team isn't willing to pay the type of cash it'd take to sign him.  In response, Kimi has said that he wants to drive in F1, but only for the right team (read: McLaren).  If that doesn't happen, he'll be happy to take the $30million buyout that Ferrari gave him and go rallying.  Button, on the other hand, is also asking for some serious coin.  When it came out that he actually paid his own airfare to the various grands prix this year, one can't help but wonder why BrawnGP isn't coughing up the moolah.

Of course, that might be because Brawn will be losing Virgin as their primary sponsor in 2010.  Instead, it seems that they'll be buying into F1 as a full-fledged team, not just as a sponsor.  The Manor Motorsports entry is the one being rumored as the most likely to be purchased by Richard Branson's conglomerate.  If it happens, expect a few "Virgin Virgin" jokes.  On Brawn's part, expect to see Mercedes (or one of their subsidiaries) buy into the team, perhaps as much as a 75% stake.

The European media is proclaiming that USF1, the new American team on the grid, has no chance in hell of actually taking the lights at the start of the 2010 season.  This is because of comments that Ross Brawn made to a German paper, expressing surprise that the Charlotte, NC-based team hasn't begun crash-testing their car yet.  Peter (ex-Smarmy) Windsor, team sporting director, responded by saying that parts of the chassis have indeed been crash-tested.  He also pointed out that FIA inspectors had visited their facility and were quite pleased with the set-up.  According to earlier reports, USF1 is expecting to have their first chassis on the asphalt by the end of November.

Finally, got a few million dollars lying around?  Michael Schumacher's 1994 Benneton-Ford B194 from that year's final race, the Australian Grand Prix at Adelaide, is up for auction on eBay Germany.  It's been refurbished, so that little ding it got when Schumi nerfed Damon Hill, then went for a little flight, has been buffed out.  You'll hardly notice.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 11:30 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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November 10, 2009

Ask Wonderduck (almost) Anything!

It's time for a new thing here at The Pond: Ask Wonderduck (almost) Anything!

Here's how this works... you ask a question, and I'll answer it!  Dead simple!  But wait, there's more!  The best question (in my opinion) will get a full-length post devoted to the answer! 

Now, there are a few questions I won't answer: anything related to current politics or religion.  I started The Pond lo these many years ago in an attempt to get away from political or religious squabbles, and to this day I've pretty much managed to stay clear of those things.  If you DO ask a question related to such topics, please expect to be mocked horribly.

But wait, there's even more!

If you ask a technical question, I'll do my best to answer it correctly, but use it at your own risk.  So if you ask, say, "how do I install a left-handed widget in my 2002 Kia Econobox," the results are on your head, not mine.

With all that out of the way, Ask Wonderduck (almost) Anything!

How often do you get a chance to ask a hyper-intelligent duck that can type a question, after all?

Posted by: Wonderduck at 07:19 PM | Comments (21) | Add Comment
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November 09, 2009

Tatamon?

This is the Tata Nano:

It has a two-cylinder engine that generates 35hp.  It is capable of accelerating to 37mph in eight seconds.  It can seat four.  The trunk does not open.  It gets about 55mpg.  It costs approximately $2200, making it the least expensive production car in the world.

It was apparently designed by Satoshi Tajiri:


This post was blatantly stolen from Top Gear, season 11, episode 03, in celebration of the new season, beginning Sunday, November 14th.

And because I couldn't think of anything else to post.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 12:04 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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November 07, 2009

Random Anime Picture #50: I Call It A Teaser For A Reason


-The Cockpit OVA, ep02

Say what you want about Leiji Matsumoto (and I will!), but he does do "fetishistic detail" very well....  One of the least-loved planes of WWII, the SB2C "Helldiver" earned every bit of its nickname: "Son of a Bitch, 2nd Class".  It was big, unmanueverable, underpowered, and a handful to fly.  Worse yet,  in its first iteration it was actually banned from dive bombing due to structural weakness. 

On the plus side, though, it was fast enough to keep up with escorting fighters, carried a bombload almost twice that of the plane it replaced, the Dauntless, had a heavier armament and a longer range.  Eventually, over 7000 copies of "The Beast" were built.

It barely appears in The Cockpit ep02; it takes longer to read this post than it's on screen. 

Posted by: Wonderduck at 10:48 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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November 06, 2009

Remember That Torpedo 8 Detachment?

The first combat experience of the Grumman TBF (latter named the Avenger) came at the Battle of Midway, with a detachment of planes from Torpedo 8.  We all know how that turned out: five TBFs shot down, and the sixth a flying sieve.

The pilot of the surviving TBF was Ensign Bert Earnest.  He later went on to fight with VT-8 at Guadalcanal.  He retired from the Navy as a Captain.  Along the way, he earned a Purple Heart, two Air Medals, and three Navy Crosses.

Albert K Earnest, CAPT USN (RET) passed away on October 26th at the age of 92.

May he rest in peace.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 06:23 PM | Comments (15) | Add Comment
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November 04, 2009

Toyota Quits F1!


In a perhaps not so shocking announcement, the Toyota Motor Company, parent of Toyota F1 Racing, declared that they were withdrawing from Formula 1, effective immediately.

The images above are from the promotional video ToyotaF1 put out in the preseason, ironically entitled The 2009 Contender.  In truth, they were anything but.  Their best race of the year was the first one in Australia, where they were one of the Diffuser Three (along with Brawn and Williams) and finished third and fourth despite starting from the back of the field.  I honestly expected that they'd break through for their first ever win some time this season.

Instead, they slumped.  Seven races without scoring any points at all.  After Australia, the most they scored in one race was eight points (three times: Bahrain, when Jarno Trulli was on pole, Singapore, where Timo Glock finished second, and Japan, where Trulli finished second).  Four races, 35 of their 56.5 points for the season.  Not good.  In all, the Toyota team had 13 podium finishes in their eight years in the sport.

It'd been rumored for some time that Toyota needed to get a win this year or they'd quit F1.  After all, they've been racing since 2002, reportedly had the largest budget in the sport every year, and they still couldn't get it done.  Considering the competition in that category (a bigger budget than Ferrari or McLaren?) that's pretty impressive.  But then throw in the huge hits the automotive industry has been taking recently, and something had to give... and it wasn't going to be Toyota's NASCAR teams (they actually win).  I thought that their back-to-back second place finishes might be enough to keep the team going but, alas no. 

The writing was pretty clear on the wall, however, when Williams announced they would be going with Cosworth engines in 2010.  They'd used Toyota engines since 2007, and seemed perfectly happy with them during that time.  That was a pretty clear indication that something was up; it's not like Toyota couldn't supply enough engines.

So now both Toyota and Honda are gone from the sport, meaning that for the first time since 1983, there won't be a Japanese manufacturing presence on an F1 grid, and given that Kazoo Nakajima hardly tore up the track this year (except when he crashed) and Kamui Kobyashi is under contract to Toyota Racing (as opposed to Toyota F1), there may not be ANY Japanese links in 2010, other than the Grand Prix of Japan.  Considering the fanaticism that country has towards F1, that's rather shocking.
But so it goes.  If there's any good to come out of this, it's that the former BMW-Sauber team will now have a space on the grid for 2010.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 08:07 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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November 03, 2009

A Celebratory Double Ducks In Anime

I can't believe it, but it's true!  The Ducks In Anime show of shows, Hidamari Sketch, has been licensed by Sentai Filmworks/Section 23 and will be available here January 10th, 2010.  Many times I've said that there was no chance in the world that the series would get picked up, what with the state of the industry being what it is and all.  I'm deliriously happy to be wrong, though.

In celebration, it's time for a double-shot of Ducks In Anime!

-Hidamari Sketch x365, Broadcast Special 02

We had what was, in HidaSketch terms, an action sequence for the duckie when it actually turned a full 360 in response to Yuno's moving her arms in the tub... and had the screen entirely to itself in the process!  I swear, SHAFT must be catering to the duck lovers of the world.

The next pic is behind the NSFW tag, not because it is, but because some workplace somewhere would probably look askance at it:

-Hidamari Sketch x365, Broadcast Special 02

I don't think I've been this happy to hear about a license being picked up since Funimation took over Kanon 2006 from the corpse of ADV, when the latter went down before releasing the final DVD of the series!

It only makes sense that Sentai would grab HidaSketch, though... in my mind, it's absolutely an ADV kind-of show.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 10:11 PM | Comments (12) | Add Comment
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