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Russian Overflights by RAF Crews during the "Cold War"

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Russian Overflights by RAF Crews during the "Cold War"

Old 6th Jun 2009, 16:35
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Russian Overflights by RAF Crews during the "Cold War"

I have been researching Russian overflights by RAF crews during the Cold War and have identified the names of 29 Aircrew that have been involved in deep penetration flights.

North American RB-45C
11 Aircrew that converted to the RB-45C and "borrowed" four aircraft (one spare) at Sculthorpe in Norfolk and completed two seperate night time missions, one in April 1952 and the other in April 1954.

English Electric Canberra B2./PR7.
7 Aircrew involved in a modified Canberra that flew a daring daytime mission from Giebelstsdt in West Germany to the missile testing sites at Kapustin Yar, South East of Stalingrad, then on to Iran.

Lockheed U-2.
11 RAF Pilots that converted to U-2's & were checked out at "Area 51" in the Navada Desert between 1958 & 1967.

For some reason, successive British Governments have declined to confirm that these flights took place, even though the Americans have confirmed it & the Russian Military have confirmed that they had tracked just about every penetration flight.

Most of these Aircrew will now be well into their 80's. It would be such a shame if their deeds of bravery got lost in the mists of time. If there are any members out there, that know about any of these Gentlemen or have any details, no matter how small, would you please post it, or if you feel uncomfortable with that, then please PM me.
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Old 6th Jun 2009, 16:58
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Cold War RAF Pilots

Hi there
Can help you with some details, let me have your email address
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Old 6th Jun 2009, 17:10
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There is a book on this very subject (although heavily covering U.S. flights) that is a superb read. It is "By any means necessary". Sadly I do not have it to hand at the moment, so cannot list the ISBN number, but am sure is is on amazon or similar.

This book covers RAF flights, and how some crews realised their flight plan had been given to the soviets in advance!, with the tale tale sign being that anti aircraft guns were actually opening fire ahead of the aircraft on its planned route.
It also covers U.S. SR71 flights, and their associated drones (including at least one which landed in foreign territory).
Sadly it also documents the fate of several crews who were killed, or captured, and their subsequent fate.

Well worth a read, if not always easy reading.
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Old 6th Jun 2009, 17:11
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Russian overflights of UK, Canada and USA

I have always wondered, are there any records of similar overflights by Russian aircraft across the UK, Canada or USA? I don't mean the off-shore flights near coastlines, etc and possible short penetrations of Alaska or Canada but the bold, deep ones as mentioned above..
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Old 6th Jun 2009, 17:20
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Another publication

Also a good read - though again heavily US focused is Paul Lashmar's "Spy Flights of the Cold War" ISBN 0 7509 1183 2
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Old 6th Jun 2009, 17:39
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Many thanks Barnstormer. Yes it was John Crampton who experienced the AA flack. They opened up just as he was approacing Kiev on the Sothern route. MI6 suspected that Kim Philbey passed on the height & route to the Soviets.
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Old 6th Jun 2009, 17:46
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Originally Posted by tonytech2 View Post
I have always wondered, are there any records of similar overflights by Russian aircraft across the UK, Canada or USA? I don't mean the off-shore flights near coastlines, etc and possible short penetrations of Alaska or Canada but the bold, deep ones as mentioned above..
Tony, I am not aware of any publication covering UK. I am aware however of deviating 'civil' aircraft straying off airways and their potential for reconnaisance.

I was intrigued at a nuclear weapons storage site that there was a number of small buildings with specially shaped flat roofs. I was told that this was to cast a shadow like a tree as the presence of such small buildings near the main bunkers would give a clue as to how the nuclear weapons worked.

As these buildings were built in the 50s I think we can conclude that 'yes they did, and we knew it.'
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Old 6th Jun 2009, 18:06
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None that I know of Tonytech2. What with Filingdales in Yorkshire, Greenland & the"Dew Line" we had them tagged well before they got near & would send up a welcoming party.

The only time that I know of is when the USAF & the RAF had joint execises. We sent three Vulcans over the North pole & three other Vulcans approached down the East Coast of the States. They all had Electronic Counter Measures activated & were undetected much to the consternation of the Chiefs of Staff !

Give our American Cousins their due, once they realised that they had a problem, they threw everything at it until it was fixed. We probably shared our thechnology, as we did when we invented Radar & sent over a "magnetron" for the US to develop & when we invented & developed the first Jet engine, which we also shipped over.

Don't get me wrong it wasn't & isn't all one way. We have been privy to many US inventions & developments. Just take Pollaris & Trident to name but a few.
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Old 6th Jun 2009, 18:22
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Properly, it was a "cavity magnetron," and was the lodestone for centimetric radar development that the UK successfully developed first, but lacked the industrial capacity for quality mass production of the AI sets.

In talking with US radar technicians who serviced Beaufighters (Mk VI w/ Mk IV, later Mk VIII radars) in American night fighter squadrons (414, 415, 416 (who also flew Mosquitos), and 417), the difference in quality and standardization between US and UK produced sets was night and day.

Interestingly, the UK sets could be 'tweaked' to get either longer or shorter range contacts than the American ones.

As for inventions passed back and forth, can we call it a draw since we sent the airplane (not aeroplane) over to you?

(And stored it in London until the 1940s due to a spat between the Wright Brothers and the Smithsonian - they wouldn't totally admit the Wrights were first over Langley and the Wrights wouldn't let the original Wright flyer go to the Museum until the Museum did so.
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Old 6th Jun 2009, 18:31
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Old 6th Jun 2009, 19:11
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Originally Posted by VIProds View Post
None that I know of Tonytech2. What with Filingdales in Yorkshire, Greenland & the"Dew Line" we had them tagged well before they got near & would send up a welcoming party.
You are mixing systems. Fylingdales and Thule were a 1960s anti-missile system whereas DEW or Distant Early Warning was against a bomber threat. In UK the GCI and later Bloodhound systems performed the same function.

The early threat was from photo reconnaisance, the same as the RB45 flights. The Soviet method was, as I said, to use deviating airliners. Now of course BEA would never have done that, would they?

The only time that I know of is when the USAF & the RAF had joint execises. We sent three Vulcans over the North pole & three other Vulcans approached down the East Coast of the States. They all had Electronic Counter Measures activated & were undetected much to the consternation of the Chiefs of Staff !
The Vulcans actually flew out of Goose Bay, IIRC, as they certainly did not have the range to attack over the pole. They were not so much undetected as they achieved hard kills against the radar stations I was told. The radars were designed for maximum sensitivity and had no protection circuits to cope with the power output of the carcinotron jammers. Effectively not jammed but burnt out. I suspect the penetration was actually against the mid-Canada Line and not the DEW line.

The backward wave oscillators were demonstrated in 1951, M-type by Bernard Epsztein, (French patent 1,035,379; British patent 699,893; US patent 2,880,355) and O-type by Rudolf Kompfner. The M-type BWO is a voltage-controlled non-resonant extrapolation of magnetron interaction, both types are tunable over a wide range of frequencies by varying the accelerating voltage. They can be swept through the band fast enough to be appearing to radiate over all the band at once, which makes them suitable for effective radar jamming, quickly tuning into the radar frequency. Carcinotrons allowed airborne radar jammers to be highly effective. However, frequency-agile radars can hop frequencies fast enough to force the jammer to use barrage jamming, diluting its output power over a wide band and significantly impairing its efficiency.
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Old 6th Jun 2009, 19:16
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RAF Overflights of the Soviet Union

VIProds

I have written a number of articles about the overflights you are interested in as follows:

Op Ju-Jitsu the RB-45C overflights from Sculthorpe - Op Ju Jitsu

The Canberra overflight of Kapustin Yar -Kapustin Yar

The RAF U-2 overflights by Sqn Ldr Robbie Robinson and Flt Lt John MacArthur - Lockheed U-2

The overflights from Sculthorpe were denied for many years but are now in the public domain and some years ago John Crampton wrote an excellent article about these sorties for the Aug 1997 edition of Air Pictorial. He also gave a presentation on this topic RAF Historical Societies symposium on Air Intelligence held on 22 March 1996.

The Canberra overflight of Kapustin Yar is still shrouded in mystery. References to the overflight began appearing in US publications in the mid-1960s, mainly based on a history written by Robert Amory who was Deputy Director of the CIA in the 1950s. Additional detail was added by Stewart Alsop in his book about the CIA entitled 'The Centre' published in 1968. Perhaps they knew what had happened or they confused this with Project Robin - Project Robin Despite many people hunting throught numerous de-classified files in the National Archives, nothing confirming that this sortie took place has ever been found. My own view is that it did take place and that, for all sorts of reasons, the entire file was eventually destroyed, but I suspect we will never know the truth unless one of the aircrew involved finally breaks cover.

Although details of the RAF U-2 flights are freely available in many books and Robbie Robinson probably assisted in the article in the 7 Aug 1993 edition of Janes Defence Weekly which described in detail what happended, the official MOD position is much less clear. For reasons best known to someone at the MOD, the file on the RAF U-2 operations has still not been de-classified and the offical position seems to be that these sorties never took place!! John MacArthur was invited to talk to the RAF Historical Sopciety on his days on the U-2, but was unable to obtain approval from his 'minder' at MOD!!

I also suggest you get hold of a copy of 'Spyflights of the Cold War' by Paul Lashmar published by Sutton Publishing Ltd in 1996 ISBN 07509 11832 as this book covers many of these sorties and others, although much more detail is now available elsewhere. Also I recommend you try and read the proceedings of the Early Cold War Overflights symposium held at Bolling AFB, Washington on 22-23 Feb 2001 as the articles cover many fascinating sorties and is an appropriate testimony to the skill and bravery of all those involved.

Heimdall
The Spyflight Website

Last edited by Heimdall; 6th Jun 2009 at 19:30.
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Old 6th Jun 2009, 20:04
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I thought that might produce a reaction brickhistory. You are quite right, when I joined the RAF, I was trained on H2S Mk4A which was a 3cm Navigation & Bombing Radar system which used a cavity magnetron & a Klystron to obtain the IF frequency. They were used on wartime Lancaster & Lincoln Bombers.

There was three Lincolns still flying. By the time that I finished the Course, they had fall been flown to Northern Ireland to be scrapped !!
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Old 6th Jun 2009, 20:13
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Many thanks for the info Pontius Navigator. In the Electronics Block, the ECM guys used to keep very much to themselves. It is also very difficult trying to hold a conversation with someone that is in a "Faraday Cage".
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Old 6th Jun 2009, 20:47
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VIPods,

You will know John Willey then and someone, IIRC called Gilbert? By the time I got to BCBS the Lincolns had gone. Did you do the 12 month course?
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Old 6th Jun 2009, 21:42
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Brilliant Heimdall a great piece of work. I have also read that at the start of 1953 while English Electric were producing the Canberra B2. They had a visit from Richard Bissell, who was the CIA's head in charge of overflights. He asked the boffins if they could make the wings longer in the hope that it would increase the cieling. The boffins were pretty sure that their wing design was nigh on perfect, but arranged for six, more powerful engines to be installed on three of the B2's on the production line. To their amasement the cieling went from 48,000ft to 65,000ft These B2's were WH726, WJ573 & WJ574. They converted all thee to a Photo Reconnaissance roll & installed extra fuel tanks in the bomb bay of WH726. WH726 was flown to Hanscom Field in the US & had the 100inch camera fitted. When they got back to England, they did a trial run up the English Channel & took very high quality photographs of the Streets of London !!

A few reports say that WH726 flew to Kaputin Yar at between 46,000 and 48,000ft. Soviet Air Force Lieutenant Mikhail Shulga was vectored to intercept the Canberra & stated that he was flying at 48,000ft & could see the Canberra several thousand feet above him but his Mig-15 was stalling. He said "and nothing came of it". Some other reports say that WH726 was shot at & hit, but this seems to dispell that. I also think that the Canberra was flying at 60,000ft or more. A Russian defector, who in 1953 served as an Air Defence Operator recalls that the Canberra incedent was an absolute farce as some Mig-15's were incorrectly vectored and the Pilots were confused and started firing at each other.
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Old 6th Jun 2009, 21:59
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I don't rcognise those names, Pontius Navigator. After the mechanics training at No2 Radio School at Yatesbury I was posted to RAF Debden in Essex where the Lincolns were supposed to be. Yes I went back to Yatesbury for the 1year Technicians Course where I leared Orange Putter, Red Steer, Gee III, Green Satin, Rad Alt, IFF & TACAN.
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Old 6th Jun 2009, 23:07
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Old 6th Jun 2009, 23:34
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It's also worth getting hold of a copy of the video of the Timewatch program that Paul Lashmar produced - thsi was the first public confirmation that the 'British' RB-45s were used in overflight operations. Some interesting interviews with the some of the crew members.

The CIA history of the U2 is avalalble on their website, but all mention of the UK operations is redacted out (at the behest of HMG)

https://www.cia.gov/library/center-f...1974/index.htm

It also mentions the Kapustin Yar operation
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Old 7th Jun 2009, 13:58
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I happen to know someone who was on Lincolns, Washingtons etc. Then on UK civilian flights over Russian territory ( known as the ' Getting Lost Squadron ' ) he'd be invited to the cockpit, instead he'd descend to the bowels of the aircraft with a camera.

I don't know how they got around pressurisation, presumably a mask; I take it modern Nav-aids make the excuse even less plausible, and such practices may have led to the tragic downing of the Korean 747, whether it was involved or not.
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