by Max Barry

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by The Dominion of AH Albion. . 128 reads.

APPENDIX: AH-Exclusive Aircraft of World War II [UNDER REVISION]

Commonwealth Aircraft

Albion in World War II initially used the same roundels as the Royal Air Force and Fleet Air Arm. However, the similar Thai roundel created confusion for Allied pilots. By 1942 Albion fully adopted the standard blue roundels of South East Asia Command, omitting the red entirely. Aircraft attached to Royal Alban Naval Aviation (RANA) utilized a roundel with a white centre, while RAFA aircraft utilized the standard grey-blue centre.

CCF Thunderbird

Manufacturer: Columbian Car and Foundry
Role: Fighter
Introduced: 1943
Produced: ~2,300
Operators: Kingdom of Albion, Commonwealth of Australia, Dominion of New Zealand, Kingdom of the Netherlands
Secondhand Operators: Cuban Revolutionary Air Force

Length: ~35 ft
Empty weight: ~9,200 lb
Powerplant: 1x Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp, 2,100 hp (Mk. II)
Maximum speed: 672 km/h at 18,000 feet
Range: 1,550 km with internal fuel
Service ceiling: 37,500 feet
Rate of climb: 3,799.2 feet/minute
Armament: 4x Hispano-Suiza 20mm cannon

The CCF Thunderbird - perhaps the most important domestic aircraft to Albion's war effort - was one of Albion's most consequential domestic exports, a result of the New Deal policies of the Keech administration in revitalizing Albion's manufacturing sector after the Great Depression. Designed by the Dutch-Alban immigrant Anton de Groote and produced out of the Canadian Car and Foundry plant in Peterborough, Columbia, the Thunderbird was decisive in turning the tide of the war in the Pacific, though less numerous than the more well-known Grumman F6F Hellcat and Vought F4U Corsair flown by the United States.

The Thunderbird was designed to make up for the shortcomings of Commonwealth naval aircraft. Albion, a Pacific nation, went into the war increasingly cognizant of the fact that the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire were effective in the close confines of Europe, but they did not have the range to be effective aircraft for a nation with a long Pacific coast and vast tracts of tundra and prairie to patrol. When the war did break out, the arrival of the Sa-11 "Jerry" rendered Albion's mainstay - the Hurricane - outclassed in every way. Even the legendary Supermarine Spitfire couldn't turn with the Jerry - and converting the Spitfire into the Seafire for carrier duty was never the best option, given its long nose and narrow undercarriage. As early as 1939, work was ongoing to find a better plane for combat in the Pacific.

The search for a so-called New Pacific Fighter was on, prioritizing a fast aircraft with a range of over 1,300 kilometres and a speed comparable to the Spitfire. Three candidate aircraft were considered: A lightened Hurricane, National Steel Car's Gielen Gallant, and CCF's prototype Seabird. The CCF aircraft was a radial-engined, razorbacked grunter of a plane intended to carry a Bristol Hercules engine. However, short supplies of the Herc - and the intelligence gained from the capture of the Mornington Jerry - saw the Seabird's razorback dropped in favour of a bubble canopy and its engine replaced with the much more powerful US-built Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp. The engine was built with a deep cowl and an underchin radiator powering an effective turbo-supercharger.

The resulting aircraft was the clear choice as Albion's New Pacific Fighter, an early forerunner of the Hawker Sea Fury in both geometry and performance. It was faster than the Hellcat but less so than the Corsair, could carry radar or bombs, and had wide landing gear for the decks of carriers, including escort carriers. The Thunderbird carried four Hispano-Suiza cannons, capable of tearing apart even Thai bombers. Compared to the 3,700-pound Jerry, the Thunderbird was more than 5,000 pounds heavier, more than doubling its nimble little rival - but the Double Wasp gave it an advantage of more than 1,000 horsepower. Despite being much heavier, the Thunderbird was 140 kilometres per hour faster, could fly 5,000 feet higher, could climb an extra 700 feet per second and was much more rugged and sturdy than the Jerry. The Thai fighter's only advantages were low-speed maneuverability and range - and the Thunderbird was no slouch in the former.

The Thunderbird made the Jerry obsolete upon its arrival in September of 1943, and it became Albion's main Pacific-based fighter, supplementing land-based Spitfires and Hawker Tempests in the fighter role. The fighter did not see action in Europe, where the British already had what it offered in their choice of shorter-ranged land-based fighters, but it was a Pacific mainstay for the Commonwealth. Aircraft of this type were also produced for Australia and New Zealand, while several were flown by the partisan Dutch East Indies Air Force out of Australia and saw action in the Liberation of Indonesia.

A later version of the Thunderbird - the Mk. III, introduced from March 1945 - saw the Double Wasp replaced with the Bristol Centaurus engine. The engine's 2500+ horsepower pushed the Thunderbird's speed to roughly 700 kilometres per hour. However, only 120 Mark IIIs were produced, and few of them were introduced to the front in time to see major combat. Several of them served after the war before being decommissioned in favour of the more sophisticated Hawker Sea Fury.

Gielen TDB1 Gallant

Manufacturer: Gielen/Victory Aircraft (National Steel Car)
Role: Torpedo bomber, dive bomber
Introduced: 1943
Produced: 317
Operators: Kingdom of Albion, Commonwealth of Australia

Length: ~38 ft
Empty weight: ~10,500 lb
Powerplant: 1x Wright R-2600 Twin Cyclone, 1,900 hp
Maximum speed: 468 km/h at 18,000 feet
Range: 1,600 km with internal fuel
Service ceiling: 30,000 feet
Rate of climb: 2,000 feet/minute
Armament: 2x 12.7 mm machineguns (wing), 2x 7.7 mm machineguns (rear gunner)
Bombs: 1x 1,620 lb aerial torpedo or 4x 450lb depth charges or 6x 250 lb bombs

While Columbian Car and Foundry/CGA Albanair is the big success story of Albion's aerospace industry, National Steel Car also made its name in the Second World War. Once a builder of automobiles, the company expanded to build ships during World War I and aircraft in the inter-war years. At the outset of war, NSC produced bombers under license out of its plant in Multnomah, Calapooya - but they had begun to field their own aircraft proposals, as well. The company hired an aircraft design expert in the person of a Belgian immigrant named Thomas Gielen.

Despite NSC's leadership failures leading to the company being nationalized in 1942, it didn't come soon enough to prevent Gielen from fielding his prototype. The design Gielen came up with for the New Pacific Fighter project was a domestic winner, but informed by NSC's expertise in bomber design. A rugged, high-tailed monoplane, the so-called F-3 was intended to be a long-ranged Pacific fighter capable of out-ranging the Hurricane or the Spitfire. But its competition was stiff: CCF produced its prototype Seabird around the same time. Compared to the Thunderbird, the NCF design was slower, heavier and less nimble. Gielen's aircraft would not be Albion's Pacific fighter.

It would be Albion's Pacific torpedo bomber and dive bomber.

The nascent Thunderbird had speed, climb and agility on its side, but the NSC design had stability, ruggedness, range and low-speed maneuverability. In particular the aircraft had a very low stall speed, and its wider, sturdier undercarriage was easily adaptable to carry a torpedo. Notably, it had an inverted gull wing, with the landing gear emerging at the wing root. This gave it greater clearance for a torpedo and significantly improved the aircraft's stability when landing on a carrier. The wings could be folded up just after the joint to save on space. While CCF re-engined the T'bird with the powerful Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp, Gielen adjusted the aircraft's design and brought it back as the Gallant, built as a torpedo bomber but capable of taking on dive-bombing duty. Development was further emphasized as Albion tested the Fairey Barracuda and found it easy to fly, but too optimized for low altitude and European ranges to cover vast Pacific distances. By mid-1943, Victory was ready, and the first Gallants entered service a few months before the Thunderbird.

The Gielen Gallant proved to be the aircraft Albion needed. A rugged workhorse, if not a spectacular one, the Gallant was popular with pilots for its reliability and easiness to fly. The aircraft was faster, longer-ranged and higher-flying than the low-and-slow Barracuda - traits which proved useful in Indonesia, where the Barracuda struggled to clear high mountains that the Gallant could sail over without issue. While faster than the American Avenger, the Gallant could carry a smaller bomb load, while still packing enough punch to put the hurt on the Axis. The Gallant proved successful in service and helped ensure that CCF would buy Victory out, merging with them to form CGA-Albanair.

CCF Chinook

Manufacturer: Columbian Car and Foundry
Role: Fighter
Introduced: 1944
Produced: ~750
Operators: Kingdom of Albion, Empire of Japan
Secondhand Operators: Kingdom of the Netherlands, Union of Burma, Republic of Indonesia, Dominion of Pakistan, Republic of Cuba

Length: ~34 ft
Empty weight: ~6,950 lb
Powerplant: 1x Rolls-Royce Griffon, approx. 2,050 hp (Mk. II)
Maximum speed: 721 km/h
Range: 1,890 km with internal fuel
Service ceiling: 44,500 feet
Rate of climb: 4,950 feet/minute
Armament: 4x Hispano-Suiza 20mm cannon

As the war in the South Pacific turned in favour of the Allies, Albion found itself with a new need for a land-based aircraft with ranges capable of covering the vast distances between Pacific islands. For the most part, Commonwealth-built aircraft were built for the tight confines of continental Europe, with neither the Spitfire nor the newer Hawker Tempest capable of making it farther than 1,000 kilometres from base on internal fuel on a reliable basis. While the country had utilized the P-51 Mustang to some extent, buying additional American aircraft was politically unpalatable to politicians in Columbia and Calapooya, who sought to make the most of the country's suddenly-booming military aircraft construction sector.

Into the void stepped Columbian Car and Foundry, touting a design built around the powerful Rolls-Royce Griffon inline engine. The aircraft was accepted and began to roll off the production lines in mid-1944, rapidly taking on a frontline combat role. The aircraft served with distinction in the Solomon Islands but particularly in Indonesia, where it had the range to escort Avro Lancasters and Gallant torpedo bombers and still return home.

Slower and a little heavier than the Mustang, but about as fast as the Tempest VI, the Chinook could cover nearly 2,000 kilometres on its own fuel and could push it further with the use of external tanks. But of all of Albion's aircraft of the war, the Chinook was likely the best pure dogfighter. Its light and aerodynamic construction gave it not only breakneck straight-ahead speed, but the ability to pull off crisp, sharp turns and handle high G-loads. Pilots noted its controls as being particularly responsive, giving them extreme control. While the famous Thunderbird was a powerhouse which barged through enemy fighters with its weight and straight-ahead charge, the Chinook was more of a rapier, capable of thrusts but also brilliant flourishes. Compared to the Mustang, its heavier armament made it a more effective interceptor against bombers, while enabling it to do damage to Thai ships. The asterisk next to the Chinook's glowing kill ratio is that, by 1944, Thailand's best pilots had largely been killed and its air force tamed, meaning that Chinook pilots largely came up against rookies and frightened reserve pilots without enough training - and by that point, Royal Air Force of Albion pilots were well-experienced in Thai fighter tactics.

About 750 Chinooks were produced during the length of the war, dominating the skies over Indonesia during Albion's liberation of Nusantara, and many continued to serve until the dawn of the jet age, when they were gradually phased out. Several served with other air forces: A handful were sold to Japan to furnish one of their Special Flight Units, while after the war, a number were sold to the Netherlands and went on to fight in Indonesia during the Indonesian National Revolt. A few more served in the air force of Pakistan following the Partition of India. By the mid-1960s, most of the aircraft were out of service. However, a few Chinooks continue to fly in private hands in the modern era, and some have been redesigned into private racing planes.

Thai Aircraft

Some Thai aircraft feature markings in red, with the insignia of a white elephant. Early in the war these indicated special task units. After 1941, the red markings are hallmarks of the Thai Armed Forces Western Command, which oversaw the Burma, Bengal and Ceylon Theatres. They also appear attached to units in the South East Asia Command after late 1942, following a material transfer from the Burmese theatre to the Solomon Islands.

Vejayanrangsrit B.JR.1 Boripatra II

Allied reporting name: Kim
Manufacturer: Vejayanrangsrit Aeronautical Workshop
Role: Torpedo bomber
Introduced: 1935
Produced: ~1,000
Operators: Thai People's Republic

Length: ~33.5ft
Empty weight: ~4,200 lb
Powerplant: 1x Karnasuta E-700, 740 hp (870 at takoff)
Maximum speed: 289 km/h
Range: 1,670 km
Service ceiling: 20,000 ft
Rate of climb: Very slow
Armament: 1x 7.7 mm machinegun, aft
Bombs: 1x 800 kg torpedo

Thailand's first domestically-built aircraft was the land-based light bomber, the Boripatra biplane. This aircraft, fielded a decade later, was the original Boripatra's successor - and it was the first aircraft on the docket to be navalized as Thailand began to slide its aircraft carriers into action-readiness. Going into the war, the Boripatra II was obsolete, with replacements actively being designed. Despite that hurdle, it played an important part in the war, stocking Thai carriers until 1942.

Operationally, the Boripatra II filled the same niche as the Fleet Air Arm's Fairey Swordfish ("Stringbag"). The biplane carried a crew of three - a pilot, an observer and a radio operator and rear gunner, though the observer's seat could be replaced with a fuel tank to extend the aircraft's range. Its wings could fold up to enable it to be stored on a carrier, and its light weight and double wings gave it insane lift, along with the ability to coast at very slow speed and very low altitudes. Despite its incredibly fragile armour, it was actually this low speed which made the Boripatra II so effective in its role. At a time when monoplanes were dominant, the Boripatra II could simply out-turn any monoplane in the sky, especially close to the deck. With its ability to fly slow and low, the Boripatra II could surprise enemy ships by coasting in at wavetop level, so low that they could actually slip beneath the firing arc of even anti-aircraft weapons before dropping their torpedoes and scooting away.

The B.JR.1 is best known for its performance at the Raid on Trincomalee, when several dozen of them managed to sneak in beneath a concentrated attack by Jerry fighters and drop their torpedoes, dealing a devastating blow to the British Eastern Fleet. Torpedoes dropped by Boripatra IIs sunk the venerable battleship HMS Repulse and the heavy cruiser HMS Kent with all hands, while another crippled the fleet carrier HMS Indomitable and forced her to leave the Pacific Theatre for major repairs. The little biplanes similarly over-performed at the battle for Singapore, where they were able to sneak in and drop torpedoes that struck ships in their berths. For all their inferior technology and lack of sophistication, these tiny biplanes wreaked a savage toll on Allied ships in the Pacific in 1940 and 1941, doing their most damage against the Royal Netherlands Navy during the capture of Nusantara - most notably, it was a torpedo from a Boripatra II which sunk HNLMS De Ruyter.

By 1942, Thailand began to rapidly phase out the Boripatra II as it shifted torpedo bomber duties to the new B.JR.3, but the biplanes still saw use as anti-submarine warfare aircraft, carrier flight trainers and roaming commerce raiders, carrying light bombs with which to harass shipping. By the end of the war, none were actually in service, entirely replaced by fixed-wing monoplanes.

Heinkel He 112 (B.Kh.13)

Allied reporting name: Fritz
Manufacturer: Ernst Heinkel AG (licensed to SAHI and Baijayonta)
Role: Fighter
Introduced: 1938
Produced: ~1,500
Operators: Thai People's Republic, Spanish Air Force, Chinese Air Force, Royal Hungarian Air Force, Royal Romanian Air Force

Specifications for He 112B-2 in Thai service.
Length: ~30.6 ft
Empty weight: 3,571 lbs
Powerplant: 1x Junkers Jumo 210Ga, ~700hp
Maximum speed: 510 km/h\
Range: 1,100 km with internal fuel
Service ceiling: 32,000 feet
Rate of climb: 2,300 feet/minute
Armament: 2x 7.7mm machinegun, 2x 20mm cannon

As fighters go, Heinkel's He 112 was a loser in Germany, coming in below the Messerschmitt Bf 109 in the contest to become the Luftwaffe's new mainline fighter. In 1936, Ernst Udet allegedly told Heinkel, "Pawn your crate off on the Turks or the Siamese or the Romanians. They'll lap it up." They did - amply.

Heinkel quickly cut a deal with two Thai developers to license production of the He 112 in Thailand. The Thai Air Army liked what the He 112 brought to the table, particularly given the caliber of opposition in Southeast Asia: Even coming in as it did behind the Bf 109, the He 112 would prove at least the equal of the French and Dutch air forces in Southeast Asia. More to the point, it gave Thailand valuable experience with building advanced monoplane aircraft. Thailand classified the aircraft as the B.Kh.13. A first run of 120 He 112Bs were built with direct German assistance, with the rest of Thailand's fleet produced by SAHI and Baijayonta. Later work on the design resulted in considerable narrowing of the wings and lightening of the airframe, leading to two separate He 112-derived lineages: The Baijayonta B.Kh.14 and the SAHI B.KhR.2.

As for the He 112 itself, it was a slower flier than the Bf 109, with less aerodynamic potential, but it could beat the 109 in a turn due to its larger wing. Thailand would train its pilots to make the most of this agility, training which translated perfectly to the much more agile Garuda and Chantra fighters. About 400 He 112s would serve in the Thai Air Army before being superceded by the radial-engined derivatives, with most of the Asian He 112s actually going to China.

Baijayonta B.Kh.14 Chantra

Allied reporting name: Herman
Manufacturer: Luang Neramit Baijayonta Royal Manufactory
Role: Fighter
Introduced: 1939
Produced: ~5,900
Operators: Thai People's Republic

Length: ~29 ft
Empty weight: ~4,200 lb
Powerplant: 1x Karnasuta E-920, 950 hp
Maximum speed: 520 km/h at 14,500 feet
Range: 1,710 km with internal fuel
Service ceiling: 32,000 feet
Rate of climb: 3,300 feet/minute
Armament: 2x 12.7mm machinegun, 2x 20mm cannon

While the B.KhR.2 Garuda (the Jerry) is the best-known Thai fighter of World War II, the B.Kh.14 Chantra actually came first by a few months and had the most startling early impact on the war. Like the Garuda, the Chantra was based on the German Heinkel He 112 prototype. Like the Garuda, the Chantra sacrificed armour for performance. Unlike the Garuda, the Chantra was engined with an older Karnasuta radial, which performed better at high altitude. Also unlike the Garuda, the Chanthra did not have to carry a tailhook or reinforced landing gear. As such, the Chantra entered service more quickly, and it was ready to go when Thailand invaded French Indochina, proving more than a match for the opposition it faced, first in Vietnam and then in British Burma. It has since been overshadowed by the Garuda, and indeed, it was often called the Army Jerry by Allied aviators. It can be distinguished from the Garuda in three ways: The Chantra has more closed-off space in its back cockpit, its engine has a slightly reduced diameter which causes the nose to have a barely-perceptible slope, and its tail section is more gracile and swept due to the lack of reinforcing structures for the tailhook. As well, the Chantra is usually painted in the triple-brown colours typical of the Yunnan and Chinese Theatres or the brown and green typical of Burma and Indochina.

In terms of performance, the Chantra - which was assigned the reporting name "Herman" - was a cut above anything else in the skies of Southeast Asia when it burst onto the scene in 1939. Between the Chantra and the slightly later Garuda, Thailand enjoyed air superiority over Malaya, Indochina, the Dutch East Indies, Burma and New Guinea. Much of it came from the Chantra's great agility. This came at cost: Like the Garuda, the Chantra lacked armour plating for the pilot and did not carry self-sealing fuel tanks, and its construction was less solid than that of even contemporary British fighters. While the aircraft could out-turn even the legendary Supermarine Spitfire, the Chantra would turn into a fireball after even a couple of good hits.

Most Chantras served in mainland Asia, while smaller numbers operated out of bases such as Rabaul to contribute to Thai air superiority in the South Pacific. However, as the war progressed, the fighter's weaknesses became apparent. The Chantra's excellent maneuverability never went away - even late in the war, a Chantra pilot could still gain the edge on the Allies' best in a turning fight - but the fighter otherwise became obsolete. It was rapidly supplanted by more advanced fighters like the B.Kh.20 Seux. Many phased-out Chantras were assigned to the sub-national Liberation Army home guards and were called to action again in 1945, as the Allies invaded Indonesia, the Philippines and Burma to close the noose on Sunthorn's regime.

SAHI B.KhR.2 Garuda

Allied reporting name: Jerry
Manufacturer: Siam Air Heavy Industry
Role: Fighter, carrier-launched
Introduced: 1940
Produced: ~11,000
Operators: Thai People's Republic

Length: ~29 ft
Empty weight: ~3,780 lb
Powerplant: 1x Chao 301 Series, 978 hp
Maximum speed: 527 km/h at 14,500 feet
Range: 2,200 km with internal fuel
Service ceiling: 31,200 feet
Rate of climb: 3,100 feet/minute
Armament: 2x 7.7mm machinegun, 2x 20mm cannon

* LinkB.KhR.2R: Floatplane variant (1942)

The Garuda - known to the Allies as the Jerry - was the most infamous Thai aircraft of World War II. At the beginning of the war, the carrier-based Jerry was the most powerful aircraft in the sky. Fast, light and with shockingly long legs, it could go toe-to-toe with land-based aircraft and win.

And yet the Garuda was not originally a Thai design. Rather, after being disappointed with the proposed Hk-10 prototype carrier fighter and its Brewster Buffalo-based design, Thailand flew the prototype Heinkel He 112 in 1937 and purchased 100, then set to work adapting the airframe to the naval technologies they'd been pioneering to go with their aircraft carriers. The design was farmed out to Siam Air Heavy Industry, who adjusted the design for the heavier and more powerful Chao 301 radial engine and constructed a prototype by early 1938. The resulting aircraft was not only far superior to the Hk-10, it was far superior to anything being flown in Southeast Asia, save perhaps the land-based B.Kh.14, also based on the He 112. By 1940, the B.KhR.2 was rolling out of factories in Thailand and phasing into service.

In order to accommodate the chunky Chao radial, the already-nimble He 112 was modified. Armour plating around the cockpit was removed. Thailand lacked the ability to cheaply build self-sealing fuel tanks, so one was omitted, exchanged for a tailhook and reinforced landing gear. The weapons magazines were reduced slightly to shave off a few pounds. All these modifications resulted in a much-lightened airframe capable of taking the Chao 310, an engine with more raw power than the Jumo 210.

The Garuda's secret was in the tradeoffs it made. Its light weight and solid power made it unbeatable in a maneuvering fight. With no heavy armour to impede it, the Garuda could turn on a dime and climb at a much faster rate than many of its contemporaries, and that light weight gave it fantastic range, comparable to some bombers. It was a pure maneuvering fighter, packing a punch to boot. But this came at cost: The Garuda's engineering quality was worse than the He 112's, and the aircraft lacked good hydraulics and was saddled with a float-type carburetor which spluttered in a dive. Above 200 knots, the Garuda's ailerons locked up and made rolling a challenge. The biggest sacrifice was pilot safety: Garuda pilots had no armour protection, and the lack of self-sealing tanks meant that one hit could turn the aircraft into a fireball. The Garuda gave Thai pilots a formidable weapon, but one that would not forgive even a single mistake.

The Garuda was the dominant fighter in the Pacific in the early days of the war, but soon lost its shine as more modern Allied pilots flying aircraft with higher power and speed figured out how to beat it. By the end of the war, the Jerry was obsolete, usually flown by inexperienced pilots, and no longer a threat to anyone but its own pilot.

A few specialized variants of the Garuda exists. The most notable was the B.KhR.2F, debuted in 1942. Internally flagged as the Hydro Fighter Type 2, the Allies gave it the nickname "Buzz." While slower and less aerodynamic than the standard Garuda, the Buzz was an effective night fighter. It served in a variety of capacities, including protecting secluded fuel bases, recon, short-range intercept duty and support for amphibious landings, while also engaging Allied aircraft as an outright fighter.

Junkers B.J.3 (Ju 83)

Allied reporting name: Meg
Manufacturer: Junkers
Role: Ground attack aircraft
Introduced: 1939
Produced: ~1,800
Operators: Thai People's Republic, Empire of China, Republic of Finland

Length: ~37 ft
Empty weight: ~7,700 lb
Powerplant: 1x Junkers Jumo 211, 1,200hp at takeoff
Maximum speed: 330 km/h at sea level, 370 km/h at altitude
Range: 755 km without bomb load
Service ceiling: 15,000 feet
Rate of climb: ~1,000 feet/minute
Armament: 2x nose-mounted 20mm cannons; 2x wing-mounted 7.92mm machinegun; 1x rear manually-targeted 13mm machinegun

The most glamorous and well-known Thai aircraft of the war were the Jerry, the Herman and the Tiger. However, the standout performer for many of the Axis allies was actually this aircraft, given the Allied reporting name of "Meg." Produced for China by Junkers' Asian bureau, the Ju 83 was never used by the Germans themselves, who viewed it as a more primitive, less able take on the Stuka. The aircraft was instead made available to Germany's Axis allies - but the Luftwaffe itself declined to place an order, already having the more advanced Stuka and Ju 88. Indeed, the Ju 83 (built under license by SAHI and flagged as the B.J.3) was not the most capable aircraft in its class and didn't specialize in much outside of its role as a strafer and occasional light bomber. It couldn't dive-bomb, couldn't carry torpedoes, flew slowly, climbed laboriously, and had less power than it needed.

What did it do, then? It put bullets on target and brought its pilots home.

The Ju 83 had some commonalities to the Soviet Il-2, though the famous Sturmovik was bigger and heavier, with more power. This aircraft had heavy forward firepower with two nose-mounted cannons and two additional machineguns, and the pilot was encased within an armoured tub, a rarity among aircraft flown by Thailand. The ruggedness of the engine and the armour around it ensured that the Ju 83 could take hits and continue to fly, and its heavy body carried a significant quantity of ammunition. As well, the Ju 83's low-and-slow built enabled it to make extremely tight turns that no fighter could match. These attributes enabled the Ju 83 to simply hang out at very low altitudes, putting bullets on target. They could even carry a couple of bombs to the fight, and later examples were modified to carry heavy anti-tank guns, though always sacrificing performance.

The usefulness of the Meg attack aircraft is hard to quantify, but these aircraft proved their worth in the battle to hold the Burma Road. Thai aviators took to flying their Ju 83s in echelon formations, attacking with waves of aircraft to ensure a constant rain of firepower pouring onto a target. When one aircraft completed its assault, the next one would continue it, with the first circling back around to rejoin the queue. However, it wasn't in Thai hands that the Ju 83 would shine most brightly: It would form a mainstay of Axis China's air defense, which would be primarily supplied by Junkers and Heinkel.

Tongproh B.Th.5

Allied reporting name: Brenda
Manufacturer: Tongproh Air Body
Role: Medium bomber
Introduced: 1940
Produced: ~2,500
Operators: Thai People's Republic

Length: ~55 ft
Empty weight: ~17,000 lb
Powerplant: 2x Karnasuta E-1200 Series, 1,550 hp per engine
Maximum speed: 415 km/h
Range: 2,640 km
Service ceiling: 20,800 ft
Rate of climb: Ha ha yeah right
Armament: 5x 7.7 mm machinegun (2 dorsal, 2 side, 1 ventral); 1x 20 mm cannon (nose mount)
Bombs: Up to 2,000 kg of ordnance internally, or 3,600 kg externally

Nobody's quite sure how Thailand managed to get a bomber of the quality of the B.Th.5 into service so quickly. While Sunthorn's government had access to the Junkers Ju 86 from 1936, the cigar-shaped B.Th.5 looks nothing like the conventionally European Ju 86; indeed, the most-produced models resemble the German He 111 medium bomber in both armament and capability. Moreover, its unit number suggests it made its first flight before the Jerry, but it debuted slightly later. German engineers did participate in its design, including those from Heinkel, but the product is less a clone of the He 111 than it is an example of convergent evolution.

Early B.Th.5s were almost unrecognizable: They were larger and with more closed-in nose sections, with the cockpit housed in a blister in a fashion similar to the Ilyushin Il-4 and a thicker tail section featuring a tail gunner's radome. The bombers used underpowered radial engines that sucked fuel and created ceilings on range - a non-factor when they debuted against the weak French forces in Indochina, but not good enough to fight the British. Revisions were made rapidly, and the variant of B.Th.5 which appeared in 1940 - the B.Th.5 D-1 - featured the familiar He 111-like styling, with the cockpit moved inside a heavily-glazed forward radome, the rear fuselage tapered for weight reduction and the tail boosted with a forward extension to improve aerodynamics. The ventral gondola was expanded with a new belly gunner's position. The engines were also replaced, going from the underpowered radials to the more powerful Karnasuta E-1200. These new engines were more powerful and more reliable, giving the B.Th.5 longer legs and more raw power. It is the B.Th.5 D-1 which became Thailand's iconic land and sea bomber, one of the most effective of the war.

For most of the conflict, the B.Th.5 - referred to as the Cigar by Thai air crews and as the Brenda or the Thick Boy by Allied airmen - was Thailand's main bomber, as the country struggled to get an effective heavy bomber online. But the B.Th.5, with its long legs and good performance, was up to the job, save for two factors: It was somewhat undergunned for its size and lacked self-sealing fuel tanks or heavy armour for the crew. The six men in the bomber virtually lacked any protection, and the bombers would go down to a sneeze - but they'd get where they were going surely and swiftly, drop their bombs and do damage before they went down in flames.

Throughout the war, the B.Th.5 was upgraded steadily, serving as everything from a straight-up bomber to an effective maritime strike aircraft, at least until Allied fighters realized how vulnerable they were. By 1945 they were serving as carriers for flying bombs and acting as commando transports. They served until the end of the war and were still being upgraded on the day of the Thai surrender.

Baijayonta B.JR.2

Allied reporting name: Tilly
Manufacturer: Luang Neramit Baijayonta Royal Manufactory
Role: Dive bomber
Introduced: 1940
Produced: ~1,500
Operators: Thai People's Republic

Length: ~36.5 ft
Empty weight: ~6,500 lb
Powerplant: 1x Karnasuta E-1000, 1,200 hp
Maximum speed: 378 km/h at 20,000 feet
Range: 1,440 km
Service ceiling: 25,500 ft
Rate of climb: Very slow
Armament: 3x 7.7 mm machineguns (2x forward, 1x aft)
Bombs: 1x 250 kg under the fuselage, 2x 50 kg under the wings

The chunky B.JR.2 was Thailand's main naval dive-bomber through most of the war. Churned out to replace the original order of German-built aircraft used in the campaign against French Indochina, the B.JR.2 - known to the Allies as the Tilly - is actually derived from a German design, the Heinkel He 118 prototype. This design was rejected by Germany in favour of the Stuka owing in part to its fragility and much shallower dive angle, but for Thailand's purposes the airframe was fine: Indeed, Thailand would license-build the Stuka for use on land, while building their own version of the He 118 airframe by shortening it slightly, adding folding wings and a tailhook, and replacing the engine with a radial. The resulting aircraft, which boasted fixed landing gear for the sake of reduced complexity, still could not match the Stuka in dive angle: It was capable of coming in at perhaps 55 to 60 degrees compared to the Stuka's ability to pull a 90-degree dive. This limitation ensured that B.JR.2s were used as glide bombers as often as dive bombers simply because of the limitations of the airframe. But the B.JR.2 could fly from a carrier, and the Stuka could not.

The B.JR.2 came into the war a more war-ready performer than most Allied dive bombers in the Pacific. Its chunky Karnasuta radial - used mainly for heavier aircraft - was more rugged than the engine on the Garuda fighter, though the B.JR.2 also lacked heavy armour or self-sealing fuel tanks. It also didn't have the legs to keep up with the Jerry, being both shorter-ranged and more than 200 km/h slower than its fighter counterpart, with an incredibly slow performance in the climb. Its thick wing also limited its speed and agility. But it could carry a solid bomb load and deliver it at range from the deck of any carrier in the Thai fleet. While these dive bombers could not hang with fighters in a straight fight, they sometimes did get pressed into fighter duty. Later in the war, they were even modified to accept additional fuel tanks and a more powerful engine, enabling them to fight over the Solomon Islands.

The B.JR.2 took a devastating toll on the Allies. All told, Tillys sank 16 Allied warships at sea. No Axis aircraft sank more Allied ships. However, by the end of the war it was obsolete, its old fixed-gear design phased out in favour of sturdier and more agile designs with better aerodynamics. Surviving B.JR.2s were pressed into service as home guard aircraft, and some were assigned to ramming duty, in which the pilot was expected to set the aircraft on a crash trajectory and then bail out. In practice, most bailout runs missed, requiring the pilot to stay and kill himself in the act.

Vejayanrangsrit B.Kh.16 Raeng

Allied reporting name: Tom
Manufacturer: Vejayanrangsrit Aeronautical Workship
Role: Zerstörer (Heavy fighter)
Introduced: 1941
Produced: ~2,000
Operators: Thai People's Republic

Length: ~38 ft
Empty weight: ~8,950 lb
Powerplant: 2x Chao 301 Series, 978 hp per engine
Maximum speed: 578 km/h
Range: 1,922 km
Service ceiling: 32,800 ft
Rate of climb: 2,280 ft/min
Armament: 2x 20mm cannon, nose; 4x 7.7mm machinegun, wing roots; 2x 7.7mm machinegun in rear turret

With the Axis beginning to bring more twin-engined fighters into service, Thailand put its own version of a so-called Zerstörer into the air in the form of the Raeng, or Vulture. The aircraft was produced by Vejayanrangsrit, a venerable air manufactory, and equipped with the same radial engine used in the twin-engine Jerry, but it was armed with two powerful cannons and a quartet of forward-facing machineguns as well as a double rear-facing turret capable of gutting bombers from below. When it entered service, the Allies originally gave the Raeng the reporting name "Buster," but it was rapidly changed to "Tom," after the recently-debuted Tom and Jerry cartoon.

The Raeng quickly established itself as formidable in several roles, most notably as Thailand's premier night fighter. Night attacks by Vultures, together with daytime raids by Meg attack planes, were key to securing the Yunnan Road early in the war. While able to be outmaneuvered by single-engined fighters during the day, the Raeng was faster than either the Garuda or the Chantra and packed more firepower, making it the ideal platform to catch up to and shoot down Allied bombers over Burma, Yunnan and the Pacific. The aircraft was used for daytime bomber intercepts as well. They could also be fitted with bombs and repurposed as fighter-bombers, which proved useful in the maritime strike role, where the Raeng presented a threat to enemy ships. By 1943, the more powerfully-engined B.Kh.16D2 variant introduced Schräge Musik-type oblique-angle upward-firing guns, enabling new-model Raengs to slide up beneath Allied bomber streams and rake their undefended bellies with gunfire.

While most Thai aircraft of 1940 vintage eventually became obsolete, the Vulture saw front-line service until the very end of the war. It went from night-fighting against B-17s over the Solomon Islands and Lancasters over Yunnan and Burma to intercepting B-29s over Thailand itself, though by 1945 it was outclassed handily by radar-equipped Allied night fighters. With Thai radar technology a solid five years behind the Allies and Germany, the Mark 28 radar carried by variants like the B.Kh.16F through the mid-to-late war was not up to the task of matching its opponents. By war's end, the Vulture simply couldn't hold the line anymore.

Tongproh B.Kh.15 Singto

Allied reporting name: Jonny
Manufacturer: Tongproh/SAHI
Role: Fighter, interceptor
Introduced: 1940
Produced: ~2,500
Operators: Thai People's Republic

Length: ~32 ft
Empty weight: ~5,000 lb
Powerplant: 1x Chao 301 Series, 978 hp
Maximum speed: 552 km
Range: 725 km
Service ceiling: 31,200 ft
Rate of climb: 3,600 ft/min
Armament: 4x 12.7mm machinegun, 2x 20mm cannon
Bombs: Up to 100 kg of bombs

The Singto - Thai for "lion" - was a rugged land-based fighter Thailand employed primarily in Burma. It descends from a lineage of fighter design which preceded Thailand's dalliance with the He 112. Rather, it is based on the Curtiss P-36 Hawk, which Thailand obtained via China, dissected and attempted to reverse-engineer. The resulting aircraft resembles nothing so much as a stubby P-36 with a huge nose. In most respects, however, the aircraft proved inferior to the He 112-based designs put out by SAHI and Baijayonta, save two: It could beat both the Chantra and the Garuda in a climb and narrowly surpass it in a sprint.

In need of a low-cost interceptor, the Thai Air Army adopted the Singto as a point-defense interceptor, primarily in use by the Western Command in Burma, where raids by Lancaster bombers were a constant threat. In its role as an interceptor, the Singto did decent at first. It could bull to altitude fairly fast. Much of its extended nose was taken up by a large supercharger, which granted it excellent high-altitude performance. But the aircraft was much less maneuverable than the He 112-based aircraft flown on the front, and its long nose made landing tricky. In a dogfight, the Singto could take a few hits and had a lot of firepower, but pilots struggled to bring the giant snout to bear on the enemy. These aircraft suffered mightily against Allied bomber escorts before Thailand moved them into a rear support role, using them as home defense aircraft.

Later in the war, the Singto found a new life as a ground attack aircraft. Its heavy armament made it a good strafer, while its engine power enabled it to carry a bomb load. But by the end of the war, the Singto was obsolete, unable to compete with new Allied fighters like the later-model Spitfire, the Typhoon, the Hellcat, the Thunderbird and the Corsair. However, it continued to see combat, both with the Thai People's Air Army on the mainland and with units posted to reinforce Indonesia, Burma and the Philippines, where it often flew with local people's defense forces. However, outside of Burma, the Jonny was not a significant obstacle for the Allies on their big sweep to victory. It was a mainstay in the western theatre and nowhere else.

Vejayanrangsrit B.Re.3

Allied reporting name: Joan
Manufacturer: Vejayanrangsrit Aeronautical Workshop
Role: Maritime patrol flying boat
Introduced: 1942
Produced: >250
Operators: Thai Naval Air Army

Length: ~93 ft
Empty weight: ~40,000 lb
Powerplant: 4x Chao 1201 Series, 1,890 hp
Maximum speed: 478 km/h at 16,000 feet
Range: ~7,000 km
Service ceiling: 29,000 feet
Rate of climb: Slow
Armament: 5x 20mm machinegun (2 waist, 1 nose, 1 tail, 1 turret), 5x 7.7mm machinegun in hatches
Bombs: Up to 4,500 pounds of bombs or depth charges, or 2x 1,800 lb torpedoes

The vastness of the Pacific theatre made flying boats a practical weapon of war, and Thailand mastered the use of such weapons on a scale rivalled only by Imperial Japan. The B.Re.3 flying boat marked the best example of a large flying boat in Thai service, and in fact the entire war. Allied aviators respected the flying boat they identified as the Joan, remarking on its heavy defensive armament, extreme range and good speed.

The performance of the B.Re.3 came primarily from the four Chao 1201 series radials, mounted on its broad shoulder-mounted wings. Its deepened hull and undernose spray strips gave it good handling on the water. With a range of approximately 7,000 kilometres, it was the longest-ranged flying boat of the war and could fly farther than any other Thai aircraft.

The B.Re.3 proved to be an exceptional threat to Allied shipping in the Pacific. With its huge load of bombs and depth charges and its ability to carry the Great Wave torpedo, the flying boat packed a heavy punch, and it was responsible for sending a huge number of Allied freighters and transports to the bottom. Its heavy armament made it a threat even to Allied interceptors, including the CCF Thunderbird and A6M Zero. Versions of the B.Re.3 were used for a variety of missions, including bombing, patrol, recon and transport, though convoy raiding and patrol remained the most iconic missions for the airframe.

Baijayonta B.JR.3

Allied reporting name: Ginny
Manufacturer: Luang Neramit Baijayonta Royal Manufactory
Role: Torpedo bomber
Introduced: 1942
Produced: ~2,250
Operators: Thai People's Republic

Length: ~36 ft
Empty weight: ~6,600 lb
Powerplant: 1x Chao 1201 Series, 1,890 hp (late ver.)
Maximum speed: 435 km/h (early ver.), 497 km/h (late ver.)
Range: 1,850 km (early ver.), 2,500 km (late ver.)
Service ceiling: 29,700 feet
Rate of climb: Very slow
Armament: 2x 7.7 mm machinegun (nose), 1x 7.7 mm machinegun (rear hatch)
Bombs: 1x 800 kg torpedo or 800 kg of bombs

Thailand went into the war armed with outdated torpedo bombers, but used them to great effect. The Raid on Trincomalee was conducted entirely with old Boripatra II biplanes rebuilt as torpedo bombers, but they still did the job. As late as 1941, Thailand's torpedo bomber fleet consisted of these aircraft and a few older, clunkier bombers. When the B.JR.3 burst onto the scene in 1942, however, the game changed completely. It emerged as perhaps the most capable torpedo bomber in the Pacific Theatre and a genuine threat to Allied shipping.

In the B.JR.3, Thailand gained a fast, long-range torpedo bomber with better performance than anything the Allies had in the air. The so-called "Ginny" could carry the devastating Mark 930 "Great Wave" torpedo, Thailand's primary air-dropped torpedo weapon, and drop it in places ships could never dream of. The effectiveness of these torpedo bombers was clear. The Ba-25 is responsible for sinking a large number of Allied capital ships. B.JR.3s sunk the American aircraft carriers Lexington (by ramming) and Hornet (by Great Wave strike), crippled the Alban escort carrier Brawler and disabled the Yorktown, among other successful strikes throughout the war. Many of these strikes were against Allied merchant ships. The design proved so successful that it was never replaced. Thailand simply improved it by replacing its 1,200 hp Karnasuta engine with the 1,890 hp Chao 1201 radial, increasing its speed by approximately 60 km/h, boosting its range significantly and enabling it to continue to perform at a high level throughout the war.

For all its excellent performance, however, the B.JR.3 had similar weaknesses to most Thai aircraft: It lacked pilot armour and self-sealing fuel tanks, and it was under-defended for its size and maneuverability. While it carried a tail gunner, his weapon was a single 7.7-millimetre machinegun, not good enough to reliably punch through the tougher armour of American Wildcat and Hellcat or Commonwealth Thunderbird fighters. B.JR.3s proved to be easy prey whenever Allied fighters caught them away from their Jerry escorts.

Even at the end of the war, with the Thai navy in shambles, B.JR.3s continued to fly with distinction. They were used for anti-submarine warfare and saw action as trainers and target tugs. Some were equipped with early radars as testbeds. In 1945, some were used for ramming attacks against enemy ships. Some were even pressed into service as conventional bombers during the defense of the Philippines, albeit unsuccessfully.

Vejayanrangsrit B.JR.4 Boripatra III

Allied reporting name: Rita
Manufacturer: Vejayanrangsrit Aeronautical Workshop
Role: Dive bomber
Introduced: 1942
Produced: ~2,000
Operators: Thai People's Republic

Length: ~36.5 ft
Empty weight: ~5,700 lb
Powerplant: 1x Karnasuta E-1350, 1,400 hp
Maximum speed: 550 km/h
Range: 1,422 km
Service ceiling: 35,000 feet
Rate of climb: 2,700 feet/minute
Armament: 2x 7.7 mm machinegun (forward), 1x 7.7 mm machinegun (rear)
Bombs: Up to 1,150 lb

By the middle of the war, the bulky but nimble Ba-13 dive bomber was beginning to show its age. The old fixed-gear design was increasingly becoming easy prey for Allied aircraft, and while it sunk a lot of ships, the Thai People's Naval Air Arm was always on the lookout for a replacement.

By late 1942, it had it in the form of the Vejayanrangsrit B.JR.4. The Boripatra III - "Bomber Type 3," successor to both the original 1920s biplane and the later 1930s Boripatra II - was a cut above its predecessors in every sense of the word. It even outperformed land-based dive bombers. Where Thailand's main land dive bomber, the Stuka, was a fixed-gear design, the B.JR.4 not only had retractable gear, but an internal bomb bay. The B.JR.4 could carry more bombs than the older dive bomber, and it could get to its target much faster thanks to its powerful Karnasuta E-1350 radial, which lent it 1,400 horsepower. Sturdy landing gear and the ability to carry takeoff rockets ensured that even with an extra 1,000 pounds of weight when fully loaded, the Boripatra III could fly off the deck of even Thai escort carriers, though in practice they operated both from land and sea.

But factors conspired to delay a swift introduction of B.JR.4s into the naval theatre. The E-1350 radials proved to be finicky and difficult to maintain, built to exacting standards which pressed Karnasuta Engine Factory's staff's expertise to its limit. The Vejayanrangsrit factory was slowed down somewhat in mid-1943 after a fire, but picked up again soon enough. The delay, however, kept many older Boripatra II biplanes on the front lines and impacted the number of B.JR.4s that could get to the front.

Despite these delays, the Boripatra III - known to the Allies as the Rita - proved itself a good combatant and a serious threat to Allied ships, including American carriers. B.JR.4s damaged several American ships, including dealing blows to USS Enterprise and USS South Dakota. It was sufficiently deadly that the Allies gave it the nickname of the Red Falcon, a nod to the red-nosed markings the aircraft tended to wear. B.JR.4 dive bombers were faster than the famous Jerry fighter, and some were employed as night fighters late in the war. However, in a day-fighting environment they were no match for Allied fighters, and American aviators preyed on these fighters in huge numbers at the famous battle known as Sweet Caroline's Good Time Turkey Shoot.

Heinkel B.KhR.18 Phayalo (He 212 Feuervogel)

Allied reporting name: Hoss
Manufacturer: Ernst Heinkel AG
Role: Fighter
Introduced: 1942
Produced: ~2,700
Operators: Chinese Air Force, Thai Air Army

Length: ~32 ft
Empty weight: ~5,100 lb
Powerplant: 1x Homruen Mo.23A, 1,425 hp
Maximum speed: 515 km/h at sea level; 620 km/h at 20,000 feet; 600 km/h at peak altitude
Range: 850 km
Service ceiling: 39,000 ft
Rate of climb: 3,300 ft/min at sea level
Armament: 2x 20mm nose-mounted cannon; 4x 7.7mm wing-mounted machineguns

In Germany proper, the Heinkel aircraft company struck out with its He 212 fighter and spent much of the war building bombers and prototype jets. However, Heinkel and Junkers had a more fulsome role in Southeast Asia, where they effectively formed the aerodrome of China's war efforts while also providing key material support to Thailand. There, the opportunity existed for Heinkel to step into the fighter market.

The He 212, first deployed in 1942, represented the evolution of the original He 112. Developed entirely by Heinkel's Southeast Asian bureau in Bangkok, the aircraft utilized the Homruen Model 23A engine, a Thai clone of the Daimler-Benz DB 601 used in the Messerschmitt Bf 109 but denied to the He 112 during the testing process. The more powerful engine was mated to an airframe which corrected many of the flaws of the original He 112. The thick wing was streamlined and made more aerodynamic, blending smoothly into the fuselage at the root, and the cockpit was constructed as a smoother bubble, with the tail heightened to account for the chance in airflow. The new landing gear had a relatively wide stance, enabling the aircraft to make rough landings. The aircraft itself was named for the Siamese fireback, Thailand's national bird, in recognition of the role played by the Thai engineers staffing the Bangkok bureau.

While the aircraft was built first in Thailand, the Thai Air Army only flew about 150 He 212s, preferring the greater turning circle of the Chantra fighter and the more blistering straight-ahead speed of the Spike fighter. The aircraft's biggest customer was China, which made the He 212 a mainstay of its air force as it escalated its battle with China, manufacturing the aircraft primarily in Chengdu.

Helkthidiporn B.Th.6

Allied reporting name: Wanda
Manufacturer: Helkthidiporn Air Arsenal
Role: Attack bomber
Introduced: 1942
Produced: ~2,200
Operators: Thai People's Republic

Length: ~48 ft
Empty weight: ~14,500 lb
Powerplant: 2x Karnasuta E-1357, 1,650 hp each
Maximum speed: 552 km/h at 20,000 feet
Range: 4,600 km
Service ceiling: 30,000 ft
Rate of climb: Quick
Armament: 3x 7.7 mm machineguns (1x windscreen, 1x nose, 1x rear canopy)
Bombs: Up to 1,200 kg of bombs

The search for a bomber that could reach Australia's key cities from New Caledonia led Thailand to explore a number of solutions. The so-called Heavy TH Project produced the B.Th.8 heavy bomber, which had the range to reach Australia but arrived too late to do the job. But it also drew in zerstorer manufacturer Helkthidiporn, who attempted to meet the Heavy Th Project goals in a medium bomber package by creating a smaller aircraft with extreme range. This aircraft would be lighter and faster than the Brenda bomber, with much of the airframe made from laminated wood to reduce weight even further. The resulting aircraft was the B.Th.6A: A light bomber with a range 1,000 kilometres wider than the B.Th.5... but with half the bomb load.

While the B.Th.6 was a failure in terms of Heavy TH, it proved useful in other ways and was adopted by both the Army and Navy as a land-based fast bomber. The lightness of the airframe gave the B.Th.6 extreme speed - faster than the Brenda. The aircraft quickly found use in multiple roles. It proved to be an exceptional tactical bomber and attack aircraft as well as a decent torpedo bomber, able to attack priority Allied targets. By late 1943, naval Wandas were commonly carrying four Type 4 armour-piercing rocket bombs, which were used to launch diving attacks on capital ships. These attacks proved to be a serious threat to Allied shipping and naval operations in the Pacific.

On land, Army Wandas could carry virtually any weapon asked of them. They included the smaller Firefan air-to-air rockets, deployed in batteries of 16 and used to destroy Allied bombers. Late in the war, with the Thai war machine depleted, the B.Th.6 played a particularly grim role: These aircraft were tasked with dropping chemical weapons in the form of Mark 1000 rocket-propelled bombs and Mark 900 dumb bombs, both of which utilized the nerve agent tabun. B.Th.6s carried out numerous tabun attacks on Allied troops during the invasions of Burma, the Philippines and Indonesia, flagrantly violating the Hague Declaration of 1899 in the hopes of forestalling defeat.

SAHI B.Kh.20 Seux

Allied reporting name: Spike (Tiger)
Manufacturer: Siam Air Heavy Industry
Role: Fighter, interceptor
Introduced: 1943
Produced: ~4,800
Operators: Thai People's Republic

Specifications for B.Kh.20B variant.
Length: ~32 ft
Empty weight: ~5,000 lb
Powerplant: 1x Homruen Model 23, 1,365 hp
Maximum speed: 629 km
Range: 670 km
Service ceiling: 36,200 ft
Rate of climb: 3,600 ft/min
Armament: 2x 12.7mm machinegun (nose), 2x 20mm cannon (one per wing)

Upon its arrival in 1943, the B.Kh.20 Seux immediately made its mark as the most effective Thai fighter to be massproduced. At first the Allies did not believe it was even a Thai aircraft, with its big inline engine. It was initially given the reporting name "Guido," as it was assumed to be Italian, before being reclassified as "Spike," though it was more commonly called the Tiger - the direct translation of its Thai name, and a nod for the Allies' healthy respect for its performance. It is one of only two frontline Thai fighters ever produced, and the most numerous, to operate an inline engine, the powerful Homruen Engine Factory Model 23.

The Seux was developed by SAHI to succeed the Herman as Thailand's main land-based fighter. It was the culmination of years of Thai efforts to try and clone the Daimler-Benz DB 601 series engine, the powerhouse behind Germany's Bf 109 engine. What emerged was a rugged, powerful but fuel-hungry supercharged engine that delivered excellent performance at both high and low altitude, at the cost of range. The B.Kh.20 was faster than the Garuda by a significant degree, and it could climb somewhat faster. The more powerful engine allowed the Thais to better protect their pilots: The Tiger had armour plating around the cockpit, though it wasn't all that thick and couldn't stop higher-caliber ammunition.

Despite this shortcoming - and despite still lacking self-sealing fuel tanks - the speedy, agile Tiger proved to be a capable foe for Allied aircraft in Burma and over the Solomon Islands. Compared to the Spitfire, the Tiger was faster and had a much better rate of climb, but the Spit could beat it in a dive and match it in maneuverability while also taking a few more hits, and its engine performed slightly better at higher altitude. In the Pacific, meanwhile, the Tiger could fly with the American Hellcat and maneuver with the Commonwealth's Thunderbird. The Tiger's high rate of climb enabled it to easily intercept trundling Avro Lancasters and B-29 Superfortresses, and its armament - two heavy machineguns and a pair of 20-millimetre cannons - gave it sufficient punch to down bombers. Most of the produced Tigers wound up in Burma, Ceylon and Thailand proper, serving with the Thai People's Air Army Home Guard wings and at the head of the air forces posted to cover the Burmese Liberation Army.

The Model 23 proved to be reliable and effective, the exception to Thailand's challenges with inline engines. However it had drawbacks. Thai fuel was of a lower standard than German, and the Tiger tended to guzzle more gas than its Daimler-Benz originator, giving it shorter legs than the Bf 109 or even the Spitfire. While this wasn't a problem in the close-quarters environments of Burma or China, it made the B.Kh.20 somewhat ineffective in the Pacific, limiting it to interceptor flights in the vicinity of Rabaul or other airfields. It also had one other flaw typical of late-war Thai aircraft: Its paint tended to weather rapidly due to poor adhesion and lack of priming.

Among Thailand's fighter aircraft, the B.Kh.20 was subject to some of the more extreme variety of designs, and several advancements and subtypes branch off from the original lineage. Early versions lacked a retractable tailwheel, while the initial preproduction models often suffered overheating due to a small intake. The most common production version, the B.Kh.20B, corrects these deficiencies while adding a streamlined canopy based on that used by the German Fw 190. The design would be refined throughout the war, and its aerodynamics and engine would inform the design of the late-war B.Kh.23 fighter.

Baijayonta B.Th.8

Allied reporting name: Lucy
Manufacturer: Luang Neramit Baijayonta Royal Manufactory (Junkers)
Role: Heavy bomber
Introduced: 1943
Produced: 120
Operators: Thai People's Republic

Length: ~95 ft
Empty weight: ~72,700 lb
Powerplant: 4x Chao 1201 Series, 1,890 hp
Maximum speed: 450 km/h at 20,000 feet
Range: ~6,000 km
Service ceiling: 32,000 feet
Rate of climb: Slow
Armament: 4x 13mm dorsal machinegun; 1x 20mm tail-mounted machinegun; 2x 20mm machinegun at waist; 1x 20mm machinegun and 2x 13mm machinegun in gondola
Bombs: Up to 6,000 pounds of ordnance

Thailand's struggles to field a credible heavy bomber proved critical in preventing them from mounting a successful invasion of Australia or New Zealand. Despite seizing the Solomon Islands, New Guinea and having a foothold on New Caledonia, the Thai Air Army's B.Th.5 medium bomber did not have the range to reach Australia. The only aircraft in the Thai fleet capable of coming close were the long-range Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Kondor patrol bombers then being used in a commerce-raiding role - and as Phaibun Sunthorn's personal transport. Developing a long-range bomber was a long slog, even with help from Junkers, but Thailand thought they had their candidate in a variant of the Ju 290A-8 long-range transport.

Manufactured in Thailand but building on work done by Junkers as part of the German Amerikabomber project, the B.Th.8 bomber was equipped with four Chao 1201 radials, the most powerful radial Thailand ever produced. The cargo hold of the aircraft was gutted and replaced with bomb racks, enabling the B.Th.8 to drop up to 6,000 pounds of bombs. However, early prototypes of the bomber were equipped with older Karnasuta radials, the German engines being unavailable - and they failed to demonstrate the power and range the Thai Air Army needed. With a full bomb load, the prototype's range fell just short of Australia, and it demanded altitude restrictions which made the bombers incredibly vulnerable to enemy interceptors.

By the time the Chao 1201 radials became available and the first B.Th.8 came into service, New Caledonia was out of Thai hands and the Solomon Islands were flush with Allied interceptors, ensuring that there would be no opportunities to invade Australia. Only a few B.Th.8s were constructed, most of them based at airfields like Udorn to contribute to bombing raids in the Burmese and Yunnan theatres. Eventually the surviving aircraft were repurposed as transports, just as the design was originally intended.

SAHI B.KhR.3 Naak

Allied reporting name: Troy
Manufacturer: Siam Air Heavy Industry
Role: Fighter
Introduced: 1944
Produced: ~150
Operators: Thai People's Republic

Length: ~33 ft
Empty weight: ~6,100 lb
Powerplant: 1x Homruen Model 23N2 inline engine, 1,788hp at 15,000 feet
Maximum speed: 679 km/h at 20,000 feet
Range: 1,500 km
Service ceiling: 35,000 ft
Rate of climb: 3,700 ft/min at sea level, 4,100 ft/min above 10,000 feet
Armament: 1x 30mm prop-hub cannon; 2x nose-mounted 12.7mm machineguns

The quest to replace the agile Garuda fighter was a difficult one for Thailand for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the relative newness of its aviation industry. The Siamese Miracle had been pulled off with the aid of German and Italian engineers from Heinkel and Junkers in particular, and with the war in Europe worsening, resources from Germany were no longer as quick to come, with many Junkers of Asia aircraft diverted to China anyway. It fell to Thailand's own military minds to devise a next-generation carrier-based aircraft.

In the so-called Naga, they thought they had one. The aircraft was esentially a derivation of the B.KhR.2F "Garuda-F" variant, which had been re-engineered to carry an in-line engine. The B.KhR.3 refined that design into a machine that improved on the Garuda in every respect but range. Unlike its predecessor, the Naga had armour for the pilot and self-sealing fuel tanks, and it utilized a bubble canopy design in a cockpit more comfortable for the pilot than the austere Garuda's seating arrangement. Despite being heavier than the Garuda, the Naga was much faster and could compete with it in basic maneuvers, while correcting many of its flaws. The Naga had the hydraulically-booted flaps the Garuda lacked, and it phased out the obsolete float-type carburetor which strangled the Garuda in a dive. Effectively the aircraft was the ultimate refinement of the Heinkel He 112 that underlied a lot of the Thai air force: Through Thai knockoffs, it got the DB 601 it could never get in Germany.

However, the Naga still failed to meet design specifications: The Thai brain trust had sought a top speed of 700 km/h and a range of 2,000 kilometres. But these were hampered by the high-tensile steel utilized to reinforce the tail section and the tailhook mechanism, which had nearly torn off in initial tests. The extra weight and rebalancing slowed down the aircraft, and no more powerful engine was available. While the Homruen Model 23N2 engine - a further refinement of the Daimler-Benz engine clones being produced by Thai engineers - was by far the best engine the country produced, problems with Thai metallurgy and fuel grade prevented it from meeting its full potential. Finally, with the war beginning to turn against Thailand, the government of Phaibun Sunthorn authorized the production of the Naga - only to cancel it after the loss of most of Thailand's aircraft carriers by late 1944, leaving the aircraft nowhere to take off from. The Model 23N2 engines were diverted to the B.Kh.23, which could do what the Naga did more cost-effectively and without the need to carry a tailhook.

About 150 Nagas did see production in the hopes of being moved to an as-yet-unfinished carrier. When it became evident that the war would wind down before the ship was finished, the fighters were simply sent to war: Some saw combat over Rabaul, but about 100 were assigned to various home guard squadrons in 1945 and saw action over Rangoon, where they acquitted themselves as well as could be expected against the British Spitfire and Tempest fighters they faced. However, these home guard units had only a few skilled pilots. Most who flew a Naga were inexperienced, no match for crack Commonwealth aviators. Today, only one Naga survives: An unflown version with a faulty engine, captured by British troops in Mawlamyine.

SAHI B.Kh.23 Cha-lam

Allied reporting name: Doug (Shark)
Manufacturer: Siam Air Heavy Industry
Role: Fighter
Introduced: 1945
Produced: ~1,000
Operators: Thai People's Republic
Secondhand Operators: Republic of Indonesia, Union of Burma, Democratic Republic of Vietnam, State of Vietnam, Kingdom of Laos

Length: ~32 ft
Empty weight: ~6,400 lb
Powerplant: 1x Homruen Model 23N2 inline engine, 1,788 hp at 15,000 feet
Maximum speed: 682 km/h at 15,000 ft; 704 m/h at 36,000 ft
Range: 1,210 km
Service ceiling: 39,000 ft
Rate of climb: 3,800 ft/min at sea level, 4,300 ft/min above 15,000 feet
Armament: 2x 12.7mm nose-mounted machine guns; 2x 20mm cannon in the wings

As the Allies closed the noose on Thailand, the government of Phaibun Sunthorn was clawing for a solution that would defeat the waves of CCF Thunderbirds and Chinooks, Grumman Hellcats and late-model Supermarine Spitfires and Hawker Typhoons whomping his boys in the air. Thailand's struggles with inline engines, however, had finally been ironed out by the time of the Allied offensive thanks to a successful cloning of Daimler-Benz's DB 600-series engines. While the B.Kh.20 Seux had arrived and thrived, more was needed out of the engine, and in the late stages of the war, Homruen and SAHI finally delivered.

The B.Kh.23 Cha-lam was a quantum leap in aircraft performance, the highest-performing aircraft Thailand produced and the only one able to exceed 700 km/h - and with its wider wing, it could edge the Mustang and the Chinook in a turning battle. Aerodynamically and mechanically a refinement of the successful Tiger, the Shark drew its success from the powerful Model 23N2 inline engine, tuned for high altitude, as well as from aerodynamics influenced by captured Supermarine Spitfires and British Mustangs. The Shark implemented many western features that made it a fully modern aircraft: The pilot was placed within a bubble canopy and surrounded by bulkheads and an armour plate, and the aircraft featured self-sealing fuel tanks. The Cha-lam's biggest addition, however, was the engine: The Model 23N2 featured both direct fuel injection and a fully modern two-speed/two-stage intercooled supercharger based on that used in a later-model Rolls-Royce Merlin. In virtually every respect, the Shark was a modern, sophisticated aircraft, competitive on paper with the best the Allies could field.

Reality, however, worked against the Shark. The Model 23N2 engines were more sophisticated and tightly-built than the fuel-guzzling earlier Model 23s used in the Tiger, and Thai engineers struggled to maintain them - and even those fresh from the factory often broke down due to manufacturer error. The quality of Thai metallurgy was not on part with Germany's to begin with, and the engines proved prone to overheat damage, requiring careful treatment at high altitude at a time when Thailand didn't have enough pilots with enough training to exercise that care. Late-war Thai fuel tended to be low-octane compared to the higher-graade fuels used by the Allies, further limiting the Shark's performance. As well, Thailand's copying of the supercharger was fairly crude owing to a depletion of engineering expertise over the course of the war, and while the Model 23N2 could deliver nearly 1,800 horsepower and speeds above 700 km/h at high altitude when well-maintained, it struggled at low altitude. In practice, most engines in the field were poorly-maintained and overstressed, and the Sharks fielded in the last days of the war suffered from chronic overheats and failures.

When the Shark did fly, its pilots did it few favours: Most of them were frightened young teenagers and older men with minimal training, and in some cases even women or children. Only three Thai pilots became aces in the Shark during the war, with most of the aircraft being shot down by more experienced Allied pilots or simply being captured or destroyed on the tarmac. While the mechanical hurdles were solved eventually, in terms of effectiveness on the war the Shark was a non-factor, and the less-capable B.Kh.20's impact was much greater. For all its sophisticated design, the Shark simply did not arrive soon enough to win Thailand the war, and when it did arrive, on its best day and with all other factors being equal, it was still only about as good as the Mustang, Spitfire, Chinook, Corsair and Thunderbird, and even then, only with a good pilot.

The sophistication of the B.Kh.23 was only truly recognized after the war, when surviving airframes were pressed into service in areas Thailand had occupied during the war, where they were flown by better pilots, maintained by more skilled technicians and powered by high-octane fuel. These factors allowed the Shark to show its full potential as an aircraft that could go toe-to-toe with the Mustang and the Chinook. The Shark proved especially potent in the hands of nationalists mobilized as part of the Thai-sponsored Liberation Armies. In particular, several dozen examples left intact in hangars on Sumatra and Borneo were seized by the Indonesian side during the Indonesian National Revolution and put into service fighting the Dutch attempt to reassert their colonial government, proving a match for the best aircraft the recovering Royal Netherlands East Indies Air Force could field. Several Sharks survived the conflict and served with the nascent Indonesian Air Force well into the 1950s. Most surviving airframes are museum pieces originating in Indonesia.

The Dominion of AH Albion