The real plane
|Wingspan: 43.05 m, Length: 35.8 m, Height: 11.7 m
|Maximum speed: 595 kph, Cruise speed: 480 kph , Service ceiling: 9,100 m, Range: 6,900 km
|Empty: 38,500 kg, Max. loaded: 79,000 kg
|Four Pratt & Whitney R-4360-59V Wasp Major engines rated at 3,500 hp. each
A four-engine long range transport that served in the IAF in from 1964 to 1978. The Stratocruisers gave the IAF unprecedented reach, as far as transport was concerned, and enabled it to bring in large cargoes from abroad, quickly and efficiently.
The Anak was one of the most technically complex planes to fly in the IAF, and received the unflattering title “the largest three engine plane in the world”, because of its engines’ tendency to malfunction. Heyl Ha’avir’s technicians were able to adapt the (originally civilian) plane to its new military role, and developed high-level safety standards for the plane.
Other changes – like a rear opening ramp and systems for airdropping Jeeps and APCs – proved impractical. In any case, the IAF saw the Stratocruisers as an essential element of its air transport arm.
The service at the Israeli Air force
In the early 1960’s, the IAF, which had been operating Dakota and Nord transports, needed a larger transport that could carry and drop heavier cargoes. Initially, the intention was to buy the new Hercules model, but its price tag was high and the US refused to approve the deal in any case.
At the time, a privately owned Stratocruiser was undergoing repairs in Israel. The IAI was given a chance to take an up-close look at the plane, and test-fly it. Al Schwimmer, who headed the IAI at the time, offered to supply the IAF with Stratocruisers, that would first be improved and modified by the IAI. IAF Commander Ezer Weizmann objected strenuously, saying the planes were too old and problematic. But Schwimmer managed to drum up support for the idea in the Ministry of Defense, which had in mind the low costs and employment for the IAI workers, and the final decision was in favor of buying the Stratocruisers. The planes were bought at bargain prices and in poor technical condition from various aviation firms, and were fixed up at the IAI, in the largest project the IAI had ever taken upon itself.
The project included taking off the plane’s tail unit and replacing it with that of the C-97 military version. The floor of the cabin was reinforced and a mechanical system was developed for dropping equipment through downward-opening hatches in the tail. Heyl Ha’avir employed 14 Stratocruisers, of both the civilian and military models, on missions of transport and airdrops.
The Stratocruisers officially entered service with the IAF on July 1st 1964, and joined the transport squadron which had been established a year earlier, and had been composed solely of Dakotas. The bulk of its missions in those years involved bringing in cargoes from abroad.
In the years preceding the Six Day War, the squadron carried out numerous flights to France and back, bringing in weapons, ammunition, and precious spare parts. In the war itself, they executed unconventional assignments, like dropping fuel for the IDF armor in the Sinai.
During the War of Attrition, the Stratocruisers carried out numerous transport missions to the Suez area. On Friday, September 17th 1971, a Stratocruiser went on a photographic reconnaissance mission over the Egyptian front line. It was shot down in an Egyptian SA-2 missile ambush, and crashed into the ground 22 km. east of the Suez Canal. Only one of the eight crew members, Maj. Hananya Gazit, survived.
There were ten serviceable planes in Stratocruiser squadron when the Yom Kippur War broke out. They were used on transport missions to the Sinai and overseas, and carried many IDF soldiers to and from Faid airbase on the west bank of the Suez.
When the Skyhawks entered service with the IAF, some of the planes were modified for refueling. In 1978, the Stratocruisers were retired.
Boeing based the Stratocruiser on its B-29 World War II bomber. The extra-large plane was intended to allow Boeing to enter the civilian passenger/transport market (largely controlled by Douglas, Lockheed and Curtiss), by carrying out relatively simple modifications of the military bomber.
|B-377 Clipper Nightingale Stratocruiser
|1999 | Initial release – new tool