Thursday, May 10, 2012


This is one of my favourite pieces of kit boxart (and aviation art in general), by one of my favourite aviation artists, Shigeo Koike, who in addition to painting exquisite aircraft portraits, has a long association with producing artwork for Hasegawa plastic kits.

It might not be the most accurate depiction of the time and place, with another one here, but it is still a great painting (I like the incidental detail of the cloud in particular) and depicts the last flight of a US Navy F-4J Phantom, callsign "Showtime 100" on the 10th of May 1972 . At work we write all the dates dd/mon/yy as a convention for clarity, and I have nearly automatically written "10 May 72" instead of "10 May 12" a heap of times today since it is a date I have seen in print so often.
It's crew that day shot down three MiGs in one mission (becoming the first US aces of the Vietnam War), including an epic final duel against arguably the best North Vietnamese pilot any US flier would encounter throughout the war, before being shot down themselves by an unseen missile (the last battle against the well handled MiG-17 flown by a mysterious pilot also the subject of myth and lore is depicted in both paintings). Swiftly rescued they were back on their carrier the same day. It is one of the most analysed and discussed air combats in history, probably second only to the Red Baron's final flight.

Forget the movie, this was real TOPGUN stuff, with their performance that day helping vindicate the formation of the then still relatively new and unproven tactics school that was created to address poor performances earlier in the war. Both of the crew were TOPGUN graduates, and would go become TOPGUN instructors, although one would subsequently fall from grace in a big way.

It was the stuff of legends, and 40 years ago today (and only four years before I was born just quietly...).

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