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While the Satellite photo is revealing, the Chinese released some other photos a couple of days ago, of their own:

http://www.janes.com/aerospace/military/news/misc/aries010404_1_n.shtml

Note that these are not complete. We can’t see the other side, and there is not much detail.

The propellers and wings obviously look to be chewed up by debris from something being torn apart in front of it. If these photos exhibit all of the damage, then it’s clearly to one side of the aircraft.

My interest is the missing nose cone, which typically houses radar and avionics equipment. Where is it? How did it get lopped off so cleanly?

But a missing nose cone? That’s very curious..

How do you lop the nose cone off of an aircraft without significantly affecting the airframe. If I were to guess (and I am) then I’d say that any impact substantial enough to take the nose clean off of the aircraft is going to force it down immediately, or at least leave some collateral damage beyond the hinge where the Nose Cone detaches for maintenance.

How do you hit a P-3 with a fighter jet such that only the nose cone comes off? The jet would have to pass in front of the P-3 traveling in the same direction (more or less) and the speed would have to be nearly equal. That would be pretty terrifying if you were on the P-3. But surely there would be collateral damage, at the very least carbon burns from the exhaust of the J-8’s engine.

But all we have is a missing nose cone and some debris damage which catastrophically affected one wing and 2 turboprops.

I’m not into committing to any theories just yet, but what if the cone was removed after landing?

What if the J-8s actually hit each other, causing debris to fragment off of one plane and hit the wing of the P-3, and one J-8 to crash into the ocean after the pilot ejected? Massive damage to the P3 forcing emergency landing, remaining J8 hurt but still airworthy makes the decision about where to land an obvious one thanks to its canon fire.

P3 lands, Chinese remove nose cone so they can grab a shining example of USofA’s best radar package and they leave it off, suggesting the fault of the US Pilot in the incident. They snap a few photos for CNN just to prove their case.

Hmmm?

-Ian.

On 4/5/01 9:48 AM, “Richard Campbell” wrote:

>
> Cause of the accident is going to be difficult to determine at best.
> Considering the damage (especially if the stablizer was damaged, as it
> appears in the satellite photo), the F-8 was likely behind and above the
> EP-3E – since aircraft don’t have rear-view mirrors, and the EP-3E has very
> few windows (they’re a distraction in the spy biz), likely the EP-3E pilot
> didn’t know where the F-8 was.
>
> Normally an escort pose should put the F-8s above and slightly trailing the
> wing tips of the EP-3E, which would appear to indicate that the F-8 in
> question was out of position.
>
> Also, remember the F-8 is a high mach interceptor – if the EP-3E was
> travelling at normal cruise (377kts), the F-8 would have been nose-high and
> slow, which is a very inefficient and unstable flying pose. Worse yet,
> likely the EP-3E was flying slower still, since it was trying to collect
> detailed communication and radar data. I’ll bet those F-8s were not a long
> way away from stall speeds when this was going on.
>
> Its interesting to note on the map that the EP-3E had already gone past
> Hainan island, having approached it from the northeast, they were past it
> and likely getting ready to head back to Okinawa.
>
> There’s a number of possibilities for the collision – the most obvious being
> a sudden break by the EP-3E… but the pilot ought to have known better,
> after all, he’s not the one with missiles hanging under his wings, so he
> wouldn’t been keen to make any sudden moves.
>
> Its possible that the F-8 had a mechanical failure, say a turbine stall on
> the starboard engine, causing a yaw/roll right, which could cause the kind
> of impact that appears to have taken place.
>
> The F-8 could have been closing on the EP-3E, either in a buzz move
> (harassing the enemy) or to take detailed pictures of the aircraft – do a
> little spying back. This would be a very dangerous thing to do, since the
> F-8 has a single pilot, who would have to fly the plane with one hand and
> take pictures with the other, and under less than ideal flying conditions.
>
> The latter scenario could cause the failure too – suppose the F-8 crossed
> the prop-wash of the EP-3E. At those low speeds, a turbine stall (better
> known as a “flame out” in jet parlance) is not anomolous at all.
>
> Likely we’ll never know – the Chinese pilot is probably dead, his wingman
> out of position to see, and the I’ll bet the EP-3E crew is going to say the
> impact took them by surprise. The most you could hope for in clarification
> would be radio traffic (which the Chinese would never admit to and the US
> would be hesitant to confess that they had it) and/or the EP-3E crew hearing
> the engine stall (which does make a hell of a loud bang).
>
>
> R.
>
> —–Original Message—–
> From: Gersham Meharg [mailto:gersham [at] etunnels [dot] com]
> Sent: Thursday, April 05, 2001 9:29 AM
> To: ‘Richard Campbell’; ‘foib ianbell.com’
> Subject: RE: RE: Spying on China..
>
>
> News reports said the flaps were also damaged, preventing the pilot from a
> low speed ditch in to the ocean. This means that they would have landed
> probably without slowing down for landing at all (given the two engines).
> That pilot has a couple horseshoes up his butt. Of course, as Richard
> points out below, he may have caused the accident in the first place.
>
> —–Original Message—–
> From: Richard Campbell [mailto:rjc [at] guh [dot] com]
> Sent: April 5, 2001 1:05 AM
> To: ‘foib ianbell.com’
> Subject: @F: RE: Spying on China..
>
>
>
> Some additional info I’ve been able to glean recently about this incident –
>
> Its all but confirmed that the aircraft in question is an EP-3E Aries II,
> which is a SigInt aircraft that routinely operates in that area.
>
> What isn’t routine is the fact that there was a mid-air collision – these
> are extremely bloody unlikely. Even MORE unlikely is that either aircraft
> was flyable afterward.
>
> The IKONOS satellite took a picture of the aircraft on the field in Lingshui
> at one meter resolution. You can get a look at the aircraft at
> http://www.space.com/php/multimedia/imagepump/index.php. If you zoom in
> close and stare real hard, you’ll see the damage done to the aircraft, all
> along the port side. A part of the stablizer (that’s the rear wing for you
> non-aircraft junkies), a significant portion of the outer section of the
> port wing and BOTH port engines are missing. This picture supports some
> eyewitness reports about the aircraft.
>
> If this damage is accurate, it truly is a miracle that the aircraft landed
> at all – the loss of power on the port side, combined with a decrease in
> lift (due to losing some of the wing) and increase in drag (due to the loss
> of the bits of wing not exactly being smooth) would render the aircraft
> rather unstable, with heavy port yaw. I suspect we’ll find the pilot had a
> pretty straight run at the airfield, and didn’t have to go far – most
> aircraft would not have survived this.
>
> It would have also been extremely difficult to move about the cabin during
> what was likely a brief and extremely rough flight – making destroying the
> SigInt systems difficult. However, the EP-3E is designed for such events
> (risking sensitive technology), and has explosives installed into the
> workstations to destroy them virtually instantly. The question is whether
> the crew was willing to have risked their lives to have explosions onboard
> (albeit supposedly “safe” explosions) after the aircraft was damaged.
>
> The Chinese fighter was an Shenyang F-8 “Finback”: apparently two fighters
> escorted the EP-3E for some time before the collision. The F-8 is also known
> as the J-8, there are a number of variations. The basic airframe is derived
> from the MiG-21, which the Chinese know as the J-7. Its basic design is from
> the 50s, it was developed during the 60s, and has been flying since the 80s.
> There are variations STILL in development. In other words, this is an
> extremely elderly design of an airframe, based on the old high-mach
> interceptor principals.
>
> What this really means is that the F-8 could never have avoided the EP-3E:
> while the EP-3E is a much larger aircraft, it is a short-chord,
> straight-wing turbo-prop, and could easily stand on its wing to turn
> (rolling so the wings pointed straight up and down and pull hard). Even with
> a less severe turn, the F-8 (which looks like a fish, accelerates like a
> fish, and steers like a cow) would not be able to turn with the EP-3E.
>
> It would be interesting to know what the OTHER fighter did during the
> incident. Did he track his friend (who did eject from the striken F-8) to
> help with search and rescue, or did he escort the EP-3E? The Chinese still
> follow the Soviet-style air doctrine, which means he would have been in
> contact and under orders by ground controllers the whole time.
>
> The incident took place about 70nm southeast of Hainan island – the EP-3E
> pilot would have made a slow and tricky turn to starboard (you never turn
> toward the failed engines, its too easy to put the aircraft into a spin) and
> then limped directly into Lingshui airfield. Since cruise speed of the P-3
> airframe (which is what the EP-3E is built from) is 377knots, with two
> engines down and grief all around, likely they flew at 100-150knots, making
> the trip in 30-40 minutes. Must have been a severely unpleasant half hour of
> their lives…

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