Best tactical recon platform: converted fighters or dedicated recon aircraft?

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Also, I'd prefer the aircraft to be armed (or at least being capable of being used as an armed fighter when not doing recon)
If you want PR aircraft have dedicated PR aircraft, you want to shoot stuff up send fighters, the last thing you want to do is lose an aircraft full of photos' because the pilot decided to shoot up a truck put out as bait for just that very reason.
Now here's a "what if" scenario. Let's take a hypothetical fighter that uses a radiator duct layout similar to the P-51H Mustang/F-82 Twin Mustang. Now someone wants to mount oblique and a vertical camera in it. How would that work given the length/size of the radiator duct exit? I've seen some rough cutaways of the P-51H and a couple of good ones for the F-82. And from what I've seen, the P-51H's rear fuselage is probably too cramped for even a F24 camera to be mounted vertically.
Or just use MXIX Spitfires, has the range speed and camera layout to do everything needed and its performance meant nothing short of Me262's could catch it, why reinvent the wheel?.
So then we're sort of back to something like this:



Only issue with that is that the USAAF and RAF did value Mustangs as armed recon aircraft. Even many later Spitfires (FR 14 and FR 18) retained full armament so they could be used as ordinary fighters or defend themselves on recon missions.
A lot depends on the camera's you want to use.
Basic Bf 109 installation.


The side view ports on the Mustangs did not have as much trouble with rain or dripping fuel, oil, coolant or plain crud getting on the view port.
The German camera was huge.

There are some old threads about cameras and aircraft installations somewhere on the site.
I would note that "mustang like" does not mean it would actually work like a Mustang radiator. The concept is there, the execution may not be. the Mustang radiator duct works, in part, due to it's length. A shorter duct with more abrupt changes in direction is going to have more turbulence.
The Spitfire was supposed to use the Meredith effect in it's short under wing ducts. The short ducts don't allow enough space to slow the air down and speed it back up.
Maybe use oblique cameras on single engine/single seat fighters, and a vertical camera on twin engine/single fuselage fighters. And a pod if one wants to go the twin engine/twin fuselage route (twin boom/central fuselage pod--see twin engine/single fuselage fighter).

I did read on here in a thread about Allison vs Merlin Mustangs in the technical area that the RAF wanted more Allison P-51s, namely an advanced variant with cannon armament, preferably twin oblique and a single vertical camera, and maybe a bubble canopy (or at least an upgraded Malcomb Hood). If so, imagine an Allison powered P-51D (if given a bubble canopy) with 4x20mm cannons.

Of course, North American was no longer making Allison Mustangs by that point, so the RAF had to make do with existing Allison P-51s or the Merlin powered F-6s for fighter/recon.

And though I've been told that NAA could've made a P-51H recon conversion work, I'm not sure that an oblique camera, let alone a vertical one, would fit.

p-51H+ (2).jpg

One solution could be do what was also suggested (my take on it), and use a split canopy where the portion over the pilot can slide back over the rear section, which could maybe be used to house a camera if done right.
Or just use PR Spitfires and Mosquitoes.
But in the low to medium altitude Tactical Reconnaissance role the RAF did not, if they could avoid it, use their special build, dedicated PR Spitfires and Mosquitoes in that role.

That is why with the declining number of Allison engine Mustangs available to the RAF 2TAF Tac/R Squadrons you end up with Spitfire Vs fitted with an oblique camera and a low altitude rated Merlin equipping a couple of the Tac/R Squadrons in 1944; the Spitfire FR.IX as an interim type in 1944; the Hawker Typhoon FR.1b, and then eventually the Spitfire FR.XIV - again with engine optimised for low to medium altitude use. The problem with all those replacement and interim types when their use in the TacR role was evaluated, was that they usually did not meet one or more of the identified key criteria. That might be in relation to the number and types of cameras able to be carried and the types of photography they could conduct; range (importantly without use of drop tanks or external fuel to extend range); low to medium level performance (which also took into account engine performance and engine and airframe vibration at operational altitudes and airspeeds); and ability to operate from ALGs in a wide range of conditions (landing and take-off distances, rough strips, cross winds, in field maintenance). Added in their as well was armament, sufficient for self protection and suppression of enemy defensive flak in some instances as well as ability to take out targets of opportunity if it did not jeopardise the primary task of the aircraft, being reconnaissance and getting either the visual report from the pilot or the photographs back to base.

Two different roles and requirements within the RAF Reconnaissance Wings in 2TAF supporting the Army Groups as they were set up from late 1943 and going forward.

Usually one Squadron of high level PR types, originally to be either Spitfire PR.XI or PR Mosquito - the idea for the use of the Mosquito was soon dropped due to the planned 'mobile' nature of the Wings, the larger sized ALGs and additional support requirements for the Mosquito vs the Spitfire PR.XI. To be used to obtain 'strategic' photographic reconnaisance coverage for the Army, usually large scale coverage of the front line and areas extending back from the front line on both sides of the line. A large focus on obtaining coverage to develop up to date maps and identify key enemy pressure point and nodes including supply centres,

Then there would be two or three low to medium level Tac/R Squadrons initially intended to be equipped with Allison engine Mustangs, all aircraft to be fitted with oblique cameras, and a percentage of those also to be fitted with a vertical camera, eventually intending all to have oblique and vertical camera carrying capability. These to provide the low level tactical coverage, more immediately the front line and immediate areas behind the frontline, obtaining photography with greater detail of specific features. Part of the use of the low level oblique photography was to obtain photography that could be used to plan and brief operations by Army units, providing a point of view usable by advancing units that they didn't get from the high level 'strategic' PR coverage. In addition to the Tactical Photographic Reconnaissance, they also did Artillery Reconnaissance - directing artillery; contact patrols in conjunction with contact cars with forward Army units where they could be requested to investigate areas to the immediate front of the Army unit. They also did a lot of post strike reconnaissance after artillery barrages and after attacks on enemy positions or locations by the medium bombers of 2TAF/2Group as well as post strike of attacks by rocket carrying Typhoons or fighter bomber Typhoons or Spitfires - very immediate where they would often 'tag along' just behind the attacking formations and have the photos back being processed before the attacking aircraft were back at base.

One of the issues the 2TAF Reconnaissance WIngs encountered after the invasion was getting space on the ALGs, and then as the advance occurred, getting space on ALGs relatively close to the front line. There was an issue where the supporting fighter/fighter-bomber units would get space on ALGs relatively close to the front so they could generate the maximum number of sorties over the front line as quickly as possible - proximity to the front. The Recce Wings were then fitted in as an afterthought, which meant at certain stages of the campaign they were operating from bases well back from the front, which then limited some types eg the Spitfire FR.IX and Typhoon FR.1b in the time they could spend over the front and distance beyond the front they could cover due to their reduced range compared to the Mustang. As a result, a larger percentage of the required tasking fell onto the Mustang units with the result that they used up their airframes, engines, etc a lot quicker than originally anticipated. There were also instances where the Recce Wings were moved into ALGs where the orientation of the available runways regularly made them unusable by the Spitfires as they were out of their crosswind limits (even with wartime allowances), or the quality of the ALG runway was so poor that the units with Spitfires had a significantly higher rate of take off and landing accidents whilst at those ALGs, compared to the units with the Mustangs or Typhoons. So again, more demand on the reducing number of available Allison engine Mustang airframes they had left.

After VE-Day, with the downsizing of the RAF and establishment of BAFO, they disbanded a lot of Squadrons and created 'composite' Recce Squadrons in the Army Co-operation/Support role, comprising two flights of low to medium altitude types - usually Spitfire FR.XIVe, with one flight of high altitude type - usually Spitfire PR.XIX, combining the capabilities and roles that had been encompassed in a Recce Wing, within a Recce Squadron.
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The F4F-7 Photo Recon variant of the Wildcat is less well known. Has anyone read first hand accounts of flying an extended mission in a PR Wildcat? Range over 3000 miles.
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It's a little off-topic, but I found this site this morning: Baseball and Bombers: USAAF Reconnaissance Photography During the Second World War | Historic England

To explain:

LONDON — Way before Google Earth, there was photo reconnaissance by the U.S. Army Air Forces.

During World War II, specifically in 1943 and 1944, reconnaissance units of the USAAF — the predecessor to the U.S. Air Force — captured photos of the changing face of England, primarily around the American bases in the south of the country.

More than 3,600 of their black and white images were made available Wednesday in a free online, searchable map through the archive of Historic England, a public body that seeks to champion England's history and environment.

From showing U.S. military personnel playing baseball to ancient monuments surrounded by anti-tank defenses, the collection gives a bird's-eye view of the impact of the war on England and the training that was necessary ahead of bombing and reconnaissance missions over Nazi-occupied Europe.

Unsurprisingly, the dozens of new airfields that were built by U.S. forces feature heavily, as do the military camps and storage facilities constructed in the run-up to D-Day in June 1944. Towns and cities were also captured, including the 1941 bomb damage at Manchester United Football Club's Old Trafford stadium, one of the most northernmost photographs in the collection.

"Our collection of USAAF wartime photographs were taken in England by the pilots and aircraft of squadrons that provided intelligence for the eventual defeat of Nazi Germany," said Duncan Wilson, Historic England's chief executive. "This came at a cost, with many pilots killed in the line of duty."


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