Recognitiion Lights

Discussion in 'Technical' started by geneh, Feb 14, 2008.

  1. geneh

    geneh New Member

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    Does anyone know where the recognition lights (White, Red, Green and Amber) were located on WWII aircraft. Also was there a specific order or arraignment for them.
    geneh
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  2. A4K

    A4K Well-Known Member

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    Mustangs and Thunderbolts had them on the lower starboard wing, the outboard bar of the roundel overlapping them. There were 3 lights in a line (leading- to trailing edge-wise), colours being red, amber,and green in that order, if I remember rightly, and P-39 Airacobra's had white lights near the roundel position on upper port, (and possibly starboard aswell) wing.
    This is all just off the top my head at moment,so can't be too specific, but will checkout details later for ya.

    I also can't tell you at the moment if this was standard for US aircraft, nor what system the British, Italians, Japanes, or Russians used, but as for the Germans, the Focke-wulf Fw 190 had 3 'holes' (portrayed as holes on model aircraft atleast) which I presume were recognition lights under the central fuslage aft of the trailing edge, in 'nose to tail' direction line.
    I don't remember seeing these on any other German aircraft in that configuration, so I wouldn't say it was standard.

    Will check out my info at home this weekend for ya (I'm curious myself now) and will let you know what I find out next week.
     
  3. A4K

    A4K Well-Known Member

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    Ok. I'm back...
    The colour of the US recognition lights was red, green, amber from in leading to trailing edge direction.

    Scratch that about the 'white lights' on P-39's - there were lights on the upper and lower wings near the tips, but these were the standard wing tip navigation lights, that is, red and green.

    And regarding the Fw 190 comment, it seems only the D-series had these features, so maybe they were in fact small flare dispensers, similar to those used on the Me 262.

    Will let you know if I can find out anything more for you.
     
  4. HoHun

    HoHun Active Member

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    Hi A4K,

    >Scratch that about the 'white lights' on P-39's - there were lights on the upper and lower wings near the tips, but these were the standard wing tip navigation lights, that is, red and green.

    Not directly on-topic, but do you perhaps know if WW2-era aircraft had "strobe" lights to go with their navigation lights? The reason I ask is that for my favourite flight simulator, people usually build their warbirds models with strobes ...

    Other light-related topics:

    I read about "collision avoidance lights" in the noses of transport aircraft like the C-47 that cast a beam of red light in an oblique forward angle so that in a head-on collision course situation, turning right when seeing the red light would (hopefully) save the planes.

    With regard to the B-29, I've read about "formation lights", but have been unable to locate the slightest trace of them in photographs. I found what looks like a white light fairly far outboards in the port wing, but that might be a retractable landing light. If anyone has more information on these lights - their position as well as their function and their use -, it would be much appreciated.

    (Couldn't find the landing lights either. Nor the tail light ... it seems to be below the rear gunner position on Fifi, but I wasn't able to find out if it was in the same position on WW2 aircraft. There is a strange flat glass panel with a circular hole above the rear gunner's compartment, too - that's a suspect for the tail light position or more likely a formation light as well.)

    Regards,

    Henning (HoHun)
     
  5. A4K

    A4K Well-Known Member

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    G'day guys, sorry about the delay in replying!

    I'm not sure about the strobe lights, HoHun, but I have the book 'Supplement to Grumman TBF/ TBM "Avenger" ', by B.R Jackson and T.E Doll (Aero publishers Inc. 1970) and it has two three-quarter rear views (from above, and below) of an Avenger showing the positions of all external lights.
    They are as follows:

    1. Wing running light (red) - port wing tip.
    2. Tail running light (white) - trailing edge of rudder, above trim tab.
    3. Recognition light (amber) - aft of bomb bay, centre fueslage line, immediately ahead of ventral gun position.
    4. Recognition light (green) - aft of bomb bay, centre fueslage line, ahead of amber.
    5. Recognition light (red) - aft of bomb bay, centre fueslage line, ahead of green.
    6. Wing running light (green) - starboard wing tip.
    7. Formation lights (blue) - port and starboard wings, near the tips, in line with outside edge of ailerons.
    8. Approach light (green, amber, red) - inboard leading edge of folding part of port wing.
    9. Section light (blue) - along aircraft spine, before, and almost touching tail fillet.

    Hope this is of some use.

    Also regarding recognition lights, it seems sometimes they weren't enough. I read once that P-51's looked so similar to Bf 109s head on, that they had to waggle their wings when approaching their own bomber formations. Apparently one pilot neglected to do so once, and was shot down by a B-24 tail gunner!

    Interesting what you said about the anti-collision lights, too HoHun. I remember reading something about that a long time ago, but had forgotten it. Our military C-47's don't seem to have had them, but I've seen the two nose lights on civilian DC-3s in NZ.
     
  6. plan_D

    plan_D Active Member

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    Don't quote me on this but I don't believe older aircraft had strobe lights. The strobe light was invented in the early 30s and I don't believe they were fitted to aircraft until the 50s. On the Westland Wessex it was a constant light that had a reflector spinning around it, giving the effect of flashing.
     
  7. A4K

    A4K Well-Known Member

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    Modern strobe lights (like those I used to see on our Skyhawks and Strikemasters) really are alot bigger than the lights I've seen on WW II aircraft, so you might well be right Plan D.
     
  8. geneh

    geneh New Member

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    Thanks to everyone for the replies. I'm writing a book about the history of IFF and I have a "Recognition Light" control panel that I'll be having photos of in my "Pre-electronic" IFF chapter.
    Gene
     
  9. A4K

    A4K Well-Known Member

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    Good on ya mate! Will keep you posted if I find out anything more specific.
     
  10. ghilt

    ghilt New Member

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    PV-2 Harpoon...Recognition lights are located on fuslage centerline, underneath , just aft the bomb-bay doors. In the order mentioned previously

    Formation lights are located on the top of the wings...Port wing has a single blue light..Right wing has a blue light and what appears to be a white light...all formation lights are flush to the wing surface.
     
  11. A4K

    A4K Well-Known Member

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    Recognition light switches

    Three recognition lights (Red, green, and amber) are intalled on the lower side of the fueslage just aft of the rear cockpit. A white recognition light is located aft of the rear cockpit on the top of the fueslage.
    The lights are turned on and off by individual switches (figure1-6), located on the panel adjacent to the instrument subpanel in the front cockpit. Each individual switch can be placed in the KEY, STEADY, or OFF position. With any switch in the KEY position, the push button on the top of the switch panel can be used to flash the related light as desired. The recognition lights are disconnected on most airplanes.

    (Flight Handbook AN 01-60FFB-1 USAF SERIES T-6D Aircraft, 15 December 1951)

    b) RECOGNITION LIGHTS.- These airplanes have three downward lights, red, green, and amber. White lights on some airplanes.
    CAUTION
    It is possible to burn the plastic lenses of the downward recognition lights by operating them for more than thirty seconds while on the ground.

    (Pilots flight operating instructions for ARMY MODELS P-38H Series, P-38J Series, P-38L-1 L-5 and F-5B AIRPLANES

    (P-38 recognition lights were operated by a single push button on the top left-hand panel on starboard side of the cockpit –the 9th button- RECOG. LIGHTS )


    (...I remembered this morning that some Japanese bombers ha the recog. Lights as individual ’pop up’ lights on the upper fueslage – will give you more specific info tomorrow)
     
  12. rwright142

    rwright142 New Member

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    I have a question about the usage of the recognition lights.

    I read that they may have been used to prevent friendly fire on them when returning to base.

    Does anyone have any info as to exactly what they were used for and how? For example, did the code for the day indicate that they flashed blue twice then red once, or maybe blue and amber were steady and they flashed red? When they approached the field they flashed them as dictated or is this theory wrong?

    Also, when would the white formation light be illuminated?

    Here's a blueprint of a F4U right wing showing the lights:

    [​IMG]

    Here is the Recognition Switch panel. It looks like you set the lights to "FLASH" or "STEADY" then pressed the "Keying" switch...

    [​IMG]

    Thanks in advance for your answers.
     
  13. A4K

    A4K Well-Known Member

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    Great drawing Rwright!
    Regarding your question, during my time in the RNZAF I noticed that Skyhawk lights flashed in a different pattern to the Strikemaster's lights, and I could identify the aircraft by the pattern diferences, these being in the timing between the flashes.
    I guess these would be timed to coincide with that of all other 'friendly' aircraft in combat conditions, maybe changing the pattern on a regular basis as you say.

    And or geneh..

    'Kawasaki Ki-48 (’Lily’)
    ...Note the retractable signal lamps in the cockpit roof, cable operated by levers on the shelf in the left of the cockpit. The lamps were from the front yellow, blue and red...'
    (From ’Pacific aircraft wrecks’ by Charles Darby, 1979)

    (-The Ki-48’s lamps were evenly spaced between the cockpit canopy and gunner’s glazing, opening to the front)


    Selected aircraft recognition light positioning:

    Chance-Vought F4U-1 Cosair: Upper ID light (white) on fueslage spine halfway between tail and antenna mast (raised ’teardrop’ form). Lower ID lights on port lower wing -colours and position as P-51, P-47 (round, flat lenses)
    De Havilland Mosquito: White, amber, red (nose to tail) on lower rear fueslage centreline (round, flat lenses)
    Handley Page Hampden: Upper ID light (white?) halfway between rear of cockpit canopy and gunner’s glazing. Raised ’teardrop’ form.
    Hawker Hurricane: White, fueslage spine, ahead of antenna mast(raised ’teardrop’ form)
    Mitsubishi A6M Zero Sen: White(?), port and starboard upper wings, directly in front of ailerons, halfway between outside edge and actuator. (raised ’teardrop’ form)
    Supermarine Spitfire: White, fueslage spine, behind antenna mast (raised ’teardrop’ form)

    (From selected cutaway drawings in ’A második világháború repülőgépeinek szerkezete’- hungarian edition of ’Aircraft anatomy world war two’ by Paul Eden and Soph Moeng.
    Spitfire references checked against various other cutaway drawings from different sources)


    -hope this is of some use, send a PM if you want photocopies of any of the info I’ve given in it’s original format – don’t have any way to scan it or send it through the net unfortunately.

    Evan
     
  14. rwright142

    rwright142 New Member

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    Very informative reply - thanks!
     
  15. geneh

    geneh New Member

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    In my research on the history of IFF, I have found that the recognition lights were used to "recognize friendly aircraft at night. These lights were used in different combination's, or could be used for signaling purposes". I have not yet been able to find any "procedures" that dictate when/where/how they would have been used.

    By the way, I'm still looking for any type of information concerning the history or use of IFF.
    Thanks Gene
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