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View Full Version : drop tank explosion, what would happen?



moeburn
03-17-2004, 08:08 AM
I'm doing a model of a p-51D, in particular i'm going to make it a crash scene. I was wondering if anyone here knew what would happen if the droptank were shot at, and exploded? The oxygen-gasping fumes would definately turn off the engine, but would the explosion leave the plane in one piece? Also, where are the primary fuel tanks located on a p51D?

moeburn
03-17-2004, 08:08 AM
I'm doing a model of a p-51D, in particular i'm going to make it a crash scene. I was wondering if anyone here knew what would happen if the droptank were shot at, and exploded? The oxygen-gasping fumes would definately turn off the engine, but would the explosion leave the plane in one piece? Also, where are the primary fuel tanks located on a p51D?

Dmitri9mm
03-17-2004, 08:23 AM
I once read an article on the subject. Unfortunately I forgot where, but the information might still be useful:

It basicly stated, that all airforces strictly encouraged pilots to drop their tanks in good time when the enemy was sighted, at least in the RAF and USAAF it was custom to issue an order to drop the tanks before giving the order to attack. Therefore the droptanks were seldom exposed to enemy fire.
However there exist reports on incidents where german planes were caught by surprise, and had their drop tanks hit. In general the droptanks were prone to catch fire in a single hit of a tracer/explosive round, the result being allmost allways fatal. The drop tank would literally blow up, lighting the lower part of the plane on fire.
The largest drop tanks however, I believe they contained 108 gallons but I'm not sure, were made of pressed paper, covered by thin aluminum foil. These tanks were said to have the ability to blow off the rear of the tank if they caught fire, burning off all the fuel in a single, huge burst of flames, but since the tank did not explode, the plane itself should only recieve minor damage.
For reasons which should be obvious, this has never been tested in real life.
Hope this could serve as some sort of explanation.

georgeo76
03-17-2004, 08:25 AM
I'm not sure how much of the AC would be left @ a crash site w/ a fuel tank explosion. Even if none of the other fuel tanks ignited, you would expect the entire undercarriage to be charred, perhaps exposing internal structure. (tires would melt?) Aluminum is has a relatively low melting point, so any structure exposed to extreme heat would likely fail under stress.

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Dmitri9mm
03-17-2004, 08:26 AM
I forgot to mention:
These pressed-paper tanks where used solely by the USAAF. All other nations, AFAIK, used only metal tanks.

Bremspropeller
03-17-2004, 08:49 AM
I saw some gun-cam footage that showed planes continuing their flight "normally" after a droptank-explosion.

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HARD_Sarge
03-17-2004, 09:58 AM
where are the fuel tanks at ? all over the place http://ubbxforums.ubi.com/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

the D had one behind the pilot, also in the wings (the 51 was one of the few planes that the pilots used up there main fuel before turning on there drop tanks, to get the balance of the plane right (full fuel tank made heavy tail) normally burned off half the main tank then switched to drop tanks)

there were all kinds of sizes of drop tanks

believe the 47 used anywhere from 50 to 200 gallon tanks (not counting the "real" ferry tanks)50/75/108/150/200 which of course, each ended up carring more then there numbers

which also, on the 47, you could carry up to 3 tanks, towards the end, 2 150's with a 200 Flat tank under the belly

from what I was looking at, 150 was the largest tanks for the 51 ?

but the 38 could carry even bigger tanks, normal was duel 150's followed later with duel 300's

which got to remember, those are combat tanks, they also had "ferry tanks" which could be larger, but were not made for action, just to increase the range

(I look up reseach and help with the Beta tests on new OOB's for BTR, Bombing the Reich, so this subject has come up a few times in the past)

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Zyzbot
03-17-2004, 11:01 AM
I believe that Johnnie Johnson spoke about shooting down a FW-190 in his book "Wing Leader".....IIRC his burst was too low to hit the plane but it did hit the drop tank and blew the plane up.

One13
03-17-2004, 11:54 AM
According to "Fighter Aircraft" by Alfred Price firing trials carried out in the USA late in the war showed that even in extreme cases, where the drop tank was hit and blew open, the fuel fell clear downwards and no trailing fire resulted. Exploding drop tanks showed no tendancy to fragment, they split into large pieces which moved outwards at low velocity and caused little secondary damage.
The trial showed that in most cases the only effect of the drop tank being hit while in place was that it absorbed a blow which the aircraft would otherwise have had to take.
The general conclusion was that it was unnecessary to jettison a drop tank unless a pilot needed the extra performance which resulted. Even if a pilot was surprised by an enemy and hit in the drop tank, almost invariably it could be released before it caused damage.
I also remember reading about drop tanks on the Spitfire. If they were not released correctly (at the right speed & either level or climbing) the tanks would hit the aircraft.

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SKIDRO_79FS
03-17-2004, 02:55 PM
Actually almost any aircraft equipped with drop tanks could be damged by releasing the tanks at high speeds or with the flaps down, the flight manual of the P-38J clearly states

"WARNING: EMPTY 300 GALLON TANKS ARE TO BE DROPPED ONLY IN AN EMERGENCY as the tanks may hit the airplane when released. To drop the tanks, it is necessary to slow the airplane down to 120 mph with landing gear and flaps up to avoid serious damage."

I've also read numerous accounts of damage from released drop tanks hitting many different types of aircraft. The usaual damage was to the flaps and tail assemblies.

Incidentally, it was possible to belly-land a P-51 with both empty drop tanks (metal of course, this was prior to the conversion to the pressed paper ones)still attached, a pilot from the 79th. Ftr. Sqdn. did it.

Has anyone tried dropping their drop tanks on a ground target then strafing the soaked area to set off the fuel? This was a common practice for several 8th. AF Groups during the war and the precursor to dropping napalm.

moeburn
03-17-2004, 04:14 PM
holy crap, thanks for all the help everyone! So i'm thinking in my model, i should rip off the bottom half of the drop tank, and bend the top half curved up towards the fuselage in a jagged fashion, and have that entire area scorched from the burning fuel.

But one question resides, would this large explosion eat enough oxygen to shut off the engine (not permanately, just so that it must be restarted)?

Z4K
03-17-2004, 06:19 PM
I've seen gun camera footage from a Mustang (and I know one example makes for bad statistics, but it's all I've got) where it hit a drop tank under the belly of a FW 190. The fuel, as One13 said, simply exploded down as it fell from the aircraft. The FW kept flying fine - engine running (until the Mustang proceeded to blow it away haha but that's beside the point). There wasn't even any real visible damage to the plane. Also, there was nothing left of the tank at all.

I can't imagine that the fuel would ever starve the engine of oxygen if the plane was flying. It's behind and below the engine which would still be getting fresh air from ahead of the aircraft.

BS87
03-17-2004, 08:11 PM
I dont know about the other USAAF planes, but i'm pretty sure in FB the p47 has moddled droptank dammage. I think they catch on fire but i'm not sure if they explode.

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Menthol_moose
03-17-2004, 08:48 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Z4K:
I've seen gun camera footage from a Mustang (and I know one example makes for bad statistics, but it's all I've got) where it hit a drop tank under the belly of a FW 190. The fuel, as One13 said, simply exploded down as it fell from the aircraft. The FW kept flying fine - engine running (until the Mustang proceeded to blow it away haha but that's beside the point). There wasn't even any real visible damage to the plane. Also, there was nothing left of the tank at all.

.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

The world at war series, has that piece of particular footage. Expensive but great buy for 10 dvds.

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