Corgi F-5E-2 Lightning - 43-28619 ‘Rita/Ruth’, Usaaf 27th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron, 7th Photographic Group
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One of the most crucial elements of the D-Day air campaign was the gathering of detailed reconnaissance photographs of the entire intended invasion area, which included the assessment of previous bombing raid effectiveness and the identification of future targets. In lessons learned during the disastrous Dieppe raid of 1942, military planners knew they had to have the very latest intelligence information in order to prepare for invasion, disrupting enemy communications and destroying defensive strongholds overlooking the invasion beaches. One of the most effective aircraft in securing this information was the Lockheed F-5E-2 Lightning, the photographic reconnaissance version of the distinctive twin boom P-38J variant. Undergoing modification at squadron level, these aircraft featured enlarged camera windows for more effective information gathering, with this bigger window featuring a teardrop fairing to minimise the impact of addition drag. Lightning 43-28619 was unusual in that it made a feature of this enlarged eye in the sky by the artistic addition of sharks teeth, with the camera windows serving as eyes for the flying beast. Wearing its overall PRU blue colour scheme, nose artwork and D-Day identification markings, this must have been one of the most distinctive aircraft in the skies above the Normandy beaches, even though its mission profile was for the Lightning to remain undetected. On 26th November 1944, this aircraft was intercepted and shot down by a Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter flown by Luftwaffe ace Hermann Buchner, with its unfortunate pilot becoming a prisoner of war.
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