Search Results for “TFX”

Flightdeck Friday: TFX – A Time for Turkeys (Part III)

F-111B Collosal Weight Improvement Proposal

Part I

Part II

Here was a case where McNamara, I think, expected me to keep the admirals in line. The more I looked into it, the more I became convinced that the matter had reached such an emotional state that even if the F-111B, the Navy version, turned out to be an excellent airplane, and it wasn’t all that good, but even if it did, the Navy still wouldn’t want it.

So I went to McNamara and said, “You may not like it, but it seems to me we have got to face reality here. Congress is turning against this. The Navy doesn’t want it.” When I say “the Navy” I am talking about the aviators in the Navy. — Paul Ignatius, SECNAV, 1967-69

Senator, there isn’t enough power in all of Christendom to make that airplane what we want.  — VADM Tom Connolly testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee (1968)

So now TFX was well and truly dead – the Navy had what it wanted, sort of.  It still, however, was faced with the need for a future fighter to replace the F-4, meeting the Fleet Air Superiority needs as originally specified for the F-111B, but also a maneuverable fighter whose requirements were emerging from the lessons-learned by a variety of Navy, Marine and Air Force fighters and crews in the skies over Vietnam.  The first of these requirements was the OFR or “Other Fighter Requirements”, generated when it first appeared that the F-111B would not be killed and it would have to be accepted for up to one squadron per air wing for a FAD-only mission, leaving a gapped requirement for fighter-escort, close-air support, etc. to be filled by a new aircraft.  This was the genesis of the first competition or VFAX for a replacement for the F-111B and successor to the F-4.  VFAX by definition would be about the size of the F-4 (in that same weight class) and employ a variable sweep wing, while matching the capability of the F-4 as a fighter and the A-7 as an attack plane.  Assuming that the procurement of the F-111B would continue, a CVW would be composed of either 2 + 2 or 1 + 3 (F-111B and VFAX).  Not much came of the VFAX although as George Spangenberg noted:

“…the later VFAX was marginal at best, being somewhat less than the A-7 in its attack capability and really no better than an F-4 as a fighter. In the cost effectiveness studies that were done it was rated below an F-4 because the later VFAX was a single-place airplane, while the original was a two-place airplane.

Vought VFAX proposal

Continue Reading…

Flightdeck Friday: TFX — A Time for Turkeys (Pt II)

“Senator, there isn’t enough power in all of Christendom to make that airplane what we want” VADM Tom Connolly testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee (1968)


In Part I we explored some of the politics (and politicking) behind the TFX – the program to provide the Air Force and Navy with a common next generation fighter. For the Air Force it was to be a long-range fighter-bomber with tree-top level supersonic dash capabilities. For Navy, it was the Fleet Air Defense mission, armed with long-range missiles. After several proposals were forwarded by Boeing and General Dynamics that fell short of Service requirements, a final selection was made in November 1962 in favor of GD despite the two Services preference for the Boeing proposal. For the next six years, the design, especially the Navy design, would be dogged by political bickering and infighting between Navy and OSD. But what was the aircraft itself like? Was it really that bad?

It was.


Continue Reading…

Flightdeck Friday: TFX — A Time for Turkeys (Pt I)

1959. Changes are afoot in the tactical aircraft programs for Air Force and Navy’s specific requirements. The Air Force sought to replace the F-105 with a new fighter-bomber that would address the shortcomings of the Thunderchief — it was to land in half the distance of the F-105, be able to fly unrefueled to Europe or Southeast Asia (the latter with one refueling), have a tree-top dash capability of 900 kts for 400 nm and a high altitude dash speed of 1400+ kts. By 1960, these requirements were formalized in TAC’s Specific Operational Requirement Number 183. On the Navy’s side, the prospect of facing large raids of missile carrying aircraft in the near future led to the requirement for a missile carrying platform that would engage the raids at long-range. In combination with the new F4H-1 Phantom, in prototype stage, the Fleet Air Defense mission would be satisfied with this combination of fast-climbing/high-speed interceptor carrying short and medium range missiles to intercept any leakers that made it through the barrier established by the long-range missiles launched from their carrier.


Flightdeck Friday — The Ties That Bind (II): Remembering Ned Geiger

Another Flightdeck Friday and sadly, another memorial – this time for another pillar of the E-2C Community, CAPT Edward C. Geiger, USN, ret. (“Ned”).   Ned passed away suddenly earlier this week just as he was beginning to enjoy a well deserved retirement having wrapped up his post-Navy career.   Services are tentatively slated for Saturday, 31 March 2012 in Norfolk; time and location TBA.


Memorial Service in Honor and Memory of Ned Geiger: Saturday, March 31, 2012 at 4:00 pm; Royster Memorial Presbyterian Church, 6901 Newport Avenue, Norfolk, Virginia 23505

In lieu of flowers donations may be made in his memory to either of the following organizations.

  •  The Baldwin Fund of The Williams School,419 Colonial Avenue, Norfolk, VA 23507     (757)627-1383
  •  VAW/VRC Memorial Scholarship Fund, Post Office Box 15322, Norfolk, VA 23511-0322

It has been said here and elsewhere that all the advanced technology in the world isn’t worth squat if you don’t have the people to go with it.   How many bright ideas and technological wonders have ended up on the rocks of time, rusting and forgotten because the human element was absent?   Perhaps no area is this more noticeable than in naval warfare, especially the Naval aviation side thereof.   When you look at the life of carrier aircraft, the successful ones have had people of all stripes come along at key points in their life to give direction, purpose and advocacy.   Sometimes they are in highly visible positions — VADM Tom Connolly (DCNO-Air) whose famous (or infamous, depending on which side of the table you were on) spike in the heart of the TFX (“There isn’t enough thrust in Christendom to fix this plane”) was key in getting the F-14 off the ground.   But for all the FOs, high level SESs or heavy-hitting industry program managers, for all the slick brochures and eye-popping PPT presentations, unless you have skilled aircrew who can raise others in the stead, who have both an affinity for the mission, a vision of where the community needs to go and leadership skills in the plane and on the deckplates to reinforce and grow the aircrew and maintainers, the aircraft will ultimately fail and be relegated to a footnote.   In the early 1970’s, the VAW community was faltering despite the growing needs of a Navy pushing ever farther in to the digital revolution.   The E-2B, an improvement over the hapless E-2A, was nonetheless beset with material problems and had fallen far short of expectations.   The leap in capabilities over the WF/E-1B that were expected of it had yet to fully materialize – and many outside of the community openly doubted it ever would.   Mission assignment often came as an after thought and the very idea of putting the E-2B in a critical role for a particular mission just wasn’t considered.

The entry of the E-2C came via muted applause – and much skepticism outside the community.   It would take the concerted efforts of a group of tactically astute visionary aircrew – and especially NFO’s (recall we are still less than a decade from the creation of the NFO out of the NAO community) to work within the community to build NFOs who would be technically and tactically adept with the new technology the E-2C was fielding, and at the same time, advocates outside the community and within the airwing to raise awareness and relevance of the new Hawkeye.   As has been the case since the beginning of US Naval aviation, the core of the effort was centered on a group of “senior” JOs who brought experience and hard lessons to bear in the Fleet and in the RAG (Fleet Replacement Squadron for you young pups).

Ned was not only one of those folks, he stood head and shoulders above the pack.

Ned brought his considerable skills to bear with the VAW-122 Steeljaws in the mid-70’s as they not only transitioned to the E-2C, but became one of the two East Coast squadrons to end up with a West Coast airwing and all the challenges that ensued with a continent between them.   As the squadron NFO NATOPS officer, and later, head of NFO Training (aka “Mayor of Mole City” at RVAW-120),   the standards and expectations that Ned set would have far ranging effects on those who would later go on to other squadrons and positions within the VAW community and elsewhere.   Among those were an expectation of a level of knowledge about the system and how it worked that was at once detailed and integrated — not only would, for example, you have to be able to understand how a radar return was processed in the (then) new digital processing system the E-2C (and later E-2C ARPS), you had to combine it with what the IFF system and main computer and display processing system was doing with it to eventually display it on the scope.   But it also wasn’t enough to be radar or system geeks — Ned was also one of the forward thinking VAW tacticians who looked to expand the mission beyond mere radar-based early warning and in the process, grow the capabilities of the CVW as a whole.   And to do so, you had to get out of the hangar or VAW Ready Room and into the fighter, attack and others’ home turf.   Face-to-face debriefs were emphasized, early participation in mission planning and always, an aggressive, assertive approach that sought to push back the residue of the E-2B years and show what we could do. The Ensigns, LTJGs and LTs that emerged from the RAG and squadrons in the late 70’s/early 80’s epitomized this new approach and formed the nucleus that pushed for continued advancements in the weapons system and standing in the airwing.   And again, Ned’s fingerprints were all over them.   The crews that flew over Bosnia and in OIF and OEF had links, directly or indirectly to Ned’s efforts.   The fact that we are pusing the envelope even further today with the advent of the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye can be directly traced back, in no small part, to his body of work.

To a young NFO just entering the community in 1979, Ned was central in shaping and directing my focus as a Hawkeye NFO, both in RVAW-120 and later, when he joined us in VAW-121 as one of our department heads.   We learned much from Ned — even as a standout squadron on the seawall, Ned was the sort that prompted you to raise your personal and organizational bars and push out even more.   Flying with Ned was always great – whether it was watching him handle a covey of fighters or deftly influencing Alpha Bravo towards a particular course of action on the AAW net, no matter how much time you had in the aircraft, you always took away something from flying with him.   On the ground, Ned was a leader without peer as a DH and later, as many will attest to, as CO of VAW-126.   As VAW/VRC placement officer, he played a vital role in guiding and slotting up- and coming talent in the community – not an especially easy thing as CO’s from time to time have their own interests in mind and their own desires which may not always mesh with the individual’s or community’s best needs.   And later as Chief of Staff for the Eisenhower Battle Group,   he brought those abilities to further fruit.   In fact, now that I think of it, Ned’s ability to convince someone of a particular COA without them actually being aware of how they were being influenced brings to mind another master of the skills of persuasion – except he wasn’t fictional…

Ned will be greatly missed by a large and geographically dispersed community and his family are certainly in our prayers..   He was a pioneer for the Hawkeye community, a consummate Naval officer and aviator, a leader, mentor, husband, father and a friend.   A fitting epithet when one thinks about it.   Godspeed and rest in peace.

National Museum of Naval Aviation – Some Thoughts and A Call to Action

There are 12 “official Navy” museums in the US – and of these, all but one, the US Navy Museum onboard the Washington Navy Yard in Washington DC, are privately funded. This includes the National Museum of Naval Aviation (NMNA) located on NAS Pensacola, FL where I recently spent some time getting re-acquainted with exhibits old and new.

I offer this tidbit of info by way of background for this column’s topic.  Let me state up front that by no means is this a slam on the museum or its leadership. Rather, recognizing the constraint of resources (which, BTW, membership in the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation will help assuage – and yes, I am a member) I would like to offer some perspective and suggestions on some key topics and exhibits I didn’t see, nor, as I understand it, may be in the offering in the near term. In no particular order they are context, Midway, ASW and airborne radar.


The main museum is organized and grouped roughly by epoch. This is a convenient and relatively thrifty way to organize a large number of aircraft in a linear, chronological fashion that is easily assimilated by the general public that may have at best, a tangential understanding or association with Naval Aviation (blue prop fighters = WW2, F-14 Tomcats = Tom Cruise = 1980’s, etc.). Yet if one of the intentions of the Museum is to “… educate young aviators and endow them with a deeper appreciation of their heritage” an effort must be made to put the exhibits into context that merely grouping in epochal clusters fails to accomplish. For example – the Museum has, in my opinion, one of the best collections of fighters from the 1950’s. Reaching back to the final days of WWII and the early attempts at carrier operations with aircraft like the McDonnell FD/FH-1 Phantom, North American FJ Fury and Vought F6U Pirate the decade saw breathtaking advancement into the supersonic, all weather realm that spawned the F-4 Phantom II and F-8 Crusader, two fighters that not only favorably compared with their shore-based counterparts, but in some cases were so superior that in one case, the F-4, it was adopted as a mainline fighter for the Air Force. Yet there is little in the way of placing this evolution into context so that the observer would understand the design and industrial genius behind the path that led to these aircraft (and some of the unintended shortcomings uncovered during the Vietnam War) and their successors. The Phantom and F-14 sit side-by-side in Hangar Bay One – but how did we get from the one to the other? How might the lessons of the aborted F-111B be imparted to today’s acquisition process? In parallel with this major theme are the sub-themes of engines and weapons. Why did the Phantom not have a gun, but the F-8 and F-14 do? (and why doesn’t the F-35C, but the F-35A?).  Similarly – looking at the magnificent (and privately undertaken) restoration of the PB2Y Coronado alongside the equally exquisite PBY Catalina (and the cutaway fuselage underneath), one is prompted to ask why we no longer fly amphibs. Other threads may be followed for multiple topics, some of which we will touch upon later.

In sum – context acts as the hyperlink tying the aircraft exhibited to history and in turn, provides enhanced perspective on its value and associated artifacts displayed around it.


I’ll be brief – but this is another area that demands context and historical perspective. At present, the Midway exhibit consists of a display case with flight suited figures displayed in proximity with period aircraft (notably the earlier highlighted SBD-2, an F4F and a Zero, though this is a post-Midway variant). A video is available to recount the battle, but something else is needed to provide the visitor with an understanding of the vast distances the battle was waged over (and let’s add Coral Sea too) and how this event truly changed the face of naval warfare.


When we think of WWII and Naval Aviation, we almost reflexively think of the fast carrier-led task forces sweeping across the broad expanse of the Pacific, brushing the IJN before it and supporting the amphib forces wresting back control of the islands on the way to the Japanese homeland. And yet, half a world away, another equally vital battle was being fought, in some cases well within sight of our own beaches. It was an epic struggle whose outcome was not pre-ordained and which turned to a large degree on shore- and carrier-based aviation. I speak of the Battle of the North Atlantic waged against the German U-boats operating with some degree of impunity, early on, off our coasts. The development of airborne radar (and later on, other technologies like ESM gear and Magnetic Anomaly Detection, or MAD) was instrumental, when combined with a re-emphasis on TTPs like convoying, in pushing back the U-boats and eventually, ruthlessly hunting them down and killing them. A full range of shore-based aircraft (Lockheed Hudsons, PBY Catalinas, PB4Y Privateers), lighter-than-air and carrier-based aircraft (TBF Avengers, FM-2 Wildcats) expanded an umbrella of protection that pinned down the U-boats, turning the hunter into the hunted. After the war we continued development, building and refining aircraft lke the P2V Neptune, P-3 Orion, AF Guardian, S-2 Tracker and S-3 Viking, deployed from bases near key chokepoints or from carriers (CVS’ and later CV/CVN’s). Joining in this effort were helicopters operating from big decks and small, operating in concert or association with surface ships and our own subs. This highlights one of the signatory features of Naval Aviation as it has evolved over the years – our integrated approach working with other, non-aviation platforms and organizations to achieve a particular mission. It also brings to bear the importance of science, engineering and technology in a mission that is often compared to a chess match as opposed to the sound and fury of the power projection mission.
And again, an opportunity to put Naval Aviation in context for the casual observer.

Airborne Radar

Ok, I admit it – as a former E-2C NFO I am particularly interested in this area, but it is for more than just personal reasons.

As epitomized by projects and programs like CADILLAC and the development of night fighting tactics and capabilities (viz. Enterprise and Air Group TEN), Naval Aviation was at the forefront of cutting edge technology and science. Radar, already showing it’s importance (when properly trained to and employed) in surface actions, was quickly recognized as a critical necessity for the kind of long-range warfare found in the Pacific. It was essential in finding the “needle-in-a-haystack” surfaced or later, snorkeling sub. And in the planed invasion of the Japanese homeland, when the task forces would be faced by waves of the first generation of “smart” cruise missiles (aka kamikaze’s), radar in the form of airborne, long-range early warning radar could give the fleet initial warnings of a raid while it was still over a hundred miles out, giving relief to the beleaguered radar-picket DDs which were already absorbing tremendous blows in the initial waves of attacks as witnessed off Okinawa.

But it wouldn’t end there. Airborne intercept radar, deployed on night fighter versions of the F6F and F4U would go on to more complex systems as seen in the Douglas F3D Skynight which would also serve as the trial platform for a new form of air-to-air weaponry – the AA missile. AEW sets grew in size and power, forming the basis of part of the early DEW line with barrier patrols off our coasts, flown by USN WV-2 Connies. As the threat to the carrier task force grew in speed and numbers, the E-2 Hawkeye arrived and in the form of the E-2C, revolutionized AEW, C2 and Battle Management. In concert with the F-14 and it’s AWG-9 weapons system, and later teaming with Aegis equipped CG and DDG, the concept of integrated air defense, first rolled out with the “rings of steel” during WWII finds it’s form today.

What Next?

Resources (funding and skilled craftsmen) are always a challenge for museums of all stripes – and even more so these past few years.  As such, there is an inevitable rack/stack of benefits received for resources expended that establishes prioritization for utilizing those resources. I understand there is a list making the rounds of aircraft that should receive priority for restoration and exhibit, some of which are at once exceptionally noteworthy as rare examples (e.g., an early “birdcage” F4U Corsair) and others which on the surface, may appear more pedestrian when viewed by themselves, but tell a greater story as part of a larger exhibit.  Many aircraft are in the “back lot” where the former re-work facility still stands and serves as the locale for the volunteer restorers’ work.  Additionally, there are long-range plans for another facility like Hangar Bay One to be added – providing significantly more exhibition space; however that is on the distant horizon.  All of this requires more resources and specifically, more funding.  The Navy provides the “hotel” services (power, etc.) but not for exhibits or restoration.  That comes from individuals like you and me; grants and corporate donations.  And to be blunt, the latter are especially important because of the enormous costs involved in restoration – from location, recovery and transportation of the artifact(s) to storage, restoration and display.  Just ask the A-3 Skywarrior Association folks about the costs involved in restoration and relocation of an EA-3 from Rota to CONUS. (Ed. Note: There is an example of an association doing it right with an active and dedicated membership – SJS)

Along the way there are a stack of laws and regulations, local and above, that must be met and that all adds to the bill.  One example – the EPA laws on airborne HAZMAT figure significantly in the stripping and re-painting of aircraft, especially where the epoxies used in today’s aircraft are concerned. Fold in paint containing lead from older aircraft and you start to get the picture.  Spares for aircraft produced during WWII vary widely in availability because during the war the were acquired in significant abundance for most of the widely produced aircraft, one of the reasons so many DC-3’s (ex-C-47s) and P-51s remain flying or find their way back after many years of neglect.  For others, like an SB2C – they are somewhat less.  Still others, like the F-14, may be non-existent altogether because of national security policies that directed the immediate destruction of the type (save examples sent to museums) because of concerns that spares may find their way to Iranian F-14s.  That means parts must either be fabricated from drawings (if those still exist) or workaround solutions developed to permit exhibit.  The former often calls for skill sets that are disappearing on pace with those who were the young mechs working on these aircraft when they were operational, age and depart this mortal realm.  All the while, those same elements – sun, moisture, heat – that conspired against the aircraft when flying, remain today.  These are but a few of the practical factors that must be accounted for in the rack/stack prioritization.  In essence – what is the greatest good that can be done with the available resources at hand.

This is a a tough call that is made harder by the advocacy groups that naturally spring up around organizations like the Museum and the work it does.  Not to say it is necessarily bad because there are legitimate interests at stake and while some naturally claim a large and vocal constituency, others get lost in the shuffle.   My intention here today is to add the voice of this site to the list of advocates, but also offer a venue to sound out ideas and and reach out to portions of the Naval Aviation community that tend to get lost in the background — all of us “cats and dogs”; and those communities and warfare professions who, while not directly part of Naval Aviation, are still significant participants and partners.  With that in mind and in light of the issues surfaced above, I offer the following:

1.  Stand up an exhibit on integrated air defense and procure an E-2C for display.  Other key aircraft are immediately available (E-1B and EC-121), but the E-2C should serve as the focus of an exhibit built around airborne radar and integrated air and missile defense (IAMD).  Radar, computerized data links, long-range missiles, and integrated operations with surface forces – it is a compelling story that is uniquely maritime in nature and one that should be a centerpiece with aircraft and, yes, some surface components displayed to show their relationships. Perhaps it would include a cutaway E-2C (along the lines of what was done with the cutaway PBY) or, if still available, the old E-2C WST for more of a hands-on approach and a mock-up of a CG CDC with a variety of scenarios being played out.  The role and development of all weather interceptors neatly folds in with, for example, a side-by-side comparison of the radar from an F6F-5N, F3D, F-4 and F-14’s AWG-9 and a display of weapons form the Hellcat’s .50 cal to the AIM-54 Phoenix (and an interactive display showing their effective ranges and threats countered).  Most importantly though, is the story of Project CADILLAC and the parallel development of CICs that needs to be told – and the inclusion of signatory aircraft like the TBM-3W, AD-3W, E-1B, WV-2/EC-121 and of course, an E-2C.  Regarding the latter, all the Group 0’s that served in ground-breaking fashion, including all the conflicts during the latter part of the Cold War and afterwards (ELDORADO CANYON, Grenada, Bosnia, Desert Shield/Storm) are retired now and either serving as gate-guards (except at NAS Norfolk – that was an E-2B with fiberglass implants) flightdeck training aids or sitting in the desert awaiting the scrapper’s torch.  If still around (and I’m researching the BuNo and status), perhaps the E-2C from VAW-125 that ran the mission to capture the hijackers of the Achille Lauro (OPERATION RED HAT) in October 1985 might be one airframe of particular interest.  Such an exhibit would offer significant possibilities for teaming arrangements between industry, individuals and associations like the Hawkeye-Greyhound Association, Surface Navy Association, Northrop-Grumman, etc. in terms of funding, volunteer researchers and restorers (I can think of some former Steeljaws just down the road onboard NAS Pensacola).  It would also avail the Navy History and Heritage Command an opportunity to contribute to a major exhibit outside of the Beltway for an aspect of Naval Aviation that had such wide impact on Fleet operations and tactics over the past 60-odd years and more importantly, has direct and tangible links to efforts ongoing today and in the future.

2.  Stand up an exhibit for ASW.  Like IAMD, ASW as a mission area was one that pressed the edge of the envelope for Naval Aviation’s capabilities.  It also brings a fascinating array of aircraft and display possibilities with the range of fixed-, rotary and lighter-than-air aircraft and blimps.  An example might be to center on an SH-3, S-3 and P-3C – the latter setup as a “walkthrough” exhibit that gives visitors a sense of all that takes place in “the tube.” An interactive display of the globe with all the ASW forces and capabilities employed a the height of the Cold War would serve to tie it all together and provide the necessary context and a link to today’s challenge of ASW in the littorals and re-emerging blue-water ASW threat.  With the DASH form yesterday and BAMS for today, a discussion may be established on the utility and role of un-manned aircraft in the patrol and ASW role.  Similarly for the role of the CVL and later, CVS in ASW in particular, and sea control to a larger degree.

3.  Go digital.  Fixed displays have all sorts of limitations, not least of which come from aging materials and out-dated information.  Printed material fades, wears and limits access by language.  As the numbers of smart mobile devices (phones and tablets) explode in the general populace, why not offer an expanded media opportunity through a local wireless network that is available to those who either chose not to or are simply unable to devote time to a walking tour with one of the (very excellent, BTW) docents.  Think of it as a virtual docent that the user can tailor to their own desires and interests.  For example, the aforementioned transition from the first gen fighters at the close of the 1940s to the Phantom/Crusader at the close of the 50s lends itself very nicely to this sort of convention.  Using online multi-media and data, in concert with the Museum’s up close and personal philosophy of displaying aircraft provides an exceptionally rich visit and opens access to a wider range of visitors.  Add in an ability to tailor and scale prior to your visit (e.g. “I’d like to focus on restored WW2 prop fighters and dive bombers and learn more about their recovery and restoration process”) and I think you start to get the picture and you might just pull in folks that weren’t originally planning on visiting the Museum.

4.  Open the Flightline.  With a number of the larger aircraft left uncovered or others, like the PV-2 Harpoon left outside for otherwise inexplicable reasons, access to the flightline by some means must be established.  Many of us still kicking dust on this mortal realm flew aircraft in the recent and not so recent past and forcing us to view from behind a chainlink fence or the windows of an un-airconditioned bus moving at it’s pace and schedule rather than ours is unacceptable.  Use mobile security walls like those used on temporary road course tracks setup on metropolitan streets if you must, but some way needs to be found to allow pedestrian traffic back to these important aircraft. and maybe (from a safe distance) see the restoration process in action.

There’s more to be sure – the role of Naval Aviation in the PARPRO program is a very compelling story with more aspects still being revealed.  A tie-in with the ongoing MIA location and recovery efforts around the world for our lost aviators is another that comes to mind.  And of course, with next year’s 70th anniversary, something needs to be done to focus and highlight the Midway exhibit.  What I find heartening is that in discussions I’ve had both at the Museum and subsequent, is that those there and in a position to do something “get it” – especially in their grasp of the heritage and trust they hold. Our job, whether as those who have or are currently contributing to the Naval Aviation story or interested associates is to do all we can to aid the Museum in it’s endeavors through our advocacy and support – fiscal and physical.  Write with your concerns and support.  Join the Foundation.  Contribute articles for The Foundation and others.  Where feasible and appropriate, contribute your memorabilia to their collection.

In this, our Centennial, let’s spread the word about the good works underway at our Museum and act like the stakeholders we are supposed to be.

P.S. One other item — folks, NAS Pensacola is the starting point for NFO’s for Basic and Intermediate. It would be *really* nice if the gift shop had a few things with NFO (and NAC) wings beyond a single, solitary t-shirt.  I know of several customers that walked away disappointed recently (*ahem*).  Not a sermon – just a thought… – SJS

Article Series - Centenary of Naval Aviation (1911-2011)

  1. Flightdeck Friday: Smoke and the Battle of Midway
  2. Flightdeck Friday: RF-8 Crusaders and BLUE MOON
  3. Flightdeck Friday: Midway POV – Wade McClusky
  4. Flightdeck Friday: 23 October 1972 and The End of Linebacker I
  5. Former VFP-62 CO and DFC Recipient, CAPT William Ecker, USN-Ret Passes Away
  6. CAPT John E. “Jack” Taylor, USN-Ret.
  7. Flightdeck Friday: USS MACON Added to National Register of Historical Places
  8. Tailhook Association and Association of Naval Aviation
  9. Flightdeck Friday: Speed and Seaplanes – The Curtiss CR-3 and R3C-2
  10. Flightdeck Friday: A Family Remembers a Father, Naval Officer and Former Vigilante B/N
  11. Out of the Box Thinking and Execution 68 Years Ago: The Doolittle Raid
  12. The ENTERPRISE Petition – A Gentle Reminder
  13. USS Enterprise (CVAN/CVN-65) At Fifty
  14. A Golden Anniversary: The Hawkeye At 50
  15. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy
  16. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part II)
  17. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part III)
  18. Reflections on the E-2 Hawkeye’s 50th Anniversary
  19. An Open Letter to “The 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation Foundation”
  20. U.S. Naval Aviation – 100 Years
  21. Doolittle’s Raiders: Last Surviving Bomber Pilot of WWII Doolittle Raid, Dies at 93
  22. More Naval Aviation Heritage Aircraft (But Still No Hawkeye)
  23. Naval Aviation Centennial: Neptune’s Atomic Trident (1950)
  24. Naval Aviation Centennial: One Astronaut, A Future Astronaut and Reaching for New Heights
  25. Flightdeck Friday Special Edition: The Space Shuttle – Thirty Years of Dreams, Sweat and Tears
  26. Flightdeck Friday – Postings from the Naval Aviation Museum
  27. Saturday Matinee: US Naval Aviation – the First 100 Years
  28. National Museum of Naval Aviation – Some Thoughts and A Call to Action
  29. Flightdeck Friday – 100 Years of Naval Aviation and the USCG
  30. Guest Post: THE U.S. NAVY’S FLEET PROBLEMS OF THE THIRTIES — A Dive Bomber Pilot’s Perspective
  31. This Date in Naval Aviaiton History: Sept 18, 1962 – Changing Designators
  32. Centennial Of Naval Aviation – The Shadow Warriors

Bulava Fails Latest Test – Lessons for US?

Ria Novosti)

“After its firing from the submarine Dmitry Donskoy, the Bulava missile self-liquidated and exploded into the air” – Russian MoD spokesman to Interfax 23 Dec 08

And thus was written the postscript on the latest test of the star-crossed Bulava SLBM.  Five failures in eight attempts would seem to call into question the fast-track to IOC/deployment of the missile – but given that there is no alternative to speak of (yes, there is the SS-N-23, but it won’t fit the launchers on the new SSBNs), it looks like the Russians are stuck with continuing to try and make the Bulava work.  And maybe not so fast on the IOC…

The Bulava scenario is pregnant with questions for our own procurement process – e.g., putting all your eggs in one basket and hoping it all works as advertised since you’ve pinned the future of a platform/capability on the success of that development (*cough*JSF*cough*).  So what happens if we find ourselves in a similar coffin corner with a major program?  Cancel it and hope that in the interim we can stretch out the legacy platform until the (next) new one comes on line?  Been there, done that.  Remember the A-12?  Look what that scenario did to the VA and VF communities and our long-range strike capability in particular and TACAIR in general (still feeling the aftereffects today).  There’s a lot of discussion out there right now about the F-35, some legit, some politically motivated, but enough that hope alone isn’t COA if it falls short in trials (and here I’m particularly concerned about the F-35B and it’s purported weight and cooling problems).  Twasn’t always so – look at the development of the Tomcat out of the ashes of the TFX, but that was a different time.  Or was it?  What are your thoughts?

Flightdeck Friday: Brewster F2A Buffalo

F2AFinnish F2A

The jet age doesn’t hold a monopoly on goofs, blunders and outright failures where naval aviation is concerned. Indeed, the prop epoch not only had its fair share, but perhaps the posterchild for the genre, the F2A Brewster. Meant to be the Navy’s first foray into the carrier-based monoplane field it was instead shunted ashore, passed to the Marines and Allies where it was clearly outclassed by its competition. Yet in one theater it absolutely shined when placed in the hands of the Finnish air force in their defense against Russia. How could that have been the case? We will attempt to answer that and other questions with this issue of Flightdeck Friday.


In the mid-30’s, the frontline fighter for the Navy was still a biplane, manufactured by Grumman. The F2F had replaced the Boeing F4B and the improved version – the F3F-1 was slated to begin equipping the fleet in 1937-38. Still, it was clear that the future for fighters lay in an all-metal, monoplane with retracing gear and an enclosed cockpit. At least it seemed so to all but Grumman…

In 1935, the Navy issued an RFP for a carrier-based fighter to replace the F3F-1 and three companies responded – Seversky with a navalized version of the P-35, the XFNF-1, Grumman with an uprated F3F-1 (another biplane) as the XF4F-1 and Brewster with its design, labled the XF2A, and based on an earlier two-seat fighter design study for the XSBA. The XF2A would be powered by either a Wright XR-1690-02 or a Pratt & Whitney XR-1535-92. Armament consisted of one each .50 cal and .30 cal gun. A fully enclosed, framed glass canopy would provide better visibility for the pilot with a rollover bar to provide protection in case of a flip while landing. Still, because of the sheer bulk of the fuselage, a ventral window was provided to give the pilot better downward visibility in the carrier landing pattern.Grumman convinced the Navy to let it resubmit a monoplane design and as a rsult, submitted the XF4F-2 which also utilized the Pratt & Whitney R-1830 fourteen-cylinder two-row Twin Wasp air-cooled radial engine. All three protoypes were delivered to the Navy for testing between 1936-37.

XF4F-2P-35XF2AThe Seversky entry was quickly dropped when the prototype’s maximum speed topped out at 236 knots. The Grumman entry out of the box hit a top speed of 290 knots, but encountered numerous problems with the experimental engine, which tended to ground it for extended periods of time. The Brewster entry was slower by 10 knots than the Grumman but also drew high marks for its maneuverability form the Navy test pilots. In an effort to improve its streamlining, the prototype was sent to Langley Field in early 1938 for wind tunnel testing. There, it was determined that with various improvements to the cowl, ducts and other items, that its speed could be increased by a good 30 knots. The changes were made and performance dramatically improved, producing a maximum speed of 304 mph at 16,000 feet, an initial climb rate of 2750 feet per minute, and a range of 1000 miles. The aircraft now exceeded the 300 mph requirement.

Still, the choice wasn’t necessarily clear. Grumman had been building fighters for the Navy for some few years, going back to the FF-1 and as such, was a known quantity. Brewster, on the other hand, was less so. A spin off of the Brewster Carriage Company, founded in the early 1800’s as a manufacturer of horse-drawn carriages, Brewster had moved into the business of auto body manufacture. The small Brewster and Co. Aircraft Division was established in 1924, but the advent of the Great Depression severely curtailed aircraft manufacturing, stressing even the larger established firms like Boeing and Douglas. By 1931 the Aircraft Division had become dormant by 1931, until February 1932 when James Work, formerly a project engineer at the Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia and briefly a vice president of the Detroit Aircraft Corporation, got together with a group of investors and bought out the Brewster and Co. Aircraft Division, renaming it the Brewster Aeronautical Corporation. The new company was established in Long Island City, across the East River from Manhattan, using the same building that had housed the former Aircraft Division and renting plant facilities from the Brewster car company.

The Navy opted to go with the Brewster design. On 11 Jun 1938, the Navy ordered a production run of 54 aircraft, under the designation F2A-1 which also constituted the Navy’s first production order for a monoplane fighter. To support the production, Brewster embarked on an expansion of production facilitites to include purchase of the vacant Pierce-Arrow Building, next door to its headquarters in Long Island City. Because an airfield wasn’t adjacent to the production facility, aircraft were shipped to nearby Roosevelt Field where they were moved through the final assembly and over to flight check. This woiuld eventually be replaced by a larger final production facility at Newark field.



Early Service: USN

The first F2A-1’s (with several mods to include the 950 hp Wright R-1830-34 engine, telescopic site and improved windscreen) were delivered in Jun 1939. Already slipping in schedule, by Nov 39 only 5 had been delivered. Additionally, a problem with carbon monoxide build-up in the cockpit had to be dealt with. Another problem also manifested with the increased weight of the improvements – landing gear collapse, problematic for aircraft in general, but for one intended for carrier operations it was not a good

USS Lexington

sign. As it was, this problem would plague the F2A throughout its service life. As problems mounted and delays extended a mere handful (11) were finally garnered by the Navy to equip VF-3 onboard Saratoga. Despite reaching this IOC milestone, the Navy opted to hedge its bets and convinced that the problems experienced by the XF4F-2 were not fatal or representative of an inherent design flaw, The Navy also placed an order for an advanced version – the XF4F-3, a foruitous decision as it formed the basis of the F4F Wildcat (and future Flightdeck Friday subject). Fifty-four F4F-3’s were ordered and soon supplanted the F2A as the Navy’s lead fighter. Despite garnering enough to outfit a second squadron – VF-2, the famous “Flying Chiefs” squadron, the Navy began to cut its losses, first by declaring a substantial number of the first lot as “surplus” and then assigning subsequent aircraft to the Marines for shore-based operations. As the war in Europe was going hot, the demand for fighters, any fighter, was rising and interest from nations overseas.  When the F2A finally saw combat, it was savaged by Japanese fighters at Midway with the Marines losing 15 of 25 fighters.  This loss rate pretty much sealed the F2A’s reputation with the Sea Services who not long after withdrew it form combat.  Instead, owing to its handling ability, it was relegated to training and support squadrons stateside where it served as an advanced trainer for fighter pilots transitioning from training aircraft to fleet fighters.

Finn Buffalo

Buffaloes In Foreign Service

Several countries expresed an interest in the Buffalo (as the Britis named the F2A), but it was in service with the Finns during the Continuation War (1941-44) that the fighter from Brewster finally gained fame (though the Finns never referred to it as a Buffalo, calling it instead a number of other namesknown simply as the Brewster, or sometimes by the nickname Taivaan helmi (“Sky Pearl”) or Pohjoisten taivaiden helmi (“Pearl of the Northern Skies”).  With most of the Navy specific equipment removed, a “field” improvement by Finnish engineers to the  R-1830 (inverted one of the piston rings which in turn stopped the oil leakage problem), the F2A (or by its export model designator – B239) was a nimble, long-legged (range) aircraft withFinn B239 exceptional endurance partnered with its easy maneuverability.  Finn aviators were aware of its performance at Midway and using the lessons learned form that battle, wrote a new handbook on tactics with the F2A – with outstanding results.  The Finns loved it and the combat talleys showed – Brewsters of Lentolaivue 24 (Fighter Squadron 24) were credited with 477 Soviet aircraft destroyed, against the loss of 19 Brewsters: a victory ratio of 26:1.  The last aerial victory by a Brewster against the Soviet Union was scored over the Karelian Isthmus on 17 June 1944.


The F2A quickly faded from the scene with few examples left after the war.  No fully intact aircraft was thought to exist until the summer of 1998 when one was bw372foundfound submerged in the frigid Russian lake, Big Kolejärvi, about 50 kilometers from Segezha, Russia. This aircraft was identified as one of the 44 Model 239s sold to Finland during the Winter War.  With equal amounts of subterfuge and skullduggery, the aircraft was smuggled out of Russia and eventually found its way to the US where it will be minimally restored and displayed in its Finnish colors at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola.

Specifications (F2A-3)

General characteristics

* Crew: One, pilot
* Length: 26 ft 4 in (8.03 m)
* Wingspan: 35 ft (10.7 m)
* Height: 12 ft 1 in (3.68 m)
* Wing area: 208.9 ft² (19.408 m²)
* Empty weight: 4,732 lb (2,146 kg)
* Max takeoff weight: 6,321 lb (2,867 kg)


* Maximum speed: 284 mph at sea level, 321 mph at 16,500 ft (457 km/h, 517 km/h)
* Cruise speed: 160 mph (258 km/h)
* Range: 965 mi (1,553 km)
* Service ceiling 30,000 ft (9,144 m)
* Rate of climb: 2,290 ft/min (673 m/min)


* 2 x 0.50 cal (12.7 mm) nose-mounted machine guns
* 2 x 0.50 cal (12.7 mm) wing-mounted machine guns
* two 100-pound (45.36 kg) underwing bombs


Flightdeck Friday: V/STOL Dreams

 It is clear that the XFV-12A program will not enhance the image of naval aviation. Note that in this case the outcome was not only predictable, but was in fact predicted. As is so often the case, all of the principals in the decision have moved on in both OSD and the Navy. The task of justification will fall on others and will be difficult. It is to be hoped that the same mistakes will not be made again, although the entire V/STOL program certainly has the potential.

– George Spangenberg, 1977 memo to RADM Ekas, USN (NAVAIR)


The 1970’s — disco balls, cardigan sweaters in the White House, double digit inflation and unemployment.  The nation was in the grip of stagflation and post-Vietnam malaise; defense spending and investment was down substantially and traditional big ticket items, like nuclear aircraft carriers, were increasingly difficult to fund.  It was, in a word, an age of diminished expectations.

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