All posts in “Air Warfare”

U.S. Navy Awards E-2D Aircraft Contract

Using the E-2C Hawkeye 2000 configuration as a baseline, the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye will provide advance warning of approaching enemy surface units, cruise missiles and aircraft, to vector interceptors or strike aircraft to attack, as well as provide area surveillance, communications relay, search and rescue coordination and air traffic control. The use of the new glass cockpit and tactical fourth operator display allows the five-person crew more flexibility in fulfilling these diverse missions.

Using the E-2C Hawkeye 2000 configuration as a baseline, the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye will provide advance warning of approaching enemy surface units, cruise missiles and aircraft, to vector interceptors or strike aircraft to attack, as well as provide area surveillance, communications relay, search and rescue coordination and air traffic control. The use of the new glass cockpit and tactical fourth operator display allows the five-person crew more flexibility in fulfilling these diverse missions.

NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. — In a decision that will save the federal government about $369 million,  Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) awarded a $3.643 billion multi-year procurement contract to Northrop Grumman Corp. on June 30 for 25 E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft.

The five-year contract covers the purchase of full-rate production (FRP) E-2D aircraft, Lots two through six, during fiscal 2014 through fiscal 2018.

“The multi-year contract award increases the affordability of the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, achieving the best price with taxpayer dollars,” said Capt. John Lemmon, E-2/C-2 Airborne Tactical Data System Program Office(PMA-231) program manager. “PMA-231 is committed to providing the warfighter with this interoperable weapon system. The program office’s unified mission focus and expertise will enable the E-2D aircraft to meet initial operational capability (IOC) at the start of next fiscal year.”

More here.

Flightdeck Friday – Bonus Edition: “RAVEN ONE” by Kevin Miller

81UW5+-QwTL._SL1500_A good friend, fellow scribe and most importantly, a shipmate of the very best kind, CAPT Kevin Miller, USN-Ret. has just published his first novel, Raven One as an ebook with Kindle Books.  Hozer was an F/A-18 driver and served penance with me on the Navy Staff many passings of the Moon ago.  Over time we’ve gone back and forth over whether it was worth the effort to flesh-out the stories he was putting together into a skeleton novel and go through the grinding editing and marketing process to get published.  It is therefore that with a firmly penned OK that recommend this book to tailhookers and shorebound alike.  A quick bit about the book itself from it’s spot on Amazon:

Lieutenant Commander Jim Wilson, a fighter pilot aboard the carrier USS Valley Forge, is weary of combat over the skies of Iraq. He has been there many times since the late 90s, but now, as each passing minute draws him once again closer to combat, various other conflicts also complicate his life. His executive officer Commander “Saint” Patrick becomes unreasonably overbearing; his wife Mary, fed-up with their long separations, applies pressure for him to resign from the Navy; junior officers test his leadership skills as they act in unpredictable ways; and the raging sea outside serves as the only thing that separates him from events that will change forever his life and career. Imminent combat with the inhospitable and hostile countries over the horizon is the only constant he can depend on. 

Raven One places you with Wilson in the cockpit of a carrier-based FA-18 Hornet…and in the ready rooms and bunkrooms of men and women who struggle with their fears and uncertainty in this new way of war. They must all survive a deployment that takes a sudden and unexpected turn when Washington orders Valley Forge to respond to a crisis no one saw coming. The world watches – and holds its breath. 

Retired Navy Captain Kevin Miller fills his novel with flying action and adventure – and also examines the actions of imperfect humans as they follow their own agendas in a disciplined world of unrelenting pressure and danger.”

Here’s this link:  Raven One  now go and enjoy.

w/r, SJS

Flightdeck Friday – The Dive Bomber

 As a squadron of U.S. Navy dive bombers, flying at 12,000 feet, closed in on a Japanese target the sky ahead would fill up with bursting anti-aircraft shells as the Japanese defenders ranged in their guns. A high speed run in to 10,000 feet placed the squadron almost two miles high over the target in the 

p-aviation_art13midst of the bursting anti-aircraft fire. The leader signaled attack and rolled over into a vertical two mile dive, followed at 3 second intervals by the 12 planes of the squadron.

As pilot of the seventh plane in the formation Chuck Downey steepened his dive until he hung suspended from his shoulder straps, hands busy of the control stick and throttle, feet working on the rudders. Chuck looked straight down at the six planes below him with their dive flaps deployed. He was aware

“All of a sudden there was a huge flash. Everything blew up in my face about 400 feet in front of me … the whole thing just blew.” The Helldiver in front of Downey had exploded, hit by anti-aircraft fire. It had been flown by Johnny Manchester, a relatively young new pilot nicknamed “School Boy.”of them but did not see them… his eyes was focused on the Japanese warship below him, his target. He was also aware of anti-aircraft shells bursting around him but he did not see them…all that mattered was the target he was lining up in his sights…

“There was nothing there, no airplane, pilot, gunner, bomb, load of gas,” Downey recalls. “It was all just gone, no smoke, no nothing. The whole thing just blew … and I just kept diving through it.” His attention remained focused on his target as he passed through the cloud of fragments clicking like hail against his fuselage. He planted his bomb on the bridge of a Japanese cruiser, his target, and pulled out of his dive low over the water.

Got your interest yet?  If so, head over to a new blog about dive bombing by one of the few surviving Helldiver pilots who flew in the Pacific Theater – LCDR George Walsh, USN-Ret. http://divebombingnavy.blogspot.com/
And if not — better check your pulse  ;-)

w/r, SJS

Of Skyhawks, ‘Saders and Sea Stories – TINS

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If, like your humble scribe, you spent anytime turning the pages of the Tailhook Association’s quarterly pub, The Hook, between 1991 and 2011, you undoubtedly paused for Jack Woodul’s column “The Further Adventures of Youthly Puresome” drawn from his deep reservoir of stories from his time flying the A-4 and F-8  - and other sundry endeavors.  They were (are) great stories and something those of us who came along in the immediate aftermath of Vietnam and before the PC police hijacked the narrative can relate and attest to.   In his own words:

We Naval Aviators of my ancient era occupy a shared space and time that was unique, heroic, funny, outrageous, and tragic. We circled the wagons against a society that repudiated us, picked off a bunch, and said frabb anyone that couldn’t take a joke. We share a common bond that I am unwilling to let perish when I am hustled off to the Non-PC Gulag.

Those stories, regrettably, ended after 2011 and eventually disappeared from the web, leaving me to resort every once in a while to make the trip to the basement, pullout the box(es) of old Hook magazines and pull a random issue for a YP fix.  And given the current baleful look SWMBO casts at my library of Hook magazines, I fear for their continued existence on this earth, at least in current form and not recycling in a dump someplace.  It is therefore with no small amount of joy to note that YP is available once again at a new, dedicated site:  http://youthlypuresome.com/  – and we’ve added it to the roll over there on the left under “Naval Aviation.”

BTW – these stories also formed the kernel of an idea with YHS that rattled around in his brain bucket until the blogging platform arrived.  So – while I count Lex, Sal, Xformed and Far East Cynic as my motivators for getting into blogging, it was through the auspices of The Hook and “Youthly Pursesome” that kicked my tail into writing outside of work or the classroom.  

Welcome back YP – we missed ya!

 

The E-2 Hawkeye At Fifty

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50yrs1This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the E-2 Hawkeye’s entry into Fleet operations.  Over the course of those fifty-years the aircraft has radically changed and grown in capabilities and mission focus, while visually remaining much the same as the first E-2A .  From Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq,  it has been a part of every conflict and some notable special missions. Developed as a purpose-built AEW platform to guide carrier-based fighters to intercept Soviet missile carrying bombers, it counts a multitude of missions that include battle management, post-disaster relief (air traffic control), SAR, counter-narcotics, and ASUW, to name but a few.  In its forthcoming iteration, the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, it will be a centerpiece in Navy’s integrated fires plan.  All that said, the E-2 also played a major role in my life for the better part of a 26-year career, and still influences it today.

So how do you recognize 50 years of service?  Well – you certainly throw a celebration – and this year’s Hawkeye Ball and Hawkeye Week in October will feature the 50 year celebration (more on that to follow).  An E-2C will be inducted into the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola (finally!).  And in the run up to Hawkeye Week this site and the Hawkeye-Greyhound Association’s site will feature articles on the historical background and lineage of the Hawkeye, along with personal memories collected from those who have flown and worked on the Hummer.  We’ll kick it off here in the coming days with an updated re-run of the CADILLAC I & II series from a few years back.  If any out there have stories or memories to share (and especially photos – we need photos particularly from the early days, due credit will be given and copyright enforced) please send them along.

Watch for the hashtag #HawkeyeAt50

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Flying Sharks

J-15s onboard CV 16 Liaoning in 2013 – sporting a familiar tail emblem…

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188 Supermarine Spitfire PR.XI PL965 G-MKXI RAC

Flightdeck Friday – Independence Day Edition

Source: Wings Palette - http://wp.scn.ru/en/ww2/f/52/3/5#42

So yes, it’s not really Friday by the calendar – but that hasn’t stopped us before.  For your consideration an interesting take on this Independence Day of Americans flying a British fighter for recce missions deep into Germany, sans armor (or armour if you please) and guns, loaded with gas and cameras.  Big cameras (for the time).  Airborne photo reconnaissance (part of what we today call imagery intelligence or IMINT) was and still is a vital part of target planning and post-strike analysis.  The more current the imagery, the better the intel support to mission planning – especially if there are any changes to the configuration of defenses around or near the target.  A sudden influx of AAA, for example, might be an indicator that something of particular importance was happening at that site (say VIP visit for example).  Similarly, post-strike bomb damage assessment (BDA) is important to determine the strike’s effectiveness and if a re-visit is warranted.  To be sure, the enemy is likewise aware of this and make adjustments accordingly – whether it is through camouflage and concealment before the strike, or taking measures to make the post-strike damage look more effective than it really was.  The objective then, was to visit the target area as close as possible to the strike window (also without giving away intentions) beforehand and afterwards, close to the last bomb hit.  A premium is put on speed and altitude that enabled the recce aircraft to outpace any fighters trying to intercept it and climb above any flak. In the European theater, there were three primary aircraft of choice for this mission – on the American side, the F-5 Lightning and for the Brits, either the Mosquito or the Spitfire.  The F-5 seemed a natural choice given the range and speed of the big fighter – and when stripped of armor and the guns in the nose replaced by cameras, on paper at least, seemed to have an edge – in theory.

F-5B-1-LO Lightning 42-67332 1

F-5B-1-LO Lightning 42-67332 1 (Source)

Reality, of course is oft times much different than paper (or PPT) exercises.  The Lightning suffered mechanical and aerodynamic issues at the very high altitudes they needed to operate.  Chief among these were limitations placed on the Allison power plants because of high carburetor air temperature (high CAT) owing to the inability of the wing leading edge inter-coolers to sufficiently bring the temperature of the compressed air coming from the turbo-superchargers down to a safe level at high altitude (source).  To a large degree this was a result of the exceptionally clean design of the Lightning and the pre-war specs for the 1,000hp Allisons. The result were restrictions placed on boost depending on altitude for all models of the P-38 through the P-38H.  The F-5As in the ETO, being derived from the P-38G were likewise affected by the limitations.

188 Supermarine Spitfire PR.XI PL965 G-MKXI RAC

188 Supermarine Spitfire PR.XI PL965 G-MKXI RAC (source)

The Spitfire recce aircraft, OTOH didn’t suffer from these limitations.  The Spitfire PR Mark XI was essentially a Mark IX Spitfire interceptor modified for photographic reconnaissance with cameras, a more powerful engine and a larger oil tank in the nose. All guns and armor were removed and the fuel capacity was greatly increased; speed was the unarmed Mark XI’s defense. A total of 471 Mark XIs were built between April 1943 and January 1946. In the Eight Air Force, the 14th Photographic Squadron operated Spitfire Mark XIs from November 1943 to April 1945.  But enough of that — let’s let the narrative of the film fleshout the story:

Great plane & pilot — even greater story.

Supermarine Spitfire Mk XI

DAYTON, Ohio — Supermarine Spitfire Mk XI in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (Photo courtesy of Airshow Traveler)

Happy Independence Day everyone!

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RegulusIoncartaboardCVA-19

♫♬ Oh When the Drone is Called Up Yonder… ♬♫

♫♬…When the Drone is Called Up Yonder I’ll be There…♬♫ (with apologies to James M. Black)  :-D

First the news and a congratulatory note to the Navy-Industry team behind today’s launch of the X-47B off the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77):

An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). George H.W. Bush is the first aircraft carrier to successfully catapult launch an unmanned aircraft from its flight deck. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian Read Castillo (Released) 130514-N-XE109-532

An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). George H.W. Bush is the first aircraft carrier to successfully catapult launch an unmanned aircraft from its flight deck. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian Read Castillo (Released) 130514-N-XE109-532

Of course, as any end-of-deployment flyoff crew knows, it is a heck of a lot easier throwing things off the bow than it is trying to get them back on (ask Gene Ely). The “getting back on” part is obviously coming later.

I must confess as one who no longer has a dog in this fight, it has been with a certain degree of bemusement that I’ve watched/listened to the back-and-forth between the acolytes of drones and manned aircraft, and striven to keep the eye rolls over some of the more breathless, over the top exhortations in check. Still, as all the chest thumping, victory lapping in the wake of today’s event fades (somewhat) with the setting sun, it is the historian in the ol’ Scribe that scratches his head and sez, “Historic?, well, yeah but…” and offers the following for perspective.
Of Aphrodite and ANVIL
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Pilotless aircraft, drones and UCAV’s: In two theaters during WWII, Navy was experimenting with unmanned aircraft – to varying degrees of success. In Europe, tired, battleworn B-17′s and PB4Y’s were being converted into explosives packed (18,000lbs-worth of TORPEX, pretty nasty stuff), armed drones to be thrown against hardened sites supporting Germany’s latest “Vergeltungswaffe” The concept was elegantly simple (on paper – no PPT then) if not in reality:

…a minimal crew launched the aircraft, set the fuses then bailed out – the armed drone would then be remotely piloted into the impact area by another B-17 flying in trail and using an Azon radio control system coupled with television cameras in the nose and cockpits to steer the drone B-17.”

Except that the results didn’t match the expectations:

On 6 Aug 1944, a mission using 5 modified B-17′s was launched at the V-3 site. Two went out of control as soon as the crews bailed out and crashed into the sea. Another one went into an orbit around the industrial center at Ipswich where it circled for sometime before it too crashed into the sea. The remainder made it into France where one was brought down flak and a second and final drone missed the target by a wide margin.”

What should have served as a forewarning was nonetheless passed on, and Navy’s contribution under Project Anvil came to very real tragic consequences for one noted American family.

Wood and Glue…and TV

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Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, as early as 1941 the Navy had tested a wood-and-glue creation named the TDR and envisioned as an unmanned aircraft for carrying out torpedo attacks on heavily defended targets. Like those with the Kido Butai. Experience from Midway was pointing to the vulnerability of large, slow (OK, lumbering) torpedo aircraft with VT-8 (TORPEDO EIGHT) being savaged in both the TBD’s and new TBF’s used in the recent battle. The idea of an unmanned aircraft, being guided by an operator well out of range of hostile fighters and AAA, using a TV camera (yes Virginia, TV cameras really did exist back in the 40′s) driving into torpedo attack range did hold a certain appeal. Indeed, under Project Option, a TDR-1 conducted a successful (unarmed) torpedo attack against the USS Aron Ward. Unfortunately, the low priority of the program and ongoing technical issues with experimental equipment added enough delays to the program that the Navy eventually killed it after acquiring some 300 aircraft. Still, one unit, Special Task Air Group ONE (STAG-1) deployed to the Pacific theater with a single TBF accompanying as control. 46 drones were eventually expended in a series of attacks, mostly against shore facilities, with roughly 50% judged to be successful.

The Battle of Palmdale

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After the war there was, of course, a surplus of aircraft to be dealt with. Most were turned into scrap, but many were converted into drones for use in gunnery training and in the development of a new weapon – the surface-to-air missile (SAM). Now, anything and everything crafted by Man’s hands is subject to Murphy’s Law. Most times, when Murphy (and his minions, the Gremlins) come into play, the end result is frayed tempers and resort to bandages. Occasionally though, as the good residents of Palmdale, California found out one summer’s eve, the combination of Murphy and drones could leave spectacular, if expensive results. It also saw the drone casting down the gauntlet to manned fighters, with the end result being a positive in the drone’s favor:

The interceptors caught up with the left-circling drone northeast of Los Angeles at an altitude of 30,000 feet, he said. The jets tailed the Hellcat as it turned southwest and made another pass over Los Angeles before heading northwest toward Santa Paula. The jet crews, which consisted of a pilot and a radar observer, waited for the drone to reach an area that was relatively unpopulated. But when the crews attempted to fire, a design glitch in the automatic fire-control system for the Mighty Mouse rockets repeatedly prevented launches while the attack planes were turning, Merlin said.

The jets continued tailing the bright-red, prop-driven drone as it continued to circle, eventually leading them toward Fillmore and Frazier Park, he said. “It appeared to be heading toward the sparsely populated western end of the Antelope Valley, but suddenly, it turned southeast toward Los Angeles again, and time seemed to be running out,” Merlin said.

The Air Force fliers opted to abandon their planes’ automatic system and fire their rockets manually in an attempt to bring the drone down. “Although the interceptors were delivered with gun sights, the sights were considered unnecessary and removed because the pilots were supposed to be firing their unguided rockets with an automatic system,” Merlin said.

The interceptors made their first attack run as the Hellcat crossed over the mountains near Castaic. Firing salvos of 42 rockets each, both planes missed the target, he said. “Rockets blazed through the sky and plunged earthward to spark brush fires north of Castaic and near the town of Newhall.

According to one witness, one rocket skipped through Placerita Canyon, leaving a string of fires near Oak of the Golden Dream Park,” Merlin said. Placerita Canyon also was the location of the Indian Oil Co., and several of its oil sumps were ignited. The blazes in the canyon also at one point threatened to reach the Bermite Powder Co. explosives plant, he said.

While fires burned in its wake, the errant drone meandered northwest, toward Palmdale. As it did, the jets followed, expending the rest of their weapons in two more salvos of 32 and 30 rockets each as the two interceptors attempted to bring the Hellcat down, Merlin said. What happened was that the obsolete, unpiloted, unguided, unarmed, propeller-driven drone evaded the state-of-the-art jet interceptors. In all, 208 rockets were fired without scoring a single hit,” he said.

“As the drone passed over Palmdale’s downtown, Mighty Mouse rockets fell like hail,” Merlin continued. “Miraculously, no one was hurt, and the drone finally exhausted its fuel supply, sputtered and fell, crashing into an open field eight miles east of (the) Palmdale airport,” he said. Although the plane disintegrated and burned on impact, small pieces of debris — identifiable by part numbers and inspection stamps — were still at the site when Merlin visited it in July 1997.

Navy QF6F: 1
USAF F-89: 0

DASHing off into history
QH-50C_on_DASH pagefirescout

The Joy of Drones wasn’t merely the province of fixed wing aviators to enjoy. No indeed as the DASH was to provide some of its own entertainment in the early to mid-60′s. As the Soviets strove to put to sea a sub force that numbered in the hundreds, it became abundantly clear to Big Navy that something had to be done and in the process, avail itself of the multitude of small and big deck ships out there. ASROC was well underway in development, but initially would be handicapped by short range. An obvious answer was to use the relatively new helicopter which had demonstrated varying degrees of prowess over Korea during the war. The problem was, all those small decks were too small for the helos then deployed and envisioned in the near future. Enter the Gyrodyne company from stage left with a coaxial design they had been successfully developing and selling for over 10 years. Intrigued, the Navy awarded Gyrodyne a contract in April 1956 to make minimum modifications to its model RON-1 Rotorcycle in order to investigate the feasibility of its use not only to deliver ASW weapons (nuke and otherwise), but to do it as an unmanned drone. The requirement was to be able to launch from a destroyer in any sea state up to level 6 (13 to 20 ft swells), at any time of day, in any type of weather that would normally keep a manned helicopter on deck. And behold – the QH-50A DASH – Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter. DASH by far provided the Navy with years of experience attempting to operate drones in a shipboard environment (some attributes and lessons-learned would be repeated years later with the FIRE SCOUT V-UAV program. Stories abound of DASH sorties that once launched, took on a mind of their own and disappeared over the horizon – sometimes with live weapons. In 1970 the program was terminated and replaced by the manned LAMPS program using the SH-2 Seasprite. Still – it wasn’t without logging some green ink time along the way – mostly as SNOOPY naval gunfire spotters over the beach in exceptionally hostile environments. Of the 746 QH-50A’s built for the Navy, 411 were lost – how many over Vietnam though is unkown.

Everything New..
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Never let it be said that in the pre-Goldwater-Nichols days that the competition for missions between the Army and Navy (and later Army-Navy-Air Force) lacked for entertainment or one-upmanship. In October 1943, Chance Vought signed a study contract for a 300-mile range pilotless missile that carried a 4,000-pound warhead. But little transpired until the soon-to-be-separated AAF provided the impetus for the Navy Program. In May 1947, the Army awarded Martin a contract for a turbojet-powered subsonic missile which became the Matador. The Navy saw this as a threat to its role in guided missiles and, within days, ordered BuAer to start a similar Navy missile that could be launched from a submarine, using the same engine as the Matador (J33) and components on hand. By August 1947, the project had gained both a name (Regulus) and performance requirements. The Navy wanted the missile to carry a 3,000-pound warhead to a maximum range of 500 nm at Mach .85 with a CEP of .5 percent of the range. The vehicle would be 30 feet in length, 10 feet in span, 4 feet in diameter, and would weigh between 10,000 and 12,000 pounds. Again, reflecting the challenge of cutting edge technology in guidance at the time (and the hairy eyeball from SECDEF who made Navy justify the program), the first Regulus I flew in March 1951 and was followed by the first launch from a submarine, the USS Tunny in July 1953. However, continued problems with the guidance section and radio controls, among other things, delayed the operational introduction of the Regulus until 1955. The Regulus would be flown from subs, cruisers and yes, aircraft carriers. Via (ahem) catapult:

So snark (Snark) aside, my purpose here is to add a little perspective. That our knuckle-dragging, beetle-browed forebears back in the Pleistocene 1940′s, 50′s and 60′s actually were blazing trails with what we today consider to be achingly obsolete gear, but which was truly cutting edge for the time. And that then, like now, the expectations-results equation rarely balanced out which should (but never seems to) temper our expectations going into this latest endeavor in unmanned aircraft.

“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” – Ecclesiastes 1:9 (KJV)

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