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.”
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
midst 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
1050L 24 Oct 1944. USS St. LO (CVE Â 63) is under heavy air attack. After successfully fending off the superior surface force of VADM Takeo Kuritaâ€™s Center Force, â€œTaffy 3â€ is now defending against a surprise air attack that has lasted some 40 minutes already. One of the features of this attack is the use of suicide attacks.
The “Divine Wind” — Kamikazes.
In the midst of battle, St Lo is struck by a plane flown by Lt Yukio Seki. Penetrating the escort carrierâ€™s unarmored flight deck, the plane and its bomb explode in the port hangar bay, igniting a massive fire with secondary explosions. When the bomb and torpedo magazine detonates, St. Lo is engulfed in flames and sinks 30 minutes later. Barely 6 days later, the carriers Franklin and Belleau Wood were struck by suicide aircraft. Both were forced to retire for repair before rejoining the fleet. This emerging threat, kamikaze attacks, were a hint of what was to come as the Fleet closed on the Japanese homeland. The urgency for getting CADILLAC’s capabilities operationally deployed was being underscored by increasing losses in the Pacific…
Development & Production
CADILLAC I/TBM-3W Cutaway
Recognizing the importance of the CADILLAC system, an early decision was made by the Navy to establish production coincident with its development. To be sure, this imparted significant risk to the program, but in light of its benefits this was deemed acceptable. To facilitate this plan, the project was divided into five parts: shipboard system; airborne system; airborne radar; radar transmitter; and beacons and IFF. So far, what had been brought together was still not much more than a conceptual model – it was time for building actual sets.Â Development was undertaken in earnest shortly after approval in May 1944. Using ground-based radar located atop Mt. Cadillac and operating at low power to simulate the APS-20, work on the airborne elements, particularly the relay equipment was well underway. This arrangement allowed prolonged simulation of the air- and ship-board environment, contributing significantly to the shortened development timeline.
Progress was measured in the completion of each of the first 5 developmental sets envisioned. The first set flew in August 1944 â€“ barely 3 months after the approval to begin work was received. Each subsequentÂ system saw incremental improvements over its predecessor with the improvements folded back into the earlier models. By October 1944 a full-fledged demonstration was flown for the benefit of USAAF and USN leaders. These demonstrations consisted of 2 aircraft and 1 shipboard set and were flown out of Bedford Airport (later known as Hanscom AFB), Massachusetts. By all accounts, the demonstration was extremely successful, which boded well for the production units, forty of which had been ordered by the Navy in July 1944.
CADILLAC I Components.
As more developmental sets were completed, permanent sites were established in Bedford and MIT (originally scheduled for Brigantine, NJ). The latter was established at MIT for evaluating the system in the heavy interference conditions expected in the operational environment. It was in this environment that the first major problem was uncovered as the system was found to jam itself â€“ interference was so bad that rotational data as transmitted by the double-pulsed coding and passed over the relay link was virtually completely jammed. An extraordinary effort though on the part of the development team led to a triple pulse encoding scheme. With little time to fully test this new set-up (there was considerable rework in the synchronizers, relay receivers and decoders to be accomplished), the third set was packed off to formal Navy trials at the CIC Group Training Center, Brigantine, NJ that started in January 1945 â€“ only two weeks behind schedule
In December, at the height of the crisis over finding a means to address the interference problem, DCNO(Air) disclosed to CADILLAC team leaders the urgency by which their equipment was required to combat the rapidly growing kamikaze threat. Even though CADILAC was already at the top of the Navyâ€™s electronics development requirements, with the increased need, the Navy made available substantial numbers of officers, technicians, draftsmen and even a special air transport system to ease delivery of parts and personnel.
On the production side, a flexible system of generalized target dates were crystallized as designs firmed up, permitting incorporation of changes as experience was gained with the development units. Though this was undoubtedly the least economic process in terms of cost, the brute force development/production method was necessary to make sure delivery of the critical sets in time for the invasion of Japan — anything less than the very high priority CADILLAC carried would have hampered successful completion. Nevertheless, a production schedule was agreed to in June with BuAer that would start deliveries of operational systems with two in February 1945. This was later modified in November for first delivery of 1 set in March 1945 followed by 4 in April and then 8 per month afterwards.
Not long after starting operational evaluations at Brigantine, more problems were discovered, centered primarily on interference issues in the shipboard environment. Again, most of us today are well aware of the hazards presented by the witchesâ€™ brew of RF in the CV environment. Mixtures of high-powered radars operating at different frequencies overlaid with HF, VHF and UHF voice comms provide an extremely challenging environment to develop and deploy a new system, even with the benefit of fifty plus years of experience. Without the benefit of that experience, the roadblocks encountered are not surprising. More modifications were made to the shipboard system with filters to screen out the extraneous radiation. Additionally, as more experience was gained with the APS-20 radar, it was determined that anti-clutter filters were needed to reduce the effect of large clutter discretes (returns) from the seaâ€™s surface in and around the immediate vicinity of the AEW platform (typically out to 20 nm from ownship).Â Mounting the antenna above the airframe would have resolved this problem, using the aircraft itself to screen out large clutter returnsÂ within 10-15 nm from the platform, but that was not an option for the Avenger platform.
USS RANGER (CV 4) transiting the Panama Canal, July 1945.
On the West Coast, training in the TBM-3W for pilots and crewmen was performed by the Navy’s Fleet Airborne Electronics Training Unit (FAETU) in preparation for deployment. While the crews were in training, the USS RANGER (CV 4), recently returned from delivering aircraft to allied forces in Casablanca, entered Norfolk Naval Shipyard 17 May 1945 for a six-week overhaul, during which a CIC and the CADILLAC shipboard equipment were installed. Underway again in July, she arrived at North Island on July 25th where she loaded aboard her airwing. This airwing was different from the conventional wing in that it included several developmental concepts; among these were the CADILLAC-configured TBM-3Ws and the Night Air Combat Training Unit from Barberâ€™s Point (NACTUPac). By August 1945 she was in Hawaiian waters conducting final CQ prior to leaving for Japanese waters when the war ended.
With the end of the war, CADILLAC was almost, but not quite completed. While the carrier-based component did not have a chance to prove itself in combat, the utility of carrier-based AEW was so clear and its applications so far ranging in impact that further development and deployment would continue post-war, with deployments on Enterprise and Bunker Hill. In addition to the carrier-based component, a second development was begun under CADILLAC II for a more robust airborne capability. That will be the subject for the next installment.
Wing span: 54.2 ftLength: 41.0 ft
Weight (empty): 11,893 lbs
Weight (max): 14,798 lbs
Max Speed: 260 mph @ 16,450 ft
Cruise: 144 mph
Svc ceiling: 28,500 ft
Range (scout): 845 miles
This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the E-2 Hawkeye’s entry into Fleet operations. Â 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 . Â From Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq, Â 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. Â In its forthcoming iteration, the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, it will be a centerpiece in Navy’s integrated fires plan. Â 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? Â 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). Â An E-2CÂ will be inducted into the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola (finally!). Â 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. Â 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. Â 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.
So yes, it’s not really Friday by the calendar – but that hasn’t stopped us before.Â 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.Â Big cameras (for the time).Â 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.Â 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.Â 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).Â Similarly, post-strike bomb damage assessment (BDA) is important to determine the strike’s effectiveness and if a re-visit is warranted.Â 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.Â 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.Â 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.Â 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.
Reality, of course is oft times much different than paper (or PPT) exercises.Â The Lightning suffered mechanical and aerodynamic issues at the very high altitudes they needed to operate.Â 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).Â 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.Â The F-5As in the ETO, being derived from the P-38G were likewise affected by the limitations.
The Spitfire recce aircraft, OTOH didn’t suffer from these limitations.Â The Spitfire PR Mark XI was essentially a Mark IX Spitfire interceptorÂ 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.Â But enough of that — let’s let the narrative of the film fleshout the story:
Great plane & pilot — even greater story.
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)
2 x D4Y1 carrier bomber (experimental reconnaissance aircraft)
The Mitsubishi A6M Zero (“A” for fighter, 6th model, “M” for Mitsubishi) was a light-weight, carrier-based fighter aircraft employed by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service from 1940 to 1945. At the time it was introduced, the Mitsubishi A6M was the best carrier-based fighter plane in the world and was greatly feared by Allied pilots.
When it appeared on the scene, the Zero was a strategic surprise of the nastiest sort for opposing fighters.Excellent maneuverability combined with exceptional range outclassed then-frontline Allied fighters like the P-40 and the F4F Wildcat, until itâ€™s glass jaw was discovered.Mitsubishi had designed and built a leading edge fighter but in the process of doing all it could to lighten the aircraft (and thereby enhance speed, range and maneuverability) they left off armor plating, self sealing fuel tanks and other protective gear.A Zero could be brought down with a fairly short burst of gunfire.Even the Japanese pilots recognized it as Saburu Sakei noted:
â€œI had full confidence in my ability to destroy the Grumman and decided to finish off the enemy fighter with only my 7.7mm machine guns. I turned the 20mm. cannon switch to the ‘off’ position, and closed in. For some strange reason, even after I had poured about five or six hundred rounds of ammunition directly into the Grumman, the airplane did not fall, but kept on flying. I thought this very odd – it had never happened before – and closed the distance between the two airplanes until I could almost reach out and touch the Grumman. To my surprise, the Grumman’s rudder and tail were torn to shreds, looking like an old torn piece of rag. With his plane in such condition, no wonder the pilot was unable to continue fighting! A Zero which had taken that many bullets would have been a ball of fire by now.â€
Changes in tactics (diving attacks, Thatch Weave) would begin to offset the Zeroâ€™s advantages and when the next generation of fighters appeared on the scene â€“ the Hellcat and Corsair especially, the Zeroâ€™s days as master of the skies was over.
The definitive version of the Zero was the A6M2 Type 0, Model 21 which saw 740 completed by Mitsubishi and another 800 by Nakajima.This was the version that escorted the attack at Pear Harbor and met American aircraft in the skies over and around Midway.
General characteristics (A6M2, Type 0, Model 21):
* Crew: 1
* Length: 9.06 m (29 ft 9 in)
* Wingspan: 12.0 m (39 ft 4 in)
* Height: 3.05 m (10 ft 0 in)
* Wing area: 22.44 mÂ² (241.5 ftÂ²)
* Empty weight: 1,680 kg (3,704 lb)
* Loaded weight: 2,410 kg (5,313 lb)
* Max takeoff weight: kg (lb)
* Powerplant: 1Ã— Nakajima Sakae 12 radial engine, 709 kW (950 hp)
* Aspect ratio: 6.4
* Never exceed speed: 660 km/h (356 knots, 410 mph) * Maximum speed: 533 km/h (287 knots, 331 mph) at 4,550 m (14,930 ft) * Range: 3,105 km (1,675 nm, 1,929 mi) * Service ceiling: 10,000 m (33,000 ft) * Rate of climb: 15.7 m/s (3,100 ft/min) * Wing loading: 107.4 kg/mÂ² (22.0 lb/ftÂ²) * Power/mass: 294 W/kg (0.18 hp/lb)
* Guns: - 2Ã— 7.7 mm (0.303 in) machine guns in the engine cowling - 2Ã— 20 mm (0.787 in) cannon in the wings * Bombs: - 2Ã— 66 lb (30 kg) and - 1Ã— 132 lb (60 kg) bombs or - 2Ã— fixed 250 kg (550 lb) bombs for kamikaze attacks
In December 1939 the Navy ordered the aircraft as the Navy Type 99 Carrier Bomber Model 11. The production models featured slightly smaller wings and increased power – the directional instability problem was finally cured with the fitting of a long dorsal fin, making it highly maneuverable.
Armament was two forward-firing 7.7 mm Type 97 machine-guns, and one flexible 7.7 mm Type 92 machine gun in the rear cockpit for defense. Normal bomb load was a single, trapeze-mounted 550 lb bomb.Two additional 130 lb bombs could be carried on wing racks located under each wing outboard of the dive brakes.
Starting with the attack on Pearl Harbor, the D3A1 took part in all major Japanese carrier operations in the first ten months of the war, but it was their attacks on the cruisers HMS Cornwall and HMS Dorsetshire and the carrier HMS Hermes in an Indian Ocean strike in April of 1942.Â Eventually it was replaced by the Yokosuka D4Y â€˜Cometâ€™ (Judy).Â By 1944, the Val had been pretty much removed from frontline service and when pressed into the battles of the Philippine Sea and Leyte Gulf, they were essentially massacred by the far superior American fighters.Their final role was to serve as kamikaze platforms â€“ also ineffectively.
The version faced at Midway was the D3A1.
* Crew: Two, pilot and gunner * Length: 10.2 m (33 ft 5 in) * Wingspan: 14.37 m (47 ft 2 in) * Height: 3.85 m (12 ft 8 in) * Wing area: 34.9 mÂ² (375.6 ftÂ²) * Empty weight: 2,408 kg (5,309 lb) * Max takeoff weight: 3,650 kg (8,047 lb) * Powerplant: 1Ã— Mitsubishi Kinsei 44 , 798 kW (1,070 hp)
* Maximum speed: 389 km/h (231 knots, 242 mph) * Range: 1,472 km (795 nm, 915 mi) * Service ceiling: 9,300 m (30,500 ft)
* 2 forward 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Type 97 Light Machine Guns * 1 rear 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Type 92 Heavy Machine Gun * 1 Ã— 250 kg (550 lb) or 2 Ã— 60 kg (130 lb) bombs
Two aircraft designed, built and flown within a year of each other on opposite sides of the Pacific â€“ the TBD Devastator for the US and the Nakajima B5N â€œKateâ€ for Japan â€“ yet a world of difference in capabilities.The Nakajima B5N (Japanese: ä¸å³¶ B5N, ) was the Imperial Japanese Navy’s standard torpedo bomber for the first years of World War II. While the B5N was substantially faster and more capable than its Allied counterparts, the TBD Devastator and Fairey Swordfish, it was close to obsolescence by the time of the Pearl Harbor attack. Nevertheless, the B5N operated throughout the war. Although primarily used as a carrier-based aircraft, it was also used as a land-based bomber on occasions. The B5N had a crew of 3: pilot, navigator/bombardier/observer, and radio operator/gunner.One of the unique aspects of the Kate was the offset torpedo mounting to ensure clearance of the prop while dropping.
Early operations in the war against China had exposed weaknesses in protection that were similar to what hampered the Zero later â€“ lack of adequate armor and self-sealing fuel tanks.Rather than take the penalty in weight by adding this items, Nakajima chose instead to increase the speed of the Kate hoping to enable it to out speed its expected fighter adversaries.That upgrade, the B5N2, was the definitive version of the Kate and saw action at Pearl Harbor and subsequent.Perhaps the actions the Kate is most famous for was its pivotal role in sinking the carriers Lexington, Yorktown and Hornet.All told, some 1,150 were built without a single example existing today.Those examples seen in museums or flying are replicas built for the film Tora!Tora!Tora! from Vultee BT-13s.
* Crew: 3 * Length: 10.30 m (33′ 10″) * Wingspan: 15.52 m (50′ 11″) * Height: 3.70 m (12′ 2″) * Wing area: 37.7 mÂ² (406 ftÂ²) * Empty weight: 2,279 kg (5,024 lb) * Loaded weight: 3,800 kg (8,380 lb) * Max takeoff weight: 4,100 kg (9,040 lb) * Powerplant: 1Ã— Nakajima Sakae 11 radial engine, 750 kW (1,000 hp)
* Maximum speed: 367 km/h (229 mph) * Range: 1,935 km (1,202 mi) * Service ceiling: 8,260 m (27,100 ft) * Rate of climb: 6.5 m/s (1,283 ft/min) * Wing loading: 101 kg/mÂ² (21 lb/ftÂ²) * Power/mass: 0.20 kW/kg (0.12 hp/lb)
* Guns: 1x 7.7 mm Type 92 ‘Ru’ ( Lewis )machine gun in rear dorsal position, fed by hand loaded magazines of 97 rounds * Bombs: 1x 800 kg (1,760 lb)type 91 torpedo or 3x 250 kg (550 lb) bombs or 6 x 60 kg (132 lb)