All posts in “Flightdeck Friday”

Flightdeck Friday – A Look Back in Time

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Taking a break from the series on the Tu-22/Tu-22M — fear not, we’ll hit it again next week.  Instead, YHS has been busy working down the boxes of slides accumulated over the last several decades via a nifty little device that makes it easy to digitize them.  Today’s selection hails from the period 1980 – 81 and ranges from the Indian Ocean and the IKE/CVW-7 record deployment that year (347 days underway) and the reward awaiting the Bluetails of VAW-121 upon our return just before Christmas — that the New Year would bring an extended deployment to NAS Keflavik, Iceland forthwith to hunt Bears (of the Tu-95 variety) with the Black Knights of the 57th FIS.  We’ve written about that Cold War adventure in the early days of this blog – now you get to see some of the stills.

FLIGHTDECK FRIDAY RED STAR EDITION (КРАСНАЯ ЗВЕЗДА ИЗДАНИЕ) – THE TU-22 BLINDER & TU-22M BACKFIRE Part 2

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Part 1

1958

1958 was a year of ups and downs. The world’s first satellite launched in October 1957, Sputnik, came crashing to earth with the New Year. The Cold War gets ever hotter as nuclear tests continue (35 by theSoviets alone) and the means for delivery become faster and more complex. Across the Atlantic two signatory events take place – the laying of the keel for the world’s first nuclear aircraft carrier, the ENTERPRISE, is performed in the graving dock at Newport News, VA and half a continent west, the F4H-1 Phantom takes to the sky for the first time.

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Back in Russia, gleaming silver, needle nosed prototype, obviously built for speed also begins preparations for its first flight. Samolet 105, the most complex design ever undertaken by Tupolev has been ready since December 1957 for its first flight – with the exception of its engines. The powerful (for their day) NK6 engines, unconventionally housed at the base of the vertical stabilizer[1] were still in their design phase, so lesser engines would power the prototype. Even as this prototype was being readied for flight, another improved one was in production. For Tupolev, it was perhaps fortunate that newer prototype was next in line. The changes it promised, or at least were hoped for, would be needed, as it was apparent from the first flight that speed was disappointingly below expectations.

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In the late 1950s, a bomber that was a sluggard would be a dead duck. “Speed is Life,” meant much to Soviet bombers in the late 1950’s. Across the Arctic ice cap, the US was building an extensive radar network that would support the surface-to-air missiles of the Nike family and family of interceptors led by the likes of the F-101 Voodoo, F-102 Delta Dagger, F-104 Starfighter and in the coming year, the F-106 Delta Dart, fast interceptors carrying missiles that packed a nuclear punch. For their part, the Americans were busy working out the bugs with their own Mach 2 supersonic bomber, the B-58 Hustler which had first flown in 1956. But more important to the leadership at Tupolev was the fact that Nikita Khrushchev, First Secretary of the Communist Party and Chairman of the Council of Ministers, was openly dismissive of the future of manned bombers, preferring instead ballistic missiles for their much shorter flight time and invulnerability to intercept. Continued failure would take the vaunted Tupolev name and industry and leave it relegated to fighting for transport and other aeronautical scraps with Myasishchev who had failed so spectacularly with the Mya-4 (despite what the Western analysts first thought). And so something had to be done.

Tu-22B Blinder

Tu-22B Blinder

Recent wind tunnel work was revealing the precepts behind “Area rule,” the design property that gave a supersonic aircraft a wasp-waisted or “coke bottle” mid-section that reduced drag at transonic speeds.   Discovered by NACA engineer Roger Whitcomb, it is a concept widely attributed to saving the F-102 from obscurity. Area rule was applied to the Samolet 105A. Taking flight a little over a year after the -105 prototype, the physical differences between the two were readily apparent, from the cockpit to the wing and landing gear. If it seems to the reader that there was a significant amount of “reinventing the wheel” going on here – you would be correct. A major issue affecting the progress of design at Tupolev (and others) was lack of access to data being collected in other design bureaus and by the military – there was no mechanism for sharing and indeed, the OKB[2] culture was steeped in secrecy with not so much the West in mind as other OKB. So it should come as no surprise that the 105A prototype crashed on only its seventh flight due to control flutter.[3] This was a harbinger of a variety of issues that plagued the Tu-22 program. The edge of known science and engineering practice was being expanded and like programs in other countries failures were happening in unexpected areas. Not long after the control flutter loss, another was lost this time due to an engine oil line that failed. Improvements were made in line with production – the most notable being a pitch-damping feature that sought to limit wing twisting. As the outer edges of the by now named Tu-22[4], it became clear limits would have to be imposed. By far one of the most serious was aileron reversal at high Mach, so a decision was made to limit the Tu-22 to Mach 1.4. For all that, there were no attempts to address one of the most egregious features, the downward ejecting seats for the crew of three. Clearly many crew were lost because of this design, but in the quest for the holy grail of speed, the cockpit was made impossibly narrow (also affecting pilot visibility straight out the nose) and the only way to exit the aircraft was through the underside. With many of the aircraft loses coming in the landing phase of flight, it should come as no surprise that the Tu-22 soon came to have a poor reputation with aircrew to match that held by maintenance crews. In all, the Tu-22 suffered about the same number of losses as the American B-58. The difference though, came with the loss per flight hour, which was substantially greater for the Tu-22 than the B-58 because the latter enter operational service earlier and enjoyed more flight time.

 Operational Service

Tu-22 Blinder C

Tu-22 Blinder C

Service entry by the Tu-22 was marked by its appearance at the 1961 Aviation Day flyover of Moscow. The Soviet Air Force intended for dual production of two versions – the Tu-22B that was armed with freefall bombs, and the Tu-22R reconnaissance aircraft with an initial batch of 42 aircraft to be procured for 1961. In truth, production was far short of that. The Tu-22B continued to be plagued by a variety of problems and were used initially for training, finally reaching an operational regiment by Sep 1963. The Tu-22R (Blinder C in NATO’s naming methodology) followed with cameras located in the bomb bay and nose of the aircraft. These were the first Tu-22s to be accepted into naval service and naval variants numbered 80 of the 311 Tu-22R produced. The value of a fast recce aircraft for naval service is highlighted in an article published in the Naval War College Review (Winter 2014) by LCDR Maksim Tokarev. Provocatively titled Kamikazes: The Soviet Legacy LCDR Tokarev wrote that a special reconnaissance-attack group (razvedyvatel’no-udarnaya gruppa, or RUG) would be detached from the MRA[5] division formation and consists of a pair of reconnaissance bombers with a squadron of missile-equipped bombers. The recce aircraft flew low and fat to avoid ship’s radar while the others launched their ASCMs at range (even without proper targeting) to draw off the AEW and fighter protection. Presumably undetected, the two recce aircraft flew to the center of the formation and marked on top the carrier with their only task being to send the exact position via radio before being vaporized. Small numbers when losses of up to 50% of a full strike – the equivalent of an entire MRA air regiment were expected to be lost. The reality of such a CONOPS required the design and integration of a supporting missile with the Tu-22, something that wasn’t envisioned with the original aircraft. The advent of the X-32 (Kh-22 is Westernized) missile complex would change this and provide a hint of the future.

Next week: Blinders in the Kitchen, Backfires on the Horizon.

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[1] Much was still being revealed about flight in the transonic and supersonic regimes at the time of the initial design of the Tu-22 prototype. Early work indicated the aircraft would pitch up around Mach 1 – a characteristic attributed to the swept wings and tai of the aircraft, hence podded engines at the base of the vertical fin was thought to reduce this tendency. Little thought was given to the maintenance implications as crews later hated to work on the aircraft for the very fact of the engine location.

[2] “Опытное конструкторское бюро” – Opytnoye Konstruktorskoye Buro, meaning Experimental Design Bureau. During the Soviet era, OKBs were closed institutions working on design and prototyping of advanced technology, usually for military applications

 

[3] Structures exposed to aerodynamic forces — including wings and aerofoils, but also chimneys and bridges — are designed carefully within known parameters to avoid flutter. In complex structures where both the aerodynamics and the mechanical properties of the structure are not fully understood, flutter can be discounted only through detailed testing. Even changing the mass distribution of an aircraft or the stiffness of one component can induce flutter in an apparently unrelated aerodynamic component. At its mildest this can appear as a “buzz” in the aircraft structure, but at its most violent it can develop uncontrollably with great speed and cause serious damage to or lead to the destruction of the aircraft

 

[4] It’s unofficial nickname among the crews was “Shilo” (шило) – the Russian word for “awl” due to its resemblance with the tool when viewed from above

[5] MRA: Morskaya Raketonosnaya Aviatsiya – Naval Guided-Missile Aviation

Flightdeck Friday (I): Ave Atque Vale – Three Years On

Today’s Flightdeck Friday is a repost from the day when our extended family here learned of Lex’s passing out at NAS Fallon.  It was a grim day – a hard day and as noted below, one myself and many of us who have hung up our spurs thought we were done with.  In honor and memory therefore – today’s repost.  We’ll return to our regularly scheduled series this weekend. — SJS sends.


Lex

I lost a friend today.

We have lost a friend, a father, husband — a comrade in arms. Fellow aviator and blogger-at-arms, Neptunus Lex, was killed earlier today when the F-21 Kfir he was flying in support of the Navy Fighter Weapons School (“TOPGUN”) adversary squadron crashed at NAS Fallon.   No word on the cause as yet.   Prayers and thoughts go out to his family — please likewise keep them in your prayers in the days/weeks to come.

Lex would be the first to tell you, upon asking (or not), that he was a fighter pilot.   And he was an accomplished one at that – having reached the pinnacle with command of a Hornet squadron and XO at TOPGUN (“not two words” he would say…).   He was a sailor at heart with a love for the sea and those who set forth thereon in grey-hulled ships – befitting of one who wore the gold wings of a naval aviator.   And he was a patriot in the truest and traditional sense with a deep love for this country and her people.   Indeed, his last work in this life was training a new generation of fighters to defend this nation.

Even so, what really set Lex apart was his eloquence, obvious love of the classics and an abilty to turn a phrase that would do his Irish ancestors proud.   Anyone who has spent time in the air or at sea comes to appreciate the change in perspective those alluring mistresses offer and how they come to change you.   It is the rare person, however, who is able to more than adequately express and convey that imagery, that perspective.   Lex was one of those rare individuals and you could readily see it in his work – almost all of which he shared gratis online.   Whether it was a semi-fictional account of a young aviator wrestling with carrier flight ops or surgical disection of a controversial subject, his wit, grace and command of the language marked him as a finely honed rapier in a field cluttered with dull broadswords and broken battle axes.   And it will be missed.

The time will come when we will take position and give our formal farewells with appropriate ceremony.   For now, I’ll leave with this thought from a fellow naval aviator and friend – part of a discourse from last night…

” We are, actually, pretty few, and we count our fellows as friends of a different sort.. And so when one of us leaves, it is noticed. It is one thing to fade, fade away. It is another to be taken by the mistress, to be here, and then gone. I thought she was done with leaving me to count. So I thought.”

I too thought my counting days finished – alas not so…

Fair winds Lex and God bless and uphold your family.   We’ll meet you at the rendezvous point…on the other side  at the Green.

w/r,

SJS

Flightdeck Friday Red Star Edition (Красная Звезда издание) – The Tu-22 Blinder & Tu-22M Backfire

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Today’s post begins a multi-part Flightdeck Friday – Red Star Edition series on the Tu-22M Backfire. We’ll look at the Tu-22 Blinder, the rootstock for the Backfire, the controversy it engendered at the height of the Cold War and SALT II nuclear arms limitation talks and eventually move to the version many of our readers are most familiar with – the Tu-22M3 Backfire C operating in the maritime strike mission. – SJS

Northern Pacific, 2015

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Shifting as much as the confines of the harness connecting him to the ejection seat would allow, LTJG (soon to be LT) Scott “Hozer” Miller tried to ease the now persistent ache in his left hip. Cognizant of the big grey and white bomber a couple of hundred feet away, he tried, unsuccessfully one more time to relieve the ache. Giving up the effort for now as another futile attempt, he re-focused on the number three aircraft of a flight of three that he and a handful of other fighters from USS George Washington were escorting. They’d come out of the north on yet another long range, “show the flag” patrol in keeping with Russian leadership’s declared intent to reassert Russian will, Russian power on the world’s stage.

But it wasn’t the latest musings out of Moscow that was the focus of Hozer’s thoughts, it was the big silver and black missile semi-recessed in the belly of this, and the other two Tu-22M3 Backfire’s that was the center of his attention. The last couple of flights in the past few weeks had been clean – now this, and it had everyone’s attention from the first report.

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“Chippy Two, Liberty” The E-2 was calling

“Two”

“Chippy Two, AB wants Kodaks of your date’s payload along with the usual”

The strike group’s admiral, a former Tomcat RIO and CAG, wanted some close-up pics of the AS-4, no doubt reliving his JO days at the end of the Cold War.

“Roger, Two’s in”

Pulling forward, even with the cockpit he gently rocked his wings and got the pilot’s attention, indicating he was going to cross under – no point in getting anyone overly upset with all this iron out here.

A head nod and exchange of the usual pleasantries via the middle digit and he began his slow slide to the starboard side, pausing for the requisite pics along the way. As he emerged on the other side he mulled the size of the big bomber – for indeed it was exceedingly large. About 2/3 the size of the Bear he’d intercepted a week ago, there was a lethal grace about it that the Bear lacked. Maybe it was the emphasis the white underbelly and medium grey (freshly painted? Hmm, that might be worth noting in the debrief) painted upper body versus the unremitting silver of the Bear – or the fact that the Bear just seemed naked whereas the Backfire had the menacing, though ancient Kitchen it was hauling. Perhaps it was the remote controlled Gh-23 gun in the tail barbette – currently up and locked; sitting by itself, unlike the Bear’s tail gunner who tried to elicit a response with the tired old practice of holding up a Playboy centerfold. A tired wave of the hand was all he got for his efforts.

Still, with wings slightly swept and making good speed over ground as indicted from the solid undercast, there was a certain grace to big bomber. The realization of its mission was never far from his mind, nor would there have been any hesitation about launching one of the AIM-120Ds he was carrying should the call ever come.

For now, he was satisfied to having else besides the nagging hurt in his hip occupy his mind.

And with that, the throbbing resumed…

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One of the things our imaginary pilot failed to appreciate in this encounter is that the Backfire is a survivor, emblematic of a manufacturer, Tupolev, that had survived foreign invasion and internal purges – indeed, Tupolev had been teetering on the brink of irrelevancy under Kruschchev in the early 1960s due to the Soviet premier’s preference for ballistic missiles over manned bombers, and the issues with the Backfire’s forebear – the Tu-22 Blinder, were suffering, not least of which was it’s growing reputation as a pilot killer. And just as the Backfire had emerged, almost phoenix-like from the ashes of that effort, now, here it is again, a talisman of the Soviet era of power and glory refitted, repainted and reminding the American’s that their alleged sea supremacy led by their big carriers would not go uncontested.

Again.

Part 1.  Swing and a Miss

By the mid-1950s it was already apparent to those given charge over Soviet nuclear planning that the Tu-16(NATO codenamed: Badger) would require replacement sooner than later as a deliverer of nuclear bombs. The Americans were already fielding supersonic interceptors with more on the way, and more troubling were hard at work on supersonic bombers, one of which the GRU was saying would fly higher and faster than any of their current or planned fighters could reach. Clearly, Tupolev would be the sourced manufacturer – Ilyushin and Myasishchev had demonstrated little competency where jet bombers were concerned and after the fiasco with the M-4, there was little appetite to repeat history by tasking Myasishchev with designing and building a supersonic bomber. So, Tupolev it was.

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Even at this stage, Tupolev’s design bureau (OKB-156) had been hard at work on a couple of design concepts, not as the result of any direction from the Kremlin or Long Range Aviation (Дальняя Авиация, Dalnyaya Aviatsiya), but rather trying to look ahead and anticipate where future requirements might comne from and what form they might take. Just one of the signature characteristics of a successful industrial firm.

Amongst the projects was a medium-range, supersonic bomber study, the Samolet 103. Originally based on a variation of the Tu-16 with four Dobrynin turbojets buried in the wing root (stacked vertically), the Samolet 103 design was sent back for further refinement by the design team who re-emerged with a novel concept. Instead of the wing roots, two engines would be placed in individual pods on either side of the vertical stabilizer, enabling a better juncture between the wing and fuselage and a wing itself more suited for supersonic flight. This would be the Samolet 105 for which metal began to be cut in 1956.

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Samolet 105

The prototype was finally completed in 1957 – but the first flight would not occur until 1958. To say there were “teething problems” encountered in the manufacture of engine and airframe would be a gross understatement. Certainly this was indicative of most aircraft projects of the time – be they Soviet, American British or other, for the boundaries of known aerodynamics, thermodynamics and control theory were being daily pressed. The crash and casualty rates for programs on both sides of the Iron Curtain certainly provided a metric for the difficulties encountered. The Blinder, as it would come to be known, though, was particularly disguised in that regard. And as flight testing commenced, whole new areas in aerodynamics were plumbed, at times financed with the lives of the crew.

Next week: There was a demon that lived in the air. They said whoever challenged him would die. Their controls would freeze up, their planes would buffet wildly, and they would disintegrate…The Blinder found that demon…

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Flightdeck Friday: A Hawkeye For FID

So – after a sabbatical of sorts, Flightdeck Fridays will be returning to these parts.  In the intervening time I’ve been able to compile enough material to make for some…interesting topics.  Along the way, if there is something you’d like to see, drop a note to me and we’ll work it out.  Since this year is also the 10-yr anniversary of this blog, I’ll be pulling up and refreshing some of the classics along the way.  – SJS

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On 6 Jun 1967, the USS Forrestal departed Norfolk for her first deployment to Vietnam. Some 80 aircraft of CVW-17 were embarked (yes, we really did embark that many aircraft on a carrier at one time), and included:

  • Attack Squadrons 46 and 106 with 24 A-4E SKYHAWK light bombers
  • Attack Squadron 65 with 12 A-6A INTRUDER all-weather bombers
  • Fighter Squadrons 11 and 74 with 24 F-4B PHANTOM fighter-bombers
  • Heavy Reconnaissance Squadron 11 (RVAH-11) with 6 RA-5C VIGILANTE recon aircraft
  • Airborne Early Warning Squadron 123 (VAW-123) with four HAWKEYE airborne control aircraft
  • Det 59, Heavy Attack Squadron 10 (VAH-10) with four KA-3B SKYWARRIOR tankers
  • Det 59, Helicopter Squadron 2 (HC-2), with several UH-2A SEASPRITE utility and ASW helicopters
  • A VAP-61 detachment of RA-3B SKYWARRIOR intelligence collection aircraft

Headed east, the long way around Africa, FID would arrive at Yankee Station on 25 July 1967 as part of Attack Carrier Strike Group 77.6 (she was CVA-59 back then) – in company with USS Rupertus (DD-851) and USS Henry W. Tucker (DD-875) and commenced strike operations into North Vietnam and the ship and air wing began to settle into what passed for “normalcy” in Yankee Station ops.

Four days later, it would all drastically change.

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Forty-eight years later, the Navy History and Heritage Command is in the process of refreshing the Cold War exhibit that includes a 1/72 scale display model of the Forrestal just before the fire.  But there is a problem — see if you can spot it:

 CVA-59_01  CVA-59_03  CVA-5902

Yep, you guessed it.  The Hummer is MIA, but not for long.

Thanks to the superb modeling skills of LCDR Mike “Psycho” McLeod, USN-Ret. and the fiscal support of the Hawkeye Greyhound Association, the Screwtops will be taking their rightful place with the rest of the airwing on board NHHC’s Forrestal model very soon.  What will it look like?  Glad you asked:

E-2A AA 701 05 E-2A AA 701 04

Whet your appetite?  Good – head over to the Hawkeye Greyhound Association’s Portfolio page for the full selection of photos under the “Forrestal Project” header.  Once BuNo 152482 (logbook check) has assumed its rightful place on the flightdeck, we’ll update the photos accordingly.  And for reference, the VAW-VRC Foundation is working a similar project for the San Diego Air and Space Museum’s Lincoln model with two Hawkeyes and a COD – so a heads-up to our West Coast folk to be on the watch when that project is completed and please send pics our way!

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“Air Raid Pearl Harbor. This is Not A Drill.” *

* Telegraph from Patrol Wing Two Headquarters warning of the attack on Pearl Harbor

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:

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Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

(More)

2014 Hawkeye-Greyhound Symposium POSTEX

 

50yrs1-e1402447129923 Did you miss the Symposium this year?  Fear not – all you would like to know may be found over at the Hawkeye-Greyhound Association’s site – pics, briefs, and a summary.  Just head over here

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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