All posts in “Flightdeck Friday”

Flightdeck Friday — #ww2flyover

 

Special day today in the DMV — 50 aircraft representing all theaters of operation and Services were gathered of a flyover in observation of the 70th Anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany (VE-Day) and the defeat that followed later that summer for Japan.  YHS chose to watch the big wings (figure that) muster and launch from Manassas Regional Airport  others like Pinch took to the Mall for the flyover.  Special day for the observers – even more so for those WW2 vets who were along for the ride in the WW2 warbirds for the flyover.

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C-SPAN carried the full 45 minute event.

Our own view of the CAF’s B-29, Fifi, launching for the flight:

And a nice compilation by the local CBS affiliate:

World War II aircraft flew above the National Mall as part of the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end to World War II. http://on.wusa9.com/1IVNKHW

Posted by WUSA 9 on Friday, May 8, 2015

 

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

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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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Project CADILLAC: AEW and the US Navy (Part Three)

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1050L 24 Oct 1944. USS St. LO (CVE  63) is under heavy air attack. After successfully fending off the superior surface force of VADM Takeo Kurita’s Center Force, “Taffy 3” 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.

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The “Divine Wind” — Kamikazes.

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In the midst of battle, St Lo is struck by a plane flown by Lt Yukio Seki. Penetrating the escort carrier’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

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.  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 – barely 3 months after the approval to begin work was received. Each subsequent 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.

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 – 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 – 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 Navy’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.

Operational Testing

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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 witches’ 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 sea’s surface in and around the immediate vicinity of the AEW platform (typically out to 20 nm from ownship).  Mounting the antenna above the airframe would have resolved this problem, using the aircraft itself to screen out large clutter returns  within 10-15 nm from the platform, but that was not an option for the Avenger platform.

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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 Barber’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.

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TBM-3W Data
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

 

To Be Continued…

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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.

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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.

UPDATE:

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.

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Flightdeck Friday – On Atlas’ Mighty Shoulders (Part I)

Earlier this week we celebrated the 50th anniversary of John Glenn’s orbital flight, marking our full entry into the space race with the Soviets.  Signatory of the mission was our first use of an ICBM to launch Glenn into orbit — the previous missions had been suborbital and used the Redstone missile, itself an SRBM (operational range: 323 km) and not altogether too far removed from the V-2 (as well as a kissing cousin to the SCUD-series SRBMs).  Modified SRBMs were all well and good for tossing “grapefruits” (as Krushchev dismissively referred to the Vanguard satellite) into orbit, but to lift a nearly 4,000 lb space capsule (gross launch weight off the Mercury capsule w/escape tower) off the launch pad into orbit would require something much more powerful – and already designed to loft  a nuclear warhead and RV weighing over 3,000 lb on a 5,500 mile trajectory as an ICBM.  That missile was the SM-65 Atlas (and specifically for Project Mercury, the SM-65D), America’s first ICBM.

Continue Reading…

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Centennial Of Naval Aviation – The Shadow Warriors

We are fast approaching the end of the yearlong celebration of the 100th Anniversary of US Naval Aviation – and what a year it has been.  Between the Heritage paint schemes, celebratory conventions, special programming and dedicated ceremonies, much ground has been covered.  The outside observer may be forgiven, however, if they are led to believe carrier aviation is the whole sum of Naval Aviation – based on a casual review of said observances.  (Fret not friends, YHS is a Life Member of tailhook and well beholden to carrier aviation, so no heresy will be found here, so put down the pitchforks – SJS).  They would be missing out on how Naval Aviation set cargo records during the Berlin Airlift.  Flew and fought hardscrabble, close quarters battles with Huey’s staged from LST’s in the Mekong Delta.  How, in concert with small DER’s, it formed a critical piece of our long-range, early warning barrier prior to the ballistic missile age with WVs and specially configured blimps.  Patrolled vast, hostile reaches of the northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans searching for Soviet attack and ballistic missile subs.

They would also miss how it was part of the mission to probe deep into hostile territory with a battery of electronic gear that at times was a cross between Radio Shack and Star Wars, searching for the ever elusive signals that would indicate a new threat or change in defenses for targets on hidden lists for a war no one wanted to go hot.  It is perhaps this group, shore and carrier-based, that has at once remained the most obscure subset of Naval Aviation while performing one of the most critical missions of the Cold War – intelligence collection.

The gap between what we know with certainty and what we conjecture (guess) is in constant flux and through time immemorial, efforts have been expended on almost infinite means to close that gap.  Indeed, the driving impetus for bringing the airplane (which itself was more of a curiosity than accomplished fact in its early days) into the military were the possibilities implicit in gaining the ultimate “high ground” for scouting and reconnaissance supporting ground and naval forces.  Indeed, Naval Aviation was born with the patrol/scout mission in mind.

Information collected was binned as actionable (useful in an immediate or near term sense — i.e., troop movements along the trenches, battleships seeking their opposite numbers for decisive engagements, etc.) or cataloged for longer-range/big picture use – “strategic” information if you will (and yes, we know this is a vast oversimplification).  In the beginning, most of the information collected was visual — recorded observations by pilots passed at post-mission debriefs that evolved into still photography with either handheld or airframe mounted cameras.

Continue Reading…

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

Flightdeck Friday: STS-133 & Last Flight for Shuttle Discovery

The oldest and perhaps most storied of the shuttle fleet, Discovery launched on her final mission today to deliver a final module to the U.S. segment of the International Space Station, the Leonardo Permanent Multipurpose Module, as well as the first humanoid robot to fly in space, Robonaut2. Named for the ships used by Henry Hudson and James Cook, Discovery launched on her maiden flight 30 Aug 1984. Since that launch, no other shuttle – or spacecraft, has flown to space more (39 launches counting today) or carried more crew members to orbit (246 before today). Among her missions were many notable firsts — first satellite retrieved from orbit and returned to Earth on its second mission (TELESAT-H & SYNCOM IV-1 which had malfunctioned on-orbit), flew the first Russian cosmonaut on a US spacecraft (STS-60), first rendezvous with the Russian space station, MIR (STS-63) and was the last shuttle to dock with MIR (STS-91), reached the highest altitude for a shuttle in low Earth orbit (STS-82), and first ISS crew rotation (STS-102). More importantly, Discovery was the shuttle that returned America to space following the loss of the Challenger and Columbia…

Total miles traveled: 142,917,535; Total days in orbit: 351; (8,441 hours, 50 minutes, 41 seconds); Total orbits: 5,628 (all pre-STS-133). All in all, quite a ride.

And so as I await Discovery’s safe return to Earth and eventual emplacement in a museum, and as the remainder of the fleet is phased out and decommissioned over the course of the next year, I wonder how long it will be before we return to space on an American launcher.

2015? 2018? 2020?

Wonder what the odds are in Vegas on that…

(all images courtesy NASA)

Naval Aviation Centennial: Neptune’s Atomic Trident (1950)

7 Feb 1950: In a demonstration of carrier long-range attack capabilities, a P2V-3C Neptune, with Commander Thomas Robinson in command, took off from Franklin D. Roosevelt off Jacksonville, Fla., and flew over Charleston, S.C., the Bahamas, the Panama Canal, up the coast of Central America and over Mexico to land next day at the Municipal Airport, San Francisco, Calif. The flight, which covered 5,060 miles in 25 hours, 59 minutes, was the longest ever made from a carrier deck. (Naval Aviation Chronology 1950-1953, Naval History Center)

To set the scene – the immediate post-war environment called for substantial cuts in conventional forces based on the idea that future aggressors would be deterred, or fought, at arms length with the advent of long-range bombers and the atomic bomb, both the sole province of the newly formed USAF. The Navy, despite the success and critical role played by its fast carrier battle groups in the Pacific War found itself in a bureaucratic knife fight over roles/missions and ultimately, funding that turned on this critical capability. Writing in his biography, Bluejacket Admiral, ADM Hayward noted:

Still, persuading Forrestal and CNO Nimitz didn’t make it (the super-carrier United States) a done deal. In the psychological warfare called “the budgeting process,” their fiscal year 1947 (1 July 1946 to 30 June 1947) funding request already was before Congress, and their “Ships” plan for FY1948 already included a call for funds to modify our largest carriers, the forty-five-thousand-ton (sixty-two thousand, fully loaded) Coral Sea, Midway and Franklin Delano Roosevelt for nuclear operations. The supercarrier couldn’t get into the cycle until FY1949. Amending the FY1948 plan to put it in might have been justified by a crisis, but the only one evident at the time was the attack at home on naval aviation. (Largely because of an assault on Berlin begun by Moscow in mid-1948, Congress in late 1948 voted to build the supercarrier, a small victory, we thought, against the “anti-navy” onslaught.)
In any case, from 1946 on, building the carrier-based big-bomber force evolved along two parallel, interactive lines. One focused on hardware; the other on hiring able people. In both, we were ‘pushing the envelope,”as pilots say. In hardware, getting big carriers left the question of what plane to put aboard
.”

Recognizing this need, in 1946 Navy contracted with North American Aviation to build the AJ Savage, a carrier-based, long-range bomber capable of hauling the 10,000lb+ Mk4 atomic weapon off a carrier, delivering it and returning to an arrested landing. A complex undertaking, the AJ would not be available until 1950 and in the meantime, an alternate “gap-filler” needed to be found. Looking at its inventory, Lockheed’s shore-based P2V Neptune seemed to provide a solution. It certainly had the range (as demonstrated by the flight of the Truculent Turtle in 1946 from Australia to Ohio, over 11,000 nm unrefueled) and with some modifications, could be adapted for one-time flights off the larger Midway-class CVBs.

A P2V-2C (BuNo 122449) was diverted and modified for testing in what would become the P2V-3C configuration. The central features included reduced crewing, increased internal fuel and attachment points for JATO (Jet Assisted take-Off) rockets (8 total – four to the side) as well as changes to accommodate carriage of the Mk1 atomic weapon modeled on the “Little Boy” uranium gun-type device which was substantially less bulky than the plutonium-based Mk5 weapon based on the “Fat Man.”

JATO was necessary as the hydraulic catapults of the time could not provide the necessary assist to get a 70,000+ gross weight aircraft airborne. With JATO and a 28 knot headwind, a fully loaded P2V could punch the JATO assist midway down a 900 ft deck run and instantly reach a required 150 knot airspeed (with the starboard wing clearing the carrier’s island by about 10 feet). Initially, the modification also included a tailhook and some 128 field arrested landings were conducted at Lockheed’s Burbank plant and NAS Patuxent River with then-CAPT Hayward, future CO of VC-5, at the controls. Shipboard trials consisted of pattern work and touch-and-goes onboard USS Franklin D. Roosevelt – but no arrested landings. Carrier landings, however, would not be part of the P2V-3C’s portfolio – airframe deformities (stretching in the fuselage) were discovered following the field arrestments, not entirely unsurprising as the P2V, rugged as it was, was not designed for carrier ops (likewise, the P-51, found to be quite capable round the carrier, suffered from rear bulkhead weaknesses after its carrier trials). Operations for the P2V then would mean it had to be craned aboard (giving away intentions) and following its launch and delivery, either return and ditch alongside the carrier or land at a friendly airfield should any remain – in essence, a one-time use weapon system. Under the circumstances, however, it was considered sufficient. Little time was wasted from the 1948 trials – eleven aircraft (BuNos 122924, 122927, 122930, 122933, 122936, 122942, 122947, 122951, 122966, 122969 and 122971) were procured under the P2V-3C configuration (12 total counting BuNo 122449, “NB41″ which was the prototype and still serving) and assigned to VC-5 (stood up in Sept 1948) and later VC-6 (stood up in Jan 1950). Special weapons units, based at Kirtland AFB, NM would store and service the weapons on each of the three Midway-class carriers configured for nuclear weapons.

With 1949, the Navy began an aggressive series of demonstrations, starting in March with the load aboard of three P2V’s on Coral Sea. Weighing in at 70, 65 and 55,000lbs respectively, all three launched sequentially off Coral Sea using their JATO assist. Later, in September, the capability was demonstrated to members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with CAPT Hayward flying off Midway with Secretary of Defense, Louis Johnson, flying in the right seat. Interestingly enough, this came a few months after Johnson had canceled the United States. CAPT Hayward’s XO, Dan Ashworth, launched on a long-range mission totaling a little over 4800 nm from the Midway, operating off Norfolk and recovering onboard Moffet field – by way of the Caribbean and Panama. And then in early 1950, CDR Robinson extended that even further with a flight of over 5,000 nm (for reference, the range from a mid-Mediterranean Sea launch to Moscow and recovery at Aviano Capodichino AB, outside Naples, Italy was about half that distance — 2500 nm).

The first deployment for VC-5 came in 1951 when six AJ-1s (newly delivered and problem beset) deployed with three P2Vs to Port Lyautey, Morocco. The Savages periodically operated off the Midway and FDR (the Midway-class carriers were not deployed to Korea as they had the only nuclear capability and were reserved for the nuclear mission in the Med). In a relatively short time, the P2V and AJ would be replaced and the carrier-based nuclear delivery mission would be assumed first by the A3D Skywarrior (contracted for in 1949) and as weapon sizes grew smaller (and yields increased) the AD4 Skyhawk and AD Skyraider. Most of the P2V-3Cs were re-configured to -3B with the AS-1B bombing system added and sent to the Heavy Attack Training Units (HATU) as trainers.

Sources:
VC-5 History: http://cv41.org/vc5history.html
History of the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt: http://ussfranklindroosevelt.com/?page_id=2264
Lockheed Neptune prototypes and special project P2Vs: http://www.verslo.is/baldur/p2/prototypes.htm#122449
US Navy and US Marine Corps BuNos: Third Series (120341 to 126256)(last revised 31 July 2010): http://www.joebaugher.com/navy_serials/thirdseries13.html
Aerofiles: Lockheed K to Lockheed-Martin: http://www.aerofiles.com/_lock2.html
HATWING-1: http://web.cortland.edu/woosterk/hatwing1.html
P2V In Action: http://www.scribd.com/P2V-NEPTUNE-IN-ACTION-SQUADRON-1068/d/20610007
Bluejacket Admiral: the Navy Career of Chick Hayward By John T. Hayward, Carl W. Borklund
STRIKE FROM THE SEA: U.S. Navy Attack Aircraft From Skyraider to Super Hornet 1948-Present, By Tommy H. Thomason

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