All posts in “Naval Aviation Centenary”

Programming Note: “Angle of Attack: How Naval Aviation Changed the Face of War”

In the mail today from ANA:


99 ANAers, Friends of ANA and Naval Aviation,

A number of members have asked for more information about The Boeing Company’s great Public Television program, “Angle of Attack”. In case you missed it before, the schedule is in the attachment. It is a bit long but you should find your local station/service. If not, we urge you to check your local listings or conact your local Public Television broadcaster – this is a great feature you do NOT want to miss.

From a previous posting:
A bit about the documentary… it consists of 2 one hour pieces covering the rich history of Naval Aviation from the beginning and talks to significant events (carrier/aircraft development, Pearl Harbor, Midway, Vietnam, Middle East, & Cold War) and contributions of those involved. Its primary focus is on the aircraft carrier/air wing, but it also highlights maritime patrol, helicopters and future unmanned capability. Additionally Naval Aviation’s contribution to the nation’s space program is included. It touches on several significant social issues (minority and female introductions) that influenced the Navy and Naval Aviation. All of this is intertwined with flight students going through the carrier qualification phase of strike training in Kingsville, TX.

All viewers will find it insightful and informative. I also believe it is a timely piece in that it indirectly and directly articulates the value this capability brings to our nation and its defense. The Boeing Company is proud to have sponsored the production and we are pleased with the quality of The Documentary Group’s efforts. American Public Television has also done a great job of distributing the show.

Angle of Attack
This 2-part documentary chronicles the 100-year history of Naval aviation – from wobbly gliders and the first shipboard landing in 1911 to modern supersonic jets and unmanned aerial vehicles. It deftly interweaves archival footage, interviews with historical and military experts, contemporary footage of cutting-edge aircraft and insights from today’s “Top Gun” fighter pilots in the Marine Corps and Navy.

Part -One (#101H) Duration: 55:42 STEREO TVG
The first half begins by following young men and women on their way to “earning their Wings.” In a rigorous course of instruction, they learn to lift off and land a supersonic aircraft on the deck of an aircraft carrier in the middle of the ocean, still considered one of the most difficult and hazardous tasks. Eugene Ely first attempted the death-defying feat in 1911. Ely’s act of landing a fragile bi-plane on a make-shift wooden deck would eventually transform into a weapon of unprecedented power and influence. The episode concludes with World War II and the US victory in the Pacific, when carrier aviation reigned supreme. However, Naval soon would face a threat to its existence – not from an enemy source, but from a competing technology – the nuclear bomb.

Part – Two (#102H) Duration: 56:01 STEREO TVG
The second half begins with the potential demise of naval aviation, as many in the military establishment promote nuclear weapons and pronounce carrier aviation obsolete. Korea, and later Vietnam, offer a startling reminder of the utility of naval aviation, and undermine the post-World War II conviction that the US will fight all of its wars with nuclear weapons. As the Cold War deepens, the installation of Soviet ballistic missiles in Cuba brings the nation to the brink of nuclear war. Another important function of naval aviation – reconnaissance – rallies world opinion and helps diffuse the crisis. Photographs of the Soviet missiles taken by low-flying naval aviators provide incontrovertible evidence of the Soviet Union’s lying. Following the age of nuclear terror came a new low in Vietnam, where doubts about the military merge with racial animosities to undermine morale among naval aviators. The episode concludes by exploring the technological evolutions like GPS-guided weapons that continue to transform the field. Interviews and vivid archival footage from Afghanistan and Iraq highlights the new moral challenges of asymmetrical warfare today.

ENJOY!!

VR,
Dutch
Dutch Rauch
Secretary/Treasurer
Association of Naval Aviation, Inc.


To find a time on your local PBS channel, go to www.pbs.org and open the ‘TV Schedules’ link and search on “Angle of Attack” – I’m looking forward to watching.

Oh, by the way, while you are looking, how about also stopping by the ANA website and supporting their efforts to promote all aspects of Naval Aviation by joining?

w/r, SJS

This Date in Naval Aviaiton History: Sept 18, 1962 – Changing Designators

Quick – F4H or F-110?

Depending on the markings and the date, it could have been either – or none.  Despite the fact that 15 years earlier, the Department of Defense (and departments of the Army, Navy and Air Force) were created by the National Security Act of 1947, the three Services continued with their separate methodologies of aircraft designations.  Hence, the Phantom II was known as the F4H by the Navy and Marines while as the F-110 by the Air Force.  The Navy’s system, in effect from 29 March 1922, rolled up the mission and manufacturer (including design number) in the designator or in detail:(status prefix)(Type)(Manufacturer type sequence)(manufacturer) – (configuration sequence number)(special purpose suffix)- hence the F4H broke out as Fighter, 4th design from McDonnell while the first land-based AEW aircraft, a variation of the Army Air Force Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress, was the PB-1W: Patrol (P)+Boeing (B)-First configuration (1) for Early Warning (W).  Since the aircraft wasn’t originally designed for AEW and a modification for AEW from an existing platform, the W fell into the special purpose suffix.  Conversely, the first purpose built AEW aircraft, was (briefly) known as the W2F-1 (AEW+2nd type+Grumman – 1st sequence)

Over the course of the forty-year run of the designation system, it led to some unofficial, and colorful nicknames that included the:

  • “Ford” – Douglas F4D Skyray

  • “Willie Victor” – Lockheed WV-1 Warning Star

  • “Fudd” – Grumman WF-1 Tracer (shortened from “Willie Fudd”)

  • “All Three Dead” – Douglas A3D Skywarrior (which was also known in ‘polite’ circles as the Whale)

  • “SPAD” – from the Douglas AD Skyraider

As elegant as the nomenclature system may have been, to outsiders it was prone to confusion.  Not helping the matter were instances where even in the naval services, the same platform had different designators (e.g., the Navy’s version of Kaman’s HH-43 Huskie was designated the HUK-1 while the Marine’s was HOK-1).

HUK? HOK? HH-43?

Presumably SecDef McNamara had his fill while being briefed on the F4H/F-110 and said “enough” (or words to that effect) and on this date in 1962 a joint Army-Navy-Air Force regulation was issued establishing a uniform system of designating military aircraft similar to that previously in use by the Air Force. By it, all existing aircraft were re-designated using a letter, dash, number, and letter to indicate in that order, the basic mission or type of aircraft, its place in the series of that type, and its place in the series of changes in its basic design.  Some Navy aircraft, like the F8U, F9F, F4H and A3D made relatively straightforward changes (F-8, F-9, F-4 and A-3 respectively) while others ended up with new sequence numbers (but are still referred to today by their old ones – e.g., the F3D/F-10 and F4D/F-6).  USAF aircraft kept their pre-62 designations (F-101, B-52, etc.).  Of course, like any regulation hat purports to lock-down configuration – there will be exceptions, and there were more than one or two where the 1962 designation system was concerned – here are a few:

Recce crew – quick ID’s?

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

Guest Post: THE U.S. NAVY’S FLEET PROBLEMS OF THE THIRTIES — A Dive Bomber Pilot’s Perspective

From 1923 to 1940, the US Navy conducted 21 “Fleet Problems” as it sought to understand, exploit and incorporate new technologies and capabilities while developing the tactics, training and procedures to employ the same should war present itself – which by the 1930s was beginning to look more and more likely to the discerning observer. Conducted in all the major waters adjacent to the US, these problems covered the gamut of naval warfare from convoy duty, ASW, strike warfare and sea control. Most important, at least to this observer, was that this was the laboratory that tested the emerging idea of putting tactical aircraft at sea on board aircraft carriers. In doing so, the inherent flexibility of aviation across a broad span of warfare areas became apparent as more people in leadership looked at naval aviation as something more than just a scouting force for the main battery of the fleet extant — the battleline. It was in this laboratory that the Navy developed the techniques and identified the requirements for carrier-based dive bombers, so different form the big, lumbering land-based bombers that the Air Corps’ advocates were saying would make ships obsolete by high altitude, “precision” bombing. Proof would come at Midway when both forces were employed — the B-17′s dropping their bombs from on high hit nothing but water. But dive bombers from Enterprise and Yorktown struck at the heart of the Kido Butai. And as the thousand-pounder from Lt Dick Best’s SBD Dauntless smashed through the Akagi’s flight deck, a battle was turned and the course to winning a war was set. But it took visionaries to set the wheels in motion. Here then is the story – fittingly from the perspective of one of the few WWII dive bomber pilots still with us, LCDR George Walsh, who flew that great beast of an aircraft, the SB2C Helldiver in the Pacific theater. – SJS

As we enter the second half of the Centennial of Naval Aviation, I have found no reference to the “Fleet Problems” of the 1930s that were of great importance to the progress of naval aviation. These exercises were conducted at sea by hundreds of ships and aircraft of the peacetime Navy to prepare our nation for possible war.  The Fleet Problems were vital, providing realistic training for the generation of professional naval officers, mostly Annapolis graduates, who were responsible for leading America to victory in WW II despite enduring the hardships and sacrifices of the 1930’s. The exercises were well planned and intense, demanding all the devotion and talents of the men who participated under conditions that simulated wartime and called for extended tours of sea duty.

As you look back on these Fleet Problems you will find it mystifying that we were so unprepared for the December 7th, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, and that the Battle of Midway was badly mismanaged.

“The “Fleet Problems” should not be confused with the “War Games” conducted at the Naval War College in Newport. The fleet and not the college developed the strategy and tactics for air warfare in the Pacific.1 It was in the conduct of these exercises that our Navy perfected the techniques of aircraft carrier operation and proved the usefulness of carrier task forces as an offensive weapon.

It is interesting to trace the progress of naval aviation from the earliest introduction of a carrier, the Langley (1922), into the 1926 Fleet Program VI as an auxiliary to Fleet Problem XXI in 1940 when the carrier Task Forces acted as a long distance striking force independent of the main battleship forces.

USS Langley sunk at the Battle of Java Sea 1942

USS Wasp sunk in Solomons 1942

As aircraft increased in speed, range and bomb loadings, the Fleet Problems reflected the value of the new capabilities. New carriers were built to take advantage of the new and more powerful aircraft, first the Saratoga and Lexington in 1927, then the Ranger (1934), Yorktown (1937), Enterprise (1938), and Wasp (1940).

Fleet Exercise IX
It was not until 1929 that a major aviation breakthrough occurred. Rear Admiral Joseph Reeves, commander of the aircraft squadrons of a simulated enemy force, dispatched the carrier Saratoga and its escorts away from the main battleship fleet, and made a daring high speed run in for a mock attack on the Panama Canal; this exploit received extensive press coverage.

“Writing many years later, (Cmdr.) Eugene E. Wilson, who had been one of Reeves staff officers in 1929, would rightly state that Saratoga’s exploits during Fleet Problem IX marked the first step in the development of the Carrier Task Forces which were so effective in the Pacific. This operation convinced naval aviators – and some surface warriors, such as (Admiral) Pratt – that task forces built around carriers would be of importance in the future of naval warfare.” 2

“The most important conclusion drawn from the Saratoga’s raid was the impossibility of stopping a determined air attack once it was launched. Unfortunately, in the years to come, this lesson would be forgotten, by certain members of the so-called Gun Club—the battleship men who were unwavering in their faith in the supremacy of the big gun. Their preoccupation with refighting the Battle of Jutland instead of ensuring the security of the fleet contributed greatly to the disaster at Pearl Harbor. Evident to Reeves and to the carrier commanders who followed in his footsteps, was the reality that in any future engagement involving aircraft carriers at sea, the first carrier to locate and bomb the other would determine the outcome.” 3

Rear Admiral Joseph Reeves, center

Fleet Problem X
Next year the first long distance aircraft carrier vs. aircraft carrier battle was simulated in 1930:

“Then at 0810 the three Lexington scout bombers made a dive bombing attack on the Saratoga, “damaging” the forward edge of her flight deck. At 0829, just 14 minutes after the scout bomber strike, the first waves of Lexington dive bombers, 45 aircraft in all, began a series of attacks that rendered Saratoga’s flight deck useless, wrecked half her aircraft, and destroyed a number of anti-aircraft guns, Then, 4 minutes later, at 0833 15 Lexington fighter bombers made a pass at Saratoga, and then hit Langley. Within two minutes a dozen more Lexington fighter bombers hit Langley. The umpires ruled that both carriers had been destroyed as well as all their aircraft. In twenty minutes both Blue carriers had been put out of action, in an incident eerily resembling the fate of three Japanese carriers at Midway in1942.”
“Virtually all observers commented on the importance in carrier warfare of getting in the first blow”. 2

Fleet Problem XI
This comment is repeated in the analysis of the 1931 exercise:

“Of even greater consequence was that the lesson of Fleet Problem X as to the importance of “getting in the first blow” against enemy carriers was clearly reaffirmed in Fleet Problem XI.” 2

Boeing F2B-2, 1931 Fighter

Fleet Problem XIII
1932 was an interesting year following the invasion of China by Japan. The scenario proposed that Hawaii had been taken over by an enemy and the U.S. Navy was dispatched to take it back. In a joint exercise the Army played the part of the Black occupying power and our Navy the Blue attacking force.

Captain John Towers, Chief of Staff, planned to use the carriers Lexington and Saratoga to launch a sneak attack on the Army in Hawaii prior to covering landings by the marines. On Saturday, February 5th, the two carriers and destroyers formed a separate Task Force and left the main battle fleet, making high speed runs in to a launch position 100 miles north of Oahu during the night. At dawn Sunday morning a surprised Army woke to the roar of fleets of aircraft attacking their installations. Captain Towers had timed the attack perfectly.

“The fact that Japan nearly duplicated this attack on Pearl on Sunday morning, 7 December 1941, was no accident. Early in the 1950s Towers dined in Tokyo with a Japanese vice admiral who had participated in the planning. “He told me they had simply taken a page out of our own book!” 4

In 1942, shortly after the Battle of Midway, Towers was appointed ComAirPac and supervised the employment of our carriers for the balance of WW II. No longer did black shoe officers captain aircraft carriers.4

Admiral John Towers, Time Magazine June 23, 1941

Fleet Problem XIV

“The 1933 problem was designed to simulate a war in the Pacific, one initiated by carrier operations. Anticipating that Japan would attack before formally declaring war (as she had done against Russia in 1904), the scenario envisioned the sortie of the Japanese fleet eastward across the Pacific. This fleet, its sinister designation Black, had ominously prescient orders: “To inflict maximum damage on the PEARL HARBOR NAVAL BASE in order to destroy or reduce its effectiveness.”

“The Army, (defending Blue force) had put their forces on full alert January 27th, and 24 hour air patrols were initiated out to 150 miles. Avoiding Blue air patrols, the Black carriers and their escorts arrived at a position north of Molakai around midnight on January 30th. The strike force arrived over Pearl Harbor around dawn and was ruled to have inflicted serious damage.” 4

Fleet Problem XVI
Held in 1935 it was the largest mock battle ever staged, conducted over an area of the sea covering five million square miles of the North Central Pacific between Midway, Hawaii, and the Aleutian Islands and involving 321 vessels and 70,000 men. Although four aircraft carriers participated, the major contribution to aviation was the experimentation with underway refueling of carriers that enabled carrier task forces to operate independently.  Debate over the role of aircraft carriers continued, and reached its nadir in 1938 when Admiral Claude C. Bloch was appointed CINCUS. It came as a shock to the naval aviation contingent for Admiral Bloch regarded carriers as just another ship to serve as an auxiliary tied to the battle line.2

Fleet Problem XIX
However, in 1938 the Black Fleet again simulated an attack on Hawaii. Saratoga was commanded by Captain John Towers, who had earned his wings in 1911, and was the first of the Navy’s pioneer airmen to command a fleet carrier.  Admiral Ernest King “decided to affect a surprise air raid on Pearl Harbor. He directed Saratoga to the northwest of Hawaii. Using a convenient weather front, at 0450 on March 29th King launched an attack from 100 miles that hit the Army’s Hickam and Wheeler airfields and Pearl Harbor Naval Air Station with “devastating effect.” 2

Douglas TBD-1, 1937 Torpedo Plane

Fleet Problem XX
As war loomed in Europe in 1939 this Fleet Problem was witnessed at sea by President Roosevelt while he was embarked on the cruiser Houston and the battleship, Pennsylvania. From the time he had served as Secretary of the Navy from 1913-1920, FDR took a lively interest in all matters pertaining to the Navy.

“Although short, Fleet Program XX demonstrated a high degree of sophistication in the development of the American naval force. The navy’s use of air power had clearly matured. Both commanders, Kalbfus and Andrews, had managed their air forces rather well, each concentrating his efforts at destroying his enemy’s air power before going after his battle fleet. Each had made carriers the center piece of independent task forces.” 2

Grumman F2F-1, 1939 Fighter

Fleet Problem XXI
The opening of the war in Europe caused stringent controls of the press in 1940, and dispensed with the traditional diplomatic attempts to disguise the identity of the simulated enemy force, Japan. Among the objectives was to study various fleet and carrier task force defensive formations. Lexington and Saratoga with four heavy cruisers and 4 destroyers made up the Strike Force operating independent of the Attack Force of cruisers and destroyers, and the Main Body of battleships, cruisers, and destroyers.  For this exercise one division of Omaha class cruisers was commanded by Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher who was later chosen to lead our carrier task forces at the beginning of WW II despite the fact that he had no prior experience with aviation or aircraft carriers.5   At the conclusion of this exercise President Roosevelt ordered the fleet to remain in Hawaiian waters in the hope of sending a message to Japan.

Fleet Problem XXII
In December1940 this problem was cancelled as the Navy concentrated all effort on preparing for the eventuality of entering a shooting war.  As a nation we need to appreciate the dedication of our professional Annapolis trained corps of officers who endured the hardships of the thirties and worked intently on these Fleet Problems to keep our Navy in fighting shape. It can only be compared to athletes training for a future Olympics, constantly working out to stay in shape with exercises that were challenging both mentally and physically.  There were probably less than 37,000 regular naval officers at the start of the war with skills honed during the Fleet Problems.6

In addition to this key contingent, the exercises trained the warrant officers, chiefs and ratings who reenlisted year after year during the hard times of the ’30s. These experienced men were available when needed to provide a manpower framework to enable the huge wartime expansions of the 1940s as they were distributed among the new ships to mold the raw recruits.

Douglas SBD-3, 1941 Dive Bomber

The Fleet Problems had also trained pilots like Lt. Cmdrs. Wade McClusky, Max Leslie and John Waldron of Midway fame as they searched the Pacific for the Japanese carriers on June 4th, 1942. Having served as the cutting edge during the fleet exercises, they were well aware of the importance of disabling the flight decks of the Japanese carriers before they could launch a strike against our carriers. Our carriers and the lives of their shipmates depended on it. It was this awareness that prompted John Waldron to lead his squadron in a quixotic foray into the “Valley of Death”. It was this awareness that drove Wade McClusky to search beyond the “point of no return.”

During the Fleet Problems each year the pilots faced danger every time they climbed into the cockpit. They faced casualties from carrier operational accidents, mechanical failures and pilot error. They also had to fly missions that tested the limits of aircraft and pilot capabilities. Admirals experimented with night and bad weather flight operations as well as the limits of aircraft range, and the speed of carrier launchings and recoveries. Admiral King, later Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet and CNO, was not popular with the pilots he put at risk in his drive for efficiency.

Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King

Finally, the Fleet Problems perfected more than aircraft carrier operations. At the same time the Navy was working out problems in logistics, intelligence, staff structure, communications, cryptology, and radar.  It is to be hoped that the budget crisis shaping up now in Washington does not hamper our nation’s ability to support our Navy’s continuing preparedness for threats unknown.  We still need to support our professional Annapolis trained officer corps even when there is no apparent threat in view.

Lt. Cmdr. George J. Walsh USNR
July 17, 2011

Notes:

1. The Quiet Warrior, by Thomas B. Buell
2. To Train the Fleet for War, by Albert A. Nofi
3. All the Factors of Victory, by Thomas Wildenberg
4. The Struggle for Naval Air Supremacy, by Clark G. Reynolds
5. Black Shoe Carrier Admiral, by John Lundstrom
6. Battle Report by Walter Karig, From Author’s Foreword

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 – 100 Years of Naval Aviation and the USCG

As we move deeper into the Centennial celebrations focused on US Naval Aviation, there are those amongst us who think it consists primarily of blue airplanes from WWII flying form with Hornets in throwback blue…and miss a whole other part of our heritage, that provided by the USCG.  Aviators from the USCG have been flying side-by-side with their USN and USMC counterparts from the earliest days.  In fact, one of the early signatory events – the first crossing of the Atlantic by the NC-4 was piloted in part by a USCG aviator:

(That’s LCDR Stone, USCG – last row, second from the right and looking at the camera — in the Aviation Greens.  – SJS)

In fact, if you count the Coast Guardsmen that were assigned to the lifesaving station at Kill Devil Hills who assisted and observed the Wright brother’s attempts at flight, the Coast Guard predates the Navy in matters of aviation.

In war and in peace, USCG aviators flew in all theaters and under all conditions.  From SAR in Alaska to U-boat hunting in the Atlantic, the Coast Guard was there.  Along the way there was some pioneering of its own, especially where exploring the capabilities of new forms of aviation were concerned:

From silver panted amphibs to today’s orange and white helos and Herk’s, Falcons and Sentry’s; Coast Guard aviation has been a constant though often overlooked part of Naval Aviation, coming to the fore usually only in moments of personal peril and national agony.

USCG HQ is doing its part in peeling back the obscurity with a website dedicated to revealing the history of USCG aviation through legacy photos – you can find it here: http://www.uscg.mil/history/webaircraft/USCGAviationHistoricPhotoGallery1942.asp. (h/t Chuck H.).  It is also altogether fitting that there is at least one Heritage scheme for the USCG:

Semper Paratus!

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

Saturday Matinee: US Naval Aviation – the First 100 Years

From the good folks at the Naval Institute:

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

Naval Aviation Centennial: One Astronaut, A Future Astronaut and Reaching for New Heights

Forty-nine years ago – within one day of each other, one astronaut headed for orbit as America’s first to circle the Earth and a future astronaut opened a series of record attempts in the McDonell F4H Phantom:

Images Courtesy Rex Features & NASA

20 Feb 1962: Lieutenant Colonel John H. Glenn. USMC, in Mercury spacecraft Friendship 7, was launched from Cape Canaveral by an Atlas rocket. His three turns about the earth were the first U.S. manned orbital flights. He was recovered some 166 miles east of Grand Turk Island in the Bahamas by the destroyer Noa (DD 841) and then delivered by helicopter to the carrier Randolph.

F4H-1 Phantom (BuNo 149449) Image Courtesy Boeing Co.

21 Feb 1962: The F4H-1 Phantom II established new world records for climb to 3,000 and 6,000 meters with times of 34.52 and 48.78 seconds. Lieutenant Commander J. W. Young and Commander D. M. Longton piloted the plane on its respective record flights at NAS Brunswick, Maine.

Glenn completed three orbits reaching a maximum altitude (apogee) of approximately 162 statute miles and an orbital velocity of approximately 17,500 miles per hour. Glenn would later go on to be the only Mercury astronaut to fly on the Shuttle (Discovery/STS-95).

LCDR John W. Young, wrapping up his assignment to the Naval Air Test Center, went on to set another time-to-climb record flying out of Point Mugu reached an altitude of 3000 meters (9843 feet) in 34.523 seconds. Three more time-to-climb records were set at NAS Brunswick on 3 Apr 62, reaching an altitude of 25,000 meters (82,021 feet) in 230.440 seconds. Young was selected as part of the second cohort of astronauts later in 1962 (while MO in VF-143) and went on to be the first person to fly 6 times in space – Gemini 3 (first flight of the Gemini spacecraft), Gemini 10, Apollo 10 (CM pilot), Apollo 16 (CDR), STS-1 (Columbia’s and the Shuttle’s first flight) and STS-9 (first Spacelab flight).

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

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

More Naval Aviation Heritage Aircraft (But Still No Hawkeye)

Latest additions -

EA-6B in colors from the Battle of the Coral Sea:

A P-3 in the colors of VP-44 PBY from Midway:

And a Growler in tri-color from Air Group 85 embarked in USS Shangri-La late in the war:

So basically, we now have one of everything in the inventory, fixed and rotary wing, carrier- and shore-based (including an S-3B) in heritage colors – some with more than one example.

All that is, it seems, except an E-2C.  So with that in mind, I humbly submit a proposal for an E-2C in the colors of VW-1, circa 1952-55:

How about it NAVAIR?

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

U.S. Naval Aviation – 100 Years

18 January 1911: At 11:01 a.m., Eugene Ely, flying the same Curtiss pusher used to take off from Birmingham (CL 2), landed on a specially built platform aboard the armored cruiser Pennsylvania (Armored cruiser No. 4) at anchor in San Francisco Bay. At 11:58 he took off and returned to Selfridge Field, San Francisco, completing the earliest demonstration of the adaptability of aircraft to shipboard operations.


And so it began. Fragile constructs of wire, canvas and wood, given flight by human guts and ingenuity would give way to immensely more powerful creatures flying from the decks of leviathans that themselves, were once the sole provence of fantasy writers. In so doing, the margins of naval warfare were stretched to fantastic margins and capabilities. Powerful naval forces, centered on aircraft carriers and their embarked airwings and supported by land- and sea-based maritime patrol would dominate broad swaths of the mightiest ocean barely thirty years later. Fifty years hence supersonic fighters would lift from the deck of the first nuclear-powered carrier while Naval Aviators prepared for the first manned spaceflight. And today – 100 years on, the edge of the envelope continues to be stretched and pushed as Naval Aviation in all its forms – carrier-based, rotary winged and maritime patrol provide critical and flexible options to our nation’s leaders – in times of peace and war.

As part of the celebrations and observances for this milestone, there will be regular posts based on this theme here and at other sites – like that hosted by the Naval Institute and of course, the official site for the celebration. Check the “Centennial of Naval Aviation: 1911-2011″ block over on the right for updates and links to special events. Over at the U.S. Naval Air Forces Facebook site you will find additional information, including a growing collection of aircraft which are receiving “retro” paint schemes based on period aircraft (personal favorites are the tri-color schemes from 1944).

More to follow…

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

An Open Letter to “The 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation Foundation”

Re: “The History of Naval Aviation Timeline”

To Whom it May Concern:

When I discovered through the website of a fellow retired Naval Aviator (www.neptunuslex.com) that your organization had posted a timeline covering the 100 years of naval aviation, with great anticipation I immediately jumped over to see for myself — and frankly, was sorely disappointed with what I found. Anticipating detail found at the Naval History and Heritage Command but in a more “viewer friendly” format, I instead found what I can only hope is a work very much in progress. If so, and since we are all about improvements, some suggestions follow for the more, spare, parts of the timeline:

1930s

  • 31 Mar 31: When a disastrous earthquake shook Nicaragua and destroyed most of the city of Managua, Lexington was ordered from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to assist other Navy and Marine units in relief operations. Early the next afternoon, she inaugurated carrier aircraft relief operations in the U.S. Navy, by launching five planes carrying medical personnel, supplies and provisions to the stricken city.
  • 26 Sep 31: The keel for Ranger, first ship of the U.S. Navy to be designed and constructed as a carrier, was laid at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company.
  • 24 Mar 32: The Army Air Corps, in response to enthusiastic reports from its observers who had witnessed the performance of the Mk XV Norden bombsight in trials against Pittsburgh (Armored Cruiser No. 4) the previous October, requested the Navy to provide it with 25 Mk XV sights. This was the Army’s first commitment for the Navy-developed sight that was to become essential to high altitude precision bombing of World War II.
  • 16 Jun 33: Under the terms of the National Industrial Recovery Act, the President allotted $238 million to the Navy for the construction of new ships, including two aircraft carriers. In less than two months, contracts were awarded for carriers Nos. 5 and 6, eventually commissioned as Yorktown and Enterprise.
  • 30 Jul 35: The first blind landing aboard a carrier was made by Lieutenant Frank Akers, who took off from NAS San Diego in an OJ-2 with hooded cockpit, located Langley underway in an unknown position, and landed aboard catching the number four arresting wire. Lieutenant Akers subsequently received a Distinguished Flying Cross for this flight.
  • 21 Apr 38: The delivery of the XF2A-1 to the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics marked the initiation of full-scale wind tunnel tests to determine means of decreasing aerodynamic drag and thereby increasing high speed. These tests, conducted at the recommendation of Commander Walter S. Diehl, indicated that the speed of the XF2A-1 could be increased 31 m.p.h. over the 277 m.p.h. already achieved, and led to the utilization of this technique in other high-performance aircraft, by both the Army and the Navy. The data thus obtained was also directly applicable to the design of new aircraft.
  • 24 Aug 38: In the first American use of a drone target aircraft in anti-aircraft exercises, the Ranger fired upon a radio-controlled JH-1 making a simulated horizontal bombing attack on the fleet. This not only heralded a new departure in anti-aircraft practice, but also indicated that radio-controlled aircraft could be used as a training device in the fleet.
  • 14 Sep 38: A radio-controlled N2C-2 target drone engaged in a simulated dive-bombing attack against the battleship Utah (Battleship No. 31) in test firing of anti-aircraft battery. The proponents of guided missile development view this as the first demonstration of the air to surface missile.
  • 4 Aug 39: Yorktown and Enterprise made successful launchings of SBC-3 and O3U-3 aircraft from flight deck and hangar deck catapults in the first practical demonstration of launching aircraft from carriers by means of a hydraulic flush-deck catapult and in the first demonstrations of catapulting aircraft from the hangar deck.

1940s

  • 22 Mar 40: Development of guided missiles was initiated at the Naval Aircraft Factory with the establishment of a project for adapting radio controls to a torpedo-carrying TG-2 airplane.
  • 1 Aug 41: A Microwave (AI-10) radar developed by the Radiation Laboratory and featuring a Plan Position Indicator (or PPI) was given its initial airborne test in the XJO-3 at Boston Airport. During the test flights, which continued through 16 October, Radiation Laboratory scientists operated the radar and devised modifications while naval personnel from Project Roger (usually Chief Aviation Pilot C. L. Kullberg) piloted the aircraft. During the tests, surface vessels were detected at ranges up to 40 miles; radar-guided approaches against simulated enemy aircraft were achieved at ranges up to 3.5 miles. Operational radars which were developed from this equipment were capable of searching a circular area and included the ASG for K-type airships and the AN/APS-2 for patrol planes.
  • 10 Dec 41: Aircraft from Enterprise attacked and sank the Japanese submarine I-70 in waters north of the Hawaiian Islands. This was one of the submarines used to scout the Hawaiian area in connection with the Pearl Harbor attack and the first Japanese combatant ship sunk by United States aircraft during World War II.
  • 18 Apr 42: Raid on Tokyo: From a position at sea 668 miles from Tokyo, the carrier Hornet launched 16 B-25′s of the 17th AAF Air Group led by Lieutenant Colonel J. H. Doolittle, USA, for the first attack on the Japanese homeland. The Hornet sortied from Alameda 2 April, made rendezvous with Enterprise and other ships of Task Force 16 (Vice Admiral W. F. Halsey) north of the Hawaiian Islands, and proceeded across the Pacific to the launching point without making port.
  • 25 Jun 42: Preliminary investigation of early warning radar had proceeded to the point that the Coordinator for Research and Development requested development be initiated of airborne early warning radar including automatic airborne relay and associated shipboard processing and display equipment. Interest in early warning radar had arisen when Admiral King remarked to Dr. Vannevar Bush, head of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, that Navy ships need to see over the hill-i.e. beyond the line of sight. This was the start of Project CADILLAC, the first AEW system (TBM-3W) which would be deployed in Aug 1945 in Ranger.
  • 1 Aug 42: A J4F Widgeon, piloted by Ensign Henry C. White of Coast Guard Squadron 212, based at Houma, La., scored the first Coast Guard kill of an enemy submarine with the sinking of the U-166 off the passes of the Mississippi.
  • 16 Nov 42: Naval aviation’s first night fighter squadron, VMF(N)-531, was established at MCAS Cherry Point with Lieutenant Colonel Frank H. Schwable in command. After initial training with SNJs and SB2A-4s, the squadron was assigned twin-engined PV-1 aircraft equipped with British Mark IV type radar.
  • 7 Jan 43: Development of the first naval aircraft to be equipped with a turbojet engine was initiated with the issuance of a Letter of Intent to McDonnell Aircraft Corporation for engineering, development, and tooling for two VF airplanes. Two Westinghouse 19-B turbojet engines were later specified and the aircraft was designated XFD-1. It became the prototype for the FH-1 Phantom jet fighter.
  • 16 Oct 43: The Navy accepted its first helicopter, a Sikorsky YR-4B (HNS-1), at Bridgeport, Connecticut, following a 60 minute acceptance test flight by Lieutenant Commander F. A. Erickson, USCG.
  • 30 Nov 43: On her first operational assignment, the Martin Mars, in the hands of Lieutenant Commander W. E. Coney and crew of 16, took off from Patuxent River carrying 13,000 pounds of cargo that was delivered at Natal, Brazil, in a nonstop flight of 4,375 miles and of 28 hours 25 minutes duration.
  • 24 Feb 44: The first detection of a submerged enemy submarine by the use of MAD gear was made by Catalinas of VP-63, on a MAD barrier patrol of the approaches to the Strait of Gibraltar. They attacked the U-761 with retrorockets, and with the assistance of two ships and aircraft from two other squadrons, sank it.
  • 4 Jun 44: Capture of the U-505 –off Cape Blanco, Africa, a hunter-killer group (Captain D. V. Gallery), composed of the escort carrier Guadalcanal, with VC-8 aboard, and five destroyer escorts, carried out a determined attack on the German submarine U-505, forcing it to surface. Boats from the destroyer escort Pillsbury (DD 133) and the carrier reached the submarine before scuttling charges could accomplish their purpose and the U.S. Navy found itself with a prize of war.
  • 11 June-10 August 44: Occupation of the Marianas– carrier aircraft had accounted for 110,000 tons of enemy shipping sunk and 1,223 aircraft destroyed. In this campaign, groups of the fast carrier force retired in turn to advanced fleet bases for brief periods of rest and replenishment, thus initiating a practice that became standard operating procedure during all future extended periods of action.
  • 12 Jun 44: In the first deployment of a guided missile unit into a combat theater, elements of Special Task Air Group 1 arrived in the Russell Islands in the South Pacific. And 27 Sep 44: Guided Missiles were used in the Pacific as Special Task Air Group 1, from its base on Stirling in the Treasury Islands, began a combat demonstration of the TDR assault drone. In the initial attack, against antiaircraft emplacements in a beached merchant ship defending Kahili airstrip on South Bougainville, two out of four TDR’s struck the target ship.
  • 2 May 45: First Helicopter Rescue–Lieutenant August Kleisch, USCG, flying a HNS-1 helicopter rescued 11 Canadian airmen that were marooned in northern Labrador about 125 miles from Goose Bay.
  • 21 July 46: In the first U.S. test of the adaptability of jet aircraft to shipboard operation, an XFD-1 Phantom piloted by Lieutenant Commander James Davidson, made successful landings and takeoffs (deck launched without catapults) on board Franklin D. Roosevelt.
  • 29 Jan 47: From a position 660 miles off the Antarctic Continent, Philippine Sea launched to Little America the first of six R4D transport aircraft which she had ferried from Norfolk as a part of Operation Highjump. The first plane off, which was also the first carrier takeoff for an R4D, was piloted by Commander William M. Hawkes and carried Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd as a passenger.
  • 9 Nov 48: Navy transport squadrons, transferred from the Pacific to assist in Operation Vittles, began flying cargo into Berlin.

1950s

  • 3 Jul 50: Carrier aircraft went into action in Korea for the first time. Valley Forge, with Air Group 5, and HMS Triumph operating in the Yellow Sea, launched strikes on airfields, supply lines, and transportation facilities in and around Pyongyang, northwest of Seoul. This was the first combat test for the Grumman F9F Panther and the Douglas AD Skyraider. It was also the occasion for the first Navy kills in aerial combat during the war and the first shoot-down by a Navy jet, as F9F pilots of VF-51, Lieutenant (jg) L. H. Plog and Ensign E. W. Brown shot down two Yak-9′s on the first strike over Pyongyang.
  • 9 Nov 50: The initial strikes against bridges crossing the Yalu River at Sinuiju were opposed by enemy MiG-15′s. In this, the first encounter of Navy jets with MiG’s, the Commanding Officer of VF-111, Lieutenant Commander W. T. Amen, in an F9F Panther, scored one kill and became the first Navy pilot in history to shoot down a jet aircraft.
  • 2 Apr 51: Two F9F-2B Panthers of VF-191, each loaded with four 250- and two 100-pound general purpose bombs, were catapulted from Princeton for an attack on a railroad bridge near Songjin. This was the first Navy use of a jet fighter as a bomber.
  • 1 May 51: In the first and only use of aerial torpedoes in Korean combat, eight Skyraiders and 12 Corsairs from Princeton made an attack on the Hwachon Dam. Destruction and damage to the flood gates released the waters of the reservoir into the Pukhan River and prevented Communist forces from making an easy crossing.
  • 7 Aug 51: The Navy’s supersonic research plane, the D-558-2 Skyrocket, piloted by Douglas test pilot William B. Bridgeman, set an unofficial world speed record of 1,238 m.p.h. over Muroc, Calif.
  • 14 Jul 52: The keel of Forrestal , first of the 59,900-ton aircraft carriers, was laid at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, Newport News, Va.
  • 11 Sep 53: In its first successful interception, a Sidewinder air-to-air missile, test fired at the Naval Ordnance Test Station, Inyokern, sent an F6F drone down in flames.
  • 1 Apr 54: The first transcontinental flights in less than 4 hours were made by three pilots of VF-21 in F9F Cougars in a 2,438-mile flight from San Diego to Floyd Bennett Field, N.Y., with aerial refueling over Hutchinson, Kans. Lieutenant Commander F. X. Brady made the crossing in 3 hours 45 minutes 30 seconds, Lieutenant (jg) J. C. Barrow took 1 minute and 19 seconds longer, and Lieutenant W. Rich made it in 3 hours 48 minutes even. Official timers were not present.
  • 10 Jan 56: Airborne Early Warning Wing, Pacific Captain E. C. Renfro commanding, was established at NAS, Barbers Point, to supervise and direct units flying defensive patrols protecting the continental United States and Hawaii against surprise attack.
  • 21 Aug 56: An F8U-1 Crusader, piloted by Commander R. W. Windsor, captured the Thompson Trophy with a new national speed record of 1015.428 m.p.h. over the 15-kilometer course at Naval Ordnance Test Station, China Lake, Calif. This production model carrier fighter, equipped during its record performance with full armament of 20 mm cannon and dummy ammunition, was the first operationally equipped jet plane in history to fly faster than 1,000 m.p.h.
  • 31 Oct 56: Seven Navy men landed in an R4D Skytrain on the ice at the South Pole–the first to stand at the spot since Capt. Robert F. Scott of the Royal Navy reached it in January 1912. The seven men were: Rear Admiral G. J. Dufek, CTF 43 and ComNavSupFor, Antarctica, Captain D. L. Cordiner, C.O., Air Development Squadron 6, Captain Wm. M. Hawkes, co-pilot, Lieutenant Commander C. S. Shinn, pilot, Lieutenant John Swadener, navigator, J. P. Strider, AD2, crew chief, and William Cumbie, AT2, radioman. The party remained at the pole for 49 minutes setting up navigational aids to assist the future delivery of materials and equipment for constructing a scientific observation station at the spot
  • 6 May 57: The ZPG-2W, an early-warning airship with a large radar antenna mounted within the envelope, made its first flight at Akron, Ohio.
  • 6 Jun 57: Two F8U Crusaders and two A3D Skywarriors flew nonstop from the carrier Bon Homme Richard off the California coast to the Saratoga off the east coast of Florida. This, the first carrier-to-carrier transcontinental flight, was completed by the F8Us in 3 hours 28 minutes and by the A3Ds in 4 hours 1 minute.
  • 16 Jul 57: An F8U-1P Crusader (bureau number 144608), piloted by Major J. H. Glenn, Jr., USMC, broke the transcontinental speed record with a crossing from Los Alamitos, Calif., to Floyd Bennett Field, N.Y. in 3 hours 22 minutes 50.05 seconds for an average speed of 723.517 m.p.h. This was the first upper atmosphere supersonic flight from the west coast to the east coast.
  • 12 Aug 57: An F3D Skynight, with Lieutenant Commander Don Walker aboard, was landed on Antietam, at sea off Pensacola, by the Automatic Carrier Landing System. This landing began the first shipboard test of the system designed to bring planes aboard in all weather conditions without help from the pilot. In the period 12-20 August more than 50 fully automatic landings were completed.
  • 4 Feb 57: The keel of the world’s first nuclear powered aircraft carrier, Enterprise, was laid at Newport News.
  • 29 Aug 58: The Lockheed Electra, selected in April as the plane most closely meeting requirements for long range antisubmarine warfare, made its first flight in the external configuration of the P3V-1.

1960s

  • 11 Aug 60: In the first recovery of an object after it had been in orbit, a Navy HRS-3 helicopter, operating from the Haiti Victory of the Pacific Missile Range, recovered the instrumented capsule discharged by Discoverer XIII on its 17th pass around the earth. The capsule was located about 330 miles northwest of Honolulu by Air Force planes which directed the ship toward the spot. Recovery was made less than three hours after the capsule hit the water.
  • 21 Oct 60: First flight of the E-2 Hawkeye, which 50 years later, remains the longest active Navy aircraft program and one of the longest production runs for all US aircraft.
  • 5 May 61: Commander Alan B. Shepard became the first American to go into space as he completed a flight reaching 116 miles high and 302 miles down range from Cape Canaveral. His space capsule, Freedom 7, was launched by a Redstone rocket and recovered at sea by an HUS-1 helicopter of Marine Corps Squadron HMR(L)-262 which transported it and Commander Shepard to Lake Champlain.
  • 28 Aug 61: Lieutenant Hunt Hardisty, pilot, and Lieutenant Earl H. DeEsch, RIO, flew an F4H Phantom II over the 3-kilometer course at Holloman AFB, N. Mex., and averaged 902.769 m.p.h. for a new low altitude world speed record.
  • 10 May 62: A Sparrow III fired from an F4H-1 scored a direct hit in a head-on attack on a Regulus II missile while both were at supersonic speed. The interception, made in the test range of the Naval Air Missile Center at Point Mugu, was the first successful head-on attack made by an air-launched weapon on a surface launched guided missile.
  • 23 Oct 62: Light Photographic Squadron 62, which had been flying photo reconnaissance over the missile sites in Cuba since the 15th, flew the first low-level photo mission over Cuban territory. For its outstanding accomplishment during this crisis, in the period 15 October-26 November 1962, this squadron was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation which was presented personally by the President on 26 November 1962.
  • 3 Oct 64: Operation Sea Orbit ended as Enterprise and Long Beach arrived at Norfolk and Bainbridge reached Charleston, S.C. This task force, the world’s first composed entirely of nuclear powered ships, left Gibraltar on 31 July, sailed down the Atlantic and around Africa, across the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and around Cape Horn, completing a 65 day and 30,216 nautical mile round-the-world cruise without taking on either fuel or provisions.
  • 17 Dec 64: Commander T. G. Ellyson, Naval Aviator No. 1, was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame at Dayton, Ohio–first naval officer to be so honored.
  • 26 Aug 65: The barrier air patrol over the North Atlantic ended as an EC-121J Warning Star of VW-11 landed at Keflavik, Iceland. The landing also signalled a change in which a new and advanced radar system took over from the aircraft and men of naval aviation who for the past 10 years had maintained constant vigil over the northern approaches to the American continent.
  • 26 Feb 67: The first application of aerial mining in Vietnam occurred when seven A-6As, led by Commander A.H. Barrie of VA-35′s Black Panthers, planted mine fields in the mouths of the Song Ca and Song Giang rivers. This operation was aimed at stopping coastal barges from moving supplies into immediate areas.
  • 20 Jul 69: Apollo 11 Astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, a naval aviator, is the first person to set foot on the moon.

1970s

  • 21 Dec 70: The F-14A aircraft, piloted by Grumman test pilots Robert Smyth and William Miller, made its first flight at Grumman’s Calverton, Long Island Plant.
  • 6 Jan 71: The Marine Corps/Navy’s first AV-8 Harrier was accepted by Major General Homer S. Hill, USMC, at Dunsfold, England. The Harrier was the first vertical take-off and landing (V/STOL) fixed-wing aircraft ever accepted for use as a combat aircraft by U.S. armed forces.
  • 31 Dec 71: During 1971 HAL-3, nicknamed the “Seawolves,” the only light attack helicopter squadron in the Navy, flew 34,746 hours in squadron aircraft in support of their mission to provide quick reaction armed helicopter close air support for all naval forces and SVN forces operating in the southern part of SVN. During their flights in 1971, HAL-3 expended 16,939,268 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition; 96,696 2.75 inch rockets; 32,313 .40 mm grenade rounds; and 2,414,096 rounds of .50 cal. machine gun ammunition in carrying out their assigned missions. HAL-3 lost six aircraft during 1971.
  • 10 May 72: Operation Linebacker I, the heavy strike of targets in most of NVN, evolved and lasted until restrictions on operations above 20_ N were imposed 22 October. It was the most intense air-to-air combat day of the entire war. Navy flyers shot down eight MiGs. An F-4 Phantom II, from VF-96 on board Constellation, while engaged in aerial combat over Haiphong shot down three MiGs for the first triple downing of enemy MiGs by one plane during the war. Lieutenant Randy Cunningham was the pilot and Lieutenant (jg) William Driscoll was the RIO of the F-4. These three MiG downings, coupled with their 19 January and 8 May downing of two MiGs, made them the first MiG aces of the Vietnam War. Three other kills were scored by planes of VF-96 and one by VF-92 off Constellation and one by VF-51 off Coral Sea. During the five and one-half month period of Linebacker I, the Navy contributed more than 60 percent of the total sorties in NVN, with 60 percent of this effort in the “panhandle”, two large regions between Hanoi and the DMZ.

Well, there’s more — a helluva lot more; more than will likely and truthfully be recognized and honored in limited fora.  Still, one expects better than stereotypical “highlights”  and an apparent randomized selection.  How could you ignore almost an entire decade (1930′s) during which the ground work for the war winning naval air force sprang in the 40′s?  How could you ignore all that went on in the 50′s as we moved from props to jets (mostly), straight decks to angled and from crude electronics into integrated systems that permitted true all weather/day-night operations the likes of which no other navy aspiring to carrier aviation has been able to conduct?  And if your intent is to highlight gender/genetic firsts, how the blazes did you miss this?  One hundred years covers a lot of territory — there’s a terrific story for the telling, so let’s not fumble the ball out of the gate by putting up a timeline calling out highlights of naval aviation that is so glaring in its paucity of content.

Remember and recall the sacrifices made by all those who made this extraordinary capability a signature of this great nation – and let’s get it right for all who wear the Wings of Gold.

Warmest regards,

Steeljaw Scribe

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

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