All posts in ““There I was…” sea stories”

Old Days

 

Old days
Good times I remember
Fun days
Filled with simple pleasures
Drive-in movies
Comic books and blue jeans
Howdy doody
Baseball cards and birthdays
Take me back
To a world gone away
Memories
Seem like yesterday  (Chicago)


(Nimitz intercept pics)

Demise of the Captain’s Gig – Part II

 

Yesterday’s post announced the demise of the CO’s gig on the carrier due to "hangar space" considerations…(riiight…)  Well, it didn’t take long before the sea stories started coming in from all quarters recounting first hand experiences with the gig. Some were just too good to not put up, so, properly expunged (as we aren’t sure of the expiration of the statute of limitations in some cases) we present today’s edition of "The Gig and I":

First up are a couple of stories from a current partner in crime who, as a former 3rd Div O, also shares a former carrier with ourselves:

XXX’s gig was down hard for 3 days in Dubai during Desert Storm. I had to gave the CAPT a PE boat as a gig. When the second class EN had the engine fixed, we took it out on a test run. I was at the helm slaloming through fish traps when I fouled the screw on a net. Fortunately we were out of radio range, so our attempts to call for help (and face inevitable humiliation) failed. We tried all sorts of tricks to get free. Finally, I was stripping my uniform to go over the side into sea-snake infested waters (seriously – it was absolutely revolting to watch them writhing under the waterline lights at night) when my brilliant BMSA (formerly BM3 until two trips to Mast) slowly backed down and worked the screw free. We went back to XXX very sedately.

Last port visit on same deployment: we’re scouting the fleet landing at Palma in a 26 ft Motor Whale Boat with all the liberty boat coxswains when we see the Admiral’s barge racing in (a gig we’d repainted), taking spray over the bow and soaking the admiral and party topside while they were in whites. Why was she racing? Why were the pax getting soaked instead of staying in the cabins? Because oil in the engine compartment had caught fire and smoked out the cabins, as we deduced from the black smoke trail billowing astern the barge…

Back to the gig: we return from deployment and are offloading the boats in Norfolk so Air Dept can lay nonskid in hangar bay #3. The personnel (PE) boats and gig are in the water, and we’re craning off the utility (UB) boats. I’m standing next to the supervising BM on the flight deck and ask him "I’d swear we painted a red stripe on the gig – do you see anything but gray?" He disappears down the ladder, shows up on the pier, disappears into the gig’s after cabin. His eventual sheepish report: "I put the bilge plug back in,ut we’ll need a P-250 to pump all this water and a lot of air freshener for the upholstery."

By the way, did you know that the combined weight of a PE and UB boat in a dolly is a lot more than the NAS Norfolk Aircraft tow-way can handle on a hot summer day? Public Works was REALLY PISSED when we’d only freed one of two dollies that had broken through and sunk up to the axles in the asphalt by the time afternoon rush hour had started…

Lest one think that only airdales and the long suffering SWOs embarked on the CV/CVNs could have "fun" with the gig, here are a few from the blackshoe side of the house (below the fold):

Continue Reading…

A Tale of the COD (Wherein Doc Newton Is Proved Right – Again)

So there we were, all bundled into the back of the COD — the AIRLANT eval team headed back to Norfolk after “evaluating” the ship/air wing lo these past 3 days. Not being fond of COD flights to begin with, YHS had managed to snag a seat on the last row, or if looking at it from the perspective of the cargo ramp, first row. Regardless, at least YHS would have some leg room on the long flight back. Being an E-2 mole, one would think we’d be used to sitting in the dark for long stretches of time, with nary a window to peer from since the radar was operating. Truth be told, time in a Hummer passes quickly, provided there is a real mission. But time in the back of a COD? Ugh, please. Not even for flight hour hounds like YHS.

Focus.

Back to the tale. As we began the taxi up to the cat, out of force of habit I look around to see that stuff near me is stowed. A little bit of the COD dance and we’re on the cat, and just as power is coming up and we go into tension, what should catch my eye but that the walk around O2 bottle coming loose from its fitting. Now there are many similarities between the E-2 and C-2 and the fitting holding the walk around bottle in place is one of them — a metal latch that fastens around the neck of this potential missile, pressurized to 1200 psi of compressed O2. In the E-2 there had been a spate of latch failures such that the bottle was now fastened with a velcroed cloth cover. Not so here. There was a petty officer (second class) sitting next to the bottle who recognized the budding problem and first sought to snag the hose with his boot, to no avail. Evidently thinking he could unfasten his straps, grab the bottle and get back in his seat before the cat shot he made his move — yep, you read right and he did, almost.

Now you know, ol’ Doc Newton was a right smart fella. His Three Laws (especially #3 – For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction…) have been put to the test more times than that “Press to Test” button on the cockpit overhead (inside joke to Hummer folks WRT T-handle lights). Each time, Doc was right and the tester, well usually worse for wear.

Our benighted PO had committed the cardinal sin of catapult shots – unstrapping when in tension. Sure enough, despite shouts of “SUSPEND” hollered over the ICS by the crewman in back and a chorus of aghast aviators, the catapult fired and worked as advertised. In the blink of an eye where once had stooped a 6’ 2”, 265 lb 2nd class PO, there now was nothing. Way up, all the way up…yes ALL the way up in the smallest part of the tail, where resided a couple of support structures for the cargo hatch called “chicken legs,” there, there resided the smallest ball of humanity imaginable. The load chief had unhooked as soon as we were airborne and trying to climb up the ramp to extricate the petty officer. Soon, this was accomplished and true to form, the tester was worse for wear with several injuries, the worst of which was a broken collar bone and mild concussion. We circled for a while to give the crew time to consult w/USS Boat as to whether to recover aboard or head for NAS Jax and eventually the power-that-be said to head to the beach and the hospital ashore. In the meantime, the safety officer had a quickie mishap board to convene and a plane load of not-to-happy aviators and staff to interview before we all headed back to Norfolk and scattered to the four winds.

Lesson learned – don’t screw w/Doc Newton. Man Law? Man Law…

Badgers, Buccaneers and Bears…(Pt 4)

(Note: I am in the process of moving the postings off the old site to this one, beginning with this series)

“Alpha Whiskey, Alpha Romeo, Tango One. Tango One recommends launching all available alert. Multiple bogeys inbound. Break, track 1231 now non-squawker, negative Mode 4, investigating with 9B. Setting station 9B with 11B”

“Alpha Whiskey, Alpha Romeo, this is Alpha Bravo – launch alert 5 and 10” In the background of the embarked flag’s voice call (‘Alpha Bravo’) the CICO could hear the gonging of the ‘General Quarters’ alarm. The ESM system lit up as air search and fire control radars from the fleet came on line the fleet was coming to a heightened state of battle readiness…

“602, 100. 100 and 103 tied on. Bogeys are Charlie Mods with one centerline”

The first tracks had just been ID’d as more Badger Charlie Mods, each with a single AS-2.

“602, Dakota. Dakota and Tap are tied on to two Badger Golfs each with one Kingfish (AS-6).”

As the fighters were finishing their reports, suddenly the CICO noticed a large smudge of video starting to appear, almost like someone with a grease pencil was furiously scribbling a line pointed toward the battle group. Soon another appeared then a third. Crap, he thought, someone was deploying chaff…

Cursing under his breath, the CICO started adjusting the radar controls to minimize the impact of the chaff. Just then, jamming strobes began appearing. Making some quick mental calculations as to who, what and where the jammer was (Orange air, not Soviet; probably the NKC-135) he added processing controls and directed a change in station position and altitude to the front end.

 

In the meantime, the apparent Badger stream raid was continuing. His ACO was running one of his F-14s through the incoming tracks to make ID’s and tying on the already overwhelmed remainder of fighters as the stream raid approached the battle group. To make matters worse, the lead elements had apparently found one of the chaff corridors and were running down the middle of it, making tracking that much more challenging.


Pairing lines (missile engagement lines) began to show up on Link-11 as the AAW cruisers picked up the inbound raiders and started targeting. The fact that they were locking up the Soviets with fire control radars would be something the flag staff would negatively debrief later, being a violation of INCSEA agreements, but there was a bit of tit-for-tat given the use earlier of targeting radars by the Bears. The CICO just hoped (prayed) in the heat of battle that no one would get itchy trigger fingers…


Help was going to be needed and soon – a quick call to FID’s E-2 had him up on Wing 12 (the east coast E-2 wing’s base frequency) for some cross tell and assistance.

 

“Tigertail, Bluetail, you up?”


“Go ahead Bluetail”


“Rog – things are heating up and if Orange air comes out would you be able to work that raid while we work the real-world threat? I’ll need all the DLIs and can split the A-7’s with you if you also take the Sea Harriers. Not optimal I know…”

 

“Tigertail copies – works for me. I’ll coordinate w/Alpha Sierra and switch Alpha Whiskey in a few”

 

“Thanks guys – Bluetail’s switching”

Anticipating a large raid comprised of F-5s, Buccaneers and Marine A-6s staged out of Norway, the CICO had coordinated with his counterpart on the FID’s E-2 (Tigertail, VAW-125) to leave the ASUW mission, which had pretty much been a dry hole as there were no orange surface units in play yet and the only Soviet on the surface was an AGI that lay well over the horizon from the battle group. Brining the other E-2 up would provide not only control for fighters (A-7s and Sea Harriers) for the Orange air raid, but another tracker for the real world event too.

Almost on cue, a mass of video moved off the Norwegian coast, headed for the chaff corridors, already occupied by the inbound Badgers.

“Whiskey, Alpha Whiskey, Uniform 2 checking in. Uniform 2 has control of all Bravo stations for Orange raid.”

By now he had counted over 30 Badgers inbound with the first now breaking the 50 mile circle around homeplate. The first 2-3 pressed inbound while those following broke off and started an outbound turn and climb. What escorts they had reset to catch and escort any others that continued inbound. Fuel was becoming a factor now as well and tankers were located and vectored with stern warnings to provide minimum give.

 “Alpha Whiskey, Uniform 2, numerous bogeys, inbound, very low, very fast – unable CAP” That had to be the Buccaneers, the CICO thought to himself…having worked against them before they were notorious for getting way down on the deck, well below 100 ft, some claimed they were down to 10-20 ft above the water and busting in at max speed. That low and fast no fighter was going to catch – better leave it to the missile shooters and most likely, CIWS…

“Alpha Whiskey, Uniform 2, second group, inbound, medium, fast, taking…”

“VAMPIRE, VAMPIRE, VAMPIRE”

The words crashed in on the AAW circuit before Uniform could finish its report.


VAMPIRE.The word that chilled the heart of TAOs and CICOs.

VAMPIRE. Code for an inbound ASCM. Immediate action required, no, demanded. Bad enough to here it in the simulator or exercises, even when prefaced by “Exercise” Now, to hear it in its raw, un-qualified form a chill ran down the CICOs spine.


“VAMPIRE, 030, taking with Birds”


“NEGATIVE, NEGATIVE, This is Alpha Bravo cease engagement, cease engagement.”


“Now what?” he thought

“All units Whiskey, this is Alpha Whiskey, cease all engagements, cease all engagements.All units report”


And one by one, each of the shooters came up on the net to report that it had broken its engagements – on the link the pairing lines the CICO had been worried about disappeared one by one.

“Great”, he thought, “there was the itchy finger; probably totally focused on the Orange air raid and forgot to use exercise terminology.Didn’t do my heart any good and probably darn near caused a coronary in Flag spaces.Someone’s gonna get fired over that…”


By now the air picture was a couple of pulsating masses of video.North of the combined CVBG was the mass that constituted the Soviet raid while north-east was the Orange air raid.Mixed in and discernable only by either their IFF squawks or Link4 symbols were the fighters and other air wing aircraft.

Slowly, excruciatingly slowly as the minutes and radio calls dragged by, the two masses started to elongate and eventually resolve themselves into separate streams of outbound aircraft on their return legs.The Orange air on (relatively) short runs back to their Norwegian bases and the warmth of the O’clubs were many tales would be spun about below masthead flybys (and one below flight deck flyby that almost ended in a SAR).The Soviets back to their bases with somewhat longer runs, but to receptions no doubt as enthusiastic as those in Norway.There would be a changeout of the Bears until the AGI arrived on station (which would eventually be joined by a Krivak and Kashin DDG). More gas was launched and anxious fighters refueled for recovery, except for the lucky two VF-143 birds that would be triple cycled (3 x 1+45’s stuck in drysuits and strapped to ejection seats, bet that was one MO who was going to get an earful, especially since CAG was in one of the not so lucky ‘Dawgs).

As the tension eased airborne, waves of fatigue hit the CICO who had been running on pure adrenalin for the last few hours.Now, at last, his relief was airborne and turnover accomplished.Of course, the drama for the day wasn’t over as the weather had closed in again and the ball call was punctuated with “Clara” followed by “Keep it coming Hummer, we hear you” from the LSO’s.Fortunately they trapped on the first pass, catching the two wire which guaranteed a back and forth with the LSO on debrief.As for himself, the CICO barely remembered the walk to CVIC to debrief, dropping off his logs and notes.Dragging his frame back to his stateroom, he collapsed face down in his bunk, still in his flight gear and fell into a deep sleep.

In his far off conscious he heard it – the incessant ringing of the phone on the bulkhead. Not just any ring either – more like a loud clattering and right now it was the most annoying sound intruding into his world. Wearily, he swung his leg around and kicked the receiver off the hook and went back to sleep…

Badgers and Bucanners and Bears…(Pt 3)

Part II Here

Window covers down, overhead hatch in and all harnesses locked, the crew was ready. Bluetail 602 went into tension, the throttles against their stops, the aircraft mercilessly shaking. In an instant, they were down the catapult and airborne.

As the wheels were coming up, Bird exclaimed “Hey look, we’ve got a visitor…” Straining against his straps and the binding of the anti-exposure suite the lieutenant looked to his right and aft through his tiny window. There, briefly, he caught it. The unmistakable silver and grey of a Badger C-Mod who had obviously found the carrier and was now trailing the E-2…

“Well, so much for EMCON Alpha” he thought…

“OK, let’s button up, bring the radar on and see what’s out there…”

“Flight, CICO. Skip the EMCON departure, let’s head straight to station. While we’re at it, let’s start saving gas, I’ve got a feeling we’re going to be out here for a while”

Freed from the requirement to stay low until the EMCON departure point was reached, the E-2 sprung towards the low ceiling, pulling the Badger with it.

Their seats turned to face their radar scopes, the three back-enders (“moles” in the parlance) went about setting up their displays for their respective missions – the ACO and RO on a smaller scale as they began corralling the aircraft they were to control, the CICO on a 250 nm scale to get the “big picture.” The Combat Information Center (CIC) of the E-2 was a long ways from the cramped quarters of the Grumman TBM-3W Avenger, the first carrier-based AEW aircraft which first flew 37 years ago. Now, three operators shared somewhat tight quarters in place of the one, but with access to the most sophisticated array of equipment at their command that had ever been seen in an AEW aircraft up to that time.

The heart of the Hawkeye the young lieutenant was flying, lay in a series of computers and digital processing – everything from radar to other emitters and even own ship’s navigation was converted to digital signals, processed by the main computer and displayed as special symbols on the operator’s displays. Whereas in the past, a grease pencil and straightedge was used to track targets and run intercepts, now the system generated symbology was associated (at the operator’s selection) with raw radar video or synthetically generated video. With the right set-up, the CICO could take in all that was occurring throughout the area of the battle group and beyond, and through a digital data link, pass that picture back to the ships of his and the other battle groups.

“Strike, 602, proceeding to Alpha One. 602 is Charlie Alpha” Bluetail 602 was reporting mission capable and outbound to its assigned AEW orbit point, well out from the battle group center and oriented in the direction of the greater of two threats, the expected raids coming from the northeast.

Reaching operating altitude, the pilots set the Hawkeye slightly nose up to provide the best radar picture. In the back the complexity of that picture was becoming very evident – both on the operator’s displays and over the several radios being used.

“602, 601 meet me tactical covered” The off-going E-2 was asking 601 to come up secure on the squadron’s “tactical” frequency (used for coordinating between aircraft of the same squadron).

Selecting one of the 5 UHF radios available, the CICO flipped up the cipher switch and pressed the foot transmit switch. Waiting for the synchronization tone, or beep, the CICO passes 601 is up.

“One from two here’s what we’ve got. We’re at Exercise Red and Tight. Station 1C has Tap 100 and 103; 3C has Tap 104 and Dakota 202. 5C has Dakota 205 and 207. All are 2/2/2 and state tiger. Devils 100 and 105 are on 9B – 105 is lead nose. Cupcake 04 is enroute to 9B as Texaco. 11B has Eagle 211 and 212, state tiger. Harriers should be up shortly, they’ll fill 10A. PDS is heavy between 010 and 040. The Bears each have a Waldo or Clinch keeping company.”

As the pass-down was being completed between the CICOs in the two E-2s, the ACO and RO were completing their respective handoffs of the controlled fighters. From the pass down he knew the force was expecting a raid and that weapons status was ‘tight’, that there were 6 x F-14s airborne (which *had* to be some kind of record this at sea period), all carrying a load out of 2 AIM-7F Sparrows, 2 x AIM-9L Sidewinders and 2 x AIM-54A Phoenix. All were manning CAP stations 150 nm out from the reference point, which today just happened to be centered amongst the three carrier BG’s. Additionally, 4 x F-4s were manning stations further to the south and closer in. One of them was without radar (“lead nose”). Sea Harriers, on their first operational deployment, would be checking in shortly from the HMS Hermes – they would fill a single CAP station at 50 nm from the reference point. Tankers were in the air with one, an A-6 from VA-65 with buddy stores, under E-2 control and enroute to the thirsty VF-74 F-4s from FID on station 9B. The three Bears each had an A-7, carrying a pair of AIM-9’s, as their escorts. Yeah, it was looking busy – and that didn’t include the S-3’s, A-6’s and A-7’s from IKE and FID doing ASUW and ASW ops under FID’s E-2’s control plus a couple of Norwegian P-3s, the ever present helos, everyone squawking IFF and all bent on their own mission.

“OK Duck, I think we’re set – I’m switching to Alpha Whiskey”

“Got it Willie – see you on deck” Duck was the OPS O and a bonafide old school guy. He had flown AEW versions of the A-1, the E-1B or “Fudd” (a throwback to when it was known as the WF1 under the old nomenclature system) and even AEW Gannet’s off the Hermes when she was a real carrier with real aircraft (Phantoms and Buccaneers).

Switching frequencies on his UHF, the CICO placed his call to Alpha Whiskey, checking in as Tango One and settled into the search routine. Out here, in a blue water environment, the APS-125 was in its best element. The sea state made for some clutter, but it was addressed with some minor adjustments to the sensitivity controls located between him and the RO. “It may be digital processing,” he thought, “but there is still room for ‘fine tuning.’ ” Selecting the front end again on the ICS, he called the flight deck:

“Flight, CICO”

The ICS positions for pilot and co-pilot lit up. “Go CICO”

“Barrier’s in the system, let’s make the barrier legs 020 and 180. I want the 020 leg at 60 miles and the 180 leg 40 from barrier center. We’ll start with flat turns, but if it gets to be a problem with the autopilot again, give me quick turns. How’s the weather look at this altitude?”

“We’re running just above a layer, it’s clear above to about 32 or 33K”

“OK, let’s go up to 27. Keep me updated on the gas — our area is pretty clear for now. That Badger is off harassing the rest of the fleet now…”

“Copy all” At that the pilot’s and co-pilot’s ICS light flicked off and the routine of the mission began.

Watching his scope, the CICO was noticing a cluster of ESM hits on a line of bearing of about 030 from ownship. No radar hits along those LOBs, yet, but the bad guys had to be getting ready to come out o the woodwork…

There, about 200 nm from the Hawkeye, a faint trace, almost like a fingernail clipping. One sweep, its there. Next sweep, nothing. Nudging the ACO, the CICO pointed out the location using an intercom mark to flash the suspect area on the ACOs scope. “Hey Bird, looks like there might be something here – keep an eye peeled and start running your CAP outbound legs that way.”

There, again, a stronger return, tracking south/southwest; coming around Norway. About that moment the system placed symbology on the track. “Hooking” it with his light pen, he readout the track information on the smaller rectangular CRT below the main display unit. The unknown air’s track was at 21,000 ft, heading 243 degrees at 300 knots. No IFF – he checked Mode IV just in case – no dice there either. With the track still hooked, he assigned a track number – 1201; and enabled it for reporting on Link-11.

“Whiskey, Tango One, new Tango One track 1201 red 035 tac 214, single, medium, fast. Investigating with Station 1C.” He added the last as he saw the pairing lines appear from the ACO’s assignment of Tap 100 and 103 via Link 4.

“Tango One, Alpha Whiskey, roger, Station 1C, out.” Came the reply from the Force AAWC.

Again, about 10 miles or so behind the track there was another small sliver of video. Again, the system picked up the track. Designating and reporting it via the link, the CICO made another report to AW. Selecting the ACO’s radio from his control panel (he could listen in and talk on up to 5 UHF and 2 HF radios – monitoring more than one, especially when things got busy, was an art form in itself and separated the good CICOs from the merely competent), the CICO listened to the intercept as it developed. For now it was quiet since both Tomcats were running on two-way Link 4.

When it worked, or wasn’t being jammed, the great thing about Link 4 with F-14s was the info flow going to and coming back from the Tomcats. The entire intercept could be run without a single voice comm between the Hawkeye and the Tomcats, as it was now. The Taprooms clearly had a radar lock on the target and were driving into the intercept. Looking down at the other stations, he could see the other pairs of fighters were starting to “cheat” north as his ACO was keeping their situational awareness up, again via Link 4.

Looking back at the first contact the system was now starting to breakout another track – looks like two with the second in trail. Almost immediately, one of the F-14 pairing lines jumped to the new track.

“Whiskey, Tango One, Track 1201 now flight of two, trail formation, continuing with station 1C. Covering Track 1202 with 3C.”

The ESM was going nuts, and more radar traces were appearing along the same LOB. Each was picked up by the system, reported on the link and by voice. By now he was counting over 20 tracks, all headed in roughly the same direction – towards the battle group. Stations 3C and 5C were fully engaged at this point.

Farther to the east, another track, identified as “friend/air” suddenly lost its IFF code and began tracking west to a spot north and east of the battle group… The lack of available interceptors to investigate this track was troubling – the F-14s were all engaged with the Badgers and the F-4s were resetting to cover any leakers. All the A-7s airborne were either with the Bears, sitting tanker duty, or overhead as last ditch interceptors. None of the surface shooters were in a position to cover with birds (missiles) either. Figuring this might be the beginning of the Orange Air (exercise) raid scheduled for later, he wasn’t as worried as he was with the real world developments up North. Still, it was a matter of concern:

“Alpha Whiskey, Alpha Romeo, Tango One. Tango One recommends launching all available alert. Multiple bogeys inbound. Break, track 1231 now non-squawker, negative Mode 4, investigating with 9B. Setting station 9B with 11B”

“Alpha Whiskey, Alpha Romeo, this is Alpha Bravo – launch alert 5 and 10” In the background of the embarked flag’s voice call (‘Alpha Bravo’) the CICO could hear the gonging of the ‘General Quarters’ alarm. The ESM system lit up as air search and fire control radars from the fleet came on line the fleet was coming to a heightened state of battle readiness…

“602, 100. 100 and 103 tied on. Bogeys are Charlie Mods with one centerline”

The first tracks had just been ID’d as more Badger Charlie Mods, each with a single AS-2.

“602, Dakota. Dakota and Tap are tied on to two Badger Golfs each with one Kingfish (AS-6).”

As the fighters were finishing their reports, suddenly the CICO noticed a large smudge of video starting to appear, almost like someone with a grease pencil was furiously scribbling a line pointed toward the battle group. Soon another appeared then a third. Crap, he thought, someone was deploying chaff…

To Be Continued…

Badgers, Buccaneers and Bears…(Pt 2)

Part I here

Badgers, Buccaneers and Bears…(Pt 2)
(A North Atlantic tale from the "good ole days")

 

 Stopping by Maintenance Control, the lieutenant asked for the aircraft discrepancy book on 602. All the current and near past ills of the aircraft are chronicled in this three-ring binder, giving crews an idea of what they will be working with.

“Hi chief – looks like 602 again” he said. “Did the AT’s have a chance to look at the DTS yet?” The Data Terminal Set, or DTS, was not much more than a glorified modem, connecting the E-2 into the digital data network known as TADIL-A or Link-11. Link-11 allowed the tracks passed by participating units, surface and airborne, to be shared, dramatically expanding the situational awareness and battlespace.

“Yes sir, they swapped it out” the chief replied. “Any more word on 604? All we heard was a radar problem, no specifics yet…”

“Sorry chief, I’ll see if I can get something out of them when I go to CIC, looks like our radar problems are continuing though, especially with 604.”

“Roger that – thanks sir” The chief was his QA division chief and recently the two had grown concerned over the number of radar problems the squadron was encountering. He had suggested a special trend analysis on certain radar boxes on the transmit side, in the high power section. They were awaiting the data run from the ship’s AIMD department on these boxes to see if there were any common areas of failure.

As he headed down the passageway to CIC, he started turning over in his mind what the causes of this rash of failures might be. To be sure, the CO was going to be one very unhappy camper when he got back on deck and he was glad he’d be airborne when the CO got back to the ready room – it wasn’t going to be pretty.

Opening the hatch into CIC, he stepped into the perpetual darkness, lit only by the vertical plot boards, consoles and weak, blue lights. Several overhead speakers were announcing their traffic and one in particular; the AAW circuit immediately attracted his attention.

“Whiskey, Alpha Whiskey, Tango3 – Tango 3 track 1210 Badger Charlie-Mod, VID Taproom 101”

Finally, the bear was coming out – this could get interesting. Tango 3 was the E-2 they were going up to relieve. 604 was supposed to have been the relief, but with the busted radar, 601 was extending until he could get airborne. Tango 3 was passing that the unknown they had been tracking (Link -11 track 1210) was visually identified as an ASCM-carrying version of the workhorse Badger medium range bomber by one of the ariwing’s Tomcats. Carrying up to 2 AS-4 “Kitchen” anti-ship missiles, individually, it was a relatively straightforward target for the airwing’s Tomcats and their Phoenix missiles – nail the archer, not the arrows was the goal. However, in the large waves expected as the BG approached the Soviet homeland closer than many remembered in recent history, well, that could be a problem.

“Whiskey, this is Alpha Whiskey, designate track 1210 as unknown, presumed hostile.” Alpha Whiskey was the Anti-Air Warfare Commander who was either on the carrier or one of the AAW-equipped cruisers like USS Virginia, accompanying them. AW had just ordered all of the units on the AAW net to consider track 1210 as a presumed hostile – actual designation of hostile was reserved for a shooting war.

Looking over the shoulder of the Force Weapons Controller, he rapidly took in the situation. Three Bear Delta’s airborne and hanging around the extreme outer edges of the battle group all with escorts from the battle group – one with a pair of the new Sea Harriers from the HMS Hermes and the other two with F-4s from the Forrestal, who was waylaid on her homeward bound leg from a Mediterranean deployment. Talk about happy campers…

The just ID’d Badger C-Mod was inbound at 18, 000 ft making around 350 knots. Close aboard was Taproom 101. The bucket brigade of tankers, KA-6s and A-7s with buddy stores, were shuttling out to CAP stations to refill the thirsty fighters.

Turning to the TAO, he waited for a break in the action to get a quick update.

“Hi Mike, I’m on the hot switch – what’ve we got going?”

Quickly the TAO passed the brief – “AW is on Virginia who is also NCS. AAWC is on UHF covered and Link-11 is on HF, we’re still in EMCON A. We have indications of a possible raid coming out of the north-east and an orange air raid is expected during your second cycle. Real world threat axis is 020, exercise 020 and 140.” Hmm, AW was over on the Virginia, not altogether encouraging as they had a tendency this at sea period to lose the picture. Voice reporting was secure UHF which meant he could be a little freer in passing information – no chance of a screw-up converting info with “base plus” information. Link-11 being on HF made sure he could push his station out further to extend the radar coverage of the force, but EMCON A would make launch and recovery not fun – no navaids, radio comms or radars off mother (the carrier) to help the returning aviators, so it would be up to the airborne E-2 to help, adding to the workload.

“Whiskey, Alpha Whiskey, Tango 3, new Tango 3 track 1215, red-185, taking with CAP station 1, Dakota 201.” Business was starting to pick up.

“OK Mike, I think I got it – talk to you all airborne” The TAO gave a quick nod as he turned back to the task at hand. Stopping by the enlisted controller working Strike, he asked if 604 had passed any codes back. The controller nodded and passed a sheet of paper on which were listed several Bravo codes. Quickly deciphering them, the lieutenant saw it was the high power side of the radar that had failed – the trend continued. A quick call back to Maintenance control with the codes and he was off to flight deck control.

As he exited the hull just below the carrier’s island, the icy blast of North Atlantic air wiped what remaining cobwebs there were form his mind. Looking out as far as the shredding mist and low, scudding gray clouds would allow he caught an occasional glimpse of a Knox-class frigate churning along on the starboard quarter. The occasional white spray of sea breaking across the bow reminded him of the carrier’s own movement. Grey seas, grey skies – what a bleak seascape the late summer North Atlantic provided. Some forty years ago, merchant convoys had struggled through the thicket of Nazi submarines and maritime patrol aircraft to deliver their loads of arms to the erstwhile-Soviet allies at Murmansk. Now, he thought, we find our selves plowing similar seas, only this time running the Soviet sub gauntlet and preparing for an aerial onslaught. Surprisingly, while the tools of the trade had grown in complexity and lethality, the means of employment had scarcely changed.

Climbing the ladder to the flight deck and entrance to flight deck control, he gave brief thanks for the bulk of clothing he wore for the protection it provided, knowing full well within the hour he’d be chaffing and cursing it in turn. The bomb farm, abreast the starboard side of the island, was today filled with a variety of missiles – ranging from the “Buffalo” (AIM-54 Phoenix), so named for it’s size to the almost diminutive Sidewinder (AIM-9). In between was the star-crossed Sparrow (AIM-7). Each effective in its own turn, but if you wanted to kill a Bear, then the Phoenix was the trick. Big missile, big warhead and range to reach out and touch someone, a long ways away. At least, that what the sales brochures said…

The flight deck, normally crowded with aircraft was relatively open – anything flyable was either already airborne, preparing to launch or getting ready for recovery. Ike was in “flex-deck” operations allowing for nearly continuous flight ops. Fortunately the wind was cooperating as it allowed Ike to continue along PIM and the open ocean gave her a wide berth to within which to operate. Up on Cat 1 a Tomcat was going into burner for the launch. A quick wipeout of the controls after a once over by the final checkers and the fighter was shot down the deck and into the grey mist. At the 180 was an A-7 getting ready to turn to land. At that moment, the unmistakable sound of an E-2’s turboprops announced the arrival of 602, heading for the break. “Pretty marginal Cat 1 weather” he thought to himself as he watched the hummer periodically disappear and reappear in the low ceiling.

Entering flight deck control he found his pilot ready to go, the two of them making themselves as unassumable as possible, finding an unoccupied part of flight deck control to park themselves. “OK Handler, rest of the crew’s here” the pilot announced to a clearly unhappy officer wearing a yellow flight deck jersey on which was stenciled ACHO. Clearly unhappy because he had to take not one, but two E-2s out of sequence while planning out how to go about striking the broken one down to the hangar bay and bringing the one resident there, up to the flight deck. The Handler, who orchestrated the ballet otherwise known as flight deck spotting could be your greatest friend or your worst nightmare, depending on his mood, how much grief he was catching from the Air Boss and ship CO, sitting several stories above in their glass enclosed thrones, and how difficult you just made his job. Everyone would see both sides of him over the course of a deployment, and of course, in true Naval Aviation fashion, like the Air Boss, CAG and other “senior” officers, he would suffer accordingly at the hands of the junior officer skits and ribald anthems at the foc’sl follies at the end of each at sea period. Many would only know him as some grumpy ex-aviator, ship’s company puke to be avoided except when special favor was to be curried. Fewer still would come to appreciate his job and then, usually only in the course of completing their own ship’s company tour.

“602 on deck handler”

“Spot him in the forward Hummer hole – you guys ready? ‘kay, then get outta my office…”

Thankful to be out of that den of obvious tension, the lieutenant watched the approach of his aircraft. The “grapes” (purple-shirted fuel handlers) were prepping to deploy their hoses and refuel the approaching Hawkeye. A small contingent of maintenance personnel from the squadron were standing by to fix what items needed such, and otherwise get the aircraft back in the air as quick as possible so they could strike below and out of the miserable weather.

As the Hawkeye stopped, the starboard prop began to wind down with the securing of the engine. The refueling point was on the starboard side of the fuselage, under the wing and stopping the engine was a precautionary measure to ensure one of the refuelers wouldn’t inadvertently back into a turning prop. It had happened more than once before, though thankfully not (yet) in his experience on Ike. The huge Hamilton Standard-built prop was merciless to anything placed in its path – be it inanimate metal or human flesh. The port prop was left turning and so their approach would be up the port side of the fuselage to the main entrance hatch, just aft of the prop. That hatch was now open and two aircrew were exiting. Brief exchanges with each counterpart were exchanged – holding his helmet close to that of the off-going CICO, he caught brief snatches of “…good radar” and something about HF1’s trailing wire antenna and then it was time to board.

Walking straight to the tail of the aircraft, he put his right hand on the fuselage out of habit and proceeded to the main hatch. The sound and fury of the nearby turning prop was deafening, his QA chief positioned as part of the safety chain just forward of the hatch incase his crew for some inexplicable reason continued forward. Crouching, he lowered his head to clear the top of the hatch and headed aft to the CIC compartment past the racks of equipment, bundles of wire and high pressure hydraulics tubing.

Throwing himself into his seat, positioned in the middle between his ACO (Air Control Officer) on his left and RO (Radar Operator) on his right, he plugged into the ICS and was immediately greeted, irreverently, by his ACO…

“Willllburrr” It was Bird, using one of the call signs he knew irritated him. Trying not to roll his eyes, he asked:

“Hey Bird, how’s she look today?”

“Well, radar’s real good, best short pulse I’ve seen in a long time. We picked up that Badger much farther than I’ve seen before. PDS is actually working (the PDS was something new to the E-2C – adding an ESM capability to an AEW radar platform had yielded major benefits, when it worked). Radios are OK, except for HF1; we had some problems with the Trailing Wire Antenna and almost had to cut it off. Recommend we stay with HF2 for link today since AW is up on UHF.”

“Got it – how about the tactical picture, looked to be picking up when I left CIC”

“Yeah, it’s getting busy. CAP are pretty well under control as are the tankers, it’s just all the other interlopers that are making things hard. Had a Longhorn (one of CVW-7’s S-3 Vikings) come up and want to get pictures with the Bear. Asked if he had a buddy store, when he said ‘no’ so I sent him away. The F-4s off FID (Forrestal) are having problems with their radars, many are coming up lead nose and the Harriers need a lot of hand-holding. On the up side, Dolly is working great.” On the latter, the RO was vigorously shaking his head in agreement. "Tigertails (Forrestal’s E-2 squadron) are working the surface picture and ASUW assets."

Taking a minute to digest this, it looked like the major obstacles were going to be keeping an eye on the F-4s and Harriers, running the gas and watching what developed with regards to the Soviets. Turning to the RO, he asked if he had a preference for control. Being somewhat old school he said he had no problem working the Harriers and Phantoms. Good, that meant Bird could take the Tomcats and work two-way Link4 (Dolly), easing his workload and providing a second set of eyes on the big picture.

“CICO, Flight, you guys ready to go back there?” It was Lefty, prompting the back-end to get ready to restart the starboard engine. Selecting “P” and “CP” on the ICS panel, he responded: “Roger flight, we’re ready” Momentarily deselecting them, he passed a quick safety brief to the backend if there was a problem on the start or launch, confirmed mission taskings and turning his seat forward, hooked up his O2 mask and prepared for the start.

With a clean start, it was a short taxi to the catapult. Enroute, he fastened his lower and upper Koch fittings – lower to the hard seat pan that contained the life raft and the upper to the parachute that rested against the seat back. Locking his harness, he tossed himself against the restraint to make sure it was latched. The one time he had failed to he ended up with a visor full of seatback on a trap.

Window covers down, overhead hatch in and all harnesses locked, the crew was ready. Bluetail 602 went into tension, the throttles against their stops, the aircraft mercilessly shaking. In an instant, they were down the catapult and airborne.

As the wheels were coming up, Bird exclaimed “Hey look, we’ve got a visitor…” Straining against his straps and the binding of the anti-exposure suit the lieutenant looked to his right and aft. There, briefly, he caught it. The unmistakable silver and grey of a Badger C-Mod who had obviously found the carrier and was now trailing the E-2…

Badgers, Buccaneers and Bears…(Pt 1) (A North Atlantic tale from the "good ole days")

(Note: I am in the process of moving the postings off the old site to this one, beginning with this series)

The Playing Field.


In his far off conscious he heard it – the incessant ringing of the phone on the bulkhead. Not just any ring either – more like a loud clattering and right now it was the most annoying sound intruding into his world. Wearily, he rolled out of the top bunk, carefully avoiding the low hanging angle iron that supported the flight deck above their bunkroom. Dropping softly to the floor he reached for the phone


“Umm, yeah, hello…” he answered trying to wakeup


“Hey man, it’s the SDO, we’ve got to launch you guys early – skipper’s plane just went tango uniform for radar and we’re hot pumping/switching you guys. Brief’s in 10 minutes.”


“Ok, great…” he answered without much enthusiasm


Standing in his flight suit and stocking feet the young lieutenant took stock of the situation. Ike (ed. note: USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69)) and CVW-7 had been at sea for almost three weeks now – normally no big deal. The difference was as soon as the battle group had passed Chesapeake Light (outside the entrance to Hampton Roads, VA) the embarked flag said he wanted an E-2 airborne around the clock until the BG pulled into Portsmouth, England 21 days hence. Again, it normally wouldn’t have been that big a deal if this was a normal 7 month deployment, but it wasn’t. The ship and airwing hadn’t even completed the REFTRA/TYT work-up cycle and here it was, headed for the North Atlantic, stalking the bear in its lair. Problem was his squadron, nicknamed the BLUETAILS for the blue/white sunburst they carried on their aircraft’s tail, were manned only to 60% of aircrew and no one knew the flag planned ‘round the clock ops. The end result was while the pilots got to fly with “guest” copilots (and thereby gain some relief from the aggressive flight schedule); the NFOs were being run into the dirt. The lieutenant had already flown three times in the last 18 hours and now was going up again.


Sighing softly he went the sink, deciding the best way to try and wake up would be to drag a razor across the 2-day old stubble. Holding the faucet open for hot water, he was greeted instead with the characteristic banging and shuddering of a faucet passing no water. Cursing softly, he wondered aloud as to how on the Navy’s newest nuclear carrier, he couldn’t even get water to shave. Grabbing his “poopy suit” (anti-exposure suit used in extremely cold climates in the event you have to bail out) he picked up his boots and wearily trod off to the ready room, just a couple of frames over from the bunkroom.


“Hey Tom, what’s the deal – ops promised a break since I took the AO’s flight for him?” he asked the duty officer.


Tom was a ground-pounder, one of the officers in the Maintenance Department but a non-flyer and one of the lieutenant’s roomates. With a good-sense of humor, he gave pretty much as well as he got from the aviators…


“Sorry man, there’s all kinds of stuff going down out there and they want more E-2’s in the air for triple coverage; you’ll see on CVIC’s brief.” He answered. “Look at the bright spot – you get to miss Pop’s mtg with the other Div O’s this morning” “Pop” was the Maintenance Officer, a senior O-4 department head who while a decent sort as DH’s went, tended to be long-winded in his marathon meetings with the Div O’s.


“Hmmph … where’s the rest of the crew?”


“Needle’s on his way down, he’ll be left seat, you’re CICO and you’ll be swapping out with 602’s CICO and 2P”


The CICO (Combat Informaiton Center Officer) was the mission commander in the E-2 and responsible for successful accomplishemnt of all aspects of the mission. The CAPC, Carrier Airplane Commander, was responsible for the aircraft and safety of flight. In truth, the two overlapped and a good CICO knew all aspects of the Hawkeye just as a good CAPC had spent some time in the backend and well understood the mission. This was in studied contrast to Brand ‘X’ and the way the flight deck was isolated from the backend in the AWACS…


Looking at the schedule board, a large transparent grease-board mounted to one of the bulkheads in the ready room, the lieutenant reviewed the schedule, noting with satisfaction the backend crew – one of his other roomates, “Big Bird” and one of the last of the AIC-qualified enlisted aircrewmen still flying in E-2’s. A legacy of the Navy’s AEW program, of late the community was moving to an all officer backend crew as the reliability of the E-2C was so much greater than its predecessors and the mission was expanding accordingly. Both were very capable air controllers and Bird, like himself, was also a CICO. With this level of experience, there’d be little in the way of oversight needed and he could concentrate on the AAW picture.


“So, Lefty’s staying – man he won’t be happy…” Lefty was the current CAPC and would swap seats to fly as co-pilot. A good stick, Lefty still had a bit of temper when things didn’t go as planned – like today.


“Ready Two, CVIC” The “bitch box” (ship’s intercom) lit up. “Weather brief will be passed by phone; there will be no TV brief”


“Ready Two, aye” the duty officer answered.


“OK, I see where this is going” the lieutenant noted “I’ll stop by CIC and Flag Plot, see what’s going on and we’ll meet up in flight deck control for the hot pump.” This was going to be a brief and go leaving the two aviators to find the necessary info on their own…


Sitting on the edge of his ready room chair, the lieutenant pulled off his flight suit, revealing the nomex long johns it felt like he’d been living in the past two days, and started to put on the poopy suit. He, at least was fortunate, having found an air force dry suit the parachute riggers had been given as a trial. Unlike the wet suit his pilot was struggling into or the big, bulky ventilated dry suits some of the older aircrew had, his dry suit was relatively light and most importantly, “breathed” while dry. Once it encountered water, the special cotton fibers would swell and provide a waterproof coverage. The downside was that at the extremities, the feet, wrists and neck, there was hard, tight fitting rubber to provide a seal against the water which could get uncomfortable on a long flight.


Having read “Bridges at Toko-Ri” to the point of memorizing it, he smiled grimly at a kinship with his predecessors and their struggles with anti-exposure suits “back then.”


With the dry suit dance completed and nomex flight suit back over it, he began to feel like a kid again, back in Nebraska being dressed in a snowsuit before going outside. Bending stifly, he put on the parachute harness, combination life preserver and survival vest. Once finished, he was ready to shuffle off to maintenance control and CIC, helmet bag in hand to see just what the big deal was….


To Be Continued…

Badgers, Buccaneers and Bears…(Pt 1) (A North Atlantic tale from the “good ole days”)

The Playing Field

In his far off conscious he heard it – the incessant ringing of the phone on the bulkhead. Not just any ring either – more like a loud clattering and right now it was the most annoying sound intruding into his world. Wearily, he rolled out of the top bunk, carefully avoiding the low hanging angle iron that supported the flight deck above their bunkroom. Dropping softly to the floor he reached for the phone

“Umm, yeah, hello…” he answered trying to wakeup

“Hey man, it’s the SDO, we’ve got to launch you guys early – skipper’s plane just went tango uniform for radar and we’re hot pumping/switching you guys. Brief’s in 10 minutes.”

“Ok, great…” he answered without much enthusiasm

Standing in his flight suit and stocking feet the young lieutenant took stock of the situation. Ike (ed. note: USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69)) and CVW-7 had been at sea for almost three weeks now – normally no big deal. The difference was as soon as the battle group had passed Chesapeake Light (outside the entrance to Hampton Roads, VA) the embarked flag said he wanted an E-2 airborne around the clock until the BG pulled into Portsmouth, England 21 days hence. Again, it normally wouldn’t have been that big a deal if this was a normal 7 month deployment, but it wasn’t. The ship and airwing hadn’t even completed the REFTRA/TYT work-up cycle and here it was, headed for the North Atlantic, stalking the bear in its lair. Problem was his squadron, nicknamed the BLUETAILS for the blue/white sunburst they carried on their aircraft’s tail, were manned only to 60% of aircrew and no one knew the flag planned ‘round the clock ops. The end result was while the pilots got to fly with “guest” copilots (and thereby gain some relief from the aggressive flight schedule); the NFOs were being run into the dirt. The lieutenant had already flown three times in the last 18 hours and now was going up again.

Sighing softly he went the sink, deciding the best way to try and wake up would be to drag a razor across the 2-day old stubble. Holding the faucet open for hot water, he was greeted instead with the characteristic banging and shuddering of a faucet passing no water. Cursing softly, he wondered aloud as to how on the Navy’s newest nuclear carrier, he couldn’t even get water to shave. Grabbing his “poopy suit” (anti-exposure suit used in extremely cold climates in the event you have to bail out) he picked up his boots and wearily trod off to the ready room, just a couple of frames over from the bunkroom.

“Hey Tom, what’s the deal – ops promised a break since I took the AO’s flight for him?” he asked the duty officer.

Tom was a ground-pounder, one of the officers in the Maintenance Department but a non-flyer and one of the lieutenant’s roomates. With a good-sense of humor, he gave pretty much as well as he got from the aviators…

“Sorry man, there’s all kinds of stuff going down out there and they want more E-2’s in the air for triple coverage; you’ll see on CVIC’s brief.” He answered. “Look at the bright spot – you get to miss Pop’s mtg with the other Div O’s this morning” “Pop” was the Maintenance Officer, a senior O-4 department head who while a decent sort as DH’s went, tended to be long-winded in his marathon meetings with the Div O’s.

“Hmmph … where’s the rest of the crew?”

“Needle’s on his way down, he’ll be left seat, you’re CICO and you’ll be swapping out with 602’s CICO and 2P”

The CICO (Combat Information Center Officer) was the mission commander in the E-2 and responsible for successful accomplishment of all aspects of the mission. The CAPC, Carrier Airplane Commander, was responsible for the aircraft and safety of flight. In truth, the two overlapped and a good CICO knew all aspects of the Hawkeye just as a good CAPC had spent some time in the backend and well understood the mission. This was in studied contrast to Brand ‘X’ and the way the flight deck was isolated from the backend in the AWACS…

Looking at the schedule board, a large transparent grease-board mounted to one of the bulkheads in the ready room, the lieutenant reviewed the schedule, noting with satisfaction the backend crew – one of his other roomates, “Big Bird” and one of the last of the AIC-qualified enlisted aircrewmen still flying in E-2’s. A legacy of the Navy’s AEW program, of late the community was moving to an all officer backend crew as the reliability of the E-2C was so much greater than its predecessors and the mission was expanding accordingly. Both were very capable air controllers and Bird, like himself, was also a CICO. With this level of experience, there’d be little in the way of oversight needed and he could concentrate on the AAW picture.

“So, Lefty’s staying – man he won’t be happy…” Lefty was the current CAPC and would swap seats to fly as co-pilot. A good stick, Lefty still had a bit of temper when things didn’t go as planned – like today.

“Ready Two, CVIC” The “bitch box” (ship’s intercom) lit up. “Weather brief will be passed by phone; there will be no TV brief”

“Ready Two, aye” the duty officer answered.

“OK, I see where this is going” the lieutenant noted “I’ll stop by CIC and Flag Plot, see what’s going on and we’ll meet up in flight deck control for the hot pump.” This was going to be a brief and go leaving the two aviators to find the necessary info on their own…

Sitting on the edge of his ready room chair, the lieutenant pulled off his flight suit, revealing the nomex long johns it felt like he’d been living in the past two days, and started to put on the poopy suit. He, at least was fortunate, having found an air force dry suit the parachute riggers had been given as a trial. Unlike the wet suit his pilot was struggling into or the big, bulky ventilated dry suits some of the older aircrew had, his dry suit was relatively light and most importantly, “breathed” while dry. Once it encountered water, the special cotton fibers would swell and provide a waterproof coverage. The downside was that at the extremities, the feet, wrists and neck, there was hard, tight fitting rubber to provide a seal against the water which could get uncomfortable on a long flight.

Having read “Bridges at Toko-Ri” to the point of memorizing it, he smiled grimly at a kinship with his predecessors and their struggles with anti-exposure suits “back then.”

With the dry suit dance completed and nomex flight suit back over it, he began to feel like a kid again, back in Nebraska being dressed in a snowsuit before going outside. Bending stifly, he put on the parachute harness, combination life preserver and survival vest. Once finished, he was ready to shuffle off to maintenance control and CIC, helmet bag in hand to see just what the big deal was….

To Be Continued…

 

Badgers, Buccaneers and Bears … Pt 4

This is the conclusion of the 4-part series. Parts 1-3 may be found by following the links in the margin on the left.

“Alpha Whiskey, Alpha Romeo, Tango One. Tango One recommends launching all available alert. Multiple bogeys inbound. Break, track 1231 now non-squawker, negative Mode 4, investigating with 9B. Setting station 9B with 11B”
“Alpha Whiskey, Alpha Romeo, this is Alpha Bravo – launch alert 5 and 10” In the background of the embarked flag’s voice call (‘Alpha Bravo’) the CICO could hear the gonging of the ‘General Quarters’ alarm. The ESM system lit up as air search and fire control radars from the fleet came on line the fleet was coming to a heightened state of battle readiness…
“602, 100. 100 and 103 tied on. Bogeys are Charlie Mods with one centerline”


The first tracks had just been ID’d as more Badger Charlie Mods, each with a single AS-2.
“602, Dakota. Dakota and Tap are tied on to two Badger Golfs each with one Kingfish (AS-6).”
As the fighters were finishing their reports, suddenly the CICO noticed a large smudge of video starting to appear, almost like someone with a grease pencil was furiously scribbling a line pointed toward the battle group. Soon another appeared then a third. Crap, he thought, someone was deploying chaff…

Cursing under his breath, the CICO started adjusting the radar controls to minimize the impact of the chaff. Just then, jamming strobes began appearing. Making some quick mental calculations as to who, what and where the jammer was (Orange air, not Soviet; probably the NKC-135) he added processing controls and directed a change in station position and altitude to the front end.

In the meantime, the apparent Badger stream raid was continuing. His ACO was running one of his F-14s through the incoming tracks to make ID’s and tying on the already overwhelmed remainder of fighters as the stream raid approached the battle group. To make matters worse, the lead elements had apparently found one of the chaff corridors and were running down the middle of it, making tracking that much more challenging.

Pairing lines (missile engagement lines) began to show up on Link-11 as the AAW cruisers picked up the inbound raiders and started targeting. The fact that they were locking up the Soviets with fire control radars would be something the flag staff would negatively debrief later, being a violation of INCSEA agreements, but there was a bit of tit-for-tat given the use earlier of targeting radars by the Bears. The CICO just hoped (prayed) in the heat of battle that no one would get itchy trigger fingers…

Help was going to be needed and soon – a quick call to FID’s E-2 had him up on Wing 12 (the east coast E-2 wing’s base frequency) for some cross tell and assistance.

“Tigertail, Bluetail, you up?”
“Go ahead Bluetail”
“Rog – things are heating up and if Orange air comes out would you be able to work that raid while we work the real-world threat? I’ll need all the DLIs and can split the A-7’s with you if you also take the Sea Harriers. Not optimal I know…”
“Tigertail copies – works for me. I’ll coordinate w/Alpha Sierra and switch Alpha Whiskey in a few”
“Thanks guys – Bluetail’s switching”
Anticipating a large raid comprised of F-5s, Buccaneers and Marine A-6s staged out of Norway, the CICO had coordinated with his counterpart on the FID’s E-2 (Tigertail, VAW-125) to leave the ASUW mission, which had pretty much been a dry hole as there were no orange surface units in play yet and the only Soviet on the surface was an AGI that lay well over the horizon from the battle group. Brining the other E-2 up would provide not only control for fighters (A-7s and Sea Harriers) for the Orange air raid, but another tracker for the real world event too.

 

Almost on cue, a mass of video moved off the Norwegian coast, headed for the chaff corridors, already occupied by the inbound Badgers.
“Whiskey, Alpha Whiskey, Uniform 2 checking in. Uniform 2 has control of all Bravo stations for Orange raid.”
By now he had counted over 30 Badgers inbound with the first now breaking the 50 mile circle around homeplate. The first 2-3 pressed inbound while those following broke off and started an outbound turn and climb. What escorts they had reset to catch and escort any others that continued inbound. Fuel was becoming a factor now as well and tankers were located and vectored with stern warnings to provide minimum give.

“Alpha Whiskey, Uniform 2, numerous bogeys, inbound, very low, very fast – unable CAP” That had to be the Buccaneers, the CICO thought to himself…having worked against them before they were notorious for getting way down on the deck, well below 100 ft, some claimed they were down to 10-20 ft above the water and busting in at max speed. That low and fast no fighter was going to catch – better leave it to the missile shooters and most likely, CIWS…
“Alpha Whiskey, Uniform 2, second group, inbound, medium, fast, taking…”

“VAMPIRE, VAMPIRE, VAMPIRE”

The words crashed in on the AAW circuit before Uniform could finish its report.

VAMPIRE. The word that chilled the heart of TAOs and CICOs.

VAMPIRE. Code for an inbound ASCM. Immediate action required, no, demanded. Bad enough to hear it in the simulator or exercises, even when prefaced by “Exercise” Now, to hear it in its raw, un-qualified form a chill ran down the CICOs spine.

“VAMPIRE, 030, taking with Birds”

“NEGATIVE, NEGATIVE, This is Alpha Bravo cease engagement, cease engagement.”
“Now what?” he thought

“All units Whiskey, this is Alpha Whiskey, cease all engagements, cease all engagements. All units report”
And one by one, each of the shooters came up on the net to report that it had broken its engagements – on the link the pairing lines the CICO had been worried about disappeared one by one.
"Great", he thought, “there was the itchy finger; probably totally focused on the Orange air raid and forgot to use exercise terminology. Didn’t do my heart any good and probably darn near caused a coronary in Flag spaces. Someone’s gonna get fired over that…”

By now the air picture was a couple of pulsating masses of video. North of the combined CVBG was the mass that constituted the Soviet raid while north-east was the Orange air raid. Mixed in and discernable only by either their IFF squawks or Link4 symbols were the fighters and other air wing aircraft.

Slowly, excruciatingly slowly as the minutes and radio calls dragged by, the two masses started to elongate and eventually resolve themselves into separate streams of outbound aircraft on their return legs. The Orange air on (relatively) short runs back to their Norwegian bases and the warmth of the O’clubs were many tales would be spun about below masthead flybys (and one below flight deck flyby that almost ended in a SAR). The Soviets back to their bases with somewhat longer runs, but to receptions no doubt as enthusiastic as those in Norway. There would be a changeout of the Bears until the AGI arrived on station (which would eventually be joined by a Krivak and Kashin DDG). More gas was launched and anxious fighters refueled for recovery, except for the lucky two VF-143 birds that would be triple cycled (3 x 1+45’s stuck in drysuits and strapped to ejection seats, bet that was one MO who was going to get an earful, especially since CAG was in one of the not so lucky ‘Dawgs).

As the tension eased airborne waves of fatigue hit the CICO who had been running on pure adrenalin for the last few hours. Now, at last, his relief was airborne and turnover accomplished. Of course, the drama for the day wasn’t over as the weather had closed in again and the ball call was punctuated with “Clara” followed by “Keep it coming Hummer, we hear you” from the LSO’s. Fortunately they trapped on the first pass, catching the two wire which guaranteed a back and forth with the LSO on debrief. As for himself, the CICO barely remembered the walk to CVIC to debrief, dropping off his logs and notes. Dragging his frame back to his stateroom, he collapsed face down in his bunk, still in his flight gear and fell into a deep sleep.

In his far off conscious he heard it – the incessant ringing of the phone on the bulkhead. Not just any ring either – more like a loud clattering and right now it was the most annoying sound intruding into his world. Wearily, he swung his leg around and kicking the receiver off the hook, he went back to sleep…

 

Saturday Comics-II: Of Wayward ‘Dogs

There is a long-standing tradition in Naval Aviation that no screw-up goes unrecognized…just check out the variety of callsigns out there. Sometimes though, the screw-up is so monumental that it deserves special recognition — sort of like, um, landing on the wrong carrier. Recognition is afforded not unlike re-branding a steer that wandered off its ranch and onto another. The receiving carrier “warmly” receives the errant crew with a massive rebranding ceremony before launching them on their way back to mom. Where the prodigal crew is welcomed back to open arms.

Not.

Presented herein is exhibit A in the monumental screw-up gallery. Picture this — you’ve been on deployment for some few months now (including workups), your ship is not only the newest carrier in the fleet, but one of only 3 nuclear-powered carriers, one of which is in an extensive overhaul on the west coast and the other, you had relieved on station.
That’s the background.
“Bluetail, Tap 103 checking in, steer for mom please”

“Tap, Bluetail. Were you a yo-yo” (E-2C ACO in the meantime is looking for 103’s transponder squawk)
“Negative”
“Roger — radar contact 3MH 110 for 5, heading 110, steer 075 for 120. Did you launch from 3MH???”
“Roger — and I don’t want to talk about it”
“…” (Over the E-2’s ICS — “Flight, CICO, you’re not going to believe this…” between fits of laughter)
“Bluetail, Taproom 103, sweet lock, switching button 1”
“Strike, Tap 103”
“103, strike, welcome back, Charlie Oscar requests your presence when on deck”
…and it went downhill from there.

Seems that the crew for Tap 103 got the big 69 on the bow of IKE confused with the big 64 on Connie’s bow, didn’t give much notice to the smoke streaming from the stack on Connie’s island and trapped before realizing their faux pas. Of course they were appropriately and roundly welcomed with a plethora of zappers and stenciled slogans courtesy the various corrosion control shops in Connie’s airwing. A ransom message was sent to IKE demanding the turnover of our (newly received) first run movies in exchange for the wayward aviators. Were it not for the need for the jet itself, due consideration was given to leaving them on Connie, for in those days, before DVDs, satellite TV, the ‘net and other forms of electronic amusement, the only real means of entertainment onboard were the infrequent smokers (boxing matches for you ‘wogs) and movies. Reel-to-reel movies. Sometimes with CinemaScope to challenge the technical skills of the SDO. First run movies were rare as, well, liberty calls (of which there were to be very few for IKE on this ’80 deployment). Ergo, the loss of this precious asset was not something to be considered lightly.
In the end, cooler heads prevailed, the ransom helo’d to Connie (and unceremoniously dumped on the flight deck — no touching down here) and the wayward aviators returned. Having had time to work on their story, they tried to blame it on their lead (CAG) who had rolled into the groove, recognized his mistake and waved off at the last minute w/out telling his wingmate it was the wrong ship. Right-oh…
The bird was struck below to the hangar bay almost immediately and a sad VF-143 corrosion control crew went to work eradicating the traces of the misdeed. Joining them were two chasened aviators…

And that was the tale of the Lost Pukin’ Dog…

-SJS

Postscript: Perhaps it was karma afterall — some few months later CAG hisself left the flaps down on the Tomcat he had just trapped in and crunched them big time — enough to require a crane-off on return to Norfolk. Ship’s CO said “no more Tomcats for you CAG” (this was back when CAG’s were O-5s).