... well sort of. This is just too rich on soooo many levels. Where to start...hmmm, more flags than we have hulls?
And since we are approaching the season when "You Know Who" is making up his lists of naughty and nice clients, here is a warning for the naughty ones:
Won't be switches and coal in those stockings this year!
29 November 2006
... well sort of. This is just too rich on soooo many levels. Where to start...hmmm, more flags than we have hulls?
26 November 2006
The first Navy Aegis ship to be sent to Davey Jones’ locker now rests on the bottom of the Pacific, done in by a combination of missiles and gunfire. The decommissioned cruiser Valley Forge was sunk as part of a Nov. 2 target practice on a test range near Kauai, Hawaii, according to the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
The fourth Ticonderoga-class Aegis cruiser to be built, it was in service for only 18 years, from 1986 to 2004. The ships were designed to serve at least three decades, but the Navy decommissioned the first five Aegis cruisers in 2004 and 2005, citing their older missile systems. The Navy could not say whether the Aegis combat system was on board at the time of the sinking, although Naval Sea Systems Command said Nov. 17 that “various components of the Aegis weapon system have been removed.” Topside items such as missile directors, radars and gun mounts were removed prior to the sinking.
None of the other decommissioned Aegis cruisers are currently scheduled for sinking, the Navy said.
Sinking ships at sea, usually for target practice, has become a regular method of disposal. Of 31 decommissioned Spruance-class destroyers, 19 already have been sunk and three more are scheduled. Only two ships have been scrapped, and two more are scheduled to be broken up.
(Source: Navy Times; 17 Nov 2006)
Posted by Steeljaw Scribe at 23:50
21 November 2006
So went my response to a recent query from someone who noticed a certain wistfulness about me whilst talking of the sea. “What do you miss most about it?” they asked.
To be sure, I missed the flying, the sense of purposeful direction and immediate feedback entailed with operations at sea, the unsullied horizon, the scent of the salt air – all those were (are) longed for. But most of all, I miss the stars.
Growing up in the Midwest next to the wannabe metropolis that was Omaha (no question about its status now); I had become familiar with the night sky. Summers spent well back from “civilization” either in the mountains of Montana, the deserts of the Southwest US or an island off Nova Scotia bred an easy familiarity with the denizens of the night sky. Antares, Markab, Betelgeuse, Sirius, Altair and Polaris; became personal companions on many a dark, quiet night across each of the seasons. Later, first with binoculars then a refracting telescope, other objects swam into clearer focus – the Pleiades, Andromeda, the rings of Saturn and so much more.
Later (much later) as an NROTC student I looked forward to junior year when we divined the mysteries of celestial navigation and those objects which had been just there for the looking were now sought with determined purpose. Like a sorcerer’s apprentice, I delved through Air and Nautical almanacs, parsed Bowditch and divined tables of calculations to arrive at (very) rough approximations of where we were. Well, at least were supposed to be. Approximately.
Time passed though and the demands of a warfare specialty that placed one in dark rooms bathed by the artificial light of radar scopes and red lights asserted itself and opportunities, especially on the carrier, to spend time with one’s celestial acquaintances was all too infrequent. The occasional transit offered brief chances, apart from the interminable AOMs and paperwork to be caught up. More often though, night was time spent coming from or going to the plane. Night, on an operating flight deck, was a time and place to keep your head down and your gaze focused on your immediate vicinity, all the better to avoid the snares of tie down chains, bomb carts and spinning props. The stars…well the stars were a last, furtive glance over your shoulder before disappearing into the fluorescence of the ship’s interior, punctuated by a quiet sigh.
Many years later, the call from the detailer came with the much anticipated and dreaded news for post-command duty. Expectations were CV/CVN-Ops O because “that’s where VAW NFOs go.” And that was the initial read – OPS on Enterprise, take it or leave it. Of course it was accepted and plans made. However, not 48 hours later the call again – “Would you be interested in navigator on the Eisenhower?” – all the more intriguing because of the manner it was placed, much less the topic… “Definitely” was the immediate reply – for suddenly the chance to reacquaint with old friends was in the offing. Truth be known, if Coral Sea had still been around, ‘gator on her would have had just as prompt a reply.
And so we found ourselves again, on windswept decks shooting the evening fix. Savoring old friends’ welcoming embrace and feeling justified because now – it’s my job. Fighting the haze of a VACAPES summer eve to discern the horizon, learning to quickly shoot fixes between the last trap and the turn to reset for the next launch/recovery cycle, challenging my QMC to competitive “shoots” – and getting my you-know-what soundly handed to me early on, but learning tricks of the trade in the process. The price of foreshortened sleep, long days (and nights) on the bridge, and all the rest of the trials and privileges of ship’s company was amply balanced by moments such as these. Moments like catching a comet at the height of splendor when shooting the morning fix– shining like a bright streak of silver-white paint, brushed upon the promise of dawn. Or stepping out onto the starboard bridge wing after midnight and seeing a dome of stars so bright and plentiful and set against a black sky that seems like it would pull your eyes out of their sockets; so stunning that you catch your breath and just know you are stealing a look at the LORD's treasure chest.
But time passes and now, sitting abreast another major metropolitan area, I fruitlessly cast my eyes aloft, searching for old friends. Instead, I am met with a milky, yellowish residual glow of urban activity – the bright lights of a nations’ capitol that lies in restless sleep. In vain I search, occasionally capturing a wandering planet or one of the brighter stars. I know they are there, beckoning, patiently as they have through the ages. Oh sure, we could (and sooner one prays rather than later) move out – further from the bright center of this universe, but the march of progress is nothing if not inexorable and all too soon, what once were dark skies are suddenly lightened by Man’s pursuit. But in good time, when we are quit of these earthly pursuits, we will be reunited, this time for all eternity. In the meantime, I will continue to search.
“I miss the stars…”
20 November 2006
Folks - Mike has posted his half of the Valour-IT Navy-Air Force blog challenge and has executed a superb write-up on the F4F. Take a few minutes to head over and check it out -- you'll learn some new things along the way. BZ Mike!
Posted by Steeljaw Scribe at 13:40
16 November 2006
(Ed: See "Catching Up" for the Valour-IT reference)
The B-52 Stratofortress
The B-52 (aka ‘aluminum overcast’ or BUFF – Big Ugly Fat Fellow (or cruder term for the 2nd ‘F’...) has been flying for over 50 years now and by all rights, looks to remain in the inventory until around 2040. Volumes have been (and undoubtedly will be) written of the BUFF’s exploits, from forming one of the three legs of the strategic triad, to conventional attack in
The BUFFs’ Beginnings
Even as it was entering frontline service, the B-36 was already on the threshold of obsolescence in the post-WWII years. In July of 1948 Boeing designers were penning what eventually would become the XB-52. As originally conceived, the XB-52 had straight wings and would be powered by six Wright T-35 turboprops. As the design morphed, the wings became swept and eventually the turboprops replaced by eight of the new Pratt & Whitney J57-P-3 turbojets. This final design was approved by the Air Force in October 1948 and on 29 November 1951; the XB-52 was rolled out from Boeing’s
- XB-52 - The first B-52 prototype. 1 built
- YB-52 - The second prototype. 1 built
- B-52A - The first production model. 3 built
- NB-52A - 1 aircraft rebuilt to carry the X-15 research aircraft.
- B-52B - 50
- NB-52B - 1 aircraft rebuilt to carry the X-15 research aircraft.
- RB-52B - 27 B-52Bs converted into reconnaissance aircraft.
- B-52C - 35
- B-52D - 170
- B-52E - 100
- B-52F - 89
- B-52G - 193
- B-52H - 102
- Total produced – 744
The BUFF – First Person Singular
Your Humble Scribe has had several up close/personal encounters with the BUFF. After all, growing up in the shadow of SAC HQ how could one not? Setting aside for the moment the first glimpse of the BUFF in a flyover at the annual Offutt air show (which to YHS, was more sacred than a pilgrimage to Mecca), the first real encounter was with the B-52B at the SAC museum, which used to be located on the outlying regions of Offutt. There, a collection of aircraft lay under the
Fast forward a decade (or so) and our subject now finds himself roughly mid-way through what would be a 9 month deployment, most of which was spent drilling holes on Gonzo station (off
Oh yes, it also starred in one of YHS’ top 10 favorite movies...
Over the course of its lifetime the BUFF has been responsible for dropping the mundane and the exotic (though by all accounts, a toilet was not included). Besides the usual iron bombs, the BUFF also counted:
- The largest-yield nuclear weapon in the
inventory – the Mk 41 thermonuclear bomb. The Mk-41 was the only three-stage thermonuclear weapon ever deployed by the US It weighed 4,840 kilograms and was 3.8 meters long. It could be carried by the B-52 or the B-47. While about 500 were built from September 1960 to June 1962, retirement began in November 1963 and the last B41s withdrawn in July 1976. A 25 mt yield for the B41 would give it a yield-to-weight ratio of 5.2 kilotons/kilogram. U.S.
- The Lockheed D-21 (Project Tagboard): An unmanned or "drone" aircraft designed to carry out high-speed, high-altitude strategic reconnaissance missions over hostile territory. It is a product of the Lockheed "Skunk Works" program that developed the A-12, YF-12, and SR-71 "Blackbird" manned aircraft in the 1960's. The D-21 ramjet-powered reconnaissance drone was powered by a Marquardt RJ-43-MA-11 ramjet. Cruising at Mach 3.3 at an altitude of 90,000 feet, the D-21 had a range of over 3400 nautical miles. The D-21 was guided by an inertial navigation system on a pre-programmed flight profile. Originally, the D-21 was designed to be launched from the back of a modified A-12 (redesignated M-12) carrier aircraft. The first flight of the D-21/M-12 combination took place on December 22, 1964, but the first D-21 release from an M-12 did not occur until March 5, 1966. two more launches were successful, but on July 30, 1966, a D-21 collided with the M-12 after release, destroying both aircraft and resulting in the death of one of the M-12's crew members. No further "piggyback" launches were attempted. A new launch system was developed using modified B-52H aircraft as carriers. The new D-21 configuration (designated D-21B) had dorsal mounting hooks for carriage under the B-52's wing, and a solid rocket booster for the initial acceleration required to start the ramjet engine. The first launch from a B-52 took place on November 6, 1967, but the D-21 crashed. Several flights followed in 1968 with mixed success.
- AGM-84D Harpoon: A BUFF armed to the gills w/Harpoons was a CICOs best friend when running ASUW in the
North Atlanticduring the Cold War. With lots of loiter time, tough ECM and 8-12 of these hummers slung on wing mounted pylons, one could run some pretty righteous war-at-sea strikes, overloading the bad guys with multiple axis attacks. Between these guys and organic assets (i.e., airwing A-7/A-6’s), we were going hunting. Kirov
- Test vehicles: “Double Balls 8” (referring to the a/c serial # - 0008) was the famous NB-52B that was a fixture around Edwards AFB and used as the mother ship for the X-15 program. Following in the pattern set by the B-29/X-1 team, the NB-52 carried the X-15 to launch altitude for its test flights. But with the end of the X-15 program, the NB-52 continued to fly with a variety of vehicles for test. The NB-52B launched the three X-15 hypersonic rocket planes and the Northrop HL-10, Northrop M2-F2/F3, Martin Marietta X-24A and Martin Marietta X-24B lifting bodies. It simulated the steep, power off approach to landing used by the Space Shuttles. It assisted in the collection of data about wake turbulence from large aircraft. It served as an air-to-air gunnery target. It launched 3/8-scale F-15 Remotely Piloted Research Vehicles (RPRV), a Ryan Firebee II drone, Ryan Firebee based Drones for Aeroelastic Structures Testing (DAST), and the Highly Maneuverable Aircraft Technology (HiMAT) RPRVs. It dropped the 48,000-pound Space Shuttle Reusable Booster Drop Test Vehicle (SRB/DTV) and it released a simulated F-111 crew module from its bomb bay to evaluate new parachute recovery systems. It was the first airplane to launch a satellite into orbit on the Orbital Sciences Pegasus booster. It tested the drag chute used to decelerate space shuttle orbiters. It tested pollution reducing fuel additives with a pair of jet engines mounted under its bomb bay. It launched the X-38 Space Station Crew Return Vehicles and the X-43A Hyper-X Supersonic Combustion Ramjet. A unique aspect for the NB-52 was the tally board for each mission flown. Besides the usual suspects (X-15, Pegasus, etc.) there are a few gems of wry humor to be found sprinkled around.
- B-52 flies unlike other aircraft. Shortly after take-off, as it gains speed, the nose dips and it climbs in an initial nose-low attitude, a consequence of high camber of its wing in the full flaps configuration. This looks strange to most people, who are used to seeing aircraft take off nose-high.
- An aircraft of this massive size, power and weight necessitates hydraulically boosted control surfaces. However, B-29 Superfortress pilots, who were used to using brute force from the human body to actuate the control surfaces, would be transferred to the B-52, which had hydraulic controls. Therefore, strong springs are used to help imitate the control feel of the older aircraft. As a result the B-52 is a physically demanding aircraft to fly.
- The B-52's skin looks wrinkled when the aircraft is on the ground. In flight, the wrinkles disappear as the wing loading causes the wings and airframe to flex to in-flight configurations.
- The ejection seats for the lower-deck crewmembers, the Navigator and Radar Navigator, eject downwards. Because of this, these crewmembers cannot eject at an altitude of 200 feet or less. A Navigator and a Radar Navigator from Fairchild AFB both survived a downward ejection at approximately 200 feet above ground level in a training accident near
on the evening of October 20, 1984. The upper deck crewmembers (Pilot, Copilot, and Electronic Warfare Officer) have seats which eject them upwards. Their seats work at any altitude, as long as the airspeed is at least 90 knots. This is necessary to inflate their parachutes, since their ejection seats are blast propelled and not rocket propelled, and are not 0-0 certified as are more modern ACES-II ejection seats. Kayenta, Arizona
- There is a story told by many B-52 pilots that sums up the aircraft: "The B-52, with its familiar wrinkled fuselage sides, has enough metal to make 10,000 garbage cans. The wiring in the Stratofortress is equivalent to five miles of baling wire. Its engines are as powerful as eight locomotives. And that's the way it flies, like eight locomotives, pulling ten thousand garbage cans with five miles of baling wire!"
- The B-52 on static display outside Offutt Air Force Base,
, has a patch on the cockpit. The damage was caused by impact with an American Bald Eagle during landing. Nebraska
- As part of the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the
United Statesand Russia, 365 B-52Gs were flown to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Centerat Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in . The bombers were stripped of all usable parts, then chopped into five pieces by a 13,000-pound steel blade dropped from a crane. The guillotine sliced four times on each plane, severing the wings and leaving the fuselage in three pieces. The ruined B-52s remained in place for three months so that Russian satellites could confirm that the bombers had been destroyed, after which they were sold for scrap. Arizona
- During the early morning of January 17, 1991 the first day of
Storm a B-52G (aircraft 0248) was fired upon by an F-4G Wild Weasel. The B-52's tail gunner locked his tail gun radar on the Wild Weasel mistaking it for an Iraqi MIG. The Wild Weasel immediately detected the B-52 tail gun radar and misidentified the radar signature as an Iraqi Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA) site. The F-4G Wild Weasel crew fired a single AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missile and watched in horror as it headed not towards the non-existent Iraqi AAA site, but to one of the B-52 bombers it was tasked with protecting. Luckily the missile failed to hit the plane, but instead detonated directly behind the bomber. The shrapnel and missile debris damaged the tail section of the B-52G. It ripped off everything aft of the vertical stabilizer. This included much of the tail gun system, the aft Electronic Warfare suite, and the drag chute. The B-52G was able to return safely to the operation Desert . It was later fully repaired at Anderson Air Force Base on islandof Diego Garcia Guamwhere it was renamed "IN HARM's WAY". The tail gunner position was subsequently eliminated from the entire B-52 fleet.
While the Project Valour-IT drive was underway, YHS held fast on posting other material in order to ensure the campaign received the attention it so richly deserves (and again, a multitude of thanks for all who contributed and supported the campaign). Now that it is over, there is some unattended business to address. So (in no particular order):
1. Flightdeck Friday: You may recall a certain wager made and won/lost (depending on your POV). Well, we're going to modify that some, even though Navy soundly thrashed the junior service's team. In the spirit of the campaign ("One Team, One Fight") this Friday YHS will go ahead and post the write-up for a land-loving, non-tailhook (and oy, this one really doesn't have one) plane that was of Mike's choosing -- the B-52, aka BUFF. He in turn, will be posting a write-up on a real, Navy aircraft of note that was YHS' choice. Sorry, you'll just have to hop over there this weekend to see (and no, it isn't the mighty war Hummer). So, we'll have some fun and interesting factoids tomorrow re. BUFF, including entries from the personal archives. Stay tuned...
2. The Election: ...but then again, what hasn't been said 'cept it is "put up or shut up" time on both sides of the aisle.
3. Kitty Hawk vs the Chinese sub: ASW is not a pick-up game. You truly go to war in this realm with what is on the table and folks, we are sorely lacking. What was (maybe) true 16 long years ago is not the case today. 'Phibian delivers a bucket of cold water and I agree. Sure, the Chinese aren't ten feet tall, but they aren't midgets either. They learn (sometimes via a windfall) and have their eye on the long game. Anti-access is the game and the Chinese are learning from the Russians what worked and what didn't. There is much more that can be written on this topic -- watch this space for regular postings on this AOR.
Posted by Steeljaw Scribe at 12:51
15 November 2006
15 November 1960. The USS George Washington (SSBN-598) deployed from Charleston, SC with a load-out of 16 UGM-67 Polaris A-1s on the first strategic deterrence patrol.
The first US nuclear-powered submarine armed with long-range ballistic missiles, the GW was ordered on 31 December 1957, with orders to convert two attack submarine hulls to missile-carrying FBM Weapon System ships. With some compromise in delivery schedules, the Navy agreed in January 1958 to slip the launch dates for two hunter-killer Skipjack types of fast attack submarines, the just-begun attack submarine Scorpion (SSN-589) and the not-yet-started USS Sculpin (SSN-590). Funding was provided with a supplement to the FY 1958 ship construction program on 11 February 1958. She was commissioned 30 Dec 1959 and subsequently decommissioned 24 January 1985, her final 5 years of service conducting operations as an SSN when the Polaris A-3 was removed from service.
Posted by Steeljaw Scribe at 08:43
12 November 2006
Special thanks to all who contributed, no matter the team, and a hearty Bravo Zulu to Curt @ CSN for leading Team Navy's efforts; Cassandra for Team Marines, BlackFive for Team Army and OP-FOR for Team Air Force. Well done all!
Posted by Steeljaw Scribe at 13:01
11 November 2006
So for the final stretch in this worthy endeavor, we're bringing Team Marines onboard and together, the Sea Services will prevail. Hit the button to port (ok, left for you lubbers) -- $5, $10, $100 ($1000?) -- whatever you think the cause is worth. There are few projects out there where you as an individual can have such a direct impact on making the life of someone demonstrably better. More so here as that someone has already paid blood wages .
Posted by Steeljaw Scribe at 07:04
OK folks, we’re in the home stretch. Two or so days to go and overall we’re still shy of the $180K goal.
If you haven’t – why are you still reading this? Look, over there to the left (portside) hit the button and donate. Team Navy’s done well you say? Well, yeah, except we aren’t at 100% yet – either as a team or as a Project. If you’re feeling a little Joint love, go on over and add to the Marines’ or Army’s total instead. Even Air Force – no, wait, we’ve got something good lined up for them instead, right Mike?
Posted by Steeljaw Scribe at 00:30
Project Valour-IT Update
So, ahem, folks, take a good look at the standings in the box over there on the port side (left for 'wogs) and pitch a fin or two (or two dozen) into the jar. It is for a very worthy cause.
Besides, you *really* don't want to have to read about some prissy, no real tailhookin' airplane on these pages on the 17th -- right fellas? Right...?
The genesis of the project was an Army Captain, Chuck Ziegenfuss, who had been MilBlogging before he was wounded in an IED attack, and discussions with Beth, another blogger and plain old American citizen and school teacher with a heart to do something, from Fuzzilicious Thinking, who put their heads together and kicked this off. It’s a testimony about those who complain vs. those who just get it done. Beth and Soldier’s Angels have now supplied, with the generocity of people from around the world, over 500 laptops. Quite an accomplishment for not working this program for even two years. If you’re not familiar with this project, here is the link to the site where you can find the legitimacy, the history, who is supporting this program in the business world, and testimonies, as well as the link to donate.
Posted by Steeljaw Scribe at 00:01
08 November 2006
So -- go vote today, let the blogsphere/media hyper-focus on every jot/tittle/nuance of this micro-trend or that and await the divisions of lawyers to be deployed in the expected post-election challenges.
Because on Nov 12th there still will be a Marine in Balboa missing a hand;
A Soldier in Brooke Army Hospital with an amputated arm;
A Sailor in Bethesda suffering partial paralysis and an Airman in Walter Reed missing both hands...
You see, the sound and fury of the electoral tide's partisanship rises and falls -- it smashes with fury on the shore one day and the next, is quiet; yet the needs of our wounded remain.
So by all means, go -- vote, exercise that precious right and duty. Discuss the results, hail the victories and mourn the losses;
Just don't forget our troops -- Project Valour IT rolls on and your contribution is needed.
Update: *WOW* I. am. stunned. and. near. speechless.
Talk about turning to -- you guys are the best! From last at ~17K this AM to first at ~$31K this afternoon, you have leapfrogged the competition! Best news is that overall, we have busted through last year's total which is fantastic news for the folks who will be gaining use of more laptops. Special kudos to enrevanche -- jump over here to see what I mean. FbL will absolutely be floored when returning to action here (bet Curt is picking his jaw up off the deck -- you know Mike is!) Let's keep pressing -- I'm throwing some more in the jar!
P.S. Mike --> deck = floor ;)
Posted by Steeljaw Scribe at 16:55
03 November 2006
Update (3 Nov): Crickets...all I'm hearin' are crickets...not up to the challenge? ;)
OK, guess it’s throw down time. Something isn’t kosher when the Navy is trailing the bus men in blue, so here goes.
Open challenge to Mike over at No Angst Zone — if Team USAF is ahead of Team Navy after the final reckoning on 11 Nov, then the following Friday (17 Nov), my Flightdeck Friday post will be devoted to a (gag) scummy, prissy, no *real* tailhookin’ USAF/USAAF/Air Corps plane, your choice. I’ll give it the full treatment the real aircraft get on the regular Flightdeck Fridays.
Of course, should the tables be reversed (don’t leave me hanging here folks) I’ll ask the same for your Tarmac Saturday the w/end after the 11th. What sayest thou -- 20mm @ Angels 25 on mother's 270 for 35? Fight’s On…
Posted by Steeljaw Scribe at 23:59