31 January 2007

Wednesday Roll-up of Missile News

Continuing the themes from yesterday’s post:

a. India plans aerospace military command to oversee space-based assets: In yet more fallout from China’s ASAT test comes the announcement from India that they intend to “create an aerospace command to control and protect satellites and spacecraft orbiting the Earth.” Air Chief Marshal Shashi Tyagi said India was an aerospace power with "transoceanic reach" and it was important for it to be able to exploit outer space. "As the reach of the Indian Air Force is expanding it has become extremely important that we exploit space, and for it you need space assets." Tyagi's comments follow a Chinese anti-satellite weapons test on Jan. 11 in which it used a missile to shoot down an old weather satellite. Additionally comes word of India working on development of missile shield for satellites. (from IRNA, New Delhi, Jan 23) Fearing that its satellites could be under threat from missiles, India is working on development of a shield for which it is in talks with Russia and other countries having such technology. … China has recently tested one such missile, but the official underlined that India's desire to develop the shield was not prompted by that development. … He said India has been talking to "close friend" Russia and other countries having such technology "for our interest." Besides Russia and China, the technology is available only to the US.

b. Russia Condemns European-based Missile Defense Plans: Russia continues to bang the drum over its extreme displeasure at the prospect of certain elements of the ground-based ballistic missile defense system being installed in Europe, especially in the area formerly known as Eastern Europe and part of the “Near Beyond” about which the Russians have historically been concerned. At issue is location of a ground-based radar site and interceptor field that would provide intercept coverage of US- and European-bound ICBM’s launched from the Middle East (presumably Iran). The current system lacks that capability with the preponderance of its fixed-base radars located in/around the Pacific and interceptors based in Alaska. This current, limited capability is geared against a threat originating from North Korea. Location of a radar site in the Czech Republic and a missile field in Poland by 2012 would go a substantial distance to mitigating the emerging threat from South West Asia. The system continues to grow and evolve – but per force, will always be several steps in capability and numbers behind the kind of offensive nuclear strike capability present in the Russian nuclear inventory, as well as the growing inventory and capability of China. Therefore arguments by Russian defense and foreign ministry officials that this represents an offensive threat or ratcheting up of the arms race are specious at best. The real issue is the view, perceived or real, of loss of influence in areas where once they held sway. Estonia’s recent law to remove Soviet-era war memorials (viewed more as emblematic of Soviet occupation than liberation), for example, invoked similar sharp responses, near hysteric rhetoric from Russian officials and the Russian parliament.

c. Shack – Successful THAAD test: CNN.com, January 27, 2007. The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency shot down a dummy target missile over the southern Pacific Ocean during a test of the U.S. missile defense shield early Saturday … First, a dummy ballistic missile was fired from a U.S. mobile launch platform in the Pacific Ocean in a simulated attack. Moments later, an interceptor missile was fired from the agency's missile range facility on Hawaii's Kauai Island and struck the dummy warhead over the Pacific Ocean, military footage showed. The mobile, ground-based system is designed to protect the United States from short to intermediate-range high altitude ballistic missile attacks in the North American region, agency spokeswoman Pam Rogers said. The system "intercepts missiles that are shorter range and at the end of their flight trajectory. It is part of the ballistic missile defense system, a layered system that is designed to intercept all types of missiles in all phases of flights," Rogers said. This particular short to intermediate-range interceptor system has been tested four times a year since 2005. "This was our first test since we moved equipment in October from the White Sands missile range in New Mexico ... everything went exceedingly well," Rogers said. (ed: Continued strong comeback for the once sorely troubled THAAD program following a thorough restructuring).

d. Central Command Nominee Cites Naval, Missile Defense (Aerospace Daily & Defense Report, January 31, 2007): U.S. Navy Adm. William Fallon, head of Pacific Command, would emphasize greater missile defense, as well as naval and air superiority in the Persian Gulf and Middle East if he becomes head of Central Command, according to sentiments expressed at his Jan. 30 nomination hearing in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Fallon told senators there was no doubt that North Korea and Iran were exchanging ballistic missile technology and that Iran appears to be shaping its military to deny U.S. aircraft carriers, precision strike and submarine capabilities in the Gulf, or at least to keep them at a distance. The country also is attempting to boost its power through asymmetric means, such as supporting international terrorism and pursuing nuclear weapons, he further said in prepared answers to advance congressional questions. … Fallon, who would be the first admiral to lead CENTCOM, said he figured his nomination stemmed in part from an effort to manage the Middle East "neighborhood" around Iran while Iraq operations will be largely left to Army Gen. David Petraeus.

30 January 2007

Tuesday's Roll-up of Missile/Nuclear News

Reverberations continue this week over the Chinese ASAT test and allegations of Iranian and North Korean cooperative development of nukes and long range missiles; meanwhile Iran continues to rattle the cage with announcement of another Shahab-3 test and a “new” sub-surface ship killer missile; India announces its intent to establish a dedicated aerospace defense command (don’t call it an Indian NORAD though since they aren’t partnering w/China or Pakistan…); Russia continues to push back hard against deploying ground-based elements of the US’ ballistic missile defense system (BMDS). Lots of stuff to cover – we’ll hit the first two today and follow with the rest tomorrow:

a. ASAT Fallout. The magnitude of the debris issue (as first pointed out in these posts here and here) continues to grow. To bring the esoteric into a framework readily understood, the Center for Space Standards and Innovation has developed a hi-res video here (quicktime variant sans music is also available on the site). What it truly illustrates is (1) the crossing danger to the ISS and other platforms, manned or not, in an equatorial orbit and (later) a sense of the size of the debris field in relation to all the other objects currently on orbit. Arms Control Wonk also has an aptly titled article re. same subject. If you want to roll up your sleeves and get into the mechanics of kinetic kill ASATs, check out this paper .

b. Iran, North Korea; missiles and nukes. A target rich environment, as the saying goes. Towards the end of last weeks’ round of wargames/missile tests, the Iranians tested another Shahab-3 (last test was part of the Noble Prophet round in Nov ’06). A spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry indicated this was the final test before handing the missile over to the army for operations. The Shahab has been in development since 1998 and reputedly it or a variant forms the core of a Taepo Dong-like satellite launcher announced by the Iranians last week. According to the article in this week’s Aviation Week & Space Technology (subscription may be required) the payload would be a 44-lb satellite that would be not much more than a radio transmitter – about what Sputnik was. The launcher would most likely consist of a liquid-fueled 1st (Shahab-3 or -3 derived) and 2nd stage (Scud B) and an indigenously developed solid fuel third stage, likely using a Chinese design, possibly with strap-on solid fuel boosters for the first stage. Launch would likely be on a southerly heading from central Iran (site of most of the long-range testing) out over the Indian Ocean. On the ballistic missile front, one of the implications of a successful satellite launch would be further development to loft heavier payloads (and the implications that has for development/deployment of nuclear warheads) and increased complexities for Israel’s Arrow ABM because of the increased speed and steeper angle of re-entry of the warhead. This in turn, would drive Israel to look at either improving its Arrow system or acquiring a US system like THAAD which is oriented to intercepting higher-speed targets in the terminal phase. (ed: Of course the real irony here lies in the criminalization of private ownership of satellite dishes by the great unwashed public whilst the powers-that-be announce their intention to orbit a satellite...)

Over on the nuke front, speculation continues over just what form or line of development an Iranian nuke program might be taking. Essentially, there are two types of devices that can serve as either a weapon in their own right, or as a trigger for a boosted device or thermonuclear device – implosion or gun. The gun design essentially smashes two masses together to cause a critical mass and nuclear detonation. This was used in the “Little Man” bomb dropped on Hiroshima. While simple(r) in design than an implosion device, it still is nonetheless a complex beast, has a smaller yield and drives other design issues that make it less than favorable for the linear acceleration g’s experienced in missile launches. The implosion device, where you have a physics package or “pit” made of a sphere of plutonium or highly enriched uranium, is more amenable to tighter packaging though getting the conventional explosion just right for implosion can be a trick. Also the material used, HeU or Pu will drive the size of the pit and complexity of calculations for explosion. This is why even a failed test (like the North Koreans had in Oct 07) will still provide useful data. See Paul Kerry’s blog for more on this idea. More about nuke weapons design at the Nuclear Weapons archive – scroll down the page and look under “Reference” for comparisons of the two devices mentioned above. Where the nuclear cooperation would come into play would be any lessons learned the North Koreans would pass along to the Iranians (for the right price) from their October test as alleged in an article in the Telegraph . Whether the meetings that the article states began in November of ’05 really took place is a point of dispute with denials by several high-ranking officials of the story’s validity. Secretary of State Rice has gone on the record as saying the report wasn’t based on anything she has seen. Given the cooperation seen in the development of the Iranian missile program, supported by North Korea (and China, and Pakistan and other proliferators…) one is hard pressed to be so dismissive about similar undertakings in the nuclear world, a condition that is aggravated by Iran’s lack of transparency in their nuclear program.

One other, and lesser heralded, event from last week's round of tests was the demonstration of a surface ship firing a rocket-propelled torpedo at another distant surface target. While boasting (again) of indigenous design, it most likely is an export version of the Russian VA-111 Shkvall ("Squall") and mirrors an ealier demonstration last spring.

29 January 2007

Navy Aviator Missing In Action From the Vietnam War Identified

NEWS RELEASES from the United States Department of Defense

January 29, 2007

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

He is Navy Cmdr. Peter Mongilardi Jr., of Haledon, N.J. He will be buried on April 11 at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington D.C.

On June 25, 1965, Mongilardi departed the USS Coral Sea in his A-4C Skyhawk on an armed reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam.His flight encountered bad weather and enemy fire over Thanh Hoa Province, causing the wingman to lose visual and radio contact with Mongilardi.Contact was never re-established and the aircraft failed to return to the carrier.

In 1993, a joint U.S.-Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) archival team, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), obtained information concerning the crash while researching documents, artifacts and photographs at the Central Army Museum in Hanoi.Later that year, another joint U.S./S.R.V. team conducted an investigation in Thanh Hoa Province.The team interviewed two local Vietnamese citizens who recalled the crash and said the pilot died in the impact.The men then led the team to the crash site.

In 1994, another joint team excavated the crash site and recovered human remains and pilot-related items, including a belt tip, boot heel, pieces of flight boot and other items worn by the pilot.

Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory also used nuclear DNA in the identification of the remains.

The Rest of The Story...

VA-153 Log Entry:
June 25, 1965: Commander P. Mongilardi United States Navy was shot down in A-4C Skyhawk BuNo. 149574 NL 306 by North Vietnamese triple A fire. Commander Mongilardi was Killed in Action.

The Action:

Synopsis: Air Wing 15 deployed to Southeast Asia in November 1964 onboard the aircraft carrier USS CORAL SEA, participating in FLAMING DART's two raids in retaliation to North Vietnamese aggression in the Gulf of Tonkin. One of the attack squadrons in Air Wing 15 was the Blue Tails - Attack Squadron 153, so named because of the splash of blue on the tails of their A4 Skyhawks. CDR Peter Mongilardi Jr. was the skipper of VA 153 until May 1965, at which time he assumed duties as air wing commander (CAG), and was replaced by CDR Harry E. Thomas. Before the long cruise was over in December, both Mongilardi and Thomas were dead.

It was during this period that the North Vietnamese, assisted by the Soviet Union and Chinese, was beginning to build its military from technology-poor and ground-oriented military to one with one of the world's strongest and most sophisticated air defense networks.

As a defense against U.S. air strikes over North Vietnam (ROLLING THUNDER) North Vietnamese missile sites grew from ground zero in 1965 to estimates three years later of two hundred surface-to-air (SAM) sites nationwide and some thirty missile battalions in the Hanoi area alone. Each battalion contained up to six missile launchers plus accompanying radar, computers and generators. The U.S. discovered the first SAM site in April 1965, yet U.S. pilots were forbidden to take immediate defensive action.

The CORAL SEA was in Japan in June 1965 on its way to the U.S. The ordnance and aircraft had already been offloaded, and Thomas and Mongilardi were on a last liberty together. While on liberty, they discovered they were shipping back to Vietnam.

On the first day back, Mongilardi and his wingman, Paul Reyes, flew on an armed reconnaissance mission. CDR David Leue and his wingman were briefed at the same time in case one of the wingmen went down, and, as luck would have it, Leue's wingman could not transfer his drop tank and was sent back to the ship. Leue joined up with Pete and his wingman. Leue describes armed "recce" as "usually two people flying down a route, really target practice for the local AAA batteries as you come down the pike. I always said if I made it to admiral I would not have done traditional armed recce. To(o) many people are lost."

The three pilots were in the area of Thanh Hoa. Leue was flying with instrument problems, and had no air speed altimeter or pressurization. It was no problem except for determining the flight altitude. Through some broken clouds, Leue spotted a power plant below and radioed that he was rolling in on it. Mongilardi ordered him not to hit the plant because it was denied under the rules of engagement.

By this time, Leue had pulled away from Mongilardi and his wingman, and he turned to rejoin them. As he did, Mongilardi radioed, "I'm rolling in on a little bridge," followed by, "Flak." Leue heard Mongilardi get hit and said, "He actually keyed the mike, I heard a couple of deep breaths, and I called Reyes to ask 'Where are you?' Paul said, 'We're by this rain storm and I've lost CAG [Mongilardi]. I don't know where he is.' Well, he'd been shot and killed; a real tough loss."

Leue was saddened to lose Mongilardi, whom he described as "a superior air wing commander, naval officer and warrior." It was less than two months later, on August 13, 1965, when CDR Harry Thomas was shot down 70 miles west of Hanoi on a low-level strike mission searching for SAM sites. Thomas' aircraft flew into a volley of flak, was hit and crashed. Thomas did not survive. Leue was moved into the position of skipper of the Blue Tails, carrying with him the sadness of having lost two superior squadron commanders.

CDR Mongilardi was originally classified Killed in Action, Body Not Recovered. He was listed among the missing because his remains not found at the time.

(Source: http://www.pownetwork.org/bios/m/m431.htm)

The Recovery:

Peter Mongilardi's last known location was approximately 13 miles (22 kilometers) northwest of Thanh Hoa, 3 miles (9 kilometers) northeast of Kien Trung, ½ mile (1 kilometer) south of Mao Ax and 24 miles west of the coastline, Dong Son District, Thanh Hoa Province, North Vietnam. The two remaining flight members initiated an immediate search for their flight leader over a heavily populated open flat area crisscrossed with numerous creeks, rivers and rice fields. They saw no parachute either in the air or on the ground and heard no beeper signal.

Over the next 2 to 3 days an extensive search and rescue (SAR) effort was conducted over the original search area and then extended to include the jungle covered mountains to the north and west of the target area. Air assets used in this massive operation included 15 - A1H's, 10 - F8's, 3 - A3D's and 2 - F4's.

Because of the last known heading of Cmdr. Mongilardi's Skyhawk, 70% of the entire SAR area consisted of dense jungle growth and only 30% over the area inundated with water. At the time formal search efforts were terminated, Peter Mongilardi, Jr. was listed Missing in Action. On 19 July 1965, conclusive evidence of death was received and on 23 July Cmdr. Mongilardi's status was changed to Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered. What that conclusive evidence was comprised of is unknown.

During the July 1985 technical meeting between US and Vietnamese personnel discussing the fate of American POW/MIAs, Mr. Cu Dinh Ba, Chief of the Vietnamese Office Seeking Missing Persons, stated his office's personnel had investigated this incident. During the investigation, local residents recalled the crash of an A4C on 25 June 1965. (N)o remains were available to inter...no identification media was found in or near the Skyhawk's wreckage.

In June 1993, Mr. Ba's report was passed to the Vietnamese government in a briefing folder along with other relevant documents during a meeting in DaNang because the Office for Seeking Missing Persons was going to assist in the joint recovery effort of this crash site. Shortly thereafter a site survey was conducted to evaluate the feasibility for excavating the area in the hope of recovering Peter Mongilardi's remains.

In October 1994, a joint American/Vietnamese team under the auspices of the Joint Task Force for Full Accounting (JTFFA) fully excavated this crash site. They found and recovered pieces of aircraft wreckage, pilot related items, life support equipment and 4 bone fragments - the largest of these bone fragments is less then 2½ inches long. The 4 bones are "consistent with being human," but cannot be confirmed to be human. If human, they are believed to be from the long bones of either the arms or legs.

Because they are so small, mtDNA technology is not advanced enough to be used in the identification process. The hope is that technical advances in the future will yield the ability to identify these bone fragments and determine conclusively if they constitute the only recoverable mortal remains of Cmdr. Mongilardi. (ed: Obviously with today’s announcement that hope has come to pass)

(Source: http://www.taskforceomegainc.org/m431.htm)

A significant codicil to the recovery effort were the unceasing actions of CDR Mongilardi's family in striving to bring him home, particularly of his son and daughter.

Welcome home CAG...rest easy now that your journey is complete.

Other sources:

The Skyhawk Association (Source of picture of NL 306)
New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial

26 January 2007

Friday's Missile News: Iranian Satellite & China's DF-31

Couple of quick ones from around the 'sphere:

  1. Iran Announces It Has Built a Satellite Launcher. (26 January) - Jerusalem Post. Iran has converted its 30-ton Shahab-3 missile into a satellite launch vehicle, a US-based aviation journal reported Thursday. According to Aviation Week and Space Technology, Alaoddin Boroujerdi, chairman of Iran's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, told a group of students and clerics in Qom, near one of Iran's missile test sites, that the launcher is assembled and will "soon" be sent into space with one of Iran's satellites. Israeli defense expert Uzi Rubin, in a report to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, said that "once Iran learns how to put 300 kg. into earth orbit, it could adapt the satellite launcher into an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that could drop more than 300 kg. anywhere in the world." In August, an Iranian hard-line cleric warned Israel that Iranian missiles would land in Tel Aviv if the "Jewish state" attacked Iran, Iranian state-run television reported. Ahmad Khatami, a mid-ranking cleric, said Israel should bear in mind its month-long war with Hizbullah before considering any threats against Iran.
    Boasting that Hizbullah's 70-km.-range missiles 'turned Israel into a country of ghosts,' Khatami declared that Israel would face dire consequences if it 'makes an iota of aggression against Iran.' 'They must fear the day [Iran's] 2,000-kilometer-range missiles land in the heart of Tel Aviv,' he said. Iran has consistently claimed that its Shahab-3 missiles have a range of 2,000 km. However, US defense analysts believe the Shahab-3's range to be 800-1,000 km., which nevertheless includes Israel, Saudi Arabia, all of the Persian Gulf, and southern Turkey. However, Congress has received reports from the US Defense Intelligence Agency that Iran could develop an ICBM with a range of 3,000 km. by 2015.

    YHS is taking a "wait and see" attitude re. this report. On the one hand, the Iranians, like the Soviets under Kruschev tend to wax hyperbolic over capabilities (Remember Kruschev's remarks about Russian factories turning out missiles like so many sausages? U-2 and later, Corona imagery proved otherwise and that the missile gap was in favor of the US) both real and imagined. The ability to loft a satellite into orbit does not necessarily confer ICBM capabilities to a launcher. Recall that the first US satellite, explorer, was launched atop a Jupiter-C which was a modified Redstone MRBM liquid fuel first stage with two solid fuel upper stages consisting of clustered Sergeant rockets, that lofted a 14kg satellite into orbit. The Iranian version likely takes a similar path - liquid fuel 1st stage and solid fuel 2nd/3rd stage (see illustration below of "Iris" or Shahab-3D. OTOH, if they have developed and successfully launch this configuration, it raises the stakes for missile defense in that now you are looking at a seperating target (vice unitary) to whch penetration aides may be added and increases the threat level for Israel and the Gulf States. It doesn't mean that suddenly New York or Washington are going to be ranged by the Shahab-3.

  2. Whither the DF-31? Good analysis/discussion here and here re. the reliability and development problems of the DF-31 ICBM (DIA classification). There is a reason, afterall, that it *is* called rocket science. Reference also discussion here regarding system reliability.


Flightdeck Friday - The Regulus I and II

It’s May 1947 and you, as a senior service see that the new upstart service has taken over an Army order for a turbojet powered, unmanned missile that will be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. What do you do? You go out and place a similar order with a competitor.

Welcome to Flightdeck Friday and the story of the Regulus I and II. This being kind of a missile week already with previous postings, it figures this would be a fitting topic.

In October 1943, Chance Vought signed a study contract for a 300-mile range pilotless missile that carried a 4,000-pound warhead. But little transpired until the soon-to-be-separated AAF provided the impetus for the Navy Program. In May 1947, the Army awarded Martin a contract for a turbojet-powered subsonic missile which became the Matador. The Navy saw this as a threat to its role in guided missiles and, within days, ordered BuAer to start a similar Navy missile that could be launched from a submarine, using the same engine as the Matador (J33) and components on hand. By August 1947, the project had gained both a name (Regulus) and performance requirements. The Navy wanted the missile to carry a 3,000-pound warhead to a maximum range of 500 nm at Mach .85 with a CEP of .5 percent of the range. The vehicle would be 30 feet in length, 10 feet in span, 4 feet in diameter, and would weigh between 10,000 and 12,000 pounds.

A parallel arc on Navy’s side was the advocacy and development of pilotless drones under the leadership of Captain Fahrney. Widely regarded as the father of the Navy’s guided missile program, during WW2 he had developed and tested a pilotless torpedo drone, the TDR-1 under Project Option, successfully demonstrating a remotely launched torpedo attack against the USS Aaron Ward (ed: In a footnote, the TDR was built by the Wurlitzer Musical Instrument Company – yes that one, of piano and organ fame. If you have to make a lot of something out of wood and to exacting precision, who better than a piano firm in the early-mid 1940’s?). While the TDR was overcome by progress in the Pacific, the skills and capabilities demonstrated by the crews flying the drones from accompanying Avengers would come in handy later, as the reader shall see.

CONOPS for Regulus I called for launches from either surfaced submarines (for an exceptional background story on the development of this capability starting with the Loon, head over to EagleSpeak’s 21 Jan article (http://eaglespeak.blogspot.com/)) or launched from carriers or cruisers. Guidance was via radio control, exercised from either up to two submarines along the flight path or via accompanying aircraft (at first the F6F Hellcat, later the TV-2 and FJ were used). Guidance could not, however, be passed from one surface platform to another – from a submarine say to a cruiser.

Before the Regulus even flew though, it had to run a gauntlet raised by the new Department of Defense which took a dim view of two similar weapons being developed by different services. Forced to justify the Regulus in light of the Matador’s lead in development, the Navy emphasized the inherent operational flexibility (Regulus needed only two control points vs. the Matador’s three and it could be stored with it’s boosters attached vice the Matador’s requirement to have the booster added after it was on the launcher) coupled with procurement of recoverable training missiles as proof of overall system economy. Allowed to proceed with development, the first Regulus I flew in March 1951 and was followed by the first launch from a submarine, the USS Tunny in July 1953. Continued problems with the guidance section and radio controls, among other things, delayed the operational introduction of the Regulus until 1955.

While the Regulus I patrols began, work was already underway on its replacement -- the Regulus II. Concern that the Regulus I had too many vulnerabilities (speed, reliance on external guidance, time spent on the surface by the sub, etc.) led to Navy signing C-V to build a supersonic variant, one that would fly at 60,000 ft and Mach 2+. Following the model of the Regulus I program, C-V over-engineered the structural strength of the Reg II and started with most of the first production batch as recoverable drones. The Reg II would be guided by the (then) new inertial guidance system and would be launched from a new class of submarine, led by the Growler. First flight of the Reg II was barely 1 year after the Reg I went operational, May 1956 and on Sept 15, 1958 the first operational test launch took place off the Grayback. Control was picked up by the chase plane, a TV-2/T-33 and it headed towards its destination at Edwards AFB. Along the way, control was passed off to Pt. Mugu then finally Edwards itself. The flight was successful until the final moments after landing when it burst into flame after having to make a wheels up landing when the gea would not extend. By the endof the year a total of 48 successful flights had been accomplished including launches from a converted LST. In December 1958, however, inspite of the successful threshold the Reg II stood upon, Thomas Gates, SecNav, cancelled the program (a move ADM Zumwalt would later call one of the worst decisions he had seen). The reason was the Polaris SLBM program was stunningly successful and represented a quantum leap ahead in capability and survivability -- the Reg II had been the ace-in-the-hole in case Polaris did not pan out. The Regulus finished its days as a target drone with the last of the program closing down in 1968. Despite the promise shown by the Regulus family, it would be decades later before the Navy was back in the cruise missile business again, this time with Harpoon and Tomahawk.

General Specifications
Fuselage Diameter: 56.5 in (1.4 m)

Fuselage Length: 386 in (9.8 m)

Wingspan: 252 in (6.4 m) extended, 118.5 in (3.0 m) folded

Wing Depth: 76 in (1.9 m)

Overall Height: 92.3 in (2.3 m)

Overall Length: 498.7 in (12.7 m)

Warhead: 3000 lb (1,360 kg) such as the W5 warhead or the W27 warhead

Weight at launch: 13,685 lb (6,207 kg)

24 January 2007

North Korean - Iranian Cooperative Ventures

Some increased levels of chatter these past few days re. cooperation between Iran and NK in nuclear weapons and missile fields. First up, the nuclear issue:

  • NORTH KOREA HELPING IRANIANS TO SET UP NUKE TEST: REPORT: KOREANS SHARING THEIR TEST RESULTS, The VancouverProvince (British Columbia), January 24, 2007. North KoreaIran to prepare an underground nuclear test similar to the one Pyongyang carried out last year, according to a senior European Union defense official. Under the terms of a new understanding between the two countries, the North Koreans have agreed to share all the data and information they received from their successful test last October with Tehran's nuclear scientists. … A senior European defense official told the Daily Telegraph that North Korea had invited a team of Iranian nuclear scientists to study the results of the underground test to assist Tehran's preparations to conduct its own -- possibly by the end of this year. There were unconfirmed reports at the time of the Korean firing that an Iranian team was present. Iranian military advisers regularly visit North Korea to participate in missile tests. Now the long-standing military co-operation between the countries has been extended to nuclear issues. …Same story was carried by Reuters and Haaretz.

In an interview last night on Tehran television, President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said Iran will resist pressures because its nuclear activities are “transparent”. “Our logic is clear. We have had the greatest cooperation with the IAEA… because we are transparent and we like our nuclear dossier to be investigated transparently and that is the reason why we are insisting on this issue.” As a member of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran is legally entitled to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. “We have acted legally.”

Of course, no mention was made of the 38 IAEA inspectors who were barred from entering the country on Monday... Transparency yes, just not in the way the world expects it.

Over at Arms Control Today is an article about a possible new type missile (call it the No Dong B) that is a purported derivative of an early generation Soviet SLBM, the SS-N-6.

  • Perhaps the most important recent development is Iran’s apparent purchase from North Korea of missiles with a range possibly exceeding that of Tehran’s longest-range deployed ballistic missile, the Shahab-3. The Israeli newspaper Ha`aretz quoted Major General Amos Yadlin, the head of the Israel Defense Forces Intelligence Branch, as saying that Tehran had purchased the missiles, some of which had already arrived in Iran. A knowledgeable former Department of State official told Arms Control Today Dec. 19 that the reports are “certainly credible.”

The United States believes that North Korea has been deploying the same missile, which is reportedly based on the Soviet SS-N-6. Washington believes Pyongyang is deploying the missile in a road-mobile mode, although the SS-N-6 was a submarine-launched ballistic missile.

The United States and South Korea estimate that the missile, which North Korea has never tested, could potentially have a range of 2,500-4,000 kilometers, according to press reports. The most advanced version of the SS-N-6 had an estimated range of 3,000 kilometers. Any new missile’s range would vary considerably depending on the size of its payload.

During a Nov. 12 television interview, Major General Yahya Rahim-Safavi, commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps indicated that Iran tested a Shahab-3 capable of traveling 2,000 kilometers. Tehran has previously claimed to possess a missile with such a range.

The noteworthy item about this development is not that we can expect to see NK SSBN's putting to sea anytime in the near (or far) future with a loadout of SLBMs. Rather, it is that the same characteristics that make an SLBM attractive also make it attractive for road mobile applications. Indeed, the Russians are attempting this same feat in reverse with a SLBM variant of the SS-27, the Bulava (which has had multiple launch failures). Add in the fact that Iran and NK are closely allied in missile development (Iranian observers were reportedly present for Kim's July 4/5 fireworks show, including the failed TD-2 launch) and such a missile would be imminently attractive to the Iranians for its range and mobility as well as throw weight. The early models of the SS-N-6 could deliver a 1500 lb warhead over a distance of 1300 nm (later mods up to 1900 nm).

The SS-N-6 is not a solid fuel rocket, using instead storable liquid fuel, which is a step up from the liquid fuel used now in the various Shahab variants, but not as great a leap to solid fuel. Additionally, while 1500 lb is a substantial payload (and close to the Sahab's estimated 1100-1500 lb payload) an early Iranian nuclear weapon is likely to weigh more than that. It was almost a decade before the US finally developed a warhead that weighed in the 1,000 lb range that could be adapted to a missile (the W7 -- 890 - 1000 lb, 2-40 kt yield).

Still, when all is said and done, it is well worth keeping one's eyes on this synergistic combination (nuclear and missile testing/support) between Iran and NK... The prospect of nuclear capable, road-mobile missiles able to range goodly portions of Europe (and Russia) should give pause to think to our erstwhile allies and is one of the driving forces behind the so-called "third site" BMD system being examined for European basing (and will be subject of a forthcoming post).


U.S. launches new air strike on Somalia - breaking news

MOGADISHU, Jan 24 (Reuters) - A U.S. Air Force AC-130 gunship has launched a second air strike against suspected al Qaeda operatives in southern Somalia, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday, citing unidentified U.S. officials. No confirmation of Monday's reported attack was immediately available in the region and a Pentagon spokesman declined to comment. The newspaper said there was no information on the results or the specific targets of the strike.

23 January 2007

Touch Screens - The Next Step

This is just way too cool -- imagine what a ship's TAO or E-2C/D CICO could do with something like this:

(sorry -- plugin was misbehavin' -- see the video here)

More on touch screens here (and yes, DARPA has a contract with them...)

Tuesday Roll-up of Missile Issues

Items of note from around the world today:

1. China’s ASAT test:

  • China admits anti-satellite test: January 24, 2007. BEIJING: China has broken its silence and admitted that it held an anti-satellite test two weeks ago, confirming earlier reports from Washington. But a Foreign Ministry spokesman said China opposed any arms race in space and he knew of no plans for a second test. "China has always advocated the peaceful use of space, opposes the weaponisation of space and an arms race in space," Liu Jianchao said yesterday. "China has never participated and will never participate in any arms race in outer space." Mr. Liu told a news conference in Beijing that the Government had told the US of the test. "This test was not directed at any country and does not constitute a threat to any country," he said. China has repeatedly refused to say publicly whether it knocked one of its own ageing satellites out of the skies with a missile on January 11, in what US officials criticised as a provocative escalation of military competition. Australia joined the US, Canada, Britain and Japan in expressing concern about the test. Asked about the danger posed by satellite fragments, Mr. Liu said only: "This is a highly technical question." (ed. note: Guess this means the Russian Foreign Ministry can come out of the closet now and admit that, well, yes, the Chinese really did conduct an ASAT exercise...)

  • US OFFICIALS CITE CONCERNS ABOUT CHINA TEST DEBRIS, Reuters, January 22, 2007. Trash from China's satellite-killing missile test has spread widely in space, creating a debris cloud that could jeopardize spy satellites and commercial imagery satellites in low orbits around Earth, U.S. officials said on Monday. Even the manned International Space Station is vulnerable to being hit by some of the thousands of pieces of trash created when China slammed a ground-based medium-range ballistic missile into an aging Chinese weather satellite about 537 miles (865 km) above Earth on Jan. 11, the officials said. … It could take decades for debris from the Chinese weather satellite to fall out of orbit. … No current international treaties or agreements prohibit anti-satellite tests … However, a 1967 global Outer Space Treaty does require notification of maneuvers in space, and holds countries liable for their actions, which means commercial operators could sue China for damages if their satellite was hit by debris. …

  • Other discussions re. China’s ASAT include a very cogent analysis of the test itself over at The Arms Control Otaku. His analysis includes the following salient points:

  • The satellite's flight path was predictable;
  • It passed very close to the launch site;
  • The target was emitting a trackable signal and
  • Modifications were made to the satellite's flight path to line it up with
    the kill vehicle launcher

Establishing controls in a test such as this is not a unique behavior. Early in a development program one always seeks to reduce variables and gradually introduce them later in the program as one gains confidence. The controls described above are not surprising and as the source writer points out, are indicative of an earlier generation of ASAT which implies fairly limited capabilities. Indeed, one for the problems with fixed location, ground-based interceptors is their limited FoV for intercept – a shortcoming that was mitigated when the US developed its airborne ASAT launched from an F-15. (ed. note: The Navy did investigate the feasibility of using the F-14 in a similar role with the Chance/Vought interceptor as it was particularly concerned with Soviet RORSATS and the IO, but chose to forego the effort as funding was being sucked into the black-hole that was the A-12 program).

The use of an emitter on the target is also not surprising – many AAW missilexes’ have had the drone squawking IFF (And how many RIOs and E-2 moles have sneaked a peak at the IFF paint to ensure they were tracking the right target? You know who you are…). What is problematic (for the US) is the guidance package on the booster to get the ASAT in the basket for an intercept. That accuracy appears to have been upped, which one presumes is an outgrowth of similar capability boosts for the more “generic” MRBM/IRBM packages out there.

2. Iranian Missile Exercises – OP Away, the tests have begun: (AP)TEHRAN, Iran - Iran conducted missile tests yesterday as its leadership stepped up warnings of a possible military confrontation with the United States. Yesterday, the Iranian military began five days of maneuvers near the northern city of Garmsar, about 60 miles southeast of Tehran, state television reported. The military tested its Zalzal-1 and Fajr-5 missiles, the report said.

  • Russia pitches in to “help” in their usual manner: Russia Fulfills Iran Missile Deal-- TEHRAN (Fars News Agency) - Russia fulfilled a contract to sell air defense missiles to Iran, the head of the country's state-run weapons exporter said on Tuesday. Russia fulfilled its contract obligations and "completed in full the delivery of Tor M-1 missiles to Iran,'' ITAR-Tass quoted Rosoboronexport chief Sergei Chemezov as saying in Bangalore, India, where he was on a visit along with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov. Defense Ministry officials previously said Moscow would supply 29 of the sophisticated missile systems to Iran under a $700 million contract signed in December 2005, according to Russian media reports. Ivanov said last week that at least some of the missiles had been sent, the first high-level confirmation that their delivery took place despite US complaints.

22 January 2007

Tehran Announces Wargames/Missile Tests

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran plans to conduct missile war games during a three-day period beginning Sunday, state-run television reported. The war games will be carried out near Garmsar city, about 60 miles southeast of Tehran, according to the broadcast. "Zalzal and Fajr-5 missiles will be test fired in the war game," the broadcast quoted an unnamed military commander, as saying. Both are considered short-range missiles. The exercise will be the first by Iran since the U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions on December 23, which banned selling materials and technology that could be used in Iran's nuclear and missile programs and the freezing of assets of 10 Iranian companies and individuals.
Earlier in November Iran test-fired dozens of missiles _ including the Shahab-3 that can reach Israel. Iran held three large-scale military exercises last year. In its April exercises, Iran tested what it called an "ultra-horizon" missile, which is fired from helicopters and jets, and the Fajr-3 missile, which can reportedly evade radar and use multiple warheads to hit several targets simultaneously. (multiple sources)

Obviously the Iranian response to the plus up of CSGs in the Gulf. Well, one can also presume along with the above will come the usual stupendous, over-the-top claims of radar evading, multiple maneuvering, highly accurate, etc., etc., etc. missile capabilities from the Iranians. Mixed in with the SRBM/battle field rockets (ZalZal and Fajr-5) I would not be surprised to see a Shahab or 2 launched as well. To help sort the wheat from the chaff, missilewise, the following is presented as a quick reference:
  • Fajr-5 (fajr-Persian for "dawn"): The Fajr-5 is a 6.6m long solid fuel rocket with a diameter of .33m and a weight of 915kg. It carries a 90kg warhead to a distance of 75km.

  • Zelzal or Zalzal (Persian for "earthquake"): two versions of the Zelzal are known to be available—the Zelzal-1 and Zelzal-2. The Zelzal-1 is a 8.3m long solid-fueled rocket with a diameter of .6m and a weight of 2,950kg. It carries a 600kg warhead to a distance of 125km. The Zelzal-2 is also 8.3m long solid-fueled rocket with a diameter of .6m. It, however, weighs of 3,450kg and can carry a 600kg warhead to a distance of 210km. The Zelzal family is produced by Shahid Bagheri Industries under the auspices of the Aerospace Industries Organization.

  • Shahab-3 (shahab - Persian for "meteor" or "shooting star"): a single-stage, liquid-fueled, road-mobile, medium-range ballistic missile with a range of approximately 800 miles (1,280 km). A MRBM variant, sometimes called Shahab-4, has a range of more than 1,200 miles (1,930 km). Shahab-3 is capable of carrying a 1,000-760 kilogram warhead. Fewer than 20 launchers were deployed as of March 2006, according to Air Force Intelligence. The variant was not deployed at the time.
More to follow, we're sure...

20 January 2007

China's ASAT - The Problem With Debris

Lots of press these past few days over China's ASAT test/demonstration vs. a defunct FY-1C weather satellite. Some may ask why the big deal -- space after all, is not the province of but a few privileged nations and the target satellite was theirs, so why the concern? In a word, debris. The rather violent impact (and we are assuming a hit to kill intercept) generated thousands of debris particles of varying size. Where this is a problem lies in the orbit of the FY-1C. As a weather satellite it was in a polar orbit which in turn, exposes a huge number of satellites (including the ISS and if on orbit, the shuttle) to running a barrier of debris in their orbits. The illustration below(from the ArmsControlWonk blog which first broke the news) provides insight into this issue:
The launch path is the heavier purple path closer to the Earth, the intercept point is pretty clear and the threaded looking paths are the initial plots of debris. To give a better feel for what this constitutes, consider the infamous USAF "Needles" experiment or Project West Ford.

At the height of the Cold War in the late 1950s, all international communications were either sent through undersea cables or bounced off of the natural ionosphere. The United States military was concerned that the Soviets (or others) might cut those cables, forcing the unpredictable ionosphere to be the only means of communication with overseas forces. The Space Age had just begun, and the communications satellites we rely on today existed only in the sketches of futurists. Nevertheless, the US Military looked to space to help solve their communications weakness. Their solution was to create an artificial ionosphere. In May 1963, the US Air Force launched 480 million tiny copper needles that briefly created a ring encircling the entire globe. They called it Project West Ford. The engineers behind the project hoped that it would serve as a prototype for two more permanent rings that would forever guarantee their ability to communicate across the globe.

The project itself was a virtually unqualified success. Though the first launch ended in failure, the second launch went without a hitch on May 10th, 1963. Inside the West Ford spacecraft, the needles were packed densely together in blocks made of a naphthalene gel that would rapidly evaporate in space. This entire package of needles weighed only 20 kg. After being released, the hundreds of millions of copper needles gradually spread throughout their entire orbit over a period of two months. The final donut-shaped cloud was 15 km wide and 30 km thick and encircled the globe at an altitude of 3700 km:

The West Ford copper needles were each 1.8 cm long and 0.0018 cm in diameter and weighed only 40 micrograms. They were designed to be exactly half of the wavelength of 8000 MHz microwaves. This length would create strong reflections when the microwaves struck the copper needles, in effect making them tiny dipole antennae each repeating in all directions the exact same signal they received. Most of the West Ford dipoles re-entered Earth's atmosphere sometime around 1970, according to theoretical and observational evidence. The needles slowly drifted down to the Earth's surface, unscathed by re-entry because of their size (unlike the current mess left on orbit by China).

This is in studied contrast to the intercepts conducted by the US using either SM-3s or GBIs as part of the development of the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS). Those intercepts were against ballistic targets and the debris carried back in to the atmosphere in short order. Even when the US first demonstrated the ASAT concept in the late 50's/early 60's (Bold Orion, which was tested by the Air Force starting in October 1959, launched rockets from a B-47 bomber while in the two Hi-Ho tests in 1962, the Navy launched rockets from an F4D and F4J fighter) the intercepts were near hit and satellites not destroyed. If the intention was proof of concept, the Chinese ASAT could relatively easily have been flown to a near hit position and verified test criteria without target destruction and the resultant debris.

This was a dangerous, reckless and irresponsible action on the part of China and well deserving of the condemnation it is receiving.

P.S. General Peng has his own web page. On it, he links to a post by a self-described PLA soldier who describes the test as a slap in America’s face to get the US back to the negotiating table on a space demilitarization treaty. Some text with translation: http://chinamatters.blogspot.com/2007/01/view-from-inside-pla-on-chinas-anti.html


Expensive new U.S. spy satellite not working: sources
Thu Jan 11, 2007 4:39pm ET

By Andrea Shalal-Esa – Exclusive

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. officials are unable to communicate with an expensive experimental U.S. spy satellite launched last year by the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), a defense official and another source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Thursday.

Shashou Jiang: Ballistic Missiles vs. CSGs (Pt II)

The phrase "assassin's mace" is the English translation of "shashou jiang," a term of ancient Chinese strategy. "Shashou jiang" was a club with which the "assassin" incapacitated his enemy, suddenly and totally, instead of fighting him according to "the rules."

To summarize from Part I – a Chinese strike using Theater BM’s has been conducted against two American CSGs enroute to the Taiwan Straits as a show of US resolve and support to Taiwan during another brewing cross straits crisis. The strikes garnered mixed results, with the loss of two support ships and minor damage to a few destroyers in the GW CSG and extensive damage to the Reagan – akin to what the Enterprise had suffered some fifty years earlier following a major flight deck fire. Most of her embarked airwing is damaged or destroyed except for some assets that had been struck below to the hangar bay. Loss of life, while not insignificant, is on the order of 150 killed, 210 wounded (many with burns) and several, mostly form the two auxiliaries still missing at sea. In addition to the losses at sea, shore-based aircraft at Okinawa and Guam also suffered losses with the brunt being borne by the Navy’s shore-based ASW assets. Less than 1/3 are considered flyable and at Kadena, much of the infrastructure (fuel, maintenance facilities, etc.) has been disrupted. Two squadrons of F-22B Raptors, flown in for offensive counter air operations and a Marine F/A-18C Hornet squadron similarly suffered losses. On orbit, the US early warning/launch detection satellite system has also been degraded although with time and repositioning of assets, the impact will not be as keenly felt as the losses closer to the surface.


In scenario play, it’s easy to make the enemy’s weapons always lethal, remove/reduce gaps in intelligence and every decision is on time and the right one. Conversely, one can also make every defensive countermeasure 100% successful too... In view of that concern, just how plausible is this scenario? A simple model using Terminal Kill Potential (TKP) follows. TKP is the determination of the military threat potential of a weapons systems and is found through the following equations:

The Pk of any system is a function of the multiplication of the probability of success of each of its subcomponents -- the more subcomponents and the more challenging flight environment, the lower the Pk will be. Even assuming an overly optimistic 99.9% probability of success for countdown (c), launch (l), flight and re-entry (f), guidance (g) and warhead reliability (w), the OAR for this system yields a 99.5% reliability unopposed – add an ABM system (1-PA ) that is only 75% reliable and the OAR plummets to 25%. Assuming a nuclear warhead (for which this calculus was derived) with a small yield (150 KT) and a CEP of 3000 yds, the SSKP = 1.0 (assuming a “soft” target – overpressure of 3.6 psi to kill) and yields a TKP of .995 (unopposed) or .248 (vs. an ABM system).(1) With conventional, chemical or biological warheads TKP would face further challenges (active seeker reliability, dispersion of submunitions, etc). The number of variables that can be injected are mind-numbing, everything from impact of weather to LO or ‘stealth’ measures taken by the target to something as seemingly mundane as a back-up generator that has a history of injecting power surges prior to shutting itself down – all have an impact on the reliability and hence, the probability of kill by a system. TKP can be substantially enhanced by employment of large numbers of conventionally armed missiles.

As laid out above, there are many hurdles the Chinese would have to overcome to effectively conduct anti-CSG strikes with shore-based TBMs. Consider the target – the CVN’s at the core of the CSG. Critics of big-deck carriers regularly make reference to their inherent size and hence, alleged ease to target. True enough, in benign conditions and with a cooperative target, carriers can be readily located and targeted. This becomes an especially problematic issue if a carrier has to operate close to shore or in restrictive waters as it narrows the range of possibilities the opponent must consider in setting up a search plan.

In the above scenario you had two different situations – one CSG in relatively open ocean, proceeding in a formation that provides for mutual support, but widely dispersed owing to networked sensors and communications. This CSG has the sea room, coupled with advance warning to complicate the target acquisition phase in the terminal stages of the TBM strike. Consider – a modern CVN can make in excess of 25 knots. Big deal you say? 25 knots is what, 28 – 29 mph? What does that buy? It means in one hour the carrier has moved 25 nautical miles from its starting point. Yes, but the time of flight of a ballistic missile (in this scenario) is about 20 minutes, you reply. At 25 knots, a carrier will cover roughly 800+ yards every minute – 8 football fields per minute. In 20 minutes it will have moved 16,000 yards or 8 nm. There is enough error induced such that a non-maneuvering, conventional RV could conceivably miss wide of the mark, especially if a course change is cross range (perpendicular) to the ballistic missile’s path. Remember, once launched there is a minimal amount of maneuver a ballistic missile may engage in – the target coordinates will generally not be updated and it will likely end up delivering its payload to open ocean.

A MaRV improves the probability of a strike though. With a terminal detection capability (radar, IR, anti-radiation) that error may be reduced – if the target is detected in enough time in the terminal phase. Generally speaking, one can expect a MaRV to be flying at about Mach 8 endoatmospherically. Owing to the construct of the RV, payload weight penalties, speed and thermal effects, the terminal seeker will necessarily have a limited field of view. If the target falls outside the field of view, the warhead subsequently has a PK of 0, especially if it is a unitary device. If the target does fall in the Filed of View (FoV), there still may be aerodynamic limits on the RV’s ability to maneuver. There are two options to reduce the impact of targeting uncertainty in this scenario – use “smart” submunitions or go nuclear. The latter, particularly in an airburst mode, would be effective up to certain ranges/yields. To a country looking to terminate another’s course of action while minimizing the possibility of escalation though, nuclear weapons are generally not the first round of choice. Smart submunitions, on the other hand, have proved themselves effective against a variety of soft and semi-hardened targets under actual combat conditions for some time now. By 2015, the technology involved in miniaturization of submunition seekers should promote the use of a variety of sensor types to be carried in one RV payload as well as the number of submunitions.

Open ocean surveillance is platform- and time intensive. Substantial resources can and usually are spent in this endeavor. A threat that goes unlocated ramps that effort up even more – just ask the Soviets about efforts to find a CVBG in the North Atlantic that is making every effort to ensure that is as difficult a problem as possible. Using EMCON, deception, even weather to its advantage, CVBGs (which counted substantially more ships than CSGs today) could go unlocated for days at end while remaining in range to conduct long-range strikes. To offset that advantage, a series of platforms and tactics are used to establish a layered defense with platforms re-enforcing one another. For instance – OTH-R can and has demonstrated an ability to locate and track a carrier-sized target. It, however, can not discriminate between a carrier and a similarly sized crude oil carrier, especially if one is trying to locate a CVN which is using a busy sealane to mask its presence. Of course, that advantage could be offset via tattle reporting from a passing vessel owned by or sympathetic with the Chinese.

Similarly, on the defensive side challenges abound. A kinetic kill vehicle-based missile defense would be challenged in several areas. Target cuing, tracking, reporting, acquisition and intercept would provide several avenues of approach for counter-measures. Balloon decoys, chaff, jamming – all the penetration aids presently used on strategic missiles would be employed in an attack launched by MR/IRBMs. Using different radar types and frequencies helps sort through the decoys to uncover the warhead.

So what is the plausibility of the above? Is China pursuing such technologies as part of its defense restructuring. In a word, yes. Reading the latest defense White Paper published by the PRC, one will not see explicit reference to pursuing these measures. Rather, look to their actions instead – lasing of US satellites, tests with MaRV warheads, purchase of OTH-R from Russia, network intrusions and attacks and now an operational ASAT test. In the coming year we will expand further – not just on weapons and tactics, but on the strategy and politics that could either precipitate or diffuse confrontation.)

(1) For reference, a 2 MT single warhead ICBM has a .67 TKP against a hardened Minuteman silo.

19 January 2007

Flightdeck Friday - Flat-top oddities

Over the years, the acreage afforded by carriers from the Essex through Nimitz-classes have stirred some creative thinking as to what might be launched and/or recovered therein. Of course, everyone should remember the specially configured P2V-3C's that provided an iterim nuclear capability until the AJ Savage could come along. Along the way, though have been some other notables:

The C-130 COD:

The USS Forrestal (CV 59) conducted trials in October 1963 using a Marine Corps KC-130F. The motivation for these tests, ordered by the Chief of Naval Operations, was to determine the feasibility of using the existing C-130 aircraft as a long-range carrier onboard delivery (COD) transport. At the time, the Navy was using the C-1 Trader for COD duties, but the plane was limited to a rather small payload and a 300 mile (480 km) range. When operating far out at sea, carriers were unable to receive desperately needed supplies without steaming closer in to shore. It was hoped that the larger, long-range C-130 would be able to address that deficiency. Initial flight testing began on 30 October when the C-130 made its first landing on the Forrestal into a 40-knot wind. Helping to guide the C-130 along the deck was a special dashed centerline, visible in the above image. Even with this line, however, the aircraft's wingtip cleared the carrier's island by less than 15 ft (4.6 m).

Perhaps one of the most amazing accomplishments of the plane was described by Lockheed pilot Ted Limmer, who had qualified test pilot LT Flatley to fly the C-130. "The last landing I participated in, we touched down about 150 feet from the end, stopped in 270 feet more and launched from that position, using what was left of the deck. We still had a couple hundred feet left when we lifted off. Admiral Brown was flabbergasted."

All told, the flight tests included 29 touch-and-go landings, 21 unarrested full-stop landings, and 21 unassisted takeoffs at gross weights ranging from 85,000 lb (38,555 kg) to 121,000 lb (54,885 kg). At the lower weight, the aircraft managed to come to a complete stop in only 267 ft (81 m), which is little more than double the plane's wingspan. Even at maximum weight, the C-130 required only 745 ft (227 m) for takeoff and 460 ft (140 m) for landing. Landings were made shorter by reversing the propellers while the aircraft was still a few feet above the flight deck. (h/t aerospaceweb.org)

The U-2:

The idea started in the late 1950s when the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was looking for a way to overcome the range limitations of the U-2. Possessing a useful range of about 3,000 miles (4,800 km), the U-2 simply could not reach every location of interest to the CIA given the locations of U-2 bases. As a result, the CIA began a cooperative effort with the US Navy known as Project Whale Tale. The purpose of this project was to adapt the U-2 for use aboard aircraft carriers. Testing commenced in August of 1963 when, in the dark of night, a crane lifted a U-2C onto the deck of the USS Kitty Hawk at San Diego, California. The vessel streamed off the coast on the morning of 5 August where Lockheed test pilot Bob Schumacher began flight test operations.

Given the U-2's large wingspan and slow liftoff speed, takeoff was accomplished relatively easily. Even fully loaded, the U-2 managed to takeoff in only 321 ft (98 m) without use of the ship's catapults. Schumacher also successfully completed several landing approaches proving that the U-2's slow approach speed and high excess power provided plenty of margin for error in case of a waveoff. Unfortunately, actually landing proved more difficult when one wingtip struck the deck and the aircraft just barely managed to become airborne again before falling over the side.

Since this initial testing looked promising, Lockheed and the Navy modified three U-2A airframes with stronger landing gear, an arresting hook, and wing spoilers to decrease the lift during landing. These new aircraft became known as the U-2G. Schumacher and several CIA pilots also became carrier-qualified by flying the T-2 Buckeye trainer and making practice landings aboard the USS Lexington. All was ready on 2 March 1964 when Schumacher made the first landing of a U-2G aboard the USS Ranger off the California coast. Although a series of touch-and-go approaches had gone well, the first landing was slightly less than successful when the arrestor hook engaged and forced the nose of the plane to dig into the deck. Despite breaking off the pitot tube, quick repairs allowed the aircraft to takeoff again. Successful takeoffs and landings continued a few days later, and the Navy considered five CIA pilots to be qualified to operate the U-2 aboard ship.

The first, and probably only, operational mission of the U-2G occurred in May 1964 when a plane operating off the USS Ranger monitored French nuclear tests at the Mururoa atoll. Otherwise, the capability to operate U-2s at sea did not appear to be in great demand. However, CIA pilots continued to be trained for carrier operations over the next few years. The program continued when the much larger U-2R was introduced in 1967. Even being some 40% bigger than the U-2A or U-2G and with twice the range as well as four times the payload, the CIA and Navy still saw advantages to operating the aircraft from a carrier. Modifications included adding an arrestor hook and a wing-folding mechanism to fold the outer six feet of each wing for improved handling aboard ship (note: above photos are the U-2R variant)

Then there was the V-2:

The Navy Research Lab performed tests of captured German V-2 rockets, and launched one from the deck of USS Midway on 06 September 1947. The successful firing was the first launch of a large bombardment rocket from a ship at sea.

The Naval Mustang:

But my all time favorite (and one of the hardest subjects to track down) was the story of the carrier trials of the P-51 on the USS Shangri-La. Yep, you read that right, carrier trials of the Mustang. The Navy procured one P-51D (BuNo 57987/ex44-14017), made some slight mods (to include a hook) and on 15 Nov 44, on board the USS Shangri-La off the Virginia Capes, LT Bob Elder successfully conducted CQ ops with the mighty warhorse. By all accounts she did well too. There were, however, several reasons why the Mustang was not adopted for CV use. The Navy's carrier aircraft at the time were all radials, adding a limitede number of in-line/water-cooled engines to the mix would have severely complicated the supply and maintenance system. The F6F and F4U (ashore) were more than holding their own in the Pacific against the Japanese and more importantly, the tail bulkhead area of the Mustang would have had to be significantly strengthened for carrier ops as these limited trials revealed bulkhead cracking. Visibility over the nose due to pilot position and windshield design were also somewhat problematic, but deemed manageable. (h/t aerofiles)

Oh yes, there were a group of naval aviators who did eventually fly the Mustang, and in combat no less. Just not off the ship. Read about VCS-8 and ops over southern France here.

(P.S. Don't bother with the
C-17 landing on the CV -- it's a Photoshop...)