29 March 2007

Flightdeck Friday - XF8U-3 Crusader III

Mach 2+ speeds with a fixed inlet. Push-button cruise control. All weather intercept capability with the AIM-7 Sparrow. A flat-out drag-racing king on the straights and in a climb. All this was the XF8U-3 Crusader III.

Envisioned as a high speed, all weather interceptor follow-on to the already noteworthy F-8 Crusader II, Vought began design work barely a year after the first flight of the Crusader II. In early 1957, the Navy awarded a contract for the delivery of three developmental models, to be designated the XF8U-3. Although it resembled the F8U-2, in reality the XF8U-3 was a much larger aircraft. This was due, to a large degree, to the size of the engine, a Pratt & Whitney J-75-P-4, which produced 17,500 lbs of thrust (23,500 lbs in afterburner).

XF8U-3 and F8U-1 (Vought photo)

Drawing on design work conducted on the Mach 2+ unmanned Regulus II cruise missile, Vought provided one of the signature recognition elements of the XF8U-3, the “sugar scoop” air inlet. For directional stability at the extreme altitudes it would be working at, large, folding ventral fins were added. Three semi-recessed AIM-7 semi-active radar homing missiles provided the main punch (and another distinctive feature – the nose wheel was offset to the right to make way for the Sparrow mounted under the fuselage) with four AIM-9 Sidewinders and four 20mm cannon, planned for production birds, completing the lethal load. The XF8U-3 tipped the scales at 24,928 lbs empty and grossed at 38,772 including 13,844 lbs of internal fuel. Pilot aids included an advanced flight control system and a “Mach Hold” button which enabled a constant speed and climb attitude to be easily maintained.

Regulus II (Vought photo)

(Vought photo)

First flight, after being shuttled to Edwards AFB in the bay of a C-124 Cargomaster, was 2 Jun 58. Right from the start the XF8U-3 showed its thoroughbred speed. Accelerating to take off speed the Crusader III was off the deck and outrunning the chase plane even before the gear was retracted. Nine days later the first supersonic run was made and the following month, Mach 2 was attained. Eventually a maximum speed of Mach 2.2 was regularly met. Design-wise, the Crusader III was assessed to be Mach 2.9 capable were it not for the limitation of the windscreen. Owing to the materials used, the windscreen was unable to withstand the heat of flight at Mach 2.9.

(Vought photo)

The first opportunity to decisively showcase its speed came with a “zoom-climb” that started at Mach 2 at 60,000 ft. pulling up, the Crusader III shot to over 75,000 ft (the engine suffered a compressor stall at 71,000 ft and it had to be dead-sticked to a landing when the pilot was unable to relight the engine). Compressor stalls would come to be one of the major problems for the Crusader III owing to the fixed inlet – over at McDonnell, the work they had accomplished on the F-101 (and later, the YF4H) led to their use of variable inlets that provided a means to control airflow into the inlet and thus, mitigate a tendency to compressor stalls experienced at operational speed and altitude.

(Vought photo)

Despite this tendency, the XF8U-3 was impressing those in charge. However, at the cusp of the 1960s, the Navy was faced with a multitude of diverse platforms and was looking for a way to consolidate missions and platforms. To this end it decided on a fly-off competition between Vought’s single-seat XF8U-3 interceptor and McDonnell’s YF4H-1 multi-role, two-seat fighter.

Notwithstanding demonstrated superior maneuverability and speed in some configurations than the YF4H, the XF8U-3 fell short in the multi-mission arena – and it so happened the Navy was headed in that direction with its principal tactical aircraft. More powerful radars and complex avionics/weapons systems demanded a second set of hands and eyes, dedicated to its operation and thus, a second cockpit for the Naval Flight Officer. The XF8U-3 could not accommodate either the multi-mission or the 2nd crewmember, and after seven short months, the fly-off was over and the McDonnell entry the declared winner.

Update! Courtesy reader Tommy Thomason, Vought *did* conduct a study with a 2nd seat (see below, also supplied by Tommy). Net result though was Vought hated the idea, feeling it added nothing in terms of capability and dcreased performance as supported by detailed analysis. He also notes that as the F4H vs. F8U-3 decision was being made, they (Vought) reportedly took a single seat interactive cockpit to Washington to demonstrate that one guy could handle the workload.

The Crusader III’s flying career was not over however. All three were assigned to NASA for developmental flight work (along with 2 unassembled airframes for spares). Unfortunately, after yeomanly service in NASA livery, all three airframes were scrapped and today, there are no survivors.

General characteristics

* Crew: 1 pilot
* Length: 58 ft 8 in (17.88 m)
* Wingspan: 39 ft 11 in (12.16 m)
* Height: 16 ft 4 in (4.98 m)
* Wing area: 450 ft² (41.8 m²)
* Empty weight: 21,860 lb (9,915 kg)
* Loaded weight: 32,320 lb (14,660 kg)
* Max takeoff weight: 38,770 lb (17,590 kg)
* Powerplant: 1× Pratt & Whitney J75-P-5A afterburning turbojet
o Dry thrust: 16,500 lbf (73.4 kN)
o Thrust with afterburner: 29,500 lbf (131.2 kN)
* Fuel capacity: 2,000 US gal (7,700 L)


* Maximum speed: 2.9 Mach (estimated) at 50,000 ft (15,000 m)[1]
* Cruise speed: 500 knots (575 mph, 925 km/h)
* Range: 560 nm, (645 mi, 1,040) with external fuel
* Ferry range: 1,777 nm (2,045 mi, 3,290 km)
* Service ceiling: 60,000 ft (18,300 m)
* Rate of climb: 32,500 ft/min (165 m/s)
* Wing loading: 72 lb/ft² (350 kg/m²)
* Thrust/weight: 0.74


* Guns: 4× 20 mm (0.787 in) Colt Mk 12 cannon (planned; never installed)[4]
* Missiles:
o 3× AIM-7 Sparrow radar-guided missiles
o 4× AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles (planned for production)


* Raytheon Aero 1B weapons control system, including:
* Autotechnicas AN/AWG-7 missile control system
* AN/APQ-50 radar (planned for production)

Don't forget to checkout the Flightdeck Friday posting at the Tailhook Daily Briefing! This week's topic - Part II of the Fabulous FORDs! (F4Ds)

28 March 2007

Congressional Oversight

Under the circumstances, thought it was time to resurrect this golden oldie...

27 March 2007


Turn around and you're two,
turn around and you're four,
Turn around, you're a young boy going out of my door

So. Some events are supposed to make one feel - older? Graduations, children moving along and the like. Yet, curiously some of us feel - energized, excited at the prospect of watching fledglings take wing. Such as when the neighbor's son your children grew up with, whom you watched progress in fits and starts through grade school and college, whose parents are closer than friends, even family and with whom you have shared the joys and heartbreak, wonder and consternation of incipient adulthood, pins on his wings and sets off for his chosen endeavor. That being CH-53Ds. In Hawaii.

*Sigh* Oh to be a freshly winged JO once again and headed off to your first squadron...

Congratulations to Marine Aviator, 1st LT Sean Jones, USMC upon his winging this past Friday. Pictures, I have been assured, are inbound... Doug & Debbie - ya done good and we're proud and overjoyed to be able to share in this with you!


26 March 2007

Of Cylons and Sharks *Spoilers Follow*

Quick one tonight as YHS takes time to perform human sacrifice finalize taxes. So. Saul Tigh, Chief, Tory and Sam all think they are Cylons; Baltar, after being acquitted on charges, is spirited away by a group of religious nutcases and to top it off, Starbuck comes back from the dead to lead the fleet on to Earth...any one of which would have sufficed for a season ending cliffhanger, but all together? Could it be BSG may have jumped the shark, especially with Tigh & Co. claiming they are Cylons (which would account for 4 of the remaining un-ID'd five Cylons?). Or have they, because of their time on New Caprica, somehow become susceptible to long-range mind games fomented by the nearby Cylon fleet? Are the writers making this up as they go along? Hope not -- BSG has been a remarkable bit of theater and in light of the untimely demise of Firefly (yes, YHS was a fan of that too), one of the few good post Babylon-5 space-based sci-fi series available.

Babylon-5 was a singularly outstanding series -- a case where the writer, J. Michael Straczynski, was able to play out a five year arc despite being bounced about networks and having stories aired out of sequence. It set the bar for series that followed in terms of storyline, character development and special effects (first wide-spread use of CGI effects in a TV series). Realistic modeling of spacecraft motion and use were employed - so much so that NASA sought permission to use the Starfury modeling for studies for a future unmanned vehicle supporting the ISS.

With a direct to video release coming up later this year and 22 episodes for Season Four which starts in '08 it will be interesting to see if there will be some sound writing to resolve these plot twists without resorting to silly mysticism or another dream sequence...

"Whatever else I am, I'm an officer in the Colonial fleet and if I die today, that's the man I'll be."

24 March 2007

Cockpit Conversations

So Scribe -- what do pilots and NFOs talk about when things are quiet on a flight?

- Lots of stuff, but some conversations you *don't* want to hear...

23 March 2007

Flightdeck Friday: The YF4H-1 Phantom II & Operations Skyburner and Sageburner


In the relative cool of the early dawn, remote recording equipment began timing the grey and orange streak that thundered by at 125 ft above the desert floor. The date is 28 August 1961 and a second attempt at the world’s low altitude speed record is underway. Flying a 3km closed course on the grounds of Holloman AFB, NM is the future of carrier-based interceptors – the YF4H-1 Phantom. Big and fast, crewed by a pilot and RIO to work the radar system, the Phantom was a dramatic step away from the smaller, single seat fighters of the previous decade as epitomized by the F8U Crusader. Today, it would set a record that still stands - 907.769 mph at an altitude of less than 125 ft.

The Phantom came to be as so many other designs out of the last decade – it started as an upgrade to a proven airframe that otherwise was suffering a shortfall in some area(s) of performance. In this case, it was the F3H Demon, which was suffering mightily from an underperforming power plant, the Westinghouse J-40. As detailed here (the first Flightdeck Friday), the J-40 was an extraordinarily disappointing engine – promising 11-14,400 lbs of thrust in its afterburning version, by many reports it barely produced 6800. In the meantime, the F3H was showing promise with the first integrated, all weather intercept radar system that used the new semi-active radar homing Sparrow AAMs. Even substitution of the Allison J-71 (producing the F3H-2N) fell short of what was considered safe to operate criteria for carrier ops.

McDonnell F3H-2N Demon.

In 1953, McDonnell Aircraft began work on revising the Demon, seeking to dramatically improve capabilities and performance. Several projects, including the F3H-E with a Wright J67 engine, the F3H-G with two Wright J65 engines, and the F3H-H with two General Electric J79 engines were forthcoming from this effort. Notably, the J79-powered version promised a top speed of Mach 1.97 (one of the criticisms of the current version of the F3H was its inability to break Mach). McDonnell brought this version forward to the Navy in September 1953, naming it the "Super Demon". Setting it apart from the other purpose-designed aircraft of the day (read: single mission), it could be fitted with one- or two-seat noses for different missions, with different nose cones to accommodate radar, photo cameras, four 20 millimeter cannon, or 56 FFAR unguided rockets in addition to the 9 hard points under the wings and the fuselage. The Navy was sufficiently interested to order a full-scale mock-up of the F3H-G/H. However, with other fighter prototypes in the pipeline (Grumman XF11F (nee-XF9F-9) and Vought XF8U-1), the need for a supersonic fighter per se, had already been met.

McDonnell F3H-3G/H Super Demon FSE Mockup

McDonnell continued to re-work and refine the design, eventually converting it to an all-weather fighter-bomber with 11 external hard-points for weapons. On 18 October 1954, the company received a letter of intent for two YAH-1 prototypes, yet barely 7 months later, four Navy officers arrived at the McDonnell offices and, within an hour, presented the company with an entirely new set of requirements. Because the Navy already had the A-4 Skyhawk for ground attack and F-8 Crusader for dogfighting, the project now had to fulfill the need for an all-weather fleet defense interceptor. The addition of powerful radar capabilities necessitated a second crewman and the aircraft would be armed only with missiles.

McDonnell YAH-1 FSE Mockup

McDonnell F-101A Voodoo

Redesignated the XF4H-1 Phantom II (earlier names of Satan and Mithras were frowned upon by the government) in recognition of the all-weather intercept role, the Phantom carried four semi-recessed AAM-N-6 Sparrow III radar-guided missiles, using the AN/APQ-50 radar, and was powered by 2 x General Electric J79-GE-8 engines. Reflecting design lessons learned from the F-101 Voodoo, the engines sat low in the fuselage to maximize internal fuel capacity and ingested air through fixed geometry intakes. The thin-section wing had a leading edge sweep of 45 degrees and was equipped with a boundary layer control system for better low-speed handling. Wind tunnel testing revealed lateral instability requiring the addition of five degrees dihedral to the wings. In order to avoid a redesign of the titanium center section of the aircraft, McDonnell engineers angled up only the outer portions of the wings by 12 degrees which averaged to the required five degrees over the entire wingspan. The wings also received the distinctive "dogtooth" for improved control at high angles of attack. The all-moving tailplane was given 23 degrees of anhedral to improve control at high angles of attack and clear the engine exhaust. In addition, air intakes were equipped with movable ramps to regulate airflow to the engines at supersonic speeds. The XF4H-1 entered a flyoff competition with the Vought XF8U-3 Crusader III (subject of a future Flightdeck Friday), shortly after its first flight in May 1958. Although the Crusader III proved the more maneuverable fighter (foreshadowing future conflict in the skies over Vietnam), the XF4H won the day owing to having a dedicated radar operator and multi-mission capability. The Navy announced the winner on 17 December 1958 and the following year, carrier-suitability trials began with initial CARQUALs on the USS INDEPENDENCE (CV 62) in 1960 with the YF4H-1.

XF8U-3 Crusader III.

XF4H-1 Loaded Out in Air-to-Ground Configuration
for Competitve Flyoff (Boeing Photo)

YF4H-1 Begins Carrier Trials on USS INDEPENDENCE (Boeing Photo)

During flight tests it was clear early on the Phantom had the potential to be a world-beater in terms of a series of records, many of which had recently been claimed by the Soviets. In light of the propaganda-fest the Soviets were harvesting over their rocket program, the time was right for a concerted effort at these records.

Two programs were established based on altitude – Operation Skyburner for the high altitude events and Operation Sageburner for the low altitude. Skyburn commenced on 9 Dec 1959 with an attempt at the world altitude record (Operation Top Flight). Taking off from Edwards AFB, the second YF4H-1, piloted by CDR Lawrence E. Flint, USN performed a zoom climb to a world record 98,557 feet (30,040 m). The previous record of 94,658 feet (28,852 m) was set by a Soviet Sukhoi T-43-1 (prototype of the Su-9 Fishpot). CDR Flint accelerated his aircraft to Mach 2.5 at 47,000 feet (14,330 m) and climbed to 90,000 feet at a 45 degree angle. He then shut down the engines and glided to the peak altitude. As the aircraft fell through 70,000 feet, Flint restarted the engines and resumed normal flight. To put this in perspective, the maximum altitude of the U-2A, then being secretly flown over the Soviet Union, was 75 – 80,000 ft. In 1960, records were set over closed courses of 500 km (311 mi) and 100 km (62 mi) respectively with speeds of 1,216.78 mph and 1,390.21 mph.

Operation TOP FLIGHT (Boeing Photo)


Continuing the run and celebrating Naval Aviation’s 50th anniversary, Operation LANA (a *very* tortured contraction – “L” for the Roman numeral for ‘50’ and ANA for Anniversary of Naval Aviation) commenced with a coast-to-coast record run on 24 May 1961. Even with several tankings enroute, the crew of LT Richard Gordon (yes, the same Dick Gordon who would later go to the Moon in Apollo XII) and LT Bobbie Long completed the run in 2 hours and 47 minutes at an average speed of 869.74 mph, earning them the Bendix Trophy for 1961. Unfortunately, May 1961 saw the first Phantom fatality when CDR J. L. Felsman was killed when his YF4H-1 broke-up due to a pilot-induced oscillation while making the first attempt at a low-altitude speed record. The pitch control system was re-worked and simplified and on 28 Aug 1961, Operation Sageburner successfully saw a record of 902.769 mph set over a 3 mile course flying at or below 125 ft the entire time.

Operation LANA In-flight Refueling (Photo courtesy Skywarrior.org)

Operation LANA (Boeing Photo)

The Bendix Trophy

Skyburner also continued with a slightly modified Phantom (water injection was added to the engines) setting an absolute world speed record of 1,606.342 mph in December 1961, following a sustained altitude record of 66,443.8 ft. Time-to-climb records were set in 1962 using the newer F-4B and included 34.523 seconds to 3,000 meters (9,840 ft), 48.787 seconds to 6,000 meters (19,680 ft), 61.629 seconds to 9,000 meters (29,530 ft), 77.156 seconds to 12,000 meters (39,370 ft), 114.548 seconds to 15,000 meters (49,210 ft), 178.5 seconds to 20,000 meters (65,600 ft), 230.44 seconds to 25,000 meters (82,000 ft), and 371.43 seconds to 30,000 meters (98,400 ft). Although not officially recognized, the Phantom zoom-climbed to over 100,000 feet (30,480 m) during the last attempt. The remarkable series of record attempts was brought to an end with this series. With the exception of the Skyburner absolute speed attempt, all of these records were set by unmodified production aircraft flying without external stores. Subsequent aircraft that claimed the speed and altitude records (MiG-25 and F-15 Streak Eagle) were modified and stripped to bare weight.

Operation Skyburner YF4H-1 (Boeing photo)

The YF4H-1 that set the low altitude speed record is in “display” storage at the Smithsonian’s Garber facility wearing its Sageburner colors and awaits restoration for eventual display either at the NASM or NASM annex at the Udvar-Haazy Dulles Annex.






Don't forget to stop by the Daily Brief for today's posting on Fightdeck Friday --
the Fabulous FORD (F4D)...

22 March 2007

ONI 2007 Report on the People's Liberation Army Navy

The report is available for reading/download (PDF) here.

Don't go expecting to find deep insight into tactics/doctrine -- rather gives a general look at the organization, training, equipping, administration and routine operation of the PLAN. A worthwhile companion volume to the ONI report might be this one, a recently updated (7 Feb 2007) Congressional Research Service study on PLAN modernization. In the highlights section of that report it stipulates a primary option for improving USN capabilities in light of these modernization issues is, surprise, improving our shipbuilding. Something near and dear to many of our hearts, especially here and here. On that topic, the latest posts by the 'Phibian re. the sucking chest wound otherwise known as LCS are well worth reading. YHS personally likes the idea of license building the Swedish Visby and then ensuring it is commanded by an O-4.

20 March 2007

Blogroll Addee

New addee to the blogroll -- Stephen Trimble from Jane's Defence Weekly with notes/commentary about the Defense Industry via The DEW Line (not D.E.W., but same idea). To whet your appetite, check out his article on the P-175 Polecat (UAV)...

Tuesday's Roll-up of Russian Military and National Security News

Today’s roll-up of Russian issues is pretty extensive – from a major re-write of Russian military doctrine to a threat to put BMD tracking radars on embassy and consulate grounds (in response to a pending agreement between the US, Poland and Czech Republic to deploy a portion of the US-Ground-based Mid-Course Defense system in Europe) and finish with a couple of interesting videos w/footage of the Topol-M (single and MIRV variants). Sources are many and varied and included RIA Novosti, HULIQ.com, Associated Press, BBC, The Guardian, and the Moscow Times.

Re-writing Military Doctrine

Russia is in the final stages of drafting a new military doctrine (parallel to the US' National Military Strategy), replacing the current which is now some fourteen-years old (originally written in 1993 and revised/updated in 2000). The re-write is being led by the Russian Security Council and follows the direction of President Putin. According to the Council, the revision is needed since the "contemporary realities" have changed dramatically since 2000. An article in RIA Novosti notes that:

The doctrine lists factors that the Russian Federation perceives as potential threats, both internal and external and states support for a multi-polar world, in preference to a uni-polar world dominated by a single superpower that is quick to resort to military force.

The document also emphasizes Russia's commitment to military reform, with continued use of conscription, but a gradual shift towards a professional army.

But since 2000, drastic changes have occurred in the geopolitical and military situation in the world and in the nature of threats against national security, which makes it necessary to revise the specific tasks facing the Russian Armed Forces and related security agencies, the Security Council said.

Russian national security experts believe that military doctrines adopted by leading global powers emphasize modernization of their military potential and the use of advanced technologies in the development of modern weaponry.

Commenting on the change, Makhmut Gareev, president of the highly influential Academy of Military Sciences, provided insight as to what the revised military doctrine might look.

  • 'Modernization Is Not Reform' : Central to the reform are Putin’s vision for a strengthened Russian presence in the international arena -- a presence that requires the modernization of the Russian Army, centralization of the defense industry under the more direct control of the Kremlin (endnote 1), and the adoption of a new military doctrine in response to NATO expansion. By 2017, according to out-going minister of defense Sergei Ivanov (and putative successor to Putin), Russia will spend 5 trillion rubles ($200 billion) on defense. Fifty percent of this sum will cover the procurement of a new system of intercontinental ballistic missiles and tactical rockets, strategic bombers, state-of-the-art air-defense systems, and advanced tanks. In addition, by 2009, Russian political and military leaders will make a decision on whether to launch a national program to build new Russian aircraft carriers. Under this plan, about 45 percent of Russia's current stock of military hardware will be renewed by 2015. The aim of the program is to restore strategic parity with the West. Presenting his plan to the Duma, Ivanov warned that he prefers to talk "about modernization, but not reform of the army." "Because the word 'reform' gives us an allergic reaction," he explained.

  • Gareev has noted that the revised doctrine will, "drop the stipulation about Moscow's right for a preemptive nuclear strike in order to prevent large-scale aggression." Russia's insistence on the right to a first strike had been based on the assumption that the Russian Army would not be able to effectively defend Russia against NATO troops.
The revised doctrine will reassess the character of the threats to Russian national security and adopt many tougher attitudes towards the West. Observing the current conflict faced by US and allied forces in Iraq an Afghanistan, Gareev explains that Russian officials now believe that war in the 21st Century will probably not be conducted with conventional forces; as such Russia wants to prepare its armed forces for guerilla-type warfare.

In a presumed nod to geo-political reality, the revised doctrine will also drop as "politically unenforceable" a basic provision proclaiming Russia's opposition to the expansion of military blocs, a veiled reference to NATO and its growing membership of former WTO states. Instead, the Russian military proposes to incorporate a statement emphasizing how, "U.S. efforts to push Russia away from the post-Soviet space [poses] a threat to Russia's national security."

The new doctrine will also declare that the Russian economy should provide for the army's growth at any cost, identifying external threats, such as US ballistic missile defense deployment in Europe, as a catalyst for such funding. Given Russia’s growing revenue from oil/gas reserves (and a willingness to use the threat of cutoff of access to the same as a means of coercion) this is a not inconsiderable development. Nevertheless, there are some significant and vocal disagreements (endnote 2) over this view – spurred no doubt, by reminders of the not all distant past when the civilian economy suffered mightily in order to provide for the growth of conventional and nuclear forces under Khrushchev and Brezhnev.

All of this follows in the steps of especially harsh comments at the Munich Conference in February by President Putin, which, when summed with those of the civilian and military leadership, signal a distinctly less cooperative if not more hostile approach to the West in general, but the US in particular. Of course, as in the US and elsewhere, one must view this through the lens of local politics and it is entirely within the realm of reason that the above is Putin playing to the Russian electorate, which has turned decidedly anti-western, in view of the upcoming election to ensure the election of his desired successor. In YHS’ view, that does not account for the range of actions witnessed in the diplomatic and military arena over the past few years. Are we on the brink of another Cold War? Not yet – but the period we are entering is one of a much pricklier relationship than that of almost two decades ago.

Russia To Put Missile Defense Elements in Embassies

(Ria Novosti, March 19, 2007). Russia could place space monitoring radars on the territory of its embassies in several countries to track the launches of ballistic missiles abroad, the commander of Space Forces said in an interview. … Commander of Russia's Space Forces Colonel General Vladimir Popovkin said in an interview with the Space Technology News magazine that the placement of advanced quantum-optical radars at the embassies would allow Russia "to spot launches otherwise undetectable from Russian territory" and adjust the trajectories of missile "killer-vehicles" in case of a potential threat.

But the Russian general said that the deployment of U.S. missile shield elements in Central Europe enables Americans to monitor all launches of ballistic missiles from the European part of Russia and from Northern Fleet's submarines, and to destroy these missiles in the initial stage of their flight trajectory.

"If the United States really wanted protection from Iranian missiles they would have placed a [radar] station in Turkey, also a NATO member," Popovkin said. He said a special command center will be built at the Space Forces headquarters in Krasnoznamensk, near Moscow, to exercise a centralized remote control of new compact radars at Russian embassies. "We will use dedicated radio frequencies to program and re-program monitoring radars that will require token technical maintenance," the general said.

Again, YHS believes this to be mostly rhetoric, especially given some of the mirror-language found in the above statement. One would be hard pressed to believe that host nations would allow the emplacement of powerful radars in the midst of major metropolitan centers with the EM radiation hazard they would entail. Additionally, situation of said locations would also be less than optimal as well. Verdict – grist for the propaganda mill…

TOPOL-M Footage

Interesting footage from Russian TV of mobile- and silo-based launches of the SS-25 and SS-27 ariants (single and MIRV). Also some pointed commentary and visuals re. ability to outmatch the US BMDS...

(1) One of the first indicators of this was late last month; Putin signed a decree creating the United Aviation Corporation, which combines all national civilian and military aircraft companies, including MiG, Sukhoi, Tupolev, and Ilyushin. First Deputy Prime Minister Ivanov will chair the new corporation. Aviation experts believe that Ivanov is trying to save the floundering civilian aircraft sector by putting it together with advanced military aircraft building. Implications for future dvelopments, such as the Su-35 and the competition for India’s new multi-role combat aircraft (with Boeing and MiG entries leading the field of candidates) are, to say the least, interesting… A similar merger plan was announced for Russia's shipbuilding industry. According to the plan, Russia will combine all of its 160 shipyards and shipbuilding facilities into three big holding companies, the biggest of which will be the United Industrial Company, also chaired by Ivanov. Military ship producers currently make up 77 percent of the Russian shipbuilding sector.

(2) Andrei Neshchadin, deputy director of the Social-Conservative Club, a think tank connected to the pro-Putin Unified Russia party, said that oil revenues may not be sufficient to finance the defense modernization program. He notes that while Russia produces a large amount of oil relative to other countries, it is also a much larger country with a much larger population to take care of: "We produce only 3 tons of oil per capita, while Norway produces 20." In other words, Russia, despite its abundant energy reserves, will never be wealthy enough to modernize the army on petrodollars alone. Neshchadin, however, provided Moscow policymakers with a way to manage this challenge. He noted that "in order to make the population ready for such a sacrifice, state propaganda would need to publicize external threats such as the [U.S.] deployment of a ballistic missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic or the prospect of uncontrolled immigration from [Russia's southern and eastern borders]."

19 March 2007

An Aging Carrier Extended Past It's Prime?

Nope -- not the JFK, rather the INS Viraat. The Viraat is fast approaching her 50th anniversary (put in commission in 1959 as the HMS Hermes) and recently completed a SLEP (still, recalling life onboard a 40+ yr old conventional CV, even after SLEP it left something to be desired...). While never having had the opportunity to work w/the INS and Viraat, but had worked previously with the Hermes and her air group (first deployment of the Sea Harrier before the Falklands-Malvinas War). To see how the ol' gal is doing, here is an I came across while doing some other research. The article is from the 17 Mar edition of the Times of India:

India: 'Aging' Aircraft Carrier INS Viraat To Be in Service Till 1012

[Report by Rajat Pandit: "INS Viraat Not To Anchor Before 2012"]

Govt Says Aircraft Carrier, Central To Navy Operations, May Be Ageing But Still In Good Shape

[The Times of India, 17 Mar] New Delhi -- It's two acres of sovereign Indian territory cruising on the high seas. Though ageing and creaking, it's the only one of its kind the country has as of now to project power much beyond its shores.

We are talking about India's solitary aircraft carrier, the 28,000-tonne INS Viraat, which is central to the Navy's concept of operations both in war and peace, with its complement of Sea Harrier jumpjets and helicopters.

In keeping with its motto of Jalamev Yasya, Balamev Tasya (He who controls the sea is all powerful), the Navy hopes to make INS Viraat soldier on till at least 2012.

Considering that it was originally commissioned in the British Royal Navy as HMS Hermes as far back as in 1959 and joined the Indian Navy in 1987 that will be quite a remarkable feat. Defence minister A K Antony gave some indication of this in Lok Sabha [lower house of Indian parliament] on Thursday [ 15 Mar], holding that a study group had been constituted to explore the feasibility of extending the life of INS Viraat till 2012.

"The study group has recommended that the extension of its service life up to 2012 is possible subject to certain repairs being undertaken in addition to routine periodic maintenance," he said. Apart from some major and minor refits at different times, INS Viraat underwent an extensive life-extension refit in 1999-2000, with new or upgraded propulsion, sensor, sonar, radar, weapon, communication and flood-control systems.

"INS Viraat is in quite a good condition now. In fact, a visiting British officer said it was in a much better condition now than the time he served on it in the late-1970s. It will require only routine refits now to take it to 2012," said an officer. As earlier reported by TOI [Times of India], the Navy hopes to have two fully-operational "carrier battle groups," with their own complements of fighter jets, to act as a "stabilising influence" in the entire Indian Ocean and beyond by 2009.

While one of the battle groups will be centred around INS Viraat, the other will be led by INS Vikramaditya, the rechristened 44,570-tonne Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier currently undergoing a refit in Russia.

The Navy is anticipating a slight delay in inducting INS Vikramaditya, which was earlier supposed to come by August 2008, with its complement of 16 MiG-29Ks as part of the Rs 6,900-crore [about $1.56 billion] deal signed with Russia in 2004.

"Moreover, the 37,500-tonne indigenous aircraft carrier, being built at Cochin Shipyard, will become fully operational only by 2012-2013. Therefore, all the more reason to keep INS Viraat running till that time," said another officer.

With 1,500 personnel on board the 13-storey high warship, INS Viraat is a small town in itself. "Apart from a 16-bed hospital, it even has an ATM counter. Her generators produce 9 megawatts of electric power, enough to meet electricity requirements of a small township," said the officer.

Postcards: USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) - 1996

One of the "experiences" sampled during time in the yard is the replacement of the ship's screws. Here, IKE's have just been remounted prior to her being refloated and moved out of drydock (yes, YHS is in the pic). Prior to flooding the drydock, the hull board walks the length and breadth of the visible hull, looking for obstructions in openings and anything else that is out of order. Some of us had specific duties -- among mine as Navigator was checking the opening for the ship's pitlog which happened to be on the centerline, amidships. Now mind you, a Nimitz-class carrier viewed pierside is indeed an awesome sight. However, when viewed from the perspective presented by being dead center, under the hull, well, it is humbling to say the least...

Free at last, free at last, Thank God Almighty we were free at last.
Sort Of (another 3 months in the yards still to go at this point).

18 March 2007

Vittorie Di Ferrari!

... ed il tifosi rejoice

- Now the race season is well and truly underway, beginning w/today's race in Australia. Raikkonen, Alonso and Hamilton were on the podium, the youngest podium in F1 history. Raikonnen led from the pole.

Reconvenes in three weeks in Indonesia - YHS will be truly grateful when Bernie's circus returns to venues within 5 timezones of homebase...

On to Atlanta this afternoon -- Mark is starting 4th at a track that is one of his favorites. 'twill be *most* interesting to see if he wins leaves Atlanta in the points lead and then steps out of the car at Bristol as he previously stated he'd do.


16 March 2007

Flightdeck Friday - Boeing XF8B-1

Mix one gonzo engine (the Pratt & Whitney XR-4360-10 Wasp with 3,000 righteous HP) and a requirement to carry a large bomb load off a carrier deck for long range strikes against Japan and you have this week’s Flightdeck Friday subject – the Boeing XF8B-1.

In 1943 the Navy contracted with Boeing to produce a long-range fighter capable of carrying, get this, a 3,000 lb bomb load internally along with a main gun complement of 6 x .50 cal which was later changed to 6 x 20mm cannon. Provisions were to be made for a similar external load for a total of over 6,000 lbs. By comparison, the Avenger carried 2,000 lb internally, the Helldiver 2,000 lb and the XBTD-2, which would form the basis of the AD/A-1, with 3,200 lbs, internal only. Range (with internally loaded weapons only) would be over 1300 nm.

Why such extraordinary requirements? Recall that in 1943 the expectation was that long-range raids against the Japanese homelands would have to be undertaken by carrier-based aircraft (and land-based bombers, led by the B-29, then under development). None of the then existent or planned fighter/bombers came close to meeting these requirements, hence the developmental contract for three prototypes from Boeing was let.

Unfortunately, pressing work on the B-29 delayed and slowed the development of the fighter (issues like an unfortunate tendency for the B-29’s engines to burst into fire), but by November 1944, the first prototype was ready for flight. Right off the bat, the XF8B-1 demonstrated outstanding performance. With the dual, counter-rotating props giving bite the air, the XF8B-1 demonstrated a maximum speed of 432 mph at an altitude of 26,900 ft. Still, this was one big aircraft -- with a wingspan of 54 ft, length just over 43 ft and a gross weight of 20,508 lbs.

The second and third prototypes saw minor changes (e.g., raised cockpit for better visibility in the CV-landing pattern) and drew some interest from the AAF which examined the final prototype.

Time, however, was no friend to the XF8B-1 and it was clear by early 1945 that carrier operations were going to be conducted much closer to the Japanese homeland than originally expected. On the technology front, the jet engine was already showing promise in terms of significantly increased performance and two other prototypes, one from Martin (the AM-1) and the other Douglas (AD-1) looked to be the next generation attack aircraft for the Navy, ostensibly serving as a bridge from the prop-age to the jet age.

Therefore, despite performance that met or exceeded the Navy’s expectations (unlike other prototypes which fell far short of their paper expectations) the Navy opted to terminate the program in 1945. Owing to Boeing’s commitments with building the B-29, it is quite likely the XF8B-1 would have taken a back seat in production efforts as well. In the end, it will occupy a footnote as the heaviest and largest single engine piston fighter developed in the US.

Specifications (Boeing XF8B-1)

General characteristics

  • Crew: one, pilot
  • Length: 43 ft 3 in (13.1 m)
  • Wingspan: 54 ft (16.5 m)
  • Height: 16 ft 3 in (5.0)
  • Wing area: 489 ft² (45.4 m²)
  • Empty: 13,519 lb (6,132 kg)
  • Loaded: 20,508 lb (9,302 kg)
  • Maximum takeoff: 21,691 lb (9,839 kg)
  • Powerplant: Pratt & Whitney XR-4360-10 28-cylinder radial, 3,000 hp (2,240 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 340 mph (550 km/h)
  • Range: miles ( km)
  • Service ceiling: 37,500 ft (11,400 m)
  • Rate of climb: 2,800 ft/min (850 m/min) initial
  • Wing loading: kg/m² ( lb/ft²)
  • Power/mass: 0.15 hp/lb (0.24 kW/kg)


  • 6× 0.50 in (12.7 mm) or 6× 20 mm wing mounted guns
  • 6,400 lb (2900 kg) bomb load or 2× 2,000 lb (900 kg) torpedoes


  • Green, William (1961). War Planes of the Second World War - Fighters (Vol 4). London: Macdonald.

  • Jones, Lloyd S. (1977). U.S. Naval Fighters - Navy/Marine Corps 1922 to 1980's. Fallbrook, CA: Aero Publishers, Inc.
Next week... we go burn some sagebrush...