Archive for December, 2013

Dec 24

Holiday season celebrated by service members at home and abroad

Tuesday, December 24, 2013 12:54 PM
USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) shows some holiday spirit on Christmas Eve 2005 by displaying hundreds of lights. Several other Sailors from Carrier Strike Group 5 also participated in decorating their ships from bow to stern for the holidays while in port at Yokosuka, Japan. The aircraft carrier would be decomissioned in 2009. U.S. Navy photograph by Photographer's Mate Airman Thomas J. Holt

USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) shows some holiday spirit on Christmas Eve 2005 by displaying hundreds of lights. Several other Sailors from Carrier Strike Group 5 also participated in decorating their ships from bow to stern for the holidays while in port at Yokosuka, Japan. The aircraft carrier would be decomissioned in 2009.
U.S. Navy photograph by Photographer’s Mate Airman Thomas J. Holt

 By Hill Goodspeed, historian, National Museum of Naval Aviation, Pensacola, Fla. Naval History and Heritage Command

For military personnel deployed in wartime, the arrival of the holiday season brings a mixture of emotions. The sense of normalcy that comes with being home with family is absent, the void filled by brethren in uniform, bonds forged between them in combat in some ways closer than any shared with loved ones.

 They celebrate a season in which mankind strives for “peace on earth, goodwill to men” against the backdrop of human conflict that seeks those ends, but through necessarily violent means, shattered battlefield landscapes and cries of wounded in stark contrast to lighted Christmas trees and holiday cheer.

 Yet, whether in a foxhole or on board a ship thousands of miles from home, holidays provide reason to pause for those in the profession of arms, moments of reflection for men and women caught between a world of war and distant memories of peace.

 Such was the case for Lt. j.g. Malcolm H. Tinker, an A-1 Skyraider pilot on his first combat cruise with Attack Squadron (VA) 115 in the carrier Kitty Hawk (CVA 63), as he took a few moments to record his thoughts in his diary on Dec. 24, 1965, his ship spending Christmas Eve steaming towards Hong Kong from the waters off North Vietnam.

 “At last, at last; a welcome respite from the past 28 days,” he wrote. ” The day before Christmas and thoughts of so many of us are far away-esp. on the first holiday season away-far away from home. There was singing and relaxing in various rooms around the ship. It took a bit of mustering to get up the Christmas spirit, but we all did. Services were held in hangar bay one, which despite a homespun air, were a link with the meaning of it all. Still reeling from the loss of our comrades in the past 4 hellish days-each of us gave thanks that he was able to enjoy this day with the war far away now.”

 Christmas Day, the ship having traveled a hundred nautical miles closer to shore and welcome liberty for the crew, Tinker became more reflective.

 “Christmas has descended on Kitty Hawk and Asia,” he confided in his diary. “Presents were opened and compared, almost like we were all once again kids on the block. The squadron wives sent stockings full of gifts to each of us — bachelors included — all of which added to dispel the forced feelings for this day that we’ve had to generate. Home go all my greetings and reflections. Each Christmas I have spent has passed in review, it seems. This is what one draws on for stability: the pleasures and memories of joys past. Toward the future and 1966 we look with grave uncertainty, the past is a refuge in which to soothe the soul.”

 On that holy day, as it did for those who served before him and those whose time on the front lines has occurred since, Tinker captured the importance of service to the nation. Not only do life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness make possible the joyful memories that sustain Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines far from home, they are ideals worth the more than two centuries of protection afforded them by those who serve.

Service members aboard USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), presented Christmas gifts to children at Shunko Gakuen Orphanage, Yokosuka, Japan, as part of an outreach project Dec. 23, 2009. More than 80 children received Christmas gifts from Sailors and their family members. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Brian A. Stone

Service members aboard USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), presented Christmas gifts to children at Shunko Gakuen Orphanage, Yokosuka, Japan, as part of an outreach project Dec. 23, 2009. More than 80 children received Christmas gifts from Sailors and their family members. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Brian A. Stone

Season’s Greetings! We wish everyone Happy Holidays with family and friends. We invite you to click below and view both contemporary and vintage Naval Yuletide photographs.

USS Barton (DD 722), circa 1960s, joins in the festive season of the holidays by sporting a Christmas tree. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 68521.

USS Barton (DD 722), circa 1960s, joins in the festive season of the holidays by sporting a Christmas tree. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 68521.

https://www.facebook.com/navalhistory#!/media/set/?set=a.10151787392783344.1073742668.76845133343&type=3 

 

 For a peek into holiday menus from long ago, visit: http://www.history.navy.mil/Special%20Highlights/Menus/Menu-index.htm

 
Dec 20

First female Navy captain oversaw greatest growth of Nurse Corps

Friday, December 20, 2013 1:22 PM
On Dec. 14, 1945, Capt. Sue Dauser (left) was presented the Distinguished Service Medal by Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, who later served as the first Secretary of Defense. She retired from active duty on Jan. 1, 1946.

On Dec. 14, 1945, Capt. Sue Dauser (left) was presented the
Distinguished Service Medal by Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, who later served as the first Secretary of Defense. She retired from active duty on Jan. 1, 1946.

 

 

By André Sobocinski, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery historian

This Day in History, Dec. 22, 1942: The First Female Captain in the U.S. Navy

Nurse Corps Superintendent Sue Dauser (1888-1972) was promoted to the “relative rank” of captain, becoming the first woman in United States Navy history to achieve this status, Dec. 22, 1942.[1]

Just two years later, when Public Law No. 238 granted full military “wartime” rank to Navy nurses, Dauser became the first woman commissioned as a captain in the U.S. Navy.

Sue S. Dauser, the fifth Superintendent of the Navy Nurse Corps, which position she held from 1939 until her retirement Jan. 1, 1946. Dauser was the first superintendent to hold the rank of captain.

Sue S. Dauser, the fifth Superintendent of the Navy Nurse
Corps, which position she held from 1939 until her retirement Jan. 1, 1946. Dauser was the first superintendent to hold the rank of captain.

 Throughout her long and accomplished career (1917-1946), Dauser served across the globe, both aboard ship and ashore. In World War I, she acted as chief nurse at the Naval Base Hospital 3, Leith, Scotland, where she oversaw care of both British and American service personnel evacuated from the trenches of the Western Front. Following the war, Dauser earned distinction as one of the first women to serve at sea, serving aboard USS Argonne (1922) as well as the hospital ship USS Relief (1924-1926).

In 1923, Dauser was one of two nurses assigned to duty aboard the transport USS Henderson to care for President Warren G. Harding on his goodwill tour to Alaska. Dauser would later be one of Harding’s attending nurses during his final illness and ultimate death Aug. 2, 1923, in San Francisco, Calif.

Dauser was appointed superintendent of the Navy Nurse Corps, Jan. 30, 1939, following tours of duty at Naval Hospitals Canacao, Philippines; Puget Sound, Wash.; Mare Island, San Diego; and at the Naval Dispensary Long Beach, Calif.

During her tenure as the Navy’s chief nurse, Dauser lead the Nurse Corps through its largest growth — from 439 nurses in 1939 to 10,968 nurses at the close of World War II. By the end of the war, Navy Nurses were serving at 364 stations at home and overseas[2] including fleet hospitals in the Pacific, medical units in North Africa and aboard 12 hospital ships.

 For her administrative achievements and steadfast leadership, Dauser was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal by Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal in December 1945. Her citation read in part: “Captain Dauser maintained a high morale and splendid efficiency in the Navy Nurse Corps, and her constant devotion to duty throughout reflects the highest credit upon herself, her command and the United States Naval Service.”

Dauser retired from service on April 1, 1946. Just a year after her retirement, the Army-Navy Nurses Act (Public Law 36) of April 16, 1947 made the Navy Nurse Corps an official staff corps of the U.S. Navy and gave its members permanent officer status with commensurate pay and allowances. Under this law, Dauser’s former position of “Superintendent” was changed to “Director of the Nurse Corps.”

 


[1]Public Law 654 of July 3, 1942 granted Navy nurses “relative rank” of commissioned officers. Dauser was given the “relative rank” of Lieutenant Commander. For the first 34 years of the Navy Nurse Corps, nurses considered part of the Navy but neither officers or enlisted.

 [2] Dauser, Sue. Memorandum (undated). Sue Dauser Biographical File, BUMED Archives.

 

 

 
Dec 9

Honoring Shipmates Past and Present: Laying a Wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns on Pearl Harbor Day

Monday, December 9, 2013 2:21 PM

By Seaman Victoria Ruiz and Seaman Yesenia Munoz, Naval History and Heritage Command (with assistance from MC1 Tim Comerford)

31207-N-CS953-002 ARLINGTON, Va. (Dec.7, 2013) A member of the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Honor Guard hands Information Systems Technician Seaman Yesenia Munoz, 19, a Sailor from Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) and a native of Houston, Texas, and Naval Sea Cadet Saddique Stevens the wreath they are to lay at Arlington National Cemetery's Tomb of the Unknowns, as Yeoman Seaman Victoria Ruiz, from NHHC a Hacienda Hieghts, Calif. Resident, and Naval Sea Cadet Nicklaus Tollmeo prepare for the start of the wreath laying ceremony . The wreath, honoring veterans of the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, was sponsored by the Naval Order of the United States and is part of a world-wide observance honoring the service and sacrifice of those who were there on that day of infamy. (U.S. Navy Photo by MC1 Tim Comerford)

31207-N-CS953-002 ARLINGTON, Va. (Dec.7, 2013) A member of the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Honor Guard hands Information Systems Technician Seaman Yesenia Munoz, 19, a Sailor from Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) and a native of Houston, Texas, and Naval Sea Cadet Saddique Stevens the wreath they are to lay at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknowns, as Yeoman Seaman Victoria Ruiz, from NHHC a Hacienda Hieghts, Calif. Resident, and Naval Sea Cadet Nicklaus Tollmeo prepare for the start of the wreath laying ceremony. The wreath, honoring veterans of the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, was sponsored by the Naval Order of the United States and is part of a world-wide observance honoring the service and sacrifice of those who were there on that day of infamy. (U.S. Navy Photo by MC1 Tim Comerford)

Dec. 7, 2013 was a bitingly cold day in Northern Virginia, made all the more so by having unseasonable warm days the few days before it. But as two Seaman made their way along the pathways of Arlington National Cemetery to the Tomb of the Unknowns, their attention was less on their cold hands and feet and more on the ceremony less than an hour away.

Yeoman Seaman Victoria Ruiz and Information Systems Technician Seaman Yesenia Munoz were hand-selected by Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Normally performed by senior military and political leaders, they were surprised and honored to be selected by NHHC to represent the command and the Navy at such an auspicious occasion.

Ruiz was both intimidated and excited.

“Initially after being informed that I was going to represent Naval History and Heritage Command at the wreath laying ceremony, I was filled with emotions of honor, joy, excitement, and intimidation.” Along with many others, they trekked their way past the thousands of tombstones of service members, a solemn reminder of the sacrifice that may be asked of all military service members. They approached the memorial amphitheater adjacent to the tomb with hushed voices.

The two Seamen found John Rodgaard, a U.S. Navy retired Captain, representing the wreath’s sponsor the Naval Order of the United States, who introduced them to the two U.S. Naval Sea Cadets who would assist them in presenting and laying the wreath.

The ceremony, marking Pearl Harbor Day, was set to begin at 12:15 p.m. and that meant they had the chance to observe one of the tomb’s most acclaimed events – the changing of the Guard. The perfectly-choreographed military ceremony is performed hourly by “The Old Guard” the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Regiment. Immediately afterward, their part was to begin, so they all took their places at the head of the white marble stairway leading to the tomb, flanked by photographers and onlookers.

Seaman Munoz relates that at first she was confused by the change of events.

“There were two sea cadets doing the wreath ceremony with me and Seaman Ruiz. The Soldier told us to get in a height line which meant I was one of the two shortest and had to place the wreath on the ‘Tomb of the Unknowns.’ At first I thought it was going to be me and Ruiz, but it wasn’t. It was me and a young Sea Cadet. So now I was responsible for laying the wreath and trying to set a positive example for Cadet [Saddique] Stevens.”

As the ceremony began Munoz’s tensions mounted:

“I was nervous, not because it was our first time to lay a wreath, but because there were so many people. I took a deep breath and told myself “this is such a great honor!” Then I became extremely anxious.”

Ruiz wanted nothing more than perfection from herself.

“I wanted my part to be as flawless as that of the Old Guard and to not make a single mistake in the delivery and laying of the wreath. The gift of flowers at a memorial or a burial site is a ritual that occurs in nearly every corner of the world. The difference with those at Arlington, like the Dec. 7 wreath laying ceremony, is that the price paid by those we honor.”

Munoz kept her military bearing as she started down to the tomb.

“The moment came where we had to start walking down the stairs. It was hard to maintain step with the Guard, but we managed. Then another Guard told me and the young Sea Cadet to grab the wreath and place it on the stand.”

As she placed the wreath on the stand in front of the tomb, the Seamen, the Cadets and the Guards all snapped to attention and saluted. Silence prevailed as they saluted and a member of the 3rd Infantry regiment played the lonely serenade of taps on the bugle.

131207-N-CS953-001 ARLINGTON, Va. (Dec.7, 2013) Assisted by a member of the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Honor Guard, Information Systems Technician Seaman Yesenia Munoz, 19, A sailor from Naval History and Heritage Command and a native of Houston, Texas, and Naval Sea Cadet Saddique Stevens lay the wreath honoring veterans of the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor at Arlington National Cemetery's Tomb of the Unknowns. The wreath, sponsored by the Naval Order of the United States, is part of a world-wide observance honoring the service and sacrifice of those who were there on that day of infamy. (U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Tim Comerford)

131207-N-CS953-001 ARLINGTON, Va. (Dec.7, 2013) Assisted by a member of the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Honor Guard, Information Systems Technician Seaman Yesenia Munoz, 19, A sailor from Naval History and Heritage Command and a native of Houston, Texas, and Naval Sea Cadet Saddique Stevens lay the wreath honoring veterans of the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknowns. The wreath, sponsored by the Naval Order of the United States, is part of a world-wide observance honoring the service and sacrifice of those who were there on that day of infamy. (U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Tim Comerford)

There was only a small part left said Munoz.

“Then I had to call about face. I was a little tense because I feared the Sea Cadet couldn’t hear me. I was happy that the cadet nor I messed up.”

As they marched up the steps, Munoz was glad. Though it took less than five minutes to complete, it was a good day for the Navy and herself.

“I was pleased and honored to have been a part of it. That we did a good job was satisfying, but not as much as honoring the sacrifice of those who lost their lives on Dec. 7, 1941.”

To Ruiz, her excellence during the ceremony was all in keeping with the Navy’s core values — Honor, Courage and Commitment.

“I was proud to uphold our Navy core values by committing to a ritual of remembrance to those who fought and lost their lives at Pearl Harbor., I felt an overwhelming sense of honor to carry out one of the most respectful ceremonies known to military members.”

131207-N-CS953-004 ARLINGTON, Va. (Dec.7, 2013) Yeoman Seaman Victoria Ruiz, from Naval History and Heritage Command, Naval Sea Cadet Nicklaus Tollmeo, Information Systems Technician Seaman Yesenia Munoz, from NHHC, Naval Sea Cadet Saddique Stevens, U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Honor Guard members and the audience at Arlington National Cemetery's Tomb of the Unknowns and honor the wreath laid for veterans of the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. The wreath, sponsored by the Naval Order of the United States, is part of a world-wide observance honoring the service and sacrifice of those who were there on that day of infamy. (U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Tim Comerford/Released)

131207-N-CS953-004 ARLINGTON, Va. (Dec.7, 2013) Yeoman Seaman Victoria Ruiz, from Naval History and Heritage Command, Naval Sea Cadet Nicklaus Tollmeo, Information Systems Technician Seaman Yesenia Munoz, from NHHC, Naval Sea Cadet Saddique Stevens, U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Honor Guard members and the audience at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknowns and honor the wreath laid for veterans of the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. The wreath, sponsored by the Naval Order of the United States, is part of a world-wide observance honoring the service and sacrifice of those who were there on that day of infamy. (U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Tim Comerford/Released)

As Ruiz caught sight of the words on part of the tomb, they became a potent reminder to her.

“Peace, victory, valor. These three powerful words are represented by Greek figures on the eastern panel of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. They are also three compelling words that, thanks to this experience, I have come to have a better understanding.”

As they left the historic cemetery, both seamen smiled, glad to be warm, and proud of their service in the United States Navy.

 

Two Sailsors from Naval History and Heritage Command Honor Sacrifice at Pearl Harbor

http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=78111

 
Dec 3

Lt. John Paul Jones raised 1st American flag over U.S. vessel

Tuesday, December 3, 2013 8:00 AM

 

Continental Navy Lt. John Paul Jones was the first to raise the first flag representing America. Naval History and Heritage Command photo

Continental Navy Lt. John Paul Jones was the first to raise the first flag representing America. Naval History and Heritage Command photo

 

By Naval History and Heritage Command

Today marks the 238th anniversary when on Dec. 3, 1775, Lt. John Paul Jones, having just received his first commission from the Continental Congress, hoisted the Grand Union Flag in Philadelphia Harbor aboard Alfred. It was the first time the American flag was raised over an American naval vessel and marked the beginning of a number of traditions related to the raising of the flag the Navy observes to this day.

No ship of the Navy shall dip the national ensign unless in return for such compliment. (US NavyRegulations, Chapter 12, section 1263)
The Naval Ceremonies, Customs, and Traditions states that historically, lowering any flag meant submission. This is why no U.S. Navy warship dips its colors first, because warships from any nation commonly do not dip their colors but maintain an “alert” status, unless the traditional salute is rendered first commonly from a small craft, yacht or merchant vessel.

U.S. Sailors aboard guided-missile destroyer USS Chosin (CG-65) render passing honors to the Canadian navy destroyer HMCS Algonquin and HMCS Whitehorse during the 2010 International Fleet Week at Victoria, British Columbia. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class James Mitchell)

U.S. Sailors aboard guided-missile destroyer USS Chosin (CG-65) render passing honors to the Canadian navy destroyer HMCS Algonquin and HMCS Whitehorse during the 2010 International Fleet Week at Victoria, British Columbia.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class James Mitchell)

Instead, honor is accorded to passing ships with passing honors. Passing honors are ordered by ships and boats when vessels pass or are passed close aboard (600 yards). Such honors are exchanged between ships of the U.S. Navy, between ships of the Navy and the Coast Guard, and between U.S. and most foreign navy ships passing close aboard. “Attention” is sounded, and the hand salute is rendered by all persons in view on deck.

Each person in the naval service, upon coming on board a ship of the Navy, shall salute the national ensign.” (US Navy Regulations, Chapter 12, section 1207)
The flag is displayed on every ship at the place of honor, close to the stern, which is the most visible place of honor on a ship. Every Sailor salutes the flag first before coming aboard then salutes the officer. When going ashore, Sailors salute the flag last after saluting the officer. Once the flag is within six paces of a Sailor, the salute is held until six paces after. According to the book Naval Ceremonies, Customs, and Traditions, the salute dates back to the days when it was customary for knights to lift their visors as a gesture of respect to one who held higher rank.

The book says, “Today, the personal salute is a significant military gesture. It is the act of military and naval men looking into the eyes of another companion in arms, and by a proper gesture of the hand, paying due respect to the uniform of another defender of the Republic,”

In keeping with Navy regs, a Sailor salutes the flag prior to going aboard USS Stetham (DDG 63) stationed in Japan in 2010. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jennifer A. Villalovo

In keeping with Navy regs, a Sailor salutes the flag prior to going aboard USS Stetham (DDG 63) stationed in Japan in 2010.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jennifer A. Villalovo

The ceremonial hoisting and lowering of the national ensign at 0800 and sunset at a naval command ashore or aboard a ship of the Navy not underway shall be known as morning and evening colors, respectively.(US Navy Regulations, Chapter 12, section 1206)

 At 8 a.m. every morning, ships and Navy installations play the national anthem and raise the colors. Cars stop at the gates as they are entering, departing or parking. People stop walking and stand at attention. Everyone stops talking. Calls are ended. Cell phones are silenced. At dusk the same respect is repeated. It is a tradition taken from America’s British ancestry to show allegiance to the flag.

Sailors raise an American flag during Veterans Day morning colors aboard the amphibious dock landing ship Harpers Ferry (LSD-49). U.S. Navy file photo

Sailors raise an American flag during Veterans Day morning colors aboard the amphibious dock landing ship Harpers Ferry (LSD-49).
U.S. Navy file photo

As the Naval Telecommunications Procedure states, the flag “represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing” and is “universally representative of the principles of justice, liberty, and democracy enjoyed by the people of the United States.”

So the next time you stop for morning or evening colors, cross a ship’s quarterdeck or render passing honors, remember the father of our Navy and this moment in history that is acted on daily by globally deployed naval forces.

 

 

 Factoids: Did you know?

1. John Paul Jones left a very successful and lucrative career on slave ships because he found the cruelty of slavery disturbing and wanted no part of it. He left Scotland and came to the colonies writing that he came to, “…hoist the flag of Freedom.” The Continental Congress approved of his actions and quickly granted him a commission. 

John Paul Jones later wrote in 1779, “It is this day four years since I had the honor to receive my first Commission as the Senior of the first Lieutenants in the Navy. . . I hoisted with my own hands the Flag of Freedom the first time that it was displayed on bard the Alfred on the Delaware.

2. Our stripes were there, but not yet our stars. At just 13 colonies, the novice nation had one idea in mind: Independence. Yet in designing that first flag, it harkened back to the colonists’ British roots. The Continental Congress put white stripes over the giant red square and still kept the British Union Jack. The stripes were the first insignia to tell the world the United States was now an independent authority.

3. George Washington was thought to have raised the Grand Union Flag a year later on New Year’s Day in 1776 on Prospect Hill, near Cambridge, Mass. In the letters to the Continental Congress, the Continental Navy Committee noted “the largest Ship will carry at her Mizen Peak a Jack with the Union flag, and striped red and white in the field.”

4. The Grand Union Flag was called other names: Continental Colors, the Congress Flag, the Cambridge Flag, and the First Navy Ensign

5. As the nation grew, so did the flag to 15 stars and a cumbersome 15 stripes. Congress then granted the Navy an additional honor in 1818: Design a flag that would grow in proportion but not be unwieldy. It is still the standard: 13 stripes that never change in number with a constellation of stars representing each state.

Naval Customs, Traditions, & Etiquette

http://www.public.navy.mil/usff/Pages/customs.aspx

Star-Spangled Manners

http://www.navy.mil/navydata/nav_legacy.asp?id=190

Naval Telecommunications Procedure

http://navybmr.com/study%20material/NTP_3.pdf

 
Dec 1

P-3C Orion: The ‘Swiss-Army knife’ of aircraft

Sunday, December 1, 2013 10:29 AM
A P-3C Orion assigned to VX-20 returns from a test flight off the coast of Southern Maryland in 2011. New anti-submarine technology installed in the P-3C will keep the Orion fleet relevant until the P-8A assumes the ASW mission for the Navy in 2019. U.S. Navy photo by Liz Goettee

A P-3C Orion assigned to VX-20 returns from a test flight off the coast of Southern Maryland in 2011. New anti-submarine technology installed in the P-3C will keep the Orion fleet relevant until the P-8A assumes the ASW mission for the Navy in 2019.
U.S. Navy photo by Liz Goettee

 

By Naval History and Heritage Command

Initially designed as a Cold War eye-in-the sky against submarines, the P-3C Orion eventually evolved into becoming one of the most versatile aircraft in the military’s arsenal for battlefield surveillance.

But after more than 50 years of service, the Lockheed Martin P-3C is making room for the newest, and most technologically advanced aircraft of its type, the Boeing P-8A, which makes its operational debut today when the first Sailors of VP-16 arrive on station at Kadena Air Base Okinawa for the first deployment of the Poseidon. The P-8A will eventually replace the venerable Orion by the end of this decade.

It is an aircraft of ironies, the P-3. Built to hunt down submarines amid the depths of the ocean’s mountain ranges, it has most recently provided the means to hunt down terrorists hidden within the arid, mountainous terrain of Afghanistan.

Although capable of speeds up to 473 knots, it was the P-3C’s ability to cruise slowly just above rocket-launched missile range that gave the aircraft an edge in low-altitude surveillance. With a team of special ops forces on board, they could communicate real-time intelligence back to troops on the ground for the most-effective ambushes.

Unmanned vehicles, like the Air Force’s Predator, have gotten a lot of attention, but for certain missions, having human eyes look over that next hill was invaluable for those fighting an unconventional war.

Like the Boeing 737-based P-8A, the P-3 traces its roots to a commercial airline, the Electra, built by Lockheed in the 1950s during the Cold War. Known as Orion, with its distinctive Magnetic Anomaly Detection boom extending the fuselage behind the tail of the aircraft, the P-3 joined the Navy’s patrol aircraft inventory with a range of 5,600 miles. Far from sight of land, skimming over rough seas, a 10-man crew concentrates on instrument panels, scopes and detection devices as the Orion flies an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) search pattern. It is powered by four constant-speed turboprop engines. For sea-level ASW work, two engines may be shut down to achieve increased time on station.

The aircraft boasts 250 percent more floor space than found in earlier patrol planes, along with pressurized cabins, air conditioning, electrically-heated floor panels and stand-up, walk-around space to enhance the work environment. Polarized lighting reduces eye strain.

A tactical coordinator, along with sensor operators, monitors the plane’s sophisticated electronic detection gear, including sonobuoys, radar and electronic countermeasure equipment. Navigation and position location are assisted by inertial and Doppler navigation systems, as well as tactical navigation devices used in the submarine contact area.

Armament includes torpedoes, depth charges, bombs and rockets that are carried in the bomb bay or on underwing pylons.

Most of the P-3’s cold war work was done behind the scenes with little fanfare. However, it was used during the blockade of Cuba for anti-submarine surveillance and maritime patrol during the Cuban Missile Crisis. After the Cold War ended, the Orion was used for land during operations in 1991’s first Gulf War.

The Anti-Surface Warfare (ASUW) Improvement Program, which was part of the aircrafts’ Update III in 1998, expanded the Orion’s capabilities to include long missions over land, such as Over-the-Horizon surveillance and targeting, maritime patrol, carrier battle group support, interdiction operations, and littoral warfare. It’s low-light level TV permits visual observation, at dusk and in starlight, of surface targets previously undetected by the human eye. Electro-optic sensors provide near real-time connectivity of surveillance/reconnaissance data with battle group and national command decision makers.

That upgrade proved invaluable during the March 2002, 20-day Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, where hundreds of Al Qaeda fighters were assembling at Shah-e-Kot. As the insurgents kept radio silence, the Orions were able to detect and then alert American and Allied forces of Al Qaeda’s movements. And throughout the 12-year war thus far, the P-3C Orion has continued to bring that technology to the fight, despite an upsurge of interest in unmanned aerial vehicles.

But with this initial addition of P-8As to the fleet, don’t plan on saying goodbye to the P-3C just yet. As the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force transitions into a new type/model/series for the first time in more than 50 years, mid-life upgrades to bump up its technology will ensure the remaining P-3C Orions remain in the fight until the P-8A Poseidon achieves full operational capability in 2019.