Archive for the 'Aircraft' Category

May 24

NHHC Underwater Archaeology Branch and MDSU2 Survey SB2C Helldiver Wreck

Thursday, May 24, 2012 4:34 PM

The Naval History and Heritage Command’s Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) is currently cooperating with the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC) and U.S. Navy Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit TWO (MDSU-2) to investigate a WWII-era SB2C Helldiver aircraft wreck off the coast of Jupiter, FL. The objectives of the investigation are to identify the aircraft using its numbered identification plates, measure and map the wreck site, and document the aircraft.

Investigation operations are being conducted from USNS Apache (T-ATF 172), one of MSC’s four Fleet Ocean Tugs and one of the 14 ships in its Surface Support Program. USNS Apache’s main mission is to render assistance to the US Navy’s numbered fleets by providing towing, diving platform and other services. UAB is also pleased to have the opportunity to once again work with MDSU-2. Their expertise and support were much appreciated aboard USNS Grasp, during the 2011 collaborative survey expedition to locate the wreck of USS Bonhomme Richard in the North Sea. (Photo to the left courtesy of Military Sealift Command Ship Database)

In addition to assisting UAB with its archaeological investigation, this project also provides MDSU-2 divers the opportunity to gain valuable training experience by performing deep water, mixed-gas dives up to 185 ft (56.4 m); collecting measurements of underwater sites; and conducting underwater navigation exercises. Over the previous four days, MDSU-2 divers have assisted with measuring the wreck site, documenting the aircraft, and mapping its disarticulated pieces. All divers are equipped with live video feed in their helmets, which allows MDSU-2 dive supervisor and UAB representative underwater archaeologist Heather Brown to observe underwater operations from aboard Apache in real time.

The wreck was first discovered and filmed by a local dive charter operator late last year, who then contacted NHHC about the find in early 2012. Video footage of the wreck (photo on the right is a still taken from video by Randy Jordan) shows that it is relatively intact and currently rests in an inverted position on the sandy ocean floor. The vertical stabilizer, ailerons, flaps, and elevators initially appeared to be missing, however portions or fragments of those elements have since been located on the site. The propellers and engine have been separated from the fuselage and lie several meters away from of the main body of the wreck. There are a number of ropes wrapped around the propellers and what appears to be a lobster trap lying beside the engine, suggesting the wreck may have been previously snagged by a fishing boat. (Sonar image of the SB2C site shown at the right)

As the wreck is resting in an inverted position on the sandy bottom, the cockpit and the aircraft bureau number were not readily accessible to the divers. However, they were able to locate a model number plate, heavily covered in marine growth and currently illegible, and carefully remove it. The plate is being sent to the Underwater Archaeology & Conservation Lab at NHHC headquarters on the Washington Navy Yard, DC, where it will be treated and examined by UAB’s conservation team and hopefully provide data to help identify the aircraft.

(The heavily corroded data plate)

Stay tuned for more updates as the project progresses!

Click the below link to watch Local News Channel 5 WPTV.com interview with NHHC underwater archaeologist Heather Brown:

 
Oct 24

USS PRINCETON (CVL 23) Sunk, 24 October 1944

Monday, October 24, 2011 12:01 AM

 At daybreak on 24 October 1944, as Japanese navy forces approached the Philippines from the north and west, Rear Admiral Frederick C. Sherman’s Task Group 38.3 was operating more than a hundred miles east of central Luzon. With other elements of Admiral William F. Halsey’s Third Fleet, TG38.3 had spent the last several days pounding enemy targets ashore in support of the Leyte invasion operation. This morning Sherman’s four carriers, ESSEX (CV 9), LEXINGTON (CV 16), PRINCETON (CVL 23), and LANGLEY (CVL 27), had sent off fighters for self-protection and other planes on search missions. Still more aircraft were on deck, ready for attack missions.

Though the Japanese had sent out many aircraft to strike the Third Fleet, most were shot down or driven away. However one “Judy” dive bomber made it through and at 0938 planted a 250-kilogram bomb on PRINCETON’s flight deck, somewhat aft of amidships. It exploded in the crew’s galley after passing through the hangar, in which were parked six TBM bombers, each with full gasoline tanks and a torpedo. In its passage the bomb struck one of these planes, which was almost immediately ablaze. The carrier’s firefighting sprinklers did not activate and the entire hangar space was quickly engulfed, while smoke penetrated compartments below. PRINCETON was still underway, but at 1002 a heavy explosion rocked the after part of the hangar. This blast was followed by three more, which heaved up the flight deck, blew out both aircraft elevators, and quickly made much of the ship uninhabitable.

With all but emergency generator power gone, and much of her crew abandoning ship, PRINCETON now depended on the light cruisers BIRMINGHAM (CL 62) and RENO (CL 96), plus the destroyers IRWIN (DD 794) and MORRISON (DD 560), to help fight her fires. While alongside, MORRISON’s superstructure was seriously damaged when she became entangled in PRINCETON’s projecting structures. After more than three hours’ work, with the remaining fires almost under control, a report of approaching enemy forces forced the other ships to pull away. By the time they returned, PRINCETON was again burning vigorously, heating a bomb storage space near her after hangar. At 1523, as BIRMINGHAM came alongside, these bombs detonated violently, blowing off the carrier’s stern, showering the cruiser’s topsides with fragments, and killing hundreds of men. There was now no hope that PRINCETON could be saved. Her remaining crewmen were taken off and IRWIN attempted to scuttle her with torpedoes and gunfire, but with no success. Finally, RENO was called in to finish the job. One of her torpedoes hit near the burning ship’s forward bomb magazine and PRINCETON disappeared in a tremendous explosion. She was the first U.S. fleet carrier sunk in more than two years, and the last lost during the Pacific War.

 
Oct 17

Innovative Scientific Analysis Tool at Underwater Archaeology Conservation Lab

Monday, October 17, 2011 1:54 PM

Dr. Raymond Hayes (left) and Head Conservator George Schwarz examine p-XRF data taken from a Civil War-era Aston pistol recovered from USS HOUSATONIC at the Underwater Archaeology & Conservation Laboratory.

NHHC volunteer, Dr. Raymond Hayes, Professor Emeritus at Howard University, Washington DC, and Woods Hole Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA, has partnered with the Underwater Archaeology & Conservation Laboratory (UACL) to analyze archaeological materials from historic naval shipwrecks.

Dr. Hayes has been awarded a Research & Discovery Grant from Olympus INNOV-X to examine archaeological components from shipwrecks using an innovative Delta portable X-Ray Fluorescence (pXRF) unit. This state-of-the-art technology uses an x-ray beam to identify the specific elements present within archaeological material. Dr. Hayes’ research endeavors to use this data to trace the elemental composition of a wood sample back to original construction materials, marine sediments, and sealing or fastening materials applied to wooden ships. Included in the study are data from USS Housatonic, USS Tulip, and CSS Alabama, as well as recently recovered artifacts from the 2011 USS Scorpion field project, the archaeological investigation of a Patuxent River shipwreck believed to be the flagship of the Chesapeake Bay Flotilla, which fought to defend Washington D.C. from the British during the War of 1812. As part of the Navy’s commemoration of the Flotilla’s important role in the War of 1812, a full excavation of the USS Scorpion site is anticipated.

Scientific technologies like pXRF provide archaeologists and conservators valuable chemical information that can be used to better conserve and interpret submerged cultural heritage. An innovative feature of pXRF devices is that they can be used in both the laboratory and the field to analyze artifacts recovered from wet environments. Artifacts from underwater sites can be difficult to initially identify as they may be encased within thick concretions or obscured by unidentifiable corrosion products, however, pXRF data can give archaeologists data which can signal the presence of an artifact. 

Detail of portable X-Ray Fluorescence machine collecting data from Civil War-era pistol.

Following recovery from underwater archaeological sites, artifacts are particularly susceptible to damage caused by soluble salts (e.g., chlorides) accumulated from the water or sediment that surrounded them for decades or even centuries. If allowed to crystallize, the salts expand and cause catastrophic damage which may result in complete destruction of the artifact. Data from pXRF can determine the concentration of chlorine within an artifact to help conservators understand the degree of salt contamination and mitigate it properly. During conservation, pXRF can help conservators develop the most optimal treatment plan for artifacts and reveal the presence of toxic components, such as lead, cadmium or arsenic. Comparative data may also reveal similarities or differences in artifact composition that could suggest age and geographic origins.

This is only one part of the extensive research that goes on at the Underwater Archaeology & Conservation Lab, where over 2300 artifacts recovered from US Navy shipwrecks and aircraft wrecks are curated, 140 of which are currently undergoing active conservation treatment. The Laboratory, located in BL 46 of WNYD, also hosts public tours showcasing important artifacts that span from the American Revolution to World War II and make the Navy’s history come alive! Please feel free to contact us anytime (202.433.9731) if you’d like to visit!

 For more information about the NHHC Underwater Archaeology Branch and the Underwater Archaeology & Conservation Laboratory, please visit http://www.history.navy.mil/underwater.

 
Oct 2

INDEPENDENCE Operates in Arabian Gulf, 2 October 1990

Sunday, October 2, 2011 12:01 AM

On 1 October 1990 the carrier INDEPENDENCE (CV 62) transited the Strait of Hormuz en route to the Arabian Gulf. The following day she conducted flight operations in the Gulf, becoming the first carrier to do so since CONSTELLATION (CV 64) had operated there in 1974.

INDEPENDENCE (CV 62) left the Gulf on 4 October, following three days of sailing in its confined and shallow waters. A Pentagon spokesman said that the aircraft carrier had successfully completed her mission, which was “to demonstrate to our friends and allies in the region that it is possible to put a carrier in the Gulf and carry out operations.”

 
Jul 23

First Jet Delivered to All-Jet Squadron, 23 July 1947

Saturday, July 23, 2011 12:01 AM

On 23 July 1947 the first jet powered aircraft, an FH-1 Phantom, was delivered to the Navy’s first all-jet squadron, VF-17A, ushering in a new era in naval aviation. Training in these early jet squadrons was sometimes ad hoc, partly because the aircraft themselves were experimental. One pilot reported, “VF-17A trained itself. Checkout consisted of reading the handbook and watching a movie on compressibility.” Less than a year later the squadron was fully equipped with 16 FH-1s. On 5 May 1948 VF-17A became the Navy’s first carrier-qualified jet squadron, having completed three days of operations on board Saipan (CVL 48) during which all of the squadron’s pilots plus the commander of Carrier Air Group 17 qualified with a minimum of eight takeoffs and landings each.

 
Jul 14

USS Forrestal (CV-59) Keel Laying 14 July 1952

Thursday, July 14, 2011 12:01 AM

The keel laying of the first “supercarrier” Forrestal (CV-59) on 14 July 1952 represented a significant step forward in the evolution of naval aviation. In the post-war period, the Navy wrestled with the role naval aviation would play in the atomic age and James Vincent Forrestal, the man for whom the aircraft carrier was named, stood at the center of many of the controversies of this period. After serving as Secretary of the Navy from May 1944 to September 1947, he became the nation’s first Secretary of Defense. The intense strain that stemmed, in part, from inter-service strife over issues ranging from the strategic use of atomic weapons and the unification of the armed services eventually took their toll on his mental health and President Truman asked for his resignation in March 1949.

After Forrestal’s departure, the new Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson canceled the aircraft carrier United States (CV-58) on April 23, 1949. Had the opposition of Secretary Johnson and the Air Force to construction of larger, flush-deck aircraft carriers been successful, the Navy would have been forced to modernize existing Essex and Midway class carriers instead. However, the October 1949 testimony before the House Armed Services Committee of leaders such as Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Louis Denfeld and Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet Admiral Arthur W. Radford, forcefully made the case that the Navy’s power projection responsibilities necessitated larger, more technologically advanced carriers. In March 1951, Congress authorized CVB-59 and Representative Carl Vinson, perhaps the Navy’s most significant ally in Congress, suggested a limit of 60,000 tons. As built, Forrestal displaced 59,900 tons compared to the 27,100 ton Essex-class and the 45,000 ton Midway-class.

Although smaller than the United States, the Forrestal-class relied heavily upon that ship’s proposed design. Among the most significant design changes was the shift from a flush deck to an angled deck and Forrestal became the first aircraft carrier built with that feature. The angled flight deck, originally designed by the Royal Navy, made simultaneous landings and catapult launchings more practical, even allowing for the presence of a significantly larger flight deck. The angled deck also significantly decreased the chance that landing aircraft would collide with planes parked on the flight deck. On May 4, 1953, the Chief of Naval Operations directed that the entire Forrestal-class be built with an angled flight deck.

The Navy eventually built three more Forrestal-class carriers: Saratoga (CV-60), Ranger (CV-61), and Independence (CV-62). Later non-nuclear carriers Kitty Hawk (CV-63), Constellation (CV-64), America (CV-66), and John F. Kennedy (CV-67) also relied heavily on the Forrestal-class design. Forrestal (CV-59) was commissioned 1 October 1955 and served the nation for nearly four decades before being decommissioned on 11 September 1993. That ship’s long career and important service vindicates not only her design, but also those who argued for a significant role for naval aviation during a period of considerable evolution in our thinking with regard to national defense strategy.

 
May 18

First Bullet Proof Gas Tank

Wednesday, May 18, 2011 12:01 AM

From the Marine Corps History Division…

A debate persists as to what constituted the first hostile action for U.S. naval aviation (the earliest distinctions between Navy and Marine aviation were marginal). Some argue the scouting flights in the Veracruz action in 1914, in which Navy and Marine pilots participated, was the first occasion when naval aviation planes came under fire of an enemy. Two purported “bullet” holes were noticed on two different planes at different times. However, at least one of these holes was believed by the pilot to merely be the result of an errant screwdriver. 

Whether the incident constituted proof of the first incident of aviation combat or the active imagination of a pilot, it prompted concern of military aircraft fuel tanks. With the anticipation of U.S. aircraft joining the fight in World War I, this concern was revivified and a “bullet-proof” self-sealing gas tank was first demonstrated to the Army and Navy by the Bureau of Standards on 18 May 1917. They consisted of double walled galvanized iron containing layers of felt,gum rubber, and an Ivory soap-whiting paste.

 
Apr 21

NAVY TV – Hook Down, Wheels Down

Thursday, April 21, 2011 4:42 PM

This month, the Navy Memorial cut the ribbon on its new exhibit “The Art of Naval Aviation” in support of the nationwide celebration of the Centennial of Naval Aviation.

To commemorate the Centennial, NavyTV features one of the most comprehensive (and expensive) films made by the U.S. Navy: “Hook Down, Wheels Down.” This 57-minute film covers the history and development of the aircraft carrier through interviews with many of the men who were instrumental in these ships’ history.Produced in 1974, “Hook Down, Wheels Down” is one of the most comprehensive (and expensive) films made by the U.S. Navy about the history and development of the U.S. aircraft carrier.

First hand accounts from pilots, gunners and navigators, stunning aerial footage; it’s a history lesson and tribute to the men who flew the planes and the men who caught them. From WW2 ships and single engine fighter planes to nuclear powered carriers and sleek jets, it’s all here!

 
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