Archive for the 'Aircraft' Category

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!

Mar 30

Carrier Aircraft Lay First Mines, 30 March 1944

Wednesday, March 30, 2011 12:01 AM

On 30 March 1944 a strong Fifth Fleet force, built around 11 carriers of Task Force 58, launched a series of attacks on Japanese shipping, airfields, and installations on and near Palau, Ulithi, Woleai, and Yap in the western Caroline Islands. Designed to eliminate Japanese opposition to the upcoming amphibious landing at Hollandia, New Guinea, the strikes concluded on 1 April, with the planes of Task Force 58 having destroyed 157 enemy aircraft and sunk 42 enemy ships.

During these raids TBF-1C and TBM-1C Avengers from Torpedo Squadrons 2, 8, and 16, embarked on board Bunker Hill (CV 19), Hornet (CV 12), and Lexington (CV 16), sowed extensive minefields in and around the channels and approaches to the Palaus. This was the first large-scale daylight tactical use of mines laid by carrier aircraft.

Mar 15

Transatlantic Flight Record

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 1:09 AM

March, 15th 1957
Goodyear N-class ZPG-2 airship, commanded by Commander J. R. Hunt, landed at NAS Key West, Florida after a flight that began on March, 4th at South Weymouth, Massachusetts. The flight continued over the Atlantic toward Portugal, then south toward the African coast and back across the Atlantic covering 9,448 miles and remaining in air 264 hours and 12 minutes, without refueling, setting a new world record in distance and endurance.

Feb 20

Harriers from Nassau

Sunday, February 20, 2011 12:01 AM

On 20 February 1991 the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA4) launched four AV-8B Harriers of Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 331, flight call sign ‘Magic’ just before dawn. This flight was the first combat strike by fixed-wing aircraft from the flight deck of an amphibious assault ship, and was directed at Iraqi anti-aircraft batteries and surface to air missile (SAM) sites at Az Zwar on the western end of Faylakah Island. Bad weather diverted the flight, however, and they instead hit targets near Iraq’s IJmm Qasr Naval Base on the Iraq-Kuwait border. The strike was successful, despite Iraqi opposition including at least one surface to air missile launched at the four Harriers.

The Nassau carried the 19 Harriers of Marine Attack Squadron 331, nicknamed the ‘Bumblebees’ rather than its normal mix of Harriers and helicopters in order to provide dedicated fixed-wing air support for the Marine forces floating in the Gulf as an amphibious threat during Operation Desert Storm. This use of the Nassau was not without controversy, as the relatively short range of the Harriers required the Nassau to stand in closer to shore and the danger of mines. In addition, the Nassau’s munitions storage was limited to approximately three days of strikes.

Despite these issues, the Nassau and Marine Attack Squadron 331 launched 242 combat strikes and expended 300 tons of ordnance against Iraqi targets from 20 and 27 February 1991. The strikes hit Iraqi defensive positions, anti-aircraft batteries, artillery, and armor throughout Kuwait despite bad weather and thick clouds of smoke from oil wells the Iraqis had lit on fire. On 26 February the Iraqi retreat shifted the squadron’s targets to the fleeing Iraqi columns, especially around Al-Jahrah in Kuwait.

On 27 February, while engaged in strikes against these Iraqi convoys, Captain Reginald C. Underwood was killed when his AV-8B Harrier was struck by a surface to air missile. Captain Underwood’s aircraft was the only one the ‘Bumblebees’ lost to enemy action during this first combat deployment of Harriers aboard a U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship.

Jan 12

First Test of Angled Deck

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 12:01 AM

On 12 January 1953, the first test landings occurred on USS Antietam’s new angled flight deck. Angling the axis of an aircraft carrier’s landing area slightly off the axis of the ship allows longer landing length (important for the first shipboard jets), affords simultaneous takeoffs and recovery, and ensures that a landing aircraft that misses the arresting gear won’t then plow into parked or launching aircraft. This British idea was originally tested by repainting the landing areas on axial-deck carriers, and the results were good enough that the U.S. Navy installed the first true angled deck on Antietam (CV 36) in the fall of 1952. Over the next four days several aircraft models landed on and took off from the angled deck under various conditions and began proving the value of an innovation that has been a part of U.S. aircraft carrier design ever since.

Jan 5

Variable Time Fuse’s Combat Debut

Wednesday, January 5, 2011 12:01 AM

On 5 January 1943, Task Group 67.2, commanded by Rear Admiral Mahlon S. Tisdale, carried out a bombardment against airfields and military installations at Munda, on the Japanese-occupied island of New Georgia in the Solomons. Shortly after the remainder of Task Force 67 joined up with Tisdale’s warships, Japanese aircraft launched attacks on the force—air strikes that resulted in the near miss of the light cruiser USS Honolulu (CL 48) and the damaging of the New Zealand light cruiser HMNZS Achilles. During this action the light cruiser USS Helena (CL 50) became the first U.S. Navy warship to employ the new Variable Time (VT) or proximity-fused antiaircraft shells to defend the ship against the attacking planes. Her VT-armed 5-inch/38 guns succeeded in downing a Japanese Aichi Type 99 VAL carrier bomber in the fight.

The then highly secret VT shell relied on a radar fuse located in its nose to give off radio waves that bounced off the incoming plane, and when the shell came within a lethal distance of the aircraft it automatically exploded—knocking its target out of the sky. Although it was used by U.S. Navy combatants in the Pacific in the months that followed, this wonder weapon achieved its greatest role some two and half years later, in the waters off Okinawa, Japan. There, during the lengthy fighting to seize that pivotal island, proximity-fused antiaircraft shells from the quad 40mm and 5-inch/38 guns of destroyer escorts, destroyers, cruisers, and battleships in the Fleet shot down hundreds of Japanese Kamikaze aircraft whose pilots were bent on hitting the American ships offshore by crashing into them. By downing these suicide planes before they could hit their targets, the VT-fused shells saved the lives of thousands of Allied sailors who otherwise would have been killed.

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