Category Archives: Aircraft Carriers

Here’s what a Harrier Jump Jet’s vertical landing at night looks like through IR vision

Harrier Nighttime Flight Deck Operations

Top image shows an AV-8B Harrier preparing to land on the flightdeck of amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) during night operations.

What makes the picture particularly interesting is the characteristic IR signature of the Jump Jet about to land on the flight deck of the ship.

Makin Island is the flagship of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and, with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in the Arabian Sea and it is going to replace USS Bataan, whose AV-8B Harriers of the 22nd MEU have conducted surveillance missions over ISIS forces in northern Iraq.

Here below is an interesting video showing AV-8B+ Harrier jets on the flight deck of USS Kearsarge sailing off the coast of North Carolina back in 2013.

The Jump Jets belong to the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 266 (Reinforced) of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).

 

Top Image credit: U.S. Marine Corps

 

[Video] Ten of the most dangerous carrier deck mishaps

Take off and landing from an aircraft carrier can be extremely dangerous.

Even if they are extremely important to project power across the globe, aircraft carriers and their flight decks are among the most dangerous working places all around the world.

Planes and helicopters that operate from aircraft carriers and huge ships face space constraints, weight limits, challenging weather conditions and, usually, unavailability of a nearby divert airfield: that’s why in spite of a lot of training and skills, something goes wrong every now and then.

The following video shows some famous and other less known mishaps, close-calls and incidents aboard U.S. and foreign aircraft carriers and warships at sea.

Obviously there are many other videos available on the Web. Let us know which one in your opinion is the most shocking or somehow interesting footage showing a carrier deck mishap.

 

[Video] U.S. Navy X-47B drone and F/A-18 Hornet conduct historic combined manned, unmanned carrier ops

With a series of tests conducted aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt the Navy’s unmanned X-47B drone demonstrated its ability to operated safely and seamlessly with manned aircraft.

On Aug. 17, the U.S. Navy successfully tested its X-47B UCAS (Unmmaned Combat Air System) alongside an F/A-18F Hornet in a flight deck working environment.

The unmanned aircraft (destined to become USN’s first “killer drone”) completed a series of tests, which included a catapult launch and arrested landing, which demonstrated its ability to operate safely and seamlessly with manned aircraft.

After hitting some important milestones operating as a singleton, the next step was to occupy the carrier pattern with the manned aircraft in order to test whether the UCAS is able to land and vacate the landing area within the time lines that are required for blue water ops aboard a U.S. flattop.

According to the U.S. Navy:

“The first series of manned/unmanned operations began this morning [Aug. 17] when the ship launched an F/A-18 and an X-47B. After an eight-minute flight, the X-47B executed an arrested landing, folded its wings and taxied out of the landing area. The deck-based operator used newly developed deck handling control to manually move the aircraft out of the way of other aircraft, allowing the F/A-18 to touch down close behind the X-47B’s recovery.

This cooperative launch and recovery sequence will be repeated multiple times over the course of the planned test periods. The X-47B performed multiple arrested landings, catapults, flight deck taxiing and deck refueling operations.”

Future plans include nighttime taxiing and flying.

 

Image and Video credit: U.S. Navy

The story of a legendary F-14 pilot and the gun kill on an F-15 that could sell Tomcats to Japan

Known and unknown stories of a legendary F-8 Crusader and F-14 Tomcat pilot

If you Google “F-14 gun kill” or “F-14 Hoser”, you can find a 8” x 10” frame of a 16 mm gun film shot which shows an  F-15 Eagle locked through an  F-14 Tomcat Head Up Display, at 250 feet, with piper on the Eagle’s pilot, gun selected, master arm on.

Even if the photo itself is already very interesting, the story behind it, is by far more fascinating. In fact, the naval aviator at the controls of the Tomcat can be considered a sort-of legend.

As explained by Alvin Townley in his book Fly Navy, most probably other pilots have scored more kills, held higher ranks or more prestigious commands, but few living aviators embody the untamed nature of aviation like the one-of-a-kind legend known to decades of F-8 Crusader and F-14 Tomcat pilots: Joe “Hoser” Satrapa.

A skilled rifleman, Joe joined the Navy with the aim to fly a jet fighter.  His passion for guns guided him after the flight school graduation, in 1966, when he was called to opt for the F-4 Phantom or the F-8 Crusader. The Phantom had no guns and Satrapa thought: “No guns? What kind of aircraft is this with no guns?” and he immediately chose the “Last Of The Gunfighters” as the Crusader was dubbed by aircrews.

But the “Satrapa legend” began the day he was given the callsign “Hoser” (even if he is also known as “Da-Hose” or “D-hose”), during a mission at the gunnery range in which he was flying the tail position in a flight of four Crusaders. He cut off the preceding aircraft as they approached the target and started shooting from two thousand feet up, one and a half miles out, hosing off all his bullets in one pass.

His flight leader J.P. O’ Neill told him to return to the airfield at El Centro and the same night O’ Neill had the final say on the incident when he nailed Satrapa: “Lieutenant junior grade Satrapa, for hosing off all his bullets in one pass, will hence forth be known as Hoser. That’ ll be five bucks.”

Hoser was also widely known during the Vietnam War as a fearless F-8 pilot who regularly carried a good forty pounds of lethal ordnance, in case he was suddenly forced to eject from his aircraft and face an entire platoon of North Vietnamese Army regulars.

As explained by George Hall in his book Top Gun – The Navy’ s Fighter Weapons School, Hoser’s interest for guns continued when he transitioned to the F-14 Tomcat.

During the AIMVAL/ACEVAL (the Air Combat Evaluation/Air Intercept Missile Evaluation) fighter trials that put the F-14s and the F-15s against the F-5Es to test new weapons and tactics which took place from 1974 to 1978 at Nellis Air Force Base, Hoser (assigned to the VX-4 evaluators) was put in a 1 vs 1 against an F-5.

As the two combatants sat side-by-side on the Nellis runway, awaiting tower clearance for takeoff, Hoser looked over at his opponent, reached his hand up over the control panel, and mimicked the cocking of machine guns in a World War I Spad. A thumbs up came from the other cockpit, meaning that guns it would be, the proverbial knife fight in a phone booth, forget the missiles.

Both jets took off.

As soon as they reached the assigned area, the fighters set up twenty miles apart for a head-on intercept under ground control. Seven miles from the merge, with closure well over 1,000 knots, Hoser called “Fox One”, a Sparrow missile away, scoring a direct hit.

As they flashed past each other, the furious F-5 driver radioed, “What the hell was that all about?” “Sorry.” said Hoser, “lost my head. Let’s set up again. Guns only, I promise.”

Again the two fighters streaked towards the pass, again at seven miles Hoser called “Fox One.” The F-5 driver was apoplectic.

Hoser was first back to the club bar, nursing an end of the day cold one as the flushed Aggressor stomped in. “Hoser, what the hell happened to credibility?” the F-5 pilot asked. Hoser replied “Credibility is DOWN, kill ratio is UP!”

This story became very popular around Topgun, alongside the lesson learned: from 1 vs 1 to forty-plane furball, expect anything. But never expect your enemy to be a sweet guy.

Still, Hoser’s best experience during the AIMVAL/ACEVAL most probably came after the end of the trials. Even if Tomcat and Eagle drivers could not engage each other, Hoser and his RIO Bill “Hill Billy” Hill with  Dan “Turk” Pentecost and Frank “Fearless” Schumacher onboard the second F-14, went 2 vs 2 against a couple of F-15 instructors from 415th Training Squadron (415th Flight Test Flight).

Both Eagles were gunned down and a gun camera film which showed the F-15 locked in the F-14 HUD almost caused Japan to revert its decision to buy the Eagle.

F-14 VX4

Image credit: U.S. Navy

Pilots explain how Navy’s F-4 Phantoms intercepted Soviet Bombers near U.S. aircraft carriers

Developed as interceptor to protect U.S. Navy’s Carrier Battle Groups (CVBG), the F-4 had frequent close encounters with Soviet Tu-95 and Tu-16 bombers near aircraft carriers around the world

U.S. Navy F-4 Phantom jets were frequently launched by American flattops to intercept and shadow USSR strategic bombers that skirted aircraft carriers at low level to probe their reaction times.

The F-4s involved in these kind of interceptions, had the main task to ensure that all airborne intruders were met within the Carrier Group’s outer air defense perimeter.

LCDR Fred Staudenmayer, who was the first RIO (Radar Intercept Officer) to command an East Coast F-4J operational USN squadron (the VF-33 Tarsiers from Jun. 21, 1973 to Jan. 19, 1974, had several chances to intercept Tu-95s and Tu-16s during his deployment in the Mediterranean sea.

Staudenmayer explained one of these close encounters with Soviet bombers in Peter E. Davies book F-4 Phantoms U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Gray Ghosts:

“I once launched against a Soviet Tu-95 Bear that was almost upon the carrier when initially detected by our pathetic ship’s radar. […] I had the radar operating and detected a huge radar blip at about twelve miles, followed right away by a visual, and we were able to join up on his wing before he passed over the carrier at about 500 ft. This was always the goal and the politically correct thing: be on Bear or Badger’s wing, showing the world that you were escorting these uninvited visitors. […] During a cruise in the Bay of Biscay in USS Independence we had a large number of Soviet over-flights, thirty or forty as I recall, and we intercepted all of them (with assistance from sensors external to the Fleet!).”

Dealing with the attack profile followed by the F-4s during the interception: ”As a general rule, our attack profile started from a low or mid CAP (Combat Air Patrol) station (5,000 or 15,000 ft), and depending on ranges, etc. we would be in climbing attack, usually trying to attack from below. Not too much thought was given to vertical separation, sun position, hiding in the clouds, etc. These were all-weather attack profiles,” Staudenmayer recalled.

The main Bear and Badger weapons were their long range air-to-surface missiles, which caused several concerns to the Phantoms crews according to Staudenmayer:

“As the Soviet air-to-surface missiles got faster and more formidable capable our CAP stations got pushed further and further out. The goal was to be in a position to destroy the targeting or launch aircraft prior to missile release. Nevertheless, we usually trained against descending supersonic missile simulation […] We always thought we had a pretty good capability against such missiles, and an outstanding capability against Bears and Badgers.”

The F-4s belonging to the VF-11 Red Rippers were also involved in many Tu-16 interceptions, and William Greer told to Davies how several of them took place at night:

“Many intercepts were run at night, and the Badger would frequently shine a rather bright and distracting light at the escorting Phantom pilot. VF-11 rigged up a very strong spotlight, powered from the Phantom’s electrical system, and the first time we hit the Badger with that their performance became somewhat more restrained. I once intercepted a Bear while returning from my cruise in USS Enterprise, and with the aid of my two years of Russian at the Naval Academy, some white cards and a grease pencil, exchanged brief notes with the crewman occupying the rear gun sighting position.”

Another U.S. Navy Spook (as the legendary Phantom was dubbed by its personnel) pilot, Steve Rudloff, who experienced several Bear encounters, revealed that despite the tense moments, funny  events took place during these interceptions, as happened when one Tu-95 rear gunner offered a bottle of vodka to him: “ On Alert 5 (the high alert condition for crew members on the deck) aircraft for a brief time the back seat was equipped with a copy of Playboy magazine. I took off and intercepted a Bear, and in retaliation for the vodka I flashed the magazine centerfold, getting a hearty smile and a thumbs-up in response. We were always taking pictures of them, and vice versa. We were more than willing to take our oxygen masks off and let them get pictures.”

Moreover as explained by Rudloff, Phantom pilots experienced also chatty times with Soviet aircrews: “There was a point on one of my cruises where we actually spoke to some of Bears crew members. We indicated which frequency we were on and talked to a crew member who spoke English. He told us he lived in Moscow. Suddenly there was some talk in the background in Russian, and the conversation ceased, even though we tried to raise him again.”

F-4 Phantom II intercept

Image credit: U.S. Navy via F-4 Phantom II FB page