Category Archives: Aircraft Carriers

Project Whale Tale: the story of how the U-2 became an embarked reconnaissance aircraft.

Designated as a utility type to disguise its primary mission, the Lockheed U-2 was born as high altitude reconnaissance aircraft.

Flying for about 8 hours, at 500 mph, at altitudes in excess of 70,000 feet, U-2 spyplanes launched from airbases in Turkey and Pakistan in the mid to late 1950s and early 1960s landed on the other side of the Soviet Union, at Bodo airfield in Norway, at the end of their reconnaissance missions, with fuel tanks virtually empty.

To extend the range of the aircraft and reach more remote targets, the CIA approached the Navy proposing to develop the ability to launch and land U-2s from carriers.

Project Whale Tale began on an August morning in 1963, when test pilot Bob Schumacher took off with his U-2 from the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier that sailed out of San Diego Harbor. After his successful launch, Schumacher performed several landing approaches, proving that the U-2’s performance made arrested landing and wave off (if needed) possible.

But while he was attempting his first landing, one wingtip struck the deck. Schumacher barely managed to take to the air again preventing the plane from crashing overboard.

In spite of the close call, the program continued and three U-2As were modified and got a stronger landing gear, an arresting hook, and wing spoilers that decreased lift during landing. While these modifications were taking place, Schumacher and several CIA pilots developed their carrier landing skills flying T-2 Buckeye trainers from USS Lexington aircraft carrier.

Schumacher landed the first U-2G (as the modified U-2 was designated) on the USS Ranger on Mar. 2, 1964, off the California coast, experiencing only one small problem when the engaged arrestor hook, forced the plane’s nose toward the deck and broke off the pitot tube. After quick repairs, he successfully took off again and in the following days, Schumacher and the CIA pilots received carrier qualifications from the Navy.

Even if the operational ability to take off from and land on a carrier was used only once, in May 1964, when a U-2G operating off the USS Ranger was used to monitor the French nuclear test range, at Mururoa Atoll, in the South Pacific Ocean, well out of range of any land-based U-2 aircraft, the program continued to advance in the following years.

In 1967 Lockheed introduced a new variant, designated U-2R, that was larger (by about 40 percent) and featured about twice the range and four times the payload of a standard U-2G. This plane was equipped with an integral arrestor hook, and with wings folding mechanism that reduced the aircraft’s footprint and made carrier operations easier.

Lockheed test pilot Bill Park and four CIA pilots conducted tests with the new type of U-2 in November 1969 , from the deck of USS America sailing off the Virginia coast: as part of the tests, a U-2R was successfully moved using one of the America’s elevators.

Still, none of these carrier-capable spyplane ever entered active service, being replaced by cheaper spy satellites.

In the impressive footage below you can see several U-2s perform carrier take offs, touch and gos and landings and even if today carrier-based U-2s are only a footnote to Cold War history, the last variant of this legendary aircraft,  designated U-2S, is still in service and it remains one of the best intelligence platform among those operated by the U.S. Air Force.

British pilot performs first ever F-35B launch from ski-jump

F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter performs first launch from ski-jump in the hands of a British pilot.

On Jun. 19, BAE Systems Test Pilot Pete ‘Wizzer’ Wilson launched the Lockheed Martin F-35B from a land-based ski-jump for the very first time, at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.

The trials aim at validating the troubled fifth generation multi-role aircraft’s ability to take off safely and effectively from a ski-jump ramp similar to that which will be used on the UK’s new Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier.

Ski-jump ramps on aircraft carrier help the launching plane take off with an upward flight path. Italy’s Cavour aircraft carrier, destined to receive the Italian Navy F-35Bs that will replace the AV-8B+ Harrier II is also equipped with a ski-jump.

 

This is what it is like to be catapulted from an aircraft carrier using Electromagnetic Launch System

GoPro camera provides a unique point of view during a catapult launch using the new electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS).

The following video was taken on Jun. 16, when ship’s sponsor Susan Ford Bales visited Newport News to see progress on the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).

During the demonstration, she gave the signal to fire the EMALS catapult, with two weighted sleds being launched off the carrier around 1:00 p.m.

The demo follows other tests conducted with  a “dead-load” test of the new electromagnetic aircraft launching system (EMALS) aboard Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).

The video below shows the 8,000-lb sled with an end speed of 100 knots be catapulted into the James River where it was recovered for additional test launches.

EMALS is the system that will replace the traditional steam catapults: it employs stored kinetic energy and solid-state electrical power conversion for a higher control, monitoring and automation in the launching operations of current and future U.S. Navy embarked platforms.

EMALS infographic

 

Epic photograph of an F/A-18E Super Hornet launching from USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier

Awesome image of an F/A-18E Super Hornet during blue water operations.

This stunning photograph was taken during an Air Power demonstration on board USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

It shows an F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Sunliners of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 81 launching from the catapult as the Carl Vinson and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17,  return to homeport after a Middle East and Western Pacific Deployment.

USS Carl Vinson has supported Operation Inherent Resolve taking part in air strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria.

Image credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John Philip Wagner

 

Let’s celebrate Top Gun Day with this cool video: F-14 versus Everything

May 13th is Top Gun Day.

This video proves that the F-14 Tomcat was much more than a  capable fleet defender.

Clips taken from the Tomcat HUD and TCS, show that the F-14 could win against some of the best and most agile fighters ever built, such as the F-16, the MiG-21, the MiG-29, the F/A-18, the Mirage 2000, the F-15 and the MiG-23 during DACT (Dissimilar Air Combat Training) and/or real dogfight sessions.

Although we don’t know the Rules of Engagement (ROE) of the mock aerial combat in the footage, this video shows that, despite its size, the Tomcat was an amazingly agile and nasty dogfighter.