Tag Archives: aircraft carrier

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.

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

 

Here are some superb videos of Russian Mig-29K Fulcrum operations aboard aircraft carrier

Here is a nice compilation of Fulcrum flight deck operations.

In 2013, Russian Mig-29K fighter jets performed testing aboard Indian Navy aircraft carrier INS “Vikramaditya”.

The “new” aircraft carrier dates back to 1987, when it operated under the name of Baku in the Soviet Navy. It was decommissioned in 1996 and the Indian Navy purchased it in 2004 at an aggregate price of $2,35 billion.

The clips (one of those already surfaced back then) were filmed during Summer 2013, when the carrier was conducting its final operational tests, including day and night take off and landing practice by a Russian Mig-29K.

Among the highlights of the compilation, the trap landing in slow motion and the night launch and recovery.

H/T to @pentimento_ for the heads-up

 

Another stunning U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet video

This is just supposed to be a teaser for a longer video…

Here’s another really cool video filmed from aboard F/A-18E Super Hornets with the U.S. Navy’s Strike-Fighter Squadron 27 (VFA-27) “Royal Maces”.

Based at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, in Japan, VFA-27 is part of Carrier Air Wing 5 and is attached to the USS George Washington (CVN-73).

The video is just a teaser to this year’s full-length cruise video dubbed “That’s a Shack!” but it contains much interesting stuff, including the AGM-154 JSOW delivery as seen from the ATFLIR pod, low level flying in the canyons, dogfights and flight deck operations.

There’s also some night footage, including a gun strafe practice with the M61A2 Vulcan nose-mounted Gatling-style cannon which creates a faster-than-light travel visual effect similar to that of some famous spacecraft out of science fiction movies.

Enjoy.

H/T to Rob for the heads-up

 

U.S. aircraft carrier and part of its escort “sunk” by French submarine during drills off Florida

If you thought aircraft carriers were invincible you were wrong.

On Mar. 4, the French Ministry of Defense released some interesting details, about the activity conducted by one of its nuclear-powered attack submarine (SNA) in the waters of the North Atlantic Ocean.

According to French MoD website (that is no longer online, even if you can still find a cached version of the article titled “Le SNA Saphir en entraînement avec l’US Navy au large de la Floride”), the Saphir submarine has recently taken part in a major exercise with the U.S. Navy off Florida.

The aim of the exercise was joint training with U.S. Carrier Strike Group 12 made by the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, several Ticonderoga cruisers or Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and a Los Angeles-class submarine, ahead of their operational deployment.

The scenario of the drills saw some imaginary states assaulting American economic and territorial interests; threats faced by a naval force led by USS Theodore Roosevelt.

During the first phase of the exercise, the Saphir was integrated into the friendly force to support anti-submarine warfare (ASW) by cooperating with U.S. P-3C Orion P-8A Poseidon MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft): its role was to share all the underwater contacts with the other ASW assets.

In the second phase of the exercise, the Saphir was integrated with the enemy forces and its mission was to locate the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt and its accompanying warships and prepare to attack the strike group.

While the fictious political situation deteriorated, the Saphir quietly slipped in the heart of the multi-billion-dollar aircraft carrier’s defensive screen, while avoiding detection by ASW assets.

On the morning of the last day, the order to attack was finally given, allowing the Saphir to pretend-sinking the USS Theodore Roosevelt and most of its escort.

Although we don’t really know many more details about the attack and its outcome, the scripted exercise its RoE (Rules of Engagement), the simulated sinking of a U.S. supercarrier proves the flattop’s underwater defenses are not impenetrable.

This is the reason why modern subs often train with aircraft carriers: they pose a significant threat to powerful Carrier Strike Groups.

Obviously, this was not the first time a submarine scored a simulated carrier kill with torpedo attacks.

For instance, in 2007 HMCS Corner Brook, a Canadian diesel-electric submarine “sunk” UK’s Illustrious during an exercise in the Atlantic.

Image credit: U.S. Navy