Tag Archives: U.S. Navy

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.

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

 

Video from U.S. destroyer in the Black Sea as Russian Su-24 Fencer flies by

Here’s the video of  a Russian Su-24 flying close to USS Ross in international waters in the Black Sea.

Few days ago, Russian media reported that Russian Navy Su-24 Fencer jets scrambled from an airbase in Crimea “forced” a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Black Sea to leave for neutral waters while approaching Russia’s territorial waters.

Russian outlets claimed that USS Ross turned around because it was scared by the sight of the Su-24, a type of aircraft involved in a similar incident with USS Donald Cook, an American destroyer allegedly “blinded” by a Fencer in the Black Sea in April 2014.

Although, Russian flybys performed by Su-30s and Su-24s aircraft from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet launched from Crimea, have been reported by NATO warships operating in the Black Sea previously, the whole story of USS Ross deviating from its planned operations because of a Fencer immediately appeared to be unlikely and quite hard to believe.

Then came the official statement by U.S. Navy.

According to the U.S. 6th Fleet: “USS Ross continued on her mission after observing the aircraft return to base. At no time did Ross act aggressively nor did she deviate from her planned operations. The conduct of her crew has been and continues to be professional. Ross’ Sailors observed that the SU 24 carried no weapons – wings were “clean.”

And here’s the video that proves this version.

 

The story of an F-14 Tomcat RIO who became prisoner of war during the First Gulf War

The dramatic story of a US Navy Tomcat RIO, POW during Operation Desert Storm.

As we have recently explained, in the early morning of Jan. 21, 1991, the F-14B (BuNo 161430, at the time designated F-14A Plus) from the VF-103 “Sluggers,” callsign “Slate 46”,  flown by Lt. Devon Jones and RIO Lt. Lawrence Slade, was hit by an Iraqi SA-2 Surface to Air Missile.

The crew was forced to eject due to the violent flat spin which followed the SAM explosion.

During the descent, the two men saw each other for the last time before entering the clouds and once they put their boots on the ground their fate was quite different.

In fact, while Lt. Jones was saved with a spectacular Combat SAR mission, Lt. Slade tried to go as far as he could from the Tomcat crash site, walking for about 2 ½ hours in the desert using his radio every hour without receiving any reply.

Then, while Slade tried to hide himself near a little knoll, the Iraqis found him.

“At about 1030, a white Datsun pickup truck came around the knoll,” Slade says in the book Gulf Air War Debrief.

“It was probably bad luck because I don’t think they were looking for me; they were just driving by. Two men stopped and got out. One had a 12-gauge shot gun, the other, an AK-47. […] They approached me, but it never crossed my mind to pull out my pistol. I was obviously had. They made me strip off all my gear.”

The two men were very polite and after they put Slade between them in the pickup, took him in their tent where they fed him.

Then, after the lunch, they put him again in the pickup and they asked him if he wanted to go to either Saudi Arabia or Baghdad. Of course, he told them Saudi Arabia, choosing the most northern town he could recall. Slade knew that if the trip took three hours, it would have been Baghdad; eight, Saudi Arabia. Sure enough, 3 ½ hours later they pulled into an army camp, and he knew it wasn’t Saudi Arabia. For the rest of the day Slade was shuttled to six different camps, blindfolded and handcuffed. Nevertheless he was for sure a subject of interest, since people came out to see him, take pictures of him and poke at his gear. They’d pick on him, kick him, and if they spoke English they’d say things like “You kill our children.”

Slade spent the following three days in Baghdad where he experienced very harsh interrogations, then he was transferred in the first of several prisons where he spent his POW (Prisoner Of War) experience.

As he recalls: “In retrospect, I was shot down on the fourth day of the war and they had already had a few prisoners: a couple of Tornado crews, an A-6 crew and a Marine OV-10 crew. ”

Lieutenant Slade and his fellow POWs changed different prisons in Baghdad where they also experienced several allied bombs raids, the most intense of which was the one that took place on Feb. 23, when 2,000-lb bombs almost completely destroyed their jail.

But for sure the most impressive experience faced by Slade were the interrogations by Iraqi jailers. He had a total of six interrogations, some of what they called soft-sell, where they just asked him questions. Then there were the hard-sells, where they pounded on him. For the most part, they didn’t use any classic torture methods. They just beat him up, tied his hands behind his back and double-blindfolded him to the point where he couldn’t even blink.

They beat allied prisoners even when they answered their questions. Slade, as well as the other POWs answered to the questions just to make beatings stop “even though the answers were complete garbage. Some I didn’t know the answer to, and I’d tell them, then I’d make up something. I could hear them writing it down. I thought, ‘You idiots!’ […] Some time toward the end of February, they banged me up against the wall and broke my seventh vertebra.”

During these interrogations Slade was blindfolded and never saw his interrogators, probably so that he could not identify them later, or perhaps because the Iraqis understood how terrifying it is to be blind in the hands of  a torturer.

Lt. Slade endured interrogation, torture and starvation in the Iraqi hands for 43 days: even if his six weeks as a POW were not anywhere as long as six years in North Vietnamese prisons, to Lawrence Slade every week must have seemed like a year.

F-14B Slade 2

Image credit: U.S. Navy