Category Archives: navy

Footage of the Last Hours of USS Wasp CV-7

 Shortly after 1440 on 15 September 1942, in the waters of the Solomon Islands, USS Wasp (CV-7) was struck by three torpedoes from the IJN submarine I-19.   The impact point was directly below the AVGAS distribution station, which was in operation when the torpedoes struck.   Within minutes, Wasp was engulfed in flames, roaring like a furnace, punctuated by powerful explosions from built-up gasoline vapors.  Ammunition and aerial bombs began to detonate from the heat, and inside of an hour, Captain Forrest Sherman ordered Wasp abandoned.   She burned well into the evening before torpedoes from USS Lansdowne (DD-486) finally sank her.

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wasp-burning-and-sinking

When I was a young lad, I read an excellent book on the Solomons Campaign.  In it, the author described Wasp as burning like a torch, and how, as darkness fell, sailors on other ships could see her glowing red from the fires inside.   When Wasp finally slipped beneath the waves, it was said she emanated a loud and eerie hissing as her hot steel sank into the sea. Watching the footage above, one understands that such a description, like Tom Lea’s famous painting, is hardly hyperbole.

In all, 193 sailors died on Wasp, and 366 were wounded.   Forty-three precious aircraft also went down with her. She had been in commission just 28 months.

In the 37 weeks of war since December 7th, the US Navy had lost Langley (CV-1), Lexington (CV-2), Yorktown (CV-5), and Wasp (CV-7).  Also soon to be lost was Hornet (CV-8), sunk at Santa Cruz on 26 October 1942.   Hornet, however, would be the last US fleet carrier lost during the war.

H/T to Grandpa Bluewater

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Filed under air defense, aviation, Defense, guns, history, missiles, navy, planes, ships, training, veterans, war, weapons, World War II

Navy in the news.

First up, earlier in the week, during an exericise, the USS Sullivans launched an SM-2 missile from her Mk41 Vertical Launch system. Almost immediately after clearing the launcher, the missile exploded.

A Raytheon SM-2 Block IIIA guided missile explodes over USS The Sullivans during a training exercise on July 18, 2015. US Navy Photo obtained by USNI News

 

Given that the missile had no warhead, it’s virtually a certainty that the solid rocket motor failed, and rather spectacularly at that! I’ve never heard of a similar failure of an SM-2. It could be simply due to aging, or a manufacturing defect. One suspects the Navy is going to take a close look at  a lot of other SM-2 Block III missiles.

I have, on the other hand, seen a Royal Navy Sea Dart fail rather spectacularly on launch.

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The US Navy is constructing a massive simulation capability at NAS Fallon, home of Naval Strike & Air Warfare Center. But more than being a collection of 80 simulators, it will also be integrating cruiser Combat Information Center sims, and integrating with genuine aircraft conducting real flights.

The Navy has begun to build a next generation training center that will pair up to 80 fighter, reconnaissance aircraft and ship simulators with live fliers in a massive environment that blends the real world with the virtual.

Navy director of air warfare Rear Adm. Mike Manazir told USNI News on July 16 that the Navy is working towards opening an Air Defense Strike Group Facility at Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada in January 2016 and upgrading it to an Integrated Training Facility by 2020, which would represent a fundamental leap forward in live, virtual and constructive (LVC) training.

Today, the Navy can conduct live-constructive training, in which a live pilot up in the air reacts to computer-generated scenarios, and virtual-constructive training, in which a person in a simulator reacts to computer-generated scenarios. But connecting a pilot in the air with a pilot in a simulator to operate in the same constructive environment – a full LVC event – is a real technical challenge.

The big benefit is that you can construct very large scale scenarios, and tailor them to any location in the world. That is, it will give a more genuine representation of actual operations that current scenarios.

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Not exactly a Navy only story, but Lockheed is looking at ways to use sensors and datalinks to increase real time targeting capability.

A high-flying Lockheed Martin U-2 spy plane has enabled a mission control station to dynamically re-target a simulated Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), using data passed from an F-22 Raptor over the deserts of Southern California in a recent flight trial.

During the tests, targeting data was passed from the F-22 to a ground station via an L-3 Communications modem on the U-2, says Scott Winstead, Lockheed Martin’s head of strategic development for the U-2 programme. This allowed the ground station to re-target the LRASM surrogate, essentially a cruise missile mission systems flown on a business jet.

In addition, the U-2 was able to translate and pass data between the F-22 and a Boeing F-18 Hornet during the series of flights, which took place in June. The tests were designed to evaluate new US Air Force open mission system (OMS) standards using a Skunk Works product called Enterprise OMS.

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Chattanooga- They fought back

Well, that’s interesting. In contravention to regulation and federal law, at least two servicemembers, including the commanding officer, were in possession of weapons, and fought back against the Islamist terrorist who attacked both a recruiting station and NOSC Chattanooga. During his assault which killed four Marines and one Sailor, at least one Marine carried a Glock pistol, and the NOSC commander, LCDR Timothy White possessed a weapon, and exchanged fire with the assailant.

Per the New York Times:

Chat

Pistols versus an AK style rifle and shotgun isn’t a fair fight, but it’s far better than nothing.

The question now is will the chain of command honor LCDR White for his valor, or denounce him for violation of regulations?

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Bring The HEAT Podcast

OK, I got the (most of) the technology figgered out. And a quick call with Spill actually generated some real content.

You can stream it here.

Or you can download the mp3 here.

(Right click and chose “Save Link As”)

If there’s sufficient interest, we’ll look at iTunes and Stitcher as well.

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The Pacific Patrol Boat Program

The Central Pacific has some of the greatest swaths of empty ocean in the world. But in the Western Pacific, there are a great number of islands and archipelagoes, many of them independent nation states. Each of these nations has an EEZ, or Exclusive Economic Zone. While their territorial sovereignty only extends 12 nautical miles from the shore, the EEZ extends 200 nautical miles. Within that zone, these nation states have rights to fishing, drilling and virtually all other economically productive activities. If Tuvula doesn’t want you fishing in their waters, that is their right to deny you. Conversely, Tuvula can, if it wishes, grant you a license to fish in their EEZ, and charge you a tidy fee, adding nicely to their national coffers. The problem is, Tuvula, with an area of about 10 square miles, has an EEZ of about 126,000 square miles to patrol. And with a population of about 10,000, it doesn’t really have the tax base and industry to buy much of a coast guard.

Enter Australia. The concept of the EEZ is a relatively new one, first codified by the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea in 1982. Australia has long operated its own fleet of small patrol boats to enforce its EEZ and perform other similar maritime security and presence missions.  Australia also quickly realized that helping the large number of small nations to their north perform similar missions would help Australia perform its own. That is, time not spend dealing with problems to the north could be spent on dealing with local issues.

And so in the late 1980s through most of the 1990s, Australia built a fleet of 22 patrol boats, each just over 100’ in length, and get this… they gave them away, free of charge. Even better, they operate a schoolhouse in Australia to train the sailors from the countries that received these gifts. Australia also set aside money for overhauling and upgrading the boats over time.

The Pacific class patrol boat has been quite a successful design.

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Photographs taken during day 3 of the Royal Australian Navy International Fleet Review 2013. Papua New Guinean patrol boat Dreger underway on Sydney Harbour.

At about 103’, and displacing 162 tons, they have a top speed of about 20 knots, and a steaming range of about 2500 nautical miles at an efficient cruising speed of 12 knots.  They have an endurance of about 10 days.  Not all are armed (many are operated by police forces, as opposed to a navy or coast guard) but they can be fitted for machine guns and even 20mm cannon.

The Pacifics were built to commercial standards, both to keep construction and maintenance costs down, and for ease of maintenance by the relatively poor nations that operate them.

The Pacifics are beginning to reach the end of their expected service lives. And Australia has a bit of a slump in its current shipbuilding plans. And so:

MARCH 6, 2015 — Australia’s Minister of Defence, Kevin Andrews, today, issued a statement announcing the Request for Tender (RFT) for up to 21 replacement – Australian-made – Pacific Patrol Boats under the Pacific Maritime Security Program, Project SEA3036 Phase 1.
Under that program, Australia provides patrol boats to Pacific island countries to enable them take an active part in securing their own extensive Exclusive Economic Zones

The project announced today is seen as a lifeline for Australian shipbuilding. According to the minister, it represents “a significant investment in Australian defense industry,” with the Australian-made patrol boats worth Australian $594 million (about US$ 462 million) with through life sustainment and personnel costs adding an estimated at A$1.38 billion (about US$ 1.07 billion over 30 years.

It would probably be fair to say this is more corporate welfare for Australia than it is self interested charity to its neighbors. Australia’s neighbors will benefit, of course. But in the interim, Australia will also be able to keep its shipbuilding capacity ticking over pending some future major programs for domestic consumption.

The new patrol boats are expected to be somewhat larger than the Pacific class, at about 40 meters (roughly 125 feet) and a bit faster, with a top speed of 25 knots. Endurance should be similar. Again, the ships will be built to commercial standards. They won’t be fitted with armament, but will be fitted for it if the receiving nation wishes to add it.

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The Last “Thousand Tonner”

USS Allen

Some of the most interesting curiosities in the history of naval warfare surround older warships remaining in service long after similar vessels have been retired.  Sometimes, the story of such ships is one of tragedy, like the three elderly Royal Navy cruisers sunk in the Channel by a German U-Boat in 1914, or the nearly-helpless Spanish wooden-hulled Castilla, quickly sunk at Manila Bay.  Other times, like with Oldendorf’s “Old Ladies” at Surigao Straits or the Iowas in Desert Storm, the veteran ships were found to still be plenty lethal.  One such curiosity is the unlikely tale of USS Allen, DD-66.

The rapid advances in Naval technology that spanned the last decade of the 19th Century and the first decade of the 20th included generational leaps in warship design, hastened further by the outbreak of war in 1914.  Nowhere was this more manifest than in the smallest of the combatant ships of the world’s navies, the destroyer.  Originally the “torpedo boat destroyer” built to protect larger ships of the battle line from the speedy small craft and their ship-killing weapons, powered torpedoes, soon these “torpedo boat destroyers” became the carriers of torpedoes themselves, then called simply, “destroyers”.

US destroyer construction in the early part of the century followed apace with designs elsewhere.  Small, largely coastal craft evolved into the 700-ton “flivvers” and later, the “thousand-tonners” of the O’Brien, Tucker, and Sampson classes.   Despite being almost new, these 26 ships of the latter three classes had proven barely suitable for the requirements of destroyer service in a modern war at sea.  Among the first US ships to attach to the Royal Navy in 1917, by the end of the war they were hopelessly outdated, as the British W and V classes, and the latest German destroyers, were significantly larger, much faster,  far more capable warships.

Following the Armistice, almost all the “thousand tonners” were quickly decommissioned, as they were replaced in service with the “flush-decker” Wickes and Clemson classes, of which an astounding 267 were built (though few were completed in time for war service).   A number of the obsolescent “thousand tonners” were given to the US Coast Guard, where they served into the 1930s.  Most, however, were scrapped or sunk as targets.  Most, but not all.

One unit of the Sampsons, USS Allen, DD-66, was placed back in commission,  to serve as a training ship for US Navy Reserve personnel.  She would serve in this role between 1925 and 1928, after which she returned to the Reserve Fleet in Philadelphia.   Allen was retained even while a number of her younger and far more capable “flush-decker” sisters were scrapped.  As war clouds loomed, Allen was selected to be recommissioned, in the summer of 1940.  She must have been an exceptionally well-maintained vessel.  Even with that, the choice to recommission Allen was a curious one.  She and her sisters were designed before the First World War, and still reflected the “torpedo boat destroyer” mission in her layout and systems.

USSAllenDD66

USS Allen 9

After some time in the Atlantic, Allen was assigned to the Pacific Fleet, which had recently moved to Pearl Harbor.  She was present and fired her only shots of the war during the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.  Lacking adequate endurance and weapons, Allen spent the war escorting vessels between the Hawaiian Islands, helping to train submarine crews by acting as a mock sub chaser, and she made the occasional voyage back to the US West Coast.  In the course of the war, Allen had her antiaircraft armament considerably augmented, with six 20mm cannon, and she lost at least one set of torpedo tubes.  She gained depth charge throwers, and even a modest air search radar.   I could find no reference to her being fitted with sonar of any kind, however.  (And if Norman Friedman didn’t say it happened, it didn’t happen!)

USS Allen 10

Immediately following the war, of course, the worn-out and thoroughly obsolete Allen was quickly decommissioned, in the fall of 1945, and just as quickly sold for scrap.   She is shown above, disarmed and awaiting disposal.  At the time of her decommissioning, she was the oldest US destroyer in commission, and the last survivor of her class and type.   Built to specifications which dated to before US entry into the First World War, USS Allen would serve through the Second, a throwback of four generations of destroyer design.  A remarkable record of service indeed.

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The British Pacific Fleet

Growing up in a Naval Aviation family, it was a given that I would know the major exploits of the Fast Carrier Task Force that formed the heart of the US Navy’s striking power in the Pacific. Operating alternately as TF 38 when under Halsey’s 3rd Fleet and TF 58 when under Spruance’s 5th Fleet, the FCTF roamed the Central and Western Pacific, at sea for weeks at a time, supporting various invasions, striking territory the Japanese had seized, and even raiding the home islands of Japan.  The FCTF was the powerhouse of the Pacific, making that ocean an American pond for 70 years. Every other part of the United States Navy, from the submarine service, to the stupendous fleet train,  to the Seabees to the amphibious shipping and indeed, the entire US Marine Corps, served simply to better enable the Big Blue to rule the mighty Pacific as a wholly American territory.

Of course, the US Navy wasn’t alone in those waters. Britain, with its many colonial outposts, maintained a significant fleet presence in the Pacific. Sadly, the opening months of the war saw them more soundly defeated by Japan than even our own fleet. Eventually, the Royal Navy would retreat to Trincomalee, Ceylon.  The bulk of the Royal Navy’s fighting strength would be devoted to operations in the North Atlantic and in the Mediterranean Sea.

However, by early 1944, the situation in those waters was sufficiently in hand that Britain felt it could spare ships and planes for the Pacific. The Chief of Naval Operations, Ernie King, was not exactly an Anglophile, and was not enthusiastic about the Royal Navy returning to the Western Pacific. In this, he was overruled by FDR.

Of course, it was more than mere politics that gave the US Navy pause about a Royal Navy fleet in the Pacific. The RN mostly operated close to its bases in comparatively close waters. Their ships had less endurance, and even less space for food stores. Furthermore, they had little experience in replenishment underway. Worst of all, they had virtually none of the fleet train of ships that the US Navy relied upon to allow the Fast Carrier Task Force to stay at sea for weeks. Any significant RN participation would almost certainly have to receive at least some support from the US Navy.

The RN did amass a sizeable fleet train to support its operations (though they also received quite a bit of help from the USN) and soon amassed a significant fleet of carriers, battleships, cruisers, destroyers and other combatants.

When operating with the US Navy, the British Pacific Fleet (BPF) was under  the US command structure, and designated either TF 37 or Task Force 57, depending on whether it was with 3rd or 5th Fleet.

The most significant operations of the BPF were in support of the US invasion of Okinawa, where the BPF conducted raids on Japanese airfields to suppress kamikaze attacks. Of course, that invited kamikaze attacks upon themselves. Unlike US carriers that had wooden flight decks, British carriers had steel flight decks. Generally, a kamikaze hit on them resulted in far less damage.

While some British carriers operated British designed planes such as the Seafire and the Barracuda, many operated US built planes, including the Corsair, the Avenger, and the Hellcat.

No audio, but still an interesting look at British carrier operations in 1944.

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