Tag Archives: naval aviation

The BBC’s 1964 Masterpiece “The Great War”

Of all the events of the Twentieth Century, it is the First World War that has had the most dramatic and longest-lasting impact on the psyche of Western civilization, more so than all the events that followed.   For anyone with an abiding interest in that war, the 1964 BBC documentary The Great War is an invaluable reference to understanding.  Narrated by Sir Michael Redgrave, the 26-part documentary is a superbly-crafted work.  The tenor of the broadcasts reflects the erosion of the naïve hopes of the warring parties in 1914 into the grim fatalism that the years of slaughter evoked, and the upheaval that would ultimately topple the crowned heads of Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Serbia.  BBC producers make excellent use of voice to read the actual words of the key participants such as Edward Grey, Bethmann-Hollweg, Conrad von Hotzendorf, Joffre, Haig, Falkenhayn, and others.  The series features remarkable and little-seen motion footage of the world of 1914-18, including the civilians, the politicians, the armies, and the great battles of that war.   The battle footage heavily emphasizes the two great killers of that war (in inverse order), the machine gun, and modern breech-loading recoil-dampened artillery.

Of note also are the poignant, and sometimes extremely moving, interviews with the participants of events of the great tragedy.  Some had been in the thick of the fighting, others young subalterns or staff officers at the sleeve of the decision-makers.   Most remarkably, the BBC managed to produce a documentary about momentous events that changed the world and yet also managed to allow the viewer insight into the inestimable human tragedy that these events summoned.   At the time of the release of The Great War, those events were closer in time to the audience than the beginning of the Vietnam War is to our contemporary world.   The twenty-six episodes are around forty minutes each.  Worth every second of the time spent.

Oh, and as the credits roll at the end of each episode, one can spot the name of a very young (19 years old) contributor named Max Hastings.

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Filed under Air Force, armor, army, Around the web, Artillery, Defense, doctrine, gaza, guns, history, infantry, iraq, islam, israel, logistics, marines, navy, planes, Politics, Syria, veterans, war, weapons

Cold War Naval Ops on Iceland

Warbirds News has some very interesting photographs detailing US Navy operations in Iceland during the 1960s:

One of VW-11′s Lockheed WV-2 Super Constellations at Ernest Harmon AFB.

One of VW-11′s Lockheed WV-2 Super Constellations at Ernest Harmon AFB.

From contributor Will Tate:

In November, 1963, after boot camp and Aviation Electronics school, I arrived at my new command, VW-11 (AEWRON Eleven). The squadron’s home port was Naval Air Station Argentia in Newfoundland, Canada. However, to maintain readiness for the ever-present Soviet bomber threat, the twenty man crews for our EC-121K Super Constellation AWACs aircraft spent two weeks out of every month deployed to a forward base; Naval Air Station Keflavik in Iceland. Our role was to augment the Distant Early Warning Line, or DEW Line for short. The DEW Line comprised a series of radar stations spanning the northern rim of the Americas out over the North Atlantic to the Faroe Islands. Along with other units, our squadron helped form an Airborne Early Warning (AEW) barrier in the Denmark Straits between Greenland and Iceland, and another barrier between Iceland and the United Kingdom. The DEW Line’s land-based radar stations throughout Alaska, Canada and Greenland were thusly joined with an unbroken link to stations in Iceland and England. The Navy’s AEW barriers would fill the over-water gaps round-the-clock for the next three years. While at NAS Keflavik, I was able to observe and photograph Navy and NATO aircraft operating from base.

There’s interesting photographs here of classic naval aircraft.

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Hornet Ball 2014

The various “communities” of Naval Aviation, the Hornets, the Hawkeyes, the helo bubbas, have a long-standing tradition that each community will annually have a week of semi-professional symposia and at least one fancy dress ball at their home station. Awards from industry and various professional associations would be presented. Music would play, and the officers and sailors would show off their ladies and dance and socialize.

Back when there was a larger number of communities, and most were split between the east and west coast, that meant there were a great number of these to attend. For instance, Whidbey Island would annually host the west coast Intruder Ball, as well as the Prowler Ball, and usually send a representative or two to the east coast Intruder Ball at NAS Oceana.

There are fewer communities now, and some are amalgamated on one coast or the other, but the tradition of the ball continues. A trend over the last decade or so has for the component squadrons of a given community to share video taken over the past year for a highlight reel video. This year’s west coast Hornet Ball video is a winner.

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SPADs, Scooters, Tigers and Whales

Heavy seas mean a pitching deck.

The Skyraiders are all the  EA-1F (or rather AD-5Q) variant. The F11F Tiger was the US Navy’s first supersonic fighter, but wasn’t in fleet service very long. It did spent quite some time as an advanced trainer, and of course, was a long-time mount of the Blue Angels.

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X-47B Video

As promised, here’s some video of the X-47B unmanned technology demonstrator at sea.

Mind you, this is just a technology demonstrator. It’s primarlily a tool to learn lessons. One thing they know is that they’ll have to be a lot quicker getting the bird out of the landing area. You can see it takes a moment for the hook to disengage from the wire. It looks like they had to jerk the wire a bit to get it disengaged. It also took quite  a while to taxi out of the landing area and fold the wings. A typical manned jet like a Hornet would be out and folded in just a few seconds. From yesterday’s press release, that’s one thing they’re working on.

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Flight- The Romance of Naval Aviation

Spill kinda stole my thunder last night, posting the youtube of flight ops aboard the Ranger. I’d planned to put that up this morning.

So instead, I have to steal from SteelJawScribe this vid.

 

Lots of great NavAir from the 60s, complete with uber-cheesy soundtrack. Grab a cuppa coffee.

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China’s Nuclear Carrier Program

The Chinese military establishment is rather opaque at times, but in other ways, they’re quite forthcoming about what they have planned.

Many have scoffed at China buying, refurbishing and deploying the ex-Varyag carrier as the Liaoning. Claiming it is in no way a match for US Nimitz class carriers, with no catapults and a tiny air wing, they sneer at the thought that China can become a naval aviation power. What’s one small carrier to a fleet of 11 supercarriers?

The problem is, the Chinese have never intended to only operate one carrier. The Liaoning is clearly a training carrier, an introduction to naval aviation, much as the US Navy’s first carrier, CV-1 Langley, was not a combat ship, but a laboratory to explore the challenges of naval aviation.

The US Navy uses its carrier fleet for forward presence and as the primary method of power projection from the sea. They take the fight to the the shores of an enemy.

The Chinese Navy (actually, the People’s Liberation Army Navy, or PLAN) in the near to mid term sees its role as Anti-Access/Area Denial or A2AD. That is, their role is to prevent the US Navy from being able to perform its power projection role. They see the waters of the far western Pacific as their own, and other nations can only operate their at their sufferance.

Most of the Chinese A2AD strategy has been based on a combination of submarines and land based air and missile power, backed by large numbers of relatively small missile armed surface combatants.

But historically, if you want to fight a carrier based navy, you need a carrier based navy. And so the Chinese some time ago announced their intentions to build up a fleet of (at least) four carriers. The first, Liaoning, we’ve seen. And the word is that the second of this fleet will be a new-build repeat, though probably with some changes based on lessons learned. That leaves carriers 3 and 4.

It has long been speculated that these carriers would be more in line with what we think of as a supercarrier. Nuclear powered, with catapults capable of operating more than just lightly loaded fighters, and with a large, diverse air wing with strike fighters, anti-submarine helicopters, and critically, a viable Airborne Early Warning aircraft.

After a good deal of speculation, now comes word from the China-Defense blog that a fairly definitive model of the next generation Chinese carrier has been made public.

http://xbradtc.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/6f1d2-230357nj50vu409gjdufv8.jpg?w=749&h=575

http://xbradtc.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/bec8d-230358p4rcyo8aye3raaym.jpg?w=755&h=575

If you think that looks not a bit like a Nimitz (or even a touch of Ford) carrier, you’re not alone.

Skeptics of Chinese naval aviation like to say that the US Navy took over 70 years to learn to operate carriers. But that’s not true. Looking at the history of carrier aviation, our Navy learned to operate carriers as many as four different times, each in different ways.

  • The early days of Langley, Lexington, Saratoga
  • The late prewar Ranger, Yorktown, Enterprise,  Hornet, Wasp and early one and two ship carrier groups
  • The Essex/Independence classes and the large Fast Carrier Task Force of late World War II
  • The great transition to the jet age, with the Forrestal supercarriers, the angled deck, steam catapults, and the optical landing system

For our purposes, the last is of the greatest interest. In a period of little more than a decade, carrier aviation changed almost completely. The US Navy suffered appalling accident rates during that time, but the lessons were learned, and for the most part are still valid today.

And having written down the lessons, they are available to study for any who wish to learn.

And like most engineering challenges, once the problem has been solved the first time, every iteration after that is much simpler.

China won’t suddenly become the dominant force upon the ocean blue. But to ignore that fact that China is rapidly becoming a very near peer at sea in the western Pacific, especially as they become more and more aggressive and expansionistic, is to court disaster in the very near future.

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