More F-35C at sea testing

This is just the first workout of the F-35 on the boat. For now, the testing is on best case launch and recovery. Later, they’ll explore the worst case, making it tougher and tougher.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZtZD2SDR8E]

Say what you will about the F-35 development program, but here’s something interesting. The C model will carry an astonishing 20,000 pounds of internal fuel. By way of contrast, the A-6 had an internal capacity of about 15,000 pounds.

YOV-10D NOGS

At the beginning of the Vietnam War, the state of the art for most aircraft weapon delivery was just about as advanced as it had been in World War II. That is, the visual dive bomb pass was the normal method of delivery. Given the higher speeds, shallower dives, and higher release altitudes, accuracy was arguably lower than in World War II.

Worse still, dive bombing was essentially a day-only tactic. Previous aerial interdiction campaigns in Italy and Korea suffered from the fact that a day only interdiction campaign allowed the enemy as many hours of freedom of movement as it did hours of observation and attack.  Some attack aircraft, notably the A-6 Intruder, were equipped to perform “precision” strikes using radar, but that meant the target had to be a significant radar target, or a fixed position offset from such a radar target. Radar technology simply couldn’t pick out discrete targets such as trucks along the Ho Chi Minh trail.

Recognizing this shortcoming, the defense establishment put a lot of time, money and effort into devising alternative methods of target acquisition for night time use. One popular method was image intensification. The “starlight” scope took ambient illumination and magnified it to provide an image. Several platforms used such Low Light Level Television (or LLTV). But LLTV suffered from white-out if there was too much illumination (such as from weapons exploding) or poor image if there was little or no ambient light, such as on moonless overcast nights.

Forward Looking Infra Red, or FLIR, used the heat given off by various objects to provide a picture. Oddly, many FLIR systems are turret mounted, but for some reason, still retain the term “Forward Looking.”

Early FLIR systems were, by the standards of today, rather crude. But they gave airmen for the first time an effective way to pierce the darkness, and acquire non-radar significant targets on the ground. And if you can see it, you can kill it.

The Marines, presumably impressed with the side firing capability of the AC-119 and AC-130, modified two OV-1oA Broncos into what became knows as the YOV-10D* NOGS, or Night Observation Gunship. Basically, they added a FLIR system to the nose of a Bronco, with associated displays in the cockpits, and then added a tri-barrel XM197 20mm cannon on a turret to the aircraft belly.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6iI9NfNTpk]

The service test in Vietnam was pretty successful. The problem was, with the 20mm turret, the Bronco could not carry its sponsons, which on the A model had five stores stations, as well as mounting four fixed forward firing 7.62mm M60D machine guns. The tradeoff in conventional wasn’t worth it.

Eventually, with some modifications, the idea of a FLIR turret in the nose of the Bronco was accepted, and the OV-10D, without a gun turret, but with its sponsons, would enter production, serving with the Marines through Desert Storm.

Today, virtually every aircraft with a ground attack role carries FLIR, either on a pod or as an integral part of the aircraft.

*The “Y” in the designation is to denote its use as a service test.

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.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/109662377]

Prowler In Action

With the last Navy EA-6B Prowler deployment underway, it seems a fitting time to share this propaganda video about the Prowler. The hairstyles and the paint job tells me its from the late 70s. Indeed, I remember “Prowler University” of VAQ-129 in the old WWII temporary building.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynHHASG66Eg]

Actually, further research reminds me Charlie Hunter was COMMATVAQWINGPAC from 80-82. Charlie Hunter was a renowned A-6 Intruder pilot, and a recipient of the Navy Cross, the second highest award for valor our nation can bestow.