Friday, September 10, 2010

Navy Colors, Part IV

Last group for now ...

Beautifully marked VMFA-312 F-18C Hornet launching off a waist catapult on board the USS Harry S. Truman. Note the live bomb under the right wing.

VMFA-232's CAG bird passing over the USS after a missed approach. The squadron was deployed aboard the USS Nimitz.

A VRC-30 C-2A Greyhound catching a wire about the USS Eisenhower. C-2s provide transporation to and from the ship for personnel and material while a carrier is deployed.

This incredible paint job was applied to a VRC-30 C-2 to commemorate the squadron's 50th Anniversary. The aircraft is hooked up to a forward catapult on the USS George H W Bush.

VFA-143's CAG F-18E launching from the waist catapult off the USS Eisenhower. Markings are in dark blue, as is the 'Pukin Dogs' squadron insignia on the tail. Officially a winged griffon, the motif looks like a dog with a hangover - hence the nickname.

This wildly painted VFA-137 bird is a tribute to the Navy's new Digi-blue BDUs. The odd blotches you see are actually representations of the block shaped camo patterns seen on the Navy's new working uniforms. Pretty cool. Aircraft is seen launching off the outer waist catapult on the USS Lincoln.

VFA-97 's CAG F-18C, NH-300 is seen here about to catch the 3 wire on the USS Nimitz.

VFA-94's F-18C 164227 , seen over Mt. Fuji. The Mighty Shrikes squadron was forward deployed to MCAS Iwakuni, Japan.

Two views of F-18F 166842. VFA-41 Black Aces' CAG bird, assigned to the USS Nimitz.

All Photos Credit US Navy

Navy Colors, Part III

And another dose ... you just can't get enough of this stuff.

Three shots showing VFA-32's CAG (AC-200) and Squadron Commander's (AC-201) F-18Fs.

VFA-31's CAG F-18E coming aboard the USS Roosevelt. The Felix the Cat mascot toting a bomb is one of the oldest flying squadron insignia in the US Navy.

Two shots of the VFA-14 Tophatter's CAG bird. Top shot is just after launch from a waist catapult, bottom is taking tension on the catapult just prior to being flung off the front end of the carrier. USS Nimitz.

Two CAG birds from the USS Lincoln. A two seat F-18F from VFA-2 leads a single seat F-18E from VFA-137.

VFA-2's CAG bird demonstrating a high performance climb out after takeoff. F-18F 165916, NE-200, flying off the USS Lincoln.

An E-2C of the VAW-120 Greywolves, landing on a carrier deck. Note the grey painted forward part of the fuselage, and the grey/black tail markings and engine nacelles. Definitely non-standard markings!

VAW-117's CAG bird pulling into its parking spot at NAS Pt. Mugu, returing from a shipboard deployment. BuNo 165649, NH-600, had just spent the previous 6 months on the USS Nimitz as part of CVW-1.

Aircraft of CVW-5 never pass up a photo chance over Mt. Fuji, near their forward deployed base of NAF Atsugi, Japan. This VAW-115 CAG bird is seen in formation with one of its more sedately painted squadron mates over said Mt. Fuji, while the Air Wing was still assigned to the USS Kittyhawk (recently retired from active duty service). Tail markings consist of the Rising Sun, with the NF air wing indicator being in pseud'Japanese letters.

All photos credit US Navy

Navy Colors, Part II

Part II - more gloriously colored aircraft from the present day Navy and Marines ...

VAQ-129's first F-18G Growler. This two seat Hornet model is the replacement for the EA-6B Prowler, and is starting to enter front line squadron service.

An SH-60B of HSL-51. Tail markings are red, with a Rising Sun motif.

MH-60S of HS-8, the "8 Ballers", attaching to a slingload on board the USS Stennis. Tail markings are black/gold/green, front of the aircraft is black with an "8 Ball' - appropriate!.

CAG Hornets from Air Wing Five. These spectacularly marked aircraft are forward deployed to Japan with the rest of CVW-5, the only Air Wing based outside of the United States.

F-18F 166805, CAG bird of VFA-211, catching a 3 wire onboard the USS Enterprise.

VFA-32 Swordsmen CAG bird, F-18F 166661, flying off the USS Hary S. Truman.

VFA-103's BuNo 166620, serving as its CAG bird, pulling some Gs in a high AofA. The Jolly Rogers were flying off the Eisenhower at the time.

MH-60S 166356 of HCS-25, preparing to pick up a load off the stern of the USS Washngton. The Squadron's nickname is 'The Knights'. Tail art consits of a couple of palm trees, with a couple of mounted crusading Knights - not exactly poilitically correct these days .....

HSC-26's MH-60S Seahawk CAG helo, BuNo 166295. Seen here after dropping a sling load of bombs onto a carrier deck during UnRep. Tail markings are dark blue with yellow/gold markings.

A couple of shots of the VFA-102 Diamondbacks F-18F CAG bird, BuNo 165894, Top shot shows it launghing from the waist catapult, bottom shows hook down in the approach pattern for landing.

All photos credit US Navy.

Navy Colors, Part I

Back in the 60s and 70s, US Navy and Marine Corps aircraft wore some of the most colorful markings ever seen on flying machines. The base camoflage scheme was gloss gull grey top and side surfaces, with a white bottom. It was definitely not a low visibility type of camoflage, and the wildly colorful individual unit markings made the aircraft stick out even more.

A-7E 158021 of VA-195, seen at NAS Lemoore in 1978, is representative of the colorful markings carried in the late 60s and 70s.

In the late and early '80s, the brass decided to tone down the color quite a bit. Studies had indicated that the grey/white/color paint made the aircraft easy to see at long distances, a decided disadvantage in aerial combat. The first move was to overall gull grey, with toned down unit markings. Then, the advent of TPS (Tactical Paint Scheme) ushered in a new era in NAVAIR - dull grey.

TPS consisted of 2 or 3 shades of matte grey, applied in specific patterns to each individual aircraft type. The camoflage was very effective in cutting down the aircraft's visual signatures. In practice, the greys were very hard to maintain, and due to the dull finish, stained very easily. Unit markings were mandated to be painted in one of the 3 TPS greys, whichever contrasted with the base color under the squadron markings. While the camo worked tactically, it resulted in aircraft that pretty much looked like refugees from a junkyard.

By contrast, here is an A-7E from VA-205, seen in 1988. The mottled appearance of the TPS camoflage is just normal wear and tear, but see how badly it shows up? Much more effective as a camoflage, but not exactly pleasing to the eye - or the camera.

Fortunately, a few years after the advent of TPS, complaints from the squadrons about the dull nature of the aircraft led to the Navy allowing one aircraft per squadron to receive some limited colored markings. This aircraft was typically called the 'CAG Bird' - referring to the aircraft as one marked in tribute to the Commander of the Air Wing.

As the 90s ended and the 00s came upon us, the Navy relaxed the policy even further, and more colorful CAG birds surfaced. Since the threat of air to air combat has been greatly minimized, the Esprit de Corps experienced with a colored up CAG bird far outweighs any tactical risk.

This relaxation has been a wonderful change for those of us who follow military aviation, particularly if we photograph the aircraft. Though grey is still the norm, seeing a colored up aircraft now and then puts a thrill into aviation enthusiasts.

Here are some recent 'CAG' birds and other examples of colorful markings fielded by US Navy and Marine squadrons. There are others, and I'll post some more from time to time.

The Strike Directorate based at NAS Pax River has this F-18F, BuNo 165875, undergoing tests of alternative fuels. The aircraft has been unofficially dubbed 'The Green Hornet'.

Though not a CAG bird, this VAW-126 E-2C Hawkeye carries eye catching black and blue Seahawk markings. Seen launching from the USS Truman is AC-603, BuNo 165648.

The Stingers of VFA-113 have had some spectacular CAG birds over the years. This one is rather mundane, but still qualifies as a colored up CAG bird. BuNo 164668 is a late build F-18C, and was flying off the USS Ronald Reagan.

This EA-6B Prowler of VAQ-139 is seen launching off the USS Reagan. NK-500 was BuNo 163527. The Cougars are based at NAS Whidbey Island while not on cruise.

The patriotic Prowler belongs to VAQ-141, flying off the USS Eisenhower at the time. The flag markings leave no doubt as to who owns BuNo 163521.

Test and Development unit VX-23 used this F-18C, 163476, during flight deck certification tests on the USS George H W Bush.

The rotor heads are also into the CAG thing. SH-60B 163294 belongs to HS-2, and is seen approaching the USS Lincoln.

Photo Credits - top two A-7 photos - yours truly. All others are official US Navy images.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Irving,TX War Memorial

The City of Irving, Texas (between Dallas and Ft. Worth) has a very nice memorial to its war veterans. In particular, it pays tribute to the Irving citizens who have fallen in defense of our country. Located next to City Hall, it is a little hard to find, but well worth the visit if you are in the area. Very nicely done, I must say. It is a shame that not many folks know about it, including the residents of Irving ....

Veterans Memorial Air Park Opening in Ft. Worth

The grand opening of the Veteran's Memorial Air Park is this coming Sunday, September 12. Located on the south end of Meacham Field in Ft. Worth, the museum holds a collection of modern era military aircraft.

VMAP grew out of a collaboration of the Forward Air Controller's Museum and the OV-10 Bronco Association.

The museum's collection includes one of the last F-14s to fly in US Navy service, a F-111, a TF-102, F-105, F-5, T-37, A-4, TA-4, A-7, RF-8, OV-10, O-2, and two F-4 Phantoms.

If you are visiting the Ft. Worth area, this is a worthy place to drop by.

3300 Ross Ave.
Ft. Worth, TX 76106