Saturday, March 20, 2010

Another Hero Passes

Robert White passed away peacefully in his sleep this past St. Patrick's day at his home in Orlando. He was 85.

Robert White was a retired USAF Major General. He earned his wings during WWII, and flew Mustangs in the European theater with the 355thFG until being shot down early in 1945 on his 52nd combat mission. He spent the rest of the war as a POW. After the war, he earned a degree in electrical engineering, then was called back to duty during the Korean War. In 1954 he was transferred to Edwards AFB, where he joined the test pilot program. In 1961, he was the first man to break Mach 4, then Mach 5, and then Mach 6, while flying the X-15. He also was the first man into space in a winged vehicle when he flew the X-15 to a height of 59 miles in 1962.

He spent time with the 36TFW at Bitburg AB in Germany, finally commanding the 53rdTFS. He then went to Vietnam where he flew 70 missions in the F-105 with the 355thTFW, winning the Air Force Cross.

Gen. White's commendations include the Air Force Cross, Silver Star with 3 oak leaf clusters, Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with 4 oak leaf clusters, Bronze Star, Air Medal with 16 oak leaf clusters, and a Distinguished Unit Citation with V device.

Godspeed General White ...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Bad Few Days For Hornets

The past few days haven't been kind to the Navy and Marine Corps fleet of F-18 Hornet fighters ...

This past Monday evening (Mar. 15) at around 10:00pm local, two F-18E Super Hornets assigned to VFA-136 collided in mid-air. The aircraft were involved with SFARP workup with CVW-2 at NAS Fallon, NV. One aircraft crashed, the pilot fortunately was able to successfully eject.

On March 11, A F-18D from VMFA(AW)-224, flying out of MCAS Beaufort, SC, ejected from their aircraft after it caught fire over the Atlantic during a training mission. Both crew members were safely recovered.

On March 12, the Navy grounded 104 older model Hornets (A,B,C,D models) after fatigue cracks were found in some aircraft where they shouldn't have been. This accounts for 16% of the earlier model Hornets currently flying. The grounding is until the aircraft can be inspected. It was not disclosed what would happen to those aircraft found to be cracked - retirement or repair. With the Pentagon's current fixation on retiring aircraft that are actually flying, it would seem that repair is unlikely.

In other Hornet news, Boeing has offered to allow Japan to license build the Super Hornet, if Japan chooses that aircraft to replace its ageing fleet of F-4 Phantoms. 4 other aircraft are involved in the competiton for the order. Japan actually wants the F-22 Raptor, but that aircraft is prohibited from foreign sales - ironic ... it isn't good enough to continue production for the USAF, but it is too good to sell to our allies. Boeing (actually McDonnell-Douglas) has a history of license building in Japan - the majority of Japanese Phantoms were produced by Japanese industry.
Photo courtesy US Navy

Friday, March 12, 2010

VFA-201 Hunters - RIP

VFA-201 Hunters were a Navy Reserve F-18 Squadron located at NAS Ft. Worth. Established on July 25, 1970 at NAS Dallas, the unit flew F-8H, F-4N, F-4S, F-14A, F-18A, and finally F-18A+ aircraft before being disestablished in 2007.

The unit made Navy history in 2003, when it became the first Navy Reserve combat unit to be called to active duty combat service since the Korean War. Receiving the callup, the unit converted from F-18A to A+ aircraft, worked up, qualified, and in less than 3 months from callup date deployed on the USS Roosevelt for a six month combat tour in support of OIF. The squadron dropped over 220,000 lbs. of weapons on Iraqi targets.

After returning fromthe cruise, it kept up its training, but was disestablished on June 30, 2007 due to budget cuts. VFA-204, based at NAS New Orleans, had been slated for disestablishment instead, but in the aftermath of Katrina, politics jumped up and declared that the jobs couldn't be lost in New Orleans - instead the combat proven -201 stood down. Many of its personnel retired, some moved on to other billets.

I shot an awful lot of Kodachrome on Hunters' jets over the years - it is sad to know they are gone, never to return.

Here is their OIF 2003 cruise video, broken into 3 parts, followed by a bit of cockpit video of a Hunters pilot doing some ACM over Texas. Looks like a lot of fun!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

USS Vinson Heads West

The USS Carl Vinson, CVN-70, has changed coasts. Formerly based at Norfolk, VA, it is now based in San Diego, CA. After completing a major overhaul at Newport News, VA, the vessel and its Air Wing traveled south, participating in major exercises with South American countries on its way to its new home.

Earth shattering news? I guess not ... just a good excuse to post some neat photos ...

F-18F approaches the sound barrier on a low pass over the ship

F-18F on a knife edge pass at low altitude

VFA-81 F-18E Super Bugs jockeying for launch position

All photos courtesy US Navy

Monday, March 8, 2010

Northrup-Grumman Drops Out Of KC-X Bidding

Wow ... didn't see this coming.

Northrup-Grumman has been fighting Boeing for the USAF's next generation tanker contract, called the KC-X competition. This competition has been ongoing for years, and plagued by corruption, charges of bid rigging, changing requirements, and protectionism.

Boeing's KC-767 was leading the first iteration of the competition, when it was uncoverd that senior USAF officials involved in the bid evaluation were offered post-service jobs by Boeing.

Northrup-Grumman's KC-30 won the second try at the competition, but Boeing protested the verdict. The GAO got involved, agreed, and ordered a new competition with much more stringent requirements that would make it more clear the exact definition of what the USAF was looking for.

Boeing is offering a tanker configured version of its 767 airliner.

Northrup-Grumman was offering a tanker configured version of the Airbus A330 airliner.

The contract is one of the largest defense contracts still up for grab. The USAF is planning on procurring 109 of the aircraft, at a cost of around $30 billion. The aircraft will supplement its current fleet of KC-135R and KC-10 tankers. The KC-135R fleet, the newest of which was built in 1963, is somehow expected to soldier on until 2040. The KC-10s, built between 1979 and 1984, are overworked and limited to what airfields they can operate from.

Northrup-Grumman announced today that it was removing itself from the competition, stating generally that the new requirements could not be met by its KC-30 entry. Primarily, this was due to the size of the aircraft - the KC-30 is much larger than the KC-767, preventing it from operating on smaller airstrips the Boeing entry is capable of. N-G has pulled it's website dedicated to the KC-30.

I really thought Northrup-Grumman would fight harder. They've fought this battle for about 10 years now. Something has changed. Something has given them insight that tells them they will not win the competition, besides the obvious differences between the aircraft. Something has told them to cut their losses and run. Don't know what it is, but it will surely come out later on.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Females On Submarines ... You've Got to be Kidding

The Navy's leadership, pushed by the Obama Administration, has declared that submarines will now be staffed ay female as well as male sailors. What kind of rocket scientist thought this pile of dog excrement up? Surely it was someone who has no concept of what a submarine does or how it operates.

Now, don't get me wrong. I am in no way saying that females are not capable of doing the jobs on submarines just as well as males. That is not my point.

The point is practicality.

Submarines are very cramped quarters. There is so little room, even in the biggest ones, that there are not enough bunks (beds for you ignorant Obama Admininstration members) for all of the sailors. The enlisted personnel 'hot bunk' - that is they share a bunk with others. When someone is on duty, someone else is sleeping in that bunk. Shifts change, they swap. Hence hot bunk ... the bedding doesn't have a chance to cool off between occupants. Heads (or bathrooms) are communal, and very limited in space. Use of the facilities has to be coordinated to keep from chaos breaking out. The only way this works is that everyone is the same sex (and supposedly the same sexual orientation). The point is, there isn't much living space for the crew.

Now, add females to the equiation. You can't make the submarine bigger. You can't make males and females share berthing spaces or heads (which would be the only way to really achieve equality). So, you have to take communal space away and dedicate it to female use only. There have to be seperate, lockable berthing spaces, showers, toilets - and the only way those can be provided is to cut down on the communal spaces. So, the male crew members will get even less space, even less access to facilities, and endure more problems in their daily life onboard.

This will create animosity between the male and female crew members. This will put a finite limit on the number of females that can be in the crew. You will end up with 100+ male enlisted crew losing half of their living space to 3-4 females. How can the Navy not know of the problems this will cause?

Problems will be compounded by the nature of the sub missions ... underwater, cooped up for weeks and months on end. There will inevitably be issues with onboard romances, pregnancies, and hard feelings.

These problems have been run into when women were introduced to surface combatant vessels, but the problems weren't nearly as serious. There is a lot more room on a surface ship, a lot more opportunity to 'get away' from the tension.

In addition to the practical issues listed above, there is the matter of money. It is going to cost millions upon millions of dollars to retrofit submarines to accomplish this. For what? What is this going to accomplish?

US Navy Relieves Cruiser Captain ... For What?

The US Navy relieved the captain of the cruiser USS Cowpens back on Jan. 19. The captain is still awaiting orders for a new billet.

This captain's behaviour in command was horrible beyond belief:

1) The captain assaulted at least three subordinates (pushed one, grabbed another by the arm, and (gasp) threw a wadded up piece of paper at another.

2) Several crew members complained, anonomously, about the captain using profane language.

3) The captain presided over a race with a Navy destroyer in 2009.

4) The captain once ordered a subordinate, as a disciplinary measure, to stand in a corner in view of the standing watch.

5) The captain asked a subordinate to play a piano at a Christmas party, and asked other subordinates to walk the captain's dog.

Wow ... I had no idea such evil existed in our Navy. I cannot comprehend how a captain of a guided missile cruiser (a highly sought after position) can be such a heavy handed tirant. Surely the days of pirate captains ruling their commands with such brutality have passed?

(Can you smell the sarcasm dripping from my words yet ....)

BTW - the captain relieved is Holly Graf ... that's right, a female.

Our United States Navy leadership ... what a bunch of PC pansies .....

Thursday, March 4, 2010

WWII Color Gun Camera Footage

YouTube really has some gems ...

Very rare World War II gun camera footage. Almost all gun camera film was black and white, so this stuff is not seen often.

Hey Gumby ... if you happen across this, there's some pretty nice Thunderlicious footage in there ....

Gratuitous USN WWII Carrier Footage

Here is some awesome color footage of USN Aircraft Carrier operations in the Pacific during World War II.

The US Navy's Pacific fleet, with its fast carriers, battleships, and legions of cruisers and destroyers, was arguably the most powerful military force in history (adjusted for time period, of course).

If stuff like this interests you, go to YouTube, under videos, and search for 'WWII In Color'. Neat stuff ....

F-35 IOC with USAF Slips 2 Years

The USAF has announced that IOC (Initial Operational Capacity) for its first unit of F-35 fighters has slipped by over 2 years. IOC for that first unit is now thought to be late in 2015. Now remember, we are five and a half years away from that date, so no one with any knowledge of defense procurement would place any kind of a bet for that date being met. It will slip, and then it will slip again. The budget problems in the F-35 program that caused 112 aircraft to be dropped from the production total will likely continue - it should surprise no one if the total number of aircraft built is cut again.

Pile this on top of the rampant aircraft retirement (supposedly to pay for all those F-35s that are so far in the future), and the USAF is going to be shooting spitballs from paper airplanes at our enemies in a couple of years.

The only hope I see of this becomming anything but a complete disaster for the Air Force is for the Air Guard to go off on its own to procure aircraft - new build versions of proven designs like the F-16, F-15, and maybe even the F-18 to fill the gaps.

USAF Cutting Much Needed Aircraft

The USAF will retire 250 front line fighter aircraft by the end of FY2010 (September 30). The rundown:

F-15s - 135 to be retired, consisting of:
85TES, Eglin AFB, loses 2 aircraft
19FS, Elmendorf AFB, loses 24 aircraft and closes
199FS, Hickam AFB, loses 15 aircraft
71FS, Langley AFB, loses 18 aircraft, and closes
48FW, RAF Lakenheat, loses 6 aircraft
325FW, Tyndall AFB, loses 48 aircraft and ceases F-15 operations

F-16s - 112 to be retired, consisting of:
163FS, Ft. Wayne (IN ANG), loses 18 aircraft, converts to A-10
34FS, Hill AFB, loses 24 aircraft and closes
188FS, Kirtland AFB (NM ANG), loses 18 aircraft and closes
56FW, Luke AFB, loses 28 aircraft
52FW, Spangdahlem AB, loses 18 aircraft

A-10 - 3 aircraft to be retired, others to be redistributed

The aircraft being retired will be sent to the desert in Tucson, never to fly again. 4000 airmen displaced because of the retirements will be shuffled off to other jobs, mostly in intelligence gathering operations. The USAF is hoping to save $3.5 billion over the next five years by retiring these aircraft, with the money (hopefully) going to replacements.

There is nothing wrong with these aircraft. Indeed, many of them have been active in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, or training personnel for operational units. Retiring them is strictly a financial issue. There is no replacement for these aircraft available - it is a one-for-one loss of capability for our Air Force.

This is on top of the hundreds of F-15s and F-16s that have been retired over the past few years, due to age and budget.

Combine this with a pathetically small force of 187 F-22s, and the delays and production cuts plaguing the F-35, and the USAF will be a shadow of what it was just a few years ago for a long time to come.

Lunacy ....