Category Archives: Aviation

This Time, It's Different

This Time, It’s Different

Proceedings, January 2013

A close observer of defense-spending trends takes a look at dollars and sense and the looming budget challenges in the Pentagon.

Defense-budget headlines of late have concentrated on sequestration, as hand-wringing increased about the so-called fiscal cliff. Most coverage has focused on defense officials predicting dire consequences for the Department of Defense (DOD), or industry officials warning of job losses and collapse of certain technology sectors and associated businesses. The U.S. Naval Institute recently hosted Defense Forum Washington with a program titled “The Fiscal Cliff: What Does This Mean for Defense and National Security?” The conference focused on sequestration and its impacts. Speakers and panelists offered different perspectives on impact, ranging from disaster to a mere “pothole,” and on occurrence from irresponsible to a fait accompli that should happen to provoke fundamental changes in DOD.

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Historic Aircraft - A Dart From The Sea

Historic Aircraft – A Dart From The Sea

Naval History Magazine, Dec. 2012
From the 1920s into World War II several nations developed high-performance floatplane aircraft. Indeed, some were among the fastest aircraft of their time. During World War II, the British evaluated float configurations with several versions of the famed Supermarine Spitfire fighter, and the U.S. Navy fitted a single Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat with floats. But only Japan pursued large-scale operational floatplane fighters during the war, primarily with the Nakajima A6M2-N Rufe, a variant of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, or Zeke.

After the war the British developed a flying-boat fighter, the turbojet-powered Saunders-Roe SR.A/1. And the U.S. Navy undertook development of a supersonic “water-based” fighter, the Convair F2Y Seadart. 2

Convair had previously produced several successful seaplanes, most notably the PBY Catalina flying boat. That aircraft—produced in larger numbers than any other seaplane by any country—was flown in every theater of World War II by the United States and several other nations. But the company had limited turbojet and fighter experience. However, Convair’s Hydrodynamic Laboratory was exploring several subsonic seaplane concepts, some given the project name Skate. At the time, the U.S. Navy was considering advanced seaplanes for a number of roles—cargo, strike, minelaying, reconnaissance, patrol, and fighter. Fitting a fighter with floats—or using the British flying-boat configuration—would introduce considerable drag on the aircraft. Convair engineers conceived a plan to employ retractable hydro-skis for waterborne operations.

J.M. Caiella

J.M. Caiella

The Navy awarded Convair a contract for two XF2Y-1 prototype aircraft in January 1951. The first test flight occurred on 9 April 1953, in San Diego Bay, with the company’s E. D. “Sam” Shannon at the controls.

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Sequestration: Coming Soon?

Sequestration: Coming Soon?

Sequestration has lately been hotly debated and often derided. Many probably have heard the term, aware it involves budget reductions, and possibly many know it could come to pass on Jan. 2, 2013. These potential spending reductions and simultaneous expiration of tax cuts have been collectively dubbed the “fiscal cliff,” receiving increased, post-election media attention as the President and lame-duck Congress negotiate a potential deal to change or avert both. But what does sequestration mean, and in context of the Department of Defense (DOD), what is its impact?

Sequestration could still be avoided (the President alluded to this in the Oct. 22 final campaign debate). Likewise, another outcome could be modification of the amount of budget reduction and/or the mechanisms by which it is conducted. However, worst-case sequestration under current provisions, coupled with previous budget reductions under the Budget Control Act (BCA) and compounded by other long-standing trends in defense spending, will be extraordinarily disruptive and damaging to the long-term defense program. Any change to sequestration requires passage of new legislation and presidential signature before Jan. 2, 2013 which very well may not happen. Therefore, assuming sequestration does trigger as planned in both timing and manner, let’s consider implementation impact on DOD.

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Gordon Adams: Sequestration Will Not Happen

Gordon Adams: Sequestration Will Not Happen

Gordon Adams is a former Clinton administration defense budget analyst and has written extensively on the current “fiscal cliff” crisis. The Naval Institute interviewed him on 28 November to get his take on sequestration and the defense budget. Adams is speaking today at the Naval Institute’s Defense Forum Washington.

GAdams_HighRes_5164

Can you put current sequestration in a historical context? Has anything like this happened before?

Yes, but never to this extent.

The sequestration mechanism was lifted wholesale from a 1985 bill called Graham Rudman Hollings. When it was passed in 1985 it was the last big U.S. effort in deficit and debt reduction. The sequestration mechanism was defined in that bill. . . . There were sequestrations under Graham Rudman Hollings. They were rather small, they were not on this order of magnitude, because this one actually sets targets, but they did happen. Once they happened, Congress reversed it. Basically fixed it, patched the hole. So that happened and they went away. It maybe one precedent for what would happen in January if there is a sequester. I don’t think we will, but if we do . . .

What we have here is an unprecedented showdown at the O.K. Corral.

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Biofuels in Congress

Biofuels in Congress

It’s been a little more than six months since two prominent Senate Armed Services Committee Republicans took aim at efforts underway within the Department of Defense (DoD) to develop a national biofuels market. During the Committee’s May, 24th mark-up of this year’s defense authorization bill, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and the panel’s Ranking Member, John McCain (R-AZ), pushed through separate amendments that would have ended the Department’s pursuit of advanced renewable fuels.

The bill reported out of Committee included Inhofe’s amendment that prohibits the Pentagon from buying alternative fuels if their up-front cost is higher than that of traditional fossil fuels. Language added by McCain and backed by Inhofe banned the DoD from building or retooling refineries to produce biofuels. But in the last two weeks, talks on the energy issue intensified, sparked by a letter to Senate leadership signed by 38 members. The topic of biofuels emerged as a key sticking point, Senate aides said.

Fuels Distribution Systems Operator David Riggs, from Fleet Logistic Center Puget Sound Manchester Fuel Department, secures a fueling hose during a biofuels transfer to the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187). Henry J. Kaiser took on 900,000 gallons of a 50/50 blend of advanced biofuels and is scheduled to deliver the biofuels to platforms participating in the Great Green Fleet demonstration during the exercise Rim of the Pacific 2012. U.S. Navy Photo

Fuels Distribution Systems Operator David Riggs, from Fleet Logistic Center Puget Sound Manchester Fuel Department, secures a fueling hose during a biofuels transfer to the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187). Henry J. Kaiser took on 900,000 gallons of a 50/50 blend of advanced biofuels and is scheduled to deliver the biofuels to platforms participating in the Great Green Fleet demonstration during the exercise Rim of the Pacific 2012. U.S. Navy Photo

The November, 16th letter led by Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) and joined by 35 other Democrats, Independent Joe Lieberman (CT) and Republican Susan Collins (ME) called the Inhofe and McCain provisions “harmful and counterproductive” and expressed strong support for “the ability of military leaders to develop and employ alternative fuels.”

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A Vital Concept Refined: Marines and the Helicopter

A Vital Concept Refined: Marines and the Helicopter

Naval History, December 2012
The helicopter revealed its potential in Korea. As the Marine Corps honed close air support in the years since, it has assumed a key role.

Marine Helicopters in Vietnam, U.S. Naval Institute Archives

Marine Helicopters in Vietnam, U.S. Naval Institute Archives

Marine Corps aviation, in “its organization, equipment, and training . . . should be primarily oriented toward performance of close air support.” So wrote a special board in its confidential 1947 report to the commandant of the Marine Corps. Although the Marines’ first “official” use of close air support (CAS) had come in 1927 in Nicaragua, 20 years later the bond between the service’s air and ground forces had not yet been cemented fully. That would occur a few years later in the Chosin Reservoir campaign in Korea—arguably the birthplace of the Marine air-ground task force.

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China's Carrier: The Basics

China’s Carrier: The Basics

The first look at video of Chinese carrier operations recently released shows China has been paying attention to the way flight deck operations are safely conducted by the U.S. and other navies. Flight deck crew personnel jersey colors and hand signals are similar to international standards. There seem to be two sailors at every position, indicating that one of them is “under instruction.” There seems little doubt that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is above the aircraft carrier learning curve, albeit in good weather and basic operations. Potential material problems lie in Liaoning’s very long construction period, which likely have resulted in significant structural problems, and with its pressure-fired steam propulsion system, which historically has been difficult to maintain and operate efficiently.

An undated photograph onboard the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning during a take-off and landing test. Xinhua News Agency Photo

An undated photograph onboard the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning during a take-off and landing test. Xinhua News Agency Photo

China’s Carrier History
Beijing first acquired an aircraft carrier in 1985, when it bought the ex-Australian Melbourne. Engineers studied the World War II-designed ship in detail before it was scrapped. Next, during the 1990s came two former Soviet aircraft carriers—Minsk and Kiev—both purchased to serve as theme park attractions in China. Those ships were actually called “heavy aviation cruisers” by Moscow, so the first modern aircraft carrier to arrive in China was another ex-Soviet ship, the Varyag.

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Admiral Greenert: Year One

Admiral Greenert: Year One

Cid Standifer is a freelance reporter, web designer and translator based in Arlington, Va. She has written for Military Times, Inside Washington Publishers and the Roswell Daily Record.

Close Air Support: The Pioneering Years

Close Air Support: The Pioneering Years

Naval History, December 2012
Marine aviators’ commitment to deliver support to ground forces—a tactic once deemed too dangerous—grew into a hallowed hallmark of the Corps.

Modern Marine Corps aviation is a powerful combat arm, organized and equipped to perform its primary functions of assault support, antiaircraft warfare, offensive air support, electronic warfare, control of aircraft and missiles, and reconnaissance. The integration of those roles enables the air-combat component to fully support the ground-combat campaign. Mastery of those functions also allows Marine aviation to achieve its most distinctive competence—the ability to deliver close air support (CAS) to Marines on the ground.

Close air support is defined as “air action by fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft against hostile targets that are in close proximity to friendly forces and require detailed integration of each air mission with the fire and movement of those forces.” Inherently dangerous to airmen and infantry alike, this extreme form of fire support requires extraordinary coordination to deliver safely. Marine riflemen take a personal interest in the proximity of close air. “Close” to them means damned close, and they know it when they see it.

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