29 July 2008

Quiet time

I am sure a few of you all have noticed that I haven't been posting as rapidly nor as often as I did before my 7 month paid vacation. That is primarily because I am wrapped up to the top of my head with various projects. The biggest being trying to arrange a marriage ceremony. I have a whole posting that is being fleshed out sitting on my back log about how it seems the world wants to rip off the married couple. Maybe my dad is right and it would be just cheaper to grab a flight to Vegas, spend a night at a hotel, maybe gamble for the honeymoon, then get hitched by Elvis.
The other big project is at work. There are too many things to comment on, mainly it feels that even though we are in stand down, the work load appears to be coming at us as if we are getting ready for a deployment. I am also loosing bodies to various schools and follow on training. At times the only bodies I have is me, myself, and I.
So anyhow that is why I have been slow posting in the last few weeks. I hope to see a few things settle down for me and will wait and see how things pan out.



20 July 2008

39 Years ago today

July 20th 1969, Lunar Module touches down on the surface of the Moon.

The Lunar Module had former United States Naval Aviator, Ltjg Neil Armstrong, Korean War Veteran. Successful NACA/NASA test pilot and one of the pilots of the X-1, X-5, X-15 program. He was one of the crew members.

One of the other men inside was Colonel Edward E. "Buzz" Aldrin Jr. A Korean War vetern himself with a pair of MiG-15's under his belt. After the Korean War he flew F-100's in Germany and then went to MIT earning a Masters in Astronautics. Following graduation he was recurited by NASA to join the Gemni program.

Meanwhile floating above in the Command Module taking photography and preparing for the return to Earth was Michael Collins. A former F-86 pilot and graduate of USAF Test pilot school at Edwards AFB. Picked up for the Gemni program 1964.

This mission succeed in accomplishing President John F. Kennedy's plan to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

There have been a number of good books and movie dramizations on these missions to achieve the landing on the moon. I would really, really recommend reading these books. Then ask yourself what happened to the NASA that strayed from being able to put men on the moon thirty plus years ago and now is only being able to put probes on to Mars?

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17 July 2008

A plane's history

As the US Navy made the transition from using seat of the pants flying and dropping bombs based on best guess of the pilots. When the A-1 Skyraider was being phased out being replaced by the A-6 Intruder it was realized that the Navy needed a dedicated trainer which was slow enough and had enough space to basically re-create the cockpit so that both pilots and Bombardiers/Navigators could train together. Looking around both the Navy and Grumman realized that the executive transport which Grumman was selling only a few years before looked pretty good. It was already being used by the military as a basic VIP transport with the US Air Force and US Coast Guard. This aircraft was the Grumman Gulfstream I or C-4 Academy (as it was known in the military). So Grumman took a number of these aircraft and grafted on the nose of an A-6 Intruder. The cockpit was changed around to reflect the cockpit set up in the A-6 Intruder. The rest of the cabin had a jump seat for an instructor then a few other seats for aircrew followed up with a couple of setups only for the B/N's. One of the other things that was done was that nearly all the same electronics that the A-6 had installed into it. So the same radar, radios, ECM, etc. The only thing this thing couldn't do was actually drop bombs. After being accepted in Navy usage it was referred to as the TC-4C Academy or more commonly along the flight lines at Whidbey and Oceana as the "Tic-4". The TC-4C saw the most usage of the aircraft were used as an introduction to instrumentation of the A-6 and then it was used as trainer for instrumentation flight training. It was also used to get teams of pilots and B/N's trained to learn how to operate as a team or as it is known now it is called crew resource management. With the introduction of dual crew attack jets, the team concept was stressed very much.

All of these aircraft were assigned to the three RAGs, VA-128 Golden Intruders(West coast), VA-42 Green Pawns(East Coast), and VMAT(AW)-202 Double Eagles. As the A-6 was phased out of active Navy inventory the TC-4C was removed and most of them are sitting out in in the Bone yard in Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona.

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Every happen to you?

Have you ever been working hard and then had some one on the outside come in review a project of yours and say basically it is all wrong you need to fix it. Turn to the boss for some help and he tells you, "sorry I am going on vacation". That is what has happened to me this past week.

So this past week I had a courtesy inspection on a program that is pretty important in running my work center. One of those things that Secret Squirrel and my LPO should be doing to make sure runs correctly. This is also one of the programs that if done incorrectly people go to jail, commanders are fired, and in general just isn't a good thing to let fall apart.
The inspector spends about 4 hours going through my program and what happens? Well the program is so far off track it might as well be in Timbuktu for all that it really matters. The biggest thing was that all the paperwork was filed wrong, portions of paperwork was missing, and the inspector was playing around some of the grey area of the instructions on how some of the paperwork was supposed to be worded. In other words, I got stomped on and it hurt a lot.
After the inspection was over I sit down with my LPO just prior to end of the day and explain to him what happened.
Exact words from him were as follows: "That is a shame. Well I am going on leave, you can fix this have a nice day." I was ready to vent on him, but that would of been pretty poor on my part. So it was go home for the day, sit there drank some beer (actually a lot of beer) and wonder how in the world I got myself in this mess. I was not even involved with the program. It use to be one of my multitude of collateral duties prior to a shuffle of collateral duties following some promotions. At the time the program was on track and in decent condition. I was actually the alternate since my LPO was the primary, but I did most of the work on this program since he was swamped with other things.
I have been working very hard at trying to get this back on track, yet the guy who is the alternate right now, wants nothing to do with the program. I don't want to do this to him, but I might just take it back and run with it before I leave the command. Maybe even have it as a billet on my eval for when I transfer.

The harder thing though is a number of the instructions that I need to up date and replace are just daunting. It is one of the thing that I hate with a passion is doing technical writing. The biggest reason being (and I am sure any English teacher can tell by reading these blog posts), my English is pretty poor. So sitting down, trying to craft new instructions from old one, sentence structure, formatting, and other things are killing me! It has felt like I spent all day in front of a computer with electronic copies of the old instructions or re-entering old instructions into the computer to be edited. Sitting there pouring through the big Navy's instructions on how to run this program of mine, then trying to compact 50 pages of information into three paragraphs. I am pulling my hair out. I have come home every not and just felt like I went twelve rounds with heavy weight boxer. I really, really, really hate doing this type of writing. The other hard part is making sure that there are no grey areas and everything is spelled out in Navy legalize. So that an absolute idiot could read this and understand what is supposed to be done with this program.

I almost have this program beaten into submission or at least back to a point where my LPO could take this and put his polish on it. It is just driving me nuts to achieve that level.

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A video from the RN 800 Squadron

A quick break for right now. I am up to my eyeballs with some jobs at work that are driving me nuts trying to get them together.

Anyhow here is a video from the RN's 800 squadron of some Harrier Ops off the HMS Illustrious. Enjoy.



13 July 2008

I hate new uniforms part two

So a few weeks ago I had expressed my displeasure about spending $70 dollars on the new PT uniforms the Navy has brought out a week ago. Well after wearing them for PT sessions the this past week I hate them even more.
First issue. The shorts. Everyone else out there in the world has complained about them. Basically the liner inside causes chaffing on me and it just sticks to me as I sweat. So it is just annoying all over. I will have to cut those out. The other issue I have with the shorts is just how long it take to wash and dry them. because the liners and pockets are made of some sort of sweat-wicking material I have to wash them in delicate cycle and dry them in the low heat fluff situation. Afterwards hang them up to air dry after that. Which wouldn't be that much of a problem if I had the space to do so.

The shirts are the second issue. I thought I had bought the right size for me (extra-large) and instead I am swimming in the shirt. There is enough material that I cold almost use it as a night shirt. So I went back this past Friday to look at the large and it is so small on me that I have limited movement. This is not going to go as the CNO and MCPON planned, IE looking like people coming off the recruiting poster. The other issue that I have with the shirts is that even though they did a pretty good with removing the sweat off of me and keeping moderately dry in the process, but in the process they became thinner and thinner looking. It was even worst with one of the women that was wear testing one of them If she wasn't wearing a t-shirt under it, that would of lead to all sorts of distractions. So this weekend I did laundry with it and has to wash it delicate in cold water with dry it either by hanging or low heat fluffing (just like the shorts). I do so but pulling out the shirts there appeared to be all sorts of water stains on them so once more through the dryer. Through the cycle again and pulled them out, still had the stains. Yet the these "stains" weren't wet to the touch. Instead what it was is that all three of the shirts that I bought are now burned by my detergent. So there is some more money out of my pocket if I want to replace them.

I said it before and will say it again. These things stink and who ever thought them up needs to be fired.

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More debt brought on to myself

So I drive a mid-size pick-up truck. I have had it for about six years and overall it is just over ten years old. I have now hit the point where any major maintenance is equal to or greater then what the blue book value is. So what to do? Well I need to downsize to a more fuel efficient car. The other issues that I need to deal with is I want to pick up a car that the Misses will enjoy to drive (argument avoidance here), something that is fun and sporty, and something that I can afford. So it had been bouncing through car dealerships and fending off the sharks just to try and find something that I am going to enjoy driving to and from work.

The biggest annoyance are the car sales people. Since I live near a military base, the first thing out of their mouths are "Are you in the military?" then the next line is "What is your pay grade?" Most of the time I see their brains bring up the pay chart and finding the monthly paycheck that I get from Uncle Sugar. Then they start to walk me away from my choices over to the more expansive cars. It doesn't matter whether I am at a little town or at a big city, the car salesmen always seem the same.
Even worst is how I have read the reviews and looked online at various cars. But I need to look at one up close and in person to figure out what I like. So it becomes a game of hide and seek. I see if I how long I can hide and look at my choices before one of the sharks come swimming by. My current record is about 30 minutes before one of them came by to engage me.
The final thing I hate about wheeling and dealing for a car is listening to them try and nickle and dime me to death. Those add ins such as clear coating, floor mats, the dealers stickers, you name it they try to add it on. It annoys me because I tell them up front as we start to negotiate the price the only add-ons I want and if I see anything else I am just going to get up from the table and walk away. Yet they do it time and time again. It drives me up the wall.



09 July 2008

Style decisions and registration

So this past weekend myself and the future misses were out doing our registration bit for the upcoming wedding. I really don't have a style per say, since primarily I have lived in places where the only style has been haze grey wall paint and battleship grey flooring. The only other living arrangements that I have had besides living under my parents house was at military style barracks. Most of these barracks rooms always seem to have a mandatory motivational poster, a poster that was usually a natural scene common to the region, finally the paint scheme was always white and I always seemed to be in the ones with a tiled floor that were an off shade of yellow because the wax had not been taken up and replaced in years.

Anyhow, I spent the last weekend (and expect this next weekend doing the same) walking around a major department store comparing and trying to discuss about what our respective styles are. The future misses is a light and airy person and most of her house is painted and decorated in that sort of scheme. So we spent the better part of a day walking around the home section of this major US retailer, making discussions about what the good china, the everyday china, bed spreads, and shellfish forks would look like. At the end of the day I think we were both frustrated. Our different views on that day seem to conflict.

So to make it easier on both of us, I have told her to go out on her one after work. Look around write down what she likes and then the next few weekends before the wedding just add it on to the registration after we talk about her choices to decide on something that we like.

I wonder if this is what the future is going to be?

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04 July 2008

Quick history lesson

One of the things that appears to be lacking in modern United States of America basic educational systems is how precarious the nation's position was on the 4th of July in the year 1776 when the Continental Congress agreed to pass the Declaration of Independence. Most of what I have heard from family members who are going through US History it appears to go something like this: Boston Tea Party, Declaration of Independence, Lexington and Concord, Valley Forge, and finally Yorktown with the war being won. All of it being in the space of few years and then the Constitution of the United States was adopted. It just wasn't like that. Rather the year 1776 was a very hard and rough year on the colonies and through shear luck that the Revolution wasn't crushed. So lets take a quick review of everything that occurred that year.

To start with after the debacle that was Lexington and Concord (for the British), the British Army retreated to Boston and hold up. The Rebel Army pursued them and basically a siege had been in place since the previous fall around Boston. The British Army was too weak to push out against the Rebels and the Rebels didn't have enough arms or men to push in. So basically they dug trenches and took pot shots at each other. January of 1776 saw a small Rebel army march overland to Fort Ticonderoga under Henry Knox retrieve the heavy artillery to help in trying to break the Siege of Boston. In March the rebels pull off a major surprise against the British by capturing the Dorchester Heights. This caused the British Army to board what Royal Navy ships in Boston Harbor and basically they left for Halifax. Meanwhile coming from Merry Ol'England was a large fleet loaded with additional troops. That spring the Continental Army saw its size shrink because a large number of the recruits were farmers from the New England states. They hadn't received pay from the Continental Congress and still had to pay for their farms and families back home. This was a standard thing through out the Continental Army for the duration of the war. The various recruits would tire of playing soldier or because of troubles at home they would just up and leave in the middle of the night and walk home. General George Washington marched the Army to New York that spring as well. He realized that if the British seized New York the colonies would be split in two between the New England states and the Southern States. One of the other things he did as well based on input from some of his fellow generals was split the Army and sent a portion of it north of Canada to try and seized Quebec. The thought was that all of the colonies needed to be free from the tyranny of King George the III not just the ones stretching from Maine south to the tip of Spanish Florida.
As it was the British Garrison troops from Boston settled in to Halifax along with a large number of Loyalists who were lifted out as well. The Continentals settled into New York.
In June the Continentals were beaten back from Quebec at the Battle of Trois-Rivieres. This basically ended the attempt to seize Quebec but it wouldn't be till 1777 that the Continental Army would leave from probing to gain Quebec. Washington's Army in New York meanwhile was trying to learn how to actually be an army. They were training on close order drill, how to load and fire their weapons in a timely manner, battle order, and various other items.
On July 4th after months of spirited debate Thomas Jefferson presented the Declaration to the Congress and they passed it.
By August most of the states had ratified it. By the fifteen of August a large number of Hessian troops, who were Mercenaries from the Prussian state of Hesse Kassel had landed at one end of Staten Island. Just days later the Battle of Long Island occurs where the Hessian and British Army were able to route the Continental Army. By shear luck the Continentals were able to hold the ferry landing going to Harlem from Brooklyn. This allowed a majority of the Army to escape. The next few months was just a series of running battles as the Hessians and British pushed hard against the Continentals, time after time the British saw the Continentals break ranks and run. At White Plains, At Harlem Heights, at Kip's Bay. The Continentals by that November were in full retreat across New Jersey with the Hessians and British nipping at their heels. By Christmas Washington has his troops in Pennsylvania and in and around Philadelphia for the Christmas holiday. The Hessians were in Trenton and the British were encamped up around Princeton, New Jersey. On Christmas night the Continental Army forded the Delaware river and set up in Trenton. Washington found out that the Hessians were celebrating the holiday in a typical Prussian way. Partying hard with booze and song. By the dawn of the 26th with the lose of only 5 men the Continentals dealt a heavy blow to the Hessians captured 948 and killed well over 1500. Afterwards Washington retreated back to Valley Forge to spend the rest of the winter.

Even before the Declaration there was a good chance the revolution could of been stopped. Even after the year 1776 it wasn't until 1783 that a peace treaty was passed the total war lasted 9 hard years in which a large amount of pain was spread up and down the colonies. It wasn't even until the end of the 1812 War that a large number of issues regarding the original Revolutionary War were felt to have been resolved to most people's satisfaction. There are a number of good books about the time period. The one that I would recommend everyone start with is "1776" by David McCullough. Then as you all play with fireworks and watch the shows tonight think hard about how close we came to not be separated from the United Kingdom.



History of the Navy's EW Mission Part 2

Okay when school was in session we started to talk about the history of the Electronic warfare mission and some of the aircraft that were being used by the carrier air wings. Now lets finish up.

When the AD-4 Skyraider was accepted into fleet in 1950 the number of specialized versions that were being used by the Navy at the time were converted from AD-3 airframes were numerous. To standardized across the fleet most of the AD-3's were started to be phased out and replaced by AD-4 Skyraiders. The AD-4 became the most numerous example of the Skyraider used in the fleet. Just like with the AD-3, the Navy asked for a Q-bird in the AD-4, again the ECM operator was stuffed in the back with all the gear. To get in they had a small door on the left hand side of the aircraft and only two small little windows where the enlisted air crew men could look out to see the sights.
"Enlisted Aircrew?" you ask. Yes dear readers, before the decision to make more jobs with college graduates that got wings of gold pinned on them. Naval Air crewmen usually in the avionics field were flying in some of these aircraft to do such things as operate the anti-submarine gear, ECM gear, and there were radar operators in both the AD-4W AEW version (yes SJS, us enlisted folks were doing the radar operator/airborne intercept controller until the mid-60s) and the AD-4N's had radar bombardiers/navigators. So with the AD-4Q had enlisted ECM operators sitting there in the back tweaking knobs trying to tun in the signals from the bad guys and send out signals from the aircraft.

Following the end of the Korean War there was a need to upgrade aircraft because there was a need for heavier and more complex jamming equipment. The end of the war also saw the Composite squadrons get out of the Jamming role and concentrate more on the night time/all weather bombing operations. With that change most of the Q-birds went to the VAW-11 and VAW-12. Things were good though very complex. At the time VAW-11 and VAW-12 were the largest squadrons in the Navy. Primarily because they operated the AEW (airborne early warning) mission so they had dets of up to four aircraft joining up with each of the deploying carrier air wings to provide that early warning which the Navy found was valuable. So with the introduction of the AD-5Q a Skyraider that had its fuselage stretched to accommodate two ECM operators in a full size aft cockpit rather then a broom closet set up in the fuselage.
With the arrival of the AD-5Q the US Navy saw an airplane which had the room for expansion as additional and improve ECM gear came down the pipeline. They also saw an airplane that had a great loiter time and could effectively fly the maneuvers which were required to provide the jamming which could open up the defense so the strike package get in. With the AD-5Q also saw more room for the various antenna which were required for the job. As the AD-5Q came out the other problem saw the need for another squadron to provide room for various officers to rise up in the Department head and Commanding officer billets. Along with reduce the paperwork requirements for tracking all the various dets that VAW-11 and VAW-12 was providing. So in 1959 the Department of the Navy took a det from VAW-11 and created Carrier Airborne Early Warning Thirteen (VAW-13) at NAS Agana Guam. VAW-13 was using both the AD-5W's and the AD-5Q's and the det it was supplying to the squadrons were putting both types of airframes on the carrier decks. Also the Squadron was assigned the "Victor Robert" Tail Code. The squadron also called themselves the "Zappers" because they were zapping out electrical energy. Things were good for Early Thirteen until 1961. Commander Naval Air Forces Pacific (aka AirPac) decided to shuffle things up. VAW-11 was subdivided into smaller tactical units and VAW-13 lost the Guppy version of the Skyraider. VAW-13 was told to concentrate only on the ECM mission, VAW-13 was also recalled to NAS Alameda (which is just across the bay from San Francisco). So in 1961 they packed up their things and went back to the good ol'USA. On the Atlantic side VC-33 which became VA(AW)-33 picked up flying the AD-5Q's for the Atlantic deploying air wings and carriers.
Meanwhile the USMC while they had been using all the various "Q" versions of the Skyraider in their Composite squadrons said "thanks but no, thanks" to the AD-5Q and instead took a number of F3D-2 Skyknights and modified them into F3D-2Q ECM birds. Their thinking was they needed an aircraft that could keep up with the faster jets they had in their inventory. Along with being a larger and more powerful aircraft they could carry more ECM gear. These aircraft were still assigned to the Marine Composite squadrons (VMC) and these squadrons were later designated VMCJ's. The Marines used the F3D-2Q (later designated EF-10B after 1962)from 1955 until the 1970. These aircraft were used in Vietnam to a large success and were primarily operated ashore at Da Nang.

In 1962 Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara required the services to simplify their designation system for both aircraft and weapon systems. He did this, according to scuttlebutt, is that both the Navy and Air Force were ordering parts for the same aircraft (the F-4 Phantom) by the Navy called its version the F4H-2N while the USAF had designated its version the F-110B. He realized that money could of been saved if we were buying parts for the same aircraft types. So following September 1962 the way aircraft were described followed an improved pattern.

In 1965 the Navy Realized that they needed to replace the vulnerable EA-1F (as the AD-5Q was designated) and while looking around they realized the airplane to use was the A-3 Skywarrior. It has a tremendous space for all the various antenna and black boxes the ECM mission were requiring. On top of that as radar systems improved they realized more and more of the actual tweaking of out going signals had to be done by computers. Again there was only so much room in the EA-1F for these new computers and for the new ECM gear to radiate out the energy required. So it was in 1967 the EA-3B Skywarrior started to join the home base element of VAW-13 and as the various detachments came home they traded in their old EA-1F's for the new EA-3B's or EKA-3B's. The final deployment of the EA-1F occurred in 1968.
The EA-3B's were completely different compared to what was being flown before. Where as the EA-1F's had to fly straight at the radar site they were jamming along with decreasing their altitude to make sure their jamming was covering the offending site. Near the end of the path the aircrew had to execute a hard climbing turn to turn away and start climbing back up to a high altitude to restart the attack again. This lead to the squadron to adopt the motto "We can Hack it!". Now with the A-3's they just had to fly a basic race track pattern and the antenna's could be turned and tuned. No more violent maneuvering and no more getting into range of air defense of the bad guys. The other big difference between the two birds is just the size alone. The EA-1F had a 50 foot wing span, was about 40 feet long and the cockpit was only 13 feet off the ground. The EA-3B had a 72 ft wing span, 76 ft long and its cockpit was 22 ft high off the ground. Things were just bigger. The EA-3B's started to deploy in 1968 and continued to deploy on carriers. As the bomber versions of the A-3's were being phased out they went through re-work at the Naval Air Depot in Alameda to be converted into either the EA-3B or the EKA-3B. The only difference between the two was that the EKA-3B had a little housing near the aft of the bomb bay for an in-flight refueling system. So it could do the Jamming mission or the other mission the squadron could fly is the flying gas station (aka Texaco).

The Marines again looking around when the Navy was making the modifications to the Skywarrior. The Marines realized that the EF-10B just couldn't handle flying over such an integrated air defense system like North Vietnam was become. Again, the airframe was tired and the need for more and more jamming power just lead them to look around for something bigger and better. The Grumman Aircraft Corporation took an A-6A and modified it to and electronic attack variant called the EA-6A. They enlarged tip of the vertical stabilizer to house the various antennas required. Added some additional pylons to carry either Chaff pods or electronic counter measure pods. The nose had a plug installed it was actually made heavier. The first EA-6A was accepted at MCAS Cherry Point in 1965 and its first combat deployment was with VMCJ-1 at MCAS Da Nang in 1967. The EA-6A was eventually picked up by the Navy at the end of the Vietnam war. It was supplied to its reserve air VAQ squadrons, VAQ-209 and VAQ-309. Along with being supplied to the first tactical electronic warfare squadron VAQ-33 The Firebirds.
The Firebirds were originally a composite squadron based out of Rhode Island and after a shake up post the Korean war they became specialists in the all-weather bombing mission with the re designation as VA(AW)-33. After receiving the AD-5Q's they were re designated again to become VAW-33. In 1968 the Navy realized it was too burdensome to train people in both the early warning and electronic mission at the same time. There needed to be specialization so VAW-33 became the first tactical electronic warfare squadron VAQ-33 on the first of February. Following on the heels of that VAW-13 became VAQ-130 on the first of October. The need for more ECM lead to the re designation of VAH-4 and VAH-2, both heavy bombing units that flew the A-3 Skywarrior up in Whidbey Island to be re designated VAQ-131(nee' VAH-4) and VAQ-132(nee' VAH-2). They then moved down to NAS Alameda to trade in their bombers for electronic Whales. VAQ-130 also became the EA-3B Replacement Squadron in 1971 with the disestablishment of VAH-123. It was the largest tactical electronic attack squadron in the Navy at the time. Between training Pilots and Electronic Countermeasures Officers (ECMOs) and providing dets, they were also the Electronic Attack Wing commander. Things were hard but good. They got a little easier as VAH-10 converted to EA-3B's with them being re designated as VAQ-129 and the plan to take over the training requirements.

In 1969 the Navy realized that although the EA-3B was good there is always better. They took a look at the EA-6A and realized that it was good as well. After some figuring they realized that if you combine the airframe of the A-6 with the crew requirements of the old EA-1F and EA-3B (both of which had a pilot, navigator, and two ECMO's). They looked around and saw that the Grumman was already thinking ahead of them. The EA-6B Intruder (as it was originally called by Grumman) was being built for flight testing. The Navy bought into the idea, it was a common airframe to their primary attack aircraft. The EA-6B started to arrive in the US Navy in 1971, VAQ-129 dropped their plans to become the Electric Whale RAG and instead they built the syllabus and training regime for this new electronic attack aircraft. VAQ-132 became the first squadron to deploy to a combat zone with it when in 1972 they deployed on board the USS America (CV-66) and CVW-8. There they flew missions in support of Operation Linebacker I and II. There is a story that during the midst of the Christmas Bombing there were two EA-6B Prowlers were flying their race track pattern when they detected just over one hundred missile being launched. Both aircraft realized they couldn't jam all the missile guidance radars, instead they knew the missile command detonate signal and proximity radar signal (which the warhead used to detonate itself near the target) so they jammed both of those signals. The reports later that night from all over Pacific Command was everyone from B-52's over Hanoi to USN strike packages near Haiphong were reporting Surface to Air Missiles were going ballistic past them and were not detonating. That is some power and some idea of why this mission is so important now a days. As more and more EA-6B's came on line the Electronic Warfare folks moved away from San Francisco in 1973 and resettled up to NAS Whidbey Island.
The EA-6B had been there from flying electronic support missions along route paths for the RH-53D's to rescue the Hostages in 1979, to open holes in the Libyan air defenses in 1986 so the USAF and USN could bomb Qadhafi for his support of international terrorism. They were the jamming both radar signals and throwing anti-radar missiles during Operation Desert Storm. Supporting the folks on the ground during Operation Desert Saber by jamming enemy communications. They flew support missions during Operations Northern and Southern Watch. The EA-6B was there over Serbia and Kosovo. When international terrorism came to the United States, it was EA-6B's that were providing ECM support as US Navy and USAF strike packages were having their way over Afghanistan.
The same was said again over Iraq. Now the EA-6B's in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, by flying ECM support of the folks on the ground.
Both the US Navy and the US Marine Corps operate the EA-6B in 20 different squadrons. VAQ-129, VAQ-130,VAQ-131,VAQ-132,VAQ-133,VAQ-134,VAQ-135,VAQ-136, VAQ-137,VAQ-138,VAQ-139,VAQ-140,VAQ-141,VAQ-142,VAQ-209,VMAQ-1,VMAQ-2,VMAQ-3,VMAQ-4.

In the mid-90's it was realized that the EA-6B was starting to get a little long in the tooth. On an average most of the airframes were over thirty years old and even though they had been through re-work. The age was just showing, fatigue on the wings and airframes was there. Some of this fatigue had caused aircraft losses. McDonnell/Douglas (and later Boeing) had started to play around with converting an F-18F into an electronic attack aircraft. Playing around with the needs and requirements, Boeing built the EF-18G Growler. With the arrival of the first EF-18G to the fleet on June 3rd of 2008, a new path of electronic warfare is being forged. Again VAQ-129 has taken it upon themselves to establish the maintenance and training syllabus. The future looks bright. I won't say bright enough to wear shades though. The Marines again have decided they are not going to buy into the EF-18G and instead try to soldier on with the EA-6B until something that fits their requirements comes down the pipeline.

The future beyond manned aircraft.
A possible future for the Navy's EW aircraft might be a UCAV. There are advantages here along with disadvantages. The biggest advantage is that one could conceivably build a number of smaller versions all of which using improved networking capabilities could accurately plot mobile early warning sites and radar defense sites. On top of that each separate one could be built and configured separately to fly missions for longer periods of time then what a human crew member could possible even fly. The disadvantage is that even under the best possible conditions UAV's are a lost at very high rate. With the cost of some of the ECM systems that just would be unsustainable for the Navy. The other disadvantage is adapting a UCAV for carrier usage. It hasn't really been tested out yet to explore all the problems that would come with it.

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Standing the Guard

It is the 4th of July. A holiday for most of us. A chance to relax, go out picnicing with family and friends. Buy the kiddies some fireworks and then head down to the city park to watch the big show. Mean while there are those of us who are standing the guard to keep the barbarians at the gate. Whether those barbarians are domestic or foregin. A quick chance to remember those people while you all are out celebrating the birth of a nation.


01 July 2008

I hate new uniforms.

So while I was haze grey and underway, we heard that starting this summer some new uniforms were coming down the pipeline to replace some things in the enlisted sea bag. The new Navy Working Uniform (aka the Navy's Digi-cammies), a new all year working uniform (which looks very much like the Marine's Charlies), and finally a new PT Uniform.
Basically these are something completely different then what I was issued at boot camp and actually spent the first two weeks walking around Great Mistakes in. What I was issued was a heavy white cotton t-shirt that had the Navy crest on the front and on the back the work "NAVY" in a silver reflective screening. Then there was a pair of dark blue shorts. While the shirts came in sizes from extra small to extra large it always seemed as if the shorts ran from snug to "OH MY GOD ARE THOSE PAINTED ON" snug. Finally to top it all off we were given blue sweat pants and a blue hooded sweatshirt with "NAVY" on them as well. Overall these worked pretty well, but for the most part once I hit the fleet I dumped them to wear something that were a little more comfortable.
So it was with a little anger and surprise to see that Task Force Uniform brought out the idea of a PT uniform. I guess it was because the Army and Air Force were doing it. So to be part of the cool kid crowd we had to do it. This new uniform is composed of either a long sleeve t-shirt or short sleeve shirt, either a 6 inch long shorts or 8 inch long shorts (pant length), finally we have the option of buying socks that are either ankle highs or sneaker highs. All of these items are manufactured with the word "Navy" on them and finally with the sweat wicking that brands like "Underarmor" have. GROAN!
Roll out occurred near the end of my deployment and at my home base the uniforms showed up on the 1st of July. Being the proper thing as senior leadership, I went out and purchased the uniform components for myself at the local on base uniform shop. I started with just three long sleeve shirts and two pairs of shorts. I didn't buy either types of the socks since the socks look the same as most of the white athletic socks that I already have. After picking out the sizes that I should fit into walked up to the cash register and cashed out. Didn't really pay attention to the prices, stupid me. But just for those two pairs of shorts and the three long sleeve shirts I forked over seventy dollars! $70.00, what in god's name are the Navy Exchange (which is something comparable to a Target for you non-military folks reading this) and the United States Navy thinking!?!? Oh that is right, they probably aren't thinking and I was grumbling about this as I came into work the next day.
"Well that is why they have been beefing up your yearly clothing allowance the past couple of years"

that was the statement from one of the CPO's at my current command. I looked at him and rolled my eyes. My retort was a tactful that if it just costs me seventy dollars just to purchase enough of the PT uniform to get by a full wash cycle, then I won't be able to afford to purchase enough of the new cammies or working uniform components when they show up come October.
This is something like the third major uniform change that I have made since coming in to the Navy. The first one was getting rid of the older style dungarees and replaced with the new style utilities, the other was the addition of the coveralls to the sea bag. Each time I have seen a major uniform change I have also seen the costs spiral up to bring the sea bag back into regulation. I really don't know if I am going to be able to afford the next round of uniform changes when they bring out the cammies. Some one needs to stop the insanity!.

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