24 August 2008

A plane's history

"Could of been a contenter category" today folks.

So we are in 1952 and in the middle of the Korean War. One of the primary lessons being learned at the time with the conflict over "MiG Alley" is the need for speed and the ability to maneuver. One of the ways to improve this was by use of the area rule effect, or "Coke Bottle" effect as it was called since the fuselages started to look one of the Coca-Cola bottle that was common in the
vending machines at the time. Grumman realizing that both variants of their F9F airframe the Panther and Cougar couldn't handle themselves against the MiG-15's that the USAF F-86's were flying against at the time. Grumman decided to try and apply the area rule effect to the F9F-8 Cougar as an internal redesign, they labeled it the G-98. However early on during the airframe changes it was realized that a whole new aircraft was going to come out of this. It wasn't just a little nip and tuck. Rather a full scale tear down and rebuild it "6 Million Dollar Man" style.

The aircraft was built around the Curtiss-Wright J65 engine, which itself was a copy of the Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire. This engine is the same that was being used by the British in their Gloster Javelin, Hawker Hunter, and Handley-Page Victor. The aircraft featured a cockpit well forward of the fuselage. It was covered by a rearward sliding bubble canopy. The nose was a small sharp pointed affair that provided good visibility over the nose for the pilot to see during a landing. It was also big enough to accommodate a simple ranging radar as well to give it limited all-weather capability. The wing was manufactured different from most normal construction techniques. The main wing box was milled from light alloys that incorporated integral stiffeners. This was all done to save weight. What does that mean Southern? Well basically think of it this way with your house instead of nailing each piece of dry wall on the internal frame of your house, the builder would take rebar cover it in rebar and then cut it to size to fit your dimensions. One of the more interesting features with this aircraft is that instead of folding up with the wing tips, they folded down.

BuAir was seriously impressed with the design that in April of 1953 they ordered a pair of prototypes. It was initially assigned the designation number by BuAir of XF9F-8, but the Grumman Design G-99 (which was an improved version of the basic F9F Cougar) became the F9F-8 and the G-98 was assigned the designation XF9F-9. Due to problems of engine delivery with the after burning variant of the J-65, Grumman mounted a non-after burning version.

The aircraft took to its first flight with this underpowered engine on July 30th of 1954 with famed Grumman test pilot Corwin "Corky" Meyers at the controls. Even on that first flight with that subpar engine the Tiger showed it had something going right with it. It almost achieved Mach 1 on that first flight. Not three months later in October of 1954 the second prototype took flight. Flight testing progressed was moved out to Edwards AFB just before the holidays. It was out in California that the Tiger was mated with the engine it was designed for and it was the second US Navy fighter (behind the Douglas F4D Skyray) to achieve Mach 1 in level flight. Things were just looking better and better for this Grumman Fighter. During flight testing there was only a few things that turned up about the airframe which were easily solvable. It was in the early half of 1955 that the Navy finally realized that this aircraft was a totally new aircraft completely different from Panther/Cougar family. So they assigned it the next number in line with their scheme, F11F-1, and the name Tiger was carried over from the Grumman designation.

The Navy had this aircraft equipped with four 20mm cannons (since it was found post Korea that the 50 cals just couldn't do it anymore in jet combat), this aircraft was also one of the first Grumman aircraft hardwired from the beginning for the new AAM-N-7 Sidewinder infrared air to air missile. It would be typically armed with Sidewinders or drop tanks on its under wing pylons. Just prior to accepting the aircraft the Navy asked for a few more changes to the airframe from lessons learned during carrier trials. The need for fillets on the wings, which do a better job of control airflow over the wing, were added. As well as adding some additional fuel cells in the vertical tail and around the intakes to increase the range from about 900nm from the carrier to just under 1050nm. The other change asked for was the addition of an inflight refueling probe, going on the standard that all new Navy aircraft will have an inflight refueling system installed. The final change was a six inch extension to the nose to incorporate a new fire control radar system. These new "Long-Nose" Tigers with all these changes started with the second batch of production versions. The initial ten short nose Tigers were issued to between a testing squadron and VA-156 (a day fighter squadron). It wasn't until the end of the year that VA-156 received a full complement of "Long-Nose" Tigers and returned their first few Tigers for overhaul at Bethpage, Ny.

The aircraft enter service with the United States Navy The Tiger unfortunately had a short service life in the United States Navy. There were a number of things the primary reason was that about the same time the F-11F Tiger was entering service the Navy had received from Vought an aircraft design to satisfy a 1952 Naval Fighter contract. This aircraft from Vought was the XF8U-1 Crusader. An airplane which was going to have a famous and absolutely wonderful career with both the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps, but a few other nations in the world. Both the Tiger and Crusader were very capable and comparable aircraft but in the end the Crusader could do it just that much better in some aspects of the performance envelopes. One of the other reasons the F11F was only accepted for a short while is that aircraft was accepted at a time when the Navy was reviewing the role of its fighter aircraft at the time and instead of crossing the beach and mixing it up with enemy aircraft over enemy territory or near the fleet, rather there was a growing need to prevent enemy bombers from delivering nuclear weapons against the fleet. The Tiger was phased out of active duty service in 1961.

Over all the US Navy accepted the Tiger into seven fleet squadrons, VA-156 (later VF-111 in 1959), VF-21, VF-33, VF-24 (later VF-211), VF-51, VF-121, and VF-191. As it was removed from service the aircraft was relegated to being an advanced jet for fighter pilot training and then used as either targets at various ranges around the nation or just taken to the Arizona desert to be stored at the Military Aircraft Storage and Disposition Center on Davis Monthan AFB. Production stopped at Bethpage on the Tiger in 1959 and only 200 airframes were built.

The Tiger is most remembered for two things. The first is not something that you want to be remembered for, which is shooting yourself down with your own weapons. During a gunnery run pilot Tom Attridge was in a shallow dive and fired his four 20mm cannons at targets. Things were going good, however instead of pulling off his target near the bottom of the dive he continued for a few more seconds only to fly through the burst he fire at the initial start of the run this in turn damaged his aircraft sever enough to warrant a crash landing near the target range.

The other thing that most people remember about the Tiger is that was the jet the Blue Angels flew in between the the F9F-8 Cougar and the F-4J Phantom. The Blue Angels flew the Tiger from 1957 to 1969. This jet was the first jet that they had which could go supersonic.

There was an attempt to update the Tiger with a J79 engine in 1956, Grumman called this the F11F-2 Super Tiger. It was able to hit Mach 2.0 at some of the altitude ranges the J65 engine Tiger was having problems in. For reasons lost to history the Navy decided not to buy the Super Tiger. In turn Grumman spent the next two years trying to market the Super Tiger in NATO (to the Luftwaffe, Royal Dutch Air Force, Belgian Air Force, RCAF) to the Japanese Self-Defense Air Force. However due to a number of reasons most of the people that Grumman tried to offer the Super Tiger to decided to go with other fighters.

The final end of the story for the Tiger came in the late 1970's when Grumman brought two F-11A (as the F11F-1's were referred to post 1962 designation standardization) out of the Desert. Cleaned them up and used both of them at Naval Air Test Center Patuxent River to test inflight thrust control systems. One aircraft was modified with the systems under test and the other one was used primarily as the chase plane. This went from 1973 until late 1975 when they were returned to the Desert. These two Tigers were the last to fly.

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11 August 2008

An Airplane's History

At the end of the Second World War and just as the Cold War was going through some of its frostiest relations. Both the Soviets and the Western Powers were reviewing their options to fight a new type of war. That is a war with nuclear weapons. It basically boiled down to this in the aviation world:

You built an airplane to be able to deliver a nuclear weapon:

Or you built an aircraft to prevent the first mission:

The United States Navy was in a very interesting position. It had fleet fighters that could attempt to mix it up with tactical aircraft over the fleet. Such aircraft as the F8U Crusader, F3H Demon, F11F Tiger and the recent new comer the F4H-1 Phantom. However as the Office of Naval Intelligence started to see the ways the Soviets would attempt to kill a carrier these fighters didn't look that powerful at all. The ONI looked around and realized that the way the Soviets were going to attempt to kill a carrier was either through attack by the submarines using torpedoes or cruise missiles, surface ships mounting cruise missiles, or by long range bombers such as the Tu-16 Badger or Tu-95 Bear armed with large cruise missiles such as the AS-4 Kitchen or AS-5 Kelt to deliver either a large warhead or nuclear warhead against a carrier battle group. The planing and intention folks in ONI took a look around at the aircraft and then realized the current generation of fighters just didn't have the range nor the staying power to stay on station as far as possible from the battle group ready to intercept a massive bomber formation coming from the Kola or Crimea Peninsulas.

What was needed was an airplane mounting a large radar that was capable to see a far way out from the plane, the ability to carry a butt ton of gas to hang around at the long reaches from the battle group, and finally it was going to be armed with a long range powerful missile. So BuAir submitted the official request for an interceptor that had to have a good loiter time, a very good intercept radar system (to the point that it could do the search and intercept on its own with out assistance), and be capable of possibly carrying one of two planned missiles the AIM-47 Falcon or the AAM-N-10 Eagle.

The Douglas Aircraft Company submitted a design to compete in this bid. It was a straight wing monoplane, with a large bubble canopy designed to sit two aircrew side by side and a third in a special radar compartment near the rear, its was going to mount a radar dish that was about five feet across in a large bulbous nose, finally it was going to be subsonic. Navy officials looking at the drawings commented that it basically appeared to be the F3D Skyknight just grown bigger.

Douglas won the competition in 1959 and began to further design the aircraft. It was going to be powered by Pratt and Whitney TF30-P-2 engines and be armed with the Grumman Aerospace company AAM-N-10 Eagle missiles. A series of other things came into being at this time as well to make this planned weapon system look very good together. Grumman just won the contract to build the follow on to the WF-1 Tracer, the W2F-1 Hawkeye which was going to be capable of data linking radar information between itself and the carrier battle group along with selected interceptors. The other thing that was coming on line though very slowly was the new Navy Tactical Data System, or NTDS, this was a series of computers built around a UNIVAC computer system which was going to receive all the radar data from the battle group in a specific data link and present it back out to the various Combat Information Centers, CICs. That way the battle group commander and his various warfare commanders could gain a better handle on what was all going on around them. The advantage the F6D was going to have is that its radar system the Hughes APQ-81 tied in with the APS-125 of the W2F, that way the Hawkeye could successfully guide the Missiler to the right steering an line up for a missile shot even before the bad guys knew there was anyone else out there. On top of that if the F6D was on its own as it relayed its own radar data back to the W2F or the Carrier the air defense officer could have a better view of what was going on around the battle group.

As it was when the F6D Missiler was announced there was strong resistance from the fighter community with inside the US Navy. The idea of just being a launching platform for the Eagle just didn't sit well with some of these fighter pilots. On top of that the tactics being expressed just didn't seem to make sense at the time either. Questions about was a carrier air wing going to give up a fighter squadron to be equipped with this long range all-weather interceptor. What would of happened when the Missiler shots its load of Eagles at an incoming bomber stream? Just pull out of the way and wait for the carnage to end in the hope that the next set of defense lines could properly defend the battle group? What about about the need to cross the beach in support of a strike package? Obviously this airplane couldn't mix it up with the light weight tactical fighters (such as the MiG-17 and MiG-19) the Soviets were using. In the end BuAir decided to put a hold on this aircraft in 1961. Overall it was an interesting though and a different challenge to the defense of the carrier battle group from an bomber/cruise missile attack. At various times through out both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations the idea of the Eagle and Missiler were dusted off only to be finally killed in 1967 as some of the lessons learned from the Have Doughnut and Have Drill exercises at Nellis testing ranges, along with the huge costs of both developing the radar set, missile system and airframe were approaching costs that at the time the national defense budget couldn't afford.

Not all was lost though. A number of ideas from the F6D Missiler were retained for usage in the next fighter project being developed for the United States Navy. This project was the Tactical Fighter Experimental or TFX program. It was going to mount a radar system that though not as large as the APQ-81 it was going to try and be as powerful, this radar system was going to be the AWG-9, also the lessons learned from the development of both the AIM-47 Falcon and the AAM-N-10 Eagle were combined to create the AIM-54 Phoenix missile. Finally with the further refinement of the aerial refueling store and conversion of selected aircraft into dedicated tankers the idea of having a six hour loiter time was lowered and instead the tactic of "Chainsaw" was begun to be developed. Chainsaw was where everything that wasn't a fighter or AEW aircraft was uploaded with a buddy store. Then during an incoming Soviet bomber regiment raid a group of fighters and a tanker would be launched. The tanker (or aircraft with the buddy store) would fly with the fighters then top the fighters off as they would start to run dry. The tanking aircraft would turn and run home, get gas and fly back out to join up with their assigned charges fly even further out to get as far as possible from the battle group. At which the AEW aircraft would begin to assign a pair of Fleet Defense Interceptors to let loose with their missiles, finally closing range to get as many as possible with the on board gun system. Until the penetration of the battle group SAM belt was achieved.

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09 August 2008

Why not just open your wallet, we will take what we want.

So as my good friend Steel Jaw reported this past Friday was his 26th anniversary. I applaud him for it and wish him another twenty six years of happiness and bliss.

Meanwhile I have proposed to the future Mrs Pirate. We have set a date for November 2008 to join in happy matrimony, which should make it easy for me to remember. So now it is settling on the church, reception site, hotel for all the out of town guests, a potential after party place, the rings, dresses, etc. All of which seem to want me to open my wallet up and just dump the cash out till they say stop.

I have already decided that I am going to sport my dress blues with my medals for the ceremony. So I don't need to spend any money on a tuxedo or a suit. I just think it is going to look cool. The most that I am going to have to spend on my uniform is taking it to a cleaner and getting the white pipping around the sleeves and the back flap cleaned up and looking its brightest white. The other thing that I am going to have to do is buy all my medals again, get them mounted and buy a ribbon bar for the awards that I have which don't have a resulting medal. That will suck up some cash out of my wallet. No big worries about that because even though I am a minor war hero, there isn't that much money to get my medals and ribbons mounted.

It seems that the next place that wants to suck money from me is the House of God that I want to have the ceremony to occur in. I was born and raised as a Methodist . For a while though I fell out with following the church and am just coming back to attending services. One of the first things we started to look was a Methodist church in Seattle area (since that is where we decided to have the whole event). A couple of churches we looked at couldn't fit us into their schedule in November. No issue, since we had about ten churches selected. A church we talked to near the U of Washington mentioned that they would do the ceremony for us. Yet when it came to the price list it seemed to be an À la carte style. We could rent the sanctuary for five hundred bones, but to add the padre was an additional hundred dollars, If you want to use your own padre well that will be seventy five dollars, oh you want to use the speaker system that is an additional seventy five dollars, one of our notaries could be on station to sign the paperwork for the state for an additional fifty dollars. At the end of the running list of charges I felt as if should of
been in front of a fast food restaurant counter and being asked if I wanted fries with all that. We found one that offered a package deal it was a cool thousand dollars for the sanctuary, padre, sound system, organist, and the ability to get the paperwork signed for the state. However, as it came time to sign the deal they shut us down do to party politics differences ,can people separate the job I have chosen to do from their disagreement of modern politics? So now we are searching non-denominational Christian Churches for a place to have the event occur.
She decided on a pretty cool reception site located down near a lake which has a nice view of downtown Seattle and has a very artsy antique styling on the inside. The downside is they are charging about six thousand dollars for a four hour block and every hour we go past the allotted block is an additional thousand dollars. I understand from looking around at other places six thousand dollars is a good price, and yet I still feel as if I am being ripped off. Since if I want to add alcohol to the reception I need to procure a separate liquor license then pay for an additional bartender. Some of the other reception sites that I have talked all ready had a liquor license already built in to the package deal. It isn't a big deal for me to have a liquor license since both me and the misses don't drink, having already decided to make it an alcohol free event.
We have now spent time looking at photographers some of them have different rates depending on the time of day or even location. There was one guy who charged more to do it at a park that was across the street from his studio. When cornered it was simply the hassle of lugging some of his equipment out there. I just stood there with my jaw on the floor with the audacity of him charging an additional fifty dollars to lug an extra flash light and camera across the street to a park for engagement photos, then to try and say we would be discounted if he did our wedding as well. We finally signed with a engagement and wedding photographer this weekend.

Overall it has been really frustrating for us to try and stay with in a budget that doesn't thrown us into debt so far that we are paying for the wedding, by the time that our first born is looking at college. Yet it seems that every time I sit there on the phone making arrangements to talk to people and schedule some of these important steps that are involved with properly executing a wedding are driving the budget into funding a small nation's economy level. I think I literal hear the cash registers ring in the background the minute I talk with someone about quotes for services. When the question about why the services are asked about, I then mention for a wedding it appears the quote changes again to standard rate plus whatever they think they can get.
It feels as well when I try to make decisions about some of these services the final thought that is dangled in front of me is the "You want this to be special right? Well you need me!" line. I am so tired of the wedding hustle that I think when I get out of the Navy, I might just start to offer to be a wedding package seller. Sell everything as a pre-packaged deal so that all someone has to do is call me up sign the contract, write one check (or make one credit card swipe), give me the guest list and you can go on to planning the honeymoon, combining the household, etc. Then just just show up on the proper date and time in dress of choice. Who knows, I might be able to rack in buckets of money in this wedding racket by doing this?

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