FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day February 16th and 17th 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

I prefer my kale with a silent k in a pint frosted mug

 

Navy Likely To Offer Greater Pay For Aviators

In some previous editions of FOD I have mentioned the USAF is offering greater financial incentives to their pilots to stay on active duty.  Now Navy Times is reporting the Navy is struggling to retain experienced aviators and may need to offer aviation incentive pay and aviation bonuses to help remedy the problem, Vice Adm. Robert P. Burke told Congress in a written statement submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.  “We continue to face challenges within some historically retention-challenged communities, particularly among aviators in specific model/type/series platforms,” Burke said in his statement.  The communities at risk include strike fighter (VFA), electronic attack (VAQ) and helicopter mine countermeasure (HM) squadrons. Burke said these squadrons did not retain enough O-4 pilots to meet operational department head requirements.  The reserves are facing aviator shortages in the same communities, as well as in maritime patrol (VP) and fleet logistics (VR) squadrons.  Burke told Congress that aviation incentive pay and bonuses are the most effective incentives for retaining pilots, but the Navy is also considering non-monetary incentives like geographic stability for orders and training and educational opportunities.  Aviation readiness has been a persistent problem for the Navy. Last October, only one-third of the Navy’s Super Hornet fighter jets were fully mission-capable and ready to fight.  Last March, Burke spoke before Congress about the need to increase retention bonuses for O-4 fighter, electronic attack and mine countermeasure pilots, the same communities facing retention shortfalls today.  From experience aircraft availability and monthly flight time increase job satisfaction and that leads to increased pilot retention.

 

Navy’s Stealth Destroyers Getting A New Mission – Killing Ships

I’ve mentioned here a couple times the new Zumwalt-class destroyers needed a new munitions round to replace the Long Range Land Attack Projectile that was cancelled because of its completely ridicules cost per round.  Now Defense Times is reporting  the Navy has a new vision for what its enormous high-tech destroyers will do: Killing enemy warships at extended ranges.  The Navy is asking Congress to fund a conversion of its 600-foot stealth destroyers from primarily a land attack ship to an anti-surface, offensive strike platform, according to budget documents released Feb. 12.  The service’s 2019 budget request includes a request for $89.7 million to transform its Zumwalt-class destroyers by integrating Raytheon’s long-range SM-6 missile, which can dual hat as both an anti-air and anti-surface missile, as well as its Maritime Strike variant of the Tomahawk missile.  Converting DDG-1000 into a hunter-killer is a win for the surface warfare community’s years-long drive to beef up the force’s offensive capabilities. It also answers the bell for U.S. Pacific Command, which has been pushing for the Navy to add longer range weapons to offset the increasing threat from Chinese long-range missile technology.  The SM-6 is a versatile missile that the Navy has been excited about. In August, the Navy shot down a medium-range ballistic missile target with the SM-6, which uses a fragmenting explosion near its target as the kill mechanism. This is different from the SM-3 Block IIA in development that hits its target directly. It can also be used to hit surface targets at sea and on land from hundreds of miles away.  The Navy is planning to buy 625 of the SM-6 over the next five years.  For the Maritime Tomahawk, Raytheon is integrating a new seeker into its tried-and-true strike missile for long-range ship-on-ship engagements.  The decision to switch the requirements from a land-attack platform to an anti-surface platform came in November following a review of the requirements, according to the documents.  “After a comprehensive review of Zumwalt class requirements, Navy decided in November 2017 to refocus the primary mission of the Zumwalt Class Destroyers from Land Attack to Offensive Surface Strike,” the documents read. “The funding requested in [FY19] will facilitate this change in mission and add lethal, offensive fires against targets afloat and ashore.”  USNI News first reported in December that the Navy was eyeing converting the Zumwalt to a surface strike platform.  The lead ship in the class, Zumwalt, is currently getting an overhaul and combat systems installation in San Diego. The Michael Monsoor, the second in the class, completed acceptance trials this month.  Getting a surface strike platform in the Pacific fits snugly in with the distributed lethality concept that was championed by former Naval Surface Force Pacific commander Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden. Rowden argued that surface ships can and should be used in an offensive capacity, not just be relegated to the defense of the aircraft carrier.  By adding long-range systems to every kind of ship, Rowden argued, it forces potential adversaries to expend resources looking not just for destroyers and cruisers but also littoral combat ships and even amphibious ships that have not had a strike role in the past.  In testimony submitted Feb. 14 to the House Armed Services Committee, PACOM commander ADM Harry B. Harris Jr.USN said China’s advancing capabilities made investing in long-range systems for his theater is a must. All three of the Zumwalt-class destroyers will be based in the Pacific.  “I need increased lethality, specifically ships and aircraft equipped with faster and more survivable weapons systems,” Harris wrote. “Longer range offensive weapons on every platform are an imperative.”  The money requested in 2019 also funds a combat systems refresh, a datalink upgrade and some new signals intelligence collection equipment. It also goes after some cyber-security hardening and replacing components of the ship’s computing systems that are becoming obsolete. Funds will also be expended replacing displays for consoles that run the ship’s computing systems, known as the Common Display System . There are about 40 consoles that use the display per hull and 22 on the class’s shore trainer.  “The CDS variant on Zumwalt class are unique configuration based on a 10 year old design and should be aligned with ongoing modernization efforts in the Fleet.”  One thing the budget isn’t funding is a new round for the ship’s purpose-built Advanced Gun System. In late 2016, the service canceled its Long Range Land Attack Projectile, which cost about a million dollars per round, and has struggled to come up with a replacement round for the gun.  “The Advanced Gun Systems will remain on the ships, but in an inactive status for future use, when a gun round that can affordably meet the desired capability is developed and fielded,” the documents read.  In January, Zumwalt’s former commanding officer, Capt. James Kirk, said the Navy was in a holding pattern on the guns. While the service is keeping an eye on a couple key technologies that could fill in the gap left by LRLAP, “there is not a plan right now for a specific materiel solution for the replacement round,” Kirk told reporters at the Surface Navy Association symposium.  “We continue to monitor industry’s development and technical maturation. An example of that is the Hyper Velocity Projectile,” he said, referring to a high speed guided munition made by BAE Systems and originally developed for use in electromagnetic rail guns.  “We’re monitoring that technical maturation to see do we get there to get the kind of ranges and capabilities we want, that’s the right bang for the buck, cost to capability, for the Navy. We’re monitoring that, but we have not made a decision for that yet.”  The Navy got in its present pickle with the 155mm/62-caliber gun with automated magazine and handling system because the service cut the buy from 28 ships, to seven, and finally to three.  The AGS, the largest U.S. naval gun system since World War II, was developed specifically for the Zumwalt class, as was the LRLAP round it was intended to shoot. There was no backup plan so when the buy went from 28 to thee, the costs stayed static, driving the price of the rounds through the roof.  “We were going to buy thousands of these rounds,” said a Navy official familiar with the program told Defense News at the time. “But quantities of ships killed the affordable round.”

 

‘US Presence Matters’ Says Admiral on Carrier in the South China Sea 

I spend considerable effort pointing out the emerging battle for influence and control of communication and navigational freedom between China and the US now playing out in the South China Sea.  It’s not being covered in the mainstream media, but it is a growing struggle and a mission the US military will have to deal with over the next few years.  Well at least our military leaders are realizing the importance of being there, of maintaining freedom of navigation rights for the US as well as all countries is vitally important for the future.  Military Times is reporting with a deafening roar the fighter jets catapulted off the US aircraft carrier and soared above the disputed South China Sea, as its admiral vowed that the mighty ship’s presence was proof America still had regional clout.  “US presence matters,” Rear Admiral John Fuller (USNA ’87) told reporters on board the USS Carl Vinson. “I think it’s very clear that we are in the South China Sea. We are operating.” The Carl Vinson, one of the US Navy‘s longest-serving active carriers, is currently conducting what officials say is a routine mission through the hotly contested waters where years of island reclamation and military construction by Beijing has rattled regional nerves.  Following criticism that the Trump administration’s commitment to the Asian region has been distracted by North Korea, reporters were flown onto the ship Wednesday as it sailed through the sea.  In a rapid series of take-offs and landings, F-18 fighter jets roared off the deck, travelling from zero to 290 kilometers (180 miles) per hour in a dizzying two seconds.  Fuller, commander of the Carl Vinson Strike Group, said the thousand-foot-long ship’s presence was a way to reassure allies.  “The nations in the Pacific are maritime nations,” he said. “They value stability … That’s exactly what we are here for. This is a very visible and tangible presence. The United States is here again.”  But the location of the strike group — which includes a carrier air wing and a guided-missile cruiser — is also a very direct message to China, whether US officials admit it or not.  Its voyage comes just a month after the Pentagon’s national defense strategy labeled China a “strategic competitor” that bullies its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea.  Beijing claims most of the South China Sea — believed to hold vast oil and gas deposits and through which $5 trillion in trade passes annually — and has rapidly built reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military planes.  The Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also have claims in the sea.  Compared to the 11 active aircraft carriers in the US Navy, China currently boasts just one carrier. But the rising Asian superpower has made no secret of its desire to build up its naval forces and become much more regionally assertive.  Last month Beijing said it had dispatched a warship to drive away a US missile destroyer which had “violated” its sovereignty by sailing close to a shoal in the South China Sea.  Major naval nations like the US, Britain and Australia are determined not to let China dictate who can enter the strategic waters.  They have pushed “freedom of navigation” operations in which naval vessels sail close to Chinese-claimed militarized islets in the South China Sea.  “We will follow what international rule says and we will respect (it), even if there are disputes there,” Fuller said.  The nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson — the ship that took Osama Bin Laden’s body for burial at sea — began a regular deployment in the Western Pacific last month.  The carrier is home to 5,300 sailors, pilots, and other crew members as well as 72 aircraft.  Washington has announced plans for it to dock in Vietnam — a first for the communist nation which is rattled by China’s expansionism in the sea and has forged a growing alliance with its former foe the US.  Britain said on Tuesday it will sail its own warship from Australia through the South China Sea next month to assert freedom of navigation rights in support of the US approach.  But alliances are shifting.  The Philippines, a US treaty ally, was once the strongest critic of Beijing’s expansionism in the South China Sea, successfully winning a tribunal case in The Hague over their claims.  But it has changed course under President Rodrigo Duterte in a bid for billions of dollars worth of Chinese investment.  Duterte last week said it was not time to fight China over the row, adding the Philippines should “not meddle” with Washington and Beijing’s competition for superpower status.  In Wednesday’s trip, the USS Carl Vinson hosted top Duterte aides and key Philippine military officers.  Duterte’s communications secretary Martin Andanar described the carrier as “very impressive” and its equipment “massive”.  Asked if Manila welcomed US patrols in the disputed area, Andanar told reporters: “The United States has been a big brother of the Philippines, a military ally.”

 

 

Most Bold and Daring Act of the Age

When Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated in March of 1801, he inherited troubled relations with the Barbary states — the Ottoman Regencies of Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli, along with independent Morocco. The United States had treaties with all four, but tension was high and rising.  American representatives in the region wanted an American naval presence. They regularly, if less eloquently, echoed the 1793 view of their colleague in Lisbon: “When we can appear in the Ports of the various Powers, or on the Coast, of Barbary, with Ships of such force as to convince those nations that We are able to protect our trade, and to compel them if necessary to keep faith with Us, then, and not before, We may probably secure a large share of the Medit trade, which would largely and speedily compensate the U. S. for the Cost of a maritime force amply sufficient to keep all those Pirates in Awe, and also make it their interest to keep faith.”  Commodore Edward Preble  (left) assumed command of the U.S. Mediterranean Squadron in 1803. By October of that year Preble had begun a blockade of Tripoli harbor during the First Barbary War (1801–1805). The first significant action of the blockade came on 31 October 1803 when USS Philadelphia cruised off Tripoli gave chase and fired upon a pirate ship.  Philadelphia ran aground on an uncharted reef two miles off Tripoli Harbor. The captain, William Bainbridge, tried to refloat her, first laying the sails aback, and casting off three bow anchors and shifting the guns aft. But a strong wind and rising waves drove her further aground. Next they jettisoned many of her cannons, barrels of water, and other heavy articles overboard in order to make her lighter, but this too failed. They then sawed off the foremast in one last desperate attempt to lighten her. All of these attempts failed and Bainbridge, in order not to resupply the pirates, ordered holes drilled in the ship’s bottom, gunpowder dampened, sails set afire and all other weapons thrown overboard before surrendering. Her officers and men were made slaves of the Pasha (or Bashaw).   Philadelphia was eventually refloated by her captors and converted to a gun battery within the Tripoli harbor, as they attempted to make her serve as a fighting ship once more.  Thus she was too great a prize to be allowed to remain in the hands of the Tripolitans, so a decision was made to recapture or destroy her. The U.S. had captured the Tripolitan ketch Mastico, renamed her Intrepid, and re-rigged the ship with short masts and triangular sails to look like a local ship. On February 16, 1804, under the cover of night and in the guise of a ship in distress that had lost all anchors in a storm and needed a place to tie up, Intrepid was sailed by a volunteer assaulting party of officers and men under Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, Jr. (right) next to Philadelphia. The assault party boarded Philadelphia, and after making sure that she was not seaworthy, burned the ship where she lay in Tripoli Harbor. Lord Horatio Nelson, known as a man of action and bravery, is said to have called this “the most bold and daring act of the Age.”   Even Pope Pius VII stated, “The United States, though in their infancy, have done more to humble the anti-Christian barbarians on the African coast than all the European states had done.  Her anchor was returned to the United States on April 7, 1871, when the Bashaw presented it to the captain of the visiting Guerriere.

 

 

 

 

 

Some Other Events From February 16:

1923 Archaeologist opens tomb of King Tut

1997 Jeff Gordon becomes youngest Daytona winner

1945 Bataan recaptured

 

Remember The Maine

Remember the Maine!  A massive explosion of unknown origin sinks the battleship USS Maine (ACR-1) in  Havana Harbor, (photo is of Maine arriving in Havana Harbor) killing 260 of the fewer than 400 American crew members aboard.  One of the first American battleships, the Maine weighed more than 6,000 tons and was built at a cost of more than $2 million. Sent to protect U.S. interests during the Cuban revolt against Spain, she exploded suddenly, without warning, and sank quickly, killing nearly three quarters of her crew. The cause and responsibility for her sinking remained unclear after a board of inquiry investigated. Nevertheless, popular opinion in the U.S., fanned by inflammatory articles printed in the “yellow press” by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, blamed Spain. The phrase, “Remember the Maine, to Hell with Spain”, became a rallying cry for action, which came with the Spanish–American War later that year. While the sinking of Maine was not a direct cause for action, it served as a catalyst, accelerating the approach to a diplomatic impasse between the U.S. and Spain.  Admiral Hyman G. Rickover became intrigued with the disaster and began a private investigation, in 1974. Using information from the two official inquiries, newspapers, personal papers and information on the construction and ammunition of Maine, it was concluded that the explosion was not caused by a mine. Instead, spontaneous combustion of coal dust in the bunker, next to magazine, was speculated to be the most likely cause. Rickover published a book about this investigation, How the Battleship Maine Was Destroyed, in 1976.  The Maine‘s foremast resides at the U.S. Naval Academy.

 

“Billy the Kid” Takes First American Gold Medal in Downhill

I haven’t commented on the Olympics in FOD, but generally I’d like to see more of the other events (well maybe not curling).  But looking back a bit, William Dean “Bill” Johnson (March 30, 1960 – January 21, 2016) was an American World Cup alpine ski racer. He was the first American male to win an Olympic gold medal in alpine skiing, winning the downhill at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. He was the first racer (of either gender) from outside the Alps to win an Olympic downhill.  He moved with his family to Boise, Idaho, when he was seven. He learned to ski at Bogus Basin in the late 1960s.  After a run-in with the law at age 17, the juvenile defendant was given the choice between six months in jail or attending the Mission Ridge ski academy in central Washington State, and he chose the latter.  In 1984 at age 23, Johnson challenged the long-established European domination of downhill ski racing. Even some of his teammates considered the 23-year-old Mr. Johnson a brash upstart, as he reveled in his image as the bad boy of skiing. He was called “Billy the Kid.”  “Basically, any downhill skier is a daredevil, and I’m no exception,” he said before the Winter Games in the former Yugoslavia. “I like to drive cars faster than 100 [miles per hour]. I like to go over bumps in my car and get airborne. I like to drink. I chase girls full time, but I only drink part time.”  A month later at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia (now Bosnia), he had promising downhill training runs on a course that favored his gliding style. He boldly predicted his Olympic victory, evoking comparisons to Joe Namath and Muhammad Ali, and irking his European competitors.  His gold medal win at Bjelašnica in a time of 1:45.59 edged out silver medalist Peter Müller of Switzerland by 0.27 seconds. True to form, when asked in the post-race press conference what his victory meant to him, he exclaimed, “Millions, man, we’re talkin’ millions!”  His career faded abruptly after the Olympics and his attempted comeback ended abruptly on March 22, 2001, when Johnson crashed during a training run prior to the downhill race of the 2001 U.S. Alpine Championships, held at The Big Mountain near WhitefishMontana.  He sustained serious injury to the left side of his brain, nearly bit off his tongue, and was comatose for three weeks.  He required continual care thereafter and passed fifteen years later at age 55.

 

The Beach Boy’s Good Vibrations

From the very beginning, brothers BrianDennis, and Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, and their friend Al Jardine distinguished themselves by their vocal harmonies and early surf songsThey are one of the most influential acts of the rock erathe Beach Boys.  Emerging at the vanguard of the “California Sound“, they performed original material that reflected a southern California youth culture of surfing, cars, and romance. I once heard it said, the Beach Boys were so famous because they never ventured into greater depth than a beautiful girl, a fast car or the perfect wave.  And in the 60’s, what more did you need?  After 1964, they abandoned the surfing aesthetic for more personal lyrics and multi-layered sounds. In 1966, the Pet Sounds album and “Good Vibrations” single vaulted the group to the top level of rock innovators and established the band as symbols of the nascent counterculture eraBrian Wilson rolled tape on take one of “Good Vibrations” on February 17, 1966. Six months, four studios and $50,000 later, he finally completed his three-minute-and-thirty-nine-second symphony, pieced together from more than 90 hours of tape recorded during literally hundreds of sessions.

 

YF-104 First Flight

The first YF-104A flew on 17 February 1956, and with the other 16 trial aircraft, were soon carrying out aircraft and equipment evaluation and tests. Modifications were made to the aircraft including airframe strengthening and adding a ventral fin. Problems were encountered with the J-79 afterburner; further delays were caused by the need to add AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. Test pilot Herman Richard (“Fish”) Salmon made the first flight of the Lockheed YF-104A service test prototype, Air Force serial number 55-2955 (Lockheed serial number 183-1001) on February 17, 1956. This airplane, the first of seventeen pre-production YF-104As, incorporated many improvements over the XF-104 prototype, the most visible being a longer fuselage.  The two photos below show the fuselage differences.

Lockheed XF-104 (S/N 53-7786, the first XF-104) on Rogers Dry Lake, Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The XF-104 is easily distinguished by the lack of inlet shock cones and the short fuselage. (U.S. Air Force photo)

On 28 February 1956, YF-104A 55-2955 became the first aircraft to reach Mach 2 in level flight.  The YF-104A was later converted to the production standard and redesignated F-104A.  One of the Century Series of fighter aircraft, it was operated by the air forces of more than a dozen nations from 1958 to 2004. Its design team was led by Kelly Johnson, who contributed to the development of the Lockheed P-38 LightningLockheed U-2Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird and other Lockheed aircraft.  A total of 2,578 F-104s was produced by Lockheed and under license by various foreign manufacturers.

(Right) Lockheed test pilots Anthony W. (“Tony”) LeVier, on the left, and Herman R. (“Fish”) Salmon, circa 1957. An F-104 Starfighter is in the background. (Jet Pilot Overseas)

 

 

 

Some Events From February 17:

1904 Madame Butterfly premieres

1972 Beetle overtakes Model T as world’s best-selling car

1947 Voice of America begins broadcasts to Russia

1801 Deadlock over presidential election ends

 

 

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day December 9th through 12th, 2017

Democrat Doug Jones Apparent Winner Over Roy Moore In Alabama

In a special election contest that has drawn national and international attention, it would appear Democrat Doug Jones is the winner over Republican Roy Moore in the conservative state of Alabama.  It has been an extraordinary alignment of events, including a sex scandal involving teenagers, for Alabamians to elect their first Democrat to the Senate in 25 years, but they triggered a political earthquake that will be felt far and wide.  With 99 percent of the vote in, Jones was leading 50-48 percent, or 673,236 votes to 652,300 votes — a margin of more than 20,000.  The current margin appears too large for an automatic recount, which is triggered under state law if the candidates are separated by less than half a percentage point, but Moore could call for a recount if he’s willing to pay for one himself.

 

New York Yankee News

A lot is going on in the off season.  Currently the Winter Meetings are underway.  Two days ago, The New York Yankees announced this morning that Giancarlo Stanton has officially waived his no-trade clause and that their blockbuster deal for the reigning NL MVP is complete.  It will be the Judge – Stanton duo next season.  As reported last week, the Yankees received Stanton and cash considerations in exchange for second baseman Starlin Castro, minor league pitcher Jorge Guzman and minor league infielder Jose Devers.  And The New York Yankees have traded third baseman Chase Headley and pitcher Bryan Mitchell to the San Diego Padres for outfielder Jabari Blash. This would seem to be an exercise in salary clearing by the Yankees in anticipation of another move, as it takes about $13 million off of their payroll. Which is about how much was added to their payroll for 2018 in the Giancarlo Stanton deal. That could get Todd Frazier back for them, perhaps. Or it could help them retain CC Sabathia or go after another starting pitcher. The club likewise maintains an interest in getting under the $197 million payroll threshold which would trigger yet another year of 50% luxury tax payments for the Yankees.  CC Sabathia was set to come back to the Yankees as a signed free agent at the end of the season, but he’s been talking with both California Angles and now the Toronto Blue Jays.  I don’t think the Yankees are done trading yet – how about Manny Machado – a possibility I think.  And lastly Aaron Boone, the new Yankee manager has hired Josh Bard as his new bench coach.  I’ve been sitting by my phone, but so far no call to be senior bat boy.  I’m waiting…..

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day December 9th through 12th, 2017”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day May 29th through 31st, 2017

Friends of FOD

There’s just a lot of stuff that needs to be mentioned in this edition.  Bear with me and enjoy.

First and 101st Indy 500

Congratulations to Takuma Sato for a great pass of three time winner Helio Castroneves in the closing laps of the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 to win by .2011 seconds.  He becomes the first Japanese driver to win at the ‘brickyard.’  If you watched the race you’ll recall a horrific wreck on lap 53 when Jay Howard’s car got up in the rubber pebbles coming out of turn two and hit the SAFER barrier on the outside of the turn.  He then came back across the track into the path of the pole-sitter Scott Dixon.  Dixon had nowhere to go and after impacting Howard’s car became airborne, hitting the catch fence hard, rolled airborne and came down right side up after losing most of his suspension components (actually these cars are designed to shed suspension parts so as to minimize the forces being generated on the car).  The accident caused a 19-minute red flag delay while debris was removed from the track and the catch fence repaired.  It’s a tribute to the car designers that neither driver was hurt.  And on May 30, 1911, Ray Harroun drives his single-seater Marmon Wasp to victory in the inaugural Indianapolis 500.  40 cars lined up at the starting line for the first Indy 500. A multi-car accident occurred 13 laps into the race, and the ensuing chaos temporarily disrupted scoring, throwing the finish into dispute when the eventual runner-up, Ralph Mulford, argued that he was the rightful winner. It was Ray Harroun, however, who took home the $14,250 purse, clocking an average speed of 74.59 mph and a total time of 6 hours and 42 minutes. The Wasp was the first car with a rear-view mirror, which Harroun had installed in order to compensate for not having a mechanic in the seat next to him to warn of other cars passing.

 

At Last – FONOPS in South China Sea

According to Navy Times, China protested a U.S. Navy patrol that sent a guided-missile destroyer near a group of man-made islands in the South China Sea on Thursday, in the first American challenge to Beijing’s claims to the waters since President Trump took office.  China’s Defense Ministry told reporters that it had sought an explanation with U.S. officials over the incident, which Beijing said involved the USS Dewey (DDG-105) (left) and took place around Mischief Reef, one of a chain of artificial islands China has built and fortified to assert its claims over the strategic waterway. While U.S. officials did not immediately comment on Thursday’s operation, Washington has in the past insisted that it has the right to conduct so-called freedom of navigation operations, or FONOPS, in the area because it is in international waters. The Navy conducted similar operations under former President Barack Obama, but had not done so since Trump took office and began talking up the prospect of warming ties with Beijing and cooperating over issues like North Korea. A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the U.S. destroyer had “trespassed” near islands over which China has “indisputable sovereignty.” “We urge the U.S. to correct this mistake and stop taking further actions so as to avoid hurting peace and security in the region and long-term cooperation between the two countries,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said. As mentioned in previous editions of FOD, an international tribunal last year rejected most of China’s claims to the waters and said its land reclamation was aggravating tensions and violating the sovereignty of fellow claimant the Philippines. China has ignored the ruling. U.S. Defense Department spokesman Maj. Jamie Davis said in an emailed statement that U.S. forces in the Asia-Pacific region would continue to conduct freedom of navigation operations to “challenge excessive maritime claims in order to preserve the rights, freedoms, and uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under international law.” Davis gave no details of Thursday’s operation, saying summaries would only be released in an annual report and adding that U.S. forces conducted such operations last year to challenge claims by 22 coastal states, including allies and partners.  “U.S. forces operate in the Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea. All operations are conducted in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows,” Davis said. And he added, “FONOPS are not about any one country, nor are they about making political statements.” Greg Poling of Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank said that under international law, Mischief Reef was not entitled to a territorial sea as it was underwater at high tide before it was built up by China.

 

And Speaking of FONOPS – China Intercepts P-3

According to the South China Morning Post, and who doesn’t read this rag daily, The Chinese Defense Ministry on Sunday dismissed Washington’s account of an encounter between Chinese and US military aircraft over the South China Sea last week, blaming the US flight for posing a threat.  A statement by the ministry said a US surveillance plan was spotted in airspace southeast of Hong Kong on May 25, and Chinese military aircraft intercepted it in accordance with the law.  “The operation by the Chinese military aircraft was professional and safe,” the statement said. “Recently, the US has been sent military vessels and aircraft to China’s maritime and air space, infringing upon China’s territorial sovereignty and posing a threat to the lives of people from both sides.  “Such operations [by the US] is the root of Sino-US military maritime and air safety incidents.”  US officials said the US Navy P-3 Orion (above left) was 240 km southeast of Hong Kong in international airspace when two Chinese J-10 fighters (right) carried out the “unsafe intercept”.  One J-10 flew within 200m in front of the US plane, restricting its ability to maneuver, the Pentagon said on Friday.

 

 

China Invited to RIMPAC 2018

According to Defense News, Despite ongoing tensions in the South China Sea and several recent aerial confrontations, China has been invited to attend next year’s U.S.-hosted Rim of the Pacific exercises, the U.S. Navy confirmed Monday.  “All 26 nations that participated in RIMPAC 2016 have been invited to return for RIMPAC 2018,” Cmdr. Ryan Perry, a spokesman for the San Diego-based U.S. Third Fleet, said Monday in response to a query.  (USS Lincoln CV-76 Battle Group and ships of all participant nations above).  The Pentagon granted permission for China to be included among the participating nations invited to a June planning conference in San Diego, Ryan confirmed, following congressionally mandated guidelines governing military-to-military and naval-to-naval engagements with China. Further approvals will need to be obtained for two more planning conferences as the exercises approach, Ryan confirmed.  RIMPAC, is the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise. RIMPAC is held biennially during June and July of even-numbered years from Honolulu, Hawaii. It is hosted and administered by the United States Navy‘s Pacific Fleet, headquartered at Pearl Harbor, in conjunction with the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard, and Hawaii National Guard forces under the control of the Governor of Hawaii. The US invites military forces from the Pacific Rim and beyond to participate. With RIMPAC the United States Pacific Command seeks to enhance interoperability between Pacific Rim armed forces, ostensibly as a means of promoting stability in the region to the benefit of all participating nations. Described by the US Navy as a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans.

 

The Good Cemeterian

One Florida man has taken it upon himself to help restore a Tampa graveyard and its veterans’ headstones.  Though he has never served in the military, Andrew Lumish, 46, spends his little free time scrubbing and cleaning soldiers’ gravestones — some dating back to the Civil War — in the L’Unione Italiana Cemetery.  Known as “The Good Cemeterian,” Lumish found the headstones while pursuing his passion for photography. He thought they were beautiful but was bothered by the amount of dirt, mold and mildew that had overtaken them. Some of the men buried there did not have families to take care of their gravesites, so he stepped in to provide a little elbow grease and honor the fallen veterans.  “I trained myself on proper techniques that we utilize in all of our national cemeteries to begin restoring these monuments,” Lumish, who has now cleaned more than 500 monuments, told NBC News.  Honored by the Department of Veteran Affairs for his efforts, Lumish coats the gravestone with the same product as those used by national cemeteries after soaking the monument with water. He then uses soft bristle brushes, a tooth brush and cotton swabs to scrub every detail of the stonework.  “The process will take one, two, three, four months total before restoration is complete,” Lumish said.  Lumish has no personal connection to these men who fell in various American wars, but he has spent the last five years attempting to return some honor and dignity to their graves. Along the way he has learned a considerable amount about the lives of those in the graveyard and often shares their stories.

Battle of Totopotomoy Creek

The Battle of Totopotomoy Creek also called the Battle of Bethesda Church, Crumps Creek, Shady Grove Road, and Hanovertown, was a battle fought in Hanover County, Virginia in May 28–30, 1864, as part of Union Lt. Gen. Ulysses Grant‘s Overland Campaign against Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee‘s Army of Northern VirginiaAs Grant continued his attempts to maneuver around Lee’s right flank and lure him into a general battle in the open, Lee saw an opportunity to attack the advancing V Corps, under Maj. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren with the Second Corps of Lt. Gen. Jubal Early. Early’s divisions under Maj. Gens. Robert E. Rodes and Stephen Dodson Ramseur drove the Union troops back to Shady Grove Road, but Ramseur’s advance was stopped by a fierce stand of infantry and artillery fire. Grant ordered his other corps commanders to conduct a supporting attack along the entire Confederate line, which was entrenched behind Totopotomoy Creek, but only the II Corps of Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock crossed the stream; they were quickly repulsed. After the inconclusive battle, the Union army resumed its moves to the southeast and the Battle of Cold HarborThe Shelton House (below left) becomes the center of the battle and is the house where Patrick Henry was married.  Grant’s forces are now less than twenty miles from the Confederate capital of Richmond.  Federal casualties were 731 (679 killed and wounded, 52 captured), versus 1,593 (263 killed, 961 wounded, 369 missing/captured) Confederate.  Of more concern to Lee than Early’s failed attack was intelligence he received that reinforcements were heading Grant’s way. Just as Hoke’s division was leaving Bermuda Hundred, the 16,000 men of Maj. Gen. William F. “Baldy” Smith‘s XVIII Corps were withdrawn from Butler’s Army of the James at Grant’s request and they were moving down the James River and up the York to the Pamunkey. If Smith moved due west from White House Landing to Cold Harbor, 3 miles southeast of Bethesda Church and Grant’s left flank, the extended Federal line would be too far south for the Confederate right to contain it. Lee sent his cavalry under Maj. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee to secure the crossroads at Cold Harbor.  On May 31 Hancock’s II Corps again crossed Totopotomoy Creek, but found that the Confederate defense line stood well behind the actual creek bed. Grant realized that the strength of the Confederate position meant another stalemate was at hand. He began shifting his army southward toward Cold Harbor on the night of May 31, the site of the next major battle.

 

The Rite of Spring Opens in Paris with a Near Riot

Granted, I’m not much of a student of the ballet as it were, but if The Rite of Spring comes to a theater near you, I recommend you go see it, just to see what all the mayhem was about in 1913.   The Rite of Spring (French: Le Sacre du printemps; “sacred spring”) is a ballet and orchestral concert work by the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky (below right). It was written for the 1913 Paris season of Sergei Diaghilev‘s Ballets Russes company.  Stravinsky’s score contains many novel features for its time, including experiments in tonalitymetre, rhythm, stress and  dissonance. Analysts, (not me) have noted in the score a significant grounding in Russian folk music, a relationship Stravinsky tended to deny. The music has influenced many of the 20th-century’s leading composers and is one of the most recorded works in the classical repertoire.  From the first notes of the overture, sounded by a bassoon playing well outside its normal register, Stravinsky’s haunting music set the audience on edge. It was the combination of that music with the jarring choreography of the great Vaslav Nijinsky, however, that caused the uproar that followed. “The curtain rose on a group of knock-kneed and long-braided Lolitas jumping up and down,” Stravinsky later remarked of the brutal opening seen of Le Sacre du printemps, which depicts a virgin sacrifice in an ancient pagan Russia. Catcalls began to issue from the audience as they took in the bizarre scene playing out before them. The noise became great enough that the orchestra could not be heard from the stage, causing Nijinsky to climb atop a chair in the wings shouting out instructions to his dancers onstage. While Stravinsky sat fuming as his music was drowned out by jeers, whistles and—if one witness is to be believed—members of the audience barking like dogs, Serge Diaghelev, impresario of the Ballets Russes, frantically switched the house lights on and off in a futile effort to restore order. It was, in other words a scene that bore a closer resemblance to the Marx Brothers’ A Night At The Opera than it did to a typical night at the Ballets Russes.  In retrospect, Stravinsky’s score can be seen as paving the way for 20th-century modern composition, and it sounds no more daring to today’s listeners than the average dramatic film scores. Yet no present-day listener—and certainly no listener who first encountered it as part of the soundtrack to Disney’s animated Fantasia (1940)—can possibly appreciate how shocking the dissonance, droning and asymmetrical rhythms of Le Sacre du printemps sounded to its premiere audience on this night in 1913.

 

Because It Was There

On 29 May 1953, Edmund Hillary  (right) and Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers confirmed to have reached the summit of Mount Everest. They were part of the ninth British expedition to Everest, led by John HuntTIME magazine named Hillary one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. Hillary served in the Royal New Zealand Air Force as a navigator during World War II. Prior to the 1953 Everest expedition, Hillary had been part of the British reconnaissance expedition to the mountain in 1951 as well as an unsuccessful attempt to climb Cho Oyu in 1952. The expedition set up base camp in March 1953 and, working slowly, set up its final camp at the South Col at 25,900 feet (7,890 m). On 26 May, Bourdillon and Evans attempted the climb but turned back when Evans’ oxygen system failed. The pair had reached the South Summit, coming within 300 vertical feet (91 m) of the summit.  Hunt then directed Hillary and Tenzing to go for the summit.  Snow and wind held the pair up at the South Col for two days. They set out on 28 May with a support trio of Lowe, Alfred Gregory, and Ang Nyima. The two pitched a tent at 27,900 feet on 28 May, while their support group returned down the mountain. On the following morning Hillary discovered that his boots had frozen solid outside the tent (What – Who leaves their boots outside on a Mt. Everest climb? What are you new here?  OK, he was new here, but no excuse) He spent two hours warming them before he and Tenzing, wearing 30-pound packs, attempted the final ascent.  The crucial move of the last part of the ascent was the 40-foot rock face later named the “Hillary Step“. Hillary saw a means to wedge his way up a crack in the face between the rock wall and the ice, and Tenzing followed.  From there the following effort was relatively simple. Hillary reported that both men reached the summit at the same time, but in The Dream Comes True, Tenzing said that Hillary had taken the first step atop Mount Everest. They reached Everest’s 29,028 ft summit, the highest point on earth, at 11:30 AM.  As Hillary put it, “A few more whacks of the ice axe in the firm snow, and we stood on top.” As part of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition Hillary reached the South Pole overland in 1958. He subsequently reached the North Pole, making him the first person to reach both poles and summit Everest.  Following his ascent of Everest, Hillary devoted most of his life to helping the Sherpa people of Nepal through the Himalayan Trust, which he founded. Through his efforts, many schools and hospitals were built in Nepal.  On 6 June 1953 Hillary was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire and received the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal the same year.  To mark the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the first successful ascent of Everest the Nepalese government conferred honorary citizenship upon Hillary at a special Golden Jubilee celebration in Kathmandu, Nepal. He was the first foreign national to receive that honor.  In 1992 Hillary appeared on the updated New Zealand $5 note, thus making him the only New Zealander to appear on a banknote during his or her lifetime, in defiance of the established convention for banknotes of using only depictions of deceased individuals, and current heads of state.

 

Big Ben Strikes

Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London and is usually extended to refer to both the clock and the clock tower as well.  The tower is officially known as Elizabeth Tower, renamed to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II in 2012; previously, it was known simply as the Clock Tower.  When completed in 1859, it was, says clockmaker Ian Westworth, “the prince of timekeepers: the biggest, most accurate four-faced striking and chiming clock in the world.”   The tower had its 150th anniversary on 31 May 2009, during which celebratory events took place.  A British cultural icon, the tower is one of the most prominent symbols of the United Kingdom and is often in the establishing shot of films set in London.  The Elizabeth Tower was raised as a part of Charles Barry‘s design for a new palace, after the old Palace of Westminster was largely destroyed by fire on the night of 16 October 1834.  The new parliament was built in a neo-gothic style. Although Barry was the chief architect of the palace, he turned to Augustus Pugin for the design of the clock tower, which resembles earlier Pugin designs, including one for Scarisbrick Hall in Lancashire. The design for the tower was Pugin’s last design before his final descent into madness and death, and Pugin himself wrote, at the time of Barry’s last visit to him to collect the drawings: “I never worked so hard in my life for Mr. Barry for tomorrow I render all the designs for finishing his bell tower & it is beautiful.”  The tower is designed in Pugin’s celebrated Gothic Revival style, and is 315 feet high.  Despite being one of the world’s most famous tourist attractions, the interior of the tower is not open to overseas visitors, though United Kingdom residents are able to arrange tours (well in advance) through their Member of Parliament.  However, the tower currently has no lift, though one is planned, so those escorted must climb the 334 limestone stairs to the top.  The clock and dials were designed by Augustus Pugin. The clock dials are set in an iron frame 23 feet in diameter, supporting 312 pieces of opal glass, rather like a stained-glass window. Some of the glass pieces may be removed for inspection of the hands. The surround of the dials is gilded. At the base of each clock dial in gilt letters is the Latin inscription:

DOMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM

Which means O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First.

Unlike most other Roman numeral clock dials, which show the ‘4’ position as ‘IV’, the Great Clock faces depict ‘4’ as ‘IIII’. The clock’s movement is famous for its reliability. The designers were the lawyer and amateur horologist Edmund Beckett Denison, and George Airy, the Astronomer Royal. Construction was entrusted to clockmaker Edward John Dent; after his death in 1853 his stepson Frederick Dent completed the work, in 1854.  As the tower was not complete until 1859, Denison had time to experiment: instead of using the deadbeat escapement and remontoire as originally designed, Denison invented the double three-legged gravity escapement. This escapement provides the best separation between pendulum and clock mechanism. The pendulum is installed within an enclosed windproof box beneath the clockroom. It is 13 feet long, weighs 660 pounds, suspended on a strip of spring steel 1/64 inch in thickness, and beats every 2 seconds. The clockwork mechanism in a room below weighs 5 tons. On top of the pendulum is a small stack of old penny coins; these are to adjust the time of the clock. Adding a coin has the effect of minutely lifting the position of the pendulum’s centre of mass, reducing the effective length of the pendulum rod and hence increasing the rate at which the pendulum swings. Adding or removing a penny will change the clock’s speed by 0.4 seconds per day.  On 10 May 1941, a German bombing raid damaged two of the clock’s dials and sections of the tower’s stepped roof and destroyed the House of Commons chamber. Architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott designed a new five-floor block. Two floors are occupied by the current chamber, which was used for the first time on 26 October 1950. The clock ran accurately and chimed throughout the Blitz.  The main bell, officially known as the Great Bell but better known as Big Ben, is the largest bell in the tower and part of the Great Clock of Westminster.

Great Bell

Along with the Great Bell, the belfry houses four quarter bells which play the Westminster Quarters on the quarter hours. The four quarter bells sound G♯, F♯, E, and B. They were cast by John Warner & Sons at their Crescent Foundry in 1857 (G♯, F♯ and B) and 1858 (E). The Foundry was in Jewin Crescent, in what is now known as The Barbican, in the City of London.  The bells are sounded by hammers pulled by cables coming from the link room—a low-ceiling space between the clock room and the belfry—where mechanisms translate the movement of the quarter train into the sounding of the individual bells.  The Elizabeth Tower and Great Bell have been scheduled for a major renovation which is expected to last three years and is due to begin in early 2017. Essential maintenance will be carried out on the clock mechanism, which will be stopped for several months during which there will be no chimes. Striking and tolling will however be maintained for important events.  The aim of the renovation is to repair and conserve the tower, upgrade facilities as necessary, and to ensure its integrity for future generations. The last significant renovation work was carried out to the tower over 30 years ago in 1983-85. The most significant addition to the tower in the forthcoming works will be the addition of a lift.

 

F4U Corsair First Flight

29 May 1940: Vought-Sikorsky Aircraft Division test pilot Lyman A. Bullard, Jr. took the U.S. Navy’s new prototype fighter, the Vought XF4U-1 Corsair, Bu. No. 1443, for its first flight at the Bridgeport Municipal Airport, Bridgeport, Connecticut. Designed by Rex B. Beisel, this would be developed into the famous F4U Corsair certainly one of the most iconic and beautiful aircraft ever built.  The size of the propeller was responsible for the Corsair’s most distinctive feature: the inverted gull wing. The width of the wing (chord) limited the length of the main landing gear struts. By placing the gear at the bend, the necessary propeller clearance was gained. The angle at which the wing met the fuselage was also aerodynamically cleaner.Demand for the aircraft soon overwhelmed Vought‘s manufacturing capability, resulting in production by Goodyear and Brewster: Goodyear-built Corsairs were designated FG and Brewster-built aircraft F3A. From the first prototype delivery to the U.S. Navy in 1940, to final delivery in 1953 to the French, 12,571 F4U Corsairs were manufactured, in 16 separate models, in the longest production run of any piston-engined fighter in U.S. history (1942–53).  The Corsair was designed as a carrier-based aircraft but its difficult carrier landing performance rendered it unsuitable for Navy use until the carrier landing issues were overcome by the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm. The Corsair thus came to and retained prominence in its area of greatest deployment: land based use by the U.S. Marines.  The role of the dominant U.S. carrier based fighter in the second part of the war was thus filled by the Grumman F6F Hellcat, powered by the same Double Wasp engine first flown on the Corsair’s first prototype in 1940.  The Corsair served to a lesser degree in the U.S. Navy. In addition to its use by the U.S. and British, the Corsair was also used by the Royal New Zealand Air Force, the French Navy Aéronavale and other, smaller, air forces until the 1960s. After the carrier landing issues had been tackled, it quickly became the most capable carrier-based fighter-bomber of World War II.  The Corsair served almost exclusively as a fighter-bomber throughout the Korean War and during the French colonial wars in Indochina and Algeria.  Production F4U-1s featured several major modifications compared with the XF4U-1. A change of armament to six wing-mounted .50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns (three in each outer wing panel) and their ammunition (400 rounds for the inner pair, 375 rounds for the outer), meant that the location of the wing fuel tanks had to be changed. In order to keep the fuel tank close to the center of gravity, the only available position was in the forward fuselage, ahead of the cockpit. Accordingly, as a 237 gal (897 l) self-sealing fuel tank replaced the fuselage mounted armament, the cockpit had to be moved back by 32 in (810 mm) and the fuselage lengthened.  In addition, 150 lb of armor plate was installed, along with a 1.5 in (38 mm) bullet-proof windscreen which was set internally, behind the curved Plexiglas windscreen. The canopy could be jettisoned in an emergency, and half-elliptical planform transparent panels, much like those of certain models of the Curtiss P-40, were inset into the sides of the fuselage’s turtledeck structure behind the pilot’s headrest, providing the pilot with a limited rear view over his shoulders. A rectangular Plexiglas panel was inset into the lower center section to allow the pilot to see directly beneath the aircraft and assist with deck landings.  The engine used was the more powerful R-2800-8 (B series) Double Wasp which produced 2,000 hp.  On the wings the flaps were changed to a NACA slotted type and the ailerons were increased in span to increase the roll rate, with a consequent reduction in flap span. IFF transponder equipment was fitted in the rear fuselage. These changes increased the Corsair’s weight by several hundred pounds.  The performance of the Corsair was superior to most of its contemporaries. The F4U-1 was considerably faster than the Grumman F6F Hellcat and only 13 mph slower than the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt.  All three were powered by the R-2800.  From February 1943 onward, the F4U operated from Guadalcanal and ultimately other bases in the Solomon Islands. A dozen USMC F4U-1s of VMF-124, commanded by Major William E. Gise, arrived at Henderson Field (code name “Cactus”) on 12 February 1943. The first recorded combat engagement was on 14 February 1943, when Corsairs of VMF-124 under Major Gise assisted P-40s and P-38s in escorting a formation of Consolidated B-24 Liberators on a raid against a Japanese aerodrome at Kahili.  Corsairs were flown by the “Black Sheep” Squadron (VMF-214, led by Marine Major Gregory “Pappy” Boyington) in an area of the Solomon Islands called “The Slot“. Boyington was credited with 22 kills in F4Us (of 28 total, including six in an AVG P-40, although his score with the AVG has been disputed).  Other noted Corsair pilots of the period included VMF-124’s Kenneth Walsh, James E. Swett, and Archie DonahueVMF-215‘s Robert M. Hanson and Don Aldrich, and VF-17‘s Tommy BlackburnRoger Hedrick, and Ira Kepford.  Nightfighter versions equipped Navy and Marine units afloat and ashore. One particularly unusual kill was scored by Marine Lieutenant R. R. Klingman of VMF-312 (the “Checkerboards”), over Okinawa. Klingman was in pursuit of a Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu (“Nick”) twin-engine fighter at extremely high altitude when his guns jammed due to the gun lubrication thickening from the extreme cold. He flew up and chopped off the Ki-45’s tail with the big propeller of the Corsair. Despite missing five inches off the end of his propeller blades, he managed to land safely after this aerial ramming attack. He was awarded the Navy CrossU.S. figures compiled at the end of the war indicate that the F4U and FG flew 64,051 operational sorties for the U.S. Marines and U.S. Navy through the conflict (44% of total fighter sorties), with only 9,581 sorties (15%) flown from carrier decks.  F4U and FG pilots claimed 2,140 air combat victories against 189 losses to enemy aircraft, for an overall kill ratio of over 11:1.  Against the best Japanese opponents, the aircraft claimed a 12:1 kill ratio against Mitsubishi A6M and 6:1 against the Nakajima Ki-84Kawanishi N1K-J and Mitsubishi J2M combined during the last year of the war.  The Corsair bore the brunt of U.S. fighter-bomber missions, delivering 15,621 short tons (14,171 metric tons) of bombs during the war (70% of total bombs dropped by U.S. fighters during the war).

 

Take Your Daughter to Work Day

29 May 1963: Lockheed Test Pilot Anthony M. “Tony” LeVier and his 18-year-old daughter, Toni Ann LeVier, flew the TF-104G Starfighter company demonstrator, FAA registration N104L, from Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California to Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. They made fuel stops at Kirkland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton Ohio.  This is the same aircraft in which Jackie Cochran set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) speed record of 1,203.94 miles per hour over a 100 kilometer closed circuit on 1 May 1963, and 1,273.12 miles per hour (2,048.88 kilometers per hour) over a 15/25 kilometer course, 12 April 1963.

 

 

DC-8 First Flight 

30 May 1958: Douglas Aircraft Company Flight Operations Manager and engineering test pilot Arnold G. Heimerdinger, with co-pilot William M. Magruder and systems engineer Paul H. Patten, were scheduled to take off from Long Beach Airport (LGB) on the coast of southern California, at 10:00 a.m., to make the first flight of the new Douglas DC-8 jet airliner, c/n 45252, FAA registration N8008D.  The DC-8 (also known as the McDonnell Douglas DC-8) is a four-engine long-range narrow-body jet airliner built from 1958 to 1972 by the Douglas Aircraft Company. Launched after the competing Boeing 707, the DC-8 nevertheless kept Douglas in a strong position in the airliner market, and remained in production until 1972 when it began to be superseded by larger wide-body designs, including the Boeing 747McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and Lockheed L-1011 TriStar. The DC-8’s design allowed it a slightly larger cargo capacity than the 707 and some re-engined DC-8s are still in use as freighters.  Donald Douglas proposed to build and test the DC-8 at Santa Monica Airport, which had been the birthplace of the DC-3 and home to a Douglas plant that employed 44,000 workers during World War II. In order to accommodate the new jet, Douglas asked the city of Santa Monica, California to lengthen the airport’s 5,000-foot runway. Following complaints by neighboring residents, the city refused, so Douglas moved its airliner production line to Long Beach AirportThe first DC-8 N8008D was rolled out of the new Long Beach factory on 9 April 1958 and flew for the first time, in Series 10 form, on 30 May for two hours seven minutes.  Later that year an enlarged version of the Comet finally returned to service, but too late to take a substantial portion of the market: de Havilland had just 25 orders. In August Boeing had begun delivering 707s to Pan Am. Douglas made a massive effort to close the gap with Boeing, using no less than ten aircraft for flight testing to achieve FAA certification for the first of the many DC-8 variants in August 1959. Much was needed to be done: the original air brakes on the lower rear fuselage were found ineffective and were deleted as engine thrust reversers had become available; unique leading-edge slots were added to improve low-speed lift; the prototype was 25 kt short of its promised cruising speed and a new, slightly larger wingtip had to be developed to reduce drag. In addition, a recontoured wing leading edge was later developed to extend the chord 4% and reduce drag at high Mach numbers.  On August 21, 1961, a Douglas DC-8 broke the sound barrier at Mach 1.012 (660 mph/1,062 km/h) while in a controlled dive through 41,000 feet (12,497 m) and maintained that speed for 16 seconds. The flight was to collect data on a new leading-edge design for the wing, and while doing so, the DC-8 became the first civilian jet – and the first jet airliner – to make a supersonic flight.  The aircraft was DC-8-43 registered CF-CPG later delivered to Canadian Pacific Air Lines. The aircraft, crewed by Captain William Magruder, First Officer Paul Patten, Flight Engineer Joseph Tomich and Flight Test Engineer Richard Edwards, took off from Edwards Air Force Base in California, and was accompanied to altitude by an F-104 Starfighter supersonic chase aircraft flown by Chuck Yeager.

 

Fly Martin-Baker

30 May 1949: While testing a radical “flying wing” aircraft, the Rolls-Royce Nene-powered Armstrong Whitworth AW.52, (below left) test pilot John O. Lancaster, DFC, encountered severe pitch oscillations in a 320 mile per hour (515 kilometer per hour) dive. Lancaster feared the aircraft would disintegrate.  In the very first use of the Martin-Baker Mk1 ejection seat in an actual emergency, Lancaster fired the seat and was safely thrown clear of the aircraft. He parachuted to safety and was uninjured. The aircraft was destroyed.  To date, more than 7,300 airmen have been saved worldwide by Martin Baker ejection seats. I’m a two-time survivor and attribute Martin-Baker for saving the butt I’m sitting on today.

 

B-17F Flying Fortress First Flight 

30 May 1942: The Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress makes its first flight. B-17F-1-BO 41-24340 was the first of a new series of the famous World War II bomber. While visually similar to the B-17E, it had more than 400 improvements based on early wartime experience with the B-17D and B-17E.  The Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress was a four-engine heavy bomber operated by a flight crew of ten. It was 74 feet, 9 inches (22.784 meters) long with a wingspan of 103 feet, 9-3/8 inches (31.633 meters) and an overall height of 19 feet, 1 inch (5.187 meters). Its empty weight was 34,000 pounds (15,422 kilograms), 40,437 pounds (18,342 kilograms) loaded, and the maximum takeoff weight was 56,500 pounds (25,628 kilograms).  The B-17 Flying Fortress is a four-engine heavy bomber developed in the 1930s for the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC). Competing against Douglas and Martin for a contract to build 200 bombers, the Boeing entry outperformed both competitors and exceeded the air corps’ performance specifications. Although Boeing lost the contract because the prototype crashed, the air corps ordered 13 more B-17s for further evaluation. From its introduction in 1938, the B-17 Flying Fortress evolved through numerous design advances.  The B-17F variants were the primary versions flying for the Eighth Air Force to face the Germans in 1943, and had standardized the manned Sperry ball turret for ventral defense, replacing the earlier, ten-panel well-framed bombardier’s nose glazing from the B subtype with an enlarged, nearly frameless Plexiglas bombardier’s nose enclosure for improved forward vision.  The air corps (renamed United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) on 20 June 1941), using the B-17 and other bombers, bombed from high altitudes using the then-secret Norden bombsight, known as the “Blue Ox,” which was an optical electro-mechanical gyro-stabilized analog computer.  The device was able to determine, from variables input by the bombardier, the point at which the aircraft’s bombs should be released to hit the target. The bombardier essentially took over flight control of the aircraft during the bomb run, maintaining a level altitude during the final moments before release.  My Dad, Lloyd R. Hayes was in the Eighth Air Force during WW II and also worked for International Business Machines installing Norden Bombsight Trainers at various USAAF facilities around the US during WW II, including one at what is now Fairchild AFB.  Thanks Dad.  Before the advent of long-range fighter escorts, B-17s had only their .50 caliber M2 Browning machine guns to rely on for defense during the bombing runs over Europe. As the war intensified, Boeing used feedback from aircrews to improve each new variant with increased armament and armor.

Boeing B-17F-10-BO “Memphis Belle” in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The number of defensive guns increased from four 0.50 in machine guns and one 0.30 in nose machine gun in the B-17C, to thirteen 0.50 in machine guns in the B-17G. But because the bombers could not maneuver when attacked by fighters, and needed to be flown straight and level during their final bomb run, individual aircraft struggled to fend off a direct attack.  A 1943 survey by the USAAF found that over half the bombers shot down by the Germans had left the protection of the main formation.  To address this problem, the United States developed the bomb-group formation, which evolved into the staggered combat box formation where all the B-17s could safely cover any others in their formation with their machine guns, making a formation of the bombers a dangerous target to engage by enemy fighters.  Luftwaffe fighter pilots likened attacking a B-17 combat box formation to encountering a fliegendes Stachelschwein, “flying porcupine”, with dozens of machine guns on a combat box formation of bombers, aimed at them from almost every direction. However, the use of this rigid formation meant that individual aircraft could not engage in evasive maneuvers: they had to fly constantly in a straight line, which made them vulnerable to the German flak. Moreover, German fighter aircraft later used the tactic of high-speed strafing passes rather than engaging with individual aircraft to inflict damage with minimum risk.  As a result, the B-17s’ loss rate was up to 25% on some early missions (60 of 291 B-17s were lost in combat on the second Raid on Schweinfurt) (photo above left – hard to see, but every little spot is a B-17), and it was not until the advent of long-range fighter escorts (particularly the North American P-51 Mustang) resulting in the degradation of the Luftwaffe as an effective interceptor force between February and June 1944, that the B-17 became strategically potent.  The B-17 was noted for its ability to absorb battle damage, still reach its target and bring its crew home safely. Wally Hoffman, a B-17 pilot with the Eighth Air Force during World War II, said, “The plane can be cut and slashed almost to pieces by enemy fire and bring its crew home.  Martin Caidin reported one instance in which a B-17 suffered a midair collision with a Focke-Wulf Fw 190, losing an engine and suffering serious damage to both the starboard horizontal stabilizer and the vertical stabilizer, and being knocked out of formation by the impact. The B-17 was reported as shot down by observers, but it survived and brought its crew home without injury.

Boeing B-17F-5-BO (S/N 41-24406) “All American III” of the 97th Bomb Group, 414th Bomb Squadron, in flight after a collision with an Me-109. The aircraft was able to land safely. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Its toughness was compensation for its shorter range and lighter bomb load compared to the B-24 and British Avro Lancaster heavy bombers.  Stories circulated B-17s returning to base with tails shredded, engines destroyed and large portions of their wings destroyed by flak.  This durability, together with the large operational numbers in the Eighth Air Force and the fame achieved by the Memphis Belle, made the B-17 a key bomber aircraft of the war. Other factors such as combat effectiveness and political issues also contributed to the B-17’s success.  The B-17 Flying Fortress first flew in 1935, and was in production from 1937 to 1945. 12,731 B-17s were built by Boeing, Douglas Aircraft Company and Lockheed-Vega. (The Manufacturer Codes, -BO, -DL and -VE, follow the Block Number in each airplane’s type designation.) 3,405 of the total were B-17Fs, with 2,000 built by Boeing, 605 by Douglas and 500 by Lockheed-Vega.  Only three B-17F Flying Fortresses remain in existence and one of them can be seen at The Museum of Flight at Seattle’s Boeing Field.

 

Wilbur Wright Remembered

30 May 1912: Wilbur Wright, co-inventor with his brother Orville of the Wright Flyer, the first powered, controllable, heavier-than-air vehicle, died at the family home in Dayton, Ohio, of typhoid fever.