FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day February 9th through 11th 2018

Saying of the Day



Navy To Receive More Super Hornets

The new DoD budget passed on 09 February 2018 includes a request for additional Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets.  Navy Times is reporting a request in President Donald Trump’s new defense budget proposal could add 24 Super Hornets to the Navy’s air fleet and keep a Boeing plant in St. Louis alive, according to a report Thursday by Bloomberg News.  The defense budget proposal for fiscal year 2019 is expected to be formally released on Feb. 12. If confirmed, the request for more Super Hornets would be the largest addition since 2012 and would reverse the Obama administration’s decision to stop buying the aircraft.  The Trump administration has requested 14 Super Hornets, and House and Senate appropriators have proposed adding 10 more, according to Bloomberg. That total of 24 jets happens to be the key number needed to keep Boeing’s plant in St. Louis running.  The plant’s future was believed to be at risk after the Navy committed to adopting the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter to replace the F/A-18E/F Hornets.  The Hornets were originally set to retire by 2035, but the Navy was forced to reevaluate that date in 2015 due to persistent delays in the F-35’s development.  The F-35Cs are expected to reach initial operational capacity this year, but the Navy needs additional Hornets to fill its inventory shortage until more of the new jets are purchased.  The Navy has struggled recently with aviation readiness. As of last October, only one-third of the Navy’s Super Hornets were fully mission-capable and ready to flyThe Super Hornet fleet is scheduled to begin service life extension maintenance this year, and the Navy may take advantage of the opportunity to upgrade the Hornets to the more advanced Block III configuration. Fireball note: the upgraded to Block III is certainly warranted as this is the configuration we need moving forward to ensure fleet interoperability across varied carrier strike groups.)  The upgrades would give the Hornets conformal fuel tanks and add to stealth capabilities. Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day February 9th through 11th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day February 7 and 8, 2017

If you have visited Pier 86, site of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City, you likely noticed the USS Growler (SSG-577) on permanent display across the pier. This Growler was the second and final submarine of the Grayback class.  It was the fourth ship of the United States Navy to be named after the Growler type of Largemouth bass.  Growler and Grayback were the only two submarines built in this class as instead, the U.S. Navy redirected its nuclear deterrence efforts into submarine launched ballistic missiles (SSBMs) — the Polaris missile program.  Her predecessor, the USS USS Growler (SS-215) warrants our thoughts today however.  Growler-215 was a Gato-class submarine, launched on 02 November 1941 and commissioned 20 March 1942.  She saw immediate action in the Pacific theatre of operations during WWII.  Her first commanding officer and plankowner was LCDR Howard W. Gilmore, a ’26 grad of the United States Naval AcademyCommander Gilmore led the Growler and her crew on her first four combat patrols.   During her first patrol, on 5 July 1942 Growler attacked three enemy destroyers off Kiska, sinking one and severely damaging the other two, while narrowly avoiding two torpedoes fired in return, for which Gilmore received the Navy Cross.  On his second patrol, Growler sank four merchant ships totaling 15,000 tons in the East China Sea near Taiwan. Gilmore received a gold star in lieu of a second Navy Cross.  Growler continued to pursue and sink enemy shipping in the TrukRabaul shipping lanes on her fourth patrol.  On 11 January ‘43, she maneuvered inside a convoy’s escorts, and launched two torpedoes while surfaced.  They hit home sinking Chifuku Maru, a passenger/cargo ship.  Her war diary reports she was now within 400 yards of a Japanese destroyer.  She crash dives to avoid the destroyer and breaks off the attack. Gilmore then guided Growler through intense depth charge attacks.  A few days later, shortly after 0100 on 07 February, Growler stealthily approached another convoy for a night surface attack. The fast escort, Hayasaki suddenly maneuvered to ram Growler. Gilmore sounded the collision alarm and shouted, “Left full rudder!” — to no avail. Perhaps inadvertently, Growler hit the Japanese adversary amidships at 17 knots (31 km/h), heeling the submarine 50 degrees, bending 18 feet of her bow sideways to port, and disabling the forward torpedo tubes.  Simultaneously, the Japanese crew unleashed a burst of machine gun fire at Growler’s bridge, killing the junior officer of the deck, Ensign William Wadsworth Williams and a lookout, Fireman Third Class Wilbert Fletcher Kelley.   Gilmore himself wounded by the fusillade of bullets, commanded, “Clear the bridge!” He struggled to hang on to a frame as the rest of the bridge party dropped down the hatch into the conning tower.  The executive officer, Lieutenant Commander Arnold Schade — shaken by the impact and dazed by his own fall into the control room — waited expectantly for his captain to appear. Instead from above came the shouted command, “Take her down!” Realizing that he could not get below in time if the ship were to escape, Gilmore chose to make the supreme sacrifice for his shipmates. Schade hesitated briefly — then followed his captain’s last order and submerged the crippled ship.  Surfacing some time later in hope of reattacking the Hayasaki, Schade found the seas empty. The Japanese ship had, in fact, survived the encounter, but there was no sign of Gilmore, who apparently had drifted away in the night. Schade and Growler’s well-trained crew managed to control the ship’s flooding and limped back to Brisbane on February 17.  For sacrificing himself to save his ship, Commander Howard W. Gilmore was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, “the second man of the submarine force to be so decorated. Following refit and extensive repairs, the submarine was nicknamed the Kangaroo Express, as the refabricated bow proudly displayed two nickel kangaroos as decorations.


I’m sure there are a few FOD readers who recall “e” is one of the most interesting irrational numbers that arises naturally.  And because e =2.718281828459…, and because e begins with the digits 2 and 7, we celebrate e day on February 7the is one of those special irrational numbers like “pi” where π =3.141592653…. (celebrated on March 14th).  Then there’s the “phi” where = 1.6180339887…, which is the so-called “beauty ratio.”  The number e was “discovered” by several mathematicians (Oughtred, Huygens, Jacob Bernoulli (left) (not the Bernoulli of Bernoulli’s equation of fluid dynamics) – that was Daniel Bernoulli) , Mercator and Leibniz) (I’m sure you all remember those guys – everyone just a party animal) but they didn’t quite know they had stumbled on it and didn’t necessarily know its significance at first.  There are some curious properties of e.  

We start with n = 1 (where n is the denominator in the fraction of this expression and the exponent):                    ,

For n =2, the expression becomes:                    

and for n=3 the expression becomes:                .

As n> the number approaches but never quite = e.  

It’s better expressed in this graph:  

So what is e good for? See Exponential and Logarithmic Functions.  It is used extensively in logarithms (which was the only way to solve difficult calculations for hundreds of years before calculators came along), exponential growth (of populations, money (compound interest) or drug concentrations over time) and complex numbers (which were used to design the computer or mobile device you are reading this on).  Now that’s more info than you should ever have to know unless you run into that Oughtred dude at a party.  You’ll know him right off as he carries around an e number of beers, but has to pee after π beers.  No more math today!


During a Space Shuttle Mission on February 7, 1984, NASA astronauts Captain Bruce McCandless II, United States Navy, and Colonel Robert L. Stewart, United States Air Force, left the Space Shuttle Challenger (OV-099) on the first untethered space walk.  In doing so they became human satellites.  On this mission, McCandless conducted a spacewalk using the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU).  The MMU was designed and built by Martin Marietta Corporation (now, Lockheed Martin). McCandless made important design evaluations and contributed significantly to the final MMU product.  It is constructed primarily of aluminum. The MMU is powered by two batteries with 852 watts at full charge, and propelled by 24 gaseous nitrogen thrusters, providing 1.4 pounds of thrust (6.2 newtons), each.  Two hand controllers allowed for six-axis motion.  The MMU was designed to retrieve communication satellites, repair them, or facilitate their restoration or initial placement to their proper orbits.  It was used to capture Westar VI and Palapa B2 satellites.  In the below photo, he’s 320 meters away. In the safety review following the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, the MMU was judged too risky for further use.   Many activities planned for the MMU could by then be done effectively with manipulator arms or traditional tethered

EVAs.  By then, NASA had discontinued contracts that utilized the shuttle for commercial or DoD satellite capture/repair.  Let’s face it, those customers had gone away.  McCandless is the son of Bruce McCandless, and grandson of Willis W. Bradley.  Both were recipients of the Medal of Honor (MOH).  Bruce McCandless was awarded the MOH during World War II for his heroism on board the USS San Francisco (CA-38), during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, November 13, 1942.  (Read the book Neptune’s Inferno: The US Navy at Guadalcanal, it’s on the Fireball Book List).  Bruce McCandless II graduated second in his class of 899 from the U.S. Naval Academy (Class of 1958), along with John McCain and John Poindexter.  And he’s another Phantom driver, having flown the F-4B Phantom II (Phantoms Phorever) from the USS Enterprise during the Cuban Missile Crisis.


And speaking of the USS Enterprise, she was officially decommissioned just a few days ago, on February 3, 2017.  She was the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and the eighth United States naval vessel to bear the name. Like her predecessor of World War II fame, she is nicknamed “Big E”. At 1,123 ft (342 m), she is the longest naval vessel ever built.  The only ship of her class, Enterprise was, at the time of inactivation, the third-oldest commissioned vessel in the United States Navy after the wooden-hulled USS Constitution and USS PuebloThe Big E served 51 consecutive years, longer than any other US aircraft carrier.  She is being dismantled in Dry Dock 11 at the Newport News Shipbuilding, her original birthplace.  My USNA roommate, Doug Law, (a friend of FOD), deployed in her when he was assigned to VF-2, the “Bounty Hunters,” flying the F-14A Tomcat.  In the photo below you’ll see, Enterprise (center) operating with Coral Sea (top left) and Midway (top right) off Alaska during the FLEETEX 83 exercise. I’m there waving on the Coral Sea.  This exercise was memorable in that we conducted simultaneous carrier operations while Enterprise and Coral Sea steamed in close abeam formation.  Their airwing flew a normal pattern and we flew a right hand carrier pattern.  It goes against all you have ever done around the ship – break right – and there’s no gouge for the 180 as you’re looking at the roundown from the opposite angle.  At her inactivation ceremony, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced the next Ford-class carrier; CVN-80 would indeed be named Enterprise.  Thanks Big E!


For those friends of FOD of a certain age, February 7, 1964 marked the starting-point of the British InvasionFor on that day The Beatles‘ , John Lennon, Paul McArtney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, arrived in America at John F. Kennedy International Airport from London aboard Pan American World Airways’ Flight 101, a Boeing 707-331, serial number 17683, N704PA, named Jet Clipper Defiance. They were welcomed by an estimated 4,000 fans and 200 journalists.  During their first three week tour, they performed twice on The Ed Sullivan Show, singing one of their breakthrough hits, “I Want to Hold Your Hand“—which sold one-and-a-half million copies in under three weeks.




During the period January 22 through February 8, 1971, a Lockheed P-3 Orion, antisubmarine warfare patrol bomber under the command of Commander Donald H. Lilienthal, United States Navy, set a bunch of aviation records.  The crew (CDR Donald H. Lilienthal, Aircraft Commander; CAPT R.H. Ross, Pilot; LCDR F. Howard Stoodley, Pilot; LT R.T. Myers, Navigator; CDR J.E. Koehr, Meteorologist; ADJC K.D. Frantz, Flight Engineer; AEC H.A. Statti, Flight Engineer), took off from Naval Air Station Atsugi, Japan, and flew 11,036.47 kilometers (6,857.745 miles) non-stop to NATC Patuxent River, Maryland. The duration of the flight was 15 hours, 21 minutes.  This was a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world record for turboprop airplanes. (FAI Record File Number 8070) The Orion’s course deviated around foreign airspace so the actual distance flown was 7,010 miles (11,218.5 kilometers).  The Orion was a standard production P-3C with no engine or fuel system modifications.  P-3C-110-LO Orion, Bu. No. 156512, was assigned to the Naval Air Test Center at Patuxent River. On 27 January, the same airplane set both FAI and National Aeronautic Association records for Speed Over a Straight Course of 15/25 Kilometers of 806.10 kilometers per hour (500.89 miles per hour) at NAS Patuxent River. (FAI Record File Number 8582).  That U.S. National Record still stands.   And on 08 February 1971, CDR Lilienthal and 156512 set five more world records for heavy turboprop airplanes. The P-3C climbed to a height of 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) in 2 minutes, 52 seconds; to 6,000 meters (19,685 feet) in 5 minutes, 46 seconds; to 9,000 meters (29, 528 feet) in 10 minutes, 26 seconds; and 12,000 meters (39,370 feet) in 19 minutes, 42 seconds. (FAI Record File Number 3400–3403) The Orion continued climbing until it reached a world record altitude of 14,086.1 meters (46,214.2 feet). (FAI Record File Number 8055).   You P-8 guys need to check your logbooks and see if you have flown this piece of history.  OK, it’s sub recce time – Name that sub? Answer at the bottom.





And this date in 2012 marked the end of an era as well.   NASA 911, the Boeing 747-100SR that has been used as a shuttle carrier aircraft (SCA), made its last flight on Wednesday, 8 February 2012, a 20-minute hop from Edwards Air Force Base to Palmdale Plant 42. The photo (left) shows both SCA’s (NASA 905 (N905NA) is in the foreground left and NASA 911 background – formation lead) in formation at the initial (over the mine east of EAFB). The SCAs were used to ferry Space Shuttles from landing sites back to the Shuttle Landing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center, and to and from other locations too distant for the orbiters to be delivered by ground transport.  The orbiters were placed on top of the SCAs by Mate-Demate Devices, large gantry-like structures that hoisted the orbiters off the ground for post-flight servicing then mated them with the SCAs for ferry flights. As part of the Boeing led SCA mod, NASA 911 and NASA 905 were equipped with more powerful JT9D-7J engines in place of the standard airplane’s JT9D-7A engines. This increased thrust from 46,950 pounds to 50,000 pounds (kilonewtons) each. While carrying a space shuttle, the SCA’s maximum speed was 0.6 Mach (432 miles per hour, or 695 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling is 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) and its range was only 1,150 miles (1,850.75 kilometers). It was first used in 1991 to ferry the new shuttle Endeavour from the manufacturers in Palmdale, California to Kennedy Space Center. NASA 911, was used as a source of parts for NASA’s  Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA).  It is on loan for display to the Joe Davies Heritage Airpark in Palmdale, California.




Guadalcanal was mentioned above.  On February 8, 1943, Japanese troops evacuated the island and the Guadalcanal Campaign came to an end.  There are many accounts of this protracted battle.   In the months following the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the Japanese drove the Americans out of the Philippines, the British out of British Malaya, and the Dutch out of the East Indies. The Japanese then began to expand into the Western Pacific, occupying many islands in an attempt to build a defensive ring around their conquests and threaten the lines of communication from the United States to Australia and New Zealand. The Japanese reached Guadalcanal in May 1942.  When an American reconnaissance mission spotted construction of a Japanese airfield at Lunga Point on the north coast of Guadalcanal, the situation became critical.  This new Japanese airfield represented a threat to Australia itself, and so the United States as a matter of urgency, despite not being adequately prepared, conducted the first amphibious landing of the war. The initial landings of US Marines on 7 August 1942 secured the airfield.  It was renamed it Henderson Field after a Marine aviator killed in combat during the Battle of Midway.  Holding the airfield for the next six months facilitated one of the most hotly contested campaigns in the entire war for the control of ground, sea and skies. Aircraft operating from Henderson Field during the campaign were a hodgepodge of Marine, Army, Navy and allied aircraft that became known as the Cactus Air Force. Guadalcanal became a major turning point in the war as it stopped Japanese expansion. The US forces were really learning to wage war.  They were learning to prioritize logistics while dealing with limited assets as ‘Europe First’ was the order of the day.  Many paradigms were radically altered as a result of dealing with an experienced and ruthless foe.  In particular new techniques for operating cruisers and destroyers were forged in the crucible of night surface ship combat.  The waters of “Savo Sound” around and near Savo Island off the north coast of Guadalcanal would soon be nicknamed “Ironbottom Sound” as a result of this succession of battles and skirmishes.  After six months of fighting, the Japanese ceased contesting the control of the island. They finally evacuated the island at Cape Esperance on the north west coast in February 1943.  The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in November ’42 marked the turning point in which Allied Naval surface ships took on the extremely experienced Japanese surface forces at night and forced them to withdraw after sharp action. The Japanese naval forces were never able to get better and the US naval forces never stopped getting better.  So again I recommend, Neptune’s Inferno: The US Navy at Guadalcanal.  It’s on the Fireball Book List.


Answer to sub recce:  Soviet Victor-III