Tag Archives: Navy

The USS Gerald R Ford CVN-78

The USS Gerald R Ford CVN-78

 

Or at least a model right now.

The USS Gerald R Ford (CVN-78) is the first in a new class of supercarriers that will project American power to all corners of the globe. Construction began in November 2009 and she was launched for trials in October 2013. On May 31st, 2017 she was put officially in service.

The actual carrier itself is fairly impressive displacing approximately 100,000 tons and having a length of about 1,106 feet. Her 25 decks put her height at about 250 feet she can carry over 75 aircraft. More than enough to lay a major smackdown. The two nuclear reactors that power the ship give her a top speed of about 30 knots (35mph). They also allow for an unlimited service range.

The ship was named after President Gerald R Ford, a veteran of WWII. In 2007 a defense spending bill first proposed the name for the unbuilt carrier.  A few weeks before his death Ford was told of the final decision to name the ship after him. This makes him one of the few with a US Navy ship named after him while still alive.

New Technology

Being the newest ship to the fleet and the first of its line the ship carries a number of technological improvements. A new multi-function radar increases its field of vision, and several structural changes give the ship a lower profile and more carrying capacity while allowing for a smaller crew. The biggest advancement is the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) which replaced the tradition steam catapults. The Ford can handle up to 25% more aircraft launches per day that the previous family of carriers.

All in all the Ford is a great addition to the fleet and with an expected life of 50 years, she will be around for quite a while.

 

Alabama Rising

Alabama Rising

Alabama Rising

At the start of the Civil War, the Confederacy faced many challenges reminiscent of what the American Colonies did at the start of the American Revolution. Foremost among those challenges was the lack of a navy. From the start of the war, the Federal navy put a blockade on the South that was meant to keep supplies coming in. Also to stop cotton going out. Without that income, it was felt the South would be in for a short fight. While never able to match the Federal navy ship for ship, the Confederacy was able to do quite well in the use of blockade runners, ironclads, and riverboats. There was one particular sector that the CSA navy shined, merchant raiding.

The ship in the picture above is the CSS Alabama, the Queen of the Raiders. Built in England in 1862, this modified sloop became the most daring and successful commerce raider under the CSA flag. Sure, you could call them pirates, but they were also something else. Effective. Built by the British, powered by twin steam engines and sails, max speed of 13 knots, and a total of 8 cannon, few merchantmen could stand up to her.

How effective?

In her brief two-year career under Captain Raphael Semmes, she stayed at sea over 534 days never once visiting a Confederate port. During that time she captured or burned 65 Federal merchantmen while taking almost 2,000 and boarding over 400 vessels. Most amazing during that span? The Alabama did not lose a single man. In June 1864 she finally met her end at the hands of the USS Kearsarge in a battle off the coast of Cherbourg France.

Here is a little bit of trivia and one last piece of history on the Alabama. After the war, the US went after Great Britain for the damages caused by the CSS Alabama to its merchant fleet in the International court. They won back much of the damages. The wreck of the Alabama was found in 1984. With the cooperation of the French government is considered an archaeological site that is under study by several organizations. Most privately funded.

“Roll Alabama, roll!”

Her story is captured forever in an enduring sea chantey, that may resemble something else about Alabama, we’ll have to think about that:

“Roll Alabama, roll!”
When the Alabama’s Keel was Laid, (Roll Alabama, roll!),

‘Twas laid in the yard of Jonathan Laird (Roll, roll Alabama, roll!)

‘Twas Laid in the yard of Jonathan Laird, ’twas laid in the town of Birkenhead.

Down the Mersey way she rolled then, and Liverpool fitted her with guns and men.

From the western isle, she sailed forth, to destroy the commerce of the north.

To Cherbourg port, she sailed one day, for to take her count of prize money.

Many a sailor laddie saw his doom, when the Kearsarge it hove in view.

When a ball from the forward pivot that day, shot the Alabama’s stern away.

Off the three-mile limit in ’64, the Alabama was seen no more.

 

Aircraft carriers on the Great Lakes?

Aircraft carriers on the Great Lakes?

Aircraft carriers on the Great Lakes?

Yep, there were two during WWII. The model in the picture is of the USS Wolverine (IX-64). During the war, the Navy purchased two large side wheel excursion steamers and converted them into aircraft carriers. The ships were used to train pilots and landing signal officers on the intricacies of their crafts. The ships were based out of the Glenview Naval Air Station near Chicago.

Commissioned 2 August 1942 the Wolverine served during the war even though it had a few issues. It had no elevators or hanger deck, so once the flight deck was full the operations were over for the day. Also in low wind conditions, the ship could not generate enough speed on its own to generate the wind needed to successfully simulate the landings. Still, they served their purposes well.

On 7 November 1945, with the war over. The Wolverine was decommissioned and in December 1947 sold for scrap.

Always remember for a brief couple of years we did have aircraft carriers on the Great Lakes. If ever we had the chance to bring Canda into the fold, it may have been then…

PBY-5A Catalina The Eye in the Sky

PBY-5A Catalina The Eye in the Sky

PBY-5A Catalina The Eye in the Sky

Being a flying boat has some advantages and during WWII the PBY-5A Catalina put them to good use. She was versatile and served a number of roles. This model does a good job of showing her off but they really need to be seen in person to be appreciated.

Around 3,300 were built for the war and they served in almost every theater. She was first introduced in 1936 and remained in service with the US Navy until 1957 but the Brazilian navy kept them in service until 1979. Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and even the Soviet Union all used them during their lifetime. Today some still fly and act as firefighting platforms all over the world.

The Catalina had a crew of ten and had two 1,200 horsepower engines. She could reach 195 miles per hour and had a range of about 2,520 miles. Armed with machine guns and capable of carrying 4,000lbs of bombs she could always manage to hold her own.

Her biggest role was as a submarine hunter in the Pacific as well as the Atlantic theater. They would escort convoys and when called upon would take the fight straight to the enemy subs. As patrol craft, few planes are in her league.  They helped the Royal Navy track the Bismark in 1941, leading the sinking of the massive ship. The helped spoil a surprise Japanese landing in Malaya on December 7, 1941, and most notably took part in the Battle of Midway, spotting the location of the Japanese carriers in the early hours of the battle. Scenes like these were repeated many times during the war where the Catalina’s always seemed to be on point.

 

Book Review: This People’s Navy: The Making of American Sea Power

This People’s Navy: The Making of American Sea Power

 

It seems odd to call a book that clocks in around 460 pages as short, but when you consider the subject of the book it seems like barely enough. Hagan, however, does a very good job in making the story of the US Navy compelling and interesting.

From its birth during the American Revolution to the eve of the Gulf War, the mission and methods of the Navy have changed. From coastal defense and commerce raiding to the carrier based projection of power that it is today, Hagan takes you on a history course that weaves its way around a changing mission and a changing world taking into account the politics and technological advancements of the various ages.

Certainly not a swashbuckling adventure, he also does a fine job of capturing the personalities that at times seemed to move the Navy forward on their own shoulders. From John Paul Jones to Teddy Roosevelt, they are represented in the book.

While a good survey of the topic it should also be said that there simply is no room for the kind of details that the hard-core historians would call for. As a single volume it is effective but serves merely to whet the appetite and if nothing else the stage is set for you to delve deeper into any of the epochs of the storied history.

Of course, now it has been over twenty years since it was published and the world and role of the of the Navy have changed yet again, but if the lessons of this book are adhered to, the Navy should have no problem adjusting and moving forward.

If you have any interest in the subject, this book will be well worth the read.

 

 

The Do’s and Don’ts of a Hospital Ship

Hospital Ship

Hospital Ship, Do’s and Don’ts

The picture above is a US Naval Hospital Ship that was in use during the Vietnam War. The idea of the hospital ship goes all the way back to Ancient Greece and the Athenian Navy. Rome also had at least one hospital ship in their fleet. So they have been around forever.

The modern incarnation of the hospital ship came about during the Crimean War. The British had several steamships that were equipped with facilities comparable to hospitals of the day. Their decedents would be seen through both World Wars and up to today.

Most countries with a Navy have some sort of hospital ship or something designated in that class.  Today there are also several civilian groups that outfit and maintain hospital ships for humanitarian relief.

Treaties Covering The Rules

 

The Hague Convention X of 1907 covers what designates a hospital ship under article four.

  • The ship must be clearly marked and lighted as a hospital ship.
  • The ship must give medical assistance to wounded personnel of all nationalities.
  • It must not be used for any military purpose.
  • The ship must not interfere with or hamper enemy combatant vessels.
  • Belligerents, as designated by the Hague Convention, can search any hospital ship to investigate violations of the above restrictions.
  • Belligerents will establish the location of a hospital ship.

In 1994 the San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea further refined the rules for hospital ships and laid out the rules under which action may be taken against the ships. A non-complying ship may only be fired upon under the following circumstances:

  • Diversion or capture is not feasible.
  • No other method to exercise is available.
  • The violations are grave enough to allow the ship to be classified as a military objective.
  • And if fired upon, the damage and casualties will not be disproportionate to the military advantage.

 

Old Ironsides

Old Ironsides

Old Ironsides

 

Yep a twofer today and no this is not a post about a wheelchair-bound detective. (Does anyone actually get that joke?) This is about The USS Constitution or “Old Ironsides” as she was called. In the top picture above, on the plaque is a piece of copper from its hull.

No, that copper is not why it was called Ironsides. Stay tuned for that.

The Constitution was launched in 1797 and was one of the first frigates in the fledgling United States Navy. Named by President Washington for our guiding document, it became the centerpiece of small yet tenacious presence on the ocean.

She was armed with 30 24 pound cannon, 15 on each side, 22 32 pound cannon, 11 on each side, as well as 4 smaller “chase” cannons. She was armed for war and during the War of 1812 she would end up becoming a legend.

On 19 August 1812 the Constitution faced off against the HMS Guerriere, a slightly smaller vessel but with a veteran crew. As the battle was joined several of the Guerriere’s cannonballs bounced off the sides of the ship doing no damage but causing one of the American sailors to shout out, “Huzzah! Her sides are made of iron!” The name sort of stuck after that. The battle would end with the Constitution victorious and more victories would follow.

She would stay in service until 1853 when she was converted into a training ship where she served as a classroom and barracks for the Naval Academy until 1871 when she was retired, eventually becoming a museum ship, and something you can still visit today and as she never lost her commission, should time get really bad, maybe Old Ironsides will be called on again.

What Makes a Tomcat Go?

An f-14 Tomcat Engine

What Makes a Tomcat Go?

Why these of course.

The Grumman f-14 Tomcat has been one of the most iconic Navy fighters of the modern age. Sure they are long in the tooth and are pretty much passed by now, but thanks to Top Gun they will always have a special place in our collective hearts, and that above is what made them go.

The Pratt & Whitney TF30 was first put into production in 1964 and were being built up until 1986 and while they functioned well in other aircraft, in the F-14 that had some issues with compression stalls at high angles of attack when the throttles were moved aggressively.

In other aircraft these stalls were able to be compensated for, but in the Tomcat, because the two engines were so widely spaced apart it could cause the plane to go into a spin that was VERY difficult to recover from. Just ask Goose. The major issues were finally resolved in a new version of the engine that started seeing service in the F-14A in the late 80’s.

The engine was used in the following aircraft models:

  •  F-111 (General Dynamics)
  •  F-111C (General Dynamics)
  • EF-111A Raven (General Dynamics/Grumman)
  • F-111B (General Dynamics/Grumman)
  • F-111K  (General Dynamics)
  • F-14A Tomcat  (General Dynamics)
  • LTV A-7A/B/C Corsair II

If you are curious you can find out some more about the engine at the Pratt & Whitney site here.

Brown Water Navy

Brown Water Navy

Brown Water Navy

 

The Vietnam War was fought in every nook and cranny of the country, from the mountains to the cities and most especially on the rivers. The waterways that spread across the country served as highways for the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet-Cong. They could use the ships to move men and supplies faster and  quieter than  over land. In response to this the United States dusted off a concept that had seen little use since the Civil War. The brown-water navy. These were Naval ships designed to operate on the rivers and along the coasts that would extend the reach of the US Navy where ever it was needed.

The concept of the brown-water navy came into its own during the Civil War when the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and other major rivers became the fronts in the conflict and the entire coast of the Confederacy became fair game. Outside of the river and coastal regions, the “blue-water” navy ruled supreme.

The boats in the picture above are PFC (Patrol Craft Fast) class Swift Boats. 50 feet long and made of aluminum these boats formed the base of the brown-water navy in Vietnam. This was a joint venture between the US Army and Navy. It operated in groups of three to five boats. Their missions consisted of patrols, interdiction and inserting special operation forces into their target areas.

Towards the end the focus of the war shifted as the United States military looked to get out.  The South Vietnamese military was to take on the bulk of the fighting.  Besides training and land based equipment, this also included the transfer of several Swift Boats. With the fall of the south many of the surviving boats ended up in the service of the communist regime.

A Day of Infamy at Pearl Harbor

Scrap from a Japanese bomb used at Pearl Harbor

A Day of Infamy at Pearl Harbor

December 7, 1941. We all know the date. We all know what happened at Pearl Harbor. This picture is of a piece of a bomb that was dropped by a Japanese airplane that morning.

The build up to the war between the US and Japan was a slow burn. That burn was brought to a boil when Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931. Japan needed space and China had it. The story of what happened to the Chinese people during the occupation is for another time. While the US had many interests in China, it was not prepared to go to war, yet.

Fast forward almost a decade and we see Germany making taking over much of Europe, but being very, very careful to not bring the US into the war even though they were ostensibly supporting the Allies through the Lend Lease act. Germany, however had allies of their own, namely Japan.

Conspiracy?

This is where things get a little difficult. There are those that believe that the US, and President Roosevelt, took steps to goad Japan into war, which because of their alliances, would force Germany into direct conflict with the US.

Acting through a series of laws and executive orders, exports of many items classified as war materials were banned for export The president was granted the authority to make exceptions to this law and he did, choosing to provide material to the Allies.  He refused to allow Japan access to those resources. Not long after the administration seized Japanese assets in the US and cut off their supply of oil.

Cut off from these much-needed imports meant they needed to find the material somewhere. The rest of the Pacific Rim would do. All this happened in an environment where the Japanese tried seeking diplomatic solutions, but war with the US looked more and more like a possibility.

The hope was that a strong enough blow would stun the US into inaction. This would give Japan time to expand its holdings and replace much of what the embargoes were disallowing. Once done they would then try to negotiate a peace with the US.

Infamy

On December 7, 1941 they attacked the US Fleet at Pearl Harbor and struck a crippling blow. The biggest mistake was that while they decimated the fleet, they missed the aircraft carriers that were not in port that day. While stunned, America maintained the capacity to strike back.

Japan, declared war, the US declared war on Japan, and right on cue Germany declared war on the US. Roosevelt got just what he wanted.

That little piece of metal is a souvenir that we get to keep from that day, a day which will live in infamy.

To learn more about the historic sites located at Pearl Harbor, click here.