Archive for the 'Aviation' Category
Godspeed Commander Carpenter
In his Aurora 7 spacecraft on 24 May 1962, one of the original Mercury 7 space pioneers became the second American to orbit the Earth. After a rather rocky flight, overshooting his splashdown target by 250 miles, he was assigned to monitor the design and development of the lunar module for the Apollo project. He then took leave from the space program in the spring of 1965 to serve as an aquanaut in the U.S. Navy’s SeaLab II project, spending 30 days 205 feet below the surface off the coast of La Jolla, California. “The first person to explore both of humanity’s great remaining frontiers” talked recently withNaval History editor Fred L. Schultz between sessions of a Naval Forces Under the Sea symposium sponsored by the Office of Naval Research and the U.S. Naval Academy.
Naval History : I’ll start with the inevitable question. How would you compare deep-sea exploration to space flight?
Carpenter : In the near term, and maybe for an extended term, deep-sea exploration is much more important. In the long term, space is the last frontier. But in the near term, the ocean needs better attention and a clearer understanding. And that’s what we are trying to achieve. It used to be that deep-sea exploration was primarily a defense-oriented project. In a way, it’s still defense-oriented; but we’re trying to defend the planet now, instead of just this country.
Naval History : How important is public appreciation of what SeaLab accomplished, even though we’re not doing the same things anymore?
Carpenter : Right. We’re not doing it anymore. And I can’t tell you how important it is. But I do feel comfortable saying it’s more important than we realize. I have such an unbounded respect for the value of new knowledge, new truths. And that’s what we’re still trying to do, at all levels. I think it’s vitally important for our ultimate survival.
Naval History : So you think deep-sea exploration is more important than the International Space Station, for instance?
Carpenter : I’ve always objected to having the two modes of exploration appear as competitive. I think they are complementary. And we’re learning, from all of these experiments, more about where we are and who we are and where we’re going. That sounds highfalutin, but it is all in an attempt to gain new knowledge, which is our salvation.
Naval History : Explain, if you would, the function of the SeaLab program.
Carpenter : In order to understand the ocean and the sea floor and life in the ocean, you have to spend time there. The deeper you go, the harder it is to spend time because of the diver’s albatross, which is decompression. The goal was to provide a pressurized habitat on the ocean floor for a deep-sea diver—one where he could enter the water freely, work as long as possible, and come back and eat and get warm and sleep without paying the decompression penalty. That’s a major advance in our ability to gain new knowledge from the ocean floor. And that’s what SeaLab was.
It was postulated by [Captain] George Bond [U.S. Navy (Retired)], who was behind all of the early work done by Jacques Yves Cousteau, which drew interest from the United States. It came from U.S. Navy work at the hands of George Bond. [See Captain Bond’s book, Papa Topside (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1993).] It just says that if a man in a high-pressure environment is in equilibrium with the pressure of the water outside, the longer he stays at that depth, the longer he must decompress—up to 24 hours, when his blood becomes saturated with the breathing atmosphere mix. After 24 hours, he can stay for 24 weeks and still need only the same decompression time. So it makes divers much more efficient in water. And that’s what SeaLab proved.
Naval History : So SeaLab was more for diver efficiency than, perhaps, colonizing the ocean floor at some point?
Carpenter : Well, one leads to the other. I don’t really see a need, at this time, for residential communities on the ocean floor; maybe one day industrial communities, but that’s a long way down the road. But increased freedom in the deep ocean is valuable right now, and that’s what we developed in SeaLab.
Naval History : In hindsight, how do you think SeaLab would be today, if it had been sustained, rather than canceled?
Carpenter : We would have discovered the same things we have discovered in the chambers of the experimental diving unit. We’ve run up against a brick wall because of this physiological limit of 2,000 feet. We can’t really live and work at depths greater than 2,000 feet. And it’s not clearly understood why.
You know, in the SeaLab II film, the narrator makes a statement something like—I’ll paraphrase—”who knows, perhaps in some years we will be diving out of a sea lab at 20,000 feet.” We all thought we were on an open-ended experiment that would go deeper and deeper as soon as we built the technology. We didn’t know at that time that we had a physiological limit at 2,000 feet. So we’re locked out of deeper water until the medics can figure out how to handle that.
Naval History : In light of the USS Greeneville (SSN-772) accident, how
important are visits to Navy ships and submarines to the Navy?
Carpenter : I think they are important, and I don’t think we should do without them. We can, but I don’t think we should. In light of the Greeneville episode, they must be more carefully monitored. I think we might have to be more selective about what we do while there are civilians on board; or maybe just monitor the whole thing more closely. That was human failure spread out all along the line. The whole thing, I think, needs to be reevaluated, but not discontinued.
Naval History : Which were you more interested in—flying or going deep?
Carpenter : My first interest was flying. I was inspired by the very popular war [World War II]. But that led to a fascination for the ocean, mainly because when I started flying for the Navy, I was in Hawaii and got acquainted with the coral reef, skin diving, and spear fishing. And I’d read everything that Cousteau had written and seen all he had produced on film. That was my second love. I am still fascinated by the underwater world. It has a fascination for me of a type that the atmosphere and space do not. But they’re both addictive.
This month’s Proceedings article titled “Naval Aviation’s Transition Starts With Why” by LCDR Guy Snodgrass is a fantastic article laying out the upcoming “tech refresh,” so to speak, of naval aviation assets that will soon be fielded, specifically noting a unique philosophical change: the shift from fielding purpose built Cold-War era assets to procuring modular payload-based assets that allow for multi-mission capability, and the flexibility to adapt to new missions. One aspect of his article is particularly noteworthy because it hints of something bigger: the Navy will deliver effects within and across domains. This is important. With aviation principally shifting from purpose-built to multi-mission payload-centric assets, the Navy can explore new and unique ways to deliver effects that otherwise would have been very expensive to implement.
LCDR Snodgrass’ article specifically articulates why Navy’s mindset has changed, and it suggests that the old mindset of designing platforms will become irrelevant prior to using up the useful life of an asset. This shift resulted in the procurement of assets that can remain relevant throughout their entire lifecycle without major redesigns via a Payload-Centric architecture. This means that with limited redesign of systems, assets can be repurposed. This has led to multi-mission platforms that can adapt to emerging missions.
(Note: This article appeared at RealClearDefense and is cross-posted by permission.)
On August 18th South Korea selected Boeing’s F-15SE Silent Eagle as the sole candidate for Phase III of its Fighter eXperimental Project (F-X) over Lockheed Martin’s F-35A and the Eurofighter Typhoon. The decision has drawn vociferous criticism from defense experts who fear the selection of F-15SE may not provide the South Korean military with the sufficient Required Operational Capabilities (ROCs) to counterbalance Japan and China’s acquisition of 5th generation stealth fighters.
In hindsight, Zachary Keck of The Diplomat believes that Republic of Korea’s (ROK)preference for the F-15SE over two other competitors was “unsurprising.” After all, Boeing won the previous two fighter competitions with its F-15-K jet. In 2002 and 2008, South Korea bought a total of 61 F-15K jets from Boeing. South Korea’s predilection for the F-15SE is understandable given its 85% platform compatibility with the existing F-15Ks.
However, the most convincing explanation seems to be the fear of “structural disarmament” of the ROK Air Force should it choose to buy yet another batch of expensive fighters to replace the aging F-4 Phantom and F-5 Tiger fighters. Simply stated, the more advanced the fighter jet, the more costly it is. The more expensive the jet, the fewer the South Korean military can purchase. The fewer stealth fighters purchased, the smaller the ROK Air Force.
It is almost as if the authors were there beside Jim Stockdale while he was in the Maison Centrale (Hanoi Hilton). There are a few figures in each generation that rise above the norm to show the way by word and deed – who walk the walk as well as talk the talk. CAG (Carrier Air Group Commander) Stockdale was one of the rare few you would see at Thermopylae, Rorke’s Drift, Omaha Beach or Amarageddon leading the charge or holding the line.
This work would have been enriched by including as an appendix CAG’s remarks to his Air Wing prior to his shoot-down:
“Commander Jim Stockdale was the archetypal air wing commander. He commanded Carrier Air Wing 16 during the 1965 cruise, and set the stage for the air wing’s accomplishments during Rolling Thunder. Stockdale took command of the air wing in April 1965, after commanding VF-51, a fighter squadron on the USS Ticonderoga. As the Ticonderoga was already on station in the Tonkin Gulf, Stockdale had a wealth of experience concerning operations in Vietnam. He had been airborne as the on-scene-commander during the Tonkin Gulf Incident. He also took part in several of the reprisal raids in the rapidly escalating air war. These experiences made him uniquely suited for command of the Oriskany’s air wing as she departed for her first Vietnam War cruise.
Benjamin “BJ” Armstrong, editor of our just-published 21st Century Mahan, is the 2013 recipient of the Navy League’s Alfred Thayer Mahan Award for Literary Achievement, a highly prestigious award for an officer at the rank of Lieutenant Commander.
The Alfred Thayer Mahan Award is named for the famous naval theorist who, through his writing, provided vital stimulus and guidance to those who share in the defense of the nation. Presented since 1957, this award for literary achievement is awarded to a Navy officer, Marine Corps officer, enlisted service member, or civilian who has made a notable literary contribution that has advanced the knowledge of the importance of sea power in the United States. BJ follows in the footsteps of many notable Naval Institute authors…including ADM James G. Stavridis, USN, CAPT Henry (Jerry) H. Hendrix, USN, CAPT Edward L. Beach Jr., USN, VADM William P. Mack, USN, LtGen Victor Krulak, USMC, Dr. Jack Sweetman, LCDR Thomas J. Cutler, USN, Dr. John T. Mason Jr., Paul Stillwell, Col Joseph H. Alexander, USMC (Ret.), BGen Edwin H. Simmons, USMC (Ret.), Col John G. Miller, USMC (Ret.), and ADM James L. Holloway III, USN to name just a few.
LCDR “BJ” Armstrong is a Mahan enthusiast, for whom the award is named, and has published numerous posts about him in The Proceedings, Naval History Magazine, and on the USNI blog. He is also a recipient of the Naval HIstory and Heritage Command’s Samuel Eliot Morison Supplemental Scholarship, named after Rear Adm. Samuel Eliot Morison, USNR, an eminent naval and maritime historian and winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
Advertising is funny; it doesn’t so much tell you about the company that pays for it – but that that company thinks motivates its customers.
In the Chrystal City Metro stop in DC you can see two view from the defense industry. Speaks for itself … which one do you think is more effective?
In his recent editorial in the Washington Post, Naval Academy professor Dr. Bruce Fleming asserts that leadership is the “snake oil” for today’s military and that organizations — civilian and military alike — are infatuated with it as the antidote to all organizations’ problems. He has a point. Leadership training as the single answer rings hollow. As he also suggests, teaching leadership may be a futile exercise. But he is wrong to say that “there’s no proof [leadership] has any benefit at all — or for that matter, even exists.”
On the contrary, good leadership and the powerful culture that it engenders can make the difference between a solvent company and a profitable one. Jim Collins’ Good to Great book research found virtually all the companies that outperformed their industry peers in the marketplace for sustained periods of time had what Collins called “Level Five” leaders, executives who exhibit a rare combination of deep personal humility and intense resolve.
In a military organization, leadership can make the difference between life and death. Forty years ago, 591 prisoners of war returned home alive from North Vietnam after the longest period of wartime incarceration in our nation’s history. They remained unified in their resistance to their captors and unified in their adherence to a mission: Return with Honor. To this day, they have one of the lowest rates of PTSD of any group of combat veterans: a lifetime average of 4%. And their leaders, especially Vice Adm. James Stockdale, made the unquestionable difference.
Texas Rep. Sam Johnson, a former POW, recalls one hot summer night in 1967 when he shared a cell with Stockdale, the senior ranking officer of the group. They were trying to communicate with recent “shoot-downs,” other aviators whose planes had been recently shot down. As Mr. Johnson describes it, “They were scared, for good reason. We wanted to talk to them and make them know that there were other Americans around.” The communications system was the POWs’ lifeblood, but the risks for using it were high. When possible, the POWs assigned at least one man the task of “clearing,” or alerting other POWs of a guard’s impending approach.
“Jim would get on the floor and ‘clear’ and I’d get up on the concrete bunk and talk to [a new guy] down the back side out of the window. We happened to be on the back of the jail. We would tell him essentially how the cow eats the cabbage [how the things worked in the prison system] and, that ‘you’re going to be all right.’”
On this particular night, they were finally caught. “The guard and an officer came charging down the hall. Jim barely got up before the door opened. I’m standing there and the door pops open and here’s this little North Vietnamese guy wearing Air Force 2nd Lieutenant bars. Turns out he was a camp commander. He wasn’t a lieutenant – he was masquerading as one. Jim hauled off and decked him right there. Just knocked him down. And, I thought, ‘…We’re in deep serious now.’ And we were.”
Punishment was immediate and harsh. Mr. Johnson spent 72 days in leg stocks in a small cell with the windows boarded up. He quietly notes, “Jim got the worst punishment.”
Why did Stockdale intentionally assault the camp commander by punching him in the face? An irrational outburst of anger or violence was completely out of character for this Stanford-educated philosopher. He was noted around the camp for his towering intellect, not his emotional volatility.
Mr. Johnson pauses for a long moment before answering that question, choosing his words deliberately. “Frankly, I think he was protecting me. You know, that’s a characteristic of leadership.”
Stockdale exhibited several noteworthy characteristics of a great leader that day. He stayed focused on the POWs’ agreed-upon mission, he chose his battle carefully and — without fear of personal consequences — he sacrificed himself to protect those under him. He asked nothing of his followers that he would not first deliver himself. When pain was on the agenda, Stockdale didn’t delegate. He led.
Peter Fretwell and Taylor Baldwin Kiland are the co-authors of the new book, Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton: Six Characteristics of High-Performance Teams.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the homecoming of our Vietnam POWs, a group of men who still rank as the longest-held group of POWs in our nation’s history. Most of the men are still alive and well, enjoying their second chance at freedom. But their leader, Vice Adm. James Bond Stockdale, is not. He died in 2005. On this Memorial Day, it is fitting to remember this man who left a legacy of unparalleled leadership. The key to his success was in his leadership philosophy.
As Stockdale floated slowly down to certain capture and imprisonment by the North Vietnamese enemy after his plane was shot down, he recalled the wisdom of the Greek philosopher Epictetus: “I remembered the basic truth of subjective consciousness as the ability to distinguish what is in my power from that which is not…I knew that self-discipline would provide the balance I would need in the contest of high stakes.”
When he arrived at the Hanoi Hilton, the infamous prison where the majority of the POWs were held, Stockdale entered a world in which many POWs had already shown selflessness and commitment to each other. As the senior ranking officer, Stockdale was anointed their leader, responsible for governing their conduct and keeping the group of men unified in their resistance.
He knew the Code of Conduct, the rules that govern the behavior of American prisoners of war. But, he also knew these guidelines wouldn’t be enough. And so he dug into his bag of memories from his studies of Epictetus and remembered some of the teachings: “Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view they take of them”; “Do not be concerned with things which are beyond your power”; and “Demand not that events should happen as you wish, but wish them to happen as they do happen and you will go on well.”
In other words, you don’t get to choose your plight. You do get to choose how you react to it.
He and the POWs were faced with a Hobson’s choice. They learned quickly that they would all eventually break under enough torture and thus violate the Code of Conduct and risk military disgrace. If they resisted, they would be tortured until they submitted—for information that had no intelligence value and that was certainly not worth their life or a limb. So, Stockdale made the difficult decision that laid a foundation for a self-sustaining organization. He instructed the POWs to resist their captors to the best of their ability. If they reached their breaking point, they should fall back on deceit and distortion—giving false, misleading or ludicrous information. Finally, Stockdale insisted that the POWs force their captors to start over at each interrogation session. This innovation allowed for failure in the moment without failure in the mission.
These strategies and tactics conformed to the Code of Conduct where they could. When necessary, Stockdale created a new path by giving each POW the responsibility of deciding how to resist. Collectively, under these new guidelines, the POWs set a goal of giving every man a chance to achieve their group mission: Return with Honor.
This act earned the POWs’ respect. Stockdale, after all, shared their pain (literally) and understood the seemingly impossible predicament these men faced. Effective resistance couldn’t be centered on Herculean displays of pain tolerance or arbitrary goal lines. Instead, Stockdale made commitment, persistence, and unity the driving objective. Stockdale was, by virtue of his rank, the man in the corner cell—the boss. But decisions like these made him their leader.
Taylor Baldwin Kiland and Peter Fretwell are the co-authors of the new book, Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton: Six Characteristics of High-Performance Teams.
Today’s successful launch of an X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator marks a significant turning point for Naval Aviation, as much for its cultural acceptance by the community as for its technological significance.
As a newly minted Naval Aviator in 2002, the mere mention of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the ready room was enough to send most discussions into overdrive. The Navy, after all, would never have a need for drones, especially not ones launched from an aircraft carrier or a surface combatant. When a leading aircraft manufacturer’s UAV team joined us during a cruise in 2003 to measure the GEORGE WASHINGTON’s flight deck, the response was a mixture of mild curiosity and more than a little negativity.
“I won’t be offended if you turn away to watch the planes flying. I do it myself all the time,” NAS Oceana commanding officer CAPT Bob “Goose” Geis tells our group as he starts his brief on the facility’s history and operations. It’s an appropriate introduction to a meeting being held in the control tower conference room, a space seven stories above the tarmac with floor-to-ceiling glass on three sides, giving a 270 degree view of everything happening on the airfield. It’s an impressive sight, and you can’t fully appreciate the scale of NAS Oceana’s aircraft operations until you see it from above.