Archive for the 'VQ' Tag

We are fast approaching the end of the yearlong celebration of the 100th Anniversary of US Naval Aviation – and what a year it has been. Between the Heritage paint schemes, celebratory conventions, special programming and dedicated ceremonies, much ground has been covered. The outside observer may be forgiven, however, if they are led to believe carrier aviation is the whole sum of Naval Aviation – based on a casual review of said observances. (Fret not friends, YHS is a Life Member of tailhook and well beholden to carrier aviation, so no heresy will be found here, so put down the pitchforks – SJS). They would be missing out on how Naval Aviation set cargo records during the Berlin Airlift. Flew and fought hardscrabble, close quarters battles with Huey’s staged from LST’s in the Mekong Delta. How, in concert with small DER’s, it formed a critical piece of our long-range, early warning barrier prior to the ballistic missile age with WVs and specially configured blimps. Patrolled vast, hostile reaches of the northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans searching for Soviet attack and ballistic missile subs.

They would also miss how it was part of the mission to probe deep into hostile territory with a battery of electronic gear that at times was a cross between Radio Shack and Star Wars, searching for the ever elusive signals that would indicate a new threat or change in defenses for targets on hidden lists for a war no one wanted to go hot. It is perhaps this group, shore and carrier-based, that has at once remained the most obscure subset of Naval Aviation while performing one of the most critical missions of the Cold War – intelligence collection.

The gap between what we know with certainty and what we conjecture (guess) is in constant flux and through time immemorial, efforts have been expended on almost infinite means to close that gap. Indeed, the driving impetus for bringing the airplane (which itself was more of a curiosity than accomplished fact in its early days) into the military were the possibilities implicit in gaining the ultimate “high ground” for scouting and reconnaissance supporting ground and naval forces. Indeed, Naval Aviation was born with the patrol/scout mission in mind.

Information collected was binned as actionable (useful in an immediate or near term sense — i.e., troop movements along the trenches, battleships seeking their opposite numbers for decisive engagements, etc.) or cataloged for longer-range/big picture use – “strategic” information if you will (and yes, we know this is a vast oversimplification). In the beginning, most of the information collected was visual — recorded observations by pilots passed at post-mission debriefs that evolved into still photography with either handheld or airframe mounted cameras.

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(NAVSTA Rota) 30 April 2009 – an EA-3B Skywarrior is loaded aboard USS Wasp (LHD 1) for transport back to the U.S. This marks the first time in over twenty-years a Whale is chocked and chained to the flightdeck of a USN warship. How it got to that point is an extraordinary story of one community’s dedication, passion and memory of those who once flew an ancient aircraft in difficult conditions on missions the importance of which few at the time, and even today, did not understand. More over here.

Posted by SteelJaw in Aviation, Navy | No Comments
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