Archive for May, 2009


Britain launches its first 1000-plane bomber raid – the target: Cologne, Germany.


Myitkyina, Burma is again hit by B-17’s. Again no activity is observed and the attacks are discontinued. HQ 7th Bombardment Group transfers from Karachi to Dum-Dum, India.


77th Bombardment Squadron (Medium), 28th Composite Group, based at Elmendorf Field, Anchorage, Territory of Alaska, begins operating from Umnak, Aleutian Is with B-26’s.


7th Air Force begins flying B-17’s from the Territory of Hawaii to Midway in the face of an expected attack on that. 394th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 5th Bombardment Group (Heavy), transfers from Hickam Field to Bellows Field, Territory of Hawaii with B-17’s.

Pearl Harbor: On the 27th of May, USS Yorktown arrived at Pearl Harbor bearing the wounds of her action from the Coral Sea action. Grievously wounded by both direct-hits and near-misses (even while having avoided a spread of eight air-launched torpedoes), Yorktown required at least a three month overhaul and refit. However, Nimitz knew Yorktown was the only carrier available to add to the task force that had previously sailed with Hornet and Enterprise. Two carriers against Kido Butai would not be sufficient – Saratoga, enroute from the West Coast, would not arrive until 7 Jun, too late to be of use. Ranger was otherwise engaged and Lexington, well, Lexington was lost after a valiant fight at Coral Sea. The third carrier had to be Yorktown.

When she entered Pearl on the 27th, over 1,400 shipyard workers swarmed aboard and immediately set to work repairing the damage, along with ship’s company. On 28 May she entered dry dock to repair cracks in the hull and fuel holding tanks from the near misses. In forty-eight hours another in a series of miracles ensued and Yorktown made ready for sea. At 0900L 30 May 1942, Yorktown put to sea, her airwing replenished with three of Saratoga’s squadrons (VB-3, VF-3 and VT-3 replacing VS-5, VF-42 and VT-5, all of which had suffered heavy losses at Coral Sea).

How significant was this action? In a word – it was pivotal. The urgency to turnaround Yorktown, bring aboard squadrons who had never operated off her before and in so doing, get a third carrier into action was one of the key points in the outcome of the coming battle – and make no mistake everyone from Nimitz down to the seaman on the Yorktown knew it. This was in studied contrast to the almost leisurely approach the Japanese took in repairing Zuikaku and replenishing her air wing (the Japanese did not rotate airwings between carriers and didn’t think about doing it until later in the war).

RADM James Wisecup, USN, President of the U.S. Naval War College has a new blog. It is called the President’s Journal and can be accessed here. I am glad to see the Naval War College enter the naval blogosphere!

Highly recommend you add it to your reader!

Jim Dolbow
U.S. Naval War College ’02

According to a report today, former ET3 James “Terry” Halbardier was awarded the Silver Star for action onboard USS LIBERTY. That action occurred 42 years ago next week. Of note, his citation reportedly mentions the attack on LIBERTY by Israel…a fact missing from the numerous other citations awarded to LIBERTY crewmen. The facts surrounding that attack are still debated, but the former crew of LIBERTY know what happened that fateful day.

Also according to the report, decorations for LIBERTY crewmen include:

Medal of Honor – CAPT William McGonagle, Commanding Officer

Navy Cross – LCDR Philip McCutcheon, Executive Officer

12 Silver Stars

23 Bronze Stars

200 Purple Hearts

Presidential Unit Citation

Bravo Zulu shipmate! Congratulations on your long-awaited recognition.

From the 12th Air Force:

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. — More than 60 Airmen from across the Air Force are preparing to board a C-130J Hercules on Saturday, 30 May to participate in the second iteration of “Operation Southern Partner” in seven Caribbean and Latin American nations. The Twelfth Air Force (Air Forces Southern)-led event is aimed at providing intensive, periodic subject matter exchanges with partner nation Air Forces in the US Southern Command area of focus.

I will be spending five days live blogging about Operation Southern Partner beginning 8 June 2009. Many thanks to Captain Nathan Broshear, USAF, 12th Air Force PAO for making this happen.

Posted by Jim Dolbow in Soft Power | No Comments

Pacific Theater:

ALASKA (11th Air Force): A B-17 flies the first armed reconnaissance from the secretly constructed airfield at Unmak , Aleutian over the Aleutian Chain, but finds no sign of the enemy. XI Fighter Command elements are not deployed at Unmak (P-40’s and P-38’s), Cold Bay (P-40’s), Kodiak (P-39’s), and Elmendorf Field [P-38’s and Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Kittyhawks].
USA – Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson warns Americans along the west coast to expect a Japanese attack as retaliation for the Dolittle raid on Tokyo.
SOUTHWEST PACIFIC AREA (5th Air Force): B-26’s attack the airfield at Lae, New Guinea.
New Hebridies – U.S. forces arrive at Espiritu Santo.

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii:

USS Enterprise, Hornet and escorts have sortied to meet the Japanese fleet bound for Midway. USS Yorktown, which arrived 27 May from action in the Coral Sea is in the shipyard undergoing desperate repairs to enable her to join Enterprise and Hornet.

In an inauspicious beginning, perhaps future, LCDR Lindsey, CO of VT-8 crashed astern of Enterprise while flying aboard Enterprise. He and the rest of his crew are rescued by the planeguard, USS Monaghan.
While Yorktown is in dock, her airwing receives new aircraft and performs maintenance on the others.

Kido Butai:

After clearing the Inland Sea on the 27th, Nagumo’s forces have set a north-easterly course at 14 knots. Ships crews turn to the daily routine of maintenance, cleaning and participating in drills while the embarked aircrew amused themselves playing cards in the ready room or passing around novels while sunning themselves on the flight deck – some had brought wooden deck chairs for this purpose. (ed – It would appear there were (are) some universal similarities across naval aviation…). The overall mood of the crews was relaxed. Duty carrier rotation was set with Soryu taking the first watch on the 27th. However, overnight on the 27th, CDR Fuchida Mitsuo, CAG for Akagi’s air group, was diagnosed with acute appendicitis. Although he pleaded otherwise, the flight surgeon overruled him and operated immediately. Fuchida would miss the coming battle, at least leading the air group in battle, and this was dismaying to the veteran crews.
1430, 28 May – Kido Butai’s supply ships are sighted and once they were joined in the force, a course change to east-northeast was ordered. Speed remained at 14 knots in consideration of the destroyers and other fuel hogs in the fleet.

    It is time for Naval Aviation to become more than interested bystanders and step up to the plate for the ballistic missile defense mission. For those who have been otherwise engaged or looking elsewhere, the cover and main article in the May 2009 issue of Proceedings is your wake-up call. Now, besides the ever-present threat posed by cruise missiles, we can add ballistic missiles to the list of concerns. And to the naysayers who point to the Aegis community and say it’s their job because they’re the archer, I say not so fast, for several reasons. Chief among these is the growing threat itself.

    Since the end of the Cold War, ballistic missiles have become a growth industry, especially in the short- and medium-ranged categories (figure out to 1500km). Missiles in these categories don’t require the engineering, technology, and support structure of their larger IR/ICBM cousins and as such, lend themselves to a variety of domestic production programs using proliferated knowledge and technology, or, may be purchased wholesale from willing proliferators, such as the DPRK. These missiles lend themselves to mobile launchers which may be deployed far forward, reducing warning and engagement times, and employed in sufficient quantities as to greatly complicate planning and operations in a number of areas and conditions ranging from APOD/SPOD operations to choke point transits. The numbers may be troublesome enough on their own – add in WMD, especially where certain countries that are expanding their ballistic missile capabilities are also engaged in nuclear programs that are unsupervised by international agencies and the problem 3-5 years out grows more complicated. Factor in the addition of sophisticated technology by near-peer nations – MaRV’s based on the Pershing II missile with millimeter terminal guidance radar for example, that are deployed in significant numbers on mobile platforms well within denied territory, and planning at all levels – tactical, operational and even strategic grows more difficult as options are taken off the table. Difficult or impossible, that is, absent a robust and credible defense.

    CNO has declared BMD to be a core competency for all Navy – not just Aegis BMD. To be successful in that mission area will require efforts and capabilities that cut across communities and the operational and electromagnetic spectrum, much like we have and are doing for cruise missile defense. We must be able to bring to bear the full capabilities of sea-based power, kinetic and non- as all the elements of that sea-based power can provide force multiplier roles from pre-launch to terminal intercept. Naval aviation is a major player in this effort and not just as an attempt to “get a piece of the action.”

    While it is true that at present, the only active (read: hard kill) defensive capability is via the SM-3 family and SM-2 BlkIV, there are a number of near and longer term instances where naval aviation, and carrier aviation in particular, will play an increasingly important role. Emphasis in the last several years in the development of these missiles and Aegis BMD has focused on the mid-course/exo-atmospheric (SM-3) and terminal/endo-atmospheric (SM-2 BlkIV) intercept of short- and medium range ballistic missiles, along with the long-range search/track contribution of Aegis BMD as part of the BMDS designed to counter intermediate- and intercontinental ballistic missiles. However, with the recent shift in emphasis to the regional/theater fight and a renewed focus on ascent phase intercept (API), maritime forces will come to play a substantially increased role in all three areas of BMD – offensive action, passive and active defenses. How will this be possible? Through a combination of emerging/evolving platforms and capabilities teamed with core competencies already found across several NAVAIR communities. Let’s look first at the platforms.

    The E-2D will provide critical capabilities for sea-based BMD.

    A key requirement and necessary capability for API to be successful is persistent ISR with rapid cueing via fast, redundant network paths to the shooter(s), in this case Aegis BMD-equipped ships. CVW’s in the 3-5 year out view will see their capabilities grow in this area following planned upgrades and introduction of new platforms. Close at hand will be the wider deployment of AESA equipped F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and the EA-18G Growler. One potential vulnerability of mobile TBMs is their command and control networks, especially if there is intent to employ them in saturation raids in concert with anti-ship or land-attack cruise missiles. Identification of critical communications nodes and attack via non-kinetic means may result in disruption of attacks or even disablement of the missiles themselves. The capabilities inherent in AESA-equipped aircraft and the electronic attack capabilities in the Growler lend themselves to further investigation in this field. Netted and linked data between these platforms, passed via current E-2C’s and fused with other off-board sensors (e.g., Predators, EP-3, and other joint platforms) build a richer picture for the afloat and ashore command elements. At the far end of that 3-5 year period the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye should begin seeing fleet introduction and the addition of its networking capability and revolutionary mechanically- and electronically scanned radar, among many other new or improved capabilities will bring battle management in the missile defense realm to new levels. Tapped into CEC or one of the other links for cueing, an Aegis BMD ship should be able to fire on remote, significantly expanding the battle space for API. Farther out, the addition of BAMS, P-8 and EPX, a possible marinized-Predator/Reaper and UCAV-N grow the range of possibilities for persistent ISR and cued attack, non-kinetic and kinetic. Indeed, even today Predators and their IR tracking have been successfully used in BMD tests. The carrier version of the JSF, the F-35C, will bring additional capabilities to the fight with its integrated sensor/weapons suite. And don’t forget – Fire Scout is already out there with potential near shore/over the beach surveillance as well.

    While the platforms are coming on-line, what is more important is recognition within the various NAVAIR communities, especially VAW, VAQ and VQ of these inherent BMD capabilities, that BMD is a core mission across the Navy and that their particular communities have a natural affinity for BMD. Particular skill sets are required in the areas of C4I, Battle Management, ISR, net-centric operations and data fusion, all of which are an inherent part of those communities and representative of a natural and evolving growth. Joint and combined operational experience would certainly underscore these skill sets.

    Thirty years ago the VAW community, was geared to the long-range AEW/AAW fight and gave little thought to the overland ABCCC mission, for example. Yet by the time of operations in the Gulf and over former Yugoslavia it was increasingly engaged and tasked so. Those skill sets evolved from the battle management skills developed over a half-century of AEW and refined in the digital age with the introduction of the E-2C/F-14 teamed with Aegis with the assistance of organizations like the Carrier AEW Weapons School and Naval Strike Warfare Center. Today it should be no less so and with organizations like the Navy Air and Missile Defense and Naval Strike and Air Warfare Commands serving as the laboratory cum schoolhouse for such evolutionary expansion, the time to start is now.

    Because the threat certainly isn’t marking time…

    Ranger 07 is now at its temporary home on the air station side of NS Norfolk (Chambers Field). Some of us remember back to when VAQ-33 was onboard then-NAS Norfolk and shared hangar and flight line space with VAW (1979). In the Firebird’s inventory at the time, besides an EC-121, where a number of EA-3 Whales used for fleet training run by FEWSG. It was also my first up close and personal with a Whale that wasn’t stuck in the back lot of a museum.

    Here is a first hand report of Ranger 07’s arrival:

    The big story from Tom Brennan, Det Wasp A-3/VQ OINC:

    “I am VERY pleased to report that EA-3B Skywarrior BuNo 146457 is safely ashore aboard Naval Station Norfolk Virginia.

    The evolution began early today (May 26th) under cloudy skies, and the offload was conducted entirely under clear skies. The aircraft sling straps had to be reset a couple of times, but once the rig was set, the lift off of USS Wasp went perfectly. The aircraft was set down onto the deck of the YD floating crane and the crane re-positioned to Pier 14 for offload.

    At that point, there was a delay until some cars could be moved. Once the way was clear, the crane crew lifted the plane into the street just as the skies opened and rain began to pour down. The plane was quickly hooked up to a tow tractor and was last seen being towed off into the driving rain down the tow way toward the flight line.”

    What’s next:

    The plan, at least temporarily, is to store the “Whale” at Naval Station Norfolk Chambers Field until the we can arrange to move it to the Gulf and on to Mobile. The aircraft will be monitored by Allen Giannerini, Randy Steele, Bob Hosang, Rich Kessman, and Kevin Ruce while in Norfolk, our military POC’s are Cdr Gathright and Chief Curry. We do not have enough cash to tear it down professionally and move it overland, nor do we have enough to transit to the Gulf by barge on our own. We are actively searching out alternate means of transportation via piggy-back on any waterways shipment to the Gulf and at the same time formulating a plan that has local Norfolk volunteers prep the aircraft for overland shipment.

    Video here.

    (h/t CAPT Andy Niemyer, US-Ret.)

    “The Inland Sea of Japan was still veiled in darkness when the anchorage at Hashirajima began to awaken. On board the aircraft carrier Akagi, white-clad crewmen, ghostly in the deep twilight on the forecastle, began raising the ship’s anchors. The clatter of the capstan was overlain with the bright sound of spraying water as the foredeck gang played hoses along the dripping anchor chains, washing them clean of the harbor’s mud. All around Akagi, just barely discernible in the gloom, lay dozens of great grey warships, many of them weighing anchor as well. Nautical twilight was at 0437. But the dark waters of the bay, sheltered by the mountainous islands, would remain shrouded in gray until well after sunlight dappled the hilltops. Akagi would sortie around dawn. The date was 27 May 1942.” Shattered Sword (Parshall & Tully) 2005, p.3

    JAPAN – Citing Japanese victories in the Coral Sea and other battles, Radio Tokyo the previous day announces that “America and Britain… have now been exterminated. The British and American fleets cannot appear on the oceans.”

    On board the new battleship, Yamato, a final round of planning and wargaming had wrapped on the 25th, uncovering some potentially fatal flaws with Yamamoto’s plan – namely that there was a gap in the air search pattern south of the Hawaii/Midway axis which would prevent detection of American forces if they sortied to that area. Other officers were concerned that Nagumo’s forces were too far removed from the main body should additional support be required. However, Nagumo and his staff assured Yamamoto that they would be able to handle any such contingency, but another problem had arisen – namely that elements of Kido Butai would not be ready to sail on the established date.

    Parshall & Tully note that Yamamoto declined to make changes in the operational schedule, believing that the tides at Midway would not accommodate Nagumo’s tardiness. Kido Butai would sail a day after the rest of the forces (invasion convoy and supporting force) and as such, would have one day less to knock out the island’s defenses for the invading force. No changes were made to the operational plan – no contingency plans put in effect. On the eve of departure for what the IJN leadership viewed to be the deciding battle, the battle that would utterly destroy the American fleet and end America’s presence in the Pacific, thereby securing the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, the planning and wargaming was almost a polar opposite of the tightly scripted, minutely detailed effort that led to the attack at Pearl Harbor.

    Around the world, forces were joined and movement was afoot in this truly global war. In Russia, the 2nd Battle of Karkhov was winding to a close. After initial Soviet successes and re-capture of the city, they now found themselves surrounded and an attempted breakout two days earlier had failed. Southward, in the Crimea, the Nazis have begun their summer offensive. In Africa, Rommel has undertaken an offensive against the British defensive positions at Gazala. In Britain, preparations are being made for the first thousand plane raid against Germany – American forces were just beginning to arrive under the command of Eighth Air Force, VIII Bomber Command, but would not see their first combat for another 2 months. In the China-Burma-India theater, 10th Air Force moved B-17’s of the 11th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 7th Bombardment Group (Heavy) from Karachi to Lahabad, India with B-17’s. And in the Southwest Pacific Theater, 5th Air Force B-17’s bomb the Japanese stronghold at Rabaul. 8th FG P-39s intercept Japanese fighters attacking Port Moresby, Australia losing two P-39F’s in the process. And at CINCPAC HQ, Ed Layton answers a question from Nimitz – name the dates and dispositions the enemy intends to take up around Midway:

    “‘I want you to be specific,’ Nimitz said, fixing me with his cool blue eyes. ‘After all, this is the job I have given you – to be the admiral commanding the Japanese forces, and tell me what is going on.’

    It was a tall order, given that so much was speculation rather than hard fact. I knew that I would have to stick my neck out, but that was clearly what he wanted. Summarizing all my data, I told Nimitz that the carriers would probably attack on the morning of 4 June, from the north-west on a bearing of 325 degrees. They could be sighted at about 175 miles from Midway at around 0700 hours local time.

    On the strength of this estimate, Admiral Nimitz crossed his Rubicon on 27 May 1942…I knew very well the extent to which Nimitz had staked the fate of the Pacific Fleet on our estimates, and his own judgment, against those of Admiral King and his staff in Washington.”…And I was There (Ed Layton) 1985, pg. 430.


    And sixty-seven years later, off Wake Island – the Nimitz-class carrier, USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) headed in the opposite direction of Kido Butai…

    One of the wonderful things about an embark is that the Navy lets their visitors see everything (well, almost everything–no blogger has breached the Navy’s nuclear propulsion spaces…yet). The other week, aboard the USS NIMITZ (CVN-68), this blogger–along with at great bunch from a NATO country interested in carrier operations–got a first-hand glimpse at what a carrier does to get ready for a deployment.

    In this case, we were aboard for a “scripted” exercise portion of the pre-deployment workup….and, rather than just get the usual “VIP” show, watching the carrier spend time engaging in air operations, we saw the Nimitz practice littoral operations–something Carrier aficionados don’t usually discuss much. Nimitz, along with the rest of the Nimitz Strike Group, battened down the hatches, entered a simulated maritime choke-point, and transformed themselves into enormous Littoral Combat Ships.

    The passage started early, so while water-tight integrity was set throughout the Nimitz, the fleet lined up, ready for the dash. Everything was going fine…

    Until, of course, the local “Red Team” showed up to “escort” the carrier…and that went well too, right up to the point some impatient, poorly-trained “irregular” decided to charge the Nimitz:

    Melee ensued! Helicopters and other groovy crew-served implements went into action to fend off the Red swarm (my sincere apologies to one crew-member manning a [really neat anti-small ship device] who found me below-decks later, saying, “if you’d stuck around, you’d have gotten to see me fight ’em off.” Again, sorry, I got too interested on the goings-on to Port..):

    But the issue, of course, was never in doubt. Eventually, Team Red, chastened and (we suspect) missing several of their number, left the field….as fast as their little red boats could carry them:

    But then again, the good guys always win the pre-scripted exercises…And, strangely enough, the drills always seem to come to a happy conclusion just in time for lunch, too!

    Seriously though, all artificiality aside, these blogger embarks are a great way for the Navy to engage in creative outreach. And the Nimitz? It’s simply living up to it’s “First-In-Class” reputation. But more on that later….

    Photos: Springboard!

    (UPDATE: No blogger except THIS GUY has ever gotten into a Navy reactor space and lived to blog about it (and post pictures!!!). An amazing embark aboard the USS Toledo (SSN-769). Go see)

    The Mitsubishi A6M Zero (“A” for fighter, 6th model, “M” for Mitsubishi) was a light-weight, carrier-based fighter aircraft employed by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service from 1940 to 1945. At the time it was introduced, the Mitsubishi A6M was the best carrier-based fighter plane in the world and was greatly feared by Allied pilots.

    Widely known as the Zero (from its Japanese Navy designation, Type 0 Carrier Fighter – Rei shiki Kanjo sentoki, 零式艦上戦闘機), taken from the last digit of the Imperial year 2600 (1940), when it entered service, in Japan it was unofficially referred to as both Rei-sen and Zero-sen. More…

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