Carrying a Nuke to


"Crazy days" (email from the Spadguys - 2)

Date: Sat, 19 Sep 1998 08:53:53 -0700
Subject: Special Weapons Delivery

Just read the note about your requesting info, etc about loft maneuvers in the Douglas AD Skyraider. Must have performed hundreds of those maneuvers while in a Navy AD-6 squadron out of Navy JAX Florida from 1957-1959./ In fact, that was the primary mission of the squadron (VA-104........Carrier Air Group 10 .......USS Forrestal CVA-59). 99% of the practice was done down at Pinecastle AFB at their "run in" course. The loft maneuver was done with LABS gear. The run in was over a course cut out of the trees about a mile or so long. We'd roll in from several thousand feet, down to on the deck, 50 feet, at 260 knots indicated (the real thing was to have been performed at 275 kts TAS). The "run in point" was a big banner strung between two telephone polls. At that point, we'd punch the pickle on the stick and the timer would start running. When the previously calculated time ran out, the horizontal needle of the LABS instrument would drop and the needle became a "G" meter (accelerometer). Then we'd pull back on the stick to bring the needle back up to the horizontal--4 Gs in 2 1/2 seconds and as the airplane passed thru 59 degrees ( I think) of pitch up, the bomb would release. We'd continue on with a half cuban eight, roll out, and back up to altitude for the next pass. Since the run in was done at full power, 61 inches and 2900 turns, it put quite a strain on the engine. Actual delivery would have also been done with water injection. After too many engine failures, some 'higher power' figured we'd better give the engines a rest so after about 4 practice passes, we'd go up and circle around for a few minutes at really reduced power then resume the practice runs until we completed about 8 or so. It seems that the bearings were not getting lubed enough when we were going over the top. (Not enough positive G.) Later on they changed the type of bearing that was being used. Actually we got real good and ended up with a CEP of less than 100 feet. Our squadron won a Navy E for this. The practice bombs were the Mark 25s. A 25 pound bomb with a shot gun shell in it so the spotter could see the smoke when the bomb hit. We also did this down at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on a weapons deployment and in the Mediterranean on a cruise on the Forrestal. Besides this maneuver there was also the one for delivering the BOAR weapon as well as the high altitude dive delivery to deliver the armor piercing weapon (sub pens). If you're interested in the latter two, will be glad to let you know what I remember. I left the Navy after 10 years and spent the next 27 flying for American Airlines. Loved it all (Well, almost). Let me know.

Ralph N. Davis
Palm Desert, CA 92260

Date: Sun, 20 Sep 1998 10:49:31 EDT

Yes, Sandblower because we flew the entire flight at a low altitude, we claimed fifty feet, but most of the time it was somewhat higher than that, 50' actual takes a lot of concentration.

No we didn't have goggles that went opaque until the sixties - shut one eye and then open it after the flash was the idea.

The maneuver was a Half Cuban Eight, an Immelman would end with the airplane at around 1800' AGL,and 100 knots, the Half Cuban Eight is completed with the airplane in a 30 degree dive back to the deck and accelerating.

I don't recall any aircraft other than the AD carrying the BOAR, could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure we were the only ones that carried it.

All of our missions were single plane, and our navigation was strictly Dead Reckoning over water (we really got very good at reading the wind off the water and adjusting our course accordingly) landfalls within a mile or less after 3 - 5 hours over water was not uncommon. Then, the overland portion of the flight was from one visual nav point to another.

Ron Pickett

Date: Sun, 20 Sep 1998 08:11:57 -0700
From: "william r. wilson"
Subject: Sandblower Missions

I believe the name "Sandblower" came into use to identify long range, low-level, special weapon's practice deliveries. The sand blowing stems more from the low-level which was often 50' as opposed to coming in over the beach. The low-level, over-water aspect of this type of delivery placed the a/c in the "sea clutter" for most coastal radars, so the flights were mostly undetected until they were "feet dry". Since most of the west coast penetrations were over desert routes they blew a lot of sand.

The term "Spad" came from esteemed fighter pilots who flew the latest and fastest jets in the world and considered anything with a front-end speed-brake so unworthy that it was relegated to a W.W.I designation. However, the trusty Spad was the finest close air support a/c ever built and served well in that capacity for three decades. In Vietnam [early days 1966-67] we [USN] used them extensively for CAS and road recce. The first Mig kill was by a Navy Spad. But the advent of SAMS in the north precluded deep insurgent strikes with them. so we kept them off the 4õ4 coast to assist in pilot recoveries and Komar boat suppression. LABS was installed in the Spad about 1956. The goggles came later but I don't recall if they went totally black or not. IFR is one thing but totally black goggles when you are recovering from a "goofy loop" is not conducive to good health and long life. The favored technique [by planners] was monocular occlusion. Of course, all of this was based on the euphemistic notion that the a/c would survive the blast in the first place. We tend to look on this as somewhat strange now but at the time this was serious stuff.


From: "Jay Velie"
Subject: Re: Loft Bombing
Date: Sun, 20 Sep 1998 10:37:08 -0500

The trajectory of the 25 pound bomb was "supposed" to be similar to the 2000 pound shape, but I agree that the approach speed and the radius of the half Cuban eight would probably be effected by the additional weight and drag, but that is just my opinion. But then you can't practice 8 to 16 runs a day with 2000 pound shapes. Another aspect of the training that I didn't mention was the "low altitude navigation". By low, I mean 25 feet for lieutenants, 100 feet for captains, 500 feet for majors, and 1000 feet for ranks above. Obviously, the more experienced you are, the smarter you are.

Semper Fi,
Jay Velie

Date: Sun, 20 Sep 1998 10:27:55 -0700
Subject: Re: Special Weapons Delivery
From: (Ralph N. Davis)

I'll try to answer your questions to the best of my recollection or thoughts on the subjects.

#1. "Sandblower" came from just the fact that you were literally low enough to blow sand/dirt up from the prop/jet wash. Not because you were launched from at sea and came in over the beach! The flight deck is 85 feet off the water, and after launch we would "descend" to en route altitude. The longest flight I ever had in a "Spad" was 11 hours and 24 minutes, and NEVER GOT ABOVE 200 FEET!!!!!!!!!! This of course was also without refueling. When in the Med, I one time figured I could have made it all the way back to Navy JAX in the AD if we'd have had a bigger oil tank. And if there was no restriction of having three, 300 gallon drop tanks. We could only carry two and a 150 gallon tank on the center station, because we'd run out of oil before running out of fuel with the three, 300s. I had to be lifted out of the cockpit after the 11.4 mission!!! We really had a lot of fun on the low level "Sandblower" missions. Legal "flathatting' or "hedgehopping". Especially in Florida were the terrain is flat. In mountainous country, that was a different matter. There, much easier to bust your ass.

#2. "Flash Goggles" during my time , were never issued. The only time I can recall them even being mentioned, was during the test shots in the Nevada desert! At the same time, we of course never had to do the real thing. If we had to do the real thing in an AD-6, in my opinion, none of the pilots would have survived. And I think we all knew it. Our 6th Fleet targets were such that we had "staging" refueling air strips. of grass, at various places in Europe in order to make it back to the ship. That's what I called a 'one way mission'.


Date: Sun, 20 Sep 1998 20:16:13 -0400
From: Joe Shea
Subject: Re: shapes

We made up maps by cut and paste of the larger charts. We then rolled the on to toilet paper tubes and rolled them out as needed. The AD had a navigating/plotting board built in under the instrument panel. It was used mostly fpr overwater nav, solving wind vectors etc. It was also a great place to set the box lunches. i carried back up maps in case I got off track but they were a bitch to use in that small cockpit and impossible ro refold. When I was done with one I would often "lose" it overboard. The t.p. roll held enough map so that you could do quite well. The whole intent of training was to be able to navigate accurately at 50 feet for a long way. There was a lot of time/heading/ distance work with large natural terrain features to serve as cross checks once in a while.

I know that the "toss" method was in use in 1958 and was still being used in 1965. The high angle toss, actually a 1/2 loop was discontinued around 1961, thank god. The low angle was still used at least through 65. The accuracy was stunning if you were were very current in your training. I did a lot of that practice at the "Stumpy Point " range not far from Manteo, N.C.

I deployed, twice, to WESTPAC, in ADs with A3Ds and A4Ds in the Air Wing (CAG - 15) and we were all nuclear capable, trained and poised. The AD-4 was the first Nuclear Capable model and ALL models after that had the capability. The early delivery style was like the USAF from on high but it 4M4 was determined that we could loft a nuke through a mail slot by using a very low altitude delivery method.

We had the goggles and a schedule of when to put the on. We never thought they would work.

continued in part 3

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