The first Aircraft Carrier – 1922

The USS Langley and the dawn of the aircraft carrier

In March 1922, the U.S. Navy launched a bold experiment that really took off. Behold its first-ever aircraft carrier.

A Douglas DT-2 takes off from the USS Langley sometime in the mid-1920s.

(Credit: Naval History & Heritage Command Photographic Department)

The very first aircraft carrier in the U.S. Navy wasn’t even an aircraft carrier at first. Instead, it was toting coal and cargo.

This week marks 90 years since the USS Langley was commissioned and helped set in motion a whole new class of naval vessels and a new era of naval warfare. The mission was experimentation — how best to have aircraft take off from and land on a tiny airstrip that doesn’t hold still.

In the 1920s, “Langley was the platform from which Naval Aviators, guided by Captain Joseph M. Reeves, undertook the development of carrier operating techniques and tactics that were essential to victory in World War II,” writes the U.S. Naval Historical Center.

The ship itself was an innovation, too, born of retrofitting. The Langley wasn’t built from scratch as a carrier. No, it was converted from, of all things, a collier — a ship tasked with the unglamorous job of carrying coal and other cargo. In that first life, the ship was known as the USS Jupiter, which, in its own humble way, was an innovator as well, according to the Naval Historical Center: “The Navy’s first surface ship propelled by electric motors, she was an engineering prototype for the turbo-electric propulsion system widely used in Navy capital ships” over the next two decades.

With the USS Langley, aircraft carriers took off (photos)

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Nowadays, of course, we’ve got ever newer generations of technology making their way into and onto aircraft carriers.

Starting at the top of the food chain, there’s this: the USS Gerald R. Ford, not only a brand-new carrier expected to be ready in 2015 (a dozen years after the last new carrier), but also the first new class of carrier since 1968. Carrying the designation CV-78 (the Langley was CV-1), the Ford will pack changes ranging from a new propulsion system to a so-called Plasma Arc Waste Disposal System to a replacement for the traditional steam catapults — the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System.

As befits the supersize era, Ford will also be substantially larger than the Langley — it’s to be about 1,080 feet long, with a 250-foot-wide flight deck, compared with the Langley’s 542-foot length and 65-foot beam.

Meanwhile, Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Navy are working on the X-47B, a robotic aircraftthat’s intended to demonstrate the first carrier-based launches and recoveries by an autonomous, unmanned aircraft. Its first carrier test flight is expected sometime in 2013. Separately, researchers at MIT are trying to figure out how to get aircraft like the X-47B to recognize the hand signals used by flight-deck crews.

All innovations eventually become old hat, of course, and that’s as true of aircraft carriers as any other technology. Fifty years ago, the USS Enterprise was the U.S. Navy’s first nuclear-powered carrier; earlier this month, it set sail on its final deployment.

And the Langley? Here’s what being a first mover gets you sometimes — in early 1937, after several months of rejiggering, she was recast once again. Having been bypassed by larger and faster carriers, the Langley took on another supporting role, as a seaplane tender.

Auckland Hosts International Aircraft | Scoop News

Auckland Hosts International Aircraft | Scoop News.

Media are invited to attend a media day for Exercise KIWIFLAG, a training exercise the Royal New Zealand Air Force is hosting as part of their 75th Anniversary activities. Participants from French Armed Forces of New Caledonia; Republic of Singapore Air Force; Royal Australian Air Force, the United States Air Force, and the United States Marine Corp will join the RNZAF in a fixed wing air mobility exercise, on their way to the RNZAF Air Show at Ohakea Air Base on Saturday 31 March. The Media Day will provide an opportunity for a first look at the international aircraft and to meet some of the crew from visiting countries. What: KIWIFLAG Media Day Where: Base Auckland, Whenuapai When: Tuesday 27 March 7.45am for 8.00am start What to bring: Photo ID essential for entry to the Base RSVP by midday on Friday, 23 March to Todd O’Hara, Defence Communications Group on 021 186 4111 ENDS

Adventurers follow in the footsteps of Shackleton


Adventurers follow in the footsteps of Shackleton a century on
20 March 2012

A Royal Marine and petty officer will join four fellow adventurers to recreate the epic rescue journey made by Britain’s greatest Antarctic explorer a century ago.

WO Baz Gray and PO Seb Coulthard will sail a replica of the vessel Sir Ernest Shackleton took from Elephant Island to South Georgia in 1916 – using the materials and equipment of the day.

Pictures: LA(Phot) Chris Mumby, RNAS Yeovilton

Raising glasses to an exact replica of the remarkable boat which made one of the worst journeys in the world are Royal Marine WO2 Baz Gray and PO Seb Coulthard, flanking Australian adventurer and explorer Tim Jarvis.

Next January the trio – and three fellow volunteers – will guide the Alexandra Shackleton across 800 miles of violent ocean from Antarctica to South Georgia – before crossing 20 miles of the rugged, remote island to reach the former whaling station at Stromness.

In doing so they will recreate the 1916 journey of Britain’s greatest polar explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton, and his successful attempt to save his stranded Trans-Antarctic expedition.

In the century since Sir Ernest took his whaler, the James Caird, from Elephant Island to South Georgia and struggled across the mountains to raise the alarm, no-one has successfully recreated the entire rescue mission.

Shackleton’s granddaughter Alexandra launches her namesake boat

Come January, the Shackleton Epic looks to do just that. It has the backing of the explorer’s granddaughter Alexandra, expedition patron, who launched the boat named after her at Portland Marina.

“It’s a great honour to have a boat named after me and I’m very proud that this expedition is going to recreate for the first time since 1916 my grandfather’s epic boat journey,” his granddaughter said.

The 22½ft boat is a precise replica of the James Caird. Her crew will also endure the hardships of that age, wearing clothing of the time. All the rigging and features on the whaler have been faithfully reconstructed – as Shackleton would have used them – and the crew will eat the rations of the day. The only concession to modernity is present-day emergency equipment.

The James Caird is put in the water in 1916

“We’ve taken away all the complicated aspect of modern equipment, and we’ve gone back to basics. It brings out the more resourceful side of you,” explained Seb, based at RNAS Yeovilton.

On reaching South Georgia after 16 days – a journey Shackleton described as “one of supreme strife” – the leader set off with two colleagues and scaled precipitous peaks up to 3,000ft, with virtually no mountain equipment or maps, to reach Stromness. Even when he reached the isolated whaling station, it was several months before a rescue party successfully reached the rest of his men on Elephant Island. Every man was brought back alive.

Crossing South Georgia is where Baz will come into his forte as a Royal Marines Mountain Leader.

“It’s only been done once before, its going to be horrible, damp, cold, uncomfortable, there’ll be nothing nice about it, and that’s why this will be such an awesome challenge,” he said.

Beyond being a tremendous test of mental and physical strength, the Shackleton Epic aims to honour the explorer’s legacy and show how human spirit and endeavour triumph in adversity – and demonstrate the impact of climate change on Antarctica. The expedition intends to film the effects of ice melt in the region.

“Whereas Shackleton’s goal was to save his men from Antarctica, we are trying to save Antarctic from man – an unfortunate irony,” Mr Jarvis pointed out.

You can learn more about the adventure at

Chinese Navy

PLA 11th naval escort taskforce officiallyperforms escort mission

(China Military Online)

08:43, March 20, 2012

After the handover of escort mission, the “Qingdao” warship unmoored and left the “Haikou” warship and the “Qinghai Lake” supply ship which anchored side by side on March 17, 2012. (China Military Online/Mi Jin’guo)

Under the command of the 11th naval escort taskforce, the 10th and the 11th navalescort taskforces under the Navy of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) beganto conduct their second joint escort mission on the morning of March 18, 2012, localtime. 

The 11th naval escort taskforce officially took the place of the 10th naval escorttaskforce to perform the escort mission. (China Military Online/Chen Dianhong and MiJin’guo)

A SHIP operated by the Royal Australian Navy will be crewed by civilians

Civilians to fill navy’s skills void


A SHIP operated by the Royal Australian Navy will be crewed by civilians, as the service explores ways to keep its fleet at sea in the face of rampant poaching of sailors by cashed-up mining firms.

Defence Minister Stephen Smith yesterday announced that the navy’s newest ship, a $130 million, 6500 tonne amphibious support vessel called the Skandi Bergen — would operate “under a civilian crewing arrangement”.

Some Gunnery


Dragon spews a hail of wrath and steel on gunnery trials
19 March 2012

The guns of HMS Dragon blazed for the first time as she completed gunnery trials on the eve of her maiden visit to Cardiff.

The latest Type 45 destroyer let loose with her main 4.5in gun and 30mm cannon at targets on the water and in the skies as she took another big step towards joining the front-line Fleet.

THAT’s what you want to see from Dragon. Fire and ire.

Having proven that she could fend off missile attack by testing her decoy systems, Britain’s latest Type 45 destroyer let loose her guns for six days as she completed her gunnery trials.

Her main 4.5in Kryten and two 30mm automatic cannons were both fired up as expert engineers from BAE Systems, whose firm built the Portsmouth-based warship, checked the weapons’ alignment.

Dragon’s 4.5in gun carried out shoots against towed surface targets and conducted Naval Fire Support – as so ably demonstrated by HMS Liverpool off the coast of Libya last year.

It’s big. It’s red. It floats…until you put a 4.5in shell through it. The killer tomato target is launched from the flight deck

The destroyer also put her killer tomato into the water – a large, bright orange, inflatable target launched from her flight deck.

The tomato was successfully sunk as a 40kg 4.5in warhead went straight through it.

Indeed, during the six-day shoot the main gun fired 290 such shells –all loaded by hand on to the guns feed-ring by the gun bay team.

“The gunnery trials proved the first real test for Dragon’s gun crews. There were a few teething problems with the gun testing our engineering skills to fix defects to allow the serials to be completed,” said 26-year-old CPO Daryl Pounder, the 4.5in maintainer.

“It also gave our newly-qualified captain of the gun-bay the opportunity to put into practice all the drills he had learnt on course.”

The 30mm automatic cannon is prepared for action

Next it was the turn of the 30mm gun crews. Again both the port and starboard guns fired against towed surface targets and more killer tomatoes.

The engagements against the towed airborne target were the pinnacle of the trials. Dragon’s gunnery teams tracked the foe – which was towed nearly a kilometre behind a Falcon aircraft – using her electro-optical sensors and laser range finders.

The destroyer’s gunnery computer processors calculated the target’s trajectory and produced the firing solution before a hail of 30mm shells was sent hurtling towards it.

The system proved to be so accurate that the target was hit and completely destroyed with only the third round fired. Fortunately the aircraft was able to deploy a ‘spare’ to allow the trials to be completed.

Dragon’s forecastle is littered with empty shells as the gunnery team demonstrate

“The gunnery trials were a true test for the ship’s gunnery department with many different drills required to be conducted over a tight schedule,” said Dragon’s gunnery officer Lt Peter Meigh.

“With meticulous planning, teamwork and individual preparations and a bit of good weather I’m please to say we rose to the task and achieved a very satisfactory trial.

“Despite minor defects, the team fought through to achieve all the required serials, in the minimum amount of time.”

The gunnery trials came just ahead of the destroyer’s current high-profile first visit to Cardiff – and ahead of her formally be accepted into service, which is due to take place on April 27.

HMS Argyll


Argyll enjoys ‘rewarding and fascinating’ historic visit to Beirut
19 March 2012

HMS Argyll became the first British warship to visit Beirut since HMS York in late November 2006 – and was treated to wonderful hospitality in the ‘Paris of the East’

The Devonport-based frigate spent four days in the Lebanese capital where she trained with the country’s armed forces, hosted dignitaries, enjoyed the sights, and helped promote the 2012 London Olympics.

Pictures: LA(Phot) Caroline Davies, HMS Argyll

YOU’LL probably recognise the silhouette in the foreground – one Type 23 frigate.

But the cityscape in the background? You won’t have seen that in more than five years.

HMS Argyll became the first Royal Navy warship since 2006 to visit the Lebanese capital of Beirut as he made her way home from her tour of duty in the Gulf.

The last time British warships were off the ‘Paris of the East’ they were helping to evacuate civilians as Israeli and Hezbollah forces clashed in a month-long war.

Since then peace has returned to the country, Beirut is once more regarded as one of the world’s best tourist destinations and Britain has re-forged close ties with Lebanon’s armed forces, not least the Navy, many of whose officers are trained at Dartmouth.

The Guard of Honour presents arms during an official reception

As Argyll arrived off the Lebanese coast she was met by the Lebanese ship Tabarga, which embarked the Type 23’s communications officer Lt Roger Skelley as liaison officer.

The two vessels practised ship handling and communication exercises before Argyll entered harbour. After the usual round of official calls on local dignitaries, a lunch was held aboard for senior members of the LAF and the British Ambassador Tom Fletcher.

While they were dining in style, simultaneously 20 sailors and Royal Marines took part in the British Embassy-led Sports Relief mile run alongside local schoolchildren as part of global efforts to publicise the London 2012 Olympics.

Run. Fun. Sun. Some of the ship’s company enjoy the Sport Relief Mile around Beirut marina

“It was a great experience to run through Beirut marina and as far as I could tell the children were loving it, although not as much as they enjoyed their tour of the ship afterwards,” said Argyll’s navigator Lt Mark Webster.

The first day of the four-day visit concluded with an official reception held on the frigate’s flight deck attended by the city’s diplomatic community, senior military officers, United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon, and local dignitaries and businessmen.

The following day gave Argyll another opportunity to show of her full range of capabilities with 60 members of the LAF being given tours of the ship and the chance to chat with her crew.

Meanwhile a team of marine and weapon engineers popped across to the patrol vessel Beirut to help her sailors fix her navigation radar – to the delight of WO ‘Noddy’ Holder: “Without any prior knowledge of the radar it’s pleasing to be able to go back to basic engineering and help our fellow sailors restore their equipment,” he said.

Argyll’s Royal Marines detachment demonstrate their board and search prowess

Away from the ship, Argyll’s Royal Marine detachment and Lynx helicopter visited Hamat Air Base, which features a military training area funded by the UK and managed by ex-British Army personnel.

A day of professionally-rewarding training with the Lebanese Air Force and Sea Commando Regiment then followed, culminating in a joint power demonstration of a rapid helicopter insertion and extraction of troops; Argyll’s Lynx aircrew revelled in the opportunity to fly in formation with the iconic Huey helicopter operated by Lebanese.

Later in the day the ship’s company also tested her sporting prowess with a football match against a LAF team. In a hard-fought affair HMS Argyll went behind by two goals, pulled one back before conceding a third to go down 3-1.

The commandos train alongside their Lebanese counterparts at the Hamat range

The final day in Lebanon saw one party from the ship visit the ancient town of Byblos and spectacular caves of Jieta Grotto, while another party enjoyed the unexpected treat of a day’s skiing in a nearby mountain resort, complete with views of the Mediterranean Sea and the ship below.

Meanwhile back aboard the children of British Embassy staff were thrilled to receive guided tours of the ship, with many pronouncing themselves determined to seek a career in the Royal Navy as a result.

And that was Beirut. The visit, said Argyll’s Commanding Officer Cdr Paul Stroude, was “one of the most rewarding and fascinating of my Naval career.

A Lebanese commando and Royal Marine share their expertise

“Such an unusual visit was guaranteed to be high profile, and it was no surprise that it attracted enormous interest across Lebanon, however the warmth of the welcome extended to the British ship was overwhelming, and underlined the high regard with which the Royal Navy is viewed in the country.

“Throughout our stay we have been looked after and hosted superbly well by the Lebanese Armed Forces and the local community. It has been a pleasure to discover what a thriving, friendly and cosmopolitan city Beirut is and my ship’s company have thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

“I sincerely hope that further ship visits are made by the Royal Navy in the near future.”

HMNZS Resolution to retire


Search ship Resolution to retire


Last updated 05:00 19/03/2012
Matt Wray

SWANSONG: Lieutenant-Commander Matt Wray on the Navy ship Resolution in Bluff Harbour.

Capturing sonar images of the Easy Rider wreck may be one of the last things the navy’s sonar survey ship Resolution does in its 22-year career.

The Resolution will be decommissioned next month and its commanding officer, Lieutenant-Commander Matt Wray, said playing a part in the search for survivors was one of his proudest moments on board.

On Thursday evening the Resolution was on its way to Fiordland when the emergency signal came blaring over its VHF radio. “We contacted our HQ and the Rescue Co-ordination Centre and said, `We’re on our way’,” Lieutenant-Commander Wray said.

The ship steamed south and reached the search area about 10.30pm.

Taking police and coastguard staff on board, it formed the centre line of a nine-strong search fleet scouring the darkness.

The crew were out in force on deck, manning searchlights and using the ship’s sonar equipment to search the sea floor.

At 4am, the search was suspended, but the Resolution, accompanied by Bluff-based boat Awesome, carried on searching through the night.

At 8am, the sonar made contact with something on the sea floor – an unnatural object about the same size as Easy Rider.

Awesome’s crew lowered a camera and confirmed it was the capsized boat.

Divers spent most of Saturday looking for signs of crew, but the boat was empty.

Lieutenant-Commander Wray said he wished finding the boat could have returned the missing crew to their families.

“It would have been fantastic if what happened could have provided closure [for them],” he said.

The crew had been deeply affected by the tragedy and their hearts went out to the victims’ families, he said.

Next month, the ship will be decommissioned and all its crew transferred to other postings.

It is no longer required by the navy.

Lieutenant-Commander Wray said the search for Easy Rider, as well as Resolution’s role after the Christchurch earthquake, would be the most satisfying memories of his command.

Trying new style uniforms


Daring fashion statement as destroyer tries out new uniform
18 March 2012

Sailors aboard Britain’s most advanced warship are testing a new dark blue uniform – which could become standard issue across the Fleet.

HMS Daring’s sailors have been given the Personal Clothing System (Combat Uniform) to try out on the ship’s maiden deployment in the Gulf.

Pictures: LA(Phot) Keith Morgan, HMS Daring

DO NOT let the half dozen baseball caps fool you. This is the bridge of a Royal Navy, not American, warship – the most advanced ship in the Fleet no less.

Aboard HMS Daring on patrol in the Gulf, the ship’s company of the £1bn destroyer are trying out a new day-to-day uniform which is going through its first colour change since World War 2.

The 180-plus sailors aboard the Portsmouth-based warship, on her maiden deployment, have been given the new Personal Clothing System (Combat Uniform) to wear during the working day.

LET Richard Lewis, Lt Thomas Gell and Lt Nadia Robertson model the new uniform

The new No.4s – as working rig is known throughout the Fleet – come in numerous layers, making it suitable in all weathers, and comprises a T-shirt, shirt, thermal fleece and windproof smock. It also includes a belt and a new pair of boots with a zip in place of shoelaces.

The traditional rank insignia on the shoulders are now worn on the front, while a large ship’s badge is now emblazoned on the arm.

And blue is the new, er, blue. Just in a darker shade.

Working rig, WW2-style. Second Coxn PO Hedley Woodley at his diving station on the forward hydroplanes aboard submarine HMS Tribune in 1942. This rare wartime colour image was shot for the Ministry of Information film Close Quarters

The current No.4s worn daily by sailors and submariners comprise a light blue shirt and navy-coloured combat trousers.

As such, despite different materials used and minor tweaks, the working rig hasn’t fundamentally changed in 70 years – so Daring’s ship’s company were a little lukewarm at first, but the new uniform has grown on them.

Life in a (dark) blue one…

“So far the reaction on board the ship has been very positive,” explains Daring’s logistics officer Lt Cdr Ben Hughes.

“People were initially apprehensive but it is a comfortable, practical uniform that looks much more modern.

“The boots are very comfortable as well, especially for people who are stood on their feet all day and with the zip it makes it easier to just pull them on and off. I think people will find it hard to go back to the old uniform now.”

The large Daring badge now emblazoned on the arms – a new addition to the uniform

The PCS, which has slanted pockets on the legs for easier access when sitting down, has been designed to save the wearer the maximum amount of time possible when getting ready.

As well as zipped boots, the collar can be turned up and fastened instantly with velcro rather than fiddling with buttons – essential for ailors needing to get changed in minutes for fire-fighting duties.

An American Seahawk helicopter leaves Daring’s flight deck during recent exercises

“It is basically a dark blue version of the Army’s new Multi Terrain Pattern Uniform,” Lt Cdr Hughes adds. “People here are really proud to be wearing it, HMS Daring is a new ship on her first deployment and the fact that we get to trial a new uniform seems appropriate.”

The trial aboard Daring is being mirrored on HMS Westminster – also on patrol east of Suez, clamping down on piracy – and hunter-killer submarine HMS Talent.