Diminishing Returns in the CVA

In our carriers, there is a never-ending battle for space. Our advancing, ever-changing technology continues to create shortcomings in the availability of support and maintenance equipment and the attendant space requirements. The jet/missile/electronic revolution, as applied to carrier-based aircraft, points up the many facets of this problem. The sophistication and complexity attained is gradually creating a loss of efficiency in maintaining these combat aircraft. Furthermore, future requirements indicate an even greater need for space.

Our present course seems to be creating almost insurmountable aircraft handling and servicing problems. We complicate the situation further by having introduced the multiple mix of aircraft which comprise our carrier air wings.

It is basic that we start with a fixed plant the aircraft carrier; any vehicle designed to operate from the carrier must first take into consideration the limitations of its environment. In recent years, much lip service has been paid to maintainability and standardization, and although the aims and aspirations of these concepts are valid, few concrete results have been seen from the flight-deck level. Percentage availability of mission-equipped aircraft has declined, aircraft turn-around time has increased, and out-of-service inspection time grows by leaps and bounds. We remain inside the confines of our carrier environment limited by space, equipment, berthing, and messing, while our problems are increasing. A 1961 Proceedings article by Commander A. H. Vito, Jr., U. S. Navy, presented a thorough picture of the attack carrier and its place in today's Fleet. I agree whole-heartedly with Commander Vito that the attack carrier is mobile, flexible, and versatile. It has justified its existence, and it should be here to stay. I disagree that, "... the size of Forrestal is optimum-she is big enough to handle any aircraft either in operation or being designed that might be adapted for carrier use." I disagree because we are talking about handling 80 or more aircraft, the present air wing size. The Forrestal does not, at present, possess the berthing required for personnel to support 80 of the more complex aircraft; the maintenance shops to do their job properly; the refined power facilities to support the equipment programmed for these aircraft; the flight-deck or hangar-deck area to provide the flexibility required for efficient launching, recovery, and maintenance- taking place simultaneously; or the supply spaces to stock the depth and range of spare parts necessary for such a conglomeration of aircraft. A recent news release stated that Forrestal-class personnel complements were being increased by 400 to 800 men, primarily to support the more complex aircraft being developed. My first reaction was, "Where will they bunk?"

The difficulty of adequate space in a carrier is not new, it has been present since the advent of ship borne aircraft. With the introduction of the j et power plant, the tremendous growth of necessary support equipment has far exceeded the ship alteration program intended to furnish the required facilities. Also, the propeller-driven aircraft retained have seen major changes which compound the problem.

In any discussion of in-service and programmed aircraft, we must consider the inherently larger physical sizes involved. A case in point is the forthcoming transition from the E-1B Tracer to the E-2A Hawkeye as the primary Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft. The Hawkeye's wing span is more than eight feet wider than the Tracer's; in addition, the Hawkeye is 11 feet longer and almost a foot and a ha lf wider than the Tracer. These increased dimensions become extremely important from a maintenance point of view when the CVA is in a deployed status. While in port, ready aircraft are maintained with a "duty" catapult in Condition One for an immediate launch even at anchor. A bow catapult is generally so designated with the offside used to park light attack aircraft for their mandatory turn-ups. Because the AEW aircraft are necessarily the first launched, the Hawkeye's 80-foot, 7-inch wing span will cause the loss of six previously available flight deck spaces for in-port turn-ups.

Another pair of problems has resulted from the replacement of the two UH-25B helicopters with three UH-2A Seasprites. In a Forrestal- class carrier, the previous helicopter detachment consisted of four officers and 13 enlisted men. The assimilation of Seasprite into the ship's complement has upped these requirements to 12- 14 officers and 38-45 enlisted men. The UH-25B helicopter pilots had used their staterooms as offices, and maintenance had been accomplished out of tool boxes. Neither procedure is practical any longer, and maintenance space and a line shack are new requisites in the CVA.

Though possessing a greater capability in every respect, the operational quantum jump in Seasprite will not replace the need for at least one rescue destroyer. It is envisioned that an exhaustive evaluation program will terminate eventually in the cancellation of the assignment of the rescue destroyer; but until that time, three helicopters will be carried instead of two.

A vivid example of both personnel and supply support increases occurred in the early 1960s. At that time the F-6A Skyray was phased out by the F-4B Phantom II. The single jet F -6A being superseded by the twin-jet F-4B would indicate the need for an increase in spare engines to support this aircraft. The ramifications of an apparently simple logistic support problem were soon observed. Since the newer engine had a rated installed life roughly one-quarter of that of the older engine, it would have been necessary to carry an eight-to-one ratio to maintain the same spare level. Hangar bay stowage of the engines caused the ship to lose one Tracer aircraft and two utility boats in providing the needed space. To keep the record straight, the new jet engine has a much higher reliability today than that originally cited. Still, the over-all support requirement is greater than that of its predecessor. In addition, the two-place Phantom II demands a larger maintenance crew per airplane to insure the availability mandatory in meeting squadron commitments.

If you still doubt that personnel needs have skyrocketed, consider this: a jet attack aircraft of 1953 necessitated six men per aircraft; its present-day counterpart must have 18 men to insure an "up bird." This epochal growth of maintenance personnel requirements is inexorably tied to the high performance requisites of the subsonic and supersonic aircraft equipped with j et power plants. Furthermore, these figures apply to maintenance personnel only-the YN, SD, AK, etc., are not being considered at this time.

Some of the problems facing carrier aviation are of our own making, such as the composition of air wings. In the area of aircraft handling and aviation supply, either the problem is solved or we all come to parade rest. With our existing air wing composition, it is a near miracle that these two support areas function as efficiently as they do. The present carrier air wings with eight different types or configurations of aircraft do not make sense from an aircraft handling, supply support, or avionics maintenance viewpoint.

In many cases, the material required and carried in various allowance lists is just as large for support of three aircraft as for 12. The materiel necessary to support two squadrons of different type or configuration is considerably greater than that required to support two squadrons of the same type. Every multi-engine aircraft increases the engine support requirement and every variation in engine type further compounds the problems of stowage, handling, and support equipment. Regardless of the power plant, spare parts, special engine tooling, and related impedimenta continue to be a necessity. A graphic illustration of this impedimenta and how it is snowballing was seen during a recent embarkation of the air wing in the Forrestal; five commercial vans were required to transport the organizational property and personal baggage of five squadrons. Two of these vans were filled by the equipment of one fighter squadron. We cannot travel this road indefinitely. Yet, with the E-2A replacing the E-1B, the A-5A replacing the A-3B, and the A-6A scheduled to replace the A-1H, that seems to be the way we are headed.

While our maintenance problems grow in complexity, our resources to cope with them diminish. Those who have grown up with naval aviation are well schooled in Admiral King's apothegm to, "Do the best you can with what you've got." Certainly any good sailor will continue to do just that. There is also an awareness that many known deficiencies are tolerated simply because of funding difficulties. This should not deter us from stating requirements, pointing out deficiencies, and pressing as strongly as possible for corrective action.

Much study, time, and effort have been devoted to the development of the naval aircraft maintenance program. Apparently, too little attention has been given to the shipboard facilities necessary to implement this program. The increased emphasis being placed on component repair is a case in point. Certainly there can be no argument against the desirability of component repair at the lowest level possible. till any attempt to comply fully with the various directives on this subject while embarked is ludicrous when you consider that maintenance shops possessing a bench and vice are well outfitted by present standards. Planning guidelines for shore establishments delineate the space and facilities for the various levels of aircraft maintenance. There is, at present, no similar criterion for shipboard maintenance. By any standard, our existing facilities are inadequate. Some of these deficiencies are as follows:

Maintenance Control: To administer the multi-million dollar aircraft maintenance program of an air wing requires a maintenance co-ordination center with facilities for consultation between maintenance personnel, rapid communications, and ordnance and fuel control. There is no Maintenance Control in the Forrestal and some of her sister ships. This need has been recognized and provided for in the newer Forrestal-class carriers and in the Enterprise by establishing a Maintenance Control area adjacent to and comparable in size to Flight Deck Control. There is an urgent need for such a co-ordination facility in the Forrestal, as there is in all attack aircraft carriers.

Maintenance Shops and Line Crew Shelters: As a result of continuous review by ship/ air wing ad hoc committees, the allocation of shipboard spaces in the Forrestal for use as maintenance shops and line crew shelters is close to the optimum obtainable without further encroachment on other departments with similar requirements. These spaces, however, are in most cases inadequate for the purpose for which they are being used; the most critical deficiency is lack of ventilation. This problem of inadequate shop and line spaces is a result of the failure to have recognized their need during the design phase of ship construction.

There is every indication that the maintenance shop and line-crew shelter situation in the Forrestal-class carriers is going to get worse rather than better. Prior to the Forrestal's last major overhaul, the air group submitted a recommendation that five voids on the gallery deck under the island be converted to line crew shelters. These voids, however, were converted to berthing areas in partial compliance with CVA SHIPALT 221 9. Present enlisted berthing in the Forrestal is under 3, 700, and this alteration eventually will provide bunks for 3,916. To quote one officer on this modified berthing, "We have ended up, in many cases, with sub-standard housing." Within the confines of these ships, obviously, something will have to give-berthing or maintenance space.

Avionics Shops: These shop spaces fall far short of providing the room required for proper maintenance of the avionic components and test equipment presently assigned. This situation exists in spite of complete compliance with the avionics pool maintenance concept. Assimilation of the F-4B into the Air Wing, with its vast increases in required avionics test equipment, has saturated existing facilities. Introduction of the A-SA Vigilante and A-6A Intruder will merely result in adding to the current untenable situation. Some relief could be afforded by reducing the numbers of different type aircraft in an air wing and by insuring that like types have the same avionics configuration. Even these steps will not alleviate the situation- avionic shop facilities will have to be expanded in all of the Forrestal-class carriers.

The above needs are officially recognized; to quote in part from BUSHIPS SHIPALT CVA-2449 (Improve Aviation Maintenance Shops), "modification of twelve compartments to provide improved avionic maintenance facilities." Complete adherence to the objectives of this SHIPALT will result in the desired improvement of the avionic maintenance capability; but, in so doing, it will cause the displacement and eventual relocation of the wing and control surfaces storeroom, the aviation ready issue room, and the aviation supply office. One wonders if the intent of the following, which is also quoted from SHIPALT CVA-2449, is in accord with the actual proposed modification: "Integration of any additional support/ maintenance facilities or equipment must be in consonance with the over-all mission and capability of the units concerned."

The necessity for more refined power to support avionics maintenance on the newer aircraft has been a continuing problem, owing in part to an era wherein "black box begets black box." This situation is being met in avionics shops devoted to F-4B maintenance by installation of separate voltage regulators. But on the hangar deck, gas-driven generators are required for avionics maintenance- which corrects one problem of refined power, but adds to the existing one of hangar congestion. Because of sensitivity to weather and a lack of parking space associated with flight-deck operations, these gas-driven generators are restricted to hangar deck usage, where over 50 per cent of the space is already devoted to fighter aircraft maintenance. This is in a carrier whose primary mission is attack. The situation is made bearable only because practically all maintenance to A-3B, A-1 H, and E-1B aircraft, except major checks and engine changes, is accomplished on the flight deck. It is most unlikely that this type of "camping out" maintenance will be possible with the A-SA, A-6A, or E-2A.

Support Equipment: Though a necessary part of an efficient aircraft maintenance program, support equipment continues to be an important consideration in the space problem. Officially designated as Aviation Maintenance Support Equipment (AMSE) , the "yellow gear" is also known by various choice expletives, generally in regard to its accessibility. Physically located, for stowage, in Hangar Bay 2 or adjacent to the island on the flight deck, this "jungle" continues to grow. Many of the items are extremely limited in their usage potential, with little interchangeability for different aircraft being evident. Some of the 300-plus items of support equipment presently stowed in the hangar-bay area are: air compressors, pre-oilers (three types) , four engine maintenance stands, five engine transport stands, air-start turbines (two types), electric auxiliary power units, j et-engine adapters (five types), hydraulic test stands, hydraulic jacks (wing, nose, and axle-14 types, 34 units total), and diesel-powered fork lift trucks (five 6,000-pound capacity and one 15,000-pound capacity) .

In this field we have far too many special-purpose devices. It is a logistic nightmare to keep the pieces of support equipment available and to maintain them. A suggested partial solution would be to standardize as much of this equipment- to afford multiple aircraft support- as is technically feasible. Also to be considered is the fact that, when a new aircraft is being evaluated and readied for fleet use, this a ll-important support equipment is too frequently relegated to the lowest position on the funding totem pole. The result is second best, "make do," or modified equipment which collectively offers a reduced support capability.

Aircraft sophistication and Air Wing composition, then, combine in creating shipboard space and maintenance problems that are approaching insurmountable proportions. Air craft maintenance facilities in first-line carriers are inadequate to support the present aircraft maintenance program and this situation will worsen in the immediate future unless corrective action is taken.

The scope of this paper affords only a superficial and limited semi-technical discussion of problem areas with little more than tentative recommended solutions. Others, with the requisite qualifications and long familiarity with these problems, are readily available throughout our Fleets- on bridges and flight decks, in hangar bays, or in maintenance shops.

My own list of "short range" recommendations would include:

Reduce the variety of aircraft in carrier air wings now. For example, replace one F-4B squadron and one F-8A squadron with one 18-plane F-4B squadron.

Assign to an air wing all light attack jet aircraft of the same configuration. An even more preferable solution, so far as air wing maintenance, handling, and supply is concerned, would be to reduce air wings to no more than three types, each type being under one command. The opponents of this suggestion will immediately cite the loss of individual command opportunities which will result. The planners will argue that this will reduce their flexibility and capability. However, the existing policy, if not reversed or revised, will reduce our capability even further. In support of this thought, the following is quoted from a 1963 Proceedings article by Lieutenant Commander R. H. Gormley, U. S. Navy: "Air groups would be balanced in the true sense ... Attempts would be made to reduce the number of aircraft types on board, perhaps through the use of dual mission aircraft, with the end result being more efficient maintenance and ease of logistic support."

Assign to each attack carrier one Engineering-Duty-Only (EDO) from the Bureau of Ships and one Aviation-Engineering-Duty-Only (AEDO) from the Bureau of Naval Weapons. Their assignment should be for the express purpose of recommending ship alterations to correct serious deficiencies in aircraft maintenance and servicing facilities. This tour should take place with the air wing embarked, preferably during a deployment. It should be of sufficient length, six months or longer, to insure complete familiarity with the problems. Since the naval aircraft maintenance program places the onus for aircraft maintenance within the air wing these officers should be assigned to the air wing staff.

I would limit my list of "long range" recommendations to the creation of a board to study aircraft maintenance facilities and procedures. Current conditions and the present trends in carrier aviation shipboard maintenance are of a magnitude and urgency at least as pressing as those which prompted creation of the Radford and Flatley Boards. It is my firm belief that a piecemeal approach to these problems will not be effective and may well bog down at the various levels of military and civilian bureaucracy. I strongly recommend creation of a board which would be headed by an aviation line officer of flag rank to study the entire spectrum of shipboard aircraft maintenance facilities and procedures.

If aircraft sophistication progresses, with no change in its shipboard environment, a harsh and unwarranted application of the law of diminishing returns will soon be evident in our attack aircraft carriers.

 

 
 

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