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oby6 WUh th°Se °f surface shiPs at greater speed, it is Sea'?US^ s^ower ft*an fighter or bomber aircraft, lautf v 6S’ however’ would not be fighters but weapons- So ,C 'n^ P^at^orms- The launching platform need not be P isncated if its missiles are. The gain in speed over
coulT ShlpS’ thou8h’is a great advantage. WIG vehicles coult maneuver quickly enough to elude hunters and Sea | evade enemy radar by remaining low. Conversely, be v^neS' abiIity to attack surface vessels quickly would and f Uable' In addition, as a result of their small crews °w costs, these vehicles could be dispersed over wide areas of space, maximizing their offensive capabilities. They need not concentrate for mutual defense; their primary defense lies in their being hard to find.
Thetis could be configured in several possible formats. The newest alternative is the wing ship, a surface vehicle operating on a cushion of air. Size and speed can be developed easily in this design, but the vehicle is limited to operating very close to the sea surface. Domier’s design for a WIG-RAM is more attactive, for it gives the craft the ability to reach higher altitudes. But the best design would be similar to that developed by NASA around 1960 called
By Robert W. Fausel
Sea Mistress in Distress
Ctl,nRs / June 198,
terv ret.Urn v's't to a 25-year-old concept of heavy mili- ra i ,ai^ 'ft seems timely with the current emphasis on a SonePloyment force. The turning point and the swan beh& ° heavy> water-based aircraft was 1958, so it
j°®ves us to recall that era.
Pass fte *957, tbe Assoc>ution of the U. S. Army had proce on a set °f objectives for 1958. One was the a Urement sufficient long-range, heavy airlift with n°t j^j^eed Priority for the Army. This initiative was
Her6 reciuirernent f°r heavy airlift able to land any- tevp6^11 w°rid without special preparation has lurido t Cen met' tbe ^ea Mistress could have nal f. anywhere regardless of the lack of fixed termi- >nto 3C'| es' Only the Sea Mistress could have gone ■no ffn, Come out a combat theater without remover161 from the theater.
l957-!sxCa ^istress concept, a child of the period of Part f ’ Was based on state-of-art technology that was b°mb t*1C ^Ca ^aster’ a long-range Navy minelayer/ caliy T -^be was a feasible follow-on and was specifi- f°rces Coigned f°r the transport of Army fighting PanyS A16 C0ldd transport a complete infantry com- and aWltb ad its combat equipment, including trucks in the ni0ntb s worth of supplies, to any combat theater strate .World. She could be refueled from submarines, ers ,glCal|y P^ced underwater fuel caches, aerial tank-
Th Xed bases-
f°rcce,lack °f aircraft to handle a rapid deployment ing effUUSed tbe Army to redesign equipment, sacrific- by Cct'veness in combat for the ability to be airlifted 'nate ^Stlng aircraft. The Army also was forced to elim- heavvSre imP°riant hardware because it was too guns w°u an airiift operation. For example, assault of tan)^ ltb°ut heavy armor plates were employed instead ing j(sS' ^be fighting unit was compromised by decreas- Alth Wei^1 *n order to niake it air transportable. f°r tra °Ugb ,^ea Mistress met the Army requirements c°ncemSPOrt'n^ eclu'Pment without compromise, the Senato v'3'’ droPPccl m favor of land-based transports. Mistrer, tuart Symington of Missouri believed the Sea HoWe^S concept was champion for military airlift. er’ he never took sides in the controversy between water-based and land-based airlift. He believed those requirements should be decided by the Department of Defense.
In a special news conference in Washington on 27 August 1957, Guy Mallery, project engineer on the Sea Mistress concept, reviewed various requirements of the military. He noted that as early as 1946, a Marine Corps board convened by the Commandant of the Marine Corps recommended development of a combination of large flying boats and helicopters, citing the need for a wide dispersion of our attack forces and for a rapid concentration of landing forces by means other than small boats or amphibians.
Mallery also quoted Lieutenant General James Gavin, speaking before Congress in the spring of 1951 about the operation he commanded in World War II that went into Sicily. “We took in 3,000 paratroops to engage everything we met, and it was a lot, and we left a lot of them buried there. I wish we had a better airlift and could have done it quicker and more decisively with less battle casualties.”
On 17 May 1957, the Army Chief of Transportation declared in a speech in Baltimore, “We are interested in waterborne aircraft because we operate in areas where no runways or hangars are available. Waterborne aircraft land where the Lord has provided for us, and these runways cannot be destroyed.”
Thus, after years of study by many military experts, requirements were formulated but not by the agencies responsible for research, development, and procurement of either transport aircraft or seaplanes for military use.
During the mid-1950s, major aircraft industries were trying to adapt transport designs to meet Army requirements. The C-119 Flying Boxcar was phasing out and the C-130 Hercules was coming forward. Douglas, Lockheed, and Boeing were pushing land-based transports. None of these had seaplane experience equal to that of Martin.
The Martin Mars was a large seaplane first put on the drawing board in 1937, just 20 years before the Sea Mistress. With a gross weight of approximately 144,000 pounds, the Mars had about a third of the
LOBOY. A genuine airplane operating in ground effect, it has all the benefits of a WIG vehicle. But with supplementary jet engines mounted above the wings, it is also capable of climbs to high altitude and periods of rapid flight. This option allows for reduced transit times, avoidance of bad weather, and a variety of militarily desirable options.
WIG vehicles might submit crews and instruments to a variety of stresses because of their low-altitude flight. Therefore, every effort should be made to adapt the WIG vehicle to its peculiar environment. For example, the main compartment housing crews, computers, instruments, and electronic warfare apparatus should be isolated from t e rest of the airframe. Thus, not only would the jolts assocj ated with low-level flight not be felt in the main compa ment, but the rocking motion associated with floating °n the ocean’s surface would also be minimized. In any case, studies have shown that crews and equipment can function properly after extended loitering on rough surfaces ° low-level flights.
There are personnel benefits associated with a platfor based in CONUS whose deployments would be a matter o days as opposed to surface ships operating from foreign
gross weight of the Sea Mistress and carried less than a third of the payload. After the first Mars prototype, the Navy ordered 18 more, but the end of World War II resulted in the cancellation of all but four that operated for more than a decade. Gross weight was increased to up to 165,000 pounds, and speed was increased by 30 miles per hour.
Originally accepted by the Navy in December 1943, Mars started setting new records immediately—e.g.,
120 cargo tons of blood plasma to the West Pacific in one month during the campaign for Iwo Jima. On 19 May 1949, a Mars seaplane set a world’s record for transporting passengers on a single flight by airlifting 301 members of a carrier air group and a crew of seven from Alameda to San Diego. Mars seaplanes carried altogether almost a quarter of a million passengers. Mars made her final trans-Pacific flight in August 1956, after which she was retired. During the lifetime of the prototype and the “Big Four” in water-based aviation, they flew an equivalent distance of 23 round trips to the moon, with a total of 87,000 accident-free flying hours. Before being decommissioned Mars carried a total of three million pounds of freight across the Pacific.
The step from Mars, powered by four air-cooled, reciprocating engines with propellers, to the Sea Mistress, powered by eight powerful jet engines, was not such a giant step as first appears. The Sea Master, a four jet-engined seaplane, had been engineered and in development with a prototype flown in 1957. However, she was canceled before being placed in service.
But the experience of her design, development, and flight test gave technical substance to the Sea Mistress concept.
The original Sea Mistress was designed to carry 133 tons of cargo for 1,000 miles or 90 tons for 3,000 miles. She cruised at 615 miles per hour and could land in any potential war theater in the world. In comparison, the 1956 Douglas C-133A land plane design carried about 50.5 tons for 1,000 miles and had a maximum range of 3,000 miles with a much lighter payload.
In the mid-1950s, land plane transport designers tried 60 to undermine the seaplane concept by claiming that excess structural weight would be necessary to strengthen the fuselage hull for ocean landings. Actually, Martin engineers proved that as the gross weig of the land plane approached that of the Sea Mistress- the additional weight in the land plane’s landing g®3* f far exceeded the additional structural weight needed 0 water landings.
As gross weight increased, land planes needed nior wheels during landing to distribute their load. For t e land plane to land on a steel mat, as then proposed : Army engineers, the land plane had a lighter gross weight limit than a seaplane because of the “footpr>n pressure measured in pounds per square inch of the weight on the ground. In some cases, the number o wheels required for an acceptable “footprint” compA* mised the useful load, making the aircraft impractica for Army requirements. The Douglas C-132 design ^ canceled because of this. The current C-5A landing or runway requirements will attest to the landing gelir “footprint” problem.
“Seaplane” is probably a misnomer for a water- based, transport aircraft. Old Navy rough water re9a ments called for a design capability to land in five waves. This requirement was for aircraft operating the fleet. The Sea Mistress concept was not a design for landing in the open sea under rough water criterl
Studies conducted by the Army revealed that there were more suitable water landing areas around the ^ world than landing strips by a factor of as much as to 1. Rivers, lakes, reservoirs, coastal regions, and many other bodies of water are available for water- based aircraft. Waterways are self-sealing and there practically impregnable to enemy attack. . . „
During the land plane/seaplane debates, streamhm was a big question. Before jet engines became opera tional, seaplanes needed high wings with engines ^ located high enough to give propeller clearance abov wave tops on the takeoff and landing. In addition, wing-tip floats protruded, creating drag in the air.
With the advent of jet engines, wings could be placed lower since there were no propellers. The J>e Mistress was designed with “cathedral wings,’ s0
famil °rf" f°r months at a time- Many °f the strains on •nflu ^ t*13t account por much of the dissatisfaction that
the eniCeS career decisions would be removed, as would grea?° 'tlcal tensions created by foreign basing. But the secur t Vant3ge °f seaPlanes hes in their flexibility and from Operating from CONUS, they would be safe tttoil :frror,st stacks and insulated from the political tur- thei. hat often jeopardizes foreign bases. Able to move iocatSeadromes at will, seaplanes would be difficult to sean|6 ^ attaclc- Smaller and faster than surface ships, P anes would be harder to track. Adaptive in their basing, the maneuvers of seaplanes would be almost impossible to predict. Having great speed relative to that of surface ships, they could reach trouble spots quickly. But able to hover offshore or loiter in the seas, there would be no need to press seaplanes into hasty actions. Numerous and widely dispersed—perhaps 20 seaplanes could be manufactured for the cost of one supercarrier—seaplanes would be difficult to attack. Economical in terms of crews, they could project force equal to that of carrier task forces at a fraction of the cost. (Obviously, there would still be losses in combat, but the lives saved would be of
:Sj„n uunng me oea mistress
tia] of Per'°d> an ad hoc committee studying the poten- Water-based aircraft strongly recommended the
:sj„ “avc anecieu me aea Mistress
loa(jin ^e. carr*ed her own maintenance docks and c'ent jg eclu'PmenC making her completely self-suffi- *r*cludr1-,a-.COmb>at area. Facilities carried on board
Thisd ,^ecause they drooped with negative dihedral.
into tu allowed designers to integrate wing-tip Boats ne wing-tip.
requir a *g^er sPeeds resulting from jet engine power Which6 greater fuselage and hull structural strength, the sWaS advantageous to the seaplane designer. In also ame.Way’ fuselage pressurization increased, which thing 6qUlred more structural strength. Technically, large fWere l°°hing favorable for seaplane designers of Sea jV!ransP°rts- A study showed that the hull of the modif'StreSS Was efficiently strong, with some minor No 1Cations, to land on the snowcap of Greenland, team *3e^ore a water landing, a reconnaissance
the w °U^ a'r dropped in a forward area to check n°( aterway for sunken objects. Floating debris would tiew .ajf a serious problem in most cases. With the eqUjv ? shapes developed in the 1950s, floating debris the hn Cnt t0 3 telephone pole could be pushed aside by p W Wave without touching the hull, gro^a lng of the hull by barnacles and other sea °r by Wou*d be avoided by operating from fresh water Eve(j 'taking periodic wash landings in fresh water, other Unng the design period of the Sea Mistress, ins a^thods were being developed to avoid hull foully d saltwater corrosion.
ResearC[ guidance of the Secretary of Defense for desin„Ca aud Development during the Sea Mistress
their water-based logistic transports. Some of
uiking may have affected the Sea Mistress
MUded r u • ----------- UUUIU
availabl ■ ptenng rafts and U-docks commercially
need f 6 'n Pneumatic sections. Hence, there was no the s„°r/*xed installations in forward areas to support ea Mistress.
C°mmC lscal year 1958 budget, the Department of subSid-erCe guested, but was denied, $80 million to Ss u 1Zc c°nstruction of a new superliner similar to the ,,ed States. They expected to ask for $100 mil-
<*dlngs / june |9g3
lion in the next budget. They wanted to have another great ship available for troop transport in the event of war. Mallery pointed out at a press conference in Washington that four Sea Mistresses built with the same amount of funds would provide a troop lift capability as large or larger, with the added advantages of greater speed, greater flexibility, and less vulnerability.
Politics inside the military establishment and Congress, however, killed the Army requirement for a water-based, heavy airlift for three reasons:
► The organization of the services established by the Department of Defense would have to be redesigned and new roles and missions assigned to each
► The misconception about investment
immeasurable value.) And finally, providing sailors with a platform whose efficiency, flexibility, and standoff range are great may positively affect morale.
Although Thetis is not expected to replace the surface fleet, the advantages of such a craft in the changing technological and tactical environment expected to define military operations in the 21st century should be considered.
Robert Artigiani teaches the history of science and technology at the Naval Academy. He is the author of several papers on the relationship
between technology and human values, and he did a study for the a Air Systems Command on “Seaplanes: Past Problems and Future pects.” Professor Artigiani received his Ph.D. from the American ^ versity and previously taught at Hood College and the University Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
Lieutenant Commander Harper graduated from the Naval Academy 1971 and after designation as a naval flight officer served several tour ^ the VP community. He received his M.A. in national security a'va] the Naval Postgraduate School in 1978. He taught history at the ^ ^ Academy for two years and has recently returned to a VP Squadr NAS Barbers Point.
have been subsidized jointly for all three military sef^ vices. Overseas movement of military personnel by transport necessitated maintenance of troop strengths
Proceedings / ■'11111
► The notion that aircraft built for the military must be adaptable commercially
The National Security Act of 1947 created the separate service of the U. S. Air Force on a level with the Army and Navy. The technological advances in aircraft, missiles, and nuclear weapons through and after World War II created controversies concerning roles and missions of the three services. Conferences held at Key West, Florida, set up by Secretary of Defense James Forrestal, were expected to solve many of the problems among the services. From the Key West Agreement came the role of the Air Force to furnish airlift for the Army. Compromises on both sides resulted, and not until the mid-1960s and the design of the C-5A did the Air Force furnish a transport even approaching the needs of rapid deployment force requirements.
The water-based design of the Sea Mistress ten years before had been lost in a hopeless struggle. The Army required heavy airlift, and the water-based answer was the best. The Air Force was responsible for furnishing the airlift. This included design, development, procurement, operation, and maintenance. All transport aircraft development for all services was the responsibility of the Air Force from their original design requirements. The Air Force was land oriented and had no interest in the development of a water-based heavy transport.
The Navy was responsible for designing, developing, and procuring seaplanes necessary to meet Navy requirements. Neither their requirements nor their mission included heavy transport aircraft for Army airlift.
Hence, the water-based concept was in a dilemma. The Army simply could not get a water-based transport such as the Sea Mistress funded. The issue was carried as high as General Maxwell Taylor, then-Army Chief of Staff. The buck stopped there. Under the Key West Agreement, there was no way the Army could have Sea Mistress without reorganizing the Defense Department or assigning some new roles and missions to each service.
In considering the second reason for the demise of the water-based transport concept, the Sea Mistress was proposed as a replacement for any transport means that
could not survive or perform under modern combat conditions. She was not to be a supplementary or complementary airlift system. She could replace su shipping for personnel (but not bulk cargo) and °ver seas road and rail pipelines for all cargo moving 1° combat zone. The Sea Mistress added a new dimens' for rapid deployment of military forces. By increasing the choices of landing site, the whole scenario for a successful operation could be altered.
At the time proposed, the Sea Mistress could wel excess of combat requirements. Then, some 25,00( trained personnel were in the pipeline en route to or from overseas stations on passenger ships. The C--> ’ of course, and the proliferation of other large jet tra. ^ ports are meeting this requirement, resulting in p°s^* reductions in overall U. S. ground forces. Today, 1 misconception about investment is no longer valid s' our country has recognized the need for large, long' range, land-based air transports.
The third reason for the Army’s failure in getting Sea Mistress was a result of politicians’ beliefs that military air transports should have commercial adaP^f bility. Commercial application was also in the mind all transport aircraft manufacturers.
With the use of jet engines at the end of World II—following the long-range, four-engined, propel^ driven transports, using fixed bases—for personnel travel, the water-based approach for air transport ha ^ no commercial appeal. The Sea Mistress was about g adaptable to the new era of commercial air transput an Army tank would be to a taxicab.
One wonders what we might have today in the 'v' of air transports, if roles, missions, politics, and c°n\j promise had not stopped progress in large, water-ba air transport development. European countries, fol*° ing the U. S. lead, dropped development as well- H the United States missed something? Has the world missed something? <•
Perhaps we should take a new look at the value 0 seaplanes.