Copyright ©1998 by Dan Philgreen - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
JOURNAL FROM CRUISE ON AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS RANGER
FROM PEARL HARBOR TO SAN DIEGO, AUGUST 1989
Assignment with Arrowhead Productions International for
Campus Crusade for Christ Military Ministry
by Dan Philgreen
all rights reserved
8/20/89, Sunday, At Sea
For one week I am privileged to experience something few civilians ever get to do. I am at sea, cruising on the Forrestal class aircraft carrier USS Ranger, CV-61.
Today they put on an airshow for the 692 "tigers" on board. Tigers are civilian fathers, brothers, and sons of Navy men on the ship. This "Tiger Cruise" is the last week of a six month deployment of this battle group (carrier and escort ships) called "Westpack '89." (Approximately 10% of the crew of 5,000 left the ship at Pearl opting to buy their own airline flight home. This was allowed to make room for the tigers.) We couldn't be out on the flight deck during the launch. Paul Read and I were with Lt. Bill "Scout" Cox in his stateroom up near the bow watching the launch on TV. It was wild to see the planes being shot down the catapult and to hear the rumble of the cat and roar of the jets just above our heads. Then we went into the "foc'sle" (forecastle) where the anchor windlasses and chains are. I stuck my head out of a port and could look up and back toward the end of the waist cats. An A-6 Intruder launched and I was thrilled to be looking up at it. But I forgot to put my earplugs in. I snapped a quick picture and dropped my camera on it's strap and stuck my fingers in my ears as the pain from the thunder in my ears banged on my head.
I saw an F-14 Tomcat go off a front cat. I was looking forward and up into blazing afterburners and got a face full of hot blast; quite a contrast to the cool sea-breeze that had been hitting my face. The power of these airplanes and the cats is awesome - unbelievable. Even with foam earplugs the sound is deafening.
What an airshow they put on! It was coordinated and announced by a new friend, Lt. Mike "Mad Dog" McLaughlin who is an F-14 pilot on the CAG staff. ("Commander Air Group," head of the Air Wing as they call it now.) Two F-14's shot a sidewinder each at two flares. Four A-6's dropped a total of 40 Mark-82 500 lb. bombs in a single run. These were from the Marine Corps A-6 squadron "The Green Knights," VMA-121. Then one A-6 did a loft delivery of a Mark-84 2,000 lb. bomb. They were shooting at a line of flares dropped by an S-3 Viking; about 16 smoke flares in a row.
An F-14 flew by the ship very close on a supersonic pass. What a boom! Even with earplugs in. (They warned everyone several times to cover your ears. I would think you could easily break an eardrum if you didn't.) We also saw an anti-sub demo. H-3 Sikorskys dragged a probe and dropped their dipping sonar, then dropped smoke. They cleared out and an S-3 Viking dropped a dummy torpedo on it. An H-3 did a simulated rescue. Then all the jets formed up and did a formation fly-by. Quite an impressive show. Oh, yea, an F-14 also fired a burst from it's cannon. (Vulcan electrically driven 20mm gatling cannon.) It doesn't sound like what you think a machine gun should sound like. It's so fast it sounds more like a big chainsaw - only the tone is constant.
After the airshow we thought we'd try to get up onto "vulture's row," an observation platform on the island. It holds 30-40 people and there are 692 civilians on board. "Vultures row" is the only place where "tigers" can watch flight ops. Unbelievably, we were able to get up there and watch the recovery. We weren't allowed to have our video camera out for any flight ops., but I got some great slides. It is incredible to see these guys "trap," or make an arrested landing. It is indeed a controlled crash when you consider the forces involved, but it looks a lot smoother than I expected. Just like a musical virtuoso, they make it look easy: glide, hook, bam, full throttle as the wire hauls them down to a stop in about 150 feet or so. (Full throttle is applied as soon as they hit in case the wire is missed. If they wait until they know they missed, it's too late.) Then they turn the nosewheel and fold the wings as they taxi out of the way, going through fast but non-chalant hand signals with the air boss presumably. Super cool. This is unquestionably the pinnacle of aviation accomplishment and these guys are as cool as if they just made a high score at a video game. The sea was calm. I'm sure it gets really wild in heavy seas at night.
12/22/91, As I'm typing this.
I remember watching something for quite a while which I did not write about originally. It must have happened Sunday and Monday morning, as I remember that it went on for about a day and a half. They unloaded the ordnance from Ranger's magazines to the ordnance ship, Shasta, AE-33. There were two cable systems strung between the ships which were cruising on extremely close parallel courses. Over the cables were moving crates of three 500 lb. bombs all day long. They use an ingenious system that raises and lowers the ends of the cable to lift the load off the deck and set it down on the other side. Someone told me that the Russians can't figure out how to do it, so they can't replenish underway like we can.
The really wild thing was watching the two marine helicopters (their version of the army twin rotor Chinook). They were based on one of the other ships. They were sling loading missiles and large weapons in shipping cases from the aft portion of the flight deck of the carrier to the aft deck of the Shasta. To hook up the load, a man on the deck would raise a pole-like stiff portion of the sling up to a crewman reaching through a trap door in the belly of the hovering chopper. After grabbing it, he would engage it into the belly hook. One chopper would move a load over to the Shasta, then back out and back over to the carrier over the water while the second was moving it's load across. It looked like an aerial ballet as they kept moving back and forth, dodging each other on the return trips. Dropping the loads on the Shasta, the front rotor came very close to the superstructure of the ship. The swinging loads were gently deposited as the deck heaved up and down and the ships made about 13 kts. A fabulous demonstration of consummate piloting skill. I shot a few slides of the transfer process. About every hour, the copters would land on the carrier one at a time and refuel. The pilot would jump out to take a break, the co-pilot would slide over to the pilot's seat, and another pilot would jump into the co-pilot seat. I was told that a number of these pilots, not based on the carrier, were women. I understand that there is a Navy regulation that forbids female Navy personnel from staying overnight on a carrier.
Today they had a "steel beach picnic." They set up grills on one of the elevators and made burgers and dogs. Giant "coolers" were set up: boxes about 4 feet cubed lined with styrofoam sheeting and plastic filled with ice and sodas; literally thousands. Everybody came up to the flight deck and just had a good time. Guys not on duty laid out on towels with their boom-boxes. Loud music played on a big stereo. A couple guys ran radio-controlled electric cars around the flight deck. It was great.
We finally had some freedom on the ship. We were starting to take some anyway. After 4 days I figured out how to get from the chaplain's office and the library (our headquarters) to the hanger deck and fantail. Went out on the fantail last night for about an hour and a half and watched the wake and talked to a black guy from Oakland about traveling the world. Interestingly, I've been to more than half of the countries this ship stopped at on it's 6-month deployment.
Today I figured out how to get up on the flight deck and up to vulture's row. Now when I need some air, I can slip off and find my way myself. The library is nice. It's always cool here and a good place to write. I've always had a fascination with ship's libraries. It's great to have some time to spend in one.
Most places in the ship are either too hot or too cold. We are berthing with some engineers. They call the berthing compartments "chicken coops" or just "the coop." It's really cold in there. The first two nights I about froze until I got a blanket.
The hottest place, of course, is the boiler/turbine rooms or "main spaces," but the guys there have air conditioned rooms to escape to where their gauges and remote controls are.
The worst job we saw was in a steel hole. Filthy, hot, smelly. It was the motor winding shop. They don't take along a lot of spare electric motors, apparently, so when a ventilator motor or hydraulic pump motor goes out, they send it down to these guys deep in the bowels of the ship somewhere. They disassemble the burned out motor, burn off the insulation in an oven, and rewind the armature with copper wire from one of the huge spools sitting about the room, dip it in a vat of hot varnish for insulation, and then put the motor back together with new bearings. It's a perfectly awful job in a perfectly awful place. But, these guys are proud of what they do. They talk about the motors they're responsible for and they're really proud of it. They get a lot of self-esteem and there is a esprit-de-corps in that little hole. The boiler room guys are the same way. You expect that from a fighter squadron or such, but I saw a guy with "boiler tech" tattooed on his arm! Unreal! That's one thing the Navy has wired: If you're proud of your job you can do your job. No matter how difficult the circumstances. I hope I find that kind of satisfaction in my work.
Back to today. I shot video of lots of airplanes (all parked, unfortunately). Also got some great shots of the escort destroyers and cruisers as they maneuvered in close. They are normally out of sight over the horizon, but being so close to the US mainland they came in close for the benefit of the tigers on board our ship and their's.
Shot video of Lt. Mike "Mad Dog" McLaughlin climbing into and out of an F-14 with full flight gear on. He's a sharp guy and seems like a lot of fun, yet really down-to-earth. (except when strapped into his airplane, of course) I'm hoping to stay in touch with him. Maybe get together for dinner sometime. I'm sure he has gobs of great stories to tell. He is the LSO (landing signal officer). Actually, there are two from each squadron, but he's the "big daddy LSO" in the "CAG's" (air wing commander's) staff.
I was in one of the wardroom's briefly. It's like a nice restaurant, but you still get your food cafeteria style. We've been eating in the aft general mess. It's kind of like a high school cafeteria crammed into the janitor's closet and boiler room. Food is not great, but not bad. There certainly is plenty of it. The US Navy apparently does not want these guys to go hungry.
Took a leisurely walk today from the bow to the stern on the flight deck. It took five minutes.
Our berthing compartment is right behind the library on the 02 level, which is right under the back end of the hanger deck. The flight deck is 4 levels above. Hanger deck is 3 levels high and is most of the length of the ship. "Vulture's row" is 3 levels up in the island. It's mostly on the aft side, but a little sticks out on the port side of the island so you can see the front cats, but it's not a clear view. You can see the recovery zone and waist cats perfectly.
There are about 10 levels in the ship proper, plus about 7 in the island. So, a total of about 17 levels. Unbelievable. This thing is so big. And trying to hook up with busy people on the phone, etc., is difficult. Or waiting for someone to return. It's hard to believe we're all riding along in the same vehicle! The only thing that reminds one is the constant rolling of the ship. It's great for going to sleep! You really feel it plus the up and down pitching up in the "foc'sle" (forecastle). This area is big and open. It would probably seat 2-300 people and is the ceremonial area of the ship. This is where the church services are held. Some of the young "tigers" left services in the middle looking a bit green in the face.
A peculiar smell in the mess decks is the blend of cooking food and fuel oil. Weird olfactory stimulation. It's as peculiar to your nose as walking down the street at night in Taipei.
We're in a funny political situation here, as is so often the case when shooting video. One Admiral is a close friend of Bill Bright and Campus Crusade. He is Adm. Chatham. Adm. Smith is a Christian and this battle group including Ranger is under him. Well, Adm. Chatham called Adm. Smith to see about getting us on here. Smith said fine, but preferred to suggest to rather than command the ship's captain, Capt. Richard P. "Burner Bob" Hickey, Jr. (9/25/89 After the fact. It seems Admiral Smith forgot to mention anything to the captain. Slipped through a crack, I guess.) Well, the captain turned this over to his XO, who we are told is very anti-christian and anti-church of any kind. We're not sure what's going on, but we're definitely not getting first class treatment. At first it appeared we might be spending our week in the library. It seems there was some paperwork approving our coming on board that was sent along before the captain saw it and signed off. We are told he got mad about this. Said we weren't tigers and didn't belong on board. Maybe it was being pressured by the admiral - one of the quirks of the Navy chain-of-command. The admiral is the boss of the battle group and is on the carrier, but the captain is god on his own ship.
The command chaplain, Capt. Patrick, has been very gracious, but we sense that we may be a liability to him. He has had an unusual and fruitful ministry on this cruise in spite of the XO's hostility - maybe abounding in persecution? I think maybe he doesn't want to spoil his good relationship with the captain by us mucking something up. I noticed that he never has invited us to eat in the wardroom. Doesn't matter, just interesting. I'm tickled pink to be here at all! I'd gladly have gotten along on bread and water in the brig for a week!
At first they said one of the chaplain petty officers had to escort us wherever we went. This was a pain for them and for us because they have other regular duties to attend to and we are like unwanted babysitting. Fortunately, that seems to be easing up. We were completely on our own today, except for the officers we were working with. The one bad rule that seems hard and fast is no video of flight ops. Kind of crazy. There are dozens of home cameras out there. Mike, the LSO, tried to get us onto the LSO platform for the recovery. He said it would be no problem, many news crews had done it, but he ran into the same stone wall. Purely political. But that's okay. I'm having a great time! And I'm getting some super shots with my slide camera that I wouldn't have if I was running the video camera.
One thing that's interesting: In the passageways there are always guys going somewhere. Anytime of day or night. And most of them are people you've never seen before. I suppose that after months at sea you start to see familiar faces, but you can't know a very high percentage of 5,000 people.
The ship goes around the clock. Guys are working and sleeping all shifts. In most of the ship you cannot see daylight. You don't know what the weather is doing. It's a timeless environment. Also, there is no really quiet place. It generally goes from noisy to loud. In the quietest of places there are still fan motors going or a pump somewhere. Our bunks are adjacent to the berthing compartment TV which is only turned off from about 2:00 or 3:00 AM to about 6:00 AM or so. There are TV's tucked all over the place and they seem to be always on.
One evening I sat in the chicken coop with the engineers and watched "Top Gun" on the TV. The guys said it is run about once a week or so. The Ranger was used for filming many of the scenes (along with the Enterprise and I believe the Carl Vinson) and the sailors could pick out every shot made on the Ranger. They'd yell "that's ours!" when they saw one. It was really fun to watch with them. They had probably each seen the film a dozen times, but they were really gung-ho and vocal about it.
The ship's "TV station" pipes 3 channels of taped programming throughout the ship. All programming is repeated. I guess so day and night shifts can see. They're showing lots of old movies this week. Didn't want any "T&A or excessive violence" while tigers were on board, according to one of the TV guys.
In any case, with the closed-wall environment and ceilings that are generally 6.5 ft. or so, it is a glorious feeling every time you step out onto the flight deck into the sea air.
One thing amazes me: That is the lack of curiosity of some people. I'm beginning to think most people. There are guys on this ship, many in fact, who have been cooped up on it for 6 months now, and they just know their own areas where they live and work. They haven't explored the rest of the ship or learned about it. It's amazing! I'm trying to see as much of it as I can, but I'm sure that when the week is up I will have missed a great deal of it. It boggles my mind that a person would be on this thing for 6 months and bypass the opportunity to explore it!
(12/21/91 As I am typing this, I remember another even more unbelievable anecdote. I overheard a fellow eating in the aft mess at my table tell his shipmate just before the final fly-off of the last of the aircraft, "Well, I've been on this ship for six months and never been upstairs to see the airplanes fly. Guess I better go up and watch.")
Paul and I ordered cruise books today. $13.00 ea. with our names embossed on the front. It's just like a college yearbook. Has everybody's picture, just like class pictures. Has photos of ports of call and shots on the ship and from the planes. They took a shot of all the tigers today, so maybe Paul and I will even be in the book! (We are, on page 465, right in the middle) What a gas!
I'm going to remember this cruise for the rest of my life. I can't believe the Navy lets civilians do this. I never dreamed it would even be possible. (I'd never heard of tiger cruises until two days before I was on board the ship.)
Wow! The best day yet. Finally got the video camera out for flight-ops. Up on vulture's row. One F-14 made a hop. I got him going off and coming back on. The rest were A-6's, EA-6B's, S-3's, and the C-2 mail plane landing. Also got some good shots of an H-3 helicopter.
In my excitement, I forgot my jacket. About 100 feet from the library I realized it, but because of our hurry to get a good spot, I foolishly opted to leave it. I got chilled immediately, but when the whole forward flight deck full of planes fired up, it was like a furnace where I was about 50-60 ft. above the flight deck. The nearest plane was about 100 feet away. The fumes were awful. I could hardly breath, and my eyes were watering so bad I couldn't see either except with great difficulty and discomfort. I think that the island was catching the fumes like a sail and channeling a concentrated amount right over us. A few people left, but I wasn't about to budge!
We almost didn't get a spot at all. As early as we were, we were still too late. We had a lousy spot at first. We decided to gamble and try to get to a spot we'd been told about that our sailor escort didn't even know about. It paid off. And I got some great footage and a few slides. I was out there on my perch directly under the air boss's turret for 4 hours in a short sleeve shirt. I about froze to death. It was definitely a case of desire overcoming physical discomfort. It will be amazing if I don't catch cold. (I didn't)
Tonight the marines put on a small arms demo just after dark. Everybody gathered on the port side of the flight deck and the marines fired their weapons from the sponson (to our left) and the hanger door (to our right) under us. They fired M16's, M60's, and M50 50 cal. machine guns all with red tracers. At the end they opened up all of them at the same time and we watched the crossfire of tracers coming from both sides of us. I sure wouldn't want to be caught out in something like that. The tracers would hit the waves and most of them would ricochet several hundred feet into the air. A few would explode when they hit the water. Really wild. I'll probably never see anything like that again. I hope I never see those weapons put to their intended use. That would be terrifying.
It was pitch dark under cloud cover when they finished. As we walked back below, I was awed by the island with all it's high-tech antennae arrays and multi-colored subdued lighting. The glow outlined the hulks of several F-14's we had to walk around. Brute powerful and sexy beautiful all at the same time. It was a sublime moment for me. Better than any scene in "Top Gun" or any other movie. I hope I never forget it. (Any doubt you are reading the words of a hard-core airplane nut?)
"Fire on the flight deck" comes over the speakers. Running footsteps in the passageway.
"Fire on the flight deck is out."
I feel like we've had to be a little pushy to get the video shots we were after on the ship while at the same time trying to tread lightly on the network of politics, chain-of-command, etc. We've asked a number of very busy people who are anxious about getting home to go out of their way to help us. They have and I feel we may be wearing out our welcome.
I hope I can express somehow to those who have helped us, to Chaplain Patrick, to Captain Hickey, and to the Navy how much I appreciate personally the opportunity to experience an aircraft carrier at sea. Being a low-time private pilot and a life-long lover of airplanes and flying, I have long been awed by Naval aviation and considered the carrier landing to be the highest achievement in aviation. Tomorrow is my 32nd birthday, and seeing and living all this is the most fantastic birthday present I've ever had. Thank you USS Ranger! Thank you United States Navy! I love this country! I'm proud to be an American!
Today I am 32. It's Wednesday, our last full day on the ship. And what a birthday party! I got up at 5:00 and got my Betacam set in the perfect little spot under the air boss. This time I was prepared. Had a long sleeve T-shirt, two sweatshirts and a jacket. Perfect! Sun was just coming up. It was heavy overcast. Got great shots of launches. S-3, E-2C, A-6, and F-14's. The sun came out for some of the F-14 shots.
What an incredible thing to be behind an F-14 shooting down the deck in full afterburner. I was hundreds of feet away and off axis, but I still felt like I was going to cook. The A-6's are the loudest. I imagine that may be because each of the two tailpipes has two bends in it.
The spot I ended up at with the camera may have been a divine placement. All the home video cameras got hit with radar and radio interference during flight ops. Everybody put foil around their cameras to try to shield them. We put a layer around the Betacam as well, just in case. Well, I hardly got any hits at all. It could have been the foil, but I'm inclined to think it was the camera placement. I had a fairly unobstructed view, but was just about surrounded by metal decking. I think this may have shielded out most of the heavy radiation from the antennas behind and above me.
There was one fire or some kind of problem in the left engine of one of the E-2C's. They got it squared away and he launched about an hour after all the other planes were gone.
Last night we shot "Mad Dog" Mike having a Bible study with a few guys. We were trying for days to set something like this up without success. Bill "Scout" Cox, an E-2C commander, tried his best to set this up, but everyone was just too busy getting ready to fly off. So, Mike gave it a go since he wasn't flying off. We were about to give up on it when Mike called to say some guys had asked him if they could meet! It was great!
I think I finally got the shirt color code figured out. Yellow shirts are plane directors. Green shirts are maintenance. Brown are plane captains or crew chiefs (one per bird). Purple are fuelers. Red are ordnance handlers. I'm not sure about white. They may be safety. The LSO's wear white. The engineers that fix things and run the boilers, etc., wear blue coveralls. Other sailors wear dungarees (not quite Levis) and light blue shirts. Officers wear khaki shirts and pants. (And brown shoes, from which the "brown shoe navy" as opposed to the enlisted "black shoe navy.") For special occasions, everybody has dress whites, except the marines who, of course, have dress blues. Normally the marines wear cammies.
Yesterday a vice-admiral came aboard for several hours. Everyone was busy getting everything spotless for him; waxing the floors even more vigorously than normal. (The passageways seem to get waxed every day and swept every few hours. "Sweepers, sweepers, man your brooms! ... Now, sweepers!") Anyway, Paul and I decided we ought to try to just stay out of the admiral's way and keep our camera out of sight. Well, in between shoots we decided to go forward to one of the stores. I saw these guys up ahead in the passageway with unusual uniforms and realized it was the admiral and the captain chatting. I stopped in my tracks, but one of the sailors escorting the party waved me on through. I just walked right through the middle of them. Then Paul, not realizing who they were, decided to make a wisecrack. He thought they were a couple of bored officers just standing around. He said, "you didn't have to come out here to escort us" to which one of them replied, "that's all right." Oh, brother.
8/23, Looking back.
It took quite a while for the two tugs to push the ship away from the dock. As we eased out the channel and were about to enter the Pacific ocean, a JAL 747 crossed our bow on final approach. It was really ironic. 48 years ago they were Zeros and Betty bombers. I'm glad this ship wasn't in Pearl Harbor then. I wouldn't have gotten to ride on her and I'd probably be working at a Sony factory in Kansas.
The hangar deck is empty now except for the tugs, an F-14 hangar queen with a crippled wing tip, and the captain's and admiral's personal cabin cruisers. These, by the way, have to be the widest ranging personal yachts that ever got wet. (These and personal F-14's being a few of the perks of command.) The empty hangar looks like a big warehouse. We are now a toothless tiger. Still have defense though: copters, Sea Sparrow missiles, CWIS, and escort ships.
The guys that run the TV equipment talk like they really know what they're doing buy they don't know anything. They think their stuff is really great, but it's pathetic. I watched a guy set lights for the admiral's greeting. It was all wrong; really ugly. The cameras are the little one-tube Sony consumers that they sell as "industrial." They didn't know the difference between Betamax and Betacam. CVIC (intelligence) had some BVU's and Paul went their to try to get some 3/4" to 3/4" dubs of some stock footage (which was strictly amateur.) They couldn't hook them together to make dubs and wouldn't let Paul touch anything! They were afraid to touch any proc-amp controls on the TBC! I guess that's because they didn't know how to read their waveform and vectorscope! Unbelievable! And these guys are supposed to be television techs! The Navy knows how to train aircrews, but not TV guys!
8/23/89, 7:00 PM
The fly-off started this morning at 8:00 AM. We were 300 miles out. I just went out on the fantail to get some fresh air. I saw a pelican and another sea bird that looked like a skinny duck flying along. (cormorant?) We've been cruising at about 13 kts., so I figure we're still about 200 miles out. Amazing birds. I watched them dump 3 or 4 broken arresting cables over the stern. (about as thick as your arm) Not sure whether they broke in service or were cut away. May be an item that is replaced after each deployment and it's easier to dispose of the old ones at sea.
Shot 17 twenty-minute tapes. This afternoon and tonight it's kick-back time.
Pulled into San Diego about 8:00 AM. Golden light coming through the clouds was beautiful. Rays were visible coming through holes in the clouds like in a painting. Shot quite a bit on the flight deck of the sailors manning the rail, the channel guard helicopter, and the families waiting on the dock.
There were 147 new fathers on board. They let them get off first and had the moms and babies down front. I had the camera on 2X all the way zoomed in and shot new dads seeing their kids, some 6 months old, for the first time. It was very moving. Tears started coming in my left eye. Fortunately my right eye didn't tear so I was able to keep shooting.
We climbed down through the island to the hangar deck for the last time. The hangar was full of lines of guys waiting to get off according to rank.
I went across the brow and spent about an hour on the dock getting hugs and kisses (shots of them that is) and shots of the entire ship from the dock. The reunions were heart warming. It was wonderful to wander around in all that love and affection. I was moved. I wasn't there when they all had said good-bye six months earlier, though I saw the tapes Ron shot. I was moved to tears watching the video. I don't think I would have done too well if I'd been there. But as painful as it must be for a sailor to say "good-bye" and get on that ship, not knowing what might happen, the joy of reunion is just as strong an emotion. It's wonderful to see people experiencing such deep emotion; it's so human.
There were some guys I ran into during the cruise who really didn't have anybody who really cared about them; guys who didn't have any desire to go home when the ship reached San Diego. These guys were the lucky ones six months ago. But today, I felt very sorry for them. I suppose for these guys, the Navy is home.
I was supposed to go back on board to get my stuff after all the shooting, but Paul and Mike Adamson got it all before I was finished shooting. So, I didn't get to take a knowing final look around. I saluted good-bye to the Ranger and got in the car. What a fantastic experience. I will never forget it. If I live to tell stories to my grandchildren, they will hear a lot about the Ranger.
It's now 11:15 PM and the floor is still swaying gently when I stand up. Now I know what they mean by "sea legs" and "land legs." My first time at sea on a ship is going to be tough to beat.
12/23/91, As I'm typing.
All of us "tigers" were given an 8x10 of the ship, a T-shirt and a baseball cap with the name and number of the ship when we got on board. Later they gave us each a ceramic mug with the tiger cruise logo like the T-shirt. I bought a few plastic mugs that the squadrons were selling in the passageway; one from VF-1 and a couple from VA-145. Also bought a Ranger T-shirt, sweatshirt, towel, small notebook, and another framed 8x10 of the ship. Also ordered the cruise book I mentioned in the text. It came many months later. Paul and I bought a bunch more hats for gifts to family, friends, and co-workers. Everything had very low prices. In port, civilians are not allowed to purchase from the ship's stores. If a civilian is embarked at sea, however, it is allowed. Also interesting, there is no tax at sea.
INFORMATION ABOUT CV-61, USS RANGER
Keel laid down: 2 Aug., 1954
Launched: 29 Sept., 1956
Commissioned: 10 Aug., 1957
(13 days before I was born)
Displacement: Standard - 60,000 tons
Full load - 81,163 tons
Length: 1,071 ft.
Beam: 129.5 ft.
Draught: 37 ft.
Flight deck width: 252 ft.
(3) basic point defense missile systems launchers with sea sparrow missiles
(3) 20mm Mk-16 Vulcan Phalanx CIWS ("C-wiz") close-in weapon systems (radar aimed, "You don't turn it on, you turn it loose.")
(4) 40mm saluting guns
(4) 72 x 50 ft. elevators, cap. 45 tons (99,000 lbs.)
(2) 30 ton anchors
1,000 ft. of anchor chain, 360 lbs. per link, ea. link about 2 ft. long. Chain is raised by two windlasses ea. about six feet in dia. and stored in wells that go down many levels. The bosun's mates told us that when the anchor is dropped, the release is tripped by a blow from a large sledge hammer. The mate with the duty wears a rope around his waist and is pulled away from the chain after the blow by his shipmates in an adjacent room. A slip of the foot would be fatal. There is always a mess to clean up. Paint, rust, and dirt form a cloud in the foc'sle, so violent is the running of the chain. The chain has color coded sections about every 100 ft. so the mates can tell how much is running out and not let the end run overboard. Every time the chain is raised, the exposed section that runs the length of the foc'sle is repainted.
(4) geared turbines (Westinghouse), 280,000 shaft horsepower ea.
Turbines run at 1,200 psi
(4) 5-bladed, 21 ft. dia. propellers
Propeller shafts are 3 ft. dia. The shafts are different lengths as the 4 main spaces housing the four turbines are in line fore and aft. Thickness of the tubular structure of ea. shaft is different in order that ea. shaft weigh the same to maintain port to starboard balance. Shortest is thickest.
(8) boilers, (2) for each turbine
Std. cruise: about 13 kts.
Top speed: 34 kts.
Each boiler burns 600 gallons of fuel per hour (x8)
Fuel oil for boilers: 2 million gallons (7,800 tons)
Jet fuel for aircraft: 2 million gallons
(They try to refuel every 3 to 4 days in order to never get below 80% of full fuel)
Cost of operation per day (not counting ordnance): $1 million
Air wing: 2,480
6 guys stock 7,000 cans of soda per day in machines. It's usually warm. Doesn't have time to chill.
Library: approx: 24 x 17 ft., approx: 3,000 volumes
Power on board is 110v, 400 cycles
Ea. space has a number painted on a bulkhead. Ex: TV area was 01-104-2. This told the level, position port to starboard, and how many bulkheads it was from the stern of the ship, I think, but I can't remember what order they came in.
INFORMATION ABOUT KRAN-TV (Ranger's on board TV system)
Has 7 channels:
- One is AFRTS (Armed Forces Radio and Television Service) and has material from all three broadcast networks plus armed forces ads; safety spots, etc.
- One is movies, a lot come right after the theater runs. Ship has over 550 titles.
- One channel is training films and Ranger news. I think the video version of the POD (Plan Of the Day) plays on this. (Character generator pages)
- (2) channels with weather and navigation data, including lat./lon. of the other ships in the battle group.
- One is the flight deck camera which works at night as well as in daylight.
- Also, color bars on one channel.
-There is also a system of cameras that monitor the various areas of the flight deck and hangar deck to help the air boss and his crew to move the airplanes around.
- There is also a camera looking up the glide slope that records every approach. (That's read, "every mistake.")
SQUADRONS ON BOARD RANGER
Squadron no. Name Aircraft
VAQ-131 Lancers EA-6B Prowler (Grumman)
VF-1 Wolfpack F-14 Tomcat (1st outfit to fly it)
VF-2 Bounty Hunters F-14 Tomcat (Grumman)
VMA-121 Green Knights A-6 Intruder (Marine Corps)
VA-145 Swordsmen A-6 Intruder (Navy) (Grumman)
VS-38 Red Griffins S-3 Viking ("War Hoover," Lockheed)
VAW-116 Sun Kings E-2C Hawkeye ("Hummers," Grumman)
HS-14 Chargers H-3 Sea King (Sikorsky)
Missions of above aircraft:
A supersonic air-superiority fighter mainly intended for fleet defense from air attack.
An all-weather bomber. With a belly pack it can also function as a tanker. A-6 drivers like to say "fighter pilots make movies. Bomber pilots make history." It can be reasonably argued that every other aircraft on the ship is there to support the bombers.
An A-6 variant used for electronic jamming. It has an extended nose with 4 seats instead of 2 and carries large pods with propeller driven generators to power the jammers. These create drag that must be carried back to the ship, so the EA-6B has larger engines in order to keep up with the clean-wing A-6's during the return to the ship after a bombing mission.
An anti-submarine platform for fast magnetic anomaly detection and torpedo delivery over a wide range. It can also function as a tanker. Known as a "Hoover" because the sound of it's fan-jet engines spooling up sounds a bit like a vacuum cleaner.
A radar platform. It can track and direct aircraft in a 500 mile radius. It is a turboprop and has a large disc on top like a mini-AWACS. Originally designed with a gross weight of 50,000 lbs., it has been increased to 60,000 lbs. It's radar develops 1 kilowatt.
Helicopter is used for many roles: channel guard, rescue, shuttle between ships, etc., but the most important mission is anti-submarine. It carries a magnetic anomaly detection drogue and it's dipping sonar can pinpoint location precisely. It also can drop a torpedo.
Cargo variant of the same airframe as the E-2, which in turn came from an earlier piston-engine design. It is interesting in that it is a carrier aircraft never based on a carrier. It shuttles people and cargo, primarily mail, between ship and shore. Some of it's pilots are women.
S-3, E-2C, and Helicopter squadrons have 4 aircraft each. EA-6B squadron has about 4. Fighter and bomber squadrons have avg. of about 18 aircraft ea. Complete air wing has about 90 aircraft.
All of the above form Air Wing 2. "NE" is painted on their tails.
AREAS I VISITED ON RANGER
Avionics and radar repair shops
VA-145 ready room
VAQ-131 ready room
VF-1 ready room
HS-14 ready room
Main spaces, boilers and turbines
Pri-Fly (air boss' tower)
Air-1 (flight and hangar deck model room: a large clear plexiglass model of all the deck space and elevators is constantly updated by a crew of 6 or 8 guys with little plywood cut-out modes representing every aircraft on board. This model reflects the actual location of every plane at all times and the state of affairs regarding available space. It is the primary means of maintaining the big picture and the officer in the room issues the orders as to which plane goes where when. It's a simple system, but it works well.)
Air-2 (LSO platform)
CVW-2 (crash and rescue)
Various berthing compartments
Motor winding shop
(2) Wardrooms and lounges
(2) General mess decks
Vulture's row (observation platform)
Waist cat space
Weight room platform (in hangar)
Jet engine repair shop
DC central (power)
Fuel and ballast transfer and damage control
Inertial navigation system
(3) diesel generator spaces (big! like a locomotive, maybe bigger)
KRAN-TV studio and control
(3) ship's stores
William H. Standley, CG-32, Belknap Class guided missile cruiser, (#7 of 9), 547 ft.
Hoel, DDG-13, Charles F. Adams class guided missile destroyer (#12 of 23), 437 ft.
Buchanan, DDG-14, Charles F. Adams class guided missile destroyer, (#13 of 23), 437 ft.
Paul F. Foster, DD-964, Spruance class destroyer, (#2 of 31), 563 ft., (4 gas turbine engines)
Cook, FF-1083, Knox class frigate, (#32 of 46), 438 ft.
UNITED STATES NAVY AIRCRAFT CARRIERS
Ship No. Class
Lexington AVT-16 Essex Training only, Pensacola
Midway CV-41 Midway
Coral Sea CV-43 Midway
Forrestal CV-59 Forrestal
Saratoga CV-60 Forrestal
Ranger CV-61 Forrestal
Independence CV-62 Forrestal
Kitty Hawk CV-63 Kitty Hawk/Kennedy
Constellation CV-64 Kitty Hawk
Enterprise CVN-65 Enterprise (only one with square island)
America CV-66 Kitty Hawk
John F. Kennedy CV-67 Kitty Hawk
Nimitz CVN-68 Nimitz
Dwight D. Eisenhower CVN-69 Nimitz
Carl Vinson CVN-70 Nimitz
Theodore Roosevelt CVN-71 Nimitz
Lincoln CVN-72 Nimitz (Jan. 90)
Washington CVN-73 Nimitz (Dec. 91)
N in no. indicates nuclear powered boilers. (All carry nuclear weapons.)
At least one is always in SLEP overhaul. (Service Life Extention Program) I was told that there are 13 carrier commands available.
The Lexington doesn't count. (It can only land one plane at a time.)
Some Decommissioned Carriers
Bon Homme Richard CVA-31 Hancock/Intrepid (I saw this ship in San Diego being cut up for scrap while on a scuba diving outing.)
Oriskany CV-34 Hancock (mentioned in "Top Gun")
Shangri-La Hancock (Ron Wright served on her)
Intrepid Hancock (now a floating museum in New York harbor)
Copyright ©1998 by Dan Philgreen - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED