John Tuttle, Walt Quist, Lou Carrier, Hal Vincent and Fred McCorkle forwarded or endorsed via Internet email this Excellent Article with Comments. John Tuttle opens with, "A Great Naval Aviator, Class of 60, Sent This Article by a Famous Past CNO. Some of you may have seen it. It is an Interesting Piece of History."
Following is an intriguing story of a Pentagon battle won by the Navy when the author was Chief of Naval Operations. It is extracted from his forthcoming book, Aircraft Carriers at War: - A Personal Retrospective of Korea, Vietnam, and the Soviet Confrontation. It was published by the U.S. Naval Institute Press in May 2007. This extract was also published by Wings of Gold magazine.
HOW WE GOT THE HORNET
By Admiral James L. Holloway III, USN (Ret.)
In September 1974, Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger accepted the General Dynamics F-16 as the winner of the lightweight fighter competition and authorized production of the F-16 for the services. The Navy preferred the Northrop F-17 design and proceeded to upgrade the F-17 concept to satisfy its follow-on fighter attack plane (FAX) requirements. As chief of naval operations, I had approved a scaled-up version of the F-17 that was then designated the F-18. The F-18 included substantial improvements over the F-17 to make it carrier-suitable and all-weather capable with the Sparrow III air-to-air missile. Although I made this decision independently of the Secretary of the Navy, the decision was consistent with my statutory responsibility for military requirements.
Initially, a majority of the members of Congress wanted a single Light Weight Fighter (LWF) to lower program costs. I had testified that "the Navy wasn't interested in a fighter that could only get on and off of a carrier by means of a crane, no matter how little it costs." Congressional opposition to a single LWF for both services-with probably the F-111 debacle of 1960 in mind-was neutralized. But the OSD was adamant that the Navy be forced to take the F-16. By spring this appeared to be a fait accompli to the extent that Secretary of the Air Force John McLucas, encountering me by chance in the E ring of the Pentagon, proclaimed in a loud voice to ensure that both I and the two Air Force four-stars in his company could clearly hear, "Admiral, the Air Force is the program manager for the F-16, and I can promise you we are not going to screw up the design and performance by adding a lot of stuff that the Navy wants. It's an Air Force lightweight fighter, and we are going to keep it that."
By April the situation had become critical. The Navy had not yet received the go-ahead from the DoD to go to contract for the F-18. The OSD was making plans for the Navy to procure a slightly modified version of the F-16. The main spokesman for this position was a civilian analyst in OSD, "Chuck" Myers, a member of the "Fighter Mafia" and a longtime watchdog of naval aviation.
I appealed to Secretary Schlesinger, and he agreed to hear out the issue "like a country judge," letting both sides arguing their cases. The CNO was to represent the Navy, and Leonard Sullivan, another longtime carrier critic, would be the F-16 protagonist.
The meeting was held in April 1975 in Schlesinger's office. It was to begin at 1:30 in the afternoon and go on until neither side "had anything more to say." Then Schlesinger would make the decision. The CNO was allowed to bring only two people "because of the size of the room." I selected Vice Adm. Tom Hayward, who headed Navy Programing, an d Vice Adm. Kent Lee, the commander, Naval Air Systems Command. Both were experienced Navy fighter pilots. When the three of us arrived at the SecDef's office we were stunned to find more than a dozen OSD people assembled-Leonard Sullivan and Chuck Myers, plus analysts, engineers, and finance types. It looked like an attempt to overpower the Navy with sheer volume of testimony. The first part of the meeting involved lengthy discussions on the carrier suitability of the F-16. I advised that our naval test analyses indicated the F-16 would bang the tailpipe on the deck with unacceptable frequency. OSD claimed this could be solved by faster landing speeds and better pilot technique. Then came the discussion of the alternative program costs and the synergy of a single type of fighter for all services.
The CNO was to be the only witness to speak for the Navy side. When I complained that the short mission range of the F-16 would reduce the carrier air wing's striking radius by several hundred miles from even its current capabilities, Leonard Sullivan told SecDef that could be a plus; it would get the carriers back where they belonged, conducting antisubmarine warfare and covering amphibious landings.
I had saved my blockbuster until the SecDef's Office of Program Assessment and Evaluation (PA&E) had run through all of their arguments. I then advised that the F-16 was not acceptable as a carrier fighter because it lacked an all-weather capability. There was dead silence in the room. Schlesinger said, "Say that again and explain." I pointed out that the F-16 carried only AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and they were clear-air-mass missiles. In clouds, a radar missile like the AIM-7 Sparrow III was required. This capability, with the necessary radar guidance system and heavier pylons, had been incorporated in the F-18 design, but the F-16 would not accommodate an all-weather missile system without extensive redesign and added weight. Schlesinger was incredulous. He asked Sullivan to explain. There was silence and then confusion.
Then Myers said, "Most of the time, maybe two thirds, the weather on the average would be suitable for Sidewinder. Why should we assume the enemy would attack in bad weather?"
I replied that if the enemy knew our air defense was no good in cloudy weather, that is precisely when they would choose to attack. The debate was over. There was another half an hour of perfunctory discussion, but the suggestion that Sparrow III be installed on the F-16 was never mentioned again.
Both sides had run out of discussion points, and SecDef adjourned the session. He called me into his inner office alone. "Admiral," he said, "you've got your F-18." After a pause, he added, "PA&E never pointed out to me the all-weather limitations of the F-16."
On 2 May 1975, the OSD announced that the Navy had DoD approval to develop the F-18 for production.
The F/A-18 is still the Navy's premier aircraft. It has filled the carrier decks as a fighter-attack aircraft, replacing the A-7 attack plane and the F-14 fighter with a single plane that can perform both of its predecessors' functions. This gives the carrier enormous flexibility in its air wing, capable of launching more than fifty attack planes or fifty fighters, depending upon the tactical situation. With four squadron s of F/A-18s in the air wing maintenance and supply support has been dramatically simplified, and the F/A-18 was designed for ease of maintenance, only needing a third of the man-hours required by the F-14. Early F/A-18 models performed admirably in Afghanistan and in 2003, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and as the F/A-18E and F versions continue to enter the fleet, this will be another giant increase in air wing capability.~;~
The editor of Wings of Gold, who also published this chapter, added the following:
ADM Holloway is the Chairman Emeritus of the Board of the Association of Naval Aviation. In addition to the top billet in the Navy as CNO, he flew combat in the Korean War, commanded VA-83, the seaplane tender, USS Salisbury Sound, USS Enterprise, Carrier Division Six, and was Deputy CinC Atlantic Fleet and later, Commander, Seventh Fleet. As CNO from 1974 to 1978 his tour of duty was marked by the transition from the divisive Vietnam War era into a time of particularly intense naval competition with the Soviet Union .
Lou On 4/12/08, Hal Vincent <email@example.com> wrote:
Just a great writeup. I was in Flight Test with Adm Hollaway's son in law, then LtCdr Laurie Heyworth, and also with the great Tom Hayward, who was a Navy Lt. I flew all the fighters in all the Services, including the F14,15,16,17, 18. I loved the YF17, as a true day fighter, but then a couple of years later flew the YF18. Came back from the flight and to a hushed group of company, test pilots, senior officers etc. I said, "How in hell do you ever expect one pilot to fly with 10 switches on the stick, and dozens of menu positions, in an AW environment, know tactics, fight, go aboard CV, etc? It is much to complicated!" Boy, was I wrong! The newer pin ball generation sure did a great job of being able to handle it all, and very well. It sure was a good decision to not buy the F16 [for the Navy/Marines] and get the F18 as our plane. Admirals Holloway and Hayward sure did a good job. And, they hit on just the right items--all weather and missile capability. The F16 was a great day fighter but sure not the AW bird the F18 was/is.
Lou Carrier writes:
The Hornet is also the choice of many Air Forces in the world: Australia, Canada, Finland, Switzerland and Spain.The US Navy is now the Super Hornet. Interestingly they all have heavy weight landing gear and tail hooks. In many countries arresting systems are used on highways as alternate war time landing sites. Switzerland and Finland fly out of "hidden" caverns.~
Thanks Lou--great plane, but we Marines now want the JSF STOVL. Any decrease/loss in Navy CVs, and we can still land/operate from LHA, LPD, short field bases, etc. We are not interested in spending all our aviation money on additional F22 purchases, by the way.
ALL THE BEST---CHEERS ! Hal Vincent
THANKS, HAL…ONE HAS TO ONLY SPEND FIVE MINUTES WITH BUF TO KNOW THAT YOU ARE ON THE MARK. SEMPER FI, Fred "The Assassin" McCorkle
My thanks to Admiral Holloway for producing this eye-opening bit of Aviation History, and to Wings of Gold, US Naval Institute Press, Association of Naval Aviation, and all of those who have thoughtfully kept this superior essay moving through the Internet and past the tactical operations OLD SALTS in Navy/Marine Aviation.
Mofak [Donald Cathcart]
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