Physicist, Oceanographer, Aerospace Technologist, Rancher, Land Developer and Lecturer
Navy Electronic Warfare
Dick at the missile display just outside the main gate at Point Mugu Naval Missile Center, California - this photo taken in 2007
My first assignment was in the Electronic Warfare Division at the Naval Missile Center, first assigned as the Project Manager for the testing and evaluation of the Eagle air-to-air missile system, a brand new component of the air warfare program of the Navy. I was fortunate to be able to fly in Navy aircraft as part of my job, all the way from the fighter/bombers - F4 & A3D - to transport aircraft - R4Y - that had been converted to flying labs full of electronic warfare test and evaluation equipment. I loved it!! Like a kid with a new toy every day! In order to fly in these aircraft, I had to graduate from the training program in San Diego at the North Island Naval Air Base where flight crews are trained to get out of an aircraft under emergency conditions. We were taught how to use parachutes, and how to get out of the ejection seats if you were to ditch in the water. Exciting training! I had fun doing it, but others didn't!!
My interest in being a regular army officer and making a career out of the Army had changed. I made a difficult decision to leave the employment of the United States Army. That came about at the exact time of the visit from the Navy engineers from point Mugu so the timing was not mine. I have often said that my life was full of many accidents during my professional career but I’m sure that this was no accident. God was working in my life without my knowing it.
So I contacted the Naval engineers who had been in my missile site and very soon thereafter I was invited for an interview at the Naval missile facility at point Mugu. That was the beginning of my civilian engineering career.
To make a long story short, the Navy brass at Point Mugu did come through with a job offer about six months before I was to get to the end of my obligation on my Regular Army assignment. The job was in the Electronic Warfare Division under Range Operations at Point Mugu. I had no idea what that was going to be except for the brief explanation I got before I said YES! It took me more than a year to get out of the Army even after all that wait!
The Missileer aircraft that was to carry the Eagle
Bendix Eagle air-to-air Missile
Electronic Warfare Division Point Mugu Naval Air Station Navy Missile Center
I reported to work at Point Mugu and was assigned as a Physicist/Engineer in the Electronic Warfare Division, as an engineer working on the Eagle Air-to-Air Missile System. I knew nothing about this system when I reported. The Project Director Dean Blatchford, was happy to welcome me and did an excellent job in bringing me up to speed on the system and all its technical aspects. The missile system consisted of a track-while-scan radar, a fantastic computer in the aircraft, a state-of-the-art command and control system in the missile, and a communications system to keep in touch with ground support. In addition, a special aircraft was going to be designed to carry this very large missile attached to the underside of the wings.
The missile was designed to be launched against another aircraft in a "clear" environment, no jamming taking place, and then if the other aircraft began jamming the tracking radar in the missile or in the launch aircraft, the missile control system was to switch the system to a track-on-jamming signal mode of operation. Pretty unique for an airborne system. The radar was also able to track other aircraft and more than one of its own missiles in flight and direct them to the target that had been designated for that missile.
The more I worked with the system, the more I became fascinated with the technology. I even came up with a patentable technique for how to determine the launch time for a target that was jamming the radars even before launch. The Navy had the idea patented and I received a commendation and a cash award for my work.
At about this time, Dean Blatchford was offered another position at Point Mugu which meant a promotion for him, and I was appointed the Project Director for the Eagle Air-to-Air Missile System. I had not expected this, but I was overjoyed with the prospect of carrying on this task. I had excellent engineers working with me and a great team of Navy personnel that were well qualified for the jobs they were assigned.
I was also qualified to fly in Navy aircraft, having gone through the school at North Island Naval Air Station that taught you how to bail out of an aircraft, how to get out of the cockpit in case of ditching in water, etc. I passed all of those tests without any difficulty. And I was happy as a bee finding a honey bearing bush of flowers. I was on top of the world and loved the job. I was learning a lot technically also.
I have to say at the beginning of this section, that our job in the Electronic Warfare organization was to test and evaluate every component of any given missile system to see if it would work as specified, especially in the electronic warfare environment of an enemy. If the enemy could jam the system and not make it work, it was our job to see why and if it could be fixed. If it could not, then it was our job to identify why and recommend against the system. We had to know what the enemy could do! Very exciting work!!
This was one of our test bed aircraft in the Electronic Warfare Division, an R4Y Convair 440 which was fully equipped with all the test equipment we needed to fly missions involving the monitoring of either aircraft or missiles. I spent many hours in this aircraft and enjoyed most of them.
F6D-1 Missileer Background
In the late 1950s, the US Navy was interested in obtaining an interceptor to protect carrier battle groups from Soviet strike aircraft. The Navy required a Fleet Air Defense aircraft with a longer loiter time on patrol than current fighters, the ability to carry a larger and more capable air-to-air missile, and the ability to intercept and defeat threats to the fleet at much greater distances from the carrier.
In 1957, the U.S. Navy began to plan a new concept for airborne fleet defense. A large subsonic interceptor with a powerful radar was to be equipped with very long range high speed air-to-air missiles to shoot down approaching Soviet strike aircrafts and bombers. In 1958, Bendix and Grumman were selected as contractors for the AAM-N-10 Eagle missile. A year later the Douglas XF6D-1 Missileer design was chosen for the launch platform with an order for two prototypes. The most important feature of the F6D was its Westinghouse AN/APQ-81 pulse-doppler radar, the first track-while-scan radar developed for a fighter aircraft. The AN/APQ-81 could detect targets at a distance of 220 km (120 nm), but the F6D would normally be supported by W2F-1 (later E-2) Hawkeye AEW (Airborne Early Warning) aircraft which could detect threats at ranges of more than 370 km (200 nm). After launch, the AAM-N-10 would be boosted to Mach 3.5 by a large solid-propellant rocket booster with folding fins, and after a glide period, the long-burning solid-fueled sustainer motor would propel the missile toward its target at a speed of Mach 4.5.
The AN/APQ-81, which could simultaneously track up to eight targets from 150 km (80 nm) away, would send guidance commands to the individual missiles to keep the latter on course to their respective targets. With the mid-course command guidance, the AAM-N-10 could fly an energy-efficient "lofted" trajectory, and maximum aerodynamic range was more than 300 km (160 nm). When the Eagle would be close enough to the target, the missile's own radar would take over and guide the weapon to the interception point. The effective interception range of the F6D/AAM-N-10 combination was about 200 km (110 nm), but the AAM-N-10's radar could also home directly on jamming sources, in which case effective range could be as big as 300 km (160 nm). Normally, the Eagle would have used a large high-explosive warhead, but a low-yield W-42 nuclear fission warhead was also considered for some time.
The program started with the threat projections being such that it was becoming very difficult to protect the fleet against Mach 2 raids coming in. The Navy had to have something better than we had with F4/Sparrow capability aircraft. All the studies said regular fighters just couldn't get there in time to shoot down enough and the surface-to-air missiles just couldn't handle the degree of the threat either. It turned out that studies in the mid-fifties indicated that the state of the art in radar was such that we could do a long-range radar search type of thing and get it into an airplane. Took about a five foot dish to do it.
On 21 July 1960 the Navy announced that a contract for the development of the Missileer aircraft for launching the Eagle long-range air-to-air guided missile, was being issued to the Douglas Aircraft Corporation. The development of the Eagle missile had preceded the airplane by a year or two. The TF-30 engine got started about that time in order to provide the engine and the missile system in time to match the airplane. It was to be a subsonic airplane, two turbo fan engines, two place side by side and with a five foot radar dish in the nose.
The F6D-1 was a subsonic aircraft that looked a lot like a scaled-up F3D Skyknight. It was to be powered by two 10,000 lb.s.t. Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-2 turbofans, and was to carry a three-man crew (pilot, co-pilot, and weapons system operator). The Missileer was to be capable of remaining on patrol for up to six hours, tracking targets at long range using its powerful Westinghouse APQ-81 pulsed-Doppler track-while-scan radar and attacking threats with its six long-range Bendix XAAM-10 Eagle air-to-air missiles.
The Eagle was a massive long-range air-to-air missile with a maximum speed of Mach 4. It was equipped with an advanced pulse-Doppler active radar homer. The warhead of the Eagle could be either conventional or nuclear.
The concept of a "launch platform" rather than a pure "fighter" to defend the fleet met with opposition, since the craft would become defenseless right after all missiles have been launched. The airplane would certainly have been a success, but would have required a complementary fighter to handle the jobs requiring airplane speed and agility. The whole idea was at least a bit ahead of its time and the development program didn't go well. It was a controversial airplane in the sense it was such a low performance airplane. The air frame part of the game was really not too difficult a technical job. It would have been obviously a lot easier than it would have been doing a supersonic type of airplane.
Eventually, the Navy development organizations became convinced that the F6D was too slow, too narrow in application, and too expensive. The Eagle missile program faltered as well. Consequently, the F6D and its Eagle missiles were both put on hold in December of 1960 in the waning days of the Eisenhower administration. The outgoing administration did not want to let a full development contract until the incoming administration approved the program
In 1960, the Navy development organizations became convinced that the XF6D-1 was too expensive, and changed in favor of exploring the feasibility of using the F-111B. The Eagle missile program faltered as well. The XF6D-1 and Eagle missiles were both put on hold in December of 1960, before any XAAM-N-10 prototypes could be tested. However, the idea of a long-range fleet-defense interceptor was realized later with the F-14 Tomcat and the AAM-N-11/AIM-54 Phoenix missile.
A3D Aircraft assigned to Electronic Warfare at Point Mugu
These are three of the many aircraft that were assigned to the Electronic Warfare Division at Point Mugu. I got to fly in the "back seat" of these aircraft as the electronic warfare officer conducting tests on the Eagle missile. What a job! Below is another of the aircraft, an F4, assigned to the Electronic Warfare Division and in which I spent a lot of hours flying in the rear seat operating the electronic equipment used in the testing of our missiles.
Navy F4 configured for electronic warfare to support air operations. The rear seat was the operator's seat for operation of all the electronic warfare equipment on board the aircraft.
This is the honored patch of the "Old Crows", an association made up of active and former members of electronic warfare test and evaluation and operation in the military services. To do the job that was expected, the participant had to not only know the innards of the weapon system they were working upon, but also the threat that the system had to face in its use. In my job with the Electronic Warfare Division at Point Mugu, I was required to thoroughly know and understand the Eagle Missile System, and also all the threats that this system would be exposed to in use. That included all the electronic warfare techniques and systems employed by Russia and any other potential enemy against which this missile system was designed to counter. What a challenge this was to me! I thoroughly enjoyed the exposure.
Beech SNB-5 Twin Model 18 mostly used for communting to various locations for tests. When I began my flight training for qualifying to fly twins, the flight school had this airplane as its training aircraft, so because of my many hours while working at Mugu and flying from place to place, I had a lot of hours of experience before I started the training.
Twin Beech SNB-5 in flight. I got to fly a lot of hours in this aircraft many times taking the wheel for most of the flight except for landings and takeoffs. This gave me a lot of experience in general flight which would pay off some months later when I got a license of my own which included an instrument ticket and multi-engine as well.
Subsequent to the Navy findings that the Missileer aircraft was not to be built, we in the electronics warfare work also found that the missile did not operate as it was supposed to. It had failed most of its tests, and I had a major hand in this being done. So I worked myself out of a job, but quickly another came along, testing and evaluating a proposed Air-to-Ground missile system for the Marine Corps. This missile system was to target land targets, launched from a fighter/bomber aircraft, and steered to the target from the launching aircraft. The concept was great, the system was not!
It did not take long for our evaluation to show that any money spent on this system was a waste. We ran all kinds of tests at the air-to-ground testing range at China Lake, California where we showed that with very simple ground based electronic jamming signals we could cause havoc for the entire system. I had on my team some really sharp Navy electronics chiefs and we had a lot of fun doing our thing at China Lake. Again, I worked my way out of a job.
But the world was about to crash in on my concept for a job at Point Mugu, so it was just as well that I had caused part of the cessation of effort on the Marine Corps weapon system.
The arrival of the Navy Dolphin Program at Point Mugu.