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Cancelled: The Navy's SeaMaster
Smithsonian Air and Space Magazine ^ | 3/1/2012 | Mark Wolverton

Posted on 03/09/2012 9:11:02 PM PST by U-238

In the early days of the cold war, the U.S. Navy was feeling left out. The future was nuclear, and the Air Force’s Strategic Air Command seemed to have a lock on the delivery systems. The Navy’s first bid for a piece of the strategic pie, the supercarrier USS United States, was killed by the Pentagon in favor of the Air Force’s B-36 bomber, so the admirals came up with a plan for a force of nuclear-armed seaplanes.

The Seaplane Striking Force would comprise jet-powered flying boats capable of long-range strategic nuclear attack and more mundane tasks such as conventional bombing, mine-laying, and reconnaissance. From the get-go, the Martin P6M SeaMaster (chosen over a competing design from Convair) was something of a contradiction in terms. Seaplanes need to be adept at low-altitude, low-speed flying—tasks not usually associated with high-power jet engines. The first of two prototypes, designated the XP6M-1, made its first flight on July 14, 1955. It featured four Allison J71-A-4 turbojet engines mounted in two nacelles on top of the fuselage near the wing roots,

For stability on the water, the wings, swept 40 degrees, had a distinct anhedral—they drooped, allowing the wingtip tanks to sit on the water and serve as stabilizing floats, with no struts to induce drag. Initial testing, conducted in secret on the Chesapeake Bay near Martin’s Baltimore headquarters, revealed that the jet exhausts were too close to the fuselage and scorched it when the afterburners were used.


TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: aerospace; navair; navalhistory; usnavy

1 posted on 03/09/2012 9:11:07 PM PST by U-238
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To: U-238

Here is a link to some video for all my old salty shipmates to enjoy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDia5WJB4Eg


2 posted on 03/09/2012 9:17:35 PM PST by Trueblackman (Posting on FR since 1998 and 100% teleprompter free post as well.)
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To: U-238

As impractical and expensive as this was going to be, still the ‘Thunderbirds’ kid in me thinks that this was a cool concept. Imagine, fleets of jetboats leaping into the air to battle the bad guys! The stuff of Saturday morning matinees!


3 posted on 03/09/2012 9:18:27 PM PST by tanuki (Left-wing Revolution: show biz for boring people.)
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To: U-238

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8Nu94khHoo&feature=related


4 posted on 03/09/2012 9:22:28 PM PST by headstamp 2 (Liberalism: Carrying adolescent values and behavior into adult life.)
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To: headstamp 2

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbecl88NsEQ&feature=related


5 posted on 03/09/2012 9:25:06 PM PST by headstamp 2 (Liberalism: Carrying adolescent values and behavior into adult life.)
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To: headstamp 2

You know there were some highly improbable weapon systems developed in the 50’s and 60’s.

This sure was one of them.


6 posted on 03/09/2012 9:45:22 PM PST by PittsburghAfterDark
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To: PittsburghAfterDark
I liked the old Vigilante nuclear bomber, that squirted the nuke out the arse between the exhaust nozzles. Built a cool plastic model of one. No idea how well that idea worked in real life. Thought the toss method was the only somewhat safe delivery.

The Vigilante did have a short life later as a recon bird, but never saw one up close.

7 posted on 03/09/2012 10:06:31 PM PST by doorgunner69
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To: tanuki

Impractical in what way? Compare it to the B-52 bases that required a significant portion of the force to remain airborne at all times to avoid nuclear obliteration at the beginning of a conflict. With the Sea Master, any port could become a base - even any Navy ship at sea with refueling capability could be used.


8 posted on 03/09/2012 10:15:17 PM PST by Rufusthered
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To: U-238

The old SeaMaster was one of the most beautiful planes ever designed.

SO what if it couldn’t fly? Neither could the Spruce Goose, and we junked the B-58, another great piece of aviation work.


9 posted on 03/09/2012 10:26:55 PM PST by MadMax, the Grinning Reaper
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To: MadMax, the Grinning Reaper

I agree, but it was competing with the SLBMs,it was significantly over budget and behind schedule,and was competing with aircraft carriers for funding. The Navy had another nuclear strike system waiting in the wings, the Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarine.


10 posted on 03/09/2012 10:39:41 PM PST by U-238
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To: headstamp 2
Thxs, for the videos. :-D

11 posted on 03/09/2012 11:08:45 PM PST by skinkinthegrass (Simple: Kill the terrorists, Protect (all) the borders, ridicule all the (surviving) Liberals :^)
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To: Rufusthered

Impractical in that huge seaplanes can only land on water that is calm. nature is rarely going to provide that when most needed.


12 posted on 03/10/2012 12:18:31 AM PST by RitchieAprile
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To: doorgunner69
Ah, the ole Viggie! IMHO the most attractive carrier aircraft every built. Brings back memories - back in the late 70’s as a young ensign I was stationed at NAS Key West with the recce wing flying the RA-5C.

As you noted, the Viggie had a unique linear bomb bay from which the nuclear “shape” could be ejected while the pilot flew various maneuvers. During the initial trials the equipment & ejection methods were not reliable - the bomb bay was never used as such in the fleet. One unconfirmed story was that whenever the test pilot executed a certain release maneuver the shape followed the flight path of the aircraft almost exactly, forcing the pilot to do an unplanned maneuver to “shake the shape”.

It's career as a bomber basically over before it really began the Vigilante ended up as a very capable recce platform from about 1964 until the end of the 1970s. The sensors were state of the art, and replacing the Viggie’s package with the TARPS pod for the F14 was considered by many in the recce community as a step backwards.

IIRC the plane had the dubious distinction of having the highest combat loss-to-total aircraft deployed ratio of the Vietnam War. This was due to the mission profile and the relatively small number of aircraft involved, not the performance of the aircraft/crews themselves. Those post-strike assessment missions were brutal...

In the end, the Viggie was removed from service due to its large size (& carrier deck multiple) and high maintenance cost. The big problem towards the end was a lack of tail hooks - North American was willing to restart a production line, but it was cost prohibitive. On the last deployments the aircraft spent as much time as possible shore based to save wear & tear on the hooks.

13 posted on 03/10/2012 12:19:45 AM PST by Strzelec
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To: Rufusthered

Interesting point. Yes, dispersal of forces would have been no problem. And imagine the air support a task force could have gotten, in addition to their own aircraft.


14 posted on 03/10/2012 12:40:16 AM PST by tanuki (Left-wing Revolution: show biz for boring people.)
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To: Vroomfondel; SC Swamp Fox; Fred Hayek; NY Attitude; P3_Acoustic; investigateworld; lowbuck; ...
SONOBUOY PING!

Photobucket

Click on pic for past Navair pings. Post or FReepmail me if you wish to be enlisted in or discharged from the Navair Pinglist. The only requirement for inclusion in the Navair Pinglist is an interest in Naval Aviation. This is a medium to low volume pinglist.

15 posted on 03/10/2012 2:50:24 AM PST by magslinger (If I wanted to vote for a Commie I would vote for Obammie. He has a chance of winning.)
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To: tanuki

I was thinking more time to get to a SOSUS contact due to the P6M’s speed - much greater than the P-3 Orion. The only other maritime patrol aircraft in the west with such a characteristic was the Nimrod.


16 posted on 03/10/2012 6:55:29 AM PST by Fred Hayek (FUBO, the No Talent Pop Star pResident.)
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To: Rufusthered

any port could become a base - even any Navy ship at sea with refueling capability could be used.


Very true - when I saw the white hats scrambling on the fuselage, it struck me as kind of a ‘flying submarine’ and the one poster already mentioned the SSBN’s that had the payload just didn’t lift off (or out of) the ocean.

It truly would have made the Navy many dimensional from the sea - on over and under - who needs dry land? probably either the forerunner or result of the LVT’s the Navy/Marine team used

AAAARGGGHHHH

Anyone out there remember the ‘car boat’? I seem to recall either Willy’s or Kaiser making it and not sure I put an actual eyeball on one, seem to remember them from newsreels at the movies...(Pre TV)....


17 posted on 03/10/2012 7:43:36 AM PST by xrmusn ((6/98) Don't ask me to steal FOR you and chances are pretty good I won't steal FROM you.)
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To: doorgunner69
The Vigilante was, IMHO, one of the most beautiful planes ever designed. It ressembled an F-111 that had been on a diet..sleek, clean design.

Squirting out the nuke aft had major problems, no bomb was ever dropped that way. The main problem with the plane was that its high landing speed and other flight characteristics made is really hard to land on a carrier...even in the best of conditions...bad weather or nighttime operations would have been very dicey..The main reason the Navy dropped the plane was the rapid development of missiles launched from subs..

18 posted on 03/10/2012 8:27:16 AM PST by ken5050 (The ONLY reason to support Mitt: The Mormon Tabernacle Choir will appear at the WH each Christmas)
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To: Fred Hayek

“...more time to get to a SOSUS contact due to the P6M’s speed-”

Especially in the Pacific. An air group of these in Micronesia would have been golden either during the Cold War, or now monitoring the Red Chinese.


19 posted on 03/10/2012 11:05:06 AM PST by tanuki (Left-wing Revolution: show biz for boring people.)
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To: ken5050

No argument there. Still my favorite jet design ever.


20 posted on 03/10/2012 11:07:46 AM PST by tanuki (Left-wing Revolution: show biz for boring people.)
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To: xrmusn
It truly would have made the Navy many dimensional from the sea - on over and under

The Russians liked the concept a lot. They had a long deployment of large turboprop seaplanes for ASW work in particular, but also SAR and other missions. I think they belonged for the most part to the Northern Fleet.

They could deploy sonobuoys or dipping sonar as wanted, and could float silent, undetected, for long periods while listening to both sonobuoys and VDS.

21 posted on 03/10/2012 9:13:23 PM PST by lentulusgracchus
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To: tanuki
An air group of these in Micronesia would have been golden either during the Cold War, or now monitoring the Red Chinese.

Like Palau and Peleliu? Both close to the Philippine Archipelago .... we'd do well to get back into Clark, frankly. I don't know what Filipino politics looks like these days, but we were being extorted while we were there for a while.

Someplace like Palawan, Sarawak, or Brunei would give us a front-row seat on the emerging resources/mare clausum claims of the Chinese to the whole South China Sea and its seabed.

22 posted on 03/10/2012 9:17:18 PM PST by lentulusgracchus
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To: lentulusgracchus

“Someplace like Palawan, Sarawak, or Brunei would give us a front-row seat on the emerging resources/mare clausum claims of the Chinese to the whole South China Sea and its seabed.”

No kidding! Obama and company have virtually surrendered the South China Sea and our allies there. I am very concerned about the potential for a regional conflict.


23 posted on 03/10/2012 9:42:31 PM PST by tanuki (Left-wing Revolution: show biz for boring people.)
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