George Bennett’s Kadena Story

From: George Bennett

Sent: Monday, September 09, 2002

To: Joe Perkins

Subject: Re: Kadena Mace-B Inertial Guidance System Cross-Training, Maintenance on Okinawa, and Instructing in Orlando

Martin-Marietta’s “Coffin-Launched Guided Missile” (CGM) Mace 76-B had an inertial guidance system, different than its predecessor, the Mace-A, which had a terrain-mapping radar guidance system. The “coffin” was a hardened bay, inclined at 170, and protected by a huge hardened outer door. A site would have three or four sets of bays, each housing four missiles. Each missile rested on a launch platform, ready to be launched off the platform with the boost of a RATO bottle. The launch crews were on alert below the launch bay, behind a heavily shielded door protecting the launch control center. The crews performed regular systems checks, and of course were ready to launch the missiles. Their operational checks were in fact systems integration checks; the maintenance complex, usually miles away, did not have the ability to check the working-together aspects of, for example, the guidance and the flight controls systems.

Cross-Training at Lowry AFB, Denver, CO The initial complements of maintenance personnel were cross-trainees; we all had at least a five level in our old AFSCs. George Bennett and I came from Edwards AFB, CA and were joined by Harry Mathis, who was the NCOIC of the Patrick AFB Radio Shop (my first assignment after Tech School — Airborne Radio Repair at Scott AFB, Ill) — and later the Flight Line Radio Shop at Edwards. The cross-training introduced us to inertial guidance fundamentals, gyros, accelerometers, etc. We also received our initial practical training in Ground Support Equipment (GSE), Guidance System Checkout (GSC) and Guidance Equipment Maintenance (GEMS). We completed the course in 16 weeks, after which we were reassigned to Orlando AFB, Fl.

“Combat Crew” Training at Orlando AFB, Florida Assigned to the 4504th Missile Training Wing we spent about five months in “combat crew training”, earning our new 3-level AFSC 31130G and simulating three-shift operations. We trained on “A” versions of the guidance system, got some more FTD instructions, and tried to figure out why we were responsible for ground support air-conditioners, and the purpose for the “suitcase”. We discovered that its purpose was to calibrate the air-conditioning system located on the upper shelf in the nose section. At Orlando we found out where we were going overseas; for George, Harry and I it was Okinawa! I had volunteered for cross-training to get back to Germany. (I am from Bremen, Germany and my wife is from Rotterdam, Holland. We had pushed up our wedding because of the very good chance to get a European assignment; alas, a 50/50 chance wasn’t good enough!) (I volunteered for the program because of possibility of being assigned back to Germany, I had been stationed in Germany in 1954-55. Also my son was born during this training and it was a mad rush to get my Mother in Law to Florida from MO. so I wouldn’t miss any of the school. George Bennett)

Cape Shots Some of the more senior people, e.g., Harry Mathis, had the opportunity to participate in Mace launches from Cape Canaveral. A separate launch pad, block house, etc., had been built at the Cape for the Mace.

Orlando to Okinawa Upon graduating from combat crew training, my wife and I drove from Orlando to Connecticut, where my mother resided, and from there to LA, where my wife’s parents lived. Quite the trip! She and her parents saw me off at Travis AFB early in September 1961, since we could not get concurrent travel. (She was able to join me in December). The flight took 36 hours, via Anchorage, the Aleutians, Tachikawa AB, and finally Kadena AB. It was one of the last non-jet charter flights.

Quonsets, barracks, typhoons, power and water shortages, etc. On Kadena we were first quartered in Quonset Huts. But soon we were in a barracks, three stories tall, on the main base, and with every window sporting steel shutters. They were needed too: the first week there we were hit by a 100 MPH typhoon. Besides being ever anxious about typhoon conditions, we were also on the lookout for poisonous Habu snakes, mosquitoes (encephalitis) and careful to only eat in off-base establishments sporting “A” signs. In some off-base housing areas we were also on the lookout for “stealy boys”. Electricity to the island was supplied from a US power-generating ship, whose generators sometimes went down. See more about that in the Maintenance Site section. We also experienced some droughts in our 30 months there. This caused water rationing so that we were doing the diapers for our oldest daughter who was born there (see more on that below) late in the evening when the electricity was turned on for a limited time. A major off-base housing development was Kadena Circle, which was home to many of us assigned to the base, sporting fairly modern homes built with concrete blocks. It was about a 15-minute drive to work; an interesting aspect was that the road paralleled the base runway, from which F-100s and later F-4 Phantom IIs would launch. Often we would see B-47s from Guam, which had been temporarily repositioned because of typhoons. (When ever a Typhoon was approaching the island the loud speakers on base would blare “Typhoon Condition Two” over and over. So the first words my son spoke were not dada, but “Typhoon Condition Two”. George Bennett)

The Maintenance Site The 498th Missile Maintenance Site was located near the north gate of the base. Outside the gate was a Special Forces camp, from which Green Berets commuted/hitch-hiked to Kadena Circle, where they had a training complex. So commuting to/from the base, I would sometimes give a Green Beret a lift, learning early on about how things were going in Vietnam. The maintenance site comprised several buildings: Supply, a separate Depot Maintenance Facility (DMF), and the Maintenance building, which housed the Chief of Maintenance complex, and various shops: Guidance Equipment Systems (GEMS), Guidance System Checkout (GSC), Flight Controls, Test Equipment, and Engine Buildup.

GEMS – This shop provided field-level maintenance for guidance system black boxes and the Gyro Stabilized Platform (GSP). The platform housed three gyros, each about the size of a bread box, and two accelerometers. These components contained “viscous” fluid and therefore had to be heated to maintain a prescribed level of viscosity. It was therefore critical to have power to the GSP at all times. During checkout, repair, or calibration the various checkers, both in the GEMS and GSC areas, provided appropriate power; however, when the GSP was transported it was attached to a “Module B”. The Mod B could convert power from 115 V AC or supply it from a built-in generator. Many of us have experienced certain planes, systems, components, etc. that turn out to be “hangar queens”. We experienced a rash of black boxes that were returned time after time to the GEMS shop from the GSC area. Finally, Captain Cameron, our Maintenance officer, directed that these boxes be connected to breakout boxes and be fixed once and for all. And they were!

GSC – This shop provided organizational-level maintenance for the guidance and the air-conditioning systems. We started initial assembly, checkout and calibration soon after arriving in Oki. A couple of AC Spark Plug tech reps had arrived before us and helped us to get started. As for the technical aspects to help us get started, they were invaluable. One of my more vivid recollections is that whenever we ran into problems, they would spread schematics (huge 3’x 8’ blueprints) all over the floor. We learned a lot from them, which later helped those of us being reassigned to Orlando to train replacements. The Guidance System Checker (GSC) unit was a four-bay console, to which a nose section would be connected. An external additional unit, the Azimuth Alignment Unit (AAU), was also connected to the GSC. The AAU shone a signal through a window in the lower portion of the GSP to provide a yaw reference for the guidance system during checkout. There were four GSC consoles in the GSC area, so four guidance systems could be checked out simultaneously.

Major Checkout Steps:

  • Self-Verification: 100 series steps – (Basic Power-On checks for the console’s check and calibration functions)
  • Erection and Alignment: 200 series steps – (Gimbals Erection and Azimuth Alignment, Target settings for Track and Altitude deviations)
  • Coarse Memory: 300 series steps – (coarse checks on memory using GSC meter indications)
  • “Drift Run”: 400 series steps – Upon satisfying 300 series criteria, the guidance system was put into a 90 minute simulated flight A tape printout was reated to check on all critical parameters, especially the “drift” of the system over time. If slightly out of specs, we tried to re-memorize, and run the test again.
  • If significantly out of specs, we needed to troubleshoot, replace black boxes, and start all over again.

If we were lucky, a complete calibration and checkout could be accomplished on one shift. Often we ended up cycling through the steps several times, so that it could take several shifts or even days to produce a good nose section. There was competition amongst the shifts to produce a good checkout the first time through. However, sometimes the day shift blamed additional duties, administrative activities, etc., when it took longer, and the night shift was sometimes accused of taking shortcuts, when it’s faster throughput seemed produce poorer drift run results. Fun! In order for the guidance system to function properly, its environment had to be maintained within a narrow temperature range. For that purpose a ground air conditioning unit provided both high and low temperature air during guidance system checkout. (Upon launch the missile would use outside ambient air and mix it with engine bleed air to maintain the required environment). We had to calibrate the air conditioning controls on the top shelf of the nose section during checkout, something we were unaware of during our initial training in Denver or Orlando. Fortunately some of us returned to Orlando as instructors where we incorporated this additional training into our lesson plans. (I spent 4 years as Grave Shift Supervisor of the GSC section, George Bennett)

Preventing Guidance System Problems at the Launch Sites:

To dispatch or not to dispatch maintenance specialists to launch site became a question early on: It was costly, time consuming, and detrimental to operational readiness to return nose sections from a launch site to the maintenance area to verify apparent malfunctions. (I believe Okinawa had three launch sites, all at least ten miles distant from the maintenance area.) So for a while we dispatched specialists to the sites to determine whether the apparent fault was in the guidance system or the site’s checkout equipment. We learned that if we could rule out faults within the sites’ checkout equipment there was precious little we could do to fix anything within the guidance system onsite. So the nose sections continued to be returned to the maintenance area. A frequent problem concerned the Guidance System and Flight Controls Interface – Signals from the guidance system were fed to the flight control system, i.e., azimuth (yaw), track and altitude deviations. One of the critical components in this process was the yaw resolver, mounted at the bottom of the GSP. If it was faulty in any way, the GSC procedures would not catch it and neither would the independently conducted Flight Controls checks. We determined that we could monitor the yaw resolver’s behavior during the early GSC checks, simply by watching a voltmeter while changing azimuth settings on the GSC console. This discovery enabled us to get the GSP fixed more quickly (either in GEMS or the DMF) and saved us numerous wasted GSC runs as well. Operationally Readiness Push for 1962 Late 1961 the 498th worked hard to make the first launch site operational; for us it meant to check out and calibrate many guidance systems. Fortunately the training and hard work paid off. Every and regardless of shop or AFSC contributed. We were proud to participate later in a parade when the Wing received its first Outstanding Unit Award.

Emergency Power Snafus As mentioned above, the Island received its electrical power from a US ship anchored off-shore. Sometimes there were power failures, so the Maintenance complex had huge emergency generators for backup. The generators were next to the GSC shop, which made us responsible to start them and bring them on line to protect the GSPs with their critical gyros and accelerometers. We were therefore trained in the proper startup, run, and power switching procedures. Move the switching gear the wrong way and our generator’s output would feed the island instead of inertial guidance components. As I recall, that only happened once; fortunately, repairs were completed before the next power failure occurred.

The Cuban Missile Crisis In October 1962 the Cuban Missile Crisis caused all US Forces to be on alert. It so happened that on that day our oldest daughter was born. She arrived at 1235 AM October 23rd Okinawa time – on the other side of the International Date Line. I returned from the hospital at approximately 2 AM; barely asleep, I was awakened by shouts of “Recall” all through he housing area and joined the rush to the base. My wife didn’t find it out until later in the day.

Reassignment to Orlando In March of 1964 several of us were reassigned to be instructors at Orlando AFB, FL. We received Instructor training, revamped the training curriculum, revised lesson plans, and prepared to share all we had learned overseas. We also made sure that the FTD trainer understood how things really worked! With the insights and experience we gained over two and a half years, we believed we were delivering the best possible training. In fact the powers that be had reassigned the previous instructor crew so that future trainees would get the real story. We were also thorough with our student evaluations, washing out a few trainees who we did not think had the aptitude to troubleshoot and maintain something as complex as an inertial guidance system. Unfortunately, the course improvement effort took some time; consequently, several of our friends were extended at Okinawa until our graduates were in place.

A Last Anecdote While working in the Boeing Commercial Airplanes Group as a Business Process Consultant, I attended a Value Engineering Workshop. The instructor concluded with an example of how he as a young engineer eliminated excess weight from the tail section of a missile. The missile turned out to be the Mace! His assignment was to remove brackets that had been added to hold equipment during the flight test phase and obviously were not needed for regular production. I told him that I had worked on the Mace. He was totally amazed to meet someone who had, since he never met anyone who actually worked on our bird. This workshop happened last year, 2001!

Where are they now? George Bennett was one of those extended for a year and then reassigned into his previous Com/Nav AFSC. George and I met at Edwards AFB in 1958 and now (2002) live an hour’s drive apart in the Puget Sound region of Washington State. Our friend Jim Drout was the lead instructor, later reassigned to Wright-Pat. Harry Mathis came back to Orlando to the Chief of Maintenance office and then retired. I left Orlando in 1965 to enter the AEC Program. I retired as a Manpower Management officer in 1982 and recently from The Boeing Company. (I retired in 1981 after a very interesting career, and began a clock repair business, George Bennett)

Hermann Knolle   hknolle@aol.com

George Bennett   alzadaslim@attbi.com 

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