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HistoryVX-30 HistoryHistory

Circa 2003

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...Naval forces begin return home as war in Iraq subsides - Sea Power, May 2003 by BURGESS, Richard R. rburgess@navyleague.org..." http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3738/is_200305/ai_n9206235 [27MAR2005]

One S-3B Viking assigned to Sea Control Squadron 38 launched-for the first time in the aircraft's combat history-an AGM-85E Maverick missile against an Iraqi naval vessel that was targeted by a laser from an F/A18. AIP (Aircraft Improvement Program) versions of P-3C Orions assigned to VP-46-augmented by VP-1, VP-40, and VP-47-employed their long-range optical surveillance systems to provide targeting for coalition forces, including Air Force AC-130 gunships. Saddam Hussein's personal yacht was destroyed by Navy F/A-18 Hornets.

One surprising participant in the war was Air Test & Evaluation Squadron 30, which dispatched its sole DC-130A drone-launch aircraft to the war zone. The ancient aircraft was used to launch Vietnam-era Firebee drones over Baghdad to drop radar-jamming chaff and, until they ran out of fuel, to circle the city as decoys to draw anti-aircraft fire away from coalition strike aircraft.

Circa 2002

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...We were re-designated on 01May02 to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Three Zero (VX-30). So during the course of P2 and P-3 participation in this command, it has evolved from Pacific Missile Center (PMC), to Pacific Missile Test Center (PMTC), to Naval Weapons Test Squadron Point Mugu (NWTS), to VX-30..." Contributed by BARAN, ATC(AW/NAC) Richard "Shipwreck" geographer@wavecable.com[08MAY2002]

Circa 1966 - 1967

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...Project Muddy Hill - Wings of Gold Page 64-65 - Winter 2007/2008..." WebSite: Association of Naval Aviation http://www.anahq.org/ [21FEB2008]

History - Tap To Enlarge ThumbnailHistory - Tap To Enlarge Thumbnail

Circa 1966

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...After 40 years, I finally manage to have published a brief history of Project Muddy Hill in the Winter issue of the Wings of Gold..." Contributed by ZAFRAN, LCDR Bob Retired vpfourever@gmail.com [10APR2008]

Project Muddy Hill
By LCDR Robert Zafran, USN (Ret)

I was a newly commissioned United States Navy Ensign sporting the Golden wings of a Naval Aviation Observer (NAO), when I received orders to report to the Weapons Systems Test (WST) Division at the Naval Air Test Center (NATC), NAS Patuxent River, Maryland in June 1966. Upon arrival at NATC, I met four Naval Officers and several enlisted personnel who were also assigned to a newly formed research and development project, Project Muddy Hill (Muddy Hill). The OPNAV Office of Reconnaissance, Electronic Warfare, Special Operations, Navy (REWSON) funded Muddy Hill. Prior to deployment to Southeast Asia, Muddy Hill was under the administrative command of the WST branch of NATC.

Muddy Hill's purpose was to equip a S P-2 H Neptune (BUNO 135582) anti-submarine (ASW) aircraft, later designated a N P-2 H, with the newest state-of-the-art electro-optical (E-O) and special sensors and then test and evaluate these sensors in a nighttime developmental and operational scenario in Southeast Asia.

Along with several of the Muddy Hill officers and enlisted personnel, I was sent to factory and university classes to learn the fundamentals of infrared detection, low illumination television, starlight scope, terrain following radar, electronic counter measures, and active magnetic anomaly detection systems. In September, I joined the Muddy Hill contingent at the LTV Electro-Systems Inc. (E-Systems) plant, Greenville TX. E-Systems was a prime government contractor that modified government and military aircraft under special contract for such agencies as ARPA, CIA, USAF, etc. E-Systems had been working on the Muddy Hill aircraft (now painted with a high-gloss, 'Black Widow Black' paint) for some months installing and ground testing the newly incorporated electro-optical and radar/camera systems.

The Muddy Hill N P-2 H retained its recognizable P2 Neptune configuration with the exception of two five foot long, 30 inch diameter pods mounted on either side of the nose section, a six foot long, 30 inch wide fairing aft of the rear exit hatch, and a seven foot long probe extending forward from the top of the nose section which supported the angle of attack probe necessary for the Terrain Following Radar system. The existing APS-20 radar radome was modified to incorporate the Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) system that was capable of being scanned from the horizon to 200 aft of nadir. A small faring just forward of the MAD boom housed a Fairchild Instruments, horizon-to-horizon, 70mm film format reconnaissance camera. The additional fairing just aft of the rear floor exit hatch now housed the Stereo, Downward Looking Infrared (DLIR) systems. The port circular nose fairing housed the Low Light Level Television (L3TV) system and the starboard circular nose fairing contained the APQ-115 Terrain Following Radar (TFR) system.

Controls and displays for the electro-optical systems were mounted on the flight deck in place of the previously existing ASW and navigation equipment. The E-O sensor station was the forward location on the flight deck, the navigation station was the center location, and the Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) station was at the aft location. The navigation station was composed of an integrated navigation suite consisting of a B-52 inertial guidance/navigation computer, Litton LN15 inertial system, APN-92 loran C, and an APN-122 Doppler groundspeed/drift navigation system. The transmitter for the Active Magnetic Anomaly Detection (AMAD) was a 36-inch coil of solid copper wire mounted directly behind the aft observer seats at 250 to the vertical. The wing fuel tanks were filled with orange-colored, polyurethane reticulated foam to minimize the possibility of wing fires initiated by small or medium caliber ground-fire.

Between August 1966 and June 1967, crewmember training and systems installation and flight testing was conducted. Flight operations utilized the E-Systems runways and ground facilities and the surrounding Greenville TX countryside. Additional operations were conducted at Fort Hunter Liggett Proving Grounds on the central coast of Northern California. In July 1967, the project relocated to WST, NATC NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, for pre-deployment preparations. The aircraft, with an aircrew of six departed NATC in late July 1967, followed by the remainder of the forty one project personnel (USN, USAF, USMC, Civilian Contractor, and US Civil Service) components and equipment via U.S. Air Force MAC transportation to Udorn Thani Royal Thai Air Force Base (Udorn RTAFB), located in the north-eastern sector of Thailand, just south of the Mekong River forming the Thailand-Laos border. Udorn RTAFB was to be the project's base of operations for the next four months.

As Pacific Fleet Task Group 50.8, Muddy Hill operated from the Air America compound at Udorn RTAFB. Avionics systems test, road reconnaissance crewmember training scenario, and low-level, aerial reconnaissance, 'Barrel Roll' and 'Tiger Hound' missions were conducted during both daytime and nighttime hours in Laos. Eight crewmember military operational missions were fully briefed with intelligence, threat scenario, and conjunctive military flight operations in the mission areas. Target areas consisted of the Ho Chi Minh Trail and its road segments as well as locations in the Plaine des Jarres in central Laos. Flight durations averaged 4-5 hours with takeoffs around 0500 and 1900 hours. While at Udorn RTAFB, the pilot and co-pilot's seats were reinforced with seat armor salvaged from crashed helicopters. This seat armor was obtained from an Army base in Saigon RVN.

Mission flight parameters varied between 200 and 1500 feet absolute altitude on terrain following radar. Primary target area guidance was accomplished by my usage of a hand-held starlight (night vision) scope in the Plexiglas bow observer station to locate road segments and individual targets and direct the plane commander using voice commands via the aircraft's inter-communication system. Usage of the night vision scope also provided terrain avoidance to complement terrain following radar commands. Suspected targets of interest were marked with green, chemiluminescent dye impregnated airborne flare parachutes using the aircraft's sonobuoy dispensing chutes.

The Stereo DLIR system obtained IR images directly on two rolls of 70mm format film. After processing at the USAF photo laboratory, this film was analyzed by Muddy Hill personnel using a specially designed stereoscopic viewer during post-flight operations. Tactically significant target information was reported to the USAF intelligence center at Udorn RTAFB.

From August to December 1967, Project Muddy Hill (TG 50.8) completed a total 60 avionics systems test/road reconnaissance training flights. Also accomplished were 14 military operational, low-level reconnaissance missions while amassing 62 flight hours in a combat environment. The Muddy Hill aircraft and project personnel returned to NATC in December 1967. Project Muddy Hill successfully utilized some of the first airborne E-O systems to be operationally evaluated in a combat environment. These systems served as the predecessor of the more modern E-O systems in common usage in today's civilian and military airborne platforms.

Acknowledgments: The author thanks my former Muddy Hill colleagues RADM. Dale Hagen, USN (Ret) and CAPT. Robert Porter, USN (Ret), for their comments and suggestions concerning the accuracy of details in this article.

NOTE: Pictures to show:

  • Project Muddy Hill Logo
  • Flight Station
  • E-O Station
  • Navigation Station
  • ECM Station
  • External Aircraft View
  • Infrared image of Ho Chi Minh Trail

    Circa 1956

    HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "... Naval Weapons Test Squadron, NAS Point Mugu, California currently flies 4 NP-3Ds, which are essentially highly modified P-3As. I'll forward the BuNos in a few days. We also have one DC-130A, built in 1956 just finishing a rework cycle in Greenville. Yes, that's 1956! We fly an HC-130H on loan from the Air Force, F-14As, Bs, and Ds in conjunction with VX-9, and QF-4Ns and QF-4Ss, and one lonely YF-4J. Last but not least the pilots and aircrew utilize 2 Fairchild SA-227 "Metro"s for logistics runs to and from China Lake. Big list!! Our biggest news is that within the next few months we will (according to our current skipper) be redesignated as VX-30. Although we are NOT tactical maritime patrol, we DO man the P-3..." BARAN, ATC(AW/NAC) Richard "shipwreck" geographer@wavecable.com[24FEB2002]

    Circa Unknown
    Can you identify the Month and or Year?

    HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...NWTS evolved from varied portions of PMTC, NAS Point Mugu, California, and other small tenant commands and civilian groups. We are part of NavAir, assigned under Naval Air Warfare Center, Weapons Division (NAWC-WD). As far as I know we have no historical connection to Weapons System Test, NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. NAS Point Mugu, California started life as Naval Missile Center. It later became NAS PM and the Naval Missile Center became a tenant. They were later combined with several small commands to become PMTC. P2s and Willie-Victors (Super-Connies) were flown up to the mid eighties, when the P-3s began to be used. Three of the four currently in service have been modified with large antennas(known as billboards) for telemetry collection. We also provide optical data collection and range clearance utilizing APS-80 RADAR. All of our P-3 and C-130 maintenance is performed by "DynCorp" civilian maintainers, almost all of whom are retired Orion and Hercules maintenance professionals..." BARAN, ATC(AW/NAC) Richard "shipwreck" geographer@wavecable.com[26FEB2002]

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