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History of Communications-Electronics in the United States Navy, Captain Linwood S. Howeth, USN (Retired), 1963, pages 479-493:
Radio Controlled Aircraft
1. REVIVED NAVAL INTEREST
As previously related, a project had been established in 1917 for research and experimentation with automatic pilots and radio-controlled aircraft. Although considerable progress had been made by 1925, interest had waned and although the project had not been canceled it lay dormant until 1936.1
In early 1935, Commander Aircraft, Battle Force, requested the Chief of Naval Operations to provide high-speed, radio-controlled, armored aircraft targets for bombing practices.2 A few months later the Plans Division of the Bureau of Aeronautics recommended the development of a radio-controlled aircraft target. This memorandum stated that training of antiaircraft activities must be conducted with greater realism and that further information must be obtained as to the effectiveness of present and projected antiaircraft weapons before further marked improvement in defense could be reasonably expected.3
A little later, Commander Battle Force, initiated a request that careful consideration be given to the urgent requirement of the Fleet for radio controlled aerial targets which would provide more realistic training of the fleet's antiaircraft batteries. This was concurred in by the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, without reservation.4
Prior to this time the Royal Navy had developed the "Queen Bee" radio-controlled aerial target. The Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. William H. Standley, USN, had been in England during most of 1935 attending the London Disarmament Conference. While there, he had numerous discussions with high Royal Navy and Air Force officers concerning the valuable training and experience they were gaining through the use of these aerial targets. He returned to Washington in early 1936 thoroughly convinced that realistic aerial targets must be provided the fleet without delay.5
As soon as possible after his return Standley discussed the problem with Rear Adm. E. J. King, USN, Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics. King was in complete agreement both as to the necessity and the immediacy of providing such targets.6 Following this discussion the Chief of Naval Operations addressed a letter to the Chiefs of the Bureaus of Ordnance, Aeronautics, and Engineering calling their attention to the urgent need of radio-controlled aerial targets and specified the following characteristics for such a plane:
A seaplane with radio-controlled automatic pilot capable of speeds in excess of 100 m.p.h. at an altitude of 10,000 feet.
Despite Standley's expressed statement concerning the necessity and urgency, the Bureau of Ordnance demurred, stating that the project would overcrowd the facilities of the Naval Proving Ground, Dahlgren, Va.,8 and seriously interfere with and delay important ordnance developments. The Bureau's reply stated that "the cost of provision and operation of such targets for routine training of antiaircraft batteries would be out of all proportion to the benefits obtainable thereby."9 The Bureau of Aeronautics expressed a strong interest in the rehabilitation of the project.10 The reply of the Chief of the Bureau of Engineering expressed more enthusiasm than might be expected from a Bureau little concerned with gunnery. It stated that, although satisfactory results could be obtainable by utilizing full-scale seaplanes, consideration should be given to developing a large stable model aircraft with radio control without using an automatic pilot. The letter ended by expressing the Bureau's keen desire to handle the development of the radio equipment.11
Desirable that plane be capable of being catapulted under radio control.
Essential that plane be capable of taking off and landing under radio control.
In flight, under radio control, it should be capable of straight flight and normal turns, climbs, and glides.
Desirable that it be capable of dives at angles of as great as 45° and of pulling out of such dives.
Radio control of complete range of throttle.
Minimum distance from control station to controlled plane, under favorable conditions must be 10 miles.
Armor not required on targets.
Weight of complete control equipment not to exceed weight of normal crew of similar plane.7
2. REACTIVATION OF THE RADIO-CONTROLLED AIRCRAFT PROJECT
On 1 May 1936, the Chief of Naval Operations directed the Bureaus of Aeronautics and Engineering to proceed with the development of four radio-controlled aircraft. The overall cognizance of the project was assigned to the Bureau of Aeronautics and both bureaus were requested to give the project a high priority.12
By 1 July, the Bureau of Aeronautics completed its procedure plans. These called for heading the project with an aviator qualified to study the aerodynamic requirements, select and supervise the installation of the stabilization equipment, and direct necessary redesign.13 The billet was established and Lt. Comdr. D. S. Fahrney, USN, was ordered as Officer in Charge of the Radio-controlled Aircraft Project on 20 July.
After a study of previous work in radio control, Fahrney submitted his plans on 6 August.14 A landplane of high inherent stability would be selected and, in accordance with the recommendation of the Bureau of Engineering, the automatic pilot would not be used unless later found necessary. Work on the project would be conducted at the Naval Aircraft Factory. Philadelphia, Pa. The radio equipment would be developed by the Radio Division, Naval Research Laboratory, under the supervision of Dr. A. Hoyt Taylor. These plans were endorsed by the Chiefs of the Bureaus of Aeronautics and Engineering and were approved by the Chief of Naval Operations.15
Mr. William Wait, Jr., an aeronautical engineer, was assigned as an assistant to Fahrney in September 1936. The Naval Research Laboratory assigned two radio engineers, Messrs. E. L. Luke and J. C. Link, to the project plus the part-time services of Messrs. L. C. Young, M. H. Schrenk, and H. F. Hastings. The Naval Aircraft Factory assigned the following petty officers: F. Wallace, C. E. Herzog, L. B. McKeon, H. D. Schultz, and H. E. Foster. Wallace was a chief aviation pilot. In January 1913, Mr. George A. Spangenberg, a junior engineer, was added, and in April Radio Electrician S. E. Herbst, USN, an aviator, reported for duty with the project.16
3. NAVY DEVELOPMENT OF THE DRONE
Four Stearman Hammond Y planes, fitted with tricycle landing gear, were ordered and one training plane built by the New Standard Aircraft Corp. was assigned the project. Later, the delayed delivery of the Stearman Hammond Y planes necessitated the assignment of two N2C-2 training planes.17
At the time of the resumption of work on this project, radio communications were vastly superior to those existing in 1925. High-frequency equipment had become available and highly dependable improved standard equipments were available such as the GP-2 transmitter and its associated RV-3 receiver. Both of these were selected as components. The major problem involved in the radio-control equipment was the development of a means of modulating the carrier wave of the transmitter and of demodulating this at the receiver. In the earlier experiments a vibrating reed was forced to vibrate between magnetic poles, thus providing a steady tone which was then imposed on the carrier wave. This method was again used but was improved by Naval Research Laboratory personnel. The design of the circuits, selection of components, fabrication, and tests were carried out under the direction of Schrenk, aided by the previously mentioned Laboratory personnel.18
The equipment, as designed, provided 12 distinct radio channels. Two of these were allocated to each control, aileron, elevator, and throttle, and one for intermittent signals. This left three spare channels which could be assigned to any of the above functions as required. The automatic pilot was to be used. It was planned to secure the rudder in the neutral position and make all turns with the ailerons. If this proved impracticable under test, then it was contemplated that the rudder and aileron controls would be linked together.19
In his semiannual report for the last 6 months of 1936, the Officer in Charge of the project initiated the term "drone" as descriptive of the radio-controlled aerial targets. That designation has persisted and will be used hereinafter.20
In order to test the design of the system and the selection of components, a laboratory "drone" was fabricated at the Naval Research Laboratory. This was fitted with a working model of the complete radio-control system. The control station was set up in one location and the equipment for the drone was placed a few hundred yards away. Signals transmitted from the control station actuated movements of the simulated control surfaces of the laboratory drone. Many tests, which aided in the improvement of both the radio and mechanical components, were carried out prior to February 1937. On 17 February this laboratory drone was controlled by a TU-2 control plane from a distance of 25 miles.21
Illustrative of the support the project was receiving, the above test was witnessed by the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable Charles Edison, and many high-ranking naval officials.22
By the middle of March 1937, one complete unit was ready for installation in the TG-2 control plane and the NT drone. The latter had been modified for the installation of the hydraulic and radio-control apparatus. After installation, tests were run with both planes on the ground and then with the control plane in the air and the drone on the ground.
On the afternoon of March, a test with both planes in the air was conducted. The results of this are quoted from Fahrney's report:
". . . the planes took the air at about 1300 with Wallace in the NT drone as a safety pilot and Fahrney as controlling pilot in the front cockpit of the TG-2. At 3000 feet the circuits were tested and found to be in working order. The drone pilot was ordered to throw in the gear. Shortly thereafter, there ensued the most astonishing evolutions which could only be ascribed to a drunken pilot. The drone went into wild gyrations to the right and to the left with plenty of climbs and dives mixed in to give Wallace a most harrying ride. After a few moments of anxious concern it developed that the controls governing climb and dive were satisfactory, but the aileron controls were decidedly 'hay wire'. The drone pilot was requested to throw out the gear, when the right turn control was operated, the plane went immediately into a left turn and the more the right turn signal was given by radio, the more tight the left turn became. The obvious fact that the controls were crossed was not at first apparent because the safety pilot threw out the gear and brought the plane back to level flight after each unusual maneuver."
The planes were taken up again and the test of radio control proved that it was adequate for all normal maneuvers.23
Following this, a neutralizing mechanism which could be actuated by radio was developed and installed, and this, combined with a modified turn-and-bank instrument, provided a fair automatic pilot for level and straight flights of short distance.24 However, the drone would still gradually wander offcourse. The instrument section of the Naval Aircraft Factory placed electric contracts, controlled by photoelectric cells, in a Sperry directional gyro instrument. This unit could be controlled by radio so that when the drone was on a selected course the instrument could be placed into use and could keep it on course.
Delay in delivery of the Stearman Hammond Y planes prevented any attempt to make a pilotless flight since it was considered unsafe to attempt a landing under radio control except with drones fitted with tricycle landing gear. When, in early August 1937, these planes were still not delivered, an N2C-2 plane, reconfigured to take the control equipment and refitted with tricycle landing gear, was assigned. The fitting of this plane was completed on 7 October, after which it was repeatedly tested under all possible conditions. At this time a second TG-2 plane was also assigned for use as a second aerial control station.
On the morning of 15 November 1937, a complete check of all equipment was made and four perfect takeoffs and landings were effected under radio control with a safety pilot in the N2C-2 drone. At about 1330, the same day, the TG-2 control plane took off with Wallace in the radio-control cockpit. When the control plane was on station, Fahrney, at the ground control station, opened the pilotless drone's throttle by radio and the plane made a normal takeoff. When it reached an altitude of 200 feet the control was shifted to the TG-2 which controlled it through simple maneuvers for about 10 minutes, after which it lined it up for a landing approach. The control was shifted back to the ground control station. Some difficulty was experienced; the plane made a hard landing, carried away the front wheel, and skidded along on its nose for about 40 feet while the rear wheels slowly crumpled.25
Meanwhile, delivery of the two Stearman Hammond Y (SH-1) planes had been made and an additional N2C-2 was assigned. Efforts were concentrated on fitting one of the JH-1 planes as a drone. By 23 December this had been accomplished and the plane had been tested numerous times with a safety pilot. On that date a pilotless flight, utilizing the same procedure used in the previous ill-fated one with the N2C-2 drone, was successfully completed.26
Following this flight, flying was discontinued for the winter. The following months were utilized in perfecting the existent equipment, designing and testing new components, and in fitting four drones for operation with the Fleet.27 The radio control equipment was functioning so reliably that Schrenk turned his attention to the development of a repeat back system which would enable the remote control station to see instantly the conditions existent in the drone. This was accomplished but in practice was found unnecessary under normal conditions, since observation by eye and experience gained in controlling the drones proved sufficient.28
Flying operations were resumed on 18 April 1938. By the 27th of that month, sufficient test and practice flights had been made to warrant another attempt at a pilotless one. This was accomplished with an N2C-2 drone making three pilotless flights under the control of various pilots from both ground and air control stations.29
4. USE OF DRONES AS FLEET ANTIAIRCRAFT TARGETS
Tests were continued throughout early May with such success that a unit was established to provide aerial targets for the fleet. On 1 June, movement of equipment and personnel to San Diego, Calif., was commenced. It was assigned to the Fleet Utility Wing, and preparations for utilizing drones as aerial targets were started.30
On 24 August 1938, a drone was first used by the Navy as an aerial target for the U.S.S. Ranger. The practice simulated firing at a horizontal bomber which had passed over the ship. For the first time in this country, a maneuvered target was being fired upon by a surface antiaircraft battery. The personnel of the antiaircraft battery were exceptionally well trained, but they failed to score a single hit on either of two runs by a drone over the ship while firing between 4,000 and 6,200 yards slant range.31
During the second run the control plane opened out from the drone from 1 to 2 miles upon request of the U.S.S. Ranger. Upon conclusion of firing, the smoke from the shrapnel bursts obscured the drone from the controlling aircraft so that it was not possible to determine its altitude. In endeavoring to have the drone close, the remote pilot put in a tight 180° turn, from which it went into a dive. Control was shifted to Fahrney in the standby controlling aircraft. At that time the drone was directly below Fahrney and continuing in its dive. It answered the up-elevator signal, made a full loop, then fell into a steep spiral dive from which it did not recover, and crashed into the sea.32 "Operation successful--patient died."33
The next practice utilizing a drone as an aerial target was held on the 14th of September, with one simulating a dive-bombing attack against the U.S.S. Utah. The gunners were successful in bringing the target down by scoring a hit on the second salvo.34
The following year the use of drones as aerial targets was greatly increased and eventually became routine. The inadequacy of our antiaircraft defense against a maneuvered target was revealed and resulted in accelerating the improvement of our fire-control equipment. Fortunately, two electronic devices became available at about this time to aid in this improvement--radar and the proximity fuze.
5. NAVY DEVELOPMENT OF TELEMETERING FOR AIRCRAFT
It was only natural that the successful development of the drone would revive the World War I project of the flying bomb. Shortly after the aircraft radio-control program was reactivated, Fahrney recommended that the project be expanded to include guiding an aerial torpedo to a target and investigating the use of radio control in testing new aircraft.35
The Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, on 27 October 1937, directed the Manager, Naval Aircraft Factory, to make a detailed study of the possibility of using radio control for testing new aircraft.36 Following completion of this study the Aircraft Factory outlined the following as necessary development for such a project:
A means of transmission by radio of the information indicated on the aircraft's flight instruments;
After considerable time-consuming discussions between the various divisions of the Bureau, the Naval Aircraft Factory was directed to proceed with the project with major emphasis to be placed on a television repeat-back system.38
Means by which the synchronized records of the control positions might be obtained; and
Means of obtaining records of the structural test instruments by radio and of recording them.37
Early in 1938 the possibility of using television equipment in a repeat-back system was discussed with engineers of the Radio Corp. of America. Following this, the Naval Aircraft Factory recommended that a television equipment be purchased for tests. This was not approved until October 1939 and was not obtained until late February 1940. Tests with it were carried out the remainder of that year.
In January 1941, negotiations were completed with the Radio Corp. for installing one set of their latest type of television in an experimental twin-engine observation and utility plane fitted with tricycle landing gear. The Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, on 17 January 1941, outlined the tests desired, placing great emphasis on the televising of instruments to permit control of a drone beyond visual range, to transmit structural test data to a ground station, and the televising of the view ahead of an assault drone headed toward a target.39
By 17 February 1941, tests of this equipment gave promise of provision of usable picture informations from a plane in flight distant 20 to 30 miles from a ground receiving station. By June of the same year, the tests had progressed to the point where the television transmitter was providing pictures of sufficient quality on the receiver in another plane that the pilot in the latter could direct the pilot of the transmitting plane to alter course as pass directly over a selected target.40 Meanwhile, the Radio Corp. developed a small television camera and transmitter which, with its power supply, weighed only 70 pounds. This equipment proved successful in supplying satisfactory information for telemetering purposes.
6. NAVY DEVELOPMENT OF GUIDED MISSILES PRIOR TO WORLD WAR II
To distinguish the development of guided missiles from that of aerial torpedoes and flying bombs of World War I vintage, the following definition of the former was evolved prior to 1942:
A guided missile in an unmanned vehicle travelling above the surface of the earth which is guided from the launching point to the target by command signals outside the vehicle or by sensing equipment within the vehicle or by a combination of these systems.
In all truthfulness, the Navy was slow to see the possibilities of guided missiles. The first known proposal of these weapons was made to naval officials in 1934 by Dr. V. K. Zworykin, pioneer developer of television for the Radio Corp. of America. The Navy Department concluded that it was unsuited as a naval weapon because of its weight, lack of target penetration, and complexity.
Again, in 1937, Zworykin made strong representation to the Navy Department in support of the development of guided missiles. A board of officers was convened to study his proposals, and on 27 February 1937, reported unfavorably upon them. In commenting upon the Board's report the Chief of Naval Operations stated:
. . . am satisfied that, at least for the present, the situation does not justify any expenditure of funds for experimental purposes in this field of endeavor.41
This decision prevailed until March 1940 at which time, with the international situation deteriorated and a possibility that we might be drawn into the conflict, the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics directed that one of the TG-2 torpedo planes which had been employed as a drone control be fitted as a radio controlled plane which could be flown at a set altitude, just clear of the water. Meanwhile, the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Fleet directed the commander of his drone unit to conduct tests to determine the practicability of the use of radio controlled torpedoes. These tests indicated that a drone could be flown into a target consistently by a control operator flying one and one-half miles astern of the drone.
In commenting on these tests, the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, on 30 October 1940, advised the Chief of Naval Operations that a number of projects were being examined which should lead to the development of a guided missile. The most important of these were:
An interference-free radio-control system (Naval Research Laboratory);
In a report several months later Fahrney stated:
A radar altimeter (Naval Aircraft Factory and the Western Electric Co.);
A radio-controlled automatic pilot (Naval Aircraft Factory); and
A television guidance system (the Radio Corp. of America and the Naval Aircraft Factory).42
As far as can be determined the Navy has outstripped all countries in the development of radio control for aircraft and it now appears logical that the Navy should develop the first radio controlled aerial torpedo.43
In a letter, dated 17 January 1941, the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics stated:
The Bureau is particularly desirous that the technique of operating offensive torpedo carrying radio controlled aircraft be pushed to a conclusion and that sufficient flight tests of aircraft television be carried out to permit recommendations for useful application for naval work.44
Following this the Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance provided that Bureau's first indication of support of the program. In a letter to the Chief of Naval Operations he suggested that all-out efforts be made to develop the missile.45
In a report to the Chief of Naval Operations, on 18 April 1941, the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics advised that progress in the program was satisfactory, and that radar was being developed to replace television as a guidance system in order to allow operations under all conditions of visibility.46
Prior to this time, it was discovered that the radar altimeter which had been developed by the Western Electric Co. was too bulky and heavy for use in the missile. By 29 January 1941, the Radio Corp. of America had succeeded in the development of a satisfactory one which gave the required excellent low-altitude performance.
During August 1941, tests in which depth charges and torpedoes were dropped from the radio-controlled plane were conducted. The Manager of the Naval Aircraft Factory, Webster, in reporting these stated:
Approximately fifty simulated torpedo attack runs were made with the drone under radio control, using the television equipment to sight and effect a collision track on the target. All runs except three were satisfactory. In addition the drone was maintained under continuous radio control, television guided, for a period of forty minutes (during which time the control pilot was not able to see the drone), made runs on a target, returned the drone to the initial point and repeated the runs. The maximum distance that a clear picture was obtained (television) was six miles.47
On 8 October 1941, Webster reported that the radio-controlled aerial weapon was almost ready for service testing and inclusion in naval warfare planning. Only the altimeter control was lacking, and the Radio Corp. of America equipment would possibly meet the requirements. His report indicated that a plane could be visually directed into collision with a target or into proper position for torpedo launching by a control plane 4 miles distant. With the utilization of television guidance, the control plane could be at a much greater distance. He also indicated that an all-weather radar guidance system being developed by the Naval Research Laboratory and the National Defense Research Council showed excellent promise.48 This report was forwarded to the Chief of Naval Operations, who, on 28 October, stated:
Progress in the assault drone program is of great interest to the Chief of Naval Operations and to the service at large. It is considered that exploration are being conducted along lines dictated by possible practical service applications.49
On 24 October a conference was held between representatives of the Bureaus of Ordnance and Aeronautics for the purpose of planning future tests for proving the feasibility of the new weapon. Following this conference, the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics addressed a letter to the Chief of Naval Operations outlining the proposed tests. In this letter he suggested that 100 obsolete TBD planes be assigned the program and that as SB2D and SB2C planes became obsolete that they also be assigned. Additionally, he stated that studies were being conducted to determine the design of special aircraft for the project in both low- and high-performance categories.50 It was imperative that these special expendable assault aircraft be developed in such a manner that they could be manufactured in quantities by industries not connected with the aircraft industry, because Admiral Towers was emphatic in his decision that the overburdened industry not be further burdened with a weapon unproven in combat.
The Japanese attack of 7 December 1941 necessitated the use of every available plane for combat or training; thus, the obsolete planes did not become available to the program. The special assault aircraft was therefore given high priority for early development.
7. THE AERIAL RAM PROJECT
In March 1941, the Chief of Naval Operations directed the establishment of a drone squadron on the east coast to provide services for the Atlantic Fleet. This was organized as VJ-5 under Lt. R. F. Jones, USN, who had commanded the drone squadron on the west coast. It was based at Cape May, N.J.
Jones had become interested in guided missiles following the radio-controlled torpedo tests he had conducted at the direction of the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet. As soon as his squadron was established at Cape May, he began looking for a development assignment in this field. On 9 July 1941 he submitted a plan for the development of a radio-controlled fighter plane to be used as an aerial ram. He stated that this ram could be developed, tested, and personnel trained in its operations in 4 months.51
There were strong dissents to this proposal by the subordinate officers in the Bureau of Aeronautics based on the premise that an operational unit should not be utilized for research and development purposes. Nevertheless, the Chief of the Bureau forwarded it to the Chief of Naval Operations, recommending that Jones' proposal be approved. On 8 October 1941, the Chief of Naval Operations directed that the development of the ram proceed under the direction of Utility Squadron 5. This directive was broad and stated as a mission:
To develop, test, and operate radio-controlled offensive weapons and to train personnel in their use.
The directive also approved the squadron's request for aircraft, personnel, and electronic equipment.52
This directive established duplication of effort by the Naval Aircraft Factory and Utility Squadron 5. In all probability this was done to hasten work on guided missiles by the introduction of competitive spirit and to aid in the elimination of dogmatic ideas. The project of Utility Squadron 5 was designated as Project Dog and that of the Aircraft Factory as Project Fox.
Dissension quickly arose between the personnel of the two projects over the type of control to be utilized in guided missions. The Project Dog recommended the utilization of all electric photocell pilots while those of Project Fox maintained that the "air pickoff type," long used in drones, was preferable.
Project Dog quickly became hampered by operational requirements. Since Jones had promised an operational device within months and since the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics was keenly interested in remote control of the latest type of fighter aircraft, he, on 30 April 1942 requested the Chief of Naval Operations to direct Utility Squadron 5 to make a progress report.53
Jones submitted the report on 20 May listing the following successes in the development of new equipment or improvement of existing equipments, directional stabilizer, automatic band control and control box, pulse control, and automatic altitude control. He stated that, in his opinion, they were satisfactory for guided-missile controls. He closed his report stating that demands for target drone services, lack of shop facilities and test equipment, and lack of laboratory facilities caused delays and lack of accomplishment.54
As a result of Jones' report, Project Dog was divorced from Utility Squadron 5 and transferred to Utility Squadron 6, which was especially established for this purpose. Despite this, the next monthly report recommended the transfer of Project Dog to the Naval Aircraft Factory.55 This was done, but little work was accomplished in this air-to-air category weapon at the time. Later it was briefly exploited as a Gorgon missile. However, the project did accelerate the work of Project Fox.
8. WORLD WAR II DEVELOPMENT OF GUIDED MISSILES
On 15 December 1941, Captain Oscar Smith, USN, unaware of the assault drone program, transmitted a letter to the Chief of Naval Operations concerning the use of radio-controlled aircraft for offensive purposes. He stated:
We need no suicide squad to dive torpedo laden airplanes into the sides of enemy ships. Let a simple type of radio control be placed on a plane, and we have a suicide pilot who will not falter, but will obey all the orders of the controlling plane, and will not hesitate to fly within 100 yards before dropping his torpedo.56
Smith's letter was circulated for comment. The Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics outlined the work being done on the assault drone program and the successes obtained.57 By early February, having had no reply, Smith addressed a second letter to the Chief of Naval Operations requesting that he be apprised of the action being taken on his original letter. In this letter he requested that he be placed in charge of the weapon project, stating:
My request for supervision over the development should not be rejected because I am not an aviator. I can bring more experience and as much common sense to the project as any aviator, and an equal or greater enthusiasm. There are few aviators who flew before my first flight in 1912, and none who has had greater interest in the adaptation of aviation to naval warfare.58
Within the same month Smith was assigned duty as the Director of the Plans Division in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. One of his first acts was to personally investigate the work being done on the assault drone program. Following this he addressed another letter to the Chief of Naval Operations describing the tests he had witnessed, which had impressed him greatly. He added:
In my opinion the urgency of our situation and the possibilities of this weapon are such as to make it essential the regular peacetime developments be shortened and the drone be hurried along for actual use.59
The Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Vice Adm. F. J. Home, USN, was so impressed by Smith's report that he directed him to arrange tests which would show the missile's ability to accurately hit moving targets. In compliance with this, Smith prepared a letter, for signature of the Chief of Naval Operations, addressed to the Chiefs of the Bureaus of Aeronautics, Ships, and Ordnance, directing them to proceed forthwith to adapt the drone for warfare. It was requested that the Chiefs of the three concerned bureaus appoint representatives to witness and report on tests to be conducted to determine the necessary characteristics for assault drones and control planes and to consider the tactical employment of the new weapon.
On 14 March 1942, the Chief of Naval Operations signed this letter directing that drone attack tests be carried out. Commander, Service Force, Atlantic Fleet, was ordered to provide the necessary services, including the photographing of the tests. Operational tests to prove the missile's capabilities consisted of a drone torpedo attack using television direction, against a maneuvering ship; a drone crashing into a moving battle raft, using both visual and television direction.
The tests were carried out during April and were witnessed by the board established for that purpose. The board's report contained statements of the assault drone's proven capabilities, additional capabilities required to make it a practical and efficient weapon, and listed additional equipments necessary to provide it with essential ability and adaptability for combat usage. Proven capabilities were that the plane could be taken into the air under radio control, guided to the target area visually, and then directed against a target seen on a television screen with remarkable accuracy. The required additional capabilities, most of them involving electronic control methods, included:
Means of dropping or housing landing gear after drone became airborne;
The last three of these required further development, and action to bring this about was immediately initiated by Smith.
Selection of several, preferably ten, preset altitudes for flying drone under radio altimeter control;
Controlled air explosion for purpose of blasting upper decks;
Control plane knowledge of drone's position regardless of visibility conditions from takeoff to target;
Bomb or torpedo dropping automatically when proper position reached; and
Automatic target seeking;
On March, the Bureau of Aeronautics was directed to procure 200 expendable assault drones. One week later, the Naval Aircraft Factory was directed to manufacture 100 plywood assault drones, designated TDN-1, and to contract with a commercial firm for another 100 to be delivered prior to 1 November 1942. The contract was made with the Interstate Aircraft & Engineering Co. and these drones were given the designation TDR-1. Since the design was limited to engines and materials available outside the established aircraft industry, these planes possessed low-performance characteristics.
On 1 August 1941, the Naval Research Laboratory, at the request of the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, had commenced the development of a drone radar and drone radar repeat-back system. Concurrently, the National Defense Research Council commenced the development of a drone 3-centimeter radar recognition system.60 In April of the next year he followed this with another letter to Laboratory summing up the entire program, making reference to previous correspondence concerning the control of a number of drones by a single control plane by use of radar, the use of pulse radar to free the radio control of enemy or other interferences, and the use of radar for homing drones. Tests conducted at the Naval Aircraft Factory with 3-centimeter radar, installed in a dome under the fuselage of a utility plane, permitting a full sweep and making it possible to control several drones and keep track of a target at the same time, were described. The Chief of the Bureau stated that when drones could be fitted with interrogation, friend or foe, radar (ASB515), radar pulse control equipment, and radar homing, operations by radar could be carried out. The last four requirements were being developed by the Laboratory. The letter was concluded with the statement that the 200 assault drones were being configured for fitting in both television and radar controls.61
The program was again expanded, by a letter dated 6 May 1942, when the Chief of the Bureau directed the Aircraft Factory to make a study of controlling assault drones from surface vessels and submarines using radio and 3- or 10-centimeter radar.62
In early May 1942, motion pictures of the tests held in Narragansett and Chesapeake Bays were shown Admiral King, Vice Admiral Stone, the Chiefs of bureaus, and others. Oral presentations concerning the program were made by Smith and Fahrney. Following this, Admiral King directed Admiral Home to prepare a plan and program for expediting the development and employment of drones as guided missiles in combat. The plan was submitted within a few days and, as approved by Admiral King, directed:
The development of a service weapon from the assault drone; and
It will be recalled that this decision was made at a time when our situation was precarious. We were losing the Battle of the Atlantic; the Battle of Midway had not occurred; and we were barely maintaining the toehold we had established at Guadalcanal.
The readying of the weapon for combat use in quantity at the earliest practicable date.
On 22 May, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations appointed Smith as his direct representative for forwarding the project and in reaching adjustments to hasten completion of the program on a practical basis. At the same time he directed that the 200-assault-drone program previously authorized be increased to 1,000.63
It was felt that the first use of guided missiles should be widespread and in sufficient quantity to catch the enemy unprepared and that there should be sufficient opportunity to make repeated attacks before effective countermeasures could be developed.64
In a letter forwarded on 2 June, Admiral Home stated that a minimum delivery rate of 300 assault drones per month would be necessary and that 500 per month would be preferable.65 Earlier correspondence had specified the employment of 18 squadrons in the initial attack, using 162 control planes. This required 500 ready drones with an equal number in reserve. In a letter dated 22 May, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations established "Project Option" and stated:
The need for this weapon is so urgent that the chiefs of the Bureaus addressed are requested to proceed with the indicated development and production as far as possible--their comment on an irreconcilable conflicts found to exist with their programs.66
Analyzing the problem, the Bureau of Aeronautics calculated that 10,000 naval personnel, including 1,300 aviators, would be required. In order to achieve the required production rate it would be necessary to make initial contracts for 5,000 assault drones. The total cost was estimated to be about $235 million. With the training program lagging behind planned objectives and with the aircraft industry already heavily overloaded, Admiral Towers, on 29 June, requested that the program be reduced to 500 assault drones.67
At this time, Smith was relieved of his duties as Director of Plans, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, and appointed head of a Guided Missiles Committee convened to inspect every possible guided-missile project. Upon completing his inspections Smith reported to King and Home that in his opinion there was no project other than the Navys' which could be developed in time to make a major contribution toward winning the war.
The Chief of Naval Operations accepted Towers' recommendation that the program be reduced to 500 assault drones.68 Just previous to this Admiral Towers informed Admiral Home the assault drones were being procured for combat use by midsummer of 1943. He also informed him that he was--
--considerably concerned over premature commitments of funds, materials and personnel to this project which otherwise would be available for current needs.69
In the meanwhile, greatly improved radar-control, target-seeking, and target-homing equipment had been developed. The Radio Corp. of America, when called upon to develop a sensitive radio reflection altimeter, had placed the project under the supervision of Dr. Irving Wolff and made Mr. R. C. Sanders, an electronic engineer, the project engineer. As soon as Sanders began obtaining good results with the device he suggested the use of it to determine the presence of an object directly ahead. This device, termed a "sniffer," differed from an altimeter only in that it operated in the horizontal instead of the vertical plane. In addition to determining the presence of a target ahead, it could cause a torpedo to be launched or a bomb to be dropped at a selected distance from a target. Lt. M. B. Taylor, USN, of the Naval Aircraft Factory, suggested that right and left switching be added to make the device target-seeking. This was included, and in the summer of 1942 was tested and operated satisfactorily for ranges up to 4,000 yards.70
Following these tests, the Radio Corp. of America successfully developed the RL 101 "sniffers," and produced 10 of these equipments, which would, upon discovering a target, lock on and launch a torpedo or drop a bomb automatically at a preset distance from it. At the same time a parallel project was established to develop the RL 102 "supersniffer," capable of doing all the RL 101 could, but with the additional capability of searching an arc and then locking upon a discovered target. In November 1942, specifications for this device requiring range of 2 miles, later increased to 6 miles, were drawn up and approved by the Bureau of Aeronautics.
By April 1943 the "sniffer" gave satisfactory releases of bombs at speeds between 130 and 180 knots, and by May the lower limit had been decreased to 90 knots. At this time, tests of the "supersniffer" were also producing good results on ships and lighthouses at distances of 4 to miles at an altitude of 50 feet and at ranges of 6 to 8 miles at altitudes between 200 and 300 feet. Since the requirement for the supersniffer was 6 miles at low altitude, it was necessary to change the power and frequency of the equipment. However, a drone had been flown into an area and had sought out and locked upon a moving tanker at a distance of 2 miles. This was the first successful radar homing test on a moving target conducted by anyone.
These successes were reported by Wolff at a conference held prior to 28 June 1943. At this same conference Fahrney stated that the supersniffer project was of the greatest importance; that next to it was its application to the glide bomber; and third in importance was the development of a surface air-to-air missile in the 1500-4000 mc. band.
The first 12 assault drones were delivered in December and turned over to the Board of Inspection and Survey for trials. The Board made its report on 19 January and concluded with,--
--it is recommended that immediate steps be taken to develop an adequate control installation in the most advanced type of high performance bomber which can be made available, in order that control equipment made be made available if, and when drones of corresponding capabilities are desired.71
Following further tests of these 12 assault drones during the first months of 1943, Smith submitted a progress report covering, among other things, the developmental and service testing of the weapon including details of the guidance and control systems. He indicated that it was superior to a gun, bomb, or torpedo in accuracy and possessed ability to make an accurate horizontal approach against objectives that could not be reached by other weapons. He recommended that this "airborne remote-control bomb" be brought into action by trained crews and that it be used during periods of low visibility, boldly, and in sufficient force to gain full benefit of its power and surprise characteristics.72
Admiral King was inclined to approve Smith's recommendations but prior to doing so desired information relative to organizational planning.73 This was submitted to him in a plan which called for 3 combat units of 99 control planes, 891 drones, 441 officers, and 3,210 enlisted personnel, plus a training force of 12 control planes, 45 drones, 259 officers, and 2,238 enlisted personnel.74 After insuring that this was agreeable to the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, King, on 23 March, approved it with the admonishment that the secrecy of the weapon would be maintained and information concerning it limited to those who must know.75
On the same day, Home directed that the program be increased to a total of 3,000 assault drones and that a delivery rate of 250 per month be achieved by June 1944.76
Again the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics expressed concern over the requirements of the program and the ability to provide the 3,000 drones, necessary pilots, and other personnel, without serious interference with the regular aircraft program.77 In conferences which followed, the program was reduced to 1,500 drones in addition to the 500 already under contract.
In order to carry out the various types of combat missions visualized, each of these 2,000 planes required being configured for and fitted with radio control equipment, radio altimeter, television, automatic bomb release device, radar beacon, and radar equipment.
Frequency modulated radio control equipment was placed under contract with the F. M. Link Co. of New York. The Radio Corp. of America was given the contract for the altimeter, television, automatic bomb release, and homing equipment. The first television equipments used frequencies of about 100 mc. Later, equipment was developed in the band between 264 and 312 mc. Development of experimental television systems at about 1000 mc. was conducted by the Philco Corp. of Philadelphia and at about 1800 mc. by the General Electric Co. at Schenectady.
On 22 September 1943, Admiral King directed the Vice Chief of Naval Operations to "take in hand the active coordination and expediting of all guided-missiles development and research projects and press them to the earliest possible availability for service use."78 As a result of this directive, Admiral Home dispatched Smith to the Headquarters, Pacific Fleet, to discuss the combat employment of drone missiles in that theater. Since the war in the Pacific had changed from a static one to one of forward motion, and since conventional weapons were proving capable of winning the war, Admiral Nimitz, on advice of his staff and subordinate commanders, was against upsetting scheduled operations to experiment with an unproven weapon. He felt that he could spare neither carriers nor fields for this purpose. Heavy commitments of carriers in support of MacArthur made it necessary to utilize every available one in task forces in support of island-hopping or in containing the Japanese Fleet during the course of such operations. His decision was further based on the low speed and maneuverability of the assault drones, and he specifically recommended that SBD's, if suitable and available, be converted into drone missiles.
Following this, training and evaluation of the program continued, but no endeavor was made to utilize them in combat because King and Home still desired that, when utilized, they be used in quantity and in continuity.
On 15 February 1944, Capt. H. B. Temple, USN, became head of the guided-missile program in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. He immediately made a study of the program, and in a memorandum to the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, advised that, because of the time and space requirements of the Pacific war, target availability, and because of the fast movement of our forces, a declining requirement for a weapon such as the assault drone was indicated. He recommended that the program be drastically reduced and changed to a "combat test" one. This was in consonance with the opinions of Towers and Stevens, Head of the Research and Development Branch of the Bureau of Aeronautics. Temple's recommendations were approved. In March 1944, a planning directive was issued reducing the number of assault drones to a total of 388. No reduction was made in the orders for electronic equipment because it was considered that these devices could be used in obsolete planes.79 On 10 March, the operating force for delivering the assault drone attacks was reduced to four operating and one headquarters squadron.
After further reviewing the program, Temple, who believed that the preponderant offensive power of naval aviation was vested in carrier-based planes, found that the assault drones, as then configured, could not be controlled by carrier-based planes. He found that the Army had developed two prototypes which could be used, and he recommended all effort be made toward the utilization of these.80
Temple's comments were forwarded to Admiral. King, who, on 10 April, stated:
The deficiency of this program, as far as increasing the striking power of the aircraft carrier squadrons is concerned, is recognized and the evidence of this deficiency led to the appointment of the Vice Chief of Naval Operations as coordinator and guide for this program.
King followed this by directing the Vice Chief of Naval Operations to take action--
to insure energetic and properly directed efforts are put forth on the development of projects that show promise of providing useful weapons for carrier squadrons.81
1 Supra, ch. XXIX.
2 Letter, dated 22 Apr. 1933, commander, aircraft, battle force, to the Chief of Naval Operations.
3 Memorandum, dated 19 Aug. 1933, Plans Division, Bureau of Aeronautics.
4 Fleet Training Division, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Targets and Rafts Files, 1935-36.
5 Letter, dated Mar. 1953, Adm. W. H. Standley to Rear Adm. D. S. Fahrney.
7 Letter, dated 23 Mar. 1936, Chief of Naval Operations to the Chiefs of the Bureaus of Ordnance, Aeronautics, and Engineering.
8 The earlier radio-control project had never been canceled and the tests and experimentation had been conducted at this station.
9 Letter, dated 28 Mar. 1936, Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance to the Chief of Naval Operations.
10 Letter, dated 15 Apr. 1936, Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics to the Chief of Naval Operations.
11 Letter, dated 24 Apr. 1936. Chief of the Bureau of Engineering to the Chief of Naval Operations.
12 Letter, dated May 1936, Chief of Naval Operations to the Chiefs of the Bureaus of Aeronautics and Engineering.
13 Letter, dated 1 July 1936, Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics to the Chiefs of the Bureaus of Ordnance, Engineering, and Navigation.
14 Memorandum, dated 6 Aug. 1936, Officer in Charge, Radio-controlled Aircraft Project, to the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics.
15 Letter, dated 9 Sept. 1936, Chief of Naval Operations to the Chiefs of the Bureaus of Aeronautics and Engineering.
16 Naval Aircraft Factory controls files.
17 Letter, dated 12 Nov. 1936, Officer in Charge, Radio-control Project, to the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics.
18 Letter, dated Nov. 1936, Director, Naval Research Laboratory, to the Chief of the Bureau of Engineering.
19 Report, December 1936, Officer in Charge, Radio-control Project.
21 Letter, dated 8 Apr. 1937, Officer in Charge of Drone Project.
22 It is most probable that had the earlier experiments in radio control created interest among the higher responsible officials it would have been carried through to completion at that time. Had that been done the experience gained in a decade would have placed the United States far ahead in guided-missile development.
23 Letter dated 8 Apr. 1937, Officer in Charge, Drone Project.
24 Letter, dated 00 Mar. 1937, Officer in Charge, Drone Project.
25 Letter, dated 14 Dec. 1937, Officer in Charge, Drone Project.
26 Semiannual report, dated 4 Jan. 1938, Officer in Charge, Drone Project.
27 Letter, dated 16 Mar. 1938, Officer in Charge Drone Project.
28 Letter, dated 2 Feb. 1938, Naval Research Laboratory to the Bureau of Engineering.
29 Report, dated 13 May 1938, Officer in Charge Drone Project.
30 Memorandum, dated 2 May 1938, Officer in Charge Drone Project to Plans Division, Bureau of Aeronautics.
31 Report, dated 29 Aug. 1938, Commanding Officer, U.S.S. Ranger.
32 Report of loss of drone, dated 25 Aug. 1938.
33 Route slip comment, dated 29 Aug. 1938, by Comdr. A. C. Davis on U.S.S. Ranger report of practice.
34 Report, Commanding Officer, U.S.S. Utah, Fleet Training File (Targets and Rafts), 1935-39.
35 Letter, dated 24 Aug. 1936, Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics to the Chief of Naval Operations, file Aer-E-17-EP, F-31-1 (43).
36 Letter, dated 27 Oct. 1937, Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics to Manager, Naval Aircraft Factory, files Aer-F-32.
37 Letter, dated 5 Jan. 1938, Manager, Naval Aircraft Factory, to the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, file NAF-F32.
38 Letter, dated 14 Oct. 1939, Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics to Manager, Naval Aircraft Factory, file Aer-F31-1 (43).
39 Letter, dated 17 Jan. 1941, Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics to Manager, Naval Aircraft Factory, file Aer F31-1 (43).
40 Letter, dated 4 June 1941, Manager, Naval Aircraft Factory, to the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, file NAF-F32.
41 Memorandum, dated 13 Oct. 1939, J. M. Lane to the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, file F31-1 (43).
42 Letter, dated 30 Oct. 1940, Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics to the Chief of Naval Operations, file F32 (Controls).
43 Memorandum, dated 16 Dec. 1940, Fahrney to the Chiefs of the Bureaus of Engineering and Aeronautics, file F31-1 (43).
44 Letter, dated 17 Jan. 1941, Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics to the Manager, Naval Aircraft, file F31-1 (43).
45 Letter, dated 15 Apr. 1941, Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance to the Chief of Naval Operations, file F31-1 (43).
46 Letter, dated 18 Apr. 1941, Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics to the Chief of Naval Operations, file F-32 (C1693).
47 Letter, dated 22 Aug. 1941, Manager, Naval Aircraft Factory, to the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, file F31-1 (43) (4465).
48 Letter, dated 8 Oct. 1941, Manager, Naval Aircraft Factory, to Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, file F32 (36249).
49 Letter, dated 28 Oct. 1941, Chief of Naval Operations to Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, file F32.
50 Letter, dated 4 Nov. 1941, Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics to the Chief of Naval Operations, file F32.
51 Letter, dated 9 July 1941, Commander, Utility Squadron 5, to the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, file VJ-5/F41-10 (5-1-41).
52 Letter, dated 8 Oct. 1941, the Chief of Navy Operations to the Commander in Chief, U. S. Atlantic Fleet, file CNo F32.
53 Letter, dated 30 Apr. 1942, Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics to the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, file Aer F31-1 (43) (5141).
54 Letter, dated 20 May 1942, Commander, VJ-5, to Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, file VJ-5 F31-1 (43).
55 Letter, dated 19 June 1942, Commander, VJ-6, to Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, file VJ-6 F-31-1 (43) (S-3-42).
56 Letter, dated 15 Dec. 1941, Oscar Smith to the Chief of Naval Operations, file F31-1 (43).
57 Letter, dated 7 Jan. 1942, Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics to the Chief of Naval Operations, file Aer-M-15.
58 Letter, dated 7 Feb. 1942, Oscar Smith to the Chief of Naval Operations, file F42-1.
59 Letter, dated 9 Mar. 1942, Oscar Smith to the Chief of Naval Operations, file F42-1.
60 Letter, dated 1 Aug. 1941, Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics to Naval Research Laboratory, file F31-1 (43) (290).
61 Letter, dated 21 Apr. 1942, Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics to the Naval Research Laboratory, file F31-1 (43).
62 Letter, dated 6 May 1942, Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics to Manager, Naval Aircraft Factory, file Aer F31-1 (43).
63 Letter, dated 22 May 1942, Vice Chief of Naval Operations to the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, file F31-(43) (040212).
64 Statement, Commodore Oscar Smith, USN.
65 Letter, dated 2 June 1942, Vice Chief of Naval Operations to the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, file F31-1 (43).
66 Letter, dated 22 May 1942, Vice Chief of Naval Operations to Chiefs of the Bureaus of Ordnance, Ships, and Aeronautics, file F31-1 (43).
67 Letter, dated 29 June 1942, Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics to the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, file F31-1 (43) (Aer-PL-ES).
68 Letter, dated 12 Aug. 1943, Chief of Naval Operations to the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, file F31-1 (43) (058912).
69 Letter, dated 6 Aug. 1942, Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics to the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, file F31-(43).
70 Status report, Dr. Irving Wolff, Radio Corp. of America, January 1945.
71 Letter, dated 19 Jan. 1943, President, Board of Inspection and Survey, to the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, file, Radar Installations.
72 Letter, dated 8 Mar. 1943, Officer in Charge, Project Option, to the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, file OP-12 (s)-aw.
73 Memorandum, dated 13 Mar. 1943, Admiral King to Admiral Home, file Op-292.
74 Memorandum, dated 16 Mar. 1943, Vice Admiral Home to Admiral King, file Op-292.
75 Memorandum, dated 22 Mar. 1943, Vice Admiral Stone to Admiral King, file Op-292; Letter, dated 23 Mar. 1943, Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, to the Chief and Vice Chief of Naval Operations, file F31-1.
76 Letter, dated 23 Mar. 1943, Vice Chief of Naval Operations to the Chiefs of the Bureaus of Personnel, Aeronautics, Ordnance, and Ships and to commander, Training Task Force, file F31-1.
77 Letter, dated 12 Apr. 1943, Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics to the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, file F31-1.
78 Letter, dated 22 Sept. 1943, Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, to the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, file Op-292.
79 Memorandum, dated 5 Mar. 1944, Admiral King to the Secretary of the Navy, file Op-292.
80 Memorandum, dated 30 Mar. 1944, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Air) to Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, file Op-292.
81 Memorandum, dated 10 Apr. 1944, Admiral King to the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, file Op-292.
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