ABOARD USS JOHN F KENNEDY AT SEA – USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) and Air Wing Seven (CVW-7) continue to lead all battle groups with their Strike-Fighter capabilities. Recently, the MK-83 1,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM), were certified safe for flight and are now being flown in Operation Enduring Freedom, on CVW-7's F/A-18s. These weapons provide F/A-18s the ability to carry more weapons in country and still bring it back aboard "Big John". But it's not just the F-18's that have the multi-attack capability on Kennedy.
On March 12, 2002, the Fighter Squadron Eleven (VF 11) "Red Rippers" delivered the first JDAM from a fleet F-14 Tomcat. During a night strike, in support of a coalition ground controller, VF-11 Commanding Officer Cmdr. Chris Aquilino, and Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Protzman, delivered their JDAM on target, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. This marked the first time a fleet F-14 employed JDAM in a combat situation.
Prior to this deployment JDAM could only be carried on F/A-18 Hornets. However with new software and hardware F-14 now carry the 2,000-pound JDAM as well.
"It makes the air wing lethal because it gives the battle group commander and the carrier air wing commander (CAG) a lot more flexibility," said Lt. Cmdr. Paul Filardi, air wing strike operations officer. "If he wants CVW-7 assets with the capability to drop LGBs and Global Positioning System (GPS) guided bombs, we can do that."
JDAM uses GPS signals to accurately guide the bomb to a target, according to Filardi. "You drop it, then the bomb is on its own based on the coordinates you input," he explained. "It's a through-weather, day or night, anywhere, anytime kind of weapon." JDAM enables CVW-7 to go in country with Tomcats and Hornets, in good weather or bad, to participate in the bombing.
While laser-guided bombs are accurate, they are limited to by weather conditions, according to Filardi. "With a laser-guided bomb, if you don't have clear weather you can't lase the target from drop to impact," he explained. "If smoke or anything else gets into the field of view of the laser, it will obscure the target and the bomb will miss it."
"With JDAM, just release and it's guided by satellites, based on information from aircraft, to go right to the target," Filardi said.
Making this first-time capability a reality for the air wing, required support from Kennedy and CVW-7 Weapons Departments. Kennedy's Ordnance Handling Officer Lt. Cmdr. Chris Hancock, and CVW-7 Gunner, Lt. Stanley Vickers, prepared and trained their departments for success.
"We work closely with Kennedy's Weapons Department in our preparation to load weapons safely to drop warheads on foreheads," said Vickers. "When we were crossing the pond (Atlantic) we had three or four days of loading exercises to get everyone familiar with the weapons and checklists for JDAM."
When the first F-14 Tomcat returned, after dropping the first JDAM, everyone was excited, according to Vickers, "especially the young men and women just coming into the Navy aboard Kennedy. This is what they trained for in "A" school." "When they saw the first weapon they loaded leave the ship not come back on the same aircraft, it motivated them."
"It was such an exhilarating feeling that we all just stood there and waited for it to happen again," Vickers said.
"If it wasn't for CVW-7 and Kennedy weapons teams working together, we wouldn't have the capability we have today, hands-down," said Hancock. "I think we were as excited as anyone. "On the first day of the war, for us, we were able to drop ordnance, that's what we're here for. When it's going in one direction we're happy because it's our job."
AOCS(AW/SW) Christopher Monahan, Kennedy's ordnance control logistics leading chief petty officer, coordinates JDAM movements from the hangar bay to the flight deck for squadron weapons personnel to load them on aircraft. He said, "I've since become more involved in programming, testing and downloading the software that the technical representative gave us." Monahan will continue working with JDAM at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., when he reports there. "I'm looking forward to going there and working with JDAM, as it's going to be the weapon of the future."
AO2 William R. Light, Jr., an ordnance handler for VF-11 Weapons Department said, "It felt good to be the first in the fleet, and the entire Navy, to drop the JDAM from an F-14 Tomcat in combat." Light was also in the squadron that dropped the first GBU-24 from USS Enterprise (CVN 65) during Operation Desert Fox.
"We have [one of the] guys who developed JDAM for the Tomcats, in our Squadron," he said. "If we ever have any questions or something's not working, we've got the guy who wrote the book on this to show us how to do it." The air wing actually has two F-14 developmental testers and one operational tester who worked directly with testing JDAM, which in turn has made the introduction that much smoother.
Air Wing Seven, within its ranks, have aircrew who completed the first developmental flight delivery, the first operational test delivery and now the first fleet combat delivery. They are Lt. Cmdr. Paul Filardi, Lt. Cmdr. Scott Knapp and Lt. Cmdr. Jonathan Stevenson.
"It's been a great advantage having a background in JDAM," said Lt. Cmdr. Stevenson of Fighter Squadron One Four Three (VF 143) Pukin' Dogs. "It helped me a lot and having the experience of working with and testing JDAM has helped the squadron," Stevenson said. "My being here and knowing what has to be incorporated into the jets helps the maintenance department and the other pilots get to where they needed to be with JDAM, quicker."
Stevenson was in the program when it was just an idea and someone at Naval Air Forces Atlantic Fleet said put JDAM on an F-14 Tomcat. Stevenson and other testers started from scratch, researching the idea's validity. "That was the biggest challenge," he said.
"I'd be in error without saying that there wasn't anyone on the entire USAF/USN/Boeing team that either didn't have a part in it or was not affected by it, said Lt. Cmdr. Filardi of CVW-7. "Those people at both Eglin and Boeing have a great deal of pride in getting the MK-83 to the fleet and deployed.
"Starting from that point, getting to where it actually hit the fleet, helping integrate it and being here when the first drops in combat occurred was pretty satisfying," Stevenson said. JDAM worked as advertised, according to Stevenson. "There were limitations but none of them impacted the operational capability of the JDAM," he said. "It takes very little training to teach somebody how to go out there and drop one on target," he said.
With a two-pronged attack that leads to double impact on al-Qaida and the Taliban, or any enemy of the United States, JDAM is the perfect weapon to get the job done for CVW-7, making it a "lethal air wing."