DEVELOPMENT OF THE MULTITPLE CARRIAGE BOMB RACK (MCBR) As a Marine Captain in early August 1957 I reported to Test Pilot School at NATC Patuxent River, Maryland. At the time TPS was a six month school. Before I finished (Class 19) the school in February 1958, I was told by the senior Marine at Patuxent River that after TPS I would be going to China Lake and to VX-5. I had never heard of VX-5 until a few months prior to TPS graduation, when I was told that I would be going there.
My wife, Margaret, and I left Patuxent River within a few days of my TPS graduation. After a brief stop in central Florida to see Margaret’s and my family, we headed for China Lake and VX-5. We would soon find that we were very fortunate to be at China Lake, because that assignment had a long-term impact on my career. VX-5 would turn out to be a gold mine for great flying, and the projects were all relevant to the real world of the time. My view is that how a VX-5 tour turned out was fully up to the individual and his level of motivation. Like many military assignments, I found out about VX-5 and what they did after I got there. China Lake was about 120 miles north of Los Angeles and about 40 miles northeast of Mojave. You could go to work every day and take things as they might be, or you could make things happen.
The other command in addition to VX-5 at China Lake was the Naval Ordnance Test Station (N.O.T.S.). In 1958 the N.O.T.S was primarily involved in testing the Sidewinder missile, plus they were busy developing a host of weapons that would come into operational use during the 1960s. One of those would be the Snakeye, retarded bomb. It would come into being after I left China Lake.
VX-5 was under the operational control of Commander Operational Test and Evaluation Force (COMOPTEVFOR) in Norfolk. OPTEVFOR would issue all projects. In 1958 as it had been for perhaps ten years, all the flying in VX-5 was connected with nuclear weapons delivery, whether it was low-level navigation, aerial re-fueling, mission profiles, loft bombing, or dive bombing. When I joined VX-5 in March 1958 we did every kind of nuclear weapons delivery that there was.
My wife, Margaret, and I arrived at China Lake about late March of 1958, and we moved into a nice two bedroom duplex on the base, about 200 yards from the Officer’s Club. The Naval Air Facility was about three or four miles north of our quarters, and that was where the facilities of VX-5 were located. It was my wife's and my first experience living in the desert. We would soon find that living in the desert was a great experience, and our tour with VX-5 would be one of the best assignments of my entire Marine Corps career.
The squadron had two excellent commanding officers while we were there. Captain Beverage, was the VX-5 commanding officer when I first arrived, and about a year later he retired out of VX-5. Captain Van Meter relieved him. For project flying we had four delivery aircraft in the squadron, and they were the A4D-2 (A4B) Skyhawk, the FJ-4B Fury, the AD-4B and AD-6 Skyraider, and the A3D heavy attack aircraft. About 18 months after I got there, we would also have the A4D-2N (A4C). We did not have F4H-1 Phantom or A6A Intruder in VX-5 at that point in time. Those two aircraft would be assigned a couple of years after I left.
Commander Dale Cox was the squadron executive officer the entire time that I was in VX-5, and he supported me in anything that I wanted to do in the weapons delivery world. Dale Cox flew the A3D. For the first year that I was in the squadron, the project pilots did absolutely zero in conventional weapons delivery. The reason was simple, COMOPTEVFOR had never assigned VX-5 a conventional weapons project.
My first project was completing the high dive portion of the Special Weapons Delivery Handbook for the AD-6. In VX-5 projects they had an officer, named Harry Sellers, a lieutenant commander, who did nuclear weapons effects. Harry’s job was to do a careful measure of whether the delivery aircraft would survive the nuclear blast. For survivability estimates, he did this for multiple projects, including high dive, low angle loft, high angle loft, or roll ahead loft. For my AD high dive project, he would work from the dive-bombing profiles following every aspect of weapons delivery, to determine if the attack aircraft would survive the nuclear blast.
Our primary target range for loft bombing and dive-bombing was called Charlie Range, and a prince of a gentleman, Duane Mack, ran the range. The range had different tracking stations, and the tracking personnel at Charlie Range could track an aircraft within a few feet. This would provide a paper trace of the profile, which would be compared to the optimum profile for the maneuver, and Harry Sellers would then factor in the weapons effects. They would mark the release point for the weapon, which in many instances was a MK-76 or MK-105 practice bomb. This range was tracking your delivery profile every time you flew on Charlie Range, whether you were doing loft bombing or dive-bombing. Whatever it was you were doing, they’d be tracking you through the entire delivery process. When the day was over, Duane Mack and the Charlie Range folks would come by VX-5 to provide the squadron with the profiles for-the-day.
At VX-5, I started flying project flights in the FJ-4B and the A4D-2 (A4B) in June 1958. About six months after I joined VX-5, I was assigned to have all the FJ-4B projects. That assignment for the FJ-4B projects was a real plus for a Marine captain, since there were lots of lieutenant commanders in VX-5 projects that would have liked to have had all the FJ-4B projects. I had flown the FJ-4B quite a bit when I was on staff duty at El Toro 1956-57, and at TPS I had flown the FJ-3. The A4D projects in VX-5 were managed by Lieutenant Commander Bud Nance, who was a graduate of Empire Test Pilot School in UK.
During my first year in VX-5, which would be from April 1958 to April 1959, I flew hundreds of loft bombing profiles in the A-4 and the FJ-4B, along with hundreds of dive bombing runs in both aircraft. In addition I flew a large number of cruise control flights in both the A-4 and FJ, with many of those with aerial refueling. Cruise control flights had your aircraft configured with a shape (for a nuclear weapon), plus external fuel tanks. You had to fly precise airspeeds and altitudes in the mission profiles, cruise climb as you burned fuel, and factor in the high winds aloft. The loft and dive bombing runs were to develop tactics for nuclear weapon delivery, and the cruise control flights were to develop flight profiles that would provide the greatest mission radius. This was all for nuclear weapons delivery, and the results of VX-5’s work would be the Special Weapons Delivery Handbooks for each delivery aircraft.
In April 1959, in addition to flying project flights, I started flying the FJ-4B in Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLP). We had a FCLP mirror set up at China Lake and we had a landing signal officer (LSO). In late April I was flying the FJ-4B off the USS Bennington (CVA-20), in preparation for flying a nuclear weapon operational suitability test (OST) from a carrier during May of ’59. In April I had 14 arrested landings on Bennington while flying the FJ-4B. On May 19th I flew the OST from USS Hancock (CVA-19) where I flew a mission profile departing Hancock in the FJ-4B, ending the profile at the China Lake bombing range where I released the weapon at the target, and then flew a mission profile back to the Hancock. On May 20th my FJ-4B was catapulted off Hancock and I landed at China Lake. At that time, with my carrier landings in the SNJ, F6F-5, F4U-5, AD-4B and FJ-4B, I would have a total of 245 traps on six different boats.
All of this flying in VX-5 with loft maneuvers, high dive, cruise control and aerial refueling, convinced me that we knew how to do the nuclear weapon delivery mission. I was equally convinced that we could go to war and do a great job of defeating the enemy with nuclear weapons. At the same time, even though President Eisenhower had said that the United States would use massive retaliation if a country started a war with the United States, we all felt that the use of nukes was very improbable. At that time the truce in Korea was five years old.
After coming off the carriers in May, I started thinking a little about conventional warfare, and I quickly concluded that conventional warfare was what we needed to be concerned with. However when I looked at the A4D-2 (A4B), it was not much of an aircraft when it came to thinking about conventional weapons delivery. The A4D-2 in 1958 had three bomb stations, which were a centerline Aero 7A pylon, and an Aero 20 pylon on each wing. A pilot had his choice, where he could carry a high explosive (HE) bomb on each of the three pylons on the A4D-2 (A4B) for a grand total of three bombs for close air support (CAS), or he could carry a centerline 150 or 300 gallon external fuel tank along with one bomb on each wing station for two HE bombs, or he could carry two 150 or 300 gallon drop tanks on the wings for deep strike and have a one bomb delivery. As a conventional bomber in 1959, the A4D-2 was pathetic and the FJ-4B was not much better. In the A4D Skyhawk case, that single bomb could be a 250 pound MK-81, or a 500 pound MK-82, or a 1,000 pound MK-83, or a 2,000 pound MK-84. It is relevant that the MK-81 and MK-82 were more suitable for close air support (CAS). My overall evaluation of the A4D-2 for close air support, on a scale of one to ten, was a two. For deep strike the A4D-2 was stretching it to be a two, or to be blunt, it would be a lousy CAS aircraft and it would be a lousy deep strike aircraft. I wasn't too concerned about the FJ-4B, since it was generally considered an interim aircraft, but at the same time that there was thought to be given to the A4D-2, there had to be thought given to the FJ-4B. In a nutshell, with the A4D Skyhawk, the Navy, the Marines and the Douglas Aircraft Company had bet the ranch that the only war was going to be the nuclear war. In May 1959 I disagreed.
Then I got to thinking, nearly every day I was flying with the solution for making the A4D-2 a formidable CAS and strike aircraft. Like most good ideas, it was all very simple, but the problem was, no one had thought about either the problem or the solution. The practice bomb rack for MK76 and MK105 practice bombs was a simple steel plate attached to a wing or centerline pylon. Every day we used the rack on both the A4 Skyhawk and the FJ Fury. We called the rack "The Banger Board". The steel plate had the attachments for the six small practice bombs (MK-76 or MK-105), each weighing about 25 pounds, that were attached to that small bomb rack. There was a stepper switch in the back of the Banger Board, with six positions, that would release one bomb for each depression of the bomb button on the pilot's control stick. Looking at this rack that carried six MK-76 practice bombs, with each MK76 (and MK-105) with a smoke charge in the nose of the MK76, I got to thinking, “Why not design a larger bomb rack to carry high explosive bombs such as the 250 pound MK-81 and the 500 pound MK-82, and you could simply attach that larger bomb rack (which I called the Multiple Carriage Bomb Rack; MCBR) to the existing Aero 7 (one pylon) and Aero 20 pylons (two wing pylons) on the A4D-2 (A4B). It would simply be a rack on a rack (pylon), larger in size, and be capable of carrying the 250 pound MK-81 or 500 pound MK-82.
The Aero 20 pylon on each A4D-2 wing and the Aero 7 center-line pylon were part of the basic aircraft and were installed at the factory. The MCBR for the A4D-2 would simply attach to each of those pylons. The wiring system for the MCBR would be set up so that if the need arose during an emergency, you could jettison the MCBR with its bombs attached. That jettison would be accomplished by firing the secondary cartridge within either the Aero 7A or Area 20. With the MCBR attached to a pylon, the primary cartridge within the Aero 7 or Aero 20 would never be hooked up. Talking with the VX-5 avionics officer, he said that the wiring system for the MCBR could be done by VX-5 avionics with a simple wiring harness to be installed in the MCBR. . I had told him that the MC BR on the Aero 7A pylon would have six (6) HE or inert bombs attached to it. While at first I thought that there could be six (6) HE or inert bombs on each A4D-2 wing station MCBR, interference of the wheel well door would dictate that there would be only five (5) bombs for the wing MCBR.. All bombs on the MCBR would be suspended independent of the other bombs on the MCBR, using the Aero-15 racks from a crashed AD Skyraider.
As a concept of operations (CONOPS) for the MCBR that I wanted to build, I envisioned a pilot having the option of dropping one bomb at a time from the MCBR, or he could drop two, four or six bombs from each rack. The weapons effects of four bombs dropped against a combat target in a salvo is more effective than four individual drops of a single bomb, providing you hit the target. The same holds true for six, eight or 18 bombs. A salvo is more effective. Those options for bomb drops from the MCBR would be controlled by a stepper switch in the MCBR, plus the cockpit switches that would be needed to effect the release of the proper number of bombs for each release. We would take a stepper switch from a wrecked AD Skyraider, and install it in the A4D-2 cockpit. Later this stepper switch would not be in the production Multiple Bomb Rack (MBR), but it could have been. That stepper switch in the cockpit of my test aircraft made that A4D-2 unique, with the capability to drop any bomb from any MCBR Aero 15 on the aircraft. With a fully loaded A4D-2 (A4B), that would provide for dropping from one bomb to 16 bombs, assuming three MCBR with six 250 or 500 pound bombs on the center-line and a total of ten bombs on the wing MCBR. I concluded at the outset, before we had started building anything, that the MCBR would work There was no reason that it would not.
In the late May or early June 1959 time-frame I talked with Major K.P. Rice, the other Marine in VX-5, and told him what I had in mind for conventional bombing and making a Multiple Carriage Bomb Rack (MCBR). He agreed that there was no reason why it would not work. As a Marine, K.P. had a strong appreciation for close air support (CAS) and he agreed that the A4D-2 (A4B) as it was in the summer of 1959, would not be much of a CAS aircraft. K. P. was also an aeronautical engineer with an aeronautical engineering masters degree from PG School. A key point, as an Aero Engineer, K. P. knew how to layout the MCBR so that the weight of the rack would be as low as possible. K. P. Rice was clearly one of the smartest officers that I ever worked with in the military, and that also applied to civilians I worked with for over 30 years. In my case, I understood the CONOPS that I had worked on, and I had a clear understanding of what the MCBR should be capable of doing.
K. P. and I began planning how we would lay out the design for the MCBR. With that effort underway, as a second step, I started getting interested in being able to salvo six MK76 practice bombs in one release from a practice bomb rack (Banger Board). What the small 25 pound bombs did on salvo, I figured that I could plan that the larger MK81 and MK82 bombs would release and fly in a similar manner to the MK76. For a few flights, I simply asked the ordnance chief to put tin foil in the stepper switch in the aft end of the Banger Board, which would short out the six contact points in the stepper switch, and allow a salvo of six (6) MK 76 practice bombs with a single press of the bomb button in the cockpit. I wanted to see what a salvo would do, and to document it on the bombing range. The crew on the Charlie bombing range would be able to track both the aircraft and the bombs. My pilot's logbook shows that on July 21, 1959 I was flying the FJ-4B and skip bombing a salvo of bombs. On July 29, 1959 I put on an air show at China Lake, flying an FJ-4B, and lofting a salvo of MK-76 practice bombs. In early August I was doing low angle loft in the A4D-2 (A4B) while doing a salvo of the MK-76 practice bombs. In September 1959 I continued conventional bomb lofting. On September 30 the metal-smiths finished welding the center-line MCBR, and attaching the six (6) Aero 15 racks from the wrecked AD Skyraider. Within an hour after those metal-smiths finished their work, the center-line MCBR was hung on the test A4D-2 (A4B), and I flew the first test flight of the MCBR, with no wiring and with no bombs. The flight was to see if everything held together at high speed and high G. But now I am getting ahead of myself, and we need to address some of the details of developing the MCBR.
In about the late May or the early June 1959 timeframe, Major Rice and I talked to the executive officer of the squadron, Commander Dale Cox. I told the commander about my thoughts for enhancing conventional bombing with the A-4 Skyhawk, and gave him a verbal CONOPS on how it would work. We talked some about doing a similar effort for the FJ-4B. Then K. P. and I told Commander Cox, “We are confident that we could build a MCBR here in VX-5 that will work,” and we talked about how we would go about putting a bomb rack on a bomb rack (pylon) of the A4D-2. K.P. had more clout with Commander Cox than I did, since I was two ranks below Dale Cox, and K. P. emphasized to Dale Cox the current limitations of the three pylons on the A4D-2 (A4B). We talked about how this concept could provide a six fold increase in combat capability for the aircraft.
Commander Cox agreed that the concept for the MCBR would be great for conventional warfare. I told him that. I wanted to continue doing some salvoing of MK-76 practice bombs. He said, “Fine, go ahead.” If Dale Cox had not been the XO of VX-5, K. P. Rice and I probably never would have gotten this done. That is why Dale Cox’s name is on the patent with ours. Commander Cox ran interference for K. P. and me. He did everything that we asked him to do. For that support of Commander Cox, I fully credit K. P., because he had a great professional relationship with the XO. Among other actions, Command Cox came up with the funding, which was minimal, for us to do what needed to be done to develop and prove the MCBR concept. As I recall, some 47 years later, the centerline MCBR cost about $500.00 for the channel iron, and maybe much less. Everything else came from the junk yard dump where they parked the wrecked aircraft at China Lake. The two wing MCBR that we would later build, would cost about $2,000.00 for the two of them, since we had to get tubular steel from the Naval Ordnance Test Station (N.O.T.S.). These are 1959 dollars.
With Commander Cox's blessing, I continued to fly with the practice rack, with the stepper switch on the Banger Board shorted out, and to salvo the MK76. An interesting thing about those salvo drops is that I never had any bomb-to-bomb collisions. As a bomb would get close to another bomb, the aerodynamic interference of the air flow would cause the bombs to move away from each other and not collide. I also never had a MK-76 tumble. While I was doing those salvo flights, I continued to fly assigned project flights in the FJ-4B and the A4D-2 (A4B), including all the nuclear weapon loft and dive bombing. But the salvos were my high interest at that point in time, along with getting the first MCBR built.
So simultaneously with that first conversation about the MCBR potential, we told Commander Cox that we needed to get the materials to build the first multiple rack. In July and August, K.P. worked on the MCBR stress analysis and he also started working on how some of the attachments might work for the channel iron cross bars and the Aero 15 racks (from the wrecked AD Skyraider), that we had decided to use
At the same time, I was pretty busy, flying project flights as well as working on salvo releases for conventional weapons, and talking with K. P. about how the first MCBR would go together. K.P. had said that I would supervise the squadron metal smiths when we put the MCBR together, and we had alerted the VX-5 maintenance officer and those metal smiths to the task ahead.
It is now probably late August 1959. So, at VX-5 we received delivery on some channel iron that Commander Cox arranged for us to get through the N.O.T.S. The channel iron would be heavy, which could be helpful since the stress analysis was not completed.. It also was probably a matter of what channel iron that the N.O.T.S. had available to give us. K.P. Rice was at the time, continuing to work on the stress analysis, I’m out salvoing MK-76s either with the A4D-2 (A4B) or the FJ-4B, or flying a project flight. At that point we start talking to the people up at the Ordnance Test Station about the FJ-4B. The FJ-4B wing was very close to the ground when on the deck and when either taxiing or taking off. We knew that that the MCBR would not work on that aircraft. So we knew that we would need some help from N.O.T.S. for the FJ-4B, because of its low wing clearance, about three feet, when the aircraft was on the deck. And so I got to talking to their air to ground shop about what I was going to do with the A4D-2 and what we needed to do for the FJ-4B. They said, Well why don't you try banding bombs for the FJ-4B.. They drew a sketch of how the banding would work. I said, Okay, we can try that.
The N.O.T.S. air-to-ground shop began fabricating the steel straps, banding the bombs, putting three banded MK-81 bombs on each pylon of the FJ-4B, for a total of 12 MK-81 on the four wing stations of the FJ-4B. . On 28 September 1959, I flew the test flight on the China Lake bombing range (Charlie Range) delivering the 12 MK-81 bombs on the target. Each of the trio of bombs on each station separated fine from the aircraft. The banded bombs worked. The banding of bombs could be a solution where an aircraft did not have adequate ground clearance to handle a MCBR. The FJ-4B would be operational for a few more years, but after I left VX-5, no one to my knowledge ever pursued the banded bomb idea any further. To my knowledge the FJ-4B was never used in the Vietnam War. Of course the A4D-2 and A4D-2N used the production version (MER and TER) of the MCBR in Vietnam, as did the F-4, A-6, all Air Force fighters, and even the B-52.
While a lot was going on with K. P. and me in September 1959, with projects and my salvo bombing, some of our ordnance men went to the scrap dump where they had the wrecked aircraft such as the AD Skyraiders. We got six Aero-15 bomb racks that had been on an AD Skyraider, and we may have gotten ten (10). Eventually we would use 21 Aero 15 racks from wrecked AD Skyraiders. Each AD Skyraider had a total of ten (10) Aero 15 racks attached to its wings, with five under the left wing and five under the right wing. Those wrecked aircraft were those that over the years had crashed or were in the dump for some reason. None of the aircraft in the dump could be restored to flyable condition. So by mid-September we had the channel iron and the six Aero 15s that we needed to attached to the cross bars of the first MCBR. The squadron metal-smiths then got busy, assembling the first MCBR which would go on the centerline of the A4B. With torches they would cut the channel iron and then they would weld the pieces in the right place, according to the scheme K. P. and I had given them. One of my jobs was to supervise the building of the MCBR, so I spent a couple of hours each day in the metal shop.
A little earlier, K.P. started having some trouble with the stress analysis, so he and I went down to Douglas Aircraft Company in El Segundo (next to the Los Angeles Airport). We talked to them about the stress analysis, with a friend named, Whiff Caldwell, who had been at Douglas in their marketing office for many years. He was a former Navy pilot
We never did really use the stress analysis since at that point in time, VX-5 metal-smiths were starting to cut metal, the channel iron, with their torches. We were moving into the assembly stage for the centerline MCBR. The metal smiths would soon be welding. The first MCBR was so heavy, about 500 pounds, that there was no way it could have had a stress failure. So for the record, we had a stress analysis but that was all you could say for it. But anyway, the metal smiths did their job, to perfection, and I supervised the building of the MCBRs. K. P. came by the metal shop from time to time to check on the progress. As for Douglas Aircraft, from the outset of the MCBR idea, Douglas’ tech rep at China Lake was following everything that we were doing. Whiff Caldwell was also following everything, and about two months later, Douglas would be busy, preparing an unsolicited proposal for a multiple bomb rack.
As we moved along with the MCBR fabrication, the avionics officer would look in on the work progress from time to time. He needed to see how his wiring harness would be put together. I told the Avionics Officer that I needed a wiring harness to go in the rack, in a week or so, once we got the MCBR finished. He said he would take care of that, and he would be true to his word. On September 30, 1959, the first MCBR was nearing being finished. I told both ordnance and avionics that I intended to fly the rack as soon as it was finished. The range personnel at Charlie Range, Duane Mack's crew, were waiting for me to telephone them when I was ready to takeoff with the rack on the A4B. Simply put, we had a fine team going at China Lake on this MCBR.
At about 1700 on 9/30/59, I called the ordnance chief and told him to come get the MCBR and to hang it on the centerline of the test A4D-2. This was a special A-4 just for the MCBR, since we had added a stepper switch in the cockpit. With the stepper switch I could select which bomb I wanted to drop off a multiple rack; left rear, right rear, center-line rear, or drop in pairs are drop three, or four or six bombs in a salvo. The sequence would be first the aft bomb and then the forward bomb that was in line.
Ordnance men hung the MCBR on the test A4D-2 aircraft, which did not take them long to do. Thee were no bombs on the MCBR and there was no wiring harness installed. During my preflight of the aircraft, I had ordnance open up the access door in the Aero 7A pylon. I had to check that the primary ejection cartridge was disconnected, and I had to ensure that the secondary cartridge was in place if needed. After preflight, I got in the airplane, cranked it up and took off. I had Duane Mack's range folks waiting out at the bomb range. This flight was strictly to take the aircraft up to high speed, well over 500 knots, pull about four or five Gs and see if anything fell off the rack.
After takeoff with wheels in the well, I picked up the flaps and flew out about 10 miles to the west, near Inyokern, and then turned toward the run-in line of the Charlie bombing range. I was probably doing over 500 knots when I turned onto the run-in line, and I took the airplane up to about 550 knots as I approached the Charlie Range target area. I was talking on UHF radio to the guys in the tower at the bombing range. When asked it they saw any debris coming off the aircraft, they said, Nothing coming off, everything is hanging in fine and it looks good. After passing the tower I would pull four Gs or so as I reversed course to go out for another run. I probably did that high speed run twice, at about 550 knots each time and 200 feet off the deck, and then I flew back and landed at China Lake. I believe that first flight lasted 12 or 15 minutes. The avionics officer met me and I said, Okay, it's great. Put the wiring harness in and I willl be back in the morning to fly it.
After talking with the Avionics Officer, I got the ordnance chief – he was one of the first E-9s – and I said, “Please put six MK-81 inert on the rack when avionics finishes the wiring harness installation. I will be back tomorrow morning at 7 o’clock.” The next morning I got there about 6:30, ready to fly the first bombing hop with the MCBR. The A4D-2 was on the flight line, the wiring harness was installed, the stepper switch was in the cockpit, and there were six (6) MK-81 inert 250 pound bombs hanging on the centerline MCBR. During my preflight, I carefully inspected the centerline pylon to ensure that the ejection cartridges were in the right place, with the primary disconnected and the secondary connected. The secondary would be used to jettison the rack if there were an emergency that required jettison. I took off with six MK-81s, accelerated out to about 500 knots, turned on to the run-in line for Charlie Range, and I started dropping the MK-81s individually in low-angle loft maneuvers. That first flight of the MCBR on the A4B where I dropped six (6) inert MK-81 bombs was flown the morning of October 1, 1959. On October 2d I would fly a firepower demo, where I would release three banded MK-81 inert bombs from each Aero 20 wing pylon and six MK-81 inert from the centerline MCBR.
At some point in time during October, I found out that there would be a Marine weapons meet at MCAS Yuma in early December 1959. There was to be a firepower demonstration during that meet, with the firepower demo to go on December 3d. I asked Commander Cox if he would get me a slot in the firepower demo on 3 December, and I would demo the A4D-2 with three MCBR and 16 MK-81 inert. Within a few days it was set up for me to be at Yuma for the firepower demo. It would be fair to say, that in late October, both the Aviation Department at Headquarters, Marine Corps, the Navy OP05, and the Bureau of Naval Weapons started hearing about those bomb racks that VX-5 was flying with. But, they had no details and would not be told any. We had now concluded the lynch pin for the MCBR was going to be at the Yuma weapons meet.
After talking with Commander Cox and K. P., I then told Commander Cox that, “We now need the materials for two wing racks.” The XO talked to the Ordnance Test Station and arranged for the materials that K. P. Rice and I would need to do the wing MCBR. He would get us some tubular steel and some more channel iron. The tubular steel would be the main beam of the wing MCBR. We sent ordnance out to the trash dump to get the additional Aero-15s that we would need for two wing MCBR
The two MCBR for the wings would be finished on November 18, 1959. Our confidence level was higher at this point, so the two wiring harness from avionics were installed on the same day, as soon as the welders had finished and the Aero 15s were in -place. The morning of November 19th I arrived at work early. The test A-4D-2 (A4B) was waiting for me, partially fueled since it would be a brief flight, with 16 bombs attached to the wing and centerline MCBR. On November 19th I flew the first test flight of the A4D-2 (A4B) carrying 16 MK-81. On the first flight of the day I simply took the A4D-2 up to about 500 knots, pulled a few “g” and then landed back at NAF China Lake. Every thing remained as it was for takeoff, with nothing falling off the aircraft. The aircraft was refueled and preflighted by the plane captain. Then I did another preflight, checked the pylon access doors for the Aero 7 and Aero 20s along with the primary cartridges, and then took off for a full test flight and to drop the bombs.
With me having the task of selling the fleet on the MCBR before we talked with BuWeps and Washington, I wanted to see an increase in the momentum of fleet support. Up to that time I had only done a static display of the MCBR concept at El Toro. On November 23d I put on a firepower demo at China Lake, for senior officers from El Toro, including Major General Jack who was the CG Air Fleet Marine Forces, Pacific. The same day we had some senior Navy officers coming from Lemoore. It appeared that everyone, Marine and Navy, were suitably impressed with the MCBR.
But then what would follow would be the capstone, and that would be the firepower demonstration at Yuma on December 3d. On November 24th, I flew to MCAS Yuma with six MK-81 on the centerline MCBR and three banded bombs on each wing. I wanted the Marines at Yuma to see the banded bombs. At Yuma I talked with the coordinators for the December 2d firepower demonstration. I told them that on 12/02/59 I would fly to Yuma with 16 MK-81 inert bombs on the A4D-2 (A4B), and the aircraft could be in static display on the flight line as long as they wanted on the second. I also told them that I would have 22 red flags with pins in the cockpit for pinning the three landing gear, the three MCBR and the 16 bombs. Then I told them that at the start of my part in the firepower demonstration, the first thing I wanted to do was fly by the stands and turn the belly of the aircraft up to the crowd so that everyone could see the 16 bombs. Then I would loft the 12 bombs off the wings in a low angle loft manuever, and then pull-up and skip bomb the remaining six MK-81 bombs with a salvo. They said that would be fine with them. That afternoon I flew back to China Lake with my 12 MK-81 bombs.
On November 30th I flew two A4D-2 flights at Charlie Range, carrying 16 MK-81 each flight. On each flight I lofted the 10 MK-81 bombs off the wings and then skip bombed the six bombs off the centerline.
On December 2d I flew from China Lake to Yuma, with three MCBR and 16 MK-81 inert bombs. When I arrived I handed the plane captain on the line 22 red flags with pins for pining the landing gear, the MCBRs and the bombs.
On December 3d I flew the firepower demonstration as I had planned. When I flew by the stands and turned the belly up to the crowd, Vice Admiral Pirie (OP05 on CNO staff) was reported to have said (by the weapons meet coordinator) words to the effect, “We are going to buy that.” After the fly-by the stands, I did the low angle loft manuever as planned, with ten (1) bombs in the air, and then I delivered the six MK-81 off the centerline MCBR in a skip bombing run. Everything worked to perfection. When Vice Admiral Pirie uttered the words at Yuma on December 3d, “We are going to buy that,” it had been just over six (6) months since May 1959, when I had started thinking about the A4D-2 Skyhawk and conventional bombing, which led to the idea for the Multiple Carriage Bomb Rack.
About February 1960 we were told at VX-5 that the Douglas Aircraft Company had submitted an unsolicited proposal to BuWeps, for a multiple bomb rack, patterned after the MCBR. Douglas was quickly given a contract for 2,000 Multiple Bomb Racks that Douglas would call for short, the MBR. They had taken out the “C” for carriage that I had used with the MCBR. As I have mentioned, Douglas Aircraft Company had a tech-rep at China Lake, and from the time we did the centerline rack he was looking at everything we were doing. He was even going to Charlie Range every time that I would taxi out and take off with the MCBR to drop bombs. The tech rep for Douglas even watched the metal-smiths do their welding. In seeking some help with K. P. Rice’s stress analysis, Whiff Caldwell at Douglas had also had the Douglas engineers closely examine every aspect of our work. So they were following it all very closely, which was okay with us. At VX-5 we were looking for a rapid fleet introduction of the improved capability for conventional war. For Douglas Aircraft Company to have that contract was fine with us at VX-5. We were anxious to see the multiple bomb rack in production, and if Douglas did it, things would move faster to the fleet. In the spring of 1960, we were told that Douglas Aircraft Company had won a contract for two thousand (2000) Multiple Bomb Racks. At VX-5 we were glad to hear that the production of a multiple bomb rack was underway.. Progress was being made for conventional bombing. Less than a year had gone by since May 1959.
During the winter of 1959/60 and spring of 1960, I was busy flying project flights, and writing the test plan for the first conventional weapons project at VX-5. For several months prior I had been asking Commander Cox to get us a conventional weapons project. He did!
In May 1960 I was relieved at VX-5 by Captain Hal Vincent. That month, Margaret and I moved to Santa Ana where I joined VMA-311, an A4D-2 (A4B) squadron in Marine Aircraft Group 15 at MCAS El Toro. In early June the MAG-15 commander would summon me to talk about my putting on a firepower demo for the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Shoup. I told the colonel that I could do that and that I could get the Douglas prototype Multiple Bomb Racks (MBR) that had just arrived at VX-5. I also told him that I would like to drop high explosive bombs (HE) during the demo for the CMC. The colonel said fine on the HE. When I left the MAG-15 commander’s office, I called Hal Vincent and told him that I needed to borrow the Douglas prototype Multiple Bomb Racks. He said the racks were ready to go. When I flew up to China Lake on June 24th to get the Douglas Aircraft prototype MBR, I also had to borrow eighteen (18) MK-81 HE bombs. It turned out MAG-15 was a little slow getting the HE bombs for me.
On June 27, 1960 I flew a practice flight in a VMA-311 A4D-2, using the Douglas MBR, and releasing 18 high explosive MK-81 bombs on a target at the Camp Pendleton impact range. I did a skip bombing run with the 12 bombs on the wings and I did a dive bombing run with the six bombs on the centerline. On June 29, 1960, I would fly the demo at Camp Pendleton impact range for General Shoup, delivering 18 MK-81 HE from the A4D-2, and using the Douglas MBR. It was now 13 months since May 1959, when I had gotten the original idea for multiple carriage of high explosive bombs on the A4D-2.
Around October or November 1960, with me in VMA-311 at MCAS El Toro, I had a call from Commander Bob Kunz, project director at VX-5. He said that VX-5 and the Navy wanted me to patent the Multiple Carriage Bomb Rack. He said that VX-5 and BuWeps were concerned that the Douglas Aircraft Company might try to charge the government for work that we had done in VX-5 with the MCBR. Bob Kunz asked that I fly up to China Lake and talk with the patent attorneys at the Naval Ordnance Test Station. As requested I flew up and sat down with the patent attorneys. I gave them the information that they needed to apply for a patent, with me as the primary inventor, and with K. P. Rice and Dale Cox as co-inventors.
On February 25, 1964, Patent # 3,122,056 was granted to William H. Fitch,. Knowlton P. Rice, and Dale Cox. It was a classic team effort to develop and test the Multiple Carriage Bomb Rack. Had one of the three not been involved, the MCBR would not have happened when it did.
The Douglas MBR used gravity drop, which was the same as we had done with the MCBR. A couple of years later the BuWeps would decide that the bombs on the MBR had to be ejected, so Douglas then came up with the Multiple Ejector Rack (MER). Later, with the advent of the F4H-1 Phantom in VX-5, the project pilots would have Douglas cut the MER into two parts and came up with the Triple Ejector Rack (TER) for the F4H-1. I would imagine that Hal Vincent will tell you about the TER.
In early March 1961, VMA-311 had arrived in WestPac and moved aboard CVA-43, Coral Sea, as relief for VMA-223. At that time, VMA-223 transferred forty (40) production Multiple Bomb Racks (MBR) to VMA-311, with those MBR produced by the Douglas Aircraft Company in El Segundo, California. It had now been 22 months since May 1959.
During my 1967-1968 tour in MAG-12 at Chu Lai, RVN, as the MAG-12 operations officer I would fly over 100 missions with the MER on the A4D. As the commanding officer of VMA(AW)-533 I would fly over 200 missions with the MER on the A6A. In the A4D-2 the majority of our missions were in support of Marine units in South Vietnam below the DMZ. In the A6A, the majority of our missions were at night, low level Rolling Thunder and Tally Ho, deep north in North Vietnam.