GEAR & TECH

Why the Navy doesn't use those cool flying boats anymore

Flying boats played an unheralded, but crucial part in some of World War II's biggest naval battles. For example, pilots in Consolidated PBY Catalinas made the discovery of the Japanese carriers at Midway and helped locate the German battleship Bismarck.


So, why aren't flying boats still serving in the United States military today? That's a good question. After all, both China and Russia are still using them and, starting in 2000, have introduced new versions, like the AVIC AG-600 and the Beriev Be-200. Yet the last flying boat in U.S. service was the HU-16 Albratros, which the Coast Guard retired in 1983.

PBY-5A Catalinas as part of the "Black Cat" squadron. (U.S. Navy photo)

Flying boats have the advantage of using the ocean as a runway, which, unlike other launching points, can't be cratered by bombs. Any atoll, bay, or cove could be a forward base for these patrol aircraft. But they are also huge, which imposes range and performance penalties that other, land-based planes don't face.

The end of the flying boat was largely due to the island-hopping campaign of World War II. The United States military built a lot of airbases throughout the course of that war, many of which had long runways. This allowed long-range, land-based planes, like the Consolidated PB4Y Liberator/Privateer to operate.

A Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer, which was able to operate from forward bases built by Seabees. (U.S. Navy photo)

The PB4Y, a version of the B-24 adapted for maritime patrol, was able to haul 12,800 pounds of bombs at a range of 2,796 miles. The Martin P5M Marlin, by comparison, could only haul 8,640 pounds of weapons 2,051 miles. Although land-based planes outclassed flying boats in terms of cargo transport, they remained useful in search-and-rescue missions, but the helicopter soon pushed them out of that role, too.

Flying boats could remain useful, but the fact is global construction and advances in aviation technology have made them largely redundant in many military roles. These majestic vessels will hang around, but there are fewer and fewer taking flight each day.

transition

4 ways to strengthen your relationship with a military child

Tough. Adaptable. Resilient. Cultivated. Hardy. Well-rounded.

These are all words that have been used to describe military kids. They've certainly earned these badges of honor, but military kids are still young and in need of strong guidance along the windy road of military life.

And along the way, we parents often hear the chorus of military life echoing in our minds:

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

How R. Lee Ermey's Hollywood break is an inspiration to us all

While there have been many outstanding actors and celebrities who have raised their right hand, there has never been a veteran who could finger point his way to the top of Hollywood stardom quite like the late great Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey.

Keep reading... Show less
History

Check out these amazing uncovered photos of the great Ernie Pyle

On April 18th, 1945, war correspondent Ernie Pyle was killed by enemy fire on Iejima* during the Battle of Okinawa. At the time of his death, Pyle, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, was well-known for his intimate and personal storytelling that highlighted the experiences of the "average" soldier. Pyle was able to tell the stories of enlisted men because he embedded himself in their day-to-day lives; he didn't just observe their work, he lived, traveled, ate, and shared foxholes with them.

In remembrance of Ernie Pyle, the Unwritten Record presents photographs and motion pictures that highlight his work as a roving war correspondent during WWII.

Keep reading... Show less
Entertainment

6 things you didn't know about 'Top Gun' (probably)

In 1986, Paramount Pictures released Top Gun, a story about a hotshot naval aviator, nicknamed "Maverick," who had some extreme daddy issues. When the film landed on the big screen, it was an instant blockbuster, pulling in millions of dollars worldwide.

Filled with adrenaline-packed scenes, Top Gun inspired audience members of all ages to get out there and try to be the next hotshot pilot. After more than 30 years, moviegoers who have memorized all the film's catchphrases probably think they know everything there is to know about this action-packed classic.

Keep reading... Show less
Humor

8 reasons why peacetime training is just advanced LARPing

Live-action roleplaying is popular among nerds the world over. But what they don't realize is that the military hosts their own LARPing events to prepare for war.

While training for real-life combat, it's important that the military runs simulations that get as close to the real thing as possible. But, when you start to really break it down, it becomes clear that the government is spending tons of money on opportunities for advanced LARPing — as they should be.

Keep reading... Show less
History

The sweeping legacy of First Lady Barbara Bush

Former First Lady Barbara Bush, wife of 41st President George H. W. Bush, passed away in Houston, Texas, on April 17, 2018. The mother of 6 and grandmother of 17 was 92.

Only two women in American history have both served as First Lady and raised a son who would become president. The first was Abigail Adams, First Lady to President John Adams and the mother of John Quincy Adams. The second was Mrs. Bush, whose son George W. Bush would serve two terms as Commander in Chief beginning just 8 years after his father left office.

Keep reading... Show less
Entertainment

7 reasons Jack Burton was the warfighter I always wanted to be

Before joining the service, I thought everyone in the military was somehow fighting and killing bad guys. I looked to movies and television to try to put myself into the mindset of who I wanted to be if I had to fight a real battle.

Clearly, I no idea what I was getting into. That's where the similarities between Jack Burton and myself end.

Keep reading... Show less

6 exercises that you should be doing on chest day

Gym-goers the world over have proclaimed that Mondays are International Chest Days. This is because the chest is considered one of the most important parts of the male physique. Why? It's simple. Having a well-trained chest tends to draw wandering eyes while you're at the beach, and who doesn't want that positive attention?

Keep reading... Show less