Saturday, July 16, 2016


ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 8, 2009) A T-45 Goshawk training aircraft assigned to the Tigers of Training Squadron (VT) 9 comes in for an arrested landing aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) after flight operations. Harry S. Truman is underway conducting carrier qualifications. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Leonard Adams/Released)
Now the other day the subject of tailhooks came up in a post about aircraft. Here is the actual exchange, from the comments on that post -

The link which Juvat left in his comment sends you to this post, right here on this very blog, of which I am the inhaber. You would think that I could at least pay attention to the happenings right here on my home turf, I mean you'd think that, right?

In my defense that post by our very own Juvat was nearly two years ago, the arrested engagement to which I was a witness was nearly 40 years ago. In my defense...

[Ahem] Alrighty then. I know this has been a very long-winded introduction to the subject of today's post. Tailhooks and aircraft arresting systems. Before you run screaming for the door, it's not a "technical" post with all sorts of diagrams and charts...

Oh, that's what you want? Sorry, perhaps someday I will provide a PowerPoint post.

Don't look at me like that.


You think I won't do it?

Now I have an evil idea...

Anyhoo. Long intro, tailhooks, ah yes, there we are... I'm back on track, sort of, we shall see.

Long ago when The WSO was first married to Big Time they took up residence in his cozy apartment in Virginia Beach, in walking distance of the beach. (Which is why they didn't take up residence in her much nicer apartment which she shared with The Nuke. That and the commute to Oceana, where they both worked, was better from his place.) The first time we visited I noticed a poster on the wall.  It proudly stated...

That explains the title of this post (those of you expecting something else, tsk-tsk).

Training Squadron 9, or TRARON NINE, or VT-9 is where young naval aviators go to learn how to take off from, and land on, aircraft carriers. (Oh and all the other things needed by a young strike fighter pilot. There's much more than just taking off and landing. Though all successful flights involve both those things.) In order to land upon one of these floating citadels of four-and-a-half acres of sovereign United States territory, all naval aircraft come equipped with one of these...

Persian Gulf (Jan. 24, 2005) - A Marine assigned to the "Silver Eagles" of Marine Strike Fighter Attack Squadron One One Five (VMFA-115) conducts a preflight check on the tailhook on one of the squadron’s F/A-18A+ Hornets prior to the start of flight operations on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). Carrier Air Wing Three (CVW-3) is embarked aboard Harry S. Truman and is providing close air support and conducting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions over Iraq. The Truman Carrier Strike Group and CVW-3 are on a regularly scheduled deployment in support of the "Global War on Terrorism". U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Ryan O'Connor (RELEASED)

Naval aviators have their own association, The Tailhook Association and they are known as, ahem, Hookers. So to speak. Due to the tailhook, not that other thing.

At any rate, many Air Force fighter aircraft also have tailhooks. Now the Navy uses theirs every time they land on "the boat," which is what the Air Wing calls the carrier. Before you leave a comment regarding "ship" versus "boat," rest assured I know the difference. Having "grown up" in the fighter community, I too call it "the boat." Also because it infuriates The Nuke. The Air Force uses their tailhooks as a last resort, emergency, "oh my God, I have no brakes," sort of thing.

For those emergencies, many Air Force runways have the BAK-12 Aircraft Arresting System. Which looks like this -

The Barrier Arresting Kit 12 cable is installed at the end of each runway is designed to stop an aircraft. (Source)

With a weight of 29,000 pounds and a speed of almost 110 MPH, Lt. Col. Nick Rodney, a pilot with the 115th Fighter Wing in Madison, Wis., brings an F-16 Fighting Falcon safely to a stop after a test of the Barrier Arresting Kit 12, a system designed to be "hooked" by an aircraft if needed to stop the aircraft.
Staff Sgt. Jordan Jensen, a crew chief with the 115th Fighter Wing in Madison, Wis., resets the tail hook on an F-16 Fighting Falcon that is used to "hook" the Barrier Arresting Kit 12 cable installed at the end of each runway, a system designed to stop an aircraft.

Notice the long run out after the F-16 has engaged the barrier.
Instantaneous deformation of the Cross Deck Pendant (3-wire) by the nose gear of an FA-18 Hornet as it lands and passes over the wire at 135 knots aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) in Sept 2009. Photo by Pinch. The arched supports are leaf springs that raise the pendant above the flight deck. (Source)

You'll notice that on the BAK-12 cable, there are "donuts" which hold the cable up off the runway. The "cross deck pendant" (cable to us landlubbers) is held up from the deck by those leaf springs noted in the preceding photo. 

An FA-18 makes an arrested landing aboard a US aircraft carrier. (Source)

Notice that the cross-deck pendant on the carrier doesn't have that long strap at its end points. Also "trapping" on the carrier has no long run out, the stop is short and rather abrupt. Unlike the barrier engagement on a land runway. Which kind of ends in a less abrupt stop. Of course, there's more room on land.

Oh yeah, that's another nuance between using the tailhook in the Air Force (unusual, emergencies only) and the Navy (standard, do it every day). In the Navy, landing on the boat is called a "trap." In the Air Force, having to use the BAK-12 is called a "barrier engagement" or a "field arrestment." I ran across both terms on the Web of World-Wideness.

An F-16 Fighting Falcon tests the new aircraft arresting barrier at the end of the runway at Balad Air Base, Iraq. 4 July 2006 U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tony Tolley

Well, that just about exhausts my knowledge of tailhooks, cross-deck pendants, and the BAK-12. In fact, that does exhaust my knowledge in that area. Oh, one last thing, the mighty F-4 Phantom has a very manly tailhook. I mean really, it's got some heft to it. One thing we never did back in the day was go under the hook. That would leave a mark if it fell on you.

McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom exhaust nozzles and tailhook. (Source)

If you'd like another tale of "field arrestments," my buddy Dave has a story stretching over a few posts back in '09, of his days flying the mighty Phantom to go north to Uncle Ho's backyard and raising Cain with the enemies of the Republic. The story starts here and runs to here (read all those posts in between if you have the time, trust me, you won't regret it.) and the story of how he got the bird back on the ground is here, here, and here. Yup, he used one of those cable thingies. (Back then they had an earlier version of the BAK-12, the BAK-9.) Great stuff Dave!

If you're paying attention, you'll be able to figure out Dave's call sign. And why he was tagged with that particular moniker.

You might also note a comment or three left by our very own Virgil Xenophon. Another Phantom driver when men were men and the enemies of America trembled at the roar of the mighty Phantom. (And the B-52, and the F-105, and...)

Go. Enjoy.

In case you wanted to see those things, well, here ya go...

Hey Tuna! That Hoover trap looked like an "OK-3." What say you?


  1. Well done!

    If you want some real fun, study up on CV arresting gear. It's amazing, and to a not very bright lad, a bit of a Rube Goldberg contraption. Hydraulic, pneumatic, electric, mechanical, gears, cogs, cables, valves, switches, chewing gum, duct tape, baling wire, goat slaughtering... It was the hardest part of my EAWS board.

    I recall a C-5 making an emergency landing at Oceana one time -- forget the emergency -- but when the tower asked if he wanted the short- and long-field gear derigged hilarity ensued. Poor landlubber kids.

    1. Onboard REAGAN a couple of years back we stopped by one of the spaces with all that arresting gear stuff. Had a very nice, knowledgeable young lady explain all of it to us. She was nobbut an E-3 but she knew her stuff. This old maintainer and the aircrew I was with found it all very edifying. And mysterious.

  2. I had never thought about until you mentioned it here but Kadena didn't have barriers on the runway. Phu Cat and
    Udorn had 4 barriers on the runways, one at each end and two equally spaced down the runway. Saw them used many
    times by battle damaged aircraft. Luke AFB also had barriers on the runway and saw them engaged a few times by
    pilot trainees who flew too low when they dropped their bombs at the Gila Bend range and fragged their own planes.

    1. Are you sure Kadena didn't have one? I swear I watched a field arrestment there. Juvat says we had one as well. (He flew Phantoms in Kunsan and later he flew Eagles out of Kadena.)

    2. Actually I'm not sure, it's been too long ago. I just don't remember seeing the barrier shacks along
      the runway. So pulled up Google Earth to take a look and sure enough, they got 'em. This is what happens when you become an old fart!!

    3. Like I said, there may have been a fighter base that didn't have them, but I doubt it. They're way too useful in resolving a lot of situations involving stopping on the runway. Running off a runway is NEVER a good idea.

    4. I thought so Russ. But it has been a long time.

    5. Speaking of running off the end of the runway. I saw an F-111 do that.

      Apparently Aardvarks aren't very good mudders.

  3. When you said "hookers" I thought for sure you were gonna go off about golf and The Open.
    Then I was gonna complain that you should give slicers equal space.

    Did you see the video of the C-3 that didn't trap?
    It was on the news the other day.

  4. Remember landing at Albuquerque around 1968 in a C-150. There were warnings to General Aviation aircraft to not land short because there were arresting cables. If memory serves (ha) that was the only joint use airfield I ever landed on.

    1. Ah yes, if memory serves...

      That's getting rare with me!

  5. Cannon AFB had arresting cables in 1968, but I don't remember them being above the ground. F100s had hooks.

    1. The Hun had a hook?

      Makes it even cooler than I thought. And I love the Hun.

  6. C-141s didn't have tailhooks, so I have nothing to add.

    Paul L. Quandt

    1. There was no carrier version of the mighty Starlifter?

  7. From my time in the res, at rg, and several others, they used a combo bak9, bac12, and frailable concrete on the over runs. I've, seen a-10, c130, and 106's all take barriers, and boy did some of them smell afterward. Guess they had to clean the head in a 30 more often.

    1. I've only seen the one. Suits me, no doubt the aircrew don't like having to do that sort of thing.

  8. Sorry, I was quite busy and not paying attention. That Viking looked pretty good, but those damn LSOs probably gave the pilot a fair. A little wing wobble at the end killed it for him.


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