Sonobuoys were the main way we tracked subs back in the day. I really hate to think how many TONS of those damn things I handled, one at a time, over the years…

Weighing 15 to 39 lbs, we carried 80+ of them on every mission. The ‘fun’ was getting them loaded, especially if the weather wasn’t great. This pic shows the ordie pushing a buoy into the external launch tube. In the rain… What you don’t see is the other folks standing off to the left with the buoy cart, out IN the rain, no hats, no rain gear, water running down the backs of their necks, checking each buoy for all its settings before handing it to him to be shoved into a specific tube. On a good day, this took, give or take, a half hour. On a bad day, it could easily run an hour. THEN you have to hump another 30+ up the stairs on the left into the interior racks. By the time you got in the airplane, you were soaking wet and not in a good mood… Trust me on that… And we did it day after day!

Note that each chute has a specific letter/number combination. Once inside, all of those buoys then had to be typed into the onboard computer so they could be deployed when required. And if you ever made a mistake, there was hell to pay! Trying to find the ‘missing’ buoy was fun… Especially if it wasn’t supposed to be a pinger, and it started pinging on the ‘wrong’ target… πŸ˜‰

Oh, and this was actually a nice day, compared to some; where we were, we’ve loaded in a monsoon, in snow storms, and in 100+ degree heat.


TBT… — 30 Comments

  1. In the Bravos ALL went up the ladder. In a good crew everyone helped.
    Things could get busy for the Ordie when it came time to lay the pattern. I would often go back from Radio to lend a hand. Good times…

  2. LOL, been there, done that, got the T-shirt. The AW shop was also responsible for inventorying, ordering, and maintaining the sonobuoy locker. Then we had to build to loads each day to meet the requirements of the daily flight schedule. If we were really busy (multiple targets in our op area) it was not unusual to see guys sleeping in the sonobuoy locker. There wasn’t enough time to go back to the barracks before the next flight was due to pre-flight and load. Wash, rinse, repeat.

  3. Applaud and appreciate – know some of the sweating. Also know the triple-check of item and sequence. No matter how many checks, one on the ground was always slow to go or went out of sequence. ^&%$ gremlins everywhere.

  4. I was on the sub trying not to be found for 70 days at a time.
    Mostly boring except for drills and field days. retired EMCS(SS)

  5. Ignorant Question: What is the structure, apparently hanging from the port wing, about halfway between the man loading the buoy and the propeller blade?

  6. Hey Old NFO;

    Those were the Buoys that Tom Clancy were referring to in his novels…dang….Never saw how they were loaded.

    • What with being an Army medic, I never knew these things existed until I read “The Hunt for Red October” and “Red Storm Rising.”
      Right now, I’m in the Carreraverse, and they feature prominently there as well.
      But, unless I’ve just blocked it, all that was discussed was dropping the buoys, and the use that was made of them by subs and surface and air-conditioned rooms on land. Not a words about a guy who can’t even stand upright, pushing 15 – 39 pound devices into loading tubes, over his head.
      If he doesn’t wind up with huge muscles, and a destroyed lower back, I would be greatly surprised.
      Advanced technology is a wonderful thing, and we all owe much to its’ applications. Even so, SOMEWHERE in the process, there is a dude with an aching back and probably some smashed toes and fingers. Let’s here it for THAT guy: SA-LUTE!

  7. The old P2V-7 had an access door in the floor of the aft station.
    The sonobouys, PDC’s, radioman, ordinanceman, puke bags, cases of chicken noodle soup (to relieve the dry heaves during storms and the occasional hurricane)plus the coffee and meal boxes came aboard through that hatch. PLus anyone else that was too hungover to climb the nose wheel access ladder.

    • “PDC” means? Lotsa unhelpful info on the intertube.

      ‘chicken noodle soup” Trying to imagine eating soup when the horizon is going all wonky…
      We ate dry oyster crackers and cartons of room-temp chocolate milk.

      My first time at sea I was getting the flu and there was a not-far-away-enough storm. Good times- Not. Then I got told to catch some Nav Sats. On the bridge. WAY above the waterline. Oi!

      • PDC = “Practice Depth Charge”. A small depth charge, IIRC around 2-3 pounds that could be hand launched or launched from the Retro Launcher. The Retro Launcher was a pneumatic cannon that pointed straight aft of the aircraft and could be calibrated to launch a smoke marker or PDC aft at the same velocity of the aircraft’s forward speed so it would fall straight down. The PDC had a small explosive charge that, IIRC, could be set for various depths. It was used to signal practice attacks on submerged targets and other things such as “end of exercise”.

  8. All- Thanks for the comments, and yes, it was a ‘team’ effort, at least on my crews. Everybody including the pilots humped buoys. Ray- I remember the flaps out of BARPT, spending many days building buoys in the old aluminum SLCs. PITA!!! I started in B’s, so yes all buoys went up the ladder. Most ordies developed back and rotator cuff problems later in their careers.

    Posted from my iPhone.

  9. I wonder why they never used a hangar for the loading? But then again, I have learned not to question the brilliance of the military administrative mind.

    How may times did you all get chewed out for having wet paperwork?

    • “no hats, no rain gear” Waitasec, y’mean the squids weren’t bright enough to wear hat… oh, FOD? Nevermind.

  10. I sure am glad I flew the EP-3E instead. The worst job for us was having to dump the pisser at the end of the mission, which I always managed to avoid as a young Seaman/3rd Class.

  11. I’m kinda surprised that our wonderful epa didn’t demand that our navy go out and recover all the expended bouys – cost be damned…
    Probably because nobody in the agency ever thought about icky military stuff.

  12. Did they have zip-lock bags back then? How did you keep you’re Per Diem checks dry?

  13. LOL, per diem checks got put away for ‘safekeeping’… Beans-There was usually a bird or two in the hangar. Dave- The issue with ziplocks was that the buoy sheet was 8 1/2×11 and the load sheet FILLED it… So no way to fold it and be able to actually ‘see’ what you were doing. I cheated, Supply had a laminator, so I would go down and laminate mine, then use a grease pencil (until I got caught using too many sheets of laminate. Then they just got wet and disintegrated… sigh

    Jet- By comparison, we did. πŸ˜‰

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