USS Newport News CA-148

"Through The Years 1949-1975"


The Operations Department is often referred to as the eyes, ears, and voice of command. This description is used because Operations Department personnel operate and maintain all surface and air search radar equipment and man most of the voice radio circuits. Lookouts are also trained and supervised by the Operations Department to report and co-ordinate their observations with other stations throughout the ship.

Specifically, the Operations Officer is responsible to the Commanding Officer for the following functions:

1. The conduct of surface and air, both radar and visual, search including electronic countermeasures.
2. The control of assigned aircraft when airborne.
3. The collection and analysis of intelligence information.
4. The preparation of operations plans and schedule.
5. The maintenance and repair of all electronic equipment.
6. The collection and dissemination of aerological information.

In such a diverse organization as the Operation Department, it is probably best to first cover the radar equipment we have on board and second to show how the Department is organized to operate and maintain it.

During the past twenty years, the performance and use of search radar has passed the grandest dreams of its inventors. The NEWPORT NEWS has 4 search radars: SPS-10, SPS-6E, SPS-29 and SPS-8. The SPS-10 surface search radar gives very precise information on the range and bearing of objects on the surface of the ocean and of the land contours. It is not uncommon to detect large ships at ranges up to 30 miles. Once detected, ships can be accurately tracked by plotting, using successive ranges and bearings. A second use of the SPS-10 is radar navigation. By comparing the coastline contour on a chart with that shown on the radar screen the navigator is able to determine the ship's position when land is not visible. Whenever the navigator is plotting, the Operation Department radar navigation team is also plotting. The positions are constantly compared.

Raising our sights above the surface to provide medium range detection of aircraft we use the SPS-6E. This radar gives accurate range and bearings out to about 150 miles. It may also be used to assist the navigator as it often detects high land masses as far out as 200 miles. Our long range air radar is the SPS-29 with a maximum range of 250 miles. Detection of one small A-4 (Skyhawk) attack aircraft at ranges in excess of 100 miles is not uncommon.

For altitude determination we have another air search radar called the SPS-8. It is much like the other radars except that the antenna may also be tilted in the vertical plane. It emits a narrow beam of energy to provide good altitude resolution. The SPS-8 has a detection capability of 150 miles and can measure altitude of aircraft up to 50,000 feet. These four radars constitute the bulk of our electronic locating equipment. However, to supplement them we have a system which tells us whether an aircraft is friend or foe (and tells a friendly which we are); a system whereby the radar presentation in a high flying Airborne Early Warning Aircraft can be displayed on our own repeaters; electronic homing equipment which tells friendly aircraft their location from us; and additional electronic aids which permit us effective use of our search radars through enemy efforts to degrade our capabilities and to help us combat some of the natural causes of radar interference problems.

Some of the antennas, although considered a part of the radar installation are for receiving electronic signals of unknown origin. A skilled operator working with these and their associated ECM or Electronics Counter Measures equipment can detect a radio or radar signal, determine the direction from which it is coming and analyze its characteristics sufficiently to determine the type of equipment which has transmitted it. The characteristics of fingerprints of every type of radar which we know about have been catalogued so that they may be put on a cathode ray tube and photographed and also recorded on magnetic tape.

You have seen how extensively electronics contribute to the job required of the Operation Department. In order to maintain this electronics equipment at its peak efficiency, experts trained in electronics specialties are assigned under the supervision of the electronic material officer.

The Operations Department is composed of 9 officers and 143 enlisted men organized into two groups according to function.

The CIC officer, normally a LCDR, heads the group which is concerned with radar operation, electronics warfare, intelligence, visual lookout training, recognition, transportation, and meteorology. The enlisted rates assigned are principally radarmen with a few aerographers mates, and yeomen to handle the paperwork in the departmental office.

The AICS block is purely functional and is composed of the officers and enlisted personnel who are qualified to control interceptor/fighter aircraft. The ship is required to have six qualified air intercept controllers which may be officer or enlisted.

The electronics officer, a LT, is responsible for the maintenance and repair of all electronics equipment. Frequent attendance at special schools and a vigorous on-board training program are required to keep the electronics technicians up to date with our growing families of new and complex electronic equipment. To enable the technicians to concentrate on repair, most of the preventative maintenance and care of the radars and radios is performed by the men who operate the equipment, and are the very best acquainted with its day-in and day-out performance.