USS New Jersey Aircraft
The evolution of battleships in the early 20th century resulted in big guns that could hit a target beyond visual range. In 1929 the U.S. Navy began equipping new battleship designs with spotter aircraft to scout targets and assist in directing fire. New Jersey was outfitted with three Vought OS2U Kingfisher floatplanes for this purpose at the beginning of her World War II service in 1943. These were later replaced by three Curtiss SC-1 Seahawk floatplanes in the spring of 1945. Both plane designs required a catapult assisted launch to get airborne. The aircraft was positioned on the back end of a catapult on the fantail, turned seaward, and hurled down the catapult and into the air by the explosive force of a powder charge. Returning floatplanes would land on the water near the stern of New Jersey and then be lifted onto the ship by a crane located at the back edge of the fantail.
Helicopters quickly took over the role of floatplanes after World War II, which caused New Jersey to lose her two catapults. Helicopters could take off and land on their own without catapults or cranes. The battleship carried one Sikorsky HO3S-1 Dragonfly helicopter onboard during the Korean War for carrying passengers and performing search and rescue operations. New Jersey was not assigned any helicopters
during the Vietnam War, but numerous helicopters landed on the battleship during this time, including the iconic Bell UH-1 Iroquois, or "Huey." Helicopters were again assigned to New Jersey in the 1980s when she received the Kaman SH-2F Seasprite. The Seasprite could do the same jobs as the Dragonfly, but it could also provide anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capabilities.
( photo captions )
- New Jersey's HO3S-1 Dragonfly, nicknamed "Jersey Bounce" by her crew, lands on the fantail in 1953. The first HO3S-1 on New Jersey was lost in 1951 after it ran out of fuel while attempting to rescue a downed pilot. The crew were safely recovered and returned to the battleship, which received the replacement helicopter seen in this photograph.
- One of New Jersey's OS2U Kingfishers sits on the port-side catapult, just ahead of the aircraft recovery crane. The Iowa-class battleships stored their floatplanes on the open fantail.
- After landing, a SC-1 Seahawk slides onto a sea-sled towed by New Jersey to make aircraft recovery easier. The crane used to return floatplanes to the deck was removed in 1982 to increase space for helicopter operations.
- New Jersey crew service the SH-2F Seasprite on the fantail in 1983. The fully restored Seasprite behind this sign represents the original SH-2F carried onboard New Jersey from 1983 to 1984. The Seasprite
was used extensively on surveillance patrols off the coast of Beirut, Lebanon, and provided an accurate picture of ships operating around the battleship.