Speaker Topic

Finding the Boat

Anytime a Naval Aviator flies off a ship in either a helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft, the most important thing in his or her mind, other than executing the mission, is returning to the ship on which they are based. Aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, frigates, and any aviation-capable ship all move. How far often depends on the ship’s course and speed and how long it was between the time you took off and returned.

During World War II, in an age when there was no GPS, satellite navigation systems or radar on board fighters or dive or torpedo bombers, what did Naval Aviators do? Even by 1944, some dive and torpedo bombers had onboard radar, but not all.  

The question remains, how did Naval Aviators find a moving enemy task force while for wind drift? Then, on the return leg, how did they find your carrier when there are no landmarks, just trackless ocean that looks the same as far as they can see?

Before the war, the U.S. Navy developed a system called YE-ZB to aid Naval Aviators in finding the carrier. It was simple to use – particularly in single-seat aircraft, reliable, and could be picked up more than 250 miles from the carrier. 

Great, but what if YE-ZB didn’t work? What did Naval Aviators have in the cockpit that enabled them to find their carrier? This video is the story of what was developed, how it was used during World War II and, oddly enough, during the Cold War.

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