All Navy Rates are represented by letters, usually two, occasionally three. Four are right out, but I digress. A Botswain’s Mate is listed as “BM”, an Electronics Technician as “ET”, etc. These letters are followed by either two more letters or a number, depending upon whether the wearer is an E-1 to E-3, or an E-4 to E-6. In my case, I left the Navy as an AW1, which corresponds to an E-6 paygrade. AW, when I was in, stood for “Aviation Anti-Submarine Warfare Operator”.
The AW’s job was (and still is) to monitor and analyze the information garnered by various sensors onboard an aircraft, such as the P-3 Orion, the S-3 Viking, or the SeaHawk helicopter. In my case, the bulk of my 5K hours of aircrerw time was aboard P-3b and P-3cUpdate II Orions.
The P-3 sensor stations are divided between acoustic and non-acoustic stations. There are two acoustic, and one non-acoustic station. The acoustic stations monitor and analyze the sonar data from sonobuoys, both passive and active (pingers). this data is presented to the operator in both hard-copy, aural, and visual data. It depends upon the system being used, the type of sonobuoy, etc. The two sensor stations aboard a P-3 Orion can monitor 16 buoys at one time, 8 per station, with 8 displayed visually and the other 8 recorded. The two oprators normally switched the buoys out at 15 minute increments so as not to miss any data. Additionally, there is an audio received at each station where an individual buoy can be monitored through the headset, with a line of bearing generated too.
In my day, the main display for the acoustic stations was part of the AQA-7 System. It used long rolls of thermal paper to print hard copies of acoustic data, and there is a burnt paper smell that anyone who has ever been around the system will remember. The image below is of the Sensor One and sensor Two stations aboard a P-3 Orion, like I used to operate. Sensor Two is closest to the viewer.
More to come in the next post.