Last call

Posted by Lex, on August 28, 2006

Over at Blackfive’s place, Pinch has sad news:


It is with deep regret that I pass on the sad news the CAPT Frank W. Ault, USN, Retired made his final take off August 20, 2006 at his home in Arlington, VA. Frank’s very diverse career combined with his forward thinking and intelligence made him an exceptional Naval Officer.

CAPT Ault graduated with the Naval Academy class of 1943 (Graduation was accelerated to June of 1942) and spent his first two commissioned years in the surface Navy. Assigned to the USS Astoria (CA-34), he participated in the Invasion of Guadalcanal. He survived the sinking of Astoria during the First Battle of Savo Island in August 1942. Frank then joined the USS Tuscaloosa (CA-37) and participated in the Invasion of North Africa in November 1942. He was in the Gunnery Department on both ships.

CAPT Ault entered flight training in 1944 and was designated a Naval Aviator on October 17, 1945. Frank was assigned to the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project in 1947 and became a nuclear weapons specialist. He was a plank owner and Bomb Commander VC-5, the Navy’s first atomic bomb delivery squadron. CAPT Ault held important assignments in OPNAV and BUORD dealing with Nuclear weapons and weapons research. While in BUORD, Frank was assigned as Director of Space Research and authored the first Navy Space Program Plan in 1957. He then moved on to be OPNAV as Director of Navy Space Systems (OP-76) and DDR&E as Assistant for Navy Space Systems.

Frank never got too far away from the cockpit. He served in five VA squadrons, was CO of VA-216, and Commander Air Group 10 on board USS Shangri La (CV-38). CAPT Ault commanded the USS Renville (APA-227) and the USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) during the Vietnam War. His assignment as Chief of Staff to ComCarDivOne, deployed to Vietnam from 1967 to 1968, and his prior experience as a carrier CO and weapons specialist made him a perfect candidate to conduct an Air Weapons Study for OPNAV/NAVAIR. The product was the famous “Ault Report” of 1968. The report diagnosed fighter systems performance in Vietnam and is credited with raising the air combat kill ratio in Vietnam from 2.5 to 1 to over 12.5 to 1. As a result of the report, the Navy realized the need for a Fighter Weapons School, and “Top Gun” was established.

CAPT Ault was indeed a pioneer in the Nuclear Weapons and Navy Space fields. His skill and experience as a pilot, coupled with his intelligence made him a great Naval Aviator. He will be missed.

A memorial service will be held Friday, September 8 at the Fort Myers Memorial Chapel at 1300 with a reception at the Fort Myers Officers Cub following the service.

During the Vietnam war, the Navy asked why our fighter crews, manning gear that entirely outclassed their North Vietnamese adversaries, were not pulling down kill ratios at historical rates. Considering that we were only killing 2.3 NVA MiGs to each F-4, we were losing the air war both in terms of cost and morale. CAPT Ault was charged with figuring it out. His “Ault Report” became the foundation for numerous technical changes to the way we built and loaded air-to-air missiles. It also was the genesis of TOPGUN – not the movie, but the school – a place dedicated to ensuring that those who had learned how to kill in survive in the crucible of air combat passed their lessons down to those who would one day need to do so. CAPT Ault was the first to understand that those who successfully got past the first “willies” of indian country often went on to be the most succesful. It was he who ensured that stateside fighter training so closely replicated actual combat stresses so that “nuggets” felt almost relieved to be in the actual fight, rather than in training.

In short time, the Navy’s kill ratio rose to 13:1, and the rest, as they say, is history.

There is a kind of irony I suppose, in the knowledge that an attack pilot rescued fighter aviation. But only Nixon could go to China.

Captain Ault rendered the Navy a great service. He will indeed be missed.

Fly, fight, win.

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Filed under Best of Neptunus Lex, by lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, Lex, Naval Aviation, Neptunus Lex

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