historic radar - Rare dome-shaped antenna is correct type for
World War II ship.
A handful of staff and volunteers stood proudly next to the USS Slater Wednesday morning as a sturdy crane raised a World War II-era dome-shaped radar antenna high onto the ship's mast. The Slater community was elated, not only because they had acquired an extremely rare piece of vintage equipment that matched the destroyer escort but also because those who love the ship believe the addition makes the it the most authentically restored Navy ship from World War II. It now serves as a floating museum.>
"We've got so much of the original technology and weaponology," said Jerry Jones, a former Navy radar and electronics technician who regularly volunteers on the Slater. "That includes all 38 original guns and cannons. They are all original as they were in 1945." The placement of the 300-pound dome was the final step in a transcontinental journey that began last year in a mothballed vessel named the USS Clamp ARS-33, which has been anchored for decades in the Suisun Bay off San Francisco. >
"There are ships that the Navy saves as scrap ships," said Rick Pekelney, a West Coast-based ship preservationist. "They might use it as a test target for torpedoes and missiles. Sometimes they just keep ships around because they are good ships." The scrap ships often are where the museum ships turn for period pieces. When Pekelney heard about the radar, he immediately thought of his friends at the USS Slater.>
"These guys are incredibly lucky," said Pekelney. "It's just astonishing that, at this late date in history and when so few ships have one, that they were able to find it and in such good condition. It's the only one we know of that's survived anywhere." Those in the ship museum community throughout the country often share information and resources and give out equipment that is better suited for another vessel. So the Slater was able to take the radar for free, and a volunteer offered to drive the bulky apparatus across the country.>
The entire operation cost about $7,000, including the cost of items such as scaffolding and other equipment. The ship, which operates under a nonprofit charter, has a total annual budget of about $350,000, said Tim Rizzuto, ship superintendent and curator. The actual vintage radar is unlikely to ever work. Not only would it be difficult to find the proper parts, but the frequencies on which the old radar ran is now used by VHF television stations. >"It would wipe out all the television to downtown Albany," Jones said. The ship has long been equipped with radar monitors built into the hulking radio controllers.
Now, the monitors will feature simulated radar patterns thanks to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute student Zach Barth, who has been hired by the museum to create software to simulate typical World War II missions such as the capture of a German U-boat. >"I sat on the ship for a while reading some old radar manuals trying to figure out how to draw the algorithms and make it seem realistic," said Barth, 20, who is a computer science major from Timonium, Md. "Those radar manuals were a big help." Sometime within the next week, the USS Slater, which keeps its winter mooring at the Port of Rensselaer, will hitch a tugboat ride to the Albany side of the Hudson River, where it will be open to the public until the end of November. Each year, the ship is boarded by thousands of visitors, including school and Scout groups, who often sleep in the actual bunks crewmen used during the war.
As posted in TIMESUNION.COM 4-12-2007