Alpha strike is a term used by the United States Navy to denote a large air attack by an aircraft carrier air wing, first coined during the Vietnam War. It is the Navy's version of the more widely used term "strike package".
An Alpha strike is typically a large strike representing a "deck load" of aircraft, i.e.,the amount of aircraft that can be brought to the flight deck, armed and launched against a high-value target. This will generally amount to about half of the aircraft aboard and will comprise aircraft from all squadrons on board and are also referred to as airwing-size strikes. The other half will normally have been recently recovered aircraft, and will be parked and prepared for their next mission on the hangar deck below the flight deck. During an Alpha strike the carrier will remain into the wind and at General Quarters with a "ready deck" to recover any aircraft returning to the ship with battle damage. During the Vietnam War an Alpha strike also meant that the target of a strike was specifically taken from a target list maintained by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and as such required JCOS authorization.
The alternate form of carrier operations are "cyclic operations" during which a carrier will launch and recover aircraft (a launch and recovery is a complete cycle) on a prescribed schedule. Several factors will contribute to the length of a cycle depending on the type of aircraft, the time and distance to the target, and the mission. With virtually all fast moving, jet aircraft aboard, carriers during the Vietnam War would launch and recover every 90 minutes and complete 9 cycles daily over typically a 12-13 hour period. These carriers were generally assigned to Yankee Station located about a 100 miles from the target area. When a carrier stood down after flight quarters another carrier would commence flight operations. Typically three and on rare occasions four carriers operated on Yankee Station and provided continuous fleet air operations around the clock. A carrier would typically be on the line for a "line period" of 30 to 35 days, and then leave the line for 6 to 8 days of rest and recreation. A deployment to the Western Pacific usually amounted to six line periods and typically lasted about 10 1/2 months including transit from and to the continental United States.
During the peak of the war a carrier typically launched 9 to 13 thousand sorties. If a sortie may be used as a measure of activity, the periods from 1966 to early 1968 and 1970 to 1973 probably amounted to the most intensive level of combat flying in the history of naval warfare.
Sometimes some very large air raids were staged by coordinating aircraft from three US Navy carriers in the Gulf of Tonkin and the US Air Force flying from airfields in Thailand. This could amount to 90 to 100 Navy aircraft and a similar number from the Air Force. During these very large raids either the Navy or the Air Force would strike first and the other service would re-strike the target 15 minutes later. The planning for these strikes was extensive, and typically a strike would remain over target no longer than two minutes in an effort to minimize losses in what was also the most intensive air defense system composed of fighters, anti-aircraft guns, and missiles ever encountered.
An unusual design in that the butt contains a removeable magazine powerpack.Notes
Seen in Star Trek: The Final Frontier and Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country. There's no one definitive version of this phaser: in TUC, originals from TFF were used side-by-side with Ed Miarecki-produced replicas. Details vary, notably the shape (and design) of the emitter, and of the magazine butt-plates. This image, of uncertain origin, shows three different variants; the details, though, present problems - were there assault phasers on the Enterprise-nil? Does an Excelsior-class starship need to carry more than 900 hand-weapons, with a crew of only around 500?
Until recently, there was nothing to indicate, either on the prop or from any official sources of information, that the Assault Phaser might incorporate a Type-I hand phaser; the only likely spot was at the rear of the upper body. However, Andrew Fisher recently sent me this image, which shows that there is a Type-I located under the barrel housing! Other pictures of the prop can be found here and here.
Another unusual setting: a beam that cuts into the flesh it hits without cauterization, one of the few times we’ve seen what these weapons might actually do – the novelization of ST6 calls them ‘burning phasers’ and says they’re outlawed.
There were several other facts established about phasers in general, but which might only relate to this model: a stun beam at close range to the skull can kill; phasers set on ‘wapourise,’ as Chekov calls it, set off internal sensors - something he has to be reminded of by Lieutenant Valeris, which is worrying given he is the ship’s Tactical Officer! And - while they weren't too serious about maintaining continuity of such things throughout the TOS crew's era - it's worth noting that the beam was blue, as opposed to the usual yellow-red-orange spectrum of colours.
Liam Kavanagh has recently turned up the following information from The Making of the Trek Films, edited by Edward Gross: "William Shatner's hoped for revolutionary approach to Star Trek V extended to such things as the crew's hand held weapony, the phasers, which are a far cry from the small plastic weapons of the earlier films and TV series: big, black and very dangerous looking, they may well change the look of STAR TREK hardware to come.
"I didn't want them to be squirt-guns," said Shatner. "I wanted them to be .45's. We load them on camera and you can run out of power - you can run out of bullets, in other words. It makes sense. So we could have a gun, and then not have a gun. Also, I wanted the phasers to sound differently, too. Instead of tinkling, I wanted them to crackle."
Laughed Greg Jein, "There were a lot of things we wanted to build into the new phasers, to make them more believable as a weapon than a squirtgun. In one scene, a Federation SWAT team is preparing an assault, and the new phasers give the feeling of an old war movie. The team actually check their equipment - they pull the phaser magazine off their bandoliers and if it lights up it's in working order. Then they slap the magazine into the corrugated steel butt of the pistol and pull the cocking lever back to expose the mechanisms to see if its charge is activated, just like the Green Hornet checked his Hornet's Sting on the '60s TV show. Since the phaser firefight was shot at night, we put red LEDs in the barels to give the animators a cue mark for their phaser blasts."
I'm not sure now why this is called an Assault Phaser; was it me who started it, or did I pick up on it from someone else? It's a powerful weapon, yes, and one that could conceivably be carried on a starship in tandem with the TMP-TWOK phaser that we surmise could have been in service during the same period. But why, then, have an easily-accessible locker containing FOUR of these weapons. . . in a kitchen?! Sometimes dramatic licence - the need for someone to demonstrate what happens when a phaser set to kill is fired on-board a late-23rd century starship - presents us with a tricky situation. . .
At one point the final assassination attempt in TUC was intended to be carried out by a Federation killer - Colonel West? - using a Starfleet weapon; to this end a sniper-rifle assembly was built around an assault phaser. In the final shooting script, though, the assassin was a Klingon (although actually a human in disguise) using what was presumably a Klingon sniper rifle. An image of what could be considered the only Type-III phaser rifle from the TOS Movie era does remain, however.