Monday, December 1, 2014

Mustaches, Afterburners and Aussies-A fine kettle of fish.

So...There I was*  Flying F-15s at Kadena with my now proficient wingman, "Bones" and deployed for an extended period to Clark AB Philippines. In a prior post I had described a Cope Thunder exercise in which a squadron from Australia had participated.  At the time, they were flying Dassault  (French pronunciation: ​daˈso) Mirage IIIs.  They were quite competent in that jet and had held their own.  
Source: Source: es.wikipedia.org


However, upon return from the exercise the Mirages were retired and replaced with F/A-18 Hornets (Australian pronunciation: Eff-Eye-Deen'). 
Source: commons.wikipedia.org


That squadron had deployed back up to Clark in their brand new Jets (at the time, our F-15Cs were 10 years old, they're still flying and are now 36 years old.  In Fighter Years, that's ancient e.g. Fighting WWII with Wright Flyers.  I know, Sarge, I know. I digress.)


The Aussies have asked us to get them up to speed in air to air with fourth generation fighters, to include a workup in Dissimilar Air Combat Tactics (DACT) from BFM all the way through X v X maneuvering.  All this to get them ready for their participation in a "super" Cope Thunder in 4 weeks time.  In addition to our squadron providing Blue Air to Air, an F-15 squadron from Elmendorf will also be participating.  Misawa and Kunsan will be providing F-16 strikers, a detachment of EA-6s and the Wild Weasel squadron from Clark will be providing SEAD support.  A couple of USMC and USN squadrons will be participating from Cubi Pt NAS.  The Aggressors and the Aussies will be providing Red Air the first week, then the Aussies will switch sides and the Eagles will switch to Red Air.  It's going to be a lot of fun and an awful lot of training.


As I said Bones is my wingman, having settled in with refueling, and will be getting an element lead checkout while we are in this exercise.  We've already gone through the 1 v 1 and 2 v 1 similar portion of the program and will continue with the multiple aircraft rides, 2 v 2s and up.  As I said, an awful lot of training going on.


This exercise occurred in the midst of the Reagan build up, which meant that flying time was abundant.  It also occurred at a time when most of the Squadron and Wing level leadership had earned their spurs as Lieutenants in Vietnam.  While there were exceptions, these senior Majors, Lt Col's and junior O-6s were Fighter Pilots first, last and always.  Political Correctness, so pervasive in current leadership, was not prevalent in most Fighter Wings.


One tradition that still held sway was well described in Ed Rasimus' book "When Thunder Rolled".  that of a mustache making you bullet proof.  Since we were deploying to "simulated combat", the Squadron Commander dictated that we would all grow mustaches.  No exceptions.


So we did.


The workup with the Aussies is progressing well and while there was no plan for this, it appears that the natural tempo of air operations has gotten me and my flight in synch with a particular Aussie flight. We've had several flights together that went quite well and the fights were, at times, epic.  I've learned that the Hornet has considerably more slab movement and so can sustain a lot more angle of attack and can get to that AOA a lot faster than an Eagle.  He's learned that works well in a 1 v 1, but gets you killed real fast when there's more than one adversary out there.  (Think Maverick in Top Gun.  "I'll hit the brakes, he'll fly right by.")  The problem with it is once you've parked, you no longer can maneuver, and if a missile is coming at you, you will have a hard time defeating it.

In any case, his flight and mine have hit it off and have taken to hitting the club and downtown together.

It's been a couple of weeks and my mustache has progressed from the "what mustache?" through the "itchy" and into the scraggly stage, but orders are orders. If it makes me bulletproof, who am I to complain?

Bones has learned that being a flight lead is a whole order of magnitude more difficult than being a wingman.  Not only are you responsible for the administrative details of the flight, briefing, abort options, takeoff on time, navigation, fuel management, recovery etc, he's also responsible for the tactics and the execution thereof.  One of the key "aha" moments is when he realizes the adversary gets a vote in how effective your tactics are.

Bones is leading me in a 2 v 4 against our Aussie friends.  While the Aussies generally use similar tactics as the USAF, my counterpart was not above pulling a fast one.  We've got contact on our adversaries at about 50 miles.  Two radar returns about a mile and a half apart.  It was not unreasonable to assume that we had the two element leads on the radar with the wingmen in close formation so as to mask their number.  Bones targets me on the element on my side while he targets the other element.  He also tells me to commit on my element since his element has begun cooling off the intercept by putting Bones about 45 degrees off his nose.  (45 degrees will slow his closure by 50 percent, it's a geometry thing.)

Commit means my priority, which up until then was maintain formation. defensive lookout and then offensive situation awareness (looking at the radar) in that order, is now do whatever it takes to kill the bandit,  

 Bones turns to keep the bandit on his nose which takes him away from me.  I'm at about 20 miles when I see the element split into two contacts, the wingman has deployed.  I'm in range so squeeze the trigger to "launch" an Aim-7.  Simultaneously, I boresight the Aim-9.  The Aim-7 has about 30-45 seconds time of flight to it's target and I can't acquire and launch a radar missile at another target until that time is up or it loses its guidance.  So I've got to find the second guy with my eyeballs, then point at him, get a good tone from the heater, and launch.  All the while, closing at above 1000 knots, and employing defensive countermeasures.  That last 10 miles to the merge are intense!

Meanwhile back over to Bones.  He's still pointing at his bandit, the bad guy is still stiff arming him.  Bones makes a critical mistake at this point and misses the fact that he is no longer targeted as the bandit's aspect angle (the difference between where the bandit's nose is pointed and Bones) is greater than the 60 degree limit of the bandit's radar.  In other words, the bandit is a decoy and is staying out of range and drawing us apart.

Back to my jet.  I'm glancing in at the radar to monitor the missile status and looking through the HUD to find the second bandit.  There, I see him and since we're inside 10 miles, pull the throttles to idle to cool the jet, making a heat shot more difficult.  The Eagle cools very quickly and against that generation (Aim-9M) was  an effective tactic.  Point at the second guy and get a good tone.  "Fox 2", reacquire, good tone, "Fox-2 Kill southern bandit".  Look in at the radar and notice the first bandit has turned to put me on the beam and descended.  The missile will fail.  I'm looking to acquire him visually when I hear my RHAW gear start to squeal from my beam.Close!  Chaff and Flares, break into him which coincidentally (not!) puts the first bandit on my beam.  Holy S4!7!  Where did this guy come from?  Pass close aboard and start the turn, letting Bones know that I'm engaged with 2 live bandits after killing a third. 
 Source: commons.wikipedia.org


Bones is Blind (which means he doesn't see me, he doesn't have any vision problems).  I am in a world of hurt, because my RHAW gear starts to squeal again as my original target is entering the fight.  I've got one guy high on one side of my jet and another low on the other side of the jet.  There's a lot of 9G turns going on and over the next eternity expend all my chaff and flares.

We get back on the ground and review the tapes prior to debriefing with the Aussies.  The tricky dogs, had put 3 Hornets in one cell and 1 in the Decoy.  Plan worked like a champ.  We bought the beers that night.

The four week workup is over, the Aussies are doing quite well.  Bones is now an element lead and has been my #3 for several rides in the last week.  He still makes mistakes, but rarely twice and anyways, that's what training is for.  We're now ready to start Cope Thunder.

My mustache is almost to the point of being groomable.

Cope Thunder goes quite well, although as small as the airspace was, the biggest lesson was learning to assume that there WAS someone in the airspace directly in front of you, you just didn't see him yet.

It's the final Saturday of the deployment, we'll redeploy the next Saturday, so we're having a bit of a get together.  The Air to Air players have preplanned this party and brought provisions from our various bases.  The Alaska guys have brought Salmon and Halibut (of course, and mentioned just in case Sarge dictates a continuation of Food Week).  We've brought down cases of Kirin, Sapporo and Orion beer.  The Avionics bay of an F-15C will carry a lot of beer.  The Aussies brought Victoria Bitters and Black Swan.  A great time was had by all.
Source: commons.wikipedia.org


The final week, the Eagles played Red Air, which was kinda cool, as we would sit in the arming area until we got the launch call from GCI.  Gear Up, Flaps up, and we're in the air space.  Fight like banshees until bingo.  Throttles to idle, gear down, flaps down and land, never leaving sight of Clark.

It's Friday night, we're at the Clark club.  My mustache is a work of art.  It's late and the bartender calls last call.  There are only 7 people in the club, the bartender, the Aussie 4 ship, me and Bones.  The Aussie lead says there's a tradition in the RAAF called "Afterburners".  
Not Exactly, but it seemed to fit!
Source: commons.wikipedia.org


He proceeds to demonstrate by getting a shotglass full of whiskey, lighting it on fire and then throwing it in his mouth, quickly turning the shotglass back upright with the remaining vapors still on fire.  

Well.....I'm just anesthesized enough to welcome the challenge.  He hands me a shotglass and lights it on fire.  I get ready to drink, but he stays my hand saying "No Mate!" and proceeds to regale me with the history of this RAAF Fighter Pilot tradition all the way back to "the War to end all Wars", all the while the alcohol is burning.  Finally, he ends with a hearty "Mate! To the Queen and the President!".  I throw the flaming, and now superheated, alcohol at my open mouth.  As the first molecule hits my tongue, there is an involuntary slamming shut of my lips.  I, however, am only concerned about turning the glass back upright and having it be still burning.  It is and I start to celebrate when the Aussie to my left starts slapping me on the face.  I look at him quizzically and he states "You're on Far, Mate!"

I wake up the next morning and look in the mirror.  I have a full mustache on the right side of my face and nothing on the left.  Fly home and am met at the Jet by Mrs. Juvat who takes one look at me and says "You're an idiot!".  With great love and affection of course.



*Skip calls them Sea Stories, I call them War Stories, but the only difference between them and a fairy tale is a fairy tale starts with "Once upon a time", the other starts with "So,...There I was".

39 comments:

  1. This is a good... no, great... one, Juvat.

    And then there's this: "With great love and affection of course."

    Of course! ;-)

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    1. Thanks.
      Well, she was laughing when she said it.

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  2. LOLOLOL!

    Did sort of the same thing when I first read about that drink in Ed's book. I it stand too long while I contemplated it and this heated the drink and the glass so that when I went to toss it back, I burned my nose. Told Ed and he laughed at me. Know know that trick is to drink it fast and trick OTHER idiot into delaying for a few seconds. Good fun all around.

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    1. Glad to hear I'm not alone there.

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    2. Juvat/eed

      In my day (I know, Dino times) in Vietnam we called those shots "flaming hookers" (don't know why, either) Was always funny to see the guy miss off-center and see the liquid fire dribble down his chin and throat, lol! In our day it meant he had to do it again until he succeeded.

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    3. PS: Come to think of it, it was also an Aussie B-57 driver that introduced us @ DaNang to "flaming hookers" as well...must be a national OZ drink, lol...

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    4. PPS: It was also an aussie tank driver that introduced me to the following GREAT drink (but no name that I can remember) Take a pousse cafe class full of cognac, lay a full, round slice of lemon across the top,, ladle on fresh coffee grounds and sugar on lemon slice , then insert the lemon, coffee grounds & sugar in mouth, chew and toss in cognac and drink thru mixture. Heavenly ! (even though sounds weird)

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    5. VX, you are a TRUE connoisseur, (common sewer?). My first paying job was as a Busboy at the Webb O'Club. Think I remember that drink from watching Dad and the other IPs drinking it after the formal part of the Dining In. May have to try that sometime.

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  3. " fairy tale starts with "Once upon a time", the other starts with "So,...There I was"."

    Sea stories start with "This is no shit...". ;-)

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    1. HMMMMM. Are you talking about USMC Sea Stories? There seems to be a conflict in the guidance I've been given. :-)

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    2. @ Captain Steve -
      Sir, my blog is family friendly [HSWHTPFIHC] so I avoid using words like $#1+ as much as possible.
      Besides when I hear an opening like that I invariably look for a salt shaker.

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. Hit the wrong button while trying to reply to Buck.

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    2. I wondered why I saw that from time to time. Learn something new every day! Thanks

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  5. Great story Juvat. I should take time off more often.

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    1. Thanks. You back home now?

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    2. I am indeed back on station. With stories to tell...

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    3. And from the looks on Murph's site, pictures as well.

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  6. Absolutely Sierra Hotel story, Juvat. Reminds me of why flying Army guns "way back when" was so easy: "first up is lead, brief on Guard" (almost). Besides, we got to keep our Army Aviation Warrant Officer mustaches, drove the bosses wild and we thought we were all Spitfire pilots. regards, Alemaster

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    1. Actually, I thought Army Aviation Warrants were issued mustaches the first day of flight school. Never ever saw one without one. Thanks.

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    2. Issued on the last day of flight school. Back then WOFT was nine months of OCS/flt tng so we had to "play the game" until graduation. Then, all bets were off as we headed to SEA. regards, Alemaster

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  7. Somehow, in all of my escapades, I have managed to keep from damaging my mustache unintentionally.
    I have only been without it twice since 1968.
    That said, the 1968 version was pretty darn pathetic.

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    1. The wife talked me into a mustache and goattee a couple of months ago. Not sure what I think, but she seems to like it, so it's staying for the time being.

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  8. Don't know whether to pridefully ore shamefully admit that I could see where this was going from the title. Face on fire is one of the rites of passage.

    Cooling the motors reminds me of Hoser Satrapa and the great stories he tells about AIM/ACE, Tomcats v Eagles, back in the glory days of the 70's. The ROE disallowed BVR shots so obviously everything was a 10nm knife fight, where guiding the Sparrow meant death by AIM-9L. The navy guys didn't just go idle, they shut those TF-30's down. Which, according to Hoser, caused a lot of "crying" in certain circles. Forever grateful for the opportunity to sit quietly in the corner and listen to those great men tell the best no-$#!+ sea stories of all time.

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    1. Shutting down ones engines would certainly cool them down! There is a story of a legendary fight when the F-15 first came out with the 9L. It was called the towering inferno and, I think, was a 16 v 16 Eagles against Aggressors. The fight draws down to one F15 against on F-5, everybody else is dead. The F-15 launches an Aim-7 which kills the Aggressor 1 second after he launched the Aim 9... The ACMI video was recorded and is truly awesome. The ADO at Kadena was one of the Aggressor pilots. It made for interesting discussions in the bar.

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    2. And then there were none...

      I can just imagine the interesting discussions.

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    3. That particular fight, did give birth to the development of defensive chaff and flare dispensers for the Eagle, so it was a valid exercise.

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  9. You know...I just realized I mispoke. In the description of the 2 v 4, I said "I'm in range so squeeze the trigger to "launch" an Aim-7. " That is not how missiles are launched from an F-15. Had I done that, I'd have fired a couple of hundred rounds of 20mm at nothing. Missiles are launched via the pickle button. I can only blame a faulty memory and a reference viewing of Top Gun.

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  10. You definitely have the knack for telling a great war story. Thoroughly enjoyed this one!!! Afterburners bring back old memories. When I was assigned to the 35th squadron at Lowry AFB back in '70, all new 'jeeps' had to do the squadron Afterburner initiation rite. The only difference was that they used ouzo instead of whiskey. OldAFSarge may remember it from his days at tech school.

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    1. Yup, somebody told me it was a "rite of passage" and you had to do it. I convinced him otherwise. In no uncertain terms.

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    2. Yeah, that sounds like Donnelly, (don't remember his first name) you may remember him as 'Gramps' due to the head of grey hair at 19. I believe you were in the same squadron at Lowry. His favorite phrasing was that it was a "rite of passage"

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    3. Holy crap, yeah Donnelly, aka Gramps. He did use that phrasing. I had forgotten him. Funny guy, enamored of the ouzo trick he was.

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  11. Ughh, on fire and tastes bad, not a good combination.

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    1. As opposed to on fire and smelling of burnt hair, which also is not a good combination.

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  12. juvat/

    Reply to up above, (the reply link is FAIL): "Common Sewer" is probably closer to the appropriate descriptive phrase for this Philistine. :)

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    1. Nah, you guys were my hero's, been there done that, came home and claimed the T-shirt.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)