I mean, c'mon, who wants to hear about the time I successfully parsed a student database to build a data file that's loaded into our RoboDial program and starts calling, in near real time, parents to tell them their kid is absent from school. (Which BTW comes as a surprise to a lot of parents. "Johnny's not in school today? I dropped him off at the front door this morning! No, Mrs. Jones, he's not, nor,coincidentally, is his girlfriend .") Necessary, just not interesting or exciting.
"Juvat, get ON with it!", I hear a
So, Last night I was reading Lagniappe's Lair, and Murph had posted a story about seeing F-105s at the Eglin AFB museum. Great pictures with a little bit of Standard Air Force Piss Me Off (SAFPMO, pronounced SAF (like Staff) Puh-MoH', Saf-Puh-Moh',say it with me!). I mean who would issue the order to spike the engines of all remaining F-105s, thereby insuring there would never be a flying Warbird model of one of the most famous fighters of the jet era? Well, Juvat, the answer to your question is the United States Air Force, that's who. The Dumb Sh*ts!
But, Murph ended his post with a regret that he'd never seen a Thud in flight and that no one who hadn't already seen one flying would get the chance. As I pondered that, my mind started back up the right side of the memory/story bell curve back to the very top and....
So, there I was.....*
I'm in my second operational flying assignment in a wonderful time to be alive. The second worst President has been removed (peacefully, thank goodness) and been replaced by the best one of my lifetime. As part of his plan to defeat the "Evil Empire", he's decided a key component of that plan is to grant juvat as much flying time as he can possibly stand, along with the rest of the US military, of course. Seriously, I got just over a hundred hours of operational time in my year long assignment to Kunsan. By the end of my first year at Moody, I had over 500. Life was good.
|This airplane was in the 339th TFS when I was there. Shortly after I left was when the White bottom went away.|
Part of the reason for that huge uptick in flying time was the wing's responsibilities to be part of the Rapid Deployment Force (RDF). We had to maintain the capability to deploy on very short notice to, well, the same general region of the world we're operationally flying today, 30+ years later.
Since, there was no way of telling who we'd actually be fighting, or from where or with what (Logistics was, and still is, a big problem in that theater), we had to practice for a wide variety of missions. Flying Pave Spike and Maverick capable F-4E's we also had to be capable of Air Superiority missions either in support of F-15s, or on our own. We flew a lot of Air to Air.
One of the other aspects of the RDF was the realization that we'd have to operate strike packages on an ad hoc basis. Sure, we'd get a Frag Order from what would eventually become CENTCOM, but the actual makeup of the strike package would almost undoubtedly come from different bases. This meant, the first time the package would get together was usually on the tanker, if not the target area. That led to some sporting moments in fighter aviation.
We were highly encouraged to contact other wings within flying distance of each other and work out practice missions. For instance, rendezvous with the wing out of Shaw and attack some tactical targets on their range. Or, fly out into the gulf of Mexico, rendezvous with some Eagles from Eglin and attack some tactical targets in Central Florida. Those were even better if we could get the Navy to come up and play. As I said, a lot of fun, a lot of learning and an awful lot of flying. Hint: If Dr Brown's Delorean visits me, this is where I'm setting the time controls.
In any case, we get a call one day, from the AF Reserve wing at Warner Robbins AFB near Atlanta. They're wondering if we'd like to do a little training with them. With the F-4G Wild Weasels still coming on line, a large portion of the SEAD mission was performed by Reserve and Guard F-105s, and the majority of the RDF capability was provided by those squadrons. However, there numbers were fairly small and the single seat F-105D's were being phased out. The D models would be used to attack, surpress and destroy SAM sites in conjunction with the Weasel birds. They were being phased out, ergo.....somebody else would have to pick up the mission.
So, the plan was for us to rendezvous on the tanker with the two ship of Thud Weasels, split my four ship into two elements and fly an inverted vic formation with the Weasel out in front, attacking simulated threat emitters on Eglin Range. They were actually manned and emitting sites. The Thud would simulate a Shrike or HARM shot, and we'd attack with Maverick. Low level ingress and egress. Pop up in the target area hoping that was the only time the emitter would see us. Not actually, we were flying in the panhandle of Florida. We had a min altitude of 500' and there's not much terrain masking can be done in Florida at 500'.
We brief our Squadron Commander on the mission and get his blessing, and blast off. Rendezvous on the tanker and the two Thuds are already there. My three and four are going with the Weasel lead, Weasel 2 who undoubtedly has a million hours more than me will fly on my wing. Since Eglin only has one emitter range (at the time, don't know about now), the three of us are going to stay on the tanker for about 10 minutes to give the first strike a chance to attack and egress.
|I thought this SOURCE was interesting!|
I've mentioned before, that refueling the F-4 was not easy. The canopy bow blocked your view of the tanker. Fuel was loaded fore and aft, which changed the aircraft's Center of Gravity, requiring constant trim changes. Wah Wah Wah! However, during that time on the tanker, I had the opportunity to feel someone's pain.
|Note the AOA on the tanking Thud. This is at a normal refueling altitude for them. We were higher.|
The Thud looked like it was standing on its hind legs refueling. There was a fairly high, but thick cloud deck, so we were refueling at the top of what the Thud could fly at the refueling speed the Tanker had to maintain. Even I was having some difficulty getting into and maintaining position. In the F-4, you could split the throttles, lighting min Burner on one engine, then controlling you fore and aft with the other. It could be sporty, but at least it gave you options. The Thud didn't have that option. Once you got to Mil power, that was all you were going to get. Even Min Burner on their one engine would cause an overrun.
We hung out there on the tanker's wing for the requesite ten minutes then took our leave.
|Thud coasting in. I don't think he's in Florida|
We're dropping down to our ingress altitude and about to coast in. (I recognized that had happened because the earth's surface changed from deep blue to green, and there were a large portion of triple A sites requiring avoidance. Those commies were clever, they hid their guns in large mansions.) I sent the Weasel out front. Shortly thereafter he's a mile or so out front and starting to do his work. He acquires the target, and (I don't remember how this occurred, smoke signals or something) gets the coordinates to my WSO. We're hunkering down and going as fast as we can (480K FAA restriction). Reach the target area and hear the Weasel call his pop up. I see his Burners light, and he begins his climb. A couple of seconds later, I call for the split and #2 and I each turn 45 degrees away from each other. This will mean that our attack axis will be approximately 90 degrees apart, making the problem that much more difficult for the bad guy defenders.
I see the target, roll in and put the pipper on it. I call "tracking", the WSO locks the Maverick on the target and calls "Locked". I glance in at my scope and confirm that what he's locked on to is, in fact, what I want destroyed. It is. I push the pickle button and after a second, the screen goes black. If it had been a live missile, and it's rocket motor fired and it's brain didn't fry, chances of the bad guy's survival is now very low. However, I'm a couple of thousand feet above a target area that I have just attacked. Every bad guy with a weapoon will be trying his best to see if the rest of my life is measured in seconds.
|Gonna be close! He's out of plane with the missile, so if his airplane is already moving down, the missile won't actually hit him. Blast radius though....|
I roll over and pull the nose down. Throttles go all the way forward (until I get to 480K that is) and call off the target. # 2 calls that he's got me in sight and my six is clear. I confirm his is also and tell him so. Out front about a mile centered between us is the Weasel.
We egress successfully, dodging the cleverly hidden AAA sites on the beach, and are feet wet. Our plan was to egress for 10 miles before we popped up and made our way home. I tell the flight to "push it up", I see a bright light come out of the back end of the F-105...
And that was the last time I saw an F-105 in flight.