Monday, June 13, 2016

Thuds in Flight


I don't know about the rest of you folks out there in "My" generation.  You know, the ones rapidly approaching actual retirement or having just entered it.  It seems that my memories of life events that are worthy of being stories is a bell curve with the X axis being birthdays.  Early on, I've got some memories, not many of story grade, approaching HS, there are a lot more memories and more that are worthy of stories.  College life even more of both.  My flying career seems to have been the apex of the bell curve.  The right half of the curve being the decrease in the Y axis, number and quality corresponds to the Staff portion of my military career and then the small town public school district. 

 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 Rhode Island Vermont (who knew there was a difference) accented voice saying in my head. Must be telepathy.

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  The second worst President has been removed (peacefully, thank goodness) and been replaced by the best one of my lifetime.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.
Source

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
Source

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....
Source

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.


Aww....Sh*t!!!!
Source

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.

58 comments:

  1. Great story Juvat. Not just Thuds, but Weasels. Sierra Hotel!

    BTW, I do not have a Rhode Island accent. If anything it's a Vermont accent. Heck, I need a translator to go into Providence.

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    1. NP. In the couple of videos I've done for the blog, some folks said I sounded like I was from New Jersey.

      No, Joe (Cranky) wasn't one of them.

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    2. Joisey? You got some goodfella blood in you too?

      In all seriousness, those videos surprised me by how little New England accent you had at all. While I can rock a Texas Twang, every time I take one of those dialect tests, I come out somewhere in the Colorado/Kansas area, with data points from every place I grew up in or was stationed in. This test had me "Neutral".
      You`re not Northern, Southern, or Western, you`re just plain -American-. Your national identity is more important than your local identity, because you don`t really have a local identity. You might be from the region in that map, which is defined by this kind of accent, but you could easily not be. Or maybe you just moved around a lot growing up.

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    3. 24 years in the USAF, all of my Stateside assignments were in the Midwest. A bunch of time in Asia, a bunch of time in Europe, these all tended to muddle my accent.

      I do know that what little French I speak is with a German accent. No, that's not a feature.

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    4. Took the quiz, got...

      Which American accent do you have?
      Western
      Western is kind of neutral, but not quite since it`s still possible to tell where you`re from. So you might not actually be from the West (but you probably are). If you really want to sound "neutral," learn how to say "stock" and "stalk" differently.

      So they don't know either...

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    5. Gave me Western too. Never been west of Texas, lived my whole life in Florida and Georgia.

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  2. Replies
    1. Weasels are like pistols. You don't need one, until you need one, then you need them very, very bad! (Referring to the last picture.)

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    2. Most all Mustelids are pretty cool....

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    3. There you go using all them hi-falutin words agin! Makin' me go visit Mr Google for an explanation! ;-)

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    4. Nah! Just Kidding, I did go look it up to see what other animals might be in that family (e.g. ferrets, polecats, badgers, martens, otters, the wolverine). Thankfully, not skunks. That would stink.

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    5. Staff officers are in that family too, right? (HSWHTPFIHC)

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    6. OAFS:

      HSWHTPFIHC? Translate please for those of us who are acronym challenged.

      Paul

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    7. PS:

      As long as staff NCOs aren't in that family.

      (former) SSG Paul L. Quandt
      S-2 NCO, 1/143FA CalARNG

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    8. HSWHTPFIHC = He Said With His Tongue Planted Firmly In His Cheek.

      Sorry, I should have tossed in a link to the Acronym Page.

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    9. And no Paul, Staff NCOs are never in that family. (I was a Staff Sergeant for a very long time. Someday I may tell that story.)

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    10. No, Staff Officers were in the Weasel family, not the Skunk family (Mephitis). Shoe Clerks (you remember. two types of people in the AF, Fighter Pilots and Shoe Clerks) are in the Skunk family.

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    11. Well... One annual training cycle, I was acting S-2 Officer, as we had no officer for the slot and we were doing an ARTEP ( the first unit in the entire US Army to take that version ).

      Therein is another tale involving the US Army 6th Army ( should sixth be in Roman numerals? ) commander, a LtGen Somebody ( I no longer remember his name ).

      Paul

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    12. Corps numbers are in Roman numerals, Army number in Arabic numerals. II Corps, 3rd Army.

      Okay, an S-2 is technically a staff officer, but at battalion, yes? Too close to the shooting to be an actual pogue.

      But close.

      :)

      (Yes, we want to read that story. Now that you've piqued our interest and all...)

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    13. OK; but do you want the short version or the long version? Fair warning: the long version is as long as the full version of "Alice's Restaurant".

      Paul

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    14. Albeit, without music.

      PLQ

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    15. Long version is fine.

      Even if there is no music.

      :)

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    16. Ok, but remember, you asked for it.

      So, it was in the late '80s and we were, as I said, 1/143d FA, M109A5s. I had been requested to move from the asst. FDC NCO slot into the S-2 shop as S-2 NCO. It was annual training ( the two week thing which happened each year ) and as we had a constant junior officer shortage, I was drafted as acting S-2 Officer. The first thing I knew about it was, was when the acting S-3 ( the regular S-3 was sick and the XO temporarily became S-3 ). He and I had some history (good). The Major gathered the entire TOC to have my Battery Commander ( with whom I also had history/not so good ) present me with my helmet adorned with an oversized Captain's bar, rendered in cardboard and colored black except for the letter S on one bar and the number 2 on the other. Quoth he " I may not be able to pay you for this, but I shall treat you as though you are the S-2." My embarrassment knew no bounds. I took that bar off my hat as so as I could. I, however, still have the bar. I acted the part of the S-2, including briefing the Assistant Division Commander.

      Some months later, at our armory in Richmond, CA, we were trained in special weapons and decrypting the shoot messages. At the social mill on the armory floor after the training, we were joined by the 6th Army Commander. Our regular Army liaison, an O-6, ( who had eaten up my special promotion with a spoon ) introduced me to the General as Captain Quandt ( as I stood there with my SSG stripes on my collar points ). The General gave me and the Colonel a very fishy stare, wondering what we were trying to put over on him. Once more I wished for the ground to open up and swallow me.

      Cue theme song from "Giligan's Island".

      That's my tale. I hope that you are able to follow it. Feel free to ask questions.

      Paul

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    17. That is priceless! Thanks for sharing that Paul. (I liked the music too. Tee-hee.)

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  3. Great post Juvat. Those were the days...

    It wasn't all that unusual to see Thuds in the pattern at NASO in the early 80's. IIRC '83 or '84 was "Thud Out" and they were trying to wear 'em out before sending 'em west. One of those years there was a flight of G's at the annual air show. They really rocked the house as I recall.

    There's a D on a stick in the I-80 median near Ashland, Nebraska. It's a marker for the SAC Museum. Kind of ironic and more than a little sad. It looks cool and I'm sure it helps draw the crowds, but... http://sacmuseum.org/what-to-see/aircraft/f-105-thunderchief/

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    1. That's some irony right there. A tactical fighter bomber serving as the gate guard for the Strategic Air Command's museum. But then again, it was doing their mission for the majority of the war.

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    2. I was going to mention the STARM on the 561 jet from the rooshin source. Those were big missiles! The airwing shot a bunch of them on a weapons det, probably '83 or so. I think they were approaching their most flavorful by date.

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    3. Now there's a story which needs to be told in full. (Hint, hint.)

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  4. That video brought a lot of fond and weird memories flooding back about flying the deuce, living with some one hundred guys going stateside to upgrade to the "Farmingdale Squat Bomber". They brought them back to Itazuke AB in '64, must have been, and all hell broke loose amongst the locals. The locals had really, really long bamboo poles with red flags on them and they waved them at the departure end of the runway anytime that the 105 was operating (most every day). We sat alert at the end of the runway (typical ADC set-up) and had fun watching them. I lived with five guys who flew the thing. Four came back, one stayed at the "hotel" for many years and then was repatriated.
    I once had a ride in the back seat of a 105F. My goodness, what a stable platform at 500K at 3000 feet! And on the range, all I can remember is WOW! How unstable it was trying to do a precision approach with letdown at published speeds. As an F-110 pilot (!) later in my career, I felt we were pretty stable too (except perhaps on Friday afternoons).
    I had to laugh at the TAC movie, especially the part about the "Starfighter". The footage of it dropping its one napalm can (but looking good) is still hilarious to this old Phantom driver. It did not do well in SE Asia (my opinion). The 104 jocks used to wear their spurs into the club (a boot device to hook-up to the ejection system [frequently needed, BTW]) to, ahem!, let us know for sure who they were. I can remember the fun as well, in mobile control watching these guys in the pattern. Talk about excitement.

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    1. The Germans were flying 104s at Luke when I went through F-4 RTU. Only place I flew that initial was flown at 350K because of them. I don't remember anybody wearing spurs at the club, although since they were students also, that probably wouldn't have gone over too well.

      What was the purpose of the bamboo poles? To see if they could hook a Thud? What would they do with it if they caught it? These are important questions.

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    2. I suppose the JNs were trying shut down ops. It only succeeded in that we had to level off at 100 feet (to clean up, etc., assuring safety of flight) and then after crossing the departure end, resume climb-out.
      As I recall, though, cleaning up the Deuce didn't amount to much e.g. gear up)

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    3. How flying has progressed over the years! A mil power takeoff and climbout from Kadena in a single bag F-15C would put you at about 3000' by the departure end. A burner takeoff would put you at 6K,7K,8K,9K...

      Those were fun!

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    4. Oh, come on man, a level off at 100 feet? The things that make life worth living (to a twenty-something)! I can't believe that you would make mil power take offs! I don't think I ever did that in either the Deuce or the Phantom. Remember that you could do an immelmann turn after take-off in burner, if you held 210K. Now that's what REALLY pissed off (can I say that here?) the O-6's having breakfast.

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    5. Mil power was pretty much the standard. When you pushed the throttles passed that detent, JP-4 got turned into noise at a very fast rate. In fact, IIRC there was a portion of the flight envelope where the engines consumed so much gas, the fuel pumps could not keep the feed tank filled. 17 seconds to flameout sticks in my mind, I could be wrong. Of course, airspeed was above the mach and altitude was very low.

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    6. I never heard that. Oh my, how close to danger I was! Sorry for the cynic's attitude. I am having a bad day.

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    7. Pissed off is totally allowed. Especially if you are.

      Cynicism is common here one might say it is celebrated.

      As my dear Scots grandmother might have said, "Dinna fash yourself."

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    8. Dave, the proper technique for a unerring TO was rotate and literally when the gear left the ground raise it. The nose was 21 degrees up. As soon as the gear doors closed (350K) limit. Nose over to level flight. Accelerate to end of runway or just under the Mach.(Alaka Eagle catastrophic failure in cold weather and Korea on a normal Winter alert) Smooth pull to vertical and ride the rocket.

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    9. IPad subbed unerring for burner. Not sure why.

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    10. What, you don't like an always right or accurate takeoff?

      (How can you blame the iPad? I thought they always work. Yes, I am being a smart ass this morning.)

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  5. isn't the first photo a Phabulous Phantom?

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    1. Why, yes it is! That F-4E was assigned to the 339TFS at Moody while I was there. As OldNFO posted, the 339th was credited with the Yamamoto Shootdown. Gen Creech, in an outburst of OCD inactivated the squadron to improve wing efficiency and reactivated it as the 69th TFS. At that point, the 347 TFW would become composed of the 68th, 69th and 70th TFS's. Well done, Wilbur!

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    2. Old NFO was there, he would know.

      ;)

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    3. There was a picture in the squadron of the flight when it got back to Henderson (it's probably in the AF Archives now since we had to send it back when we deactivated). As I think back, I think he WAS in it, and old back then even. :-)

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    4. Yes....I did have the day off today!

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    5. Hahaha!

      (A day off? Who authorized that? Tee-hee.)

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  6. A most excellent post indeed, and much thanks.

    As to accents, Rhode Islanders AND Texans talk funny...but then I went from West Virginia to Louisiana, so I can't talk.

    And yeah, Old NFO was there. Old NFO has been everywhere. Rumor has it that the Montgolfier Brothers got their idea for the first manned balloon from talking to Old NFO in a bar one night in Paris.

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  7. Thanks! And yes, once in the air, the Thud could and often DID haul ass! :-) Murph- Shaddap...LOL

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  8. I would like to thank all you fly guys for the support you gave us ground pounders in Vietnam. Had a some men wounded from an F4 that took us for VC. But all in all, you saved our butts many a time and I would not be here today if not for all of you. Thank you, Joe Karczynski

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    1. I was a bit too young to have participated, but many of my flight leads, commanders and others were. I believe they'd be gratified by your kind words and thank you for them.

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  9. The comments here put me in mind of blogs in days of yore.

    Paul

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