Monday, May 22, 2017

Conehead

On Saturday, Sarge posted an article that, in his own inimitable style, discussed a lot of worthwhile issues.  One of those topics is the existential crisis in Air Force Leadership, both officer and enlisted, but primarily Officer and lead by and caused by General Officers general officers.(The offenders not being worthy of honorifics).  Another was the absolute stupidity in the design of Air Force uniforms over the past 70 years of its existence.  Merrill McPeak (he goes by Tony, his real name, Merrill is more fitting) was the absolute winner in commander designed uniform awfulness.  Some time I'll post on his visit to Kadena and meeting the wing's Flight Commanders.  Yes, it involved a uniform inspection.  I'm pretty sure when translating "McPeak" from the original tongue means "Buffoon".

However (yes, folks, a different verbal pause!), the crux of Sarge's post was on the difference in military life when assigned to the Pacific than Stateside and even Europe.   To summarize, PACAF had much more of a Shaka Brah mentality than elsewhere.  While we took training and flying our mission VERY seriously, the day to day tediousity of military life was minimized as much as possible.



So (yep, back to the usual verbal pause.), as usual, an excellent post, much like the lyrics in refrain of this song. 
 Yeah, I'm a Jimmy Buffett fan.

However, even the Master makes a mistake every once in a long while.  And that once was Saturday.

He published this photo
  
Sarge's issue was Flounder's issue in Animal House, the ending of which is "....you trusted us".  The file name on the picture says "35th_Tactical_Fighter_Squadron_-_McDonnell_F-4D-32-MC_Phantom_-_66-8709.jpg", so Sarge said the same.

When I glanced at the picture, the first thing I noticed was the WP on the tail, properly topped with the fin flash of the 80th TFS, AKA "The Juvats" not the blue fin flash of the (PTUI!) 35TFS Pantons.  

I gently corrected him, and then I started looking at the rest of the jet.  I noticed the ECM pod in the front left Sparrow well and then noticed the Laundry rack on the spine.

"I wonder....."  and went back and found my flying records.  Yes, I have flown this jet, and was part of the first crew that used that laundry rack since the Vietnam War.  Course this was 1980, so 7 years,  not that big a deal.

But, when you're on a remote to Kunsan, and the golf course is not a whole lot better than a putt-putt course, it's easy to get excited about even the littlest things.

You see, the Laundry rack is an antenna and was used by the LORAN system mounted in some F-4s.  LORAN is one of those military acronyms and stands for LOng RAnge Navigation.  The antenna would capture radio beacons from various sources and plot their intersection.  That intersection would be the location of the receiver.

In the F-4, the LORAN was hooked into the Bombing Computer, which would allow you to automatically drop a bomb when the Bombing Computer determined that point the LORAN said the aircraft was currently matched the point the Bombing Computer determined was the Release Point for the weapons on board.

Think electronic version of the Norden Bomb Sight, and you wouldn't be far off.

As I said, the Juvats was my first assignment.  As is usually the case for first assignments, I wasn't very well qualified to do much of anything.  An additional factor was the looming arrival of an ORI, and the Wing and Squadron Commander didn't want a brand new 1LT, not well qualified, Aircraft Commander to have much impact on the results of the ORI.  Hence, I was relegated to the night schedule.

And.....

Because the F-4 was a two seat aircraft, and I was a new guy, I had to have someone experienced crewed with me.  But that meant one of their experienced WSOs would not be available for the visible portion of the ORI.  (No one on the IG team wanted to look at nighttime operations at Kunsan Korea in February, hence a lot of "sins" were hidden by the night schedule.)

A conundrum.

Seems a fairly experienced back seater was scheduled to arrive about 3 weeks prior to the ORI.  The Squadron Commander put out the edict that he would be Mission Ready before the ORI as he was to be my WSO.  Lucky guy!

Lucky me also, since he's got to get a mission qual check ride and I'm his front seater, I get to get another one.  Yay!  And this one will be at night.

We pass.  But we're relegated to night sorties which except for occasional moments of excitement (read terror), were generally boring.  Brief at sunset, takeoff around 9, drive to Koon-Ni Range, drop the two simulated nukes, pop up for 30o dive bomb, then 20o, then RTB to a couple of instrument low approaches then full stop.  Hit the rack around 0200, get up and do it again.  

We've been doing this for a few weeks, and one day, we're flying the jet in the picture above.  My WSO is looking at this new, old, stuff in his cockpit and trying switches.  He turns the Russian Switch (the OnOff switch pronounced Own' ov, you get it right?) to the On position and needles start to move in the back seat, but he's not sure what it is or what it does.

Since we've got a lot of daylight between sorties, he breaks into the flight manuals to see what that system is and what it does.  Yes....It was the LORAN system.  

He then decides that he's going to make a name for himself by learning how to and using the system.  Fortunately, 709 is a reliable airplane and on the night schedule, so getting  to fly it isn't hard.  Soon, we're able, with the help of some initially unwilling maintainers, to get the system working.  

He then decides we're going to get the system in such a state that we can attempt to drop a practice bomb with it.

That requires approval from the powers that be.

Batman approves the idea with a few safety caveats.  We will practice with the Combat SkySpot folks until we get correlation that anything that comes off our aircraft should hit planet Earth somewhere.  

This system would give you steering to a release point and then provide timing to release with 3 bongs, 2 ticks and then a Beep.  You would pickle when you heard the Beep.  

It was used in Vietnam quite extensively when the weather was bad.  Evidently, it was quite effective in turning trees into toothpicks.  VX and Dave may have better info than I.

In any case, we've tweaked the system and gone through a few dry missions where the Skyspot would run the delivery and we'd check their release point with LORAN's and vice versa.  We were fairly confident that we could deliver a BDU-33 25 pound practice bomb to somewhere near the Rock on Koon-Ni Range.  Certainly in the bay....Surely.....

It's time for an actual release.

First run will be Skyspot controlled.  Bong, Bong, Bong, Tick, Tick, BEEEEEEEEP!

I don't remember what the actual score was, but it didn't hit the rock, short.  (Not that I ever missed the rock entirely, Nope, Never, Ever!)

Now it's our turn.  We come in for a dry run, telling the Skyspot crowd when we would have pickled.  their prediction was that we'd be a little long.

Ok, their actual bomb was short, they said we'd be long, maybe.

We come back around for an actual delivery.  

Pickle.

The Ranger calls 500' at 12.  Not a bad bomb (well for a bomb dropped from 18K in level flight without visual aiming or guidance anyway).  Come back around and drop another.  A little short, about 400' at 6, but not bad.  This could work.

Get back on the ground and talk to Batman.  We're pretty excited, as best we could tell, those were the first LORAN bombs dropped since Vietnam and they were certainly acceptable.  We're on to something.

The Squadron Weapons Officer cools us down pretty quickly though.  He asks us what the delivery parameters were.  I told him straight and level, 400K, 18,000'.  He asks me what the TOF of a 57mm AAA round was to 18000'?   Or a SA-2?  Or a SA-3? All of which the North Korean's had in droves.
HISSSS!

OH!

My Backseater got his Callsign that evening, hence the title to this post.

Conehead PCS'd from the Kun to Moody and was my crewed backseater there also.  He went to the F-4 Fighter Weapons school while at Moody. We had a lot of excellent adventures and dropped a bunch of neat munitions from exciting deliveries but we never spoke much about LORAN again, except on cross countries to the PI when it came in pretty handy.




30 comments:

  1. So now I know what LORAN was used for. And why we stopped using it.

    So when Valory asks, TOF = Time Of Flight.

    Excellent tale, you even worked in a callsign story and included a shout out to Jimmy Buffett. A fantastic, multi-faceted post, you are setting the bar very high my friend!

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    1. Thanks, BTW the TOF of a 57mm to 18000' is just under 3 seconds.

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    2. Greater than 6000fps?!?!?! Damn!

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    3. Nah, got my figures swapped around. Velocity is 3281fps so just under 6 seconds (5.48 to be exact). Still we were straight and level for much longer than that.

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    4. I'm missing something here.

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    5. Valory is one of our biggest fans over at koobecaF. She asks many good questions so I was trying to answer a question before she asked it. D'oh, she already knew what TOF stood for.

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    6. Ahhh, I see. I try to stay away from that Time Heat Sink as much as possible. I think I'm at 183 days and counting without a visit.

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  2. Another great post Juvat and a great way to start my Monday. As I recall LORAN was an excellent navigation aid as long as you didn't need it. I remember how excited everyone was when the ring laser gyros tightened up the INS. It was like magic being only a quarter-mile out at the end of a complex route. I wonder what today's aviators would think if they woke up to early 80's nav gear and had to keep a DR plot going.

    On those night hops were you doing lay downs or lofts with the crowd pleasers, or both?

    Again, great post. Those were good ol' days.

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  3. Yeah, when the ring laser gyro hit the F-15, the specs said to write it up if it didn't show you at the same shelter when you got back and shut down. The youngsters did get very reliant on the system and we had some issues when deployed to Korea when it wasn't working. I decided at that point the the guys in my Flight would know how to read a map and fly a low level without the system. We had a couple of D-models assigned and I'd sit back seat to make sure they weren't using the INS. There was always a very high level of grumbling. But....they did learn.
    As for the crowd pleasers, Loft's almost exclusively. Generally a good idea to be headed home as soon as possible after annoying the enemy with one. Plus that delivery gave you a bit more time between release and the next sunrise to put some mileage between impact point and your pink butt.

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  4. Loran's been around for a long time.
    It predates all but analog computers.
    It another good way to confuse midshipmen learning navigation techniques... almost as much funas a sextant.
    Somebody thoubbt it was a good idea to send some of the radar gang to Loran school even though the gear (read receivers) were nowhere near CIC.
    The only time I even saw the gear on the ship was when I would go down to the Quartermaster's shack to borrow their electric eraser

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    1. I can see its usefulness on a ship (or even on a long overwater Cross Country), but as a weapons delivery system. CEP of 450' was pretty good in WWII, not so much in 1980 and pretty much unacceptable now.

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  5. Another great story Juvat! Just a note here. When I was at Udorn, we would always meet the the planes right after their sorties so we could talk to the pilots about any radar system issues. Quite often the write-ups we would get after debriefing could be a little vague and hard to interpret. Most of the pilots had trained on 'C' models which did not have the bombing computers and according to what the pilots would tell us, they didn't use the bombing computer or LORAN system because they didn't trust them. They preferred to deliver bombs like they did in the 'C's. Put it in boresight mode and use their own judgement!

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    1. Yeah, As the link above (moment of terror) related, using Dive Toss almost made me one with the Yellow Sea, so I was reluctant to use it. But, everything was in short supply at Kunsan the last year of the second worst President Ever, parts, flying time, the whole shebang. So, we did a lot of manual bombing. When I got to Moody and Reagan took over, magically parts and flying time became more prevalent. Conehead, who by this time had been to Weapons School, talked me into trying Dive Toss again. 6 out of 6 within 25' made me a believer.

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    2. Yeah, JUVAT, The old school c-model fighter mafia was so mindlessly against dive toss (as they had so little experience in in the d-model) that they actively suppressed usage of that mode when they moved to the D-model. Took a long time for the USAF to get serious about dive toss.

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    3. When things work, it's easier to use them. I should have said that the E-Model I flew and put those bombs inside the 25' ring was being prepped for the Wing's Gunsmoke team, so it was kinda hard to miss.

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  6. This post was, to quote Monty Burns, "exxcelleeeent," (steepled fingers).

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  7. Thank you for a number one ( I would use the Japanese, but I'm not sure of the spelling ) post. These sorts of posts is among the reasons that this site is on my daily stop by list.

    Paul L. Quandt

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    1. Ichi Ban? Every time I ever heard it that phrase was followed by G.I., unless it was Numbah Ten! G.I. Which wasn't as good.

      Thanks.

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    2. Thanks, I thought that was how it is spelled. However, not being sure, I didn't want to appear a fool. Not that I don't appear that way far too often.

      Paul

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    3. 私は別のビールをしてもいいですか? Always worked for me!

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    4. Sure, sure, whatever you two say.

      PLQ

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  8. When we flew over an undercast to change the magnetic north in the SE area of the world, we flew off of some large airplane whose crew members purported to know where they were. When the guy said now, we pickled. I frankly think it had more to do with "sortie count" than anything else.

    The most helpful phrase I remember from Itazuke is "Ippon biru, kudasai" or maybe to a cab driver, something like, "hiyaku, dozo"

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    1. I see you are fluent in multiple languages as am I. I can order a beer and find a bathroom in 32 different ones. What more does one need?

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    2. I think you're right on the "sortie count", BTW.

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  9. Y'all did a LOT better with LORAN than I ever did. I was happy with a five mile fix in the middle of the ocean... sigh... All I had to do was get the P-3 close enough to get a radial and DME to base. :-)

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    1. Both tours in the Pacific, I was always happy when I got a good TACAN lock on the next waypoint or the destination. I've always wondered how the guys with sails and sextants (or heck, the guys with sails and oars) did it.

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