Monday, May 18, 2015

The Huns

Microsoft’s search engine Bing is well known for having some pretty spectacular photos on its home page.  Yesterday was no exception.  I hope you stopped by and saw it, because it was copyrighted and we’re not going to go there.  In any case it was of an F/A-18F going supersonic with an awesome shock cone just aft of the intakes obscuring the rest of the jet.  The details were phenomenal. 

As I was contemplating the photo, wishing hard I was in the jet, it occurred to me that I’d only seen that effect twice in real life.  Once was in the PI while I was in the Eagle.  Outbound from Botolan with plenty of gas, Bones and I are low and fast.  I’m checking his six as he is mine.  We’re not trying to save gas, just get out of Dodge quickly, so I’ve got the throttles somewhere past Mil power.  As I’m checking Bones’ six, something catches my eye in the vicinity of his jet (checking six means looking BEHIND his aircraft not AT his aircraft).  I glance over at him and he’s covered in white.  There’s a nanosecond pause as I try to figure out what’s wrong.  Nothing, we’re just supersonic at what I eyeball is 501 feet above sea level.
I chuckle and look in my mirrors, I also am pulling a cone.  That was actually the second time I’d seen the phenomenon.

The first time was way back in my youth.  My Daughter would say it was when the Dinosaurs roamed.  Yeah right, Pterodactyls couldn’t go supersonic, so there! 

But it was a while ago, back when the Air Force still had a soul and Fighter Pilots weren’t afraid to be fighter pilots.
Hmm, no runway. assymetric load, an aircraft that doesn't handle yaw well.  Let's give it a shot!

So,  There I was*

Dad was a T-38 IP at Webb AFB, lovely Big Spring (singular, not plural, you identify yourself as “not from around here” when you say Big Springs) TX.  The festivities in South East Asia are going full blast and the USAF is producing pilots as fast as it can.
UPT graduations back then were “Very Big Deals”.  I’m sure there were official events and the pinning on of wings, but I always went for the airplanes.  They always seemed to have one of everything.  From C-5s to C-47s (I remember seeing an AC-47 at one).  B-52s to B-17s (I don’t remember ever seeing a B-47 or B-58, they must have been in the boneyard by ’65). 

Those of you that know me know that I gave a look see at all the above, but made a beeline for the ones beginning with “F”.

I remember the Confederate Air Force (for such was its actual name at the time), showing up with P-51s, P-47s, P-38s, P-40s and F-4U's.  I was in hog heaven.

They always seemed to have F-84s, and F-86s from the Guard as well as the occasional F-89.

The Century Series was usually there en masse from the F-100 through the F-111 (including the F-110 otherwise known as the F-4C).  These were usually flown in by recent graduates of UPT who had gotten their wings and gone on the RTU and completed the checkout there.  The Wing always liked them to have them come back as they were usually known to the current crop of student pilots and demonstrated that “it could be done.”

The cool part for me was that because I went with my Dad, a lot of the time the pilot would ask me if I wanted to climb in.  Oh Yeah, Baby!!! I thought.  “Why yes sir, if it wouldn’t be inconvenient.” I said out loud.

I had a lot of pictures of me sitting in jets, unfortunately, I’ve never found them.  Ah well!

But, I digress.

It’s a Saturday morning, and the graduation festivities are wound down,  I’m walking from my house, rich as Croesus with my lawn mowing money.  (3 dollars to mow, edge and trim, I’ve never had that much money since). 

Anyhow, I’m walking to the BX to help the local economy by buying a model aircraft.  I’m leaning towards the F-105 I’d seen earlier in the week, but there was a Mosquito I also had my eye on. 

So I’m pondering these life altering events, when I get a flicker of motion out of the corner of my eye.  As I look towards the left (towards the runway which I’m perpendicular to), I see an F-100.  He’s going to pass a couple of thousand feet in front of me, and I don’t have to crank my neck back very much to see him.

He’s also got a strange white shape around his aircraft.

He passes by and shortly thereafter I find myself on the ground.  That wasn’t the first time I’d heard a sonic boom, but it certainly was the first time I felt one!

I wanted to be a F-100 pilot at that instant.

So, the Bing Photo got me reminiscing about that knockdown and how that phenomenon guided decisions and efforts and luck in my life to get me to where I wanted to be.  It also got me to wondering about the F-100, officially named the Super Sabre, but widely known as “The Hun”.

I did a little digging using the magic of the Internet, and found some interesting stuff I didn’t know about The Hun. 

North American Aviation sent the Air Force an unsolicited proposal for the aircraft in January 1951, the test model flew in October 1953, and even though there were some problems in the test program (putting it mildly, more to follow), the aircraft went operational in September of 54. 

From an idea to an operational fighter in 3 years 9 months.  Not bad.  Kinda like the F-35.  I was killing programs to pay for it in 96, is it operational yet?

Sorry, Digression

North American Aviation built the aircraft as a follow on to it F-86 Sabre (hence the name) as an Air to Air fighter, I’d never heard of any mission flown by the aircraft other than Air to Ground.  
Rockets were always fun to shoot!

In fact, the Air Force does not credit the F-100 officially with any kills.  The North Vietnamese however, disagree.  According to this article, the first Air to Air kill in the Vietnam War was by a F-100 over a Mig-17.  Evidently, the Pentagon didn’t want to publicize this as it might sway the public’s opinion about the war.  Puh Leeze!

The other thing I learned about the Hun, and I alluded to it earlier, was a problem it had aerodynamically.  Originally, the Hun was called the Sabre 45, based on its 45 degree wing sweep.  I’m sure there are Aero Engineers that can explain this better that this, but I’ll try. 
Look at the Angle of Attack on the Huns flying off this tanker.  I bet that was fun refueling!

Early models had yaw and roll issues which could cause the aircraft to go out of control and overstress to the point of disintegration.  Bad enough, but this was eventually worked out.  

The more common problem was the “Sabre Dance”.  This occurred when the aircraft was close to stall speed.  At that point, the wingtips would lose lift, because of the high angle of attack.  This would cause the aircraft to pitch up, exacerbating the stall.  If any yaw was induced at that point, one wing would gain lift by moving forward while the other would lose lift causing roll.  If this happened at altitude, the aircraft might be recoverable.  

However, one place where a fighter approaches stall speed is during landing.  There the pilot had three things working against him.  First, the engine on the F-100 was slow to spin up and, when AB was selected for a few seconds until it got fully lit, there actually was a decrease in thrust.  Second, obviously, during landing the pilot is close to the ground and probably doesn’t have altitude to recover.  Finally, ejection seats were not very effective back then.  The pilot either had to be in level flight or have a considerable altitude buffer to successfully eject.  During landing, he has neither.

All told, there were 2294 Huns produced.  It astounded me to read that 889 were lost in accidents killing 324 pilots.  In addition, 198 were destroyed in combat, a loss rate of 47%.

Yes, the Air Force was different back then.
I don't think Steppenwolf counts as "Cheesy" music.  If so, My apologies

In reflection, it’s probably a good thing that the Hun was retired in 1979 just as I got my wings and my F-110  F-4.

A gentler version of a Sabre Dance

All pictures are from Wikipedia as well as historical background


  1. Many Colorado air enthusiasts remember the F-100, the Colorado Air National Guard, and Vietnam.

    A large number of the pilots were flying for the then Denver based Continental and Frontier Airlines (pre mergers, bankruptcies, etc.) When they were called to active duty, both airlines struggled. If memory serves, Continental had about 45% of their pilots in the Guard.

    1. Yeah, that could be a problem. With the Guard and Reserves shouldering even more of the load today, I wonder if it has as much effect on the airlines.

  2. Good stuff Juvat.

    I could never get the IFR probe positioned correctly on my Hun models. Very frustrating. I made $0.75/hr in my first real job, setting blue rock at the trap club. Those were the days!

    We gave the Egyptian brass a rough time during an airshow on Nimitz. Snuck a bow-stern supersonic F-14 pass in the middle of the dogs and ponies; most of the 60 or so supreme field marshals went over backwards in their padded chairs. Then during spar bombing one of the A-7 guys went sucked on the roll in and pickled with some yaw and negative g on the jet, plunking a MK-82 down about 200 yards off the LSO platform. Very loud, lots of fragments clanging off the hull.

    For some reason your post made me think of Salter's "Burning the Days." IIRC he has some interesting observations on the Hun and some very good stuff regarding Korea.

    1. Heh, during plt tng at Laughlin one guy I played tennis with had played at Colo State (I, LSU) He was about four months ahead of me and was headed pipeline to Colo Springs flying Huns in the ANG. He used to gig me saying 'While you're sittin' in the back-seat of an F-4 getting your arse shot off in Vietnam I'll be an, AC in the Hun and sitting in coolish Colo sippin' an ice-cold Coors." After the TET offensive his Colo "hungry" ANG unit was THE VERY FIRST one activated. When he hit Phan Rang (iirc?) I got on the command post horn and got him to the phone. "How does it feel now?" I joked. "My tour is almost half over and yours is JUST STARTING!" LOL

    2. That F-14 pass would have been fun to see. Those A-7 guys! I dropped bombs for 9 years, I NEVER pickled a bomb while holding in rudder and bunting. Never! Not once! Ok, maybe quite a few times.
      Keep the book recommendations coming, my Kindle library ain't full yet.

    3. I thought I recognized that name, I read "The Hunters" a few years ago. Pretty good read.

  3. That aerial refueling shot you are showing is of F-100s--one from each of the three squadrons--from my 1st cousins (Lt Gen Carlos M. Talbott, Lt Gen, USAF Ret, Vice-Cmdr of PACAF) 322nd Fighter Day Group when he was a 32 yr-old O-6 Commander at Foster AFB, Victoria, TX circa 55/56. (He won the Bendix Air Race in '55 flying good ole FW-777) He won the race (elapsed time--no air refueling then) deciding to land w.o deploying the chute (as repacking the chute took about 45 min) and risking burning up the breaks, putting him out of the race for good. His gamble & skill paid off and he not only won via elapsed time but was first over the field at Philadelphia.

    PS: He was obviously then in such favor (later to fall out of favor--didn't get his first star until he took the 366th TFW to Vietnam in 65) that his unit was the FIRST in the Air Force to be equipped with the brand new Century series fighter.

    He died 26 Feb 2015 at age 95.

    1. Cool, The post I got the picture from said it was the first time 3 aircraft had simultaneously refueled. I hadn't read the article when I glanced at the picture. First thought was "Crap, those guys are way high AOA. " I knew the Hun had a tendency to depart during stalls, so I'm thinking that was a fairly high adventure operation. Your cousin sounds like he did very well in that Air Force. Pretty sure, he wouldn't have done so well in the current No-Mistake air force.

      May he Rest in Peace.

  4. In March 1978 I got an invite to go fly a refueling mission with the MEANG from a boomer in the Guard in one of my classes at UMaine. We flew from BGR up over Lake Michigan and refueled a brace of Huns with the basket hanging from the boom. Pretty cool to watch for the uninitiated. Got to got to ride up on the flight deck with the crew. Upon our return to Bangor the a/c commander, a LtCol said they had a UPT slot and a Nav slot open and would I be interested? I had to answer hell yes, however, I was an Army ROTC scholarship recipient and was selected for a Regular Commission in May. Got my pick of branch and first assignment. the rest is history.

    1. I'd say the A/C was a little late to need. Given the date, I'd say you were in a 135. That would have made it a little easier on the Huns, but I've heard that probe and drogue refueling off a 135 was not for the faint hearted.

    2. It was indeed a 135. The Huns were either MN or WI ANG birds as I recall. I took pics and and have them in an album at home. If the probe and drogue was intimidating the Hun drivers didn't hesitate as I recall and hit the basket without problems.

      As for the offer I have upon occasion wondered what might have been.

    3. "As for the offer I have upon occasion wondered what might have been."

      Don't we all, my Friend, don't we all.

    4. Hit publish a little faster than I intended. Brigid has a great post along those lines this morning.

  5. The Collings Foundation, among other aircraft, also owns and FLIES a Hun.

    1. Yeah, had seen videos of that, but haven't seen any of their jets up close and personal. Still find it interesting (disheartening) the Air Force won't authorize them to restore a Thud.

  6. I have probably seen that photo of the Hun with the rocket strapped to its butt a dozen times.

    Until you mentioned it, I never noticed the asymmetry before.

    I wonder why there's a single wing tank. Odd that.

    1. I didn't notice it either until I was trying to figure out a caption for the picture. Then it caught my eye. No idea why there would be only one. None would make more sense in that environment.

    2. It wasn't actually asymmetrical - the photo was airbrushed to remove a Mark 7 shape that was on the aircraft for the test. It took me a while, but I found a picture of it at Remember how all the "Look how much ordinance I can carry!" publicity pictures had weird sheet covered shapes to instead of nukes?

    3. Even better... Video!

  7. I didn't realize the Hun was such a handful. Its gestation reminds me of the Mustang.

    Don't forget the Misties flew them in Vietnam - talk about pilots with some big ones.

    1. One of the three Medal of Honor Recipients I've met in my lifetime was Misty One. Col Bud Day. Very Big Ones, and made of Brass.

    2. He was almost the only one to escape from the NVA - was within a mile/2 of a Marine outpost when they caught him

    3. American Patriot, his autobiography, is well worth the read.

  8. I entered the AF in Sept of 68 and after tech school went to Cannon AFB at Clovis NM. Worked as a weapons loader on F100D&Fs till Dec 70. Went for a ride in the F model once. When he hit After Burner on take off I suddenly realized what horsepower was. Beautiful day and a very fond memory.

    1. I'll bet that WAS fun! I always enjoyed giving incentive rides. They gave me a chance to show the guys exactly what their hard work was used for.


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