Monday, January 6, 2020


Well...The New Year is upon us.  Mrs J, ever the intrepid Travel Agent, has put together a "Wine Cruise" for our Winemaker Friends and 45 of their wine club members.  Little J and LJW will be joining us as "helpers" during the two tasting and seminars on our at sea days.

This is going on as we speak.  If Galveston weather complied with the forecast, we will have sailed Saturday afternoon and will be somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico right about now.

I'm not trying to make anyone jealous, because it's going to be a working vacation.  I mean I've got to pour wine during two 1 hour seminars over the course of 9 days.  You feeling my pain yet?

There are also other indications this is going to be a good year.

First cup of coffee the New Year. Not a drop wasted! It's going to be a GREAT year.
I mean really, put the pod in the coffee maker, push the button, turn around and do something else for about 5 minutes.  Remember the coffee, and mutter an AWWW Sugar! (or something) while turning around only to spot a perfect cup of coffee.  That has happened exactly never in my lifetime.  So...Good year.

There I was (on Thursday) looking for a subject to write about, when my good friend from Florida, Señor Frijoles, made a comment about basic firearm skills.  After the 6th paragraph of my stunningly brilliant rejoinder, I realized I might just have a post.  Another omen, as I, as Sarge is sometimes wont to say, "Got Nuttin".

So, there I was...(and this might be a retread, but I can't find it in the archives) A Captain, in his 4th fighter assignment (3rd operational) flying the world's finest fighter, the F-15C.
The Source is an article about a F-15 crash last summer that I hadn't heard about.  Spatial disorientation during a fight with an F-22 lead to ejection and serious injuries.
 I'm relatively new to the squadron, so flying as a wingman.  My flight lead, for the day, had been one of my students going through Lead-In at Holloman.  He'd been an F-4 Back Seater, gotten his pilot wings and become a flight lead since I'd last flown with him.

We're scheduled for the first launch of the day, right after dawn.  Our mission will be what was called a dart mission.  The Dart was an aluminum covered plywood tapered cruciform (say that one three times fast) target that was towed behind, at the time, an F-86.  Those jets were flown by old retired fighter pilots, most of whom had multiple medals with meaning.  (As opposed to medals one might receive for PCS'ing and not having peeved anyone.) As a further aside, the F-86 guys rarely bought drinks when they came to the bar.

In ANY case, my flight lead and I are going to take off just before dawn, drive a couple of hundred miles east of Okinawa, sweeping the seas to see any ships that might be adversely affected by a couple of thousand rounds of 20mm Lead bullets.  While we are doing that, an F-86 with a Dart aboard will launch and proceed out to the Western edge of the airspace.


If we timed it right, we will just have completed the sweep and he won't have to orbit.  (He doesn't have a lot of gas, so we don't want to waste time.)

So...My flight lead has briefed that first radar contact will run the intercept and first tally (sight) will get first shot.  The wing F-15
's had just been given an update to the gun sight which predicted where a bullet, fired now, would be when it reached the range of the target.  The sight would be moved to that position on the canopy.  If it was stabilized on the target when the trigger was pulled and held for 1 second 100 20mm holes would appear on the target.  (Which is a bad thing...if you are the target.)

This will be both my Flight Lead and my first time actually using the system with real ammunition.

We're enthused.

The jet with my name on it, as well as the actual owner, the crew chief's, is on the schedule, so I'll be flying it.  I'm happy about that as the radar and avionics in it are very reliable, even more so than the usually reliable avionics on the Eagle.  I'm confident the airplane won't let me down.  The reverse may not be so.

We blast off in a formation takeoff as the first rays of sunshine break the horizon, climb quickly to two grand (before the end of the runway) so our jet noise will dissipate somewhat and not awaken our Japanese neighbors.  Very shortly thereafter, we are feet wet.  I'm expecting my Flight Lead to continue climbing.  Instead he pushes it over and we return to 500'.  He kicks me out to tactical formation (9000' line abreast) and pushes up the power.

We're soon doing about 600K at 500'.  As we drive out to our side of the area, I am ardently searching for surface traffic to the exclusion of all else, such as not hitting the water, lead, a bird, you know the non-essential stuff.

Or maybe not.

We safely arrive at our edge of the airspace, as I see his burners light.  I push my throttles forward, feel the push back in the seat as they  light, see the airspeed indicator flutter as we rapidly go through the Mach.  I then see him begin a gentle pull.  (Snatching the stick back in your lap above the Mach will result in the engines continuing in their current direction while rest of the aircraft will go up...for a while.)

I do the same.

He turns it into a 38000' Immelman.
Yes, I know it's a Flanker.  They're allowed to do an Immelmann also. 

I'm already working the radar as I transition between #2 and #3 above, and have a contact as I begin the roll out.  Lead gives me the intercept. The F-86 is on my nose for about 50 miles and I notice I have two contacts now, the second in close trail.

I call that I have a Judy and Lead clears me to engage.  I maintain altitude and put the target slightly right of my nose.  I'm on the left of the formation, so the F-86 will fly between us, but about 18,000' below.  That will give us vertical turning room and he will have to turn into one of us, which will put us inside his turn circle.

Assuming that guy turned into sees the target, (a requirement to shoot in peacetime, a great idea in war time), he will arrive in shooting parameters quickly.

The F-86 is about 20 miles now, and everything is progressing as I hoped.  I'm looking through my HUD when I see a flash just below the Target Designator box.  The sun is behind us and it's coming  from the F-86.  At about the same time, I see the Dart in the TD box.

I am "Tally 2", a quick glance to my left and I see Lead falling back behind my wingline to protect my six (in combat, to wait for his turn, on this ride.  But practice like you fight, right?)

I make that call, Flight lead says the same, and the F-86 driver clears us hot.  I flip the Master Arm hot, extend my index finger off the trigger and begin the conversion dive.  I see the F-86 begin a right turn.  He's turning in to me!

I'm now 90o nose low and do a slow roll to the right as he transitions from right to left.  This keeps my canopy pointed towards him eliminating my having to reacquire him as I pull lead coming out of the dive.

I'm bottoming out of the dive with my nose pointed to where I think he'll be when I get in range.  Quick glance at the F-86.  He's on the right of my nose, the Dart on my left.  Pipper is stabilizing on the Dart, No, it's dead steady on it as I reach 1500'.

I think this is a screen capture from a game, but the  pipper is the circle, the TD box is the square.  1800 is the range to target, the line between the pipper and the TD box is the Time of Flight line (bullets will follow that line to the target,  the longer it is, the less accurate the shot.  If this were me, I'd hold the stick steady for another millisecond to get to 1500' and see if it stabilized a bit.  11960 is the altitude, He's at 314 Knots (.59 mach), pulling 6.1 g with an AOA of 15.2.  He's got gun selected with 524 rounds left.  Not sure what 8.4 is, Gas maybe?

I squeeze and hold the trigger for what I thought was an eternity.  Then, I hear the BURRRRRP of the cannon off my right shoulder, release the trigger and begin to pull, when I see the Dart explode below me.

The F-86 pilot calls "Knock it off".  We acknowledge, safe our switches, rejoin the two ship and then rejoin with the F-86.  He tells us to hold high as he cuts the cable which is whipping a bit in the wind.

Once the cable is gone, we do a quick battle damage check of each other, he clears us off and we head home.

To say I'm a tad jazzed by the ride, might be the understatement of the millennium.

Back on the ground, my Flight Lead comes over shakes my hand and said, he'd been wanting to do a sortie like that with someone who appreciated the advances in the F-15.  He said "Eagle Drivers who've never flown anything else don't fully appreciate how great the airplane really is.  I do, now so do you."

I bought the beers that night in the bar.  Apparently, I had basic firearm skills.


  1. Ahhh.......very interesting post juvat, how often did you get to use guns? If you believe WIKI the F15C had 940 rounds while the F35A has 182 and the B & C variants have 220 rounds of 25mm, so I'm wondering how LESS is an improvement?!? Ya, guns vs missles and all that I suppose. Now be careful with the wine pouring, don't want to throw that arm out of joint.... :)

    1. Hello? Hello ? Anybody there? Not sure Where I am. There’s a lot of blue wet stuff around me.

      We had to qualify on the dart quarterly, so we did it fairly regularly, but as we gained skills and confidence in the sight it became almost a “death dot” and we didn’ t actually shoot as often. It became two sorties to qualify two pilots and a bit expensive. So we did it more to check the gun.

  2. Now that's how you get the juices flowing on the first Monday back at work after two weeks off!

    Like Nylon12 said, be careful out there on the high seas while you're playing sommelier.

    Bravo Zulu!

    1. Thanks Sarge. First pouring this afternoon. Seas are calm, so I’m not gonna need a stabilized sight to assist in pouring

  3. The wine cruise should be awesome, and the lack of aircraft landing and taking off on the roof of ship is a plus!

    My sister gave us a Keurig as a "thank you" for putting french doors on her closet. It's a great machine and we haven't made brewed coffee in forever.

    The flying and shooting part was awesome.

    Gun History side note. You shot down the Dart with an updated version of a weapon system that was adopted by the Army in the 1860s. Hat tip to Richard Jordan Gatling.
    Post WWII the Air Force decided that they needed a machine gun with a faster rate of fire than the .50 Browning could attain.
    Project Vulcan resulted in the modern Vulcan Aircraft Gun, and the first 27 guns were scheduled for delivery in August of 1952.
    I was also delivered in August of 1952. (not really germane, but interesting to me)

    Gatling information from my copy of "The Gatling Gun" by Paul Wahl and Donald R. Toppel.

    Wine, coffee, flying and aircraft firearms! Great post.

    1. Thanks John. The Gun was extremely reliable and fairly deadly, but the second most dangerous position in an air to air fight is the shooter. He’s stable and predictable. Always dangerous. The most dangerous is his target of course. I preferred staying outside the furball and letting Raytheon do my maneuvering

    2. First time I read that book (read it about 20 times) was in 1979, right after it was released, in my Jr High/Sr High (they were next to each other and shared the library) library. Great book.

      Love the gatling. Each barrel is an independent gun, just needs the breech 'block' to move the round and firing pin assembly. Unlike the Hotchkiss, which has one firing pin but multiple barrels. So, of course, after reading the book about 5 times, some stupid western movie features a gatling, and the Army dudes can't work it because a firing pin is missing and they have to manufacture one from a nail. Um... dudes, each barrel is separate, all that would happen if one firing pin was broken or missing is one barrel wouldn't fire and the unfired round would be expelled. In fact, that was a selling point by Dr. Gatling, that as long as one barrel assembly has a functioning firing pin, it would still fire. Duh...

      Love to have the money and the room to have a Gatling in the original caliber... 1" or it's baby relative in .50 caliber. Though one of those Colt Bulldog versions in .45-70 sure would be nice. Put a pintle mount in the back of a pickup, get everyone to dress 1870's western US Army, and go 'technical' old school.... (technical being a term for 3rd world insurgents driving pickups with machine guns mounted in the back. Think 'Rat Patrol' with Toyotas and turbans...)

      Guns are nice. Always nice to have guns...

    3. Would love to have a minigun mounted in the bed of my truck. So many levels of stupid driver deterrence. Ranging from threat recognition thru pojnting, spinning up the barrels, warning shots across the bow and finally, flaming wreckage and gene pool cleansing. But something tells me that might be discouraged.

  4. You reminded me of another story where it didn't go so well.
    The naval crew was to practice AA and, after the first pass, the pilot towing the target radioed the ship to ask if he could surrender.

    1. I bet there were some encouraging words given to the gun crew by the pilot after landing.

  5. If you are needing inspiration for your posts, I can share a video I saw yesterday of an in-flight refueling problem, maybe some aerial refueling hijinks and hilarities post? Hopefully none of yours.

    1. No videos, and other than spatial disorientaion on the boom, no real “adventures”

    2. My squadron had a basket slap once that cracked the canopy. And I remember a Hornet returning with one of my squadrons baskets still attached to his probe. No video though. Bus before every pilot flew with a camera strapped to his or her helmet.

    3. Both of those incidents would get your attention.

  6. I always like range reports. This one was pretty cool. Stay dry, the walk home is a bugger.

    1. Thanks STxAR. Since I know of only one documented water walker, and I’m not him, the swim might be even harder.

  7. Good story. Must have been hell if one missed the target. Wonder if any darts ever got loose and lawn-darted anybody. Hmmm.

    My dad's squadron in Tegue, S.Korea, flew F-84Gs (we know, Beans, we know) after the shooting stopped. Seems that the ammo carried by the 6 guns was only certified to fly for combat a certain number of times, after that it was to be discarded (as in written off the books, no longer useful for combat) though the rounds were still good for a time (something to do with air pressure causing potential leaks in the cartridges or something esoteric like some senator getting kickbacks from the ammo plant or something.)

    The practice ammo at the time sucked big time. Was very inaccurate, shorter ranged than combat ammo, and more expensive (typical).

    So... piles of 'unusable ammo' vs crappy practice ammo. Hmmmm. So they practices with 'unusable' live ammo. A lot.

    For practice, one of the squadron would tow a target streamer behind his big, beautiful F-84G. The streamer, at speed, would hang a little below the tow-plane, connected by one big long cable. Kept aloft by drag and other aerodynamic forces, the large cloth streamer would... stream and give a good target to shoot at. Take off, tow target, target gets shot, land, everyone laughs at shooter for missing. That type of stuff.

    So dad is flying his F-84G (okay, we get it BEANS!) and he's towing the target and someone guns the everlivingshot out of the streamer. Time to go home, so dad gets in the landing pattern for Tegue and proceeds to land. Still towing the cable and what's left of the streamer. Towing the cable and bar and maybe 3' of cloth. Which has much less aerodynamic drag than the full streamer. And what's at the end of the runway but lots of Korean houses hugging the base for protection. All who seemed to be doing laundry that day. Which the non-streaming streamer proceeded to go through like a hot knife through butter.

    Dad lands after a rocky landing and gets out and finds tons of laundry, plants and such pulled all over the runway. Fortunately no one was hurt.

    The squadron usually did quite well during competitions for some reason.

    Enjoy your trip, sounds like it's been enjoyable so far.

    1. Declaring ammo unserviceable after "x" number of hops probably was due to concern about possible neck cracks which could allow a bullet to come loose and jam a gun, or a gun malfunction.
      The temperature change between ground level ambient and up in that wild blue yonder stuff can be extreme, causing the brass in the case to contract and possibly split at the neck where it is thinnest and tightly holding the bullet. Neck annealing (source of the discoloration at the end of the cartridge case on military ammo- polished off on commercial) mitigates the problem, but cannot prevent it.
      The RAF during WW2 had a similar policy for ammo for its fighters.
      Guys on the ground can easily cycle the bolt on a Browning MG in event of a malfunction, but fighter pilots don't have the option fiddle with the guns while flying.
      John Blackshoe

  8. And totally off-topic, watch Ricky Gervais skewer all of Hollywood on his opening monologue from the Golden Globes last night.

    As y'all would say, "Shack!"

  9. Super post Juvat. There are days when all the hard work comes together and maps perfectly onto reality. Those are golden days.

    Sea plus boat plus coffee plus alcohol. Bells are ringing in the old memory vault. I might just have a post idea or two on the line.

    Enjoy the cruise!

  10. Lead didn't happen to be "Wax" Johnson by any chance? regards, Alemaster

  11. So flight lead never got a shot? :-) Good on ya!!! Just as an FYI, I was onboard USS VANDEGRIFT when she did the same to a target towed by a Lear off Okinawa with TWO rounds from an OTO Melara 76 mm gun. The first center punched the target and the second hit the cable just ahead of the target, with the target departing the tow... LOL And the Lear drivers were NOT happy...

    1. No he didn’t. Which, as we got used to the sight, became more and more common

  12. I'm going to follow Bean's lead and tell another dad story. This takes place shortly post WWII, sometime in the fall of 1945.

    He is still a 1Lt., and stationed (I think) somewhere in Sandy-eggo. He is assigned to ferry some number of AT-6's from there to Oakland, CA. He has 35 combat missions over Europe (and two "trolley" missions) flying B-17's under his belt. His records that I have credit him with 1200 hours of flying time. Safe to say the the ferry assignment "ain't his first rodeo".

    He has this down pat. The flight plans are from San Diego to Fresno, land and refuel, then on to Oakland. So, stretch out pre-flight chores and paperwork through Monday into Tuesday until is too late to take off. Make flight on Wednesday, arriving Oakland late in the afternoon. Stretch out turn-in chores through Thursday. Now no point in catching train to RTB because he will arrive just in time for the weekend. Spend Friday and Saturday at home with his folks, catch train for San Diego on Sunday. Rinse, lather, repeat. Life is good.

    So one fine day a brand new Infantry 2Lt. is looking for a hop to Oakland. No problem says my dad, tells the 2lt. to meet him at the field at the appointed time, check out a chute, and he can ride in the back seat. He does, and off they go. They make Fresno, refuel, and take off without incident. On the way up to Oakland, the ride becomes a little bumpy, so my dad requests and receives permission for a flight level change. The ride is smoother. However, at Fresno he neglected to review the pilot reports, and is now unaware that his new flight level has given him a tail wind.

    My dad relaxes for the remainder of the trip, keeping an eye on the compass and his watch. About the time they should be arriving, he checks for landmarks. Pacific Ocean way out to the left, check. Large bay with a bridge to his right, and Mt. Hamilton farther out, check. Except something doesn't seem quite right. Looking closer, he realizes that the bridge is the Bay Bridge, not the Dumbarton bridge, and that is Mt. Diablo, not Mt. Hamilton. He has flown past the airport.

    So shortly after the war, it was considered very bad form to arrive outside your expected arrival envelope. Likely you would not be shot at, but you would have to fill out mountains of paperwork explaining WHY you were late. My dad contacts Oakland Control and requests clearance to land, giving the impression that he is closer than he really is. He tells the young 2Lt. to "tighten his straps and hang on". He then rolls the AT-6 on it's back and executes a screaming split S, receiving clearance to land on the way down. In short order, he enters the pattern, lands, taxis to the ramp, and shuts down. He steps out of the cockpit and checks on the 2Lt. The 2Lt. is (as my dad later described to me) "absolutely green". He struggle to exit the seat, and in the process manages to snag the d-ring for his chute, spilling the chute all over the wing. He makes a feeble effort to gather the chute, then just un-hooks and is last seen on a desperate run to find somewhere to hurl his cookies.

    That's my dad's story, and he stuck to it.

    1. That’s a good story. I can see why he “stuck to it.”

  13. My Father's ship USS ALDEBERAN, ( AF-10 ), was once doing a practice shoot for the 20MM battery. The 20s hit the tow cable with the first round. Which sort of ruined that shoot.

    1. That happened a few times when I was in the squadron. It used to annoy the F-86 driver as the cable could become unstable and whip around. So they would scramble to jettison it. The rumor was it could wrap itself around the flight control surfaces...which would be bad.

  14. How did a IJN torpedo plane get so far inland? Was it the inline or radial version?

    1. I’m missing something here.

    2. The Yokosuka D4Y torpedo plane was called the JUDY by the USN.


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