650303 Dragon's Jaw Bridge -1
650304 Dragon's Jaw Bridge -2

YANKEE AIR PIRATE - AAR

Flying the F-105 Thunderchief in Yankee Air Pirate:

Nicknamed Thud, Hyper-Hog and Led Sled, the F-105 Thunderchief was the largest single engine fighter-bomber ever built. Thud pilots took heavy casualties over Vietnam and the missions from Yankee Air Pirate faithfully illustrate many memorable Thud actions.

A friend once said to me that he was not interested in bull****-what-if-missions, I couldnt have put it better. Once you appreciate the genesis of these stories, it should be told right.

These YAP Thud missions contain numerous elements that should be mastered to play them well. There are usually long formation flights, tanker join-ups, high speed runs through heavily defended areas, and bombing, always bombing.

So first off, anyone wanting to do these missions well, get hold of The Range. Download, read and understand the SFP1 Weapons Delivery Manual. Then get your Thud over to the Range and practice, practice, practice..and the detractors call WoV light!

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OK Lieutenant, 7 YAP missions done, at this stage of our virtual tour of duty we are strapping on the Republic F-105D Thunderchief.

After Action Report:
The briefing notes always tell the story and prepare for the task ahead. No YAP Thud mission could ever be described as easy; these were all flat out insane rides.

650303 Dragon's Jaw Bridge -1
Weather: - Broken Clouds 12000 VIS 30Nm
TOT: - 0930
Aircraft: - (4) F-105D
Flight Time: 30 minutes.

After the long run in we needed fuel pre-strike, joining up with the tanker enroute before peeling off, one by one, and heading for the IP. As flight leader I order everybody in and then line up for a shot at the bridge with my two Bullpups. We approach from the south with a quick egress planned to the right (east) out over the coast, to form up when feet wet.

The missiles seem to work OK, the radio calls come in one after another, rifle, rifle, indicating successful missile launches. Nobody reports a shack for the bridge though, damn thing must be still standing. I wouldnt have known then, because I was roaring over the target zone into a mess of flak, climbing for the cloud cover and banking east for the sea.

Forming up and headed south once more we hit the tanker before the drag back to Korat. As we touched down a half hour or so later, some aircraft were missing. Worse still, I sensed we would be going back.


650304 Dragon's Jaw Bridge -2
Weather: - Broken Clouds 12000 VIS 30Nm
TOT: - 0830
Aircraft: - (4) F-105D
Flight Time: 45 minutes.

The next day we leave Korat at 0800 armed with Mk117s, bound for the Dragons Jaw Bridge again. This time, flying as No.4, I follow the formation up country. We would not refuel pre-strike, bound for Danang after the raid we would instead pick up tanker Cobra on egress south. I keep a wary eye on the fuel gauge, grateful for the measured pace of the leader. These old salts know what they are doing, I plan on staying close. I also light up the search radar, the presence of Migs is rumored today. Before YAP missions I never used the Wing Leveler, now I have a HOTAS button assigned!

Around twenty minutes later we are a few miles from the Initial Point (IP) and I begin to prepare the aircraft for the strike: Switch radar to groundmap/Drop tanks/Select weapons/Check Ripple/Check targeting, acquisition, airspeed, altitude for strike parameters. Which in practice with the Thud means get her down to 1500, slow it to 250. At the same time I want to keep close to the formation. Then the bandit, bandit! calls start coming in! Nothing we can do now, trust the Huns flying cover to do their job.

As we run in the flak starts up, the noise is fantastic and after flying through a cloud of shrapnel and a bright orange explosion I witness a Thud in front of me go down. The flak tracks the hapless pilot right to the deck, cutting up the airframe like a roast turkey, the wasted carcass flies into the ground with a huge explosion. I forget all restraint and light the burners, ramming the throttles to the stops. Were too low! my mind yammers, I try to adjust the trajectory and pickle the bombs over the target. The entire area is exploding, the air and the ground are on fire, I yank back the stick and demonstrate that a Thud will climb on its tail like a rocket ship! Too soon the airspeed bleeds off and I get the nose forward, still burning fuel like no tomorrow. At this stage I would rather bail out further south than die here and now, so screw the fuel!

Glancing over my right shoulder, I almost wish I hadnt, the Mig is there, a little 17 with the big nose cannons giving it all he can to catch up. I am pointing south, cant see anyone else, dont give a monkeys anyway. Lighting the burners again, the Thud streaks south.

Some ten minutes later, and calmer now, I join up with Cobra for a little drink on the way to Danang. The flights are re-forming and heading home. My pulse is under 200 again, almost. Dropping off the tanker I cruise smoothly south for Danang. The sprawling airfield, a big muddy patch in the green scenery, looms into view through the clouds and as the tower directs us in I gratefully descend.

Later the post strike analysis reveals that the bridge was hardly damaged by the strike, the mission is recorded as failure.

Next up: more Thud missions.