670310 Thai Nguyen
670318 Donovan's Express

YANKEE AIR PIRATE - AAR

Set a year after the Bac Giang Bridge strike, we join the 333rd FS, Lancers, for two more Yankee Air Pirate roller coaster rides.

670310 Thai Nguyen (333rd FS)
Weather: - Overcast 1200 VIS 8Nm
TOT: - 1630
Aircraft: - (4) F-105D
Flight Time: - 45 Minutes.

After Action Report:
Its a filthy afternoon, can hardly see your nose in front of your face! I am leading Dodge flight towards Thud Ridge, an area we are getting to know pretty well. We are not far off the IP and the pressure is on. We turn at the IP, just 4 klicks from the Thai Nguyen Steel Mill, our target. Keep it tight guys.

Having acquired the target and confirmed the bomb-run, I order Flight One to engage ground and my wingman to engage my target, maximizing our assets, hopefully. The flak is popping and cracking closely, but there is no time for fear, a kind of tunnel vision develops as we focus on the target and tune out everything else.

This is a fast pickle, much faster than we have practiced; we are pushing the release envelope at nearly 400 Kts. On target I pull up to clear the impact zone, but at this speed just a small change of pitch causes me to zoom climb into the overcast as the Steel Mill explodes, shack!

Settle down, keep cool, we have to crank it around and get back out the way we came. SAM calls have joined the crack of the ground-fire and the RWR starts warbling, adding further to the din in the cockpit! Keeping it low we cross the ridge, I glance sideways at the devastation Dodge and the other Thud flights have caused, 1, 2 and 3 are still with me.

Out over the hills, away from the valley, the Thuds tear across of the gloom. Safely headed south now, we climb out of the overcast to pick up the tanker, closing in as Zebras flightpath intersects our own. To my surprise, Zebra is orbiting in the soup! Are there sound operational reasons for driving this flying gas-tank around in the clouds? Before I start complaining lets get a drop of fuel and take Dodge home, later I may question this pilots M.O.

Joining up in the overcast is not as tricky as I first expected, we ride on for a while and then climb back above the clouds for the last leg of the flight. Dropping in on Korat, some 45 minutes since this sleigh-ride started, we all begin to breath easy once more.

670318 Donovan's Express (333rd FS)
Weather: - Scattered Cloud 7500 VIS 30 Nm
Aircraft: - (4) F-105D
Flight Time: - 20 Minutes.

Just over a week later we are once again running south, flat out, with the throttles to the stops. There is no tanker this time, but we can just make Danang, so we run on the burners for a little longer, got to get clear of this flak!

Each time we think we are away another damn flak position opens up on us, there seems to be no escape. As we crest a second ridge along the coast, everyone jinking and swerving wildly, the flight is still loosely holding together. I scan the instruments, flick over the fuel gauge, ADI, VSI, ASI, then across the horizon outside the canopy.

Movement, a great plume of steam, catches my eye. Its a train, moving quickly south, lets take a look. In these early days of Rolling Thunder, picking out targets of opportunity is frowned on, but at this stage we are trying to win the war and I still have some 20mm! Im popping the speed-brakes without even thinking and swinging across to align the Led-Sled for the shot.

Straight into a wall of flak, some joker down there has picked me out! I push the nose over and slam the throttles forward; this is very low, concentrate.

This is a fast level deflection shot with no margin for error. The tracer slams ahead of the engine which then explodes beautifully! Tearing over the wreck Im soon back on course, weaving through more flak all the way down the coastline. I dont make Danang, but Hue is closer and the runway is clear, lets get her grounded before this jet stops running.

As I roll to a stop a big old gooneybird flies lazily overhead, what an omen! Promoted to Captain, this adrenalin junkie is now going for a change of pace, ever heard of Spooky?