YANKEE AIR PIRATE - AAR"Yankee Air Pirate's first TARCAP mission puts you in formation behind a Thud strike going downtown. You are flying 'fighting wing', which means follow the leader and keep your eyes open!""US aircrews at DaNang, under Korean War Ace (10 kills) 'Boots' Blesse, hung air-to-ground gunpods on their F-4Cs and went hunting with 20mm and iron sights. Their immediate success earned them their name; 'The Gunfighters'."
Excerpt from Yankee Air Pirate briefing material. "Situational Awareness: How to achieve a three-dimensional mental viewpoint from a flat screen simulator is the subject of much debate. Personally I fly without icons of any sort, they spoil the view, but I do use 'Padlock' views.
Other important cues are: Visual: Instruments, Landmarks, Movement, Tracer, Vapour/Smoke-Trails, and Aural: Radio Warnings may seem non-specific, but put them together with the other points and they will make sense. Listen carefully to all radio-traffic, it will assist your picture. You have to know your orientation, heading, altitude, airspeed, fuel reserve, exit bearing and all objects within a minimum five mile radius, ground and airborne.
Why go on about all this? Heh, heh, heh, you'll see...."
670514 Gunfighters (480th TFS)
Weather: - Scattered Clouds 12000 Ft VIS 30 Nm
TOT: - 1545
Aircraft: - 2) F-4C Phantom IIs
Flight Time: - 45 Minutes
The Thuds are going downtown and F-4Cs of the 480th TFS are riding shotgun. As we enter the Red River Valley, we know that Charlie is expected to be airborne today, everybody is alert.
I am flying the formation known as 'Fighting Wing', keeping a close pair with Lead at high speed. My job is to put myself between any threat and his six, whilst augmenting his eyes up front. We have radar set to short range, five miles, this will be a visual gunfight, as are most Air-to-Air encounters in this time and place. Despite missile technology and long-range intercept radar, reliability, rules of engagement, mission profiles and weather usually mean that Air-to-Air comes down to the quickest draw and most of our technological advances count for little.
We do have Red Crown, the Mk-1 eyeball, and our mirrors. I can also rely on my GIB if anything gets too close.
Its tough keeping the Phantoms so close together, the aircraft are large, heavy and powerful, too easy to push off the ideal line. We are cruising at 500Kts and it's already tiring being glued to Leads tail. Up ahead, the Thuds form a glowing group on our radar display, radio traffic indicates formation turns on the approach to their Initial-Point.
"You got a Mig on your tail", I don't know who that call is for yet, but Lead is on it and I will stay with him. There he goes, punching-off the drop-tanks and breaking right, I do the same as we roll over and break back in the other direction. As we lose height and the stick starts to shake I light the burners and momentarily question (to myself) whether we want to get into a turning fight with a Mig? No matter, I am flying wing, stick with it, I check the mirrors and scan the instruments. Fuel:10,500Lbs.
As we pull up, skimming the trees, I can see the Mig-21 that Lead is chasing. The sleek silver shark is climbing into the cloud, we follow and I briefly lose sight of everyone as the grey closes around us. It's a small cloud, we exit a little behind Lead and watch him loose off a heater at the Mig. It guides straight at the 'Fishbed' and explodes, smashing off the tail and a wing, wow! Two more Phantoms race past our port-side chasing another Mig-21, his wingman? The sky is suddenly full of swirling contrails and smoke-lines. Fuel:10,000Lbs.
In the excitement I continue to check mirrors and scan, spotting a small silver streak climbing ahead and below. The Mig-17 is trying to get between us. I realise coldly that this one is my responsibility; if I miss he will shoot at Lead. As he pulls around, chasing Lead, I pull around too, aiming so far ahead for the deflection shot that the Mig disappears from view under our nose. I hold down the trigger and let the nose lag again. The Mig flies into a hail of shells and reappears as a ball of fire! I check mirrors and - gunsmoke! I pop the speed-brakes, trying to force an over-shoot, the second Mig pulls underneath and breaks just as Lead flashes past in the other direction. Fuel:9,500Lbs.
I crank it around on the burners, the stick shuddering, as the three of us race further north. We have left the main body of action, this Mig-17 has successfully drawn away two fighters. Worse still, he's doing well, I can't turn with him and neither can Lead. Fuel:8,500Lbs.
I am still trying to turn inside the Mig when he goes for the kill-shot. His cannons tear off the tail of Phantom No.723 and even as I blast away at him, the Mig-17 has reversed course and crosses our flight-path, missing us by a few feet! Seizing the opportunity I drive on, climbing and extending, using our power advantage. He still has to turn around when I have position, airspeed and a small chance. We have gained over two miles separation as we cut back. The Mig is racing away from us low over the buildings. I select a Sparrow, bore-sight the radar at short-range, scan, lock, the 'in-range' light is on, Fox One! - He's gone! Fuel:7,500Lbs.
The Thuds have made their run and are making their way home. We are now headed south over the river, throttling back and keeping a wary eye on the fuel, we creep for the coast. As I consider getting down in the weeds for a stealthier run, a glance over the canopy rail makes my heart jump! A lone Mig-17, very low, but I don't have the fuel to mess around! We roll over and watch the Mig for a while from the inverted position. We gently descend and roll out, the Sidewinder starts to growl. It is one of those rare and happy occasions (for us); the poor nugget we are behind knows nothing about it. At short range the Sidewinder flies right up his tail-pipe and blows the Mig apart. Now we are down in the weeds, desperately hoping that nobody noticed our third kill. Fuel:6,000Lbs.
Going feet wet we cannot catch the tanker without expending our reserves forming up with it! Instead we gently drive for DaNang, making the approach pattern with just 1,200Lbs remaining!
Curiously, despite all that action, we touch down without a scratch!"What a ride. Visible gun-smoke and tracer cues saved us a few times, weapon selection was quick and you have to be able to fly the Double-Ugly on the knife-edge. That was a workout, a roller-coaster. I will go back and do it again, it must be possible to save Lead..."