670227 Mining the Song Ca
YANKEE AIR PIRATE - AAR
670227 Mining the Song Ca (VA-35)
Weather: - Scattered Cloud 2500 Ft VIS 30 Nm
TOT: - 0920
Aircraft: - (2) A-6A Intruder
Flight Time: - 40 Minutes"The Intruder, US Navy and Marine all-weather stalwart for strikes and close-air-support, is really well rendered by Thirdwire. Inside and out, she's absolutely beautiful to me with a flight-model that feels right too. You must treat her with respect, pull it too hard and you are side-slipping into a deadly stall. Fly it smoothly though, and you find effortless acceleration and good manoeuvrability, with a huge payload capacity that belies the aircraft's small size."
It's a gorgeous morning for the launch of our two-ship flight from the bow of the USS Enterprise, 'the Big E'. The A-6A powers down the cat and lumbers into the air, she rumbles a little as I pull for the sky, prompting me to ease off and reminding me to fly more gently. We clean up and smoothly turn north for the short ingress. There is just time to light up and twiddle with the radar, check the decoys, cycle the payload selectors (12x Mk36 Destructor Mines) and close-up our formation.
As we near the coast a flight of F-4Ds drops off their tanker and sweeps overhead at around 10,000 feet, judging by the long contrails they leave. Their presence is reassuring; the Phantoms seem to belligerently dominate the upper-airspace, while our defences are speed, surprise and the ability to fly fast at very low levels.
The mouth of the river is clearly visible now, with a fair bit of traffic steaming this way and that. We are about to ruin their day! "I send in my wingman first, simply because the sim copes better with that and we are going to be busy. Target a buoy up river and instruct him to 'Attack my target', away he goes. Repeat the process until he is Winchester and with a little luck he will even hit something!"
Both Intruders are close together, we get on down, real low, slowing up and dropping our tanks. A nearby GCI starts to warble at us from somewhere inland, I punch off a little chaff and it goes silent.
My wingman races up-river to lay his mines, we concentrate on making a good entrance and pickle right in the river mouth. A large cargo vessel passes beneath us, there is more traffic up ahead; a big steamer is headed this way. The river is twisty and difficult to follow; we bank hard over to stay on course. Further up-river the bridge and dock area denote the extent of our operations; my wingman is already making another pass.
As we sweep low over the bridge there is a fair amount of small arms fire. It's not the same as flak; you know a guy with a rifle or even a machine gun cannot track you too easily. Nevertheless, a lucky hit for them could spell disaster for us. We stay level and grit our teeth as we lay our Mk36s along the river. Then we turn about and go back, laying the last of them.
Job done, I jettison the racks and punch off more chaff to silence that damned GCI, the chaff seems to effectively break their tracking for a short time. We follow the river back to the sea. Below us all hell breaks loose as the sampans and barges around the bridge learn a harsh lesson in access denial.
Further along the big steamer we saw on our way in is about to exit the river mouth and start out to sea, a second cargo vessel is also approaching the river system. With thousands of tons of momentum, both vessels are committed to their course; we bank around to watch the results of our mission.
Wow, what a show! The steamer strikes the first set of mines and explodes amidships. Unable to slow in time, the cargo ship crawls towards the same deadly fate. We orbit a couple of times, cranking over for a better view.
As the smoke clears, we form up and head for the boat. Relieved of her load the A-6A is even more of a delight to fly and we bring her around for a straight-forward recovery. Visibility is excellent, looking for the three-wire, good enough! "Fantastic effects, river traffic, scenery, what a great mission! Later we shall deploy the same type of mines along the Ho Chi Minh Trail with the A-7B Corsair, through heavy flak, in total darkness...."