Sunday, February 01, 2009

Extraordinary Flying

A few days ago Old NRO had a post on the F-4 Phantom II that got me to thinking. The F-4 was indeed a great aircraft and I don't mean to take anything from it, but the aircraft I most admire is the North American F-100D.

The F-100 was the first supersonic fighter aircraft in the U. S. inventory. It was used by the U. S. Air Force Demonstration Team,The Thunderbirds, from 1956 until 1969, when it was replaced by the F-4E. I was stationed at their home base, Nellis AFB, in 1967 and was able to see them frequently.

I was not a pilot but, in Vietnam, I was also able to see them in action up close. I was the intelligence troop for small group of Forward Air Controllers (FACs) and sometimes I flew with them in the Cessan O-1, a small single engine observation aircraft. Basically the FAC being low and slow, would mark a target with a white smoke rocket, and then direct the fighter strike aircraft where to put their ordnance.

On one particular occasion I saw the best precision flying I have ever seen. We were putting in an airstrike on what I was sure an enemy ammunition cache with a flight of two F-100Ds. They had expended almost all their ordnance and we had gotten no telltale secondary explosion that normally indicates that there is indeed an ammo cache.

The FAC and I discussed this for a moment and then I asked him if he could get one of the F-100s to make a pass with his 20mm air cannon about 10 meters around the outside of the building where we suspected the ammo cache to be. He switched to the fighters frequency on the radio and relayed this to the lead pilot of the F-100s.

The F-100D had four 20mm air cannon mounted in the nose, two on each side. So the next thing I knew, one of the F-100 was in a dive toward the target firing his air cannon. Because the target building was surrounded by rice paddies I could see the 20mm incendiary rounds splashing in the water around the building. The pilot was stitching a near perfect square around the building.

Now in order to do this he had to maneuver the nose of the aircraft with the rudder pedals while flying at a high rate of speed.

When he was just about all the way around the building one of the largest secondary explosions I have ever seen occurred. Then there were several more. We had indeed located an ammo cache and I was able to see some extraordinary flying.

Update: Fixed typo. I never see them until after I hit publish.

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