LCDR Fred Staudenmayer, who was the first RIO (Radar Intercept Officer) to command an East Coast F-4J operational USN squadron (the VF-33 Tarsiers from Jun. 21, 1973 to Jan. 19, 1974, had several chances to intercept Tu-95s and Tu-16s during his deployment in the Mediterranean sea.
Staudenmayer explained one of these close encounters with Soviet bombers in Peter E. Davies book F-4 Phantoms U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Gray Ghosts:
“I once launched against a Soviet Tu-95 Bear that was almost upon the carrier when initially detected by our pathetic ship’s radar. […] I had the radar operating and detected a huge radar blip at about twelve miles, followed right away by a visual, and we were able to join up on his wing before he passed over the carrier at about 500 ft. This was always the goal and the politically correct thing: be on Bear or Badger’s wing, showing the world that you were escorting these uninvited visitors. […] During a cruise in the Bay of Biscay in USS Independence we had a large number of Soviet over-flights, thirty or forty as I recall, and we intercepted all of them (with assistance from sensors external to the Fleet!).”
Dealing with the attack profile followed by the F-4s during the interception: ”As a general rule, our attack profile started from a low or mid CAP (Combat Air Patrol) station (5,000 or 15,000 ft), and depending on ranges, etc. we would be in climbing attack, usually trying to attack from below. Not too much thought was given to vertical separation, sun position, hiding in the clouds, etc. These were all-weather attack profiles,” Staudenmayer recalled.
The main Bear and Badger weapons were their long range air-to-surface missiles, which caused several concerns to the Phantoms crews according to Staudenmayer:
“As the Soviet air-to-surface missiles got faster and more formidable capable our CAP stations got pushed further and further out. The goal was to be in a position to destroy the targeting or launch aircraft prior to missile release. Nevertheless, we usually trained against descending supersonic missile simulation […] We always thought we had a pretty good capability against such missiles, and an outstanding capability against Bears and Badgers.”
The F-4s belonging to the VF-11 Red Rippers were also involved in many Tu-16 interceptions, and William Greer told to Davies how several of them took place at night:
“Many intercepts were run at night, and the Badger would frequently shine a rather bright and distracting light at the escorting Phantom pilot. VF-11 rigged up a very strong spotlight, powered from the Phantom’s electrical system, and the first time we hit the Badger with that their performance became somewhat more restrained. I once intercepted a Bear while returning from my cruise in USS Enterprise, and with the aid of my two years of Russian at the Naval Academy, some white cards and a grease pencil, exchanged brief notes with the crewman occupying the rear gun sighting position.”
Another U.S. Navy Spook (as the legendary Phantom was dubbed by its personnel) pilot, Steve Rudloff, who experienced several Bear encounters, revealed that despite the tense moments, funny events took place during these interceptions, as happened when one Tu-95 rear gunner offered a bottle of vodka to him: “ On Alert 5 (the high alert condition for crew members on the deck) aircraft for a brief time the back seat was equipped with a copy of Playboy magazine. I took off and intercepted a Bear, and in retaliation for the vodka I flashed the magazine centerfold, getting a hearty smile and a thumbs-up in response. We were always taking pictures of them, and vice versa. We were more than willing to take our oxygen masks off and let them get pictures.”
Moreover as explained by Rudloff, Phantom pilots experienced also chatty times with Soviet aircrews: “There was a point on one of my cruises where we actually spoke to some of Bears crew members. We indicated which frequency we were on and talked to a crew member who spoke English. He told us he lived in Moscow. Suddenly there was some talk in the background in Russian, and the conversation ceased, even though we tried to raise him again.”
Image credit: U.S. Navy via F-4 Phantom II FB page
The Hellenic Air Force stages large exercise at the Kranea Firing Installation in Larisa.
On Jul. 3, more than 100 Greek fighter jets of all types demonstrated their air strike capabilities using various types of weapons, including guided missiles, bombs and cannons, at the Kranea Firing Installation in Larisa, Greece
Hellenic Air Force’s F-16s Block 30 up to Block 52M, Mirage 2000-5, F-4E AUP Phantom, A-7E Corsair jets (at one of their last appearances before being retired in September) supported by an Erieye EMB-145H AEW&C took part in the exercise, which also featured AH-64DHA Longbow Apache attack helicopters of the Hellenic Army, that fired salvo of AGM-114K1 Hellfire missiles.
The drills, included aerial tactical reconnaissance provided by the UAV PEGASUS, High Value Air Asset (HVAA) Protection/Attack and virtual dogfights, CSAR (Combat Search And Rescue) operation, supported by AH-64DHA Longbow Apache attack helos.
Several Turkish and foreign squadron are attending Exercise Anatolian Eagle underway at Konya airbase, in Turkey.
Inspired to the American Red Flag and Maple Flag, Exercise Anatolian Eagle, hosted by the Turkish Air Force at Konya airbase, has become one of the events spotters can’t miss.
Several different air arms, with a wide variety of aircraft types are invited to attend the drills, which realize a realistic war environment, featuring numerous targets, threats and training support systems whose aim is to monitor the quality of the flying activity and test the knowledge and abilities of all participants.
The exercise includes Combined Air Operation (COMAO) by “Blue” forces on the tactical and strategic targets in “Red” lands which are defended by aggressors and SAM systems.
Even if the McDonnell Douglas F-4 was developed as interceptor in response to the need of the U.S. Navy to protect their aircraft carrier, the ultimate version of the Phantom II was the USAF F-4E, a multi role fighter which was also sold to several air forces around the world. One of the countries to receive the F-4E was Israel that bought the first examples in 1969 and later made the Phantom the mainstay of its Air Power bringing the F-4 in all the major Arab-Israeli conflicts.
In 1973, during the Yom Kippur War, the Israeli Air force (IAF) found itself facing an Arab Air Forces coalition which was composed not only by Egyptian and Syrian fighter squadrons, but also by units from Algeria, Iraq, Libya and … North Korea, that deployed a MiG-21 squadron to Bir Arida to protect Egypt’s south.
Obviously, at the time, IAF pilots didn’t know that some of the MiGs they would face were from North Korea. However the first engagement between North Korean pilots and Israeli pilots took place on Oct. 6, 1973 when two F-4 Kurnass (Sledgehammer) pairs from 69 and 119 Squadrons were scrambled from Ramat David Air Base for a patrol over the Gulf of Suez sector.
The F-4s of the two squadrons were teamed together and the 69 pair (which had their crews formed by Shadmi and Gur on board the first aircraft and Shpitzer and Ofer on the other one) leading the mission.
Image credit: IAF
It was only after a long patrol, when the jets were already low on fuel, that the F-4s were vectored towards Egypt’s west-northwest: although the high altitude, between 20,000 and 25,000 feet, Gur was able to detect with its radar a pair of bandits down below, very hard to lock. Thanks to the GCI (Ground Control Intercept) the crews could track the two enemy aircraft and enter in the range for an AIM-7 shot, despite the ground clutter. But due to the bad weather they were unable to see their wingman, so Shadmi and Gur decided not to lunch the Sparrow.
Just few seconds later the two F-4s’ crews identified the two bandits as a couple of MiG-21s and immediately engaged them: one of the MiG disappeared, while the other Fishbed stayed for a 1 vs 2 combat. The North Korean pilot was very good and, despite the fact it was alone against the two Kurnass (plus the two 119 Squadron F-4s which were flying overhead), tried to slow the speed in a dogfight attempting. But the two Israeli fighters maintained high speed, they got into missiles launch position and Shadmi and Gur launched an AIM-9D. After a second, they launched another Sidewinder which was followed by a third AIM-9D launched by Shpitzer and Ofer from the other Kurnass.
All the missiles exploded very close to the MiG, but the Fishbed continued flying. At this point, the Israeli Kurnass were already low on fuel and they turned east heading home. Gur looked at the MiG and while it turned west, he noticed the Fishbed was leaving a white smoke trail. Suddenly after the F-4s crossed the coastline, Gur saw the trail of a SAM and then an explosion at 20,000 feet, where before there was the MiG-21: Egyptians shot down one of their aircraft!
The pilots knew only when the war ended that the MiG-21 belonged to North Korea, while after the Kurnass landed, Shadmi and Gur shared the kill with Shpitzer and Ofer because they were notified that the MiG had crashed. But the crews told what they saw and in fact later it was confirmed by the IAF Intelligence that the Egyptian Air Defense Force shot down one of their Fishbeds.
Image credit: IAF
Today the 69 Squadron Hammers is based to Hatzerim Air Base flies and it the powerful F-15I Ra’am (Thunder) which replaced since 1998 the mighty F-4 Kurnass.