Tag Archives: Combat Air Patrol

Gulf War 25th Anniversary Special: how a U.S. Navy F-14 Tomcat shot down an Iraqi Mi-8 Hip helicopter 25 years ago today

The story of the only air-to-air kill achieved by the F-14 Tomcat during Operation Desert Storm.

Even though the F-14 Tomcat scored only one air-to-air kill during the Gulf War in the form of an Iraqi Mi-8 Hip, that aerial victory has an important place among the air engagements because it represents the first helicopter shot down in combat by a U.S. aircrew.

On Feb. 6, 1991 Lieutenant Stuart “Meat” Broce from VF-1 Wolfpack and his RIO (Radar Intercept Officer) and squadron commander, Commander Ron “Bongo” McElraft, were tasked to provide the air cover for a high value asset: an EA-6B Prowler on a jamming mission in support of a daylight air strike in occupied Kuwait.

Meat and Bongo took off from the USS Ranger (CV-61) flying the F-14A BuNo. 162603, call-sign Wichita 103, paired with another F-14 from VF-1, flown by Scott “Ash” Malynn and his RIO Dan “Zymby” Zimberoff. Since

McElraft was the squadron commander, he and Broce took the lead of the section.

USS Ranger

While proceeding to their assigned rendez-vous point, Bongo told Meat that their radar was inoperative.

After the weapons checks were complete, the controller informed the two Tomcats that from that moment they had an alternate task: they had to refuel from an Air Force KC-135 and then proceed to a new CAP (Combat Air Patrol) station to look for enemy activity there.

A change in tasking was unusual during the war, so the aircrews had to find where their new CAP station was on their navigation charts. None of their charts covered the northern part, so they imagined that the new CAP station was between the Gulf and Baghdad, farther north than any aircraft in the battle group had gone and where the U.S. Air Force F-15s were getting all the kills.

As they were heading north, Broce, who was the Wolfpack junior pilot in terms of fleet Tomcat experience, with only six months in the squadron (Malynn was the third most junior pilot in the squadron with only a year and half under his belt), thought about the weapons options of his F-14.

The fighter was armed with four AIM-9s and four AIM-7s plus 700 high-explosive 20mm bullets, but with Tomcat’s radar off he could launch his missiles only by pointing F-14’s nose at the intended target, meaning that the weapons could only be used in degraded launch modes, highly degraded in the case of the radar-guided Sparrows.

VF-1 F-14A

Soon the Tomcats went out of radio range of their E-2 Hawkeye and were transferred under a USAF AWACS control.

After about ten minutes on station, as Broce himself explains in Craig Brown book Debrief: A Complete History of U.S. Aerial Engagements-1981 to the Present, the controller “broke the (until then) radio silence with, ‘Wolfpack, engage bandit, vector 210-36, angels low, nose on!’ Translation: ‘Hey! Turn to a heading of 210°. Attempt to destroy the enemy aircraft 36 miles in that direction. He’s low and heading toward you!’ No word on what type of aircraft it was.”

Since his Tomcat had the radar off, Meat passed the lead for the interception to Malynn and Zimberoff.

Bongo contacted the AWACS to verify if they were really cleared to fire and the AWACS voice that came back said: “Affirmative! Cleared hot, weapons free!”

Broce selected master arm switch to ‘on’ and since he wanted to record the engagement on their onboard HUD camera/voice recorder, said “Recorder on!”

The two F-14s accelerated while the AWACS was updating them with bearing and range calls. Broce repeated “Recorder on!” but again, he didn’t receive any response from McElraft.

With Malynn over a mile to his right, Meat levelled off at 3,000ft and after four or five seconds Bongo said “Come left! Helicopter!”

Broce performed a 7g turn and he visually pick up a Mil Mi-8 Hip armed transport. Meat switched to AIM-9 and pitched up and to the left trying to gain a little bit of altitude and lateral separation, then reversing for high-aspect attack from above at about a mile off the helicopter’s left side.

But since the seeker head hadn’t the right tone, he moved the F-14 nose around searching for a hotter spot. They were accelerating toward the ground from a low altitude and after a third attempt to get a lock-on, Broce let the nose drift a little behind the target on a hunch that there was enough of a heat of a signature for a lock, despite the lack of a tone.

As Broce recalls, when he started the firing sequence McElraft shouted “PULL UP! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU…” then he stopped as the missile roared off its rail and rocketed loudly past the canopy to his left. Broce thought that the Sidewinder had gone stupid and was racing for a sand dune in front of the Mi-8, but instead the AIM-9 flame turn hard toward the target and he turned his head just to watch the Hip instantly turned into a bright yellow fireball.

Wichita 103

Bongo contacted the AWACS to inform the controller that they had downed one helicopter, then they rejoined with Malynn and Zimberoff and they refuelled from a KC-135 with two other VF-1 F-14s.

They returned to the CAP station, then they refuelled from a KC-10 and returned again to the CAP station for the last half an hour before heading to the Gulf when the AWACS requested them to perform a battle damage assessment (BDA) on an attacked strategic target.

After having passed the BDA to the AWACS, they finally headed to the Ranger in the night, just to discover that a Wolfpack Tomcat had just launched but the gear wouldn’t retract.

Malynn and Zimberoff landed, while Bongo used his flashlight to check out the Tomcat landing gear. Since everything was ok, the F-14 landed and it was immediately discovered that the deck personnel had forgotten the “red flags” attached,. After the pins were removed the Tomcat was launched before Meat and Bongo recovered.

Finally, six and a half hours after launch, Broce and McElraft landed.

After the CAG (Commander of the Air Group) Captain Jay “Rabbit” Campbell and thirty other people congratulated them on the success of their air-to-air engagement, a maintainer came up to Meat and said “Where’s your tape?” Broce replied “What?” “The HUD tape. There isn’t one in the recorder!”

Broce then remembered the skipper’s silence every time he said “Recorder on!” and he suddenly understood: three weeks earlier McElraft said to every officer in the squadron that it was RIO’s responsibility bringing a video tape to the jet and ensure it was inserted into the onboard recorder but he had forgotten the tape on this flight!

F-14 Meat-Bongo

Image credit: U.S. Navy

Rendering Courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com

 

No, the withdrawal of U.S. F-15s from Turkey doesn’t mean NATO is leaving one of its members alone

The U.S. has withdrawn twelve F-15 fighter jets from Turkey but new NATO assets are on the way.

On Dec. 16, the U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagles and Strike Eagles that were moved to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey just last month, have started returning to their homebase at RAF Lakenheath, UK.

The twelve F-15s were not only deployed in response to the Government of Turkey’s request for support in securing the sovereignty of Turkish airspace, but also to prove the U.S. Air Force ability to deploy aircraft  and Airmen on short notice to Turkey, if needed.

Six of these Eagles were F-15C air superiority fighters that flew training missions with Turkish Air Force aircraft enhancing the interoperability between the two services. During the deployment, a bilateral agreement to summarize the procedures for combat air patrol (CAP) missions to be performed by U.S. aircraft in Turkish airspace has been reached.

Along with the F-15Cs there were six F-15E Strike Eagles which joined U.S. and coalition air assets in attack missions against ISIL positions in Syria and Iraq (even though the extent of their involvement in the raids is not clear).

Noteworthy the withdrawal of the U.S. Air Force jets coincides with a new series of measures approved by NATO to strengthen Ankara’s air defenses on its border with Syria.

As reported by Reuters this defensive package will include both naval presence and maritime patrol aircraft.

An AWACS platform will monitor airspace exchanging information via data link with ground, airborne and sea based commanders with the latter stationed on German and Danish ships already sailing in eastern Mediterranean.

Moreover Spain has agreed to deploy its Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries on Turkey border after those belonged to Germany and U.S. have been withdrawn.

Although these defensive measures have been set to boost the Turkish airspace protection, they will also serve to discourage further incidents between Russia and Turkey after that a TuAF F-16 shot down a RuAF Su-24 near the Turkey-Syria border on Nov. 24.

Image credit: Senior Airman Trevor T. McBride and Staff Sgt. Stacy Fowler / U.S. Air Force 

Impressive previously unreleased footage shows how two F-14 Tomcats shot down two Gaddafi’s MiG-23s

Watch the full declassified footage of the second Gulf of Sidra Incident.

After two F-14As from VF-41 Black Aces shot down two Su-22 Fitters on Aug. 19, 1981, the Tomcat faced again LARAF (Libyan Arab Republic Air Force) fighters on Jan. 4, 1989, when two jets from VF-32 Swordsmen shot down a pair of MiG-23 Floggers.

In the following video you can see, for the very first time, the whole dogfight, including previously unreleased (at least not available on the Web) footage.

The air-to-air combat occurred during a freedom of navigation exercise conducted by Sixth Fleet off the Libyan coastline.

The two VF-32 F-14s, BuNo. 159610, call sign “Gypsy 207” flown by Swordsmen skipper Commander Joseph B. Connelly and by Commander Leo F. Enwright as Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) and BuNo. 159437, call sign “Gypsy 202″ crewed by Lieutenant Hermon C. Cook III and Lieutenant Commander Steven P. Collins as RIO, were flying Combat Air Patrol (CAP) from USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67), when an E-2C detected the two MiGs taking off from Bumbah air base.

The Floggers, heading towards the U.S. Navy jets, were picked by the F-14s’ AN/AWG-9 radar at a distance of 72 miles.

As proved by the radio communications between the aircrews involved in the engagement, the VF-32 fighters performed avoidance maneuvers for five times to avoid confrontation, but the LARAF aircraft matched their turns every time.

Then at 6 minutes and 27 seconds in the footage, at a range of 12.9 miles you can hear Gypsy 207 calling for a “Fox One” shot, meaning that he has just fired a Sparrow which, probably because of a guidance problem, misssed the target. The F-14s and MiGs continued to move closer until, at 6 minutes and 37 seconds in the video, Gypsy 202 fired another Sparrow at a distance of about ten miles against the same Flogger, destroying it.

At 7 minutes and 21 seconds the clip shows that, with the remaining Flogger now in their eyeballs, Connelly and Enwright took advantage of their action to get back of the MiG-23 calling for a “Fox Two” shot  (referring to the launch of a Sidewinder) at 7 minutes and 36 seconds. Noteworthy at 7 minutes and 44 seconds the missile hit the second Flogger downing it.

The two Libyan pilots managed to eject at the last minute ending the engagement.

Here you find the full story of the aerial combat. Chunks of the footage were released by the DoD shortly after the incident.

Image credit: U.S. Navy

Russian Su-30SM, Su-24 violate Turkish airspace. Flanker locks on TuAF F-16 for +5 minutes

It looks like a Sukhoi Su-30SM deployed to Syria has had a close encounter with Turkish Air Force F-16s past the Syria-Turkey border.

Russian planes deployed to Syria violated the Turkish airspace twice in the last couple of days.

According to NATO, the violations occurred “on 3 October and 4 October by Russian Air Force SU-30 and SU-24 aircraft in the Hatay region. The aircraft in question entered Turkish airspace despite Turkish authorities’ clear, timely and repeated warnings. In accordance with NATO practice, Turkish fighter aircraft responded to these incursions by closing to identify the intruder, after which the Russian planes departed Turkish airspace.”

Some more (sometimes contradictory) details appeared on the Turkish media outlets: although the first reports said the aircraft (initially IDed as Mig-29 Fulcrums – a type flown by the Syrian Air Force and not deployed in theater by the RuAF) breached into the Turkish airspace for 5 miles, according to Ankara, the Russian Su-30SM multirole plane violated Tukey’s airspace by “only” some hundreds of meters and returned to Syria after it was intercepted by two F-16s from the Turkish Air Force out of 10 flying CAP (Combat Air Patrol) near the border.

Furthermore, it seems that the Russian Su-30SM (as said, initially referred to as a Mig-29, before it was determined it was a Flanker-derivative multirole jet) maintained a radar lock on one or both the F-16s for a full 5 minutes and 40 seconds.

According the Russians, the violation was due to a “navigation error”: quite funny considered the type of navigation systems equipping a modern Su-30SM.

Although the navigation error can’t never be ruled out a priori, considering the equipment carried by a 4++ Gen. aircraft, and that it was flying next to a “danger zone” there’s reason to believe that the two pilots on board were perfectly aware of their position.

What is even more weird is the fact that the Russian plane locked the Turkish F-16s for such a long time: instead of turning back the RuAF Sukhoi was ready to fire (or to respond to fire).

Almost no details are currently available about the Su-24 Fencer violation.

As explained when a Turkish RF-4 was shot down by a Syrian coastal anti-aircraft battery after violating the Syrian airspace in 2012, aircraft entering a foreign airspace should not be fired upon but warned, intercepted and eventually escorted outside the violated airspace.

In 2014, a Syrian Mi-17 was shot down by a TuAF F-16, while in 2013 it was the turn of a Syrian Mig-23. But now the Turkish F-16s defending Ankara borders face a different threat….

Image credit: Russian MoD

 

The story of an F-14 Tomcat RIO who became prisoner of war during the First Gulf War

The dramatic story of a US Navy Tomcat RIO, POW during Operation Desert Storm.

As we have recently explained, in the early morning of Jan. 21, 1991, the F-14B (BuNo 161430, at the time designated F-14A Plus) from the VF-103 “Sluggers,” callsign “Slate 46”,  flown by Lt. Devon Jones and RIO Lt. Lawrence Slade, was hit by an Iraqi SA-2 Surface to Air Missile.

The crew was forced to eject due to the violent flat spin which followed the SAM explosion.

During the descent, the two men saw each other for the last time before entering the clouds and once they put their boots on the ground their fate was quite different.

In fact, while Lt. Jones was saved with a spectacular Combat SAR mission, Lt. Slade tried to go as far as he could from the Tomcat crash site, walking for about 2 ½ hours in the desert using his radio every hour without receiving any reply.

Then, while Slade tried to hide himself near a little knoll, the Iraqis found him.

“At about 1030, a white Datsun pickup truck came around the knoll,” Slade says in the book Gulf Air War Debrief.

“It was probably bad luck because I don’t think they were looking for me; they were just driving by. Two men stopped and got out. One had a 12-gauge shot gun, the other, an AK-47. […] They approached me, but it never crossed my mind to pull out my pistol. I was obviously had. They made me strip off all my gear.”

The two men were very polite and after they put Slade between them in the pickup, took him in their tent where they fed him.

Then, after the lunch, they put him again in the pickup and they asked him if he wanted to go to either Saudi Arabia or Baghdad. Of course, he told them Saudi Arabia, choosing the most northern town he could recall. Slade knew that if the trip took three hours, it would have been Baghdad; eight, Saudi Arabia. Sure enough, 3 ½ hours later they pulled into an army camp, and he knew it wasn’t Saudi Arabia. For the rest of the day Slade was shuttled to six different camps, blindfolded and handcuffed. Nevertheless he was for sure a subject of interest, since people came out to see him, take pictures of him and poke at his gear. They’d pick on him, kick him, and if they spoke English they’d say things like “You kill our children.”

Slade spent the following three days in Baghdad where he experienced very harsh interrogations, then he was transferred in the first of several prisons where he spent his POW (Prisoner Of War) experience.

As he recalls: “In retrospect, I was shot down on the fourth day of the war and they had already had a few prisoners: a couple of Tornado crews, an A-6 crew and a Marine OV-10 crew. ”

Lieutenant Slade and his fellow POWs changed different prisons in Baghdad where they also experienced several allied bombs raids, the most intense of which was the one that took place on Feb. 23, when 2,000-lb bombs almost completely destroyed their jail.

But for sure the most impressive experience faced by Slade were the interrogations by Iraqi jailers. He had a total of six interrogations, some of what they called soft-sell, where they just asked him questions. Then there were the hard-sells, where they pounded on him. For the most part, they didn’t use any classic torture methods. They just beat him up, tied his hands behind his back and double-blindfolded him to the point where he couldn’t even blink.

They beat allied prisoners even when they answered their questions. Slade, as well as the other POWs answered to the questions just to make beatings stop “even though the answers were complete garbage. Some I didn’t know the answer to, and I’d tell them, then I’d make up something. I could hear them writing it down. I thought, ‘You idiots!’ […] Some time toward the end of February, they banged me up against the wall and broke my seventh vertebra.”

During these interrogations Slade was blindfolded and never saw his interrogators, probably so that he could not identify them later, or perhaps because the Iraqis understood how terrifying it is to be blind in the hands of  a torturer.

Lt. Slade endured interrogation, torture and starvation in the Iraqi hands for 43 days: even if his six weeks as a POW were not anywhere as long as six years in North Vietnamese prisons, to Lawrence Slade every week must have seemed like a year.

F-14B Slade 2

Image credit: U.S. Navy