Tag Archives: F-4

On This Day In 1970 An F-4J Shot Down A North Vietnamese MiG-21. It Was The First Kill Scored By A Top Gun Graduate

The first time a Topgun graduate shot down a MiG.

On Mar. 28, 1970, an F-4J Phantom II (BuNo 155875) belonging to VF-142 off the USS Constellation (CVA 64) aircraft carrier shot down a North Vietnamese MiG-21 from Kien Ann airfield during an aerial engagement.

The U.S. Navy fighter, radio callsign “Dakota 201”, was piloted by LT Jerome Eugene Beaulier and LT Stephen John Barkley. Beaulier had attended the Navy Fighter Weapons School’s first Topgun course, run by VF-121 instructors (VF-121 was the West Coast RAG – Replacement Air Group). The NVN Fishbed, piloted by Nguyen Van Truang, aged 28, was shot down using an AIM-9D Sidewinder. The pilot was killed.

This was the first Navy kill since 1968 and the first from a pilot graduated at the famed “Topgun” school. According to the National Naval Aviation Museum, the next time Phantom crews engaged MiGs over Vietnam in 1972, it marked the beginning of an intense period of combat in which Navy and Marine Corps F-4 crews shot down 26 enemy airplanes in less than 12 months.

According to “U.S. Navy F-4 Phantom II MiG Killers 1965-70” by Brad Elward and Peter Davies, the F-4J BuNo 155875/NJ-201 served with VF-142 until it was destroyed, following an in-flight fire on Apr. 26, 1973: according to records, it had logged 1540 Flight Hours, most of those in combat, and had nearly completed its third WestPac cruise (first one aboard USS Constellation in 1970; second and third one with USS Enterprise in 1971-1972 and 1973 until it was lost).

H/T National Naval Aviation Museum

 

Operation Bolo: how U.S. F-4C Phantoms disguised as F-105 bombers set a trap for North Vietnam’s MiG-21s

The famous mission planned to lure North Vietnamese MiGs into air-to-air combat.

During the last months of 1966 the North Vietnamese MiG-21s from Phuc Yen airfield claimed several victories against the American F-105 fighter bombers urging the Air Force to do something to reduce Thunderchiefs losses.

The solution was found by using the then new F-4C jets and came from a living legend among the fighter pilots, the 12-victory ace from the Second World War Col. Robin Olds, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing (Wolfpack) commander.

His plan was to fly the Phantoms at the same speed and altitude of the F-105s, in such a way the formation would appear on the Vietnamese radar screens as “standard” Thunderchief formations. Once the “simulated” Thud formation was spotted, Mig interceptors would be scrambled towards the intruders finding themselves to fight against the powerful Phantoms armed with air-to-air missiles instead of the bomb laden F-105s: an aerial ambush.

Olds studied a plan that saw the Phantoms simulate the routes, call signs, refueling areas, speeds and altitudes which would normally be used by the Thunderchiefs.

The F-4s from the 8th, 355th, 366th, and 388th TFWs took part to the mission, alongside with the F-105s from the 355th and 388th performing their regular Iron Hand duty. The Operation Bolo officially went off on Jan. 2, 1967 even if the meteorological conditions, especially over the target area, were bad.

Ubon RTAFB

Seven flights of four F-4Cs, using car company names as callsigns (Olds, Ford, Rambler, Vespa, Plymouth, Lincoln and Tempest), led by Olds himself (who obviously commanded “Olds” flight), were launched from Uborn airbase.

The first flight “Olds”, led by Olds himself arrived over Phuc Yen at around 15.00 local time but noticed no defensive reaction by the North Vietnamese Air Force. As Olds formation was about to leave the area of operations to leave room to the incoming Ford flight, the first MiGs (whose scramble had been delayed by 15 minutes by the GCI controllers because of the overcast conditions) emerged from the clouds below.

A 15 minutes battle against aggressive MiG-21 pilots raged in the skies within a 15 mile radius of Phuc Yen, with the Fishbeds that attacked in two pairs, one from 6 o’clock and the other from about 12 o’clock.

As told by Olds to Walter J. Boyne for his book “Phantom In Combat,” the F-4s turned against the nearest attackers.

Unfortunately, the first one to pop through came up at Olds 6 o’clock position. Olds broke left, trying to get away of the enemy line of fire, hoping that his wingman would take care of him. At the same time he saw another MiG pop out of the clouds in a wide turn about his 11 o’clock position, a mile and a half away. He went after it ignoring the one behind and fired missiles at the Mig just after this disappeared back into the clouds.

But another MiG appeared after few seconds: “I’d seen another MiG pop out in my 10 o’clock position, going from my right to left; in other words, just across the circle from me. When the first MiG I fired at disappeared, I slammed full afterburner and pulled in hard to gain position on this second MiG. I pulled the nose up high, about 45°, inside his circle. Mind you, he was turning around to the left, so I pulled the nose up high and rolled to the right. This is known as a vector roll. I got up on top of him and, half upside down, hung there and waited for him to complete more of his turn, and timed it so that as I continued to roll down behind him I’ d be about 20° angle off and 4,500 to 5,000 ft behind him. That’s exactly what happened. Frankly, I am not sure that he ever saw me. When I got down low and behind he was outlined by the sun against a brilliant blue sky. I let him have two Sidewinders, one of which hit and blew his right wing off” Olds explained in “Phantom In Combat.”

Six more MiG-21s were shot down that day, followed by other two Fishbeds on Jan. 6 scored by 555th TFS aircrews. Nine MiG-21s lost in a matter of few days caused a post defeat stand down for the NVAF, a claim confirmed by the fact that once the MiG-21s reappeared in the skies they had changed their tactics in dogfight against US F-4s.

In fact ground control would vector them to a 6 o’clock position well outside the range of Phantoms radars. The MiG-21s would then go supersonic as told by Boyne, gathering plenty of “smash” by reaching Mach 1.4 or more, and once launched heat seeking Atoll missiles they would zoom-climb away to safety.

However as reported by Boyne in his book, a working paper produced by the U.S. Seventh Air Force Tactical Air Analysis Center, the success of Operation Bolo is largely attributable to several factors like:

  1. The overall planning and development of mission strategy and tactics, which accurately anticipated and fully exploited enemy reaction, and the attention to detail in the planning phase with particular focus on total force interaction in relation to both position and timing.
  2. An intensive training program for 8 TFW combat aircrews which emphasized every facet of total mission to include missile capabilities, aircraft and missile procedures, MiG maneuverability, radar search patterns, MiG identification, flight maneuvering and flight integrity, radio procedures, fuel management, tank jettison procedures etc.
  3. High degree of discipline, both ground and air, displayed by all participants.

Nevertheless the success of Operation Bolo was also the result of both leadership and tactical skills, two properties owned by Robin Olds, who still represents the natural embodiment of the fighter pilot.

McDonnell Douglas F-4C

In the video below you can see the facts described in the article as well as hear the explanation of the Operation Bolo from Robin Olds himself.

 

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

Year 2013 in review through The Aviationist’s Top 5 articles

The five top stories of The Aviationist provide the readers the opportunity to virtually review the year that is coming to an end.

Ordered chronologically, these posts got the most pageviews (out of about 8.5 million ones we recorded since January) among the +2,200 articles published on the site, and can be used to review year 2013.

Obviously, we covered many more topics during this year (including Syria, North Korea, SR-72 and its predecessor SR-71 Blackbird, Russian simulated attacks in the Baltics, etc.), so use the search feature or select the proper category/tag to read all what was written throughout the year.

1) Iran unveils new indigenous stealth fighter “Qaher 313″. And here’s a detailed analysis.

On Feb. 1, 2013, Iran unveiled its indigenous fighter jet named “Qaher 313”.

The prototype of the Q-313 (or F-313 according to the stencils applied to the aircraft), was presented to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and publicly displayed as part of the Ten-Day Dawn ceremonies held in Iran to celebrate the 1979’s victory of the Islamic Revolution.

In the previous days, the Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi had said, “The aircraft will be different from the other fighter jets Iran has already made.”

Indeed, based on the first photographs released by the FARS News Agency, the new stealthy jet has a really peculiar design. It features hard edges and those distinctive edges and angle of the U.S. F-22 and the twin tail shape much similar to that of the F-35 Lightning II.

The Q-313 has large, seemingly fixed canards, and little wings whose external section is canted downward.

The canopy material is at least odd (based on its transparency, it looks like plexiglass or something like that).

The cockpit seems to be basic (a bit too much for a modern plane – note the lack of wirings behind the front panel and the presence of few instruments, some of those similar to those equipping small private planes…).

The nose section is so small almost no radar could fit in it.

The air intakes are extremely small (they remind those of current drones/unmanned combat aerial vehicles) whereas the engine section lacks any kind of nozzle: engine afterburners could melt the entire jet.

[Read the rest here.]

2) Here’s why Iran’s new stealth fighter jet can’t fly

Although the oddities of the Qaher 313 or Q-313 or F-313 have been already listed in the article “Iran unveils new indigenous stealth fighter “Qaher 313″. And here’s a detailed analysis” many of the readers of The Aviationist have requested to recap them in a new post.

Hence, here below you can find all the reasons why we can affirm that Iran’s new stealth plane, at least in the form that was showcased on Feb. 2 during the Ten-Day Dawn ceremonies held in Tehran, is nothing more than a mock-up.

The size of the plane is weird. The cockpit seems to be too small, to such an extent a normal pilot doesn’t properly fit in the ejection seat. Have you ever seen a pilot with his knees above the side borders of the cockpit and his helmet well beyond the ejection seat’s head pad?

The general shape of the plane is interesting, probably the result of many inputs including the X-32, the X-36, the Boeing Bird of Prey. Still, wings with outern section canted downward seem to be a bit too little to sustain the weight of the aircraft, especially the “adveniristic plane” is intended to carry a powerful engine and internal payload

Overall, the plane seems to lack the characteristic rivets, bolts all aircraft, including stealthy ones, feature. Images released so far show it as a plastic-made aircraft

The engine exhaust misses any kind of nozzle. The use of afterburner (or, simply, the engine temperature) would possibly melt the entire structure of the jet

The aircraft sports fixed canards and air intakes a bit too small to feed a modern jet plane’s engine; air intakes resemble those used by modern UCAV designs. They are located above the wing meaning that at high AOA (Angle Of Attack) the intakes would get turbulent or no air at all for the engine.

The cockpit is too simple: the front panel lacks the typical wirings while it features few instruments of a type you expect to find on small private planes. Some readers have noticed the airspeed indicator is limited to 300 MPH.

The canopy lacks transparency and looks like it is made of plexiglass.

[Read the rest here]

 3) The U.S. Air Force as you know it no longer exists

According to internal documents obtained by Air Force Times, beginning on Apr. 9, 2013, the U.S. Air Force will begin grounding front line combat units as a consequence of sequestration and the need to deal with budget cuts.

Seventeen squadrons belonging to the various U.S. Air Force commands are going to be affected by the stand down order.

The grounding is aimed to save the 44,000 flying hours (worth 591 million USD) through September.

The funded 241,496 flying hours will be distributed to those squadrons that will remain combat ready or are expected to keep a reduced readiness level called “basic mission capable” until the end of the Fiscal Year 2013.

Whilst some squadron will be immediately grounded, others will be forced down as soon as they come back from their overseas deployment. Among them, the 94th Fighter Squadron from Langley, whose F-22 Raptor stealth fighters currently deployed to Kadena, Okinawa and Osan airbase amid Korean Peninsula crisis, or 354th Fighter Squadron, 12 A-10C of which are currently returning to Davis Monthan after being deployed to Afghanistan.

Other grounded units include the Thunderbirds demo team, 555th Fighter Squadron from Aviano airbase, Italy; 77th Fighter Squadron from Shaw AFB, South Carolina; 492nd and 494th Fighter Squadrons from RAF Lakenheath, UK; 18th Aggressor Squadron from Eielson AFB, Alaska; B-52 squadrons belonging to the 2nd Bomb Wing from Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, and 5th Bomb Wing from Minot AFB, North Dakota; as well as B-1 squadrons from both 2nd and 7th Bomb Wing from Dyess AFB, Texas.

[Read the rest here]

4) Wondering what happened to all fuel tanks jettisoned by U.S. fighter jets over Southeast Asia during Vietnam War?

External tanks are extremely important for military aircraft as they provide fuel to integrate internal tanks and extend fighters and bombers endurance.

Indeed, even if they can be refueled by aerial tankers, tactical jet planes heavily rely on the JP-8 fuel loaded on the external fuel tanks. However, the auxiliary fuel tanks represent an additional weight, additional drag, and they will reduce the aircraft maneuverability.

In real combat, external fuel tanks are jettisoned when empty or as soon as the aircraft needs to get rid of them to accelerate and maneuver against an enemy fighter plane or to evade a surface to air missile.

[Read the rest here]

5) U.S. F-22 stealth fighter pilot taunted Iranian F-4 Phantom combat planes over the Persian Gulf

Earlier this year, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little, said that an IRIAF (Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force) F-4 Phantom combat plane attempted to intercept a U.S. MQ-1 drone flying in international airspace off Iran.

As we reported back then, one of the two F-4 Phantom jets came to about 16 miles from the UAV but broke off pursuit after they were broadcast a warning message by two American planes escorting the Predator.

The episode happened in March 2013, few months after a two Sukhoi Su-25 attack planes operated by the Pasdaran (informal name of the IRGC – the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution) attempted to shoot down an American MQ-1 flying a routine surveillance flight in international airspace some 16 miles off Iran, the interception of the unmanned aircraft failed. After this attempted interception the Pentagon decided to escort the drones involved in ISR (intelligence surveillance reconnaissance) missions with fighter jets (either F-18 Hornets with the CVW 9 embarked on the USS John C. Stennis whose Carrier Strike Group is currently in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility or F-22 Raptors like those deployed to Al Dhafra in the UAE.

New details about the episode were recently disclosed by Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh who on Sept. 17 not only confirmed that the fighter jets providing HVAAE (High Value Air Asset Escort) were F-22 stealth fighters but also said that:

“He [the Raptor pilot] flew under their aircraft [the F-4s] to check out their weapons load without them knowing that he was there, and then pulled up on their left wing and then called them and said ‘you really ought to go home'”

[Read the rest here]

 

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Sea Harrier, the forgotten hero that won the war in the Falklands. To be replaced by the F-35B.

Known by its pilots as “SHAR,”30 years ago the Bae Sea Harrier embarked on its first combat mission.

Ir was April 5, 1982 when two UK’s “through-deck cruisers” (aircraft carriers) leave Portsmouth for their involvement in the Falklands conflict. On board were 20 BAe Sea Harriers, only in service since 2 years.

The British “Jump Jets” were heading to their baptism of fire, vastly outnumbered by proven supersonic weapons systems such as the Mirage III and the Mirage V Dagger, and no one really knew how it would perform against a real world shooting opponent; the Royal Navy’s Harriers had been up against F-5Es, F-4s and F-15s in Dissimilar Air Combat Training and more than held its own.

But real combat was a different matter.

The Sea Harrier was a modified Harrier featuring a slightly different cockpit layout and the Blue Fox multimode radar, something other versions of the Harrier did not possess.

The SHAR was a truly multi role aircraft that it could perform air-to-air combat and ground attack and reconnaissance.

First air-to-air engagement took place on the morning of May1, 1982, when a pair of Sea Harriers on CAP (Combat Air Patrol) near Port Stanley, were vectored onto three slow moving aircraft that had departed the local airfield. The three aircraft turned out to be T-34s that were made aware of the Harriers’ presence and hid in low cloud.

One of the SHAR managed to fire some 30mm cannon rounds in the general direction of the turboprops but the first contact ended with a no-score draw .

It didn’t take long for full on dogfighting to take place against the Mirage III.

It was on the afternoon of May 1st. HMS Glamorgan vectored a pair of SHAR towards three targets approaching at supersonic speed. As the SHAR turned towards the threat, the three targets turned away and used their superior speed advantage to escape. The SHAR returned to their CAP station until a few moments later the Glamorgan controller announced that the targets had returned and were descending in bound at some 25 miles away.

The SHAR immediately turned towards the targets, and decided to perform the hook manoeuvre: the lead aircraft flew head-on to the target and the wingman split to swing around to attack the targets from the rear.

The lead plane was unable to get a lock onto the fast approaching Mirage aircraft but the Hook maneuver worked perfectly as the Mirage pilots didn’t spot the wingman turning onto their tails until it was too late.

The wingman got his tone and released the AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile, that hit the Mirage for the first Sea Harrier’s confirmed kill.

RAF Harriers and RN Sea Harriers. Image credit: Fleet Air Arm Museum Facebook page

The Navy’s SHARs went on to score 20 kills (none of which was achieved using the famous trick of stopping the plane midair by pointing the jet nozzles slightly forward inducing a 2g deceleration) to no loss in air-to-air combat. However, two were lost to ground fire (radar guided 30mm AA and a Roland missile) and a further two were lost to accidents during the conflict.

The kill-to-loss ratio does not reflect the skill and braveness of the Argentinean pilots who had to face a truly astonishing fighter, which had remarkable slow flight characteristics, even without the thrust vectoring, and a superior radar.

The Sea Harrier went on to see action in both Gulf Wars and in the Balkans conflict, which saw a Sea Harrier shot down by a SAM whilst attacking two tanks (the pilot ejected and managed to evade capture before returning to ship).

The original Sea Harrier FRS1 was superseded in 1993 by the mark II version, dubbed Sea Harrier FA2. The radar was upgraded to a pulse Doppler radar which gave the SHAR the ability to fire the AIM-120 AMRAAM and give it BVR (Beyond Visual Range) capability for the first time, was described at the time as the most advanced system in the world and made its way, in an updated/modified version, into the Eurofighter Typhoon.

The Sea Harrier was retired in 2006 few years earlier than the RAF GR9s, cut ahead of scheduled as a consequence of the British Defense spending rewiew.

Both will be eventually replaced by the F-35B: the UK has recently decided into going back with the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) version and reverse the earlier decision to reverse order from the F-35B the F-35C CV (Carrier Variant).

Richard Clements TheAviationist.com

Salva

Impressive footage of U.S. F-4s dropping Napalm in Vietnam

Update Apr. 15, 2012 14.00 GMT

The video mentioned in this article was made private by the user who uploaded it. Most probably, the fact that many people had complained for the music he had chosen persuaded him to make it private.

The following video contains some of the clearer shots from USAF extensive high speed footage (more then 2 hours of film) of Napalm strikes primarily performed by F-4C Phantoms in Vietnam.

According to , the user that uploaded it to Youtube, the original video was silent gun camera footage to which he added some music.

However, the soundrack he chose did not meet everyone’s taste (read the comments on YT).

“On The Beautiful Blue Danube” (English title of An der schönen blauen Donau, Op. 314), the waltz by the Austrian composer Johann Strauss II and made famous by Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” makes the scenes even more violent.

Especially, considering the effect of those incendiary canisters on some villages and their inhabitants.

Anyway, take this as a video documenting usage of an anti-personnel weapon, famous to leave tangible psychological effects on the enemy.

And if you find the soundrack inappropriate, turn off volume.