"FROM IDIOT LOOPS TO WAGON WHEELS Application of the F-100 through the years"
Category: "Air Force"
Along about Halloween, the Christmas catalogs start rolling in. This past year, I saved all the ones that might appeal to a military, outdoor or collector type of person as I was looking for something with an F-100 Super Sabre in it. Since several hundred, if not several thousand pilots flew the Hun, as we called it, I was sure to find something to hang on the wall, put on the desk, etc. But no, only one catalog had a print of the F-100; the famous Misty one by Keith Ferris – and I already had it. It seems strange that a jet fighter that carried the tactical nuclear load in the 50s and 60s and then was the primary air to ground fighter plane in South Viet Nam for eight years did not even warrant a small space in almost all of the aviation catalogs. Watching the “10 top fighters of all time” on TV was a lesson in humility too, since the Hun didn’t make the cut. Pity.
In those early years, F-100 bases from England through Germany, France and Italy on to Turkey had nuke alert pads where F-100s and their crews, usually about 12 airplanes, sat on 15 minute alert, waiting for the balloon to go up [an adage meaning the start of hostilities].
The plan was to surround the Warsaw Pact countries and China with tactical fighters, mainly the F-100, loaded with one hydrogen weapon to take out key enemy targets in case of war.
There was a big hole in the surround plan because as we were negotiating with the Shah of Iran for a base there, he was ousted from his country. There were no fighter nuke bases on the India sub-continent nor Southeast Asia and one had to go all the way over to Tainan, Taiwan before finding another fighter nuke alert pad. Back in those days, Okinawa was administrated by the U.S. and a nuke alert pad was located there; then it was up to Korea where there were two: one at Kunsan AB and one at Osan AB. There were none in Japan due to the Status of Forces agreement we had with that country.
Those of us stationed at Misawa Air Base, Japan in the early 60s in the F-100, pulled nuke alert at Kunsan Air Base, Korea [as did B-57 crews from Yokota AB], one week at a time once ever three or four weeks. In my three years at Misawa, I have nine months pulling alert and not once during those nine months did I ever see Kunsan’s main gate from the ground.
Security was very tight and every two uploaded F-100s had an Air Policeman armed with a 12 gage shotgun, loaded with bird shot [bird shot would not penetrate the bomb casing], just waiting for someone to put a little excitement in his day [once an Air Policeman asked me if I wanted to know how many rivets were in the nose of an F-100]. We used what was known as the “no lone zone” concept where at least two people with the proper badges were needed to approach an uploaded airplane. The guard would whisper a number to us and we had to whisper back a number that added up to the “number of the day,” if it did not, the pilot would find himself on the tarmac, spread-eagled while the guard called for his supervisor.
Our delivery method was called the LABS [Low Altitude Bombing system] maneuver; sometimes called the “idiot loop” or the “over-the-shoulder” maneuver. In order to perform one, a gyro in a panel, on the left side of the airplane, behind the pilot’s head had to be set at the angle at which the bomb would release; it was usually around 115.0 degrees of pitch for an F-100 on a standard day with no wind at sea level. Come along with me on a pretend actual mission [no one in a jet airplane has ever flown an actual mission] and we’ll fling ole Blue Eyes, a 2,000 pound, 1.1 megaton, 15 foot long free fall weapon at the Red Hoard [we called the bomb ole Blue Eyes because it had a blue bulb on each side of the bomb to measure air pressure; the final arming device].
If we were to go to war, at Kunsan, a school bell was rung. We ran to our Huns as the crew chiefs removed the pins, covers and blocks and started the Paloust unit that would give us electrical power and air. We jumped into the cockpit and as we strapped in, started the engine. The radios were on and set; we listened for a broadcast of certain code words. When broadcast, we removed a sealed envelope from the map case, tore it open, and checked the words written there. If they matched, we signaled the crew chief to remove the chocks and taxied out in a predetermined order, the hydrogen bomb secured to the centerline station on the bottom of the fuselage.
We took off in 15-second intervals and once airborne, there was no calling us back. On my mission, I immediately turned to my first heading, leveling at 500 feet above the Yellow Sea and established 360 knots, indicated air speed [six miles a minute]. We had no inertial nav or GPS systems; we used pilotage [looking out the window] and dead reckoning [holding a precise heading and using the aircraft clock].
We may have been called on to launch day or night and in any kind of weather, so pilotage and dead reckoning were the only two navigational aids we had.
Once established on course and on speed, I reached down and pulled out the Special Stores Unlock Handle that mechanically unlocked the bomb from the centerline pylon. A green light told me that the bomb had mechanically unlocked.
Next, I went though the complex switch setting on my DCU-9A to set the bomb up for a ground burst. The only other option was a 2,000-foot airburst. The DCU-9A switch turned the bomb’s radar on in case an airburst would be used a back up. Again, a green light told me if electrical current was being applied to the option I had chosen.
With no autopilot and while doing this and maintaining my correct airspeed and heading, I was also looking out the windscreen for a small island that had a lighthouse on it at 38 minutes into the flight. Once I had the lighthouse in sight, I would have flown directly over it and checked my timing and either slowed the airplane or speeded up to correct it. I also turned 35º to the left. This heading led me directly into my target. However, I still had 41 minutes to go. After the turn, I set the armament selector switch to “special stores,” an acronym for nuclear weapon and blew off the 450-gallon drop tanks when they went dry.
Headed inbound to the target now, it was almost impossible to arrive at the correct point after 41 minutes of over water flight. However, my coast-in point and Initial Point [IP] was a shipyard – and where there is a shipyard there are arc welders that can be seen from seven miles away on a clear day. Hopefully, with the shipyard in sight, I increased my air speed to 500 KIAS and as soon as I was in level, unaccelerated flight; I reached down and turned the mode selector switch to “LABS ALT.” This completed the circuitry between the bomb, the gyro up there under the panel to the rear of my head and the bomb release button. I rocked the wings a bit to make sure the vertical needle was free in its race and that the horizontal needle was dead on, in the center of the two lubber lines, that marked pitch. Since gyros have a habit of precessing and not knowing if I would have to make any last minute adjustments to my flight path, I pressed down and held the LABS gyro caging button on top of the throttle. All this time, my primary interest was in locating the river that led from my IP [Initial Point, usually about 60 seconds from the pull up point; the idea was to pass over the IP and make no further corrections in heading. If one didn’t see the pull up point, one started the pull on the aircraft clock]. A well-defined feature and fed directly into my target - and then finding the large Ming Dynasty tower that was my actual target or pull up point. Seeing it rapidly approaching, again in straight and level, unaccelerated flight, I uncaged the gyro by lifting my finger from the caging button.
At the tower, I selected afterburner, while depressing and holding the bomb button, and came back on the control stick to establish four gs in two seconds. My eyes went to the LABS dive and roll indicator. When I pressed the bomb button, the horizontal needled dropped down, out of sight, hinged on the left, as it was. The four gs brought the needle back up between the lubber lines and it would stay there as long as I maintained the four gs. My rudders and the control stick controlled the vertical needle and I kept it in the center, between its two lubber lines, with small, smooth and quick inputs to the rudder and ailerons - as any yaw or roll would cause the needle to deviate. The LABS dive and roll indicator was my entire world as I went up and over. At about 115º of pitch, there was a loud bang and the airplane yawed from side to side as the bomb was blown away by two 10-gage shotgun shells. The green bomb release light came on, telling me it was time to release the bomb button. When I did, the horizontal needle now showed me my pitch above the horizon, up side down, coming down the backside. AT 10º below the horizon, I rolled right side up, dived for the deck keeping the afterburner cooking as I lowered my seat to its lowest setting, placed a lead-lined eye patch over my left eye [dominant eye] and reached up and placed both my clear visor and tinted visor down as I leveled off as low to the ground as I could get and as fast as I could go, hunkered over the stick and as low in the cockpit as I could get.
In the meanwhile, the bomb continued up to about 18,000 feet, where it slowed, stopped and accelerated down towards the Ming tower. The barometric arming device [ole Blue Eyes] detected decreasing barometric pressure as the bomb climbed to 18,000 feet and then increasing barometric pressure as it headed down towards the tower. This was the final arming device and the bomb detonated as it touched the ground.
At 60 seconds after the bomb left my airplane, the bomb detonated. A light brighter than 100 suns filled the cockpit and a blast of heat burned my exposed neck. Since my path across the water was almost 1,000 mph, I hoped the MACH Y stem, an over pressure bubble that shot out from the detonation point, would not catch up with me. We all wondered about that, but it did not factor into our targeting plans. Our job was to take out a target and I never met a Hun Driver who was unwilling to go on what was very probably a one-way trip.
But it never happened, no F-100 or any other type of U.S. plane ever delivered a nuclear weapon on to an enemy target. The war in the Republic of Viet Nam [ RVN] was escalating and again and the Hun was called on to carry the load. American airplanes out of Thailand performed interdiction missions into North Viet Nam with Huns escorting them, but the Hun was getting old and couldn’t keep up with the newer F-105s and F-4s, so she was assigned to targets in RVN, what we called “air to mud.” The missions were many and varied and I want to take you along on one, so I’m going to pick an interesting mission. If you read a war novel, all missions were scary and difficult, but such was not the case. The bad ones came along from time to time so lets tell about one.
We had eight Huns sitting on five minute alert, two from each squadron and each squadron had a different load of ordnance. My flight of two was uploaded with six 500-pound cans of unfinned napalm on the TERs [triple ejection racks] on the inboard stations of the wing. The intermediate station, as always, carried two 335-gallon drop tanks and the out board stations carried two 750 pound unfinned napalm. Four fuselage mounted 20 mm cannons were uploaded with a mix of 800 rounds of HEI [high explosive incendiary] and API [armor piercing incendiary] rounds of ammunition.
[I'll finish this later, it's pretty scary]
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