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eightlein

Delta Sierra: Another upcoming Yankee Air Pirate Mission

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A lone Intruder near Hai Duong above some very nasty weather...

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...Team Samuel extends a welcome...

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Got a good return on the target...

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...3,2,1 drop...

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...going to score on this one.

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Got out unscathed, and after all that, down through the weather to try and park on this dancing deck...

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...wheres the valet and the nearest bar?

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Eightlien

 

Only problem is that no Intruders flew from any of the Essex class boats during the Vietnam war. It was either the Midway class, Forrestall, Kitty Hawk, or Enterprise that Intruder squadrons flew from. The Essex boats were too small. That being said looks like a cool mission.

 

If you do another one I would suggest the 1967 raid on the Hanoi Power Plant by the Lt. Lyle Bull (the B/N) and LCDR Charlie Hunter (pilot). This awarded both the crew the Navy Cross. I happen to meet Lyle Bull who retired as a Vice Admiral from the Navy at a Tailhook convention in 2004, and interesting gentleman. Very humble too. Charlie Hunter went on to retire as a Rear Admiral from the Navy and past away in the mid-90's. Digging around on the internet I found thier story.

 

On the night of 30 October 1967, a lone A-6 Intruder jet aircraft was launched from a Seventh Fleet carrier in the Gulf of Tonkin. Its target was in Hanoi—the most heavily defended city in the world, and perhaps in the history of air warfare. For this single-plane strike, the pilot. Lieutenant Commander Charles Hunter, U. S. Navy, and the bombardier-navigator. Lieutenant Lyle Bull, U.S. Navy, were awarded the Navy Cross for "extra-ordinary heroism" and performance "above and beyond the call of duty.” This is their story. (Written by LCDR William Graves, PAO COMSEVENFLT, in the July 1969 U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings).

The previous afternoon was like many others. The two had coffee in the stateroom Bull shared with an­other bombardier-navigator from their unit - Attack Squadron 196. Bull had just finished the planning for a routine night hop in which they would be going after trucks in North Vietnam. Finding and hitting moving targets in complete darkness was no trick for the crew or the highly sophisticated electronic black boxes in the A-6 Intruder. "Piece of cake," they called it. They discussed the mission thoroughly, but Bull did the actual planning. The pilot looked over his navigator's work very carefully, but, as was usually the case, made no changes.

 

The final weather briefing was scheduled for 1800. There was time to relax—it was only 1630—until a phone call from the squadron duty officer changed their plans. "Better get down to IOIC, Lyle”, said the duty officer, "you're going to Hanoi tonight.”

 

In IOIC (Integrated Operational Intelligence Center), Lieutenant Junior grade Pete Barrick, U. S. Navy, the squadron air intelligence officer, was ready for them. Charts were spread out on a long table. While Barrick left to get the target folder, Hunter and Bull glanced at the air defense charts of the Hanoi area, noting fresh red markings which indicated new surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites. In addition, hundreds of black dots showed anti-aircraft gun positions, and in the vicinity of their target—the Hanoi railroad ferry slip—it was almost solid. Hunter said one approach looked as bad as another.

 

This was to be a single-plane strike. The success of the mission depended entirely upon one A-6 and its crew. Barrick, Hunter, and Bull studied the target carefully. The photography of the area was good. Exact measurements were made to provide precise inputs for the computers in the aircraft. The Hanoi air defenses were evaluated. Hunter's initial impression was right, there was no best way to get in or out. It was going to be rough because Hanoi was loaded.

 

Leaving IOIC, the two of them went up to the forward wardroom for a quick dinner. The meal was served cafeteria style. There was a short waiting line made up mostly of their squadron mates. "Stand back, you guys, here come Charlie and Lyle. They go first. This may be their last meal," said one of the young officers. The two aviators laughed self-consciously and moved to the head of the line. There was more joking, but pervading it all was the uncomfortable feeling that perhaps the well-intended humor was getting too close to the truth.

 

The whole squadron knew Hanoi for what it was—a closely-knit web of anti-aircraft guns and SAM sites. There were at least 560 known anti-aircraft guns of various calibers in the area Hunter and Bull were to fly over. Thirty MIG aircraft were based within a few seconds' flying time from their target. They knew full well that the flight should be opposed by 15 "hot" SAM sites—sites that had been firing with devastating accuracy in previous days. During intelligence briefings, they were told that the North Vietnamese were transferring additional defense fire-power to protect their capital city.

 

Hunter and Bull did not discuss the fact that they might not make it back. After all, six other crews from their squadron had gone through the heart of Hanoi three nights before. They took missiles and flak, but they all came home without a scratch. But that strike was different. It was one of the first strikes to hit in the area of the railroad ferry slip, and it obviously took the North Vietnamese defenders by surprise. The planes shot through with ten-minute separations, but each successive aircraft encountered steadily increasing defensive fire. Six SAMs were fired at the last plane.

 

Commander Robert Blackwood, U. S. Navy, the squadron's executive officer, returned from the raid con­vinced that the luxury of surprise would not be available to any more multiplane strikes going into Hanoi - but a single plane might make it. He discussed the alternatives available with the task force commander, as well as the odds of success and survival. They both knew that shore-based as well as carrier-based aircraft had taken a terrible "hosing down" in the Hanoi area. The Admiral was convinced that there was no single best way of accomplishing this mission, but he also believed in making frequent variations in tactics. If they were to achieve surprise, the strike would have to go in low and at night. Could the A-6 do it? Hunter and Bull would be the first to know.

 

The launch, when it came, was much the same as the many that had preceded it. The catapult hurled the 27-ton aircraft down the deck with the always-impressive acceleration force that, in a space of 230 feet, pro­pelled the aircraft to an air speed of 150 knots. The A-6 was airborne from its home, the attack carrier USS Constellation (CVA-64).

 

The lone Intruder swept over the beach at the coast-in point they called the "armpit” an inlet north of Thanh Hoa and south of Nam Dinh. The planned approach to the target used the rocky hills to the southwest of Hanoi in order to take advantage of the radar "masking" which they provided. Absolute minimum altitude would be the only way the A-6 would be able to stay below the lethal envelope of a radar-guided SAM. The jet, moving at 350 knots, was now at an altitude of 500 feet.

 

As the jet flew to within 18 miles of the target, a signal flashed in the cockpit, indicating that a SAM radar was locked on the A-6. Immediately Hunter snapped, "Take me down." With precision accuracy, Bull guided the pilot by search radar down to 300 feet, with the jagged hills rising on either side. At the lower altitude, their instruments indicated they had lost the SAM lock-on. In the radar scope, Bull could see only the ridges of the hills on both sides above them and the reflection of the valley floor below.

 

Four miles straight ahead was the initial point (IP), a small island in the Red River. The IP would be the final navigational aid en route to the target. From this spot, distance and bearing had been precisely measured to the railroad ferry slip. Both the pilot and navigator had to work as one if the mission was to be a success.

 

With his eves fixed on the radar scope, Bull placed the crossed hairs on the IP in his radar screen. At the proper instant, Hunter was ready to turn on the final inbound-leg to the target. And again the warning flashed that another SAM radar had locked onto the A-6. Hunter eased the aircraft down to less than 200 feet, and he moved the stick to the left as the A-6 passed just short of the island in the Red River. The target was now ten miles ahead. The SAM warning signal did not break off with the drop in altitude. As the Intruder flew at near tree-top level, Hunter and Bull could see a missile lift off from its pad. The SAM was locked-on and guiding perfectly toward the cockpit of the Intruder.

 

Hunter waited until the last second, and then he yanked back on the stick, pulling the aircraft into a steep climb. With the nose of the A-6 pointed almost straight up, the SAM exploded underneath it. The laden bomber shook violently, but continued into a modified barrel-roll, topping out at 2,500 feet. At the peak of the high-G roll, the A-6 was on its back. Bull raised his head and could see the ground beneath him lit up by flak. The Intruder rolled out close to the target heading. Bull fixed his attention on the radar scope, noting that the radar cursors had stayed on the target through the roll. "I'm stepping the system into attack,” he told Hunter.

 

Something caught his eye and he looked up, "I have two missiles at two o'clock, Charlie”, Bull announced. “And I have three missiles at ten o'clock," was Hunter's cool reply. Evasion was virtually impossible with five missiles guiding in on the A-6 from two different directions. Hunter quickly maneuvered the plane, dropping the A-6 to 50 feet. The terrain, illuminated by flak, appeared to be level with the wing tips. Bull could clearly see trucks and people on the road below. They were now only seconds from the target. The five missiles guided perfectly in azimuth, but could not reach down to the A-6. Bull sensed that the missiles exploded above the canopy, but he didn't look up. His attention was momentarily fixed on the ground where multiple rows of anti-aircraft guns were firing at the aircraft. He watched the muzzle blasts as the jet shot past each row. They were like mileage markers along the road to the ferry slip. Then came the searchlights, scanning the sky as if celebrating the opening of a giant new supermarket. Some illuminated the Intruder mo­mentarily, but could not stay with the speeding aircraft.

 

Now they were on the target. On signal, Hunter eased back on the stick and the bomber moved up to 200 feet. The next 3.5 seconds would be critical to the accuracy of the bomb drop. Hunter must hold the wings level and the course steady, so that Bull and the computers could do the job they had come so far to accomplish. The weapons, eighteen 500-pound bombs fell toward the ferry slip. Feeling the loss of nearly 10,000 pounds of dead weight, Hunter pulled the A-6 into a hard, right turn. The aircraft was turned into an outbound, southeast heading and Hunter, giving the Communist gunners a run for their money, began maneuvering the aircraft up and down, back and forth. Again the SAM warning was given—four more missiles were locked on the Intruder. They followed, but could not track the Intruder through its evasive maneuvers and they exploded above and behind. They passed over another flak site without incident, and then they were safely on their way back to the USS Constellation. For the first time Charlie Hunter and Lyle Bull had time to realize what they had been through.

 

Only a limited number of military airmen have challenged the main battery of guns in the Hanoi area of North Vietnam. Fewer yet can claim membership in the elite group who have successfully flown unescorted, at night, over North Vietnam's capital city. For those of the latter group, certainly, any subsequent, new experience promised to be anticlimactic.

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Eightlien

 

Only problem is that no Intruders flew from any of the Essex class boats during the Vietnam war. It was either the Midway class, Forrestall, Kitty Hawk, or Enterprise that Intruder squadrons flew from. The Essex boats were too small. That being said looks like a cool mission.

 

If you do another one I would suggest the 1967 raid on the Hanoi Power Plant by the Lt. Lyle Bull (the B/N) and LCDR Charlie Hunter (pilot). This awarded both the crew the Navy Cross. I happen to meet Lyle Bull who retired as a Vice Admiral from the Navy at a Tailhook convention in 2004, and interesting gentleman. Very humble too. Charlie Hunter went on to retire as a Rear Admiral from the Navy and past away in the mid-90's. Digging around on the internet I found thier story.

 

OK, thanks, although its a test mission at this stage, we shall recheck our research on assigned sqdns. Hard to get good help these days. "Kids get over here, now whos checking Intruder deployements?"

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Eightlien

 

Only problem is that no Intruders flew from any of the Essex class boats during the Vietnam war. It was either the Midway class, Forrestall, Kitty Hawk, or Enterprise that Intruder squadrons flew from. The Essex boats were too small. That being said looks like a cool mission.

 

If you do another one I would suggest the 1967 raid on the Hanoi Power Plant by the Lt. Lyle Bull (the B/N) and LCDR Charlie Hunter (pilot). This awarded both the crew the Navy Cross. I happen to meet Lyle Bull who retired as a Vice Admiral from the Navy at a Tailhook convention in 2004, and interesting gentleman. Very humble too. Charlie Hunter went on to retire as a Rear Admiral from the Navy and past away in the mid-90's. Digging around on the internet I found thier story.

 

No shortage of brass 'b's in that crowd. Thanks for sharing the story. Looking forward to trying my luck in an Intruder at night over lovely downtown Hanoi.

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