Jump to content
CombatACE
  • Announcements

    • Erik

      Site Upgrade   08/15/2017

      CombatACE is undergoing an upgrade. UPDATE: 08/18/17 - STAGE: Final Design and Modification.
      Trying to log in? Your new username is your old display name (the name shown when posting). 
Dave

An Interview with Capt Robert Ward

Recommended Posts

+Dave    2,094

9.jpg

 

I want to thank Capt Robert Ward for doing this interview.

 

Can you tell us little about yourself?

I was born and raised in a little town in west-central Indiana. Went to Purdue University as a member of the Class of 1966, where I received my Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering. Upon graduating from Purdue, I went to USAF Officer Training School at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, receiving my commission in April 1967. Then on to pilot training at Williams AFB near Phoenix, Arizona. After the 53 week pilot training program, I received my wings in May 1968.

 

I left the Air Force on December 7, 1974 and moved to Mesa, Arizona (my wife’s hometown). Her Dad was also a USAF pilot and went through undergraduate pilot training (UPT) at Williams, AFB, where he met his wife, as I did mine.

 

Once out of the Air Force and settled in Arizona, I put my engineering degree to use and have been practicing civil engineering ever since. I have been self-employed since 1987, working out of my home.

 

I stumbled onto computer flight simulations around 1997 and was thrilled at the realism of the technology. I dove into it head-first, bought a HOTAS system and built a cockpit chair on which to mount the controls. The grand-kids all love to watch “Grandpa” fly. Of course, they are always wanting to push buttons and fire the weapons to watch the tracers, rockets, etc.

 

What all aircraft did you fly and how many hours have you accumulated?

 

T-41, T-37, T-38 during UPT, F-111, F4, F-100, A-37. I don’t remember how many hours I accumulated. I am thinking somewhere around 2000-hours.

 

What units did you fly with?

 

My first assignment was to an F-111 squadron (428 TFS) with the 474th Tactical Fighter Wing at Nellis AFB in Las Vegas. At that point in time, no new pilot graduates were being assigned to the “left” seat in the F-111, so I was in the frustrating position of flying “right” seat and running all the navigation and weapons delivery systems. Although my aircraft commander was very good about giving me a lot of stick time. The F-111 was a real state-of-the art aircraft in 1968.

 

The terrain following radar (TFR) was amazing, when it worked right. You could dial in the altitude above ground that you wanted to fly and set the ride to soft, medium or hard, the difference being the “briskness” of the aircraft adjusting pitch as you went up a hill or down the other side. For example, on the “hard” setting, as you approached a hill, the aircraft delayed the pull-up point to a little closer to the hill than in the “soft” setting. This resulted in a little higher positive G-load as the plane pulled up and a little more negative G-load as you descended down the back side of the hill. The “hard”setting kept you as close to the ground as possible as you went over hills, mountains, etc. – good for radar avoidance.

 

There were some technical problems with the early F-111 avionics systems. I think we lost 2 planes while I was at Nellis. If I remember right, they were all TFR problems, primarily flying at night, on the deck and in weather. I believe the weather issue (heavy clouds, rain, etc.) was causing some confusion with the radar system, causing some planes to fly into hills at night.

 

As far as a thrill in the F-111, I remember a daytime flight where we were flying on auto-TFR at about 200-ft AGL. We started up the side of one of the Nevada mountain slopes that had its summit covered in clouds. The TFR system worked correctly and as we nosed over the top of the peak (in the cloud cover with negative G), my left-seater did not pull the throttles back (he had increased power as we went up the front slope to keep our airspeed up). As we emerged from the cloud cover going down the back slope of the mountain, the Mach indicator was passing 1.1 before he realized what was happening and pulled back the power. Mach 1.1, 200-ft above ground – on TFR autopilot! I would have liked to been on the ground and seen that going over my head (with ear protection of course).

 

On a little side note, the USAF Fighter Weapons School (USAF version of Navy Top Gun School) was (and probably still is) located at Nellis AFB. So while I was there in the F-111 program, I wandered down to the Fighter Weapons School operations building one day and asked if they would let me fly in any empty F4 instructor pilot’s back seat. I hit pay dirt, the next day I was strapping into the back seat of an F4. I flew probably 6 or 7 missions with those guys before my F-111 squadron commander found out about it and said “no more”. The F4 instructor pilots gave me a lot of stick time, so it was a real fun experience. I included some F4 pictures that I took while flying with these guys.

 

After about a year at Nellis, I managed to secure an F-100 assignment to SEA. So first it was off to sea survival school in Miami, FL, then up to Fairchild AFB in Washington state for land & POW survival training. Once that was out of the way, I headed to Luke AFB in Arizona to begin F-100 training. I was so thrilled the first day I got to climb in the Super Sabre. I had studied my rear-end off during the ground school that we had gone through the prior few weeks, so I had all the system operations and emergency procedures down pat. I had absolutely no problems during my first flight – it was like I had been flying it all my life. My instructor didn’t even demo a landing (1st flight was in an F-100E two seater, front & back), he let me do the first touch & go. What a fun day.

 

After being checked out in the F-100, I headed for South Vietnam in early January 1970 (commercial airline). However, we had to make a stop at Clark AFB in the Philippines to spend another week going through jungle survival and more POW training. Was not real fond of sleeping on the ground in the jungle for 2 nights, I had a real concern about snakes and rats chewing on me. Anyway, no bites; did have a close encounter with a snake though while trying to hide under some brush during an evasion exercise.

 

Next stop was Phan Rang AB, South Vietnam. I was assigned to the 612 TFS, which was part of the 35th Tactical Fighter Wing. During my tour at Phan Rang, I flew 165 combat missions, mostly in the south. However, I did make a few trips into Cambodia and southern Laos to hit supply routes. Our primary mission was close air support for the ground troops.

 

Our typical weapon loadouts were both "slick" and high-drag 750 & 500 lb bombs, napalm, rockets, and occasional CBUs. Of course we always carried high incendiary 20mm for the four canons.

 

On a few missions we carried some exotic ordinance. There was some CBU type ordinance that scattered little “whirly” maple-leaf-seed type explosives that drifted down to the ground and just layed there until someone stepped on it – then bang! I don’t remember exactly, but I assume that these things degraded over time and became inert.

 

Another exotic weapon was one that we used for underground bunker complexes. When this thing hit the ground, it spewed an explosive gas all around the impact area. After about 30 to 60 seconds, a detonator went off and ignited the gas. The idea was that the gas would have filtered down into the tunnels during the delay. Well, you get the idea.

 

We also dropped a lot of time-delay bombs on the supply routes coming down through Laos. These were like 8-hour time delays. So we would hit the supply routes in mid-to late afternoon. The bombs would bury themselves upon impact and then later that night when the VC were transporting supplies, under the cover of darkness, the bombs would detonate.

 

Some of the attached pictures show an F-100 (in-flight) with a load of 750-lb bombs with “fuse extenders” on the front-ends. These extenders caused the bomb to detonate about 3-ft above ground, throwing out a very lethal shrapnel pattern. We were frequently called in to use these to clear jungle landing zones for the choppers. These things really “sawed down” the trees.

 

Depending on the mission, we delivered ordinance from both high and low altitude. When there were no friendlies close-by, we typically did 30 and 45-degree dive bombing. When the ground forces needed help, we would come in with low-angle high drag bombs and napalm and get right down in the "trees". We had more than one case where pilots scrapped the trees on pullout. The F-100 tended to "mush" a little bit when you started your dive recovery, i.e., you kept on a downward trajectory for a little bit after you pulled the stick back.

 

We always carried gun camera film and quite frequently had an aft-looking belly camera to record the bomb release and impact. On one mission, I was dropping napalm at tree-top level. One of the napalm tanks detonated a split second after it came off my wing – it may have taken a hit from small arms fire. Anyway, I got the whole sequence (in color) from my belly camera. I still have the film and have transferred a lot of it onto VCR tapes. Now I need to get it into a digital format – when I get that done I will send you some footage.

 

I did not have any missions that I would call unusual. I do remember strafing the barb wire at a Special Forces camp that was under attack by the VC. Also remember coming in on a target where they had radar-controlled 20mm quad cannons. I remember pulling off the target after one low-level strafing pass and seeing "orange tennis balls" zipping by my right wing. The FAC saw the gun emplacement after the tracers were flying and got my wingman & I vectored in on the next pass and we saturated the target with 20mm. Nothing more happened after that.

 

Having been a Range Officer on numerous occasions at state-side gunnery ranges, I can personally attest that a 20mm attack by a Century series fighter is a very impressive experience. While pulling Range Officer duty at England AFB, the range tower (they have a newer range now) was located between strafing panels 2 & 3 (there were 4 panels total). The Range Officer tower was probably about a 1000-ft in front of the strafing panels. When the F-100s rolled in they started firing around 2500-ft out. The 20mm frequently went supersonic as it passed the tower, followed about a second and half later by the defining roar of an F-100 passing the tower about 300-ft above the ground at 450 knots. No one would want to be on the receiving end of that. The sounds alone would scare the hell out of you.

 

I also remember the first night I pulled alert duty at Phan Rang. Things had been quiet all evening. I remember sitting in the pilot lounge and watching “The Graduate” (Dustin Hoffman) until around 1 AM. Started getting tired after that so I layed down on one of the cots. I was just about asleep when the scramble alarm went off around 2:30 AM. I jumped up and ran for my plane, got strapped in, cranked the engine via cartridge start, rolled out to the end of the runway and got immediate takeoff clearance. About a minute later I was hurtling through a pitch black sky at about 400 knots and thinking “here I am about a half a world away from home, in the middle of the night, and enroute to some as yet unknown destination to unleash a barrage of destruction on some target”. Needless to say, it was quite an exciting experience for a young guy.

 

My room-mate was shot down while at Phan Rang and managed to eject. He landed in the top layer of a triple canopy jungle of trees. The VC saw him floating down, but once he hit the trees they could not see him anymore. So they just started randomly spraying the tree foliage with machine gun fire. They finally got some close air support in to get the bad guys flushed out of the area, then picked him up with a chopper.

 

The 35 TFW was rotated out of Phan Rang in Oct 1970. We got to fly our planes across the Pacific, that was quite an experience. I have attached several pictures of our F-100s and KC-135 tanker support as we came across the Pacific.

 

We did not fly with the tankers all the way back. We had gaps where the initial group of tankers had to turn back to their base. They would give us a compass bearing before they left so that we could head in the general direction of where the next group of incoming tankers was to rendezvous with us. The F-100 did not have inertial navigation; all we had was a radio and magnetic compass and TACAN. So it was a little uncomfortable for those periods when we were flying on “good faith” towards the incoming tankers. If we had failed to make the intercept (or had they had mechanical problems and had to turn back), we would have run out of gas and had to ditch.

 

Anyway, we made all the tanker intercepts and went all the way to England AFB in Alexandria, LA. First hop out of South Vietnam was to Guam (I lost my hydraulic system to lower the landing gear - had to blow it down with emergency compressed air); 2nd day to Hawaii; 3rd day for rest to catch up on time zones; 4th day to Cannon AFB in Clovis, New Mexico; and 5th day to Alexandria, LA. We were assigned to a different fighter wing after relocating to Alexandria, I don’t remember the wing designation, but I was flying with the 68th TFS.

 

Shortly after being relocated to Alexandria, I, and 4 other squadron pilots, were sent to Madrid, Spain to fly some F-100s back to the states. That was a one-hop flight all the way from Madrid to North Carolina. Seems like it was close to 8-hours, we were pushing against about a 100 mph jet stream all the way. Several in-flight re-fuelings with KC -135s. So I had the privilege of flying a single seat fighter across both the Pacific and Atlantic. Wouldn’t want to do it again though!

 

I spent my last couple years in the Air Force at England AFB. The F-100s were eventually phased out by the A-7s while I was there. At that time I was re-assigned to an A-37 Special Operations Training Squadron as an instructor pilot for young South Vietnamese pilots.

 

 

What was one of your most humorous moments?

 

Well this was not humorous to me, but it was to my student pilot. In addition to the South Vietnamese pilots that we trained in the A-37 program, we also had several Air National Guard units come through the A-37 fighter training program.

 

So I had an American ANG student on a dive bombing mission at the range one day. First few drops went fine. We were doing 45-degree dive bombing. I think on about the 3rd pass, he released the ordinance and snatched the stick back so hard (while I was looking out the canopy to the right and not expecting such an abrupt pull-up at that instant) that he nearly over-G “ed” the plane and completely blacked me out.

 

I had never experienced that before. I have been grayed-out before (intentionally by my instructor during pilot training), but I have never been blacked-out. I have cranked 9-Gs on an F-100 in Vietnam (G-limit was 7.33) and never had a problem even graying-out.

 

Well this time I was totally blind and in a state of semi-consciousness as a result of what my A-37 student did. I knew what had happened but I was completely unable to react. I did not know if my student had blacked out as well or what was going on. I was in a dream-world and just thinking that if he does not have control of the aircraft, we’re dead.

 

Fortunately, he was in full control, so I got to live another day. I debated whether to tell him about it during our mission debrief, knowing that I would be ridiculed to no end if he knew what had happened to his “combat-veteran instructor”. But in the interest of safety, I advised him to be careful about such an abrupt pull-out and used my black-out experience as a possible by-product of such actions. We didn’t wear G-suits in the A-37, so everything was the old “grunt” maneuver. BTW, I did get some ribbing about it after the word spread to a few other instructors.

 

What was one of your hairiest moments?

 

Well, it was not during my combat tour in Vietnam. Again, it was actually during my stint as an A-37 instructor pilot with a young Vietnamese pilot. We were practicing some 2-ship formation flying – my student was flying on the right wing. The flight leader decided to do a loop. As we were coming down the back side of the loop, he dove right into a dense cloud layer, we were probably under 4500-ft AGL at the time. We totally lost site of the flight leader (we were only 3-feet off his wing) and were headed in a direct 90-degree dive at the ground when he entered the cloud layer. Fearing an instant mid-air collision with my student at the controls, I grabbed control of the plane, chopped the throttles to idle, popped the speed brake, and initiated a break to the right (away from the last known position of the flight leader). Then I just started pulling the stick back and praying that we would get the nose up before we hit the ground – we were still in the clouds at this point so I had to get on the gages ASAP. We came out of the clouds about 1500-ft AGL in only a slight dive, so things worked out.

 

What was your favorite and why?

 

Well, this is an easy one, the old F-100. A fighter pilot’s dream, a single-seat, single-engine, bent-wing, burner fighter! Back in my day, that was quite a machine to have strapped to your rear-end. The first Century series fighter to break the sound-barrier in level flight.

 

I remember a joint air operation (Exotic Dancer IV) that was held at Camp Lejeune, N.C. in May 1971. Our F-100 squadron, from England AFB, flew up there for a week and a half to play the “opposition force” role for Marine & Air Force F4 squadrons. We went head-to-head with those guys on several occasions and really held our own. How someone never had a mid-air I’ll never know, it was a real free-for–all, usually 8 fighters, four 1 on1 engagements, in a relatively confined air space.

 

image018.jpg

Lt Bob Ward, F-100, South Vietnam, 1970

 

image019.jpg

F-100s Arming Guns, Phan Rang AB, South Vietnam, 1970

 

image023.jpg

Rocket Attack, Phan Rang Officer's Club, 1970

 

image024.jpg

Rocket Attack, Phan Rang Officer's Club, 1970

 

image031.jpg

Capt Bob Ward's F-100, #949, Phan Rang AB, South Vietnam, 1970

 

image032.jpg

Capt Bob Ward's F-100, #949, Phan Rang AB, South Vietnam, 1970

 

image034.jpg

Capt Bob Ward, F-100 #949, Phan Rang AB, South Vietnam, 1970

 

image033.jpg

Capt Bob Ward, F-100 #949, Phan Rang AB, South Vietnam, 1970

 

image035.jpg

Capt Bob Ward Climbing Aboard F-100, Phan Rang AB, South Vietnam, 1970

image001.jpg

image002.jpg

image003.jpg

image004.jpg

image005.jpg

image006.jpg

image007.jpg

image008.jpg

image009.jpg

image010.jpg

image011.jpg

image012.jpg

image013.jpg

image014.jpg

image015.jpg

image016.jpg

image017.jpg

image020.jpg

image021.jpg

image022.jpg

image025.jpg

image026.jpg

image027.jpg

image028.jpg

image029.jpg

image030.jpg

image036.jpg

image037.jpg

image038.jpg

image039.jpg

image040.jpg

image041.jpg

image042.jpg

image043.jpg

image044.jpg

image045.jpg

image046.jpg

image047.jpg

image048.jpg

image049.jpg

image050.jpg

image051.jpg

image052.jpg

image053.jpg

image054.jpg

image055.jpg

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

ezlead    40

Bob:

Welcome aboard!

It's great to have another Vietnam vet here. There are quite a few from our Era here at CA. You'll find that the 'younger generations' have the same kick-a$$ attitude that we have.

I got the chance to talk to some "Hun" drivers when I was flying in Nebraska back in the 70's. They were from the South Dakota ANG. They simply loved the airplane.

I was a former Marine Naval Aviator so I didn't get much grief from them. The F-4 drivers from the Nebraska ANG got all kinds of it. Single seat "Gunfighters" were the best in their book.

Thank you for your service to our country and good luck in all you endeavors. :salute:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
FastCargo    391

Capt. Ward,

 

Thank you for your service and for the stories and pictures! Great to hear more stories from the guys who flew the serious iron from back in the day.

 

If you want to see how much the T-38 has changed, come on down to Randolph AFB in the next couple of months and I'll give you a tour of the 560th plus a T-38 sim ride. It ain't a Hun...but it's still fun.

 

From one of the younger heads still flying in the USAF (at least for a little longer), salute!

 

FC

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
+ST0RM    141

Awesome interview. You can't hear enough of the personal experiences that we try to emmulate through these sims. Thank you for your service!

 

-Jeff

 

P.S. Loved the photos. Especially the A/R ones :cool:

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
+GrinchWSLG    22

Awesome stories and thanks for your service.

 

then up to Fairchild AFB in Washington state for land & POW survival training.

 

That school is still there, actually they've got a lot of brand new buildings for it now. I almost feel bad watching those poor guys getting shoved out of the choppers in the middle of winter.

Edited by GrinchWSLG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sure ya do, Grinch!

 

Might spill your coffee up in that nice warm tower, eh? :wink2:

 

Didn't know you'd finally made it up this away.

 

Anywhoo, darned fine interview USAFMTL, and especially the good Captain. I especially like the Old `Vark shots, and the

copious coverage of my USAF profession, weapons loader.

 

The MJ-1 was your best friend in the cold, and worse enemy during the heat. Fine flashback...

 

:salute:

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dogzero1    9

Thank you Capt Ward. Thankyou for your service to the free world and the allies. I appreciate your time serving your country. God bless you.

 

 

:salute: :salute:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
+pcpilot    178

Great story and photos, thanks Captain! Glad your room mate survived his close encounter with the VC and you didnt become a lawn dart in that A-37. My wife and I may be moving to Arizona this year, maybe we'll get a chance to meet. God bless!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Capt. Ward, you have my respect and admiration.

 

In particular, for those trans-oceanic flights with the "Hun", and its idle navigation system.

 

That kind of challenge is really difficult, in my opinion.

 

Also, a Great Thanks for those photos. Really interesting.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
+GASCAN39    6

Excellent interview, you had some great experiences looks like! Loved the photos of the Hun, reminds me of Seymour in the early 70s. Alot of Huns there for some reason, loved seeing them taxi in, dragging that chute behind them......

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
+GrinchWSLG    22

Sure ya do, Grinch!

 

Might spill your coffee up in that nice warm tower, eh? :wink2:

 

Didn't know you'd finally made it up this away.

 

 

Yup, been up here about 6 months now. Training on the local position now. Pretty happy with things so far.

 

If its any consolation to those poor guys drifting down through the freezing air, I DO have to give up some of my airspace so they can do that. Which means I have to work slightly harder.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
+Jug    99

Bob:

Welcome aboard!

It's great to have another Vietnam vet here. There are quite a few from our Era here at CA. You'll find that the 'younger generations' have the same kick-a$$ attitude that we have.

I got the chance to talk to some "Hun" drivers when I was flying in Nebraska back in the 70's. They were from the South Dakota ANG. They simply loved the airplane.

I was a former Marine Naval Aviator so I didn't get much grief from them. The F-4 drivers from the Nebraska ANG got all kinds of it. Single seat "Gunfighters" were the best in their book.

Thank you for your service to our country and good luck in all you endeavors. :salute:

Bob,

 

Thank you for your service and for your interview with CA. Good stuff for the new guys and a bucket full of memories for the older guys (me). I was a recce puke and bomber driver, but am enjoying learning how to move little piles of dirt around here with the trusty old "Hun". Must have been fun to fly for real, because it is fun to fly in this sim. My dirt moving days were limited to big piles and the intent was to leave the big piles radioactive, so we didn't ever drop anything for real (thank God).

 

Jug

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
BobWard    4

I want to thank everyone for the kind words and warm reception to the forum.

 

I really enjoyed my 7 years as a USAF pilot. As I was telling Dave, it was probably the most fun and exciting 7-years of my life. It was one of those jobs that you couldn't believe you were getting paid to do.

 

The only reason that I got out was that I did not want to spend the rest of my career moving my family to a new location every 3 or 4 years. Plus, I wanted to stay put as an everyday operational pilot, rather than being pushed up the promotional ladder to less and less flying time.

 

Anyway, it was a great experience and one that I can get re-immersed in (40-years later) with these great flight sims and realistic controls that we have available.

 

Thanks again & I will see you all around the forum.

 

Bob

 

 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sakai    2

Capt. Ward, thank you for your service! The shots of the 100 in flight are amazing, and seeing old school Varks is a real treat. I would really like to see that video of the napalm coming off the pylon and exploding a split second later, amazing!

 

Most of all, welcome aboard to CombatAce!!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

×