In late 1972 President Richard Nixon was facing the prospect of having the funding cut for Vietnam by congress, so took one last gamble before they could reconvene to get North and South Vietnam to terms and pull the US out of the war with its POW's. This gamble would involve for the first time large B-52 raids on actual strategic targets in North Vietnam including Hanoi and Haiphong. Now having better relations with the Soviets and Chinese the gloves were off and he duly instructed Strategic Air command ( SAC) to sort it out……. unfortunately it didn’t quite roll down the chain far enough.
What ended up as a relatively short eleven-day campaign, started out and was planned for three days and those first days are really the focus of this article due to some rather strange tactics.
All B-52 sorties were launched either from the Pacific island of Guam at Anderson AFB or U-Tapao RTAFB (Thailand), with Guam having a very long flight time to target requiring A-A refueling for the B-52Ds. The B-52s were to take off from Guam and fly right over a Soviet spy trawler sitting in international waters of the end of the runway.
As the B-52 raid got closer to North Vietnam they would test all their ECM gear handily notifying the SAM operators of the frequencies being used in advance.
As they neared the target the F-4 Chaff bombers would fly in front of the raid and drop chaff to provide a protective chaff corridor that the B-52s would fly through giving extra protection. However it seems that not only did the chaff present a big arrow pointing to the intended target on the Vietnamese radar scopes it then promptly blew away in the very high winds providing next to no real protection.
On top of that as planned for the first three nights the B-52 waves (three waves per night) were to follow the same route as F-105s had done since 1967 and fly over the targets in level flight (to a determined point) at the same altitudes, speed, heading and times…………with a nice long pause between each wave.
General Melchett: Field Marshal Haig has formulated a brilliant new tactical plan to ensure final victory in the field.
Captain Blackadder: Ah. Would this brilliant plan involve us climbing out of our trenches, and walking very slowly towards the enemy?
Captain Darling: How could you possibly know that Blackadder? It's classified information!
Captain Blackadder: It's the same plan that we used last time..........and the seventeen times before that.
General Melchett: Exactly! And that is what is so brilliant about it! It will catch the watchful Hun totally off guard! Doing precisely what we've done eighteen times before is exactly the last thing they'll expect us to do this time! There is, however, one small problem.
Captain Blackadder: That everyone always gets slaughtered in the first ten seconds.
General Melchett: That's right. And Field Marshal Haig is worried this may be depressing the men a tad. So, he's looking for a way to cheer them up.
Captain Blackadder: Well, his resignation and suicide seems the obvious choice.
General Melchett: Hmm, interesting thought. Make a note of it, Darling.
(from Blackadder Goes Forth BBC)
Unsurprisingly the B-52 crews, although very pleased to be finally doing something to end the war knew the tactics were dumb with comments including “like Ducks in a shooting Gallery” and “I knew it would be a turkeyshoot….....for those on the ground”.
The idea of flying in level flight was to maintain Jamming integrity for the B-52 cells, also because the antenna need to be pointing down to provide the jamming coverage, thus if you turn no more protection. On the first nights some of the B-52 pilots did indeed try to outmanoeuvre upcoming SAM's not completely trusting the Jamming [and a B-52 can certainly turn at 30,000ft]. This lead to some threats of court martial for any pilot that did jeopardize cell integrity by turning (for certain waves).
The threat of Court Martial reported by all sources doesn’t seem to account for the contradictory fact that the pilots were ordered to perform a Post Target Turn after dropping the payload. This meant they would turn directly over the worse concentration of SAM sites over Hanoi with no jamming protection and into the Jet Stream winds keeping them in the lethal SAM radius a lot longer.
This Post Target Turn was not only unnecessary but was essentially a big cause of some of the losses.
B-52s at Anderson AFB Guam December 1972 (USAF)
Night One 18/19 December
As an example of a raid the first night strike consisted of three waves of 129 B-52s (three waves of 48, 30 and 51). This is a breakdown of Wave One only.
The Vietnamese defenders
The Vietnamese were not expecting or geared up for a strategic bombing campaign of this scale, they had sent personnel and sites down to South North Vietnam and now had to recall them and everyone else on leave. The main problem was they were short of assembled SA-2B missiles. Each site (Battalion) only held six on launchers and six more on trucks in reserve. Once a truck had loaded one on the launcher it had to go to a depot and collect another, however you now had queues of trucks waiting for missiles – they could only assemble 40 per day. Luckily the pause between waves helped them somewhat. [The only way the USAF could have helped the Vietnamese more by this point was to drop fully assembled SA-2s on parachutes!! ]
Even though on night one they had managed to down three B-52s (two others damaged), by Night two they had noticed the obvious use of the same tactics but were not able to capitalize on them straight away. They would launch the SA-2s unguided and when the B-52s did the Post Target Turn they would lock on and the SAM would guide in.
This was not as easy as it sounds and needed practice, so they didn’t manage to down any B-52s on night two (only damaging two). From the US point of view, it seems no loss had vindicated SACs tactics, however when the Vietnamese got their tactics worked out on night three six B-52s were shot down (one other damaged) in only two waves (Second wave was cancelled by the head of SAC General Meyer after the losses in the first - but the third Wave was pushed ahead to "save face").
Some US sources seem to indicate they thought the Vietnamese had different SAMs (SA-3) but they only actually had SA-2Bs – the US were just clearly underestimating them if that was the case.
B-52 window damaged from SA-2 fragments (USAF)
Where did this cunning plan come from?
SAC was running the show from their HQ and were very much for centralized planning - unfortunately they were detached from reality and were too arrogant to know it. WW II & Korea fighter Ace General John C Meyer was in charge and had been accused of being hesitant to make decisions by the lower Generals. [Well most would be hesitant if their expertise lay in fighters]:
Richard Baughn flew as a fighter pilot in World War II and then went on to command a SAC bomber unit as a brigadier General, and recalled feeling out of place in SAC due to the mindsets driven by different cultures. “You just feel like a third shoe, a third foot” and he believed that “if a SAC guy came to a TAC base, he would probably feel the same way.” From a common base in pilot and navigator training, the major commands imprinted different approaches to their unique missions and aircraft. In the words of Baughn, “Bomber pilots and fighter pilots are two different types. Always have been. They think differently and act differently.”
It was these same lower Generals who were responsible for the planning of Linebacker II - in particular General Peter Sianis. With his WW II and Korean War experience of Strategic bombing and no experience of a modern IADS he was definitely the person you wanted in charge of this [NOT].
According to Colonel Frederick J. Miranda, SAC’s logistics representative on the planning staff, General Sianis saw the map prepared by staff officers that showed routes of flight for the operation, with “several different routes leading to Hanoi.” Miranda related what next occurred:
General Sianis walked out of his inner office, took a look at the map, and said, “That’s not the way we do it!” Then he removed the colored tape showing the Andersen B-52 routing from the map and rerouted that bomber stream to a route over South Vietnam into Laos and forming up with the U-Tapao bomber stream. He also changed the post-target exit routing to one requiring all aircraft to make a right turn after dropping bombs and stated, “One way in and one way out!” He then instructed his staff to go make those changes and come back with the briefing. I will never forget how the map looked after General Sianis made changes. The colored tape was hanging loosely and the general made a comment, “You guys probably have a lot of tape, don’t you?” This was a significant last-minute change resulting in replanning, additional poststrike refueling, and the now infamous “post-target turn.” He essentially took the planning function away from the majors and lieutenant colonels and straitjacketed them with the “one way in, one way out” directive. No one questioned the SAC DCS/Operations.
The Post Target Turn is something required when delivering Nuclear bombs to avoid the blast, its inclusion at a time when Nuclear bombing was low level single ship is not really explained or justified anywhere.
B-52G-125-BW (59-2582) awaiting at Anderson AFB Guam to take off on 18 December 1972 (USAF)
The Electronic Warfare experts at SAC were confident that by maintaining cell integrity the B-52s would be fully protected against the SAMs, a cell was supposed to be three B-52s but sometimes a cell would include only two bombers and sometimes the cells would have degraded or failed ECM equipment due to the no abort maximum effort policy.
Although SAC at the time thought the unmodified Jammers on the newer B-52Gs were the cause of some of the losses (and stopped Gs flying over Hanoi) it wasn’t the full story because they were also using the wrong type of jamming. North Vietnam was using an SA-2B SAM that was modified by the Soviets [supplied in 1971] to prevent Beacon jamming after analyzing an QRC-160-8 (ALQ-87) ECM pod found in the jungle. In the late 1960s this type of jamming had rendered the SA-2 all but useless by jamming its uplink command guidance.
Now fair enough, how were the SAC EW experts to know this?……………..well they could have read reports from the US Seventh Air Force on the matter who had been aware this SAM was in use and had been reporting on it for the past year. Or they could also have tested the B-52 jammers against the modified SA-2B they had captured and was sitting in Eglin AFB! In fact it wasn’t until during Linebacker II and after the losses of the first 4 days they started testing that they confirmed that the Post Target Turn removed all jamming and the beacon jamming was not effective.
B-52Ds preparing to take off for another Linebacker II mission (USAF)
Although no plan is said to survive contact with the enemy it doesn’t help when you have centralized planning and control by people that simply do not know what they are doing from the start. SAC eventually handed the planning down the 8th Air Force and with many other tactical changes things never got anywhere near as bad as Night three had been - by nights 10/11 the resistance from Hanoi had become almost irrelevant to the point they could freely fly over it.
Overall Linebacker II ended up achieving Nixons objectives and the gamble paid off for him with the peace treaty being signed in January 1973. However for the B-52 flyers as always it was a very different war and by 1973 some had clearly had enough of Meyers management policies: [note B-52 Arc Light & Bullet Shot operations continued until August 1973]
On January 3, those crewmembers not flying assembled in the Arc Light Center briefing room, where they first watched Meyer pin the Air Force Cross on Colonel McCarthy, who had flown two missions during the operation. Meyer then addressed the Airmen in the audience, and his message was blunt. The general elaborated on the need for cell integrity in the missions over North Vietnam, remarking that tight formations provided the greatest chance to thwart the SAM threat by using the combined jamming capability of three bombers to defeat the data-links guiding the missiles. He then stated that aircraft commanders were not to maneuver during the bomb run and repeated the court-martial threat that they had previously received at the start of Linebacker II. At that moment, the briefing room became totally silent—all whispered conversations stopped, the normal coughing that typically comes from any audience halted, and no one moved. Then, suddenly, roughly half the Airmen in attendance stood up and walked out, “like a herd of cattle,” John Allen remembered. Many of those were chagrined that McCarthy had flown only two missions, plus that he had done so from the jump-seat of G model aircraft, though qualified only in D models. Allen described what came next:
Of the roughly 200 that remained, 75 to 80 people just went crazy. They picked up whatever was nearby and threw it at the stage—flight computers, briefing books, Coke cans, folding chairs, you name it. It was like if you had ever been
to a burlesque house, where they’d throw tomatoes and apples at a bad act, it was just like that. It couldn’t have lasted more than 13 seconds, the assault, but [Meyer] got hit a bunch of times. I saw a Coke can bounce right off his head. I
was just frozen in my tracks—I couldn’t do anything—it was mob action. He went down on a knee, and a bevy of colonels picked him up and helped him off stage. Meanwhile, the guys jumped up on stage and physically chased him down to the
flight line. There were a bunch of guys running after him, including the guys that were “gone” and the others of us that just wanted to see what would happen. He was in his staff car, heading toward his airplane, a shiny silver and white VC-135. They chased him down to where they now have the B-52 [Arc Light Memorial] up on a pedestal. They ran down and they threw chunks of gravel that were next to the road, just pelting his staff car and the power cart [used to start engines],and continued to pelt him as he went up the ramp. Then off he went and we never heard anything more from CINC [commander in chief] SAC.
Crews in briefing at Anderson AFB December 1972 (USAF)
Sources and Further Reading
To Fly and Fight: The experience of American airmen in Southeast Asia (Andrews WF, 2011) , George Mason University
The 11 Days of Christmas (Michel III ML, 2002) Encounter Books
Linebacker II: A View from the Rock (McCarthy JR & Rayfield RE, 1976), Office of Air Force History Maxwell AFB
War From Above The Clouds (Head WP, 2002) Air Force Press Maxwell AFB
Patterns and Predictability: The Soviet evaluation of operation Linebacker II (Drenkowski D & Grau LW )
Fifty Shades of Friction: Combat Climate, B-52 Crews, and the Vietnam War (Clodfelter M, 2016) National Defense University Press
F-105 Wild Weasel vs SA-2 “Guideline” SAM Vietnam 1963-73 (Davies.P, 2011) Osprey Publishing
The Red SAM: The SA-2 guideline Anti-Aircraft Missile (Zaloga SJ, 2007) Osprey Publishing
B-52 Stratofortress units in combat 1955 to 1973 (Lake, J 2004) Osprey Publishing
Quote from Blackadder Goes Forth (BBC, 1989)
Title photo B-52D-65-BO s/n 55-110 weapons loading (USAF)
Okay so the Rolling Thunder campaign was never my favourite campaign from the series, in fact might be the most bland. The main reason for this was most probably the fact that there is no forward line of troops and tank columns to fight it out, and gain or lose ground after each mission.
Rolling Thunder for real
The campaign namesake this is based on was one of the most disastrous and misguided campaigns in the history of aerial warfare. What was hoped would be a few weeks of bombing missions to get North Vietnam back to the negotiating table to stop them trying to invade the South, turned into 3 or so years of bombing targets selected by Washington. Or to put it another way pussy footing around bombing things that did nothing more than improve North Vietnam's resolve to continue on its agenda and also allow it to build up its defenses with the help of the Soviet Union and China.
So, 3 years of bombing targets – many times the same targets over and over, and never achieving the desired US strategy.
Rolling Thunder in game
In the Strike Fighters game engine this translates to what seems like a string of single missions and yes you don’t have much of an objective other than to try and not get shot down.
However, unlike auto generated Single missions, Campaign missions are more content filled and almost always include strike packages and flights that help you do your job (If you at least meet your timings). Not only that all the units have their markings and decals as they should.
Like history there are no SAMs until mid 1965 and the MiG regiments are limited in number. One great thing about TKs games is the use of "dates", so the game engine can just plonk in the correct objects (Guns/SAMs/MiGs) depending on the date you are flying. This also includes getting rebased and upgraded to better aircraft during the campaign.
Like most things in Strike Fighters World, mods can really help and I am using the Vietnam Gold mod with a variety of my own changes. This comes with quite a fearsome atmosphere with a ton of guns shooting at you with purple stuff, red stuff and grey puffy stuff. A major benefit is a bigger variety of targets and not just the sodding comms building again.
Feb 24 1966 and I am flying from Da Nang in an F-100D (1964 version) for the 416th “Silver Knights”. I don’t know what it is about the F-100D that I like because it is outclassed by pretty much all the MiGs.
The Lang Chi Electric Power plant is my target (a welcome addition from gold pack I think) – and I need to be on target for 09:10 on the dot.
I am maxing out the M-117s here – there are plenty of them available. The SF2 Super Sabre also allows TERS to carry 4 on the inner pylons by default but with extra drag.
How to get there hmmm. Those that played Wings Over Vietnam will know various routes into the North to minimise exposure to the SAMs, some of which had a 90% plus probability of kill if you were not flying at about 5ft off the ground. Luckily the SAMs in SF2 and this pack allow you to fly a bit more as they tended too back then!
With a target near Yen Bai I can use the highlands as cover and cross in over South NVN where there are little to no SAMs.
The Square box waypoint (the Initial Point /IP) is also the spawn point if you use Alt N, so can be moved around if you don’t have time to fly there.
Waypoint 3 is fixed as a rendezvous with other flights. If SF2 had been developed, it would have been nice to change the waypoint details for the flights like in Falcon so you could move the fixed waypoint for all flights.
Another thing that could have been improved was seeing your actual target area before flying. If you consider Jack Broughton spent all night memorising features etc before going on a mission you can understand the point of just marking the actual target with Padlock or a red dot!
As you can see only 2 MiG regiments active with MiG-17F and MiG-21F-13.
First Lt Eldon Atterbury is my wingy today. If you do take time to nurture the pilots their stats do improve (if they survive)
Let's go then
As we fly towards the target other flights are also on route to their targets.
After a while several fights occur
Due to meticulous planning we reach the target just fine and we roll in from above the cloud base
I hit the target but get peppered by a lot of triple A
Phew heading out but think my Wingy is a bit lost.
Try to search, but no sign of him and no beeper! so off home alone
Mystery solved, a MiG-21F-13 gunned him down and I had no idea that was in the area! If only all Vietnam mysteries could be solved so easy!
I then went on to fly A-4C/Es for the US Navy in which you get to take off from Carriers in the Gulf on Tonkin
Mr SAM is always happy to see you
This thud was just lucky!
This thud was not so lucky
What are all those blotches
So still quite intense flying through all the anti air and check 6 for those MiGs as always!
Ahh that old familiar tale you say - of course, in the late 1960s the F-4 Phantom II finally had a gun installed, which meant that everything was better, magical unicorns danced around the sky and the Vietnamese MiGs would fall from the sky in droves!
Okay so that didn’t quite happen….......what did?
Note - These articles are a compacted summary of a rather massive topic and will discuss the F-4 and Guns in Vietnam mostly ignoring missiles. Vietnam will be used instead of SEA. And USN includes the US Marines for simplicity.
Very different F-4s and Air Forces (USAF v USN)
Firstly, with different equipment, ideas and ways of doing things the United States pretty much had different Air Forces in the US Navy (USN) and the US Air Force (USAF), so it is important to draw a big red line between them with a quick summary:
US Navy F-4 Versions in Vietnam
F-4B (F4H-1) – Second F-4 version but first major production version of the F-4. F-4J - Improved F-4B Major Differences compared to the USAF
Air to Air Refueling with Drogue and Basket Use of AIM-9B/D/G/H versions of Sidewinder only as Short Range Missile. Never fitted Guns, not even pods (outside of a brief trial with the GAU-4) Internal ECM equipment. Different Radars (AN/APQ-72, -59 & AWG-10 Pulse Doppler) Had no flight controls in the back seat In 1972 preferred used of AIM-9G/H Sidewinder over AIM-7E-2 Sparrow Used more flexible Loose Deuce A-A formation tactics Carrier and land based (Marines)
USN F-4J refueling drogue and chute style (USN)
USAF F-4 Versions in Vietnam
F-4C (F-110A) – Based on the F-4B with USAF changes. F-4D – Improved F-4C. F-4E – This is the (only) F-4 with the internal Gun. Major Differences compared to the US Navy
Air to Air Refueling with Boom Used AIM-9B/E/J versions of Sidewinder Used AIM-4D Falcon for periods over the AIM-9 on F-4D/E External Podded ECM equipment Different Radars (AN/APQ-100, -109 & -120 ) Use of Gun Pods (SUU-16 & SUU-23) Had some flight controls in the back seat In 1972 preferred use of AIM-7E-2 Sparrow over AIM-9 / AIM-4 Insisted on sticking to the obsolete / useless fluid four (Welded Wing) A-A formation tactics right to the end.
USAF F-4 nears the boom of a KC-135 in 1967 (USAF)
Why no gun on the F-4 to start with?
On the 18th September 1947 the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) became the USAF and with the limited budget constraints after WWII, Strategic Air Command (SAC) was seen as security priority and was thus given the major funding over the Tactical Air Forces (TAF).
SAC culture dominated the USAF in the early years along with its doctrine of strategic nuclear bombing with massive manned bombers. Tactical Fighters (F-100/F-101 etc) under this emphasis on SAC now had two roles:
Defend against enemy bombers as interceptors. (Air Defence Command / ADC) Low level delivery of tactical Nukes. (Tactical Air Forces / TAF) Apparently, Korea never happened because by the late 1950s bombing a target in a fighter within 750ft was more then good enough (with a Nuclear weapon) so not only conventional Air to Air training went out the window but also conventional bombing!
One Air Force general noted about this period, General (Curtiss) LeMay had deliberately loaded the Air Staff with bomber guys, who were not well acquainted with things like air superiority or air-to-air combat, and who wanted to destroy enemy aircraft on their airfields. In 1957, LeMay actually tried to eliminate the TAF, but the possibility of the Army developing its tactical air support arm overrode this idea, and later that year LeMay reluctantly gave the TAF more funds to keep its mission from being turned over to the Army.
Who needs fighters anyway? - the B-36 Peacemaker takes its toddler son for a walk in 1948 (USAF)
Some of this thinking was perhaps driving the US Navy with their F4 program in the 1950s. The USN had a requirement to intercept Soviet bombers attacking the fleet above 50,000ft out of the range of gun armed fighters and thus from 1956 the AIM-7 Sparrow III was to be the primary weapon with a gun as secondary. By 1957 however the gun was deleted from the design because the new AIM-9 Sidewinder was to be the secondary weapon.
The USAF took on the F-4 as part of Defense Secretary Robert McNamara’s drive to get the services to use standard equipment with commonality. He was also interested in the conventional side of things and saw both the A-G potential as well as the A-A potential and thus the USAF received the F-4C (originally designated F-110A).
(Note: yes this was potentially one of the few things McNamara did that wasn’t a complete catastrophe!)
Of course, the F-4 wasn’t the only aircraft of its time without an internal gun (another reason seen given is that pilots would never have closed to gun range to take down a bomber carrying Nukes.)
Some other Interceptors of the era born with no internal Gun:
F-102 Delta Dagger F-106 Delta Dart (Some later got a gun under project Six Shooter from around 1969) Su-9/11 Fishpot Tu-128 Fiddler Su-15 Flagon MiG-25 Foxbat Some Interceptors that had the gun removed:
Lightning Fmk3 CF-104 Starfighter (Early) A gun was later incorporated MiG-17PFU Fresco MiG-19PM Farmer MiG-21PF/PFV/PFS/PFM/FL (PFV and PFM used by the VPAF in Vietnam along with the gun armed F-13 and MF)
F-102A Delta Dagger interceptors (USAF)
Getting a gun on the F-4E
McDonnell first proposed an internal gun for the F-4 in 1961 however it wasn’t until a potential limited war in Vietnam looked likely in 1963 that this was taken more seriously by the military for Ground Attack / strafing. By 1965 combat experience determined that a gun was a requirement and it was trialed in the F-4, and thus the F-4E was born with a nose job and new APQ-120 Radar:
This shows the 22 modules (Line Replaceable Units / LRUs) required for the APQ-120 radar
Adding the gun solved all the problems yes?
The original gun muzzle caused a few problems. Firstly gas ingestion into the engine inlets caused engine flameouts and secondly it made a loud whistling noise that apparently notified the enemy troops (and their Dogs presumably ) long before the F-4 got there. The muzzle had to be redesigned and the later F-4Es have a longer gun muzzle under the nose.
Also not shown in the diagram above, the gun assembly and ammo drum took up a lot of space in the nose and the dish/antenna size was reduced.
The Westinghouse APQ-120 was an early ‘Solid State’ radar (derived from the APQ-109) and being Solid State must have helped in reducing the obvious vibration issue when you have a massive Gatling gun sitting next to 1960s electronics! Despite this it still exceeded the reliability requirements and was similar in that regards to the F-4D radar that had no gun in the nose.
Ex F-4 flyer Walt BJ stated that the APQ-120 in the F-4E had about 20-25% less range over the APQ-109 in the F-4D.
Didn’t the F-4E just wipe the floor now it had a gun?
During Operation Linebacker I & II (1972/73):
The USAF F-4E had 22 claims in 25 (known) engagements including 7 gun kills The USAF F-4D had 27 claims in 30 (known) engagements with no gun kills So firstly, if you add an internal gun but still don’t train anyone to use it then despite any figures nothing really changes. Secondly the missiles and radars had improved since 1965 regarding close in capability and so the Gun was starting to look very secondary by now.
Considering the extra effort required for guns in skill, fuel, risk of collision, and making themselves more vulnerable, a missile would be the priority weapon regardless of the USAF training issues.
What about the gun pods?
Stop gap measures meant some squads using the 20mm SUU-16 and SUU-23 Gatling gun pods on the F-4C and D respectively – however despite some success these were somewhat inaccurate and the extra drag had a noticeable effect on range.
Looking happy to be here - SUU-23 Gun pod on the center line station of an F-4 (Clive Camm)
Some championed the Gun pod such as Korean war ace Col Frederik “Boots” Blesse after it became a useful strafing tool for South Vietnam sorties.
USAF Col Robin Olds was a tad less enthusiastic:
The gun pod wasn’t so much a speed penalty as an object of increased drag and fuel consumption. But that wasn’t my objection to the gun pod, I refused to carry it for 3 basic reasons;
It took the place of five or six 750 lb bombs. Only my older and more experienced fighter pilots had ever been trained in aerial gunnery, to say nothing of air-to-air fighting. There were perhaps a dozen of them in the 8th TFW. I had no intention of giving any of my young pilots the temptation to go charging off to engage MiG-17s with a gun. They would have been eaten alive. Instead they fought MiGs the way I taught them and did so with notable success. The US Navy briefly trialed the 20mm MK4 (GAU-4) Gatling gun pod but this was determined to be useless in operation with technical difficulties and also meant the preferred configuration of center line drop tank only could not be carried.
The not so successful MK4 (GAU-4) gun pod at China Lake (Dave Woolsey)
Did the Navy not want an internal or any gun?
For the primary purpose of fleet air defense, ‘missiles only’ it seems was deemed adequate. When in combat over Vietnam some Navy pilots wanted it and others didn’t. The gun pod was not persevered with and even an offer of free SUU-16/23 pods from the USAF was turned down on one occasion.
We can deduce that if you reshaped the F-4J nose like the F-4E then you also have to reduce the radar dish size and forfeit range which might not be the best idea regarding fleet defense.
Simply plonking in the APQ-120 with less range and no useful lookdown/shootdown capability was probably not going to win USN favour. Even spending the money on a modified APG-59/AWG-10 still gets you reduced range at the end of it.
The APG-59/AWG-10 in the F-4J had some good lookdown techniques (for its time) and was considered superior. However even without the gun the F-4B/J Phantom avionics suffered from heavy carrier landings:
I had a USN F4J pilot in my back seat one night gunship escort mission (can't for the life of me remember why) and he marvelled at the radar pickup. I asked him why he thought it was so good when he was flying the J model. He told me after about 4 'standard' carrier landings the radar wasn't so hot anymore. (Walt BJ)
So, what did the Pilots say about Guns, Training, and Back Seat Drivers
During the Vietnam conflict a Secret project (Red Baron) took place which compiled every A-A engagement fought. As part of that the aircrews were interviewed where available, giving quite a mixed view.
3 April 1965 F-4B USN front seat pilot (with 1000 hours)
There is a need for a close in weapon as a backup on any mission……………….Guns would also be useful as an air-ground weapon (stopping a truck convoy, for example)
10 July 1965 USAF F-4C front seat pilot
Gun not necessary; it will get people into trouble. Would like capability to fire all missiles on the F-4 with Centreline Tank on. Less minimum range for missiles instead of guns…….Because lack of ACT at time of event, did not know how to manoeuvre the F-4 as well as he could later after some experience.
6 Oct 1965 USN F-4B front seat pilot
Fighter needs guns or short range missile……………..Turning and acceleration rate of MiG-17 was impressive. The MiG leader was aggressive and a good fighter pilot.
23 April 1966 USAF F-4C front seat pilot
Improve the performance of the AAM and the gun will not be needed…………Training safety restrictions severely limited air-combat-tactics training prior to deployment to the combat area.
23 April 1966 USAF F-4C front seat pilot
The need for a F-4 gun is overstated, although it would be of value if it could be obtained without hurting current radar and other system performance. If you are in a position to fire guns, you have made some mistake. Why after a mistake would a gun solve all problems. Also having a gun would require proficiency at firing, extra training etc. Have enough problems staying proficient in current systems. If the F-4 had guns, we would have lost a lot more, since once a gun dual starts the F-4 is at a disadvantage against the MiG.
23 April 1966 USAF F-4C front seat pilot
Felt that he had very poor air-combat-tactics background. Prior background was bomber and other multi-engine. Transition to F-4 oriented toward upgrading a qualified fighter pilot rather than training a pilot with no fighter background.
25 April 1966 USAF F-4C back seat pilot
Gun is not particularly desirable, if the performance of the aircraft is degraded by an external installation. Also, one might make the mistake of getting into a turning battle if a gun was available
25 April 1966 USAF F-4C back seat pilot
Capability of the F-4 is being wasted by having a pilot in the back seat. The pilot is not adequately trained as a radar observer. Need a radar expert in the back seat. The pilot back seaters main goal is to be upgraded to the front seat rather than master the radar.
26 April 1966 USAF F-4C front pilot
It is a fallacy to say that you can bring the F-4C home and land it solely from the back seat. You’ve got to blow the gear down and then there is no antiskid system; there is no drag chute handle; there is no fuel gauges or switches; you may be limited to using internal fuel; you can’t dump fuel or jettison tanks.
A gun would be nice in an F-4C as long as it was clearly understood it was only a weapon of last resort. Soviet fighters are more capable than US aircraft inside gun range.
29 April 1966 USAF F-4C back seat pilot
It was not necessary to have a pilot in the back seat of the F-4 except during night A-G missions when a pilot may more capably advise the aircraft commander. Actually, a radar officer would be more interested in the back-seat operation than a pilot would be.
29 April 1966 USAF F-4C front seat pilot
It would be undesirable and possibly fatal for an F-4 to use a gun in fighting with a MiG because the MiG is built to fight with guns and the F-4 is not.
30 April 1966 USAF F-4C front seat pilot
Training was not really adequate for this engagement, didn’t know what the back should do in a hassle such as this.
14 June 1966 USN front seat pilot
Guns would be most useful for the ResCAP role but not particularly valuable in the air to air role.
An F-4B from VF-111 Sundowners giving it some - just because (USN)
The F-4 Phantom II Dogfighter?
As we know the F-4 was not particularly the most agile fighter in theatre and turning at a slower speed was a bit of a problem. However, US fighters had seldom been the best turners in previous conflicts such as WWII (think F-6F Hellcat V Zero) ……power and speed could make up for it and were often better attributes to have.
In 1966 the US Navy flew “Project Plan” flying the F-4B against a series of fighters to determine how good it was in an Air Superiority role. It concluded that contrary to what F-4 pilots thought the F-4 was the best air to air fighter in the world (including the F-8), if the F-4 stayed fast.
To fly the F-4 however in BFM/ACM you needed to have training and a lot of experience (like most jets of this era). One particular characteristic of the hard-winged F-4 was “Adverse Yaw” at slower speeds where the pilot had to make the turn using rudder pedals instead of the stick. If the stick was used the chances of departing were very high – somewhat fatal in combat. Now stick a pilot in the cockpit with little training and you can see that in the heat of battle adverse yaw becomes quite serious (not just A-A but avoiding SAMs etc). Of course, pilots just simply avoided going anywhere near adverse yaw if they could however that meant they could never max perform the jet if they needed to in every situation.
Adverse Yaw was all but eliminated by adding leading edge slats to the F-4E with the 556 "Rivet Haste" Mod late 1972. Too late to have any real relevance for Vietnam though.
In Part 2 we look at the very different training aspects of the USN/USAF/VPAF, the F-105 / F-8 paradox and the myth / legend of Colonel Tomb.
View File F-101 Voodoo Escort Fighter, as it was meant to be.
F-101 Voodoo Escort Fighter, as it was meant to be.
Before the F-101 Voodoo suffered from 'mission creep and bloat' turning it into a (failed) nuclear strike fighter it was meant to purely be an escort fighter to protect Strategic Air Command's bombers. Before the name change to F-101 it was designated the F-88K Voodoo. Those original F-88K specifications made no mention of any air-to-ground role ("not a pound for air-to-ground!") and included an armament of three AIM-4 Falcon air-to-air missiles employed by the MA-7 fire control system with APG-37 air-to air-radar, full 7.3 G capability and K-19 gunsight (as on the F-105).
F-101A Voodoo Escort Fighter:
- Full 7.33 G.
- Reduced the effect/ impact of the stall/ spin when you pull up suddenly in the FM.
- MA-7 FCS with AN/APG-37 Radar, 30nm range.
- LABS/ bombing control system removed from cockpit and replaced with MA-7/ Missile control system.
- K-19 Gunsight system (as on F-105).
- 3x Semi-recessed AIM-4 Falcon Missile stations.
- “Not a pound for air-to-ground!”
- 1957 Service entry.
F-101C Voodoo Escort Fighter:
- As above plus:
- Upgraded Pratt & Whitney J57-P-413 engines delivering 11,628 lb dry and 17,100 lb afterburning.
- Upgraded AN/APG-125 Radar, 60nm range
- (X)AIM-4H Falcon missiles with proximity fuse and enhanced manoeuvrability (1971).
- 1966 Service entry.
The stock TW AIM-4D Falcon has had its performance data dumbed down in order (I presume) to represent its poor performance when used by the F-4D Phantom in the game. However the reason the Falcon missile performed so badly when used by the F-4D was more to do with it being used outside its engagement parameters and the complex/ lengthy manual firing process the F-4D could only used. When used as designed by the fire control computer (FCS) of the F-102A/ F-106A and fired within its parameters (the FCS assisted the pilot with this) the Falcon was as effective as any other missile system of the era. In fact the IR seeker of the AIM-4D/ AIM-4G was the best on any IR missile until the AIM-9L was developed. As such I have corrected the data for all the Falcon missiles.
F-4E (75) SAC SIOP skin for ravenclaw_007’s USAF F-4E (75)
1, Install the F-101 Mega Pack Version 2.0 https://combatace.com/files/file/12117-f-101-mega-pack-version-20/
2, Install the F-4E USAF pack vers.1.2 https://combatace.com/files/file/13932-f-4e-usaf-pack/
3, Unpack this mod and drop the objects folder into you SF2 mods folder.
Enrico "ErikGen" Gennari
Submitter dtmdragon Submitted 03/30/2018 Category What If Hangar