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'Red Star' F-109A Wildcats

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Grumman F-109A Wildcat - VC-7, United States Navy, 'Red Star' Fighter Weapons School, 1966

During the first USN Carrier Deployments to the Gulf of Tonkin during 1963 and 1964, the USN top brass were appalled by the results of its F-4 and F-8 fighter aircraft during their initial engagements with the Vietnam Peoples Air Force. Whilst the F-8 was a competent enough dog-fighter the handful of F-8 kills were scored with the AIM-9 Sidewinder missile mainly due to the 20mm Colt cannons jamming during high-G manoeuvers. USN F-4's were far less agile than the F-8's and were also handicapped by the official 'Rules of Engagement' requiring visual identification of enemy aircraft before firing the beyond visual range radar-guided AIM-7E Sparrow missiles.

Whilst an urgent study into rectifying the situation was launched a senior Royal Navy pilot, Lt Commander Dick Lord, whilst on secondment to the USN's VF-126 squadron at Naval Air Station Miramar, California introduced the USN to methods and tactics he had learned as a graduate of the Royal Navy's intense Air Warfare Instructors School in Lossiemouth, Scotland. First and foremost was structured air-to-air combat manoeuvring training using, wherever possible, dissimilar aircraft and with 'red' aircrew purposefully flying the mission in the style of the enemy. With limited funding, the United States Navy 'Red Star' Fighter Tactics Instructor Program was launched to teach ACM tactics and techniques to selected Naval Aviators and Naval flight officers who would, in theory, return to their operating units as surrogate instructors. 'Red Star' initially used USN A-4 Skyhawks and borrowed USAF T-38 Talons to simulate the flying characteristics of the MiG-17 and MiG-21 and in early 1966 received eight Hindustan Ajeet aircraft directly from Hindustan's Bangalore production line. Entering service as the F-109A Wildcat, the Ajeet's were supported and maintained in USN service by the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation. In service, the Wildcat's were flown by instructors pilots whose objective was to develop, refine and teach ACM tactics and techniques using the concept of dissimilar air combat training with the Wildcat pilot's replicating the performance of the Russian-built transonic MiG-17 'Fresco'. The eight F-109A's operated as part of VC-7 based at Naval Air Station Miramar from 1966 to 1980 and it's five surviving Wildcat's were scrapped when the squadron was disbanded on September 30th,1980.

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