Friday, September 16, 2011

Air & Space Magazine 2009-05

IN 1971, THE U.S. AIR FORCE offered a checkout in the McDonnell F-4 to Republic F-105 drivers who had completed a 100-mission combat tour and were willing to volunteer for a second tour. I dearly loved the Thud, but with its numbers dwindling due to combat losses, its future was bleak. I checked out in the F-4 at Homestead Air Force Base in Florida and in June arrived at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand. The usual mission of the 13th Tactical Fighter Squadron was two-ship bombing flights under forward air control in Laos and an occasional reconnaissance escort into southern North Vietnam. By protecting the recon guys from MiGs, aircrews felt they were really doing something productive and, according to the rules of engagement, if the recce airplanes were fired at, we could drop bombs. In 1972, combat missions grew more challenging. More reconnaissance escorts were dropping bombs and more F-4s were sent on multiple-flight missions against specific North Vietnam targets. On April 15, the air tasking order for the next day called for 20 airplanes to fly MiG patrol in the Hanoi area for bombing flights taking off from other F-4 and F-105 bases. The gloves were coming off.