In reply to LWF questions as to tactics, ordnance, best aircraft etc. I offer my humble reply.
GENERAL ASSUMPTIONS: Besides the weather and ROE everything associated with a strike depended on the delivery platform and its state of the art capabilities and survival in a particular threat area. THis could range from the old iron sights in the A-37, which was a reticle image on a plate of glass controlled by either a sliding lever gauge of thumb screw for the proper MIL settings, to the Lead Computing Optical Sights (LCOS) in the Double Ugly that would consider G loading and other delivery factors.
GOVERNING FACTORS: Weather was always the big one and operating in and around Thunderstorms or low hanging ceilings or broken cloud covers was the norm. Early morning missions would usually go into areas of heavy mist or ground fog, sometimes very thick, and you could see the shock waves of the bombs rapidly spreading away from the impact areas. Mid morning to early afternoon was usually pretty fair bombing weather but late afternoon was marginal a lot of the times. During Monsoon season delivieries were usually Aerial Sky Spot (we called them Sky Puke) from high altitude and were more a nusiance to the enemy then threat. Then there was the ROE, i.e., how close to friendlies, religious shrines, the borders, restricted areas (such as the Michelin rubber plantation) in South Vietnam or the boats in either the Hanoa or Haiphong harbors and dykes in the north.
ROE: THis was the general Bitch, especially in the North, where the restrictions were so great that it was a real job just to survive. Most of te targets were hand picked back in Washington against a criteria of measured response with little consideration of reducing the enemies capabilities to fight the war. Case in point would be the restriction against the Wild Weasels to hit the SAM sites under construction for fear of hitting Russian engineers. Instead we had to wait until they were operational and had shot down several of our wingmen before going after them. In the south we had much more latitude working with the Forward Air Controllers (FACs) who placed BYA every day to find us good targets instead of just mud moving.
ORDNANCE: On the most part the ordnance used was from the WWII and Korea era i.e., dumb bombs, napham, and 2.75 rockets. We also carried cannisters of CBU's but depending on the capabilities (and track record) of the delivery aircraft their use was at times restricted to area targets. The same holds true for the North and the trails between Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia with the primary weapons there being dumb 500 (Mark 82), and 750 pounders (Mark 117s). Some heavier dumb bombs were used in the North as BUSCH pointed out but the 82s and 117s were pretty much the standard load unless a special mission load was requested. We didn't have any guided munition until late in the conflict (72-73) when the ZOT and LORAN bombers came into play and had a marked improvement over the dumb trash we were throwing around SEA (but still a far cry from what is out there today).
TACTICS: These were as wide and varied as could be dreamed up by the mission commanders. In the North it was usually "One Pass, Haul A$$" avoiding as much or the enemy threat of SAMS, Triple A, and small arms as you possibly could in the minimum time possible. In the South the tactic was usually a "Wagon Wheel" delivery with random run-ins so the FAC could keep track keep track of the strike force and could correct the ordnance deilvery in a more leisurely fashion. If the threat was high the Wagon Wheel would use higher release altitudes for the bigger and more vulnerable aircraft with reduced kill capabilities. With Nap you had to skip it in for max results so it was a low angle, high vulnerability pass. CBU were primarily an area suppression weapon that kept the gomers heads down as were the 2.75 rockets. Additionally in the South the general targeting was either against a planned target (mud moving and useless), a real time target where the FACS spotted the bad guys or their activties and got clearance from the Corp Commanders to hit (pretty good targets), or TICs (Troops in Contact) where our guys were in a whole S$$t load of trouble and needed immediate help (the best). THe last two types were usually hit from birds on the alert pad or from aircraft diverted from Mud Moving targets.
BEST AIRCRAFT: Boy this is really a pandora's box and generates heated battles for those who really love their particular bird. I had the privilege of flying the Super Tweet, the Hun, and the Double Ugly in the CAS role so in my case it was the good, the bad and the ugly against the mission tasked. So let's keep it simple The bigger the aircraft the more vulnerable it becomes to the threat. Especially if carrying nap or high drags were you got to get down amongest them especially in the F-4 where I got hit by small arms more times then I care to remember. Add to that the god awful smoke trail the thing left visiable from 20 miles away made you a target with a projected flight path all around the target area (several stories here). So the F-4, 105, 100, and Navy A-6 were fairly ripe targets with the 4 topping the list. THe A-4, 37, and Sluf (A-7) had better luck with their smaller profile, greater loads, better CEA's, longer ranges, and better loiter times. But these assumptions are open to a hold lot of counter claims that are justified.
OK, I shall tell all that the A-7D was prolly best overall mudbeater, but in bad weather I would take the A-37 anyday. A-1 was super, and carried more ord, stayed longer, etc. OTOH, it took a long time to get there and was much easier for the gomers to hit.
The A-37 was superb in low ceilings. My mission to the Citadel at Hue during '68 Tet was only possible because the Huns ahead of us could maneuver well enough under the low clouds. One day that month the 7th AF cancelled our frag and directed us to some small valley up in II Corps to help some grunts. Clouds were low and only we and the A-1 Spads outta Pleiku could be of any help.
The SLUF could hit as well as the A-37, and it could do so going almost twice as fast and from three times higher. Honest, that computed system was only surpassed by the F-16 about 15 years later. SLUF also could carry as many eggs as the B-17!!! How about 12 x 500 pounders and not need refueling to go 300 miles out and back? plus hold for half an hour in the tgt area.
More later, as still more T-day chores.
Viper pilot '79
"God in your guts, good men at your back, wings that stay on - and Tally Ho!"
Slightly OT, but what was the root cause of the Rhino's smoking problem? I know it was bad, the ANG base near my home had F-4s while I was growing up. Just an inherent problem with the engine design? Or a tradeoff of smokeless vs extra thrust? And jets like the Viper have hardly any smoke out the pipe, is that because of higher temperature alloys in the engine, or just better engineering?
Also, how did the A-37 and A-7's exhaust compare to the F-4?
Last edited by Guysmiley on 23 Nov 2005, 00:43, edited 1 time in total.
I'm a stick and not an engineer but I think it was the JP-4 we used combined with the fuel feed system. The Navy used JP-5 and I don't think put out as pointy a finger as we did. And the mod's were just to costly to convert our birds but you really need to talk to an engineer on this one.
The Sky puke was a GCI type of delivery Where a ground station gives you an altitude to fly and then gives you headings, and changes to same, during the delivery run. So you fly straight and level with the armament set to ripple, adjusting your heading as directed and pickle when told to do so. You really felt like a BUF without the capability to get up and walk around. And never got any BDA.
The Sky Puke was a ground-directed release using SAC's MSQ-xxx radar. Previously used to 'score' buff drops. Someone figured out they could use it backwards and tell us when to pickle.
Not real accurate. Neither was the LORAN.
BTW, it was the MSQ and its operators on top of LS 85 that had everyone all upset when the gomers overran the place in early 1968. You wsee, "we had no ground personnel in Laos", don'tchya see. Of course, the electronics in that thing were also very sensitive. So some Thuds used Bullpups to blow it sky high.
Dragonfly never carried LGB's, but I guess we could have.
I believe that the fuel injectors were the problem with the Double Ugly. Later versions that USMC flew didn't smoke. A-37 and A-7D didn't smoke.
Back to CAS
some cardinal rules were:
1) Drop parallel to friendly lines when at all possible. If not possible, drop over their heads heading away from them.
2) Be damned sure you have the target or smoke. Worst feeling in the world was when the FAC would say, "O.K. everybody hold high and dry, acknowledge!" Or walking in the ops desk and having the clerk advise you to call some Army unit.
3) Always drop. Only confirmed loss we had from ground fire the year I was there was when lead didn't drop and the gomers lined up on number two and blew him away. He's still MIA, best I can find out.
Reason being that it took awhile to clear your ears and get your vision back after the nape rolled over or a bomb hit really close.
4) Don't follow guy in front too closely, as you can pick up frags or even parts of trees!! I know this from personal experience, and the crewchief was really peeoohhed.
5) If possible try to have other guy come in from a different direction, but not 180 out, as this makes gomer acquisition easier.
6) Drop a bomb first, then nape or CBU.
7) Don't waste much time seeing where you hit until well into the pull off.
Stay as high as possible until FAC puts in smoke. Keep Charlie from seeing you until it's too late, huh?
9) Flares are good at night if you are dropping real low. Otherwise, they help the gomers see you, and going in and out of the "fishbowl" is very disorienting.
Viper pilot '79
"God in your guts, good men at your back, wings that stay on - and Tally Ho!"
Thanks for the updates there! That's what I had thought, as I had never seen pics of a Dragonfly loaded with Paveways. So did you not perform laser designation either? Seems like the A-37 and its superb loiter time could've made a great designator jet for the Rhinos...you know, when it wasn't busy naping Charlie!
Beers and MiGs were made to be pounded!
"He counted on America to be passive...He counted wrong." -- President Ronald Reagan