THE 456th FIGHTER INTERCEPTOR SQUADRON

T PROTECTORS OF  S. A. C.

 

 

The Cardinal Rules Of Combat Flying

 

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The pilots of the 469th Tactical Fighter Squadron learned from experience during the early years of the war (1965-66) several cardinal rules for surviving in combat. The F-105 was originally developed primarily for tactical nuclear weapons delivery and the pilots were heavily trained for this mission. However, the delivery of conventional weapons in Vietnam required the development of an entirely new set of tactics. Before the development of more sophisticated electronic countermeasures (ECM) and warning systems, F-105's flew into high threat areas with little or no onboard threat warning equipment. The following simple rules were developed from bitter lessons learned in combat.

  1. Never fly below 4500 feet above ground level (AGL) - in heavily defended areas pilots could expect heavy concentrations of small arms and automatic weapons below 4500'. Although targets were usually defended by medium caliber weapons (37/57mm) and/or large caliber weapons (85/100mm), the most significant threats were below 4500' AGL so pilots never flew that low under 'normal' combat conditions. One exception was when evading Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) tracking radars (Fan Song) - F-105's would change heading and altitude and in general turn into the missile and descend. A Fan Song radar would take up to 40 seconds to reacquire an aircraft after the lock was broken and thus give the F-105 enough time to exit the immediate high threat area.
  2. Never fly over an under cast in a known SAM threat area - the launch of an SA-2 Guideline SAM created a large dust and smoke cloud and F-105 pilots had a much better chance of evading the missile once they saw it. However, if flying over a under cast cloud layer, the pilot could not see the launch dust and smoke cloud. The SAM would emerge from the under cast layer traveling at speeds of up to Mach 3 with a minimal smoke trail making it much more difficult to evade.
  3. If receiving heavy ground fire, do not attempt a second pass at the target - unless a target was very lucrative, flight leaders never led their flights back to a target. The benefit of a second strike pass was not worth 4 aircraft and pilots.

These basic rules were developed during 1965 and were briefed to all incoming pilots before flying even an orientation flight. These rules were critical to combat survival and were later incorporated into the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing's tactics manual.

Source: 469th TFS oral history

 

 

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Last Updated

02/10/2014

 

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