“Bloodhound 101, LA Center, switch Beaver control 354.5”
I dialed the manual frequency in the UHF radio.
“Beaver Control, Bloodhound 101 flight of four Phantoms checking in for your control.”
“Roger Bloodhound, squawk 1001, have your section leader squawk 1002. Say tactical call sign.”
I reached down and twisted in the numbers to our IFF/beacon, it would allow the controller to separate us from other aircraft.
“Flight lead Shantini, section Mink.”
I pumped Minks section into combat spread by slapping the canopy palm out. Mink immediately snapped into a hard turn repositioning one mile abeam. We would be able to cover each others “Six” now. We had to, we were now in Indian Country. Icky and Scudder slid back to a loose tac-wing position so we could maneuver at will.
“Shantini Flight, music on.”
All four Phantoms switched on their onboard radar jammers. We had the latest and greatest from the jammer shop at Point Mugu.
“Beaver control, picture?”
“Beaver holds two groups of Bogeys; first group, 2 cappers, two zero zero, for 120 nautical miles, 25,000 feet. Second group of 2 capping one eight zero degrees for 100, 20,000 feet.”
“Commit group two.”
“Roger, Shantini snap one eight zero for Bogeys.”
The flight was now committed to the fighter cap 100 miles to our south. We had leveled our climb at 40,000 feet. It was time to convert some of that altitude into speed. I pushed the flight over and called for burner over the radio. We had been cruising at .9 Mach or 90% of the speed of sound. When we pushed over and went full burner we punched through the Sonic Barrier rapidly. I eased the throttles out of max burner to maintain our pre-briefed speed of 1.3 Mach.
“Bogeys are turning hot.”
Beaver was warning us they were turning toward our flight.
The transmission was a simple request for bearing, range and altitude of the Bogeys we were committed to.
“185, 80, 20,000.”
We pressed in adjusting the heading to 185, the J-79s were consuming 1000 pounds a minute now.
“Bandits, hostile, you are weapons free.”
We got the new distance and knew radar guided missiles would be in the air.
I broke hard to the right knifing to 90 degrees angle of bank and pulling 6 “g.s”. Mink broke left, both of us descending to get the Bogeys radar looking down. Once in our maneuver, we went full burner rolled wings level and pulled 6 “g.s” straight up. We went from 15,000 feet to 30,000 in a matter of seconds, then pulled back toward the Bandits. The maneuver we knew would trash the radar guided missiles and get us out of the Bandits radar scan.
I forced out over the strain of 6 g’s.
“030 at 7 miles, 20,000.”
I stuffed the nose and used the altitude to get my speed back.
“010 at 5 miles, 20,000.”
The controllers voice grew excited as we closed for the kill.
“Shit, I must be blind you got him Ray?”
I asked my back-seater over the intercom system ICS.
“11 O’clock low moving right to left.”
The transmission meant we had sight and didn’t need the controllers calls anymore.
At max range we got the rattle snake tone of Sidewinder acquisition. The heat seeking missile was a tail aspect weapon. I switched to our secondary radio which was tuned to shot common frequency as I pulled the trigger on the control stick.
It was the radio code word for a heat seeking missile launch.
“Clock is running.”
Ray called from the back seat.
We continued to close with a 200 knot advantage. In the heart of the envelope we called another shot.
“Fox two. Hornet; heading north, twenty K.”
This time the Hornet reacted breaking hard to the right; chaff and flares exploding out of his belly in a desperate attempt to break missile lock. He obviously did not have us in sight, because he broke the wrong way and sweetened up the shot. Too bad, so sad.
“Time out, shot one.”
Ray deadpanned from the rear cockpit.
“Fox two time out kill, F-18, 20,000 feet, turning through 0-9-0.”
“GUN-FIGHTER 112 YOU ARE KILL REMOVED, EGRESS FIGHT WEST.”
The God like voice transmitted over the shot common frequency.
“Where is his damn wingman?”
Ray replied calmly from the rear cockpit. I scanned in phase with the Hornet we had just killed.
I gasped as I yanked on 8 “g.s”.
The second F-18 was 10 degrees nose low in a high “g” turn to the left. He was almost 90 degrees off our heading showing pure plan-form.
“Shoot him Shantini.”
Ray grunted under the heavy “g”.
“I can’t he’s out of the heater envelope, I’m closing for a gun shot.”
We continued a descending turn, max burner at 8 “g,s”. His plan-form remained under the pipper of my gun sight, the world whirled in the back round but the gun sight picture remained unchanged.
“Why is this knucklehead arcing? Check our six for a third wingman Ray!”
“Six clear, shoot him before he gets a clue.”
It now only took 4 “g.s” to hold the piper on his aircraft. At 3,000 feet I eased the throttles out of burner and then to idle. I put the pipper on the F-18 where the wings met the fuselage, I was pulling a lot of lead pursuit.
“Pipper on, trigger down, tracking…….tracking…..”
Went over shot common.
The Hornet Driver finally saw us, he wrenched on a spiraling break turn nose low. We were already at 15 units angle of attack and pulled to 18 to keep the pipper on. With the angle of attack past 15 I could no longer use the stick to turn the aircraft with the ailerons. If I tried the F-4 would depart controlled flight, so I stomped the left rudder to roll with the Hornet. Our nose buried, I had to keep the piper on to achieve a kill because we were going to overshoot in close, big. If I didn’t get the kill he would reverse his turn and jump in my knickers as we blew by him. We would reverse positions. Plus, the Hornet was a far superior fighter it could out turn my old Phantom by a factor of two. I had most definitely sold the ranch to get the shot, if I gooned it we were toast! At 1500 feet I moved the pipper to his helmet. We continued to spiral nose low toward the ocean; like two eagles, claws locked, in a death fight.
Five seconds elapsed with our pipper on the flailing Hornet.
“Gun kill; F-18, left hand spiral, passing 15,000.”
We transmitted as we overshot his fight path in close, a mere 500 feet aft of the Hornet. An in close overshoot is the worst mistake a pilot can make in an aerial fight. Unless you get the kill.
“GUN FIGHTER 115 YOU ARE KILL REMOVED, EGRESS FIGHT WEST.”
Boomed over shot common.
“Shit that was close!”
Pointed strait down, I continued to roll south easing the pull to 4 “g.s” toward our ultimate target, smashing the throttles back to full burner I pushed the thumb transmit button on the right one.
“Icky, take combat spread.”
Our wingman had faithfully hung with us through the entire fight. He started to take position, 1 mile abeam, while we were still pointing strait down. By the time we pulled out at 5,000 feet he was in combat spread and we were super sonic again.
“Beaver, snap vector to mother.”
Mother was the aircraft carrier. It was the primary target for this mission and we intended to sink her.
“Mother bears one seven zero at 125 miles.”
I checked the flight ten degrees to the left steadied up 170 and continued to descend to 1,000 feet.
“BLUE BIRD, BLUE BIRD, BLUE BIRD.” Came over shot common.
“Shit the Aegis class cruiser is shooting at us! Hang on Ray!”………………………
Read more Naval Aviation and air combat exploits in the Aviators’s Series: