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Flightline Friday: the incredible Thud January 23, 2015

Posted by Tantumblogo in Admin, awesomeness, Flightline Friday, fun, manhood, non squitur, silliness, Society.

I’ve read both of Ed Rasimus’ books about his two tours of duty in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.  He flew one tour in F-105s during Rolling Davis 30Thunder (April-September 1966), and another in F-4Es during Linebacker I and II (July 1972 – ? 1973).  It makes for more than slightly interesting reading, though I must admit I was dismayed to read that he succumbed to the same collapse in morals in his second tour that were afflicting the entire culture in that timeframe. Enough said.

I have long been enthralled of the Republic F-105 Thunderchief.  In Air Force circles, it is legend, for many reasons.  It was incredibly tough.  Thuds survived battle damage over North Vietnam that would have left a WWII B-17 crew shaking.  One reason it was so tough was because Republic GANGBUSTER XIhad always built very heavy, strong birds.  Even with water injection increasing takeoff thrust to nearly 27,000 lbs, a heavily loaded Thud in a hot and humid environment like Southeast Asia often needed over 10,000 ft to takeoff.

It was also very capable. I was surprised to learn that Rasimus found the F-105 NASARR R-14A radar far more capable than that in his F-4E (APQ-120), especially in ground attack and terrain avoidance modes.  The F-105 radar was one of the very first with a fair terrain following/avoidance capability.  He generally found the Thud to have better avionics, at least for ground attack, than the F-4E – and aircraft developed over 10 years later. Though, the F-4Es inertial navigation system and vastly improved bombing computer did allow some modes of attack that were unavailable in the Thud and which sometimes – when it worked – made bombing a point target a relative snap.foundit

But it was in the area of flight performance that I found his reminiscences most revealing. I had long read that the needle-like Thud was very fast down low. I have read reports of Thuds topping 800 kts (~930 mph) on the deck after they had dropped their ordinance and were “clean.”  In Rasimus second tour, his main duty especially during the incredibly intensive bombing of Linebacker II (which finally ended the war) was to escort “Wild Weasel” F-105s in attacking SAM sites.  They really nailed a few.  In Wild Weasel, specially equipped F-105Gs would use 6338753841_da86e2a7c7_zsensors to detect the presence and location of SAM sites, and operate in conjunction with F-4Es carrying cluster bombs as a hunter-killer team. The Wild Weasels would find the SAM sites and sometimes shoot a missile at them (which rarely worked, back then – all the North Vietnamese had to do was to turn off their SAM radar and the missile would lose lock and fall to the ground), but then they would call in the F-4s to drop their cluster bombs, which really did the trick. They absolutely pasted a few SAM sites.

Anyways, the Phantom did not lack for thrust.  With two J79-GE-10 turbojets making 17,900 lbst each, they actually had about half again as much thrust as the F-105.  But the 105 was much more aerodynamic.  It has been said of the Phantom that it is an object less that with enough thrust you can get even a brick to fly.  The Phantom was a very high drag aircraft and was especially so when carrying ordinance.  So on these SAM F-105_tail_damagesuppression missions, when the F-4s would be operating with the F-105s (generally a few thousand feet above and behind the Thuds), Rasimus often found he had to engage afterburner to keep up with the Thuds traipsing along at 600+ kts in military power.  That with two drop tanks and a couple of missiles hanging on the rails.  The Phantom, with ordinance, wanted to cruise at about 450 kts, while the Thud wanted to be at more like 550.  That makes a huge difference in a country that was wallpapered with not just SAMs, which were exciting but could be beaten, but also with every caliber of gun from pea shooters up to 100 mm radar guided cannon.  Even with radar guided AAA, it is pretty hard to hit an aircraft jinking and diving at over 600 kts, but at 450 hit probabilities go up tremendously.

700x391xKeith-Ferris-F-105s-strike-the-Paul-Doumer-Bridge-11-August-1967_jpg_pagespeed_ic_0_v2SeRD1dUnfortunately, due to incredibly stupid rules of engagement that literally had aircraft attacking the same often worthless target, coming in at the same time of day and from the same approach vectors, day after day, a lot of Thuds were lost.  In fact, over the course of the war, 395 of the 833 Thuds built were lost.  The Air Force wanted to build a lot more Thuds, they preferred the Thud to the Phantom for ground attack, but McNamara insisted all the services use the same fighter (which led to the F-111, and now, the F-35, debacles), and so F-105 production was terminated in 1961.  It’s a shame in some respects, because it is  likely a goodly number of aircrew would not have been lost had they been in F-105s rather than F-4s.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the Phantom and am not knocking it at all, it was an is a heckuva plane, but it wasn’t a Thud.

Rasimus' unit, 421st TFS, Korat RTAFB, 1966. Could be Raz himself, but unlikely

Rasimus’ unit, 421st TFS, Korat RTAFB, 1966. Could be Raz himself, but unlikely

There is a dirty joke in the tail codes.  SH means Sierra Hotel in the phonetic alphabet, but also means S--- Hot, a common expression used during Vietnam for a stellar performance.  I think this tail code was used at Takhli late in the war.  The wing is declaring their stellar qualities.

There is a dirty joke in the tail codes. SH means Sierra Hotel in the phonetic alphabet, but also means S— Hot, a common expression used during Vietnam for a stellar performance. I think this tail code was used at Takhli late in the war. The wing is declaring their stellar qualities.

My man Karl Richter. This is his statue at the Air Force Academy.  He deserves it.

My man Karl Richter. This is his statue at the Air Force Academy. He deserves it.

Why not some more Richter photos. He deserves it, Mr. 200+ missions:



Alright, there might be a bit of a man crush going on.  But Richter was a hoss.


1. virtuouscitizenship - January 23, 2015

Some research please: and perhaps this cannot be answered, eg like “would Clay beat Marciano?” – It seems to me more B17s returned with more and more deadly damage than did the Thuds. My Dad, finished his 25 missions, was there on DDay bombing the beaches before the landings, B17 bombardier/navigator[have his B17 yoke hub here on my desk] went on and finished 35 missions til they finally told “Lucky Mac” to go home-some photos I have seen of B17s I see no way a Thud could have survived with such damages. Perhaps this is why one is called a “Thud” but one is known as the “Flying Fortress”. Guy McClung, San Antonio [ps the answer is Clay]

Tantumblogo - January 26, 2015

I just said it would have left the crew shaking. I’d be willing to hazard that a B-17 losing a quarter of its wing would have left the crew a little bit more than nonplussed. I didn’t say the Thud could absorb more damage, because it couldn’t. But the comparison is apples to oranges. One reason B-17s came back with literally the entire tail nearly shot off, or with a quarter of the wing gone, was because there were very large areas of the aircraft where nothing particularly vital was located. The planes were just much more simple and easy to fly. Also, a bomber tends to have a lot more redundancy built in than a fighter. In a modern fighter, however, literally every cubic centimeter of the bird is crammed with equipment, fuel tanks, hydraulic lines, etc., and a hit almost anywhere is almost guaranteed to hit something vital. That shot above of the engine damage involved the loss of the afterburner and quite likely a turbine stage. That’s the equivalent of a B-17 having two engines shot out. So it’s not really a fair comparison, the photos of damaged B-17s certainly look more gruesome, and the damage to actual airframe was often way more severe, but they didn’t damage enough of the aircraft to make it unflyable. That was the amazing thing about the Thud, it would get hit in vital areas and continue flying. B-17s did, too, but they were not single-engine.

Like I said, apples to oranges, and I mean no disrespect at all to the WWII crews who exhibited extraordinary bravery on a daily basis. I just thought it was sort of a funny thing to say.

2. steve - January 24, 2015

virtuouscitizenship…”ps the answer is Clay”

Are you familiar with the 1969 A.D. exhibition match between Rocky and Ali that was filmed just prior to Rocky’s death?

Even though it had been 14 years following Rocky’s final fight, Ali acknowledged that Rocky, who, of course, pulled his punches, sometimes slipped and hit Ali’s arms with thunderous punches.

Rocky punches still produced thuds…he was a Thunderchief…but with arms, rather than wings.

3. steve - January 24, 2015


You may be interested in the following:

In regard to your mention of Marciano and Clay, here is a 1966 A.D. Australian TV sports show interview with Rocky.

Beginning at the 1:09 mark, Rocky offers some opinions about Ali.


4. Camper - January 25, 2015

Do you really need to say man crush?? Please!

steve - January 25, 2015


5. David - January 26, 2015

The F105 was definitely a good plane. A few of the astronauts (Bobko for one) were assigned to F105 squadrons in the early 1960s. I think Colonel Herres (later General) commanded some F105s in Thailand after he left the MOL program (it was cancelled). Greg Nuebeck might have flown these too.

Sorry to see Republic go. They were a contender for the F-15, which went to McDonnell Douglas.

Nice to know another engineer who likes aviation.

Tantumblogo - January 26, 2015

You bet! I hope to move off my Thud-Vietnam kick and onto another topic this week. But what can I say, that’s my favorite era of aviation. Great Rocky Marciano video! Thanks Steve!

Tantumblogo - January 26, 2015

Oh, and sounds like you and I share another interest. MOL, USAF space program, early astronauts, NASA glory days, etc?

6. steve - January 26, 2015

Tantumblogo…”Great Rocky Marciano video!”

It is amazing as to what has been preserved on video. A video treasure from a time (mid-1960s) that I recall vividly.

Times change. Public figures come and go. But at that time, Rocky Marciano was a public sports figure who enjoyed remarkable popularity with a great many Americans.

Just a few minutes ago as I read some online news stories, I had found the following:

Speaking of Rocky Marciano…

Boston Globe…

New movie planned on life of Rocky Marciano

“A movie about an iconic heavyweight boxing champion named Rocky is in the works.

“Recently, the Marciano family signed with City of Peace Films, based in Tennessee, and director Dustin Marcellino, to bring Rocky’s story to the silver screen.

“My father is still counted as one of the greatest heavyweight fighters of all time and if he were alive today, he would be proud that we are working to bring the true story of his life to the big screen,” said his son, Rocky Marciano Jr., in a statement from City of Peace Films.”

Requiescat in pace, Rocky Marciano.


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