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Premature Flightline Friday: two great videos August 6, 2015

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Flightline Friday, foolishness, fun, Glory, history, non squitur, silliness, Society, technology.

Something for both the Brits and Americans today, two great videos, one featuring the mighty Avro Vulcan B.2, mainstay of the RAF Bomber Command for years, the other, a very educational video on the first strike package launched against a Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) site in the history of aerial warfare.

First up, a good high definition video of what I believe is the only flying Vulcan left in the world at the Royal International Air Tattoo 2015.  Unfortunately, it seems the Vulcan will soon have flown for the last time, since the aircraft will be grounded after this airshow season.  There are fears the aircraft could crash and the display team burns through almost $10 million per airshow season to keep it airborne.  Also, the British regulatory agencies seem to want the bird out of the air.

So, this is one of the last times a truly remarkable aircraft will ever take to the skies:

The Brits have built some of the world’s ugliest aircraft over the years.  The Vulcan is absolutely not one of them.  That wing is a tour de force.  And to think it was designed, without computers, back in the mid-50s!  It allowed the Vulcan to fly very high, fast, and far.  Avro knew what they were about.

The other video is very different, but is one to be greatly appreciated.  Produced by a man who flew the mission himself involved himself, just over 50 years ago (Col. Victor Vizcarra, USAF, Ret.),  the flight consists of a CGI re-creation of the events of the mission.  I believe it is narrated by Col. Vizcarra himself. It is. He goes into great detail, discussing the reason for the missions, force constitution, startup, mission aborts, hitting the tanker, and then a flight-by-flight (each flight consisting of 4 aircraft in the strike force) overview of the conduct of the mission.  It’s really well done and makes clear the dangers and difficulties of this kind of mission.  I think any River Rat would be proud:

Notice @12:00 the narrator says the pilots had to descend below their planned 100 ft altitude!  BELOW 100 ft!  Thank goodness the Red River Valley was about tennis court flat.

Notice this mission was flown before the mass application of camouflage starting in summer 1965.

Really nice bit @12:30-13:00.

Is that real mission audio in the video, or a recreation?  It’s recreation.

This is just really fantastic history on the F-105 Thunderchief (Thud) and its role in the early air war.  This is just great.

There probably hasn’t been an American aircraft before or since that could go as fast down low as the Thud.  Thud pilots have written many times how they could maintain 550 kts or more with a full load without afterburner while Phantoms would be maxed out at 450 kts or less.  That’s a major unknown fact of modern aerial warfare, fast jets with “official” top speeds in excess of Mach 2 are often surprisingly slow once a bunch of tanks and ordinance are hung all over the aircraft.  The extra drag and weight just kills their performance.  I have read that in some scenarios an A-10 with a 6-8,000 lb load can cruise at higher speed than an F-16 with a similar load.  And an A-10 can only cruise at about 300 kts!

The Thud was a dedicated strike plane (it probably should have had an A-designation instead of F-, but attack pilot isn’t as sexy as fighter pilot) and was quite aerodynamically efficient even when carrying a heavy load.  Once tanks, pylons, and ordinance were dropped, however, the Thud could absolutely scream at low altitude.  I just read in a Squadron/Signal book on the Thud a quote from a Thud pilot that said he exceeded 900 kts at under 1000 ft in full burner one time.  That’s well over 1000 mph, I’m a bit dubious of that, but I do know the Thud could hit 800+ mph on the deck routinely.  There haven’t been many birds before or since that could do that (speaking of birds, a birdstrike at that speed would be catastrophic, to say the least).

Of course, the Thud was made by Republic, not favored by McNamara, and he wanted all the services to use one aircraft, which wound up being the McDonnell Phantom II.  A great a/c in many respects in its own right, but I wonder if some lives would not have been saved if USAF could have built the 2500 Thuds it originally planned.  The Thud is generally recognized as being able to take significantly more damage than a Phantom and still RTB, or at least get the pilot somewhere over more friendly territory.

My hat’s off to Victor Vizcarra and John McKay for making this video.  It’s a real achievement.

They say the wrong tactics are used. What should have been done differently?  No low level sprint?  I think using napalm on SAM sites is just about crazy.  I’d say Snakeyes would be a lot better.

Boy that story of Pepper 1 and 2 stinks.

Ouch that summation hurts.  The North Vietnamese loved doing stuff like that.  In fact, they were brilliant at it.  They knew exactly how to punch the US command echelon’s buttons and how to manipulate events to their favor.  A for instance:  Along the Northeast Railroad that ran from China down to Hanoi, there was an old abandoned and destroyed train engine.  That engine had been bombed to smithereens 50 times.  The North Vietnamese built an immense flak trap around it, and over the course of years managed to lure many green pilots to their doom with this ancient target.  Of course, US tactics didn’t help, either, returning to the same spot over and over again, at the same time of day, from the same direction…….we often broadcast exactly what we were going to do before we did it.  It was the worst-run war in American history, and the blame lies squarely on Johnson and McNamara and their ludicrously exaggerated fears of escalation.  But the senior US military command did not exactly cover itself in glory, either.  The soldiers, grunts, and airmen were the ones who paid the price for their folly.

@25:25 you might have heard the name Chuck Horner before.  If there is a tale of sacrifice and redemption in this video, it might center on him.  He commanded the awesomely successful coalition air campaign against Iraq in the First Gulf War.   I did not know he flew Thuds.  Another reason to like him.

Colonel Vizcarra if you ever read this you’d be doing this country and a whole world a service if you could make another video on the Thuds in Vietnam.  I’m sure this was an enormous amount of effort but its value to history is inestimable.  You have my utmost thanks and respect.  I saw the bit about not copying or downloading without permission, that’s not the same as embedding with link back to  your original, I hope that’s OK.

h/t for both The Lexicans



1. Vic Vizcarra, Col. USAF Ret. - August 10, 2015

Larry, Thank you for your very kind and good analysis of the video. All the compliments really need to go to John MacKay who was the real creator of this video. It was three years in the making and we started out as acquaintances in making this movie. Three years later we are great friends. The reason the video is very accurate is the process MacKay went through to ensure the scene was correctly depicted. I sketched four panel storyboard for each scene. He would create the scene and provided it to me for review. The finished product you see is several iterations of each scene as he would patiently redo each one in response to my comments and some times very picky critic of what was created. On the vimeo website you questioned why I identified the tactics as being wrong and correctly surmised that it was the low level approach and use of napalm. For your readers, prior to the operational introduction of the SAMs in North Vietnam, altitude was our sanctuary as we flew to our targets at altitudes above small arms and light AAA, usually 17,000 feet or above. This all changed with the introduction of the SAM. Because of the lack of experience in combating these missiles, we had a psychological over-reaction to the missile’s kill envelop and thought the only way to negate it was flying in at extreme low altitude. Spring High showed this was not the way to do it. As a result of the disastrous mission, the Air Force formed an Anti-SAM Task Force to develop solutions to attacking this new menace. The Task Force came up with 47 different recommendations which were all accepted and implemented by the Air Force, a few of the major ones were the development of better attack tactics, creation of a specialize aircraft, the Wild Weasel, to counter SAM, design and installation of Radar Homing Warning Receivers on attack aircraft, accelerated introduction of the Shrike Anti-Radar Missile into the operational inventory, and development of Electronic Counter-Measure Jamming Pods. The new attack tactics was to ingress SAM protected areas at 4,500 feet which put us above all the small arms fire, reduced the SAM’s acquisition range and gave us the maneuvering room to dive and seek terrain masking to defeat the SAM. Also, the attack was accomplished using high dive bombing methods and avoided having to directly overfly the SAM target at low altitude.

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