Friday, May 20, 2011

Vietnam -- Fire Mission From The Pilot's Perspective

AH-IG Cobra configuration we used weren't called "heavy hogs" for nothing. Even with less fuel compensating for 36 17-pound and 36 10-pound rockets, you just didn't pull pitch, hover at 10 feet, lower the nose and you were on the way.

These Cobras had to build momentum.

So, the pilot in each Cobra would pick up a few feet off the tarmac and gently noised  forward.  For almost 100 feet, the Cobras would pick up speed and went on their way.

Inside the cockpit, the back seat received grid coordinates from Division Artillery (DIV ARTY), in crypted formant.  Both pilot and co-pilot wore a Encryption Decoder.  Each day was a tear out and throw away page and the CEOI was replaced monthly.

Once grid coordinates were confirmed, they were written on the Plexiglas and the pilot flew to that location to make contact with the friendly forces requesting support.

While all of this is going on between the pilots and establishing the objective, the front seat, made sure all the armament systems were technically operational.  This included his sighting system.

Because of the 180 degree visual view of the situation, once over the target, the lead Cobra pilot would assess the best direction and angle to best support the friendly forces on the ground.

The Cobras were generally flown in a circular pattern.  They started their "run" at 3000 feet and would first use a set of white phosphorous rounds to mark the target and assure accuracy and placement of the rockets.

As the one Cobra had completed its run and was at it's most vulnerable position  -- recovering from the dive and gaining altitude, the other Cobra was protecting it with its run against the target.

If the two minute section thought additional support was needed to get the job done, the PC or Pilot In Command, could elect to call in another section or ask for additional air support.

This generally came in the form of F-4 Phantoms from Da Nang.

With another section on station, the 2 minute section would come back in, get refueled and rearmed. If the 5 and 15 minute sections couldn't handle the the rest of the mission by themselves, then the standby section would be launched.

After refueling and rearming, the two minute section would generally hover over to their launching area and shut down.

When everything went well, there were lots of smiles and crew chiefs were patted on the back for making the mechanic portion of the air to ground experience flawless.

When things went bad, logbooks noted the issues and everyone umped in to make sure it didn't happen again.

I've seen times when the 2 minute section didn't launch for days. I've also seen times when they launched three times in one day.

No comments: