*Three F-5 Aggressors at Red Flag hunting F-4 Wild Weasels
Here’s a second guest post from my buddy Brent Glines.
You can find his previous post concerning an illegal European border crossing here,
Brent was an electronics warfare officer in F-4 Wild Weasels. This one happened when he was participating in the major air combat war exercise, Red Flag. F-5s play the Russian aggressors. His job, to get his bombs on target and don’t get shot down. Since this is an exercise, cameras are used instead of bullets. If you get your picture taken, you’ve lost. In real life, you would be dead. Red Flag has a pretty good list of restrictions and safety rules to ensure our pilots don’t get too real during what is essentially a game. But nobody likes to lose, as you will see.
One more thing to help you follow the story. If you jerk your jet around, such as in a ridge crossing, you will pull a lot of “g’s”. You have to get your body ready for that so you don’t black out or brown out from the blood leaving your head.
Brent, tell us your story…
One of my friends asked me, “I’ll bet you used to get pretty low flying Weasels, right?” This was my response.
The lowest I ever saw from my vantage point in the back seat was in a Red Flag exercise.
The day before we had gotten our picture taken (in gun cameral film) by an F-5 aggressor when our wingman let him troll up right behind us, unobserved.
“We’ll be having none of THAT shit today, right?”, we agreed as we stepped to the jets.
Our wingman ground aborted, so as it turns out, we were single ship that day. No wingman to let us down, but as the back-seater my head was on a perpetual swivel checking six (behind us). I didn’t let my nose gunner fly longer than 20 seconds on any heading without jinking left and right briefly to let me clear deep six. We were NOT going to get our picture taken this time!
We made it to the target area unobserved, but there were F-5s everywhere. We did our pop up attack, puked off our six inert five hundred pounders, and turned to our egress heading when all the bandits started to converge on us. “Keep an eye on them. I’m getting the Hell out of here!”, my pilot said.
We got lower and lower, and faster and faster. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that he had just slammed the throttles into full afterburner and left them there. “Bandits high 5, 6, and 7 o’clock, 3 miles, no threat yet”, I advised. We got lower…
One of the F-5s dropped his nose to make a run on us, but after a few seconds he pulled up and peeled off. “Not enough gas for a high speed tail chase, I guess”, I commented.
“Ridge line, coming up, saddle left”, the pilot tells me.
Good crew coordination. Back seaters don’t like it when the whole world unexpectedly turns brown during a no notice inverted ridge line crossing, but we’d flown together a lot, and sure enough, he rolled inverted and pulled though the saddle with minimal exposure. Follow us through THAT, Ivan, you Asshole!
Passing through the saddle, I got a good look at a Winnebago as we passed right over their heads, full afterburner. “Well, Henry and Martha are going to have a tale to tell when they get back to Nebraska”, I joked.
We made it out unscathed, and at the edge of the range complex, we slowed down and climbed out for recovery at Nellis AFB. None to soon. Full afterburner gulps down the fuel, and we were a bit light on landing roll.
Walking back in to life support after landing, my pilot asks me, “Did we get low enough for ya today?”
“Well,” I answered, “I could tell we were right down there amongst ’em, but honestly, I was too busy looking out the back to pay much attention. How low were we?”
“Twenty five feet over that dry lake bed, and not much higher everywhere else. You may have noticed I made no unnecessary turns. I didn’t want to dig in a wing tip.”
“Well, thanks a lot.”
“Don’t mention it.”
“.99 Mach. I would have gone supersonic, but the Rhino just won’t bust the mach straight and level at this altitude.”
“You know we busted the crap out of a bunch of Red Flag rules, don’cha?”
“Yep, but we didn’t get our picture taken today, did we?”
“That we did not!”
*”Three F-5E Tiger II from 527th Tactical Fighter Training Aggressor Squadron” by Service Depicted: Air ForceCamera Operator: TSGT JOSE LOPEZ – ID:DF-ST-84-05831 / National Archive# NN33300514 2005-06-30. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Three_F-