More Wild Weasel: A few days after Frank Herty had discussed the chaff bombs with us, he notified Sam that we had been approved to test them on our next mission to the Kep Airfield targets. Sam studied the map of our ingress route from the northeast coast to the target. He selected a prominent visual reference point in the foothills of the small mountain range leading to the target. He then carefully measured the distance from the reference point to Kep Airfield, and, using the leaflet bomb ballistics data and the toss bomb computer reference materials, he computed a pull-up point needed to achieve the proper release of the bombs for them to arrive at about 10,000 feet over the target, where the bomb casings would fly open and release the chaff into the air. If all went as planned the chaff would make a huge radar reflector over the target that would prevent the AAA gun radars from seeing the bombing aircraft as they dived to their bomb release release points.
At the early morning mission briefing, Sam and I briefed the bombing flights on our chaff bomb experiment, designed to confuse the enemy gunners in the target area long enough that our guys could drop their bombs and exit without getting shot down. We would ingress into the target area ahead of the bombers, make our toss bomb maneuver and, if no SAMs were present, egress with them as they pulled off the targets. Remember, in 1967 we did not have gps or lazer guided bombs or missiles to hit our targets. We used dive bombing with “dumb (unguided) bombs.”
The dive bomb maneuver was the most dangerous part of the mission because it required the pilot to roll his aircraft into a 45- degree dive, aim the aircraft at the target, hold the pipper on the target a few seconds to “kill the wind drift” (adjust the heading to compensate for wind blowing the aircraft heading off target) before hitting the bomb release button. After bomb release, he would initiate a 6 to 8 “g” pull-up maneuver so as to “bottom out” his dive bomb run at 4500 feet above target altitude while rolling to one side or the other to take up his preplanned egress heading, while at the same time trying to keep track of the other members of his flight. While you were dive bombing, the enemy AAA gunner’s target tracking problems were simpler because he was basically shooting straight at an aircraft diving on him, so he didn’t have to lead his target.
If we could confuse the radars with chaff, gunners would have to rely on visual tracking means, which would, hopefully, be less accurate.
On “D day” Sam and I ingressed two or three minutes ahead of the strike force. We were leading a flight of 4 wild weasel aircraft, all loaded with chaff bombs. It was a beautiful sunny day, and I marveled at the many shades of green we encountered after passing the rocky coastline and headed above light green farmlands and the darker greens and blacks of the small karst filled mountain ranges. We passed our reference point (referred to as the initial point, or “IP”) for our bomb run at about 5,000 feet altitude and 600 knots airspeed, where Sam punched a button on the toss bomb computer, hit the afterburner, and aimed straight for Kep. A toss bomb computer light came on at the pull-up point, where Sam pulled into a 4 “g” pull-up maneuver, and a few seconds later we felt a bump as our 6 chaff-laden leaflet bombs departed the aircraft. Sam continued the 4 “g” pull until we were inverted and headed back in the opposite direction from our ingress.
As we headed back toward the coast, I caught sight of 4 enemy Mig-17 aircraft passing by us headed in the opposite direction, but very low, not far above the bases of the mountains we had followed in. “Sam. There are 4 Mig-17s, 9 0’clock low, headed in the opposite direction. Let’s go get ‘em!” “No way. That’d be a coffin corner if we went after them from here!” “What’s a coffin corner?” “That’s when you find yourself flying into a box canyon, and you’re too low to clear the walls of the canyon!”
“OK. You win.” Sam then alerted the strike flights to the presence of the Migs, but they were apparently (the Migs) avoiding contact with us. We all safely avoided contact and RTB’d safely.
Back at de-briefing, the strike pilots reported that the sky over the target area was filled with black clouds of flack when they got there, so they figured the gunners were shooting at the chaff cloud! Everyone safely escaped damage and all returned safely, but we were left with an enigma with the chaff. Was it effective? It seemed to have stirred up a hornet’s nest, but nobody got shot down. The decision on whether to proceed was to be left to people way above our pay grade!