More Wild Weasel.
The Air Force was concerned about continuing attacks against American aircraft by NVN Mig 17 and Mig 21 fighters which were under ground control intercept (GCI) control whenever they thought conditions were favorable to them. American EB-66 aircraft were providing electronic jamming support from orbits over northern Laos and over the Gulf of Tonkin, but they were apparently too far away from the NVN GCI and SAM radars to effectively screen our fighters over northern NVN.
One day when Sam and I were debriefing ASCAT officer Frank Herty about our latest mission, he voiced his concern about the Migs. Then he asked me whether we were using our jamming pods against the SAM radars when we were in “SAM country.” I said that we usually didn’t use the jammers because they were not effective protection for individual aircraft. Not only that, but they created interference on our analysis scopes when we were attacking SAM sites.
Then Frank said that our jamming pods could be reset to provide jamming against the GCI radars instead of SAM radars, and since we were much closer to them than the EB-66s, we might be more effective in interfering with them. Would Sam and I be willing to conduct an experiment and fly a mission with our “pod” re-configured to jam the GCI radars to see what happened?
I looked at Sam and said, “We’ll try most anything once, won’t we Sam.” He responded, “Yeah, we can give it a bloody go one time, anyway.”
The next day we were fragged to escort another strike into the Hanoi area. During my preflight inspection I found a note attached to the instrument panel by my warning receiver. It stated that our jamming pod was now set to jam the NVN GCI radar frequencies instead of the SAM radar frequencies, and we were to turn it on as we entered into N. Vietnam.
As we entered N. Vietnam from northern Laos, I turned on the jamming pod. We crossed the Red River near Yen Bai and headed down Thud Ridge toward Hanoi. As we got about half way down Thud Ridge, the Launch light came on. I turned momentarily turned off the pod so I could see the SAM radar signals. Sure enough, two missiles were headed our way. Sam dived left through a notch between the mountains, and the missiles impacted the mountains behind us. As we returned to our course toward Hanoi on the other side of the ridge, the Launch light came on again! We again dodged back across Thud Ridge to evade missiles. About this time, the strike force had dropped their bombs on target and were heading back to northern Laos. We took up our position behind the trailing strike flight and headed home. Once again, we had been so busy dodging missiles that we did not have time to attack a SAM site.
During debriefing, we told Frank Herty that we didn’t really appreciate being “SAM bait” just to jam GCI radars! We later learned that other wild weasels on the afternoon flights from both Takhli and Korat Air Base had similar experiences with their GCI jammers. We complained that it interfered with our primary function of escorting the strike forces and attacking SAM sites. We were not again tasked to try this experiment, but, looking back, I think we must have created either confusion or concern on the NVN to cause them to react so violently to our jamming. Perhaps we should have continued that effort.