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A REAL War Story from Yugoslavia

A REAL War Story from Yugoslavia

by Claw


Well, I'm finally back in England after being TDY since the end of January, at least for two weeks anyway. Got sent direct to Cervia AB, Italy, from Operation Northern Watch in Turkey after being at the Incirlik AB for over 7 weeks ("Luv the 'Lik" no 'mo ! ). My house and yard is a total mess! There doesn't seem to be an end in sight in the Kosovo situation, but the war is over for me for a while.

Some of you probably already heard through the grapevine about what happened to "Boomer" and me. Here's the proverbial "Rest of the Story" . . .

Boomer and I were tasked as Bosnia-Herzgovinia DCA on 26 Mar, vul time from 1500Z to 1900Z. We were established on Eagle CAP over Tuzla for about an hour after initial refueling.

At 1602Z, while eastbound approaching the Bosnia/Yugoslavia border, I got a radar contact 37 nm to the east, 6k', beaming south at over 600kts. Of course AWACS had no clue and did not have any inkling of someone flying on the other side of border although he was real good at calling out every single friendly WEST of us!).

I called out the contact and Boomer was locked same. Without an ID and not tactically sound to cross the border at the time, I elected to pump our formation in a right hand turn through south and called "PUSH IT UP, BURNER, TAPES ON!" (we were initially flying .85M, 28K') and rolled out heading west/southwest.

At that time I didn't think anything much would happen. I figured the contact would probably continue south or turn east and remain well on the east side of the border. Nevertheless, I called the flight lead of the south CAP over Sarajevo and gave him a craniums up on the posit of contact, altitude, and the heading.

This entire time AWACS still had no radar contact, even after I called it out on the radio. Man, running away with the contact at our six o'clock with AWACS not having any clue was NOT comfortable!

Boomer and I continued west for a total of 60 sec (about 10 nm) before I directed the formation to turn back hot, again turning through south in an attempt to get some cut-off. Boomer was on the northside of the formation (left side as we rolled out heading east). We both got contact BRAA 070 for 37 nm, 23k', target now heading west (hot towards us).

AWACS finally woke up and starting seeing the same thing.

Now, I'm starting to think - SHIT IS GONNA HAPPEN - (evident with the increase of about two octaves in my voice!). It was fairly obvious this guy's originated from FRY, and there were no OCA missions at the time.

Checked AAI for friendly squawk: nobody home! We still needed to get clearance from AWACS to engage, so I requested (codeword) and got no reply from the controller (pretty sure he had no 'freakin clue what that codeword meant!).

About this time both Boomer and I got good ID on the target in our own cockpit and with threat hot towards us inside 30 nm decided to blow off the AWACS/clearance to engage restriction and go for it! Target was now inside 30 nm and I directed Boomer to target the single group.

I broke lock and went back to search in 40 nm scope and 120 sweep. The target check turned towards north west (about 14L aspect) and descended to high teens. Boomer and I checked about 30 deg left to northeast for cutoff. This check turn slung me aft in the formation so I stroke it up to full AB to get more line abreast.

I called "COMBAT 1, ARM HOT" and saw Boomer's wing tanks come off with bright flames under the wing. Pretty impressive! I was well over the Mach when I punched my tanks off and the jet jumped up abruptly (you can see it in the HUD). Took a quick look back to check and see if mystabs were still intact . . .

I rolled my elevation coverage looking from about 5K' to 21K' and no kidding stay in search for at least one full frame (believe me, I wanted to go back to single target track SO DAMN BAD !!!) AWACS started calling out two contacts, lead trail. Sure enough, I was starting to see the break out on my scope! At about 20nm, Boomer called "FOX 3, 18K' !". I saw the cons/smoke came from his jet and thought: SONOFABITCH!!!! I gotta get me some!!!

I commanded miniraster on the leader and as soon as the radar lock (about 17nm), immediately thumb forward to HDTWS. My first shot came off inside 16 nm from the leader. When I pressed the pickle button, it seemed like an ETERNITY before the missile actually launched, but when it did...WOW!!!! I have never shot an AMRAAM or AIM-7 before at WSEP (and I don't think I have a chance in hell of shooting more missiles at WSEP after this!). The missile came off with such a loud roar/whoosh, I not only heard it clearly in the cockpit above the wind noise, radio comm, ear plug, and helmet, I actually FELT the rocketmotor roar! In the HUD, you can see the flames shooting out from the tail end of the missile, and the smoke and cons following it!

Stepped immediately to the trailer in HDTWS and press and held the pickle button for at least 3 seconds. Again, thinking: COME ON, DAMN IT! LAUNCH!!! The second missile came off just as impressive as the first after the same painful delay. I yelled "Dirk 1, Fox 6, lead trail!" ("Cricket" Renner later critiqued my comm as incorrect 3-1 terminology... EAT ME!!!) Since Boomer was the primary shooter, I assumed he was locked to the leader, so I kept the trailer as the PDT. Didn't want to screw with a good thing, I stayed in HDTWS inside 10nm ("Dozer" Shower, our WIC dude, promptly critiqued me for NOT going STT inside 10nm upon reviewing my VSD tape, thus I still have to pass my IPUG Tac Intx ride!). Both targets started a check turn to the southwest (14L to H to 16R aspect) and continued to descent to low teens. Approaching 10nm, checking RWR to make sure we weren't targeted:

"Dirk 1 naked !"

"Dirk 2 naked !"

"Dirk, let's go pure!"

>From 30K', both of us rolled our jets inverted and pointed nose low directly at the TD box on the HUD, and pulled throttle to idle. I think my heart rate at this time was reaching my aerobic limit for my age (you know, that formula: 220 minus age...)! Against a broken cloud background, I saw a tiny dot in the TD box about 7 to 8 nm out.

"Dirk 1, tally ho nose 7 nm, low !"

Realizing I saw the trailer, I was praying Boomer would soon follow up with a tally call on the leader. Approaching 5 nm, I'm scanning in front of the trailer for the leader but no joy. Shit! The trailer continued his left turn to southwest and I was looking at approx 14R aspect. Inside of 5 nm, thumb aft to AIM-9 and tried twice to uncage but the tone was not there. Just then, between the HUD and the canopy bow (about right 12:30 to 1 o'clock position), I saw the leader explode! The best visual description I can think of is if you held a torch from one of those Hawaiian Luau party, and swing it through the air. The flame with a extended tail trailing the torch is exactly what I saw!

Turning my attention back to the trailer, the trailer exploded into a streaking flame seconds later just as I tried to uncage the missile the third time! Never mind!

"DIRK 1, SPASH TWO MIG-29s, B/E 360/35!!!" Heater, I'm ashamed . . .

I was screaming like a woman! Didn't really bothered to keep an eye on the fireballs, so I didn't see any chutes. Later report confirmed both pilots ejected safely. Not that neither Boomer nor I would've felt bad if they morted. Anyway, I called for Boomer and I to reference 080 heading and short range radar. Thumbed aft to AUTOGUNS and plug in full AB and accelerated to 460 kts at 20K'. My cranium was on a swivel and breathing like I just ran a full sprint!

"Dirk 2, blind!"


I looked north and it took me a few seconds to find Boomer (about 3.5nm left and stacked high). Tried to talk his eyes back to me, but Boomer called out to west in a right turn. I waited a few seconds to sanitize and turned west as well. During the turn, I immediately pulled into double beeper due to airspeed and Gs (looking back, I should've over G'd so the mission would've been more impressive...

:-) Rolling out, I was 3 nm in trail of Boomer, so I had him shackled to the south to pick up line abreast. The fun wasn't over yet. Boomer got an AUTOGUN snap lock less than 10 nm south of us, low altitude with no ID. I told him to press for VID while I followed him 3 nm in trail.

We were diving back down to the low teens and I saw ABSOLUTELY NOTHING on my radar! Boomer all of a sudden pulls up and yells "Dirk 2, unable ID!" That's BAD!!! I just about shit in my pants! I saw nothing and after a few seconds I asked Boomer if he saw ANYTHING at all. Boomer said he didn't see anything, so we just stroke it up and separate to the northwest for a while, then came back for a second look. Nobody home! Boomer thought it may have been a bad radar lock. I sure hope so!

The rest of the sortie was one excitement after another. While on the boom, AWACS controller started calling out every single ground traffic as possible contact crossing the border into Bosnia. For a while it sounded like a mass attack on Tuzla! By now it was night time, and Boomer (in an offset 3~5 nm trail) and I were still running around with our hair on fire! One time AWACS called out contacts very low alt moving towards Tuzla westbound. I didn't see squat on my tube, neither did Boomer. As the position of group started getting closer to Tuzla, I expected to see a burst of explosion from the airfield underneath! Boomer and I were gonna go from "heros to zeros" real soon!

Finally I turned the GMTR setting on my trusty APG-70 to low and immediately saw the targets. Locked them up and show 80 kts ground speed! I wanted to reach through the mic and strangle the shit out the controller!

AWACS later called out Mig CAPs just 15 nm northeast of the border! Boomer and I were ready to "Pop a cap in their ass" across the border as soon as we got contact and ID! Again, nothing on the radar. We even did two iterations of grinder with a two ship of Vipers and no one got a solid radar hit. That night we committed and armed hot THREE MORE TIMES AFTER the Mig kills based on ridiculous AWACS calls!

No kidding, by the time our replacement showed up (4 hours of vul time later), I was totally exhausted and drained! The flight across Adriatic was uneventful, and Boomer and I finally had a moment to think about what happened.

After I landed and pulled into dearm, I saw a freak in flight suit and wearing a reflective belt, jumping up and down. Sure enough, it was "Freak" O'Laughlin welcoming us back! Taxi back to the chocks was like having a bunch of kids following an ice cream truck! Everyone came running out and waited at the parking spot for Boomer and I. Boomer taxied in front of me as I pulled into my spot. Losing all professionalism and radio discipline (yada yada...), I called out on Ops freq:

"Boomer, YOU're the SHIT!!!"

Getting out of the jet and greeting all the bros and maintainers was THE GREATEST MOMENT OF MY CAREER!!! Our Ops Grp commander "Wilbur" Eddy was first to shake my hand, followed by the mob! We were laughing, shouting, hooting, high fiving, and hugging! It was awesome! Couldn't wait to review the tapes, we all piled into the "Turtle" and watched my HUD tapes. Thank God it recorded everything clearly, including the fireball from the trailer. "Homer" Samuel and "Bull" Mitchum almost knocked me over when they came storming into the Turtle! We were all screaming and jumping so hard in the Turtle I though it was going to tip over! Too bad Boomer's VSD tape did not run, and his HUD tape was washed out due to high aperature setting.

Boomer and I were laughing and high fiving entire car ride home! We weren't even suppose to fly that day!

Some afterthoughts:

It no kidding took over a day for this to finally sink in. It felt almost surreal that day/night. "Fish" Bonita, our MX officer, said it best when he saw me hours after I shut down engines: "So, Claw, have you landed yet?" Only one word can describe this event:
FUCKING_UNBELIEVABLY_LUCKY!!! Not the fact we shot them down, but that they were airborne during our watch. Any Eagle driver could've easily done what Boomer and I did, but as "Heater" Griffin said: "You guys won the lottery!" The sequence of events happened in our favor like the planets lining up. The jets, the missiles, the radar (well, at least mine) performed marvelously! Our MX dudes deserve the bulk of the credit. We had no spares that day. The crew chiefs and the Pro Super, Jim Snyder, absolutely BUSTED THEIR ASS working red balls and launched us on time! Boomer, my wingman, what can I say?

Regardless of whose missile hit which Mig, WE shot down two Fulcrums that afternoon. We succeed as a team, and fail as a team (good thing it was the former)! Boomer did an OUTSTANDING job of finding the group, working the ID matrix, and target according to plan. If I didn't have faith in him, I would not have broke lock and break out the lead trail formation. Of course I'm proud of what we did, but there's one thing I'll really stick out my chest for:

To everyone who taught me and influenced me on my tactical flying and gave me long debriefs (though painful at times), especially "Razor" Johnson, "Elwood" Amidon, "Heater" Griffin (even though he's a meat gazer...), "Homer" Samuel, "Dozer" Shower, "Nuts" Destasio,and "Bear" Gibbs, I DID NOT LET YOU GUYS DOWN!!! It doesn't get much better than this guys! Well, maybe two more kills would be pretty cool...

That's all I have to say about that!

Claw, aka Po

A-4s Forever!

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