23 August 2006

Initiative and Decisiveness: Here's one from the "Able Dogs"

Recent discussion over in Lex's ready room on resurrection of the COIN mission and supporting aircraft types sent your humble scribe over to the Able Dog's site for some refresher training. In so doing, stumbled across this story that is timeless in its telling and lesson. Reproduced in part here in the hope that you, gentle reader, will visit and explore the home of the SPAD... (oh, and some good Crusader stories are found there too) - SJS

That is your target, attack!
CAPT George Carlton, USN (Ret.)

One night in the spring of 1966, tasked with a road recce south of Vinh,
North Vietnam, we were kept mostly "feet wet" as the weather on shore was well
below minimums with low ceilings and squalls. A flight of four AD-6s from the
VA-215 Barnowls, we were loaded with full 20mm ammo, magnesium parachute flares,
19-shot packs of 2.75 inch rockets, 250 and 500 pound bombs. After several
unsuccessful attempts to reach our assigned road segment, the bad weather
prevailed and as flight leader I decided to proceed to Danang for a
radar-controlled drop. Over the Gulf of Tonkin the weather was better with
ceilings rising to above seven thousand feet to the east.

Faced with persistent ordnance shortages during the spring of 1966, we
had several options for disposing of unexpected ordnance, after every effort to
put it on assigned or secondary targets had been expended. We routinely landed
back aboard with 20mm ammo and rockets, but bombs were another matter. The radar
controlled drop program at Danang was a good choice but not always an option due
to time and fuel constraints. After checking in with the controller at Danang
and establishing positive radar contact, the controller would vector the flight
(usually north toward the DMZ), assigning heading, airspeed and altitude. Having
advised the controller of the load to be expended (typically four to five bombs
per aircraft 250-1000 pounders), the internal system (a mystery to us) chose the
target and computed the dynamics of the drop. We could drop all at once or trail
the releases on interval. The controller called the shots and we dropped on
command, usually from around 12,000 feet, usually in foul weather and often at
night. Not seeing the targets was a frustration, compounded by never receiving
any bomb damage assessment (BDA)-all in all something of a hush-hush