Whether or Not There’s Weather

     Today was the final day of our bilateral exercise.  The game plan for today was for our F-15Cs to join up with a four-ship of F-15Js from Chitose to play Red Air for another large-force employment exercise.  It was basically the same scenario as yesterday, except the Red SAM was going to actually play like a Patriot, which complicated our Wild Weasel mission significantly.  Today though there were to be four of us:  Cash would lead it with Shack (known then as FNG R) on his wing, with Scrappy and me as the second element.  We were to share OCA duties with a separate flight of F-15Js, with some F-4Js and F-2s as strikers again.  My friends and fellow schedulers, Pickle and Tequila, were to be in the strike package.  It was going to be a good mission!

     The first sign of trouble was when we stepped, a JASDF T-4 had flown out to the airspace to do a weather check for us, and reported that the area was pretty much socked in, with only about eight-thousand feet usable.  So the F-15Cs decided to go train on their own in some clearer airspace elsewhere, and the F-4Js and F-2s just plain fell out.  The squadron at Chitose that was going to play Blue Air with us decided to train on their own, leaving us with a four-ship of Red Air and the Patriot. 

     My first jet for the day had a bad battery charger, so I ended up stepping to a spare aircraft (a D-model with only a centerline tank and no HARM Targeting System Pod, or HTSP).  That meant only three of our aircraft could take good HARM shots, although I could still lob them at a point in space where we guessed the Patriot might be.  It didn’t turn out to be much of a factor except I was carrying a whole lot less gas than the other three, so I ended up ultimately going home first.

     We pressed on out to the airspace, just as we did on the three previous days.  We called "Fight’s on!" and pointed at the F-15Js who obligingly pointed at us, too.  The F-15Js did the exploding cantaloupe maneuver yet again, so once again we only got to shoot them down two at a time.  I think the only thing that happened that was a bit extraordinary was that apparently everyone but me forgot about the Patriot, so I called for the shot while also trying to work the air-to-air stuff.  It was only a little thing, but it seemed to have impressed Shack (I told him later that it really will get easier after you’ve done it a couple hundred times).  Once we’d finished dealing with Red Air, we proceeded to our SEAD CAP and peppered the site with HARMs while we pretended the F-4s and F-2s were hitting the target like they did yesterday.  After we finished, we pressed out through the Red Air guys who’d reset and made us fight our way out.  That was a little tough on us, and by that time I was out of gas, so Scrappy and I RTB’d, followed by Cash and Shack.  The weather at home had improved greatly, so the three of them did two or three practice simulated flameout approaches before callling it a week.

     Afterward, we all sat down to talk about the day’s mission.  Scrappy was more fired up and enthusiastic than I’d seen him all week.  We all learned a little bit from the flight, this one and the rest from the other bilateral exercises.  After we finished our discussion, we all cruised over to the club for a social with the F-15Cs and the JASDF who’d all played in the exercise. 

     It was a good end to a good week.  I’d gotten to fly four out of five days.  I can’t remember the last time I got to fly that much.  I think it was Sep 2003.  It was a week long overdue for me! I just hope I’ve got more weeks like this in store!

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