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!