OK this isn’t an F-4 video, but it’s a great fighter video. It documents the flight of a civilian who got a two hour ride in the backseat of an Alabama Air National Guard 30 year old F-16 Falcon. During the flight they refueled from a 50 year old KC-135 Stratofortress.
BMB Productions and Emmy Award winner producer Michael Lattin made a movie about the 50th anniversary reunion of the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association, aka River Rats held in Louisville, KY. Here’s the trailer.
Here’s the River Rats 25th anniversary reunion video:
Lt. Col. Nicole Malachowski was the first woman member of the USAF demonstration team, the Thunderbirds. She is now the squadron commander of an F-15 squadron.
VOANews: “The U.S. Air Force says a shortage of fighter pilots has become so dire that it is struggling to satisfy combat requirements abroad. ‘We have too few squadrons to meet the combatant commanders’ needs,’ Major General Scott Vander Hamm, the general in charge of fixing the fighter pilot crisis, said in an exclusive interview with VOA. The Air Force is currently authorized to have 3,500 fighter pilots, but it is 725 fighter pilots short. And with fewer pilots, the number of fighter pilot squadrons have also dropped, from 134 squadrons in 1986 to 55 in 2016.” See: “Air Force Has Too Few Fighter Squadrons to Meet Commanders’ Needs.”
October of 2014 World Word II fighter pilot Colonel Clarence “Bud” Anderson spoke at the American Fighter Aces Association about his life and shooting down 16 and one half German airplanes.
I was very lucky to have been able to fly the F-4 Phantom for five years in the United States Air Force from 1971 – 1976, including three years teaching men to fly the F-4 while an instructor at George Air Force Base, California. I loved flying the Phantom. There is something very special about flying a supersonic jet fighter that is hard to put into words. No matter how eloquent the speaker may be, words just cannot describe the out of this world experience of flying a fighter.
Video, however, is more than a picture worth a 1,000 words. Below I am linking to two videos that give the non-fighter pilot viewer a true-life glimpse into what best described in the poem “High Flight.”
Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds –
and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of –
wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence.
Hovering there I’ve chased the shouting wind along
and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious burning blue.
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
where never lark, or even eagle, flew;
and, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
the high untrespassed sanctity of space,
put out my hand and touched the face of God.
The above sonnet was written by John Gillespie Magee, an American pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force in the Second World War. He came to Britain, flew in a Spitfire squadron, and was killed at the age of nineteen on 11 December 1941 during a training flight from the airfield near Scopwick, England.
Flying the A-10 Warthog
Flying the F-16 Falcon
The second video shows F-16 Falcons from the 35th Fighter Squadron at Kunsan, Korea participating in Red Flag exercises in Alaska in 2014. This is my old squadron from Korat Air Base, Thailand (1972) and Kunsan Air Base, Korea (1973). We were the Panthers (see the picture on the squadron patch at the top of this page), but now the squadron’s nickname is Pantons. According to the Urban Dictionary “panton” means:
Noun or adjective – Some one who is full throttle, to push it up, or lights their hair on fire. Also a good dude; a current or former member of the technically, tactically, strategically, aesthetically, and especially socially superior fighter squadron.
Jeannie Beckers, Lyle Becker’s wife, found this video that all fighter pilots must watch. I personally don’t know anybody like the retired fighter jock in the video. Here are some of my favorite lines:
- I flew jets – the supersonic attack jet known as the F-4 fighter-bomber, mostly bomber. It does have a tendency to make women swoon.
- Strapping on a high powered jet is not an easy task, but someone has to do it.
- Have you ever traveled faster than the speed of sound or the speed of stink?
- Have you ever arrived at your destination prior to your departure?
- Have you ever called a tally ho on six bogeys when you knew there were eight in the environment surrounding you?
- This guy is hot. This guy can fly jets like nobody’s business.
- At one point the young lady responds “You have got to be shitting me!”
- I have numerous plaques, trophies and awards that have been strategically placed on my walls.
The President of the United States
in the name of The Congress
takes pleasure in presenting the
Medal of Honor
THORSNESS, LEO K.
Rank and organization: Lieutenant Colonel (then Maj.), U.S. Air Force, 357th Tactical Fighter Squadron. Place and date: Over North Vietnam, 19 April 1967. Entered service at: Walnut Grove, Minn. Born: 14 February 1932, Walnut Grove, Minn.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. As pilot of an F- 105 aircraft, Lt. Col. Thorsness was on a surface-to-air missile suppression mission over North Vietnam. Lt. Col. Thorsness and his wingman attacked and silenced a surface-to-air missile site with air-to-ground missiles, and then destroyed a second surface-to-air missile site with bombs. In tile attack on the second missile site, Lt. Col. Thorsness’ wingman was shot down by intensive antiaircraft fire, and the 2 crewmembers abandoned their aircraft. Lt. Col. Thorsness circled the descending parachutes to keep the crewmembers in sight and relay their position to the Search and Rescue Center. During this maneuver, a MIG-17 was sighted in the area. Lt. Col. Thorsness immediately initiated an attack and destroyed the MIG. Because his aircraft was low on fuel, he was forced to depart the area in search of a tanker. Upon being advised that 2 helicopters were orbiting over the downed crew’s position and that there were hostile MlGs in the area posing a serious threat to the helicopters, Lt. Col. Thorsness, despite his low fuel condition, decided to return alone through a hostile environment of surface-to-air missile and antiaircraft defenses to the downed crew’s position. As he approached the area, he spotted 4 MIG-17 aircraft and immediately initiated an attack on the MlGs, damaging 1 and driving the others away from the rescue scene. When it became apparent that an aircraft in the area was critically low on fuel and the crew would have to abandon the aircraft unless they could reach a tanker, Lt. Col. Thorsness, although critically short on fuel himself, helped to avert further possible loss of life and a friendly aircraft by recovering at a forward operating base, thus allowing the aircraft in emergency fuel condition to refuel safely. Lt. Col. Thorsness’ extraordinary heroism, self-sacrifice, and personal bravery involving conspicuous risk of life were in the highest traditions of the military service, and have reflected great credit upon himself and the U.S. Air Force.
Read “Commissioned in Hanoi” By Leo K. Thorsness:
Art Cormier, Neil Black, and Bill Robinson showed excellence in the POW camps around Hanoi.
In 1967, there was a “unit” of approximately 300 Americans fighting the Vietnam War from within a Hanoi prison. The unit—later named the 4th Allied POW Wing—was located in the drab North Vietnamese capital. Within this unit, every man had the same job: prisoner of war.
All—except three enlisted airmen—were officers, including me. Our job description was to continue fighting for the United States while imprisoned.
The three enlisted airmen were SSgt. Arthur Cormier, Amn. Arthur Neil Black, and SSgt. William A. Robinson. All were crewmen on helicopters that rescued aircrews from downed aircraft. The three were shot down in 1965.
They were captured, taken prisoner, and ended up in the Hoa Lo prison in Hanoi (the “Hanoi Hilton,” in POW parlance).
Purchase Leo’s book “Surviving Hell: A POW’s Journey” from Amazon.
Thunderchief pilots faced three formidable enemies over North Vietnam: antiaircraft guns, SA-2 surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), and MiG-17s and -21s. On a recent visit to the National Air and Space Museum retired Air Force Generals Spence “Sam” Armstrong and Michael Nelson recalled what it was like to face those enemies. During the Wild Weasel missions that Nelson describes, the F-105s deliberately tried to smoke out one of these threats. Once they were targeted by enemy radar used to guide SAMs to their airplanes, the F-105 pilots would fire missiles that homed on the enemy signals and destroyed the SAM site. Armstrong also describes one technique he used to escape MiGs: leading them to the “SAM ring.” Knowing the dangers of flying within reach of the SAM’s radar, the MiG pilots would break off their pursuit.