Above & Beyond: "Cleared in Hot"
- By Russell Gregory
- Air & Space magazine, September 2001
(Page 2 of 7)
“Weasel 2, SA-3 active, bull’s eye 030/10.”
One of the F-4G Wild Weasel jets tasked to perform SAM suppression for the coalition aircraft had picked up an active SA-3 tracking radar near the city of Mosul, about 10 miles north of the 36th parallel. Since the end of the Gulf War, the 36th parallel was the southern extent of our northern no-fly zone. This required some serious concentration, so I put down the ham-and-cheese sandwich I had just taken out.
We’d had Iraqi radars go active a few times in the last few weeks. Intelligence thought the Iraqis might be testing new radar components they had been working with to upgrade their older Soviet SAM systems.
As with every other occurrence, about a minute later, the Weasel called “SA-3 down.” We all returned to complacency and I broke out my sandwich again. We refueled about every hour and were coming up on our fourth refueling of
Suddenly, another voice came across the radio. Because of its high pitch, I did not recognize it at first as my wingman, who was flying in a two-mile line abreast formation, but I could tell it was serious.
“Mud launch, right 3!”
There it was, out the right side of my bubble canopy. In various briefs, we had been shown videos of different SAM launches so we would recognize what one looked like. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. But when I saw the smoke trail emanating from the Iraqi desert, I flashed back to the space shuttle launch I had seen at Kennedy Space Center years earlier.