Above & Beyond: "Cleared in Hot"
- By Russell Gregory
- Air & Space magazine, September 2001
(Page 3 of 7)
After chucking my sandwich for good, I reached down and pushed my combat jettison button to blow off the two external wing tanks. In the face of a SAM launch, our plan, which we briefed every day, was to first jettison our wing tanks to get better maneuverability to avoid the missile. If it later appeared that the SAM was tracking one of our aircraft, we would jettison a third tank, the one on the centerline of the jet, for last-ditch maneuvers.
As I watched the SAM begin to climb, it was apparent that it was not guiding on our two aircraft. If you could see movement along your canopy as you watched the missile, it wasn’t going to hit you. An object on a collision course, be it a SAM, another jet, or even a car, will have no apparent movement relative to you. My mind began to slow down a little and I began remembering critical things we needed to do.
“Rambo 1, naked.”
This call told my wingman that my radar-warning receiver was not showing any radars, air-to-air, or surface-to-air, tracking my aircraft. Since systems do fail, there was no guarantee that the shot was not launched at us, but it was much more reassuring than calling “Mud spike, SA-3,” meaning I was being tracked.
“Rambo 2, naked.”
Good. My wingman was not the target of the launch either.
“Magnum, magnum, SA-3, Mosul.”
The Wild Weasels were firing radar homing HARMs—high-speed anti-radiation missiles. According to Intel debriefs of past engagements, this was often enough to make the Iraqi radar site shut down. The Iraqis often monitored our frequencies and knew that “Magnum” meant a HARM had been fired. Late in the Gulf War, a common tactic among pilots was to call “Magnum” over the radio when a SAM radar locked them up, and the Iraqis would quickly shut the site down. There were reports that even B-52s and unarmed reconnaissance aircraft had used this technique.