Above & Beyond: "Cleared in Hot"
- By Russell Gregory
- Air & Space magazine, September 2001
(Page 4 of 7)
Today, though, the Magnum call had been for real. We saw the contrails of the HARMs arcing across the sky above us until the rocket motors burned out and the missiles started their descent at Mach 3.
We were too busy tracking the airborne SAM to be able to follow the HARMs to impact, but reconnaissance later showed that they had taken out the tracking radar. Now the real show would begin. Though the HARMs had taken out the radar, our policy at the time was to take out the associated missiles as well.
“Sting, Duke, cleared in hot.”
Duke, the commander in the AWACS, had just authorized Sting, a flight of two F-16Cs, to roll in and attack the missile site with cluster bombs. We wanted to get over to the launch area to watch the strike, but we had been briefed by Intel that a SAM launch could be a diversion for some kind of Iraqi air-to-air action. We couldn’t let our guard down.
As we continued to sweep our radars downrange, looking for anyone trying to sneak across the 36th parallel, we could hear the F-16s rolling in. Both of the pilots were from our home base in Germany and we figured they must be having fun.
That opinion quickly changed when we heard the F-16 lead call the AWACS.
“Duke, Sting, not sure we got it. Recommend re-attack.”
We felt for the F-16 pilots. Nothing was more embarrassing than to miss with everybody watching. Their painful admission, however, allowed us to re-attack while the area of responsibility was still hot.