Thuds, the Ridge, and 100 Missions North
How the Republic F-105 got good at a mission it was not designed to fly.
- By Carl Posey
- Air & Space magazine, March 2009
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE US AIR FORCE
(Page 6 of 8)
Enthusiasts then had a chance to go trolling for things to strafe with the Gatling gun. It took a while for everyone to see the folly of risking a multimillion-dollar airplane to whack a 10,000-ruble truck, or pitting the 20-mm Gatling against 57-mm artillery, or looking for dogfights. “A lot of people were lost who shouldn’t have been, screwing around with a MiG-17,” says Cooper. “We could depart from it faster than a missile could track, separating at the speed of light.”
That blazing speed made the Thud difficult to protect, says Brazelton. “One time they were thinking of sending F-4s on MiG escort. As we approached the target, we went a little faster, then a little faster. Pretty soon they couldn’t keep up with us. We were happier when the escorts stayed away. If there were any MiGs up there, there were plenty of -105 pilots eager to pull the trigger.”
Even with the disadvantages of the F-105’s weight and poor turning ability, when the smoke cleared, it was Thuds 27.5, MiGs 22, with 24.5 Thud victories credited to that fossil nose-mounted gun.
Going in or coming out, if someone got hit—and someone almost always did—the Thuds usually kept moving. “In 1966, when a guy got shot down, if he wasn’t picked up in the first 90 minutes, he wasn’t coming out,” says Rasimus.
“In PAK VI, if someone went down across the Red River, we’d continue on, but the wingman would stay with a crippled bird,” says Guild. “If someone went down on the way out, we would continue egress, try to get to him later. You don’t want to pinpoint the downed guy.”
Brazelton had almost finished his 100-mission tour when he got smoked. It was August 7, 1966, north of Hanoi. “I was dropping CBUs on a 120-mm anti-aircraft site,” he says. “A 57-mm must have hit me right in the belly. I rode it for a minute or so, told them I was ejecting. They couldn’t do anything, just too many guns. I didn’t ask them to.” (Brazelton spent the next six and a half years as a POW.)
Coming off the target, the F-105s stayed together and headed for the tankers. They took enough fuel to get back to base, where, some four hours after their takeoff, the afternoon shift was preparing the next charge against the Russian guns.
the 388th tactical Fighter Wing settled into Korat, the 355th into Takhli. As pilots and aircraft were lost at the rate of five or six a week, replacement air crews and aircraft flew in, the Yokota units to Takhli, Kadena units to Korat. Thud pilots from Europe also arrived.