Flight of the Intruder
Their assignment, 45 years ago: Drop mines over Vietnam, something no jet had ever done.
- By Rebecca Maksel
- AirSpaceMag.com, February 24, 2012
Courtesy Dave Cable and Stuart Johnson
Typically, the squadron flew two types of missions, recalls Ed Leonard, then a Lieutenant. For daylight missions, he recalls, "We had assigned targets that you would attack from altitude, go in at maybe 1,500 feet, then pop up to 6,000 and then do a dive bomb run.” Night missions at low altitude were also typical. “Most of the ones at night were single plane,” explains Leonard. “And low flying was better to stay out of radar tracking by the SAMs [surface-to-air missiles].”
“Single aircraft weapons delivery at night was something that evolved fairly early in our deployment,” says Cable. “We started out flying night formation, which in itself was pretty scary. This tactic, I believe, was a holdover from World War II and Korea. However, our flight crews, bombardiers in particular, were so well qualified and able to do the navigation and targeting, that it made no sense to fly formation at night. In formation you’re a bigger radar target. You couldn’t fly low, and you couldn’t fly at the maximum performance speed that would keep the crew safe and assure a high probability of being able to get to the target. Most of all, having several aircraft depend upon one lead bombardier negated the expertise of the accompanying bombardiers in a precision bombing attack. Little by little we grumbled, cajoled, and eventually convinced our senior officers that the best way to go was to fly single A-6 sorties—at night and at low-level.”