Above & Beyond: “Cleared in Hot”

Above & Beyond: “Cleared in Hot”

Air & Space Magazine

(Continued from page 2)

“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.

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.

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