Thursday, December 6, 2018

Dangerous Work

In the long ago I was a RADAR tech working on F-4J and F-4S fighters. One of the primary deployments we went on every 18 months was a 6 month stint in Iwakuni, Japan. There are always a couple of fighter squadrons in Iwakuni. Nowadays, those are F-18 squadrons.

Fighter squadrons are an interesting unit because the enlisted man fix the aircraft and the officers fly them into combat. And even when it's not combat, it's dangerous work. Those aircraft operate at the edge of human design and human performance limits. We would fix the planes, then suit them up, strap them in, and watch them go. Every time they landed safely was a good day.

Yesterday, an F-18 stationed in Iwakuni collided with a KC-130 refueling tanker and both aircraft went down in the Sea of Japan. As I write this, two survivors have been located and rescued. While the articles aren't saying it yet, I can assume that the survivors are the aircrew of the F-18. They would have had the opportunity to eject.

I expect the aircrew of the KC-130 did not survive. Whatever damage they incurred, the crew would have been trapped in the aircraft as it crashed in the water.

This is what that refueling evolution looks like from the fighter on a clear day in good visibility. Practicing this at night in scattered clouds would make it much more difficult and dangerous.

Semper Fidelis.


juvat said...

Don't forget that the KC-130 is much slower than the FA-18, which puts the fighter much closer to stall speed. The closer that gets the bigger the control changes have to be to move the aircraft where the pilot needs it to be. That is compounded by the sluggish motion of the jet, which frequently causes the pilot to add more flight control input. This frequently causes the jet to overshoot where the pilot wants it to be, so he must correct in the opposite direction. This is caused Pilot Induced Oscillation, and is ALWAYS dangerous.

Rest in Peace, Folks.

Borepatch said...

Rest in peace

Old NFO said...

RIP Shipmates.

Dan said...


Ken said...

O hear us when we lift our prayer
For those in peril in the air...

rick said...

Late but poignant note:

The Sumos (VMGR-152) are a proud squadron with a fine tradition of service. My brother flew for them in the late 90s. I immediately thought of him when I heard this.