Home » When a USAF F-15 pilot refused to fly a “not all aspect Sidewinder” mock air engagement against his Skyhawk

When a USAF F-15 pilot refused to fly a “not all aspect Sidewinder” mock air engagement against his Skyhawk

by Till Daisd
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The Douglas A-4 Skyhawk

2,960 A-4 Skyhawk aircraft were produced by Douglas between 1954 and 1979. Known by their endearing nickname, “Heinemann’s Hot Rod” (after Douglas designer Ed Heinemann), the Bantam Bomber, Mighty Mite, and Scooter were built small to be economical and to fit more of them on a carrier. The US Navy, Marines, and friendly nations were able to use maneuverable, powerful attack bombers with exceptional altitude and range capabilities and a remarkable degree of armament capacity thanks to Skyhawks.

Furthermore, despite the fact that the legendary A-4 was intended to be a straightforward, lightweight Navy carrier attack aircraft, the Skyhawk performed a variety of tasks, including aerial refueling, nuclear strikes, and acting as an adversary aircraft.

USMC A-4 attack aircraft Vs USAF F-15 fighters

Stephen Smith, former US Marine Corps A-4 Skyhawk pilot, recalls on Quora;

‘True story. We (a Marine Corps Reserve squadron) were doing an exercise with a USAF F-15 squadron back in the 80’s. We were flying the A-4 Skyhawk, a very simple, quite maneuverable single seat aircraft. It was designed for ground attack, but due to it’s maneuverability, it could hold its own in a tight turning dogfight. You may remember it as the aircraft flown by the instructors in the original Top Gun movie. We had no radar, thus, no radar guided missiles. Instead of the two afterburning engines in an F-15, we had one, non-afterburning engine. Basically, we were well outgunned.

‘But we still did quite well against the Eagles. Our air to air weaponry consisted of a 20mm cannon and all aspect sidewinder missiles. The sidewinder used to only work when fired from behind the target aircraft, looking at his hot exhaust, but now, had been improved to be able to kill from any angle, if all the parameters were met.

‘At the end of each mission, we suggested the final engagement scenario to be one where we did not have all aspect Sidewinders available. So we had all launched with the older missiles. This was usually accepted by all to be good training for all of us, and made getting kills much more difficult.’

All aspect Sidewinders

Smith continues

‘On this day, I suggested that as our final engagement scenario. My USAF counterpart asked why? I said that it would simulate a situation where the war was getting stretched out, all the all aspect sidewinders had been used, and the supply had not been replenished. His reply stunned me. He looked me in the eyes , the eyes which would soon be looking for me from the cockpit of one of the world’s most modern and deadly air superiority fighters.

‘A fighter with a radar which would give him my position from 50 miles away, while scorching into the fight powered by two huge afterburning engines, and carrying an array of radar and heat seeking missiles, and a gun designed for air-to-air combat, against my 1960s vintage single, non-afterburning engine, non-radar equipped attack aircraft. And he said, “IF WE DON’T HAVE ALL ASPECT WINDERS, WE’RE NOT GOING.” I really was shocked! After getting my brain back on line, I said, “I don’t think that’s an option in the Marine Corps.”’

Smith concludes;

‘I will never forget that comment.’

Photo by U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force

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