Saturday, June 23, 2012

"Routine Violations"

Syria is in a shambles. They've got a civil war going on and a genocide being perpetrated by their own government against the people. But, they probably know that the insurgents aren't equipped with high performance fast-movers. So, what's the truth about this:

Turkish F-4 Downed by Syrian Air Defense

I particularly like this comment from the Turkish President:
The Turkish president added that it was "routine" for jets flying in high-speeds to violate other countries air spaces for short periods of time.
That seems a bit disingenuous to me. It is far from routine in a region of incredible tensions.  You know where the borders are. You are briefed regularly. You had better know where your jet is at any given moment. That means either the TAF F-4 was on mission tasking, the Phantom pilot was incredibly inept, or he was on a lark seeing what he could get away with.

During my F-4 days in Spain, we spent one third of our time in Turkey at Incirlik. We flew low-levels all over Turkey which is a very large country. We did practice bombing on a Turkish gunnery range and we flew air-to-air over the Mediterranean and the Bay of Iskenderun. We stayed away from Cyprus and we didn't venture to the southeast where Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel were.

Except for one of my guys one day. I didn't find out about it until years later, so I guess fighter pilots can occasionally keep a secret.

He was a very good pilot. He had come to the F-4 out of Southeast Asia where he had been a Forward Air Controller. He was one of the guys who had gotten the tap on the shoulder one day in South Vietnam by a fellow in civilian clothes who asked if he would like to enter the Steve Canyon program. Would he like to become a Raven?

He went to Laos out of uniform and did some of the riskiest flying in the war. He got the gold chains and the big gold Rolex GMT-Master with the double wide solid gold chain-link bracelet. He got an Air Cavalry black Stetson from troops he supported and he wore it every deployment at the first night in the bar. Wearing a hat in a fighter pilot bar meant you bought for the bar. Wearing it all night meant you ran up a big tab.

We were just across the Bay from Syria and the second largest city Aleppo. Aleppo had a MiG-21 installation and a wonderful historic old section with a massive citadel and the largest covered souk in the Middle East. Several guys in the squadron had taken advantage of a long weekend to drive to Aleppo and see the sights.

My Raven took a different approach. He was on a functional check flight with one of the WSOs, single ship. He headed east, told the back-seater to shut up and went to Aleppo Air Base. Dropped down to initial, flew a traffic pattern and low approach to the runway then roared past the flight line row of MiGs.

Had conditions been what they are today, I suspect I'd have learned of the adventure a bit sooner.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

During my two tours at RAFB I enjoyed the annual Raven reunions held outside the gate at the old motel in Universal City. The Ravens kept kind of a low profile but still managed to thumb their noses at the political side of the AF that left them hanging in the breeze when it came promotion time. Your Syrian MiG story reminded me of the time I took the senior U.S. officer in Turkey to visit the TAF at Diyarbakir in the late 80's. When we departed in the late p.m. I couldn't make the turn to the west due to TSMS and build ups. The Turkish controller became more and more tense as we tried to work our way around to the turn but finally gave up and announced that Syrian MiGs were coming up. I think he was almost as relieved as I when we finally cleared the wx and headed out of there on course. Your guy's adventure probably had something to do with the Syrian's newfound alertness. regards, Alemaster