Carrying a Nuke to


Spadguy letters to the editor

[A nice bonus to writing for Foundation was the emails that the article brought in. Here they are, posted here with the permission of the writers (and copyright by them) -- Dan Ford]

DATE: Thu, 4 Nov 1999 13:53:38
From: Richard A Howard

Dear Mr. Ford,

I can't tell you how much I enjoyed your article "Able Dog" in the Fall 1999 issue of Foundation. Very well done and very accurate. The thoughts and recollections of the Aviators posted on the web site were amazing considering that the time frame was (for me) 42 years ago! These men were what we called in our squadron "The last of the truly great Naval Aviators".

I first flew the Skyraider in training in 1956. I flew every model of AD except the AD5W during three cruises to WestPac in squadrons VA-115 and VA-215. Cruises were in Shangri-La and Lexington. I have seen and done everything in the web postings and agree with everything I read. You must be able to feel the love and respect that these men have for the Skyraider by reading their postings. It was a very heady time in our lives and careers.

I am sorry that I was unaware of your research project and unable to contribute. But I must tell you one more story about Skyraider nuke delivery and the MK7.

During an Air Group 11 ORI in 1959, I had the opportunity to deliver a real live honest to goodness MK7. The weapon was a "war reserve" bomb that had exceeded it's shelf life. The decision was made to allow the weapon to be expended by the airgroup for training during the ORI and I was chosen for the mission. Of course the nuclear material was removed from the warhead, but everything else was operational (not a shape), including the radar, which was set for an 1100 foot air burst.

The mission was flown from Shangri-La. I was launched before dawn a hundred miles off of the California coast alone (no wing man). I navigated at low level (50 feet) to China Lake, found the target and run in line, crossed the IP at full water injection power, pulled into the loft on command and the weapon released. As I came over the top of the half Cuban eight I looked back over my left shoulder to see what I could.

The bomb detonated as promised at 1100 feet, but it was not more that 1100 feet from my aircraft! If it had been a nuclear explosion, I would have been in the fire ball and would not have had a chance. The hit was 50 feet at six o'clock, not bad. I still have the arming wires from that bomb.

Ah, the good old days! -- Dick Howard

DATE: Thu, 04 Nov 1999 23:25:07
From: RAL

Hi Dan --

Just a short note. I liked your article on AD's in the latest Foundation. My father commanded VX-5 in the early 50's where their major pasttime was working the kinks out of 'special weapons' delivery tactics for the various aircraft in the inventory.

Very nice write.

Warm regards, Rich Leonard

From: "Jay Velie"
Subject: Foundation article
Date: Sun, 14 Nov 1999 11:07:36 -0600


I finally received my copy of the Fall issue of "Foundation" magazine. Your article looked even better in the mag than it did on e-mail. I'm proud to be mentioned.

Question: In the side bar, "The Algorithm of Armageddon" on page 52, the "over-the-shoulder" delivery method is discussed. The wording is that "the pilot threw the nuke backward - after he passed the top of the loop." My definition of the top of the loop is when the plane is inverted and horizontal, at the highest altitude of the maneuver. If the nuke was released after the top it would be pointed downward, and would hit well away from the target and would leave the aircraft no possible escape. (Escape was unlikely anyway, but this would sure lessen the possibility.)

I never tried this method in an Able Dog, but we did practice this when I was flying the F2H-4 Banshee at Cherry Point in 1955. As I recall, the technique was to fly at low altitude, beyond the target, turn back toward it, and as the target was crossed, pull up into the loop, using proper speed and G's. As the aircraft passed the vertical point, 90 degrees from level, the bomb would be released. The actual angle of release was to be 110 degrees, or 20 degrees past vertical. This would throw the bomb almost vertically to near 10,000 feet in altitude, when, in this tight parabola, it would start back toward the target. Meanwhile, the loop would continue over the target at low altitude and high speed, heading towards home.

Dan, this is how I remember the method after 44 years. Possibly you did not write the side bar, and I surely am not criticizing your work, just shooting off my mouth. Thanks again for a great article.

Semper Fi, Jay Velie

[Arrgh! Jay is right, of course. What I should have written was that, in the over-the-shoulder variant of the loft delivery, the pilot released the nuke after his plane had passed the vertical but before the top of the loop, thus throwing it back whence he had come. -- Dan]

From: billwilke
Subject: AD s and Nuclear weapons.
Date: Sun, 09 Jul 2000 12:41:48 -0400

Very interesting to read the comments from pilots on the LABS (Low Altitude Bombing System) and the idiot loops. I was an ordnanceman and went to school on the LABS in 1955. I have a little disagreement with some of the comments made by the pilots, eg the pilot determining the number of seconds before pull-up. The pilot determining the time to depress the pickle. The angle of the arc being 22 deg or 38 deg.

It's been about 45 years, but as I remember it, most of this planning and settings were done on the ground in the planning of the mission. First there was a predetermined Identification Point (IP) where the pilot depressed the pickle, this activated the timer. He then had to fly at a predetermined rate of speed while the timer was running. When the timer ran out a light came on and the pilot had to pull up and keep the G needle zeroed which defined the arc that the plane would be flying. This G value was also preset on the ground to give a precise toss of the weapon to the target.

When the contact switch on the gimbal made contact with a fixed contact on a frame the weapon was released. The plane then continued in the "idiot loop" inverted at the top of the loop, then a steep dive and recovery at low altitude to fly back form the direction he came from.

This would put him under the nuclear cone of destruction. Our pilots were tossing practice bombs into 25 ft circles from 5 miles!

We lost one pilot (VA-16) over N. Carolina, he did not recover from the loop and plowed straight into the ground.

Again, 45 years may have distorted my memory. please comment.