A Close Encounter North of Hanoi

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It was 1967, I was an F-4 IP at the Air Force Fighter Weapons School (FWS), assigned there in May 1965.  My area of expertise was conventional weapons and I had two combat tours in Vietnam flying A-26 (Douglas Version) and AT-28Bs out of Bien Hoa and satellite locations.  Out of the blue I was loaned to the FWS test flight to assist Major Lee Kriner in developing tactics and procedure for employment of the Navyís Walleye Electro Optical (EO) Guided Glide Weapon.  When the development work was done we would deploy with Walleyes to Ubon Air Base, Thailand as part of the 435th TFS from Eglin AFB, FL.


The Navy developed the Walleye for anti-ship attacks, but employed it from A-4s against North Vietnamese fixed hard targets like bridges. The A-4 pilot task loading would be demanding on the final run to the target when the aircraft would be most vulnerable to AAA and SAMs.  Using F-4Ds as the launch platform split the tasking between Weapons System Officer (WSO) and Pilot requiring the aircraft to be stable (not jinking) on the attack heading for less than five seconds.


Lee and I flew tens of captive flights on Nellis ranges developing procedures and tactics, and learning to exploit the Video Image of the target in both cockpits.  The Walleye image processor superimposed a two mil square over the target sceneóif the desired target impact point fell in this square the tracking system could be engaged and the weapon released from several miles with reasonable certainty the Walleye would impact that point.  Lee and I developed ways to harmonize the Walleye Tracking index with the F-4D Gunsight.  It was then easy for the pilot to maneuver the aircraft to place the aiming dot ìPipperî on the desired point of the target and call out ìon targetî.  The WSO would view the scene on his TV, if on target, engage the Walleye tracker with a trigger squeeze, and call ìlock-onî.  The pilot then glanced at his TV verifying target, squeezed his trigger, and then released the Walleye by depressing the ìBomb Release Buttonî.  When you felt the 850-lb. Walleye release the pilot was free to maneuver.  As noted, these steps required less than five seconds and took place 8 to 10 miles from the target depending on the release altitude.  The Walleye had big fins acting as wingsóit was truly a precision glide bomb.  It worked best when target shadows were short requiring missions be flown for the Walleye to impact at local noon.  This was a rub in NVN, all the rest of the fighters took off at 10 AM and 2 PM in big attack packages and were coming home from the early ìgoî when our four ship of Walleye loaded F-4Ds were entering North Vietnam.


Primary targets for the Walleye attacks were bridges, especially bridges that had escaped hits from conventional bombing.  I planned and flew all of the missions until called back to the Weapons School.  The first mission was against a pier in Route Pack 2.  Pier destroyed.  Second mission was against a bridge across the Red River North West of Hanoi.  Two Walleyes were released, one from Element Lead slipped off of the target and flew long, the Walleye from Lead tracked at the top of a pier where two spans rested.  These two spans fell and the one on the

Updated: August 22, 2011 — 3:03 PM
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