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The Cap

Two fourship missions were to takeoff at 0800 from Suwon AB just south of Soul in South Korea on June 9th 2002.
The two flights were scrambled to occupy a FAOR of 30x60 miles in the Southern part of the Korean Bay. ROK agents had intercepted information about an imminent attack on Seosan AB. The two flights consisted of Falcon 1 that had 1st Lt. Fang as lead. The second flight was lead by the author with 1st Lt. Booster on the wing, 1st Lt. Recon as Element Lead and Cpt. Hero as element wing. Our flight was Cowboy. Falcon flight was scheduled to take off 2 min before our flight and head directly to the CAP area and setup a counter rotating CAP. We were then supposed to go Gator to a tanker, which in the same instant was being directed to an area 15 miles south of the FAOR. Here we were to get fuel and then after 20 min relieve Falcon in the CAP, so that they could get some gas.
The takeoff times were kept, and our flight to the tanker was uneventful. We took off in pairs and rejoined in Fluid 4 in no time and pushed gator to the tanker.
Falcon reported settled in the CAP and that the FAOR was clear.

Approximately 50 miles out Recon got the tanker on his scope and directed my cursors to it. The rejoin with the tanker was also smooth, and without problems. I hooked up with the boom, and the boomer filled topped me off in some 5 minutes time, easy I thought, stroking my brand new Cougar. So some thousand pounds of fuel richer I pulled of the tanker and told the boomer I was done refueling. From my position at the tankers left wing I started to do a cockpit check making sure the refuel door was closed, setting TACAN, checking A-A setup, warming my heaters and setting my selective jettison to the tanks, a thing that was to be of great importance moments later. Two called stabilized and was 10 sec. away from getting hooked up.
Suddenly I saw the yellow tracers whizzing by my cockpit, my first thought was that either 3 or 4 had screwed up big time and was in for a Flying Pig, but a quick glance at my 3-line told a different story. A smoking Mig-27 (or -23) was pulling up behind booster who was flying on the boom. My heart jumped and stopped in my throat and my brain refused to recognize we were actually being attacked. Luckily my gut instinct (and the tracers) got me acting immediately. I pulled HARD left away from the fuel filled tanker should anyone think of lobbing a missile in that and down out of plane. Instantaneously I hit the pickle switch that commanded the tanks off, since I had just set the selective jettison mode. All this whilst screaming "Cowboys Brake and defend!! We are jumped by Mig's!!"

Booster never got to answer, as his plane was obliterated hanging near the boom.

Hero had from his position on the furthest right side of the whole formation seen the Mig's as they pulled up behind Booster and I. But he never got to say a word before I turned and Booster exploded. Then he turned for the guy who had just splashed Booster from the sky, Hero was in a fury for the Mig pilot to have splashed one of his nearest friends in the 87th I pulled out of my descending slice using very high G's since my tanks were off and I had flipped the bird to CAT I the moment they had gone. I had now switched to dogfight mode and was looking at my 6 to pick up the bad ass muth!%!% that had tried to kill me instants before. No one was there. I was starting to wonder about how the he.. These guys had gotten so close to us with us not getting a nail or a spike, a warning from AWACS or Falcon that these guys were close, but I shoved that out, now it was payback time! The Mig pilot had obviously not wanted to follow me down and expose himself to any of my wingmen from above; quite wise I thought. Looking high I saw a plane close to the tanker explode and a smoker 2-3 miles in trail. So I pushed in Gator and pulled vertical and put my nose on the smoker..BzzzrzzrzrzrzrrzzBIIIIIP Lock! "Raygun angels 20 near tanker." I think I yelled that twice and got no reply at all, actually I do not recall getting any coms up to this point from when Booster called stabilized. Back to the lock. I squeezed the Wep Rel button on the Cougar. "WTF is my stick already broken, nothing happened ????? Oh, Crap, Master Arm on, squeeze again".WHOOSHHH ! It tracked nicely and the Mig did not even maneuver, "Good" I thought, that serves him well after what he did to Booster. BOOM!!! "Kill one" I pronounced on flight and started to look for Recon and Hero.

As I stated before, I can't recall any coms up to this point. I was totally overloaded by the surprise and the total lack of SA on the enemy. I knew nothing of how many they were (well one less in any way), what types (properly Mig 27's or -23's), where they came from, or witch direction they were now.
I called Falcon on Guard, informing them, that we were engaged at the tanker station area and that they would not get relieved in the CAP on time, if at all, but I can't recall getting an answer. Suddenly a Mig-27 filled my whole front view showing its belly in a climb. He was in some kind of a loop right in front of me'hmmm well, Fox 2 again. "Kill 2" I pronounced yelling on flight channel, as another F-16 whizzed by. The Mig pilot ejected but the F-16 was to close and the Mig pilot was no more. Neither was Hero's engine witch he reported on flight before he ejected. That's Bad Luck!! I mean what are the odds of getting a pilot as FOD in your F-16?

As Hero recalls it, he was lying in fighting wing on Recon on the right wing of the tanker. He was watching me getting of the boom and Booster as he moved in to position on the boom. Suddenly he saw two smokers pulling up between Himself and Recon and me and Booster. He heard my desperate call of being engaged and saw the gun tracers from what he thought to be either Mig-23 or -27's, but since they opted for guns and not IR missiles, they most likely were Mig-27's returning from a strike on Seosan. Hero saw Booster pull right defending but to no avail since he started to smoke and then shortly after exploded. Hero then went for the killer. Not knowing what Recon did, but knowing that I had pulled down left defending. He had turned around after the Mig a couple of turns and verticals waiting for a fire solution when he came out inverted from a half loop getting the solution. He fired a fox 2 and saw an immediate impact. YES! no nononon nononononon the pilot ejected and Hero could not avoid him. He took the Mig pilot right in the intake, the engine died, electrics were failing along with hydraulics, there were no other option then to call "Pilot down near Seosan AB" and then eject.

As Recon collects it: "Mav had just come off the boom and Booster was moving up. I was dropping in to a trail formation on Booster as I was next in line, and had just crossed Mav's tail when the 2 Mig's came straight up between Mav and Booster, me and Hero. All hell then broke loose: Mav broke down, chaffing and flaring, with the Mig in hot pursuit. As I was directly behind him, I followed Mav down, trying to get in on the comms to direct Mav's defensive maneuvers. I had a heater locked on the Mig but wanted Mav out of the line of fire before letting it go. We lost an enormous amount of altitude it seems very quickly, and eventually I had a clear shot, which I took. Splash one. I then formed on Mav and we tried to get back in the fight. Booster and Hero were smoked by this time I think."

Now we were down to Recon and me, and I still had not heard a word on either flight or Guard from him.
"3_1 radiochk Flight?"
"1_3 5by5"
yes! He was still there!
"3_1 clear visual 20000ft. I'm 5 miles east of you naked."
not that the naked call really mattered since I never got a nail or spike in the first place!
"1_3 visual, requesting permission to rejoin fighting wing?"
"3_1 cleared to rejoin".

Recon joined my left wing and we started to push north up threat. We did a weapons check, a fuel check and called Falcon flight on guard. They were apparently engaged BVR on some groups approximately 40 miles north from their own position. As I still had 4 slammers and recon still had 4 slammers and 1 heater, we decided to take the western side of the FAOR witch we coordinated with Falcon. As we pushed north I ordered recon into spread and told him to scan low. After a minute or two he picked up some returns about 30 miles north of us "1_3 contacts BE 280/10 angels 5, fast, hot", "3_1 copy. 1 targeted, sort standard and look for trailers" I ordered as I went to STT and called a Raygun on guard on the lead contact. No reply. They were properly hostiles, but since we had no AWACS declaration, no NCTR track or a visual, we had to push closer."Cowboy commit north, mission declare, chk master arm on"
I called as I pushed into Gator and increased my climb angle to 30 deg to climb to 25.000 ft from the 20.000 ft. we were in.

Recon did a perfect wingman job, knowing what my commit call meant and kept in formation in the climb, clearly showing, that he kept a look for me. Falcon was informed that we had committed, and they responded that they would ensure a green lane to our southeast. Nice to know what way to escape. 20 miles from the threats at angels 25 I pushed the nose to 15 deg decent since the hits were still low. I did not want to lose them through our scan floor. Now there were 4 of them in a finger 4 formation. 15 miles NCTR showed Mig-23. "cowboy weapons free, Fox 3 leader" next call from Recon was perhaps 5 sec after mine "3 Fox 3 lead trailer". "Crack NE" I pulled the nose right for 50 degrees and rolled out and eased out of afterburner to 90% thrust to let Recon rejoin. Now I watched my contact, still going south same speed, as my countdown time symbol change from A to T. "1 pit-bull" I called waiting for Recon to go pit-bull too. 5 seconds later Recon called pit-bull. "Cowboy out southeast, rejoin fighting wing" I called remembering the green lane falcon had advised. Recon replied with a short "2" letting me know he understood and had complied. Knowing that Falcon might be trigger happy from all the radio chatter and excitement I called them up on guard "Falcon_Cowboy, we are outing southeast from BE 240/10 angels 20", "Cowboy_Falcon copy, clear green lane"

Up to this day I still don"t know if our Fox 3"s hit anything, but we got home alive ready to fight another day, and a learning experience richer.
Always use your Mk. 1 eyeball to cover your flight from threats, no matter how much EWR equipment you have onboard your plane. We never got spiked nor nailed, but lost two perfectly good F-16's to two or three inferior Mig-27's that properly was not even missile equipped. Never rely on being on friendly territory and thus think your safe just because there is a CAP up threat and a fighter escort for a tanker. Know your systems and use them! I think I survived due to two things. Gut instinct reaction and having setup my selective jettison when I had the time for it. I was prepared. Had our mutual support and warning calls been a tad better, then it's quite possible that Booster would have had a chance to. Loosing Hero was simply a matter of sheer unfortune mixed with my lack of SA on Hero being engage on the guy. Had I been a little cooler, I should have continued high to find a spot to cover from high over the fight.

Maj. Martin "MAV" Vinther