Mock Combat - CF-100 vs. NATO

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Tech Sergeant
Jan 31, 2009

From Colonel E. G. 'Irish' Ireland, RCAF:

Now the Clunk was never proclaimed to be a day fighter aircraft and its presence in NATO was only to fill the rather glaring gap in all-weather and night air defence capability. Working hours being, as they usually were, an 0800 to 1700 hours affair for the majority of Air Division personnel, it was inevitable that much CF-100 training was conducted in daylight. Enter, centre stage, the day fighter jockey.

Far from being a sitting (or flying) duck for any pilot with forward firing guns, the old Lead Sled, in the hands of a pilot with some knowledge and experience in day fighter tactics, could not only deny the day hero his coveted cine film but on occasion could turn the tables on any swept-wing pilot who was careless enough to hang around and let his speed get down. In any event, it was dog eat dog and heaven help the hindermost or ass-end Charlie.

At one end of the single-seat, swept-wing spectrum was the RCAF Sabre 6, which in those days was just about top gun in the West and the toughest to play with. At the other end was the poor old F-84F, flown by several NATO air forces, and the USAF F-100 Super Sabre, the 'super' being a great misnomer. These two aircraft were easy meat for anyone, anytime. Usually, the Sabres, Hunters and Mysteres disdained bouncing them. Their usual defensive tactic was to go straight downhill as their turning radius was likely to take up most of the airspace over Belgium and Luxembourg combined.

In the mid-spectrum were the Hunters, Mysteres, F-86Ds and the occasional Javelin. These provided the best 'training aids' for the CF-100.

The old fighter dictum of 'spot them early' applies equally to radar as to visual sightings, and we used our AI radar to good advantage to back up our eyeballs. Once we had a visual, our next move was to wade into the 'enemy' - fly straight at the section, flight or squadron, regardless of size. There was no sense tiptoeing around, for you were probably seen as soon as or shortly after you saw them. But if there was a convenient cloud cover to duck into a whole new game of hide-and-seek opened up wherein the AI aircraft had quite an edge.

Anyway, there's something disconcerting about having 16 tons or so of metal coming straight at you from the beam or front quarter and the resulting break usually loosened things up a bit and deprived the day fighter jocks of a set-up. Besides, if you got an AI lock-on at a reasonable range you could always say later (true or not, the opposition was never certain), if confronted at the bar with a re-run of the episode, that you had 58 rockets going through their gaggle before they even got set up for a pass.

If we had Hunters getting set up to bounce us, the recommended procedure was to lose some altitude, thus committing them to a definite downward attack. When the Hunter was just out of firing range, a CF-100 would break hard into the attack, heading straight down, speed brakes open and throttles closed. It was fun to watch the Hunters go hurtling past the hunted, well on the outside of the defensive spiral and in no position to do anything but boom the innocent natives on the ground. No cine today Jose! Our Sabre buddies had clued us in that the Hunter was heavy, clean and a little shy on speed brake drag.

We used the same tactic against the Sabres but they would just circle around our corkscrew until the unwinding altimeter dictated a pullout. Although the Sabre drivers ostensibly disdained the CF-100 and everyone associated with it, as encounters in the mess continued, a Wing camaraderie, if not grudging respect, developed between the two factions. Subsequently it became not unusual for calls from 1(F) Wing Clunks for assistance to be answered by their Sword counterparts. The latter would show up and wade into Swords from the other wings, to protect the Clunks. Anything for a hassle!

Perhaps the best sport of all for CF-100 crews, aside from Charlie's Bar in Luxembourg, was provided by the French Air Force Mysteres. Again, our Sabre friends tipped us off that they found the Mystere pilots reluctant to operate their aircraft in any manoeuvre approaching the vertical. This probably had to do with a potential stall on the top and a spin, upright or inverted, from the stall, or perhaps a pitch-up condition such as the Voodoo experiences.

We found the information about the Mystere to be reliable. Firm believers in taking the trouble to someone else's backyard, we would haunt the Mystere airfields. If we caught them taking off, they would be heavy with fuel and reluctant to hack around even lower down. If they were on a mission that dictated no horsing around, they'd also decline combat. Either way, we'd be a source of annoyance as we nipped away at them in their heavy state.

It was when we got them as they returned that the real fun began. Keeping our speed well up, we would wait until they had set up for an attack. Then, as they were just out of firing range, we'd stand our Clunks on their tails and go straight up, and wait for the Mysteres to ease off their curve and peel off from the climb. Depending on how close they ventured into the vertical and whether they continued into a levelled-off turn or dived away, we could sometimes do a stall turn into a favourable stern position on them. After such manoeuvres the Mystere's fuel state would require a no-nonsense landing whereupon we would join up obligingly with the tag ends on the downwind leg or elsewhere in the circuit and escort them to touchdown, raking the tower on overshoot. It must have galled the Gallic disposition but the French never once screamed foul through official channels.
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