A Waterman-Twining Chapter member attends the monthly First Term Airman Course (FTAC) to present a Professional Airman Award. The awardee gets a Certificate, a pen set, and the Chapter provides a free 1-year AFA eMembership. The Chapter also attend the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) graduations to present AFA’s Pitsenbarger Education Grant to the top CCAF graduate from MacDill AFB. We also promote the AFA Scholarship Program which includes a Spouse Scholarship.
In the past, Chapter members have met with base groups, such as the Top 3, and attendees at the Airman Leadership Course, to talk about the AFA mission and how our Chapter supports airmen and guardians at MacDill.
If you are interested in helping with any of these activities, contact Bill Yucuis at email@example.com
The University of South Florida (USF) is the location for Detachment 159 of the Air Force ROTC unit. Within the ROTC unit are cadets who elected to join the Arnold Air Society (AAS), which is a professional, honorary, service organization for Air Force ROTC and Air Force Academy Cadets. As part of joining AAS, these cadets becoming members of the Air and Space Forces Association (AFA) and thereby members of the Waterman-Twining AFA Chapter. The Chapter has supported Detachment 159 for many years and works closely with the AAS cadets.
AFJROTC and CAP
Air Force Junior Reserved Officers Corps (AFJROTC) Mission: “Develop citizens of character dedicated to serving their nation and community.” Purpose: Instill in students the value of citizenship, service to the United States, personal responsibility, character, and a sense of accomplishment. To make the greatest positive impact in the lives of our cadets as possible. This is perfectly encapsulated in our motto: “Building Better Citizens for America.” Vision Statement: Air Force Junior ROTC (AFJROTC) will provide a quality citizenship, character, and leadership development program, while fostering enduring partnerships and relationships with high schools, educational institutions, and communities that help meet our citizen development mission. Air Force Mission: The mission of the United States Air Force is to fly, fight and win… airpower anytime, anywhere. Air Force Core Values: Integrity first, Service before self, and Excellence in all we do.
The Waterman- Twining Chapter has ten high school AFJROTC units within our Chapter area: Durant, Bloomingdale, Middleton, Blake, H.B. Plant, Jefferson, Sickles, River Ridge, Springstead, Hernando. Our goal is to support the efforts of AFJROTC units to produce citizens of character. As a minimum, we try to have a Chapter members at each AFJROTC unit’s Awards Ceremony and present the AFA AFJROTC Cadet of the Year Award.
Stewart Middle School
Stewart Middle Magnet, near Downtown Tampa’s Riverwalk, is a nationally recognized NASA Explorer School with a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Through the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) curriculum, students choose from unique Electives like Aerospace and Engineering. Scholar Quest options lead to high school credit in Gaming, Robotics and other subjects.
The Waterman-Twining Chapter has supported Stewart for many years. Stewart Middle School has the John Glenn Top Gun Academy, an Honor Society for students with an interest in Aerospace and Aeronautics. To become a member, students must submit an application and be interviewed. Chapter members have volunteered each year to assist in the interview process. Our Chapter also provides financial support which allows students to take an overnight visit to Kennedy Space Center each year.
Chapter members have also volunteered to participate in Teach-In Day, where local professionals talk to students about their experiences.
This past year, Stewart Middle School was the only Middle School in the country to receive a $52,000 grant from the Center for the Advancement of Science and Space. It’s just another example of the excellence at Stewart Middle School.
If you are interested in participating in any of these activities, contact Bill Yucuis at firstname.lastname@example.org
StellarXplorers and CyberPatriot
AFA has two national STEM programs, StellarXplorers and CyberPatriot. The Waterman-Twining Chapter supports both programs and encourages local education organizations to participate.
The StellarXplorers Space STEM Program, created by the Air & Space Forces Association (AFA), inspires K-12 students toward careers in aerospace, aviation, and other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines critical to our nation’s future.
The StellarXplorers National Space Design Competition provides specific training in the use of system simulation software, Systems Tool Kit (STK). The actual competition is accomplished from the team’s home location. Teams are given a scenario describing the system’s mission and constraints and they provide a solution to a typical space design problem, such as orbit determination, satellite component selection, and launch vehicle planning. Practice Rounds begin in October, and Qualification Rounds begin in November. Performances of teams during the Qualifying Rounds determine which teams advance to the Semi-Finals in February. The top 10 teams from the Semi-Finals receive an all-expense-paid trip to the National Finals. StellarCamp is a fun space system design camp for 6th through 12th graders. Participants get to learn about aspects of space system design with no prior experience required.
You can find more information about StellarXplorers at https://stellarxplorers.org/
CyberPatriot is the National Youth Cyber Education Program created by the Air Force Association to inspire K-12 students toward careers in cybersecurity or other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines critical to our nation’s future. At the core of the program is the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition, the nation’s largest cyber defense competition that puts high school and middle school students in charge of securing virtual networks. Other programs include AFA CyberCamps, an elementary school cyber education initiative, a children’s literature series, CyberGenerations –a senior citizen cyber safety initiative, and a Tech Caregivers program designed to encourage cyber-savvy volunteers to give back to their communities.
You can find more information about CyberPatriot at https://www.uscyberpatriot.org/
Teacher of the Year
STEM teachers shape the future of our nation – introducing students to exciting new concepts and offering a glimpse into what’s possible. The very best educators transform learning into a boundless adventure and prepare their classes to explore new frontiers of technology for the good of us all. Along with grants and scholarships, the Air & Space Forces Association believes that recognizing those who educate America’s youth is an important aspect of what AFA is all about. Every year, AFA’s Teacher of the Year program sponsored by Rolls-Royce proudly honors the commitment and achievements of these extraordinary teachers. Rolls-Royce sponsors the AFA Teacher of the Year program at the Chapter, State and National levels.
The Waterman-Twining Chapter annually awards a Chapter Teacher of the Year Award. Teachers can find more information and application forms at https://www.afa.org/TOY
50th Year Anniversary of Linebacker II
December 1972 - 2022
December 1972 - 2022
LINEBACKER II DECEMBER 1972 – 2022
A White Light
Near Bullʼs-eye, North Vietnam, 1972
On a late December night we were headed north at 27,000 feet and, as the Christmas Carole goes, “the stars were shining brightly.” We were all headed for the Red River Valley and downtown Hanoi. Our formal mission was to escort the B-52s but our real mission was to be surface to air missile (SAM) magnets – missile bait.
The B-52 Linebacker II campaign had started a few days back and they kept coming, night after night, flight after flight – flights of B-52’s pounding the North Vietnamese. Many seem to forget we paid a big price to pound the NV into ropes. They surrendered because they could no longer defend themselves; which should have ands to me meant that we won that round of the Cold war against Communism..
The Downtown and Route Pac missions up North all began at the fence check. After it was completed there were a few minutes to relax and get ready. We all took a deep breath anticipating what was out in front of us in the total darkness.
All the cockpit lights were dimmed by then. All the lights but one – the red AS light – we called it the “AAAH Shit” light. When lit, you were in for visitors from below; usually two or more in-trail surface-to-air missiles; SAMs were on the way – your way. The panel lights were also turned down, the press-to-test lights were dimmed, and others were covered with gray see-through scotch tape to cut the glare on the canopy. The external fuel tank switches were rechecked to the fullest tanks, all four of the heat seeker missiles and the four radar missiles were tuned with the best ones selected to be fired first. The weapons select toggle switch on the inboard throttle was in the 20mm nose gun position. Now all was ready, the helmet strap tight, clear visor down, oxygen system checked, oxygen mask tight, all lose items, checklist, and flashlight secured or stowed, all navigation lights off except the dim green strip lights for close in formation flying. Finally, I rechecked to make sure that the ejection seat pins were all out and gave a last tug on the parachute harness, seat belt and survival kit straps until they were as tight as I could get them, even if it hurt. You soon forget the hurt when the action begins. They need to be tight for a safe, very high-speed ejection. The hurt returns only after itʼs finally over and you are out of harmʼs way headed south or eastbound, “feet wet” over the Gulf of Tonkin, out of the fireworks.
Everything was set; now to just take a few minutes to relax a little and enjoy the beauty of a full cockpit view – the IMAX planetarium view. It was spectacular on that crystal clear December night, especially the Milky Way off the left wing.
We were nearing show time, 100 B-52 bombers and over 300 Air Force and Navy fighters were converging on the Red River Valley. That short relaxed mood changed the second I heard the first sounds of the early warning radar. The game was on. Each slow swipe of RF energy from the rotating Russian long-range search radar antennas gave off a sound like an angry Bullfrog on a small pond. These are the sound effects of modern warfare.
The radio chatter increased the closer we got to the Red River Valley and the “Bullʼs-eye”. The sounds of the SAM search radars, on top of the early warning radar, reached a crescendo, the entire night sky quickly filled with a rain of 10,000 bombs falling on North Vietnam, with missile after missile crisscrossing the night sky. I could not see those 10,000 bombs falling, but I could see the clusters of explosions all over the Red River valley, the explosions on the ground. In the air, the real time, deadly, unbelievable sound and light show began with the sounds provided by aircrews, emergency beepers, missile radars and the lights provided by bombs, missiles and aircraft exploding. At times, there were as many as six SAMs airborne all arching up in different directions from different locations out of the total darkness below. First there was one, then two, then another, two more over there and another one there. I watched the fireworks as some of them burst in a flash at a very high altitude, some lower, some just arcing up, burning out and falling back to earth. The closer to Bullʼs-eye, the brighter and the louder things got.
We were now close enough to see the AAA bursts. I did not see that missile trail; it was a just a bright pure white light that flooded my cockpit. The light was a strange pure white, like someone turned on a floodlight directly over my cockpit. It was not a flash, like a camera flash bulb, but had a plasma quality to it that seemed to grow in thickness and intensity. It was very bright but came just slow enough not to cause flash blindness. I looked around the cockpit amazed at the intensity of the strange light – brighter white than any sunlight. I could see what caused the light when my full night vision returned, the huge fireball at eleven o’clock high, like a dying star. It must have been the clearness of the air at 27,000 feet that allowed the light to have such power so far away from the blast. It was an amazing moment.
That night was the first time I saw a SAM making a direct hit on a B-52. I saw the explosion of a hundred, five hundred pound bombs and over 100,000 pounds of jet fuel above and well in front of me.
My immediate reaction was my voice, I even surprised myself – I said only two words into my oxygen mask, a gut response to what I saw, “The Bastards”, words that then and even now seem awkward and not my own.
There was a long pause after the fireball died. Then another flash – only this time closer, but on the ground. The second explosion was the remaining large pieces of the bomber as they hit the ground. That explosion floodlighted the initial blast cloud and the ghostly vertical column of gray smoke trails intertwined downward; it looked like the tightly twisted trunks of a small gray ficus tree; the kind you see in a well-groomed show garden or hotel lobby. The burning pieces of that bomber fell to earth from 35,000 feet – a downward spiral of ghostly smoke trails. It was an unforgettable picture of a mushroom cloud, like that of the A Bomb dropped on Japan to end the killing in world war two.
Death is quick and merciful for most pilots and aircrews; there is no pain, just instantaneous death. It is not like the painful and the bleeding death in the mud of the jungle floor waiting for a Dust-off, the medevac helicopter. For aircrews, in contrast it’s all over in a flash like the one I just saw. The fireball is the end, the finale, for all the crewmembers onboard. They all disappeared in that flash of pure, white light.
That moment, the burst of white light, was a dangerous distraction. Watching all those missiles slowly rise into the night was mesmerizing. I asked myself, “Would that be the one?” I forced myself to look around, not at them. Itʼs the one you don’t see that kills you. I saw a few more mushroom clouds in the nights that followed, when the sky was filled with missiles. Some of them aimed at me.
Even now, after all these years and especially during the 4th of July, my thoughts flash back to all those crews who just vanished in one a moment in the skies over North Vietnam. I think about all of them, my 4th of Julyʼs have never been the same since.
The number and intensity of the missiles diminished in the days ahead until the last few nights, I could have orbited over Hanoi with no sense of danger. We paid a big price. The North Vietnamese were defenseless, on the ropes, and they had thrown in the towel.
We won and then Nixon and Kissinger gave it all away – gave it back to them at the Peace table.
I want to dedicate this story to my B-47 navigator, and his pilot. They were in an F -111 out of Takhli and were last heard in a Mayday call after being hit over the Gulf of Tonkin. They were never heard from again and are still missing in action (MIA). Mac, you can rest in peace now on the bottom of the Gulf of Tonkin. Know that we won the war that helped us win the Cold war. Know that you had something to do with that and that people may try, but can never take that mission, that honor, that duty and that sacrifice away from all of us.
Hut Flight Cleared to Fire
North of Hai Phong – North Vietnam, December, 1972
My Linebacker II mission call sign was Hut flight.
We were a flight of three. We had lost Hut four due to a refueling problem. We were on a bomber escort mission that crossed the fence south of the Chinese border north of Hai Phong.
I positioned my flight of F-4E Phantoms between the missile sites around Hai Phong and the flight of three B-52s we were assigned to escort. They were above us and to our right, parallel to the north of our track. My plan was for us to act as bait to attract the missiles away from the B-52s.
The SAMs would have to come to us, or go through us, to get to the bombers. We had a much better capability to evade by out-maneuvering them, but it was a deadly game to play with the SAMs.
In contrast, the bomber crews’ orders were the do-or-die variety like the change of the light brigade. They could only use jammers and chaff and a tail gunner to defend themselves while pressing on straight and level to deliver their bomb loads. Those tactics changed as their losses increased.
Those Linebacker II missions explored the gamut of emotions and senses as in any deadly reality game of hunters and hunted.
As flight leader I always considered myself the hunter with two equal priorities: the mission and my wingman. I always sought to find the threat, the enemy and the target; and to protect my wingman. I would never sacrifice a wingman for the mission unless I was the first part of the sacrifice. Targets, in a sense, did not go away. They would generally be up again another day, but experienced aircrews were hard to replace.
The cacophony of radar warning sounds got louder and more mixed as we approached North Vietnam. We had no sooner crossed the fence than I caught what looked like a single MiG in afterburner at our three 0′ clock low position. I got off my radio to call my flight before the after burner – the MiG passed directly under me. There was no warning from my RHAW equipment. We had no warning from airborne early warning or Red Crown, the ship based radar picket-ship in the Gulf of Tonkin. They were all probably too busy with what was going on over Hanoi.
The MiG must have come from China, been vectored to us, but must not have used its radar to lock onto anyone in the flight. It was impossible for the enemy pilot, or for that matter any pilot, to get a visual on us in the pitch darkness. Still, we were lucky our first visual hadn’t been cannon muzzle flashes, or missiles plumes from the MiG.
I had briefed the flight that we would engage MiGs singly. If any one of us saw a MiG, we were to break off, tum off exterior lights, and attack. The same was true if we got a vector from Red Crown. I don’t know what other flight leaders briefed, but those were the night combat rules-of-engagement (ROE) for my flight.
My thinking was that at night a wingman was unlikely to be able to hang on to a maneuvering lead and there was no sense keeping your external lights on so he could. Further, once the flight is split, two fighters going after the same target in the dark is a recipe for a mid-air collision. I was the one who saw the MiG, so I broke out of the formation knowing that my element leader, Hut three “Snake”, would then take over as briefed and continue inbound escorting our bombers while I went after the MiG single ship.
I called, “Hut flight, MiG three o’clock low,” unloaded and went into full afterburner, as I rolled down and toward the MiG. I pulled hard down, turning as fast as I could ninety degrees to the south, the heading change I needed to match the direction of that afterburner plume. I knew that heading was taking us straight towards the heart of the five SAM sites around Hai Phong.
I rolled wings level, looking, listening, waiting, and hoped that Pojo, my guy-in-the- back (GIB), would find the MiG on our radar and lock him up so I could fire our AIM 7’s.
I strained to see in the afterburner of the MiG in the total blackness, it seemed to have disappeared. I listened for the growl of my AIM 9 missiles, the heat-seekers, “sniffing” for the heat of that MiGʼs tailpipe.
I needed something, anything; the afterburner as a visual, a growl from my best AIM- 9, or a radar lock-on with yellow in-range light, in order to ripple fire the radar missiles.
The MiG was out there somewhere in that black hole we shared, the hunted, we the hunter.
Then the radio call in the blind from Red Crown, but no vectors or range to the MiG, only, “This Is Red Crown on Guard; Hut flight you are cleared to fire.” Beautiful words-if you’re locked up or in sight. But I saw and heard nothing and my
GIB could not find the MiG on our radar. I don’t blame him. ‘Pojo’ had just arrived in the squadron from an RTU in the states. He was a new second lieutenant on his very first combat mission. Even the most experienced back-seater would have needed a lot of luck to find a small radar target in all the ground clutter and interference from jammers and chaff that night.
I tried, looked, and listened as hard as I could for the heat signal I would need to fire the AIM-9-to find the afterburner but nothing.
We were approaching Mach one in a 20-degree dive hurtling toward where I had last seen the MiG afterburner. The only thing I had to go by was the last heading of his afterburner plume.
My guess later was that the MiG had come out of afterburner, did a “Split S” and headed back to the north into China. His mission was completed. He was a successful decoy and we were now deep inside their five SAM rings around Hai Phong.
The hunter had become the hunted.
A few more seconds passed. I was about to call Red Crown. We were passing through 20,000 feet and Mach 1.4 when I picked up two SAMs. The red square RHAW AS light (aptly called the “aw shit” light) was lit; there was a strobe showing the right direction on the RHAW scope, and the rattlesnake sound confirmed we were now the hunted. We had become the prime target for the five SAM batteries. I had learned from experience that those missiles without a halo were of little threat. The halo, the ring around the rocket engine plume, was the give-away. Think of the halo you see around street lighting on a foggy night. The halos tell you at once that the SAMs are near enough to be lethal. There they were, the two were in trail, deep below us off the starboard side, both with halos and both headed directly at us.
I turned to put the missiles at 90 degrees off the right wing. I used right rudder to slice the nose of the aircraft down and used zero-g to get more acceleration. I watched the missiles. As soon as I saw them tum to follow us down, I rolled the wings level and pulled straight back on the stick and watched and waited. They tried to turn to follow us, but the missiles’ wings were too small to produce the turn needed. Both missiles passed well behind us at our six 0′ clock, heading toward the Gulf of Tonkin.
It is much like the way a bullfighter watches as the bull chargers, concentrating on the horns. A move to avoid them too soon and the bull has time to move away and redirect his charge. Move too late and the bull wins, with a trophy on his horns. The maneuver must be just right or the matador gets the horns.
We were in a nose high climb as the SAMs passed behind us. I rolled to the left so that I could look around. It was just in time, there were two more missiles, both in trail, both headed directly at us, and both had halos around their rocket plumes. I did not have to confirm using the RHAW, or the missile lock-on sounds, or the azimuth strobe or the red AS light to know we were their destination.
I rolled further left toward them keeping them at ninety degrees off the left wing. I
had to use more negative G to get them to commit down, knowing that we were on the edge, exceeding the negative G limits of both hydraulic generator drives. Our radarscope started to flash bright green as the generators cycled on and off. Then we waited. I watched for their course correction and the moment when they moved to follow us down. At that moment, I could pull up. Get that pull wrong and the fight is over.
The other lights in the cockpit were going on and off like a pinball machine as the generators tried their best to deal with the excessive negative G’s. There was no choice, I had to use all the negative G’s I could, knowing that there was a good chance of losing all electrical power in the middle of the SAM rings. But total power failure in a total black out night was the better choice over those two missiles.
I yelled at Pojo to turn off the radar, the bright flashing green radar screen was affecting my night vision. He did and just seconds later we lost all electrical power. I held the high negative G nose down pitch altitude, watched, and waited. The missiles started to tum to follow us down, and at that moment, I pulled up as hard as I could, and was relieved to watch them pass behind us toward Hanoi.
We were on battery power now as we headed southwest almost out of the last SAM ring. Pojo called out that we were being trailed by AAA air burst, but the pitch and tone of his voice told me that they were not an immediate or serious threat. I did start to pitch, roll and weave, more to scout the skies for more missiles, at the same time making us a more difficult target for the radar directed heavy AAA batteries.
I found my flashlight and started to work on getting the generators back on line. I moved the right generator toggle switch to reset. The generator come on line, but when I tried the left generator switch both would drop off line. The right generator came back on and that was all we needed until we were out of the Red River Valley and the threat area.
We had enough fuel and things started to settle down, so I turned more to the west. I tried to use the flashlight to read the standby compass for a heading but instead used the Milky Way for a rough heading once out of the SAM ring.
In a strange way, the missiles helped me know up from down and where Bulls Eye Hanoi-was. We eased further to the west and waited until Pojo could get the INS to re-align to give us more accurate headings for our flight home.
We now had one generator, the INS for steering and the radar back on so I turned to the northwest to see if we could intercept and rejoin Hut flight and the bombers during their egress from the Hanoi SAM rings.
Maybe I could still contribute by drawing the enemy interest away from the egressing B-52s. It was a good mission, especially for Pojo. It was his first combat mission and could not have been more interesting. I felt good about it too. We did not lose a B-52 under our protection that night and the enemy wasted four missiles on us, four missiles they could not fire at our B-52s in the nights that followed.
How best to celebrate...
The Local Tampa Bay – MacDill AFB Chapter of the Air Force Association is planning for the 50th anniversary of Linebacker II – LBII December 18-29,1972
We are reaching out into the membership and beyond to invite all those would participated in Linebacker II in any way to respond.
Cornelius “Neil” Cosentino, USAF Retired
VP – Membership for the Waterman-Twining AFA Chapter.
FMI email@example.com or text 813-784-4669
We will gather soon to select the best way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of LBII and honor those KIA and those MIA.