following true story comes from Tom DeMarino - one of the US Navy's
QF-86F pilots based at the Pacific Missile Test Center, Point Mugu
during the mid-'eighties. Tom flew the QF-86F in both piloted and
'remote' configurations and the tale here describes a massed 'manned'
sortie. Look out for my forthcoming QF-86 Book - more details when
asked to provide "force multipliers" along with VX-4 against
a visiting F-15 USAF squadron. Their job was to defend a target on
the coast, and ours was to get by them. During the brief, our "red
forces" lead basically said, "do not engage unless attacked,
our goal is to reach the target". Then we sat in on the general
briefing, led by an Air Force Colonel. He described all the rules
of engagement, safety, etc. as well as the boundaries of the good
guy area (basically around Vandenberg AFB.) His last comment was to
his people, saying, "I don't want to hear about any F-15's getting
shot down by thirty-year-old airplanes." I think it rankled him
a bit that we had a couple of "long hairs" flying our airplanes.
One of those long hairs was a retired fighter pilot, having flown
F-8's and F-4's most of his career. Although one of the more undisciplined
officers I had ever met, he was also one of the best air-to-air guys
I had ever met, particularly in a one-on-one environment."
would have it, the F-15 guys figured the F-86's were underpowered
sitting ducks, and let over-confidence get in the way. Instead of
calling a missile shot, they decided to save their missile expenditures
for more difficult targets and gun the Sabres. In order to do that,
they had to slow down in order to get some tracking time. Starting
with lower energy [rather] than best turning speed probably would
not have been a problem for one of the most powerful airplanes in
the air. But then they made their second mistake. The F-86 guys picked
them up fairly early and split left and right. The F-15's decided
to split as well and take them both instead of keeping section integrity.
Now it was one-on-one. As they closed in on the F-86's for what they
thought would be a fast kill, they learned how good an F-86 can turn,
and they overshot, allowing the F-86's to neutralize the fight. The
prudent thing to do at that point would be to hit burner and go straight
up, something the F-86 could not do. Instead, ego took over, and they
fought the Sabres on their own ground - a slow turning fight - and
got their hat, ass, and overcoat handed to them."
Sabre guys came into the debrief, the Colonel was somewhat rude and
abrupt - "I don't have anything for you guys, get outa here!"
As they walked down the hall wondering what the problem was, they
could hear the Colonel screaming at the top of his lungs, reaming
his wayward pilots a new one for getting shot down by a "30 year
old tin can with no missiles and no afterburner!" The targets
guys just laughed. It wasn't the first time...."