Talk me through a mission and what it was actually like.
U.S. Air Force, Stealth bomber pilot|
Well to actually attack a target we have a image of the target area and usually
what we do is we have three images, we call them an overall, a medium and then
a blow-up. And what it is, it's just a picture of the building or the area
that we're gonna attack and as we go into the target area we compare that
image to what we're seeing on our sensors to find the target. We deploy in and
as we get closer and closer to the target, the image gets clearer and larger in
our display and we flip through photos that are provided to us to find the
And the plane meanwhile is flying itself?
The plane is flying itself. The auto-pilot on the Stealth fighter was made to
take us to the target, to get there on time. There's pilot inputs that are put
into the system, but when it comes down to the end game of finding the target,
the pilot is looking at a sensor and guiding the cross hairs that put the laser
spot on the target . . . .
So at that point you're not actually worried about how the plane is
performing, you're worried about finding and locating and destroying the
Absolutely. And that's the most important thing to us. . . .
What was it like as you began to approach Belgrade the first time?
Well that's probably the strangest time. You see the lights of this huge city
that's displayed out before you and as you're tracking your target, as much as
we need to stay focused on looking at the target area through the sensors in
the aircraft, you grab those quick glimpses outside the aircraft to see if
there's anything coming up towards your airplane. So that's probably the
toughest part, is right when you can see those city lights for the first time.
Now we've all seen the images out of Baghdad during the Gulf War, with just
the whole light to the sky, the night sky being lit up by anti-aircraft fire.
What were you seeing?
That's what I expected, and the sorties that I flew I didn't see that intensity
of Triple A. I know that there are some fellow pilots of mine that would
disagree with me, but on the particular nights that I flew I saw resistance but
it wasn't as heavy as that, it wasn't as heavy as I expected. . . .
Tell me about your last mission ... you always tend to remember your first
and last mission.
I remember my last mission very well, as a matter of fact. . . . I was given
a target, specific to the one 1-17 community, we call it a "non-collateral
damage target," where we couldn't accept anything besides the target itself
being destroyed, and it was extremely bad weather on the night that I went to
that target. So there was a real decision that I had to make in my mind and I
end up dropping on the target and guiding both the weapons into the target.
But it was probably as nervous as I've ever been in my life for the last 60
seconds. It was exciting.
And what was making you nervous was the risk that it could go astray?
Absolutely. . . . I felt like I had a heavy burden on my shoulders as I went
into this target with the weather obscuring the target, to make sure that those
weapons didn't go astray.
How much of a difficulty was it, the weather? How much of a factor was it
in your ability to perform your mission?
The weather was tough. We knew that the weather would be tough. . . . We had
nights when we would get marshalled up and get ready to go in country and we
receive a code word and you'd be sitting in the cockpit all ready to go, all
refuelled, and you would just drop your hands in frustration and turn around
and go home. That happened to me four nights in a row. The weather was
difficult. That's the best way to describe it. If it would have been clear
nights there would have been a lot more damage done earlier in the conflict.
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