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Cold War, Hot Jets


Quillan

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I know there are a few old RAF chaps around on the forum.

I must of missed this the first time round as it has just been on BBC2 this morning. Some fantastic film of the V Force and the Lightening (I flew in one of those, T2). In my time in the RAF I came across one or two who were part of the V Force. One of my instructors was a navigator (as opposed to plotter) on them. They used to gloat about the bombing competitions held in the US, we were dropping within 500 yards and the yanks were lucky to be inside a mile although a bit academic when you consider what they were meant to drop in real life. It was really nice to see the old aircraft (as Bader always called them, never a plane). Shame it has all gone now but then we do have peace to replace them which is much better. It is good to know that once we led the world and nobody, not even the yanks, could get near us technology wise.

I know it is laughable now but I liked the criteria for being on the V Force "What school did you go to, do you play rugby and have you got a mess kit?"

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The bombing competitions were Giant Voice / Red Flag and the Vulcans from Waddington were regular participants - winners too on occasion.

I was never asked the school / rugby / mess kit questions but none the less I served on the V force at RAF Waddington.

I never got to fly in a Lightening but did manage Hunters.
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Were you flight crew as thats what they were talking about, part of the PV process on the TV program.

I was at Farnborough when they were testing the new ejector seats for the hunters. I was sent there as navigator on the experiment Herc, they were playing with Plessey inertia nav at the time. Used to pop in the N shed from time to time and they used to have this rig attached to a Hunter (something 383 if memory serves) to raise the ejector seat like it was being fired. The problem with the early seats is they never had the (now common) ankle straps to pull your feet in during ejection and a couple had lost their feet against the flight panel on ejection. They had a T4 (or T5 possibly) Lightning there and I blagged a ride with Group Captain Adcock, something I will never ever forget. You don't have breakfast in the morning when you go in one of them I can tell you.

The Lightning used to be kept at A Shed along with the Devons. There was a story which I don't know is true or not about an airframe apprentice who was doing a turnround on the Lightning. He really kicked the tyre hard, so hard he broke his toes. When asked he said his apprentice master used to test the tires that way, he had seen him do it on the Devons. Apparently the tire pressure on the Lightnings was so high it was like kicking a block of concrete.

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Q, I'm afraid the school/ rugby / messkit question as quoted just does not add up, not even for aircrew.

For starters, all RAF Officers have mess kit as a matter of course, that's ALL, irrespective of branch employment. The V force aircrew were all drawn from the General Duties ( Flying) branch and would have gone through comprehensive training on other aircraft before being posted to a V bomber unit. They were all experienced Officers before such posting.

I can't comment on the interesting leg-restraint issue with early ejection seats, all my Hunters were FGA 9 variant and were fitted with the appropriate Martin Baker 0-90 seats including leg-restraints. I do know that some of our Hunter pilots were strapped in and 'pull-out' checks done to see if, because of their height, their knees would catch on the panel if they had to eject. When I did 'ground school' it was initially thought I was labelled as a potential lightning pilot because of my (lack of ) height, so presumably the same knee problem was a factor in that aircraft.

Needless to say I was not a ''driver-airframe'' but a ground Engineering Officer, Mech Eng specialisation.

Interestingly, when I was a Flight Commander at 229 OCU on Hunters, we had more aircraft movements per day than Heathrow (at that time). When we left RAF Chivenor to move to RAF Brawdy we had a mass flypast over Barnstaple which had ( if I recall correctly ) some 80 Hunters in wave after wave. That was a logistical nightmare for my 1st line Flight crews, as was the subsequent landing on at Brawdy.

The lightning tyres were, as you say, particularly highly inflated because of their narrow section and the associated aquaplaning risk at their high landing speeds. There is an interesting formula to apply in that respect but I can't remember it now.

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Well all I can say is what he said on film. Perhaps somebody asked him as a joke and for some reason he believed it or threw it in during the interview knowing ex RAF personnel would smile. Have to say that like many theres I was PVed and it never came up and to be honest such a question or statement would have made me wonder about the sanity of the person asking and if I was in the right job.

Bet that was some sight over Barnstable.

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It would have been an even better sight if the weather had held off, the intention was to fly over at 200ft but that wasn't possible in the end because of the rain etc.

The roads around Brawdy were full of locals astounded at the sight. A year later they were equally full of the same locals demonstrating about the noise !!!!!!!!!
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My my, cannot let this go by me without the Senior Service getting a word in! The follow on series "The Silent War" dealt with the submarine service and its input into winning the cold war. When I was doing my training for the SSBN force, the then SM 10 (Captain of the Polaris Force at Faslane) said to us on our first visit there " I look for two things in an officer, he rides to hounds and he enjoys a good port". He did not think it a joke and was definitely "old school". I thoroughly enjoyed the Hot Jets series too. As a midshipman I did three months a Yeovilton and ended up teaching visitors how to strap into an ejector seat (even visited the Martin Baker works where they assembled all the parts in little huts all well away from each other). I got one flight in a Hunter and was allowed to take the stick and fly it. The most memorable part was turning into the landing and seeing a painted outline of Ark Royal on the runway.. it was tiny and reinforced my admiration for those who landed fast jets of any kind on bucking carriers in day, or even worse, at night!
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Don't know if it still there but they used to have arrester gear mounted on a side runway at Farnborough as that was where they developed it along with the 'mirror' system for aligning with the carrier deck (forget its name now). They used to have a Scimitar with no wings that they used to hack down the runway and deploy the hook. Never actually saw it in use mind.

There is (or was) a museum in Farnborough for Martin Baker as that was were a lot of development and testing was carried out. When I was there they still had the test Meteor although no longer used. I don't know if it is still in print but years ago I read a book by Bernard Lynch who was the original 'live' test 'pilot' for MB. Some of the stories were quite funny but a hell of a brave chap.

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