The MiG 21
Copyright © 1969 Dick Jonas. All rights reserved.
Words and music: Dick Jonas; Enchantment Music/BMI
Then, there's the MIG-21. Man, what an airplane! Beautiful. Graceful. And fast. The guys who fly them are fighter pilots, too. That oughtta tell you something right away. The Wolfpack's got a lot of respect for MiG-21s. . . There was the day when then Major Kirk was escort commander with the gentleman fighter jock, Bernie Bogoslofski, as deputy commander and leader of the second flight of four escort fighters.
I was in the number two ship on Bogie's wing; don't remember who number three was, but Bob Boles was the number four AC, with Butch Battista as his pit man. We had the afternoon strike, going up the land side with air refueling in Green Anchor.
A favorite tactic of the MiG-21 was to roll in behind the Strike Force of bomb-laden F-105s, rev it up to a Mach-and-a-half (about 900 knots), and come screaming up our tailpipes throwing Atolls into the Strike Force. The Atoll was Nguyen's Sidewinder-like, heat-seeking air intercept missile which he had procured from his buddy, Ivan. The idea was to make the Thuds jettison their bomb loads out over the jungles a long way from the target.
With a fifty percent speed advantage at this point in the maneuver, the MiG-21s would be long gone by the time we could accelerate to supersonic. Our job in the escort flights was to counter this tactic by engaging the MiGs long before they could get within range of the Strike Force.
About 35 miles southwest of Hanoi, we get MiG warnings on the radio. They're climbing out of Hanoi and headed southwest. Here comes our welcoming committee.
And they're MiG-21s.
Bogie calls for the flight to punch off the wing-mounted external fuel tanks; we need to be light, fast and maneuverable. He turns the flight northeast bound, and we start a climb to get as high as we can as quickly as we can.
My AC lights the blower to stay in a cover position on Bogie while he and his pit man try for radar on the two Blue Bandits. We're beginning to appreciate how fast that little bastard is, and his small radar cross section. We don't see anything until our climb takes us through 34,000 feet.
Just then, these two Nguyens go streaking by right beneath us in the opposite direction. Everbody calls a Tally-Ho, and an already garbaged-up radio becomes totally useless.
I think the two MiGs see us at about the same time. Bogie split-esses the flight down in behind the bad guys; they separate and go in two different directions.
Our whole flight of four Phantoms rolls out behind one of 'em. I have no idea where the other one went; maybe home. In any event, the poor wingman winds up all alone out in front of all of us. And everybody is shooting, except him. My AC and I shoot three missiles; all three miss. Among Lead, Two and Three, fourteen missiles are fired at the MiG. None connect. Then, little Bobby Boles from the number four position lets loose with a singleton AIM-7 Sparrow radar- guided air intercept missile.
I watch over my right shoulder as the Sparrow drops out of the missile well on Bobby and Butch's airplane. With my eyeballs, I track the smoke trail of the rocket engine. I see the missile hit the MiG in the trailing edge of the left wing root. He is immediately enveloped in flames from just aft of the cockpit all the way to the tail. The MiG pitches up, then the fuselage forward of the wing pitches back down.
I don't see a parachute.
I am elated at the victory, and envious of Four's new status as a MiG-killer. I don't think much about the MiG jock, or his airplane, until much later. Then I'm sad and I don't quite know why.