Carrying a Nuke to


"Crazy days" (email from the Spadguys - 3)

Date: Mon, 21 Sep 1998 11:25:39 -0400
Subject: Spad Loft

Here are some notes concerning the Special Weapons loft procedures we practiced in the Skyraider, in 1959. This goes back 40 years, but here goes.

We reached the target area after about six hours of low level navigation. We located a stand off initial point about twenty miles from the target to begin a run in.. About this time we are using take off power (59 inches manifold pressure). When we are five minutes from delivery we momentarily ease power, turn on the water injection, then run the power back to 62 inches, accelerating to 260 kts.

At a geographic point prior to the target, we press the bomb release pickle to begin the LABS timer. The timer provides the pilot with run in time from a known point to time of delivery. In the cockpit the LABS instrument is about the size of your fist. There are two needles, one vertical and the other horizontal. When the timer ran out the horizontal needle, hinged to the right, dropped, and became a "G" meter. The pilot had to begin a 4.5 G pull up to cause the needle to return to the horizontal. The vertical needle indicated yaw. At about 38 degrees nose up the shape was released by an ejection cartridge and the horizontal needle turned into an aircraft nose attitude indicator. That upward pointing needle remained above the horizontal position until the nose of the inverted aircraft passed through the horizon, then fell as the nose of the aircraft dropped 30 degrees nose down, where the pilot rolled upright, and dove away from the target. This LABS function was helpful because the aircraft gyro tended to tumble along the way. The maneuver, a half cuban eight, topped out at about 1900 feet, with air speeds about 100 knots. There were many sea stories associated with this delivery. Day to day we practiced with mk. 76 bombs (25 lb. ???)that were released from wing racks. After a hundred of these, we did the delivery with shapes which were on the center line station, requiring a different pickle. More than one of us went over the top still carrying the shape, finger on the wrong pickle. Not too good for image. I taped a thumb tack to the wing rack pickle so I could not put a finger there.

One pilot who will remain unnamed, was concentrating so much on the LABS he forgot to roll upright once the nose fell below the horizon. He completed the loop, still on instruments, before the target range personnel asked what he was doing. Not wanting to look bad he reported that he was beginning a second run.

Another pilot, (later to be a A-6 POW) ignored his CO's direct order not to do an idiot loot over Spain. As he passed through the inverted attitude, he passed the CO going in the opposite direction.

The Water Injection, with about 30 gal. of internal water, was activated maybe twice a year per plane. As the pilot threw the switch, it was always a moment of suspense.

When we practiced with a shape, the planes were cleaned up, with armor and wing racks removed, to help us get the speed. When we trained using the Mk.76 practice bombs the planes we had wing racks and no water injection, so that it was difficult to get up to speed. Even when we tried to reach the pull up point in a shallow dive, it was not unusual to be in the 240 kt. range, which may be too slow to begin a loop. Our Squadron lost a commanding officer in 1961 when he stalled out at the top of the maneuver. Beginning a spin at 2000 feet is dangerous.

From: "BH Enterprises"
Subject: Nuclear weapons delivery
Date: Mon, 21 Sep 1998 15:32:57 -0000

I would suppose they were "sandblower missions" because the approach from the IP (Initial Point) on the bomb run was "on the deck" at full "military" power. Our training runs were made on a target area at El Centro NAS in the California desert, and I imagine we kicked up a lot of sand at the time. It is also true that the typical delivery mission would, of course, involve coming from the sea and crossing the beach at some point, usually at a low altitiude to avoid radar detection. We were usually able to come in under own ADIZ system, at altitudes [of] a few hundred feet.

Regarding the "flash goggle" question - I never heard of them. My tour was from 1956 to 58, so maybe they came in later.

The name "Spad", as I understand it, came from BOTH sources you mentioned -kind of a play on the old AD designator and the WWI fighter.

The AD was able to handle the delivery of several types of "nukes", including the BOAR, a rocket-assisted weapon. The maneuver used for delivery was a low-level high power approach, a straight-ahead pull-up at a specified "G" rate (about 3.5, as I recall) until the weapon was automatically released at a certain angle (around 35 degrees, I think), followed by a hard wing-over to the left and a return to the deck in the opposite direction for the supposed escape from the ensuing fireball. (I always wondered if they figured that right!)

Regards, Bill Happersett

Date: Tue, 22 Sep 1998 09:04:59 EDT
Subject: Re: 1/2 Cuban

Really don't remember when the LABS TGT or LABS IP where phased out but I'm fairly confident that the Replacement Air Group was still instructing the maneuvers in 1965 when I passed through. Yes, I'm sure we lofted a shape during the syllabus because of the memory of the cordite smell when the DBE (Douglas Bomb Ejector) fired. I am positive our aircraft in VA -176 (USS Saratoga - 1966) still had KNOTS timers installed, that was the "Advanced system" used in the LABS TGT delivery. ( Advanced being a mechanical timer that replaced the "0ne potato, two potato, three ...") Any "Special Weapons Delivery",including loft, in the Skyraider required a "retarded" weapon to insure SST (Safe Seperation Time). At 240 kts it took a while to get away from the blast wave. Most of us figured we wouldn't survive it anyway.

No the planning was a huge time sink. The chart preparation required hours and hours of layout, annotation, and binding. A 2800 mile mission flown at 180 kts with a time tick every 3 minutes requires more than a few charts!! Then you were tested on your knowledge of the route, target area, weapon characteristics, Survisal Evasion Escape and Restistance, return to force procedures, and force regeneration.

We didn't really worry too much about the mission - sort of figured it would be the end of the world anyway.


Date: Tue, 22 Sep 1998 12:20:55 -0400
Subject: Re: Spad Loft

I was flying the AD-6. Can't talk about others. The pilot selects a loft option for the ordnance. The timer is part of the LABS System. In doing the target planning, the pilot selects a geographis point away from the target, and calculates the run in time to pull up from there.( So you see, the timer will vary). The "pickle" is the normal center station ordnance release button. By pressing and holding the pickle, the timer starts. The plane must be 38 degrees (I think) nose up for the bomb to release. So as the timer runs out, the LABS needle drops and the pilot has to pull 4.5 G's to pull the needles back to a "crossed" look. The LABS is located pretty near the gyro, prety much in the center of the instrument pannel.

When I was young and stupid, I once tried to make a practice delivery in IFR conditions. I missed the target by about a half mile. The delivery was supposed to be a day VFR.

Jim Reid

Date: Tue, 06 Oct 1998 17:12:03 -0700
Subject: Re: instrument panel

Based on 40 year old recollection; the LOFT switch was for low angle [22 deg??] release from an initial point [IP] during a half-Cuban eight. The O/S refers to "over the shoulder" which is a high angle release [90 deg??] where the bomb theoretically goes straight up from the release point while the pilot executes the remainder of the maneuver. The TIMED O/S is used when an IP is remote from the target and time is preset for pull up point. At pull up point [timed or visual] the horizontal needle dropped. The objective was to bring it back to datum which required 4.5 "g" maneuver. The vertical needle was a heading indicator which was not insignificant due to the torque of the 3350 and the significant deceleration around the "goofy loop". In both cases the illusion was that the a/c and pilot would successfully avoid all the evil effects of the nuclear blast and get to do this again. The good old days.


Date: Thu, 1 Oct 1998 18:40:33 EDT
Subject: some answers

the hinged needle at six o'clock comes into play when on a run in. depicts left and right. The needle at nine o'clock lets you know you are hold proper G when centered in the maneuver. LABS times is the time to auto-release, preset, by the pilot for each run. Starts timing down when the release button is pushed. This starts the whole time sequence from there its skill and cunning to follow the needles. INSTR O/S+ instrument over the shoulder maneuver. Timed O/S is over shoulder maneuver, using LABS Timer Loft is the Maneuver I described to you before, which is a time maneuver till release, 175 degree pull over the angle off.

Duane Kalember

Date: Thu, 1 Oct 1998 18:10:16 EDT

RE "LABS TIMER" Since AD-4 dates from mid-50s, this is **probably** how the pilot "dialed in" the weapon release point (in seconds of time?) after commencing the pull-up at planned entry altitude and airspeed (assumes heading, g-meter, rate of ascent are then maintained...)

Dave G

Air Force View: "We don' need no stinking timers.. that's what computers are for!!"

continued in part 4

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