‘In the post-action debriefing, we found that ALL the F-106 Delta Dart aircraft got to the runway before the FIRST F-4,’ Bruce Gordon, former USAF fighter pilot.
In military aviation, scrambling is the act of quickly mobilising military aircraft. Scrambling can be in reaction to an immediate threat, usually to intercept hostile aircraft.
How long does it take to scramble a jet?
‘Normal status: Off duty. I was once scrambled from in the bath tub at home, when Russian bombers penetrated Alaska in 1963. I got my F-102 airborne in about 45 minutes. I was also scrambled from in bed in the barracks in Alaska when a Russian bomber was coming up the Aleutian Chain of islands and the planes tracking him were running low on fuel. It took about 45 minutes.
‘30-MINUTE Alert: We could go anywhere on base, but were in our flight suits and carried radios for recall. I never was scrambled from that condition.
‘15-MINUTE Alert: We were assigned aircraft and had our gear in the aircraft, but we could perform normal duties in the squadron, such as training.
‘5-MINUTE Alert: This was our normal Alert status. Our gear was in the plane, we had set up the cockpit for SCRAMBLE. We were in the Alert barn, we could sleep, play cards, watch movies, and we could get airborne in less than 5 minutes.
‘BATTLE STATIONS: Pilots in the cockpit, but don’t start the engine. We could get airborne in 2 minutes.
‘BATTLE STATIONS, ENGINES RUNNING: pilot in the cockpit, engine running, but at idle, so we weren’t using much fuel. We could get airborne in less than two minutes.’
‘The aircraft had a lot to do with it. The F-102 was a little faster than the F-106, and the F-106 was faster than the F-100 or F-4.
‘In Vietnam, the F-100 had to go through end-of-runway arming of the bombs and charging the guns. I was scrambled several times in the F-100, and think it took about 10 minutes to get off the ground.
‘In Korea, we had an unusual test. A COCO SCRAMBLE, where the object was to go to the end of the runway and start your takeoff roll, pop your afterburner, but then come out of afterburner and taxi down to the end of the runway and come back to your parking spot. I was in an F-106 squadron, and right beside us were parked an F-4 squadron. The COCO SCRAMBLE was a complete surprise in the early morning as both squadrons were asleep in barracks that were right beside each other. A major difference was that the F-4 pilots were provided with four-passenger pickup trucks, while the F-106 pilots had all purchased our own motorcycles. The base golf course was between our barracks and the flight line.
‘We were all in bed when the air raid siren blew and the loudspeakers called: “COCO SCRAMBLE! COCO SCRAMBLE!” I jumped out of bed, put on my flight suit and boots, and ran out to my motorcycle. As I started the motorcycle, I could hear the F-4 pilots climbing into their pickup trucks and calling to each other: “Where’s Joe? Tell him to GET MOVING!”
‘I started my motorcycle and ran directly across the base golf course. I went to Squadron Operations where I got my helmet, parachute, clipboard, and the F-106 assigned to me and its location. Back on my motorcycle, I raced to the aircraft and ditched the motorcycle. The crew chief barracks was much closer to the aircraft, and my crew chief was already at the plane, with the cockpit open and he was putting up the ladder as I arrived. He helped me strap in; I started the engine while he took down the ladder and pulled the chocks.
‘I was the second aircraft to the runway (the Squadron Commander beat me by a few seconds), started my takeoff roll, came out of afterburner and taxied down the length of the runway. I turned off at the end and taxied back. I stopped short of the F-4 squadron because the F-4s were starting to taxi out.’
‘In the post-action debriefing, we found that ALL the F-106s got to the runway before the FIRST F-4. I don’t remember the time, but it seemed like about twenty minutes for me. The fact that the F-106s had motorcycles and the F-4s had pickup trucks was probably a factor, but the F-106 was quicker to start and taxi than the F-4.’
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force