Cold War Era

USAF F-15 pilot explains why he had to buy beers after he took off without G-suit during his first scramble


In the event of a threat, military forces need to react quickly for safety reasons. Aircraft scrambling is a part of a military aviation technique used to get an airplane off the base as quickly as possible.

In NATO military parlance, it’s a Quick Reaction Alert, or QRA. The US Department of Defense prefers Airspace Control Alert (ACA), but informally almost everyone calls it a “scramble.”

During the Cold War, many NATO air forces had crews stationed in Europe on alert and scrambled whenever their airspace was penetrated.

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Both interceptors and nuclear bomber forces were kept on QRA.

But how much time was required for a pilot “on alert,” to get into his aircraft and get airborne?

USAF F-15 pilot scrambles without G-suit

Jeff Loftin, former USAF F-15 Eagle pilot, recalls on Quora;

When I was in the F-15, when the horn went off we had to run to the jet and launch within 5 minutes. We slept in our flight suits and boots, but most guys kept their G-suit by the door or in the cockpit to be put on as the engines cranked. On my first scramble, I was in such a hurry, I left the G-suit by the door.

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‘That wasn’t a big thing since our role was as interceptors and there was little chance of a dogfight: however, all my maps were strapped onto the legs of the G-suit. So, after our practice intercept, when the flight lead told me to lead us home, I had no idea where we were or how to get home. I bought the beers after that alert tour.’

Loftin concludes;

‘By now, I’m sure paper maps are obsolete. I flew the F-15 from 1981–87 when it was relatively new. We had an inertial navigation system that would basically take us point to point, but it wouldn’t display a map.’

The following video, taken at Bitburg Air Base, Germany, at the height of the Cold War, shows a typical F-15 Zulu Alert Scramble.

Photo credit: Screenshot from video

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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