Cold War Era

USMC A-4 pilot tells the story of the badass USAF female GCI controller who helped him and his wingman to win a DACT engagement against two USAF F-15s

‘I recall on meeting her in the briefing, that she did not fit the mold that most people would have of someone directing fighters into combat. Turns out she was excellent at her job,’ Stephen Smith Retired Lt Col, USMC A-4 Fighter pilot.

‘Years ago, I was flying the A-4 Skyhawk in the Marine Reserves. Ours was one of those reserve squadrons where a number of the pilots would have been the best pilot in most of the active duty squadrons I had flown in. We were all highly experienced, and very capable pilots,’ Stephen Smith Retired Lt Col, USMC A-4 Fighter pilot, Airline pilot, on Quora.

‘At that time, many squadrons liked to fight against the A-4, as it had excellent nose authority, a high roll rate, and simulated a MiG very well. On this occasion, we were fighting USAF F-15’s at Eglin AFB in Florida. The main shortcoming of the Skyhawk was its lack of radar. The F-15’s would see us on their radar from miles away, while we were flying blind into a big sky looking for the enemy. As such, we would be controlled into the fight by advice from a radar operator at the base. In this case our Radar eyes belonged to a young petite female junior Air Force officer (First Lt, or maybe Captain, I don’t recall which). I recall on meeting her in the briefing, that she did not fit the mold that most people would have of someone directing fighters into combat. Turns out she was excellent at her job.

‘Air to air combat is perhaps the most high speed competition in the world. All participants are moving at high speeds, and at constantly changing angles in relation to each other. Sometimes, you lose awareness of where one or more aircraft are in relation to yourself. Sometimes, you have screwed up and are heading away from the “furball” and in short time, you are out of the fight. It will take you a while to turn around and get back into the fight.’

Smith continues;

This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-15C Eagle 36th TFW, 22d TFS, BT/79-051 / 1981

‘When you are in a fight with more than one other airplane, it is easy to lose track of where one of your enemies has gone. When that happens, you have to be less offensive, and keep an eye out for the missing adversary, as he may be closing in for a shot at you. One of the most used phrases in fighters is “Lose sight, lose fight.” The GCI controllers job is to allow you to enter the fight in the best situation, and to help you keep yourself related to the aircraft involved. When we lose sight of a bad guy during the fight, the call was simply, “Bogey Dope!” The GCI controller would then tell you they are “2 miles west”, or “Merge Plot”, or whatever will help you gain sight. (Merge plot means that both of your radar blips are in the same place on their scope.)

‘This day, on our first engagement, I was cautiously working on one F-15, because my wingman and I had both lost sight of his wingman. I could not find his sneaky wingman anywhere, so I called “Bogey Dope!” Our young lady Lieutenant came on the radio with the enthusiasm of one who was there in the fight with us. She called out, “He’s out of the fight! He’s out of the fight! Kill him! Kill him!” My reply was simply, “Yes Ma’am”, and we did. Knowing that his wingman was not a threat, we put all our efforts on a quick kill, and by the time the wingman got back in the fight his lead was gone, and we had a 2v1 advantage on him, resulting in another quick kill. In all my years flying fighters, I never heard such an enthusiastic call from a controller. That was one badass call, and one badass lady.’

Smith concludes;

‘My fondest wish would be that she somehow finds this post, remembers that day, and knows how much respect she earned by doing a great job. Semper Fi, Ma’am, wherever you are.’

Photo credit: U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force

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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