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Sea Stories: The Iranian F-14


Gunboat1
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Sea Stories: The Iranian F-14

 

In 1985, I was deployed to the Indian Ocean aboard a Guided Missile Cruiser assigned as Air Defense Coordinator (AW) for a carrier battle group.  Given that we were the boss of air defense for this powerful flotilla, we were stationed quite far from the Carrier, up the most like threat axis for air attack:  towards the Islamic Republic of Iran.   It may seem strange, but we have been bitter adversaries with Iran for over 40 years, and tensions between us are nothing new.  They have always been full of bluster, and have periodically issued pointed threats to attack US forces.  We quite rightly take them seriously, as they are just crazy enough to try it. 

In those days, Iran still had a few F-14 Tomcat fighters in their inventory, in flyable condition.  Yes, that’s right, the real star of the movie Top Gun, the awe-inspiring F-14.  We had previously sold the Shah of Iran several, and the Mullahs had inherited his air force when they deposed him and took over.   The Iranians had fitted their Tomcats with early-generation Maverick missiles: fairly crude, but guided missiles with an actual TV camera in the nose which was used to steer the weapon to its target.   They could not sink a ship, but could certainly damage it and cause casualties, so they were nothing to sneeze at.

I was qualified and stood my watches as Ship’s Weapons Coordinator/Force Weapons Coordinator (SWC/FWC).  I was charged to determine if an air target needed to be killed, to select which weapon to use to kill it, and to issue that order to either the weapons system operator on my own ship, or to the SWC on another ship of the battle group, or to the appropriate aircraft stationed overhead to defend the force.  It was an awesome responsibility for a young officer.    Of course, it was intended that I would be doing this under the direction of my CO, or at least a more senior officer than me, if we had taken the ship to full battle readiness, a condition of readiness called “General Quarters.”

Late at night on one midwatch, my ship picked up an air contact over the Indian Ocean.  It was not operating any Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) beacon, so was utterly unidentified.  It was at medium altitude, just sort of lazily bumbling around over the ocean, generally meandering towards us.  Not a particular threat, but we of course took notice and tracked the contact. (AW motto:  In God We Trust; All Others We Track.)

The midwatch is very quiet.  Everybody who can be is asleep.  Nothing much happens – usually.  Just about the time that the contact got close enough to us to begin considering it as a possible threat, our Electronic Warfare sensor operator reported that it had energized a radar.  And this radar (the AWG-9) only had one home:  inside the nose of an F-14.  And all our F-14’s were onboard the carrier for the night.

Yeow.  We had an Iranian F-14, inbound, with his targeting radar on, and no IFF signal.  Call me crazy, but that looked just like the kind of threat that it was my job to stop.  There was no time to wake up the Captain and ask permission.  There was no aircraft available to intercept the bogey and shoo him away.  So I did what I was tasked to do.  I electronically and verbally issued orders to my friend the Weapons System Operator to arm two live surface-to-air missiles and place them on the launch rails, and to energize and lock two SPG-55B missile guidance radars onto the F-14.  These incredibly powerful radars would have lit up the F-14’s threat warning receiver like a Christmas tree. 

My Weapons System Operator was a bit incredulous at first, verbally asking if I meant what I said.  (Nothing like this usually happens on the midwatch, remember?)  I assured him that I did indeed mean what I had ordered.  I won’t repeat the exact language used, as this is a family-friendly story.   He got the message.

Two white birds (live missiles) zipped out of the forward missile magazine and onto the launcher.  Two radars began microwaving the pilot like a frozen burrito.  And with warning lights flashing and “you’re about to die” beeping sounds shrieking in his headset, the Iranian pilot realized the error of his ways, extinguished his radar, and ran for home like a scared chicken.

About the time the Iranian was outbound, my Captain appeared in CIC in his undershirt, to see what all the ruckus was about.  He satisfied himself that all was well, bade us put the toys away, and returned to sleep.  I heard no more about the matter and life went on.  But we had no more unexpected Tomcats disturbing our midwatches.

 

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Edited by Gunboat1
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Was on the White Plains at that time doing the Diego Garcia Oman loop.

Remember those days fondly as I made Chief that year. Prior to that was on a USNS that loved the Indian Ocean between Singapore and Muscat lol.

I truly enjoy your stories. As a Sm I had no business in CIC except to bs with friends but I was a qualified conning officer so many a watch on the bridge.

Conning during unreps was a blast. Conning thru the Sea of Japan and fishing fleets sucked.

Sorry for drift!

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1 hour ago, flags said:

Was on the White Plains at that time doing the Diego Garcia Oman loop.

Remember those days fondly as I made Chief that year. Prior to that was on a USNS that loved the Indian Ocean between Singapore and Muscat lol.

I truly enjoy your stories. As a Sm I had no business in CIC except to bs with friends but I was a qualified conning officer so many a watch on the bridge.

Conning during unreps was a blast. Conning thru the Sea of Japan and fishing fleets sucked.

Sorry for drift!

You are absolutely right about the conning challenges.  Unreps are ballet; the Sea of Japan or Celebes Sea fishing fleet transits were enough to drive you to drink.  Especially the South Pacific where they don't have electric lights, just charcoal braziers they bellows into flame to give you a "light" to see to keep from running them down in their little outrigger bancas.  It'll make you  gray before your time.

Thanks for the kind words.  More to follow.

Edited by Gunboat1
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