Your Weekly Lex, For Strength


A couple of years ago, I had the idea that I’d post stories from “times I almost died.” T.I.A.D., in short.
I didn’t have that many, as it turns out – you don’t get that many chances to “almost die” before completing the act, and then someone else gets to tell stories about you. So the thread didn’t last very long. But it wasn’t an entire waste of time. And it is the weekend, and the world’s on fire and I’m not up to getting my noggin wrapped around it right now.
A new series, for Sunday evenings: “Times I Almost Died.”There are no lessons here. No larger truths. This will not change your world view.
But I have a rather large store of aviation tales, stories wherein things could have gone very wrong, that will take the pressure off Sunday evenings for a while. A month of Sundays, at least.
Date: April, 1987
Place: Fallon, Nevada – B-17 range complex
Environment: Close Air Support (CAS) training missionClose air support is a “high risk” mission. It’s typically flown at low altitude, where no self-respecting strike fighter pilot would choose to find himself, if he could at all avoid it. Down low, any gomer lying on his back with an AK-47 could put a 7.62 round somewhere important, just by sheer, dumb luck. And you’d never see it coming.
But when the folks on the ground call for CAS, it’s because they need it. Their own artillery isn’t answering the ordered bell. People are dying. Our people.
So they call fixed-wing CAS in, because a strike fighter or two with four 2000 pound bombs can make quite an impression on the enemy, if mortars, howitzers and 105′s aren’t doing the job. To put things in perspective, you, gentle reader, could pick up a 105 round, although you’d probably struggle a bit.
You couldn’t part the hair on a 2000 pounder.
And the bigger bombs get (by mass) the greater the proportion of explosive power.
CAS is hard to get just right. By definition you’re in close proximity to friendlies when you release. Getting it wrong could make things much worse, rather than better. You have to be absolutely certain. In Vietnam, over half of all CAS missions went through the target “dry” on their first look. The guys couldn’t be sure. Which sucks for the guys on the ground, because the really, really need your help.
But dropping your ordnance on the wrong side of the line doesn’t help them at all.

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