When Eric and I started exchanging Mirage technical info many moons ago he said one day I will build a Mirage that's significant to you. Here we see A3-13 to me perhaps the most significant Mirage of all well to me. A3-13 as built by Eric was as I flew her in the dawn Strike of My Fighter Combat Instructors (FCI) course. The Dawn strike is the FCI course graduation ride.
Graduation from FCI course is the pinnacle of any RAAF fighter pilots career. Wearing that little blue shield shoulder patch is something pretty special. The course is close on 6 months long and covers the full gambit of RAAF fighter operations. It includes basic flying instruction, (you do a lot of backseat time), Air to Air, Air to ground. Lots and lots of live weapons work. Its full on 6 months of ramped pressure were you every move is scrutinised and assessed without mercy. At the culmination of this course is the â€œDawn Strikeâ€ In my day this was An Amberley to Williamtown trip. Pretty much all the airspace between Amberley and Williamtown in a 100nm wide corridor below 30,000 to ground level was exercise air space. Every available aeroplane from Williamtown
was sent up to defend against the strikers from up north â€¦. the graduating FCI course. Here is the story of my dawn Strike.
The day before.
We arrived into Amberley around 1300hours the day before. Aircraft parked all over the airfield each separated by a designated distance â€¦ standard when HE weaponry is around the idea being is that if one aircraft goes up the others wont get caught in the mess. No time for resting straight into the Bomber bonkers crew room a quick coffee then bam FCI course into the briefing room. The whole of 2OCU is there all the instructors sitting in the rear with 5 seats for the FCI course at the front. We all know whats coming but having never done it have yet to grasp the magnitude of what the next 20 hours will bring.
At this point the Tasking order is given. This includes the number of aircraft the weapon load out the time on target and the expected enemy air defences. Gulp its huge Our strike package is 16 aircraft we can anticipate 25 or so enemy aircraft defending. The target is Singleton weapons range with a first light TOT and 5 minute window to get all the aircraft through the target. Each aircraft configure with 2 x RPK10 with 4 MK82 low drag bombs and a centreline 286gal tank. Then the moment of truth who is going to lead this Gorilla? Tradition says the guy who Dux's the course leads the push â€œKelsâ€ the youngest on our course got the guernsey . An immediate sense of euphoria sweeps the room with us all congratulating Kels. We are soon reminded by the boss we have a big push to plan and time is limited... and don't forget you can still get scrubbed even on the dawn strike for a **** up.
Its now about 5PM and the planning process starts. The time line is established working back from the TOT (including 6 seconds bomb time of flight). The critical time is Brakes release at time XX plus or minus 0 seconds. We then establish the Beginning and end of sortie briefing time. Now we know how much time we have to plan co ordinate get the maps done (no PC's back in my day) No inertial system either so its Map reading heading time airspeed. I am delegated the job of coming up with the actual attack plan from the IP to the target. Others are delegated map making tasks, Getting the comm plan and frequencies sorted getting the chosen frequencies to the troops for pre loading in the aeroplane. Making sure the engineers know exactly what time we need to start engines. Working out the taxi plan since we are all distributed over the entire airfield.... one guy taxis in the wrong order and the plan is compromised. Make sure we have the transport to get everyone to their aeroplane on time â€¦. We live and die by that bloody clock on the wall. â€¦. shizer its already 7PM.
I have just about finished the Attack plan then realize to my horror I have used the wrong scale template to set up the Pull up turn radius â€¦ back to the map draw re do the bloody things. Yep happy with them off to the photo copy machine to run off some black and white (colour photo copiers were considered national assets in those days) copies of the IP to target attack plan. Which includes IP tracks and timings to de conflict each aircraft from each others Frag envelopes. This was done by a combination of timing and different delivery profiles throughout out the strike package.
Kels has just started to write up the Mission brief on the blackboard (No Power point etc in those days). He needs to make this a true Rembrandt presentation, Precision aligned text make sure you use a minimum of 3 colours â€¦ otherwise the QFI's will be shaking their heads . Make sure the Chalk maps you put on the board are to scale (remembering the Vu Graph method to do that). The presentation must be breath taking to all who enter the briefing room and first glance the Mission.... Shizer its now 11PM briefing is in 3 hours. â€¦. no one has eaten for the last 7 or so hours â€¦. sleep ...whats â€¦.. that might a quick doze before briefing.... if you can clear your mind !
So The planning is done. Off to the mess for a shower something to eat â€¦ raided the kitchen as I recall as none of the mess staff were still up. A an attempt at a doze then beep beep of the alarm at 0130.... Ok this is it.
The 5 students are their first of course and the remaining 2OCU instructors roll in. at 0159 Mission lead (Kels) brings the focus and shuts down the idle chatter straight into the Time hack â€¦. â€œin 10 secs it will be 0200 â€¦.. 5-4-3-2-1 â€¦.. Hack 0200â€ â€¦. everything depends on timing. The brief is straight between the eyes no interjections delivered in unbelievably punchy style. 40 mins later it is over. We have 15mins to reflect on both the Course we are just about to complete and focus on the mission ahead.
We â€œwalkâ€ that is jump into the various crew buses to be transported to our HE armed aeroplanes all over Amberely airfield. I arrive at my Miracle for the mission A3-13 looking menacing in the portable flood lighting. 4 bombs on board with little red flags still hanging from the fuses. A quick good morning to the crew chief and head gunnie â€¦. though to be honest my mind is so immersed in whats ahead it was a formality rather than a warm greeting â€¦ the guys all know the magnitude and our mind set.
I preflight the jet and the gunnies remove the tags from the fuses, the RPK10 intervoltmer is correctly set the jet is good.
I strap in then start my Left to Rights â€¦.. F.... ! the freq coding has not been done first flexibility test for the night I rapidly start punching numbers in to no fewer than 15 studs â€¦ without this the comms plan will collapse. I later find out that all of us were doing the same thing). Anyway get through doing it fingers crossed I didnt stuff anything up.
Right on time I here â€œMaple Hunter Check â€¦.. Hunter 2 â€¦.3 etcâ€ responds amazing everybody is there . â€œHunter Startâ€ â€¦ we are off. Everybody gets a good start and the slow planned taxi to deliver everyone in order to the runway.
Right on time we commence the line up and on cue The first aircraft rolls â€¦ Pitch black The AB plumes pierce the night sky. Everybody gets airborne and joins up in 4 ships. We now push south at 20-25000ft. At Williamtown the same thing is happening as our adversaries launch to their pre defined CAP points. â€¦ though a few nasties have obviously launched a bit earlier.
Just south of Inverell the first tap comes **** that was early we are still at medium level We immediately initiate the planned initial moves. For Kels and I thats a Full burner unload and run from the threat. This is going to eat up into our combat fuel allowance. The plan essentially now breaks all the four ships into pairs for the target ingress. All still MUST hit their IP's exactly on time regardless of their evasive flight paths as Frag separation is paramount.
Kels and I descend into the weeds with the first vestiges of dawn light colouring the eastern horizon. Though its still bloddy dark and getting darker as we descend holding 600Kias all the Way down â€¦ booming away.We seem to both acknowledge the dark but keep pressing down figuring there will be enough light to get in the weeds â€¦ there was just.
As we hit low level.... Whoosker a pair of Mirages goes straight between us â€¦ no chance they twill be able to turn around and run us down. About 20miles to run to the IP timing looking good â€¦ 2 Black Dots just ahead of us cresting a ridge line â€¦. squeeze down lower don't think they have seen us. We carry on the 2 Black dots pass down the left hand side Macchis ! Ok no problem we are so fast they are no longer a threat. â€¦ a Final check of switches â€¦ cant afford to stuff this up â€¦ all good just the Master Arm to go.
We hit the IP I hack the clock and I start collapsing in from spread as briefed on to Kels wing for the roll in. We do this to ensure that the number 2 is not fragged by 1's bomb. I know we are close to the pull up point.... ready for the AB... I see Kels Burner light mine lights up I press a little closer to kels .A firm 4G pull up to 30degrees nose up, hanging in on the wing the Roll in still in Full burner â€¦ quickly up to the left hand cockpit sill Master Arm on ...yellow light on â€¦ back outside hanging on Kels wing AB out â€¦.. finger over the Bomb release button... The instant I see Kels bombs move I pickle as well â€¦.."Thud Thud thud thud" as the RPK10 cartridges in each rack do their stuff and force the bombs away from the rack. â€¦straight into the recovery. An immediate separation into line abreast to fight our way home. The Miracle now transformed without the weight an inertia of the MK82's. Room for a quick yes we did it and to the second. We here the remaining strikers hitting the target. We get hit once on the egress but defend ok then the run for willy.
Now there are accepted rules about low level run ins at RAAF bases but everyone knows that on the Dawn strike nothing will be said so we will "give it a nudge" Kels and I scorch through initial in spread 600 Kias at er about 100Ft Pitch into the circuit and land. As we taxi in we see everybody else screaming in all "giving it a nudge" pairs at time...hell that looks good. I taxi into the lines shut down and a sense of amazing euphoria comes over me â€¦ I have done it FCI course complete. After around a minutes worth of soul searching I feel the ladders going into the port size of the fuselage â€¦ a young airman bounces up the ladder a beaming smile on his face â€¦ that looked F....... awesome sir â€¦. how did it go â€¦. The smile on my face says it all â€¦. Good one he says as I give him the Face blind pin to insert.
Slowly we all gather in the flight line hut for us the students its a very special time none of us could have got through FCI course without the unflinching support of each other a very special group of people.
Into the de brief which for the very first time has none of the aggro and aggressive (though constructive) staff input that we have endured for the past 6 months. Pretty much everything went as planned bombs on target on time... no note worthy stuff ups smiles on everyone's faces. Then straight to the mess for the biggest Champagne Piss up breakfast I have seen.
The RAAF has 5 new FCI's. At around 9 Am we leave the â€œbreakfastâ€ for a shower and a shave then the official awarding of patches and certificates â€¦ we have been awake for over 24Hrs
Brian Durieu â€œHarvs â€ Sean Trestrail â€œTtailâ€ Dick Hiser â€œDickâ€ Barry Kelly "Kels" Jim Barden â€œBuzzâ€ .... At the post strike champagne breakfast (RAAF Official)
The little blue patch that means and says so much
And that it is why A3-13 is such a special jet to me. Brought to life again by Erics amazing skills. I hammered Eric to do some RPK10's from the very first time I talked to him. And here they are modeled to amazing accuracy. Thank you Eric A3-13 is a very special jet and your Mirage is a very special model. I look forward to seeing her at the expo.
In the YouTube link below to the 77 SQN Mirage movie. The opening Night taxi scenes for the first minute are of the dawn Strike as we all taxied and took off at Amberley. Then starting at 8:44 to 9:44 you can see the the actual weapon deliveries of the dawn strike. A3-13 with me is the trailing aircraft in the very first pair.