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Desert Storm: RNZAF LTV A-7K Corsair II

Started by comrade harps, September 29, 2022, 07:54:14 PM

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comrade harps

LTV A-7K Corsair II
a/c NZ5710, 75 Squadron, Corsair Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF)
Al Ahsa, Saudi Arabia, 16-17 January 1991
Personal mount of Wing Commander Chris Wood

The RNZAF relinquished its GAF Canberra B.20s for A-4K Skyhawks during the 1960s. Used for attack duties across South East Asia, they suffered significant losses during the UN's ill-fated Operation Half Back Flanker in 1972. To recapitalise its attack capabilities, the RNZAF re-equipped with the A-7K Corsair II from 1974. The A-7K featured the boom receptacle and Pave Penny laser spot tracker of the USAF's A-7D and the internal AN/ALQ-162 ECM system of the USN's A-7E. The single-seat A-7K was later joined by 2 twin-seat versions, the TA-7K trainer and the Pave Tack equipped OA-7K. The New Zealand government acquired the Corsair II with the expectation of upgrading the fleet to Corsair III standard around 1980. This justified the installation of a feature unique to the K series: a narrow track rear undercarriage. These units gave the airframe a level stance on the tarmac, a position that simplified the proposed mounting of an F100 turbofan in an extended fuselage. However, although the proposal was successfully demonstrated by 2 YA-7F prototypes flown in 1979-82, no orders were placed. Issued to 4 squadrons (collectively known as Corsair Force from 1987), RNZAF Corsair IIs maintained a presence at Butterworth in Malaysia throughout the 70s and 80s, flying hundreds of missions against Red forces across SEA.

By 1990, the Corsair Force was both battle-hardened and formidably equipped. The RNZAF Corsair IIs could deliver GBU-15 glide bombs with both EO and IIR guidance heads, GBU-10 and GBU-12 Paveway II and GBU-24 Paveway III LGBs, AGM-65B and D Mavericks, AGM-84A Harpoon, AGM-88B HARMs, Mk.82 and Mk.84 bombs, CBU-87 Combined Effects Munition CBUs and CBU-89 Gator mine dispensers. The AN/AAR-45 LANA FLIR pod was integrated into the nav/attack system of the A-7Ks and the OA-7Ks used the AN/AVQ-26 Pave Tack day/night laser targeting pod; they could also conduct remote targeting of the GBU-15 via the AN/AXQ-14 datalink pod. AIM-9M Sidewinders were carried for self-defence, as were Magnolia Mist ChaffWinder and bulk Wood Bungalow countermeasures dispensers. The Corsair II wing also trained with the F-16B Block 15s of 14 Squadron, which could provide daylight buddy laser targeting via their AN/AVQ-23E Pave Spike pods.

The RNZAF's commitment to Operation Desert Shield included 2 squadrons from Corsair Force. This brought together 14 A-7Ks of 75 Squadron with 6 OA-7Ks from 12 Squadron, although airframes and personnel were drawn from all 4 RNZAF Corsair II squadrons. The deployment came at a difficult time for the RNZAF's A-7 community. The national budget delivered in May 1990 included a commitment to reduce the Corsair Force from 4 to 2 squadrons by June 1991. This was to be achieved by disbanding 12 and 75 Sqns at the end of their current rapid deployment cycle. With personnel retiring or being posted elsewhere, the Desert Shield deployment faced serious manpower and morale problems. As Christmas approached, the strains of months of non-stop training, of living in a tented camp and being confined to a base in Saudi Arabia were starting to show. Looking across the flight line, Wing Cmdr Wood realised that his drably painted neutral grey aircraft were looking as weary as his crews. With an inspection coming up, he reckoned the planes needed a paint job. In the interests of esprit de corps, he ordered the pilots and ground crews to collaborate in the design and application of individual camouflage schemes. The results were stunning, effective, distinctive and morale boosting.

All 20 aircraft of Corsair Force participated in the attacks on the opening night of Desert Storm, hitting targets in and around Iran's 4th Tactical Air Base at Vahdati with GBU-15s and GBU-24s. Although close to the Iraqi border and subjected to repeated air strikes, artillery barrages and cascades of tactical ballistic missiles, the base remained operational throughout the Iran-Iran War. A key to its survival was its extensive underground facilities. In 1961, the Shah of Iran launched Project ˈFēniks. This program was designed to harden Iran's key military, civilian and industrial infrastructure from nuclear, biological and chemical attacks. Central to ˈFēniks was the construction of underground facilities built to withstand nuclear blasts and enable occupation for several months. The post-1979 Islamic regime further hardened its underground infrastructure against precision conventional attack. They were helped in this effort by the DPRK, which sent technology, engineers, tradesmen and labourers. Vulnerable points like ventilation shafts were protected by thick concrete baffles or hidden inside innocuous-looking buildings. Some vulnerable points were also masked by decoys. It was UN CentCom commander General "Stormin' Norman" Schwarzkopf who was infamously recorded in a hot mic incident saying "We're fighting Morlocks here."

The Shahbaz IADS built under the Shah benefited from his undergrounding program. Its command, control and communication facilities were hardened and redundant and fixed SAM sites operated from shelters. By 1979 it featured an extensive, layered, highly mobile network of radars, flak and SAMs, including MIM-14 Nike Hercules, MIM-23 Hawk and the Shahab Tagheb (a locally manufactured version of the Phillips Canada Tea Leaf R440 Crotale). Forced into a war of national survival by the Iraqi invasion, the Shahbaz IADS was updated and extended by the Shia regime. The UN called this new system the Shahbaz II. Unlike its American-designed predecessor, the UN didn't have intimate knowledge of this system's vulnerabilities. With technical assistance from the DPRK, the Hawk was reverse engineered and upgraded as the Mersad. Korean derivatives of the Moscow Pact's SA-2 (as the Sayyad-1, a series of versions specifically built for Iran featuring a monopulse seeker head in its SARH variant or an IR guidance kit in its launch-and-leave variant) and the SA-14 MANPAD were also introduced. Worse still for the UN, as evidenced by 10 years of war, Iranian radar and SAM operators were skilled and experienced. Signal intelligence confirmed that Iranian radars were operated with discipline and often masked by decoy emitters. To prepare for this formidable defence, the UN held several desktop and flying exercises during Desert Shield against Shahbaz II simulations. These demonstrated that the SAM threat was dense, varied and resilient. For UN airpower to survive in the Iranian air defence environment, hit their targets and degrade the IADS, extraordinary measures would be required.

The Desert Storm Day 1 plan of attack against Vahdati handed down from the Combined Air Operations Center involved several UN air arms. The USAF provided AWACS with the E-3A Sentry, tanking was via Canadian and RAAF KC-135As and USAF EF-111As furnished stand-off jamming. 6 F-15As from 77 Sqn RAAF lead 12 F-16As of 14 Sqn RNZAF. Acting in the SEAD role, the Kiwi Vipers launched ADM-141A TALD decoys drones and fired AGM-88B HARM anti-radiation missiles to support the ingress of stand-off missiles deployed by USAF B-52Gs. These were 4 AGM-142A Have Naps with 3,000 lb I-800 penetrator warheads and 8 AGM-86C CALCMs. The CALCMs targeted fixed, above-ground radar, SAM and communications facilities. The Have Naps were used as bunker busters. While the Australian Eagles established forward CAPS, the F-16 pilots (having expended their HARMs) set up rear CAPS to protect the tankers and sanitise the egress routes of the following waves. The next attack came from the A-7Ks of 75 Sqn and the OA-7Ks of 12 Sqn, RNZAF. All the Corsair Force jets carried an AIM-9M Sidewinder and a Magnolia Mist ChaffWinder. The core A-7K loadout featured a LANA FLIR pod and a single external fuel tank. Each OA-7K lugged a Pave Tack, an AN/AXQ-14 datalink pod and 2 drop tanks. The first Corsair IIs in action were the 4 A-7Ks of Rangi Flight. Each armed with 2 GBU-15(V)32/Bs, the glide bombs were released from a stand-off range. From there, the WSOs of Pavlova Flight's 6 OA-7Ks guided the bombs to their aim points. After this, the 6 A-7Ks of Footrot Flight, each loaded with 2 BLU-109 armed GBU-24A/Bs, dropped their Paveway IIIs to be guided via the Pave Tack pods of Pavlova Flight's OA-7Ks. The 4 A-7Ks of Cooch Flight conducted SEAD and carried 4 AGM-88B HARMs each. Once free of their heavy bombs, the A-A-7K pilots of Rangi and Footrot took up "SAM shotgun" positions, calling out and kinetically responding to threats. To prosecute this DEAD task, each carried an IIR-guided AGM-65D and a CBU-87 to engage SAM sites. As the Kiwis engaged the SAM threat, they gave cover to the final wave to hit Vahdati that night. It was the job of 4 Saudi Arabian Panavia Tornado International S of 7 Sqn RSAF, each carrying 2 CAE Teal Candidate JP.233 submunitions dispensers, to put Vahdati's runways and taxiways out of action. Sweeping in at high speed and low altitude, the Saudis cratered concrete and left behind area-denying mines. Once the last Tornado completed its pass, Corsair Force executed its egress.

The air defences around Vahdati caused the New Zealanders problems on the first night of Desert Storm. The decoy drones launched ahead of their attack hadn't soaked up SAMs. Nor had the presence of the cruise missiles lit up Iranian radars for the enfilade of HARMs that followed. Instead, the defenders waited until manned attackers approached their expected bombing approaches. Indeed, mobile SAM batteries had been positioned around expected Paveway drop baskets and laser targeting routes. These were tactics gleaned from the Reds and, using equipment acquired from the DPRK, the Iranians had 2 more point defence methods to execute. As Corsair Force neared, the defenders of Vahdati deployed particulate aerosols illuminated by strobing and sweeping IR searchlights emitting in the wavelengths used by FLIR pods. Combined, these measures degraded the performance of the attacker's FLIR and laser technologies.

Flying as Footrot Flight Leader, Wing Commander Chris Wood was the first to release his GBU.24s. Despite SAM alerts and jinking, all went well; but, pulling up into a SAM shotgun profile, he could see his colleagues struggling to make their attack runs. Between pilots evading SAMs and WSOs having difficulty acquiring and maintaining Pave Tack target locks, the remainder of Footrot Flight abandoned their runs and repositioned for a second go. Picking a threat vector on his RWAHS monitor, Wing Cmdr Wood turned to face the threat. Selecting the LANA pod's view, he clearly saw a hot Shahab Tagheb launcher. In moments it filled the seeker head of his AGM-65D. Boom! A follow-up CBU-87 sprayed other vehicles in the battery with Combined Effects Munitions. Meanwhile, the HARM shooters of Cooch Flight were busy slinging their missiles in Target Of Opportunity and Self Protect modes. These kinetic responses supported Pavlova Flight and the rest of Footrot Flight as they made their second bomb runs. It also gave cover for the Saudi Tornado crews to complete their attacks unmolested.

Post-strike reconnaissance confirmed some of the GBU-15s and GBU-24s had missed their aim points (the exact numbers are still classified). The Tornado crews had achieved their mission, leaving Vahdati's runways cratered. Also confirmed destroyed were several vehicles associated with SAM batteries, but what was due to HARMs, Mavericks or CBUs was open to debate. Two of Pavlova Flight's OA-7Ks were damaged by Sayyad-1s; both returned safely to Al Ahsa and flew the next night. An A-7K from Cooch Flight was damaged by a Shahab Tagheb. It diverted to King Saud Air Base and resumed combat missions 3 days later. The only UN aircraft lost in the attack was an A-7K from Footrot Flight. Its pilot reported an "engine issue" during the egress, forcing him to eject on the Saudi side of the Iraqi border. The cause of the powerplant problem was later determined to be shrapnel from a Sayyad-1.

Corsair Force remained active throughout Desert Storm. Operating exclusively at night, they suffered 2 more losses from SAMs (both single-seaters, the pilots becoming POWs), with another 7 Kiwi Corsair IIs suffering repairable damage. 4 A-7Ks and 2 OA-7Ks were received as reinforcements mid-way through the campaign. Although credited with a credible performance against the toughest of defences, it had become apparent that the Corsair II was nearing the end of its usefulness against near-peer opponents. In the late 1990s, they were replaced with the F-15K Poukai, named after a monstrous bird of prey in Maori mythology. The Poukai was the RNZAF's main combat type during the UN's 2007 "humanitarian intervention" into the DPRK. By then, the F-16s had been upgraded to MLU standard, retired and sold to Bangladesh.

UN airpower attacked Vahdati over a dozen times during Desert Storm. Despite this, after the war, the resident force of A-7Ps and F-5Es were rolled out from their underground shelters with great fanfare. They were dusty but undamaged. Chris Wood would go on to earn the rank of Air Vice-Marshal.


Old Wombat

Has a life outside of What-If & wishes it would stop interfering!

"The purpose of all War is Peace" - St. Augustine

veritas ad mortus veritas est


This is a very nice build and I love the story as it couldn't be more make believe...very nicely done Harps mate  ;D
I wish our government had brought  these and not stuck with Skyhawks which were way past their use by date and then tried to replace with aircraft which fell apart and now this country doesn't have a fighting force in the air.
I still don't know why they call it the air force ..force denotes power and we don't have any  :o
If it aint broke ,,fix it until it is .
Over kill is often very understated .
I know the voices in my head ain't real but they do come up with some great ideas.
Theres few of lifes problems that can't be solved with the proper application of a high explosive projectile .


My deviantart page:

PS: Not my art, not very good at drawning :P



- Can't be bothered to do the proper research and get it right.

Another ill conceived, lazily thought out, crudely executed and badly painted piece of half arsed what-if modelling muppetry from zenrat industries.

zenrat industries:  We're everywhere...for your convenience..


Reminds a little of the experimental schemes VA-22 tested during the Iraq/Kuwait war:

comrade harps

Quote from: Dizzyfugu on September 30, 2022, 04:21:01 AMReminds a little of the experimental schemes VA-22 tested during the Iraq/Kuwait war:

It reminds me a lot of the experimental schemes of VA-22's 1988 cruise because they were my inspiration. You've outed me! l was waiting for someone to pick the similarity.


That looks really good  :bow:

Would Wing Cmdr Wood be any relation to the Chris Wood who plays for Newcastle ?  :rolleyes:
Decals my @r$e!

comrade harps

Quote from: NARSES2 on September 30, 2022, 05:36:59 AMThat looks really good  :bow:

Would Wing Cmdr Wood be any relation to the Chris Wood who plays for Newcastle ?  :rolleyes:

I understand that he is a striker  ;)


Quote from: comrade harps on September 30, 2022, 05:46:31 AM
Quote from: NARSES2 on September 30, 2022, 05:36:59 AMThat looks really good  :bow:

Would Wing Cmdr Wood be any relation to the Chris Wood who plays for Newcastle ?  :rolleyes:

I understand that he is a striker  ;)

Allegedly  :angel:
Decals my @r$e!