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Rockets and pods page 2

Stories by charles alexander and “turbo” tarling

Expendable wing tip combat rocket pods – “Turbo” Tarling
That was the description of the CF-100 Mk. 5 armament in the AOIs; to us, they were simply rocket pods–visual evidence of our status as operational aircrew, flying operational aircraft on an operational squadron. Notwithstanding the fact that they had to be armed by ground crew, on the ground, and that “armed” aircraft were only used on live scrambles, we preferred to fly with these 500-pound, $10,000 pods. There was no discernable performance penalty and the aircraft looked better. In fact, the CF-100 Mk. 4 and 5 without rocket pods or tip tanks has the distinction of having the ugliest wing tips of any jet. There was no attempt to streamline them and the tips appeared hacked off. Rocket pods increased the wing span from 57 feet, 3 inches to its maximum of 60 feet, 10 inches. They certainly dressed up the old girl.

Pods were also useful as references during formation flying in thick cloud. The cockpit of the lead aircraft was the first thing to disappear, since it was more than 60 feet away, but that was no problem since aircrew could still see the wing and the pod. If the lead pilot was on the ball he could switch on his nav lights to STEADY for the formating aircraft. Slowly, his wing would dissolve into the murk but the dark pod was still visible so it just required a bit more concentration to maintain position. However, when the pod colour began to fade to lighter shades of grey, our hearts began to beat more rapidly, seats definitely became more uncomfortable as we squirmed to get a better look. I say “we” because the navigator was an equal partner in this dilemma and it took a lot of nerve to sit there and calmly offer words of encouragement such as, “Looking good; hang in there; should be breaking out soon; can just make out the ground/sun,” etc., while his pilot was grunting, wheezing and cursing over the hot mic, and wrestling with the controls. No doubt about it, the rocket pod saved a lot of reputations for CF-100 wingmen.

In August 1959, I attended Weapons Practice Course 59-14 at Cold Lake with my new navigator, F/O Ron Hammon. Our CF-100, 18526, was fitted with two non-expendable “mini-pods.” One day, as we climbed majestically out on our firing mission, Ron started to chuckle in the back seat. When I asked what was so funny, he said, “We’ve lost a bloody rocket!” (Ron was from South “Awfrica.”) Now that was impossible. First of all, there were three rockets in each pod during the external walkaround; secondly, they’re loaded from the front and can’t fall out the back; thirdly, we were doing 300 knots so they couldn’t drop out of the front either. Anyway, to humour him, I checked the wing tips: on the right, three proud little blue rocket noses enjoying the ride, and on the left … two! One on the top, one on the bottom–the middle one was missing–we had lost a bloody rocket! The mission was completed anyway and we returned to base for the debrief. Ron and I couldn’t even dream up a plausible story between us, so we simply told our monitor crew that a rocket was missing somewhere between the base and the range. They were very upset and gave us a pretty hard time, as if some action of ours had caused their stupid rocket to disappear on purpose! Nevertheless, somewhat subdued we attended the film assessment where each frame of the attack is viewed for the pilot’s dot-steering accuracy and the kill probability of the rockets. Yes, there they were, five rockets fired and their erratic but deadly trajectory, when suddenly a sixth rocket was seen tumbling end-over-end, obviously without any ballast. We hadn’t lost a rocket, the nose had simply fallen off. Ron and I left the debriefing feeling very righteous and totally vindicated; after all, we don’t build the rockets, we just shoot ’em!

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