Wings Over Wayne Airshow


Wings Over Wayne Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Airshow

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40 Ret. Col. David "Stoney" Sloan spent two tours at SJAFB during his career, the second of which thrust him and is counterparts into the war in Iraq at –– as the saying goes –– the tip of the spear. But their victories would not have been possible, and their losses might have been made greater, were it not for the behind-the scenes operations and accomplish- ments of the men and women in less glamorous career fields such as the engineers, services, supply, weapons and communications. In addition to piloting on of the first F-15Es in combat after the McDonell-Douglass aircraft became operational, Sloan was also the wing chief of safety. He was charged with making sure the con- struction and development of what was, upon arrival, a bare base. "I referred to it as the 'Miracle in the Desert,' Sloan said. "Because it truly was, what they did." • The F-15E vs. the F-4 –– In Sloan's opinion, the F-4 was the last fighter that required a pilot and weapons systems interface offi- cer to actually fly it. "There were no magic little blips on the radar screen, and you really had to do all the mental calcula- tions and interpretations yourself," he said. To stay on course while flying a low-level route, for example, a pilot had to map out and time his flight in advance and use landmarks to keep pace. Otherwise, he might not arrive at his target on time to deliv- er his payload. "When you were flying a low-level route, you had to find a bend in the road and make sure you were there, you know, plus or minus a few seconds and adjust your speed accordingly," Sloan said. "You had to do a lot of detailed planning to get your bombs on target, on time. So, as I say, it was the last airplane we had to really be a true aviator to deploy it." That said, the F-15E brought with it capabilities F-4 pilots had always dreamed their beloved Phantom could have possessed but didn't. It also took some of the head- scratching out of the pre-flight planning. "You no longer had to find the bend in the road or do calculations on your airspeed to figure out how to adjust it to meet your next turn point," Sloan said. "You would just say, 'OK, I want to be at the target at this time,' and you would just set your throttles accordingly." The Strike Eagle's computers did the rest. And more. "A lot of magic on dropping the bombs. The radar, when you found an adversary on the radar, it gave you all the information that you could ever want in order to effect an intercept." As much as he and many others revered the F-4, though, when it came time to go to war, Sloan said he was glad to do it in the F-15E. "So although the F-4 was just a wonderful airplane and really tough and durable, and could take a beating and keep going, then the fact that I got to go to war in the F- 15E, that was probably a lot better way to go because of all the sys- tems that (it) had." Desert Shield The 336th had just declared itself operational with the F-15E a very short period of time before Hussein decided to invade Kuwait, Sloan explained. And when that hap- pened the 335th was not even oper- ational yet, he said. "Many of the aircrew who were in both squadrons were not only new to the airplane, they were new to flying," Sloan said. Shortly before Desert Shield started, the Air Force decided to put some brand new lieutenants in the new fighter and see how they did. "Well, they did very, very well because the F-15E had a lot of bells and whistles and video game-type stuff to it, and these youngsters did a wonderful job. But they were still highly inexperienced in aviation." The tests would come in the weeks spent flying training mis- sions over bases in Saudi Arabia and Oman, and eventually flying real-world combat sorties over Iraq. "At the time Iraq was the fifth largest military in the world. And here we were, taking a totally unproven airplane with a high number of inexperienced aviators going into a pretty hostile environ- ment," Sloan said. "And by hostile, I mean this is August in the Middle East. It's 120 degrees and there is sand blowing everywhere. And we had no idea what the impact of the environment was going to be on the airplanes because this equipment was all state of the art and brand new and what's blowing sand going to do to it. We had no idea." That, Sloan said, is where the true heroes of the war came into play. The squadrons first deployed to Dharhaun, in Saudi Arabia. But their welcome there was short lived. "When the 336th deployed they Continued to Page 11 Miracle in the Desert See MIRACLE IN THE DESERT, Page 41

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