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F-106 vs. F-4, High Altitude, High Speed by Bruce Gordon F-106 Pilot, 94 FIS While Deployed to Osan AB, Korea 1969 SCRAMBLE! In a couple of minutes my wingman and I were airborne from Osan AB and headed east across the Korean peninsula. We expected to check out unknown aircraft, but this time it was different. “We have a change of call signs for you”, the radar controller announced. I had been told that we NEVER change our call signs while airborne because it confused everyone, but the radar controller insisted. Our new call signs indicated that we were #3 and #4 in an F-4 flight. Two F-4’s out of a planned flight of four F-4’s had aborted, and fighters were needed for a BARCAP mission protecting one of our reconnaissance aircraft (see “Korean Mission” earlier in this story). We were to fly as #3 and #4 in the F-4 flight. We were vectored southeast and soon found a KC-135 tanker which was refueling two F-4’s. We dropped in behind and got in line for fuel. As I pulled in to refuel, the boomer said: “You have the right call sign, but you’re the wrong kind of aircraft”. “No sweat. Just give us fuel”, I replied. We topped off with fuel, then turned north with the F-4’s. The F-4 fighter patrol procedures were different than ours - they flew lower and slower. F-106’s patrolled at 41,000 feet at .93 Mach, F-4’s patrolled at 35,000 feet at .85 Mach. They were leading, so we flew their speeds and their altitudes with them. As we patrolled up and down the east coast of North Korea, we occasionally checked fuel quantities. The F-4’s started out with a lot more fuel than the F-106’s, but as time went on it was clear that they were using a lot more fuel than we were. We were both carrying external fuel tanks and missiles, ready for air combat, so this was a good test of fuel consumption in combat configuration. Finally the F-4’s were running low on fuel, while my wingman and I still had plenty of fuel. We followed them back to the tanker, and we all topped off with fuel and turned back north, resuming BARCAP patrol. The Combat Operations Center called, saying that the reconnaissance aircraft had finished its work and we could go home. We joined in close formation briefly, then the F-4 lead called: “Let’s go home - FAST”! The F-4’s lit their afterburners and entered a gentle dive to gather speed. We lit our afterburners, but held our altitude because I wasn’t quite sure what the F-4’s were going to do next. The F-4s each had two afterburners, and accelerated faster than we did. We were all going about Mach 1.2 as the F-4s got about a half mile ahead of us and the gap stopped increasing. At about Mach 1.4 it was clear that we were catching them. I pushed the nose down and the two of us rapidly caught up with the F-4s. We were going about Mach 1.5 when we caught them, going about a hundred knots faster than them. We flew right past their cockpits to be sure that our sonic booms would rattle their teeth. Passing them put them in our 6 o’clock position. I didn’t want to give them any opportunities to attack us, so I thanked them for the mission and stayed in afterburner as we zoomed up and away. I now knew that the F-4’s cruised at 35,000 feet, so I asked radar for cruise home at 45,000 feet - just so I could embarrass the F-4s that fly low and slow! Bruce Gordon

F-106 vs F-4 High Altitude/High Speed by Bruce Gordon