Tuesday, 17 April 2012

17 April 1982

Log book entry: ESM, OTHT, PHOTEX, 1 hour. ESM is using the Orange Crop to listen to enemy radar. OTHT is Over the Horizon targeting and PHOTEX is a photographic exercise.

Andromeda carried 4 Exocet. Great missiles as future events would tragically prove but long range surface to surface missile have two problems. If the target is that far away - how do you know what you're actually shooting at? If you use your radar to find the target then you've also told the enemy what you're up to and given away your presence. For the Argies this wasn't an issue of course - anything east of the Falklands was a target - it was our exclusion zone after all! However for us the solution was to send the KamiKaze Lynx up threat to find and identify the bloody thing. In those days, most Soviet ships didn't have a Surface to Air Missile that could take out a Lynx at low level at the ranges we needed to identify it. The key word in the last sentence was 'most' as the new system SAN4 was starting to appear and that bloody well could. Of course to get close enough to identify a SAN4 ship meant getting within its missile range so you were then in the 'stick your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye' scenario. However all was not lost as our trusty Orange Crop could help us identify an enemy from a goodly way off. So it was still a valid tactic and of course kept our ship out of harms way. There was a push to install a posthumous VC dispenser in the cockpit but for some reason it never came about.
So on this possibly sunny day, Bob and I must have found a nice big defenceless merchantman and gone out to bravely target it and pass the information back to Mum for her to get a targeting solution for the missiles. I guess afterwards we then swooped in with our special Hasselblad intelligence camera to photograph the sinking wreck (all for exercise of course).
However we were taking it all bloody seriously by now because we were obviously keeping up to date with the activities at home. I'm not sure now whether we knew what was planned for us but we were all in the pre war aggressive mood and were keen to get involved as soon as we could. We would find out in six days.

In researching this Blog I decided to try and find out what happened to ARFA in later years. Good old Google got me some pictures of what he looks like now (the tail number identifies him - XZ 722). He is now a shiny Mark 8 Lynx, full of goodies which we could have really used in 82. The piccy below shows him in current fighting trim. The camera thing on the nose is a long range thermal imaging camera that would have made our identification problem really easy. Underneath it is a decent 360 degree radar. There is also a fairly sophisticated tracking computer inside to manage everything. All Bob had was a piece of clear plastic that he put over the radar screen and a chinagraph to join the dots - literally. However its nice to see that the orange Crop aerials are still there. I was trying to work out how much of the current machine is the same as the one I flew thirty years ago and have concluded its probably the tail boom and collective lever!!

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