Sunday, 27 May 2012

27 may 1982, First operational sortie

Log Book entry:  ESM AEW  2.00 hours

So after all the hassle and excitement of the trip down we finally get airborne to do a real job. 'ESM AEW' translates to Orange Crop Airborne Early Warning. The idea is we fly about thirty miles ahead of the main Battle Group and even ahead of the up-threat picket ships at 6000 feet and listen for the enemy.  We know the parameters of the Etendard radar (Handbrake) and if we detect it hopefully we can warn everyone.  The Etendard has to find his target with his radar to enable him to launch the missile but he will be very careful to minimise how long he transmits for.  We will have to be very alert.
Have you any idea how boring, stooging around at slow speed in a helicopter can be?  It doesn't take long before even the most wound up, motivated, steely eyed aviator starts to settle down.   However there is one thing in our favour.  Everyone is trying to be stealthy and radar silence is universal so if anything does 'crop' up we will hear it instantly.  The system gives us a visual indication of frequency, bearing and other parameters on the display but also an audio sound as well.  Every now and then someone does briefly transmit, often it is one of the Sea Kings on anti submarine patrol.  Heart rate seems to be directly proportional to audio input.
So two hours of boredom interspersed with a little excitement.  We detect nothing  -  this time.

On the war front the grunts are spreading out on shore, with the Royals and Paras heading for Douglas and Teal Inlet.  2 Para heads off for Darwin, everyone knows because the BBC tell us - what can you say?  Once again the Argies think its deception not a bunch of morons in London.  The SAS land on Mount Kent and the Sea Harriers have a go at softening up Goose Green but one Harrier is shot down.

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