Wednesday, 9 May 2012
9 May 1982, Successful seduction
Logbook Entry: ECM Trial 1:05 hours
Embark Andromeda .15 minutes
The previous evening, when we got despondently back to the range offices the staff seemed surprisingly bullish, especially when we explained what we had done with the jammer. Apparently the missile turned towards us as soon as we started jamming but turned back immediately we tuned off even though it had only been for less than a second. So much for the 'two second' idea.
So once again we got airborne but had to wait a while for Andromeda to clear the range. Apparently a couple of bolshie welsh fishing boats didn't want to get out of the way and literally had to be persuaded at the point of a gun. Wartime byelaws were in place apparently.
Anyway we eventually got the go ahead and took up the hover position off to one side of the barge. The countdown started and I'm pretty sure I saw a plume of smoke on the horizon. Then nothing happened until the Orange Crop lit up with the signal from the Exocet radar. Bob was totally focused on the analyser and very soon picked up the radar as well. He turned on the jammer and tuned it to the same frequency and then left it well alone. Can you fly a helicopter with all your fingers and toes crossed - I did! Suddenly I could see the white pencil shape of the missile ahead of us with a spit of yellow flame coming from the back. Within seconds it had flown past- this time directly below us and nowhere near it's target.
Deep joy all around. I decided a celebratory beat up of the little airfield was in order. We then landed for the debrief. I should mention that for all these flight we had a passenger in the back, a Commander from CinC Fleet and as soon as he had recovered from my unplanned aerobatics he was apparently straight on the phone to No 10 Downing Street, so important were these trials considered.
So I can honestly claim to be the only pilot in the world who has deliberately seduced a surface to surface missile in flight and made it home on my own aircraft rather than its intended target!!! OK it couldn't climb at us and we were probably quite safe but never let the truth spoil a good story. Mind you some of the civilian range staff objected to the trial saying it didn't meet safety guidelines. They were ignored.
The barge wot survived to be a target another day.
I think I managed a telephone call home and so that was it. Time to go to war. That afternoon we embarked on Andromeda and headed south in company with other ships as the 'second wave'. By the time we arrived we were more replacements than augmentations.