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UK air-to-air gunnery exercises in 70s/80s

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UK air-to-air gunnery exercises in 70s/80s

Old 30th Dec 2021, 16:53
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UK air-to-air gunnery exercises in 70s/80s

Back in the 1970s and 1980s most air-to-air gunnery practice by Lightnings and Phantoms took place over the Med, but occasional live firing exercises against banner targets seem to have also taken place over UK sea ranges. Druridge Bay is mentioned as being one such range, another appears to have been off the Cornish coast (Start Point?) and another over the North Sea off Leuchars. Can anyone confirm where these ranges were and describe how the exercises were flown ?

Thanks, RS.
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Old 30th Dec 2021, 18:27
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Also flown off the coast north of Flamborough Head.

NOTAM put out for the area and Canberra towing the banner established on its pattern. One of the fighters performed a surface sweep to ensure no vessels in the area and when the area area confirmed clear it proceeded as normal.

Didn’t stop VFR traffic regularly penetrating the area and having to call stop on a frequent basis - but I can’t remember an APC not achieving its NATO qualification requirement - though that was hushed up as much as possible….

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Old 30th Dec 2021, 19:05
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In Nov 81 we (F-4) did our annual gunnery APC out of St Mawgan…can’t remember exactly where relative to the airfield we did actual shooting but it would not have been a long transit and was performed in the manner ORAC described.

I see from the logbook during that APC I did one sortie as a dedicated “sweep”, presumably for range safety but can’t remember the details.

The was also of course the Air-to Air gunnery done by the tactical weapons units….In my case, Brawdy, in 1980, gunnery usually done out over the Bristol Channel.

Last edited by wiggy; 31st Dec 2021 at 08:05.
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Old 31st Dec 2021, 09:17
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Thanks ORAC and wiggy. Presumably the shot-up banners were returned to the participating squadrons for assessment ?
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Old 31st Dec 2021, 10:03
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Originally Posted by redsetter View Post
Thanks ORAC and wiggy. Presumably the shot-up banners were returned to the participating squadrons for assessment ?
Yep end of the shoot the tow aircraft would do a lowish fly past and drop the banner on the airfield.

It was then recovered and taken to the squadron for inspection by the weapons instructors and all others with an interest.

As I recall it each aircraft in the shoot would be firing rounds that were coated with a different colored dye/paint so multiple aircraft take turns firing on one banner and then the individual scores were established by counting the different coloured holes…..
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Old 31st Dec 2021, 11:06
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Originally Posted by wiggy View Post
In Nov 81 we (F-4) did our annual gunnery APC out of St Mawgan…can’t remember exactly where relative to the airfield we did actual shooting but it would not have been a long transit and was performed in the manner ORAC described.
How accurate was the Gunpod on the F-4?. I seem to remember that the Americans where rather not so happy with the accuracy of their pods. Did it restrict g-limits? In other words: Was it more considered a benefit or a hindrance for A2A by the 'users'?
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Old 31st Dec 2021, 11:08
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Originally Posted by wiggy View Post
As I recall it each aircraft in the shoot would be firing rounds that were coated with a different colored dye/paint so multiple aircraft take turns firing on one banner and then the individual scores were established by counting the different coloured holes…..
Yes, and a particularly messy job for the armourers who had to apply the paint".
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Old 31st Dec 2021, 11:53
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Part of the TWCU course at Brawdy involved Clear Range Firing where the flag and shooters departed to the west (St. George’s Channel area), checked the oggin for shipping, then blasted at the flag.
The DZ for dropping the flag was between runway 33 and the western taxiway.
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Old 31st Dec 2021, 12:11
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Were the target tugs for Brawdy also Canberras ?
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Old 31st Dec 2021, 12:13
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When 2 TWU was operating at Lossiemouth from’78 to ‘82/3 the air-to-air gunnery was done over the Moray Firth but I cannot remember whether it was just clear range or in the Danger Area.
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Old 31st Dec 2021, 12:14
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Ref post #9

Puddy in Winston.
Then modified Hawks.
Similar at the better TWU.
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Old 31st Dec 2021, 12:30
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Originally Posted by redsetter View Post
Were the target tugs for Brawdy also Canberras ?

Nope, Meteor(s).
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Old 31st Dec 2021, 12:39
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In the late 80’s the tugs were Hawks.
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Old 31st Dec 2021, 12:42
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In the Summer of '76, after 58 Sqn folded at RAF Wittering, I was posted to hold with Standards Sqn at RAF Brawdy. Amongst whom was the late 'Puddy' Catt, whose flying frequently included towing the flag behind Winston or Clementine, our 2 Meteors.

One afternoon Puddy came in looking even more red faced than normal. It seems that the range sortie had been DNCO'd due to a ship in Hartland Range. Much vexed at this, Puddy had gone down to check out said ship, at rather low level..."Blasted Navy - but I've got the bugger's number" he told us.

I went to the hut next door, which housed the Education Section and woke up the Stn Ed Off, who was having a quiet afternoon snooze after his OM lunch, to ask whether he had a copy of Jane's which included RN ships. He had, so I checked it out, then went back to find Puddy....

"That ship you buzzed", I told him, "...I've found out what it was and also the name of the Captain!"

"Really, that's clever of you, who was it?" he asked.

"Well, it was HMS Bronnington and the Captain is HRH The Prince of Wales".
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Old 31st Dec 2021, 12:43
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Originally Posted by henra View Post
How accurate was the Gunpod on the F-4?. I seem to remember that the Americans where rather not so happy with the accuracy of their pods. Did it restrict g-limits? In other words: Was it more considered a benefit or a hindrance for A2A by the 'users'?
To some degree whether it was a benefit or not depended on the Rules of Engagement which of course (?) takes us back to the whole messy story of an internal gun having to be fitted to later variants.

As for accuracy…one for the ex-weapons instructors to answer…, personally I felt that given when wound up (which fortunately it generally was not when firing air to air) the gun was chucking out 100 rounds per second I guess an argument could have been made for the grouping to be less tight.

We had a phase (post Falklands) of doing air to ground with the gun and that was lots of fun.
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Old 31st Dec 2021, 12:50
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Originally Posted by superplum View Post
Yes, and a particularly messy job for the armourers who had to apply the paint".
Thinks of the number of rounds that were painted to no avail since they subsequently missed the banner..
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Old 31st Dec 2021, 12:56
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How accurate was the Gunpod on the F-4?
Depended a lot on how well it had been set up and harmonised.

But in 1982, if a duffer like me could score 50.1% on air-to-air at Akrotiri and 52% on air-to-ground strafe in the UK, it wasn't too bad at all. No clever hot line sights or the like back then, just the LCOSS aided and abetted by radar range calls from the navigator.
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Old 31st Dec 2021, 14:33
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Originally Posted by wiggy View Post
To some degree whether it was a benefit or not depended on the Rules of Engagement which of course (?) takes us back to the whole messy story of an internal gun having to be fitted to later variants.
Ok, I understand. So I assume basically it was mostly considered beneficial when visual ID was required before attacking the target.

As for accuracy…one for the ex-weapons instructors to answer…, personally I felt that given when wound up (which fortunately it generally was not when firing air to air) the gun was chucking out 100 rounds per second I guess an argument could have been made for the grouping to be less tight.
Interesting! In WW2 a too tight pattern was not considered desirable for A2A.
I guess that is due to the fact that with fast Fighter Jets you wouldn't want to be close enough to count the rivets of the target aircraft when opening up on them. In WW2 I understand typical engagement distances were rather short, something like 200 - 300 Yards and below.
At what ranges would you typically have engaged the target with the gun?
We had a phase (post Falklands) of doing air to ground with the gun and that was lots of fun.
I can imagine! Like Fireworks for Grown ups ;-)
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Old 31st Dec 2021, 14:35
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Originally Posted by BEagle View Post
Depended a lot on how well it had been set up and harmonised.

But in 1982, if a duffer like me could score 50.1% on air-to-air at Akrotiri and 52% on air-to-ground strafe in the UK, it wasn't too bad at all. No clever hot line sights or the like back then, just the LCOSS aided and abetted by radar range calls from the navigator.
OK, that is a remarkable score for a gun that was initially not considered as relevant for this type of combat aircraft!
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Old 31st Dec 2021, 15:08
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And also Hunters could tow the flag. Irritatingly, the 180kts tow speed was right in the middle of the RPM range where the inlet relief valves would clatter and chatter.

Dreadful trips, hated them.
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