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Hercules Tanker

Old 15th Nov 2022, 16:53
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Two spaced out RHAGs at each end, and a CHAG in the middle.

You can make out the locations by the extended AM-2 matting at the runway edges. 1984 pic, IIRC.

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Old 15th Nov 2022, 16:59
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Originally Posted by wiggy View Post
Correct ...( though I have a vague memory the set up wasn't exclusively RHAG).
It was Portable Aircraft Arrestor Gear (PAAG) - used by Phantoms on every landing.

GEF was allocated one of the ex-TCW Mobile TACAN LHD Land Rover 101 Forward Control Box Body with the 3.5-litre V8 engine as a rapid rewind / maintenance vehicle (the TACAN equipment was removed and shipped back to the UK).

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Old 15th Nov 2022, 17:03
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Ah, PAAG ... memory fade there! Thanks.
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Old 15th Nov 2022, 21:06
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OK, Roadsman asked for this – so it’s his fault, not mine! It’s a long post, so pour yourself a beer or Scotch and pull up another sandbag…..

Background. It’s 1982, Falkland Islands, immediately post conflict. The runway – orientation 08/26 - at RAF Stanley has been extended to 6,100ft and surfaced with AM2 aluminium matting for its entire length. Arresting gear has been installed with 5 cables running:

Bak-13 – -RHAG –---- BAK-13 -----RHAG –- Bak-13.

to cater for the more recently arrived F-4 Phantom operations. All F-4 landings were ‘arrested’ landings as Standard Operating Procedure; it was also normal for the F-4s to stream their chutes just prior to touchdown too – presumably as a ‘belt and braces’ option. (The centre cable was known colloquially in ATC as the “Oh ****-me” cable because it was only ever likely to be used in such extremis)! (MPN11 – there was the remains of a CHAG but that was a left over from the temporary occupation of the airfield by the Argentinean forces – it was never part of the RAF operational inventory).

I think it was 6 x F-4s that formed ‘Phandet’, 6 (8?) x Harrier GR3s formed ‘Hardet’, both located very approximately where indicated on the attached photo. ‘Replen’ was an ‘always open – pitch-up’ helicopter rotors running refuelling facility on the north side of the airfield.

The old existing apron has been significantly expanded to cater for the parking of larger aircraft, mainly 2 x C130 Tankers/MRR on permanent detachment, 1 (sometimes 2 ) x C130 on the regular Airbridge detachment with plenty of additional room for other usage and as Manoeuvring Area. On this occasion there are indeed 4 x C-130s on the apron, 3 as described above, the 4th being Lady Thatcher’s transport, for it is She Herself that the story really revolves around. There was one C-130 on Tanker Alert, the second had just returned from an MRR sortie and had yet to be refuelled, the 3rd the Air Bridge and of course Mrs T’s VIP pod equipped one that was on ‘Alert’, in case she had to be evacuated quickly.

Everyone was at a high state of anticipation on the expectation that ‘something might happen’ due to the Prime Minister’s presence on the Islands.

Initial Play. An F-4 (as usual, fully armed) was already airborne on a ‘Presence Sortie’ and had been up for a while. The opening ‘shot’ of this spectacle was the observance of a number of C-130 aircrew proceeding towards their Alert Tanker at what can only be described an unusually animated pace…..and I can confirm that one of the leaders was, indeed, in possession of the in-flight ration box! Quick call to Ops:

Ops: “Ops……”

Twr: “Twr - Anything you want to tell us?”

Ops: “Oh, yeah – scrambling an F-4 and the tanker – FIADGE have detected an incoming raid.” Click whirrrrrr.

Me to self and my AATC (Smudger Smith): Oh dear – (or words to that effect)

Near simultaneous 4 engine start from Herc (impressive!), who calls for taxy when he’s about to enter the runway and thinks that backtrack (26 in use) approval may be useful. Backtrack approved. Said Herc backtracks at a pace perhaps ‘not recognised as prudent by Queen’s Regulations’.

In the meantime, F-4 – we’ll call Q2 – (Q1 = the one already airborne) calling for taxy on a scramble – manage to hold him before he enters the runway in the face of the C-130 about to depart.

More Haste, Less Speed. Observe the C-130 in the 26 turning circle with one wing very low carrying out a 180 turn that would have put an F1 car doing doughnuts to shame!

Me: “That doesn’t look good”

C-130 stops, crew door opens, crew member on long lead headset looks agitated at the nose gear and makes animated gestures at the nose wheel and cockpit area; re-enters aircraft – door closes.

This takes a few seconds – I’ll let the readership imagine the screeching about priority departures emanating from Q2……but given the wind and only 6,100 ft, 26 is the only option.

C-130 starts taxying s l o w l y up the runway in a very drunk-like manner, weaving gently – the noise being generated indicating that steering is being maintained by differential power usage on the outboards.

C-130: “Twr, we’re U/S – hydraulic issue, no nosewheel steering. Returning to Apron – get Ops to launch the other Tanker..”

Immediately relay same to Ops and update them on the situation and that I’ll get the F-4 away as soon as the C-130 is clear. Ops mention that Tanker 2 hasn’t yet been refuelled from it’s MRR sortie earlier in the day…….

Twr: “C-130, take the first exit left for the apron, there’s going to be an F-4 backtracking against you on a scramble, can you make the turn or do you require a tug?”

C-130: “We’ll make the turn and shut down when clear, we’ll need the tug then.”

Start arranging ground handling and clear the F-4 to back-track when:


Notice C130 on equally impressive rapid 4 engine shut-down – RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RUNWAY as indicated on the photo. Approx 3000ft of runway behind and 3000ft in front. It takes me a few seconds to notice that the nose gear is now sheared off at the leg and the wheels are on their sides, supporting the underside of the nose. This aeroplane is going nowhere in a rush!

And its at max all up weight – full of fuel.

Advise Q2 that backtrack approval rescinded and that the runway’s blocked for the foreseeable future; response from Q2 is somewhat less than helpful!

By this time, of course, numerous C-130 ground crew and senior eng staff are on their way to the stricken C-130 while another crew are sauntering out to Tanker 2, sans in-flight rations this time.

Ops get Q2 to return to Phandet and advise that 4 x Sidewinder armed Harriers are going to scramble from Hardet and STOL off, downwind, off 08 to support Q1 to engage the ‘incoming raid’ with a Mixed Fighter Force.

Within seconds the Harriers are on frequency and depart equally quickly off 08 to join Q1 – they are the least of my issues that now comprise various vehicles, people, sundry equipment and other impedimenta that are running around the Apron in an uncontrolled and bizarre fashion unaware that Tanker 2 is about to start and depart. Ops have, in the meantime, advised that – because the Tanker 2 C-130 (ex-MRR) hadn’t been refuelled yet - it’s light enough to depart RW 26 on 3000ft from the middle apron access taxiway and has – at least – some fuel to give to Q1.

Tanker 2 STOLs off RW 26 and joins the airborne melee – but with little giveaway fuel for Q1 if its to carry sufficient diversion fuel for Montevideo.

While all this is going on, at the same time there was a Chinook with a stuck transmit switch trying to get into ‘Replen’ and regaling the world on his views on life in the FIs in general and ATC units who wouldn’t answer his calls in particular. (Never thought to look at the cab for the green light that a) would have given him permission to cross the RW and land-on at Replen and b) given him the hint that all might not be well with the world RT-wise.)

At this point hysteria is breaking out in the twr cupola as Smudger and I were laughing fit to burst with the inevitable “What’s going to happen next?”

Enter the Royal Navy…..

We don’t know, but strongly suspect, that an RN ECM operator decided to listen-in to the excitement on the Twr frequency but had patently set his gear to broadcast barrage noise on whatever frequency he was monitoring, communication capacity became – at best - limited. As we played ‘chase me around the frequencies’ so followed the noise jamming a few seconds later. It was during this period that OC Air Wing announced words to the effect that the Herc was to continue to refuel the F4 until dry tanks and then throw himself bravely into the South Atlantic while the F4 landed or diverted. The Herc captain’s response was to the effect “I’m not doing that for anyone!” and promptly Foxtrot Oscared to Montevideo! Leaving Q1 with the sole option of landing on 26 and taking a wire (as normal) but with the potential benefit of a fully fuelled C-130 acting as the ultimate barrier as opposed to a 'stop-end' cable arrestment.

The Harriers returned first, RVL’ed onto 26 and pushed back into Hardet while Q1 made an uneventful approach end arrestment into the BAK-13, which was still in use at that time.

The Herc was slowly recovered to the apron and Ops normal returned over a period of a few hours – but I will never forget that couple of hours of sheer unbelievable co-incidents.
Oh? The incoming raid? We were told that the ‘High Speed’ raid plotted by FIADGE turned out to be a Wessex Mk 3 Humphrey doing his ship/shore routine transit and probably going flat out at 90 kts. However, I cannot attest to the veracity of that element of this story, because that was only heresay; but the rest of it – absolutely true.

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Old 15th Nov 2022, 21:21
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Thanks for that very comprehensive account....glad to see it ties in at least to some degree with my previous notes on the day and shows I've still got at least a few functioning bits of memory..

"it was also normal for the F-4s to stream their chutes just prior to touchdown too – presumably as a ‘belt and braces’ option"..

It was..and I got a right ********* from another squadron's QFI when I did the same out of habit just after I got back to the UK...

Oh, and also thanks (all) for the reminder about the various cables.......
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Old 16th Nov 2022, 10:10
  #66 (permalink)  
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The 'sporting arrival' of the F-4s resulted in some interesting hook dents in the AM-2 at the approach end, where the last 2 planks sloped down to ground level at about 20º. A couple of them showed that they had come very close to engaging the end of the runway instead of the cables! It was surmised on 23/Phandet that pilots were ducking under the PAPI glide path to give themselves the maximum possible runway to play with. In 83 I used to give new F-4 crews an airfield tour, pointing out the hook dents as a reminder to stick to the glide path.


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Old 16th Nov 2022, 10:24
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Fascinating recollections . Biggest a/c we ever tanked. Always seemed to push the basket up and away to the left as viewed from my station.

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Old 16th Nov 2022, 10:26
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Cracking photo MPN11! Couldn't possibly be after one of my talkdowns - far too near the centreline! (Night arrestments, with all the sparks, were especially 'cool'!)
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Old 16th Nov 2022, 15:23
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Originally Posted by Video Mixdown View Post

Mail Drop - Grytviken, South Georgia
Brings back the memories. I wasn't happy with the ALM when he decided to tease the residents of Grytviken who were waiting for their "Blueys" after a long period of isolation. We informed the Zodiac boat driver that the first run was their mail. When I called "Green On", the Loadie lobbed out a loose bag of blank Blueys which flutter down like chaff all over the water. The resultant R/T call from the Zodiac did not follow protocol and it couldn't be written here!
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Old 18th Nov 2022, 20:37
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Just to add to the thread, whilst not a Hercules per-se the L100 we used in Afghanistan regularly moved fuel using internal fuel tank.
We flew on average 6 days a week into many bases, some known and some people didnt know about.
2nd mission into Tarin Kowt 12 months after the Australians pulled out and we took small arms fire in port wing and ramp. Patched it up and flew back to Kandahar but patch failed coming into landing which made for interesting time.

15,000ltr fuel tank with filter/pumpset to offload.

Farah Airfield where previous night US Special Forces had taken over the airfield and we fly in to deliver fuel into the bags.

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Old 23rd Nov 2022, 19:29
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I've found a photo from the ASRA trial. It shows just how cramped the space was in the tanker Herc. The photographer is stood on the ramp in the space between the HDU and fuselage wall that the observer's seat would be stowed to allow the ASRA (visible between the HDU support frame) to be rolled into the doorway. Just forward of the doorway can be seen the stowage for the pyrotechnics. They may have been handy for the observer but as can be seen they were also close to the Andover tank.

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Old 24th Nov 2022, 02:15
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Been in both positions there Ancient, as a receiver and then tanking them
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Old 24th Nov 2022, 08:13
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a very interesting picture thanks. Not keen on the roller on the floor for obvious reasons.
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Old 24th Nov 2022, 10:31
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Could someone provide some details please on the ECM/ESM pod on the starboard wing tip in the photo at #43?
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Old 24th Nov 2022, 11:05
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Ref Post No 74.
Regret poor photo which shows, in part, the HDU control unit (top left) and the ECM pod control unit (below E290 radar). All situated at the Nav station. Photo taken on Fishery Patrol in the Falklands (see Lat/Long display)

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Old 24th Nov 2022, 13:20
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Believe it is a MAROC Pod (Orange Crop ESM)

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Old 24th Nov 2022, 17:17
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Originally Posted by Mactlsm1 View Post
Believe it is a MAROC Pod (Orange Crop ESM)
Inseed it is. Originally fitted to RN Helos as Orange Crop, colloquially known on Albert as MAROC - Marshall's Orange Crop - Marshalls at Cambridge did the fitment.
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