I’m listening to David R. Honodel’s, The Phantom Vietnam War, An F-4 Pilot’s Combat Over Laos for the third time. I’ve probably read most of the Phantom in Vietnam books, but I think that this one more than the rest, describes the war as my dad described it, especially as it was carried out over Laos. My dad’s first tour was in Da Nang with the Gunfighters, where he spent many missions doing Ho Chi Minh Trail interdiction in Laos, most of them at night. The second tour was out of RTAFB Ubon, which was almost all over North Vietnam, chiefly the Hanoi ara. Honodel’s book is sort of a hybrid, when he flew with the 555th TFS, AKA Triple Nickel from Udorn doing trail interdiction. Regardless, it’s a hell of a good read if you are interested in the subject matter.
The Triple Nickel, as many other units undoubtedly had, a set of SOPs that they used which facilitated their war fighting as efficiently as possible, and unless mentioned in the mission briefing, were not deviated upon. Things like start-up, taxi, departure, enroute, fence-in, fence-out, and A2A refueling were executed the same way each mission, which cut down the briefing time. That was spent discussing variables such as the target, threats, weather, available assets, package composition, etc.
As such, many of the 555th standards were far from how things were done stateside. Refueling was one of them. It was carried as efficiently and quickly as possible. For instance, many of us have leaned how both USAF and USN/Marines do this using the observation, pre-contact, and reform positions.
This is the Triple Nickel standard way…
1 goes directly to the boom and begins refueling with 3 on his wing.
2 goes to the observation area and 4 goes to the reform area.
When 1 is finished, he slides to the observation area and 3 takes his place on the boom.
2 moves from observation to 3’s wing.
When 3 is finished, 2 takes his place.
3 moves to the reform area, and 4 moves to 2’s wing.
When 2 is finished refueling, he joins 1 in the observation area.
When 4 is finished, he moves to join his element lead in the reform area.
Anything else else would be wasted time during a war.