Monday, July 20, 2020

The Secrets We Forgot to Tell Ourselves

Is 48-yrs long enough to consider something unclassified?

Well, why not. I personally don't care if this is exactly how it happened or not, this is a great story.

It reminds me that most people who served have a lot of events that to us were just an interesting day. We don't think all that much about it, but to others it is exciting.

This in one of those days. Via the OkieBoat website ... let's go back to 1972 and the Harry Navy at war;
In January 1972 the Oklahoma City steamed to the Gulf of Tonkin to do some "radar hunting." We were waiting for the chance to use the new RGM-8H missiles in the Ready Service Magazine. We were looking for another BAR LOCK radar in the vicinity of the Mu Gia Pass, although few people aboard knew this. We maintained a position about 30 miles off the coast of North Vietnam near Vinh (18° 43.6' N 106° 15.8' E) for most of the period from 28 January to 4 February, holding position within 2000 yards from a reference buoy, waiting to shoot. During this period we operated at Condition II AAW with the Talos missile battery and the 5"/38 guns manned, and with either the USS Decatur DDG-31 or the USS Mahan DLG-11 "riding shotgun" with their short range Tartar and Terrier missiles.
I was on-watch that night in the EW shack and was on the receiver and picked up the BAR LOCK ATC radar that the Vietnamese were using. I remember the incident pretty vividly... how long we'd trained to be able to pick up those threat emitters, determine the key characteristics so we could pass on just the kind of info that was used to program the TALOS that night. Some of the measurement gear was NOT part of a standard electronics package. A few OW-div buddies and I collaborated to put together a couple pieces of outboard 'off-the-shelf' test equipment (an audio signal generator and XY scope so we could accurately determine PRR frequencies of incoming signals). It was this set up that allowed us to pass on not one...but three of the frequencies that BAR LOCK was using that night (since it was a Frequency Scanning...FRESCAN...radar to allow it to determine bearing/range AND approximate altitude).

I remember passing parameters on to the fire control folks continuously as the missile was being prepared for launch (BAR LOCK radars were notorious for changing frequencies during operation). I remember feeling/hearing the launch... I continued to monitor the signal as the missile was in-flight. After a minute or so (I didn't have a stopwatch on it) I remember hearing a weird screeching... then the signal went silent. Apparently that was the precise moment of the impact/explosion that "killed" the radar.

RD2 Doug Rasor, OK City 1968-72
Everyone has their own view of an engagement;
On the night of the ARM engagement, I recall leaving Weapons Control immediately after launch of the missile and running up to the Fire Control Workshop above Weapons Control, where the AN/SKQ-1 Telemetry set had been installed and was receiving data [TLM] from the missile in flight. Having set the pre-launch parameters into the missile, after discussion with CDR Mel Foreman [Weapons Department head], I knew what to look for in the telemetry as regards the general flow of the missile flight regime. FYI, the AN/SKQ-1 data was projected onto light sensitive paper for subsequent development and analysis.

I saw the missile acquire the Bar Lock radar, and wing movements generating the lateral accelerations as the missile acquired and began homing on the target. Angle Rate Gate Enable had been transmitted to the missile prior to launch, so the missile had been fired to a point in space roughly 8 Kyds beyond the radar site, which caused the missile to reject possible “spoofing” targets beyond/to the side of the actual target. So the missile nosed over and dove on the target approaching from directly overhead and thereby maximizing the fuse/warhead effectiveness against the target. TLM was lost just prior to the predicted intercept so warhead fusing was not visible on TLM. However, all of the available TLM data suggested that the missile had homed on (and probably destroyed) the target.

WO1 Greg Dilick, OK City 1970-73.
I don't know about you, but I love a story with a happy ending;
However, at the moment we didn't know if we had hit the target. The Electronics Warfare people in CIC told us the radar signal had disappeared about the same time the missile arrived, but you can bet the BAR LOCK operators would have noticed if we had missed and shut down their radar! The next day our Weapons Department head CDR Foreman showed me aerial recon photos. The radar antennas were scattered all over Southeast Asia, and what remained of the trailer was lying on its side at the edge of a 30 foot diameter crater.

This was all classified Secret at the time, and our missile crews were told to keep quiet. Of course everyone aboard knew something was going on (missile shots were very noisy). I overheard one sailor say we had fired a nuclear warhead and he had seen the explosion! Such is scuttlebutt!

The next morning at 0004 (four minutes after midnight) the Oklahoma City left the operating area for Yankee Station in the Gulf of Tonkin to rendezvous with the USS Coral Sea CVA-43 for personnel transfers. At 1339 (1:39 PM) we left the area and went to Subic Bay in the Philippines for R&R. The Chicago was in port when we arrived. Imagine our surprise when we learned that the bar girls knew about the shot before we got there! One of our first class POs told me that as they walked into a bar one of the girls saw the ship's name patch on his sleeve and started asking about the missile shot! So much for secrecy!
So you Vietnam Era Shipmates ... about those Subic bars ...

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