043 – F-5 Freedom Fighter / Tiger II

Everyone recognizes the F-14 as the star of the 1986 hit movie Top Gun, but few can readily identify the Western fighter that acted as the Tomcat’s nemesis—a role it was perfectly suited for and still performs for the US Navy and Marine Corps daily.

On this episode, retired US Navy Reserve Commander Paco Chierici joins us to describe how the Northrop F-5 began life in the 1950’s as the ‘Freedom Fighter’ but became and is now known as the Tiger II, still flying 60 years later as a capable adversary aircraft. Paco—the mastermind behind the naval aviation documentary Speed & Angels and author of the upcoming novel, Lions of the Sky—not only answers our standard ‘aircraft series’ questions but goes on to tell us about the time he was involved in a mishap in the F-5 that nearly cost him his life.

During the listener question segment, Jell-O and Sunshine opine on why a bachelor’s degree is a requirement to be a military pilot and who would have prevailed had the two of them dueled it out in the skies. Negative G limits, reasons for the Blue Angels’ flight control modifications, and entry-level pay and benefits for military pilots are also covered.

Click here to read the Flying with the Aggressors article mentioned in the interview and check out our Patreon page for bonus content with Paco.

Bumper music by Jaime Lopez. Episode artwork by Janek Krause.

042 – F-14 Tomcat

Of all the fighter planes to ever take to the sky, perhaps none is more recognized, more revered, than the venerable Grumman F-14 Tomcat. Made popular by movies such as The Final Countdown and, of course, Top Gun—not to mention real world heroics off the coast of Libya in the 1980s and Desert Storm in the early 90s—the F-14 is no stranger to attention.

But what was it like to fly? Why is it so big? Why did the A model have one brand of engine and subsequent models another…?

On this episode, former US Navy F-14 pilot and RIO crew Commander Roy “SYFH” Wylie (retired) and Captain John “Cosmo” DePree join us to address these questions and many more—including several listener questions, such as the rivalry between Tomcat and Hornet squadrons, bird strikes around the carrier, the procedures for when a weapon fails to release, and large explosions.

The in depth look at this illustrious aircraft comes just in time for the Heatblur Simulation F-14 release for DCS World. For more information check out the Heatblur website or our DCS SME Jabbers’ YouTube channel.

Bumper music by Slater Aiello of Jam & Slate. Episode artwork by Janek Krause, using F-14 photograph by Rob Tabor.

041 – Dassault Rafale

The SEPECAT Jaguar, Vought F-8 Crusader, Mirage F-1, Mirage 2000, Dassault Étendard and later the Super Étendard were all remarkable aircraft designed to do one or two missions well. But what may be most noteworthy about these aircraft is that they were all replaced by just one model: the incredibly-capable Dassault Rafale.

We conduct our first remote interview this week, welcoming Lieutenant Pierre “Até” Chuet of the French Navy who phoned in from the United Kingdom to answer our standard ‘aircraft series’ questions. Até paints a remarkable picture of the one aircraft that replaced so many others and currently serves as the frontline fighter for the French Navy and Air Force, as well as export countries.

During the listener question segment, we discuss the psychology of killing in war, personal camera regulations, left-handed F-16 pilots, and overhead break permissions at the ship. DCS aficionados: keep an eye on our Patreon page for developments and be sure to check out our new team member Baltic Dragon’s Facebook page.

Episode artwork by Janek Krause. Bumper music by Jaime Lopez.

040 – H-60 (Black / Sea) Hawk

Few Western aerospace design and manufacturing firms can boast an aircraft so successful that it is flown by every branch of the US military, plus the Coast Guard and dozens of countries, with over 4,000 aircraft being built in dozens of configurations. No, it’s not the Lockheed C-130 Hercules or Bell UH-1 Huey. We’re talking the Sikorsky H-60 helicopter.

Joining us this episode to discuss the numerous H-60 variants (Blackhawk and Seahawk primarily, but also the Jayhawk and Pavehawk) is US Navy Commander Jeremiah Ragadio. “FRANK,” a career Seahawk pilot currently in training to assume a leadership position in a sea-going MH-60R squadron, offers a fascinating look at not only all the H-60 variants, but its armament and performance as well.

During the listener question segment we discuss land-based Navy squadrons, S-3 radio limitations, and aircraft carrier landing F/A-18E/F weight limits and ordnance considerations. Click here to read the latest ‘Musing’ on our website and here to view our inaugural ‘Deep Dive’ video.

Bumper announcements by Jim Hendershot; bumper music by Jaime Lopez. Episode artwork by Janek Krause.

039 – A-7 Corsair II

In the early 1960’s the US Navy began a program for a carrier-based attack aircraft to replace the A-4 Skyhawk. Two requirements were specified to ensure a lethal platform at the lowest possible cost: accurate weapons delivery and a design based on an existing aircraft. The Ling-Temco-Vought team’s winning proposal, based on Vought’s F-8 Crusader, became the LTV A-7 Corsair II.

This week, retired US Navy Captain Tom “Demon” Mitchell joins us to describe the single-engine Corsair II—including the variants, armament, strengths & weaknesses, and more. You’ll be amazed at Demon’s stories, not just of the Corsair II but of the life and experiences of a career carrier aviator during the tumultuous 60s and 70s.

During the listener question segment, we discuss mishap involvement, faith, the importance of FCLPs, and how improperly dispensed expendables are handled. Don’t forget to check out the SHOP page on our website for Fighter Pilot Podcast-themed apparel and household items.

Bumper music by Jaime Lopez. Episode art by Janek Krause.

038 – S-3 Viking

At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union fielded a formidable navy—both above and below the surface. In response, the United States Navy required a carrier-based, fixed-wing aircraft with long on-station time and an extensive air-to-surface and -subsurface avionics sweet and weapons capability. The result was the twin-turbofan, high-wing Lockheed Martin S-3 Viking.

On this episode, retired US Navy Commander David “Deke” Slayton joins us to discuss S-3 variants, which weapons it can carry, why it looks the way it does, and much more. And turns out, Deke was an S-3 instructor when co-host Sunshine received his initial fleet training in the Viking—an aircraft he would fly before later transitioning to the F/A-18 Hornet.

During the listener question segment, we dig a little deeper into the Mutha trophy, discuss the purpose of exchange programs, talk about the relevance of a gun on combat fighters, stereotypes for military pilots, the need to self-assess before flight, and brushes with death.

Click here to check out Wings Over America and support scholarships for military dependents. To compliment the interview, click here to order Brad Elward’s authoritative book, S-3 Viking in Action.

Episode artwork by Janek Krause. Bumper music by Jaime Lopez.

037 – F/A-18 (Super) Hornet

What was it designed to do? What does it do well? What ordnance does it carry? Why does it look the way it does…?

…These are a few of the questions retired US Navy Lieutenant Commander Q “BBQ” Sterling answers while explaining the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet on this, our inaugural ‘aircraft series’ episode. These same questions will be posed to guests during future episodes on a variety of military aircraft.

The unique, dual designation fighter and attack Hornet is renowned for its lethality and reliability. The follow-on, larger Super Hornet offers improved systems and avionics, with two additional weapons stations and more “bring back” than its predecessor. Click here to learn more about Brad Elward’s authoritative book chronicling the Super Hornet development.

During the listener question segment, we discuss aircraft selection regrets, aircrew anthropometric limitations, where Sunshine and Jell-O were on 9/11, and what the Mutha trophy is.

Bumper music by Jaime Lopez. Episode artwork by Janek Krause.