Redhawks Hit the Mark at William Tell 1984

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Terrence Popravak, Jr., USAF (Retired)
  • 142nd Fighter Wing History Office
William Tell was the name of a famous Swiss archer, and in the 1958 his name was adopted by the USAF for its worldwide air-to-air rocketry competition which had begun in 1954. The early competitions were held at Yuma AFB, Arizona, before moving to Tyndall AFB, Florida, in 1958.

The OreANG's first William Tell experience was in 1970, when the Redhawks flew the Convair F-102A Delta Dagger in the meet and placed second.  It should be noted that the Portland AFB, Oregon-based regular Air Force unit, the 460th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, also flew the F-102A in the William Tell 1959 competition.

The OreANG also made appearances at William Tell with the McDonnell F-101B Voodoo in 1976 and 1978, winning top honors in 1976.  After reequipping in the McDonnell-Douglas F-4C Phantom II at the end of the 1970s, the OreANG's first William Tell with the F-4C took place October 6-28, 1984, which was the 30th anniversary of the competition. 

The 142nd Fighter-Interceptor Group (FIG) sent sixty-two Redhawks led by Lt Col Ray A. Pilcher from 142nd FIG HQ, the 123rd Fighter-Interceptor Squadron and the 142nd Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron to participate in the event.  Maj John "Mike" Thomas was the project officer for the team.

Joining them as part of the 142nd team were weapons controllers from the 25th Air Division at McChord AFB, WA, Capt S. Broadhead, Capt Warren Hudson and 2Lt. Jim Vernon, who wore their Oregon baseball caps and team shirts as statements of allegiance. 

In Operation William Tell 1984, the Worldwide Air-to-Air Weapons Meet pitted the best units in the USAF against each other at Tyndall AFB, Florida in a 20-day contest of the best versus the best.  In 1984, the best F-15 (Category I, six F-15 units), F-4 (Category II, three ANG F-4 units) and F-106 (Category III, three F-106 units)) teams competed for top honors within their own category and between categories.    It was the last William Tell for the esteemed F-106 Delta Dart, the "ultimate interceptor."

The first contest within the competition was with Aircrew arrivals, basically won by the unit with the closest actual arrival time to the scheduled arrival time at Tyndall.  The McChord AFB, Washington-based 318th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron with F-15A's won this event, arriving within 0.76 seconds of their scheduled arrival time - the Redhawks were second, with the five-plane formation coming within 1.12 seconds of their scheduled arrival time.

The operational part of the competition was divided into five events called Profiles.  Profile I was a forward aspect radar missile attack against a Full Scale Aerial Target (FSAT, an unmanned, maneuvering F-100 Super Sabre fighter converted into a QF-100 drone.  It was the first William Tell for the QF-100 aircraft, replacing the PQM-102 (F-102 drone) and BQM Firebee sub-scale drone. 

Profile II was a rear aspect infra-red (IR) air-to-air missile attack against a QF-100, and the two profiles, I and II, were combined into the same sortie.  The missiles were live with the warhead removed, so as to try and preserve the FSAT for reuse, if possible.

Profile III tested each team's ability to scramble pairs of fighters from an alert posture on the ground, then to identify and engage a pair of manned target aircraft.  Each interceptor carried two simulated radar missiles and two simulated IR missiles.  They were required to successfully employ one simulated radar missile and one simulated IR missile against each target.  

Profile IV involved a whole team of four aircraft making an intercept of a large raiding force generating 12 target aircraft approaching at various altitudes and airspeeds.  Targets included A-7D, B-52, F-15, F-16A, F-111D, T-33A with Electronic Counter-Measures (ECM) and two F-106's simulating cruise missiles and ECM aircraft.  Each interceptor aircraft had three simulated missiles and between all four aircraft on an intercepting team there were just enough simulated missiles to down all target aircraft, if everything went right.

Profile V was a live fire aerial gunnery event for aircraft with an internal gun system, and the 142nd FIG F-4C's, lacking an internal gun (though they had an external 20mm gun pod available for missions back in Portland), did not participate in this event.

All of the Profile flights were carried out in the airspace over the northern Gulf of Mexico and suing the Aircraft Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation (ACMI) system range equipment based at Tyndall and the surrounding range area and linked to sensors carried aboard competition aircraft for precision monitoring and scoring of missile attacks.  

Between Profiles I, II, III and IV, there were 40,000 points available to each team.  Team awards for Top Team and Category Best team were determined from profile scores.  Individual aircrew performance was recognized with s "Top Gun" award and "Top Gun" in each category.  The ground echelon of each team also competed for awards in Maintenance, Weapons loading and Weapons Control.

The aircraft the OreANG brought to William Tell included the following F-4C's and crews, constituting four competition aircraft and one spare, in aircraft serial number order: 

F-4C-19-MC 63-7532, aircraft name "Pin Ball," call sign "Beaver Four"
Pilot:  Capt Larry L. Kemp
WSO:  Capt Richard O. Peterson
Crew Chief:  MSgt Charles Estey
Assistant Crew Chief:  SSgt Charles Minto
(Note:  Aircraft 532 is preserved today at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana)

F-4C-21-MC 63-7670, aircraft name "Wilbur's "Earthstone" Wagon," call sign "Beaver Three"
Pilot:  Maj Scott Powell
WSO:  Maj Carl H. Hellis
Crew Chief:  TSgt Calvin Smith
Assistant Crew Chief:  SSgt John Rasmussen
(Aircraft 670 later became a battle damage repair aircraft at Taegu AB, Republic of Korea circa the summer of 1986 and was salvaged sometime after 1989)

F-4C-21-MC 63-7699, aircraft name "Red Baron," call sign "Beaver Two"
Pilot:  Maj Ronald M. Moore
WSO: Maj William C. DeJager
Crew Chief:  MSgt Jack Schultz
Assistant Crew Chief:  SSgt David Marshall
(Note:  Aircraft 699, with one MiG victory in Vietnam, later became a battle damage repair aircraft at RAF Upper Heyford, but survived and today is preserved at the Midlands Air Museum, Coventry, England)

F-4C-22-MC 64-0713, aircraft name "The Source," call sign "Beaver Five" (Spare)
Pilot:  Maj Terry W. McKinsey
WSO:  Capt Steve J. Allison
Crew Chief:  TSgt Kenneth Hankins
Assistant Crew Chief:  SSgt Michael Lauderbaugh
(Note:  Aircraft 713 went to the boneyard in March, 1989, and was salvaged in August, 1998)

F-4C-23-MC 64-0776, aircraft name "Miss "PIGGY"," call sign "Beaver One"
Pilot:  Lt Col Ray A. Pilcher (142FIG Team leader)
WSO:  Maj Dennis R. Anderson
Crew Chief:  TSgt Curtis Scott
Assistant Crew Chief:  TSgt Ken Coats
(Note:  Aircraft 776, with three MiG victories in Vietnam, is preserved today at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington)

The Redhawks performed superbly in the competition, placing third in Profile I, a tremendous first in profile II, and seventh in Profile III, going into Profile IV of the competition with a lead over all others before a missile "hung on its rail" during one of the last five intercepts, which allowed two F-15 units to slip past in scoring.  In the process they finished with 32,360 points out of a possible 40,000 points.  As a result, the 142nd FIG placed third in overall standing among the 12 teams, behind regular Air Force F-15C (33TFW) and F-15A (49TFW) teams, but beating out three F-15C and one F-15A units, and all the other F-4 and F-106 units. 

Nevertheless, the Redhawks did an outstanding job clearing off the trophy table, and garnered several accolades for their tremendous performance.  These included the Major Richard I. Bong Fighter Interceptor Trophy named after America's ace of aces for the Best F-4 Team and the USAF 1984 Air-to-Air Weapons Meet Trophy for Professionalism and Competitive Spirit, the latter of which was presented to the Redhawks by Brigadier General Charles A. "Chuck" Horner (of Desert Storm fame), Commander of the Air Defense Weapons Center at Tyndall. 

Additionally, Majors Ronald Moore and William DeJager won the F-4 "Top Gun" award, and third place in the overall "Top Gun" standings against the other 47 aircrew in the competition.  In "Top Gun" second place in the F-4 category and fourth place overall was team leader Lt Col Ray Pilcher and Maj Dennis Anderson, showing a solid OreANG performance in the F-4C against the competition - their aircraft 776 sported two QF-100 kill markings in addition to three red stars for aerial victories over Vietnam as evidence of their success in engaging these aerial targets at the meet. 

The 142nd also received a couple of corporate awards for their performance in WT84.  One was the McDonnell Douglas First Place F-4 Trophy.  Capt Larry Kemp and Capt Richard Peterson received a QF-100 Kill Plaque from the Sperry Corporation for actually downing an FSAT, the only one given to an F-4 or F-106 unit, with the other five kill plaques going to regular AF F-15 units.  Their AIM-7 shot was a direct hit that tore three feet off the tail of their QF-100 drone target which knocked it out of the sky.

Brigadier General Alan Lurie, Commander, NORAD 25th Air Division at McChord AFB, WA, which provided the weapons controllers that worked with the Redhawks, commented on the ORANG's performance:  "I think the 142nd is to be congratulated on their efforts at William Tell.  They came within a heartbeat of winning.  If not for that one missile hanging on the rail, they would have won the whole show. Those folks can be justifiably proud of their work at Tyndall."

The air team returned from sunny Florida on a dark and rainy night to family and friends gathered on the ramp to welcome them back from the "Superbowl" of air-to-air weapons competitions.  The rain did not dampen the happiness of their return, or the enthusiasm of those receiving them.  OreANG Commander, Maj Gen Charles A. Sams, was there to greet them.  "A tremendous winning effort," he said; "I'm extremely proud of all of you."

Indeed, all could be proud of the Redhawks and their participation in William Tell 1984.  The commander of Tyndall's Engineering and Services Center spoke on the value of the contest:  "This is one of the best buys the American public gets.  It is as close as possible to simulated war.  We gain valuable data on the performance of the pilot and the machine and the maintenance and weapons teams.  You get a direct reward for competition.  You increase productivity when you have competition."

That competitive spirit also produced a sense of camaraderie within the 142nd and between the Redhawks and their fellow competitors.  Evidence of the latter was seen in an event that happened late in the competition, when the race was tight between the 142nd FIG and the F-15 teams from the 33rd and 49th Tactical Fighter Wings.  Team chief Ray Pilcher found a note attached to a bottle of champagne left for him at the unit by the team leader of the 33rd TFW which read:  "Win or lose, we would go to war alongside you any day."

The 142nd Fighter-Interceptor Group William Tell 1984 Team Members (including 25AD Weapons Controllers) were:

Capt S. J. Allison TSgt K. E. Coats SMSgt S. M. Ierulli MSgt L. B. Paulson
SSgt V. J. Anctil CWO4 J. H. Cronise MSgt B. D. Jacks Capt R. D. Peterson
Maj D. R. Anderson Maj W. C. DeJager Maj L. L. Kemp  Lt Col R. A. Pilcher
Sgt R. L. Avery  TSgt D.C. Drews TSgt T. M. Kreuder Maj D. S. Powell
TSgt J. R. Baker MSgt G. L. Elser SSgt D. R. Kutcher SSgt J. W. Rasmussen
MSgt V. Bartley MSgt C. M. Estey MSgt A. J. LaBelle MSgt L. W. Rosen
MSgt A. E. Bauder TSgt R. Fitzpatrick TSgt G. M. Lange CMSgt R. C. Rosenthal
MSgt J. H. Becker III TSgt L. A. Gaussoin TSgt ML Lauderbaugh MSgt J. W. Schultz
Capt S. Broadhead SSgt R. Gile  MSgt R. E. Lee  TSgt C. A. Scott
MSgt L. E. Brown SSgt K. E. Gorsuch SSgt R. Linn  TSgt C. D. Smith
SMSgt D. J. Brownlee TSgt G. D. Hartel SSgt D. R. Marshall SSgt R. W. Stevenson
MSgt D. D. Budke TSgt K. C. Hankins MSgt A. Martens, Jr. Maj J. Thomas
CMSgt J. R. Cannard Maj C. H. Hellis CMSgt K. J. McCoy MSgt H. R. Van Fleet
1Lt C. M. Carlton SMSgt O. D. Hinkle Maj T. W. McKinsey 2Lt J. Vernon
MSgt R. B. Caswell TSgt L. F. Hoffman SSgt C. R. Minto SSgt W. G. Vineis
MSgt H. D. Chandler TSgt L. D. Holas Maj R. M. Moore MSgt R. A. Vonderharr
TSgt W. Chapman Capt W. Hudson TSgt G. K. Nemeth TSgt R. Wales
MSgt M. E. Wiebold
MSgt J. L. Woodburn