What Was That??

Don Loosley

Close air support in A-37 s at Bien Hoa AB in Vietnam in mid-1972 was a real change of pace from the high-altitude air defense missions I had been flying in F-102's and F-106's for the past seven years. The A-37 was like a little sports car compared to the larger, more complex interceptors. During my first orientation flight in the right seat of the A-37 over some rubber plantations northwest of Bien Hoa, I asked the pilot what the little flashes of light were in the jungle below. He replied calmly, "Those are people shooting at us." I avoided looking down after that.

The A-37 was so simple and reliable, pilots could fly two and three times a day. The standard flight briefing would always include a caution about the SA-7, "Strella," a shoulder-fired, heat-seeking missile. We became so accustomed to the briefing that we didn't really think much about it.

Then one afternoon I was in a flight of two aircraft committed against a troops-in-contact engagement south of An Loc. My left out-board station was a CBU-25 dispenser which was designed for use against a straight-line target like a trench. It took some windage to dispense the bomblets accurately, but I must have been lucky because the enemy really got stirred up! As I pulled off the target, a white object went flying under my airplane from below and up past its nose in front of me. My first reaction was, "What the h— was that?!" Then it sunk in... after all those memorized briefings. It was an SA-7 which failed to guide. I had a stiff drink at the club that night. It was my lucky day! I almost felt sorry for the poor "gook" that had carried this missile for weeks down the Ho Chi Minh Trail...and it turned out to be a dud!

Don Loosley flying an A-37