Jaguar on Al Jaber

Charly perfused in the cockpit

The continuation and the end of the article…

For those who haven’t read the first part: it’s here

All the aircraft started up, only one broke down and had to take the “spare”, the replacement aircraft ready to leave.

The first part of the mission happens almost normally. The procedures applied during operations in the golf course no longer completely obeyed the rules used in France. Especially in in-flight refueling.

Supply in France until the Gulf War was indeed the prerogative of the FAS, the Strategic Air Forces, not really known for their flexibility! No question of refueling in bends, in a box of several refuellers, of moving the predetermined refueling circuit by a few miles… no flexibility of use! Only convoys and African operations authorized slight departures from the framework. In the Gulf, in-flight refueling is done in boxes of several tankers stacked on top of each other, operational requirements make cornering refueling mandatory, etc. Here we must pay tribute to the crews of the French Boeing tankers who very quickly left their usual procedural straitjacket to put themselves really and very effectively at the service of hunters and who knew how to change their procedures on a lasting basis upon their return to France.

Refueling is going well. However, the JAGUAR suffers from a defect: its lack of power. The engines actually deliver relatively weak power. So much so that sometimes, the plane is at the maximum of its available power to refuel and that it starts to retreat inexorably. A radio call “TOBOGAN” then prompts the tanker to reduce its engines and go downhill…the JAGUAR can then follow. For this, however, the airspace under the refueling circuit must be free…

In short, our jaguars come out with a full tank of fuel and dive at very low altitude. They are approaching the Kuwaiti-Saudi border and the horizon darkens noticeably. The Iraqis had indeed dug and filled a huge ditch with oil…and had lit fire there at the start of the coalition attack. A huge curtain of black smoke filled the sky over the desert, reducing the visibility of the flight.

Here you have to remember the conditions of the flight! The JAGUAR at that time had as its only means of navigation a fairly old computer with a very high propensity to drift. It is therefore necessary to have markers on the ground to “readjust” it. However, in the desert, there are not a lot of landmarks…and when the visibility is reduced…well, you don’t recalibrate and the more time passes, the greater the circle of uncertainty as to your exact position increases.

That doesn’t stop our JAGUARS from making progress, dumping their cans of extra fuel (to shed some weight and gain some power) and rushing deep into the desert…well, rushing for a JAGUAR. ..it’s all relative…but when a JAGUAR pilot says he’s flying low, believe me, the camels lower their heads!

The 2 patrols of 6 planes cross the border…and as described by one of the pilots, hell opens up for them. Anything that fires, any available scrap of any caliber is fired into the air by Iraqi troops. The safety of the pilots is only in their speed and the very very low flight.

A first JAGUAR is hit, its left engine is on fire. The pilot, “Bonnaf” saw nothing, he just felt 3 shocks…he knew he was hit before being alerted by the failure alarms that came on. He was only on one engine, lost speed and after continuing for a few minutes, he resolved to try to reach Saudi Arabia. However, he was only 2 minutes from the target…but with a speed of 240 Kts, having lost sight of the other planes, he chose the only viable option. We must salute here this decision which is not natural to a fighter pilot… to turn around a few seconds from the objective is so not in the genes! It takes a lot of composure to assess the situation… going last after 11 planes have already attacked, alone, on a fiercely defended objective and with the comatose speed allowed by its remaining engine would have been for sure a one-way trip. return…

A second JAGUAR is hit! Above the objective, a second pilot announced that he had been hit, it was a missile that hit his right reactor. It’s “Mamel”, still from JAG’s second box! They don’t know it yet but Charly has just been hit too! His canopy exploded and he felt a very violent shock to his head… he said nothing to let Paco, the leader of the second box give some instructions to “Mamel”.

He decides to announce his problem when he realizes that he is rapidly losing blood from his helmet:

– “I’m hit, I have a hole in my head and I’m bleeding. »

– “You confirm “Charly”! asked “Schnapy”, leader of the first box and responsible for the mission.

– “I confirm, I have a hole in my head, I’m pissing blood and I’m going to go up. »

– ” No no ! Several voices had just answered at the same time.

– ““Charly”, get out first! cried the chief.

– “Goal 20 “Charly”, goes towards the exit! »

Everyone went over the target and delivered their weapons…the priority now is to leave the danger zone as quickly as possible.

Photo SIRPA

It’s not high! A pylon about 9 m high at the same level as the plane from which the photo is taken!

Meanwhile, “Bonnaf” and “Mamel” meanwhile see each other, stay together, and describe to each other the damage to their planes on their way to Saudi Arabia.

However, the return journey is not calm! The JAGUARS again fly over heavily defended areas… “Jesus” is in turn hit! He will be the only one in the first box of 6.

“Bonaf” and “Mamel” are heading towards AL Jubaî, the nearest airfield and land there urgently. They will discover after landing that they have involuntarily followed a corridor without any Iraqi presence after being hit… luck!

The other 10 return to Al Ahsa. The 10 pilots will be marked by the silence that reigns upon their arrival. The mechanics counted the planes…10 instead of 12…2 track racers can’t hold back their tears…their plane…their pilot is not there with the others! When flying these planes, it is always difficult to consider the emotions of those who stay on the ground but are in close contact with the planes. Mechanics, controllers…often real enthusiasts who live their job with total emotional commitment! The wait for the return of the JAGUAR must have been endless…

Assessment:

Everyone is back!

A wounded pilot (10 cm wound in the head and a lot of blood lost, the bullet went through the helmet…scalping the scalp…some would say that death literally passed “a hair”).

4 planes hit.

  • One by short range infrared missile
  • The other 3 by small caliber bullets

The Mamel reactor

Photo SIRPA

This mission was the last carried out at very low altitude. The following missions will be carried out at medium altitude.

Many have criticized the choice of flight profile.

Indeed, the flight at very low altitude left our JAGUARs within range of fire from small arms and very short range infrared missiles. It’s true.

However, remaining objective:

  • Who would have bet that the Iraqi anti-aircraft defense would be rendered inoperative in a few hours?
  • Who had criticized the choice of the very low altitude profile before this mission? I don’t remember hearing one of the mission pilots criticize this choice.

The next day, it was changed…the JAGUARs will also have to undergo an emergency modification of their firing system…the first unguided bombs were fired with “chewing gum” stuck on the sight!

Photo A.Mahagne

The helmet of “Charly”. In red the entry point of the ball!

In my opinion, we must remember that no one backed down, each pilot played his role, reacting very professionally to the baseness of this attack. Let us also not forget all the ground personnel who, since the pilots did not know what awaited them, suffered the incessant SCUD alerts and served with dedication the coalition created to liberate Kuwait.

In tribute to General “Schnappy” Mansion, the video in which he recounts the theft:

The story is taken from numerous testimonials from the raid pilots that can be found on the internet. An example on the 11TH fighter squadron website,

Or in the no less excellent book by Alain Mahagne (one of the raid pilots): “Jaguar on Al Jaber”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.