Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Secret Weapon

By R.L. Clark

In the fall of 1962 our squadron deployed to MCAS YUMA for 3 weeks of 30,000 feet gunnery, 40,000 feet gunnery and Tactics (Dogfighting).

The first day we were scheduled for a 30,000' flight.  A Tow Plane would drag an 8’x40’ target at 20,000’.  4 planes would climb to 30,000', level off, and begin to drop down to fire at the target at 400kts. (460 mph) This was called a squirrel cage.

We would make runs until all ammo was expended. The Ground Crew painted a different color paint on the 20mm so that when the target was dropped back on the field, hits could be counted.

Captain R.L. Clark
The haze was so thick at 30,000 that it was very hard to pick up the target until you were so close that a good run was difficult.  You only had enough time to fire a 2-3 sec. burst. We usually landed with few hits.

 I thought about things and took a vehicle into downtown Yuma and looked for an Optometry Shop. Finding one, I explained my problem and asked if he had anything that would cut through the haze at altitude. He brought out a pair of HAZEMASTERS. 

 He told me that all of the hunters and shooters locally used them.  He said that some fishermen swore that they could even see the fish under water. I bought a pair and was anxious for the next days’ operation.

 Next day I was assigned leader of a flight of 4 for a run at the target, but one man had trouble with his plane and had to abort, leaving us with a flight of 3. When we leveled off at 30,000 feet I pulled out my new glasses, put them on, and was astounded that I could see down to 20,000, where the target was as if there was no haze at all.

This is  really important because the longer you have to track the target, the better the chance of hitting it. After all ammo was expended, we broke off and flew back to the field.  Subsequently the tow plane dropped the target.

Cockpit View
We 3 were back in the hangar Ready Room drinking coffee when an officer from Base Operations burst in with a strange look on his face.  He asked the Duty Officer who was leader of the flight that had last landed.  I  heard him say that it was Capt. Clarks’ flight. I thought to myself  "Oh Brother,what have I done now?"

He said that we had to come outside and look at the target.  When we got outside, they had the target stretched out .  It was full of holes. He said that it was the most holes he had seen in a target since he had been there.

 He called the Base P.R. Unit and had a photographer sent out to us. We posed for a picture behind the target. Dutch Van Kampen is on the left; Wendy Grubbs is in the middle and Yours truly is on the right pointing at a cluster of holes.

 That was the last I thought of it except that I used my Hazemasters routinely after that and continually got good scores.   About 3-4 years later, I received a postcard from one of my squadron mates who had been assigned to MCAS YUMA.  Low and Behold, they had used that picture of us as one of the postcards sold throughout Yuma.

 I still have those glasses and use them routinely when driving at night or under reduced visibility.  Sometimes I wear them playing golf.  It doesn’t help my game much but at least I can see the ball when it goes into the water or the woods.

(In order to save our Dear Readers who still drive at night, valuable time, I've already looked up HAZEMASTER Glasses, and apparently they are no longer in business. However, there are companies who manufacture "yellow lens" glasses. I'm expecting my pair to arrive in the next couple of days, and will let you know if they work as well for me as the genuine HAZEMASTERS did for RL!    -Ed)