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Santa Barbara Chapter Meetings And Events
AOC War-Fighter Panel Highlights EW Operator Perspective
Hosted by the Association of Old Crows, over 50 Santa Barbara chapter members and guests converged on the “Crow’s Nest” at the Santa Barbara Elk’s Lodge to witness a very informative and engaging panel on the importance of Electronic Warfare from an Operator’s perspective, representing four US military service branches. Event organizer Brett Marymee provided welcoming remarks, including the introduction of the Panel Moderator, retired US Marine Corp General Fred Lopez. Fred served in Viet Nam as a rifle and sniper platoon commander, earning the Distinguished Service Medal, Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V”, Navy Commendation Medal, and the Combat Action Ribbon. The retired Marine Corp General and retired Raytheon Goleta Site Engineering Director introduced the four war-fighter program panelists, Randy Franciose, US Navy, Joe Danely, US Army, Tom Hofer, US Marine Corp, and Ken Spaar, US Air Force:
Panelist Randy Franciose, former Commander, US Navy, was a Naval Flight Officer with an electronic warfare (EW) service specialty, and served 25 years on active duty. He was a former Air Wing strike leader and served both ashore and at sea on five different Aircraft Carriers, logging over 2600 flight hours in five different aircraft, (2200 hours in EA-6B aircraft squadrons) and over 550 carrier arrested landings.
Panelist Joe Danely, former Captain, US Army, graduated with an ROTC Commission from UCSB and flew UH-1 Hueys in Viet Nam with the 1st Air Cavalry and the 57th Assault Helicopter Companies. Joe earned Rotary Aviator Wings, logging 1600 total flight hours which includes 1100 combat helicopter hours.
Panelist Ken Spaar, former LtCol, USAF, served 22 years as a Weapon System Officer (WSO) and Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) flying over 2000 hours and 34 combat missions in F-4s. Ken flew a variety of missions including air-to-ground with laser and EO guided weapons, nuclear strike, and air-to-air. During the first Gulf War, he flew defense suppression missions (Wild Weasel). He served as a Flight Commander, 81st Tactical Fighter Squadron, Assistant Operations Officer 81st Tactical Fighter Squadron, and Squadron Commander 68th Electronic Warfare Squadron, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal.
All panelists cited the intensity and importance of the training provided in the military to prepare for combat. Both Tom and Randy flew EA-6B platforms which are designed to Suppress Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) electronically. Their military training compelled them to become the threat subject matter expert to quickly identify friend or foe in the dense signal environment. Randy cited that the ground has a Probability of Kill of one, and that they were smart enough to not duel with SAMs. Tom added that they would fly right up to the lethal engagement flight envelope of the shooters, but not cross it. Joe noted the absence of EW equipment for the Army helicopters in Viet Nam, now satisfactorily addressed with modern helicopters.
Ken Spaar discussed academic and flight training to emulate going against single digit SAMs and the Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA) present in the Gulf. While the Air Force wild weasel training was primarily for low altitude, the abundance of threats with lethal capability at low altitude forced a tactics change in theater to fly above 25,000 feet. Ken stated the F-4 aircraft was a “dog” and less maneuverable than a tanker, given its sluggish flight performance at higher altitudes.
Joe Danely talked about the helicopter defensive tactics employed, including flying just above the tree top canopy to avoid enemy arms fire. He wryly stated that today’s cockpits and their moving map indicators were really just the ground below, when flying helicopter combat sorties. He also quipped that the helicopters flew so slow, they could receive bird strikes from behind.
All panelists discussed their personal experiences with numerous EW products, the capabilities and limitations, and stressed the importance of reliability and the increasing reliance on automated responses as the signal environment and equipment become more complex. One panelist referred to the reliable ALE-50 towed decoy or “Little Buddy,” that provided effective self-protection against ground based SAMs in combat.
Following the panel, the chapter held an opportunity drawing for a bottle of “Fighter Pilot Red” wine, provided by Bella Luna Winery. Raytheon’s Curt Garcia was the lucky winner. AOC President Phil Estabrooks and event organizer Brett Marymee acknowledged the WWII and Korean War Veterans in attendance, providing each with commemorative Santa Barbara AOC chapter mugs, to recognize and thank them for their valued service to the nation. The wide range of backgrounds and shared combat experiences of attendees, the panel, and the moderator, coming together for one single October night in Santa Barbara, made this a very memorable and unique AOC event.