Constituted 30 Aug 1957. Activated 25 Sep 1957. Inactivated 30 Apr 1959.
Flying F-84 “Thunder Jets” as part of 366th Fighter-Bomber Wing (renamed the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing in 1958) at England AFB, Louisiana. Became first tactical unit in the 366th to transition to the F-100 Super Sabre, as well as continued flying F-84s.
Redesignated the 480th Tactical Fighter Squadron in 1958. The squadron entered a continuous program of training exercises, including long-distance refueling, navigation, and low-level bombing missions. In 1959 the squadron’s aircraft and equipment were transferred to other organizations. Squadron was inactivated in April of 1959.
Maj. David T. Davidson, 25 Sep 1957 – 1 Apr 1959.
Milt Moore Reminisces
480th TACTICAL BOMBER SQUADRON
ENGLAND AFB, LA – Nov 57 – Mar 58
This squadron, commanded by Major Dave Davidson, was my first operational flying unit after pilot training. Captain Tom Kirk was the Operations Officer. The 480th was one of four F-100 squadrons in the 366th Tactical Bomber Wing and it shared the base with the 401st TBW, which also flew F-100s. I think I had around 330 hours of flying time when I arrived and was a wingman in one of the flights until I had 500 hours of flying time. At that time I was made element lead, which meant that I could lead a two-ship formation. It also meant I could ferry aircraft in the states solo and ferry aircraft overseas as a flight member.
The North American F-100D Super Sabre, and its two-seater version, the F-100F, was a hard airplane to fly and to land for a new pilot right out of pilot training. It was also difficult to refuel inflight, especially at night. We used the “probe and drogue” for inflight refueling. The probe was located on the F-100’s wing and the drogue was a small basket on the end of a hose that was reeled out from a pod underneath the old B-50 tanker’s wing. The pilot would fly his aircraft into a position so that the probe could be pushed into the basket that was trailing on the hosebehind the tanker. It was difficult because the short probe on the F-100’s swept-wing was behind the cockpit and so the pilot couldn’t see the actual hookup. He had to fly in formation with the tanker and move into a position that would align the probe about 3 or 4 feet behind the basket. After a few brief, sideward glances at the probe to make sure it was pretty well aligned, the pilot would increase the throttle and hope for a good contact. It was not unusual to miss the basket. Sometimes the probe would just catch the lip of the basket. After the basket was pushed forward a few feet, it would snap loose and make a wild looping swing. On rare occasions the basket would swing around and hit the plexiglass that covered the cockpit before the pilot could back off. More than one canopy was broken this way.
The slow speed of the old prop driven KB-50 tankers made our refueling task more difficult. The AF had added two jet engines to augment the four prop engines to give this Korean-era bomber a few more knots of speed. During refueling, we had to slow the F-100 to around 190-200 knots. As we took on fuel, our stall speed increased above 200 knots, so the KB-50 would start a descent (called a toboggan) in order to gain an additional 20-30 knots so that we wouldn’t stall and fall off the drogue. At night, the tanker was lit up, but it was hard to see the basket and flying formation on the tanker at night was both difficult and dangerous. We stayed proficient in air refueling in case we had to deploy anyplace in the world.
We practiced gunnery at the range near the base or at Mata Gorda Island off the Texas coast. Our primary mission was to deliver both conventional and nuclear weapons. The conventional weapons consisted of bombs, napalm, rockets, and the F-100’s 20mm machine gun. We could also carry a nuclear bomb about the strength of those dropped on Japan in August 1945. We had an interesting delivery method for a nuclear bomb (practiced with 25# inert bombs). We would fly across the target at 500′ above the ground and pull up into a half-looped manuever (called an immelman). We had to maintain a steady 4-Gs (4 times the force of gravity) on the aircraft; we wore G-suits to help keep the blood from pooling in the lower part of the body (to keep from blacking out). When we reached a near vertical climbing position at about 12,000′ altitude, we released the bomb. It continued upward to approximately 20,000′ before falling back to the target. We continued the top half of the loop until the aircraft nose was below the horizon. We would then roll rightside up and leave the area as fast as possible so as not to be caught in the nuclear blast. The time it took for the bomb to travel up the extra 8,000′ and then its freefall of 20,000’ gave us our escape time. To qualify, our bombs had to fall within 1,500′ of the target, which was close enough for a nuclear bomb. We could also do a high dive bomb method by diving from 30,000′ and pulling out around 25,000′ after bomb release, but this wasn’t as accurate as the “over-the-shoulder” method. The F-100 had a fixed gunsight, so the delivery of all ordnance depended upon the pilot’s skill. High tech equipment such as computer gunsights were introduced late in the Vietnam war.
Shortly after flying the F-100 for 500 hours, I went to Sacramento to pick up one of our planes from the overhaul facility at Mclellan AFB. Our navigation equipment was very crude–a single direction finder (ADF) that consisted of a needle that pointed to low frequency stations spread across the U.S. (in the range below commercial radio, 200-500 kilocycles). It was standard procedure to check the ADF before takeoff. I checked it at the end of the McClellan runway and the tail of the needle pointed at the station. Ssince it was exactly 180 degrees off, I decided that I could just read the tail of the needle instead of the head. Things were going well as I headed east across AZ and NM because I could also check my position visually. There was a slight cloud cover over El Paso, so I descended until I could see the city to make sure I took the correct heading across TX. I also knew that when I got close to Dallas I’d have flight following by radar (in 1958 we didn’t have complete coverage across the U.S.). Radar coverage ended over east Texas. As I approached England AFB, the tail of the needle swung and, believing that I was over our radio beacon, I started my instrument let down through the clouds below. When I descended below the clouds, I recognized nothing but flat forrested land. I had no idea how far I was from the base and I only had about 15″ fuel remaining. I turned my IFF (stands for identification friend or foe) to the emergency setting and fortunately the base radar picked me up and vectored me in for an immediate landing. The low level light had come on indicating that I had less than 300 pounds of fuel remaining–on an aircraft that was burning 3,000 pounds/hr. Six minutes of fuel left!
My next ferry flight was much longer, but more enjoyable. Eight of us delivered eight F-100s from Atlanta to Chaumont, France. By carrying 4 fuel tanks under the wings, we were able to island-hop across the Atlantic without refueling. We flew to Newfoundland, then to Lajes AB in the Azores (belonged to Portugal) and from there to Chaumont. Navigation over the long stretches of ocean was by radio stations on ships. At Chaumont, I visited with friends from pilot training, Neil and Donna Gruber. They had left their little dog with us and after it ran away repeatedly, I gave it to the people who it was running to. I think this ended our friendship with the Grubers. From Chaumont, we took the train to Paris for a couple days of sight-seeing, then went to Brussels for the World’s Fair and finally to Frankfurt to catch a military hop home.
There was a lot of pride in the 480th and our moral was high. One day Major Dave led a 16-ship flyby over the base — after first taking the formation over his home in East Texas. We had a lot of fun while at England AFB. We’d go to happy hour every Friday night at the Officer’s Club. Maj Dave would say “gombay” and we’d chug-a-lug whatever we were drinking and great quantities of booze were consumed. It was a typical fighter outfit — social activity always involved a lot of drinking. Our other major pasttime was playing bridge, mainly with Jim and Betty O’Donnell. My rank was too low to get base housing so we rented a place in Alexandria across from the park. We lived here when Karen was born. Later, we rented a little house across the Red River in Pineville.
I am glad that we didn’t have the money to buy a house because, after being there for a year, the AF deactivated the 366th Wing and many were left with houses that they couldn’t sell for a long time and lost money on them. Not only were pilots scrambling to sell their homes, they were looking for another fighter assignment. These were hard to come by since the Tactical Air Command was closing many units. Major Dave called me one evening and asked how would I like to go to George AFB and fly the F-104. It was a real plum and I imagine I got it because Maj Dave thought highly of Barb and me. Jim wasn’t that well favored in the squadron and ended up flying KC-135 tankers in SAC; however, he did better in the long run as he retired with 20 years and flew for United AL.
Of course the highlight of the tour was Karen’s birth on January 29, 1958. She was a little premature, possibly due to the fact that I drove into a ditch on base one night (after a club party?? I can’t remember, but I’m sure Barb could). Karen was a happy child and always eager to share Kathy’s toys, much to Kathy’s consternation. Little did we know then that 18 years later we would leave Karen in her native state at Bossier City near Shreveport.