Radar Bombing During Rolling Thunder--Part 1: Ryan's Raiders. - Air Power History

Radar Bombing During Rolling Thunder--Part 1: Ryan's Raiders.

By Air Power History

  • Release Date: 2006-03-22
  • Genre: Engineering


At 3:03 AM, on January 17, 1991, the 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS), the "Black Widows," from the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW), launched eight F-16 Vipers on a strike against two Iraqi air bases in Kuwait during the opening round of Operation Desert Storm. "Rash" and "Chancer" flights took off before daybreak from Al Minhad Air Base, United Arab Emirates. The pilots navigated their Block 40 F-16Cs though darkness using their inertial navigation systems that Global Positioning Satellites updated every two seconds. The planes carried LANTIRN (Low-Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night) pods that clearly showed the ground terrain and their targets on cockpit displays. Upon reaching their targets, the pilots accurately dropped their loads of anti-tank and anti-personnel mines despite bad weather and being shot at by anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) and surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). At dawn, three hours later, all eight planes landed back at Al Minhad. The power of their F-16s' navigation and weapon guidance systems gave the 421st their motto, "We own the night." (1) The F-16's capability for night operations stands in stark contrast to the Air Force's limited ability twenty-four years earlier to strike targets in North Vietnam at night or in bad weather. During Operation Rolling Thunder in 1965 through 1968, pilots in the 388th TFW and the 355th TFW flew F-105 Thunderchiefs from Korat and Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Bases in Thailand. The annual cycle of northern monsoon weather over North Vietnam's Red River valley during late winter through early spring often prevented F-105 pilots from putting bombs on significant targets around Hanoi. If an F-105 pilot couldn't see his target, he could not hit it accurately.