by Les Waltman
In late 1969, Lt.Col. Joe Maisch and myself, members of the 175th Tac.Ftr.Grp., Maryland ANG, were given orders to take a pair of F-86H aircraft and proceed to Nellis AFB, Nevada, to participate in a classified flying program code-named Project HAVE DRILL. The project lasted three days and involved a series of programmed maneuvers between our aircraft, the F-86H Sabre, and a captured MiG-15 or -17 (my memory is not that good anymore).<
We were to conduct these maneuvers some 60-80 miles north of Nellis AFB, at a place I learned later was the highly classified area known as Groom Dry Lake AFB. I had never heard of the place nor had any idea what went on there. We would fly three missions against the MiG. I flew the second mission.
On my mission we performed between the desert surface and 5,000 ft. AGL The program consisted of speed brakes in and speed brakes out to evaluate deceleration and acceleration comparisons, step turns, sharp climbs, and various other maneuvers designed to observe differences in performance between our aircraft and the MiG.
The MiG had the advantage of an afterburner, a very large speed brake, and a rather large wing area. All of these factors served to its advantage. One thing I quickly observed was that the MiG had a rather slow rate of roll. It was obvious to me that a rapidly reversing scissors maneuver would create problems for the MiG. Like wise, the MiGs limited fuel supply meant that it couldn't remain in the operational area for too long a time.
Because the evaluation area was right under us, the MiG pilot was able to stay a little longer in the area. This became a factor, for after the canned exercise was over, we proceeded to `really have it.' Because of the roll rate differential, I was able to negate many of the advantages that the MiG had over my model. I should note that the MiG pilot was a Marine major who was quite adept at flying the MiG, so there was no pilot skill advantage there.
Needless to say, the result of our little tete-a-tete was both of us running seriously low on fuel. Naturally, being over `home plate' merely meant spiraling down for the MiG pilot. But I was faced with a rather terse trip back to Nellis - about 60 miles or so away. A trip I won't forget soon.
It should be noted that, with virtually no lead time whatever, the Maryland ANG was able to hustle off to Nellis using only two `right off the ramp' aircraft for the project, needing no maintenance people to accompany us. We dropped the tanks off one aircraft and that concluded our `special preparations'. The F-86H did all that was expected of it and with a minimum of effort. I might add that Joe Maisch flew the other two missions and his experiences pretty much mirrored mine. Three days of incredible flying and Las Vegas to boot. Life doesn't get any better than that.
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