It reminds me of another word: junkyard. I associate images
of sun-bleached skeletons carelessly strewn in the desert,
everything of value having been picked clean from them long
ago... A place relics whose time has passed, or those with
wounds too deep to heal are discarded. Lost and forgotten.
Over 4,000 of them on 2,600 acres of desert, they wait for
whatever fate will befall them. Their canopies covered with
white Spraylat, like hunting birds of prey wearing their hoods,
they wait for the chance to fly again. But will they? Will
these warrior craft which have flown in all parts of the world
ever leave the ground again? They have seen combat, stared
the enemy down face to face, taken their pilots and crews
into danger and brought them safely home. And now they are
here, where old aircraft go to die.
what AMARC really is? I wondered.
I sit quietly in the tour bus, looking
out through the dark tinted glass at aircraft shining white
in the morning sun. I feel a sense of attachment to them and
concern for their future. Why should that be? After all, they
are just machines: marvelous engineering and manufacturing
achievements no doubt, but still machines. Why attach sentiment
to inanimate objects who are themselves entirely without emotion?
I love aircraft, especially military
aircraft, but that doesn't really explain it. I love cars
too, at least some of them, and it doesn't seem to bother
me that they end up in crushing machines. What makes these
aircraft different, special? Why do I care if they get their
wings chopped off by a 13,500 pound guillotine blade dropped
from an 80 foot high crane? If they are ripped up with cutting
saws, have their innards torn out, and then their carcasses
hauled away to metal recyclers to be melted down into cubes?
Or are they more than the sum of their
airframes, engines and propulsion equipment, flight control,
radar, weapons, and other systems? Do these machines have
special places in our hearts because of what they have done
and where they have been? Is it the stories they would tell
if only they were able to tell them?
The bus passes rows of Navy F-14 Tomcats,
mostly the A model. I watch them go and study the tail insignia.
They are beautiful. They really do have something cat-like
about them, as though ready to pounce. I can imagine them
sitting on an aircraft carrier deck, the catapult ready to
fire. I remember some history, events from around the world
in which these magnificent aircraft played a part:
- The Cold War.
Time and time again, F-14's, the Defenders of the Fleet,
would play a deadly serious game of "catch the bomber"
and intercept Soviet bombers that got a little close. I
can still see the photos of Soviet "Bear" bombers
and the crews waving at each other in not-so-friendly gestures.
2 patrolling VF-41 F-14A's intercept and shoot down two
Libyan Su-22 Fitter-Js over the Mediterranean Sea. It is
the first incident involving Libyan fighter jets and the
Tomcat. The second occurs in 1989 as 2 patrolling VF-32
F-14A's intercept and shoot down two more Libyan fighter
jets, MiG-23 Floggers. Usually a lock on by the Tomcat's
powerful radar is enough to dissuade the hostile aircraft,
however, these MiGs did not take the hint. Tomcats rule.
Following the Achille Lauro incident, F-14A's from the VF-74
and VF-103, do a night intercept high over the Mediterranean
Sea of an Egyptian airliner carrying the terrorists and
force it to land. Vectored to the airliner's position by
an E3 Sentry, the Tomcats positioned themselves to the front,
sides, and rear of the airliner, with their lights and radios
off. In the dark night sky, the airliner crew had no idea
they had company. When they were ready, the F-14's switched
on their position lights. I have always imagined the look
of amazement on the airliner pilot's face as he suddenly
saw the lights of Tomcat fighter aircraft he never knew
were there, all around him.
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