RF-101, il dimenticato della Crisi Cubana

Un RF-101 sorvola le coste cubane – Credit: Lou Drendel

Messo in ombra dai piu’ celebri Lockheed U-2 e Vought RF-8 Crusader, nessuno sembra volersi ricordare del ricognitore fotografico McDonnell RF-101 Voodoo. Eppure questo velivolo, durante la drammatica Crisi dei Missili, svolse un ruolo non certo di secondo piano, documentando, attraverso sensazionali immagini, il build-up militare allora in corso nell’isola caraibica.

Queste foto ne sono la dimostrazione piu’ lampante:

clicca x ingrandire – Credit: CIA

Foto del Porto di Casilda – Notare l’ombra del 101 in basso a destra – Credit: CIA


Postazioni SAM a Cuba. In totale gli RF-101 effettuarono, assieme agli RF-8 della US Navy, 158 voli di ricognizione. L’ultima missione fu programmata per il 15 Novembre 1962.

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Gli esemplari di RF-101 coinvolti appartenevano al 363rd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, reparto che diede il via alle operazioni sopra Cuba il 23 Ottobre 1962.

Durante la crisi il 363rd effettuo’ 82 missioni di ricognizione fotografica.

Grazie agli audaci voli a bassa quota compiuti dai piloti degli RF-101, gli Stati Uniti poterono confermare la smantellazione dei siti nucleari e dichiarare cessata la crisi.

Per le azioni compiute a Cuba i piloti del 363rd TRW ottennero una Distingueshed Flying Cross ciascuno, mentre l’unita’ si pote’ fregiare di una Presidential Citation Unit:

You gentlemen have contributed as much to the security of the United States as any group of men in our history.” – John F. Kennedy

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Qui un articolo tratto dal Time del 7 Dicembre 1962:

OVER CUBA: Flak at 11 o’clock

At MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, Lieut. Colonel Joseph O’Grady, 41, commander of the 29th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, arose at 2:30 a.m., by 3:30 was being briefed in the base operations building. The date was Oct. 29, 1962. O’Grady’s mission: to lead a flight of RF-101 “Voodoo” supersonic jets on a low-level aerial reconnaissance flight over Cuba. His specific targets: an airfield and a missile site. Last week O’Grady, who was one of 25 Air Force, Navy and Marine reconnaissance pilots who received the Distinguished Flying Cross for their work, wrote the most detailed account so far of how it feels to fly—and be shot at—over Castro’s Cuba. O’Grady’s laconic report:

I WAS issued the maps that would be I required for my flight, then plotted the positions of my targets from the longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates also given me by Intelligence. At this time the Intelligence specialist briefed me in detail on the targets; for example, on the airfield he gave me the runway alignment compass direction, approximate site of the building areas, and he gave me the list of Essential Elements of Information, referred to as EEIs, that would be required of the airfield.

This process was then repeated for the missile site. After the briefing was concluded, I was given target study folders that contained various items such as detailed maps, photographs, and drawings of the target proper, and associated items of equipment that I could reasonably expect to find. After these items were covered, the Intelligence officer briefed me on the Cuban early warning radar net and surface-to-air missile coverage.

“Dotson Seven One.” In a short span of time we had prepared our maps and flight logs. We knew exactly where we would be every second of our flight. We also knew the exact amount of fuel that would be required for the mission, and the frequencies to be used to contact the various radio stations en route. I knew my target complex as well as I know my own home town.

The duty officer gave me the frequency and the code name of a powerful control station to whom I was to make an in-flight report, giving the specific EEIs as briefed by the Intelligence officer. I was given the number of my aircraft and my call sign; from wheels-up to touchdown I was known as “Dotson Seven One.”

The departure and climb out to altitude were exactly as briefed. We were maintaining radio silence and utilized our normal command hand signals for any communication that was required. Our flight down the Florida peninsula was uneventful.

Nearing the Cuban mainland, I reached my descent point. The Voodoo nosed over and I went “down on the deck.” At this low altitude I was undetected by the long-range radar. The weather in the lower altitudes was broken cumulus, or scattered fluffy clouds, with scattered rain showers. Sea haze interfered to a small degree with my visibility. But it was good enough that I easily spotted my preplanned landfall point. It was a green, marshy outcropping of land.

Keeping low, I flew inland until I reached a river inlet to a big bay. This was my initial point, or the place where I turned the plane on its target course. I trimmed the aircraft to allow the cameras to pass over the airfield and missile site at the best possible direction and altitude for the photography that was desired.

As the target came into view, I knew the study I had done was correct and the materials furnished for me for this study were accurate to nth of a degree.

Toward Home Plate. On my initial flight on the target area, I secured photographs of both targets. Airplanes with mechanics at work were directly below. After about ten seconds of controlled flight with four of six of the cameras in the airplane working, we turned “down and around” and came in for another target run from a different direction.

On the second run, when the cameras were running, our aircraft were stable, trying for the most distortion-free photographs. Bursts of enemy antiaircraft fire appeared at the11 o’clock position, or just to the left of the course of my plane. Almost simultaneously, the bursts were blossoming back on my left all the way to the 6 o’clock position.

I immediately called the ground fire to the attention of my wingman. Almost at the same instant he also was informing me. This was the first break of radio silence since we departed MacDill.

Our briefing instructions prior to mission departure were to immediately break off any target run if fired upon.

We immediately headed for “home plate.” En route I was able to visually locate an enemy missile site. Using our preplanned tactics, we evaded Cuban radar coverage and brushed treetops and sea spray away from the island.

Weather conditions were the same on our return flight as they were inbound.

We hadn’t been gone long. The Voodoo is a fast airplane. Once out of the range of the detection radar, we climbed up to cruising altitude and streaked for home.

We got what we were sent for—target coverage.

La suite da ricognizione fotografica dell’RF-101C Voodoo. Questo aereo, entrato in servizio nel 1958, poteva montare a bordo fino a sei fotocamere.

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E SE QUALCOSA FOSSE ANDATO STORTO?


I (fortunatamente) mai attuati piani d’invasione – clicca x ingrandire

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