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Bear Chasing

Warbirds, Replicas and Nostalgic photos in here please.
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Bear Chasing

Post by gulfdave » Wed Jul 02, 2014 7:27 pm

Been meaning to scan these images and tell an interesting story for a long time and finally getting around to it....

14 Aug 1985 - as a keen young airman, I managed to blag a pax trip from Brize Norton on VC-10 K.3 ZA150 of 101 Sqn for what was planned to be a routine AAR sortie with 12 Sqn Buccaneers as the receivers on a towline to the East of Aberdeen. We departed Brize mid-morning as callsign Z9C28 with Sqn Ldr Barrell as the aircraft captain and made a routine transit North and established in the towline ready for the first receiver.

Imagescan0005 (2) by gulfdave, on Flickr

Imagescan0003 (2) by gulfdave, on Flickr

As I settled down to take a few air-air shots of our first trade - Buccaneer S.2B XV161 (AF) from the rear of the cabin (a bit of challenge in the VC-10 as the engines often blocked the view of the receiver in the ideal tanking position), when it disconnected abruptly, hoses were wound in and we banked away from the towline in a climbing turn. A short time later, the loadmaster came back into the rear cabin to inform us that we had been re-tasked in support of a Northen QRA Phantom which was being scrambled from Leuchars to conduct an intercept of unknown traffic approaching UK airspace from the Iceland-Faroes gap. Apart from one very slick top-up of the QRA Phantom as it caught us up during the transit North (thirsty beast in reheat!) and then accelerated away ahead of us. Having a live armed jet sat in close formation behind a fully fuelled VC-10K concentrated the mind for me as a passenger, never mind the degree of concentration required for the two crews! The next 45 minutes or so events were a bit of a mystery not being on headset and with the crew focussed on their surprise new mission but in due course we were called back up to the flight deck to discover that we were about 10 miles in trail of 2 x Tu-95 Bears which at the time were being escorted by 2 x Norwegian AF F-16s and the RAF Phantom.

Imagescan0001 by gulfdave, on Flickr

Imagescan0002 by gulfdave, on Flickr

As the Bears continued South towards UK airspace, the Norwegians (without tanker support) had to RTB due to fuel leaving the Northern QRA Phantom and our VC-10 to shepherd the visitors. Despite the VC-10 being notorious as one of the fastest jet airliners, it took us almost 30 minutes to close from 10 miles in trail of the two Bears and once alongside, the noise and vibration from the Kuznetsov engines with their contra-rotating propellers was astonishing.

Imagescan0003 by gulfdave, on Flickr

Imagescan0006 by gulfdave, on Flickr

As we tracked Southwards down the North Sea, we were eventually joined by Southern QRA - a Lightning from Binbrook supported by a Victor from Marham and 2 x Danish F-16s before it was time for us to leave things in their capable hands and give the Leuchars Phantom a final top up before heading back towards Brize. I had to surrender the film from my rather cheap and nasty entry level SLR camera to our aircraft captain for intelligence analysis at JARIC, RAF Brampton but was promised that I would get the pictures back in due course. Much to my surprise prints & negatives did indeed turn up in the post a few weeks later, saving a few quid at Boots!

All things considered, quite a day and quite a catch for a casual passenger on the VC-10K (I heard subsequently that some Phantom crews did a full tour with regular stints on QRA without ever getting a live intercept). Has to be my most fortunate spotting day (so far!).

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Re: Bear Chasing

Post by Ferrari » Wed Jul 02, 2014 7:36 pm

That's a great post. Thanks for taking the trouble. You can even almost make out the serials on the Tu-95s (108 and 42?).

Best regards,

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Re: Bear Chasing

Post by loadmaster100 » Wed Jul 02, 2014 7:39 pm

Thanks for sharing the great pictures and your story, interesting read :thumb:
Regards Dave

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Re: Bear Chasing

Post by Rory » Wed Jul 02, 2014 7:52 pm

awesome story :D I'm suprised that tankers got this close in to the action!

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Re: Bear Chasing

Post by Slick » Wed Jul 02, 2014 8:08 pm

Superb story that, one of the best FC posts ever :)
Warm Regards,


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Re: Bear Chasing

Post by 3Greens » Wed Jul 02, 2014 8:23 pm

Excellent story of a most memorable day out. Amazing that all of our aircraft from that era now gone, not sure if any of the Bears are still somewhere in the 'available to go' mode. Living under Binbrook's climbout witnessed many a hasty Lightning departure, more often out of usual hours.
Thanks very much for posting
3Greens :thumbs:

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Re: Bear Chasing

Post by bigcrow » Wed Jul 02, 2014 8:47 pm

What a great post & great story, must of been amazing seeing those Bears of the wing-tip?


Re: Bear Chasing

Post by buzzer » Wed Jul 02, 2014 9:02 pm

Slick wrote:Superb story that, one of the best FC posts ever :)
I'll second that :thumbs:

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Re: Bear Chasing

Post by Grass73 » Wed Jul 02, 2014 9:10 pm

Excellent story

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Re: Bear Chasing

Post by clarke » Wed Jul 02, 2014 9:14 pm

Dave -c

Mark Owen
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Re: Bear Chasing

Post by Mark Owen » Wed Jul 02, 2014 10:14 pm

Very intresting :thumbs: thank for posting :thumbs:


Mark Owen.

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Re: Bear Chasing

Post by lardyboy999 » Wed Jul 02, 2014 11:40 pm

I had almost exactly the same trip back in Feb 87 while on detachment at Leuchars - we were refuelling 74Sqn F4s when the crew got the same call - ended up following a single Tu-95 with a couple of the Leuchars QRA jets (Tremblers as I recall).

I shot three films off but had to hand them over when we landed back at Leuchars - I was also promised them back.....

I must have shot something interesting, cos I'm still waiting 27 years later.......... :whistle:

Cracking set, brought back happy memories!

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Re: Bear Chasing

Post by gulfdave » Thu Jul 03, 2014 6:24 am

lardyboy999 wrote
I must have shot something interesting, cos I'm still waiting 27 years later.......... :whistle:
That's poor even by Royal Mail standards Andy - keep checking the door mat every day! :P

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Re: Bear Chasing

Post by herbert » Thu Jul 03, 2014 4:24 pm

Best FC post....ever,

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Re: Bear Chasing

Post by DeanW » Thu Jul 03, 2014 4:40 pm

Awesome post and really interesting to have some context to it too!

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Re: Bear Chasing

Post by michael » Thu Jul 03, 2014 9:02 pm

Best post ever....

Check out this site.


More vc-10's in action with bears.


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Re: Bear Chasing

Post by teeonefixer » Fri Jul 04, 2014 11:11 pm

Great photos, glad you got them back !

A friend of mine flew 10 intercepts for his "Bear" badge on 43 Sqn but they were all at night so he didn't see any of them!

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Re: Bear Chasing

Post by TeeJay » Sat Jul 05, 2014 7:49 am

Very interesting story and great pictures :thumbs:
Thanks for sharing

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Re: Bear Chasing

Post by Frank the Dog » Sat Jul 05, 2014 2:14 pm

Fantastic post, great narrative, many thanks for sharing :thumb:
Paddle faster................. I hear banjos !

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Re: Bear Chasing

Post by Jimt » Mon Jul 21, 2014 2:33 am

Amazing post! Really enjoyable thanks for sharing

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