F-89D group of the 59th FIS from Goose Bay Air Force Base, Canada.
Three missed salvos
The pair of fighters intercepted the freely flying Hellcat at the altitude of 30,000 feet (9,100
meters) Northeast of Los Angeles. The pilots
waited until it flew over California's metropolis
and when it headed towards the sparsely populated areas they decided to attack. The fire
control system Hughes E-6, composed of the
radar AN/APG-40 and a computer was supposed to launch the missiles at the right moment.
This did not happen however despite several
attempts. In the meantime, Hellcat turned again
towards Los Angeles and the situation became
really tense. The simple task of destroying the
drone, which the airmen were looking forward
to, turned into a drama. The pilots switched from
the automatic launch mode to the manual one.
F-89D had been delivered with the gun sights
for the situation like this but the Air Force had
them removed as redundant. Therefore, the pilots had to rely only on their best estimate while aiming. They also could select the missile's
launch time sequence. They could be fired all at
the same time in 0.4 seconds or in 2 or 3 salvos.
To increase their chances to hit the pilots opted
for three salvos.
Flying over the Castaic area the first interceptor fired 42 missiles without any result. It was
followed by the second Scorpion which settled
in the firing position and launched 42 missiles
as well. Despite lacking the gunsight, the pilot
aimed pretty well. Several missiles skidded off
the Hellcat’s fuselage bottom. The direct hit causing the destruction did not take place though.
In the vicinity of Newhall city, the fighters executed the second attack. This time they fired
32 missiles but scored no hits again. When the
drone headed towards Palmdale the Scorpions
conducted third attack. This time each of them
wasted 30 missiles. Altogether they launched
208 missiles without a single hit. Slow, propeller-driven drone kept happily flying and the
USAF's most advanced fighters shamefully
turned back to the home base.
The fact that they completely wasted all their
missiles was not the last failure of that day.
Mighty Mouse missiles were set to automatically arm after the launch and after some
time, when it was clear they missed the target,
disarm again. Out of 208 missiles fired only
15 were found disarmed and did not explode.
The explosion of the remaining 193 projectiles
caused a hell on the ground.
Forest fires and damaged homes
The exploding missiles caused three large and
several smaller forest fires. One of them burnt
150 acres of vegetation 7 miles (11 kilometers)
North of Castaic. One hundred firemen were
fighting it for half a day. The large fire erupted
in Placerita canyon near the city of Newhall.
A missile with its propellant still burning was
skidding on the ground leaving fires in its trail.
The Indian Oil Co. fuel storages located in the
canyon burnt out completely. Two men having
a lunch in the truck got extremely lucky. When
they finished, they moved outside into the shade
of a tree. They did so just a moment after the
vehicle was hit by a missile and destroyed…
Very dangerous situation occurred at the Bermite Powder explosives plant also located in the
Placerita canyon. The flames reached it within
less than a hundred meters but ultimately more
than 200 firefighters stopped them. This fire
burnt down 100 acres.
The third and the largest fire took place in Soledad canyon West of Mt. Gleason. More than
350 Department of Forestry firemen were fighting it but could not get it under control until nightfall. They only succeeded the following
day after deploying 500 firefighters. 350 acres
of the forest burnt down. Altogether these three
large and several smaller fires burnt down 1000
acres of vegetation and putting them out took
two days. Luckily no one was killed.
The most damage to the populated areas was
sustained in Palmdale, North of Los Angeles.
One missile exploded in the front of Edna Carlson house on Third Street East. A large fragment penetrated the window into the house,
ricocheted off the room ceiling and penetrated
through the wall into the kitchen where it ended
up in a cabinet. The fragments from another mi-
INFO Eduard - FEBRUARY 2022