The Fight Between Two Legendary US Aces That Gave The Phantom A Gun
YouTube / Not A Pound For Air To Ground
Two of the most celebrated aces of the jet age in the US are Boots Blesse and Robin Olds. In the summer of 1967, both found themselves as Colonels in South East Asia and at that point, they came to blows about a big issue- whether or not the F-4 Phanton should have a gun.
We’ll walk you through how one of them became key in introducing the gun to the Phantom while the other was clearly against it.
Introduced in 1954, the USAF’s premiere air superiority fighter in the 1960s was supposed to be the F-106 Delta Dart. However, through intervention, the F-4 Phantom was deployed, initially armed with sidewinders and sparrows.
Boots Blesse was probably the most high-profile of the Air Force officers who believed this to be a mistake. In an interview he gave towards the end of his life, he recounted how he went to see Gen. William Moire, then the director of Operational Requirements at the Pentagon to argue his case.
Having gathered a chunk of data, Blesse wrote a report and traveled to Saigon to present his findings to the Commanding General of the 7th Air Force. Olds was invited to sit on the meeting.
When Blesse finished, Olds didn’t hold back. He turned to the general, saying, “General, I wouldn’t touch that thing with a 10-foot pole.”
Blesse was furious. At that moment, it was he who wanted to start a fight but he controlled himself. The General told Blesse that he wasn’t wholeheartedly supportive, but had his approval to continue with the experiment.
Olds’ point was that men down range weren’t trained in gunnery so it wouldn’t be effective with the pod. Although he wanted a gun, he wanted it to be integral and wanted the men trained on it properly.
Operation Rolling Thunder showed weaknesses in equipment, training, and tactics of both the Air Force and the Navy. In the pause before Linebacker, both services sought to improve matters. The Air Force deployed the F4E Phantom and the Navy improved the Sidewinder and started programs like Top Gun.
The foundational issue was air-to-air training with that, pilots can maximize the use of the weapons they have. Adding a gun gave them an option to use but it wasn’t a silver bullet as it were.
Also, only the most experienced pilots of the 366th flew with the pod. So, the author of this video thinks that in this case, both Olds and Blesse were right.