Busting SAMS by Iron Hand with Navy Captain Bo Smith

Welcome to the seventy-eighth episode of the Lessons from the Cockpit show! I’m your host Mark Hasara, retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, KC-135 pilot, and author of the book Tanker Pilot.

In the second episode with Navy Captain Bo Smith he explains Iron Hand missions, the methods and weapons the US Navy used to destroy Surface to Air Missile Sites or SAMs defending North Vietnam. Bo and his VA-82 Marauders A-7C Corsair II pilots developed more effective tactics with the A-7’s improved avionics during the LINEBACKER I and LINEBACKER II air campaigns at the close of the Vietnam War. Leaving the Marauders Bo attended school in England, and he talks of developing great relationships with our allied leaders while attending classes.

This episode of the Lessons from the Cockpit show is financially supported by Wall Pilot, custom aviation art for the walls of your home, office, or hanger. The aircraft profiles are extremely detailed, the arming t-handles and stenciling on the missiles clearly readable. Famous and favorite aircraft are captured in profile illustrations, printed on vinyl you can peel off and stick to any flat surface. Wall Pilot can create custom aircraft profiles of your favorite aircraft, with your name on  the canopy rail, specific tail number, and favorite weapons load. These profiles keep the show going so visit www.wallpilot.com and order one or two Ready-to-Print or a custom profile.

Bo Smith was assigned to VA-15 Gold Tails flying Douglas A-4Cs off the USS Intrepid during his second 1967 Rolling Thunder Vietnam tour. This print of a VA-15 Douglas A-4C Skyhawk is Bo’s personal jet, armed with an AGM-45 Shrike anti-radiation missile which homes in on North Vietnamese radars, destroying the antenna and control van.

During Bo’s third cruise to Vietnam he flew with Attack Squadron VA-82 Marauders in the new Ling-Temco-Vought A-7C Corsair II, designed with a new bombing computer system and the first attack aircraft with a Heads Up Display in the cockpit. This VA-82 A-7C Corsair II is armed for an IRON HAND mission carrying Mk20 ROCKEYE cluster bombs and the AGM-45 Shrike anti-radiation missile.

The Marauders were chosen for the famous Thanh Hoa Railway Bridge strike on 6 October 1972 carrying AGM-62 Walleye tv guided bombs. Walleyes launched by LCDR Leighton “Snuffy” Smith and his wingman Lt(jg) Marv Baldwin destroyed the center pillar supporting the Thanh Hoa bridge, causing the center span to collapse. LCDR Leighton Smith retired as a four star Admiral and Commander in Chief of all Naval Forces Europe and Allied Forces Southern during the Kosovo air campaign in 1999.

Assigned an exchange tour with the US Air Force, Bo traveled to McConnell AFB as an instructor pilot in the Republic F-105 Thunderchief, training new aircrews how to fly the Thud. Although Bo did not fly the Wild Weasel mission, the counterpart to the Navy’s IRON HAND role, this F-105G Wild Weasel was assigned to the 333rd Tac Fighter Squadron flying out of Takhli Royal Thai Air Base. This Thud shot down three North Vietnamese Air Force MiG-17s during the Rolling Thunder air campaign. 

The A-7E Corsair II ended its combat career flying IRON HAND missions over Iraq in the 1991 Desert Storm air campaign. This VA-72 Blue Hawks A-7E is armed with the best anti-radiation missile made, the Texas Instrument AGM-88 High Speed Anti Radiation Missile or HARM.

Want a great place to learn about Navy attack aviation? Bo created in my opinion the best electronic memoirs of his experiences on the web. His great website can be found at Bo Smith. He has terrific pictures and even some of the maps showing the air defenses around the Hanoi and Haiphong areas.

Lt (jg) Bo Smith standing in the cockpit of his VA-15 A-4C Skyhawk on USS INTREPID 1967

Thanks for downloading and listening to this episodes of the Lessons from the Cockpit show. This and previous episodes can be found at the Lessons from the Cockpit webpage found here. Please sign up for the All Ranks Club, receiving benefits like unpublished chapters to the book Tanker Pilot and very soon Virtual Bar Night, a Zoom meeting where we all get together with a special guest to talk about aviation and answer questions. If you want to see an example, go to my TikTok page and watch the four recent LIVE episodes doing Q&A and just telling some cool stories. We are also working on a coin All Ranks Club members will receive for signing up.

Next week’s episode will be with Captain John Markle, F-4 MiG-21 FISHBED killer with the famous 55th Tac Fighter Squadron, the Triple Nickel!

Mark Hasara

Have a great Day!

Sluggo Sends!

P.S. — If you’re reading my book Tanker Pilot: Lessons from the Cockpit, I’d really love to hear your thoughts in a review on Amazon here, I read them all.

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