THE LABS MANEUVER
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Idiot Loop
Lester G. Frazier
When the C-124 spit me out at Misawa Air Base, Japan, the bleak and barren
landscape of northern Honshu led me to believe that I had truly landed at the
end of the earth. This thought was incorrect only because I had yet to visit
Korea, which was really the end of the world or as the Americans at Misawa
explained, "If the world needed an enema, Korea would be where they would
stick the tube" [this adage is now in common use. But this was not so in 1960].
It was late winter of early 1960 and the visible terrain was monochrome brown with snow-covered mountains to the west and the North Pacific Ocean immediately to my east. All the base buildings I could see had no vertical development and gave the impression they disliked the area so much, they were trying to hide from their environment by hugging the ground. There was no one to meet me, so I caught a ride to the VOQ (visiting officers quarters) with a friendly sergeant.
Walking over to the Headquarters building, I learned that I was to be assigned to the 531st Tactical Fighter Squadron, flying the F-100D (if the squadron had a nickname, it escapes me now. While I was stationed with the 531st, we picked up the nickname of Tomato Heads, an appropriate name considering red was the squadron color and the color of our baseball caps).
The town outside the gate was, not surprisingly, named Misawa or
O-Misawa-shi. It was a dirty little town and three types of Japanese
inhabited the area: fisherman, mustard farmers and those who were there
because the base was there: the whores in the nightclubs, clothing stores
and restaurants. Of course the Enu (also the Japanese word for dog) were not
counted in accordance with Japanese custom as they slaughtered the animals
and buried the dead.
As a bachelor, there were the DOD schoolteachers to hustle as all were hired through the Defense Department although some of the wives held teaching certificates. I don't know if the wives were not hired because of some regulation or if they just didn't want to work. With each dollar worth 360 yen, even a lieutenant's wife could afford a maid and some even had cooks.
The best-known nightclub/whorehouse was called "Mama-sans" and some of the married pilots took their wives there as the ladies of the bar were all briefed never to acknowledge recognition of any American who was with a round eye. My favorite joint was a small club called The Falcon Club. It was small, clean and the girls never tried to hustle you. When I went into the club the first time, the female owner asked me my name and I replied "Adolph Hitler" and she called me "Adolph-san" for three years.
There were several good restaurants, but Kenny's and Kaneko's were the best. The O club food was good and Tiny and his Skyliners played every evening. Johnny Cash was on the Far East circuit during this period and was at Misawa often. Downstairs was the stag bar and off limits to women - we didn't give a shit who they were.
Ando-san was the chief bartender in the main bar. Once I asked Ando-san to tell me a really filthy Japanese expression in English. I could see him working himself up into a blind fury and he blurted out, "I gonna hit your head on the pavement." Not exactly what I had in mind.
There were three other flying squadrons on base: the 45th Tactical
Reconnaissance Squadron, Polka Dots, flying the RF-101; the 4th Fighter
Interceptor Squadron flying the F-86D and our sister squadron, the 416th
Silver Knights, also flying the F-100D. The two F-100 squadrons were highly competitive and not always friendly in competition.
The commander of the 531st was Lt. Col. Eugene "Ohaa" Williams, who looked as if he might be an American Indian, and whose claim to fame seemed to be "...I was the first P-38 pilot to be shot down by an ME-262 and survive." The Messerschmitt 262 Swallow was the highly successful German two-engine jet fighter-bomber developed towards the end of World War II. It seemed to me, at the time, that if another pilot had shot me down, I'd lie and claim ground fire was responsible. Colonel Williams and I took an instant dislike to one another, which is okay for colonels, but not for young lieutenants who had a propensity for trouble.
The Squadron Operations Officer, Captain Chuck Veach, briefed me on the mission of the squadron and frankly, I was amazed. These people were going to give me my own hydrogen weapon, an airplane to carry it and a target on which to drop it. The briefing left me somewhat overwhelmed as at my last base, we didn't have a dedicated mission, due in part because we were flying the F-86H, then the F-100C, old airplanes, and were just marking time until our F-105B's would arrive.
An intensive nuclear checkout program started for me and although I didn't realize it, the checkout program was the easiest part of the entire tour because I didn't have any other flying responsibilities except fly out to the range and practice "nip-ups."
Nip-ups were our primary method of delivering a nuclear weapon and consisted of approaching the range target at 500 knots IAS, at 500 feet above the ground and performing the first one-half of a Cuban 8 (two loops, but rolling right-side-up forty-five degrees down the back side, then doing another one) with the practice bomb coming off in the neighborhood of 115 degrees of pitch (90 degrees is straight up). This bomb delivery technique was called the Low Altitude Bomb System (LABS) or "over-the-shoulder."
We also called the maneuver the Idiot Loop because we thought it was an unusually stupid method of delivering a bomb. You will too if you continue to read
In order to set the LABS system to drop the bomb at the proper pitch
angle, the pilot climbed onto the left wing and using a small screwdriver, set
a gyro located within the fuselage on the left side, above the wing. The
people who designed the gyro placement managed to insert it where it was
impossible to see the analog setting drum and screwdriver slot. The pilot
had to use a mirror with a handle for the purpose and we were issued anyone
of several kinds of mirrors to set the pitch angle, but no mirror was as
appropriate for setting the gyro as a common dental mirror. Unfortunately,
the AF requisition experts concluded that dental mirrors could only be used
by dentists and would not issue them to Strike Pilots. So we picked them up
wherever we could. At the Misawa dental clinic, it became routine that any
dentist or technician leaving a treatment room that had a strike pilot in the
chair, would take any mirrors away with them. I still have my dental mirror
and no, you cannot borrow it.
Actually there were two gyros buried in the fuselage. One was the primary and one the alternate. One could see to set the primary gyro, but it was only designed to toss bombs from a low altitude (hence the term Low Altitude Bombing System or LABS) and we didn't use it. The other gyro, the one impossible to see to set, was the LABS Alternate gyro and allowed settings beyond the vertical and that was the one we used. The term, LABS Maneuver, therefore actually stood for the toss maneuver but common usage evolved "LABS" into a generic term meaning the most common maneuvers used to deliver a hydrogen weapon.
When I completed my check out, I had to take a check ride and it worried
me that I might not do well. Other squadron pilots assured me that I would
have no trouble. Doug Priester would be my check pilot and it was generally
agreed that Priester demanded a well-planned, well-flown mission and an
accurate bomb delivery. What I didn't know was that like all the nuclear
strike pilots, Doug had to pull nuke alert and the more pilots available to
pull alert meant more time other pilots could spend at home. My check ride
was uneventful and I was, with Doug's signature on the check ride form, a
fully qualified nuclear combat strike pilot.
One week out of three or four, at Misawa, ten or twelve of us would pack our bags and head for Kunsan AB, Korea, an American base located on the west coast of that peninsula, adjacent to the Yellow Sea. We could plan on spending a week, occasionally two, at the isolated location.
Sometimes we would fly our F-100's to Kunsan and sometimes we would load into a C-130 transport for the trip. It depended on whether F-100's in Korea needed to be traded out and if one were able to sweet-talk the Operations Officer into flying an airplane over rather than riding as a passenger on a noisy transport.
Our purpose for the trip was to sit "nuke alert." The Status of Forces agreement the US had with Japan did not allow for nuclear weapons to be stored in that country and since this was the era that the ICBM's were just beginning to come on line, fighters were assigned targets and we pulled our alert in Korea, where there was no ban on in-country nuclear weapons. The US had a "containment" policy at the time where we were attempting to circle the Warsaw Pact and China with a ring of bases, capable of supporting nuclear carrying aircraft. These were halcyon days for SAC and their nuclear carrying B-47's and B-52's and I doubt if the public was even aware that nuclear loaded fighter aircraft were also used in the containment policy.
Once we arrived in Korea and stowed our gear, we would immediately begin our target study on the target assigned for the week. The people who assigned the targets attempted to match us to a target that we were familiar with so one didn't have to spend all week trying to become intimate with the area to be devastated. We were issued a target folder with all the details of routing, target significance, weapons yield, terrain, other nuclear detonations scheduled near the target, escape and evasion kit and data, authentication tables and alternate landing fields (in case Kunsan no longer existed upon return; a moot point because we all thought it would be a one-way mission).
After completing target study and checking target weather, we would go to our assigned airplanes and preflight them and the bomb, a MK-28 free-fall weapon hanging under the centerline of the fuselage. Each airplane had a guard, armed with a shotgun and loaded with birdshot (birdshot would not penetrate the bomb casing). Before we were allowed access to our airplane, the guard would whisper a number in our ear and we, in turn, had to whisper a number that added up to the "number of the day." If the guard's or the pilot's math was poor or there was a misunderstanding, the pilot would end up on the tarmac spread-eagled while the guard called his supervisor. We called the area in and around the airplane a "no-lone zone" as if entered, we had to have our crew chief or someone with an Alert Pad ID card and familiar with the weapon with us. No one could approach a nuclear laden airplane alone.
After preflighting the airplane, we started it up and checked out the systems and called for a refueling truck if necessary. As always, Air Police vehicles pulled up and blocked the exit gate in case some over-eager pilot decided to initiate World War III without permission.
After checking my airplane one cold and snowy day, and starting my walk
back to the alert building, I noticed a guard had the Alert Pad Intelligence
Officer spread-eagled on the slushy tarmac. Wandering over, I asked the guard
what the problem was and he showed me the Intel Officer's Alert Pad ID card.
"Sir," he said, "this man's ID card is incorrect. Where 'color of hair' is
listed, it says 'Lieutenant Brown' and that doesn't even match his name under
his photograph." The guard handed me the card to verify what he had just
told me and sure enough, under "color of hair" was written "Lt. Brown."
The Intel Officer was a self-portentous prick, so I handed the card back and said "you are correct in detaining this man" and walked away. I never mentioned that Lt. Brown stood for light brown hair color.
On another occasion, after running my airplane and shutting it down, I stopped to chat with my plane's guard. Greg Clarke, shutting down his own airplane in the space next to mine, noticed fuel leaking from my right wing inboard pylon station (a fairly common occurrence that Greg was not aware of). Without considering the "no-lone zone rule," Greg approached my airplane to examine the leaking fuel. My back was turned so I did not see him and several airplanes in the vicinity were running up. My guard shouted at him, but because of the noise, Greg did not hear him. The guard shoved me out of the way, and brought his shotgun down from his shoulder sling, pumping a round into the chamber as he leveled it at Greg. By this time, I came up to speed on that was happening and screamed, "It's okay! It's okay!" My crew chief and I ran to Greg, busily examining the leaking fuel, about five feet or less from my bomb, and dragged him away from the airplane. The guard's orders were to shoot anyone alone in the no-lone zone and since he didn't carry out his orders, he was trembling with fright and anticipation of dereliction of duty. The three of us assured him we would claim all three of us were in the no-lone zone if it ever came up - exposed as we were on the flight line. But if anyone else ever noticed it, we never heard about it.
Without warning, a couple of times a week, the Alert Pad Commander would have us practice going to war by ringing a bell that sounded exactly like a school class bell and announce that "this is a FAST BOY" several times over the PA system. The words "FAST BOY" meant it was a practice drill. No matter where we were or what we were doing, we immediately donned our flying gear and ran to our airplanes, started them up and checked in with the command authority by UHF radio. Again, the Air Police vehicles would block the exit gate.
Once, while taking a few days leave in Tokyo, a friend and I attended a
Japanese movie theater to watch the new movie, The Robe. It was my first
time in a Japanese theater and I was unaware that the Japanese rang a school
bell sixty seconds before a movie started. When the bell sounded, I was up
and running up the aisle before I realized what I was doing.
Another time, during a FAST BOY, I ran to my airplane, jumped in and commenced the starting sequence. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see my crew chief tugging on something near the nose of the airplane. I rose in my seat and could see that he had forgotten to remove the canvas nose cover and as he was trying to pull it away from the airplane, the airplane was just as heartily trying to suck it down the intake. I immediately stop cocked the throttle and the crew chief jerked it away from the intake. He quickly examined the nose cover and found part of a dzus fastener missing. The part might have been sucked into the engine and damaged a turbine blade, so we were left with no choice but to call in with a possible damaged airplane while the crew chief went down the intake to check for damage. Finding none, it was decided that the missing dzus fastener part was an old loss and not in my engine. Everyone was so relieved that no damage was done, it was completely forgotten that as the aircraft commander, it was my duty to insure the nose cover was removed and no punishment was forthcoming.
We shared out Alert Pad with B-57's out of Yakota AB, Japan. The B-57's carried the rather primitive MK-7 Atomic weapon in their bomb bay. The B-57 also had four 20-millimeter cannons imbedded in the wings and one day, while working in the cockpit of a B-57, a crew chief pulled the gun trigger. Since the airplane was on jacks, the squat switches, designed to prevent the guns from firing when the weight of the airplane is on the landing gear, did not work and the guns fired. When a B-57 is on jacks, it is distinctly nose low, so the 20 mm rounds impacted the concrete in front of the airplane, some ricocheting into the headlight of a pickup, while a mechanic lounged against the other headlight, and other rounds smashing into the wing of an uploaded B-57 and setting the wing on fire. A navigator, passing by and using his head, grabbed a fire extinguisher and pulled it over to the wing only to find the extinguisher empty when he depressed the spray bar. Other personnel starting to react found serviceable fire extinguishers and were able to put out the fire. I heard the guns fire, but with a building between the B-57 and me, I did not witness the event and had no idea what was going on. However, outside the containment fence, I could see Korean workers running as fast as possible in no particular direction. There was little likelihood of a nuclear explosion, but if the fire had engulfed the weapon, there probably would have been a conventional explosion with release of radiation. A conventional explosion could have easily set up the entire Alert Pad for additional explosions.
At this writing in late 1996, almost thirty-five years have passed since
I last studied a nuclear target folder and three targets still stand out in
my mind: Vladivostok, Russia, Tientsin (now spelled Tianjin), China and a
city on the Shantung Peninsula called Tsingtao (spelled Qingdao now), China.
At one time I knew these cities' main building structures better than
structures in my own hometown. In the days before U-2 flights and satellite
photographs, spies, I suppose, obtained photographs that found their way into
our target folders so we would recognize the approaches to a target as well
as the point where we would start the actual weapons delivery.
We had no sophisticated navigational equipment such as an Inertial Navigation System (INS) or GPS (Global Positioning System) that could operate without ground station inputs. Our main method of navigation was pilotage and dead reckoning (looking out the window and flying a known airspeed and heading for a known time).
In order to attack Tientsin as an example, one had to fly northwest out of Kunsan, at an altitude of 500 feet or less, avoiding any land mass and make a turn to the west, northwest over open water and proceed until coasting-in east of the city. Since the chances of hitting the exact spot for coasting-in were remote, we usually planned to purposefully coast-in right or left of the actual coast-in point and then fly the coastline to the proper point and then turn towards the target. Timing was critical as we operated under a Plan known as SIOP (Single Integrated Operations Plan) that was supposed to deconflict all nuclear strikes. No one had any credence in the deconfliction.
When a nuclear weapon denotes, the heat is tremendous and the flash is blinding, even more so if it detonates under an overcast sky where the clouds would help to reflect the glare into the cockpit. Even the dull black paint of the instrument panel shroud would reflect enough heat and light to burn through clothing and cause permanent blindness. For that reason, we always looked for a hill to hide behind after releasing the bomb and before detonation. We also carried lead-lined eye patches to cover the dominant eye after releasing the weapon. Another consideration was the "MACH Y stem." The MACH Y stem was a shock wave that rushed out from the point of detonation at about the speed of sound. If the MACH Y stem overtook the airplane as the pilot was egressing, the over pressure would tear the airplane apart.
Note that in mentioning the three cities above, I did not mention military installations. The targets that I remember standing were population centers, not military targets although it was well known that Vladivostok was surrounded by military installations. Yet the DGZ (designated ground zero) was the corner of Main and 1st Street or whatever the Russians called the town square. As a strike pilot, the type of target was not a consideration, only getting the bomb on the target mattered.
At one time, the F-100 unit at Clark AB, Philippines needed help in
covering their nuclear targets. I believe because they had picked up a
commitment in Viet Nam and didn't have the resources to perform both
missions. Their Nuclear Alert Pad was located on the island of Taiwan, at a
large Nationalist Chinese Air Base near the city of Tainan.
Six of us from Misawa were selected for a two-week tour at Tainan, pulling their nuke commitment for them. Major Les Levoy, Operations Office for Misawa's 416th Tactical Fighter Squadron, led us into Tainan. We parked our airplanes and since we wouldn't commence alert status until the following day, the Clark pilots met us with beer. This was a welcome respite in the tropical climate of southern Taiwan. After removing our gear from the airplanes, we went to the alert building and received a briefing on what our duties would be (my target was Canton, China. It is now spelled Guangzhou).
(The night before flying down to Tainan, I had gone to the base theater to watch The Longest Day, a film about the D-Day invasion. One scene stood out clearly in my mind. It had Sal Mineo, playing the part of a paratrooper, hiding in some bushes at night. The paratroopers had been issued "clickers" like children use, to identify each other in the darkness. Sal had heard a noise and clicked his clicker and received a click-click in return. Thinking it was another paratrooper, Sal stepped out from his cover and was promptly blown away by a German. Sal had unfortunately mistaken the slamming home of a rifle bullet for a clicker.)
After receiving our briefing, we loaded onto a bus for a trip into a local hotel (once on alert, we would sleep on the alert pad). As the bus started to move away, I realized that I had left my shaving kit in my airplane. Not wanting to inconvenience my fellow pilots, I quickly ran to my airplane, raised the canopy and put up the ladder. I was half way up the ladder when I heard the same click-click that Sal Mineo had heard the night before - but I knew that there was no one clicking a clicker at me, so I froze on the ladder and slowly turned my head to see a very young Chinese guard pointing his rifle at me. At about the same time, some Clark crew chiefs saw what was happening and came running over to defuse the situation, yelling at the guard in what I suppose was Chinese.
Tainan was also where we took our F-100's for major repairs (called IRAN: inspection and repair as necessary). At another time, I had taken an F-100 in for IRAN and needed a ride into the local hotel. There was a small airline terminal and I asked the ticket agent about a ride. He told me in excellent English that he was getting ready to close and if I'd go out and sit in the Carryall parked outside, he would join me shortly and have his driver drop me off at the hotel. I found the Carryall, which had a few Chinese passengers sitting in it, and climbed aboard. True to his word, in a few minutes, the ticket agent came out, got into the vehicle and sat down next to me. As the driver started the vehicle moving, the ticket agent leaned over and said, "my, but you smell fragrant."
I had heard that Orientals thought that occidentals smelled of sour milk and his comment embarrassed me greatly. I stuttered, sputtered and finally managed to explain that I just came in from a cold climate and found the day very hot and was sweating profusely.
"No, no," he explained, "you misunderstand me, you smell very fragrant." Because I was smoking a cigarette that degraded my sense of smell, I hadn't realized that my after-shaving lotion was leaking out of my hang up bag draped across my knees and the agent smelled the lotion.
The MK-28 free-fall hydrogen weapon did not look like a conventional
bomb; more like a shark with its two blue eyes where a shark's eyes would
normally be. The blue eyes were streamlined, heavy plastic bulbs attached to
the stainless steel bomb housing that detected decreasing, then increasing
barometric pressure, that were an important part of bomb arming once released
from the airplane.
Because of the two blue eyes, we referred to the bomb as Ol' Blue Eyes, and this was before Frank Sinatra was known by that appellation. The weapon weighed 2,000 pounds and was about 15 feet long and could produce a nuclear yield up to 1.1 megatons (1,100,000 tons of TNT. By comparison, the Atomic Bomb, Little Boy, dropped on Hiroshima, yielded 15,000 tons of TNT). Because it was carried on the center line station and therefore close to the ground, the bottom tail fin, folded to one side and had to be motor driven to the correct "+" configuration after take off .
The photograph at attachment was the standard Squadron picture that all
units had hanging on a wall in Operations. I suppose so that a stranger
entering the building could check easily for friends or so the commander
could point out his pilots to visitors. When I was marched outside to have
the photograph taken, I was surprised that I was told to stand in front of an
aircraft that had a training weapon, called a bloop, blivet or MD-6, attached
to the center line station. We were taught that the very shape of the MK-28
was classified. The bloop was a steel and concrete replica of the actual
weapon without the blue eyes.
Itazuke AB, located on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, also had a nuclear alert commitment at Osan AB, Korea. We all envied the Zuke guys because Osan was a much better base than Kunsan and Itazuke itself was located next to the large city of Fukuoka. Among other things such as excellent restaurants, Fukuoka had the best-known whorehouse in the Far East called The Diamond Horseshoe. The Diamond Horseshoe was home to "Big Sal," the best-known whore in all of Shintoland. On my first visit to "the Shoe," Colonel Williams introduced me to Big Sal and since I had heard of her before ever being assigned to the Far East, I felt like I was meeting a movie star.
Fukuoka also boasted the best aircraft model maker in the Orient. His models were hand carved wood and as accurate as the size allowed. Once, in his shop, a fellow pilot was ordering a model and asked that a blivet be placed on the centerline station. The model maker asked, "Do you want the fin folded?"
When this country first developed nuclear bombs, the process used in
detonation was called fission, i.e., the splitting of atoms of a heavy
element like uranium-235 or plutonium-239. Fission bombs created
radioactivity by releasing large quantities of xenon-140 and strontium-94.
The fission bombs were limited in yield because it was difficult to keep the
fission material intact long enough to ensure that a sufficient amount took
part in the nuclear chain reaction. To create weapons of larger yield, bomb
designers went to a different reaction - fusion: the fusing together of
hydrogen atoms to create helium. The designers used two isotopes of hydrogen
known as deuterium and tritium to structure a more efficient process of
detonation that takes place at very high temperatures. In fact, the
temperatures to detonate a hydrogen weapon are so high that, at the time, the
only method of generating the heat was by using a fission device.
So it took an atomic bomb to make a hydrogen bomb explode and when it did explode, the fissionable material was responsible for creating radioactivity. Fusion is actually user friendly, you see it every day. Go out and look at the sun (using a smoked lens, of course): fusion powers it.
Had the bell been rung (a euphemism for the start of a war and our launch
to assigned targets), we would run to our airplanes and pull a ground safety
pin out of the pylon that supported the weapon. The crew chief disconnected
a woven steel restraining cable attached to the landing gear and cranked up a
ground power unit to give us electricity and air for engine start. The Air
Police would open the compound's gate and clear the taxiways while we jumped
into the cockpit to start engines as we were strapping down. We would then
check-in on the preassigned frequency and listen for the authentication code
to be transmitted. Once authenticated, we would taxi according to a
prearranged order and take off with minimum spacing. Once airborne, there
was no way to recall the Strike Force. Time and fuel were already computed
to the target, including that needed to accelerate to our cruise speed and
altitude (usually low level) and again when we accelerated to delivery
We used 360 knots ground speed because the F-100 operated optimally at this speed and it was easy to figure how to lose or gain time, if needed (360 knots is six miles a minute. If you passed a check point, as an example 20 seconds late, one only had to push up the ground speed 20 knots for sixty seconds to get back on time - acceleration and deceleration canceling each other out).
En route to the target, the LABS bombing system was armed by switching the DCU-9A Option Selector Switch to either the Air or Surface burst option: air burst was set at 2,000 feet above the ground and surface option caused the bomb to detonate just as it contacted the ground
The Bomb Release Mode Selector Switch was set to LABS ALT. This told the airplane that the pilot wished to drop a bomb at the pitch angle that he had set in the LABS ALT gyro with his screwdriver and dental mirror; it also uncaged the horizontal and vertical gyros. The horizontal gyro controlled the horizontal needle of the instrument panel mounted LABS Dive-and-Roll Indicator and would tell the pilot pitch attitude or G scheduling, depending on other circuits. The vertical gyro controlled the vertical needle on the same cockpit instrument and gave the pilot yaw and roll information. If the system was inoperative, the back up method of using the aircraft attitude indicator and G meter had to be used. The Bomb Mode Release Selector Switch would be positioned fairly close to the target because although it was of paramount importance to check the gyros, the vertical gyro would also precess if left on for too long a period. The pilot, finding the system operating properly, could then cage the vertical gyro by depressing and holding down the LABS Vertical Gyro Caging Button located on top of the throttle. In order to keep the gyro caged, the caging button had to be held down thus eliminating other useful work for the left hand.
The Armament Selector Switch was positioned to Special Stores, another euphemism meaning nuclear weapon and finally, the Special Stores Unlock Handle had to be pulled out from its position under the instrument panel. This completed the bomb arming sequence from the cockpit, leaving only blue eyes as the last remaining step in a properly executed LABS maneuver.
Every nuclear target had an IP (initial point), an easily recognizable terrain feature, hopefully with vertical development and at least 60 seconds from that point to commencing the actual weapons delivery. From the IP into the target, no turns or changes of altitudes were to be made and if the airplane was already at the airspeed (500 knots) for commencing the delivery, only minute adjustments need be made. This was intended to give the strike pilot time to set up switches and look for the "pull-up point." But as already discussed, most of us had decided that we would set the switches long before reaching the IP in order to devote full attention to finding the pull-up point.
The brain that got the pilot to the IP could, if he let it, defeat him in his final seconds of run-in: even if he passed over the IP on-time, on-speed and headed in exactly the right direction looking, for example, a large, silver water tower, the brain might lock onto a small, black hole in the ground 45 degrees right or left of the run-in and attempt to convince the pilot that the hole was the target and he should turn towards it. Most strike pilots were aware of this condition and would fly out their time and start the bombing maneuver on the clock if they didn't see the pull-up point.
As the pull-up point was approached, the pilot uncaged the LABS gyros by lifting the finger off of the caging button in straight and level, unaccelerated flight at 500 knots and checking the needles on the LABS Dive-and-Roll Indicator. Both needles should be centered.
Just prior to the pull-point, the bomb release button (pickle button) on top of the control stick was pressed and held down. This caused the horizontal needle on the LABS Dive-and-Roll Indicator to drop down, hinged as it was from the left. It also told the LABS system that the pilot wasn't kidding about dropping a multi-megaton weapon and the circuitry was completed to allow weapons release when the airplane passed through the preselected release angle.
Directly over the target (in a no-wind condition), afterburner was selected and the pilot's eyes went to the LABS Dive-and-Roll Indicator as four G's were established in two seconds. The horizontal needle now, if centered, would show exactly four G's and the vertical needle, if allowed to stray from center, showed yaw and/or roll. Keeping both needles centered was the strike pilot's entire world and was about as easy as pushing an oyster into a slot machine
The four G pull was maintained and at about 115 degrees of pitch, a WHAM could be heard in the cockpit as the weapon was blown clear and the airplane would oscillate from side to side. The LABS Release Light would come on to indicate that the bomb had departed. The pilot now released the pickle button and the horizontal needle showed the number of degrees the airplane was above the horizon, upside down and coming down the backside. When the nose was below the horizon, the pilot rolled right side up and headed for the deck at maximum warp. On the UHF strike frequency, he transmitted, " (call sign), off on top, hot, (name of target)."
In the meanwhile the bomb continued upward to about 18,000 feet where it slowed, stopped and reversed direction. On the way back down to the target, internal steel rods punctured the blue eyes, satisfying the final barometric arming sequence and the bomb would now detonate at 2,000 feet above the target or at ground level, depending on what was selected as a DCU-9A option in the cockpit.
In the fighter environment, sixty seconds is an eternity and that is about how long it took the weapon to detonate from time of release. The pilot used this time to establish the egress heading, pick up as much airspeed as possible and position the lead eye patch over the dominant eye (later, the F-100 would be fitted with an opaque blast curtain. The blast curtains were only installed when the airplane was on nuclear alert, but the devices used to attach the curtain to the inside of the cockpit were always in place and had a way of gouging the pilot's arms. They were very unpopular).
When the weapon detonated, the pilot would be hunkered down in the cockpit, seat bottomed out, flying instruments with one eye and the smoked visor down and sunglasses on (whether it be day or night) above MACH one, as low to the ground (or water) as possible.
If I have described the LABS maneuver as an inefficient way of getting a bomb on target, it was. But the maneuver allowed the pilot to be headed for home at its completion and really, if a 1.1 megaton weapon leaves a hole a half mile wide and a quarter mile deep, who could possibly care if the DGZ was missed by a few feet.