We spent 2/3 of our time flying from Muharraq, the international airfield in Bahrain, flying long range trips and the rest of the time in Sharjah using the local air to ground range on short sorties. From Bahrain we usually did high-low-high sorties: transiting at high level then letting down to low level of 250 feet above the ground for simulated weaponry followed by a high level recovery. On many occasions, another pair from the Sqn would provide the opposition aiming to intercept the four ball for combat with the
normal rules. In essence these rules stated a minimum height of 7000 feet above ground level. Great fun and hard work! However, on one detachment to Sharjah the rules all changed!
The Execs on the Sqn briefed us that we were to spend a fortnight at Sharjah doing intercepted low level sorties with effectively no height limits and combat was not limited to above 7000 feet. When low flying over the desert height judgement becomes extremely difficult because the vegetation is sparse and can be of a very variable height – 4 to 10 feet or 40 to 50 feet and you could seldom see your own shadow because the sun was usually high in the sky so your shadow was below you. We found that by flying really as low as you could there was little or no need to evade a fighter coming in on a guns pass. He was more concerned at the approaching ground and he had to do his own terrain clearance: so even the best weaponeers had the greatest difficulty in achieving a “killing burst” of cine film. Doing combat from low level was a very good brain clearing exercise – you inevitably climbed a little when you started and we usually finished up in the region 5000 feet. In the preparation for this talk I approached Dickie Dicken and asked the reason for the change of clearances and his comment was that the Execs thought it a good idea and Commander RAF PG was in full support of the suggestion. So, once again, it paid off being a long way away from Command.
In the preparation to fly two Mk 9 back to Bahrain from Aden an old friend on 8 Sqn and I decided that to help pass the time we would play battleships – little realising the mayhem we were about to cause. We duly set off and started the game and finished it by the time we past Salallah and landed at Masirah to find one of the Intelligence types beside himself with anxiety. Apparently, they had a requirement to listen to our R/T whenever we ferried anywhere. On this occasion being at the extremes of R/T range they only heard garbled messages with the occasional ‘submarine’ or that was a ‘Krivak’ or something similar! They surmised that we had found a large Russian fleet at sea in the Indian Ocean which they knew nothing about! A few beers later all was revealed and two Flying Officers were cleared!