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Vanishing Trick (1)

The World’s Best Vanishing Trick

Napalm has never been a favourite weapon of the RAF as far as I am aware. However, we did, occasionally, practise with the Hunter for its unlikely use by dropping two 100-gallon tanks full of water. One of the problems with practising is finding a decent target - the effect of 200 gallons of water doing 420 knots can be quite “interesting” and it would certainly have made a good anti-tank weapon in its own right. The usual targets used were 15-foot square scaffold tube frames with brown hessian stretched over the frame. These were fine for most normal uses such as gunnery and as the aiming point for rocketing or practice bombing but they would be destroyed instantaneously by a “420-knot wash.” We needed something a great deal more substantial for that exercise.

On one particular detachment we had been given an allocation of 100-gallon drop tanks to use for level skip bombing; the usual method of delivery. Practice bombs were one thing but dropping a pair of 100s off the outboard pylons was going to be much more exciting. The delivery parameters were straight and level at 50 feet (minimum height 30 feet) at 420 knots. Alternatively, a shallow, 5 degree dive could be used with release coming at about 75 feet - each method was equally demanding with a fairly high “pucker” factor. I shared the “weapons man” task on 208 Sqn with the then Fg Off Paul Day, better known now as “The Major” of Battle of Britain Memorial Flight fame (or “Loins” to his real mates) - we were both flying officers with a fair amount of Hunter experience, Paul being on his fourth tour and me on my third. We were both determined to find something decent to use as a target but were at a total loss having tried every conceivable avenue. Well, it would have to be the old hessian targets after all - the range boys had better get a goodly number built as chances are that we will need a couple for each drop. It was at this stage that the Army came to the rescue - odd that, it was usually the other way round - when they asked the Sharjah MT section if they could dispose of a very large radar truck which was now surplus to their requirements.

The MTO was a very seasoned warrant officer and he knew (because we had been nagging him) that we were on the look for something substantial and, as it appeared this might be just right, he grabbed it, quick. When Paul and I went down to see it in the MT yard we were most impressed. It was huge, reputed to weigh something in the order of 40 tons, and it was built like a brick with a massive chassis and what appeared to be armoured sides - exactly what we needed. Negotiations now opened with the MTO with a view to getting it out to the range - not an easy task. Dubai, in those days was somewhat different from now - no metalled roads, in fact no roads at all and no way of getting…..


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