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1967 NATO Bombing competitions

Photos sent by Bill of his involvement in the 1967 event flying in an RAF Canberra

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An account from a crewmember flying in a Royal Air Force Canberra

In addition to the other Canberra info that Bill has sent over, are the photos below taken during a bombing competition between 2 teams in 1967, each team comprising of several crewmembers drawn from various Nato countries.

Bill Yates and Pilot John Vernon
Bill Yates photographed alongside pilot John Vernon

During his time with 14 Sqdn in Germany (RAF Wildenrath),1967, Bill took part in a 2ATAF (4th Tactical Air Forces in Europe) bombing competition. Flying BI8 Canberras, he and his crew were pitted against the cream of other nations' air forces, in various categories testing bombing accuracy and other disciplines.

The competition was a direct 'battle' between the 2nd and 4th Allied Tactical Air Forces, with the French Air Force invited as guests. The motive for these competitive events was in part to maintain the high standards required for flying and weapons delivery within NATO. This event was held as part of the Tactical Weapons Meet, and, in '67, the sixth time it had been run.

The 2ATAF comprised squadrons from the Belgian, Netherlands, German and Royal Air Forces. 24 crews competed for 2ATAF, fielding 5 Canberras and 11 F-104s in the tactical nuclear strike role, with 6 F-84s in the conventional role.

Up against them was the 4ATAF team, led by Lt Col Klaffenbach (German Air Force), and comprised 5 each of the following types: F4 Phantoms, G-91s, CF-104s, and F-104G Starfighters, of the US, German, and Canadian Air Forces. The French Air Force were also represented by 5 Mirage IIIEs.

The competition ran thus: each of the crews had to fly eight sorties. Four of these were trips to the bombing range for weapon delivery, two were full day sorties where a simulated target had to be overflown exactly and on time, before the subsequent weapon delivery at the range would count, and two night navigation sorties, finishing at the range with night bombing.

Scoring was very precise to say the least - eg to earn full marks from a day sortie, it entailed an overflight of the simulated target within six seconds, and a bomb score of <3 yards. If you were one minute out on a target, you were disqualified.

Bill Yates
The photo here shows Bill with Flt Lt John Vernon receiving the trophy for their night bombing successes, although curiously the trophy was actually dated 1966, probably from the previous year's event. Behind is their winning Canberra.

14 Sqdn received news that they were to represent the RAF 4 weeks before the event took place. They then had this short period of time to choose their aircraft, and calibrate navigation and bombing equipment. Each crew was assigned a particular aircraft, and logged any variation in equipment under all flight conditions. The bombing was to be done at 400 knots & 250 ft by day, and 350 knots & 600 ft by night. Everything that could be checked was checked, and re-checked for accuracy. Gunsights were checked daily, and test bomb strikes vigourously checked. Part of the competition involved overflying simulated targets at precise times, so training missions were performed hunting down chosen landmarks (small bridges, buildings and so on) ensuring that time limits were being observed.

Meanwhile the base at Wildenrath underwent months of preparation, in readiness for hosting air crews from other nations. Accomodation and air traffic issues had to be addressed, as did suitable provision for servicing the aircraft that would take part.

The first 2 days of the meet were largely set aside for day and nightime familiarisation flights, and it soon became very apparent that it would be a very keenly fought contest. Points gained for conventional missions were neck and neck between the teams, but 2ATAF soon established a good lead in the nuclear attack missions, which they held on to for the remainder of the meet.

The French Air Force, flying Mirage 3 jets, had only started training for conventional roles 2 weeks before the meet, took a while to pick up but put in some in some excellent results towards the end of events.

Flying Canberras (XM278, WT368 and WT352) the RAF were seen to be at a slight disadvantage, largely due to the increasing age, plus the physical size, of their aircraft. However they held up the British end in excellent fashion, with Bill Yates (who sent in these photos to Classic Aircraft) and Flt Lt Vernon coming second in the overall individual competition, and two other Canberra crews coming fourth equal.

The USAF flying their new F4 Phantoms (then due to replace the Canberra in the RAFs lineup soon) were expected to have an advantage over the UK crews in their Canberras, however it soon became apparent according to those involved that the RAF crews were scoring points somewhat more easily than their American cousins.

By the end of events, all crews and support staff had benefited from the friendly rivalry that the event encourages, with many discussions re techniques and equipment used taking place. 2ATAF had come out on top, winning the Broadhurst Trophy.

Aircrew
The above photo shows Bill (holding the trophy), following their successes in the bombing results. Behind, is a RCAF F104 Starfighter.

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