Phil Handley - FU Hero
Phil Handley was the first fighter pilot to get a supersonic air-to-air gun kill. It happened on 2 June 1972. Major Handley was flying with the 308th TFS out of Udorn Air Base, Thailand. That day his four-ship of F-4 Phantoms were flying CAP in support of a search and rescue mission for a fighter pilot who had been shot down twenty-three days earlier near Hanoi, North Vietnam.
During the execution of the SAR mission, and after his second element had departed for the tanker, Handley and his wingman were jumped by two North Vietnamese MiG 19’s; twin-engine, supersonic Russian-built fighters. Handley’s wingman, low on fuel, zoomed high to save gas and stay in the area for support, while Handley lit his burners and turned hard, down and into the pursuing MiGs. Since the North Vietnamese fighters chose to follow his wingman, Handley was able to roll out behind the enemy jets. Almost five miles behind his adversary, Handley quickly fired both his AIM-7 Sparrow radar missiles. One simply dropped away from his jet, the other went stupid and climbed harmlessly into the sky. Now, going supersonic, over 900 miles per hour, he flew a large barrel roll to stay behind the MiGs and try for a heat seeking missile, AIM-4 Falcon, shot. Once more both missiles failed. One not even firing off the rail and the other, once again, climbing sharply above, completely unguided. Traveling at Mach 1.2, Handley’s last chance was his 20mm cannon. With tremendous overtake he was quickly able to pull lead on the lead MiG. Defensively the MiG was pulling very hard. Handley was going to get one, high deflection shot. Closing rapidly on the MiG, a three second burst from the Phantom’s 20mm cannon hurled over 300 rounds in front of the MiG’s flight path. Flying into the stream of bullets the MiG was hit multiple times and exploded into a fireball.
Handley’s speed allowed him to quickly extend away from the second MiG and climb for a rejoin with his wingman enroute to the tanker. Upon returning to base, Handley learned that the SAR had rescued the downed American, resulting in a successful mission all around.
After four bad missiles and a high angle strafing shot, Phil Handley became the first and only fighter pilot to ever record a supersonic gun kill. That kind of tenaciousness and unique accomplishment make him a true FU hero and we say, kickass!
Posted by dougeden on Sep 23rd, 2008I am Doug Eden, wingman Brenda 2 on that flight in North Vietnam all of those years ago. Phil's back seater, Jack Smallwood, was unfortunately killed later in the war. I flew with Buddy Green in Brenda 2 and witnessed Phil's shootdown. I still have those memories etched forever. Way to go Phil.
Posted by Milobrownsdaughter on Oct 21st, 2012Doug Eden you said you served with Capt Smallwood and Phil Handley were you in the 58th TFS? My father was (he passed away in December 2011) Sgt. Harvey "Milo" Brown. My dad use to talk about Capt. Smallwood, and others he served with. He use to always say that he wished he could get in touch with some of the men he served with. he always wondered if (I maybe wrong) "Animal", and "Pigpen" made it back. By the time I got old enough and he was willing to talk he could not remember their real names just their nicknames. Anyways if you knew my dad or maybe know someone that knew him i would love to hear anything you would like to share. I'm glad you made it back and God bless! Callie House
Posted by CRSpeh on Dec 24th, 2012I had the privilege of re-fueling "Hands" Handley, and his "backseater" 1st Lt. Jack Smallwood, who was a class mate of mine in Undergraduate Navigator training (and one life's true Southern Gentlemen).We re-fueled Handfley and Smallwood very soon after their historic encounter with the Mig @ mach 1.2.
I also recall re-fueling one of Handley's wingmen earlier that day, when was, shall we say, running on fumes. It was a "SAVE" which could never be recorded because we were doing our duty, and ventured way too far north, and where we were not supposed to be.
A truly memorable day, and made me very proud to be a KC-135 Navigator, and play even such a small part in that day's drama.
We shall never forget our fallen colleagues.........
Posted by CRSpeh on Dec 24th, 2012I would like very much to get in touch with Doug Eden and Buddy Green to see if in fact the "SAVE" made by our crew was their aircraft.
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