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Glossary of fighter pilot jargon and terms.

Many of the definitions below are printed in-verbatim as given to me by former members of the 336th Fighter Interceptor Squadron.  Namely,  Gordon "Buckett" Baskett and Rodger "Dusty" RhodesMy thanks to them and former 336th Sabre crew chief Jim "Stretch" Richards for their assistance.

Future additions to this glossary are forthcoming and will emphasize aviation terms, slang and phrases unique to the Korean war experience.  If you have a suggestion for a new entry, please contact me.

A1CM gunsight
- slightly less sophisticated predecessor to the A-4 electronic gunsight.  See below.

A-4 gunsight --   A mini radar set in nose of the F-86 that provided range and angle to target.  The display was a reticle, i.e. a circle, composed of flashing diamonds, and a "pipper" (dot).  The idea was to put the dot on the target and keep it there (easier said than done). The guts of the gunsight would calculate the amount of lead required to hit a moving target. It also compensated for overtake speed, bullet drop due to gravity, variations in muzzle velocity due to air density and temperature, and probably a few other things we never thought of.

It also had a feature, unfortunately misnamed a range limiter, which really didn't limit anything. It could be set for various ranges, the most typical being 1000 feet. When the target got within the selected range, the reticle changed from flashing diamonds to a solid circle.  Time to Shoot!

1000 feet was the magic number because:  The reticle was a 37 mil circle, which means that an object 37 feet wide at a distance of 1000 feet would exactly fill the reticle from side to side.

The wingspan of a MiG-15 was 37 feet.  Nifty coincidence, eh?  Also, the six 50 caliber machine guns in the nose of the F-86 were harmonized to converge the bullets within a 12 inch diameter circle at 1000 feet, firing from the attitude the aircraft would have at 300 knots indicated airspeed.

The reticle could also be set to 100 mils for dive bombing.  If you make a dive bombing run and forget to reset the reticle from 37 to 100 mils, you are likely to have a close encounter of the third kind with the earth. I learned this the hard, and damn near final, way at Nellis. As we all know, John Roberts could be a hard taskmaster, particularly if one happened to be a wise-ass second lieutenant named Dusty.  If I had invested 100 bucks for every cold night I spent on the harmonization range at K-14, I could probably have taken early retirement, but then look at all the things I would have missed..

The gunsight was truly a remarkable piece of engineering; nevertheless, there were a lot of guys who thought they could do as well with a wad of Dentyne (on the windshield) and "Kentucky windage".  - DR

APU - auxiliary power unit, mobile power supply cart used to start jets on the line.

Bogey - slang for unidentified aircraft (friendly or hostile) that has been detected in the air, either by eye or radar.

BOQ - Bachelor Officers Quarters, housing supplied by military to its officers.

Bugout - As in leave the premises, skedaddle, Elvis has left the building.  Specifically for the time of an ongoing order called "Operation Bugout" which had rearward airfields prepared for the emergency evacuation of forward aircraft, if necessary.  Pilots were assigned to these sometimes remote places for 30-day periods to monitor the Operation Bugout preparations. A duty for junior officers only.
- GB

Clobber College - Additional ground schooling for fighter pilots new to the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing.  It covered key aspects of operating the F-86 Sabre including flight systems, emergency procedures & gunnery.  As per a vintage "Clobber College" diploma: "The required courses of instruction in combat capable ground training as required by 5th Air Force, regulation 51-24 as amended."

F-86 Sabre jet
This is a link that will take you to a website containing extensive technical and historical information about this famous fighter aircraft.  Great reading for Sabre fans & Korean air war buffs.  From the files of Joe Baugher.

Ferry - refers to the service of flying an airplane for the sole purpose of delivering or returning it to an airfield.

FIGMO - FIGMO or figmo ("F---- It. Got My Orders" or "F---- you, I've Got My Orders") (n.) -- A self-proclaimed status during the Korean war. One who had gone figmo, the proper term as in "Mike's gone figmo", had either completed his 100 combat missions or was within approximately 30 days of ending his Korean tour. FIGMOtoon.gif (4071 bytes)Certain privileges were presumed to have accrued to one who was figmo, such as dismissal from dangerous tasks like flying; freedom from redress because of mild insubordination; and other liberties real or imagined. Being figmo was similar to having a "Get Out of Jail Free" card, at least in the minds of the anointee and many of his compatriots. The symbol of the condition was a yellow and black neck ribbon from a fifth of Canadian Club pinned to one's cap. Figmo parties were a part of the ritual, invariably staged at the officers' or NCO club and encouraged many toasts, pranks and whatever other mischief could be conjured.  Despite its colorfulness the term did not survive into the Vietnam war where "being short" was more common. ("Short" and its variations were also used in the Korean war and continues to be used in other venues as well.)  - GB

GCA - (Ground Controlled Approach) -- The full term should be "Ground Controlled Assisted Landing."  This was a radar and talk-down operation.  GCA trailers were normally stationed near the approach end of the GCA runway.  They housed radar displays and GCA control personnel, usually senior sergeants, who would talk down aircraft landing in bad weather conditions using the on-screen displays of location and altitude.  Usage: "I had to make a GCA approach and landing.  Didn't see the runway until touchdown."  - GB

GCI - (Ground Control Intercept) -- The full term would be Ground Control Intercept Center.  This was another type of radar and controller center except that it was wide ranging and was used to advise aircraft in the air of locations of other aircraft, friendly and unfriendly. (GCIspeak: "Dogmeat lead, you've got a bogey at 1 o'clock at 60 miles.") - GB

Gunnery - Just what it sounds like; the practice of firing a fighter jet's guns.   Air to air gunnery practice involved firing at a fabric target being towed by another aircraft.  Air to ground, or strafe, gunnery involved firing at stationary targets on the ground.

G-suit - More properly called Anti - G - Suit. This is kind of like a tight nylon leotard which covers the pilot's abdomen and lower extremities.  It contains strategically placed bladders which are inflated when the aircraft is under a G load (hard turn). The intent is to restrict the blood from draining from the pilot's head and upper extremities into the lower body, thus helping to alleviate the condition called black-out.  The bladders are inflated by bleed air from the engine compressor which flows through a control valve activated by the G- Forces - the harder you turn the more it squeezes.  There is no water involved (unless you get squeezed so hard it makes you pee).
- DR

Happy Valley - Name of the hill where the officers barracks were located at K-14 Kimpo. The barracks were supposedly old Japanese buildings.  The Happy Valley name was probably appropriated from the place of the same name near George AFB at Victorville, CA.  This is just a guess. - GB

Harmonizing - Full phrase would beHarmonize.jpg (10856 bytes) "harmonizing the guns".   This was the process of making sure all six of the .50 caliber machine guns in the aircraft were all hitting in the accepted radius and were in sync with the gunsight.  (see A-4 gunsight, above) This was a ground operation done at a protected firing range area.  - GB

Mark IV Anti-Exposure suit - a water tight airman's survival suit designed to protect airmen who had ditched or parachuted into cold waters.  The suit was mandatory issue for all flying personnel who made over-water flights during the winter season.  Also known as the "moon suit" and "poopy suit", the Mark IV had a price tag of approximately $163.74, in mid 1950s dollars. Click here to view a photo of the suit.

Mae Wests - in this context, this is a flotation life vest, named such because of its appearance, when inflated, to a certain movie star's upper anatomy.  This term is also used to describe a parachute malfunction where an inflated round parachute is pinched into two hemispheres by an errant shroud line.

Mig-15 - Russian built fighter jet that was the F-86 Sabre's prime adversary during the Korean war.  The Mig could out-climb and out-turn the Sabre, but American pilots managed an incredible 10:1 kill ratio over the Mig's because they were far more skilled in the art of aerial dogfighting.  The name "Mig" is short for the plane's manufacturer names of Mikoyan-Gurevich.  The plane's official nickname was "fagot". 

Mig Alley - Korean airspace where most jet battles took place. The following is from the July 1954 Jet Gazette, a 4th FIW publication: "Only a few of the hundreds of MIG battles that took place during the war were fought outside of MIG Alley, the northwest corner of Korea. The Alley was bounded by the Yalu River and Manchuria on the north and the Chongchon River, approximately 75 miles to the south.   The deepest MIG penetration to the south during the war was to the Haeju Peninsula, within 40 miles of the western sector of the front."

"Mig Alley 200 Miles" - Sign, or torii (see below), that marked the entrance to the Sabre flightline at K-14 airbase.  This gateway stood in front of the 336th Operations building at K-14.  (see Swig Alley, below)

Mobile - Full term would be "mobile control." Mobile control, physically a trailer with 360 degree glass windowing and complete communication facilities would be manned by pilots "standing" or "sitting" Mobile. The trailer was placed at the takeoff end of the runway which was also the landing end. The Mobile officers, usually two, would act as secondary tower controls because they were right on top of the critical action.  - GB

- Operations

Radio Compass - A navigation instrument, crude by today's standards, which would pick up low frequency radio signals and indicate on a cockpit display the direction of the originating broadcast. One could listen to AM radio on these and also use the AM stations as navigational aids. - GB

Rag -- slang for fabric target used in aerial (air-to-air) gunnery practice.  It was towed behind an aircraft and fired at by other aircraft in mid-air.

Slave Gyro -  This is the aircraft heading indicator. If you had an old-time liquid filled magnetic compass, it was very difficult to turn to, and roll out precisely on the heading you wanted, because the compass fluctuated significantly while the aircraft was banking and turning. So they built an instrument that incorporated a magnetic compass stabilized in a level attitude by a gyroscope. The aircraft heading was picked up electronically from the magnetic compass and fed to a heading indicator on the instrument panel. The term "slaved" means that the pointer that you look at is driven by (or slaved to) the internal magnetic compass which you don't see. - DR

Scramble - to send fighter craft immediately into the air for interception of incoming "bogeys" or unidentified aircraft.

Stall, compressor - The blades on a compressor are like the wings on an airplane - if you get them at too high an angle of attack (relative to the airstream passing over them) the airflow separates from the wing or blade and causes a turbulent eddy which results in a condition called a stall. Compressor stalls usually occur when the aircraft is flying at a low airspeed and low power setting, and then the pilot makes a rapid throttle increase. This dumps a bunch of fuel into the hot section (burner cans) of the engine, which in turn causes the turbines to try to drive the compressor faster than the instantaneous airflow through the engine will allow and still keep everything smooth and tidy. Compressor stalls can also occur with the airplane at a standstill on the ground, if the pilot shoves the throttle from idle to 100% in one fell swoop. Most modern fuel controls have built in sensors and safeguards to compensate for unwise throttle movements by rash and hasty pilots. - DR

Stopcock(ed) (v.t, adj.) -- A condition where the throttle of the F-86 (and other aircraft) was moved behind a detent when the throttle was placed in the full off position.  The detent was meant to assure the throttle was not accidentally opened. The opposite would be "firewalled" as in pushing the throttle completely forward. - GB

Strafe - to use an aircraft's machine guns and/or other weaponry on ground targets. Accomplished while flying low to the ground.

Swig Alley - Essentially refers to area at K-14 where barracks, O'club, lounge, mess halls could be found.  The sign "Swig Alley 1/2 mile" was a parody of the famous "Mig Alley 200 Miles" sign, and was in fact printed on the back side of that very sign, which stood in front of the 336th Operations building at K-14.  Incoming pilots would see "Swig Alley..."; outbound pilots would see "Mig Alley..."

Tiger, Every Man a -- this was the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing's motto; "Every Man a Tiger".

Tigers' Torii -- name for the "Mig Alley 200 Miles" archway that marked the entrance to the Sabre flightline at K-14 airbase.  This gateway stood in front of the 336th Operations building at K-14.  (also see "Swig Alley", above) Sabre pilots of the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing were sometimes called Tigers, as per fighter wing motto "Every Man a Tiger".

Torii - Japanese word for archway, or gateway.  In this context used to describe the famous "Mig Alley 200 Miles" sign.

Witch's Tit - name given by pilots to the  mountain adjacent to K-14 air base.  Pilots used "the tit" as a landmark.  This mountain is visible in the photograph of the "Mig Alley 200 Miles" sign on this website, and is featured in its own photo in the MISC photos section.