Air Force Slang

Mullins, Bill Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL
Wed Dec 22 19:18:35 UTC 2004

 From _Sierra Hotel: Flying Air Force Fighters in the Decade After Vietnam_,
Anderegg, C. R., Air Force History and Museums Program, United States Air
Force, Washington, D.C. 2001

Ivan, p. xi: "We called the Soviet and Soviet-trained pilots Ivan, and
sometimes Ivan seemed ten feet tall."

ess, p. 3: "The big fighter <i> essed </i> back and forth across the track
so the two-man crew could look for targets to strike—North Vietnamese
supplies earmarked for use against U.S. forces and their allies."

golden BB, p. 3:  "The fighter pilot wonders why Honey was in such a
vulnerable position where a golden BB could snuff out his life."

shack, p. 7: "Just as the aircraft passes over the target, typically 1,500
feet above it, the bomb “shacks” the target—a perfect pass and a direct

wizzo, pitter footnote, p. 9: "Navigators were sometimes called wizzos, a
phonetic of WSO or weapons systems operator. Ultimately anyone who flew in
the back seat was called a “pitter,” since the back seat was often referred
to as “the pit.” "

growl p. 10: "When the pilot pointed his F–4 directly at an IR source, such
as the tail of a target, the Sidewinder produced a “growl” in the headset
that indicated the missile had acquired the IR source."

Downtown, p. 14: "Chasing MiGs across North Vietnam and bombing targets
“Downtown”* was only a part of the Air Force mission in Southeast Asia. . .
.  .* Nickname for area around Hanoi."

Sierra Hotel, shit hot, footnote, p. 19: "Sierra hotel, the phonetic letters
for s and h, was a common derivation of the vulgarity “shit hot,” meaning
“the absolute best.”"

beer can, footnote, p. 23:  "The orange MK–106 practice bomb had a blunt
nose and was sometimes called a “beer can.” "

recce, p. 25: "One such tactic was armed reconnaissance or “road recce,” as
it was called, with recce being pronounced
“wrecky.” "

snake, nape p. 26:  "One pilot, who was part of an experimental program to
put second lieutenants directly into the front seat of the F–4, recalled,
“It was the time of my life. I took off every day with snake and nape‡ and
put it on the enemy. . . . ‡ High-drag bombs were called Snake Eyes. Nape
refers to napalm."

beating dirt footnote, p. 26: " “Beating dirt” is a slang phrase for
air-to-ground attack."

Zot p. 31: "The Zot* system used an aiming device out of the left side of
the airplane. . . . . * Zot, surprisingly, is not an acronym. It comes from
the “B.C.” comic strip, wherein an anteater frequently fires his long tongue
out of his mouth to snatch an ant. The “sound” his tongue makes is
represented by the word “zot” in the cartoon panel. The laser, therefore,
was likened to the lightning fast anteater’s tongue, a blindingly fast,
straight line to the target."

good stick, p. 51:  "A favorable aspect of its reputation was that its
aviators were deeply experienced and “good sticks.” "

target-arm, p. 52: "Keith was not the only flier to arrive at the FWS that
summer who had not been through the weapons school. Eight others came who
were not “target-arms.”† . .  .† Reference to the bull’s-eye patch graduates
wore on their flight suits."

bus ticket to Amarillo, p. 55: "If he could not do so within a limited
number of flights, usually four, then he was given a “bus ticket to
Amarillo,” slang for elimination from the course."

hack, p. 62: "Have Quick radios take a time signal generated by a common
atomic clock. Once all the radios in a
mission are “hacked” to this superaccurate clock, they are set to hop from
frequency to frequency tens of times per second. "

Chuck, p. 63: "The USAF’s first Phantoms, the F–4C, or Chucks as they were
called by some, had no computer delivery systems, but the F–4Ds and F–4Es
that followed were equipped with a weapons release computer system (WRCS)
that provided the crew with several computer weapons delivery options."

rice bowl, p. 78: " A disgruntled senior officer who thought his rice bowl*
was under attack could badly damage a young officer’s career in the blink of
an eye. . . . * Resources" [money]

Iron Major, fighter mafia p. 89: "Officers working toward a common goal are
a formidable force because they are smart, focused, tenacious, and often
fearless—not so concerned with the careerism too frequently found in the
Pentagon. A common nickname for them is “The Iron Majors.” Sometimes a group
of iron majors and their allies becomes so persuasive and efficient that it
achieves a legendary reputation. One such group was called the Fighter

boomer p. 98: "By 1980, over 24,000 pilots, WSOs, navigators, load masters,
boomers,* and other fliers had sweated their way through some of the most
realistic training any aviator had ever seen. . . . *An enlisted man or
woman who controls the refueling boom, or probe, on an air refueling

glom, p. 122: "Against more typical target, the optical trackers fell victim
to clutter, such as trees, bushes, other buildings, or billboards that the
tracker might “glom onto.” "

bang-bang, p. 123:  "Therefore, if the bomb needed to correct down, the
flight controls deflected full down until the computer saw a need to correct
up, and then the controls would deflect full up. Such a scheme is nicknamed
“bang-bang” guidance."

SYDS, p. 155: "Technicians mounted a series of lights on the F–4 canopy bow
nearly in front of the pilot’s line of sight.
When the computer said that the target was in range, the lights came on and
flashed furiously. The modification was called the SYDS mod, an acronym for
“shoot, you dumb shit.” "

piccolo, p. 157: "Learning how to use all these switches in concert required
much practice and a certain dexterity. Some called the constant movement of
switches on the stick and throttle “playing the piccolo.” Others joked that
before one could become an Eagle pilot, one had to take piccolo lessons."

flying tennis court p. 163: "The F–15 was more powerful and more agile than
any other fighter in the world. . . . Some called it the “flying tennis
court;” others called it “Big Bird.” "

SLUF p. 167: "The A–7, nicknamed the SLUF, or short, little, ugly fellow,
was still in the Air Force inventory, although in small numbers." [note from
Bill -- many times, "fellow" in such a context is a euphemism for "fucker".]

afterburners p. 188: "Joe Bob asked the bartender if he knew how to do
afterburners. No, the bartender said, he had never heard of that game. So,
Joe Bob explained to him how a shot of brandy in a shot glass is ignited so
that the alcohol on top burns, and then the drinker throws down the flaming
shot. If done correctly, all the brandy is emptied from the shot glass, so
that when the drinker puts the glass down, a small, blue flame still burns
in the bottom."

glossary, p. 194: "GIB            guy-in-back"
"No Joy               I do not see the bandit"
"Pickle button            weapons release button on control stick"
p. 195: "Pipper        small dot in center of the gunsight"
"Tally-ho/tally             visual sighting"
"Triple Nickel             555th Tactical Fighter Squadron"

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