Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Fifth Aerial Victory, 28 August 1972

Recollections From Several "Reliable" Sources

Ritchie was flying his usual MiG Combat Air Patrol as Buick Flight. He was told by Red Crown and Disco (the forerunners of AWACS-type information) that MiGs were threatening the Strike Force. His weapons systems operator, Captain DeBellevue, picked the Bandits up on radar and Ritchie made a climbing turn to convert from the front quarter to the rear. The MiGs were high, about 15,000 feet above Buick. From max range in the turn, he fired two missiles, which failed to track. The MiGs were subsonic due to fuel, and Ritchie was in full afterburner at about 1.2 Mach. The overtake resulted in an “in-range” light in the cockpit, and Steve fired the last two Sparrows. The lead MiG went into a thin overcast, and when he came out, one missile streaked by on his left, apparently causing the MiG to break right, which solved the radar solution for the last Sparrow. “SPLASH! I got ‘im! SPLASH!” It was a much different situation than any of Ritchie’s other kills; at a higher altitude and greater range.

Steve Ritchie flew back to Udorn, the first Air Force Ace of the Vietnam War.

The Airborne Command Post called in the news as Buick Flight headed home to Udorn. Upon arrival, they performed a series of four-ship passes followed by a single-ship 45 degree climb and five victory rolls. The photo below shows the fourship roaring over the Home of the Hunters during that flyby.

On landing, they were met by the Deputy Commander of Seventh Air Force, who stated, “Great air show, Son!”

Ritchie spent several hours going to every organization on base to personally thank them for the outstanding support that made this success in air combat possible.

There was one helluva party at the club that night!
[ My History ] [ Home ] [ Table Of Contents ]