The F-22 that took down China’s surveillance balloon used the call sign ‘FRANK01’ in homage to a heroic pilot from WWI

Published: 5 February 2023

By Katherine Tangalakis-Lippert
via the Business Insider web site

Frank Luke Jr

Frank Luke Jr with SPAD

American World War I fighter ace, Frank Luke Jr (1897 - 1918), with his SPAD S.XIII biplane, France, 18th September 1918.

On Saturday, as an F-22 pilot shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon floating near South Carolina, the call sign of the airman contained an homage to a WWI hero.

Onlookers cheered as the pilot, identified as “FRANK01,” circled China’s spy balloon near Myrtle Beach as it floated over the Atlantic Ocean, waiting until the object was safely away from civilians on the ground to avoid the risk of falling debris.

Pilots use call signs in place of their names when communicating, both for security and identification purposes. The “FRANK” call sign was a reference to a WWI pilot, Frank Luke, the first airman to receive the Medal of Honor after shooting down over a dozen aircraft, including 10 spy balloons, in just eight days during World War I.

“I’m really incredibly proud of everybody that took place in this. But the F-22 was remarkable,” General Glen VanHerck, commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and United States Northern Command, said in a Monday press conference. “I’d remind everybody that the call sign of the first flight was Frank 01.”

VanHerck lauded Luke’s WWI successes in taking down enemy balloons, before adding: “So how fitting is it that Frank 01 took down this balloon in sovereign air space of the United States of America within our territorial waters.”

Luke’s achievement in battle was unsurpassed by any other pilot in the war, according to Air & Space Forces Magazine. The brash, young pilot, nicknamed the “Arizona Balloon Buster,” was driven by a desire for glory, the outlet reported — and his name and reputation have survived more than 100 years after his death at the hands of German soldiers.

“I will make myself known or go where most of them do,” Air & Space Forces Magazine reported Luke wrote to his sister during his days in the 27th Squadron.

Luke, a second lieutenant, was killed after attempting an unauthorized balloon-hunting mission behind enemy lines. His reputation as a hero was so prolific that, after his death, it was rumored he killed seven additional German soldiers who approached him as he lay dying before succumbing to a lethal machine gun wound.

The fighter ace was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor for his military victories and bravery.

Read the entire article on the Business Insider web site.

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