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Old 01-12-2015, 06:09 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Here's one involving a Red-on-Red friendly-fire incident...

Red on Red


335th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Williams AFB, AZ; 2 May, 1987, 1230 Hours Mountain War Time
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Captain Matt “Guru” Wiser, the Executive Officer of the 335th TFS, was in his office, going over some squadron paperwork in between missions. One thing about wartime, he had found out, was that many of the bureaucrats who infested the Air Force in peacetime had either slithered away or, he hoped, had found more useful work supporting, instead of hindering, the war effort. He had just finished some enlisted airmen's evaluations when his WSO, First Lieutenant Lisa “Goalie” Eichhorn, knocked on the door. “Show yourself and come on in.”

She came into the office bearing two lunch bags. “Here. Fresh from the Marines' mess tent.”

“What'd you get?”

“Fried chicken with cole slaw, and two bottles of water. “

He smiled. “Paperwork can wait. Lunch can't.” And both of them attacked the food. They were just about finished when there was another knock on the door. “Come on in!”

First Lieutenant Valerie “Sweaty” Blanchard, his wingmate, came in. “We've got a mission, CO says.” Lt. Col. Dean Rivers was the CO of the 335th. “Brief in ten.”

Guru nodded. “All right. Get Preacher and we'll be there.” 2nd Lieutenant Bryan “Preacher” Simmonds was Sweaty's WSO.

Sweaty nodded. “Will do.”

“Let's go,” Guru said to Goalie.

A few minutes later, the four crewers were in a former classroom used by the base's former occupants, an Air Training Command T-37 wing. When they arrived, they found 1st Lieutenant Darren Licon, the Squadron's intelligence officer, waiting. “Darren,” Guru said.

“Guru,” Licon replied, nodding. “And everyone.” He got to the point. “We've got a truck park and maintenance site outside Newkirk, on old Route 66, just north of I-40. Intel says the truck convoys pull off the Interstate before dark, remain overnight, and leave again in the morning. But they've got some intel that says the truck park's still occupied.”

“And let me guess: someone wants something dreadful to happen to the truck park?” Preacher asked. Prewar, he had been studying for the priesthood, and when the war began, he'd joined the Air Force and volunteered for WSO training. When his classmates found out he'd been studying to become a priest, they gave him the call sign.

“You got it,” Licon said. “It's still occupied. They want it hit before it's empty.”

“Defenses?” Guru asked.

“There's a 57-mm battery to the east, and a ZPU battery around the park itself. There's also the Tucumcari SA-2 site further east. No other heavy SAMs reported,” Licon reported.

“MiGs?” Sweaty wanted to know.

“Nearest field is Cannon, and they do have both MiG-23s and MiG-25s,” the SIO said. “You may expect a defensive reaction from those guys.”

“We getting any support on this one?” Goalie asked.

“No. All assets are committed elsewhere. You'll have to rely on speed, surprise, and your ECM pods.”

Guru nodded. “Weather?”

“CAVU,” Licon said. “CO says how you fly the mission is up to you.”

“Okay,” Guru said. “Thanks, Darren.”

The SIO said, “Good luck,” then he nodded and left the room, leaving the crews to peruse their TPC chart, and look at the photos Licon had left for them.

“Well?” Sweaty asked.

“Low and fast,” Guru said. “Go in low, pop-up and strike, then get down low and head southwest. Stay away from the Interstate, and any other east-west roads for that matter.”

“Got you,” she replied. “Ordnance load?”

“Says here, I get twelve Mark-82s with Daisy Cutter fuze extenders. You get twelve CBU-59/Bs. The ones with the incendiary submunitions. We both get four AIM-9Ps, two AIM-7Es, an ALQ-101 pod, and full 20-mm.”

“They want those trucks to burn.”

“Not arguing that,” Guru replied.

“Usual bailout areas?”Sweaty asked.

“Yep. Anyplace away from the roads. The further away you are, the better chance of SF, the Jolly Greens, or the locals finding you instead of the bad guys,” Guru said. “Been skydiving once, and not willing to do it again.”

“Don't blame you,” Preacher said. What Guru had seen and done on his E&E was common knowledge in the squadron, and in the Marine Air Group that the 335th was attached to.

“Once we're across the fence, we go by call sign, not mission code, unless we need to talk to AWACS or somebody else,” Guru told his flight. The “Fence” was the Rio Grande, and the front line. “Anything else?” Heads shook no. “All right: get your gear, and let's hit it.”


Over Occupied Eastern New Mexico, 1320 Hours Mountain War Time:


Camaro Flight was headed east, well south of I-40, and going in low. They had a pre-ingress refueling at the tanker track to top up their tanks, then they had gone in low. With few good terrain features, other than the occasional body of water, like the Pecos River, navigation was by dead reckoning and their inertial navigation systems. In the front cockpit of his bird, 512, Guru was swiveling his head, keeping an eye out for threats, something that had been drummed into his head in his F-4 training prewar. “How far to turn?”

“Three minutes,” Goalie replied. “Just past U.S. 84.”

“Copy,” Guru replied. So far, so good.

Both F-4s continued east, and it wasn't long before they reached their turn point. “And turn,” Goalie called.

“Roger that,” Guru replied. He banked the F-4 over some nameless dirt road, and leveled out, still at 450 feet AGL. “Time to pop-up?”

“One minute,” Goalie said.

“Okay, switches on. Set 'em up. Everything in one pass.”

“You got it,”

“Sweaty, Guru. Switches on, music on, and stand by to pull.”

“Roger,” his wingmate called.

“Switches set. Stand by....” Goalie called. “And pull!”

Both F-4Es pulled up, and as they did so, pilots and WSOs began scanning visually for the target. Sure enough, the twin ribbons of I-40 appeared, then the small town of Newkirk. And then the truck park appeared, north of the old Route 66. “Got it, Lead,” Sweaty said.

“I see it,” Guru said. “Lead's in hot.” He rolled his F-4 in on the target, and lined up the truck park. “Steady, steady,” he murmured. Then he hit the pickle button. “HACK!” And a dozen Mark-82 five-hundred pound bombs came off the aircraft.

Down below, at the truck park, a Soviet truck convoy had stopped the previous night, but had to remain there due to several trucks having maintenance issues. The truckers hadn't been complaining, since there was hardly any bandit activity, and there had been no American air attacks. And their MVD escorts were feeling the same way. Then someone pointed to the southeast, as Guru's F-4 rolled in.

“Lead's off target!” Guru called as he pulled up.

A dozen five-hundred pound bombs exploded in and around the truck park, ripping up vehicles, and killing and wounding many of the truckers, as well as the truck park's personnel. The survivors had barely picked themselves up, when a second F-4 came in.

“Two's in hot!” Sweaty called as she rolled in. She lined up the smoke of Guru's bombs exploding in her pipper, and then she pressed the pickle button. “HACK!” Was the call, as a dozen CBU-58/Bs came off her airplane, scattering a mix of high-explosive and incendiary subunitions on the truck park, exploding a number of vehicles that had survived Guru's bombs, and starting a number of fires. One of which exploded the truck park's fuel dump....

“Two's off safe,” Sweaty called. “Look at that!”

Guru and Goalie saw the oily fireball erupt as the fuel tanks exploded. “Good work, Sweaty. Let's get outta here.” Guru set his course southwest, and Sweaty joined up with him. As they headed southwest, they had just cleared U.S. 84 when AWACS called.

“Camaro Two-One, Crystal Palace. Threat bearing Two-nine-zero for forty-five, medium, closing.”

“Copy, Crystal Palace,” Guru replied. “Say Bogey Dope?”

“Camaro Two-One, Crystal Palace,” the controller replied. “Bandits are Fitters.”

“Copy, Crystal Palace,” Guru responded. “Sweaty, Guru, let's go get 'em.”

“Roger that,” Sweaty replied.

The two F-4s turned for the bandits, climbing slightly, and turning on their radars.

Then the AWACS called again. “Camaro, Crystal Palace. Second threat, bearing One-seven-zero for thirty. Medium, closing fast. Bandits are Foxbats. Repeat, bandits are Foxbats.”

“Shit!” Guru called. “Sweaty, Guru. Break!”

“Roger that!” Sweaty replied, and both F-4s broke into the Foxbats, honoring the more immediate threat.


MIG-25PD number 067, 2nd Squadron, 787th IAP-PVO, Over New Mexico:

Major Valery Kornnikov and his wingman, Captain Arkady Belov, were in their MiG-25PDs, responding to a report of American aircraft and they were being directed by their ground controllers.

“Zero-Six-Seven, Jaybird.” The GCI called. “Hostiles bearing directly ahead. Low level. Descend to one thousand meters.”

“Understood, Jaybird. Executing.” Kronnikov replied. In the PVO, a GCI controller's word was law.

“Zero-six-seven,” Belov called. “I have targets dead ahead, medium level.”

“Jaybrid, Zero-Six-Seven. We have targets directly ahead. Request permission to engage.”

“Stand by,” the GCI controller said. He turned to a senior officer. “Comrade Major, any friendly flights in this area? I have four targets.”

The Major looked at his flight schedule. “Libyan Su-22s!” He turned to another controller. “Contact those Libyans. Tell them to get clear of the area.”

That controller nodded, and called the Libyans. “No response.”

Shaking his head, the Major turned to the first controller. “Tell the MiG-25s to engage. Verify via IFF that the targets are hostile.”

Nodding, the controller called the MiGs. “Zero-six-seven, Jaybird. You are cleared to engage. Verify targets are hostile.”

“Understood,” Kornnikov replied.


Ahead of them, the two Libyan Su-22s were flying on. Neither of the Libyans had a good knowledge of Russian, having learned to fly in their homeland, via Syrian and North Korean instructors. They were flying without their IFF transponders on. It would turn out to be a big mistake.

“Target locked,” Kronnikov said. “Zero-six-nine, engage.”

Both MiG-25s locked up their targets for their R-40 (NATO AA-6 Acrid) missiles. And they fired.


“Sweaty,” Guru called. “Break!”

Both F-4Es broke to the right, and they saw the missile trails going above them. The crews hadn't yet seen the MiG-25s, and as they turned, they saw the missile trails end in fireballs.

The Libyan flight leader suddenly picked up his radar warning receiver. Then he saw the missiles coming for him. “Allah Akba-”

The lead Su-22 exploded in a fireball, and then the Libyan wingman exploded a few seconds later. Both Su-22s crashed to earth and exploded again on impact.

“What the...” Goalie called. “Those chumps blew away the two Fitters.”

“Not arguing with that, if the Reds want to kill each other,” Guru replied. “Where's the MiGs?”

“Going away.”


“Jaybird, Zero-six-seven,” Kornnikov called his GCI. “Both targets destroyed. Fuel running low. Request permission to return to base.”

“Zero-six-seven, Jaybird,” the controller replied. “Permission granted.”

The two MiG-25s turned and headed back towards Cannon AFB, leaving the two F-4s behind.

“Let's get out of here,” Guru called Sweaty. “Get back down, and head for the river.”

“Right with you, Lead.”

The two F-4s formed up and headed back to the Rio Grande. As soon as they cleared the river, Guru called. “Crystal Palace, Camaro Two-one is across the fence. Request a vector to the tankers.”

“Copy,” the AWACS controller replied. “Vector is two-six-five.”

“Roger that,” Guru replied. The two F-4s then made the tanker rendezvous, drank some fuel, then headed back to Williams.

After the two F-4s taxied to their dispersal, the crews shut down and got out. “What the hell was that?”
Goalie asked.

“Red-on-Red,” Guru said. “Too bad that doesn't happen more often.”

“Guru,” Sweaty said as she came over. “Reds blowing each other away? What the fuck?”

“Couldn't happen to nicer people,” Preacher said.

“Come on,” Guru nodded. “Let's get debriefed, give Darren the good news, and get something to eat. We've got time for one more.”


Cannon Air Force Base, Occupied New Mexico:


Major Kornnikov taxied his MiG-25 to his dispersal area and shut down. He looked to his right and saw Belov doing the same. His ground crew put up the crew ladder, and as he got out, he saw his Squadron Commander, the Regimental Commander, and another officer he didn't recognize come over. “Comrade Colonel?” He addressed his Regimental Commander.

“Comrade Major Kornnikov and Comrade Captain Belov,” the Regimental Commander said. “You are restricted to quarters until further notice, and the conclusion of an investigation by the Military Prosecutor's Office.”

“What is this about?” Kornnikov asked. He and Belov were stunned.

The other officer, who identified himself as the local Military Prosecutor, said, “The two aircraft you shot down were Su-22s flown by our Libyan allies. You are confined to quarters until the investigation is concluded.”

“What?” Kornnikov said.

The Prosecutor nodded to four men of the Commandant's Service (Soviet Military Police). “Escort these two officers to their quarters. They will remain there under guard until further notice.”


335th TFS, Williams AFB, AZ: 1405 Hours Mountain War Time:

“What?” Lieutenant Darren Licon said. “Run that by me again, please, Captain.”

“I'll say it again, Darren. Those two MiGs blew away two of their own aircraft,” Guru said.

“We saw it too,” Sweaty nodded. “We had the MiGs on radar, closing, then missiles in the air, and they flew right over us. Then to our north, there's two fireballs all of a sudden, and those Fitters went down.”

Licon shook his head. “I'll send this to Tenth Air Force Intelligence. We've heard about the Reds having Friendly-fire incidents before, but this is the first time it's been air-to-air that I know of.”

“SAM operators are the same wherever they are,” Goalie said. “If it flies, it dies, and we sort it out on the ground.”

“Yeah,” Preacher agreed.

“All right, Sir,” Licon said. “I'll check your strike camera footage, and see what BDA we get from recon, but it looks like, based on your description, that the truck park's out of business for a while.”

“Thanks, Darren,” Guru said.

Then Captain Mark Ellis, the Ops Officer, came in. “Red-on-red? YGTBSM!”

“No, Mark, and we saw it,” Guru replied. “Whatcha got for us?”

“New mission,” Ellis said. “Rivers is out, and he left it to me. You guys are going to Fort Sumner. There's a local radio station that the Quislings are using as their local 'Liberation Radio' affiliate. You guys get to put the transmitter out of commission.”

“Fine with us,” Sweaty said.


Cannon AFB, Occupied New Mexico, 4 May, 1987; 1400 Hours local time:

Major Kornnikov and Captain Belov were in a military courtroom, attending a State Commission of Inquiry into the incident two days earlier. They had given their testimony, had listened to the GCI controllers giving theirs, and had also heard from the Libyans' squadron commander. The members of the Commission had adjourned, and the two pilots were waiting on the verdict, along with their Squadron Commander and the Military Prosecutor. Then the Commission members returned.

“It is the conclusion of this Commission that the responsibility for the shooting down of the two Libyan aircraft on 2 May, 1987, over Liberated New Mexico, lies solely with the two Libyan pilots. Testimony has proven that their failure to follow established radio procedures, their failure to turn on their identification transponders, and their refusal to acknowledge the warnings from ground control, led to the unfortunate incident.

“The Commission therefore rules that the two Soviet Pilots, Major Kornnikov, V. and Captain Belov, A., are cleared of any wrongdoing, and are authorized to return to combat duties.”

The chair of the commission, a SAF Major General, banged his gavel, bringing the proceedings to a close. As the members filed out, Kornnikov shook hands with Belov, then his Squadron Commander and Regimental Commander. “Reporting back for combat duty, Comrade Colonel,”

“I expected you would,” the Regimental CO replied. “Those Black-Assed Libyans got themselves killed, but somebody raised a stink-probably the Libyans, and you two had to go through the motions.”

“One thing I'm curious about, though,” Kornnikov replied.

“And that is?”

“Who were those F-4 pilots? And what did they think of what happened?”

The political officer came over. “After our victory, you can ask them.”



Wing Commander's Residence, Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, 4 February, 2010, 1500 Hours Mountain Standard Time:


Colonel Matt Wiser was sitting in his living room, waiting until it was time to go to Wing HQ and pick up his wife from work. Colonel Lisa Eichhorn-Wiser was now the wing commander of the 366th TFW at Mountain Home, and he was commanding the 419th TFW in the AF Reserves at Hill AFB down in Utah. Their units had just returned from the Baja War, or the Second Mexican War as some people were calling it, and their units were taking a well-deserved break before getting back into peacetime routine.

Colonel Wiser was reading an Osprey book, one that he'd just gotten that day via Amazon and UPS, USAF F-4E Units of World War III, and to his surprise, there was a whole chapter on the 335th, while one of the color plates in the book, along with a photo, showed his old bird, 512. Then a paragraph caught his eye. It was a first-person account from then First Lieutenant, now Lieutenant Colonel, Sweaty Blanchard. It detailed the encounter with the MiG-25s and the Su-22s.

The book had been in print for a year, but only after the Baja War, had he gotten around to ordering it. Well, now, some familiar stories from the 335th, me, Goalie, Kara, and the others. Not to mention the rest of the 4th TFW, the guys who came back from Germany, even the guys who stayed in the Philippines and kept Ivan from making too much mischef out of Cam Ranh Bay. He finished the book, got his laptop, then logged into his e-mail, and after that, he went to the F-4 Phantom Association's web site, where there was a message board. One of the topics was the book, and he gave a brief review. Then he saw something else. “What the...” He clicked on the topic, and it was from somebody in the Russian Republic, The originator of the topic identified himself as a former Voyska PVO MiG-25 pilot, who had been flying over New Mexico that day, and he gave the Soviet side of the story. “I'll be damned,” Guru said to himself. He typed in a reply, saying that he'd been flight lead of the two F-4s that day, and then he logged out. Almost time to pick up Lisa, he knew.

The next day, he had a surprise in his e-mail. It came from a Russian Republic e-mail address, and at first, he was going to delete it-more spam, he thought. Then his curiosity got the better of him, and he opened it. It was from Col. Valery Kornnikov, Soviet Air Force (retired). Guru read the e-mail, forwarded it to his wife, then called her. “What do you think?”

“I'll call the DAO at the Embassy there, See if he's interested in coming over,” Lisa replied.

It took a while, but in August, 2010, after the fall of the Rump USSR and the wild night that had come about, Guru and Goalie were waiting in the arrivals area at Salt Lake International Airport, for a United flight from Chicago. As the passengers came down the jetway, they saw a USAF officer and a older man in a business suit. “Colonel Wiser? Colonel Eichhorn?” The two nodded. “I'm Major Mike McClure, AFHC. They sent me to be Colonel Kornnikov's escort. Not only that, but I'm a fluent Russian speaker. Just in case.”

They shook hands, then Colonel Kornnikov introduced himself. “So you two were in one of the Phantoms that day?”

“We were,” Guru said. “But you splashed those two Libyans instead.”

“Wrong place, wrong time,” added Goalie. They shook hands. As they went to Baggage Claim, she asked, “Surprised, Colonel?”

“That you were flying in an F-4? No. The Political Officers said it was because you were desperate.”

Guru laughed. “Not that desperate, but if they let Kara fly combat, then maybe we were.”

“Is this the same Kara Thrace I keep hearing about?” Major McClure asked.

“It is, Major,” Goalie said. “She runs the 390th TFS in my wing.”

“Oh, no,” McClure said. “Colonel, you'll be meeting the wildest pilot to come out of World War III, and she's the terror of the Air Force still.”

They got Kornnikov's bags, then he asked. “And why is that?”

“Because, Colonel, she flew hard, and partied harder during the war. She's mellowed a lot since, but...”
Guru said.

“But the old habits die slowly,” Kornnikov finished. “Not unknown in fighter pilots.”

“You're right.” Goalie said. “She's the best I have in the 366th.”

“You command the wing?”

“That's right. I'm the Wing Commander, but I'm not a pilot. I'm one of two navigators who are currently wing commanders in TAC,” nodded Goalie.

“And you, Colonel Wiser? What do you command?”

“I run the 419th TFW at Hill. We're the only Reserve F-15E wing at the moment. We've got a healthy rivalry with the 366th, but we share a feud with the 388th TFW at Hill as well: they're active Air Force, and they fly F-16s,” said Guru.

“Ah. The rivalry between fighter pilots and those who fly strike aircraft...” Kornnikov understood. In Russia, the rivalry between MiG-29 and Su-27 pilots on one hand, and those flying Su-24s was also heated at times.

“It is that,” McClure said. “Now, Colonel, we've got you at Mountain Home, and then Hill.”

“Good. You do have veterans still flying?”

“We do,” Guru said. “In both F-15E wings. You can meet the WW III vets, those who went down to Baja, and everyone was here for the fall of the USSR. That was a wild night.”

“It was, I'll grant you,” Kornnikov agreed. “I'd like to meet this Kara for myself.”

“Be careful of what you wish for,” Goalie said. “She's mellowed a lot since the war, but put her in an airplane, and she flies it like she stole it. Like I said, she's the best I have.”

“Then there's one thing we all can agree on: we've had our wars, and we've all had enough.”

“True that,” Guru said, and his wife nodded.

“Indeed.”

“There's one other thing,” Guru said.

“Colonel?” Kornnikov asked.

“Finding out the war from your perspective is going to be interesting. We'll be swapping a lot of stories over the coming week.”

“And I look forward to doing so.”
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