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Old 09-04-2018, 08:24 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Auberry, CA
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The RAF's first mission, and MiG-29s come to the party:

Over West Central Texas, 0745 Hours Central War Time:

Rambler Flight was headed south, having cleared the I-20, and headed into hostile territory. They were flying parallel to U.S. 283, which was a Main Supply Route for the Soviet 32nd Army in this part of Texas, and everyone knew that supply convoys or units doing a road march had their own Triple-A and SAMs, so the flight was giving the road a decent enough berth, but still close enough to use the road for visual navigation. But the crews weren't just relying on visual, but the GIBs were keeping track of the INS, as well as doing things the old-fashioned way, with a map and stopwatch.

Up front in 512, Guru was concentrating on flying, keeping his head on a swivel. He was checking his instruments, then keeping an eye out for any threats. So far, so good. A quick glance at the EW display still showed clear, then, as if on cue, a strobe appeared, and the SEARCH light came on. “Search radar at One,” he called. “No ID yet.”

“Got it,” Goalie replied from the rear cockpit. It was showing on her display as well. “Looks like a Mainstay.”

Guru took another glance at his EW display. No additional radars were coming up-yet. “Roger that.” Then he called the AWACS. “Yukon, Rambler Lead. Say threats?”

“Rambler Lead, Yukon,” the AWACS called back. “Threat bearing One-eight-one for forty. Medium, going away. Second theat bearing One-five-five for sixty-five. Medium, closing. Third threat bearing One-four-zero for seventy. Medium, closing.”

“Roger, Yukon,” Guru replied. “Do you have bogey dope?”

“Stand by, Rambler,” the controller said. After a moment, he came back. “First threats are Fulcrums. Second and third threats are Floggers.”

“Copy,” Guru said. MiG-29s? Okay......those birds had problems with their radars in the look-down/shoot-down mode, so the intel weenies said. They just might slip through the MiGs. Besides, hassling with MiGs was not on the agenda-until after bomb release. “Fulcrums are close.”

“Hope not,” Goalie said. They'd had one encounter with MiG-29s back in New Mexico, and had come out on top. “He's going away.”

“For now.” Guru checked his EW display again. No additional radars, then another strobe came on at their Nine O'Clock, and the SEARCH light came on again. “They're active.” He looked ahead, and the two F-4Gs were still ahead of them, just above. They were at 450 feet AGL, and the Weasels were at 500. “Weasels still quiet.”

Goalie nodded, then checked her map. “Lake Coleman dead ahead.” The lake was a convienent navigation checkpoint, coming or going. “Watch for flak at the dam.”

“Got it,” Guru said as the flight crossed the north shore of the lake. A quick look at their Eleven O'clock revealed the dam, and sure enough, the flak gunners on both sides of the dam came alive. The gunners started shooting, but the 37-mm fire was not well aimed, and the gunners failed to lead their targets.

Once clear of the lake, the town of Coleman was next. “Twenty miles to Coleman. One minute fifteen,” Goalie called.

“Roger that,” Guru replied. He took a look at the EW display. Still just the two strobes signaling search radars, and one of them dropped off-the one off to their right. Good. “Lost one of the radars.”

“Saw that,” said Goalie. “Just the Mainstay. One minute to Coleman.”

The flight maintained course, and the town of Coleman appeared off to the left. The strike flight flew past, and no fire came from the town. “How far to the river?” Guru asked. That meant the Colorado River.

“One minute twenty,” was Goalie's reply.

In Coleman, the Soviet 32nd Army had its headquarters. The Army had not fought at Wichita proper, but had been in Western Kansas when that disaster had happened, and had found an open right flank, and American forces pouring into that flank. The Army had fought in First Central Front's rearguard, all the way from Kansas through Oklahoma, and had nearly been trapped at a place called Vernon, just south of the Red River, before fighting its way south. Now, the Army had two missions. Namely, hold the line south of Interstate 20, and as divisions were pulled off the line, rebuild them for the battles to come.

Major General Pavel Sisov walked down the steps of City Hall in Coleman. The Army had originally been using Brownwood as its headquarters, until that brute Starukhin and his 3rd Shock Army had shown up-by TVD order no less, and he'd been forced to move. Here, the presence of his headquarters had displeased the local garrison, who happened to be a battalion of Cuban reservists-the equivalent of his own Army's Category III, and while the battalion commander seemed a charming enough fellow, more than willing to take orders from Sisov, the other officers were not so....positive. From their point of view, they had a comfortable assignment in the rear, and the presence of the 32nd Army-and not just the headquarters, mind, meant that there would be American attention in the future-namely, air attack and likely activity from the American Resistance. He'd never served in Colorado, Eastern Oklahoma, or the Ozarks in either Missouri or Arkansas, where the terrain was ideal for guerilla warfare, but had heard from those who had. “Afghanistan with trees,” one officer, who was moving up to command a motor-rifle division after service in Colorado, had told him. Here, there wasn't that much activity from the Resistance, or, as the Political Department called them, “Bandits”, but he knew from his own intelligence officer that the underground was laying low, content to snip the occasional phone line, spray some grafitti, set some roadside bombs, and ambush the occasional patrol. For the U.S. Sixth Army had been reinforced, with IV Corps having come down from Colorado, and was helping fill the gap between III Corps and the ROK Expeditionary Force to the west.

Today, he was waiting on a visit from Marshal Kribov, who was coming to the area on an inspection tour. The Marshal was known for wanting to get up as close to the front as possible, and find out from his commanders what was going on, what their needs were, and even talk to some of the men. His Army was still in good shape, though some of the personnel replacements were not to his liking. The 32nd Army was originally from Kazakhstan, and though many of the veterans had served in the 32nd prewar, the replacements were either new draftees with six months' training-if they were lucky. Or if they weren't, only had a months' basic training and a month's orientation at a training center on what to expect in America, before being shipped over. And he'd just gotten two drafts of replacements that fit neither category. One was a group of former Voyska PVO missile operators, either on S-75 or S-125 SAMs, and someone thought they might be useful in SAM units at Army and division level, or in artillery fire-direction teams. Both of which were desperately needed, he knew, but theory was one thing. How it would work in practice, though....Another-and more numerous-draft consisted of several hundred former Strategic Rocket Forces personnel who had served in guard units around missile sites. Now wearing Army uniform, they were going into motor-rifle units as infantry, which appalled several regimental and divisional commanders-and Sisiov shared that view. The Front Commander had listened to his concerns-and those of the other Army commanders, but had told them to get on with it. As for replacement equipment, it was mixed. Oh, the SAMs were being replaced with comparable systems, or more advanced ones-his old division, the 78th Tank Division, had just received the Buk (SA-11 Gadfly) SAM, but as for armor? While the 78th had received new T-72Bs that were equal to the M-60A3, the nearby 155th MRD had been issued replacement T-62s that had been in storage for years, and as for APCs? The 78th had brand-new BMP-2s from the production line in Czechoslovkia, while the 155th had been issued BTR-60Ps with open tops, and the BMP regiment had some of the oldest BMP-1s on inventory sent to them. Shaking his head, General Sisov wanted to make his case to the Marshal that if they were expected to hold their positions against the American offensive that many expected come Spring, he'd need top of the line equipment, not twenty-year old castoffs. And he wasn't the only Army-level commander with those views, Sisov knew.

Now, as he stopped outside City Hall, General Sisov looked for his staff car. He knew Marshal Kribov would fly in later, and going over to the municipal airport to personally oversee preparations for the Marshal's arrival was a good thing. At least it would get him away from the annoying Zampolit he had-one who took the “Political” side of his duties way too seriously, and had become loathed by not just the local population, but also the Cubans in the garrison and the air force personnel running the airport. Maybe an “inspection” trip to the front offered a way to get the man out of his hair, and if the Party hack got himself killed, well and good. His thoughts were interrupted by shouting. General Sisov turned to the west, seeing several soldiers-and locals-pointing in that direction. A group of American aircraft were flying past the town, and he could hear some applause from the civilians. The planes didn't turn to attack the town or the airport, he was relieved to see. Clearly, they were headed for some target to the south, and what they were going after was likely not going to be his problem. Shrugging his shoulders, he called for his ADC, then summoned his staff car.

“That's clear,” Guru said as Coleman disappeared in the flight's wake.

“One minute to the river,” Goalie called. She, too, was also maintaining her visual scanning.

“Got it,” Guru replied. He glanced at his EW display, and that Mainstay radar was still there. But nothing else. Still, someone could be stalking them with radar off. “Yukon, Rambler Lead. Say threat.”

“Rambler, Yukon. Threat bearing One-nine-one for thirty. Medium, going away. Second threat bearing One-six-five for fifty. Medium, closing. Third threat bearing One-five-five for sixty-five. Medium, closing.”

“Roger, Yukon,” replied Guru. “So far...”

“So good,” Goalie finished. “Forty-five seconds to the river.”


The flight continued south, and it wasn't long until they got close to the U.S. 283 bridge over the Colorado-and where there were bridges, there was flak.

“Time to turn?” Guru asked.

“Turn in five, four, three, two, one, MARK!” Goalie called.

Guru put 512 into a hard left turn, just short of the bridge, and the rest of the flight followed. They didn't notice the gunners at the bridge shooting with their 23-mm and 57-mm guns, for none of the fire came too close. “How far to the next turn?”

“One minute fifteen,” Goalie replied. “Twenty miles.”

“Copy.” The strike flight headed east, and just before the turn at the U.S. 183 bridge which was their next turn point, another radar came up on Guru's EW display. Then another....and the strobes came up as A/A, which meant Air-to-air. “What are those?”

“Fulcrums,” Goalie said. “Want to bet? Turn point in ten.”

“No bets,” Guru replied. “Give me the count.”

“Coming up in five, four, three, two, one, MARK!”

Guru turned north, just short of the bridge, and it, too, had flak gunners. This time, by the time the gunners were ready to fire, the flight was already gone.

“How far to Brownwood?” Guru asked, shooting a glance at the EW display. All three radars were still there, then, one after the other, the Air-to-air radars dropped off the display.

“Twenty miles,” replied Goalie. “One minute fifteen,” she added.

“Got it,” Guru said as he glanced at the display. Still clear apart from the search radar. “Damned Mainstay.”

“If he had us, those MiGs would have been on us,” Goalie reminded him. “Forty seconds.”

“Set 'em up,” he replied. “Everything in one go.” Guru meant the armament controls. He also turned on his ALQ-119 ECM pod.

Goalie worked the switches. “You're set.”

“Flight, Lead. Switches on, Music on, and stand by.” The call meant to arm weapons and turn on their ECM pods.

“Roger, Lead,” Kara replied, and the other strike birds followed suit.

“Fifteen seconds,” Goalie said. “Brownwood dead ahead.”

“Confirm visual,” Guru then called up the Weasels. “Coors One-three, Rambler Lead. Time for you guys to go to work.”

“Roger that!” The Weasel leader replied, as two F-4Gs climbed to start their SAM-suppression work, and all sorts of radars came up, followed by “Magnum” calls. HARM and Standard-ARM missiles left the rails, and two of the radars went off the air.

The EW display was still lit up, as Brownwood appeared dead ahead. “Flight, Lead. PULL.” Guru put 512 into a climb, and as he did, the town passed beneath his bird, the SA-3 site came up, only to go back off the air as a HARM smashed into the battery's Low Blow radar. “Got some flak.”

“All set back here,” Goalie said as Guru climbed past 2,000 feet. Then there it was. “Target at Eleven.”

“Got it,” Guru replied. He leveled out, then began to nose down. “Flight, Lead. Target in sight. Rambler One-seven, take care of any party-crashers.”

“One-seven, roger,” Flight Lt. Paul Jackson replied.

“One-eight copies,” Flight Lt. Suan Napier added.

“Going in,” Guru said as he rolled 512 in onto his bomb run.

At Brownwood Regional Airport, there was a bustle of activity. Not only had there been an American air strike the previous night, which had knocked out Runway 13/31, and had also holed Runway 17/35, and thus the repair crews had been hard at work, filling in the bomb craters and making sure the runways were ready for operations. Then there was the usual hustle and bustle of combat operations, for both the Soviet 92nd IAP and the East German Air Force's JFG-1 were based there, and MiG-23s and MiG-21s were going in and out on operations. There was also some transport activity, as An-24s and 26s came in and out, and a VIP Yak-40 had come in.

Lieutenant General Vladimir Starukhin, the Commander of Third Shock Army, awaited his Theater Commander-in-Chief. CINC-AMERIKA was responsible for the war in what was the Continental United States, and Starukhin had fought in that war from the first day. He'd led Third Shock through Texas and Oklahoma, then Kansas and even up towards Lincoln in Nebraska in 1986, before pulling back south to Kansas. Then had come the disaster at Wichita, where his Army had gone up against the Americans' VII Corps at a town called Newton, and had been shredded. Starukhin had led his Army in the painful retreat through Oklahoma and into Texas, and now that the front had finally stabilized, his Army had been pulled off the line for rest and refit. He, like General Sisiov, had wanted his Army refitted properly, with new T-80s fresh off the production lines, new BMPs and artillery, and most important of all, newer SAMs and antiaircraft guns to defend against American air attack. He'd seen several strikes aimed at Brownwood Airport before, and his own Army's SAM Brigade, the 49th Guards Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade, along with the Voyska PVO-manned guns and S-125 battery, had trouble fighting them off. The Americans' antiradar missiles were too good, and often, the aircraft were too fast for guns-and, to use last night's strike as an example, if they came in at night, the gunners had trouble picking them up visually.

His divisional commanders were just as loud, screaming for tanks with reactive armor to defeat American anti-tank missiles, improved BMPs and BTRs, and, of course, newer SAMs and artillery. All resented having someone else's castoffs forced upon them, and Starukhin also knew that the Marshal was thinking of forming a Tank Army Group, and having the Tank Armies fully equipped meant that their hammer would be a strong one. Not to mention that the Marshal was also considering prospective commanders for a TAG, and his name, along with Suraykin at 4th Guards Tank Army, was on that list.
Now, Starukhin and his staff waited as the Marshal's Yak-40 transport taxied up to what had been prewar, the airport terminal building. The door opened, and the Marshal, accompanied by his ADC, who Starukhin recognzied, disembarked. The Soviet Air Force Colonel who commanded the operation at the airport greeted the Marshal, then Starukhin and his staff approached. “Comrade Marshal,” Starukhin said, saluting.

Marshal Yevgeni Kribov returned the salute. He had been the theater commander for two years, and had seen the highs-running wild through Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado, and the lows-the Denver Siege dragging on, the horrible war in the swamps and bayous of Louisiana, the guerilla war waged in Colorado, parts of New Mexico, East Texas, the Ozarks and the Quachata Mountains, and then the failure of the Spring-Summer 1986 Offensive, then Wichita and the retreat that had followed. Kribov's staff had feared for his life, but,as Defense Minister Akhromayev had assured him in a phone call, the only alternatives were either Marshal Orgakov-and he was in disgrace. Having planned the invasion, he had been put to pasture as CINC-WEST when the invasion had failed, and the alternative? Marshal Yazov was CINC-FAR EAST, and it was the conensus of the General Staff that Yazov wasn't fit to command anything higher than a division, and only the staff work in Chita and capable subordinates kept things from getting worse. And CINC-KANADA? Three full Generals had held command successively, and all three had been “retired.” The new commander, General Nikolai Ulanov, was only just settling into the job, and Kribov didn't envy him a bit-inheriting a stalemate and an outpost war for the most part.

Now, the front had stabilized, though this Dallas business-though not quite Stalingrad, was a festering sore. Both sides hadn't wanted to get drawn into a city fight, but they had, and though it was a stalemate here, that wouldn't last come Spring. The front was largely parallel, but a bit south of, Interstate 20 for the most part, then up to Interstate 30 to Texarkana, then ran on a line due east to the Mississippi, while in West Texas, the line ran from the I-10/I-20 junction to Mile Marker 65 on I-10, then to the border. The Americans actually held El Paso and the freeway to the east, and the Mexicans were begging him to please, send one division to Juraez, because now they suddenly feared an American invasion-not that after Juraez, there was nothing from Juraez until Chihuahua City-some 380 kilometers south of the border.....let the Mexicans have their panic, for the real war would resume come spring-and he knew full well that it was likely the Americans who would be the ones resuming the offensive.

Such happy thoughts were in Kribov's mind as he went down the stairs of the aircraft, received the salute of the base commander, then noticed Starukhin and his staff waiting. Accompanied by his aide, Colonel Vassily Sergov, Kribov went to see the General who many considered an unimaginative brute and thug, but no one could deny his aggressiveness as a field commander. “General,” Kribov said, returning the salute.

“Comrade Marshal,” Starukhin said. He noticed Colonel Sergov, but was looking for Kribov's Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Pavel Chibisov. The two cordially despised each other, for Chibisov was a Jew, and Starukhin distrusted-no, despised-him for that very reason. It was an open secret among the staff that both wished the other dead, and if the Americans managed to kill one of them, the other would actually send a thank-you card to the Americans. But since Chibisov wasn't here....”How was the flight?”

“Routine,” Kribov said. “You do know Colonel Sergov?”

“The Colonel and I are...acquainted, Comrade Marshal,” Starukhin replied. “May I introduce my staff?”

Both the Marshal and his aide recognized it at once. Starukhin was playing the charming host, for the command of the Tank Army Group was still open, and both he and Suraykin were the two finalists for the job. Assuming, of course, that Moscow-and that meant the Defense Council-approved the proposal. “Of course, General. Then I want to speak with you with only our respective aides present.”

“As you wish, Comrade Marshal,” Starukhin said. He had just started when sirens began to sound. But it was Colonel Sergov who actually said it.

“Air raid, Comrades!” He pointed to aircraft coming in, and missile trails also inbound.

Kribov turned to the base commander. “Where's the nearest shelter?”

“There's only slit trenches, Comrade Marshal. Come with me,” and the SAF Colonel led the whole party to the trenches as the American aircraft came in.

“Lead's in hot!” Guru called as he rolled 512 in on the bomb run. He noticed the flak starting to come up, but that the SA-3 radar that had come-briefly-had gone off the air, and that an SA-4 had also gone quiet. Good for them, and none of the flak seemed to be radar-guided. As Guru came down, he noticed not only the prewar ramp area, but the ramp areas that the Soviets had built-and the bomb craters in one runway as well as the attempts by the Soviets to expand two old World War II era runways and make them operational. Tough luck, Comrades.....he lined up on the East Ramp, and not only saw MiG-23s and An-24 transports, but also a Yak-40 VIP transport. Somebody big was there.....your bad day. “Steady...Steady....And....HACK!” Guru hit the pickle button, and his twelve Mark-20 Rockeye CBUs came off the racks. He pulled wings level and headed north, jinking as he did so, and all the while the Weasels were doing their job. “Lead's off target.”

In the trench, Kribov, Starukhin, and the other officers huddled. Nothing new here, for all had been under air attack before. Kribov glanced upwards, and saw Guru's F-4 pulling up, followed by what seemed like thousands of firecrackers exploding as the CBU bomblets went off. That was followed by several larger explosions, and Kribov's Yak-40 went up in a fireball. That was a surprise, though several MiGs and an An-24 transport had also fireballed. Shaking his head, the Marshal ducked back down as a second aircraft came in.

“SHACK!” Goalie called from 512's back seat. “We got secondaries!”

“How good?” Guru asked. He was jinking to avoid flak and missiles,

“Does a couple of transports and a couple of MiGs sound good enough?” She replied.

“Good enough for me.” Guru kept heading north.

Kara was next down the chute. “Two in hot!” She called as 520 went down on the target. Kara saw the CO make his run, and the secondary explosions that followed in his wake. The ramp areas that had been built since the war started were her target, and there were MiG-21s sitting on the ramp. Those were the East Germans, she knew. Not a good morning, Franz.....Ignoring the flak coming up, and at least one SA-7 type missile that flew past her left side, several MiGs grew larger in her pipper as she came down. “And...And....Steady...And....HACK!” Kara hit her pickle button, and her dozen Rockeyes came off the racks. As she pulled wings level to head out, she glanced to the right, and saw at least one MiG-23 starting to taxi. Somebody might get a kill was Kara's thought as she pulled away, jinking to avoid flak. “Two's off target.”

“Sookin sin!” Son of a bitch, was Starukhin's chosen phrase as the second F-4 came in. Kribov looked at him, and nodded. This was shaping up to be a bitch of a day, and only two Americans had come in. He heard, then saw, two MiG-23s taxiing. Gutsy move, he thought. Still, not a good day to be an aviator. Then he noticed a third aircraft coming in, and ducked.

“GOOD HITS!” Brainiac shouted from 520's back seat. “Multiple secondaries!”

Kara grinned beneath her oxygen mask. “How good?”

“MiGs and maybe a fuel truck good.”

“I'll take those,” Kara replied as she headed out.

“Three's in!” Sweaty called as she went on her run. She, too, ignored the flak as she went down the chute, and to her surprise, saw two MiG-23s taxiing onto Runway 17/35, which was her target. “MiGs on the roll!” she added as the MiGs lit their burners and headed down the runway. No more, Sweaty said to herself as she approached her release point. “And...Steady....And...And.....HACK!” She hit her pickle button, sending a dozen Mark-82 Snakeyes down onto the runway, though as she pulled up and away, she was wishing for Durandals or the Israelis' “Dibber” bombs. The two MiGs were nowhere to be seen as she cleared the target, jinking as she did so. “Three's off target.”

Marshal Krobov heard both the MiGs' takeoff roll and Sweaty's run. “Damn it!” he muttered as first, the two MiG-23s, then the F-4, rumbled past. Unlike the MiGs, the F-4 left explosions in its wake, as the bombs it had deposited on the runway went off. Kribov stuck his head out of the trench to have a look, and saw his personal transport now a burning wreck. He shook his head as two more MiGs-these East German MiG-21s, began to taxi to another runway, then ducked back into the trench.

“SHACK!” Preacher yelled from the back seat. “We got the runway!”

“How many bombs?” Sweaty asked. She was jinking, and also keeping an eye out for MiGs. Where were those two Floggers?”


She grinned beneath her oxygen mask. “That'll do,” Sweaty replied. “Where's those two MiGs?”

“Four's in hot!” Hoser called as he came in. He, too, saw the MiGs do their takeoff roll just as Sweaty made her run, but knew enough not to go after them. That was someone else's job, he knew. Ignoring the 23-mm and 57-mm flak, he came down on Runway 13/31. Two East German MiG-21s were taxiing onto the runway, he saw, and Hoser also noticed the smoke and flames coming up from both ramp areas. Your turn, Franz...he said to himself as he got ready to release. “Steady....And.....HACK!” Hoser hit his pickle button, releasing his dozen Mark-82s. He pulled wings level and headed out, and like the others, was jinking as he did so. Clearing the target, he called, “Four's off safe.”

In their trench, both Marshal Kribov and General Starukhin took a look as Hoser's F-4 came by. They watched the two East German MiG-21s try a takeoff roll just as the F-4 released its bombs. One of the MiGs aborted its takeoff, but the leader kept going-and a bomb went off right ahead of him. Shrapnel from the explosion tore into the MiG's fuel tanks, and the MiG-21 caught fire-then crashed into the bomb crater and exploded. Kribov grimaced, then turned to the hapless SAF Colonel who ran the base. “Does this happen every time?”

“It can, Comrade Marshal,” the Colonel replied. He got up to look around, then noticed another F-4 coming in. “More incoming!” Then he ducked back into the trench, and the others followed his example.

“GOOD HITS!” KT shouted from Hoser's back seat. “And we got a secondary!”

“What kind?” Hoser said as he jinked-and a stream of 23-mm tracers flew past his right side.

“I think a MiG taxied in front of a bomb,” said KT. “He blew up!”

Hoser sighed. Ground kills in this war-unlike in WW II, weren't officially considered a part of one's tally. Still....”His bad day.” Hoser pulled away, trying to pick up his element lead.

“Five's in hot!” Dave Golen called as he came down on his run. He easily picked out Runway 17/35, and lined up the runway in his pipper. Unlike the others, he and Flossy wouldn't know how they did, for they had the GATOR mines-a mix of antitank and antipersonnel mines, and those were the perfect things to harass repair crews, wreck some of their equipment, and generally put the fear of God into them. It would take a day, maybe two, to clear the mines and get the runways back operational, and that was the point of the exercise. Though he wouldn't mind a fight with MiGs-and two MiG-23s had managed to scramble. Dave put those thoughts aside as he lined up on the bomb run. “Steady...And....NOW!” He hit his pickle button, and his eight CBU-89s came off the racks. Golen pulled wings level and headed clear of the target, jinking all the way. “Five off target.”

In the trench, the base commander heard Golen's F-4 come by, and, glancing up, saw the CBUs fall away. But there were no explosions in its wake. Having had previous strikes, the SAF Colonel knew right away what had happened. Mines. Right away, he knew that this field was now closed, and would be for at least a day. He glanced to the south, and saw another F-4 coming in. Another mine drop, he knew.

“SHACK!” Terry McAuliffe, Golen's GIB, said. “Good pattern.”

“What do you think?” Golen asked as he jinked-and an SA-7 type missile flew down his left side. He also armed his Sidewinders, for there were two MiG-23s out there.

“That runway's closed.”

“Hope you're right.” Now, Golen wondered, where were the MiGs?

“Six in hot!” Flossy called as 1569 came in on its run. She, too, spotted the flak, and glanced at her EW display. Other than that Mainstay, it was clear. Good. Those Weasels were doing their job. Flossy ignored the flak coming up, and a couple of SA-7s fired head-on, which didn't guide, and lined up Runway 13/31 in her pipper. She, too, had the GATOR mines, and held steady as she approached the release point. “Steady....Steady.....HACK!” Flossy hit the pickle button, and eight CBU-89s came off the racks. She, too, pulled wings level and pulled away, As she got clear, Flossy called, “Six off safe.”

In the slit trench, Marshal Kribov looked up, and saw Flossy's F-4 make its run. He, too, noticed the CBUs, and at first, wondered if the bomblets had been set for delayed detonation. Then, after the F-4 cleared the airport, he realized what had been dropped. Mines....He shook his head.

“Good hits!” Jang shouted from 1569's back seat. “You got the runway!”

“How good?'” Flossy asked, arming her Sidewinders as she jinked.

Jang grinned beneath her oxygen mask. “Good enough.”

“Rambler One-seven,” Guru called. “Get your asses down and away.”

“Roger, Leader,” Jackson replied. He and Napier in One-eight dropped from their TARCAP and overflew the field. Just as they did, Gledhill in the back seat saw them. MiG-23s. Jackson saw them as well, and called a warning. “Flossy, break right! Floggers Six O'clock, coming down.”

Without thinking, Flossy broke right, hard. As she did, she saw the two MiG-23s, and the two F-4Js coming in behind them. “Thank you, whoever you are.”

“My pleasure.”

Just then, AWACS called. “Rambler Flight, Yukon. Bandits, bandits, bandits. Two bandits inbound. Bearing One-eight-one for twenty-five. Medium, closing fast. Bandits are Fulcrums. Repeat: Bandits are Fulcrums.”

Guru heard that. “Kara, Lead. On me, and tanks.” He meant the wing tanks, which he immediately jettisoned, and Kara did the same.

“With you, Lead,” Kara replied.

“Rambler One-seven, Lead. Take the Fulcrums, we'll handle the Floggers,” Guru called Jackson and Gledhill. Then he and Kara charged back south, fangs out. Sweaty and Hoser overheard the calls and did the same thing.

“Roger, Lead,” Jackson replied. He and Napier broke off from the Floggers, who had just seen the RAF Phantoms behind them and had themselves broken off from Flossy.

Flossy, meanwhile, had done a 180, and picked up the MiG wingman. He had broken right himself when his leader had picked up the F-4s behind them. Nice try, Ivan...Flossy thought as she uncaged a Sidewinder and got a growl. A few moments later, she was in the Flogger's six, and he didn't seem to be aware she was behind him. “Steady....Got a tone!” Flossy squeezed the trigger. “FOX TWO!” An AIM-9P4 shot off her left inboard rail, and tracked the MiG. The MiG driver reversed at the last moment, but that didn't help, for Flossy's Sidewinder smashed into his tail and exploded. The MiG pitched up, then down, and then plunged into Lake Brownwood, just north of the field. As it did, the canopy came off, the seat fired, and the hapless MiG driver was in a chute. “SPLASH!”

“Good kill, Flossy!” Golen yelled. He, too, was looking for the MiG leader, and found him. The MiG-23 lead was trying to pick up Flossy, but in doing so, he forgot to check his own six. “Big mistake, Ivan,” Golen muttered as he uncaged a Sidewinder. He quickly got tone, and squeezed the trigger. “FOX TWO!” An AIM-9P4 shot off his right inboard rail, and tracked the MiG. This time, the MiG pilot seemed to be unaware of the F-4 behind him, and the Sidewinder flew up the MiG's tailpipe and exploded. The MiG-23ML fireballed, and this time, there was no chute. “SPLASH!”

“Good kill, One-five,” Guru called. “Any sign of the Fulcrums?” He asked Goalie.

“I'm tryin' baby,” Goalie replied. “Wait...two hits at ten.”

“Go boresight.” That would center the radar with the gunsight, and with auto-acquisition, that would give a full lock for their new AIM-7Fs.

“You got it,” Goalie said.

However, Rambler One-seven and One-eight rendered such preparations moot. In One-seven's back seat. Squadron Leader Gledhill had both MiGs on his AWG-10 radar. “Two hits at twelve.”

“Go radar, and lock one up,” Jackson said. He may have been a Flight Lieutenant, but as pilot, he was aircraft commander.

“Steady...and...GOT HIM!”

“Taking the shot,” Jackson said. “Rambler One-seven, FOX ONE!” He squeezed the trigger, sending a Sky Flash missile after the MiG. Then, recalling the briefing the previous day, and the experiences of both the 335th and the Marines, he squeezed it again. “FOX ONE AGAIN!” Another Sky Flash missile shot away.

In the MiG leader's cockpit, the CO of Second Squadron, 515th IAP, was surprised. The Major had been on a CAP with his wingman, a Captain and Pilot 2nd Class, when the A-50 vectored them towards Brownwood. The field was under attack, and that was all the controller knew. His MiG-29A had had an avionics upgrade, but his RWR couldn't tell specific radars-only if a radar was air-to-air or surface-to-air. Still, he and his wingman acknowledged the vector, and closed in, despite what those Voyska PVO trogs said, in Frontal Aviation, once you were told to go after the enemy, the controller was no longer a concern. That was fine for defense against bombers and wayward airliners, but against tactical fighters and strike aircraft? No, the Air Force's way was better.

Now, he had several targets on his NO19 radar, and selected one. He was trying to lock one up for his R-72 radar-guided missiles when his Sirena-3 RWR lit up. He'd been locked up. Then he saw a pair of F-4s ahead of him, and one fired. “BREAK!” The Major called to his wingman, and he broke right at once. As he did, he lost sight of his wingman....

Jackson and Gledhill watched as their two Sky Flashes tracked the trailing MiG. He broke at the last minute, turning left. The first Sky Flash missed, but the left turn solved the problem for the second missile....The Sky Flash buried itself in the MiG's belly, between both engines, and the MiG-29 exploded in a ball of fire. An explosion that big, nobody could have gotten out. “Splash one Fulcrum!”

“Hear that?” Goalie asked. “Jackson and Gledhill got a MiG-29.”

“I heard. Where's the other one?”

“Going left, and Susan Napier's on him,” Goalie said.

“If he breaks our way, I'll take him,” said Guru.

In 520, Kara was jealous. MiG-29? “Lock the other one up,” she told Brainiac.

Her GIB was busy. “He's good. Can't get him.”

“Fuck that! Keep on him.”

Napier was on the MiG leader's tail. “Six clear?” She asked her GIB.

Razor Wilkinson, in the back seat, had a look around, then replied, “Six clear, Susan. He's yours.”

Napier uncaged a Sidewinder and quickly got lock. “FOX TWO!” An AIM-9L shot off the left inboard rail, and tracked the MiG. The Sidewinder flew left, then right, then tracked straight for the MiG-29, but fired its warhead harmlessly to the rear. Napier cursed, then, still having tone, she saw the MiG reverse his turn, then she shot another Sidewinder. “FOX TWO AGAIN!”

The MiG leader saw the F-4 behind him, and the Sidewinder. He maintained his turn, knowing Sidewinders couldn't track a target pulling more than a 6-G turn. Then he saw someone's SAM-maybe a Krug (SA-4) come up, and he reversed his turn to avoid the missile. Then he felt a huge jolt to the rear, every warning light came on, then he lost control. Without thinking, he grabbed the handle, and fired his K-36 ejection seat. A few moments later, hanging in his chute, he saw the grey-painted F-4 fly past. To his shock, instead of the MARINES painted on the side, he saw the roundel and tail flash of an enemy encountered up in Canada. British. “What are the English doing here?”

Napier and Razor saw the Sidewinder track the MiG and detonate. The explosion took off the left tail and horizontal stabilizer, and the MiG, trailing fire, plunged downward. Then the canopy came off, the seat fired, and the pilot was hanging in his chute. Napier was tempted to blow him a kiss as she flew by, but held it. “SPLASH ONE!”

“Copy that,” Guru replied. “Ramblers, form up and let's get the hell out of here. Weasels, cover us, then get on out.”

“Roger that, Rambler,” Coors One-three called. “MAGNUM!” He shot his last HARM at a SA-4 radar, and his wingman fired his last Standard-ARM at a AAA radar that had come up. “Coors coming out.”

Rambler Flight got back down low, and headed north. Twenty-five miles to the I-20, as they got down to 450 Feet AGL. “Whoo!” Guru said in 512. “That was an E-Ticket ride.”

“You're not alone,” Goalie replied. “One minute thirty to the fence.”

“Roger that,” Guru said. “Two, where are you?”

“Right with you, Boss,” Kara replied.

Guru took a quick look to his right, and Kara was right with him in Combat Spread. “Got you, Two. Sweaty?”

“On your six, Lead, and Hoser's with me,” Sweaty called back.

“Roger that,”

Before Guru could call him, Dave Golen came up. “Five and six are behind Sweaty.”

“One-seven and One-eight with you,” Jackson added.

“Roger, One-seven,” said Guru.

“One minute to the fence,” Goalie called.

Back at Brownwood Airport, the base commander was already shouting orders. He'd told the Control Tower to call airborne aircraft and advise them that the field was now closed, and that alternatives should be sought. Then he'd kicked his engineers into action, and the slow process of getting the field back operational began. First, though, those insidious GATOR mines-which his people were already too familiar with, had to be cleared before any work on the runways could begin. He turned to General Starukhin. “Comrade General, may we use some of your engineers to get the runways clear of mines?”

Normally, Starukhin would have refused the request. But with the Marshal here, and Starukhin noticed Kribov's eyes on him....”Of course, Colonel.” He motioned to his Chief of Staff, who then relayed the order to the Army's 323rd Independent Engineer Brigade, as well as the nearby 10th Guards Tank Division's own engineeers.

“Thank you, Comrade General,” the SAF Colonel replied.

Then two downed pilots were brought to the Colonel. He recognized one, the deputy commander from the 92nd IAP's Second Squadron, and the other, though, was a newcomer to him. “Comrades,” he said. “What happened?”

“Sidewinder, Comrade Colonel,” the Captain said. “No radar warning, and as soon as I lost control, I ejected. Saw a Southeast-Asia painted F-4 fly past.”

The Colonel nodded. Two wings and an independent squadron flew F-4s so painted in this sector, so the intelligence reports told him. “And you, Major?” He nodded at the MiG-29 pilot.

“Grey F-4, Comrade Colonel,” the Major said. “ was painted differently from the U.S. Navy or Marines, and the insignia...”

“What about it?”

“The tail flash and roundel, Comrade Colonel. They were British!”

Kribov and Starukhin overheard that. “You are certain, Major?” Kribov asked.

Seeing the Marshal, the Major stiffened to attention. “Yes, Comrade Marshal. I would swear in court!”

Kribov had a frown at that. If the British could spare a fighter squadron or two, then they could easily spare a brigade-or a division-to fight down here, especially with the Northern Theater in stalemate. “General,” he turned to Starukhin. “You do have secure communications means?” With his Yak-40 now a blazing wreck, he was out of touch with his HQ at Fort Sam Houston.

“Certainly, Comrade Marshal,” Starukhin replied.

“Good. Colonel Sergov?” Kribov's aide came up. 'Get in touch with the Air Force intelligence people at Headquarters. Inform them of this development, and request any information on any additional American Allied forces in-theater. If the British can spare a squadron, they might be able to spare a division.”

“Immediately, Comrade Marshal,” Sergov replied.

Kribov nodded. “Starukhin, let's go to your headquarters. We have many things to discuss, and this morning's events are one of them.”

In 512, Guru asked, “How far to the fence?”

“Thirty seconds,” Goalie replied.

“Roger that,” the CO said. He took a look at the EW display. That damned Mainstay still had them. Though at 450 Feet, did they have a good enough track? That, was the $64,000 question. “Yukon, Rambler Lead. Say threats?”

“Rambler, Yukon. Threat bearing One-six-five for fifty. Medium, going away. Second threat bearing One-four-zero for sixty-five. Medium, closing.”

“Roger, Yukon,” Guru replied.

“Coming up on the Fence,” Goalie called.

Guru saw the twin ribbons of I-20 appear, and just as they did, the Mainstay radar dropped off. The EW display was now clear. “Roger that. Crossing the Flight, Lead. Verify IFF is on, out.” He turned on his IFF, for the Army HAWK people were often quick on the trigger, operating on the “Shoot them down and let God sort them out” principle.

Once clear of the I-20, the flight climbed to altitude, and headed for the tanker track. After the post-strike refueling, the Weasels headed for Reese AFB and home, while Rambler headed for Sheppard. When the flight got there, they were third in the incoming pattern, behind a Marine Hornet flight and the Westbound C-141. When it was their turn, the flight made a flyby, and the four victorious aircraft did victory rolls, much to the delight of those on the ground. Then the flight formed up and landed.

As they taxied in, the crews who had scored kills popped their canopies, then held up fingers to signal kills, and the RAF people-those waiting to go out, and those who had come back, were properly ecstatic. The news crew was filming, and Ms. Wendt asked Kodak Griffith and Patti Brown-who had just come back herself from a strike, if they could send a story.

“Haven't heard anything different,” Griffith said. “But we'd best check anyway.”

“No guidance from the Tenth Air Force?” Wendt asked. She had fumed at the delay in getting out the story about General Yeager and his Yak-28 kill, but the AF had lifted the ban, and her story had gone right to CBS first, then Sydney.

“We'll make a couple of phone calls,” Brown said. “See what the deal is.”

The flight taxied into their dispersal areas-with the RAF using the revetments that Yeager's F-20s had used, while the 335th Phantoms went to theirs. Guru taxied 512 into its revetment. After getting the “Shut down” signal from his Crew Chief, Guru and Goalie went over the post-flight checklist. “That was a wild one,” Guru said. “Haven't had one of those in a while.”

“Can't all be milk runs,” Goalie reminded him. “But yeah, that strike had a high adrenalin content.”

The ground crew put the chocks around the wheels, and brought the crew ladder. After the checklist, Guru and Goalie climbed down from the aircraft and did a post-flight walk-around. Sergeant Crowley, the Crew Chief, was waiting with bottles of water for both. “How'd it go, Major?”

“Made some grounded MiGs go away,” Guru said. He took a swig of water, then added. “And a VIP transport. Somebody's going to have to go back to wherever in coach.”

“And Major Golen and Flossy each got MiGs,” Goalie added. She, too, took a swig of water. “And the Brits got a couple of Fulcrums off our asses.”

“Shit hot, Ma'am!” Crowley said. “Uh, sir...”

Guru laughed. “You can cuss all you want on the ramp, Sarge,” he said. The CO turned serious. “Five-twelve's truckin' like a champ. Don't change whatever you're doing, Sarge, and get her ready for the next one.”

Crowley beamed at that. “You got it, Major!” he said. “All right, you guys! You heard the Major. Get this bird ready for the next one.”

Guru and Goalie put on their bush hats, then went to the entrance to the revetment. Kara and Brainiac were already there. “Well?” Guru asked.

“Tore up the MiG-21 ramp,” Kara said. “And saw your VIP transport go up.”

“Who was in that?” Goalie asked.

“I'll tell Sin Licon, and he can put a query in with Tenth AF Intelligence,” said Guru. “Intel may tell us tomorrow, or they may never tell us.”

Kara spat. “Or something in between.”

Guru nodded. “Or that,” he said. “Sweaty, Hoser? How'd it go with you guys?” The CO asked as his second element came up.

“Tore up the runway, and Hoser there got a MiG on the runway,” Sweaty replied.

Hoser said, “Don't know if he ate a bomb or went into a crater. Too bad ground kills don't count.”

“Too easy,” Dave Golen said as he and Flossy, with their GIBs, came over.

“They are,” Guru nodded agreement. “Good work on those Floggers, both of you. That's what? Seven for both you two?”

Golen and Flossy nodded, then she added, “Seven for me, but Jang's first.”

Jang was smiling. “Flossy told me to expect MiGs when I took Digger's place,” she said. “She was right.”

“He'll be back next week,” Guru said. “But...we're getting two new pilots to replace the guys Yeager poached for the F-20, and you'll get teamed with one of them.”

“Sounds good to me, Boss,” Jang grinned.

Then the RAF crews came over. “Dave,” Guru said to Gledhill. “First mission in theater, and you get MiG-29s.”

Gledhill nodded. “They cared to send some of their best,” he said. “That's seven for me now, but Paul's fourth. Normally, I'd be with James, but our flight surgeon-and yours-decided he had a cold yesterday.”

Heads nodded all around. Normally, Flight Lt. James Bruce was Gledhill's pilot, but he had started a sneezing fit the previous afternoon, and both the RAF flight surgeon, along with Doc Waters, the 335th's, had examined him. The joint diagnosis was a cold, and Bruce had been immediately grounded for five days. “They do outrank us in anything medical,”

“Unfortunately,” Kara spat.

“Down, girl,” Guru said.

Sweaty turned to Susan Napier. “You've now got four, so be careful. Need to tell you what Guru there told us when Kara and I got to number four.”

Napier was curious. “What's that?”

“Simple,” Kara grinned. “Don't go looking for number five. You might run into somebody who's out for his fifth.”

“I'll keep that in mind.”

Just then, a pair of Dodge Crew-cab pickups pulled up, and Sin Licon got out of one. “Sin,” the CO nodded.

“Major,” Licon said. “We need to debrief. My RAF counterpart is waiting.”

“Let's get the MiG engagement out here,” Guru said.

Licon nodded, and he listened to the MiG-killers go through the engagement, with the usual waving of hands. “Okay, looks like Major Golen and Flossy each have their seventh,” he said.

Goalie chimed in. “And the first for Jang.”

“That it is,” Sin agreed. “Squadron Leader? Your crew and Napier's each have a MiG-29.”

Hearing that, both crews were pleased. “Thanks, Captain,” Gledhill said.

“You're welcome, sir,” Licon said. “Major, we need to get the debrief done.”

Guru nodded. “That we do. Let's get that done, then we all need to check our desks-even our RAF friends probably have squadron paperwork they need to take care of,” he said, seeing Gledhill nod. “Then we get ready to do this again.”

“We all going back out together?” Susan Napier asked.

“Depends on the ATO,” Guru replied.

“It is that,” Dave Golen added. “I've flown strikes with Guru's flight, then the next mission? I'm going with Flossy on a two-ship.”

Flossy nodded agreement. “He's right.”

“That he is,” said Guru. “Okay, let's debrief inside, then we'll find out what the ATO has for us.”
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.

Old USMC Adage
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