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Old 04-25-2019, 09:01 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Auberry, CA
Posts: 888

Going after the flak trap, and Libyan MiG-23s come to the party:

Over Central Texas: 1035 Hours Central War Time:

Mustang and Warlord Flights were headed south, having crossed the Fence just south of I-20 and were now in enemy territory. The tanker rendezvous had been routine, and this time, the RAF Tristar topped off the Marine Hornets while the F-4Js topped up from a KC-10, and the 335th's birds used KC-135s. At the tankers, there had been the usual banter, but now, it was all business.

In 512, Guru was busy, keeping one eye on his instruments, then picking up his visual scanning. Normally, a strike flight went in at 500 to 550 Feet AGL, but this one was going in lower, at 450 Feet. Just inside the Nicaraguan II Corps sector, and still close enough to the Brazos for visual navigation. In the back seat, Goalie, like the other GIBs, was busy with the navigation, as well as watching the EW display. “Sky clear?” Guru asked. He had his own EW display, of course, but, no harm in asking.

“Sky's clear. That was Granbury behind us. Fourteen miles to Glen Rose,” Goalie replied.

“Roger that.” With all the twists and turns of the river, staying where they needed to be, without drawing fire from the East Germans on the west side, could be tricky. “Granbury Dam coming up. With flak,” Guru added.

The strike flight flew past the Granbury Dam, and the Nicaraguan gunners on the east side stayed quiet, while the East Germans on the west side opened up with 23-mm and 37-mm. This low, and this fast-500 KIAS-the strike birds were too fast to track visually. “That's the dam. Five miles to Glen Rose Bridge. Twenty seconds.”

“Copy,” Guru replied. He took a quick look at his EW display. A strobe appeared to the south, at his Eleven O'clock. The SEARCH light came on the display, and he knew what that meant. “Mainstay's up.”

“Again?” Goalie asked. “Somebody sure needs to shut those guys down-and for good.” He led the flight across a bend in the river, then back over the east side, still going south.

“No arguing that,” Guru said. “Bridge coming up.”

Guru glanced ahead at his One O'clock. Sure enough, the U.S. 67 bridge appeared, and the East Germans still opened fire. The Nicaraguan gunners, though, stayed quiet. “Got it, and flak on the west side. Five miles to Brazospoint?”

“Copy that,” Goalie said as the strike flight flew past the bridge. “There's a convoy there.” She noticed a large convoy of military vehicles at the east side of the bridge, waiting to cross.

“Not their time to die,” Guru said. “Maybe later.”

On U.S. 67, an East German convoy was waiting to cross the river. This convoy, a mixed bag of personnel and vehicle replacements for the 20th MRD, had gone through both a Cuban sector-the 2nd Army, and the Nicaraguan II Corps, and the convoy commander, a rear-services Major, had been more impressed with the Cubans than the Nicaraguans. Their Cuban comrades were taking the war much more seriously than the Nicaraguans, who seemed to want the whole thing to be over and have nothing better happen than go home. The Major had actually had a Nicaraguan Colonel order his convoy not to laager in his regiment's area of responsibility, fearing that the Imperialists would bomb not just the convoy, but his regiment as well. These people are our allies? The Major thought. Shaking his head, the convoy of BTR-60Ps, trucks, and tanks on transporters was now waiting for the traffic regulators-who were Soviet, to give permission to cross.

These replacements were originally meant for the 8th MRD up in Colorado, having been raised from the 8th's home station at Schwerin, but after the destruction of the division in the American Summer Offensive, and considerable indecision, the order was given to allocate them to the 20th MRD, which had been roughly handled recently and was in need of rest and refit. The Major, who had been in America since the beginning, and shook his head. Most of the replacements were either young draftees who, at best, had six months' training before shipping out, or were older reservists plucked from nonessential jobs. But many of the motor-rifle troops and artillerymen had only four weeks' training before being sent over, and the Major had heard that the sea lanes were a lot more contested than they had been earlier, so the word had gone around in Corpus Christi, and it would be a lot tougher to get what they needed across the Atlantic. To top matters, the Soviet 4th Guards Tank Army controlled the roads south and west of Lake Whitney, and to his fury, the convoy had to detour around through Waco, Hillsboro, and Cleburne before reaching the sector held by the Kampfgruppe Rosa Luxembourg.

The Major had just received his clearance to cross the bridge when there was shouting-and a lot of it. He stood up in his UAZ-469 jeep just in time to see six F-4 Phantoms, with four F/A-18 Hornets, thunder past, followed by two more F-4s. BTR crews manned their machine guns, while tank commanders on their T-55s (unmodified, much to the horror of the Major) did the same, and motor-rifle troops got their Strela-3 (SA-14) shoulder-fired SAMs, but the Fascist aircraft were gone before they could fire. Well, now, the Major thought. Maybe the horseshit that the Political Officer has been feeding them about controlling the air here got shown for what it was, then he got back to work. More shouting followed, and as the convoy moved across the bridge, the air watch was maintained, for the worst place a convoy could be in an air attack was to be on a bridge....

“That's Glen Rose. Brazospoint coming up,” Guru said.

“Still got the Mainstay,” Goalie replied. “No flak at One or Two,” she added.

Guru shot a quick glance. Sure enough, the East German flak gunners at both the bridge-and those hiding in the town were quiet. The latter he expected, but the former now, this was a surprise, and that only fueled his suspicions that the town crawled. “Flak at Eleven,” the CO called. The Libyans were shooting, though. As was usual.

“Got it,” Goalie said as the bridge flew by. “Your turn's coming,” she muttered.

“Say again?”

“Just reminding those bastards at the bridge and town their turn's coming,” replied Goalie. Back to business, she added, “Forty seconds to Route 174 and the north side of Lake Whitney.”

“Roger that,” Guru said. He did a visual scan, then he called the AWACS. “Crystal Palace, Mustang Lead. Say threats?”

A controller came back right away. “Mustang Lead, Crystal Palace. First threat bearing One-six-five for fifty. Medium, going away. Second threat bearing One-seven-eight for sixty. Medium, closing. Third threat bearing One-eight-five for seventy. Medium, going away. Fourth threat bearing Two-zero-five for eighty. Medium, closing.”

“Roger, Crystal Palace. Say bogey dope?”

“Mustang, first and second threats are Floggers. Third threats are Flankers, and fourth are Fulcrums.”

Flankers and Fulcrums? Maybe we'll have those guys come to the party, Guru thought. “Roger, Crystal Palace.”

“Where'd those guys come from?” Goalie asked. “East Germans send out invitations?”

“Probably,” Guru replied. A bend in the river, then the State Route 174 bridge appeared. “There's the 174 Bridge,” he called as flak puffs appeared-from both sides. As usual-East Germans on the west, Libyans on the east.

“And these guys are on the ball,” Goalie said as the bridge-and its flak gunners, flew past. “One minute to turn,” she added, starting her stopwatch.

“Roger that,” Guru said as he flew right down the middle of the lake, and the rest of the strike flight followed. He dropped even lower, to 400 feet AGL, and maintained speed.

As Mustang and Warlord Flights thundered down the lake, they attracted attention from not only locals, who were fishing to supplement the rations allotted them by the occupiers, but also Soviet soldiers on the west bank, and Libyans on the east, hoping to have fried fish as a break from Army rations. For the locals, it showed once again that the fighting was getting closer, and that the bullshit that the “Liberation Radio” blared, and the “Revolutionary America” newspaper had been feeding about “Socialist air and air-defense forces in control of the skies” was nothing but. While the Soviets and Libyans saw the aircraft, and were wondering where was their own air forces, along with taking what their own Political Officers told them with a huge grain of salt.

“How long to turn?” Guru asked in 512.

“Thirty seconds,” Goalie called. “Still short of the dam.”

“And the flak at the dam,” Guru said. “Turn in when?”

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

Guru turned right, putting 512-and the rest of the strike-on a heading of Two-seven-zero. That took them just south of the town of Meridian, which they flown by on past strikes, and had hit on occasion. “Meridian next stop,” Guru said.

“Copy that,” replied Goalie. “Forty-five seconds.”

Guru nodded, then took a look at the EW display. Still just the Mainstay. “Crystal Palace, Mustang Lead. Say closest threat?”

“Mustang Lead, Crystal Palace. Threat bearing One-eight-five for forty. Medium, going away,” the controller replied. “Threats are Flankers.”

“Roger that,” Guru called back. “The Mainstay may not have us.” A quick glance at the EW display showed only the single radar.

“Here's hoping,” Goalie said. “Twenty seconds.”

“Copy,” Guru said. They got closer to the town, and Guru spotted it. “Meridian at One.”

“Got it. Turn in ten....five, four, three, two, one, MARK!”

Guru put 512 into another right turn, just west of the town, and headed north. “One minute to target.”

“It is,” Goalie said. “Set 'em up?” She asked, meaning the armament controls.

“Do it.”

In Meridian, things were tense. The Nicaraguan garrison, along with the Soviet Rear-Area Protection Troops, was having a hard time with the new arrivals from a few days earlier, the 254th Guards MRR, from the 144th Guards Motor-rifle Division. Battered in its first combat in support of the East Germans, the regiment-and the division-was now undergoing reconstitution, and waiting on personnel and equipment replacements. The Major in command of the regiment was a busy man, trying to get his regiment combat-ready again, while at the same time trying to maintain good relations with the garrison-a mix of Nicaraguans as well as Rear-Area Protection Troops from Central Asia. Neither of which was interested in the slightest in doing anything to either antagonize the local population, or in mounting any kind of counter-guerilla actions. Both were content to keep the roads open, which they did from the safety of the town, and mounting the occasional patrol for about a dozen kilometers in all directions. Though the latter had been eager to show the Nicaraguans and the locals who was boss, the arrival of the 254th MRR had changed that. Then again, there was hardly any activity from the Counterrevolutionaries who called themselves the American Resistance, apart from occasional graffiti, slashed tires, shots fired, and so on. The Major knew, though, that the underground was laying low, biding its time until the U.S. Army got close, then it would make its presence known. All he wanted was to be well away from this town when that happened.

No, the two biggest headaches were on his own side, the Major knew. The Political Officer was on his back, wanting to increase the amount of Political Training for the men, since most of the Komosomol members in the regiment had been killed or wounded, much to the Zampolit's despair, and hardly any of the men-most of whom were reservists from Estonia-were the least bit interested. Add to that the local PSD man, whom the Nicaraguan garrison commander had warned him was a swine of the worst sort, getting on everyone's bad side, and the Nicaraguan-a former university professor-had told the Major that if someone stuck a knife in the ribs of the PSD man, no one would complain in the slightest, or be interested in looking for the culprit.

The Major was in his office at City Hall, going over a list of what his regiment still needed to get back to combat-ready status, when he heard the rumble of jets. He went to his office window, and saw several American F-4s and F/A-18s heading north, then two more F-4s came by, following the others. Hearing the now-expected cheers from some of the locals, the Major shook his head. The Regiment was still short of air-defense weapons, and he doubted that they would get any 2S6 vehicles, and would likely be issued ZSU-23s instead. The Major wondered what the rest of the day would bring, then he sat back at his desk and got back to work.

“Meridian's in the rear-view,” Guru said.

“It is,” Goalie said. She had been working the armament controls. “Ordnance is set. Everything in one go.”

“Good girl,” Guru said. “Flight, Lead. Switches on, Music on, and stand by to pull.” He called, turning on his ALQ-119 ECM pod as he did so.

“Roger, Lead,” Kara replied, and the others followed.

“Warlord Lead copies,” Major Pritchett called. “On your call.”

“Thirty seconds,” Goalie advised.

The AWACS then came on the line. “Mustang, Crystal Palace. Threat bearing Zero-four-five for forty. Low, closing. Bandits are Floggers. Repeat: Floggers inbound.”

“Where'd they come from?”

“No idea, but Libyans would be my bet,” Guru said. “Time to pull?”

“Fifteen seconds,” Goalie said. “Pull in ten...five, four, three, two, one...PULL!”

Guru pulled up, and as 512 climbed past 1,000 feet, he saw the phony FROG site off to the right, and up ahead, Brazospoint. “Flight, lead, Target in sight. Warlords, go to work.”

“Roger that!” Warlord Lead replied. Four F/A-18s climbed higher, hoping to get the East German SAM operators to turn on their radars. Then everyone's EW displays lit up. “SA-8 up!”

“Got SAM radars up,” Guru said. “Time to go in,” he added as “MAGNUM!” calls came from the Hornets.

“Let's go,” Goalie said.

“Roger that!” Guru replied as he came down on his bomb run.

In Brazospoint, at the F.M. 56/F.M. 1175 intersection, an East German Army Colonel was pleased. He had studied how the Vietnamese had used flak traps against the Americans and their Saigon puppets, and had also seen how their Cuban allies had done the same-both in America as well as at home in Cuba, with some good results. He had gone to the Kampfgruppe's air defense commander, also a Colonel, and had suggested doing the same. The Colonel's suggestion was approved, given the air strikes that the Fascists had been inflicting on them, and General Metzler, the Commander of the Kampfgruppe, had issued orders forming this special air-defense battalion. Though the commanders of both the 11th and 20th MRDs and the 9th Panzer Division had objected, insisting that the equipment and personnel be used to replace losses in their own divisions, those objections had been brushed aside, and the requested equipment and personnel allocated, in most instances, fresh off the ships in either Houston, Corpus Christi, even Mexico.

Now, on the battalion's first day in combat, the results had been good in their first engagement. A decoy Luna-M (FROG-7) missile site had been set up, knowing that American reconnaissance aircraft would spot them, and that an air strike would be laid on to catch the supposed missile unit. Sure enough, four F-4s had attacked earlier in the morning, and had run into a well-placed ambush of Romb (SA-8), Strela-10 (SA-13) and Strela-3 (SA-14) missiles, as well as ZSU-23-4 and ZU-23 antiaircraft guns. One of the Imperialist aircraft had gone down, and the two crewmen captured, while another had been seen to be smoking heavily and streaming fuel as it headed to the north.

The two downed crewmen had been most obstinate, refusing to answer questions, even after some smacks with a rifle butt, and the two had been sent off to the Kampfgruppe headquarters for a proper questioning by the intelligence officers there. A good start to the day, the Colonel felt, even if those Libyan black-asses across the river had insisted on joining in with their own antiaircraft fire and missiles. Oh, well, some things couldn't be helped, though the Colonel did accept a liaison officer from the Libyans to coordinate their efforts.

Now, the Colonel was waiting for the next attack. It was inevitable, he knew, and even if the Americans suspected the missile unit was a decoy, they always tried to attack such units, as the chance to knock them out had to be taken. So, some additional decoys had been put out, and to give the impression that some damage had been inflicted after the previous raid, some smoke pots had been lit near decoys. That should fool the Imperialist pilots long enough to let his men give them another bloody nose.

Satisfied, the Colonel was going back to his BTR-70 command vehicle when shouts from a nearby Romb launcher, followed by the whooshing of missiles being launched, made him do a double-take. The Fascists were back! He ran for his vehicle, and as he got in, saw not only the nearby Romb vehicle take an antiradar missile hit and explode, but an F-4 was coming in from the south. Had the Americans realized their mistake? No matter....The Colonel jumped into his vehicle.

“Lead's in hot!” Guru called as he rolled 512 in on the bomb run. He saw the missile launch, and a HARM missile go in after the SA-8 vehicle. The SAM radar went off on the EW display, he noted, and the missile went ballistic. Ignoring the ZU-23s sending up tracers, he concentrated on the bomb run, picking out two ruins with tracks going into them. Your bad morning, Franz, Guru thought as he approached bomb release. “Steady....And...Steady.....HACK!” He hit the pickle button, sending his six Mark-82 Snakeyes and six M-117Rs onto the East German positions below. Guru then pulled up and away, applying power and jinking as he did so. Only when he crossed the Brazos did he call, “Lead's off safe.”

“Was in...” the Colonel muttered as he closed the BTR's door behind him, and he heard Guru's F-4 thunder past, followed by the sounds-and the the concussion-of bombs going off. He then heard two more explosions, and that meant either a ZSU-23-4 or a Strela-10 had taken a bomb hit. Ordering his driver to back out of the building, he opened the turret hatch, and stuck his head out. What he saw surprised him. Two of the ruined buildings that concealed ZSU-23-4s had taken direct hits and both vehicles and ruins were now ablaze, and another that a Strela-10 (SA-13) launcher was also burning, then a secondary explosion followed. Missile cook-off, the Colonel knew. A quick glance to the south saw several American aircraft circling, and firing missiles at ground targets. Antiradar missiles? Then he saw another smoke trail in the air. Another F-4 was coming in.

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

“How many?” Guru asked as he jinked right, and a SA-7 or SA-14 flew past the left side of the aircraft.

“Two, no, make that three.”

That was good enough, the CO knew. “Those'll have to do,” he said as he headed north.

Kara came in on 520's run, and made the call, “Two's in hot!” She, too, ignored the flak coming up, and even a missile-probably an SA-8 in optical mode or an SA-13, which flew above 520 as it came down. She saw the CO's run, the explosions that were left in his wake, and noticed several ruins that had not been hit. Picking out two, Kara came down, and saw a dust cloud as a vehicle back out of another ruin. Smart guy, she thought as the ruined town grew closer and she approached bomb release. “And....And... And...NOW!” Kara hit her pickle button, and her dozen bombs came off the racks. She pulled up and away, applying power and jinking as she did. “Two off target,” Kara called as she crossed the Brazos.

The Colonel scowled as Kara's F-4 came over. Ducking involuntarily, he dropped down into the BTR, and first, the rumble of the jet engines, followed by the bombs going off, and not only did he hear two more larger explosions, but a bomb landed close to his vehicle, tossing everyone inside around, and knocking off one of the radio antennas. He gestured to one of the sergeants, who went outside to see what could be done, then he looked around. The four aircraft orbiting overhead had been joined by two more, and those appeared to be F-4s. Then his heart sank as he saw another F-4 coming in on a run, and this one was coming right at him.....

“SHACK!” Brainiac's call came from 520's back seat. “We got a couple of secondaries!”

“Anything coming back?” Kara asked as she headed north, jinking as she did, and picking up the CO's smoke trail.

“Nothing yet.”

“Three's in!” Sweaty called as she came in on her run. As she came down, Sweaty saw some of the tracers coming up from the ZU-23s, and the smoke and flame left by Guru and Kara after their runs. Sweaty noticed a couple of ruins that had escaped attention, along with a vehicle of some kind that was just behind one. Time to fry, Sweaty said to herself as she went in on the bomb run. Ignoring the flak, and at least one missile that flew past on the right side of her aircraft, Sweaty lined up the ruins in her pipper. “And...Steady...And..And.....HACK!” She hit the pickle button, and ten BLU-27 Napalm bombs -these had fins for high-angle delivery, unlike those used on CAS, which meant a low-level run and a laydown drop, came off the racks. She then pulled up and away, jinking as she did, and once clear of the Brazos, called out, “Three's off target.”

“Gott in himmel...” the Colonel said as Sweaty's F-4 came over, and silvery bombs came off the aircraft. Not having been anywhere near an area that had been hit by napalm, he wondered what type of bombs he was being hit with when the first one landed and ignited. Napalm! The Colonel ordered his driver to back out, and as he did, one of the vehicle hides took a direct hit and the ZSU-23-4 in the hide erupted in a fireball as the Napalm drenched the vehicle in flames. Then a cannister hit his BTR, and all of a sudden, the APC felt like an oven. The last thing the Colonel felt was the heat as the fuel tanks exploded....

“BULLSEYE!” Preacher yelled from the back seat. “Got the bastards!”

Sweaty grinned beneath her oxygen mask. “How good a barbeque?”

“Red-hot,” Preacher replied. “Pardon the pun.”

“They'll burn,” Sweaty said as she jinked right, then left, then right again, and a missile-which looked like a shoulder-fired one, flew beneath the aircraft.

Not far from where the Colonel's BTR had been hit, an East German Major-who was second-in-command of the battalion, grimaced. It wasn't supposed to be like this, he knew, but kept those thoughts to himself. But this time, the Imperialists had them figured out, and were making the air-defense battalion pay for it. He called up the battery commanders on the radio in his own BTR-70, and got either static, or in one case, a very harried captain who begged off, saying he was trying to move to stay alive. The Major frowned, and stuck his head out the BTR's turret. He first looked to the south, and saw another Fascist F-4 coming in. “Schisse!” He muttered as he ducked back into the APC.

“Four's in hot!” Hoser called as he came in on his run. He heard the others make their runs, as well as Dave and Flossy calling “Rifle!” as they shot AGM-65s at whatever targets presented themselves. Hoser saw where his element lead had made her run, and he decided to put his load to the right of Sweaty's, where at least two ruined buildings had not been hit. Can't leave you, Hoser thought as he came in on his run. He lined them up in his pipper, and waited....”Steady....And...And....HACK!” Hoser hit his pickle button, and his ten BLU-27s came off the racks. He then applied power and pulled up to clear the area, jinking as he headed north. “Four's off safe.”

“Of all the...” the Major frowned as Hoser's F-4 went in on its run, and left napalm canisters in its wake. He grimaced as several of the cannisters struck hides, and at least one of them erupted as a Strela-10 (SA-13) launcher exploded. Another Strela-10 tried to back out of its hide, but had gotten stuck. Several soldiers tried to get the vehicle free, then a missile came in from out of nowhere and exploded it-catching at least two of the soldiers in the fireball. What in hell? Then he looked up and around, and saw two F-4s orbiting, and occasionally firing a missile at a ground target. Then both F-4s dropped back down low and headed north, followed by two more. The Major shook his head, and turned to a Lieutenant who, by the expression on his face, had never been in any kind of combat before. “There's one good thing that came out of this.”

“Comrade Major?” The Lieutenant asked, looking very pale. The smell of charred flesh was starting to drift with the wind, and he was smelling it.

“The Political Officer was with the Colonel,” said the Major, gesturing to the burning BTR that had been the Colonel's vehicle. A body hung half in and out of the turret, burning, and another body was in one of the hatches, also half in and out, and it, too, was burning. Several charred corpses lay near the vehicle-missile gunners, the Major thought. “One less thing to worry about,” he said as four more American fighters, Hornets by the look of them, flew by, headed north. “Contact Army headquarters in Stephenville. Request all possible assistance.”

“Yes, Comrade Major.”

In Mustang One-five and One-six, Dave Golen and Flossy had been orbiting, watching the others go in, and taking Maverick shots as the opportunity presented. Golen watched two of the Marines' HARM missiles hit SA-8 launchers, but the vehicle hadn't fireballed. So he had Terry McAuliffe, his GIB, put a Maverick each into those two launchers, and as they blew, watched with satisfaction as another HARM took out another launcher, and this one fireballed. Between himself and Flossy, the third element would claim two SA-8s, at least one ZSU-23-4, two SA-13s, and several truck-mounted ZU-23s. Once Flossy called her last “Rifle” shot, which, much to her disgust, “went dumb”, Golen called. “One-five and one-six coming out.”

“Roger, One-five,” Guru replied, as Kara joined up on him. “Rambler One-seven, get your asses down and away.”

“Roger, Leader,” Flight Lt. Paul Jackson, who was Gledhill's pilot, replied.

Just then, the AWACS called. “Crystal Palace for Mustang and Warlord. Bandits, Bandits! Bearing Zero-eight-five for twenty. Medium, closing fast. Bandits are Floggers. Repeat: Bandits are Floggers.”

“SHIT!” Guru yelled over the IC, then he called AWACS. “Crystal Palace, Mustang Lead. Say bandit numbers.”

“Mustang, you have multiple bandits,” the controller replied.

“Roger that,” Guru replied. “Two, on me, drop tanks and break,” he told his wingmate, fully intending to join the party.

Kara replied immediately. “Right with you. Going low,” she said, intending to break low.

“Copy,” Guru replied. “Going high,” he said as the CO broke 512 hard left and climbed, while Kara did the same, only low and to the right, with both F-4s jettisoning their wing tanks as they did so.

Sweaty chimed in. “Three and four coming to the party.” She dropped her tanks, and Hoser, seeing his element lead do so, did the same.

“Tigers invited?” Paul Jackson asked.

“Bring 'em, One-seven,” Guru replied. “Goalie, go boresight.” That would link the radar to the gunsight, and with the auto-acquisition switch on the throttle, would give him a full system lock for their two AIM-7Fs.

“Roger that, and you're boresighted,” Goalie replied. “Four hits at twelve, eight miles.”

“Warlords have eight Floggers,” Warlord Lead called. “We can handle 'em.”

“Copy,” Guru said. He centered his pipper on a dot to the southeast. Then the beeping sounded in his headset. Missile lock. “FOX ONE!” He squeezed the trigger, and two AIM-7Fs came off the fuselage.

In the MiG-23ML that Guru had targeted, a Libyan Air Force Captain smiled. Their German allies had sprung a trap on the Americans, and with one of their own brigades across the river, the brigade commander had used the Libyan military's own communications channels to request air support, as he intended to join the flak trap, and get some of the credit for himself as well as the Libyan Armed Forces. And the officers knew that any kind of success would do well, for there had been nothing but bad news since May, when half of the Libyan Army's forces in America had been among those caught in a pocket in Colorado during the American counteroffensive, and had been destroyed-either in combat or having been forced to surrender. Word had come down that Colonel Qaddafi in Tripoli was not pleased, and was demanding that his forces exert themselves to greater efforts and success.

To that end, when a Soviet Air Force MiG-23 regiment stood down to go to Mexico to convert to the MiG-29, the aircraft were transferred to the Libyans-and rumor had it, for a price in hard currency. Though delighted at getting additional aircraft, the Libyans had found out that the aircraft had seen extensive service, and needed some serious maintenance before they were considered combat-ready. For the Libyans, though, despite the aircraft, there was a shortage of pilots. Only half of the pilots in the 1047th Fighter Squadron were Libyan, the rest being seconded from Syria, the PDRY, DPRK, and even some Palestinians had been trained in Libya-intending to be the nucleus of a Palestinian People's Air Force, but were mainly engaged either in North America or in defending the homeland against the air attacks by the Americans' Sixth Fleet. And as the 1047th went, so did the rest of the air force. The Captain had this first hand, for his wingman wasn't Libyan, but was a Yemeni.

Suddenly, his RWR was beeping, and he knew he'd been targeted. Then two missiles appeared at his Twelve O'clock, and he called the break. How did the Americans find out?

“Damn it!” Guru growled as both Sparrows failed to score. One had missed, but the other had fired its warhead just after the MiG-23 broke right. “They're breaking.”

“Got the wingman,” Kara said. “FOX ONE!” She fired her two Sparrows, only to see the wingman also break, with one Sparrow just plain not guiding, but one appeared to track, but as the MiG broke, the Sparrow went dumb. “Sparrows still being Sparrows.”

“Easy,” Guru said as he turned, intending to pick up the leader. “FUCK!” He shouted, then broke hard left. “Two more coming in.”

“Got 'em, Lead,” Sweaty said as she came in on the two newcomers. She didn't bother with Sparrow, but rolled in behind the element lead and uncaged a Sidewinder. “Come on, you...” she muttered. Then the growl went loud in her headset. Sidewinder lock....”FOX TWO!” She squeezed the trigger, and an AIM-9P shot off the left inboard rail. The missile tracked, and smashed into the MiG's tail, sending the MiG-23 into the river. The pilot didn't get out. “SPLASH!”

“Sweaty's got one,” Goalie said.

“Good for her,” Guru said as he maneuvered to pick up a MiG that crossed in front of him. “Two, you with me?”

“Right with you,” Kara replied.

“Stay with me,” he said as he tried to line up a shot, then the MiG broke left and climbed, and Guru turned to follow. He saw a green circle on both wings, and knew right away who that was. “Libyans.”

“They're here?” Goalie asked. “Leave it to Qaddafi's boys to come to the party.”

“They did,” Guru said as he tried to line up a shot, then the MiG broke again, this time to the left. “This guy's good.”

“Not good enough,” Goalie said as Guru put 512 into a left turn.

“Lead, One-seven,” Paul Jackson called. “We've got him.”

“Roger, One-seven,” replied Guru. Press to engage, we'll cover.”

“Roger, Leader,” Jackson replied. He was too close for a Sky Flash, but uncaged a Sidewinder. The missile seeker growled in his headset, then growled very loud. “FOX TWO!” An AIM-9L shot off the right inboard rail, and tracked the MiG-23. It flew up the MiGs' tail and exploded it. The MiG, trailing fire, plunged into the ground just west of the Brazos, in the East German sector, and there was no chute. “SPLASH!”

“Good shot, Paul,” Dave Gledhill said in the back seat.

“Thanks, old man. Now, where's his wingman?”

Up above, Dave Golen and Flossy were watching, and covering their squadron mates. With only two AIM-7Fs and cannon, they couldn't do much, but they did call out MiGs. And one of them was closing in on the CO. “Guru and Kara, break!”

Without even thinking, Guru pulled low and right, heading for the deck, while Kara broke high and left. The MiG turned with Guru, who then pulled into a high yo-yo, using the F-4's superior power and acceleration to get clear of the MiG. As he did, the MiG-23 climbed, then leveled out. Right in front of Mustang One-eight.

“Bloody hell!” Susan Napier yelled as the MiG climbed ahead of them and leveled out. “Anyone ever teach this guy to keep his head on a swivel?”

“He just sent us an invitation,” Razor Wilkinson added from the back seat as he looked around.. “You're clear. Take him.”

“Then he'll get an RSVP,” Napier said. Not even bothering with a Sky Flash, she selected a Sidewinder, and got tone. “FOX TWO!” Napier squeezed the trigger, once, then again, sending two AIM-9Ls after the Libyan. One of the missiles fired halfway to the target, but the other one flew straight and true, flying up the MiG's tailpipe and exploding it. Like the MiG her CO had killed, there was no chute. “SPLASH ONE!”

“That's two for the RAF, Lead,” Kara said.

“I heard,” Guru replied as he was looking around, looking for at least one more MiG that was out there. Then he saw a MiG-23 turning to the east, and one of his birds closing in. “Who's got him?”

“Four, Boss,” Hoser called. “He's mine.” Hoser put his pipper on the MiG and got tone. He squeezed the trigger, and another AIM-9 left a rail. “FOX TWO!” This one tracked the MiG....and it fired its warhead just beneath the aft fuselage of the Flogger. The MiG caught fire, and this time, the canopy fired, the ejection seat fired, and as Hoser flew by about five hundred feet, the pilot was in his chute. “SPLASH!”

“Good kill, Hoser!” Sweaty called. “Lead, that all of 'em?”

“Stand by, Sweaty,” Guru replied. “Warlords, need any help?”

“Negative, Mustang,” Pritchett replied. “Five splashed, three beat it. Four Hornets coming out.”

“Roger that, Mustang, Warlord. Form on me and let's get the hell out of here.” Eight F-4s and four F/A-18s formed up, got down low, and headed back north.

Back at the Brazos, the Libyan Captain was hanging in his chute. His left shoulder was in pain, and he knew he'd dislocated it at the very least. The Captain looked around as he came down, and he saw where six of his squadron's aircraft had crashed, and smoke clouds were rising from the crash sites. He saw, before he had been shot down, two others crash into the river, and there had been no chutes. A look around saw that there was only one other chute above him, and one other below. Five pilots killed and three others had escaped....Not good, he knew. And with a busted shoulder, he was grounded for who knew how long. The Captain saw soldiers converging on his location, and they started shooting at him, thinking, despite his square parachute, that he was an American. Shouting in Arabic and in Russian, they stopped shooting, and as he landed, they came to him. He recognized the uniforms at once. East Germans, and that meant he'd come down west of the Brazos River. “I'm Libyan,” he said in Russian.

“Are you injured?” An East German officer asked as the soldiers got the pilot out of his chute.

“Shoulder,” the Captain replied, hanging on to his left shoulder.

“We'll fix you up,” the East German-a lieutenant by his shoulder boards-said. “Then we'll get you back to your own base. Did you get any of them?” He waved, and a vehicle came their way.

“No,” the Captain spat as a UAZ jeep pulled up. “How about you?”

“This time? We didn't get any, either. And they got most of us.”

Mustang Flight reformed just north of the Brazospoint bridge, and this time, they flew right down the middle of the river, then turned right short of the Glen Rose Bridge. Guru took a look to the right, and there was Kara and Brainiac in 520, right with them in Combat Spread. “Get any, Two?”

“No joy,” Kara spat back. “Not this time.”

“Three's got one,” Sweaty replied. “On your six, Lead.”

“Four has a kill,” Hoser added.

“Five and Six coming up,” Dave Golen called.

“Seven and eight following,” Jackson added.

“Lake Granbury Dam at Eleven,” Goalie said in 512. “And the flak,” she added.

Again, the East German gunners shot at the aircraft as they headed north, and, as usual, the Nicaraguans stayed quiet.

After clearing the dam, Guru asked Goalie, “Time to the Fence?” That meant the FLOT and I-20.

“One minute ten,” was Goalie's reply.

“Copy that,” Guru said. He glanced at the EW display. “That damned Mainstay's still there.” A strobe with the SEARCH warning light was still there. Not as bright as before, but it was there.

“Wonder what he saw a couple minutes ago?” Goalie wondered aloud.

“His problem,” Guru calmly replied. “Granbury's coming up.”

“Got it, and flak at the west side of the bridge.” Again, the East German flak gunners were shooting, and the Nicaraguan ones stayed quiet.

The bridge and the city of Granbury flew past, and it wasn't long until the fence. Though the FLOT was south of I-20, the interstate was considered the Fence for operational purposes. Guru turned right a couple of degrees, bypassing the I-20 bridges over the Brazos. The Army I-HAWK battery there had a habit of shooting first regardless of IFF, and he had no intention of testing them again. “Flight, Lead. Music off, and IFF on, out.” He turned off his ECM pod, and the EW display became clear. “No more Mainstay.”

“He'll be back,” Goalie reminded him. “And so will we.”

“That we will,” Guru said.

The flight climbed to altitude, then made for the tankers north and northwest of Mineral Wells. Again, the RAF birds tanked from their own Tristar, and both F-4Js did victory rolls once clear of the tanker. Sweaty and Hoser did the same for the KC-135 that had tanked them, and to the tanker crews, it helped make their day, knowing that their efforts had made the fighters' mission-whatever it was, a success.

Once clear of the tankers the strike flight headed back to Sheppard. As on takeoff, they were first in the pattern. Before landing, though, as they came into the pattern, those F-4 and Hornet pilots who had scored kills did victory rolls, much to the delight of those on the ground. Then they formed up in the pattern and landed.

As the aircraft taxied in, Ms. Wendt and her crew were filming. And they saw four F-4 crews-two of them British-holding up fingers to signal kills. “Any chance of us talking to them?” She asked Lieutenant Patti Brown.

“I'll talk to the CO,” Brown replied. She was getting ready to go back out herself. She was in Kerry Collins' flight. “May have to wait until I get back.”

Ms. Wendt nodded. “Do the best you can. And be careful. Heard two crews didn't come back this morning.”

“You heard right,” the Lieutenant said. “CO should fill you in.”

Guru taxied in, popped the canopy, then took 512 into its revetment, and after getting the “Shut down” signal from his Crew Chief, took off his oxygen mask and took a deep breath. “That was one hell of a ride.”

“You're not kidding,” said Goalie. “Second straight day we were in a dogfight, and didn't get anyone.”

“Kara didn't either,” Guru reminded her. “Still one behind her,” he added as they went through the post-flight checklist. “That'll come soon enough.”

“It will.”

They finished the checklist, then climbed down from the aircraft. After taking off their helmets, Sergeant Crowley came over. “Major, Lieutenant? How'd my bird do?” He handed both the CO and his GIB a bottle of water.

“Made some East Germans have a bad morning,” Guru said. He then downed half the bottle.

“Really bad, when Sweaty and Hoser laid down some napalm,” Goalie added.

“Shake and bake?” Crowley asked as the ground crew got to work.

“It was,” Guru said. “Five-twelve's working like a champ. Get the post-flight done, then get yourselves some chow, Sarge. After that, get her ready for the next one.”

“Yes, sir!” Crowley said. “Okay you guys, you heard the Major. Finish up the post-flight, we'll eat, then get this bird ready for the next one.”

The ground crew went to work, as Guru and Goalie found a couple of water buckets. They filled them with water, then went to the revetment's entrance. Kara and Brainiac were there, and were joined by Dave Golen, Flossy, Terry McAuliffe, and Jang. “How'd things go with you all?” Guru asked.

“Made some of those air-defense people go away,” Kara said. “And you did, too.”

“Saw two or three secondaries,” Goalie nodded.

“And that was a hell of a fight we saw,” Dave Golen added. “First time in a while I've seen so many in a fight-and quite a few falling.”

“All of those being bad guys,” said Flossy. “Bring back memories?”

“Lebanon, back in '82,” Golen admitted. “Always good to see the enemy going down and none of your people.”

“Speaking of which, here come our MiG-killers,” Jang said. “Nice shooting, you two,”

Sweaty was grinning. “Thanks. Always good to pick up a kill, and did anyone see who those guys were?”

“Green circles on the wings,” Guru nodded. “Same on the tail, and want to bet on the intakes, too?”

“No bets,” replied Kara. “Those three add up to Qaddafi's boys.”

Golen nodded. “Libyans,” he agreed. “Don't they have a squadron nearby?”

“They did,” said KT. “How many came our way?”

“A dozen, and that's a squadron,” Sin Licon said as he came up. “How many got splashed, sir?” Sin asked the CO.

“We and the Brits got four, and the Marines got five,” Guru said. “Rest of 'em made themselves scarce.”

The intel nodded. “Major, we need to debrief. My RAF counterpart's waiting, and 451's intel is on her way.”

“First things first,” Guru said. “We'll be there, but got something to celebrate.” He turned to the crews. “Get yourselves some buckets of water. Susan Napier made ace this morning, and we need to mark the occasion.”

“Got you,” Kara nodded. She recalled the celebration on the ramp after she made ace, and the....interlude that happened that night. Even the then-XO finding her in Frank Carson's cockpit, nude, and having puked all over the instrument panel.

The crewers got buckets of water, then went to the RAF's dispersal area. Dave Gledhill and Paul Jackson saw their 335th counterparts with helmet bags in one hand, and buckets of water in another, and knew right away what was on the agenda. The USAF people got to the revetment used by Napier's bird, and Guru motioned Gledhill over. “Dave, I think you know what this means.”

“I do,” Gledhill smiled. “Want me to do the honors by calling her over?”

“Please do,” Guru said as he set down his helmet bag. “Razor qualify?” He asked.

Gledhill nodded. “He has two with his previous pilot, and two, now, three, with Susan. He's got his fifth.”

“Then do the honors,” Guru said. The 335th people got ready.

“Susan, Razor?” Gledhill called. “Got something for you.”

“Just a moment,” Napier replied. She was going over something with her crew chief, then she and Razor came over. “What is it, sir?”

“Our Septic friends have a little something for you,” Gledhill said, then he stepped aside.

“What?” Napier asked, then she saw a dozen 335th aircrew, all with buckets of water in their hands. Realizing what was about to happen, all she could say was, “Oh, fuck.”

“Both of 'em?” Sweaty asked Guru.

“Both,” Guru said. “NOW!” Both RAF crew were drenched with cold water! “Congratulations, both of you. You only make ace once!” Guru said as both RAF crew staggered away.

“Damn, Major, that's cold!” Napier said.

“If you think that's cold, try the Brazos or Lake Whitney this time of year,” Kara said. “This beats that.”

“It does,” Sweaty added.

“We'll celebrate in the Club, but you two are aces, and nobody can take that away from you,” Guru said. “Let's get the debrief done, get some chow, then we get set to do this again.”

“That we do,” Kara said.

Gledhill nodded. “And those East Germans?”

“Got some payback for C.J and Notso,” Goalie said. “We made those guys burn, bleed, and blow up.”

“In no particular order,” Preacher added.

Guru nodded. “Hopefully. Come on. We need to make the intels happy.”

Hearing that, Sin Licon was pleased. “That you do, sir,”

“Let's go,” Guru said.

“As long as they don't have the suggestion of Tri-tip Sandwiches among the lunch choices,” Sweaty quipped.

“That bad?” Paul Jackson asked. “Thought you people were joking with us.”

“Look at it this way,” Flossy said. “They come from the Department of Cruel and Unusual Nourishment.”

“So they're that bad?” Razor asked.


“And we're not kidding,” Guru said. “Let's go and get this out of the way.”
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.

Old USMC Adage
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