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Old 12-13-2014, 11:40 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Location: Auberry, CA
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The Prequel....


Ace Mission


Williams AFB, AZ: 21 April 1987 1425 Hours Mountain War Time



For Captain Matt Wiser, Executive Officer of the 335th TFS and his WSO, Captain Lisa Eichhorn, it had already been a busy day. They had flown two combat missions already, the first one being a strike into the Denver area to hit some artillery positions that had been making the lives of those in the besieged city a nightmare, and taking out a battery of 180-mm guns certainly eased the pressure on the city's defenders. Then their second mission had been a close-air support run near Soccoro, New Mexico, giving a hand to the Taiwanese Division when they'd had some Cuban artillery firing across the Rio Grande. Now, they were getting ready for their third, and hopefully, final mission, of the day.

Lt. Col. Dean Rivers, the Squadron CO, gave Capt. Wiser, call sign Guru, the mission. A pair of supply dumps, one for fuel, the other for ammunition, had been identified near Vaughn, New Mexico, and someone wanted it taken out. Though this kind of deep strike mission was normally a job for F-111s, or Marine A-6s of MAG-11, those deep strike assets were busy. And so the 335th got the call. But with so many missions, and not enough assets, the strike didn't make Guru happy. First, their electronic warfare support would only be a Marine EA-6B Prowler, but doing standoff jamming, instead of going in to directly support the strike planes. And then, they wouldn't have any F-4G Wild Weasels going with them to kill any SAM or AAA radars, as on this day they would be going in with the F-111s and A-6s. Next, the Marine F/A-18s that often accompanied strike birds to fight off MiGs would hold at the Rio Grande: at least two other strikes were going in at the same time, so the Hornets would be on call to support whoever called for help. Finally, this would be a two-ship mission. Shaking his head, Captain Wiser went to the old classroom at what prewar had been a T-37 flying training squadron's HQ to brief his flight.

He came into the room and found his WSO talking with 2nd Lt. Bryan Simmonds, whose pilot was Wiser's wingmate, 1st Lt. Valerie Blanchard, call sign Sweaty. Blanchard saw her flight lead come in, and asked the Exec, “What's up now?”

“We've got another deep-strike run. It's a two-ship, and no, I don't like this one at all,” Wiser told his flight.

Captain Eichhorn, call sign Goalie, looked at her pilot. “What do you mean?”

“I'll tell you.” And Guru proceeded to tell his flight what the CO had told him.

“Ah, for Pete's sake, Guru,” Sweaty said, “This is asking for somebody to get themselves killed.”

“Tell me about it, Sweaty,” the Exec replied. “No Weasels, no strike escort jamming, and no TARCAP.”

Simmonds, whose call sign was Preacher, asked, “So how do we do it?”

“Simple, guys. I'll tell you,” Guru said as he pulled out a TPC Chart of Central New Mexico. “Here's the river. After topping off from the tankers, we go in low. There's a mountain pass here, east of the Rio Grande and south of U.S. 60, which is a main east-west MSR for Ivan and Fidel in this part of New Mexico. With me so far?”

Heads nodded in the affirmative. “We stay low about 600 feet AGL. Go in north of Gallinas Peak, which is 8600 feet or so, then find U.S. 54 north of Corona. Then we go east and pick up U.S. 285. Then we turn north and pick up U.S. 60. We stay low at all times, until we're one minute from the target. Standard pop-up, ID our targets, and one pass only, low and fast.”

“Targets?” Sweaty asked.

“Yep. Targets. I'm taking the ammo dump on the north side of U.S. 60, just west of town. You've got the fuel dump at the U.S. 54/60/285 junction. We each get a dozen Mark-82 Snakeyes to set 'em both off. Got that?”

Sweaty and Preacher nodded.

“After that, it's a straight run to the southwest and the river. Make sure your IFF is on before you cross the river. Get into the safe transit lane, verify IFF is on, and we should be OK, though nothing's certain with those Army pukes who handle air defense,” Guru reminded his flight. “Once we're clear of the river, climb up, hit the tanker track for post-strike refueling, and come on home.”

Goalie asked her pilot, “Ordnance load?”

“Besides the Mark-82s, you mean?” When Goalie nodded yes, he went on, “Two AIM-7Es in the rear wells, four AIM-9Js, an ALQ-101 pod in the left front Sparrow well, and a full load of 20-millimeter. And two wing tanks, as usual.

“Now, defenses,” Guru went on, and he saw that he had everyone's rapt attention. “Two batteries of 57-mm, one on the north side of town, the other just to the east. There's overlapping coverage,and yeah, I do wish we had a couple of Hornets for Flak Suppression, but nothing we can do about it. There's also some ZU-23s, and you can bet everyone down there has access to SA-7s or -14s. Not to mention this: somebody there thinks it's worth protecting, because there's an SA-2 site as well.”

“SA-2!?” Both Goalie and Sweaty said at the same time.

“That's right. Just as long as you stay 2000 feet AGL or below, you're below the SA-2's minimum altitude, and five miles is their minimum range, so we should be okay on that score.”

“Bailout areas?” Sweaty wanted to know.

“Best bailout areas are away from the roads, and the Cibola National Forest west of Corona. The Jolly Greens have done good in those areas, so that's your best bet,” Guru said.

“Any chance of MiGs?” Preacher asked.

“Nearest MiG fields are Holloman, Alamogordo Regional, White Sands Space Harbor-yeah, they're using the Shuttle strip there for MiG-23s, Roswell, Cannon, and Cannon City near Carlsbad. Not Kirtland: it's too exposed to friendly artillery fire. If we get company, it'll either be from Cannon or Roswell. Hopefully, we won't have to worry: we'll be too low and too fast. Even the MiG-29s have had trouble picking us up in the ground clutter, but don't take it for granted,” Guru reminded everyone.

“Sounds familiar,” Goalie said.

“I know, Goalie,” Guru said. “If we need 'em, the Hornets will be there, and even if they're busy, there's F-15 MIGCAPs west of the river. They've bailed us out before more than once, remember?”

Heads nodded again. The Exec looked at his flight. “Any other questions?” He asked. There were none. “Okay. Wheels up in fifteen mikes. Get your gear, and see you on the ramp.”


Forty-five minutes later: Over Central New Mexico:


Firebird flight was headed east, having penetrated into enemy territory without any problems. As they flew over the New Mexico prairie, the crews saw the numerous ranches that were seemingly out in the middle of nowhere. Several AF and Marine crews had bailed out over those ranches, and the ranchers and their families put themselves at considerable risk to hide the downed aircrew until arrangements could be made for the Jolly Greens to come in and pick them up. With luck, the war would continue to pass these people by, until the day when those ComBloc bastards got kicked back across the Rio Grande. The flight kept on going, 600 feet above ground level at nearly 500 knots, too low for any ground radar to pick them up, and with luck, any airborne radar would have trouble picking them up out of the ground clutter.

“Passing Highway 54, Guru,” Goalie called. She was handling the navigation, as usual.

“Roger that. Three minutes to 285,” Guru called back. He was keeping his head on a swivel, watching for any terrain, power lines, or enemy aircraft. One never got complacent in a fighter cockpit, something he'd had drummed into his head in the F-4 RTU before the war.

“Lead, Two,” Sweaty called. “All clear so far.”

“Copy.”

The two Phantoms headed east, and then they picked up U.S. 285. The two-lane main highway was also a key supply route, and it was a favorite target for the A-6s and F-111s when they did interdiction work or armed reconnaissance, among other roads. As they passed over the highway, Goalie called “One minute to turn.”

“One minute,” Guru repeated.

“And turn,” Goalie called again.

Both F-4s made their turn northeast, and at that speed, it was only a minute until they found U.S. 60. Then they turned west, flying parallel to the road. Fortunately, there was no supply or other traffic on the road, but another problem came up. With the sun setting in their faces, helmet visors came down. Then it was time. “Thirty seconds, Guru.”

“Roger, thirty seconds,” Guru responded. Then he called Sweaty, “Two, Lead. Switches on, and let's go in.”

“Copy, Lead. Right behind you,” Sweaty called back.

The two Phantoms pulled up to about 1500 feet AGL. Vaughn was straight ahead. “Target in sight. Lead is in hot.” Guru said as he made his call.

Guru rolled in on the bomb run. He flew over the little town and picked up the camouflaged ammo dump north of the highway. He put his pipper on the middle of the dump and pickled off his twelve Mark-82s. “Lead off target.”

As it had happened so many times before, the first hint to the Soviet and Cuban defenders below was Guru's first bomb exploding. He expertly walked his twelve bombs across the ammo dump, and was rewarded with several huge secondary explosions as stored tank and artillery shells, along with other munitions, exploded, with each explosion setting off more.

Just after that, Sweaty rolled in. “Two in hot!” And just as her lead had done, she walked her bombs across her target, the fuel dump. The Soviets had placed fuel drums, rubber fuel bladders, and had even parked some tank trucks, inside the dump, and covered it with camo netting. But that didn't help, as Sweaty and Preacher's bombs went off in several orange and black fireballs, and again, sympathetic detonations followed as fires reached stored fuel and those drums or tanks went off. And not a single shot had been fired by the defenders. Just as Guru had hoped, they were too low, and were in and out fast, before the defenders could react.

“Two's off target,” Sweaty called.

“Roger, Two. Form on me, and Music on.” That meant their ALQ-101 ECM Pods were now on.

Both Phantoms formed up and headed to the southwest. As they approached the Gallinas Peak and passed it, heading over the Chupadera Mesa, AWACS called.

“Firebird One-One, Warlock. Bandits, Bandits. One-eight-zero for thirty-five.”

“Warlock, Firebird One-One. Copy. Can you get the Hornets on the bandits?” Guru called.

“Negative, Firebird. Hornets are engaged. Now One-seven-zero for twenty-five.” Warlock radioed back.

Fight's on, then. Guru thought. He called Sweaty, not by mission code, but call sign. “Sweaty, Guru. Drop tanks and fight's on!”

“Copy, Guru. Tanks gone and fight's on.” She replied.

Both Phantoms turned to face their attackers. The WSOs had their radars on, looking for their targets. Then AWACS called again.

“Firebird One-One, Warlock. Bandits on your nose, fourteen miles.”

“Roger that, Warlock,” Said Guru. “Judy.” And with the Judy-call, that meant the F-4s were taking over the intercept. Guru looked at his radar repeater. Two bandits were closing in. Then he picked up a hit on his EW warning gear. Someone was trying to lock them up.

“Can you get a lock?” Guru asked Goalie.

“No joy on that,” Goalie replied. “Looks like we'll merge.”

“Sweaty, you guys have a lock?” Guru asked his wingmate.

“We've got lock!” Sweaty called back.

“Take him.”

With that, Sweaty squeezed the trigger on her stick, not even bothering to give a Fox One call. First one, then two, AIM-7Es went off the Phantom and headed to their target. The first missile burned out and fell away, but the second flew straight and true. It looked like the bandit had turned at the last minute when he realized that he was under attack, but that didn't help him. The Sparrow flew straight through the cockpit and the enemy plane fireballed. And it was Sweaty who ID'd the bandit. “Splash one Fulcrum!”

MiG-29s, Guru thought. Our lucky day. “Other guy's turning, I've got him.” He called.

This MiG-29 was flown by the Soviet flight leader. He and his wingman had been trying to lock the Americans up for their R-27R radar-guided missiles, but the jamming and the fact that the radar on the MiG-29 still had problems in look-down/shoot-down mode meant he'd have to go into a turning fight. And that was spoiled as he saw his wingman, a young Lieutenant who was only a Pilot 3rd Class, explode as the Sparrow missile buried itself in the cockpit of the MiG and exploded. There was no parachute. As he banked away, he saw the second Phantom pull up.

Guru put the F-4 into a climb, then stomped his left rudder and pitched downwards, gaining energy as he dove. He saw the MiG-29 pull to the right, and he easily applied right rudder and maneuvered onto the MiG's Six. Too close for Sparrows, he switched the weapons-control panel to HEAT. His AIM-9Js were armed, and the seeker of one missile growled in his headset. The missile was tracking the MiG. Then it growled really loud. Missile lock. “Fox Two!”

His first AIM-9 left the rail and tracked the MiG. The Soviet pilot put out flares and chaff to decoy the missile, and the missile tracked a flare as Guru watched. He fired again. “Fox Two again!”

This time, the MiG turned to the left, but the AIM-9J kept tracking the MiG. The pilot put out more flares, but this time, it didn't help. The Sidewinder flew up the tailpipe of one of the MiG's two engines and detonated. And the explosion blew the port vertical stabilizer right off the aircraft.

The Soviet flight leader saw the second missile coming at almost the last moment, and as he put out more flares, he was reaching for his ejection seat handle, almost by instinct. He heard and felt the explosion, and lost control of his plane. And so he fired his K-36D ejection seat.

“Splash Two!” Goalie called as the MiG exploded. As Guru closed in, both pilot and WSO watched as the ejection seat fired, and the pilot was soon in his chute. His plane trailing fire, it plunged into the desert floor below and exploded on impact.

“Good kill, Lead!” Sweaty called as the MiG crashed.

“Copy that. Form on me and let's get the hell out of here,” Guru said. And both Phantoms formed up and headed back across the Rio Grande and friendly territory. And Guru called the AWACS.

“Warlock, Firebird One-One.”

“Firebird One-One, Warlock. Go.”

“Splash two Fulcrums. One chute.”

“Roger, Firebird. We copy. Do you need a vector to the tankers?”

“Affirmative, Warlock,” replied Guru.

Warlock vectored the F-4s to the tanker track near the Continental Divide. After getting enough fuel to head home, both Phantoms headed back to Williams. Before they landed, both F-4 drivers did Victory Rolls, signaling to those below that kills had been made by the pair. Then the two Phantoms formed up again, entered the traffic pattern, and landed.

As Guru taxied 512 to his revetment, he noticed a crowd gathering. He was curious as to what was so important about this time. It wasn't the first MiG he'd killed, he knew. Maybe because this one's a MiG-29, perhaps? After he taxied in, and parked, he shut down the engines. The ground crew brought the crew ladders up as the crew raised their canopies. Guru stood up in the cockpit, holding up one finger to signal a kill to those waiting for him. He noticed Colonel Rivers among those in the crowd. But Guru didn't notice several others waiting with buckets of ice water. But Goalie did. She kept her mouth shut as Guru went to speak to the CO. And then it happened.

Several of the other pilots in the squadron dumped the buckets of ice-cold water all over Guru! “What the hell?” he asked.

Colonel Rivers said, “Looks like our new ace lost track of how many kills he had before today. Nice of you folks to remind him.”

Guru said, “Thanks a bunch, guys. Guess I did lose track,”

Colonel Rivers then was all business. “What was it, Captain?” he wanted to know.

“Fulcrums, Boss. Sweaty got one with Sparrow, and I got the leader with Sidewinder. Her guy didn't get out, but the leader did,” Guru responded.

Sweaty and Preacher came over. They had missed the fun, but laughed when they saw Guru soaking wet! They knew, as did Goalie. Rivers then turned to Sweaty and Preacher. “Two squadron MiG-29 killers in one day. Good work, all of you,” he said, shaking hands of all four crewers.

Then Marine Colonel Allan Brady came over. He commanded MAG-11, which the 335th was serving under. “A pilot ace, and a pair of MiG-29 killers, all on the same hop. Well done, people.”

“Thank you, Sir,” Guru said.

“That's not all, Captain. Making ace is something to be recognized. First Phantom MiG-29 kills in MAG-11, and they happen to be from the Air Force. There's a DFC with your name on it coming as fast as the paperwork can be processed, and all of your flight members get Silver Stars.

Goalie smiled, while Sweaty and Preacher were beaming. Guru just stood there, shaking hands with the other pilots, then he walked over to his crew chief and the ground crew to thank them. Then Colonel Rivers spoke. “All right, people. Get debriefed, and then head over to the O Club. Guru's an ace, while Sweaty and Preacher have their first MiG-29. Two reasons to celebrate.”

“And the first round's on me!” Colonel Brady joined in, to rousing cheers. “But remember, knock it off at 2200. Another full day coming up.”

After the debrief, the party did get going. And the flight surgeons, both Air Force and Navy (who handed medical needs for the Marines), enforced the twelve-hour rule. So that next morning, those flying would be ready to go out and do it again. And they did.
__________________
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.

Old USMC Adage
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