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  #481  
Old 02-22-2019, 10:25 AM
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rcaf_777 rcaf_777 is offline
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How dose the Frank story line go? it seems to all over the map
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  #482  
Old 02-23-2019, 07:37 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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He's involved in a friendly-fire incident two weeks later: two stories cover that. One telling the incident, and the other dealing with his court-martial after the war.
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Old 04-25-2019, 07:46 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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The next day gets started:



335th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Sheppard AFB, TX: 19 November, 1987, 0530 Hours Central War Time:


Major Matt Wiser walked from Officer Country to the Squadron Offices. One thing about Fall, was that the nights got longer, for only now was the first hint of light appearing on the Eastern Horizon. Taking a glance at the sky, the stars were still visible, and that meant good flying weather. Pleased at that thought, he went into the office, and found the night-shift crew at work. The SDO on nights, Hacksaw, saw him.

“Major,” Hacksaw said. “You're a little early.”

“Woke up a few minutes early, so I decided to go ahead and get up,” the CO said. He glanced at his office. “XO not in yet?”

“No, Boss, and it's been pretty quiet. There was a Scud attack on Bowie about an hour ago, but no word yet on damage or casualties,” Hacksaw said, reading from a message.

Hearing that, the CO grimaced. There were two types of missions he absolutely despised, even though they were important. CAS runs, when there were people in A-4s, A-7s, and A-10s who lived and breathed the mission, and Scud hunts, where one might spend two hours flying around looking for mobile missiles that were likely already hidden. Though he and his flight had killed their share of Scuds, they had more Scud hunts where their quarry had not been found, and opportunity targets were struck instead. “Let me know if anything comes in before I go to eat. You seeing Doc today?”

“Got an appointment at 1000,” Hacksaw replied. “Last day on the pills, and if he says the cold's done..”

“You're back on the flight schedule,” Major Wiser said. “Remember that he does outrank us in anything and everything medical, so if the sawbones thinks you're not ready...”

“I know, Boss. I feel great, and just, well, ready to get back in the game.”

Guru nodded. He, too, had been grounded with a cold, and had been frustrated when Doc had grounded him back in March. “After what happened yesterday? Hacksaw, you're not missing a damn thing.”

“I know, Major.”

“As long as you remember that,” the CO said sternly. “When Digger comes in to take over, get him up to speed, get some food, then you're on with Doc.”

Hacksaw let out a grin. “That last thing? I can't wait.”

“Good. I'll be in my office,” Major Wiser said. He chatted for a few minutes with the enlisted admin people, then went to his office. On his desk were the two notes he'd written for the families of the two RAF crew who had gone down the day before. He went over them, added his signature, then sealed them in envelopes. The CO then got up and went to his office window when he heard the rumble of jets. Two F-4s were going up on maintenance check flights, and Guru also noticed a C-130 taxiing as well. The flying day was just getting underway, he knew, when a knock on the door interrupted his thoughts. “Yeah? Come on in and show yourself!”

The door opened, and his XO, Capt. Mark Ellis, came in. “Morning, Boss,” the XO said, with a clipboard tucked underneath an arm, and two cups of steaming liquid. “Hot chocolate for you, and coffee for your humble Exec,” he added, handing a cup to the CO.

“Thanks, Mark,” Guru said. “The scroungers have orders to put this on their list each and every time?”

“They do, Ross says,” Ellis replied. “Got the morning admin stuff for you.” He gave the CO the clipboard.

“Morning reports for both Tenth Air Force and MAG-11,” the CO noted as he signed both forms.

“And the aircraft status report,” Ellis pointed out. “We've got twenty-two birds for this morning.”

“Which makes us full-mission-capable,” Guru nodded. “And when that happens, we wind up having a couple take battle damage at least, if not actually go down.” He grimaced at that, then scanned the next form, which was the weather report. “Partly to mostly sunny, highs in the upper fifties, lows in the upper thirties to low forties,” the CO noted. “And no bad weather for at least five days.”

“Which gives us five days to earn our flight pay, and make things miserable for the bad guys.”

“Yeah,” Guru said. He scanned the next paper. “Scroungers list?”

“For your information only,” said the Exec. “Half of the stuff on that list is what Ross says we can use for horse-trading.”

“He on track of some more LGB kits?”

“He is, and we may have some in two or three days.”

Guru nodded. “That's good. We can do some more LGB stuff when we get those. And that's it?”

“No personnel stuff, so that's it for now,” Ellis said. Then there was a knock on the door.

“Yeah? Show yourself and come on in!” The CO barked.

The door opened, and the CO's GIB, First Lieutenant Lisa Eichhorn came in. She, too, had two cups of steaming liquid. '”Morning, Boss, and XO,” she said. “Ready to earn our flight pay today?”

“And come April 15, we give half of that back to the Government,” Guru quipped.

“We do.” Goalie then asked, “What's up?” Not only was she the CO's GIB, but they were also lovers. And she could tell something was bothering her pilot.

“Waiting for the other shoe to drop,” Guru said. “Frank. He's flying with an Article 15 now in his file, and he's going to do something stupid. Sooner or later, and there will be a shit-storm after. No doubt about it.”

“Why won't he transfer?” Goalie asked. “You'd think he'd gotten the message after last night.”

“He wants out, but on his terms,” the CO said. “He thinks the Academy old-boy network will get a promotion board to ignore the Article 15, and if he impresses a high-ranking VIP-and he's heard the rumors that Sundown Cunningham may visit sometime between Thanksgiving and New Year's, by the way-he gets noticed.”

Goalie nodded. “Which means, if a squadron got shot up bad enough to be pulled off the line, and needs a new CO or XO-maybe both, he gets one of those slots,” she said. “Not likely, but from his point of view?”

“Might just work. Even if he never gets to O-5,” the XO said. “He has that on his record. Which is what he's wanted all along.”

“Yeah. Well, one fuckup, and he's out of here,” Guru said firmly. “Now, before we go eat? There was a Scud attack last night on Bowie, thirty-five miles south of here on U.S. 287. No word on damage or casualties, but last time they were hit? Libyans hit a refugee camp near there with a couple.”

Both the XO and Goalie winced. “Not good,” Ellis observed. He had gone on a Scud hunt for the guilty parties-as had half the squadron.

“No, and because of that, we may be getting some Scud hunts today,” the CO warned both of them. He was recalling the afternoon spent going after Scuds-and eventually finding and killing some.

“Happy thought,” said Goalie. “Not.”

“No, and if we do get Scud hunts? Let's hope for some good opportunity targets,” said Guru.

“To be hoped for,” Ellis said.

“No argument there,” the CO agreed. He looked at the clock on his office wall. “0550. Let's go eat.”


Guru, the Exec, and Goalie left the office and went over to the Officer's Mess Tent. They found Colonel Brady talking with Dave Gledhill and their reporter, Jana Wendt. “Good morning, Major,” Brady said.

“Morning, sir,” Guru said. Here, salutes were unnecessary. “Dave, and Ms. Wendt. Well, I guess yesterday's events are the topic of conversation?”

“They are,” Gledhill nodded. “Colonel Brady's intel, and your Sin Licon, briefed us on those guns. Thought you guys were joking with us-you know, new blokes to the theater and all. Turned out you weren't.”

“Ask the guys in 134,” Brady reminded Gledhill. “Their CO and two other crews went down the first day we ran into those. Only one crew recovered, and his wasn't it.” He was recalling the first day when MAG-11's squadrons had encountered ZSU-30-2s, with three Marine F-4s down, and only one crew recovered. And VMFA-134's CO had been one of the two who had gone in with no chutes.

Gledhill recalled that conversation with the MAG-11 intel people. “Sometimes you don't think it'll happen to your people, and then it does.”

“Almost happened to Kerry Collins and Pat McCorkle,” Guru said. “Only reason they're still here is that some of the rounds were either flat-out duds, or hadn't been fuzed right. And we did show you photos of their bird.”

“You did. Very sobering indeed.”

Guru nodded. “Come by after the first mission. Those notes I wrote for you to pass on to the next-of-kin are ready. Mail goes out at 1100.”

“I'll be there,” said Gledhill.

“Said it before, but I hate to send those off,” Guru nodded. He turned to Ms. Wendt. “Thinking up a story?”

“You could say that, Major,” the reporter grinned. “Speaking of stories, the one about your mascot went to Sydney and CBS last night. It should be airing in Oz today sometime.”

“And here?” Guru wanted to know.

The reporter shrugged. “Tonight or tomorrow.”

“And your check ride?” Guru said. “I'll find some time in the next couple of days. You're going with Kara, though.”

“The 'Wild Thing'?” Ms Wendt asked.

Guru grinned. “The same. I'll take Mr. Scott, your cameraman, and be glad you're getting a chance to fly. Even if it's away from the front lines.”

The reporter knew why: any captured reporters were turned over to the KGB, and weren't considered POWs-one more violation of international law for Ivan, among many. “Well, beggars can't be choosers.”

“A word of advice, Ms. Wendt,” Colonel Brady said. “Take plenty of airsickness bags along.” The MAG-11 CO had a nasty-looking grin on his face. “You'll be glad you did.”

Just then, the Mess Officer came out of the tent and flipped the sign from CLOSED to OPEN. “Chow's ready, people!”


After breakfast, crews went to their respective squadrons, and Guru-along with his other flight leaders, went to the Squadron Ops Office to get their first mission of the day. Since the CO made it a point to be the first out the gate, he was there first, and found the Ops Officer waiting for him. “Don,” he nodded to Capt. Don Van Loan, his Ops Officer.

“Boss,” Van Loan replied. “Got a good one for you. Dublin, southwest of Stephenville.” He handed the CO the mission packet with target folder.

“Back to the East German sector,” the CO noted. He scanned the mission brief. “Fuel dump and truck park southeast of town. Not the airport?”

“Still not operational yet, even though your flight trashed it a few days ago. Their engineers can't be everywhere at once.”

“To be thankful for,” Guru said. “Still might find a helo, though. And Brownwood Regional's back operational, I notice.”

Van Loan nodded. “It is, and that means East German MiGs,” he added. “Just you guys, Dave Gledhill's element, and that's it. No Weasels.”

Guru sighed. As usual, the Weasels were busy. He knew there were too many requests for them and not enough assets. “All right. Thanks, Don. You have a good one, and be careful out there.”

“You too, Boss. Don't want to be XO yet.”

“And Kara doesn't want to be Ops,” the CO reminded him. “Thanks again.” As the CO turned to leave, Major Frank Carson came in to get his own element's mission brief. “Frank,” Guru nodded politely.

“Major,” Carson replied, a little too politely, Guru noticed. But the CO could also pick up a hint of contempt in his voice.

“Good luck out there, and be careful,” Guru told him. “No unnecessary risks.”

Carson stared at him for a moment, then gave a slight nod. “Of course.”

“So long as you know,” Guru replied. Then the CO went to his flight's briefing room, and found everyone there, along with Buddy, the squadron's mascot. To the CO's pleasure, the dog was already curled up on the floor, fast asleep. “Okay, folks, let's get the show on the road. We're going back to Dublin.”

“We were there not that long ago,” Sweaty said. “Smashed up the airport pretty good.”

“Where's this?” Gledhill asked.

“East German sector,” Kara replied. “So, Boss, what's the target?”

“Not the airport,” Guru said. “It's not listed as operational for fixed-wing, but we're going for a fuel dump southeast of town. At the F.M. 303/304 Junction.” He pulled out some photos, taken probably by an RF-4C as they were from low level, and very detailed. “Fuel dump on the north side of the junction, and a truck park to the southeast corner. It's a horizontal Y intersection, so the fuel dump's north of the prongs, and in between? That's the truck park.”

“Visual cues?” Goalie asked. Since she was the lead GIB, that was a very good question.

“None listed or visible,” Guru replied. “So the town of Purves, eight miles or thirty seconds from the target, is our last checkpoint. Pop up, and climb just high enough to ID the target, make your runs, and get your asses down low.”

“So who gets what?” Sweaty asked. “And what's the ordnance load?”

“You and I are taking the fuel dump,” said the CO. “Kara and Hoser? You two get the truck park. We've all got the same load: six Mark-82 Snakeyes and six M-117Rs. Snakeyes on the inboard wing stations, M-117s on centerline.”

Hoser nodded. “Usual air-to-air load, Boss?”

“You got it. Four AIM-9Ps, two AIM-7Fs, two wing tanks, full load of twenty mike-mike, and the usual ECM pods.” That meant ALQ-119 for the element leaders, and ALQ-101 for the wingmen. “Dave?”

Gledhill nodded. “For us, that's four AIM-9Ls, four Sky Flash, two wing tanks, and a SUU-23 pod.” His pilot, Flight Lt. Paul Jackson, nodded.

“All right, and now, how we're getting there,” Guru said. “We pick up the tanker track north of Mineral Wells, and once we've topped off, we get down low, and cross the fence at the I-20. Follow the Brazos River and Lake Granbury. Stay just east of the river, and that puts us just in the Nicaraguan sector.”

“Why's that? Flight Lt. Susan Napier, the second in the RAF element, asked.

Sweaty grinned. “They don't shoot at us unless they're the ones being bombed. The East Germans on the west side? They always shoot.”

“They do,” Kara confirmed. “But at the Brazospoint Bridge and points south to Lake Whitney? It's Libyans on that side, and they shoot every time.”

Hoser nodded. “No kidding! And their motto is 'spray and pray', and they shoot like they're worried the practice is going to be banned five minutes after.”

“That's about it,” Guru said. “Okay, we follow the river all the way to Lake Whitney, and just short of the dam, we turn west on a two-six-five heading. Stay south of Meridian, all the way to U.S. 281 and the town of Olin. That's F.M. 219, and we follow 219 to Purves, which is where we pop up. Once clear of the target? Get your asses in a northwesterly direction, and pick up the Leon River. Follow it to Lake Leon, then north to the I-20. Pick up the tankers again, head home, and get ready to do this again.”

Flight Lt. Paul Jackson asked, “Major ,what's the MiG threat?”

“Brownwood Regional is back operational, so that's Russians and East Germans. They have MiG-23s and -21s respectively, and they're the closest MiG field, just southwest of the target. Four minutes' flight time, by the way. MiG-29s are at San Angelo and Gray AAF at Fort Hood, and Su-27s are still at Bergstrom. Rest of 'em are -21s and -23s at the other fields.”

“Brownwood?” Kara asked, half surprised. “Boss, we hit that yesterday!”

“I know, but it's listed here as back in business.”

“Guru,” Gledhill asked. “How do you want us to go?”

“When I call PULL? Assume a TARCAP and kill anyone flying at the target. Then get ready to do nasty things to party-crashers,” Guru said.

“Nothing new here,” Gledhill repiled, and the other RAF crew nodded.

“Good. Now, the defenses. This is a division HQ, so expect SA-6 or -8. Target proper has ZU-23s and guys with MANPADS. There's still 37-mm and 57-mm at the airport,” the CO told the crews.

Brainiac nodded. “Any Weasels?”

“Negative,” Guru said. “Just us and our ECM pods. Any other questions?”

“Not one,” KT said. But look at Buddy. He's still asleep.” She nodded at the dog, still curled up and fast asleep.

“Not like yesterday's finale,” Preacher noted. “Should've known something was up when he listened to the brief.”

Heads nodded at that, and Kara said, “Too late now.”

“It is that,” Guru acknowledged. “Okay, these are East Germans, and in some cases, they're better than Cat I Soviets. Keep that in mind. Anything else?” Heads shook no as an Ops NCO came to collect the briefing material. “All right. Gear up and get ready to fly. Meet up at 512.”

As the crews headed out, Guru went to the Men's Locker room to gear up. When he did, Goalie was waiting outside, as usual. “Ready to rock?” She asked.

“And earn some flight pay,” Guru said. “Let's go.” They went outside, and found IDF Major Dave Golen and his element talking over their mission. “Dave,” Guru said.

“Guru,” Golen replied. “Good luck on yours.”

“You too, and remember, Flossy's your younger sister from another mother,” the CO said, nodding at 1st Lt. Sandi “Flossy” Jenkins and her GIB, 1st Lt. Chloe “Jang” Winters.

“Always,” Golen said.

“Okay, you going anywhere near Stephenville or the general area?” Guru asked. “If you hit MiG trouble, holler. We're Mustang Flight, and two of the Brits are with us.”

Golen nodded. “Near Stephenville, and we're Camaro. If you need help, we'll be there.” Both Golen and the CO shook on that.

“Same here. Good luck, and be careful,” the CO warned. “That's the East Germans, you know.”

Golen nodded again. “Getting shot up a couple days ago was no fun. Don't care to repeat the experience.”

“Been there, and done worse,” Guru said, recalling his time with the Resistance in Colorado. “Just be careful out there.”

“Will do.”

“Good, Dave. You guys have a good one,” said the CO.

“You too.”

Guru then headed to Goalie, then they walked to 512's revetment. The rest of the flight was there. “Okay, folks. Usual procedures on the radio.” That meant call signs between them, and mission code to AWACS and other parties. “Now, one last thing,” the CO said. “Those ZSU-30s? If you see basketball-sized tracers anywhere on ingress, and we have run into those west of the Brazos-”

“And this is a time when Yeager's people could be handy,” Sweaty said.

“Brash young pups and all,” Kara spat. She still bristled at the thought of Clancy and Pruitt in their F-20s.

“Down, girl,” Guru said. “But you're both right, but we can't use what we don't have. Now, if you see those tracers on ingress? Take evasive action and call in the location. If we run into them at the target? Abort. We'll reform, and head for Stephenville. The Municipal Airport can use some more craters,”

Heads nodded at that. “Sounds good, Boss,” Sweaty nodded.

“Dave?” Guru asked his RAF counterpart.

“I'd say that's it,” Gledhill replied, and heads nodded at that.

“I agree,” Guru said. “Okay, that's that. Time to get going. Meet up at ten grand, and let's hit it.” He clapped his hands for emphasis.

The crews broke up and headed to their aircraft. Guru and Goalie went into the revetment and found their mount, 512, bombed up and ready to go. “Major? Lieutenant?” Staff Sergeant Mike Crowley, the Crew Chief said as he snapped a salute. “Five-twelve's ready to kick some more Commie ass.”

“Thanks, Sarge,” Guru said. He and Goalie did their preflight walk-around, then climbed the ladder and got themselves strapped into their seats. After putting on their helmets and plugging in, they went through the preflight checklist.

As they did the preflight, Goalie asked, “Want to bet they'll give us a Scud hunt later today?”

“Hope not,” Guru replied. “I'd rather take a CAS run than do one of those.”

“Not the only one thinking that,” his GIB replied. “Ejection seats?”

“Armed top and bottom, check yours, and glad to hear I'm not alone. Arnie?”

Goalie checked the ARN-101 DMAS and the INS. “Arnie and INS all set. Preflight complete and ready for engine start.”

“That we are,” Guru said. He gave a thumbs-up to Crowley, who gave the “Start Engines” signal. One, then both, J-79 engines were soon up and running. During the warm-up, Guru called the tower. “Tower, Mustang Lead with six, requesting taxi and takeoff instructions.”

“Mustang, Tower,' the controller replied. “Clear to taxi to Runway Three-three Lima. Hold prior to the active, and you are number two in line.”

“Roger, Tower. Mustang Lead rolling.” Guru gave another thumbs-up to his Crew Chief, who signaled the ground crew to pull away the chocks from the wheels. Then he gave the “Taxi” signal to Guru, who began taxiing 512 out of the revetment. After 512 cleared the revetment, Crowley gave a perfect salute, which pilot and GIB returned. Guru and Goalie then taxied, with the rest of the flight following, to the taxiway, then to the holding area. There, a Marine F/A-18 flight was ahead of them. After the Marines taxied onto the runway, it was their turn to get into the holding area, where, after they did so, the armorers removed the weapon safeties. The Marine Hornets took off after that, then it was Mustang Flight's turn. “Tower, Mustang Lead requesting taxi for takeoff.”

“Mustang Leader, Tower, Clear to taxi for takeoff. Winds are two-seven-five for five.”

“Roger, Tower,” Guru replied, then he taxied onto the runway. Kara followed in 520, and tucked right into his Five O'clock position. Guru and Goalie did a final cockpit check, then glanced at Kara and Brainiac, who gave thumbs-ups. They returned it, then it was time. “Ready?” Guru asked.

“Time to go,” Goalie replied.

“It is that,” Guru said. “Tower, Mustang Lead requesting clear for takeoff.”

As usual, the Tower flashed a green light. Clear for takeoff.

“Canopy coming down,” Guru said, pulling his canopy down, then closing and locking it. Goalie did the same, and both looked at 520, which was just as ready. It was time. “Here we go.” Guru applied full power to the throttles, then he released the brakes. 512 then rumbled down the runway and into the air, with 520 right alongside. Thirty seconds later, it was Sweaty's and Hoser's turn, and after that, the two RAF F-4Js. The flight formed up at FL 100, then headed south for their tankers.
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  #484  
Old 04-25-2019, 07:50 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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And the first mission of the new day:



Over Central Texas: 0740 Hours Central War Time:


Mustang Flight was headed south, about a quarter-mile east of the Brazos. Low enough to pick up the river and use it for visual navigation, but not high enough to be picked up by a ground radar. True to form, the Nicaraguans on this side of the river were not shooting, but when they got to the U.S. 377 Bridge at Granbury, the East Germans on the west side would.

Their pre-strike refueling had been routine, with the 335th F-4s taking on fuel from KC-10s, while the two RAF birds had found their Tristar busy with some Marine A-4s, so they tanked up from drogue equipped KC-135s. Then it had been time to get down low and cross the I-20, which meant enemy territory.

They were a couple miles short of Granbury and the U.S. 377 Bridge when the EW displays in the F-4s lit up. A single strobe at One O'clock, and the SEARCH indicator light came on. “No need to ask who he is,” Guru spat. “That'll be the Mainstay.”

In the back seat, Goalie shook her head. “Not arguing that,” she replied. “Why hasn't anyone taken them out?”

“Navy tried yesterday, and they should keep trying,” Guru said. “Granbury in when?”

“Fifteen seconds,” Goalie called. “Flak at one,” she added. The first puffs of 57-mm fire from the East Germans on the west side were already visible.

“Ground observers, I'd bet,” Guru said, wondering if the East Germans had spotters calling out approaching aircraft.

“No bet,” Goalie said. “Granbury Bridge....now!” She called as the bridge appeared, then disappeared as they flew past. “No convoy or other traffic on the bridge.”

“This time,” said the CO. He was keeping his head on a swivel, keeping an eye out for threats, whether flak, SAMs, or low-flying aircraft. “Glen Rose in one minute?” They had flown this route so many times that the crews knew it like the backs of their hands.

“Close,” Goalie said. “One minute ten,” she replied. “Dam in ten seconds.” Goalie was referring to the Lake Granbury Dam.

“And flak at the dam,” Guru noted. “Right on time,” he added as the flak gunners on the west side of the river (due to the twists and turns, it was more like the south, but no matter), opened fire. The flight blew past the dam, then cut across the river for a moment, then picked up the east side again. “How long to Glen Rose?” That was U.S. 67.

“Forty-five,” Goalie replied.

“Roger that. Crystal Palace, Mustang Lead. Say threats?” Guru said as he called the AWACS.

A controller came back to him 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 Two-one-zero for seventy. Medium, closing.”

“Roger, Crystal Palace. Say Bogey Dope?”

“Mustang, First threats are Fishbeds. Second and third threats are Floggers.”

“Copy,” replied Guru as Glen Rose appeared. “Flak at One.”

“That's Glen Rose,” Goalie said. “Thirty seconds to Brazospoint,” she added.

The strike flight flew past the bridge, and on the Nicaraguan side of the bridge, a convoy was parked at the checkpoint for southbound traffic. “Got a convoy,” Guru noted.

“They get to live for now,” Goalie said. “Brazospoint next.”

“And the Libyans.”


At the bridge, an East German convoy was waiting for its turn to cross. Though the Nicaraguans provided the guards for the checkpoint, Soviet Army traffic regulators, along with some KGB troops, actually checked the convoys, and the KGB were the ones watching the watchers. While waiting for his convoy's papers to be approved, an East German Army Major was very anxiously watching the sky. Several convoys had been hit by air attack the previous day, and much to his surprise, he had been told that American aircraft roamed the Nicaraguan sector almost at will. When the convoy drove through the Nicaraguan II Corps rear area, the casual attitude, and what seemed to be a 'to hell with the war' feeling among the Nicaraguan soldiers reminded him of what his father had said about the Italians in the Last War. Shaking his head at that, and what might happen if the Americans to the north decided to go through the Nicaraguans and take the Kampfgruppe Rosa Luxembourg from the rear, the Major simply wanted out of the Nicaraguan sector and back among real soldiers.

His thoughts were interrupted by shouting and then the sight and sound of six F-4 Phantoms, coming in low. The Major barely had time to shout a warning, then the Fascist aircraft were gone. Then a Soviet traffic regulator came to him and handed him his authorization to proceed. Glad to be getting out of here, the Major climbed aboard his BTR-60PB and waved his convoy forward. Now, were the Imperialist aircraft going to double back and catch the convoy on the bridge, or would a second group arrive and do just that. He was quite relieved to cross safely, and thanked the God the Political Officer denied existing for deliverance.....


Guru checked his instruments, then kept up his visual scanning. “Brazospoint coming up.”

“Roger that,” Goalie said. “Thirty seconds.”

“On it,” Guru said. A quick glance at the EW display still showed the strobe. “Damn Mainstay's still there.”

“He really needs to go away,” Goalie said. “Fifteen seconds.”

“Bridge in sight.” Sure enough, the flak gunners on both sides opened up. The East Germans on their side with 57-mm, while the Libyans had only 23-mm. Neither was radar-guided but they were shooting. “Flak coming.”

The strike flight blew past the bridge, and actually cut across the East German side due to a bend in the river. Fortunately, the flak was not aimed properly, and a look in the rear-view mirror showed the East Germans had stopped shooting, but the Libyans were still at it. “One minute fifteen to the 174 Bridge and Lake Whitney,” called Goalie.

“Copy.”


As they headed south, on two occasions, the flight did cut across bends in the river, but there was no reaction from any of the East Germans on the west side-they couldn't be everywhere at once.

“How long to 174?” Guru asked. He was taking a look at his EW display. Still the Mainstay, but no other radars.

“Fifteen seconds,” Goalie replied. Just then, flak puffs appeared on the east side, and also on the west side of the river. “Flak ahead.”

“Got it.” Guru put 512 down lower, from 550 feet AGL down to 450, and the rest of the flight copied him. The 23-mm tracers flew above the aircraft, while the 57-mm fire from both sides exploded harmlessly above and behind the flight. “And there's the lake.”

“Copy that,” said Goalie. “One minute thirty to the turn.”

“Roger that,” Guru called as the lake opened up ahead of them.


In the town of Lakeside Village, the East German 18th Independent Motor-rifle Regiment was still in the town, busy with rest and refitting. The regimental commander had established himself in the town hall, though the local garrison, Russians from a rear-area protection division, had resented the intrusion, as had the locals. The Russians-all of whom were reservists from Minsk, had families and children back home, and though the garrison was only about a company's worth of men and a platoon of ancient T-34/85s, they had a “Live and let live” relationship with the local population. With the arrival of the East Germans, though, that relationship was somewhat strained, due to a Stasi detachment engaged in what it described as “Rooting out Fascist and Counter-revolutionary Elements.”

In what had been a local restaurant prewar, the Soviet garrison commander, a Major pulled from a desk job at the Beylorussia MD in Minsk, considered his options. Though his regimental commander-and no doubt the Lieutenant Colonel was acting on orders from Division-had told him to get along with the East Germans, he was not pleased with their conduct, as there had been very little underground activity, other than the occasional graffiti sprayed on walls, and the odd shot fired at a patrol from time to time, but nothing major or serious. The Major was concerned that the Stasi, with their heavy-handedness, might generate the guerilla activity they were trying to stamp out. And with the front lines to the north, it was clear that any serious penetration by the Americans would bring the U.S. Army down on his unit, and the one thing that he and the locals shared was that if there was fighting, it was over quickly and with a minimum of damage-for his men-reservists in their forties and fifties, would either be swatted aside like flies, taking to their heels, or simply surrender.

Those thoughts were interrupted by the sound of aircraft. Looking out the window of what had been the business office of the establishment prewar, the Major saw six F-4 Phantoms flying by, and the cheers of some of the local civilians. Shaking his head, and hoping the East Germans would finish their refitting and move up to the front lines, the Major went back to his paperwork.

“Never said this before,” Guru said as they flew over Lake Whitney. “But this might be a nice place to come a few years after this is all over. You know, rent a boat, do some fishing, find a boat-in campground and just forget what all happened here.”

“Watch it, boy,” Goalie chuckled. “Now you're giving me ideas.” She checked her map and the INS. “One minute to turn.”

“Roger that,” Guru said. He called the AWACS. “Crystal Palace, Mustang Lead. Say threats?”

“Mustang Lead, Crystal Palace,” the controller replied. “First threat bearing One-six-five for forty. Medium, going away. Second threat bearing One-eight-zero for fifty-five. Medium, closing. Third threat bearing Two-one-zero for sixty-five. Medium, closing.”

“Mustang Lead copies,” replied Guru. “Say bogey dope.”

The controller came back immediately. “Mustang Lead, first threats are Fishbeds. Second and third are Floggers.”

“Mustang Lead, roger.”

“Thirty seconds to turn,” Goalie called.

“Call it,” said Guru.

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

Guru put the F-4 into a right turn, then steadied on a heading of Two-six-five. “We're on a two-six-five heading.”

“Roger that,” Goalie said. “Next turn is Olin. Three minutes.”

“Got it,” Guru said. A quick glance at the EW display still showed that strobe. “And the damned Mainstay's still there.”

“Hope he hasn't picked us up.”

“Here's hoping. We're getting into the grass,” Guru said. He dropped down to 400 feet AGL, and the rest of the flight followed. A ridge came up, and the flight neatly crossed the ridge, then dropped back down. Guru glanced again at the EW display, and much to his disgust, the strobe that was the Mainstay's radar was still there. “Damn it.”

“He's still there,” said Goalie after she checked her own display. “Two minutes thirty to turn.”

“Copy both.”

The strike flight kept on course, as the rolling hills and prairie flew by below. The pilots kept up their visual scanning and checking their instruments, while the GIBs did the navigation. At 450 Feet AGL and 500 KIAS, the terrain went by fast. Even if the Mainstay had them, the MiGs that might be directed their way didn't have Look-down/Shoot-down radar, except for the MiG-29s, and even then, the Fulcrums had trouble picking up targets amidst the ground clutter.

“How far to Olin?” Guru asked.

“One minute,” Goalie said.

“Roger that,” Guru replied. He saw the strobe grow brighter on his EW display, which meant the Mainstay's radar signal was getting stronger. “Flight, Lead. Music on,” he called. That meant to turn on their ECM pods, and as he reached to turn on his ECM pod, another strobe appeared at Twelve O'clock. “Crystal Palace, Mustang Lead. Say threat at Twelve.”

“Mustang Lead, Crystal Palace,' the controller came back. “Threats bearing Two-seven-zero for fifty-five. Medium, closing. Bandits are Fulcrums.”

MiG-29s? Had those guys yesterday, Guru thought. “Copy.”

“Turn on the radar?” Goalie asked. Hassling with MiGs wasn't priority one, but if necessary....

“Negative,” Guru said firmly. “Maybe we can slip by them.”

AWACS then called, “Mustang, Crystal Palace. Threat now bearing Two-six-five for sixty. Medium, now going away.”

“Whew,” Guru said. “Time to turn?”

“Twenty seconds,” Goalie said. “Now fifteen...ten...five, four, three, two, one, MARK!”

Guru turned right as U.S. 281 appeared at the town of Olin-or, a spot on the map with a mini-mart and a church. “Eleven miles, right?”

“Right on that,” Goalie said. “Forty-five seconds.”

“Copy. Let's set 'em up,” said Guru. That meant the armament controls.

“On it,” Goalie said. She worked her controls in the back seat, even though Guru had his own up front. With the pilot often busy, the GIBs often had to set things up for the bomb run. “All set. Everything in one.”

“Got it,” Guru said. “Flight, Lead. Switches on, and stand by to pull.”

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

“Purves dead ahead,” Goalie called. “Ten seconds.”

“Flight, Lead....PULL!” Guru called, pulling back on the stick. He put 512 into a forty-five degree climb, then banked two degrees right. Lining up on his attack course, it took twenty seconds to close in, then he picked out the target. And a couple of radars lit up. “Target in sight.”

“All set back here,” Goalie said.

“Time to go,” said Guru as he rolled in on his bomb run.


In Dublin, the East German garrison had been reinforced, though that was a relative term. For a regiment that had been battered in Colorado and was the only organized National People's Army unit to escape the Pueblo Kessel-as the soldiers called it-had finally been sent somewhere where they could rest and refit. The 17th “Fritz Weineck” Motor-rifle Regiment had been part of the 11th MRD from Halle, and had been in Colorado, serving as a Front reserve when the American offensive had been launched. Once the confusion had been sorted out, the division had been sent to a town called La Junta, and told to hold as long as possible. However, the Americans had gotten there ahead of them, the 14th Armored Division, and the 11th MRD was cut to ribbons. The remnants of the division made their way south, but had been caught again near Dumas in the Texas Panhandle. All that remained after running afoul of the Americal Division was the 17th MRR and some stragglers from the rest of the division.

Now, after the long retreat and being shuffled back and forth, the Regiment had finally been able to settle down in the 9th Panzer Division's rear, and was co-located with the Divisional HQ and support services. Though they were not under the command of the 9th Panzer, the Major-who had commanded the tank battalion in the 17th MRR-would put the Regiment at the disposal of the 9th PD if the situation called. The Major, though, was glad to finally be able to reorganize and refit. His regiment barely had enough BTR-70 APCs for the infantry, a single battery of 2S1 122-mm SP guns, no MRLs or air defense weapons other than shoulder-fired missiles, and there were shortages of almost everything else. As for tanks? He had a single platoon of T-72s-originally from the divisional tank regiment-and a weak company from his own battalion, which had T-55AMPs. Though the Kampfgruppe command had told the Major that he could expect replacements of both personnel and equipment to bring his regiment up to something resembling full strength in the near future, it was hoped by the Defense Ministry back in Berlin to reform the division in theater and recommit them to combat. The Major was realistic, and knew that getting the regiment up to strength was about the most he could expect.

The Major stepped out of his command tent. His regiment had been assigned a laager just west of the town, and much to his chagrin, right next to the town's sewer ponds. The Major wondered who had suggested that, and noticed that nearby, there were some civilian houses. At least I don't have an eager political officer, he mused. His own battalion's political officer had been killed up in Colorado, and the one he had now had been a company-level one until now, and had actually commanded that company in the long retreat south, and the man was more concerned with the welfare of the men than in getting the local civilians angry. The 9th had the same policy, though the Stasi and PSD were active, and then there were the Soviet rear-area protection troops-who had the greatest disinterest in patrolling the roads and in conducting any kind of anti-guerilla actions. Then some shouting attacted his attention, and he saw the aircraft in the distance, and the smoke trails. F-4 Phantoms, he knew. He'd been attacked from the air enough times to know. “AIR ALARM!”


“Lead's in hot!” Guru called as he took 512 in on the bomb run. As he did, he saw the two RAF birds go and assume their TARCAP. Some flak started to come up, and small smoke trails that meant SA-7s or -14s. No matter, he thought as he spotted the fuel dump and lined up the western side of the dump in his pipper. As he did, more tracers and puffs appeared, and he ignored it, concentrating on the bomb run. “Steady...” Guru called. “Steady.....And....HACK!” He hit his pickle button, and six Mark-82 Snakeyes and six M-117Rs came off the racks. Guru then pulled wings level, and as he did, he applied full power, jinking as he did so. Guru went out generally on a northwest heading, and as 512 cleared Dublin, Guru was waggling his wings to the civilians below. Once the city was clear, he called, “Lead's off safe.”

“What the...” The Major muttered as he watched Guru's F-4 make its run. He was using binoculars to get a closer look at the action, and saw the bombs release. Wondering what kind of target the Fascists were going after, several large explosions-followed by fireballs that were clearly fuel fed, answered that question. The 9th Panzers' main fuel dump, he saw at once. Glancing to the south, he saw two F-4s orbiting above, and another coming in.

“SHACK!” Goalie called as 512 cleared the target area. “We've got secondaries!”

“How big and how many?” Guru asked as he jinked, and a missile, probably an SA-13, flew by a couple hundred feet above.

“Big ones and multiple,” replied Goalie. “That good enough?”

Guru smiled underneath his oxygen mask as he headed to the northwest. “Sure is.”


“Two in hot!” Kara called as she took 520 down on its bomb run. She saw the fireballs that erupted when the CO's bombs landed on the fuel dump, and as she came in, the tire tracks in the field, which ended in camoflage netting, betrayed the truck park. Ignoring the flak, and a shoulder-fired missile that, head-on, failed to guide, Kara lined up a group of trucks in her pipper. “Steady....Steady....And...
And....NOW!” She hit her pickle button, and sent her Mark-82s and M-117s down onto the truck park. Kara then pulled up and away, applying full power and jinking as she did so. She, took waggled her wings as she flew over part of the town, then called, “Two's off target.”


The East German Major had a scowl on his face. “Dammt!” he muttered. Not for the first time had he experienced an air attack on a nearby unit and been unable to do much about it. His chief of staff, a Captain who had a similar job in what had been the 16th MRR, came up to him. “Start thinking about where we can move the regiment. If those aircraft overhead note our position...”

“Immediately, Comrade Major,” the Captain replied. “Shouldn't you take cover?”

“We're not the target, Captain,” the Major replied as he saw another F-4 coming in on a bomb run. “This time.”


“GOOD HITS!” That was Brainiac's call from 520's back seat. “Multiple secondaries!”

“Good ones?” Kara asked as she flew clear of the target area, avoiding both 23-mm tracers and a shoulder-fired missile on the way out.

“There's a few good ones.”

“They'll do,” Kara said as she picked up the CO's smoke trail, then found his bird and moved right with him in Combat Spread.


“Three's in hot!” Sweaty called as she came in on her run. Not only did she see what Kara's bombs had done, with a number of smoke clouds rising, but several fuel fed fires were burning in the fuel dump where Guru had planted his bombs. Lining up on the east side of the dump, Sweaty ignored the flak coming her way as she concentrated on her bomb run. Even a wildly aimed shoulder-fired missile failed to distract her from the job at hand. Not your day, Franz, she said to herself as the dump grew closer. “And....And...Steady....And....HACK!” Sweaty hit her pickle button, releasing her Mark-82s and M-117s onto the fuel dump. She, too, pulled wings level and applied power, and as she flew over the town, she was not only jinking, but also waggled her wings, then resumed jinking until clear of the town proper. “Three's off safe,” Sweaty called.

The Major winced as another set of fireballs erupted in the wake of Sweaty's bomb run. “You do know that could be us, Captain,” he told his Chief of Staff.

“Easily, Comrade Major,” the Captain replied. “Shall I contact Division Headquarters and request a new position?” They were supposed to cooperate with 9th Panzer, he knew.

“Not yet, but have a couple of locations in mind. I'll talk to them,” said the Major as he saw another F-4 come in. “They're not finished yet.”


“GOOD HITS!” Preacher called from Sweaty's back seat. “Good secondaries!”

“What kind?” Sweaty replied as she jinked left and noticed a missile-probably an SA-13, fly wide of her aicraft to the right by at least two hundred feet.

“Righteous ones!” The ex-seminary student turned GIB called back.

“We'll take those,” Sweaty said as she cleared the town and spotted the CO's element.


“Four's in!” Hoser called as he came in on his run. As he came down for his attack, he saw the fireballs and smoke clouds from the fuel dump, and more secondaries going off as fuel tanks or drums exploded. Putting that out of mind, he concentrated on the truck park, and saw where Kara had put her bombs, and noticed tire tracks and camoflage netting untouched. Okay, Franz, your turn, Hoser thought as he centered them in his pipper. He, too, noticed-and ignored-the flak coming as he concentrated on the bomb run. “Steady..And...And.....HACK!” Hoser hit his pickle button, releasing his six Mark-82s and six M-117s onto the truck park. Once the bombs were gone, he pulled wings level and applied power, and also waggled his wings as he jinked to avoid flak or missiles. “Four's off target,” Hoser called as he cleared the target area.


“They're good,” the Major noted as Hoser's F-4 went on its run. He watched the bombs come off the aircraft, then the explosions in the F-4's wake as fireballs erupted. Then he shook his head. “Keep the men on alert, and be ready to move. At the very least, we'll find a location away from the verdamnt sewers,” the Major said to his Chief of Staff.

The wind shifted, and the smell was very clear. “Yes, Comrade Major,” the Captain replied. Anywhere away from the sewers would be a good thing. Then two more F-4s came over, but instead of attacking, they simply overflew the town and headed to the northwest.

“And get me 9th Division HQ on the telephone,” the Major said. “NOW!”


“GOOD HITS!” KT shouted from Hoser's back seat. “There's some secondaries.”

“How many?” Hoser asked as he jinked to avoid flak, and he, too, had a missile fly a couple hundred feet or so above his aircraft. But no large tracers, Thank God.

“Enough,” was KT's reply.

“Then we'll take 'em,” Hoser said as he spotted Sweaty's smoke trail, then picked up his element leader.


“Four in and out,” Goalie said in 512.

“And now the Brits,” Guru said. “One-five and One-six, get your asses down and away.”

“Roger, Leader,” Flight Lt. Paul Jackson replied, and he led Flight Lt. Susan Napier over the town and then clear of the target. “Have visual on you, and coming at your six.”

“Copy,” Guru replied. He glanced to the right, and found Kara's bird tucked with him in combat spread. “Sweaty?”

“Right with you, and I've got Hoser,” Sweaty called back.

“Roger that,” Guru said. Then he contacted the AWACS. “Crystal Palace, Mustang Leader. Say threats?”

“Mustang, Crystal Palace. First threat bearing Two-four-five for forty. Medium, closing. Second threat bearing One-eight-zero for fifty. Medium, closing. First threats are Fulcrums, second are Floggers.” That meant MiG-29s and MiG-23s.

“Roger that,” Guru replied. “How far to the fence?” He asked Goalie, meaning I-20.

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

“Let's get down lower,” Guru said. He dropped even lower than they had come in at, leveling out at 400 Feet. A quick glance at the EW display showed just the Mainstay radar, then a brief strobe and an A-A warning light, then it dropped off.

“Leader, Six. Do you want us to go after them?' Jackson called.

“Negative,” Guru replied. “We'll be at the fence before they get in range of us.”

“Forty-five seconds,” Goalie called. “Thirty seconds to Lake Comfort.”

“Roger, Leader,” Jackson replied to Guru's call.

“Copy,” Guru said. Then he called the AWACS. “Crystal Palace, Mustang Lead. Say closest threat?”

“Mustang, Crystal Palace. Threat bearing Two-two-zero for thirty. Medium, now going away,” said the controller.

“Roger, Crystal Palace,” Guru said as the EW display cleared up. The strobe signaling the Mainstay radar dropped off, and the SEARCH warning light turned off. “Mainstay's clear.”

“About time,” Goalie said. “Lake Comfort dead ahead,” she added as the lake appeared.

“Got it,” Guru said as they overflew the lake. “Fence in fifteen.” Then the twin ribbons of I-20 appeared, and this time, they didn't have to worry about an I-HAWK battery, for they were clear of the two batteries normally in their way. Only when I-20 was behind them did the flight climb to altitude, turn off their ECM pods and turn on their IFF transponders.

Once clear of the FLOT, Mustang Flight headed for the tankers, and this time, while the 335th birds hooked up to KC-135s, the two RAF aircraft were able to tank from the Tristar. Once the post-strike refueling was completed, the flight headed for Sheppard.

When the flight arrived, they were third in line, behind two Marine flights-one of F-4s and another with Hornets. Once it was their turn, Mustang Flight came in and landed, and to the disappointment of those watching down below, no one did a victory roll. Then they came in and landed, and as they taxied in, the news crew was filming. “Everyone came back this time,” Ms. Wendt said. “Always good to see.”

“You've caught on,” Lieutenant Patti Brown said. She was the 335th's new PAO when she wasn't flying herself. She had just come back from a strike and having debriefed, was with the news crew.

“Having been around this squadron long enough?” Wendt asked. “Anyone would.”

Brown nodded. Though relatively new to the squadron herself, she had passed that ten-mission mark, and was now considered a veteran. “Well, Ma'am? Just wait until you fly. We'll see how you do then.”


Guru led the flight back to the squadron's dispersal area, then they taxied for their individual revetments. He taxied 512 into its, and got the “Shut down” signal from his Crew Chief. The ground crew put the chocks around the wheels and released the ladder, as the pilot and GIB went through their post-flight checks. “One and done,” Guru said. “Three more to go.”

“And they pay us for this,” Goalie quipped.

“Not much,” replied Guru as he popped his canopy, then unstrapped himself from the ejection seat and stood up in the cockpit to stretch.

“Or not enough,” said Goalie.

“Either one's correct,” the CO said as he took off his helmet and climbed down from 512. Sergeant Crowley was waiting, as usual, with bottles of water for the CO and his GIB. “Sarge.”

“Major, Lieutenant,” Crowley said as he handed both of them a bottle of water. “How'd my bird do?” Once again, he was reminding the CO that the Crew Chief really “owned” the aircraft, and the crew merely borrowed it.

“Helped make a fuel dump go away,” said the CO as he downed some water.

“As in sky-high,” Goalie added.

“All right!” Crowley was beaming. “Anything I need to know?”

“Just that Five-twelve's still truckin', Sarge,” Guru told his Crew Chief. “No problems or issues, and no battle damage. Get her turned for the next one.”

“Yes, sir!” Crowley said. “You heard the Major,” he told the ground crew, who set to work with a will.

Both Guru and Goalie left the ground crew to their jobs, as they walked to the revetment's entrance. “When that R&R comes for him, he'll deserve it,” Guru said, recalling upping his Crew Chief's turn in the R&R Rotation.

“That he does,” Goalie nodded. “Enjoy Christmas at home, and oh, by the way, that's an order. First time I'll hear that.”

“It'll be a pleasure to tell him,” Guru said as they got to the entrance, where Kara and Brainiac were waiting. Like 512's crew, they were wearing their SEA style bush hats. “Kara, how'd it go?”

“Tore up the truck park-or part of it, anyway,” Kara grinned. “And you blew that fuel dump.”

Brainiac added, “Part of it.”

“And Sweaty got the rest,” Guru nodded as Sweaty, Preacher, Hoser, and KT came. “How'd it go with you guys?”

“Took out what you missed,” Sweaty said. “No more fuel dump.”

“Same with the Truck Park,” Hoser said.

Then the four RAF aircrew arrived. “Guru,” Dave Gledhill said. “The MiGs didn't come this time.”

“Not every time,” Guru said. “Sometimes they come to us,” he added, recalling times they had broken up strikes aimed at Sheppard.

“Or we jump them,” Kara added. “Got a MiG-23 that had jumped an A-10 flight. Guru got a gun kill on that one, and Dave Golen was all over him and Goalie.”

Flight Lt. Susan Napier asked, “Why was that?”

“They value gun kills over anything else,” Sweaty explained.

“That they do,” Guru said. “Okay, folks. We need to get debriefed, get some food inside you, and make sure your IN Boxes are empty and your OUT ones are full.”

“And why do we have to make the armchair warriors happy?” KT spat.

“So we make sure they're doing something worthwhile,” Goalie quipped.

“And there's too many of those slime,” Guru said with distaste, with the warfighter's disdain for REMFs apparent.

“Unfortunately,” Kara spat.

“That's a fact, sad to say. Let's get this stuff done, because in an hour to an hour and a half, we do this again.”

“Busy day,” Napier observed.

“It can be,” Guru said. “Let's go.”
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  #485  
Old 04-25-2019, 07:56 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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A 335th flight finds a flak trap-the hard way:



335th TFS, Sheppard AFB, TX: 0915 Hours Central War Time:


Rock music played from the CO's radio as Shadoe Stevens' morning show played on AFN, and Major Wiser found himself humming along as Katrina and the Waves did their version of We Gotta Get Out of This Place. An appropriate song for this time and place, the CO thought as he went over some papers. He put them in his OUT box, and for the time being, his desk was clear. Satisfied so far, he got up and went to his office window. Just the normal sights and sounds of an air base at war, the CO said to himself, watching as F-4s and F/A-18s took off or landed, and the occasional muffled explosion in the background. EOD blowing unexploded ordnance in place, he knew, as that stuff was often too dangerous to move, and not every booby trap left by the Cubans had been found-yet. With that happy thought in mind, he went back to his desk, then there was a knock on the door. “Yeah? Come in and show yourself.”

Goalie came in. “Boss, we've got a little problem. Thanks to the R&R Rotation, we'll be short two GIBs come first of the month,” she said. Though she was only a First Lieutenant, she was the senior WSO in the squadron. That was a slot that, in peacetime, was normally filled by a Captain or Major, but this being wartime, and Guru wanting someone he knew and trusted in the slot, meant that Goalie was getting her own time at the School of Hard Knocks.

“What do you mean? Digger comes back in two or three days, and Jang goes back to the pool.”

“That's the problem: Digger is one of the guys getting his two weeks, and Judge is the other one.”

The CO grimaced, then put his hand to his head. “Lovely.” He thought for a minute. “Okay, I'll talk with Tenth Air Force, and see if we can get a couple GIBs here on TDY.”

“Even if we have to pry them out of the TransPac Ferry Run?” Goalie asked. “Plenty of those guys would jump at the chance to get in some combat time.”

“Even if,” Guru said. Then there was another knock at the door. “Yeah?”

Squadron Leader Dave Gledhill came in. “Guru,” he said. “And Goalie. Came by to pick up those notes, so they can go with the mail.” One of the RAF crews had gone down the day before, and along with the missing-in-action form, Gledhill had to write the letters to the next-of-kin. And Guru had offered to write a couple of notes as well. Though the two downed crewers were RAF and not 335th, they had been flying with the 335th....

“Here you are,” Guru said, handing Gledhill two envelopes. “All typed up, signed, sealed, and ready. Hate to say this, but the two of us are going to get used to doing this. Still got a ways to go before it's over.”

Gledhill nodded. “Thanks, Guru. I appreciate this, and I'm sure the families will as well.”

“Not much you can tell someone when their loved one is MIA,” Guru said. “With me, all Colonel Rivers could tell my Mom was that I had gone down with my GIB, and there were two chutes. Next thing anyone knows is when we came out of the mountains, and 7th ID notifies the Air Force. Mom was at work, and the casualty officer came to tell her. She was on Cloud Nine the rest of the day.”

“One way to get two weeks at home,” Goalie said. “Dave, Guru's told me the full story of his E&E, and I'm only one of four people who know it.”

“Who are the other three?” Gledhill asked. “Out of curiosity, mind.”

“Colonel Rivers, rest his soul,” Guru replied. “Then the Intel who debriefed me. And one other. Mom.” Gledhill looked at him. “Had two weeks' leave at home after coming out, and I told her one night.”

“There are times when you do have to talk to your Mum,” Gledhill said sympathetically. “And this was one of them.”

Guru nodded. “It was,” he said. “And I made her promise not to tell another soul until this is all over. You'll hear some of it while you're here.” A knock on the door followed, then his secretary came in. “What's up, Trish?”

Staff Sergeant Trisha Lord said, “Major, phone call for you. It's General Tanner.”

“This about the mission we're cooking up?” Goalie asked.

“Let's hope so,” the CO said as he picked up the phone. “Sir, this is Major Wiser.”

“Major, glad to talk to you again,” Major General Robert Tanner, the Commander of Tenth Air Force, said. “General Olds is in my office, and he's told me a lot of things about your squadron. All of them good, by the way.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“How's the RAF detachment doing?”

“General, they're good people. They got a couple of MiG kills yesterday, and sir, both of them were MiG-29s. But they also had a bird go down with the crew MIA. Two chutes seen, but the bad guys were closing in on the chutes.”

There was silence on the other end, then Tanner growled, “Damn it. Well, part of the job, sad to say.”

“Yes, sir,” Guru replied.

“All right. Major, my legal officer tells me a certain snotty officer who'd been a PITA to you and your predecessor is now the proud recipient of an Article 15,” Tanner said. “If this was peacetime, his career would be over.”

“Yes, sir,” said the CO. “But General, we're going to have to wait until this war's over, and that first postwar RIF. If he makes it to the end, that is.”

Hearing that, Tanner chuckled. “Well, Major, that factor has to be taken into account. Now, General Olds has briefed me on a mission concept you're cooking up. You and your GIB want to put the hurt on Ivan's Su-24 force, he tells me.”

“Yes, sir,” Guru said, glancing at Goalie. “We'd like to pull those bastards north, a regiment at least. We get them to hit some decoy target, and after that, when they're at their staging field, whatever it is, I bring a dozen of my birds with some Marine and RAF support, and catch them like the Israelis did to the Egyptians in '67, or the Navy did to Nagumo's carriers at Midway.”

“I like that, Major,” Tanner said. “General Olds said pretty much the same thing. Now, Major? Don't be surprised if you get a message in a few days. I want to hear from you and your GIB on this. Bring her, your briefing materials, and your own self. And if you have to take your own bird to come out west? The orders will say 'fastest available transportation'.”

“Which, sir, are widely open to interpretation,” Guru said. “We'll be there.”

“Major, my ops people will look at this before then, and they may have recommendations of their own. It's your mission, and you're free to adopt, modify, or ignore said recommendations as you see fit,” Tanner told the CO. “I know from what General Olds told me; the people who plan it will be the ones flying it.”

“Sir, I was about to say the same thing,” Guru said. Then there was a knock on the door. “Excuse me, sir.” The door opened and Kara was there. His wingmate and Deputy Ops Officer had a grim expression on her face. “What's up?”

“Boss, Ops just came back, and his flight ran into a buzz saw. Two birds down, one crew MIA, and one recovered by the Army,” Kara said. “They're in the main briefing room, and Sin's trying to help sort this out.”

“General-” Guru said.

“I heard, Major. You take care of this, and if you need anything, let me know. I'll get out of your hair, and you get on with business at hand.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And Major?” Tanner asked. “Good luck.”

“Thank you, sir,” Guru said, then he heard the General hang up. He did the same, then asked Kara, “What happened?”

Kara shook her head. “Don't know for sure.”

“Okay, get the briefing folder for their mission, and get over there. Find Dave Golen if he's back, and get him there, too, because I want his opinion. Call Colonel Brady, and ask that he come over at his convenience. Dave? You're mainly an air-to-air guy, but if you see anything that smells fishy, call it. Goalie? Same with you.”

“Got you,” Goalie said.

“I'll do my best,” Gledhill nodded.

“All anyone can do,” Guru said. He turned to Kara. “I want you there as well: you think outside the box, and if you see anything that smells? Call it.”

“I'll be there,” Kara said as she went out the door.

Guru nodded, then turned to Goalie and Dave Gledhill. “We have someplace to be.”


When they got to the main briefing room, Don Van Loan was there with his GIB, Capt. Craig “Gimbal” Tyler, along with Rabbit and his GIB, 1st Lt. Eric “Cav” Stafford, along with Sin Licon, the SIO. “Don,” Guru asked. “What the hell happened?”

“Don't know, Boss,” Van Loan said, gulping a cup of coffee. “We went out after what the ATO said was a FROG missile unit near Brazospoint, and the next thing we know as we're rolling in? Flak by the ton, several radars up, and SAMs-radar and heat-seekers. Tread and Notso went down,” the Ops Officer said, referring to Capt. Mike “Tread” Safuley and Capt. Gary “Notso” Swift.

“Any chutes?”

“Two, but we never saw them land, Major,” Cav said.

“Okay. And what about Rascal and Redeye?” The CO asked about Capt. C.J. “Rascal” Taylor and 1st Lt. Eric “Redeye” Wallace. He knew there'd be two letters written....

“They got shot up, but made the fence before punching out,” Van Loan replied. “Army found 'em, and they should be back later today.”

Guru nodded, then Kara came in with the briefing folder. “That the briefing folder?” When she nodded, the CO added, “Let's see it.”

Photos and maps came out onto a table, and people began looking at them. “Here's the FROGs,” Sin Licon said. “Imagery's dated noon yesterday. And the cover sheet says they RON here, then move to fire, then come back.”

“Swell,” Goalie spat. She was looking at a photo of the town of Brazospoint-which was more a group of ruins than a town. “Hey, there's a vehicle here. Looks like a Shilka.” That meant the ZSU-23-4.

“We were briefed to expect those,” Van Loan said, and Rabbit nodded. “Two to four, plus some MANPADS.”

“They were waiting for you,” Goalie said.

“They were,” Guru agreed, as a knock at the door came, followed by Dave Golen, their IDF “Observer.” “Dave, ever run into any flak traps?”

“Twice: once in 1973, and again in Lebanon in '82,” Golen replied, wondering what the CO was asking about. Then it came to him. “Wait, someone here just ran into one?”

Van Loan nodded grimly. “Had a bird and crew down at the target, another crossing the fence. Those guys are lucky-they'll be back later. All for a suspected FROG battery,” he spat.

“East Germans set up a FROG unit in the open, knowing we'd spot it on overheads,” Guru said. “They probably set up fakes, then moved in the ZSU-23s and SAMs. Whoever put the ATO together fell for it.”

“And we paid the price,” Van Loan said angrily.

“Hold it, Don,” Guru said as one of Sin Licon's NCOs came in. “Yeah?”

“Major, got some new imagery of this area. Came in a half-hour ago with the eastbound C-130,” the male Staff Sergeant said.

“Thanks, Sarge,” the CO said. He started looking at the photos, and passed them around. “Anything jump out, folks?”

“FROG launchers-at least the FROG-7s, are eight-wheeled, right?” Dave Gledhill asked.

“They are,” Sin Licon replied. “Sir, what are you getting at?”

“Here's a picture from yesterday afternoon-and it's got a missile on top of a six-wheeled truck,” the RAF officer said as he pointed to a vehicle on the photo. “And I'll bet any amount of money the missile is a phony one.”

“A Quaker Cannon?” Goalie asked.

“The same,” Sin Licon nodded. 'Sir, I think you're right.”

Kara ignored the talk, and concentrated on some photos. “Got something here. Have a look at Brazospoint.”

“The town?” Guru wanted to know.

“Yeah,” Kara replied. “On yesterday morning's imagery? There's nothing leading into the ruins-and that's all the town is. But the stuff we just got?” She pointed at what was likely a photo from an SR-71 pass. “There's vehicle tracks leading to the ruined buildings.”

“Same here,” Goalie said. “Want to be that's where they're hiding their ZSUs, and the SA-13s?”

“Not taking that bet,” Kara said. “That's where I'd put them.”

Guru and Dave Golen looked at the photos. The CO asked, “What do you think, Dave?”

“It's what I'd do,” Golen said. “Syrians did it last time I had this,” he added. “Now, where are the SA-8s?” Golen was referring to the SA-8 Gecko SAM launchers.

“Good question,” the CO said. “Any ideas?”

Sin Licon nodded. “Major, there's enough ranches around with intact buildings that could hide a Gecko launcher-or a Gopher, let alone a ZSU-23,” the Intel pointed out.

Kara and Goalie looked at each other, and nodded agreement. “I'd do the same thing,” Kara said.

“So how do we do this?” Goalie asked.

“Ambushing the ambushers is out,” Dave Golen nodded.

“We smack the town,” Guru said. “And we bypass the flak trap. They'll think we're headed south for someplace near Lake Whitney, if not Waco.”

Kara grinned. “And we do a 180, come back, and lay it on them,” she said. “I like it.”

“Good, because you and I will be packing Mark-82 Snakeyes and M-117Rs. Sweaty and Hoser? They get ten BLU-27s.”

“Napalm,” Van Loan observed. “We going with you?”

Guru shook his head. “Negative. Don, you guys just came back from a buzz saw. Not to mention having one go down there, and one crew's coming back via Army helo. After we brief everybody, go to the fitness center-and that goes for all four of you-” the CO nodded at the survivors of Van Loan's flight. “Get rid of the stress, get yourselves something to eat after, then come back ready to go. And Don?”

“Boss?”

“Find yourselves a mission that calls for a two-ship. Comprende?”

“Got you.”

“Got room for us?” Dave Golen asked. He meant himself and Flossy.

“Yeah,” Guru said. “As soon as we hit Brazospoint, they'll be flushing the survivors. You two? Kill anyone moving with Mavericks.”

“We'll be there.”

“And Dave?” Guru motioned to the RAF Squadron Leader. “You guys hang back behind us, maybe a mile. Set up a TARCAP, because the one thing that can throw a monkey wrench into this is MiGs.”

Gledhill nodded. “Understood,” he said.

“Now, where's Colonel Brady?” Guru asked. Just then, the door opened, and Digger showed the MAG-11 CO in.”Sir,” Guru said.

“Major,” Brady said. “What's going on? Captain Thrace said you had a mission go bad.”

“We did, sir,” replied Guru. “Don, you and Sin tell the Colonel what you told me.” They spoke for five minutes, “And sir, something needs to be done about those bastards.”

“And you've got something in mind, Major,” Brady said. It wasn't a question from his tone of voice.

“Yes, sir,” Guru said. “We've had a talk.” The 335th CO outlined what he had in mind. “Sir, all we need is four Hornets for HARM shooting and to add to the TARCAP.”

“And clearing the air with Tenth Air Force,” Brady nodded. “This is your mission, Major, but you've all contributed in some way?” He asked those in the room, and heads nodded. “How do you want the Hornets loaded, Major?”

Guru thought for a moment. “Sir, Two Sidewinders and two Sparrows air-to-air, two wing tanks, full gun, and two HARMs.”

“Done, Major,” Brady nodded. “I'll get 451's people rolling on this, and I'll call General Tanner. You might be talking with him yourself, but by the time I'm on the phone with him, you're taxiing out.”

“Yes, sir,” Guru said.

“Boss,” Kara said. “I just thought of something.”

“What is it?”

“Any chance we can pry loose a couple of Weasels?”

“F-4Gs,” Gledhill nodded. “Would be nice to have for something like this.”

“They would,” Goalie agreed. “Any chance?”

Colonel Brady shook his head. “Not on this short notice, but keep it in mind for the future.”

“Yes, sir,” Kara said.

“Let's get going, Major. I'll talk to 451's people. When do you want them here?”

“Sir, would thirty minutes be good enough?”

“They will be,” Brady said. “Don't worry if the Hornet lead' has rank on you, Major,” He told Guru. “Your mission, you're commanding in the air.”

“Thank you, sir.” Guru replied.

Brady then said firmly, “Then let's get with it, and get this done.”


Half an hour later, with the aircraft either armed or in the process of being armed, the various crews gathered in the 335th's main briefing room, along with Colonel Brady, and the mascot of the 335th, Buddy. Much to the relief of the 335th people, the dog simply curled up and went to sleep. “All right, people, whatever you had tasked under the ATO? It got thrown out, and this one's going instead,” Colonel Brady said. “You're probably wondering what this is all about, so I'm turning it over to the 335th's CO,” He nodded at Guru. “Major?”

“Thank you, sir,” Guru said as he got up. “I'll cut to the chase. We had a 335th flight this morning run into a flak trap around what was supposed to be a FROG-7 battalion down in the East German sector. Instead of the FROGs, they hit a buzz saw of SAMs and Triple-A. One bird and crew down at the target, and another bird went in after crossing the fence, and that crew's OK. What we're going to do is make the East Germans pay for that.”

“How, Boss?” Sweaty asked. “We going after the same target?”

“Negative,” Guru replied. He nodded to Sin Licon, and a photo of Brazospoint came on an overhead projector. “This is the target we're going for. It's the town of Brazospoint, and is more a collection of ruins than a town. Note the vehicle tracks leading into some of the ruined buildings, and chances are, that's where the EG air-defense vehicles are hidden.”

“Nice,” KT said. “Somebody rolls in on the FROG site-and that's a phony?” Seeing Guru nod, she went on. “And they back out of the ruins and open up.”

“Somebody's got a case of the smarts,” Sweaty nodded. “So we get to kill that somebody?”

Guru nodded. “That's right. Kara? You and I go in as we talked earlier. Six Mark-82 Snakeyes and six M-117Rs.”

“And we walk our bombs across the town, and some of 'em will land on those ruined buildings,” Kara said.

“What about us?” Sweaty asked.

“You guys follow up. With BLU-27s,” Guru said. “Make them burn.”

Sweaty looked at Preacher, her GIB, and both nodded. Napalm? Been a while since we carried that. “Our pleasure.”

“Good. We'll have the usual air-to-air loadout besides our air-to-ground ordnance.” That meant four AIM-9Ps, two AIM-7Fs, full 20-mm gun, two wing tanks, and ECM pods. “Now, Dave?” Guru nodded at Dave Golen and Flossy. “You and Flossy have AGM-65. As soon as Hoser clears the town, surviving vehicles will get flushed.”

“And we kill them,” Flossy said. “That leaves us with just two Sparrows, the pods, and gun.”

“Dave Gledhill will watch our backs,” said Guru. “Now, Hornets?” He nodded at Marine Major Alan Pritchett, who would lead VMFA-451's Hornets. “You guys have the HARMs. Any SA-8s show? Shut them down-and for good.”

“Will do,” Pritchett replied. “And after we shoot the HARMs, we're a TARCAP.”

Smart guy, Guru thought. “You are. Back up the Brits. Speaking of which, Dave?” Guru turned to Gledhill. “Follow us by about a mile to a mile and a half. When I call PULL? Climb and assume a TARCAP.”

The RAF officer nodded. “And keep our eyes out for MiGs,” he replied.

“Do that,” Guru said. “Now, here's the ingress. Hit the tankers, then we go in following the Brazos River-and before you say 'What the hell'? The East Germans will think we're headed someplace further south-around Lake Whitney, or even Waco.”

“So they won't give themselves away by shooting at anyone not directly threatening them,” Colonel Brady nodded. “Good thinking, Major.”

“Thank you, sir. Now, we go down to Lake Whitney, and do a ninety to the right,” Guru said, continuing. “When we get to Meridian, we do another ninety to the north. It's still eighteen miles to the target area. Twenty seconds from the target, I'll give the command to pull, and we all go in.”

Colonel Brady nodded. “Sounds good, Major. And egress?”

“Just follow the river back north to the I-20, sir,” Guru said. “Sin?” He turned to his SIO. “Anticipated air-defense threats and MiGs, if you please.”

Sin Licon went to the projector. “Folks, you can expect ZSU-23-4s, SA-8, and probable SA-13s in the target area, along with small-arms fire and MANPADS, and that's just from the East Germans. The Libyans are just across the river, and they have a 57-mm battery at their end of the Brazospoint bridge, as do the East Germans. They may have seen the excitement earlier, and want to join in. There's also ZU-23s at the phony FROG site. The missiles may be fake, but the guns sure as hell aren't.” The intel paused, took a drink of water, then went on. “MiGs are as follows: MiG-21s and -23s at the old James Connolly AFB at Waco, along with -21s at Waco Regional. More 21s and -23s at Temple Regional, with -23s and -29s at Gray AAF, Fort Hood. More Fulcrums and also Flankers at Bergstrom AFB.”

“Who's driving the MiGs?” Flight Lt. Susan Napier, Gledhill's wingmate, asked.

“Good question,” Guru said. “Sin?”

“Most of the MiGs I've mentioned are Soviet. A few of the -21s may be Cuban, and some of the MiG-23s at Connolly are known to be Libyan. All of the Fulcrums and Flankers are Soviet,” Licon answered.

“That answers that,” Napier said.

“It does,” said Guru. “Weather and bailout areas?”

“Weather's unchanged since this morning,” Licon replied. “As for recommended bailout areas? Anywhere rural and away from roads,” the Intel added.

“All right, Sin,” Guru said. “We meet up at ten grand overhead, and my birds? We're Mustang Flight.”

“Hornets are Warlord,” Pritchett added.

“Good,” Guru said. “Sir,” he turned to Brady. “I think that covers it.”

“I think it does,” Brady agreed. “Get yourselves geared up and ready, and wait outside.” That wasn't necessary for the Marines, as they were already in their flight gear, but the 335th crews and the RAF would need to do so. “I'll be on the phone to Tenth Air Force and get the mission cleared.”

“Sir, my office phone is at your disposal,” Guru said. “No need for you to go halfway across the base.”

“Thanks, Major, and I'll do just that. Once I get the go-ahead, I'll let you know, then get to your birds,” Brady said. People got up to leave, and Brady added, “One last thing: Good Luck.”

“Thank you, sir,” Guru said. He glanced at Buddy, who was still sound asleep. “Hope Buddy's right.”

“He was this morning,” Don Van Loan said as he got up to leave. “He was awake the whole brief. Should've known something was up.”

“Too late now,” Guru said. “Just remember what I said, Don. Be ready to go again after lunch.”

“Will do, and Boss?” The Ops Officer said. “Be careful yourself. Don't want to be Exec.”

“And I don't want to be Ops yet,” Kara reminded the CO.

“Point taken, you two,” Guru nodded. “Let's get this done.”


The 335th people went to their locker rooms to gear up, and when Guru came out of the Men's, Goalie was waiting, as usual. “Ready?” He asked his GIB.

“Let's get it over with,” Goalie replied. “Haven't had a hairy one for a while.”

“Our turn,” the CO replied as they went outside, and found the others-AF and Marine, waiting. The crews were making small talk, and playing with Buddy, when Colonel Brady came out of the office. “Sir?” Guru asked. “Do we have a go?”

“We have a go,” Brady said. “And before anyone says a word, I did ask about getting some Weasels. Sorry, but no joy on that.”

“Let me guess,” Kara shook her head. “Too many requests and not enough assets.”

“Captain,” Brady said. “Those were General Tanner's exact words. But, he did release an EF-111 to us. It's lifting off from Cannon in fifteen, and by the time you're over Lake Whitney, it'll be doing some standoff jamming.”

“Well, now,” Dave Golen said. “That's good to have.”

“It is,” Brady said. “Majors?” He pointed to Guru and Major Prichett. “A word?” Both flight leads went to the Colonel. “Both of you, bring everybody back.”

“Do our best, sir,” Guru replied. “No guarantees in this line of work.”

“Can't promise that, sir,” Pritchett added. “And you know it as well as we do.”

Brady knew it as well. Still....”Just do the best you can.”

“All we can do, Colonel,” said Guru.

“I know. Good luck,” Brady said, shaking the hands of both flight leads. Then he said to the crews. “Good luck, and mount your birds.”

The crews headed to their aircraft, and the AF and RAF crews gathered at 512's revetment. “Usual on the radio, Boss?” Sweaty asked.

The CO nodded. “Call signs between us, mission code to the Marines, AWACS, and other parties,” said Guru. “Any other questions?”

Jang asked, “Any chance of a nice, quiet couple of hours after we get back?”

“Maybe,” Guru said. “Unless someone starts hollering for CAS.”

“Don't say it,” Hoser said. Everyone there despised CAS runs, preferring to leave that to the people in A-4, A-7, and A-10 squadrons who lived, breathed, and existed for that mission.

“Someone's got to,” said the CO. “Anything else?” Heads shook no, then he clapped his hands. “Let's make it happen, people. Time to hit it.”

The crews headed to their aircraft, as Guru and Goalie went to 512, their Crew Chief was waiting, and he snapped a perfect salute. “Major, Lieutenant, Five-twelve's locked and cocked,” Staff Sergeant Mike Crowley said.

“Thanks, Sarge,” Guru replied as he and Goalie did their preflight walk-around. Satisfied everything was proper, Guru signed for the aircraft, then he and Goalie climbed the crew ladder and got into their respective cockpits. After strapping in, they went through the preflight checklist. “Been a while since we've done something like this,” Guru said.

“Denver, back in March. Took out some 100-mm that was shooting into the traffic pattern for Stapleton,” Goalie said, recalling a strike against some of the flak batteries that threatened the Denver Airlift. “And a few others after that. Ejection seats?”

“Armed top and bottom, check yours, and yeah, anything we could do to take the heat off the transports,” replied Guru. “Arnie?”

“Arnie and INS all set,” Goalie replied. She meant the ARN-101 DMAS and the INS system. “Preflight complete and ready for engine start.”

“That we are,” Guru said. He gave a thumbs-up to his CC, who replied with the “Start Engines” signal. One, then both, J-79 engines were soon up and running, and just before the warm-up was complete, Guru called the tower. “Tower, Mustang Flight with eight, requesting taxi and takeoff instructions.”

“Mustang Lead, Tower.” A controller came back. “Clear to taxi to Runway Three-Five-Lima. Hold prior to the Active, and you are number one in line.”

Number one? When's the last time that happened? Guru shook that thought out of his mind as he replied, “Roger, Tower. Mustang Lead rolling.” He gave another thumbs-up to Sergeant Crowley, who motioned to the ground crew. The chocks were pulled away from the wheels, and Crowley gave the “Taxi” signal. Guru then released the brakes, and taxied 512 out of the revetment. As he cleared the revetment, Crowley snapped another perfect salute, and both pilot and GIB returned it.

Guru then taxied to Runway 35L, and as he did, the rest of the flight followed him. When he got to the holding area, the armorers removed the weapon safeties, then it was time to call the tower. “Tower, Mustang Lead requesting taxi for takeoff.”

The Controller replied immediately. “Mustang Lead, clear to taxi for takeoff. Winds are Two-seven-five for eight. And good luck.”

“Roger, Tower, and thank you,” Guru called back. He taxied 512 onto the runway, and Kara followed in 520. A quick cockpit check showed everything set for takeoff, and a glance at 520 had Kara and Brainiac giving the thumbs-up. Guru and Goalie returned them, then it was time. “Tower, Mustang Lead requesting clear for takeoff.”

The tower didn't reply over the radio, but gave the usual response, by flashing a green light. Clear for takeoff.

“Canopy coming down,” Guru said, pulling down and locking his canopy, and Goalie did the same. He glanced at 520, and saw Kara and Brainiac having done the same. It was time. “Ready?”

“Let's go,” Goalie said.

“Here we go,” said Guru. He applied full power, released the brakes, and 512 rumbled down the runway and into the air, with 520 right with him. Thirty seconds later, it was Sweaty and Hoser's turn, then came Dave Golen and Flossy, with the RAF F-4Js bringing up the rear. The Marine Hornets followed the RAF, and all aircraft met up at FL 100. Then Guru flashed his formation lights, and the strike force headed south for the tankers.
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  #486  
Old 04-25-2019, 08:01 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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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.

“Worse.”

“And we're not kidding,” Guru said. “Let's go and get this out of the way.”
__________________
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Old USMC Adage
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  #487  
Old 08-07-2019, 08:15 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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After an untended delay, and RL, the 335th's adventures continue:



335th TFS, Sheppard AFB, TX; 1150 Hours Central War Time:


In his office, Major Matt Wiser scowled. He had just written two more condolence letters, for Tread's wife and Notso's parents, and one thought was running through his mind. It was what Colonel Rivers had told Guru when he became Exec. “It never gets easy,” the Colonel had said. Guru had found that out himself, writing a letter for the Colonel's widow, and the GIB's. Then had come Razor Gillette's parents, the two RAF aircrew who had gone down the previous day, and now two more. At least MIA letters give the chance their loved ones are still alive, Guru thought as he finished up Notso's letter, then he got up and left the office. He found his secretary, Staff Sergeant Trisha Lord. “Trish? I need these typed up before lunch.” He handed her the two letters.

“Not a problem, Major,” Lord said. She had been Colonel Rivers' secretary, and Lt. Col. Mark Johnson's before that. A prewar member of the 335th, she and the other admin people helped keep the squadron running while the crews were out on missions. She quickly went to work, and had the two letters typed up. “Here you go, sir,” she said, handing the CO the letters.

“Thanks, Trish,” the CO nodded. “You have a good lunch.”

“Thank you, sir,” Lord said. Like all the other admin people, she was in BDUs, not undress whites, and was packing a sidearm. She got up to go to the NCOs' mess, and saw Goalie coming in, plastic bags in hand. “Looks like Lieutenant Eichhorn's here.”

“What's on the menu?” Guru asked his GIB.

“Grilled Chicken Sandwiches, with macaroni and cheese and cole slaw,” Goalie replied. “But there were a few fools who were trying the Suggestion of Pork Tri-tip.”

“Either brave or foolish,” Guru observed.

“Or both, if you don't mind my saying, sir,” Sergeant Lord said as she was leaving her desk.

“Any of of those answers can be graded as correct,” Guru said. “Let's go eat.”


Over lunch, the morning's events were discussed, along with the CO having had to write two more letters to MIA families. “They won't go out until tomorrow, though,” Guru said in between bites.

Goalie nodded. “When's C.J coming back with Redeye?” She asked.

“Sometime this afternoon,” Guru said. “They're getting checked out at a MASH, and once that's done, they head back here.” The CO handed Goalie two papers. “And these got faxed to Tenth Air Force after the debrief.”

Goalie looked over the papers. One was a request for two new replacement aircraft, while another was for replacement aircrew. “Goes with the flow,” she nodded. “And all part of doing business in this line of work.”

“Sad, but true,” Guru said. “Now, I talked to Don Van Loan after the debrief. He's going to check future missions we get in the ATO. If the target looks too good to be true...”

His GIB knew right away. “It probably is,” she agreed. “So what do we hit instead?”

“Opportunity targets,” Guru said. “Say we get one of these 'FROG units' in the open near, say, Stephenville. I'll go in, then pull up, and call the abort for a flak trap. Then we go to Stephenville and tear up the airport-again.”

“Sounds good.”

“I'll have Sin Licon do a look-see for other opportunity targets,” said the CO. “It'll be up to the flight lead to make the call whether or not to abort and switch to an opportunity target.”

Goalie nodded again. “And Frank?”

“Forget him and anything he sends elsewhere. They shit-can that, and I shred anything he gives me.”
Guru was then interrupted was a knock on the door. “Yeah?”

Digger came in, still favoring his bad ankle. “Phone call, Boss. It's General Tanner.”

Guru nodded. “Thanks, Digger.” He picked up his office phone. “General? What can I do for you?”

“Major, good to hear your voice,” General Tanner said. “What happened out there?”

“Sir, we put the hurt on the bad guys who had the flak trap, and got some Libyan MiG-23s who invited themselves to the party,” Guru said. “No BDA on the strike yet, sir.”

“Major, I'm sending a couple of RF-4Cs to get just that. Send two of your birds to meet up at the Mineral Wells tanker track and provide escort,” Tanner said. “A tasking order's being faxed to your Ops Office right now.”

“Will do, sir, and General? Somebody in the Ops Office there needs to have some balls crunched, for they gave us a target that turned out to be a flak trap. If we get a similar target-a missile unit, or other high-value asset out in the open, my people will assume it's too good to be true, and we'll go fishing for alternates.”

“Major, I'll kick some asses in the Ops Office myself. Ran into some flak traps in Vietnam, and they were no fun,” said the General. “If you get a target that smells, use your best judgment.”

“Will do, sir,” Guru replied.

“All right, Major. You have yourself a good rest of the day, and I'll be in touch.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And Major?”

“Sir?” Guru asked.

“Be careful out there,” Tanner said. “And good luck.”

“Thank you, sir,” said Guru. After the General hung up, Guru did so. “Well, now. Two RF-4Cs will be going to get BDA for the strike.”

“Anything from us?” Goalie asked.

“Two birds for escort,” Guru nodded.

Goalie looked at him. “Who's going?” She asked. “Sending Don and Rabbit out?”

The CO thought for a minute. “Either them, or Dave and Flossy,” he said. Then there was another knock. “Yeah? Show yourself and come in!”

It was Kara. “Boss, we've got a mission. Six-ship. Dave and Flossy are coming with us.”

“Where to?”

“Town called Walnut Springs, north of Meridian on State Route 144,” Kara said. “Regimental laager or assembly area.”

“Okay, anything calling for a two-ship?” The CO asked. “Recon escort, say?”

“Yeah. Two for escort of a pair of RF-4Cs,” Kara replied. “How'd you know?”

Guru tapped his phone.”General Tanner just told me,” he said. “Get Don and Rabbit. That's their mission, and have 'em loaded for air-to-air. No centerline stores, though.”

Kara knew what her CO meant. “And they get told 'No trolling for MiGs.'”

“They do,” Guru said. “RAF coming?”

“Two birds, with the same crews as this morning.”

Good, the CO thought. “All right: round everybody up. Our briefing room in fifteen.”

“Already sent Preacher to do that,” Kara said.

“Good. I'll be in the Ops Office in a couple,” Guru said. “We're back in the game.”

Kara grinned. “As long as the bad guys lose,” she said. “I'm gone.” She headed back to the Ops Office.

Goalie got up. “Guess we have somewhere to be,” she said.

Guru nodded, then got up as well. “That we do.”


When the CO got to the Ops Office, he found his Ops Officer waiting. “Don,” Guru said. “Get your mission?”

“I did,” Van Loan nodded. “Escort for recon, and guess who the lead is?”

“No guess: Athena,” Guru replied. Capt. Sharon Valerri-Park had flown with them before, and wherever she and her GIB, 1st Lt. Karl “Helo” Agathon went, MiGs were sure to follow. He knew firsthand, when he and Sweaty had escorted her on a recon of Cannon AFB and Clovis, before PRAIRIE FIRE, and Guru had gotten a MiG-25 kill out of that.

“Four-oh, Boss,” the Ops said. “And Kara told me what you told her to relay: No trolling for MiGs.”

“Four-oh on your part,” the CO nodded. “No vendettas. Not today. And my mission?”

“Here you go,” Van Loan handed the CO the mission folder. “Kara told you the basics?”

“She did. Regiment-sized unit laagered around this town. And we're getting a six-ship.” said Guru. “Not counting the RAF.”

“True, and with the MiG activity you guys had, be glad they're coming with you.”

Guru nodded. “I am. Okay, anything else, other than 'be careful?'”

“Have a good one, Boss,” Van Loan said.

“You, too.” With that, Guru headed to the briefing room his flight used, and found his flight waiting, along with Dave Golen's element, and their new friends from the RAF. And Buddy, the squadron's mascot. “Okay, people, let's get the show on the road. We kicked some ass a little while ago, and had a break.” He looked over his crews. “Now it's time to get back in the game.”

“As long as the bad guys lose,” Kara said.

“That is rule number one,” Dave Golen said. “So, what kind of target calls for a six-ship?”

“Town called Walnut Springs, eleven miles north of Meridian on State Route 144. Intel says there's a regiment-sized unit laagered around the town. They're Soviets, and probably trying to rest and refit after the mauling the Army gave 'em last week. We get to interrupt that.”

“This place crawling?” Sweaty asked. “As in ZSU-30s?”

“As far as intel knows? No,” Guru replied. He passed out the recon imagery. “But...”

“Just because they're not on the photos,” Hoser said. “Doesn't mean they're not around.”

The CO nodded agreement. “Good call. If you see those basketball-sized tracers coming up? Abort. We'll go for Stephenville Municipal and pay the East Germans there another visit.”

“Anyplace where those aren't around is somewhere good to be,” Flossy said. “How are we getting there?”

'Ingress is as follows: After htting the tankers, we go in as usual, along the Brazos.”

“And the chumps we blasted this morning?” Kara asked.

“We give them a wide berth,” Guru said. “Stay on the east side until clear of the Brazospoint Bridge, then thread the needle, right down the river, past the 174 Bridge and Lake Whitney. Turn right onto a heading of Two-four-zero, until we get to a town twenty-four miles southwest of the lake, called Cranfills Gap. We turn due north, then head for the target. Twenty seconds prior to the target? We pull, clear a ridgeline, and pick out targets. These guys are laagered around the town, so dealer's choice.”

“And when we're clear, we head for the river,” Golen said.

“Right on that,” replied the CO. “Defenses are regimental level. And that means ZSU-23-4 or ZSU-30, SA-9 or -13, small-arms fire, and MANPADS.”

Brainiac scowled. “Hope those Army pukes, when they chewed these guys up, killed off their air-defense assets.”

“Here's hoping. Egress is simple: clear the town, then head northeast to the Brazos-north of the flak trap site this morning. Then we get our asses north to I-20.”

“Sounds good,” Sweaty said. “MiGs?”

“Same as this morning,” the CO replied.

Goalie nodded. “And ordnance loads?”

“No CBUs this close to a town,” Guru said. “Other than the usual air-to-air?” That meant four AIM-9Ps, two AIM-7Fs, full 20-mm, ALQ-119 or -101 ECM pod, and two wing tanks, people knew. “Everyone gets a dozen Mark-82 Snakeyes. Half with the Daisy Cutter fuze extensions.”

The 335th people nodded, then Dave Gledhill asked, “And what's our job? TARCAP as usual?”

“It is,” Guru said. “Kill anyone flying, and do the same for anyone crashing the party.”

“After this morning?” Flight Lt. Paul Jackson, Gledhill's pilot, said. “It'll be a pleasure.”

“Good. And no trolling for MiGs, mind,” the CO said flatly. “Let them come to you.”

“Understood,” Flight Lt. Susan Napier, who had made ace on the previous strike, said.

Guru nodded. “Okay, weather and bailout areas are unchanged. Anything else?” He asked as an Ops NCO appeared, waiting for the brief to finish so he could collect the briefing materials.

“What's after this one?” Flossy asked.

“Only the ATO knows for sure, you know that,” said the CO.

“Had to ask.”

Nodding understanding, Guru said, “Did that a few times myself as a wingie.” He looked around, and saw Buddy sound asleep. “And that's a good omen. Buddy's asleep. If that's it, let's gear up and get ready to fly. See you at 512.”


The crews headed to their respective locker rooms to gear up, and when Guru came out of the Men's Locker Room, Goalie was waiting, as usual. “Here we go again,” he said. “Ready?”

“If you are,” Goalie replied. “One more after this one.”

“And we make Doc happy by getting a workout before that,” the CO said. “He's bored, so guess what he has to do?”

“Badger us?” Goalie shook her head. “He's flight-qualified, so maybe we should get him a check ride in exchange for laying off.”

“Down, girl,” Guru said as they went to the office, then outside. “He's doing his job, and he does outrank me when it comes to things like that.”

“I know,” she said as they walked towards the squadron's dispersal. “But the Reds have a say in the flight schedule at times.”

“They do,” Guru agreed as they got to 512's revetment, and the rest of the crews were already there. “Okay, people. Usual procedures on the radio.”

“Call signs between us, and mission code to AWACS and others,” Sweaty nodded.

“You got it,” the CO said. “We're still Mustang Flight. Meet up at ten grand overhead. Anything else?”

“Any word on C.J and Redeye?” KT asked. Redeye was a classmate of hers from the RTU.

“Should be back later this afternoon, and that's all I know. That it?” Heads nodded at the last. The CO clapped his hands. “Then let's hit it. Time to fly.”

The crews headed to their aircraft, and Guru and Goalie went to their bird, 512. Sergeant Crowley was waiting, and the Crew Chief snapped a perfect salute. “Major, Lieutenant? Five-twelve's ready to fly.”

Guru and Goalie returned it. “Thanks, Sarge.” He and Goalie did their preflight walk-around, then climbed the ladder, got into their seats, and got strapped in. Then they went through the preflight checklist. As they did, Goalie asked, “Worried?”

“About going out? No,” Guru said. “Going in? You might say that. Those guys we blasted might have a couple of guns or missiles left, and they're going to be pissed.”

Having been bombed herself on a few occasions, Goalie understood. “So would I. Ejection seats?”

“Armed top and bottom. Check yours,” said Guru. “Arnie?”

“Arnie's all set,” said Goalie. “And the INS.” That meant the ARN-101 DMAS and the INS system.
“Preflight complete and ready for engine start.”

“So we are,” Guru said. He gave Sergeant Crowley a thumbs-up, then got the “Start Engines” signal in reply. First one, then both J-79 engines were up and running. During the warm-up, Guru called the Tower. “Tower, Mustang Flight with eight, requesting taxi and takeoff instructions.”

“Mustang Lead, Tower.” A controller told him, “Clear to taxi to Runway Three-Five-Charlie. Hold prior to the active, and you are number three in line.”

“Roger, Tower. Mustang Flight rolling.” Guru gave another thumbs-up to his CC, who waved to the ground crew. The chocks were pulled away from the wheels, and Crowley gave the “Taxi” signal.

Guru taxied 512 out of the revetment, and as he cleared it, Crowley snapped a perfect salute, then gave a thumbs-up. Guru and Goalie returned the salute, then taxied to Three-Five-Charlie. They got to the holding area, and found the Ops Officer's element first in line, then a Marine four-ship of F/A-18s, then it was their turn. After Van Loan's element had left, the Marines taxied onto the runway, and Mustang taxied into the holding area.

There, the armorers removed the weapon safeties, and then it was time to taxi onto the runway. “Tower, Mustang Lead requesting taxi for takeoff.”

“Roger, Mustang Lead,” the tower controller came back. Clear to taxi for takeoff. Winds are Two-six-five for ten.”

“Roger, Tower.” Guru replied, then he taxied 512 onto the runway, and Kara followed in 520. A final cockpit check, then a glance at Kara's bird, where she and Brainiac gave thumbs-ups. Guru and Goalie returned them, and it was time to call the Tower. “Tower, Mustang Lead requesting clear for takeoff.”

As usual, the Tower didn't come back on the radio, but flashed a green light. Clear for takeoff.

“Ready?” Guru asked.

“Let's go,” Goalie said.

“Canopy coming down,” Guru replied, pulling down and locking his canopy. Goalie did the same, and a quick look showed Kara and Brainiac had done the same. “And time to go.” He applied full power, released the brakes, and 512 rumbled down the runway and into the air, 520 was right with him, and thirty seconds later, it was the turn of Sweaty and Hoser. Then came Dave Golen and Flossy, followed by the RAF element. They met up at FL 100, then headed south for their tankers.




Over Central Texas: 1315 Hours Central War Time:


Mustang Flight was headed south, at low level. They had made their tanker rendezvous, and the two RAF crews, this time, had to tank up from a KC-10 instead of their Tristar, which had gone back for its own refueling and to change crews. Everyone also noticed the two F-15 and two F-16 flights orbiting nearby, for the tankers-and the AWACS, EC-130 Airborne Command Posts, and the RC-135s that everyone knew, but never saw, were in the area and were all high-value targets. The refueling went off without a hitch, and so did the penetration into hostile territory.

Now, they had passed the Granbury Bridge, and were flying just east of the Brazos River. Close enough to see the river, but not close enough they could draw fire-or so the crews hoped. As usual, the Nicaraguan gunners had stayed quiet, and though they were not quite out of range, the East German gunners on the west bank had spotted them, and sent several 57-mm rounds their way. It reminded several of the 335th crews of what they had seen on AFN during PRAIRIE FIRE, when a Nicaraguan unit had been trapped by the First Cav, and instead of fighting it out, the Nicaraguan battalion had surrendered without firing a shot. When asked why by a reporter traveling with that particular American unit, a Nicaraguan officer had replied, with quite basic civilian logic, “Because it would've been a mistake, Senor.”

Leading the flight, Guru had them down low, at 450 Feet AGL. While the pilots had their heads on a swivel, checking instruments, then having their eyes out of the cockpit to keep up their visual scanning, the GIBs were watching their own instruments and also handling the navigation. Though the ARN-101 system and the INS did the work, the backseaters were busy with stopwatch, map, and compass, doing things the old-fashioned way.

In 512's front seat, Guru saw the flak off to the west as they flew past the U.S. 377 Bridge at Granbury. “East Germans again,” he noted. “Dam in thirty?”

“Thirty seconds to the dam,” Goalie replied. “One minute to Glen Rose Bridge and U.S. 67.” They had flown this route so many times they were getting to know it like the backs of their hands. Then again, the Brazos was the boundary between the Nicaraguan II Corps on the east side, and the East Germans' Army-sized group known as “Kampfgruppe Rosa Luxembourg,” to the west. “EW still clear.”

“So far,” Guru said. He looked around, then glanced at his EW display. Suddenly, a strobe appeared, and the SEARCH light came on the panel. “There they are,” he said.

“Mainstay again,” Goalie said. It wasn't a question.

“No taking that bet,” Guru said as the Lake Granbury Dam appeared. “Dam at One. And flak.” Sure enough, the East German gunners were shooting again. Again, the 37-mm and 57-mm fire missed, as the strike flight kept on its way.

“Right on time,” Goalie quipped. “They must get paid by the shell.”

“Maybe.” Guru glanced down at his own map, then focused straight ahead. There was a bend in the river, and when they got there, they would turn straight south. “Bend coming up.”

“Got it,” Goalie said. The bend went sharply into the Nicaraguan sector, and that meant the difference between a...tolerable occupation, they had heard, from a serious one. “Twenty seconds to Glen Rose.”

“Copy,” Guru checked his EW display. Still that one strobe. Time to call the AWACS. “Crystal Palace, Mustang Lead. Say threats?”

A controller came back at once. “Mustang Lead, Crystal Palace. First threat bearing One-six-five for forty-five. Medium, going away. Second threat bearing One-seven-eight for fifty-five. Medium, closing. Third threat bearing One-nine-zero for sixty. Medium, going away.”

“Roger, Crystal Palace,” Guru called back. “MiGs are up.”

“After this morning?” Goalie shot back. “You surprised?”

“No,” said Guru. He glanced to the right, then towards the nose. “Bridge at One.”

“Glen Rose Bridge,” Goalie called. “And there's the flak.” Though the flight was some distance from the bridge, they were still within 57-mm range, and the East German gunners on the west bank opened fire. The flak wasn't on target, bursting either above or behind the strike birds, as they headed south. “Thirty seconds to Brazospoint, and the chumps we hit last time.”

Guru nodded. '”It is that,” he agreed. Now, what would the reaction be when they got there? Would the East Germans, and the Libyans, be in a shooting mood? They'd find out soon enough-when they got there. It wasn't long, though. “Brazospoint coming up.”

“Got it,” Goalie said. “Flak on both sides of the bridge.” The AAA gunners on both sides-Libyans now on the east, East Germans still on the west, had started shooting.

“Roger that,” Guru said. Sure enough, there were puffs of flak, and some tracers from 23-mm. But no radar warnings, which was good. That meant the 23-mm and 57-mm were optically aimed, and they were going too fast to really track. A quick glance on the west side of the river showed smoke still rising from what had been the town, and either burning ruins-or vehicles-still in flames. Good for them, he thought as the strike flight flew past.


In Brazospoint, the East Germans were still cleaning up after the late morning air strike. The East German Captain who had been the special air-defense battalion's deputy commander had been busy supervising the cleanup, tending to the wounded, and recovering the bodies of the dead. Many of the wounded were horribly burned, and in peacetime, they would need treatment in special burn care centers, something that he doubted the liberated zone of Texas had, That meant being medically evacuated to Cuba, and the Captain doubted that many of the burn cases wouldn't get past the Kampfgruppe's medical facilities, much less to Cuba. The Captain went to his UAZ-469 jeep, and found the Libyan pilot he and his men had helped. The pilot's left arm was in a sling, and since he wasn't a priority case, had to wait until those more seriously-even critically-injured, had been tended to.

The Captain had just started to walk that way when there were shouts. Eight F-4s flew past, just across the river, and the anti-aircraft gunners at both ends of the bridge had started shooting. He watched the Imperialist aircraft fly past, and he didn't care to be visibly relieved as they didn't turn around and attack. The Captain then went to the Libyan, who had been calmly watching the whole thing. “Captain, is there anything you need? The doctors will be seeing you shortly.”

“Just get ready to get out of here,” the Libyan said. “You should be glad that wasn't a strike.”

“What do you mean?”

“They may come back to finish what they started,” replied the Libyan, as if such things happened regularly. Just then, two more F-4s came over at low level, with two more higher up. To him, it looked like a reconnaissance mission with escort. Hopefully, they'd all be out of there before a follow-on strike....


“That was easy,” Guru said after passing Brazospoint. “How far to the 174 Bridge?”

“Ten miles,” Goalie called back. “Forty seconds.”

“Roger that,” Guru said as he followed the twists and turns of the river. Just short of the State Route 174 Bridge, there was a bend in the river that went to the east, and he just led the flight across the bend, cutting for a few seconds into East German-controlled territory, before going back to the east side. So far, the Libyans, other than those at the Brazospoint Bridge, had been quiet. “Coming up on the Bridge,” he said as the bridge came into view.

“Roger that,” Goalie said. “And flak from both sides.”

Just as Goalie called, the guns on both sides of the river opened up as the strike birds became visible to the gunners. As Mustang Flight came by, there was a convoy on the bridge-and it looked like a good one, with tanks on transporters and other heavy equipment. Guru took a look, and said wistfully, “Too bad we're not on an armed recon.”

“Good targets,” Goalie noted. “Not their turn.”

“No,” Guru nodded in the front seat. “One minute to turn,” he noted as he took 512 down to 400 Feet AGL.

“One minute,” Goalie confirmed.

Mustang Flight headed down Lake Whitney at low altitude, but not low enough to throw up wakes in the water. As they headed south, the crews couldn't help but think that there were eyes watching them, and they were right.

Along the lakeshore, there were locals who were fishing, hoping to catch some fish to add to the rations allowed them by the occupiers, while Soviet, Libyan, and East German soldiers were fishing as well, for they, too, wanted some fresh fish to add to their own rations. In addition, there was a Resistance group using a boat-in campground as a hiding spot, and all noticed the eight-ship of Phantoms headed south. For the locals and the Resistance people, it was a sign that there was a light-a strong one-at the end of the tunnel, while the Soviet and Soviet-bloc soldiers wondered if the line their Political Officers were feeding them about the “Socialist bloc controlling the air” was worth the hot air expended, or the paper such leaflets were printed on.


“Thirty seconds to turn,” Goalie called.

“Copy,” replied Guru. “Crystal Palace, Mustang Lead. Say threats?” He called the AWACS.

A controller came back at once. “Mustang Lead, Crystal Palace. First threat bearing One-six-five for thirty-five. Medium, going away. Second threat bearing One-eight-zero for forty-five. Medium, closing. Third threat bearing One-eight-five for sixty-five. Medium, going away. Fourth threat bering Two-zero-zero for sixty-five. Medium, closing.”

“Mustang Lead copies. Say bogey dope?”

“Mustang, Crystal Palace. First and second are Floggers. Third threats are Flankers. Fourth are Fulcrums.”

“Roger that,” Guru replied. Su-27s? Lovely. “Hope the Flankers stay away,” he said over the IC. “Flight, Lead. Music on.” He turned on his ECM pod.

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

“Hope you're right,” Goalie said. “Next turn in ten. Five, four, three, two, one, MARK!”

Guru put 512 into a right turn, coming to a heading of Two-four-zero, and the flight copied him. “One more turn, then get ready for showtime.”

“Roger that,” Goalie said.

The rolling hills of this part of Texas flew by, and so far, so good. Guru took a look at his EW display, just to be sure. Only one strobe was there, and it was bright. He knew what it was. “Mainstay's still on.”

“Why am I not surprised?” Goalie asked. “Forty seconds to turn.”

“Somebody ought to shut him down, and for good,” Guru spat.

“Somebody may be thinking about that,” Goalie reminded him. “Twenty seconds.”

“Copy,” Guru said as hills appeared, and the small town of Cranfills Gap soon became visible between the hills. “Give me the count.”

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

Guru turned north, and when he was steady on the new course, called the flight. “Flight, Lead. One minute. Switches on, and stand by to pull.”

“Roger, Lead,” Kara replied, as did the others.

Without being asked, Goalie worked the armament controls. “Switches set. We're ready. Thirty seconds to pull.”

“Copy,” Guru said. He was maintaining his visual scanning. “Sky's clear so far.”

“For now,” Goalie reminded him. “Twenty seconds to pull,” she called as State Route 6 flashed by beneath them.

“Roger that!” Guru called. It was almost time. “Get ready,”

Goalie knew what that meant. Namely, get her shoulder straps tight, put the map away, and it would be showtime. “All set. Pull in ten....five, four, three, two, one, PULL!”

Guru pulled 512 into a climb, and as he did, the town of Walnut Springs appeared “No gun or missile radars,” he said, checking his EW display.

“Yet,” she said.

“Yet,” Guru replied, knowing she was right. “Flight, Lead, time to go to work.” With that, the two RAF F-4Js climbed to assume their TARCAP.

“Ready back here,” Goalie said.

“Then let's go,” Guru said as he rolled in on his attack run.


In Walnut Springs, the locals had been pretty much left alone by the war since the initial invasion. Though the usual round-ups of those considered “Counterrevolutionary Elements” had taken place, after that, the garrison-in this case, East Germans, had left the local population alone for the most part. The East Germans were reservists, older ones not fit for front-line service, and the company's equipment showed it. A platoon of T-55A tanks, unmodernized, while there were BTR-152 APCs for a platoon's worth of men, the other two platoons having to make do with trucks. A battery of 82-mm mortars and several ZPU-2 AA machine guns rounded out their heavy weapons, and the Captain who was in command was hoping that when the U.S. Army returned-and word had it that the Americans were close-less than a hundred kilometers-the battle here would be over quickly. He had been wounded up in Colorado, before the Americans' Summer Offensive, and after recovery, he had found himself assigned here. The locals weren't any problem: it was the Stasi Lieutenant who was assigned here, along with the local PSD man-and he had a couple of toughs with him to give credence to his demands.
Fortunately for all concerned, the Stasi and PSD spent nearly all their time arguing with each other, and left the garrison and the locals to their own devices.

Things had been fine until a few days earlier, when a regiment of Soviet troops took up positions outside town. At first, there had been feelings that the fighting was getting closer, but seeing the Soviets digging only air-raid shelters, and some shelters for vehicles, meant that they were simply setting up shop. The Regimental Commander of the 482nd MRR, 144th GMRD, a Major, had called on him at the garrison's headquarters-the city hall, and informed the Captain that though the regiment would not interfere in the day-to-day affairs of the town, should there be any kind of a fight, the garrison would be under the Soviets' command. After the Russian left, the Captain wondered how much his men could do, if it ever came to that. Nearly all were family men, though a few had been wounded like he was, and any kind of a serious fight was not what his men were capable of. At least the Russians aren't in the town proper, the Captain thought. Their battalions were laagered around the town proper, and only the Regimental HQ and command group was in the town itself. But the signs were there that the Russians were refitting and rebuilding, for tank transporters with early-model T-72 tanks, BTR-60PB APCs, and other specialist vehicles had been coming in on a regular basis.

The Captain got up from his desk and left the City Hall to get a breath of fresh air. A propaganda banner just put up by the PSD people earlier that morning had just been defaced, and the Captain was wondering why it had taken the culprits that long to do it. He saw the Stasi officer arguing with a couple of Soviets if they had seen anything, when there was shouting, and soliders on rooftops pointing to the south. The Captain had been under air attack before, and knew what was coming. “AIR ALARM!”


Guru rolled in on his attack run and made his call, “Lead's in hot!” He came down onto the town, and as the defenders began shooting, he picked out his target. There were several laagers around the town, and he picked out one south of the town proper, at the F.M. 927/F.M. 2580 intersection. As 512 went down, Guru saw they were tanks, and he grinned beneath his oxygen mask. Okay, Ivan.....you're about to have a bad afternoon. Guru saw tracers start to come up, and even a MANPADS-probably an SA-7 or SA-14, but he ignored it as he came in on the bomb run. He centered a half-dozen tanks in his pipper, and selected them. “Steady.....Steady....And.....HACK!” Guru hit the pickle button, sending his dozen Mark-82 Snakeyes down on the tanks below. He then pulled wings level, applied power, and then pulled up and away, jinking as he did so. Only when clear of the town and its defenders did the CO make the call, “Lead's off target.”

“What the...” the Captain said as Guru's F-4 went on its run. His men were running to their air-defense posts, and several of the ZPU guns on rooftops were already firing. The Captain saw the bombs come off the F-4, then the aircraft flew right over the town as it headed to the north. More tracers, and even a shoulder-fired missile followed the aircraft, but to no avail. Then the sound of explosions came, and two oily fireballs. Something had been hit....


“SHACK!” Goalie called from 512's back seat. “Got a couple of secondaries!”

“How big?” Guru wanted to know as he jinked left, then right, then left again. As he did, a couple of missiles-small ones and thus MANPADS, flew past him on the right.

“Big enough,” said Goalie. “Were those tanks we dropped on?”

“They were,”

“Then scratch two.”

Then it was Kara's turn in 520. “Two's in!” She rolled in on her bomb run, and saw the CO make his. Kara saw the fireballs, and as she came down, also saw the tanks. Can't have Guru have all the fun, she said to herself as she, too, selected the armor. A couple of tank transporters with tanks on the trailers attracted her attention, and she lined them up in her pipper. Your turn, she said to herself as 520 approached the release point, with flak coming up. “Steady...And...And....NOW!” Kara hit her pickle button, and her dozen Mark-82s came off the racks. She, too, pulled up and away, and began jinking to avoid ground fire and missiles. Kara cleared the town, and called, “Two off target.'

“Gott in...” The Captain muttered to himself as a second F-4 came in and dropped near where the first one had done so. As the F-4 pulled away, he could see townspeople clapping and waving as the Fascist aircraft flew by. Explosions sounded to the south, and the Captain turned in that direction. He saw three more oily clouds of smoke coming up, and knew something had been hit. He ran to City Hall, and as he got in, heard more shouting. The Captain turned to the south, and saw another aircraft coming in.

“GOOD HITS!” Brainiac shouted from 520's back seat. “And you've got secondaries!”

“Good,” replied Kara as she pulled away. “How many?”

“Two or three, and they're good ones!”

Kara grinned beneath her oxygen mask as a missile flew past on her left side. She jinked right, then left again to pick up the CO. “Good enough,” she said, then she came up alongside the CO's bird.


“Three's in!” Sweaty called as she came in on her run. She watched as Kara pulled up and away, and the bombs going off on whatever she and the CO had hit. As Sweaty came in, she picked out another laager to hit, this one northwest of the town. As she got closer, she picked out camo netting concealing vehicles, and those were good targets, she knew. Tanks or APCs? No matter, Ivan....Sweaty, too, had flak coming up, and she ignored it as she concentrated on her bomb run. Nothing heavy, she saw, and no radar-guided flak or missiles. That's good, she thought as she selected several vehicles and lined them up in her pipper. “Steady....And....Steady.....HACK!” Sweaty hit her pickle button, and released her dozen Mark-82s onto the Russians below. She then pulled up and away, and as she did so, began jinking to avoid flak or missiles. “Three's off safe,” Sweaty called as she cleared the target area.

“Schisse!” The Captain said as he saw Sweaty's F-4 make its run. He saw the bombs come off the aircraft, then he ran inside and climbed two stories to the roof. When he got there, he found several of his men with Strela-2 (SA-7) shoulder-fired missiles, along with a ZPU-2 gun, trying to track the aircraft. The gun then began firing, but the gunners failed to give sufficient lead, and the tracers fell behind the aircraft. A soldier fired a missile, but the missile failed to guide, and on a nearby roof, another soldier tried to fire, only to have the missile explode in the launcher, killing the man and causing other casualties. The Captain cursed as the F-4 cleared the area, leaving several clouds of smoke and flame in its wake. Then the ZPU gunners turned their weapon back south. Another F-4 was coming in....

“BULLSEYE!” Preacher called from Sweaty's back seat. “Good hits, and we've got secondaries.”

“How many and how good?” Sweaty asked as she jinked to avoid flak.

“Got a few, and they're good enough.”

“Works for me,” Sweaty replied as she jinked left, then right, then left again, before picking up the CO's and Kara's smoke trails.


“Four's in!” Hoser called as he came in on his run. As with the others, there was flak coming up, and he ignored it as he came down on the target area. Hoser saw where Sweaty had made her run, and knew from photos there was a laager to the east of the town, and he spotted it. He adjusted his run, and as Hoser came in, he picked out vehicles-some in the open, some in revetments, and camo netting that was concealing others. No matter, Ivan....Hoser picked out a cluster of what looked like APCs, A couple of shoulder-fired missiles came up his way, but they failed to track. Nice try, Ivan....Hoser lined up some APCs in his pipper and waited. “And....And....And....HACK!” He hit his pickle button, and sent his dozen Mark-82s onto the Russians below. Hoser then pulled up and away, jinking all the way to give the gunners and missile operators down below a hard time. “Four's off safe,” he called.


The East German Captain muttered a few curses as he watched Hoser's F-4 on its run. He saw the bombs come off, and the explosions that followed as the F-4 cleared the area. Several APCs were tossed like toys, he saw, though several soldiers there also fired missiles at the departing aircraft. Only one missile seemed to track, but it burned out and fell away, much to the Captain's disgust. He turned back to the south, and saw another F-4 coming in. How many were there?


“GOOD HITS!” KT called as Hoser's F-4 cleared the area.

“Secondaries?” Hoser wanted to know. He was busy jinking, and for good reason, for a missile had flown past the F-4 by about a hundred feet above his canopy.

“A few,” KT replied.

“Have to take 'em,” Hoser said as he picked up his element lead's smoke trail, then her aircraft.


“Five in hot!” Dave Golen called as he came in to make his run. He noticed that no one had yet hit a laager to the east of the State Route 144/F.M.927 intersection, and Golen decided to strike that. He recalled the photos in the brief, and there were artillery pieces there, so he decided to pay the Soviet artillerymen a visit. As he got closer, he spotted some guns and prime movers under the netting, and selected those as his target. “Not a good day, Ivan” he muttered aloud as he lined them up in his pipper. Golen, too, ignored the flak coming-and at least two shoulder-fired missiles fired head-on, but they failed to track. “And....And....Steady...And...NOW!” Golen hit his pickle button, releasing his dozen Mark-82s onto the Soviet artillerymen below. He then pulled up and away, jinking all the while to avoid flak and missiles as he did so. “Five's off safe,” he called.


“This can't be...” The Captain heard a voice say, and he saw his own Political Officer beside him. He ignored the man for the moment, and heard an explosion on the street below. The Captain went to the edge of the roof and looked down below. A solider had tried to fire another Strela-3 missile, only to have another round explode in the launcher. The Captain shook his head, and as he turned to look around, the ZPU gunner cranked his weapon back to the south. Another Fascist F-4 was coming in....


“SHACK!” Terry McAuliffe, Golen's GIB, called. “Multiple secondaries!”

“How many?” Golen asked as he, too, had a missile fly by, this time to the right. He then jinked to the left, then to the right again.

“Enough!”

“They'll do,” Golen replied as he picked up Sweaty and Hoser.


“Six in hot!” Flossy called. She brought 1569 down on its bomb run, and as she did, the defenders kept up the shooting. She ignored the flak coming up, and settled in on a field to the south of the town, near where several smoke clouds were rising. As Flossy came in, she spotted vehicles, some moving, while others were stationary, and she selected what looked to be several APCs in a horseshoe-shaped group. Your turn to die, she thought as she came down, and the APCs grew larger in her pipper. “Steady....And...Steady.....HACK!” Flossy hit her pickle button, sending her Mark-82s onto the Russians. She pulled up and away, and was jinking as she did so, to throw off the aim of the flak gunners and the missile operators. When she cleared the target, Flossy made the call, “Six off target.”

The Captain was watching, dumbfounded, as Flossy's F-4 made its run. He shook his head, and wondered who had fucked up, allowing so many Fascist aircraft to make their attacks and get away. Where were the MiGs, he wondered. The Captain turned to his Political Officer, who was standing next to a Strela-3 operator when the launcher suddenly exploded in the tube. Both the soldier and the Political Officer were killed in the blast, and the others on the roof were showered with bits of flesh and blood. This has not been a good day, the Captain mused. Even if the Fascists have done me a favor and gotten my Political Officer out of the way. Then his training took over, and he shouted down to the streeet below, summoning medical orderlies to the roof. While waiting for the medics to arrive, the Captain wondered what was coming next, as two more F-4s flew over the town, not bothering to attack anything. A reconnaissance flight?


“GOOD HITS!” Jang shouted from 1569's back seat.

“How good?” Flossy asked as she dodged a missile, again a shoulder-fired one, and jinked back to the right, then to the left.

“Good enough,” was Jang's reply.

“Have to take it,” Flossy said as she picked up her element lead and joined up on him.


“Six in, six out,” Guru said. “And we still got a game on,” Guru added as he turned northeast for the Brazos.

“We do,” replied Goalie. “Nothing yet on the EW.”

“One-seven and one-eight, get your asses down and clear,” Guru called the RAF element.

“Roger, Leader,” Flight Lt. Paul Jackson said in One-seven. “Coming out now.”

“Copy,” Guru replied. He checked his EW display. The SEARCH warning light was on, and the strobe that was likely the Mainstay was still there. Then another strobe came on, this one to the east, followed by the A-A (Air-to-Air) warning light. “Got a MiG radar. Crystal Palace, Mustang Lead. Say bandits?”

“Mustang Lead, Crystal Palace,” a controller replied. “Bandits bearing Zero-eight-five for fifty. Medium, closing. Bandits are Floggers. Repeat: Bandits are Floggers.” That meant MiG-23s.

“Roger, Crystal Palace,” Guru replied. He got down lower, for after pullup, he had gotten back down low, to 550 Feet AGL. Now he got down lower, to 450 Feet. “Two, you with me?”

“Right with you, Boss,” Kara called.

Guru glanced to his Five, and saw 520 right with him in Combat Spread. “Got eyeballs,” he replied. “Sweaty?”

“On your six, and Hoser's with me,” Sweaty replied.

“Five and six behind Sweaty,” Dave Golen added.

“Seven and eight with you,” Jackson said.

“Mustang, Crystal Palace,” the AWACS came back. “Threat bearing Zero-eight-one for forty. Medium, going away.”

Guru checked his EW display. The strobe that signaled the MiG-23s had gone off, and so had the warning light. “Roger that.”

“Libyans, maybe?” Goalie ventured. After the drubbing they got earlier in the day.....

“Maybe,” Guru replied as the Brazos River appeared ahead of them. They were five miles south of the Glen Rose Bridge. He led the flight across the river, then to the Nicaraguan side, before turning north. “Wouldn't surprise me at all.”

“Glen Rose ahead,” Goalie advised. Sure enough, the Glen Rose Bridge appeared, and the East German gunners, as usual, opened fire. The strike flight blew past as they headed out. “Forty-five seconds to Granbury, with one minute forty-five to the Fence.” That meant the I-20.

“Copy,” Guru acknowledged. He glanced at his EW display. The Mainstay's radar still was showing. He shook his head, then concentrated on the task at hand. Now, they weren't flying for Uncle Sam, but for themselves. It didn't take long to reach Granbury, and again, the East Germans were shooting, but the Nicaraguan gunners stayed quiet. “That's Granbury.”

“Roger that,” Goalie replied. “One minute to the fence.”

“Copy.” Guru said. He checked the EW display, and the Mainstay's radar still showed. Guru frowned, then kept going north. The twin ribbons of I-20 soon appeared, and Guru knew the Army air-defense pukes at the I-20 bridge had a habit of shooting first and asking later. “Flight, lead. Verify IFF is on, out.” He turned on his IFF transponder, but he knew that hadn't deterred the I-HAWK clowns from shooting in the past. This time, they flew past the bridges, and climbed to altitude. As the flight did, the Mainstay's radar signal went off, along with the warning light. “No more Mainstay.”

“For now,” Goalie spat. She, like the others, wanted the offenders taken out.


The flight climbed out, then headed for the tanker track. After meeting the tankers, and noting the F-15 and F-16 CAPs, the post-strike refueling went off without a hitch, then it was back to Sheppard. When Mustang Flight arrived, they were third in line, behind a 335th flight and a Marine four-ship of F-4s. After landing, they taxied in, and this time, to the disappointment of the ground crews and the news media, no one held up fingers to signal MiG kills. The flight then taxied in to their dispersal area, and found their revetments. After Guru taxied 512 into its revetment, and got the “Shut down” signal from his Crew Chief, only then did he take a deep breath and relax for a moment. Then he and Goalie went through the post-flight checklist, while the ground crew put the chocks around the wheels, and prepped the crew ladder.

“Three and done,” Guru said after popping the canopy and standing up in the cockpit to stretch.

“Normally, I'm the one saying that,” Goalie quipped.

“Not a normal day,” Guru said as he got down from the cockpit.

Goalie followed, and Sergeant Crowley, the CC, was waiting. “Major, Lieutenant? How'd my bird do?” Crew Chiefs never forgot that they “owned” the aircraft, and that the crew merely “borrowed” it. He handed the CO and GIB each a bottle of water.

“Made some tanks go away,” Guru said, downing half the bottle.

“As in up and in pieces,” Goalie added. She, too, drained most of her bottle.

Hearing that, Crowley was pleased. “How's my bird, sir?”

“No problems or issues,” Guru said. “And no battle damage, either. Get her turned around, Sergeant, because there's time for one more strike.”

“You got it, Major!” Crowley said. “Okay, you guys. Get the CO's bird ready for the next one.” And the ground crew went to work with a will.

Guru and Goalie walked to the entrance of their revetment, and found Kara and Brainiac waiting already. “How'd things go?” Guru asked his wingmate.

“Made some tanks go away, and so did you,” Kara said.

“At least there wasn't that much flak,” Brainiac added.

Sweaty and her element came up. She had caught Brainiac's remarks. “For which we should be grateful. Did we shoot up those guys enough that they don't have their air-defense assets?”

“Good question,” Guru said as Dave Golen, Flossy, and their GIBs came up. “Dave, how'd things go with you guys?”

“Put the heat on their artillerymen,” Golen replied. “And Flossy made some APCs go up.”

“Came back down in pieces,” Flossy added. “So, Boss, what's next?”

Guru nodded. “Take care of the debrief, check your desks, because the elves never take care of the paperwork while we're out, and find a half-hour or so to spend in the fitness center.”

“Doc checking off names again?” KT asked. “He was doing that yesterday.”

“Wouldn't surprise me at all,” Sweaty said. “He that bored?”

“Just like our sawbones,” Dave Gledhill said as he and his people came up. “So, what's next?”

“Dave,” Guru said, shaking the RAF leader's hand. “Debrief, check your desks, get some fitness center time, then we've got enough daylight for one more strike.”

“Ever do night ops?” Gledhill asked, “Just asking out of curiosity.”

Guru nodded. “Rarely, but we've done a few. Last time? Denver siege perimeter, back in April.”

“Even then,” Goalie added. “We flew behind some F-111s, and they told us 'Drop on our call'. We did, and that was it. One mission for each flight, and did it for three straight nights. Never did tell us what we were supposed to do other than 'interdiction.'”

“If it helped the folks in Denver, it was worth it,” Sweaty said.

“It did and it was,” Guru said firmly. Then a pair of Dodge Crew-cab pickups pulled up, and Chief Ross and Buddy got out of the lead truck. “Chief,” Guru nodded.

“Major, Captain Licon sent me to get you all. He wants you in for a debrief,” said the Chief.

“Then let's go and get it over with,” the CO said. “Because in an hour and a half, we're back at it.”
__________________
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  #488  
Old 08-07-2019, 08:19 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Location: Auberry, CA
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The day goes on, and one of the RAF becomes an ace:



335th TFS, Sheppard AFB, TX: 1445 Hours Central War Time:


Major Matt Wiser was in his office, going over some papers. This time, fortunately, there hadn't been much in his IN box, and what there was, it was routine. He attacked the papers, put them in the OUT box, then got up to get some coffee. Then there was a knock on his office door. “Yeah? Come on in and show yourself!”

His XO, Capt. Mark Ellis, came in. “Boss, got a couple things for you before you go off and make Doc happy at the Fitness Center.”

“He checking off names again?” The CO wondered aloud. “I know he's bored, but..”

“He is,” Ellis nodded. “Got these for you.” He handed the CO two papers. “First, updated weather.”

Guru scanned the weather forecast. “Good flying weather for the next four days, then there's a good chance we'll get a stand-down due to weather. Storm coming to the West Coast, and we may feel it.”

“And we get to show our RAF friends that when it storms in Texas, it does.”

“Watch it, boy,” the CO warned. “They've seen hurricanes on Bermuda, and some of 'em have been up in Canada, so they do know storms.”

Ellis nodded again. “Still, they'll be glad to have a day off.”

“They will. What's next?” Guru asked.

The XO handed him another paper. “Formal request for two new birds.”

“Gladly,” Guru took the paper and signed it. “And crew replacements?”

“Here.”

After signing that, the CO asked, “Any word on C.J's crew?” He was referring to the one crew shot down earlier that day who had made it to friendly lines before punching out.

“Good news on that. They should be back by dinnertime. They're at a MASH and are OK. Just waiting on available transportation.”

Guru nodded. “And we welcome our two lost sheep back. Have Ross find two cases of beer to give to the Army pukes who found them.”

“Already on it,” said the XO. “And before you ask, I've already gotten my workout in.”

“All right,” Guru said. “That it?”

“For now,” Ellis replied.

“Okay.” Guru got up and headed for the office door. “I'm headed to the Fitness Center. If anyone needs to find me, I'll be on a treadmill.”

“Will do.”


The CO went to his tent to change into his workout clothes, then went over to the Fitness Tent. Sure enough, the Flight Surgeon, Doc Waters, was there. “Doc,” Guru said. 'Keeping busy?”

“Been too bored lately, though I did get some excitement this morning while you were gone on a strike. Had to do an appendectomy on one of Ryan Blanchard's CSPs. Sergeant Kevin Jennings.”

“He going to be okay?” Guru asked.

Doc smiled. “He'll be up and prowling around in a week. Textbook surgery and no complications.”

“Good,” the CO nodded. I'll go see him in a day or so,” Guru said as he went into the tent. When inside, he got in some time on the weight machines before htting the treadmill for a four-mile run. Some of his flight came in while he was there, but others, like Goalie, Brainiac, Sweaty, and Hoser, were already at it when he arrived. Good, he thought. Because the last thing he wanted was Doc on his case about his flight not keeping up with a workout schedule. Though he did remind Doc on occasion that the Reds sometimes dictated that.

He was almost finished with his run when Don Van Loan came in. “Boss,” the Ops Officer said. “Would've sent Kara after you, but she's still here.” He glanced over at a treadmill, where Kara was finishing up her run.

“She's discovered kickboxing, and from whom, I have no idea,” the CO grinned. “Don't cross her, Don.”

The Ops Officer nodded. “Saw her yesterday, and she looks like she could kick somebody's head off, the way she goes after that bag. Anyway, you've got a mission.”

“When?”

“Birds are being prepped right now. Your flight, plus Dave and Flossy, and two RAF birds.”

Guru nodded, then glanced at the treadmill. Four miles done. He slowed it down, then stopped. “All right, round everybody up. Be there as soon as we shower,” the CO said. “We getting Dave Gledhill's element?”

“Negative,” Van Loan replied. “Karen McKay and her new wingie.”

Guru got off the treadmill. He saw Goalie get off her treadmill and come over. “Just heard from Don. We've got a mission.”

“Get everyone to the briefing room?” Goalie asked, and she saw the CO nod. “Time to shower?”

“Just,” Guru said. “Time to get back in the game.”

“Last quarter,” Goalie said, using a football term. “Break was fun while it lasted.”

“It was,” Guru nodded. “Okay, Don? You and Goalie round up the rest of the flight, tell them to hit the showers, then to the briefing room. I'll swing by the Ops Office and get the mission folder.”

Van Loan and Goalie both nodded. “Gotcha, Chief,” the Ops Officer said.


Guru went to the men's showers and had a quick one, then changed into his flight suit, and went to the Ops Office. Van Loan was already there. Not only did he have the CO's mission folder, but his own. “Don, what's on tap for my flight?”

Van Loan handed the CO a folder. “You're headed back to Dublin. I know, you guys were there a few days ago, but it's back on the list.”

The CO examined the cover sheet. “Both the airport-again-and a supply dump?”

“That's it. This is Divisional HQ for the East German 9th Panzer Division, by the way,”

Guru frowned on hearing that. “Divisional level air-defense threats in addition to the defenses at the airport. Fuck that very much!”

“Don't blame me, Boss,” Van Loan said innocently. “I just pass down what the ATO says.”

“Swell,” Guru said. “Any Weasels?”

The Ops Officer shook his head. “Negative, and before you ask, no Navy or Marines for IRON HAND either.”

Guru wasn't pleased at that, but knew the drill. Too many missions and not enough assets in the SEAD department. “Had to ask. Now, where are you headed?”

“Town called De Leon, west of Dublin,” Van Loan said. “There's a ranch west of there that Ivan's using for helo dispersal. Rabbit and I are paying them a visit.”

Guru checked a map in the folder. “If you want, you and Rabbit can tag along with us,” he said. “Until we reach our IP, Purves, then you two can break off and go on your way.”

“Sounds good to me,” Van Loan replied. “Anything special?”

“Just follow us along the Brazos, then Fairy, then the IP,” said the CO.

“And we break off and go tear up some Hinds,” the Ops Officer finished. “Sounds good.”

“It does. Meet me at the tankers.”

“Will do, and Boss?” Van Loan said. “Be careful out there. Don't want to be XO yet.”

“Always, and you take your own advice,” Guru reminded him. “Kara doesn't want to be Ops yet.”

Van Loan laughed. “And we need to remind Mark, because if anything happens to him, I get promoted and so does Kara.”

“That we do, but he's left already?” Seeing Van Loan nod, Guru added, “He knows the drill. All right: see you up there.”

“Gotcha, Boss.”

Major Wiser went to the briefing room his flight used, and found a familiar face waiting for him. Buddy, the squadron's mascot, was sitting next to the door, wanting in. “You'd better sleep through the brief,” he told the dog. Then the CO opened the door, and the dog went in ahead of him. “Okay, people! Time to get this show on the road.”

“Where we headed?” Sweaty asked.

“Someplace we hit a few days ago: Dublin Municipal Airport.”

Kara's mouth-and several others as well-dropped. “Again?”

“Again,” Guru said. '”They've gotten the runway back operational, and there's those field hangars up again, so this place is back in business,” the CO spat.

“And we get to shut'em back down,” Goalie observed. “Almost like Southeast Asia.”

“I know, but ours is not to reason why, ours is to go out and break things and make people burn, bleed, and blow up,” Guru reminded them. He saw heads nod at that, then went on. “It's still being used by helos, light transports like the An-24 or L-410, and helos. Su-25s have also been reported, and the imagery still shows two Forgers on the ramp.”

“Survivors from last time?” Brainiac asked.

“Probably,” Guru said. “No CBUs this close to the town, so we all get a dozen Mark-82 Snakeyes, and half of 'em have the Daisy Cutter fuze extenders. Except for Hoser, because you're going for the runway.”

Hoser and KT looked at each other. “Thanks, Boss,” Hoser said.

“What's left for us?” Dave Golen asked.

“You and Flossy are going for this,” Guru said, passing around a reconnaissance photo. “It's just to the west of the airport, between F.M. 336 and F.M. 332. It's a fuel dump, and a big one.”

“Who does it belong to, besides the airport?” Flossy asked. “Or do they know that?”

“They do, and it's shared. The airfield operation uses it, and so does the local garrison, which, by the way, is the HQ for the East German 9th Panzer Division,” said the CO.

Goalie looked at her pilot and lover. “Which means divisional-level air defense threats. Lovely.”

Guru nodded. “Right on that. That's SA-6 and ZSU-23-4, and guys with MANPADS. The airport has a 57-mm battery-though the Navy tore it up last time, so they may only have one or two guns operational. There's also a 37-mm battery, some ZU-23s, and the usual guys with above-mentioned MANPADS.”

“MiG threat?” Karen McKay asked.

“Unchanged since this morning, and the closest field is Brownwood Regional,” Guru replied. “East German MiG-21s and Soviet MiG-23s are there. MiG-29s may come from Goodfellow at San Angelo, Gray AAF at Fort Hood, and Bergstrom AFB by Austin, and the latter field is where the Flankers are. Otherwise, it's MiG-21s and -23s.”

Kara then asked, “Usual air-to-air load?”

Guru nodded. “Four AIM-9Ps, two Sparrow-Fs, full 20-mm load, two wing tanks, and usual ECM pods for leaders and wingmen,” he said. “Karen? Your load?”

McKay replied, “Four Sidewider-Ls, Four Sky Flash, two wing tanks, and a SUU-23 gun pod on centerline.”

“Good. Now, we're it on this one. No Weasels or Navy this time, so make some phony 'Magnum' calls when we go in. That'll get the SAM operators to keep their heads down and stop radiating.”

“Sounds good, Boss,” KT said.

“Ingress?” Sweaty asked.

“We meet up with the tankers at Track CHEVRON, near Mineral Wells, then we get down low and follow the Brazos. We'll have company most of the way, because Ops and Rabbit will join us at the tankers, but they'll break off at our pop-up point and head for their own target-which none of you need to know.”

Heads nodded at that. What they didn't know, they couldn't be forced to tell if captured. “Where do we turn, Boss?” Preacher asked. The GIBs handled the navigation on these low-level strikes.

“Follow the river to Lake Whitney, and a mile short of the dam, we turn right. Two-six-zero to the town of Fairy, then we turn northwest, cross U.S. 281, then get to Purves. That's twenty seconds from target, and it's where we pop up, and where Don and Rabbit go their own way. We pop up, ID the target, strike, then get your asses down low and headed north to Lake Comfort. Get north from there to the I-20, climb up and we meet the tankers.”

“Weather?” Kara wanted to know.

“Unchanged, and won't for another four days,” replied Guru. “Bailout areas are also unchanged, namely, for the benefit of our RAF friends,” the CO nodded at the four RAF aircrew. “Anyplace rural and away from roads.”

“Understood,” Karen McKay said.

“Now, Karen? Before we get airborne, who's your two new pals?”

“Right, Major,” she replied. “Flight Leftenants Steven Portal and Patrick 'Kate' O'Mara.” McKay nodded at the two, who stood up. “Steve's the pilot, and Pat, or 'Kate', is the GIB.”

“Any action out of Bermuda?” Kara asked.

“Just a Badger reconnaissance plane,” Portal replied. “Your Navy sent us a thank-you, because killing the Badger prevented a Backfire strike on a convoy.”

Heads nodded at that. “Good to know,” KT said.

“It is that,” Guru added. “Okay, this may be the last one,” he reminded the crews. “But we treat it like it's the first. Complacency kills, and I've written two letters today. Don't want to write any more, if you get my drift.”

“Got you, Major,” Kara said.

“Good,” the CO said as an Ops NCO arrived to collect the briefing materials. “Gear up and meet at 512's revetment.”

As the crews got up, Goalie noticed something. “Hey, Buddy's still asleep.” She nodded at the dog, who was still fast asleep. “Nobody wake him.”

“No,” Guru said firmly. “He was wide awake during Don's brief this morning, and we know what happened next.”

“Ran into a buzz saw,” Preacher said.

“They did,” Guru nodded. “Let's get going.”

The crews went to their locker rooms to gear up, and when Guru came out of the Men's, Goalie was waiting, as usual. “Well?” She asked.

“Ready to earn your flight pay?” Guru quipped.

“And we both give forty-five percent of that back to Uncle Sam come April 15,” she joked.

“Which we do,” he agreed. “Let's go.”

Guru and Goalie left the squadron office, and walked to the squadron's dispersal area. When they got there, the rest of the flight was at 512's revetment, waiting. “Boss,” Sweaty nodded.

“All right, gather 'round,” Guru said. He was ready with his final instructions. “For the benefit of our RAF friends, the usual goes on the radio. That's call signs between us when possible, and mission code to AWACS and other parties.”

“Understood,” Portal said, while McKay nodded. She'd flown with Guru's people the day before, and knew the drill.

“Got you, Major.”

“Good. Now, as I said, this is the last one for today, but we treat it like it's the first. Comprende?” Guru said as he looked the crews over.

“Loud and clear, Major,” Kara said. When she-or any other crew member-used his rank, they treated whatever he was saying very seriously.

“Good. We're still Mustang Flight, and we meet up at ten grand overhead. Any other questions?” There weren't any as heads shook no. “Then it's time to hit it. Mount up and let's go.” He clapped his hands for emphasis.

The crews headed to their aircraft, and as Guru and Goalie went into the revetment, Sergeant Crowley, the Crew Chief for 512, snapped a perfect salute. “Major, Lieutenant? Five-twelve's ready to go kick some more Commie ass.”

“Thanks, Sarge,” Guru said. He and Goalie did the usual preflight walk-around, then they mounted the aircraft and got strapped into their seats. After putting on their helmets, and plugging into their oxygen systems and radios, both pilot and GIB were busy with their preflight cockpit checks.

“Ejection seats?” Goalie asked. “Just glad this is it for today.”

“Armed top and bottom, check yours. And yeah. So am I. It's been a bitch of a day, no offense intended. Arnie?”

“None taken, and both Arnie and the INS are up and ready.” She meant the ARN-101 DMAS system and the INS. “Preflight complete and ready for engine start.”

“And we are,” Guru agreed. He gave a thumbs-up to his CC, who gave the “Start Engines” signal in return. First one, then both, J-79 engines were up and running, and just before the warm-up was finished, Guru called the Tower. “Tower, Mustang Lead with eight, requesting taxi and takeoff instructions.”

A Tower Controller came back at once. “Mustang Lead, Tower. Clear to taxi to Runway Three-Five-Charlie. Hold prior to the Active, and you are number two in line.”

“Roger, Tower,” Guru replied. “Mustang Lead rolling.” He gave another thumbs-up to Crowley, who waved to the ground crew, who pulled the chocks away from the wheels. Then came the “Taxi” signal from Crowley, and Guru taxied 512 out of the revetment. When he cleared the revetment, Crowley snapped a perfect salute, which Guru and Goalie both returned.

Guru then taxied to Runway 35C, with the rest of the flight behind him, and, as the Tower had said, the flight was second in line. A Marine flight of four F/A-18s was first in line, but both had to wait as a C-141 came in and landed. Only after the big Starlifter had taxied away did the Marines taxi for takeoff. Guru taxied into the holding area, where the armorers removed the weapon safeties. After the Marines had taken off, he called the Tower. “Tower, Mustang Lead requesting taxi for takeoff.”

“Mustang Lead, Tower,” the controller replied. “Clear to taxi for takeoff. Winds are two-six-zero for ten.”

“Roger, Tower,” replied Guru, who then taxied onto the runway. Kara followed in 520, and a quick check found Kara's bird right with his. Both Kara and Brainiac gave thumbs-ups, and both Guru and Goalie returned them. A final cockpit check followed, then it was time. “Tower, Mustang Lead requesting clear for takeoff.”

As was usual, the Tower flashed a green light. Clear for Takeoff.

“Ready?” Guru asked Goalie.

“Ready back here,” she replied.

“Canopy coming down,” Guru said, pulling down and locking his canopy. Goalie did the same, and a final check showed Kara and Brainiac having done it as well. It was time. “Time.”

“It is,” Goalie said.

“Here we go,” Guru replied as he applied full power to the throttles, and released the brakes. 512 then rolled down the runway and into the air, with 520 right with them. Thirty seconds later, it was Sweaty and Hoser's turn, followed by Dave and Flossy, with the RAF bringing up the rear. The flight met up at FL 100, then headed south for the tanker track.



Over Central Texas: 1610 Hours Central War Time:


Mustang Flight was headed south. After meeting up with the tankers, and the Ops Officer's flight, call sign T-Bird, they dropped down low, then crossed the I-20 and the Fence into hostile territory. They were following the Brazos River, coming in at 450 Feet AGL, and doing 500 KIAS as they did, staying just east of the river, in the Nicaraguan sector, and, as usual, the Nicaraguan gunners were holding their fire. “They're not shooting,” Guru observed. “As usual.” He concentrated on flying the plane, checking his EW display, and keeping a visual eye out for threats.

“Nobody paid them a visit today,” Goalie said. She was handling the navigation, and also checking both her own EW display as well as outside the cockpit. Having two sets of eyes in the aircraft had saved their bacon more than once. That, in her view, made the F-15E program all that more important, but that bird was at least a year away from service, maybe two.

“There's always tonight,” Guru replied. “Granbury coming up.” He was referring to the U.S. 377 bridge over the Brazos.

“Got it,” Goalie said. “And there's flak at one.” Already, the East German gunners on the west side of the bridge were shooting. “EW still clear.”

“For now,” said Guru as they approached the bridge. “And there it goes,” He added as they flew by, with 23-mm and 57-mm flak shooting. “Nobody using the bridge.”

Goalie saw the bridge fly by, and no traffic. “Oh, well. Thirty seconds to the dam,” she said, referring to the Lake Granbury Dam. Then her EW display came up. It showed a bright strobe to the south, and the SEARCH warning light came on. “Mainstay's up.”

Guru glanced at his own display and sighed. “As usual,” he grumbled, then banked to follow the river. “And there's the dam. And the flak.” Puffs of flak came from the 37-mm and 57-mm guns on the west side, along with the 23-mm tracers. The East Germans were at it again as they flew past the dam.

“They're behind us,” Goalie said “Forty seconds to Glen Rose.” That was the U.S. 67 bridge.

“Roger that,” Guru said, 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-five for fifty-five. Medium, closing. Third threat bearing One-nine-zero for sixty-five. Medium, closing. Fourth threat bearing Two-zero-zero for seventy-five. Medium, closing.”

“Roger, Crystal Palace. Say bogey dope?”

“Mustang, First threats are Fishbeds. Second and third are Floggers. Fourth threats are Fulcrums.”

MiG-29s, Guru thought. Ran into 'em yesterday.... “Copy.”

“Fulcrums?” Goalie said. “Our lucky day.”

“Again,” said Guru as the Glen Rose Bridge came up. “Flak ahead at one.” The black puffs and tracers were coming up as usual. And some even came up from traffic on the bridge.

Goalie saw it as well. “Convoy on the bridge.” Too bad this isn't armed reconnaissance, she thought. This would be a tempting target...

“Not their turn to die today,” Guru replied, as the tank transporters and supply trucks on the bridge went into their wake.

“Too bad,” she said wistfully. “Fifteen seconds to Brazospoint, one minute to the Route 174 Bridge.”

“Roger that,” Guru said. The Brazospoint Bridge appeared, and this time, the flak came from both sides. Libyans on the east side, East Germans to the west. Smoke was still coming up from the ruins of the town-and the flak trap it had contained. “Hope they enjoyed the barbeque.”

“Here's to that.”

In the ruins of Brazospoint, the East German Captain was wondering what else the day would bring. After their initial success in downing at least one Imperialist aircraft, and capturing the crew, they had been hit-and hard-by a major American air strike, and the specialist air-defense battalion had suffered greatly. The Colonel was dead, as were most of the senior officers, and the other senior officers were wounded. He had exactly one ZSU-23-4, two BTR-70s, each with a depleted squad of soldiers armed with Strela-3 (SA-14) shoulder-fired missiles, and a single Strela-10 (SA-13) launch vehicle. Oh, he had a single Romb (SA-8) radar-guided SAM launcher, but the radar had taken a hit from an antiradar missile, and the optical backup was also out, which meant the vehicle was useless until it was taken to the Army's repair workshop.

On top of that was the dogfight that had happened just after the air strike, and nine Libyan MiG-23s had gone down in and near his unit's position, with only one pilot landing on their side of the river. No kills had been claimed, much to the regret of both the Germans and the Libyans, and the one Libyan pilot who'd come down had been sent off for medical attention along with the rest of the battalion's casualties. At least the Amis did one good thing for me, the Captain mused. They killed the political officer, and I don't have to worry about some useless Party blather getting in the way.

His thoughts were interrupted by shouting. Nearly a dozen F-4s thundered past, with the Libyan guns on the east side firing-and firing behind the Americans. Even the F-4s disappearing to the south didn't quiet the Libyan gunners, who kept shooting. These people are our allies? Shaking his head in disbelief, the Captain went to his command vehicle, a BTR-70, and called for his radioman. Did the Kampfgruppe Headquarters in Stephenville have new orders?


Guru noted the flak, and the lack of it from the East German side. “Just the Libyans this time.”

“Forty-five seconds to Route 174 and Lake Whitney,” Goalie said.

“Copy,” Guru said. When they got to a bend in the river that went east, he led the flight across a strip of land that jutted into the river, then headed south for the bridge. It wasn't long until the Route 174 Bridge appeared. “And there's the bridge,” Guru said. “And the flak.” This time, gunners on both sides were shooting. He took 512 down to 400 Feet and increased speed to 550 KIAS. No sense in making it easy, he thought as the flight overflew the bridge and the lake opened up ahead of them. “Time to turn?”

“One minute,” Goalie replied.

“Copy,” said Guru. Then he called the AWACS. “Crystal Palace, Mustang Lead. Say threats?”

“Mustang Lead, Crystal Palace,” a controller replied. “First threat bearing One-eight-zero for forty. Medium, going away. Second threat bearing One-nine-zero for fifty-five. Medium, closing. Third threat bearing Two-one-zero for sixty. Medium, closing.”

“Roger that,” Guru said as Mustang Flight thundered over the lake. “Call the turn.”

“Copy,” Goalie said. “Thirty seconds.”

“Call it.”

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

Guru turned right, onto a heading of two-six-zero. They would skirt the town of Meridian, and head for the small town of Fairy, which was more of a spot on the map than a town. State Route 22 flashed by underneath, then just to the north, was Meridian. A quick glance at the EW display still showed the Mainstay, though over at their Ten O'clock, there was another strobe, and that was likely to be a MiG-29 radar, though the A-A light wasn't on. “Flight, Lead. Music on,” Guru called as he turned on his ALQ-119 ECM pod.

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

“One minute ten to Fairy,” Goalie advised. Though concentrating on the navigation, she, too, kept an eye out for threats.

“Copy that,” replied Guru as the rolling hills of Central Texas flew by. One thing about this hill country, he knew, that made the Mainstay's job that much harder, though no one really knew how effective the radar actually was. Then he checked his own radar display, and it was clear.

Goalie checked the INS and her map, then she called, “Forty seconds.”

“Roger,” Guru said.

“And twenty...now fifteen.”

“Call it.”

“In ten, now five, four, three, two, one, MARK!”

Guru turned right onto a heading of Three-one-zero, right for Olin on U.S. 281. “We're on.”

“Got it,” Goalie replied as they headed for the next turn checkpoint. Once clear of Olin, which was more a spot on the map than a town, it was Purves, where both Mustang and T-Bird would split up and go for their respective targets. “Time to checkpoint?”

“Thirty seconds,” Goalie called back.

“Copy,” Guru said as the hills went by. It wasn't long until the highway appeared, along with several houses and a general store. And a few vehicles parked-and they were certainly military. That was Olin.... “And now,”

“Forty seconds to Purves,” Goalie said.

“Got it,”


In Olin, a patrol from Hamilton was parked outside the General Store. They were a T-80A tank platoon and a BMP-2 equipped motor-rifle platoon from the 327th Guards Independent Tank Regiment, and this patrol was the Regimental Commander's idea to get them used to being in a combat zone, even if they weren't immediately near the front. Not only was the regiment training, but, much to the disgust of the Regimental Commander, his staff, and many other officers, they were doing what those Rear-Area Protection slugs should be doing, namely patrolling the roads on counter-guerilla tasks.

The Lieutenant who commanded the two platoons was a tank officer, with the other platoon commander being a Junior Lieutenant fresh from officer training at the University of Minsk, and the Lieutenant felt the man was in over his head. Given the need for manpower, though, from what his own company commander, a Captain who had been transferred in from 10th Guards Tank Division, had told him, “He'll either learn, or be dead,” and the Captain was a veteran, having been a platoon commander at Wichita, and had led the remnants of his company on the withdrawal south, so the man knew what he was talking about. At least he was a product of the Kharkov Guards Tank Officers Training College, even though it had been the abbreviated wartime course (two years instead of four).

At least nothing's happening here, the Lieutenant said to himself. The patrol had stopped to check the little hamlet out, and found nothing. Just some locals who made no secret of their feelings that the Russians belonged somewhere else. Either back home, or in hell, the Lieutenant heard the store owner mutter to his stockboy, and the Lieutenant understood. Back in the Great Patriotic War, or the First, as was the line from Moscow, how many felt the same way about the Fascisti?

Climbing back onto his T-80A, he called for the men to return to their vehicles and mount up. Some of the motor-rifle boys clearly had some of the local, what did they call it? Moonshine, he saw, when one of his tank commanders called an aircraft warning. He saw ten American F-4s fly over at low level, and head northwest. The Lieutenant shouted to his men, and everyone piled into their vehicles. If the Americans came back....


“Who were those guys back there?” Guru asked.

“Not sure, but there were tanks,” Goalie replied. “Twenty seconds.”

“Flight, Lead, Switches on, and stand by,” Guru called.

Kara replied, “Roger, Lead,” as did the others.

“Ten seconds,” Goalie said. “Five, four, three, two, one, PULL!”

Mustang Flight pulled up, while T-Bird Flight broke away on their own mission. As Mustang climbed, the town of Dublin appeared, and so did the Municipal Airport. “Target in sight,” said Guru. “Switches set?”

Goalie worked the armament control panel. “Switches set and ready.”

“Then let's do it,” Guru said on the IC. Then he got on the radio. “Flight, Lead. Target in sight. Let's go to work!” The two RAF F-4Js assumed their TARCAP, as the rest of the flight went in on their bomb runs.


At Dublin Airport, the base commander-an East German Air Force Major, was not a happy man. The Soviets were still there, though they only had two Yak-38M fighters, the rest either shot down or destroyed on the ground-and the wrecks in the base dump were ample proof of that, though Su-25s came through at least several times a day to refuel and rearm before going back north. Then there was the helicopter traffic, as both Soviet and East German helicopters passed through on a regular basis, along with light transports such as the An-24 or -26, and the L-410. That didn't bother him, though the state of the field's air defense did. The last American air attack a few days earlier had not only torn up the base, but had also seriously damaged the air defense assets. Of the two 57-mm batteries, they head had a total of five guns instead of a dozen all together, and the ZU-23 sites had also been hit. There were only five of those, instead of ten. At least the personnel casualties weren't that heavy, for there were more gunners than guns, though his air-defense commander was hoping to have his losses in both guns and men replaced. There was a fifty-fifty chance of that happening, if the rumor mill was accurate, the shipping across the Atlantic was starting to run a gauntlet of both American and British ships and submarines just to get to Cuba and Mexico.

That's not my concern, the Major thought, though he didn't envy the Soviet Navy's job. Just as long as we get what we need, that's the important thing. One thing did worry him, however, and that was the Army. The 9th Panzer Division's HQ was in the town, and the Divisional Commander didn't want to deal with Air Force matters. The Generalmajor not only refused, but flatly refused, to position one or two of the division's 2K12 (SA-6 Gainful) SAM batteries to help cover the base, even though they would also be defending divsional headquarters. The SAMs were deployed north of town, not near the airport, and any warning against a strike similar to what had happened earlier would only be when the bombs started falling.

The Major had just left the prewar Airport Office, which served as his headquarters, and was going to talk to the AV-MF people. Were they staying or leaving, with only two flyable aircraft, when someone shouted and pointed to the south. Smoke trails coming closer. American F-4 Phantoms, he knew. “AIR RAID ALARM!”


“Lead's in hot!” Guru called as he took 512 down on the bomb run. As he came in, black puffs and tracers started coming up, and Guru gave the East German gunners credit: they were on the ball this time. Someone even shot a MANADS, then another, but both failed to guide. Ignoring the flak and missiles, he picked out the northern ramp area, and found not only two Forgers, but also an L-410 transport and an An-26 transport on the ramp. You're mine, Guru said to himself as he came in and the Forgers grew in his pipper. “Steady....Steady.....And...HACK!” He hit his pickle button, releasing his dozen Mark-82s, then he pulled up and away, jinking as he did so to give the gunners a harder time. He thundered over the town of Dublin, jinking and even waggling his wings to the civilians below. Once clear of the town and back down to 450 Feet AGL did he call, “Lead's off target.”

“Schisse!” The Major muttered as Guru's F-4 came on its run. He ducked into a slit trench, and watched as the Phantom came in and released its bombs and pulled up. The Major ducked as the first bombs went off, and he counted a dozen explosions. Then he heard-and felt-three secondary explosions, and the trench shook from the concussion of both the bombs going off and the secondary detonations. The Major stuck his head out of the trench, and saw that both Yak-38s had been blown apart, along with both the L-410 and An-26. He glanced back to the south, for he knew the Fascists' aircraft didn't attack alone-unlike the early days of the invasion, which such things had been common. Sure enough, another smoke trail was coming in, and that meant another F-4...

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

“How many?” Guru wanted to know as a missile-what kind, he didn't know, flew above him by about a hundred feet. Big one-an SA-6, maybe? He got down lower, to 400 Feet.

“Three or four,” she replied.

“I'll take those,” Guru said as he headed north for Lake Comfort.


“Two's in!” That was Kara's call as she took 520 down on its attack run. She watched the CO pull up and away, leaving a dozen explosions in his wake, followed by four secondaries. Kara picked out the south ramp, and found an Mi-6 Hook and two Mi-8 Hips there. Good, she thought as the flak came up, you'll do. She, too, ignored the flak-and the 57-mm and 23-mm was coming up at her, with puffs and tracers flying by. Kara centered the Hook in her pipper and concentrated on the bomb release. “And....Steady.....Steady....NOW!” Kara hit her pickle button, and sent her dozen Mark-82s down onto the field below. She pulled up and away, thundering over Dublin, both jinking and waggling her wings as she did so. Kara cleared the town, saw the CO drop down lower, and matched him, Then she called, “Two off safe.”

“Of all the...” The Major muttered as Kara's F-4 went on its run. He saw the bombs come off the aircraft, forcing him to duck. He turned, and saw his Political Officer there, cowering in the trench just like everyone else. Good, the Major thought. Now the Party man sees for himself that things aren't going the way the Party says they are. Then the Major stopped. Such thoughts were defeatist, and that would attract the attention of the Stasi. His thoughts were interrupted by the bombs going off, followed by at least two secondary explosions as the F-4 flew by overhead. The Major stuck his head out of the trench, and saw three clouds of smoke rising to the south. A glance upwards revealed another F-4 coming in...


“GOOD HITS!” Brainiac called from 520's back seat.

“How good?” Kara asked as she jinked right, then left, then right again. A missile, this one looked like an SA-7 or -14, flew past her left side as she jinked, much to her chagrin.

“Big and good.”

“Then we earned our pay on this one,” replied Kara as she picked up the CO's bird.


Sweaty rolled in on her run. “Three's in!” She called as she came in on the target, and noticed the flak coming up. A quick look at the EW display showed no radar-guided flak, just the optically aimed stuff, but that could hurt you....Sweaty picked out the field hangars, and saw an aircraft parked outside one. Was that an Su-25? Sure could be, she thought as she centered the aircraft in the pipper. Even if that was her aimpoint, the rain of bombs would tear the hangars apart. Ignoring the flak, she lined the plane up in the pipper. “Steady....And....Steady...Steady....HACK!” She hit her pickle button, releasing her bombs, then she pulled up and away. Sweaty jinked left, then right, and waggled her wings as she overflew Dublin. Once clear of the town, she dropped low as a missile, and this was a big one, flew beneath her aircraft as it came up. “Three off target.”

“What the...” the Major muttered as Sweaty's F-4 made its run. Ducking into the trench, he heard the F-4 thunder by, followed by the bombs going off. He heard a dozen explosions, followed by one secondary, then another. Glancing his head up out of the trench, the Major saw the hangars blown apart, and two smoke clouds coming up. Some of the Soviet Air Force Su-25 people were using those hangars, he knew. Then someone pulled him back into the trench, and that told him another American aircraft was inbound.

“BULLSEYE!” Preacher called as Sweaty pulled away. “Got a couple of secondaries!”

“How big?”

“Big enough!”

Sweaty grinned beneath her oxygen mask. “Then we'll take 'em,” she said as she headed north, jinking as she did. As she jinked, a missile flew by down the right side of the aircraft. Looked big, maybe an SA-6? No matter, Sweaty dropped down lower, and headed north. A quick glance at the EW display still showed that fucking Mainstay's signal. She frowned beneath her mask, then picked up both the CO and Kara as they headed north.

“Four's in hot!” Hoser called as he came down on his run. The flak came up to meet him, and he noticed the puffs from the 57-mm, as well as the tracers from the 23-mm. He ignored the flak-and what appeared to be a couple of shoulder-fired missiles, as he concentrated on his bomb run. He centered his pipper on the runway, and aimed just north of the centerline. Hoser noticed the patches in the runway where bomb craters had been filled in, and this time, this field's out of action for a while, he promised. The aimpoint grew larger, as he got ready. “And...Steady....Steady...And...NOW!' Hoser hit his pickle button, and sent his dozen bombs onto the runway. He then pulled up and wings level, thundering over Dublin as he did, jinking to avoid flak. When he was clear of the town, he ducked low as a missile came up, though it didn't track. Either the ECM pods were working, or it was launched in optical mode and the operator was green. No matter....”Four's off safe.”

The Major heard Hoser's F-4 come in, and since he was in the trench, he didn't see the run, but heard the bombs going off. This time, there were no secondary explosions, and he wondered what the target must be. Then he recalled the last time the base had been hit. Runway, he remembered. This field will be out of service for a few days, he knew. He glanced up, and saw another Fascist aircraft coming...And this one was aiming at a target other than the field. Right away, the Major knew what this one was going for. Fuel depot, he realized.


“GOOD HITS!” KT shouted from Hoser's back seat. “We got the runway!”

“How many cuts?” Hoser wanted to know as some tracers flew over the canopy, followed by a shoulder-fired missile.

“Several.”

“Good enough,” said Hoser as he picked up his element lead.


“Five in hot!” Dave Golen called as he came in on his run. He easily picked out the fuel dump, with all the truck tracks in the ground, even though the dump had plenty of camoflage netting on the clusters of fuel tanks and bladders. He picked out one of the largest concentrations and selected it for his aim point. Golen, like the others, ignored the flak as he went down on his run, though Terry McAuliffe, his GIB, ducked involuntarily as some of the tracers were pretty close. “And...And....NOW!” Golen hit his pickle button, and a dozen Mark-82s came off the racks and fell onto the fuel dump. He pulled up and away, jinking as he did so. As he overlew Dublin proper, he, like the others, waggeled his wings to the civilians below. Golen, like some of the others, also had a large missile come close to his aircraft, even with no EW warning. Once clear, he called out, “Five's off target.”

The East German Major stood up in the trench as Golen's F-4 pulled out of its run, and he saw the bombs falling. Each bomb landed in the depot, and he felt the blasts as the bombs went off, followed by numerous secondary explosions as other fuel tanks or bladders cooked off in the heat. The Major stood up, shouting orders to get the fire-fighters in, when one of his NCOs pushed him back into the trench. The Major was incredulous, then he saw another Imperialist F-4 coming in.


“GOOD HITS!” McAuliffe shouted in Golen's back seat. “Multiple secondaries in the dump!”

“How many?” Golen asked as a missile flew past his aircraft on the right, and tracers flew past above and below the aircraft.

“Lots.”

Golen let out a chuckle. “Put that in the strike report,” he said as he headed north.


“Six in hot!” Flossy called as she took 1569 down on its attack run. She saw the fireballs erupting in her element lead's wake, as well as the 23-mm and 57-mm flak coming up. Ignoring the ground fire, and even a couple of shoulder-fired missiles, Flossy concentrated on the bomb run. She picked out the north side of the dump, where there were no fires or explosions, and she noticed several large fuel bladders on the ground. Not your day, Franz, she thought as the target area grew larger in her pipper. “And...And....And...HACK!” Flossy hit the pickle button, sending her dozen Mark-82s off the racks. Then she pulled up and away, overlying the town of Dublin and not only was she jinking, but she waggled her wings to the civilians down below. When she cleared the town, it was time for the call. “Six off safe.”

“VERDAMNT!” The East German Major was cursing as he watched Flossy's F-4 make its run. He saw the bombs come off the aircraft, and though he was hoping the pilot's aim was off, several explosions, followed by oily fireballs, quickly dispelled that notion. He stood up and for a moment, watched as more secondary explosions followed as more of the fuel tanks went up. Then he turned to his deputy. “This has been a bitch of an afternoon, eh, Johannes?”

“It has, Comrade Major, but we can only do one thing: our duty.”

The Major nodded. Whatever thoughts he may have had in that trench, he was still a professional to the end. “True, Comrade Captain.” Then two more F-4s came over, but instead of attacking, they simply flew past, following the others. Reconnaissance flight, maybe?”


In 512, Guru heard Flossy's call. “That's that.”

“Six in and out,” Goalie said.

“Roger that,” Guru replied. “Mustang One-seven and one-eight, get your asses down and out of there.”

“Copy, Leader,” Flight Lt. Karen McKay replied. “On our way out.” As the two RAF F-4Js overflew the town, they, too, waggled their wings. Then McKay saw them. “Flossy and Dave, break! Bandits on your six!”

Without thinking, Golen and Flossy broke. He went high and right, while she went low and to the left. As the F-4Es turned, their crews saw the threats. Su-25s. Where did they come from? “Lead, Five,” Golen called. “Got two Frogfoots here.”

“Su-25s?” Guru asked aloud. “Where the hell did they come from?” He called Kara. “Drop tanks and on me,” he said as he dropped his two wing tanks. Then he broke right and high, intending to come to the party.

“Roger, Lead,” Kara replied as she shed her wing tanks, then she went low and left, then formed up on the CO. Sweaty and Hoser heard the call, and they did the same, and four F-4Es were headed back south, fangs out.

In her F-4J, Karen McKay smiled as she got behind the Su-25s. She uncaged a Sidewinder, and got tone. “Nice try, Ivan,” she muttered before she squeezed the trigger. A single AIM-9L shot off the left outboard rail, and the two Frogfoots broke. One went right, and she followed, with her wingmate following, while the leader turned left, with the missile flying between the two Frogfoots, then harmlessly firing its warhead.

Flossy saw that Su-25 pass below, waited a moment, then dropped in behind him. “He didn't clear his six,” she noted.

Jang replied from the back seat. “His bad day.” She took a good look around. “Six is clear, girl. He's yours.”

“Roger that!” Flossy uncaged a Sidewinder and got tone. “FOX TWO!” She squeezed the trigger once, then again, as two AIM-9P4s shot off the left inboard and right outboard rails. Both tracked to the Frogfoot, who only started to maneuver at the last second, before both missiles slammed into the engines. The Frogfoot banked left, then rolled inverted. It smashed into a hill and fireballed, and neither Flossy or Jang saw a chute. “SPLASH!”


“Hear that?” Kara called Guru. “Flossy's got another one.”

“Save it for later,” Guru reminded her. “Still got one out there.


McKay, though, made the remaining Frogfoot irrelevant. She saw him bank right, then pull into a right Vector Roll. “Sure this guy's a mud-mover?” She asked her GIB, Flight Lt. Chris Fryer.

“He flies like one, Karen,” he replied. “You're clear.”

“And I'll take him,” she said, centering her pipper on the Su-25 and getting tone. “And...FOX TWO!” She squeezed the trigger twice, and two AIM-9Ls shot off the rails. Both tracked, and speared the Frogfoot in the tail. The Sukhoi spun right, then plunged into the ground in a fireball, and just before impact, the pilot ejected. “SPLASH!”


“Looks like the girls got both kills on this one,” Kara called Guru.

“They did this time,” Guru replied. “Form on me and let's egress.” That was pilot talk for “Get the hell out of here.”

“You do know that makes McKay an ace?” Goalie reminded her pilot.

“It does, and she'll get a drenching. First things first,” Guru said as he did a 180, then headed north, with Kara tucked in with him in Combat Spread. “Sweaty?”

“On your six, and Hoser's with me,” replied Sweaty.

“Roger that,” Guru said. “Dave?”

“Coming up, and I've got Flossy.”

“Seven and eight on top,” McKay added.

“Copy,” Guru replied as the flight reformed and headed north, with the F-4Js coming in just above them. “Crystal Palace, Mustang Lead. Say threats.”

An AWACS controller replied at once. “Mustang, Crystal Palace. Threat bearing Two-four-five for forty. Medium, closing. Second threat bearing One-eight-zero for fifty. Medium, closing. Third threat bearing two-four-zero for sixty. Medium, closing.”

“Roger. Say bogey dope?”

“Mustang, First threat is Fishbeds. Second threats are Floggers, with third being Fulcrums.”

“Mustang Lead copies,” Guru said.

“One minute to Lake Comfort,” Goalie called.

Guru nodded, then said, “Let's get down lower.” He took 512 down to 450 Feet AGL, and the flight followed suit. A quick glance at the EW display still showed the Mainstay, but no fighter radars. “Time to the lake?”

“Forty seconds.”

“Roger that,” Guru said. It wasn't long until the lake appeared, and as they crossed the lake, the Mainstay's radar strobe went off, and the SEARCH warning light went out. “That's the Mainstay.”

“He'll be back,” Goalie replied with a tinge of disgust in her voice. “Somebody needs to take care of those.”

“You're preaching to the choir.”

Once clear of the lake, next up was I-20, and that meant crossing the Fence into friendly territory. Once clear of the Interstate, the flight climbed to altitude, turned on their IFF, and turned off the ECM pods. Then they joined up with the tankers, and this time, the 335th birds tanked up from KC-10s, while the RAF was able to use their own Tristar. Then they headed to Sheppard.

When the flight arrived, they were third in the pattern, with a Marine F/A-18 flight, and their own T-Bird Flight ahead of them. Both T-Birds were there, Guru was glad to see, and that meant that Don Van Loan had taken his advice. When it was Mustang's turn, the two Su-25 killers did victory rolls, then the flight landed. As they taxied in, and popped canopies, the victorious crews held up fingers to signal kills, much to the pleasure of the ground crews, aircrews, and the news media-Ms. Wendt's crew was filming, as usual. Then they taxied into their squadron dispersal, and made for their individual revetments.

Guru taxied 512 into its own revetment, and after he got the “Shut Down” signal from Sergeant Crowley, the ground crew put the chocks into place after Guru shut down the engines. Then he and Goalie went through the post-flight checklist, while the ground crew extended the crew ladder. “Four and done,” Guru said. “And two aces today.”

“That we do,” Goalie agreed. “And tomorrow's more of the same.”

“Count on it,” the CO said as he stood up in the cockpit and got down from the aircraft. Goalie did the same, and both did a quick post-flight walk-around, then Sergeant Crowley came over. “Sarge,”

“Major, Lieutenant,” Crowley said. “How's my bird?” He handed both of them a bottle of water.

“Five-twelve's still truckin' right along,” Guru said as he downed half of his bottle. “No problems or issues, and no battle damage for sure. Get what needs to be done, done, then get her ready for the morning.”

“Yes,sir!” Crowley said. “You heard the Major! Let's get this bird prepped and ready for the morning.”

As the ground crew got to work, Guru and Goalie went to the revetment's entrance, where Kara and Brainiac were already waiting. “How'd things go?” Guru asked his wingmate.

“Got at Hook, and maybe a couple of Hips,” Kara grinned. “And you got a couple of transports and two Forgers.”

Guru nodded, but then said, “Too bad ground kills don't count. There could've been a whole regiment of Su-25s there, and if we tore them up? Wouldn't have meant a damned thing in the score sheet.”

“Not like in WW II,” Kara spat.

“Different war, different rules,” replied the CO, trying to be sympathetic, but he was just as frustrated as Kara was. “Sweaty, Hoser? How'd you make out?”

“Tore up the hangars,” Sweaty said. “And Hoser got the runway.”

Hoser shook his head. “Which they'll get up and running in a day or two.”

“Not taking that bet,” Kara grumbled. “Boss, this is too much like Southeast Asia.”

Guru understood. He'd been thinking the same thing himself. “Don't like it myself, but until we start moving forward again....”

Heads nodded at that. “Well, one good thing out of it,” Hoser said.

“What's that?” Preacher asked.

“We get to know this part of Texas like the backs of our hands.”

“One good thing,” Kara nodded.

Guru nodded agreement, then Dave Golen, Flossy, and their GIBs came up. “Dave, Flossy? Good work on that fuel dump.”

“Thanks, Guru,” Golen said.

“And Flossy? You got what, number eight?”

Flossy grinned. “That I did, and you and I are tied,” she reminded the CO.

“That we are, and you're one shy of Kara,” Guru reminded her.

Oh, shit, Kara thought to herself. “Forgot about that.”

“Easy to do,” Guru grinned. “Come on, let's get our newest aces properly welcomed.” They filled several water buckets, and Sergeant Crowley knew full well what they had in mind, then went over to the RAF's dispersal.

When they got there, Dave Gledhill was talking with both McKay and Fryer. He saw Guru and company, and went over. “Guru,” he nodded.

“Dave,” replied the CO. “Is it just Karen this time, or...”

“Chris has been with her for all of her kills,” Gledhill replied. “So they both get it?”

“They do.”

Nodding, Gledhill called to both. “Karen, Chris? Major Wiser has something for both of you.”

Both crewers had been talking with their crew chief, then McKay turned. “What's that?”

All six F-4E crewers came forward, buckets in hand. “This,” Guru said, as both McKay and Fryer were drenched! “Congratulations, both of you! Welcome to the ace club!”

“Damnit, Major!” McKay shouted as she shook off the cold water. “That's too bloody cold!”

“Try Lake Whitney or Lake Comfort this time of year,” Guru replied.

“This beats that,” Sweaty added.

Sin Licon, the SIO, came up. He'd watched the whole thing. “It does,” he said. “Major, we need to debrief.”

Guru nodded. “All right, let's go make the intel happy. Check your desks, and make sure your IN boxes are empty and the OUT ones are full. Then we get to be animals in the zoo.”

“And some aces get recognized,” Goalie said.

“Right you are, and since they're Dave's people,” Guru said, nodding at Dave Gledhill. “He gets to be the emcee for that.”

“My pleasure,” Gledhill nodded.

“And menana, we do this all over again,” Kara said.

“That we do,” Hoser nodded.

“We do,” Guru agreed. “Come on and let's go.”
__________________
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  #489  
Old 08-07-2019, 08:24 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Location: Auberry, CA
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And the day concludes:



335th TFS, Sheppard AFB, TX: 1645 Hours Central War Time:


Major Matt Wiser was in his office, and he had just finished some paperwork, and no matter what, the elves never did what they were supposed to do, so he had to attack the papers. One thing about Mark, the CO thought, he's shaping up to be a good Exec, for he did a good job of filtering the wheat from the chaff, and left only the really important stuff for the CO's attention. He had also gotten one key chore done: writing the letters to the next-of-kin of the lost crew. And that, the CO knew from experience, never got easier with time.

The debrief had gone well, and there was no question of either Flossy's or Karen McKay's Su-25 kills. Two more, the Major thought. Two more, and the RAF people will cross that ten-mission threshold, and their chances of getting to San Diego and turning their birds over to the Navy increase. Though he wondered, given the abuse the airframes were likely to take in this arena as compared to Bermuda, would the Navy want the aircraft? If not, well, that was the Navy's problem. With that thought, Major Wiser got up from his desk, and went to the office window. There were still missions coming in, and he also saw a C-130 come in. Just another day winding down, he knew. Then there was a knock on the door. “Yeah? Come on in and show yourself!”

The Exec, Capt. Mark Ellis, came in. “Got a couple of things before you knock off.”

“Lay 'em on me,” said the CO.

“First, all the recommendations for NCO promotions,” Ellis handed the CO several papers. “All signed off by their department heads.”

Guru went over the papers. “They still have a promotion board, right?” He looked at Ellis. “A couple of these are for E-5 to E-6.”

“They do,” the Exec said. “One thing that hasn't changed from peacetime.”

“Figures,” said the CO as he signed off on the recommendations. “What's next?”

“Weather update,” said Ellis as he handed the CO a sheet of paper. “Got some weather coming our way in three days or so.”

“Storm coming into Central California, then over the Four Corners, then our way,” Guru nodded as he read the forecast. “And it'll be bad enough for little or no VFR flying.”

“It will be.”

“Anything from Tenth Air Force?”

“Not yet,” said Ellis. “You expecting something?”

“Yeah. Namely, a call to brief General Tanner and his staff on this strike on the Su-24s,” replied Guru. “General Olds briefed General Tanner, and they want to hear from Goalie and me on the whole thing.”

“Which gives the two of you a day or two in Vegas,” the XO grinned. “Even if it's not an official R&R.”

“Down, boy, because most of that is going to be all business,” Guru told him. “And when we go? That leaves you in command, and having to deal with Frank.”

“Don't worry, Boss. I can manage,” said Ellis. “As for Frank, well, any complaints get fed to the shredder. As usual.”

“Good,” the CO said. “Anything else?”

“Eastbound C-141 brought some stuff on Ross' scrounging list, and they also brought newspapers.”

“Tell Ross to keep an eye out for laser bomb kits, and for a couple spare ejection seats,” Guru told his Exect. “Add to that anything you can think of.”

“Will do,” Ellis said.

“Anything else?”

“That's it 'til morning,”

Guru nodded, then glanced at his office clock. 1702. “That's good. Now we're off the clock.” He went to the office door. “Let's head to the Club.”


When CO and XO got to the O-Club Tent, they found the place buzzing. Word about the RAF aces had clearly gone around, and the two 335th officers saw both Karen McKay and Susan Napier in the process of getting slightly-or more than slightly-drunk, along with their GIBs, Razor Wilkinson and Chris Fryer. “I see the party's in full swing,” the CO observed.

“It is, Major,” Squadron Leader Gledhill said. He'd overheard Guru's remark.

“Then we'd best belly up to the bar,” Guru said. He and Ellis went to the bar, and found Smitty there, as usual. “Smitty, what've you got today?”

The barkeep smiled. “Got some Bud, Bud Light, Sam Adams-”

“One for me,” Guru said.

“And a Bud for me,” Ellis added.

“Comin' up.” Smitty produced the bottles, and both CO and XO paid him. “The Brits have a reason to celebrate, Major,”

Guru took a pull on his bottle, then nodded. “They do. Two female pilot aces, and the GIBs crossed the threshold with 'em.”

“A lot better than yesterday.” A voice said. Marine Colonel Allen Brady, who was the MAG-11 CO, came up to the bar. “Bud for me, Smitty.”

The barkeep nodded, and produced a bottle. “Here you go, Colonel.”

“Thanks. Always good to celebrate, instead of how it was last night,” said Brady. He knew from bitter experience, first in Vietnam before his own shoot-down, and in this war. The MAG-11 CO was referring to the RAF having had one bird go down with the crew MIA, and there was the strong possibility that they had been captured.

“It is, sir,” Guru replied. “Today, though, the 335th had had two birds go down,” he reminded those at the bar. “One crew's MIA, and the lucky crew should be back soon.” Just then, the sound of a Blackhawk helicopter could be heard.

“That's probably C.J and Redeye,” Ellis said.

“Find out, Mark.”

The XO downed the rest of his beer, then nodded. “On my way,” Ellis said, then he headed off to the transient ramp. A few minutes later, he was back, with Capt. C.J. “Rascal” Taylor and 1st Lt. Eric “Redeye” Wallace. Rascal was a former Air Force Academy basketball player, and looked like one, being just under the height limit for flight training, while Redeye had been a pre-law student who'd forsaken law for, as his squadron mates teased, “more honest work” as a navigator. And when the duo came in, there was a round of applause.

“Our lost sheep are back,” Guru announced. “Belly up to the bar and get drunk. That's an order.”

“One we'll be glad to obey,” Rascal said, and as he and Redeye did, Smitty produced two beers. It was a house rule that a downed crew coming back got the first one on the house.

After their first slug of beer, Guru asked C.J., “What happened out there?”

“Rolling in behind Rabbit, and there was a ton of flak coming up, radar missiles, and heat-seekers,” Rascal said.

“What got you?”

“Flak, Boss, and a SAM. Did a SAM break when an SA-8 came up, and a heat-seeker took the left engine. We had more holes in that bird than a colander. Got to the Fence, then the other engine quit, and no choice but to punch out.”

“See what happened to Tread and Notso?” Guru wanted to know.

“We were jinking best we could,” Redeye said. “On a jink, I saw their bird on fire and starting to break up. Then the seats fired, and there were two chutes.”

“Other than that, Boss?” Replied C.J.. “Nada.”

Guru frowned, then he took a deep breath. “Okay. You two get checked out by Doc first thing tomorrow morning. You're not on the flight schedule, so you can sleep in. And hopefully, tomorrow, or maybe the next day, there'll be a new bird for you two.”

“Thanks, Boss,” said C.J.. as he and Guru shook hands.

“Same here, Major,” Redeye added. “Only want to go skydiving once.”

“You're not alone in that department. I'll want to talk to you both in more detail tomorrow, though. Now get yourselves smashed,” Guru told them. “That's an order.”

“Will do, Major.” And both pilot and GIB went to the bar to get drunk.

Guru went back to the bar, and found his Exec still there, along with Colonel Brady and Dave Gledhill. “Mixed bag today. Got two lost sheep back. Too bad it wasn't four.”

“Not the way this business works, Major,” Colonel Brady said. “You know it and so do I.”

“Yes, sir. Just that, well, the fewer letters I have to write, the better.”

Brady understood that sentiment. “No arguing that, Major.”

Guru nodded, then saw the two RAF ace teams come in, along with Flossy and Jang. There was quite a bit of hand-waving, and it was clear that the day's combats were the topic of discussion. “The aces are in.”

“Looks like they're talking shop,” Dave Gledhill observed. “Not that surprised.”

“No,” said Guru. He motioned to Smitty. “One more,”

“You got it, Major,” the barkeep said, producing the beer.

Guru paid him, then saw his flight's table filing up. And Dave Golen had gone over to talk with the two new RAF ace teams. “And on that note, Colonel, I need to get some food.”

“Don't we all?” Brady nodded. “You have a good evening, Major. And Squadron Leader?” He asked Dave Gledhill. “When you're ready to honor your aces, let me know before Twelve-hour, and we'll get that going.”

“Thank you, sir,” Gledhill replied.

“And Major? Same with you. You've got two survivors to toast, and a lost crew to remember.”

“Will do, sir,” said Guru.

The CO went towards his flight's table, but Jana Wendt, the correspondent for CBS and 9 News Australia, intecepted him. “Major,” she said pleasantly.

“Ms. Wendt,” Guru replied. “What can I do for you?”

The reporter smiled. “Just wanted to let you know that the segment about General Yeager airs tonight on CBS, and the one about your mascot? It'll run tomorrow.”

“That's good to know,” Guru said. “We'll be having a stand-down in a few days; can't tell you when, of course.”

“Of course,” she nodded. “So?”

:”So, that means you'll get your check ride,” said Guru. “Captain Thrace will take you up.”

Wendt looked at the CO. “Still trying to scare me out of here?”

“No,” Major Wiser said. “You've been through a Scud attack and at least one air strike, and you're made of sterner stuff than you appear. It's just that Kara is the best I've got, and you probably want to fly with the best.”

“She's better than you?”

“Negative. Unless you think 'better' means her kill score?” Guru saw her shake her head, then went on. “She can fly a plane like the devil himself, and has left a decent trail of MiG parts in her wake, along with enough Russians and Russian lackeys bunt, bled, and blown up. Why do you think I have her as my wingmate? I know that if I get into trouble, she's there to bail me out.”

“Understood,” Wendt said. “And Trevor?” She was referring to her cameraman, Trevor Scott.

“He flies with me.”

She contemplated what the CO had said. “So we have a flight?”

Guru nodded. “We do. I'll let you know when.”

“Thanks, Major,” Wendt said. She then went to talk to Flossy, Jang, and the two RAF ace teams.

Guru nodded, then went to his flight's table. Goalie was already there, along with most of the others. Though Kara was still at the bar. She saw the CO at the table, then came over. “Well?”

“What was all that about with the reporter?” Goalie asked.

“Just reminding her about the 'check flight', she's getting. And she did tell me that the segment they did about General Yeager airs tonight.”

Kara heard that. “Yeager's piece is on the news?”

“It will be,” Guru said.

“Wonder what Ivan's going to think about that when it airs?”

“Good question.”

Sweaty then came to the table. “Got some newspapers here,” she said, passing them out.

“What's up?” Guru asked as he went through the L.A. Times. “Says here there was a pro-neutralist rally in West Berlin, and a few blocks away where JFK gave his Berlin speech? 200,000 on the anti-neutralist side.”

“How many on the pro side of things?” Kara asked as she went through USA Today.

“About 40,000, and they had a nasty riot, too.”

“Serves 'em right. Betcha those Berlin cops don't play around.”

“I'll go along with that,” said Guru. “As for those Commie-lovers? Just take them to Checkpoint Charlie, and tell them, 'You like the Russians and East Germans so much? Here, go on over, and don't come back.”

“Fine with me,” Preacher said. “Says here in Stars and Stripes one of our convoys and one of theirs actually crossed paths in the Central Atlantic.”

“That had to have been a shootout,” Hoser said as he went through USA Today's sports section. Even with the war on, there were still some pro and college sports going. Though such things were mostly local college or minor-league teams.

Preacher nodded. “Says here it was, and it's happened a couple of times before. Both convoys' escorts start shooting at each other, and it's a free-for-all.”

“And both sides lose some ships,” Kara noted. It wasn't a question.

“They do. Last two times it happened?” Preacher said. “It was pretty much a draw.”

Heads nodded at that. Then it was Goalie's turn. “Orange County Register for this one. The traitors down in Austin are screaming bloody murder.”

“About what?” Guru wanted to know. He was at that moment going through the most important part of the paper to him-and to many others. Namely, the comics.

“They're wailing about the fate of collaborators,” Goalie said. “And no, I'm not kidding here. AP picked this up off of that 'Liberation Radio' bullshit. Either the Resistance gets 'em, or they get turned over to the Army, and we all know how long the trial process takes here, with that PSD son of a bitch they caught a few days ago.”

“Shot or hanged already?” KT asked.

“Either one's going to happen, tomorrow,” Capt. Ryan Blanchard said. She was the Officer-in-charge of their detachment from the 4th Security Police Squadron that accompanied the 335th.

“He'll be pushing up daisies,” Sweaty grinned. “After all those killings and 'disappearances' that went on in occupied territory? Those traitors are a bunch of hypocrites.”

“Shame we can't pay those scum a visit,” Kara said.

Sin Licon overheard that from one table over. “Wouldn't surprise me, Boss, if those dirtbags move around a lot.”

“You mean they don't spend two straight nights in the same bed,” Guru nodded.

“Four-oh on that, Boss. In their place? I'd do the same.” the Intel said. “Any word on the Bundeswehr?”

Guru scanned the L.A. Times, while Goalie went through the Orange County Register. “Okay, Page 7. 'West German Military Exercise Continues,” Goalie said.

“Page 8 on the L.A.,” Guru added. “You're wondering when the coup is going down.”

“Best guess on that, Boss, is two or three weeks. Lull the Greenies and their friends into a false sense of security, get used to the exercise....”

“And the Bundeswehr lands on those Commie-lovers like a ton of bricks,” Kara said.

The Intel Officer grinned. “Exactly.”


A few minutes later, the restaurateurs-turned Mess Officers came in with dinner. “Folks, we've got real Texas-style Chicken-Fried Steak, or Country Fried Chicken, with all the fixin's. Come and get it.”

After people got their food, Dave Gledhill came to Guru. “You trying to turn us English into Texans?”

Guru laughed. “Something like that. But here? These guys ran, or cooked at, some of Wichita Falls' best restaurants. Ivan wrecked their businesses, so this is their way of thanking us, and don't argue.”

“If the Eighth and Ninth Air Forces adapted when they came our way,” Gledhill noted. “We can do the same.”

“One way of looking at it.”

The RAF officer then went to the table where his own flight was seated, and there was some ribbing, for the others were digging in. Seeing that, Kara asked, “We really trying to turn those guys into Texans?”

“Couldn't hurt,” the CO replied. He was one-quarter Texan himself. “At least they'll appreciate what's on the menu if they ever come back.” Then he dug into a Chicken-Fried Steak.

“Then they also have to learn more English,” Kara quipped, before she took a bite of Fried Chicken.

“What do you mean by that?” Sweaty asked.

“They'll be fluent in English, British English, and Texan.”

Everyone at the table laughed as a result.


People were eating when AFN began showing the CBS Evening News. “Good evening from Los Angeles,” Walter Cronkite said. “The day's news starts at sea, when a U.S. Navy escorted convoy in the Central Atlantic encountered a Soviet convoy bound for Cuba. Our Defense Department Correspondent, David Martin, has a report.”

“Navy sources are saying that a convoy from the Mediterranean met the Soviet convoy roughly halfway between Bermuda and the Azores,” Martin said. “Escorts from both convoys began exchanging fire, and there were also encounters between helicopters on both sides, with door gunners trading shots with machine guns. Two escorts from the American convoy were sunk, along with two freighters, though the Soviets got off worse, with a Sverdlov-class cruiser and two destroyers being sunk, and at least eight of the ships in the convoy, either freighters or tankers, sunk, and several others damaged.

“Navy sources also say this is nearly a mirror image of a similar encounter last fall, when the heavy cruiser Salem, on convoy duty, also encountered a Soviet convoy, and the cruiser alone sank five ships. No word as yet from the Navy as to which ships were involved in this incident. David Martin, CBS News.”

Cronkite then picked up another story. “In the Pacific Northwest, the Third Marine Division fought off a North Korean attack on their positions north of the British Columbia-Washington Border. Jordan Phillips, with the Marines, has this report.:

“Here, near Columbus Lake, how far, I can't tell you,” the reporter said. “The 4th Marines from the Third Division fought off at least two regiments of North Koreans. Major Leo Risner, from Columbia, South Carolina, leads one of the battalions-” the reporter went on, as footage of Marines-and some of them were clearly female-returned enemy fire, and one female Marine was bringing a couple of North Korean prisoners to the rear, the expressions on the prisoners' faces showed shock, as if they weren't believing that a female had captured them (probably). Then a bareheaded Marine officer came up. “Major, who were these North Koreans?”

“We're not sure who they were exactly, but they're clearly some very tough customers,” the shaven-headed Marine said, before his radioman came over and handed him the handset. He spoke into the radio for a moment, then went on. “This isn't like Texas, where you can see the bad guys for miles. Here, it's up close and personal.”

“I take it the prisoners we saw going back were the exception to the rule?”


Major Risner nodded. “When they attack, they put everything into it. Kind of like the Japanese back in World War II. More often as not, they don't want to give up. Once in a while, though, some of 'em do.”

“And they don't like to be bothered with prisoners, either, Major,” Phillips said. “Is that a fair assessment?”

“It is,” Risner said. “But one more difference between us and them.” A platoon of M-60A1 tanks lumbered up, and the Major waved the armor on, then turned to the reporter. “If you'll excuse me, I have a pressing engagement.” He and his radioman ran to the lead tank, and climbed on.

“And when it was over? Several hundred North Koreans lie dead in front of the Marines' positions, and many more are wounded. When they can, the enemy takes its wounded back with them, but in this case, they couldn't.” Images of two lines of stretchers with North Korean wounded filled the screen, as Navy Corpsmen attended to the casualties. “So far, Round one of this fight goes to the Marines. Jordan Phillips, CBS News, with the Third Marine Division, Southeastern British Columbia.”

“Glad we're not there,” Sweaty said. “Hard to see your targets if you're on a CAS run.”

“No kidding!” Preacher added.

“If it's North Koreans you want, word has it that some of 'em are flying for Qaddafi,” Sin Licon said. “Want to bet some of those MiG-23s we splashed this morning had NK pilots?”

“Hadn't thought of that.”

The news continued as people ate, and after some more news from the war at sea, and a report from a town in West Texas called Kermit, where the locals, having been fortunate not to have any fighting in and around their town during the summer, and were glad to have life coming back to some semblance of normalcy, though a battalion of South Koreans were based in the town, and U.S. Army Civil Affairs was busy trying to get both the city's government back up, as well as some semblance of County Government. While at the same time, they were dealing with a few local collaborators. “And that's the way it is. For all of us at CBS News, Good Night.”

“Well,” Goalie said. “Not quite a busy news day, but not a slow one, either.”

“You could say that,” Guru agreed. “There were days like this in World War II.”

“And with that,” Kara said. “Time to hold court.” She got up, and after going to the bar for another beer, went to the pool table. She easily dispatched a VA-135 pilot, and a transiting C-141 copilot, then came one of the RAF Regiment officers.

“This'll be a challenge for her,” Dave Gledhill said as he came over to Guru's table.

“Oh?” Guru wanted to know.

The RAF Squadron Leader nodded. “Watch.” Sure enough, the RAF officer was just a little better than Kara was. She paid the $50.00, went to the bar in a fit of the sulks, got another beer, then went to get her maoney back. Unlike previous experience with the generals, such as General Olds or General Yeager, this time, she did reclaim her money.

“Honors were even, Dave,” Guru said. “This time.”

“There's always tomorrow night.”

“Speaking of which, all of you should have something to celebrate. If all of you make it through tomorrow, you'll cross that ten-mission threshhold, and your chances of surviving your tour go up. Quite a bit.”

“Good to know, and we were told just that before we left Bermuda,” Gledhill said.

“As long as you remember,” the CO nodded.

The clock went on, and soon it was 1845. Fifteen minutes to Twelve-Hour. “All right, people!” Colonel Brady said as he rang the bar bell. “We've got some business to take care of. First, The 335th has a couple of lost sheep to welcome back. Major?” Brady nodded in Guru's direction.

“Thanks, Colonel.” Guru stood up. “We had a flight go into a buzz saw today, and while Ops and Rabbit got away, Rascal and Redeye had a shot-up bird, and made it across the Fence before bailout. A good thing too, because their bird looked like a Colander after all the flak and even taking an SA-7 in the left engine. The Army's good for something, because they got picked up mighty fast, and spent the rest of the day at a MASH. Now, we did lose Tread and Notso, and all we have is two chutes seen and not much else. So....” Guru raised his bottle of beer. “Here's to getting Rascal and Redeye back, and to Tread and Notso. May our friends come back safe.”

“Hear, hear,” the crowd replied.

“Colonel,” Guru nodded to Colonel Brady.

“Thanks, Major. Some days, we lose people, but also have something good to follow. Our RAF friends had two crews get kill number five today, so they join that exclusive club known as the Fraternity of Fighter Aces, even if the pilots in question in the crews are of the fair sex!” There were some laughs at that, but everyone knew Colonel Brady was serious. Brady went on. “Squadron Leader Gledhill, the floor's yours.”

Dave Gledhill got up and went to the bar. “Thank you, Colonel. Yesterday was a bad day for the Tigers, but today, now....On the big strike against that Flak Trap, there was a real free-for-all in the air. Susan Napier and Razor Wilkinson got their fifth, which was a MiG-23, and that puts them in the ace category. Susan, Razor? Would you two be so kind as to stand and be recognized?” Both stood, to much applause. “Now, in the afternoon, we had another crew go over the top, and for a bunch of people who've spent most of the war chasing down Bears and Backfires, this one finally proved we're in the tactical arena, for Karen McKay and Chris Fryer splashed an Su-25. Though I'm sure she would've gotten the other Sukhoi, if Flossy there hadn't gotten in the way.” Gledhill nodded in Flossy's direction.

Flossy, though, replied, “In your dreams, Squadron Leader.”

“So, before I got here, I did some checking. Flight Leftenants Napier and McKay are the first female aces in 74, and the first female RAF Phantom aces! Congratulations, and good shooting!”

“Thank you, Dave,” Napier grinned, and McKay did the same.

Gledhill nodded, then turned to Colonel Brady. “Colonel,” he smiled.

“Squadron Leader,” Brady replied. “All right, people! You've got ten minutes to Twelve-Hour, so drink up!”

People did, for it wasn't long until one of the Navy Flight Surgeons rang the bar bell. “Twelve-Hour is now in effect!”

Those flying in the morning turned in their drinks, while those who weren't until afternoon kept at it. Guru went to the bar for a plate of nachos, and found Doc Waters there, and he was looking at Rascal and Redeye. “Doc, keeping an eye on those two?”

“No, but given what happened today, they've got a right to get loaded,” the sawbones replied.

“They do. Just like Hoser and KT after they went down. They got smashed that night, remember?”

Doc nodded. “Don't blame them.”

“Neither do I, and it's 'been there, done that' for me.” The CO said as he got his nachos. “We need to get you up in a few days. Got to collect your flight pay, after all.”

“I'll be waiting,” Doc grinned.

Guru went back to his table, and found his flight glued to the TV. A rerun of an L.A. Lakers-Utah Jazz game was on ESPN. “Let me guess: the rerun's three or so years old, and no matter what happens, the Lakers still win?”

“Something like that,” Goalie grumbled. “If you want real sports, all that's left is College, and even then, with rationing, the teams are usually close enough to take a bus instead of fly. Like USC and UCLA, or Cal-Stanford.”

“No getting around that for a while,” the CO acknowledged.

“Yeah,” KT added.

The party went on until 2100, when Doc Waters rang the bar bell. “Aircrew curfew for those flying in the morning now in effect!”

Those so affected went off to their respective tents, for sleep beckoned. A good night's sleep was certainly in order, for 0430 and aircrew wakeup was not that far off. After that, another full day of flying was on the agenda.
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  #490  
Old 08-17-2019, 07:09 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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The next day's flying gets going:



335th TFS, Sheppard AFB, TX; 20 November 1987; 0530 Hours Central War Time:


Major Matt Wiser left Officer Country and walked to the Squadron Office. A quick glance to the east, with the first faint hint of twilight appearing, revealed a cloudless sky. That meant good flying weather, and VFR all the way. Satisfied, he went into the office, and found the temporary Night-Shift SDO. “Digger,” the CO said.

“Boss,” Digger said. “Ankle's coming along, Doc says.”

“How long until he clears you?” Guru asked.

“Two or three days,” Digger said.

“Listen to Doc,” the CO reminded Flossy's regular GIB. “He may only be a Captain, but he does outrank me-and all of us, mind, in anything medical.”

Digger nodded. “He told me that first thing.”

“Good,” said Guru. “The XO in?”

“Not yet.”

Guru nodded. “All right. The new guy, Doucette, is taking over as SDO at 0600.”

“First Lieutenants are good for that,” Digger grinned. “Uh, Boss.”

“Only for a day, because Rabbit wants another day of flying, then he and Firefly go off to Vegas for their R&R.”

“And then the F-20,” Digger nodded.

“Six months to learn the airplane, and all of that away from the war zone,” Guru nodded back. “Well, they've earned it. Bring Doucette up to speed, get something to eat, then find your bunk.”

“Will do, Boss,” Digger said.

Guru then had a few words with the night-shift admin people, then went to his office. His IN box was still empty, though there was always the chance of something coming in overnight. The CO went to his office window, and looked outside. A C-130 that had done an RON was leaving, while the sky was slowly, but surely, growing ever brighter. Another busy day ahead, Guru knew. Then there was a knock on the door. “Yeah?”

Capt. Mark Ellis, his Exec, came in, with a cup of cocoa for the CO in one hand and a clipboard in another. “Morning, Boss. Another fine day ahead.”

“It is that,” the CO agreed. “Good for killing Russians and their lackeys,” he added as the XO handed him the cup. “And what have you got for me this morning?”

“Morning Report for both Tenth Air Force and MAG-11,” Ellis said, handing his CO the clipboard.

Guru nodded, scanned the papers, then signed where he had to. “Next?”

“Aircraft status report. We've got twenty for today.”

Nodding, Guru signed the report. “Any word on new birds from Japan?” He asked.

“In the pipeline,” Ellis replied. “And that's all they told me.”

Guru sighed. “And I know, we're not the only ones screaming for new birds, and if you did ask, someone told you to 'Shut up and wait your turn.' Or words to that effect.”

“Somebody did,” the XO spat.

Guru drank from his cup. “All right, that's that. What else?”

“Weather update,” Ellis said.

Guru scanned the weather forecast. Good flying weather, with VFR flight rules predominating. A storm was due into the area in three days, and that meant a stand-down for maintenance and crew rest. “One good thing about a storm, Mark,” the CO said. “We get to take a break. The bad thing? So do they.”

“Comes with the territory, Boss. Mama Nature doesn't pick sides.”

“She doesn't,” Guru agreed. A knock on the door came next. “Yeah? Come in and show yourself!”

First Lieutenant Lisa “Goalie” Eichhorn came in, with two cups of hot liquid. She was not only his GIB, but also his girlfriend. “Morning,” she said. “And this is for our CO,” Goalie added, handing Guru a cup of hot cocoa.

“Thanks,” Guru said. He drained the first cup, and went to work on the second. “So, what's up this morning?”

“Not much, unless Kara starting a pool counts,” Goalie replied.

“About what?”

“When Frank's going to pop,” said Goalie. “She told me in the shower.”

“That's something we don't need,” the XO said.

“No,” Guru agreed. “I'll talk with Kara in the chow line. Nip this in the bud. The last thing we need is something that might set him off.”

“Even though I wouldn't mind at all if he got his ass kicked to Goose Bay, after all the shit he's pulled or tried to pull.”

“You are preaching to the choir, Mark,” Guru said, and he saw Goalie nod. Both had very good reasons-several of them-to want Carson out of the squadron.

Goalie nodded as well. “And that choir's pretty big,” she said.

“It is,” Guru agreed. “Anything else, Mark?”

The XO shook his head. “That's it for now,” he said.

“Good,” the CO said. “Now, before we go eat, a reminder,” he nodded at both the XO and his GIB. “Our RAF friends, if they make it past the first two missions of the day without losing anyone, cross that ten-mission threshold.”

Ellis nodded. “And their chances of making it to San Diego and the end of their tour go up.”

“Considerably,” Goalie added.

“Though there's one other thing,” said Guru. “With all the abuse those F-4s have taken, the Navy may take one look at them, what's in their logbooks, and just strip 'em for parts.”

“That's the Navy's problem, Boss,” Ellis pointed out.

“It is, but I'd hate to see good warbirds meet that kind of end,” Guru replied. He looked at the wall clock. 0550. “Come on, let's go eat.”

The three officers left the Squadron's office and headed over to the Officer's Mess Tent. As usual, a line was starting to form, and Guru was looking for a particular someone. He found that person chatting with Sweaty, KT, and Flossy. The CO went over to her. “Kara, a word?”

Kara nodded. “What is it, Boss?”

“Heard you might be starting a pool regarding Frank,” Guru said firmly.

Kara nodded, and she recognized at once the firm voice of command the CO had. “Haven't taken any bets, if that's what you're asking. Wait. You want me to cool it.” It wasn't a question.

“That I do,” the CO said. “I don't want anything going on that could be considered razzing Frank, as much as he deserves it-”

“He does, Boss,” replied Kara. “After all the shit he's pulled? He deserves it.”

“He does, and I'm not arguing with you. But, the last thing this unit needs is him popping. Well, on the ground, at least. There's a ton of pressure inside him, and sooner or later, it's going to pop. Don't want anything done on the ground to cause that. Got me?”

Kara regarded her CO. This was a time where being CO and looking out for the squadron as a whole came first. “I got you, Major.”

Guru nodded. When she-or anyone else in the squadron-addressed him by his rank instead of call sign, that indicated they took what he said very seriously indeed. “Glad you do. Look, if and when he pops, I'd rather that he do it in the air, and he's the only friendly killed. Comprende?”

Kara nodded back to the CO. “I got you, Major.”

“Good. Now, just be glad you don't have to give anyone's money back.”

“Not what I had in mind,” Kara said.

“Don't blame you. If I was still XO, I'd happily buy in,” Guru told her. “Just lay off.”

“Will do, Major.”

“All right,” Guru said. He then went and found Colonel Brady and Squadron Leader Gledhill. “Colonel, Dave,” Guru nodded. “Good morning.”

“Morning, Major,” Brady said. “I see you just had a talk with Captain Thrace.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Word's gone around about her...latest stunt,” Brady added. “Did you...?”

“Nipped it in the bud, sir,” Guru replied. “Setting off a certain officer who has a ton of pressure on him already is not a good idea. Tempting though as it is to many, myself included.”

Both Brady and Gledhill nodded. “Don't blame you a bit for that, Major,” Brady said.

“No, sir. And Dave?” Guru said. “You guys get through today without losing anyone, and you cross that ten mission threshold.”

“Which means our chances of getting to San Diego, then back to blighty, go up considerably,” Gledhill noted, recalling his pre-deployment briefing.

Brady nodded again. “You're right on that, Squadron Leader. Two-thirds of our losses, across all services, are those who don't make it to that magic number.”

Gledhill smiled grimly. “As we've found out, sad to say.”

Guru was sympathetic. “Found that out the hard way, Dave,” he said. “Day One, we lost two birds, one crew, and the Exec, with two others having battle damage.”

“And that was just Day One,” Brady said. He'd flown strikes against the Mexicans in Southern California, as well as their Soviet or Cuban support.

“It was,” Guru nodded. Just then the Mess Officer came out and flipped the sign on the door from CLOSED to OPEN.

“Chow's ready, people.”


After breakfast, Guru and the other flight leaders went to the Squadron's Operations Office to get their missions. He found Capt. Don Van Loan, the Ops Officer, waiting. “Don,” the CO said. “What's on the table for me this morning?”

“Going back to Stephenville,” Van Loan said. “Helo base,” he added, handing the CO a briefing packet.”

“You're full of good news today,” Guru said. “That's still a hairy place.”

“It is,” Van Loan admitted. “But no Weasel or IRON HAND support. Just you four, and a TARCAP.”

The CO winced, but nodded. “Nothing we've heard before,” he said. “Okay, Don. You have a good one, and be careful. Don't want to break Kara in as Ops.”

“And I sure don't want to be XO,” the Ops Officer replied. “You be careful yourself, and tell Mark the same thing,”

Guru shook hands with Van Loan. “Will do, Don.” Then he headed to his flight's briefing room, and found the Squadron's mascot, Buddy, waiting. “You'd best sleep through this one,” he told the dog as he opened the door.

When he came into the room, he found his flight, along with Dave Gledhill's element, waiting. “What's up?” Sweaty asked as the dog found a place to curl up and go to sleep.

“Back to Stephenville,” Guru said as he opened the briefing packet. “There's a helo support area five miles south of town, and we get to make that go away.”

“What's the ordnance loadout?” Kara asked.

“This is still too close to the town, so no CBUs. We get six Mark-82 Snakeyes and six M-117Rs, plus the usual air-to-air load.” That meant four AIM-9Ps, two AIM-7Fs, a full load of 20-mm, an ALQ-119 or -101 ECM pod, and two wing tanks.”

“For us,” Dave Gledhill said, “That's four AIM-9Ls, four Sky Flash, a SUU-23 gun pod, and two wing tanks.”

“Any suspicion about this being a flak trap?” Kara asked.

“Good question,” Guru said as he passed some reconnaissance photos around. “Have a look at the imagery. See where the choppers are parked, with these ranch ponds and a dam nearby?” He pointed to several parking areas where bulldozers-or forced laborers-had created revetted parking areas. “Those revetments have camo netting over them. If this was a trap...”

“They'd be out in the open, and the choppers would be fake,” Brainiac said.

“That's a valid assumption,” Guru said. “And the defenses are in plain sight,” he added. “Two batteries of 57-mm, two of 37-mm, and one of 23-mm. Not to mention the guys with MANPADS, and this is the East German Army's HQ, so that means Army-level air defense.”

“SA-4s,” Hoser said as heads nodded. “Any Weasels coming along?”

“Negative,” Guru replied. “And no IRON HAND either. Just us, and our ECM pods.”

“Ingress route?” asked Sweaty.

“We pick up the tankers at the usual track over Mineral Wells,” Guru said. “Then we get our asses down low, and cross the fence.” That meant I-20. “Low level, following the Brazos, as usual,” the CO went on. “Just before the Lake Whitney Dam, we turn west on a heading of Two-six-five, and we stay clear of Meridian. Keep on that heading until we reach U.S. 281, then we turn northwest to the town of Alexander, on State Route 6. That's our pop-up point, as the only visual landmarks are the ranch ponds at the target. ID the target, make your runs, and get your asses north to the I-20 quick as you can. If that means overflying Stephenville, so be it.”

“Aim points?” Kara wanted to know.

“I'm taking the northern dispersal area,” Guru said. “You get the south.” Kara nodded, then Guru continued. “Sweaty?” He saw his second element lead nod. “Right here, along the road, there's some revetments there, and they look like munitions storage. Make those go away.”

“A pleasure,” Sweaty replied.

“Hoser?” Guru nodded at Sweaty's wingmate. “The fuel dump's near this pond with a dam. It's yours.”

“Got it, Boss,” Hoser said.

Gledhill asked, “And the usual for us?”

The CO nodded. “Kill anyone in the air, assume a TARCAP, and break up any party-crashers. Stephenville Municipal is north of here, so you might catch a transport, helos based there, or even Su-25s.”

“Just like Karen yesterday.”

Heads nodded again, then Flight Lt. Susan Napier, Gledhill's wingmate, asked, “What's the MiG threat?”

The CO checked the intel sheet. “Same as yesterday, pretty much. MiG-21s and -23s at Waco Regional, Brownwood Regional, the old James Connolly AFB by Waco, and more -23s at Bergstrom AFB and Gray AAF at Fort Hood. MiG-29s are at Goodfellow AFB, Gray AAF again, and Bergstrom. Which, by the way, has Flankers.”

“Boss, any word on those Mainstays?” KT asked.

Guru scanned the sheet. “Intel says there's still four to five in theater.”

“So that kill might have been a probable or a damage?” Preacher asked, referring to a Navy Phoenix shoot against a Mainstay-whose radar signal had dropped off after the shoot.

“That's a reasonable assumption,” Guru said. He went on. “Okay, weather: unchanged, and will be for three more days.”

“Bailout areas still unchanged,” Kara asked, though the tone of her voice indicated it wasn't a question.

“Right on that,” Guru said. “We're RAMBLER Flight today. Anything else?” He asked as an Ops NCO came to get the briefing material.

“Yeah,” Goalie said. “Buddy's asleep.”

“Good for him and for us,” Guru said. “If that's it, gear up and we'll meet at 512's revetment. We're back in the game.”


After going to their respective locker rooms to gear up, the crews headed out. When he finished, Guru left the Men's Locker Room and found Goalie there, waiting. “Ready to get the day going and earn your flight pay?”

“And teach some East Germans a lesson about staying home,” replied Goalie. “But we still give forty-five cents of each dollar back to Uncle Sam.”

“Yeah, but that's not due until April 15,” Guru laughed. “Let's go.”

The two left the Squadron office, and found the Exec and his flight getting ready. “Mark,” Guru said. “Don told me to tell you to be careful.”

“Let me guess,” the Exec laughed. “He doesn't want to be Ops just yet.”

“And nobody wants Kara to be Ops-least of all her,” the CO grinned. “Just be careful out there.”

“You be careful your own self,” Ellis said, shaking the CO's hand. “Don't want to be CO, you hear?”

“I hear you, Mark, You have a good one.”

“You too, Boss,” the XO said. “Firefly's got the morning runs, then Snag takes over.”

Guru nodded. “Okay, just take care when you're out there,” he said. “Last thing I want is to call General Yeager and tell him one of his new F-20 guys got himself killed or worse,”

“Gotcha, Major,” Firefly grinned.

“Loud and clear, Boss,” Ellis added.

Nodding, Guru went back to Goalie, then they found Dave Golen, Flossy, and their GIBs. “Dave,” Guru said. “Where you headed?”

“Some town called Hico,” Golen said. “There's a truck park and fuel dump for us.”

“Stephenville for us,” said Guru. “We're Rambler Flight. You?”

“Camaro.”

“Okay, if you hit MiG trouble, holler. I'll be there.”

“Likewise, and you'll be bringing the Brits,” Golen said.

Guru grinned. “That we will. You be careful now. Never know what's a legit target and what's a flak trap.”

“Same for you,” Golen said.

“Thanks for the advice,” the CO nodded as both shook hands.


Guru and Goalie then went to 512's revetment, and found the rest of the flight waiting. “Okay, folks. Just the usual on the radio,” he said as he gave his final instructions. That meant Mission Code to AWACS and other parties, while call signs went between them. Most of the time, anyway.

“Got it,” Kara said, and the others nodded.

“One last thing,” Guru said. “I should've said this in the brief, but watch for those damn basketball-sized tracers. There's a Soviet division in the Meridian-Clifton area, and chances are, they're the folks who had those damn ZSU-30s. If you see those tracers, take evasive action and mark the location.”

“And if they're at the target?” Sweaty asked.

“We abort, and go for opportunity targets. Either along U.S. 67 east towards Glen Rose, or northeast along U.S. 377 and Granbury. We should find something. Nobody's bringing bombs home. Got it?”

“Roger that, Boss,” Hoser said.

“So we are Rambler Flight, just as on BOLO?” Dave Gledhill asked.

“We are, and might be a good omen. They splashed three MiG-21s on that day.”

“Sounds jolly good.”

“Not arguing that. We meet at ten grand overhead. Anything else?” Guru asked. Heads shook no. “All right. Time to kick the tires and light the fires. Let's hit it.” The CO clapped his hands for emphasis.

The crews split up, and headed for their aircraft. Guru and Goalie went into the revetment, and found Sergeant Crowley, the Crew Chief, waiting, while the ground crew finished their final checks. “Major, Lieutenant,” Crowley saluted them. “Five-twelve's ready to go out and kick some more Commie ass.”

“Thanks, Sarge,” Guru said as he and Goalie returned the salute. Then they did their pre-flight walk-around. Satisfied everything was in order, Guru signed for the aircraft, then he and Goalie climbed the crew ladder and mounted the aircraft. After getting strapped in, they went through their cockpit preflight checklist.

“Be glad when this storm comes in,” Goalie said. “Need to catch up on sleep. Ejection seats?”

“Armed top and bottom, and check yours,” Guru replied. “And yeah, along with maintenance and paperwork, in no particular order. Arnie?”

“Arnie's set, and so is the INS,” Goalie called back. She meant the ARN-101 DMAS system and the INS. “And there's one other thing.”

“What's that?”

“No generals on base, so we can get caught up with bedroom gymnastics,” said Goalie. “Preflight checklist complete and ready for engine start.”

“That we are, and we can,” Guru grinned. He gave his Crew Chief a thumbs-up.

Crowley nodded, and gave the “Start Engines” signal in response. First one, then two, J-79 engines were soon up and running.

Once the warm-up was finished, Guru called the tower. “Tower, Rambler Flight with six, requesting taxi and takeoff instructions.”

A tower controller came back right away. “Rambler Lead, Tower. Clear to taxi to Runway Three-Five-Lima. Hold prior to the active, and you are number four in line.”

“Roger, Tower. Rambler Lead is rolling.” Guru then gave another thumbs-up to Sergeant Crowley, who waved to the ground crew, and they pulled the chocks away from the wheels. That done, Crowley gave the “Taxi” signal.

Guru released the brakes, then taxied out. Once clear of the revetment, Crowley snapped a salute, and both Guru and Goalie returned it. Guru taxied towards the runway, with the rest of the flight following. When they got to the holding area, they were behind three Marine flights-the first one being F-4s, the other two F/A-18s. Once the third Hornet flight had taxied onto the runway, it was their turn to taxi into the holding area. There, the armorers removed the weapon safeties. Then it was time. “Tower, Rambler Lead requesting taxi for takeoff.”

The tower controller came back at once. “Rambler Lead, Tower. Clear to taxi for takeoff. Winds are two-seven-three at five.”

“Roger, Tower.” Guru replied, then he taxied onto the runway. Kara followed in 520, and she taxied into his Five O'clock. He glanced over, and Kara and Brainiac each gave a thumbs-up. Guru and Goalie returned them, then did a final check. All was set. “Ready?” Guru asked Goalie.

“Ready back here,” Goalie said.

“Tower, Rambler Lead requesting clear for takeoff.”

As usual, the tower didn't reply by radio, but flashed a green light. Clear for takeoff.

“Canopy coming down,” Guru said, pulling down and locking his canopy.

“Got it,” Goalie said as she did the same.

Guru took a look at 520, and found Kara and Brainiac's bird ready to go. “Then let's go.” He applied full power, released the brakes, and 512 rumbled down the runway and into the air, with 520 right with him.

Thirty seconds later, it was Sweaty and Hoser's turn, and they were followed by the two RAF F-4Js. Then the flight met up at FL 100 and headed south for the tankers.


Over Central Texas: 0730 Hours Central War Time:


Rambler Flight had just crossed the fence-which was the I-20, and was now in enemy territory. After takeoff, they had formed up, and then headed for their tanker rendezvous. After topping up from the KC-135s, and this time, the RAF F-4Js had to use a KC-10 instead of the RAF Tristar, the flight dropped down low and was now in bad-guy country.

Now, they were flying over Lake Granbury at 450 Feet AGL and doing some five hundred knots, and so far, so good. “How far to the Granbury Bridge?” Major Wiser asked his GIB.

“Thirty seconds,” Goalie replied. “EW still clear,” she added, checking her EW display.

“For now,” Guru reminded her. Soon, one of Ivan's Mainstay AWACS radars would come up on the display. “And there he is.” A strobe had come up on the display, with the SEARCH warning light on.

“Mainstay again.” Goalie shook her head in the cockpit.

“You win a cookie,” Guru grinned beneath his oxygen mask.

“Lovely,” Goalie replied. “Bridge coming up.” It was the U.S. 377 Bridge over the Brazos River, and there were actually two bridges. One for the old highway, and a newer bridge built in the 1970s to allow the highway to bypass the town. “And flak from the west side.”

“Got it,” Guru said as the 37-mm and 57-mm batteries opened up. These were still East German-manned, and they always opened fire on passing aircraft. The Nicaraguan gunners on the east side, unless the bridges-or other targets on the east side of the river-were actually being attacked, stayed quiet. “And now...” he added as Rambler Flight overflew the bridge.

On the west side of the bridge, a Soviet convoy was waiting to cross. They were still in the city of Granbury proper, and American aircraft were not likely to strike a convoy still in the midst of their own people. Though the convoy commander had his sleep interrupted the night before, as someone had bombed the local airport.

This convoy had delivered replacement armor to the East German 20th MRD, which had been shot up in the past few weeks, and now, the convoy was returning via Cleburne and Hillsboro to the Front's replacement vehicle store, to await another mission, and the Soviet Major who commanded the convoy was in his command vehicle, a BTR-70, when he saw six F-4s fly past at low level, chased by anti-aircraft fire. None of the aircraft were hit, and the Russian was visibly relieved. If the Americans had been delayed, his convoy would've been right smack on the bridge, and an easy target. He was shaken out of his thoughts by a Traffic Regulator bringing him his clearance to proceed. The Major waved to his convoy, and they began to cross the bridge. Just as long as no more American aircraft appeared.....


“Granbury Dam coming,” Guru noted. They'd flown this route into Central Texas so many times that crews were getting to know the area like the backs of their hands.

“Fifteen seconds,” replied Goalie. Sure enough, the dam appeared, and so did more flak from the East German side. The flight easily outran the flak, and kept on going.

Guru had his eyes on a swivel, checking his instruments, then having an eye out for threats, and Goalie was doing the same, though she, and the other GIBs, was watching the navigation. “Warlock, Rambler Lead. Say threats?” Guru said as he called the AWACS.

“Rambler Lead, Warlock,” a controller replied. “First threat bearing One-five-five for forty-five. Medium, going away. Second threat bearing One-seven-zero for fifty-five. Medium, closing. Third threat bearing One-eight-five for seventy. Medium, closing. Fourth threat bearing Two-one-zero for eighty. Medium, closing.”

“Roger, Warlock. Do you have Bogey dope?” Guru asked.

“Rambler, first threats are Fishbeds. Second and third are Floggers. Fourth threats are Fulcrums.”

“Copy,” Guru said. “As long as those MiG-21s stay away. How far to Glen Rose?” He asked Goalie. That meant the U.S. 67 Bridge.

“Twenty seconds.” Then Goalie added a few seconds later, “Flak at one.” Sure enough, the East Germans were on the ball again.

“Got it,” Guru replied The strike flight blew past the bridge, and kept on going south.

Goalie checked her map and the INS. “Brazospoint coming up. Fifteen seconds.”

“And the Libyan sector starts.” The Libyans had a habit of shooting at any aircraft overhead, and expending large quantities of ammo. They did it with the abandon of someone who has been told that the practice would be outlawed in five minutes, and so....the shooting was wild, and there was very little aim.

“Bridge in sight, and flak at Eleven.” The Brazospoint Bridge came into view, along with the puffs and tracers of Libyan Triple-A. This time, the East Germans on the west side stayed quiet. “Not like the East Germans to stay quiet.”

“First time for everything,” Guru said as they flew by, and not only was there the wild shooting, but even the smoke trail of an SA-7 missile. “And the Libyans are their usual self.”

Goalie shook her head. “Surprised?”

“No. Forty seconds to Route 174 and the north end of Lake Whitney.”

“Copy.” Guru checked his EW display. That strobe from the Mainstay radar was getting a little brighter. Too brighter for his taste. “Flight, Lead. Music on,” he called as he turned on his ECM pod. That call was for the others to do the same.

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

Goalie had her eyes on the map, and double-checked the INS. “Route 174 Bridge coming up.”

“Got it,” Guru replied as flak erupted from both sides this time. The strike flight was too fast for the gunners to get good visual tracks, and they easily avoided the flak, as the F-4s flew right down the middle of the Brazos, and Lake Whitney opened up wide. Guru took a look at his EW display, and saw another strobe to the east. That would be a fighter radar, he guessed, so he took 512 down lower, to 400 feet AGL. “Warlock, Rambler Lead. Say threats.”

The AWACS controller came back right away. “Rambler Lead, Warlock. First Threat bearing Zero-eight-five for forty. Medium, closing. Second threat bearing One-four-zero for fifty. Medium, going away. Third threat bearing One-eight-five for sixty. Medium, closing. Fourth threat bearing Two-three-zero for sixty-five. Medium, closing.”

“Copy Warlock. Bogey dope same as before?”

“Rambler Lead, that's affirmative,” the controller replied.

“Roger that,” Guru said as the strike flight thundered down the lake. Then he got back on the IC. “Turn point in when?”

Goalie came back. “Sixteen miles. One minute.”

“Copy.”

Rambler Flight went down the lake, and as they did, there were eyes watching from both sides of the lake. Some were locals, trying to catch some fish to supplement the occupiers' rations allotted them, while others were either Soviet or East German soldiers, eager to have some fresh fish to add to their own rations. A few were even Resistance members, using part of the Lake Whitney Recreational Area as a hideout, and to them, as well as the locals, the sight of F-4s going past, clearly on their way to attack a target, was another sign that there was light at the end of the tunnel.

“Coming up on the turn,” Guru said. The Lake Whitney Dam would soon appear. As would the flak if they kept on their course.

“Roger that,” Goalie replied. “Thirty seconds.”

“Give me the count.”

“On it. New course Two-six-five. Turn in five, four, three, two, one, MARK!”

Guru turned, and the rest of the flight followed, as Rambler Flight turned onto the new heading of Two-six-five. “How long until 281?” He meant their next turn point, which was U.S. Highway 281.

“Thirty-four miles. Two minutes,” Goalie replied.

“Copy.” Guru said.

The hills of Central Texas flew by below, and twice, Rambler Flight used those hills to try and mask themselves from the Mainstay's radar. The radar strobe never went away, but it diminished in intensity as they used the hills, but when Rambler Flight went into more open country, the strobe returned.

“Warlock, Rambler Lead,” Guru called the AWACS. “Say threats?”

The response came at once from the AWACS controller. “Rambler, Warlock. Threat bearing One-eight-five for forty. Medium, going away. Second threat bearing Two-six-five for sixty. Medium, Closing.”

“Roger, Warlock. Any bogey dope?”

“Rambler. Closest threats are Floggers. Threats at your Twelve are Fulcrums.”

MiG-29s again? Our lucky day, Guru thought. “Copy.”

“More Fulcrums? That'll make the RAF happy,” Goalie said.

“It ought to,” Guru replied. “Time to turn?”

“One minute thirty.”

The strike flight flew over State Route 22 southeast of Meridian, then State Route 6 south of the town, then Route 22 again, but there were no convoys or other military traffic. Then the small town of Fairy came up-at the intersection of several Farm-to-Market roads. Though the crews couldn't see, several of the ranchers and other townspeople waved at the F-4s as they flew by. Then came U.S. 281.

Guru took a quick glance at his own map. “Got 281 coming up.”

“Roger that,” Goalie said. “Turn to Three-four-zero. On my mark. Five, four, three, two, one...MARK!” She called as the highway appeared.

“Turning,” Guru called as he turned onto the new heading.

“One minute to Alexander,” Goalie said. “That's our pop-up point.”

“Roger that. Set 'em up.” Guru meant the armament controls.

“On it,” replied Goalie as she worked the weapons-control panel in the back seat. “All set. Everything in one pass.”

“Roger that,” Guru said as the small town of Alexander came into view. This ruined town on State Route 6 was their pop-up point. “Flight, Lead. Switches on, and stand by to pull.”

“Roger, Lead,” Kara replied, and the others did the same.

“Stand by....” Goalie called as 512 flew over the town. “And...PULL!”

Guru pulled up, and as he did, the target appeared at his One-o'clock. He couldn't be sure, but it looked like the helos were still there... “Flight, Lead. Target's in sight. Chiefs, follow me, and Tigers, go to work!”

“All set back here,” Goalie said as she tightened the straps that kept her in the ejection seat, and took a quick look around. “And it's clear.”

“Then let's go,” said Guru as he rolled in on the bomb run.


At the helicopter dispersal site, an East German Captain was not in a good mood. His unit, the Third Squadron, KHG-5, was equipped with a mix of Mi-24V (NATO Hind-E) and Mi-24D (Hind-D) gunships, along with a flight of Mi-8T (Hip-C) transport helicopters and a pair of Mi-8TZ fuel tankers used to support the squadron's Mi-24s. KHG-5 had been supporting the Kampfgruppe Rosa Luxembourg since the initial invasion, and had seen a lot of combat, and had also taken its share of casualties, hence the assignment of Mi-24Ds to the Regiment as attrition replacements. As for replacement aircrews, their training back home in the GDR had been excellent, as usual, but he'd seen his share of crews not make it past their first mission. The Captain had been in training when the war began, and had been sent over in 1986 as a replacement for a pilot who had been killed, and he'd done something that about half of his helicopter training class had not done: namely, survived.

The Captain, who was also a flight leader, flew a Mi-24V, though he wished the Mi-24P had made it into the Regiment, for he longed for a 30-mm cannon that could not only take on American armor, but also have more punch in dealing with American helicopters like the AH-64 or the AH-1. But, as he had seen with the Regiment's Political Officer-a Party man who, though a rated pilot, seemed to think that Party Dogma trumped all else, and who had no problems in labeling any such thoughts as “Defeatist.” As if Party slogans meant anything in the field, the Captain thought.

Now, the Captain was waiting on the helicopters in his flight to complete their refueling and rearming. They had already flown a patrol north of Stephenville, and were now expected to head to the front line on a free hunt, looking for American armor or other targets to attack. After the excitement of a few days earlier, the front line had settled down, as both sides were licking their wounds, and preparing for winter, when the campaign season would wind down, and not pick up again until the following spring.
His thoughts were interrupted by shouts and the anti-aircraft gunners racing to their guns, and some of them actually shooting to the south. The Captain turned, and saw specks growing, with smoke trails behind them. F-4 Phantoms, he knew from experience. He heard someone shout “AIR ALARM!” as he ran to a slit trench and jumped in-landing on his gunner in the process.


“Lead's in hot!” Guru called as he took 512 down on the bomb run. As he did, Guru noticed the tracers already coming up, as well as at least one SA-4 radar and a AAA radar to the north. “”Bud One-one, MAGNUM!” He called on the radio, hoping the East Germans would hear that call and assume a Weasel was around, and they would shut down their radars to avoid eating a HARM or Shrike. The SA-4 radar went off, but the AAA stayed up. Hope the jamming pod works today, he thought as he lined up a set of camouflaged revetments, intending to walk his bombs across them. Not your day, Franz....Ignoring the flak, and even a SA-7-type missile someone fired head-on, he concentrated on the bomb run. “Steady, Steady....And.. And....HACK!” Guru hit the pickle button, releasing his six Mark-82s and six M-117s down on the helo field. He then applied power as he pulled up and away, jinking as he did to avoid flak. “Lead's off target.”


“Was im Himmel?” The Captain muttered as Guru's F-4 flew by, then the bombs went off, and he felt the concussion in the trench, as well as some flying dirt landing on top of the trench's occupants. He stuck his head up, and saw where two Mi-8s had been parked, and they were now blazing wrecks. At least the gunships are all right, he thought, then someone-who he had no time to ask, pulled him down back into the trench. More Imperialist aircraft coming in, and he knew from experience that F-4s, or other American attack aircraft, didn't strike alone.


“GOOD HITS!” Goalie shouted from 512's back seat. “Two big secondaries!”

“That's two choppers gone up,” Guru replied as he overflew Stephenville itself, drawing fire from machine guns on several rooftops, and even MANPADS, but the jinking and speed meant that the F-4 easily outdistanced the fire. He even waggled his wings to the civilians below. “Hope everyone down there likes the air show.”

“Our people will, but not the East Germans,” Goalie pointed out.

“That's their problem,” Guru replied as he headed north.


“Two's in!” Kara shouted over the radio as she brought 520 in on its bomb run. She saw the CO's run, and noted the two fireballs that signaled grounded helos going up. Smiling beneath her oxygen mask, she picked out a line of revetments just south of those. Kara saw the flak coming up, and ignored it, despite the 23-mm tracers and the puffs that signaled 37-mm and 57-mm fire. Even the smoke trail of an SA-7 or SA-14 didn't bother her as Kara concentrated on the bomb run, and lined the center revetment in her pipper. “And...And...NOW!” She hit her pickle button, and sent her dozen bombs down onto the East Germans below. Kara then pulled up and wings level, applied power, began jinking, and headed north, intending to get well clear of the target-and Stephenville. “Two off target,” she called.


The East German Captain heard Kara's F-4 come in, and after that, the bombs going off. Then he heard at least three secondary explosions, and that meant the Mi-24s had been hit. Shaking himself away from at least two other pilots, he stood up in the trench, and looked around. Sure enough, the revetments where the Mi-24s had been parked had been hit, and three of them were blazing furiously, while the fourth seemed all right, but it was likely damaged. He turned to his left, and saw another F-4 coming, and he promptly got back into the trench.


“SHACK!” Brainiac's call came from 520's back seat. “We got some helos!”

“How many?” Kara asked as she took 520 on a buzz of the Stephenville Airport, hoping to catch a stray Su-25. Not seeing any in the air, she banked left and picked up the CO's bird. She was jinking, and watched as an SA-4 was launched, but without radar. The big missile flew over her F-4, and just kept right on going.

“Three, maybe four,” replied Brainiac.

“I'll take those,” she said as she closed in on 512 and formed up in Combat Spread.


Sweaty came in on her run. “Three's in hot!” She saw the results of Kara's run, not to mention the flak, and ignored the latter as she came in on the bomb run. The tracers were coming up, and so were the puffs from the heavier guns, but Sweaty ignored those as she picked out the revetments where the ordnance storage was suspected, and lined them up in her pipper. “And.. Steady...Steady......HACK!” Sweaty hit her pickle button, and sent her dozen bombs down onto the East German ammo dump. Then she pulled up, applying power as she did so, and began jinking as she headed north, right over Stephenville. “Three's off safe,” she called.


In his trench, the Captain heard Sweaty's F-4 come over, and heard the explosions that followed in the Phantom's wake. First, they were ordinary explosions from the bombs going off, then there were a number of secondary explosions that followed almost immediately. Shrapnel fell all over, and some was in the trench, and right away, the occupants knew that the munitions storage had been hit. What else can go bad this morning, the Captain wondered. Then he heard the AA guns firing again. That meant another Fascist aircraft was coming in....


“BULLSEYE!” Preacher called from Sweaty's back seat. “We got the ammo dump!”

“Secondaries?” Sweaty asked as she took the F-4 right over Stephenville, jinking to avoid flak and the occasional MANPADS. Like the CO, she was waggling her wings to the civilians below.

“Lots!” Preacher said as the big fighter jinked, and a SAM, probably a MANPADS, flew down the right side of the aircraft.

“Good enough,” Sweaty said as she headed north.


“Four's in hot!” Hoser called as he came in for his bomb run. He saw what Sweaty and the others had done, and he was able to pick out the ranch ponds and dam, which the fuel dump was close to. Sure enough, there were several camouflage nets near the ponds, right where the imagery said they were. Like the others, Hoser saw the flak and the SA-7s coming up, and he ignored both, concentrating on his bomb run. He lined up the fuel dump in his pipper, and waited for the right moment so he could walk his bombs right across the dump. “And...And...And.... Steady...HACK!” Hoser his his pickle button, then his Mark-82s and M-117Rs came off the racks and fell onto the East Germans down below. Hoser then pulled up and away, applied power, and started jinking to throw off the aim of the flak gunners and any missile operators. “Four's off target,” he called.


“Schisse!” The Captain yelled as Hoser's F-4 made its run, and he heard the CRUMP of the bombs going off, and felt the concussion, then came the secondaries. He stuck his head up and looked around, seeing the destruction left behind by the first three attackers, then he saw the fuel dump well ablaze. He shook his head, and wondered what else was going to happen this morning, when two more F-4s, these being grey, came down and flew overhead, but didn't attack. Reconnaissance run, he thought. Gradually, the shooting died away as he climbed out of the trench and began to issue orders. This was a bitch of a day, and it was barely morning.....


“SHACK!” KT yelled from the back seat. “Multiple secondaries back there!”

“Fuel dump go up?” Hoser asked as he flew right over Stephenville, jinking, and yet, waggling his wings to the civilians below.

“Way up!” KT said.

“Shit hot!” Hoser said as he picked up Sweaty's bird.


“That's it,” Guru said. “Time to fly for ourselves.” Then he called the TARCAP. “Rambler One-five and One-six, get your asses out of there.”

“Roger, leader,” Flight Lt. Paul Jackson, who was Dave Gledhill's pilot, called, and both F-4Js dropped back low, and they, too, overflew Stephenville on their way out. Both RAF crews had seen the 335th birds waggle their wings as they went over the town, and they did the same. The F-4Js also dodged the flak and SAMs, but they got clear of the target area without taking damage.

“Copy that,” Guru replied. “Two, you with me?”

“Right with you, Boss,” Kara replied.

Guru took a quick look and found his wingmate right with him in Combat Spread. “Got eyeballs on you. Sweaty?”

“On your six, and before you ask, I brought Hoser with me,” Sweaty called back.

“Roger that.” Then Guru called the AWACS. “Warlock, Rambler Lead. Say threats?”

“Rambler Lead, Warlock,” the AWACS controller replied. “First threat bearing One-four-zero for forty. Medium, closing. Second threat bearing Two-three-zero for forty-five. Medium, closing. Third threat bearing Two-four-zero for fifty. Medium, Closing.”

“Roger, Warlock. Do you have bogey dope?”

“Rambler, first threats are Floggers. Second threats are Fishbeds, and third threats are Fulcrums.”

“Roger that. Can you arrange a welcoming committee if they get too close?”

“That's affirmative, Rambler.”

“Rambler Lead copies,” Guru said. “How long to the Fence?” That meant the FLOT, and that was the I-20 for navigation purposes, though the actual front line was south of the Interstate.

“Twenty-five miles,” Goalie replied. “One and a half minutes.”

“MiGs won't be here in time,” Guru smiled beneath his oxygen mask.

The strike flight headed north, right between the divisional boundary between the East German 9th Panzer Division and the 20th MRD, quite by chance, and they drew no fire. It wasn't long until the crews saw I-20 appear.

“Crossing the fence...now!” Goalie said as the twin ribbons of concrete passed by beneath.

“Roger that,” said Guru. He took a quick look at the EW display and the strobe that signaled the Mainstay radar went off, along with the SEARCH warning light. “Flight, Lead. Verify IFF is on, and music off, out.” He reached down and turned on his IFF and turned off his ECM pod.

Rambler Flight then climbed to altitude, and headed for the tankers. The post-strike refueling went off from the KC-10s this time, then they headed back to Sheppard.

When the flight got back to Sheppard, they had to orbit and wait. A battle-damaged Marine F-4 had come in hot and belly-landed on one of the runways, and not just Rambler, but several other flights, Marine, Navy, and Air Force, had to orbit and wait until the affected runway was cleared. Then, in order of how much fuel they had, the flights came in and landed. Due to their having had a post-strike refueling, Rambler had to wait while others who hadn't came in. Then it was their turn.

After landing, they taxied away from the runway, and as they did, the crews noticed the news crew at work. “They ever stop?” Guru asked as he popped his canopy and raised it up, even while taxiing back in.

“Keeps them from getting bored,” Goalie quipped.

The birds found their respective dispersal areas, then they taxied in. Guru taxied into 512's revetment, and got the “Shut down” signal from his Crew Chief, followed by the ground crew running in with the chocks for the wheels. One of the ground crew also deployed the crew ladder, while both the pilot and GIB went through the post-flight checklist. Then they unstrapped and stood up in the cockpit.

“First one's out of the way,” Guru said as he stretched, then climbed down.

“One more for the RAF, then they get those ten missions out of the way,” Goalie reminded her pilot and CO, as she got down.

“First things first,” he reminded her as Sergeant Crowley, the Crew Chief, came up with a bottle of water for each. “Sarge.”

“Major,” Crowley said. “How'd my bird do?” Crew Chiefs always reminded the crew that the Crew Chief “Owned” the aircraft, and that the crew merely borrowed it for a mission. He then handed Guru and Goalie a bottle of water.

“Made some Helos go away,” Guru replied, draining half of the bottle afterward. “And she's still truckin' like a champ. Whatever it is you guys are doing? Don't change a thing,” he told the crew chief.
“Shit hot, sir!” Crowley replied.

“No battle damage, and no issues. Get her ready for the next one,” the CO said.

“You got it, Major!” Crowley was beaming. “All right, people! Let's get this bird ready for the next strike.”

Guru and Goalie headed out of the revetment as the ground crew got to work. “Remind me to tell him when his R&R starts,” Guru said.

“Christmas at home, enjoy the time with your family, and that's an order?” Goalie asked. “First time for everything, I guess.”

“Yeah,” said the CO as they got to the entrance to the revetment, and both Kara and Brainiac were there, as usual. “How'd it go with you all?”

Kara grinned. “Made some choppers go away, and so did you. You buzzed the town on the way out, so we did the airport.”

“Hoping to pick up a stray chopper or maybe a Frogfoot?” Guru asked, eyebrow raised.

Kara and Brainiac looked at each other. “Guilty,” Kara replied.

“You want that tenth kill and double ace status bad,” Guru told her. “Just don't go out of your way to do it. That can get you killed or worse.”

Kara could tell the seriousness in his tone of voice. “Understood, Major.”

“Good,” Guru replied as Sweaty, Preacher, Hoser, and KT arrived. “Well?”

Sweaty and her people were beaming. “No more ammo or fuel dump back there,” she said. “Too bad none of those helos tried to launch.”

Guru could tell the disappointment in her voice. “There's always next time,” he nodded. And yet, he was disappointed himself. Killing a Hind with an F-4.....a lot easier than that guerilla with an SA-7 back in Colorado, he knew.

Dave Gledhill and his people showed up next. “That was an interesting one,” he said. “First time we've gone over a decent-sized town.”

“And people were either waving or shooting,” Flight Lt. Susan Napier said. “How many guns on those rooftops?”

“Enough,” Guru replied. “We're too fast, but yeah, the Golden BB can get you if you're not too careful.”

“It sure can,” Sweaty added. She had come back from a strike into New Mexico the previous December with a .51 caliber slug only a couple of inches from one of her internal fuel tanks. If it had been a tracer....

“Everybody's come back with damage from small-arms fire at one time or another,” Kara said. “Some more than once.”

“That we have,” Guru nodded. “Come on: let's get the debrief done, check your desks, and get something to eat, because in an hour and a half, it'll be time to do this again.”

“No rest for the weary or the wicked, I see,” Napier noted.

“The late Colonel Rivers had an answer for that,” Sweaty replied. “Either we'll rest when the war's over-”

“True.”

“Or we're dead.”

“Also true,” Guru said. “Come on. Let's go and get this done.”
__________________
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.

Old USMC Adage
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  #491  
Old 08-17-2019, 07:14 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Auberry, CA
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And the flying day keeps on going:



335th TFS, 0930 Hours Central War Time:


The debriefing over, Major Matt Wiser was in his office. One thing he despised about being CO, was that the paperwork that accumulated in his absence wasn't attacked by the elves while he was gone, so after almost every mission, there was something in his IN box. He was actually following his own advice, for not only was he taking care of paperwork, a nearly-finished turkey sandwich sat on his desk, along with an empty bottle of water. The CO had just finished his paperwork when there was a knock on the office door. “Yeah? Show yourself and come in!”

Jena Wendt, their attached correspondent from both CBS and 9 News Australia, came in. “Major? Have a few moments for the media?”

“Not a problem, Ms. Wendt,” the Major said. “I've got a few minutes, so why don't you have a seat, and what can I do for you?”

The reporter smiled, then sat down in an office chair in front of the CO's desk. “Any chance of my doing a story on the Brits?”

Guru looked at her. “Any word from the PAO shop here?” He was referring to their temporary PAO, Marine Captain “Kodak” Griffith and recent arrival Lieutenant Patti Brown.

“No, and they did query Tenth Air Force, they did tell me,” Ms. Wendt replied. “No word as yet. Any chance you can do something?” The tone of voice the reporter had showed a little bit of frustration, and that was easily picked up.

Major Wiser thought for a moment. “Their message may be in a pile, and the folks at Tenth just haven't gotten to it yet. Give them twenty-four hours, and if they haven't heard back? I'll make a phone call and see what the deal is.”

“So I can go ahead and at least get the story ready?”

“Go ahead, but don't send it off until you hear either from the PAO Office or from me,” Guru said firmly. “You know, the Great God Security and all that.”

Ms. Wendt nodded. “Understood,” she said. “Oh, I'm flying with Captain Thrace on this 'check ride', so how do I get ready for that?”

Guru laughed, then he calmed down. “If you want to prep? Talk to Brainiac-he's her GIB, or Goalie. Goalie flew with Kara when we took General Olds up on his own 'check ride'.”

“And that draw with General Yeager's people,” the reporter answered, and from her tone of voice, that wasn't a question.

“The same. That's the best advice I can give you. Other than this: Kara flies the plane like she just stole it. It's the primary reason she's made it this far.” And for that matter,I do the same thing. It's why I'm still alive, along with Goalie, the CO thought, along with a good deal of luck.

“I'll keep that in mind,” Wendt said. “Thanks, Major.”

“Anytime,” Guru replied.

After the reporter left, Goalie came in. “Well, the Fourth Estate keeping tabs on you?” She asked. “I saw her leave.”

“She wants to do a story on the Brits,” Guru replied. “And the PAOs don't have any guidance yet.”

“Ivan already knows,” Goalie pointed out. “That shootdown on their first day.”

Guru nodded. “True, but you do know bureaucrats. They do things their own way. I did tell her to wait twenty-four hours, then I'd see what I can do.” He noticed a paper in her hand. “Got something for me?”

“Yeah,” his GIB replied. “Mark's getting ready to brief for a mission, so he gave this to me.” She tossed the paper on the CO's desk. “Two new birds from Japan are due in, day after tomorrow.”

“Any word on crews?” Guru asked as he scanned the paper. “Just in time for the stand-down.”

“Not yet,” his girlfriend said. “We may find out when the ferry crews deliver the birds.”

“True enough,” said Guru as he stood up and went to his office window.

Goalie looked at him. She could tell something was on his mind. “A penny for your thoughts.”

“Just wondering. We know what we're doing here. But, and this is a big but, how many of those on the other side of the fence are wondering what in the hell they're doing here, whether they're Russians, Cubans, East Germans, Nicaraguan, or whatever. Those people are a long way from home.”

“Some longer than others,” Goalie deadpanned. “But you do know that they'd better keep those thoughts to themselves.”

“IF they want to keep breathing,” Guru nodded. The tendency of the KGB, GRU, DGI, Stasi, and so on to ferret out “Counter-revolutionary and Defeatist Thought” was well known, even to Americans and their allies. Then there was another knock on the door. “Yeah?”

The office door opened and in came Kara. “Boss? We've got a mission.”

“When?”

“Briefing folder's being prepped right now. Our birds are locked and cocked,” Kara told her CO and flight lead.

“We getting the Brits?” Guru asked.

“Yep, and before you ask, the same crews as the first one.”

Guru nodded, for it was game time again. “Okay, you two? Round everybody up. Briefing room in ten. I'll head to the Ops Office.”

“Showtime,” Goalie said.

“It is that,” Guru nodded again. “Let's get moving.”

“I'm gone,” Kara said, heading on out.

“On my way,” Goalie added as she left.

Guru headed out of the office, nodding to his secretary, who needed no further orders. When she saw Kara and Goalie run out, that was a giveaway that there was a mission in the works.

The CO then went to the Ops Office, and found Don Van Loan there. “Don,” Guru said. “You have a mission for me?”

“I do,” the Ops Officer said, handing Guru a folder. “Here you are. Comanche County-City Airport. It's a helo and Frogfoot FOL.”

Guru opened the folder and scanned the map-and the intel cover sheet. “Where the hell is this?”

“Soviet 32nd Army sector, and don't look at me, Boss,” Van Loan replied. “I just put together what the ATO calls for.”

“HQ, 32nd Army, along with the HQ, 203rd MRD, and not only divisional level air-defense assets, but there's SA-4s from Army. Swell.” Guru scanned the mission brief. “And no Weasel or IRON HAND.”

Van Loan nodded understanding. “Sorry, Boss. All those people are pretty busy.”

“Ain't that the sorry truth?” Guru replied. “You going out?”

“Good,” the CO said. “Just remember our talk this morning. Right now, the last thing I want is Kara taking your job-under any circumstances.”

“And I sure don't want to be Exec,” Van Loan grinned. “With the same caveat.”

Guru nodded. “All right. Thanks, Don.” He then left the Ops Office and went to the Briefing Room his flight used, and when he got there, the rest of the flight was waiting, and, as usual, Buddy. The dog was curled up on the floor, asleep. “Okay, people, break's over. Time to go back to work.”

Sweaty asked, “Where to, Boss?”

Guru pulled out a JOG navigational chart. “Right here, forty-five miles southwest of Stephenville, and twenty-six miles northwest of Brownwood. This is in the Soviet 32nd Army's sector, folks, so expect divisional level air-defense assets, and possible Army level as well.”

“Any Weasels?” Kara asked.

“Negative.” Then there was a knock on the door. “See who that is, Brainiac,” the CO said.

Kara's GIB opened the door, and in came Dave Golen, Flossy, and their GIBs. “Guru, where are you going?”

“Commache airport, Dave. Why do you ask?”

“Because someone had a case of the stupids, and is sending us to a fuel dump just south of the town.”

Both checked their mission briefs, and found a nearly simultaneous time-over-target. “Not good, Dave. Okay, you guys are coming with us. We're RAMBLER Flight, and you guys are One-five and One-six, respectively,” said Guru. “Dave?” He turned to Dave Gledhill and the RAF guys. “You're One-seven and One-eight for this one.”

“Understood,” Gledhill replied, and the other RAF people nodded.

“So how do we get there?” Hoser asked.

“Good question. We go in low, as usual, following the Brazos to Lake Whitney. Short of the dam, we turn onto a heading of Two-six-five and stay clear of Meridian. Maintain that heading until we reach State Route 16, then turn north. The next town after that is Comanche.”

“And the IP?” Kara wanted to know.

“There's a ranch pond-more like a lake, south of the town. ID that, pop up, and make your runs on the airport.”

Sweaty then had a question. “Who gets what?”

“Good question.” He passed around some reconnaissance photos-some high level from an SR-71, while the others were low-level imagery from an RF-4C flight. “This prewar ramp area west of the runway? That's mine. Kara?” Guru had his wingmate's attention. “See this new one to the east? Ivan's using it for Hinds. They're yours.”

“Gladly,” Kara grinned.

“Okay, Sweaty? There's another ramp area just south of the prewar one. Either Su-25s or transports use it. That's for you,” the CO said, and he saw Sweaty nod. “Hoser? Fuel dump again. This one's just to the east of the field.” He tapped a photo showing fuel tanks, bladders, and fuel trucks.

“It'll go up, Major,” Hoser said.

“Okay.” Guru then turned to Dave Golen. “Where's your target?”

“Half a mile north of the town, and just east of Route 16,” Golen replied.

“How you and Flossy take it is up to you.”

“I'll take the east side of the dump, and Flossy gets the west, along with the parking area for the fuel trucks.”

“Fair enough,” Flossy nodded.

Guru nodded himself. “Good. Once you strike, everyone? Then get your asses back low and north to the I-20,” said Guru. “As for our British friends? Climb and assume a TARCAP, and you know the drill.” That meant kill anyone in the air, and also deal with anyone crashing the party. With the MiGs from Brownwood Regional only two minutes' flight time away, the latter was a real possibility.

“Got you,” Gledhill nodded.

“All right: those of us going for the airport? No CBUs on this one, so we get a dozen Mark-82s, and half of them will have the Daisy Cutter fuze extensions. Plus the usual air-to-air loadout.” Heads nodded at that. Four AIM-9Ps, two AIM-7Fs, a full load of 20-mm, and two 370 gallon wing tanks. With an ALQ-119 ECM pod for the element leads, and an ALQ-101 for the wingmen.

“Flossy and I have the same load,” Golen said, and he saw Flossy nod. Then she spoke up.

“Boss, what's the MiG threat?” .

“Good thing you asked,” Guru replied. “We'll only be twenty-six miles from Brownwood Regional, and that means a Soviet MiG-23 Regiment, and a East German MiG-21 Regiment. MiG-29s from either Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo or San Angelo are definite possibles, along with MiG-23s. The usual MiG threats from Waco, Temple, Gray AAF, and Bergstrom also are a factor.”

“Defenses at the target?” Hoser asked.

“Again, a very good question. It's not just a divisional HQ, but 32nd Army's there as well. So, there's an SA-8 regiment in the area, and they're the divisional-level SAM for these guys. And since the 32nd Army HQ's in the area, we also have SA-4s. At the airport? One battery of 23-mm, and another of 37-mm. Expect the usual guys with MANPADS, and watch for small-arms fire. This division is not shown to be equipped with ZSU-30, but we all know how Intel is-or isn't-on the ball at times.”

Heads nodded, then it was Sweaty who asked, “Boss, what do we do if we see those damn basketball-sized tracers?”

“Abort,” Guru said at once. “We regroup north of the town, then head towards Stephenville. We can tear up the airport again, or hit a couple of other opportunity targets.” He passed a sheet that the Ops people had prepared, showing such possible targets. “Either way, we're not bringing bombs back.”

“Not what we get paid for,” Kara noted.

“No,” said Guru. “By the way, no Weasels or IRON HAND coming along. Just us and our ECM pods. So make some 'Magnum' calls.”

“WHAT?” Both Kara and Sweaty said at the same time.

“No Weasels?” Hoser asked.

“Same old same-o, folks. Too many missions and not enough assets,” Guru replied.

“Don't like it, Boss,” Flossy added.

“I don't either, but that's the way it is. All right, bailout areas still unchanged, and no change in weather. Anything else?” The CO asked. Heads shook no, though he could tell that the crews weren't at all happy about going in to this place, as it crawled. He glanced to the door, and an Ops NCO was waiting. “That's it. Let's gear up, and I'll see you all at 512.”

As the crews got to leave, KT noticed something. “Buddy's still asleep,” she said.

“Good,” Kara nodded. “Every time he stays awake in a brief, something bad happens.”


The crews headed to the locker rooms to gear up. When Guru came out of the Men's, he found Goalie waiting outside as usual. “You ready for this one?”

“Not quite, but let's get it over with,” Goalie replied. “This place looks hairy.” She looked at her pilot and lover. “Who put this one together?”

“I'd like to know myself,” Guru said. “When we get back? I'm tempted to make that phone call to Tenth Air Force. And see if somebody's balls can get crunched.”

“You can have his balls. Just leave me his toes, so I can smash them with a hammer.”

“Down, girl.” Guru said as they headed out. As they did, a familiar-and loathed-face came in. “Frank,”

Major Frank Carson gave a nod-a barely polite one, the CO thought. “Major,” he said, with the barest hint of politeness and a good deal of contempt.

“Any problems this morning?” Guru asked.

“None at all,” Carson replied. Both Guru and Goalie could pick up the contempt in his voice-something that Carson had for both of them for over a year.

“Good. Keep it that way,” Guru told him, then he and Goalie went out. “When he transfers out, I'm dreading one thing.”

“And that is?” Goalie asked as they walked to the squadron's dispersal.

“Inflicting him on a fellow officer.”

“There's something else. He's a combat veteran, like it or not. So guess where they'll assign him if he transfers out?” Guru looked at her, and she continued. “RTU duty, and it's bad enough with Tigh.”

“Oh, shit,” Guru winced. “Totally forgot about that. So do me a favor.”

Goalie nodded. “Name it.”

“When I do kick him out? Remind me to put on the transfer form, 'Do not assign to RTU duty.'”

“Gladly.”

Pilot and GIB then arrived at 512's revetment, and the rest of the flight was there. “All right, people,” Guru said. He was ready to give his final instructions. “Usual procedures on the radio.”

“Got it,” Kara said, and the rest nodded.

“All right, and for our British friends? You guys make it through this one, and that's mission number ten in-theater. Your chances of making it to San Diego go up considerably.”

“Good thing to know,” Dave Gledhill replied, while Susan Napier had a grin from ear-to-ear.

“You still have to get through today,” Kara warned.

“That we do,” Gledhill said.

“We all do,” Guru said. “Okay, we've got a mission to fly. Anything else?” Heads shook no. “When we get back, it's chowtime. So let's get with it. Meet at ten grand.” Guru clapped his hands. “Let's hit it.”

The crews headed to their respective aircraft, as Guru and Goalie went into the revetment, and their mount, 512. Sergeant Crowley, the Crew Chief, was waiting as usual, and he snapped a perfect salute.
“Major? Lieutenant? Five-twelve's ready to rock. She's locked and cocked.”

“Thanks, Sarge,” Guru said, then he and Goalie went through with the preflight walk-around. That done, they went up the crew ladder and mounted the aircraft. After strapping in, they went through the preflight cockpit checks.

As they went through the check, Goalie asked, “MiGs coming to this one?”

“It's only a minute and a half flight time from Brownwood.” Guru reminded her. “So yeah, don't be surprised.”

“Thought so,” Goalie said. “Ejection seats?”

“Armed top and bottom, check yours, and wouldn't surprise me myself.”

“Looking to catch up to Kara?” Goalie asked, recalling that Kara had nine kills, and Guru only had eight.

“Maybe,” Guru replied. “Arnie?”

“Arnie's set, and so is the INS,” Goalie said, referring to the ARN-101 DMAS system and the INS. “Preflight checklist complete. Ready for engine start.”

“It is and we are,” Guru said. He gave a thumbs-up to his Crew Chief, and Sergeant Crowley gave the “Start Engines” signal. First one, then both, J-79 engines were soon up and running. After the warm-up, Guru called the Tower. “Tower, Rambler Lead with eight, requesting taxi and takeoff instructions.”

A controller came back at once. “Rambler Lead, Tower. Clear to taxi to Runway Three-Five-Charlie. Hold prior to the active, and you are number four in line.”

“Roger, Tower. Rambler Lead is rolling.” Guru gave another thumbs-up to his Crew Chief, and Sergeant Crowley waved to the ground crew. The chocks were pulled away from the wheels, and Crowley gave the “Taxi” signal. Guru released the brakes, and taxied slowly out of the revetment. Once clear, Crowley snapped another perfect salute, and both pilot and GIB returned it.

The rest of the flight followed, and Rambler Flight taxied towards the runway. When they got to the holding area, there were four flights ahead of them. One from the 335th-that Rambler's crews recognized as being the XO's, two from the Marines, and both of those were composed of Hornets, and one A-7 flight from VA-135. After the three had left, Rambler taxied into the holding area, where the armorers removed the weapon safeties, and that made the ordnance “Live.”

Guru watched the armorers get clear, then he called the Tower. “Tower, Rambler Flight requesting taxi for takeoff.”

“Rambler Lead, Tower,” the controller replied. “Clear to taxi for takeoff. Winds are Two-seven-four for five.”

“Roger, Tower.” Guru taxied 512 onto the runway, and Kara in 520 followed. A final cockpit check followed, and Guru turned his head to the right, seeing 520 tucked in 512's Five O'clock position. Both crews exchanged thumbs-ups, then Guru called the Tower. “Tower, Rambler Lead requesting clear for takeoff.”

As usual, the Tower responded with a green light. Clear for Takeoff.

“Ready?” Guru asked Goalie.

“All set back here,” she replied.

“Canopy coming down,” Guru said, pulling his canopy down, then closing and locking it, and Goalie did the same. Guru then saw that 520's crew had done the same. All was ready.

“Let's go,” said Goalie.

“Let's.” Guru firewalled the throttles, then he released the brakes. 512 then rumbled down the runway and into the air, with Kara's 520 right with them. Thirty seconds later, it was Sweaty and Hoser's turn, followed by Dave Golen and Flossy, with the RAF bringing up the rear. The flight formed up at FL 100, then headed south for their tankers.



Over Central Texas, 1040 Hours Central War Time:


Rambler Flight was heading south. They had made their tanker rendezvous, and after topping up from the KC-135s and KC-10s, they had crossed the I-20 and the FLOT, and were now in enemy territory. As usual, they were going in low, following the Brazos River, with East Germans to the west and Nicaraguans to the east.

In 512's cockpit, Major Matt “Guru” Wiser was concentrating on flying. His head was constantly on a swivel, either checking instruments, watching his EW display, or having eyes out of the cockpit, checking for visual threats. He scanned his EW display, and saw a strobe come up, along with the SEARCH warning light. “Got the Mainstay signal again.”

Lieutenant Lisa “Goalie” Eichhorn, his WSO, frowned beneath her oxygen mask. “Somebody really has to do something about those.”

“Maybe we can give somebody some ideas later on,” he said. “How far to Granbury?” They were flying over Lake Granbury, doing 550 Knots at 500 Feet AGL.

“Eight miles,” Goalie replied. “Thirty seconds.”

“Roger that,” Guru replied. It wasn't long until the Granbury Bridges appeared: first the old U.S. 377 bridge, then the newer multilane bridge. And as the bridges appeared, so did the flak. The East Germans on the west side of the river were shooting-as usual, while the Nicaraguan gunners on the east side stayed quiet-they usually did so unless they had been attacked earlier. The strike flight was low and fast enough to avoid the flak as they overflew the bridges.

“East Germans on the ball again,” Goalie observed. “Thirty seconds to the dam.” She meant the Lake Granbury Dam.

“Copy that, and they are, while the Nicaraguans are their usual selves,” Guru said. Then the dam appeared. “Visual on the dam,” he called, and the East German gunners at the dam also began shooting.

“Too late,” Goalie said as the flight passed over the dam, then Guru turned due south, still following the river, but just inside the Nicaraguan sector.

“They'll get lucky one of these days,” Guru said after completing the turn. Then he called the AWACS. “Warlock, Rambler Lead. Say threats?”

A controller on the AWACS came back at once. “Rambler Lead, Warlock. First threat bearing One-six-zero for fifty. Medium, closing. Second threat bearing One-seven-five for sixty-five. Medium, going away. Third threat bearing One-nine-zero for seventy. Medium, closing. Fourth threat bearing Two-zero-zero for eighty-five. Medium, going away.”

“Copy, Warlock. Do you have bogey dope?”

“Rambler Lead, Warlock. First threats are Fishbeds. Second and third threats are Floggers. Fourth threats are Fulcrums.”

“Roger that, Warlock.” Guru then dropped a little lower, to 450 Feet AGL.

“MiG-21s'll have a hard time picking us up,” Goalie said. “Thirty seconds to Glen Rose.” That meant the U.S. 67 bridge over the Brazos.

“They will, and copy,” replied Guru.

“Strobe's getting a little brighter,” Goalie noted as she checked her own EW display.

In the front seat, Guru nodded. He turned on his ALQ-119 ECM pod, and called, “Flight, Lead. Music on.” That call was for the flight to turn on their own ECM pods.

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

“Glen Rose straight ahead,” Goalie said.

“Got it,” Guru replied. The flak was already coming up from the west side. “And the flak.”

“Never fails,” Goalie observed. The East Germans were shooting, but the Nicaraguans stayed quiet.

“And the bridge..” Guru said as they flew past. A quick look showed no traffic. “And nobody using the bridge.”

Goalie said, “Too bad. IF we were on an armed recon....”

“Maybe later, girl,” Guru said as they kept heading south. “Brazospoint coming up.” That was where the squadron had taken a couple of hits to a flak trap, and Guru had led the strike that settled those scores.

“Nothing there...,” Goalie noted. “Flak from the east side this time. Libyans.”

Guru nodded as the tracers flew by harmlessly above. “They're up to their usual selves.” From Brazospoint south, the east side was in a Libyan AO, and their flak gunners acted as if the practice was going to be outlawed a few minutes from now, so they shot their AAA with reckless abandon, and very little aiming.

“They are,” Goalie said. “Seven miles to the Route 174 Bridge. Twenty-five seconds.”

“Roger that,” Guru said as the flak disappeared behind them. “Warlock, Rambler Lead. Say threats.”

The controller replied right away. “Rambler Lead, Warlock. First threat bearing Zero-eight-five for thirty. Medium, going away. Second threat now bearing One-six-five for forty-five. Medium, going away. Third threat bearing One-eight-five for fifty-five. Medium, closing. Fourth threat bearing Two-one-zero for sixty-five Medium, closing. Bogey dope is unchanged.”

“Roger, Warlock.”

“The 174 Bridge at Twelve,” Goalie advised.

“And the flak,” added Guru as Triple-A came up from both sides of the river. Libyans on the east, East Germans on the west. Then Rambler Flight overflew the bridge, and military traffic was visible. “Got a convoy down there...”

“Too bad,” Goalie said wistfully.

“Next time,” Guru replied.


On the bridge, A Soviet Major of Transport Troops was very nervous, sitting in his command vehicle, a BTR-60PB. He was leading a convoy of vehicle transporters delivering replacement armor to the 144th GMRD, and the trip from the Port of Houston had been a long one. Though there had been no serious attacks on the convoy, the trip up Interstate 45, then State Route 22, State Route 171, F.M. 67, and now, Route 174, had been a long one. This state, Texas, was vast, and though he'd been in America for two years, the size of the country still amazed him-and many of his men. That was one thing, though the attitude of the civilian population, though, didn't. No matter what, the vast majority of civilians loathed their occupiers, despite the best efforts of the “Liberation Government” and the Socialist Forces to convince them otherwise.

At least this isn't Colorado, he thought to himself. He had talked with an officer who had served there, and repeated a phrase that had been said by many: “Afghanistan with trees.” The Captain he had talked to had been through numerous ambushes on convoys, and even raids on truck parks and outposts, and the man was actually looking forward to an infantry job. When asked why, the reply was a simple one. “It's safer at the front,” the Captain had said.

Now, the Major's convoy of tank transporters had been given clearance from the Traffic Regulators to cross the bridge. A company's worth of T-72As was on its way to the 144th, and the Major dreaded something happening to the bridge as his vehicles crossed. Shouts, followed by anti-aircraft fire, followed, and his heart stopped as eight F-4 Phantoms appeared from the north. But they didn't attack the bridge or the convoy vehicles still waiting to cross, much to his relief. They kept on going south, intent on business elsewhere. The Major sighed with relief, then waved for his vehicles to continue forward.


“And here's Lake Whitney,” Guru said as the lake opened up, and the flight thundered down the lake.

“Roger that,” Goalie replied. “One minute to the turn point.”

“Copy,” Guru said as they continued down the lake. A quick look at the EW display still showed the Mainstay's radar, but another as well-smaller and not as large. “Looks like a fighter radar.”

“Got it,” Goalie said. If it was the MiG-23s that the AWACS reported, they should be all right-the Flogger's High Lark radar had real problems in the Look-down/Shoot-down mode. That, coupled with the ECM pods, ought to give whoever was driving the Floggers some fits.

Guru checked his map. “Time to turn?”

“Thirty seconds,” Goalie replied. “Eight miles.”

“Copy,” said Guru. He checked his instruments, then did a visual scan. “Give me the count.”

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

Guru then turned hard right, coming to a course of two-six-five, before rolling out and level. “Steady on Two-six-five.”

“Roger that,” Goalie said. She did some quick calculations in her head. “Three minutes thirty to turn.”

“Copy.”

Rambler Flight kept on its heading, heading over State Route 22, skirting the town of Meridian, and the Soviet division there, then overflying State Route 6. The only traffic seen on both state highways was military, but armed reconnaissance wasn't their tasking on this day. But....if they had to abort at the primary, the flight would still have some fuel to go hit some targets of opportunity. Then State Route 22 appeared again, as it headed from Meridian southwest to Hamilton. No traffic appeared, this time, as the flight continued on course.

“How far to turn?” Guru asked as SR 22 disappeared behind them.

“Two minutes thirty,” Goalie replied.

“Copy,” Guru said. Then he called the AWACS. “Warlock, Rambler Lead. Say nearest threats?”

“Rambler Lead, Warlock. First threat bearing One-six-five for forty. Medium, going away. Second threat bearing Two-five-zero for sixty. Medium, closing,” the controller replied.

“Roger that,” replied Guru.

“Two minutes to turn,” Goalie reported as U.S. 281 appeared. “Thirty-two miles.”

“Got it,” Guru said as they overflew the highway. They were still at 450 Feet and doing 500 KIAS. A quick glance at the EW display still had the Mainstay's radar, but no fighter radars-for now. “Still got Mr. Mainstay.”

“Lovely,” Goalie spat. “One minute thirty.”

“Copy.”

State Route 36 appeared, and as Rambler Flight flew by, no traffic was visible.

“One minute to turn,” Goalie advised. “Sixteen miles.”

“Roger that,” Guru said. Then he took a look at the EW display. A new radar had just appeared-and it was a fighter, for the A-A warning light came on. “Warlock, Rambler Lead. Say closest threats.”

“Rambler, Warlock,” the controller replied. “First threat bears Two-five-zero for forty. Medium, now going away. Second threat bears Two-seven-five for fifty. Medium, closing.”

“Copy, Warlock,” Guru replied. “Say bogey dope?”

“Rambler, First threats are Fulcrums. Second threats are Fishbeds,” the controller came back.

“Roger, Warlock.” A lot of good you'll do, Guru thought. Hopefully, we'll be off target before you get word of what's gone down.

“Thirty seconds,” Goalie said.

“Ready,” Guru called back.

“Fifteen seconds...now ten....and five, four, three, two, one, MARK!” Goalie called as State Route 16 appeared.

Guru turned right to follow the highway, and the rest of the flight followed. “How far?”

“Ten miles,” Goalie replied.

“Set 'em up,” Guru said. That meant for her to work the armament control panel in the back seat.

Goalie worked the switches. “All set back here. Everything in one pass.”

“Good girl,” Guru said as a ranch pond showed, and Comanche was directly ahead. They would have to overfly the town before hitting the airport. Nobody said Ivan was dumb, he knew. The town being next to the airport, meant no CBUs, and for sure, any night strikes meant PGMs.... “Flight, Lead. Switches on, and stand by to pull.”

“Roger, Boss,” Kara called back, and the others did the same.

“Stand by...” Goalie said. “And PULL!”

Guru pulled back on the stick, and 512 gained altitude. He saw the town appear beneath him, and as he rolled level, then dove, the airport was right in front of him. “Flight, Lead. Target's in sight, and time to go to work.”

“Ready, Boss,” Kara said.

“All set back here,” Goalie added from the back seat.”

Guru nodded in his cockpit, then rolled in. “Then let's go,” he called as he put 512 onto the bomb run.


In Coleman, it was a normal day-or as normal as it could be with the recent arrival of 32nd Army Headquarters and the 203rd Motor-Rifle Division's own HQ elements. The new arrivals had made the local garrison-Cubans who were reservists not fit for front-line duty, very nervous, for since the invasion, there had been hardly anything going on. Oh, there was some Resistance, or “Bandit” activity, such as snipped telephone lines, a power pole being blown down, shots fired at passing patrols, and the occasional land mine, culvert bomb, or roadside bomb to round things out. The Army's intelligence officer had consulted with the Chief of the Rear, and assessed the Resistance threat as “Minimal”, though the Intelligence Officer felt that the Resistance-and he did use that term, much to the displeasure of the Army's Zampolit-was simply laying low, and biding its time until the Americans resumed offensive operations, and only then would the guerillas make their presence felt.

For Major General Pavel Sisov, the Army Commander, that was one more thing to worry about, and he had plenty. His Army, which hailed from the Central Asian MD, had been in America since 1986, and had fought in the Spring-Summer Offensive that year, and had played a supporting role in the Battle of Wichita, before fighting the rearguard on the long road south. Now, back in Texas, General Sisov was hoping that he would have time to rebuild his weary divisions, absorb replacements of both equipment and personnel, and get ready to either resume the offensive north-and at a conference called by the Front Commander, that was seen as highly unlikely, or defend against the Americans' own offensive, and all signs pointed to such an offensive come Spring. It should come earlier, Sisov thought, but given the damage to road and rail infrastructure, the Americans were having their own supply problems, just as the Soviets and their allies had-though any American supply issues were likely to be pale in comparison to the Soviets. For at that conference, a Navy officer, who was a Rear Admiral, had informed the attendees that the sea lines of communication were getting worse with each passing day, and that attrition on the convoy routes was going to get worse. They would be lucky if they got half of what the Soviet and Soviet-allied forces needed. Enough to defend, but not enough to conduct major offensive operations, no matter what Moscow said or wanted.

At least nothing serious is happening here, General Sisov thought, despite the newly-arrived IV Corps to the north. Even the American Resistance was not a major concern, though he did know that the underground was laying low, and biding its time. Right now, his main concerns were with the local garrison, and those useless Cubans who made up the garrison. They didn't report to him, unless it was an emergency, and they reported to the Front's Chief of the Rear otherwise. Their battalion commander was a decent enough fellow, but the other officers left much to be desired. And the state of the men was another matter! Either overage reservists or wounded men unfit for front-line service. One company was known as an “ear” company, for it was made up of NCOs and soldiers who had lost hearing in one ear, while another was known as the “Stomach Company” for the men had all suffered stomach wounds. As a result, they had their own field kitchen, for their bad stomachs required bland foods. Sisov had talked to the battalion commander, and he knew full well that sooner or later, the Soviets would soon be in the same position, passing men for combat when they had no business being at the front.

At least relations with the local population are all right, the General thought. After the initial invasion, and the usual round-ups of those deemed “Enemies of Socialism”, things had settled down. With no guerilla activities in the town proper, the locals had tried to get on with their business, though the collaborationist government had imposed a PSD detachment, and they were loathed by not only the locals, but also the garrison, and the Soviets had quickly shared in that loathing. Sisov had told not only his Political Officer, but also the Commander of the 203rd MRD, not to get involved if any of the PSD men, or the handful of collaborators, died violently and prematurely. “If any of them are killed,” Sisov had said, “the killers will be doing all of us a favor.”

Now, General Sisov was going to inspect the 203rd MRD's 51st MRR. The 203rd was one of the few Motor-Rifle Divisions equipped with the T-80, and how that happened was anyone's guess. No matter, the division had fought well, and now was licking its wounds and getting ready for the next round. Though Sisov was worried. There was talk that the division would receive either T-64Bs or T-72s to replace the T-80s, which would then be passed to the nearby 3rd Shock Army, and the divisional commander had protested vigorously. As he left his office in the City Hall, and headed outside, Sisov vowed that that brute Starukhin would not get any of his tanks, even if he had to go to the Front Commander to do so. He was walking across the square in front of City Hall, and going to his staff car when shouts attracted his attention, followed by machine guns and shoulder-fired missiles firing from rooftops. Then an American F-4 flew right overhead, heading north and for the airport. Air strike, he knew, as he flattened himself on the grass.


“Lead's in hot!” Guru called as he rolled 512 in on the bomb run. He picked out the airport, and as he went in, guns on the rooftops-and there were several, opened up. A quick glance at the EW display showed no Surface-to-air radars, but he wasn't taking any chances. “Miller One-one, MAGNUM!” he called, and hopefully, that would keep any SA-4 or SA-8 operators quiet. He picked out the ramp area that was his target, even as the flak around the airport opened up. Guru ignored the flak puffs and tracers, while concentrating on his bomb run. As the ramp area grew in his pipper, he noticed a parked An-26 transport and a couple of Mi-8 helicopters. You'll do, he thought as he lined them up in the pipper. “Steady...And...Steady....And....HACK!” Guru hit his pickle button, releasing his twelve Mark-82s onto the ramp area. He then applied power and pulled up and away, jinking as he did so, and noticed an SA-8, probably launched in optical mode, fly past 512 on the right side. Then a second SA-8 came up, and Guru had to pitch up, then roll and break hard right to avoid this missile. He and Goalie saw the missile fly by on the left, and only then did he go back to the left. A third missile came up, and Guru had to pop chaff on this one, and broke right again. Both he and Goalie saw this third missile fly into the chaff and explode. Then he came around on a 180, then turned north. “Lead's off target.”


“Sookin sin!” General Sisov muttered. Son of a bitch....

His ADC overheard him. “Comrade General?”

“They've got balls, coming in over the town,” Sisov replied. “This doesn't happen much in daylight.”

The young Captain was not willing to disagree with his General, though he had been under air attack numerous times. “Yes, Comrade General.”

More shouting, and anti-aircraft fire, followed. More aircraft coming in.


“BULLSEYE!” Goalie shouted as Guru jinked to avoid not just flak, but another missile. “We got the ramp, the transport, and the helos!”

“They went up?” Guru asked as first an SA-4, then a fourth SA-8, flew over the aircraft.

“In pieces,” Goalie said. “And in no particular order,” she added.

“We'll have to take that,” Guru said as he got back down low and headed north. This time, it was 400 Feet AGL.

“Two's in!” Kara called as she took 520 down on her bomb run. She saw the results of Guru's strike, and the parked transport and helos going up in fireballs. She picked out the East Ramp, and though there were no Hinds, the choppers looked like a couple of Hips. No matter, Kara thought as she lined the ramp area up in her pipper. You're gone, Ivan. She, too, made a “Magnum” call as she rolled in, and also ignored the flak and the MANPADS that were coming up. The EW display clear, she steadied on the run. “And...And...And....NOW!” Kara hit her pickle button, sending her dozen Mark-82s onto the Russians below. She, took pulled up and applied power, and as she did, Kara noticed an SA-4 fly beneath 520, and an SA-8 flew down the right side of the aircraft as she jinked. Once clear of the defenses, she was able to pick up the CO's smoke trail and only then called, “Two's off target.”


“Mother of..” General Sisov said as Kara's plane came over. The General watched as the bombs came off, but he didn't see the weapons impact due to the buildings. Two fireballs coming up did give him an idea of what had been hit, and hoped that was it. He got up, only to have his ADC pull him back down. Rolling on his back, the General saw why. Amidst all the anti-aircraft fire and the missiles being launched, was another American aircraft. Like the first two, it was an F-4, and it looked as if it was coming at him.


“SHACK!” Brainiac called from 520's back seat. “Got two secondaries!”

“Helos?” Kara asked as an SA-4 flew by along the left side. She then broke right, expecting a second missile, and an SA-8 came by, following the SA-4. Kara pitched up and rolled left after the SA-8, and another SA-8 flew past on the right. She then jinked back right, then got back low, picking up the CO's smoke trail, before getting eyeballs on her flight lead.

“Got two, I think,” Brainiac said, relieved that the hard Gs were over.

“Good,” Kara muttered as she formed up with the CO.


It was now Sweaty's turn. “Three's in!” She called as she went in on her run. She watched as Kara pulled off of her run, and the fireballs that 520 left in its wake. Sweaty, too, ignored the flak coming up as she picked out the ramp area that was her target, and noticed that at least two fighter-type aircraft parked on the ramp. MiGs or Sukhois, no matter. She lined up the ramp in her pipper, and winced as a missile-probably an SA-7 or SA-14, flew past down the right side. Head-on, those two missiles didn't have a chance unless it was a freak hit, she knew. Sweaty then got ready. “And...Steady....Steady..HACK!” She hit the pickle button and released her bombs, then she pulled up wings level, applied power, and began jinking. Sweaty, too, had an SA-4 fly over her aircraft, but no SA-8s, though there were plenty of tracers that followed her out. “Three's off target.”

General Sisov watched as Sweaty's F-4 flew over the town, then released its bombs. The F-4 left a dozen bombs going off, followed by a pair of fireballs as those bombs had evidently found targets. He saw the tracers going up, shoulder-fired missiles being launched from the rooftops, and even a couple of heavy SAMs, but the air-defense troops didn't find their mark. He started to get up, then he froze. Another F-4 was coming in....

“BULLSEYE!” Preacher shouted from Sweaty's back seat. “We got two secondaries!”

“Any idea what they were?” Sweaty asked as she jinked right, avoiding an SA-8, then she jinked back to the left and got down low. Then an SA-4 flew above the F-4 by about two hundred feet, and she got lower-to 400 feet AGL. Sweaty then pitched back up, clearing the area.

“Maybe Frogfoots,” Preacher said. “Not sure, though.”

“Good enough,” Sweaty replied as she picked up the CO and Kara.


Next, it was Hoser's turn. “Four in hot!” He called as he went in on his run. Hoser, too, ignored the flak that was coming up, as he identified the airport's fuel dump, east of the runway. The vehicle tracks and the camouflage netting that covered the fuel tanks were a giveaway, and he recognized them from the reconnaissance imagery. Tracers and MANPADS flew past his F-4 as he concentrated on the bomb run. “Steady....Steady...And..And...NOW!” Hoser hit his pickle button, releasing his twelve Mark-82s onto the fuel dump, then he pulled up and away, jinking as he did so, and both he and KT winced as an SA-8 passed above their aircraft. Hoser then got down low, still jinking as he cleared the area. “Four's off safe.”


“Mother of....” General Sisov muttered as Hoser's F-4 came down on its bomb run. He watched as the bombs came off, and the aircraft, chased by tracers and at least one missile, pulled away. Then he saw the orange and black fireballs erupt in the aircraft's wake, and the General knew what had been hit. Fuel depot, he said to himself. Oh, well, that particular one was the Air Force's problem, and at least the 203rd's dump was still intact. General Sisov got to his feet and was preparing to go to his staff car when the ADC shouted.

“More aircraft, Comrade General!”

Sisov took cover behind the car and looked up. Another F-4 was coming in.


“SHACK!” KT said as Hoser pulled away. “We got the fuel dump!”

Beneath his oxygen mask, Hoser grinned. “How big are the secondaries?”

“Righteously big, as Preacher would say,” KT said, ducking involuntarily as an SA-4 flew close to the aircraft. “Get us down and our asses out of here.”

“Going low,” Hoser said, dropping to 400 feet AGL and increasing speed as he jinked. An SA-8 flew by to the left, and he broke left, and another SA-8 flew by to the right. He then rolled level, and picked up Sweaty's bird as he cleared the area.

“Five in hot!” Dave Golen called as he came in on his run. He spotted his target, the fuel dump north of the town, that, unknown to him or to Flossy, was the divisional fuel dump for the 203rd MRD. Golen, like the others, ignored the flak that came up, and concentrated on his bomb run. As the fuel dump grew larger in his pipper, the tracers got thicker, but Dave was able to concentrate on the run. “And...And......And....NOW!” He hit the pickle button, releasing his load of a dozen Mark-82s, then pulled up and away, jinking like the others. Dave evaded an SA-4, then had two SA-8s, one after the other, fly past his aircraft as he jinked. Then he got down low and away before he made his call. “Five off target.”

General Sisov was speechless as he watched Golen's F-4 come in on its run. He watched as the bombs came off the aircraft, and multiple fireballs erupted in its wake. Right away he knew that the 203rd's fuel dump had been hit, and that meant more headaches for not just the division's staff, but his own. If the Americans started hitting their fuel supplies, things might get....rough, at best. As the fireballs came up, the General heard cheering. He knew that the locals, despite wanting to go about their business, retained the loathing for their occupiers that he expected, and expecting them to do nothing when American aircraft were overhead was wishful thinking. Sisov started to get up, then saw the guns on the rooftops swing back south. That meant another American was coming in....

“GOOD HITS!” Terry McAuliffe, Golen's backseater, called. “We have secondaries!”

“How many?” Golen asked as he got down low and stayed low, but was still jinking. He watched as an SA-4 passed overhead by about a thousand feet, and an SA-8 flew harmlessly by on the right.

“Lots.”

“Good to know,” said Golen as he picked up Sweaty and Hoser and headed north.


“Six is in hot!” Flossy called as she took 1569 on its bomb run. She saw where her element lead had put his bombs, and spotted some undamaged fuel tanks and trucks, with some of the latter trying to get away. Not so fast, Ivan..... Flossy, too, ignored the flak that was coming up, while Jang winced as an SA-7 or -14 flew by on the left, and an SA-8 did the same on the right. Flossy applied some left rudder, and lined up the truck park in her pipper. “And...And...Steady....And....HACK!” She hit the pickle button, and a dozen more Mark-82s came off the racks. Flossy then pulled up and away, applying power and jinking as she did so, avoiding the flak and giving the SAM operators a harder target. She jinked right, and watched as an SA-8 flew by on the left, then a pair of SA-4s flew over 1569. Flossy winced, then got down low, copying what her element lead had done, and going to 400 feet. She then called, “Six off target.”


“Goddamn it,” General Sisov shouted as Flossy's F-4 made its run. He watched as the bombs came off, and the fireballs that came up were easily visible. As the oily columns of smoke and flame came up, the General got up and dusted himself off. He heard the cheering from the locals, and waved his Chief of Staff over. “Don't bother with these people. They're acting the same way we would in the same position. Understood?”

“Completely, Comrade General,” the Chief, a Major General, replied. “I'll get a report on the damage inflicted as soon as possible.”

“Do that.”


“SHACK!” Jang yelled from 1569's back seat. “Multiple secondaries!”

“How many?” Flossy asked as she jinked, first left, then right, before doing a barrel roll and dropping chaff to deal with a pair of SA-8s. She glanced at the EW display and only the Mainstay's radar was there. Optical mode, she thought.

“Over a dozen, and more going,” Jang said. “BREAK RIGHT!' She added.

Flossy broke, and avoided an SA-4 that had come up. She did a full 360 and got back on course north. “That was close,” she said, then added. “Good secondaries?”

“Damn good,” Jang said.

“We'll take those,” Flossy said as she picked up her element lead, then joined up with Major Golen in Combat Spread.


In 512, Guru heard Flossy's “Off target” call. “That's it.”

“Six in and out,” Goalie said.

“Not quite,” Guru said. “One-seven and One-eight, get your asses down and away.”

“Roger, Lead,” Flight Lt. Paul Jackson, Dave Gledhill's pilot, called. “Susan, on me,”

“Roger, two,” she called back, as both RAF F-4Js dropped from their TARCAP orbit, and thundered over the town just above rooftop level, jinking as they did so, before clearing the area. “Have visual on One-five and One-six.”

“Roger that,” Guru called. “How far to the Fence?” Guru asked Goalie.

“Two minutes at this speed,” Goalie replied. They were doing 550 KIAS at 450 Feet AGL.

“Copy that. With me, Starbuck?” Guru asked his wingmate.

“Right with you,” Kara replied.

Guru turned his head right, and a quick glance showed her right with him in Combat Spread. “Gotcha,” he called back. “Sweaty?”

“On your six, and Hoser's with me.”

“Roger that, Sweaty. Dave?”

Dave Golen came back right away. “Coming up behind Sweaty, and Flossy's with me.”

“Roger that,” Guru said. Then he called the AWACS. “Warlock, Rambler Lead. Say threats?”

The AWACS controller responded, “Rambler Lead, Warlock. First threat bearing Two-four-five for forty. Medium, closing. Second threat bearing Two-four-zero for forty-five. Medium, closing. First threats are Fishbeds, second threats are Fulcrums.”

MiG-21s and -29s, Guru thought. Lovely. He took a look at the EW display and saw no fighter radars. They must be coming with radars off, he said to himself. “Warlock, can you have a reception committee in case they get too close?”

“Can do, Rambler,” the controller replied. “Showtime, Penguin, Warlock. Bandits bearing Two-two-five and Two-two-zero for sixty and sixty-five. Medium, closing. KILL. Repeat: KILL.”

“Roger, Warlock,” Showtime Lead replied. Four F-15Cs broke from their CAP orbit and headed in the direction of the bandits.

“Penguin Lead copies,” a female voice came over the radio, as four F-16Cs also headed towards the bandits.

“One minute thirty,” Goalie advised. That meant twenty-four miles.

“Roger that,” Guru said.

Rambler Flight kept heading north, as the MiG-21, and then the MiG-29 radars appeared on their EW displays. Then the F-15 leader made a call.

“Showtime, clear to engage. FOX ONE!” Four F-15Cs fired four AIM-7M missiles, and three scored. The fourth MiG, seeing his comrades blotted from the sky, did a 180 and turned for home. The four MiG-29s closed, and drew a second volley. Two MiGs fell to Sparrow shots, and the remaining MiGs, now warned of four F-16s closing, also did an about-face and turned for home.

“Eagles are mighty good today,” Guru observed as he heard the radio calls.

“They always are,” Goalie said. “Thirty seconds to the fence,” she added.

“Roger that,” Guru said. It wasn't long until the twin ribbons of I-20 appeared, and as the flight crossed the freeway, the EW displays cleared up as the Mainstay radar strobe faded, and the SEARCH warning light went out. “No more Mainstay. Flight, Lead. Verify IFF on, and Music off.” Guru said to the flight, telling them to turn off their ECM pods and turn on their IFF.

“About damned time,” Goalie said.


Once clear of the Fence, Rambler Flight climbed to altitude, and headed for the post-strike refueling at the tanker track. Once refueled, the flight headed to Sheppard, where the Tower told them that the flight was fourth in the landing pattern, behind the westbound C-141, two Marine flights, and a 335th flight. Once it was their turn, the flight came in and landed. As they taxied off the runway, the crews noticed the news crew at work, filming as they taxied by.

“More stock footage for after the war?” Guru asked as he popped his canopy and raised it.

“Which means their network gets more money from anyone who wants to use it,” Goalie said as she did the same.

“Hadn't thought about that,” Guru said as he taxied towards the squadron's dispersal.

Once clear of the runway, the flight taxied to their respective dispersal areas, and Guru taxied into 512's revetment. After shutting down, the ground crew brought the chocks for the wheels, and deployed the crew ladder, while Guru and Goalie did their post-flight cockpit checks. Once finished, Guru and Goalie dismounted the aircraft, then went about their post-flight walk-around. Only then did the Crew Chief, Sergeant Crowley, come up, with the usual bottle of water for both crew. “Sarge,” Guru said as he took the bottle.

“Major,” Crowley nodded. “And Lieutenant,” he added. “How's my bird?”

“Still truckin', Sarge,” Guru said after downing half of the bottle. “Get some chow if you haven't already, then get her ready for the afternoon.”

“Will do, Major,” Crowley said. “And how'd you guys do, sir? Saw everybody come back.”

Guru winced. “It was a hairy one, with all those SAMs,” he said. “But that airport's out of action for a few days.”

“I'll second the SAMs,” Goalie added. “Haven't seen that many in a while.”

Crowley winced himself. “I'll take your word for it, Ma'am.”

“Could've been worse, but we all made it back,” Guru said. “Get her ready for the next one.”

“You got it, Major!” Crowley said. “Okay you guys! You heard the Major! Get this bird prepped and ready.”

Guru and Goalie left the ground crew to their work, and went to the revetment's entrance. Kara and Brainiac were there, having just arrived. “Well? That had a few close calls,” said Guru.

“More than a few, I'd say,” Kara replied. “Haven't seen that many missiles since PRAIRIE FIRE.”

“Not arguing that,” Brainiac said.

“And you two got a couple of helos and an An-24,” Kara added.

Guru smiled. “That's good to know. How'd you do?”

“Got a couple of Hips, I think.”

Sweaty and her element came up next. “God, Boss! When's the last time we had that many SAMs?”

“I'll second that question,” Hoser said, while the GIBs nodded. “Who thought we didn't need Weasels or IRON HAND?”

“Some clown at Tenth Air Force,” Guru spat. “Need to call them and find out what the hell someone was thinking in the ATO shop.” He finished the water bottle. “What'd you guys do?”

Sweaty grinned. “Got a couple of fast-movers. Su-25s maybe.”

“Strike camera footage should tell,” Preacher nodded.

“And the fuel dump there went up,” Hoser added. “Lots of fireballs going up.”

KT let out a grin of her own. “There were quite a few.”

Dave Golen, Flossy, and their GIBs came up next. “What the hell?” He asked. “Guru, that place was bad. We could've lost people there.”

“First time in someplace that could be SAM city,” Flossy said.

“Consider ourselves lucky we didn't lose anybody,” Guru replied. “Dave, this remind you of Sinai in '73?”

The IDF Major nodded. “Only this time, no one was hit. But there were plenty of missiles in the air. And no radar warning.”

“Which means those blokes were shooting with the optical backups,” Dave Gledhill said as his element arrived. “They must've been reloading, because we had no missiles shot, and only flak.”

“At least we didn't lose anyone,” Karen McKay added. “But we saw all those missiles going up.”

“Be glad for that, all of you,” said Guru. Just then, a Dodge Crew-cab pickup arrived, and Chief Ross was in the driver's seat. “Chief,” Guru nodded.

“Major,” Ross said. “Captain Licon and the RAF intelligence officer want you all for a debrief.”

“Got to make the intel weenies happy,” Kara spat. “You do know their motto?”

Sweaty was the first to reply. “Yeah, 'We're betting your life'”

Guru nodded. “Right on that. Okay, let's get the debrief out of the way, get some food, and maybe some rest, because in an hour and a half, tops, we're at it again.” He turned to Dave Gledhill's people. “And you guys just cleared your tenth mission.”

“Something to celebrate tonight,” the RAF Squadron Leader replied. “But we do have to get through the rest of the day.”

“There is that,” Paul Jackson said.

“True,” Kara replied.

Flossy then said, “And the endless cycle repeats.”

“It does,” Guru said. “This is too much like Southeast Asia for my taste. But until the battle lines move south...”

Goalie added, “And that won't come 'til Spring, probably.”

“Hope not,” Hoser said. “Sooner we're on the Rio Grande, the better.”

“No arguing that,” the CO nodded. “Okay, let's make the intel folks happy, get some food inside us, and get ready to do it again.”

With that, the crews piled into the pickup, and Chief Ross drove them back to the Squadron's office.
__________________
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Old USMC Adage
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  #492  
Old 08-17-2019, 07:31 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Auberry, CA
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And the day keeps on going:



335th TFS, Sheppard AFB, TX; 1210 Hours Central War Time:


Major Matt Wiser was going back into the Squadron's offices. He had gone to the Officer's Mess Tent to get lunch for himself and Goalie, and, so far, he was pleased with how the morning had gone. No losses, thank goodness, and no birds with battle damage. A few more missions like the one he and his flight had just flown, though, and they would be losing people, and he knew it. It had come up in the debriefing, and both his own Intelligence Officer and the RAF detachment's had agreed on the same thing: “You guys were just plain lucky.”

How right you are, the CO said to himself as he went in. He nodded to the Day-shift SDO, Doucette, then went to his office, and found his secretary having already gone for lunch. They need fuel just as we do, the Major reminded himself as he went into his office. He had just sat behind his desk when there was a knock on the door. “Yeah? Come in and show yourself!”

Goalie came in. “I see you got lunch today. What's on tap?”

Guru opened the paper bags. “Turkey sandwiches with fries and Cole Slaw, and lemonade.”

“Sounds good. No bison burgers?”

“Not on today's menu,” replied Guru. Then there was another knock on the door. “Yeah?”

The Exec, Capt. Mark Ellis, came in. “Boss, got a couple message forms,” he said, handing the forms to the CO.

“Well?” Goalie asked.

“Birds from Japan are due in two days,” Guru said. “Just before the weather stand-down.”

“Any word on crews?”

“That's the second message,” Ellis said.

Guru scanned the second form. “Well, the ferry crews go back, but a new crew fresh from Kingsley field will be here tomorrow.”

“Sounds good to me,” Goalie said. “We can put the newbies to SDO duty until a bird comes for 'em.”

“True,” Ellis nodded. “Boss, that second mission you flew this morning? Heard from Dave Golen before he went to lunch. Said it was a hairy one.”

Guru nodded grimly. “It was. If those fuckers on the ground had been a little more on the ball, I'd probably be drafting letters right now,” he said. “And you might be now Squadron CO.”

“That bad?”

“Be glad the ECM pods work on SA-4 and -8. They were shooting in optical mode.”

Goalie nodded as well. “At least those we know. SA-11's out there, somewhere, and those puppies are still bad news.”

“Not arguing that,” Ellis said. “Oh, Doc Waters wants to make sure we get our workouts in.”

“He checking names again?” Guru asked. He remembered the last time he'd had a workout, and the Flight Surgeon himself had been sitting outside the Fitness Center Tent, checking off aircrew names.

The XO smiled. “He is. C.J told me.”

Guru sighed. Without an air strike or Scud attack, the sawbones wasn't that busy-the occasional sports injury or emergency appendectomy was all he had at the moment. “I'll consider myself warned. Anything else?”

“No change in the weather for the afternoon.”

“Good. That it before we eat?”

“It is, Boss,” the XO smiled.

“All right, then. Have a good lunch yourself,” Guru said.

“As long as everybody stays away from the Suggestion of Pork tri-tip,” Ellis grinned. “Seems the RAF guys haven't gotten the message.”

“That stuff is from the Department of Cruel and Unusual Nourishment,” Goalie quipped. “Anyone ever tell 'em?

“The Marines make those, not those restaurateurs,” Ellis said. “I'll let 'em know.”

“Do that, Mark,” Guru said. “Like Kara's, uh, 'alternate payment plan', having some RAF guys down with food poisoning won't do for Inter-Allied Relations.”

“Will do,” Ellis said. “Enjoy.” he said as he left the office.

“Now can we eat?” Goalie quipped.

“Let's,” said Guru. “Time to dig in.”


The two ate, and while they did, discussed squadron related matters. “New birds from Japan are due in two days,” Guru said, in between bites of sandwich.

“That's good,” Goalie said. “Any word on crews?”

“One's due in from Kingsley Field day after tomorrow. So far, nada on who they are.”

“So we could get a pair of FNGs, guys coming from instructor jobs they don't want, or fresh out of the hospital and whatever requalification they had.”

“Something like that,” said Guru.

“Lovely.”


After they had finished eating, Goalie went back to her office to check her desk, for as Senior WSO, she had more paperwork than the average GIB. The CO also tackled some papers, and his OUT box was soon full. He was thinking of a short nap when there was a knock on the door. “Yeah? Come in and show yourself!”

The door opened, and it was Kara. “Boss, we've got us a mission. Briefing folder's ready, and the birds should be finished with the turnaround.”

“We getting the same RAF crew as this morning?”

Kara nodded. “That we are.”

Guru took a quick look at the office clock. 1245. “Fair enough. All right: round everybody up, and get them to the briefing room in ten.”

“I'm gone,” Kara said as she headed out the door.

After she left, the CO went to the Ops Office, and found the Ops Officer there. “Don,” Guru said. “What's on tap for my crew?”

“Missile support facility, southeast of Lake Proctor and the town of Haase,” Don Van Loan said. “It's for Scuds.”

Guru scanned the intel sheet. “This is in the Soviet rear?”

“Yep. Rear area for 32nd Army,” Van Loan nodded.

“Dave and Flossy coming?” Guru asked.

“Not on this one,” Van Loan said. “They have something that calls for a two-ship.”

“All right, Don. Thanks,” the CO said. “You be careful your own self, hear?”

“After what happened yesterday?” Van Loan asked, referring to the flak trap that his flight had run into. One plane down with the crew MIA and the other down with the crew recovered had been the price for that. “Always.”

Guru nodded at that. “Good, and keep Rabbit alive for the next two missions. General Yeager will have both our asses if he-or Firefly-get themselves killed or MIA.” The CO was referring to two pilots who had been selected for the F-20 Program during a visit by General Chuck Yeager, and were on their last day of combat before a week's R&R in Las Vegas before reporting to Edwards AFB for their conversion training.

“Will do, Boss,” Van Loan said. “You be careful yourself.”

“I know. You don't want to be Exec, and Kara doesn't want to be Ops,” said the CO. “So I'll be careful. You have a good one, Don.”

Van Loan nodded. “You too, Boss.”

Guru then headed to the Briefing Room, and found Buddy, the mascot, sitting in front of the door. The CO opened the door and let the dog in, and to his-and everyone else in the room's-relief, the dog promptly found a place to curl up and fell asleep. “All right, folks, we've had our break, and now it's back to the game.”

“Where are we going?” Kara asked.

Guru opened the briefing folder. “Here, Near Lake Proctor, east of the town of Haase and U.S. 67-377. There's a Scud support facility for the Soviet 32nd Army. We get to make it go away.”

“And this is where?” Sweaty wanted to know.

“About ten miles east of the town, at the F.M. 328-F.M. 1476 intersection. It's in the Northwest corner of the junction. And the only visual cue to the target? A ranch pond with dam about five miles south.

“Not enough,” Goalie noted. “We'll have to do this by INS and the old-fashioned way.”

“Correct,” Guru said. Now, the facility is on a ranch, and you can bet the barn and ranch buildings aren't housing horses and cattle,” the CO said. “And there's another pond south of the buildings, and want to bet Ivan's probably fished that pond empty, hoping to get some fresh fish instead of their rations?” He saw some grins at that. “The barn's probably being used for enlisted billeting, the house as an HQ and Officer's quarters, and here, south of those,” said Guru as he passed around a reconnaissance photo taken from low level, then continued. “Are the missiles. Two groups, one west and one east. I'll take the western group, Kara? You take the eastern.”

“Got it,” Kara said.

“Sweaty? You get the vehicle park, and kill any missiles already on trailers,” Guru told his second element leader.

Sweaty grinned. “Gladly.”

“Hoser?” Guru said to her wingmate. “Take the buildings themselves.”

“Will do, Boss,” Hoser replied. “And the defenses there, Chief?”

“Getting to that,” Guru said. “At the site? There's 23-mm and the usual small-arms and MANPADS. To the west, though, there's Lake Proctor, and the 37-mm and 57-mm flak at the dam. Just don't get too close on the way out. The division in the area has SA-6, so be careful, and we're still in the Army rear, and that means SA-4.”

“At least it's not like the last one,” KT said. “That was SAM City, Boss.”

Guru nodded. “That it was, and before you ask, Dave and Flossy have their own strike, and no Weasel or IRON HAND on this one-again.”

Heads nodded, then Kara asked, “How are we getting there?”

“Here's the deal,” Guru said. “We tank up as usual, but on the way in? We go in about a mile east of the Brazos, and stay over the Nicaraguan sector the whole way. They're being very quiet, and unless somebody's paid them a visit, are likely to stay that way. We stay on their side of the Brazos until we get to U.S. 67, then break for the river.”

“Why's that?” Preacher asked.

“Because the Libyan sector starts up just south of 67,” Kara said, and she saw the CO nod. “And those chumps will shoot at us, no matter what.”

“And those guys shoot like there's no tomorrow,” Guru reminded everyone. “So, we follow the river to Lake Whitney, and turn west just prior to the dam,”

“And after that, Boss?” KT asked.

“We go via INS to a point three miles west of Gustine on State Route 36, at the F.M. then turn north.
That's also our pop-up point, by the way, with thirty seconds to target. Climb to two thousand, ID the target by the configuration of the intersection, and make your runs. Once you're finished jinking after bomb release? Make sure your last jink is to the left. Head to the Leon River, and we follow the river back to the I-20 and the fence.”

“Sounds good,” Sweaty replied. “Ordnance loads?”

Guru nodded. “No CBUs on this one, sorry to say, but we get six Mark-82s and six M-117s. The Mark-82s have the Daisy Cutter fuze extensions, and we get the usual air-to-air load. Four AIM-9Ps, Two AIM-7Fs, full gun, usual ECM pods, and two wing tanks.” He turned to Dave Gledhill and his element. “Dave?”

Squadron Leader Gledhill nodded. “Right, then. For the TARCAP, we have four Sidewinder-Ls, four Sky Flash, two wing tanks, and a SUU-23 gun pod.”

Guru nodded. “Fine with me. The MiG threat is the same as the last one, and that means Brownwood Regional is the closest-the Fishbeds and Floggers are two minutes' flight time away. Less if they're on burner.” He paused, then continued. “MiG-29s are at Goodfellow and San Angelo Municipal, and also at both Gray AAF and Bergstrom. The -21s and -23s are at James Connolly AFB by Waco, Temple Regional, and at Bergstrom as well. Which is where the Flankers hang out, so be careful.”

“Got it,” Hoser said. “And everything else is unchanged from this morning? Bailout areas, weather, etc.?”

“They are,” said Guru. He glanced around, and saw Buddy still asleep. “And Buddy's sound asleep. Good. That's it,” he said as an Ops NCO came to collect the briefing material. “Gear up, and I'll see you at 512.”


The crews went to the locker rooms to gear up, and when Guru came out of the Men's, he found Goalie geared up and waiting, as usual. “You ready for this?”

“As long as this one's not as hairy as Comanche,” she replied. “Haven't seen that many SAMs since some of our Dallas-Fort Worth escapades.”

The CO nodded. “Not arguing with you on that,” he said. “Let's go.”

Both left the squadron's offices, and found Dave Golen, Terry McAuliffe, Flossy, and Jang sitting outside, discussing their own mission. “Guru, Goalie,” Dave Golen said. “Too bad we're not going with you.”

“Where you headed?” Guru asked.

“Recon escort,” Golen replied. “Athena again.”

“Guaranteed excitement, no matter what,” Goalie nodded. “We rode shotgun on her once, and shot a MiG-25 off her ass. Be warned: you might get MiGs on this one.”

“They told us in the brief. You're going where?”

“East of Lake Proctor,” said Guru. “You?”

“Dublin area,” the IDF Major replied. “We're back to Camaro Flight.”

“We're still Rambler. You hit MiG trouble? Holler. We'll bring the Brits.”

“Good to know,” Golen said, shaking hands with Guru. “Be careful, though.”

“You too, and good luck,” Guru replied.

“Likewise.”


Guru and Goalie then walked to the squadron's dispersal area, and found the rest of the flight waiting at 512's revetment. “You all ready?” Guru asked.

“To earn our flight pay?” Kara asked. “Yeah, but we do have to give half back to Uncle Sam come April 15,” she laughed, and so did the others.

“That we do,” Guru laughed back. “Okay, usual procedures on the radio, and in case you're wondering about opportunity targets? There's several in the area, and I'll take you to one.”

Sweaty then asked, “Any word on ZSU-30s?”

“Good question. Just because they're not reported doesn't mean they're not around,” said Guru. “If you see those basketball-sized tracers at the target? Abort. We'll reform, and go for an opportunity target.”

“Good to know,” KT said. “Boss, any word on when our EW gear gets tweaked?”

“Nothing new,” Guru admitted. “But I'll find out. General Olds, before he left, said it might be two weeks, and he'd try to get that cut down some.”

“Maybe we'll find out during the stand-down that's a-coming,” Kara nodded.

Guru nodded. “That would be good to know. Once airborne,” he went on, “meet up at ten grand overhead. Anything else?” Heads shook no. “Then it's time to hit it. Let's go get 'em.” He clapped his hands for emphasis.

The crews headed to their aircraft, and both Guru and Goalie headed into the revetment and their mount, 512. There, Sergeant Crowley, the Crew Chief, was waiting for them. He snapped a salute, then said, “Major, Lieutenant? Five-twelve's all locked and cocked, ready to go.”

Guru and Goalie returned the salute, then Guru said, “Thanks, Sarge.” He and Goalie did the preflight walk-around, then mounted the aircraft. After getting strapped in, they went through the preflight checklist. “That last one was a nine out of ten,” Guru said as they went through the checklist.

“No kidding!” Goalie shot back. “A ten would've been radar-guided SAMs. Ejection seats?”

“Armed top and bottom, check yours,” Guru said. “Let's hope for a four or a five,” he added. “Arnie?”
He meant the ARN-101 DMAS.

“Arnie's all set, and so's the INS,” Goalie called back. “And I'll agree on the four or five,” she said. “Preflight complete and ready for engine start.”

“Roger that,” Guru replied. He gave a thumbs-up to his Crew Chief, who then gave the “Start Engines” signal. “Starting up.” First one, then both, J-79 engines were up and running. Once the warm-up was complete, Guru called the Tower. “Tower, Rambler Flight with six, requesting taxi and takeoff instructions.”

A tower controller came back at once. “Rambler Lead, Tower. Clear to taxi to Runway Three-Five-Lima. Hold prior to the Active, and you are number three in line.”

“Roger, Tower,” Guru replied. “Rambler Flight is rolling.” He gave another thumbs-up to Sergeant Crowley, who waved to the ground crew. The chocks were pulled away, then Crowley gave the “Taxi” signal.

Guru released the brakes, then taxied out of the revetment. Once clear, Sergeant Crowley snapped a salute, and both the pilot and GIB returned it. As he taxied to the runway, the rest of the flight fell in line behind him, then the flight arrived at the holding area. There, a Marine F-4 flight and a 335th two-ship-and Guru recognized the aircraft as those of Van Loan and Rabbit-were ahead of him. First, an inbound flight of Marine Hornets came in to land, then the Marine Phantoms went, followed by Van Loan's two-ship. Then it was their turn. Guru taxied into the holding area, where the armorers removed the weapon safeties. After that, it was time. “Tower, Rambler Flight requesting taxi for takeoff.”

“Rambler Lead, Tower,” the controller came back. “Clear to taxi for takeoff. Winds are two-six-five for twelve.”

“Roger, Tower.” Guru then taxied onto the runway, and Kara followed in 520. A quick check showed Kara's bird in position, and both Kara and Brainiac gave thumbs-ups. Guru and Goalie returned them, and they went through a final check. That done, Guru called the Tower again. “Tower, Rambler Lead requesting clear for takeoff.”

As usual, the Tower flashed a green light. Clear for takeoff.

“Canopy coming down,” Guru said, pulling down and locking his canopy. Goalie did the same, and a quick look at 520 showed that Kara and Brainiac had as well. All was ready. “You set back there?” Guru asked Goalie.

“Ready,” Goalie replied. “Time to fly.”

“It is that,” Guru said. He applied full power, then released the brakes, and 512 rumbled down the runway and into the air, with Kara's 520 right with him. Thirty seconds later, it was Sweaty's and Hoser's turn, followed by the two RAF F-4Js with Jackson and Napier in the front seats. All aircraft climbed to FL 100, then they formed up and headed south for the tankers.


Over Central Texas: 1330 Hours Central War Time:


Rambler Flight was headed south, into hostile territory. They had made their tanker rendezvous, and for the RAF, it was a joy again to tank from their own Tristar, while the 335th birds hooked up to a KC-135. Once the refueling was completed, the flight headed south for the Fence and I-20, then got down low, just east of the Brazos River. The flight was just inside the Nicaraguan II Corps sector, but close enough to the river to use it as a nav aid.

“How we doing?” Major Wiser asked Goalie as they headed south.

“Lake Granbury's coming up. Thirty seconds to U.S. 377,” his GIB replied.

“Copy that,” Guru said. He had his head on a swivel, checking his instruments, then his EW display, then outside, for there could be any manner of threats coming at them. Though the Nicaraguans' enthusiasm for the war had cooled significantly, they still reacted-and often seriously-if their targets were being attacked. “And visual on the lake.”

Lake Granbury appeared, off to the right. They were going in at 550 Feet AGL and 500 KIAS, and as they thundered past, the Nicaraguans below didn't react. “U.S. 377 coming,” Goalie said as the highway appeared. “And the bridge to the right.”

“Got it,” Guru said as the highway and bridge appeared, and flashed by. This time, there was no flak from the Nicaraguan gunners on the eastern side of the Brazos, and none from the East Germans on the opposite bank. “East Germans are quiet.”

“They are,” Goalie said. She then glanced at her EW display. “And the Mainstay's up.”

Frowning beneath his oxygen mask, Guru checked his own display. Sure enough, there was a bright strobe, and the SEARCH warning light was on. “Damn Mainstay,” he muttered. Someone ought to do something about those guys, he felt, and he also knew that everyone flying in this AO had the same feeling. “How long to the dam?”

“Fifteen seconds,” replied Goalie. That meant the Lake Granbury Dam.

Guru checked his own map. “Copy.” Then the dam appeared, and again, the Nicaraguan gunners stayed quiet, but the East Germans, even though they were at the limit of their range, opened up with 37-mm flak. The strike flight easily avoided the fire, then a bend in the river forced them to head due south instead of just following the river. Guru then called the AWACS. “Warlock, Rambler Lead. Say threats?”

A controller came back to him at once. “Rambler, Warlock. First threat bearing One-four-zero for fifty. Medium, going away. Second threat bearing One-six-five for sixty. Medium, closing. Third threat bearing One-nine-five for seventy-five. Medium, closing. Fourth threat bearing Two-zero-five for eighty. Medium, closing.”

“Roger, Warlock. Say bogey dope?”

“Rambler, First threats are Fishbeds. Second and third are Floggers. Fourth threats are Fulcrums.”

“Rambler Lead copies,” Guru called back.

“U.S. 67 coming up,” Goalie advised.

Rambler Flight overflew the road, and it was empty of traffic, military or otherwise. “That's the road,” Guru noted. A quick glance to the right showed no flak from the gunners on either side of the Brazos. “Brazospoint Bridge when?”

“Fifteen seconds.”
Guru heard that, then turned slightly right, taking the flight back to the river, and right down the middle. They had left the Nicaraguan sector and were now in the Libyan, with East Germans still on the western bank. Unlike the Nicaraguan gunners, their Libyan counterparts had a habit of shooting at anything flying, even if the aircraft were not a threat. Their habit of shooting as if someone would outlaw ammunition in five minutes was another factor, for their fire, though heavy, was wildly inaccurate. “Right down the river,” he said.

“Got it,” Goalie said. “Bridge coming up.”

“Have visual,” said Guru as the bridge-and the flak from both sides of the river, came into view, then flew by, along with what had been Brazospoint. “That's those chumps who had the flak trap.”

“They learned their lesson.” Goalie checked her map and the INS. “Forty seconds to the Route 174 Bridge.”

“Copy that,” replied Guru. He checked his EW display and saw the Mainstay's strobe a little brighter. “Warlock, Rambler Lead. Say threats?”

“Rambler, Warlock,” the controller said. “First threat bearing One-one-zero for thirty. Medium, going away. Second threat bearing One-seven-zero for forty-five. Medium, closing. Third threat bearing One-eight-five for fifty-five. Medium, going away. Fourth threat bearing Two-one-zero for sixty-five. Medium, closing.”

“Roger, Warlock,” Guru said as the Bridge appeared. “There's the bridge.”

“And the flak,” Goalie said as the AAA appeared. “There's a convoy on the bridge!”

Guru shook his head. If this was an armed recon..... “Not their time to die,” he said as the bridge-and the convoy, flew past.


In the convoy, a Soviet Army Major was frowning. He was delivering replacement vehicles to the 144th GMRD, and he was not in a very good mood. First, due to some sabotage of culverts and a small bridge on State Route 22, his convoy had to be detoured through the Libyan sector instead of going straight past the Lake Whitney Dam and on to Meridian, which was his destination. Second, the Libyans themselves were nothing but a pain in the ass, for all their bluster, Libyan officers had begged him to move his convoy immediately, if not sooner, and please, for fear of attracting air attack. These people are our allies? Shaking his head at the black-asses from Tripoli, the Major had pressed on, only to be hit by an air strike just as his convoy reached Route 174, and the American A-7s had dropped cluster bombs, wrecking several vehicles, including two tank transporters with T-72Bs aboard. That led to the second reason for his fury: where was the Air Force? A pair of MiG-21s had appeared, but instead of pursuing the attackers, had merely orbited, then turned back east. His own defense against air or bandit (guerilla) attack,other than the NSV machine guns mounted on the T-72s still intact, was just a couple of ZU-23 AA guns mounted on Ural-375 trucks, and a few Strela shoulder-fired missles (SA-7s). And that, he knew, would be quite useless.

Now, as his convoy of mixed trucks, a few tank transporters, and BTR-60P APCs crossed the bridge and this Route 174 would take them to Meridian, a shout interrupted the Major's thoughts. He turned to the right, and what he saw put a chill in his whole body. Four American F-4s were thundering down the river, and headed right for him. Before he could say or do anything, the Phantoms flew over the bridge, followed by two more, and they didn't attack. Thanking the God that his Political Officer denied existed, the Major got on his radio and ordered the convoy to continue forward, and to increase vigilance against air attack.


“Lake's opening up,” Guru said in 512. “How far to the turn point?”

“Sixteen miles. One minute,” Goalie replied.

“Roger that.” Guru noticed the strobe that signaled the Mainstay's radar had grown brighter, so he dropped lower, to 450 Feet AGL.

Rambler Flight cruised down the lake, and as they did, both locals and occupiers took notice. For the former, it was a sign that the long-promised liberation was coming, hopefully soon, and then they'd be able to pick up their lives. And the guerillas among the locals, and some did use boat-in only campgrounds as hiding places, saw the aircraft, and knew that there was a bright light at the end of the tunnel. As for the occupiers? The Soviet, East German, and Libyan soldiers who were fishing, hopefully to catch some fish to add to their rations, noticed the aircraft and wondered where their own aircraft and air-defense people were.

“How far?” Guru asked.

“Thirty seconds,” Goalie said. “Eight miles.”

“Copy,” Guru said. The strobe was still there, but not as bright. Maybe the intel was right about the Mainstay losing you in the ground clutter. “Give me the count,”

“On it,” replied Goalie. “In ten....now five, four, three, two, one, MARK!”

Guru turned right, onto a heading of two-four-five, and the rest of the flight followed. “Steady on two-four-five.”

“Copy that.” Goalie checked her map and the INS. “Three minutes to turn.”

“Roger.”

Rambler Flight headed southwest, skirting Meridian, and using the terrain to confuse any Mainstay or ground-based radar trying to pick them up. They passed over a small town called Cranfills Gap, named for a gap in a ridgeline, and noticed some traffic in the town. Unable to see the locals waving, despite some Cubans stationed in the town, the flight flew on.

When they got just north of Hamilton, the crews, both 335th and RAF, winced. That was where they had run into flak two days earlier, and the RAF had lost a bird with the crew bailing out into hostile territory. Pilots and GIBs kept up their visual scanning as the town passed to their left, but no flak or missiles came.

Once clear, Guru asked Goalie. “How far to the turn and IP?”

“One minute thirty,” she replied. “Twenty-four miles.”

“Roger that,” Guru said. “Warlock, Rambler Lead. Say threats?”

“Rambler, Warlock,” the controller replied. “First threat bearing Two-four-zero for forty-five. Medium, closing. Second threat bearing Two-four-five for fifty-five. Medium, closing.”

“Copy, Warlock. Say bogey dope?”

“Rambler, first threats are Floggers. Second threats are Fulcrums.”

“Roger, Warlock.”

“Thirty seconds,” Goalie called.

“Roger that. Flight, Lead. Switches on, Music on, and stand by.” That call was to arm their weapons and turn on their ECM pods. Guru switched on his ALQ-119 pod as he made the call.

Kara replied, “Roger, Lead,” and the others did as well.

“Set 'em up,” Guru told Goalie.

She worked the armament controls in the back seat. “All set here. Everything in one pass.”

“Good girl,” he said. “Turn in when?”

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

Guru turned, and pulled up, crossing State Route 6, and as he pulled, he spotted the intersection that had the target. “There it is. Ready?”

“Ready back here,” Goalie said.

“Then let's go,” Guru said, rolling 512 in onto the bomb run.


At the missile support facility, the missile technical battalion for the 44th Missile Brigade had been operating for several days. The missile brigade had been running low on R-17 missiles (SS-1 SCUD-B) and had just been resupplied, to the relief of the brigade commander. The missile technical battalion commander, a Major, had selected this vacant ranch for the support facility, and his missile techs were now readying some three dozen missiles for use, with more expected over the coming weeks. Though he'd heard that the Navy was having trouble getting much of what the Army in America needed across the Atlantic, though the Political Officer, as usual, said that such setbacks were only temporary, and that come Spring, a new offensive would bring about the final victory. The men may believe that horseshit, but I sure don't, the Major thought to himself. If we're supposed to be winning, why are we back in Texas? Then he held his thoughts. Such things, if voiced, were dangerous, and a visit from the KGB for “Suspected Non-belief in Our Victory”, would result.

With that in mind, the Major left the ranch house that his men had taken over for a headquarters. He looked south, and saw two rows of missiles, all awaiting attention from his missile techs. In the technical tents, missile techs were working on several missiles, while the trucks with missile fuel were waiting for dusk before moving to the firing batteries. Pleased with what he saw, the Major went towards the barn, where the cooks had moved in-along with the NCOs, when the ZU-23s organic to the battalion began firing. A glance to the south revealed an American plane coming in. “AIR RAID!” The Major shouted, then he ran for a ditch and jumped in.


“Lead's in hot!” Guru called as he rolled 512 in on the bomb run. He saw the flak coming up, and the 23-mm tracers were easily avoided. Not like last time, he thought, with all those SAMs. Ignoring the flak, and even an SA-7 type missile fired head-on, Guru lined up the missile storage area. Picking out the western side, he lined up the missiles in his pipper. You're going up, but my way, he said to himself. “Steady...Steady...And..And...HACK!” Guru hit his pickle button, and six Mark-82s and six M-117s came off the MER racks. He then pulled up and away, jinking as he did so. Once clear, Guru made his call. “Lead's off safe.”


“What the..” the Major muttered as Guru's F-4 came over and released its bombs. Then he ducked as the bombs went off, and in the ditch, he-and the others who'd taken shelter there, felt the concussion, not just from the bombs, but from secondary explosions as missile warheads detonated. The bastards hit the ready missiles, he thought. The Major stood up and looked around, but someone-who he didn't know at first, pulled him back into the ditch. More American aircraft inbound.


“SHACK!” Goalie called from 512's back seat. “And we've got secondaries!”

“How many?” Guru asked as he jinked right, and an SA-7 flew past on the left. He jinked to the left, then right again. “Those chumps are pissed off.”

“To hell with that! Secondaries? Several, and they're good and big!” She replied.

“Good enough,” said Guru as he jinked left, then right, then left again, before heading north.


Kara took her bird, 520, in on its bomb run. “Two's in!” She called as she came down onto the target. She saw the flak coming up, and a couple of SA-7s, and ignored them. As she came down, Kara saw the CO's bird pulling away, and the explosions going off in the missile storage area. She concentrated on the bomb run, picking out the undamaged portion of the missile storage area, and lining up the Scuds in the pipper. As she did, another SA-7 flew past, this time on her right, but she ignored it. “And...And...And....NOW!” Kara hit her pickle button, and her six Mark-82s and six M-117s came off the racks. Like the CO, she pulled up, applied power and pulled away, jinking as she did so. When clear, Kara called, “Two's off target.”


“Sookin sin,” the Major muttered to himself, but aloud, as Kara's F-4 came on its run. Son of a bitch. He watched as the bombs came off the aircraft, then he turned himself into a ball, and huddled in the ditch as the bombs went off, followed by a number of sympathetic detonations. Shapnel came down, and the Major knew his stored missiles were no more. Cursing, he got up, intending to check the damage, when another officer pulled him back into the ditch. More Americans were coming in, the man said.

Brainiac was shouting in 520's back seat. “BULLSEYE!”

“We got the rest of the missiles? Kara asked as she jinked left, then right again.

“We did!” Brainiac replied.

Kara grinned beneath her oxygen mask. “Someone's not going to worry about Scuds tonight,” she said as she jinked left again, then she picked up the CO's bird via the smoke trail, then formed up with him in Combat Spread.


“Three's in!” Sweaty called as she came down on her bomb run. She watched Kara pull up, and smiled beneath her own oxygen mask as the missiles went up-in pieces, as well as noticing the flak coming up. Sweaty ignored the 23-mm tracers, and the SA-7 that came up with it, as she picked out the vehicle park and lined up several trucks in her pipper. Not today, Ivan, she said as another SA-7 flew by. “And....Steady...And...And...NOW!” Sweaty hit the pickle button, and sent her bombs down onto the Russians below. Like the others, she, too, pulled up and away, applying power and jinking. When Sweaty was clear of the target, she made her call. “Three's off target.”


The Major cursed again as Sweaty's plane pulled out of its run, and he saw the bombs coming off the aircraft. He then huddled in the trench, and felt the bombs going off, and at least two larger sympathetic detonations. Scowling, he looked up and out of the ditch, and saw several fires burning in the vehicle park, then there was another explosion as a fuel truck blew up. Shaking his head, he heard the shouting, then dropped back into the trench, knowing another American F-4 was coming in.


“GOOD HITS!” Preacher shouted from Sweaty's back seat.

“Secondaries?” Sweaty asked as she jinked right, dodging yet another SA-7.

“Many, big, and righteously good!” The former seminary student turned WSO replied.

“Glad to hear that,” said Sweaty as she jinked again, then turned north, intending to pick up the CO and Kara.


“Four in hot!” Hoser replied as he came in on his run. He watched as his element lead made her run, and, with satisfaction, noted the secondaries she left in her wake. Hoser, too, had flak come up, as well as a pair of SA-7s, but he ignored the tracers and the missiles as he came in on the run. Spotting his target, the ranch buildings, he lined up a spot between the ranch house and barn, hoping to walk his bombs across both. Though another SA-7 flashed by, he ignored it, concentrating on the bomb run. “Steady....Steady...And...HACK!” Hoser hit his pickle button, releasing his dozen bombs. He then pulled up and away, applying power as he did, and began jinking to avoid flak. Hoser cleared the target area, then he called, “Four off target.”


“What the hell?” The Major said as Hoser's F-4 came almost directly overhead, releasing its bombs. The bombs rained down on the headquarters and the barn, and the occupants of the ditch huddled in it as the bombs exploded all around them. One five-hundred pound bomb exploded close to the trench, showering the occupants with shrapnel. The Major never knew it, though,for he was hit by a large piece of that shrapnel in the head, killing him instantly.....


“BULLSEYE!” KT shouted from the back seat. “Good hits all around.”

Hoser jinked to avoid flak, and he, too, had an SA-7 fly by. One went by on the left, then another down the right side of his aircraft. “Secondaries?”

“Negative,” KT replied. “But those buildings got covered in bomb blasts.”

“Have to take that,” Hoser said as another SA-7 flew past. He jinked again, this time to the right, then headed north, picking up Sweaty as he did.


“Hoser's clear,” Goalie said in 512. “Four in and out.”

“Roger that,” Guru said. “Rambler One-five, One-six, get your asses down and away.”

“Roger, Lead,” Flight Lt. Paul Jackson replied from One-five. “One-five and One-six coming out.” Both RAF F-4Js came off their TARCAP, then dropped back down to 500 Feet AGL and headed north, overflying the target. The RAF crews noted the fires and a couple of secondary explosions going off as they did, and like the USAF birds, drew some flak and a pair of SA-7s, but they came off the target without damage.

Guru took a glance to his right, and found Kara tucked right with him in Combat Spread. “Two, good to see you there.”

“Likewise, Boss,” She replied.

“Sweaty?”

“On your six, and Hoser's with me,” Sweaty replied.

“Roger that. Watch for SA-6, people!” Guru called. They were still well in the Soviet rear... Then he checked in with the AWACS. “Warlock, Rambler Lead. Say bandits?”

“Rambler, Warlock,” the AWACS controller came back. “Bandits bearing Two-five-zero for forty. Medium, closing. More bandits bearing Two-four-zero for fifty-five. Medium, closing.”

“Roger, Warlock,” Guru replied. “Any bogey dope?”

“Rambler, first bandits are Fishbeds. Second bandits are Fulcrums.”

MiG-21s and -29s? Guru pondered that thought as he responded to the controller. “Roger, Warlock.”
This low, he knew, the MiG-21 radars couldn't pick them up, and by the time the MiG-29s arrived, the strike flight would be across the fence, and they wouldn't be a factor.

“Fishbeds and Fulcrums,” Goalie said. “Our lucky day.”

“IF they show,” Guru reminded her. “How long to the Fence?” That meant the I-20.

“Thirty miles,” was the reply. “Two minutes.”

“Copy,” Guru said. He took a look at his EW display. Other than the Mainstay's radar, it was clear. “Hope these chumps don't listen to the Mainstay controllers.”

“Not arguing with you there,” Goalie said.

Rambler Flight maintained their course north, and the MiGs never became a factor as the strike flight approached the Fence. Then the AWACS called. “Rambler, Warlock. Bandits now bearing Two-one-zero for fifty-five. Medium, going away.” Those would be the MiG-21s.

“Roger, Warlock. Say Fulcrums?”

“Rambler,” the controller replied. “Fulcrums now Two-five-zero for forty-five. Medium, going away.”

“Roger that,” Guru said.

“Fence in thirty,” Goalie said. “Lake Comfort coming up.”

The strike flight flew over the lake, and unknown to them, they had been following the boundary between the Soviet 32nd Army and the East Germans, which explained why they had drawn no additional ground fire or SAMs.

“Got the Interstate coming,” Guru said. As the freeway passed beneath the flight, he called, “Flight, Lead. Music off and IFF on, out.” He turned off his ECM pod and turned on his IFF, for the Army air-defense pukes in the area had a habit of firing on anything not squwaking the right IFF code-and even then, some preferred to use the saying “Shoot them down and sort them out later.”

“Copy that,” Goalie said. “And the Mainstay's off,” she added.

A quick glance at the EW display showed the Mainstay signal off, and the SEARCH warning light off as well. “So it is,” replied Guru.

The flight climbed to altitude, and made for the tankers. After completing their post-strike refueling, Rambler headed for Sheppard. When they arrived, this time, the flight was first in the arrival pattern, but had to wait, for a departing C-141 and two strike flights of Marines had priority. Once those were clear, the flight was cleared in, and they landed.

As they taxied in, the crews popped their canopies, and noticed the news crew watching. No one held up fingers to show MiG kills, and that left the newsies disappointed.

“No kills,” Jana Wendt turned to Kodak Griffith. The Marine was in his last day as PAO with the 335th before going back to MAG-11, and though he was a Marine, he had made quite a few friends in the Chiefs.

“Not every day, and they know it,” Kodak replied. The 335th's new PAO, Lieutenant Patti Brown, was off on a strike, and he was running things for her.

Ms. Wendt frowned. “Too bad,” she muttered.

After taxiing in, the flight headed for their respective dispersals. Guru taxied 512 into the 335th's dispersal, and found his revetment. After taxiing in, he got the “Stop” signal from his crew chief, while the ground crew put the chocks around the wheels, and deployed the crew ladder.

“That's done,” Goalie said as they went through the post-flight checklist. “Three and done.”

Guru nodded, then replied. “Still got one more,” he reminded her. “Before that? We have to make Doc happy.”

“Workouts?” She replied.

“You got it.”

After finishing the checklist, and taking off their helmets, Guru and Goalie got unstrapped, then climbed down from the aircraft. A quick post-flight walk-around followed, then they found Sergeant Crowley, the Crew Chief, who had a bottle of water for both crewers. “Major, Lieutenant? How'd things go, and how's my bird?”

Guru downed half the bottle, then said, “Tore up a Scud resupply base. Somebody's not going to have Scud trouble tonight.”

“Outstanding, sir!” Crowley was beaming. “And Five-twelve?”

“No problems or issues, Sergeant,” Guru said. “Get her prepped for the next one.”

“Yes, sir!” Crowley said. “Okay people! You heard the Major! Get this bird ready for another strike.”

As the ground crew got to work, Guru and Goalie headed to the revetment's entrance, where they found Kara and Brainiac already waiting. “Well, Kara?” Guru asked his wingmate.

“You made some missiles go away, and we got the rest.”

“Always good to know,” Guru said as Sweaty and Hoser, with Preacher and KT following, came up. “Sweaty?” How'd it go with you?”

“No more fuel trucks,” Sweaty replied. “And Hoser got the ranch buildings.”

Hoser added, “Didn't get any secondaries, but those buildings should just be splinters.”

“Recon'll tell us,” Brainiac said.

“It should,” Guru reminded him as the RAF crews arrived. “Dave? Sorry about no MiGs.”

Squadron Leader Dave Gledhill replied, “Not our fault Ivan didn't show in the air.”

“There's always next time,” Guru said sympathetically. “Okay people, let's make the intel folks happy.” He meant the debriefing. “Then check your desks, and find a half-hour or so to get a workout in.”

“Do we have to?” KT asked.

“Doc's checking off names at the fitness tent,” Guru nodded. “So let's make him happy, and get it out of the way.”

Kara shook her head. “Not that busy for him. Don't blame him for that.”

“No,” Guru nodded understanding. “Would you rather have an air strike or Scud attack?”

“Now that you mention it?” Kara replied. “No.”

“Good. Let's get things over and done with the intel folks. We've got an hour, hour and a half, before time to go back out,” Guru said as a pair of Dodge Crew-cab pickups pulled up to drive the crews back to the squadron's office.

“Major?” Chief Ross said as he got out of the lead truck. “Captain Licon sent me to get you all. He and the RAF Intel want you for the debrief.”

Guru nodded. “All right, Chief. Okay, people! Let's get this over and done with. Jump in and let's go.”

With that, the crews piled into the two trucks, and were driven back to the Squadron's office.
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  #493  
Old 08-17-2019, 07:39 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Next mission, and the RAF gets a kill:



335th TFS, Sheppard AFB, TX: 1455 Hours Central War Time:


Major Matt Wiser was in his office, going over some papers. No matter what, the elves never did what they were supposed to, so he had to attack the paperwork. Even though the war had reduced the number of armchair warriors, there were still enough of that species to make his life, and that of every other squadron and wing commander in the Air Force, miserable from time to time. Disgusted with the thought of some paper-pusher trying to lord it over him-and a memo from some Major at Tenth Air Force he'd never heard of got his attention. The author was criticising what he called “excessive expenditure” of 20-mm ammo, much to the CO's fury. Vowing to raise the issue with General Tanner in the future, Guru finished the rest of the paperwork, and his OUT box was full when there was a knock on the door. “Yeah? Come in and show yourself!”

His Exec came in. “Boss,” Capt. Mark Ellis said. “Got some things for you. In case you're wondering, the Eastbound C-141 was early for some reason.”

“Lay it on me, Mark,” Guru said. He was looking forward to some treadmill time.

“First, our new birds will definitely be here before the stand-down,” the XO reported. “Both brand-new out of Japan.”

“Good. What about crews?”

“Can't poach the ferry crews,” said Ellis, and he saw the CO's scowl at that. “We're getting two new crews tomorrow, and before you tear my head off, I wasn't happy when I saw this.” He handed the CO a paper.

Guru took the paper and scanned it. “Let's see...” Then he stared at his Exec. “You're shitting me. Four FNGs?”

“I kid thee not, Boss,” Ellis replied. “That means Goalie's friend Cassidy not only jumps into an element lead slot, but has to break in a brand-new wing crew.” He was referring to Capt. Corinne Cassidy, a friend of Goalie's from their Academy days, who was a qualified element lead, but had never been in combat, due to her time on the TransPac Ferry Run.

“Been there, done that,” Guru said. “Last time I had to do it? It was Sweaty and Preacher, and look how they turned out.”

“No complaints about their flying,” Ellis smiled. “Weather update, and before you ask, no change for the rest of the day.”

“That's good,” Guru said as he got up from his desk. “Anything else?”

“Heard this on AFN: the West German Vice-Chancellor, well, the new one they got after his predecessor, or was it the Defense Minister got run over by a truck?”

“Kind of hard to remember,” Guru nodded. “Being busy and all. What about him?”

“Had to resign because some photos got sold to a magazine called Stern. He's in bed with a woman who's not his wife, and said female looks like she's barely out of high school,” Ellis said.

“Well, now,” Guru nodded. “Looks like someone's sending a message: 'Quit or there's going to be a coup.'”

“Looks like it.”

“Okay, guess we'll hear more on the news tonight,” Guru said. “I'm headed over for a workout. Got to keep Doc happy.”

“Anyone needs you, I'll steer them that way,” said the XO.

“Do that, and one other thing,” Guru said, pointing a finger at Ellis. “You keep Firefly alive for one more mission, because if you don't, General Yeager will kick both our asses.”

“Gotcha.”

Guru headed out, but before he opened the door, he said to his Exec. “You have a good mission, Mark.”

“You, too, Boss. And be careful. Don't want to be CO yet,” the XO told him.

“Always,” Guru said.


Guru went to his tent to change into workout attire, then went to the Fitness Center-which was in a tent due to the prewar building having been used as a strongpoint by Cuban infantry, and thus was very much worse for wear. When he got to the entrance, he found his Flight Surgeon, Doc Waters, sitting in a beach chair, clipboard in hand. “Doc,” the CO said. “Checking off names again?”

“Have to stay busy somehow,” the sawbones replied. “Haven't been busy much since the last air strike, though giving flight physicals, tending to the occasional sports injury, and an emergency appendectomy does let me keep my hand in.”

“So you keep watch on us,” said Guru. “Has anyone told you that you can be a sneaky bastard?”

“Kara, for one,” Doc smiled. “Ops, the XO, Sweaty, Goalie, I could go on.”

“Fair enough, Doc,” Guru said as he went inside and the sawbones checked his name off the list. He then put in some time on the weight machines, before getting onto a treadmill for a four-mile run. As he was running, several others from his flight came in, namely, Goalie, Sweaty, Hoser, KT, and Brainiac. When Goalie came to use a treadmill, he asked her, “Where's Kara?”

“She was here after the debrief,” Goalie said as she got started. “Why do you ask?”

“Doc told me she said that he was a sneaky bastard, checking up on us.”

Goalie smiled. “Well, he can be. Besides, he's probably bored as hell.”

“He's probably the only one on this base-along with the Navy flight surgeons-who are.”


They finished their runs, and were cooling down when Kara came in. “Kara,” Guru said. “What's up?”

“Got a mission for us,” she replied. “Birds are ready, and Ops sent me to get you.”

Guru and Goalie looked at each other. “No rest for the weary or wicked,” she deadpanned.

“We'll rest when this is all over, or we're dead, whichever's first,” Guru reminded her. “We getting the RAF?”

Kara nodded. “Napier was in the Ops Office when the mission came down,” she replied. “She's rounding their guys up right now.”

Guru waved Sweaty and the others over. “Get cleaned up, and in the briefing room in twenty.”

“We've got a mission,” said Sweaty. With her tone of voice, it wasn't a question.

“We do.”


After hitting the showers and cleaning up, Guru, in a fresh flight suit, went to the Ops Office. He found the Ops Officer waiting for him, as usual. “Don,” Guru said. “Kara says you've got a mission for me?”

“Her, you, and the rest of your flight,” Van Loan replied. He handed the CO a target folder. “You've got a tank repair facility. Just north of Alexander on SR 6.”

“Soviets or East Germans?” Guru asked. “Not that it makes any difference.”

“East Germans,” the Ops Officer replied. “This is in their Army rear.”

“Fair enough,” Guru said, scanning the brief. “Any Weasels?”

Van Loan shook his head. “Negative, but the RAF is going with you again. No Dave Golen and Flossy, though. They've got one of their own.”

“All right,” the CO nodded. “You have a good one yourself, and keep Rabbit alive for one more mission. I warned Mark about Firefly, and I'll repeat it for you: if Rabbit gets killed, General Yeager comes back and kicks both our asses.”

“Don't want that,” Van Loan said. “Be careful, Boss. Don't want to be XO just yet.”

“And Kara doesn't want to be Ops,” Guru laughed. “Knowing her and paperwork.”

“Yeah,” the Ops Officer nodded. “Just be careful out there.”

“You too,” Guru said.

The CO then went to the briefing room, and when he opened the door, the rest of his flight, along with Dave Gledhill's RAF element, were there, waiting. “All right, people!” Guru said. “We've got our last one.”

“Where to?” Kara asked.

“Town called Alexander on State Route 6. Just north of there, at the intersection of F.M. 274 and F.M. 275 is a tank-repair yard. We get to make that go away.”

Sweaty nodded. “Whose sector is this?”

Guru checked the intel sheet. “East Germans again.”

“And this is the Army rear, and that means SA-4s,” Kara said, speaking from experience.

“It is that.” Guru passed around some reconnaissance photos. These were low-level images, probably from an RF-4C flight. “No heavy guns around the target, but there are ZU-23s there, and you can also expect the usual MANPADS and small-arms threats as well.”

Hoser asked, “Any other threats nearby?”

“Good question. The division at Dublin has SA-6, and we'll be close enough to them they may be a factor. Watch your EW and call any SA-6s.”

“Got you, Boss,” Kara said. “Any word on those Mainstays?”

“Nada,”

Flight Lt. Paul Jackson, Dave Gledhill's pilot, asked, “What's the MiG situation?”

“Unchanged since this morning. Nearest ones are Brownwood Regional, with the East Germans and Russians, with -21s and -23s. Remember that the nearest MiG-29s that may be a factor are down at Gray AAF at Fort Hood, so be careful, people!”

Kara then asked, “What's the ordnance loadouts?”

“Just getting to that,” the CO said. “No CBUs on this one-again. Instead, we all get six Mark-82s with Daisy Cutters, and six M-117s.” That meant the usual mix of 500-lb and 750-lb bombs. “As for air-to-air? Four AIM-9Ps, two AIM-7Fs, full gun, two wing tanks, with the usual ECM pods for leaders and wingmates.” He turned to Dave Gledhill. “Dave?”

“The Js have four AIM-9Ls, four Sky Flash, two wing tanks, and a SUU-23 gun pod,” Gledhill replied.

“Good,” Guru nodded. “Now, ingress.” He pulled out both a TPC and a JOG chart. “We refuel at Tanker Track ARCO, near Mineral Wells, as usual. Then we get down low, and cross the Fence just east of the I-20 bridge over the Brazos. Stay just east of the river, but close enough to use it as a navigation aid.”

“Which takes us just inside the Nicaraguan sector,” Sweaty noted. “Any word if those guys have been hit today?”

Guru shook his head. “Not a one, but be careful anyway. Follow the river until we get to the Glen Rose Bridge, then we go right down the river, because then it's the Libyans on the east side, and we all know their fire discipline.”

Preacher shook his head at that. “What fire discipline, Boss?”

“Yeah, what?” Guru said, and everyone laughed at that. “Go down the river, past the Brazospoint Bridge, then Route 174 and Lake Whitney. One mile short of the dam, turn right to Two-three-five, and stay on that heading until we reach State Route 36 and the town of Lamkin. Turn north, and it's eighteen miles to Alexander and State Route 6. That's our pop-up point. Climb up, and ID a ranch pond at the intersection. That's the target area. No intact ranch buildings, so pick out the vehicles and make your runs. Once you drop, get your asses north. Just make sure you bypass Stephenville on the way out.”

“You got it, Boss,” Kara said.

“This the last one?” KT asked.

“Not enough daylight for one after,” Hoser reminded her.

“That, we don't have,” Guru said. “This should be it.” He looked around. “Anything else?” The CO asked as an Ops NCO came to collect the briefing materials. Heads shook no. “That's it. Let's get ready to fly. See you at 512.”

The crews headed to their locker rooms to gear up. When Guru came out of the Men's, Goalie was waiting, as usual. “Well?” She asked.

“Last one of the day, and Hoser's right. Not enough daylight for one more,” Guru said.

“When's the last time we flew a night mission?”

“Been a while, and keep that to yourself. Somebody might have an idea about that,” said the CO.

They left the office, and found Dave Golen, Flossy, and their GIBs wating outside. “Guru,” Golen nodded.

“Dave,” the CO replied. “Where you guys headed?”

“Some town named Clarette, in the East German sector. You?”

“Nearby,” Guru said. “We're still Rambler Flight.”

“And we're still Camaro,” Golen said. “If you run into more MiGs, give me a call.”

“Same with you,” Guru nodded. “And I'll bring the Brits.”

“Fair enough,” Golen said, and they shook hands on it.

“Okay,” Guru said. “You all be careful.”

“Will do, Boss,” Flossy said, and the GIBs nodded.

Guru and Goalie then walked to the squadron's dispersal, and found the crews waiting by 512's revetment. “All right, folks. Gather 'round.” He was ready to give his final instructions.

Sweaty asked, “Usual on the radio?”

“You got it.” That meant call signs between them, and mission code to AWACS and other parties.

“Boss,” Kara said. “Any word on if the East Germans have those ZSU-30s?”

Guru shook his head. “No, but good question. If you see those basketball-sized tracers at the target? Abort. We'll reform and go northeast of Stephenville, about five miles. There's a fuel dump we can blow.”

“Or we can hit the airport,” Hoser grinned.

“Or both,” Brainiac said, with an equally nasty grin.

“Or both,” the CO agreed. “Okay, bailout areas are unchanged, so remember past briefs on that. And this should be the last one today. Meet at ten grand overhead, as usual. Any other questions?” He looked at his crews, and there were none. “All right, let's go. Time to hit it.” He clapped his hands.

The crews headed for their aircraft, and Guru and Goalie went into the revetment and found the Crew Chief, Sergeant Crowley, waiting, while the ground crew finished up their tasks. “Major, Lieutenant? Five-twelve's ready to rock.” He said, saluting.

Guru and Goalie returned the salute, then the CO said, “Thanks, Sarge.” He and Goalie did their usual pre-flight walk-around, then climbed the crew ladder and mounted the aircraft. After getting strapped in, and putting on their helmets, they went through the preflight checklist. As they went through the checks, Guru said, “Another day almost done, another round of flight pay.”

“It is that,” Goalie agreed. “One thing about fall: the days are shorter. Ejection seats?”

“They are,” said Guru. “Seat armed top and bottom. Check yours. Arnie?”

“Arnie's set, and so is the INS,” replied Goalie. That meant the ARN-101 DMAS and the INS. “Preflight complete and ready for engine start.”

“That we are,” Guru said. He waved to the ground crew, who closed the crew ladder, then gave a thumbs-up to his Crew Chief.

Crowley returned it, then gave the “Start engines” signal.

One, then two, J-79 engines came to life, and once the warm-up was complete, Guru called the tower. “Tower, Rambler Flight with six, requesting taxi and takeoff instructions.”

A controller came back to him at once. “Rambler Lead, Tower. Clear to taxi to Runway Three-Five-Lima. Hold prior to the active, and you are number three in line.”

“Roger, Tower. Rambler Lead rolling.” He gave another thumbs-up to Sergeant Crowley, who waved to the ground crew. The chocks were pulled away, and Crowley gave the “Taxi” signal.

Guru released the brakes, and taxied 512 out of the revetment. Once clear, Sergeant Crowley snapped a perfect salute, and Guru and Goalie both returned it. Guru then taxied to the runway, as the rest of the flight fell in with him. When they got to Runway 35L, there were two Marine flights, one with F/A-18s and one with F-4s, a 335th two-ship, and the CO recognized it as Dave and Flossy by their tail numbers, ahead of them. The Marines went, then Dave and Flossy taxied onto the runway. Guru taxied into the holding area, where the armorers removed the weapon safeties.

Dave and Flossy launched, then it was their turn. “Tower, Rambler Lead requesting taxi for takeoff.”

“Rambler Lead, Tower,” the controller replied. “Clear to taxi for takeoff. Winds are Two-seven-five for ten.”

“Roger, Tower.” Guru called, then he taxied 512 onto the runway. Kara followed in 520, taxiing right into the CO's Five O'clock position. Guru took a look, and both Kara and Brainiac gave thumbs-ups. Guru and Goalie returned them, then a final check, and it was time. “Tower, Rambler Lead. Requesting clear for takeoff.”

As usual, the tower didn't reply, but flashed a green light. Clear for takeoff.

“Ready?” Guru asked Goalie.

“Born ready,” Goalie replied.

“Then let's do it,” said Guru. “Canopy coming down.” He pulled his canopy down, closing and locking it, and Goalie did the same. A check of Kara's bird showed 520's crew having done it as well. They were ready.

“Time to go,” Goalie said.

“It is,” Guru said. He applied full power, released the brakes, and 512 rumbled down the runway and into the air, with Kara right with him in 520. Thirty seconds later, it was Sweaty and Hoser's turn, with Paul Jackson and Susan Napier following. The flight formed up at FL 100, then headed south for the tanker track.


Over Central Texas, 1600 Hours Central War Time:


Rambler Flight was headed south. They had tanked up from the KC-135s and KC-10s, and had just crossed the I-20 and were now in hostile territory. As they headed into the Nicaraguan II Corps sector, the crews noticed that, as usual, the Nicaraguan air-defense people were quiet. As was by now the usual, they didn't bother shooting unless they were actually being attacked. And that suited the strike crews who flew into the area just fine.

“Nicaraguans are quiet,” Guru said. “Nobody bothered to hit them today.”

“Who does?” Goalie asked as the flight approached the northern end of Lake Granbury. They were just east of the river, but close enough to still use it as a navigation aid.

“I'd like to know myself,” Guru replied. “Probably at night,” he added. “Lake Granbury's coming up.”

“Got it,” Goalie said. “Thirty seconds to Granbury Bridge.” That meant the new U.S. 377 bridge over the Brazos, but also meant an older bridge that used to carry the highway as well.

“Roger that,” said Guru. He had his eyes on a swivel, checking outside the cockpit, then his instruments, and his map. Then a BEEP sounded. Guru checked his EW display, and saw a strobe appear to the south, along with the SEARCH warning light. “Got a radar.”

“Mainstay again?”

“Bet money on it,” Guru said disgustedly. Somebody needed to take those converted Il-76s out, as in all the way out, he felt. And for sure, that opinion was widely shared in Tenth Air Force, and no doubt, in Ninth AF as well. Sure enough, the strobe was moving on the scope, and that meant a Mainstay radar.

“Coming up on the bridge,” Goalie advised.

“Got it,” Guru replied, and though they were just east of the river, they were still within range of the flak guns on the west side, and the East Germans still opened up with their 57-mm S-60 guns. Fortunately, the East Germans were shooting optically, and the strike flight easily evaded the flak.

“East Germans earning their pay,” noted Goalie. “Fifteen seconds to the dam.”

“Copy,” said Guru. The dam appeared to the right, and again, the East Germans on their side opened up, this time with 37-mm. Again, the gunners were aiming without radar, and Rambler Flight easily evaded their fire. He then followed a bend in the river, then turned straight south. “How far to Glen Rose?”

“Twenty seconds.”

“Roger that,” Guru said. He then called the AWACS. “Warlock, Rambler Lead. Say threats?”

“Rambler, Warlock,” an AWACS controller came back. “First threat bearing One-four-five for forty-five. Medium, going away. Second threat bearing One-seven-zero for sixty. Medium, closing. Third threat bearing Two-zero-zero for sixty-five. Medium, closing. Fourth threat bearing Two-three-zero for seventy. Medium, closing.”

“Roger, Warlock. Do you have bogey dope?”

“Rambler, First threats are Fishbeds. Second and third are Floggers. Fourth threats are Fulcrums.”

“Copy that, Warlock,” Guru replied.

“Bridge coming up,” advised Goalie.

The U.S. 67 bridge came into view to their right, and the flak that came from the west side was no surprise. “Those guys are on the ball,” Guru noted.

“When's the last time they weren't?”

“Good question.” Guru then put 512 into a right turn, picking up the river, then heading right down the middle of the Brazos.

Goalie checked her map, though she already knew where they were. “Brazospoint bridge coming up,” she reported. “And that means Libyans to the east.”

“It does,” Guru said. “Bridge at Twelve,” he called. “And the flak from both sides.”

“Right on time,” Goalie replied. “East Germans and Libyans.” They were now out of the Nicaraguan sector and a Libyan force was on the east bank. Both East Germans and Libyans shot at them as they flew by, but the East Germans were much more disciplined in their shooting. The Libyans, though....A quick glance to the rear showed flak tracers still going up, even though the flight had passed the bridge.

Goalie shook her head. “Libyans their usual selves,” she said. “Thirty seconds to the 174 Bridge.” That was the bridge for State Route 174.

“Roger that,” Guru said. He looked at the EW display. No other radars other than the Mainstay, but it was getting just a little brighter. “Mainstay's still there.”

“Lovely.”

“Yeah.” Guru then called the AWACS. “Warlock, Rambler Lead. Say threats?”

The same controller came back to him right away. “Rambler, Warlock. First threat bearing One-five-five for forty. Medium, going away. Second threat bearing One-seven-zero for fifty. Medium, going away. Third threat bearing One-nine-zero for fifty-five. Medium, closing. Fourth threat bearing Two-two-zero for sixty-five. Medium, closing. Bogey dope is unchanged.”

“Roger, Warlock,” Guru replied. “And there's the bridge.”

“With the flak,” Goalie said as tracer fire came from both sides of the bridge. As the flight overflew the bridge, a convoy was seen on the highway. “Traffic on the bridge,” she called.

“Not their turn,” Guru reminded her. “Maybe we'll get an armed recon and then...”

“To be wished for.”


On the bridge, An East German Major was frozen in fear. His convoy, carrying personnel, replacement vehicles, and equipment to help rebuild the 20th MRD was in the middle of crossing the river when shouts, followed by antiaircraft fire, drew his attention. The Major was in a BTR-60P, an open-topped version of the venerable BTR-60, and he knew that if the Fascist aircraft used anything like their dreaded Cluster Bombs, he and his APC would have had it. He looked behind, and saw tank crews-some of the vehicles were T-55s being hauled on tank transporters-manning the machine guns on their tanks, but it was too late. Before anyone in the convoy could open fire, the six F-4s were overhead, then gone, heading south. One soldier did fire a Strela-3 (SA-14) shoulder-fired missile, but the missile simply flew off into the distance, not finding a target.

The Major shook his head. If the bridge had been attacked, he and some of his men would now be in the river. Thanking the God that the Political Officer denied existed for his continued existence, the Major began shouting orders and getting the convoy reorganized. The convoy had been running late, and though someone at the 20th MRD would not be happy the convoy was late, it was much better to be late than to be dead.


“That's the 174,” Guru said as Lake Whitney opened up. “One minute to the turn?”

“One minute,” Goalie confirmed.

“Let's make his job a little harder,” Guru said, referring to the Mainstay. He took 512 down to 450 Feet AGL, and as the rest of the flight followed suit, thundered down the lake.

“He's still there,” Goalie said. Her EW display still had the Mainstay's signal.

Guru nodded. “Hope he doesn't pick us out from the ground clutter.”

“You and me both,” Goalie said. “Thirty seconds to turn.”

“Copy,” Guru replied. He scanned his instruments again, then the EW display. The Mainstay's signal had dropped in brightness, but was still there.

As the flight thundered down the lake, unknown to them, a number of faces were paying attention. Some were locals, and were glad to see the fighters going down the lake, for that meant the front lines were close. Others were resistance people, for a number of boat-in campgrounds were being used by some local guerillas, and to them, the strike flights that came down the lake were a sign that not only was the front line close, but that there really was light at the end of the damned tunnel. And last, there were the Soviets and their lackeys, who were either on patrol, or were fishing to hopefully catch some fish to supplement their rations. Seeing American fighters meant that the line the political officers were saying, or the propaganda handbills and broadcasts, that the “Socialist forces have complete control of the air” was an empty boast.

“How long to turn?” Guru asked.

Goalie gave the count. “Turn in ten....now five, four, three, two, one, MARK!”

Guru turned the big Phantom to the right, onto a course of Two-three-five, and the flight matched his maneuver. “On course, and how long to Lamkin?”

“Forty miles. Two and a half minutes,” Goalie came back. “And the Mainstay's bright again.”

Guru checked the EW display. Sure enough, the Mainstay's strobe brightness was back. But there were no other radars around, whether ground or airborne. “Damn it. No other radars, though.”

“Not a one,” Goalie acknowledged. She, too, had her eyes out of the cockpit, for having two pairs of eyes in the aircraft had been a lifesaver more than once.

“Good. Warlock, Rambler Lead. Say threats.” Guru said as he called the AWACS.

The controller replied at once. “Warlock, Rambler. Threat bearing One-nine-five for forty. Medium, going away. Second threat bearing Two-four-zero for fifty-five. Medium, closing. Third threat bearing Two-eight-zero for sixty. Low, going away. Fourth threat bearing Two-five-zero for seventy. Medium, closing.”

“Roger, Warlock. Any bogey dope?”

“Rambler, First threats are Floggers. Second and third are Fishbeds, and fourth are Fulcrums.”

“Copy that, Warlock.”

Goalie whistled. “More Fulcrums? And whose MiG-21s are those?”

“Probably East Germans,” Guru replied. “How far?”

“To the turn? One minute forty-five seconds.”

“Roger that.”


The strike flight kept on going, and as it overflew the town of Fairy, more a spot on the map than a town, they actually drew fire. The town was between a ridge and a hill, and from the top of the ridge, some Cubans manning a battery of ZPU-2 14.5-mm guns opened fire. None of the aircraft were hit, and the strike flight continued on its way.

Once clear of the ground fire, Guru asked, “How long to turn?”

“Just under a minute,” Goalie replied. “Fifteen miles.”

“Roger that,” Guru replied. Then he saw the Mainstay's strobe get brighter. “Flight, Lead. Music on,” he called as he turned a switch. That was to turn on their ECM Pods.

“Copy that, Lead,” Kara replied, as did the others.

“Highway 281 coming up,” said Goalie.

The flight overflew the highway, and much to the disappointment of the crews, there was no traffic. If they had been on an armed reconnaissance....

“Lamkin coming in when?” Guru asked.

Goalie checked her map, then replied, “Five miles.”

“Got it.”

“Coming up on the turn,” Goalie said. “In five, four, three, two, one.....MARK!”

Guru made the turn, bringing 512 onto a northerly heading, and headed for Alexander and State Route 6. “One minute to pop-up?”

“One minute,” Goalie confirmed. “Set'em up?”

“Good girl,” said Guru. “Do it.”

“Roger that,” she replied. “Everything in one go.” She worked the armament control panel, setting up the ordnance. “All set back here, and thirty seconds to go.”

“Copy,” Guru replied. “Flight, Lead. Switches on, and stand by.”

“Roger,” Kara called back, and the others did the same.

“Fifteen seconds,” Goalie said.

“Stand by....” Guru called. “And...PULL!” He pulled back on the stick, and as 512 climbed, Guru looked out in both directions, and was able to ID the target area. “Flight, Lead. Target's in sight. Time to go to work.”

“Roger, Lead,” Kara called.

“TARCAP going,” Squadron Leader Dave Gledhill called.

“All set back here,” Goalie advised.

“Then let's do it,” Guru said, rolling 512 in on the bomb run.


At the repair yard, an East German Colonel was not a happy man. He was in charge of what, prewar, had been the Army-level tank repair workshop for the NVA's 3rd Army, and had been with the Kampfgruppe Rosa Luxembourg from the beginning. At first, supplies had been plentiful, and the Army had gotten what they needed, no matter what. Now, though, they were back in Texas, after having gone as far north as Southern Nebraska the previous year, then had been in Kansas back in April and May. Though the Kampfgruppe had not been at Wichita, he'd heard plenty about that armored clash-the largest ever, surpassing even Kursk, and then the American offensive that had followed. The retreat south had been a bitter one, and now, with both sides exhausted, it looked like things would stablize for the winter. The Colonel dreaded, though, what would happen come Spring, and the way things were going, it would be the Amis who would attack first.

At least things here were quiet, the Colonel said to himself. The ranch had been bombed-out during the initial invasion, and the occupants had fled. The ranch house was a wreck, as was the barn, but some of the men, who came from farming collectives back home, were able to fix both up to a degree, and the ranch house doubled as a headquarters as well as quarters for the senior officers. The barn was for the NCOs and enlisted, though when the Colonel inspected it, he swore that the lingering barnyard smell was something no amount of disinfectants could get rid of, and the medical officer agreed with him. Not to mention that the building was still a bit airy, as the shortage of materials meant that large holes in walls could only be filled in with tarps, and the same thing went for the ranch house. Maybe he and the rest of the men would be better off in tents, but having some intact spaces in both, with semi-intact roofs, was better than a damp tent any day.

Now, though, the mechanics were busy. T-55s, T-72s, and BMPs were under repair, and when parts were unavailable, the mechanics resorted to cannibalization. Hopefully, the parts to restore the stripped hulks would be available, but the Colonel had been told by Army Headquarters that the naval situation was serious, and getting worse. However, the Political Officer, who was at the same briefing, reassurred him-and the other officers, that these setbacks were temporary, and that come Spring, the Socialist forces would be on the move north again. Among themselves, the Colonel and the other commanders felt that they would believe that when they saw it.

Now, the Colonel was going to have a talk with his deputy, when the anti-aircraft guns began swinging south, then the 23-mm guns began firing. The Colonel had been under air attack more than once, and he knew what was coming. “AIR RAID ALARM!” He shouted, then ran for a slit trench.


“Lead's in hot!” Guru called as he took 512 onto the bomb run. As he rolled in, he saw that the gunners down there had been alert, for the tracers started coming up almost immediately. Guru ignored the tracers, and picked out some of the vehicles in the repair yard. You'll do, he thought as tanks and trucks-the latter being mobile workshops in all likelihood-grew larger in his pipper. The CO also noticed the barn and ranch house looked intact-and he swore to himself. The photos were a few days old, and somebody had fixed them up. Well, if he knew his people, that would change. Guru lined up the vehicles in his pipper, and got ready. “Steady...And..Steady.....HACK!” He hit the pickle button, releasing his six Mark-82s and six M-117Rs onto the East Germans below. Right after bomb release, he pulled up and away, applying power and jinking as he did so. Then he made his call. “Lead's off target.”

“Dammt!” The Colonel said as Guru's F-4 came in. He saw the F-4 release its bombs, and then he ducked as the bombs went off. Right in the middle of the yard, he knew. The Colonel counted a dozen explosions, plus a couple of sympathetic detonations that followed. He stuck his head outside the trench, and saw that a bomb had landed close to the barn, shredding it. Cursing, he started to get up, then saw the anti-aircraft guns swinging back south, and firing. He knew what that meant, and got back into the trench.


“SHACK!” Goalie yelled in 512's back seat. “Got a couple of secondaries.”

“How big?” Guru asked as he jinked right, then left. These chumps didn't have much in the way of air defense, not like some of the day's previous customers.

“Medium, best guess,” she replied.

Guru shook his head. Why couldn't they have gotten an ammo or fuel dump? He then did another jink to the right, as an SA-7 type missile flew by on the left. Then he set course north, intending to bypass Stephenville.


Kara was next as she rolled 520 in on her bomb run. “Two's in!” She called, then as she came down on the target, Kara saw the CO's run, and the bombs tearing up part of the repair yard. She saw the secondaries, then lined up a collection of what looked to be intact tanks east of the barn. You'll do, she thought. Selecting them as her target, Kara concentrated on her bomb run, ignoring the 23-mm tracers coming up, and even a couple of SA-7s that failed to guide. Glad they weren't all-aspect capable, Kara lined up the tanks in her pipper. “And...And....NOW!” She hit the pickle button, sending her bombs down onto the target. Kara then pulled up and away, jinking as she did so and applying power. Then she made the call. “Two's off target.”


“Mother of...” the Colonel muttered as Kara's F-4 came in on its run. He didn't look up and see the bombs come off, but he heard the explosions, and several sympathetic detonations. That told him what had been hit, namely, the tank park where newly-repaired tanks were awaiting shipment from the facility. Shaking his head, the Colonel wondered what else could go wrong this afternoon, when he heard the anti-aircraft gunners firing again. Knowing what that meant, he kept his head down.


“GOOD HITS!” Brainiac's shout came over 520's intercom. “And there's secondaries!”

“How many?” Kara asked as she jinked right, then left, to avoid flak. The tracers fell short, but somone shot an SA-7 that flew over the aircraft.

“Several.”

Hearing that, Kara grinned beneath her oxygen mask. “They'll do,” she said as she picked up the CO's smoke trail, then had eyeballs on his aircraft. She then joined up with Guru in Combat Spread.


It was Sweaty's turn next. “Three's in hot!” Was her call as she took her bird down on its bomb run. She saw Kara pulling away, as well as the secondaries she left behind, and decided to add to that. Sweaty picked out part of the repair area that the CO hadn't hit, and selected it as her target. Nice day to die, Franz, Sweaty thought as she came in on her run. She, too, had flak coming up, and a couple of SA-7 shots, but she ignored them as she approached bomb release. “No way...” she said out loud. “And....Steady...And...And...NOW!” Sweaty hit the pickle button, and another dozen bombs came off the racks, and onto the East Germans below. She then pulled up and away, applying power as she did, and began jinking to avoid flak. Once clear, Sweaty made the call. “Three's off target.”


The Colonel was huddled in the trench, but he glanced skyward to see Sweaty's plane come in. He watched, this time with morbid curiosity, as the bombs came off the aircraft, and they landed in the repair area. A dozen explosions followed, accompanied by two or three sympathetic explosions, and the Colonel knew that many of his mechanics were likely casualties, and their equipment wrecked. Shaking his head, he started to get out of the trench when someone pulled him back in. Then he heard the anti-aircraft guns continue firing. It wasn't over yet.


“SHACK!” Preacher called from Sweaty's back seat. “And we've got some secondaries.”

“What kind?” Sweaty wanted to know as she jinked right, then left again, then back right.

“Not really big, but good enough.”

“Take what we get,” replied Sweaty as she jinked again, and an SA-7 flew down the left side of her aircraft. She then turned north, and picked up the CO and Kara.


“Four's in!” Hoser called as he came down on his run. He saw his element lead's run, and the explosions Sweaty left in her wake, and with all the smoke and flame, his view of the target was obscured, but he came in anyway. Hoser spotted the barn, and decided to walk his bombs across the barn and hopefully, some would land in the repair area and add to the carnage already left by his flight mates. He, too, had flak coming up, and also a couple of SA-7s, but he ignored it as he kept up with the bomb run. “No way,” he thought. Hoser centered the barn in his pipper, and as it grew closer, he mutterd, “Steady...Steady...And....HACK!” He hit the pickle button, and his dozen bombs came off the racks, adding to the destruction below already inflicted. Hoser then pulled up and away, and as he did, applied power and began jinking. Only when clear did he make his call. “Four's off target.”


The Colonel ducked again in the trench, and as he did, he heard Hoser's F-4 make its run. To him, the combination of the roar of the jets, the anti-aircraft fire, the occasional WHOOSH of a missile-a shoulder-fired one, being launched, men shouting and screaming, and the bombs going off were very deafening. He looked at a young Lieutenant in the trench, and the young man was cowering with fear. This must be his first time, the Colonel thought, and knew that one's introduction to combat-in whatever form, was often tough. Then the bombs went off, and there were several sympathetic detonations after that. He stood up, taking off his peaked cap, and shook his head. The ranch house looked like a colander, while the barn had been blown apart, and there were several fires burning in the repair area, and the medics were running around, trying to render aid to those who needed it, and ignoring those beyond help. More engines sounded, and he froze as two more F-4s came overhead, but didn't attack. Was that a reconnaissance flight? He grabbed one of his officers who had followed him out of the trench. “Find my vehicle and radio. Get them over here, and I need to inform Army Headquarters of this.”

“Yes, Comrade Colonel!” The officer, another Lieutenant, said, then he ran off in the direction of the Colonel's UAZ-469 jeep.

The Colonel started giving orders, and his Political Officer came over. The man was covered in dust, and bleeding from having taken shrapnel to the shoulder. “Comrade Colonel....Is it always like this?” The man was new, and to the Colonel, had likely never been under air attack before.

“It could be worse. We could be dead,” the Colonel deadpanned. “Come, let's get you medical attention, and I need to get this madhouse back into some kind of order.”


“BULLSEYE!” KT shouted from Hoser's back seat.

“Secondaries?” Hoser asked as he jinked right, then left, then right again. He, too, had an SA-7 type missile fly past, this time to the right.

“Several,” KT replied.

“Better than none,” Hoser said as he picked up a visual on Sweaty, and formed up on her.


“All in and out,” Guru said. “Time to fly for ourselves,” he added. “Rambler One-five and one-six, get your asses down and clear.”

“Roger, lead,” Flight Lt. Paul Jackson replied. “On the way.” Both RAF F-4Js got down from their TARCAP and followed the strike birds north.

“Two, with me?” Guru called to Starbuck.

“Right with you, Boss,” Kara replied.

A quick glance showed 520 right with Guru in Combat Spread. “Good to see you,” he said. “Sweaty?”

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

“Stephenville on the right,” Goalie said. Their egress course to the north was still about a mile west of Stephenville, and the East German Army-level headquarters. And its SA-4 SAMs.

“Got it,” Guru said. “Watch for SAMs, people!” They were well within SA-4 range, and the East German division to their west had SA-6s.

“Roger, Lead,” Kara replied.

“Warlock, Rambler Lead. Say threats?” Guru called the AWACS.

“Rambler, Warlock,” the controller replied. “ Four Bandits bearing Two-four-zero for thirty. Medium, closing. Four additional Bandits bearing Two-three-five for forty-five. Medium, closing.”

“Warlock, do you have bogey dope?”

“Affirmative, Rambler. Closest Bandits are Fishbeds. Bandtis at Two-three-five are Floggers.”

“Copy that,” replied Guru. He took 512 down to 400 Feet AGL. “Can you arrange a reception committee?”

“Can do, Rambler,” the controller replied. “Rustler and Cowboy, this is Warlock. We have a friendly strike group approaching the fence and need cover. Vector is One-nine-five.”

“Roger, Warlock,” Rustler Lead replied.

“Cowboy Lead copies,” the second flight responded.

“One minute to the Fence,” Goalie advised.

In the front seat, Guru nodded. He checked his EW display. Only the Mainstay's radar was showing. Both the MiG-21 and MiG-23 radars had a lot of trouble in picking out low-flying targets, though the ML version of the MiG-23 did have some limited Look-down/Shoot-down capability, or so Intel said. Guru was hoping they wouldn't find out the hard way.

Guru then swore, then he broke left, and Kara broke right without being told. A chopper had suddenly appeared, and it looked like an Mi-2. Where did he come from?

In One-five, Paul Jackson saw the lead break, and then Sweaty and Hoser did as well to avoid a possible midair. He saw things differently, armed his SUU-23 gun pod, lined up the chopper in his sight, and squeezed the trigger for a one-second burst. 180 rounds of 20-mm API and HEI tore into the little helo, which fireballed. “Splash one helo!”

“Good kill, Five,” Guru replied.

“Thirty seconds,” said Goalie. “Eight miles to the fence.”

“Got it,” said Guru. “Watching the radar?”

“It's clear,” she said. “Where'd that helo come from?”

“Good question.”

“Rambler, Warlock,” the AWACS called. “Bandits now bearing Two-one-zero for fifteen. Medium, closing.”

“Blue Bandits?” Guru replied. That was the old Vietnam slang for MiG-21s.

“Confirmed Blue Bandits,” said the controller. “Wait one...Blue Bandits now turning. Now two-one-five for twenty and going away. Floggers also turning away.”

“Copy that, Warlock,” Guru said. “Goalie, time to the Fence?”

Goalie said, “Fifteen seconds. Coming up....now.”

The twin concrete ribbons of I-20 appeared, and the freeway was busy with Army traffic. At least no one shot at them, but the I-HAWK battery at the Brazos River Bridge was notorious for lighting friendlies up on radar, even if friendly IFF was being transmitted. The air-defense pukes had a feeling of “shoot them down and let God sort them out,” much to the disgust of many an aircrew in the area.

Guru checked his EW display. The Mainstay signal finally dropped off, and the SEARCH warning light went dark. “Flight, Lead. Music off, and IFF on, out.”

Rambler Flight climbed to altitude, and made for their post-strike refueling. After tanking, they headed back to Sheppard, where, as it turned out, they were the last ones in. After landing, the flight taxied to their dispersals, and after popping their canopies, Jackson and Gledhill held up a finger to signal a kill. That got a lot of applause from the ground crews who were watching, and a smile on the faces of the news crew, who were filming as Rambler Flight came in.

“That'll make the newsies' day,” Guru noted.

“Have to explain the saying, 'a kill's a kill',” Goalie said. “They may be disappointed it was a helo.”

“Depends on who was in that helo,” Guru reminded her.

“It does,” Goalie noted. Sometimes Generals flew in Mi-2s instead of being driven around, she knew.

The flight taxied to their revetments, and Guru taxied 512 into its revetment. After getting the “Stop” signal, then the “Shut down” from Sergeant Crowley, the Crew Chief, both pilot and GIB went through the post-flight checklist, while the ground crew placed the wheel chocks and deployed the crew ladder. Then Guru and Goalie took off their helmets, and climbed down from the aircraft. “Four and done,” Guru said.

“Now we eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow, they may not separate us from the rest of the airplane,” Goalie nodded.

“Down, girl,” Guru said. “We debrief first. Got to make the Intel folks happy.”

“Forgot about that,” Goalie replied as they went through with a post-flight walk-around.

Sergeant Crowley came up with a bottle of water for both crew. “Major, Lieutenant? How's my bird?” To Crowley, as well as every other crew chief, the crew merely “borrowed” the aircraft. The crew chief, though, “owned” it.

“She's still truckin', Sergeant,” Guru said as he took the offered bottle of water. He downed about half, then added, “Whatever you're doing? Don't change a damned thing.”

“And we made some East Germans' have a last day, period,” Goalie added.

“Shit hot!” Crowley beamed. “Uh...sir. Pardon my French.”

The CO laughed. “Sarge, you can use that kind of French whenever we get back from a strike,” Guru told his Crew Chief. “Now, get her prepped and ready for the morning. And get yourselves some chow when you can.”

“Yes, sir!' The Crew Chief beamed, then told the ground crew. “All right, you heard the Major. Let's get this bird ready for the morning.”

Guru and Goalie then headed for the revetment's entrance, and when they got there, Kara and Brainiac were there, waiting. “Kara,” Guru said. “How'd it go with you?”

“Tore up some tanks waiting to be shipped out, and saw you tear up part of the repair yard,” replied Kara. “Now where'd that chopper come from?”

“Boss, I'd like to know that myself,” Sweaty said as she, Preacher, Hoser, and KT came over. “We almost had a midair.”

Brainiac nodded. “Join the club.”

“Looked like a Hoplite,” Hoser said. “Mi-2.”

“It was,” Paul Jackson said as he and Dave Gledhill, along with Susan Napier and Razor Wilkinson, came to the revetment. “Took a hundred and eighty rounds, though.”

“Overkill?” KT asked.

“No such thing,” Kara reminded everyone.

Heads nodded at that, then Sweaty asked, “Who'd be on that kind of chopper?”

“Good question,” Guru admitted. “Maybe a courier.”

“Or a General?” Dave Gledhill asked.

“Could be,” Preacher nodded.

“Come on,” Guru said as he put on his bush hat. “Let's get the debrief done, and make the Intel folks happy. Then we all need to check our desks, and then we can hit the club.”

Heads nodded. “About time,” KT said.

“Yeah. And Dave?” Guru told Dave Gledhill. “You and Paul can celebrate a kill, and most of your people have made it to ten missions.”

“Most of them,” Gledhill admitted. The RAF had started out with nine F-4Js and twelve crews. Now they had eight birds and eleven crews.

“Rest'll come soon enough,” the CO said. “Come on: let's make the Intel folks earn their pay, make any armchair warrior feel they're relevant, then blow off steam.”

With that, the crews headed back to the squadron office, to get their debriefing started.
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Old 08-17-2019, 07:42 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Another day is done, and the crews blow off steam:



335th TFS CO's Office: 1655 Hours Central War Time:


Major Matt Wiser sat behind his desk, going through the last of the papers that had filled his IN box. Nothing really important, he saw, but stuff that still needed doing and his signature on it. Shaking his head at the still active AF bureaucrats who felt they had to make his life-and every other CO in the Air Force, from squadron level on up-miserable, he signed his name on the last paper, and put it in the OUT box. The CO was about to get up when there was a knock on his office door. “Show yourself and come on in!”

Capt. Mark Ellis, his Exec, came in. He had a couple of papers for the CO's attention. “Got a couple of things before you head off to the Club.”

Guru nodded. “Lay it on me, Mark, it's been a long day.”

“First, and I don't need papers for this, but Firefly and Rabbit both got back from their missions. So General Yeager won't be coming back to kick anyone's ass-literally.”

“He probably could, Mark” Guru reminded his Exec. “They get to celebrate, then menana, they head off to Nellis for a week in Sin City.”

Ellis knew what came next. “Then it's off to Edwards and the F-20.” Seeing Guru nod, he went on. “Why'd they put the RTU there? You'd think the Flight Test Center would have a few words about that.”

Guru smiled. “Well, when the guy who helped put Edwards on the map with everything he did there asks if he can put his program there, who's gonna say 'no'?”

“There is that,” the XO admitted. Then he handed the CO a paper. “Info on the newbies. All are guys, by the way.”

The CO scanned the paper. “Captain John McMurray. Out of....3rd TFS, Clark?” Guru looked at his Exec. “He ask for a transfer?”

“Doesn't say, and for all we know, somebody must've thought he ought to come to the real war, instead of putting the hurt on Cam Ranh Bay and killing Badgers trying to hit Clark, Subic Bay, or Manila.”

“We'll find out,” Guru said. “First Lieutenant Greg Prather is the GIB, says here. Fresh out of the RTU.”

“A real FNG,” said Ellis. “You plan to pair them up?

“Probably,” the CO admitted. “Anything else?”

“Updated weather, and no change. The storm they're expecting hits the West Coast day after tomorrow, and we get it the following day.”

Guru nodded. He was pleased the weather was holding. A stand-down would enable Maintenance to get caught up with the backlog, the aircrews could get some well-deserved rest, and get ready for the next round. For he and his people, along with every other unit in Tenth and Ninth Air Forces, needed it. He also knew that the Soviets and their lackeys did the same thing. Mother Nature had no favorites in war, even if on occasion, her acts did favor one side over the other. “No change, and so good to know. Anything else?”

“That's it,” the XO said.

“Nothing from Frank, not even a complaint?” Asked the CO.

“Nada.”

Any day he didn't hear from the despised Major Frank Carson was a good one, Guru knew. “The shredder can use a rest.” He glanced at the clock on the wall. 1704. “Now we're off the clock. Let's head to the Club.”

Before Ellis could respond, there was a knock on the door.

“Yeah?” Guru said. “Come on in and show yourself.”

His GIB, First Lieutenant Lisa “Goalie” Eichhorn, came in. “Boss, you're going to want to turn on your TV to CNN.”

“What's up?” Guru asked his GIB.

“Something happened in Moscow, and they're playing somber music over their TV and Radio. Nobody knows what else is going on.”

Guru grabbed the remote and turned on the TV. It had been Colonel Rivers' set, and by mutual agreement, the only channel it would be set to was CNN. Right away, the screen showed an orchestra clad in black, and somber, almost funreal, music came over the air. “What the hell?” He asked. “Sin Licon have any idea?”

“No. Nada,” Goalie said.

Then the voice of CNN's Bernard Shaw came on. “For our viewers in the U.S and abroad, this is live from Moscow via our friends at Swedish TV. This orchestra has been playing for the last fifteen minutes, and so far, there is no word as to why. One moment....All right, I'm hearing from our London Bureau that is paying attention to the BBC. They've been monitoring Radio Moscow, and Radio Moscow has announced the death of Gregory Petrovich Alexandrov, the Supreme Party Ideologist. He died at the age of 77 after what the Soviet radio calls 'a brief but serious illness.'”

“That could mean anything,” Goalie said.

“Yeah. Stroke, heart attack, anuryism, you name it,” Guru nodded. “Or a sudden case of 9-mm lead poisoning.”

“Any of which can ruin your day,” Ellis said.

Shaw continued. “Our London Bureau is now monitoring Radio Moscow, and a statement from General Secretary Chebrikov has been released. It declares 'three days of national mourning, followed by a State Funeral, and that the General Secretary extends his condolences to Alexandrov's family, and regrets that he will not live to see the final victory.' What does all this mean? Back in a moment for more coverage and analysis.”

“Turn it off, Mark,” Guru said. And after Ellis did so, he went on. “Well, now...got another reason to celebrate tonight.”

“We sure do,” Goalie grinned.

“Come on,” said the CO. “Let's hit the Club, and pass it on.”


When the trio got to the Club Tent, the place was already abuzz with the news. The big-screen TV was tuned to CNN (something not normally done, as AFN's relay of ESPN was much more popular, even if the sports were mostly reruns), and people were clearly in a celebratory mood. Guru and the others got to the bar, and found Colonel Brady talking with Dave Gledhill and Paul Jackson. “Colonel,” Guru nodded. “I see word's gotten around about Alexandrov.”

“It has, Major,” Brady said. “Couldn't happen to a nicer asshole, except for Chebrikov himself,” the MAG-11 CO noted. “

“No doubt, sir,” Guru replied. “Smitty? Sam Adams for me, the XO, and Goalie.”

“You got it, Major,” the barkeep said. He quickly produced the beer, and Guru paid him.

“Well?” Goalie asked, seeing Guru in thought.

“Colonel, here's a toast to the late and unlamented Alexandrov,” Guru said, raising his beer. “May his reception in hell be a five-alarm one.”

“Here's to that,” Brady grinned, and several beer bottles came together in a clink.

“Dave,” Guru said to Squadron Leader Gledhill. “Telling the Colonel about your kill?

“Quite,” Gledhill grinned. “Some poor sod in a Mi-2 lifts off, giving Guru and Goalie there a fright, along with Kara. They break, and so do Sweaty and Hoser. Paul just lines the chopper up in the pipper, squeezes the trigger, and that 20-mm goes through that little chopper like a buzz saw.”

“Any idea who was on it?” Brady asked. “Those puppies are used for courier duty and for VIPs who want a low profile.”

“Sin Licon said he'd put a query in with Tenth Air Force,” Guru repiled. “Probably won't hear back for a while.”

“No doubt, Major. Now, what about Alexandrov? You're the History major around here.”

Guru took a drink from his bottle, then thought for a moment. “Colonel, he's probably going to be succeeded by his deputy. And if Alexandrov was a hard-liner-”

“He was, my Intel said,” Brady nodded. “Hardest of the hard-line.”

“Then sir, his deputy's bound to be just the same.”

Heads at the bar nodded. “You're probably right, Major,” Sin Licon said. He'd overheard Guru as he was bellying up to the bar himself. “Intel's not sure a hundred percent, but it looks that way.”

“Did they kill him off?” Goalie wondered. “Wouldn't be the first time they pass off a natural death as a purge.”

Licon shook his head. “No, and Ivan really hasn't done things like that since Stalin died,” the intel said. “Even with Chebrikov, they don't do that anymore. When they purge their own men behind the lines, though? Different story altogether.”

“It'll be interesting, though, when Cronkite talks about it,” Brady said.

“That it will, sir,” Licon replied, and the others at the bar nodded.

Guru and Goalie then went to the table their flight usually took, and found Kara, Sweaty, Brainiac, and Preacher there already. “Well, now. Looks like we got another reason to celebrate,” Kara said as the CO and his GIB took their seats.

“We sure do,” Guru said. “And we've got not only this, but two new birds in from Japan day after tomorrow, and we also get a new crew.”

“FNGs?” Sweaty asked.

“The GIB is, but the pilot? Veteran from Clark.”

“Kinda like the RAF guys,” Brainiac nodded. “Putting the hurt on Cam Ranh Bay, and killing Badgers or Backfires is one thing, but what we do day in and day out? Whole new ballgame.”

“If the Brits can learn, this guy can,” Guru said firmly as the rest of the flight joined them at the table.

“Yeah,” Goalie said. “Corinne starts flying tomorrow, and so does Doucette.”

“They do, but remember: neither one has fired a shot in anger,” Guru reminded them. “Cassidy's a Day One vet, and not that many can say they did what she did.”

Heads nodded at that, as they recalled Cassidy telling them her Day One, hitting a force of Hip troop carriers in her T-38 like a hawk hitting a flock of pigeons, and knocking one down with her jet wash. “Doucette really is a FNG, though,” Kara said.

“Lord have mercy,” Preacher added. “He'd better be watching out.” Everyone knew what Preacher meant by that. Seventy-five percent of their losses were people who didn't make it past that ten-mission threshhold. After ten missions, a new crewer's chances of survival grew considerably.

“If we had tours like in Southeast Asia, we all would've had a break by now,” KT said as she joined the conversation.

Guru nodded. “We would.” He glanced over at a nearby table, and found Cosmo, Revlon, Flossy, and Jang talking with Ms. Wendt, and it was on camera.

“Looks like the newsies are still engrossed with our 'unmanned' crews,” Hoser said.

“Yep,” Sweaty replied. “And what's after that?”

“The RAF, or Day One vets,” Guru said. “Ms. Wendt wants a check ride, and Kara's giving her one.”

“I still have to fly that prissy reporter around?” Kara shot back. Seeing the CO nod, she asked, “When?”

“If the weather clears during the stand-down?” Guru saw Kara nod. “Then. I'll have her cameraman in my back seat.”

Those at the table saw Kara have an evil-looking grin. “And I give her an E-Ticket ride.”

“You do.”

Mark Ellis came in, with the day's newspapers. “Boss, L.A. Times for you, Orange County Register for Goalie, and here's USA Today and Stars and Stripes for everybody else.”

“Thanks, Mark,” Guru said.

Before anyone could open the papers, the restaurateurs came in with the dinner menu. Everyone was glad that these guys, who had run several popular restaurants in Wichita Falls prewar, had taken over the Mess operation from the Marines, and the quality of the food had improved considerably since. Colonel Brady was pleased enough that he had arranged for them to become Warrant Officers in the Corps, and they were directly supervising the Marine Mess people. “Folks, we've got grilled beef patties-well, more like Bison, but it's real meat, and Chicken and Dumplings. Both with all the fixin's. Come and get it,” the Senior WO called.

After people got what they wanted, they dug in. Just then, Smitty, the barkeep, turned the TV to the CBS Evening News, and Walter Cronkite came on. “Good evening from Los Angeles,” Cronkite's voice intoned, as the “Most Trusted Man in America” came on. “The top story tonight is the death of one of the key members of the Soviet Politburo, the Supreme Party Ideologist, Gregor Alexandrov. Our former Moscow Bureau Chief, Tom Fenton, reports from London.”

“Gregor Alexandrov, who can be best described as the Chief Ideologist of the Soviet Union, died today in Moscow at the age of 77,” Fenton began. “A man who rose through the ranks of the Communist Party, and has been viewed by many in the Allied countries as a key force in the Soviets' political decision to go to war, his death is seen as a personal blow to General Secretary Chebrikov. Doctor Ian Mathews, a Soviet Studies Professor at King's College in London, says that while there will be some short-term dissension in the Politburo, there will be no long-term change.”

“Alexandrov was known to be in poor health, and though Chebrikov will have to fill the position, it's very likely that he's already got a list of candidates, and chances are, they're just as ideological as Alexandrov was.”

“Sources in both London and Philadelphia share this view, and hopes for any moderation, or any genuine Soviet peace feelers, are likely to be unfulfilled. Tom Fenton, CBS News, London.”

“Reaction in Philadelphia has been muted,” Cronkite continued. “Both the White House and the Defense Department have refused comment, though members of Congress have been more outspoken, with expressions of regret that Mr. Alexandrov will not be facing any kind of tribunal for his culpability in the war.”

Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA) and Sen. John Warner (R-VA) gave similar statements, then Cronkite went on. “In other news..”

It turned out to be another slow news day. Not much big was happening, though there was coverage of a carrier air strike on targets in Occupied Alaska, how a ranching town just south of the Montana-Alberta border was carrying on despite the front lines being about thirty miles to the north, and a feature about a town in California's Central Valley-Kerman, was getting along with some 5,000 new neighbors: Soviet POWs who would be working in nearby Orange groves.


“And that's the way it is, for all of us at CBS News, Good Night,” Cronkite signed off.


“That's all?” Kara said as she took a bite of Chicken and Dumplings. “You'd think there'd be more.”

“The story probably broke too late,” Ms. Wendt chimed in from a nearby table. “They had to run with what they had,” she pointed out.

“Still, when you got guys just as bad as he was waiting in line to take his place...” Guru said.

Several heads turned to look at the CO. “What do you mean?” Sweaty asked.

“Nobody in his job's going to go up to Chebrikov and whisper 'Make peace, you idiot.' or words to that effect. No, to them, it's the final battle between us and them, and they won't back down anytime soon.”

“You sure?” Don Van Loan said.

“Pretty much. Took Soviet Poli-Sci in college, and some of those guys are pretty ideological in their thinking.”

Goalie nodded, then she opened the Orange County Register. “Not much here-wait a minute. Says here on Page Three. “Belgian Defense Minister resigns.”

“One more nail,” Sin Licon said. “Why'd he quit?”

“Doesn't say, but the Neutralist Government in Brussels faces a vote of No-Confidence tomorrow in their Parliament.”

“That's that,” Dave Golen said. “Once the small ones have gone-what's left?”

“West Germany and Italy,” Guru said. “Once West Germany goes-and that's a question of when, not if, then Italy and the others like Spain fall out as well.” And good riddance to those Commie-lovers, he thought. “Anything else?”

“Another story lifted from that 'Liberation Radio' bullshit,” Goalie said. “They're wailing that the UN won't recognize them as a government.” Their problem, she knew.

There were many good laughs at that. “Their problem,” Kara spat. “Too bad we couldn't snatch their 'delegates' from Geneva and hustle 'em onto a plane for Philly.”

Colonel Brady nodded, then said, “Remember what General Olds said? That's too blatant, even for the Swiss.”

“Colonel, I know, but one can dream.”

“No doubt,” Brady said. “Major, when you taking up that reporter? That's a 'check ride' I'd love to see.”

Guru shot a glance at Ms. Wendt and Trevor Scott, her cameraman. “Stand-down day-we get an hour or so of decent weather. Captain Thrace will fly her, and I'm taking the cameraman.”

The Colonel looked at the two news people, then at Guru and Kara, before turning back to Ms. Wendt. “A bit of advice: take plenty of airsickness bags. Knowing these two, you'll need them.”

“They've been warned,” Guru said.

“We have,” Ms. Wendt added, nodding at Scott, who smiled.

“Good.”


After people finished eating, eyes were either turned to ESPN, which was showing a rerun of a Boston Celtics-Chicago Bulls game from 1983, or to the poker or pool tables. Guru went to the bar and got another beer and some nachos, then watched as Kara went to work at the pool table. She dispatched one of the RAF GIBs, a transiting C-130 navigator, then, to everyone's surprise, the MAG-11 Intelligence Officer-who was a light colonel. Shaking his head, the CO went back to his flight's table.

“Kara taking down a light colonel,” Sweaty noted as the nacho plate got to the table. “Not that often you see that.”

Goalie nodded. “She did take General Olds once,” she reminded them.

“She did just that,” Guru said, recalling that affair, and though General Olds had come out on top, money wise, he still dreaded every time Kara took on a general officer. For it was Frank they all wanted packing for a cooler climate....

Doc Waters then rang the bell. “Fifteen minutes until Twelve-hour!”

“Major,” Colonel Brady said. “We've got some business.”

“That we do, sir.” Guru said, as he and the other squadron commanders bellied up to the bar.

Brady rang the bell to signal quiet. “All right, people! We've got some things to celebrate tonight. First, as we all now know, when one of Chebrikov's pals gets an express elevator straight to hell, it's always a reason to let loose,” and the tent roared with approval. “Now, Captains Dan Lucere and Mike Donahue from -134 now join the ace ranks! Stand up, you two!”

The two Marines stood up, much to the delight of the crowd.

“Now, they got two today-and though one can laugh at Hinds when you're shooting Sidewinders, a kill's a kill, and they got two Hinds, and you guys got a big thank-you from First Cav for that.”

Lucere laughed. “Tell the Cav, 'you're welcome. Uh, sir.”

“Will do, Captain,” Brady said. He went through some other Marines, then it was the turn of VA-135's CO, then it was Guru's. “Major?”

“Thank you, sir.” Guru said. “First, Firefly and Rabbit, stand up and be recognized.” The two in question did so, and the CO went on. “These two flew their last combat missions with the 335th today. These two lucky stiffs hop the westbound C-141 tomorrow, and they get a week in Sin City.” There were howls of approval, then Guru went on. After that? They head to more austere circumstances-at Edwards, and the F-20 transition. Anything to say, you two?”

“Major, it's been an honor and priviliege flying with you all,” Firefly-who was senior, said. “Gonna miss you guys.”

“Same here, but I won't miss losing money to Kara,” Rabbit added. “Just glad I never had to, uh, give an 'alternate payment.” Howls of laughter followed.

“Too bad,” Kara grinned.

“We'll see you guys around, and for sure, at the reunion,” Firefly said.

“We will. Take care, you two, and show General Yeager and his people-especially those two young pups Clancy and Pruitt-what a couple of Double-Ugly drivers can do in their league.”

“Will do, Major.”

“All right! Now, Squadron Leader Gledhill, you and your eight primary crews, stand up, if you please,” Guru said. The RAF crews did, and Guru continued. “Dave, you and your primary crews all made it past ten missions today. It's a shame that two of your friends didn't, but be glad you guys did. For the other three crews? Your time's coming.”

“Thanks, Guru,” Gledhill replied. “And it's a shame two of us aren't here to see this,” he added, recalling the crew downed on their first day in combat.

“Part of the game,” Colonel Brady said. “Major, anything else?”

“That's it, sir,” said Guru.

“All right, people-especially all of us on the flight schedule in the morning. Drink up! You've got ten minutes. Now, Firefly and Rabbit from the 335th?” He nodded at those two. “You two have a right to get happily smashed.”

“Colonel, is that an order?” Firefly asked.

“Make it so, Captain.”

“Sir, in that case,we'll be glad to obey,” said Firefly, knowing that the Twelve-hour didn't apply to him and Rabbit, finally! Both bellied up to the bar, intending to do just that.

Ten minutes later, a Navy flight surgeon rang the bell. “Twelve-hour now in effect!”

After turning in their drinks, those flying in the morning settled for whatever nonalcoholic drinks they favored, and the place buzzed until 2100, when Doc Waters rang the bell. “Aircrew Curfew now in effect!”

Those flying grumbled, then headed off to their tents. For 0430 came early, and another full day of flying would be on the day's agenda.
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  #495  
Old 08-23-2019, 09:52 AM
cawest cawest is offline
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i just starting reading this. I only on like half way down page 4. I just wanted to let you know that this is some amazing work.
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  #496  
Old 08-24-2019, 12:39 AM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Thanks! Always glad to get a new reader. Any comments or questions?
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  #497  
Old 08-31-2019, 06:32 PM
cawest cawest is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Wiser View Post
Thanks! Always glad to get a new reader. Any comments or questions?
not right now. I want to catch up before I ask anything. keep up the great work
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  #498  
Old 09-08-2019, 10:52 PM
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Matt what amazes me is how the Soviets managed to get any convoys across the Atlantic at all. US and British nuclear attack submarine would have made mince met out of any Soviet surface warships that penetrated south of the GIUK Gap in any scenario yet alone a convoy of commercial cargo ships.
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Old 09-09-2019, 05:00 PM
cawest cawest is offline
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just finished or caught up. looking forward to more.

I have a thought about the mainstays. these would have been an issue for a few years. Have you checked out the F111B? there should be three, one is only for parts but that would leave two for testing. How about a pump fake with a pair of f14s then send in a low flying B. this would work only for a few but if they only have 5 that would be enough from them to bring out the TU-126 (12 built).

they might have a few home on jam aim-54 (15inch wide of a nose cone gives you a lot of room to test with)

some other high payoff targets (HPT) would be IL20M, M55, or other sigint or jammer craft.

the intel shop would have a kill board. it would have all of the HPT taken out listed by type confirmed and claimed. like 14 Su-25 in red and 34 Su25's in white for ground kills. pink would be claimed but not confirmed. if you are on a joint services base, this kill board might be in a more public place...like the Oclub. that way units could "tell" who was the test. it is also a good way to start a few fights. you also might want to set up a helo hunt. you load up all the aim9s then troll about 10 miles behind your lines. then you pop any enemy helos in your "kill box"
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Old 09-09-2019, 07:23 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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RN7: Yes, they would, but TTL the USN, RN, RAN, RNZN, and RCN (they shed their Trudeau-era Maritime Command name pretty fast), have three oceans' worth to cover, and only one ocean of fleet, even with everyone pulling their share of the load, and the JMSDF operating in a "Short of War" posture in the Pacific helping out.

Once Iceland is liberated (June '87), a Marine raid on Kola (July '87) that disrupts Soviet shipping, the tide begins to turn at sea, but it's not until the late '88-early '89 time frame that the pinch really begins to hurt the Soviet-bloc forces in Texas. Once that happens, it's a matter of time, and by the time of the Brownsville story (Late Sep-early Oct '89), the Soviets in Texas and Mexico are in deep. The Northern Theater isn't in any better shape: the shipping lanes from Soviet Far East ports to Alaska are frequently attacked by USN subs and carrier aircraft, and the Soviets are lucky that only half of what's shipped gets through. Still, by the end of the war (14 Oct 89), that 60-division force in Alaska and Canada has only about 15-20 divisions that are really combat effective-that is, capable of both offensive and defensive combat operations; the rest are only capable of defensive operations due to the shortages of fuel, ammo, and spares.
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Old 09-09-2019, 08:44 PM
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maybe a way to fix the short legs of the F-20 is conformal fuel tank like the F-16d block 50/52. the BAC Strikemaster had them on the wings.. I would not go with that or the belly mounts on the spitfire. it would replace the center mounted drop tank or just add range with out losing a hard point. Distended internal tanks could also be a possibility.

This would let the F-20 be a point or HVT defender. it could be a airbase defender, harbor, tanker, or Rivet Joint escort.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conformal_fuel_tank

I was also thinking about olds having his maintenance team wired his craft with aim9s before they were supposed to. now this unit has to do with out WW or IH and they needed them. what if they lost one Aim 7 (510pounds) or 2 AIM 9 (188pounds) for a Shrike (390pounds) that would give them some teeth. When could they do this mod? the F-4 needs a 300/400hr check that will take some time. or when a bird is battle damaged and they are waiting for parts.

would love to read about a US sub that might be hunting sovit ships and sitting off of Havana harbor. the POWs might be able to see the ship fireball.

Last edited by cawest; 09-09-2019 at 08:47 PM. Reason: wanted to add f-20 jobs
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Old 09-09-2019, 08:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Wiser View Post
RN7: Yes, they would, but TTL the USN, RN, RAN, RNZN, and RCN (they shed their Trudeau-era Maritime Command name pretty fast), have three oceans' worth to cover, and only one ocean of fleet, even with everyone pulling their share of the load, and the JMSDF operating in a "Short of War" posture in the Pacific helping out.

Once Iceland is liberated (June '87), a Marine raid on Kola (July '87) that disrupts Soviet shipping, the tide begins to turn at sea, but it's not until the late '88-early '89 time frame that the pinch really begins to hurt the Soviet-bloc forces in Texas. Once that happens, it's a matter of time, and by the time of the Brownsville story (Late Sep-early Oct '89), the Soviets in Texas and Mexico are in deep. The Northern Theater isn't in any better shape: the shipping lanes from Soviet Far East ports to Alaska are frequently attacked by USN subs and carrier aircraft, and the Soviets are lucky that only half of what's shipped gets through. Still, by the end of the war (14 Oct 89), that 60-division force in Alaska and Canada has only about 15-20 divisions that are really combat effective-that is, capable of both offensive and defensive combat operations; the rest are only capable of defensive operations due to the shortages of fuel, ammo, and spares.
Iceland may have fallen to the Soviets but the waters around it and across the North Atlantic are going to be heavily dominated by US/UK submarines. They are the two best submarines fleets in the world and are better trained than the Soviets, and their latest boats are also better than anything what the Soviet have. About this time the US Navy had about 90 tactical submarines excluding boomers, and all of them are nuclear. The UK also had 28 tactical submarines with two thirds of them nuclear. The North Atlantic is going to be the dominant theatre for naval operations in your scenario and half of that submarines fleet is going to be in the Atlantic. That's about 60 submarines and probably the best ones that both the US and Britain have and also throw in the Canadians. Any Soviet convoy heading across to North America would have to have been guarded by major Soviet surface forces and submarines, and even then the casualty rates would be catastrophic.
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Old 09-09-2019, 09:13 PM
cawest cawest is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RN7 View Post
Iceland may have fallen to the Soviets but the waters around it and across the North Atlantic are going to be heavily dominated by US/UK submarines. They are the two best submarines fleets in the world and are better trained than the Soviets, and their latest boats are also better than anything what the Soviet have. About this time the US Navy had about 90 tactical submarines excluding boomers, and all of them are nuclear. The UK also had 28 tactical submarines with two thirds of them nuclear. The North Atlantic is going to be the dominant theatre for naval operations in your scenario and half of that submarines fleet is going to be in the Atlantic. That's about 60 submarines and probably the best ones that both the US and Britain have and also throw in the Canadians. Any Soviet convoy heading across to North America would have to have been guarded by major Soviet surface forces and submarines, and even then the casualty rates would be catastrophic.
do not forget about IO, Med, and Vietnam you will have to keep and eye on and defending Philippines and down under. that will cut the numbers on patrol. only about 1/3 are on active patrol. you will have 1/3 going on station or coming off and the last 1/3 is under repair or servicing.
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Old 09-10-2019, 07:10 AM
Olefin Olefin is offline
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FYI - and I may have missed it - who is the President during the war? They nuked Washington DC at the start - who got out and who didnt? Did Reagan and Bush make it out? It was never mentioned in the movie at all as to who was in charge.
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Old 09-10-2019, 09:06 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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George H.W. Bush is POTUS during the war. Reagan didn't make it out of D.C., and Bush was at his summer home in Maine when the invasion began. He was helicoptered to Boston by the Coast Guard, where a Federal Judge swore him in.
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Old Yesterday, 11:07 AM
cawest cawest is offline
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is something like this going to be painted on your birds? this is an on an su-35 in Turkey I wish I had an the image of B52A 0003. she had an impressive score board on her side.

https://www.facebook.com/defensionem...type=3&theater
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